General musings

Harold Jackson is the editorial page editor for The Philadelphia Inquirer, the paper that I grew up reading. He is an African-American, and here is his take on whether to celebrate or commemorate the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War:

Commemorate, don’t celebrate Civil War’s 150th

By Harold Jackson

Inquirer Opinion Columnist
A number of years ago while in Biloxi, Miss., on assignment for the Baltimore Sun to report on the Gulf Coast’s casino industry, I took advantage of some down time to visit Beauvoir, the final home of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy.

Only a handful of other visitors were there on that chilly, early fall day. They stared at me as much as they did the antique furniture and memorabilia in the antebellum house built in 1852. No doubt they were curious as to why a black man might be paying homage to Davis.

I wasn’t. I was there to see if there were any signs in Davis’ artifacts of his mentality in leading a rebellion to preserve an economic system based on the capture, sale, and further subjugation of fellow human beings who just happened to be of a different skin color.

I didn’t find any answers. But that day comes to mind now as I look at the ways the former Confederate states are observing this year’s sesquicentennial of the Civil War. Adding poignancy to the moment is the fact that they are making plans to commemorate the rebellion fought to perpetuate slavery even as the nation celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Martin Luther King’s Birthday federal holiday.

Special events are being held in at least 21 states, including Pennsylvania, to mark the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, which officially began when secessionists fired on Fort Sumter in Charleston, S.C., on April 12, 1861.

A week ago, cadets from the Citadel, South Carolina’s historic military college, fired cannons on Morris Island in Charleston Harbor to reenact the January 1861 shelling of a ship that had tried to reinforce U.S. troops at Fort Sumter. That’s another site I visited years ago, looking for answers in the ruins to explain the war that had begun there. I didn’t find any.

In my home state of Alabama, Civil War reenactors are planning to parade through Montgomery to the state Capitol on Feb. 19 to re-create the swearing-in of Davis. They will also raise a Confederate flag, but not on the main pole of the Capitol dome, which is only a stone’s throw from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. led the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955.

The Confederate flag did fly on the dome’s pole for about 30 years until 1993, when black legislators won a lawsuit that ended the practice that had begun during the civil-rights era. “I’d love to see it up there, but that’s not going to happen,” said Thomas Strain Jr., a board member of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

Mississippi began its commemoration of the Civil War this month with a reading at Vicksburg National Military Park of that state’s Ordinance of Secession and a reenactment of rebels in 1861 firing from the bluffs of Vicksburg on a commercial steamboat that they believed was carrying U.S. troops.

In observing the war’s sesquicentennial, Virginia is taking pains to note that although Richmond succeeded Montgomery as the capital of the Confederacy, the state originally voted by a 2-1 ratio not to secede. Paul Levengood, president of the Virginia Historical Society, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that the moment of secession should be recognized, but not celebrated.

Commemorate, don’t celebrate. I like that perspective for how the former Confederate states should observe the war’s anniversary. I know, however, that there are people who will use this opportunity to again try to spin history to perpetuate the lie that the war wasn’t about slavery, that it was about states’ rights.

OK, but the right that the rebel states wanted so badly was to continue slavery.

It’s understandable that people want to justify their ancestors’ participation in a war. Even today, people are trying to rationalize their sons’ and daughters’ fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan when they’re not really sure they should be over there.

Some months ago, I was on an airplane leaving Killeen, Texas, home of Fort Hood, and heard two fellow passengers discussing the wars we are in. The women were very proud of their husband and son in the military. But the wife, almost in the same breath in which she declared they “are fighting for us,” admitted she didn’t know why our troops were still there.

The answer will be left to the writers of history. Let’s hope they do better than the numerous book writers who romanticized the Confederacy and made slavery seem like a benign institution in which the benevolence of good masters kept people who otherwise were incapable of fending for themselves from dying of starvation.

A recent article in the Anniston, Ala., Star noted that for decades after the Civil War, the United Daughters of the Confederacy had provided an approved list of textbooks for Alabama public schools. Students were taught that the Confederates had fought for a noble cause but lost. “The South lost the war, but they won the history,” Jacksonville State University professor Jennifer Gross told the Star, quoting a past teacher.

Through the end of this year, we will see various attempts to win the history, to obscure the truth that led to the Southern states’ secession, to ignore that the Civil War’s aftermath included a brutal backlash against black Americans for having been the catalyst for the South’s pain, to glorify soldiers who fought on the wrong side of glory.

Speaking of glory, one of my most prized possessions is something I bought during my Charleston visit, which included a guided tour of Fort Sumter – a copy of a Thomas Nast engraving for Harper’s Weekly depicting the 54th Massachusetts regiment’s ill-fated charge at Fort Wagner. Led by white officers, the 54th was an otherwise all-black unit.

In this sesquicentennial year of the Civil War, my thoughts will be on those who, like the men of the 54th, fought to preserve the Union and end slavery. And I’ll celebrate the soldiers in the civil-rights movement who followed them, including King, many of whom also gave their lives in the fight for freedom and equality.

In reading this, I can understand Mr. Jackson’s viewpoint. As an African-American, his focus on slavery as THE cause of the Civil War is completely understandable, and I completely agree with his statement that it is appropriate to commemorate but not to celebrate the Civil War. However, I have some different thoughts on this issue.

There is no question that slavery was probably the most important issue that triggered the Civil War, but it surely was not the only one. To say that the war was about slavery alone simply does not do it justice, nor does it reflect the feelings/sentiments of the many Southerners who fought not to perpetuate slavery but to defend their states and to pursue a vision of states rights that they shared. There certainly were plenty of Southerners who fought for the Confederacy who never owned slaves. To simply lump all Southerners into a single category of advocates for slavery is unfair and is likewise historically inaccurate.

I do agree that there was nothing to celebrate in our great national blood-letting. However, the sacrifices of both sides should be commemorated, and the moment of secession needs to be commemorated as the turning point in the development of this country. As a member of the Governor of Ohio’s Advisory Commission on the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War, I can attest to the fact that we have wrestled with this issue as recently as last week, when we had a spirited and lengthy discussion about what role the Confederate flag should play in events that have the imprimatur of the Commission. This is an issue that should intrigue anyone with even a passing interest in these events.

This op-ed column plainly shows that there are many ways in which we Americans remember the Civil War. I’m not saying that he’s wrong, as he’s entitled to his opinion. I will, however, say that I disagree with some of what he says. My disagreement, though, does not make his opinion any less valid than mine. Let us hope that as the Sesquicentennial unfolds, we can have civil discussions about what it means and commemorate the event that made this nation into the United States of America.

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I don’t know whether it should make me feel better that the State of Ohio is not the only state that has scrimped on funding its Sesquicentennial celebration. Indeed, it appears that most states are avoiding funding their sesquicentennial celebrations. The following appeared on MSNBC today:

States scrimping on Civil War anniversary
Efforts to commemorate the 150th anniversary of America’s bloodiest war will begin next year and run into 2015


updated 12/26/2010 2:18:27 PM ET

ALBANY, N.Y. — New York state contributed 448,000 troops and $150 million to the Union cause during the Civil War, not to mention untold tons of supplies, food, guns and munitions.

But with the 150th anniversary of the war’s start just months away, New York state government has so far failed to scrounge up a single Yankee dollar to commemorate a conflict it played such a major role in winning.

New York isn’t alone. Other states saddled with similar budget woes are unable or unwilling to set aside taxpayer funds for historic re-enactments and museum exhibits when public employees are being laid off and services slashed.

Even South Carolina, where the war’s first shots were fired upon Fort Sumter in April 1861, has declined to provide government funding for organizations planning events in the Palmetto State.

“State money right now is hard to find for anything,” said New York state historian Robert Weible. “That’s life. We’re all living with that.”

At least 21 states have formed commissions, committees or initiatives to commemorate the 150th anniversary of America’s bloodiest war, starting next year and running into 2015. Of those states, Virginia and Pennsylvania appear to be leading the way in efforts to plan, promote and stage Civil War commemorations.

“Most states have very little or limited funding,” said Cheryl Jackson, executive director of the Virginia Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War Commission. “That’s not unique among the states, what you’re finding in New York.”

The Virginia organization has received an annual $2 million appropriation from the state since 2008, Jackson said. Three out of every five Civil War battles were fought in Virginia, home to the Confederate capital, Richmond, and some of the South’s greatest generals, including Robert E. Lee.

“Virginia bore its share of scars, many of which are still there, so it’s natural that the state take the lead,” said James I. “Bud” Robertson Jr., a Virginia Tech history professor and member of the state’s commission.

Pennsylvania has managed to collect nearly $5 million in government funding for its commemoration, including $800,000 in federal grants, according to Barbara Franco, executive director of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission.

The key, she said, was Pennsylvania’s decision to start its planning in 2007, just before the economy tanked and government coffers shriveled. Plus, Franco added, Pennsylvania didn’t wait for Congress to get around to creating a national Civil War commission, something lawmakers in Washington, D.C., so far have failed to do.

On the federal level, the National Parks Service is coordinating Civil War events planned through 2015 at more than 75 battlefields and historic sites, as well as at museums and other privately operated sites.

On the state level, various local and regional groups are being enlisted to muster resources for 150th anniversary events.

“Sometimes national commissions are helpful, sometimes they’re not helpful,” Franco said. “Perhaps this grassroots approach provides more opportunities to get down to the real issues that a national commission would never be able to do.”

New York so far doesn’t plan to create a Civil War commemoration commission. But Weible said talks already have begun between his office and local history-related entities to come up with ways to mark the war in the coming years.

“Our concern right now is trying to get everybody on the same page and cooperating with each other and talking to people they don’t normally talk to,” he said. “You don’t need money to make good things happen. It’s nice if you can get it. But we work with what we’ve got.”

What New York has to work with is a deep well of Civil War resources, even though no battles were fought on its soil.

New York communities large and small were touched in some way by the Civil War, and many still have the evidence to prove it, from old industrial sites that supplied Union troops to vast collections of artifacts held by state and local museums. Besides providing the most soldiers during the war, New York suffered the most casualties, with 46,000 killed. Monuments and memorials to their sacrifice can be found all across the state.

More than 200 New York infantry, cavalry and artillery units served in nearly every campaign of the war, from Gettysburg to Vicksburg, said Michael Aikey, director of the New York State Military Museum in Saratoga Springs, home to more than 850 Civil War battle flags, the largest collection in the nation.

Prominent figures from the era — including William Seward, Harriet Tubman, John Brown, Fredrick Douglass and Ulysses S. Grant — all lived in New York, and museums and historic sites in their names can be found upstate.

With such links to its Civil War history, New York is counting on local historians, re-enactment groups and the approximately 20 Civil War round tables across the state to help organize anniversary commemorations without any government funding.

“We must definitely commemorate what those soldiers did,” said Patrick Falci of Queens, past president of the Civil War Round Table of New York City. “Our job is to keep it going. What happened down there made us what we are today.”

Despite the lack of an official role by New York, Weible said he’s certain the state’s legacy in the War Between the States will be properly honored over the next five years.

“The bottom line is, we’ve got a great story,” he said. “Stay tuned. Things are happening. We’re going to make this work.”

Given Ohio’s terrible budgetary challenges, I really do understand the reasons why we can’t get any taxpayer funding for what we’re trying to do. We’re fortunate that our staffers have done a fabulous job of finding some grant money for us, so that we have some budget, and I am sure that the commissions from some of our sister states will do the same thing. Nevertheless, a great opportunity for the states to help to generate new interest in the Civil War on the occasion of its sesquicentennial. In spite of the lack of funding, I can only hope that we succeed in spurring some new interest in the war while also paying appropriate tribute to them men who gave the last full measure of their devotion for causes that they believed in.

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I first met my friend Dave Lingenfelter 25 years ago. Dave was a law school classmate of mine and we quickly became close friends. I was Dave’s best men when he got married the first time, and he was my best man when Susan and I got married. He also is someone I envy because he can honestly call himself a recovering lawyer, something I aspire to be. Dave had the first personal computer I ever saw, an Apple IIe (this was before the McIntosh, after all). My, how times have changed.

Dave is also a fabulous writer. I’ve always envied his ability with words, and I wish he would write more often. Last Friday, in commemoration of Remembrance Day, he sent me the following musings that he had composed. They’re so good that I asked for, and received, permission to share those musings with all of you. Dave gets it.


I stand in the same spot that I stood as a boy: before me a granite marker that lies by a low stone wall bordering a broad open field. As a boy, I saw only those things. As a man, I see what happened there so long ago.

The boys that died in that field did not see what lay before each one of them. They saw only what was there: the crops in the field, a low stone wall on the other side of the field and, to be sure, they saw the boys behind that wall with their cannon and their rifles. Not one of them saw, not one of them could see, his own death in that field. Each one of them saw that death would rain down on them from those cannon and rifles. But nature had endowed each of them with the utter inability to comprehend that death is not in the third person. And so, when told to advance by a man who could see what they could not and remained at the rear, every one of them walked into that field.

So it has always been and so it will always be with boys.

Why should boys be so blind? Boys meander carelessly, blissfully unaware of their circumstance. Boys are not simply blind but are incapable of appreciating that they are blind. Dire warnings pertain to other boys. Boys walk unhurriedly because they see no end to their field, no stone wall, no cannon pointed at them. Not today, not tomorrow, and if not now, then never. So boys have their youthful, exuberant dalliances, despite the efforts of the men who would mentor them.

For if by youthful good fortune we manage to avoid the cannon that would quickly teach us the lesson of our mortality, one morning we unexpectedly wake as terrified men. We suddenly see that we are ourselves in the field and that the cannon and rifles are pointed not at us but at me. We laugh with amazement that we have survived our journey so far, having stumbled blindly along for so long. Then we realize, to our horror, that the field in which we find ourselves is level and open, with no cover from the cannonade, no route to safety, and no retreat possible.

I stand in the same spot that I stood as a boy. Now I see what I could not have seen as a boy. I was a boy, just as they were, and I was immortal. No cannon could set its sights on me, so I dallied. I wandered along a path that men set out for me. Though they could see that which I could not comprehend, I found no urgency in the mission.

I return to that spot as a man and a mortal. I see that which has always been there: the sights of cannon lie squarely on me. Still, my sight is limited: I see the cannon but I can not see how far the fuse has run.

So, my young friend, please pardon this old man if he rushes by in seemingly inexplicable haste. The cannon, you see, make my journey increasingly urgent.

I found it to be very moving. I hope you did too. Like I said, Dave gets it.

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Susan and I visited some friends in Springfield, Illinois this weekend. We just got home. They only moved there a few months ago, so this was our first time out to visit them. It was also my first visit to Springfield, which means it’s the first time I’ve seen any of the Lincoln sites there.

Springfield, of course, was Abraham Lincoln’s home for something like 17 years before his election as President of the United States, and his body was returned there for entombment after his assassination. He lived there, practiced law there, and raised his family there. Even though Springfield is the capital of Illinois to this day, Abraham Lincoln’s presence is everywhere there. It’s unavoidable.

In downtown Springfield, you will find the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum, the Abraham Lincoln home and preserved neighborhood, the Lincoln-Herndon Law Office, the Old State Capitol Building (where the Lincoln/Douglas debates occurred), and, of course, the magnificent Lincoln Tomb in Oak Ridge Cemetery. There are multiple statues of him throughout the downtown. Not far away–just a few miles–is Lincoln’s New Salem, where he operated a general store for several years before beginning his legal career in Springfield.

We had limited time, so we didn’t get to see everything. We decided to reserve a visit to the Lincoln home and preserved neighborhood, New Salem, and the Lincoln-Herndon Law Office for our next visit. We began our visit to the Lincoln Tomb, which is our second presidential tomb in three weeks (we visited Grant’s Tomb in New York City last month). The Lincoln Tomb is very beautiful, and a very appropriate tribute to the greatest American President. President Lincoln, his wife Mary, and their two younger sons, Willie and Tad, are entombed there. The monument features a standing figure of Lincoln, surrounded by the soldiers who preserved the Union. The temporary crypt where he was buried–and his body was nearly stolen from–also still exists. It’s on the hillside behind the main tomb. I left there with a real sense of awe. I’ve visited a number of presidential graves before, but I have never come away with the feeling that I left Lincoln’s Tomb carrying. On one hand, it was deep sadness, knowing that our greatest President was assassinated at his greatest moment of triumph, but with a deep respect for the fact that I had just visited the final resting place of a truly great man.

When we left there, we then drove by the site of the Lincoln Home and neighborhood (and the Herndon-Lincoln Law Office), just to get a look, and then we went to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum. For those unfamiliar with it, the Museum opened in 2005, and it’s quite a facility. It’s enormous, and someone spent a vast amount of money building it. It’s filled with very accurate reproductions of various important scenes from Lincoln’s life, from the cabin where he spent his boyhood, to his law office, to the White House, to Ford’s Theater, and finally, to his catafalque at the Illinois State House. It thoroughly documents his life, and is very informative, especially for those not familiar with his life. As far as that goes, it kind of sets the gold standard for this sort of interactive museum. At the same time, I was somewhat disappointed with how few actual artifacts pertaining to the 16th President are there. There’s a small room, called The Treasures Gallery, that has some tremendous items, such as one of the five handwritten drafts of the Gettysburg Address, written out by Lincoln himself for Edward Everett. This small collection also includes the kid gloves that Lincoln had in his pocket when he was shot, and the feathered fan that Mrs. Lincoln was carrying that night. The few real artifacts are remarkable, but there are very few of them. I frankly expected more of them and was surprised with how few there were.

There is also a very impressive gift shop in the museum. When I got there, I realized that it’s been many years since I purchased or even read a Lincoln biography, so I purchased Ronald C. White’s well-received 2009 Lincoln bio, which I will read shortly. Susan, who can’t resist this sort of thing, purchased the very silly Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

On another note, I have long maintained a fascination with the work of Frank Lloyd Wright, the great architect. The Dana-Thomas House, which was one of Wright’s last prairie houses, and the largest and best preserved example of the prairie houses, can also be found in downtown Springfield. We made a quick visit to the site, long enough to spend some money in the gift shop, but didn’t have time to take a tour of the house. I definitely want to go back and take the full tour of the house, as it’s really spectacular.

As I said, Abraham Lincoln’s presence in Springfield is palpable, and it’s everywhere. There’s so much of it to see that it’s actually a little overwhelming. I will have to see the rest of it on our next visit. I left Springfield with an even greater appreciation of our greatest President, and for his towering presence that still lingers over the city 145 years after his tragic death at the hands of John Wilkes Booth. It’s almost as if he’s still there.

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With many thanks to Jim Schmidt for bringing this little gem to my attention, I give you more dumbass re-enactors…

From the July 6, 2010 issue of the Morris County [NJ] Daily Record comes these candidates for dumbass re-enactors of the year:

Hanover cops: 2 injured when mistaken Civil War gun powder tube explodes


HANOVER — A 66-year-old Livingston man was burned when a man asked him for a light and, instead of lighting a cigarette as he thought, he lit a paper cartridge filled with gun powder.

Police said Joseph Princiotta, 42, of Jersey City, obtained the cartridge from his friend, a Civil War re-enactor, who had the tube of gun powder with some of his re-enactment gear.

The incident occurred last Wednesday around midnight.

Police said Princiotta thought it was a firecracker and asked the alleged victim to light it as he was walking through the parking lot of the Brookside Diner, Hanover Detective Earle Seely said. The gun powder ignited, flared up and burned the man’s arm. He was taken to St. Baranabas hospital and released. Princiotta had slight burns on his hand as well.

Princiotta was charged with simple assault.

Amazing. Can you say “dumb-ass”, boys and girls?

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I wanted to take a moment to wish all of my readers a happy and safe Independence Day, and to take a moment to thank all of our veterans, past, present, and future, for the sacrifices that they have made to give us a country where we can celebrate our independence not through martial displays, but through family gatherings and happy times spent with family and friends.

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For about fifteen years now, I have made a point of going to the annual Civil War show in Mansfield, Ohio, which is always held the first weekend in May. It’s been a place to catch up with friends, to perhaps buy something, and to work my network. I usually run into at least one regular reader of this blog there. However, last year’s show introduced World War I and World War II relics, and that stuff took up about half of the show. A lot of the vendors that I’ve visited over the years were not there last year and I don’t expect to see them this year either. It’s just not worth the time or money to attend under these circumstances.

Since a big chunk of the show is going to be taken up by irrelevant stuff, which will keep many of my regular vendors from attending, for the first time in something like fifteen years, I will not be attending the show in Mansfield this year. As long as it’s not exclusively a Civil War show, I very seriously doubt that I will ever go again. So, for those of you who were hoping to see me there this weekend, I regret that I won’t be there. I regret that, but it’s not worth the time or effort to go to a show that’s becoming more and more irrelevant each year.

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With special thanks to reader Chris Evans for providing this link, I give you some more moronic re-enactors, written be a re-enactor of the 4th Virginia Cavalry:

About six years back, my pard and I decided to see how many events we could do in one year. [Obviously single or well on the way to a divorce.] We do not venture north of Gettysburg much, as we are spoiled on all the wonderful events on the actual battlefields here in Maryland and in Virginia. I was however intrigued by an ad in the Camp Chase Gazette, for an Analomink, NY event. Soon after arriving at this event, we forever after called it “Analmink”. The ad stated, “Indiscriminate firing of weapons in camp is encouraged!”

I’m convinced that surveyors within 70 miles of this place would have been put out of business, for lack of yellow survey tape, as it had all been bought up and sewn to the uniforms of these guys. 99% of the people there were dismounted cavalry.

The weapon of choice was the chromed Remington revolver, with at least two extra cylinders. The “battlefield” was a baseball field next to a bar (yes a saloon, tavern). When any of the combatants needed to reload, they entered the bar, ordered a beer and sat on the bar stool to reload. [An amenity.] Our mouths were agape by time the “battle scene” was ready to start, as there’d been continuous firing going on all day. The small valley, where the camp was situated, was covered by a thick cloud of burnt powder smoke.

Suddenly from out of nowhere, a dilapidated pick-up truck hove into view with fenders flapping and dragging what was supposed to pass as a horse trailer. The engine gave off a cacophony of grinding noises and smoke. Various and sundry engine parts and tools were in the bed, along with a rebuilt “big horn” saddle with the horn cut off. The doors were emblazoned with a crude, handwritten legend: “Rebel Construction Co.” Out jumps a young man, somewhat lost in the cloud of dust, exhaust fumes and the accumulated pall from the morning’s unbridled skirmishing. He stood akimbo, hands on hips and announced for all to hear: “I’m Lt. (name deleted). I’ve just completed officer’s school, so I’ll take charge of all “Rebel” cavalry.” [Assertiveness training obviously formed a part of officer school.] We looked at each other with mild amusement and continued to stir the beans we were preparing for lunch. Somehow the Lt. had enough native savvy to realize that he was not going to be carried into battle on our shoulders and he went about his business, tacking up his horse.

He was the only other local reenactor who was mounted, except for Rush’s Lancers. This group contained 19 troopers, all of which had deadly-looking lances to go with their chromed Remingtons, but only one horse among them. Their cavalry boots were home-altered Dingos that had extra leather sewn on the tops. They all wore scarlet hankies about their necks and appeared very serious about their impression. [Well, at least they were all attired the same. You have got to give them that.] However, we did have to stifle laughter when their bugler called them “to horse.” They all lined up with their lances, dismounted, except for the one guy whose turn it was to use the horse. Once the battle was joined, it overflowed the ball field and continued up the mountainside. At one point we spotted a Louisiana flag and rode over to warn, what we mistook to be a true southern unit, of a Yankee flanking move. The “Col.”, covered in yellow survey tape and with an obvious NJ accent rallied his men with the cry: “Git youse guns goys, we gotta killed some Yankees heah!” It was not hard for the spectators to know where the combatants were, for the cloud of gun smoke that continually shifted back and forth across the face of the mountain.

Later, when we figured all black powder had to have been expended, the weary fighters came off the mountain and entered the bar to reload and refresh, immediately after which, the combat was renewed. Nobody was safe, even in the portajohns (doors were kicked in, in order to fire upon the hapless occupants). [!] As we continued to observe this spectacle, an officer entered our camp to assign picket duty for the night. We allowed as how we did not mind standing guard, but what in God’s name were we to guard against, as every “no-no” of reenacting was already being carried on in the open during daylight? The officer told us that we needed to guard against “civilians” participating in the skirmishes. “Well, golly Sir, look at this herd. Most of these guys are wearing Levi’s and white shirts. Who can tell who’s a civilian?” He blew off our concerns and assigned us an hour to “stand watch.”

At 2330 hrs., we were sitting in the bleachers with a cold beer watching in amazement as the lines formed for yet another charge. These guys never tired of burning powder. When we loaded our mounts for the trip back to Maryland, one of the “organizers” came over to shake our hands and express his hope that we had enjoyed the “premiere Civil War event in NY!” Our stomachs hurt and tears ran down our cheeks from the laughter that was generated on the ride back home. [Sounds like a successful weekend, then. Laughter will add years to one’s life, authentic reenacting won’t.] We relived what we’d seen, but we still did not believe it. I’ve related this story several times and even carried the ad for awhile. The ad said it all:”indiscriminate firing in camp is encouraged!”

Steven in Maryland, 4th Virginia Cavalry

As Bugs Bunny would say, “what a bunch of maroons!” Thanks, Chris. I needed the laugh.

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Today, I received the following from Brenda McKean, who is the secretary of the Friends of the Bennett Place State Historic Site. Ms. McKean left a comment on a very old post on this blog (from December 2005). Since the original post is so old, and I thought her message was so important, I have decided to feature it here.

Hello, I am the secretary for “Friends of the Bennett Place” State Historic Site.. For years I have wanted to have the descendants of those men present at the surrender to come to the yearly April re-enactment event and tell their side of the story. This is done in Plymouth, NC and the people are called the “Plymouth Pilgrims”. The names of teh fallen on both sides are read, then both sides throw a wreath in the river. While we can’t do the exact same thing here, it would be poignant to have the northern side represented.

I would like to invite the descendants to the 145th anniversary event April 17th-18th, 2010

Here is a link to the Bennett Place official website. Thanks for writing, Ms. McKean, and I hope that this brings some of the descendants to your event in April.

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31 Dec 2009, by

Happy New Year!

I wish each and every one of you a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year. 2009 was a pretty crappy year no matter how you slice it, so here’s hoping that 2010 is a substantial improvement for all of us. I know 2009 won’t be missed around our household.

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