29 November 2006

Christmas at the Miller Kite House

The Elkton Historical Society and the Town of Elkton, Virginia are hosting a Christmas Open House at the Miller-Kite House & Museum, and the Kite Mansion on Sunday, Dec. 17, Noon to 5PM. The Miller Kite House served as the headquarters of General Stonewall Jackson during Jackson's legendary "Valley Campaign" from April 19-30, 1862. The museum features many items from the Civil War era and some articles belonging to Jackson. The house was built in 1827 by Henry Miller, Jr. For the Christmas event, the Miller-Kite House & Museum will have music by Ken Monger, Living History Demonstrations, and Stonewall Jackson portrayed by Jimmy Pence. It is located at 310 E. Rockingham St. The Kite Mansion will offer music as well as the refreshments. Both will be decorated for the holidays. The Kite Mansion is located on Rt. 33 E, next to the Elkton Middle School. For additional information call 540-298-1717 or 540-289-9866. E-mail historyed@msn.com. Donations appreciated.

28 November 2006

Virginia Scores Big in the Top 10!

Atlantic Monthly recently published its "Top 100 Most Influential Figures in American History." I was pleased to see that, out of the top 10, Virginians took 4 slots! I was even more pleased to see that Robert E. Lee maintained a spot coming in at #57. Though that is somewhat gratifying, Lee should certainly have made the top 5. Ignorance of American history continues to be a major problem in our country. The objective study of Lee's life certainly reveals him to be a brilliant military leader, dedicated father, godly Christian, and a committed educator - not to mention his humility and efforts to reconcile our Nation after the War Between the States. All of this is so obvious, despite politically correct historians' efforts to tarnish Lee's character and contributions. Modern "scholars" with an agenda despise Lee because he towers above them in character and morality. Rather than try to better themselves by Lee's example, they find it easier to attempt to impugn his reputation. Its much easier to tear down someone else's charcter than to build up one's own. They attempt to hide their disdain for Lee and what he stood for (Christianity and the concept of the "gentleman") behind their "objective scholarship." Such conduct makes men - compared to Lee - pathetic moral midgets. America needs heroes - real heroes. Hopefully, with Virginia's celebration of Lee's 200th birthday next year, my fellow citizens will once again take notice of Lee's greatness and emulate his model. I am thankful to be able to count Lee as one of my heroes.

Back to the "Top 100" . . . Virginian Booker T. Washington deserves a much higher slot than #98. As I wrote in a magazine article of Washington:

“My life had its beginning in the midst of the most miserable, desolate, and discouraging surroundings.” So writes the great black educator Booker T. Washington on the first page of his autobiography Up From Slavery (Williamstown, MA: Corner House Publishers, 1978). Not a promising start, but Washington’s life of discipline and sheer determination holds many lessons for Christians involved in any business endeavor today. As a black man entering American society just after the Civil War, his accomplishments are all the more remarkable. Though Washington would eventually make Tuskegee Institute in Alabama one of the most successful schools in the South (in 1905, Tuskegee turned out more self-made millionaires than Yale, Harvard, and Princeton universities combined), his humble beginnings gave no indication of his future success.

25 November 2006

Shenandoah Valley Loses Noted Civil War Historian

I was saddened to hear of John Heatwole's passing the day before Thanksgiving. John was, for many, many years, in addition to being an author, sculptor, and lecturer, the host of WSVA Radio's "Civil War on the Air" - a monthly, two hour call in radio program about the Civil War. John often interviewed many famous scholars and authors such as Dr. James I. Robertson, Jr., Robert Krick, James McPherson, and Gary Gallagher. He even interviewed less famous authors -- like me! I always made it a habit to listen when possible and will miss John's insights and commentary. One of John's best known books, The Burning - Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley, is a classic and gives a detailed account of Union General Philip Sheridan's brutality and cruelness here in the Valley. Sheridan's name is still disdained by old-timers here.

Though we were not intimate, I counted John a friend as he was one of the first persons to encourage me to write my book about Stonewall Jackson and his black Sunday school class. John will be missed, especially his voice and laughter coming from my radio. I hope WSVA recorded those programs for posterity. The photo is of John lecturing on the battle of Cross Keys. See obituary below:

John L. Heatwole, age 58, of Swoope died Wednesday, November 22, 2006 in Rockingham Memorial Hospital.

He was born March 24, 1948 in Washington, D. C. and was the son of the late John L. Heatwole, Jr. (formerly of Dayton) and the late Lillye Marie Preston Heatwole.

He served in the U.S. Marine Corps and was employed by the Library of Congress before returning to his roots in the Valley in 1974.

Mr. Heatwole was a well-known sculptor, folklorist, historian, author, lecturer and tour guide. He served as co-chairman of the Rockingham County Bicentennial Commission and on numerous committees and commissions dedicated to preserving the Valley’s traditions and historic sites.

He is survived by his wife of 35 years, Miriam Dale Heatwole; his son, David F. Heatwole and wife Dawn and their children of Martinsburg, W. Va.; a sister, Stephanie Heatwole Price and husband George of Warrenton. Also surviving are his father’s widow, Lillian Cash Heatwole of Woodbridge; two half sisters, Theresa Howe and Juanita Ford; and two stepbrothers, Wayne Heatwole and Lawrence Heatwole.

Burial was private in Green Hill Cemetery in Churchville, as John wished. Memorial donations may be sent to AMC Hospice of the Shenandoah, Rockingham Memorial Hospital Regional Cancer Center, or to a memorial scholarship fund in his honor by contacting the Harrisonburg, Rockingham Historical Society.

(From The Daily News-Record, Harrisonburg, Virginia)

22 November 2006

17 November 2006

Jamestown Not Worthy of Celebration?

“You can’t celebrate an invasion.” ~ Mary Wade of the 2007 Jamestown steering committee

“For a whole year or more we shall celebrate the fact that a bunch of British buffoons who knew nothing of what they were doing colonized a swamp for the sake of Christianizing Indians.” ~ Virginia Gazette

Amazing. I have an ancestor who was one of the original Jamestown settlers and my wife has a great-great grandfather who, we believe, was a Monacan Indian. We will BOTH be celebrating Jamestown's 400th Anniversary. My ancestors were not buffoons. They were brave souls and pioneers who helped settle this Nation. And my wife is very thankful that many Indians were "Christianized"--depsite some of the evil perpetrated upon some of her ancestors. Just more political correctness and history revisionist pap.

"Political correctness has replaced witch trials and communist hearings as the preferred way to torment our fellow countrymen." "Ghost Riders," Sharyn McCrumb, 2004, Signet, page 9 (Image is of Jamestown graveyard).

11 November 2006

Veteran's Day - A Tribute to Our Veterans

"The eyes of your countrymen are turned upon you, and again do wives and sisters, fathers and mothers and helpless children, lean for defense on your strong arms and brave hearts." ~ From General Lee's General Order No. 16

President Eisenhower's opinion of Lee the Soldier:

General Robert E. Lee was, in my estimation, one of the supremely gifted men produced by our Nation. He believed unswervingly in the Constitutional validity of his cause which until 1865 was still an arguable question in America; he was thoughtful yet demanding of his officers and men, forbearing with captured enemies but ingenious, unrelenting and personally courageous in battle, and never disheartened by a reverse or obstacle. Through all his many trials, he remained selfless almost to a fault and unfailing in his belief in God. Taken altogether, he was noble as a leader and as a man, and unsullied as I read the pages of our history.

From deep conviction I simply say this: a nation of men of Lee’s caliber 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

God Bless our Veterans!

10 November 2006

Jackson's Boyhood Friend

The image on this post is of Union General Joseph Andrew Jackson Lightburn's ceremonial sword scabbard. The inscription reads: "Brig. Gen. J. A. J. Lighburn from the Citizens of Lewis County West Va As a Testimony of their appreciation of his Gallant Services in the suppression of the Rebellion of 1861, Weston Va July 4, 1865."

Joseph Lightburn was a childhood friend of young Tom Jackson. As boys, the two shared their interests in books, history, and Christianity along the banks of the West Fork River at Jackson's Mill in Lewis County, Virginia (today West Virginia). According to several historians, and the Lightburn family's oral history, it was Lightburn who was one of the major influences impacting Jackson's Christian faith. Lightburn would return to Weston, West Virginia after the war and pastor Broad Run Baptist Church, where I, along with my family, had the privilege of worshipping last Sunday. Also present in the services were several members of the Raddy Jackson family whose oral history claims they are descended from one of Jackson's slaves.

It was also Joe Lightburn who once told Jackson: "They [slaves] should be free and taught to read so they could read the Bible." Jackson would concur and later do exactly that in his now famous "Colored Sabbath-school."

07 November 2006


“No man is the whole of himself. His friends are the rest of him.” ~ George Whitefield

Last week, my family, along with the fine film crew from Franklin Springs Family Media, spent several glorious days in beautiful Lewis County, West Virginia. Our purpose was, in part, to gather for the official “release party” of my book – Stonewall Jackson: The Black Mans’ Friend. But our purpose was much broader than that. We gathered there with many friends, most of them new, to celebrate the life and multi-generational legacy of Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson. Staying on the property that was Jackson’s boyhood home added to the sense of history and providence we already felt. Much work was done on the upcoming documentary about Jackson’s life before the Civil War. Our hosts were most gracious, even treating us all to a wonderful meal on Friday evening at the four-star Stonewall Resort.

On Saturday evening, we all gathered at historic Jackson’s Mill for a wonderful supper and a time of fellowship. C-Span’s Book TV was there to record the event for some future airing and Ken Carpenter of Franklin Springs showed us some film clips from the upcoming documentary. The theme of the evening was the same as my book: Friendship. As Providence would have it, a very nice gesture came from Susan Church and the Board of Directors at Jackson’s Mill. Pictured here is a “Friendship Ball.” Giving a Friendship Ball dates to an old English tradition and is symbolic of lasting friendships. Appalachian Glass handcrafted these beautiful gifts and each one of the 19 limited edition balls were given to members of the film crew, my family, and other distinguished guests at the conclusion of the gala. Etched on this beautiful, historic piece on one side are the words: “Thomas J. Jackson: The Black Man’s Friend 1824-1863.” On the reverse was the date of our event. More posts and pictures coming on this historic event over the next few days.

02 November 2006

John B. Lyle

150 years ago today, a little-known, pious bachelor and elder in the Lexington, Virginia Presbyterian Church suffered a paralyzing stroke. The year was 1856. Lexington was in the midst of a dramatic, area wide religious revival that filled area churches, revitalized educational institutions, and impacted lives for generations. Stonewall Jackson commented on this revival in an 1856 letter to his aunt:

". . . for we have such an outpouring of the Spirit of God in our churches here as I never remember of having seen elsewhere. Your branch of the church has recently been increased though I can not say how much. The Episcopal church about a week since took in nearly twenty five and from present appearances I suppose that about fifty will join the Presbyterian church in a few days when we are to have our commission. The Baptist church is also being blest, and I think that we may reasonably expect more than one hundred from this revival. I feel very thankful to God for such divine blessings."

Known for being a committed prayer warrior, John B. Lyle likely carried a heavy burden of prayer that, while promoting the spiritual awakening of the town, was more than his body could endure. The stroke eventually took the life of Lyle. Another little known fact is that John Lyle once gave his dear friend, Major Thomas J. Jackson, "a little volume illustrative of the power of prayer. . . it arrested Jackson’s mind; for so frequently did he afterwards revert to it, that it was evident its influence was far-reaching and lasting. Thus the simple act of the devout elder may have had a traceable bearing upon the brilliant successes and achievements of the Christian hero!"

This "little volume" also went into some detail about a retired British army officer who spent his latter years establishing Sunday schools "among the neglected" of London. It is plausable that John Lyle's influence on Jackson led not only to Jackson's dramatic battlefield successes--which Jackson attributed to the power of prayer--but also to Jackson's now famous "Colored Sabbath school" that reached hundreds of Lexington area blacks with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Amazing isn't it--how ordinary people can impact history and eternity?

As George Grant has written, “That is one of the great lessons of history. It is simply that in the providence of God, ordinary people are ultimately the ones who determine the outcome of human events.” Though John Lyle may appear little more than “ordinary” in the eyes of the world, he was much more in God’s divine plan.

01 November 2006

Shenandoah Valley Historian Honored

Noted Civil War historian, preservationist, storyteller, woodcarver, and author, John Heatwole, was honored last night by being named the 2006 recipient of the Carrington Williams Preservationist Award given by the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation. The award was given at a banquet at Bridgewater College in Bridgewater, Virginia. John's book, The Burning, is a must read for Civil War buffs and anyone interested in the history of the Shenandoah Valley. He is the author of other noted books as well.

I've known John casually for a number of years, first discovering him by listening as he hosted local radio station WSVA's Civil War Roundtable On the Air. The show airs the second Wednesday of every month from 10 AM to Noon. It has been a Shenandoah Valley institution for many years and I always listen if I'm near a radio and within range. It was John who was one of the first persons to encourage me in my efforts to research and write a book about Stonewall Jackson and his black Sunday school class more than four years ago. John was one of three historians who had so graciously agreed to review the mansucript prior to its publication, but illness and other responsibilities, sadly, prevented him from doing so. Please keep John and his family in your prayers as he battles cancer.