JULY 2018

JULY 2018
One Hundred Years Later, Same Message. 1916 - 2017


Friday, February 05, 2016


I begin by asking why is this day different than all others. That question in Jewish families, is the beginning of the Passover Seder. But if you have Celtic markers on your genomes, it is the beginning of Imm'ulk, the second quarter of the year. The first quarter is of course Sow'en – November through January – followed by Imm'ulk, then Bell'tan – May through July - and Loo'nassa – August through October. For some reason that is not the way they are currently spelled in English, but it is the way the Irish and Welsh pronounced them - approximately. As you might have noticed these is a pagan calendar, the way the ancient Celts marked time, and Imm'ulk was the season the female sheep start to drip milk from their teats. And, no, that is not why one of them is called a 'Yeww”. .
Lactating sheep may seem like a rotten reason to have a holiday, unless you are heavily invested in lamb futures, or, if sheep or goat milk makes up a large part of your children's protein intake. The word Imm'ulk in old Irish means “in the belly”, as in baby lambs, or goat kids. And that brings up the Celtic lady of fertility, Bree-id – again the phonetic spelling. The people of the pre-Christian British Isles, and particularly the center of the Bree-in cult around Kikdare, Ireland, felt the need to invoke a Goddess because the sheep drip seemed to begin about halfway between the Winter Solstice (December 22) and the Spring Equinox (March 21st), and a thousand years ago that seemed a magical and mystical event.  Today we know its just a little nut of coincidence, the product of the Earth's 365 and ¼ day elliptical orbit around the sun and its 23 degree angle of tilt. Change either of those numbers and you get a different coincidence.
In her yearbook – if she had one - Bree-id would have listed her interests as biology, poetry and heavy metal. Believe it or not, that made her a pacifist among the otherwise violent and argumentative Celtic gods, thus her association with fertility. When the Romans arrived they recorded her name as Brighid – which seems to be where the word “bride” came from - again fertility. The Christians faced a harder problem converting the Celts of Scotland, in part because they still had snakes. Their fertility spirit was Cailleach,  a shape shifter, AKA a hag. An ancient Scottish proverb says, “The serpent will come from the hole, On the brown Day of Bride, Though there should be three feet of snow, On the flat surface of the ground.” The Scots would not scan a good poet until Robert Burns in the 18th century.
The Scots told their children that on the first day of Imm'ulk the hag would go out to gather firewood for the rest of the winter. And since she also controlled the weather, if Caileach made the sun shine that day, it meant she was trying to gather lots of wood, which meant winter was going to last another month and a half or so. But if it was cloudy on the first day of Imm'ulk, then Caileach was planning on an early spring and she would not need sunlight for her search. In other words, if the old hag saw her shadow, it would be six more weeks of winter. And if that sounds familiar to you, its because that is the straight line, the set up to a joke retold year after year. Allow me to explain:
The Christians later co-opted the Irish goddess as Saint Brighid, spinning the story that she was the mother of St. Patrick, who drove the snakes out of Ireland. They just made that up of course, and later dropped her as a saint, but then they made up the part about the snakes and Saint Patrick too. But because the Romans recruited both Irish and Scottish Celt's as soldiers and used them on the Rhine River frontier, the blended legends of Brigid and Caileach became embedded in Germany. And because their German ancestors later became coal miners, and because the miners' ancestors later moved to America, drawn by jobs in the coal mines of Pennsylvania, where, for some reason, the Germans were called “Dutchmen”, that is how Irish ewes dripping milk from their teats, and an ugly old Scottish woman scrounging for firewood, combined to produce a local German immigrant festival celebrating the largest rodent in North America – Ground Hog Day.
See, a ground hog is a rodent, but its not a rat. They are much closer to a squirrel in need of weight watchers. And, without the expressive tails. This 4 to 9 pound animal, is actually a marmot. There are marmots living among the rocks and mountains of South Africa, and the Middle East, and central Europe, and along the foothills of the Himalayas. The ones living in North America are actually some of the smallest marmots anywhere, in part because living on flat ground, they are surrounded by foxes, wolves, coyotes, bears and hawks and eagles – all of whom find groundhogs very tasty. On the treeless great plains, they evolved into prairie dogs. And back east, they became groundhogs – grass eaters all. Look at it this way; if God were a rodent, cows would look more like ground hogs.
This plump, furry, generally irritated little beast is known by a number of nom-de-rodents. They sequel when injured and whistle to warn their mates (Ground hogs and Whistle-pigs), and the native Americans called them “wuchak” (woodchucks). They hibernate over winter below the frost line, emerging from their extensive Chateau marmots only in the spring. And since they don't have calendars, they respond to changing temperatures. When their dens warm up, they wake up and go looking for something green to eat. Any brief respite in winter like, say, around the end of January or early February, might draw some of the hungrier ground hogs to look for take out.  If it is an early spring, they get a jump on their fellows at early mating. If not, if its a normal or late spring, they become fuel, keeping hungry predators alive until real spring finally shows up - thus proving that individuality is an adaptation for the survival of the species, just not necessarily the species your in.
As far back as 1841 a local storekeeper in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania named James Morris had noted in his diary, “Last Tuesday, the 2nd... The day on which , according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as weather is to be moderate.” Again, that's the set up. The guy who delivered the punch line we are seeking was a local funny boy, a bachelor with a quick wit and the good German name of Clymer H. Freas. Clymer had been raised by his older brother, and after graduating from a local collage, he got a job working at the Punxsutawney Spirit, the only newspaper the town of Punxsutawney has ever had.
For decades, Punxsutawney,  halfway between the Allegheny and Susquehanna rivers, had been a local center of the first great American pastime – guns, beer and shooting things. In this case the “things” were ground hogs, and the beer was referred to as “ground hog punch”. And after shooting the whistle pigs, the celebrants then barbecued and ate them. Surprisingly, spending a cold morning killing a large rodent did not catch on with the Pennsylvania womenfolk, but then I suspect they were not invited. But after the Buffalo, Rochester and Pittsburgh Railroad began regular service into town in 1883, lots of men from Pittsburgh began to journey the ninety miles to tramp through the woods around Punxsutawney, blasting away at the large non-aquatic beavers, while getting blasted themselves. The town, evidently, needed the attraction, since in the language of the Delaware Indians, Puixsutawney actually means “Town of mosquitoes”.
Young Clymer evidently did not participate in these festivities, because in February of 1886, he first mentioned Ground hog Day in the “Spirit” by merely noting, “up to the time of going to press the beast has not seen his shadow." However, next year the 22 year old Clymer was invited to his first ground hog soiree at the “hunting lodge” up on Gobbler's Knob, about a mile southeast of town. He had so much fun that two years later he was one of the founding fathers of the Groundhog Club, elected Secretary and poet laureate.
As poet he waxed lyrical about the 1907 GHD; “Promptly at 12:22 O'Clock...a rift was riven in the overhanging clouds and B're Groundhog sallied forth, casting a shadow which shot through a shimmering sheen and sent a shaft of effervescent and effulgent rays...”. Clymer went into more depth describing the speeches given later at the barbecue as “eulogizing the flesh of the only Simon-pure vegetarian on this planet, and each, under the subtle influence of partaken woodchuck and assimilated punch, grew eloquent and combed the earth sea and sky with metaphor and simile, couched in the most beautiful phraseology.” That particular celebration continued past one in the morning. Not a bad punchline.
However the ladies and children must have complained, because in 1909, they held what Clymer described as a “Circumgyratory Pageant of the Astrologers, Horocopists, Magicians, Soothsayers and meteorological Attaches”, also known as a parade. It had floats representing the four seasons and because you would have be drunk to stand outside in the dead of winter, they held it in August, and called it “Old Home Week”. But because there was a lot less drinking, and no groundhogs to justify the thing, it did not catch on.
By now Clymer was editor of the paper, and the groundhog day celebrations and his joke had begun filling hotel rooms and restaurants. It was now a serious matter, and as editor Clymer was expected to be a civic booster. It was around now that the groundhog became the town's official symbol, and Clymer named him “Punxsutawney Phil,  Seer of Seers,  Sage of Sages, Prognosticator of Prognosticators and Weather Prophet Extraordinaire.” They stopped shooting the rodents (officially), and concentrated on the ridicules legend. But they would have to continue without their poet. In the teens, Bachelor Clymer married Miss Moss Rose Wall. And after that, as a man with responsibilities, he decided to put his skills for hyperbole to a job with more financial remuneration than that offered to a newspaperman and poet laureate. He abandoned Puxsutawney and its mid-winter freezing rodent festival, and moved to balmy Florida where he switched to selling swampland around Tampa. He died there in 1942.
But his work was done. The punch line for the joke had been written down, the dirty words removed, the telling civilized so as to render the joke acceptable to women and children. It didn't happen overnight, of course. In 1920, the first year of prohibition, Phil supposedly threatened not to offer another prediction for 60 weeks, unless he was given a drink. He was not, but he went right on predicting. A mere 37% accuracy rate (not much better than sheer chance) has so far failed to kill the joke, but it  now barely elicits a chuckle, but that will not kill it either. Besides, how much chuckle would a woodchuck chuckle, if a woodchuck could chuckle a chuck? That doesn't seem to matter, either.
The little town never had more than 10,000 residents, and after the mines closed, today it has barely 6,000. Still it is held together by a rodent. In the gift shop down at 102 West Mahoning Street, they sell “Gobbler's Knob Hot Chocolate Mix”, which you can drink from your “Amazink Shadow Mug”, featuring a “Punxsy Phil” and his shadow, which disappears when hot water fills the mug You can also buy Punxsy Phil Mardi Gras beads, and "Punxsutawney Phil in a Can." (above). Pull the pop top and a little plush Phil pops out, holding one of two signs predicting 6 more weeks of winter or not. You even buy a bag of Ground Hog Poop - actually its malted milk balls, but the kids love it.
You can head south on Highway 36, turn right on Woodlawn Avenue for about a mile to the crest of the hill, to Gobblers Knob. If you go there any day of the year other than Groundhog day you will likely find it abandoned, a empty stage set. The star resides year round downtown, in Barlay Square, at the memorial library, in his newly labeled Phil's Den, complete with below ground level window viewing. Human beings traveling hundreds, perhaps thousands,  of miles just  to see a marmot sleep is the real joke. And that is funny. Everybody should do it at least once.
Do Ground hogs laugh, I wonder?
- 30 -

Wednesday, February 03, 2016


I doubt few of us today could find a doctor so close or quick at such an hour. It was just after 5 in the chilly damp morning of Tuesday, 7 August, 1888. The constable dispatched first ran north on George Yard to Wentworth Street (above). He turned right and headed east for half a block, then crossed Osborn Street Then he turned left and headed north on Brick Lane for three blocks to the northeast corner of Henage Street. Not 5 minutes after beginning the task he was banging on the front door of 68 Brick Lane until Dr. Timothy Robert Killeen answered. The constable then waited in the hall while the doctor got dressed and grabbed his medical bag.
Dr. Timothy Killeen was living and working surrounded by his patients, who were mostly dying from malnutrition and its companions: typhoid fever, cholera, syphilis, tuberculosis, measles and food poisoning, to name but a few of the most prominent. They shared polluted water sources, unsanitary food, and breathed foul air. The yearly death rate in Whitchapel and Spitafields was 25 for every 1,000 residents. Many of London's slum dwellers were born, lived and died without ever seeing a doctor.
Timothy had graduated two years earlier from Kings and Queens College of Physicians, at Trinity College in Dublin. And if he were fulfilling a religious and moral obligation, he might have been disappointed. The Tower Hamlets of Whitechapel, Spitafields and Wopping,  which had once been occupied almost exclusively by Irish Catholics escaping the Potato famine, was filling now with Russian and east European Jews, running from the pogroms. 
But whoever his patients were, it is likely he had seen few as badly injured as this unknown woman on the landing between the first and ground floors of the Blackwell Buildings on George Yard (above). Setting his bag down on the steps, he took out a standard thermometer, which he set on the floor beyond the blood pool. Then he checked his watch, and recorded the time in his notebook. It was just 5:30 in the morning.
He found the victim (above) well nourished, and about 33 years old. His estimate showed he was familiar with the rapid aging a life in Whitechapel could produce. By his careful count the dead woman had suffered 38 separate stab wounds to her neck and chest, as well as one slash in her pubic region. But learning how deep these wounds were, and what internal injuries had resulted would have wait for an autopsy. Gently he lifted the fingers of her left hand. They moved easily, as did the elbow and shoulder joint. The absence of rigor mortis indicated she had died less than six hours ago. He recorded the air temperature as 55 degrees Fahrenheit. Then he inserted the thermometer in the dead woman's nostril.
He lifted her skirt and noted the faint mottling on the bottom of her thighs. By the color he estimated she had been lying here, on her back, for less than four hours. He placed his hand on her forehead, as if judging her temperature in life. She was still warm to the touch.  He examined her clothing – cap and jacket, shirtwaist , dress and petticoat, knee high stockings and ankle high boots. The clothing was old and thin, and Dr. Killeen figured his modifying number for this woman should be 1 or 1.10.
Meanwhile PC Barrett had awakened the building superintendent, Francis F. Hewitt. A retired painter, he lived in a ground floor apartment immediately adjacent to the stairwell, with his wife. Although Mr. Hewitt claimed to have heard nothing during the night, his wife, Amy, had heard a cry of “Murder” that evening. But, she added, "The district round here is rather rough, and cries of 'Murder' are frequent.” Francis said such shouts were heard almost every night. Asked to look at the body, still on the stairs, the couple were certain she was not one of their tenants.
Once the Hewitts had returned to their apartment, Dr. Killeen check the thermometer in the victim's nose. It recorded a body temperature of 95.4 degrees Fahrenheit, for a loss of 3 degrees since death. Following the standard formula given in his text books of a 1.5 degree Fahrenheit drop in body temperature for every hour after death, then multiplied by 1.10 to account for her thin clothing, Dr.Killeen could estimate the time of death to have been 2 ½ to 3 hours earlier than his 5:30 examination, or between 2:30 and 3:00 that morning. And that was the time he recorded in his notebook. Next, he told PC Barrett to send for a police ambulance, to transport the body up Wentworth to the Old Montague Street Mortuary, on the grounds of the Whitechapel Union Workhouse.
Being in debt had always been a criminal act in England, but the 1831 Poor Law created public institutions where the injured, the ill or the aged could reimburse the state for their crime of poverty at hard labor for 9 pence a day - the Workhouse. As crusading journalist Margaret Harkness noted, “The Whitechapel Union (above) is...the Poor Law incarnate in stone and brick.”
In exchange for “A little gruel morning and night, meat twice a week”, a cot and a roof, male inmates broke stone for 10 hours a day, six days a week, while the women and children unraveled rope for ships' caulking. They were allowed no privacy and no visitors. 
The amenities – uniforms and meager education classes, were intended to fulfill the state's Christian obligation to the less fortunate. A man sentenced to the Workhouse committed his entire family to the same punishment. 
Once behind the walls of the 5 story tall Whitechapel Union on New Charles Street, families were immediately separated by sex and age. Over time many families melted into the institution. And yet there were many so desperate they begged to be admitted.
On Thomas  Street, to the east of the Workhouse, the ill working poor lined up to be diagnosed  at the Casual Dispensary (above) -  men in mornings, women in the afternoons,  separated to maintain Christian propriety.
But through the Eagle Place  gate,  between those two brick buildings,  in a dirt and dirty courtyard was a bare, windowless dark  shed (above), where the inmates paid their final debt to society. They were dissected. It was to this place that the body of the unknown woman, found murdered in a stairwell on George Yard, was taken on the morning of Tuesday, 7 August, 1888.
By 8:00 that morning the body had been removed, and the police had returned to their beats and George Yard had returned to something described as normal.  There was nothing left to indicate that a woman had been murdered on the stairwell of the Blackwell Building, except for the blood still puddled on the landing. A few of the moribund came from the surrounding buildings look upon the spot and the blood. About 9:30 that morning, George Crow, resident of apartment number 307, came down the steps on his way to get breakfast.  He was a cab driver, and had been working the night before, arriving home just about 3:00 am. He paused upon seeing the blood, and realized it was staining just the spot on the dark stairs, where he had seen a figure sleeping the night before.
Later that morning, at the H division Metropolitan Police station on Leman Street (above), Divisional Inspector Ernest Ellisdon decided to assign the case to 42 year Detective Inspector Edmund Reid. It was an indication of Ellisdon's concern about the bloody murder. 
 Reid (above, front row center)  was a 12 year veteran of the MET, he was, when he joined, the shortest man on the force. But he eventually rose to head the Whitechapel Criminal Investigation Division for a time. A contemporary officer had called Reid, "one of the most remarkable men of the century"  He was an aviator - having set altitude records in a balloon - a published poet, a professional actor, a social activist and an accomplished magician. And he was a damn fine police man.  If any detective of 1888 could solve this murder mystery, it would be D.I  Edmund Reid.
- 30 -

Sunday, January 31, 2016


I doubt Major General Robert Milroy (above) had any doubts, even after the rebel infantry opened fire. It was just after sunrise, on a hot and cloudy Monday, 15, June, 1863 , and the “Grey Eagle of the Army”, as Milroy liked to call himself, was leading his men up the “Valley Pike” when suddenly a volley from 3,500 rebel muskets on their flank and blasts from a single cannon revealed the “murderous trap” he had led his men into. I have no doubt that even at that moment, Millroy refused to believe he was largely responsible for the entire disaster about to unfold.
The village of Winchester, Virginia had already changed hands twice in this war. Most professional soldiers on both sides considered it indefeasible. But warned of the rebel advance, the 6 foot white haired Milroy stayed for two days while he was out-flanked and out-fought. It was not until he was ducking shot from the rebel artillery on the surrounding hills that Milroy realized by retreating into 3 forts he had merely concentrated his 9,000 men, making them easier targets. He finally ordered his shell shocked troops to slip out of their fortifications at 1:00 a.m. on 15 June and begin their retreat 30 miles north to Harpers Ferry on the Potomac River. 
But the division had made less than 4 miles in the dark before the Confederate infantry snapped the trap shut (above, far right)  -  much as Hannibal had caught the Romans at Lake Tresimene in 217 B.C.E.
The cork holding Milroy in the bottle was the single cannon on a wagon bridge over the tracks of the Winchester and Potomac Railroad. In his panicked response Milroy launched two unprepared flailing attacks which killed all but one of the brave rebel gun crew, but failed to silence the cannon or remove the supporting infantry. Just as Milroy launched a third assault another 1,300 rebel infantry appeared – the brigade once led by Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. And under their combined fire the federal regiments began to surrender.
The next day the “debris of Winchester” stumbled into Harpers Ferry. The Hoosier Milroy had lost half his men - killed, wounded and more than 2,500 taken prisoner. But he saved himself.  By order of Brigadier General Hallack,  General Milroy was relieved of his command and arrested. As the Union Commander explained, “We have had enough of that kind of military genius.” Thanks to Major General Robert Milroy's arrogance the road “down” the valley was now wide open, and the entire 75,000 man rebel Army was free to invade Pennsylvania, with it's supply line back to Virginia secure.
In early January of 1863 even the amature general Abraham Lincoln could look past the 13,000 federal dead and wounded on the frozen slopes above Fredricksburg, Virginia (above) - lives lost without gaining a yard of rebel territory, and costing the rebels just 4,600 casualties - and still observe that, “If the same battle were to be fought over again, every day, through a week of days, with the same relative results, the army under Lee would be wiped out to its last man, while the Army of the Potomac would still be a mighty host.” Lincoln was right, and Robert E. Lee knew it.
Eight months later that rebel commander, Robert E. Lee. would admit that after his victory at Fredricksburg “I was much depressed. We had really accomplished nothing, “ said Lee, “we had not gained a foot of ground, and I knew the enemy could easily replace the men he had lost..” Lee's right hand man, the brilliant and eccentric General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, had told Lee before Fredricksburg, “I am opposed to fighting here. We will whip the enemy, but gain no fruits of victory.” 
And after Lee's “masterpiece” at Chancellorsville in early May of 1863, dealing 18,000 casualties to the Federals, Lee would admit, “I... was more depressed...” - more depressed because Chancellorsville had cost Lee 13,000 of his own dead and wounded (above) - and cost him Jackson, shot by his own men in confusion. And yet, Lee was still determined to invade the north.
The situation facing Lee  (above) has been explained by Ethan S. Rafuse, of the United States Army Staff College. “ At the heart of the matter,” wrote Rafuse, “was Northern superiority in men and material.” It left Lee with just two choices, according to Rafuse, “Take the initiative by leading his army north or remain on the defensive....” And the latter choice, Lee knew, could end in only one way - a siege of Richmond followed by surrender. But, said Lee, “An invasion of the enemy’s country breaks up all of his preconceived plans...” And his casualties in Pennsylvania, said Lee, would be “no greater than...from the series of battles I would have been compelled to fight had I remained in Virginia.” In short, Lee's invasion of 1863 was not a search for victory. It was a way of continuing to avoid defeat.
But the core of Robert E. Lee's generalship was always aggression. Within days of throwing the Federals back from Fredricksburg, he had ordered 35 year old Major Jedediah Hotchkiss, the chief topographical engineer for the Army of Northern Virginia, to secretly prepare a new map of the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia, and extending north as far as Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Hotchkiss' magnificent work measured 7 ½ feet long by 3 feet wide, with roads in red and streams in blue, and would prove accurate through out the coming campaign.  In mid-March Lee wrote to Confederate President Jefferson Davis, “I think it all important that we should assume the aggressive by the first of May, when we may expect General Hooker’s army to be weakened by the expiration of the term of service of many of his regiments. . . . I believe greater relief would in this way be afforded to the armies in middle Tennessee and on the Carolina coast than by any other method.”
Confederate Secretary of War, James Seddon, and President Jefferson Davis, wanted to capitalize on the success at Chanellorsville  by sending a third of Lee's Army to either the Carolina or Georgia coasts, where 
the Federal naval blockade threatened to cut the Confederacy off from Europe,  or to the middle of the Mississippi Valley, where Union troops  threatened to capture Vicksburg sundering the eastern Confederacy from Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas. For General Lee, it was a case of use his men or lose his men. Faced with his opposition to dismembering the Army of Northern Virginia, Lee's civilian masters were forced to back down.
On 10 May, 1863, in preparation for the invasion, Lee ordered the 2 corps of the ANV to became 3 corps, of approximately 22.000 men each. Lieutenant General James (Old Pete) Longstreet retained command of the First Corps. 
Newly promoted Lt. General Richard (Old Bald Head) Ewell took over the Second Corps, including Jackson's old division. 
And new Lt. General Ambrose Powell (A.P.) Hill assumed command of the Third Corps.
The 6,400 men in the Cavalry Corps under General James Ewell Brown (J.E.B.) Stuart raised Lee effective strength to about 75,000 officers and men.
On the Federal side, in May of 1863,   5,000 veterans were discharged, their 2 year enlistments at an end, and another 10,000 were discharged at the beginning of June. Replacements could not keep up with those losses, so by mid-June, the Army of the Potomac numbered somewhere between 83,000 and 95,000 effective soldiers. This deficiency would be transitory, as Lee well knew. But for the first time since the start of the war, the Federal numerical advantage was just 10 to 20,000 men – 1 or 2 divisions. Lee knew he would never face better odds.
The Army of Northern Virginia was as close to a national army as the Confederacy ever had. Most of its men came from Virginia and North Carolina, but it contained regiments from every state in the Confederacy. This was both a strength and a weakness. As wastage and casualties thinned their ranks, new recruits were fed into the veteran regiments, maintaining and extending unit experience. In the north, new recruits were formed into new regiments, which meant part of the Army of the Potomac was always at the bottom of the learning curve.
But it also meant few of Lee's soldiers ever received “basic training”, or basic equipment. They were all ill supplied and underfed, many lacking even shoes. The first loyalty of every soldier was to their regiment, the basic unit of maneuver. While willing to take orders from officers above the regimental level, outside of combat, Confederate soldiers were as likely to argue with an unknown officer as to obey him. 
The only thing that held the army together as a cohesive force was “Massur Lee”. He was more than their mounted commander. As a Georgia regiment passed Lee on the road to Pennsylvania, one private told his fellows, “Boys, there are ten thousand men sitting on that one horse.” Soldiers in the Army of Northern Virginia would kill and die for their regimental flag, and for General Lee.
The median private soldier in Lee's army earned $11 a month, was 24 years old, and single, a small farmer or unskilled laborer. The vast majority had volunteered during the first two years of the war, all most half either owned or someone in their extended family owned slaves. And increasingly the support and supply man power of the ANV were conscripted slaves, driving supply and ambulance wagons. No Confederate officer ever gave a slave a musket, but the war was forcing changes on the slave culture.
In April of 1862 The Confederate Congress passed the first “conscription” act in American history, supposedly drafting all able bodied unmarried white males between 18 and 35 years of age. The same law also extended by 2 years the service of volunteers already in the army. But Southern conscription never really worked. Besides being run by and for the states - who did not let many of the conscripted men leave their jurisdiction -  there was a complication which allowed wealthy men to buy their way out of the system, and most of the 82,000 low and middle class men drafted, deserted within weeks. But desertion would always remain a serious problem for all Confederate armies, and on 19 August of 1862 “Stonewall” Jackson executed 5 of his own men for desertion, the first recorded in the ANV - but far from the last.
The first units to shift away from Fredricksburg, on 3 June, 1863, were members of A.P.Hill's Corps, on the A.N.V.'s right flank. First they were ordered to pull back toward Culpepper Courthouse, Virginia, for resupply and reorganization. Everything depended on achieving this first without alerting the Federals. But almost immediately the Army of the Potomac knew the rebels were on the move. What they didn't know was where they were headed.
- 30 -

Blog Archive