Tuesday, February 26, 2008


Dear Reader, were we living 50 or a hundred years ago, I would swear I have consumption. I have coughed until my ears are ringing. While talking with my aunt on the phone last night, she commented that my breathing was so wheezy she thought I had pneumonia. I missed Civil War Roundtable on Tuesday night, I missed Michelle Martin at Lecompton on Sunday, and I just flat missed several days because I was too feverish to function. Alas, misery loves company and my sister is suffering in Mayberry and from Massachusetts, my friend Jack McDonough reports his girlfriend has flu. Not that I am happy to hear these folks are sick -- but it is helpful to know we are not on an island in Kansas. Last night, Tom, too, succumbed to the ravages of this fitful cough.
Hopefully, we'll be well by October when we head to Olde Colony Civil War Roundtable, Dedham, Massachusetts. This is such a robust group and we're thrilled they asked us back. It's also a beautiful time of the year to visit New England.

In the meantime, some medicinal brandy seems in order. Here's to you, Doc!
(Top photo: Dennis Quaid as a consumptive Doc Holliday in the film, Wyatt Earp)

Friday, February 22, 2008

A Brief History of the "Woah"

Fellow blogger and fellow Virginian, Si, asked for a brief history of the "woah." Actually, he wanted a book, so I'm recommending a series, Bruce Catton's. It just doesn't get any better. We are honored to have in our household the series Catton wrote that belonged to our friend Ron Erickson.

First, Si, Virginians created America. Even the Lost Colony was technically Virginia though it wound up as part of the Old North State. Pocahontas, Captain John Smith, John Rolfe. Jamestown, Williamsburg, Yorktown. Patrick Henry, George Mason, James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington. This is what I learned in Mrs. Katie Hiatt's 4th grade history. Nothing in my life dissuaded me from this basic understanding until Tom and I visited Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, not North Carolina.

We went to the Old Manse (above, and grounds, below), family home of one Ralph Waldo Emerson. I wish I knew the name of the guide for she was a most knowledgeable and gracious woman. She was passionate about the history of this house, once rented by Nathaniel Hawthorne and his young bride. She pointed at the window where Emerson's grandmother stood, cradling Emerson's father in her arms, and watched the first shots of the Revolution.

My knees nearly buckled. No wonder they thought the Revolution was theirs! She stood with her babe in arms and watched the shots in her own backyard.

Thus, Si, the weight of this revelation hit me. America's Civil War is the ultimate sibling rivalry. Northerners thought the ideals of the Revolution, this newly forged nation, belonged to them. Southerners knew in certitude it was theirs. Then there was the bastard child--the black race--who cared not about the inheritance but who just wanted a place at the table. They just wanted to sit down beside us at the table of our father and mother.

We could not have fought so bitterly, nor wounded one another so deeply, were we not brothers and sisters.

Thus Ever . . .

Roman mythology defines the unique Great Seal of Virginia. The obverse of the seal features the Roman goddess Virtus standing over a defeated opponent. Virtus is dressed in Amazonian garb, and holds a spear and a sheathed sword. She represents the virtues of heroism, righteousness, freedom, and valor. She stands in a classical victor's pose over a fallen tyrannical foe, whose crown lies on the ground. The state's motto "Sic Semper Tyrannis" ("Thus Always to Tyrants") appears at the lower edge. The seal was approved at Virginia's 1776 Constitutional Convention, and the principal designer is said to have been George Wythe. A committee composed of Wythe, George Mason, Robert Carter Nicholas, and Richard Henry Lee collaborated on the design. In 1930 another committee was charged with standardizing the seal's design because of all the variations that came into use over the years. What the committee approved was basically adopting the 1776 seal as the standard. In 1949, another standard was implemented, when Virginia's Art Commission defined the official color scheme for the seal. From netstate.com

Spring, Please!

I took this photo from my office window a few days ago. Doesn't matter which day, because it is the same scene any day. Yes, our constant weather forecast is "Winter Advisory." It's the scene inside my head as well, though not as pretty.

NPR reported this week that 250 strains of the flu have been identified this season and at least two have found me. I had a bout a couple of months ago and then this week. Fever for three days. Now it has settled in my upper chest and vocal chords. I have never been so ready for spring.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Whackado, Whackado

While perusing blogs the other day, I came across this one: We have met the enemy and he is us.: Roger Miller Si's blog reminded me of how much I love Roger Miller, one of the brightest and most creative songwriters who ever lived. Si lives on Virginia's eastern shore . . . the very thought of it makes me salivate as I look out at snow encrusted rooftops here in Topeka. . . . Among the youtube links Si has provided is one of Miller with Johnny Cash. It's priceless. We're not the only ones who love Miller, whose characterization of Alan-A-Dale in Disney's Robinhood (above) was a favorite of many of our generation. See Jette Kernion's post here: http://www.cinematical.com/2007/01/02/vintage-image-of-the-day-roger-miller-and-robin-hood/

Sanders Wins Jefferson Davis Award

A book by a Kansas State University history professor has been recognized with the Jefferson Davis Award for distinguished book-length narrative history from the Museum of the Confederacy. Charles W. Sanders Jr., wrote While in the Hands of the Enemy: Military Prisons of the Civil War, published by the Louisiana State University Press in 2005.

"I am pleased to learn that this outstanding book on the Civil War prison system by Chuck Sanders has won the very prestigious Jefferson Davis Award,"said K-State President Jon Wefald. "Reviewers have called it 'the best book ever published on Civil War prisons and prison policy.' I am proud that Chuck is a member of our faculty both for his knowledge and for his engaging teaching style; his expertise and enthusiasm greatly benefit our students."

The Museum of the Confederacy's annual book awards competition recognizes outstanding historical research and writing on the period of the ConfederateStates of America. (Monnie Ryan took this photo of the entrance to Johnson's Island Federal Prison in Ohio.)

Sanders's primary field of study is 19th-century U.S. History, and his secondary interests include military history and American political history. He teaches a variety of American history courses, including The United States to 1876, The Civil War and Reconstruction, and the Advanced Seminar in History. He earned a bachelor's degree from Louisiana State University, a master of education from North Georgia College, a master of arts from the U.S. Naval War College, and a doctorate in history from K-State.

Dr. Sanders will be speaking to the Eastern Kansas CWRT on Thursday, February 28, at the Potawatomi Mission, KSHS, Topeka, at 6:30 p.m. The public is invited, and there is no admission, but we invite you to join our group.
Philly Phillies

We end on a lovely note today. . . . At the Lincoln Ball held in the Union League in Philadelphia, our dear friends. . . . Carol Waskie, Kathy Tortoriello, Mary Ellen Fairbairn, each of whom is married to a Union general. (Don't they look young?) Visit http://www.cw-leaders.com/COUG/lincoln-ball-feb-2008-1.htm for more photos.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

24 Hours in America

Tom and I have just returned from Lincoln, Kansas, and their annual Lincoln Days Celebration. Before we left, we just stood on the street and watched the procession of Lincoln look-alikes escorted by a junior honor guard (left), followed by the good citizens. To the beat of drum and hum of fife, they proceeded down the street to the Methodist Church for a buffalo stew. This is what small town America is all about--homemade fun and community.

We arrived yesterday afternoon just in time for a roundtable discussion with bud and filmmaker, Ken Spurgeon, and moderated by Marla Matkin. About 30 of us just sat and talked about history, how great Kansas history is, and how we can interest kids. It was really a good time.

We stayed with such gracious folks, Jack and Kathie Crispin, who have restored an 1881 limestone (below) building which houses their living quarters and two museums. We'll share more on them and their accomplishments in a later blog. We were so excited to stay in this beautifully done structure we could hardly sleep, and indeed, we talked into the night about the light coming through the 19th century windows and how Wyatt and Josie must have lay many nights looking at light playing across a wall that way. It was very romantic. Our hosts knocked on our door a few minutes before 9 this morning as we had overslept. . . .

Another screening of Bloody Dawn in a wonderfully restored thater, The Fitch, on Lincoln Avenue, in Lincoln City, in Lincoln County, Kansas. Ken has done more editing and the product is getting better and better. Folks keep asking about the DVD, and hopefully that will be available this summer. Met many good folks we hope to see again soon. We've already begun discussing taking a tour out to Lincoln this spring.


Getting there was interesting. As we got onto I-70, a patrolman passed us at about 90 mph, maybe more. Soon another, and another. We knew something was up. When we reached Paxico, just a few miles west of Topeka, a car was off the road with the door open as if someone had jumped out and run. Police cars sat about every 100 yards and a trooper has just gotten out with a shotgun.

As we continued westward, we met more patrolman. It wasn't until this morning that we heard a Topeka bank had been robbed, the suspect had fled. Then a tack strip had been put across the highway to stop the robber and that is apparently where he left the highway. The suspect shot at policemen, and crawled under an abandoned car where he shot himself in the head. He is in a Topeka hospital, clinging to life. He was a soldier at Fort Riley.

NETA: “Bad Blood” is top history program of 2007

Co-production of KCPT and Wide Awake Films wins national public television award
(Pictured is Wide Awake Partner Shane Seley)

Bad Blood: The Border War that Triggered the Civil War took top honors in the category of “Program Production: History/Large Market”, as announced by the National Educational Telecommunications Association (NETA).

The organization honored twenty-four public broadcasters late last month at its annual conference, held this year in Columbus, Ohio.The panel of industry experts who judged the production called it "comprehensive, compelling, (and) of extremely high quality." They also cited the project's resourceful use of archival materials and reenactments.

The 90-minute documentary—a co-production of Kansas City Public Television and Wide Awake Films— focuses on the events leading up to the Civil War along the border of the state of Missouri and the territory of Kansas during the years of 1854 through 1861. The story is told through actual historic accounts of Missourians and Kansans, and shot entirely in high definition.

“This is a huge honor,” said Wide Awake Films partner Shane Seley. “We were thrilled that we had the chance to co-produce this show with KCPT, and we think it’s a more balanced depiction of the Missouri-Kansas border wars than what may have been seen in the past.”

The collaboration was formed when KCPT approached Wide Awake Films for the latter company’s immense expertise in directing and producing historical reenactments. The production took more than two years to create, with four major reenactments utilizing more than 200 actors.

“We called upon a lot of volunteers, sponsors and friends to pull this off,” said partner Robert Lee Hodge of Wide Awake Films. “This award is a tribute to the teamwork and passion that went into this project.”

The NETA Awards are annual recognition of member-produced excellence in public broadcasting, a tradition established more than forty years ago by the pioneering Southern Educational Communications Association. NETA is a professional association founded in 1997 to serve public television licensees and affiliated educational organizations. The organization has members in 44 states, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands. NETA is headquartered in Columbia, SC. See www.netaonline.org for additional information on the organization and its services.

To order this or other films from Wide Awake, visit http://www.wideawakefilms.com/

Friday, February 15, 2008

Media Training

Have spent three days at Fort Leavenworth in a media exercise and my vocal chords are exhausted. My colleagues and I were the journalists in mock press conferences so that officers can hone their skills in presenting facts to the media. It's tiring, but honestly, I can't imagine where you could have more fun (except maybe a Civil War or Indian Wars Battlefield). Retired ABC correspondent John McWethy cast a large shadow over the event. On Tuesday before dying in a skiing accident Wednesday, John had talked with Stephen Kerrick at the CGSC and provided handouts for use in the training exercise. They included his observations on media/military relations, such as Like rain on the battlefield, the press will be there. Deal with it.

We carried on in his good name and, I hope, made him proud.

D. K. Clark wrote a tribute to John that appeared this week in the Leavenworth Lamp and echoes the sentiments of many of us: http://www.ftleavenworthlamp.com/articles/2008/02/14/perspective/perspective2.txt

Monday, February 11, 2008

Free State of Patrick

Big news from Patrick County, Virginia. The Jeb Stuart Birthplace was recently vandalized by fire, and lots of important folks are taking it personally--including me. Our friend Tom Perry was instrumental in saving and preserving Jeb's boyhood home. Read his thoughts at http://freestateofpatrick.com/blog/2008/02/10/i-take-it-personally/ . Also, Tom sadly reported the death of Libba Robertson, wife of Stonewall Jackson biographer, Bud Robertson. Libba was a pistol. She was vivacious and gracious and precious. She was Bud's heart and inspiration and our prayers are with him. Libba died on the birthday of Jeb Stuart, and those of us who were fans of hers and Jeb's find comfort in this fact.

On another interesting blognote, Eric Wittenberg celebrated Jeb's birthday in style in Richmond, Virginia. Read his account along with some great photos at http://civilwarcavalry.com/?p=682. As I commented, I am sooo jealous!!!

Now, gentle reader, I am off to "jine the cavalry!"

Sunday, February 10, 2008

More Gravy

Biscuits and sausage gravy tonight. It was delicious. Biscuits and gravy always taste best at night. Just like cereal.

I recall being at the home of Trevis and Doris Byrd in Lexington, NC, years and years ago. Trevis finally pushed away from the table and looked at Daddy, "Brother Charlie, I just can't seem to get the biscuits and gravy to even out." To which Daddy, replied, "Just eat til it's gone."

Am pooped. Cheryl and I painted only one room this morning and then headed to her mother's house where cousins piled in with photos and letters and diaries. Snooping in other people's business has always appealed to me. Of course, says Cheryl, I am easily amused. Maybe, but her family has some fascinating history. Seems Cheryl's great-grandfather served with the 8th Kansas Vol. Inf. and a cousin brought his notebook. Apparently, he was quartermaster and the boys were stationed in New Orleans after the war. I can't wait to get into this one.

More gravy, please.

Thursday, February 7, 2008


I opened the door to the MacArthur Room at Fort Leavenworth's Command and General Staff College. John McWethy sat at the desk answering emails on his laptop. A larger than life portrait of the famous general stared from the wall. I laughed out loud.

John half looked up from his task. "I know, I know. I'm well aware that he is looking over my shoulder."

I curled into a leather chair and waited for John to finish so we could discuss the day's media training. We talked, exchanged ideas, laughed our guts out.

My friend John McWethy has died. He was killed in a skiing accident in Colorado yesterday. I am floored by the news. We were looking forward to getting together next week to talk some more, exchange more ideas, laugh our guts out.

John lived life to the n'th degree. I feel so privileged to have shared moments of mirth and inspiration with him.

Til we meet again.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Jine the Cavalry

If you want to have a good time, jine the cavalry!
Jine the cavalry! Jine the cavalry!
If you want to catch the Devil, if you want to have fun,
If you want to smell Hell,
jine the cavalry!

We're the boys who went around McClellian,
Went around McClellian, went around around McClellian!
We're the boys who went around McClellian,
Bully boys, hey! Bully boys, ho!


We're the boys who crossed the Potomicum,
Crossed the Potomicum, crossed the Potomicum!
We're the boys who crossed the Potomicum,
Bully boys, hey! Bully boys, ho!


Then we went into Pennsylvania,
Into Pennsylvania, into Pennsylvania!
Then we went into Pennsylvania,
Bully boys, hey! Bully boys, ho!


The big fat Dutch gals hand around the breadium,
Hand around the breadium, hand around the breadium!
The big fat Dutch gals hand around the breadium,
Bully boys, hey! Bully boys, ho!


Ol' Joe Hooker, won't you come out of The Wilderness?
Come out of The Wilderness, come out of The Wilderness?
Ol' Joe Hooker, won't you come out of The Wilderness?
Bully boys, hey! Bully boys, ho!


God, I love this song! A rousing birthday salute to Confederate Cavalry Commander J. E. B. Stuart, born on this day in my hometown, Ararat, Virginia, in 1833. He died at the incredibly young age of 31. Read more about Jeb and his followers at freestateofpatrick.com, hosted by our buddy Tom Perry. (Image at top by Don Troiani, the 4th Virginia Cavalry; inset, J. E. B. Stuart)

Weather, Whether or Not

. . . we like it, we have it. Yet another snow is falling and EVERYTHING is closed. For my comrades back home in the Blue Ridge, they rarely close schools here, nor do they clean the streets. We merely slip and slide to our destination. But after last night's snow falling into today, not only are Topeka schools closed, but Washburn University and the University of Kansas have cancelled classes. We have 10 inches on the ground. Outside my window, I can see the winds are gusting . . . . It's going to be an interesting day.


One of Noel's friends was in a terrible accident and remains in critical condition at the KU Med Center in Kansas City. Sammi Becerra is a little bitty thing--I'll bet she doesn't weigh over 85 pounds, but just full of fun and personality. She was thrown from her vehicle as it rolled over and suffered a broken pelvis and internal injuries. She and Noel are in JR ROTC together at Topeka High. Our thoughts and prayers are with Sammi and her family as she recovers. The photo was made at their Marine Corp Ball in November. Noel is third from left; Sammi is fourth from left. http://www.cjonline.com/stories/020608/loc_244189446.shtml

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Workaday Week

So many great events over the past week I can't recall them all. . . .

Tuesday, we were treated to dinner by former Kansas Lieutenant Governor Shelby Smith at Topeka's own Brick Oven. It was bitter cold and icy but the interesting company and the Cajun mushrooms were worth braving the weather--a most appropriate way to spend Kansas Day. At 80, Shelby is as bright and interesting as ever.

Wednesday, after Cheryl and I thoroughly exhausted ourselves on our latest remodeling project, Tom and I headed to a Washburn ballgame. I don't know how the Ichabods lost because I yelled my lungs out.

Thursday, Tom and I stopped by the CGSC and visited with buds before heading over to see our friend Mark Neuse who had asked me to speak to the Leavenworth Main Street annual event. The caterer for said event is also the owner of the Blue Crab Bistro and Tampico's, both located in downtown Leavenworth. The food was incredible. And what a fantastic group of folks! Such energy, passion, and commitment was evident that night that I was just privileged to be in the company of such interesting folks--folks I hope to see again soon.

Monday and Friday Cheryl and I were working.

Saturday, up early then Noel and I headed to the Post for the Military Collectibles Show organized by our friend, Jerry Brown. While there, Armchair General's Jerry Morelock stopped by and gave Noel his last ball cap. Archaeologist Doug Scott dropped by and left a copy of his latest book on the Little Bighorn. Dave Chuber was set up next to me so it was like old home week. Noel got a Marine Corp sword. She was fairly dancing. Later, Noel and I went to the Goodwill Store where we ran into John Graham who invited us in to see his shop, Sally's at 412 Delaware. It was absolutely the coolest shop I have seen in ages. John, who makes the most creative lamps I have ever seen, well, he and I are making plans to bring tourists into downtown.
On to a Mardi Gras party at Steven and Marianne Tennant's home, and then the Chubers came home with us. . . . The rest is a blur. . . . .