Monday, September 30, 2013

2013 A.S.S.E.S. Big South Fork/Pickett Area

This past Friday through Sunday Dudeboy, Uncle Vic and I joined the rest of the A.S.S.E.S (the Arch Seekers of the SouthEastern States) for our biannual arch weekend. This year we (with the help of Ken P., Keith G., Travis B., and Greg W.) led the group on several hikes in the BSF/Pickett area of Kentucky and Tennessee. The photos that follow are just a few of the arches we visited. We had perfect weather, and Keith kept us stuffed.

We saw several bear prints at different locations. Also, a couple of copperheads were spied by some of the members of the group on different days.

We named this undocumented arch Yellowjacket for this site will forever be associated with a blitzkrieg attack by a nest of yellowjackets.  Alas, poor Dudeboy and I took the brunt of the strike as Dudeboy was stung three times and I got hit four times.

Can you see the little critter camouflaged in the leaves? Take a gander at the next picture for the reveal.

Buzzard Rock in McCreary County, Ky.

Indian Pipe, or the Corpse Plant . . . this is a pretty cool plant for it lacks chlorophyll.  It gets nutrients by being parasitic.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Our day with Wendell

Here is a "photo essay" from our portrait sitting with Wendell Decker.  I am not gonna go through all of the details of the process, which was fairly involved, for the photos should be fairly self-explanatory. Of course, Wendell made it all look effortless. By the way, here is a pretty good article about Wendell in the local paper. 

Coming into view . . .

 Looking through Wendell's camera with my camera.  This is what the photographer sees.

Waiting for the exposure . . .

Wendell in the "dark room."

Going into the bath . . .  

 The image emerges . . . 

Killing time while the plates dry.

On the drying rack.

Heating the plates to prep for the varnish to adhere.

Varnishing the photos.

The one of a kind finished product. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Ambrotypes, Ferrotypes & the 150th Chickamauga

Dudeboy and I spent a good deal of this past week in the past.  Tuesday we visited local collodion photographer Wendell Decker.  It was a great experience as he took the time to explain the whole process to us in detail. 

The above image of Dudeboy is a ferrotype . . . which is a photograph created on a piece of metal (traditionally iron and not tin as the misnomer "tintype" would imply) which is then coated. I mentioned to Wendell that he had to be part photographer and chemist.  He added artist, historian, educator, etc. The man certainly knows his stuff.
For our joint portrait we chose an ambrotype, which is sorta like the ferrotype but the image is created on a sheet of glass using the same wet plate collodion process. After that, just silver remains on the glass. The result is a negative made positive when a black varnish is applied. So, in the above photo, everything that is black is actually plain glass . . . until that varnish is applied to the back. Wendell also praised the image quality. He said this process produced detail that was much better than film or digital can attain. In many instances often the old ways are the best ways.     

And then Friday through Sunday (we missed the activities on Thursday) we traveled to north Georgia for the 150th Anniversary Battle of Chickamauga put on by the Blue Gray Alliance.

And it rained.  And then it rained some more . . . as evidenced by our campfire. But the weather finally cleared and we participated in some long sustained battles. Unfortunately, I am not able to take the camera out on the field with me at reenactments (I wish I could at times, because I could get some great images), so most of what I capture at these events is of camp-life.

Downtime playing cards and waiting out the rain.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The War of 1812 . . . Year Two, Part 6 . . . Queenston Heights

Above, Brock's Monument (note Dudeboy and Dr. J for scale) at the Battle of Queenston Heights (Oct 13, 1812).  Queenston Heights was the first major battle of the War of 1812, and one of the first of the many bumbling disasters perpetrated by the US forces . . . which continued throughout much of the war. Still, you can't say it was the first, given the embarrassments at Fort Michilimackinac (Fort Mackinac) and Hull's surrender of Detroit. However, while the British repulsed this early concerted effort by the US to invade Canada, they did suffer the loss of  the irreplaceable General Brock.

An odd little aside about the debacles at Fort Michilimackinac and Detroit centers around US Lieutenant Porter Hanks.  He was the commander of Fort Michilimackinac who surrendered the fort without a fight. Forward to Detroit where he was waiting for the pending court martial . . . long story short, he was one of only seven Americans killed. A British cannonball cut him in half. Obviously, this was a man not destined for greatness.  

This is actually the second monument to Brock to be built on the battlefield . . . the first was bombed by terrorists! It is actually a pretty interesting story that centers around a man named Benjamin Lett. Lett had little love for British rule and its Tory militia. He stirred up a bit of trouble at the time of the Upper Canada Rebellion with the murder of a British Loyalist who was involved in the Caroline Affair (apparently there is no real evidence that he perpetrated the crime, but it did not matter for the Tories were convinced of his guilt). While he is mostly remembered for the bombing of the Brock Monument, Lett was also involved in a lot of other questionable actions before being poisoned in the US. While the focus of our trip was the War of 1812, we were continually encountering sites pertaining to incidents and rebellions we knew little or nothing about . . . like the Upper Canada Rebellion (1837), Lower Canadian Rebellion (1837), and the Fenian Raids (1866-1871). We will come back to some of this with our non-War of 1812 entries for the trip.

I suppose you might wonder why Lett's bombed a monument dedicated to the War of 1812. Well, as the Canadian Encyclopedia explains that "Although Brock was almost considered a saint by the Loyalists of Upper Canada, some viewed his monument as a symbol of the arrogant Tory militia and of British rule; it made an ideal target for vengeance."

Of course, we climbed the almost 190 feet and 235 steps to the top of the monument, and were treated to this view. The wind was really whipping up there. I must add, I did nothing to change the color in this photo.

In 1929 lightning struck Brock's statue atop the monument, severely damaging it and sending pieces to the ground.  Fast forward to the 1960s: students from the nearby Brock University "found it" stored and decided that it needed to be liberated. The pieces were then removed to a new location on the campus of the university.  It was only recently that the Niagara Parks Commission reclaimed the arm, but apparently a portion of the torso still resides at the university.

Our personal tour guide who is appropriately named Brock! His family owned some of the battlefield at the time of Queenston Heights, so his name is tied to family as well as Canadian history. I must add that Brock was very pleased to lead a tour for people who had a genuine interest in the battle.  It was a very hot day, and we told him he did not need to wear the uniform on our account.  He dismissed that by stating that since we made the effort of traveling from Kentucky, he would go full uniform! In the photo above, Brock is relating the story of how the Americans scaled the cliffs that had been viewed as "unassailable." The inscription states:
An unguarded trail up this steep cliff was the only route which the Americans had to the heights of Queenston. The trail was to your right but does not exist any longer. Trapped on the river shore by unrelenting gunfire, the Americans contemplated a desperate action: the ascent of this cliff. The British, positioned on a ledge between here and the Village of Queenston did not detect the movement and the attackers took the Heights by surprise. However, later in the battle this cliff became a cruel barrier between the Americans and safety on the other shore.
"The loss of the redan battery and Brock's death" . . . inscription from the marker:
On the river banks below here, the Americans were trapped. To the right the Americans scaled the river cliff and seized the Heights above. To the left the British held the Village of Queenston. A British 18-pounder cannon situated here within an earthwork called a "redan". On October 13, 1812, this cannon hindered the reinforcement of the American troops trapped below. Arriving from Fort George, Major-General Brock came here to direct the defence of Queenston and await reinforcements, however the small enemy detachment which had scaled the cliffs behind the redan made a surprise attack forcing the British to retreat into the village. Brock led two hundred men in a counter-attack during which he was mortally wounded. Another assault, led by Brock's aide de camp, John Macdonell, was repulsed by the Americans who were soon firmly in control of the Heights.
Another marker not far from here reads in part:
While the Americans controlled Queenston Heights they were prevented from properly establishing their position by the harassment of 120 Indians under Chief Norton. In the meantime, Regular British troops and Canadian militia were arriving from Fort George and other outposts. Under the direction of Major General Roger Sheaffe, they climbed the heights of Queenston and assembled for the last battle.
Brock's Cenotaph . . . supposedly this monument marks the spot where Brock was killed, but the precise location in unknown. Moments before he was shot, Brock was said to exclaim "Take breath, boys. You will need it in a few moments." Nearby is a monument to Brock's horse Alfred. Of course, there is some dispute whether Alfred was even at the battle, as Brock (like most commanders) had several horses.

"Sheaffe's Path to Victory" . . . this small monument marks the location where the British forces (First Nations, British Regulars, and Canadian Militia) scaled the escarpment for a surprise attack at the rear of the US forces. This maneuver forced the surrender of nearly 1000 US troops. Sheaffe's accolades were short lived for he was later severely criticized for his actions at the Battle of York and subsequently recalled to Britain.

The remains of Fort Riall (above) and Fort Drummond (not pictured) which are located near Brock's Monument. These fortifications were built later in the war during the year 1814. British controlled them for about a month after completion. The Americans took control after the Battle of Chippawa . . . and promptly lost it back to the Brits in the aftermath of Lundy's Lane. This area was a key for the protection of the Lower Niagara River.

Dr. J and Dudeboy inhaling some Laura Secord chocolate at the Laura Secord Homestead. The marker states:
Born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, Laura Ingersoll came to Upper Canada with her father in 1795, and settled in this area. About two years later she married James Secord, a United Empire Loyalist, and within seven years they had moved to this site from nearby St. David's. From here during the war of 1812, Laura Secord set out on an arduous 19-mile journey to warn the local British commander, Lieutenant James Fitzgibbon, of an impending American attack. The courage and tenacity displayed on this occasion in June 1813 places her in the forefront of the province's heroines. Mrs. Secord's house, a simple frame building, was restored (1971-72) and remains as a memorial to the exceptional act of patriotism.
We have encountered the story of Laura Secord in a couple of earlier entries . . . here and here. So, I am not going to elaborate much more other than to say we sure did enjoy "her" chocolate.

The Burning of St. Davids (1814) . . .
On July 18th, 1814, during the final American campaign on the Niagara frontier, Major-General Peter B. Porter sent a detachment of militia from the United States encampment at Queenston to attack St. Davids. This force, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Isaac W. Stone, was joined later by a small group of American regulars. Despite opposition from the 1st Lincoln Militia, the enemy captured the village, looted it and burned most of the buildings. Stone was severely censured for this destruction of private property and summarily dismissed from the United States army.

The Battle of Cook's Mills (October 19, 1814). This was the last engagement of the war in the Niagara Peninsula. From the Historic Places of Canada website:
The Battle of Cook’s Mills was an important engagement for British and Canadian troops during the War of 1812. After his unsuccessful siege of Fort Erie, Lieutenant-General Gordon Drummond retreated west and concentrated his army around the Chippawa River. In October 1814, American forces under Major-General George Izard advanced west to assault Fort Niagara. Finding Drummond firmly entrenched along the Chippawa River, Izard sent a force of about 900 men to test the British right flank on Lyon’s Creek. On October 19, at Cook's Mills, a heavy skirmish took place, involving men of the Glengarry Light Infantry and the 82nd, 100th and 104th Regiments. Led by Lieutenant-Colonel Christopher Myers the British and Canadian troops forced the Americans to withdraw and retreat to Fort Erie.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Battle of Franklin with Ed Bearss

We are getting behind with our posts, so I am gonna try to get this one out without writing too much (not that matters, for I doubt but a few actually read the blasted stuff).  Anyway, a couple of weeks ago, Dudeboy and I traveled south to Franklin, Tn. to tour some of the sites pertaining to the Battle of Franklin.  And later that evening we joined a group of similar enthusiasts for a mini battlefield tour given by the one and only Ed Bearss.

Winstead Hill . . . it was from this vantage point that Confederate General John Bell Hood (born in Kentucky) watched his eighteen brigades march off in what is sometimes referred to as the "Pickett's Charge of the West." Eighteen brigades . . . this is something like 20,000 soldiers.  This charge covered twice the distance of the more famous Gettysburg event, and the Pickett/Pettigrew/Trimble Charge only involved about 12,500 men for the Confederates.  

Some of the monuments commemorating the fallen Confederate generals.  There were more Confederate generals killed at this battle than any other during the Civil War . . . a total of six died as a result of the battle.  They also sustained seven wounded and one captured.

Carter's Cotton Gin . . . location of some of the most intense action during the battle.  Years ago, the last time I toured the battlefield, this was a Pizza Hut parking lot.  Makes you wonder if Cleburne would have given his all knowing he died for a parking space.

Cenotaph for General Patrick Cleburne, now on reclaimed ground befitting the man and righting the disappointment of a lost battlefield. I must commend the city of Franklin and all those involved for restoring bits and sections of the battlefield. Not that my opinion matters, but I consider Patrick Cleburne one of the best, if not the best, generals of the Confederacy.

Carter House . . . it was in this area that Confederate forces poured into a breach in the Union line. Fortunately, and fortuitously, a Union counterattack under Opdycke staved off disaster.  Captain Tod Carter, son of the owner of the house, was "hit eight times in the body and once over his left eye, where the bullet lodged in his brain. Tod was found delirious, but still alive on the field early the next morning by members of his family and brought into his home to receive treatment. Tod passed away the following day."
(from the Carter house brochure)

This structure, the farm office, is said to be the most battle damaged structure in the country. This is just a small section of the damage. I asked the docent how in the world this place survived, and why wasn't it repaired? She stated that early on veterans and the general public realized how important this place was and that it needed to be preserved as a sort of memorial.  

Of course not everyone shared that view.  At one point in the early 1950's the home and the surrounding structures were almost torn down to make way for a gas station!

The bullet riddled brickwork on the backside of the smokehouse.

Carnton Plantation . . . while this was not the scene of actual fighting, thousands of CSA troops streamed passed here on the way to engage the entrenched Union army.  After the battle the house was used as a division field hospital.  Today one can still see the blood stains now ingrained into the floor.

As with most historical homes in the US, photography is not allowed on the inside. I don't remember this being an issue at any of the homes we visited in Canada. I have heard that the reasoning behind this is that the baddies use the photos to "case the joint." I am dubious.

So, this is the famous porch where four of the Confederate generals were laid out . . . Adams, Granbury, Cleburn, and Strahl.

McGavock's Confederate Cemetery . . . apparently this is the largest "private" Confederate cemetery. It is located on ground donated by the family who owned the Carnton Plantation, which can be seen in the background.

Ed Bearss . . . semper fi. 

I was beginning to think I would never get to meet Mr. Bearss, and dang it if we haven't now seen him three times in the last year and a half!