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This is the archive for September 2006

Saturday, September 30, 2006

So, I had a bit of trouble with links last week and the Timrod links did not work. Although I fixed them in the original post, I wanted to repost it to make sure everyone had a chance to visit the site.
Original Post with links....

Yesterday, I forgot to give a link to the Timrod Library’s website and wanted to rectify that mistake.

The website has some nice pictures of the inside and outside of the building as well as a more detailed history of the library.

Take a few minutes and explore this organization that has kept Henry Timrod’s name alive for almost a century.

Friday, September 29, 2006

At one point I really didn’t like the folks at Civil War Interactive. Why, well a few years back they wouldn’t list the original 18th Massachusetts Website.

Looking back they had a good reason, it was quite ugly and most would probably say it’s only improved marginally in that manner. My only excuse to the previous statement is that if I had been good with colors, I would have studied Art in college, not Political Science.

Now though, I really like them. I mean a lot.

I started to like them when they listed the blog after only a weeks worth of postings. As they started their weekly summaries, my feelings really started to thaw as they continued their kind words.

But now, I think I’m in love, just don’t tell my wife.

First this past weekend they told us that the blog would be part of an article for the October issue of North and South. Even though I have been in a footnote or two and had a book published, I still get giddy when I am told we are going to have something new in print.

Then during the weekly “This Week in Civil War Blogs” they gave us the following review (and they even placed the emphasis – not me):

The 18th Mass gang has come back to life (at least in blog form) and we have a goodly number of excellent posts here this week. A meditation on the recent death of the first female West Point graduate to be killed in Iraq inspires a look at the service of blacks in the US military over the nation's history. Several other posts look at both recent and distant events relating to the submarine CSS Hunley. Donald found--and won--a letter from an 18th Mass member on eBay and gives us a virtual biography of its author. Bob Dylan and Hootie and the Blowfish even work their way into the narrative this week, and the whole discussion is entirely on-topic. These guys are good.

Personally if most find my writing marginal, I will be happy. So thank you for the kind comments. I just hope that we don't disappoint in the future!

I really appreciate the support that CWI has given – if nothing else it gave me an easy post to write.

Now, if they bash us in the article – the affair is off!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

[Note from Donald: I was working on an entirely different piece for the Blog, which I had planned to post on Thursday morning. I’ve delayed that in favor of this one. I would like to add that the views expressed are mine and mine alone.]

2nd Lieutenant Emily Perez was killed by a makeshift bomb in Iraq on September 12, 2006. Her death made the front page of a feature article in the September 27th edition of the Washington Post. What first drew my attention to the article was her picture. Her West Point graduation picture showed a young lady standing proudly in her uniform, shako cradled in her arm, a look of pride, confidence, and accomplishment registered on her face. I didn’t know Emily Perez existed before I read the article, but I was deeply affected and moved by the story of this remarkable individual and it reminded me that goodness, talent, and enormous potential can be cut short in the blink of an eye. Underneath, on the same front page, was an article about three teenagers murdered in three separate incidents on Washington streets in a 72 hour period. The killers have not been apprehended and that reminded me that people who have adopted a callous attitude toward other people’s lives sometimes have longevity. I’ve included the Post article about Lt. Perez at the end of this piece.

Connection of thoughts based on reading Emily's story.

Blacks fought for the American cause during the Revolutionary War. Most were slaves loaned to militias and the Continental Army by their owners. While whites were rewarded for their military service with land grants, slaves were simply returned to bondage. Some slaveholders even brought suit against the newly formed government, seeking compensation for the loss of slave labor.

No matter which way you cut it the Civil War was and always will be about slavery. You can argue State’s rights and make a couple of other arguments until you’re blue in the face, but when your blood supply returns to normal, the issue still remains the same. Deny it, talk about the nobility of the Lost Cause, but slavery still stares you in the face. Cotton was like oil is today. Control the cotton, control the wealth. And the political influence that goes along with it. Argue that most Southerners didn’t own slaves and I’ll remind you that Southerners themselves adopted the slogan “Rich man’s war, poor man’s fight.” Argue that the South was unified against the North and I’ll gladly point out the geographical areas in Alabama, Louisiana, North Carolina, Mississippi, and Virginia that were Pro-Union strongholds throughout the war.

In 1863 when blacks were finally allowed the opportunity to serve in the Union army, Lincoln didn’t envision a combat role. Instead, their primary assignment would be to free white troops, then performing garrison duty and sundry other functions, to join front line troops. Even after issuing his Emancipation Proclamation, which only offered freedom to slaves in Confederate States, Lincoln still believed blacks and whites couldn’t live harmoniously in this country and continued to support the idea of colonizing freed slaves in Latin and South America. Lincoln believed, too, that, by adopting emancipation in graduated stages, slavery would die of its own volition by the year 1900. Frederick Douglas, who has emerged through history as the voice of his people, argued, like so many other black leaders of the time, that blacks wanted the rights of full citizenship in this country that was their home. Not their adopted home, but this, their native land. Douglas argued, too, that if given the opportunity to shoulder a musket and don a blue jacket with eagle emblazoned buttons, blacks would prove the equal of their white counterparts.

Those opportunities to prove their mettle came. At a time when support for the war in the North was at its lowest point, the efforts of regiments such as 54th Massachusetts at Battery Wagner had a galvanizing effect. The war no longer was about maintaining the Union; it became a shared crusade against what the war had always been about, the abolition or continuation of slavery. There is some thought that the 54th’s assault on Battery Wagner was calculated to reduce white causalities. In other words, send black troops through a narrow strip of land that causes them to further bunch together and let’s see what happens when they attack a virtually impenetrable defensive position. And at the great mine explosion at Petersburg, black troops from the First Division of Burnside’s Ninth Corps, in a move that had been planned for a month, were sent into the crater first and suffered a thirty-five percent loss in killed and wounded.

There never was a White House or Congressional plan to compensate freed slaves. William Tecumseh Sherman, whose name is still reviled in the South, was the first to suggest “forty acres and a mule,” while other victorious Unionists, abhorring benevolent reconciliation, urged total confiscation of property held by those who had been in open rebellion and redistribution to former slaves. But no one in a position of say supported those ideas and in 1877 President Rutherford B. Hayes ordered Federal troops to leave the South. Goodbye Reconstruction. Hello Jim Crow.

Following both World Wars, returning black veterans faced the same harsh realties. They had helped make the world safe for Democracy in one conflict and Hitler eat his words about Arian supremacy in another. But they could still hear Mr. Jim Crow and Mr. Separate But Equal talkin’ loud and clear. “Go on boy, take a sip over that there bubbler. The one marked ‘Coloreds.’ An’ then go sit in the back of that bus. Don’t you be lookin’ at me when I’m talkin’ to you, boy!” Familiarity with the Emmitt Till, Medgar Evers, and Birmingham, Alabama church bombing cases leads to an understanding of why African-Americans celebrated the O.J. verdict.

In 1948, the year after Jackie Robinson became the first black ballplayer since Moses Fleetwood Walker in 1885 to wear a major league uniform, President Harry S. Truman ordered the Armed Forces of the United States integrated. Six years later the Supreme Court ruled null and void the concept that equality could be achieved by separateness. In 2006 it can be said that the military, perceived as one of the most conservative institutions of long standing reputation in this country, is a bellwether of social change that has swept over this country during the last forty years.

And finally, 106 years after James Webster Smith became the first African-American granted an appointment to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, women joined the long grey line in 1976. And they aren't doing girl's pushups neither.

Now follows the story of 2nd Lt. Emily Perez of Fort Washington, Maryland.

West Point Mourns a Font Of Energy, Laid to Rest by War
Joshua Partlow and Lonnae O'Neal Parker
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, September 27, 2006; Page A01

WEST POINT, N.Y., Sept. 26 -- They remember
Emily Perez
They see her sprinting the third leg for Army's 400-meter relay team. Or in the school's gospel choir, filling her lungs and opening her mouth to sing.

2nd Lieut. Emily Perez
(Family Photo - Family Photo)
2nd Lt. Emily J.T. Perez
1983: Born in Heidelberg, Germany. Father and grandfather both served in the U.S. Army.
1998: Moved with family to Fort Washington. While a high school student, pushed for an HIV-AIDS ministry at Peace Baptist Church in the District and was honored as an AIDS educator by the American Red Cross.
2001: Graduated from Oxon Hill High School. Enrolled in the U.S. Military Academy at West Point Ran track and sang in the gospel choir. Was the first minority female command sergeant in West Point history.
2005: Graduated from West Point in the top 10 percent of her class. Was assigned to the 204th Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division. Deployed to Iraq in December as a Medical Service Corps officer.
Sept. 12, 2006: Killed in Kifl by an improvised explosive device, the first female West Point graduate to die in Iraq.

Emily J.T. Perez, a determined 23-year-old from Prince George's County, rose to the top of her high school class and then became the first minority female command sergeant in the history of the U.S. Military Academy.
Now she has another distinction. The second lieutenant was buried Tuesday at the academy, the first female graduate of West Point to die in Iraq. Perez, a platoon leader, was killed while patrolling southern Iraq near Najaf on Sept. 12 when a roadside bomb exploded under her Humvee.
And at the service on the high bluffs along the Hudson River, her former fellow cadets, the younger women who looked up to Perez and now are preparing to follow her path, were still learning from her.
"The fact that she's died -- it makes what's going on in the Middle [East] . . . so much more real. I mean, here at West Point, it's kind of like Camelot, you know -- everything just seems to work," Sylvia Amegashie, 21, of Woodbridge, co-captain of West Point's track team, said as she stood on the cemetery grass, holding back tears. "What happened to her, being out there in Iraq, it's real. Her death really makes everything seem more like it's going to happen."
"For me, yeah, like, it's just an eye-opener," agreed Meghan Venable-Thomas, 21, a senior who also ran track and sang in the choir with Perez, who graduated last year. "She was like a little superwoman . . . so full of energy and life, and she was just willing to do anything."
Perez was born into a military family in Heidelberg, Germany, and moved to Fort Washington in 1998. A woman repeatedly described as focused, tenacious and passionate, she was an avid reader from a young age and eventually finished near the top of her class at Oxon Hill High School. From early on, she wanted to be a soldier, her friends recalled, and she became wing commander of Junior ROTC at Oxon Hill.
"She was the cream of the crop," said Nathaniel Laney, Perez's high school track coach and now assistant principal at Oxon Hill. "This wasn't some average Joe."
Her nickname was Kobe, family friend E. Faith Bell said, because everyone knew she could make the shots, in whatever she did.
While in high school, working with the District's Peace Baptist Church, Perez helped begin an HIV-AIDS ministry after family members contracted the virus.
One of her mentors, Roger Pollard, who worked with her when she volunteered with the Alexandria Red Cross HIV-AIDS peer education program, recalled her remarkable ability to stay focused -- always on time, always ready to work. She shared with other teenagers her stories about people close to her living with the depression and stigma of AIDS.
"She was sensitive to the suffering of others" but tough-minded, Pollard said. "I clearly remember thinking that she would definitely be the first female president of this country."
After graduating from West Point, she was assigned to the Army's 204th Support Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 4th Infantry Division and deployed to Iraq in December. Before she left, she spoke with Laney, her high school track coach. He gave her a journal to write everything down when she wanted to clear her head.
"She was like, 'I'll be okay. Don't worry about me.' That was just the confidence she had in herself," he said.
Her godfather, the pastor of Peace Baptist Church, remembered that same time in Perez's life.
"She was resilient. Her spirit was calm. She was resolute. She believed . . . the real tragedy is to not live while you are alive," said the Rev. Michael Bell, Faith Bell's husband.
She was the 64th female member of the U.S. military to be killed in Iraq or Afghanistan and the 40th West Point graduate killed since Sept. 11, 2001. Another female West Point graduate, Laura M. Walker of the Class of 2003, was killed in Afghanistan last year.
Her family chose to hold the funeral at West Point because of Perez's reverence for the institution that challenged her physically and mentally, Michael Bell said.
At the cemetery, in a quiet corner of campus beneath Storm King Mountain, the warm September sun glinted off the silver tubas of the marching band and lighted the rustling leaves' various shades of flame.
Dozens of uniformed men and women gathered in the crowd: West Point's track team, its gospel choir, former classmates and fellow soldiers. When the hearse pulled up to Perez's grave site -- in Section 36, near those of several other young graduates -- the crowd saluted the flag-draped coffin in near perfect unison.
The family, including parents Vicki and Daniel Perez, sat on 10 folding chairs under a small tent facing the coffin, daubing their eyes.
"Honor guard! Attention!"
The guard assembled around the coffin.
"Do not stand at my grave and weep, I am not there, I do not sleep," Michael Bell read from a poem. "I am a thousand winds that blow. I am the diamond glint of snow. I am the sunlight on ripened grain. I am the gentle autumn rain."
Then West Point Chaplain Darrell Thomsen addressed Perez.
"In your short time here, you stood the watch with duty, with honor," he said. "Your work on earth is done."
Five guns fired in unison three times. The bugler and the drummer played taps. The bagpiper wailed "Amazing Grace." The marching band finished with the "Alma Mater."
After it was over, Faith Bell reflected on what Perez will be remembered for.
"Her tenacity," Bell said. "Her passion for life. One of the things that was important to Emily was not the fear of death but the fear of not living."

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

So what do you do to save sunken ship from deteriorating after you have rescued it from the bottom of the ocean? Apparently you give it a bath for several years. Me, I turn into a prune after a couple of hours but supposedly it works for metals.

A couple intersting items of note from this article - the Navy had to approve of the plan, this might delay Clemson University from building a proposed expansion campus on the site where the Hunley is currently at and the Hunley Museum will have to be delayed too.

Read more here.

Here is a nice article about what archeologists have found while sifting through two tons of ocean sand that collected in the Monitor during its years under water. Its amazing how everyday items from the past become treasures to the future.

Read more here.

Yesterday, I forgot to give a link to the Timrod Library’s website and wanted to rectify that mistake.

The website has some nice pictures of the inside and outside of the building as well as a more detailed history of the library.

Take a few minutes and explore this organization that has kept Henry Timrod’s name alive for almost a century.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The following is a letter written by Edward J. Loker to his father Charles in Cochituate, MA.

Long Island

Wensday, August 26 [1863]

This morning we started abought eight o clock from concord [Mass] and when we got to Boston we were marched to the wharf and went on to the steamer. When we got to the island we marched up on to it and had our knapsacks searched and then we put up our tent. In the tent with me is gaarfield…parmeter, and a fellow from chelmsford [Mass.] In the next tent is Severence. There is some New Yorger [sic] on the island but they ar well guarded. Some tried to git away last night. We expect to go to alexandria [Virginia] this week but i will take good care of my self.

You neadent wright any of you until you hear from me again. There is abough a thousand on the island.

August 27 to day we drilled some not much, just enough to see which was the laziest. Some of the substitutes stop to think before they answer their names and this will do for the first letter

Edward Loker

I shall write better when I git use to it.

Thursday August 27

This after noon struck our tents expecting to go to night but we did not. You had better not come down any of you because we may go at any hour and you cant git on to the island without a pass.

I recently obtained Loker’s letter through an eBay auction, which Marion, who resides in Indiana, was kind enough to offer for bid. I have to admit to this, I did not stumble on the letter by chance, and didn’t buy it because I thought it might be neat to own a letter written during the Civil War. I have very specific search criteria that I use for eBay and immediately recognized the name by the fact that Edward J. Loker was a member Co. H of the 18th Massachusetts Infantry. That was enough for me to hold my breath in hope that I’d have the winning bid. Loker’s letter is now, in a sense, home again and won’t be going anywhere anytime soon.

On the surface of things the letter seems pretty straight forward and not very informative, i.e. he writes about marching from Concord to Boston, taking a boat to Long Island in Boston Harbor, pitching a tent, mentions a couple of names, participates in a drill, estimates the number of men, writes of men from New York trying to skedaddle, takes down his tent when it’s rumored they’re heading South, and tells his family not to bother visiting him. Underneath the surface and with a little digging the letter fleshes out and becomes a remarkable document.

Edward J. Loker was born April 22, 1842 at Wayland, MA, the third of seven children born to Charles and Zemiah C. (Hammond) Loker. His father, Charles, was born in Wayland, MA on March 26, 1799 to Isaac and Betsey. Loker, was a 36 year old Farmer from Wayland when he married Zemiah, then 16 years old, at Natick, MA on June 24, 1835. She was born November 27, 1818 at Natick, her parents being unknown at this time. The couple’s other six children, all born in Wayland, were Charles, born ca. 1836; James, born ca. 1839; Alfred, born ca. 1846; Helen, born ca. 1847; Willard, born ca. 1849; and Isadore, born ca. 1852 and who died in 1867.

In 1860 all the children were unmarried and resided at home. Both Edward and Alfred worked the farm with their father, while Charles and James were employed as Shoemakers. Charles Loker’s real estate was valued at $5240, while his personal estate was $300, making him financially better off than most of his immediate neighbors.

Edward was drafted in the Concord District for three years service on July 18, 1863 and mustered in that same day. It’s possible that he may not have been the one from his family drafted. It could have been his brother Charles or James. Under a provision of the draft law, a father could make the decision as to which son would go and which would stay home. In most cases it was purely an economic decision, based on whose loss would have the least impact on the family’s fortunes. For others looking to avoid the draft, if they had an extra $300 in their pocket they could buy their way out by purchasing a substitute.

Long Island, at a mile and three-quarters in length and a quarter mile in width, is the largest in a chain of islands that dot Boston Harbor. It’s undergone numerous incarnations since white settlers first began farming it in the early 1630’s and most recently housed a number of the city’s social service functions, including a homeless shelter. During the Revolutionary War it was a strategic location for American artillery to fire on British ships during a three-month blockade. By 1850 the soil had been exhausted, all timber cut, and a resort community had failed, leaving the island virtually abandoned, all signs of civilization reduced to little more than a manned lighthouse. The Civil War brought the island back to life, when it was established as a training ground for Massachusetts troops. Members of the 3rd, 4th, and 9th regiments all received their introduction to the army’s way of doing things before sailing to Virginia. When the draft was instituted in 1863, Officers and Non-Commissioned Officers at Camp Wrightman, were charged with turning reluctant civilians into well drilled soldiers, capable of wheeling right or responding to the long roll of the drum when sounded.

The island was an ideal location for a training facility. Separated from the mainland by close to a mile of water, it was an effective deterrent to the large-scale bounty jumping that plagued other camps. Still, the number of reported drownings was evidence that more than a few were willing to take their chances rather than serve their country.

Loker, one of 117 draftees assigned to the 18th Massachusetts, reached the Regiment’s camp near Beverly Ford, VA on Wednesday, September 7, 1863 and was assigned to Company H. The bounty jumpers, thwarted in Boston, didn’t waste any time, as seven hightailed it out of camp within the first week, including John Carlisle, Frank Curtis, Henry Osborne, and Michael Summers, all of Company B, and all on the 13th of September. The following day John Robinson and Johan Rock made good their opportunity. Sgt. William P. Alderman of Co. I, commenting on the quality of the draftees stated, “They were mostly a poor lot as far as I observed them, and the government was the party to suffer.”

Among the 117 were the three men mentioned by Loker in his letter home, Marshall Garfield, Edwin S. Parmenter, and Ephraim F. Severance, the former two being assigned to Co. H with Loker, while the latter became a member of Company I.

Garfield was born Nov. 1, 1832 in Weston, MA, the son of Francis and Dorcas (Stratton) Garfield. He was a 30-year-old Shoe Finisher from Wayland, MA, when he was drafted at Concord, MA and mustered into the 18th Mass. Infantry on July 18, 1863. He was engaged with the regiment at Rappahannock Station in November 1863 and wounded in the right shoulder at Spottsylvania, VA (Laurel Hill per regimental records) on May 8, 1864. He was treated at hospitals in Baltimore, New Haven, CT, and Readville, MA. He was transferred, with the remnants of the Regiment, to Co. E, 32nd Mass. Infantry on Oct. 21, 1864 and mustered out of military service with the 32nd Mass. Infantry on June 29, 1865. Garfield returned to work as Shoe finisher in Wayland following his military service. His first wife Emily L. (Hammond) Garfield, died of Sencothemia on Jan. 7, 1865. Garfield married for a second time to Nancy J. Schleicher, a 35-year-old widow, at Wayland, MA on March 19, 1866. He died at age 61 of chronic diarrhea and rheumatism at Wayland on Sept. 20, 1891.

Edwin S. Parmenter was born Aug. 19, 1844 at Sudbury, MA, the son of Charles and Fanny Parmenter. He was a 19-year-old Farmer from Sudbury, MA, when he was drafted on August 22, 1863 and mustered that same day into the 18th Mass. Infantry. He was severely wounded at the Chickahominy River, VA on June 7, 1864 and succumbed to his wounds at White House Landing, VA on June 9, 1864. Parmenter's remains were returned to Sudbury, MA and interred at Mt. Pleasant Cemetery.

Ephraim F. Severance was born at Meredith, NH, the son of Peter Severance. He was a 21-year-old Shoemaker who was drafted at Concord, MA and mustered on July 16, 1863. He was engaged with the regiment at Rappahannock Station, VA on Nov. 7, 1863. He was reported to have straggled while on the march on May 4, 1864 and was reported absent without leave. Declared a deserter from the regiment, the Muster Rolls for Co. I state, however, "Straggled on the march May 4, 1864. Prisoner of war." Peter Severance, then age 70, filed a claim for pension benefits as a Dependent Father on Jan. 27, 1871. He declared in a deposition that his son died at Andersonville Prison on Sept. 15, 1864. A report from the Adjutant General's Office dated Feb. 2, 1871 stated that Prisoner of War Records did not furnish any information. Additionally, Andersonville records do not list him as a prisoner. A decision was never made with regard to Peter Severance's pension claim, and was marked "Abandoned, " an indication that he died.

Edward J. Loker was a small man, even for the time, standing just 5 feet 3 ½ inches tall. In the bitter cold that swept across Virginia during the Mine Run Campaign in November 1863, when it was reported that soldiers literally froze to death, when short rations nearly caused mass starvation among Union troops, Loker struggled to keep up and finally fell out of the ranks on or about November 27th. He was a sitting duck as a straggler and was captured by Confederate troops on the aforementioned date.

He was most probably taken to Richmond and confined at Belle Isle, however this has not been confirmed. What is known is that he was transferred to Andersonville and didn’t survive. Loker succumbed to Dysentery 11 days shy of his 22nd birthday, the 479th man to die inside the infamous stockade. Over 12,000 Union prisoners would follow his fate and find their final rest in the National Cemetery.

Photo of Edward J. Loker's Grave by Donald Thompson
It seems a lot of people have been talking about the accusation that Bob Dylan may have done a bit of plagiarism on his most recent album.

Although it may seem like old news, I was a bit busy and wanted to touch upon two areas, Bob’s reaction to plagiarism in the past and the poet himself.

Too be honest, I would like to hear Bob’s take on this. He has been known to go after at least one group in the past for “borrowing his lyrics” so it would seem he was against the practice. In 1995 he settled out of court with the then Pop Supergroup “Hootie and the Blowfish” for using lyrics of one of his song – even though the lyrics in question even had the intro “Put on a little Dylan”. And although it was never announced what the settlement was; one could only presume that money was involved. Maybe, because of his past run-ins, we will see a donation towards something involved with the poet Timrod or the Civil War– or maybe it will all blow over and be forgotten.

This could also be a great case of “what comes around, goes around.” Both Timrod and Hootie and the Blowfish are from South Carolina. Could it be that this is South Carolina’s revenge on Dylan for going after its famous sons?

The other piece I would like to touch on is Timrod’s legacy. Most articles seemed to hit hard on the “largely forgotten poet from the South” but as with most memories – it’s all about one’s perspective. Located a bit outside of Charleston is the small town of Summerville – and quite a few people know and remember Henry Timrod, at the very least they know his name due to The Timrod Library. Not far from the old downtown area – yes even in the era of big box strip malls, some towns still have a thriving downtown, one can find a small brick building that seems to fit into the surrounding houses quite well. The only thing that makes it stand out is the white wooden sign proclaiming its name.

This is a library from a different era, before public libraries existed and local governments paid for such enmities. It is from a time when local citizens would lend books to friends; some would even create libraries in their homes and allow fellow townsmen in to read. As they would get more popular, they would often get a building specifically for the library and would grow – at least until the public libraries started to show up. Most are gone but the Timrod is still here and seems to be thriving. In order to take advantage of the library one has to pay a membership fee but it’s a small one - just $15 a year. Perhaps that is why it still thrives, even though a public library was built just a few miles away some 30 years ago. There is only one other in the Charleston area that I am aware of – The Charleston Library Society, a quaint institution founded in 1748.

Timrod can trace its history to a reading circle of young woman that was found in 1897 as the Chautauqua Reading Circle. In 1908, they donated their books and chartered their membership library. With the help of donated land from the town of Summerville and the work of a local contractor, they were able to build and open the library building that still stands and is used today.

The connection to Timrod starts in 1908, when during the chartering process the group decided to rename itself to honor the poet. Per its website, “When the library was chartered, the founding group renamed the reading circle the Henry Timrod Literary and Library Society honoring the South Carolina poet who, according to unconfirmed local tradition taught here in the years before the Civil War. Because of the profound impression his wartime poetry made on civilians and soldiers alike, Henry Timrod became known as the Laureate of the Confederacy.”
So, for almost 100 years the citizens of Summerville have been remembering the poet that all but a famous songwriter had forgotten. If nothing else, maybe the next few years will see some more people know about him, due to a songwriter from far away.
Tonight sees the second lecture in the Daniel Library Friends book and lecture series. If you are in the area, this is a great way to learn a bit more about the city and it's role in the Civil War.

Charleston Prepares to Defend Itself
Tuesday Sept. 26
Lectures begin at 6:30 p.m. in Bond Hall Room 165

Dr. Kyle Sinisi, associate professor of History at The Citadel, will set the stage for the battle for Charleston, describing the defenses of the city, its position and the key leaders including Gen. Robert E. Lee, Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, Editor Robert Barnwell Rhett, and Maj. Robert Anderson.

Monday, September 25, 2006

We got such a nice response on the showing of Private Joyner's gravestone, it will become a somewhat regular addition to the blog.

Charles Whiting Carroll: the son of Sanford and Harriet (Whiting) Carroll, he was born in Dedham, MA on May 31, 1836. He graduated from Dartmouth College in 1859 and then pursued a career in law after graduation by reading law with T.L. Wakefield, Esq. He was admitted to the Suffolk Bar in March 1861 and married Lucy Marie Farwell, age 21 of Foxboro, the daughter of John and Lucy (Stratton), at Foxboro, MA on July 30, 1861.

He was commissioned a First Lieutenant on April 19, 1861 and was mustered into Company F, 18th Mass. Infantry as a Private on August 24, 1861. He was promoted to the rank of Captain and placed in command of Co. F on Oct. 29, 1861 succeeding Henry Onion, who had resigned his commission. He was engaged with the Regiment at Yorktown, Peninsula Campaign, and as Captain of Company F was mortally wounded at the battle of Second Bull Run on August 30, 1862.

In the charge at Second Bull Run he acted as Lt. Colonel of the Regiment. While retiring from the field and bringing up the rear, he was struck in shoulder blade by a ball. He was left behind in the confusion of the retreat and lingered on the field for two days after being wounded. He was buried on the field, however his remains were subsequently exhumed and reburied in the Village Cemetery at Dedham.

The Charles Whiting Carroll Grand Army of the Republic Post No. 144 in Dedham was named in his honor. His wife Lucy, age 22, applied for a Widow's pension on Oct. 19, 1862 and was issued benefits of $20.00 per month. Lucy Carroll remarried to Jared N. Hayes on June 30, 1875.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Cubicle 2161, located on the second floor of the District of Columbia’s Child Protective Services building, is where I spend more of my waking hours than even I care to admit to. My immediate neighbors deal with finding foster care placements for abused or neglected children or sending packets of information to other States when children reside outside the boundaries of the City. Me? Somehow, someway, someone thought I was good with computers and in collecting and inputting data, so the years of conducting investigations, carrying a caseload, or scrambling to find a foster home for a child are behind me. I’ve done just about every job imaginable within a Public Child Welfare Agency I possibly could, with the exception of adoptions, and I’ve experienced just about everything there is to experience, with the exception of, knock wood, a dead child. I’ve seen things I wish I had never seen and been exposed to situations I wish I was still ignorant of. I call our place of work “the most sorrowful building” in Washington. I’ve posted a quotation by Abraham Lincoln in my cubicle, which is very apropos to an agency such as mine. “In this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to all; and, to the young, it comes with bitterest agony, because it takes them unawares.”

I’ve often joked with people that I fell into this line of work as a form of penance for the sins of a tenth great-grandfather named Reuben Guppy. I am not making this up. His name really was Reuben Guppy. And there is proof in Salem, Massachusetts Court records that he was flogged for making a false allegation against a neighbor, swearing on oath the accused had carnal relations with a sheep. That was a serious charge to make against anyone in the early 1600’s, as a conviction carried the death penalty. There’s also a record of his involvement in an attempted robbery in Salem, his daughter Barbara being among his accomplices. Following his conviction, it didn’t matter to the authorities that Reuben was in his 80’s. They took him out to the public square and “whupped” him again. My penance comes into play because Reuben’s children were taken away and given to other families to raise. I don’t know the reason why that happened, but it had to be for a very good reason, i.e. Reuben and his wife must have been doing something God awful to them. Beating them half to death? Starving them? Encouraging them to engage in delinquent behavior? I don’t know, but it was probably something along those lines.

By the nature of my present job I have a constant stream of visitors to my cubicle. And either on their first or second visit there are always questions or comments about how I’ve decorated the space. There’s a mixture of curiosity or instant recognition of the subject matter. The usual question with regard to the pictures of the men I have attached to overhead cabinets is whether they’re relatives (it has to be my long moustache) and, for the knowing, whether I’m a Civil War buff.

The reactions are drawn by virtue of the fact that Cubicle 2161 is quite simply a shrine to the 18th Massachusetts Infantry. I have pictures everywhere, all carefully backed by magnets and all carefully arranged on metal cabinets. There are pictures of officers, of enlisted men, of graves, and a 20 by 30 inch photo of the Regimental flag. I’ve learned to be brief when providing an explanation, because I found if I got carried away with enthusiasm people developed “glassy eyed syndrome,” and began looking for a means of escape. People are polite and receptive when given small doses of information, but panic when inundated. I’ve learned what’s very interesting to me is not necessarily interesting to others. Still every now and then I find someone who really does share an interest in the Civil War and not long ago had a fairly lengthy discussion about John Brown with a co-worker. And, oh yes, I should not forgot to mention my 15 ounce photo mug, which has ten pictures related to the Regiment decaled on the side. I have just one problem, though. I have lots more pictures, but I’ve run out of magnetic sheets and the local Dollar Store hasn’t stocked any in the past couple of months. I suppose I should just break down and order them off the Net.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

I’m sure I’m not the only one whose mind works this way, i.e. you’re thinking about one thing and that thought leads to something totally unconnected to the original thought. In this case I was searching for a download of Gordon Lightfoot’s song Canadian Railway Trilogy, a song that holds personal meaning because of an event that happened several years ago on September 22nd. There were a lot of other thoughts I connected to that night, including the sound of a U2 concert emanating from Foxboro Stadium, miles from a parking lot I was walking through. But mostly my thoughts were centered on a life that expired that night and the significance of Lightfoot’s song in remembering that life.

The song, in case you’re not familiar with it, is about the building of the railroad system in Canada. And so the thoughts occur. A song. A railroad. A different life.

On January 22, 1864 William O. Pope, a 21 year old private from Company K of the 18th Massachusetts Infantry, having secured a furlough from the General Hospital at Annapolis, MD, boarded a train for the trip home to Quincy, MA. Pope, who had seen action at Fredericksburg and was Court Martialed, along with 17 other men from the Regiment, for straggling during Burnside’s “Mud March,” had been under medical treatment for Typhoid Fever, a disease he contracted shortly after this blundering movement by Union troops in January 1863. Now he was headed home for the first time since his muster on August 24, 1861.

At some time between nine and eleven o’clock p.m. and seventy-five miles north of Annapolis, Pope got off the train just outside the town of North East, Maryland. There was no one to explain why Pope disembarked, although there was later speculation that he was suffering from some delusion related to his illness. Regardless of the reasons, he began walking in the direction of light coming from the McCullough Iron Works on the edge of the town. His path brought him onto ice that coated the North East River, ice that held his weight until he was about half way across. And then his cries for help were heard by workers from the Iron Works. By the time they were able to respond the only evidence of a soul in trouble was a kepi lying next to a hole in the broken ice. The men labored for the next three hours until they finally succeeded in pulling Pope’s body from the river. The coroner, who was called out at 2 a.m., identified the body through papers found on the deceased.

Pope’s journey home was completed due to generosity of the townspeople of North East, who contributed money to pay the cost of transporting his remains to Massachusetts. It’s unknown who claimed the coffin at the Quincy train station, but most probably it was his parents Ozias and Maria.

In a time when parents relied on their sons to support them in their later years, the death of an only son had to be, not only an emotional loss, but, also, a devastating economic blow. William Pope had played the role of the dutiful son both before and during his military service by contributing his pay to the household, monies desperately needed due to the fact that his father had been permanently disabled in 1860 when thrown from a carriage. Ozias Pope’s condition would worsen in 1865 when he suffered a paralytic shock, which caused total paralysis.

Maria Pope turned to one of the few government assistance programs available to individuals or families in 1865 by applying for a pension based on the death of her son. The government was not so sympathetic that it simply handed money to every one who claimed a loss. She had to establish the fact that somehow a death by drowning was connected to her son’s military service and that she had been dependent on William for income. With the assistance of a lawyer and affidavits from Capt. Benjamin O. Meservey of Company K, the Cecil County, Maryland Coroner, and others familiar with the family’s circumstances, she was able to prove to the Pension Bureau’s satisfaction that she was worthy of the eight dollars a month they granted her.

Two years ago, on one of my trips north from the Washington area to New England, I took an exit off Route 95 and drove about eight miles into the town of North East. There’s nothing left of the McCullough Iron Works and the river itself has narrowed over time, so that at its widest point, as it nears the town and measured by its closest proximity to the railroad line, it's probably a hundred feet wide. I used some landmarks, but primarily my imagination to recreate Pope’s journey and standing on a bridge looked down into green, algae covered water that witnessed the final breath of a man’s life.

Friday, September 22, 2006

I had a friend once you once posed this question – “Don’t you hate it when real world responsibilities interfere with you fun time?”

Well unfortunately between work, being sick and two of my kids starting up Pee Wee football, the blog has not been updated too much lately.

Don’t worry, it will be back on track soon – including a couple of notes on some books, a look at an old fort and maybe a few things not dealing with the war too.

Talk to you soon.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Funny how reporters can make opening a door seem cool and neat. In this case, it’s the rear hatch of the CSS Hunley – the hatch that the sailors used to enter the submarine. Honestly, it really is a good story and makes one think about how brave the sailors must have been just to enter the sub, much less sail in it.

Down the hatch

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Ever have one of those days when life interferes with what you really want to do?

Well that happened to me last night. I was really hoping to go see Professor Poole give his lecture at The Citadel’s Daniel Library Friends book and lecture series but instead was thrown several obstacles that proved to be more than my match.

I did end up watching the 1978 movie version of Richard Adams' "Watership Down" which brought back a lot of memories and questions about good and bad rabbits from my four year old. Adams also wrote Traveller - a nice book from the point of view of General Lee's horse. So I did get a bit of Civil War in, just not exactly how I hoped.

So instead of writing a post on the lecture, I have grabbed a summary from the publisher’s website. You can view a review from Civil War News.

I can only hope that life calms down a bit and lets me go to the next lecture.

South Carolina’s Civil War - A Narrative History
W. Scott Poole

A history of the Civil War in the state where it all started

South Carolina’s Civil War provides a much-needed synthesis of a wealth of work by social, cultural, and military historians. Using a narrative approach to his controversial topic, the author makes the central issues of the conflict in the Palmetto state accessible to the lay reader. The book explores some of the more colorful personalities of the Civil War era, including Francis W. Pickens, Lucy Holcombe Pickens, Wade Hampton, Robert Smalls, and Robert Barnwell Rhett. Together, these very different figures’ personal stories tell a larger story of a state whose white leadership chose treason over the end of slavery and slaves became free people.

Ideal for classroom use, this well-written narrative is concise, readable, and insightful, delving into the Civil War history of the state where the war began. Never has such a balanced and thorough look at South Carolina’s part in the struggle been made available.

W. Scott Poole, a native of Anderson and Pickens counties in South Carolina, teaches South Carolina history at the College of Charleston. He is the author of a previous work on South Carolina in the nineteenth century and writes a monthly column on pop culture in the South for He lives in Charleston with Shiloh, his Labrador retriever.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

One of the few Civil War related things in Charleston that I participate in, is the Daniel Library Friends book and lecture series. And although the press release came a bit late this year (it’s dated August but came out September 11th and the PR person still thinks it is 2005) I was very happy to see that the Fall Season starts today.

There are quite a few interesting topics this semester, including tonight’s “Was War Inevitable?” by Dr. Scott Poole of the College of Charleston and author of “South Carolina’s Civil War, A Narrative History”; the “Attack on Fort Sumter” by Park Historian Rick Hatcher; "The Siege of Charleston and the Blockade Runners" by Dr. Stephen Wise, director of the Museum at Parris Island and author of
“Gate of Hell: The Campaign for Charleston Harbor 1863” and the one I am most liking forward to “The Civil War with Artist Mort Künstler”

If you are in Charleston, you owe it to yourself to attend one if not all of the events.

"South Carolina Goes to War"

“South Carolina Goes to War” is the theme of the fall 2005 Daniel Library Friends book and lecture series.

Created in 1996, The Daniel Library Friends’ book and lecture series is responsible for bringing many noted authors and lecturers to the college and tri-county community. All programs are free and open to the public. Refreshments are served and many events include book-signing opportunities.
Lectures begin at 6:30 p.m. in Bond Hall Room 165 unless otherwise noted. Some events require registration.

Most of this year’s lectures will focus on how South Carolina, in particular Charleston, got involved in the Civil War, what happened in terms of troop movements, battles, people caught behind the lines, and finally the leaders, both Confederate and Union who determined the course of the Civil War in South Carolina.

“It is surprising, but the Civil War still resonates with Charlestonians and Citadel alumni. Many Charlestonians have grandparents who fought in the war or lost life and land in the war. It still informs how we think of ourselves and our past,” said Angie LeClercq, Director of The Citadel’s Daniel Library and Daniel Library Friends coordinator. “The South experienced the destructive effects of war including pillage, plunder, deaths, and women and children caught behind the lines. For African Americans the war brought freedom. For all of these reasons, and especially when our country is engaged as it is in war, our own experience with the Civil War is germane to a military school.”

Was War Inevitable?
Tuesday, Sept. 12
Dr. Scott Poole of the College of Charleston and author of “South Carolina’s Civil War, A Narrative History”will address the causes of the Civil War, the election of Lincoln, and the Secession Convention.

Charleston Prepares to Defend Itself
Tuesday Sept. 26
Dr. Kyle Sinisi, associate professor of History at The Citadel, will set the stage for the battle for Charleston, describing the defenses of the city, its position and the key leaders including Gen. Robert E. Lee, Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, Editor Robert Barnwell Rhett, and Maj. Robert Anderson.

The Attack on Fort Sumter
Tuesday Oct. 10
Rick Hatcher, the historian for the Fort Sumter National Monument, will describe the momentous action of April 1861 with the Confederate attack on Fort Sumter. Hatcher is known nationally for his work at Fort Sumter.

General Wade Hampton Defends Columbia, 1865
Tuesday, Oct. 24
Dr. Rod Andrew of Clemson University will trace Hampton’s attitudes to war and secession with attention to his defense of Columbia in 1865. Hampton was the highest ranking Confederate general from South Carolina.

Picnic at Medway Plantation
Sunday Nov. 12
On the banks of the Back River, Medway Plantationis especially beautiful in fall. Call 843-953-7691 for reservations. Cost: $60 per person. Limit of 50 people. Leaving The Citadel at 3 p.m.
The Siege of Charleston and the Blockade Runners

Tuesday, Nov. 14
Dr. Stephen Wise, director of the Museum at Parris Island and author of “Gate of Hell: The Campaign for Charleston Harbor 1863,” will address the blockade of the harbor by the Union squadron under Rear Adm. John A. Dahlgren, and the attack on Morris Island in 1863 – a crucial battle for Charleston since it was the South’s premier blockade running port, and the Union invested time and money in its bombardments of the city.
Castle Gardens in Scotland and England

Tuesday, Nov. 28
Angie LeClercq, Director of the Daniel Library, will take you on an arm chair tour of Castle gardens in Scotland and England with visits to Culzean, Threave, Kinross, Drummond, Newby and Levens castle gardens. Book signing.

The Civil War with Artist Mort Künstler
Sunday, Dec. 3
Famed Civil War artist Mort Künstler will talk about his famous paintings, highlighting the essentials that make these dramatic events lifelike. Reception and book signing.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Awhile back, Dimitri at Civil War Bookshelf, posted about Meigs and the part he played in the building of the Capital Building.

At the same time I was reading While in the hands of the enemy: Military Prisons of the Civil War by Charles W. Sanders Jr., where Meigs has a rather juicy role – so I was interested at the bottom of the post which had the following to say:
Meigs, the engineer, eventually practiced architecture designing a "lodge" for habitation by cemetery superintendents (as shown, here).

Following the hyperlink, I learned that 23 of the original lodges still existed, while some 33 where either demolished and rebuilt or just demolished.

Beaufort was listed as demolished and rebuilt in 1933, so while looking for Private Joyner’s grave, I made sure to look at the lodge too.

As you can see, besides being brick, two stories and a basement, they don’t look quite the same. As a matter of fact when I first looked at it, I thought it looked like a brick barn.

Guess I'll have to make a trek to one of the other 23 cemeteries that still have a true lodge to get a real feel.

And don't worry - this will be the last Beaufort National Cemetery post for awhile - although I do have another Beaufort post coming soon.

Friday, September 08, 2006

My camera’s user guide.

Perhaps then I will know how to take pictures without the dates ruining them.

Oh well, looks like I will be heading to the Beaufort National Cemetery sometime in the future…
For most of my life, it was a landmark used when giving directions

An area surrounded by brick wall, with only the gate area allowing you to see the gravestones as you passed by driving from one point to the other – it just happened to be a place you might happen to see out of the corner of your eye as you fought traffic.

The 11 years that I lived in Beaufort, the closest I came to going in was standing at the back wall while helping build the Beaufort High School float for the Christmas parade. Twenty years later, I don’t necessarily remember looking over the shoulder high wall and viewing the grounds but I am sure I did. Just as sure as it really didn’t hit me with what I was actually looking at.

Now, as an adult – this has changed, I have finally visited the Beaufort National Cemetery and wish I had done so much earlier.

My parents and a sister still live in Beaufort, so I do still visit the town. Normally, the most I see of it is the same track down Highway 21, past the Marine Corps Air Station where the Great Santini (and now buried at the National Cemetery) was stationed, hang a right onto Ribault Road and after a few miles turn into the subdivision that leads to my parent’s home.

Often I comment to my wife on the slight changes, wishing that things were still the same so that I could visit Ambers Bookstore (best used book and comic book store anywhere) or eat at the Village Inn but stores close and new things take their place. Once there, we rarely go anywhere unless it’s to the local grocery store – now a Piggly Wiggly not the A&P I grew up with – until we head back for the Charleston area.

This visit was a bit different; I wanted to go to the cemetery to visit a soldier’s grave. So after spending some time with my family and helping my father do some wood work, I took my two sons, aged 11 and 9 and headed to the cemetery. I knew the grave number for Private Joyner but figured it would be hard to find the actual plot, so warned my kids we may have a trek once we got into the cemetery – not something I was looking forward too in the 95+ degree weather. They though, thought of it as an adventure – oh the joys of youth.

Luckily as I pulled through the gates, which had not changed since the last time I had driven by a few years ago and barely noticed them, I noticed a small parking lot with a box clearly marked Grave Locator. In a matter of minutes, I knew exactly where Private Joyner was buried.

An interesting thing about the Beaufort National Cemetery, it was established in 1863 by President Lincoln (although the first internees were buried after the Battle of Port Royal in 1861) during the height of the Civil War while Beaufort was a Union occupied town well within the Confederacy - south of Charleston and north of Savannah.

As my sons and I walked towards the grave site, I couldn’t help but notice the symmetry of the grave markers, spreading out from the center of the entrance gates.

A plaque with Lincoln’s Gettysburg address had a prominent location and two of the streets had a pure southern touch, one shaded with an avenue of oaks, while the other had parallel rows Palmetto trees, the state tree.

I also noticed that when the cemetery was first built, the grave plots were much larger. Although Private Joyner’s was plot 1327, there were a couple of graves between his and 1328. As more soldiers died, the space became needed and the plots became smaller.

Many of the soldiers near his grave had no death information, victims of the Confederate Prison system. They were lucky that they were not buried in a mass grave near the Prisoner of War Camp they died in. Joyner was strong enough to survive Andersonville but died of disease in Camp Lawton, Georgia.

After taking a few pictures, my oldest son, asked if we could leave, “this place is a little eerie Daddy,” was how he put it. So we went to the car, I started it up and left the AC running and took some pictures of the front gate, came back to the car and instead of leaving, decided to drive to a rather large monument towards the back of the cemetery.

I think, ending the post with its picture and message would be best.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

One of the better things our group has done, at least in my opinion, is our collection of tombstones. No, not the actual tombstone but instead pictures of all the members of the unit that we have been able to find.

When you read that a soldier died at some battle or as a prisoner it just does not seem to have the impact as that of staring at a rectangle of white stone/marble and read that underneath your feet lays the remains of a soldier who fought for this great land. Standing amongst the collection of tombstones, surrounded by thousands of individual monuments to death, stirs something deep in one's soul.

I never felt more emotional or more connected to my Great- Great Grandfather than when I kneeled at the family plot in Plympton, Massachusetts. It is times like that, in which I know the time I put into the 18th is so worth it.

In a war where so many of us concentrate on the movements of divisions and corps, one visit to a cemetery can hit home that the decisions the Generals made had deep and sometimes terrible consequences.

This past Sunday, I went to the Beaufort National Cemetery – Beaufort, SC - and visited the grave of Private Robert S Joyner. I will write more about the trip later, the rest of the post belongs to Robert.

Robert S. Joyner: married Anne Redmond on Oct. 21, 1854 at Waterloo, NY. They were the parents of Emma, born Aug. 31, 1855 and Ellen, born Jan. 10, 1857, both in Geneva, NY. He was a 27 year old Hostler from Geneva, NY, when he enlisted on and was mustered into the 18th Mass. Infantry on August 4, 1862. He was captured and taken prisoner at the battle of the Wilderness on May 5, 1864 and held as a Prisoner of War at Camp Lawton, GA. He died of disease at Camp Lawton on Dec. 31, 1864. His wife Anne, age 39, applied for a Widow's pension on Aug. 15, 1873 and was issued benefits of $8.00 per month, with an additional $2.00 per month for their minor children, Emma and Ellen. Anne Joyner, who resided in Flint Creek, Ontario Co. NY in 1879, died on Nov. 2, 1904.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

You may (or may not have) noticed that comments had been disabled on the blog for the past two weeks. This was due to the evil robo-spammers and their x-rated messages.

I just added a security check that will allow for real humans to post again.

Hope there is something that will perk your interest enough to talk about.

Monday, September 04, 2006

This piece was written by Donald. It represents strictly his viewpoint.

The relevance of certain holidays or observances seems to be increasingly lost on the American consciousness. There was a time in America when no store, large or small, would have dared considered opening its doors on New Year’s, Easter Sunday, Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day, Veteran’s Day, or Christmas. Now that’s slowly eroding as more and more companies realize people will shop on those days if given the opportunity. At the same time there’s less attention paid to teaching American history in public schools. Ask the average school age kid if they’re crying about not having to learn history and they’ll tell you no, because most think history is “boring” anyway.

For most people Labor Day means, yippee yi oh, yippee yi a, a three day weekend! It has become a time to celebrate what passes for the unofficial end of summer, a final respite before kids start school again (in my area they went back August 21st), time for one last backyard cookout, time to extend a stay at the beach, in the mountains, or at a lake.

I’ll answer your question as to why a Labor Day message is relevant to what is primarily a Civil War blog. The Civil War firmly seated the United States as an industrial power and many of the issues that labor activists fought for and against had their impetus dating to the Civil War. Mass production is but one example. Most of the shoemakers in the 18th Massachusetts worked out of their homes or in very small shops before the war. During and after the war the shoe industry transformed itself from a cottage industry to a factory based environment. Middleboro, MA, which was home to most members of Company D later proclaimed itself the “Shoe Capitol of the World.”

What we forget in all this is what Labor Day really means and why we celebrate it. America’s labor force in the past two decades has increasingly transitioned from manufacturing to service related industries and conversely there are fewer workers protected by Unions. There was a time when the majority of workers in the Northern, Midwestern, and Western States were members of Unions. The Southern States, in contrast, have historically been so-called Right-to-Work States because they were successful in enacting what were effectively Anti-Union laws. Today, Union membership is shrinking and certainly Unions wield far less influence with politicians. The only Unions that seem to matter to people running for public office anymore are the Teacher and Police unions. If you’re a politician who gives lip service to improvement in our public schools you better have the teachers backing you. And if the police throw their support to your opponent it means you’re not taking a tough enough stance on crime.

Everybody who has a job in the United States today owes a debt of gratitude to Labor Unions regardless of whether they’ve ever been a member of a Union or not. If you work an eight-hour day and receive overtime pay after 40 hours, thank the Unions. If you’ve ever been laid off from a job and collected an Unemployment check, thank the labor movement. If you’ve ever known someone who was hurt on the job and was helped by Worker’s Compensation or Temporary Disability Insurance, that person should thank a Union member. If you’re retired and collecting a pension or Social Security, give a tip of the hat to the Unions. If you have an eight-year-old who is attending school rather than working sixty hours in a factory to help support their family, have them salute the Unions. If you’re making at least minimum wage on your job, you owe it to the Unions. If you’re fortunate enough to work for a company that offers medical insurance, thank your lucky stars and Unions. I could go on and on in citing examples of why we should give thanks on this Labor Day, but we’ll leave it at the basics.

What we have become as a working nation was and is the direct result of the Unions struggling to ensure the rights of people to organize and bargain as a collective group for better wages and living standards. T’was a time in America when employers refused to recognize the basic dignity of those they were paying. Workers were viewed as expendable. They could always be replaced if they became too old, too sick, if they didn’t work fast enough, or by someone who would work for less money. Not only did Union members have to contend with employers, but there were times when they faced off against armed State and Federal troops in their fight for improved work conditions and wages. Lives were lost on both sides, but always it was Union corpses that were stacked higher at the end of those encounters. More than a few early Union organizers paid the ultimate price for their convictions by being shot or hung by “thugs” in the employ of company owners. I’ve said for a long time that if employers had practiced benevolence and fair mindedness toward their employees there never would have been a need for Unions.

I’ve been a member of three different Unions in my lifetime. I’ve made it a rule never to cross a picket line and to respect boycotts recommended by Unions. I even once ran for President of a Union I was a member of simply because the incumbent had held office for eight years, was going unchallenged in an election, and everyone kept complaining about the lousy job he was doing. I campaigned like crazy and lost. Big time. But I’m proud to say that an original idea I proposed during my campaign was picked up in a subsequent labor negotiation and actually became part of that agreement.

With all this in mind though, I have to add one thing that I think sadly defines the current mindset of Union leadership nationwide. A few years back strikers from a food service Union set up their picket line in front of a building in Washington, DC that also housed the national headquarters for the AFL-CIO. Members of the Executive committee of the AFL-CIO crossed the picket line and entered the building. The response I received to my letter questioning the reasoning behind those crossing of the picket line was, “the strike didn’t involve us.” I know a lot of the early labor organizers would have spun endlessly in their graves if they had heard that response.

Remember when you buy a new product that’s made overseas that the people who helped sew, mold, or put it together, are for the most part working for peanuts in overcrowded and unsafe working environments. That’s the way it used to be for the great majority of workers once upon a time in America.