Monday, April 16, 2007

Blowing in the Wind

The sun is shining now, but when I began writing at 12:30 this morning from the mountains of North Carolina, the wind was gusting between 50 and 70 mph here in the shadow of Fisher's Peak. On the local news, reports of power outages from Reidsville to Sparta to Galax. Thunder, rain, snow, hail, winds howling around the windows--it was like a mystery movie set. I didn't sleep. It was a wind that built up momentum and sounded as if it would erase everything from its path.

In Kansas, we have tornadoes, but I have never experienced wind like here in the Blue Ridge.

My sister and I were recalling a day when we were children that the wind had knocked down power lines. Our cousins were staying with us and without power, we all put our sleeping bags in the living room floor. Somehow, when the lights are out, you like feeling people are close. That was the night it ripped our storm door off the house and wrung it out like a dishrag. It knocked the supports from under our carport. Our neighbor, a bit further up the mountain, had his entire carport ripped off the house.

While Tom and I were living back in Virginia for a few months, we rented a little cabin that backed up to the mountain. He was visiting his mom back in Kansas one night when we had winds that sounded like a league of banshees shrieking out of the hollow. It blew the bathroom window open and I had to nail it shut. I had just gotten a satellite dish that day (don't you dare make a joke!), and the technician had attached it to a porch column. The column and dish were both gone the next day as was the porch ceiling.

I don't think I've ever been as nervous because of the wind as last night, though. With sustained speeds around 30 mph, and gusts up to 70, I expected the world to be gone this morning. It's funny though. There are still flowers on the dogwood trees. It's amazing what nature can endure.

Virginia Tech

The weather was the biggest news here and across most of the country until the events unfolded at Virginia Tech. We have so many friends there that our hearts are just broken. Our thoughts and prayers are with you all.

Today in 1865

Robert Charles Tyler: Last American Civil War Confederate General Slain in Combat

Against impossible odds and following orders issued half a year earlier, Robert Charles Tyler became the last Confederate general slain in Civil War combat.

By Stuart W. Sanders

ne of two bullets fired at West Point, Georgia, on April 16, 1865, killed Confederate Brigadier General Robert Charles Tyler. As Tyler barked orders at his garrison of ragtag convalescents, which defended an earthwork fort named in his honor from a full brigade of Federal cavalry, he was shot at twice by sharpshooters. One bullet slammed into his chest. The second snapped his crutch in half, toppling the one-legged Southerner to the ground, where he died.

Tyler had lost his leg to amputation following a grievous wounding at Missionary Ridge while leading Bates' Brigade with the Army of Tennessee. He had previously been wounded at Shiloh and Chickamauga. Confederate Lt. Col. John W. Inzer, who met Tyler in 1863, stated: "He was a stout, robust [officer], and had firmness, determination, and courage written in every line of his face....[I] soon learned to look upon him as one of the bravest men I ever saw."

Despite his rise in the Confederate army, Tyler's prewar life remains shrouded in mystery. Ezra J. Warner, author of the classic Generals in Gray: Lives of the Confederate Commanders, once commented, "Tyler is by all odds the most enigmatic figure of the 425 generals of the Confederacy."

Tyler was apparently born in Baltimore, Maryland, about 1833, although nothing is known of his early life. At age 23 he joined William Walker's 1856 filibustering expedition to Nicaragua. He served as a first lieutenant in Walker's infantry but remained abroad for less than a year. When Walker returned to Central America in 1860, Tyler was working as a clerk in Baltimore. He moved to Memphis, Tennessee, as civil war threatened.

This article first appeared in the Spring 2006 issue of MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History. To read the entire article, go to

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