This Endless Search for Historical Markers

Saving history one day at a time

Archive for January 2009

A foray North and (later) a Missed opportunity

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Picking up from where I left off, which was . . . was . . . oh yeah: me lamenting that I’m not in a position to get chased by angry horseman in a foreign territory. Yikes. Of all the things to lament about. I dont know who put that tonic in my coffee. But I’ll find out. And then they’ll pay.

I honestly do wish for more adventure (not the x-games variety, though) in my life and I get the twitch in my legs when I come across photographs of a time when mortgage was a foreign word (although I still have a hard time spelling it) and when I was free to get into all sorts of trouble. Recently I came across this gemstone:welsh-mountainsNow, I’m not sure if this image falls under the category of preening, posturing or just straight posing but that is one nice ‘stache eh? This picture is a self shot (I have incredibly long arms) taken whilst on a three or four day solo hike in Wales.54431391507_0_alb31092391507_0_alb10953391507_0_alb Days were spent trudging head down in the cold, blowing drizzle while at night I tried unsuccessfully to lure free ranging sheep to my bivouac with the hopes of either radiant warmth or pirated mutton. 38943391507_0_albIn other words I slept cold, wet and hungrily unsatisfied (my meals were of the canned, cold and perhaps spoiled variety. One can never fully understand the songs of the belly unless they are sung at a particular pitch. In this case the note was a low E, popular with American tourists in Central America as an urgent, sonorous note (some would even say melancholy).

Now then, where was I?

Leaving Statham, Georgia and The Stoneman Raid behind I proceeded West to Winder and on to Lawrenceville, the seat of Gwinnett County. Normally I have only disparaging things to say about Gwinnett County. And this case is no different. There is a massive slogan painted on a tower in North Atlanta that reads: “Success Lives Here” and “Gwinnett Is Great”. 528758426_80034258a5What lives in Gwinnett County is the pervasive notion that any growth is good growth and the more graded, paved landscapes the better. Gwinnett County used to be wooded and rural (sort of) now it is a complex of 4 lane highways flanked, virtually without interruption, by the kind of strip-mall development that most Americans have come to disdain. I know that, to some, these arguments are very trite and overused, but spend a few rush hours in August trying to get around, and see what you think then.

Ugh. I apologize.

Gwinnett County is named for Button Gwinnett, signer of the Declaration of Independence, Georgia Politician and unsuccessful dueler .buttongwinnettbutton-gwinnett-duel-sketch4727

Button had a particularly nasty relationship with a character named Lachlan McIntosh; their feud growing from a military appointment given to Lachlan over Button. The years did not quell their enmity and, apparently, only pistols at dawn could bring satisfaction to their quarreling. Alas! When pride conquers all.

For more information, please see an article written on Button by GHS’s own Stan Deaton in the New Georgia Encyclopedia: http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/Article.jsp?id=h-2543. And many thanks to Stan for being a kind editor and not lambasting me over my historical vagaries.

By early afternoon I reached Gainesville, Georgia, searching for the cast bronze tribute to Gen. James Longtreet. Gainesville was the post war home of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s “old war horse”. Growing up, Longstreet was my favorite figure from the Civil War and I felt personally offended when I read that he was criticized for not pushing the action at the conclusion of the first day at Gettysburg. Granted, my impression of the General was partly shaped because he was played by Tom Berenger in the movie “Gettysburg”. fanfav5largeAt the time (I was 12) I was a big Berenger fan. Classic roles in “Platoon” and “Major League” (I was also a catcher and, though he clearly was a terrible baseball player, he nailed the essence of the salty veteran) made him a favorite in my register. And, come on, who doesn’t love a huge fake beard1386-7141 and film full of melodrama and terrible southern accents. The scene below features men born no where near the south playing iconic Confederates. Martin Sheen is especially gothic.

I actually enjoyed the movie, and I loved the book “The Killer Angels” by Michael Shaara. The book was my first experience with the history of the Civil War and (at age 11) I became enamored by Longstreet and his little utilized belief in defensive warfare. I once met a Englishman who studied military history and it was his opinion that Longstreet was the Father of modern warfare (he said modern warfare but through our conversation it was clear he meant early 20th century modern or trench warfare). Hmm. I don’t know about that, but it is interesting.

The Longstreet marker was missing, of course, but that did not dampen my spirits as I strolled around a surprisingly walkable downtown Gainesville and enjoyed fantastic autumn weather. (see video below)

While exploring I started playing with the shutter functions of my camera and realized that I can take photos in rapid succession. See below for a visual tour of Courthouse Square in Gainesville, GA.

Next: A steep climb, and a sadness at dusk.

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Written by 4baldtires

January 15, 2009 at 11:24 am

Posted in Travel Journal

Goats LOVE Privett

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I left Athens and drove to Crawford, GA by way of US highway 78. Although now a major artery, the road largely follows the old transportation route between Augusta and Athens and along this path a traveler passes through many historic communities, some even dating back to the late colonial period. My host for the next couple of nights, Tim Walsh, has had a very active hand in the preservation of several of these historic properties. Tim has actually done some really interesting work over the past decade or so: brick masonry on a house made with site fired bricks, (opposed to bricks made in a plant and shipped to the site. For those interested in old school building techniques, you should research this. Essentially you make a beehive structure of wet mud bricks and light a fire in the middle) timber framing, log cabining (?) stone masonry and just about everything else one could do to an old house.

Tim’s house is rife with hilarity but also life threatening danger. Really. I’m not kidding. Smirk if you must but I’d like to see how you’d feel with 10 sharp claws at your neck with all the strength of 10lbs of tabbied flesh behind it (some will recognize the assailants) enemies-2I’m lucky I made it out of there alive. Throughout the night I was visited by these fluffy apparitions who used my head and neck like a whetstone (I was also visited by a not so fluffy, very tangible dog named Cornbread Cornbreadwho did nothing to dissuade my attackers and was only interested in swiping a slice of my pillow).

In the morning after dragging my self off of the couch (who needs sleep when you have excitement!) I emerged to an absolutely glorious morning (see video below). A cup of coffee later I strolled out among the wild brood as I took in the pastoral serenity of Oglethorpe County.dsc00907dsc00909

The most amusing member is Tim’s family is his goat Ike. dsc00911dsc00912dsc00915Ike really misses his old girlfriend Tina. His life just aint as fulfilling without her. We all know how much Ike loves Tina.

After leaving the farm I headed west to Lawrenceville by way of Statham and Winder and from there to Gainesville, (a place that must be populated with yankees and Floridians, cause I can’t image why a Georgian would ever want to live in a city so foully named) Baldwin and back down to Daniellsville (see future posts).

It was in the vicinity of Statham (Barrow County) and Athens that the bumbling Stoneman Raid took place in 1864 (see Gen. Stoneman’s gallant visage below). Perhaps bumbling is too severe an adjective. Bumbling is what I do when I ride a horse, I’m sure these Blues were fine horseman. Ill fated would do better; perhaps jarringly unsuccessful. Wait I get jarred in the saddle, these guys just failed.

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There are many Historical Markers dedicated to this event (see below) and, unless my emotional receptors are fouled, I can detect a little smear of pride in the marker text; written as they were about a glaring Union upstaging on sacred Georgia soil. But, heck, who am I to judge. Stoneman was, after all, the highest ranking Union officer captured during the war.

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The events of the raid, the capture and and the successful flight by some of Stoneman’s officers are more pieces of a history (an Adventure!) that I have hard time comprehending. These men must had suckled on pure adrenaline for days on end. A Narrative of the raid was written by a General Capron (who was actually 60 during the battle!). stoneraidinsidecover1webstonemanraidcover1webgeneral-horace-capron-th He and his two sons were members of the party that fled and his account provides details of an unbelievably stirring event. Capron tells of riding bare back through rapids and hiding deep in swamps to escape Confederate pursuers. I find myself being romantically drawn into these unimaginable set of circumstances whereby their lives flourished (or floundered). The rules that governed them during the war have little resonance in our time. It is a curse of this age. Oh well, I bet there is something good on TV.

TV Gut

More to come . . .

Written by 4baldtires

January 7, 2009 at 11:06 am

Posted in Uncategorized