Thomas J. Jackson’s Values

Recently, I heard someone talking about “values”…but I was frustrated because he did not define what his values were. He was speaking in broad, generalized terms which may be interpreted as one chooses.

It is true that each person has a set of beliefs (values) by which they will judge and interpret the world around them. Those values will influence the person’s words, actions, and reactions.

Throughout history we can find examples of value sets influencing actions and outcomes. Positive and negative examples. I suppose I could “preach a sermon” on the lack of strong moral values leading to the downfall of nations, but I’d rather think positively today.

After all, it’s the anniversary of Thomas J. Jackson’s birthday. (If he was alive, he’d be 191 years old!) Umm…who’s Thomas J. Jackson? Well, maybe one of his military nicknames will give you a clue: STONEWALL. (“There stands Jackson like a stonewall. Rally behind the Virginians!”)

General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, 1863  (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, 1863
(Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Ready for the 1 paragraph biography of “Stonewall” Jackson? Here goes. Thomas J. Jackson was a hard-working individual who survived a difficult childhood, attended West Point, served gallantly in the Mexican-American war, and became a professor at Virginia Military Institute. He was a devout Christian and was respected in his community. With the outbreak of the American Civil War, Jackson sided with his state of Virginia and became a Southern hero for his defense of the Shenandoah Valley in 1862. His military victories continued to advance the cause of the South, until his death from wounds and pneumonia on May 10, 1863.

Whew – I did it! (Read James I. Robertson’s “Stonewall Jackson: The Man, The Soldier, The Legend” for the full story.)

In honor of Jackson’s birthday and in remembrance of his decisive and upright values, I thought I’d share a few quotes. Enjoy!

“You can be whatever you resolve to be.”

“Sacrifice your life rather than your word.”

“The subject of becoming a herald of the cross has often seriously engaged my attention, and I regard it as the most noble of all professions. It was the profession of our divine Redeemer and I should not be surprised were I to die upon a foreign field, clad in ministerial armor, fighting under the banner of Jesus. What could be more glorious? But my conviction is that I am doing good here, and that for the present I am where God would have me be.” (1851)

“If you desire to be more heavenly minded, think more of the things of Heaven and less of the things of Earth.” (1854)

“Nothing justifies profanity.” (1861)

“Captain, my religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death. I do not concern myself about that, but to be always ready, no matter when it may overtake me. Captain, that is the way all men should live, and then all would be equally brave.” (1861)

“War means fighting. The business of the soldier is to fight. Armies are not called out to dig trenches, to throw up breastworks, to live in camps, but to find the enemy and strike him; to invade his country, and do him all possible damage in the shortest possible time. This will involve great destruction of life and property while it lasts; but such a war will of necessity be of brief continuance, and so would be an economy of life and property in the end. To move swiftly, strike vigorously, and secure all the fruits of victory is the secret of successful war.”

“However dark the night, I am cheered with an anticipated glorious and luminous morrow…. No earthly calamity can shake my hope in the future so long as God is my friend.” (1851)

Happy Birthday, General Jackson!

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

P.S. What did “Stonewall” Jackson believe was important? What are your values? Share your thoughts below in a comment.

Hannibal’s Alps & Life’s Challenges

The Italian Alps

Forbidding mountains reaching to touch the sky. Beyond them hostile, enemy armies. What to do? Where to go? Forward.

In 218 B.C. a Carthaginian general and his army cross the Italian Alps and entered the heartland of the Roman Republic. The general was Hannibal, a man considered by his peers and later historians to be one of the greatest generals of ancient history. During January 2015 our history posts on Fridays will be examining the leadership and historical account of this momentous undertaking.

You might have a lot of questions right now, so lets do some fast facts on the topic.

1. Exactly how long ago did this event happen? 218 BC is two hundred and eighteen years before Christ was born, so approximately 2,233 years ago. By the way, I’m old-fashioned and like to use BC (Before Christ) rather than BCE (Before The Common Era)

2. Where on earth was Carthage? In North Africa, modern day Tunisia. Carthage was founded by Phoenician exiles (more about that next week) and was the Roman Republic’s main rival in the Mediterranean region. Both Carthage and Rome wanted to destroy each other and they fought the Punic Wars. Hannibal crossed the Alps during the Second Punic War.

3. So if Carthage is in Africa, why was Hannibal in Europe? Great question! Carthage had colonies in Spain; Hannibal was the general in that region. He was fighting both native European tribes and the Romans. He actually went through the Pyrenees, crossed the Rhone River, and headed for the Alps with a Roman army on his heels.

4. What time of year was it when Hannibal got to the Alps? Late autumn. Snowstorms were a problem. (Understatement). However, the general knew if he delayed, the Roman provinces in Italy would have time to raise an army to oppose him. He wanted to be there and ready to fight in the spring, while the Romans were still squabbling about who should lead their army.

5. Why is this important in history? It’s the first time in known military history that an army crossed the Alps. And remember, these are the days before radios, tanks, and really warm uniforms; the Carthaginians had elephants, horses, and wood fires. (More on the elephants later!) Hannibal fought the Romans in their own territory, but, as we shall study later on, he was not ultimately successful. However, the invasion of their homeland, prompted the Roman Republic to organize a powerful military force which became their tool to conquer the Mediterranean world.

My Thoughts

I’m excited to write about this topic. I enjoy ancient history…well, if you haven’t guess by now…I enjoy all eras of history.

I was thinking about the leadership challenges Hannibal faced today as I was struggling through a not fun editing project. At the moment it felt like the “insurmountable Alps” were looming before me. I was tired. (I needed a coffee break). But I was determined to get the project finished. And one word, one sentence, one paragraph at a time, I was able to finish the task. Right now, it’s all good. The work’s finished, and I get a relaxing Friday evening (Huzzah!), but that wouldn’t have happened if I quit. And Hannibal wouldn’t have almost conquered Rome if he quit in the mountains.

So, just my thoughts as we introduce the Carthaginians and their trek across the Alps: Don’t give up. Remember why you’re “fighting.” And remember…the “plains of Italy” will be in sight, if you continue the upward climb!

Happy Friday and Weekend! Best wishes and encouragement for whatever “upward climb” of life you’re facing right now…go on, it’s worth the view of success from the top.

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

P.S. Your thoughts on Hannibal’s Crossing of the Alps and the metaphor to life’s challenges? Had you heard of Hannibal before? What challenges are you facing right now?

Remember. Honor. Teach.

Last Saturday (December 13, 2014) I helped place fresh evergreen wreaths on the graves of veterans and fallen soldiers in Miramar National Cemetery. It was a thought-provoking event. At a certain moment thousands of people in that cemetery (and in cemeteries across America) laid a wreath on a grave and said the hero’s name aloud. Our defenders are not forgotten.

The organization, Wreaths Across America, seeks to “Remember, Honor, Teach” by working with communities to provide wreaths for the graves in national cemeteries. Local and national organizations can donate to help pay for this service. It was special to see so many local organizations coming together to donate and help place the wreaths: Civil Air Patrol, Young Marines, Sea Cadets, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Daughters of the American Revolution, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Active Military, Military Wives’ Clubs, and ordinary citizens.

I was honored to place a wreath on the grave of a neighbor and dear friend. Later, I placed wreaths on the graves of people I didn’t know. It was a moving experience to trace the chiseled name and say it clearly in the still air before laying the wreath on the white marble.

In the hustle of the Christmas season it was appropriate to take a moment to remember our fallen defenders, to pray for their families, and thank God for our service members serving today.

Remember. Honor. Teach.

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

Here are some photos from the event. (Click on one photo to view all as a gallery).



Why Virginia?

I’m about 10 days away from attending the largest Civil War Re-enactment west of the Mississippi River…and yes, I’m excited. This will be the third year I’ve participated, but the first year that I get to take my own living history group to the event. Right now, I’m busy prepping the packing lists, finishing some sewing projects, and anticipating (and somewhat dreading) ironing the civilian costumes. (Each skirt is five yards of fabric!)

Since I’ve started portraying a member of the Virginian McGuire Family, I’ve noticed that one question a lot of spectators ask is “are you related to the family?” The answer is “no, unfortunately I’m not.” Then they usually get a curious look and ask, “Then why are you portraying Miss McGuire?” That’s a good question.

Short answer: I greatly admire Margaretta McGuire and her family. Long answer: I’m launching some extensive research projects about Virginian civilians and military leaders during the war and I needed to streamline my living history endeavors and research. I started searching for a Virginia family. Through studies of General “Stonewall” Jackson I knew about his surgeon – Dr. Hunter McGuire. A bit of historical paper-trails led to the re-discovery of Hunter’s family. When I found Miss Margaretta and learned that she lived in Winchester for the whole war (surviving 48 enemy occupations of the town) I knew I’d found someone special. Further research has revealed the strength of Miss Margaretta’s character, her godly life, and her willingness to fulfill a “daughter at home” role in family life.

Miss Margaretta

Miss Sarah as Margaretta McGuire

So “Why Virginia? How did your interest start there?” Well, Virginia is one of cornerstone states for the Confederacy during the Civil War. It is also one of the most war torn states since a lot of fighting happened there. The political advantages of Virginia, its strategic military location, and citizens’ tenacity are fascinating to me. But, ultimately, it is the people of Civil War Virginia and their personal stories set in that extreme tide of war that captivate me…

As I survey my Virginia histories and biographies (either on the shelf, stacked on my desk, or scattered around my study room), I feel “at home.” This feeling is difficult to put into words, but the history of these Virginians is welcoming and fascinating. I’m proud to say that in my living history persona and favorite area of study: Virginia Is My Home.

Enjoy this song from the soundtrack of “Gods and Generals.” Its sweeping melody is one of my favorites, and it wordlessly communicates the pride, enthusiasm, and honor of Civil War Virginia.

See you at Moorpark 2014?

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

P.S. Last post on the Shenandoah Valley during the Autumn 1864 on Friday!

Photos from Tom’s Farm Civil War Re-enactment 2014

Last Saturday I spent a busy day at Tom’s Farm Civil War Re-enactment. From 10am to 6pm I asked research questions, talked with friends, made new acquaintances, and absorbed the military setting. This is where the daydreams for new stories and historical projects begin.

I thought I’d share a couple of the best photos from the event. Enjoy! (You can click on one of the photos to see them all in larger format and as a slideshow).

Mark your calendars – Moorpark Civil War Re-enactment (the largest one west of the Mississippi River) is the second weekend of November! Expect to see a few more posts about this event as it draws nearer…

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

P.S. Leave a comment if you have a favorite photo – I’d appreciate it! Back to the Shenandoah Valley on Friday… What was General Sheridan’s surprise early on the morning of October 19, 1864?

Attending a Re-enactment (As a Spectator)

This coming weekend is the Civil War Re-enactment at Tom’s Farm in Corona, California. Here’s a link for more event info. By the way, “McGuire Home, Winchester, Virginia,” Living History Group is NOT encamping at this event.

A Military Camp at a Re-enactment

A Military Camp at a Re-enactment

Anyway, as I prepare to go on a research trip at this event, I thought I’d share my “packing” list and tips for attending a re-enactment as a spectator. (Now the packing list for when I go as a re-enactor looks very different – maybe I’ll share some of that next month…)

Here’s what I stuff in my trusty backpack when I’m doing a research trip at an event:

  • Water, Water, Water (it’s cheaper to carry it than buy it, believe me)
  • Lunch – I prefer peanut butter sandwich, apple, carrots, and a cookie or two (eating the carrots is optional…sometimes you should share with a horse, if the cavalryman gives permission)
  • Snack – never know how late you’re staying
  • Blanket or Towel – this is much nicer to sit on if you manage to get a “front row seat” at the battle or band concert
  • 1 or 2 Research Books (I usually take the ones with maps of the topics I’m exploring; it can be helpful for very in-depth discussions)
  • Camera – I usually take at least 50 photos during a battle and get only 1 or 2 good pictures (I either need a better camera, more skill, or those guys need to stop moving so quickly) One of the best photos from last year is at the end of this post.
  • Notepad – I usually carry this in my hand; I prefer a small size with a hard “backboard”  Warning: if you choose to carry a notepad, be prepared for the “are you a reporter?” questions
  • Pens – have to have something to write with…and carry at least two
  • Event Schedule – I like to plan what I’m going to see and do throughout the whole day
  • Wallet – never know when you’re gonna find the book you need for research or the perfect gift at the sutlers’ tents (And sometimes it costs to attend the event!)
  • Cellphone – just in case you need to call 911 because a cannon started a fire (yes, I’ve seen it happen)

Other things you should not forget:

  • Directions – how to get to the event (it’s no fun to get lost and know that you’re missing the artillery demonstration that you really wanted to see)
  • Coffee or Tea – optional, but nice to have on the drive
  • Favorite CD – optional, but generally more encouraging than the radio news
  • Gallon of water – this is to wash the front and back windows when you’re ready to head home. Parking is often a dirt field and you may need to wash away the archaeological layers before leaving.

My simple advice for attending an event as a spectator is “You’re here to learn, not teach; so listen, and learn something new. Ask questions and don’t be a know-it-all.”

Happy learning adventures! See you in the field?

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

P.S. Don’t forget to check the introduction to Civil War Shenandoah 1864. This coming Friday we’ll start the military campaign details. Leave a comment if you’re looking forward to this month’s topic…or if you’ve thought of something that’s not on my packing list!

Here's one of the best photos from last year (2013). Check back next week for my best photos of the 2014 Tom's Farm Civil War Re-enactment!

Here’s one of the best photos from last year (2013).