Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Ultimate Civil Wargasm, Part I

Me with a switch trying to whip Ole Man, but he got up too quick

       Jerry, his wife Melanie, Stacie, and I had planned a trip to get over fifty Confederate general's graves, not to mention a couple of battlefields along the way. We left home about 2:30 p.m. on Thursday and drove all the way to Abingdon, Virginia where we spent the night. The next morning, the gasm began in earnest. We drove to Sinking Spring Cemetery in Abingdon the next morning and got Brigadier General John Buchanan Floyd. Floyd is the general who was in command at Fort Donelson in February of 1862 and escaped during the night to keep from surrendering to General Grant. He would spend the rest of his life in western Virginia commanding a minor post. He fretted over how the world would remember his military career and rightly so. He is considered one of the worst generals to serve the Confederacy. 

Jerry and I with General Floyd

       We then headed up the road about fifteen miles to Old Glade Spring Presbyterian Churchyard in Glade Spring, Virginia. There we visited the grave of Brigadier General William Edmondson "Grumble" Jones. General Jones had married while serving in the old U.S. Army. He was carrying his new bride to Texas when the ship they were on sank in a hurricane. Jones attempted to save his wife, but she was pulled from his grasp and drowned. Jones became a very bitter man for the remainder of his life. He despised the fun loving Jeb Stuart who he served under during the first part of the war. Jones was killed at the Battle of Piedmont when he was shot in the head. He happens to be one of Stacie's favorite Confederate generals because of his nickname "Grumble". 

Me and Stacie with Grumble Jones

       We left Old Glade Spring and headed to Wytheville, Virginia and East End Cemetery. There we visited the graves of Brigadier General William Terry and Brigadier General James Alexander Walker. Walker was chosen by Stonewall Jackson to command the famed Stonewall Brigade. I told Jerry about the time that Walker threw a brick at Stonewall Jackson while Jackson taught at V.M.I. He narrowly missed hitting Jackson in the head. Jerry said that is a good example of keeping your friends close, but your enemies closer. 

Brigadier General William Terry

Brigadier General James Alexander Walker

       We left Wytheville and headed to Radford, Virginia. This grave worried me more than any other on our list. When I searched the Wharton Family Cemetery in Radford on google maps, it showed the cemetery behind a house in a subdivision. The area on the map was behind the pool in the backyard. I told Jerry that I doubted the directions I had were accurate. Jerry said he wasn't afraid to walk up and ask the people at the house if we could go through their backyard and visit the grave. Amazingly, we drove through someone's driveway, past the house and pool and right to the cemetery. There we found the grave of Brigadier General Gabriel Colvin Wharton beneath a large tree. 

Me and Ole Man with Gabriel Colvin Wharton

       We left Radford and headed for one of the better parts of our trip. Lexington, Virginia and the graves of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson among others was awaiting us. My wife began to get excited. I watched Jerry for signs of excitement, but he was busy irritating his wife Melanie. I said, "Jerry, you have driven your wife crazy." He replied, "Yeah, but I didn't have far to drive." (More on the arguments later). 
       We arrived in Lexington and visited the home of Stonewall Jackson first. We were in a hurry and didn't tour the house (besides, I'd been through it before). We got our pictures made outside and struck out for the cemetery. It was there that we got the graves of Brigadier General William Nelson Pendleton (the general that exclaimed at First Manassas while commanding artillery, "Fire low men and may God forgive their misguided souls"), Brigadier General Edwin Gray Lee (a cousin of Robert E. Lee), Brigadier General Elisha Franklin Paxton (a friend of Stonewall Jackson and also killed at Chancellorsville), and of course Lieutenant General Stonewall Jackson. We also learned that Jerry's twin brother is buried here. (More on this later).

Friday morning found Stacie and I on the front porch of Stonewall's house

Stacie and I at Stonewall's grave

Wind had blown the flags down, so I had a good excuse to climb the fence

Me and Ole man forgot our coats for this photo with Edwin Gray Lee

Elisha Franklin "Bull" Paxton

William Nelson Pendleton

       We left Stonewall Memorial Cemetery and headed north to Lee Chapel on the grounds of Washington and Lee University. It was here that Robert E. Lee served as college president until his death. He is buried beneath the chapel that he had built on campus along with his wife, his family, along with his two sons that were Confederate generals, George Washington Custis Lee and William Henry Fitzhugh Lee. It was here that Stacie got tears in her eyes as we visited the monument to Lee. We were actually walking on top of his grave as we walked around the monument. 

Me and Stacie standing where Lee's casket sat during his funeral

Me and Ole Man with Robert E. Lee

       We then headed to V.M.I. where we toured the museum. Stacie gave me a heart attack as we approached the college when she saw the cannons Jackson commanded at First Manassas called Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. She screamed and I locked up the brakes almost throwing the Ole Man through the windshield of the van. My hands shook for thirty minutes and Ole Man's hair turned a little grayer than normal. 

Jackson's artillery, the small flowers in front marks the grave of Little Sorrel his horse

       In the museum, we got to see the rain coat Stonewall was wearing when he was killed at Chancellorsville. We also saw the amputation kit used to cut off his arm. I got to pose in front of Little Sorrel which had been mounted following his death. I didn't notice anything small about Little Sorrel, it looked like a normal sized horse to me, but what do I know about horses. 

Little Sorrel

Me with Jackson's rain coat in the background

       It was at this place that I walked around a corner and found Melanie staring at painting and rolling in laughter. I walked up and asked, "Are you o.k.?" She said, "Who does that picture look just like?" I looked at the painting of Colonel Francis Henney Smith (the commandant of V.M.I. during the war) and realized he looked just like Jerry. I said, "That looks just like Ole Man." Melanie laughed and said, "And he's a Smith too." Ole Man then proceeded to pose in front of the painting of his long lost twin brother.

Jerry Smith with Francis Henney Smith

       We soon left V.M.I. and were back on the road headed to Staunton, Virginia. Jerry and Melanie were soon back to arguing as usual. (I have a theory as to why they argue so much. They like to have make up sex later at night, so they argue all day.) Here is a typical conversation as we're driving down the interstate. 

Melanie: "Tim, do you know Little Bob who lives in Russellville?"
Tim: "Never heard of him."
Melanie: "Jerry said that you knew him is why I'm asking."
Jerry: "Woman, I ain't said no such thing."
Melanie: "Yes you did."
Jerry: "Where in the world do you get this stuff. I haven't mentioned Little Bob to Tim."
Melanie: "I heard you talking to him about Little Bob."
Jerry (shaking his head): "I tell you what, that woman don't half listen."

       And the conversation continues for about another half hour. Now you know why I have so much fun with them on trips. This blog will probably take about four parts to complete and I will try to have part II on in a few days. Stay tuned....


  1. Such a trip! I confess I never dreamed there were so many veterans in the state of Virginia. I know Abingdon, VA. It is written about frequently in the history of the settlement of East TN. When we lived in NJ we drove down Hwy 81 and spent the night there. I never knew I was so close to so many good places to go. Re: General Floyd. He very well should have fretted; my great grandfather didn't have the opportunity to escape and was taken POW. He spent abt 8 months at Camp Douglas in Chicago. Your comments about Sinking Spring seems familiar. I think it is in connection with the migration of settlers in East TN as I mentioned above. Maybe the site of some kind of important conference with the Indians of the era. So many names to learn! If General Terry was good enough for Stonewall, he's good enough for me! But why do we build houses in front of cemeteries. Shocking and sad.
    Finally, who planned this? What an amazing itinerary. And what shall we say about General Robert E Lee. An officer and a gentleman. I can't wait for the next blog.

  2. Shirley, General Floyd was a big flop, but in a way I feel sorry for him. He depended on his subordinates a little too much and they failed him. He leaned heavily on General Pillow and that cost him dearly. Pillow had lots of courage until the bullets began to fly through the air.

  3. Brigadier General John Buchanan Floyd was a very greedy thief too that didn't care if your family supported Rebels or Yankee's, Even though about all our family was in active service in 22nd VA CSA he stole all our Crops, Livestock, Everything we had, He would got our only 1 horse that we had left behind but we hid it very well right before he arrived at ole home place while he was coming through Western VA, now WV during harvest time in 1862, He did everybody that way in this area no matter if family served in US or CSA, He took everything that they could grab and haul away, Family at home about starved to death during winter of 62 to 63 living off Chipmunks and anything else we could find to eat that winter. Many day Boot Soup was only thing served, True story, Very poor way to treat the elderly and children that was left behind by active servicemen at there own home place. General W.W. Averill pulled the very same trick during harvest time in 1864.
    I know army had to eat but they could left just a little bit behind for elderly & children citizens to eat and survive on, But they striped everything bare and left nothing. I guess this was prior test run type of action of war that lead directly to Sherman to use or got his idea for his march to the sea down southern states and Atlanta campaign.

  4. sorry to hear this, i see how it went, general floyd was a very low general in my opinion, more politician, and little general. write me back, please????