Statues and Stories, Part 2

No statue exists to Chamberlain because he did not want to push the matter. There were those who argued he had inflated his part in the bayonet charge from Little Round Top. Perhaps his reluctance to have a statue put up reflected a wish not to outshine the deeds of the men he commanded, perhaps out of a guilty conscience for exaggerating his own part in the charge. We'll never know, but there is a smaller stone marker for the place where the 20th Maine gathered before the charge. There was not time to find it to take a picture before leaving, though.

Our bus took us back to our hotel, but not before stopping briefly at the edge of the battlefield facing Pickett's Charge, and the area since called the High Water Mark of the Confederacy near where General Armistead fell wounded. We could not get off the bus, and I was on the wrong side of the bus to get a picture, but the large monument to Pennsylvania's fallen was on my side, and pwharbord took a better shot, so here it is. According to Mr. Prosperi, the name of every Pennsylvanian who fell during the battle is inscribed there.

At the Gettysburg National Cemetery, at the edge of town just west of the Battlefield, where many of the Union dead rest, near the site where Lincoln gave his famous address, another monument sits:  The Friend to Friend Masonic Memorial.

Paul and I went to see this place the day we left the convention. It depicts the "Armistead-Bingham Incident" after Pickett's Charge in which Union Army Captain Henry H. Bingham assisted mortally-wounded Confederate Brigadier General Lewis Addison Armistead, both Freemasons. Armistead is seen entrusting personal effects (his watch and spurs, I think) with Bingham after Armistead was shot in his right arm and below his left knee. En route to a Union field hospital where he would die two days later, Armistead learned that Bingham was on the staff of General Winfield Scott Hancock, a Freemason as well as Armistead's close friend. He asked Bingham to pass along the items with a message to Hancock, after learning that Hancock had also been wounded. A record of this incident was first written in 1870. That record gives us the text of a message that is much too verbal and flowery to have been said on a battlefield, even by 19th century standards: "Tell General Hancock for me that I have done him and you all an injury which I shall regret the longest day I live."

The place were Armistead fell has a marker near what is now called the High Water Mark of the Confederacy since 1887, and Gettysburg, the 1993 film based on The Killer Angels, dramatized the meeting, also near the spot where Armistead fell, but used this dialog which I think might be more believable:

The film has him shot in the chest, but he was actually shot in the right arm and left knee. Of course, Confederate sympathizers were quick to say that the entire incident was a fabrication, but there are enough records of Armistead telling Hancock before they went their separate ways in 1861 that he hoped God would strike him dead before he was put in a position to kill his best friend. I'll leave this second picture as a parting shot to those sympathizers, pun much intended.

These memorials to victor and vanquished alike serve to tell posterity what took place there. They serve that specific purpose. Among the people of our bus group were two young men, one from Alabama, one from Florida. They were polite and quiet during our ride, and those of us whose backgrounds were Northern were equally respectful. We were all fans of the show whose creator had drawn inspiration from a Civil War novel.

Joss Whedon had created his series Firefly about a group of people going about their lives after a devastating war. Some of the main characters had been on the losing side, but were "still not convinced it was the wrong one." There was also a book panel talk about The Killer Angels.  A handout of a memo by Whedon was also there, titled "The 'Verse of 2517." The last sentence of that memo has some bearing here, about a group of soldiers who fought for two weeks after their high command had surrendered:

"The stain of criminality never left those few thousand--but in quieter circles, the legend of their tenacity made them heroes."

The statues of our real history reflect admiration for that kind of tenacity, however flawed the men or their causes; on a battlefield those statues have a place. If a statue of a Confederate officer graces that officer's home town, I would advocate its remaining there, to serve as a teaching point if nothing else. However, if a town council votes 3-2 to take it down, that is their pregrogative. Those protesting the statue's eventual removal should be equally free to voice their displeasure, but their freedom to do so ends where the health and wellbeing of others begins.

If you show up to a protest in riot gear and wielding clubs when you are not in law enforcement yourselves, this speaks to malicious intent. If words come to blows, those who first throw those punches should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, certainly those who run people down with cars should be met with the same, and those who kill with those cars should be charged with murder.

Statues and Stories, Part 1

"It's my estimation that every man ever got a statue made of him was one kind of sumbitch or another." -- Joss Whedon, from the episode "Jaynestown" of Firefly

"When smashing monuments, save the pedestals. They always come in handy." -- Stanislaw Jerzy Lec, from Unkempt Thoughts

It began ostensibly with a statue. The sorry events that culminated in the death of Heather Heyer from behind the wheel of James Alex Fields, Jr.'s car began with the proposal to take down a statue of Robert E. Lee from the town square of Charlottesville, Virginia. The weekend of that riot, my husband and I were attending a science fiction convention in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Much of the inspiration for that specific television show came from show writer and creator Joss Whedon having read a Civil War-based novel called The Killer Angels. One of the convention acticvities included a trip to the Gettysburg Battlefield Memorial Park, a place well seeded with memorials and monuments to both the Union and Confederate dead.

The tour included commentary from our guide, Bob Prosperi, who spent the greater part of 30 years with the Parks Department caretaking the burden of the legacy of that war which has never really ended in the minds of many. According to Mr. Prosperi, there are far more memorials to the Union dead than to the Confederate because of a list of qualifications that merit a monument for that site, a key point being how much time any given division spent time at any one place on that battlefield during the series of engagements that lasted three days. Gettysburg was a defensive moment for the Union. A defending army tends to stay put; an offensive army is on the move. The Union army managed to establish positions on higher ground and stay there, successfully weathering the offense.

Our guide took us on a chronological trip around the battlefield, starting with the first staging areas for the first day's fighting. There is no spot on these grounds where there is no memorial to some division or other. From our first spot to get off the bus, Mr. Prosperi spoke of the troop movements that first gathered toward Cashtown, but then gravitated to Gettysburg. The second of these pictures was the view toward Cashtown in the distance.

Near this spot, a large monument sponsored by the veterans of both sides still living was erected on the 75th anniversary of the battle. This is a monument dedicated to remembrance and reconciliation, with a symbolic eternal flame of peace at its pinnacle.

Our bus then took us behind the Confederate lines to a series of raised markers along the road that runs behind the line of trees that was the starting point for the various Confederate divisions. Markers for the divisions from each state dot that road at precise intervals. We dismounted the bus to see one impressive piece dedicated to the men of North Carolina. This commission was given to Gutzon Borglum, the man who would later go on to complete the presidential monument of Mount Rushmore.

Our bus then circled the monument to Virginia, one with General Robert E. Lee on horseback, before we continued on our way to Little Round Top, where we would dismount one more time. There was no way to get a good shot from a moving bus, so this is from a public site.

This is a distant view of Little Round Top from the North Carolina monument.

It was at Little Round Top that the 20th Maine commanded by then Lieutenant Colonel Joshua Chamberlain held off a Confederate advance at the end of the Union line by charging downhill with bayonets when they ran out of ammunition. There is a statue near the summit of Little Round Top, dedicated to Chief Engineer Gouverneur K. Warren and the Union Signal Corps. Warren realized this high ground needed defending and made sure there were men in place who could. The Devil's Den had to be a source of anxiety as Confederate sharpshooters took aim from behind it.


Placement for SCA 50th Anniversary Memorial

This is the coat of arms for my late husband Herr Wilhelm Baumhecker (MKA Brian Keveney), to be used at the SCA 50th Anniversary Shield Wall.  The stump is blazoned or, but he preferred it proper.  I hope this suffices.

He was given his award of arms and the Queen's Order of Courtesy on XXVII May AS XXXIII in the Kingdom of the East by Timothy I and Gabrielle I.
Epic Fail  (Scully)

They should consider themselves lucky that I live here and not there.

Dear Diocese of Miami:

My father gave you years, no, decades of service in his parishes of Saint Rose and Holy Family. When the lay diaconate was established, he expressed an interest in becoming a deacon in the late 1970s. Then my mother died and he was told different things by different people regarding whether he could become a deacon and still be able to remarry.

Some 22 years ago, he decided he wanted to become a deacon regardless, when he was 56. You've strung him along until it has become obvious that you won't take him on now because of his age, but you won't even have the guts to tell him why you've turned him down this one last time yesterday, on what would have been their 55th wedding anniversary had my mother lived.

He was going to become a priest before he met my mom.  He has met no one else since my mother died in 1980.

If you had valid reasons to turn him down, valid reasons to show why he lacked the vocation back in the early 1990s, you could have told him why.  If you turned him down because one of his two children has broken with the RC faith completely and the other is lukewarm and nominally RC at best, then despite one of the best popes to come along in years, you may have just cost yourselves lukewarm little me.

I am angry with you for making my father so heartsick of spirit.  It is something I will not forget any time soon.

No love,

Moon River

Another Great Fan Film (The Hanging Tree)

I saw the first part of Mockingjay over the weekend. The melody in the movie for The Hanging Tree was haunting, but the one thought up for this fan film made almost two years ago is equally so. I love this father-daughter teaching moment. The actors could have both been darker of hair, but that's a minor quibble.  Enjoy, everyone.