Civil War Ballads: The Fall of Charleston

Eugene T. Johnston wrote this song near the end of the American Civil War to celebrate the capture of Charleston, South Carolina by Union forces in February 1865. Since then, it has been covered many times, including by country and western artist Tennessee Ernie Ford (1919-1991) and Civil War folk singer Bobby Horton.

Oh have you heard the glorious news, is the cry from every mouth,
Charleston is taken, and the rebels put to rout;
And Beauregard the chivalrous, he ran to save his bacon—
When he saw Gen. Sherman’s “Yanks,” and “Charleston is taken!”

With a whack, rowdy-dow,
A hunkey boy is General Sherman,
Whack, rowdy-dow,
Invincible is he!

This South Carolina chivalry, they once did loudly boast;
That the footsteps of a Union man, should ne’er polute their coast.
They’d fight the Yankees two to one, who only fought for booty;—
But when the “udsills” came along it was “Legs do your duty.”

With a whack, rowdy-dow,
Babylon is fallen,
Whack, rowdy-dow,
The end is drawing near!

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Video from Marilla Civil War Days

Marilla, New York held its 14th Annual Civil War Days the weekend of July 29 & 30, 2017. The weekend was packed full of activities, including a ladies period tea party, artillery demonstrations, candlelight tours, a period dance and church service, and of course battle reenactments. Participating units included the 1st TN, 4th SC, 21st GA, 42 VA, 138th NY, 200th IN, Maxwell’s Battery, and more! Music for this video is “The Secesh (Shiloh)” by John Hartford, from the compilation album Songs Of The Civil War (1991).

New Mexico State University’s Haunted Halls

If you believe the rumors, students at New Mexico State University share their campus with quite a few phantom coeds.

  • Founded in 1888, New Mexico State University is the oldest public university in New Mexico.
  • Rhodes-Garrett-Hamiel Residence Center, Goddard Hall, and the former Hershel Zohn Theatre are all believed to be haunted.
  • Goddard Hall, the engineering building, is believed to be haunted by the building’s namesake, Ralph Willis Goddard.

Founded in 1888 as Las Cruces College, New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, New Mexico is the oldest public university in New Mexico. With a student enrollment of around 18,400, it is also the second largest four-year university in the state. The university is known for its extensive collections and research. The Zuhl Museum is home to a world-class collection of ancient fossils. Not to be confused with Zuul, demigod and gatekeeper of Gozer, “The Destructor,” the Zuhl Library and Museum at NMSU is named after benefactors Herb and Joan Zuhl.

The university itself is rumored to be home to a number of phantoms. The ghost of a laundress, or at least that of a young woman who is helpful with the laundry, is said to inhabit the laundry room at Rhodes-Garrett-Hamiel Residence Center. Students say she was either a student who committed suicide or who died after falling down the stairs. Regardless, she has been accused of folding laundry while students are away.

Rhodes-Garrett-Hamiel Residence Center was built in 1955 and named after Eugene Manlove Rhodes and Elizabeth Garrett, both authors, and longtime NMSU secretary Flora Hamiel. According to another legend, which may be transplanted from Goddard Hall, a student either hung himself or jumped from the bell tower over the Garrett Building.

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Artillery Demonstration at Marilla Civil War Days

Battery K – 1st U.S. Artillery reenactment group (Maxwell’s Battery) demonstrates firing a Civil War cannon at the 14th Annual Marilla Civil War Days, July 29, 2017. Music is “Fort McHenry Quickstep” by 2nd United States Artillery & Fort McHenry Guard Fife and Drum Corps.

Battle of Big Sandy Creek

Lake Ontario was strategically vital during the War of 1812. Over water, the British could easily send men and supplies from their Canadian colony into the other Great Lakes or use waterways to strike inland. Likewise, the Americans could use the lake as a route to attack Canada. Sackets Harbor in Upstate New York was an important naval yard and key to American control of Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River.

The quickest way to transport vital ship-building supplies from the Brooklyn Naval Yards on Long Island to Sackets Harbor was by river to Albany, from Albany to the Mohawk River, to Wood Creek and Oneida Lake, and finally the Oswego River to Lake Ontario. British destruction of Fort Ontario at the mouth of the Oswego River complicated things, however. The supplies had to be transported at night past patrolling British ships in Lake Ontario.

On the night of May 28, 1814, Major Daniel Appling and Lieutenant Melancthon Taylor Woolsey were transporting supplies north to Sacketts Harbor in 19 boats, along with 150 riflemen. A contingent of 120 Oneida braves accompanied the shipment along the shoreline. A boat somehow floated off course and was captured by the British.

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Detroit: A Gripping Historical Drama

Detroit (2017), written by Mark Boal and directed by Kathryn Bigelow, dramatically recounts an incident in which three black men were allegedly murdered by police at the Algiers Motel during the 1967 Detroit Riot. Detroit grabs you and never lets go. Unfortunately, its subject matter might be a little too weighty for summer movie audiences. Bigelow, whose other films include The Hurt Locker (2008), K-19: The Widowmaker (2002), and Zero Dark Thirty (2012), set out to make a film critical of white privilege, so certain elements have been changed to conform to this perspective. In some ways the actual events were much worse than depicted.

First, some context. In 1950, Detroit was a diverse, prosperous, and culturally significant metropolis of 1.85 million people. It was arguably among the greatest cities in the United States. By 1967, Detroit was 40 percent African American, but its police force was 95 percent white. Migration to the suburbs had already caused significant population decline. The 1967 Detroit Riot (also known as the 12th Street Riot) began around 3:15 a.m. Sunday, July 23, 1967, after police raided an illegal after hours party in the office of the United Community League for Civic Action at 9125 12th Street.

The riot lasted five days, ending on July 27. Michigan Governor George W. Romney sent in the National Guard and President Lyndon B. Johnson sent in the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions to help restore order. When the dust settled, 43 people were dead, 1,189 injured (including 493 police, firefighters, and National Guard members), and 7,231 arrested. 2,509 stores were looted or burned, with an economic loss estimated at $40 to $45 million.

Three men, Aubrey Pollard (Nathan Davis Jr.), 19, Carl Cooper (Jason Mitchell), 17, and Fred Temple (Jacob Latimore), 18, were killed at an annex of the Algiers Motel, 8301 Woodward Avenue. Pollard was killed by Detroit Police Officer Ronald August (“Demens” – Jack Reynor), Temple was killed by Detroit Police Officer Robert Paille (“Flynn” – Ben O’Toole), and Cooper’s murderer remains unknown. Police officers involved in the incident were acquitted by reason of self defense at trial, so their names were changed for the film.

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Shades of Gray: Apparition at Ghost Alley

The following is an excerpt of a short story from my book Shades of Gray: Strange Tales from the Old Dominion, now available exclusively on Amazon Kindle. Order it today for only $2.99.

Dayton Lisafeld had listened attentively to the tour guide all afternoon, despite the unrelenting summer sun beating down on Fort Monroe and Chesapeake Bay. The stone walls of the fort were even hot to the touch, but they had withstood the test of time since Simon Bernard, a former aide to the great Corsican general Napoleon Bonaparte, designed them nearly two centuries ago to be the strongest in North America.

The tour guide was a woman in her early thirties with a pear-shaped body and curly brown hair. She possessed a sunny, even charming, disposition, despite her uncomfortably tight khaki shorts and the rivers of sweat that ran down her forehead. She told the assembled group about how Captain John Smith had built Fort Algernourne in 1609 at the present site of Fort Monroe, and how the current fort, upon completion in 1834, was known as the “Gibraltar of Chesapeake Bay.” She stopped to explain that the name was an allusion to the Rock of Gibraltar, one of the “Pillars of Hercules” in Greek mythology, before moving on to Fort Monroe’s role in the Civil War.

Dayton shifted nervously and waited for the tour to finish. His parents and he were on vacation and had spent the night at the Chamberlin Hotel on Old Point Comfort at the tip of the Virginia Peninsula, just southwest of the base. That night, as his parents were settling down to bed, he decided to go for a walk in the cool night air. Because Fort Monroe was still an active military instillation, he had to be careful as he walked the deserted streets. That’s when he saw it—the thing he desperately wanted to ask his tour guide about, but he was too embarrassed in front of his parents, the Asian couple with the sunglasses, the fourth grade history class and their teacher, and—most importantly—the three girls who were already giggling and pointing at him.

“This was the only fort in the South that never fell into Confederate hands,” the tour guide continued. She could see the fourth graders were getting restless in the heat, so she moved the group closer to the Casemate Museum and the shade. “From here, Major General Benjamin Butler ordered that all slaves who escaped to Union lines would be considered contraband and not returned to their former masters. Can anyone tell me what this order was called?” No one raised their hands. “It was known as the Fort Monroe Doctrine,” the tour guide explained without losing her smile.

Dayton’s mind drifted back to the previous night. He was walking not far from where the tour group was now, on the other side of a cluster of military apartments. It was dark, almost pitch black. The moon was just a sliver and hidden behind wispy, gray clouds. A street lamp buzzed and hummed, and its soft, bluish light barely illuminated the lamp itself. Dayton got a chill, and he stopped. Something in the back of his mind—nothing more than a feeling, really—warned him not to continue down that street.

He looked at the apartment windows. They were all dark. Not a single person was awake. That was strange enough, given that it was only—he looked down at his cell phone. It was already past midnight. When he looked back up at the street, a cool breeze drifted past and he caught a whiff of the ocean. He no longer felt alone. The street was as empty as it had been before, but now that feeling in the back of his mind grew more insistent. That primitive primate’s brain that warned his distant ancestors of a predator’s approach told him to run.

So he did. He ran from the narrow avenue until he was safely back at the hotel.

“Confederate President Jefferson Davis was held prisoner here, in this building, for two years after the war,” the tour guide related. “Now, I’m going to take you into the museum, where you will see a recreation of his cell. The conditions of his imprisonment were terrible. Kids, try to imagine if your bedrooms looked like this!” A few of the adults laughed.

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