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The Island Rose.

Originally posted on Adventures In Historyland:


Last year I was suddenly and briefly transfixed by the story of Princess Kaiulani and the short lived Hawaiian monarchy. At this point I am not prepared to give any meaningful account of the fall of the last Queen of the island kingdom, nor the life of her niece the crown princess, except to say it was a great shame that the kingdom did not continue and that it was not returned after Annexation. Perhaps the tale is the more poignant because unlike other peoples of the Americas and Pacific, the Hawaiians had successfully begun to meld a constitutional monarchy with a tribal society. Making the best of a bad, situation instead of resisting the inexorable advance of European and American interference the leaders of Hawaii from Kamehameha the Great actively sought to maintain their independence by integration of indigenous and foreign culture. Utilising concepts from both worlds. The Kingdom…

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“You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.” William Hearst to Frederic Remington

The Correspondent by Frederic Remington

This Thanksgiving pray for our leaders. They either don’t know what they’re doing–or they do.

Remember a few years ago when the American people and their  soldiers refused to support overthrowing Syria? Let’s do a little comparative history, shall we?

I’ll quote extensively from Wikipedia (not always the best source of info, but in this case they get it right) about a “Splendid Little War.”

“The Spanish–American War (April–August 1898) is considered to be both a turning point in the history of propaganda and the beginning of the practice of yellow journalism.

It was the first conflict in which military action was precipitated by media involvement. The war grew out of U.S. interest in a fight for revolution between the Spanish military and citizens of their Cuban colony. American newspapers fanned the flames of interest in the war by fabricating atrocities which justified intervention in a number of Spanish colonies worldwide.

Several forces within the United States were pushing for a war with Spain. Their tactics were wide-ranging and their goal was to engage the opinion of the American people in any way possible. Men such as William Hearst, the owner of The New York Journal was involved in a circulation war with Joseph Pulitzer of the New York World and saw the conflict as a way to sell papers. Many newspapers ran articles of a sensationalist nature and sent correspondents to Cuba to cover the war.

The situation prior to the Spanish–American War was particularly tense. Several members of the media, such as William Randolph Hearst, and of the military were calling for intervention by the United States to help the revolutionaries in Cuba. American opinion was overwhelmingly swayed and hostility towards Spain began to build. American newspapers ran stories of a sensationalist nature depicting fabricated atrocities committed by the Spanish. These stories often reflected on how thousands of Cubans had been displaced to the country side in concentration camps. Many stories used depictions of gruesome murders, rapes, and slaughter. During this time there was a riot in Havana by those sympathetic to the Spanish. The printing presses of newspapers that had criticized the actions of the Spanish Army were destroyed.

In the days following the sinking of the USS Maine, Hearst ran a story with the heading “The War Ship Maine was Split in Two by an Enemy’s Secret Infernal Machine”. The story told how the Spanish had planted a torpedo beneath the USS Maine and detonated it from shore. Hearst soon followed this article with one containing diagrams and blueprints of the secret torpedoes used by Spain. This Article was so convincing that even Captain Sigsbee of the USS Maine, who put in an official statement that judgment and opinion should be suspended until further report, now believed the Spanish were responsible for sinking his ship.

Many stories like the one published by Hearst were printed across the country blaming the Spanish military for the destruction of the USS Maine. These stories struck a chord with the American people stirring public opinion up into a divided frenzy, with a large group of Americans wanting to attack and another wanting to wait for confirmation. The Americans that wanted to attack wanted to remove Spain from power in many of their colonies close to the U.S. Those easily persuaded by the Yellow Journalism eventually prevailed, and American troops were sent to Cuba.”


Landscape Sunset by George Inness 1887

FICTION SERIAL (part ten): Escaping the Forest

Morphine-addicted Civil War veteran John Weldon is asked to explain his scars . . .

“Tell me more about your parents, Mr. Weldon,” Katherine said. “It seems so odd for you to know everything about my family yet I don’t know a stitch about yours.”

Weldon got up and fumbled around for his pipe. He could hear Sarah padding around in the kitchen downstairs. “There’s nothing special to say about them. And I already told you they were dead, so what’s the point?”

“Well, I just wanted to hear more about the young you out on the frontier. It sounds so adventurous and romantic.”

“You really don’t understand much about anything, do you, Kate?”

Katherine’s lively eyes dimmed at the unexpected remark, and she retreated back to bed.

“K-Kate, I didn’t mean it the way it came out,” Weldon said, though he had meant it. “It’s just my parents were different to yours. The last time I prayed it was in hopes my mother would die, and soon after she did.” He shrugged and tried to make light of it. “So that’s all there is to it.”

“Those scars on your wrists and feet–they’re not from the war, are they?” Katherine asked.

“I took a pig from the family living on my father’s land right before Thanksgiving . . . what used to be my father’s land. My mother traded it for drink. I stole the pig, so I deserved it.”

Katherine kissed Weldon’s wrist. “Did you return the pig?”

Weldon scratched his head. “It was the family’s winter meat, all fattened up. I tried my hand at butchering and smoking it in the woods. They knew it was me. I remember the father was not so big, but his rifle was and it convinced me to fess up. It was a real loss.”

“But it belonged to the other family,” Katherine reasoned. “Maybe your mother should have gotten a piglet in spring. They’re not too expensive then.”

“Katherine, my mother never took care of things except to humiliate me. She sold off everything my father ever had. When she found out about the pig–she took my hands to the fire. The pig owners were shocked and vowed to send a lady missionary traveling west for the first time to take me away.

“She came up behind and scared me one day when I was chopping wood. By then my wrists were thick with infection. There were flies everywhere–all over my skin–and she took me down to the stream and scraped the rot off me and promised to take me away. She had this real optimistic look, and I half wanted to go,” Weldon said, remembering how he hung around the missionary’s waist, pleading to go. “But my mother lied and told her I started fires, and that’s how I got burnt so many times.

“She had soft green eyes, that lady did, but she didn’t want me to hurt her real children. I saw her a few years later. I guess God wanted her where she was, and she told me she’d thought of me often and prayed.” Weldon laughed and stuffed his pipe. “’Praise God,’ she said, ‘you seem to have come out all right.’ And I guess I did.” He fingered the hair behind his ear.

“Mr. Weldon, how could anyone want to hurt you?” Katherine asked, kneeling on the bed with its expensive blankets and pillows. “How come you didn’t run away?”

“I know you think I came from nothing, but that land was my father’s!” Weldon said. “He came from England and served with the dragoons. He was something. I know it.” Weldon cursed under his breath. “You think I was a coward, don’t you?”

“You were a child, Mr. Weldon. I don’t know how you managed. It’s heartbreaking.” Katherine made him sit and leaned her head on his shoulder.

It bothered him.

“I never lived outside that gloomy cabin and I thought all boys had it the same . . . the day my mother died was the best day of my life because I had to leave those woods.” Weldon hated Katherine’s sympathy. “I’m glad for everything, really. I l-learned how to take care of m-myself with no one’s help.”

“Well, I’ve made up my mind to do everything I can to take care of you from now on,” Katherine said in her most grown-up way.












***Featured image: Sunset by George Inness 1887 [Art Institute Chicago]


FICTION SERIAL (part nine): The Trouble With In-Laws

Sergeant John Weldon arrives home for an unexpected visit and finds trouble in paradise . . .

Sarah handed Scott a buttered biscuit as they sat for supper one late fall evening. “It’s time the baby was weaned,” she said.

“That’s all fine and good, Sarah,” Scott replied, “but Katie has no talent for cooking. I remember the last time she tried–the lime trifle–I don’t think I need to say another word.”

Sarah smiled. “Yes, it was a mistake to let her make dessert, but Katie was only ten. Of course I’ll take care of the baby’s diet once he’s weaned. Katie’s too weak anyhow,” she said, making a plate for Katherine.

“For God’s sake, Sarah, the girl won’t eat all that!” Scott complained, as Sarah heaped potatoes and gravy. Scott hated when his wife set her mind on slimming him down and grumbled as he finished his meager helping of roast beef.

A knock came at the door and then another and Scott cursed. “Visitors at this hour? I’ll give them a piece of my mind!”

Off Scott went to the front door, but was too late as the visitor raced to the kitchen porch and knocked more urgently. Sarah gasped and ran to the door with a grin. “Mr. Weldon! However did you get here?”

“Upstairs?” Weldon asked breathlessly running past Sarah and into Scott. Without a word Weldon rushed the stairs to Katherine’s room and burst in, the door banging the wall as he entered.

“Mr. Weldon!” Katherine cried, outstretching her arms as Weldon came to embrace her. “How did you know I need you now more than ever? I was so lonesome and your letters are awful—they’re so short! I was scared that you didn’t care any longer . . .” she said, searching his face for hope. “Have you come to fetch me?”

“No, of course not!” Weldon said, pulling back to look at her. “You’re in no condition! I–I just couldn’t wait to see you! But you’re alive and that’s all that matters.” Weldon kissed her again and again. “Don’t cry! I came all this way, and I’m so happy.”

Katherine pulled a handkerchief from her sleeve.Weldon noticed her thin fingers and the tiny veins so close to the surface of her pale face as Katherine wiped her eyes.

“Oh, I have something for you.” He pulled open his overstuffed bag. “Kate, you’ll think I’m odd . . .”

Katherine laughed.

Weldon scratched his head. “I wanted to bring you something nice. At the first shop on my trip things were either too expensive or not right so I bought some candy…and then again at the second stop and . . .” He dumped a mountain of assorted sweets unto the bed. “Kate, I’m too poor and know so little about you or what you’d like—but . . .”

“My dear silly soldier,” Katherine said, pulling him close for a kiss, “you knew all along what I’d like most and so you came home to me. The candy is wonderful, too. I shall hide it and savor one piece each day! Mother says it’s no good for me to eat sugar— but I’ve such a craving for it!”

Weldon sat watching Katherine sift through the sweets for the perfect one. She grinned, held a ribbon candy to the light and ate it as if it were the greatest delicacy in the world.

“I’m being transferred to Arizona–Simon, too, though he told me not to tell your parents he’s gone off on leave to Washington with our lieutenant colonel,” Weldon said, watching for reaction. “All of us are sent to Arizona, so they let me on extended leave . . .”

“ARIZONA?! But how will I ever get there?” Katherine cried. “I’ve heard Arizona territory is the most God-forsaken place to be sent as a soldier. And what about writing? I hardly get a letter now!”

“I’m ashamed of my letters, Katherine. And sometimes–I pretend you don’t really exist–to get through.”

“I don’t exist?” Katherine cried, her lips pale and trembling.

“Oh, no, Kate, it came out different than I meant,” Weldon said, uneasy in the face of her emotions. “I’ll have just about two months here, and we could try to be happy like a real husband and wife.”

The little child in the elaborately carved crib whimpered. John looked to Katherine.

“Mr. Weldon, leave Willy be,” Katherine said. “Mother will come soon for him and clean him up, but go look—he’s gotten awful cute.”

“You leave William cry for your mother?” Weldon asked as he went to meet his child for the first time. Weldon towered over the crib as he lay his hat on the table beside it. “Kate, he’s tiny, isn’t he?”

“Father says it’s my milk! It’s no good and William won’t take to Father’s strange potions. At least you’ve come before my pathetic mothering kills him!” Katherine cried again.

“I won’t break him, will I?” Weldon asked as he undid the child’s blankets. He maneuvered awkwardly, but the child stayed quiet and interested in this new man. After a moment William struggled to get down and Weldon helped him teeter on the carpet.

“My word! What is going on?” Sarah exclaimed upon entering the room. “John Weldon, you’ll break the poor child’s back that way and he’ll be deformed for life!” She slammed down Katherine’s tray on the bed stand with an exasperated groan. “Give Willy over to me before I suffer nervous palpitations!”

Weldon scooped William up defiantly.

“Katherine has no way with babies, Mr. Weldon, and no sense letting you unwrap the child when he’s wet—he’ll catch a chill and die before he has time to recover from his broken spine,” Sarah ranted prying William loose from his father. “Poor little lad, come with me now and we’ll clean you all up and dress you—oh, don’t cry—they didn’t think is all!”

Weldon watched Sarah abscond with William to his nursery. “Kate, what’s going on?”

Katherine pulled on the two long braids she wore. “Oh, Mr. Weldon, I’m so ashamed; it looks like I’m an awful mother after all. I thought maybe I’d finally be good at something, but I’m clumsy and I don’t ever seem to hold the child right at feeding and . . . and one time I let the baby grab hold of a pin. What if he had swallowed it?” She sobbed.

“Kate, I’ve never met such a girl for crying,” Weldon said and sat beside her. “But that’s okay. Your mother, I’m sure, is trying to care for you both the way she thinks best, but you have to stand up to her. William is yours. Shouldn’t he be walking by now?”

Sarah came back. “Well, here we are! Mr. Weldon, it’s time for feeding. You’ll have to wait outside,” Sarah ordered with a cheerful smile. “There’s food in the kitchen and you can have a chat with Mr. McCullough.”

“Mrs. McCullough, pardon me, but I’ll stay here with Katherine and the son I’ve only just met.”

“Mr. Weldon, I care for you and I understand your position,” Sarah explained firmly, “but you must understand that there is nothing I—I mean children hate more than a change in their routine. Now, you might not have noticed that this little boy of yours is far too small and sickly—that’s because our Katie failed to heed her father’s advice during her confinement. She didn’t eat enough, and she was always running the stairs. That’s why the baby came early. Katherine is still weak, and now you’re upsetting Willy’s meal.” Sarah waited. “Go right ahead then and see if they’re ever ready to join you in the West.”

Weldon turned to Katherine hiding her candy beneath her blankets.

“John, it won’t take long,” Katherine assured him.

Weldon didn’t want to make trouble for his wife yet he wasn’t fully convinced by Sarah’s lecture. “All right then,” he began with some hesitation. “I’ll go take a look at Handsome.”

Sarah and Katherine exchanged pained expressions.

“What? What’s happened to our horse, Kate?” Weldon asked.

“Well, nothing really . . . it’s just he’s been loaned out,” Katherine simpered.

“Loaned out? I used the last of my savings!” Weldon said, failing to hide his temper. “Have you sold the buggy, too?”

“I didn’t want to do it!” Katherine cried again throwing up her hands.

“It was for pin money, John,” Sarah explained. “Mr. Adriance has been after the horse awhile, and he offered to keep Handsome exercised and trained to the carriage until Katie was up to driving again. A girl should be allowed a few nice things from the shops.”

“Mr. Weldon,” Katherine cried, “I promise—it was things for the baby I wanted and a Christmas gift for you.”

Sarah pulled Weldon aside. “Katie didn’t want to keep asking her father for funds.”

“Kate! I send you my money—don’t you receive it?” Weldon said, brushing Sarah aside.

“Well, it’s not all that much,” Sarah stated.

“Mother! Stop it!” Katherine cried. “Mr. Weldon, I try to save it for when we make a home together.”

“You silly girl,” Weldon said, “I don’t scrimp and save so you can live like a pauper here. It’s not much I send, but it’s enough to get by isn’t it?”

“I don’t need a thing,” Katherine assured him but said it as if she were somehow betraying her mother. “I just wanted things for the baby and for you.”

“Before I leave I’m getting Handsome back,” Weldon stated. “He belongs to you and you should ride out for air and sun—you and William both. The women out west—the Indians especially—they recover much faster.”

“Katherine is no half breed!” Sarah said. “It’s bad enough little Willy looks too dark. Oh dear, I shouldn’t have said that, Mr. Weldon, but I worry for you all! Some people have strong prejudices.”

Weldon tried to speak, but when nothing coherent came to mind he went for the horse. Upon return he found Scott in the barn. “Mr. McCullough,” Weldon said through clenched teeth.

“Oh, so you’ve brought back Handsome, I see,” Scott said by way of greeting. “I told the girls you wouldn’t approve, but it’s a foolish idea to bring him back. Katie has enough to care for—she’s bedridden for God’s sake.”

“Kate needs to learn to care for herself and the child. Having the horse will cheer her up and get her out for exercise.”

“Whatever you think best, Doctor Weldon, but who’ll pay for the horse’s feed?”

“The horse will. Looks like he’s a good stallion. Kate was unaware of the profit Mr. Adriance stood to gain on new foals in spring. Anyway, Handsome will still help Adriance on market days and be fed on his hay for the rest of the winter. Kate will get a percentage of any money that comes from the foals. Then he’ll be castrated. So that’s all settled, sir. You might have thought to advise your daughter.”

“You’re proof of how well she follows my advice,” Scott quipped, but thinking better of it softened his tone a little. “You do surprise me, Weldon. I never would have expected you to make the trip back to see my daughter. It seems hardly worth it.”

“Seeing for myself that Katherine is well, is worth it to me, sir.”

Scott took Handsome. He led him to a clean stall and filled a bucket of feed ignoring the horse’s excited affection and gruffly pushing Handsome’s nose away.

“Thank you, sir,” Weldon said.

“It’s for the girl, I do it.”

“Me too.”

Scott groaned, but laughed. “Come on, let Sarah feed you—you’re still thin as a rake. The blasted army always takes such good care of its own.”

The Cradle by Berthe Morisot









** Featured Image: In the Garden by Edouard Manet


Slavery: Yesterday and Today

The institution of slavery was never a uniquely American thing. It’s a human thing. It’s a thing that each generation of humans must grapple with, but just as most Americans didn’t own slaves or even know slaves most of us in modern times fail to see the slavery all around us.

Some humans of every stripe like power. They go to the dark side. Evil exists in the hearts of men. All men. We choose. Daily.

Cotton was once king and demanded laborers in the field. Today sex and sneakers drive trade in humans. Let’s compare, shall we?

1. An estimated 29.8 million people live in modern slavery today

2. Slavery generates $32 billion for traffickers globally each year

3. Approximately 78% of victims are enslaved for labor, 22% of victims are enslaved for sex

4. 55% of slavery victims are women and girls

5. 26% of slaves today are children under the age of 18

6. An estimated 60,000 victims of slavery are enslaved in the United States.

  •  The 2013 Walk Free Global Slavery Index places U.S. at 134th out of 162 countries
  •  Rankings were determined based on three factors: a country’s estimated slavery prevalence by population, a measure of child marriage and a measure of human trafficking.

7. Iceland, Ireland and the United Kingdom tied for the ranking of 160 in the 2013 Global Slavery Index. However, even with the top ranking in the survey, these countries are not free from slavery. In the United Kingdom alone, there are an estimated 4,200 to 4,600 victims of slavery.

8. The country with the highest percentage of of its population in slavery is Mauritania with approximately 4% of the total population enslaved. This amounts to roughly 140,000 to 160,000 people enslaved — Mauritania’s total population is only a mere 3.8 million.

9. India has the largest number of slavery victims at a horrifying 14 million.

10. The top 10 per-capita slavery hot spots are:

Cote d’Ivoire



The face of modern slavery courtesy of Atlanta Black Star



“The level of slave exports grew from about 36,000 a year during the early 18th century to almost 80,000 a year during the 1780s.

The Angolan region of west-central Africa made up slightly more than half of all Africans sent to the Americas and a quarter of imports to British North America.

Approximately 11,863,000 Africans were shipped across the Atlantic, with a death rate during the Middle Passage reducing this number by 10-20 percent. As a result between 9.6 and 10.8 million Africans arrived in the Americas.

About 500,000 Africans were imported into what is now the U.S. between 1619 and 1807–or about 6 percent of all Africans forcibly imported into the Americas. About 70 percent arrived directly from Africa.

Well over 90 percent of African slaves were imported into the Caribbean and South America. Only about 6 percent of imports went directly to British North America. Yet by 1825, the U.S. had a quarter of blacks in the New World.

The majority of African slaves were brought to British North America between 1720 and 1780. (Average date of arrival for whites is 1890)


American plantations were dwarfed by those in the West Indies. About a quarter of U.S. slaves lived on farms with 15 or fewer slaves. In 1850, just 125 plantations had over 250 slaves.

In the Caribbean, Dutch Guiana and Brazil, the slave death rate was so high and the birth rate so low that they could not sustain their population without importations from Africa. Rates of natural decrease ran as high as 5 percent a year. While the death rate of U.S. slaves was about the same as that of Jamaican slaves, the fertility rate was more than 80 percent higher.

US slaves were further removed from Africa than those in the Caribbean. In the 19th century, the majority of slaves in the British Caribbean and Brazil were born in Africa. In contrast, by 1850, most U.S. slaves were third-, fourth-, or fifth generation Americans.


Slavery in the US was distinctive in the near balance of the sexes and the ability of the slave population to increase its numbers by natural reproduction.

Unlike any other slave society, the U.S. had a high and sustained natural increase in the slave population for a more than a century and a half.

In 1860, 89 percent of the nation’s African Americans were slaves; blacks formed 13 percent of the country’s population and 33 percent of the South’s population.

In 1860, less than 10 percent of the slave population was over 50 and only 3.5 percent was over 60.

The average age of first birth for slave women was around 20. Child spacing averaged about 2 years.

The average number of children born to a slave woman was 9.2–twice as many in the West Indies.

Most slaves lived in nuclear households consisting of two parents and children: 64 percent nuclear; 21 percent single parents; 15 percent non-family.

Mother-headed families were 50 percent more frequent on plantations with 15 or fewer slaves than on large ones. Smaller units also had a disproportionately large share of families in which the father and mother lived on different plantations for most of the week.

Average number of persons per household was 6.

Average age of women at birth of their first child was about 21.

Few slaves lived into old age. Between 1830 and 1860, only 10 percent of slaves in North America were over 50 years old.”



Sand Storm by Frederic Remington

FICTION SERIAL (part eight): And Baby Makes Three

Morphine-addicted veteran John Weldon dodges a bullet and gains a son . . .

John Weldon and the soldiers of the West had to shout most days to be heard in conversation over the relentless wind blowing through the forlorn barracks so they rarely bothered unless inside their flimsy shelters. The troops were supposed to be fortifying the place, but most claimed illness and the lieutenant colonel in charge suffered from incapacitating sickness every time he came back from down river where Soldier’s Delight poured freely at the nearest settlement.

Weldon hated loose ends. He stopped to stuff his pipe with dried and stale tobacco leaves he’d bought on the way out, cursing at being swindled. Simon still teased him about it since they ran out of Simon’s cigars a while back. Weldon ducked out of the wind between two sheds to light up.

“Sergeant Weldon!” called the young Irish wife of a sergeant Weldon disliked and outranked.

Too heartsick to do the simple chore of laundry himself, Weldon paid the laundress a small fee to do it for him.

“Sergeant Weldon, will ye ever slow yourself. I’m near out of breath chasin’ ya down.”

Weldon never much spoke to the woman from Sudsville, as the men called her tiny spot of earth, and was unnerved by her attention. “Yes, Mrs. Lyon, how may I help you?” he inquired, glancing around.

Tall and ruddy complexioned with enormous black eyes and hair curling down to her waist, held in check by a long strip of wool knotted at her neck, Oonagh Lyons exuded a forwardness that intrigued and repulsed Weldon. “Sir, it’s I who may help you. I’m just after findin’ this in your coat,” she said, but before Oonagh even spoke the words, Weldon guessed what she was fishing for from her apron pocket.

Weldon grabbed the syringe from the laundress, trying to put words together.

“Now don’t go gettin’ all rattled on me, Sergeant Weldon. I’m no rat, but you’re as fit as a fiddle so I’m thinkin’ you do it for pleasure. I’ve seen it before. You’re a veteran—I’d wager that’s how it started.”

Weldon stood in silence as the sand whistled and spun around them.

“Sir, if you don’t mind, I’m wonderin’ how you keep supplied. I won’t let on to nobody if it’s secret, that you can be sure.” Oonagh looked him over and clicked her tongue. “It’s a real shame ain’t it, sir. In yer prime bein’ a slave to a needle.”

Weldon spoke with feeble words, “I’m no slave . . . I was wounded . . .”

Oonagh Lyons waved him away. “Go on, sir, I don’t much care what your excuses are. I’m sure you’d rather no one knew, but seein’ as I do, all I ask is that you’re a little light on my husband.”

“Your husband?”

“Yes, and I may be able to get you a higher quality medicine.”

“That is completely unnecessary, Mrs. Lyons.” Weldon’s voice shook with anger and humiliation.

“Well, sergeant, I’ll be seein’ you, I suspect,” Oonagh smiled.

“I think not,” Weldon tried to say with dignity.

“To pick up your duds?” she laughed.

“Yes, I see, okay then,” Weldon stammered as he stalked off for his quarters.
Having no real work until evening, Weldon paced fingering the small syringe in the pocket of the jacket Sarah had made for him with Katherine’s help. He could not spend the day with morphine, worrying about Katherine, a baby, the washerwoman or her husband.

Weldon needed to work.

“Weldon, you look ghastly. Have you seen a ghost?” Simon asked, when Weldon rushed into headquarters.

“I’m reporting for duty, sir,” he said, trying to appear sharp.

“No, you’re not, Weldon,” Simon laughed, but concern traced his face. “Sit down; you look ready to collapse . . . is it your side again?”

Weldon pulled up a chair and came close to confessing his vain attempts at giving up the medication.

Simon stretched. He had just given up the idea of facial hair and rubbed his hand along his clean shaven chin. “It must be awful rough on you, having to leave my sister the way you did, but I’m certain it will all work its way out. In the meantime you should use this extra day to lie about,” he said, looking steadily at Weldon. “Is there something else? Are you sure your side . . .”

“Can you get it through your head I’m fine?! I just need to keep busy! I can’t keep thinking and thinking of this child!” Weldon explained.

Frederic_Remington_SoldieraSimon didn’t take these little outbursts to heart. “Okay, if you insist on badgering me for work and keep in this rotten humor, the only thing for me to do is comply or fight you, which I’m too queasy to do. Me and the boys had a big night. Paulsen is down again, with delirium tremens,” Simon said, “so if you want to, you can help me with the morning reports and some ordinance papers— finish the maps you began on the way out. The lieutenant colonel is impressed with what we did so far.”

Weldon nodded. “I’ll begin right away.” He took the maps and tried to focus on the smudged pencil marks.

They whiled away the afternoon, Simon taking a brief nap, with legs outstretched over the top of his paper work, until the post came after dark.

“Land sakes, if you two ain’t the popularist men along the Missoura! A letter for each of you. Good news I hope,” the soldier said and excused himself after touching his cap.
Weldon ripped open the letter and read it out loud:

Englewood, New Jersey
July15, 1866

Dear John,
Congratulations! Your baby has made his arrival–a beautiful boy with a full head of hair like yours, but with the McCullough spunk. He decided to come over a month too soon. Both mother and child are weak, but Doctor Currie and the midwife are cautiously optimistic about their survival.

Simon stood over Weldon’s shoulder reading along. Weldon paused as the two came to their own conclusions about the less than comforting lines. The letter continued:

Katherine was despondent without you here, Sergeant Weldon, which may have contributed to her weakened state, but then Sarah had hardships in delivering all of our children and I was with her every day.

John leaned back stung by Scott’s words. Simon took the letter and read the rest of it.

Katherine asks that I send you her love and tell you that she will write when she is stronger. The poor thing felt guilty about you leaving her! We hope you are having some sort of success out there.

Scott McCullough

“Well,” Simon said, “it’s unfortunate that my father was the one to write but . . . we should celebrate.”

Weldon looked miserable. “I wonder what Katherine named him.”

“Of course it will be William as you both decided—Katherine wouldn’t leave your wishes out,” Simon assured him, but realized how difficult this marriage would continue to be with his sister so far away; it might be months before Weldon could be certain of his first son’s name. Weldon would not attend a christening or probably a Christmas. A few of the officers here hadn’t gone home in over five years. As much as Simon enjoyed a good celebration, he understood his friend’s lack of enthusiasm.

“Weldon, listen to me. Katherine has made it through. Your biggest fear is lifted.”

“But they are only cautiously optimistic . . .” Weldon said, flipping the note in hopes of more information.

Simon sighed. “Remember who wrote the letter. My father knows how to get under your skin, Weldon, and he’s a bastard for doing it now, but you must not let him succeed. You were there as long as you could be. Katherine knows that.”

“Yes, I know, but I wish …” He looked out onto the sandy, barren parade ground.
“John Weldon, stop this. You have just received wonderful news. Celebrate when you can in life.”

“Why is it in life whenever something good happens it’s so surrounded by shit?” Weldon asked.

“My father says that everything evens out in life. I don’t like that theory, but nothing’s ever perfect. You have to choose what to focus on.”

“Yes, yes, I know. It’s all in the attitude right? I’ve tried different attitudes, and they didn’t work any better,” Weldon said.

“I can only take just so much self pity, sergeant. This is not the man I knew in the war! You lie anyway. Once you stopped being so stand-offish and superior during the war the men grew fond of you and you know it. It was all attitude,” Simon said.
“Maybe you have something there,” Weldon said, with a faint smile. “I don’t know. I think it was just luck to meet the right people . . .”

“Yes, but . . . anyway, will we tell the boys your news? Give them an excuse to be cheerful for the night,” Simon suggested.








**Images Frederic Remington

Books I’ve Known And Loved

51ruU2pYgFL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_When Harriet Hanson Robinson explained to her busy (and presumably happy) single friend that she felt sorry for her  because she wasn’t married and could not  be a complete woman there was no hint of bitchiness.

Harriet was a contented creature of her time. In my early feminist days I would have found this hard to believe. I’d have crept around looking for the crumbling facade, the misery, the bitterness of a woman who spent her days washing heavy laundry and sewing for the entire months of May and June each year.

Harriet married a morally upright man who for the life of him could not keep from stepping on toes–landing him often out of work or underpaid. It seems Harriet was drawn to Mr. Robinson by his integrity, but I suspect she loved his ability to make light of life’s trials as well.

Harriet, who mingled with some of the famous families of Concord, Massachusetts (and had strong opinions about them all–she thought HENRY DAVID THOREAU a fake and a hypocrite and guessed his mother kept him well-fed by the pond), was the sort of strong woman who could make something from nothing without complaint. In fact she prided herself on running a household without the help of “an Irish.” She’d experimented with house help briefly when her husband was making some money but found after a few attempts that teaching young Irish girls how to work up to her standards was impossible.

So here’s the thing: I expected this book to be about an exception to the rule. I expected Harriet to be this modern woman in disguise. Maybe the author Claudia L. Bushman had expected that as well for she seems at times baffled by Harriet’s pride and devotion to her dreamer husband,  average children and life of housework.

There is a sense that the author of A GOOD POOR MAN’S WIFE had hoped Harriet in her private diaries might let loose against the order of her times. How is it she remained so cheerful? Why wasn’t she devastated when it became clear she would not be a world famous poet? Her honest appraisal of her rather lackluster children is seen as an ambivalence to motherhood (as a mother I find this a real stretch).

In the year after the death of her beloved son Harriet wrote a bittersweet poem of life and marriage:

My Choice–to William Robinson (her husband)

In shady paths, serene, content I grew,

Nor knew for me what gifts fair life enclosed:

When sudden–with her gilded lyre held forth,

Came Poesy–bright maid, who smiling said:

“Take me, dear child, take me and Heaven espouse”

I struck the lyre, and knew ambition’s joys,–

The praise of men, and all the world’s applause.

The love,–with soft beseeching arms appeared,

And said with low drooped eyes; “Come thou to me!”

In doubt I stayed, in sorrowing tears, I moaned.

But god-like still he waited long and sought.

Till I, forgetting men’s applause, my dreams

of high renown, with cries to him I fled.

And now, serene, content, with him I roam

In sunlit paths. Nor care what life contains.

Since love I keep, which holds embraces all.

Unlike the narrator in Robert Frost’s THE ROAD NOT TAKEN Harriet has taken the trodden road of 19th century womanhood, but like Frost’s narrator she is happy about the choice she’s made even knowing the dreams left behind on the other road. Again the author sees this as a telling sign of Harriet’s possible regrets despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary scrawled across the pages of her journal. I see this poem– in the context of Harriet’s life– as one  about the choices we all make–leaving some good things behind for  things that are better (hopefully). In Harriet’s case there’s no reason to believe she wasn’t quite happy with her choices.

DETROIT: Building Preservation and Bickering Old People

“They aren’t fit to conduct business, and except for a little sentiment the old soldiers don’t care whether the building is saved or not,” Fraser, then 87, told the Free Press in May 1934 of his fellow Civil War vets. Photocourtesy Library of Congress
“They aren’t fit to conduct business, and except for a little sentiment the old soldiers don’t care whether the building is saved or not,” Fraser, then 87, told the Free Press in May 1934 of his fellow Civil War vets.
Photo courtesy Library of Congress

After the war The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was formed as a fraternal organization for Civil War veterans. Rules, events and buildings across the country celebrated the brave men who fought for the Union, but as the men aged and died what was to be done with the real estate and the sentimental yearnings of the relatives and friends left behind?

The last of the Detroit soldiers were glad to off load the monumental castle that was once filled with their chums reminiscing and playing checkers. Their women folk saw things differently.

Read the story of the battle of the sexes HERE.