BLOG, or DIE. Author Bio
Friday, 15 October 2010
Pittsburgh Movie Premiere Caps Full Day of Civil War Programming At Carnegie Carnegie

For immediate release
Contact Maggie Forbes
412/276-3456, x.6 


The Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall is rolling out the figurative red carpet for a Pittsburgh movie premiere on Saturday, November 27th.  “The Angel of Marye’s Heights,” tells the compelling story of Richard Rowland Kirkland, a Confederate soldier who gave succor to the enemy – Union wounded and dying in the devastating wake of the Battle of Fredericksburg. 

The documentary will be introduced by Michael Aubrecht, one of the film’s writers and producers.  Though he lives in Fredericksburg now, Aubrecht was born and raised in Green Tree. 

The film, and the full day of programming that precedes its premiere, is intended to put the spotlight on the Library & Music Hall’s rare Civil War room: the Captain Thomas Espy Post No. 153 of the Grand Army of the Republic.   

The Espy Post has been documented by scholars as probably the most intact GAR post in the country.  Civil War veterans met from 1906 until the 1930s in a second floor room of the Library that they custom-furnished as “Memorial Hall.” 

Locked away and forgotten for nearly 50 years, the Espy Post was painstakingly restored and re-opened last February, on the 201st anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth.  The ACFL&MH has been amazed and gratified by the response to the room’s restoration.  The story made national news and visitors have come from far and wide to see it. 

“On a single day this summer, visitors came from Austin, TX; Wisconsin; Albany, NY; New Jersey; Oil City and Florida,” enthuses ACFL&MH executive director Maggie Forbes.  “The Espy Post is unequivocally a national treasure.”   

However, Forbes and library director Diane Klinefelter frequently run into people from Carnegie, Scott, Mt. Lebanon, Bridgeville – throughout the Greater Pittsburgh area – who are either unaware of the Post, or who have yet to visit.  “We want to give people a reason to visit now,” explains Klinefelter.   

“Right in Our Own Back Yards” is a full day of programming designed to do just that.  The ACFL&MH is offering not only expanded tours of the Espy Post, but behind the scenes tours of its entire historic landmark facility on Thanksgiving Saturday from 11:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.  The day’s programming is made possible through the support of Northwest Savings Bank. 

“On Thursday people eat; on Friday people shop; on Saturday they are looking for something to do with out of town family and friends.  We want them to come here!” says Forbes.   The Espy Post guest book shows that the Espy Post attracts a national audience.  However, the whole building is historically rich and architecturally significant.  On November 27, the ACFL&MH will take people into the Music Hall, backstage, into the dressing rooms, into the old gymnasium.   

The Library & Music Hall had already planned this special day of Civil War-based programming when filmmaker Michael Aubrecht contacted Ms. Forbes, looking for a venue to show “The Angel of Marye’s Heights.” 

“The Angel of Marye’s Heights” goes well beyond the story of a young Confederate infantry sergeant from South Carolina.  It also documents the courage and tenacity of the Federal troops who participated in the doomed assault at the Battle of Fredericksburg.  Some of these men were volunteers from Pittsburgh who may have very well shared Richard Kirkland’s canteen.   

Michael Aubrecht explains how this story has gone full circle. “If you climb to the top of Marye’s Heights today you will find the Fredericksburg National Cemetery.  In the center stands the Pennsylvania Monument which pays tribute to the 123rd PA Regiment Volunteers who were mustered out of Allegheny County.”  He appreciates the connections with the Espy Post.  “As this statue keeps the memory of these men alive, so too does the Espy Post.  Ironically,” adds the Green Tree native, “the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall is ‘in my own backyard.’  What better place to share this remarkable story?” 

“The Angel of Marye’s Heights” will be shown at 7:30 p.m.  A dessert reception follows the half hour documentary, along with conversation with Mr. Aubrecht and tours of the Espy Post.   

Tours of the Espy Post and Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall are free and open to the public from 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  The ACFL&MH is also showcasing photographs of the Library & Music Hall and of Carnegie itself by artist Bernadette Kazmarski [who designed this event's promo postcard.]  Light refreshments and Carnegie Carnegie merchandise will be on sale.

Tickets to “The Angel of Marye’s Heights” and the dessert reception are $10.  Tickets are available at the Library circulation desk or at

For more information on “The Angel of Marye’s Heights” visit  Michael Aubrecht may be reached at

Posted by ny5/pinstripepress at 1:28 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 15 October 2010 1:39 PM EDT
Permalink | Share This Post
Wednesday, 13 October 2010
Forgotten Founders

ABOVE: 1876 Currier and Ives lithograph of Patrick Henry

Last night I heard a talk-radio host state that the majority of citizens in the United States cannot name more than a dozen Founding Fathers. I agreed with him and could only come up with 18 names myself. There is some debate over exactly how many of our Nation’s principle founders qualify for the title of “Father,” but I have compiled a list that includes the signers of the Declaration of Independence, signers of the Articles of Confederation and signers of the U.S. Constitution. I then added a list of other political contributors worthy of mention. (Note: many names are repeated)


When examining the list I am amazed at how many names I am not familiar with. It also struck me that I could name the starting line-up of most of my favorite baseball teams (by season), yet I have no clue who half these guys are. It goes to show how we prioritize information and how limiting our teaching to a few “marquee” names can drastically narrow our historical knowledge.


I invite you to join me in exploring the lives of the forgotten founders. I plan on picking 10 ‘foreign’ names to investigate. I will share my findings by writing mini-bios in a future post. As enamored as I am with the Franklins, Adams, and Jeffersons of the group, I feel an obligation, not just as a historian, but as a citizen, to learn something about their overlooked peers.


The Signers of the Declaration of Independence


Massachusetts: John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine, Elbridge Gerry

New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, Matthew Thornton,  

Rhode Island:  Stephen Hopkins, William Ellery 

Connecticut: Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams, Oliver Wolcott

New York: William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis, Lewis Morris

New Jersey: Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart, Abraham Clark 

Pennsylvania: Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, James Wilson, George Ross

Delaware: Caesar Rodney, George Read, Thomas M' Kean 

Maryland: Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone, Charles Carrol

Virginia: George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson, Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee, Carter Braxton 

North Carolina: William Hooper, Joseph Hewes, John Penn

South Carolina: Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward, Thomas Lynch, Arthur Middleton

Georgia: Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall, George Walton


The Signers of the Articles of Confederation


New Hampshire: Josiah Bartlett, John Wentworth, Jr.

Massachusetts: John Hancock, Samuel Adams, Elbridge Gerry, Francis Dana, James Lovell, Samuel Holten

Rhode Island: William Ellery, Henry Marchant, John Collins 

Connecticut: Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, Oliver Wolcott, Titus Hosmer, Andrew Adams

New York:  James Duane, Francis Lewis, William Duer, Gouverneur Morris,  

New Jersey: John Witherspoon, Nathaniel Scudder 

Pennsylvania: Robert Morris, Daniel Roberdeau, Jonathan Bayard Smith, William Clingan, Joseph Reed

Delaware: Thomas McKean, John Dickinson, Nicholas Van Dyke 

Maryland: John Hanson, Daniel Carroll

Virginia: Richard Henry Lee, John Banister, Thomas Adams, John Harvie, Francis Lightfoot Lee 

North Carolina: John Penn, Cornelius Harnett, John Williams

South Carolina: Henry Laurens, William Henry Drayton, John Mathews, Richard Hutson, Thomas Heyward, Jr.

Georgia: John Walton, Edward Telfair, Edward Langworthy


The Signers of the U. S. Constitution


New Hampshire: John Langdon, Nicholas Gilman

Massachusetts: Rufus King, Nathaniel Gorham

Connecticut: Roger Sherman, William Samuel Johnson

New York: Alexander Hamilton

New Jersey: William Livingston, David Brearley, William Paterson, Jonathan Dayton 

Pennsylvania: Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Mifflin, Robert Morris, George Clymer, Thomas FitzSimons, Jared Ingersoll, Gouverneur Morris, James Wilson

Delaware: George Read, Gunning Bedford, Jr., John Dickinson, Richard Bassett, Jacob Broom

Maryland: James McHenry, Daniel Carroll, Dan of St. Thomas Jenifer 

Virginia: John Blair, James Madison, Jr., George Washington

North Carolina: William Blount, Richard Dobbs Spaight, Hugh Williamson

South Carolina: John Rutledge, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney, Charles Pinckney, Pierce Butler

Georgia: William Few, Abraham Baldwin


Others of Note


Ethan Allen, Richard Bland, George Clinton, Patrick Henry, John Jay, Henry Knox, Robert Livingston, James Monroe, Thomas Paine, Edmund Randolph, Charles Thomson

Posted by ny5/pinstripepress at 2:03 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 13 October 2010 2:07 PM EDT
Permalink | Share This Post
Tuesday, 12 October 2010
Was Richard Kirkland really risking his life for an enemy?

“It’s real easy to think that you would risk your life for a friend, but to risk your life for an enemy is something that is very rare indeed. And that, to me, is the story of Richard Kirkland.”


I spoke those words as the conclusion to my segment in the documentary “The Angel of Marye’s Heights.” Since then, I’ve quoted it in speeches, panel discussions and radio interviews.


This is the essence of Richard Kirkland’s remarkable act and it has left an indelible impression on me. Over the last few months our team has screened this film in theaters, museums and universities. No matter what venue, the message that seems to be resonating with people is “be kind to your enemy.”


This is a difficult, if not impossible virtue to grasp. It does become more palatable however, if we re-examine the use of the term “enemy.” Were these men truly enemies and does Kirkland’s reaction to the suffering of his foes nullify the very meaning of the word when used in the context of the War Between the States? After all, just days before the onset of war, these men were citizens under the same flag, with the same God, and shared history.


It is impossible not to feel sympathy for the suffering that existed between both armies on the field at Fredericksburg. Far too often we have focused on the battle strictly in a political or tactical sense. We simply recognize both armies separately, as bitter rivals hell-bent on each other’s destruction. This is true to a point, but we cannot forget that these adversaries shared a collective existence together as countrymen, and were only enemies under their own self-inflicted circumstances.


In other words, they brought it on themselves by pursuing a military action that literally pitted brother against brother. This is what makes a “civil war” even more tragic than a traditional conflict between nations. It is also what makes the eleven doomed assaults at the stone wall even more absurd, and Richard Kirkland’s act of mercy comprehensible.


In our film storyteller Megan Hicks notes the conflicting nature of Kirkland’s actions as he was both a killer and a kind, compassionate man. During the engagement, Kirkland shot at the very men who he would later administer aide to. This conflicting-conscience goes both ways. In the same light, could the opposing soldiers on the battlefield simultaneously be Kirkland’s enemy and his countryman?


It opens up a whole new dynamic if you accept that there is no black and white in this story. This paradigm was true for the entire conflict from the first shot at Fort Sumter to the surrender at Appomattox. The line between right and wrong, friend and foe were blurred beyond comparison. Perhaps that is why the Civil War is still furiously debated to this very day.


As we prepare to acknowledge the Civil War Sesquicentennial in 2011, the practice of self-inflicted separation remains. It seems that in today’s society the word enemy is thrown around casually as the “argument itself” has become more important than the subject being argued over. Frankly, I can’t recall any other time in my life that our country’s division has been so rampant and spiteful.


We live in a nation of blue and red states and left and right politics. Each night we gather around the television to hear talk show hosts claim that the other’s opposing viewpoints have doomed us all. Americans love to fight amongst ourselves and we are nurturing a culture of enemies. Not much has changed in 150 years.


Perhaps we could learn a lesson from Richard Kirkland and rethink what it truly means to be an “enemy.” Maybe then we can learn to get along.


FEEDBACK: What is your take on this subject? Email your thoughts and I will share them in a future follow-up post.

Posted by ny5/pinstripepress at 11:25 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 13 October 2010 9:23 AM EDT
Permalink | Share This Post
Wednesday, 6 October 2010
On the Radio

Yesterday Clint Ross and I appeared on Victory-FM’s “Welcome Home” show with Mark Edwards. Our interview was part of their filmmakers focus and we taped it during our recent weekend trip to Liberty University. Mark had some great questions and we are grateful for his station’s continued support. You can listen to a recording of the broadcast HEREas well as two other segments of Clint and I HERE.

Posted by ny5/pinstripepress at 12:00 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 6 October 2010 10:29 PM EDT
Permalink | Share This Post
Fireside Chat

One of the personal highlights from our recent screening at Liberty University was the opportunity to hang out with my good friend Richard Williams Jr. Richard and his lovely wife joined our party on Saturday for a tour of the Civil War Chaplains Museum, a dynamite dinner at Doc’s Diner, and the event itself where he gave the invocation. They also accompanied us to services at Thomas Road Baptist Church on Sunday. I wish we had more time to chat, but both of our schedules were as usual, quite busy. A board member at the CWCM, Richard gave an excellent impromptu presentation during our museum tour on the contributions of African-American clergy during the war.

The Williams also stayed with us at the Carter Glass Mansion where Richard pointed out something of particular historical significance that is often overlooked. The fireplace mantle in this photograph of us was originally located in the Nation’s second Capitol after the first was burned by the British in the War of 1812. Two of these marble mantles were acquired by Senator Glass in 1923.  When Liberty University assumed control of the premises in 1977, the previous owners retained the mantles. Recently, one of these gems was returned to the mansion and installed in the dining room.

The entire Carter Glass home is decorated with a distinctive Colonial motif, which was a particular favorite subject of the late Dr. Falwell. Several of the room names echo this theme and include “The Washington,” “The Jefferson” and “The Williamsburg.” Many paintings and books on the Founders adorn every table and bookshelf and the furniture is all colonial antique. On my next stay I promise to shoot some casual video of the house and do a “Carter Glass Cribs” tour.

On a related note: Yesterday I was informed that the award-winning Free Lance-Star Town & County (of which I contributed many pieces to) is being discontinued due to budget cuts and that my favorite editor Gwen Woolf is retiring as a result. Five years ago, Gwen and the T&C gave me my first opportunity to write articles about the Civil War when all I had published to date was baseball material. Today, they are no more. As a contributor, I find this news to be disappointing. As a Fredericksburg resident and reader, I find it to be devastating. Richard Williams and I were first introduced to one another when I reviewed his book Stonewall Jackson “The Black Man’s Friend.”

Here are links to all of the articles I penned for the T&C from 2005-2010:


Stonewall's Steed, Little Sorrel
Living The Cause: Lee's Lieutenants
Mort Künstler: An American Master
Mort Künstler Unveils Local Print
Human Decency During War
John Adams Elder: Fredericksburg's Civil War Artist
What Black History Month Means to Me
Honoring a Medal of Honor Winner

Angel of the Battlefield


Lost Triumph: Lee's Real Plan at Gettysburg and Why It Failed
U.S. Grant: The Making of a General, 1861-1863
To Make Men Free: A Novel of the Battle of Antietam
What Caused the Civil War? Reflections on the South and Southern History
Old Alleghany: The Life and Wars of General Ed Johnson
Reconstructed Yankee
Four Years in the Stonewall Brigade

Lincoln In Stafford

Shock Troops of the Confederacy: Sharpshooter Battalions of the ANV
No Greater Courage: A Novel of the Battle of Fredericksburg
Plenty Of Blame To Go Around: Stuart's Ride To Gettysburg
Stonewall Jackson "The Black Man's Friend"
Rush's Lancers: The Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry in the Civil War
Stealing The General: The Great Locomotive Chase and the First Medal of Honor
Still Standing: The Stonewall Jackson Story
No Soap, No Pay, Diarrhea, Dysentery & Desertion
Andersonville To Tahiti: The Dorence Atwater Story
Sinners, Saints, Soldiers in Civil War Stafford
The Last Days of Stonewall Jackson

Posted by ny5/pinstripepress at 11:46 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 6 October 2010 10:32 PM EDT
Permalink | Share This Post

Newer | Latest | Older