Longtime readers will remember that I wrote a couple of posts (here and here) about Andrew Jackson Donelson’s home in Bolivar County, Mississippi. The Preservation in Mississippi blog posted about the home today. The post doesn’t add much more information to what I knew before, but I appreciate seeing the photos.
The lawsuit over Tulip Grove, Andrew Jackson Donelson’s Nashville home, has concluded.
A five-year fight over how much money a historic house near The Hermitage should generate for the family that used to own it came closer to its end Friday, with an appeals court ruling in favor of the nonprofit that owns both.
Tulip Grove, on 26 acres near President Andrew Jackson’s home The Hermitage, was transferred to the Ladies’ Hermitage Association in 1964 through a donation by owner Jane Buntin. Under a warranty deed, Buntin and her heirs would get a third of ticket sales from tours of the home.
Those tours generated more than $300,000 for Buntin and her family in 1965-2001, but the tours were no longer profitable, the association said, and it started using Tulip Grove as an event space. That generated a flat $1,200 annual payment for the family. Buntin’s granddaughters filed suit against the Ladies’ Hermitage Association in 2007, claiming breach of contract.
The Tennessee Court of Appeals agreed with a lower court ruling that the contract wasn’t breached. If it had ruled for Buntin’s heirs, they may have been entitled to compensation for lost tour money.
The court also ruled that the Buntin family was due a portion of revenue generated by special events held at Tulip Grove.
As Howard Kittell noted in the above article, the end of this suit should allow the Ladies’ Hermitage Association to turn its attention to making the mansion more accessible to the public.
During the early days of Jacksonian America, I wrote a post about Andrew Jackson Donelson’s home in Bolivar County, Mississippi. Recently, Bob Lovinggood, a descendant of Captain J.T. Lovinggood, contacted me about photographs of the home. Captain Lovinggood owned the home after the Donelsons and sold it to the Yates family in 1912.
Much of the information on the house can be found in NRHP nomination form on the MDHA website, which includes two photos. It had Greek Revival elements to it and as late as 1976 was described on the nomination form as “[retaining] most of its original woodwork which, remarkably enough, is fairly well preserved.” The form also notes that the house had experienced “many years of neglect” and had “reached the final stages of deterioration.” The form optimistically states that “the current owners are willing to encourage a public restoration program.” Unfortunately, as you can see below, that effort either was never undertaken or was abandoned almost immediately.
Mr. Lovinggood was kind enough to give me permission to post a couple of pictures of the home that he took in 1990. He also passed along other information and photos of the home. I’m posting the photos in chronological order below to give you an idea of the deterioration of the Donelson home over the decades. Unless noted otherwise, all photos came from Mr. Lovinggood.
It’s a sad sight.
While writing the Donelson biography, I came across one such mystery: the murder of Andrew Jackson Donelson’s son, Daniel Smith Donelson (1842-1864). The only evidence I had were letters in which AJD mentioned his son’s murder and retrieving the body from the side of the road three months after the fact. He also attempted to prosecute those responsible, but without any apparent success.
I always doubted the three-month timeline between death and retrieval, but I appear to have been wrong. A collection of DSD’s correspondence has surfaced and is for sale via an online auction site. They give a fairly comprehensive view of DSD’s movements during the war and provide better insight into his murder.
DSD was the first child born to AJD and his second wife, Elizabeth Martin Randolph. He attended the Western Military Institute in Nashville in the late 1850s. During the Civil War, he was part of Company E, 154th Tennessee Senior Infantry Regiment. From the new correspondence, his steps throughout the war can be traced:
23 August 1861: Fort Pillow, TN
30 January 1862: Bowling Green, KY
21 February 1862: Murfreesboro, TN
7 March 1862: Fayetteville, TN
7 October 1862: Corinth, MS
11 December 1862: Grenada, MS
Early July 1863: Vicksburg, MS
20 September 1863: Rose Hill, MS
24 September 1863: Okolona, MS
His letters are fascinating, both for their description of DSD’s participation in various engagements, as well as for their expression of his personal thoughts. For example, DSD expressed concern several times about the fate of his family’s slaves. He took with him a male slave named Joe, who served as his personal body servant. Following the battle of Shiloh, DSD mentioned that Joe was wearing a Union uniform, presumably taken from a dead Union soldier. In 1862, DSD told his father to send several of the unmarried male slaves to him to avoid losing them. The following year, he sent word that his family’s slaves were with him at Vicksburg.
DSD also conveys his thoughts on the death of relatives fighting for the Confederacy. For example, his uncle, Capt. John Donelson Martin, was killed at Shiloh. (Martin was part of Co. E’s officer corps.) DSD’s brother, John Samuel Donelson (1832-1863), was killed at the battle of Chattanooga, and DSD gives a vivid description of the encounter that led to his death.
How exactly DSD winds up in the position to be murdered is a bit murky. He was paroled from Vicksburg, went home, then was arrested for being AWOL in September 1863. In early January 1864, however, he was informed that he had been exchanged and should report for duty. It seems that DSD was captured by Union forces after his arrest and release, but maybe not. Regardless, later that month, he was murdered “Three Miles North of Pleasant Hill, De Soto County Miss.” His assassin shot him in the head from behind. The date of his murder appears to have been January 25. His body was discovered in late April, and AJD and Elizabeth recovered the body on May 8. (Part of the collection includes a lock of DSD’s hair enclosed in a note, probably written by his parents.
The account of DSD’s wartime service and death are a fascinating story. I hope that the collection winds up in a state archive or other publicly accessible space.
Yesterday, I came across an eBay auction that sparked my curiosity.* The seller has two political campaign buttons: one of Millard Fillmore (left) and one of someone he thinks is Andrew Jackson Donelson (right).
The Fillmore button is correctly identified, but the other button does not depict Donelson, who looked like this in 1856:
The man does look familiar, though.** My first thought was that it was John C. Fremont (because of the beard), but, no:
Once someone posts the answer, I’ll have an “aha!” moment and kick myself for not matching a face with a name, so here’s your chance to show me up.
* Disclaimer: I don’t know the seller, and this post is not an advertisement to bid.
** I’m envisioning him as a northerner with antislavery ties, but I could be completely wrong.
Timothy Messer-Kruse’s wrote an excellent Chronicle column on Wikipedia last week. (Word to the wise: The comments section has devolved into nonsense at times, so read at your own peril.)
It reminded me of the discussion that I had with my Jacksonian class last week about my own brief foray into Wikipedia editing. In 2007, I decided to tackle Andrew Jackson Donelson’s Wikipedia page, which needed some corrections. As Messer-Kruse discovered, Wikipedia editing isn’t that simple. One contributor/editor made it his mission to reverse my edits on several occasions. While I’ve made a handful of minor changes to other Jacksonian-related pages since then, my experience with Wikipedia convinced me that it wasn’t worth my time to contribute.
That’s unfortunate, because Wikipedia can be a useful resource. Oftentimes, the “References” and “External Links” sections provide helpful leads to primary and secondary sources.* Kudos to those of you who find success editing the pages, especially those who find a way to incorporate Wikipedia editing into history courses. Keep fighting the good fight!
* The caveat, of course, is that it can be a good starting point for student research.
As I’ve done for papers at the 2011 SHEAR and 2011 SHA conferences, I am posting ahead of time the paper I will be giving in Chicago at the American Historical Association annual meeting.
This paper, which examines patriarchy and masculinity in Jackson’s advice to his male wards, is in many ways a continuation of the paper I gave at SHEAR. I hope to combine the two into an article at some point soon.
Fellow Tennessee blogger and historical writer Kevin McCann posted a question on the Jacksonian America Facebook page about another Andrew J. Donelson biography. I thought I would answer him here for other interested readers.
The only other published Donelson biography is Robert Beeler Satterfield’s Andrew Jackson Donelson: Jackson’s Confidant and Political Heir. While at Vanderbilt, Satterfield’s advisor, Frank Owsley, Sr., suggested Donelson as a thesis topic. The result was “The Early Public Career of Andrew Jackson Donelson, 1799-1846,” a study of Donelson’s early public life that was completed in 1948. Satterfield then studied under C. Vann Woodward and Charles Barker at Johns Hopkins, where he completed a full-length biography, “Andrew Jackson Donelson: A Moderate Nationalist Jacksonian” in 1961. He taught at Lamar University from 1963-1989, where he overlapped with another prominent southern historian, Ralph A. Wooster. Unfortunately, I never met Satterfield before his death in 2005.
Satterfield’s dissertation was comprehensive in treatment, mining extensively the Donelson papers at the Library of Congress, as well as the Jackson papers and the State Department papers that focused on Donelson’s time in the German states. Satterfield also contributed a fabulous chapter title, “The Stew in the Kitchen Cabinet,” which dealt with the Eaton affair.
As much as I admired Satterfield’s research, his prose was lacking. Reading his dissertation, one can see Donelson as the “moderate nationalist Jacksonian,” but Satterfield never satisfactorily explained why Donelson took his moderate political stance. He also ranged from topic to topic within a chapter, usually failing to offer a unifying thread to pull them together.
The published version of Satterfield’s dissertation appeared via Hickory Tales Publishing in 2000. Shortly after I completed my dissertation in 2002, Hickory Tales editor (and, I presume, owner) Dr. Andrew Jackson Donelson, Jr., sent me a complimentary copy. Yes, you read that right: Dr. Donelson is the great-grandson of THE Andrew Jackson Donelson. Dr. Donelson and I corresponded regularly while I was in graduate school. He was very helpful in sorting out the Donelson genealogical chart, which presents significant challenges, especially with all of the Andrew Jacksons and Rachel Jacksons that populate the various family lines. I haven’t heard from Dr. Donelson since completing my biography, and I’ve often wondered if he was offended by my interpretation of his great-grandfather.
The published edition of Satterfield’s biography does not differ substantively from his dissertation. The title is different, emphasizing the connection between nephew and uncle, but in only a few spots did I see any major textual changes. Another interesting note about the book is that the preface, which does a good job of summarizing Donelson’s importance, was written in 1974. I wonder if Satterfield submitted the dissertation for publication, and it was rejected, or if he revised it and never sent it out for review. Whatever the case, the book is currently out of print, according to the Hickory Tales website. Satterfield also does not appear to have published anything else except for an article on the Tennessee press during the 1830s.
Another prospective biographer, Doug Spence, contacted me after the publication of my 2003 Tennessee Historical Quarterly (THQ) article on Donelson’s role in the 1856 election. Spence is a biology professor at UT Permian Basin, and his faculty bio page shows him to be a prolific publisher and active faculty member. Since the mid-1980s, however, he has been researching Donelson’s life in his spare time. Spence has published two articles on the Donelson family in THQ, but he indicated to me that he does not intend to publish a full-length Donelson biography. I find that unfortunate, since I think having a different perspective on Donelson would be interesting. Spence was very helpful with some specific questions that I had about Donelson, which I still appreciate.
There have been other pieces written on Donelson, and you can find most, if not all, of them in the bibliography of Old Hickory’s Nephew.
Biographical notes on Satterfield taken from his dissertation and Cardinal Cadence, p. 37. Since my correspondence with Donelson and Spence is boxed up in the attic, I relied on my memory for details of the e-mails that we exchanged.