30 May 2008
29 May 2008
~ Gary W. Gallagher writing in his 1997 assessment of the South's war effort: The Confederate War.
Why is that? I've read many criticisms of those who DO have a direct connection, and write about it. Why, then, would a respected historian admit to "desperately" wanting that connection. Hmmm . . . Some (and I'm not talking about Gallagher here) historians are so arrogant, lacking in humility, and so detest the values of the past that they're happy not to have any connection. Others who criticize those who do have a connection seem to actually be harboring envy and resentment. And then there are those who do have a connection to the past, feel guilty about it, and attempt to "redeem" themselves by beating up their dead ancestors; especially if they're Southerners.
"It is certainly desirable to be well descended, but the glory belongs to our ancestors." ~ Plutarch, 'Morals,' 100 A.D. Greek biographer & moralist (46 AD - 120 AD)
I've just been informed that the Washington Times' Civil War Column, to which I contributed regularly, is being replaced by a column which will be called "America's War." It's my understanding that this new column "may" include some CW pieces in it in the future. This appears to be rather odd timing to discontinue what I understand was a popular column, given the fact that the CW's sesquintennial is quickly approaching. It was great while it lasted, nonetheless.
I'll have more to say later.
28 May 2008
As we drove past the familiar spots, I couldn't help but drift into the wispy land of nostalgia—Rt. 11 will always do that to you—but this time was a little different. I missed my children. I found myself, on more than one occasion saying to my wife, “Remember when we ate there with the girls?” or I would recall some humorous story about a past trip. Time passes quickly. When your children are young, like these tender corn plants, you don’t realize how quickly they will grow up. But grow up they do.
These corn plants don’t look like they've grown much since last week, but they have—a couple of inches. Almost undetectable to the casual observer—just like your children. Watch carefully, they’ll be grown and out on their own before you know it and you, like me, will miss them. Take advantage of every moment.
“As for man, his days are as grass: as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more.” ~ Psalms 103:15-16
LEARNING FROM WAR
Why Care About Our History?
By S. WAITE RAWLS III
In a recent Richmond Times-Dispatch there was a news article about a group of officers from the U.S. Army visiting The Museum of the Confederacy and Civil War battlefields. The event presents several questions. Why do they care? And why is it a news article, rather than being covered in the arts and entertainment section? As the president of the Museum of the Confederacy, I am often asked the same question, "Why should we care?" Or, particularly here in
The people who ask the question are missing the point. The study of history provides a great foundation to move forward. Many of the greatest leaders of history were themselves students of history. Winston Churchill stands out. The statesman whom Nelson Mandela called "one of the most progressive leaders the world has ever seen" believed that his constant analysis of people who had gone before would provide great assistance to him as he made decisions going forward. And "progressive" is not a word one would use to describe someone who is mired in the past.
While he was the superintendent at the Virginia Military Institute, Josiah Bunting wrote a book titled An Education for Our Time about the needs of modern education -- how a new generation should prepare itself for the 21st century. In the book, he constructed the model college curriculum, emphasizing the need to study history. He cared less about facts and dates and more about the study of the conduct of men and women making critical decisions in times of crisis and stress. Bunting believed that this study would help us emulate the best qualities and avoid the worst that we see in these historical figures, particularly if we delve into the complexities, ambiguities, and nuances that affected them just as they confront us today.
Ed Ayers, the new president of the
Again, it is no coincidence that the historical era of choice of Bunting, Ayers, and Faust is the American Civil War. In her seminal 2004 article, " 'We Should Grow Too Fond of It': Why We Love the Civil War," Faust stated, "The Civil War offers an authenticity and intensity of experience that can rivet both researcher and reader; the war serves as a moment of truth, a moment when individuals -- be they soldiers or civilians -- have to define their deeply held priorities and act on them."
And note that she references civilians, because she and Ayers are two leading scholars on the intertwined nature of the military and the civilian sides, including the issues presented by slavery. She has concentrated on the common folk, particularly the women, and her 2008 book, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War, was on The New York Times best-sellers list. It is also no coincidence that the study of leadership has come into vogue, particularly in the nation's graduate business schools as they attempt to distinguish good leadership from good management. A favored text in those programs is H. W. Crocker's 1999 book, Robert E. Lee on Leadership. Crocker's subtitle states the reason for the book's merit: "Executive Lessons in Character, Courage, and Vision."
SO WHY INDEED would today’s U.S. Army officers spend a day of their valuable time at The Museum of the Confederacy and on Civil War battlefields? They did not come for entertainment or because it was somebody's favorite hobby. These men and women compose the top echelon of the Army's Accession Command, whose responsibilities include the recruiting and training of our armed forces. They find themselves late in the conduct of a war that has grown increasing unpopular with the general public.
As a nation, we have been there before. Late in the Civil War, both sides had grown war-weary. Abraham Lincoln was relatively certain that he would not be re-elected as president, and governors' races in the South included peace platforms. In the armies, re-enlistments were scarce in the North, and desertion was becoming an increasing problem in the South.
These current Army officers share the beliefs of the college presidents that the study of history is extraordinarily relevant if your focus is on the future. They are working to shape the future, not merely to know what happened in the past.
The study of history is a hobby for many people. They want to visit the sites and read the books that describe the events of the past. But the study of history goes far beyond a mere hobby. It may also teach us a great deal about how we might conduct ourselves going forward -- as individuals and as a collective society. Those who say "let' get over it" may be doing themselves a disservice. Perhaps they too could learn something about themselves that could positively affect their future if they would read a book or two or visit a museum or walk on ground hallowed by the conduct of their predecessors.
S. Waite Rawls III is the president and CEO of The Museum of the Confederacy. Contact him at (804) 649-1861 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Mr. Rawls mentions Harry Crocker's book on Lee and leadership in this piece. It is a book I highly recommend. Harry is the senior editor at Regnery and an accomplished author in his own rite. Harry was kind enough to write the foreword to the first edition of my book, The Maxims of Robert E. Lee for Young Gentlemen. That edition was self-published but led to other writing opportunities.)
27 May 2008
Hey, Senator McCain, if you are going to run for President of the United States, it might be worth you knowing that the U.S. is a constitutional republic, not democracy.
26 May 2008
Full article here.
25 May 2008
Hmmm - I guessed the scaremongers missed that little tidbit. Would you like to know who else predicts $200 a barrel oil and why? Read here.
I'm old enough to remember the last "energy-crisis" and gas rationing. I'm old enough to remember the "new business model" of the dot com boom and how those stocks would "never go down." I also remember being told a couple of years ago by an "expert" that the housing expansion would not end for many, many years and that there was no bubble. How soon we forget.
They might want to consider hiring a homeschooled kid to do their spell-checking though.
23 May 2008
22 May 2008
"Ed Hooper, former television and newspaper journalist and one of East Tennessee's most prolific award-winning historians, has written his third book on Knoxville, this time concentrating on the city during the Vietnam era." See details here.
The abstract for the piece describes it this way:
“In this article the author argues that applying the methodologies of gender and cultural studies to the prewar life of Thomas J. 'Stonewall'
Lawton follows the predictable path of many moderns in trying to psycho-analyze Jackson in the faddish terms and perspectives of 21st century social historians.
Mr. Lawton’s use of terms like “acting-out” and “psycho-social” (when discussing Stonewall Jackson and "masculinity") would seem more suited, in my opinion, coming from Dr. Phil than from a journal like the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography. But that is not what I’m going to address here. Rather, I wanted to address Mr. Lawton’s error regarding the genesis of
Mr. Lawton repeats a myth about
Mr. Lawton writes:
Actually, quite the opposite is true. Jackson was, in fact, very much influenced by religion in his youth. One of
“No student of the life of
Interestingly, it is likely that
“. . . the lad’s search for knowledge, plus a natural curiosity, produced inquisitive probes into religion. He began reading the Bible with genuine interest. Joe Lightburn added exegesis for passages that
There are numerous other historical sources and accounts which make it clear
Though the piece is not my cup of tea, it is interesting in some respects. Not being one who embraces faddish trends in the study of history (or anything else for that matter), the article is nonetheless instructive as to how some modern social historians look at 19th century Christians.
*Though Cook was an "amateur" historian, his research and book on Stonewall Jackson's early life and family is still highly regarded.
21 May 2008
Debate rages over who started Memorial Day. Towns and villages across the nation lay claim to being the first to decorate the graves of fallen Civil War soldiers. At first, it was a day of remembrance for soldiers killed in action during the war. Many cities across America proper at the time were holding days of remembrance for them. Historians do agree, however, that Major General John A. Logan was the man most responsible for founding the official holiday with his issuance of General Order No. 11 on May 5, 1868.
Although flowers were placed on the Confederate as well as Union graves, the wording of General Order No. 11 created hard feelings for many in the south. Southern states refused to officially acknowledge it. The Confederate Memorial authorized by President William H. Taft and the efforts of former Union officer and President William McKinley to see to the care of the Confederate dead at National Cemeteries did illustrate a national reconciliation with its past, but southern decoration days remained unchanged until after World War I when Memorial Day evolved beyond a day of tribute to Union Civil War soldiers. It finally became a day to honor all who had died in service to the United States. While the Southern states still maintained their own decoration days to honor their sons who had served the Confederacy, the descendants of those men continued the patriotic tradition of their families in the U.S. armed forces.
Korean War Medal of Honor recipient Col. Lee Mize once told me that, regardless of our past as a nation, we are all Americans. A fact hammered home to me many nights in Iraq where local translators often scratched their heads and look confused while soldiers from the north and the south traded good-natured barbs back and forth – failing to grasp how we could appear to be so cruel to each other and still work together or lay down our life in defense of our fellow countrymen.
There is probably no better evidence of this sense of American tradition than a walk through Arlington National Cemetery. The old family names of both Union and Confederate war heroes show the continuing service of their lineage in Spanish American, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam and other American conflicts hardly mentioned in history textbooks today. A particular gravesite in Section 11 does more to tell this story than any other. It is the final resting place of Army Air Corps Brigadier General Nathan Bedford Forrest – the great grandson of Confederate General N.B. Forrest. He graduated West Point in 1928 and achieved the rank of general on Nov. 2, 1942 and assigned to the Eighth Air Force. He was flying a bombing mission over the Kiel Submarine yards six months later when his B-17 was hit and went down on Bu Rugen Island in the North Sea. His body wasn’t recovered until after the war and he was interred in Arlington National Cemetery. General Forest wasn’t the only one to die in combat in that war. General Simon Buckner, Jr., USA- the grandson of CSA General Simon Buckner - was also killed in action in World War II on the frontlines at Okinawa fighting the Japanese.
Even with these and countless similar stories, the traditional observance of Memorial Day has faded over the years. Many people have forgotten its meaning and traditions. At many cemeteries, the graves of fallen soldiers are increasingly ignored or neglected. Many cities and towns across the nation haven’t held Memorial Day parades in generations. Proper flag etiquette isn’t even observed and sadly, many people think the day is for honoring all dead and not just soldiers killed in service to our country
As Civil War reenactors, historians and preservationists, we need to remind family, friends, neighbors and the media what Memorial Day really is. It is not the unofficial beginning of summer, the day of the first barbecue or the first three-day weekend since February.
Until a fixed date is finally established, the last Monday in May is a national holiday founded to honor all soldiers, sailors and marines who have fought and died for this nation.
It is a day when the flag is raised to the top of the pole and lowered to half-staff. At noon, it is then raised to the top again.
It is a day when we remember who we are as a nation.
Some of you may ask why this is relevant to The Civil War Courier or the hobby in general. The fact is thousands of Civil War reenactors are now on duty in Afghanistan and Iraq serving this nation. At Franklin, Cedar Creek and countless other events, I have ran across soldiers, sailors and Marines who took leave to return home and participate with their units at these events. Men who told me they longed for the smell of wood smoke, the roar of cannons, the rush of cavalry and marching with their fellow soldiers onto the battlefield.
This Memorial Day The Civil War Courier would like to pay special tribute to all reenactors proudly serving this nation in the Armed Forces, especially to those who have made the supreme sacrifice for this nation. May God bless you all.
19 May 2008
"We are conditioned to believe that science is on the side of reason and that religion and philosophy are just forms of mysticism. Unreason is quite prevalent among people who call themselves 'scientists,' and a glance at science history will remind you that this has always been so. New knowledge was often resisted strenuously by the 'scientific' establishment, which seems to think, mistakenly, that truth can be established by a majority vote." ~ Charley Reese
The same could be said of historiography. The professionals often get it wrong.
Remember Columbus boys and girls?
17 May 2008
But the one thing that prevents my worries from overwhelming me is my faith in a Sovereign God—the God of the Bible and the redemptive work of His son, Jesus Christ. God remains in control. The sun still rises and sets every day, the seasons come and go, and life goes on despite the mess politicians make of it all. A field of corn is, in so many ways, illustrative of the ebb and flow of human life. There is a time of sowing, and of reaping. A time of preparation, of nourishment, of harvest. A time for the farmer to worry about rain, wind, drought—and a time to rejoice over the bounty of a good harvest.
Despite the political turmoil we see here and abroad we can rest assured that God is still in control. Spring brings new shoots of corn in this field. This farmer, a neighbor of mine, prepared the field, planted the corn and now he’ll watch, wait, and pray. We’ll watch too as the corn grows through the spring and summer and as these plants face hard rains, dry spells, insects, and disease. Like most of us they will most likely weather the storms and worries.
As I was somewhat discouraged (and worried) this week over some things, not the least of which is the direction of my country, I received an invitation from a national publication which caters to homeschoolers. The editor is starting an e-newsletter directed at fathers and asked me to contribute articles that will fulfill his vision for the project:
". . . to call fathers to lead their wives and children; to take not only an active role, but the intentional, direct, thoughtful, prayerful, hands-on, leadership of the training, teaching, and discipling of their children. Fathers are not the only teachers of their children, but they're the ones responsible for how it goes. I want to encourage, exhort, and cheer on fathers to make their relationship with their wife and children the highest priority, most important, most time-consuming, richest, deepest, most vulnerable, most rewarding, farthest-reaching endeavor they can possibly invest their time, talents, and resources in."
I was honored to be invited to contribute and sent him a couple of pieces I had written for our hometown newspaper a few years ago that I thought would be a good fit. He was elated and so am I. These articles will be seed sown in the hearts of fathers and, as A.W. Tozer once wrote:
"The printed word may lie unnoticed like a seed through a long winter, only to burst out when a favorable time comes and produce an abundant crop in belief and practice."
One can barely make out the tender plants here in this picture. Just tiny green shoots in a sea of brown. But it is early. Things will change. Be patient. We are praying for an abundant crop. One can learn much from watching corn grow.
"And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not." ~ Galatians 6:9
16 May 2008
Hat tip to George Grant.
15 May 2008
14 May 2008
At the first Earth Day celebration, in 1969, environmentalist Nigel Calder warned, 'The threat of a new ice age must now stand alongside nuclear war as a likely source of wholesale death and misery for mankind.' C.C. Wallen of the World Meteorological Organization said, 'The cooling since 1940 has been large enough and consistent enough that it will not soon be reversed.'
In 1968, Paul Ehrlich, Vice President Gore's hero and mentor, predicted there would be a major food shortage in the U.S. and 'in the 1970s ... hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death.' Ehrlich said 65 million Americans would die of starvation between 1980 and 1989, and by 1999 the U.S. population would have declined to 22.6 million. Ehrlich's predictions about England were gloomier: 'If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000.' "Read the rest of this eye-opening piece here:
Walter Williams on the False Prophets of Doom.
13 May 2008
Does anyone wonder why most Americans look at academia and scratch their heads? Full story here.
At one point, Mr. Bowman says of his relationship with these Senators, "we just became friends." The NPR interviewer responds cynically, "Friends is the right word?" To which Mr. Bowman replies, "I would say friends, yeah, or one Southerner to another Southerner helping a Southerner out." The interviewer pressed the friendship issue further, but Mr. Bowman would not back down. I'm very familiar with this interviewer's cynical attitude.
The interview is worth listening to and is illustrative of the total disconnect that most non-Southerners have with our region; especially those in the mainstream media, Washington political types, and many in academia. Mr. Bowman credits his ability to make friends with these men to his mother's admonitions.
"We Southerners, we stick together." ~ Bertie Bowman
12 May 2008
John McGann is the gentleman to the far right of the photograph in the header of my blog. He's standing in front of the original homeplace (not the one in Waynesboro) in Nelson County which lies just below Wintergreen ski resort. The 200+ acre tract is still owned by his descendants and that structure still stands and is used today as a hunt camp. (We still cling to our guns and religion in western Virginia. Before we eat the 'possum, we bow our heads and say grace over the meal.)
The image shown here is of the Waynesboro Heritage Museum. I'd highly recommend a visit if you're ever in the area. I must confess that I'm proud that the WHM displays this hometown boy's book about Stonewall Jackson in their front window.
09 May 2008
08 May 2008
"I just wanted to thank you for putting together the tour for our group. It was a fascinating experience. The tour exemplified the historical essence of
(Mr. Satterfield teaches history at Heritage Christian School in Northern Virginia.)
If your group would like to plan a trip to Lexington, please consider the services of Virginia Heritage Tours.
07 May 2008
If you feel inclined, please support my story.
06 May 2008
What would President Williams do?
- Declare an economic National Emergency and tell Congress to stuff it.
- Make total energy independence a goal that all Americans (at least the ones with brains) could rally behind as we did in the race to the moon in the 1960's - thanks to President Kennedy. Target date for total energy independence would be 2020.
- By Executive Order, begin immediate drilling in Anwr, order new drilling and exploration off the Gulf Coast (China is drilling there now), and a relaxing of regulations governing the construction of new refineries and nuclear plants.
- Impose a 10% tax on all NEW oil revenues with the funds to be used exclusively for the development of alternate energy sources, i.e. solar. Offer a $1 billion dollar reward to any person/organization who comes up with a realistic alternative to oil.
- Require all government owned vehicles to get at least 35 mpg and all elected officials to use mass transit instead of private jets or limousines. Let's see if they really believe their own rhetoric. Hint: they believe it for YOU, but not for them.
02 May 2008
01 May 2008
The twenty year-old Confederate soldier swallowed hard as the noose was tightened around his tense neck. His heart felt as though it would pound out of his chest, yet he faced the last enemy with exemplary bravery for one so young. It was 14 October 1864 and there was a chill in the air. The events that had brought him to such a fate whirled through his mind’s last moments as the bright autumn sun warmed his youthful face. Though his body was flooded with adrenalin, a calm peace slowly settled over his spirit and soul. Even his executioners looked on with admiration.
Albert Gallatin Willis had been serving with Confederate Colonel John Singleton Mosby’s rangers for several months. He relished the daring deeds of Mosby’s raids and already had experienced several brushes with death. Earlier in the year, on February 18, Willis and James Foley Kemper had jumped from the 2nd-story window of Parson Thaddeus Herndon's house barely escaping capture by Federals.
Though born into a wealthy
Earlier in the day, Willis had been looking forward to seeing his home as he headed toward Culpeper. The brightly colored autumn leaves in the
Speaking with the two young men separately, Colonel William H. Powell informed them they were to draw straws to determine which man would die. Powell also informed Willis that he could claim a Chaplain’s exemption, if he so chose. Willis had not yet been ordained and knew he deserved no such consideration. He refused Powell’s offer. The two prisoners were brought back together and ordered to draw straws. At first, providence seemed to have chosen Willis’s unnamed companion to die. He burst into tears crying, “I have a wife and children, I am not a Christian and am afraid to die!”
Upon hearing those words, Willis spoke up: “I have no family, I am a Christian, and not afraid to die.” Due to Willis’s willingness to stand in his stead, the unconverted man was released. Within moments, after praying for his executioners, Albert Gallatin Willis was hanged and his limp body swung silently from a nearby poplar tree; the only sound heard being that of the hemp rope as it strained against the bark of the tree. After they were sure he was dead, the Federals rode off, leaving Willis’s lifeless body hanging from the tree—a solemn warning to the rest of Mosby’s men. As evening fell, three locals: William Bowling, Robert Deatherage, and John P. Rickets, cut down Willis’s corpse and took it to the Deatherage home. There, his body was prepared and given a Christian burial. Today his remains rest inside a white picket fence in the tiny graveyard of
Many would say that Albert Gallatin Willis died in vain. But did he? Is it likely that the freed man ever forgot Willis’s sacrifice and gift? Is it not likely that Willis’s sacrificial death reminded his companion of another’s sacrifice that offers us all another kind of freedom? God only knows what impact Willis’s death had upon that unknown man, his children, his descendants, and the Federal officers who witnessed how well a real Christian dies.
Mostly forgotten by history, this young man’s story of self-sacrifice is but one example of hundreds of similar stories that took place during the time of our Nation’s greatest struggle; stories of unbelievable courage, self-denial, love, and faith in a God. Stories that still amaze and inspire us; stories that remind us of man’s cruelty—as well as his potential for goodness when empowered by the Gospel of Christ.
That, dear reader is what you will find within the pages you now hold in your hands. And author Michael Aubrecht’s superb telling of these stories will cause you, too, to look upon these examples with admiration.