On September 6, 1901, Anarchist Leon Czolgosz shot President William McKinley in the stomach in Buffalo, New York. As he lay in agony, Vice President Theodore Roosevelt, who was vacationing in Vermont at the time, left to be at his side, but stayed with family at the Tahawus Club in the Adirondack Mountains along the way.
Since the President appeared to be recovering, Roosevelt decided to climb Mount Marcy. On September 13, word reached him that McKinley was dying. Roosevelt rushed down the rough mountain road on his way to Buffalo, where he learned he would become the next President of the United States.
The Tahawus Club ruins can still be seen today, at the Upper Works Trailhead at the end of Upper Works Road (County Road 25). The sportman’s club was built on the ruins of an older town, called Adirondac, which businessmen Archibald McIntyre and David Henderson built for their iron miners and lasted from 1826 to 1853. A titanium mine opened in 1940, and the newly christened town of Tahawus grew to over 80 buildings. That mine closed in the 1980s, however, and the structures quickly deteriorated.
Today, not much remains of this ghost town. Beautifully illustrated interpretive signs explaining the area’s history have been erected at the site, and one building, called the MacNaughton Cottage, has been preserved. Crumbling brick chimneys stand as memorials to the rest. The remains are roughly located at 44°05’12.6″N 74°03’21.0″W.
This indie film based on a Civil War legend had potential but ultimately fell below the standards of a made-for-TV movie.
A Confederate surgeon invents a battlefield legend to protect a young woman from an intolerant society in Son of a Gun (2019), written and directed by Travis Mills. This indie production reels in its audience with an interesting premise but from the first scene to the last, falls short in nearly every category of filmmaking.
The year is 1863. Union and Confederate armies are locked in deadly combat near Vicksburg, Mississippi. Battlefield surgeon Legrand Capers (Miles Doleac) is pulled away from a wounded soldier to tend to a young woman (Jessica Harthcock) at a nearby farmhouse who was shot in the abdomen by a stray bullet. Months later, he returns to learn the woman is pregnant, yet she insists she’s a virgin. The stray bullet, passing through the soldier’s scrotum, must have somehow impregnated the woman! At least, that’s what an elderly Legrand Capers (Cotton Yancey) tells a group of old-timers at a tavern.
Things get complicated when the film unravels three separate versions of events, with different actors and actresses playing the various roles. Each version leads the audience further away from fantasy and toward the scandalous truth. Finally, as Capers is dying of tuberculosis many years after the war, he is confronted by the family’s former slave, Mamie (Nancy Lindsey), who knows what really happened.
Son of a Gun’s use of multiple perspectives and multiple casts to tell the story was unique and not as confusing as it sounds. The actor who played middle-aged Capers, William Shannon Williams, was subtly charming and fit the roll well, as did actress Nancy Lindsey. For the most part, the performances were fine. It was the amateurish sound and editing that cheapened every scene.
At a time when American history is being fought over in the social and political arena, a sharp decline in visits to our national battlefields reveals a sad lack of public appreciation for our nation’s history.
To me, there’s something deeply important about visiting museums, forts, and battlefields, which is why I write weekly articles about historic sites and events. It’s one thing to read about a battle in a book. I’ve read dozens of books on the American Civil War, at least ten on the Battle of Gettysburg alone. But until you stand on the actual ground where those armies fought, you’ll never have a complete sense of what happened there.
Battlefields are more than just lifeless monuments and interpretive signs that tell a story. You are standing on the same dirt those armies trampled 150 years ago, that same soil over which men fought and died, whose wounds bled into that very ground. Standing on Little Round Top at Gettysburg National Military Park, you can imagine the gray columns advancing through the smoke from the perspective of a Union soldier.
That’s not something you’ll ever experience in a classroom.
The 16,084 acres of Prince William Forest Park in northern Virginia was once home to at least three small towns, two mines, and dozens of homesteads. During the Great Depression, the Federal Government began buying up this land to form the Chopawamsic Recreational Demonstration Area. It purchased 79 properties and condemned 48 others.
Enforcement of the eviction was half-hearted, however, until WW2 when the Office of Strategic Services wanted to turn the land into a training ground. They forcibly removed dozens of residents without compensation. After the war, the National Park Service took over management and renamed it Prince William Forest Park, charging visitors $15 a week to walk around the woods. What a bunch of dicks.
There are approximately 45 family cemeteries dotting the park, reminders of the people who once lived there. It’s estimated over 300 people are interred there. Less than twelve are marked on the official park map.
Cannon-Reed Cemetery is closest to the Visitor’s Center, off Birch Bluff Trail. A small sign misspelling the family name points to the side trail leading to the graveyard. Revolutionary War veteran Luke Cannon is buried here, as is a young man who lost his life working in the local mine.
The United States Military Academy cemetery at West Point is filled with storied figures and heroes who fought in all America’s wars. West Point, on the Hudson River in Upstate New York, served as a fort during the Revolutionary War and is the oldest continuously operating Army post in the United States. Captain Thompson, an officer in the Revolutionary War, may have been the first internment at the cemetery here in 1809.
Winfield Scott (1786-1866) is a giant in American military history. He was the longest serving U.S. general, and second to hold the rank of lieutenant general. He led troops in four wars, and conceived the “Anaconda Plan” that ultimately defeated the Confederacy during the American Civil War. He was Commanding General of the United States Army (equivalent to the modern position of Chief of Staff of the Army) for 20 years.
George Armstrong Custer (1839-1876) – his name is synonymous with the American West, and he gained infamy for leading his troops to slaughter against the Plains Indians in the Battle of the Little Bighorn. But before that, he cut a dashing figure as a cavalry officer during the American Civil War, where he rose to the rank of Major General of U.S. Volunteers and fought in numerous battles.