Pointers

Poetry and literary websites that are new to me: Lagos Literary and Arts Journal (Nigeria), Subterranean Blue Poetry (Canada), Dragon Poetry Review (USA), The Elephant Magazine (USA), Gendertrash Cafe (USA), LOST (International), Lou Lit Review (USA), Oxidant Engine (USA), Rhetoric Askew (USA), Social Justice Poetry (USA), Stand Tall Poetry Anthology (USA), Underblong (USA), muAfrica (South Africa – LD) and Poetry in Plain Sight (USA – LD). Please read submission guidelines before sending work to any of these publications. If I placed the letters “LD” with the country, the publication accepts submissions from a “limited demographic”, like only from their country or state.


Three of my poems were recently posted at Miriam’s Well.


Editor’s Note. In the poet interviews you will have noticed a question of mine about the American Civil War, asking if the interviewed poet has relatives who fought or battlefields visited searching for a story they have about an era experience.  Well, I am a Civil War geek, nerd, enthusiast, though I never did reenactments except as a spectator.  When I meet people, if they have a sir-name that corresponds to a civil war general, I will most likely ask if they are related. Several times in my life by this method, I’ve met distant relatives of generals.

My interest started in 1961 when I was four years old and the one hundredth anniversary of the war was ever present for the next four years in many forms.  One of those forms was my uncle, Walter Hebert, a civil war historian and author of the book Fighting Joe Hooker. Uncle Walt would tell me stories of battles and generals and curious facts when he visited my boyhood home outside Chicago. Also, due to the war’s anniversary, the family took vacations to visit battlefields and Lincoln’s home in Springfield, IL.

Over the years I’ve read many more than five hundred  books about the war that cover topics such as battles by armies, battles over politics, diaries of both soldiers and civilians, poetry of the era, biographies of generals and other important people, the effect of the war on women left back home, the effect of the war on free blacks in border states, the inventions that got patented during the war,  battlefield maps, battlefield mapmakers, how modern off-the-shelf software benefits battlefield archeologists, the effect of railroads on the war effort and more.

In the year 2000 I took a year off from working and moved to Frederick, Maryland so I could visit the eastern battlefields. While there I came up with the idea of mapping out the marching routes of units that fought at Antietam and I walked those routes from where the unit broke camp the morning of September 17th to where they fought on the battlefield. I made over 50 visits to Antietam doing this project and trespassed on private land a little to make it happen.

At one reenactment I was taught how to properly load and fire a 3-inch ordnance rifle (cannon).  A reenactor that I knew during my Wisconsin years taught me how to load and fire his replica .69 caliber, model 1842 Springfield musket—it was quite the experience, but my right shoulder has no desire to repeat it.

As an adult I have visited every national park related to the Civil War except Fort Pickens in Florida near Pensacola and Grant’s Tomb in New York City. My travels have also checked off many of the state parks that are related to the Civil War. I’ve driven to battlefields that have no more commemoration than a historical society sponsored sign with rust on the edges and pealing paint at roadside picnic grounds.

My only past life experience took place at the Spotsylvania Courthouse battlefield [wiki] along the breastworks at what is known as the Mule Shoe or “Bloody Angle.” It is a place where for 20-plus hours men fought at point blank range, often hand to hand.  It was January, overcast and chilly when I visited, though the historic battle took place in May 1864. As I stood where Hancock’s II Corp assault slowed up, I began to see the spent gunpowder drift in clouds with smell the sulphur and potassium in the air. I heard faint bugle calls and the shouts of men, the ragged rifle volleys. Ghost like I saw men struggle on both sides of the breastworks, fire at point blank range or ram a bayonet though another man’s body. I felt the bodies of the fallen beneath my feet. As I got caught up in the vision, my leather jacket turned to a blue uniform of a Federal soldier. I remember leaping up onto the breastwork and firing a Springfield rifled musket into a knot of confederate troops, then hurling the rifle with its bayonet fixed as if it was a spear. Someone from behind handed up another rifle and I shoved the barrel into the shoulder of a rebel and nearly blew his arm off his torso when I pulled the trigger to slam into the percussion cap. In a frenzy, I clubbed two men with the rifle’s butt. Then, curiously, I looked up in a surreal state of calm to see seven rebels in a formed line about thirty feet away and saw a sergeant give them orders to aim and fire. I came out of the dream-like state to find myself on my back on the ground, knocked off the breastwork as if I had been shot—hail stones fell from the cloudy sky above me.

I have learned that many Albuquerque residents and recent transplants have no idea the civil war took place in New Mexico as well. The Battle of Valverde was fought about fifteen miles south of Socorro. The battlefield is near Fort Craig, but is on private land and permission is required to walk it. The key battle of the New Mexico campaign took place at Glorieta Pass outside of Santa Fe at the Pecos National Historic Park. There were many other skirmishes and clashes, but they were small in comparison.

The last civil war book I completed was The Quartermaster, by Robert O’Harrow.  It is a biography of Montgomery Meigs the quartermaster general (the guy in charge of supplying food and material) for all the federal armies during the civil war. It was wonderfully fascinating.

Now you know, if you did wonder, why the Civil War question is in the interview questions.

 

 

4 thoughts on “Pointers

  1. On your visits to Antietam, did you ever visit Evensong Farm, our cousins Julie & Brent Stinar’s farm? They bought & restored a Civil War-era house on beautiful land bordering the battlefield and Julie’s been the lead on their organic farm.

    Just wondering.

    Mary

    p.s. My husband, like his father before him, reads about the war.

    They descend from a confederate soldier (Sparrel Dudley) who wrote his father back home in VA not to believe the forecasts about a short conflict. We have his letter in which he advised his dad not to burn their crops; this thing was not going to be over any time soon.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

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  2. Hullo Mary. I did not visit Evensong Farm during my year in Maryland. After looking at their website, it is my culinary loss. How lucky you are to have your ancestor’s letter. I only have reproductions of both Lee’s final orders and a letter Lincoln wrote, along with a book of civil war maps printed in the 1880s that is browned and disintegrating.

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  3. Dear Kenneth, Wow, really fascinating account of your Civil War travels – and the transport experience! Thanks for sharing, Love, Jean

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  4. Fascinating read, Kenneth: I cannot say that ” I read your essay cover to cover” or “could not put it down or aside.” Those comments are from a different era and medium. So, what to say? “I scrolled all the way through without stopping.” My experience at Manassas (Bull Run) moved me deeply, and I hope to return to the East to visit other battle sites, particularly Gettysburg.

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