Gettin’ Ready for Selma

Later this month we hope to be present for the reenactment of the Battle of Selma, Alabama. It should be particularly interesting this year, the Sesquicentennial of the onset of the War of Northern Aggression. While we won’t be donning soldier’s attire, we will be proud to be wearing a whole new set of historically authentic duds that Melissa is feverishly working to create. Calvin’s is closest to being finished and below he is sporting his new nineteenth-century threads.

Calvin sports his new nineteenth-century attire that his Mama made

Calvin sports his new nineteenth-century attire that his Mama made

2017-02-22T16:44:09+00:00 April 20th, 2011|Family, History|

An Anniversary Date at Rippavilla Plantation

We enjoyed our time off on our anniversary this year by visiting a nearby antebellum plantation called Rippavilla. Owned by French Huguenot descendant and Southern gentleman Nathaniel Francis Cheairs, IV (who also rode alongside General Forrest), this massive Greek-revival style mansion was constructed before the War of Northern Aggression and even saw some action during the war as a military headquarters and make-shift hospital for the wounded. Below are some of our favourite snapshots from the day.

A Commanding Presence — The Front View of the Mansion

A Commanding Presence — The Front View of the Mansion

Melissa and Calvin Rest in the Side Garden

Melissa and Calvin Rest in the Side Garden

Family Shot at Rippavilla

Family Shot at Rippavilla

Welcome to the Historic Rippavilla Plantation — Established Circa 1852

Welcome to the Historic Rippavilla Plantation — Established Circa 1852

Aspiring Botanist Calvin Turley Examining the Flora in the Rippavilla Front Lawn

Aspiring Botanist Calvin Turley Examining the Flora in the Rippavilla Front Lawn

One of 15 Slave Houses on the Property (As Many as 75 Slaves Resided on the Plantation)

One of 15 Slave Houses on the Property (As Many as 75 Slaves Resided on the Plantation)

The Cheairs Family Cemetery in the Back of the Property

The Cheairs Family Cemetery in the Back of the Property

2017-02-22T16:44:09+00:00 March 30th, 2011|Family, History|

Oldest American WWI Veteran Dies at 110

Frank Buckles in 1917, at the age of 16

Frank Buckles in 1917, at the age of 16

(caption to image 2) Frank Buckles in 2008, at the age of 107

The last known surviving American to fight in the first World War died today at the age of 110 in his West Virginia home. You can read more about him in a post I wrote on him in May of 2009.

2017-02-22T16:44:09+00:00 February 27th, 2011|History|

John Calvin’s 500th Birthday

If you’ve not yet read Vision Forum’s recently published book John Calvin: Man of the Millennium, you ought to find the time. It is invaluable as a historical guide to the life of Calvin as well as a very personal glimpse into the heart and mind of one of Christendom’s most brilliant and tireless soldiers from any era—born five hundred years ago today. Below is a small excerpt in which Calvin describes his encounter with William Farel and his ultimate decision to remain in Geneva despite his initial plans.

As the most direct route to Strasbourg, to which I then intended to retire, was blocked by the wars, I had resolved to pass quickly to Geneva without staying longer than a single night in that city. A person, Louis Du Tillet, who has now returned to the Papists, discovered me and made me known to others. Upon this, Farel, who burned with an extraordinary zeal to advance the gospel, immediately strained every nerve to detain me. After having learned that my heart was set upon devoting myself to private studies, for which I wished to keep myself free from other pursuits, and finding that he gained nothing by entreaties, he proceeded to utter an imprecation that God would curse my retirement and the tranquility of the studies which I sought, if I should withdraw and refuse assistance when the necessity was so urgent. By this imprecation I was so stricken with terror that I desisted from the journey which I had undertaken.

On a similar note, although we weren’t able to make it to Boston for the Reformation 500 event, we were honored that Melissa was able to create the costume for John Calvin himself worn by Mr. Marcus Serven during the Calvin vs. Darwin debate. Below is a comparison of the final product (a fine display of the sewing mastery of my wife) to the cover of John Calvin: Man of the Millennium. Enjoy.

Calvin comparison, side by side

Calvin comparison, side by side

2017-02-22T16:44:11+00:00 July 10th, 2009|History|

The Last Known American WWI Veteran


Frank Buckles —
Born Feb. 1, 1901

While reading the headlines yesterday, I stumbled upon this news clip about the oldest known American survivor of the Great War. Frank Buckles from Missouri—now 108 years old—is seen in this ABC News video clip from two years ago describing how he joined the U.S. Army at the young age of 16. (Unfortunately, there was no option for me to embed the video here, so you will have to be taken to to a Yahoo! page and endure a commercial first.)

It is incredible to consider the scope of history that Buckles has been alive to witness. He was eleven years old when the Titanic sank, and was born while another war veteran—Union Captain William McKinley—was still President. After enlisting as a sixteen-year-old in 1917, Buckles was deployed to Europe by way of the RMS Carpathia, the same ship responsible for the rescue of the Titanic survivors just five years before. Buckles was not old enough in 1917 to be recruited, so he lied about his age. Of his interaction with the Army recruiter, he says this:

When I was born in Missouri, they didn’t

[issue] birth certificates, and the only record we kept was in the family Bible, and I told them I wasn’t going to bring that down here, so… they took me.

More information is available about this veteran and his amazing, event-filled life in his Wikipedia entry.

2017-02-22T16:44:11+00:00 May 23rd, 2009|History|

Our Visit to Monticello

Also while in Virginia—and just the day after we visited Montpelier—we had the pleasure of a quick trip to the home of our third president, Thomas Jefferson. Our time was rather limited there, but we still managed to go on the house tour and walk around the property a bit, including a visit to the grave site where Jefferson is buried. Below are a few of our favorite photos from the visit. Enjoy!

The back of Monticello as seen on the back of the nickel

The back of Monticello as seen on the back of the nickel

Monticello's front entrance

Monticello’s front entrance

A view down Mulberry Row runs parallel to the gardens

A view down Mulberry Row runs parallel to the gardens

A view of the distant hills beyond the gardens

A view of the distant hills beyond the gardens

A replica of the observation room at the edge of the gardens

A replica of the observation room at the edge of the gardens

Another view of the hills, garden and observation room

Another view of the hills, garden and observation room

View from Mulberry Row of the gardens and neighboring hillside

View from Mulberry Row of the gardens and neighboring hillside

A flowered pathway leading away from the back of Monticello

A flowered pathway leading away from the back of Monticello

Obelisk marking the resting place of Thomas & Martha Jefferson

Obelisk marking the resting place of Thomas & Martha Jefferson

A great inscription: "Their children arise up and call them blessed"

A great inscription: “Their children arise up and call them blessed”

2017-02-22T16:44:13+00:00 September 30th, 2008|Family, History|

Our Visit to Montpelier

While in Virginia doing the catalogue press check, we took advantage of a several-hour break and went to the nearby estate of our fourth President, James Madison. Amazingly, we were among some of the very first visitors to the estate since the restoration back to its Madison-era appearance. We learned that, after the duPont family purchased the estate around 1900, they transformed the building from a 22-room home, to a 55-room home. All duPont additions have now been removed, revealing underneath the structure as it was in the days that the Madisons resided there.

The view as we approach Montpelier

The view as we approach Montpelier

On the front lawn of the fully-restored Montpelier

On the front lawn of the fully-restored Montpelier

The view Madison had from his roof-top terrace

The view Madison had from his roof-top terrace

Annie duPont's formal garden

Annie duPont’s formal garden

Our tour guide shared one observation of the Madisons’ marriage and devotion to each other that we found quite endearing. During his study to prepare for leading tours of Montpelier, our guide observed only two documented cases in which James and Dolley Madison were separated from each other during the whole course of their forty-two-year marriage. One instance was during James’ presidency and the War of 1812. He was serving as commander-in-chief on the battlefield, and thus left his wife behind in the safety of their home. The only other documented instance was when he took a short trip to nearby Charlottesville, Virginia. In writing to his wife, he stated that he missed her so much, he was determined to never leave her again. The letter was dated a mere two days into his absence!

In front of the resting place of the fourth President

In front of the resting place of the fourth President

Obelisk marking the grave of Dolley Madison

Obelisk marking the grave of Dolley Madison

It is thought that Madison's parents & grandparents are buried here also

It is thought that Madison’s parents & grandparents are buried here also

My wife reads a tomb’s inscription in the Madison family cemetery

My wife reads a tomb’s inscription in the Madison family cemetery

While at Montpelier, we visited the Education Center where we were intrigued by a timeline on the wall displaying U.S. and world events concurrent with the lives of James and Dolley Madison. We noted especially some of the events that Dolley (1768-1849), who outlived James by 13 years, would have still been alive to experience or hear of. Some were rather surprising. It is also odd to consider that the War Between the States began only twelve years after her passing! Among the events that took place in her lifetime were these:

  • 1776 – The Declaration of Independence is drafted
  • 1787 – The Constitutional Convention meets in Philadelphia
  • 1789 – The French Revolution begins
  • 1791 – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart dies
  • 1803 – The U.S. acquires 828,000 square miles as a result of The Louisiana Purchase
  • 1807 – Confederate General Robert E. Lee is born
  • 1808 – Beethoven premieres his 5th Symphony in Vienna
  • 1812 – The War of 1812 begins
  • 1821 – Mexico wins its independence from Spain
  • 1834 – Slavery abolished in the British Empire
  • 1835 – Charles Darwin travels on the Beagle to the Galápagos Islands
  • 1836 – Texas wins its independence from Mexico
  • 1837 – The development of the first John Deere tractor occurs
  • 1838 – The coronation of Queen Victoria takes place
  • 1839 – Daguerre invents the first form of photography
  • 1844The Three Musketeers is written by Alexander Dumas
  • 1848 – The California Gold Rush begins
  • 1848 – Karl Marx’s Communist Manifesto is published
2017-02-22T16:44:13+00:00 September 29th, 2008|Family, History|

The Battle of Franklin

Saturday morning, Melissa and I had the pleasure of touring both the Carter House and Carnton Plantation with Sam who is well-studied on the Battle of Franklin (and the war in general) and had long awaited the opportunity to share what he knew of the battle with us.

Over the course of the day, we learned of Fountain Branch Carter who owned and operated the largest cotton gin in Williamson County and whose property was near the center of action during the battle. Several of his out buildings were showered with bullets and one of them is said to be the most bullet-riddled building still standing from the war. In the aftermath of the battle, the house became a makeshift hospital for the wounded, and blood stains can be seen on portions of the floor to this day.

Front view of the home of Fountain Branch Carter

Front view of the home of Fountain Branch Carter

Where Mr. Carter conducted his business

Where Mr. Carter conducted his business

Behind the most bullet-riddled building from the war

Behind the most bullet-riddled building from the war

Next door, the smokehouse didn't fare much better

Next door, the smokehouse didn’t fare much better

We then visited the Carnton Plantation, founded by Randal McGavock (1768-1843) and named after his father’s birthplace in Ireland. His son, John, would inherit the estate and, along with his wife Carrie, become instrumental in the organization of the largest privately owned military cemetery, containing the graves of over 1,500 Confederate soldiers. In an amazingly selfless effort, the McGavocks identified as many soldiers as possible and meticulously catalogued their names so that their brave service might not be forgotten.

Carnton is well-known for its service as a makeshift hospital following the Battle of Franklin—similar to the service rendered at the Carter House—as well as the spot at which the bodies of Confederate Generals Patrick Cleburne, John Adams, Otho F. Strahl and Hiram Granbury would lie; officers all lost in the Battle of Franklin.

Front view of the home of the McGavocks—Carnton Plantation

Front view of the home of the McGavocks—Carnton Plantation

My wife and me on the doorsteps of the Carnton mansion

My wife and me on the doorsteps of the Carnton mansion

I like to imagine this tree was there during the battle!

I like to imagine this tree was there during the battle!

Grave of John McGavock, son of Carnton's founder

Grave of John McGavock, son of Carnton’s founder

2017-02-22T16:44:13+00:00 September 23rd, 2008|Family, History|

The Story of Stonewall Jackson

He was one of those unique men who understood his calling, and never felt that his calling was in any way limited by his experiences. —Dr. George Grant

Determination… that is the one word that characterizes this man from beginning to end… determination. —James I. Robertson

A451661I recently had the pleasure of watching the latest video release from Franklin Springs Family Media. From the very beginning of this inspiring film, it is apparent that Still Standing: The Stonewall Jackson Story is not going to be what one would expect from a documentary of one of the most revered military men in world history. While not diminishing the importance of the role he played in the War Between the States, Still Standing emphasizes those attributes of the man’s character that made him so beloved among his men.

In this film, you will learn of the early childhood hardships that helped to shape the character of the man who would later be known as Confederate General “Stonewall” Jackson — among those being the early death of his father and the life-changing charge of his dying mother to “…embrace the Christian religion.” You will also follow Jackson through the Mexican American War and his pursuit of and eventual denial of Roman Catholicism. Learn also of his passion to convey the Gospel to the slaves, as well his gentle affection towards children.

Still Standing is a beautifully-told story of a real Christian hero whose determination and quest for godly excellence has won him a lasting place in history as well as in the hearts of Americans generations after his death. Click here to visit the Franklin Springs Family Media Web site and purchase your copy of Still Standing: The Stonewall Jackson Story.

2017-02-22T16:44:13+00:00 November 19th, 2007|History|

The Wearing of the Gray

A Tribute to the Confederate Cause — Sung to the tune of “Wearing of the Green”

The fearful struggle’s ended now
And peace smiles on our land,
And though we’ve yielded we have proved
Ourselves a faithful band.
We fought them long, we fought them well,
We fought them night and day,
And bravely struggled for our rights
While wearing of the gray.

And now that we have ceased to fight
And pledged our sacred word,
That we against the Union’s might
No more will draw the sword,
We feel despite the sneers of those
Who never smelt the fray,
That we’ve a manly, honest right
To wearing of the gray.

Our cause is lost the more we fight
‘Gainst o’erwhelming power,
All wearied are our limbs and drenched
With many a battle shower.
We feign we rest for want of strength
In yielding up the day,
And lower the flag so proudly born
While wearing of the gray.

Defeat is not dishonor,
Our honor not bereft,
We thank God that in our hearts
This priceless boon was left.
And though we weep just for those braves
Who stood in proud array,
Beneath our flag and nobly died
While wearing of the gray.

When in the ranks of war we stood
And faced the deadly hail,
Our simple suits of gray composed
Our only coats of mail.
And on the awful hours that marked
The bloody battle day,
In memories we’ll still be seen
Wearing of the gray.

Oh! should we reach that glorious place
Where waits a sparklin’ crown,
For everyone who for the right
His soldier life lay down.
God grant to us the privilege
Upon that happy day,
Of claspin’ hands with those who fell
While wearing of the gray.

2016-08-09T02:30:27+00:00 August 30th, 2007|History, Quotes|