Traditionally celebrated with acknowledgements to Washington and Lincoln, we’ve prepared a photo and an account from the Civil War to mark the holiday…
These excerpts from Lieutenant John Dooley’s diary in 1864 set the scene of his imprisonment at Johnson Island and then reveal how these POWs celebrated George Washington’s birthday:
Receive a letter from Father. He says everything is bright and cheerful in the South and whatever suffering there may be it is not perceptible, but everyone appears to enjoy himself as though there was no war. (I suppose this is putting a good face over our misfortunes.) Every week a rumor is afloat about our leaving the island by way of an exchange of prisoners between the North and South.
In the evening we celebrate the 22nd by a few appropriate speeches from Col. Lewis, Mo., Capt. Houston, Va., and Capt. Fellows (Tenn. or Ark.). The Yankee officer of the day disperses the crowd, but not until we had paid the usual tribute of respect to Genl. Washington, the Father of Rebels.
Though he had been gone sixty-two years by the time the Civil War began, Washington’s influence and memory was still alive. Both sides claimed Washingtonian ideals and principles, interpreting them to fit their war motives. For Union troops, Washington’s legacy as the first president and a Constitution framer created a figurehead image for the cause of union. For Confederate troops, “Rebel General” and Virginian featured high in their estimation of Washington.
Happy Presidents Day!