Saturday, April 19, 2003

http://CLICK ON

I blew the big part of today at the U of A library but ,man, did I come up with some cool stuff.

The first is Issue #31 of the New Orleans newspaper, Moniteur de la Louisiane. Dated June ll, 1798, it lists in French thirteen departures from the Port of New Orleans. All thirteen ships(six schooners, five brigs, a packet boat and a frigate) were bound for Havana.

The second is an article by Jim Dan Hill entitled Captain Joseph Fry, of S.S. Virginius, published in a 1976 issue of American Neptune. Among the many memorable statements in Mr. Hill's article is this one:
In Kingston Harbor, Fry readily recognized Virginius. She was British built, in 1864, for the Havana to
Mobile blockade run. She was one of three such ships that Farragut's Mobile Bay victory had sealed in.
In those days her name was Virgin.
[Fry had commanded the gunboat,CSS Morgan, in Mobile Bay,and
had accompanied the Virgin on her futile voyage upriver to avoid capture by the Yankees]

The third was a 1970 article by Henry Kmen published in Louisiana History entitled, Remember the Virginius: New Orleans and Cuba in 1873. This article had a superb introduction:

The United States was keenly interested in Cuba almost from this country's inception, and particularly after
we acquired Florida. In 1823 John Quincy Adams described a law of political gravity whereby just as the
apple must fall eventually to the ground, Cuba would one day fall to the United States.

I also checked out two books by Jack Holmes which detail the Spanish evacuation of the Gulf Coast and their departure to Cuba between 1803 and 1821. The books areHonor and Fidelity, the Louisiana Infantry Regiment and the Louisiana Militia Companies, 1766-1821, and A Guide to Spanish Louisiana 1762-1806.

I must say that it's been a pretty good week. I learned how to post more stuff on the site and with links on the Alabama-Cuba Initiative webpage and with instant posting of the website by search engine, many people are viewing this weblog. Please send your comments to

Friday, April 18, 2003

Captain McArthur, of the Brilliant, also witnessed the executions, and gave the following account :

“On the morning of the fifth, they were removed to the place of execution, about a mile from the jail. The victims were surrounded by a strong escort of Spanish soldiers. Varona and Ryan, calm and collected, marched amidst the yells and vociferations of the infuriated Spanish crowd. The party arrived at the place of execution, and Cespedes and Del Sol were forced to kneel, in which position they were shot in the back. The soldiers next directed Ryan and Varona to kneel in the same way; but they refused, and were seized and thrown down. The two victims begged to be allowed to die standing, and, having offered further resistance, they were murdered as they stood. Ryan was not instantly killed, but a Spanish officer stepped forward and thrust his sword through Ryan’s heart. Varona died easily. Then down came upon the corpses, still warm, the bloodthirsty mob, who severed the heads from the bodies, placed them on pikes, and marched through the city.

(formerly Virgin) L/B/D: 216 × 24.5 × 10.9 (65.8m × 7.5m × 3.3m). Tons: 442 burden. Hull: iron. Comp.: 100 + pass.; 52 crew. Mach.: sidewheel. Built: Aitken & Mansel, Glasgow; 1864.

Built as a Confederate blockade-runner, Virgin made only one voyage out of MOBILE between June and August 1864. Following the evacuation of Mobile, she was taken to GAINESVILLE,ALABAMA, and was captured there on April 12, 1865. In 1870 she was purchased by John F. Patterson and renamed Virginius. Fraudulently registered in the United States, she was employed as a gunrunner, first for Venezuelan and then for Cuban revolutionaries.

After a succession of masters, Annapolis graduate and Confederate Navy veteran Captain Joseph Fry was hired to skipper the ship. With a crew of 52 and 102 passengers, Virginius sailed from Kingston, Jamaica, for Cuba, on October 23, 1873. Forced to put into two Haitian ports in succession for minor repairs, on October 31 she was within 18 miles of Cuba when she was spotted by the Spanish warship Tornado—coincidentally built the same year, at the same yard, and for the same purpose as Virginius. After an eight-hour chase, Virginius was overtaken near Morant Bay, Jamaica, and taken to Santiago de Cuba. Ten days later, 37 of the crew were tried as pirates and shot. In the diplomatic uproar that followed, Spain surrendered Virginius and the ship sank in tow of USS Ossipee off Cape Hatteras on December 26, 1873

This website covers the Virginius affair which occurred in 1874. I believe the captain of the Virginius, Joseph Fry, was from Mobile. I know that his brother came through the port of Mobile and his widow and children were living in Mobile in 1885.

“The victims were ranged facing the wall, and at a sufficient distance from it to give them room to fall forward. Captain Fry having asked for a glass of water, one was handed him by Charles Bell, the steward of the Morning Star. Fry then walked from the end of the line to the center, and calmly awaited his fate. He was the only man who dropped dead at the first volley, not withstanding that the firing party were but ten feet away. Then ensued a horrible scene. The Spanish butchers advanced to where the wounded men lay writhing and moaning in agony, and, placing the muzzles of their guns in some instances into the mouths of their victims, pulled the triggers, shattering their heads into fragments. Others of the dying men grasped the weapons thrust at them with a despairing clutch, and shot after shot was poured into their bodies before death quieted them.”

The curtain falls. In silence and in tears, we turn away from the mournful scene.

Words were vain.

Mobile Ala.
March 19th 1885
Hon. Thomas F. Bayard
Secretary of State
Washington D.C.
I respectfully appeal to you in the matter of the Virginius Ind.[emnity] Fund.
I am the widow of Joseph Fry, Captain of the Steamer Virginius when that steamer was captured off the coast of Cuba, in Nov. 1874 by a Spanish war vessel – taken into port at Santiago de Cuba and with thirty six of his crew, executed on the 7th of Nov. 1874.
Spain paid to the U. States Government a certain amount as indemnity for the execution of Capt. Fry and his crew. In 1875 those heirs of the men executed, who presented their claims, were paid by the Government a certain portion of this Ind. Fund – retaining the balance in case other claimants should present themselves.
In this division I received, as the widow of Captain Fry, Six Thousand dollars. It has been several years since the last claim was presented and from the fact of the small number of the crew who were executed thirty seven in all for the benefit of whose heirs the “Virginius Ind. Fund” was paid, and that the heirs were well acquainted with the fact of Spain having paid the U. States this money for their benefit. If they have not to the present time submitted their claims there can be no possible or probable chance that any additional claimants will ever present themselves.
I therefore respectfully appeal to you, that you will have this matter examined into, that Justice may be done me and my children who are sadly in need of the money justly due them, and which is now lying in the U.S. Treasury by ordering it distributed as the Government intended when Spain was required to pay it for their benefit.
I have the honor to be your obedient servant
Agnes E. Fry

Thursday, April 17, 2003

Tourists were always welcome here. But it is a long way from old town Havana or the beaches of Varadero - at least 17 hours by car. But the new inmates from half a world away have brought renewed attention to Guantanamo.

Even Cuban army chief Raul Castro, brother of Cuban leader Fidel, paid a visit and offered his help should any of the prisoners escape.

It is dry and hot up here. A wide, dusty road marks the boundary.

Behind the high fence, a line of cacti, and across some scrubland watchtowers built by the Americans.

The Stars and Stripes hang defiantly from each side that faces Cuba. From the Cuban side, you can hear and see the live fire exercises of the Cuban army.

The gunfire and explosions are clearly audible in the US base. It is a reminder to the Americans if they needed one whose island this is.

Of course most of this is not visible to the naked eye. So the Cubans have provided a telescope for tourists to get a closer view. It is made in Alabama, USA.

Auburn’s first bowl trip and the only bowl game to ever be played outside the United States. Auburn and Villanova battled to a 7-7 tie in Havana, Cuba on New Year’s day in 1937. Billy Hitchcock scored the Tigers’ only touchdown of the game on a 40-yard run.

Lucy Pickens wrote The Free Flag of Cuba in response to the death of Crittenden

Thomas C. Healy's portrait of Denbigh is dated at Mobile, Alabama, July 29, 1864, and is believed accurately to depict Denbigh's appearance when running the blockade in 1864-65. The painting shows Denbigh running out of Mobile with a full cargo of cotton. In the distance, at left, a Union blockader fires a futile shot after Denbigh.

The painting is dated just three days after Denbigh sailed from Mobile for the last time, and only a week before Union Admiral David Farragut's West Gulf Blockading Squadron entered Mobile Bay and ended Mobile's days as a blockade-running port.

edited with Georganne B. Burton) "The Free Flag of Cuba”: The Lost Novel of Lucy Pickens [orig. pub. 1854] in the Library of Southern Civilization series, edited by Lewis P. Simpson. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2002.

Vernon Burton and his wife Georganne discovered the only known copy of Lucy Pickens' novel about the Lopez Expedition to Cuba. A buddy of mine owns a Confederate $100 bill with Lucy's portrait engraved on it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Robert Register
with his buddy,
Mr. Hugh Taylor.




UI expert finds novel written by a Southern belle


She was the only woman on Civil War Confederate money, a Southern belle of head-turning beauty and, behind the scenes, a skillful political operator.
So when Vernon Burton heard that Lucy Holcombe Pickens – daughter of Texas, wife of South Carolina's powerful governor, rumored lover of a Russian czar – might have secretly penned a romantic novel published under a man's name, he was naturally interested.
But it took the University of Illinois history and sociology Professor 15 years of off-and-on detective work before he could find a copy of the book. Now, thanks to Burton and his wife Georganne "The Free Flag of Cuba" and Lucy Pickens are getting a modern audience.
"My guess is it's going to do better now than it did then because of the historical value that it has now," said Burton, one of whose specialties is Southern history.
Burton first heard about "The Free Flag of Cuba" in researching his Pulitzer Prize-nominated book "In My Father's House Are Many Mansions: Family and Community in Edgefield, South Carolina."
"There were rumors that she had written this novel," he said. "But I could never find it. "I wanted to see what she said because I'd heard so much about her."
"To write a novel would have backed up my theory that this was a disciplined, political woman," he added.
Especially a novel with a decidedly political message. The book is loose a fictionalization, and a defense, of the Lopez "filibuster" of Cuba. At the time, "filibustering" didn't mean long-winded senators speaking, but rather mercenary American military expeditions in Latin countries.
Ostensibly, the goal was to free the countries to emulate the American republic. In practice, it served to line some participants' pockets and, from the perspective of the South, had potential to add slave states to the Union.
When the Lopez expedition was quashed in 1851, many of its participants were executed by Spanish authorities, including the love of Lucy Holcombe's life, William Crittenden.
Her book is partly autobiographical. But the Burtons said it also serves a number of other purposes.
Its idyllic portrayal of slavery, for example, is a refutation of the picture in "Uncle Tom's Cabin," the classic anti-slavery book of the time. Its stance on federal authority – President Millard Filmore denounced filibustering – presages Southern arguments for the Civil War.
Over the years, as Burton searched, some libraries and other repositories claimed to have the lost book. But all the leads turned out to be dead ends.
"I would go and they would say they would have a copy and it would be a part of it," said Burton, who also found a handwritten fragment at Duke University.
The search was further complicated because the book's title was listed differently by different sources, as was the pseudonym Pickens used to write it, H.M. Hardimann.
Finally, UI librarian Carol Penka located the full text on a roll of microfilm made to preserve obscure 19th Century novels. (As far as the Burtons can tell, only one paper original, found later at the New York Historical Society, exists.)
Burton and his wife, who taught history and English, had been looking for a project to do together and went to work editing and annotating the novel for new publication.
Their introduction, which covers nearly a quarter of the book, is a mini history of, among other things, the filibuster movement, the Lopez expedition, the pre-Civil War South and, of course, Lucy Pickens.
Lucy married the rich, powerful and much older Francis Pickens (he was 53, she not quite 26) after her Crittenden's death in Cuba. Her book may have been, in part, an exercise to work through her loss.
Pickens, a former congressman, was dispatched as minister to Russia in 1858. Lucy's daughter Eugenia was born in the Russian royal palace in 1859.
Speculation in some quarters was that Czar Alexander played more of a role than providing the birth place. The Burtons discount that as sniping from Lucy's rivals, and the dates between the Pickens' first meeting the czar and the birth don't add up.
As the country moved toward Civil War, Pickens, once seen as a potential presidential candidate, returned to become South Carolina's governor. He led the state's secession and demanded the surrender of federal forts in Charleston Harbor.
Meanwhile, Lucy Pickens was the "uncrowned queen of the Confederate South," an extravagant and flirtatious hostess and a confidante to many Southern politicians, according to the Burtons.
She appeared on the Confederate $100 bill – they were called Lucys – and sponsored a Holcombe Legion in the South's Army, perhaps paid for with jewels received from Czar Alexander.

The Lost Novel of Lucy Holcombe Pickens

Edited, with an Introduction, by Orville Vernon Burton and Georganne B. Burton

The wife of South Carolina secessionist governor Francis W. Pickens and known as the “Queen of the Confederacy,” Lucy Holcombe Pickens (1832–1899) was during her lifetime one of the most famous women in the South. Indeed, she was the only woman pictured on Confederate currency. Rumor was that in her youth she published a novel under a pseudonym. Recently discovered as The Free Flag of Cuba; or, The Martyrdom of Lopez: A Tale of the Liberating Expedition of 1851, a romanticized account of the 1851 filibustering expedition to Cuba lead by Narciso López, it was published under the alias H. M. Hardimann in 1854. With this new edition, Orville Vernon Burton and Georganne B. Burton resurrect Holcombe’s lost work and prove it to be a window on many pressing nineteenth-century issues, including patriotism, freedom, independence, imperialism, nationalism, race, the role of southern women, and slavery.

A not-so-subtle plea for U.S. support for Cuban independence from Spain, Holcombe’s novel vindicates López and his men, who were officially regarded as mercenaries, some of them captured and executed. The young author was determined to have an influence on the national debates of her time, and her book declared to the world that the López campaign was noble and he and his men were martyred heroes.

Revealing the link between gender issues and filibustering, Holcombe’s tale clearly reflects the values southern aristocratic women expected in men, even if preserving those values meant death and defeat — a harbinger of ardent support for the Confederacy by women like Lucy. Like the South’s secession, the López expedition was an abject failure, and the novel eerily presages Lost Cause mythology.

With an illuminating introduction detailing the life of Lucy Petway Holcombe Pickens and the historical context of her novel, this new edition of The Free Flag of Cuba is a welcome glimpse into the mind and value system of the southern belle who would become a southern icon.

Professor of history, University Scholar, and Distinguished Teacher/Scholar at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Orville Vernon Burton is the author or editor of seven books, including In My Father’s House Are Many Mansions: Family and Community in Edgefield, South Carolina. Georganne B. Burton is an independent scholar, writer, and community activist. The Burtons live in Urbana and have five daughters.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Send all suggestions and other unwanted comments to
Since people are finally reading this stuff, I guess it's time to say a little about my experience with Cuba over the Internet. This all started in the year 2000 when I actually paid to have an Internet server at our house in Northport, Alabama. Three things immediately happened. Bill Casari, the curator of the FORBES COLLECTION in New York City contacted me about a possible article in FORBES about the Forbes Purchase papers which may still await discovery in Cuba. I also met Rich Chartrand and Ken Kesey over the Web. Rich Chartrand's great-great grandfather owned a plantation in Matanzas Province along the Canimar River near Limonar.The plantation was named Ariande. This was the house where William Rufus King was inaugurated Vice President of the United States. Rich emailed me photos of the Canimar River and the ruins of Ariande. I met Ken Kesey through his website He wanted to take his bus, Further, to Cuba and I had referred him to some Cuban websites so he wanted me to get him Castro's address so he could write FIDEL a letter requesting permission to bring the bus to Cuba. I gave Ken all I had which was the Cuban Interest Section address in the Swiss Embassy in D. C.
That's a pretty good introduction to my interest in CyberCuba but, of course, it's not the whole story.
The words of Bob Dylan come to mind....

Monday, April 14, 2003

Send any suggestions to

Send any suggestions to
Rich Chartrand was in Matanzas a couple of weeks ago and met Professor Carlos Chacon Zalvidar who heads the history department at the University of Matanzas. Rich asked Chacon Zalvidar about the Forbes Purchase law suits that may be archived in Matanzas. The professor didn't know anything about Forbes. Rich is a real resource because of his frequent trips to Matanzas. His great-great grandfather was Colonel John Chartrand who owned the Ariandne Plantation near Limonar in Matanzas on the Canimar River. This was where William Rufus King of Dallas County was inaugurated Vice President of the U.S. in 1853. Rich has emailed me photos of the ruins of Ariandne and of the banks of the Canimar River. Thanks a lot for all the help, Rich.