Start your Christmas list now
Referred to as the “Crossroads of the Civil War,” Spotsylvania County in central Virginia bore witness to some of the most intense fighting during the War Between the States. The nearby city of Fredericksburg and neighboring counties of Stafford, Orange and Caroline also hosted a myriad of historically significant events during America’s “Great Divide.”
Four major engagements took place in this region including the battles of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Spotsylvania Court House and The Wilderness. Today the hallowed grounds that make up the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park are the second largest of their kind in the country. In addition, the area remains home to many historic Civil War landmarks including Chatham Estate, Salem Church, the “Stonewall” Jackson Shrine and Ellwood Manor. Dozens of monuments and roadside markers dot the landscape and more than 200,000 tourists visit the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania region each year.
Similarly from 1861-1865 hundreds of thousands of troops on both sides of the conflict marched through, fought at, and camped in the woods and fields of Spotsylvania County and the surrounding area. The National Park Service christened the region as “The Bloodiest Landscape in North America” stating that over a four-year period, more than 85,000 men were wounded, and over 15,000 were killed. A number of exceptionally significant events also took place in the vicinity including the first clash between Union General Ulysses S. Grant and Confederate commander Gen. Robert E. Lee, as well as the first recorded skirmish between southern forces and U.S. Colored Troops.
“Campfires at the Crossroads” focuses specifically on the Confederate encampments that spread across Spotsylvania County and the adjoining regions during the course of the Civil War. By using the witnesses’ own testimonies and words taken directly from published memoirs, diary entries and letters home, readers will be able to take a glimpse into the day-to-day experiences of camp life for southern armies on campaign in the Old Dominion. Topics include camp duties, cooking, slaves and body servants, crimes and punishment, disease and dysentery, love letters, winter quarters, religious services, death notifications and more. The inclusion of rare photographs and illustrations compliment this collection of author narrative and archive transcripts.
Stay tuned for updates on the release of this highly anticipated title.
OK-OK. Ill share.
Several anxious visitors have been grilling me ever since I hinted below about that reclusive documentary film project that I am involved with. I’ve kept it quiet for several months now, but as the local paper is now covering it, I guess I can finally spill the beans.
A few months back I was contacted by a film director from Savannah Georgia about contributing to a documentary project. The film dealt with the life and legacy of Sgt. Richard Kirkland and was to be shot in high-definition, on location at Fredericksburg VA and Camden SC.
The director's name was Clint Ross and he had contacted me as I had lectured on Kirkland at the University of Mary Washington as part of the FCW Roundtable’s “Great Lives That Touched The Civil War” series.
I was immediately attracted to the project as Clint is a fellow Christian and his vision of the movie was to not only examine the courageous act of humanitarianism that Kirkland bestowed upon the enemy, but additionally HOW and WHY the event has become a leading ‘brand’ of Civil War commemoration.
The image of this young Confederate soldier holding a canteen to the lips of a fallen foe has been memorialized in Felix DeWeldon’s sculpture on the Fredericksburg field and in the courtyard of the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, PA. It has been captured on canvas by Mort Kunstler in his painting “The Angle of Marye’s Heights” and in countless souvenirs at battlefield gift stores. It has been written about in poems such as the one penned by Walter Clark in 1908 and in song by Canadian musicians Will White, Juanita Brandt & Dale Ulan. It has been celebrated for decades by the Camden United Daughters of the Confederacy and recently portrayed by a 9 year-old boy named Richard Warren from Salem VA.
In essence, the memory of Richard Kirkland is even larger than the selfless act he performed. This moment of mercy has become a major symbol. My own theory is that this rare act of kindness has remained through the years as a bright spot worthy of our praise. In a devastating conflict that has been far too romanticized Kirkland reminds us that we were all "brothers" in the American Civil War. He gives us a reason to celebrate. Perhaps that is the reason for my own attraction to his story.
After taking Clint and his lovely wife on a private tour of the Fredericksburg Battlefield, I humbly accepted an offer to appear in and co-produce the film by acting as a liaison between him and my network of connections here in Fredericksburg. In addition to shooting both interior and exterior scenes at Chatham Manor, the Sunken Road, and of course the Kirkland Monument the crew is also planning on filming in Camden at Kirkland’s home (ruins), at his grave site in a Quaker cemetery, and at a memorial fountain that commemorates him in town.
I will be offering an introductory spot on the theme of the film and “ghost-interviewing” Don Pfanz from the National Park Service and hopefully Eric Mink. They will provide an overview of the Battle of Fredericksburg and paint the scene for Kirkland’s actions. The addition of interviews with the living names I listed above along with SC historians, as well as the inclusion of period photos (ala Ken Burns) with an overlaying narrative (hopefully provided by a familiar star), this film will be both enlightening and informative. The crew arrives in town on July 27th and they will be shooting here until Aug. 1st.
The Free Lance-Star will be doing an article on the event and once the 30-minute film is completed (hopefully by November), it is slated to run at the Civil War Life Soldier’s Museum and later become a permanent installation at the new facility. In exchange for my services they are also generously producing a commercial for the National Civil War Life Foundation of which I am Vice-Chair. Needless to say I will be busy when these days arrive, but I will be sure to post plenty of photos and updates. Who knows maybe The Naked Historian will make an appearance on set?
Honestly, this opportunity is really cool and I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I was extremely thrilled to be a part of it. I'm a lucky dog.
Im rollin through my To-Do list
And things are going almost too well. This week I finished a review of Jane Hollenbeck Conner’s new book “Sinners, Saints, and Soldiers in Civil War Stafford,” which will be running in the Free Lance-Star on Saturday, I also recorded three new “Off the Beaten Path” radio spots for News Talk 1230 AM, which will begin running Thurs., I drafted the certificate and promo copy for Mort Kunstler’s upcoming fall release, completed the organization of photos for my Confederate camp book and finally scheduled the NPS interviews and site locations for a documentary film project that I am working on. The director and crew arrive here in Fredericksburg on July 27th to begin filming and I’ll finally be able to share the details and some pics then. The local paper is also covering the event. Links and updates to these items will be posted here as they come about.
Im sorry but I have to comment on this
Let me preface my post by saying that I agree 100% that Michael Jackson was extraordinarily talented and his untimely death is a real tragedy. I grew up in the MTV age when his videos ruled the world and I even own a copy of Thriller. That said, the excessive coverage of his passing is becoming disturbing. Below is a screen capture I took of the front page of CNN.com at 3:35 pm on Tuesday. EVERY-SINGLE headline and link is about Michael Jackson. What does this say about America’s attention and priorities? When we look back at ‘our time’s’ history will stories like this trump real-world affairs? Is this the only news the media deems important. This is CNN, not VH1...
And just to prove my point... here is another screen capture taken exactly 1-hour later. Apparently no other significant news has taken place in the world. Really?
Hall of Presidents reopens
As I mentioned below, the Aubrecht clan just spent nine amazing days on a dream vacation to Walt Disney World. During our trip the ONLY disappointment we experienced was the unexpected closure of the Hall of Presidents, my all-time favorite attraction, and Space Mountain, one of my wife’s most eagerly anticipated rides. Following a special Fourth of July ceremony in which 1,000 new American citizens were sworn in, the HOP officially reopened to rave reviews. In addition to the new President Obama animatronic, the entire program has been upgraded including a new voice narration featuring Morgan Freeman. Here is an official video of the expanded cast. Those "Imagineers" are GOOD!