Cumberland Times-News

Jim Goldsworthy - Anything and Everything

March 31, 2012

What have they found to argue about, now?

2012 — Some of my friends tell me they look forward to reading our editorial page each morning.

“I can’t wait,” says one, “to see what those people are arguing about.”

Those people have had plenty to argue about lately, and while some of they say is informative, part of it is just downright entertaining. Where a few of them get their ideas, I have no clue.

Reading these letters is like listening to the news and commentary programs on different TV networks: One wonders if they are actually talking about the same thing.

I have no stong opinions about most of these topics. For one thing, being a newspaperman requires me to be impartial and to have a certain familiarity with all sides of any issue — most of which have their valid points (some more than others).

For another, not getting too exercised about things I cannot control or even influence is less stressful than doing otherwise.

I grew tired of arguing several girlfriends ago and take the same approach as a fellow who told me the arguments he had with his girlfriend didn’t last as long as the arguments he had with his ex-wife. His girlfriend’s house wasn’t as big, he said, and it didn’t take him as long to get to the door.

Some folks talk about how divided the American people are today. When I hear this, I ask myself, “So what else is new?” and wonder what Robert Heironimus and Joseph Goldsworthy would have to say about that.

They’re distant relatives of mine — Robert on my mother’s side, and Joseph on my father’s. Call them cousins X number of times removed.

Robert was a first sergeant in the 12th Virginia Cavalry Regiment of the Confederate Army, and Joseph was a private in the 96th Pennsylvania Infantry Regiment of the Union Army. I am glad to say that both of them survived that unpleasantness.

Robert spent far more time in this neck of the woods than Joseph did, although the itinerary taken by Joseph’s unit reads almost like an overall history of the war in the east.

The 12th Virginia raided Moorefield, Petersburg, Greenland Gap, Cheat Mountain, Piedmont and New Creek (part of which is now Keyser) in West Virginia, and the Oakland-Red House area of Maryland, mostly trying to disrupt the B&O Railroad connection to Washington — the so-called “Lincoln's Lifeline.”

Robert and Joseph weren’t related that I can tell, but kinfolk in the Confederate and Union armies frequently did wind up in the same place, often on opposite sides of a stream.

“Hey!” a voice would holler from the woods, “We got Joe Zigafoose’s brother (or cousin, or father, or son) over here!”

A truce would be called, whereupon there would be a brief family reunion before the two men parted, sometimes after trading coffee and tobacco on behalf of their buddies, and returned to their respective sides of the creek.

Then there would be shouts of “Keep yer head down, Billy (for Billy Yank, or Johnny, for Johnny Reb)! We gotta start shootin’ agin!”

Robert and Joseph’s units were in opposition at several places most people would never know about today, save for the unimaginable volume of blood that was shed there: Antietam, Fredericksburg, South Mountain, Petersburg (Va.), Spotsylvania Court House, Cold Harbor, Cedar Creek and an absolute hellhole called The Wilderness, where many men burned to death in the brushfires kindled by embers from black powder gunfire.

While Joseph’s 96th Pennsylvania was at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, Robert’s cavalry was raising hell throughout the Cumberland-New Creek-Oakland region.

Sometimes, the 12th Virginia teamed up with McNeill’s Rangers — who distinguished themselves by going to Cumberland and capturing Union generals Benjamin Franklin Kelley and George Crook.

Robert E. Lee said this would have been counted as one of the greatest exploits of the war, had it not occurred so close to the end. (Crook originally was buried in Oakland, but his remains were reinterred in Arlington National Cemetery in 1898.)

It’s unlikely that Robert and Joseph ever met (not to exchange pleasantries, anyway), until their bloodlines came together to produce me more than 80 years later.

Considering their frequent close encounters, though, it is entirely possible that on at least one occasion they tried to kill each other.

How much more divided than that it is possible to be, I don’t know.


A few years ago, one of my most valued friends received replacement medals for those he earned for his service in Vietnam, but lost or discarded. He decided that he wanted them to pass on to his grandchildren.

When I wrote about him, he said that if anyone deserved a medal, it was his wife. She had been as much a part of his life during his Vietnam days as she is now, and through all the intervening times, both good and bad.

He told me this past Friday would be her last day as a full-time nurse before retiring.

“Although she is going to work an occasional relief day, a career of care, skill, compassion, inspiration and dedication is ending,” he said.

Through “all of the challenges of life, she has stayed with me,” he said. “A truly amazing woman. I am often reminded that the three women in my life — my wife, my daughter and my sister — have all set their individual bars so high, and do so much good, and, yet, still put up with me.”

My late friend Bill Shipway (about whom I wrote a few weeks ago) was one of her patients. It seems that she had as high a regard for him and his family as they did for her.

The history of my family being what it is, I consider the nurse’s profession to be one of the noblest. The Lord has sent us many such angels, whose human disguise we were quickly able to see through. Elissa Parish may well have been one of them, without our realizing it; our friendship is of fairly recent vintage.

So I will close by telling her the same thing I frequently tell her most fortunate and devoted husband, my friend Paul:

Thank you for your service. Thanks for what you did. Welcome Home!

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Jim Goldsworthy - Anything and Everything
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    Our pal Phil is the only re-enactor certified in writing by both the Lee and Custis families to portray Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee (whose wife was Mary Anna Custis Lee). When he’s in uniform, he generally stops at the bottom of the path that leads to the summit of Little Round Top, salutes Capt. Gary and First Sgt. Goldy and asks permission to join us. (Get it? Generally ... General Lee?) We always return his salute and grant him permission, in part because he’s our friend and also because the real Lee never got to see what it really looks like from up there. (Get it? Grant ... Grant? U.S. Grant? Real Lee ... really? OK. I hear you. That’s enough. Seriouslee.) Phil gets a kick out of being able to sneak up on us while we’re distracted by tourists.

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    In theory — and theory only — the correct response is: “The only stupid question is the one you don’t ask.” Not so much. There ARE stupid questions, some of them so stupid that to call them stupid is to damn them with faint praise. Other questions are — on the face of it — legitimate questions, but shouldn’t be treated as such ... not if you subscribe to the same philosophy that I do: Free entertainment is everywhere; all you have to do is wait, and it will come to you.

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  • This was a skill that proved very useful

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