Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Fifers and Drummers in the American Revolution

The Spirit of 76

Artist Archibald Willard made fifers and drummers an American icon when he painted, “The Spirit of 76” in 1875.  Willard’s father Samuel was the model for the drummer.  The painting was originally known as “Yankee Doodle”.

Don Francisco - Fifer

During the American Revolution, armies used music to communicate over long distances.  In infantry units, the fife was used because of its high pitched sound and the drum because of its low pitched sound. Both instruments can be easily heard at great distances even through the din of battle. Music gave instructions for advance or retreat and helped keep order on the battlefield.  Drummers would play beatings telling soldiers to turn right or left as well as to load and fire their muskets. There was a tune called “Cease Fire” that fifers and drummers played to instructs troops to stop firing.  Fifers and drummers were used to help regulate camp life as well. Fife and drum calls signaled the commencement of daily tasks such as waking up, eating meals, and performing camp chores.

Each company in an American infantry regiment during the Revolution (a full strength company was made up of 40 privates, 3 corporals, 1 ensign, 1 Lieutenant, and a Captain) would have had 1-2 fifers and 1-2 drummers.

Neither Martha Washington nor the women of the South’s leading families were marble statues, they had the same strengths and weaknesses, passions and problems, joys and sorrows, as the women of any age.  So just how did they live?

A quick historical look at murder most foul in the Virginia of colonial times and the early Republic. Behind the facade of graceful mansions and quaint cobblestone streets evil lurks.

Monday, October 17, 2016

How many soldiers died of wounds in the Civil War?

     Approximately 110,000 Union and 94,000 Confederate soldiers died of battle wounds.  Most of the wounded were treated within the first forty eight hours.  Emergency medical care on the battlefield consisted of bandaging a soldier’s wounds as fast possible, and giving him whiskey and morphine, if necessary, for pain. Primary care took place in field hospitals.  Those who survived were then transported in overcrowded ambulance wagons to rail lines where they were put on box cars and rushed to nearby cities and towns, where doctors and nurses did their best to care for them in makeshift hospitals.

The most common battlefield operation was the amputation of arms and legs.  Amputation was a quick and reliable answer to the severe wounds created by the .58 caliber Minie ball used during the war.  This heavy bullet of soft lead caused large gaping wounds that filled with dirt and pieces of clothing.  It shattered bone.  Surgeons usually chose amputation over trying to save the limb.  Heavy doses of chloroform were administered and some seventy five percent of all soldiers survived the operation.  The poet Walt Whitman, who served as a nurse in the Union army at the Battle of Fredericksburg in 1862, recounted seeing, “a heap of amputated feet, legs, arms, hands, etc, a full load for a one-horse cart.”

In 1860, disgruntled secessionists in the deep North rebel against the central government and plunge America into Civil War. Will the Kingdom survive? The land will run red with blood before peace comes again.

A quick look at women doctors and medicine in the Civil War for the general reader. Technologically, the American Civil War was the first “modern” war, but medically it still had its roots in the Middle Ages. In both the North and the South, thousands of women served as nurses to help wounded and suffering soldiers and civilians. A few women served as doctors, a remarkable feat in an era when sex discrimination prevented women from pursuing medical education, and those few who did were often obstructed by their male colleagues at every turn.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

How did George Washington travel?

Washington's carriage

Road travel in the eighteenth century was nasty, brutish and slow.  Those vehicles, most often slow moving stage coaches, that did venture out on the roads were covered with mud or dust from top to wheel, rattled along uncomfortably, sometimes overturned and frequently sank into bogs.  Large rivers were difficult to bridge.  Ferries were used instead.  The ferry was either a barge or a raft and was pulled across by work horses or oxen on shore.  Since they were skittish, horses were prone to cause accidents.  George Washington recounted a typical road mishap, “In attempting to cross the ferry at Colchester with the four horses harnessed to the chariot…one of the leaders got overboard when the boat was in swimming water and fifty yards from the shore….His struggling frightened the (other horses) in such a manner that one after another and in quick succession they all got overboard…and with the utmost difficulty they were saved (and) the carriage escaped being dragged after them.”

Early colonists used a network of paths made long before by Indians and wild animals to shape the earliest pattern of roads. The first turnpike in the country began construction in Virginia in 1785 running from Alexandria into the lower Shenandoah Valley.  This wide, comfortable, toll road only spanned thirty four miles and took twenty six years to complete, being completed in 1811.  It was a marvel to travelers.  In some cases local governments built new roads, but more frequently private corporations were set up for the purpose, and a profit of twenty percent earned from tolls was not uncommon. Notwithstanding these efforts, Virginia’s roads had not improved much by the 1860s.  No less a personage than General Robert E. Lee complained, “It has been raining a great deal . . . making the roads horrid and embarrassing our operations.”  Army wagons simply broke down on the roads because of the mud and rocks.

What is the Bruton Parish Mystery?

Bruton Parish Church

     There exists a cache of hidden documents, the contents of which are so powerful, that their release could forever change the course of world civilization.  For centuries these documents have been protected by a secret society known as the Order of the Illumined, or the Illuminati.  These documents have been deemed so critical to mankind’s future that they have been called the Seventh Seal.  Interestingly, these keys to the future of mankind are buried in the cemetery of the Bruton Parish Episcopal Church in colonial Williamsburg, Virginia.  The Seventh Seal cache is said to be housed in a brick vault constructed by Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626), a favorite courtier of Queen Elizabeth I.  Apparently some of Bacon’s papers were also left behind in the vault, including documentation proving his authorship of the Shakespearian plays, his original Tudor birth records showing him to be the illegitimate son of Queen Elizabeth I, an unabridged version of the King James Version of the Bible, translated by Bacon, and more, including GOLD!
     On September 9, 1991, a group of New Age mystics did an unauthorized dig for the Bruton Vault in the dark hours of the night.  Their intention was to follow up on a dig performed in 1938 which uncovered the church’s original foundations, and to bring to the public’s attention knowledge of the precious hidden national treasure buried at Bruton Parish. Church elders were not happy with the midnight digging, and by court order, the New Age seekers were forbidden from returning to Virginia.
     In an attempt to put an end to this urban legend, Bruton Parish followed up on the midnight dig by commissioning archaeologists, including Colonial Williamsburg archaeologist Marley Brown, to retrace the steps of the 1938 excavation to answer a question that arose in 1985.  In 1985, surface tests using radar-like equipment indicated that there was something under the Bruton Parish cemetery different from untouched soil.  That something could be, the hidden Vault, a tree root, or surface dirt used to fill in the 1938 excavation.
     After seven days of once again uncovering the remains of the original church walls, workers looking for Sir Francis Bacon's vault dug about 9 feet deep and reportedly found an object with brass tacks in it. Church officials said it was a casket and would not allow them to dig further.  By August 1992 the archaeologists hired by the Parish concluded that there was no hidden Vault.  End of story.
     But this is a story that will never end because of the way it began.  New Age followers claim the 1992 church sponsored dig was bogus.  The Parish knowingly dug in the wrong places.  There may also be sinister forces at work to suppress the release of the great secret, according to some conspiracy theorists.  These sinister forces may include the Skull & Bones secret society at Yale University (of which George W. Bush is a member), as well as Colonial Williamsburg's benefactor, the Rockefeller family.
     So just how did this urban legend get started in the first place?   There was, of course, a Sir Francis Bacon.  Bacon was a well-known English philosopher, statesman, and scientist.  Bacon is regarded as the father of empiricism and the modern “scientific method”. Bacon's movement for the advancement of learning was connected with the German Rosicrucian movement. The Rosicrucians were and are a secret society built on esoteric truths of the ancient past, which, concealed from the average man, provide insight into nature, the physical universe and the spiritual realm.  Bacon's book New Atlantis portrays a land ruled by Rosicrucians. How did Francis Bacon, the Renaissance intellectual, become the center piece of an urban legend?  Enter one Manly Palmer Hall.
     A junior high school dropout from a broken home, Manly Palmer Hall, who had a photographic memory, became a one-stop scholar of ancient ideas.  In 1920, at the age of nineteen, the charismatic and movie star handsome Hall was running a church in Los Angeles. He delivered Sunday lectures about Rosicrucianism and Theosophy, the mystical philosophical system founded by Madame Helena Blavatsky; as well as other esoteric teachings. Alternative religious movements were busting out all over Southern California in the first half of the 20th century and the devastatingly handsome Manly Palmer Hall attracted many rich female followers, which allowed him to produce his masterwork, The Secret Teachings of All Ages.  Through his writings and endless lecturing, Manly Palmer Hall became one of the people principally responsible for the birth of the New Age religious movement in the United States, first in California, starting in the 1920s, and then beyond.
      Manly Palmer Hall and his second wife Marie Bauer Hall (they were married in 1950) are the source of the Bruton Parish mystery.  While acting as a volunteer at Hall’s church in the 1930s, the then Marie Bauer, struck up a conversation with a visitor waiting to see Hall.  The visitor was a scholar who claimed to have deciphered codes hidden in Shakespeare’s plays that told of a treasure hidden by Sir Francis Bacon under a church in Virginia.  Marie Bauer, who said she was clairvoyant, felt an immediate connection between the lost treasure described by the visitor and Bruton Parish Church.  Bauer had once been given a tea towel from Williamsburg that included a picture of Bruton Parish Church.
     Marie took her finding to Manly Hall, and together they spent many happy hours deciphering hidden codes placed in various writings contemporary to Francis Bacon, including A Collection of Emblems (George Wither, 1635) and various Shakespearean plays, which demonstrated, at least to them, that a 10 ft. by 10 ft. brick vault was buried 20 ft. deep at the Bruton Parish Church, its exact location marked by certain, strategically placed encoded memorials in the Church cemetery.  In 1938, Marie Bauer initiated an excavation which revealed the foundations of the original Bruton Church, but no hidden vault.  Marie would have been happy to continue digging up the church graveyard, but further excavation was halted by Church officials.