John Luther Bryant was a happy guy as he drove down the dusty roads of rural Pickens County, Alabama. Life was good on the family farm where he and his spinster sister, Miss Grace Bryant, worked to scratch out a living and raise enough food and chickens to support themselves while enjoying the peace and quiet of a simple country lifestyle.
John was a man of diminutive stature, some attributing that to poor nutrition as a child. But he was strong, sinewy, and lithe — physical attributes he proudly put to good use working his day job as a sanitation engineer (garbage man) for the City of Gordo, Alabama.
As John drove into town he had no reason to suspect the fate he was about to face. As was his regular practice, John and his coworker rode on the back of the Gordo garbage truck doing their regular route. They hopped off at each house to empty the trash and then get back onto the truck to ride to the next block.
As the truck rumbled down the uneven streets of Gordo, the unexpected happened and John’s number was called. Continue reading “The Face in the Window”
By June 1863, the Confederates had won some major victories at Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg, although they paid a heavy price with the loss of the legendary Stonewall Jackson. Tragically, he was killed by some jumpy Confederate pickets who had mistaken him and his troops for Northerners.
Lee wanted to seize the momentum by moving into Northern territory through Maryland and Pennsylvania. His hope was to catch the Union army off guard and also to move the war away from the impoverished fields of Virginia and other parts of the South and take advantage of the fertile fields and plentiful livestock in Maryland and Pennsylvania.
Stonewall Jackson’s old 2nd Corps., now under the command of General Richard Ewell, who had lost a leg at Second Bull Run, marched into Pennsylvania headed toward Carlisle, while another army under the command of Major General Jubal Early, marched toward York and Harrisburg, which was the railroad center for the North. The Confederate Army continued to push North into Pennsylvania, using livestock, food, wagons, and clothing taken from Pennsylvania civilians (with a promise to pay them Confederate money once the war was won).
There was no thought of engaging in battle in Gettysburg, but rather one of the greatest battles ever fought on American soil began as a routine mission to obtain shoes. Continue reading “Civil War Sesquicentennial, Part Two: Gettysburg”
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the American Civil War or, as my friends in the South prefer to call it, the “War of Northern Aggression.” By whatever name, it was the bloodiest war in American history. There were more than 620,000 casualties (in a country with a total population of only 32 million) — more than all the wars we have been immersed in through present conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.
Recently I had the opportunity to tour the battlefields of Antietam in Sharpsburg, Maryland, and Gettysburg, nestled in the rolling hills and farmland of Pennsylvania. Walking the wide expanse of fields, climbing the hills, and traversing the countryside was a moving and inspiring experience I am honored to share with you.
Years of debate, rancor, and strong feelings, including fist fights and worse, among members of Congress, culminated in the election of Abraham Lincoln, the prairie lawyer from Illinois, to the Presidency of the United States in 1860. Lincoln’s platform did not mandate the abolition of slavery, but rather pledged to prevent it from being extended into new states and territories in the United States. Nevertheless, zealots on both sides of the issue pressed their positions and unrest continued to fester after Lincoln was sworn in.
Continue reading “Civil War Sesquicentennial, Part One”