Sunday, January 29, 2012

Civil War Sunday -The Amazing Secret of Sherwood Forest

No, the amazing secret of Sherwood Forest doesn't have anything to do with Robin Hood and his Merry Men. Although it would have been interesting to watch them fight in the Civil War, dressed in their bright green clothes and using their longbows and clubs to fight....well, I don't know if they would have sided with the Union or the Confederates.  But Friar Tuck would have been quite the sight.

No, I am talking about Sherwood Forest Plantation, in Virginia, which is suddenly (I suspect) going to become a whole lot more popular as a tourist destination than it has been - all because of an 83 year old gentleman who lives there.  His name is Harrison Tyler, and he happens to be the grandson of President John Tyler, a U.S. President who served from 1841 to 1845.

John Tyler was born in 1790.  In other words, a man born in 1790 has two living grandsons.

To put this in perspective, Jane Garfield, the granddaughter of President James Garfield (who was a Major General for the Union in the Civil War), is 99 years old. Garfield was President 40 years after Tyler.  (Garfield was also the second president of the United States to be assassinated-he died just before his 50th birthday.  The first President to be assassinated, of course, was Abraham Lincoln, the U.S. President during the Civil War.)

It's one heck of a story, this grandson, and has taken the Internet by storm in the past week, just after we passed the 150th anniversary of John Tyler's death in 1862.

So, putting Harrison Tyler aside, what is so fascinating about President John Tyler?

Although John Tyler's administration is interesting from an aspect of studying pre Civil War history, his actions after states started to secede is what holds fascination for me.

A Peace Conference was held in February 1861 to reach a compromise and enable the Union to continue.  It was hoped a settlement could be reached before Lincoln took office in March of 1861. (unlike today, Presidents in that era took office on March 4 and not January 20).  John Tyler came from his home at Sherwood Forest Plantation to attend.

John Tyler, sent by his native Virginia, was the head of this conference.  It did not succeed, although a Constitutional amendment was proposed. 

After the failure of the Peace Conference, Tyler sided with the Confederacy, and was a delegate from Virginia to the  Provisional Confederate Congress.  When elections to the First Confederate Congress were held in 1861, Tyler was elected to their Congress but died before he took office.

He is buried in Richmond, VA near the grave of President James Monroe.  As he was in rebellion his death was not officially mourned by the Union.  On the other hand, the Confederacy declared him a hero.  A grand funeral was held in his honor.

This is a fascinating story indeed, and I hope to visit Sherwood Forest Plantation one day.  And who knows,  if my tour group is big enough, and has enough pretty women, maybe Harrison Tyler will be our tour guide.

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