22 April 2017

President Buchanan?

Image source

For some fascinating insight into the history and thoughts of one of the most influential political writers and thinkers of the last 50 years, I'd highly recommend a recent piece about Patrick J. Buchanan appearing in Politico Magazine. I've followed Pat closely since the 1980's and his days on Crossfire. I found this excerpt from the Politico piece particularly interesting:
Buchanan has had plenty of titles over the years, from spokesman to candidate, but his favorite is historian. He cherishes history not just for its drama but for the lessons bequeathed and the parallels he can extract: the seductive appeal of populism, the rising tide of nationalism, the similarities between the current president and the two he worked closely alongside. Above all, Buchanan loves history because, in his mind, it contains our civilizational apex; he treasures the past because he is convinced that his beloved country, these United States, will never again approach the particular kind of glory it held for a middle-class family in the postwar years.
You may read the Politico piece here.

21 April 2017

Experts: Wizards of Oz

Victor Davis Hanson expertly (pun intended) points out that the emperor has no clothes. Many of the "Wizards of Smart" (experts) in America today are really the "Wizards of Oz" - all drama and bluster but, in reality, just little, small-minded figures hiding behind a phony curtain of credentials pulling the levers of power with little of any value to show for their efforts.

As one of the favorite clipping services in the blogosphere, I offer the following excerpts from Dr. Hanson's piece for contemplation:
Elitism sometimes seems predicated on being branded with the proper degrees. But when universities embrace a therapeutic curriculum and politically correct indoctrination, how can a costly university degree guarantee knowledge or inductive thinking? [Answer: It can't.]
And . . .
The public no longer believes that privilege and influence should be predicated on titles, brands, and buzz, rather than on demonstrable knowledge and proven character. The idea that brilliance can be manifested in trade skills or retail sales, or courage expressed by dealing with the hardship of factory work, or character found on an Indiana farm, is foreign to the Washington Beltway, Hollywood, and Silicon Valley [and much of academia].
Read more here.

19 April 2017

Relic Hunting Post #149 - Another Artifact Display Ready

These forty pieces of Civil War lead and two shell fragments from Hotchkiss shells are ready to be mounted in a glass shadow box/display case. Almost as much as I love actually researching and recovering historical artifacts here in Virginia, I also love cleaning and displaying them. Displays like the one pictured here make great conversation pieces as well as providing an opportunity to share my passion and knowledge about the items displayed, as well as about history in general. Though it's a good problem to have, with each passing year I'm quickly running out of room to display my finds. I utilize my 2 offices as well as my home's parlor, though my wife is beginning to grumble about that.

Our Long History of Secession

Secesh fever (and nullification) seems to be all the rage these days. I've posted about it several times in recent months. Now comes Dr. Brion McClanahan with a piece detailing America's love affair with nullification and secession.

For example:
The Declaration of Independence is a secession document. The “thirteen united States of America” seceded from the British Empire and became “Free and Independent States” like the “State of Great Britain.”

The Constitution for the United States—the same Union of sovereign States that existed under the Articles of Confederation—allowed the States to secede from the Articles by acceding to the new governing document. This was expressly prohibited by the Articles.
And then . . .
The Hartford Convention of 1815 urged Northern states to nullify laws in support of the War of 1812 (several had already done so in fact but not by legislation) and insisted that if nothing changed they would have to resort to secession. Daniel Webster, the same man who called nullification disunion in 1830, believed in it enough in 1812 that he made several speeches in support of the idea around his home district.
More here.

17 April 2017

On My Nightstand

I started reading this new biography of Lee (written by the former rector of R.E. Lee Memorial Church in Lexington, VA) Saturday evening. Though I've read multiple biographies of Lee (including Freeman's), I must say the first few pages of this one have been quite interesting and informative. I've also been surprised by a few things. From what I've read thus far, the book will not be a favorite of the moral reformer class of historians. I'll have more to say about that when I post a review once I've finished reading the book.

15 April 2017

Book Review: The Confederate Soldiers of Rockbridge County, Virginia: A Roster


As promised in an earlier post . . . 

The Confederate Soldiers of Rockbridge County, Virginia: A Roster
Paperback, 360 pages
Publisher: McFarland (2016)
 ISBN-10: 1476664110
ISBN-13: 978-1476664118

The drive to Brownsburg, Virginia from my home is always a pleasant one. Driving south on Route 252 through the rolling hills and farmland of Augusta and Rockbridge Counties is like taking a trip back in time. Much of the landscape appears as it did 150 years ago. It is simply beautiful.

But my most recent trip had an added benefit: I was headed to the home of Robert (Bob) J. Driver, Jr. to chat with him about his most recent book: The Confederate Soldiers of Rockbridge County, Virginia: A Roster .
Driver’s circa 1795 home in the quaint village of Brownsburg provided the perfect setting to discuss the book. The publisher summarizes the book as follows:
Based on an exhaustive search of various sources, this book provides a comprehensive roster of all known Confederate soldiers, sailors and marines from Rockbridge County, Virginia, or those who served in units raised in the County. Washington College and Virginia Military Institute alumni who were from Rockbridge, enlisted in local companies or lived in the County before or after the war are also included. Complete service records are given, along with photographs where possible.
Bob Driver is somewhat of a legend among Civil War buffs here in the Shenandoah Valley. His encyclopedic knowledge of local Civil War history is evidenced by the twelve books he’s authored on Confederate soldiers and related history. Born in close-by Staunton, Driver is a retired Lt. Colonel (USMC) so his interest in the Valley’s Civil War history comes naturally. Moreover, Driver served as president of The Rockbridge Civil War Round Table in Lexington, Virginia for over thirty years. That organization is one of the most active Civil War Round Tables in the United States.

Though styled as a “roster”, Driver’s latest book is actually much more. It is a treasure trove of useful—and often fascinating—snippets and anecdotes about the Confederate soldiers from historic Rockbridge County. For example, Driver recalls the experience of Colonel Andrew Jackson Grigsby of the 27th Va. Infantry (Stonewall Brigade). After proving his bravery and battlefield prowess in several engagements, Grigsby resigned in protest over Major Elisha F. Paxton of Stonewall Jackson’s staff being nominated for a promotion to Brigadier General over (in the opinion of Grigsby and others) much more deserving officers. One of those considered more deserving was Grigsby himself. More than 40 officers signed a petition recommending Grigsby over Paxton noting “No bolder or more daring officer ever led troops into a fight or managed them better when actually engaged.”

Grigsby was “mad as thunder” and vowed, “As soon as the war ends, I will challenge Jackson to a duel.” Driver notes in his sketch of Grigsby that the Colonel was so upset that he travelled to Richmond for “an audience with President Davis.” Driver describes the testy exchange:

In the midst of the dialogue , epithets rent the air. The president leaped to his feet and shouted, “Do you know who I am? I am the president of the Confederacy.” Grigsby replied in kind. “Do you know who I am? he bellowed. “I am Andrew Jackson Grigsby of Rockbridge County, Virginia, late colonel of the Bloody 27th Virginia of the Stonewall Brigade, and as good a man as you or anyone else, by God!” Needless to say, Grigsby did not receive his well earned promotion. Grigsby returned home where he remained for the balance of the war.
Driver also includes the notation that Grigsby had the privilege of leading the survivors of the Stonewall Brigade for the dedication of the Jackson statue in the Lexington Cemetery in 1891 and closes his bio of Grigsby with a quote: “A bluff soldier much given to swearing.”

Scores of other stories, many just as interesting as Grigsby’s, are scattered throughout Driver’s book. All in all, over 3000 men from Rockbridge County served in the Confederate army. 253 were killed in action, 368 were wounded. Sixty-two had limbs amputated and 1004 were captured—some more than once. Twenty-five were veterans of the Mexican War and 286 were present and surrendered at Appomattox. Benjamin Marion Cash was the last veteran from Rockbridge County to die. He passed away, interestingly enough, in Brownsburg, Virginia on the 5th of February in 1945.

While the book is quite comprehensive, Driver notes in his introduction that “the information for these muster rolls of all the soldiers from Rockbridge County is not complete” even though “Rockbridge County probably has the best records in the state on its Confederate soldiers.” But after examining this book, I’d venture to say it is the most complete record on Rockbridge County Confederate soldiers available to date.

Driver’s dedication and motivation in compiling an accurate record of the service of these men is obvious in his preface:

This book is a labor of love to honor the Confederate soldiers who served their country during their War for Independence. Few of them ever owned a slave or considered slavery a major issue causing the war. They looked at the conflict as a means to relieve themselves of the economic domination of the Northern states and unfair tariffs on their products. They were not secessionists but . . . Lincoln’s call for troops from Virginia was the last straw for the men of Rockbridge County . . . They considered themselves patriots, just like their forefathers who fought  in the Revolutionary War. . . . This book is meant to establish a permanent record of their service and sacrifice for the cause they believed in.
Driver’s book is a great resource for historians, researchers, genealogists and buffs in general. It provides many jumping off points for additional research into the lives of these Confederate soldiers. Organized alphabetically by the soldiers’ last name, the book is an easy read with a complete bibliography and, despite the retail price of $49.95, it is money well-invested and a book this reviewer would highly recommend.

31 March 2017

Should College Students Sue Their Professors Over Disagreements?

In the vast majority of cases when there are disagreements, of course not. However . . . 
Marshall Polston, the Christian conservative student who was suspended from Rollins College after challenging his Muslim professor’s attacks on Christianity, has been reinstated. After a weeklong [sic] battle against “unfounded allegations” that Polston was threatening his professor Areej Zufari, Polston’s lawyer said the college should investigate wherever Zufari should remain at the school at all, given her “malicious assassination” of his character.
The professor might want to seek legal advice:
The student is weighing legal options against his professor. “You know, Ronald Reagan had a saying,” Polston said. “‘If you can’t make em see the light, make em feel the heat,’ and I think we need to make this teacher feel the heat.”
Maybe Rollins should require their professor to wear body cams/mics?

More here.

28 March 2017

Abe Lincoln's New Hat

I note that I didn't see this mentioned on any of the academic Civil War blogs. Oh wait, I know why. This wasn't Ben Carson's tweet. Silly me.

Of course, Ms. Clinton insists that her tweet was just sarcasm. Sure it was.

More here.

27 March 2017

Yes, Fake News is a Problem

But not in the way many "history" blogs portray it.

26 March 2017

Relic Hunting Post #148: Cattaraugus 225Q WWII Quartermaster Knife

And I didn't even need a metal detector for this amazing find! A while back, I bought a 1966 Ford F100 pick-up and am currently in the midst of an off-frame restoration for that old classic. When I picked it up, I asked the previous owner if he wanted anything still in the cab of the truck, i.e., some jumper cables, an old socket set, etc. He said, "No, you are welcome to anything I left in it." When I got it home, I found what appeared to be just an old rusted hunting knife under the seat. I almost threw it away, but decided to toss it up on my workbench so I could use it for a digging tool or something. I picked it up for the first time since then yesterday and began using a wire brush to clean it up. It was then I noticed the maker's mark: "Cattaraugus 225Q."

The Cattaraugus 225Q was a *general issue utility knife used by the U.S army during WWII. It is often referred to as the "Quartermaster knife." It has a 6" blade and is a full 3/16" thick. The handle is made of stacked leather rings. It sports a steel butt cap that's almost a full 1/2" thick. Besides a fighting weapon, the knife was often used to pry open crates, as well as a makeshift hammer. It has that quality "heft" feel to it. I got all the rust off, put a quick edge on it, cleaned and put a conditioner on the leather and oiled the steel. It is one tough tool and I'm so pleased to have been able to save this piece of American military history.

Leather handle before conditioning.
Leather handle after conditioning.
Butt cap

*I originally indicated this knife was issued to U.S. Military Special Forces units. That is incorrect.

23 March 2017

Interviewing A Legend

I had a most enjoyable and interesting experience visiting and interviewing Robert "Bob" Driver about his latest book recently. Bob is a retired Lt. Colonel (USMC) and was, for more than 30 years, President of one of the most active Civil War Roundtables in the United States: The Rockbridge (County) Civil War Roundtable. I've spoken for the group in Lexington a number of times myself. Bob is somewhat of a legend around Lexington and Rockbridge County and is, perhaps, the most knowledgeable about the area's WBTS history. 

I had the privilege of visiting Bob in his Brownsburg, Virginia home (circa 1795) and discussing, in addition to his book, other points of interest regarding local history. I'll post the interview and book review here once complete.

On a related note, I snapped this photo as I headed back home on one of the scenic Shenandoah Valley back roads.

21 March 2017

Battle of Waynesboro Bayonet Preservation Efforts

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by someone at the Waynesboro [VA] Heritage Foundation Museum and informed that they had recently received some donated items related to the Battle of Waynesboro. Two of those items were bayonets that had been dug by a relic hunter a number of years ago. The person contacting me thought I'd like to see them before they were put up and "stored." Of course, I stopped by to take a look. The two bayonets had not been preserved and were deteriorating badly due to oxidation/rust. As I serve on the WHF's board, I offered to do what I could to preserve what was left of the bayonets. I've finished the first bayonet. All the rust has been removed and the piece preserved and sealed to prevent further deterioration. Here are some before (first 3 photos) and after (last 3) photos.

20 March 2017

New to My Nightstand

As I recently learned that the movie, The Lost City of Z, is being released in theaters this coming Friday, I decided to purchase the book upon which the movie is based. The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon is, without question, one of those, "I have to at least finish this chapter before stopping" kinda book. Once started, I truly did not want to put it down. The book combines a number of things that fascinate me: Victorian England, history, exploration, mystery, archeology, adventure and treasure. Think of this story as a real life Indiana Jones tale. The story centers around the efforts of British explorer Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett to locate a mysterious lost city in the Amazon jungle.

He was the last of the great Victorian explorers who ventured into uncharted realms with little more than a machete, a compass, and an almost divine sense of purpose.
 I'm loving the book and, based on early reviews, I'm sure I'll love the film as well.

18 March 2017

Tredegar Iron Works Turns 180

Tredegar Iron Works, Richmond, VA - Circa 1865, Library of Congress
While recently researching and writing an article for one of the relic hunting/metal detecting magazines, I realized that 2017 marks the 180th anniversary of the opening of Tredegar Iron Works in Richmond, Virginia. In the course of this research, I *visited Mount Torry Furnace which lies in the George Washington National Forest, about seven miles from my home in the western foothills of the Blue Ridge.

Mount Torry Sign, near Sherando, Virginia
Maryland and my native state of Virginia were the first two colonies to export iron to England. By 1619, Jamestown settlers had established a small furnace about 50 miles north of Jamestown near Falling Creek. As early settlers moved west across the Blue Ridge Mountains, furnaces were built throughout many areas of Virginia where deposits of iron ore were discovered; especially in the Shenandoah Valley where I live. Mount Torry was one of these early furnaces. As a teenager, I climbed all over and explored that structure many times. Built in 1804, the furnace was utilized by the Confederacy during the War Between the States to produce pig iron for Tredegar. Tredegar produced everything from artillery and munitions, to the iron plating for the ironclad warship, the CSS Virginia. Union soldiers burned Mount Torry in 1864. Rebuilt after the Civil War, it finally ceased operations in 1892 but remains today as a silent reminder of the importance of iron in the development and history of our nation. Mount Torry Furnace has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1974.

Mount Torry Furnace Ruins
This piece of pig iron was recovered from the Maury River near Lexington, Virginia and given to me by a friend. Pig iron was loaded on barges from furnaces upstream from Lexington, then floated down the Maury (North) River to the James and Tredegar. Oftentimes, these barges sank or part of their cargo would fall off into the river.

*Just to be perfectly clear, relic hunting or removal of any artifacts from Federal property is illegal. My visit to Mount Torry was for research purposes only.

17 March 2017

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Patrick's Day! Below is a fitting thought for the day taken from an essay I wrote about the Stonewall Brigade for Virginia Tech's Center for Civil War Studies:
The various companies within the brigade were as diverse in personality and temperament as were the individual men that formed them. Since many of these men hailed from the Shenandoah Valley, a large number of them were of Scots-Irish and Irish ancestry. Evidence of this consistent pedigree was apparent in the “Emerald Guards,” Company E, Thirty-Third Virginia. Every man in this unit was Irish and worked and lived as common laborers in the New Market area. Many of these men signed an “X” on muster documents, lending evidence to the fact that they were largely illiterate and unable to even sign their own name. Jackson considered the company the “problem child” of the Stonewall Brigade due to its partiality for “liquor and brawling.” One historian aptly described their irreligious proclivities: “. . . the Sons of Erin did not mesh easily with their conservative neighbors, most of whom were of German and Scotch-Irish descent. The Celts' predilection for hard liquor and their affinity for world-class brawling at the least provocation engendered a definite air of notoriety.” Many in Company E undoubtedly joined in the South’s struggle for the pure joy they would receive from fighting.

Another company within the brigade enjoyed a more pious reputation and would be considered among those “conservative neighbors” with whom the Sons of Erin did not easily mesh. Company I, Fourth Virginia, the “Liberty Hall Volunteers” was comprised primarily of students from Washington College in Lexington. All the officers, as well as more than half the privates, were professing Christians, and one-fourth were candidates for the ministry. Upon their flag was emblazoned the Latin phrase “Pro Aris et Focis” - the English translation being simply “For Altar and Home.” The company was organized and commanded by James J. White, professor of Greek at Washington College and son of Stonewall Jackson's pastor, the Reverend William S. White.

You can read the rest here.

16 March 2017

More Historical Hypocrisy

Y'all remember all the Fake News charges against the Tea Party over supposed threats and violence by Tea Party supporters and members? Sure you do. The "history" blogs pretty much marched in groupthink lockstep in their regular denunciations and charges of bigotry, racism, Nazism, blah, blah, blah. Supposedly, the Tea Party uprising was motivated by hatred for President Obama. The media dutifully fanned the flames often referring to the Tea Party as "neo-Confederates." Gee, I wonder where they got that term from?

Of course, since then, we've learned that when it comes to those types of charges regarding politically motivated groups, the real violence emanates from the left, not the right. Even the news website, The Hill, has pointed out the double standard in a rather scathing op-ed piece this morning. Here's a few excerpts:
Turn on TV or browse your newsfeeds on social media, and you will be bombarded with polemics about the sky falling and credible threats of violence against conservative figures. . . . And yet, when it comes to this constant flow of threats, there seems to be little outrage from the nation’s leading journalists and pundits. . . . Social media shines almost every day with a new dimwitted threat against Trump and his presidency. “Comedienne” Sarah Silverman called for a military coup. Madonna told protesters she “thought” about blowing up the White House. Violence seems to break out every time a conservative comes to speak at a college campus. Rosie O’Donnell talks about “stopping” Trump on Twitter.
And NO OUTRAGE from the historians moral reformers who were frequent pom-pom girls for Obama. 
Every time a threatening, disrespectful, or unflattering comment was made about the former president, a national shaming storm sprung up. A staffer for an obscure congressman was forced to resign after stating that Obama’s daughters don’t show enough "class." Ex-congressman Joe Walsh was slammed in nearly every major outlet after he tweeted, “This is now war. Watch out Obama,” after five cops were fatally shot in Dallas. Even Tea Partiers were regularly called neo-Confederates
This is just further evidence that the leftists in the media and the leftists in the history blogosphere and on college campuses today are simply two sides of the same coin; which is why their influence continues to erode with each passing day.