11 December 2017

American Exceptionalism in War Films

For some reason, the Christmas season always reminds me of war films. I assume this is due to the fact a number of Christmas films are directly tied to America's involvement in wars, especially WWII. I'm thinking specifically of Bing Crosby's White Christmas and Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful Life. 

This is also likely due to the fact I spent many Christmases at my grandparents' home and my grandfather was a WWII Vet.

In any event, this came across my news feed recently and though it's 3 years old, I thought I'd share it with readers.

23 November 2017

I'm Thankful . . .

For the 2nd Amendment. My personalized Techna Clip installed on my Ruger .380 LCP. Happy Thanksgiving from Patrick Henry and Old Virginia.

22 November 2017

Historic Preservation & The Jefferson Pools

As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of the "refocused focuses" of my blog going forward will be on historic preservation. That topic dovetails nicely with my love of history, relic hunting, research and my own preservation efforts. It will also serve as a counterweight (albeit very small) to the current PC frenzy of "search and destroy" historic "offensive" monuments; as well as a push back against tearing down historic structures for the sake of faux "progress." (Yes, the two efforts are related. Some other time.)

With that in mind, I've been following the ongoing efforts to preserve the Jefferson Pools (aka Warm Springs Pools) in Bath County Virginia. A recent news feed piece caught my attention:

Bath County building code enforcement officer Andy Seabolt ordered the pools closed last month due to the dilapidated condition of the two bathhouses. Since then, questions have arisen about the future of the two structures, both registered as Virginia and national historic landmarks.
The same article noted the following:
The author of a historic structures report on the Warm Springs Pools believes landmark structures on the site can be restored using original material, rather than demolished and replaced.
The expert said restoration is the less expensive and better option in most cases.
Restoration is almost always better than "demolished and replaced" when it comes to historic structures. As already noted, the same principle applies in the current monument debate.

I first saw the pools of Warm Springs in the summer of 1965. Just seven years old at the time; my father had brought me, along with a close friend, from the camp where we were vacationing on the Cowpasture River[1] in Bath County, Virginia. Seeing and feeling 98 degree water flow naturally out of the ground and into a stream fascinated this young Virginian – just as it has fascinated other Virginians for hundreds of years.

Following the same buffalo trails as the Indians before them, American colonists crossed the Alleghenies – an Indian name meaning “endless” – and came upon the breathtaking site of Warm Springs valley and the pools of water where Indians had been bathing for centuries. “Taking the waters” has long been a tradition of Virginia gentlemen – and ladies. The first octagonal wood structure – the Gentlemen’s Pool House - was opened to the public on June 1, 1761. Built over, and around, a natural pool of warm spring water, the structure remains much as it did in 1761. One hundred and twenty feet in circumference, forty feet in diameter, and holding over forty-thousand gallons of constantly flowing, crystal clear mineral water, it is the oldest spa structure in the United States. The wooden structure surrounding the spring is a Virginia Historic Landmark and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. One of the original cottages, believed to have been built shortly after the men’s pool opened, is also still in use. The town of Warm Springs is the county seat of Bath County.

A second Ladies Pool House was opened on June 1, 1836 and is fed by separate springs. The women’s pool is circular, fifty feet in diameter, one-hundred-fifty feet in circumference, and holds 60,000 gallons of water. The two pools constant, perfectly matching human temperature of 98 degrees, in combination with the rich minerals in the pristine Warm Springs Valley, soothes body and soul. Flowing at 1200 gallons a minute, the waters contain calcium, chloride, nitrate, sodium, bicarbonate, and sulphate deposits. Known today as The Jefferson Pools, the two pool houses lie about five miles north of the Homestead Resort, on U.S. Route 220. The renowned and beautiful Homestead Resort owns and operates the two pools. The last private owner of the pools was Colonel John L. Eubank. Eubank served as secretary of the Virginia Secession Convention in 1861.

After opening to the public, word of the pools’ “healing powers” spread quickly through Virginia. Taverns, livery stables, hotels, and a church sprang up almost overnight in the remote, unspoiled, mountainous area – all to accommodate the influx of Virginians arriving to bathe in the pure waters. One such Virginian was Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson was a frequent visitor to the area and he often sought the quiet solace of the pools while making his plans for the University of Virginia. One of Jefferson’s visits was August 13, 1818 when Jefferson was 75 years old. On this particular visit, Jefferson stayed 3 weeks, taking to the pools several times each day. The soothing waters helped relieve what Jefferson described as “rheumatism.” Jefferson was so impressed by the medicinal powers of the springs, that on August 14, 1818, he wrote his daughter, Martha that the springs were “of the first merit.”

Other renowned Virginians also frequented the springs. Robert E. Lee and his family visited a number of times; often for extended stays. Mrs. Lee’s painfully severe arthritic condition prompted her to seek the healing qualities of the waters at Warm Springs on numerous occasions. In July of 1856, Mary Lee wrote General Lee’s brother, Carter: “I have been confined to my room and bed most of the time more than 4 weeks … I cannot resign myself willingly to this state of inaction.” Carter Lee recommended a certain spring for therapy. Though it meant an 18-hour stagecoach trip from Arlington, Mary replied, “I must go either to Bath or to the Warm Springs.” She was not disappointed with the results and, after a few weeks of bathing in the soothing mineral pools and breathing the cool and pure mountain air, Mrs. Lee’s pain eased and she felt restored and refreshed.[2] Two years later, in August of 1858, Colonel Lee joined Mary and daughter Annie for yet another trip to Warm Springs. Though ill, Annie especially enjoyed the scenery surrounding the village writing that, “…the little streams…running and gurgling over the stones, the last rays of light as they lit up the clouds and mountains were very beautiful.” Mary’s condition, along with the fact that Annie was suffering from the effects of a lingering illness, concerned Lee; so much so that the family spent a month at the Homestead cottages recuperating and enjoying blessed and much needed fellowship.

Several years later, in August of 1863, Warm Springs again found Mary Lee as their guest. That year, Mrs. Lee, along with daughter-in-law Charlotte and daughters Mary and Agnes, all enjoyed the cottages and described her late summer abode as, “delightful…with a meadow full of haycocks and a clear stream running thro’ it and very near to the bath, which is one of the finest in the world.” General Lee made one final trip to Warm Springs with his family during the summer of 1868. Lee had to extend his stay in order to nurse daughter Mildred back to health after she contracted typhoid fever. The news of dreaded typhoid gave rise to much anxiety in the hearts of Robert and Mary Lee. Typhoid had already claimed daughter Annie at the age of twenty-three during the War. Lee, the ever-doting and duty-conscious father, never left his “Precious Life’s” side, holding Mildred’s hand each night until she fell asleep. The family stayed at Warm Springs until September when Mildred had recovered sufficiently to make the trip back to Lexington.

Another legendary Virginian enjoyed the mineral waters at Warm Springs. Major Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, while a professor at Virginia Military Institute, was once ordered by Commandant Francis H. Smith to take the corps of cadets on a training march through the mountainous areas surrounding Lexington. Jackson was delighted and one of the stops during the exercise was Warm Springs where Jackson benefited from the morning and evening baths taken in the healing water of the springs. Jackson, like most visitors during the 19th century, bathed twice a day in the springs; each time spending 10 to 20 minutes in the pools. Many believed that the best times to bathe were before breakfast and again before supper. It was also believed that exercise was best avoided while in the water.

Other interesting personalities have connections to Warm Springs. The widow of Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart, Flora Cooke Stuart, enjoyed summers at Warm Springs. “Aunt Fanny” Sheppard, who was born into slavery and was the mother of the first black missionary to the Congo, William Sheppard, served for many years as the attendant at the Ladies’ Pool. Aunt Fanny taught many Bath County girls to swim by tying a sheet around their waist and tossing them into the pool.

Visiting the Jefferson Pools today at Warm Springs is like stepping back in time. Warm Springs Valley remains much as it was 100 years ago with small shops and inns (No Wal-Mart), winding country roads that seem to go nowhere in particular, and beautiful green hillsides where sheep graze at their leisure. A mid-week visit in July or August will often find the pools empty. The slow pace of the village of Warm Springs hearkens back to a time in the South for which many readers of this journal long. Stepping onto the grounds of the pools, one immediately catches the unmistakable scent of sulphur and notices the clean, though somewhat weathered white-washed bath houses. Outside the structures, one can put their hands into the streams flowing out from the springs beneath the houses and feel the warm water that has bubbled up from hundreds of feet below ground. The rolling green hills, mountains, and lush meadows that surround Warm Springs Valley make a perfect backdrop and immediately envelope the visitor in an aura of serenity. One can easily imagine General Lee and his family enjoying the same tranquility and it is easy to see why they visited so often. Should readers someday find themselves in western Virginia, they would be well-served in seeking out the Jefferson Pools of Warm Springs Valley – where “reason and knowledge” have thus far failed to mar God’s gifts. The ancient tradition of “taking the waters” will convince all that, in the words of Mary Lee, the spring “is one of the finest in the world.”

You can follow and support the preservation efforts of these wonderful buildings here.

More . . .

Coincidentally, this week, I was given a hand hewn log structure, circa 1850. The building once served as a corn crib on a farm here in the Valley. It measures approximately 20' x 26'. I believe the logs are chestnut. I estimate 80% of them are sound. The plan is to disassemble the building and transport it to my property where I will reassemble and restore. I plan to do some additional research on the original owners and history of the farm. I want to be meticulous in that as well as the restoration, staying as true to the orignial look and construction of the building as I can. I'm hoping to use the building as a shop and office, as well as a place to display some Shenandoah Valley history and artifacts. I'll document the whole process with video and photographs; maybe even an article about the construction techniques of these buildings. It's a big project, but one I'm looking very forward to.

[1] The Cowpasture River joins the Jackson River near Clifton Forge, Virginia to form the mighty James River. The Cowpasture is one of the most pristine and beautiful rivers east of the Mississippi. Bath County was named for the mineral springs in the county and the town of Bath in England.

[2] As recently as the 1980’s, a device that was originally installed to lower Mrs. Lee into the springs, was still in existence.

18 November 2017

Relic Hunting Post #167 - More WBTS Lead

I make an annual pilgrimage this time of year to a site here in Western Virginia where I metal detect all day by myself. It is a day I look forward to every year. The site never disappoints. 31 pieces of Civil War lead (mostly Union) and 3 shell fragments. Video to come later.

14 November 2017

Office Renovations Just About Done

I finally have completed most of my home office (my underground bunker and nerve center) renovations after our spring flood earlier this year. I still have to organize my library (only a fraction is shown here) and finish some relic displays I'm working on, but I've come a long way since spring! This project, along with a few other personal things, has been one of the major impediments from working on several writing projects. But I've already dove back into those and should be commenting more about that in the near future. Once the complete redo of my office and library is complete, I will finally be making that "virtual tour" I've been promising for a number of years. And more plans that are associated with that "tour" will be announced next year . . .

11 November 2017

Citadel Republican Society Honors Steve Bannon

The Citadel Republican Society presented Breitbart News executive chairman and former White House chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon with its Nathan Hale Patriot Award on Friday night, a Revolutionary War musket like Hale’s.
Interesting. I wonder if the Citadel has safe spaces. Happy Veterans Day.

02 November 2017

American Exceptionalism 2.0?

Will we soon be hearing echoes of "It's Morning in America" again? From the Washington Examiner and PEW:
America’s long national nightmare over failing to achieve the American Dream is over. . . . The switch cited by Pew would appear to put an end to years of depressing polls and surveys showing that the vague American Dream was dimming. . . . And just last year, the Ripon Society said that a remarkable 70 percent of middle class voters do not believe that the next generation will do as good as they have, moving the American Dream out of reach for millions.

No more.

Pew found that 36 percent believe they’ve achieved the American Dream and 46 percent believe that they are “on their way to achieving” it.

And it crosses racial lines, said Pew.
Hmmm . . . I must ask, what, exactly, has changed since last year? More here.

31 October 2017

"Robert E. Lee Was An Honorable Man"

So says General John Kelly. Of course, many of us already know that. General Kelly also seems to reject faddish presentism.

23 October 2017

Are Most Students Ignorant of History?

Two liberal-minded and respected scholars discuss the state of education in America. Draw your own conclusions.

19 October 2017

Co-Ops and the Rural South

I came across a fascinating video (circa 1945) in my news feed this morning discussing the role and importance of co-ops. The "documercial" was produced by the Department of the Army Civil Affairs Division. The 2 part film discusses co-ops in Rockingham County, Virginia. Rockingham is the neighboring county to the one I live in (Augusta) here in the Shenandoah Valley. Co-op growth in the United States exploded during and after the Great Depression - especially in rural areas. They were, literally, necessary to survival during those challenging years.

One of the co-ops featured in this film is Rockingham Cooperative. It's still in existence today. As a matter of fact, it's thriving. They just purchased the local Ace Hardware near my home a couple of years ago. Staying true to their roots, they immediately announced they would be closed on Sundays; something I truly appreciate. I do business with several other local co-ops that date to this era here in the Valley and am a member of several of them as well. One of them is mentioned in the film - Shenandoah Valley Electric Co-Op.

There is also brief mention in the film of the Civil War in the Valley. One thing that puzzles me though, I'm suspicious that the voice-over is an actor and not really one of the locals as stated in the film. That accent is in no way even close to one a native Valley resident would have - even today.

Fortunately, much of the close, community spirit depicted in this film still exists in the small, rural communities of the Valley and others throughout America. There are several locations in the film I recognize. When watching old films from this era, I often get the strange feeling that I was born too late.

12 October 2017

Relic Hunting Post #166 - A Remarkable New Book

This will be on my nightstand for the next few weeks. Written by fellow Virginian and relic hunter Bill Dancy, I've been looking forward to its release for many months. Bill sent me a copy to review for Western & Eastern Treasures Magazine. I've just given the oversized, coffee-table styled book a quick perusal but I must say, I am already convinced it is destined to be the "go to" resource for those interested in Colonial Virginia artifacts and archeology. Expertly written with stunning photography and personal, "in the trenches" experiences, it would be an excellent addition to the library of anyone interested in Virginia history. I'll save the rest for my review, but this is truly a remarkable piece of work.

11 October 2017

New Monument Goes Up

From the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation:
The North Carolina monument is up! Thanks again to everyone in North Carolina who made this possible. We will have more interpretive signage coming soon as we continue to enhance the visitor experience at the newly preserved West Woods at the Third Winchester Battlefield Park.
Also worth noting is the organization's position on monuments. It is one of the reasons I recently became a member.

09 October 2017

JFK on RE Lee

"For, as a New Englander, I recognize that the South is still the land of Washington, who made our Nation - of Jefferson, who shaped its direction - and of Robert E. Lee who, after gallant failure, urged those who had followed him in bravery to reunite America in purpose and courage." ~ John F. Kennedy, September 17th, 1960.

07 October 2017

Charlottesville Lee Monument Staying Put?

It would appear things may not go the way many of the the "experts" in the Civil War blogosphere predicted (and were hoping for) in regards to the Chartlottesville Lee monument.
A circuit court judge said Wednesday that a state law protecting war memorials applies retroactively to Charlottesville’s statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, but he wants more proof that the statue of a single historical figure counts as a military monument.Finding no fatal flaw in a Virginia statute preserving war statues, Charlottesville Circuit Judge Richard Moore’s ruling upheld most of a lawsuit seeking to block Charlottesville from removing the Lee statue from a downtown park. ~ Richmond Times Dispatch
Of course, the final decision has not been rendered and I would imagine, regardless of the decision handed down, the losing side will likely appeal. But the judge's reasoning seems to be on solid ground. The largest question at this hearing seemed to be whether the 1997 law protecting war monuments could be applied "retroactively" to monuments placed prior to 1997. On that point, the court ruled in the affirmative. (Actually, any other ruling would have been absurd, knowing that the vast majority of war memorials in the Commonwealth of Virginia were built and placed long before 1997. The intent of the law is rather obvious to the objective reader.)

But the court is asking for more historical details regarding whether or not the Lee monument would "qualify" as a war memorial. Since Lee is depicted in his uniform with his sword at his side, I think that answer is also obvious. Moreover, the United States Department of the Interior and National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places Registration Form seems to make it abundantly clear that the Lee statue is, indeed, a war memorial:
Paul McIntire instructed that the local chapters of three organizations, the Confederate Veterans, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and the United Daughters of the Confederacy should have entire charge of the planning of the exercises for the unveiling of the sculpture in Charlottesville and it was thus presented to the city on 21 May 1924, during a gala Confederate reunion. One hundred cadets from the Virginia Military Institute paraded through the center of a Charlottesville gaily decorated with Confederate colors …Three-year-old Mary Walker Lee, a great-grand-daughter of General Lee, then pulled the Confederate flag draped over the sculpture away, and the crowd cheered loudly …
Let's see, you have three Veteran's organizations present at the unveiling (which happened to be a Confederate reunion), you have 100 VMI cadets parading and you have a battle flag draping the monument prior the the unveiling. I don't know about you, but veterans, a military parade and battle flags? Yeah, that sounds like the unveiling of a "war memorial" to me.

Assuming the plaintiffs can satisfy the court's request, it's not looking too good for the "remove" folks. We shall see.

General Lee may yet triumph in Charlottesville.

05 October 2017

More Richmonders Want To Keep Confederate Statues Than Not

Some folks have suggested that national polls showing a healthy majority of Americans are opposed to removing Confederate monuments are irrelevant. Since some of these same folks have gone so far as to even question the legitimacy of Confederate monuments in National battlefield parks like Gettysburg, I find that opinion rather strange. These parks belong to all Americans; not just the residents of Gettysburg. But these polls matter in another sense: they reveal, once again, that many academic and professional historians (and other talking heads) are out of touch on this topic.

More evidence of this is revealed by a headline in this morning's Richmond Times Dispatch:

"Majority of Richmond residents oppose removing Confederate statues, support adding historical context" 

Will the local politicians follow the will of their constituents? We shall see. I also found this observation rather interesting as well:
The poll results, Kidd said, help explain why Democratic politicians have “backed off their initial strident position that we needed to take all the statues down.”
On the topic of "adding historical context", I think that is rather silly and condescending. Folks tend to have strong opinions, one way or the other, on the monuments and adding "context" is not going to change their minds. One side will nod in agreement while the other will suspect PC revisionism. I think the best and most peaceful resolution is to add more monuments to those Americans who have been overlooked. Don't subtract, add. Don't destroy, build. Wouldn't that be a more peaceful and accommodating solution for all sides?

03 October 2017

Gun Control Would Not Have Stopped Las Vegas Massacre

It's always mind-boggling (and sad) to watch how quickly some folks will turn a tragedy like the massacre in Las Vegas into an opportunity to advance a political agenda. It's also mind-boggling to note that the "most educated" among us base their proposed solutions (as well-intentioned as some may be) on emotion and demonstrably failed "solutions." On this topic, Rich Lowry made some noteworthy observations today at National Review today. Lowry notes that, "gun-controllers tend to be low-information advocates." I recommend Lowry's piece for a dose of reality.

Had this evil man not had access to guns, he would have found some other method to carry out his slaughter. It happens all the time without guns. Evil humans do not stop perpetrating evil because their method of choice is illegal. Evil humans are diabolical and, often, very intelligent. They will find other methods to kill because they are evil, not because guns are legal.
The images from Las Vegas are sickening. There’s the sound of gunfire truly worthy of a war zone as people scream and run and cower, with nowhere to go. This shouldn’t happen in America; it shouldn’t happen anywhere. But that doesn’t mean that the off-the-shelf obsessions of gun-control advocates would do the slightest thing to stop it. ~ Rich Lowry