4th annual Gathering of Eagles (June 5-7)
This one-of-a-kind affair is an educational event brought to life by living historians from across the country. Civil War personas (both military and political) discuss the events of the war brought to life through their first person portrayals. Issues discussed during this two and a half day event range from the battle tactics used, to the causes of the war, and the occasional heated discussion concerning the legality of secession based on the Constitution. The Gathering of Eagles is hosted by Lee’s Lieutenants and held at the Old Court House Museum and Godfrey House in Winchester, VA. I have been fortunate enough to participate in this event since 2006 and I also designed its brochures and t-shirts.
The GOE’s three-day schedule includes: a presidential debate where Lincoln & Davis discuss the issues, ladies period fashion show and tea, know the flag program, a mock congressional hearing on the conduct of the war, “Meet the Generals” program with 20+ Union and Confederate commanders, a period wedding and church service, dramatic one-man show of “Soldiers in Gray,” as well as presentations by Mathew Brady and CSA naval officers. Virtually every major general on both sides will be represented along with period musicians, authors, and civilian re-enactors. Don't miss this opportunity to attend an event that is unlike any other.
This year I will be at home in Fredericksburg celebrating my oldest son's high school graduation, but I look forward to returning for the 2010 GOE.
Over the last two years I have received periodic requests for private tours of our area’s historical sites. I have had the pleasure of escorting members of Spotsylvania Presbyterian Church, Georgia-based film director Clint Ross and his wife, as well as the Warren Family from Salem, Va (*young Richard Warren and I pictured above at the Kirkland Monument). Following each tour I have received some wonderful compliments and feedback from my guests. I always spend time prepping in advance so I can offer something original and personal, based upon the visitor’s interests. Whether walking along the sunken road on the Fredericksburg field, or around the lawn of the “Stonewall” Jackson Shrine, I love sharing the stories behind these hallowed grounds. The Naked Historian allows me to present some sites via the 'net, but nothing beats visiting a location in person.
Now I am by no means a military historian, so I can’t (and don’t) speak about tactics. My tours are not staff rides. They offer more human-interest stories, about individual people or events that visitor’s can relate to. For example, I won’t outline the Army of Northern Virginia’s effective use of artillery placements on Marye's Heights (I am not qualified), but I will tell you about one of those rebel artillerists and quote his own accounts. I’ll also be the first to say that no one would ever top our local NPS professionals as we have one of the best staffs in the country, (I mean what could I ever say that would top John Hennessy, Russ Smith, Eric Mink, Greg Mertz, Don Pfanz and the rest of those guys/gals?) As a result, I always encourage my visitor’s to go to the museums and take the official tours. This gives them the National Park Service's overview and then I accentuate their experience. I have covered the Fredericksburg Battlefield, National Cemetery, Old Town's historic churches, "Stonewall" Jackson Shrine and trips to the F'burg Visitor's Center and Civil War Life Museum.
Our friend Eric Wittenberg is renowned for his battlefield tours and I now understand why he enjoys giving them. The more tours I do, the more I like doing them. My entire retirement plan is to become a volunteer guide at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello someday and I hope I’ll get the opportunity beforehand to lead tours at the “Stonewall” Jackson Shrine, which is just a 5 min. drive from my house. That of course will be several years into the future when our nest is finally empty. For now, I'll be offering my services independently to the public. If you are interested in having a special tour of the Fredericksburg/Spotsylvania area, I am taking appointments for both Christian and secular based tours. Fees are dependant on the tour length, locations, and attendees.
Please email for a quote.
"It has been said that a poet is someone who can put into words what another feels but can't quite express. Michael is a poet of history, and his appreciation of it is contagious. He captured for us a glimpse of the past and gave us the cherished gift of never forgetting." - Clint & Lizzie Ross
"On our second trip to Fredericksburg, Michael gave us a tour that engaged the children and left all of us with an entirely different perspective than we received on our first trip. He was quite knowledgeble and witty. I would love to take him along on all of our Civil War adventures. It was quite a day!" - Kathleen Warren
Thinking about the future AND the past
A few weeks ago I was asked by Benjamin Smith, Vice President of Operations and Custom Publishing at Ertel Publishing, if I would be interested in becoming a contributing writer for an up-and coming bi-monthly magazine called Patriots of the American Revolution. Ben and I worked together on a couple features I penned for Civil War Historian, and his publications are always top-notch.
I must admit that I have been entertaining the notion in the not-so-distant future (after these 2 books are released) of focusing my attention on the Colonial period. The Jefferson Project is an example of how my personal interests have broadened to include the Founding Fathers. I have always felt that the Colonial and Revolutionary War periods are not given as much attention here in Fredericksburg. With the exception of George Washington’s Ferry Farm, Kenmore, and a few other places, our local Civil War sites have always taken precedent. This is completely understandable, but I like the idea and challenge of working in a less-locally-covered genre. I have always admired the historians who specialize in neglected subjects like the War of 1812, French and Indian, or Spanish-American wars.
My CW work will certainly continue with the National Civil War Life Foundation, documentary films, and The Naked Historian, but my article (and potential book focuses) would change. With the help of my peers I feel that I am continuing to grow as both a writer and historian and I like the fact that my latest books are on subjects that have not really been covered before (Fredericksburg’s Churches, Spotsylvania’s Confederate Encampments, and Baseball’s Worst Teams and Players). I would love to research/write something substantial comparing the local Loyalists of the Revolution with the Unionists of the Civil War. This would certainly bridge the gap between the two. Either way, I feel a change (or maybe the word 'expansion' is more appropriate) on the horizon. Once these two upcoming titles are released I'll be putting some serious consideration into my future.
Why we need readin,' ritin,' and rithmetic'
For the last 2 weeks I have been diligently working on the manuscript for my upcoming book on Confederate encampments in Spotsylvania County. My deadline for the publisher is late-August and I am well on my way to meeting that mark. The grunt work is proving to be very ‘typing-intensive,’ but also enjoyable. Those of you that have spent any time transcribing period letters know the challenges that exist when dealing with uneducated subjects who penned their words phonetically. Here is an example of a heartfelt letter from King David Richards of Company A, 57th Va. Infantry to his wife. This is a perfect example of how an unschooled person communicated in the 1800's and how useless spell checker is when doing this kind of writing. (Richards was killed on 7/3/1863 at Gettysburg.)
Camp Near guinea January th4 1863
Dear wife I seat my self this morning to drop yo afew lins to let yo no that I am well as comon truly hoping when these few lins cums to hand tha may finde yo an the baby both well an harty harriet I have no nuse to right to yo we are hear in the woods we ante got no tents I dont think think we will stay hear all the winter tims is peaseble now we are bilding little huts harriet I am geting mity tired of staing hear we dont get nothing to eat that is fit to eat sutch bread as we eat hear my dog wood not eat I dont no how we have live as long as we have harriet thare is such chat as givening us all furlows I dont no wether tha will or not but I no one thin if tha dont give me one I will take one an cume enney how I cant stayaway from yo and tha baby much longer it dus seam to me like if I could come home and sed yo all I would give (every thing) enney thing in the worlde I am a goin ta wate tel i sed wether tha will givene me enney ferlw or not an if tha dont I will take one and try it enney how harriet I want yo to rite to me an rite how yo are getting on fore all the pleser I ged is to rede a letter from yo and to her that yo are well I havent got but too leters from yo since I got out of the horspttle give my love and bet respects to all my folks. tel mother that brouse is well an harty I must bring my few lins to a close by sainq I remain yo loving husband untell deth from King D. Richards to harriet Richards rite soon harriet I sent yo aring in a letter when this yo sed remember me
This will probably be the ONLY time you see these two words together on my blog...
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