"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Saturday, December 31, 2022

James Ryder Randall

This carte de visite of James Ryder Randall , at age 44,  belongs to the Barret-Sandburg Collection at Newberry Library in Chicago. It's autographed on the back. 

Vy. Sincerely Yrs.
Jas. R. Randall

J.R. Randall is largely forgotten, except as the author of Maryland's former state song, Maryland, My MarylandThe Biographical Dictionary of America  gives a short bio and this woodcut and autograph.

RANDALL,  James  Ryder,  poet  and  journalist, was  born  in  Baltimore,  Md.,  Jan.  1,  1839;  son  of John  Killen  and  Ruth  Maria  (Hooper)  Randall; grandson  of  John  and  Caroline  Randall  and  of Robert  and  Margaret  Hooper;  great-grandson  of the  celebrated  Robert Hooper,  known  as "King"  Hooper  of Marblehead,  Mass.,  and  a  descendant  maternally of  the  people of  "Evangeline,"  the French  of  Acadie, who  were  driven  from Nova  Scotia  by  the British.  He  was  educated by  private  tutors, and  at  Georgetown college,  D.C., 1849-56 ;  was  employed as  a  clerk  in a  Baltimore  book store;  taught  school  in  Florida,  and  removed  to Louisiana,  where  he  became  clerk  to  a  shipping merchant.  He  was  professor  of  English  and  the classics  in  Poydras  college,  Pointe  Coupee  parish. La., 1859-61.  and  contributed  poems  to  the  New Orleans  Sunday  Delta.  His  most  famous  poem, "My  Maryland"  which  he  wrote  after  reading the  news  of  the  passage  of  the  Massachusetts  volunteers through  the  streets  of  Baltimore,  became popular  throughout  the  South  and  gained  him  an international  reputation.  It was set to music by Mrs.  Hettie (Cary) Martin of Baltimore to the German air “Tannebaum."  He  was  married  in December,  1864,  to  Katherine,  daughter  of  Marcus and  Harriet  Hammond,  and  removed  to  Augusta, Ga.,  where  he  became  editor  of  the  Constitutionalist and  subsequently  of  the  Chronicle, of  both  of  which  papers  he  was  the  Washington correspondent  during  the  successive  sessions  of congress.  The honorary degree of LL.D.  was  conferred on  him  by  the  University  of  Notre  Dame, Ind.,  in  1899.  Among  his  other  poems  are:  The Cameo  BraceletThe  Lone  SentryArlington; There's  Life  in  the  Old  Land  YetThe  Battle  Cry of  the  SouthStonewall  JacksonEidolonAt ArlingtonJohn  Pelham  and  Why  the  Robin's Breast  is  Red. -- Biographical Dictionary of America, Vol. 9, (unnumbered) page 34.
This 1895 Newspaper cut closely follows The CdV. (The Lewiston Idaho Teller, December 19, 1895, Page 3.)

The oil portrait, below, follows the pattern. It was painted by Kathrine Walton and was presented by the Daughters of the Confederacy to the State of Maryland in January of 1909 to be hung in the chamber of the House of Delegates in the Statehouse in Annapolis, above the speaker's rostrum.  Cardinal Gibbons was at the dedication as was Governor Austen Crothers. (See The Baltimore Sun, Cardinal at Unveiling, January 24, 1909)  This AP photo by John Gillis of Walton's Portrait of Randall  accompanied a 2016 Washington Post editorial advocating the retirement of Maryland's state song. 


When the painting was hung in the Maryland Statehouse in 1909, its inscription read:
 “James Ryder Randall, author of “Maryland, My Maryland” born in Baltimore, 
January 1, 1839; died in Augusta, Ga., January. 14, 1908. Painted by Miss Katharine Kent Walton, of Annapolis.” 

 Military Images, Vol. 39, No. 3 (217) (SUMMER 2021) published this CdV of James R. Randall at age 22, the age at which he wrote "My Maryland."

James R. Randall
Aetat 22.

A similar photo of  22-year-old Randall appeared as the frontispiece of his 1908 collection of poems Maryland, My Maryland and Other Poems, and in The Photographic History of The Civil War, 1911.

Randall was 68 when the photo below was taken. It appeared as the frontispiece  of The poems of James Ryder Randall edited by Matthew Page Andrews in 1908.

James Ryder Randall

James Ryder Randall died of lung congestion due to "the grip" on January 15, 1908. (See Madame La Grippe by James Ryder Randall). This next picture accompanied his obituary in the Baltimore Sun, Jan. 15, 1908. (See also: his New York Times obituary.)

His Song Stirs Maryland Hearts
The Late Col. James R. Randall
[From a recent photograph]

How Randall acquired the title "Colonel" is mysterious to me; the text of the Sun obituary calls him "Mr. Randall" throughout.  Back in 1861, soon after writing "My Maryland," he joined the Confederate army but was quickly discharged because of hemorrhaging of the lungs.   He was made an Honorary Confederate Veteran by the Isaac R. Trimble Camp, No. 1025, United Confederate Veterans in 1905. 

A version of that photo appeared in Randall's Memoirs of a Busy Life published by the Baltimore Sun in six weekly installments between July 7 and Aug. 11, 1907.

H. L. Mencken's 1929 assessment was that:
...He was one of the worst poets ever heard of—but he wrote Maryland, My Maryland. Is it as bad as “The Star Spangled Banner”? Probably not. But good or bad, it met a great situation superbly, and promises to live for many years. . . . there is no movement to erect a monument to Randall, or even, indeed, to mark his grave. Where he lies I don’t know. -- The Evening Sun, Feb. 25, 1929, Page  21.

 James Ryder Randall's grave is in the Magnolia Cemetery in Augusta Georgia. This 2013 photo by Sara Baker Partridge appears at Find-a-Grave.

James Ryder Randall
Born at
Baltimore, Maryland
January 1, 1839
Died in
Augusta, Georgia
January 15, 1908.

Although Randall has not been widely memorialized in Maryland, there is a James Randall Ryder Elementary School in Clinton. Augusta Georgia hosts several monuments to James Randall Ryder.

A monument to James Ryder Randall stands in the middle of Greene Street in Augusta. The 2008 HMdb photo below was taken by Mike Stroud.

James Ryder
1839 -- 1908
“Better The Fire Upon Thee Roll.
Better The Blade The Shot the Bowl,
Than Crucifixion Of The Soul.
Maryland, My Maryland!”

 The monument was “Erected by the Randall Memorial Committee of Chapter 'A' United Daughters of the Confederacy Augusta Georgia May 28, 1936.

The same verse from Maryland, My Maryland“ appears on the Poets' Monument in Augusta also on Green Street. This HABS photo shows the sides of the monument honoring Paul Hayne and Father Ryan, James Randall Ryder and Sidney Lanier are on the other two sides.

But the most impressive monument to Randall is the huge southern live oak which commemorates Randall and "My Maryland." Shown here in an anonymous HMdb photo.

Bill Guion gives us an idea of the size of this tree.  “Located in the front yard of David and Madeline Breidenbach’s home, this massive specimen of Quercus virginiana has a circumference of 35 feet, 8 inches, a height of 68 feet and a crown spread of more than 156 feet.”

A nearby plaque tells the story:

Randall Oak
Near this tree, within the walls
of Poydras College were written
the immortal lines of
"Maryland, My Maryland"
by James Ryder Randall
Born in Baltimore, Maryland
January 1st, 1839
Died in Augusta, Georgia January 14th 1908
Poem written at midnight
April 26th, 1861

This tablet is erected to his memory
by the Book Club of Pointe Coupee Parish
April 26th, 1938

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