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Thursday, April 30, 2009


We were on a blood trail, one that dried up over a hundred and forty-four years ago in a city that’s lost much of its historic past. There were no pigs roaming free, no mud to contend with, no saloons swelling with patrons. It was Washington in 2009 and much of what we heard forced everyone to use his or her imagination.

We started in Lafayette Park, directly across from the White House, and there Anthony Pitch, author of “They Have Shot Papa Dead,” began his narrative, setting the stage by offering a brief biography of John Wilkes Booth, then transitioning to April 10th, when Booth and Lewis Payne standing among an overflow a crowd in front of that same White House across the way, listened to Lincoln, silhouetted in a second story window, announce that some blacks, “the highly intelligent” and veterans, would be given the right of the vote. Those words were the final straw for Booth, according to Pitch, who, after muttering a racial epithet, demanded Payne shoot the President. Payne declined; stating the likelihood of arrest was too great to risk an assassination attempt. The pair walked away and Booth reportedly vowed Lincoln had made his last speech.

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The War Department building, which stood to the right of the White House, and which housed the telegraph office, where Lincoln spent a considerable amount of his time, was torn down in 1870, its former footprint now covered by the Eisenhower Executive Office Building.

Moving to 16th Street, we came to Lafayette Square, an area framed by three story row houses, now in use as government offices, but at the time residences for some of Washington’s most powerful elite. The area was threatened with urban renewal in the early 1900’s, but spared from the wrecking ball by the advent of World War I and the Great Depression and ultimately rescued through efforts led by Jackie Kennedy in the early 1960’s. Number 712 is where Major Henry Rathbone and his wife Clara resided following their 1867 marriage. Both were in the Presidential theater box as guests of the Lincolns the night of the assassination, Rathbone suffering a deep slashing wound to his arm, from the shoulder to the elbow, in his attempt to disarm Booth. The couple would later move to Hanover, Germany where Rathbone, serving as U.S. counsel in 1883, suffered a psychotic break, shooting and stabbing Clara to death, before attempting to kill himself with the same blade. Unbalanced to the end by auditory hallucinations and paranoia, and his actions in the hotel room eerily mirroring the events of April 14th, Rathbone would himself die in a German asylum twenty-eight years later, the asylum’s doctors still uncertain whether his schizophrenia predated or surfaced after the assassination.

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Almost directly across the square, through a park, on which the Federal Court of Appeals is now sited, Lewis Payne did his bloody work, smashing openings in Frederick Seward’s head with the butt of his pistol, before slashing at and plunging his knife into Secretary of State William Seward time and time again, before he was finally wrestled away and escaped down three flights of stairs, bellowing at the top of his lungs, “I’m mad! I’m mad!” All traces of blood that made Seward’s bedroom floor run slick and intermingle with that of Augustus Seward, another son, and George Robinson, a member of the Veteran Reserve Corps assigned to assist in the nursing care of the Secretary, disappeared when a wrecking ball crashed through the walls years later. Fannie Seward’s screams of “Murder!” that had echoed through the house and carried out onto the street through an open window that night, and perhaps silently echoed within those walls for decades afterwards, would have escaped, too, into the stratosphere forever.



Past the Treasury Building, down H Street for four blocks until we come to the back entrance to Williard’s Hotel, though not the same hostelry occupied by Lincoln and his traveling party when they first arrived in Washington in March 1861. There have been two reincarnations since, the most recent a replacement for the structure lost in a 1921 fire. Lincoln’s party of six, which stayed on the sixth floor for a week, was presented with a bill for $730 when they checked out on the day of his first inauguration.





At 1111 Pennsylvania Avenue, on the corner with 12th Street and directly across from the Old Post Office building, there’s no historical marker on the outside of a modern edifice to remind people that Andrew Johnson first learned of the assassination here, at the former site of Kirkwood House, where he was boarding. But for losing all nerve, George Atzerodt, who had taken a room one floor above on April 14th, would have paid Johnson a deadly visit. When police invaded that room, their search uncovered direct evidence linking Atzerodt to Booth, including weapons and a Montreal bank draft note made payable to the actor.



Two blocks away stood the National Theater, once home to Grover’s Theater. Had Lincoln not chosen to attend “Our American Cousin” at Ford’s Theater, he might have accepted an invitation to a performance of “Aladdin or The Wonderful Lamp.” In one of the more poignant moments in a night ripe with tragedy, 12-year-old Tad Lincoln, who was attending that play, learned of the attempt on his father’s life when the play was interrupted by two separate announcements to a startled and disbelieving audience. The first announcement was initially dismissed as a ploy by pickpockets to panic the crowd, while the second confirmed the horrible truth of that initial announcement, “The sad news is too true. The audience will disperse.” Tad was hustled back to the White House by his chaperone. It was there that Thomas Pendel, the doorkeeper, heard the boy cry out, “Oh, Tom Pen! Tom Pen! They have killed Papa dead! They’ve killed Papa dead!” The following morning, Leonard Grover, owner of the namesake theater, received a telegram from C.D. Hess at his New York City hotel room, which stated, in part, “Thank God, it was not ours.”



Papa was not yet dead, but he was unconscious, brain dead, and lying mortally wounded in the Presidential box at Ford’s Theater. Charles Leale, six weeks after graduating from Bellevue Hospital Medical College, was the first doctor to reach Lincoln, the first to attempt treatment by performing mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, the first to identify the wound, and the first to recognize the President was beyond hope. He took charge and stayed in charge, even as other physicians crowded into the box, determining that Lincoln would die in route if taken back to the White House, and ordered his body carried to the nearest house. His efforts in removing a blood clot from behind Lincoln’s left ear restored his breathing, prolonging his life, but, in effect, prolonged and heightened the agony of those waiting for the inevitable end.



With Leale supporting the head, Dr. Charles Taft the right shoulder, Dr. Albert King the left, and soldiers the rest of the body, those carrying Lincoln’s body exited the theater onto Tenth Street, which was jammed with a pressing crowd, the majority of whom were black. Henry Stafford, “holding a lighted candle on the steps leading up to a four story, brick boarding house...diagonally across from the theater,” called out “Bring him in here.” “Here” was the Peterson House, where Lincoln was placed diagonally across a too short bed, stripped of all his clothing, and hung on for the next eight hours. It was “here” that Edward Stanton, without objection, assumed the role of Chief Executive, that Mary Lincoln alternately wailed and during brief visits to her dying husband’s bedside implored him to speak to her, where Robert Lincoln leaned on Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner’s shoulder and sobbed uncontrollably, where at 7:22 a.m. on April 15th Abraham Lincoln became one with the ages.





Tuesday, April 28, 2009


If you want to fire up any high school student’s mind about history, what better place than to do it then by taking them on a field trip to Washington, D.C. Heck, take an entire group so they can share the common experience of the most historical and powerful city on the face of the planet.

Here's one such group that made the pilgrimage to D.C. with their teachers. Their guide was very animated in his story telling and, as you can readily see, these students from Massachusetts were hanging onto his every word.

"Any questions?"

"Yeah, is there a Starbucks around here?"

More on what I was doing in the city this past Sunday morning tomorrow.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

This Civil War Quiz appeared in the April 20, 2009 edition of the Washington Post. Not to put pressure on anyone, but if you get any of the eight questions wrong, or have to go online to look up the answer, then I’m going to strongly recommend you purchase “The Idiots Guide to the Civil War.” Today! Not tommorrow. Not next week.

1. Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation:
a. Freed all slaves
b. Freed all slaves living in Southern states
c. Freed all slaves in areas still in rebellion against the United States
d. Promised to free all slaves when the war ended

2. The South thought that during the war Great Britain would:
a. Give it a lot of aid
b. Substantially help the North
c. Help both sides
d. Remain neutral

3. This region did not need a draft because there were enough volunteers to fight:
a. South
b. North
c. Both
d. Neither

4. African Americans accounted for what share of the Union Army by war’s end?
a. 2 percent
b. 4 percent
c. 8 percent
d. 10 percent

5. Which was the bloodiest single-day battle in U.S. history?
a. Battle of Gettysburg
b. Battle of Antietam
c. Battle of Vicksburg
d. First Battle of Mannassas

6. Which two states, in order, had the most and second most battles in the Civil War?
a. Virginia, Pennsylvania
b. Tennessee, Virginia
c. Virginia, Tennessee
d. Virginia, Georgia


7. Most of the deaths in the Civil War were caused by:
a. Battle wounds
b. Disease
c. Hunger
d. A and C

8. Which two of these states joined the Confederacy?
a. Maryland
b. Kentucky
c. Tennessee
d. Florida


If you really don't know, and need to know (although nobody's going to really admit they don't know) leave a comment.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009



Aside from those in the Presidential box at Ford’s Theater, most of the 1,500 theatergoers attending the performance of “Our American Cousin” on April 14, 1865 had no idea what had happened. Even when John Wilkes Booth leapt down to the stage, dagger in hand, the largest number thought he was acting out a role in the play. That inactivity by the audience, actors, stagehands, and orchestra members, allowed Booth to push past actor Harry Hawk, who had previously stood alone on stage, rush out a back door leading to an alley, mount his horse, and gallop away into the night.

Anthony Pitch, author of a recent book on the Lincoln assassination, “They Have Killed Papa Dead,” likened the delayed reaction that night to the reaction which occurred as 9-11 unfolded. Simply put, people couldn’t or didn’t want to believe something so terrible was happening in front of their eyes. I remember my own reaction when told the north tower had collapsed: “That’s impossible.”

I was one of a group of about 300 people inside Ford’s Theater yesterday, the last group admitted for the day and the only one to which Pitch spoke. Some in the audience, though not many mind you, reacted with surprise when a National Park Service Ranger announced at the beginning of the program that it was the 144th anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination. Personally, I couldn’t imagine a more fitting place to mark the observance.

Pitch is an Englishman who immigrated to the United States more than 40 years ago. He’s long admired Lincoln for his intelligence, his humanity, and his wit, relating that Lincoln’s assassination, in his opinion, was the greatest tragedy to ever befall this nation. "A Lincoln only comes along once in a blue moon." He told a story, too, of taking a former Prime Minister of New Zealand and his wife on a tour of Washington devoted exclusively to sites related to the assassination. The Prime Minister had made this request of Pitch, relating that he personally mourned for Lincoln each year on the anniversary of his death.

The audience was given a capsulated summary of “They Have Killed Papa Dead,” including details on the players and events leading up to April 14th, Lincoln’s death the following day, recitations of eyewitness accounts, and the manhunt for the killers, which ultimately led to Booth’s death at Garrett’s farm and the execution of four conspirators, all told without the aid of notes and in a refined and impeccable British accent.

At some point I hope to post a review of Pitch’s book. It’s well worth reading, providing details culled from letters and diaries other assassination authors have omitted in their own books. I was able to ask Pitch how far reaching he thought the assassination conspiracy actually extended. He provided a fairly lengthy synopsis, saying that, like the Kennedy assassination, we’ll probably never know the real answer, citing, as an example, the fact that David Herold's written confession simply disappeared. He then quoted Lewis Paine, who stated, “You haven’t got the half of them.” An audience member seated next to me leaned over and told me he had asked the same question of one of the re-enactors patrolling outside the theater. That individual gave him an estimate that 300 others were involved. I have my own theory on that, just as seemingly everyone else does when it comes to Lincoln’s murder.


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Word to the wise: Ford's Theater has timed entry tickets, with tours scheduled between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Free tickets can be obtained at the theater box office. However, if you're really smart, you can order in advance by going online to the Ford’s Theater Web site. There’s a small service fee imposed by Ticketron, but you won't risk the disappointment of not being able to get in on the day you set aside to visit the theater. That happened to the family standing behind me in the line which had formed on the sidewalk, all waiting for the 4 p.m. tour to be admitted to the building. By the time they realized they needed tickets to get inside, needless to say, all tickets had been dispersed. Additionally, if you want a short wait and don't mind sitting in the back of the theater, arrive with tickets in hand as close to the starting time of your tour as possible. Trust me, you'll still get through the door and, if it's really crowded, you might have the opportunity to sit in the balcony, Presidential box excluded of course; even sitting Presidents aren't given that priviledge.



Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Abraham Lincoln explaining a dream to his wife Mary, in which he was told by a soldier, standing guard over a casket, that the President of the United States had been assassinated:

“It seems strange how much there is in the Bible about dreams. There are, I think, some sixteen chapters in the Old Testament and four or five in the New, in which dreams are mentioned. And there are many other passages scattered throughout the book which refer to visions. If we believe the Bible, we must accept the fact that in the old days God and his angels came to men in their sleep and made themselves known in dreams. Nowadays dreams are regarded as very foolish, and are seldom told, except by old women and by young men and maidens in love…I can’t say that I do [believe in dreams]. But I had one the other night which has haunted me ever since. After it occurred, the first time I opened the Bible, strange as it may appear, it was at the twenty-eighth chapter of Genesis, which relates the wonderful dream Jacob had. I turned to other passages and seemed to encounter a dream or a vision wherever I looked. I kept on turning the leaves of the old Book, and everywhere my eye fell upon passages recording matters strangely in keeping with my own thoughts – supernatural visitations, dreams, visions, et cetera…But somehow the thing has got possession of me and, like Banquo’s ghost, it will not down.”


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Friday, April 10, 2009


The best way to judge a city or town, in my humble opinion, is to ask yourself whether you’d move there by choice. In considering Lexington, Virginia as an option for myself, I’d answer no, without hesitation. It’s not a pretty town by any stretch of the imagination, although its image might improve a little if they got rid of the telephone poles and wires overhead. On a scale of one to five, I’d give it a two, because there are, in truth, a lot less attractive places I’ve visited, like Augusta, Maine, which rates a half star and which has to rank as the ugliest State capitol in the entire country.

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The Thomas Jonathan Jackson House


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Closeup of a Lexington sidewalk. I liked the pattern of the brick.

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Here's the story behind this picture. To the right of the electric candle is a case of wine called Chateauneuf Du Pape. I lived in the town of Chateauneuf, France for almost three years as a kid, in what can best be described as the happiest time in my life as a child.

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Washington and Lee University campus


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I love taking pictures of people and their dogs. Maybe someday I'll post a blog devoted exclusively to that photo subject matter.

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Lee Chapel, used as a multi-purpose center for Washington and Lee University, houses a museum in the basement, where Robert Edward Lee and family members are also entombed. Don't even dare taking pictures inside, because anyone caught trying will be sentenced to four years of college life at V.M.I. I wandered in toward the end of one tour and the start of another. Both groups, with the exception of one person (guess who), reacted with positive excitement over the guide's announcement that Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Clarence Thomas would be speaking the following night. .

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Jackson's VMI statue looking away toward the Blue Ridge. If you look closely enough at the clouds on the right you can see the image of Little Sorrel.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Horses are about as noble a domesticated animal as you’re apt to find and have been celebrated throughout history, in books, poems, films, television shows, and songs. The relationship between horse and rider has been romanticized in much the same way and there’s arguably little more thrilling a spectacle in today’s world than that of thoroughbreds rounding the final turn at Churchill Downs and thundering down the backstretch toward the finish line.

Horses have served mankind well, by pulling plows, chariots, wagons, and stagecoaches. But most of all they’ve served their riders well. With that, I give you three who did so.


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Thomas Jonathan Jackson and Little Sorrel, Richmond, VA




Thomas Jonathan Jackson's statue at V.M.I. with Little Sorrel's grave in foreground




Little Sorrel's grave at V.M.I.




Philip Sheridan and Winchester




Winchester on display at the Smithsonian's Museum of American History




Robert Edward Lee and Traveller


Wednesday, April 08, 2009


This article is from the February 5, 1895 edition of the Washington Post

Slayer of Stonewall Jackson


Maj. McDonough, of Boston, Said to Have

Shot the Southern General


Maj. John McDonough, assistant superintendent of delivery at the Boston post-office, who was arrested on Saturday for stealing letters from the mail, and whose downfall has caused a great shock to his multitude of friends, is a favorite among Grand Army men, and well known by every member of the G.A.R. in the New England States. Maj. McDonough is a member of the Loyal Legion, the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company, and a Mason of the 32d degree.

While awaiting the arrival of a bondsman on Saturday McDonough had a conversation with Commissioner Swift, during which the fact was elicited that the defendant is the Maj. McDonough who with his men, standing some distance from the rest of Hooker’s division at Chancellorsville, attacked Gen. Stonewall Jackson and staff, and despite the version of the Southerners that the general was shot by a stray shot from his own army, the major is believed to have shot and killed Stonewall Jackson.


And this from the June 11, 1901 edition of the New York Times

A much more respectable testimony is that of Gen. John B. Gordon, who never believed that the bullets of the Confederates killed the Sheridan of the Confederacy. Gordon was a general officer in Lee’s army at the battle of Chancellorsville, having been put in his new command only a short time before that great fight was fought.

Gordon doubted all his life long that the Confederates killed Jackson, although he admitted that they were firing at the moment the great General fell. It must be remembered that the night was dark, that the Union and Confederate armies were only a few yards apart, that they were firing in a wood, and that shots from both armies were being fired all the time. Gordon thought the shot that killed Jackson came from one of the bushes that were separated by an invisible line from the thickets in which Barry’s command lay.

And this belief of his – not a conviction – was strengthened by what Federal officers told him, men who were lying scarcely fifty yards distant from Jackson at the moment when his figure suddenly loomed up murkily out of the gloom and afforded a fair mark for both sides.

One of the most striking indications of the possibility of confusion is that the very moment after Jackson was shot, and while Gen. A.P. Hill and other officers were trying to bind his wounds and keep the knowledge of what had happened from his near-by men, two Federal skirmishers rode up and were captured by Hill, to their vast astonishment, for they believed that they were still within the Federal lines.

That single incident shows the way in which the two lines were confused, and how difficult it is to tell, even now, which were the Union and which were the Confederate volleys that were fired when Stonewall Jackson fell.

But here is what Gordon says:

“As to whether he fell by the fire of his own men or from that of the Union men in his front will, perhaps never be definitely determined. The general, the almost universal, belief at the South is that he was killed by a volley from the Confederate lines; but I have had grave doubts of this raised in my own mind by conversations with thoughtful Union officers who were at the time in his front and near the point where he was killed.”

"It seems to me quite possible that the fatal ball might have come from either army. This much mooted question as to the manner of his death is, however, of less consequence than the manner of his life. Any life of such nobility and strength must always be a matter of vital import and interest.”

However, in spite of Gordon’s doubts, and in spite of the claims of the Maine soldier, of the veterans of the Seventy-third New York, and of those of the First Massachusetts, the historic version of Jackson’s death will be that he was killed by his own men, and Wild John, Rosenthal and the other conscience-smitten Confederates who have gone mad or gone to their graves under the load of his death are not relieved from responsibility.

And history is doubtless right. At the time Jackson was shot he was directly in front of the Confederate lines. Major Barry’s command fired at him, meaning to kill him. Whatever shots were fired by the Union soldiers at the same time were scattering shots, aimed at nobody in particular. It is only right to assume that the shots fired at Jackson hit him and that the shots fired at nobody in particular struck nobody in particular.

The situation was just this, as history tells it, and as it doubtless happened, in spite of the vague doubts of Gen. Gordon and the various scattering Union skirmishers.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009



You’ll have to forgive me, but I can’t help thinking that Thomas Jonathan Jackson was a little off kilter. I suppose you could label him eccentric, as the man seemed to have more than his fair share of personality quirks. And I don't mean his sucking lemons, because that’s more myth than reality, particularly since peaches were his favorite fruit. Maybe it's all part and parcel of genius, provided genius comes to the fore. Who knows? It does make me wonder what he would have seen in this inkblot though.

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Perhaps the answer will be found in the pages of what our guide at Thomas Jonathan Jackson’s home recommended as the best biography ever written on the man, James Robertson’s "Stonewall Jackson: The Man, the Soldier, the Myth."


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Sunday, April 05, 2009


This from Ben H. Hill of Georgia, a graduate of the University of Georgia, whose political career was marked by his defeat in an 1857 run for governor against Joseph Brown, his membership in the Georgia State legislature, engaging in fisticuffs with William Loundes Yancey on the floor of the Confederate Senate, and the only Non-Democrat at the Georgia secession convention, speaking to a group of Georgia citizens on the push by Southern politicians for separation from the Union.

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Ben H. Hill from old-picture.com


“How long will you suffer politicians to flatter you as sovereigns and use you as victims, without awakening your resentment? How often shall they settle and unsettle the slavery question before you discover the only meaning they have, is to excite your prejudices and get your votes? For how many years shall changing demagogues shuffle you as the gambler shuffles his cards – to win a stake – and still find you willing to be shuffled again?”


Friday, April 03, 2009

Lewis Paine, a.k.a. Lewis Powell, one of four people hung for their role in the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, hinted that the plot involved more than the eight who went on trial before a military tribunal. Paine’s words were something to the effect “You haven’t got the half of them.” George Atzerodt, another of the conspirators who dangled from the end of a rope at the Washington Arsenal, made the same claim.

We know that Booth traveled to Montreal, Canada, where the Confederate government had established commissioners, whose responsibities included oversight of spy and espionage operations carried out across the border. We know that John Surratt, the son of Mary, was, at the least, party to the plan to kidnap Lincoln, and that as a Confederate courier also traveled to Montreal where he met with Jacob Thompson, a commissioner, and then conveyed letters to Judah Benjamin at Richmond days before the city fell. We know that Edwin Gray Lee, second cousin of Robert E., was appointed a commissioner in December 1864 and was later called as a defense witness in John Surratt’s 1867 trial, essentially to establish an alibi that Surratt was in Montreal the night of April 14, 1865. So, what did Edwin G. Lee know, or not know? We’ll never know, because no one ever asked him. After Surratt’s defense counsel posed seven questions, all of which were framed to establish his identity (six of which were sustained prosecution objections), Lee was dismissed due to poor health, without being subjected to cross examination.

Edwin Gray Lee wasn’t feigning illness in an effort to get off the stand. He’d die of tuberculosis in 1870 and would be interred at Stonewall Jackson Cemetery, where his grave is located but a few feet from his sister-in-law Rose Page Pendleton. So, ultimately the question becomes, what did Miss Rose know about what Edwin Gray Lee may or may not have told her. I was too much of a gentlemen to ask her.

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Thursday, April 02, 2009


Take a look at the pictures below. It’s the Virginia Military Institute, though not the same structure which opened in 1842 and where Thomas Jonathan Jackson taught natural and experimental philosophy. That place was torched under orders from Union general David Hunter on June 12, 1864. But take a good hard look. Then let me know when you’re done.

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Done? Ok, now for a little pop quiz VMI style. One of the questions that “Rats” are supposedly asked by upper classmen is: "How many incoming cadets have literally pissed in their pants before walking through the gates to start their four-year college education?" The answer is pretty simple. Just total up the number of students who have enrolled since 1865.

Ok, you can stop your groaning now, because I paid good money for that joke.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

There’s an irony at work here. The foundations of houses, shops, and a military institution were dug from the sacred soil in a Virginia town named in honor of one in Massachusetts; a Massachusetts town where farmers and merchants stood on a village green and challenged British regulars to a musket duel on April 19, 1775, in a bold bid to shake off the hand of a perceived oppressor. There’s an irony that, regardless who actually lit the fuse, a shell was loosed across Charleston harbor exactly one week shy of the 86th anniversary of those first crackles of fire at Lexington, likewise in a bold bid to shake off the hand of a perceived oppressor.

Lexington of the Shenandoah Valley. The adopted home of the orphaned and never to be adopted Thomas Jonathan Jackson. The place of eternal rest for a beloved horse and the beloved commander of the Army of Northern Virginia, who ultimately failed a country that sought to be, yet never was; home to a military institute that fought as tenaciously against the admission of women as its virginal cadets at New Market.

I haven’t come to dance on the graves of generals, colonels, or privates in the Stonewall Jackson Cemetery. There is no celebration in my step. I am respectful toward the fallen and the exiled who sought refuge after the thunder and roar faded to a stilled echo of memory surrounded by loss and ruin. But more than Stonewall, more than Robert E., even more than the institutions that still bear the handprint of each, I have come to see Miss Rose.

I have a picture in my mind of Miss Rose. Plain. Small breasted. Light brown hair. Blue eyes. Fiery. And proud. Like her brother Sandie. Devout like her father William Nelson Pendleton. Aristocratic. Erect posture. Proper; a true lady of Southern breeding and manners.

I speak to Rose Page Pendleton’s headstone. Moss covered; the year of her death indecipherable. But I know. February 24, 1910. 71 years of age. A spinster. Perhaps a recluse toward her end dressed always in black. I sense curiosity, until I tell my purpose. Defiance and anger sweep like a wind of warning toward me, until I whisper that I bring no ill will, no animosity. I tell her I have been to Amasa Guild’s grave and I have read his letters to her and hers to him. And I understand each gripping the end of a rope in a tug of war over a flag that once was lost and was finally found.

October 12, 1901


On August 30, 1862, at what we called the “Second Bull Run,” and you call “Second Manassas,” my regiment (the 18th Mass. Vol. Infty) with which I was present, charged the railroad cut near Groveton, in which was the famous Stonewall Brigade. We reached within a few yards of the cut where we remained about half an hour, losing terribly over 60% in the regiment.

We carried the regimental flag, also a state flag, which latter was of white silk with the state coat of arms on it; the carrying of this latter flag was a mistake; when the few that were left fell back we found that the state flag was missing. We lost so many color bearers in the falling back, every man for himself, the state flag was overlooked. In all these years nothing was heard about it until some two years ago some one in visiting the Confederate Museum at Richmond saw it on exhibition there, and it came to the knowledge of our regimental association.
Amasa Guild



January 11, 1905


… If all of our flags, which for so many years have been on exhibition in Boston, have been returned, I see no reason why this one need be kept in Richmond any longer. If you can assure me that this restoration has been made, I will at once send…the certificate of deposit I hold, that yours, or rather the Mass. flag may go back. I have no authority to return the flag, I only hold the certificate of deposit, or “loan certificate” from the 27th Va. Rgt. If the survivors of that Regt. have agreed to its return I have no further responsibility in the matter, and the Museum will gladly abide by this decision. When I hear definitely and satisfactorily from you, I will communicate with Mrs. Ellyson. Your threat to bring the authority of the State Government [of Massachusetts] to bear in the matter is truly laughable. I scarcely think that the two branches combined will interfere with the decision of the 27th Regt. If its will is in your favor the flag goes back at once.
Respfy yours,

Miss Rose Pendleton


There is reconciliation and a shared mourning for the life of her brother Lt. Col. Sandie who lies buried not ten feet away, dead one day after being mortally wounded at Fisher’s Hill on September 22, 1864. There is sorrow in reflecting on the life of a son Sandie, born two months after his father was covered with the sacred soil; a father and son, never destined to gaze upon the other, but fated to lie beside the other in clingy clay a year later.

Miss Rose wraps me in her sorrow for a time, place, and era lost. I try to reassure her that all is well in this country where we, as Americans united, now dwell. And when I ask, she obliges me, for she is, after all, a lady of heart and grace.


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State Flag Returned


Colors of the 18th Mass. Volunteer Infantry

Received by Gov. Douglas of the Commonwealth

[Boston Globe, April 14, 1905]


The old state flag of the 18th Massachusetts volunteer infantry was returned to the state yesterday morning by a delegation representing the regiment. Gov. Douglas received the delegation and they were introduced by Lieut. Gov. Guild. In the party were Col. William B. White, who commanded the regiment, Lieut. Amasa Guild and Sergt. David C. Meechan.

Lieut. Guild said the flag was not returned before because it could not to be found. It was carried in the second battle of Bull run, Aug. 30, 1862.. The regiment with others of the brigade was ordered to charge a railroad cut occupied by the enemy. In crossing the open field the regiment was subjected to a heavy artillery and musket fire, that reduced it nearly 60 percent.

Thinking that reinforcements would surely arrive, the regiment held its position for nearly half an hour, during which time men dropped on all sides. Color bearers were changed several times as the men were either killed or wounded. Finally, not receiving any support, the order was given to fall back, every man for himself. When the regiment formed again in the rear the state flag was missing.

No trace of the flag could be had until about six years ago, when it was reported to be on exhibition in a confederate museum in Richmond, Va. Lieut. Guild said he visited Richmond to secure the flag, if possible, but found that it had been loaned by some people in Lexington, Va. Correspondence followed, and with the assistance of Lieut. Gov. Guild, the flag was secured.

Mrs. J. Tyalor Ellyson of Virginia, vice regent, C.M.L.S. said in her letter transmitting the flag: “it is my desire that the flag shall be turned over to the governor of Massachusetts with the assurance of our society that this action is taken with very great pleasure and in acknowledgement of our appreciation of the late act of congress in returning the confederate flags held by the government to the governors of the several southern states.