Friday, November 24, 2006
The task of actually writing of the history started last February. After writing seven pages of material, none of which held any mention of the 18th, it came time to introduce them. And that’s where the getting stuck part comes in. I couldn’t figure out how to transition from what I had written to the 18th Massachusetts Infantry. A week turned into weeks and weeks into months with no progress being made. I began to doubt myself, felt totally overwhelmed and intimidated, and, as the calendar pages flipped, began talking less and less about writing the history. Recently, perhaps in desperation I finally wrote out my confessional Email to Tom and Steve, telling them I didn’t think I could do it. I even went so far as to suggest we turn our research material over to a “professional" writer; worse yet, I even suggested a candidate for the job.
Tom replied with a glass of virtual ice water to my face, shaking me by the shoulders with his words. “Not so fast bucko! These are our guys!” Not his exact words, but you catch my drift.
On Wednesday, while walking a block from my office building to a Starbucks, I was thinking about a comment in an Email I had sent. I’m always thinking. I wake up thinking. I can’t fall asleep because I’m thinking. Heavy thoughts? Sometimes. Work thoughts? That too. Life in general? Most all the time.
The recipient of the Email and I had been exchanging information on one particular individual from the Regiment. And suddenly, out of the blue, by connecting one thought to another, it hit me. The missing transition piece! Can you say hallelujah? I said, can you say halleluiah? Let me hear you say it!
Today I wrote roughly two pages. It was slow going because I wanted every word to be a perfect choice. I wrote, read what I wrote, revised what I wrote, reread what I revised, re-revised the revisions, and reread the re-re-revised sentences and paragraphs. Not that it was radical surgery with each revision. A word here; a couple of words there. And you know what? At the end of this day I like those two pages. I realize I shouldn’t be striving for perfection at this point, because perfection at this point is not, in fact, the point. The point is to just keep tapping those keys.
With all that in mind, we’ll update you periodically on the trials, tribulations, and, hopefully, triumphs of writing a modern day history of a Civil War regiment.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe had enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years, with large increase of freedom.
No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.
It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand, and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the city of Washington, this third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the independence of the United States the eighty-eighth.
Have a great Thanksgiving!
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Also, don’t forget our Contest to end all Contests – The First Annual Win your own Civil War Christmas contest! Great prizes including some of the newest in Civil War Historical studies and limited edition 15 oz Coffee Mugs (for the serious coffee drinkers out there). Find out the rules and how to enter by clicking here.
And we keep getting asked why “Touch the Elbow”? Well, we don’t want to share the reason right now, so let's save that for a seperate post for another day.
Just use your imagination for now and no, it’s not because of what you are thinking. :)
- Tom, Donald and Steve
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
In recap, the information I had that Baker was interred at Oakland Cemetery in Yonkers, NY was incorrect. Brian Downey read the post and responded the same day, pointing me in the direction of Westchester County, NY and was kind enough to provide a link to their Web site. Sure enough, there was Fisher’s name listed along with other Civil War veterans, confirming he was buried in the County. As Brian said in his comment, “I should finish digging before posting, but this is too much fun. Baker is buried in a Westchester County (NY) cemetery. He's listed here: http://www.westchestergov.com.”
Excuse me while I cue up some appropriate dead guy music; maybe the love song from George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead.” A letter was put in the mail to New York on November 4th. Nine days later came the response that Fisher A. Baker was buried in Section 2, Lot No. 2227, Grave No. 1 at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in North Tarrytown, N.Y.
And who says dead guys can’t or won’t talk?
I don’t know how soon I’ll get to North Tarrytown, but you’ll know when you see the post “Chasing the Dead in New York.”
Sunday, November 12, 2006
Check out the original article here
Saturday, November 11, 2006
A few years ago I took my kids to this and we had a blast. The Sutler Row was just as interesting as the battles. Nothing like drinking some home made root beer and kettle pop corn to watch people pretend to die.
And yes, it is too easy to comment on a Civil War battle being reenacted on a former plantation that was filled with slaves to benefit the Confederate Heritage Trust.
Just go there, have fun, enjoy yourself and don’t think about it.
For More information on:
Boone Hall, click here
The Battle of Secessionville, click here
The reenactment of The Battle of Secessionville, click here
The Civil War Heritage Trust, click here
Saturday, November 04, 2006
A tour of key Civil War sites includes stops at Manassas, Antietam, Gettysburg, Richmond, Appomattox and Harpers Ferry. Also: a reenactment in Standardsville, Va.
Check out PBS’ website for local airtimes
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
There are various schools of Libertaraian thought, ranging from the far right to the far left, but the agenda is pretty much the same, i.e. minimal government, which provides us with adequate protection from domestic or foreign bullies, and someone to keep our roads paved. I’m not even going to provide the Web addresses. If you’re so inclined you can find the sites yourself by typing in the word secession.
Lest you think I’m kidding about people wanting to seceed from the United States, one group is even holding a convention in Burlington, VT in early November. The agenda’s pretty simple, promotion of a political movement to achieve secession from the United States, by peaceful means, of course. Don't cross that threshhold and suggest violence or the F.B.I. will be on you like white on rice, maybe. A map on one Web site featured more than a hundred separate countries within the boundaries of the United States. Are these people stupid? Not really. Lots of them would be labeled intellectuals and I’m sure that many of us would or could agree with some points they would attempt to make. No one would really argue against lowering taxes, but like it or not you need to have taxes to pay for local services such as fire and police departments, hospitals, schools, social services, the arts, recreation facilities, and on and on and on. From where I sit Libertarianism is much like the law of the jungle, survival of the fittest. It’s a philosophy supportive of elitism and divisiveness and does not dare speak of community or inclusiveness.
So what set me off you ask? It’s finding Web sites like those cited above and considering books such as "Lincoln Unmasked" and "The South Was Right," although the latter is not a Libertarian publication. Two years ago the annual ceremony to commemorate the battle of Fredericksburg, which is conducted by the National Park Service, was not held due to the reconstruction of the Sunken Road. A group of Confederate re-enactors and various Confederate descendant organizations decided to hold their own ceremony in the Confederate cemetery in Fredericksburg. Because I had presented a wreath in honor of the 18th Massachusetts Infantry for a number of years I was extended an invitation to participate. I went because I wanted to continue the tradition, but talk about walking into an ambush, or better yet feeling like the Union troops who tried to march up Marye’s Heights.
The main speaker was a gentleman who was Robert E. Lee reincarnate, or so he cast himself as Lee reincarnate. He spoke of the Confederate cause, elevating it to the level of a religious crusade, i.e. Crusaders versus infidels, citing the fact that “every Confederate soldier” could recite the Bible by chapter and verse, forward and backward. And then he went into a very detailed analysis of the Confederate battle flag, stating red was purposely chosen as the primary background color by Confederate leaders because it represented the blood of Christ. I don’t want to misrepresent his words, as I don’t recall them exactly, but the white and blue in the flag also had religious connotations, the blue I believe being the cross on which Christ suffered. What he failed to mention was the flag was not adopted for widespread use until 1863, so I wonder what the Rebel armies thought or believed prior to that time when they followed their flags into battle. It is true that following the defeat at Gettysburg a religious revival swept through Confederate ranks, but that same revival was also embraced by Union troops. I guess the adage about atheists not occupying foxholes is true.
All I remember during this ceremony was a feeling of great discomfort and a desire to walk away. Maybe the members of the 28th Massachusetts re-enactors had already figured out how this ceremony was going to go, because they declined the invitation. Me, I’m sort of a trusting soul. But in the course of that ceremony, as I listened, it hit me that I could find no better way to honor the 18th Massachusetts and their dead at Fredericksburg then to place my wreath, not in defiance, but in respect for their sacrifice, though heathens they may be.