THE UNFOLDING JOURNEY is a new blog written in association with Legacy Genealogy.

This blog is a blend of disciplines that reveal the rich texture of culture and history that surrounded your ancestors' lives, as well as your own. We will take you beyond just the names, dates, and places to give you the "back story" for the reasons your ancestors thought what they thought and did what they did. We invite you to also visit us at the Legacy Genealogy facebook page at http://facebook.com/legacygenealogy

Wednesday, February 5, 2014


“Le Rayon Vert” is French for the Green Ray, although most people call it the Green Flash. It is a real optical phenomenon that can be seen at either sunset or sunrise. It takes the form of a sudden burst of green light shooting upward from the horizon.

So seldom were people able to catch a glimpse of the “Green Flash” that it was thought to be something mystical until the mid-nineteenth century. Writer Jules Verne knew about the flash and used it as a theme in his novel “Le Rayon Vert” in 1882. His characters included a pair of lovers who were attempting to view the green flash while in Scotland. They were continuously frustrated by conditions. Finally, the flash was clearly visible one evening but, because the two were so in love, they only looked into each
other’s eyes; and they missed it.

Verne described the flash as “a green which no artist could ever obtain on his palette, a green of which neither the varied tints of vegetation nor the shades of the most limpid sea could ever produce the like! If there is a green in Paradise, it cannot be but of this shade, which most surely is the true green of Hope.”

There is also an old Scottish legend about the green flash. It says that “someone who has seen the flash is incapable of being deceived. They are enabled to see closely into their own heart and to read the thoughts of others.”

But what causes it? If you look at a bright star through a telescope, instead of a pinpoint of white light it will appear as a spectrum with bands of color ranging from blue to green to yellow to red.  A similar effect occurs with our Sun as it sets (and rises). At sunset the red of the Sun disappears first as its light is bent the least. The yellow and orange bands are absorbed by ozone. The blue, indigo, and violet bands are almost never seen because they are scattered by our atmosphere. The last color band that can be seen is green. When the Sun rises, the bands are displayed in the same way although in reverse order - the green band is the first to be seen.

The green flash phenomenon can appear either as flattened oval shape that is pinched off or, more impressively, a burst of green light shooting upward. I have spent many sunsets standing on the shore line to see the green flash but as yet I’ve been unsuccessful. There are many things that can happen to hide the flash - clouds, haze, passing ships. And if the conditions are right, the green flash will only last about 1.4 seconds on average. If you get distracted, which I always do, you could miss it altogether.

Here are some tips for seeing the green flash. Your best hope for seeing the flash is to look for it on a clear night (or morning) just as the sun is at the horizon. Clouds can scatter the light and ruin the effect. In addition to the sea shore, being on a tall building, a mountain, or in an airplane is also good. The green can be seen only after the red image is gone (if in the evening). A good alternative is to view the planets of Venus and Jupiter with a telescope as they pass below the horizon. The Moon also exhibits a slight green flash.

There is an associated phenomenon called a “green rim” where the outer edges of a bright object will turn different colors as the object sets or rises in the sky. The lower rim is always red because our atmosphere is denser closer to the horizon; the upper rim is likely to be green or blue because of the decrease of particulates in the atmosphere. The longest recorded duration of a green rim occurred in 1935 in Antarctica when members of the Byrd Expedition experienced it for 35 minutes. A green rim can sometimes transform into a green flash as the object sets below the horizon.

Try your luck at seeing the elusive green flash but don’t get frustrated if it takes a few attempts. I have been trying my entire life. Well, there will always be another sunset tomorrow.

Friday, December 13, 2013

(John Ericsson)

In 1862, the technology of naval warfare was about to take a giant leap forward. At the outbreak of the Civil War just a year earlier, the Confederate States found themselves without a Navy. The Union Navy had already blockaded all ports, which prohibited southern merchant ships from delivering cotton and other products to customers in Europe. The funds from those exports, desperately needed to support the war, were unavailable.

The Confederate Secretary of the Navy, Stephen Mallory, knew that he could never match the U.S. Navy in ships or officers, so he developed an alternative strategy. He would build a small fleet of “ironclad vessels” that would sink the enemy’s wooden ships and break the blockade. He planned for them to be invincible as shells would simply bounce off their sides. Mallory’s first such ship would be the Merrimac which was a wooden ship abandoned by the Union Army when they evacuated Norfolk at the start of the war. Workers began bolting heavy metal plates on the sides of the Merrimac’s hull.

At the same time, fears grew in Washington. Intelligence knew of Mallory’s plan and envisioned his iron monster destroying ship after ship. The Assistant Secretary of the Union Navy said, “Who is to prevent the Merrimac from dropping anchor in the Potomac and throwing her hundred pound shells into the city or battering down the walls of the Capital itself.” Of even more concern was that the blockade of southern ports, a major part of the strategy to win the war, might be broken.

Only one man came to mind that could design a ship to combat the Merrimac. He was John Ericsson - an eccentric, arrogant, vain, but brilliant engineer. The Navy hated Ericsson; and he hated the Navy. In 1845, one of Ericsson’s experimental weapons exploded during a demonstration and killed the U.S. Secretary of State and the Secretary of the Navy. Nevertheless, Ericsson billed the Navy for the weapon. They refused to pay him. The feud continued for the next sixteen years. Ericsson rejected the Navy’s new pleas for help . . . unless President Lincoln personally assured him that he would be paid. Lincoln agreed and Ericsson went to work.

Ericsson’s ship would not be iron platted - it would be made entirely made of metal! The Navy thought he was mad, and that it would sink as soon as it was launched. Ericsson wrote to Lincoln saying, “The sea will ride over her, and she shall live in it like a duck.” His vessel was constructed on a ramp in New York City’s East River. John Ericsson supervised every detail. He had 47 newly patented inventions on board. He named his new ship the Monitor, and it was built in just 101 days.

On the day of the launch, the Monitor entered the water but did not sink. Her debut was not without problems though. The crew found her to be difficult to navigate; they had trouble just getting the ship out of the harbor and down the river. The Monitor was terribly slow and water leaked through at several places; and ventilators worked poorly permitting fumes to sicken the crew. Still, the Monitor trudged southward toward her meeting with the Confederate ironclad.

On March 8th, the just completed Merrimac, which was renamed the Virginia, and came out to attack the Union blockade fleet. It headed for the U.S.S. Cumberland (the most powerful ship in the fleet). The Cumberland returned fire but its cannon balls bounced off the Virginia. The Confederate ironclad rammed her and sank the Union ship. The Virginia then turned on the U.S.S. Congress and set it on fire. The U.S.S. Minnesota tried to escape but ran aground.

Into the battle a strange ship appeared. It was hard to see exactly what it was. There was one very large gun turret sticking up out of the water but little else that could determined. The Virginia at long last had encountered the Monitor. The two ships fired at each other with little consequence. After a short time, the Monitor pulled away to resupply its ammunition. The Confederates thought that they had won the battle. The captain of the Virginia, Catesby Jones, withdrew intending to return the next morning to finish off the immobilized Minnesota.

That night the Monitor returned and anchored right next to the Minnesota, preparing to defend the grounded ship. After sunrise, the Virginia returned. Its crew was surprised to see the Monitor still on the scene. The two ironclads resumed their battle. They fired at each other for four and a half hours hull to hull; continuously colliding together. Finally, the Virginia withdrew and returned to Norfolk.

These two famous ships would never meet again. In May, Union troops approached Norfolk and the Confederates blew up the Virginia rather than having it fall into enemy hands. Ten months later, the Monitor was lost in a storm off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. The episode was over but the story continued on. The North busily built a fleet of ironclads, still under the watchful eye of John Ericsson. The South was unable to keep pace, lacking materials and funds. The Union blockade held for two more years until the end of the war.

The story of the great battle of iron ships spread. Government leaders around the world knew that their once mighty fleets were now useless. Naval warfare had moved into a new age and there was no going back to wood and sails.

Sunday, December 8, 2013


The Polynesian colonization of the Pacific was one of the most significant achievements in human history. The homogeneous Polynesian people originated in Taiwan over 6,000 years ago. By 1500 B.C.E., they had migrated to Indonesia then eastward to New Zealand, Tonga, Tahiti, Hawaii, and finally to Easter Island, the eastern most outpost of the culture. By the time European explorers entered the Pacific in the 16th Century, almost all of the inhabitable islands had been settled for hundreds of years.

Until the last 20 years, most scientists believed that the Pacific island people had only a small environmental effect on the natural habitats; and that drastic changes were due to the more recent actions of European colonizers. This turns out to be inaccurate. More recent research is showing that the Polynesians had been altering their environments in major ways well before the arrival of the Europeans. Deforestation and forced animal extinction were much more common than originally thought.

With migration, Polynesian cultures became more specialized which extended to their relationship with the natural environment. This diversification is seen as related to the extreme distances between islands and the different types of island geologic formation (which allowed different types of vegetation to exist). Each island developed its unique culture in response to the different environments and the resources available.

One of the most studied Pacific cultures was on Easter Island. The island, also referred to as Rapa Nui, lies 2,000 miles west of Chile and is 1,300 miles from the nearest other Polynesian island. It is best known for the huge stone statues that were carved in a volcanic quarry, dragged about 12 miles to the coast, and then raised vertically onto platforms. Some weigh as much as 80 tons. The Islanders had no machines, pulleys, or draught animals to assist them. Why the statues were built is still largely unknown.

Today, Easter Island is a barren place. Once a tropical forest, there are no native trees remaining. At the time of the Polynesian settlement about 800 C.E., there were at least 43 species of land and sea birds; the largest number known on any Pacific island. The population reached as high as 15,000 people but had declined to 2,000 by the arrival of Dutch explorer Jacob Roggeveen on Easter Sunday in 1722. He witnessed the islanders toppling over some of their revered statues.  

The Easter Island civilization collapsed 300 years ago due to human environmental damage. There was no other Pacific culture located close enough to interact with the Easter Islanders so their rise and fall was theirs alone. So what caused this ecological and sociological disaster?

When the Polynesian settlers first arrived there, they began to clear the forest for their gardens, canoes, and firewood. They also used tree trunks as rollers to move the giant statues from the quarry to the coast. Agriculture was limited, so they fed on the available birds and on the porpoise and tuna in surrounding waters. Over the generations, the deforestation and reduction of animal stocks had consequences for the people. Without trees they could not transport their statues, so they stopped carving them. They had little firewood for warmth and cooking. With the trees removed, they had no way to stop soil erosion. The absence of wood also meant that they couldn’t build adequate canoes to venture out into the ocean to catch fish.

Ultimately, they turned to the largest animal left to eat on the island - other humans. Cannibalism reached epidemic proportions. The societal structure collapsed. Small groups warred against each other. People moved into caves for protection.

The collapse of the Easter Island civilization was due to both environmental and human factors. The island did have less rainfall than others, cooler temperatures (due to its latitude), and almost no water runoff from higher elevations. But the key factor in initiating the sequence of events that brought down the society was the human action that removed the trees. Once gone they could not be regenerated.

Polynesian groups on other islands did persevere without interruption for 3,600 years without any sign of decline. Many of those were isolated as well (although none as completely as Easter Island). Some avoided deforestation by abandoning the slash and burn method of land clearance. Others focused on cultivating garden plots and relied less on animal consumption, or learned to irrigate their fields. Still others attempted to limit their population growth.

The people on Easter Island, once events spiraled out of control, had no means of leaving the island to escape their fate. They had no way of saving their island paradise. When their society collapsed, no one else in the world took notice and no one else was affected.

Saturday, November 30, 2013


Anne Hutchinson’s legacy has changed over the last 300 years.

To the Puritan orthodoxy of the 16th Century, she was an “agent of destructive anarchy.” To the 19th Century, Anne was a crusader for religious liberty. In our time, she is the symbol of a feminist leader; assertive and highly visible.

Anne Marbury was born in Lincolnshire, England, in 1591. She was the daughter of an Anglican minister with Puritan inclinations; so much so that he was censured and imprisoned. At 21, Anne married a merchant working in London named William Hutchinson. Shortly afterward, the couple moved to the small town of Alford to start a family. They had heard of a young, charismatic Puritan minister named Rev. John Cotton who was preaching in a nearby town and decided to attend his service. Although Cotton was only 27, he was gaining a reputation for giving spiritual messages that were unlike any others. He minimized an individual’s behavior as a requirement to gain salvation while emphasizing one’s spiritual conversion. Anne was greatly drawn to this message, and she attended his church often. Cotton’s philosophy was called the “COVENANT OF GRACE” and differed from mainstream Puritan teachings, the “COVENANT OF WORKS.”

The “Covenant of Works” vs. the “Covenant of Grace”

A theological “covenant” is a divinely offered agreement or promise from God that frames His relationship with humanity. At the time, two different theological covenants vied for acceptance. The first, supported by the more orthodox Puritan sects, was the “Covenant of Works,” sometimes called the old covenant, which is a major theme of the Old Testament. It supports the belief that salvation is achieved by following the laws set down by God. It promises eternal life for obedience and death for disobedience. Signs of the Covenant of Works include the knowledge of good and evil and the observance of the Sabbath.

The second is the “Covenant of Grace,” sometimes called the new covenant. It is the primary message of the New Testament. It supports the belief that salvation is achieved through the crucifixion of Christ which atones for the sins of all who put their faith in him; Christ being the representative for all mankind. Signs of the Covenant of Grace include Baptism and Communion. Some people believe it replaces the Covenant of Works, but most see it as existing alongside it. Other theological covenants, not related to salvation, also exist such as belief in a “promised land.”

(We are not theologians, and admit that the understanding of covenants is much deeper than this brief description. But we are looking at the historical and sociological consequences of the conflict between these two viewpoints in early America.)

Anne saw herself as a participant in the power of God and His grace gave her a status that would have traditionally been determined by that of her husband or father. This social empowerment was irresistible to her.

The Anglican Church in England was driven to suppress any preaching or practices that did not conform to their ideology. The Puritans had already been pressured to relocate to the new colonies in America starting about 1620. In 1633, John Cotton was removed from his ministry, threatened with imprisonment, and went into hiding. Soon after, he departed for the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Anne and William Hutchinson believed that the Spirit directed them to follow Cotton to the New World. They had already sent their oldest son along with Cotton.

Anne Arrives in America

The Hutchinson’s arrived in Massachusetts with ample assets. They built a house in Boston and bought farmland outside the town where the city of Quincy is located today. Anne adjusted easily to her new home. She was a midwife and while attending to the needs of women in childbirth, she offered them spiritual advice.

A friend of the Hutchinson’s, John Cotton was now acting as the temporary minister in a church in Boston. It grew 50% in membership during his first four months, becoming the leading Puritan church in the city. In her home Anne held gatherings for people “who had found grace” where she spoke about the teachings of John Cotton. She also offered her own views and beliefs. Over time her theological interpretations, closely allied with John Cotton, began to distance her from the more traditional views of orthodox Puritan ministers in the colony. She attracted many new followers to the Covenant of Grace including people who believed that outward behavior was not necessarily tied to one’s soul. Among the latest visitors to her home was the respected Henry Vane.

But there was religious tension building between the traditional and new belief systems. The next year, 1634, John Wilson, the permanent and senior pastor of the Puritan church, returned from England. Anne and other new church members were exposed to his teaching for the first time. She saw immediately that there was an enormous difference between her own belief system and his, and it was disagreeable. All the ministers in the colony, other than John Cotton, believed as Wilson did. Hutchinson and her co-believers began disrupting Wilson’s sermons or rose and left the church when he got up to preach. Local ministers began writing to Cotton communicating their concern over his preaching and about the unorthodox opinions of his parishioners, especially Anne Hutchinson.

In 1636, new influential supporters of the Covenant of Grace appeared. The eminent Rev. John Wheelwright arrived from England and allied himself with Cotton and Hutchinson. He was also Anne’s brother-in-law. In addition, their supporter Henry Vane had just been elected Governor. Things were looking up.

But during the summer, continued disrespect for John Wilson and growing aggression from the Covenant of Works group caused an eruption between the two factions. In the rear view mirror of history, we see the Puritans as a single unified sect but nothing like that existed in 1636 Massachusetts.

Accusations of Heresy  

A Boston magistrate, John Winthrop, took notice of the turmoil and warned of future actions. Instead of pronouncing blame on one of the ministers like Cotton or Wheelwright, Winthrop wrote, “One Mrs. Hutchinson, a member of the church at Boston, a woman of ready wit and a bold spirit, brought over two dangerous errors: (1) That the person of the Holy Ghost dwells in a justified person; (2) That no sanctification can help to evidence to us our justification;” in others words she did not follow the doctrine of the orthodox Puritan church. Another accusation of her was that she had charged some of the ministers of preaching a covenant of works; and therefore, they were not proper ministers of the New Testament.

By late 1636, the schism had deepened and was called “The Antinomian Controversy.” Hutchinson and her supporters were accused of two heresies: antinomianism (meaning against or opposed to the law) and of being familists, the belief that all things are ruled by nature and not directly by God. Hutchinson, Cotton, Wheelwright, and Vane were all considered outside the boundaries of the true Puritan church. Clearly it went beyond a theological debate at this point, and encompassed gender and political issues as well. The bold behavior of Anne Hutchinson and her followers had begun to threaten the “Puritan Holy Experiment.”

After six months of standoffs, things began to change between the Puritan Church and the followers of the Covenant of Grace. The tide was turning in favor of the church’s traditional teachings. At this time, there was a very close parallel between the doctrines of the church and the political actions of the Massachusetts Bay Colony government; made even closer by the defeat of the Covenant of Grace supporter, Governor Henry Vane, in the election of May 1637. He was replaced by John Winthrop, the magistrate who so bitterly condemned Anne Hutchinson the previous summer.

Anne Hutchinson on Trial

Rev. Wheelwright, Anne’s brother-in-law, was tried in public court and convicted of provoking a rebellion against the colony government. He was sentenced to banishment. Other supporters of Anne were tried and also given similar sentences. But all of this was just a preface to the main event. In November, Anne Hutchison was brought to trial on the primary charge of slandering the ministers of the church. Remember, she had said that they were unfit to teach the New Testament. She was also charged with “troubling the peace of the commonwealth and churches” because she promoted opinions that caused distress among the people.

Anne may have been persecuted to a greater extent because she stepped beyond the gender role that was considered appropriate for a woman, especially a Puritan woman. The local ministers were not accustomed to outspoken women, and they saw Anne as a threat to their position. As she gained more followers, the treat became too much to tolerate. Her true crime may have been the violation of her role in Puritan society.

Presiding over her trial was her nemesis the new Governor, John Winthrop. The goal of the prosecution was to demonstrate that Anne made denigrating remarks about the ministers. At first they tried to prove that she had been a co-conspirator of the others already found guilty. But the court was not able to make that accusation stick. Her defense was that she had only spoken reluctantly and in private; which was not completely the case. As the day wore on, Anne was successful at out maneuvering the arguments of the prosecutors. She possessed boundless self confidence and was well educated, largely because of her father. At the end of the first trial day Winthrop said, possibly to atone for his aggressive questioning, “Mrs. Hutchinson, the court has labored to bring you to acknowledge the error of your ways.” She didn’t.

On the trial’s second day, Anne Hutchinson, buoyed by her triumphs the day before, went on the offensive. She accused the magistrates and the ministers of violating their own oath of confidentiality and of deceiving the court about her activities. She also demanded that the ministerial witnesses testify under oath. Then the court called John Cotton to the stand. He claimed to remember little of what Anne had said and done, and tried to portray her in a softer light. But overall his testimony was less than supportive of this lady who had admired him so much.

Then the most dramatic event of the trial occurred when Anne addressed the court. Anne’s remarks were recorded in the transcript as, “You have no power over my body, neither can you do me any harm - for I am in the hands of the eternal Jehovah, my Savior. I fear none but the great Jehovah, who has foretold me of these things, and I do verily believe that he will deliver me out of your hands. Therefore take heed how you proceed against me - for I know that, for this you are about to do to me, God will ruin you and your posterity and this whole state.” It was her chance to teach the court a thing or two, but ultimately it was her undoing.

Believing Anne to be possessed by an unholy spirit, the court’s task was now made clearer. Her outburst was both rebellious and a contempt of court. Winthrop was not going to allow the assertions of his destructive figure to rewrite the history of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. John Winthrop moved to have Anne Hutchinson banished.

She was condemned to banishment “as being a woman not fit for our society.” Winthrop announced the verdict saying, “It is the Lord’s work, and it is marvelous in our eyes.” Anne was put under house arrest and not allowed to see her children. She had been isolated so that others would not be inspired by her words. After four months of detention, she was put on trial again, this time by the church itself. The ministers were trying to protect the orthodox doctrine of the Puritan church, and called Anne forward and read all of the many errors in her interpretation of the scriptures.

In a heartbreaking turn of events, John Cotton himself was called upon to deliver the church’s reprimand of Anne. He said, “It is the overwhelming conclusion of the ministers that Hutchinson’s unsound beliefs outweighed any good she has done, and that she endangered the spiritual welfare of the community . . . Therefore, I do admonish you, and also charge you in the name of Christ Jesus that you sadly consider the just hand of God against you, the great hurt you have done to the Churches, the great Dishonor you have brought to Jesus Christ, and the Evil that you have done to many a poor soul.”

A week later, Anne Hutchinson was forced to write a formal recantation of her unsound opinions. She stood in the church that she had attended and, in a subdued voice, read the denial of her previous beliefs. She admitted that she was wrong about the soul and the spirit, the resurrection of the body, and in predicting the destruction of the colony. Most shockingly she agreed that only the Covenant of Works was the true path to salvation.

Banishment from Massachusetts

Anne was excommunicated from the church and given three months to leave the colony. She and her children travelled to Providence, Rhode Island, at the invitation of Roger Williams, the founder of that colony. Not long after her family settled there, Massachusetts made some threats to annex a large portion of Rhode Island which compelled Anne to move once again, out of the reach of the magistrates and ministers of the Puritan church. She relocated to New Netherland, now New York City, after her husband died.

The Hutchinson family’s timing for their move was regrettable however. In 1643, a band of hostile Siwanoy warriors attacked the compound where the family lived. They killed all but one member of the family, cutting off the heads of several then burning the bodies. One nine-year-old daughter named Susanna was captured and taken to live with the tribe. Several years later, Susanna was ransomed and returned to other relatives. It has become known as the Hutchinson Massacre.

After Anne’s death, John Winthrop wrote, “Thus it had pleased the Lord to have compassion for his poor churches here, and to discover this great imposter, an instrument of Satan so fitted and trained to his service of interrupting the passage of his kingdom in this part of the world, and poisoning the churches here.”

While her interpretations of the scriptures were not all that different from mainstream Puritan beliefs, her criticisms of the prevailing power structure in Massachusetts ultimately brought her down.

Note 1: Many literary critics believe that the character of Hester Prynne in Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter” was based on Anne Hutchinson’s persecution in Massachusetts. While Hester Prynne seduced the minister of her community; Anne Hutchinson was the alleged heretic who seduced the Puritan community. If there is any real connection between the two, it is more likely that the fictionalization of Anne Hutchinson was used as the inspiration for the literary character of Hester.

Note 2: Anne Hutchinson is also a point of connection between notable people from the past and notable modern Americans. Her ancestors included Charlemagne, Alfred the Great, Edward I and Henry II of England, and Eleanor of Aquitaine. Her descendants include Stephan A. Douglas, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Franklin D. Roosevelt, George H. W. Bush and George W. Bush, and George Romney and Mitt Romney.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Civil War History of the 57th Indiana (#25)
Taking Atlanta
“The weather was intensely hot, and after our works were completed and timber chopped down, we were exposed to the scorching rays of the sun. Much of the time during the day we were obliged to be in the trenches; and it was necessary to have our means of protection from the sun as well as the enemy. Each company forthwith commenced building an arbor of brush, which was placed on forks several feet above the works.

“At night, one third of the men were to be awake and on duty; and all were ordered to have their accoutrements on. A regiment was sent each day to the skirmish line where it would remain for twenty-four hours. Then it was relieved in a regular rotation. Although there was a great deal of firing done by the enemy’s artillery, and some of them sixty-four pounders, there was rarely anyone hurt behind our main line of works.  
“Our lines were all the time being extended on the right. The work of extending and strengthening our lines continued until near twenty miles long, and still the enemy presented a force in front of our right wing. Any attempt on our part to assault the impregnable line of forts and entrenchments which surrounded Atlanta would have resulted in a useless sacrifice of human life.
Gen. Sherman now devised a bold and important movement which would give us the substantial fruits of a victory. We challenge the annals of history for an example superior to the one displayed by him in so completely deceiving the enemy and keeping them in total ignorance of his plan until it was nearly consummated. The 20th Corps were ordered to take the position on the Chattahoocie River near Vining’s Station to prevent the enemy from making movement toward Marietta, while all the other forces of the vast army were to join in the contemplated expedition to the rear of Atlanta.
“At precisely 11 o’clock P.M., August 25th, the left of Sherman’s army evacuated the line of works, cut loose from its base, and took up the line of march to the right and rear of Atlanta. Falling back by way of Peachtree Creek battle ground, we continued our movement until we could see the morning star, when we halted for a short nap.
“After breakfast, we moved on, and it will long be remembered by those who engaged in it as one of the most trying scenes connected with our marching experience. The heat was almost suffocating and water very scarce. At 1 o’clock a halt was called. There were not more than twenty or thirty men of each regiment present with their colors. On September 27th the 4th Corps marched five miles, again taking position on the extreme right. Whenever a position was taken for the night, or even a few hours, our lines were formed fronting toward Atlanta, and a line of works thrown up.
“Hood, now fully awake to the importance of decided action, moved two Corps of the rebel army - Hardee’s and Loring’s - down the Macon Road to Rough and Ready, Ga., where they established a line covering the railroad, and fortifies it. Our advance was gradually continued toward Rough and Ready, while Gen. Howard with the Army of the Tennessee was sent on to Jonesboro, Ga.
“On the morning of September 1st the position of the different armies was as follows: Howard confronted Hardee at Jonesboro, who was in a strong line of works with his right resting on the railroad line, one mile north of town. The 4th, 14th, and 23rd Corps were on the road toward Atlanta. Hood, with a fragment of his army, was still persisting in his fanatical purpose of “holding Atlanta.” But it required one more day’s operations on the part of Gen. Sherman to convince him that Atlanta would soon be untenable. The thrilling and important events of that day were to bring to a successful and glorious termination to or long and arduous campaign. The army was confident in the ability of its great commander to lead them to a complete victory.
“Our 4th Corps was ordered to destroy the railroad in its advance south. We commenced at once upon the task to which we were assigned, and by 4 o’clock P.M. we had torn up the track, burned the ties, and heated and bent the rails, so that they were unfit for use, to within two miles of Jonesboro. Orders were now received to move forward and form our lines. While the troops were forming, Gen. Newton (Division Commander) rode up to Gen. Wagner (Brigade Commander) and told him to send out the best regiment as skirmishers. ‘I’ll give you the 57th, and that’s as good as I’ve got,’ said Wagner, as he gave orders for the 57th to advance to the front.
“The regiment deployed at intervals of five paces, and at the sound of the bugle moved forward. We soon found the enemy and fighting commenced. With slight loss we drove back the outposts of the enemy, and took possession of a skirt of timber within three hundred yards of the rebel line. Between us laid an open meadow and beyond was another piece of timber in which the enemy was posted. Darkness was about to close the scene when a charge was ordered. In the dark and confusion the other regiments of our brigade were moved to the right of our position. When the line of battle moved forward on the charge, Col. Opdyke, then commanding the 3rd Brigade, with the 15th Missouri and the 12th Ohio, advanced in the rear of the 57th. This mistake caused but a momentary pause, and when the line dashed forward across the open field, driving the enemy from their rifle pits, and capturing few prisoners, who remained. The timber in our front was so thick, and the night so dark, that no further movement was attempted; but the 57th remained on duty, and stood up in line all night, ready for any desperate move the enemy might make.
“At 2 o’clock A.M., we could plainly hear the sound of the explosion at Atlanta, where the enemy was blowing up their arsenals, machine shops, and magazines. When day dawned the enemy were gone, and our forces quietly took possession of the town of Jonesboro. After waiting two hours to draw rations and bury our dead, we marched in pursuit.
“Six miles south of Jonesboro, at Lovejoy’s Station, the enemy took a strong position, and waited our approach. As we neared the rebel lines, the 4th and 15th Corps were massed for a charge; but none was made. Once more our lines were established and earth works thrown up.
“On Saturday, September 3rd, Gen. Sherman issued to his victorious army a congratulatory order containing the welcome tidings that Atlanta was ours, and “fairly won.”
“A detachment of cavalry, sent by Gen. Sherman to ascertain the cause of the heavy explosions on the night of the 1st, returned with intelligence that the enemy evacuated in great disorder the same night, and that our forces on the north, under Gen. Slocum, had taken possession of the city, which was formally surrendered by the mayor and a deputation of citizens.

“As announced in the order from Gen. Sherman, the objective point of our campaign was gained, and we were now to have a season of rest. We remained in the line of works before Lovejoy Station until midnight of the 5th. We then withdrew to Jonesboro, and remained until the morning of the 7th, when we commenced the march to Atlanta. At night we camped seven miles south; and on the morning of the 8th of September, with colors floating and bands playing, the 4th Army Corps marched triumphantly through the streets of the conquered city.”
(Atlanta Campaign, northern Georgia, August-September, 1864)

Excerpts taken from “Annals of the Fifty-Seventh Regiment, Indiana Volunteer Infantry: Marches, Battles, and Incidents of Army Life” written by Asbury L. Kerwood immediately after the war.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Along the Niger River in the country of Mali, in West Africa, live a people known as the Dogon. They trace their lineage in part to ancient Egypt. For the first one thousand years of our common era (C.E.), the Dogon were part of the great sub-Saharan African empire that was centered in the city of Timbuktu, which is on the northeast edge of Dogon lands. Timbuktu was a center of learning and its libraries hold over 700,000 manuscripts to this day. The Dogon are star watchers, and have an astronomical tradition that extends back 5,000 years. 

The star Sirius is the brightest star in the winter Northern Hemisphere sky. It has been seen by humans for many centuries. Sirius is only 8.6 light years away (almost in our neighborhood). You can easily find Sirius by locating the belt of Orion (appearing as a straight line of three stars) and extending that line with your eyes down toward the horizon.

According to Dogon traditions, Sirius also has a companion star that orbits around it every 50 years, and it is extremely dense. This ancient legend was told to two French anthropologists, Marcel Griaule and Germain Dieterlen, by Dogon holy men in 1931 during the scientist’s field research in Mali. One Dogon religious sect has been conducting a celebration of the two Sirius stars since the 13th Century, and have four hundred year-old artifacts representing the position of these stars.

What makes this story remarkable is that the second Sirius star is invisible to the naked eye and wasn’t seen by telescope until 1865. How could the Dogon people, who lacked any kind of astronomical equipment, know so much about an invisible star? Western astronomers named the first bright star “Sirius A” and the small white dwarf companion star “Sirius B.” Sirius B was first photographed in 1970, and by the way, it orbits around Sirius A every 50 years.  

The oral traditions of the Dogon tell the story of a race of beings from the Sirius star system who visited Earth thousands of years ago. They were called the Nommos, and were amphibious beings (resembling mermaids). They were drawn here by the abundance of water. Creatures similar to this also exist in Babylonian and Sumerian myths. As mentioned earlier, the Dogon had ties with ancient Egypt where The Goddess Isis is closely linked to the star Sirius. The Nommos gave knowledge about the Sirius system to the Dogon as well as other information about our solar system which wasn’t learned scientifically until thousands of years later. This included the facts that Jupiter had four major moons and Saturn had rings (not learned until 1610 by Galileo). More importantly, they learned that our system’s planets orbit the sun.

The stories told by the Dogon did not go unchallenged. Some anthropologists believed that information was inadvertently passed on to the Dogon just prior to the many French research expeditions and was simply incorporated into their older traditions. Other Dogon beliefs have been proven wrong. Their tradition says that Sirius B (that they call Digitaria) was once located where our sun is now, which is not possible. Other critics say that the Dogon celebrations that observe the orbit of one Sirius star around the other are 60 years apart, not 50 (the actual time required). But their criticism is not factual as the celebrations themselves last for several years. There are actually 50 years between the end of one and the beginning of the next. Their next celebration begins in 2027.

There are four basic explanations for the Dogon revelations. First, ancient extraterrestrials did visit Earth and give them the knowledge. Second, Dogon culture was cross-contaminated by western science. Third, the Dogon had ancient human-based technical knowledge to discover the Sirius system configuration, but that it has been lost over time. And last, it’s all just a big coincidence.

But that may not be the end of the story. Dogon legend says that there is a third star in the Sirius system (a “Sirius C”?). There was no proof at the time the Dogon controversy first became public, but in 1995 an academic paper was published by two French researchers, Benest and Duvent, that suggests that, based on observations of the movements in the Sirius system, there may be a third star. It could be a “red dwarf” star of very small size. The Dogon believe the home planet of the Nommos orbits around this star.

Could this be just another coincidence, or will the story continue on?

Thursday, November 14, 2013

(John Milton)

On Veteran’s Day earlier this week, we published a short article that took a look at the many entertainment celebrities that served in the U.S. military during times of war. Most were active during World War II. About half served through enlistment, and half because of the draft.

One person we know commented, “You won’t see any of today’s actors serving our country.” That got us thinking. Our first reaction was that it was probably true. We couldn’t think of anyone popular in films now that is also known for defending the country. But was it a true? And was it fair? Well, we decided to revisit the issue and take a look at some now-famous contemporary actors.

We chose to look at notable actors that are American citizens, are alive today, and were living while the most recent U.S. military draft was in force between 1948 and 1973. After 1973, we have had an all-volunteer military. Registration with Selective Service is still required but there is no actual draft any longer.

We selected 31 actors - none of which were old enough to serve in WWII or Korea. Some were of draft age during the Vietnam War. All were technically of age during the Gulf War and the Iraq/Afghanistan War, although most were well past service age.

We need to say that we have no information about their draft status or their eligibility for deferment. So there may be very legitimate reasons they were exempted.

What we found was that it may be unfair to criticize them. Truth and fairness are frequently different. Thirteen percent served in the military (or alternate service), 32% were eligible for the draft (but were well down the age priority list), 23% were eligible and prime candidates (based on age alone), and 32% were too young (they had not reached the age of 18 prior to the draft being abolished).

These actors SERVED in the military or alternate service:

Clint Eastwood (b. 1930, age 83) - enlisted in the U.S. Army.
Robert Duval (b. 1931, age 82) - enlisted in the U.S. Army.
Morgan Freeman (b. 1937, age 76) - enlisted in the U.S. Air Force.
Richard Dreyfuss (b. 1947, age 65) - a conscientious objector, he performed alternate service in a hospital.

A. This group was 27 or older prior to the end of the draft; and while technically eligible, they were well down the priority list:

Jack Nicholson (b. 1937, age 74) - eligible for the draft for 18 years
Dustin Hoffman (b. 1937, age 75) - eligible for the draft for 18 years
Al Pacino (b. 1940, age 73) - eligible for the draft for 15 years
Martin Sheen (b. 1940, age 72) - eligible for the draft for 15 years
Harrison Ford (b. 1942, age 71) - eligible for the draft for 13 years
Christopher Walken (b. 1943, age 70) - eligible for the draft for 12 years
Robert DeNiro (b. 1943, age 69) - eligible for the draft for 12 years
Michael Douglas (b. 1944, age 68) - eligible for the draft for 11 years
Sylvester Stallone (b. 1946, age 67) - eligible for the draft for 9 years
Tommy Lee Jones (b. 1946, age 66) - eligible for the draft for 9 years

B. This group was under 25 years old prior to the end of the draft, and would have been prime candidates:

Samuel L. Jackson (b. 1948, age 64) - eligible for the draft for 7 years
Richard Gere (b. 1949, age 63) - eligible for the draft for 6 years
Bill Murray (b. 1950, age 62) - eligible for the draft for 5 years
Robin Williams (b. 1951, age 62) - eligible for the draft for 4 years
Kurt Russell (b. 1951, age 62) - eligible for the draft for 4 years
John Travolta (b. 1954, age 59) - eligible for the draft for 1 year
Denzel Washington (b. 1954, age 58) - eligible for the draft for 1 year

C. This group gets kind of a free pass. Each of them was NOT YET OF DRAFT AGE (18) when the draft was discontinued in 1973:

Kevin Costner (b. 1955, age 58)
Bruce Willis (b. 1955, age 58)
Tom Hanks (b. 1956, age 57)
Alec Baldwin (b. 1958, age 55)
George Clooney (b. 1961, age 52)
Laurence Fishburne (b. 1961, age 51)
Tom Cruise (b. 1962, age 51)
Johnny Depp (b.1963, age 50)
Brad Pitt (b. 1963, age 49)
Robert Downey Jr. (b. 1965, age 48)

So what’s the point? Is it unfair to judge this generation of actors as being unpatriotic? While it’s true that they could have volunteered in their younger days (aside from physical problems), most were either too old to be acceptable to the military, had valid deferments, had a low draft priority number, or were simply under age when the draft was abolished; and since there was no war seriously threatening America, who can blame them for getting on with their careers?

NOTE: Here may be the most interesting fact of all. EVERY ONE of these 31 actors has portrayed a U.S. soldier in a film.