Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Building, Beautifying

There was a candlelight vigil in Lawrence Tuesday night, held for the victims of Quantrill's raid on the town in 1863. At least 150 men, and perhaps as many as 200, lost their lives and the town was left in ashes. The townsfolk left found the will to persevere and to rebuild the town and their lives. We weren't able to attend because we were busy rebuilding--the bathroom, the basement, the backyard. Just as its man's nature to destroy, it's human nature to build. Yesterday morning, I was holding a board as Tom sawed it, and the sweet smell of pine was released into the air. The two best smells on earth are a freshly sawed board and newly turned ground.

(Photo above from the Lawrence Journal World)
Being Betty

Our neighbor Betty Wright (far left, with me on the right) is an attorney by training but has so many other talents that are coming to light! She was taking care of our Pekingese, Pepper, while we were traveling a while back and she snapped a photograph from which she painted his portrait. It is on display at Lola's Coffee Shop, 10th and Gage, along with Betty's portraits of the other dogs who reside on Collins Park. In addition to her artwork, Betty has started a concrete resurfacing business. Sidewalk by sidewalk she is beautifying our fair city. We're so lucky to have such a talented and generous neighbor. Her sister-in-law, Betty, sent me the photo. Our doggie is in the middle of the bottom row, if you're interested! Her exhibit is on display through the end of August.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Buck. . . at last!

Well, dear readers, this is the photo I waited more than 30 years to take. As a child back in the hills of Virginia, I watched Gunsmoke with my dad. I thought Newly was the cutest thing I'd ever seen. . . . But more than that, he was so sweet.

He still is.

Last night, Tom and I, along with our friends Dan and Carol Turner, were guests at the wrap party for Bloody Dawn, the latest offering by Lone Chimney Productions. Based on Tom's book by the same title, the film brings to the screen the incredible events of Quantrill's Civil War raid on Lawrence, Kansas. Ken Spurgeon has put together an incredible team to make this happen and the latest addition to the group is Buck Taylor. (Our friend Carol, right, spied castmember Bob Garrett in the audience and thought it was Burt Reynolds. Please don't tell her any differently. . . .)

Buck told me he was 29 when he took the role of "Newly" on Gunsmoke. That makes it longer ago than either one of us would like to remember. Ken brought Buck to Kansas to narrate Bloody Dawn. We were treated to the teaser last night and it worked. I can hardly wait for the premier on November 1st. It was so exciting to be in the company of so many passionate people, so many folks dedicated to bringing the past to life. Two of them are pictured with Tom, far left, Sean Bell and Marla Matkin.
Happy Birthday

. . . to Virginia Dare. Named for her new land, the first child of English parents born 1587 in what would become the United States. Her grandfather was Captain John White, who was forced to return to England for supplies for the colony when this baby was only a month old. When he was finally able to return three years later, she was gone along with every other man and woman he had left behind in Roanoke Sound. They would be called the Lost Colony, and their mystery is the oldest in American History. This statue of Virginia Dare stands in the Elizabethan Gardens in Manteo, North Carolina.

. . .to Robert Redford. How grateful we are for this man! Just this week we watched An Unfinished Life and the Horse Whisperer. But Butch and Sundance remains our favorite. That film was such an experience! Redford is pictured with costar Paul Newman (left) in a still from that 1969 film. Has it been that long? Just looking at this photo makes me want to watch it again.

Photo of the Day

Three Oaks--Ken Spurgeon, Tom Goodrich, Buck Taylor

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Preserve & Persevere

Was just on the phone with our buddy Rob Hodge last night. He and the Wide Awake crew have been filming down at Wilson's Creek National Battlefield, and historian Ed Bearrs has been along providing the narrative. Today they are headed to Carthage, Newtonia, and the Bushwhacker Museum in Nevada.

I asked Rob if he knows Pat Brophy.

No, Rob replied. Who's he?

Well, says I, he's the potentate at the Bushwhacker museum. He's a character. I'm not sure about his health, but I hope you get to visit. If he and Ed Bearrs end up in the same room, it might spontaneously combust. Then I instructed Rob to tell Ed that Tom and Deb, his fans in Topeka, hope to see him soon. I'll never forget the expression on Tom's face when a mutual acquaintance said that he and Ed had been discussing one of Tom's books. "I like the way he writes!" Ed had thundered. It didn't matter if he said it about every author, every book. Praise from the dean of American historians is rich. Tom savored it.

Rob treasures this time with Ed. Filming the former chief historian for the National Park Service in these historic settings, preserving for new generations not only the knowledge of history but the passion for history is a privilege. We mentioned the names of Brian Pohanka and Jerry Russell. Rob was close to Brian and I adored Jerry. I thought he looked like Donald Sutherland (He loved that!). What those men did for the preservation community, for the furtherance of history, cannot be overstated. And as Rob aptly said, who will fill their shoes? And when Ed is gone, who will fill his shoes?

(At top, Ed Bearrs leading a tour at Ford's Theater; inset, Ed Bearrs, AP photo)

Candlelight Vigil at Harpers Ferry

In a few days, Rob is headed to Harpers Ferry to take part in the candlelight vigil for battlefield preservation. Our thoughts will be with him and all the activists taking part. The situation on this hallowed ground is absolutely scandalous!!!! From the Civil War Preservation Trust (please read and lend your support):

One year ago next week, the preservation community was stunned by the unauthorized bulldozing of protected battlefield land at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park (NHP). During the weekend of August 19-20, 2006, a consortium of local developers arrogantly dug an enormous 1,900-foot trench on National Park Service (NPS) property on historic School House Ridge, then proceeded to lay a water and sewer line without a permit or permission from NPS. The response to the unauthorized bulldozing was immediate and impassioned. Thousands of Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT) members signed petitions urging the Department of the Interior to take action against the perpetrators of this outrage. We were joined by other national and local groups who expressed dismay at these events. And we waited patiently for the federal government to stand up and protect land we had worked so hard to preserve for future generations. Now, one year later, the time has come to renew our call for action to ensure what happened at Harpers Ferry in 2006 cannot happen again.

WHAT: Candlelight Vigil and Remembrance at Harpers Ferry NHP
WHEN: Friday, August 17, 2007, at 6:30 p.m.
WHERE: Perry Orchard Property, Harpers Ferry NHP, near the intersection of Routes 27 and 340, Jefferson County, W.Va.

I hope you can attend - to show that the preservation community remains outraged and frustrated that a handful of individuals could wantonly and defiantly destroy America's heritage. If you have any questions contact CWPT at 1-800-298-7878.

Photo of Harpers Ferry from the Maryland side.


John Geary had a colorful career, the low point of which occurred in the Kansas Territory. As one of many ill-fated politicians in the position of governor, Geary found the situation impossible and sneaked out in the middle of the night. He went on to greater glory in the Civil War and as governor of his homestate of Pennsylvania.

In 1915, a monument honoring Geary was erected at Culp's Hill on the Gettysburg Battlefield. For some reason though, the good folks never got around to dedicating said monument. That was remedied a few days ago when some of our friends came together to honor Geary. Pete Romeika of the Meade Society furnished the photo (above) of the event. Pictured left to right, Andy Waskie, president of the Meade Society; ceremony organizer Sheldon Munn, prez of the Harriburg CWRT; and Jerry McCormick of the Meade Society who portrays Gen. A. A. Humphreys. At far right is a portrait of Gen. Geary.

I have mixed feelings about this ceremony. You see, my great-grandfather, Isaac Henry Bowman, was captured at Culp's Hill and spent the rest of the war in prison, first at Fort Delaware, then Point Lookout. I'm not real sure how happy he would be that I'm saluting General Geary. . . . Oh well. I guess we're all one happy nation now. Ha!

Lewis and Clark Hall

Visited the post at Leavenworth Monday and dropped in on my friends at the Command and General Staff College. They have happily settled into their new digs in Lewis and Clark Hall, having abandoned Bell Hall to the wrecking ball. I can't blame them for their enthusiasm over the move. Bell Hall, while historic for the people who have passed through, was a lousy piece of architecture. It did not serve well its purpose nor did it suit the lofty mission of this organization. There were coat hangers to keep the windows closed, the AC and heat never worked--it was a dingy and dull space. Lewis and Clark (below), on the other hand, is grand in scale and presentation. Tom and I led a tour to the old building a few weeks ago, and on September 9 we take folks to the new home of CGSC. Our tour guide will be our friend LTC (ret.) Ed Kennedy (above, left). Ed is a fastidious historian and a fun guy. Can't wait for this trip. We may have some other folks join us along the way as well.

Speaking of Tours

We have some great ones coming up and will try to keep you informed. We have set up a new website,, just for tour information. Tune in and enjoy!

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Another Day in Mayberry

My friend Carol Ann was delighted when an article about Mount Airy, North Carolina, came up online. Having never visited Andy Griffith's hometown, the inspiration for Mayberry, she only knows it through my tiresome stories. According to the news, however, seems the outside world has discovered Mount Airy and the berg is rated as one of the best places to retire.

The following is why; I'll try to make this as simple as possible, so bear with me:

My uncle, Charles, has breakfast at Hardee's once a week with his high school buddies. (They're all 70, so I think they talk about the same things every meeting and no one remembers.) Anyhoo, they're sitting there at Hardee's when Jimmy Kirkman's phone rings. It's his wife, Judy, who is no relation to me, but is the aunt of my sister's daughter.

"Ask Charles if he has heard from Denise," Judy instructs her husband.

Jimmy asked my uncle if he had heard from my sister.

"Not in the last day or two, why?" he inquired.

"Because," said Judy on the cell phone. "Mama heard that Denise is on the prayer list at Flat Rock Baptist Church and we were wondering what's wrong."

Charles said, "I'll call Cindi and find out."

In the meantime, my sister walks into a restaurant in Bannertown (a Mount Airy "suburb") and her best friend, Diane, the restaurant owner, comes out of the office.

"Nisey, is everything okay?"

Denise was bewildered. "I guess. As good as usual."

Diane probed. "Is there anything going on I don't know about? (which, dear readers, is not possible in Mount Airy and environs).

No, Denise assured her, there was nothing wrong. Why?

"Because Sandra came in and said you're on the prayer list at Flat Rock Baptist Church and I wondered what's wrong."

All these inquiries occurred within an hour of one another, leading one to speculate that communication is more efficient in the hills of Carolina than on any other piece of our planet.

Denise has no idea who put her name on the prayer list. Flat Rock Baptist Church is not the church she attends. But she's grateful. It's good to live in a community where people care about you enough to pray for you, whether there's a tragedy in your life, or there's just life.

And that, dear readers, is why Mount Airy is a good place to live. . . . or retire.

(The Aunt Bee wallpaper, top, is available at The image of the country church by Sherry Masters is available at, and to find out more about the real Mount Airy, go to

Browsing Blogs

When you visit Mayberry's homepage, you'll see how important music is to the culture of the Appalachians. I miss it terribly. So I was thrilled to happen upon the blog of Byron Chesney, a musician from Knoxville, Tennessee. Byron both performs and is a huge fan of gospel music and his account of a recent gospel music show in his hometown brought back wonderful memories. The part I enjoyed most though was Byron's description of the "breakfast" afterwards:

After the concert, we walked over to the Marriott, where we had "Breakfast buffet with the Stars." At $20.00 a plate, I really expected to have an actual "buffet." It was limited to 1 plate, and 1 trip per person, and they only allowed 2 pieces of bacon. The rest of the food was just the usual runny powdered eggs, store bought biscuits, fake gravy, and half-cooked potato cubes. Oh, yeah, there was fruit too, if you are into that sort of thing.

Now here is the test of a real Southern boy! He allowed as how he loved the performances during the meal, but as a connoisseur of real food he was properly appalled by the fare. "Fake gravy!" Obviously, Byron, Yankees have infiltrated the management of the Marriott in Knoxville.

Read Byron's blog at, and visit his other sites as well. I especially applaud his efforts to clean up the highways and byways of his beautiful state, and he promotes these efforts at But I most love the stories he writes about himself and his family at

And Byron, if you and your family are ever passing through Topeka, I promise to make you some real gravy and real biscuits, and though it won't be as good as Granny's, it'll be better than the fake stuff!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Coupling with History

This might be Kansas Gov. Sam Crawford and his wife Isabel, circa 1865, or it might be Mr. and Mrs. John Speer. Speer was a newspaper editor during Quantrill's raid on Lawrence, Kansas, in 1863. Two of his sons were killed in the massacre.

Or it might simply be Herschel and Jacque Stroud.

Shelby Puckett, who lives back home in Ararat, Virginia, commented when I was visiting that she and husband, Raleigh, were at Andersonville Prison NHS and they ran into someone that knew Tom and me.

"It was Herschel and Jacque Stroud," I said without blinking.

"Yes! That's right! How did you know?"

"Because," I replied, "They're everywhere."

Herschel and Jacque live just a couple of blocks from us, but do we ever see them strolling the neighborhood? No. Never. Since Herschel retired from the dentistry, these two are on the road non-stop recreating some Civil War figure and generally fighting ignorance of American history. They have spoken from coast to coast, delivered papers, attended conferences, entertained and enlightened. They are pictured at left, with the 8th Kansas decorating graves on Memorial Day. Two years ago, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius appointed Herschel to be the Kansas liasion with the National Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission. I can't think of a better emissary.

This pair was destined to be together and you can't speak one name without the other. They were also destined to be historians. They met on a blind date at the Eldridge Hotel in Lawrence, the same hotel destroyed by Quantrill. The headquarters for abolitionism in Kansas, some folks consider this corner of Massachusetts Street to be the most historic spot in the state. During the first three years of their marriage, the Strouds lived within blocks of the Chicago Historical Society which housed a multitude of Lincoln and Civil War items.

Yesterday, Jacque sent me her Civil War Gingersnap recipe and I can say from experience, they are delicious!


¾ cup shortening
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
¼ cup dark molasses
1/2 tsp lemon extract
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground ginger

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat the first 5 ingredients together.
Measure, sift and add the remaining ingredients.
Chill overnight, or for several hours.
Roll batter in sugar into little balls and press half flat.
Bake on a greased cookie sheet 10 to 12 minutes.
Do not overbake.

Yield: 3 to 4 dozen cookies.

NOTE: Jacque Stroud usually adds ¼ cup more flour
to make stiffer dough.

Also, she goes heavy on spices and lemon

If you'd like to have Herschel and Jacque bring the gingersnaps in person, email them at


Herschel sent me this photograph of our buds Jon and Betsey Goering--another couple destined for one another and for the history books. Find out more at and give a listen to their band tomorrow (August 11) at the Watkins Museum in Lawrence, Kansas.

Happy Birthday

. . . . to Jimmy Dean, born Seth Ward on this day in 1928, near Plainview, Texas. Dean's mother, who was the family's only provider, ran a barber shop and as a boy, he picked cotton and worked on local farms. His mother taught him to play the piano when he was 10 years old and he taught himself guitar, accordion and harmonica as soon as he had access to the instruments. At 16, he began to study engineering but then joined the Merchant Marines for two years, after which he enlisted in the Air Force. It was during his service that Dean first became an entertainer when, with a band called the Tennessee Haymakers, he played local clubs and honkytonks near his base. Most kids will recognize him these days because of "Jimmy Dean Sausage" but I still love listening to "Big, Bad, John," Dean's crossover hit record about an heroic coal miner.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Scheduling the Grim Reaper

My daughter just walked in and announced that you are less likely to die in August than any other month. Interesting. We can all breathe a sigh of relief for the next three weeks. However, this prompted me to look for the month in which you are most likely to die. Well, come to find out, it depends.

If you plan to die from alcoholism, or just the plain old flu, it will likely occur in the winter. If a car wreck is your fate, avoid holiday travel when most traffic fatalities are recorded. If a heart attack is your preference, you'll likely go on a Monday (does anybody need to explain this one?) and your heart attack is more likely to happen if you're in New York City. Even visiting New York City can bring on a heart attack. (We've been telling y'all that for years!) If you are a substance abuser there's a good chance you'll go in the first week of the month when the VA sends your sack full of meds or you get your government check and buy meth. I am not making this stuff up. These are the findings of the University of California at San Diego.

When I informed my sister, the accountant, of these figures, she said we will see this trend change since social security checks have begun to go out on birthdays instead of the first of the month. Which could, in turn, affect scheduling and overtime for emergency medical teams. Bless the government for trying to stretch death over the entire month instead of crunching it all up together that first week.

We all realize there are occupations which entail more danger than others. Like being president or archduke or czar. Assassination is no problem if you're a garbage man. Sometimes, even proximity to greatness is deadly as is the case with the mayor of Chicago who was shot in Franklin Delano Roosevelt's motorcade back in the 1930s. (And let's not forget Gov. John Connolly riding with President Kennedy; fortunately, the governor survived but was struck by the same bullet that killed the president.)

Other research indicates that you're more likely to be struck by lightening in Florida, sucked away by a tornado in Kansas, dragged off by a crocodile in Louisiana, or eaten by a bear in Alaska. If you live in New Jersey, it's highly likely that the last words you hear will be "Tony sent me." Meaning no disrespect, but we all thought we'd at least be safe in Minnesota or Utah, and recent events would indicate otherwise. Speaking of eaten by a bear in Alaska. . . . Can you believe this illustration? What are people doing in those god-forsaken places? "Bear-Human Conflicts." Does anyone but me see the real issue here? If bears and humans have contact, it's a sure bet there will also be conflict. Gentle Ben was just biding his time, people, before eating little Clint Howard. Let the bears have Alaska!!!

eRumor reports that they received photographs of a bear killed by an airman stationed at Elmendorf AFB. The bear was 12 feet, six inches long and weighed an estimated 1600 pounds. (And who says size doesn't matter?!!!) Supposedly, the bear was responsible for several human deaths and the website even received photographs reported to be the remains of folks attacked by the bear. Uggghhhh. I didn't look at those.

So dear readers, enjoy the safety of August and don't leave your living room . . . unless you live in New York City.

Jesse James, Again

A few blogs ago, I reported on folks with the names of famous folks like Frank or Jesse. They pop up every day and I can't share them all, but honestly, this one takes the cake. Like the guy didn't have enough names already, they had to get Jesse James into the equation. and Dillinger? How did this guy's parents expect him to turn out! And, he's not from the South. From the Kennebec (Maine) Journal and Morning Sentinel:
AUGUSTA -- A Winslow man was ordered to spend a year in jail after he admitted committing several driving offenses in Augusta.

Dillanger Lee Jesse James Smart, 26, pleaded guilty Monday in Kennebec County Superior Court to eluding an officer, driving to endanger, failure to stop for an officer and operating without a license. The offenses occurred Aug. 27, 2006, in Augusta.

He was fined $575 and his license was suspended 30 days.

From Home

My friend Nancy Lindsay, editor of The Enterprise, took this photo of quilts fluttering in the wind back in Patrick County, Virginia. Makes me homesick.

Monday, August 6, 2007

The Quirky Quantrill

I often think of the short lives that are analyzed into perpetuity. Jeb Stuart, Stonewall Jackson, Jesse James, Princess Diana -- all died before the age of 40, and yet the search for the details of their lives goes on. Using Diana (below, right) as an example, she only died ten years ago and yet separating fact from fiction is not an easy job. How much more difficult to find the truth of lives decades gone. Take, for example, William Clarke Quantrill.

It is August in Kansas and Quantrill dominates this month's history. It was August, 1863, that Quantrill led one of the most daring raids of the American Civil War. What he accomplished, militarily, is difficult to comprehend. He led, led, more than 400 guerrillas, guerrillas, in nearly perfect discipline and order for five days, into the heart of enemy territory with a maximum destruction and a minimal loss of men. It is astounding.

What he accomplished, in human terms, is also difficult to comprehend. At least 150 men were slaughtered. And slaughter is the most accurate word for it. They were shot -- begging for their lives, dying in the dirt, some still in their nightclothes. A community was put to the torch. And yet sadly, this was not the only atrocity of the war, nor were heinous acts confined to one side. By the end of the Civil War, there was little moral high ground on either side of the Kansas/Missouri border.

Quantrill was killed at the end of the war. He was not yet 28 years old. In that short time he left a legacy to be debated, denounced, debunked. But he left no direct descendants that we know of (though one comes out of the bushes every now and then). How then do we piece together who Quantrill really was?

There is no daily diary of insurgency on the border; he wrote a few letters to friends and family. Most of what we rely upon are the words of others, those that knew him and those who wished they had never heard of him. There are no real objective observers. We have record of his deeds, but simply knowing what he did without understanding why doesn't give us the whole person either. What we, as historians, have to be very careful of, is speculating. When our grandmothers admonished us not to speak ill of the dead, they were teaching us a valuable lesson. The dead can't speak for themselves. For some folks, that just makes them easy targets.

Abraham Lincoln's biographers have hit the same snags, though folks are apt to remember him more kindly than Quantrill. But if you asked Lincoln's neighbors for their descriptions of his behavior, his marriage, his children, or his ability before he was elected to Congress, before he was elected president, or after he was assassinated, you'd likely get three very different perspectives.

When some of Quantrill's old neighbors remarked on his cruelty to animals as a child, they were speaking from the perspective of Civil War headlines that proclaimed, "Quantrill the Fiend!" Had he not distinguished himself during the war, would his old neighbors have even remembered the fair-haired boy from Canal Dover, Ohio?
Perusing the web the other night, I came across this website: // Since it is an educational resource, I was especially interested in their presentation. After reading it, I immediately contacted Chuck Rabas, expert-in-residence on Quantrill, Bill Anderson, the Jameses, and any number of other subjects. In the tradition of righteous indignation set by John Newman Edwards, Chuck responded, "When someone makes that much of an ass of himself, it should be pointed out as succinctly as possible."
That, or shot down like a dog.

The lesson here, dear reader: Do not believe half of what you read, see, hear or repeat, and speak kindly of the dead.

Beginning this week, Lawrence, Kansas, hosts many events that touch on Quantrill's legacy. Visit their website at and attend one of their tours or lectures.

We were saddened to read of the death of a fine historian and gentleman, Phillip Shaw Paludan, one of the nation’s foremost authorities on Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War and historian at the University of Illinois at Springfield. Paludan died Wednesday after struggling with a long illness. He had won many awards for his scholarship on Lincoln and the Civil War, including the prestigious Lincoln Prize, awarded by the Lincoln and Soldiers Institute at Gettysburg College, for his 1994 book The Presidency of Abraham Lincoln.

He received A.B. and M.A. degrees from Occidental College and his doctorate from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Before coming to UIS, he taught at the University of Kansas for more than 30 years, and held visiting appointments at Rutgers University and University College, Dublin, Ireland. He will be missed, and long will his work be appreciated.
First Friday

Topeka is the place to be on First Friday evenings. Located conveniently near the Westboro Mart, we are walking distance from several fine art galleries. The really outstanding exhibit Friday night was "Paint the Parks," the juried competition of artists depicting the national parks, historic sites, and battlegrounds. This is an incredible exhibit. We are so fortunate that Rod Seel is hosting one of the stops here in Topeka at his gallery, Westboro Fine Arts. If you can't make it by, view online at For an interview with Rod in the Metronews, click on

Here are two of my favorites, Civil War Reenactment, done at Fort Scott NHS, by Sun Bauer (below) and In His Own Words by Todd A. Channer (left). The photo does not do this painting justice; truly, it stops you in your tracks. The original is still available, but if that isn't in your price range, prints are sold as well. Personally, I think this would be perfect in the library of Judge Frank Williams.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Patchy Fog

Gen. Rufus Ingalls is headed home.

Never heard of Rufus Ingalls? Neither had I until we met Pat Fairbairn. Chagrined at the neglect of this important Civil War figure, and drawn to the career of this logistics mastermind, Pat tells the important story of this underappreciated “behind the scenes” hero in the first person. According to Pat, "the Army Of The Potomac commanders would come and go, but Ingalls went on forever, keeping his position through all the changes in high command, and exercising his responsibilities with astonishing energy, resourcefulness, honesty, and extraordinary competence."

Extraordinary Competence? That was sure in short supply. . . just ask Mr. Lincoln.

On August 24, Pat will take the unsung general's story to Ingalls's hometown of Denmark, Maine. "An Evening With Rufus Ingalls" begins at 7:00 pm, at the Denmark Center For The Performing Arts, and is sponsored by the Denmark Historical Society. Pat illuminates some of the challenges of the quarter-mastering trade; shares his experiences with, and views about George McClellan and Ulysses S. Grant; and details the building of the giant Federal Supply Depot at City Point, Va., in June 1864. The supply depot played a crucial role in winning the Siege of Petersburg and defeating Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. Pat adds that the important role of City Point in the Siege of Petersburg is a story rarely mentioned in the volumes of books about the Civil War and much overlooked by historians.

And while you are in Maine, stop by Denmark’s newest restaurant, the “Back Burner," and order up their newest mixed drink, a “Rufus Ingalls!"

"But beware," says Pat, "I’m told it’s addictive!"


Great blog on Colorful Kansas. Yes, in the infinite wisdom of our delegates to the 1859 Wyandotte State Constitutional Convention, these Kansas Republicans decided to lop off 250 miles of our western territory and bestow upon Colorado Territory our mountains, gold and silver, beer and Broncos. One second thought not having the Donkeys is a good thing! To be fair, I suppose these men thought it would take multiple generations, if ever, to settle the area between Ft. Riley and Denver. In hindsight, I'm sure most lived long enough to rue their folly as railroads and homesteading quickly spread out on the High Plains following the war. Our Rocky Mountain legacy, however, survives. Denver City bears the name of Kansas Territorial Governor James Denver. A village founded, platted and named by a group of Lecomptonite goldseekers. Keep up your great history website.


DG--Thanks so much for the support, Tim. Visit Mr. Rues at Constitution Hall in Tom's hometown of Lecompton, Kansas, and learn more at

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

A Sad Day

A somber and surreal ceremony took place in Mobile, Alabama, over the weekend. A Confederate sailor was laid to rest--a sailor who died off the coast of France in 1864. His body was encrusted on the underside of a cannon discovered in the wreckage of the C. S. S. Alabama. The famed Confederate privateer was sunk by the U. S. S. Kearsage in the English Channel and most of the 120-man crew were rescued. About a dozen were never found. A French diver searching for mines found the shipwreck, about 200 feet down, in the 1990s and since then about 400 artifacts have been discovered by French and American divers.

The sailor's remains have not been identified, though I have heard that DNA tests may be used in an effort to determine who he is.

Saturday's funeral procession began downtown at the site of the statue of Adm. Raphael Semmes, who was the commanding officer of the CSS Alabama, and ended at Magnolia Cemetery where the sailor was buried. The sailor's remains were placed in a handmade wooden coffin pulled by a horse-drawn caisson, accompanied by members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

In the AP photo top, Cameron Grant, 21st Alabama Infantry Confederate Reenactors, plays "Taps" during the funeral.

Recovery efforts continue at the wreckage. For more information, visit

Colorful Kansas, er, uh, Colorado

This is a sad day in the history of the Sunflower State, for on this day in 1876, Colorado joined the Union. Oh, woe is me!!!

Until Colorado achieved territorial status, then official statehood, Kansas had silver mines and mountains. Yes, the western boundary of Kansas extended to the Continental Divide. Imagine how different our state would be today. Denver would be our largest city. Advertising would say, "SKI KANSAS!" Folks back East could say, "We're going to Kansas for our vacation" and no one would laugh.

When crossing the river at Kansas City, one would be greeted by signs that read "Entering Kolorful Kansas" instead of "Welcome to Kansas . . . Home of Bureaucracy". . . Colorado Springs, Colorado, would now be Kansas Springs, Kansas . . . and instead of the five or six hour drive across our fair state, it would take 7 or 8. Oh, never mind. I guess that's a good thing.

But no, in the first great blunder by our legislature (even as they were creating Kansas), our august body of legislators decided that the mountains were too far away, too full of Democrats, too much trouble to govern, too much to think about at the moment--and they just gave them away.

Pardon me if I appear bitter.

Another Tragic Lincoln

The much maligned, misunderstood Robert Todd Lincoln was born this day in 1843. Still I give talks and people come to me afterwards talking about how this ungrateful son had his mother committed. They forget how he lost a father that he never had the opportunity to be close to, lost younger brothers he had protected, tried to take care of his impossible mother, and then had issues with his own wife's instability. Robert left law school when his father died to live with his mother and Tad. It was an incredibly depressing situation. Although he succeeded in business, it seems happiness would elude him in his personal life. Robert had a tragic proximity to two other presidential assassinations, causing him to wonder if he was cursed. He is buried not far from John F. Kennedy in a secluded spot of Arlington Cemetery.

From my friend, Patrice, who has been dealing with a bridge closed for repairs, and with a nod to Kansas Bureaucracy (and the good, dear friends of ours who are employed by the Kansas Department of Transportation):

A Kansas Department of Highways employee stopped at a farm and talked with an old farmer. He told the farmer, 'I need to inspect your farm for a possible new road.'

The old farmer said, 'OK, but don't go in that field.'

The Kansas Department of Highways employee said, 'I have the authority of the State of Kansas to go where I want. See this card? I am allowed to go wherever I wish on farm land.'

So the old farmer went about his farm chores. Later, he heard loud screams and saw the Department of Highways employee running for the fence and close behind was the farmer's prize bull. The bull was madder than a nest full of hornets and the bull was gaining on the employee at every step.

The old farmer called out, 'Show him your card, smart ass!!'