Welcome to our travel blog. We are Tabitha and Nic. In 2011 we 'retired' in our early 40s and set off to travel the world. We spent our first year in South America and have been lucky enough to make two trips to Antarctica.

Our blog is a record of our travels, thoughts and experiences. It is not a guide book, but we do include some tips and information, so we hope that you may find it useful if you are planning to visit somewhere we have been. Or you may just find it interesting as a bit of armchair travel.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Car parks and Confederacies

From Atlanta we took the bus on to Montgomery, Alabama.  This is not one of the best mega bus stops we have encountered, as it is just in the car park of a retail park out on the outskirts of town.  This wouldn't have been so bad were it not for the fact that our outward bus was at 1am, so we had to loiter in the car park waiting for it.

We were getting there early, so we had planned to wait in the 24 hour McDonalds across the street, but when we arrived, it was only the drive through that was open all the time, the indoor area closed down.

We found a waffle house not far away, where we narrowly avoided picking up a homeless guy.  But we still had to get to the stop in time and then find ourselves waiting there when it was nearly an hour late.  I wouldn't have liked to have been standing there on my own.

But anyway, we survived the bus stop, so let me tell you more about Montgomery.  We only had the one day in the city, so we got in early as here was plenty to keep us busy, with the State Capitol Building, the Confederacy White House, the Old Alabama buildings, the Rosa Parks  Museum and the Civil Rights Memorial.

But even at that time we were surprised to see how few people there were about.  We probably saw less than ten people on the street all day, and this is the state capital. It really was like one of those films where some disaster has happened and you were in a coma and missed it, and now you wake up and wonder where everyone is!
Our first stop in the ghost town was the State Capitol Building.  Although this is a working office, visitors can just come in and walk around. It is worth a look as a couple of the rooms have been restored to how they would originally have been when the building was built in 1850, and there are some impressive sweeping spiral staircases and a big painted rotunda with a stained glass domed skylight.  

Or you can do what Nic did and just take a photo of the somewhat unfortunate name of the State Treasurer, Young Boozer!  Seriously, that was his name.

But the interesting thing about this place is that it was here, in the old Senate Chamber, that the Confederate States of America were signed into being in 1861.  And it so happened that we were here on 4 February, the exact date of the anniversary of the signing 152 years ago.

The initial Confederate States were Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and South Carolina, and they were later joined by Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina.  Factions from the states of Missouri and Kentucky made it up to thirteen. They were led by Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

Now while this was an interesting period historically, it was not, of course, the most glorious moment for the southern states.  The creation of the southern Confederacy as a breakaway from the Union was in large part a response to Abraham Lincoln's desire to abolish slavery. 

Many states had already ended slavery, with the first being Pennsylvania, which passed the 'Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery, back in 1780, which freed all future children of slaves.  Other northern states gradually followed, but the cotton industries of the south were huge users of slave labour, so these states were not going to give in lightly.

The country was plunged into the 1861-5 civil war, which obviously the Confederacy lost.  Lincoln himself, though he could see that victory was inevitable, never actually saw the end of the war, as he was shot by John Wiilkes Booth on 14 April 1865 and died the next day.
However his aim to end slavery did not die.  On  1 January 1863, Lincoln signed the 'Emancipation Proclamation, which freed slaves in the Confederate States, and on 31 January  1865 that Congress passed the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, which when it was ratified on 6 December that year, finally abolished slavery entirely.

Of course the fact that slavery was abolished was far from the end of the story.  Many slaves were forced to continue labouring for their previous owners simply because they had no alternative way to support themselves.  And the treatment of black people in the southern states in particular has remained shockingly bad until well into the second half of the 1900s.  More of that in another posting.

Another part of the historical part of our day was a visit to the museum buildings of 'Old Alabama Town'.  This has a number of residential and business buildings that are kitted out to show you how they would have been back then.

We also visited the First White House of the Confederacy, the home of Jefferson Davis during his time in Montgomery as President of the Confederate States.  The family was not here long, as the seat of Government soon moved to Richmond Virginia.  But this 1835 house was an interesting bit of history, with lots of artifacts from the time, including confederate currency and the confederate flags.

The confederate flag was apparently the source of some controversy and disagreement.  Initially, the desire was to not completely abandon the Stars and Stripes, so they designed something similar, but with a circle of stars in the blue corner box (seven to start with, increasing to thirteen as their numbers grew), and just three red and white bars instead of the normal stripes.


This design was popular, but its similarity to the Stars and Stripes caused confusion on the battlefield, so a new design was needed.

This time they used a white background with a red box towards the top left corner, which had on it a blue diagonal cross with the white stars on it.  However this design was also short lived as, as well as complaints about it getting dirty, when the wind was down and the flag drooped, it could easily be mistaken for a white flag of surrender.

The final official version was the same as the second, but with a big red bar down the right hand side.  But even then, they adopted a different battle flag, which was simply the corner box element covering the whole flag.

Now of course, you would expect that the flag, along with the Confederacy itself, is consigned to history.  But take a look at the state flags of some of the old confederate states and you can certainly see some aspects of the confederate flags there even now.

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