After a visit to Luray Caverns I found myself driving west, towards New Market Gap. Seeing a distinctive and old house in a field by the South Fork of the Shenandoah I pulled over to read a nearby historical marker. I was looking at the White House that features so heavily in Stonewall Jackson’s 1862 Valley Camaign.
The roadside marker reads, “On May 21, 1862, Confederate Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson’s Valley Army plodded north along this road to threaten Front Royal and outflank Union Gen. Nathaniel Bank’s position at Strasburg. With the addition of Gen. Richard S. Ewell’s division, Jackson’s command numbered nearly 17,000 men and 50 guns. Philip Kauffman, a young man at the time, remembered the Confederates as they crossed the Shenandoah River on the White House Bridge and: “…Stonewall himself as he ran the gauntlet, with bared head, through the marching columns of his ‘foot cavalry.’ His faded gray uniform with stars on the collar, his black beard and uncovered head, as he loped by the White House on Old Sorrel, are as fresh in my mind as on that day.”” Jackson’s Valley Army reached Front Royal May 23. There, aided by spy Belle Boyd, it overwhelmed Banks’ 1,000-man detachment and continued toward Winchester to attack the main Union army, now in full retreat from Strasburg. Jackson’s success was complete. He had defeated and driven Banks from the Valley and alarmed the Lincoln administration. In response to Jackson’s bold moves, a two-pronged Federal advance was to converge at Strasburg in an attempt to cut off Jackson’s line of withdrawal south. Jackson marched south to escape. Two Federal columns followed in close pursuit. John C. Fremont on the Valley Pike and Gen. James Shields in the Page Valley. If Shields could march quickly enough to overtake Jackson’s force in the main Valley, he and Fremont could unite and attack with a superior force. To prevent this combination, Jackson ordered his cavalry commander, Turner Ashby, to destroy both the White House and Columbia bridges. Ashby dispatched Capt. Samuel Coyner’s Page County Company which rode through “one of the most dreadful thunderstorms” in time to burn the White House Bridge at 4 a.m. on June 2 only one hour before Shields advance guard reached the swollen river. Shields, delayed for three days by the rising river, was forced to abandon his plan to join Fremont at New Market. Jackson defeated Fremont’s and Shields’ commands separately at Cross Keys and Port Republic June 8-9. White House Bridge takes its name from the small building immediately north of the present-day bridge. This early structure was the first home of pioneer Martin Kauffman. For a time it served as a meeting house where, as a minister, Kauffman served a Mennonite congregation.”
Through our great good fortune, in our youth our hearts were touched with fire. It was given to us to learn at the outset that life is a profound and passionate thing. …Oliver Wendell Holmes, 1884
You will not move forward until you have come to peace with yourself. For decades I heard this, repeatedly. I had no idea what it could possibly mean. Only lately have I learned that not loving, accepting and celebrating your beauty, cause immeasurable pain. Until you love yourself, there will forever be a hole that you will fill up with any and all destructive, self-loathing and sabotaging actions and thoughts. There is a border between you and the life you want. It’s only lately I’m finding that I crossed the border years ago. To have everything you want and dreamed for without the knowledge of self to be at peace with it is a special hell.
Before you give up on Whitefish as it skips and morphs into some unrecognizable tourist town filled with second homes, flashy cars and Canadian merrymakers stop by Casey’s the next time the Whitefish Review has another issue release party. Listen to the authors, the poets and know that there is some there there. Text yourself just one line that spoke to you when the author breaks through and grabs something in your consciousness.
He had lived long enough to see the ocean again.Kevin Canty Resurrection City, Whitefish Review Winter/Spring 2020
I journal and as far as I can tell it all began April 12, 1992. It was Palm Sunday or so I recorded.
Sunday, April 12, 1992
On this inaugural passage I would like to state the objectives. This journal is to serve as a diary, a record of thoughts and feelings so that I may look back on them for remembrance and to learn from the error of my ways. I plan to note here the prevailing attitudes of both myself and the people around me on a national, local and personal belief. I hope that I will be able to speak clearly to the pages. For the true inner feeling of my being shall only be forgotten if not noted. And so with these objectives put forward, I shall begin.Beau Wright, Chinese Silk Bound Journal 1992-1995
That first entry told of a night time trip into Washington DC to smell the Cherry Blossoms with my girlfriend, Gigi. We were both exhausted after our junior prom and the ceremony in which my Catholic high school presented class rings. Thinking about the Vietnam War Memorial inspired me to rant about the United States’ recent adventure in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq. “Who really believes that we rescued Kuwait to restore a Democratic nation?” I write about my heartbreak for the Kurds of Northern Iraq, left to be butchered by Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein and my disappointment that the United States had done nothing to restore order in Haiti. The entry ends with the realization that the pageantry of Catholic Easter had made no impression on my spirituality.
Who wrote this? Who was this seventeen year old kid strolling through the Tidal Basin with his girlfriend? Was I really that aware about Iraq, Haiti? I remember being proud of how quickly we dismantled Saddam, had my patriotic enthusiasm already been swept away? I often wonder how much I can expect my students to know about government and current events, but judging by this first passage I knew, or thought I knew, more than I remember.
And so it began, 27 years ago.
I pulled the plug on my Instagram and Facebook life. Like so many of the vices that came to me with the advent of the internet, these two in particular seemed especially adept at drilling into the very core of my anxieties, and proclivity for procrastination. Since 95 percent of the traffic to this blog came off of links from those two platforms I’m not sure who might be left to see these posts. I do ask that if you find something here you enjoy, you spread it to someone else who might enjoy it as well.