Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Love's Swift Kick

President Theodore Roosevelt once said "no man is worth his salt who is not ready at all times to risk his body, to risk his well-being, to risk his life, in a great cause.'

This is a Valentine's Day story about the time my then six-year-old son, Elijah, went the distance for love. I can't say it was his first love, but as you will come to realize, it will no doubt forever be one of his most memorable. 

President Roosevelt's slogan was "speak softly and carry a big stick." Perhaps Elijah should have carried a big stick during his first grade year at school. I remember well the day he came home and announced that he had a girlfriend and then a few weeks later when he said, "I tried to break up her dad, but she kicked me in the shin, so I decided to stay with her."  He pulled up his pant leg and showed me the bruise.  I guess he thought it is better to be unhappy than to have a bruised shin,' as his first grade "courtship" with the little girl continued. Twice more, he tried to break up with her, but each time the result was the same: a kick to the shin. I was ready to report it to the school, or even call her parents, but he talked me out of it, saying he had a plan.  So, I said okay and suggested that in the meantime he wear shin guards to school.

I think it was Mark Twain who said "courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear." It takes a mighty big man to overcome the things he is scared of...even a little girls swift kick to the shin. Though he did not reveal it to me, I was curious about what sort of plan he had in mind.

It wasn't until the very last day of school that Elijah put his plan into action. He walked the girl to her bus and then continued on to his bus, which was parked about 40 feet away.  He waited until he was the last person to board and just before he did, he turned to the girl and screamed, "I'M BREAKING UP WITH YOU!" He then hopped on the bus and the door closed behind him. Turning to look, he saw her standing there, stomping her foot on the ground.

His plan had worked.  He had broken up with the girl and had escaped without another bruised shin. I said, "What about when you go back to school next fall?  She will kick you again!" He was convinced that over the summer she would forget him, which she did.

His successful breakup with the girl who had worn his shins out gave Elijah a newfound courage like he had never had before.  I think that summer was one of the best he ever had. Oh the joys of growing up -- the experiences, the unforgettable moments, the memories we make and later come to cherish. I often wonder if looking for love is worth a bruised shin. It's hard to say, really. I guess it all depends on how desperate you are. Maybe a bruised shin is worth forgetting about love. Elijah would say yes, it is worth it.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Protecting and Preserving The Peace During The Civil War Was A Family Affair

"Tinker Dave Beaty was born 200 years ago this Feb. 19th, in 1817. During the civil war, he formed a company, known as Independent Scouts, to protect the residents of Poplar and Buffalo coves in Fentress County, then Overton County, from Confederate Guerillas and troops, who were raiding the local population. This company, which sometimes consisted of as many as one hundred men, was officially recognized by the federal government and received into the service of the Union army on January 5, 1862.

The Independent Scouts' job was to act as scouts and combat Confederate guerrillas who came through their area. They were not paid, which by definition made them guerillas, but were supplied with arms and ammunition by the Federal authorities. Each man was required to furnish his own horse and equipment.

For me, David Beaty's Independent Scouts was a family affair. Tinker Dave's father, George, was my 4th great-grandfather. His sister, Matilda, married John Boles, a former state representative and state senator, who became captain of the independent scouts. They were my 3rd great-grandparents. Their son, George Boles, my 2nd great-grandfather, was also a member of the Independent scouts, as was his father-in-law, David Smith, my 3rd great-grandfather, along his sons, Asa and Ahijah Smith.

In 1863, a skirmish between the independent scouts and Confederates under Captain Hutchinson reportedly happened near George Boles' place in what is now Pickett County. Captain Hutchinson was killed and three of his men were wounded.

In 1864, the Independent scouts engaged Confederate Colonel John Hughes' company and Champ Ferguson in a skirmish as they came into Fentress on a foraging expedition. It reportedly happened in the Buffalo Cove Area near the home of John Boles. The independent scouts, being greatly outnumbered, were forced to retreat, causing them to fall behind some of their men. Thomas Culver, Jop Moody and Tinker Dave's young son, Thomas, were captured. Culver and Moody were killed and Thomas would also have been killed had it not been for two Boles women, who begged for his life. Several Confederates were wounded.

On February 1, 1863, Confederate guerillas rode up to David Smith's home on the East fork of Big Indian creek looking for his son, Asa, who was not at home. David and another son, Ahijah, were both killed. They are buried at Doogan Smith Cemetery, which is across from the house where they were killed. Asa Smith died in 1920. He is buried at Elias Bowden Cemetery in Fentress County.

John Boles died in 1869. Matilda died in 1903. They are buried at Bolestown Cemetery, near Boatland. George Boles died in 1941 and is buried at Cedar Hill Cemetery in Clinton County.

It has been written that Tinker Dave Beaty was as ruthless and vicious in his defense of the Union as Champ Ferguson was of the Confederacy. Beaty and his Independent Scouts probably killed as many men as Ferguson and his men did, if not more, but because the Confederacy lost the war, Ferguson became the monstrous criminal and was hanged for his actions, while Beaty became ‘the celebrated Union scout.’ The same deeds that made a man a criminal could have made him a hero if his side won.

Tinker Dave Beaty died on Aug. 22, 1876. He and his father, George, are buried at Beaty-Lacy Cemetery on Tinker Dave's farm at Boatland.

I like to think that George Boles was acquainted with Elijah Koger, but there no account of that. Elijah lived at Oak Grove in Clinton County and George lived at Poplar Cove in Fentress County (Overton). After the war, they would be connected by marriage. While members of the Boles family were bust protecting the citizens of Fentress County (Overton County), Elijah Koger was busy doing the same as a member of the Clinton County home guard, a group of residents who had been trained in warfare at Camp Dick Robinson in Garrard County but were not officially brought into the service of the Union army. Koger went a step further with his commitment and it eventually cost him his life.

Elijah Koger was my 3rd great-grandfather. Fifty years after the Civil War, in 1915, his granddaughter, Nannie, married George Boles' son, Ahijha (Hige) Boles.

The guerilla warfare that took place along the Kentucky-Tennessee border, which Tinker Dave Beaty, Champ Ferguson and others were responsible for, was taking its toll on the citizens who lived in the Upper Cumberland area along the Tennessee-Kentucky border. Murder, theft and arson were commonplace.

In 1862, Union and Confederate factions of the Upper Cumberlands attempted to reach a peaceful compromise. A peace conference was held at Monroe in Overton County. The parties agreed not to raid into the adjoining counties. However, the compromise was dead before it began. Within hours, Ferguson and his men killed four Overton County men on the way back to Clinton County, and Confederate J. W. McHenry raided into Clinton County. They blamed it on a lack of communication by the peace officals, but many of those men who attended the conference were later murdered.

Elijah Koger was part of a group of home guardsmen who kept watch over Clinton County and he was one of the men who were chosen to repesent the Union at the Monroe Compromise.

On the morning of Sunday, June 1, 1862, Koger arose from his bed and headed out to the spring with his wife, Nancy, beside him. Shots rang out as a band of men appeared suddenly out of nowhere. Nancy screamed fo Elijah to run. As he tried to flee, Ferguson overtook him and shot him. Koger threw up his arms and said something, but Nancy could not make out his words because the couple's children were screaming. Shots continued to ring out as Elijah ran toward a fence some fifty yards from the home in the Oak Grove community. With Ferguson and nine other men following him, Elijah reached the fence and when he tried to cross it, Ferguson rode up close to him and shot him one more time. By the time Nancy reached the fence, the couple's 11-year-old daughter, Sarah, was holding her daddy in her arms. She was covered in blood. When Nancy reached Elijah, he gasped once, but never spoke. He had been shot more than 30 times. Nancy knelt beside her slain husband's body as Ferguson and his outlaw gang ransacked the Koger home.

The reason Elijah Koger was so involved in peace-keeping efforts during the civil war begins with his wife's brother, William Frogge, my 3rd great-uncle. He has the distinction of officially being the first person murdered by Champ Ferguson during the war. It happened on Nov. 1, 1861.

When he rode up to the Frogge cabin, Esther Frogge suspected no ill will. After all, she had known Ferguson since childhood. She offered him a seat and an apple. He refused both and sought out her husband, who lay ill in his bed. Champ asked William about his health. Frogge responded, “I am very sick. I had the measles and have had a relapse.”

Champ accused Frogge of having contracted the measles while visiting Camp Dick Robinson. Frogge vehemently denied that, but Ferguson drew his pistol anyway and shot Frogge twice, killing him. He then ransacked the cabin.

Ironically, the next to last person murdered by Champ Ferguson during the civil war was my 4th great-uncle, Martin Van Buren Duvall. Van was the uncle of Elijah Koger's wife, Nancy. It happened on April 26, 1865, seventeen days after Lee surrendered to Grant. Duvall was on furlough from the army and was at his brothers home, in sight of Oak Grove Cemetery, when he saw Champ Ferguson riding up to the residence. Van tried to run but Ferguson chased him down and shot him dead. He murdered his last victim, John H. Hurt, the next day."

Monday, January 16, 2017

"God is Able" by MLK, Jr.

"Life is hard, at times as hard as crucible steel. It has its bleak and difficult moments. Like the ever-flowing waters of the river, life has its moments of drought and its moments of flood. Like the ever-changing cycle of the seasons, life has the soothing warmth of its summers and the piercing chill of its winters. And if one will hold on, he will discover that God walks with him and that GOD IS ABLE to lift you from the fatigue of despair to the buoyancy of hope, and transform dark and desolate valleys into sunlit paths of inner peace."

(From "Eulogy of the Martyred Children, September 18, 1963)

Sunday, January 8, 2017

The Cornfield Princess: Bullet in the Dark

Selah Elizabeth "Bessie" Jones was the daughter of Nesbit Hert and Jane (Upchurch) Jones. Sometime after her death, the family moved to Crowell, Texas. Bessie is buried at Cartwright Cemetery.

Her tombstone reads:

Selah E. Jones
Born May 3, 1886
Assassinated Sep 17, 1900

Her busy hands are folded
Her work on earth is done
Her trials are all ended
Her heavenly crown is won


Monday, January 2, 2017

Battle Hymn of the Republic Recording is 100 Years Old

Mine eyes have seen the glory
of the coming of the Lord
He is trampling out the vintage
where the grapes of wrath are stored
He has loosed the fateful lightening
of His terrible swift sword
His truth is marching on

Thomas Chalmers' recording of "Battle Hymn Of The Republic" is 100-years-old this year. He recorded his version on May 29, 1917 (Edison Records, 82133-R).

According to the Library of Congress, "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" went through a number of versions in the years immediately before the Civil War. Its tune and its early lyrics were written by William Steffe about 1856. Its first verse and refrain were:

Say brothers, will you meet us?
Say brothers, will you meet us?
Say brothers, will you meet us?
On Canaan's happy shore?

Glory, glory hallelujah!
Glory, glory hallelujah!
Glory, glory hallelujah!
For ever, evermore!

The song first gained popularity around Charleston, South Carolina, where it was sung as a Methodist Camp Meeting song, particularly in churches belonging to free Blacks. By contrast, it was also used early on as a marching song on army posts.

The song gathered new verses following the insurrection at Harper's Ferry, led by John Brown and carried out by a cadre of nineteen men on October 16, 1859. Brown's actions, trial and subsequent execution made him a martyr to Abolitionists and African-Americans and prompted some people to add the following lines to Steffe's by then popular song.

John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave
John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave
John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave
His soul is marching on!

Some have also theorized that the new verses were written about an inept Army sergeant named John Brown, thus giving the lyrics a kind of humorous double entendre.

By the time of the Civil War "John Brown's Body" had become a very popular marching song with Union Army regiments, particularly among the Colored troops. The Twelfth Massachusetts Regiment, in particular, has been credited with spreading the song's fame on their march to the South, where Confederate soldiers then inverted the meaning of their words and sang, "John Brown's a-hanging on a sour apple tree." The war's rivalry continued to be carried on in music as the northerners then sang in turn, "They will hang Jeff Davis to a sour apple tree."

(Julia Ward Howe, April 27, 1908)

But it was when Julia Ward Howe visited Washington, DC in 1861 that the tune properly came to be called "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." Howe and her husband, both of whom were active abolitionists, experienced first-hand a skirmish between Confederate and Union troops in nearby Virginia, and heard the troops go into battle singing "John Brown's Body." That evening, November 18, 1861, Ward was inspired to write a poem that better fit the music. It began "Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord."

As Howe explained it, the verses came to her in a single night:

"I went to bed and slept as usual, but awoke the next morning in the gray of the early dawn, and to my astonishment found that the wished-for lines were arranging themselves in my brain. I lay quite still until the last verse had completed itself in my thoughts, then hastily arose, saying to myself, I shall lose this if I don't write it down immediately. I searched for an old sheet of paper and an old stub of a pen which I had had the night before, and began to scrawl the lines almost without looking, as I learned to do by often scratching down verses in the darkened room when my little children were sleeping. Having completed this, I lay down again and fell asleep, but not before feeling that something of importance had happened to me."

"Battle Hymn of the Republic" was first published in The Atlantic Monthly on February 1862.

Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! 
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! 
Glory! Glory! Hallelujah! 
His truth is marching on

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Peace On Earth...May Christmas Hasten That Day

The first months of World War I had seen an initial German attack through Belgium into France, which had been repulsed outside Paris by French and British troops at the Battle of the Marne in early September 1914. The Germans fell back to the Aisne Valley and in the subsequent Battle of the Aisne, the Allied forces were unable to push through the German line, and the fighting quickly degenerated into a static stalemate with neither side willing to give ground. To the north, on the right of the German army, there had been no defined front line and both sides quickly began to try to use this gap to outflank one another. In the ensuing "race to the sea", the two sides repeatedly clashed, each trying to push forward and threaten the end of the other's line. By November, there was a continuous front line running from the North Sea to the Swiss frontier. The action was swift and both sides were determined.

But, in December something unexpected happened: An unofficial truce involving about 100,000 British and German troops along the length of that front. The reason?  Christmas.  It began on Christmas Eve when German troops began decorating the area around their trenches in the region of Ypres, Belgium. The Germans began by placing candles on their trenches and on Christmas trees, then continued the celebration by singing Christmas carols. The British responded by singing carols of their own. The two sides continued by shouting Christmas greetings to each other. Soon thereafter, there were excursions across the 'No Man's Land, where small gifts were exchanged, such as food, tobacco and alcohol, and souvenirs such as buttons and hats. The artillery in the region fell silent that night. The truce also allowed a breathing spell where recently-fallen soldiers could be brought back behind their lines by burial parties. Joint services were held. In many sectors, the truce lasted through Christmas night, but it continued until New Year's Day in others.

Ironically, just days before Christmas a group of 101 British women suffragists wrote a letter to the women of Germany and Austria. Under the heading "On Earth Peace, Goodwill towards Men, the letter said, "The Christmas message sounds like mockery to a world at war. Is it not our mission to preserve life? 

The next Christmas, the two sides again observed an unofficial cease fire at the front but it was not as successful, thanks to strongly-worded orders from the high commands of both sides prohibiting such fraternization.

My prayer is that one day we will have peace on earth...

"May Christmas hasten that day."