Fort Myers, FL

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I love post offices with palm trees, but this one provided so much more in the way of a story. The original Fort Myers, built to protect the encroaching settlers from the Seminole Indians they were displacing, was named by General David Twiggs for his soon-to-be son-in-law, Lt. Abraham Myers.

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Abraham Charles Myers (1833–1889)
Photo by Charles R. Rees; Richmond, Virginia

Myers was a graduate of West Point (1833) and served in the Seminole Wars as a quartermaster, and in the Mexican War; he remained with the U.S. Quartermaster’s Department until 1861, when he surrendered the U.S. supply depot at New Orleans to the seceding state of Louisiana, and became Quartermaster General of the Confederacy.

His tenure was not crowned with success. Historians still discuss whether he was incompetent or doomed by bureaucracy, profiteering and infighting. One example from hundreds: His department played tug-of-war with the Ordnance department over animal hides; Myers needed leather for shoes and harnesses (for horses pulling wagons); Ordnance wanted leather for cartridge boxes and harnesses (for horses pulling artillery).

Some maintain that it was shoes that precipitated the Battle of Gettysburg and Myers’ final fall from grace. The Confederate Army badly needed shoes, coats and blankets for its troops, and believed there might be supplies in Gettysburg; there a southern scouting party encountered  Union forces, and the engagement turned into a battle.

After the Battle of Gettysburg, the Confederate President, Jefferson Davis, removed Myers from the office because of his inability to supply the southern armies, and also because Myers’ wife, Marion Twiggs Myers, had once said that Varina Davis, the wife of the President, looked like “a old squaw.”

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Varina Howell Davis (1826-1906)

This comment, said to be typical of the sharp-tongued Mrs. Myers, was only one salvo in a long war between the leading ladies of Richmond. But given the fact that Varina Davis had a dark complexion and a generous silhouette, the remark was oft repeated, not forgotten and never forgiven.

The enemies of Mrs. Myers, on the other hand, had long sniped at her husband as a Jew. Abraham Myers was the great-grandson of Charleston’s first rabbi, a descendant of an old Jewish family that settled in South Carolina generations before the war. More than 10,000 Jews fought for the Confederacy; Robert E. Lee allowed his Jewish soldiers to observe all holy days. But this did not spare Lt. Col. Myers from suggestions that he enriched himself with his office, owing his first loyalty to “the party of Moses” and “the tribe of Levi.” Marion herself was said to be from “the Lost Tribe” of Israel.

Blamed for losses on the battlefield, and losing the war in the parlors of Richmond as well, Abraham Myers was passed over for promotion and replaced as Quartermaster General. Between that and being on the wrong side in the Civil War, he pretty much lost everything. But he would always have Fort Myers, Florida.

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