28 August 2014

My Newest History Toy

Those familiar with this blog are aware of my passion for relic hunting and amateur archeology. It is a fascinating, hands on dimension of history. I've been interested in artifacts and archeology since I was a young boy, but only became a serious relic hunter about five years ago. Since that time, I've owned several brands of metal detectors and currently own a total of four machines. By Friday, that number will be five. While I've always made an effort to purchase American made equipment for this very serious hobby of mine, I could not help but be intrigued by a French manufacturer I started hearing about two years ago. About three years ago, they announced a new model of metal detector that was revolutionary in regards to technology and design. Of course, manufacturers make these claims with every new model, but there really was something quite different about the XP Deus - it is totally wireless. And that's just one aspect of the revolutionary design. Going into much more detail than that will just bore most folks, but the technology innovations with this new machine are truly cutting edge. There's nothing else out there like it or anything that even comes close.

So I watched to see how the reviews would come in and to see if it was, as I suspected, simply "all sizzle and no steak." Then I began to notice a number of experienced relic hunters begin to sing the new machine's praises. They were leaving their tested and reliable models and switching to the XP Deus in increasing numbers. I watched and listened more until, finally, about two weeks ago, I became convinced that this truly cutting edge machine was worth the investment. Yesterday, I took the plunge and negotiated a super deal on a unit which I should have by Friday - just in time to give it a test drive over the weekend.

I've agreed to write a review for the machine once I give it a thorough testing. I have high hopes.

For those more curious, here's the "sizzle":

The innovative design of DEUS is based on three elements communicating via a digital radio link. In this new design the coil, remote control and audio headphones have each been made independent through the integration of very compact, high-capacity lithium batteries.

An ultra-miniature electronic circuit, incorporated in the search coil, digitizes and analyzes the signals. Data is then sent to the headphones and remote control in real time via the digital radio link. With this method, the signal is processed at source and not conveyed via a wire link, which greatly improves data quality.

Incorporating components from leading-edge technologies such as scientific instrumentation has enabled us to produce a powerful, rapid, lightweight, compact and fully controllable digital detector.

If you are an experienced user or a beginner, DEUS lets you decide whether or not to modify any of its settings. Powerful pre-configured factory programs enable all users to get started immediately, while expert detectorists can choose more advanced parameters via the intuitive interface.

The 'Remote Control' is in fact the user interface, known as the 'control box' on conventional detectors. It enables the detector's many functions to be precisely adjusted via a graphical interface. It can also receive program updates (via internet) through its USB socket.

DEUS is also exceptional in being able to function without the remote control, with the ability to use just the coil and the wireless headphones, for an even more compact, lightweight configuration (just 2 lbs.)!

Like the remote control, the headphones contain all the components needed for detection — they are a genuine control unit in themselves, but on an ultra-miniature scale. They take over in the absence of the remote control for adjusting the detector settings.

With the headphones you can turn DEUS on and off, change the main detection settings such as sensitivity, discrimination, ground balance, tone, frequency (4 kHz, 8 kHz, 12 kHz, 18 kHz), volume, etc. as well as select the factory programs or those previously configured with the remote control! Performance is identical whether you are searching with or without the remote control!

Lastly, the XP stem has the combined advantages of an S-shaped stem and a straight telescopic stem. It enables you to deploy or fold away the device in just a few seconds, and to change the coil in an instant. Its user-friendly design ensures comfort and convenience for the user: length is fully adjustable by millimeter increments; improved operating angle and shaped rubber handle for a firm, controlled grip. Now you're ready for a new adventure!
And more detail here.

27 August 2014

Connecting World History & Current Events

Listen to an interesting discussion on this topic here:

HSLDA | Step Into A Larger World: An Interview with David Aikman

Pull quote from the above interview with Patrick Henry College Professor, Dr. David Aikman:
China is a country that is discovering that Christianity is actually a rather good way of running a country. I have had several books that have quoted conversations from my book, Jesus in Beijing. In particular, one conversation where a member of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences is saying, “We wanted to discover why the West was so successful. We thought it was economics, we thought it was democracy, we thought it was military technology, but then we realized that the core of the success of the West was Christianity, because the Christian spirit has enabled the development of science, the faith and exploration and so forth.” So, knowing what made America great is a good way of seeing how the Chinese are beginning to look at their own society.  

Godless In Wackydemia

Here's the latest from control freak central:
According to the #6 [rule] under the “Behavioral Deduction” section of the syllabus, students’ grades will be lowered for: “Saying ‘bless you.’ We are taught that it is polite to say ‘bless you’ when someone sneezes. However, if you say this while I am talking, it is NOT polite, it is very rude!”
Some folks just need a good dose of ego-deflating. More here.

26 August 2014

Politicizing American History Via The College Boards

Revealed even further by NRO's Stanley Kurtz's latest. Nothing really new here, despite the claims of the complicit and flat-earth society. Just another means to an end and ultimate goals of the "enemies of American Exceptionalism." Many modern historians have their preferred narrative that America is, to one degree or another, the focus of all evil in the modern world. These folks want:
. . . early American history to be less about the Pilgrims, Plymouth Colony, and John Winthrop’s “City on a Hill” speech, and more about the role of the plantation economy and the slave trade in the rise of an intrinsically exploitative international capitalism.
And if you doubt that, just surf academic history blogs.
How can American conservatives, moderates, and even traditional liberals trust an AP U.S. History redesign effort led by figures who were so deeply enmeshed in a leftist attempt to reshape the American history curriculum?
The short answer is, you can't - and you shouldn't.  Kurtz's piece is very good and goes into great detail as to how court historians are using College Boards to undermine our nation's history and distorting our founding and America's greatness.  

And the historians who so often deny this is actually happening are either complicit liars or ignorant; which is why many of them are less and less respected.

Robert E. Lee: "A Role Model For All"

Despite the opinions of lesser, agenda-driven men.

The latest from North South Trader's Civil War publisher, Steve Sylvia:
. . . Lee was a man defined by honor. His English ancestors fought beside William the Conqueror, another marched in the Third Crusade in the Holy Land, and one was knighted by Queen Elizabeth. In the context of both his lineage and his times, Robert E. Lee's choice to side with family, community, and state against the United States is understandable. His own father defied his ancestral England when he made the choice to join the Continental Army. Defense of hearth and home and resistance to injustice came naturally to men like the Lees.
From Lee's perspective, the US was about to wage war on his home, his people, and his family. Even though the basic principles of the Republic had been compromised, Lee agonized over the decision and made his choice reluctantly. Once committed, he fought like a lion. Once defeated, he was without rancor. Such a man is not a traitor but a role model for all.
More here.

25 August 2014

The Forgotten Man Of The West

The Black Cowboy . . ."let us all say amen." Amen.

22 August 2014

Metal Detecting Post #113

Found this morning on a Shenandoah Valley farm that dates to the mid 18th century: part of a colonial era silver spoon or fork handle.

19 August 2014

New Projects In The Works

Well, no sooner had I finished the book on the Battle of Waynesboro, I was contacted by a film producer about working together on a history related project. I'm also finishing up an essay for a Civil War website and a query for an article related to the BoW book has been accepted by a very prestigious military history related publication.

My wife is not happy about this.

Is "Anti-Intellectualism" Justified? (Part 1)

If, by "intellectualism", you mean an association with academia, then yes; as Dr. Walter Williams demonstrates:
At Georgetown University, there’s a course called Philosophy and Star Trek, where professor Linda Wetzel explores questions such as “Can persons survive death?” and “Is time travel possible? Could we go back and kill our grandmothers?”

At Columbia College Chicago, there’s a class called Zombies in Popular Media. The course description reads, “Daily assignments focus on reflection and commentary, while final projects foster thoughtful connections between student disciplines and the figure of the zombie.”

West Coast colleges refuse to be left behind the times. University of California, Irvine physics professor Michael Dennin teaches The Science of Superheroes, in which he explores questions such as “Have you ever wondered if Superman could really bend steel bars?” and “Would a ‘gamma ray’ accident turn you into the Hulk?” and “What is a ‘spidey-sense’?”

The bottom line is that many colleges have lost sight of their basic educational mission of teaching young people critical thinking skills, and they’re failing at that mission at higher and higher costs to parents and taxpayers.
And how can we forget hairy armpit credit at Arizona State University? If this is "intellectualism", I think I'll pass. 

More here.

17 August 2014

Metal Detecting Post #112 - 1864 Indian Head

The longer I relic hunt, the more I realize how important research is. My hunting partner recently discovered an old road bed in central Virginia which saw a lot of Civil War traffic. It was also a road dating to colonial days. Last week, we did a recon hunt there but just had a couple of hours. After hunting the road bed for a while, but not finding anything of interest, I wandered off to the side and soon found a 19th century brass candlestick holder. Within the same 5 foot area I also found what I think is a gun tool (will post pics after cleaned) some iron scissor handles, and a period civilian button. Very close by, my partner found some iron kettle pieces. Then, about 30 feet from where I found these items, I found this 1864 Indian Head and another coin (appears to be copper, but badly corroded ). I'm thinking we may have stumbled upon a camp (either civilian or military) or, at the very least, an old home site. But by then it was getting hot, the ground was very dry and hard so we packed it in with plans to go back in the fall. 

What's amazing is the number of cars that speed past this site every day, not knowing the history that lies just 100 feet from the current road. 

16 August 2014

Can We Understand The Course Of History?

I read some interesting commentary in a recent issue of North South Trader's Civil War magazine. As I've noted before, it is my favorite WBTS publication. One of the features I look forward to the most is the Publisher's Forum - an editorial which features the observations and insights of the publisher, Stephen W. Sylvia. Sylvia is not only a knowledgeable historian, he is a gifted writer as well. In the most recent issue, his editorial centers around a response to someone who mocked and ridiculed the Christian faith. His reflections regarding that subject reminded me of words spoken by John Adams to the Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts in 1798: "Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people."

George Washington said something very similar in his Farewell Address
Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports. . . . And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion.
I was also reminded of something I once heard Professor James I. Robertson, Jr. say about moderns and how they view Robert E. Lee: "Robert E. Lee never existed [in the minds of some] because we don't have a Robert E. Lee today." 

Much of the reason for moderns' misunderstanding of Lee can be explained by Douglas Southall Freeman's observation regarding Lee:
Because he was calm when others were frenzied, loving when they hated, and silent when they spoke with bitter tongue, they shook their heads and said he was a superman or a mysterious man. Beneath that untroubled exterior, they said, deep storms must rage; his dignity, his reserve, and his few words concealed sombre thoughts, repressed ambitions, livid resentments. They were mistaken. Robert Lee was one of the small company of great men in whom there is no inconsistency to be explained, no enigma to be solved. What he seemed, he was — a wholly human gentleman, the essential elements of whose positive character were two and only two, simplicity and spirituality.
My point is that it is impossible to understand the course of history, shaped by human lives, without a firm understanding of morality, religion and spirituality. And, when it comes to American history, that religion is specifically Christianity. 
Would we have been able to sustain the sacrifices and risks of the Revolution if it weren't for our forefather's commonly held Christian beliefs and Christian-oriented cultural traditions? Would we have been able to recover from a horrific civil war if we hadn't held to a time-honored code of morals and ethical behavior?

Can any society persist without a strong moral compass? . . . I don't believe that those without respect for or even and understanding of traditional morals can grasp the character of those ancestors we so admire and commemorate. Without an understanding of the experiences and belief systems that informed their decisions, how can we hope to understand the course of history itself? ~ Stephen W. Sylvia

15 August 2014

Rand Paul On Fergurson, Missouri

The shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown is an awful tragedy that continues to send shockwaves through the community of Ferguson, Missouri and across the nation If I had been told to get out of the street as a teenager, there would have been a distinct possibility that I might have smarted off. But, I wouldn’t have expected to be shot. ~ Senator Rand Paul
Yeah, ditto that. If that is, in fact, what happened, then the officer should be charged, at the very least, with manslaughter - perhaps even murder.
Why armored vehicles in a Midwestern inner suburb? Why would cops wear camouflage gear against a terrain patterned by convenience stores and beauty parlors? Why are the authorities in Ferguson, Mo. so given to quasi-martial crowd control methods (such as bans on walking on the street) and, per the reporting of Riverfront Times, the firing of tear gas at people in their own yards? (“‘This my property!’ he shouted, prompting police to fire a tear gas canister directly at his face.”) Why would someone identifying himself as an 82nd Airborne Army veteran, observing the Ferguson police scene, comment that “We rolled lighter than that in an actual warzone”?
Paul calls for the demilitarization of local police. I agree. Read the whole article by Paul here, in Time.

Phil Sheridan's Views On Killing "Noncombatants"

Following the tactics he had employed in Virginia [the Shenandoah Valley], Sheridan sought to strike directly at the material basis of the Plains Indian nations. He believed—correctly, it turned out—that attacking the Indians in their encampments during the winter would give him the element of surprise and take advantage of the scarce forage available for Indian mounts. He was unconcerned about the likelihood of high casualties among noncombatants, once remarking that “If a village is attacked and women and children killed, the responsibility is not with the soldiers but with the people whose crimes necessitated the attack.” 

Well of course. 

As quoted from that hotbed of Neo-Confederates, PBS.

14 August 2014

A Southerner Experiences Boston

And, believe it or not, he has some nice things to say about Bean Town.
It probably compensates these men that New Englanders seem every bit as friendly as Southerners. This was a pleasant surprise, but it shouldn't have been. Markets place politeness and respect in the individual's self interest, and Boston, which is surely the capital of modern American liberalism, still has a private sector that perseveres in spite of the Bostonian embrace of various levels of government. If the American South is friendlier than the North (as the stereotype says), it is only because the public sector has not yet made as strong of a foothold in that region, allowing bourgeois values (like politeness and respect) to persist.

13 August 2014

Quote For The Day

There is a difference between wisdom and intelligence, and federally-funded, post-modern education favors the latter at the expense of the former. Yet intelligence’s saving grace is its natural orientation towards the truth, and since the intellect governs the will, the will is oriented toward the good.  So ground your intellect in truth.  Those who don’t tend toward disordered lives and are often found in therapy, legislatures, and prisons. ~ Christopher Westley

12 August 2014

National Civil War Chaplains Museum Grand Reopening

When Confederate and Union soldiers weren't hurling cannon-balls at one another, they often turned to religion — something The National Civil War Chaplains Museum hopes to educate the public about during their grand reopening event this Saturday.
Story here.

09 August 2014

A Surprise In My Next Book

Yesterday, I received the proof pages for my book about The Battle of Waynesboro which is to be published by The History Press. I'll be going through those this weekend before sending everything back to the publisher. Barring any snags, the book is to be released on September 30th. I have included a surprise in the book - an essay which will appear as an appendix - written by Dr. Anita Henderson. Dr. Henderson is a medical doctor living in Maryland who also is quite active participating in living history events and interpretations. We've become acquainted since she contacted me last year about some research she'd done regarding the possibility that there was a "woman of color" disguised as a Union soldier who participated in the BoW. Admittedly, the evidence she has is very narrow. However, it does appear to be credible. I won't give away any more. You'll have to get the book.

Dr. Henderson is quite an interesting lady and will bring a unique perspective to the book. Here's a little of her background:
Dr. Henderson is a functional mounted cavalry bugler with the 13th VA Cavalry, Co. H., Light Sussex Dragoons which had two documented black confederates who were duly mustered in. She recently was Chief Confederate Bugler of the 150th Blue-Gray Alliance Gettysburg Reenactment in June 2013.  She also has a civilian impression and is a long time member of the Atlantic Guard Soldiers’ Aid Society, one of the most authentic civilian living history groups in the United States. She does an impression of a house slave or free black woman who is a cook and demonstrates open fire and hearth cooking using 19th century recipes and implements.
Henderson has participated in living history interpretations and reenactments all over the east coast and southern US. She has participated in a variety of historical documentary and Hollywood films. She was a background artist in the Civil War films “Wicked Spring”, “No Retreat From Destiny” and “Gods and Generals.”  In addition to interpreting the Civil War, she is an avid genealogist and is descended from the Egglestons of Virginia and Mississippi.  She is currently working on the family history with distant white cousins who are also avid Civil War scholars and genealogists. Dr. Henderson lives in rural western Howard County where she enjoys riding her pony “Fuzzy”, gardening, writing and milking her goat “Butter.”
You can pre-order the book at Amazon here

**And a special heads up to Kevin Levin - the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities refers to the Civil War as, (Oh my gosh!) The War Between the States!

08 August 2014

The Meaning Of Symbolism

. . . is often in the eye of the beholder.

Kevin Levin recently used an intentionally provocative image of a Confederate battle flag for some red meat impact. I believe he got the reaction and attention he wanted. Fair enough. That use of the CBF is despicable. But  when another reader points out that the U.S. flag has also been used for less than honorable purposes, Levin excuses it stating:
The difference is the stars and strips (sic) is my flag and everyone else (sic) in this country. . . . There is a reason why the individual in this photograph is holding a Confederate flag and like it or not that reason goes back to the founding of the Confederate States of America. That history is etched in stone.
Yeah, well the same could be said about the U.S. flag in regards to its symbolism at certain events and political rallies, e.g., There is a reason why the individual in this photograph is holding a (U.S. flag). So, at the very least, his logic is flawed. And, one could certainly argue that the U.S. flag's history is also "etched in stone." But with all the revisionist history going on these days, that' not really a problem. And what does Levin mean when stating "the stars and strips is my flag"? Is that "difference" supposed to mean absolution for any perceived symbolic sins associated with "the stars and strips"(sic)? 

And Levin might want to rethink the "everyone else" (sic) assertion about the U.S. flag, particularly in many corners of academia:
The American flag is an unwelcome sight on many campuses. On September 11, a Lehigh University administrator became so infuriated at an American flag displayed on a campus bus that he ordered Old Glory to be taken down around campus. Similar scenes played out at Arizona State, Marquette, and Holy Cross. A year later at Berkeley, organizers of a 9/11 "Day of Remembrance" initially forbade patriotic songs, replaced planned red, white, and blue lapel pins with white ones, and excluded the American flag — until the school's administration overruled them in an attempt to curb bad publicity. "The flag has become a symbol of U.S. aggression toward other countries," graduate student organizer Jessica Quindel contended. (Source.)
So, many see the U.S. flag as a "symbol of U.S. aggression" while others like Levin (and myself) view it as a symbol of freedom. Similarly, there are those of us with Confederate ancestors who see honor for the original symbolism of the Confederate soldiers' flag, which is why the CBF still flies over many Confederate veterans' graves throughout the South. This sentiment was expressed nicely by former Senator James Webb:
. . . we are also the caretakers of the memory, and the reputation, of those who performed their duty—as they understood it—under circumstances too difficult for us ever to fully comprehend. No one but a fool—or a bigot in their own right—would call on the descendants of those Confederate veterans to forget the sacrifices of those who went before them or argue that they should not be remembered with honor.

And that would include the flag they fought under.
Arlington National Cemetery
By the way, I fully support Professor Bill Ayers' right to desecrate and dishonor the U.S. flag, though I find that despicable and disgusting as well.

07 August 2014

Should Young Americans Just Say No To College?

Well, not always - you can't be a medical doctor or an attorney without it and there are other professions that, of course, require a college degree. But beyond that, I think there are far better options. A traditional college education has become, in the information age, a waste of time and money for many. I've been saying this for a number of years and a growing chorus of others are saying the same thing. Here's the latest lead in on an article on the topic from Salon:
Just say no to college! Why it’s the worst decision a young American can make
For today's grads, a job is no sure thing, but decades of debt may be. And don't get me started on the "education"
Yes, don't get me started on the "education" either. And the writer does not pull any punches:
. . . the degree will land you a job and provide “intellectual enrichment” and “critical thinking” and other impossible to quantify, dubious buzzwords used in college marketing pamphlets across the country. . . . This baby boomer-esque sentiment is garbage. It’s no wonder that in 2011, a Chronicle of Higher Education study found that “large numbers of U.S. college students can be accurately described as academically adrift. They might graduate, but they are failing to develop the higher-order cognitive skills that it is widely assumed college students should master.” To put it in less pedantic language, students are paying tens of thousands of dollars for a degree and walking away equally empty-headed as they were when they graduated high school, straight-A’s notwithstanding. The degree, which failed to get them a job, failed to educate them as well.
"Critical thinking"? That's hilarious. Read the stinging rebuke here.

However, if you really want that sheepskin, there are better ways than the traditional money and PC pit. Take control.

05 August 2014

A Brief History Of Lee Chapel

I've always lived within about a 30 minute drive of Lexington and Lee Chapel located on the campus of Washington & Lee University. I've visited dozens of times since I was in grade school. I've known and become friends with several of the employees over the ensuing decades. I still drop by quite often to sign books of mine which they offer in their museum gift shop. I love the place. With that as a background, I'd like to offer the following brief history of Lee Chapel, which comes from a *talk I gave at Liberty University in 2007.

In Marshall Fishwick’s wonderful mini-biography of General Lee, titled Lee After the War, Fishwick writes:

“Offices are silent biographies of those who spend much of their lives in them.”

As Robert E. Lee’s office was in the basement of Lee Chapel, that office, along with Lee Chapel itself, serves as a silent biography of General Lee as he spent much of his latter life at the Chapel. And you cannot really fully understand one without understanding the other.

Lee Chapel - The Building

2007 marked not only the 400th anniversary of the founding of the Commonwealth of Virginia at Jamestown and not only General Lee’s 200th birthday, but also the 140th anniversary of the construction of Lee Chapel. Construction began in 1867 and, according to tradition, and the records seem to confirm, the order for the Chapel project was Lee’s first official act as President of Washington College. As a side note, I was recently shown a letter written by Lee that some are interpreting as a challenge to the long-held belief that the Chapel was Lee’s idea. If you read the letter carefully, you really don’t come away with that belief, at least I don’t.

The letter was to Colonel Charles Marshall and dated 2 July 1868. The subject matter of the letter is Lee’s displeasure of his name being used for the solicitation of funds for the College President’s house, which he had not approved. The sentence cited as a challenge to Lee being the mastermind behind the Chapel is this:

It is true I caused a plan for a residence for the President of Washington College to be drawn, [comma] as I did for a Chapel, Dormitories, Boarding houses, etc., at the insistence of the Board of Trustees; [semicolon] but it was no more designed for a residence for me than for any succeeding President.
The person who shared this with me, along with at least one other person, seem to believe that Lee’s comment, “at the insistence of the Board of Trustees” refers to all the buildings mentioned. I don’t get that from reading this at all and, as a matter of fact, I come to the exact opposite conclusion. I believe it is pretty clear that that comment is referring back to the residence that was “at the insistence of the Board of Trustees”. Lee simply mentioned the other buildings to show it was not out of the ordinary for him to initiate construction projects on the campus.

(I mention this only because you may see this point raised at some point as many writers, researchers, and historians enjoy challenging long-held notions—even ones that are well established.)

It was early in 1866 that Lee recommended to the Board of Trustees that the original chapel room be converted to classroom use and that the board allocate funds for a new chapel building. Minutes from a meeting of the Committee on Buildings and Grounds in July of 1866 indicate that after considering several alternatives, it was believed “best to return to the original idea of President Lee” and that “it should be a separate building of characteristic architecture, devoted exclusively to religious worship and instruction.” The Trustee’s minutes also note that the committee submitted “a plan prepared by President Lee.” This reference also seems to clearly indicate that the original plan and idea was Lee’s. On July 18, the trustees authorized the construction of the chapel “not to exceed $10,000.” That cost restriction was removed at a later meeting.

Now here there has been some debate and confusion as to whether or not it was General Lee who actually designed the Chapel. Certainly Lee was concerned about anything that impacted the appearance of the college. One indication of Lee’s concern over the campus’s overall appearance is a conversation he once had with Dr. Edward C. Gordon. Gordon served as college treasurer, librarian, proctor, and as an assistant to Lee.

In the book by Franklin Riley, General Robert E. Lee After Appomattox (which I believe W & L is republishing this year and I highly recommend), Dr. Gordon recalls a telling conversation with President Lee:

Here I may mention his keen sense of the fit, the becoming, the beautiful. This sense was manifested in many ways; in his clothes, his personal neatness, his dealings with other men; in his ideas respecting buildings and grounds. Most of the trees which now adorn the front campus were planted under his direction. I once asked him about the arrangement of these trees. He said: ‘Not in rows: Nature never plants trees in rows. As far as possible imitate Nature.’ He himself selected many of the spots where trees were planted.
So certainly, if Lee was concerned about where and how trees were going to be planted, he would have been intimately involved in the design and location of the Chapel. Local tradition long held that Lee’s son, George Washington Custis Lee, who was at that time teaching in the Engineering Dept. at VMI, assisted his father in the design and drawing of the plans for the Chapel. But the evidence does not totally support this. Although son Custis and certainly, President Lee, had input and review, most historians now believe it was Colonel Thomas Williamson, who was at the time Professor of Civil and Military Engineering at VMI, that actually drew up the plans. A letter from Williamson to his daughter in 1866 notes the following:
“I have been thrown a good deal with General Lee lately. The Buildings Committee of the College got me to design the new Chapel which they are erecting . . .” Williamson goes on to say that, “I have made all the working drawings and written specifications, all of which I had to confer with the General and explain to him.”
Smithsonian Tower
Two plans for the Chapel exist and are in the Lee archives at W & L. The one that was not ultimately chosen is more Gothic in design.
Lee Chapel resembles no other building on campus. It’s Victorian and Romanesque architecture truly sets it apart from any other structure at the school. Some believe that John Renwick’s 1847 design of the Smithsonian in Washington served, at least in part, for the Chapel’s design. There are obvious similarities. 

Local Lexington contractors, Pole and Shields, began work in 1867 and the project was overseen by project manager George W. Pettigrew. 

The building is one and a half stories, with a basement, and a slate roof. The upper walls are constructed of brick believe to have been fired on school grounds. The basement walls are made of native limestone, of which there is an abundance in the Shenandoah Valley, and also believed to have been hewn on site. The structure was completed in 1868 and was dedicated (not consecrated) on Sunday morning, 14 June. The choir from the Lexington Presbyterian Church sang, Lee’s Pastor, Dr. William Nelson Pendleton (artillery commander, cannons, named after the gospels, etc.) gave the address. Later the same day, the Chapel’s first baccalaureate services were held and the address was delivered by Dr. Charles Minnigerode. 

President Lee did not want the school tied to any particular denomination and chapel services were rotated by the pastors of Lexington’s four churches. Each service included singing, scripture reading, and prayer. The Chapel soon became the center and soul of the college and its students.

English Ivy adorns much of the outer brick walls and tradition has it that the ivy was originally brought from George Washington’s tomb at Mount Vernon. Lee’s connection to Washington, which he was conscious of in life, and which he cultivated, continues in death.

Upon entering Lee Chapel, one immediately 
faces a commemorative marble plaque which memorializes the Liberty Hall Volunteers. The text reads, in part:
Liberty Hall Volunteers
Company I, 4th VA Infantry
Stonewall Brigade CSA.

Total Roll 76, Killed 13, Wounded 26, Died in service 9, Total 48 out of 76, There were 106 volunteers other than alumni. See their names on Rockbridge County's Roll of Honor, County Clerk's Office, Lexington, VA. Casualties among the latter. Killed 14, wounded 20, died in service 6. Total 40 out of 106. Total enrollment 182. Total casualties 88. They fought in thirty two battles from Manassas to Appomattox, where the remnant surrendered with Lee.


[For our altars and firesides or hearths]
The Liberty Hall Volunteers were formed at the outbreak of the Civil War by a group of students and alumni from Washington College. They entered the war in early June 1861 as part of the Fourth Virginia Infantry Regiment under the command of Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson. They chose the name "Liberty Hall Volunteers" as a reference to the American Revolution and Lexington militia that fought under the same name. One-fourth of these young men were studying for the ministry.

As you enter the main sanctuary, there are a number of other plaques on the walls. They honor students, faculty members, and friends of the University. Some were placed as memorials after the death of the individual, some in honor of great accomplishments.

Then there is Lee's pew: President Lee sat in the front left pew ( as you face the podium) every weekday morning for chapel. Chapel services were optional for students. As Lee observed:

“As a general principle you should not force young men to do their duty, but let them do it voluntarily and thereby develop their characters.”

Yet Lee was always there leading by example and, therefore, so were most of the students. He believed, as he wrote when he accepted the Presidency of Washington College that: 

“It is particularly incumbent on those charged with the instruction of the young to set them an example of submission to authority.”

And admonishing another Professor that:

“One of the best ways that I know of to induce students to attend chapel is to be sure that we attend ourselves.” 

The hand-carved podium on the platform was a gift from some New Orleans friends of General Lee’s in 1868 and I believe the decorative details match those found on the front doors, around the windows, and along the ceiling ribs. The oak leave and acorn carvings on the podium pay tribute to the Lee family’s coat of arms. The straight-backed pews, planed by hand in post-war Lexington, are original, except for the upholstery. At some point in the 1920’s, the straight backs were removed and re-installed at an angle for better comfort.

Then we come to the focal point of the Chapel’s first floor – The Recumbent Lee. 

Edward Valentine, Richmond sculptor, and a friend of the Lees, was chosen by Mrs. Lee to sculpt the statue. Of the designs he submitted she chose a recumbent figure. Valentine began his work at his studio in Richmond, now the Valentine Museum, and announced its completion on April 1, 1875. The statue had taken three years for completion and cost $15,000; $5000 more than what was originally allocated for the construction of the Chapel itself.

Students of Richmond College immediately made application for "the privilege of taking charge of the monument when it is sent up to Lexington and bearing the expenses of its transportation." The generous offer was accepted by officials of Washington and Lee University, and the statue was transported by boat up the James River Canal, accompanied by Richmond College students.

The carefully-guarded figure was turned over to Washington and Lee by the Richmond group and temporarily housed in old north dormitory on the university campus. 

Immediately plans got underway for a mausoleum to contain the statue and the remains of General Lee, which had already been interred in a tomb in the floor of the museum. General Joseph E. Johnston was elected president of the Lee Memorial Association to secure funds for the mausoleum, and on November 29, 1878, General Johnston, assisted by John Randolph Tucker, laid the cornerstone for the structure.

Funds for the construction gave out in two years, before even the roof and the interior had been completed. About $24,000 had already been spent by the association and $5,000 more was needed. The Memorial Association agreed to deed the statue and mausoleum over to the university on condition 

. . . upon the sacred trust that the mausoleum shall be preserved as a perpetual place of sepulture for the remains of General Robert E. Lee and Mrs. Lee and such other members of their family as it may be the pleasure of the family to have interred there . . . 
The proposal was accepted and within a year the mausoleum was completed. The recumbent statue was placed in the chapel, and on June 28, 1883, the unveiling ceremonies were held.
John W. Daniel, Virginia statesman, delivered the dedicatory address in the absence of Jefferson Davis, who was unable to attend because of age and ill-health. More than 10,000 people stood on the university campus to hear the famous orator deliver a three-hour eulogy. Among the invited guests were ex-Confederate soldiers, former cabinet officers of the Confederacy, general officers of the Confederate army and navy, members of General Lee's staff, survivors of the "Stonewall Brigade," Governors of the Southern States, and State officials of Virginia.

At the close of the stirring oration a salute was fired by survivors of the "Rockbridge Artillery" from guns used by Jackson's army at the first battle of Manassas. Then Miss Julia Jackson, daughter of "Stonewall," pulled aside the curtain to reveal the statue to the public --eight years after its completion.

The simple dignity of the memorial won it wide acclaim as soon as it was unveiled, and today it is recognized as one of the finest monuments in marble ever created. The statue represents General Lee asleep in his tent after a battle and seems to reflect a statement Lee once made to Valentine:

“I would like to go to some quiet place in the country and rest.”
Inscribed upon the monument are the simple words:

Robert Edward Lee
January 19, 1809
October 12, 1870

The chapel contains a number of other notable works of art, including the original Peale portraits of Washington and of Lafayette, originally at Mount Vernon. The Washington portrait once hung in Arlington House but was removed by the Lee’s in 1861 for fear that the Yankees would steal it.

From the Chapel, one winds down a set of stairs to a state-of-the-art museum in the lower level which includes Lee's office, a portrait gallery displaying the Washington-Custis-Lee Collection, an exhibition tracing the history and heritage of Washington and Lee University, and a museum shop. Lee's office is preserved much as he left it for the last time on September 28, 1870. The rest of the lower level became the museum in 1928, exhibiting the items once owned by the Lee and Washington families. The eclectic collection includes locks of both George Washington and Robert E. Lee’s hair.

The Lee family crypt is also in the lower level in which are buried Robert E. Lee, his father, his mother, his father (Light-Horse Harry Lee) his wife and children, along with other members of the Lee family. You will find that often visitors leave flowers or flags as a memorial to General Lee.

During Lee's tenure, the downstairs of the Chapel contained his office, the treasurer's office, and a student center run by the YMCA, (organized at Lee’s suggestion in 1867) which became the university library with its 5800 volumes from 1869-1882.
A marble plaque on the floor marks the original burial site of Robert E. Lee. Despite common misperception, Lee was never buried in or under the statue upstairs. The statue was designed as a memorial to Lee after his death. He was originally buried under the floor of the current museum, which was then the college library, until the addition to Lee Chapel was completed in 1883 and he was reburied in the crypt.

Outside of the glass doors are the buried remains of Traveller. Traveller was Lee's legendary horse, purchased by Lee in 1862 for $175 in gold. His faithful companion throughout the War Between the States, Traveller became a well-known figure on the campus of Washington College. He lived in the custom-built stable next to the President's house (which now serves as the garage to the Lee House).

Traveller died in 1871 from lockjaw after stepping on a rusty nail. He was attended by the same doctor that had served Lee in his last hours. Traveller was originally buried on campus but his bones were exhumed to be preserved. They were on display for a number of years on campus before being re-interred at this spot in 1971. The Virginia Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy donated the plaque in his memory. Today, people often leave apples, carrots or coins in remembrance of Traveller—as did the faithful Texans.

In the center of the museum are facsimiles of two important letters in the University's history:

• The first letter is from George Washington (June 17, 1798) in which he thanked Liberty Hall Academy for changing its name to Washington Academy as a result of a gift of 100 shares of the James River Canal Company he gave to the institution. This gift was the Academy's first substantial endowment (at the time, the largest gift ever made to a private education institution in America) and was essential to the survival of the struggling classical school.

• The second letter is Lee's acceptance of the presidency in 1865 (August 24, 1865). Lee is also an essential part of the University's history; he increased enrollment, raised money, modernized the curriculum and instituted the honor code that exists today.

There are also pistols given by George Washington to his heir, George Washington Parke Custis, who later gave them to his son-in-law, Robert E. Lee.

Lee Chapel - The History

Since the days of Robert E. Lee, Lee Chapel has been at the heart of life on the campus of Washington and Lee University. Steeped in tradition, the Chapel continues to be a gathering place for the University's most important events.

One piece of history regarding Lee Chapel is not widely known. (This also reveals that the current nasty debate over Lee Chapel isn't the first one.) The structure came very close to being torn down during the 1920’s. Under the presidency of Dr. Henry Louis Smith, many came to view the Chapel as “unattractive and not in architectural harmony with the other fine buildings on campus.” The structure had in fact become a fire hazard and was no longer large enough to fulfill its original purpose—a place where all of W & L’s students could assemble at one time. Smiths’ plan was to raze the Chapel (leaving the crypt intact) and build a new, larger structure. The trustees gave their blessing and he believed he had the support of the Lee family as well. He had also appealed to, and won the support of, the National United Daughters of the Confederacy.

But Smith overlooked one crucial group—the Lexington Mary Custis Lee Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which boasted over 80 members. This chapter included a number of the most prominent women of Lexington and this chapter also operated Lexington’s only hospital. Dissent over destroying Lee Chapel first surfaced among the members of this UDC chapter, but concern soon spread to other Lexingtonians.

Smith, like Abraham Lincoln, sought the support of a Lee—Lee’s grandson, Robert E. Lee III, to quell the mounting rebellion, assuming Lee’s support would be a given. But Lee, like his grandfather, refused the offer. Some traits are just in our genes, I suppose. After Lee’s refusal, Smith suggested to Lee’s wife that Lee’s “mind has become confused on this important point.” Mrs. Lee was furious that Smith had suggested that her husband’s mind was “not sound.” So not only did Smith have the very influential local UDC ladies against him, but he had just insulted the only two people who could get his rear-end out of the fire.

But, alas, Dr. Smith’s heated hindquarters were only going to get warmer. After Mrs. Lee’s curt reply and assurances from Lee’s doctor that Lee’s mind was “very clear”, Smith sent another letter stating that “Col. Lee is in no condition to think or remember.”

The opposition grew and a very public and sometimes nasty debate ensued with one trustee stating that he was shocked at the “depths of the ferocity of the opposition.” In my opinion, Smith violated two very important rules in dealing with women:

1.    Never ignore a woman—or group of women—whose support you desire.
2.    Never suggest to a woman
whose support you desirethat her husband is crazy.

The rebellion grew. Articles and editorials opposing Smith’s plan appeared in the Rockbridge County News, whose editor and publisher just happened to be one of the UDC lady’s uncle, Matthew W. Paxton. Other Virginia UDC chapters passed resolutions opposing the destruction of Washington & Lee’s “greatest asset.” One chapter implored the university to leave quote “the Chapel’s sanctity unprofaned.” (Sound familiar?)

W & L countered with an official bulletin patronizing and condescending in tone referring to “the little chapel . . . erected . . . when American architecture had reached its lowest ebb.” And reminding the natives that though they had “learned to love and venerate it” that visitors and strangers from outside the area all noticed “the homeliness of the chapel . . . and its ludicrous tower” causing them to “experience a sense of surprise and depression.” (Sound familiar?)

Obviously, these insults and condescending tone just emboldened the opposition all the more. The Baltimore Sun and the Richmond papers published editorials denouncing Smith’s plan to raze the Shrine of the South—designed by Lee himself.

Smith told trustee William Anderson that they needed to attend the 1922 Virginia UDC convention in Fredericksburg and Anderson responded that he “would rather be dragged through a mud hole or a sewer pipe than go to Fredericksburg.” Smith addressed the convention, but so did Mrs. Robert E. Lee, III stating “Spare, keep and guard the chapel, for in spite of Dr. Smith, the chapel is the shrine and not the tomb and mausoleum alone.”

The debate continued through 1923 and despite Smith seeking a compromise, his repeated insults to the UDC ladies won him no support. The UDC, however, won the support of local Congressman Henry St. George Tucker, all of the women’s clubs, the Confederate Veterans and, finally, the death blow to Smith’s plan came in the form of a rebuke from President Woodrow Wilson who wrote:

“Changes in the Chapel . . . would be an outrageous desecration and bring serious discredit upon the University and the State.”

Shortly thereafter, in the board of trustee’s final act regarding Smith’s plans to tear down Lee Chapel, they issued the following statement:

“Resolved: that in the opinion of the Board, it is inexpedient to proceed further with plans heretofore proposed and discussed in relation to Lee Chapel.” 

W & L student Ollinger Crenshaw noted that:

“After this meeting President Smith and Rector Anderson left the room slowly arm in arm, as if to support each other in their personal Appomattox.”

After the smoke cleared in 1924, the University spent $6000 in fireproofing the Chapel. The UDC’s grassroots efforts saved Lee Chapel and we all owe them a great debt of gratitude.

After this, there were no other major changes or renovations until the 1960’s. Lee Chapel was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1961 and from 1962 to 1963 the chapel was restored through the support of the Ford Motor Company Fund (around $380,000.)

The slate roof was removed and each piece was numbered so that they could be replaced in their original location. The rotting wood rafters were replaced with steel beams and the original pine floors were replaced with concrete on both levels. The brick and limestone exteriors were untouched. The Chapel was rededicated on October 11th, 1963 (one day before the anniversary of Lee’s death) by Robert E. Lee IV.

Another major renovation of the Lee Chapel Museum was completed in 1998, with an anonymous donation of $1 million and a matching gift from alumnus Jack Warner. This commemorated the University's 250th anniversary in 1999.

Lee Chapel - The Legacy

Today, Lee Chapel sees 60,000 visitors annually. Many pass through not fully appreciating the rich spiritual legacy and history of this building. This beautiful historic building, filled with its tradition and heritage, remains a gathering place for lectures, memorial services, concerts, and, yes, a place for spiritual reflection. The Chapel continues to preserve Lee’s legacy of honor, civility, and faith, as well as his hope for the future. 

Back to Lee's office.

So what was Lee’s office like on the last day he occupied it? The room is simple, 15 x 18 and originally had a simple pine floor of random widths, only one item adorned the walls—a map of Augusta County, drawn by Jedediah Hotchkiss, Stonewall’s mapmaker. No other prints or decorations. There was a small cast-iron stove attached to the fireplace in the corner. The room was painted white.

The furnishings were not elaborate. The largest item in the room is a book case that originally served as a sideboard, given to Lee by an admiring Virginia lady. Included in the book case are worn copies of Webster’s Dictionary, a French, English, and Greek grammar books, and an algebra book. All show the tell-tale signs of frequent use. There is also a copy of this book: 

Our Children in Heaven by William Holcombe published in 1868. Lee, sadly, knew about that subject.

On the fireplace mantel were 3 faded pictures: George Peabody, who was a Northern friend of Lee’s, an unidentified Confederate family, and a picture of George Washington. Beside the large round table that served as Lee’s desk is a large wicker basket, hand-woven and given to Lee by a black Lexington woman.

All of the chairs are simple with wicker seats, there was a Victorian walnut secretary, a leather couch, (a gift) and end table upon which sat an oil lamp. Lee’s leather chair, another gifted item, is at the table. The table-desk is veneered with a glass top with pens, ink, papers, and other items neatly arranged.

This austere room was the command center of the school and Lee’s administration. Here he planned the school’s activities, admonished wayward students, convened counsels of advice with his colleagues. Here he spent many hours of solitude contemplating his past and his present charge.

Someone once observed a visibly moved General Lee leaving a chapel service while serving as President of Washington College. When the observer inquired of Lee if something was wrong, Lee replied, “I was thinking of my responsibility to Almighty God for these hundreds of young men.”

Lee’s daily practice was to rise early, have his private devotions and prayers; then prayers with his family at breakfast. After breakfast, Lee would walk the short distance to the Chapel and always arrived promptly for the 7:45 service. The service began 8. He would then descend to the lower level and to his office.

On the day Lee took ill, he had nothing on his agenda for the ay other than the mundane duties of his office and a vestry meeting at Grace Church in the afternoon.

He answered a letter that day that he had received that from Samuel H. Tagart. In Lee’s response, he noted that in response to a question about his own health:

"I am much better . . .  my pains are less and my strength greater. In fact, I suppose I am as well as I shall be.”

Maybe Lee thought of the words he had written just one year before:

 “Death in its silent, sure march is fast gathering those whom I have longest loved, so that when he shall knock at my door, I will more willingly follow.”

Perhaps he leafed through the pages of Our Children in Heaven, purchased by Lee the previous year as the title no doubt reminded him of his beloved Annie who died during the war at the age of 23.

Lee finished and sealed a letter, completed his morning's work, and was leaving his office when he ran into sophomore Percy Davidson. Davidson had come with him a small picture of Lee, which a Lexington girl had asked him to get the Lee to autograph. Davidson realized Lee was leaving and suggested he would come back some other time. "No," Lee responded, "I will go right back and do it now." He returned to his office and signed his name for the last time.

He then left his office for the last time, walked slowly to his home, and took a short nap.
Despite his wife’s pleadings, and suffering from a cold, Lee insisted on going to the vestry meeting, but told her that wished he “did not have to go and listen to all that powwow.” As he left his home, daughter Mildred was playing on the piano Mendelssohn’s “Funeral March.” He walked to the church, just a few steps from his home, through the rain, wearing only his military cape. There was no heat in the building, it was cold and damp and some noted that Lee’s face was flushed, despite the cool, damp air. Lee chatted cordially with the other vestrymen and then promptly at 4 o'clock, Lee called the meeting to order.

They decided what should be done about a new church building, the vestrymen began a discussion about raising William Pendleton's salary. Everyone contributed; but the total still came up short by $55, right much more than those who already had given had pledged. Lee said softly, "I will give that sum." Perhaps doing so as much out of a desire to help his old friend as a desire to end the boring vestry session and return home to his family.

Returning home, Lee stood at the head of the supper table to offer grace, but was unable to speak. Doctors were summoned, a sick room was prepared and over the next 36 hours it rained 14 inches. On October 7 and 8, the Northern Lights were seen in the night sky--a rare occurrence in the Shenandoah Valley. According to Douglas Southall Freeman, “some saw in it a beckoning hand.” A Lexington women took from a bookshelf a copy of The Lays of the Scottish Cavaliers and pointed with eerie assurance to a passage that read:

All night long the northern streamer
Shot across the trembling sky:
Fearful lights, that never beckon
Save when kings or heroes die.”
On the 12th of October, Lee uttered his last words, “Strike the tent” and the Christian warrior passed into eternity.

Virginia Military Institute Cadets are (not sure if this is still the case, but it was in very recent years) still instructed to salute as they approach Lee Chapel. Every year on the anniversary of Lee’s death, the Chapel’s bells toll 19 times matching the 19 gun salute given to an officer of Lee’s rank, reminding everyone in Lexington of the solemn moment. Every year, the Sons of  Confederate Veterans hold memorial services in the Chapel on the Saturday following Lee-Jackson Day. Each year, the University honors Lee on his birthday, January 19th, with a Founder’s Day program. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend that ceremony on Lee’s 200th birthday.

So Lee Chapel’s legacy continues. But we must never forget that the legacy of Lee Chapel is the legacy of Robert E. Lee.

I’d like to leave you all with the words of Marshall Fishwick:
Forget the Lee of battle, and see the old man moving among Lexington’s children. Forget the general in gray, and see the old fellow in the black suit moving back and forth between his home and his chapel. Focus sharply on this man. For this is Robert E. Lee.
For a complete history and description of Lee Chapel, I recommend Doug Bostick's Memorializing Robert E Lee: The Story of Lee Chapel.

*Note: The text for this post was taken from a talk I gave at Liberty University in 2007. Some of the text was originally taken and quoted verbatim from other authors' works and duly attributed and cited during my talk. I've tried to make sure that was done here, but I may have missed a passage or two as the original files were corrupted in a computer crash a couple of  years ago and I've had to attempt to "piece" it back together from scattered notes and a corrupted Word document. Both were missing some citations. I just wanted to disclose that in case I missed giving proper credit where due. I apologize in advance if I failed to do so and will make prompt correction if an omission is realized.

02 August 2014

Recommended Civil War & Relic Recovery Website

I've followed Steve Kaighen's Civil War relic hunting adventures on Youtube for several years now. He's been relic hunting for over 35 years. Steve does a great job of discussing Civil War camps in the western theater as well as sharing his many artifact recoveries and preservation efforts from these camps and other locations along the Kansas/Missouri border. 

I'm truly excited to find out he's just announced a new website which will discuss these topics in even greater depths. I highly recommend Steve's website to anyone interested in the WBTS and especially those interested in the war in the west, as well as those interested in artifact recovery, analysis and preservation.