Annapolis Row Homes

Annapolis II

Colorful row houses in Annapolis, Maryland. Annapolis, on the Chesapeake Bay, is home to the oldest state capitol building in the United States (in use since 1779) and is home to the United States Naval Academy.

Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis, Indiana

Established in 1863, Crown Hill Funeral Home and Cemetery at 700 38th Street in Indianapolis, Indiana, sprawls across 555 acres, making it the third largest private cemetery in the United States. Indianapolis architect Adolph Scherrer designed its triple-arch Gothic gatehouse at 34th Street and Boulevard Place in 1885. Crown Hill is the final resting place for one U.S. president, three vice presidents, and several governors, U.S. Senators, U.S. Representatives, industrialists, military generals, and over 190,000 other former residents. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973.

Brig. Gen. Abel D. Streight (1828-1892)

Monument to Brig. Gen. Abel Delos Streight (1828-1892) and family. Streight grew up in New York and moved to Indianapolis to open a publishing business just before the Civil War. He became colonel of the 51st Indiana Infantry Regiment and conducted Streight’s Raid in 1863, when he was captured and later released. He was brevetted Brigadier General after the war and served as a state senator.

Corliss Randle Ruckle (1877-1889) II

Monument to Corliss Randle Ruckle (1877-1889). Corliss was the son of Nicholas and Jane Charlotte Ruckle. He died of diphtheria at 12 years of age.

Continue reading “Crown Hill Cemetery in Indianapolis, Indiana”

Kelly’s Ford Battlefield in Culpeper County, Virginia

Old friends, torn apart by war, clash in a chivalric contest of sabres and revolvers in one of the Civil War’s best-known cavalry battles.

The Battle of Kelly’s Ford (aka Kellysville) was fought on March 17, 1863 between Union forces commanded by Brig. Gen. William W. Averell and Confederate forces commanded by Brig. Gen. Fitzhugh Lee in Culpeper County, Virginia during the American Civil War. The battle, which resulted in 211 total casualties, was a draw but was the first time in the Eastern Theater that Union cavalry held their own against their Southern counterparts.

In a war that produced so many great quotes, the Battle of Kelly’s Ford gave us one of the best. The opposing commanders, William Averell and Fitzhugh Lee, were friends at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point before the war. On February 25th, Fitzhugh Lee led a raid across the Rappahannock River and captured dozens of Averell’s men. Lee sent his old friend a note saying “You ride a good horse, I ride a better. If you won’t go home, return my visit, and bring me a sack of coffee.”

After the battle of Kelly’s Ford, Averell left two captured Confederate officers with a sack of coffee and a note saying: “Dear Fitz, Here’s your coffee. Here’s your visit. How do you like it?”

On the morning of March 17, 1863, Brig. Gen. Averell forced a crossing of the Rappahannock River at Kelly’s Ford with three cavalry brigades and one battery of artillery, for a total of 2,100 men. His objective was to destroy Confederate cavalry in the area and stop raids like that of February 25th. His old friend, Brig. Gen. Lee (nephew of Gen. Robert E. Lee), opposed him with approximately 800 men. Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart, the Confederates’ flamboyant cavalry chief, and Stuart’s chief of artillery, Maj. John Pelham, were also on hand.

Continue reading “Kelly’s Ford Battlefield in Culpeper County, Virginia”

The Legend of Bonapartes Cave

Missing jewels, exiled European royalty, old bones, and a lakeside cave make this unassuming spot one of Upstate New York’s most enduring mysteries.

Joseph Bonaparte (1768-1844), older brother of French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, saw his fortunes rise and fall with his more famous brother. He once reigned as monarch over two kingdoms, amassing a small fortune before Napoleon’s downfall. How did a lake in northern New York come to be named after him?

In 1794, Joseph, a French lawyer and diplomat, married Marie-Julie Clary, and in 1806 Napoleon crowned him King of Naples. During the ill-fated French occupation of Spain, he reigned as King of Spain and the Indies. After Napoleon’s defeat and exile in 1814, Joseph fled to Switzerland with a trove of diamonds and jewels, but made plans to leave Europe. Napoleon’s defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 sealed his fate, and Joseph landed in America in August 1815 under the assumed name “Count de Survilliers”.

James Le Ray de Chaumont, son of a prominent French supporter of American independence, had purchased large tracts of land in northern New York and the Delaware Valley, where many French aristocrats had fled after the French Revolution. Using his stolen wealth, Joseph purchased land along the Black River in Upstate New York from James Le Ray. He named the lake at the heart of his Black River property Diana, but it would come to be known as Lake Bonaparte.

Continue reading “The Legend of Bonapartes Cave”

How (Not) to Lose an Election

Accusations of voter fraud and voter suppression have become annoying common, but it’s often the candidates themselves who are to blame for their own defeat. No one wins by crying foul. Running an effective campaign, not post-election litigation, is the key to victory.

April 2013, at an election night party at Murphys Pub in Rockford, Illinois, I approached an acquaintance to see how he fared in that day’s race. He ran for Harlem Township Supervisor, the latest in a series of offices for which he put his name on the ballot. He wanted so badly to get elected to public office.

That year, there was a debate in Machesney Park, located in the boundary of Harlem Township, whether or not to allow homeowners to keep chickens in their yards. Joe disagreed, in contrast to his Republican and Tea Party base. When the final vote was tallied that night, he lost by four votes: 2,045 to 2,049. He looked up at me through smeared Coke-bottle glasses, his eyes strained from staring at a laptop for hours, with a look of utter devastation on his face and gasped, “It was the chickens!”

No one likes to lose, especially when you pour your heart and soul into running for office. Candidates put their reputations, time, and often their personal finances on the line with no guarantee of success. I should know. In 2012, I ran in the Republican primary for county board and lost 43% to 57%. In 2013, I was the Republican candidate for Mayor of Rockford and received 18.32% in a three-way race.

Continue reading “How (Not) to Lose an Election”

Yorktown Victory Monument

This striking monument commemorates the American-French victory over the British in the Siege of Yorktown (1781), which effectively ended the Revolutionary War. The Yorktown Monument to the Alliance and Victory was designed by architects R.M. Hunt and Henry Van Brunt and sculpted by J.Q.A. Ward in 1881, and completed in 1884. Lightning damaged the statue of liberty atop the column and Oskar J.W. Hansen sculpted a replacement in 1957.

Yorktown Victory Monument Detail
Continue reading “Yorktown Victory Monument”

Time Takes Us All

Monument to Bernhard (1820-1884) and Caroline (1829-1913) Schickel and their children in Forest Lawn Cemetery, 1411 Delaware Avenue in Buffalo, New York. Bernhard and Caroline had two children who died at a young age, and one adopted daughter. From what I can find online, Bernhard was a Free Mason and owned a beer hall in Buffalo. This granite monument, with its three statues, is remarkably well maintained for its age.

Bernhard Schickel (1820-1884)

Brandy Station Battlefield Park in Culpeper County, Virginia

Visit the scene of the largest cavalry battle on American soil, where sabres flashed and Union troopers ended Confederate cavalry dominance in Virginia.

The Battle of Brandy Station (aka Fleetwood Hill) was fought on June 9, 1863 between Union forces commanded by Maj. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton and Confederate forces commanded by Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart around Brandy Station, Virginia, during the American Civil War. The battle, which inaugurated the Gettysburg Campaign, was a marginal Confederate victory, resulting in a total of 1,430 casualties.

Late in May 1863, fresh off their victory at the Battle of Chancellorsville, Robert E. Lee’s Confederate Army of Northern Virginia moved into Culpeper County in preparation for a march north to take the war into Union territory. Secrecy was essential, since Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker’s Union Army of the Potomac was still camped nearby. It was J.E.B. Stuart and his 9,500 horsemen’s job to shield Lee’s army, and Alfred Pleasonton’s job to find out what Lee was up to.

Pleasonton had at his disposal approximately 8,000 of his own troopers and 3,000 infantry from the V Corps. He divided his force into two wings and crossed the Rappahannock River at Beverly’s Ford and Kelly’s Ford, intending to envelop what he believed to be a smaller Confederate force. If not for poor coordination and quick action by Stuart, he nearly succeeded.

Continue reading “Brandy Station Battlefield Park in Culpeper County, Virginia”