26 April 2017

Somethin' I Saw Today: April in the Shenandoah

My morning walk was later than ususal this morning. The sun was already high over the Blue Ridge to the east. We've had 5" of rain since Saturday and there's nothing like April in the Valley after a good rain.

"Let the field be joyful, and all that is therein: then shall all the trees of the wood rejoice." ~ Psalm 96:12

25 April 2017

Relic Hunting Post #150 - Confederate Trenches

I've not produced a video for some time. Windows Movie Maker is no longer being updated/serviced by Microsoft. My WMM went buggy and I've not settled on a replacement. As basic as WMM was, it served my purposes well. Anyway, I produced this footage with the free Youtube online video editor. The audio's not the best, but for those that are interested in recovering and preserving relics and artifacts. As always, these items were recovered on private property near Petersburg, Virginia (with permission). All finds were properly catalogued and recorded with photographs and location details for posterity. (I'm aware of the misspelling at end of video ;-) I found it after I produced a follow up video.)

22 April 2017

President Buchanan?

Image source

For some fascinating insight into the history and thoughts of one of the most influential political writers and thinkers of the last 50 years, I'd highly recommend a recent piece about Patrick J. Buchanan appearing in Politico Magazine. I've followed Pat closely since the 1980's and his days on Crossfire. I found this excerpt from the Politico piece particularly interesting:
Buchanan has had plenty of titles over the years, from spokesman to candidate, but his favorite is historian. He cherishes history not just for its drama but for the lessons bequeathed and the parallels he can extract: the seductive appeal of populism, the rising tide of nationalism, the similarities between the current president and the two he worked closely alongside. Above all, Buchanan loves history because, in his mind, it contains our civilizational apex; he treasures the past because he is convinced that his beloved country, these United States, will never again approach the particular kind of glory it held for a middle-class family in the postwar years.
You may read the Politico piece here.

21 April 2017

Experts: Wizards of Oz

Victor Davis Hanson expertly (pun intended) points out that the emperor has no clothes. Many of the "Wizards of Smart" (experts) in America today are really the "Wizards of Oz" - all drama and bluster but, in reality, just little, small-minded figures hiding behind a phony curtain of credentials pulling the levers of power with little of any value to show for their efforts.

As one of the favorite clipping services in the blogosphere, I offer the following excerpts from Dr. Hanson's piece for contemplation:
Elitism sometimes seems predicated on being branded with the proper degrees. But when universities embrace a therapeutic curriculum and politically correct indoctrination, how can a costly university degree guarantee knowledge or inductive thinking? [Answer: It can't.]
And . . .
The public no longer believes that privilege and influence should be predicated on titles, brands, and buzz, rather than on demonstrable knowledge and proven character. The idea that brilliance can be manifested in trade skills or retail sales, or courage expressed by dealing with the hardship of factory work, or character found on an Indiana farm, is foreign to the Washington Beltway, Hollywood, and Silicon Valley [and much of academia].
Read more here.

19 April 2017

Relic Hunting Post #149 - Another Artifact Display Ready

These forty pieces of Civil War lead and two shell fragments from Hotchkiss shells are ready to be mounted in a glass shadow box/display case. Almost as much as I love actually researching and recovering historical artifacts here in Virginia, I also love cleaning and displaying them. Displays like the one pictured here make great conversation pieces as well as providing an opportunity to share my passion and knowledge about the items displayed, as well as about history in general. Though it's a good problem to have, with each passing year I'm quickly running out of room to display my finds. I utilize my 2 offices as well as my home's parlor, though my wife is beginning to grumble about that.

Our Long History of Secession

Secesh fever (and nullification) seems to be all the rage these days. I've posted about it several times in recent months. Now comes Dr. Brion McClanahan with a piece detailing America's love affair with nullification and secession.

For example:
The Declaration of Independence is a secession document. The “thirteen united States of America” seceded from the British Empire and became “Free and Independent States” like the “State of Great Britain.”

The Constitution for the United States—the same Union of sovereign States that existed under the Articles of Confederation—allowed the States to secede from the Articles by acceding to the new governing document. This was expressly prohibited by the Articles.
And then . . .
The Hartford Convention of 1815 urged Northern states to nullify laws in support of the War of 1812 (several had already done so in fact but not by legislation) and insisted that if nothing changed they would have to resort to secession. Daniel Webster, the same man who called nullification disunion in 1830, believed in it enough in 1812 that he made several speeches in support of the idea around his home district.
More here.

17 April 2017

On My Nightstand

I started reading this new biography of Lee (written by the former rector of R.E. Lee Memorial Church in Lexington, VA) Saturday evening. Though I've read multiple biographies of Lee (including Freeman's), I must say the first few pages of this one have been quite interesting and informative. I've also been surprised by a few things. From what I've read thus far, the book will not be a favorite of the moral reformer class of historians. I'll have more to say about that when I post a review once I've finished reading the book.

15 April 2017

Book Review: The Confederate Soldiers of Rockbridge County, Virginia: A Roster


As promised in an earlier post . . . 

The Confederate Soldiers of Rockbridge County, Virginia: A Roster
Paperback, 360 pages
Publisher: McFarland (2016)
 ISBN-10: 1476664110
ISBN-13: 978-1476664118

The drive to Brownsburg, Virginia from my home is always a pleasant one. Driving south on Route 252 through the rolling hills and farmland of Augusta and Rockbridge Counties is like taking a trip back in time. Much of the landscape appears as it did 150 years ago. It is simply beautiful.

But my most recent trip had an added benefit: I was headed to the home of Robert (Bob) J. Driver, Jr. to chat with him about his most recent book: The Confederate Soldiers of Rockbridge County, Virginia: A Roster .
Driver’s circa 1795 home in the quaint village of Brownsburg provided the perfect setting to discuss the book. The publisher summarizes the book as follows:
Based on an exhaustive search of various sources, this book provides a comprehensive roster of all known Confederate soldiers, sailors and marines from Rockbridge County, Virginia, or those who served in units raised in the County. Washington College and Virginia Military Institute alumni who were from Rockbridge, enlisted in local companies or lived in the County before or after the war are also included. Complete service records are given, along with photographs where possible.
Bob Driver is somewhat of a legend among Civil War buffs here in the Shenandoah Valley. His encyclopedic knowledge of local Civil War history is evidenced by the twelve books he’s authored on Confederate soldiers and related history. Born in close-by Staunton, Driver is a retired Lt. Colonel (USMC) so his interest in the Valley’s Civil War history comes naturally. Moreover, Driver served as president of The Rockbridge Civil War Round Table in Lexington, Virginia for over thirty years. That organization is one of the most active Civil War Round Tables in the United States.

Though styled as a “roster”, Driver’s latest book is actually much more. It is a treasure trove of useful—and often fascinating—snippets and anecdotes about the Confederate soldiers from historic Rockbridge County. For example, Driver recalls the experience of Colonel Andrew Jackson Grigsby of the 27th Va. Infantry (Stonewall Brigade). After proving his bravery and battlefield prowess in several engagements, Grigsby resigned in protest over Major Elisha F. Paxton of Stonewall Jackson’s staff being nominated for a promotion to Brigadier General over (in the opinion of Grigsby and others) much more deserving officers. One of those considered more deserving was Grigsby himself. More than 40 officers signed a petition recommending Grigsby over Paxton noting “No bolder or more daring officer ever led troops into a fight or managed them better when actually engaged.”

Grigsby was “mad as thunder” and vowed, “As soon as the war ends, I will challenge Jackson to a duel.” Driver notes in his sketch of Grigsby that the Colonel was so upset that he travelled to Richmond for “an audience with President Davis.” Driver describes the testy exchange:

In the midst of the dialogue , epithets rent the air. The president leaped to his feet and shouted, “Do you know who I am? I am the president of the Confederacy.” Grigsby replied in kind. “Do you know who I am? he bellowed. “I am Andrew Jackson Grigsby of Rockbridge County, Virginia, late colonel of the Bloody 27th Virginia of the Stonewall Brigade, and as good a man as you or anyone else, by God!” Needless to say, Grigsby did not receive his well earned promotion. Grigsby returned home where he remained for the balance of the war.
Driver also includes the notation that Grigsby had the privilege of leading the survivors of the Stonewall Brigade for the dedication of the Jackson statue in the Lexington Cemetery in 1891 and closes his bio of Grigsby with a quote: “A bluff soldier much given to swearing.”

Scores of other stories, many just as interesting as Grigsby’s, are scattered throughout Driver’s book. All in all, over 3000 men from Rockbridge County served in the Confederate army. 253 were killed in action, 368 were wounded. Sixty-two had limbs amputated and 1004 were captured—some more than once. Twenty-five were veterans of the Mexican War and 286 were present and surrendered at Appomattox. Benjamin Marion Cash was the last veteran from Rockbridge County to die. He passed away, interestingly enough, in Brownsburg, Virginia on the 5th of February in 1945.

While the book is quite comprehensive, Driver notes in his introduction that “the information for these muster rolls of all the soldiers from Rockbridge County is not complete” even though “Rockbridge County probably has the best records in the state on its Confederate soldiers.” But after examining this book, I’d venture to say it is the most complete record on Rockbridge County Confederate soldiers available to date.

Driver’s dedication and motivation in compiling an accurate record of the service of these men is obvious in his preface:

This book is a labor of love to honor the Confederate soldiers who served their country during their War for Independence. Few of them ever owned a slave or considered slavery a major issue causing the war. They looked at the conflict as a means to relieve themselves of the economic domination of the Northern states and unfair tariffs on their products. They were not secessionists but . . . Lincoln’s call for troops from Virginia was the last straw for the men of Rockbridge County . . . They considered themselves patriots, just like their forefathers who fought  in the Revolutionary War. . . . This book is meant to establish a permanent record of their service and sacrifice for the cause they believed in.
Driver’s book is a great resource for historians, researchers, genealogists and buffs in general. It provides many jumping off points for additional research into the lives of these Confederate soldiers. Organized alphabetically by the soldiers’ last name, the book is an easy read with a complete bibliography and, despite the retail price of $49.95, it is money well-invested and a book this reviewer would highly recommend.