Sunday, October 4, 2015

October 2015


Saving Monticello: The Newsletter

The latest about the book, author events, and more

Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson

Volume XII, Number 10                                                                    October 1, 2015

NOT GEORGE WYTHE RANDOLPH: In last month’s issue in the lead item about Thomas Jefferson’s gravesite, I included the photograph of the vandalized grave marker I used in the book after securing permission to do so from the University of Virginia Library’s Special Collections Department. Back in 2000, I purchased a print of the photo (right) from Special Collections that my publisher, Free Press, reproduced for the book. On the back of the photo are the words: “Item: George Wythe Randolph, ca. 1871 at T.J. Gravesite.”

Since I knew that over the years visitors had taken souvenir chippings off Jefferson’s gravestone, and that the stone was replaced by Congress in the 1880s—and given the wording on the photo—the caption I came up with for the book reads: “George Wythe Randolph, Thomas Jefferson’s youngest grandchild, at the Jefferson gravesite at Monticello circa 1871” along with two more sentences (I like to use long photo captions in my books) explaining the tourist chippings and Congress’s 1882 appropriation of $10,000 for a new monument.

Well, it turns out that a mistake was made. The man in the photo most certainly isn’t George Wythe Randolph (in photo below—and yes, that’s him), as he died of tuberculosis in 1867. Randolph, a lawyer and Confederate Army general, served as the South’s Secretary of War from March 1862 until November of that year when he resigned for health reasons.

A quick check of the U-Va. Special Collections web site found that the photo, which is described as “Mr. Randolph’s graveyard,” is actually of George Randolph’s grave.

Bill Burgan, an SM Newsletter subscriber, a Facebook friend of mine—and, more importantly, a long-time guide at Monticello—pointed that out to me after he received the newsletter.

So, who is the young man in the photo? He “is much younger than G.W. Randolph would have been in the 1860s.” Bill told me. “It does have a superficial resemblance, but George and his wife had no descendants, so the person is most likely a friend of the photographer or perhaps one of the many GWR nephews.”

THE LEVY CHAPEL: It seems (almost) like yesterday that the U.S. Naval Academy dedicated the Commodore Uriah P. Levy Center and Chapel adjacent to Bancroft Hall on the Academy’s grounds. I was fortunate enough to attend the ribbon-cutting ten years ago, on September 18, 2005, for the dedication, along with several hundred other guests.

It was a great occasion, marking the opening of the first Jewish Chapel at the Naval Academy. It is  housed in an impressive building designed with a dome on the main entrance in recognitions of Uriah Levy’s ownership of Monticello.

A tenth anniversary commemoration will take place on November 6-7 at the Levy Center’s Miller Chapel. It will include services on Friday and Saturday evening and a reception after the Saturday Oneg Shabbat service. The event is free and open to the public. For info, email

EVENTS:  I only have one event in October as I have begun the full-time writing phase of my next book, a biography of Barry Sadler, the U.S. Army Sergeant who wrote and performed “The Ballad of the Green Berets.” The pub date is November of 2016.

The photo of Sadler at left was taken in Guatemala in the mid-eighties. Sadler moved there in 1983 to write books and take part in other activities involving weapons, such as the AK 47 he’s holding in this picture a friend of his loaned to me to use in the book.

Barry Sadler died in November of 1989, a little more than a year after he took a bullet to the head in a taxi cab in Guatemala City. There are several theories about exactly what happened in that taxi cab. Stay tuned.

My one event this month will take place on Monday, October 12, a talk on the Marquis de Lafayette for the local chapter of the Colonial Dames of the XVIIth Century at the historic Purcellville Train Station in P-ville, Virginia, not far from where I live in Loudoun County, Va.

If you’d like to arrange an event for any of my books, email  For more details on upcoming events, go to, the “Author Events” page on my website,

Facebook, Twitter: If you’re on Facebook, please send me a friend request. If you’re on Twitter, I’d love to have you as a follower.

Gift IdeasIf you would like a personally autographed, brand-new paperback copy of Saving Monticello, e-mail me at  Or go to to order copies through Second Chapter Books in Middleburg, Virginia. We also have copies of Desperate Engagement, Flag, Lafayette, and What So Proudly We Hailed. 

Photo credit: George Wythe Randolph at Jefferson’s grave: University of Virginia, Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library.