Historic America Photography

Farnsworth’s Charge

Bas relief on the monument to Maj. William Wells at Gettysburg National Military Park. On the afternoon of July 3, 1863, after the final Confederate attack had been repulsed, Union cavalry commander Brig. Gen. Hugh Judson Kilpatrick ordered Brig. Gen. Elon John Farnsworth to charge the Confederate’s right flank. The terrain was rocky and uneven, and Farnsworth protested the order. Never-the-less, he obeyed, and accompanied the 1st Vermont Cavalry, commanded by Maj. William Wells. Farnsworth had two horses shot out from under him before he was killed–shot five times. Wells survived, earning the Medal of Honor.

Farnsworth’s Charge

A Nation of Wimps

In a harsh world we can either become tolerant by not shying away from pain and disappointment, or we can shelter ourselves and be unable to cope when those challenges rear their ugly head.

In a political cartoon for the Detroit Free Press entitled “Traveling Across America,” artist Mike Thompson juxtaposed two women: a pioneer from 1857 and a businesswoman from 2007. The pioneer declares, “the trip is grueling and filled with hardship.” The businesswoman replies, “I hear ya!  My flight was packed and 20 minutes late!”

In 1905, Art Young was far more critical of his contemporaries when he illustrated a cartoon for Life magazine entitled “World of Creepers.”  It depicts a sea of men in sport coats crawling along the ground under a dark cloud.  The word “fear” hovers just above the horizon.

These two political cartoons express concern that we are (or were) becoming a culture of complainers, snivelers, and grovelers; mere shadows of our immigrant and frontier ancestors who attempted to prosper despite enduring constant hardships.


Stories in Stone: Mark Howard

English-born Mark Howard (1817–1887) was president of the National Fire Insurance Company and helped organize the Republican Party in Connecticut. His family and he are interred in the Howard Pyramid Mausoleum in Cedar Hill Cemetery, 453 Fairfield Avenue in Hartford, Connecticut. The Egyptian-revival mausoleum is 20 feet tall and made from pink granite.

Photo by Michael Kleen
Historic America Photography

Redcoats at Sacket’s Harbor

Reenactors dressed as British soldiers fire a volley during an event commemorating the Second Battle of Sacket’s Harbor, fought on May 29, 1813. Sackets Harbor Battlefield State Historic Site is located in northwestern New York on Black Harbor Bay, Lake Ontario, in the town of Sackets Harbor.

Roadside America

Dead Man’s Curve

The following is an excerpt from my book Tales of Coles County, a collection of history, folklore, and true crime from one of the most interesting counties in Illinois. Order it in paperback or Kindle today.

Many communities in Illinois have an intersection or stretch of road to avoid where it’s said car accidents frequently occur. Northwest suburban Des Plaines has “Suicide Circle”, Spring Valley has “Help Me” Road, Henry County has “Death Curve”, and the tiny town of Towanda has a “Dead Man’s Curve” on Historic U.S. Route 66. Coles County’s is unique, however, because its name predates the road itself.

When settlers first crossed the wilderness of East Central Illinois, large groves of trees became important landmarks. One such grove, in LaFayette Township on the north branch of Kickapoo Creek, was originally known as Island Grove. It was two miles in diameter and filled with hackberry, elm, and oak trees, and supplied a neighboring village of Kickapoo Indians with firewood and wild game.

In March 1826, a man named Samuel Kellogg discovered the frozen body of a Sand Creek settler named Coffman sitting upright against a tree with his horse bridle thrown over his shoulder. Kellogg hoisted the dead man onto his horse and took him to a nearby settlement for burial. Since then, Island Grove has been known as “Dead Man’s Grove.”

Photography Roadside America

The Kiss

Statue called “Embracing Peace” by artist J. Seward Johnson on American Way in National Harbor, Maryland. Embracing Peace is based on an iconic photo taken by Alfred Eisenstaedt in Times Square on August 14, 1945 as celebrations broke out upon news of Japan’s surrender and the end of World War 2.

The Kiss II
Historic America

Stories in Stone: Writers and Poets

Whether it’s “Author’s Ridge” in Concord or the small church cemetery where a mysterious visitor leaves flowers for Poe on the anniversary of his death, the graves of literary heroes have long been popular destinations.

For aspiring authors, poets, and fans of literature, the grave sites of America’s famous writers have become pilgrimage sites. Devoted fans leave behind flowers, pens, pencils, and even their own writing as tokens of affection. As a writer myself, I find stops at the graves of famous writers an obligatory inclusion on my travels. Here are just some of them. Have you ever visited a famous author’s grave? Leave a comment with your story!

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) was a leader of the transcendentalist movement and champion of individualism (most well-articulated in his essay “Self-Reliance“). He was a prolific author and lecturer. It’s difficult to think of a writer who had greater impact on American intellectual life. He is buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts on Author’s Ridge.