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

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.