HISTORY ARTICLES & SHORT STORY COMPETITION
Mail Call Journal is pleased to present the Winners of the
1997 History Articles & Short Story Competition
American Civil War Category Winners
First Place I Second Place I Third Place I Honorable Mentions
General History Category Winners
First Place I Second Place I Third Place I Honorable Mention
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AMERICAN CIVIL WAR CATEGORY
First Place . . .
"Promises" by Joan E. Medeiros
Every bump and rut in the road, every protesting groan of the wagon wheels brings me closer to my destination. The way is familiar. Three years before, in the summer of 1863, I had marched with the 14th Vermont Regiment along this same road. Then, thousands of men had descended on the small town of Gettysburg to fight a bloody three day battle; today I come alone to fulfill a promise I made on the last day of that deadly engagement with Bobby Lee's Army. The tarp covered empty casket in the bed of the wagon is a constant reminder of why I have come.
The town of Gettysburg stands proudly. A testament to the strength of the residents who have endured through the greatest battle of the war. Houses still show the ravages of cannon and rifle fire: their bricks scarred and gouged. Today the air is clear and sweet, filled with the scent of summer flowers, not smoke, blood, and death. Children play stick ball and jump rope instead of cowering in dark basements, wondering what is happening to their world above.
I pass a copse of trees that stands vigil on the edge of a vast empty field. Tethering the horses several hundred yards further, I walk to a low stone wall. Closing my eyes I return to those July days, three years before.
The heat is unbearable in our heavy wool uniforms. We've been marching for hours without rest. The word is being passed from man to man, "the enemy is engaged at Gettysburg, just a few short miles ahead." I glance at Thomas, marching silently beside me. We have been friends forever. When I fell through the ice on the pond on Pa's farm, he saved me from drowning. When I broke my arm, falling out of a tree, he carried me two miles home. When I joined up with the 14th Vermont against my family's wishes, he joined up also, leaving his beloved farm, joking that it wasn't safe to leave me on my own.
Since joining the regiment, we have fought side by side, shared a tent and our dreams. Here is a man content with his lot in life, who takes simple pleasure from the change of seasons, the bringing in of a good crop, the daily hard work of a farm. While I am content with nothing, always seeking the new, bored with the ordinary every day routine. My reason for being here is adventure; his is loyalty to me and to the Union. Now, together we march towards another battle.
"Well, boys, do you hear, we going to kill some Rebs today," says John Cobb, a Burlington man, marching beside me.
"Haven't you had enough of killing? These are men, John, just like us, with families waiting at home for them, praying that they'll come back," Thomas replies quickly.
"They're the enemy, boy, and we're here to kill the enemy," John Cobb answers.
"We're here to preserve the Union. Killing is a necessary part of that, but we don't need to take pleasure in it," Thomas replies sadly.
We march in silence for a bit. As we press forward along Taneytown Road, we begin to hear the sound of cannon, rumbling like a thunderstorm on the distant horizon. My stomach tightens in a mixture of fear and anticipation. Part of me longs for the excitement of battle, another fears that this one may be the one I don't survive.
We reach Gettysburg in the late afternoon of July 1st. The town is shrouded in a dense layer of smoke. It is obvious our boys are taking a beating. The Rebs have driven I and XI Corps south of town to a cemetery covered hill. Dead and wounded soldiers litter the streets. The putrid odor of discharged gun powder assaults my nostrils. It reminds me of eggs left to rot in the summer heat. The Rebs hold position, satisfied for now with the capture of the town. The gun fire has stopped, replaced by the terrible sound of wounded and dying men calling out for help. Their voices reach us on the hill where we gaze in horror at the sight of the carnage below. Everywhere are bodies, some still and silent in death, others writhing and screaming in pain.
Our Captain orders our regiment to help bring in the dead and wounded. Thomas and I take the wounded to a hastily set up hospital at a nearby farmhouse. We pile the dead into a stone cellar for later burial. We tie our bandanna's across our noses and mouths. It's the only way we can bear the stench of death. Everywhere the ground is soggy with spilled blood from Union and Confederate soldiers alike.
When darkness falls we stop. Too weary and sick to eat, Thomas and I sit by the campfire outside our dog tent.
"Billy," Thomas says softly. "I've never seen the likes of today. The wounded aren't much better off than the dead. Men waiting their turn to lose an arm or a leg. Many of them won't make it through the night."
"I know, Thomas. This war isn't what I expected. In the books it sounded so noble, so magnificent. Battle flags waving, drums beating, bugles blowing, brave men meeting gallantly on the field of battle. They don't tell of the tortured suffering of the wounded on the field and in the hospitals. Young boys losing limbs, eyes, their lives. I came looking for adventure....I found hell. The Union must be preserved! Preserved for whom? Widows, orphans, mothers and fathers without their sons! That is all that will be left of this country if this war goes on much longer. What is more, because of me you're here. You don't belong here. You were happy on the farm."
"I chose to come. You didn't force me. Look around you. All these men volunteered to come. They believe in what the Union is fighting for. I believe in what we're fighting for. If I'd stayed safe on the farm, I'd be no man at all. That would be harder to live with than dying in this war."
"Don't talk of dying, Thomas. It's bad luck."
"We've got to talk about it. You see, I got something on my mind. The dead, they are just piled up like a stack of fire wood. I heard someone say that they are going to bury them in one great grave. No coffins, no markers." He was silent for a moment, then. "Promise me something, Billy. Promise if I die in this war, you won't let them do that to me. I want to rest at home, on my farm."
"You won't die."
"Bobby Lee's army is out there. I don't think he's going to pick up and go home. There is going to be a lot more fighting on this ground. Going to be a lot more dying too."
"You won't die."
"Maybe so, but I'll feel a whole lot better if you promise to see that I get home. Swear it! Swear that you'll hide my body and come back for me after the war. Promise me you'll take me home, Billy."
I look at my friend. In all the years we've known each other he's never asked me for anything. "I promise, Thomas. You do the same for me."
"Time to turn in."
"You go on ahead. I want to sleep out here under the stars tonight." Thomas looked up at the sky, "kind of reminds me of home."
July 2nd dawns sunny and hot. Our regiment is placed in reserve behind XI Corp. Throughout the better part of the day heard the sounds of sporadic fighting. Towards mid-afternoon our batteries come to life on our left flank, firing on any enemy position seen. The Rebs respond as they move their guns into position. The firing continues pretty steady for about an hour or so and then all hell breaks loose as the Reb's attempt to take the low round hill on our left and flank us. We sit and wait for orders, frustrated at not being there to help our comrades. On occasion a messenger rides into our camp, the word spreads that this is it, we're being called up, and then, nothing. Throughout the afternoon the fighting on our left continues. In the early part of the evening, more fighting breaks out on our right. The enemy is engaging on both sides, hoping to outflank us. Thomas sits calmly, cleaning his gun, checking his ammunition, while I pace impatiently, eager for action. Not knowing what is happening is worse than fighting.
Finally, shortly before dark we are ordered to reinforce the right flank. As we move into position, we find the 3rd brigade, 2nd division of XII Corps in a desperate situation. Ammunition all but exhausted, muskets in desperate need of cleaning, they are being attacked on their front by a large Reb force. During the next several hours, the enemy makes four different charges. Each time we repel them, and at last they withdraw. Tired, faces and hands blackened by gun powder, we trudged back to our camp. After cleaning our muskets, restocking our ammunition, and getting something to eat, Thomas and I stretch out our bedrolls. Too exhausted to even talk, we fall asleep watching the stars and the flickering of thousands of fireflies in the night sky.
July 3rd dawns even hotter than the day before. All through the morning we wait for the Rebs to make a move. Our brigade is ordered into position several hundred yards to the left of a clump of trees. Our regiment takes cover behind a low stone wall facing a large field.
"What are you going to do after the war, Billy?" Thomas asks. "You were never real happy on your Pa's farm."
"I've been giving it some thought. You won't laugh, will you?"
"Course not. I've never laughed at you in all the years we've been friends."
"I want to go to school."
"You've already been to school. You went all the way through."
"I mean college. Maybe in Burlington or Montpelier. I'd like to be a teacher."
Thomas thought a minute, then smiled. "You know, I think you'd make a darn good teacher, Billy."
"What about you, Thomas? You going back to the farm?"
"Just as fast as I can get there. I want to settle down, maybe find myself a wife and have some children. I'm not like you; I don't ever wonder what else is out there. I like what I got waiting for me at home."
"I wish I was more like you. Content with what I've got. Pa and I would get along a whole lot better."
"It's men like you who change things, Billy. Why if everyone was content with their lot in life, there wouldn't be this country. It's those like you, seeking more, that bring about great changes. Your Pa will come around someday, you wait and see."
"I don't think so. Pa's a stubborn man."
"So is his son," laughed Thomas, "that's why you two are always locking horns.
Out of the corner of my eye, I catch a flurry of movement across the field. The Rebs are moving a number of cannon into position.
"Look at that. There must be twenty or more cannon out there, it sure looks like they are planning something big," Thomas says.
"That's just fine. We've got plenty to throw back at them. Who knows, maybe today we'll beat Bobby Lee's army so bad, they'll give up the fool idea of secession."
"If they're planning something for today, they'd best get a move on. It must be close to mid- afternoon. I swear, these Rebs waste most of the day planning attacks that fail."
"They may be failing, but they're taking plenty of our men down with them."
The deafening blast of Reb cannons signals the start of a thunderous bombardment. Dozens of cannon begin to fire along the line. Our batteries respond quickly. Horses and men scream in terror and pain, cut down like stalks of grain beneath the harvester's blade. With nothing to fire at, all our regiment can do is take cover and wait. The firing seems to go on forever when in reality, it is but an hour. Suddenly, an eerie silence falls. Cautiously raising my head from cover, I look out across the field. Dense smoke covers the tree line like an early morning fog. From out of the woods steps a long line of gray-clad soldiers, ghostly apparitions shrouded by the swirling smoke. A bugle sounds, drummers step onto the field beating a steady rhythm. As the smoke clears, I can see line after line of men stretching almost a mile across the field. Their battle flags wave proudly in the slight afternoon breeze.
"Oh sweet Jesus! They intend to cross. They'll be slaughtered," I breathe. Even as I speak, they start to advance, thousands upon thousands of men. A cannon volley from our line staggers the oncoming Rebs. Where once there was a solid line, bodies now lie limp across the ground. A flag bearer staggers, falls, his regiment's colors dropping to the ground for only an instant before it is picked up by the next man in line. Each time our cannon find their mark, more Rebs rush forward to close the ranks.
From behind us, our Captain shouts the order to ready arms. My hand shakes as I undo the flaps of my cartridge and cap boxes. Someone touches my shoulder, I turn to find Thomas standing behind me. Before we can speak, my Captain calls out, "you there," he says, pointing to me, "tell the First Sergeant to report to me immediately."
As I move away, I hear Thomas' soft voice. "Remember your promise, Billy."
The Rebs are halfway across the field. Hundreds have fallen, but they show no sign of stopping. I find the First Sergeant and give him the Captain's message, just as I turn to follow, a Reb regiment breaks through our skirmish line, screaming like a hoard of devils from hell. I fire, load, fire. Again and again. The barrel of my musket so hot it burns against my neck. I don't know how long the fighting lasts, my only thought is survival. My heart pounds furiously, sweat drenches my uniform, the stench of gun powder fills my nose. Then, it's over. Around me lie the bodies of Union and Confederate soldiers. All along our line a great shout of triumph goes up. Those few Rebs not dead or taken prisoner limp back across the field.
It doesn't take me long to find Thomas. His body lays close to the spot where I last saw him. The front of his sack coat is soaked with his blood. His eyes stare lifelessly at the blue sky above. I gently close them; cradle his body in my arms, and cry for my friend, for all those who have died in this war, and also for the boy who had such glorious dreams.
In the fading light of day, I bury Thomas beneath a towering pine in a clearing of the woods. I carve the letter T into the trunk with my bayonet to mark the spot where he lays. A steady rain begins to fall, washing away the blood of thousands of brave men, but no amount of rain can ever wash away the memory of the past three days from my mind.
I open my eyes. The field before me is silent under the afternoon sun. I slowly walk back to my wagon. I untie my team, and turn them away from the field to search for a tall pine tree marked with the letter T. I have a promise to keep.
About the Author:
Biography - Joan E. Medeiros is a resident of East Falmouth, Massachusetts. Medeiros has been a Civil War reenactor for three years.
The Story - This short story is a fictional account of the Battle of Gettysburg, based on facts obtained from research conducted at the Gettysburg Battlefield and from the book, The Campaign and Battle of Gettysburg by Colonel G.J. Fiebeger.
Second Place . . .
"A War Began In His Front Yard - And Ended In His Parlor: The Hidden Face in the Civil War" by Joseph Curreri
Although the main event associated with Appomattox Court House National Park in Virginia is the surrender of General Lee to General Grant - the main attraction is - the Wilmer McLean House.
And just who is Wilmer McLean?
Well, you could hardly include him with history's great names, but the name of Wilmer McLean is connected with "one of the greatest events in American history." His association with Generals Grant and Lee and his unique connection with the beginning and end of the Civil War has "guaranteed his name peculiar immortality."
He is the only man in history who could claim: "A war began in my front yard and ended in my parlor!"
It was on his farm that the first major battle of the Civil War was fought, and General Lee surrendered in the parlor of his home at Appomattox, to which he had moved with his family to protect them from the war.
Few stories of the war present a more sad irony than that of this farmer-turned businessman.
In his memoirs after the conflict, Confederate General, E. P. Alexander, distantly related to McLean, wrote of a chance meeting: "I had not seen or heard of McLean for years, when, the day after the surrender, April 10, 1865, I met him at Appomattox Court House, and asked with some surprise what he was doing there. He replied with much indignation, 'What the hell are you doing here? These armies tore my place on Bull Run all to pieces, and kept running over it backward and forward till no man could live there, so I just sold out and came here, two hundred miles away hoping I should never see a soldier again. And now, just look around you! Not a fence rail is left on the place, the last guns trampled down all my crops, Lee surrenders in my house.'..."
Short and stout at 47, too old to take arms at the war's onset, McLean was still an earnest proponent of the Southern cause. In 1852, he married a wealthy widow, Virginia Howe Mason, who had three children, and set up housekeeping in a "handsome old colonial mansion" at Yorkshire southwest of the capital, Washington. Two children were born to the McLeans while they resided in Yorkshire, Wilmer Jr. in 1854 and Lula in 1857.
McLean spent long hours on his farm, planting, cultivating, and harvesting the many acres. The orchards, farm animals, pasture lands and fences needed constant attention. In 1857, McLean also directed the erection of a large store barm which was later converted into a Confederate military hospital.
The McLeans welcomed their relatives and friends into their home and entertained them in a manner associated with plantation life in the antebellum South.
When war clouds gathered early in 1861, the McLeans could easily observe the extensive battle preparations being made by the Confederate Army. Through his farm, near Manassas Junction, ran a stream known as Bull Run - a name forever etched in the annals of warfare.
It was here, on July 21, 1861, that the Civil War's first major engagement took place, and as the First Battle of Bull Run raged, Farmer McLean found himself and his farm right in the path of clashing armies.
However, he allowed his farm home on Bull run to become the field headquarters of General Beauregard, the Confederate commander. One of the first artillery shells fired by either side sailed through his log cabin kitchen where food was being prepared for Beauregard and his staff.
The McLean farm was a shambles when the battle ended, much to the distress of the owner who saw years of agrarian effort go up in smoke. There was little for him to do but rebuild. McLean the diligent farmer, tried to do just that. Before he could finish the job, however, the two armies again charged and counter-charged across his property - the Second Battle of Bull Run in 1862.
Enough was enough for this man of the soil. McLean sold out, pulled up stakes, and moved his family far from the favorite battlefield of hostile armies. For his new home, he selected a site "well out of danger" at the small village of Appomattox in Southern Virginia, west of Richmond.
The McLeans enjoyed almost three years of peaceful bliss in their new surroundings. Their fine solid brick home had fireplaces in each room, beautiful furniture, the famous parlor, and the children enjoyed the large porch, the well house on the front lawn and a beautiful garden. Instead of taking up farming again, McLean became a shrewd businessman in the sugar trade. In 1863 they were blessed with another daughter, Nannie Maury McLean.
Can you imagine their thoughts when on the evening of April 8, 1865, they saw the armies coming again? Fate once more brought the battle to their door. McLean left the theatre of war...only to buy a front row ticket to history!
Confederate General Robert E. Lee's hard-pressed army, now in full retreat from the long siege of Petersburg and Richmond, was cut off and hemmed in by Federal troops at Appomattox. After four agonizing years of fighting, it became obvious that the Confederate cause was lost and that the end was in sight.
"There is nothing left for me to do but to go and see General Grant," Lee concluded, "and I would rather died a thousand deaths."
Rejecting guerrilla warfare and "any further effusion of blood," Lee exchanged notes with Grant to discuss surrender terms. He then sent Colonel Marshall to find a suitable place to meet Grant.
"I rode forward and asked the first citizen I met to direct me to a house suitable for the purpose," later wrote Marshall. As inscrutable chance would have it, the citizen that Marshall first met was Wilmer McLean. Pure coincidence, for there was no way that McLean could have learned that the surrender conference was going to be held in the village of Appomattox Courthouse.
"I rode up to him and said, 'Can you show me a house where General Lee and General Grant can meet together?' He took me into an unoccupied house that was all dilapidated and that had no furniture in it. I told him it wouldn't do. Then he said, 'Maybe my house will do.' He lived in a very comfortable house, and I told him I thought that would suit."
Marshall quickly sent his orderly to inform General Lee and Col. O. E. Babcock that they should go there.
Lee rode up on his gray warcharger, Traveller, about mid-morning on April 9, 1865, entered the house and sat down in the parlor beside a marble-topped table to wait. Grant, delayed by distance and slow communications, arrived early in the afternoon.
According to biographers, McLean was present at the conference. Some Union officers claimed that McLean was so excited that he was "somewhat out of his mind," up to a point where "he was unable to tell them where to find a drink of water."
But instead of being nervous and excited, it seemed that his actual mood was that of indignation. E. P. Alexander wrote: "McLean was so indignant that I felt bound to apologize for our coming back, and to throw all the blame for it upon the gentlemen on the other side." Colonel Parker wrote: "General Lee, agreeing to the surrender conditions written in pencil by General Grant, asked me to write out the terms in ink and Mr. McLean brought me a little stone inkwell."
The conference lasted one and a half hours and at the conclusion, Lee mounted his horse, saluted his former foes, and rode back to tell his army they were going home.
Thus a tragic struggle came to an end. The home of Wilmer McLean made history and Appomattox became a symbol, not of victory or defeat, but of peace and a new beginning.
For Wilmer McLean, it was the beginning of the end.
The fact that history was made in his parlor didn't have any immediate appeal to McLean. Remembering "Yorkshire," he had hesitated to open his home for the surrender fearing for his family and property. His fears were justified. Soldiers were carrying off his fence rails and looting his property. According to Col. George A. Forsyth, one Union soldier even chopped down an apple tree and hauled it away. And as soon as Grant left the McLean house, a souvenir craze swept over the Federal officers who were present in the parlor.
"Union officers simply plundered McLean's home and stole what they wanted," wrote Frank Cauble. "Members of the McLean family have denied indignantly that any kind of sale took place."
One observer wrote that General Sheridan took the chair and oval table where Grant had sat and offered McLean "a $2.50 gold piece."
"That chair and table is not for sale, general," said McLean. "If you choose to take it, you have the physical power to do so."
"I mean to have them," was Sheridan's curt reply.
"The table and other chairs were in like manner carried off by Federal officers as souvenirs," continued the writer. "The next day Sheridan presented the oval table to General George A. Custer as a gift for Mrs. Custer."
According to General Ord's family, the general "bought the marble-top table for $40."
The final analysis concludes that McLean's furnishings were simply looted, many of them broken into tiny bits as souvenirs. Even little "Lula," the rag doll of McLean's daughter, was carried away by Sheridan's aide, Lt. Col. Thomas W. C. Moore. His descendants have the doll today.
As for poor Wilmer McLean, who had tried so desperately to escape the destruction of war, the ravages of peace proved even worse. His story sadly says much about the fate of civilian populations in all wars.
McLean was never compensated for the use of his home nor was the destruction of his property ever paid for. He had no money to finance any business activities. He was not prepared to engage in farming. All sources of revenue had disappeared. And what was worst of all - the fact that history was made in his home had no significance at all at that time. Nor did the unique fact that one McLean house saw the beginning of the war and the other the end.
General Grant did not mention McLean at all in any of his descriptions of the surrender. And when McLean tried to recoup some of his losses by having pictures made of his parlor and asked General Lee to sit for a portrait, he received a flat refusal!
Although disappointed, McLean persisted with his plan to publish a surrender picture. He borrowed money to print thousands of lithograph copies showing the surrender room while it was occupied by Lee, Grant and other officers, but the demand never materialized. McLean went bankrupt.
In 1867, he sold the later-to-be-famous McLean House and moved to Alexandria where he lived in poverty and obscurity.
A broken and defeated man, he died on June 5, 1882. His passing was of no importance and went unheralded. The "Alexandria Gazette" printed a very brief obituary merely stating that he died at his residence, Pitt & Wolfe Sts., at the age of 68. Nothing was said about his connection with the surrender at Appomattox.
Today, McLean would be proud of his reconstructed, historical house. He would be even more proud of the unforgettable, famous painting by Louis M. C. Guillaume displayed on a huge wall of the courthouse pensively depicting the proud warriors, Lee and Grant, sitting down to negotiate surrender terms.
Three hundred thousand visitors a year come to gaze upon the parlor where one of history's greatest moments happened. The tables and chairs which the two generals used are reproductions. The original marble-top table is in the Chicago Historical Society Museum, and the oval table and three other pieces are in the Smithsonian Institution. The horsehair sofa is the original in the McLean parlor.
The village of Appomattox closely reflects its 1865 appearance. Typical of hamlets found throughout the South in the 1800s, it evokes a mood of unaltered, unvarnished history. The Courthouse, McLean home, Meeks General store, Clover Hill Tavern, 23 other homes and Surrender Triangle (where Confederates marched into the village on April 12 to stack arms and begin the long walk home) are all within the park. Fascinating exhibits, illustrated talks and two 17-minute audio-visual programs enhance the subsequent walking tour.
Civil War buff or just proud American, it is very easy to recreate the scene on that historic day and feel the presence of McLean.
President Lincoln spoke of "this hallowed ground" at Gettysburg. He could have done the same at Appomattox - on a more cheerful note perhaps because it marked a new beginning for a war-torn nation.
Wilmer McLean would have like that.
About the Author:
Biography - Joe Curreri is a freelance writer, residing in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The Article - Non-fiction.
Third Place . . .
"Cruiser Under A Cloud: The Story Of The Confederate States Ship Florida" by Henry V. Rhodes
The Clipper Ship Jacob Bell cut through the ocean, every one of her sails set on her towering masts, which creaked from the expanse of canvas. On her deck, the passengers and crew looked astern, where a smaller ship followed, issuing a black cloud from twin smokestacks. The strange steamship had been chasing the Jacob Bell for about four hours, since the two first sighted each other in the morning. The people of the Jacob Bell hoped for a sustained strong wind, which would have allowed them to escape, but in the lighter breeze of mid-day, the steamer had the advantage. As the steamer drew closer, a flash of gunfire came from her forward deck, and the round splashed into the ocean astern of the sailing ship. In answer to this warning shot, the Captain of the Jacob Bell turned the big Clipper into the wind. Her sails went limp, and her motion ceased. As the people on the deck of the sailing ship watched, the steamer came alongside and hoisted the Confederate flag. This was February 12, 1863, and the Commerce Raider CSS Florida had just claimed her latest victim.
The Jacob Bell had been returning to New York with a cargo of tea and other luxury goods from China. What had become her final voyage terminated in the middle of the North Atlantic, a thousand miles short of her home. Prior to burning the Clipper, the Confederates transferred her passengers and crew, and her valuables - items such as charts, navigation instruments, and medicines - on board the Raider. The Jacob Bell and her cargo were valued at $1.5 million, the richest prize taken by the Confederate Navy in the course of the war.
The eleven-year-old Bell had been built at the height of the American Clipper Ship era, that was now drawing to an end. Ushering the demise of the Clipper Ship Fleet were the Confederate Navy's Commerce Raiders.
With limited resources for establishing a blue-water Navy, the Confederate government turned to commerce raiding as a means of waging a maritime war-of-attrition. This strategy was intended to divert ships from the blockade, to hamper Northern trade, and to undermine wartime morale. Although her sisters-in-arms, such as the CSS Alabama, are bettern known, the CSS Florida carried the Confederate flag on the high seas with honor.
The Florida's sleek lines, sharply raked masts, and twin smokestacks distinguish her as one of the most beautiful ships to serve in either Navy during the Civil War. The Florida, however, also seemed to travel under a shadow of misfortune, that plagued her to the end of her days.
The Florida was built at Liverpool, under the masquerade of being the commercial vessel Oreto. Early in the conflict, with the outcome in doubt, and the opportunity for wartime profiteering, the covert efforts of Confederate Navy Commander James D. Bulloch, and other Southern agents operating in Britain, had some notable successes. Under construction across the Mersey River, at the Laird Shipyard in Birkenhead, was a ship known as Hull-number 290, or the Enrica. She would eventually carry the Confederate flag as the Alabama. The Florida was to be 191 feet long with a 13 foot draft, 700 tons, and modeled after the Royal Navy's dispatch vessels.
In order to maintain her disguise, the Florida was not armed at the shipyard, and her crew was composed of civilians. On March 23, 1862, the Florida left Liverpool, ostensibly to conduct sea trails. Instead of returning to the shipyard following her shakedown cruise, for corrective work as would normally be the case, the Florida proceeded across the Atlantic, entering the port of Nassau on April 28.
In the meantime, the Florida's guns, ammunition, and other armament were smuggled aboard the blockade-runner Bahama. The Confederates planned for the two ships to rendezvous at Nassau. Also meeting the Florida in Nassau, was her new Captain, John N. Maffitt. The 43-year-old Maffitt was the son of Irish immigrants, born at sea while his family was enroute to their new country. He had started his Naval career as a teenaged midshipman and had 29 years' service in the Federal Navy. Despite the circumstances of his birth, and an extended portion of his life in the North, Maffitt regarded himself as a southerner, and resigned his commission when his state of residence, North Carolina, seceded.
Before the Confederates could take possession of the Florida, however, the U.S. consul in Nassau issued a series of protests, and the ship was seized by the British colonial authorities at the end of May.
While awaiting adjudication, Maffitt had the difficult task of assuring ship and armaments did not fall into the wrong hands, while also attempting to acquire the necessary supplies and crew to outfit an ocean-going warship. His duties were further complicated by the necessity of conducting business by subterfuge, so there could be no legal basis for the ship to be permanently held.
In Maffitt's favor, Nassau had emerged as a convenient way station for blockade-runners and their cargoes, so there was a great deal of Confederate activity in the port to distract the Federal diplomats and their spies. Additionally, some of the officers of the first Confederate Cruiser, the CSS Sumter, passed through Nassau at this time. After capturing 18 Northern merchant ships, the Sumter had been laid up at Gibraltar, and these men were returning to the Confederacy for reassignment.
Among the officers was Raphael Semmes, who had already earned a formidable reputation in both the North and South as the commander of the Sumter. Semmes was suspected to be the new Captain of the Florida, and therefore attracted the greatest attention from the Federal authorities. Arriving as a passenger on the Bahama was another of the Sumter's officers, Lieutenant John Stribling, who offered his services to Maffitt. In need of experienced officers, Maffitt readily accepted, and appointed Stribling as his Executive Officer.
By volunteering to serve abroad the Florida, Stibling demonstrated an exceptional dedication to the Confederacy. He had been separated from his wife for almost a year, having been at sea or abroad since the Sumter had departed New Orleans in June of 1861. Furthermore, Stribling was a resident of Norfolk, Virginia, which had recently been captured by the Federal forces, and he was understandably anxious regarding his wife's welfare.
Through the late Spring and Summer of 1862, the case of the Florida dragged on. Finally, on the 2nd of August, the magistrate ordered the Florida freed. It is worth nothing that the treatment of the Florida by the British authorities seemed to closely parallel the Confederacy's fortunes of war.
The five months preceding the Florida's internment had been a series of disasters for the Confederacy. At the start of the year, an obscure General named U.S. Grant had conquered Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River, opening the door for the Union to seize Nashville and Middle Tennessee. In a 30-day period from early April to early May, the Confederates surrendered or lost access to four major seaports: Savannah, New Orleans, Norfolk, and Pensacola. With the coming of Spring, General George McClellan launched the Peninsula Campaign, and the Army of the Potomac had advanced ever closer toward the Confederate Capital at Richmond, with little apparent resistance. The Confederacy was close to losing the War.
By late summer, however, the imminent demise of the Confederacy was no longer so certain. McClellan's brilliantly-conceived Peninsula Campaign had failed. Robert E. Lee had emerged as the victor in the series of Seven Days' Battles that saved Richmond. The fighting in Virginia shifted away from the Confederate Capital, towards Washington. The Confederacy had survived the crisis, and with the fighting entering a second year, Southern independence looked more viable than at anytime before.
Once free, the Florida slipped out of Nassau with a skeleton crew shortly after midnight on August 3rd. Following her out was the schooner Prince Albert, which carried the Florida's armament and supplies, under the command of Lieutenant Stribling.
Of course, the Federal authorities had anticipated the Florida's pending departure, but Maffitt demonstrated his considerable skills as a mariner, and evaded the Federal Navy cordon around Nassau. The Florida rendezvoused with the Prince Albert, and the two vessels proceeded to a remote island in the Bahamas.
The crew of the Florida spent the middle portion of August transferring armament and supplies to the cruiser. This difficult undertaking was further complicated by the tropical heat at the height of the summer, and the severe shortage of manpower aboard. Ship's officers stripped off their uniforms and pitched in to the effort of hoisting out and mounting the guns, each weighing over two tons. They also loaded one thousand rounds of solid shot and explosive shells.
On the 17th of August, with the transfer of material completed, the sailors hoisted the Confederate flag, and the Florida was officially commissioned as a Confederate States Ship. No sooner was this triumph observed, than misfortune again manifested itself. A Yellow Fever epidemic had appeared at Nassau in mid-July, but the Confederates had been relatively free of its effects. One man had died on the 15th, but Maffitt - who performed double duty as the ship's doctor - attributed the death to heat exertion. Now the dreadful disease spread through the small crew of the Florida.
On the heels of this disaster, Maffitt discovered a second misfortune. At some point during the covert shipment of armament from Britain to Nassau, and then the transfer on board the Prince Albert, the sights, rammers, sponges, and other hardware essential to fire the heavy guns had disappeared. The Florida had discarded the mask of being merely a commercial vessel, but was still defenseless should she encounter one of the northern ships that were hunting her. Maffitt had to continue moving to elude his pursuers, even with most of the crew prostrate from disease. With barely enough men aboard to stand watch, the Florida needed to refill her complement of seamen, and to obtain the necessary equipment to complete the ship's armament. Maffitt would attempt to satisfy these requirements in a Cuban port.
Like the British, the Spanish colonial authorities in Cuba were hedging their bet on the outcome of the war, and willing to cultivate favors with the new Confederacy. The Spaniards provided medical assistance to the stricken Confederates. Despite this help, Maffitt himself fell ill on the 22nd, and was comatose for a week. Altogether, five men died in Cuba, including Maffitt's stepson, Acting Paymaster Laurens Read, and John Seeley, one of the ship's engineering officers.
The Confederates were unable to obtain the hardware necessary to operate the Florida's guns in Cuba, and there were only a few sailors available for hire. Maffitt decided to return to the Confederacy. He was able to acquire the services of a pilot who knew the port of Mobile, and the Florida put to sea. Once again, Maffitt demonstrated his exceptional seamanship by the tactic of running close to the shore in darkness to escape his pursuers.
On the afternoon of September 4th, after an uneventful, three-day voyage, the lookouts sighted Fort Morgan, guarding the entrance to Mobile Bay. Also in sight were three Federal blockading ships, which came out to greet the Florida. Maffitt ordered the signalman to hoist the British ensign, and called for full speed on the engines.
The first of the Federal ships to reach the Florida was fooled by Maffitt's ruse de guerre of flying British colors, and made no attempt to stop her. Ahead loomed the USS Oneida. She was a formidable, ocean-going steamship, slightly larger than the Florida, mounting ten guns. Commander George Preble of the Oneida also assumed the Florida was a Royal Navy vessel. As the Senior Officer on station, however, Preble intended to ascertain her Captain's intentions before allowing the strange ship to pass.
The Oneida challenged the approaching ship with a verbal hail and a warning shot across the bow. Maffitt continued on course, and the two ships closed within 100 yards. Still thinking the intruder was an Englishman, Commander Preble fired two additional warning shots, as the Florida moved rapidly past him.
When the Florida failed to heed these warnings, the Oneida began firing in earnest, striking the hull in several places. Preble turned his ship to chase the Florida, but was handicapped by the fact that only one of the Oneida's two boilers was operational. The other blockading ships joined in the firing. The Florida continued to pull away, but the Yankee guns began to find their mark. One man, Petty Officer James Duncan, was decapitated. Ten other men were wounded in the bombardment.
The Federals kept up a sustained fire as the Florida distanced herself, in a mad dash for the safety of Mobile Bay. The Florida was repeatedly struck in the hull and heavily damaged, but the Federal gunners failed to deliver the crippling blow. As evening fell, the Florida crossed the bar, and dropped anchor in the harbor, beneath the protective guns of Fort Morgan. The Yankees broke off the chase.
Preble missed his best opportunity to disable the Florida when he only fired warning shots at the closest point of approach between the two ships. Due to one of the Oneida's boilers needing repairs, she had a significant disadvantage in speed. Preble had only recently assumed command of the Oneida, and her deficiencies of gunnery can not be properly blamed on him. Unfortunately for Preble, when word of the Florida's escape into Mobile reached Washington, he was summarily relieved of command and dismissed from the Navy. President Lincoln and Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles were determined to make a public example of Preble, for supposed neglect in enforcing the blockade. The humiliation was compounded by the fact that Preble was the grandson of a famous Naval hero from the War of 1812. Preble would spend years working to clear his reputation.
The same day the Florida ran through the blockade into Mobile, General Lee's Army of Northern Virginia began its crossing of the Potomac River, enroute to the Antietam Campaign.
The crew of the Florida received a hero's welcome, although due to the Yellow Fever, the ship was quarantined. Gradually the epidemic began to abate, but not before it claimed its last victim. After a 15-month absence, Lieutenant Stribling returned to the Confederacy in a casket.
For the next four months, the Florida remained in the Mobile Bay, undergoing repairs, loading supplies, and taking on a new crew. Here, the Confederacy's lack of industrial resources to wage war was apparent. A valuable asset, such as the Florida, was idled for the remainder of 1862 preparing for a voyage, while one of the northern shipyards could have sent her out to sea within weeks.
During the period, the Antietam Campaign resulted in a Union victory, and Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. General Burnside replaced General McClellan, and led the Army of the Potomac to disaster at Fredericksburg, Virginia. The Confederate invasion of Kentucky had failed. On the ocean, the USS Monitor, herald of the ironclad era, plunged to her grave off Cape Hatteras, taking 16 men along with her. The second ship the Confederates constructed in Britain, CSS Alabama, had outfitted at a remote island in the Azores, and under the command of Raphael Semmes, captured 27 northern ships.
Finally, the repair work ended, and all the supplies were loaded aboard by January 1863. Following a storm, Maffitt took the Florida out to sea on the night of January 16th and, by superb navigation, stealth, and the Florida's superior speed, evaded the warships who were waiting to catch her. The Florida's escape prompted another investigation into the actions of the officers on the blockade off Mobile that night.
Three days later, in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, the Florida captured her first Yankee. This vessel was the Estelle of New York, bound from Cuba to Boston with a cargo of sugar and molasses. After transferring the crew to the raider, the Confederates burned the Estelle. The men from the captured ship went ashore several days later in Havana, when the Florida made port for coal.
For the next six months, the Florida ranged from the Atlantic seaboard to the equator, capturing 20 ships, including the Jacob Bell. She captured one ship bound for Boston carrying a cargo of nitrates, intended for the manufacture of munitions for the Federal Army. The Confederates burned this ship, the ironically-named Star of Peace, and later at night, after the Florida had cleared to a safe distance, the explosive cargo detonated in a spectacular fashion. In the southern latitudes off Brazil, the cruiser fell in with the preferred routes for ships passing between the Northeast and the Orient, or California. She burned the Commonwealth, a large ship carrying freight from New York to San Francisco, and the Confederates received news of the war, albeit with a Yankee viewpoint, from newspapers they found on board.
Maffitt typically disposed of his captures by burning, but this was not always practicable. The Florida was a small ship, intended for fighting and chasing, and she could not accommodate many prisoners on board. When a captured ship had a large number of passengers, or a cargo that legitimately belonged to a neutral country, the Confederates would bond the ship. This meant the Captain of the ship signed, on behalf of his owners, what was essentially a ransom note for the appraised value of the ship, which the shipowners would pay the Confederacy upon the conclusion of hostilities. The Captains were eager to sign bonds, and preserve their ships. When the Florida captured the packet ship Sunrise, bound for Liverpool from New York, the large number of passengers forced Maffitt to bond her for $60,000.
With the Alabama, the Florida, and other cruisers destroying commerce on a weekly basis, and the memories of the Sumter's depredations still fresh, this loss of ships and cargoes under the guns of the Confederate Navy did not go unnoticed. Among the merchant class in the northeast, there was a great agitation, and the politicians from this region called for stronger action on the part of the Navy against the commerce raiders. Gideon Welles' administration was subject to a great deal of scrutiny and criticism.
Welles refused to weaken the blockading squadrons, but he did deploy a few large cruisers to Europe, and to other places frequented by the Confederate commerce-raiders. These hunters were vigilant and aggressive, for the Captain who could eliminate a commerce-raider would have a high standing in the Navy.
The Florida's coal bunkers could carry enough fuel for only nine days' steaming, and conserving coal was one of Maffitt's biggest worries. Compounding this problem, the British restricted the frequency of port visits for coaling, so as to prevent the warring parties from using British Empire ports as advance bases.
When the Florida entered Bridgetown to obtain coal in late February, Maffitt noted proudly in his journal that this was the first display of the Confederate flag in the colony of Barbados. At this point, Maffitt provides an insight into one Confederate officer's opinion as to the cause of the war. "What a contrast to the last time I visited this place, in the Macedonia, frigate in 1841. Then the stars and stripes floated over my head, and the Union seemed as firm as the Rock of Ages. Abolitionism was considered treasonable, and the North and South were as one, for nullification had died a natural death and harmony guided the national associations..."
The coal shortage was alleviated when the Florida captured a ship carrying a cargo of the fuel. This was the case with the Clipper Ship Red Gauntlet, bound for Hong Kong from Boston. Maffitt placed a prize crew aboard and waited several days to burn her, after all the coal had been transferred to the raider.
Maffitt used another captured ship laden with coal, the Lapwing, as a floating depot. Over several months in the Spring of 1863, with a Confederate crew aboard the Lapwing, the two ships conducted a series of rendezvous at remote islands off the coast of Brazil.
When the Florida captured the Baltimore-bound ship Clarence off Brazil in May, Lieutenant Charles Reed approached Captain Maffitt with an unusual request. Read proposed to take twenty men and a howitzer from the Florida, and to sail the Clarence into the Chesapeake Bay. Once at the Hampton Raods anchorage, where many of the blockaders refueled and replenished their stores, Read planned to either capture one of the warships, or to destroy the supply ships that congregated at the station.
Charles Read was a flamboyant young officer, whose services Maffitt had personally applied for when the Florida was refitting at Mobile. Despite graduating last in his Naval Academy class of 1860, Read had distinguished himself as a heroic and effective officer, especially in the otherwise dismal Confederate Naval defense of New Orleans.
Maffitt endorsed Read's plan, intending to make another run at the New England coast at the same time. Off Cape San Roque on the 6th of May - two days after Lee's great victory at Chancellorsville - Read and his crew sailed off on their expedition.
While enroute to Hampton Roads, Read captured several ships. Based on information from these prizes, Lieutenant Read at this time decided rather than attack Hampton Roads, to continue up the Atlantic coast. This expedition seized a total of 21 vessels, and created a great panic along the seaboard. The mayor of New York demanded the Navy Department provide for defense of his harbor, as did the mayor of Newport, Rhode Island, the Boston Board of Trade, and city commissioners of New Haven, Connecticut. Several merchants sent letters of complaint to Secretary Welles regarding the apparent inability of the Navy to protect their ships, others applied for permission to arm their vessels and send them after the Confederates.
Despite the alarm along the seaboard, Read learned that the harbor of Portland, Maine was lightly guarded, and entered at night. The Confederates managed to seize the U.S. Revenue Cutter Caleb Cushing, but were captured while attempting to escape. This incident occurred about a week before the battle of Gettysburg. After a year imprisoned at Fort Warren in Boston Harbor, Lieutenant Read was exchanged, and returned south to continue his exploits.
Despite the successes of 1863, the cruise was not without the Florida's characteristic misfortune. Two days after departing Barbados, Seaman Isaac White was lost overboard. Later in the year, the Florida had a two-week stopover at Rocas Island, off the coast of Brazil, while awaiting a scheduled rendezvous with the Lapwing for a load of coal. During this period, Seaman John Johnson died of a liver disorder, and both Landsman John Saddler and Assistant Surgeon Joseph Grafton drowned in separate boating accidents. Following the Florida's operations off New York in mid-summer, the ship's Supply Officer, Paymaster Junius Lynch, died of tuberculosis. He was buried when the Florida called at Bermuda.
The Florida had been at sea almost continuously for six months by the late summer of 1863, and her propulsion plant and hull were in bad condition. Maffitt knew he could not obtain the necessary services in the Confederacy, and decided to proceed to Europe to drydock the Florida. During a two-week crossing of the Atlantic, the Florida captured two more vessels. The Confederates were unable to procure the needed services in Britain, and Maffitt took his ship into Brest, France on the 23rd of August.
By the time she entered Brest, Maffitt's health had deteriorated, and he was relieved as Captain of the Florida at his own request by Commander Joseph Barney, who was in turn incapacitated by illness. The Florida then received her third Captain in four months, Lieutenant Charles M. Morris.
Despite an initial estimate of 18 days, the repairs dragged on for months, and the Florida was not ready to resume cruising until February 1864. She spent five months at Brest, longer than her layover in Mobile.
Throughout the Fall and Winter, the USS Kearsage patrolled off Brest in order to intercept the Florida, but the Confederates escaped the trap. The diligence of the Kearsage would be rewarded in a few months, when she engaged the Alabama in battle off Cherbourg, and sank her after a 90-minute duel.
Once back in her element, the Florida stalked the Atlantic. Six weeks passed, however, before she made her first capture, the ship Avon. By this time the game was scarce, as American shipowners were re-registering their vessels under foreign flags. During the next seven months she captured only eleven ships, and seven of these were taken in a three-day period in July off the Atlantic Coast. Among the prizes of this period was the steam ship Electric Spark, bound for occupied New Orleans from New York.
Bad luck was ever a shipmate on the Florida. One of the small boats involved in seizing the Electric Spark capsized, and the young officer in charge, Midshipman William Sinclair, drowned while assisting an enlisted man who was unable to swim.
In the late summer, with Atlanta under siege by Sherman, and Grant closing in on Lee at Petersburg, Morris took the Florida back to the southern latitudes off Brazil. After the better part of three months at sea, the Florida entered the port of Bahia (present-day Salvador) on October 4th. Already in the port was USS Wachusett, one of the ships Welles had sent to capture the Florida. In discussions with the Brazilian authorities on the day of his arrival, Morris was allowed four days for propulsion plant repairs. The Brazilians also expressed concern that the Confederates commit no belligerent acts in the port. Morris assured the authorities of his good conduct, and was advised the Federal consul had provided a similar pledge on behalf of the U.S. Navy. At the request of the Brazilians, Morris moved his ship that afternoon to a position between the small Brazilian Naval squadron and the fort overlooking the harbor, so as to separate the two antagonists. Morris ordered the Florida's guns unloaded, and the engineers shut down the boilers. The crew was granted liberty ashore by watches. The second day in port, Morris left the ship and went ashore, planning to spend the night in the port.
The Captain of the Wachusett, Napoleon Collins, was aware how Captain John Winslow of the Kearsage was promoted and lionized for his victory over the Alabama. Collins was also mindful of the Florida's record of eluding even the most dedicated pursuers, and the inquiries that the Federal Navy Captains had endured in the Florida's wake. He was determined not to participate in another embarrassing episode.
Shortly after midnight the Wachusett raised anchor and headed directly for the Florida. Before the Confederates or the Brazilians could react, the Wachusett rammed the Florida. Collins intended to sink the Confederate ship at anchor and then depart at the harbor. The Florida was badly damaged, but she was still afloat. After a barrage of small arms fire directed at the decks of the Florida, and two rounds from the Wachusett's heavy guns, the officer left in charge of the raider, Lieutenant Thomas Porter, complied with Collins' demand to surrender.
The Yankees quickly towed the Florida out of the harbor. By this time the Brazilians and the the Confederates ashore were alerted, but gunfire and pursuit by the Brazilian squadron was ineffective, and the Wachusett escaped with her prize.
Morris vehemently protested, since he had been promised no hostilities would be permitted by the Brazilian authorities. But Morris was in the awkward position of being a Captain without a ship, from a country that no other nation recognized. Eventually he and his remaining crew returned to Europe.
Collins placed a prize crew aboard the Florida. Some of the Florida's crewmen were left ashore during a port stop in the West Indies, the rest were imprisoned once the two ships returned to the United States.
The Florida was anchored under guard at Hampton Roads. This violation of Brazil's sovereignty placed the Federal government in a diplomatic predicament. By international law, the United States was obligated to restore the Florida, in the condition as she was prior to departing Brazilian waters. During the ensuing formal protests and diplomatic negotiations, the Florida was in a collision was a transport ship, and a few days afterwards, she sank when her pumps failed. Unsurprisingly, an investigation determined the collision and sinking were completely accidental. The Florida was forgotten, and her remains lie in nine fathoms of water off Newport News, Virginia.
During her 25 months as a Confederate States Ship, the Florida captured 34 ships, the third most effective of the commerce-raiders, behind the Alabama and the Shenandoah. When including Lieutenant Read's expedition, and others that she spawned, the Florida's total captures are 57. Ultimately the strategy of commerce-raiding failed to achieve its goals, but this is only clear in hindsight. From the perspective of the Confederate Navy in 1861, commerce-raiding had promise, as there were precedents of numerically-inferior Navies achieving their national objectives.
The Lincoln administration withstood the intense political pressure to disperse the formidable Naval force assembled off the southern coast, and scatter the ships across the world's oceans to hunt down a handful of Confederates raiders. While the armies of Grant and Sherman capture the majority of attention, the North's superiority on the seas, and the effective employment of the Navy by Gideon Welles and his Admirals in cutting the Confederacy's sea borne lines of supply, assured the South's demise as much as any other factor.
In a case commonly known as the "Alabama Claims," an international tribunal at Geneva in 1872 determined that Great Britain had indeed failed to exercise the diligence required of a neutral power, and awarded the United States $15.5 million for the damages inflicted by the British-built commerce-raiders.
Although Commander George Preble's rank and position in the Navy were restored on appeal in 1863, the stigma of alleged malfeasance remained. In 1872, Preble finally received the Court of Inquiry he had requested to clear his name. The Court reviewed the events of that late summer day off Mobile ten years earlier, when the Florida ran through the blockade to safety. The decision stated that Preble had not been negligent in his duties when he challenged the Florida, and that he had in fact done "all that a loyal, brave, and efficient officer could do to capture or destroy her." Among the witnesses testifying on Preble's behalf, was his former nemesis, John Newland Maffitt.
About the Author:
Biography - Henry Rhodes is a resident of Cocoa Beach, Florida.
The Article - Non-fiction.
Honorable Mention . . .
"The Battle of Artz's Farm" by Preston Law
Sept 11, 1862. Rainy. Commenced to rain yesterday, hard at times, and continues through this day. Still in Maryland. The General seems intent on driving us all the way into Pennsylvania. I hear we are not far distant from there now. Went into camp on large farm a little south of Hagerstown in late afternoon. The farmer's name is Artz, a rather pleasant gentleman. Our regiment bivouacked in woods far corner of farm. Weather mild. Beautiful country here, fields, hills, crops, woods, all green. Farmer Artz is not shy about coming out to walk among our camps. I wager he is making sure we are not using his fence rails for our fires nor his pigs or hens in our camp stew. He won't find nothin. The General strictly forbids it. Cleared off in early evening. Sunset very pretty. After dark we could see tiny campfires twinkling far off to our right and rear. Yankee campfires we reckon. They are a'comin after us. Like a pack of hounds on a scent they just keep a'comin after us. Some of the boys are speculating on the likelihood of a battle taking place nearabouts if the Yankee army keeps pressing up against us.
Sept 12, 1862. Heavy fog in morning. Heard trains running during the night. Surprised our cavalry has not torn up tracks and stopped all trains. Maybe don't wish to upset Maryland people. We took up march again just after dawn. Passed through outskirts of Hagerstown. Got clear to north end headed straight up pike to Pennsylvania for sure when we halted and about faced. Dogged if we weren't ordered to countermarch back through town, this time plumb through the center! People came out in droves to line the streets, waving flags, smiling, very friendly. I expect we appeared fairly raggy. Our boys whistled and cheered many a pretty lass. Heard our band strike up lively renditions of "Dixie", "Bonnie Blue Flag", and "Maryland My Maryland". Returned to our old bivouac on Artz farm. Late afternoon I visited sutler tents set up in the area. A fellow with money enough would not want for a thing. Those sutlers have it all, pies, cakes, candy, cigars, strong drink, hats, uniform parts, knives, pistols, soap, dime novels, I reckon this war is not so hard on all folks. Anyone with but a few cents can live in good comfort around here. Weather now sunny. Turning warm. We saw our cavalry poking about this afternoon. Much excitement. Heard distant cannon fire and musketry off and on rest of day. Appears to be growing gradually closer. Farming people around here seem unconcerned, going about their usual routine.
Sept 13, 1862. Sunny and warm. Waiting in camp. The boys are growing agitated. Around mid-morning Farmer Artz invited some of us to have a look at his large collection of what he called old antique wagons, coaches, and farming equipment. I saw some dazzling inventions there, and feel sure there is many a Georgia farmer back home who would be happy to trade his old mule and plow for one of these new- fangled "antique" gadgets! These Yankee people up here have figured all kinds of ways to get out of hard work. I'd like to ride one of them machines right out of this war.
Heavy cannon and musket fire still being heard in the distance. Some are saying a battle looms for sure. We still have a few curious visitors wandering about our camps. I saw some school children and town dignitaries. I don't think they yet know how bad war is. A Dr. Brown on business here from out west came in to see our regimental surgeon. Said he would like to observe what new methods are being used by the military in the field. I watched them two doctors comparing different instruments and bottled medicines and I about got sick from just the seein. I pray I don't get no closer to the real thing than this.
Noon meal, then called to arms. Marched to sound of musket fire. Halted beyond hill out of sight. Suddenly battle opened full circus. We knew a terrific fight was goin on somewhere to our front. Seemed to rage on and on, pitched and lulled, as we waited long, itching to be thrown in. At last we were ordered up the hill, straight into the Federal flank. Soon all order give way to a dead run, screaming and yelling. We wanted after those Yankee devils. Hoped they would see my blue trousers captured at Harpers Ferry, rather than our flags, and hold their fire. We hit em in the flanks tarnation hard, sure give em a surprisin. Rolled them up and sent them skeedaddlin back down the hill. All very quick, with but few casualties in our company. With the help of Almighty God we saved the day our colonel said. We dropped down exhausted, ate some, and rested for next day's fight.
Sept 14, 1862 . Called out of sleep into line near 4:00 AM, marched in darkness toward northeast. Came up on our batteries. Posted us in center, along right of Hagerstown Pike. Misty. Waited in place in dark. Near dawn terrific cannon barrage opened from north. Suddenly entire six-gun battery on other side of road to our left fired together with great sheets of flame exiting from their muzzles. Nearly knocked us off our feet, and I dare say made us fairly ache for our families and peace and quiet of home. Now the cannons seemed to be firing from everywhere, concentrating over large field of corn to our right. A dozen or more guns directly in front and right of us kept up constant firing. Field artillery contest for over half hour. Hideous shrieks of shells and men. Then sudden calm. Now early dawn. All shrouded in thick smoke and fog. Could barely see fellow standing next to me. In quiet we heard strange rustling moving steadily towards us through the corn. Now we heard the commands of their officers. Them Yanks were a'comin! Our company ordered up turnpike between two high split rail fences. To our right battalions in double ranks perfect order began to push through the corn. We moved slowly forward trying to see anything before us. Shoulder to shoulder, foot by foot, forward down the pike. There they were! Appearing as ghostly specters rising up out of the mist like a dim wall in our front. We could see their tall dark hats, the Black Hats of the Iron Brigade! We were up against the best, those most feared boys from out west. What a fright! Whether we or they opened first I cannot say. A terrible battle broke out all around us. We would load and duck and grit our teeth and squint in terror, trembling, as we waited order to fire by company. Load and come to the ready. Fire! Load and come to the ready. Fire! Close up, men, close up! Load and come to the ready. Fire! Finally came the order "fire at will, boys". "Give it to 'em. Give it to those bloody blue devils!" Flashes of muzzles, unrelenting screeching of shells, fragments whirring through the air, corn stalks snapping and breaking. Saw Pvt. R. Lynn from Atlanta on my right go down, laughing crazy as a loon, eyes wild, as he slowly crumpled to the ground. His musket angled upwards and a strange sight it was as he got off one last shot. Blew corn tassles into tiny little bits high into the sky, and they floated ever so lazily and weirdly back to earth. Was this some horrible dream? No, I looked down at poor Lynn, lying in a heap with a death grin. He was out of the fight, soon to be part of the very ground we trampled. Now the kid in front of me is knocked over shrieking in pain, and then another fellow is flattened by a fence rail blown loose like a piece of kindlin. Cornfield now strange world of twisted, tramped stalks and men, rifles, hats, bayonets, canteens, all mixed together in dirt, corn leaves, stones, cloth pieces, screams of mindless warriors and cries of helpless wounded, all wrapped up in smoke and fog. I expected to be next as we could sense the Yankee horde overrunning us. Like an awakening from a nightmare, I heard our captain shout, "Pull back, pull back, men, reform to the rear, run!" I stumbled out of the pike and toward the rear. At the far end of the field we reformed, missing many from our ranks. Called to attention and marched off to far right, circling around end of the field in long line of march. Could hear all the horror still in the corn, blood-curdling screams, thrashing, firing. We continued on to edge of woods on east side of the field. Ordered to left face in line of battle and plunged headlong back into the corn. Pushed our way through the tall, wet stalks, knocking over all in our front, whacked in the face by stubborn stalks, stumbling into groundhog holes, all the while hearing, "dress it up, men, dress it up, keep the dress, dress on center." Pressed forward as sounds of the struggle grew quickly closer. Then again we saw them dimly through the smoke and fog and we gave them a volley. This time we were on their left flank and we startled them. Fought hard to a standstill. Neither side yielded. Neither side had the energy to go on. Saw it was daylight and fog lifted. Sun aglow. Both sides kept distance, stared sullenly at each other, but too tired to press in again. Waited for Yankees to make a move. They waited for us. Cannon and musketry died away. Only the horrifying sounds of the wounded, crying for help and mercy still heard clearly.
Allowed to rest and eat whatever morsels may be carrying. Morning wore on. Danger sensed anew. Our battalion pulled out of cornfield and marched way to rear. Placed on high ridge behind long, 22- gun line of artillery. Looked down on fenced farm lane running west to east. Could see lane overflowing with Rebs, shoulder to shoulder, entire length of road. Lane appeared deep, and our boys well protected behind fence. But all fiighting seemed far away, crossing our front to wooded area west of the morning's cornfield fight. Watched spellbound as great bodies of Union troops formed into long lines of battle, looking far-off like toy soldiers all in neat rows, two lines deep. They came out of the woods to the east and moved clear across the land toward woods to the west, a grand spectacle as they progressed across fields and hills. Suddenly long lines of Confederates came out of west woods. Now we saw the terrific clash and heard rattle of musketry and booming of cannons, like an enormous act staged for our benefit. Back and forth the lines swayed, first the southrens beat back the Yanks, then a new line for the Union came up on the run to push back the Rebs, then fresh southerners repulsed the northerners once more, and so on, both sides in turn charging then knocked back by new reserves, back and forth, back and forth. Appeared endless and hopeless as first we cheered the Rebs, then groaned as Yankees regained the ground, then cheered again, and again felt despair. Seemed it would drag on unending with no clear victor.
Suddenly a new sight directly in our front! A huge division of Yankees veered left and came straight for the fenced road, approaching in mass of invincible blue. Rebs hidden in road tense, but held still, rigidly awaited orders to fire. Heard colonel commanding Confederate artillery in our front beller out, "fire by battalion", and we are stunned by blast of 22 cannons firing in unison, producing great gaps in front ranks of the Union lines. But they reformed and kept a'comin, that great dark wave. They did not yet see the Rebel eyes peering out low from along sunken lane. All of a sudden the Rebs let fly with a ripping volley, mowing down rows of Federals. For a moment they are rattled, turn to step backward, but sharp commands cause them to redress, and new lines come up to help the assault. Watched it all from where we stood, as some huge theater being played out in our front. In came the Yankees, flags waving, only to be met by hidden volleys from the lane. Down they went, but replaced by yet more lines coming in. Our batteries fired every more rapidly, a raging wildness, an unceasing din, smoke, fire, falling men and horses, tortured forms, screaming hellions. Yet the Yanks kept a'comin with those defiant flags, coming, coming, ever forward. Now to the right a huge green banner arose, and a fresh brigade of fighting Irishmen came dashing up, hitting the Rebels on the open flank, firing straight down the sunken lane! Our southern boys fell over in heaps as their fire began to fade away. Finally the command for us, march at the double quick down to the lane. We hurried down the slopes to our left, reformed, jumped in the fire, hit the main body of Yankees in their flank, surprised them and sent them on the fly. To our alarm they halted, redressed and returned to give us hot new battle. Fought mean and hard, often hand-to-hand, until we could no longer resist their numbers. Gradually fell back, and I'm down. Wondered where I was hit. Felt the warm oozing at top of my right shoulder, and probed around, satisfied that it was but a graze. Blue forms everywhere scurried over and around me, yelling lustily in their peculiar tongue. Looked right and left, saw Yanks, Rebs, dead and gasping, writhing and howling, wild eyed, glassy eyed, all mixed up together. Battle seemed strangely to pass me by. Crawled slowly over to fence line. In the sunken lane an indescribably gruesome sight, deep path of carnage, human flesh, bodies, muskets, pistols, blankets, knapsacks, shoes, hats, all twisted and packed together tight, covered with dust and blood, whole streams of blood, a dirty unraveling quilt of blood, in the sunken lane.
Blue lines again passed over me, silently withdrawing now, slowly backward. Field grew quiet, leaving only pitiful whimpers and moans of the deserted. Both sides stopped to rest. Convinced my wound but a scratch, bleeding stopped, pain seemed past, I sat on a small piling of rails, stared at the bodies in the bloody farm lane, wondered what kind of madness would cause such a scene, what kind of hate or greed or stubborn human nature? Where and when would it end? For those layin on the field and in the lane it was forever at an end. The battle of Artz's Farm was over. In time perhaps it would take on another name, maybe after a peaceful creek running nearby, or after a quiet little country village back down the road a piece. But for me, I'm content to know on this farm, this time, we fought them blue bellies to a quit. Now cheered by news that we soon head back to old Virginia. May God in His infinite wisdom preserve us.
About the Author:
Biography - A resident of Hagerstown, Maryland, Preston Law is a Civil War reenactor, writer, lecturer, collector, and shooter. He's been a member of the 3rd Alabama Volunteer Infantry, CSA of the North- South Skirmish Association (competitive live-fire musket team) for 25 years; a member of the 21st Georgia Volunteer Infantry, 5th Battalion, Army of North Virginia (reenacting) for 10 years; is a member of the South Mountain Coin and Relic Club (Civil War artifacts collecting); and a member of the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites [APCWS] (volunteer work) for 10 years. Law holds an engineering degree from the University of Maryland, and is retired as Director of Engineering, Radio Free Europe, Munich, Germany.
The Story - In September 1997, Preston Law participated in the largest Civil War reenactment ever held (up to that time) - namely, the 135th Anniversary of the Battle of Antietam (September 17, 1862). The event was held at Artz's Farm, which is just south of Hagerstown, Maryland, and north of the actual Antietam Battlefield in Sharpsburg. Law kept a journal of daily events from a soldier's viewpoint of experiences which occurred 12-14 September 1997 at the reenactment of Antietam on the Artz family farm. It is the perspective of a Civil War reenactor's participation in the 3-day event, intended to recreate as closely as possible that fateful battle along the Antietam of 17 September 1862.
This account, his journal, was published in a local county heritage magazine, The Maryland Cracker Barrel, Vol. 26, No. 4, December '97/January '98. It appears here with permission.
Honorable Mention . . .
"The Little, Small Action At Appomattox" by George Tomezsko
Appomattox Court House, Virginia, April 11, 1865 - I am a rebel soldier and I remain one even though our forces surrendered the day before yesterday. My thoughts about the end of the war are a bit cloudy, and at this time arouse in me so many conflicting emotions that I will need time to sort them out. I can tell you this much, that even though I have attained the age of nineteen years, and if I live another one hundred years, I figure I will always be a rebel soldier in my heart. I also want to tell you of a little action I was involved in on the day of surrender that, in the opinion of my unit commander and fellow soldiers, brought great credit upon myself, themselves, and our flag. I hope you will do me the honor of listening to my story.
The day before yesterday, I had gone for a walk in the woods by myself for some relaxation. It was late in the day, about four o'clock I think. I did not know the time with more precisiion because I never could afford a timepiece, and I thought it sacrilegious to ask someone for something as mundance as the time of day at this point in our mutual lives. I had decided that each man in our camp should be alone with his thoughts, and in point of fact, very few words were spoken that entire afternoon. Discipline in our camp had been lax and our morale low all that day because we all knew that the end had come for our country and our cause. Even though our unit was stationed some distance away from the Court House, word about the surrender had reached us pretty quickly. After that point in time, military order began to disappear. It was no longer needed and most were preparing to journey home, some the very next morning, others in a day or two. For all these reasons, a man could walk away from the camp and the unit and no longer be challenged by our officers.
After I had walked a distance, I smelled the smoke of a wood stove mixed with the odor of beans being cooked. Being in a state of extreme hunger since I had not had any real meal for about the previous thirty-six hours, that smell caught my attention. Food had been very scarce for us in the last weeks of the war, although with the surrender we had received some provisions out of the generosity of Abe Lincoln and Gen. Ulysses Grant. I decided to follow that smell to its source. This was easy because a Southern boy is very resourceful by upbringing and temperament, living as we do so close to nature. I doubt whether a citified Yankee could perform a simple trick like finding your way by your own sense of smell.
I soon came to a small cabin in a clearing near some woods. Standing just outside the door were two figures, a Yankee soldier and a woman. I guessed that she lived in the cabin. The two stood, just talking. The soldier was not armed; his rifle lay against a log at least twenty feet away. He did not appear much older than I, and judged that, like myself, he wasn't looking for a fight. Since I sensed no danger, I decided to approach them even though I was unarmed. The reason for this is because all the enlisted members of my unit had to stack our arms as part of the terms of surrender.
The woman saw me coming first and looked in my direction. This caused the soldier to turn toward me as well. He appeared uneasy at first, but made no movement toward his rifle. I suppose he was too surprised to react upon seeing a johnny reb walk toward him just as pretty as you please. Or maybe like myself he realized that since the war was already over, any further hostilities were useless, even if our would-be battle would have involved only two men. He began to relax when he saw I did not have a gun. His guard went down completely when I told them I was alone, and being in a hungry state, my only purpose was to track down the source of that wonderful odor which filled the air. I grant you, beans are not much of a dinner, but the circumstances made it seem a banquet. She pointed to a pot on a small stove inside. I then thought that the Yankee had come past for pretty much the same reason, but the woman answered that question without me even saying a word.
She said that he had come by not very long before I had, and that he told her he had left his camp just to walk in the countryside and reflect about the late war's end. She told us that she had been living there with her twin daughters, now about nine months old. They were asleep in a big basket just inside the door. She explained that her husband had been killed in October fighting with the Rebel army against Gen. Phil Sheridan in the Valley. They had been poor, she said, and a glance at the cabin bore this out. It needed repairs, and the inside, such as I could see from my vantage point outside the door, was very barely furnished. It was evident that the death of her husband and the general hardships of the war had only worsened her situation.
Motioning toward the pot of beans, she mentioned that she had only enough for herself, but she had a few hardtack biscuits. The Yankee said he wasn't hungry, and for my part I thought that in her circumstances her need was greater than mine, so I declined the offer. She let on about how the babies needed new clothes, but she had no money to buy material, and had no cloth on hand. Having said that, the Yankee peeled off his army coat, gave it to her, and told her she could use it to make clothes. His was of fine new army issue, blue and in pretty good condition. He allowed that since his enlistment was up in just a day or so, he foresaw no further need of it.
When I saw what he had done, my very first thought was that anything that a Yankee boy could do, a Southern boy could do as well or better, but I held my tongue, leaving my actions to speak for me. I took off my own coat and my cap and handed them both to her. My cap and my coat weren't much to look at, being very threadbare and worn, but they had served me well during my time in the Army and I wore that gray with pride. During all the scrapes and fights I had ever been in, I had come to consider these articles as old, good friends. Now, as so often happens in life, it was time for friends to part.
I apologized to her for the condition my articles were in, but told her that maybe she could find a use for them. A woman who only moments before had no material now had two coats and a cap. She stood there with this small booty for a long minute in silence. She began to cry, then mumbled her thanks. We soldiers stood by all staunch and resolute on our exteriors, but I'm sure both of us were not so on the inside. Each of us said nothing else. Looking back on that day, for me it was as if Time itself had gathered together both the good and the bad in the late war, and brought it all into sharp relief in that small incident. I believe that the three of us, faced with the enormity contained in that moment, had to save our thoughts and feelings for more distant days, when advancing age and wisdom would bring an understanding we could not then put into words. Then we turned to go, she back into her cabin, the Union boy back to his camp, and me to mine.
As I walked back I began to think that it is not through acts of war and the virtues of war that make us human. Those virtues are important, for they prepare us for life. But it is through small actions like this one that we really show our humanity. I thought that maybe ten thousand such actions were needed now, no, perhaps even ten thousand times ten thousand. I simply do not know much more than that. As I walked along, it gave me a strangely good feeling that from now into old age, I would always hope that somewhere in southern Virginia, at least one twin would have worn a little gray "uniform," if only for a summer.
When I returned to my camp and told those of my companions in arms who remained what had happened, there was much cheering and good fellowship. Our commanding officer even fired a salute from his sidearm. I was given our unit flag for safekeeping (we had decided earlier that day that despite the surrender terms, we would not give up that flag). Then we all sat down to dinner, compliments of the Union army. I like to think that, for all of us gathered that evening, life was beginning again. Well, this is all I have to say about how the war ended for me. Best regards.
Pvt. Jonathan Coltrane, Sixteenth Virginia Volunteers.
About the Author:
Biography - George Tomezsko is a resident of Hollywood, Pennsylvania.
The Story - This is a fictional short story, told through the eyes of Pvt. Jonathan Coltrane, Sixteenth Virginia Volunteers.
GENERAL HISTORY CATEGORY
First Place . . .
"The Bright and Blazing Black Star of Arizona" by Stan Schirmacher
Yes, the very first trailblazer into what is now the state of Arizona was a black from Morocco! Also he was one of four men first in Texas. But, let us go back to the beginning....
Hernando Cortez really started the Spanish in this direction. He invaded Mexico in 1519. His conquest of the Aztecs put the Spanish on the mainland of North America, and gave Mexico for many years the name of New Spain.
The year 1527 marked the beginning of those explorations into the interior of what is now the United States. At that time a colony left Spain for the New World. They started with five ships and six hundred men, women, and children. Five sailing ships in those days seemed a large number, so they were called a fleet. That is why Narvaez's ships that bore his colonizers westward were named by the Spanish the "Armada de Panfilo de Narvaez." Their leader had been given the right to settle his colony there.
Narvaez's Armada had an eventful voyage. Sailing across the Atlantic in those days was a great adventure and the fleet had its full share. They lost two of their vessels and sixty members of their company off the coast of one of the islands of the West Indies. About one hundred forty settlers deserted at the port of Santo Domingo, in Hispaniola (the island of Haiti and Dominican Republic midway between Cuba and Puerto Rico).
It was hard sailing to reach Florida. Arriving in 1528 at what is now Tampa Bay, Narvaez lost no time in starting out to find wealth.
He left the women of the expedition and a few of the men to take charge of the ships, telling them to follow the west coast of Florida northward and to search for a good harbor farther on. The leader was sure that such a port could be found. The men of Narvaez's expedition planned to meet the rest of the colonists and the ships at this place.
Three hundred fortune hunters went north by land. Some of them rode horses; many walked. The men were gone longer than they had planned, for they had a hard trip. They waded through swamps and marshes, fought hostile Indians who killed some of their number; and they saw nothing of value, no treasure and no fine cities.
Click here to see timeline.
In the meantime the colonists left behind in the ships could see little pleasure in their part of the adventure. The days passed and for a year they cruised about the western coast of Florida and no message came from the wanderers, so they sailed away, back to Spain.
Finally reaching the coast, the two hundred forty men found they were stranded and destitute, with no provisions and no ships. They were determined to cross over the water to the east coast of Mexico, and began planning some way of getting there. Narvaez and his men were incentive as well as brave. Their boats they created from any materials at hand were small and few in number, but they all dared to crowd themselves into the five little "tubs" they had made.
In the cruise their boats were tossed about like peanut shells in the water. Soon most of the daring company were lost in the Gulf of Mexico. At last eighty of them were cast ashore on an island off the coast of Texas. The island was bare of food and gradually most of the company perished.
Out of this group four men survived and managed to get away from the island onto what is now Texas. Three of these castaways were Spaniards. They were Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, Alonzo del Castillo Maldonado, and Andres Dorantes. The other was our black star, Dorantes's Negro slave, Estevan from Morocco.
Reaching the mainland seemed to do the four survivors little good. For years they were captives of the Indians, even being separated among different tribes. One of them developed himself into a "medicine man," met with success, and his fame spread. During this time he came across the other three. After a time they managed to escape and headed south to Mexico.
But the Spaniard could not escape being a medicine man, and in their long southward march many Indians, even thousands of the red men, followed the "Miracle Man." Natives came to be healed and then accompanied and attended the men on their way!
At long length the four wanderers reached Mexico City. They were a sorry sight, they had been away from civilization for many years, and they had none of the fine clothes they had once worn. The castaways could not enjoy the luxuries to which they had formerly been accustomed. Houses and closed- in places annoyed them, it was not easy for them to get used to cities and towns. They said of themselves: "Nor could we sleep anywhere else than on the ground!"
The four men, while with the Indians, had heard strange tales of the northlands. They told the tales that the Indians had brought to them of places the white men never had seen. In this way they started interest in an old legend that the Spaniards had heard in earlier years.
Two men, both of whom held high offices in the rich new Spanish country, planned to institute a search for the "Seven Golden Cities of Cibola." One of them was Antonio de Mendoza, Mexico's Viceroy. The other was Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, governor of New Galicia, a province in the far northwestern part of New Spain. The Viceroy bought Dorantes's slave, Esteven, to act as the guide. Fray Marcos de Niza (of Nice) was made commander of the expedition. Completing the group were some Indians from New Galicia.
This small band of explorers started northwestward in the early part of 1539. The Franciscan Friar delegated Estevan to keep going ahead for one hundred fifty miles, or more, and to inquire for the cities as he went. An Indian from the black man's group, each time he would send back a message south to de Niza, would bear a symbol of a wooden cross, the size of each cross representing the favorableness of the news about the "cities."
Thus it was that Estevan became Arizona's first visitor from the Old World! Not a white man - nor a European. He was the black "star" from Morocco, in Northern Africa.
Also, then when Fr. Marcos reached the Hohokam Indian (Phoenix) area, before turning northeastward, he chiseled for posterity the permanent rock record of their claim to the lands. This Arizona "birthmark" took place 81 years before the Mayflower landed. (The lands later became U.S. property with the Louisiana Purchase and the Gadsden Purchase.)
(This now can easily be located from the Phoenix Mt. Park road over the east Phoenix "Interstate 10" freeway at Guadalupe, the southern suburb of Tempe, Arizona.)
Now Estevan, our bright and blazing star, hastened onward. He moved proudly. He felt his own importance and he wanted the natives, too, to realize his greatness. He wore feathers of bright colors and tinkling bells. He carried a gourd that was dressed in the same manner. When he wished to be especially important, he shook the gourd and made a great deal of noise. His early experiences with the natives had led him to feel that he knew more than the others about the red man, and he wanted to make a great impression upon the people of the Seven Cities! Before long he met Indians who told him tales of the villages just ahead. Estevan's crosses back to de Niza were steadily growing larger.
Then one day the good friar met with disappointment. Estevan's Indian companions appeared. They were nearly speechless with fright. Little by little they gasped out their story to de Niza. They had found the (Zuni Indian) cities, but the people of the pueblos did not want them. The village natives had killed their Negro and were even now on their way after the men who had brought Estevan into their area. The Indians begged Fray Marcos to hurry away, they wanted to get back into their own part of the country where they would be safe.
Finally, the leader persuaded his men to follow him in the direction of the villages, urging that, at least, they could look at the cities from far off. Continuing, then, they spied the pueblos in the distance. Perhaps the clay adobe buildings seen from a distant hill glowed like gold in the evening sunset. At any rate, when de Niza got back to Mexico he told a vivid tale...The Seven Cities of Gold were all that the Spaniards had dreamed them to be.
Preparations to send an army of conquest to the north commenced at once. Francisco Vasquez de Coronado led the great expedition of 1540 into our southwest. Viceroy Mendoza helped in the expenses.
The "Conquistadores" army was a large and gaudy company. There were about three hundred Spaniards and eight hundred Indians, all this number making a fine appearance. It really was the most gorgeous array that had ever been seen in the New World. And, believe it or not, guiding the great conquest straight northward was the Franciscan Friar, Marcos de Niza!
Of course, they quickly subdued the 200 warriors in the adobe Zuni villages. Surely the demise of the bright blazing black star should have forewarned them of their own disappointment in discovering NOTHING! In desperation, Coronado searched far and wide into Quevera (Kansas) for riches and all he discovered were bison - but the Spanish "Miracle Man" (remember him?) had seen them first, calling them "hump-backed cows."
Coronado even delegated one of his officers, Don Garcia Lopez de Cardenas, and about 12 men, to search west beyond Hopiland, and thus Cardenas was the first to view the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River. They were impressed only by the inaccessibility of the water!
Coronado and de Niza both died as failures in New Spain. Only Estevan died in his success, the first shining (black) star in Arizona! "From beyond Tampa - to beyond Tempe!"
About the Author:
Biography - Currently a resident of Tempe, Arizona, Stan Schirmacher is the founder and National Director of "Sons of Sherman's March to the Sea" and "Civil War Sons" organizations for descendents of both Union and Confederate soldiers. These organizations are listed in The Encyclopedia of Associations.
Schirmacher has also written several articles, including "Perseverance Pays: Finding Civil War Records" which is included in Drury's book, Daring to Dream, "It's In The Bible: Dinosaurs With Man" which is included in Drury's book, Where Words Are Spoken, and "Arizona's 1539 Birthmark" which is included in Drury's book, Windows on the World.
Schirmacher was named "1996 Man of the Year" by the American Biographical Institute Board of International Research, Raleigh, North Carolina, and was included in International Who's Who of Professionals, Veterans Organizations & Patriotic Societies as well as National Directory of Who's Who in Executives and Professionals, Who's Who In Poetry, Who's Who in the West, Who's Who in Photography, Who's Who in Heritage Societies, Who's Who in American Education, Who's Who in Freedom Foundation at Valley Forge - Teachers Medal, Who's Who in Living History Hall of Fame, Galveston, Indiana, Who's Who in International Biographies, Cambridge, England, Who's Who in America, 1994, Who's Who in the World, 1995, Who's Who in 2000 Notable American Men, Who's Who in Civil War Source Book, Who's Who in Arizona Source Book, and Strathmore's Who's Who in Business.
All these accomplishments leaves one to wonder about his age. Schirmacher comments, "I was a Freshman-Sophomore at Arizona State University in 1930-1932 when letter postage was only 2 cents." He was Editor of the 1926 Beaver Dam (Wisconsin) High School Annual, Official Photographer for the 1933 Dedication of the Temple Mill Avenue Bridge, and the first two-year Partner of Harkins Theater in Tempe, Arizona 1933-35.
The Article - Previously published in National Hobby News, Summer 1997.
Roots - Schirmacher's grandfather was Union General William Tecumseh Sherman's drummer boy on the army's famous March to the Sea. Schirmacher is also a 16th cousin of the general. His wife, Ruth, also claims ties to the Civil War. Her grandfather was Dr. John R. Scales, who served as Commanding Officer with the 35th Texas Cavalry, M.A.S.H.
Second Place . . .
"Remembering Martin Luther King, Jr." by Richard H. Peterson
The recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964 for his work in advancing the cause of civil rights for blacks in America, Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968), exemplifies the positive use of passive, nonviolent resistance in order to overturn unjust laws. In his now famous letter to fellow ministers from a Birmingham, Alabama, jail, he defined what he meant by unjust laws: "A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law...Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority."
King emerged on the national scene in 1955, a year after the United States Supreme Court decision desegregating the nation's public schools in the case of Brown vs. The Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. His career or crusade on behalf of peaceful means to overturn unjust laws began in the rigidly segregated city of Montgomery, Alabama. On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks boarded a bus on her way home from work. She took a seat toward the rear as the so-called "Jim Crow" segregationist laws of the South required at that time. After white workers and shoppers had filled the forward section of the bus, the driver ordered her to give up her seat to a white man. She refused and was arrested for violating the segregation policies in public transportation and, by implication, in other public facilities. Rosa Parks appealed to her minister for help. At that time, King was a young Baptist clergyman, who quickly organized a boycott of the buses by the city's blacks. For an entire year, they refused to ride the buses. Finally, after a United States Supreme Court ruling in their favor, Montgomery desegregated its public transportation system.
This success encouraged blacks elsewhere in the South to come together to end a longstanding system that segregated them in the schools and in public facilities from drinking fountains to movie theaters. It made King - who preached civil, nonviolent disobedience as the best way to end the virtual cradle-to-grave segregation - a national figure. King and others founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957 as a spiritual and political force in the ensuing struggle to end segregation, job discrimination, and the lack of black voting rights, especially in the South.
King based his philosophy and tactics in part on the teachings of Christianity and the precedents set by such reformers as Henry David Thoreau, who was briefly imprisoned in the mid-nineteenth century for failing to pay his poll taxes to support what he regarded as an unjust war, namely, the Mexican War (1846-1848). Thoreau viewed the Mexican War as an attempt to expand slave territory. In his essay, "Civil Disobedience" (1849), he argued that people should refuse to obey any government rule they believe to be unjust. King also was influenced by Mohandas Gandhi who struggled to free India from British rule nearly a century after Thoreau had been jailed for not paying his taxes. Gandhi applied Thoreau's theories in the form of boycotts, strikes, and protest marches, which were carried out nonviolently and based on love for the oppressor and a belief that divine justice would triumph in the end.
King taught his followers not to respond violently when assaulted by angry racists or the local police if they were to change the system that discriminated against blacks. Instead, he said it was necessary to show love rather than hatred to your oppressors in order to awaken their conscience and the moral conscience of the nation. As King explained, "We will match your capacity to inflict suffering with our capacity to endure suffering. We will meet your physical force with our soul force. We will not hate you, but we cannot obey your unjust laws. Do to us what you will and we will still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children; send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our communities and drag us out on some wayside road, beating us and leaving us half dead, and we will still love you. But we will soon wear you down by our capacity to suffer. And in winning our freedom, we will so appeal to your heart and conscience that we will win you in the process."
King also preached to his followers that they were not to resist arrest even if the law they violated was unjust. Rather, they were to go to jail as a matter of principle and to test the legality or constitutionality of the law in court. King himself was jailed a number of times as the price for his civil disobedience.
With King's leadership such nonviolent resistance as that demonstrated in the successful bus boycott reached its greatest success from 1955 to 1965. King led public demonstrations in many parts of the country. In 1963, for example, he led a large march in Birmingham, Alabama, to protect citywide racial discrimination. It prompted President John Kennedy's decision to fight for a strong federal civil rights law. In 1964, he staged a "sit-in" demonstration in Saint Augustine, Florida, to open public facilities like segregated restaurants to blacks. As part of his 1965 campaign to guarantee voting rights for blacks, he lead a "Freedom March" from Selma, Alabama, to the state capital in Montgomery. Although these mass demonstrations received wide support from religious, labor, and civil rights organizations, they often were met with tear gas, whips, and dogs by state troopers and local authorities. Such was the case during the march from Selma to Montgomery. After President Lyndon Johnson federalized the Alabama National Guard and ordered it to protect the marchers, King was finally allowed to complete his mission. King also brought his crusade for integration and voter registration to Northern cities, where again he was confronted with stiff opposition. Nonetheless, he demonstrated against school segregation in Chicago in 1965 and slum conditions there in 1966.
King's efforts, which attracted the attention of television and newspapers, brought the plight of blacks into peoples' homes. Partly because of his work on behalf of civil rights, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The latter suspended literacy tests and surviving poll taxes in state elections to facilitate black voter registration, while the former among other things attempted to end job discrimination against blacks and segregation in public places,
On August 28, 1963, King's nonviolent program reached its most memorable point. Over 200,000 persons, black and white, marched from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial. As millions watched at home on television, King delivered his now famous "I have a dream" speech. He spoke eloquently, "I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal.' "
Despite King's achievements, by 1965, his nonviolent campaign faced problems and obstacles. The Vietnam War, which he strongly opposed, distracted the attention of Americans from the civil rights movement. Many black Americans felt that the movement had not substantially changed their lives and that nonviolent resistance had little impact on black unemployment, bad housing, and the problem of life in the slums. "Black Power" became the slogan of many black Americans who wanted a more aggressive approach to solving their problems.
Unlike King, who believed in racial integration, other black leaders advocated racial separation. Elijah Muhammad, leader of the Black Muslim movement, was so alienated from white America that he argued that a part of the country should be set aside for the exclusive use of blacks. He also urged all blacks to work hard and be thrifty to improve their lives economically. King was not unaware of the poverty of blacks. However, he did not live to lead his planned "Poor People's March" on Washington, D.C. for 1968. In that year, ironically, the man who had dedicated his life to nonviolence was shot and killed by a white escaped convict, James Earl Ray, on April 4, in Memphis, Tennessee. This set off not only shock and grief but riots in the inner cities of Chicago, Washington D.C., and elsewhere. Buildings were looted and burned. Such violence undoubtedly would not have been condoned by Dr. King had he lived. Buried in his native Atlanta, on his crypt were inscribed the words of an old Negro spiritual King had often quoted: "Free at Last, Free at Last, Thank God Almighty I'm Free at Last." According to a King scholar, "As a black man born and raised in segregation, he had every reason to hate America and to grow up preaching cynicism and retaliation (much like Malcolm X). Instead, he had loved the country passionately and had sung of her promise and glory more eloquently than anyone of his generation."
Had King resorted to militant, confrontational tactics, such as those advocated by some of his contemporaries and by some who came after him, it is likely that he would have been much less successful. Although King had difficulty moving the Christian conscience of the white South, he was nonetheless the right man in the right place at the right time. As such, he awakened the country to its moral responsibility to do something about historical institutionalized racism.
Had King applied his program of nonviolent resistance and peaceful civil disobedience in a totalitarian country like Hitler's Germany presumably to protest the plight of persecuted Jews, he most likely would have been declared an enemy of the state and killed by Hitler's secret police or sent to a concentration camp. Only in countries which, however reluctantly and imperfectly, have a democratic tradition and a commitment to the equal protection of the laws could King's programs have had a chance to succeed. Totalitarian societies would have dispensed quickly with him.
If a specific group of people is impacted by unjust laws and discriminatory policies, they should follow King's bravery, patience, and organization in working through the legal system by nonviolent means to redress their grievances. King's legacy is that positive social and political change can be accomplished by nonviolent persistent protest even if the sacrifices are great and potentially life-threatening. Even in our mass, urbanized, computerized society, King gave new meaning to the idea that the individual can still make a difference by exercising sufficient moral courage and organizational leadership. Martin Luther King Jr. made us believe that America is still a free, if tragically flawed, society. From his efforts and eventual martyrdom, we can all find inspiration to again make America a more promised land.
* Bedford, Henry. "The Struggle for Civil Rights." In The Social Fabric: American Life from the Civil War to the Present, edited by John Cary and Julius Weinberg, pp. 285-298. Vol. II. Glenview, Illinois: Scott, Foresman and Co., 1987.
* Garraty, John and Robert McCaughey. A Short History of the American Nation. New York: Harper and Row, 1989.
* Jordan, Winthrop and Leon Litwack, et al. The United States. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice- Hall, 1987. 6th combined edition.
* King, Martin Luther, Jr. "Letter from a Birmingham Jail." In A History of Our Time, edited by William Chafe and Harvard Sitkoff, pp. 182-195. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.
* Oates, Stephen B. "Trumpet of Conscience: A Portrait of Martin Luther King, Jr." In American History: Reconstruction through the Present, edited by Robert J. Maddox, pp. 172-177. Vol. II. Guilford, Connecticut: The Dushkin Publishing Group, Inc., 1995.
* Thoreau, Henry David. "Civil Disobedience." In Walden and Other Writings of Henry David Thoreau, edited by Brooks Atkinson, pp. 635-659. New York: The Modern Library, 1965.
* World Book Encyclopedia. "Martin Luther King, Jr." Chicago: World Book, 1981. Vol. II, pp. 250b-251.
About the Author:
Biography - Richard H. Peterson, Ph.D., professor emeritus of history at San Diego State University, taught American history for 25 years and is the author of three scholarly books in the field. Currently, he is a San Diego, California, based freelance writer and editor.
The Article - "This article was written to remind readers that 1998 marks the 30th anniversary of Dr. King's assassination and to reveal the civil rights' philosophy, political tactics, and achievements of one of the most important figures in American history," says Peterson. In the 1960s, King continued the work of Reconstruction on behalf of former slaves that Abraham Lincoln may have begun had he not been killed in 1865, states Peterson.
Third Place . . .
"Golden Ball" by Donais Lee
This story is set in the South (pre-War Between the States), and allows us to enter the world of Cassie and her little girl, Jennifer, who are separated early on at a slave auction. This moving tale explores the value of freedom and what it means to be truly free; not only in body but in that indefinable essence that is often referenced as soul. This is a moving and gentle story about a harsh reality; a story of love, of hope, and of faith - virtues which transcend the barriers of painful hatred and the sleep of ignorance.
Cassie stood at her cabin door looking towards the lake where the shadow form of a lone egret meandered along the shore. Soon the sun would rise over pine woods and swift-walking quail herds would break the stillness of early day with their chatter. The morning was so right, as though nothing had happened to disturb the life on Master Clement's plantation. It was hard to believe he had died and left them all to be sold.
When the sky turned pink and gold, Cassie went back into the cabin where little Jennifer lay sleeping, her tiny face burrowed in the warm straw. Cassie touched the child's hair softly. Jennifer's fuzzy brown curls were clipped close to her head and had the feel of the cattail stems which grew along the lake.
"Jenny," she whispered, "get up, Jenny. We have to be ready when the overseer comes for us."
Jennifer opened one eye then shut it tight again. "I want to sleep."
"I wish you could, but today is special. We're going to a new home."
Jennifer sat up, looking at her mother. "I don't want to go someplace else."
Cassie knelt upon the straw, taking Jennifer's small hands. "Close your eyes, Jenny. I'm going to give you something. You won't be able to see my gift but, like the wind, you will be able to feel it."
Jennifer's eyes squeezed shut. "I'm ready."
"My gift," said Cassie, "is made of sheerest gold, so sheer you can see right through. It's round like a ball, and inside I have placed love, joy, and healing. Every time you think a happy thought or perform an action from the strength of kindness, the ball will grow and, maybe, someday, when we love enough, its golden light will cover the world."
Jennifer remained still, hands outstretched.
Cassie touched her palms gently. "The golden ball is yours and will surround you wherever you go."
There was a knock at the door, then another. Cassie did not move.
"Are thee home? It's me, Brother Eli."
Cassie rose quickly to admit him for he was her dearest friend. Though Cassie was no Quaker, she often attended the silent meetings that Eli held beneath the shady elms of Master Clement's plantation.
Eli stepped inside the cabin, his pale face as darkly solemn as the cloth of his Quaker suit. "It's time to go, Cassie. They're waiting out by the road."
"You don't have to come, Eli. From the look on your face, I'd say it was you who was going to be sold."
Eli turned and left the cabin. Cassie hesitated, glancing back on the room with its hard dirt floor. There were still sweet potatoes left in the potato hole. She guessed the rats would get them now.
When they reached the road, she saw the overseer busily tying the right ankle of each slave, one to another, forming a long, escape-proof line. Cassie felt the coarse hemp rope tighten about her own leg. She swooped Jennifer up into her arms as the man touched the child with the binding.
"I'll carry her," said Cassie, staring defiantly into the overseer's face. Cassie thought the man blushed beneath his shaggy beard. He looked at her, unmoving, then shrugged and passed on.
They reached the outskirts of town before noon and stopped alongside a platform that had been hastily built for the auction. A crowd of prospective buyers were already assembled. Some brought their wives and lady friends. Cassie noticed pastel-colored bonnets dotting the wave of grey and black worn by the men. One by one her companions took their place on the platform. A local man named Barret was buying most of them and she hoped he would buy her too. At least she would not be among strangers at the new place.
Before long, Cassie and Jennifer stood above the crowd. Hands shot into the air as the bidding began, and Cassie saw that Barret was one of the bidders.
The auctioneer's gavel come down hard on his wooden podium. She looked at him but his eyes were fixed on the man stepping forward to claim her. It was Barret.
Cassie felt sure the Quakerman's prayers had brought her this good fortune. She took Jennifer's tiny hand and started down the steps on the other side.
"Hey!" someone called. "Hold up there."
Cassie stood still. Was the voice calling to her or to another? She knew, in some terrible way, that an unbearable thing was about to happen. She turned around, her eyes large and fearful, like a doe who has caught the hunter's scent.
"Yes, you! I didn't buy the child! I wasn't authorized to buy children!"
It was Barret.
"But, sir," the auctioneer stammered, "you can't separate the child from its mother. The girl isn't more than four years old. It's not Christian!"
Barret was put out and the color was raising in his face. "Don't talk to me about what's Christian, you hypocrite. The sale's done and the mother's mine."
The auctioneer turned to Cassie. She searched his face for a sign of hope but could see he was a weak man, too weak for Mr. Barret.
"Leave the child," he stammered. "Leave the child where she is."
Cassie stood on the stairs, holding Jennifer's thin shoulders. She didn't move, not even when Barret reached up for her. He was frustrated and angry. He was speaking, but Cassie didn't hear him. She could only hear the parting words of the auctioneer.
Suddenly, a hand struck her face and she reeled back. She heard a woman's voice cry out from the crowd and then there was nothing except a merciful blackness.
When Cassie opened her eyes, she saw Eli. She pushed herself up against the red oak tree. In the distance was the deserted auction platform.
"She's gone, Cassie. She's been sold further south near some fort along the coast. Barret left right after he struck thee down. The people were in a dark mood and he was anxious to go. I think he was sorry for his hasty action, but a kind of selfish pride kept him from backing down. I promised to deliver thee to him."
"My head," Cassie moaned, touching the bandage that Eli had made for her. "I wish he'd killed me."
Tears spilled onto Eli's cheeks. "Don't thee talk that way. God will heal thy broken heart, Cassie. Thee has got to go on living. Remember, the Holy Mother also lost her child."
"I don't believe in goodness. If there was a good God, He'd give my Jenny back to me. Your God has a heart of stone."
"That's thy pain talking now, Cassie. Thee won't always feel so."
Cassie's eyes widened in anger. "When I needed help, nobody answered, not even you."
"I cannot raise my hand in violence in defense of thee, Cassie. If I use the methods of my savage brothers, will I not also become one of them? We must fight evil with good and repay hate with love. We have got to be 'wise as serpents and harmless as doves'!"
"The only people I ever knew that were wise as serpents, were serpents," Cassie answered. She turned aside for she did not want to see her own hurt reflected in Eli's face. Something had gone from her. She vowed never to reach out to anyone again, either to help or be helped.
"You can take me to Barret, Eli. It'll be night soon and you've got a home of your own to go to."
"May I come visit thee at the new place, Cassie? We could gather the workers and thyself and have Sunday devotions like we used to."
Cassie looked at her friend as though seeing him anew. Eli was white. He could have spoken up for her and for Jenny but he had not. Cassie saw pain in Eli's eyes. She wondered if it was his pain or simply the reflection of her own. For the moment, the presence of Eli was very nearly unbearable.
"You may come if you like being where you're not welcome," Cassie answered.
Eli's voice was heavy and his words slow and measured when he spoke. "Cassie, the man Barret bought thee to work for is Eben Carlton. I promised to tend thy wound and deliver thee before the close of day."
Eli turned and entered the Old Fork Road leading to the Carlton place. Cassie followed.
Eli said his goodbyes at the gate bordering Eben Carlton's plantation and Cassie traveled the rest of the road alone.
Blue morning glory vines grew beside the dirt path which led the shanties to the field house. The sun was a mellow morning gold when Cassie lined up with Asa and the other hands from Master Clement's.
Barret's tall frame sauntered slowly through the forlorn group, his pearl-handle cane glittering like the sword of an avenging angel; but then Cassie did not believe in angels, at least none she would care to call upon.
Barret glanced at her briefly, then found an intriguing spot of ground for gazing into. "Pick your own place, woman," he mumbled, tucking his cane beneath his arm and hurrying off towards the smokehouse, his writing man following close behind, scribbling chalk figures onto a slender, slate board.
Cassie reached for a picking sack and slipped the strap across her shoulders. She was glad Barret could not face her. His shame was the only comfort she would know for many years.
Her friends from Master Clement's offered their sympathy but she felt only contempt for them. None had defended her against Barret. It did not matter to Cassie that they felt completely helpless during the selling. The sight of familiar faces brought painful memories and she avoided their company.
Those who once pitied her began to shake their heads in puzzlement. It was said by some that her soul left her body the day of the auction when Barret struck her down. Summer turned to autumn and autumn to winter and winter to spring, and so it was that the years passed. For Cassie, these years were distinguished merely by their varying degrees of emptiness; but society had not frozen in time as Cassie's heart had frozen in hate.
The world continued to change during the decade Cassie worked for Eben Carlton; changed, that is, for everyone but Cassie. On many an evening, Cassie sat on her doorstep listening to the call of night birds. She could hear the voices of her neighbors on shanty row, even when those voices were hushed and low, as when there was mention of the talk spreading through the South about outlawing slavery and several states, along with the State of Virginia, were refusing to allow the docking of the slave ships from Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
There was even talk of a wondrous place, a colony in Africa where slaves could establish themselves as free men and women, a plan that had received the support of a majority of the Southern planters, including a prominent Virginian by the name of Jefferson.
There was also talk about their Northern brothers coming down in great numbers, promising freedom along with land grants and farm animals.
Cassie smiled to herself when she heard about "their Northern brothers." It seemed to her they were just getting all geared up to sweep down and take the wealth of the South. If, indeed, the Northern armies came marching across Master Clement's plantation, Cassie figured it would not be for black skin but for white cotton. And, as for the "their Southern brothers," well, the new world would come too slowly to benefit her and her lost child.
Cassie never moved from the doorstep of her shanty during these evening gatherings. The laughter, the music, and the sweet sounds of children playing found no home in Cassie's consciousness.
Now and again, there was some mention of her Quaker friend Eli. Folks said it was Eli who was spearheading the movement for freedom and helping to organize the underground "railroad" where a runaway could find shelter in flight to free territory. Cassie saw Eli coming and going now and again amid the shacks. On Sundays he came as a Quaker, dressed in black; but, at other times, he came in disguise.
Cassie missed Eli almost as much as she missed her daughter Jennifer's voice, but she didn't guess there was any use in seeing him again. She wasn't the same person as before the auction and there didn't seem any way of retrieving her warm and living heart.
The summer nights were filled with the song of crickets and whippoorwills. The scent of honeysuckle and pine carried on the wind. Cassie fluffed the straw tick mattress and left the clapboard undone. She figured it was too late for boiling the pickings that had been stuffed into her pockets and she was too weary to care. Cassie's eyes closed and her mind set wandering in peaceful slumber when the fearful sound of running feet slapping hollow upon the dirt path caused Cassie to bolt upright, trembling.
The running stopped, followed by a soft tapping at her door.
Cassie shut the clapboard and hooked the latch. "What do you want?"
"Let me in," came a man's hoarse whisper. "I can't run anymore and they'll get me for sure if I double back towards the woods."
"Go away," Cassie answered. "This isn't the only place on shanty row. Get on while you can."
Cassie was fully awake now and breathing quickly like something within had gotten torn; as though some part of Cassie herself was connected to the pleading man and, in turning him away, she had broken that connection. Cassie feared she might take to bleeding inwardly, but the feeling passed and she finally fell asleep.
When Cassie awoke again, it was to the crack of a gunshot coming from the dark forest beyond the creek. She rose from the straw ticking and peered into the darkness. "Maybe he got away," she whispered. But she did not believe it. In her hatred for her white masters, Cassie was able to absolve the memory of turning the man away.
The early morning air carried the scent of orange blossoms as Cassie walked to the pea patch. The violence of the night now seemed only a dream.
She could see one-armed Asa already working the rows. He was bent over, his large hand picking faster and better than most. Barret stayed a few paces ahead in the loading wagon, his face shadowed by a wide-brim hat.
Cotton-like clouds drifted above the distant trees and, high overhead, white gulls dipped and soared in the blue sky. Cassie knew there was nothing in all the world more beautiful or more free than a bird. She wondered what it was like up there above the earth. She wondered how it felt to be free. Cassie guessed that was something she would never know. Not that it mattered. Even if she made the trip North, free was something she could never be.
Towards evening, Barret blew the cow's horn signaling an end to the picking, and the workers began piling the sacks of blackeyes onto the wagon. An Asa lifted his sack, his one arm struck a sideboard and his pickings scattered onto the ground. Asa dropped to his knees and began stuffing the sack full again.
Cassie heaved her load into the wagon. She was sorry about Asa's trouble but it was his trouble and not her own. Nonetheless, once she cleared the patch, she looked back. Cassie was surprised to see Barret down in the dirt helping Asa.
Eli was waiting when she reached the field house.
"May I walk with thee?" he asked.
"This ground don't belong to me," Cassie answered indifferently, though she was glad when he did.
When they reached her shack, she turned to look at him. Ten years had aged Eli considerably.
"Would you like to talk, Eli?"
"Yes, Cassie, I would."
"Then, come in."
Cassie started a fire for supper and Eli pulled a wooden stool over to the hearth. "I've come about the 'railroad', Cassie. You know about it, don't you?"
"Yes, I know."
"We'd like to have this plantation as one of the stops going North, but we'd have to be sure of everyone's loyalty."
"And you don't think I can be trusted?"
"I trust thee, Cassie, but for the sake of thy fellow workers, I promised to search thee out on the matter."
Cassie poured some fresh peas into the pot. "I'm not turning anybody in, Eli, but I'm not taking anybody in either. You can tell that to my neighbors."
"Cassie, do thee remember how things used to be? What it was like to have people about thee, people who cared?"
The only sound within the room was that of crackling fire and boiling water. Cassie took a spoon and began stirring the peas. "Maybe you better go, Eli."
Eli rose and stood silently beside her. Cassie thought he meant to speak, but, suddenly, he crossed the room and was gone.
Cassie kept thinking on his words and how pleasant it was to be in his company. She wished she had shown him more kindness and hoped he would return. Days turned into weeks and Cassie guessed Eli was not going to offer his friendship again.
One night, while she was making hoecake, there came a knocking at the door. Cassie's heart lifted, figuring it was Eli and thinking how she would invite him to supper. Her fingers were on the latch when she heard the dogs. They sounded far off, like they had not reached the path. She drew back. "Who's there?"
"Let me in before the dogs come. Let me in," the girl pleaded.
"Go away," Cassie answered, grateful she could not see the fugitive through the door. "Go someplace else while you can."
The dogs were closer now and there was the sound of men running quick and hard upon the ground.
"Eli said you'd help me," the runaway's voice came low for fear of being heard beyond the cabin.
Cassie knew Barret would be there shortly. She remembered the man who had pleaded for help and whose life had ended with gunshot in the woods beyond. She remembered Barret and maybe it was more for hatred of him than pity for the girl that made her open the latch.
Cassie lifted the board off the potato hole and helped the girl inside. "I don't think he'll suspect me of hiding you, but stay quiet all the same."
Cassie barely finished covering the hole when a voice called. "You in there, Cassie?"
She opened the door and stared hard at Eben Carlton's overseer. "I guess I'm here all right."
Barret held the lantern between them, his long rifle tucked beneath his arm. He drew a crumpled paper from his shirt and pushed it towards her. The flickering light of the lantern revealed a rough, charcoal sketch. "You seen this girl?"
"She's no concern of mine," Cassie answered.
Undaunted, Barret continued, "Educated slave. Valuable. There's a reward."
"Runaways are your business. Don't matter to me one way or the other."
Barret stuffed the paper back into his shirt, all the time watching Cassie. "No. Guess it don't," he said. "You got nothing but ice in your heart."
"You should know about that," Cassie answered slowly, "it was you who put it there."
Barret shook his head. "I done you wrong at the selling. I was young and stupid, but I didn't turn your heart to stone. It was you who done that."
Barret left Cassie standing at the door. The night wind rumpled her hair and she remembered the early morning at Master Clement's with Jenny sleeping on the straw. She remembered the warmth of her little girl's hand and began to cry. The tears flowed soundlessly down her cheeks.
Cassie wiped the tears with the back of her hand while she turned the hoecakes. She did not hear the girl emerge from the potato hole; but there she was holding out a rag for Cassie to dry her face.
Cassie took the scrap of cloth and leaned back against the fireplace.
The thin young woman crossed the hard-packed dirt floor, drew a dipper of water, and returned to Cassie. "I've come a long way and I've got a long way yet to go. Without your help, my journey would have ended.
The girl moved closer to Cassie, so close Cassie could now see her gentle features and large, luminous eyes, old and wise beyond the tender years of the body they served. Cassie' heart ached for the young woman who stood before her. It seemed as though a warming wind swept through her, melting the coldness that had been both a protection and a prison.
The girl held out her hands. "I'd like to give you something for your kindness."
Cassie wondered what someone poorer than herself could hope to offer. The girl's dress was torn from hiding in the woods and she was near thin enough for a breeze to blow away. Nonetheless, she would not see the girl again and it would not hurt to humor her.
"All right," said Cassie.
The runaway knelt beside Cassie. "Close your eyes and open your hands."
"I'm ready," Cassie answered.
The girl touched Cassie's fingers lightly. "You won't be able to see my gift but, like the wind, you will be able to feel it. My gift is made of sheerest gold, so sheer you can see right through. It's round like a ball, and inside I have placed love, and joy, and healing. Every time you think a happy thought or perform an action from the strength of kindness, the ball will grow, and, maybe, someday, if we love enough, its golden light will cover the world."
About the Author:
Biography - A resident of Williamsburg, Virginia, Donais Lee is an Historical Interpreter at Evelynton and Berkeley Plantations, Charles City County, Virginia.
The Article - (c) Copyrighted and written on April 25, 1983 (Tx 124-416).
Honorable Mention . . .
"The Our Lady of the Angels Fire and Its Effect on the Enforcement and Revision of School Safety Codes" by Keith Labedz
Our Lady of the Angels in Chicago was one of many parochial schools throughout the United States during the 1950s. There was nothing unique about the school that set it apart from its contemporaries, and the school was not especially well known outside of the close-knit community that surrounded it.
The original school building had been built in 1904.(1) Later in 1910, another building that housed a church on the first floor and classrooms on the second was constructed at 909 N. Avers Avenue.(2) In 1939, the cornerstone of a new church and rectory was laid, and the north wing at 909 N. Avers was converted into all classrooms with a chapel in the basement.(3) The two wings were connected in 1951 by an annex that gave the school a U-shape.(4)
However, Our Lady of the Angels school stepped out of obscurity and into the pantheon of great tragedies on December 1, 1958. The deadly blaze that occurred there was the third worst school fire in U.S. history behind the 1908 Collinwood and 1937 New London holocausts.(5) The disaster focused attention on the dangerous conditions of America's schools. In that respect, the Our Lady of the Angels fire was not in vain because it prompted revisions in school safety codes and increased enforcement of existing codes.
In retrospect, a knowledgeable eye could have identified several grave defects in the school's construction that would eventually give the school its notoriety. The two-and-a-half story school, which was built of brick and timber joist construction with extensive wood trim, lacked a sprinkler system and had only one fire escape that was located at the rear of the annex.(6) Furthermore, Our Lady of the Angels had an extremely high enrollment of 1,635 at the beginning of the school year, not including nine lay teachers and twenty nuns of the Sisters of Charity, Blessed Virgin Mary Order.(7) Due to a lack of classroom space, two hundred first graders and kindergartners were taught in two buildings on Hamlin Avenue.(8)
The fire began in a trash drum at the bottom of the school's northeast stairwell, and smoldered from a lack of oxygen as the temperature slowly rose. The heat eventually broke a basement window, and the rush of fresh air turned the stairwell into a fiery chimney. With no sprinkler system to stop it, the fire grew unchecked as it raced up the wooden staircase, passed the first floor, which had fire doors, to the vulnerable second floor without fire doors. Hot gases went through an open shaft in the basement and entered the cockloft between the roof and ceiling, where flames then erupted above the second floor of the north wing that held 329 students and 6 nuns.(9)
Click here to see school floor plan.
During the critical time that the fire was rapidly cutting off their escape routes, the teachers and students in the north wing were slow to realize the extent of the danger. The first teacher to notice smoke was Ms. Tristano in Room 206. By the time she and her colleague, Dorothy Coughlan in Room 205, evacuated their classes and pulled the fire alarm, nearly eight minutes had elapsed.(10) Even worse, the alarm only rang within the school because it was not connected to the fire department.(11)
Nevertheless, there were no deaths or serious injuries in the south wing of the building even though smoke complicated evacuation efforts.(12) Children on the first floor of the north wing were also evacuated in good order, however, the upper floor had become an inferno.(13) As fire and smoke filled the hallways and blocked the way to the only fire escape, the nuns told their pupils to go to the windows and pray.(14) Frightened students threw books, shoes, and anything else they could find out the window in order to attract attention. The struggle for spaces at the windows grew fierce as the temperature rose inside the classrooms.(15) Finally, the heat became unbearable, and the children began jumping out the windows to the pavement twenty-five feet below them.(16)
People outside the building were also slow in responding to the crisis. James Raymond, the school janitor, saw smoke as he returned to the school from another task, and he went to investigate.(17) After seeing the fire, he ran to the rectory and told Nora Mahoney, the cook-housekeeper, to call the fire department. However, Ms. Mahoney did not know what number to call, so she reported the fire to the operator.(18)
Another witness, Elmer Barkhaus, noticed smoke rising from the building as he drove down Avers Avenue.(19) Barkhaus then went into Barbara Glowacki's candy store across the alley from the school, and told her about the fire before running to a nearby apartment building in an effort to locate a telephone. After seeing the fire for herself, Mrs. Glowacki called the fire department and was assured that help was on the way.(20) Some students were already jumping out the windows, so Mrs. Glowacki lined several of them up against her alley wall and doused water on their burning clothes and hair.(21)
Soon the streets around the school were crowded with neighborhood residents who wanted to help. One group of men futilely tried to break down the high iron fence that stretched across the courtyard between the two wings.(22) Some individuals also attempted to help by quickly covering the sides of the school with ladders, but most of the ladders were too short to reach the children.(23) Other rescue efforts were more successful, such as that of Sam Tortorice and Reverend Ognibene who, with the help of an unknown man, saved many students from a second floor classroom.(24)
Although the ordinary people who gathered around the building had good intentions, the serious work of containment and rescue required the fire department. The first recorded fire alarm was at 2:42 P.M., and fire department personnel came within minutes.(25) However, children were already hanging out the windows when Lt. Stanley Wojnicki and Engine Co. 85, the first unit on the scene, arrived.(26)
Chief Miles Devine of the 18th battalion quickly arrived and saw children leaping two and three at a time into fire department life nets. At 2:47 P.M., Devine called a 2-11 alarm, and eight minutes later, he ignored protocol and pulled a 5-11 that alerted Fire Commissioner Quinn and indirectly affected every piece of fire equipment in the city.(27)
Meanwhile, Lt. Charles Kamin with five men of Hook and Ladder Co. No. 35, who had arrived at 2:45 P.M., were running ladders up to the classroom windows. Inside, the students were crowded so tightly around the windows that Kamin had to shove others back in the process of rescuing one child at a time. After he had rescued eight or ten children, the room burst into flames and incinerated everyone still inside the room.(28)
Finally, Fire Commissioner Quinn declared the fire officially out at 4:19 P.M., although it had been under control for quite some time.(29) It was then that the true horror of the situation was revealed to a shocked city and nation. Three teachers and eighty-seven students were killed by the Our Lady of the Angels fire, and five more children later died in the hospital as a result of their injuries.(30) A majority of those injured were taken to St. Anne's hospital, but other victims were sent to Franklin Boulevard, Walther Memorial, Norwegian-American, Garfield Park, St. Mary's, and the University of Illinois hospitals.(31) Fire Commissioner Robert Quinn voiced the opinion of many by saying, "It was the worst thing I have ever seen or ever will see."(32)
However, the story of the Our Lady of the Angels fire did not end there. Instead, the enormity of the disaster sparked a renewed interest in the enforcement and revision of school building codes. In the weeks and months following the fire, authorities scrambled to prevent a similar tragedy from happening again.
One of the first responses to the fire was the special blue-ribbon jury called by Cook County Coroner Walter McCarron that started on Wednesday, December 10, 1958, and lasted for six business days.(33) The special jury of sixteen experts held its inquest at the Prudential Building in downtown Chicago.(34)
At the inquest, Lt. Henry Anselmo of the Fire Prevention Bureau who had inspected the school on October 7, 1958, said that the building was in legal condition because the 1949 municipal code, which required fire doors and a fire alarm box within one hundred feet of a school entrance, did not apply to schools built before its passage. First Deputy Fire Chief Robert O'Brien of the Fire Prevention Bureau reiterated the position that the building was "legally safe" based on the current laws.(35)
The coroner's jury announced its recommendations on Wednesday, January 7, 1959.(36) Coroner Walter McCarron announced the jury's verdict that the fire was one of "undetermined origin" before reading a ten page safety report with twenty-one specific recommendations that outlined changes in city ordinances covering school fire safety and construction."(37) Foremost among the recommendations were those calling for the enclosure of stairwells, and the installation of fire doors, sprinkler systems, alarm systems connected to the fire department, and pull-type fire alarm boxes within one hundred feet of school entrances.(38)
An immediate effect of the Our Lady of the Angels fire was a concentrated effort on the part of officials in Chicago and other U.S. cities to inspect schools under their jurisdiction.(39) In Chicago, Mayor Richard J. Daley announced plans to more than double the Bureau of Fire Prevention's fifty lieutenant- inspectors the next year. Mayor Daley explained that they would be used to eliminate fire hazards in schools, and that firemen would be stationed in all substandard buildings until the violations were corrected.(40)
As part of the citywide inspection program instituted after the fire, Chicago fire lieutenants inspected 112 school buildings on December 10, 1958. This brought the total number of schools inspected since December 4, to 368 buildings. Chief O'Brien reported that inspectors found numerous code violations, such as a lack of exit signs and panic hardware on exit doors, as well as poor maintenance of fire extinguishers. Although nothing found on December 10 was serious enough to warrant a firefighter detail, firefighters had been assigned to two parochial schools earlier in the week.(41)
Monsignor William McManus, the superintendent of Chicago Catholic schools, instructed Catholic school officials to cooperate with the ongoing inspections. McManus stated that Archbishop Albert Meyer wanted all fire hazards uncovered by the inspections to be rectified immediately. In a similar move, Cardinal Spellman ordered Eugene Hunt, a consultant for the New York Catholic diocese, to inspect the burnt school in order to draft recommendations for New York schools.(42)
The repercussions of the Our Lady of the Angels fire swiftly spread beyond the city of Chicago to major metropolitan areas across the nation. In Los Angeles, school officials uncovered gross instances of overcrowding, such as seventy-five students crammed into a classroom that was designed for twenty-one and lacked a fire escape.(43) Meanwhile, Boston Fire Commissioner Francis Cotter ordered an immediate inspection of all school buildings whether public, private, college, or nursery.(44) The inspectors found doors that opened the wrong way and iron screens on windows that would have denied students another means of egress.(45)
In Detroit, Mayor Louis Miriani called for a complete inspection of public and parochial schools within thirty days, making it the first such blanket check in four years. Similarly, a safety survey of all schools in Baltimore was started in response to the fire, and in New Haven, Connecticut, officials moved to transfer supervision of fire prevention and evacuation from the Board of Education to the fire department.(46) Other cities that began to recheck their school facilities included Kansas City, Phoenix, Newark, and Indianapolis. Furthermore, statewide inspections were ordered in Georgia, Maryland, and Maine.(47)
However, the greatest reaction occurred in New York. Under orders from Mayor Robert Wagner, New York City Fire Commissioner Edward F. Cavanagh, Jr., moved to improve the fire safety of the city's 1,500 schools. He called for a basement to roof inspection by more than two hundred fire companies of all public, private, and parochial schools. Special attention was focused on basements, waste disposal procedures, exit doors, and fire drill efficiency. Moreover, Superintendent of Schools John Theobald made the announcement that steps were being taken to eliminate four wooden buildings in Queens. Finally, Governor Harriman ordered a statewide inspection of every public and private school.(48)
Nevertheless, it became apparent to many city officials, especially in Chicago, that public pressure and the safety of the children demanded new laws to address the problems exposed by the Our Lady of the Angels fire. Consequently, Mayor Daley communicated a proposed ordinance to a Special Committee of the Chicago Council on December 22, 1958. The Special Committee, which was composed of members of the Committee on Buildings and Zoning, and the members of the Committee on Police, Fire, Civil Service, Schools and Municipal Institutions, submitted a report that recommended additional safety regulations for schools. The committee's recommendations were enacted into law (44-0) on January 21, 1959.(49)
The new ordinance made mandatory internal fire alarms that were directly linked to the City Fire Alarm Box in all schools.(50) The ordinance also required the installation of automatic sprinkler systems in all schools that were two or more stories in height and made of ordinary frame construction with wooden floors and joists.(51) This installation was to include basement areas. Another change required school principals to conduct monthly fire drills in accordance to the rules and regulations of the Bureau of Fire Prevention. Furthermore, a provision of the ordinance stated that violators could be fined between ten and two hundred dollars for each offense every day the violations continued.(52) Finally, it called for fire alarm boxes within one hundred feet of a school's main entrance.(53)
In addition to the Chicago City Council initiative, safety code revisions were also passed on the state level. The Illinois General Assembly of 1959 directed the state superintendent of schools to consult experts and make a list of necessary changes for all schools in the state. A steering committee eventually submitted a two-volume set of building and safety standards that the General Assembly enacted into the Life Safety Code of 1960. Legislation was also passed that gave school districts the ability to levy a special homeowner tax, without referendum, in order to pay for life-safety improvements. Furthermore, the fire brought improved safety measures throughout the country. A national survey by the National Fire Protection Association, which was published in 1960, chided major improvements within one year of the fire in 16,500 school buildings across the United States.(54)
In conclusion, there are many valuable lessons that can be taken from the Our Lady of the Angels fire. Perhaps the most important lesson is the realization that a cavalier, "that won't happen to us attitude" on the part of school and city officials can have devastating consequences. Sadly, it took the lives of ninety-five people to teach the authorities something they should have known years earlier. Ever since the 1908 Collinwood fire, there had been greater emphasis on school fire safety, but the passage of time breeds carelessness as the Our Lady of the Angels fire dramatically proved.(55)
More disturbing, however, was the continuing self-denial of some officials even after the fire. On December 3, 1958, New York Superintendent of Schools Theobald was quoted as saying, "I don't think it (OLA fire) can happen to a New York City school."(56) Then on December 4, a newspaper reported that three schools had been closed in New York City, including an elementary school in the Bronx which was evacuated because inspectors discovered that the automatic sprinkler system was turned off, exits were blocked, and there were waste acetylene torches and oxygen tanks in the basement.(57)
The memory of the Our Lady of the Angels tragedy must be preserved through a renewed commitment to make certain that such a disaster never happens again. In the struggle against the insidious dangers posed by fire, we Americans must not relax in our vigilance nor mitigate our concerns. As Alderman Jack Sperling cautioned before voting on the Special Committee's recommendations, "We should not be lulled into a false sense of security when we pass these ordinances. Much remains to be done."(58)
1 - Michele McBride, The Fire That Will Not Die (Palm Springs, California: ETC Publications, 1979) 4.
2 - "Angels School Built in 1910 Records Show," Chicago Daily Tribune, 2 Dec. 1958: 1/2.
3 - McBride 4.
4 - David Cowan and John Kuenster, To Sleep with the Angels: The Story of a Fire, (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1996) 12.
5 - "Urgent Mission - Safe Schools," Newsweek, 15 Dec. 1958: 31.
6 - Cowan 12.
7 - "Angels School" 2.
8 - Cowan 12.
9 - Cowan 28-29.
10 - Cowan 33-34.
11 - McBride 237.
12 - Cowan 64.
13 - "Probe Oil Like Flare in Building Stairwell," Chicago Daily Tribune, 2 Dec. 1958: 1/1.
14 - "Disasters: The Chicago School Fire," Time, 15 Dec. 1958: 18.
15 - McBride (9, 15).
16 - "Disasters" 18.
17 - Cowan 29.
18 - Hugh Hough, "Inquest Hears Janitor's Own Story of School Fire," Chicago Daily Sun-Times, 12 Dec. 1958, home ed.: 1/1.
19 - "Disasters" 18.
20 - Cowan 32-33.
21 - "Panic Grips Classrooms; Confusion Increases Toll," New York Times, 2 Dec. 1958, late city ed.: 1/1.
22 - McBride 13.
23 - Cowan 40.
24 - "Nuns, Parents, Passers-By Save Children," Chicago Daily Tribune, 2 Dec. 1958: 1/7.
25 - "Probe Oil Like Fire" 1/1.
26 - Hugh Hough, "A Mother's Plea: Safety in Schools," Chicago Daily Sun-Times, 11 Dec. 1958, home ed.: 1/4.
27 - "At 2:42 P.M. Firemen Begin a Grim Battle," Chicago Daily Tribune, 2 Dec. 1958: 1/4.
28 - "Fire. Thirty-Eight O Eight Iowa....The Alarm Was Desperate, the Tragedy Incredible," Newsweek, 15 Dec. 1958: 33-34.
29 - "At 2:42 P.M. Firemen Begin" 1/4.
30 - R.N. Finchum and Glenn C. Boerrighter, School Fires: Prevention, Control, Protection, (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1962) 126.
31 - "Probe Oil Like Fire" 1/2.
32 - "Probe Oil Like Fire" 1/2.
33 - Cowan 53.
34 - Hough, "A Mother's Plea" 1/4.
35 - Cowan 169.
36 - Hugh Hough, "Fire Jury Urges School Sprinklers," Chicago Daily Sun-Times, 8 Jan. 1959, home ed.: 1/3.
37 - "Act on Fire Jury's Verdict: Sprinklers in All Catholic Schools Set," Chicago Daily Tribune, 8 Jan. 1959: 1/1.
38 - Hough, "Fire Jury Urges Sprinklers" 1/3.
39 - "Anguish the Nation Shares," Life, 15 Dec. 1958: 17.
40 - "Experts to Dig Again to Find Fire's Cause," Chicago Daily Tribune, 6 Dec. 1958: 1/5.
41 - "Find Violation" 1/12.
42 - "Experts to Dig Again" 1/5.
43 - "Anguish" 23.
44 - "Urgent Mission" 31.
45 - "Anguish" 23.
46 - "Urgent Mission" 31.
47 - "3 N.Y. Schools Closed Fire Hazard Search," Chicago Daily Tribune, 4 Dec. 1958: 1/2.
48 - "Order Firemen" 1/5.
49 - Journal of the City Council of Chicago 9627.
50 - Journal of the City Council of Chicago 9627.
51 - Cowan 243.
52 - Journal of the City Council of Chicago 9627.
53 - Cowan 243.
54 - Cowan 243-244.
55 - Harold Boles, Step by Step to Better School Facilities, (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1965) 283.
56 - "Order Firemen" 1/5.
57 - "3 N.Y. Schools" 1/2.
58 - "Vote 3 New School Fire Ordinances," Chicago Sun-Times, 22 Jan. 1959, home ed.: 1/6.
59 - Cowan 31.
* "Act on Fire Jury's Verdict: Sprinklers in All Catholic Schools Set," Chicago Daily Tribune, 8 Jan. 1959: 1/1, 8-9. (Source cited for information on the recommendations of Cook County Coroner Walter McCarron's jury.)
* "Angels School Built in 1910 Records Show," Chicago Daily Tribune, 2 Dec. 1958: 1/2. (Source cited for information concerning the construction, enrollment, and faculty of Our Lady of the Angels.)
* "Anguish the Nation Shares," Life, 15 Dec. 1958: 17-24. (Source cited for information concerning school inspections, specifically those in Los Angeles and Boston.)
* "At 2:42 P.M. Firemen Begin a Grim Battle," Chicago Daily Tribune, 2 Dec. 1958: 1/4. (Source cited for information concerning fire-fighting operations at the OLA fire, specifically the actions of Chief Miles Devine and the official "end" of the fire.)
* Boles, Harold, Step by Step to Better School Facilities, New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1965. (Source cited for information concerning the increased fire prevention efforts in the aftermath of the 1908 Collinwood fire, and the OLA reminder.)
* Cowan, David, and John Kuenster, To Sleep with the Angels: The Story of a Fire, Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 1996. (Source cited for information concerning OLA's construction, the fire, the blue-ribbon jury, OLA map, and safety code revisions.)
* "Disasters: The Chicago School Fire," Time, 15 Dec. 1958: 18-19. (Source cited for information concerning the reaction of the nuns and students in the fire and Elmer Barkhaus as a witness.)
* "Experts to Dig Again to Find Fire's Cause," Chicago Daily Tribune, 6 Dec. 1958: 1/5. (Source cited for information concerning Mayor Daley's plan to double the number of lieutenant-inspectors, and the responses of Archbishop Meyer and Cardinal Spellman.)
* Finchum, R.N., and Glenn C. Boerrighter, School Fires: Prevention, Control, Protection, Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1962. (Source cited for information concerning OLA's death toll.)
* "Find Violation of Fire Code in More Schools," Chicago Daily Tribune, 11 Dec. 1958: 1/12. (Source cited for information concerning Chicago school inspections.)
* "Fire. Thirty-Eight O Eight Iowa....The Alarm Was Desperate, the Tragedy Incredible," Newsweek, 15 Dec. 1958: 32-34. (Source cited for information concerning Lt. Kamin's rescue attempts.)
* Hough, Hugh, "Fire Jury Urges School Sprinklers," Chicago Daily Sun-Times, 8 Jan. 1959, home ed.: 1/3, 7. (Source cited for information concerning the date and content of the blue-ribbon jury's recommendations.)
* -, "Inquest Hears Janitor's Own Story of School Fire," Chicago Sun-Times, 12 Dec. 1958: home ed.: 1/1, 4. (Source cited for information concerning James Raymond's report of the fire to Nora Mahoney and her subsequent call to the operator.)
* -, "A Mother's Plea: Safety in Schools," Chicago Daily Sun-Times, 11 Dec. 1958, home ed.: 1/1, 4. (Source cited for information concerning Lt. Wojnicki's arrival at OLA, and the location of the blue-ribbon jury's inquest.)
* Journal of the Proceedings of the City Council of the City of Chicago for the Council Year 1958-1959, Special Committee: 21 Jan. 1959, City Clerk of Chicago. (Source cited for information concerning changes in Chicago fire safety regulations in response to the fire.)
* McBride, Michele, The Fire That Will Not Die, Palm Springs, California: ETC Publications, 1979. (Source cited for information concerning OLA's construction, the students' reaction to the fire, and the attempts to knock down the school's iron fence.)
* "Nuns, Parents, Passers-By Save Children," Chicago Daily Tribune, 2 Dec. 1958: 1/7. (Source cited for information concerning the rescue attempt of Sam Tortorice and Reverend Ognibene.)
* "Order Firemen to Check N.Y.'s 1,500 Schools," Chicago Daily Tribune, 3 Dec. 1958: 1/5. (Source cited for information concerning the ordered inspection of all schools in New York, the planned closing of four wooden buildings in Queens, and the quotation by New York Superintendent of Schools Theobald.)
* "Panic Grips Classrooms; Confusion Increases Toll," New York Times, 2 Dec. 1958: late city ed.: 1/1, 28. (Source cited for information concerning Mrs. Glowacki's efforts to help the students who had already jumped.)
* "Probe Oil Like Flare in Building Stairwell," Chicago Daily Tribune, 2 Dec. 1958: 1/1, 2. (Source cited for information concerning north wing evacuation efforts, the first recorded fire alarm, and area hospitals that treated the injured.)
* "3 N.Y. Schools Closed in Fire Hazard Search," Chicago Daily Tribune, 4 Dec. 1958: 1/2. (Source cited for information concerning the closure of three schools in New York City, specifically one Bronx school that was evacuated.)
* "Urgent Mission - Safe Schools," Newsweek, 15 Dec. 1958: 31-32. (Source cited for information concerning OLA's place as third worst school fire, and school inspections in Boston, Detroit, Baltimore, and New Haven.)
* "Vote 3 New School Fire Ordinances," Chicago Daily Sun-Times, 22 Jan. 1959, home ed.: 1/6. (Source cited for information concerning the quotation of Alderman Jack Sperling.)
About the Author:
Biography - Keith Labedz is a resident of Hickory Hills, Illinois.
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