Hot Letter Abe

I’ve heard of this practice before and have even written a “hot letter” myself, but I never would have expected to hear that good ole’ Abe (President Abraham Lincoln) made a habit of doing so!

Illustration by Jason Stout

I recently finish reading Incarnate by Michael Frost, where he points out that Lincoln was a great leader primarily for his non-anxious presence among others. Often quoted for saying “I destroy my enemies when I make them my friends,” Lincoln had a way of being patient with people of differing views.

Frost notes that, in order to curb his negative emotions, Lincoln would write “a ‘hot letter’ to the individual he was angry with, and then he would set the letter aside and not send it. If he did lose his temper, Lincoln would follow up with a kind gesture or letter to let the individual know he was not holding a grudge.” (Incarnate, pg. 202)

Knowing that Lincoln had faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, I wonder if his non-anxious presence was in fact a reflection of the fruits of the Spirit working in and through his life, particularly forbearance, self-control, kindness, and well, we might want to place them all on the table! I also wonder how better off we’d all be if we were to adopt the “hot letter” habit when something or someone made us mad, then jump right back into the relationship in pure love.

Until next time, Rage on paper, not toward each other…

Garage Sale Find!

This past weekend, we had a neighborhood-wide garage sale. In sifting through things my mother-in-law gave us to sell, I found a book called Stringtown by Zora M. Talbot. Man, have I stumbled on a rarity!

Stringtown

Aside from being out of print on Amazon and out of stock on Half.com, this book is entitled after a town in Texas that no longer exists. From what I’ve gathered, it seems as though the town was absorbed by San Marcos, TX (right outside of San Antonio) somewhere between the 19th and 20th century as a result of a new railroad bringing tremendous growth to the area.

According to one source, “In 1990 the only surviving evidences of old Stringtown were a log cabin once used as a slave quarters, the former home of Gideon Thomas Johnson built in 1879, and the Pitts Cemetery.” (Texas State Historical Association) Can you say, “GHOST TOWN!”

Of course this relates in some way to the American Civil War, don’t you worry. I found a few nuggets in Part II of the book (Disasters, Civil War, Reconstruction) that I’ll have to share in subsequent posts. But for now, I learned that there was more than one coffee substitute used during the war, other than the chicory that I’m familiar with, having grown up in New Orleans.

Food was very scarce – flour, sugar, and coffee almost impossible to buy. Sweet potatoes were parched and, at times, rye and okra beans were used as substitute for coffee. When a real delicacy was wanted the slaves were sent to the mountains in search of a ‘bee tree.’ They would cut the tree down and remove many pounds of rich wild honey from the center of the trunk. This honey was used in cooking and to sweeten the substitute coffee. (Talbot, 50)

Until next time, Drink what ya got…

Don’t Complain; Count Your Mercies & Be Thankful

I worked for the grocery store Kroger just before I became a pastor. One particular day, I did not want to go to work. Instead, I wanted to have a bad attitude for the day ahead.

Photo Source: Herald-Review

Instead, like David Lane who served under the 17th Michigan Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War, I took someone’s advice and found I had a lot to be thankful for! Here’s what Lane was grateful for:

A dear old lady acquaintance of mine used to say, ‘Whenever you are downhearted and disposed to complain, just sit right down and count your mercies.’ I have been counting my mercies today, and find I have many things to be thankful for. Instead of being half starved, I have now plenty of food… I am now well dressed… I have a good bed, with two white sheets… I am clean, for I wash and change clothing often… Last, but not least, I am in good health, because God has bestowed upon me this priceless boon [friend]. (Source: Daily Observations From the Civil War)

While I’m not against taking advice from old ladies with whom I’m not well acquainted with, the person I took advice from the day I didn’t want to go to work (who I consider to be the greatest “priceless boon” anyone can have!) was Jesus Christ.

Background: I was driving to work in Kentucky snow and ice, looking through the small part of the windshield that was defrosted (so I didn’t get in a wreck or make it to work late), and dreading having to go to work, unloading and stocking 3 times the amount of product we normally did. We were also shorthanded; a co-worker called in just that morning. (There was so much more here that gave me reason to complain, but that’s not the point!)

Somehow, I sensed I needed to pray about my work day. So, I told Jesus all about my frustrations about having to go to work that day. Then, he simply asked me “What are you thankful for?” Ok, Lord. Great… I was wanting to complain… But here goes.

“I’m thankful for this car, which is working now and getting me to work. I’m thankful for being alive and able to walk and the like. I’m thankful for my family; for a sweet wife and lovely daughter. I’m thankful for a warm apartment and for you providing us with it. I’m thankful for my job (insert abrupt pause in prayer and hand over mouth)”

That day, I realized that the very thing I was wanting to complain about (work) was something I was really grateful for. I was able to go to work, recognizing all of the gifts God had given me that day, especially life.

I wonder if anyone who bemoaned life in the American Civil War ever came to the realization that they were actually thankful just to be alive. What are you thankful for in your life?

Until next time, Count your Mercies…

Washita River or Ouachita River?

Reading history, especially hundreds of years prior, I notice words spelled differently sometimes. I recently observed that Ouachita used to be spelled Washita.

Ouachita River: Buckhorn Bend

I realized this occurrence while reading Frank Moore’s The Rebellion Record – A Diary of American Events:

The Washita River expedition, consisting of the greater part of General Logan’s old Brigade, a regiment of cavalry, and a battery of artillery, returned to Vicksburgh from the portion of Louisiana lying adjacent to Washita River. No organized force of the rebels could be found. (Source: Daily Observations From the Civil War)

It took me a while to figure out when the word was changed, but here’s what I discovered:

  • Indian tribes (Washita, Caddo, Osage, Tensas, Chickasaw and Choctaw) lived along the Washita River.
  • “Washita” is an Indian word translated “river of good hunting grounds” or “river of sparkling silver water.”
  • The first French settlers renamed it “Ouachita” in the early 1700’s, according to Ouachita River Foundation.

I was fascinated that an Indian tribe thought this river was so awesome that they decided to name themselves Washita as well. It is quite understandable, however, seeing as I have witnessed the majesty of the now Ouachita River, which runs through the city (Monroe) where I currently reside. Furthermore, the river must have held such significance to the people living here back then, since the parish in which I live is also named after it.

From River to Clan, From County to Parish:

The Ouachita were a small clan, apparently belonging to the Caddoan family, who resided on the Ouachita river in the northeastern part of Louisiana. At the close of the seventeenth century they numbered five cabins and about seventy men; but their identity seems to have been quite early lost in that of other tribes.

The name of the Ouachita Indians lives in that of the parish and of a river. The original county of Ouachita was established in 1805; it became a parish in 1807, with an area much smaller than that of the old county. (Source: Louisiana Place Names of Indian Origin, pages 49-50)

I could literally keep writing about the Washita River; how it was used during the American Civil War, what type of boat dominated this waterway and why, or how long it extends through this geographic location:

Ouachita River: Borders

But until next time, check this out & Spell Check…

Kill Count Vs. Wounded TBR Mentality

I’ve been reading a lot lately about the medical aspect of the American Civil War, and I’d like to share some thoughts floating around in my mind. To start off with, I often imagine that soldiers went into battle with the mentality that Legolas and Gimli, (from The Lord of the Rings) have, which is “what will my final kill count be?”

Legolas and Gimli

Or, maybe they went into battle thinking, “I hope I don’t die today.” I know this would be my way of thinking, were I to fight. Regardless, in reading about the use of ambulances in the Civil War, I’ve come to realize that soldiers serving as nurses or surgeons had a much different mentality altogether.

They thought about the wounded TBR, that’s “to be received” in case you’re wondering. Add number 55 to TBR definitions acronymfinder.com!

Anyway, the soldiers serving in this capacity had several ambulance wagons, one medical supply wagon, and an army wagon per brigade (more on this later). And, once they received wounded, they had to care for them out of a make-shift hospital setup. Tents simply could not be set up since during battles a place that may at one time be safe may later become dangerous, taking into account that the enemy could gain the upper-hand as the battle progressed.

Thus, these serving soldiers had a high level of anxiety, I imagine, as to not only how many there would be of wounded TBR but also to whether or not they would be captured themselves. What an odd way of becoming a POW that must have been!

I am now fascinated at thinking about how different soldiers thought about entering battles. I’m sure cavalry men approached battle much different from artillery men, and artillery men even more differently than naval men!

Until next time, Think as pertains to your position…

Saturday Night Live: Talk About a Solid Oak Tree

I’m all verklempt. Talk amongst yourselves. I’ll give you a topic. [A solid oak tree] is neither [solid] nor [oak] nor [tree]. Discuss. (Source: SNL Sketch)

Talk Amongst Yourselves

Solid oak trees are profoundly amazing to me. A few months back, I took my family to the New Orleans Audubon Zoo, a place that I grew up going to over and over again. I didn’t think much of it when I was a kid, but this oak tree has been around much longer than me and will more than likely live past me.

Oak of Audubon

Aside from Monkey Hill and the spiderweb rope, this oak tree was perhaps my favorite thing to climb at the zoo. I knew each knot on it, I could climb it with ease, but little did I know how much my knowledge of this tree would expand as I aged with it.

I learned on my recent visit that this tree is about 250 years old. Furthermore, it very well could live to be over 500 years old! But, you may be wondering, what on earth does this oak tree have to do with the American Civil War? Well, check out this timeline (click on it, literally):

Oaks of Audubon Timeline

During the Civil War, the area in which this tree grew was nothing more than underdeveloped land in what is now Uptown New Orleans. It served as a staging area (Camp Lewis) for Confederate Army recruits very early on but was soon occupied by Union Army troops in 1862.

Men of the 5th Company, Washington Artillery, camped outdoors at Camp Lewis (now Audubon Park).

Source: GoNOLA.com

If you’d like to read more about these wonderful Southern Live Oaks and see some great pics of them, visit Monumental Trees.

Until next time, stay Solid as a…

Even Male Nurses Need a Place to Sleep

Male nurses are an interesting subject to discuss, especially these days. However, I want to point out a story of one particular male nurse in the American Civil War who deserved to lay his head somewhere.

Interior of a ward of Washington D.C.’s Harewood General Hospital in 1864.

Union officer David Lane served as a nurse for a time in the 17th Michigan Volunteer Infantry. He provided care for up to 30 men in his ward, along with the help of 5 other nurses as he writes in his diary entry on January 5, 1864. That was not the problem though, since only two of the recovering party could not take care of themselves. The issue laid (no pun intended, well maybe…) with the sleeping arrangements (or lack there of) for the nurses.

There was literally no place for these nurses to sleep, unless you count the floor that they laid on amidst their sick. They would even go to another part of the hospital, like that of a holding area for men about to be sent back to duty, in order to warm themselves by the mean fires kept there. Such was the case of Mr. Lane, until a new surgeon relieved their ward.

Side Note Question: Can you imagine constantly hanging around your place of bidness, because you have no where else to go to stay warm or sleep!?!

One morning the surgeon, a new arrival and a stranger to me, noticed me standing by the fire, and thought from my appearance I was fit for duty.

“To what regiment do you belong?” “The Seventeenth Michigan, sir.”

“How long have you been here?” “About six weeks.”

“What are you doing?” “Nursing.” “Where?” “In the first ward.”

“What business have you here, then?” “No business, only to warm myself. It is rather cold standing in the street today, when off duty.”

“What, have the nurses no place to stay?” “No, sir; they are as poor as was the Son of Man; they have no place to lay their heads.”

This surgeon was Dr. Cogswell, of the Twenty-ninth Massachusetts, who had lately relieved Dr. Fox. In a few minutes I was notified this pleasant room was at our disposal. (Source: Daily Observations From the Civil War)

I am simply amazed by Mr. Lane. Not only was he completely honest about his situation, but I get the sense that he was humble in his attitude toward his circumstances. I don’t know if I could say that I’d not have a sense of entitlement were I in such a predicament. Even those who serve need to be served themselves! Yet, Lane was humble.

Furthermore, David Lane served others as Jesus Christ, living out his faith so much so that he identified his service and position in life with that of his Savior. May this story be to me and you a testimony of the Son of Man alive in us, as we come also to serve and not be served in our place of work, vocation, or otherwise.

Until next time, Serve & Sleep well…