Cumberland Times-News

Jim Goldsworthy - Anything and Everything

June 22, 2013

They may be old, but they’re still pretty good

Happy Birthday, West Virginia!

My home state’s 150th birthday was on June 20, but I don’t write a column for Thursday’s paper, so this had to wait.

Also, I’m supposed to talk for half an hour today about Mineral County in the Civil War, and some of those who attend might actually read this. No previews here.

It’s at 2 p.m. in the American Legion post on Main Street in Keyser. Call this shameless self-promotion if you wish, but one or two of you may say, “Where? When? Idiot didn’t tell us,” and I hate to leave people hanging.

However, I will do that in one regard: West Virginia became the 35th state less than two weeks before the battle of Gettysburg. Did any of the Union regiments have a 35-star American flag? Answer this afternoon or next week.

A tour guide who usually ignores Capt. Gary and me stopped with his charges and stood beside me.

“Who are you impersonating?” he asked me.

I told him I represent First Sergeant Theodore Field of Battery C, 1st West Virginia Volunteer Artillery, which was at Cemetery Hill and put fire down on Pickett’s Charge ... and went on from there.

At the same time, the 1st West Virginia Cavalry was at South Cavalry Field, leading the assault that turned back a Confederate cavalry attack that might have broken the Union line.

The 1st West Virginia Cavalry’s soldiers received more Medals of Honor than those of any other regiment in the Civil War — 14.

While all of the above was going on, the 7th West Virginia Infantry — which had been the 7th Virginia Infantry of the Union Army two weeks earlier — was fighting hand-to-hand against the 7th Virginia Infantry of the Confederate Army. They captured a nephew of their own regimental commander, and the fighting was especially vicious.

It would be interesting to ask those men why they tried so hard to kill other men they knew were from their home state ... men who may have been their friends or even family.

There was great misery and suffering, but also a surprising amount of humanity.

When the situation allowed, Union and Confederate units who had members of the same family sometimes called a truce to allow them a chance to meet and maybe trade coffee and tobacco.

After the reunion was over, they’d call out to each other, “Keep yer heads down, boys! We got to start shootin’ agin!”

The thing about the Civil War is that much of what’s been passed down is contradictory or confusing and subject to argument. Everything you learn leads you to something else.

My late friend Jack Sanders probably knew more about the Civil War in our area than anyone else did. I wish he were still around for a variety of reasons, including those of picking his brain.

Jack said his favorite Psalm was the West Virginia (121st) Psalm, which goes, “I will lift up mine unto the hills, from whence cometh my help ... .”

Capt. Gary and I wear Yankee uniforms and talk to tourists at Little Round Top on the Gettysburg battlefield.

He has little patience with people he says “became experts after reading one book” and leaves me to deal with them.

Having spent 20 years covering the court house and watching lawyers at work, I enjoy this. I don’t know how many of them I convince, but I know how to confuse them.

Gary has read at least 200 books. One of many I’ve read is my high school American History book, which goes only to about 1960 — but for thoroughness up to that point I would put it up against any American History book used in our schools today.

I also refer to my old Encyclopedia Americana, which was sold one volume at a time at the A&P grocery store.

Both were written less than 100 years after the Civil War, before anyone knew what it was to be politically correct.

A few weeks ago, The Charleston Gazette ran an editorial about West Virginia and slavery that was informative and interesting, but said some things my friends and I would disagree with.

It said West Virginia would never have become a state if Virginia hadn’t joined the rebellion to preserve slavery.

That is not only wrong, it oversimplifies a complicated situation. Maryland, Delaware, Missouri, Kentucky and what became West Virginia were slave states, but did not secede. Virginia and North Carolina were reluctant to secede.

The western counties of Virginia wanted to get away from the rest of the state for the same reasons the western counties of Maryland probably would like to escape from their state government in Annapolis today.

Slavery wasn’t abolished in Maryland until November 1864, almost two years after Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. West Virginia didn’t abolish slavery until two months before the war ended.

The Gazette also said it was ironic that Confederate Lt. Gen. Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson was born in Clarksburg, but fought to preserve slavery.

Jackson never said much about slavery, but when asked what he thought about the Yankees said, “Just kill them. Kill them all.”

Jackson’s widow, Mary Anna, said he would have preferred to see the slaves free, but believed the Bible sanctioned slavery — which was a common view — and that slave-owners had a Christian duty to their slaves.

He taught slaves how to read in violation of the law and founded a Sunday school for blacks. Two of his students asked him to buy them, and he did. He allowed them to make enough money to eventually buy their freedom.

I’ll leave you with what Capt. Gary and 1Sgt. Goldy often tell people:

If you run across somebody who would lead you to believe he knows everything there is to know about the Civil War (or anything else), get away from him because he’s a damn fool.

That would not be me. Next week, I’ll tell you some more of what I think I know.

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Jim Goldsworthy - Anything and Everything
  • He means well, and this time they spared his life

    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.

    July 20, 2014

  • They’d have fallen like Autumn leaves

    So there we were, minding our own business (at least momentarily), leaning against the cannon at Little Round Top.

    July 13, 2014

  • Better read that french fry before you eat it

    People give me otherwise-insignificant items they hope will amuse or inspire me. I appreciate this. I’m always glad for free entertainment, which as Goldy’s Rule 33 says is everywhere. All you have to do is wait and it will come to you. Also, I have been writing columns for 37 years and embrace inspiration anywhere I can find it.

    July 6, 2014

  • The moose is loose, and it’s coming for you

    So how would you like to look out your kitchen door window onto your porch and see a moose looking back at you from close range?

    June 28, 2014

  • There are some debts you can never repay

    Today’s column will be relatively short, as my columns go, for reasons that should become apparent, and I thought long and hard before writing it.

    June 21, 2014

  • It could have saved the county a lot of money

    Random thoughts sometimes occur to me when I least expect it, usually when my brain has become tired.
    When I voice these thoughts at work or in other places, people may tell me, “Goldy? It’s time for you to go home.” Yes, ma’am.
    Here are two random thoughts of recent vintage:
    • If Bugs Bunny were an Emergency Medical Technician, would that make him a MedicHare?
    • If Daisy Duck got a job driving for United Parcel Service, would she be an UPS-a-Daisy?
    I wouldn’t blame you if you think that sounds Goofy — or Daffy.

    June 15, 2014

  • These two were part of the Not Top Ten

    Occasionally, at this time of year, I see reference to a “class orator” or a “class speaker.”

    Nothing wrong with that — people can call such things whatever they want, as far as I’m concerned — but it makes me wonder. Have “valedictorian” and “salutatorian” become politically incorrect, and I didn’t notice? It may come as a surprise to you, but I really have not kept up with what is politically correct or incorrect. That’s what people tell me, anyway. With some of them, it actually seems to be a compliment.

    June 8, 2014

  • Coming soon to a highway near you?

    People say to me, “Goldy? Can I ask you a stupid question?”

    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.

    June 1, 2014

  • This was a skill that proved very useful

    The Belmont Park stewards have decided to let California Chrome wear his nasal strip during the Run for the Carnations. Nasal strips usually are worn by people who snore and may have saved numerous marriages. It helps the Triple Crown hopeful to breathe, and some twolegged athletes wear nasal strips for the same reason. In this case, Chrome’s nasal strip may keep him from (wait for it) ... losing by a nose.

    May 25, 2014

  • He made a big splash by asking this question

    “I don’t know who you were talking to last night,” said Capt. Gary, “but you were talking and moaning in your sleep. Never heard you do that before.” Neither has anyone else, I said. Besides, I had told him not to be surprised if we had visitors. I wasn’t at the top of my game for a couple of days, and he said some of our friends asked him if I was all right. It’s not the first time for this, so now I’ll know to watch out for it. It can affect you and is not something to play around with — as our friend Cathy found out.

    May 18, 2014

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