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This is the archive for March 2009

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Lost Cause is a concept
By which they measure their pain.
Iíll say it again.
The Lost Cause is a concept
By which they measure their pain.
I donít believe in Davis
I donít believe in R. Lee
I donít believe in Stonewall
I donít believe in Early
I donít believe in Stephens
I donít believe in Longstreet

I donít believe in Wilkes Booth!

I just believe in liberty
and the right of all men to be free

...that is mine and Sumner's reality

ÖAnd so dear friends
Youíll just have to carry on
Your dream is overÖ.

With apologies to John Lennon

Route 64 in the rain. Through Goochland County and past Chesterfield and Oilville. Past Gum Spring and Mineral in Louisa County and back into Gouchland, where I bypass Shannon Hill before entering Louisa County again. On into Albemarle County and past U V A, home of the Cavaliers, who fell on hard times on the hardwood in the A.C.C. Now Augusta County, where the land transitions from the gentle roll of farm fields, where the road begins to edge upward toward the Blue Ridge in a series of climbs, each steeper than the last. Rain continues to fall, shrouding the elevations, first in mist, then in fog until the slope and valley floor below is obscured. Slow climbing, but with trucks pushing past cars full throttle, faster than what could be imagined possible. Through Rockfish Gap, 1900 feet above sea level. Then the descent, more gentle than the climb, into what was once the breadbasket of the Confederacy. Past signs advertising caverns, and battle sites still fresh in the minds of those descendants whose ancestors lived to till the soil. Past New Market where ten adolescents from V.M.I. fell. Each mile pushes me further from Richmond and pulls me closer to Mecca. Gray sky, gray rain, gray all around, but lighter still than the gray worn by those who rode and marched across the Valley floor, striking north, striking east. Flying cavalry. Flying infantry. But beware people of the Valley! Hunter and Sheridan are approaching.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Note: If you missed it, the story behind this story is contained in Death on the Homefront which ran February 19th and Death on the Homefront - Part Two, which ran on February 20th.

Saturday morning was gray and cold, the type of weather that fittingly adds somber atmosphere to a cemetery landscape. Grave locations in hand, I had come to pay respects to four women interred at Mt. Olivet Cemetery ten months before Leeís capitulation at Appomattox, four women consigned to early graves when a June 17, 1864 fire consumed their bodies inside the Washington Arsenal. A slow meandering drive took me past a confusing maze of sections and over narrow, winding roads. After circling the older sections twice, I gave up and went to the Cemetery office for a map.

Unlike most at Mt. Olivet, Section 10, where Kate Horan, Johannah Connor, Bridget Dunn, and Catherine Hull are buried, has no distinguishing marker to readily identify it. Shaped like an open upturned smile, it measures about 600 feet in length and about 200 feet at its widest point. One of the older sections of the cemetery and no longer open for burials, very few graves are marked and one of the saddest sights was that of a backhoeís tires cutting a path over a couple of flat markers lying in the ground.

Sad ironies abounded. Whereas fifteen other women who died in the Arsenal fire are memorialized by a twenty-foot monument rising above common graves at Congressional Cemetery, four Irish Catholic women lie forgotten by time, anonymous to any chancing a visit to Mt. Olivet. Diagonally across the road from these four, who worked civilian jobs to help defeat the Confederacy, is Mary Surratt, whose sympathies allied with those who sought to bring the Union down.

I had checked before my drive into the city, but could only find Bridget Dunn, born in Ireland about 1824, a Sixth Ward resident married to a 44-year-old butcher, mother of a 4-year-old son, listed in the 1860 Census. When Kate, Johannah, and Catherine arrived in the Nationís capitol, and from where, remains unknown to me.

I had no place to leave the flowers I had brought. I could only take pictures of the general area where they might lay. And I thought that if I could, if someday I had the money, Iíd make certain they had markers to attest to their lives, markers that would say to the living I was here and am not lost forever in the smoldering ruins of a building.