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(Note - this blog post delves into modern-day issues. Issues related to the Civil War, to be sure, but modern-day issues just the same. Which as many of you are probably aware, is an off-limits subject on the discussion board. The same rule does not apply to blogs however, so if you are a member of the board, wish to start up your own blog and talk about such things, you're welcome to do so. Just don't start advocating violence, or endorsing groups like the KKK, Neo-Nazis, Antifa, and the like. That will get your blog shut down, as it still resides on the SDG's site. Aside from that, you're free to express your views. And you are of course aware that you alone are responsible for your views.)
Let me start here by making a few points:
First, I'm a card-carrying Republican, and have been since 1980.
Second, I firmly believe, beyond any doubt whatsoever, that slavery was the foundational cause of the Civil War.
Third, had it been up to me, I would not have built Confederate monuments anywhere outside of battlefield parks.
And fourth, I am not in favor of removing those Confederate monuments. More on that later.
Going all Political
I mention my political affiliation because I think people make a lot of assumptions based on such things, and I'm not sure I always fit those assumptions. For instance, it seems to me that a lot of people assume that if you're a Republican, that automatically means you think the war was about states' rights. And if you're a Democrat, you think the war was caused by slavery.
Neither of those assumptions apply to me. I'm a Republican who believes, quite strongly, that the war was caused by slavery. (I agree that this is a simple answer to a complex issue. But it's also an accurate answer.) I also believe that the states' rights argument is and always has been a giant smokescreen to hide that fact.
Does that mean that I don't believe in states' rights at all? No, of course not. (Hello? Republican? ) But states' rights wasn't the cause of the war. My being a Republican doesn't change that. (On a side note - I tend to think of myself as more of a classic liberal, although that's of little importance here. To be sure though, I am not, and never will be, a modern-day liberal. There is a difference.)
As far as slavery causing the war, my belief there is based on a brutally simple idea - evidence, rising to the level of what I regard as irrefutable proof. That's why I say that slavery caused the war. Not because I necessarily want to, but because that's what the evidence points to with screaming clarity.
Declaring the Cause
What evidence? Well, there's a lot of it, but a good place to start might be the declarations of causes issued by four of the original seven seceding states, where they outlined the why behind the what.
Secession took place in two rounds so to speak, with the first round occurring in response to Lincoln's election and prior to war breaking out. Tellingly, six of these seven states were in the Deep South, where slavery had its strongest grip, with over 48% of the total population being enslaved. (The outlier among these first seven states to leave was Texas. But as we'll see, they were not an outlier when it came to Deep South kinship.)
Here's a link to an 1860 map from the Library of Congress, based on that year's census, showing the distribution of slaves in the South as a percentage of the total population: https://www.loc.gov/resource/g3861e.cw0013200/
It's broken down by county. And here is a screenshot from that same site, below the map itself, showing the percentage breakdown by state:
If the fact that almost half of the Deep South's population was enslaved is an eye-opener for you, you've got a lot of company. I think it's an eye-opener for everyone when they first learn about it. (In two of those states, as seen in the table above, the slave population was more than half of the total. The order in which these two states left the Union? First - South Carolina - and second - Mississippi.)
And it speaks volumes as to why this region was the first to leave - all six states - in response to the first president in American history to be elected on an anti-slavery platform. This is not a coincidence.
Which brings us to those documents explaining why they left. Here's a link where you can read through them, courtesy of the Civil War Trust:
(Note - you can view these documents elsewhere online by doing a search, if you wish to compare them. Virginia's is included here, although they did not secede until after Lincoln's call for volunteers following Fort Sumter.)
To be sure, there are defenses made for secession's legality. They wanted it clear that they believed they had the right to do what they were doing. But of interest here is the why behind it.
Some key excerpts, starting with Mississippi:
"Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery - the greatest material interest of the world."
"A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that 'Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free,' and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction."
"The prohibition of slavery in the Territories, hostility to it everywhere, the equality of the black and white races, disregard of all constitutional guarantees in its favor, were boldly proclaimed by [the North's] leaders and applauded by its followers."
"In all the non-slave-holding States, in violation of that good faith and comity which should exist between entirely distinct nations, the people have formed themselves into a great sectional party, now strong enough in numbers to control the affairs of each of those States, based upon an unnatural feeling of hostility to these Southern States and their beneficent and patriarchal system of African slavery, proclaiming the debasing doctrine of equality of all men, irrespective of race or color - a doctrine at war with nature, in opposition to the experience of mankind, and in violation of the plainest revelations of Divine Law. They demand the abolition of negro slavery throughout the confederacy, the recognition of political equality between the white and negro races, and avow their determination to press on their crusade against us, so long as a negro slave remains in these States."
Perception vs. Reality
It's worth pointing out that some of these claims about the North championing racial equality are wide of the mark. There were certainly exceptions, especially among the abolitionists. By and large though, white northerners were lukewarm, at best, about racial equality, even though they were also mostly anti-slavery. (It was entirely possible at this time for someone to be both anti-slavery and anti-black. Which speaks to the complex nature of slavery and race-relations in 19th Century America.)
But as often happens, perception (in the South) was more powerful than reality (in the North), and what drove them is what they believed. And it should be added that the South was indeed right about one thing - Lincoln's election pointed toward slavery's eventual, if not immediate, eradication.
By 1860, words like "eventual" and "immediate" were distinctions without a difference. Collectively speaking, the South simply didn't care, or even believe, that Lincoln and the Republicans were not out to bring an immediate end to slavery in the South. The threat to the institution was real enough, to be sure. To southern leaders, that made it immediate, and that's all that mattered.
Davis and Stephens
More proof of slavery-as-the-cause can be found in the words of the men who became president and vice-president of the Confederacy. Here is an excerpt from future Confederate President Jefferson Davis's farewell address to the U.S. Senate on January 21st, 1861, following the secession of his home-state of Mississippi:
"It has been a conviction of pressing necessity, it has been a belief that we are to be deprived in the Union of the rights which our fathers bequeathed to us, which has brought Mississippi into her present decision. She has heard proclaimed the theory that all men are created free and equal, and this made the basis of an attack upon her social institutions; and the sacred Declaration of Independence has been invoked to maintain the position of the equality of the races."
He then goes on to explain how, in his view, the Declaration was never meant to do any such thing. We can argue back and forth about that if we wish, but the point here is that Davis is accusing the North in general, and Lincoln and the Republicans in particular, of wanting to bring about racial equality. And this - in Davis's own words - "made the basis of an attack upon [Mississippi's] social institutions."
Translation: Mississippi wasn't going to sit idly by while the Republicans tried to impose racial equality on the country.
Ending slavery and bringing about racial equality - this was the threat, perceived or real (it was a little of both), that Davis and the collective South were responding to. It represented a nightmare scenario for the South, and was a threat that was far too important to ignore.
Here's a link to the entire speech, via the Papers of Jefferson Davis, at Rice University:
And then we come to Confederate Vice-President Alexander Stephens, and his infamous Cornerstone Speech in Savannah Georgia, on March 21st, 1861. Here is the key paragraph, which speaks entirely for itself:
"Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its cornerstone rests upon the great truth, that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery - subordination to the superior race - is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth."
Here's a link to the speech, from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette's web site, along with an excerpt from another, similar speech he gave the following month to the Virginia secession convention: https://www.ucs.louisiana.edu/~ras2777/amgov/stephens.html
The Defining Difference
Stephens in these two speeches hit upon the single most important difference between the United States and the Confederacy, and he did so knowingly and deliberately. It's a difference that cannot be emphasized strongly enough. And it comes down to this:
In all of human history, there has only ever been one country - one - founded on an ideal. That country is the United States. And that ideal upon which it was founded is the ideal of freedom and equality.
This bears repeating - there has never, before or since, been a country that came into existence based on the ideal of freedom and equality. The list includes one country and one country only – The United States. The emergence of this incredibly unique country was, quite literally, a world-changing moment.
In looking at the Confederacy, we find a nascent country that was also founded on an ideal. But - as Alexander Stephens pointed out - with an all-important distinction.
Whereas the United States was founded on the ideal of freedom and equality for all, the Confederacy was founded on the ideal of freedom and equality for some.
This critical difference is exactly what Stephens meant when he said that the Confederacy was the first country in the history of the world based on the inequality of the races. What Stephens referred to as “this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.” The exact opposite of the United States, in its ideal form, as the native southerner Stephens well understood.
Human nature being what it is, the United States has clearly, and unsurprisingly, not always lived up to its lofty ideals. (Within the context of world history, the surprise is that the ideal was proclaimed as a nation's founding principle.) But it is far closer to them, in no small part because the foundation was already in place. The foundation on which the Confederacy was built, in contrast, allowed for no such evolution.
As I said to a friend in a recent conversation on this same subject, the Confederacy could never have evolved into what the United States has become without a complete reversal of its fundamental reason for existence.
(This is an argument that I've made before, and I'll continue to make it because I firmly believe it. It also speaks to why protests against the American flag are misdirected. The flag represents America's ideals, symbolizing why it came into existence. The ideals do not exist to protect the country. The country exists to protect the ideals. This matters.)
There is far more evidence then just what I've outlined here for slavery as the cause of the Civil War. I may cover some of it in future posts, but this entry is long enough already, so we'll leave it here for now.
But the bottom line is this: the Confederacy came into existence because of a threat to the future of slavery. The record on this is not simply clear, it is starkly clear. Post-war and present-day arguments to the contrary notwithstanding. And there have been many.
Slavery was the main strand in the social and economic fabric of the ante-bellum South, and to remove that strand would be to completely unravel the South itself. They viewed this as simply too much to risk. The irony is that by seceding and engaging in a long and bloody war, the end of that society came much faster and with more violence than what, almost certainly, would otherwise have been the case.
So now you know why, had it been up to me, I would never have built any Confederate monuments aside from those in the various battlefield parks. I have no issue with, and in fact support, acknowledging and honoring the courage displayed by these men and their northern counterparts. As well as trying, however imperfectly, to understand what all of them endured in those hellish nightmares in places we now stroll across in silent wonder.
But I would have raised no monuments to their leaders. To people who set out to ensure permanent, government-sanctioned inequality based on skin color, ethnicity, religion, or anything else. The Confederacy represented an attempt at such a thing. Thankfully it failed.
Our role as students of history is to take the entire story and learn from it, so that we might better understand ourselves, where we come from as both a people and as individuals, and find a way to move ever closer to those ideals on which this country is based. Ideals that represent fundamental truths about humanity and life that transcend any border. It's a tough assignment. But that's why we drew it.
So if I'm against monuments to Confederate leaders, why did I also say that I'm against removing them? Because they're part of our history. We can learn from them. I would not have put them up, but since they are already there, use them in our quest to understand. Place them within the context of the times in which they were built. What do they tell us about those times? About those people? About ourselves? About human nature in general?
They're silent stone and marble, and yet they can speak to us, and teach us. If we're willing to listen and to learn from them. Maybe we can't always agree on the lessons to be drawn. But the conversation has to start somewhere. So let it start with us.
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I'll try to reconstruct my 15 days at Shiloh, March 28 - April 11. Due to my oldtimersdisease, some of the events and dates are already running together. Feel free to correct me at any time, which may provoke an argument. Also, additions that have slipped the old memory tapes are welcome.
As usual, the drive down to Shiloh is always faster than the trip home. I made it in little over 9 1/2 hrs, and had the car unpacked at 4pm. What to do? Drive to Shiloh! Arriving at the old Shaw's Restaurant, I discovered it was the registration site for the Blue & Gray Alliance (B&G A). Out front a stand was selling some great looking T shirts. As I was looking at them, a lady walked up to me and said "Some one inside wishes to speak to you." Looking in the picture window and who do I see? (Click on the thumbnail for a larger picture.)
Somehow Mona is always the first person I run into Shiloh. At that point I know I'm there and life is good. We talked about a couple of the locals I wished to meet and where I could find them. After lightening the wallet with a few raffle tickets and 2 T's, I drove to Shiloh Park for a hello. I was so tired at dark, I didn't wait for the rangers to ask me to leave.
Thurs. I did a recon of the Army of Tenn (AOT) reenactment site. The 2 gents at the first check point were very friendly, but didn't know if nonparticipants could enter the site. They were just there to let those who were registered in or direct others to the sign in area near visitor parking. There I was told I could park in visitor parking and walk around, but the distance was too much for just a recon. Next stop was to check in with Mona at Shaw's. She gave me the cell phone number Grandpa had left for me. I drove to Johnston's bivouac site
and called. When he arrived on his gator, he drove right past me. I guess he was expecting a big dumb ugly Yank. Instead he got a medium sized damn-good-looking one. I can see where it would throw him off! Richard explained the layout of the city of B&G A reenactors that had grown up off of Hy 22. He said to get there early Sat. and park in the south end of the visitor parking, as it would be the closest to the entry point. He told me where Perry Neal's outfit was, but again it was too much of a walk. I was saving up for the real action Sat. Richard also recommended driving around Pratt Rd and seeing the city that was sprouting up. The line of cars was long, but that allowed plenty of time for viewing. I parked in the lot near Sutler Row and talked to some of the reenactors. On to the Park. Had to do my usual hello to the 16th at their campsite. Figured it was a good time to have the sandwich and beverage of choice I brought. As I was sitting there in the car, a deer came out of the woods and started eating grass about 20 feet from me. My moving around was of no concern at all. After eating we both moved on. Place of peace indeed. It was obvious the park was busier than usual, humming in preparation of the 150th. Lots of new faces in Ranger suits. Whoever hires and assigns the intelligent, young, beautiful women to run the front desks at Shiloh and Corinth has my Kudos and everlasting desire that you remain in your position. I noticed the eagle cam monitor was having some problems, and this was the last time I saw it operating. Evidently foliage was growing around the cam and Ranger Marcus was too chicken to climb up and clean it off (or they didn't wish to disturb the nesting eagles, I forget which). After drooling on a couple of dozen books in the book store, I did a small drive around the park before heading out. That was the first time I saw this sign out by the Stuart Mon.
This pic was taken the last day I was at the Park. I believe that the first time I saw the sign, the SOLD part wasn't there. I remember thinking "Next time I check my email I bet I have one from Jim Lighthizer from the Civil War Trust. Sure enough:
When I saw the sold stamp, I figured the CWT had done an option to buy. Sure hope so. My check will go out with the bimonthly bills.
This time I knew I wouldn't get kicked out after dark by the rangers. As I was was heading out to what I call the Raith exit, I came upon a large herd of deer in Review Field. I counted 17, but that count is suspect as they were entering and leaving the woods constantly as I counted them. I do love the wildlife of Shiloh NMP.
Friday was a good day for going easy. Wondered around the Shiloh area for a while, stopping off at Grandpa's fire for a while, where I met C.D. Back on the park for a while. Towards evening, those who were allowed to camp on the park had started their fires and the smoke was doing one of those low hanging things that is so beautiful:
Swinging down to the 16th 's camp to say goodnight, I decide to do something I've wanted to do for a while: follow Gladdens Road south. The first part was great with the hanging smoke
but then it got real dark and started to look like a storm. The road gets pretty bad and I would suggest that anyone trying it for the first time do it in the daytime. Little less spooky. Could of swore I heard dueling banjos at one point.
After getting back to the main road an intense rain storm kicked up. One of my first thoughts after slowing down to a crawl was that it could be worse. I could be out in a tent with the numerous others in the surrounding area (I learned the next day, some even got to experience hail while in a tent!). The next thought was that maybe the pounding rain would remove some of this clinging clay they call mud down here off of my car. How can something that is so slick and slippery to walk on is so hard to wash off? I'll bet it would make excellent bricks. The stuff doesn't just stick to your legs when your walking, but actually jumps up on you as you pass nearby! Gave up on the grill and did a burger on the stove. I love roughing it.
Up early and heading to the B&G A reenactment. Pulling up to the visitors parking, I was fifth in line. They started letting us into the field at about 8:30 AM, but no one was directing where to park, so people were heading willy nilly all over the place. As I got out of my car, I heard one of the guys out by the road holler "We need some organization here!" It wouldn't be the last time I heard that this day.
Sutlers' Row was great. I wandered down the center, visiting tents on each side. It was getting hot early, and by the end of the row, I was looking for some shade. Found some in the edge of a large tent. This is where I had the good fortune to talk with Gen. Sherman:
While we were talking, someone said to him "Good morning General Grant." He explained who he was. After they walked away, I explained to him that a lot of people thought anyone with a cigar was Grant. After some chow, I went for another walk. I then discovered that Sutlers' Row also went down the two outside streets. No way i was going up and down those. I, like a lot of others kept asking where and when the reenactment was. I found that the only ones who knew anything were the reenactors. Heading out to the field, I came upon a really long line of people. I figured that if it was the line to get in, I wasn't going in. Turned out to be for tickets, which I had bought the day before. I followed the crowd till it opened into a field. The right side was already packed with people, so I figured I'd go around to the left. 2/3 of the way across the field, I ran into a fellow who said someone was going up and down on that side kicking spectators out. Sure wish that someone had informed me before I walked all this way across! Turning around, I saw that people were filling up along this edge, so I joined them. Got the tripod, camera and chair all set up. Sat down to take a well deserved break, when a woman came along telling everyone the action was going to be up and over the hill. Not the first, nor the last time I observed a lack of coordination for the public. Packing up, I traveled the mud path over the hill and found it packed all along it. I finally found a place to set up my tripod, figuring at least the camera could see over the crowd. A few yards away a gentleman had parked a SUV and trailer. He said I should jump into the trailer and set up my tripod. He said he was a volunteer who had hauled some stuff out here. Love that southern hospitality! This got me out of the mud and above the crowd so I could see. It did force me to abandon use of the folding chair, which a tired young lady used for most of the program. Bet Dad had to carry her out when it was over. The show was great:
6,800+ participants! 125+ cannons. Without a doubt the largest reenactment I have ever seen. Very impressive. The only fault I could find with the show was that the Rebs started out in front of us and went to the other side of the field to attack the Yanks. The action was pretty far away and was actually easier to watch in the view plate of the camera, due to using the close up function. On the way out, I got into a conversation with a couple from England. They were from the Liverpool area, but had never met John Lennon. He said something about the boot of the car and then we had a discussion on how poor his people are with the English language. By the time I got back to my car, I was beat. Good thing I had a barley pop in the cooler, which seemed to revive me. I then stopped by Grandpa's and enjoyed a relaxing time in the old folding chair (which I forgot and just saved from Grandpa loading up and taking home the next day. He did say he wondered why he had brought his chair, but not the cover) before heading back to the cabin, the grill, a sirloin, a baked potato and a beer. What Irishman/Cornishman wouldn't be happy at that point?!?!
Sun. morning found me going early again. As I pulled up to the ticket collectors at the AOT reenactment, I heard two of them discussing whether to let cars go up the hill anymore as it was getting to be a mud hole about 1/2 way up. I asked them if they wanted me to try it to see if I could make it. They said OK, but don't get stuck! Being from WI, we use mud holes to practice for snow drifts. I hit the mud hole at about 35 MPH and danced right through it. Unfortunately, a guy about a 100 yards behind me tried it too, and he didn't use any speed. You can't pick your way through a mud hole, dainty like. He got stuck right in the middle. At that point they started sending cars around a different way. Just as I got out of the parking area, I found a tent with info on times and locations of the activities. Walking out to where the action was, I found a large field with a the crowd starting to line up behind a rope. A few dozen yards behind the crowd was a rise. I went up there and found it to be a great place to set up. It looked like the Union cannon was going to be to my right. The Rebs looked to be forming across the field. I still hadn't found where the Union Inf. was forming, when I heard a ruckus behind. The Yanks had formed way to the rear and were going to met the Rebs along to my left. They pushed them back until all of the action was right in front of us:
Another enjoyable afternoon of Civil War fun. I also ran into the English couple again. Their opinion was that the AOT event was the better of the two as it was more spectator friendly, where the B&G a was more geared towards the reenactors. I suppose I should compare the two events, as there did seem to be some competition between the two. The B&G A was the largest, most impressive battle reenactment I have ever seen. Having that much action and noise sure takes you part way to what happened 150 years ago. Everything about it was big, including the Sutlers. From the point of view of the reenactors, it must have been great. It did leave a little to be desired from the paying customers. The organization was poor. Crowd control lacked. Just getting info was hard. The AOT was smaller, but well organized. The action was just as intense and sometimes seemed to raise as much as a ruckus. The AOT was also easier on the pocket book. $10 to get in vs $15 at the B&G A. Parking at the AOT was free vs $5 at the other. Thus the AOT was 1/2 the price of the B&G A. I also heard, but don't know if it is a fact, that the B&G A event was a for profit operation, while the AOT's profits all went to good causes, including the drive for a MS monument.
Heading to the park for a while, I was again struck by how it seemed to have a buzz that I had never noticed on any previous visit. That night at the cabin as I tried to stay awake to at least down my minimum daily requirement of barley pops, I got to wondering if Shiloh wore me out so much that my sleep quota seemed to be increasing or the mellowness of the area and the local people relaxed me so much, I was sleeping more. Probably a combination of the two.
Monday morning found me heading to Corinth to meet up with Steve and Jeani Cantrell. We had planned to meet up at one of the reenactments, but that didn't happen. We met up at the Interpretative Center. Steve wanted to go out to Davis Bridge. I had planned to hang out in the center's library, so I was wearing sandals. Bad plan. It wasn't long we were loaded in Steve's car and heading northwest out of the city. Now, this is the part of the Battle of Corinth where the 16thWI started out the fight. As usual, they were out a ways:
So far, so good.
Ah, we made it. The building is a private home:
Although the trail to the bridge looks wide and inviting, it's deceiving. We quickly started running into mud holes, which required some dainty walking to get around (remember the sandals?). Jeani started expressing the opinion that this might not be too great of an idea, as the further down towards the river we went, the mud holes became more frequent and larger. Then we came across some monuments to the side, so I decided to take a pic. I believe I've expressed my limited abilities in picture taking. At first I didn't notice that there was something extra in the pic. After I snapped a few, I thought "What the Hell is he up to?"
At this point he proclaimed his innocence, but never would explain his actions. I just chalked it to a Coast Guard retiree's inability to deal with being on land!?!?
Right after this, we came upon the Godmother of all trail mud holes. By maneuvering around a large tree, we made it past. At this point Jeani was heading off up hill hollering something about all Vets being crazy. Too bad she gave up, as we were almost there:
You can see where the bridge had been. At this point I was thinking how these gents sure liked having their battles in inconvenient places. Time to head back up hill. Back at the car and we decided to continue on the loop shown on the NPS map. At this point let me state that it is unwise to use this map for general navigation. It wasn't long before we were on a road which we thought might be heading in the wrong direction. When the asphalt changed and a MS Cty sign showed up, we turned around. We finally decided we were on what the map showed as a little spur that ended at the TN/MS line. Wrong. It kept going. After a few more false turns and more snickering from the back seat, we got our bearings back. By the time we got back to the Center, it was closed. Back to the cabin and the grill.
Tues. was a real laid back day. Went to Pickwick Park in hopes of seeing some of the cool CW stuff that was being brought in, but unless you were there when it was, they weren't displaying any photos or copies. That was understandable, as they were real busy with what they were doing. I then went into the park and checked it out. Beautiful park. If you get a chance to spend an afternoon there, do so. You won't regret it. Back to the cabin for a late lunch and then to Shiloh. I decided to go up the back way, entering near Stuart's Mon. Although it wasn't busy there, it still seemed to have that buzz to it. It was almost like the Park's excitement was building along with the rest of us. I was probably just transferring my feelings to it, but ...................
Wed. morning was a good time to run a few loads through the laundry in an attempt to leave behind some of the clay I had picked. Sure did enjoy the cabin. Drinking coffee and doing laundry. Sure beat my usual run to the laundry mat when I travel. I skipped lunch with the intention of an early steak supper on the grill. Then it was back to Pickwick for the premier of the Shiloh movie "Fiery Trial". Met up with a few people I knew at the reception, including seeing Perry Neal for the first time this trip. The best part was talking to those who are in the new movie. The gentleman who played Col. Peabody looked just like him, except bigger! He is 6' 6". I believe Peabody was 6' 2", which was huge in those days. The highlight was talking to a young man who answered my query as to whether he was in the movie with "I have a little part." It turned out that he played John Cockerill. While we were talking he mentioned that he was joining the Army in June. I tried to talk him into the USAF, but as he had already raised his hand, I gave up and wished well in the service with the admonishment to keep his head down. Let the officers stick their heads up over the trench to see what was happening. I also was lucky enough to shake Woody's hand and said to him "My Grandfather fought at Shiloh and I consider that Park his. Thank you for all the great things you've done for it." He had a pretty big smile on his face as he "Your welcome"ed me. People do like compliments, especially on their life's work and love. I can still smoooze with the best of em! Entering the movie area, I wandered into the VIP area to say howdy to Mona. I then went back to the riff-raff section to look for a chair. Steve & Jeani didn't seem to mind when I sat next to them. Turning to my right, I started laughing with the gent sitting there. He was from MN and we had met 1/2 a dozen times at the Park and talked a few times. I won't go into my thoughts on the movie. It speaks for itself. Nothing I can say would do it justice. I will say I got a thrill out of seeing Dr. Mona's name in the credits. I did purchase it. The evening was capped off with a great conversation with Mike. Sorry to keep you out so late buddy. I slept in late for you the next morning.
Thurs. morning at the park and the buzz was now a hum and building. Some of the activities were starting and I flitted around the edges. Stopping at the stop sign on Peabody Rd. at the 16thWI Camp tablet, I noticed a car parked art the Gladden Mon. It looked suspicious enough to check out. Sure enough. A cream colored PT Cruiser with OK plates. I parked for a while, got out and walked around. Finally deciding that the owner of the vehicle may be one of those nuts who doesn't come out of the woods until the dimming twilight forces him to (been there, done that), I decide to go back to check out the Park's Hum. After a while hunger pangs hit. As I was near the eagles' nest, I stopped there. I got a sandwich, soda and apple out of the cooler and settled into the seat to eagle watch as I chowed down. I had one bite of the apple and was unwrapping the sandwich when I saw a PT Cruiser heading north past the nest. Putting things aside as fast as I could, I fired and buckled up and the chase was on. Now my normal speed in Shiloh is about 10MPH, sometimes 15. I'm sure I went a little faster than that. I had enough glimpses of the car to know that I'd get a visual at the Landing Rd. I was hoping he would head to the Visitor Center, but no, he was headed out of the park. I then proceed to get his attention with my headlights as I calmly drove up behind him. After our Howdys, he made some crack about wondering who the crazy guy chasing him was. So was my introduction to Perry. Well met, my good man. This is when I first heard of Perry's desire to put a tribute to Col. Peabody by his Mon. Now, a few weeks before I headed south, I was at Menard's and they had a sale on folding lawn chairs. Some were of a USA flag pattern, so I snatched one up. I figured I could use it on my version of the hikes. When I asked Perry if he minded if I sat at his table with the Peabody info, he said no, provided, of course, that he get permission from Stacy Allen to put it out. My plans for the AM of the 150th were coming together (as I had no plan before this, that was rather remarkable!). I let Perry go and wandered back into the park. Somewhere during this period I tried my darndiss to rent the house on the road into the Raith Mon. entrance. I was told it was rented by a Ranger and civilians weren't allowed to to rent it, which I don't think is fair. Early to bed. Tomorrow would definitely come early.
Friday April 6th, 2012. Set the alarm for 4 AM. Awoke at 3:50. In the past I've enjoyed taking in the gathering of the Fraley (Interesting, spell check doesn't like Fraley but gives Farley as an option.) Field hike as it forms at the Peabody Mon., and then heading over to the important place in the battle at 6 AM., just outside of the park at the Gladden Mon. where my Grandfather got his baptism of fire. Usually as I pull up to the Peabody Mon., most of the hikers would be milling about, waiting for the start of the hike. This time, no one was there, just a Law Enforcement Ranger with his spot lights lighting up where the cars usually park. I got out to ask him where everyone was. He smiled and said it was taking a little longer to get 70 cars organized! The parade that came down Reconnoitering Rd. was awesome. I do believe there were more cars this year than hikers last year. At least it sure seemed that way. At this point I started thinking the 150th had at chance at success! Perry set up his tribute to Col. Peabody on a card table to the right front of the Mon. I set my folding US Flag chair next to it and got comfortable. I then watched a very large mob head off to the southwest. I do remembering wondering what sort of search and rescue the Park had set up. Sunrise at Shiloh is something everyone should be given the chance to experience at least once in their life. It doesn't take much imagination at all to be transported by it. Taking in the battle's beginning from the Brigade viewpoint instead of the 16th's was interesting and I'm glad I did it. I also know I never want to start out and view it from a Divisional viewpoint. Watching that mob come up that road at me made me, although I admire and respect him, glad that I was not Peabody! Soon a small group gathered around Perry and his table to talk. Soon, a gent up by the road asked if we would move the table so he could take a picture of Peabody's Mon. A couple of guys grabbed the table and I grabbed my chair, but he said to leave the chair. He then asked if I'd stand by the chair. He then came down for some closer pictures. That's when I found out he was with the NY Times. I also later found the picture in the online version of the paper. The Mon. and the chair sure look great. Things quickly broke up as everyone had their direction to head to. About this time, the 16th would have been driven back to inside the park, so I headed over to the Gladden Mon. and parked.
After having my morning apple, I started to wonder where the Johnston hike was. Soon they came streaming around the corner from Peabody Rd. The leader stopped south of Gladden's Mon. and waited for the group. And waited. It just kept streaming around the corner. As the last of it came up, I saw Steve coming down the road. I asked why they hadn't come through the woods like normal. He said they were told the hikes were trying to eliminate as much of the woods part as they could. I figured this probably cut down on the need for search and rescue. They headed off into Spain Field and I headed to the 16th's Camp.
They held off the Rebs here until that "Hero", Prentiss, rode up and hollered to take to the trees and retreat. He then turned north and fled. The 16th fought a rear guard action heading north. One account stated that Col. Allen handled the Regiment with great affect, ordering eight different flanking movements to meet the oncoming Rebels. I then headed to the intersection of the Eastern Corinth Rd. and the Hamburg - Purdy Rd. At this point, I figure about 10AM, they fell back upon Hurlbut's line. From there it was back to what some called "The Hill." Others "The Big Hill." This is where the Eastern Corinth Rd. crosses the Sunken Rd. As I was getting out of the car, I noticed a large truck parked near Munch's 1st MN Mon. Out in Duncan field a camera crew was filming. I asked the roadies by the truck what was going on. They said BYU's TV station had a program called American Rider. It was a history teacher who was touring America on a Harley telling the American Story. The filming was ending so I crossed the road to the Nest. It was getting about time for the first attack. Just then I noticed a gent in gray walking back and forth in the thicket where the Rebs would have come from. His name was Jeff. I asked if he was following Gibson's Brig. He said no, Stephen's.
I thought OH NO. Which regiment, I asked. 9th TN he answered. I asked him if he had a relative in the 9th. He said his Great Grandfather. I told him there was a good chance my Grandfather had shot at his GGrandfather. He answered that meant his ancestor had probably shot at mine. We agreed that sure was for the best that their aimed had been off that day. As we were talking, a few people had gathered around and found it interesting our meeting. One gent asked if we would be interested in being interviewed by the American Rider host. Turns out the gent was the director. Jeff and I agreed it sounded like fun. Jeff did such a great take on why most of us nuts were at Shiloh that I mainly just agreed with him. The host did seem to enjoy the WI connection with Harley and his show. If I don't end up on the cutting room floor, like my picture at Peabody's Mon. did, it's suppose to air in Sept. on BYU TV. Seems if your school is rich enough, your station gets to go national. After the 10:30 attack by Stephen's Brigade, the 16th was out of ammo and were replaced by the 14th Iowa.
I'll bet there was more than one man happy to get away from Prentiss. The 16th fell back to the resupply area, about where the MI Mon. is.
They remaind there for about 4 hours. I had a leisurely lunch and and went to the Visitors Center. The Post Office had set up a place outside of the bookstore and was validating items. I got two, one for me and one for my Great Grandnephew Bailey. until an aide from Hurlbut asked if they would relieve the 44th IN, which was low on ammo. On to the Bloody Pond area.
The 16th was now part of the Union left that was eventually pushed back, allowing for the surrounding of the Hornets Nest. I have no idea where the 16th spent the rain soaked night of the 6th. Stacy Allen said the most obvious place would have been with Hurlbut's men. I asked if it wouldn't make as much sense that the 16th would have gone to the heights above Dill Branch, as that is where Munch's 1st MN Battery had set up.
They had started out together in the beginning, were together in the Hornets Nest,
and were the last functional outfits from the 6th Division still on the field. Stacy said it was just as probable, so I've designated that the camp ground for the 6th.
Heading up there around 4 PM is perfect. It's still quiet up there and I can drink a toast to the men of the 16th, those who made it through their first encounter with the elephant and those who had fallen. And they had escaped being captured with Prentiss. I walked up to the fence along the river
and discovered that the fence in the above picture had been removed. I don't care much for heights and have seen how a flooding river can undercut steep banks, so I didn't venture much past the fence line. A little later a Harley pulled up and the rider walked up to where I was. Big guy, Friendly. Brave. He was edging out trying to look straight down when I gave him my theory on cliff banks being undercut in floods. He did decide the view wasn't that great and came back to where I was standing. I later found out from Mona that the fence had been removed for the movie. I would suggest replacing it. I wandered back to the Visitors area for a while and then headed for Richard's, hoping he would have his campfire going. I was in luck. It seems that I had just missed the Reb I meet in the Hornest Nest, Jeff. He had just left. Darn. We sat around the fire and watched the full moon rise. Fortunately, I only had two brews with me, as I was dozing off before the second was finished. It had been a long, full and absolutely wonderful day for this old dude. Back to the cabin in the woods.
Things were moving a lot slower for me Sat. morning. Stopped at Richard's on the way to the Park. He was loading up and hoped to be on the road for home by noon. Again I had just missed the Reb Jeff. On to the Park. Most people don't seem as interested in the second day of the battle and I know why. The 16th WI was in reserve all day and had very little participation in the action. I find it good day to skirt around this action. If I see a group forming up, I'll stop and listen to the lecture at that point. This Sat. I spent a lot of time watching the Rangers & volunteers putting out the candle bags.
I stopped and talked to a few. One Ranger said that the Park was divided into section and each section leader was allowed to decide how to arrange the candles, with an eye to having a battle theme tie-in with that area. Seeing the wave after wave of lights being put out sometimes drew a response us old macho dudes ain't suppose to partake in, but it was OK, as I was alone. I myself would have put a lot more at the intersection of The Eastern Corinth Rd. and Peabody Rd. As I was driving along I saw a familiar figure in gray walking in the same direction I was driving in. The Reb Jeff! He had just received a call from home and had to get home. He was hoping to get back to his car and get to the last marker for Stephen's Brig. and the 9th TN to get a picture before heading home. I drove him to the marker and then to his car. I do like the way these things tend to come full circle. As it was getting near noon and I planned to attend the Hagy's luncheon of the SDG at 1PM, I figured on a quick drive by the Visitors Center. Wrong. After about 1/2 an hour, I got as far as the turn off to the landing and asked the Ranger who was directing traffic for permission to turn around. There was an understanding smile on his face as he granted it. On to lunch, as I'd skipped breakfast in anticipation of it. I have never been to Shiloh without going to Hagy's at least once. I'm not sure if it's a law, but it should be. Meeting everyone sure was great. Could use a few more Yank's as I seemed to be drawing most of the Reb fire, as usual. Speaking of, I sure did missed not being yelled at by Sonny. Hope he is well so I can argue with him in the fall. Food was as good as ever. I was a little suspicious when, near the end, they started talking about how the Park was going to hold the Anniversary next year on April 13 & 14. They agreed to have the 2nd annual SDG luncheon on Sat. April 13th. I myself will just wait for the NPS web site to put out their dates before I make my plans. These Rebels can be tricky. Lunch over and it was time to head for Shiloh Church so CD could organize his volunteers that were to light the candles in the area. Soon after arriving, Richard pulled up in his pickup and loaded trailer. When I asked why he hadn't left, he claimed that the sun was in his eyes, as he had to drive west. HMMMMM. They were passing out long handled lighters for the job and one was presented to me. I explained I could get the first one going but probably wouldn't be able to straighten up enough to get to the second one. It was agreed to let me spectate. I'm good at that. I figured I'd try documenting it with a few photos.
I call this one "The best end of an Unreconstructed Rebel heading south."
Then I came across this group
And my first thought was: I've heard of three southerners on a light bulb, but a candle????
As Perry was walking at me, I'm thinking: No way they need a fourth. Perry handed me his lighter and asked if I could make it work. It was a few seconds before I figured which button was the safety switch and lit it. Perry had turned to one of his compatriots and asked if they had a working lighter. I asked him why not use the one I had going. He smiled and said: "This candle is for the boys of the 16th WI." I felt that was inappropriate as the candles were for casualties. He agreed and changed it to the fallen of the 16th. I gladly lit it and did appreciate the gesture from Perry. Almost made me feel bad about the three southerners on a candle crack. About this time the volunteers going north lighting candles meet those coming south. Looking south, CD and the rest had disappeared. That was the last we saw them that day. They were suppose to go most of the way down to Seay Field, but ended up going back up 1/2 towards Peabody's Mon. before they found lit candles before them. As we were goofing off waiting for dark, I started joking around with some young people, including a couple who lived in Memphis. They had immigrated from Malaysia about three years ago. Richard walked up, put his arm around me and stated to the assemblage: "Y'all are here for the Anniversary. Jim and I are here for the Reunion!" Another HMMMM. Dark was coming on. My car is one of those where you cannot shut off the headlights. Perry Neal offered his passenger seat, which I gladly accepted. Easier to view as a passenger than as a driver and Perry Neal is a great guy to have a mellow conversation with. The first thing I discovered when looking at the pictures I tried taking was that as bad as I am at taking pictures standing still, I'm even worse in a moving car. The ones that aren't just a blur aren't that great either. As we started at the Church, we were at the 1/2 way point and there weren't many cars yet. We went slowly, at our own pace. Then we got to the end, which was the 1/2 way point for us, and had to exit at the Raith Mon. exit, go right and back to the main entrance. Sounds easy, right? Wrong.
The stop and go drive was about an hour. A few cars would pull out of line, turn around and head out. A pickup truck right in front of us sat in line the whole hour and then as we were to go right into the Park, pulled out, turned around and headed out. Strange. The second half (for us, first half for everyone else) was a lot slower, which was fine. We went at the same speed as the whole line. I asked a Ranger at the entrance how long the drive was. About 10 miles. I then asked if the whole 10 miles was filled with cars. He said it wasn't quite yet, but soon would be. This thing must have looked great from the air. As we were stopping more, the pictures were a little better, but not much.
It was probably a good thing they sent us backwards on Dill Branch Rd. Going uphill on that steep section instead of down probably prevented some fender benders. By the time we got back to Shiloh Church, Perry Neal was tired and headed home. I got out at my car, but the night was just too beautiful to go anywhere. Then I realized the full moon would make a perfect backdrop against the candles and the Church. Just then I saw Perry's PT Cruiser going by. I tried to flag him down. What this scene needed was someone who could capture it, but he just kept going. I did my best.
While I was taking one of these, a car stopped and a young lady jumped out to take a picture of the candle crosses. I told her it was better up where I was as she could also get the moon in it. She came up and snapped a few, smiled at me and said thanks. I said the pictures were compliments of the boys of the 16th WI and to please remember them when she looked at that photo. As they were driving away, her husband waved at me and hollered a thank you. By then the traffic was really thinning out and I figured I could make one trip around with my headlights without bothering too many others. As I was going to pull out of the lot, a car with headlights on came along. so I figured I'd follow way behind him in hopes he would understand. Didn't go far before he pulled over and waited for me to pass, then followed way behind me. That was fine. The car in front of me was so far ahead, I figured it wouldn't bother him too bad. I did the route one more time and was really struck by how many candles had been run over. By the time I went around and got back to the Raith exit, I was tired and ready to head out. The Illumination was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. Kudos to all who worked on it and donated materials.
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