30 June 2007

Save Oakwood Letter Campaign

Some readers may not be aware of the successes and efforts the Sons of Confederate Veterans have made towards honoring the seventeen thousand Confederate soldiers who lie buried at Oakwood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia. The SCV has already begun the work of restoring the cemetery. There is, however, one unresolved roadblock. Although the state and federal governments are cooperating with the plan to mark all the unmarked graves at Oakwood, the City of Richmond has imposed the discriminatory practice of not allowing the installation of upright markers for the Confederate graves only. The city is hiding behind an unwritten and yet un-produced "policy" against it or states that it will not be historically accurate to mark the graves despite the fact that the Virginia Dept. of Historic Resources has approved the plan. The SCV plan would not only make the cemetery more respectable, it would save the city $30,000 or more in maintenance costs a year, as the SCV will use its own funds and already appropriated state funds (based on a figure from the dept. of parks and recreation). The plan is a win-win for everyone involved. The city will save thousands of dollars, keep ownership of the cemetery, and have a beautified tourist attraction while the SCV fulfills its mission of honoring these fallen soldiers. For some unknown reason, bureaucrats in the mayor's office seem to be trying their best to make sure these graves are never marked. Beyond that, these same bureaucrats have failed to protect the cemetery from vandalism.


See the TV report on the Oakwood plan and vandalism at: http://www.nbc12.com/news/state/8213902.html

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Please send a respectful, well written letter or email to the Richmond Times Dispatch and copy it to the mayor's office questioning why the city has refused to allow Oakwood to be restored. Mayor Wilder is a Korean combat veteran himself and he should understand the importance of honoring our deceased military veterans. Be sure to emphasize the positive benefits of the plan to Richmond such as the tax savings and increased tourism opportunities. Contact information is below:

Richmond Times-Dispatch

Email letters to the editor: letters@timesdispatch.com
Submit by Fax: (include signature): (804) 819-1216.
By Snail-Mail:

Letters to the Editor
Richmond Times-Dispatch
Box 85333
Richmond, Virginia 23293
Tips on submissions can be viewed at: http://www.inrich.com/cva/ric/opinion/submit_letters.html)

Mayor's Office
Mayor L. Douglas Wilder
email: askthemayor@ci.richmond.va.us
or: wilderld@ci.richmond.va.us
fax: 804-646-7987
phone: 804-646-7970
900 E. Broad St.

Room 201
Richmond, VA 23219

In addition, if you are a citizen of the Commonwealth, please contact your delegate and senator and ask them to get involved as well. The will of the people, as represented by the General Assembly's legislation, is apparently being thwarted by Mayor Wilder's office.

29 June 2007

Unbelievable

I am going to do my very best to resist the temptation to comment on Presidential politics this election cycle. Frankly, I see little to like in any current candidate. That being said, I could not let what went on last night during a "forum" by the Democrat candidates pass without saying something. The following comments were seen on Free Republic.

"…Joe Biden bragging about getting tested for AIDS. Biden says he knows Obama got tested for AIDS. [Wow, is that something these 2 fellows talk about at one of their swanky cocktail parties? Weird.] Is this a group confessional or a presidential debate? Camera cuts to Obama and he doesn’t seem very happy. Biden finishes bloviating and Obama interrupts to clarify that “I got tested for AIDS with [my wife] Michelle. Just so there’s no confusion.” [Now there's an idea for a date with your wife.]

Obama's comment was accompanied by laughter. Hardy, har-har. Very funny. Is this the level of debate and discussion in American politics now, gloating over who has been tested for AIDS?! Is that supposed to be a qualifying characteristic for presidential candidates now? Can you picture our Founding Fathers listening in on this? Why would a married man who has been faithful to his marriage vows and faithful to his wife waste time and resources [for those who really need to be tested] being tested for AIDS? Is that considered chic now? How about that for a campaign platform - "Vote For Me: I've Been Tested for Aids!" Maybe the Republicans can counter with: "Vote For Me: I've Been Tested for Stupidity!" (And the test was positive.) Unbelievable.

This level of discussion is absolutely embarrassing for its stupidity and pandering. At least Mrs. Bill Clinton didn't try her ridiculous, patronizing Southern-fried accent. The buffoon.

Sorry, I guess I could not resist. Yes, this does qualify as a rant. I was overdue.

2007 - Not Just the Year of Lee

The following quote was "borrowed" from Doug Phillip's Blog:

“This year 2007 is an unique anniversary not just because it’s the four hundredth anniversary of Jamestown. It is that to be sure. But did you know that this is the five hundredth anniversary year of America being called America? I wonder if you have even heard that before? It was in 1507 that a man by the name of Waldseemüller looked at this new map that was being drawn of exploration across the Atlantic ocean and he wrote the name next to the Northern and Southern Hemispheres the word—America. Have you ever wondered why America is called America instead of Columbia? After all it was Columbus who discovered America. But the only problem is that Columbus thought he had gotten to the Indies.

That’s why the native Americans are still called “Indians.” There was this belief that he had found a way to India...Later there was another person by the name Amerigo Vespucci. Amerigo Vespucci came along and said this isn’t the Indies. This is a new world. These are unknown continents, and so the credit was given to him and the name has stuck forever. But what I want you to think about is that the name America is a derivative of Amerigo from a French named Emeric, which is a derivative from a German word that is Haimirich.

Now if any of you have studied German know that Haimirich means “The kingdom of Heaven.” Now think about that for just a moment. Do you realize that America’s name literally means the “Kingdom of Heaven?”...That’s a good description of America isn’t? It’s a place where the Kingdom of God has come and where the corrupting influences of humanity have been powerfully at work.

It was a hundred years after that Jamestown was settled and it’s interesting that 275 years ago this year that George Washington was born. 250 years ago this year, his (if you will) “adoptive son” Lafayette was born. It was 225 years ago this year that the first English speaking Bible printed in America was available because when Yorktown was victorious under Washington, now for the first time a Bible in English could be legally printed in the New World. It couldn’t be done because the King had a monopoly on the Bible. It could only be printed in Scotland and England. But now that there was independence that had been guaranteed, the Congress of the United States approved the Bible to be printed in America and it was approved as the Congress’s Bible 225 years ago.

This is a great anniversary year. A concatenation of events that surround the fact of Washington’s anniversary, the birthday of America being called America, the beginning of an English-speaking settlement that’s brought the Bible and American civilization at its best and tragically at its worst to the entire world through the English language.”

—Dr. Peter Lillback, author, George Washington’s Sacred Fire, President of Westminster Theological Seminary and keynote at the Jamestown Quadricentennial: A Celebration of America’s Providential History.

2007, of course is also Robert E. Lee's 200th birthday, the 140th anniversary of the construction of Lee Chapel, the 140th anniversary of the founding of Sixth Mount Zion Baptist Church in Richmond, Virginia, and the 200th birthday of John Blair Lyle (Stonewall Jackson's intimate friend in Lexington), the year of the Rev. Peter Muhlenberg's death, and the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade in Great Britian.

28 June 2007

More on Oakwood Cemetery

Fellow CW blogger, Michael Aubrecht has posted a news piece about Oakwood Cemetery and Richmond City Officials' refusal to work with the SCV on maintaining the final resting place of the 17,000 Confederate Soldiers buried there, one of whom is my great-great grandfather, John Meredith Crutchfield. During the War, there was a road connecting Oakwood Cemetery to Chimborazo Hospital; which is where many of Oakwood's dead came from. This included Grandpa Crutchfield. The "sacred trust" for the care of the cemetery, which the City of Richmond accepted in 1930, needs to be passed on to someone who still cares. The SCV could save Richmond some $30,000 a year by taking on this responsibility. What's the hold up?

The first photo shown here is of Oakwood Committee Chairman Lee Hart repairing the recently vandalized headstone of Lt. Duncan Stafford. The second photo is of a sloppy repair made to the Obelisk in Section G by the city using Gorilla Glue. Yes, Gorilla Glue. The third photo shown is of the plaque on a large monument at the entrance gate of Oakwood. The last photo is a shot of some of the markers in the cemetery. Contact Richmond Mayor Douglas Wilder here. Please be respectful in your correspondence.













27 June 2007

Biography Not History?

"The history of the world is but the biography of great men."
~ Thomas Carlyle

26 June 2007

Morning Prayer

Every Friday morning at 7:30 AM, I have the privilege of meeting with my good friend and local businessman, Harry Moore. We meet at Harry's home for an hour or so of Bible study and prayer. Sitting on his back patio, this is the view we have. Two weeks ago, the season's first cutting of hay lay fresh and filled the air with its sweet aroma.

Is it any wonder so many Southern boys fought and died to defend their native sod?

Ridin' With General Lee

The deadline for the submission for a commemorative Robert E. Lee automobile plate is fast approaching. We still need a couple dozen applications in order for us to meet our goal for applications. Please help us reach this milestone by July 15th, so that we have time to work with the DMV before their deadline passes.

If you submitted an application and have since traded or sold a vehicle, then you need to print off another form for your current vehicle, fill it out correctly, and send it along with a note stating it is to replace your "old" application to the plate coordinator below. It will not do us any good to have the required number of applications if some of them are invalid because of a sale or trade.

Information is available here. DMV forms are available online here. You do not have to be an SCV member to apply for these tags.

The year of Lee continues.

25 June 2007

Memory

"The first step in liquidating a people is to erase its memory. Destroy its books, its culture, its history. Then have somebody write new books, manufacture a new culture, invent a new history. Before long the nation will begin to forget what it is and what it was."
~ Milan Kundera

23 June 2007

Oakwood Cemetery Vandalized

Oakwood Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia had its Confederate section vandalized this past Wednesday evening. Little is known at the moment about who perpetrated the crime or why the damage was done. Reports state that the monument dedicated to those killed on Brown's Island is destroyed and that a large obelisk in Section G was toppled and subsequently broke into three pieces. The recently restored ornate grave of Lt. Duncan Stafford of South Carolina was also vandalized and his tombstone destroyed. The restoration cost over $6,000 and was borne by the South Carolina SCV. Other damage is being investigated.

I have a great-great grandfather buried in an unmarked common grave at Oakwood.


22 June 2007

The Great Divide

Fellow CW blogger Dimitri Rotov recently commented and linked to my post about the silly notion that biography is not history. (What planet am I on?) Perhaps this exchange and opinion is somewhat illustrative of the "great divide" between "general" audiences and "academic" audiences.

Allow me to elaborate. When I was in grade school, I devoured biographies. I still do. My library is filled with them. It is where and how I first came to love history. I would have to guess this is true with most folks. Young people love great stories and biographies best provide those stories. It is easy to get hooked on history via good biography. Biography is fascinating - for all the obvious (I assume) reasons. Frankly, I find books on battles filled with dry facts about numbers, troop movements, etc. rather boring. Necessary, but boring. There are exceptions, of course, and I've read a few. I also realize this is personal preference, so please don't any of you authors take this personally.

But biography is, in my opinion, the heart and soul of history. It is where the passion of history lies; the guts, the nitty-gritty, the story behind the story. Admittedly, I'm an amateur and certainly no academic, so my opinion will not likely carry much weight with the scholars. But I really don't care. I don't write and research to please peers or opinion. I divorced myself from public opinion years ago, thank God. I write and research about the WBTS because I enjoy it and because I'm fascinated with the personal stories and seeing the hand of God mold and make men and events to fulfill His will. (That last statement will really gag the secular "scholars.")

While I write for my own and others enjoyment, and prefer an informal narrative style, I also try to thoroughly research my subject and document that research so the "scholars" who so desire can check the facts. (I assume scholars are interested in facts, though I often have my doubts.)

Many in the Civil War blogosphere seem to be enamored with their own community and "talk" primarily to and among themselves. (This is not necessarily a criticism, just an observation. And my comments are not directed at Mr. Rotov. I enjoy reading his blog and I visit often.) I do not consider myself part of that community, although I know I'm linked with many of these blogs. I am, nonetheless, grateful and honored.

To be painfully honest, many CW blogs remind me of the talking heads on TV - the political commentators who think that while they go on and on talking to themselves about the intricate workings of Washington, they somehow believe everyone else cares about what they are saying. They also seem to go to great lengths to convince each other that everyone else cares--or at least those that matter care. They need a good dose of reality. The fact is, most folks aren't even listening. Take note.

14 June 2007

We All Make Mistakes


I recently picked up a “Collector’s Edition” magazine copy of The South’s Terrible Swift Sword—published by “The Editors of Military History” – www.HistoryNet.com. This is a collection of essays and articles about Stonewall Jackson; some written by well respected Civil War historians including Professor James I. Robertson, Jr. and Professor Mark Grimsley.

While I realize the magazine is targeted to a general audience, I was somewhat surprised by the mistakes and oversights that were missed in the editing process.

For example, on page 15, writer John W. Bowers states that Jackson purchased his home in Lexington in 1859. Jackson actually purchased the home on 4 November 1858. He moved into the house mid-January 1859. The same writer restates the myth that Jackson regularly “loved to suck lemons.” Wrong. Peaches were his favorite fruit and, as James Robertson has pointed out, while Jackson may have liked lemons, the notion that he sucked on them as a regular habit is a persistent myth. Some things should be obvious—how many lemon groves are in Virginia? How likely is it that Jackson would have been able to keep a regular supply of a citrus fruit from Florida during war-time? Not impossible, but not likely a priority.

Contributor Daniel Sutherland notes (page 31) that Jackson was “about as hardcore a Calvinist as you can get.” Well, not exactly. According to several sources close to Jackson, the Presbyterian deacon had serious doubts about one of Calvinism’s cardinal doctrines—predestination. And, according to Jackson’s brother-in-law, Daniel Harvey Hill, those doubts persisted until Jackson’s death. Hill wrote to R. L. Dabney in July 1864, stating that Jackson “professed himself pleased with everything except predestination and infant baptism. His scruples about the latter did not last long . . . but his repugnance to predestination was long and determined.

Also, in Mark Grimsley’s article titled, God’s General, the most important aspect of Jackson’s Christian faith—his black Sunday school class—receives no mention whatsoever. (Bowers does make one passing mention of the class on page 13.) Jackson was involved with this class for five and one-half years—almost three times as long as he fought for the Confederacy. All who knew Jackson intimately; R.L. Dabney, Mary Anna Jackson, Maggie Preston, and Jackson’s pastor, William Spottswood White, all took special note of how important this effort was to Jackson and his Christian faith. It is, however, frequently treated dismissively.

Also, on page 73, contributor Dana B. Shoaf (editor of America's Civil War magazine) states that Little Sorrel’s “bones stayed at the Carnegie Museum until 1997, when they were shipped back to the institute [Virginia Military Institute] and buried in a walnut casket . . . ” Actually, Little Sorrel's bones have been at VMI since 1949. They were there on loan until 1960, when Carnegie then donated them to the Institute. For some time, they stood assembled in a biology class. The bones were later disassembled and stored in a box. The burial information is correct, however. I was there at the ceremony.

Finally, on page 77, Linda Wheeler writes regarding Jackson’s boyhood home: “Not one of the original buildings of a grain mill and family home complex owned by relatives who raised Jackson has survived to the present.” Wrong again. The mill that was there when Tom Jackson was a boy still stands. (Pictured here) I've seen it. About 500 of the original 1500 acre Jackson’s Mill farm is now owned and maintained by the University of West Virginia.

My point? Even “professional” historians sometimes make mistakes. And even this amateur can find them. I have lots of experience finding my own.

(I won’t be posting much next week as I’m off to Florida taking my daughter to college.)

12 June 2007

More Self-Promotion - Sorry, I need to sell some books

Dear Mr. Williams,

I have read your book on the life of Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson. My thoughts are that your credible research of his spiritual life and legacy adds helpful information on one of history's intriguing characters. Regarding some of the contested claims, you weighed the evidence fairly and let the reader decide, without accusation or innuendo. People who hold their traditions as a sacred trust, yet understand the importance of accuracy, respect that.

Tim Hashaw, author:
The Birth of Black America: The First African Americans and the Pursuit of Freedom at Jamestown

11 June 2007

Biography not History? Professionalism or Elitism?

"According to George Rable, a Civil War historian at the University of Alabama, Faust's Hammond biography was in its own way a provocation, and only in part because the book humanizes a man personally and politically objectionable to modern eyes. Though biographies of historical figures have found favor with popular audiences, [commoners] they're often dismissed by professional historians, many of whom, Rable says, believe that "the individual life is not the story of history."*


"Professional historians, especially young [youth and wisdom seldom sit on the same shoulders] ones, Rable says, are expected to write about social movements or intellectual trends [i.e., fads, popular culture, vogue, fashion] or economic classes of people at a particular moment in history. Rable himself, though he's quick to argue that he doesn't share that bias, nonetheless says he tends to steer his graduate students, for the sake of their careers, [contrasted with "the sake of truth and history"] away from writing biography." (My emphasis)

So much for intellectual honesty. At least someone admits the obvious. See full story here. With this story and the Gallagher controversy, does anyone else see old-fashioned "snobbish elitism" as part of the problem? Maybe it's just me.

*"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." —George Grant

Biography not history? Amazing.

10 June 2007

Jefferson Davis Historical Gold Medal Award












I wish to thank the Joseph W. Anderson Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy for inviting me to address their meeting yesterday in Buchanan, Virginia. While there, I was awarded the UDC's Jefferson Davis Historical Gold Medal. This award is given for "excellence in history, essay writing, declamation and other points of special attainment in the preservation of Southern history." The certificate was awarded for . . . "Preserving Confederate History by researching, writing, and publishing, The Maxims of Robert E. Lee for Young Gentlemen and Stonewall Jackson ~ The Black Man's Friend." The medal is the highest award bestowed by the UDC to non-members.

I am honored and grateful.

08 June 2007

Waynesboro Heritage Museum

I've just been informed that the *Waynesboro Heritage Museum (Pictured here) will be carrying my book, Stonewall Jackson - The Black Man's Friend in their gift shop. Since Waynesboro is my hometown, I am especially delighted about this news.


The Waynesboro Heritage Museum is located in downtown Waynesboro, Virginia at the corner of Main Street & Wayne Avenue. The museum has a wonderful collection of pictures, photographs, antiques, documents, collectibles, a world-class doll collection, and a Valley Native American artifacts collection. The museum will be open Wednesday through Saturday 10:00 until 4:00 or for large group tours by appointment. Telephone: 540-943-3WHF.

* Due to open early August 2007 - a major refurbishing has been taking place for over a year and I can't wait to see the final product!

07 June 2007

Longs Chapel

This preservation project is worthy of your support and is a fascinating piece of Virginia history:

"In the heart of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley lies a single remnant of Zenda, a settlement formed after the Civil War by newly freed slaves. When Rockingham County reclaimed the property from a former plantation owner in a postwar legal action, they decided to sell it to the freedmen. Thus Zenda, also known as ‘Little Africa,’ was born . . . "

Read the complete story here. Contribute to the effort here.

Kappa Alpha Order

Earlier this year, I was asked to submit an article to the Kappa Alpha Order's Journal as the Order celebrates Robert E. Lee's 200th birthday. KA was started at Washington College and its mission statement declares:

"Kappa Alpha Order seeks to create a lifetime experience that centers on reverence to God, duty, honor, character, and gentlemanly conduct as inspired by Robert E. Lee, our spiritual founder."

KA was formed while Lee was President of Washington College and has an interesting history. The issue with my piece in it is currently at the printer. I will provide a link to the article as soon as it becomes available. Readers can see the current issue here.

The Year of Lee continues.

06 June 2007

Confederate Memorial Day

In honor of Confederate Memorial Day, an open house will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday at Stonewall Jackson’s Headquarters, 415 N. Braddock St., Winchester. This house served as Gen. Jackson’s headquarters from November 1861 to March 1862.

05 June 2007

Historic Lexington Loses a Friend

I received the Rockbridge Historical Society’s newsletter recently and was saddened to learn of the death of Royster Lyle, Jr. Lexington, Virginia has lost a local treasure. For over 30 years, Mr. Lyle has been a leader in the historical preservation efforts of Lexington and surrounding Rockbridge County; particularly when it came to the area’s historic architecture and artifacts.

Mr. Lyle was a graduate of Hampden-Sydney and a U.S. Army veteran. He was instrumental in establishing the George C. Marshall Research Library in 1962 on the campus of Virginia Military Institute. There he worked in various positions as curator, associate director, and as foundation secretary until he retired in 1993. According to the RHS newsletter:

“Royster was the epitome of the Renaissance Man. A founder of Historic Lexington Foundation in 1966, he led initial efforts to preserve the historic character of Lexington’s central business district. He was instrumental in the successful community effort to preserve House Mountain as a public asset. He was also a major force behind the creation of the Chessie Nature Trail and Woods Creek Park.”

Lyle also co-authored, with Dr. Pamela Simpson of Washington & Lee University, “a landmark book, The Architecture of Historic Lexington. Mr. Lyle was a member of numerous preservationist groups and his ancestors were some of the earliest settlers of Rockbridge County.

Though I never met him face to face, he was most gracious in helping me with some of the research for my book, Stonewall Jackson – The Black Man’s Friend. He was enthusiastic about the subject matter and eager to help. His research was foundational in my writing about his ancestor and Stonewall Jackson’s close personal friend, John Blair Lyle. Our telephone conversations were always lively and interesting.

As a memorial, the RHS has established a special fund in his name which will be devoted to the repair and restoration of artifacts in its collection. One of the first projects will be the Jackson-Junkin Desk. The desk was given by Stonewall Jackson to his father-in-law, Dr. George Junkin in 1853. Contributions can be made by contacting the Rockbridge Historical Society.

Most appropriately, Mr. Lyle was laid to rest in the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Cemetery on May 17.

04 June 2007

Old Country Store

I am blessed that my business travels often carry me to out of the way rural corners of the Old Dominion. I prefer the old two-lane highways to the cursed interstate anyway, so this suits me fine. So many folks miss the true Virginia because they speed by it every day on the interstate. One of the many benefits of driving the back roads and byways of Old Virginia is coming across the country stores that still dot the landscape. I came across one such store this morning. Pictured here is “Anderson’s Grocery” in Avon, Virginia. This old store sits on a rural road just off Route 151 in Nelson County and is representative of so many of these nostalgic, community oriented gathering places.


When stopping in this morning, the proprietor was leaning against the rails outside on the front porch, talking with another local about nothing in particular. The smell of a fresh rain was heavy in the morning sunshine and I couldn’t resist stopping in because of the “homemade pork barbecue” that was advertised on a sign outside. I confess my weakness for this delicacy. It certainly lived up to the advertisement—delicious!

Idiot Update

Well, no one came riding to my rescue so I just "republished" the blog to a new template to clear my html code errors, then republished again to the original template. This fixed the code errors, but I lost my links, Amazon Store link, etc. I'll correct that later. (Arrrggghh!) Thanks to those who did shoot me an email letting me know they were sympathetic but unable to assist. Some interesting posts coming this week. Lesson learned regarding html: when in doubt, don't.

01 June 2007

HELP -- An idiot got hold of my HTML!!

Obviously, I've screwed up the html code in my blog template. I would appreciate anyone who could assist me in correcting. It would be worth a free autographed copy of one of my books if some kind person could assist me in fixing the mess I made. Email me at stonewallbook@yahoo.com with a contact telephone number. Thank you and if you know of any village looking for an idiot, I am available.