Historian and Author Tom Perry's thoughts on history and anything that comes to mind.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Virginia Monument At Chickamauga

Born on the Smith River in Patrick County, Jefferson Turner lived at the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountain along the border between Patrick and Floyd Counties before the war. He served in Captain Sparrell Griffith’s Company H, 54th Virginia Infantry. Turner died of disease at Abingdon in May 1862. During the American Civil War families sometimes came to the camps and took their loved one's body home for burial. Family tradition states his wife, Susan Short Turner, traveled by wagon to Abingdon, brought his body back, and buried him at the head of Shooting Creek, a journey of almost 300 miles. This just one of the stories from The Free State Of Patrick: Patrick County Virginia in the Civil War that I finished over a decade ago. We are commemorating the 150th anniversary of the War Between the States and one man has the idea to remember some of these men with a monument at battlefield that many do not realize they fought at in northern Georgia at a place along a creek called Chickamauga.

            Many years ago John Cail of the Surry County Civil War Round Table  and I found ourselves at the Brotherton Cabin on the Chickamauga National Battlefield in northern Georgia just south of the my father’s birthplace in Chattanooga, Tennessee. John found the sign for the his ancestor’s regiment, the 54th Virginia Infantry and just beside it I found the sign for my father’s ancestors in the 17th Tennessee. John and I did a double take as just like we were doing our ancestors fought beside each other at Chickamauga in September 1864.

            Men from Patrick County served in the 54th Virginia Infantry. Company H with 64 men under the command of Sparrell H. Griffith enlisted on October 1, 1861. Joseph H. Scales, James R. Scales, Lewis A. Buckingham and Peter S. Banks led the company later in the war. This regiment made up of men mainly from Floyd County included at least 24 men from Patrick County.

            The regiment fought future President James A. Garfield at Middle Creek on January 10, 1862. Griffith left with the reorganization in May 1862. At the Battle of Kelly’s Store in Southampton County in January 1863, the 54th fought alongside the 50th Virginia Infantry.

            The 54th joined the Army of Tennessee fighting at Chickamauga in September 1863 and Missionary Ridge near Chattanooga in November. The Atlanta Campaign in 1864 occupied the regiment fighting at Resaca in May, Atlanta in July and Jonesboro in August under the command of Joseph Johnston and John Bell Hood.

            John Bell Hood “played hell in Tennessee” the remainder of the year into 1865 with the 54th Virginia participating except for the disaster of Franklin in November. The 54th joined Nathan Bedford Forrest at Murfreesboro in December 1864. Johnston replaced Hood in January 1865. The 54th with 235 men moved towards North Carolina in February traveling through Augusta, Georgia to Charlotte. On March 19, 1865, the 54th fought its last battle at Bentonville, North Carolina losing four killed, 5 wounded and losing 30 prisoners.

Among the men with a connection to Patrick County was the brother of the most famous soldier from our county. John Dabney Stuart was an Assistant Surgeon in the 54th Virginia Infantry. He previously served as a Surgeon in the 42nd Virginia Infantry. Born In Patrick County  in 1828 in Ararat, Virginia, at the Laurel Hill Farm and was the brother of J. E. B. Stuart. John went to Wytheville then Emory and Henry for schooling. In Floyd, he studied medicine under his brother-in-law, Nicholas Headen, and practiced medicine there and in Wythe County. He married Anne Elizabeth Kent of Wythe County. After the war, he farmed in Wythe County, where he died in 1877. He is buried in the town cemetery just across the street from the home of his other brother, William Alexander Stuart.

            Knowing something about trying to raise money to preserve something with a Civil War connection, I befriended James Christman of Grayson County at the Battle of Saltville reenactment. Christman is well on his way to place a Virginia Monument at Chickamauga working with National Park Historian Jim Ogden and others. James will be at Stuart’s Birthplace the first weekend in October raising money for his cause. Below are a list of some of the men from Patrick County who served in the 54th Virginia Infantry Regiment. If you are related to these men or are interested in the war contact James and learn about his efforts to place a monument honoring men from Patrick County in the Civil War.

Blancet, James M. (1834-1918). Company G, 54th Virginia Infantry. 

Boyd, Jacob C. Teamster, Company I, 54th Virginia Infantry. . 

Griffith, Sparrell (1846-1920). Captain, Company H, 54th Virginia Infantry.

Hall, Jackson. Possibly In 54th Virginia Infantry. Killed at Chickamauga, September 13, 1863.

Haynes, Columbus (October 16,1839-May 21,1881). Company I, 54th Virginia Infantry.

Haynes, Lafayette (1841-1881). Company B, 54th Virginia Infantry. POW, November 25, 1863, at Missionary Ridge, Tennessee.

Helms, Joseph. Company D, 54th Virginia Infantry. 

King, John B. Possibly In Company I, 54th Virginia Infantry.  

Lovell, James K. Company D, 54th Virginia Infantry. 

Martin, Alexander G. (1835-August 31, 1864). Sergeant, Company G, 54th Virginia Infantry. 

Martin, Andrew J. Company E, 54th Virginia Infantry. 

Ray, Wilkins P. Company B, 54th Virginia Infantry.  

Rogers, James J. (1833-1923). Company F, 54th Virginia Infantry. 

Scales, Joseph H. Captain, 54th Virginia Infantry. 

Scott, Jehu. Company C, 54th Virginia Infantry. 

Shelor, William F. Company I, 54th Virginia Infantry.  

Smith, Eli. Company I, 54th Virginia Infantry.  

Spence, Thomas Alderman. Company D, 54th Virginia Infantry.  

Sumner, Joshua H. Company A, 54th Virginia Infantry. 

Tatum, C. A. Company B, 54th Virginia Infantry.  

Turner, Fleming (1832-1892). Company I, 54th Virginia Infantry. 

Turner, Jefferson (May 22, 1829-May 2, 1862). Company H, 54th Virginia Infantry.

Wickham, Joseph R. Company A, 54th Virginia Infantry. 

            Visit the website to learn more about the project. http://63rdand54thvainf.com/home  or contact James Christman at   P.O. Box 1741, Galax, VA 24333

             For further reading see G. L. Sherwood and Jeffrey C. Weaver’s The 54th Virginia  Infantry printed by H. E. Howard out of Lynchburg in 1993.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Patrick and Henry Counties In Vietnam

For Release July 4, 2011

            The Martinsville-Henry County Historical Society and Historian Tom Perry are pleased to announce plans for an upcoming exhibit on the men from Martinsville, Henry County, and Patrick County, Virginia, who lost their lives in the Vietnam Conflict. The exhibit will open around Veterans Day this November in the Martinsville-Henry County Heritage Center & Museum located in the historic Henry County Courthouse. We are asking the people of Martinsville and Henry County for your help to provide us with information on the local men who lost their lives in Vietnam so that it may be included in the exhibit.

            On June 23, 2011, Perry visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D. C. and collected rubbings of the names of each man from Martinsville and Henry County engraved on the Wall. These rubbings will be incorporated into the exhibit to go with a similar shadowbox with the names of the seven men from Patrick County who lost their lives. Perry collected material on these men and did rubbings several years ago documented at www.freestateofpatrick.com/vietnam. 

            If you have photos, documents or stories that you would like to share and to help us tell the story of these veterans, please let us know. Perry will be scanning images or any related materials on these men over the next few months.  Perry will be at the Heritage Center and Museum in the historic Henry County Courthouse in Uptown Martinsville on July 21, 22, August 18, 19 and September 15, and 16. Please call Tom Perry at 276-692-5300 or send an email to freestateofpatrick@yahoo.com to set up an appointment to scan any materials you would like to share. If you have any questions or would like further information, please contact Debbie Hall, Executive Director of the Martinsville-Henry County Historical Society at 276-403-5361.

            Perry will be at the Bassett Train Station during the Bassett Farmer’s Market scanning images for a Bassett book and the Vietnam project on July 7, August 11, September 8, September 10, October 13, 2011.

            Following are the names of the soldiers from Martinsville and Henry County who lost their lives during Vietnam:






















Men From Patrick County Who Lost Their Lives in Vietnam








Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Program Sunday At Old Henry County Courthouse In Martinsville

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                    
Debbie Hall, Executive Director

May 31, 2011

Historian and author Thomas D. Perry will present “Extraordinary Times, Ordinary Man: The Life, Times and Images of Everett M. Bennett” on Sunday, June 5, at 3:00 PM in the Historic Henry County Courthouse and Heritage Center and Museum, located at 1 East Main Street in Uptown Martinsville. Everett Bennett grew up in Spencer, Virginia and served his country in occupied Germany after World War II and during the Korean War. Perry’s sixteenth book, “From Spencer-Penn to Rives Road: The Life, Times and Images of Everett M. Bennett,” recounts Bennett’s life, the times in which he lived and the images he collected along the way including photographs he took and postcards he collected. The book also includes letters Bennett and his family received after famed photographer Walter Sanders’ photograph of Bennett appeared on the cover of Life magazine in 1947 propelling Bennett to his own “15 minutes of fame.” Bennett died in 2005.

The program is being held in conjunction with the opening of an exhibit on Everett Bennett featuring personal possessions including his uniform and other military items, his original photographs and his Life magazine cover on loan from his widow, Dora Adams Bennett and his longtime friend, David Minter. The exhibit will also include items from the collection of David Minter on the Korean War, Vietnam and his father, Philmore G. Minter’s service with Company H, 116 Infantry 29th division on D-Day.  Mr. Glenwood Hankins and Mr. Clyde English, D-Day veterans who served with Minter plan to attend the program.

Historian Thomas D. Perry is the author of sixteen books on regional history in Virginia surrounding his home county of Patrick. In 1990, Perry started the J.E.B. Stuart Birthplace in Ararat, Virginia. A Virginia Tech graduate, he studied under renown Civil War Historian James I. “Bud” Robertson, and speaks all over the region and country. Perry’s collection of papers, books, and images are housed in the Special Collection Department of the Carol M. Newman Library at Virginia Tech.

He is the recipient of the John E. Divine Award from the Civil War Education Association, the Hester Jackson Award from the Surry County Civil War Round Table, and the Best Article Award from the Society of North Carolina Historians for his article on Stoneman’s Raid in 2008. In 2010, he received acknowledgement from the Bassett Public Library Association for his work to expand the Bassett Historical Center and was named Henry County Virginia Man of the Year by www.myhenrycounty.com. Perry also recently received the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution Community Service Award from the Patrick Henry Daughters of the American Revolution.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Everett Bennett Book

Program Sunday June 5 at 3 pm at Martinsville Henry County Heritage Center and Museum at old Henry County Courthouse in Martinsville. Ordinary Man in Extraordinary Times: The Life, Times, and Images of Everett M. Bennett.

Read Paul Collin's article in the May 30, 2011, Martinsville Bulletin about Everett M. Bennett.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Thank You Friends of the Blue Ridge Regional Library

"Thank You Thomas Perry!
                I would like to take this moment to Thank Thomas Perry for all that he has done for the Bassett Historical Center and the promotion of regional and local history. Tom has tirelessly devoted his efforts and resources in support of the Bassett Historical Center and many other deserving organization. The Patrick Henry Chapter of the DAR (Daughters of the American Revolution) presented Tom with their Community Service Award in February 2011. The DAR Chapter in turn received a third place award from the entire Commonwealth of Virginia for their nomination of Tom for Community Service. The Colonel George Waller Chapter of the SAR (Sons of the American Revolution) presented Tm with their Bronze Good Citizenship Award in 2005. Tom’s mission has always been the education and promotion of history. He started the J. E. B. Stuart Birthplace Preservation Trust, Inc. in 1990 and the online Free State of Patrick website in 2004, which has grown to over 500 members.
                Tom has produced the Laurel Hill Teacher’s Guide for educators and the Laurel Hill Reference Guide for groups. Additionally, Tom speaks with students at several local schools and colleges. Tom has his collection of papers relating to J. E. B. Stuart and Patrick County history at his alma mater Virginia Tech in the Special Collections Department of the Carol M. Newman Library under the auspices of the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies. He has donated his collection of over 14,000 photos and images to the Bassett Historical Center and the Mount Airy Museum of Regional History. Tom as instrumental in developing the Historical Symposium held to benefit the Bassett Historical Center’s Building Fund, as well as, encouraging James I. Robertson, Jr. to be a speaker. He has presented multiple “First Saturday” programs annually, on various local topics of local history over the past five years. He served as editor of the Henry County Heritage Book and Tom’s Arcadia Publishing’s Henry County Virginia book went to the Bassett Historical Center’s Building Fund to help raise over $50,000 for the expansion of the building. Tom participated in the Big Read in October 2010, holding the final event for Poe on Halloween at the Bassett Train Depot. Tom has gone above and beyond for the promotion of local and regional history and deserves a huge Thank You for all he has done for the Blue Ridge Regional Library system and the Bassett Historical Center. The deeds listed above are just a sampling of Tom’s outstanding contributions. We are truly fortunate to call Thomas Perry our friend!"
Ruby David, Editor, Friends of the Blue Ridge Regional Library Newsletter Spring-Summer 2011

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Book To Help Fieldale Community Center

Fieldale Virginia $19.99
Laurel Hill Publishing is pleased to announce that Fieldale Virginia (History and Memory Series of Laurel Hill Publishing) will help funding for the Fieldale Community Center respectively. Each book is available at each respective center where proceeds will go to each center and each center will receive $1 from all sales of the respective books.

Tom Perry recently received the National Community Service Award from the Patrick Henry Daughters of the American Revolution and these two books continue his long standing belief in using his books to help raise money for local non-profit projects, which began over twenty years ago when Perry started the J. E. B. Stuart Birthplace in his hometown of Ararat, Patrick County, Virginia and continued recently with the expansion of the Bassett Historical Center.

Fieldale Virginia is part of the History and Memory Series of Laurel Hill Publishing. Fieldale Virginia continues the series begun in 2009 by Tom Perry with Images of Henry County Virginia, which was used to raise money for the Bassett Historical Center and matched by the Harvest Foundation to help fund the expansion to what Perry calls “The Best Little Library in Virginia.” Perry continued this series with Martinsville Virginia recently revised with the Virginia Museum of Natural History on the cover. All these books are available for $19.99 at the Binding Time CafĂ©, Martinsville Visitor Center and the Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville.
This book is co-authored by Traci Petty, who is an expert on the history of Fieldale especially the Fieldale Lodge and the Fieldale Heritage Festival. Perry asked Petty to join him after going on one of her tours of the Fieldale Lodge.

This book uses old black and white images to tell the history of the small Henry County community began by Marshall Field and Co. in the early 20th century. Also, included are short
essays by people whose families called Fieldale home.

Bill Adkins of the Fieldale Community Center comments. “The proceeds from the book sale will be used to update facilities at the center. We are currently working on the pool, which is scheduled to open May 28. We are cleaning and working at the center preparing for the Heritage Festival.”

Link to Fieldale Community Center http://www.fieldalecommunitycenter.org/


Perry can be contacted through his website www.freestateofpatrick.com or email at freestateofpatrick@yahoo.com

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Book To Help Spencer Penn Centre

Laurel Hill Publishing is pleased to announce that From Spencer-Penn To Rives Road: The Life, Times, and Images of Everett M. Bennett and Fieldale Virginia (History and Memory Series of Laurel Hill Publishing) will help funding for the Spencer-Penn Centre and the Fieldale Community Center respectively. Each book is available at each respective center where proceeds will go to each center and each center will receive $1 from all sales of the respective books.

Tom Perry recently received the National Community Service Award from the Patrick Henry Daughters of the American Revolution and these two books continue his long standing belief in using his books to help raise money for local non-profit projects, which began over twenty years ago when Perry started the J. E. B. Stuart Birthplace in his hometown of Ararat, Patrick County, Virginia and continued recently with the expansion of the Bassett Historical Center.

Perry can be contacted through his website www.freestateofpatrick.com or email at freestateofpatrick@yahoo.com

Mary Jordan of the Spencer-Penn Centre comments. “The Spencer-Penn School has a legacy of admirable, hard-working students who went on to be admirable, hardworking citizens.  When the school closed and the community formed the Organization to buy the property, the mission was not only to preserve the building and continue the role the building served in the community, but also to preserve the history of the school and thus its former students.
When one tours the building, one will see many pictures of former students decorating the walls.  Each student has a memorable part of Spencer-Penn’s history.  Having a book written about a former student is an extra bonus.

Everett Bennett was your usual rural student but achieved recognition when his picture went all over the world on the cover of LIFE magazine.  What a thrill for this family, his friends and his community because his image also was an image of his life in rural Spencer, Virginia. 

Spencer-Penn Centre P.O. Box 506 475 Spencer-Penn Road Spencer, VA 24165

Phone: 276-957-5757 Fax: 276-957-5757 spspo04@yahoo.com www.thecentreatspencerpenn.com

          An Exhibit of Everett Bennett’s personal belongings is on display at the Spencer-Penn Centre in the Stanley Bowles Classroom.

          Tom Perry will be speaking on May 11 at Noon in the New College Institute about the book.

          A temporary exhibit about Bennett will be on display later this summer at the Martinsville-Henry County Courthouse Museum.

          Everett M. Bennett grew up in the Penn's Store community on the border between Patrick County and Henry County in Virginia. He graduated from Spencer-Penn High School in Henry County in 1945 as World War II was winding down. Bennett joined the U. S. Army and found himself in occupied Germany in 1947 serving in the 28th Constabulary, a military police unit along the German/Czech border. During that time Life Magazine photographer Walter Sanders made him the cover image of the February 10, 1947, Life Magazine. Bennett returned to Martinsville and Henry County before returning to active service Korea in the 1092nd Combat Engineers. He returned to Martinsville and spent the rest of his life working at the Rives Road Grocery beside Martinsville Novelty. This book tells his story, the times he lived, and the images he saved along the way. Tom Perry used material brought to him by Bennett’s friend David Minter and Dora Adams Bennett, Everett’s widow. 

          Everett Bennett died in 2005, but his story lives on along with the history of the Spencer-Penn school along with information about the families of those names including the Shootout on Fayette Street between the Spencers and the Terrys in the late 19th century. This book tells of life in world in 1947 when the Life Magazine with Bennett’s image was on the cover. The book tells of the rise and fall of Martinsville detailing the rise of the town through furniture and textiles before the hard times of the late 20th century.

          Exhibits about Everett Bennett are on display at the Spencer-Penn and will soon also be at the Henry County Courthouse Museum in downtown Martinsville on loan from David Minter and Dora Adams Bennett. Tom Perry will speak on Everett Bennett on May 11 at noon at the New College Institute in downtown Martinsville.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

"My Angel Mother"

My mother Betty H. Perry on the right and her sister Kathyrn H. Green on the left at Mabry Mill.

            Jane Tesh and I are not without mothers on Mother’s Day because our mothers Nancy and Betty are gone to Georgia. They are going to spend a week taking care of my Aunt Kathryn, who is in a nursing home suffering with dementia and recently fell and broke her hip and then last week fell and broke her arm. So, without my mother today I got to thinking of the self-sacrifice of my mother and Nancy for going to Augusta, Georgia to take care of a sister and her friend’s sister.

            My Aunt Kathryn raised two daughters Kathy and Ann as a single mother after the death of her husband Robert of a heart attack when my beautiful first cousins were teenagers. She worked for years at the Medical College of Georgia in the mail room. My cousin Kathy is a CPA and a grandmother herself. My cousin Ann has PhD  level education in education and is the grandmother of three and is fighting her own battle with cancer.

            Kathryn Hobbs Green was one of those people who not only talked about being a good Christian, but was a good Christian. She walked the walked following Jesus’ teachings. She was one of the best human beings I ever knew. When I was a grown man I would still get birthday cards from “Sis” as we called her. Now, she like her mother Elizabeth Prescott Hobbs is dealing with dementia and her children and grandchildren are dealing with it. Every woman in my mother’s family seems to have to face to this disease and the horrible effects of literally losing one’s mind.

            Abraham Lincoln said of his step-mother, “All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother.” Having lost his birth mother to disease as a child, Lincoln was lucky to have a stepmother who encouraged him to ready and that learning was a good thing. Most men believe their mothers are saints and I am one of them. My love of history and books comes from my mother who reads voraciously and who thought nothing of loading her only child in a 1964 white VW and carrying him to Monticello or more importantly she took me to visit Icy and George Elbert “Shug” Brown when I expressed an interest in J. E. B. Stuart’s birthplace although years ago.

            Today our (Jane and I) mothers are acting as angels of mercy taking care of my aunt and giving my cousins a few days to have their own lives. I don’t mind being without my mother today because she is doing more important work and like her sister. She walks the walk in Jesus’ footsteps not just talking about her Christian faith, but actually doing something few of us can do. Living it.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


“ Whether we bring our enemies to justice or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done.”-- George W. Bush - September 20, 2001

 “We will be true to the values that make us who we are. And on nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al Qaeda’s terror: Justice has been done.” –Barrack H. Obama, May 1, 2011

“Earlier this evening, President Obama called to inform me that American forces killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of the al Qaeda network that attacked America on September 11, 2001. I congratulated him and the men and women of our military and intelligence communities who devoted their lives to this mission. They have our everlasting gratitude. This momentous achievement marks a victory for America, for people who seek peace around the world, and for all those who lost loved ones on September 11, 2001. The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done.” – George W. Bush, May 1, 2011 

Bush’s statement echoes his call for “Justice” from almost a decade ago after the attacks of September 11, 2011. In the last few days I have been watching Facebook for the reaction to the death of Osama Bin Laden and it goes from pure revenge to criticism of the President to the following. “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice, or the LORD will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from him." Proverbs 24:17-18

                I got the following numbers off the internet. The U. S. Military Losses since September 11, 2011, are 4,768 Coalition Casualties in Iraq, 2,421 in Afghanistan and 2 from Patrick County, Virginia, Jonathan Bowling and Leevi Barnard. This weekend on May 7, there will be a benefit for Joshua Kerns, who was wounded in Afghanistan a few weeks ago.
          I have thought about these three young men a lot over the last few days. Two lives lost and one forever changed and what the world would be like without this horrific change. The things they might have done and the children they might have had that we will never know because of Osama Bin Laden’s religious fanaticism and the hate he spewed.
          The loss of civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan are staggering. 48,644 total casualties in Afghanistan (40,000 Afghan Civilians and Soldiers) and total casualties in Iraq of 1,609,903 (864,000 Iraq civilians). I put everyone of these lives lost at the feet of Osama Bin Laden. It took nearly ten years to kill this man after the attacks of September 11, 2011. It took nearly ten years and thousands of lost lives for Justice.
          I have little use for Bill Clinton because I believe from everything I have read that he could have killed Osama Bin Laden before September 11, 2011, after the attacks on the U. S. S. Cole, which killed seventeen sailors and wounded thirty-nine and the 1993 attacks on the World Trade Center, which killed six and injured thousands. Unlike Clinton, Obama was willing to give the word to take out Osama, a decision that I agree with.
          Assuming that Osama is dead and they need to show proof soon or the conspiracy theories are going to start flying. It concerns me greatly that this country is so fractured that the leadership shown by the President is criticized instead of giving him credit for taking out one of the worst enemies this country has had. I don’t like much of what Obama is doing, but Osama is dead and we as a country should acknowledge that a team of dedicated military, intelligence and yes even political leaders took him out. This same harping from the other side during George W. Bush’s administration made me uncomfortable because when we are at war with an enemy that really does want to destroy our freedom of speech, put women back in the Stone Age and rule us by religious law, the petty political dialogue serves no good purpose.
We are a great country. We are an exceptional country. People are upset because they buried Bin Laden at sea as his religion dictates, a religion that he so abused that there is not enough room on this blog to state it. We are a great country because we can rise above the hate of this mad man. We are a great country because we produce men like Jonathan Bowling, Leevi Barnard and Joshua Kerns. I am proud of that and I am glad Osama Bin Laden is dead. I believe they have some justice today along with all the others who lost their lives because of the actions Osama Bin Laden put in motion. It takes courage to die for what you believe in and that leads me to the last quote I saw on Facebook this week, which speaks for itself.

"I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that." -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Back To College/Civil War Vacation

I went back to college this week. My professor Alumni Distinguished Professor James I. “Bud” Robertson, Jr. is retiring from teaching the largest Civil War class in the country after over half a century at Virginia Tech. I took the opportunity when in Blacksburg to do some research on William T. Sherman and his march through Georgia and the Carolinas for my friend R. Wayne Jones for a book about the Battle of Aiken, a cavalry fight between Joseph Wheeler and Judson Kilpatrick.

Bud, shown here with me helping to raise money for the Bassett Historical Center last year, now teaches in the Colonial Room of the Squires Student Center, but in my day it was 100 McBride Hall. In 1982, I sat in on my first quarter of Civil War with him and it changed my life. To this day I am still amazed at how he brings the war to life and keeps the attention of twenty somethings most of whom didn’t know or care about Lee, Lincoln and much less Jefferson Davis and U. S. Grant. This was reinforced to me as I sat waiting for class to begin. The students behind me were bemoaning the fact they did not have DVR to record a recent showing of Gettysburg on Turner Classic Movies and one male regretted not seeing Molly Ringwald in Sixteen Candles, which made me laugh. Then a very attractive tall and blonde coed came in engaging the crew behind me and during the course of the conversation state that she hated that the Civil War class was about to end. She said she wished this class could go on forever. What better compliment could a teacher have and I am sure Bud would have enjoyed the fact it was an attractive female who said it.

When Bud came in, I spoke to him briefly and was pleased to see his nearly eight decade old eyes light up and a big smile saying to me he could not believe I would come to class. Bud then came to tell us all how much he hated computers, but that he had to do something called a PowerPoint presentation and that with the help of another young coed he had discovered something called Google and that there are images on there of everything. He had most of us in stitches laughing at something we had known for years. Computers were just coming into vogue in 1982 when I started at Virginia Tech and a personal computer sat on a desk and was called an Apple 2E or an IBM PC with 640K memory. My how things have changed.

Well, it was my “last lecture” with my professor. He spoke about “Why the South lost the war” concentrating mainly on Jefferson Davis and in his inability to get along with most of his generals, his vice-president Alexander Stephens and the Confederate Congress. The fifty minutes passed much too quickly and although the time passed way to quickly and I had heard the talk before I remembered why this man meant so much to me. He could bring dry and boring material to life with humor and a presentation that still marvels my mind.

During my trip up I went to Roanoke the night before to hear Kevin Levin speak on the controversial subject of Black Confederates and I went to see The Conspirator about the Lincoln Assassination and the trial and execution of Mary Surratt. So I had a Civil War vacation while going down memory lane. One thing I learned from Bud Robertson was that you should mentor the next generation and that historians need to come out of their ivory towers and bring history to the people especially the students.

Last Full Measure Of Devotion

After what Joshua has given to his country — to his community — how can we do anything less?” –John Peters, Mount Airy News

I cannot recall ever meeting Jonathan Bowling, Leevi Barnard or Joshua Kerns, but I know about them sadly because they have given in their way what Abraham Lincoln called “the last full measure of devotion” to their country in time of war. Two, Bowling and Barnard gave their lives in Iraq and Kerns lost his two legs and an arm in Afghanistan, but not his fighting spirit judging from what I am hearing around Ararat.

Corporal Jonathan Bowling, United States Marine Corps

Over the next two weekends we will have the opportunity to remember Bowling with the memorial motorcycle ride that funds a scholarship in his name. We should also remember Barnard who is buried just above the Ararat River down the road from the Dan River Park in Ararat almost across the road from where his mother, Pam, grew up. A link to a blog about him will follow.

1st Lt. Leevi Barnard, United States Army

At times like these I have no idea what to say, but I spend most of my time studying war, specifically the War Between The States or the Civil War, which we just started commemorating this month 150 years after it began with the firing on Fort Sumter in South Carolina. The more you study war, the less you like war and the more it disgusts you to see young men like these have to fight in war, but these heroes all volunteered to serve their country.

For the two young men, Barnard and Bowling, from Patrick County who gave their lives maybe these words from the President who fought to preserve the Union during that Civil War come to mind and give this blog a title.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate - we can not consecrate - we can not hallow - this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. 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.

Next weekend, we can help the family of Joshua Kerns by raising money to defer expenses associated with travel to Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, where Kerns is recovering. With the end of the Civil War fast approaching Abraham Lincoln gave what I think was far greater speech at his Second Inaugural if you realize these words come from a man who knows he is going to win the war that will soon have crossed four Aprils. Lincoln said the following.

At this second appearing to take the oath of the Presidential office there is less occasion for an extended address than there was at the first. Then a statement somewhat in detail of a course to be pursued seemed fitting and proper. Now, at the expiration of four years, during which public declarations have been constantly called forth on every point and phase of the great contest which still absorbs the attention and engrosses the energies of the nation, little that is new could be presented. The progress of our arms, upon which all else chiefly depends, is as well known to the public as to myself, and it is, I trust, reasonably satisfactory and encouraging to all. With high hope for the future, no prediction in regard to it is ventured.
On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it, all sought to avert it. While the inaugural address was being delivered from this place, devoted altogether to saving the Union without war, urgent agents were in the city seeking to destroy it without war—seeking to dissolve the Union and divide effects by negotiation. Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would accept war rather than let it perish, and the war came.
One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was somehow the cause of the war. To strengthen, perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union even by war, while the Government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it. Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Neither anticipated that the cause of the conflict might cease with or even before the conflict itself should cease. Each looked for an easier triumph, and a result less fundamental and astounding. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

Let us look at the ending again. “With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

So on May 7, let us all “care for him who shall have borne the battle.” I have donated money to the fund at Carter Bank and Trust and I will be donating signed copies of all my books for the benefit, which seems so little in comparison to what these three young men have given for us all.

Read about Jonathan Bowling Memorial Bike Ride Here

Read My Blog About Leevi Barnard Here

Read John Peter's great editorial in the Mount Airy News Here

Read About The Benefit For Joshua Here

Read About Joshua's progress Here

One Man Show I Mean One Man's Vision

Many years ago I was at the encampment at Stuart’s birthplace when I overheard then birthplace President telling someone that I really had very little to do with the preservation of the 75 acre site in Ararat. Something that the new Secretary of the birthplace use to preach against before she recently sold out to the clique in Stuart and joined the board. A recent article written in newsletter of the that same organization by the Vice-President tells all about the beginning of the birthplace, but the trouble is that it is written by the man who has made my 78 year old mother cry twice by destroying the flowers she grew and took care of at the birthplace for decades. The article never once mentions the thousands of dollars and thousands of hours donated by me and my family to the site, but it makes a point of saying the birthplace is not and was not a one man show. The above newspaper clipping from the February 5, 1989, tells who the one man was and is. I have never said others did not help, but it was one man’s vision and everything you see at the Laurel Hill Farm today came from my brain. This is all documented in my papers that are or will be at Virginia Tech so that anyone who is interested will know the truth and the truth will set the birthplace free of their jealousy and pettiness, but I doubt it as ignorance is bliss and they don’t know the history of the site they are charged with preserving and they cannot see the forest for the trees. Recently, I received a national community service award from the Daughters of the American Revolution. Some good Christian person in Stuart clipped the notice out of The Enterprise, the Voice of the Clique since 1876, and mailed it to my family with a circle and a slash draw over my face. I have no doubt where this came in Stuart. Speaking of that, someone at our local chamber likes to make harassing phone calls to my cell phone all documented by my attorney to show a pattern of behavior. This is not the first time I received harassing phone calls. It is no secret that the chamber tries to sabotage my business relationships made perfectly clear at last year’s Ararat Festival when a friend of mine was told he would have to “distance himself” from me in order to work with the birthplace. Well, my friend did not and did work with the birthplace. Some people have courage to stand up to for what is right. Several weeks, I worked to help with the bone marrow donation drive in Stuart. The local chamber chose to publicize the event, but cut my name out of the pr on their website. I am trying to help save lives and I am so in their heads that all they can think of is to delete my name from a press release. I love that I am so in the heads of the birthplace that they have to make comments in their newsletter about the “one man show.” I love the good Christians who defend this organization. I usually don’t stoop to notice such small, little people, but when you go after my family and don’t respect their contribution you ask for it. I will continue to speak my mind and is it any wonder that Patrick County is in the mess it is with such little people controlling it. Big people and big ideas change the world. Little people and little ideas are forgotten.