28 June 2016

The Last Southern Man

This is the knife I use to dig splinters from the feet of urchins.
I came across this in the most recent issue of Southern Living. I identify with so much of what Rick Bragg writes here:
Think for just a moment, about your grandfather. He would have no more left the house without a pocketknife than without his breeches, for while a man of his era could survive this drafty world without pantaloons, he would sooner or later need to snip some twine, or punch a hole in an oil can, or dig a pine splinter out of some urchin’s foot, or just slice an apple. One of these days, men will no longer love or need their pocketknives this way. That is when we know the last Southern man has shuffled off into the sunset, to make room for a world of helpless no accounts. . . . A Southern man, knifeless, was pitiful. Men without knives were like men who rode around without a jack, or a spare tire, just generally unprepared for life.
Amen brother, amen.

27 June 2016

Writing for People "Who Just Get It" About the South

And few do it better than Southern Living writer, Rick Bragg. He's a master and he truly "gets it." I've identified myself as a "Southern Writer" for years and I'm so proud to be able to claim that mantle. I'm no Rick Bragg, but I do "get it."

My wife and I have been SL subscribers for years and Bragg's writing alone makes it worth the subscription price. Another of my favorites is Garden & Gun Magazine. Think of G&G as 
Southern Living with a healthy dose of testosterone.
"I've been explaining myself for a long time, and I'm not doin' it anymore." ~ Rick Bragg

I hear you brother, I hear you.

Investing 3 minutes to watch Bragg's remarks here is worth your time, in my opinion; especially if you need some help "gettin' it." And trust me, a number of my readers do.
(Here's the link if the video does not load.)

More Political Correctness in Academia

As I like to often remind readers, there are a couple of Civil War bloggers who like to poo-poo the reality of political correctness.  These two fellas have their heads in the sand (or perhaps a convenient body orifice) but it's easy to understand their denials: they live and breathe in academic circles so they've built up an intellectual immunity to PC. Of course, exposing PC also interferes with their agenda, so they MUST deny it's existence or, at the very least, downplay it's impact. They're actually convinced they're convincing others.

But here's the latest news from academia and the PC control freaks:
At the University of North Carolina, it’s not just the students walking on politically correct eggshells. Guidelines issued on the university’s Employee Forum aim to help staff avoid microaggressions in their interactions by cautioning against offensive phrases such as “Christmas vacation,” “husband/boyfriend” and “golf outing.”
But let's get to the nut of the matter:
The Chapel Hill campus is not alone in its attempt to quell microaggressions, which ostensibly are defined as unintentional slights directed toward vulnerable groups. However, “microaggressions” often carry political implications and serve as a pretext for silencing political dissent on college campuses. At an event last year titled “Managing Microaggressions,” students at the University of Virginia said identifying oneself as an “American” is a microaggression. Students at the University of Wisconsin last year said calling America a “melting pot” or the “land of opportunity” is microaggressive.
Yes, yes one can see a correlation with the current "moral reformer" historian crowd, can't one?

More here.

22 June 2016

Yet One More Reason to Homeschool

The suspension of second grader who chewed his breakfast pastry into the shape of a gun was upheld by a circuit court judge last week.
You just can't make this stuff up. Idiots.

15 June 2016

Homeschooling: "The Best Education Option"

And the problem is not the teachers, it's the system, the bureaucracy and the politics. All three sacrifice children for their own gain and power.

13 June 2016

Modern Slavery

Update: I must live rent free in Kevin Levin's brain. As usual, he distorts what I write. My post must have struck a nerve with Levin. 
I want to send this one out to my fellow blogger in “Old Virginia,” who has found a not so clever way of making the point that American slavery wasn’t so bad. Yes, slavery apologists are alive and well. This is the same individual who maintains that Stonewall Jackson was the “black man’s friend.”  ~ Kevin Levin
Can someone explain to me how quoting a Wall Street Journal piece about modern slavery makes one a "slavery apologist" or is "making the point that American slavery wasn't so bad?" Would that make Levin a "modern slavery apologist"? Wow, what a painful stretch that must have been. I suppose one might interpret Levin's remarks as "a not so clever way of making the point that modern slavery isn't so bad." Is Levin in denial about the reality of modern slavery? I think Levin's beef is actually with the WSJ (or perhaps his own inner struggle), not me.

This is typical for those who don't have a rebuttal or a coherent argument (or maybe feeling guilty?) - they launch ad hominem attacks which can't be supported by facts. Read my original post below and see if you can squeeze Levin's twisted analysis out of what I wrote. And, in regards to what I actually have written about American slavery specifically:
While many nineteenth-century Southern theologians went to great lengths to propound a biblical basis for slavery, and though neither Christ nor Paul ever directly condemned slavery, one cannot reconcile the broader themes of the gospel— liberty, peace, freedom from bondage, reconciliation, and brotherly love—with the institution of slavery. . . . To argue that slavery and Christianity could peacefully coexist denies the obvious. Since man-stealing and slave-trading was specifically condemned and punishable by death in the Old Testament (see Exodus 21:16: “He that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death”), American slavery was destined for God’s judgment from the beginning. Slavery is inherently accompanied by evils and mistrust. And race-based slavery is particularly evil and sinful. Man-stealing, coupled with the haughty, prideful spirit of superiority by nineteenth-century white Americans—North as well as South— invited the judgment of God. God visited the nation with a war that took more lives than all other American wars combined—decimating a generation of white Americans within four terrible years. 
 And . . .
The emotional pain, sense of loss and fear, and physical abuse experienced by the African slaves cannot be comprehended by anyone outside the experience. As English surgeon Alexander Falconbridge noted in a 1788 account of his experience aboard a slave ship: "It is not in the power of the human imagination to picture a situation more dreadful or disgusting." Torn from their homeland, families, and separated from all that was familiar and loved, these forlorn human beings were transported to a land unknown to them to be sold at an auction to the highest bidder, with potential purchasers poking and prodding them like livestock, checking their teeth, and examining muscle tone. The Africans were then carted off by their new owners to a plantation in the South, a mill on a river in the North, or a fine house where they were assigned to wait on white families or nurse white infants.
Once again, Levin proves he has no idea what he's talking about and, in this specific case, seems to be more interested in personal, ad hominem attacks and his agenda than he is in the actual facts.

End of update.  

Many of the moral reformer modern day historians are obsessed with the slave South of the 19th century. Their obsession goes beyond any serious discussion about history. They often use their platform for a morality play.
These historians see themselves as moral critics obligated to denounce the values of the past in order to somehow reform our present. ~ Professor Gordon S. Wood
Yet these same historians mostly ignore present reality. Consider an op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal:
Slaves in the American South numbered four million in 1860, the last time the U.S. Census Bureau counted the victims of the “peculiar institution” before it was abolished. Today there are 18.4 million slaves in India alone and 45.8 million world-wide. The modern slave trade is as cruel as its 19th-century forerunner—and much larger than previously thought. . . . Elsewhere, ancient institutions of bondage—such as debt-slavery in India and across much of Asia and Mauritania’s slave caste—persist due to weak rule of law. Civil wars and jihadist violence across Africa and the Middle East have been a boon to the trade, displacing millions and pushing new victims into the arms of ruthless human traffickers.
Why aren't more of the moral reformers interested in modern slavery?

10 June 2016

American Monuments & Generation Snowflake

Image source.
Claire Fox, head of a thinktank called the Institute of Ideas, has penned a coruscating critique of “Generation Snowflake”, the name given to a growing group of youngsters who “believe it’s their right to be protected from anything they might find unpalatable”.
All this plays perfectly into the efforts to eradicate American monuments (as well as contrarian opinion) from the landscape ( as well as from the classroom.)
Books containing troublesome material are now slapped with “trigger warnings”, whilst universities and student unions are declared “safe spaces” where young people should not have to encounter anything they disagree with.

08 June 2016

Southern Heritage, Southern Family, Southern Tradition: Part 4

Part IV of this series was supposed to be a link to an interview with Earl Ijames. I've not finished that and submitted it to the other blog site yet, so that will likely have to wait until next week some time. However, the comments in part III would be incomplete without these additional thoughts. Like the part III post, this is an excerpt from my latest book, The Battle of Waynesboro. In many ways my thoughts here encapsulate what many miss (or misunderstand) in the current debate over Confederate monuments.

While the practical aspects of moving on and recovering after the South’s defeat occupied most of the energies of southerners in the decades following the war, remembrance was also a very important aspect of that recovery. There was a sense of duty and obligation to remember the sacrifices of the sons, fathers and brothers who had marched so optimistically off to war in the spring of 1861, only to return to, in the words of veteran H.H. Kerr, find “the home he left so beautiful in blackened ruins…his stock killed…his money of no value, and a system of reconstruction which made the horrors of war pale into insignificance.”

That sense of duty often manifested itself in the erecting of monuments, statues, highway markers, plaques and other memorials that dot the South’s landscape to this day. One such monument was the one erected in honor of Colonel William Harman. It was placed to remind us of his sacrifice and as a testament to his bravery and commitment in defending his native sod—the very town in which he was born. In 1926, this monument was erected by the Jeb Stuart Chapter (Staunton) of the United Daughters of the Confederacy near the very place of his death. Since that time, this monument has been moved several times and now rests in Waynesboro’s Constitution Park, about 550 yards southeast from where he fell. The inscription on the monument reads:

William H. Harman
Colonel, C.S.A.
Born Feb. 17, 1828
Killed in action at
Waynesboro Mar 2, 1865.
He was a lieutenant of a company
from Augusta County
in the Mexican War; afterwards
Brig. General in the
Virginia Militia; appointed
Lieut Col. 5th Virginia Inft.
C.S.A. May 7, 1861; Col. and
A.D.C. on staff of Maj. General
Edward Johnson.
May 17, 1862.
A Gallant Soldier.

The fact that Harman’s monument has been moved several times and now rests in a rather obscure and hard-to-see location is, in many ways, illustrative of the fading memory and focus regarding the commemoration and memory of the Civil War. I doubt that many local residents even know it exists or are aware of the struggle that took place on the ground that today hosts the stately homes of the now quiet and quaint Tree Streets. In some ways, I believe that those old veterans might be pleased with that. While I do not believe they would want us to forget their sacrifice for duty’s sake in the defense of their homes, the fading memory of succeeding generations is a natural outcome of their successful efforts to rebuild the South and unite the country after the war’s devastation. I believe many rank and file veterans simply wanted—for themselves and their posterity—a return to some semblance of normalcy. That would not be truly possible without the fading of memory. They wanted the death and destruction to cease. They wanted once again to till their land, sleep under their own roofs, support their families, educate their sons and daughters and worship their God. They wanted to rebuild, reconcile and reunite. And they did. Although that process was halting and imperfect—especially for those new citizens who were no longer slaves—we can remember and honor the men on both sides of that epic conflict for what they did after the war as much as for what they did during the war.

Yet while memories will fade, we should never let them die completely. I believe we should—and will—continue to teach our children and grandchildren what our fathers and mothers and grandparents have taught us and passed down for generations. We will continue to share our family history around the supper table as we eat harvest that was grown and nourished from the very soil that contains the blood of our kin—blood that was shed while defending their homes. We will continue to share our family history on the front porches of our homes in the fading light of summer evenings surrounded by great trees that were present when our ancestors lived. We will continue to share our family history before a crackling fire in our homes on cold winter nights with our children and grandchildren gathered close around us. We will continue to share the stories, the sadness, the injustices, the glory, the bravery, the love, the patriotism, the loyalty and the sacrifices of those who have gone before us. We do this, in part, so that we might “honor our fathers,” as the scriptures command us. And we pray that our children and our grandchildren will do the same when their turn comes.

06 June 2016

D-Day: "Somebody Had To Do It"

“Lieutenant Welsh remembered walking around among the sleeping men, and thinking to himself that ‘they had looked at and smelled death all around them all day but never even dreamed of applying the term to themselves. They hadn’t come here to fear. They hadn’t come to die. They had come to win.” ~ Stephen E. Ambrose, Band of Brothers: E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne

And this from the man who commanded the D-Day invasion:
From deep conviction, I simply say this: a nation of men of Lee’s calibre would be unconquerable in spirit and soul. Indeed, to the degree that present-day American youth will strive to emulate his rare qualities, including his devotion to this land as revealed in his painstaking efforts to help heal the Nation’s wounds once the bitter struggle was over, we, in our own time of danger in a divided world, will be strengthened and our love of freedom sustained. Such are the reasons that I proudly display the picture of this great American on my office wall. ~ Dwight D. Eisenhower

And, in unrelated news, I'll soon address some rather misleading comments made about Stonewall Jackson's black Sunday school class.

04 June 2016

Confederate Flags "Selling Like Crack"

And  one of the biggest sellers is a Yankee.

Oh my, the irony.
Seller Paul Riley, who operated the eBay account transfusioncincy out of his home in Cincinnati, Ohio, told Vocativ that he recognized he was playing with fire selling the contraband flags on the site. “There is a risk involved in selling this item on eBay, but at the end of the day I’m a single father of 3 trying to make a living with at home retail so I am going to do what I have to do to keep the lights on,” he said in an email.

He said he didn’t view the flag as a racist symbol, but simply as a symbol for “a group of people that was rebelling against the government.” Regardless, Riley said the flags were “selling like crack” despite the ban: he said he cleared almost $20,000 in flag sales in 2015, and about $1,000 so far this year.

03 June 2016

Nationalism, The Judeo-Christian West & the Presidential Campaign

Liberty Leading the People by Eugène Delacroix
Some of the criticisms and critiques being bandied about in regards to nationalism (and populism) are often embarrassingly ignorant. Given the current state of political discourse and the teaching of history in recent decades, this should come as no surprise. With that in mind, I came across an interesting piece this morning written by Dr. George Friedman in which he states:
Recently, there have been a number of articles and statements asserting that fascism is rising in Europe, and that Donald Trump is an American example of fascism. This is a misrepresentation of a very real phenomenon. The nation-state is reasserting itself as the primary vehicle of political life. Multinational institutions like the European Union and multilateral trade treaties are being challenged because they are seen by some as not being in the national interest. The charge of a rise in fascism derives from a profound misunderstanding of what fascism is. It is also an attempt to discredit the resurgence of nationalism and to defend the multinational systems that have dominated the West since World War II. [Emphasis mine.]
Friedman's piece is not an endorsement of any candidate but, rather, an attempt to explain what we're seeing not only in the United States, but in Europe as well. It's worth the time to read.

And in related news . . .

Trump takes at least 11 percent of the black vote nationwide with heavier support in the South, said Armstrong Williams, a national talk show host . . .

02 June 2016

Frauds in Academia

Thought for the day: Academia has long preached tolerance for leftist ideologies - until those views became dominant and now they preach obedience to those ideologies and shut down debate and opposition. Why? Because those ideologies can't be intellectually defended. Allowing free and open debate would expose them for what they are. And, in the rare event they are opposed, they've taught their students to retreat to their safe space.

What absolute frauds.

And in related news:

“Leftists have killed Traditional Liberalism on American campuses.  This new hyper form of Political Correctness has transformed college students into petulant 6 year olds who, when challenged with an opposing point of view, throw temper tantrums or lock themselves in their rooms to suck their thumbs, “ said Mitchell Stern, UCI College Republican Treasurer

Yet we still have academic history bloggers poo-pooing the reality of PC. Why? Because its part of their own intellectual "safe space." LOL.

You could try this:

Front Porch Pickin' #36 - Pretty Little Girl From Galax (Southern Heritage, Southern Family, Southern Tradition: Bonus)

It's been a while since I posted anything from the Front Porch Pickin' series, but I came across this one recently. I've been to the Old Time Fiddler's Convention in Galax, Virginia a few times, and this tune brought back some memories. Classic. Get your culture here.

Happy Birthday to the Consummate Virginian - John Randolph of Roanoke

When I speak of my country, I mean the Commonwealth of Virginia. I was born in allegiance to George III. My ancestors threw off the oppressive yoke of the mother country, but they never made me subject to New England in matters spiritual or temporal, neither do I mean to become so voluntarily. ~ John Randolph of Roanoke, 1773-1833
And I would recommend David Johnson's recent biography of  Randolph.

01 June 2016

The Superiority of the Southern Accent

"Most of the world regards Southern accented English as a sign of a superior person.  Yankees pretend to believe it is a mark of ignorance, but their pretense in this, as in many other matters, is a cover-up for jealousy.  The poet Robert Lowell, a very Boston Brahmin of the Boston Brahmins, went to Tennessee as a young man and lived in a tent in Allen Tate’s and Caroline Gordon’s yard.  For the rest of his life he spoke with a Southern accent.  You can hear it in the videos of his anti-Vietnam speeches." ~ Clyde Wilson

30 May 2016

Southern Heritage, Southern Family, Southern Tradition: Part 3

Confederate graves at Arlington National Cemetery. Image source.

The following post consists of an excerpt from the introduction of my latest book, The Battle of Waynesboro. I post it in in hopes of explaining how some Southerners connect to their heritage and in remembrance of Memorial Day.

The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage. –Psalms 16:6

Sitting in my basement office typing the manuscript to this book, I am surrounded by mementos that constantly remind me of my hometown of Waynesboro, Virginia. Among them is an old photograph of Confederate veteran and former mayor of Waynesboro Colonel Charles H. Withrow. And there’s the bridle bit that belonged to Withrow’s horse, “Bird,” hanging on the wall. There’s also a portrait of my great-grandfather, “Mr. Charlie” McGann, who cared for the Colonel’s horse in the early part of the twentieth century. There’s the antique, wood-framed barber’s mirror that used to adorn a barbershop in Waynesboro’s African American community on Port Republic Road. Just up the road from that barbershop was the elementary school that I attended after desegregation in the 1960s—the Rosenwald School. These items, along with many others, are old friends that summon up misty-sweet memories.

I grew up in a Waynesboro neighborhood known as Wayne Hills, just a few blocks west of Port Republic Road. In early March 1865, that area would have witnessed Confederate artillery shells sailing overhead as Confederate artillerist Henry Robinson Berkeley fired his cannon at Sheridan’s advancing army from the high ground near Port Republic Road. Just a bike ride across town lived my paternal grandparents. As a young boy, I visited my grandparents often and spent many restless summer nights lying in a bed in a second-story bedroom of their home. I recall the air often being still and humid, and I would move my pillow to the bottom of the bed, getting closer to the open window in the hopes of catching a breeze of relief. The summer sounds—crickets and cicadas and the occasional barking of a dog—filled the night air. Charles Lockridge McGann started building the home in 1909 on the corner of what was Locust Avenue and Fourth (now Fourteenth) Street. Downstairs, hanging on an archway that joined a hallway to the dining room, was my great-great grandfather’s Civil War musket.

The sounds I would hear on those summer nights were much more serene than the ones that filled the air in March 1865. The McGann home sat squarely in the middle of ground that had hosted the Battle of Waynesboro—the last Civil War battle fought in the Shenandoah Valley on March 2, 1865. The home was built in an area that would later become known as the “Tree Streets”—designated a historic district and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002; it is a 120-acre area of stately, late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century homes and structures. During the American colonial and Victorian periods, it was common practice to name streets running north to south after American species of trees. As the old battlefield reverted to farmland after the war, it became part of an apple orchard and was then developed into a quintessential southern residential neighborhood with Victorian-style homes lining the streets of Oak, Cherry, Locust, Pine, Maple, Walnut and Chestnut Avenues. Included in part of the Tree Street historic district is Wayne Avenue, named in honor of the town’s namesake: Revolutionary War general “Mad Anthony” Wayne.

From that bedroom in my grandparents’ home, hands folded under my chin on my pillow, I could look out the second-story window up the hill one block away toward Pine Avenue and what had been the Confederate line—the very line where my great-great-grandfather’s unit, the 51st Virginia Infantry, had dug trenches in what would prove to be a futile attempt to repel Union general Philip Sheridan’s numerically superior army.

And there were other memories: stories and objects that would sometimes sweep a young boy’s imagination into the time warp that William Faulkner described in Intruder in the Dust:

For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it’s still not yet two o’clock on that July afternoon in 1863, the brigades are in position behind the rail fence, the guns are laid and ready in the woods and the furled flags are already loosened to break out and Pickett himself with his long oiled ringlets and his hat in one hand probably and his sword in the other looking up the hill waiting for Longstreet to give the word and it’s all in the balance, it hasn’t happened yet, it hasn’t even begun yet, it not only hasn’t begun yet but there is still time for it not to begin against that position and those circumstances which made more men than Garnett and Kemper and Armistead and Wilcox look grave yet it’s going to begin, we all know that, we have come too far with too much at stake and that moment doesn’t need even a fourteen-year-old boy to think This time. Maybe this time with all this much to lose and all this much to gain: Pennsylvania, Maryland, the world, the golden dome of Washington itself to crown with desperate and unbelievable victory the desperate gamble, the cast made two years ago.

In writing those words, Faulkner seemed to be manifesting what Ernest Hemingway described as the task of writing: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” And when one writes about wars and battles, one must bleed—at least metaphorically. For wars and battles are about much more than glory and gain, more than conquerors and conquered, more than troop movements and maneuvers—wars and battles are about bleeding, about the loss of life, about what was won and what might have been won, what might have been prevented, what might have been saved or lost. It is impossible to read the letters, diaries and accounts of battles without, at least to some degree, entering into what the writer of those accounts was feeling and describing. To do less would be a disservice to all those who bled and died in those battles.

Yet authors and historians and writers are advised to separate their own emotions and feelings from their work. But is that really possible? It is even advisable? Of course writers should, as much as possible, restrain their biases when presenting history. But what is writing without emotion? What is storytelling without sharing the passion of the event? Stale facts and recounting of numbers killed and wounded do not tell the story adequately. While connections to subjects and events can be a stumbling block when attempting to write objectively about those same topics, they can also serve as motivations—even giving keen insight and unique perspective attainable no other way. It certainly motivates me. And it is no coincidence that the biographers of the South’s two greatest Civil War generals were themselves southerners.

The definitive biography of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson was authored by historian James I. Robertson Jr., who has said that he developed a keen interest in Civil War studies when he first became aware that his great-grandfather had been a Confederate soldier and cook for Robert E. Lee. And Robert E. Lee’s most noted biographer, Douglas Southall Freeman, penned his massive four-volume biography of Lee due to a personal attachment to the War Between the States and after being “profoundly moved” by something he had witnessed. Freeman biographer David Johnson gives some of the details of what Freeman experienced when, as a seventeenyear-old young man, he observed a reenactment of the Battle of the Crater:

Douglas stood with his Confederate veteran father and watched the pageant of history unfold in front of him. Back at the hotel, he saw the veterans from a closer vantage point. They were “feeble, crippled, some of them blind, many of them poor.” He was profoundly moved by the events of the day…All these emotions, shaped and colored by his heritage as a son of the South and Walker Freeman, had evoked self-examination and prompted action. Now, he made to himself a solemn commitment, one that he knew would outlast the zeal of youthful novelties. “If someone doesn’t write the story of these men,” Douglas Southall Freeman resolved, “it will be lost forever.” “I’m going to do it.” ~ David Johnson

Some historians have even grieved over the fact that they lack such a connection as Robertson and Freeman:

Any historian who argues that the Confederate people demonstrated robust devotion to their slave-based republic, possessed feelings of national community, and sacrificed more than any other segment of white society in United States history runs the risk of being labeled a neo-Confederate. As a native of Los Angeles who grew up on a farm in southern Colorado, I can claim complete freedom from any pro-Confederate special pleading during my formative years. Moreover, not a single ancestor fought in the war, a fact I lamented as a boy reading books by Bruce Catton and Douglas Southall Freeman and wanting desperately to have some direct connection to the events that fascinated me. ~ Gary Gallagher

Both Robertson and Freeman have been criticized by other Civil War scholars and historians for being “too close” to their subjects. That is a fair observation and one, I believe, neither man would have totally denied. But knowing these historians’ “closeness” to their subjects and the widely acclaimed quality of their scholarship, did this closeness really detract from their work—or did it actually enhance it? Gary Gallagher, in his introduction to the 1998 edition of Freeman’s The South to Posterity, seems to echo that sentiment in quoting Bruce Catton: “[It] would be foolish to pretend that Dr. Freeman’s history was at all times completely objective. It was scholarly and it was fair, but it was never detached or passionless. It would be poorer history if it were those things.”

It is my opinion that readers should be much more skeptical of historians and writers who refuse to acknowledge their biases and connections to the topics they write about, as well as of those writers who, though admitting their biases, make no attempt to bridle them.

The Battle of Waynesboro, along with the rich heritage and history of the whole Shenandoah Valley, is part of me, and I want readers to know this. As historian Jeffrey Wert has astutely observed, the Shenandoah Valley has an almost spiritual connection with its residents, particularly those who are native to its soil: “In the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, roots went deep into the rich soil…The Valley seeped into bones, touched souls.”

So, as you read The Battle of Waynesboro, know that the author was born on and grew up on the very ground that hosted the conflict. Know that all six of my children were born on that battlefield. Know that I have never lived more than ten miles from that ground. Know that two of my great-great grandfathers served in the 51st Virginia Infantry, which fought in that battle. Know that my family and I have owned some of that battleground. Know that I have held swords, bullets, grapeshot and a musket from that battle. Know that my body has been nourished from food grown from that ground. Know that I reverence that ground, that connection and that heritage. Know that this ground has seeped into my bones and touched my soul. Know that all this simultaneously burdens and rewards me with certain biases and perspectives. Know also that while I have attempted to bridle my biases, I am, at the same time, thankful to God for the heritage that birthed them. And finally, know that I have sat at my keyboard and bled a little.

Richard G. Williams Jr. Huckleberry Hollow, Virginia July 2014