Friday, December 20, 2013

A Civil War "Merry Christmas" Soldier's Letter from City Point Hospital, Virginia 1864

How do you bring a "Merry Christmas" to wounded soldiers convalescing in a hospital far from home?
Here is a letter from an unknown Union soldier sharing with his family his love for them back at home and also sharing how the U. S. Christian Commission delegates were doing all they could to encourage him and his comrades in City Point Hospital, Virginia during the winter of 1864.
[I've kept much of his creative spelling, but added some punctuation]

Dec. the 24th, 1864
Dear brother and sister I sit dow[n] to write a little again to you hoping [to] find you well.  I feel better this morning tho weak yet able to walk about to the Commission and meeting, there is a good meny soldiers converted here, the delegates of the christian Commission visit the hospittal and give a shirts, drawers, stockings, mittens, paper in [en]velopes and books in bundance, they are b[u]ilding a large house for a meeting house they intend to hold meeting in it Christmas wich is to marrow I shall try to go.  Well I must stop for it is most noon and here we have to go now to the eating room wich is about 2.00 [2 hundred] feet long with three tables, they say 7.00 hundred can eat to once, we have to stand up and take what it lad on our plates.
Sunday morning the 25th  well I did not get time to write till now so I wish you all a merry Christmas, this is a plesent frosty morning but no snow, I fell no the gane [gain?] yet rather week, I was to meeting last night and heard brother Marsh preach a good surmon today, I shall try to go to the new church at 10 oclock so I must write quick.
Edmund I think if my eyes was good I could lern to write yet but sum times they get so dim I have to do it almost by ges [guess] but I am thankful that I can do as well as I do.  I think I emprove sum well.  Edmund we have incourigeing nuse [encouraging news] yesterday from Shermon and Tommus [Thomas], if it is true and the nuse [news] came here last night and was cheared that the rebs had sent three congress men to Washington to make peice [peace], but the most of us dont believe it, it is also sid [said] that Jef Davis is dead.  Write and tell me sum of the tru nuse [news] you get. well  it is most meetin time, Edmund if this reached you before your box is sent I thought if you could send a pice of chees [piece of cheese] it is vry tasty to me.  I have bought sum at 50 cents a pound.  I have recived no pay for my service yet, but I hav a little mony yet, but you now [know] I do not buy all I see, sum have spent over a 1.00 [hundred] dollers once we came and now wen they have no money they find falt with there living. well direct [to the] U S Christian Commission, City Point Va.  I will send a book or two more for Christmas tho it is late the reading is just as good.  So good by for the present.  I forgot to say direct in care of J Marsh.

    Here is testimony from an anonymous soldier of how the US Christian Commission delegates were helping him to experience a Merry Christmas far away from home.  They gave practical gifts like clothing and books, they gave spiritual encouragement through the meetings and church services offered, and they offered the practical encouragement of helping these soldiers stay connected with family back home through the stationery and envelopes like this one the soldier used to write home on.  Because of the delegates' sacrificial giving of themselves and their resources, soldiers like this one saw the love of Christ in tangible ways that pleasantly frosty Christmas in 1864.  The Christian Commission did not predicate help on confirming if the soldier was a "Christian in good standing" before any assistance would be given.  No, they gave to all in need whatever gifts they had to share as they pointed those who would listen to the Savior Who is the "Reason for the Season".

Do not overlook the Letter Head details:
 United States Christian Commission.
Individual Relief Department.
The United States Christian Commission seeks to afford a sure and effective medium of communications between the wounded or sick soldier -- whether in the Camp or in Field or General Hospitals -- and his home friends.  This is done by furnishing facilities for writing and by writing for those who are not themselves able.  Soldiers, for who special inquiries are made of us, will be sought out, if possible, and relieved, and their condition made known to those asking.  All letters of this character should give the Corps, Division, Regiment, Company and Rank of the soldier, as also the Hospital in which he is supposed to be.  Also the name and post office address, in full, of the person desiring information.  Address, United States Christian Commission, 500 H Street, Washington, D.C.

    I initially bought the above letter years ago so I could make up a reproduction of the USCC letter head.  The seller warned me that it wasn't a highly valuable letter since the soldier couldn't be traced out and it didn't have much battle content [but he still expected a good price on it].  I smiled and bought it anyway after a quick read, and have not regretted the money invested.  Its a revealing description of the delegates activities to help the recovering soldiers, along with additional insights into some of the tensions and hopes the wounded men faced that Christmas.  While the Christian Commission could not meet every need of the recovering soldiers as evidenced by this soldier's hope that a personal care package might come from his family, the delegate's involvement clearly said "you are not forgotten" by people back home.
    Additionally beyond this one soldier's testimony of how he was personally helped, the Letter Head demonstrates the USCC delegates also tried to do what they could to help the families far from the battlefield.  In a situation when communications was sporadic and slow, the USCC tried to help bring whatever comfort of knowledge could be found to families living in uncertainty about their beloved soldier's fate.  To me, this gives great insight into how seriously the delegates took their mission of being God's hands, feet & voice in that sad time for our nation.
    Vicki & I and our kids have considered it a privilege for the past 20+yrs to help reenactors and spectators alike better understand the gracious love those Civil War USCC delegates showered on men in need like this unknown soldier at City Point Hospital in that winter of 1864.
     It is our wish that you, dear reader, might have a Merry Christmas!  May you look beyond the "shirts, drawers, stockings, mittens, paper in [en]velopes and books in bundance" that our present day culture seems preoccupied with gathering and see Jesus Who is the reason for the season.  To all of our fellow reenactors remember, if you see us in the encampment, you are always welcome at our USCC tent: "God's love is free and so it this food, come on in soldier."

    Your comments and insights on this letter and my post are most welcome.

Friday, December 13, 2013

"Airmail" in the Civil War -- Creative communications between North & South

    When the Civil War disrupted communications between North and South, people got creative.  The Washington "Republican" gives the following account of people in lower Maryland communicating with friends in Virginia across the Potomac:

Civil War Maryland Patriotic Cover
    "A large kite is made, covered with oiled silk to render it impervious to sea water.  Folded letters and newspapers are tied in loops along the tail.  When the tail is as heavy as can conveniently be carried aloft, a cord long enough to reach two-thirds of the way across the river is attached, and the kite is flown.  After the kite had exhausted the string, the cord is cut and the kite is allowed to be borne by the wind the remainder of the distance, and descends on the Virginia shore, where people are waiting for the load.  With the first favorable wind, back comes the kite to Maryland."  (quoted in Civil War Times Illustrated, May 1964 p.37)

    Wouldn't this type of kite mail delivery would make an interesting living history reenactment!?!
Civil War Virginia Patriotic Cover
    The above quote from the Civil War Times is from my printed edition of the Civil War Stationery Journal 2004 1:1 that I used to mail out.  Sorry I don't know where the original CWT magazine so that I could give more details like the date on the original article for your information in this post.  What I do remember is that when I read about the kite mail delivery system, I marveled at the creative determination of people back then to keep in touch with each other.  We should include this attitude of determination to keep in touch with loved ones in our living history presentations about the 1860s people we are portraying to spectators.
    When I'm talking to spectators, especially kids, I emphasize how much the soldiers valued getting letters from home, and how much they enjoyed sharing what was happening to them as they were so far away from home.  I often say something like  "just think, there was no phones or emails or Facebook back then;  it took weeks, even months to hear news from home."  I enjoy watching that concept of 'having to wait to talk to someone far away' percolate down into their understanding.  I often followup by asking how they would feel is they had to leave home and not being able to talk to their parents for a long time.  (Now with teenagers this line of questioning produces a smile of 'wouldn't that be nice'.)
    If we say we do reenacting to help people today learn about the past, then let's find ways to help bridge the gap of understanding the challenges they faced in the 1860s that are foreign to us today.
Civil War Maryland Patriotic Cover

Friday, November 22, 2013

Let's Keep Pursuing Abraham Lincoln's Vision of America

Is Abraham Lincoln's vision of government still worth pursuing?  Or have times and culture changed beyond what he envisioned 150 years ago standing at that National Cemetery dedication in Gettysburg?
Civil War Union Patriotic Envelope Design

"It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

    As a senior in high school in 1971 it was my honor to be chosen to recite Lincoln's Gettysburg address at the Memorial Day Ceremony in my hometown by the local American Legion.  I admit I really didn't understand the creative genius of Lincoln's words.  I was just glad I was able to memorize it and recite it and not make a mistake when called upon to speak to those gathered to remember the soldiers who have served our country over the years.  When I repeated Lincoln's words our nation was struggling to extricate ourselves from the Vietnam War, and come to terms again with 'who we are as a nation'.
    Again in 2013, one hundred and fifty years after President Lincoln first shared his challenge of what our nation was struggling with in the Civil War, it falls to us to continue to strive to preserve our nation. It was not Lincoln who won the war, it was the multitude of soldiers who stepped up and gave their best. Lincoln may have set the vision, but it was the people who brought it into effect.  Even back then there were political thieves and scoundrels at work, just like today. By the grace of God, in spite of the anger and sadness of that civil war, our nation was given a new birth of freedom.  Through great sacrifice and courage those American citizen-soldiers won "Liberty and Union".  But what of the second phrase?  "Now and Forever"?  Let's recommit to working together so that it cannot be said what they preserved. . . we lost through indifference.

    Our current president may be too busy or too grand to "remember" the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. Let's surprise him and the rest of the professional political class of both parties entrenched in Washington DC, and thwart their plans to spend our nation into oblivion and regulate us into helpless quiet sheep that obey their every whim.  Isn't Lincoln's vision of government -- "of the people, by the people, for the people" -- far better than what the political elites envision for us?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

"Remember" -- Honoring Civil War Soldiers by Learning History

What's the value of remembering events like the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address?  What's the value in exploring history?
Drawn by Dawnielle Rowe, age 11
    "History" has been debated, edited, summarized, rewritten, exaggerated by the victors, discarded as irrelevant by educators, etc. etc. etc.  In spite of all the limitations involved in understanding history, I still believe exploring history is very valuable in developing character.  I present this picture as evidence that even a child can understand the value of "history".  I recently found it when going through some boxes long packed away.  It was drawn by my daughter when she was 11 years old in 1993.  This picture she drew years ago reflects an attitude she was learning about "those who came before":  respect and honor them.  I still marvel at her integration of the two perspectives of "the THEN of burying the dead" with "the NOW of remembering them".  I wonder how much of an inspiration for her picture was the Civil War reenacting we were doing and how much of it was the fact that in the small church cemetery there in Pennsylvania were a few headstones of soldiers who had been killed in the war and brought back home to be buried.  She has not grown up to be an 'official historian'.  Yet even today as an adult she has an honest respect for the courage and sacrifice of those who have gone before.

    In our "instant" culture we are being lulled into thinking history doesn't really matter anymore.  Some say we have replaced valuing "honor and courage" with "cool & edgy".  That history is still important is shown everyday by how hard progressive elites in our educational system work at editing out old story lines about honor and courage in American History and replacing them with story lines that disparage our nation.  These progressive elites understand that what "perspective" on history is taught to our children will affect their outlook on our nation.  I've heard that it took Hitler about ten years of editing history to convince the German people that killing the Jews was a good idea.  History still matters.  Not just recent history, but history of the generations who struggled in building our great nation.  Should we let Abraham Lincoln's hope that 'those who fought at Gettysburg would always be remembered' be casually thrown away by our children and grandchildren?
    Yes there are events and actions that we cannot be proud of in our national history.  Yes there were thieves and scoundrels who wielded political and economic power that fostered pain and disgrace.  But I still believe that we have been a exceptional nation overall.  I still believe that the courage and dedication of the generations who came before us is worthy of remembering.
    Knowing history does not easily solve today's problems, but maybe it gives us some understanding of what options might be wise to avoid.
    Knowing history does not mean total understanding of how we "got here", but it often provides clues needed to better wrestle with the challenges looming before us.
   Knowing history does humble us a bit, making us pause before we presume that we are unstoppable. 

    "Remember" . . .  Do you think it's worth the effort to pass on to our children and grand children the attitude that its proper to value the courage and sacrifice of those who have gone before?  Or should we just "Forget It"?  Let me know what you think.  Pass along ways you have found helpful in encouraging the next generation to "Remember".

Sunday, November 10, 2013

What Would President Obama's Version of The Gettysburg Address Be?

    Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama -- Two politicians from Illinois separated by 150 years -- How different would be their "Gettysburg Address"?
    President Abraham Lincoln on Nov.19,1863 gave a short yet profound address at the dedication of the Gettysburg  Soldier's National Cemetery which enshrined his vision for a greater America arising out of the conflict of the Civil War.  What would be President Barack Obama's vision for America if he gave the "Gettysburg Address"?  Given our current president's political track record, I submit the following spin-speech:

    Four score and seven years ago some rich white men of the greedy 1% got the idea that they could make more money if they didn't have to pay taxes to Europe.  They convinced the working class people to go to war and die for their vision of change.  They talked about liberty, but really meant the chance to exploit the workers.  They talked about equality, but kept slaves.
    Their discriminatory system has now broken down and we are a divided people, still asking the working class to die to bring about change.  I stand here at this cemetery dedication, having to deal with the divisions I've inherited from the failed leadership of the past.  It now falls on my shoulders to lead this country forward toward genuine equality.  The Union soldiers who fought here were fortunate to have the full backing of my Federal government.  They would not have won the tepid victory of this past July had it not been for the roads that led them here, had it not been for the tireless devotion of the Federal administrators coordinating the war effort from Washington DC, and it not been for my grand vision of where we must go as a nation.
    Have no doubt that change is coming!  My leadership will bring about setting free all those enslaved in the southern plantation system!  I will give them a new birth of freedom!  The evil serpent of states rights will be crushed under the heel of absolute federal power!!  Those enslaved will be given the freedom to work under the empowering supervision of federal regulations to rebuild those plantations into new and glorious communities where wise compassionate federal supervisors will lead them gently through every stage of their lives -- guiding them away from obesity through federally planned meals, providing family planning through free contraceptives and free abortions, educating them into becoming compliant contented workers supportive of my Federal government!
    Even now under my leadership, the compassionate elites of Washington DC are enabling the working class people already within my sphere of control to grasp the truth that their only hope for happiness comes from total Federal supervision.  And I promise you this day -- at this cemetery dedication service for these unfortunates who had to die to end the dream of the greedy 1% -- I promise you that this nation will become greater than Europe!  I am creating a new and greater Federal government composed of all the people living under federally mandated harmony, supported by the people's wealth distributed through proper federal channels, for the good of all the compliant people supervised by my wise progressive federal regulators.  Yes, the world will quickly forget the dead buried in this cemetery, BUT the world will never forget the wisdom and goodness of MY grand progressive vision!  FORWARD!!

    Times have changed.  President Abraham Lincoln understood truth and justice.  President Barack Obama only understands Chicago politics.

    It's called political satire.  Freedom of speech hasn't been taken away . . . yet.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Civil War "Soldier's Letter" Envelope Pictures Showing Various Postage Costs

After writing the post for October 26, 2013 on the Soldier's Letter 3d Maine Envelope, I did a search on the web for other pictures of "Soldier's Letter" envelopes.  Here are a few that I found that show some of the various ways postage costs were indicated:

Examples of envelopes without stamps, marked "Due 3":

United State Christian Commission Envelope
"Soldier's Letter"  Due 3

This envelope has the Soldier's Letter tag hand written with the name of the soldier, a chaplain. 

United States Sanitary Commission Envelope
"Soldier's Letter"  Due 3
This second example does not have the name of the soldier written on it, just the written tag Soldier's Letter, with the additional tag "please forward".  I've seen this sort of request tag in variations of wording written on other Soldier's Letter envelopes.  

Example of Envelope marked Due 6:

U.S. Army Hospital Envelope
Soldier's Letter  Due 6
This third example has the "Due 6" hand written in on it.  There is a name written in under the printed "soldier's letter" line, but it was still evidently penalized.  Why was this letter penalized when it has a name written on it?  Maybe it only has the name of the Chaplain and not that of the soldier.  I'm not sure. 

Example of Envelope with two Three cent stamps:
United States Christian Commission
6 cents postage paid
This fourth cover has only the printed tag, not a hand written one of Soldier's Letter, and no name of the soldier written on it.  The two stamps show six cents was paid to receive the letter.
    These examples are not presented as "definitive", but only as "illustrative" and "interesting".  As I said, I pulled these four examples off the web from sites that were selling them, so I do not have additional information to add beyond what we see on the covers.  There was a "standard practice" that was supposed to be followed . . . then real life brought variations.  I hope my grouping them together for you might be helpful in giving you some options to use in building your living history displays.  Any comment or additional information will be appreciated.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Soldier's Letter 3d Maine Volunteer Infantry Envelope

    Was there free mail for the Civil War soldier to write home?  The simple answer is "no".  I remember thinking how sad that was for the soldiers back then not to have that simple privilege extended to them as they faced life and death fighting for their cause & country.  Letter writing was an important part of the typical soldier's life.  Far from home, letters were the only way to stay connected with family & friends.  They would never get enough letters from home.  They stayed connected with home through the letters they sent back.  
    I recently picked up the Union Soldier's Letter Cover shown here.  I admit its not an impressive envelope and there was no letter inside to give additional details about the soldier who sent it.  It does have the basic notation in the upper right corner of "Soldier's letter" along with the unit designation (3d Maine Regiment Volunteers, possibly company H in the third line down).  The cover is stamped with an Alexandria VA cancellation.  The 3d Maine fought at first Bull Run July 1861, the Peninsular Campaign of 1862 and through the rest of the war.   As beat up as the cover is, I bought it because its an interesting reminder of an unknown soldier's attempt to stay connected to "normal" in the midst of "uncertainty".
Civil War "Soldier's Letter" Envelope
3d Maine Reg. Vols.
Addressed to Mrs Mr J Greenleaf? Bath, Maine
  The designation "Soldier's letter" recognized the reality that often the active duty soldier might not have access to a 3 cent stamp or have the money on hand to buy one even if stamps were available.  Though the letter would be delivered to the addressee, they would have to pay the 3 cents postage due to get the letter.  If the soldier did not tag the envelope with "Soldier's letter" along with his unit designation, then the family would have to pay 3 cents for the letter and 3 cents additional penalty for a total of 6 cents to redeem the letter.  This particular envelope is not stamped "DUE 3" but the Alexandria VA cancellation mark shows it went via the postal system, so maybe the postal clerk knew the family member who picked it up in Bath, Maine?  Don't know.  Like I said its not a perfect example with all the "expected" details of a Union "Soldier's letter".  This envelope's conformity with deviations shows we need to be careful in making broad statements of "this is how they did it. . ." 
    Harry K. Charles, Jr. wrote an informative paper on "American Civil War Postage Due:  North and South" for the Postal History Symposium, Nov. 2012 which has a good section on Soldier's letters.  Both Union and Confederate soldiers could send letters home, postage due (the family needed to pay to redeem them).  Charles says the proper designation needed to be "Soldier's letter" with his rank and unit designation, and possibly unit commander's signature.  The above cover does not have the soldier's name and rank listed; only his unit designation.  As with all things, there was some flex in how things were designated.  The Confederate soldier's letter would have "Due 5" or "Due 10" depending on what the rate was at that time in the war.
    Since letters to home were so important to the soldiers, they came up with various ways outside of the postal system to send letters back to their family.  Anyone going back on furlough was given letters and notes to take with them.  United States Christian Commission delegates would collect letters and carry them back home whenever they could.  The USCC handed out free envelopes and stationery because they realized the importance of keeping the soldiers connected with family.
    So how might knowing some of these details help us do better living history?  Those representing civilians at home could have covers showing an envelope marked "Soldier's letter" with the details of your soldier on it as part of your living history display.  Again, you could mark it PAID 3/ or PAID 5 or 10 to help you explain to spectators what you have to do to keep in touch with your soldier.  For a soldier impression, you could have a letter written up with the envelope labeled correctly that you are "planning on mailing out as soon as possible" to explain to spectators the details and the importance of keeping connected with your family.  You can use patriotic or plain covers.  You can use a USCC or USSC cover which has "Soldier's Letter" printed on it.  Just remember that you as a soldier would not have a Soldier's letter mailed to you from the folks back home.
    At the tent I hand out  to the reenactors who visit us a gift of a USCC or a Plain cover stationery set.  If you are a reenactor, and if you place a regular order just tell me what you portray (US or CS and unit type) and I'll include with your order a gift of  a stationery Mail Kit that you can use for your impression.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Minooka, Illinois Reenactment Report Oct 2013

    Our last reenactment of the 2013 season was an enjoyable opportunity to spend time with our reenactor friends while educating the spectators about the U.S. Christian Commission.  The 17th Illinois Medical Unit saved us a choice spot for setup right across from their tents.  Joshua helped Vicki bake before hand, as well as serving at the tent throughout the day.  Shelia, Heidi, and Hanna Phillips also diligently helped at the tent throughout the day.  This year the Confederates were downhill encamped near us, but we still had a good flow of Union troops coming down from the hill to stop in for a bite to eat.
    Saturday was a cool fall day.  When the sun occasionally came out it even got "warm" . . . almost.  We actually did much better on passing out the "ice cold" lemonade, mint tea and sarsaparilla tea than I thought we would.  Of coarse the goodies Vicki baked went well too.  Vicki was in a "pumpkin mood" for this event.  She tried out a pumpkin pan pie -- basically pumpkin pie baked in one of our cookie sheets, a bit thinner than a regular pie but with all the flavor.  It went well.  She also did a pumpkin cookie with chocolate chips.  And for the biscuits she did pumpkin butter, which had really good flavor.  Of coarse these supplemented the usual items like the molasses cookies, snicker doodles, brownies, mixed nuts squares etc.
Tom George found enough to eat at our tent
and we still had some left for others who came after him.
    I want to share one incident that illustrates the kindness of the reenactors toward us.  During the day we put out biscuits with the pumpkin butter and honey in jars for topping options.  One young woman reenctor was helping herself to the biscuits, adding a dab of honey and part of the biscuit crumbled off and fell into the honey jar.  She was apologetic and told me about it.  I assured her that it was not a big deal, and forgot about it.  Later in the day Heidi said a woman reenactor had stopped by and brought us jar of honey she had bought from the gift shop on site to replace the one she had dropped the biscuit in earlier in the day. Heidi assured her it was no problem, but she insisted on sharing it with us to help out.  My point?  Yes, we give away what we bring -- "God's love is free, so is this food, come on in".  But we get 'thank you's along the way which remind us encouragement goes both ways.
    The gift table was classed up for this event.  Vicki had bought a new collapsible table that would be a bit bigger and higher in order to better display the Civil War pattern quilt made for us years ago.  The better display seems to have worked because a few quilters stopped by to investigate  the quilt and educate me about its details I only know in general.  I always enjoy interacting with the reenactors who come to look through what we've put out as gifts on the table, from the matches & mail kits to the cough medicine boxes and salt & sugar packs.  One lady said the cough medicine box (a match box covered with a 1800s medicine label) would be helpful for her to hide the aspirin she needs to keep with her.  She gave me the gift of satisfaction that my time and energy were well spent.  The mail kits went well as usual.  I did get some feedback about how the guys use them. Typically either for living history display or to write a note to some who is not at the reenactment with them. This year Vicki had sewn some pocket handkerchiefs.  The reaction to the challenge note to pass along the encouragement was positive (cf. August 2013 post for details about the challenge note).  Vicki and I will never see the way each person says 'thank you' for the pocket handkerchief, but God will see and be pleased, and isn't that what the USCC is really all about?
    So another season ends, and we say "so long" to friends til next year. . . Lord willing and the creeks don't rise.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Civil War Letter Writing Reenacting

     Why not explore history through Civil War letter writing? We reenact Civil War history for a variety of reasons.  But whatever our personal motivation, when its no longer "fun" we lose heart.  One helpful way to keep it fun is to constantly be putting ourselves back into "their time".  By wearing brogans we realize the valor of a long march.  By wearing wool we discover the reality of being too hot . . . then enjoy the warmth as the day cools down.  Discovering for ourselves -- putting ourselves back into their time in practical ways creates the "fun" of discovering history.  And its this discovery which takes us beyond 'camping out' into 'reenacting'.
     During the Civil War letter writing blossomed.  Never before had so many people been uprooted from home, experiencing the mixture of the excitement of travel and the pain of homesickness.  Their letters were their way of sharing the wonder of discovery, the grief of being apart, the laughter over the craziness of their situation.  Letter writing was their way to stay connected with loved ones so far away. 
    And for us today letter writing is an excellent way of making their history become "real".  Experimenting in letter writing is sitting beside the fire wondering "what would I say?"  One woman shared with me how writing a letter to her son on her home state stationery as she waited for the various groups to come through at the living history event really helped her 'become' the person she was portraying.  "I imagined proudly using the stationery to write home" she said.  "I was both writing back then, yet writing to my son now, sharing what is happening."  Another reenactor at the 150th anniversary of Fort Sumter shared how writing letters while being there made the event come alive for himself and for the spectators who talked to him about what he was doing.
     I have known several reenactors who enjoy using letter writing to share the experience with family and friends who can't be present.  Others use letter writing to enhance the experience for fellow reenactors at the event.  Such letters are an enjoyable mixture of reality and imagination.  And its imagination which enables us to better explore for ourselves and explain to spectators the history we are trying to honor.
     In your letter writing, give yourself the freedom to mix what's going on with the broader landscape of history.  For example grumbling about the food and the offices can be both historic fun and present day therapy.  I have friends who think I'm a little crazy to send them one of my letters from the front, but they enjoy getting the note and sometimes even learn a little history in spite of themselves.
     Yes, we should use good envelopes and stationery to make accurate living history props for people to see.  But why shouldn't we also use letters to help us explore the fun of reenacting?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Gun Control Laws In Historical Perspective

Will Gun Control Laws Make for a Free and Safe America?  Consider the following historical examples:

     "In 1929, the Soviet Union established gun control.  From 1929 to 1953, about 20 million dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
     In 1911, Turkey established gun control.  From 1915 to 1917, 1.5 million Armenians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
     Germany established gun control in 1938.  From 1939 to 1945, 13 million Jews and other undesirables, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
     China established gun control in 1935.  From 1948 to 1952, 20 million political dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
     Guatemala established gun control in 1964.  from 1964 to 1981, 100,000 Mayan Indians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
     Uganda established gun control in 1970.  From 1971 to 1979, 300,000 Christians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
     Cambodia established gun control in 1956.  From 1975 to 1977, one million educated people, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
     People rounded up and exterminated in the 20th Century because of gun control:  approx 56,000,000.
     Gun owners in Australia were forced by a new law to surrender 640,381 personal firearms to be destroyed by their government.  It cost Australian taxpayers over $500 million dollars.  The first year country-wide, homicides were up 3.2 percent, assaults up 8.6 percent, armed robberies up 44 percent.  In the Australian state of Victoria, homicides with firearms were up 300 percent.  Law-abiding citizens turned guns in, criminals did not.  For the previous 25 years there had been a steady decrease in armed robberies.  This turned upward in the first year of gun control.  There has also been a dramatic increase in break-ins and assaults on the elderly.  Australian politicians are at a loss to explain how public safety had decreased, after such monumental effort and expense was expended in successfully ridding Australian society of guns.
     Guns in the hands of honest citizens save lives and property.  Gun-control laws adversely affect only the law-abiding citizens.  With guns, we are 'citizens', without them, we are 'subjects' and may become slaves!!!  During WWII the Japanese decided NOT to invade continental America because they knew most Americans were armed.  Why don't you see this data in the U.S. media, or hear politicians telling you the facts?  The next time someone talks in favor of gun control, please remind them of this history lesson.  Spread the word.  Our forefathers and mothers fought to be free.  Why can't we???"

     The above information is from a handout I received from a fellow reenactor.  I do not know where he got it;  there was no tag-line of authorship or publisher.  I did not do independent research into all the historical examples cited or differing opinions as to exactly how many people died.  I have read about some of the examples cited above in my study of history, so I think it's fair to cite them as illustrations of the weakening of civil liberty & safety that government gun control brings.  Yes, I worded it that way on purpose:  the government controls the guns.
     "But our founding fathers didn't envision machine guns."  True, but they had experienced government control of the ability to enslaved and exterminate dissidents.  The Founding Fathers wanted us as citizens to be able to resist the political elitists who naturally rise to power through wealth & corruption and then presume they can choose who lives and who dies.  When the population is deceived into thinking that ALL protection comes ONLY from the government, then they are indeed enslaved.
     "But we don't want to live in the wild west".  Well just go to the south side of Chicago and see how well gun control is working.  If that's not "the wild west" repeated I don't know what is . . . AND Chicago is a bastion of progressive political control.  Most gun owners are law abiding citizens who want the right of self-protection should it be needed as a last resort in an imperfect world.  Progressive elites want us unarmed, while they have their professional body guards to accompany them as they work the system to benefit themselves and their political allies at the cost of the general population.
     When I was growing up in the 1950s/60s I learned about how in the USSR system the people were the slaves of the politically powerful.  I could not imagine that I would live to see that same approach to social control coming to America.  Call it socialism, communism, progressivism, whatever -- its the control of the population through regulation, intimidation and a militarized police force.  Our Founding Fathers understood the realities of being too weak to defend against a centralized government run for the benefit of the few powerful insiders.  But then who studies history anymore . . . is there even an App for that?

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Pocket Handkerchief Challenge From the United States Christian Commission

Challenging others to pass along encouragement.
     Vicki got into a sewing mood this spring.  She bought an assortment of cloth and began making what we call "Pocket Handkerchiefs", when sewn the squares of cloth measure about 12" x 12" or a little bigger. Over the years I've always found it helpful to have one in my pocket especially on hot days to wipe away the sweat.  From time to time she would invest the material & time in making up some that we would give away.  Sometimes we'd hand them out to a particular unit we knew, or we'd put them out at the tent on the gift table we always set up.
     In the early years I'd always carry one or two in my haversack when we'd go on the march or into battle and give them away at random.  I still smile at one time I offered the gift to a soldier.  It was a hot July day at a Gettysburg reenactment.  Our brigade was in reserve and we were soaking in the sun, sweat pouring off us, waiting to go in.  As I walked the line, I saw one gray haired soldier wiping the sweat from his brow as it literally ran off his face.  I reached into my haversack and pulled out a pocket handkerchief and said "Here soldier, use this, it's yours to keep."  He looked at me with a suspicious frown and mumbled "don't want it".  Before I could say something to assure him it really was an honest offer, one of the guys from my unit spoke up and said "It's OK.  He's the Christian Commission and they give stuff away for free.  Really, he does stuff like this all the time."  With that endorsement, the soldier accepted the gift with a smile and found some relief from the heat.
     Every time Vicki starts sewing the pocket handkerchiefs to give away, I think back to that suspicious soldier and his smile as he found relief from the heat.  Truly Vicki's work of searching for affordable deals on cloth, on cutting and sewing the gifts has blessed many a hot tired heart long after they walked away from our tent.
     This year I've decided to make a challenge to the troops as they pickup the handkerchiefs on the gift table.  I've pinned to each handkerchief a small note which says:  If this pocket handkerchief blesses you, then remember our Lord's words and pass along a blessing of your own to a fellow soldier who needs encouragement:  "Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."  Matt.25:40  The U.S. Christian Commission
     What each man or woman chooses to do in response to the challenge is up to them.  But I just want them to pause and think about how they could in turn pass along a blessing of encouragement to someone they know.  That would be a true "thank you" to Vicki for her labor of kindness.

     Handkerchief size?  We've been told various sizes.  One person insisted that the accurate size was 20"x20" or 24"x24" for bandanna types.  Ours are not based on an actual example we have.  To be honest, the size varies a bit depending on how many Vicki can best cut out of the width of the cloth and not waste material.  She also folds over the edges a couple of times and sews them, so a little width is lost there.  She mainly came up with the 12x12/ 14x14 finished size; small enough to fit in a pocket, economical enough to have enough to give away to as many soldiers as we can.  Somehow I don't think a Civil War soldier back in the 1860s would have said "hey, this isn't the right size ya'know" if someone was handing how the type Vicki makes at a hospital or encampment.
     Cloth resource suggestion:  This year, Vicki has been visiting the Good Will/ Salvation Army stores near us and looking for cloth to use for handkerchiefs, comfort bags, aprons etc.  She has found some good quality sheets made of cotton, both regular and a few fleece-type that are usable for the handkerchiefs.  So in the spirit of the USCC, she buys them, washes them and cuts them up to be used in her sewing projects to supplement the cloth she buys at the fabric store.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Honoring a Kindness

    Sometimes when you least expect it, a stranger shows you a kindness that brings you great joy and reminds you of the power we all have to encourage each other.
    It was last year (July 2012) when just Vicki & I were at a reenactment in Lombard, IL. doing our Christian Commission thing.  The tent was set up and the food was out.  The lemonade was mixed.  It was a nice sized event for the two of us to handle, with a steady flow of reenactors coming and going under the tent.  We had a couple of additional volunteers helping out throughout the morning;  gracious young ladies that know us and our children, offering their help as they had time.
    All morning Vicki had been dealing with her snood letting her hair straggle down out of the holes that had been worn in it over the years of use.  Yes, she needed to get a new one, but just hadn't had time to try and find one.  I remember picking on her about her looking a bit bedraggled.  And she would joke back about it, stuff her hair back in, and a little bit later, it would be dangling back out of the holes that had gotten too big in her favorite black snood. 
    I was busy toward the front of the tent fly, talking to spectators and inviting the soldiers to "come on in and help yourself", explaining the variety of tasty delights that Vicki had prepared.  She was busy working to replenish the food trays.  As she was moving around, she stumbled and fell.  As she got back up, we all realized that she was holding a large knife that hadn't hurt her.  One woman watching all this unfold said "you must have an angle watching over you."  Vicki brushed off the straw, got back to work filling the food trays.
    The fall was quickly forgotten, and we returned to serving the troops.  The day went well, we packed up and went home.  "Yep, someday" Vicki said she'd get around to "looking for a new snood".
    A few weeks later, Vicki got a phone call from a woman caller wanting to confirm she had reached the people who do the US Christian Commission.  The woman explained she was under the tent and saw Vicki fall and not get hurt by the knife.  She had also noticed Vicki's struggle with the hair snood.  She had bought a handmade snood and was mailing it as an encouragement and thank you to Vicki.
    We reenact the US Christian Commission to be an encouragement to others.  But over the years, the Lord has brought along others to encourage us with an unexpected surprising acts of kindness.  Helping our ladies carry the water pots back to the tent.  Help setting up or taking down the tent.  Helping us locate in a high traffic area so we can reach the most troops at the event.  The gift of the quilt we use on the gift table.  A few of the enamel pots we use for lemonade and tea have been donated to us by individuals who saw us using the ones we had to encourage the troops and wanted to add to our tools.  To all those unnamed and often unknown fellow travelers "May God see your kindness and bless you too".

Saturday, June 8, 2013

US Christian Commission Station Duties June 1862

What did the US Christian Commission Delegates do?  Anything and everything they could for the soldiers. 
    This summary from John Patterson gives us an excellent description of the many activities the Delegates engaged in to encourage the troops.  He was involved with the White House Christian Commission Station during June 1862, just before the retreat of the Eastern Army from the Peninsula:

    We had two tents and a cook-shed;  one tent for sleeping in, the other for storage.  We were three Delegates of the Commission, assisted by a young convalescent soldier, and cooked for by a negro boy and woman, whose hoe-cakes were our great solace three times a day.  We worked in pairs;  two at the hospital, two at the store-tent, and two at the cook-shed.  We tolerated no drones in our bee-hive.  When the negro boy was not employed in chopping wood and carrying water for Dinah, he was regaling himself and a circle of select admirers with a genuine Virginia "breakdown;"  and when Dinah had fixed up all the odds and ends about the tents, she began manufacturing corn-starch, in huge cauldrons-full, five or six times a day.  The two store-keepers were kept busy from morning to night by a hungry-looking crowd, which we called the "staff brigade," who begged for themselves, and their comrades incapable of locomotion.  Supplies were here dispensed in the shape of shirts, drawers, handkerchiefs, books, papers, combs, soap, pickles, sugar, tea, bread, and nearly everything eatable, wearable and usable to be found in a regular "Yankee-notion" country store.
    But the two itinerants had the most exacting and delicate duties.  It was theirs to visit the sick and dying, to bear them little comforts; to cheer the despondent;  to soothe the agony of some, the last moments of others;  to play, as occasion required, the parts of nurse, physician and clergyman.  Evening brought no rest.  The semi-secular employments of the day gave place to the religious labors of the night, and so pleasant and blessed were these, that we longed for the evening, when we could meet the eager congregations.
    We began early, and ended late -- so that more than once we paid the penalty of our protracted devotion, in arrest by the night guards, whose duty required them to stop all stragglers.  But the young Delegates were well known and easily recognized, and no authority would cage them.  Such meetings, too, as we enjoyed, would repay one for an occasional arrest, and for the dark and muddy walks by which they were reached.
    After a short sermon, studied between our tent and the church, came a prayer and inquiry meeting.  This was open to all.  One after another would lead in prayer, testify to a newly-found faith, or make an exhortation to his comrades.  Some were hoary-headed sinners;  others mere boys.  Some would flounder painfully as they tried to express their feelings, frequently bursting into tears;  while other would charm with the simplicity and power of their native eloquence.  From such men we had no difficulty in securing an effective corps of tract distributors.  Every morning a number of bronzed faces would look in at our tent door, and then, supplied with loads of tracts, papers, hymn books, &c., the men betook themselves to the different houses and tents, and to the camp of the "Lost Children."
    One day, the quiet was disturbed by the thunder of distant cannon.  Soon after stragglers from the front came in;  than a battery of field artillery which had desolated the path of the advancing enemy.  Then came the order to break up the hospital as soon as possible, which was interpreted to us to mean twelve hours.  That evening, all who could walk or hobble to our tents were there.  We distributed our entire remaining stock.  Farewell addresses, delivered by two of us, were answered by the hearty cheers of our audience, and the whole was concluded with a hymn.
[Incidents of the U.S. Christian Commission  1869 p.32-34]

    Such benevolence was repeated over and over in different locations and situations by the Delegates who volunteered their lives to minister to the soldiers far from home.  It is important to note how they blended spiritual help in with the practical help generously given.  They provided for the physical needs of the soldiers.  They engaged the soldiers personally and in group settings.  They pointed them to the truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  These Delegates took seriously Jesus' words that the righteous show their faith through compassion, even to the least of the brethren (Matt.25:31-46).
    The Christian Commission understood that our soldiers needed more than weapons and uniforms.  They needed compassionate encouragement to face the trials of war.  And they needed the eternal truth of the Gospel.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

"The Foolishness of Civil War Reenactors" Reconsidered

Do Reenactors INSULT True History?
    After putting up my post about Living History being a snap-shot of history, I decided to do a search on what others had written on Living History.  Mostly what I found were links to living history events taking place around the nation.  But I did happen across one post on by Glenn LaFantasie, Professor of Civil War History at Western Kentucky University from May 8th, 2011 in which he laid out the insulting stupidity of reenacting the Civil War.  His post title says is all:  "The Foolishness of Civil War Reenactors".  I will admit I did not discover his profound revelation of the stupidity of my hobby until after I wrote my post about Living History.  I now realize the error of my way.  It's two years later, the sesquicentennial is in full swing, and sadly we stupid reenactors continue to distort the truth about the Civil War.
    What LaFantasie's post shows is the typical hubris of progressive elitist thinking:  ONLY the credentialed few can lead to truth.  The rest are mere peasants which must be herded, kicking and crying, into the light of elitist truth.  We stupid reenactors despise the truth, we distort it by selling it to the interested but sheepishly more stupid spectators as entertainment.  There is no real blood, no real death, no Quentin Tarrantino revelations of horror.  LaFantasie is ashamed of the many military veterans who should know better, but insist on reenacting anyway as a way to reconnect with their shameful dependence on the military.  Ah the wisdom of "credentialism".
    Do reenactors do a perfect job in teaching history?  Of course not!  Some excel, some are OK, some don't care much about teaching, and some are just plain nut cases.  But according to the elitist LaFantasie, NONE are "Living Historians" -- ALL are perverts seeking "an excitement like that of sexual arousal".
    Just for the record.  The "I now realize the error of my way" was said sarcastically.  I will continue unrepentantly doing my attacks on the elitist progressive history LaFantasie fantasizes about.  I reject the arrogance of LaFantasie's credentialist world view -- that ONLY those who have gone through the leftist educational system can know the truth.
    As I read his tirade against our hobby, and I do have a real life in which I work and pay taxes, I thought back to two years ago and the Fort Sumter reenactment.  I wasn't there.  But by coincidence my stationery was.  Earlier in 2011 a reenactor contacted me about getting stationery he could use when on site so he could write letters as part of his reenactment presentation.  I was honored to be able to help him enjoy the event.  When I asked how the event went, he emailed back he had so much fun it should be illegal.  He felt a sense of connection with the past and satisfaction in being part of an event that reminded people of a pivotal event in US history.
    There are some good rebuttals on line to LaFantasie's tirade.  Check out:  The Sable Arm May 10, 2011 post by Jimmy Price who does a good job of taking on LaFantasie.
    One of the greatest things about our nation is that LaFantasie is as free to espouse his elitist views as I am free to stupidly muddle through wasting my time reenacting.  He can post his rantings against reenactors on line.  And I can post my rantings supporting "Living History" on line too.  I have a recommendation to those who think reenacting is worth the effort:  do NOT buy LaFantasie's books and tell other reenactors to not buy them.  Avoid events which promote him.  Oh, I know he will still make money, but lets' not have it come from us 'stupid reenactors'.  He is free to despise us . . . and we are free to reject him. 
    Do reenactors insult true history?  Pick a side.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Living History Goal: Becoming a Snapshot of History

Why do Civil War Living History?  Is it worth the effort?
    When you reenact, you do it for -- fun, or to honor those who really lived the history, or to explore what it must have been like, or to step outside of what you know -- the reasons vary from person to person.  That's what makes our hobby so interesting and enjoyable.  (Just pray with me that the politicians don't start regulating it!)
    We started reenacting because of my interest in history.  Because I couldn't see how we could afford to buy a rifle at that time, and because of my background, I felt I could do a chaplain impression.  Because Vicki & I wanted to make it a family hobby, that also channeled our interests.  As we learned about the US Christian Commission, together our living history presentation developed.
    But when you reenact, especially with a living history emphasis, you always wonder how you actually come across to visitors who stop by your tent.  Over the years, in various ways, the Lord has sent along encouragements that kept us going -- from the surprised "thank you, it's really free?!?" of a first time soldier-guest enjoying the food at our tent to the firm hand shake of a veteran reenactor we've known for years.
    While going through some old magazines recently, I ran across one that was tagged "Keep".  The old issue of the Camp Chase Gazette reminded me of a visit in 2004 by a woman reenactor who stopped by and started asking us a lot of questions.  As she talked with us, she shared she was reviewing the Marengo event for the magazine.  We answered her questions, shared lemonade and food with her, and told her come again anytime as she went on her way. I didn't give it a thought after that until later that year while reading the event review I saw our USCC presentation was mentioned in it;  only one paragraph, but her summary was a written encouragement that we were accomplishing our goals:

"Do you know what the Christian Commission really was and what they did?  I will admit that I had heard of them, read some basic information on them, but had no real idea of the impact they had on the soldier during the Civil War.  As their 19th century impression, Glenn & Vicki Rowe of Addition, IL do a superb job of teaching the public, and reenactors, what the Christian Commission was.  Hand squeezed lemonade is either poured into a soldiers cup or provided to those who were cupless in a tin can covered with a period label.  Stationary, stamps, pencils, religious information and other small luxuries are available to soldiers at no cost, just as it was done during the Civil War.  Glenn and his family walked the event handing out cookies and cakes of all sorts, not to mention a wonderful sponge cake with cherry topping.  On a large tarp next to their tent was an enormous pile of breads of all shapes and sizes, there for the taking.  Their tent fly is a warm and welcome place for reenactors to sit and socialize, learn about the Christian Commission, or chat with reenactors and spectators alike.  A small donation bucket sits on the ground next to a straw bale, but it was very obvious that financial gain is not what prompts them to do this amazing impression." 
[Camp Chase Gazette  Vol.XXXI No.9  Aug 2004 p.39  
"Marengo, ILL -- A Diamond in the Rough" by Connie Sims]
    Introducing people to the history of the USCC is one of our primary goals.  That Connie learned from her visit with us is a prized complement.  Another major goal has always been to let the reenactors experience on a small scale the encouragement that the Civil War soldiers experienced when they came under the USCC tent during the war.  So Connie's enjoyment of our hospitality is also prized.  (Confession: if you have perused our recipe page, you know that we don't hand squeeze the lemons.  That Connie thought we did is a credit to Vicki's talent for hospitality.)   
    So if you are doing a living history presentation, keep focused on what you see as "your mission", especially if your goal is to educate others.  Probably most of the time you won't really hear how you are doing.  When the "thank you" or "I never knew that" comments come, take those encouragements as affirmations that you are communicating.   Once in our lives we got written up;  a sort of "official recognition" if you will.  That was a pleasant surprise.  But most of the time our audience -- and your's -- will only be reenactors and spectators who happen to stop by and learn something they didn't know before . . . and that will be a "good a day of reenacting" . . . a quietly personal reward for all the work of "doing" Living History.

Some suggestions about doing a Living History Presentation:
1)  Pick something you have a passion for.  Since it takes time and effort in research & in putting it together, choose an aspect of history that you enjoy.
2)  Set some mental goals of what you hope to accomplish.  These will likely change and develope as you develope your presentation, but goals will help you focus your energy and resources better.
3)  Search for things that will draw people in to "see" what you have to teach.  To set up a tent and sit out in front in a chair and hope people will "just stop by" is not the best approach.  At least have a banner or sign out front ("Journalist"/ "Soldier's Aid Society" etc) which identifies and invites people to stop and look.  Displays also are invitations.  When people stop and look, you can begin to engage them in conversation about what you are portraying.
4)  Say to yourself often "There is no such thing as stupid questions, only obnixous questioners".  As much as some questions may make you roll your eyes, realize that the person asking may not really understand much about history.  Treat them with hospitality and you will be able to lead them along.  Yes, there will be know-it-alls that will play games with you, but at least give every person the benefit of the doubt when you first meet them.  Especially children.

Postscript:  Sadly, a few years later the reenactment at Marengo was discontinued.  It was always one of our favorites, even though it was never one of the biggest.  To those who worked so hard to put it on over the years -- "God bless you for your efforts".

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Who, thin, pays ye -- the Guvermint? (Yorktown, 1862)

The Skeptical Irish Soldier meets the Determined Scottish Delegate.
An Illustration of What Motivated the U.S. Christain Commission Delegates to Serve Among the Troops.

    The Following bit of Rev. Mr Mingins' experience will show how [the U.S.C.C.] gained favor with the men in the ranks, for whom it was especially intended.  The scene is at Yorktown [1862];  the subject an Irishman:
    Well, this was a very tough Irishman I assure you.  It was at a time when a great many were sick at Yorktown, -- men who had marched and dug and delved, until they were completely broken down.  A great many of them had no clean shirts on.  I had got a large supply, and was going through the tent, giving them to the poor fellows.  I came to this Irishman.
    "My dear friend, " said I, "how are you?  You seem to be an old man."
    "Shure an' I am an ould mon, sir."
    "Well, how came you here in the army, old as you are?"
    "Och, sir, I'm not only an ould mon, but an ould sojer too, I'd have ye know."  He had been twenty years in the British service in the East Indies, and had fought American's foes in Mexico.
    "Yes, sir" he continued, "I'm ould, an' I know it, but I'm not too ould to sholuther a musket, and hit a rap for theo ould flag yit."
   "You're a brave fellow," said I, "and I've brought these things to make you comfortable," as I held out to him a shirt and pair of drawers.  He looked at me,  Said he --
    "Is't thim things?"
    "Yes, I want to give them to you to wear."
    "Well, I don't want thim."
    "You do want them."
    "Well I don't;"  and he looked at me and then at thr goods, and said somewhat sharply, as i urged him again,  "Niver moind, sir; I don't want thim;  and, I till ye, I won't have thim."
     "Shure," said the, "d' ye take me for an objic uv charithy?"
     That was a kind of poser.  I looked at him.
     "No, sir" said I, "I do not take you for an object of charity, and I don't want you to look on me as a dispenser of charity, for I am not."
    "Well, what are ye, thin?"
    "I am a Delegate of the United States Christian Commission, bearing the thank-offerings of mothers and wives and sisters to you brave defenders of the Stars and Stripes."  And I thought, surely, after such a speech as that, I would get hold of the old fellow's heart.  But he looked at me and said --
    "Any how, I won't have thim."
    I felt really hurt.  I did not at all like it.  I have told you, he was an Irishman, and I happened to be a Scotchman.  I was determined not to be conquered.  I meant to try further, and when a Scotchman means to try a thing, he will come very near doing it.
    I didn't talk any further then, but determined to proved by my acts that I had come down to do this old man good.  So day after day I went about my work, nursing, giving medicines, cleaning up the tent, and doing anything and everything I could.
    One day, as I went in, a soldier said --
    "There's good news today, Chaplain"
                             (The soldiers, almost uniformly styled the Christian Commission Delegates "Chaplains".)
    "Ah, what is it?"
    "Paymaster's come."
    "Well that is good news."
    "Yes, but not to me, Chaplain."
    "How is that?"
    "I've not got my descriptive list, and if a fellow's not got that, the Paymaster may come and go, and he's none the better off for it."
    "Well, why don't you get it?"
    "I can't write, Chaplain;  I've got chronic rheumatism."
    "Shall I write for you?"
    "If you only would, Chaplain."
    I hauled out paper and pencil, asked the number of his regiment, name of his Captain, company, &c., and sent a simple request that the descriptive list might be remitted to that point.  When I had done this, I found a good many who wanted their lists, and I went on writing for them until I came to the cot next to the old Irishman's.  It was occupied by another Irishman.  I asked him if he had his descriptive list."
    "Shall I write to your Captain for it?"
    "Av ye plaze," and I began to write.
    I noticed the old Irishman stretching over, -- all attention.  I spoke now and then a word meant for him, though I affected not to notice him.  After I had written the request, I asked the young man if I should read it to him aloud.  "Av ye plaze, sir," and I read him the simple note.  When I had done, the old Irishman broke out with --
    "Upon me sowl, sir, ye wroite the natest letther for a disheriptive list, that I iver heerd in me loife.  Shure an' a mon wud thing ye'd been a sojer all yur dyas, ye do wroite so nate a letther."
    I turned round and asked, "Have you got yours?"
    "An' I haven't, sir."
    "Do you want it?"
    "An' to be shure I do," said he, flaring up;  "an' thot's a quare quistyun to ax a man, av he wants his dishriptive list -- av he wants his pay to boy some dillicacies to sind home to the ould woman an' the chilther.  I do want it, and ave ye'll lind us the sthrock uv yur pin, Chaplain, ye'll oblige us."
    I sat down and wrote the letter, and when I had done said, "Now, boys, give me your letters and I'll have them postpaid and sent for you."
    When i returned, sad work awaited me.  One of the Massachusetts' sons lay in the tent, dying.  I spoke to the dying boy of mother, of Jesus, of home, of heaven.  I believe it to be a great characteristic of the American heart, that it clings to home and mother.  I remember passing over a battlefield and seeing a man just dying.  His mind was wandering.  His spirit was no longer on that bloody field;  it was at his home far away.  A smile passed over his face -- a smile, oh of such sweetness, as looking up he said -- 
     "O mother!  O mother! I'm so glad you have come."
    And it seemed as if she wad there by his side.  By and by he said again --
    "Mother, it's cold, it's cold;  won't you pull the blanket over me?"
    I stooped down and pulled the poor fellow's ragged blanket closer to his shivering form.  And he smiled again:
    "That will do, mother, that will do!"
    And so, turning over, he passed sweetly into rest, and was borne up to the presence of God on the wings of a pious mother's prayers.
    But to come back to the case in the tent.  After I had done all I could for the dying man, and had shaken his hand in farewell, I turned to leave the tent.  Who should meet me at the door but the old Irishman?  He looked very queerly.  There was certainly something the matter with him.  He was scratching his head, pulling at his beard, and otherwise acting very strangely;  but I did not take much notice of him, as I had been so solemnly engaged.  He came up to me and clasping my hands, said --
    "Be me sowl, sir, ye're no humbug, anyhow."
    "What do you mean?" I asked.
    "Oh," said he, "haven't I watched ye ivery day, as ye've been goin' through the tint, carin' for the byes?  An' ye've been loike a mother to ivery wan uv thim.  Thanks to ye, Chaplain, thanks to ye, and may God bliss ye," he repeated, as he again wrung my hand.  "And," said he, "ye do all this for nothing'.  The byes 've been tillin' me about ye."
    "Oh," said I, "that's a mistake."
    "Well, now, how's thot?  They've been tillin' me, ye wur a Prisbytharian misinther, an' thot ye came away from yere home down here, for the love ye had for the byes.  But ye don't do it for nothin', eh?  Who, thin, pays ye -- the Guvermint?"
    "No.  If it had to pay me, it would take a great deal more money than it can spare."
    "Well, does the Commission pay ye?"
    "Well, thin, av the Guvermint doesn't pay ye, nor the Commission doesn't, who does pay ye?"
    I looked the man straight in the eyes and said --
    "That honest, hearty grasp of the hand, and hearty 'God bless you,' are ample reward for all that I have done for you.  Remember, my brave fellow, that you have suffered and sacrificed for me, and I couldn't do less for you now."
    He was broken down.  He bowed his head and wept, and then taking my by the hand again said, "Shure an' av thot's the pay ye take, why thin, God bliss ye!  God Bliss ye!  Ye'll be rich uv the coin uv me heart all yere days."  And then, after a few minutes' pause, he added, "An'now, Chaplain, av ye'll jist give us the shirt an' the dra'rs, I'll wear thim till there's not a thrid uv thim lift."
[the above is from:  Incidents of the United States Christian Commission. 1869. pp.20-24]

    I enjoy handing out copies of the above incident to people who come to our tent as an excellent explanation of why the delegates invested their lives in ministering to the troops.  Our nation's leaders sent "the boys" off to war with uniforms and weapons.  The family members left behind realized their beloved menfolk needed more than just tools of war.  The USCC Delegates volunteered to become a bridge between home and soldier.  They volunteered to became God's hands, feet and voice to every soldier they met.
    Over the years of our reenacting the USCC we have come across those who could not believe what we offered was "really free".  I still remember going through the camp at Cedar Creek when we first began, offering lemonade and pumpkin bread and having to convince the men we were "giving it away".  We'd say "US Christan Commission -- Lemonade -- Pumpkin Bread" and we'd hold out the food trays.
    "How much?"
    "It's free."
    "Yes, take what you want."
    I remember walking up to one tent and announcing "US Christian Commission" and hearing:  "No good Christians at this tent, Chaplain!  Guess you don't want us taking any!"
    I replied "God's love is free and so is this food to anyone who needs it.  Take all you want."  After a few more words of encouragement, they helped themselves and enjoyed the food.  Whether they blessed us or thought us fools was not our concern.  Each cup of lemonade or each bit of food was an offering to the Lord to do with as He saw best.

    America was stronger as a nation when it believed that "charity" arises from the people, NOT the government.  Mothers, wives, sisters spent hours sewing clothing to be given away to the men in hospitals who lay in torn blood-stained rags.  Families sacrificially gave money to the USCC to buy food and material to be given away as reminders that the soldiers were not forgotten. 
    Today, we as a nation are being deceived into believing that "the government" will take care of the needs of those struggling in life.  This is convenient in that it allows us to selfishly pursue our personal dreams, comfortable that we can hire others to do good and not be inconvenienced ourselves.  The more socialistic we become, the less compassionate we become.  The reality is, we CANNOT hire others to show compassion for us.  We only cheapen ourselves in God's sight.  Anything the government takes over becomes a means of enriching the connected at the cost of doing just "enough good" to be able to justify the administrative costs and pensions of the government workers.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Support High Capacity Ban For the Sake of the Nation

An Observation on Politics and The High Capacity Ban

  Yep, it's taken me a while to get to this point, but for the sake of our nation, we MUST BAN HIGH CAPACITY photocopier and computer printer cartridges! 
    Think of how these high capacity cartridges are misused by the politicians & bureaucrats in Washington DC as well as on the state and local level.  They print out reams of laws & regulations that are destroying our American dream of "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness".   These high capacity cartridges are used to create congressional bills that are not even read by the lawmakers voting to make those bills "the law of the land".  Yes, I know that the final versions of the congressional laws and bureaucratic regulations are sent off to commercial printers for production to be distributed to the cowering masses of citizen-slaves who must obey the political elite masters.  But if even ONE law or ONE regulation can be prevented from being shot at the American population, isn't it worth the cost and frustration of having to replace our own printer cartridges after SEVEN sheets of paper?  If we can prevent political elites like Senator Feinstein from getting their freedom destroying anti-American agendas codified, isn't it worth the personal inconvenience? 
    Obviously the dream of limiting all laws and regulations to being ONLY ONE page in length, single spaced, front and back, with NO options for amendments being added is a "fool's dream".  I know it will never happen because of the elite's control of the political system.  And I know we will never force the elites to have to hand write out their proposals the way our founding fathers had to when the Constitution was being written.
    BUT we MUST start somewhere!!!  IF we can slow the political hacks down in spewing out their power grabs . . . IF we can hinder them from compounding their money grabs of our income, isn't it worth it?  IF we force them have to choose between 'do I want to work harder to generate laws and regulations' (which they exempt themselves from having to obey) and 'going out to relax, golf and party like I am entitled to do', it may give us citizen-slaves a better chance at being let alone.
    This cartridge limitation will never come from the political elites themselves.  We cannot depend on the political hacks to limit their power or their income from their pandering lobbyist network.  We MUST RISE UP to save our children and grandchildren from the devastation that is being caused today by these high capacity cartridges!  We MUST join together to force printer cartridges manufacturers to make this vital change at the production level!
    America, will you rise up . . . or will you give up . . . and remain the citizen-slaves you have been drugged into being by the political elites?!? 
    Now, you will have to excuse me because Don Quixote just called, and I have to go see how I can help him out on his quest.