Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Noted Guerrillas

We end July on an interesting note. . . . Today is the birthday of "noted guerrilla" William Clarke Quantrill, a man whose name struck fear in the hearts of Kansans during the course of the Civil War. A mild-mannered school teacher turned killer, his raids into the state of Kansas were devastating, culminating, of course, with the Lawrence Massacre in August, 1863.

Quantrill is an enigma. Contrary to what many historians have reported, there is no epiphany evident to us that would demonstrate when this young Ohioan turned his sympathies toward the South. There are no murdered relatives to avenge, as is the case with the Youngers, the Andersons, or the Jameses. He tried to maintain discipline; as horrific as the Lawrence raid was, for example, the hundreds of guerrillas at his command had orders not to harm a woman or child. That order was followed, though women held their husbands as they were shot down and died in their arms.

Quantrill himself was shot by counter-guerrillas in Kentucky on May 10, 1865, and died about a month later. He has not rested well in death; in 1992, his remains were reinterred in the Confederate Cemetery in Higginsville, Missouri (funeral photo below).

Our friend Ken Spurgeon is producing a documentary based on Tom's first history, Bloody Dawn: The Story of the Lawrence Massacre. The shots of the massacre are incredible. In the meantime, watch Dark Command, which is historically horrible, but interesting, or Ride With the Devil, which has some pretty good footage.

From August 9-21, Lawrence, Kansas, puts its Civil War past to the forefront with movies, events, speakers, activities, and debates over the tactics along the Kansas/Missouri line. Visit their website to find out more: http://www.visitlawrence.com/visitor/history/civilwarhistory/civil_war_western_fr/

If you're really interested in learning more on this shadowy figure, visit the site of the Quantrill Society at http://www.geocities.com/quantrillsoc/index.html. These folks know everything about the guerrilla chieftan and will be happy to share their knowledge. Or, just buy one of Tom's books. That would really make me happy.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

For Sale

Looks like fun, doesn't it?

I'm not sure if the cowboys are part of the deal, but if you're interested, this Wild West town in New Zealand is for sale for something in the neighborhood of $3 million. According to the Dominion Post, there is a luxury lodge as well as a reconstructed town, all situated on a 406-hectare parcel of land (How big is a hectare anyway?)

"The owners wanted to give people the same effect a cowboy would have had at the end of a trail - finding a mid-western town in the middle of nowhere," said the auctioneer. Looks like a deal to me.

In West Virginia, a different kind of historic property is on the auction block. Originally called the "Trans-Allegheny Asylum for the Insane" when chartered by the state of Virginia in 1858, the Weston State Hospital is as much a part of downtown Weston as the 120-year-old Italianate courthouse. It is so picturesque it has been used in promotional literature for the town. According to the Pittsburgh (Pennsylvania) Post Gazette, the jewel of the 300-acre plus hospital property is the main building, a massive, nearly quarter-mile-long structure built of sandstone. The stone was quarried mostly from the West Fork of the Monongahela River (I love the name of that river--wrote this blog just to get it in--makes me think of the song, "River Man," by John Hartford and Bill Monroe). The Monongahela borders the hospital property. An historical marker outside the hospital's wrought-iron fence says the nearly half-a-million-square-foot building is the largest hand-cut-stone building in the country. Wow.

Local folks and state officials would like who ever buys the property to retain the main building, which was built between 1858 and 1882, and was designated a National Historic Landmark by the National Park Service in 1990. A few years ago, there was talk of turning the asylum into a casino. Asylums to Casinos. Kind of like "Rails to Trails."

Ahem. . . .

Friday, July 27, 2007

All in the Name

My blog of a couple of days ago discussed the adventures of Frank James, present tense. Well, not to be outdone, Cole Younger is making headlines today. From the Paradise (California) Post:

Cole Younger, 25, was reportedly driving his motorcycle east on Pearson Road at a high rate of speed when he attempted to pass Beth Hana, 50, while she was attempting to make a left hand turn onto Newland Road, according to the Paradise Police Department.

Younger collided with the vehicle, which made him leave the roadway and then crash into a fire hydrant and a fence.

Younger received major injuries and was flown by helicopter to Enloe Medical Center in Chico. According to police, it is still unknown if alcohol played a factor in the accident. . . .

Cole Younger (right) wasn't feeling great either when he posed for this image. As a matter of fact, I believe this photo was made not long after Cole, Jim, and Bob, and perhaps the James Brothers (Frank always denied it), attempted to rob the bank in Northfield, Minnesota, in 1876. The Youngers were shot all to pieces; Frank and Jesse escaped.
In Ohio, the namesake of one of my biggest heroes is also hospitalized. According to the Associated Press, Jeb Stuart Magruder of Watergate fame, has been cited in two traffic crashes and with leaving the scene of an accident. Magruder was an aide to President Nixon who spent seven months in prison for his role in covering up the 1972 break-in at Washington’s Watergate complex. Allegedly, he rear-ended a motorcycle and struck the rear of a box truck Monday on Ohio 315, according to police reports. Magruder sped away after the first crash with the motorcycle, witnesses told police.

The AP reports that police cited Magruder, 72, of Columbus, with two counts of failure to maintain an assured clear distance and one count of failure to stop after an accident or collision. The charges are misdemeanors. One witness said the car was traveling above 90 mph leaving the scene of the accident with the motorcycle. Another witness reported seeing Magruder’s Audi speeding and making erratic lane changes before the first accident. (Honestly, have you ever driven through Columbus? I can't imagine how "erratic" you have to be to get noticed!)

Magruder was in serious condition at Riverside Methodist Hospital after the crashes Monday. The drivers of the other two vehicles weren’t seriously hurt.

Magruder, (left, in 1970) a retired Presbyterian minister, was charged with drunken driving by in 2005 in Fayette County, about 40 miles southwest of Columbus. That charge was later reduced to reckless operation, according to court records in Washington Court House. In 2003, he pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct after police in the Columbus suburb of Grandview found him passed out on a sidewalk.

Well, Jeb, we hope you are not badly injured, and truly our prayers are with you. But you might do well to take a page from the lesson book of your namesake. J. E. B. Stuart was a teetotaler, one of the few people who was so much fun he didn't need booze!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Best Wishes

Name any TV western and James Best was in it--from Hopalong Cassidy to Gunsmoke, from Bat Masterson to Red Ryder, from Rawhide to Death Valley Days, from The Rebel to Have Gun Will Travel--more than 280 television episodes. Born on this day in 1926, in Powderly, Kentucky, the character actor became best known for the doofus Sheriff Roscoe P. Coltrane, on the Dukes of Hazzard. Hopefully, generations that are watching the Dukes reruns will go back in time and see some of the fine acting Best has done in his other roles. One of my favorites is Ride Lonesome with Randolph Scott. At 81, Jim is still making personal appearances. Visit his official website at http://www.jamesbest.com/ and wish him the "Best!"

Speaking of birthdays, George Catlin was born today in 1796. As an historian, it's almost impossible to imagine the world without Catlin. With our friends Dan and Carol Turner, we visited the Nelson Atkins Museum (Kansas City) a couple of years ago when the Catlin exhibit was there. Phenomenal! Although much of his work is in Washington, D. C., the Buffalo Bill Historical Center also has an entire room devoted to this prolific and profoundly important artist.

The Pennsylvanian (in a self-portrait, right) believed that Indian Tribes were dying and set out not just to paint their portraits, but to learn their cultures and languages. His legacy to us is invaluable, as is evidenced by the example below. Take a few moments to relish the work of George Catlin and to thank the Good Lord that he decided not to become just another Philadelphia lawyer!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Headlines: North v. South

I've often thought how interesting it would be to follow the lives of all the folks named Frank James, or Jesse James, or Frank James Something-or-other, or Jesse James Something-or-other. Back in Mayberry, I had class with a boy named Jesse James Bowman who just seemed always to be in some sort of scrape. Not sure what became of him. There are too many news items to cover them all involving one of the Jameses, but this one seemed particularly telling. Lest any of you have forgotten the Civil War, Southerners take words, and music for that matter, very seriously. From the Mobile, Alabama, newspaper:

Shooting victim still critical

A woman who was hospitalized with five gunshot wounds Thursday remained in critical condition Saturday at University of South Alabama Medical Center, a hospital official said.

Lacey Burch, 22, was shot by her father, Frank James, in the face and chest with a .22-caliber rifle, authorities said. Prosecutors said in court Friday that he shot her after she would not let him play a guitar that did not belong to him.

James is charged with attempted murder and second-degree assault, as well as first degree possession of marijuana, according to Mobile County sheriff's officials. He is being held in Mobile County Metro Jail without bond.

I'm sorry, but as a rule, you just don't find headlines like that in the North. . . .

From the Civil War Bookshelf website, word is that New Jersey wants to replace the statue of Gen. Phil Kearney in the U. S. Capitol with Frank Sinatra. . . . Okay, you won't find a headline like that in the South! (p. s. check out this great site at http://cwbn.blogspot.com/ )

No offense to New Jersey (the Civil War governor of the Garden State, Bruce Sirak, is a friend of ours), but one might be hard pressed to decide who was the bigger gangster, Frank James or Frank Sinatra.

Monday, July 23, 2007


This weekend's tour was such fun, primarily because we only allow fun people to come along, and we only visit fun places. We have so many people comment that if history had been this enjoyable in school, they wouldn't have hated it so much . . . .

First off, Saint Joseph, Missouri, is one of the most historic towns west of the Mississippi River and better, it is chock full of history advocates. Two of the most ardent and effective--Joe Houts and Gary Chilcote. Joe is active in many community concerns, especially the Pony Express Museum, and Gary is the director and, along with his wife, Mary, the chief benefactor of the Patee House Museum. Among the artifacts on display at the Patee House is an original movie poster, Jesse James Meets Frankenstein's Daughter, that Tom and I donated. Above, Gary and I with this interesting artifact.

We plan a bus tour for St. Joseph on September 22, so sign up soon. Seats will be going fast. September is also the scheduled release date for The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, the long-awaited film starring Brad Pitt. Based on events that occurred in St. Jo, the film already has folks flocking to the home where Jesse died.

Speaking of dying, President U. S. Grant, left, died of cancer on this day in 1885. He was only 63 years old, and struggled to finish his memoirs to leave a financially secure future for his family. He is an intriguing, though controversial, figure among military and political historians. At heart, I believe, he was a good man.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Snake in the Grass. . .

Tis the season. . .

In 1975, I was at Mary Washington College, Fredericksburg, Virginia, attending Governor's School for the Gifted and Talented. (Don't laugh.)A junior in high school, I was at first terribly homesick. Mama would send me The Enterprise, our hometown newspaper, and I eagerly awaited its arrival. My suitemates, mostly from Washington, D.C. and environs, found the homefolks of Patrick County quaint, but what they thought downright hysterical were the photos of the largest rattlesnake found each week.
Yep, the farmers and orchardists of southwestern Virginia would proudly toss the dead reptile into the back of the pickup truck, drive into Stuart, and get their picture made for the next issue. These images, and those of the largest tomatoes, or potatoes shaped like Nixon, defined the summer season.

Now comes even bigger news! A few weeks ago, Allen Hopkins (above, right, with his brother-in-law, left) was operating a motor grader in Patrick Springs when he spied something strange in the grass. No, it wasn't a snake, worse! It was the snake's skin. Since it was pretty long and didn't look like a blacksnake, Allen took the unusual evidence to veterinarian, Lock Boyce. Gleefully, Boyce noted that this particular epidermis belonged to a a boa constrictor, and the snake is probably still loose in Patrick County. According to the Enterprise, Dr. Boyce said he and his brother Fred, who is also a snake expert, are looking for the missing snake and hope to find it, catch it and display it so people can learn more about the huge reptile. Boyce said the boa constrictor is "incredibly strong" with coils like steel. Oh, and apparently, boa constrictors can climb. The snake is very hard to kill with a gun and should not be approached, Boyce said.


Okay, so this story comes on the heels of another item from our friend Jay Jackson in Missouri. He forwarded this image, supposedly Abb Williams and a 9-foot, 97-pound rattlesnake found on his farm near the Springfield Airport. My question is, how did this snake die? I grew up on a farm and if any hillbilly I know had caught sight of this monster creeping toward the henhouse, it would have been blown so full of holes that it would have looked like a Chinese Buffet. It appears that the head is in tact, so it didn't die that way. Perhaps it was old age. From its size, this monster has had several seasons of plenty.

Then, upon closer examination, the snake doesn't appear quite dead. Wouldn't its head be hanging limply? Okay, Abb. If you haven't been eaten by now, please drop me a line and give me the details. In the meantime, I'm sending this one to Dr. Boyce.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

I Fought the Law. . .

(A') Breakin' rocks in the ... hot sun
I Fought the Law and the ... law won
I Fought the Law and the ... law won

I needed money, 'cause I ... had none
I Fought the Law and the ... law won
I Fought the Law and the ... law won

I left my baby and I feel so bad
I guess my race is run
Well, she's the best girl ... I've ever had
I Fought the Law and the ... law won
I Fought the Law and the ... law won

Robbin' people with a . . . SIX gun
I Fought the Law and the ... law won
I Fought the Law and the ... law won

I miss my baby and the ... good fun
I Fought the Law and the ... law won
I Fought the Law and the ... law won

I left my baby and I feel so bad
I guess my race is run
But, she's the best girl ... I've ever had
I Fought the Law and the ... law won
I Fought the Law and the ... law won

Up to our eyeballs in reports of crime, criminals, and the criminally insane, the words of this song kept running through my brain...breakin' rocks in the hot sun...which is where a bunch of thugs need to be. I like this song. The guy screws up, commits violent acts, and gets punished. The words were written by Texan, Sonny Curtis, of Buddy Holly and the Crickets fame. Curtis has been a successful songwriter since those days, penning the theme song for the Mary Tyler Moore show and my personal favorite, "I'm No Stranger to the Rain," sung by Keith Whitley. (I listened to Keith Whitley when we were both kids and he and Ricky Skaggs were singing with Ralph Stanley. He died, too young, of course, from alcoholism.)

Back to I Fought the Law: Sonny himself recorded it, but it became a huge hit for the Bobby Fuller Four, another bunch of Texans who were climbing the charts with rockabilly music. They were hitting the big time in Los Angeles when on this day in 1966, bandleader Bobby Fuller (above) was found dead in the front seat of his mom's Oldsmobile, beaten, soaked in gasoline, with a rag stuffed in his mouth.

His death was ruled a suicide.

I fought the law and the law won
I fought the law and the law won

Not always.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Wild West Fairy Tales

It was on July 13 or 14 (around midnight), 1881, that Billy the Kid was killed by Pat Garrett. Period. The Kid has not resurfaced in any legitimate form since that day. Period. But. . . confronted with a creative writing assignment in college that required incorporating an historic figure, I appropriated the myth that the Kid somehow survived. The result was an A+ short story.

In my story, Garrett and the Kid staged the murder and the Kid was ordered to disappear, for his own safety and Garrett's reputation. For years, Garrett would receive postcards, unsigned, and vague, from various points in the Northwest. Then mail began arriving from Chinatown, San Francisco, and cards advertised a particular Chinese restaurant. Garrett put 2 & 2 together and went to the grandest city in the West in search of the Kid. Arriving at the restaurant, he was greeted by a stooped, little Chinaman who identified himself as the owner, nodded politely, seated Garrett at a table and proceeded to ask him why he is there. The Chinaman is suspicious. Garrett is wary. Eventually, the Kid removed the silk cap from his head, changed his accent and laughingly shook the hand of his comrade. Small, wily, needing to remain out of sight, Billy had managed to find a Chinese girl whose successful father was willing to bring him into the fold. (Yes, I read lots of fairy tales as a child.) But, I thought it every bit as plausible as any of the other stories about Billy's survival, and am willing to write the screenplay if there are Hollywood agents reading the blog.

In reality, Billy the Kid and Pat Garrett probably weren't friends, just acquaintances. For the real scoop on Pat Garrett, see http://www.nmia.com/~btkog/garrett.htm where historian Leon Metz has posted the timeline of the lawman's life.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Waiting for the Train. . . Robbers

The long awaited premier of the movie featuring Brad Pitt as Jesse James occurs in September. (Do we even have to mention the name?) We are weary of waiting; I've had Brad's 8x10 promo-glossy-as-Jesse hanging in the hallway for a year now. Perhaps the more exciting news is the premier of 3:10 to Yuma, the remake starring Russell Crowe (above), scheduled for theaters September 7. The original with Glenn Ford and Van Heflin is a real classic, and I can't imagine that the studios have improved upon it. But, we froth at the mouth over any Western that Hollywood is willing to make and the opportunity to see the Wild West on the big screen is one we won't miss. The trailer looks exciting . . . but, it was the quiet that made the original so powerful and it seems difficult to make a movie that allows us to pause and ponder. . . . ah . . . .


From the West. . .

Hi Deb,

I really enjoy your Mason-Dixon Wild West blog, and appreciate what both you and Tom do to help keep alive the Old West.

I'm Mike Harris, publisher for La Frontera Publishing. We publish books about the Old West. We also have an Internet eZine about the Old West focusing on how today's fans of the Old West celebrate Old West traditions. It's called OldWestNewWest.Com. You can find it by going to

I'm writing you about a new series we have started at the eZine called the American Civil War in the West. Our first report is on the Battle of Wilson's Creek outside of Springfield, MO. I'm hoping you'll find our Web Site and our series interesting enough to link to on your blog, and maybe give us a brief mention. We plan to cover how the Civil War impacted the West, including battlefields, skirmish locations, Civil War outposts in the West, etc. in the months ahead.

Hope you take a look at our site.


Mike Harris
La Frontera Publishing2710 Thomes Ave., Suite 181Cheyenne, WY. 82001
(307) 778-4752
Bringing You The West In Books(sm)

DG--Mike, thanks for the kudos. Your site looks great; good work. Speaking of Wilson's Creek, our friends at Wideawake Films are working on the videos for the welcome center at the battlefield and Tom has been involved in that process. It's a beautiful area for those of you who have not visited, and an incredible story. So Mike, next time we're in Cheyenne, Tom & I would love to sit down and talk about how much we love Wyoming. You wouldn't have any spare rooms, would you?

From the East. . .

Paul R. Martin III, President of the Rockland CWRT, writes that the group's summer field trip to the Green-wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York, will be Saturday, July 28 at 10:00 a.m. Would that I were closer because this is one I would love to join. Among the thousands of internments are Horace Greeley, Lola Montez (see Tom's blog "Lovely Lola," 1/11/07), Laura Keene (the actress on stage when Lincoln was shot, and Frank Morgan (below, remember the wizard in the Wizard of Oz? ). From Paul, who must be as passionate about graves as me and Andy Waskie:
Over 3,000 Civil War veterans, including 16 Union generals and 2 Confederate generals, are buried in Green-Wood. In fact, Green-Wood has more Civil War generals than any other cemetery except Arlington and West Point. More than 1200 VA gravestones are being installed to mark previously unmarked graves of Civil War veterans. This is your chance to see the many historic monuments and visit the graves and hear interesting stories of Green-Wood's Civil War veterans. Jeff Richman, Green-Wood Cemetery's historian, will be our guide for an unforgettable Civil War tour of one of the world's great cemeteries. Jeff is the author of the just-published Final Camping Ground: Civil War Veterans at Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery, In Their Own Words. He will lead our tour to many Civil War-related sites and will share the Project's most exciting discoveries--including recently unearthed gravestones. The tour will include time aboard a new trolley service running through the cemetery and will last approximately three hours.

Please join us for this exciting and fun filled morning. The cost is $10.00 per person for members and guests, to help defray the cost of our guide’s fee. Following the tour we will go to a local restaurant for a “pay your own” lunch. Friends and family, as always, are welcome. Please call me, Paul Martin, to RSVP and for more information at 914-245-8903 (Silent Sentinel Studio). My cell phone # is 914-980-5267 and I will have it on that Saturday morning. Directions are below. See you there and bring along some friends or family who share our love of American history!I have also included a listing of some other local Civil War related events taking place this summer that you may be interested in attending. Contact numbers are listed but feel free to call me as well for more information. Enjoy your summer! God Bless our troops and God Bless America!

From the South. . .

Great blog.

I recently visited Cherokee on my way to Asheville (
See blog 6/29/07). Very neat place. I loved the museum... just avoid that gift shop if you're a booklover- unless of course you're loaded. I have Frazier's latest on my shelf and will hopefully get to it soon.


DG: I don't have Frazier's new book yet; please let me know what you think after you read it. I have been engrossed in Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters by Elizabeth Pryor. It should win every non-fiction or Civil War-related award available this year. Your website is very interesting. I really enjoyed the entry on whether or not eastern Kentucky is part of the South or the Midwest. Join the conversation at http://www.cyberhillbilly.blogspot.com/.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Rebels at the Gates

Great issue of Civil War Times on the newsstand! We are in the midst of the anniversary of Jubal Early's assault on Washington, D. C., something our friend Dave Finch has devoted his life to studying. We met Dave several years ago at an impressive reenactment of the Battle of Monocacy, the event that saved the Union capital. (I joked that it seemed strange to me that folks should celebrate saving D.C. and apparently the Yankees surrounding me did not find the comment humorous. I grew up in a land where Jubal Early IV was the family doctor for lots of folks, so it's just better for your health to root for Early!)

The reenactment is also where we met Julia Robb, a reporter who has moved back to her homestate of Texas. She has a fascinating article appearing soon on the death masks of famous outlaws. See Tom's blog today for more details.

Another very interesting story in the current issue of CWTI is that of a couple of Confederate soldiers who were executed after the surrender at Appomattox. Of course, a memorial marks the spot and like many of the events of the Civil War, the action remains controversial. As usual, the magazine is full of good stuff. Don't miss this one.

Marlette Killed in Car Crash

So saddened to hear of the death of cartoonist Doug Marlette. (http://news.aol.com/story/_a/cartoonist-doug-marlette-dies-in-crash/20070710164709990001) When I was a young reporter in Mount Airy, North Carolina, part of my job was to scan the Charlotte Observer for news each day. Before the headlines, I turned to the comics to read "Kudzu," and the latest antics of the Reverend Will B. Dunn. The name still cracks me up!

Just in case you can't make out the captions below:

Holy Catfish! I got hit with another technical in church league basketball!
The refs are discriminating against us Protestants!
If the Catholics can make the sign of the cross before each free throw. . .
I don't see why I can't handle snakes!

Marlette was only 57. His loss leaves an incredible void, but his life brought so much joy. Is God gonna have a good time when this rebel knocks at the Pearly Gates!

Speaking of Rebels at the Gates. . . .

Our buddy Rob Hodge is officially moving from Virginia to Kansas City. Spoke with him and his more significant other, Hibah, on the phone yesterday, just as they had packed up the last of their possessions. It is an emotional move. Even though Rob grew up in Ohio (not far from "Monocacy Dave" Finch, coincidentally), his spiritual home has always been Virginia. Likewise, Hibah has only lived in that part of the world. Just to make them feel better, I began listing the things they would miss. . . mountain laurel (left), fall color, cornmeal, oysters, the Blue Ridge Parkway, bluegrass, etc, etc. We plan to start a support group for displaced Virginians. Anyone interested in participating, just buy the bourbon and we'll be there!

Saturday, July 7, 2007

July in Washington

July 7, 1865, Washington, D. C. -- By 11 a.m., a huge throng had gathered at the upper gate of the Arsenal grounds. To the disappointment of all, a strong guard around the entire perimeter prevented most from entering. Outside the gates, enterprising vendors set up stalls and sold iced lemonade and cakes. As the crowd stood staring at those who came and went, a stir was created when Mary Walker passed by. Not only was Walker the sole female physician in the Union Army, but she was the only woman admitted to the execution. Loathed by some, laughed at by others, Dr. Walker shocked all, male and female alike, due to her penchant for wearing men's trousers. On this day, the young woman added to her scandals by riding a horse through the crowd astraddle like a man.

In the maddening heat and excitement, tempers soon became explosive. As a soldier attempted to pass through the Arsenal gate to fill his canteen, he was halted by the sentry. Sharp words were exchanged between the two when a sergeant of the guards suddenly appeared. Cutting the argument short, the angry officer simply drew his sword and stabbed the thirsty soldier in the eye. With blood streaming down his face, the wounded man was quickly carried away. Learning of the incident, the victim's brother, also a soldier, raced to the scene. As the stunned crowd watched in horror, the outraged brother raised his musket and shot the sergeant dead in his tracks.

Inside, David Herold, Lewis Powell, George Atzerodt and Mary Surratt waited in the stifling heat to be led to the gallows. It seemed the whole world was insane.

For more, read Tom's book The Darkest Dawn: Lincoln, Booth, and the Great American Tragedy. You'll never forget it.

Monday, July 2, 2007

The Second Day

It was their first trip to Pennsylvania.

Company K, 50th Virginia Infantry, was, like most Civil War units, made up of brothers, cousins, boys who had fished and farmed together. These men were mine; my great-grandfather, his future brothers-in-law, uncles, cousins, maybe a nephew or two. They had a party in Patrick County before setting off to Wytheville to enlist, the Pucketts and the Bowmans in the shadow of Groundhog Mountain, passing a jug of white to bolster their courage and soften the sadness. Their neighbor, James Stuart, was already at war--an officer. Perhaps they toasted him.

My great-grandfather was captured at Culp's Hill ( sketch of Confederate pickets, above, and the battlefield, below) on the second day of the fighting at Gettysburg. He was taken to Fort Delaware, and then to Point Lookout where records say he died. He didn't. He came home, eventually, back to the hollow under Groundhog Mountain, married, had a family, farmed the rocky hillside, buried his wife, vainly lied about his age and married again. My grandfather was born to him and his young wife in 1894.

Grandpa told me stories that his daddy and uncles had told him; once, Great-Grandpa was entrusted with feeding and caring for General Lee's horse. Not until I was an adult did I find that men were eating rats and rotten seagulls that washed up on the beach at Point Lookout. Those stories were not passed on.

At least one of my relatives lies in Hollywood Cemetery, or at least, that's the story. His grave is among the hundreds of unknown soldiers and the family was told that was where his remains were placed. Would he care that he rests with presidents, generals, Stuart himself, or would he have rather died an old man in the Doe Run community he came from?

As Gen. J. E. B. Stuart wrote, expressing the sentiments of every soldier about his home, “If I could get to old Patrick I would be a happy man.” *

Speaking of John Brown

If you've been following national news at all over the weekend, you've heard about the flooding in Ottawa, Iola, Osawatomie. It's unbelievalbe. Flood gates are all that keep the raging Marais des Cygnes River from flooding the businesses of downtown Ottawa (right). Evacuations have been the order of the day as families all over southeastern Kansas scramble for precious belongings and head for higher ground. Travel is perilous in many places and storm chaser, Joey Ketchum, snapped this image below -- a roadway leading into the water, becoming an all too common sight.

The town of Osawatomie takes its name from the confluence of Pottawatomie Creek and the Osage River. (At that point, it is actually the Marias des Cygnes; it becomes the Osage downstream a ways. ) In the 1850s, Osawatomie was the home of a man soon to make news around the world--the abolitionist John Brown. His sister lived in the town, and Brown and his sons mostly lived a camplife along the nearby creeks. He earned the sobriquet, "Old Osawatomie." It was here that one of the biggest battles of Bleeding Kansas was fought in August, 1856. Looking at those images one would find it hard to believe that John Brown and his men waded the river to escape from the Missourians. Lucky for them, it wasn't flooding that year.
The Free State of Patrick

For more information on Gen. Jeb Stuart or the boys from Patrick County, click on the link to the right and check out Tom Perry's finely researched and written publications.