Posts Tagged ‘Civil War’

In Nelson County, VA, no one wanted a pipeline going through their property. And when surveyors found the remains of an African American slave cemetery would be in the path of a proposed 554-mile Atlantic Coast Pipeline, to the tune of 5 Billion dollars, let’s just say things heated up at the local Planning Board.

“It is among at least four known African-American cemeteries in the area of Union Hill, an African-American settlement that is now in the path of a 42-inch natural gas pipeline that is proposed to sweep through Nelson from the Blue Ridge Mountains across the James into Buckingham County.

“This is the heart of the African-American community,” Rev James L Rose said. “It runs right through it.”

I’ve always been intrigued by metaphorical and physical lines. Iraq was invaded because we thought they had crossed President Bush’s WMD line; President Obama drew his line in Syria with chemical weapons, but didn’t follow through. We all draw our own personal lines in the sand of time – for instance, I will (or will never) get a tattoo!

But let’s get back to land lines. In the last eight years I’ve been crossing the Mason Dixon Line, traveling between VA and TN. I never really gave it much thought, in fact I used to think it was nothing more than an idea. A leftover relic of the Civil War, like the plaques and memorials that litter the South. But I’ve discovered that it is an actual boundary line that was drawn 250 years ago, pre-Revolutionary War, by two Brits, named surprisingly enough, Mason and Dixon!

And of course it was drawn to settle a land dispute between two families.

“For 80 years the Calvert family of Maryland and the Penns of Pennsylvania had been locked in a bloody dispute over the boundary between the two colonies they had been granted by the English Crown.“The stakes were very high,” said Mr Thaler, trustee of the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore and an expert on the Mason-Dixon project.“There was about 4,000 sq miles of territory that was in dispute and nobody knew who to pay taxes to. Warfare regularly broke out along the border.”

Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon were sons of a baker and a miner respectively who had immigrated to the new colony to make their fortune. They first collaborated on a Transit of Venus map in 1761. For this adventure, they dragged exceptional, state-of-the-art instruments through the wilderness for 5 years between Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland and Delaware. One scientist has called it the “moon landing” of that time period. Its accuracy was astounding and continues to be relevant, the very first geodetic survey in the New World!

During the Civil War, the Mason Dixon Line symbolized the border between free and slave-holding states. An outstanding engineering achievement for its day, the line came to represent a mortal wound in our country’s history. Did I feel any different after crossing that PA line in my CRV listening to This American Life podcasts? Not really.

While most of us are preparing a potato salad for a Labor Day picnic, I’m planning on Nanasitting the baby boy so his big sister can accompany the Bride delivering donuts to the Groom. He is on call in the MICU. Hospitals never close for holidays, and I guess neither does the United Nations.

This morning I just listened to Nikki Haley address the UN Security Council. She said that North Korea was “…begging for war.” I am praying Mr T’s line in the sand is permeable.



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I’ve always wondered what people mean when they differentiate “street smarts” or “common sense” from “book smarts.” Because intelligence isn’t just a number on an IQ test, and it’s not just the ability to memorize facts. Critical thinking is essential to a well-informed electorate; the ability to understand public policy and weed out an opinion from reality.

We are a nation divided, by coastline and big cities from the heartland. And if this trend toward anti-intellectualism continues we won’t just be “America First,” we’ll be “America All Alone” on the world stage. If I learned one thing from attending many Naturalization Ceremonies on July 4th at Monticello, it’s that we are a diverse nation with almost 200 religions. And that our Founding Fathers wanted a BIG wall between church and state! And men women and children are still flocking to our shores for the promise of a better life.

For the freedom to speak their mind.

Tomorrow a reprehensible group of people will gather in one of Cville’s beautiful parks to exercise their First Amendment rights. The police have installed cameras. Roads will be blocked to traffic. There’s no telling just how many will show up from other states, but this small blue dot, the home of Thomas Jefferson’s Academical Village, will be hosting a KKK Rally.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The Klan has advertised their “Unite the Right: March on Charlottesville” for months. They burned their first cross in fact, in 1921, in front of Monticello’s graveyard.

Remnants of this Reconstruction-era white supremacist terrorist group have crawled out from under their rock to demonstrate against Charlottesville’s effort to remove its Jim Crow-era Confederate monument to General Lee. Historical preservationist organizations which support maintaining such Lost Cause relics have scrambled to voice their disavowals. One local white nationalist organizer has sputtered a feverish conspiracy theory: leftist activists must have put the Klan up to holding this July 8 event, a month prior to his own planned August 12 “alt-right” gathering at the General Lee statue, in order to tar his “legitimate conservatives” and Confederate devotees with the same ugly KKK brush. https://medium.com/@JalaneSchmidt/excuse-me-america-your-house-is-on-fire-lessons-from-charlottesville-on-the-kkk-and-alt-right-84aafddca685

And so we are to see another “Alt-Right” group come to town in August for this Summer of Hate. I must admit, I’m worried for this college town, a bright blue light of the Resistance. Our Mayor proudly calls us a Sanctuary City. And Indivisible Charlottesville has deployed many progressive activists around Albermarle County this past year. You may have read about some of my exploits here: https://mountainmornings.net/2017/01/31/busy-morning/

When the Rocker was in middle school, I was into the PTA in a big way. One day I found myself serving Chinese food to students in the cafeteria to help celebrate the Chinese New Year. I’ll never forget the look of hate on one boy’s face when he told me he didn’t want any. I coaxed a little, not wanting him to starve, and he followed up by telling me, “I’m NOT Chinese,” in a venomous voice. By 12 and 13 a world-view can be set in stone; children are taught to hate and fear “the other,” but it is possible to teach compassion instead.

Curiosity is essential to our growth and development as a people. What if Jefferson didn’t wonder what was beyond the Blue Ridge? What if Kennedy didn’t wonder if we could go to the moon? Today our President meets with Putin. What if Trump tells him what a great golfer he (Trump) is and how much money he’s making on this Presidential thing?

What if we’ve learned nothing from history?   IMG_0929


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He sent his wife and child to the country so they could eat fresh strawberries. He hoisted the Union Jack above his residence, which he calculated was about three miles from a Federal garrison. In April of 1861, he actually boarded a dinghy in Charleston Harbor to get closer to the shelling of Fort Sumter.

Robert Bunch was the British Consul in Charleston, SC during the years of secessionist talk leading up to the Civil War, and I’m smack dab in the middle of reading the non-fiction novel by  Christopher Dickey, “Our Man in Charleston: Britain’s Secret Agent in the Civil War South.” I thought it would help me understand the city while we were visiting it, but I was wrong. http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-undercover-abolitionist-1437160470

Britain’s attitudes toward slavery were complex. In 1807, Britain and the United States had outlawed the trade, but unlike the Americans, the British were serious about it: The Royal Navy was charged with capturing slave ships off the African coast. In 1833, the U.K. freed all of the slaves within its empire. And yet, Mr. Dickey writes, “England hated slavery but loved the cotton the slaves raised [in the American South] and British industry depended on it.”

The African Slave Trade had been illegal for over 50 years. Now the North was enforcing the law, captured slave ships were being towed into the harbor for all to see; Dickey’s description of one is enough to make you sick. But Mr. Bunch was tasked with repealing the “Negroe Seamen’s Act,” which meant that any ship docked in the harbor, under any flag, must hand over every Black on board, free or not, to the jail until said ship left the port. The conditions of the prison meant that many men either died from disease or torture, while the lucky ones escaped to be captured and enslaved.

Still last night, during Hillary Clinton’s impressive marathon grilling on the Hill, I was struck by how many times she referred to Benghazi as a “19th Century posting.” So I wondered how present day Libya might compare to the pre-Civil War South. And it seems that communication is fraught with peril now, as it was then. That sense of distrust; Bunch (who was accepted by the aristocrats in the city, while he abhorred their sentimental reasoning for slavery) sent private couriers to Washington with his dispatches in code. He was a diplomat, a spy, and his own security force rolled up into one man.

All that badgering of Mrs Clinton, about how her email messages were received, if she was alone on the night in question, why Blumenthal had access, had she signed a waiver, if her diplomat had her private phone number…? It was maddening, and it was sad. Because it showed us, the American people, the antipathy, the malicious partisanship our leaders have wallowed in for so long.

I was reminded of Bunch’s “Smile of Indifference.” Hillary is our woman in Washington – a 21st Century presidential candidate, in a sea of Republican nonsense. “The frightful evil of the system is that it debases the whole tone of society — for the people talk calmly of horrors which would not be mentioned in civilized society.”  

The sign outside an H&M store in the Kress building

The sign outside an H&M store in the Kress building, Charleston

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This morning Ms Bean started barking her crazy bark at the kitchen door. I looked and not seeing any deer, which usually has her starting off with a low rumble before she hits the crazy bark mode, I opened the door. She jumped, pranced out onto the deck craning her head up, and I looked up to see a Great Blue Heron swing down and away from the roof into the valley. Oh Bean, let’s not go chasing herons. Hawks are OK since they might decide to pick you up for a snack, but herons mean you no harm.

Afterwards, I recalled a snippet of last night’s dream. I dreamed about Buddha, and the Flapper. We were in a big, old antebellum house and Buddha didn’t want to go out the door. It was a special door on the side with muddy bootprints. My beautiful, white Samoyed-mix wasn’t comfortable walking on the wood floors towards the end. The Flapper was watching from the grand circular staircase. Maybe I remembered the dream because my children’s story has Buddha talking to a Great Blue Heron in a tree.

But the majestic, historic house I know well, it was Walter Place in Holly Springs, MS. My late brother Michael bought this house for his beautiful bride Jorja after they left the frozen tundra of Minnesota. She was raised here and her large family still lived among the hanging, humid wisteria vines in this delta dreamworld. I’ve been dressed in a hoop skirt to man the upstairs battle stations during their annual Pilgrimage. Walter Place is the jewel in the crown of this historic house tour. http://misspreservation.com/2012/06/19/101-places-walter-place-in-holly-springs/

In 1859…”Harvey Washington Walter “challenged [architect Spires Boling] to create something grander than the classic Greek Revival house with tall white columns” Boling’s response was the Gothic towers “topped with castellated battlements.”


Walter Place is about to go up for auction, which is most likely why I’m dreaming about it. All the gorgeous antiques that Jorja assembled over the years to make her home a period masterpiece are now in the hands of Stevens Auctions for probably one of the biggest and best American antiquities sales in a very long time.

I remember looking out over the lawn to see tents sprawling as far as the eye can see of Civil War re-enactors, like Mrs Grant saw in real time. I remember the desk that the railroad tycoon Walter’s daughter used sitting under the staircase. She had to practice medicine in China since no one would accept a woman doctor. I remember my niece Lucia’s glorious wedding in the lush garden, with magnolia flowers from the estate on every table. I remember the peacock I gave my brother for his birthday flying free up into a tree when the groundsman tried to capture him. Like the heron did this morning.

I know you can watch the auction online July 11 and 12, but I don’t know if they will be accepting phone bids. You could probably call if you are interested, this is a business that must have a person on the other end of the line don’t you think? http://www.stevensauction.com/Calender.html And Jorja, I wish you love and light in this next chapter of your life.

Three Generations of Delta Beauty

Three Generations of Delta Beauty


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We’ve all come to that point. A place where there’s no turning back, not enough fuel to land safely at home, but just enough to make it to the next destination. Some people may fold at this point, insist they could never get there, afraid of the unknown, so they’d rather take their chances swimming with sharks. Others may just hover, like Wiley Coyote over a canyon, in their mistaken belief system that the air will keep right on supporting their standing-in-place bodies.

But some keep going. The drums of war are beating once again.

Baghdad is suffering more violence today than it has in years – 1,057 killed last month alone, 50 killed by bombs in the last 24 hours…”More than 4,000 civilians have been killed and 10,000 more have been wounded so far this year, with Baghdad province worst hit.”

I am by no means a Mid-East scholar. But I do like to source my news, to hear all the stories surrounding an issue, to try and not make snap judgements. And that’s why I started reading alJazeera around the Egypt uprising; and I’ve even tuned in to their new American news network, channel 215 on Dish, these past few days.

Because I’d been unplugged in Nashville, and am returning to an inevitable “surgical strike” by our forces in Syria. And I learned that there have been around 20 instances of the use of chemical weapons within the country since the fighting began, which leads one to wonder why the West is responding now? Does a “red line” have to show videos of women and children dying? As one Arab scholar mentioned, “Killing is killing.” How very biblical.

And btw, Russia will veto any intervention proposed to The Security Council, because they think the horrendous attack in a suburb of Damascus on August 21st was actually caused by the rebels. And as I’m listening to alJazeera America, I’m thinking back to my favorite HBO  show of the moment, “Newsroom.”

This fictional newsroom ran a story about Serin gas, a story that proved to be false. And I thought about when the Bride was in Paris during her 2nd semester, about the Serin gas that was used in the 1995 Metro bombings.

And on this rainy morning, I’m really not sure who to believe. Certainly the Newsroom’s General Stomtonovich’s on-air “confession” was cooked by its producer, we saw him do it.

And now the UK has drafted a resolution  “…authorizing necessary measures to protect civilians in Syria.” And we are circling our battleships; the drums are drum drum drumming.

And I think back to the bill of goods we were sold about WMDs in Iraq. And it’s like our whole country has gone out to the edge, once again.

photo 3




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We had lunch at the University’s President’s house, then were shuttled to the Ulysses S Grant Presidential Library of Mississippi State University. It was an elegant affair, the occasion? My sister-in-law Jorja had donated the contents of my brothers study, a shrine to Grant replete with books, photographs, letters and artwork. His entire collection is now carefully archived and preserved in the John Grisham Room. Yep, Charlottesville’s famous author graduated from MS State.

Dr Mark Keenum, the above mentioned University President, spoke about how ironic it may seem to have Grant’s Library in MS. Almost like my northern brother, Mike, coming down here to conquer and capture his beloved, an Ole Miss (that northern school) Beauty Queen. “He gave me a big life,” she said. And even after death, he’s still getting all the publicity.

This morning the doves are singing, the wind chimes are ringing, and the Great Dane Carmen is napping. The bride and Groom slept in the bedroom that was home to Mrs Julia Grant during the Occupation. Sitting on the screen porch of this magnificent Antebellum home, I feel I’ve gone back in time. I’m waiting for the Love Bug to wake up, and wishing so much my brother could have known her. He would have loved her contrariness.




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From the Lee Park Occupy Cville Movement. The Robert E Lee Monument was erected in 1924 to honor the Commander of Northern Virginia. Did you know that all the Civil War statues in the South are situated with their backs to the North?

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