Sunday, November 28, 2010

Black Friday--A Different Perspective

"Once again we find ourselves enmeshed in the Holiday Season, that very special time of year when we join with our loved ones in sharing centuries-old traditions such as trying to find a parking space at the mall. We traditionally do this in my family by driving around the parking lot until we see a shopper emerge from the mall, then we follow her, in very much the same spirit as the Three Wise Men, who 2,000 years ago followed a star, week after week, until it led them to a parking space."
Dave Barry

I am going to have to pay a little closer attention to those calendar memos I periodically received from home office. And then again...maybe not. Case in point Friday morning. While many were checking their credit card limits, firmly securing elbow pads (studs or spikes optional), girding (protecting) their loins and preparing for battle on the roads, in the parking lots, and in the aisles of their favorite retail Mecca I was looking at a less exciting and dangerous day on the road earning my paycheck. Later that afternoon when I called home office regarding a coverage issue I learned from the office answering machine that I had the day off. I have to say that on this occasion my typically male--What me ask for directions? Reading manuals (or memos) takes away the excitement of discovery--attitude actually paid off. I bet had had a much nicer day than most...........................
Truly The Road Less Traveled
This is a typical road on which I traveled on Black Friday. Note that there is not a car, traffic signal, speed limit sign, billboard, turn lane, or human being in sight. I truly enjoyed my day on the road.
I've Got Dibs................
Orange County--Large yard and a wrap around front porch on a country road. Add a porch swing and a cooler and some munches and I'll be ready to sit back and watch the world go by. Hey Dan, it's a little bit bigger yard with a few more leaves to rake but I think you can manage.
A Question Looking for an Answer......
Rt. 3, Spotsylvania County--Monument to the 154th New York State Volunteers. This commemorates actions of the regiment at the Battle of Chancellorsville. I've checked both the regiment's history and the unit's roster to determine the German connection--Note German flag. While there were members of the 154th born in Germany there were actually more Irish born members in the regiment. So one has to wonder what is with the German flag?
No Parking Problem Here
Somerville, Fauquier County--This is it! The local general store and post office. In the background is the feed store. Took a moment to check for moon pies and cherry smash but had to settle for a Coke and some chips. Didn't have to wait in line though. In and out in 10 minutes with no problems with parking or back-up at the intersection.
A Different View
Madison County--While many of you were staring at the back end of an SUV; or finding yourself trapped in the household cleaning supplies isle choking in a haze of cheap perfume and aftershave, battered and bruised after another failed attempt to reach the men's clothing department; I was enjoying the view of the Virginia countryside void of the struggling masses.
The History They Could Tell.
"These tractors had served some farmer faithfully and well,
had helped him plant his crops, his sweat, his family's dreams
into the ground. Generations of farm history they could tell.
But at auction, sentimental value has no worth it seems...."
A glimpse of a simpler time and a beacon that shows us how far we have come. Sometimes I wonder what we left behind in our rush towards progress?
Old Virginia Mansion
Madison County--Rural Virginia is dotted with the mansions of old dating back to the 18th century. And in this particular case a cast-iron urn just as impressive as the house itself.
......And the Other Kind of Mansions
Orange Co.--And beside the mansions of old can sometimes be found a different kind of mansion of smaller size and less grandeur but with an equally impressive entry way.
A Little Reminder
Orange Co.--One of many makeshift memorials along the back roads of Virginia. During this season we can get caught up in commercial frenzy trying to prove our love for one another with material things. Life is short. Just taking time to enjoy family and friends is a gift which is undervalued and too often take for granted until it is too late. Take a moment and put aside the perceived cares and priorities of the day and spend some time reacquainting yourself with those around you.
It Has Been A While..............
....since I have posted a photos of a real fixer upper opportunity. This little gem is located in Orange County.
Time For A Mid-Life Crisis.....
Near Midland--Don't know what make or model it is (If it has a heater and a radio I'm happy); but its small, its red, and it exudes speed. My guess would be that most self-respecting middle-aged men would be proud to have this as the symbol of their mid-life crisis. Speaking as one who has never creased the pages of an issue of Car & Driver or Motor Trend what first caught my attention were the two old gravity feed gas pumps in the background.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


"The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when God willing, we might still have lived and loved together and seen our sons grow up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me—perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar—that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name."

Capt. Sullivan Ballou, 2nd RI Vols.
Letter to his wife July 14, 1861.
Died of Wounds received at Manassas July 28, 1861

Another Veteran's Day approaches and for those who take a moment to mark the occasion they will again hear the words--dedication, sacrifice and suffering. Yet for many those words cannot be fully understood. We who have not been called upon to endure the horrors of battle cannot comprehend the fear, privations, aguish, pain, and loss that such an experience entails. But while we may never comprehend, we must acknowledge what others have gone through on our behalf. Not just by listening to the words; but by our own actions both honor and advance the principles for which they fought.

Today I do not look beyond my own backyard to try and understand what lay behind the words-- dedication, sacrifice and suffering. Every day on our way to work, to school, to shop, or on to our favorite watering hole; we pass little reminders of what those words mean. Acknowledging the limits of my own experiences I shall let those who have stood in harm's way speak to us. And from their words and actions I hope we all have a better understanding of their sacrifices and also an understanding of our obligation to ensure that they were not in vain........

...Closed the Mouth of this Vast and Awful Tomb.

Fredericksburg National Cemetery--

"the bodies of these poor fellows, stripped nearly naked, were gathered in huge mounds around the pit, and tumbled neck and heal into it: the dull thud of corpses falling on corpses coming from the depths of the hole until the solid mass of human flesh reaches near the surface, when a covering of logs, chalk, and mud closed the mouth of this vast and awful tomb."

The muffled drum's sad roll has beat
The soldier's last Tattoo;No more on life's parade shall meet
That brave and fallen few.
On Fame's eternal camping ground
Their silent tents are spread,
And glory guards, with solemn round
The bivouac of the dead.

...Bounced Through Our Ranks Like Rubber Balls.
Slaughter Pen Farm, Fredericksburg--
"cannon balls were flying over and among us all the time, killing men and horses and tearing up the ground all around us." The adjutant of the Second Reserves, Evan M. Woodward, recalled that many of the missiles, "plowed up the earth in deep furrows, or went howling and bursting over our heads, filling the air with iron hail and sulphur." Some of the shots landed among the Pennsylvania Reserves and kicked up spigots of mud "higher than the tallest tree," while others bounced through the ranks like grotesque rubber balls."

No rumour of the foe's advance
Now swells upon the wind;
No troubled thought at midnight haunts
Of loved ones left behind.
No vision of the morrow's strife
The warrior's dream alarms;
No braying horn, nor screaming fife,
At dawn shall call to arms.
...Knew it is Surley as Though I Culd Read His Thoughts.
Tapp Farm, Wilderness Battlefield, Spotsylvania--
"I saw many wounded soldiers in the Wilderness who hung on to their rifles, and whose intention was clearly stamped on their pallid faces. I saw one man, both of whose legs were broken, lying on the ground with his cocked rifle by his side and his ramrod in his hand, and his eyes set on the front. I knew he meant to kill himself in case of fire—knew it is surely as though I could read his thoughts."

Their shivered swords are red with rust,
Their plumed heads are bowed;
Their haughty banner, trailed in dust,
Is now their martial shroud.
And plenteous funeral tears have washed
The red stains from each brow;
And the proud forms, by battle gashed,
Are free from anguish now.
I Continued in the Tallest Running Match of My Life.
Motts Run, Chancellorsville, Spotsylvania--
"At about the same time I felt that some part of my accouterment on the left side had given way; instinctively grasping for whatever it might be, I caught the straps of a leather pouch and of a haversack in my left hand, they had both been severed by a bullet, without halting, I continued in the tallest running match of my life, seemingly swinging my booty, i.e. my own provisions, in triumph, while the sword, in my right in its gyrations seemed thirsting for blood and the metal scabbard on my left was indented and bent by another bullet."

The neighing troop, the flashing blade,
The bugle's stirring blast,
The charge, the dreadful cannonade,
The din and shouts are past;
Nor war's wild note, nor glory's peal,
Shall thrill with fierce delight;
Those breasts that never more may feel
The rapture of the fight.
....When Others Would Take Their Places.
Bloody Angle, Spotsylvania--
"Nothing but the piled up logs of breastworks separated the combatants. Our men would reach over the logs and fire into the faces of the enemy, would stab over with their bayonets; many were shot and stabbed through crevices and holes between logs; men mounted the works and with muskets rapidly handed them kept up a continuous fire until they were shot down, when others would take their places."

Like the fierce Northern hurricane
That sweeps the great plateau,
Flushed with triumph, yet to gain,
Come down the serried foe;
Who heard the thunder of the fray
Break o'er the field beneath,
Knew the watchword of the day
Was "Victory or death!"
Late in the Afternoon of This Day.....
Railroad cut, Wilderness Battlefield, Spotsylvania--
"Late in the afternoon of this day I went among the wounded of the Third Regiment South Carolina Volunteers and of the Yankees who had fallen into our hands. As usual on such occasions groans and cries met me from every side. I found Col. James Nance, my old school mate, and Col. Gaillard of Fairfield lying side by side in death. Near them lay Warren Peterson, with a shattered thighbone, and still others who were my friends."

Long had the doubtful conflict raged
O'er all that stricken plain,
For never fiercer fight had waged
The vengeful blood of Spain;
And still the storm of battle blew,
Still swelled the glory tide;
Not long, our stout old Chieftain knew,
Such odds his strength could bide.
....but it is a Line of Dead Men.
The Stonewall, Fredericksburg--
"Owen reached the Stratton House and looked for Hancock's line. "To my amazement," he reported, "the two lines which I was told to support I found to be almost totally annihilated." The Philadelphia Brigade recognized "some scattered companies and parts of regiments." Most soldiers however, recalled "one long line of battle, lying down two deep, but it is a line of dead men."

Twas in that hour his stern command
Called to a martyr's grave
The flower of his beloved land,
The nation's flag to save.
By rivers of their father's gore
His first-born laurels grew,
And well he deemed the sons would pour
Their lives for glory too.
The Dead and Wounded Were Torn to Pieces.......
Bloody Angel, Spotsylvania--
"The dead and wounded were torn to pieces by canister as it swept the ground where they had fallen. The mud was halfway to our knees. ...Our losses were frightful. What remained of many different regiments that had come up to our support had concentrated at this point, and had planted their tattered colors upon a slight rise of ground where they stayed during the latter part of the day."

For many a mother's breath has swept
O'er Angostura's plain,
And long the pitying sky has wept
Above its moldered slain.
The raven's scream, or eagle's flight,
Or shepherd's pensive lay,
Alone awakes each sullen height
That frowned o'er that dread fray.
It is for Us the Living.........
Fredericksburg National Cemetery--
"It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

Sons of the Dark and Bloody Ground
Ye must not slumber there,
Where stranger steps and tongues resound
Along the heedless air.
Your own proud land's heroic soil
Shall be your fitter grave;
She claims from war his richest spoil,
The ashes of her brave.
And Should Those Lives be Sacrificed in Vain?

Camp of the 28th Mass., Vol. Near Falmouth, VA June 1st 1863--
"And should those lives be sacrificed in vain? The heart of every true Irishman will answer no emphatically no. they have a vital interest in the preservation of our national existence the perpetuation of our institutions and the free and untrammeled execution of our laws. We who survive them have a double motive then to nerve us to action. We have the same national, political and social interests at stake not only for ourselves but for coming generations and the oppressed of every nation for America was a common asylum for all. And we have the stern fact before us that thousands of our race have sacrificed their lives in this cause and should we now fail to support it they will have fought, bled and died in vain."

Thus 'neath their parent turf they rest,
Far from the gory field,
Borne to a Spartan mother's breast
On many a bloody shield;
The sunshine of their native sky
Smiles sadly on them here,
And kindred eyes and hearts watch by
The heroes sepulcher.
For Every Man That Falls in Battle.....
Confederate Cemetery, Spotsylvania--
"For every man that falls in battle, someone mourns, for every man who lies in hospital wards and of whom no note is taken, someone mourns. For the humblest soldier shot on picket, and of whose humble exit from the stage of life little is thought, some one mourns."

Rest on, embalmed and sainted dead,
Dear as the blood ye gave,
No impious footstep here shall tread
The herbage of your grave.
Nor shall your glory be forgot
While fame her record keeps,
For honor points the hallowed spot
Where valor proudly sleeps.
...a Confederate Volley Ripped Through
Bloody Angle--Spotsylvania--
"Under a furious rain, the 15th New Jersey charged across a narrow field towards the famous "Bloody Angle." Just 50 yards from the enemy's works, a Confederate volley ripped through the regiment's right flank. In less than 30-minutes, 151 New Jerseyans has fallen, more than half of the unit present that morning. The regiment's chaplain and first historian, Alanson Haines, believed that, "no experience during the whole time the fifteenth was in service was more destructive than that half an hour, from 10 o'clock to half-past-ten on the morning of May 12th."

Yon marble minstrel's voiceless stone
In deathless song shall tell,
When many a vanquished age hath flown,
The story how ye fell.
Nor wreck, nor change, nor winter's blight,
Nor time's remorseless doom,
Shall dim one ray of glory's light
That gilds your deathless tomb.