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Crowd Celebrates Lee's Birthday with Cake
Montgomery Advertiser
January 21, 2014

Story by Scott Johnson

The cake was going fast Monday at the First White House of the Confederacy, where people gathered to celebrate the birthday of Robert E. Lee.

The celebration is held every year at the historical site on Washington Avenue, which is next to the Alabama Department of Archives and History.

Judge Mark Anderson spoke at the event and talked about some of the events early in the life of the Confederate general, who was born 207 years ago.

Anderson said that when Lee was just 13, he had to take over his household because his mother was an invalid and his father was in the West Indies hiding from creditors.

This was not Anderson’s first time speaking at the event, and he said he tries to change what he talks about each time he does it.

“I want to do something that is not only interesting to other people, it is interesting to me,” he said.

Eva Newman, supervisor of the house, was slicing the birthday cake and handing pieces to a steady stream of hungry people.

Newman immigrated to the United States from the Czech Republic in 1951, settling in Alabama, and said she felt the need to learn about her new home’s history.

“If I am going to claim Alabama as my home state, I have a moral obligation to learn about it as if I was born in the state,” she said.


Yankee Helps to Honor his Rebel Relative
Montgomery Advertiser
Jan 17, 2014

Story by Alvin Benn

Confederate officer James Breathed might not be well known to Civil War buffs, but he’s finally earning his place in the sun after 144 years, thanks to a Yankee descendant.

Historian David P. Bridges has chronicled Breathed’s short but eventful life, first as a doctor and then, during the war, as an artillery officer serving under legendary cavalry officer Jeb Stuart.

Years of research helped pave the way for Bridges’ book. He’s been touring the South and made a stop at the First White House of the Confederacy on Thursday afternoon.

“(Breathed) was torn between taking lives and saving lives,” said White House regent Anne Tidmore. “It was a painful decision he must have had to make, but he did what he felt was right.”

That determination to serve the South propelled Breathed into some of the war’s bloodiest battles, including Gettysburg and Chancellorsville.

During Bridges’ research, he discovered that Breathed was his great, great uncle — a fact that led him to pursue additional information about his ancestor for more than a decade.

He wound up writing about much more than one man and learned that he had 25 more Civil War ancestors. His writing amounted to another profession in an already extensive resume.

In addition to being an author of several Civil War books, he also has been a minister, an educator and a Civil War re-enactor, something that taught him a valuable lesson.

“I learned how rigorous and difficult a life it was for the soldiers of that war,” he said as he waited for visitors to arrive at the First White House. “It took perseverance and courage to line up and fight the way they did.”

Bridges’ books have helped him to inform Confederate descendants about a man who was rarely in the spotlight — something that has given him much pleasure.

“Thomas Nelson Page, a famous Virginia novelist, said Breathed was an ‘unsung, forgotten hero of the Southland,’ ” said Bridges. “I realized I had an extraordinary man who had not been discovered or was forgotten. That’s why I dedicated 12 years of my life to researching my uncle.”

Included in his collection of Civil War books are a pair of books that focused, in part, on Breathed, who died as a result of lingering Civil War wounds. He died one day before his 32nd birthday.

Born in 1838 near what today is Berkeley Spring, W.Va., Breathed graduated from the University of Maryland Medical School and was practicing in Missouri when the war began.

He enlisted as a private in the Army of Northern Virginia in 1861 but quickly ascended through the ranks to become a major by the end of the war.

How did a doctor find himself ordering artillery fire on advancing Yankee troops during America’s bloodiest war?

According to Bridges, it resulted from a chance meeting between Breathed and Stuart on a train. It wasn’t long before Stuart promoted Breathed to lieutenant, and his faith in the doctor soon was rewarded.

Unlike other Confederate officers trained in military maneuvers, Breathed, who would be promoted to major by the end of the war, developed his own style of combat. His “horse artillery” tactics soon were recognized by his superiors, including Stuart.

Breathed’s heroics during the war eventually were likened to those of Alabama’s John Pelham, who became known as “The Gallant Pelham.”

Pelham, who was killed in battle, was not only Breathed’s commander, but also a good friend with much in common.


Hinton Speaks About Jefferson Davis
Montgomery Independent
June 2013

Story by Fred Marshall

Friends of the First White House and guests gathered Monday the 3rd to celebrate the 205th birthday of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America.

Guest speaker, local attorney Jay Hinton, spoke of Davis' character as seen through the eyes of the President's long time friend, General Robert E. Lee. Hinton revealed that General Lee looked upon Davis as "a master conciliator, political leader, and a fiercely loyal leader. He was a gentleman and a man who loved his family more than life itself, and he trusted fully in God's providence. It is said that some lives are linked across time connected by an ancient calling that echoes through the ages. Mine was graciously linked to my friend, Jefferson Davis."

Lee's respect for President Davis is further evidenced when he explained: "A true man of honor feels humbled himself when he cannot help humbling others. When one can have such success as did President Davis while maintaining the utmost of integrity, it is true success indeed. The maxim that distinguished men diminish in greatness as we get closer did not apply to Mr. Davis. It is a man's character that defines him. Seldom does history leave us in the wake of such a distinguished and accomplished man, even a man I called my beloved friend at the same time I called him His Excellency!"


Annual Robert E. Lee Celebration Places Focus on Faith
Montgomery Advertiser
January 22, 2013


Robert E. Lee's birthday marked at First White House: Robert E. Lee's birthday is marked
during a ceremony at the First White House of the Confederacy in Montgomery, AL
on Monday January 21, 2013. (Mickey Welsh / Montgomery Advertiser)

Written by
Alvin Benn
Special to the Advertiser

Faith was an important factor during America’s bloodiest war, especially in the hours before a battle when troops kneeled in prayer, knowing it might be their last day, a Montgomery minister said Monday.

The Rev. Michael Howell said Gen. Robert E. Lee, whose 206th birthday was celebrated Monday at the First White House of the Confederacy, joined his troops in prayer before assaults began.

“Prayer provided great comfort even in head-on charges toward fortified positions,” said Howell, after speaking to a large crowd at the annual ceremony honoring Lee. “They were right with God and they were prepared to die.”

Howell, pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church and a member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans, spoke on a subject not usually addressed during the Lee birthday program, according to Regent Anne Tidmore.

The minister said religious fundamentalism swept through the South during the period just before the Civil War and throughout a conflict that claimed 600,000 American lives.

“These were more than casual conversions,” Howell said, referring to those involving troops who were part of the Army of Northern Virginia. “Statistics showed that men who survived the war actually joined the church after it ended.”

Howell looked forward to his comments and, after his introduction said: “How often do you get to talk about one of your heroes?”

He said just prior to being invited to speak at the annual event, he read a book review about the Civil War, one that he said “completely demolishes the ‘Lost Cause’ view of the war.”

Howell said something that caught his eye as he read the review was a statement that “the noblest soldier in the war was Robert E. Lee.”

He mentioned several religious influences in Lee’s daily life, including “reading scripture every day” and having family prayers.

“It was normal and a part of his growing up,” he said about the Lee family’s approach to religion. “Sunday worship was a regular habit.”

That religious introduction in his life did not wane as Lee aged, Howell said, and when the Civil War began, it became an important part of his daily activities.

Howell said Lee prayed for his men in battle and it wasn’t unusual for him to stop what he was doing to kneel to pray when he felt it was appropriate.

Among his prayers was for one of his top lieutenants — Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson — who was mortally wounded in 1863. Howell said Jackson’s death devastated Lee.

The birthday ceremony once again attracted a large crowd and included out-of-state visitors, as well as members of the First White House of the Confederacy.

Among the first to arrive were Ted and Temra Lecrenski of Lexington, Ky., a couple touring the Deep South for more than a look at the Confederacy’s birthplace.

They are staunch basketball fans and were in Auburn on Saturday to watch the Kentucky Wildcats defeat the Auburn Tigers. Monday was a rest day before heading to Tuscaloosa for a game with the University of Alabama.

“I’ve been a student of history and taught history in Oregon,” Lecrenski said. “We’re just sorry that the Archives aren’t open today. “I guess we’ll just have to come back another time to go there.”

The couple did have a sweet treat before they headed for Tuscaloosa — the annual birthday cake for Lee. They joined others in the crowd for a piece of cake.


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