Yesterday evening, August 28th, I sat on our deck in Hoboken, New Jersey, right before sunset. I watched the sun sink below the horizon and thought about what was kicking off down in Virginia, 150 years ago. The battle at Brawner Farm began just before sunset, at about 6 p.m. in 1862, but now with time zones and other factors, it was nearly 8 p.m. here by the time the sky had turned to a gradient of orange upwards to dark blue, and everyday objects replaced their hard lines with shadows.
Brawner Farm was the first battle for the Union unit known as The Iron Brigade, a unit I’ve developed a particular fondness for. They didn’t have that name 150 years ago at Brawner Farm, though, not yet. They’d earn that at the battle of South Mountain in less than a month. On August 28th, they were known as the Black Hats. The unit was made up of entirely “western” soldiers, men from Wisconsin and Indiana; the only brigade in the eastern theater to be made up so. In order to further distinguish them, their commander John Gibbon outfit them in the regular army uniform of tall black hats, long blue frock coats, and even dress leggings. Imagine going into battle wearing that.
The unit was formed in late 1861, Continue Reading »
When I was in the sixth grade and at a book fair, I chose a book based on its cover: a listing ship ablaze, black smoke in the sky, aircraft hurtling overhead. It intrigued me, to say the least. I didn’t realize it then, but I’d just selected my first book of many about WWII in the Pacific. That book wasn’t about Pearl Harbor, and I’ve never been a big student of that particular battle for several reasons, but I’ve always known the Arizona Memorial was one of the few places that I could “be where it happened” for a WWII naval battle. And so, for most of my adult life — and for a good chunk of my childhood — I’ve looked forward to visiting the USS Arizona memorial in Pearl Harbor.
We got to the memorial visitor’s center early, and even at 8 a.m., Continue Reading »
It’s been nearly a month now since Kristen and I returned from our Hawaiian Honeymoon. We are still in our post-Aloha depression. It gets better day by day, the freakishly-warm weather we’ve had on the East Coast helps a bit, but it’s still taking some adjustment.
I took several hundred photos during the trip, and while I posted quite a few while we were there, there are still too many to post (and almost too many to sort!). I’ve put up a page with a few dozen images that I picked for… well, I picked them for some reason.
We started our trip in Waikiki, because Continue Reading »
In a state-of-the-art museum and conservation lab in Newport News, Virginia, sit large tanks of fresh water that hold large rusting chunks of iron that are over 150 years old. 150 years isn’t a long time for some museum artifacts; in Manhattan one can visit the Metropolitan Museum and see Buddhist statues over 500 years old, then walk several yards down the hall and see mummies thousands of years old. But the significance of the rusted iron from USS Monitor that rests in The Mariner’s Museum in Virginia isn’t in its age; it’s in the revolution that it brought.
The battle between USS Monitor and CSS Virginia 150 years ago today is one of the few naval battles, Continue Reading »
I wouldn’t say being in Hawaii particularly reminded me of my Navy days, but there were triggers, prompts to my memory of how, once upon a time, I sailed in large gray aluminum and steel warships, not unlike those that were stationed nearby at Pearl Harbor. But it wasn’t the proximity of those warships that brought back my Navy days. It was the Fruit Loops.
I hadn’t had them in years, but at the breakfast buffet our first morning in Waikiki, there they were. In one of those tall clear glass cylinders that look like a gumball machine. You turn a knob and out comes the sweet, crispy goodness inside.
As I munched on my cereal and my wife gave me the “really, you’re eating that?” look, I was reminded Continue Reading »
When one first gets to Hawaii, you automatically ask “Where are the good beaches?” You are told two things: First, they all are good. Second, they all are open to everyone. There’s no such thing as a private beach in Hawaii (those socialists!)
I believe, though, that I have found the local’s secret for keeping the good beaches to themselves: keep them nearly impossible to get to. Sure, anyone can go to a resort and park in a parking lot and walk forty feet or so to crowded white seaside lots. But the true beaches, the ones that locals love and covet, are harder to come by. If you ask about a specific location and the response is that it’s a “little difficult” to get to, then that’s where you want to go.
Last Friday we went to Makalawana beach Continue Reading »