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…

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…

Beating a Dead Horse, Literally!

This has been a week of reading about how dead horses were handled in the American Civil War.

Dead Horse by Alfred R. Waud

The first case of dead horse I read about was from my boy, Jenkin Lloyd Jones, who I’ve posted from before. He mentions how 8 of their artillery horses died on the road, where an even greater number of horses lined the sides of the road, dead from starvation to be sure. I imagine that must have been some sight to behold, even amidst the stench!

The second piece of dead horse I read was from a book my wife recently bought me for my birthday: Hardtack & Coffee. This book is right up my alley; it’s the quintessential book on what day-to-day life was like for the American Civil War soldier. I encourage you to take a gander.

Background: In chapter 6, Billings writes in length about the necessary yet awful task of burying a horse and the diverse crew of soldiers recruited, mostly kicking and cussing, to carry it out. After the hole is dug and the body of the horse is rolled in,

the noxious gases begin to make their presence manifest, and the Hardened Wretch [the commanding officer overseeing yet not participating in the work] hands him [a new Army recruit, eager to be considered a comrade so much so that he signs up for this dreadful task, not knowing what it entails] an axe to break the legs that would otherwise protrude from the grave… turning his back on the deceased, he utters something which sounds like ‘hurrah! without the h,’ as Mark Twain puts it, repeating it with increasing emphasis. (Page 106)

Suffice it to say, everyone standing around the grave joins in the vomiting! I never would have thought about how dead horses were dealt with during the war. Then again, this is the benefit of Billings’ work and the diaries of soldiers, letting us in on what life was really like for the everyday soldier.

Until next time, DO NOT beat a dead horse!

Dead Horse!

Received Packages are Sweet, Even If Opened Later

I received a package today and, as usual, had to wait to open it. The surprise of discovering what lies inside excites me. Having to wait to open it just makes the anticipation grow all the more. Even if it’s a present for someone else, like today’s was (we’ve done a majority of our Christmas shopping online this year; Amazon Prime baby!), I’m thrilled just knowing that someone I care for deeply will soon open a wrapped present this Christmas and receive the gift with wonder and joy.

Jenkin Lloyd Jones of the 6th Battery, Wisconsin Artillery, received a package from home on August 28, 1863. Jones had to wait to open his package on account of rain. Here’s how it went down:

Fine day. Just before dinner I was informed that there was a box for me at the express office… Found it “a good large one,” but just as I got in the wagon it commenced raining, and did rain all the way back, giving us as good a wetting as ever a soldier had… Obliged to lay the box away for two hours before the storm abated so as to open it… But at last it stopped and we found lots of good things, butter, cake, dried fruit, cheese, etc. Much obliged to you. (Source: Daily Observations From the Civil War)

When you’re fighting in the American Civil War, miles and miles from the ones you love, received packages from home are oh so sweet. Jones must have sat pondering for two straight hours what was in that box. Perhaps that added to his gratitude when he discovered the thoughtful and even literally sweet contents found inside from the ones who love him.

Many of us will be receiving gifts this Advent / Christmas season. Whether big or small, what you hoped for or not, I hope that each one is as dear to you as the one Jenkins Jones received in love. Perhaps its just the pastor in me, but please do take the time to reflect upon Jesus Christ amidst every gift you get this Christmas. He is the sweetest gift you can ever receive from God, or anyone else for that matter; for he too was given in love, from the very One who is love.

Until next time, Anticipate gifts of love…

Prayer for a Safe Return

In reading About me, you’ll discover that I’m a pastor in the United Methodist Church. Every week, a group of church members at FUMC Monroe pray for me and the other pastors before we lead in worship, preaching, etc. on Sunday mornings. And, boy do we need those prayers!

One of the people who regularly prays for us is a retired colonel in the United States Air Force. Yesterday, as usual, I was reminded how families of soldiers in the American Civil War must have prayed the same type of prayer that Charlie offers up for those in service to our country.

Lord, we ask a special blessing upon our men and women in uniform. Keep them out of harm’s way until they arrive home to the families who await their safe return. (Source: Charlie Moore)

Every time I hear Charlie pray this, I think of similar sentiments I’ve previously read in Civil War soldiers’ diary entries. One Union soldier by the name of Jenkin Lloyd Jones records this in his diary on September 14, 1863:

And now we are off again, we know not where, but we know it is for war, marching, fatigues, battles and perhaps wounds and suffering, and that, while the anxious heart of an invalid mother, an aged father, sisters and brothers dear, are waiting my return. And I am comparatively alone, and the only happiness I derive is in the indulgence of hope of the realization of the good time coming. (Source: Daily Observations From the Civil War)

Jones was a Wisconsin man in the state of Mississippi when he wrote this; he certainly was a long way from being safe at home! Another Union officer by the name of Luman Harris Tenney noted a sort of blessing that someone spoke over him and his fellow comrades on September 18, 1863:

Woman said, “Noble and brave Union boys, God grant you may all return home safely, our country at peace.” (Source: Daily Observations From the Civil War)

Perhaps you’re a family member of or you know someone who is currently serving. Do them a favor, pray for them and their families. They sure do need the comfort of God, the Father, the peace of Christ Jesus, His Son, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.

Until next time, may God bless you and keep you…

Jeb Stuart: Lootin’, Shootin’, & Kickin’ Up Dust

Its not very often I read through my local newspaper. Aside from my news sources being mainly online, I only access a physical newspaper at work. Nevertheless, I skimmed through the “History” section of The News Star recently and came across a snippet about ole’ Jeb Stuart (or General James Ewell Brown Stuart of the Confederate States Army to be precise).

1862: During the Civil War, Confederate forces led by Gen. J.E.B. Stuart loot the town of Chambersburg, Pa. (Source: (2013, October 11). History. The News Star, p. 5A.)

After doing some followup to see if there was anything else significant about this recorded event, I decided to familiarize myself with Stuart’s story. I just had to, since the only other thing mentioned about this looting incident was that it was during a raid to the north following the Battle of Antietam.

J.E.B. Stuart

Christopher Plummer

Jeb Stuart

Jeb Stuart was a prominent figure in the American Civil War. Regardless of his looking like Christopher Plummer in The Sound of Music when he was younger (assessed upon their bold faces and square jawlines), Stuart proved an excellent reconnaissance cavalry leader who served with the likes of Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, even rocking the gnarliest beard of all three men!

Stuart first reported to Stonewall Jackson to take part in the infamous John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry. Hitting the ground running, Stuart kept his charge up, participating in famous campaigns such as the Shenandoah Valley, First & Second Battle of Bull Run, Gettysburg, etc.

My favorite story of ole’ Jeb is of him fooling the Union at the Battle of Second Manassas into believing that reinforcements had arrived. In actuality, Stuart had his men drag branches along dirt roads to kick up crazy dust clouds that apparently resembled incoming troops.

General Stuart not only served honorably alongside but also became dear friends with Robert E. Lee (and Stonewall Jackson), whom he first met during their years at West Point. Upon hearing about Stuart’s death, a day after the Battle of Yellow Tavern on May 12, 1864, Lee is quoted as saying, “I can scarcely think of him without weeping.” (Source: Gragg, Rod. The Civil War Quiz and Fact Book. Promontory Press, 1993. Print.)

Until next time, keep Riding on…

Photo Credits:

1: civilwaref.blogspot.com

2: allposters.com

3: biography.com

Zombies All Up In the Civil War!

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A while back, I read a daily post from my go-to website on the America Civil War.  I have to admit I was taken aback when I realized I wasn’t reading something that was written in the post apocalyptic landscape following the zombie virus outbreak.  Here is what I read that day as if the enemy were walkers:

We left Dalton yesterday morning, reaching Atlanta… On our arrival we saw numbers of families around the depot, in tents and old cars—refugees, who had been driven from their homes by the enemy… There is a scarcity of provisions… Dr. Young, put under the necessity of changing his abode, and Major Proctor, spent the evening with us. Major P. was very low-spirited, as he thought his chance of getting to his home in Kentucky less than ever. Dr. Y.’s indignation was so great against the extortioners and speculators, that he had none left for any one else. He was bitter in the extreme, which it is not much to be wondered at, when we think of how he and others have given up homes, friends, and every thing dear to them for the cause… If the enemy are culpable, who have driven people from their homes, and forced them to seek others among strangers, how much more so are those persons who are now living… If we are to judge from the signs of the times, the war is far from being over… (Source: Daily Observations from the Civil War)

Tell me you didn’t just read zombie literature!  Even if you don’t think so, there are times when others like me have mixed contexts in amazing ways.  I watched a movie previously available on Netflix that blew me away.  Combining the American Civil War with the Zombie Apocalypse, it’s called Exit Humanity.

Long story short and spoiler alert: a man experiences zombies in battle at the end of the war, but it doesn’t settle in till he returns home to find his family, half reanimated and soon turning.  Cue survival mode.  Brian Cox narrating definitely adds to the movie too!

Of course there is, from what a hear, a ridiculously awesome movie still on Netflix called Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies, which also mixes zombies with the Civil War.  I may have to add it to my list and watch it.  I’ll let you know how it turns out next week.

Lagniappe:

So, I was talking with a friend of mine this week who works with older folks.  In describing traveling and visiting places with them, she said a problem she runs into often is with the walkers.  After I chuckled for a while, I explained to her, “Oh, now I know what type of walkers you were talking about.”  My first thought went to zombies as walkers and not people who use walkers.  I need to stop reading zombies into everything!

Until next time, keep calm and kill zombies …

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Enemies Can Pass Notes & Barter!

I’ve heard stories before of enemies acting cordial with one another during times of war.  It typically happens when fighting has stopped for the day and both sides desire momentary rest from the constant grind of battle.  Perhaps in no other war, however, has their been such seemingly pleasant banter between foes as in the American Civil War.

Lt. Jared Y. Sanders of the 26th Louisiana Infantry records this on June 22, 1863 at Vicksburg, MS:

Yankees have dug up close to our works all around our lines – so close that they throw over notes & put them on wild canes & hand them to our boys. (Source: Flora & Fauna by Kelby Ouchley, pg. 31)

I wonder what must have been on those notes.  Were they taunts saying, “Confeds suck; Yankeez fo’ life!” or where they notes of concern from familial brothers on the other side (obviously not true brothers in arms)?  I know when I read this, I wrote in the margin, “Like sending notes in class eh!?”

Passing-Notes

Photo Credit: Dungeon’s Master

Aside from throwing notes over enemy lines, soldiers met face-to-face to battle it out in other ways.  Pvt. George Michael Neese of the Confederate Horse Artillery writes in his 3-year diary how enemies bartered with one another when he was stationed at Raccoon Ford, VA.  He says this on October 9, 1863:

To-day the pickets were friendly and talking to each other like brothers, and, I think, doing some trading, bartering tobacco for coffee, and exchanging newspapers; to-morrow they may be shooting at each other like savages, for such are the possible amenities and incongruities of intestine war. (Source: Daily Observations from the Civil War)

In case you’re wondering, Neese was not referring to intestine in the sense of it being the long tube in our bodies that helps us to digest food.  That’s actually what I first thought.  That would be quite a pun if the tobacco or coffee being traded had been poisoned.  Nevertheless, Neese referred to the nearly obsolete phrase “intestine war,” which means “of or relating to the internal affairs of a state or country,” i.e. the American Civil War. (Source: Merriam-Webster)

I wonder if the soldiers who met during these times of ease had great laughs with each other.  I can see these guys kicking back by a fire, telling funny stories, sharing life with one another, and processing through the effects of the war.  Apart from their different stances on slavery or the “united” states, they had much in common.  They spoke the same language (unlike soldiers who fought wars across continents), they may have graduated from the same military school (West Point), they might have even served in a previous war with each other (Mexican War), or they may have had the same occupations back home (if they were volunteers)!

Until next time, Pass on but not out…