Wednesday, December 31, 2008

This Day in History (Continued from Yesterday).....

Why not let one of the surviors tell the story.....

as previously written
Francis B. Butts
for the
Rhode Island Soldiers & Sailors Historical Society
in the Century Magazine: December 1885

At daybreak on the 20th of December, 1862, at Fort Monroe, the Monitor hove short her anchor, and by ten o'clock in the forenoon she was under way for Charleston, South Carolina, in charge of Commander J. B. Bankhead. The Rhode Island, a powerful side-wheeled steamer, was to be our convoy, and to hasten our speed she took us in tow with two long twelve-inch hawsers. The weather was heavy with dark, stormy-looking clouds and a westerly wind. We passed out of the Roads and rounded Cape Henry, proceeding on our course with but little change in the weather up to the next day at noon, when the wind shifted to the south-south-west and increased to a gale. At twelve o'clock it was my trick at the lee wheel, and being a good hand I was kept there. At dark we were about seventy miles at sea, and directly off Cape Hatteras. The sea rolled high and pitched together in the peculiar manner only seen at Hatteras. The Rhode Island steamed slowly and steadily ahead. The sea rolled over us as if our vessel were a rock in the ocean only a few inches above the water, and men who stood abaft on the deck of the Rhode Island have told me that several times we were thought to have gone down. It seemed that for minutes we were out of sight, as the heavy seas entirely submerged the vessel. The wheel had been temporarily rigged on top of the turret, where all the officers, except those on duty in the engine-room, now were. I heard their remarks, and watched closely the movements of the vessel, so that I exactly understood our condition. The vessel was making very heavy weather, riding one huge wave, plunging through the next as if shooting straight for the bottom of the ocean, and splashing down upon another with such force that her hull would tremble, and with a shock that would sometimes take us off our feet, while a fourth would leap upon us and break far above the turret, so that if we had not been protected by a rifle-armor that was securely fastened and rose to the height of a man's chest, we should have been washed away. I had volunteered for service on the Monitor while she lay at the Washington Navy Yard in November. This going to sea in an iron-clad I began to think was the dearest part of my bargain. I thought of what I had been taught in the service, that a man always gets into trouble if he volunteers.

About eight o'clock, while I was taking a message from the captain to the engineer, I saw the water pouring in through the coal-bunkers in sudden volumes as it swept over the deck. About that time the engineer reported that the coal was too wet to keep up steam, which had run down from its usual pressure of eighty pounds to twenty. The water in the vessel was gaining rapidly over the small pumps, and I heard the captain order the chief engineer to start the main pump, a very powerful one of new invention. This was done, and I saw a stream of water eight inches in diameter spouting up from beneath the waves.

About half-past eight the first signals of distress to the Rhode Island were burned. She lay to, and we rode the sea more comfortably than when we were being towed. The Rhode Island was obliged to turn slowly ahead to keep from drifting upon us and to prevent the tow-lines from being caught in her wheels. At one time, when she drifted close alongside, our captain shouted through his trumpet that we were sinking, and asking the steamer to send us her boats. The Monitor steamed ahead again with renewed difficulties, and I was ordered to leave the wheel and was kept employed as messenger by the captain. The chief engineer reported that the coal was so wet that he could not keep up the steam, and I heard the captain order him to slow down and put all steam that could be spared upon the pumps. As there was danger of being towed under by our consort, the tow-lines were ordered to be cut, and I saw James Fenwick, quarter-gunner, swept from the deck and carried by a heavy sea lee-ward and out of sight in attempting to obey the order. Our daring boatswain's mate, John Stocking, then succeeded in reaching the bows of the vessel, and I saw him swept by a heavy sea far away into the darkness.

About half-past ten o'clock our anchor was let go with all the cable, and struck bottom in about sixty fathoms of water; this brought us out of the trough of the sea, and we rode it more comfortably. The fires could no longer be kept up with the wet coal. The small pumps were choked up with water, or, as the engineer reported, were drowned, and the main pump had almost stopped working from lack of power. This was reported to the captain, and he ordered me to see if there was any water in the ward-room. This was the first time I had been below the berth-deck. I went forward and saw the water running in through the hawse-pipe, an eight-inch hole, in full force, as in dropping the anchor the cable had torn away the packing that had kept this place tight. I reported my observations, and at the same time heard the chief engineer report that the water had reached the ash-pits and was gaining very rapidly. The captain ordered him to stop the main engine and turn all steam on the pumps, which I noticed soon worked again.

The clouds now began to separate, a moon of about half size beamed out upon the sea, and the Rhode Island, now a mile away, became visible. Signals were being exchanged, and I felt that the Monitor would be saved, or at least that the captain would not leave his ship until there was no hope of saving her. I was sent below again to see how the water stood in the ward-room. I went forward to the cabin and found the water just above the soles of my shoes, which indicated that there must be more than a foot in the vessel. I reported this to the captain, and all hands were set to baling, -baling out the ocean, as it seemed, - but the object was to employ the men, as there now seemed to be danger of excitement among them. I kept employed most of the time taking the buckets from through the hatchway on top of the turret. They seldom would have more than a pint of water in them, however, the balance having been spilled out in passing from one man to another.

The weather was clear, but the sea did not cease rolling in the least, and the Rhode Island with the two lines wound up in her wheel, was tossing at the mercy of the sea, and came drifting against our sides. A boat that had been lowered was caught between the vessels and crushed and lost. Some of our seamen bravely leaped down on deck to guard our sides, and lines were thrown to them from the deck of the Rhode Island, which now lay her whole length against us, floating off astern; but not a man would be the first to leave his ship, although the captain gave orders to do so. I was again sent to examine the water in the ward-room, which I found to be more than two feet above the deck; and I think I was the last person who saw Engineer S.A. Lewis as he lay seasick in his bunk, apparently watching the water as it grew deeper and deeper, and aware what his fate must be. He called me as I passed his door, and asked if the pumps were working. I replied that they were. "Is there any hope?" he asked; and feeling a little moved at the scene, and knowing certainly what must be his end, and the darkness that stared at us all, I replied, "As long as there is life there is hope." "Hope and hang on when you are wrecked," is an old saying among sailors. I left the ward-room, and learned that the water had gained so as to choke up the main pump. As I was crossing the berth-deck I saw our ensign, Mr. Fredrickson, hand a watch to Master's Mate Williams, saying, "Here, this is yours; I may be lost." The watch and chain were both of unusual value. Williams received them into his hand, then with a hesitating glance at the time-piece said, "This thing may be the means of sinking me," and threw it upon the deck. There were three or four cabin-boys pale and prostrate with seasickness, and the cabin cook, an old African negro, under great excitement, was scolding them most profanely.

As I ascended the turret ladder the sea broke over the ship, and came pouring down the hatchway with so much force that it took me off my feet; and at the same time the steam broke from the boiler-room, as the water had reached the fires, and for an instant I seemed to realize that we had gone down. Our fires were out, and I heard the water blowing out of the boilers. I reported my observations to the captain, and at the same time saw a boat alongside. The captain again gave orders for the men to leave the ship, and fifteen, all of whom were seamen and men whom I had placed my confidence upon, were the ones who crowded the first boat to leave the ship. I was disgusted at witnessing the scramble, and not feeling in the least alarmed about myself, resolved that I, an "old haymaker," as landsmen are called, would stick to the ship as long as my officers. I saw three of these men swept from the deck and carried leeward on the swift current.

Bailing was now resumed. I occupied the turret all alone, and passed buckets from the lower hatchway to the man on the top of the turret. I took off my coat - one that I had received from home only a few days before (I could not feel that our noble little ship was yet lost) - and rolling it up with my boots, drew the tampion from one of the guns, placed them inside, and replaced the tampion. A black cat was sitting on the breech of one of the guns, howling one of those hoarse and solemn tunes which no one can appreciate who is not filled with the superstitions which I had been taught by the sailors, who are always afraid to kill a cat. I would almost as soon have touched a ghost, but I caught her, and placing her in another gun, replaced the wad and tampion; but I could still hear that distressing yowl. As I raised my last bucket to the upper hatchway no one was there to take it. I scrambled up the ladder and found that we below had been deserted. I shouted to those on the berth-deck, "Come up; the officers have left the ship and a boat is alongside."

As I reached the top of the turret I saw a boat made fast on the weather quarter filled with men. Three others were standing on deck trying to get on board. One man was floating leeward, shouting in vain for help; another, who hurriedly passed me and jumped down from the turret, was swept off by a breaking wave and never rose. I was excited, feeling that it was the only chance to be saved. I made a loose line fast to one of the stanchions, and let myself down from the turret, the ladder having been washed away. The moment I struck the deck the sea broke over it and swept me as I had seen it sweep my shipmates. I grasped one of the smoke-stack braces and, hand-over-hand, ascended to keep my head above water. It required all my strength to keep the sea from tearing me away. As it swept from the vessel I found myself dangling in the air nearly at the top of the smoke-stack. I let myself fall, and succeeded in reaching a life-line that encircled the deck by means of short stanchions, and to which the boat was attached. The sea again broke over us, lifting me feet upward as I still clung to the life-line. I thought I had nearly measured the depth of the ocean, when I felt the turn, and as my head rose above the water I was somewhat dazed from being so nearly drowned, and spouted up, it seemed, more than a gallon of water that had found its way into my lungs. I was then about twenty feet from the other men, whom I found to be the captain and one seaman, the other had been washed overboard and was now struggling in the water. The men in the boat were pushing back on their oars to keep the boat from being washed on to the Monitor's deck, so that the boat had to be hauled in by the painter about ten or twelve feet. The first lieutenant, S. D. Greene, and other officers in the boat, were shouting, "Is the captain on board?" and, with severe struggles to have our voices heard above the roar of the wind and sea, we were shouting "No," and trying to haul in the boat, which we at last succeeded in doing. The captain, ever caring for his men, requested us to get in, but we both, in the same voice, told him to get in first. The moment he was over the bows of the boat Lieutenant Greene cried, "Cut the painter! Cut the painter!" I thought, "Now or lost," and in less time than I can explain it, exerting my strength beyond imagination, I hauled in the boat, sprang, caught on the gunwale, was pulled into the boat with a boar-hook in the hands of one of the men, and took my seat with one of the oarsmen. The other man, named Thomas Joice, managed to get into the boat in some way, I cannot tell how, and he was the last man saved from that ill-fated ship. As we were cut loose I saw several men standing on top of the turret, apparently afraid to venture down upon deck, and it may have been that they were deterred by seeing others washed overboard while I was getting into the boat.

As I reached the top of the turret I saw a boat made fast on the weather quarter filled with men. Three others were standing on deck trying to get on board. One man was floating leeward, shouting in vain for help; another, who hurriedly passed me and jumped down from the turret, was swept off by a breaking wave and never rose. I was excited, feeling that it was the only chance to be saved. I made a loose line fast to one of the stanchions, and let myself down from the turret, the ladder having been washed away. The moment I struck the deck the sea broke over it and swept me as I had seen it sweep my shipmates. I grasped one of the smoke-stack braces and, hand-over-hand, ascended to keep my head above water. It required all my strength to keep the sea from tearing me away. As it swept from the vessel I found myself dangling in the air nearly at the top of the smoke-stack. I let myself fall, and succeeded in reaching a life-line that encircled the deck by means of short stanchions, and to which the boat was attached. The sea again broke over us, lifting me feet upward as I still clung to the life-line. I thought I had nearly measured the depth of the ocean, when I felt the turn, and as my head rose above the water I was somewhat dazed from being so nearly drowned, and spouted up, it seemed, more than a gallon of water that had found its way into my lungs. I was then about twenty feet from the other men, whom I found to be the captain and one seaman, the other had been washed overboard and was now struggling in the water. The men in the boat were pushing back on their oars to keep the boat from being washed on to the Monitor's deck, so that the boat had to be hauled in by the painter about ten or twelve feet. The first lieutenant, S. D. Greene, and other officers in the boat, were shouting, "Is the captain on board?" and, with severe struggles to have our voices heard above the roar of the wind and sea, we were shouting "No," and trying to haul in the boat, which we at last succeeded in doing. The captain, ever caring for his men, requested us to get in, but we both, in the same voice, told him to get in first. The moment he was over the bows of the boat Lieutenant Greene cried, "Cut the painter! Cut the painter!" I thought, "Now or lost," and in less time than I can explain it, exerting my strength beyond imagination, I hauled in the boat, sprang, caught on the gunwale, was pulled into the boat with a boar-hook in the hands of one of the men, and took my seat with one of the oarsmen. The other man, named Thomas Joice, managed to get into the boat in some way, I cannot tell how, and he was the last man saved from that ill-fated ship. As we were cut loose I saw several men standing on top of the turret, apparently afraid to venture down upon deck, and it may have been that they were deterred by seeing others washed overboard while I was getting into the boat.

After a fearful and dangerous passage over the frantic seas, we reached the Rhode Island, which still had the tow-line caught in her wheel and had drifted perhaps two miles to leeward. We came alongside under the lee bows, where the first boat, that had left the Monitor nearly an hour before, had just discharged its men; but we found that getting on board the Rhode Island was a harder task than getting from the Monitor. We were carried by the sea from stem to stern, for to have made fast would have been fatal; the boat was bounding against the ship's sides; sometimes it was below the wheel, and then, on the summit of a huge wave, far above the decks; then the two boats would crash together; and once, while Surgeon Weeks was holding on to the rail, he lost his fingers by a collision which swamped the other boat. Lines were thrown to us from the deck of the Rhode Island, which were of no assistance, for not one of us could climb a small rope; and besides, the men who threw them would immediately let go their holds, in their excitement, to throw another - which I found to be the case when I kept hauling in rope instead of climbing.

It must be understood that two vessels lying side by side, when there is any motion to the sea, move alternately; or in other words, one is constantly passing the other up or down. At one time, when our boat was near the bows of the steamer, we would rise upon the sea until we could touch her rail; then in an instant, by a very rapid descent, we could touch her keel. While we were thus rising and falling upon the sea, I caught a rope, and rising with the boat managed to reach within a foot or two of the rail, when a man, if there had been one, could easily have hauled me on board. But they had all followed after the boat, which at that instant was washed astern and I hung dangling in the air over the bow of the Rhode Island, with Ensign Norman Atwater hanging to the cat-head, three or four feet from me, like myself, with both hands clinching a rope and shouting for some one to save him. Our hands grew painful and all the time weaker, until I saw his strength give way. He slipped a foot, caught again, and with his last prayer, "O God!" I saw him fall and sink, to rise no more. The ship rolled, and rose upon the sea, sometimes with her keel out of water, so that I was hanging thirty feet above the sea, and with the fate in view that had befallen our much-beloved companion, which no one had witnessed but myself. I still clung to the rope with aching hands, calling in vain for help. But I could not be heard, for the wind shrieked far above my voice. My heart here, for the only time in my life, gave up hope, and home and friends were most tenderly thought of. While I was in this state, within a few seconds of giving up, the sea rolled forward, bringing with it the boat, and when I would have fallen into the sea, it was there. I can only recollect hearing an old sailor say, as I fell into the bottom of the boat, "Where in ---- did he come from?"

When I became aware of what was going on, no one had succeeded in getting out of the boat, which then lay just forward of the wheel-house. Our captain ordered them to throw bowlines, which was immediately done. The second one I caught, and, placing myself within the loop, was hauled on board. I assisted in helping the others out of the boat, when it again went back to the Monitor; it did not reach it, however, and after drifting about on the ocean several days it was picked up by a passing vessel and carried to Philadelphia.

It was half-past twelve, the night of the thirty-first of December, 1862, when I stood on the forecastle of the Rhode Island, watching the red and white lights that hung from the pennant-staff above the turret, and which now and then were seen as we would perhaps both rise on the sea together, until at last, just as the moon had passed below the horizon, they were lost, and the Monitor, whose history is familiar to us all, was seen no more.

The Rhode Island cruised about the scene of the disaster the remainder of the night and the next forenoon in hope of finding the boat that had been lost; then she returned direct to Fort Monroe, where we arrived the next day with our melancholy news.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

This day in history....

The USS Monitor runs into a Nor'Easter and begins taking on water off Cape Hatteras. More on what happens tomorrow...............

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas in 1776

Let us not forget those who came before us.......

Christmas Day, 1776: 'Victory or Death'
by George F. Smith

On Christmas Day, 1776, a few Americans gave us the first installment of a gift we have all but lost.

After the makeshift American army under George Washington's command ousted the redcoats from Boston in early 1776, the British moved to New York City, where they launched an invasion in August. Washington met them head-on and suffered devastating defeats, and survived only by fleeing from the enemy.

During the sleepless nights and hungry days of their retreat across New Jersey, Washington had hoped to pick up support from the locals. But the opposite turned out to be true: In Newark, for instance, only 30 turned out to join the Americans, while on the same day 300 New Jerseyans fell in for the British.

By the time he escaped across the Delaware River into Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Washington had only 3,000 of his original 20,000 troops. Seeing American forces arriving in retreat only twelve miles from where they sat in Philadelphia, Congress exposed their backbone: They panicked, made excuses and fled. They gave Washington dictatorial powers and went into hiding in Baltimore, 110 miles to the south.

"The game is pretty near up," Washington wrote in a letter to his cousin in Virginia. Even the Bucks County militia let him down. Desperate for troops, he had ordered them called out, but they turned Loyalist, and he had to dismiss them.

As winter set in, Washington made headquarters in William McKonkey's three-story stone house on the west side of the Delaware. British commander William Howe had written to his superior in England, Lord Germaine, telling of the severity of the December weather. For that reason he would go into winter quarters until spring, leaving his men spread over numerous New Jersey outposts, ready to march at a moment's notice. He admitted, though, that the chain of outposts was too extensive.

Lord Charles Cornwallis, Howe's field commander, decided to garrison the outposts with Hessian mercenaries and send the British troops back to New York. He himself was anxious to return to his wife in England, while Howe continued his affair in New York with the wife of one of his officers. Cornwallis left command of New Jersey in the hands of the cocky and thoroughly mediocre General James Grant.

In the 100-house village of Trenton, the outpost closest to Washington, the 1,600 Hessians were under command of Colonel Johann Gottlieb Rall, a hard-drinking gambler whose troops had a reputation for plunder and rape. Once encamped. they proceeded to demonstrate their reputation. Hessian brutality swung many New Jersey neutrals to the American cause. Instead of tacking red ribbons to their doors indicating their loyalty to the Crown, they formed militia bands to ambush Hessian patrols. In his diary, one Hessian officer complained "we have not slept one night in peace since we came to this place." [1] He wrote this passage in Trenton, on Christmas Eve.

History tells us of the desperate condition of Washington's men - their ragged clothes, their lack of shoes, their chronic hunger. While this was true, it was also carefully exaggerated. Making excellent use of spies, Washington led the British to believe his condition was completely hopeless. Thus, when Rall complained to General Grant that his position was too much exposed, Grant dismissed it as ludicrous, since Washington was all but decimated. Besides, after December 31 Washington would not even have an army, since the term of service would expire for most of his men.

Perhaps at the suggestion of Benedict Arnold, Washington decided to attack Trenton while the Hessians slept off the effects of their Christmas celebration. It was do or die time; if he didn't take Trenton, the American cause was dead.

Benjamin Rush, one of the few members of Congress who remained in Philadelphia, paid Washington a visit on the morning of December 24, 1776. Seeing the general depressed, Rush tried to boost his spirits with talk about Congress being behind him, even as they ran like cowards. As they talked, Rush noticed Washington scribbling on scraps of paper, one of which fell to the floor. Rush picked it up and read, "Victory or Death." It was the watchword for the attack on Trenton.

The following afternoon, Christmas Day, Washington gave his officers their marching orders. They included a special oratory they would read to their men, in an attempt to boost their morale. Earlier that month, Tom Paine had written a new essay on a drumhead in General Nathanael Greene's tent as the American army retreated across New Jersey. Called The American Crisis, Paine had it printed in Philadelphia on December 19. As the troops prepared to climb aboard the boats and cross the Delaware, with a winter storm kicking up, they heard Paine's opening words: "These are the times that try men's souls." They would not forget them.

Under the direction of Marblehead ship captain John Glover, the first boats pushed off from McKonkey's Ferry at two in the afternoon. It took fourteen hours to transport men, horses, and artillery across the river. Ice floes crunched against the sides of the 60-foot Durham iron-ore barges as the boatmen, sleet slashing their eyes, poled the crafts over and back.

Meanwhile, in Trenton, Rall had eaten a hearty meal and retired for a game of cards with a few of his aides and his host, a man named Abraham Hunt. Shortly after midnight a shivering Loyalist from Bucks County showed up at the door with a written message, handing it to a servant. Rall refused to be disturbed and tucked the note into his waistcoat pocket without reading it.

At 4:00 a.m. the American troops began their ten-mile march to Trenton along River Road. Washington, from his tall chestnut horse, urged his men to keep moving and stay with their officers. Two men stopped to rest - and froze to death. At Birmingham, the force split into two divisions. One, led by Nathanael Greene, swung off to the east to skirt the town, while the other, under John Sullivan's command, headed straight for the main Hessian barracks on King Street.

At 8:00 a.m. Sullivan's advance guard rushed the ten Hessian pickets outside the barracks. Three minutes later Washington ordered the rest of the men to storm the town. As they fell upon the enemy, many of them shouted, "This is the time to try men's souls!" [2] With their gunpowder soaked and useless, Sullivan's men relied on the bayonet to roust the Hessians out of the houses. Earlier in New York, Rall's men had mercilessly slaughtered Americans as they tried to surrender. It was a gratifying sight to see the Hessians turning and running.

Sodden from the previous night's celebrations, some Hessian units threw on their coats and tried to form ranks in the streets. As they did, they were cut down by Henry Knox's six-pounders firing from the ends of Trenton's two main streets.

Rall finally broke from the Hunt house, jumped on his horse and galloped toward his regiment, who were marching down King Street to the sounds of fifes, bugles, and drums while being showered with grapeshot. "Lord, Lord, what is it, what is it?" he kept shouting in German. As he tried unsuccessfully to organize a bayonet charge, he was hit twice and assisted into the Queen Street Methodist Church. While he lay dying, someone noticed the unread note in his pocket: the American army was marching on Trenton.

Minutes later the remaining Hessian officers put their hats on their swords, the corporals lowered their flags, and the infantry men grounded their arms. The Battle of Trenton was over. The Americans had suffered four casualties to the two hundred Hessians killed and wounded. Some of the Hessians had escaped and would alert the Hessian unit at Princeton. After a brief council with his officers, Washington decided his men were in no shape to take on more Hessians that day, so they headed back to McKonkey's Ferry with captured weapons, supplies, and 948 prisoners.

It took them twelve hours to recross the Delaware. The weather had gotten so cold Americans and Hessians had to stamp their feet in time in the boats to break up the new ice that was slowing their passage. When the Continental troops finally collapsed into their tents, they had gone forty-eight hours without food, almost as long without sleep, and had marched 25 miles in freezing weather.

They also won a critical victory for independence and liberty. While no war is good, defensive wars are sometimes necessary. Our forefathers knew this. That's why some of them went marching, 226 years ago.


1. Randall, William Sterne, George Washington: A Life, Owl Books, Henry Holt & Company, New York, 1998, p. 321.

2. Rothbard, Murray N., Conceived in Liberty, Vol. IV, Mises Institute, Auburn, Alabama, 1999, pp. 198-199.

It's a Wonderful Life!

I was listening to "It's a Wonderful Life" radio drama on the way to work this morning. One of the local radio stations usually airs it sometime on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. It just so happens that this year they chose Christmas Eve. I think we all have days like "George Bailey" faced and wish we weren't even born. However, I believe that everyone is here on this earth for a reason. Much like tossing a pebble in a calm pool of water which result in ripples throughout the water, we affect those around us. When life hits you like a ton of bricks, just think of ole "George Bailey". Remember the good things we do that make a difference in others' lives. I would just like to take a moment to thank all of those who have made a difference in my life! Those tiny ripples that everyone has made around me have made me the person I am today. To you and yours, Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Christmas in Dixie!

Saturday was an interesting day for me and the gang. The 5NC visited Historic Halifax to help with their annual Christmas program. During the day, we took over the "Tap Room", a recreated tavern, munching on period goodies supplied by our own Chris Barber and listening to some delightful dolcimer music. Our normal demonstrations were brought to a close around 2:30pm when we headed off to form a color guard behind Halifax's town crier. Behind us was a line of parade participants as long as the eye could see. Just picture it....Bill Barber, Andrew Duppstadt, Hank Brown and myself, trodging through the streets with onlookers giving us a friendly wave. Up to this point, things were pretty much tame until we reached the end and gathered up in front of the tavern to finish watching the procession reach its conclusion. The next thing we knew, we heard tires squalling and sirens blaring. What was causing this commontion, you might ask? It was "Luke and Daisy" in the "General Lee" being chased by "Rosco P. Coltrain" (Kudyudyud!), his stuffed dog, Flash and "Boss J. D. Hogg"! Much to our suprise, they stopped in front of the tavern to have their picture taken with us. What a way to end a perfect day! My Christmas is now complete!

Saturday, November 29, 2008

This Day in History (WWII Edition).......

Coffee rationing begins

On this day in 1942, coffee joins the list of items rationed in the United States. Despite record coffee production in Latin American countries, the growing demand for the bean from both military and civilian sources, and the demands placed on shipping, which was needed for other purposes, required the limiting of its availability.

Scarcity or shortages were rarely the reason for rationing during the war. Rationing was generally employed for two reasons: (1) to guarantee a fair distribution of resources and foodstuffs to all citizens; and (2) to give priority to military use for certain raw materials, given the present emergency.

At first, limiting the use of certain products was voluntary. For example, President Roosevelt launched "scrap drives" to scare up throwaway rubber-old garden hoses, tires, bathing caps, etc.--in light of the Japanese capture of the Dutch East Indies, a source of rubber for the United States. Collections were then redeemed at gas stations for a penny a pound. Patriotism and the desire to aid the war effort were enough in the early days of the war.

But as U.S. shipping, including oil tankers, became increasingly vulnerable to German U-boat attacks, gas became the first resource to be rationed. Starting in May 1942, in 17 eastern states, car owners were restricted to three gallons of gas a week. By the end of the year, gas rationing extended to the rest of the country, requiring drivers to paste ration stamps onto the windshields of their cars. Butter was another item rationed, as supplies were reserved for military breakfasts. Along with coffee, the sugar and milk that went with it were also limited. All together, about one-third of all food commonly consumed by civilians was rationed at one time or another during the war. The black market, an underground source of rationed goods at prices higher than the ceilings set by the Office of Price Administration, was a supply source for those Americans with the disposable incomes needed to pay the inflated prices.

Some items came off the rationing list early; coffee was released as early as July 1943, but sugar was rationed until June 1947.

This day in history (American Revolution Edition)......

Congress creates Committee of Secret Correspondence

On this day in 1775, the Second Continental Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, establishes a Committee of Secret Correspondence. The committee’s goal was to provide European nations with a Patriot interpretation of events in Britain’s North American colonies, in the hope of soliciting aid for the American war effort.

The committee, consisting of Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Harrison, John Dickinson, John Hay and Robert Morris, instructed Silas Deane to meet with French Foreign Minister Charles Gravier, Count de Vergennes, to stress America's need for military stores and assure the French that the colonies were moving toward "total separation" from Great Britain. Covert French aid began filtering into the colonies soon after the outbreak of hostilities in 1775. Deane, a Connecticut delegate to the Continental Congress, left for France on the secret mission on March 3, 1776.

Deane managed to negotiate for unofficial assistance from France, in the form of ships containing military supplies, and recruited the Gilbert du Motier, marquis de Lafayette to share his military expertise with the Continental Army’s officer corps. However, it was not until after the arrival of the charming Benjamin Franklin in France in December 1776 and the American victory at the Battle of Saratoga in October 1777 that the French became convinced that it was worth backing the Americans in a formal treaty.

On February 6, 1778, the Treaties of Amity and Commerce and Alliance were signed, and in May 1778 the Continental Congress ratified them. One month later, war between Britain and France formally began when a British squadron fired on two French ships. During the American Revolution, French naval fleets proved critical in the defeat of the British, which was assured after the Battle of Yorktown in October 1781.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

This day in history.......

On this day in history......

The assassination of John F. Kennedy, the thirty-fifth President of the United States, took place on Friday, November 22, 1963, in Dallas, Texas, USA at 12:30 p.m. CST (18:30 UTC). John F. Kennedy was fatally wounded by gunshots while riding with his wife Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy in a Presidential motorcade. The ten-month investigation of the Warren Commission of 1963–1964, the United States House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) of 1976–1979, and other government investigations concluded that the President was assassinated by Lee Harvey Oswald. This conclusion was initially met with widespread support among the American public (1964–66), but polls conducted after the original 1966 Gallup poll show as much as 80% of the public hold beliefs contrary to these findings.[1][2] The assassination is still the subject of widespread speculation and has spawned numerous conspiracy theories, though none of these theories has been proven. In 1979, the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) found both the original FBI investigation and the Warren Commission Report to be seriously flawed. The HSCA also concluded that there were at least four shots fired and that it was probable that a conspiracy existed. Later studies, including one by the National Academy of Sciences,[3] have called into question the accuracy of the evidence used by the HSCA to support its finding of four shots. (From Wikipedia)

Other Presidential Assassinations.....

Abraham Lincoln
The Abraham Lincoln assassination took place on Good Friday, April 14, 1865 at approximately 10 p.m. President Abraham Lincoln was shot by actor and Confederate sympathizer John Wilkes Booth while attending a performance of Our American Cousin at Ford's Theatre with his wife and two guests. Lincoln died the following day—April 15, 1865—at 7:22 a.m., in the home of William Petersen.

James A. Garfield
The James A. Garfield assassination took place in Washington, D.C., at 9:30 a.m. on July 2, 1881, less than four months after Garfield took office. Charles J. Guiteau was the assassin. Garfield died 11 weeks later, on September 19, 1881 due to infections caused by substandard medical care.

William McKinley
The assassination of William McKinley took place on September 6, 1901, at the Temple of Music, in Buffalo, New York. President William McKinley, attending the Pan-American Exposition, was shot twice by Leon Czolgosz, an anarchist. McKinley died eight days later, on September 14.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Rain drops keep falling on my head......

This past weekend at the CSS Neuse site raindrops didn't fall on my head the entire weekend. The only raindrops we had to face were Friday afternoon during our set-up and on Saturday evening. As for set-up, we were able to get part of our canvas up on Friday afternoon in-between the rain showers and delayed the remainder until Saturday morning. While overcast, Saturday turned out to be overcast, muggy and warm. Vistation was good with a good portion of the visitors either Shriners (they were having a Shriner convention in Kinston the same weekend) and boy scouts (they were camping in the area). The rain cranked up at about 5:45pm which forced the cancellation of the artillery night firing which is always a crowd-pleaser. On Sunday morning, the rain was gone and the day, while chilly, turned out to be quite pleasant. For the weekend, I'd estimate that we saw about 800 visitors with the bulk of those engaging us on Saturday. As always the event was fun, gave us a chance to visit with old friends and make a few new ones.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

CSS Neuse Living History

Sailors! Marines! Artillery (lots of it)! It's time for the the CSS Neuse's annual Civil War Living History program on the banks of the Neuse River. I always look forward to this event as I get to visit with good friends at a laid back living history program which usually draws good crowds both Saturday and Sunday. If you get a chance, come visit us this weekend at the CSS Neuse/Richard Caswell Memorial Historic Site.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Have you voted?

Today is the day all Americans have their say! If you have already voted during the early voting period or this morning, good for you! I stood in line at 7:15 am this morning for 30 minutes to exercise a right that thousands of men and women died so I might have the priviledge. For those who choose not to exercise this right, don't ever complain that the leaders of this country aren't meeting your needs. You lost the right to complain when you chose not to vote. Don't take the right to vote for granted or you may lose it one day.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Why now?

As I was getting ready for Church yesterday morning, I watched Colin Powell endorse Barrack Obama for President. Listening to his rationale, I began to wonder if he was sticking a knife in the proverbial Republican back as pay-back for being the odd-man-out in the G W Bush administration. I've always respected and admired General Powell but now must rethink my position. Up to this point, I would have probably voted for him if he chose to run for President, even though some of his social ideas are in direct conflict with mine. Is this announcement the Democratic Party's "October Surprise"? I personally think it is pay-back as well as a way to jockey for a job in the Obama administration. What a disappointment!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Hangin' with General Washington in Williamsburg

This past weekend I made the trip to Williamsburg to participate in their annual "Prelude to Victory" program. There were no real big changes from last year except that we didn't have a skirmish Saturday morning. While reenactor numbers were down (many skipped the weekend as they will be heading to the Battle of the Hook this weekend), spectator numbers seemed about the same. The weekend was still busy with battalion drill, sentry duty and a parade for General Washington. Many friends were there including all my friends with the 6th NC (just too many to name), Howard Helmer and Rob Friar of the 7th VA/HMS Otter and "Dr. Mike" Williams of the Detached Hospital and my own ship's company. While a bit tiring, the weekend was full of fun and I look forward to next year!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

"It's been a long time, getting from there to here..."

The last month has been a bit busy for me and sadly, I've neglected my blog as a friend chided me. Since the last time I posted, I've been working with Josh Howard researching a raid by 300 British sailors and lobsterbacks in Currituck during the War of 1812. Most of the references are from local newspapers which gives us the perspective from the "Jonathan's" view but we wanted to dig a bit deeper and explore it from the British side. We've found the papers of the British officer in command, Admiral Cockburn (pronounced Coeburn), on microfilm in the Library of Congress. Josh is working on getting us a copy so we can begin looking for information on our little landing. I've also given talks on NC's Benedict Arnold, Michael Quinn (see a previous post for the history behind this gentleman) as well as another of my favorite topics, Torpedoes of the American Civil War. I've attended events at Richard Caswell site in Kinston and I just got back from the War of 1812 Grand Tactical at Jefferson Patterson Park, St. Leonard, MD. This last event has to be one of the best events I've attended in quite some time. Everything seemed to be well thought out with nothing left to chance. While Saturday was good with two scripted battles, Sunday was special as we started out fighting an unscripted tactical which morphed later in the day into the final scripted battle. Next up, a quiet Civil War Living History in Tarboro. I need a vacation!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Interesting Reading......."Frustrated Patriots: North Carolina and the War of 1812"

While at Fort Macon a couple of weeks ago, I purchase a copy of "North Carolina and the War of 1812". Written by Sarah McCulloh Lemmon in 1971, it enlightens the reader to the struggles faced by North Carolinians during the War of 1812. This booklet was, however, just an appetizer as I found that if you wanted the "rest of the story" including sources for all the information, you needed to purchase Ms. Lemmon's more detailed treatment, "Frustrated Patriots: North Carolina and the War of 1812" which was published a few years later in 1973. Interesting things I discovered included:

"Parades, parades, parades.....Everyone loves a parade": To keep the locals calm, local miltia leaders would parade their troops in places such as Elizabeth City, Washington and Wilmington.

"The British...they're eveywhere": The British landed troops not only at Ocracoke but made a couple of landings in places like Currituck.

"Aaarrggghhh!...It's a pirate's life for me": Quite a few privateers sailed from our ports, raiding the ships of our enemies.

Over the next few weeks, I'll expand on these topics, so stayed tuned!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Sand in my shoes...Fort Macon

This weekend, the gang and I are headed to Fort Macon State Park on the beautiful Crystal Coast for a two day living history portraying Union Navy. We've been invited by the 1st NC Volunteers/11th NC who do several living histories in the fort per year. The fort itself has a very interesting history. Go to for more information. Come vist us!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

"Rocking and Rolling, Splishing and Splashing".....the Voyage Home!

Well, I arrived in Norfolk in the wee hours of the morning today and am glad to be home! I do miss my waiters and cabin steward as it was nice to be pampered for 5 days. As for the title of this blog, we experienced quite a bit of wave action on the way home and throughout the night. Evidently, these rough waters were the result of the approaching Hurricane Bertha. However, it didn't ruin my evening in the cigar bar enjoying a nice glass of port and a Rocky Patel (It hurt my wallet, though!). Tomorrow it will be back to work and back to the daily grind. One bright spot though, I get to spend Saturday working at the Mariner's Museum with my bud, Al Mitchell. For the first time, I get to wear gray while working as an interpreter! Whoopee!!!!!!!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Bermuda Day Two......

The dockyard, rum swizzles, bull frogs and dark & stormys were the focus of the day. The evening ended with a nice cigar, scotch on the rocks and a nice visit with a retired naval officer. In fact, I may have a recruit for me gang or at least our friends up north. The good life begins to end tomorrow.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Bermuda...Day One

Today was St George and the Blockade Runners exhibit at the Globe Hotel and the Tucker House (Interesting history and interesting curator..more on that later). Tonight cigars, rum swizzles and the midnight buffet...Ah yes, life is good!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The voyage begins.....

Today was my first full day at sea. Kippered Herring for breakfast and roast duck with oxtail soup for dinner, what tasty victuals have I devoured! I have felt as if I was on a 74 for most of the day as the seas were a bit rough last night and most of morning. It did clear in time for my afternoon cigar and a dark & stormy (they actually had ginger beer!). Tonight was absolutely gorgeous with a sliver of the moon visable as I enjoyed an evening cigar and irish coffee in the cigar lounge. Tomorrow, we arrive at the Royal Navy Dockyards in Bermuda. Me thinks that I will lead the family on a tour of St. George and Hamilton. So far, the trip has been a blast as I have been able to rest, relax, eat and enjoy a bit of Hornblower to kill a bit of time. The next few days, however, will be busy with being a tourist. So until later in the voyage....

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Countdown begins.......

It's 10 days until I leave for a cruise to Bermuda! I am really looking forward to it as it's been over 7 years since I've taken a real vacation (one where there will be no phones ringing!!!!). We're booked on a 5 day Royal Carribean cruise out of Norfolk. With the new terminal at Nauticus, there's no need to fly somewhere to catch the boat. We will depart Norfolk on Saturday at about 5pm and return back on Thursday morning. I'm looking forward to touring the island, the Royal Navy Dockyard (which is primarily a bunch of shops now that the British Navy has turned it over to the civilian authorities), the Confederate Museum which focuses on blockade running and visiting the remains of one of the anti-torpedo rafts used by the Monitors during the WBTS. The remains washed up in Dolly's Bay off St. David's Island after being lost off Cape Hatteras while being towed to Charleston. My buddy, Mike Kochan, has been to the site so I am hoping he can give me directions as it's just sitting on shore, rusting away.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

100 Degree Heat and Living History!

I'm glad it's 90 degrees today. It's a far cry better than what I experienced last Saturday. The 5NC participated in its 3rd Davenport House Heritage Day last Saturday. The one day event is a combination area-family reunion, fundraiser for the site and living history program. Our group attends to portray and commemorate Daniel Davenport's service in the 5NC. Daniel's real claim to fame, however, was his election as the first state senator from Washington County. The homestead illustrates a very simple, modest life for the Davenport family with none of the trapings such as those found at Somerset Place, a plantation on Lake Phelps. We had no casualties but it was extremely hot in the afternoon as we lost the morning shade once the sun reached its zenith and began its descent in the western sky. Visitation was pretty typical with approximately 250 visitors stopping in for our musket demonstrations and historical discusssions. After packing up for the drive home (12 closest event!), all of us began to feel the effects of the sun and the heat. I am certainly glad we were not wearing wool!!!! Hopefully next year, things will be much cooler!

Monday, June 2, 2008

You never know who will cross your path...

The Mariner's Museum was a bit slow compared to my previous Saturdays working there with only about 112 people visiting the Monitor Center. In my opinion, things were slow due to the beautiful weather luring people to the beach. However, the day certainly was not uneventful as I met several people with some truly intriquing questions. Also, I was fortunate to meet Patrick Mooney, manager of visitor services and docents for the National Museum of the Marine Corps at Quantico, Va. This was his first visit to the museum but his wife's second as she attended the grand opening weekend two years ago. Patrick and his wife thought they had set aside a sufficient amount of time for touring the museum (3 hours) but found out very quickly that they really needed a whole day! While we were talking, Patrick gave me an update on some new exhibits at the Marine Corps Museum. In the coming months, they will be expanding their displays on the early years of the corps. This got me a wee bit excited as my friend, Andrew Duppstadt, was a bit disappointed at the lack of exhibits highlighted the Civil War-era US Marine upon visiting the museum a couple of months ago. Patrick has invited our marines to go up once the new exhibit is opened and my let them bring a few sailors!!! With these additions, I can't wait to visit. Interactions such as these are why I love working at the Mariner's Museum. You never know the questions you will get or the people you will meet!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Gloom, despair and agony on me...

This morning started so well and then I received a phone call from my shipmate and 1812 sailing master, Jim Greathouse. It seems that the US Navy Dine-In at Augusta, Ga we were supposed to be attending tomorrow night was cancelled. I was so looking forward to it. I purchased a new hat, roundabout (short jacket) and vest just for the occasion. I had spent the last three days compiling and trying to learn shanteys for after dinner entertainment. I am bummed a bit by this news. Now I will miss being with my shipmates, enjoying much story and song. Oh well, such is life. At least I hadn't cancelled my Mariner's Museum gig yet! So Saturday morning, I will be making the trek up to Newport News to do my paid song and dance for the fine folks up there! Also, my shantey work will not be in vain as I will be armed and dangerous with a wee bit of song for the next event. So, there is a silver lining in this dark cloud!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The steps we take....

My merry band of living historians, the Ship's Company of the Carolina Living History Guild, had a wonderful day yesterday in Edenton. Set up on the green in front of the 1767 Chowan County Courthouse, we enjoyed interacting with 250+ visitors while soaking in both the beauty and the history of the town. As I was speaking to one of the historic site employees yesterday, weaving a yarn about some little known piece of the past, I began to realize the significance of where we standing. We were trodding the same streets, the same paths that were trod by our fore fathers some many years ago. Think about it, Joseph Hewes, Samuel Johnston, John Harvey, and yes, even George Washington stood where we stood yesterday. How amazing! I challenge everyone to learn about their hometown history and consider the significance of your little piece of Earth. On another note, I wonder what our forefathers would think of our government and the candidates that are running for office these days?

Friday, May 16, 2008

Edenton, oh Edenton, I still hear your sea winds blowin'....

We're off to Edenton tommorow to do a little song and dance. Little did I know when I submitted a proposal to them two years ago that we would be doing a Civil War Navy Living History event on the lawn of the 1767 Chowan County Courthouse. I assumed that we would be expanding our age of sail events which fits into the standard interpretations of the quaint Colonial-era town. However, the powers-that-be wanted us to portray Civil War Navy. We'll split the crew with half portraying Confederate sailors and the other half Union sailors. Actually, it makes sense as Edenton played host to both Confederate and Union sailors throughout the war. Before Eastern NC fell to the Union forces, the Confederate (and NC) Navy spent time there purchasing steamers for its fledgling fleet. Both the CSS Curlew and CSS Seabird were purchased from people in Edenton. Also, the town raised an artillery unit, the Edenton Bell Battery, so named because brass bells from the town and the town of Columbia on the south shore of the Albemarle Sound donated bells that were melted in cast into four cannons. Edenton has located two of the four and they are currently on display outside the Barker House along the waterfront. Ya'll come and see us!

Monday, May 12, 2008

"Our Story" exhibit Opening at the Museum of the Albemarle

Over the weekend, I attended the long-awaited opening of the Museum of the Albemarle's "Our Story" exhibit. As a board member of the "Friends of the Museum of the Albemarle" and its Vice-President, I really didn't have much choice but to be there to press the flesh and help out to make it the opening a success. The private, "supporters-only" opening on Friday night was typical for a semi-formal happening, however, the real fun was seeing the ribbon cutting and public opening on Saturday morning and the chance to actually do a bit of interpretation for the public. The Our Story exhibit is the first big exhibit to welcome visitors to the Museum of the Albemarle since the move to the wonderful facilities located on the waterfront in Elizabeth City. It succeeds in painting a picture of the surrounding 13 counties' past beginning with the native americans and ending in the late 20th century. I spent most of my time in the Civil War section, along with local historian and fellow board member, Alex Leary, engaging the public and answering questions. That particular section contains artifacts associated with various battles including the Battles of South Mills, Elizabeth City, Roanoke Island and my personal favorities, the Battles of Plymouth and Albemarle Sound. For all to see, they have General Hoke's Headquarter's flag and the smokestake from my favorite Confederate ironclad, the CSS Albemarle. Going backwards in time, I also was intriqued by seachests from the 17th and 18th centuries, one of the Queen Anne's Revenge's cannons and a broach containing the only known image of Joseph Hewes, one of NC's signors of the Declaration of Independence, a member of the Continental Congress' Maritime Committee and the man who is credited for obtaining a commission for the great US naval hero, John Paul Jones. If you are up in the northeast corner of the state, drop in on the museum and visit "Our Story", the story of Northeastern NC.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Sailing...Takes me away....

Well, almost as I doubt we will be doing any sailing. However, we will get to look at some pretty nice ships while we are at Beaufort, NC this weekend for the NC Maritime Museum's annual boat show. The crew will split this weekend with part of us portraying Civil War Union sailors and the others portraying 1812 US sailors. I've just about recovered from last weekend's fun at Plymouth (It's so much fun to have Cushing's Launch to play with) and have started making swivel gun rounds for this weekend. Also, I will get to break in my new 1812 era topper that was made for me by Mr. Matt Brenckle of the USS Constitution Museum in Boston, MA. It looks great but it's much bigger than what I was expecting. Matt is an ECU alum who received his Master's from the maritime history department. Anyway, come check us out at Beaufort if you get a chance. We will be over at the Gallants Channel Annex property. See you there!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Oh my goodness, Bev Perdue has unleashed the big gun.....Andy Griffith!

I was sitting at my desk yesterday and heard a familiar voice coming from the tv. It was good ole Andy Griffith. I said to myself, "That can't be. It's not time for Opie, Andy and Aunt Bea to come on the tube." Well, sure enough, it was Andy. He was telling me that Bev Perdue was the right choice for Governor. He told me that she was going to make a goooooood governor! The last time this happened, Mike Easley was losing ground in his bid for governor to Richard Vinroot. Something had to be done so the Democratic Party powers called on Sheriff Taylor to help out. Sure enough, with Andy's support, the election was over. I guess since Richard Moore has been closing the gap in the polls, Bev didn't want to take any chances. And of course, Andy does know what's best for us! I just wish the world was like Mayberry....much simplier and much more civil. However, the most important opinion to me is that of Barney. Now he was a lawman! Nip it in the bud!!!!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

My eighth year of dancing my "little dance" begins....

It's the end of April and time for The Battle of Plymouth Living History Weekend again. This year's event marks the beginning of my eighth year reenacting. Boy, has it been an eventful period in my life! As I write this entry, I have began to reminisce about my journey, thinking about how I got started and how my life has been influenced. In early 2001, several local citizens including myself, Tom Harrison and Nevis Leary, helped create a group of local ACW naval reenactors to portray the crews of CSS Albemarle and USS Miami so as to take part in the annual living history weekend in Plymouth. For years, troop numbers for the event had been uncertain and the thoughts were if we could "grow" our own, we would always have a base group on which we could depend. The plans were that we would do things at the museum periodically for the public and serve as the navy during Living History Weekend. Well, it worked....and grew much bigger that than we ever expected. Our baptism of fire was at the Plymouth reenactment. All it did, though, was ignite a fire inside, a desire to do it more! Our group of Confederate sailors, which I commanded, developed much faster than our Union counterparts, with myself, Nevis Leary, Creston Simmons and Mark Sheppard helping form the foundation. We started not only attending the Plymouth event but also other events up and down the Carolina and Virginia coast. What we found out is that we became "defacto" ambassadors for the Plymouth event, making contacts wherever we went. Typical reenactor numbers at Plymouth prior to our "birth" ranged from about 30 to 75. Once we started participating at other venues, our Plymouth event numbers grew to an average of 250 reenactors. We adopted a name which more accurately described this band of brothers, the NC Naval Squadron. Our membership expanded with new members coming from such locales as Fayetteville and Kinston. We also started further refining our group's identity, which was that of a naval artillery detachment, once the group purchased our first cannon. We travelled from place to place, participating in living history events, reenactments and other programs such as the burial of the Hunley sailors in Charleston, SC. We continued to attract new members and made many acquaintances along the way. In 2004 , the group participated in the filming for the documentary about the CSS Albemarle and the man who sank her, Lt. William B. Cushing, called "The Most Daring Mission of the Civil War". I had been involved in the project from the start, helping advise the producer during several phases of production. It was a labor of love. In September of that year, the filming was finally over. I was exhausted, glad it was over and happy that the story was finally going to be told. But I was also unhappy. Some of it came from stress of working on the documentary. However, it was more than that. I was caught up in the logistics of running a unit, worrying about keeping the members happy and worrying about the product we were producing for the public. I needed a change. I had stopped having fun. So, I decided to take a step back and resigned as Squadron's commanding officer. Friends were shocked to say the least. They asked me what I was going to do now. I told them that I was going to focus on my true love, living history education. I told them I was going to start traveling to various events setting up my displays on ironclad construction, torpedoes and navigation. Also, I wanted to develop a Union navy impression as Union navy contingent had not been truly developed at Plymouth, plus my old bunch needed someone to shoot at as Union reenactors are hard to find in the south. I told them that they were all welcome to tag along with me as long as they promised me that they would make sure they had fun. Within a few weeks, a group of like-minded folks coalesced to become what is now known as the Carolina Living History Guild. I never thought I would help start another group. The Guild travels across NC and VA, "singing our songs and doing our dances", which is basically sharing our love of history with the people we encounter. We have standing gigs at a variety of places including the Museum of the Confederacy, NC Maritime Museum at Beaufort, NC, Historic Edenton, Historic Halifax, the CSS Neuse/Richard Caswell Memorial Historic Site, Ft Anderson/Brunswicktown Historic Site and several others. We've developed a variety of impressions including ACW era navy, War of 1812 era navy, AmRev navy and Continental Line (yes, even infantry). Our membership includes historic site/museum employees, artifact conservationists, historic site/museum support group board members and the list goes on and on. I've learned so, so much over the past several years. Not only about the history of the area but also about myself. I have also met many fine folks and made many dear friends. Much like Robert Frost said, "Two roads diverged in a woods and I...I took the one less travelled by and that has made all the difference". I chose the least travelled road and it has so richly impacted my life. If you have time this weekend, come to Plymouth and enjoy the event where I got my start. I'll be there with my friends having loads of fun!

Monday, April 14, 2008

Historic Halifax - A Place to Watch

Historic Halifax is such a great site! It's history is rich with its beginnings in the Colonial period all the way to the 1860's where it played host to the completion of the CSS Albemarle, arguably one of the Confederacy's most successful ironclads. The Carolina Living History Guild, in the form of the 5NC and a member of its ship's company, enlightened the public Saturday as part of the annual Halifax Resolves Commemoration and the ribbon-cutting for the newly-renovated 1828 era Jail. We were joined by our compatriots from the Detached Hospital, Mike Williams and John LaRosa, by Hank Brown of the 6NC and by Dr. Larry Babits of ECU in his 1st Maryland garb. With exception of the afternoon rain which cut out afternoon musket and swivel gun demonstrations, the day went very, very well. Approximately 450 or so people entered our web as we weaved our tales.

Dr. Babits brought with him his living history class who all participated in interpreting at various locales around the site. He also took out some time to impart his wisdom to our merry little band. He has forgotten more than I or any other member of the bunch knows. I guess he should...he's been doing this since '67....before I was born!

Our very own Dr. Mike introduced me to a 1500's handgun, that if I had the cash, I probably would have bought, if nothing else but to terrorize the crew of the Albemarle replica at the upcoming Battle of Plymouth event (more on that later!) and to have fun with on New Year's Eve. It did stay in the extended family as Hank Brown traded the dear doctor for a small sword. Mike also swapped Mo Bass for a '61 Springfield and a revolver for a de-farbed Charleville. Mo has no excuse now to quit wearing all that red and start wearing his Patriotic clothing more often!

Seriously though, the site has so much potential and is getting quite a bit of attention (finally). The Historic Site Division director said he hopes that the Resolves program will expand into a bigger event and start developing other parts of its history. I think he has the right idea as its proximity to I95 and the new theater complex should help its visitation and donations to its support group to help fund further growth.

Another project at the site is the proposed monument to NC's Continental Lines. This is very appropriate as all NC regiments passed through Halifax on their way to their assigned destinations. Hank Brown of the 6NC has taken the reigns of the project and is working on putting together a steering committee along with the funding to make this happen. Keep a look out for further information on this specific project coming to Historic Halifax soon!

All in all, a great time was had by all!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

TV worth watching - John Adams

Sunday night, I sat down after church to enjoy the new HBO mini-series, "John Adams". For some time now, I had been looking forward to seeing it, knowing that the same guiding hands of "Band of Brothers" was sheperding the project. For three hours, I was glued to the TV, taking in all that the program had to offer. Was I disappointed in what I saw? Heavens no! While not being perfect, it portrayed John Adams exactly as David McCullough painted him in his book, "John Adams". The sets/cgi effects were well done and all the actors did a admirable job (especially Tom Wilkinson and David Morse...Huzza!). I was bothered by some inaccuracies, especially those involving uniforms, etc. but these were not bad enough to distract from the story. John Adams is probably one of the most overlooked founding fathers. He's not pretty, he's short and portly, he likes to pontificate, he's stubborn and he "tells it like it is"(Reminds me of someone I However, both the book and the program paint the picture of a man who is human, who loves his wife and values her opinions and who ultimately loves his country. The mini-series does not present a 18th century fairy tale but a world of 18th century reality. For the next several Sundays, I will be looking forward to TV again (at least for an hour anyway).

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Forgotten Conflict - War of 1812

It was a precarious time in our nation's history....not yet a true union but a group of states acting independent (How magnanimous!). I've found the War of 1812 to be a turning point in our young nation's history. It's funny how wars typically mark the turning points within a nation's history. For the United States, we begin with the American Revolution, followed by the American Civil War, etc, etc. But wait, what about the War of 1812? For that matter, what about the Mexican War (another topic for another day). Go to the War of 1812 Bicentennial Website ( for all the juicy details. Talk amongst yourselves while I go find my topper! Huzza!

Monday, February 25, 2008

He looks familiar......

As I was sitting around with my shipmate, Mike Williams, at Moore's Creek on Saturday, Mike began noting how certain people, either other reenactors or the public, looked like certain actors in the movies he had watched. What a peculiar way to pass the time when we weren't engaging the public about the wares we had displayed before us. There was a gentlemen who resembled someone in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Another lady could have passed for Meryl Streep. Then I pointed out that our militia captain closely resembled Mel Gibson's dog-eating compadre from the Patriot. Of course, there is the fact that I resemble George Costanza that no one seemed to mention. See what kind of fun we living historians have at events?

Friday, February 22, 2008

It's Moore's Creek or bust this weekend....

Well, for the third consecutive weekend, I'm off to fight the war (as some of my non-reenacting friends say). This weekend finds me at Moore's Creek (Currie, NC) for the commemoration of the battle fought there at the beginning of the American Revolution. Patriotic North Carolinians led by the likes of James Moore, Richard Caswell and Alexander Lillington went up against Loyalist North Carolinians led by Donald McCleod and John Campbell. Let's just say that it didn't go very well for the Loyalists as a great number of them were armed with broadswords. For more info about the battle, the site and this weekend's event, go to: . I'll be falling in with the gracious folks of the 6NC portraying patriot militia. I will also be hanging out with my buddy, pal and rum aficionado, Mike Williams, who will be portraying either a sailor or a surgeon, depending on how the mood strikes him. Hopefully, I will also get to shoot the park's swivel gun which is representing Mother Covington's Daughter, Richard Caswell's 1/2 pounder swivel gun. Gotta luv some black powder!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Walking back in time....

This past weekend, I spent a very relaxing, but busy weekend with my crew at Fort Anderson/Brunswick Town State Historic Site. We visit the site every February, portraying Confederate sailors doing duty as torpedo operators. Every year I visit the site, I am amazed at the Fort's condition as the majority of the Fort looks like it did over 140 years ago. I also love this site as has it chosen to interpret ACW torpedoes (mines) and has this awesome display inside with several replicas of infernal machines on display. Said display was designed by my mentor and friend, "Evil" Mike Kochan, who is one of the experts on this type of warfare (What is thy bidding, my master!).

I also found some time Sunday morning to explore the colonial portion of the site and was amazed at the excavated ruins of multiple buildings that date back prior to the American Revolution. What's really neat is that they have identified the structures and have interpretive signs telling you who, what, when and where (for more info on the site, go to: The other neat thing about the site is that embattled Colonial Governor, Josiah Martin, high-tailed it out of the area on board the HMS Cruizer which actually picked him up here. I think its time for the "Royal Navy" to visit again........All hands on deck!

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

This day in history.....

A couple of things caught my eye today that happened on this day in history. Enjoy!

1790 - George Washington delivers the first State of the Union Address address in New York City. (Wonder if we can clone him......the bunch we have running now couldn't stand in his shadow)

1815 - War of 1812: Battle of New Orleans - Andrew Jackson leads American forces in victory over the British. (Huzzah! Huzzah!)

1835 - The United States national debt is 0 for the first time. (Doubt that will ever happen again)

2008 - Joe Gibbs resigns as head coach and team president of my beloved Washington Redskins (Let the mourning begin!!!!)