Thursday, December 6, 2018

November 2018

Saving Monticello: The Newsletter
The latest about the book, author events, and more
Newsletter Editor - Marc Leepson

Volume XV, Number 11                                                                    November 1, 2018

The study of the past is a constantly evolving, never-ending journey of discovery.” – Eric Foner

THE STATUE AND THE MAN:  Two weeks ago the Washington Post’s John Kelly, who writes a popular column on historical matters of local interest, told the tale of the statue of Thomas Jefferson that Uriah Levy commissioned in 1833 and presented to the United States—the one that now stands in the Rotunda in the U.S. Capitol.

How the statue got there is a complicated (and fascinating) story, and one I tell in detail in Saving Monticello.

I noticed a minor error in a quote Kelly used—that Levy rose to the rank of Captain in the Navy; in fact, he was a Commodore when he died in service in 1862. So I emailed Kelly, telling him I read the column with interest, and pointing out the misstatement.

He emailed me right back and asked if I would fill him in on Uriah Levy’s life and Navy career. I accepted in a New York minute and the next day we had a great 45-minute talk.

To my delight, the following Sunday, October 28, Kelly devoted his column to Levy, highlighting his Navy career, including the anti-Semitism he faced, his six courts-martial (mostly on trumped-up charges), and how he spearheaded the successful effort to ban flogging in the Navy. Kelly also touched on the statue and how UPL and his nephew Jefferson M. Levy saved Monticello.

The column ended with a quote from Gaye Wilson, senior historian at Monticello’s Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies—a quote that I completely agree with.

Uriah Levy, she told Kelly, “said that great men’s homes should be preserved as ‘monuments to their glory.’ I think the Levys can be credited with the fact that the house is still standing today.”
Here’s the link to Kelly’s column: 

SEPHARDI IDEAS: As readers of Saving Monticello know, Uriah Levy and Jefferson M. Levy (who owned Monticello from 1834-1923) are descended from Sephardic Jews who fled the Inquisition in Portugal, and in 1733 helped found the city of Savannah, Georgia. The magazine Sephardi Ideas Monthly ran a long interview with me that covered the family’s escape from Portugal and Uriah and Jefferson Levy’s stewardship of Monticello in the October issue of the magazine, which features “essays from the rich, multi-dimensional world of Sephardi thought.

You can read the entire article on line at

EVENTS:  Here are my November events:
·         On Saturday, November 3, I will be doing a talk on Ballad of the Green Beret for the Freedom Hill DAR chapter’s monthly meeting in McLean, Virginia
·         I’ll be speaking about Saving Monticello on Sunday, November 4, at the Bier Baron Tavern in Washington, D.C., as part of the Pints and Profs program (current and former college profs speaking at bar/restaurants in D.C.), starting at 6:00. Ticket info at 

·         On Tuesday, November 6, I’ll be speaking about Saving Monticello at the monthly meeting of The Madisons of Montpelier Daughters of 1812 chapter in Gordonsville, Virginia.
·         At the monthly meeting of the Anne Marie Fitzhugh chapter on Saturday, November 10, in Springfield, Virginia, I’ll present a talk on my Francis Scott Key biography, What So Proudly We Hailed.

If you’d like to arrange an event for Saving Monticello or for any of my other books, please email me at 

For info on my latest book, Ballad of the Green Beret, please go to
For details on other upcoming events, go to

GIFT IDEAS:  Want a personally autographed, brand-new paperback copy of Saving Monticello? Please e-mail me at  I also have a few as-new, unopened hardcover copies, along with a good selection of brand-new copies of my other books: Flag: An American Biography; Desperate Engagement;  What So Proudly We Hailed: Francis Scott Key, a Life; and Ballad of the Green Beret: The Life and Wars of Staff Sgt. Barry Sadler.

No comments: