The Christmas Carol, I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day is based on an 1863 poem by American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He was the nation’s preeminent poet of his era. The song proclaims the narrator’s despair, as he heard Christmas bells in the distance.
He bows his head, “There is no peace on earth,” [he] said,
“for hate is strong and mocks the song
of peace on earth, good will to men.”
But then the carol inexplicably changes with the bells carrying renewed hope for peace among mankind.
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men.”
So why the change and how did the poem come to be?
“I leave it to my audience. If I had another face, do you think I’d wear this one?” ~~ Abraham Lincoln, after being called ‘two-faced’ in a debate
It’s common knowledge Abraham Lincoln was not a handsome man, nor was he esteemed on first notice as graceful or socially adept. Described as homely, uncouth, rough-looking, a tall 6′ 4″ angular, awkward man in clothing that didn’t seem to fit, Lincoln was even said by some to be ugly. His remarkable face, height and flat-footed, springless walk never failed to make a powerful impression. As a London Times correspondent wrote: “It would not be possible for the most indifferent observer to pass him in the street without notice.”
But Lincoln, a dirt-farmers son was ambitious and determined to succeed. From the time he was a boy he was self-educated, an avid reader of any book or newspaper he could find. His stepmother remembered he was unusual, he had to understand everything, repeated facts to himself until they were “fixed in his mind.” With little formal education he left home at age 22. “I was a friendless, uneducated, penniless boy… a piece of floating driftwood.”(more…)
In the sweltering heat of July 21, 1861, two great armies converged on Wilmer McLean’s Manassas, Virginia farm. It was the first major battle and the beginning of the American Civil War, Bull Run or Manassas as the Conferderates called it. Union artillery would fall on McLean’s farm with a shell tearing through his kitchen.
At that time Bull Run was the largest and bloodiest battle in American history. 35-thousand Union soldiers fought 21-thousand of their southern countrymen there. The Union and Confederate armies saw casualties numbering nearly 5,000, while 900 of their soldiers were killed. It’s where General Thomas J. Jackson earned his famous nickname Stonewall.
Many in the north and the south had romanticized the war, but with the deaths of troops, as well as civilians, the battle suddenly made it all too real. It erased the notion that the War would be short and settled with one decisive blow.￼
McLean who was a retired major in the Virginia militia at 47 was too old to be drafted to active duty. By the spring of 1863 he had enough with war and to find safety for his family moved from Manassas. Praying he’d be out of harm’s way he went south. They settled west of Richmond about 120 miles distant in a dusty, little crossroads village. There he would spend the next two years of his life as a grocer.
By the spring of 1865 Confederate General Robert E. Lee, who also had seen enough of war, was about to surrender to General Ulysses S. Grant. Lee sent Colonel Charles Marshall to Appomattox Courthouse to find a suitable building in which he and Grant might meet. The streets were almost deserted when Marshall stopped the first civilian he happened to see. It was Wilmer McLean who reluctantly agreed to loan the army his home.
On the afternoon of April 9, 1865 the war once again revisited the McLean family. After a ninety-minute discussion, Lee surrendered to Grant in the parlor of Wilmer McLean’s house, effectively ending the Civil War. Just five days later Abraham Lincoln would be shot.
Recent research indicates at least 750,000 Americans died in the conflict, more than those killed in all the major U.S. wars since, and all of them perished on American soil. It was a defining event and arguably the most important one in the country’s history. Brothers fought brothers and fathers their sons. The war profoundly changed the way Americans envisioned their own nation, seeing it no longer as a group of independent states but as one nation, indivisible.
Wilmer McLean had a unique and personal perspective on the Civil War as it can be said the conflict began in his front yard and ended in his front parlor. McLean’s second home is now part of the Appomattox Court House National Historical Monument. After the war, he and his family sold the house in 1867, unable to keep up the mortgage payments. They returned to their Manassas farm and later moved to Alexandria, Virginia where he worked for the Internal Revenue Service. He died there in the summer of 1882.
Hard to believe that September has come and gone and we’re now well into October. Where has all the time gone? And hey! What about summer? Where’d that go? There’s so many stories I could tell, from my experiences of the last three months since going solo — and even a few before then, but so little time to write them all down and my access to the ‘net has been limited. I’ve gone through a month-long dry spell lately but hope to “catch up” … just a bit anyway with this latest entry that’s beyond overdue.
I’m back in Sparks, Nevada after an all-night trip Friday night from Fontana, Ca. to Reno. It was a long drive across the Mohave Desert and northward between the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the west and Death Valley to the east. Most of the 460 mile trip was along the two lanes of U.S. Highway 395. Only some phone calls, the occasional headlights of other cars, small-town lights in the distance, and a stop or two along the deserted road, to admire a very dark sky and it’s millions of stars, helped break up the monotony. (more…)
My thanks as always to all those that visit here and for your words of praise.
I’m in Memphis, Tennessee tonight at a truck stop along Interstate 40 after running a load of footwear from Dexter, Maine to Mabelvale, Arkansas, a little community just southwest of Little Rock. I dropped my trailer early last night at a Dillard’s Department Store Distribution Center and then spent the night in nearby Benton. While here in Memphis I’d love to visit Elvis’ Graceland but there’s no time this trip to venture the less than ten mile distance. Where would I park anyway?
As I drove into Little Rock yesterday, along southbound I-30, I crossed the Arkansas River and could see a short distance to the east the Clinton Presidential Center. Set along the banks of the river within a park setting the building is a bit unique with a large section elevated above the ground. As much as I tried I really didn’t find the architecture all that impressive. But the huge and even dramatic First Pentecostal Church nearby more than made up for it. (more…)
I sit this morning in Willard, Ohio, about an hour or so drive west of Akron. I arrived last night at 7 p.m. eastern time after driving with only one short fueling and a bathroom break for a straight twelve hours. My Driver Manager phoned me along the way indicating the “consignee” was “chomping at the bit” to receive my load of 12 large paper rolls weighing in at more than 42-thousand pounds. But, When I arrived I found out I had an appointment time of 5:30 the following afternoon. To say the least I’m not a happy camper, especially in light of the fact that I could have stopped at one of two truck stops some 40 miles east of here. Instead I’m stuck here in a dirt lot among other disgruntled and waiting truckers next to the delivery docks.
On top of all this my Qualcomm communication keyboard hasn’t worked for several days and there is no cell phone service here in Willard. But I suppose things could be worse. (more…)