Saturday, September 28, 2019

Society Never Condemned the Crimes of Communism in a Public Forum

Photo: Holodomor.png
I never forget that millions of victims of communism, including my Dad, died fighting tyranny born by a utopian philosophy. They all clashed with the communist party’s Marxist ideology when they opposed the confiscation of their homes, land, guns, and personal property. They objected to the lack of food, heat, water, proper medical care, medications, human rights, personal freedom, and a decent treatment as human beings.

When Margaret Thatcher once said, “The problem with socialism is that, at some point, you run out of other people’s money,” she was referring to the deliberate attempt by a centralized socialist government to confiscate by various means wealth they viewed as unfairly earned at the expense of the oppressed masses.

Marx said, himself the original hippie who never worked and was supported by rich patrons such as Friedrich Engels (he would have made a perfect Socialist Democrat politician in office today), the proletariat does all the work, it is only fitting that the rich share their “ill-gotten wealth.”

You’ve heard the phrase, “the rich must pay their fair share” repeated at nauseam by socialists like Bernie Sanders who has now become a millionaire in the capitalist society he despises while preaching to his followers a return to a simple life in order to save the planet from Armageddon.

What wealth did we equally “share” under socialism/communism?  The wealth confiscated and stolen by force by communist party apparatchiks after throwing in jail dissenting citizens for being “bourgeois.”

Speaking of the equality the social justice warriors demand through their pink loudspeakers while blocking busy intersections for those citizens who actually work for a living - we had equal misery, equal suffering, equal mistreatment, equal poverty, constant shortages of food, rationing of necessities, water, energy, heat, and rationing of medical care.

I don’t expect the social justice “warriors” to understand what it’s like to have a full-time job in which one produces something useful since they work as angry-for-hire agitators while living in mom and dad’s basement.

Classical socialists believed that socialism was an imperfect stage before communism – the means of production were owned by the state and workers were paid hourly for their work. As the communist motto said, “They pretended to pay us, and we pretended to work.”

I agree with Winston Churchill’s famous assessment, “Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.”

The failed experiment with socialism/communism at Jamestown, Virginia (1620), taught us that when people worked the land together, some were lazy and did much less work, while others, who worked harder, resented the slackers. The whole commune nearly starved to death before they returned to prior individual division of land after which the settlement thrived again.

Communism was supposed to abolish classes and the workers would have been paid for their needs not for the work they performed – “from each according to his ability, to each according to their need.” But who decided the need and the level of pay? Who received the higher pay? The answer is simple, the communist party elites and their loyal lackeys.

Sadly, today in America, we have built a permanent underclass that relies on welfare, being paid not to work, according to their needs determined by government bureaucratic charts developed to give dependence to the populace and enough to survive on. Thirty-five states pay more welfare per hour than a person earns working thus destroying the incentive to work. These are the low information voters, including illegal aliens, who are voting for communist living.

The supposed “classless” communist society did have two classes, the proletariat who called each other “comrades in chains” and the ruling elites. The controlling elites shared and used all the wealth as they pleased, according to their greedy wants.

Marxism has not worked and will never work because greed and jealousy are part of the human psyche. Not everyone is so altruistic that they are willing to work extremely hard for the good of everyone, knowing that those in power get their lion’s share of the divided pie.

Capitalism works because of self-interest. One individual’s hard work to achieve self-interest enables Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” to float everyone else’s boat. Marx himself said, “Capitalism is the most powerful mode of production available.” Waiting on the dole and the spreading of wealth is the death of initiative, self-respect, dignity, honor in a good day’s work, the pursuit of happiness, and the desire to improve one’s standing in society.

Self-interest also breeds charity. Communist elites were never charitable except to themselves. People living under communism were not charitable to strangers. They performed volunteer activities involuntarily under the forced direction of communist rulers. Everyone was spied on and watched by community organizers and snitches.

The proletariat hoarded food, enabled black markets, and engaged in bartering stolen goods or raw materials from work in order to survive. They even stole public items that were not fastened or nailed down if they could be sold for recycling.

Private property was forbidden because it created “unfair” competition. Anyone caught by the Economic Police with extra goods and belongings was sentenced to jail. But the ruling elite and their lackeys could own as much private property as they wished or as they could steal from the hapless proletariat and from the common means of production.

In the communist “utopia” I experienced, the proletariat was given free healthcare and free education heavily infused with communist indoctrination. The children of elites were chosen first for college education.

Health care was so dismal and pathetic, human life had no value. People were killed by malpractice in simple procedures; no accountability existed since everyone earned meager wages and worked for the omnipotent government that could not be sued. Doctors, nurses, teachers, and engineers were told where to live, where to practice their trade, and how much they could earn. People were forced to do everything in a communist society against their will.

Modern “socialists” in Europe run bankrupt welfare states with a nanny mentality of cradle to grave entitlements but with a substantial and large tax base collected from citizens and from large corporations to pay for it all. There is no such thing as a free meal, someone must pay for it, and it comes with strings attached.

Exceptionalism is punished, “global citizens” are shaped by socialist schools, and “group think” is rewarded. But most inventions of the modern world were the result of individual creativity and exceptional talent of one individual not of groups “brainstorming.”

Communist China did not start to make economic progress until the centralized communist bureaucracy lessened its iron grip on the population and allowed individual creativity and entrepreneurship to thrive. But now they control and “reward” citizens with social scoring for their good communist behavior. If they fail to measure up, they are denied traveling by plane, for example.

The U.S. has experienced the “Creeping Socialism” that Ronald Reagan and Friedrich von Hayek warned us about: government takeover of Chrysler, GM, student loan programs, banking and financial institutions, Obamacare, control of Internet, FCC radio programming content, attacks on Christianity, censorship on social media like Facebook, YouTube, Tweeter, and attacks on conservative speech and values.

Socialists hide behind political speech, clever euphemisms, rhetoric, deception, manipulation, lies, propaganda, class and racial division. Accusations of hate speech, bigotry, racism, homophobia, islamophobia are intended to stifle free speech.

Communist terms I left behind decades ago are now part of everyday politics: social justice, economic justice, social engineering, community organizing, nationalization, social democracy, redistributive change, equitable society, open society, social change, working class, communitarian, redistributive change.

Communism never died; it has rebranded itself across the world. It is making a comeback in the U.S. thanks to the Democrat Party, Communist Party U.S.A., Socialist Party of America, teachers, college professors, unions, ignorant Americans on welfare, Occupy Wall Street movement, ANTIFA, Black Lives Matter, main stream media, and United Nations Agenda 21/2030, the design of global communism.

Norman Matoon Thomas (1884–1968), a leading American socialist and six-time presidential candidate for the Socialist Party of America, explained best the status of socialism in the U.S.

“The American people will never knowingly adopt socialism. But, under the name of liberalism, they will adopt every fragment of the socialist program, until one day American will be a socialist nation, without knowing how it happened.” He continued, “I no longer need to run as a presidential candidate for the Socialist Party. The Democrat Party has adopted our platform.” It appears that they have reached that goal. Numerous members of Congress have openly declared their affiliation with the Socialist Party and the Communist Party USA.

We are governed by progressives disguised as public servants, our minds are molded by academia, priests and preachers, and main stream media socialists, our tastes are formed by communism-loving Hollywood, our ideas suggested by communists, and by men we have never heard of like George Bernard Shaw, a Fabian socialist and eugenicist, and by John Dewey, the most influential American Marxist and progressive  theorist of education and founder of our current public school teaching practice and ideology.

America is under siege, in a state of propaganda encouraging brainwashing of the population to support a socialist state. We are following in the failed multiculturalist footsteps of Europe, overrun by illegal aliens who demand amnesty, with no intention of assimilating. America is in no social and economic position to absorb so many millions without its self-destruction as a nation. We are being colonized from within by the socialist/communist tyranny of the oppressed.

We will lose private property, all accumulated wealth, the right to inheritance, the right to bear arms, and we will get in return centralized everything (transportation, communication, credit, means of production, technology), free education, equitable distribution of population density across permitted areas, and equal wages.

If we wonder why the sudden desire of young people to become socialists, look no further than your child’s teachers and history textbooks that glorify socialism/communism to impressionable students.

The Marxists, Bolsheviks, Leninists, Stalinists, Maoists, Castroists, Che Guevara worshippers, Pol Pot supporters, and other fellow travelers who have murdered 100 million people collectively in the name of communism since 1917, were never tried in a public setting like the Nuremberg trial for the Nazis which condemned National Socialism and its leaders. Communism was never really condemned in such a public forum. For this reason, young people believe that it was a benign part of world history that must be repeated by the right people who are smarter than the communist predecessors.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

A Train Ride to Remember

Frecciarossa, high speed train
Photo: Wikipedia
(no, our train was not this elegant and fast)
Several years ago we were on an overnight train in the south of France bound for Paris, a twelve-hour trip in a reclining car. The couchettes were all taken by a very large Canadian tourist group so the thirty-six of us had to make do with reclining chairs.

I was leading an American group of students and two parents who had little understanding of the dangers of traveling in Europe at night. They did not seem to be frightened by the presence of gypsies on the train who were harassing passengers by begging and threatening them with a very large dog the size of a large calf.

There was no police present and those few in uniforms who were supposed to check the passengers' tickets were hiding somewhere in a couchette so they wouldn't have to deal with the threatening gypsies and the frightened passengers who were accosted.

One fearless parent, a nurse, went for a smoke in the designated areas between cars, holding a glass of red wine. One of the gypsies (rroma as they like to be called, progressivism PC has infected Europe just as bad as the U.S.) must have put something in her glass when she did not pay attention (gypsies are famous for slight of hand and pickpocketing) and fell to the floor unconscious. It must have been a powerful narcotic - she slept for the entire 12-hour trip, did not wake until we arrived in Paris. We were afraid for her, so we made sure she laid back properly with un unobstructed airway.

Everyone was relieved when a group of mercenaries (French legionnaires) climbed into our car at the one and only stop before Paris, Le Havre.

The whispers heard were, "Thank God they are here, we are safe now from the gypsies." I was the only one still afraid, as I knew who the mercenaries were, so I moved my daughter in the window seat, away from the aisle.

I sparked a conversation with the two fierce-looking men seated across the isle who happened to be from the Ukraine. I knew Ukraine's history with fascism so their presence was uncomfortable to me to say the least.

I stayed up all night, making sure my daughter and the rest of the group were safe. We talked a bit in Russian, a bit in English, and found out that they were going on leave for a few days in Paris. The ever curious economist, I asked one of them how much the French Legion paid them. Europeans are quite candid about money and do not mind asking each other how much they make. These killers for hire were making about 20,000 euros a year.

Needless to say, the gypsies miraculously stopped coming through our car but I did not relax all night. When we got to Paris by 7 a.m., the two legionnaires I had befriended actually carried our luggage off the train like proper gentlemen and helped us to disembark. We thanked them graciously that they protected us from the gypsies.

Since then, it's been ten years ago, I've been uncomfortable taking trains in Europe. They can be quite comfortable but, you never know who can get on and off.

The Zinns of Revised History

Arlington National Cemetery established on land confiscated
Photo: Ileana Johnson
Elementary school students learn their first version of history from their College of Education licensed teachers. Some deliberately change historical facts to match their social engineering agenda or are too ignorant and lazy to research on their own and thus do not care what damage they inflict on their charges as long as nobody gets physically hurt while in their care and everybody has breakfast, preferably at the taxpayer expense. Once their minds are made up, nothing can change their reality - it becomes the solid rock chiseled by water over millennia.

Parents may be either too busy to check the validity and veracity of what their children learn in school, may agree with the teacher’s activism, or may themselves be ignorant and unmotivated to do anything about it, not caring that their kids’ minds will be forever imprinted with misinformation and social justice drivel. Very young students look at their teachers in awe as the ultimate arbiters of truth.

Middle school students may or may not escape the deliberate indoctrination, depending on how involved some parents are in their children’s homework and school and on how much information students bring home at the end of the day or discuss with their parents.

Middle school students may ask their teachers more difficult questions, depending on their personality and the teacher’s eagerness to answer inconvenient queries from Johnny who happens to be disruptive to her pre-prepared lesson plans pulled from the state-approved curriculum and textbooks.

By high school students have been exposed to a barrage of misinformation from various teachers who may or may not have had a personal socialist agenda, but they were using Common Core textbooks which emphasized collectivism and Islam to the detriment of Christianity and American history facts.

The textbooks used today around the country are almost exclusively Howard Zinn’s version of history published in 1980, A People’s History of the United States. Howard Zinn, a native of Brooklyn, New York, considered himself a radical. The 729-page book is overloaded with manufactured history told from the revised perspective of the downtrodden and the exploited. I am familiar with this heavy-handed indoctrination as our textbooks when I was growing up presented history from the Communist Party’s collectivist perspective.

According to Zinn’s book and other Common Core approved textbooks, America is a land of brutal racism and oppression of the downtrodden but economically is a great place because wealth was stolen from the slaves who made this abundance possible. It is our duty to pay reparations to black people whose ancestors were forced into slavery when they were sold to white men by their tribal brethren in Africa.

Most high schools and colleges in the United States are teaching their students that America was and is bad, yet the downtrodden of the world risk life and limb to cross our borders illegally. If it is so bad, and their third world cesspools so wonderful, why are they coming? Is it because the welfare is great, and money grows on trees?

George Orwell wrote that “The most effective way to destroy a people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.” If people cannot understand where they came from, who were those who have fought for their country and why, they become people without a compass who judge what happened in the past through the lenses of modern societal social trends. And our youth today is offended and triggered by anything that does not fit into their philosophical view of the global U.N. compact. 

When we sat in history class, the teacher gave us dates and her opinion of the events which may or may not have transpired as described, or the textbook writers’ opinion, or the government in power’s opinion of history. We understood who we were as a people based on this information or misinformation.

People with dementia forget their own family’s history, who they are, their families, and no longer connect to their tribe and its history. They are lost and confused. All their memories and experiences which had defined them, have been lost forever, in a jumbled mass of neurons. “Wipe out their memory and you erase their identity.” Wipe out their history and they become global citizens.

When you deliberately repeat in class ad nauseam America’s mistakes, while ignoring or omitting America’s successes, you prepare students who have no respect for their own culture, who are embarrassed by their own history.

Since Jimmy Carter’s department of education was established in 1979, progressives have been overtly promoting their dangerous socialist narrative meant to divide the nation and its accomplishments by constantly separating people by race, class, gender, and deviant sexuality and sowing the seeds of hatred, self-loathing, and revolution.

One of my Economics students decried the statistics in the textbook written by Democrat academics, saying that everything is divided by race, age, and gender.  In his opinion, the book, which had numerous editions, was biased and racist.

Academia, Hollywood, corrupt politicians, and the main stream media have invited real and imagined victims of “evil capitalism” which they elevated to a minority entitled to exercise the tyranny of the oppressed while the rest of us must pay reparations to those who have been mistreated by history. 

All traditions that have defined our culture, Thanksgiving, Presidents Day, raising the flag, singing the National Anthem, celebrating discoverers like Christopher Columbus, special holidays like Christmas, Easter, and other traditions have been replaced by ethnic holidays or cancelled altogether.

James Robbins described in a recent PraegerU video that we are now involved in a “non-violent civil war.” I am not sure if it is a civil war but the non-violent aspect of attacks is debatable if we consider the ANTIFA violence on campuses around the nation and in the streets. ANTIFA is a radical organization that fashions itself as anti-fascist but is fascist in the behavior of its masked members.

Even though America abolished slavery and many Americans, black and white, have lost their lives in the fight to end such an inhuman practice, the radical left continues to poison the minds of useful idiots with slavery while ignoring the actual slavery taking place in the Islamic world of Africa and the Muslim genocide against Christians.

Our country is portrayed as unjust even though we are the most tolerant nation on the planet today when it comes to accepting people from all over the world as long as they come here to make America greater than when they found it and are not here to fleece the generous welfare system.

All nations on the globe have been established and reshaped from land purchased, taken, given, won, occupied, or gained following wars and other means of partition. It has always been a struggle.

Our students should be taught that America, although not perfect, is still a land of opportunity if those seeking it assimilate and understand its history and culture from factual data, not collectivized and manufactured history to fit the radical agenda of Democrat Socialism.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Antietam 157 Years After the Bloody Battle

We drove one overcast and pleasant day to Antietam National Battlefield in Sharpsburg, MD, 157 years since the bloodiest battle took place. We stopped on the way to see the Washington Monument Park, taking the minor Zittelstown Road. The paved road narrowed to one lane, flanked by old buildings leaning from age, rust, and neglect and surrounded by so much collected junk overcome by wild vegetation that I expected rabbits to jump from the tall grasses and weeds. 

The hilly landscapes seemed deserted of humans. Yards and old homes were jutting walls and porches right at the edge of the twisted and narrow road. It looked like a higher being had decided to throw up ratty barns and homes in a landscape of noble and historical decrepitude.

Gen. Lee decided to take a stand on September 15, 1862 at Sharpsburg, Md, when he learned that Harpers Ferry, WV, had fallen. 

Sharpsburg was a 100-year old community with 1,200 residents. As William Snakenberg, a private from the 14th Louisiana, wrote, “That night we lay in line of battle behind a small brick church called the Dunkers Church, situated on the Hagerstown Turnpike, with arms, and ready to move at any moment.” 

On September 16, 1862, after Gen. McClellan had obtained a copy of Gen. Lee’s operations plan, Special Order 191, Union troops crossed Antietam Creek and engaged Gen. Lee’s left army at 6 p.m. The battle of Antietam took place on September 17, 1862 at dawn and lasted 12 hours, ending around 6 p.m.
Counting both sides, almost 100,000 soldiers were engaged in battle; 23,000 were reported dead, wounded, or missing. It is not definitive who won the battle, but the Union Army held the field. McClellan did not chase Lee’s retreating army and, as a result, he was relieved of his duty later by President Lincoln.

The Union leadership in the battle consisted of the following generals: George B. McClellan, Joseph Hooker, Joseph K.F. Mansfield, Edwin V. Sumner, and Ambrose E. Burnside.

The Confederate leadership was comprised of generals Robert E. Lee, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, James Longstreet, Daniel H. Hill, and Ambrose P. Hill.

The Dunker Church, built ten years earlier by “pacifist German Baptists Brethren became a focal point for Union attacks the morning of the battle.” The window frames of the original church were preserved with names and initials of soldiers carved onto the windowsills. The front pew and table are the only ones left from the original furniture.

Window ledge at Dunker Church engraved by one Henry Winters from New York

The 24-acre cornfield experienced the bloodiest fighting in U.S. history when Hooker’s and Mansfield’s Union soldiers fought Jackson’s Confederates for three hours. “Many regiments on both sides were cut to pieces. Hays’ Louisiana Brigade suffered over 60-percent casualties in 30 minutes.” It was poignant to watch a John Deere combine harvest corn on the same fields which had been soaked by the blood of brothers and fertilized by their corpses 157 years ago.

Cornfields today

In the West Woods more than 2,000 Union soldiers were killed or wounded in a mere 20 minutes. The North Woods saw the fight and Union attack led by Gen. Hooker who had spent the night on the Poffenberger farm.  In the East Woods there was fighting the night before the battle, a veritable volley of musket bullets. The Lower Bridge (Burnside Bridge) was held for three hours by 500 Confederate soldiers before Gen. Burnside and his Union soldiers captured it and were able to cross the Antietam Creek. The huge sycamore tree at the end of the bridge is still standing today – an early witness to history when it was just a young sapling.

Burnsides Bridge

The Sunken Road or Bloody Lane, a farm lane, experienced three hours of intense fighting between 2,200 Confederate soldiers and 10,000 Union forces held at bay. The fighting fell back to Piper Farm but the Union “had suffered too many casualties to pursue their advantage.”
William Childs, surgeon with the 5th New Hampshire Infantry said in October 1862, “When I think of the battle of Antietam, it seems so strange. Who permits it? To see or feel that a power is in existence that can and will hurl masses of men against each other in deadly conflict – slaying each other by the thousands… is almost impossible. But it is so – and why, we cannot know.”

Surgeon Charles Dunn, when he saw the number of bandages, lanterns, and food that Clara Barton had brought to his Antietam hospital, he nicknamed her “The Angel of the Battlefield.” Clara gave help to the wounded on both sides. The battle created “one vast hospital” as one Hagerstown newspaper wrote and a legion of amputees from the 17,000 wounded soldiers.

George Allen, a Union soldier, vividly described, “Comrades with wounds of all conceivable shapes were brought in and placed side by side as thick as they could lay, and the bloody work of amputation commenced.” Such was a field hospital back then – many fatalities were the result of disease acquired after medical care, not from actual battlefields.

The existence of 500 cannons, most of them 1,200 pounds of bronze barrels, created an atmosphere that most would describe as “artillery hell” on earth. Confederate artillery batteries were positioned on the bluff in the proximity of the Visitor Center today.

Mumma Farm today

Samuel and Elizabeth Mumma’s Farm was set on fire deliberately by Confederate soldiers who were ordered to burn it to prevent its use by Union sharpshooters. Samuel Mumma’s family had fled to safety before the battle. They tried to collect $10,000 in damages from the U.S. government at the time but were turned down and, according to the guides, referred to Confederate authorities for collection of damages. 

No civilians were killed in the horrible 12-hour battle because civilians took shelter in basements, caves, and nearby churches.  But they suffered for years and some have died from disease carried by some of the 80,000 soldiers who stayed for six weeks in their small community. 

In addition to extensive property damage, the small town of Sharpsburg found their homes, barns, and churches converted into more than 100 hospitals in dire need of supplies: food, clothes, blankets, bandages, and firewood. Their formerly fertile corn fields were now graves for almost 4,000 thousand fallen soldiers.

Union soldiers buried the bodies of both friends and foes.  The deceased found their hurried resting place in single or in shallow mass trenches. Photographer Alexander Gardner took pictures of the battlefield burials which he named “Graves of Federal soldiers at Burnside Bridge” and “Federal buried, Confederate unburied, where they fell.” Nobody had time to measure them for coffins or prepare them for a proper burial.

Roulette Farm today

William Roulette, whose farm was occupied by the troops, wrote: “The battle caused considerable destruction of property here. My nearest neighbor lost his house and barn by fire [Samuel Mumma]. I lost three valuable horses and sheep, hogs, poultry, vegetables, and indeed everything eatable we had about the house so that when we came back, we were obliged to bring provisions with us.” 

Following the Battle, the Roulette’s house and barn were utilized as hospitals for the wounded and 700 dead soldiers were buried hastily in their farm fields. Roulette continued, “Our youngest died since the battle, a charming little girl twenty months old, Carrie May – just beginning to talk.” She died of typhus.

Mumma Cemetery and Farm today

Not far from the farm is the Mumma Cemetery. Aside from local family members interred here, there are also veterans of other wars who were buried in this cemetery until the turn of the 20th century.  In 1870 the Mumma family deeded interest in this burial ground to local families so that “neighbors who suffered from war and came together to rebuild their community, now rest together in this peaceful enclosure.”

Some of the farm buildings still standing date back to 1760s and archeological digs had found in their proximity trash buried in the early 1800s which gave ample evidence of the life in these parts at that time.

The soldiers left behind letters and diaries, weapons, clothing, and whatever personal items and equipment they may have carried in order to record for posterity the bloodiest battle of a four-year civil war which defined our nation.
Captain James Hope of the 2nd Vermont Infantry, sketched the Battle of Antietam as he experienced it and, after the war, he painted panoramic works of art based on his sketches.

Alexander Gardner photograph
Museum Archives

Alexander Gardner took photographs of the fallen soldiers two days after the battle showing scenes of unimaginable death, like Hope’s painting.

A Bible from the Dunker Church was plundered by Sergeant Nathan Dykeman of the 107th New York Infantry. He brought it back to New York with him and kept it until his death in 1903. At that time, his sister gave it to the veterans of the regiment who returned to the church 41 years after the battle.

There is a photograph of President Lincoln, taken by Alexander Gardner a few weeks after the battle, speaking to General George McClellan, commander of the Union forces at Antietam. Because McClellan did not chase and destroy Gen. Robert E. Lee’s battered army as President Lincoln desired, he relieved McClellan of his command. McClellan challenged Lincoln for the presidency in 1864 but he lost to the war president.

The last unmarked battlefield burial was discovered in October 2008 on the historic David R. Miller farm.  A visitor in the park found bone fragments and a piece of leather at the mouth of a groundhog burrow.  Upon closer scrutiny, 24 different bone fragments from the skull, legs, and feet were unearthed. In addition, seven coat buttons, 3 New York State Excelsior and 4 U.S. general service, and New York State cuff buttons, state-issue for coat or jacket, and a Union waist belt plate with leather still attached to the back, were found. The remains of the soldier were reburied with full military honors on September 17, 2009 at the Saratoga National Cemetery.

“Twenty men received Medals for their gallantry on the Battlefield of Antietam. Three medals were awarded for action during the Battle of South Mountain on September 14, 1862. Among the recipients were Private Samuel C. Wright, 29th Massachusetts Infantry and First Lieutenant George W. Hooker, 4th Vermont Infantry.  “Hooker advanced alone and on horseback into the Confederate lines and captured more than one hundred southern soldiers and a Confederate battle flag.” Wright was involved in 30 battles and was wounded five times, assailing the Confederate position at Sunken Road.

Memorial to Ohio regiment

Memorial to Mississippi regiment

The Antietam National Battlefield is hallowed ground, a place of national reflection and remembrance. Monuments erected by different organizations, memorializing different regiments, are scattered across the fields where they fought and held positions.

Fieldwork in battlefield archeology led to discoveries and evidence of lines of fighting and how the armies were positioned and the direction they fired. Bullets, shell fragments, intact, unfired bullets dropped when loading guns helped them map the battlefield. Armies used a variety of weapons and ammunition and it was thus possible to identify the exact location of units and the firing lines. Artifacts were flagged, tagged, and GPS-ed.  

Antietam National Cemetery

The Antietam National Cemetery was dedicated in 1867 when disinterred Union soldiers were reburied there. President Andrew Johnson, seven governors, and more than 10,000 people attended the event. The Confederate soldiers were re-interred at three national cemeteries in the Maryland area, Fredrick and Hagerstown among them.

In 1933 the War Department transferred the battlefield to the National Park Service which has preserved the area with care to maintain the same roads, fields, forests, and houses in order to keep the landscape close to its September 1862 appearance. At the time, Civil War veterans were part of the Antietam Battlefield Board, which was established to research and guide the early preservation efforts. Through land acquisitions by different groups, the Antietam National Battlefield has grown from the original 65 acres to more than 3,000 acres by 2012.

Harvesting in progress on September 16, 2019

The fertile fields of corn and soybean have been enriched by the blood of brothers fighting brothers and the monuments stand testament to the fact that the events of that fateful day should never disappear from our history books or fade from collective memory because on that day, when thousands have sacrificed for what they believed in, America forever changed.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

A Visit to Harpers Ferry on Labor Day

B&O Railroad
Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, once a bustling government factory town with over 3,000 inhabitants in its heyday, is nestled in Jefferson County, at the confluence of the Shenandoah and the Potomac Rivers. It exists today because the U.S. Armory (located here by George Washington) manufactured small arms here for sixty years, muskets, rifles, and pistols (more than 600,000) from 1801 until the opening days of the Civil War in 1861. With less than 300 inhabitants today, Harpers Ferry was the location of the incipient U.S. military industrial complex.  The factory’s 400 workers produced more than 10,000 weapons a year. 

Harpers Ferry was settled in a valley rich in natural resources: deposits of iron ore, limestone, timber from hardwood forests, and abundant water which attracted many industries.  The town is famous for its picturesque streets, beautiful vistas, a railroad, two rivers, shale rocks, sandstone, and most significantly, for its contribution to the history of the United States.

The metamorphic rocks in Harpers Ferry are over 500 million years old. Layers of mud, silt, and sand were compressed into sedimentary rocks called shale and sandstone. Increased pressure and heat changed sedimentary rocks (chemically and physically) into metamorphic rocks. Many buildings, sidewalks, walls, steps in town are made from such a metamorphic rock, phyllite, and few from quartzite. 

One of the greatest engineering efforts of the 18th century America was the Patowmack Canal, “the life-long dream of George Washington.”  What is left of it is visible today by Virginius Island.  This bypass canal was linked to others in the Potomac River watershed, making trade more efficient in the area. 

Virginius Island, along the Shenandoah River, was famous for Hall’s Rifle Works. John Hall “perfected interchangeable parts technology and inspired a world-wide revolution in manufacturing. The factory ruins remind us of Harpers Ferry’s contribution to America’s Industrial Revolution.”

Wagon on Shenandoah St.
Photo: Ileana Johnson

On the eve of the Civil War, there were numerous buildings on Shenandoah Street, facing the river – a boarding house, armory workers dwellings, a market house, paymaster’s house, and the U.S. musket factory. Industries, homes, and lives were destroyed during the Civil War when the town changed hands eight times. Today, the foundations of those buildings are outlined by stones chiseled from the nearby rocks.

Famous and ordinary men and women contributed to Harpers Ferry’s heritage: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Meriwether Lewis, John Brown,  Frederick Douglass, Native Americans, pioneers trekking west, canal builders, railroaders, armory craftsmen, immigrants, slaves, freedmen, and the townspeople of Harpers Ferry. 

Thomas Jefferson described in 1783 the passage of the Potomac River through the Blue Ridge as “one of the most stupendous scenes in nature.” Many hikers have followed the trails and climbed the Jefferson Rock to experience the romance described by Jefferson.

Meriwether Lewis came to Harpers Ferry Armory in March 1803 to supply his now famous Lewis and Clark expedition. Secretary of War Henry Dearborn sent orders to the Armory Superintendent Perkins in Harpers Ferry to help Captain Lewis and advised him to furnish the expedition with weapons, spare parts, and tools.

Meriwether Lewis was President Jefferson’s private secretary and he shared his thirst for adventure and knowledge. President Jefferson had instructed Lewis, “The object of your mission is to explore the Missouri river, & such principal stream of it, as, by its course and communication with the waters of the Pacific Ocean, whether the Columbia, Oregon, Colorado or any other river may offer the most direct & practicable water communication across this continent for the purposes of commerce.”

The arms and replacement parts from this armory traveled almost 10,000 miles to the Pacific Ocean and back and kept the Lewis and Clark expedition alive. Lewis supervised the construction of an iron-framed, skin-clad boat and bought supplies, tomahawks, and rifles. He met Clark in July of that year to begin their journey of “land exploration, waterways, animal life, natural features, and resources of the west.”

George Washington was impressed with the area’s “inexhaustible supply of water,” in an age when water-powered mills and factories were thriving until the Civil War. Water energy powered the Industrial Revolution that caught the town into a frenzy of manufacturing development.

The most controversial figure in Harpers Ferry history was John Brown. On October 16, 1859, Brown and an army of twenty-one men raided and seized the U.S. Armory.  His intention and plan were to spark rebellion to free slaves in the South. He was captured 36 hours later in the Armory fire engine house by U.S. Marines. Brown’s trial was reported and followed closely in newspapers.

“I want to free all the negroes in this state… if the citizens interfere with me, I must only burn the town and have blood,” Brown said before his raid.

John Brown made Harpers Ferry a symbol of freedom. Considered a martyr by some and a madman by others, Brown was tried and found guilty of treason, murder, and inciting slaves to rebel. He was sentenced to death by hanging.

Portrait of John Brown
Photo: Museum Archives

The opening in the Blue Ridge Mountains created by water millions of years ago provided passage on foot, by canoe, by ferries, by canals, and by railroads. The C&O Canal and B&O Railroad provided transportation along the river corridor. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O), the first major line in America, still runs through Harpers Ferry.  Tourists today see the bridge ruins jutting out of shallow water and canal remnants as transportation had moved on to railroads and highways.

According to museum archives, “the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah rivers was first crossed by a ferry in 1733. Fourteen years later the ferry rights were purchased by Robert Harper and the town became known as ‘Shenandoah Falls at Mr. Harper’s Ferry.’” Robert Harper began the first ferry across the Potomac River in 1747 and it operated until 1824. 

The Catholic Church in Harpers Ferry
Photo: Ileana Johnson

The mountainous terrain and forested landscape became the stage for the Civil War in 1861 and it wedged the town between North and South. According to museum archives, Harpers Ferry was captured and recaptured five times in one day, September 15, 1862. “Gen. Thomas J. ‘Stonewall’ Jackson forced the war’s largest surrender of U.S. troops at Bolivar Heights, Schoolhouse Ridge, and the Murphy-Chambers Farm.” 

When fighting started in 1861, attributed in part by some to John Brown’s raid, the retreating U.S. troops burned both federal arsenal buildings to the ground to prevent the weapons from being taken by Confederate soldiers.

Photo: Ileana Johnson

The two rivers, the Potomac and Shenandoah, flooded from time and time and the high-water marks were recorded by the hardware store. Then there were times when the water level was too low, and business came to a standstill.  The C&O Canal was forever closed in 1924. The bridges were closed after they were swept away during the 1936 flood and not reopened until the late 1940s. 

Lower Town in Harpers Ferry
Photo: Ileana Johnson

Hiking to Jefferson Rock then, two buildings were visible, a large stone boarding house and a butcher shop and smokehouse erected by local businessman Philip Coons in the 1820s at the request of factory officials. U.S. bought the buildings in 1836, transformed the boarding house into workers’ housing and leased the butcher shop to Coons.

High Street 
Photo: Ileana Johnson
From High Street, climbing the stone steps, one can walk on the Appalachian Trial, passing the Harper House (the oldest house in town), St. Peter’s Catholic Church, ruins, the Jefferson Rock on the left, the gravesite of Robert Harper in the Harper Cemetery, and continue on the Appalachian Trail by Camp Hill and the former Storer College campus. 

From the Point, overlooking the confluence of the Shenandoah and the Potomac Rivers, the footbridge to C&O Canal and Maryland Heights is visible and the active CSX railroad (former Baltimore & Ohio) with its modern train station. 

Between the foot bridge and the train station there is the original site of John Brown’s Fort and the U.S. Armory Site. John Brown Museum and his Fort in Arsenal Square are clearly visible from the Point. Few buildings are still standing from the lower town as various floods have washed them away and only outlines in stone mark their existence.

Photo: Ileana Johnson
Dry Goods Store

The factory town suffered after the destruction of the Armory in 1861, four years of Civil War, transportation changes, and numerous floods followed by periods when the water table was too low. A brewery was built here in 1895 but the 1914 prohibition forced owners to convert it into a bottling factory for sodas and spring water but then a flood destroyed it completely. 

Photos: Ileana Johnson

Baptist missionaries founded Storer College after the Civil War.  John Storer donated $10,000. Storer College acquired buildings that were originally armory supervisors’ housing and graduated its first class in 1872 and “made significant contributions to progress for black Americans. It drew prominent men to its campus, including Frederick Douglass and W. E. B. Du Bois, the founder of NAACP.

Dr. Henry T. McDonald, Storer College President, said in 1938, “People from the far corners of the earth will come here to a spot of supreme interest to students of history, students of scenic beauty, and students of nature’s surprising riches.” The school closed in 1955 due to “desegregation, loss of state funding, and dwindling enrollment.”

1862 tent encampment for runaway slaves
Photo: Museum Archives

Harpers Ferry provided protection to “escaped slaves” during the Civil War. There are photographs dated 1862, showing the tent encampment at the musket factory yard. Union forces afforded freedmen some protection. “By 1865 there were about thirty thousand freedmen in the Shenandoah Valley.”

Harpers Ferry is connected to the neighboring states through three trails, The Appalachian Trail, 2176 miles long, Chesapeake and Ohio Canal (C&O Canal Towpath) along the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. to Cumberland, Maryland, and Potomac Heritage Trail which extends from Pennsylvania to the Chesapeake in Virginia.

If I could hike through the beautiful forests and rocky terrain from Harpers Ferry, 70 miles more or less, the Potomac Heritage Trail would take me home.