“Over and over, I keep going over the world we knew….”

“Over and over, I keep going over the world we knew once when you walked beside me.  That inconceivable, that unbelievable world we knew when we two were in love, and every bright neon sign turned into stars and the sun and the moon seemed to be ours;  each road that we took turned into gold, but the dream was too much for you to hold.  Now over and over I keep going over the world we knew— days when you used to love me….”  –The World We Knew (Over and Over), Frank Sinatra 


Three full-length musical soundtracks and an absurdly long bus ride later, I finally arrived in a rainy Gettysburg.  Richmond and Petersburg were absolutely amazing, but I’m certainly glad to be back!  

When it comes to history, we certainly do go over and over (and over and over….), not that I’m complaining.  The past few days were perfect examples of this, in the best possible way!

Since I’ve last shared my TO&E, I’ve learned the nutshell version of The Petersburg Campaign with NPS’s Emmanuel Dabney (of this blog, as well!), explored Pamplin Historical Park, and toured Capital Square with tour supervisor Mark Greenough.  

City Point, VA

City Point, VA

George Washington observing the lovely dome ceiling.

George Washington observing the lovely dome ceiling.

Stereotypically, the Crater was the highlight of Petersburg.  For me though, it was more than the fascinating (though not particularly striking strategically) tale of the “hell hole.”  After spending most of my childhood in Pottsville, PA, I visited the grave of Henry Pleasants (commander of the 48th Penn.) countless times, but never fully explored the battle—or the campaign.  It was fascinating to see the (replication of) the mine built by these Coal Region boys, and see the mark left to this day.  

Photos don't do this place justice.

Photos don’t do this place justice.

Despite a catering screw-up (a sad, sad, lack of vegan food), Pamplin was fantastic.  The replicated breastworks are intense, and my partner and I did pretty darn well on the automated quiz, considering we neglected to tour the museum first!  

The (rather terrifying) breastworks.

The (rather terrifying) breastworks.

Plus an absurdly pretty sunset.

Plus an absurdly pretty sunset.

The next day, the Capital and its grounds were spectacular.  I admit, I’ve taken Pennsylvania’s for granted all of these years, but I’ve also never had quite so thorough an introduction….

General Lee stands where he first took command

General Lee stands where he first took command

As always, CWI was an amazing experience.  I’m already counting the days until next year!

Did you think I was kidding?

Did you think I was kidding?

Greetings from Dixie!

According to The Lincoln Financial FoundationDixie was a favourite song of President Abraham Lincoln’s.  The site quotes him as saying on April 10, 1865 (just hours after Lee’s surrender to Grant at Appomattox [though Gregory Downs would argue that the war was hardly over],

“I have always thought ‘Dixie’ one of the best tunes I have ever heard.  Our adversaries over the way attempted to appropriate it, but I insisted yesterday that we fairly captured it…I now request the band to favor me with its performance.”  -Abraham Lincoln

I’m writing to you this fine morning from a gorgeous (single!) hotel room in Richmond, Virginia.  Aside from a visit to my Naval cousin in Norfolk many years ago and a few sporadic trips to Maryland/New Jersey, this is the longest I’ve spent South of the Mason Dixon in about a decade!

I may have been transported into a Home Alone film.

I may have been transported into a Home Alone film.

Now, I’m not sitting here sipping sweet tea and listening to someone drawl about the Lost Cause (that was purposefully an absurd stereotype, I promise!).  Instead, I’ll be touring Petersburg National Battlefield, Pamplin National Park, and Richmond (the state’s capitol) itself!

For now, though, time to enjoy a cup of coffee to start a long day!

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“When somebody says ‘I hope I get to meet your dad,’ I just smile and say ‘You already have….'”

“The older I get, the more I can see how much he loved my mother and my brother and me and he did the best that he could and I only hope when I have my own family that everyday I see a little more of my father in me.  He’s in my eyes, my heart, my soul, my hands, my pride, and when I feel alone and I think I can’t go on, I hear him sayin’ “Son, you’ll be alright, everything’s gonna be alright….” –Song for Dad, Keith Urban

We’re going back to our country roots here at TO&E today in celebration of two of the greatest men I’ve got the pleasure of having in my life.

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Happy Father’s Day, Dad and Pop, and all of the other amazing fathers (and father figures!) out there!

“Don’t tell me it’s just a dream….”

“Wake up, don’t tell me it’s just a dream, ’cause when I’ve had enough you’ll hear me say, “Don’t you try to rain on my perfect day….”  Nothing’s standing in my way on this perfect day, nothing can go wrong.   It’s the perfect day, tomorrow’s gonna come too soon… I could stay forever as I am on this perfect day….” –Perfect Day, Hoku

In one of my very first posts here at TO&E, I mentioned James McPherson’s Battlecry of Freedom.

Yesterday, I met him.

I'm only slightly starstruck :P

I’m only slightly starstruck, of course.  

He was kind enough to sign my book as well as take a picture!

He was kind enough to sign my book as well as take a picture!

Additionally, I had dinner in my beloved dining hall, with several other Civil War historians.  I was pretty excited to share a meal with the same people who’ll be speaking over the next few days!

I was able to reunite with some of my favourite professors, and Civil Warriors I haven’t seen for a few years!

Day One was a success.

“And history hides the lies….”

“My hands are tied…. The billions shift from side to side and the wars go on with brainwashed pride.  For the love of God and our human rights, and all these things are swept aside by bloody hands time can’t deny and are washed away by your genocide, and history hides the lies of our civil wars….”  –Civil War, Guns N’ Roses

Confession time:  I get a bit giddy whenever this plays while I’m running on the battle fields.

In today’s context, though, I’m giddy for an entirely different reason.

Today, CWI 2015 starts!

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If you’ve been around TO&E a while, you’ve heard me mention the Institute several times.  The annual summer conference holds a special place in my heart.

I attended for the first time in 2012, discovering the high school student scholarship program as I visited the College website for the first time.

That was when I fell in love with Gettysburg College.

That was when I fell in love with Gettysburg College.

I returned in 2013, for yet another amazing experience of making friends and connections.

And I met Emily, one of my best friends, in the process!

And I met Emily, one of my best friends, in the process!

CWI is the reason I’m in Gettysburg now, and a huge part of why I love it so much.  Here’s to another great time!

The Circle of Life

According to Google:

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The source looks a bit terrifying, but I’m going to assume Google knows what it’s talking about.

According to this, I’ve lived through enough deaths that my calculator needs an “e” to list it. More of these than I’d like have been people I know.  I’m lucky enough to have two healthy parents and a sister, two living grandparents, and plenty of friends and family, but I’ve lost far too many people for my taste (granted, the pleasant alternative is zero, and the Lion King would not approve of that scenario).

Most recently, my mom’s cousin passed away.  I’d never had the opportunity to meet her, as she lived over 1,000 miles away, but this hit me unreasonably hard.

I’ve got a reputation of being the emotionally strong one in my family.  It’s ironic, considering my constant worries otherwise, but it’s like they say, I guess:  when the going gets tough, the tough get going.

In this case, I got incredibly depressed.  Maybe it was because she was close to my mom’s age, or that they’d been rather close.  Maybe it was because I never had the chance to know her, nor will I ever.  Maybe it was simply my breaking point.

Over the weekend, I checked my grandfather’s Facebook page.  Though he’s stopped regularly using the site, he appreciates it when I check in to see if anyone’s messaged him (which is quite frequently, as he’s a great guy!).  Going through the motions of deleting spam, and checking requests, I came across a message from the young woman who my had just lost.

Sent several months ago, on the day following Pop’s birthday, the message was simple a reply to the thank you (typed by me) in response to her birthday wish:  “Things are good, hope the same for you and the family.”

Logically, I know the context of the message, but it hit me hard nevertheless.  From what I’ve heard over the years, she’d had a hard life;  maybe this shows she’s truly in a better place.

Do you feel as fine as you look?

“That Sunday shine is a certain sign that you feel as fine as you look!  Beneath your bowler brin the world’s a simple song, a lovely lilt that makes you tilt your nose.  Get out your slickers, your flannel knickers, your red suspenders and hose, for there’s no blue Monday in your Sunday clothes!”-Put On Your Sunday Clothes, Hello, Dolly!

Happy Sunday, all!  What better way to celebrate than with the musical that started a lifelong obsession for me?

Ah, Michael Crawford....

Ah, Michael Crawford….

Don’t forget to visit TO&E on Facebook and Twitter this weekend for our Meet & Greet/Q&A party!