Rockford Furniture Ghost Sign

Rockford Furniture Ghost Sign
Faded brick ad for Rockford Standard Furniture Company at the corner of 9th Street and Railroad Avenue in Rockford, Illinois. At the turn of the last century, Rockford was a manufacturing powerhouse, especially for machine tools and furniture established by its large population of Swedish immigrants. Rockford Standard Furniture opened in 1887 and manufactured dining room furniture, desks, and bookcases.

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Past Shadows

Past Shadows
Monument to Big. Gen. Gustavus Sniper (1836-1894) in Woodlawn Cemetery, 800 Grant Boulevard, Syracuse, Onondaga County, New York. Sniper was colonel of the 185th New York Volunteer Infantry.

He was brevetted brigadier general on March 13, 1865 for “conspicuous gallantry in the battles of the Quaker Road and White Oak Road, Virginia.” These battles were fought at the opening of the Appomattox Campaign southwest of Petersburg, Virginia. The 185th NY was in Joshua L. Chamberlain’s (of Gettysburg fame) brigade of the First Division, V Corps.

Black Rock Battlefield

A roadside sign is all that reminds us of that time the British savagely burned the towns of Buffalo and Black Rock, New York to the ground.

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The Battle of Black Rock was fought on December 30, 1813 between British forces commanded by Major General Phineas Riall and American militia commanded by Major General Amos Hall in the present day city of Buffalo, New York along the Niagara River during the War of 1812. The engagement was a decisive British victory, resulting in the burning of Black Rock and Buffalo.

On December 10, 1813, Brigadier General George McClure decided to abandon Fort George on the eastern bank of the Niagara River, which the United States had captured in May. His troops burned the nearby village of Newark to the ground before retreating across the river. The British wasted little time in retaliating, and they captured Fort Niagara by surprise on December 18th.

Maj. Gen. Phineas Riall then floated 600 British regulars, 50 Canadian militia, and 400 American Indian allies to a landing site two miles downstream from Black Rock. Lt. Col. John Gordon and 370 men from the Royal Scots Regiment landed at Black Rock. Opposing them was Maj. Gen. Amos Hall and approximately 2,000 New York militiamen.

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Class of ’61: Disappointing and Forgettable Historical Drama

This made-for-TV drama meanders through the opening salvos of the American Civil War.

Written by Jonas McCord, directed by Gregory Hoblit, and produced by Steven Spielberg, Class of ’61 premiered on ABC in April 1993. This confusing drama follows members of the West Point class of 1861 and their families as they head off to join opposing sides of the war. It’s notable for an early appearance by Clive Owen, who is the only actor to stand out among the myriad of stock characters.

As the film opens, three friends, Shelby Peyton (Dan Futterman), George Armstrong Custer (Josh Lucas), and Devin O’Neil (Clive Owen), are attending the United States Military Academy at West Point. Tensions are high as Confederate troops fire on Fort Sumter, leaving cadets with divided loyalties. Shelby Peyton, a Virginian, decides to resign and head south to join the Confederacy, despite his engagement to O’Neil’s sister, Shannon (Sophie Ward).

Back home in Maryland, Devin O’Neil learns his brother Terry (Christien Anholt) has joined pro-Southern partisans, which upsets his pro-Union Irish family. Things get complicated when O’Neil is unable to secure a commission in the Union Army. He rooms with George Custer in Washington, DC, where he falls in love with Lily Magraw (Laura Linney), who also happens to be a Southern spy.

Things get even more complicated when Shelby Peyton returns to his plantation, where his favorite slave, Lucius (Andre Braugher), has killed two slave catchers in an escape attempt. He is forced to flee northward in the Underground Railroad, leaving his pregnant wife behind to an uncertain future. Will destiny reunite all these characters at the First Battle of Bull Run?

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Battle Road at Minuteman National Park

Walk in the footsteps of British soldiers fleeing relentless attacks by colonial militia in this carefully-preserved National Park dedicated to the opening salvo of the Revolutionary War.

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The road from Concord to Boston, Massachusetts was the scene of heavy skirmishing on April 19, 1775 between British soldiers and American Colonial militia in the opening salvos of the Revolutionary War. The day had monumental significance in American history, as the Battles of Lexington and Concord represented the spark that led to the Declaration of Independence and the birth of the United States of America.

Early that fateful morning, Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith and 700 British regulars departed Boston to capture and destroy Colonial militia supplies in Concord. The night before the raid, Paul Revere and Samuel Prescott departed from Boston to warn the militia of British plans. Paul Revere was captured along the Battle Road but later released. Later that morning, several hundred British soldiers arrived in Lexington and were met by approximately 70-77 militiamen. It’s unclear who fired the first shot, but when the smoke cleared, seven colonists lay dead and eight wounded.

The British continued to Concord, where they set fire to the supplies. At 9:30 am at North Bridge, 400 militiamen confronted 100 British regulars, resulting in approximately two militia killed and four wounded, and three British regulars killed and eight wounded. The engagement shocked both sides. His mission completed, Lt. Col. Smith and his men headed back to Boston. By then, the call had reverberated around Massachusetts and militiamen poured in from the countryside.

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The Highwaymen

A buddy cop tale with a historical twist, this nihilistic Netflix drama leans too heavily on worn-out cliches.

The story of the men who took down Bonnie and Clyde is recounted in The Highwaymen (2019), written by John Fusco and directed by John Lee Hancock. This bleak Netflix production aims to de-glamorize the infamous outlaw lovers with a more nuanced perspective, but still can’t help indulging in a few popular myths.

When Bonnie Parker (Emily Brobst) and Clyde Barrow (Edward Bossert) mastermind a prison farm escape, Lee Simmons (John Carroll Lynch) convinces Texas Governor “Ma” Ferguson (Kathy Bates) to bring ex-Texas Ranger Frank Hamer (Kevin Costner) out of retirement. Hamer agrees, and after purchasing a small arsenal of weapons, he reluctantly teams up with Maney Gault (Woody Harrelson), another ex-Ranger past his prime.

Despite being “too old for this shit”, Hamer and Gault use experience and gut instinct to show up a team of FBI agents utilizing the latest law enforcement techniques, led by Agent Kendale (Jason Davis). After a string of false leads and narrow misses, the elderly lawmen finally gripe, complain, and manipulate their way into locating the outlaw gang. A young deputy named Ted Hinton (Thomas Mann), who grew up with Bonnie Parker, is there to provide dark irony and identify the criminals’ bullet-riddled bodies.

Channeling Neo-Westerns like No Country for Old Men (2007) and Wind River (2017), and to some extent the TV series True Detective, The Highwaymen focuses on a life-or-death pursuit through an unforgiving and bleak environment, with characters the modern world has left behind. Unfortunately, and despite its original contribution to the Bonnie and Clyde filmography, it comes across as an unimaginative imitation of these other works.

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Was Bonnie Parker a Cold-Blooded Killer?

The Highwaymen’s portrayal of outlaw Bonnie Parker is more dime novel fantasy than reality.

In Netflix’s new historical film The Highwaymen (2019), Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson play ex-Texas Rangers Frank Hamer and Maney Gault, the two men responsible for taking down outlaws Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow in May 1934. The famous outlaw couple don’t get a lot of screen time, but when they do, expect blood and bullets to fly.

In The Highwaymen, 24-year-old Bonnie Parker is portrayed as every bit as dangerous as her male companions, firing a Thompson submachine gun to cover a prison farm escape and coldly finishing off a wounded patrolman. But this portrayal is more in line with the sensational dime novels and films of yesteryear than reality.

Bonnie was born in Rowena, Texas in 1910 and grew up west of Dallas. She dropped out of high school and married a man named Roy Thornton just shy of her 16th birthday. Her husband was frequently in trouble with the law, and she moved back in with her mother and worked as a waitress. That’s when she met Clyde Barrow.

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