Saturday, August 26, 2006

Outrage at Harpers Ferry

According to the articles that I have read thus far, this outrageous act of greed and self-serving desecration has lead to neither an investigation nor arrests.

National Park Conservation Association Press Releases

For Immediate Release: August 23, 2006

Joy Oakes, National Parks Conservation Association, 202-454-3386
Jim Campi, Civil War Preservation Trust, 202-277-8560

Historic School House Ridge Battlefield at Harpers Ferry Violated This Weekend

(Harpers Ferry, W.Va.) – The Civil War Preservation Trust (CWPT) and the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) issued a statement today in response to the illegal bulldozing of a portion of the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park this past weekend by a handful of local developers. Purposely and without permission, the developers dug a deep trench through historic land owned by the National Park Service and the American people.

"Beginning on the morning of August 19, 2006, a group of local developers moved heavy machinery and work crews onto the Harpers Ferry National Historical Park and proceeded to lay water and sewer pipes on historic land where Stonewall Jackson launched one of the most brilliant tactical triumphs of the Civil War," said CWPT President James Lighthizer. "The developers had neither authority nor the permits necessary to do this."

The purpose of the water and sewer line is to facilitate a planned development of approximately 3,400 houses proposed for construction both inside and adjacent to the Park Service boundary. To date, the developers have not received any local approvals necessary for this development to proceed.

"These developers knowingly and defiantly ignored federal laws regarding construction on public land," said Joy Oakes, Senior NPCA Mid-Atlantic Regional Director. "Americans have a right to expect that land protected by the Park Service cannot be bulldozed outside of an orderly and legal review. We encourage federal and state law enforcement officials to pursue these violators to the fullest extent of the law."

For several years, CWPT and NPCA have been leaders in an extraordinary and successful effort to protect historic lands at Harpers Ferry. With the support of local business owners, civil rights leaders, conservationists, history buffs, recreation enthusiasts, heritage tourism interests, and elected officials, Congress expanded the park’s boundary in 2004. Millions in federal grants as well as private funds have been raised to purchase land from willing sellers to add to the national park.

"We are horrified at this premeditated and unprecedented desecration of School House Ridge," said Lighthizer. "For several years, CWPT and NPCA have been working with federal and state officials to protect this property. Last year CWPT appealed to our members to help raise the $1.5 million needed to acquire the site bulldozed this weekend for preservation. We are outraged, and expect immediate restitution from these developers."

As the developers were running their bulldozers last weekend, hundreds gathered from across the country to participate in a National Park Service-hosted commemoration of the centennial of a meeting at Harpers Ferry in 1906 that laid the cornerstone of the modern-day civil rights movement.

CWPT is a 75,000-member nonprofit battlefield preservation organization. Its mission is to preserve our nation’s endangered Civil War sites and promote appreciation of these hallowed grounds. Over the years, CWPT has saved more than 23,000 acres of hallowed ground, including 325 acres on the Harpers Ferry Battlefield.

Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice of the American people in protecting and enhancing our National Park System. NPCA, its 325,000 members, and partners work together to protect the park system and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for generations to come.



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For more information, please visit:

National Parks Conservation Association Media Center

Civil War Preservation Trust Newsroom

To express your outrage at this blatant desecration:

Harpers Ferry Local Government (Click on Town Council)

Governor Joseph Manchin

US Senators - West Virginia

US House of Representatives - West Virginia

West Virginia Government

Friday, August 25, 2006

General Lee's Bad Old Man

General Jubal Anderson Early, whom General Lee affectionately labeled "My Bad Old Man" earned that nickname due to his infamously foul disposition. The web site notes an interchange between Early and General Thomas J. Jackson that typifies this brash, self-confident Confederate's approach to life. says:
    Early had served under Stonewall Jackson, who, one day, noticed a number of stragglers on the road in the rear of Early's marching column. When Jackson's adjutant sent a short note, inquiring why General Jackson had seen so many stragglers, Early replied as follows: "In answer to your note I would state that I think it is probable that the reason you saw so many of my stragglers on the march today is due to the fact that you rode in the rear of my division."
Very few but the most confident and competent officers would have dared say as much.



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Thursday, August 24, 2006

General Lee’s Letter of Recommendation

Confederate General Robert E. Lee wrote the following letter to President Davis a few weeks after the Battle of Antietam. In it, he recommends the promotions of James Longstreet and Thomas Jackson, both Major Generals in command of the right and left wings of the Army of Northern Virginia. As interesting as that is alone, especially since he does not qualify Longstreet’s recommendation, he also mentions Union General George McClellan’s dispositions, his concern for Richmond, and his belief that he cannot inflict damage to the Army of the Potomac as they currently stand.

From The War Of The Rebellion: A Compilation Of The Official Records Of The Union And Confederate Armies: Series 1, Vol. XIX, Part II, p 646

Washington Run, near Winchester, Va., October 2, 1862.

His Excellency President DAVIS,

Richmond, Va.:

Mr. PRESIDENT: I received last night your letter of the 28th ultimo, and am much obliged to you for the attention given to my requests. I have stated so frequently my opinion of the necessity of improving the discipline of our armies that I need not repeat it. I hope Congress will grant every facility in their power.

In reference to commanders of corps with the rank of lieutenant-general, of which you request my opinion, I can confidently recommend Generals Longstreet and Jackson, in this army. My opinion of the merits of General Jackson has been greatly enhanced during this expedition. He is true, honest, and brave; has a single eye to the good of the service, and spares no exertion to accomplish his object. Next to these two officers, I consider General A. P. Hill the best commander with me. He fights his troops well, and takes good care of them. At present I do not think that more than two commanders of corps are necessary for this army. I need not remind you of the merits of General E. K. Smith, whom I consider one of our best officers. As regards the appointments for major-generals and brigadier-generals for this army, I have already forwarded to you the names of those whose merits I think have earned promotion. Should you conclude to promote Generals Longstreet and Jackson, major-generals in their places will be required, but I believe you have sufficient names before you to fill the vacancies. Your own knowledge of the claims and qualifications of the officers will, I feel assured, enable you to make the best selection. I do not think it necessary to call your attention to the officers immediately around Richmond, as you are fully aware of their merits.

The returns of the 30th ultimo will show an increase of our strength. If completed in time, I will send them by this mail. But our reach have been restored to them. Strange to say, our sick are very numerous, and all the care and attention I can give to the subject do not seem to diminish the number. Until the regimental officers can be made to appreciate the necessity of taking care of their men, keeping them under control, attending to their wants and comforts, and enforcing cleanliness, &c., I fear the sanitary condition of the army will not improve. It is the want of this attention and provision for comfort that causes our men so soon to break down under hardship.

I have written to you in reference to General Loring's movements, and am glad to find my suggestions to him correspond in the main with your instructions.

General McClellan's army is apparently quiescent. He himself is at Sharpsburg; his main body in that vicinity. I think he is yet unable to move, and finds difficulty in procuring provisions more than sufficient from day to day.

General Sumner is strengthening himself at Harper's Ferry. The brigades over the Potomac are being reconstructed. My great anxiety is, lest, with other troops, General McClellan may move upon Richmond. As at present there is no way in which I can endanger his safety, I have been in hopes that he would cross the river and move up the valley, where I wish to get him, but he does not seem so disposed.

I have been endeavoring to move back to Staunton everything captured at Harper's Ferry and all of valley in Winchester, together with our sick and wounded, in order that I may be unembarrassed. As soon as this is accomplished-which I regret to say from our weakness in transportation progresses slowly-unless something more advantageous offers, I shall move toward the Blue Ridge, so as to be prepared for any advance toward Richmond on the part of the enemy. I think it advisable that such troops as are north of James River, and not required for the support of the batteries at Drewry's Bluff, should be posted on the Rapidan and North Anna. They will guard the railroad, and by their presence prevent aggressions by small bodies of the enemy.

Four thousand four hundred pairs of shoes arrived yesterday, and 2,000 pairs expected today, which I hope will cover the bare feet in the army.

I am delighted to learn that the prospect of affairs in Kentucky and Louisiana is so bright. As regards Maryland, she is so tightly tied that I fear nothing but extraneous aid can relieve her. The military government of the United States has been so perfected by the recent proclamations of President Lincoln, which you have no doubt seen, and civil liberty so completely trodden under foot, that I have strong hopes that the conservative portion of that people, unless dead to the feeling of liberty, will rise and depose the party now in power.

I wish I felt that I deserved the confidence you express in me. I am only conscious of an earnest desire to advance the interests of the country and of my inability to accomplish my wishes. The brave men of this army fully deserve your thanks, and I will take pleasure in communicating them.

I am, with the highest respect and esteem your obedient servant,

R. E. LEE,




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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

On a lighter note...

Smithsonian Associates Disclaimer

The "Smithsonian Associates Civil War E-Mail Newsletter" contains this unusual disclaimer at the end of their free news letter:

"The Newsletter Staff takes sole responsibility for any inaccuracies and omissions, as well as for any good stuff you may find here. We regret that we are not staffed to answer extremely vague or extremely specific questions, to settle bar bets, to research esoteric topics, to do your homework, or to write term papers for you, even though any of that would be more interesting than our real jobs. But, we will try to answer all e-mails. (Allow a minimum of two weeks--if you don't hear back, then we can't find the answer either.)"

To visit their web site or to sign up for their newsletter, click on the following link - They more straightforwardly state that "The largest circulating Civil War digital newsletter includes advanced notice of popular Smithsonian Associates tours, seminars and local Civil War events, as well as a regular trivia quiz (with prizes), and original articles and essays."



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Sunday, August 13, 2006

Short Story: A Darker Lingering Voice

On the small rough-hewn oaken table, the tiny flame flickered effortlessly. The single glowing light cast disproportionately long dim shadows on the adjacent walls, each swaying to the fanciful whims of the waxy little sprite. The tiny light barely illuminated the textured leather cover of the treasured family bible that rested prominently aside the candle near the table’s center. The cool April air that fluttered the candle’s flame slipped under the slightly opened window and provided an excuse for the chill that the quilted blanket could not allay. Restlessly shifting his weight, he felt his feet move against the sheets as he tried to find comfort without disturbing his sleeping young wife. The fresh breeze whose budding spring fragrance eased away the winter’s musty air did little to sooth his fretful thoughts.

News of the fall of Fort Sumter had come a week past. He and his wife knew that with this dangerous line crossed, fate now dangled before him an inescapable dilemma, one he had discussed with his family. A practical, well-respected man, his father spoke earnestly of honor and the obligation to fight for one’s country. As much as he wished to obey this man’s wishes and remain in the warm light of his father’s pride, he knew of the terrible possibilities that war would hold. His mother felt likewise. The memory of his mother’s words pulled his thoughts to her beloved brother Stephen. He had fought in the Mexican War two decades past, yet the scars of glory won still burned at his soul. Stephen strode off to war on two strong legs, filled with a rousing patriotism and eagerness to prove himself worthy of the old flag. He came home victorious, but lost more than just the lower half of a formerly sturdy leg.

Shaking those thoughts away, he instead gazed at the flickering light that danced across the cover of the family bible. Just inside its familiar worn cover, a sturdy tree held the names of family members long since gone with a line drawn just above the generation who first laid foot on this untamed land. The margins proudly bore several scribbled notations of those who fought in the Revolution, their actions allowing for the formation of the country he loved; the country now apparently destined to tear itself apart. He wondered of his debt to them. Because his ancestors faced the horror of war, he and his family could enjoy the liberties of this young vibrant country. Uncle Stephen’s painful sacrifices purchased for him the chance to raise a family in this beautiful land.

Although looking away from her, he took reassurance from the gentle breathing that spoke to him of his wife’s presence. He thought of their recent wedding and the promises made to each other before the altar of God. What did he owe her? She eagerly anticipated a future filled with many healthy children and spoke with gratified satisfaction of his ambition to provide for them. He had the chance to take over his father’s business should he continue to prove himself the hard worker his father raised him to be. They had a bright future ahead of them, or so he had thought. Now, the decision he must make stood ominously at a fork in the once straight road that had lead directly to their happiness.

A slight anger rose within him as he thought of the brewing conflict. He had no part in creating this. He cared not how the country answered the Negro question that had widened the now unbridgeable chasm between the Northern and Southern States. He alone would work for his family’s future. The sweat of his brow and the strength of his back would bring his young family the security and stability that would allow for the many children his wife wanted and the joyful years he had known awaited them. Yet now he wondered what manner of country would remain after the bitter smoke of battle cleared. The older men in town thump their chests and take their turns swearing that we will win what they insist will be a short, decisive war. They boast of the certain valor of those who, in front of their aging eyes, have grown from playful lads into strong young men. Such men could never fail to gain success when put to the great tasks of defending their honor and protecting their homes and firesides. They spoke of their own wishes to once again embrace youth so they too could shoulder arms and gain the soldierly laurels of glorious battle.

But a darker lingering voice taunted him with another reality. His mother had spoken mournfully of Uncle Stephen’s suffering and his struggles to survive the brutal amputation that severed his shattered left leg below the knee and cost him his sense of self-worth. His intemperate manner, so much in contrast to the warmth of his younger self, had consumed him. He would have no man help him support his family, not even those who loved him. Uncle Stephen’s family often went hungry as they ate primarily from the fruit of the small parcel of land he could till. He drove away many who would have offered help gladly, too proud to let them see his anguish, his pain, his inextinguishable sorrow.

Again trying to keep such thoughts at bay, his eyes focused on the leather cover on the table. What would God desire of him? What did He command? Both sides claimed God’s protection and the advantage of His holy sword. He suspected God would remain distant for a while and, like a wise Father, let the siblings grow tired of the fight to eventually after much acrimony find their own peace.

Rising slightly and leaning forward, he gave a short puff, allowing sudden darkness to envelop the entire room. The intermittent April breeze washed silently over their bed. He wished his mind could go blank, as had the now lightless room. Rolling towards his wife, he searched the darkness for a glimpse of her soft, strong face, wondering where he would find the courage to fight when it came time. Fighting meant standing his ground, risking never seeing her again, touching her cheek, or smelling her long, brown hair. Yet, if he did not go, could he ever again gaze without shame into her eyes? Would she look upon him as she had before? Would she think him a coward if he sought the security of home? Although he could not yet admit as much, somewhere in his mind, he knew that he would go. He knew he would fight. He knew he would defend his home, his honor, and his State. Tomorrow, he would speak to her of going into Charleston. Tomorrow, he would become a Rebel.



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Sunday, August 06, 2006

Gettysburg Casino

Update: August 10, 2006: After writing this article I have heard two other news reports stating that the PGCB aims to award the Pennsylvania casino licenses before the end of the year. They made no mention of initially reported September 2006 date previously discussed. However, the potential for damage to the battlefields remains. So please read on.


On the radio this week, I heard the disquieting news that the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, despite legislative pleas for a postponement, hopes to begin awarding casino licenses next month. If you feel as I do, that the attempt to exploit the name, memory, and men of Gettysburg by building a casino near the battlefield should never be, please let the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board and other Pennsylvania officials hear your voice. If you would like more information about this issue, I have several links in the menu to the right.

Gettysburg National Cemetery

I have included links to those who have influence concerning this issue. Please write to some or all of them so as not to allow the memory of the thousands who fought and died to suffer the taint of such disrespect and to avoid the resulting damage to the battlefield which so honorably serves as an eternal monument to their deeds and memory.

Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board

Governor Ed Rendell

Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter

Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum

Lynn Swann - Pennsylvania Gubernatorial Candidate

Pennsylvania State Assembly



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