Lee’s Last Ride

General Robert E. Lee mounted on Traveller - 1866

General Robert E. Lee mounted on Traveller – 1866

“I am a Southerner by birth and a Rebel by choice. As I read and study, I pull for Lee, Jackson, and Longstreet. As I live, I thank Grant, Lincoln, and Democracy.” Richard”Shotgun” Weeks – Master Sergeant U.S. Air Force Vietnam Veteran/ Civil War historian

“The power of noble deeds is to be preserved and passed on to the future.” Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain – commander 20th Maine at Gettysburg

For my part, I can barely fathom those forces that drive a human being to accept or even consider the possibility that they are by way of their race, creed, or national origin somehow superior to their fellowman. But then my own personal journey has caused me to reject any behavior predicated on any theory of innate supremacy or an overly zealous sense of nationalism.  Having virtually no knowledge as to the circumstance of my own birth or bloodline, I have become quite comfortable in the belief that a good portion of our individual lives is determined merely by genetic and geographic potluck without the hand of God trying to stack the deck in any particular group’s favor.

As for those among us that are prone to think otherwise, it is probably a combination of fear and a personal sense of inferiority that is the seed from which that invasive strangling vine of their own self-aggrandizing superiority complex sprouts.

As to the recent tragic events in Charlottesville and the somewhat troubling  response and mixed-messages offered up by our president, I think we need to be honest with ourselves as to who the man is and who he is not. Donald Trump achieved the office by relying heavily on those wedge issues of religion, race, and immigration that have been polarizing this country not only in recent years, but throughout our nation’s history. And while this political tactic is nothing new, it has never been so blatantly utilized by a presidential candidate. And although I can not state with any certainty as to what is truly in the man’s heart–it is safe to say that neither Citizen Trump nor President Trump has ever exhibited the capacity to construct much beyond a hotel, golf course, or casino. The building of consensus and bridges does not appear to be part of the plan. And while I do not totally rule out the possibility of an epiphany, in order for that to occur one must first be willing to admit to and address their own failures and shortcomings.

As for the president’s equivocation of the violence on both sides in Charlottesville, he seems to forget that our system of justice does in fact define by degree the nature of most crimes. And the level of intent and premeditation displayed by those involved in any criminal act normally dictates the assigning of responsibility and the resulting punishment. There is clearly a distinct and undeniable difference between planned intimidation and violence and the reflexive actions of those that are the targets and victims of such attacks. The end result may yield an equal number of causalities, but in American Jurisprudence shared pain does not equate with shared guilt!

Then there is the issue as to what may have actually sparked the deadly confrontation in Charlottesville. Since I was old enough to turn on a television set, I’ve watched scenes of  human beings beating each over the head either in defense of some cherished symbol or in response to some other group’s use of a symbol that was deemed to be offensive. Any blood shed over the veneration or demonization of some man-made expression of our affiliations or points of view  is blood that is shed for nothing. No book, no image,  no work in bronze or stone, and no piece of cloth hoisted up a pole can be reason enough to justify violence or the taking of life.

As for the fates of those monuments and memorials to the Confederacy,  I personally take no offense at their presence. But at the same time, I understand why others would opt for their elimination. I certainly would not expect the children of the Lakota Sioux to attend a  school named in honor of George Armstrong Custer, anymore than I would expect an African American family to comfortably picnic under the statue of Nathan Bedford Forrest. We need to be sensitive to those people and communities that endured great hardships and countless indignities at the hands of those who would attempt to rewrite history by way of some public square glorification of a past that was often cruel and seldom heroic.

Travellor-Grave-PlaqueLastly, there is the matter of the ever haunting ghost of that Virginia gentleman who has once again taken  center stage in yet another civil conflict. While it seems somewhat ludicrous  to suggest that the removal of  a statue of Robert E. Lee might lead some to consider the possible purge of the likenesses of Washington and Jefferson–who can predict how the lens into our past will be adjusted by those in the future in order to be in line with their view of the present? But for now, the question may be worthy of some small measure of reflection. After all, Washington, Jefferson, and Lee were all thought to be treasonous, rebellious scoundrels by a large number of their fellow countrymen. And all of these men by current standards of thought could be tarnished by their apparent contradictions in character.

In the case of Robert E. Lee, while his religious convictions made him keenly aware of the inherent evils of slavery, he was of the opinion that the inevitable demise of that institution would only come about in accordance with God’s timetable. And though he viewed secession as being unconstitutional and an outright betrayal to the founding principles of the United States, his decision to lend his superior military skills to the state of Virginia would nearly bring about the destruction of the Union.

Shortly before his death in 1870, Lee spoke out against the idea of erecting monuments to the war. He believed those efforts would only hamper the process of national reconciliation. So perhaps now is the time for Lee’s last ride. But no matter what we as a people decide to tear down, we as a nation will be judged by what we chose to raise up.

At this moment in time, I will raise a glass to the people of Charlottesville and to all who stand their ground against discrimination, intolerance, inequality, and racism!

Please take the time to listen to this profound song of healing performed by Joe Jencks.

40 Mile IPAIf by chance you find yourself paying a visit to the city of Charlottesville, while there might I suggest raising a glass of  40 Mile IPA from Three Notch’d Brewing Company. This outstanding brew celebrates the ride of another famous gentlemen from Virginia Jack Jouett whose daring on horseback on the night of June 1, 1781, saved Thomas Jefferson and the state legislature from capture by British cavalry under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton.

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

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The Morning After Last Night’s Casualties

home-bar

Somewhere on the other side of 3 am, I finally decided to make last call at my home bar. There was little resistance considering I was the only one left standing. This session would yield little solace other than the civil and somewhat gracious tone of Donald Trump’s victory speech after Hillary Clinton’s telephone call acknowledging her defeat.

Unable to sleep, I would return to the television set a few short hours later to see how America was faring after the revolution. Much to my surprise, the early morning pundits had not been cancelled or beheaded. At worst, they were eating their crow with good humor as the “I told you so” side of the panel restrained their glee. And even  the stock market futures that had indicated a precipitous fall during the overnight opened on the upside. In fact, most companies trading on the Dow were enjoying healthy gains with one notable exception. Smith and Wesson had lost nearly 16% of its value.

A company that had benefited in part because of the irrational fears propagated by the NRA and right wing media may regret having a few less Democrats in power. It’s funny how sometimes you wind up losing even when you think you’ve won. Take heed Mr. Limbaugh.

As the morning progressed, leaders and politicians from both parties took to the airwaves to talk about unity, inclusion, and healing. By early afternoon, I was feeling somewhat optimistic again about our collective prospects. Our democracy had once more demonstrated its resilience and ability to peacefully pass power from one party to the other. And while I’m not a big fan of one group having all of the political marbles–recalcitrance, obstruction, and gridlock as excuses for not governing will have to be shelved until at least the 2018 midterm election.

So once again, my silver lining syndrome remains intact. And since I was born without a team gene, I’m open to the possibility of worthwhile policy being generated by either side of the political spectrum. But there remains a lingering sadness about this election, because it resembles a civil war more than a revolution. And while we didn’t sacrifice a single soul in the course of this particular domestic squabble, this nation lost some portion of its honor, dignity, and humanity along the way. And like both sides at the Battle of Gettysburg, we have to wonder if it was worth the cost?

Cannons at Gettysburg

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

 

Still Holding the High Ground

Cannons at Gettysburg

“I’ve always thought the Yankees had something to do with it.”   General George Pickett’s reply when asked some years after the war as to why his assault on Cemetery Ridge failed. 

Recently, I found myself once again patiently absorbing that all to familiar diatribe from one of my patrons about the imminent fall of America because of the current state of our politically divided house. As a bartender in fairly good standing with the profession, I am expected to patiently listen and not offer much in dissent, ascribing to that time-honored philosophy that states that the customer is always right. But as is usually the case, I opted to give up the high ground and take a step down onto my ever handy soapbox.

When confronted with the pessimistic view of the future of our republic, I normally counter with a quick history lesson that begins with those contentious compromises of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitutional Convention of 1787, and ends on the fields of Gettysburg in 1863. This year marks the 150th anniversary of that defining battle of our Civil War.

On the third and final day of the battle, July 3rd, General Robert E. Lee ordered Confederate forces under the command of  General James Longstreet to attack the Union center lodged on Cemetery Ridge. After an impressive, yet mostly unproductive exchange of artillery fire, Longstreet gave the reluctant nod. And under the blistering heat of the afternoon sun,  three divisions of Southern infantry led by  Maj. Gen. George Pickett, Brig. Gen. J. Johnston Pettigrew and Maj. Gen. Isaac R. Trimble began the ill-fated ascent toward death and destruction. Of the 12,500 men that followed their general’s lead on that day, over four thousand would be wounded by Union steel and fire, and another nearly twelve hundred sons of the South would soon join their other fallen comrades under the blood soaked soil of Pennsylvania farmland. 

On July 4th , Robert E. Lee remained readied on the battlefield assuming his Northern counterpart, General George Meade would attack–but the guns remained silent. While many historians cite Meade’s cautious nature when explaining his inclination not to press his advantage in the aftermath of Pickett’s Charge, I would like to believe that there may have been a more transcendent reason for the quieting of hostilities on that particular day, something akin to the Christmas truce of 1914. There are those sacred days that serve to remind us of the possibility of  achieving that greater potential for good as both men and nations.  And those days should always be honored as intended by those that have gone before us.

America still holds the high ground.  

Have a joyous 4th of July!!! 

Blue Tag    

Posted by: Chris Poh

 

Blood on the Potomac

location Shot from the film Gods and Generals - Photo by: Terry Tabb

On July 4th, 1861, Frederick Roeder, an anti-secessionist and a supporter of Mr. Lincoln’s cause, ventured out onto the banks of the Potomac with the hope of catching sight of the Stars and Stripes flying over the Maryland side of the river. Ironically, a single discharge from the gun of a Union soldier would make this German born immigrant the first citizen of Harpers Ferry to fall during the conflict. Soon after, his home and business holdings, including the White Hall Tavern, would be confiscated and utilized by Northern forces.

Bar at the White Hall Tavern in Harpers Ferry

Interior of White Hall tavern in Harpers FerryFourteen months later, rebel soldiers under the command of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson would be shouting their own victory toasts at the little pub on Potomac Street after the successful capture of the town.  That revelry though would soon be tempered  by the events of September 17th, 1862. On that savage summer’s day, Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia would clash with the forces of General George B. McClellan on Maryland ground near Antietam Creek. That single day of fighting would prove to be the bloodiest day in American history, with both sides suffering staggering losses.

As we take this time to remember and pay tribute to those who fought and perished on behalf of both the North and South at the Battle of Antietam, we invite our readers to once again experience the moving words of the late Jack Hardy as he chronicles the Civil War through the eyes of the young men from a Pennsylvania regiment. 

Click here to listen to  The 111th Pennsylvane.

Posted by: Chris Poh

Win Place and Show at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

While one could spend countless hours discussing and arguing the merits and shortcomings of the military strategy of both the North and South at the Battle of Gettysburg, the outcome of that historic clash on July 1-3, 1863 might just have been decided by the actions of three men on horseback.

Certainly the North was able to hold the high ground on the first day of fighting due to the delaying tactics carried out by Union cavalry under the command of Brigadier General John Buford. And while the South had initially  fielded superior numbers, Robert E. Lee failed to press that advantage because of  insufficient battlefield intelligence. His own cavalry commander, Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart, who would have normally been charged with providing reconnaissance was too far away from the main body of the Confederate forces.

By the third day of battle though, Stuart was back in the fight. The plan was to attack the Federal rear and aid General Pickett as he marched against the Union’s center on Cemetery Ridge. That scheme would ultimately be thwarted by a brash and brazen young cavalry officer who personally led the charge of  the 7th Michigan, yelling “Come on, you wolverines!” Though he would have two horses shot out from underneath him on this July afternoon, it would be on another summer’s day in 1876 that George Armstrong Custer would meet his fate under a western sky.

As we continue to remember America’s Civil War, we pay tribute to those bold horse soldiers on both sides of the struggle with a piece of music from living historian and performer Rick Garland. Click here to recount the exploits of  the “Knight of the Golden Spurs,” James Ewell Brown Stuart. 

Posted by: Chris Poh

FROM THIS PUBLICAN’S PERCH, November 2007

Chris PohAt some point during the cobbling together of this particular issue someone requested a file name for November’s content. After a cursory review of the articles my response was call it “The War Years.” Whether by intent or fortune this author and our merry band of stringers seemed to have wandered into pubs that have a profound connection to the armed conflicts that have defined this nation. It seems that guns, guts and glory have always been the convenient forte of the fourth estate.

Contained within these pages are the memories and stories of those who have fought, and in many instances given the last full measure on behalf of country. Framed in perfect settings of wood and stone, and accented with the trophies and artistic depictions of battle, these stories take on a lore and grandeur that soften the suffering and hardships of battle. But in many other locations throughout this land are much simpler rooms that serve as the final post for those that truly understand the brutality, bloodshed and tragedy of war. To these veterans and legionnaires we raise our glasses.

Next month our reporters take on rough seas and salt water. Our roving scribes will be anchored in bars from the beaches of California to the rugged coastline of Maine. As for me, the only salt that I’ll taste will be on the rim of a Margarita glass from the relative calm of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. Till then we wish you a great November and a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Published in: on March 11, 2008 at 1:34 pm  Leave a Comment  
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