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The flight arrived on time; and the twelve hours while on board passed quickly and without incident. To be sure, the quality of the Cathay Pacific service was exemplary once again.

Heathrow reminds me of Newark International. The décor comes straight out of the sterile 80’s and is less an eyesore than an insipid background to the rhythm of human activity, such hustle and bustle, at the fore. There certainly are faces from all races present, creating a rich mosaic of humanity which is refreshing if not completely revitalizing after swimming for so long in a sea of Chinese faces in Hong Kong.

Internet access is sealed in England, it seems. Nothing is free; everything is egregiously monetized from the wireless hotspots down to the desktop terminals. I guess Hong Kong has spoiled me with its abundant, free access to the information superhighway.

Despite staying in a room with five other backpackers, I have been sleeping well. The mattress and pillow are firm; my earplugs keep the noise out; and the sleeping quarters are as dark as a cave when the lights are out, and only as bright as, perhaps, a dreary rainy day when on. All in all, St. Paul’s is a excellent place to stay for the gregarious, adventurous, and penurious city explorer – couchsurfing may be a tenable alternative; I’ll test for next time.

Yesterday Connie and I gorged ourselves at the borough market where there were all sorts of delectable, savory victuals. There was definitely a European flavor to the food fair: simmering sausages were to be found everywhere; and much as the meat was plentiful, and genuine, so were the dairy delicacies, in the form of myriad rounds of cheese, stacked high behind checkered tabletops. Of course, we washed these tasty morsels down with copious amounts of alcohol that flowed from cups as though amber waterfalls. For the first time I tried mulled wine, which tasted like warm, rancid fruit punch – the ideal tonic for a drizzling London day, I suppose. We later killed the afternoon at the pub, shooting the breeze while imbibing several diminutive half-pints in the process. Getting smashed at four in the afternoon doesn’t seem like such a bad thing anymore, especially when you are having fun in the company of friends; I can more appreciate why the English do it so much!

Earlier in the day, we visited the Tate Modern. Its turbine room lived up to its prominent billing what with a giant spider, complete with bulbous egg sac, anchoring the retrospective exhibit. The permanent galleries, too, were a delight upon which to feast one’s eyes. Picasso, Warhol and Pollock ruled the chambers of the upper floors with the products of their lithe wrists; and I ended up becoming a huge fan of cubism, while developing a disdain for abstract art and its vacuous images, which, I feel, are devoid of both motivation and emotion.

My first trip yesterday morning was to Emirates Stadium, home of the Arsenal Gunners. It towers imperiously over the surrounding neighborhood; yet for all its majesty, the place sure was quiet! Business did pick up later, however, once the armory shop opened, and dozens of fans descended on it like bees to a hive. I, too, swooped in on a gift-buying mission, and wound up purchasing a book for Godfrey, a scarf for a student, and a jersey – on sale, of course – for good measure.

I’m sitting in the Westminster Abbey Museum now, resting my weary legs and burdened back. So far, I’ve been verily impressed with what I’ve seen, such a confluence of splendor and history before me that it would require days to absorb it all, when regretfully I can spare only a few hours. My favorite part of the abbey is the poets corner where no less a literary luminary than Samuel Johnson rests in peace – his bust confirms his homely presence, which was so vividly captured in his biography.

For lunch I had a steak and ale pie, served with mash, taken alongside a Guinness, extra cold – 2 degrees centigrade colder, the bartender explained. It went down well, like all the other delicious meals I’ve had in England; and no doubt by now I have grown accustomed to inebriation at half past two. Besides, Liverpool were playing inspired football against Blackburn; and my lunch was complete.

Having had my fill of football, I decided to skip my ticket scalping endeavor at Stamford Bridge and instead wandered over to the British Museum to inspect their extensive collections. Along the way, my eye caught a theater, its doors wide open and admitting customers. With much rapidity, I subsequently checked the show times, saw that a performance was set to begin, and at last rushed to the box office to purchase a discounted ticket – if you call a 40 pound ticket a deal, that is. That’s how I grabbed a seat to watch Hairspray in the West End.

The show was worth forty pounds. The music was addictive; and the stage design and effects were not so much kitschy as delightfully stimulating – the pulsating background lights were at once scintillating and penetrating. The actors as well were vivacious, oozing charisma while they danced and delivered lines dripping in humor. Hairspray is a quality production and most definitely recommended.

At breakfast I sat across from a man who asked me to which country Hong Kong had been returned – China or Japan. That was pretty funny. Then he started spitting on my food as he spoke, completely oblivious to my breakfast becoming the receptacle in which the fruit of his inner churl was being placed. I guess I understand the convention nowadays of covering one’s mouth whilst speaking and masticating at the same time!

We actually conversed on London life in general, and I praised London for its racial integration, the act of which is a prodigious leap of faith for any society, trying to be inclusive, accepting all sorts of people. It wasn’t as though the Brits were trying in vain to be all things to all men, using Spanish with the visitors from Spain, German with the Germans and, even, Hindi with the Indians, regardless of whether or not Hindi was their native language; not even considering the absurd idea of encouraging the international adoption of their language; thereby completely keeping English in English hands and allowing its proud polyglots to "practice" their languages. Indeed, the attempt of the Londoners to avail themselves of the rich mosaic of ethnic knowledge, and to seek a common understanding with a ubiquitous English accent is an exemplar, and the bedrock for any world city.

I celebrated Jesus’ resurrection at the St. Andrew’s Street Church in Cambridge. The parishioners of this Baptist church were warm and affable, and I met several of them, including one visiting (Halliday) linguistics scholar from Zhongshan university in Guangzhou, who in fact had visited my tiny City University of Hong Kong in 2003. The service itself was more traditional and the believers fewer in number than the "progressive" services at any of the charismatic, evangelical churches in HK; yet that’s what makes this part of the body of Christ unique; besides, the message was as brief as a powerpoint slide, and informative no less; the power word which spoke into my life being a question from John 21:22 – what is that to you?

Big trees; exquisite lawns; and old, pointy colleges; that’s Cambridge in a nutshell. Sitting here, sipping on a half-pint of Woodforde’s Wherry, I’ve had a leisurely, if not languorous, day so far; my sole duty consisting of walking around while absorbing the verdant environment as though a sponge, camera in tow.

I am back at the sublime beer, savoring a pint of Sharp’s DoomBar before my fish and chips arrive; the drinking age is 18, but anyone whose visage even hints of youthful brilliance is likely to get carded these days, the bartender told me. The youth drinking culture here is almost as twisted as the university drinking culture in America.

My stay in Cambridge, relaxing and desultory as it may be, is about to end after this late lunch. I an not sure if there is anything left to see, save for the American graveyard which rests an impossible two miles away. I have had a wonderful time in this town; and am thankful for the access into its living history – the residents here must demonstrate remarkable patience and tolerance what with so many tourists ambling on the streets, peering – and photographing – into every nook and cranny.

There are no rubbish bins, yet I’ve seen on the streets many mixed race couples in which the men tend to be white – the women also belonging to a light colored ethnicity, usually some sort of Asian; as well saw some black dudes and Indian dudes with white chicks.

People here hold doors, even at the entrance to the toilet. Sometimes it appears as though they are going out on a limb, just waiting for the one who will take the responsibility for the door from them, at which point I rush out to relieve them of such a fortuitous burden.

I visited the British Museum this morning. The two hours I spent there did neither myself nor the exhibits any justice because there really is too much to survey, enough captivating stuff to last an entire day, I think. The bottomless well of artifacts from antiquity, drawing from sources as diverse as Korea, and Mesopotamia, is a credit to the British empire, without whose looting most of this amazing booty would be unavailable for our purview; better, I think, for these priceless treasures to be open to all in the grandest supermarket of history than away from human eyes, and worst yet, in the hands of unscrupulous collectors or in the rubbish bin, possibly.

Irene and I took in the ballet Giselle at The Royal Opera House in the afternoon. The building is a plush marvel, and a testament to this city’s love for the arts. The ballet itself was satisfying, the first half being superior to the second, in which the nimble dancers demonstrated their phenomenal dexterity in, of all places, a graveyard covered in a cloak of smoke and darkness. I admit, their dance of the dead, in such a gloomy necropolis, did strike me as, strange.

Two amicable ladies from Kent convinced me to visit their hometown tomorrow, where, they told me, the authentic, "working" Leeds Castle and the mighty interesting home of Charles Darwin await.

I’m nursing a pint of Green King Ruddles and wondering about the profusion of British ales and lagers; the British have done a great deed for the world by creating an interminable line of low-alcohol session beers that can be enjoyed at breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner; and their disservice is this: besides this inexhaustible supply of cheap beer ensnaring my inner alcoholic, I feel myself putting on my freshman fifteen, almost ten years after the fact; I am going to have to run a bit harder back in Hong Kong if I want to burn all this malty fuel off.

Irene suggested I stop by the National Art Gallery since we were in the area; and it was an hour well spent. The gallery currently presents a special exhibit on Picasso, the non-ticketed section of which features several seductive renderings, including David spying on Bathsheba – repeated in clever variants – and parodies of other masters’ works. Furthermore, the main gallery houses two fabulous portraits by Joshua Reynolds, who happens to be favorite of mine, he in life being a close friend of Samuel Johnson – I passed by Boswells, where its namesake first met Johnson, on my way to the opera house.

I prayed last night, and went through my list, lifting everyone on it up to the Lord. That felt good; that God is alive now, and ever present in my life and in the lives of my brothers and sisters.

Doubtless, then, I have felt quite wistful, as though a specter in the land of the living, being in a place where religious fervor, it seems, is a thing of the past, a trifling for many, to be hidden away in the opaque corners of centuries-old cathedrals that are more expensive tourist destinations than liberating homes of worship these days. Indeed, I have yet to see anyone pray, outside of the Easter service which I attended in Cambridge – for such an ecstatic moment in verily a grand church, would you believe that it was only attended by at most three dozen spirited ones. The people of England, and Europe in general, have, it is my hope, only locked away the Word, relegating it to the quiet vault of their hearts. May it be taken out in the sudden pause before mealtimes and in the still crisp mornings and cool, silent nights. There is still hope for a revival in this place, for faith to rise like that splendid sun every morning. God would love to rescue them, to deliver them in this day, it is certain.

I wonder what Londoners think, if anything at all, about their police state which, like a vine in the shadows, has taken root in all corners of daily life, from the terrorist notifications in the underground, which implore Londoners to report all things suspicious, to the pair of dogs which eagerly stroll through Euston. What makes this all the more incredible is the fact that even the United States, the indomitable nemesis of the fledgling, rebel order, doesn’t dare bombard its citizens with such fear mongering these days, especially with Obama in office; maybe we’ve grown wise in these past few years to the dubious returns of surrendering civil liberties to the state, of having our bags checked everywhere – London Eye; Hairspray; and The Royal Opera House check bags in London while the museums do not; somehow, that doesn’t add up for me.

I’m in a majestic bookshop on New Street in Birmingham, and certainly to confirm my suspicions, there are just as many books on the death of Christianity in Britain as there are books which attempt to murder Christianity everywhere. I did find, however, a nice biography on John Wesley by Roy Hattersley and The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. I may pick up the former.

Lunch with Sally was pleasant and mirthful. We dined at a French restaurant nearby New Street – yes, Birmingham is a cultural capitol! Sally and I both tried their omelette, while her boyfriend had the fish, without chips. Conversation was light, the levity was there and so was our reminiscing about those fleeting moments during our first year in Hong Kong; it is amazing how friendships can resume so suddenly with a smile. On their recommendation, I am on my way to Warwick Castle – they also suggested that I visit Cadbury World, but they cannot take on additional visitors at the moment, the tourist office staff informed me, much to my disappointment!

Visiting Warwick Castle really made for a great day out. The castle, parts of which were established by William the Conquerer in 1068, is as much a kitschy tourist trap as a meticulous preservation of history, at times a sillier version of Ocean Park while at others a dignified dedication to a most glorious, inexorably English past. The castle caters to all visitors; and not surprisingly, that which delighted all audiences was a giant trebuchet siege engine, which for the five p.m. performance hurled a fireball high and far into the air – fantastic! Taliban beware!

I’m leaving on a jet plane this evening; don’t know when I’ll be back in England again. I’ll miss this quirky, yet endearing place; and that I shall miss Irene and Tom who so generously welcomed me into their home, fed me, and suffered my use of their toilet and shower goes without saying. I’m grateful for God’s many blessings on this trip.

On the itinerary today is a trip to John Wesley’s home, followed by a visit to the Imperial War Museum. Already this morning I picked up a tube of Oilatum, a week late perhaps, which Teri recommended I use to treat this obstinate, dermal weakness of mine – I’m happy to report that my skin has stopped crying.

John Wesley’s home is alive and well. Services are still held in the chapel everyday; and its crypt, so far from being a cellar for the dead, is a bright, spacious museum in which all things Wesley are on display – I never realized how much of an iconic figure he became in England; at the height of this idol frenzy, ironic in itself, he must have been as popular as the Beatles were at their apex. The house itself is a multi-story edifice with narrow, precipitous staircases and spacious rooms decorated in an 18th century fashion.

I found Samuel Johnson’s house within a maze of red brick hidden alongside Fleet Street. To be in the home of the man who wrote the English dictionary, and whose indefatigable love for obscure words became the inspiration for my own lexical obsession, this, by far, is the climax of my visit to England! The best certainly has been saved for last.

There are a multitude of portraits hanging around the house like ornaments on a tree. Every likeness has its own story, meticulously retold on the crib sheets in each room. Celebrities abound, including David Garrick and Sir Joshua Reynolds, who painted several of the finer images in the house. I have developed a particular affinity for Oliver Goldsmith, of whom Boswell writes, "His person was short, his countenance coarse and vulgar, his deportment that of a scholar awkwardly affecting the easy gentleman. It appears as though I, too, could use a more flattering description of myself!

I regretfully couldn’t stop to try the curry in England; I guess the CityU canteen’s take on the dish will have to do. I did, however, have the opportune task of flirting with the cute Cathay Pacific counter staff who checked me in. She was gorgeous in red, light powder on her cheeks, with real diamond earrings, she said; and her small, delicate face, commanded by a posh British accent rendered her positively irresistible, electrifying. Not only did she grant me an aisle seat but she had the gumption to return my fawning with zest; she must be a pro at this by now.

I saw her again as she was pulling double-duty, collecting tickets prior to boarding. She remembered my quest for curry; and in the fog of infatuation, where nary a man has been made, I fumbled my words like the sloppy kid who has had too much punch. I am just an amateur, alas, an "Oliver Goldsmith" with the ladies – I got no game – booyah!

Some final, consequential bits: because of the chavs, Burberry no longer sells those fashionable baseball caps; because of the IRA, rubbish bins are no longer a commodity on the streets of London, and as a result, the streets and the Underground of the city are a soiled mess; and because of other terrorists from distant, more arid lands, going through a Western airport has taken on the tedium of perfunctory procedure that doesn’t make me feel any safer from my invisible enemies.

At last, I saw so many Indians working at Heathrow that I could have easily mistaken the place for Mumbai. Their presence surprised me because their portion of the general population surely must be less than their portion of Heathrow staff, indicating some mysterious hiring bias. Regardless, they do a superb job with cursory airport checks, and in general are absurdly funny and witty when not tactless.

That’s all for England!

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C&O Canal – A Tenuous Pawn (2) With Author Timothy R. Snyder by Jim Surkamp
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C&O Canal – A Tenuous Pawn (2) With Author Timothy R. Snyder by Jim Surkamp
TRT: 19:16

Made possible with the generous support of American Public University System, providing an affordable, quality, online education. The video and post do not reflect any modern-day policies or positions of American Public University System, and their content is intended to encourage discussion and better understanding of the past. More . . .


The Burning Boats 1861-1865 Pt. 2 With Author Timothy R. Snyder


We learn that upwards of one hundred boats lying at Williamsport and other points below and above, which have been prevented from passing down with their freight by the rebel troops at Harper’s Ferry; consequently all business upon the Canal has been suspended, and thousands directly and indirectly interested in its trade and commerce thrown out of employment. – Herald Torch Light, June 5, 1861.


In late May, 1861, Thomas Jonathan Jackson was replaced in command of Harper’s Ferry by Joseph E. Johnston. Confederates probably wanted a calmer head, an older man, a wiser man. Jackson had engaged in a bunch of provocative acts at a time when the Confederates were trying to woo Maryland to their cause. Ironically, just as Johnston took command, just a week earlier or so, the Maryland General Assembly adjourned. They took no steps towards secession, and then Union troops invaded northern Virginia, opposite Washington, D.C. on May 28th, occupying Alexandria, Arlington – the high ground opposite Washington, D.C. As a result, Johnston will have a free reign. It’s evident a shooting war is on. Maryland was taking no immediate steps towards secession. So Johnston then would take steps to destroy both the B and O railroad and the C&O canal, prior to his evacuating Harper’s Ferry. His troops attack the canal opposite Harper’s Ferry and burned over twenty-five canal boats and damaged a couple of locks. He also sent parties out to attempt to breach Dams No. 4 and 5 near Williamsport. They were unsuccessful, but these were first attempts to attack those dams.


Information reached here that an attempt was made by the Virginia rebels, on Saturday (June 9) and Sunday (June 10) nights last, to destroy Dams No. 4 and 5 on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. At No. 5 they were met by the brave Guards of Clear Spring, who, after considerable skirmishing, succeeded in repulsing them, killing one of their men. The rebels endeavored to blow up the dam by means of a blast, for which purpose they had procured four kegs of powder, but were driven off before they were able to injure it. At Dam No. 4 some damage was done to the Canal, but we learn none to the Dam itself. It is clearly the duty of every loyal citizen in the county to rally to the defence and protection of the property of the Canal Company. – The Herald of Freedom and Torch Light, June 12, 1861.


During that attack on the Dams, Redmond Burke, an Irishman who later became a bushwhacker and courier for Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart and was killed in 1862 by Federal troops in Shepherdstown – he was every night, using a dark lantern was visiting Dam No. 4 with two of his sons and they worked at drilling for dynamite holes in the rockbed beneath the Dam, a Dam he once built with others. – Philadelphia Public Ledger June 14, 1861. Most people are more aware of Jackson’s later attempts to disable the dams in December of 1861. After the Confederates evacuated, canal traffic was resumed in late August, 1861. They did try to harass canal traffic.


In fact, Turner Ashby, the Confederate cavalryman, rode to Richmond, offering to lead an expedition to break the canal. And a staff officer in Richmond wrote that it as "a cherished object” of the Confederate government for the B andO railroad and the C&O canal both to have been severed or disabled. Monday-Wednesday – September 9-11, 1861: Shepherdstown/Bridgeport Lock No. 38.


Confederaate cavalryman Harry Gilmore wrote: While encamped near Morgan’s Spring, parties, of which I was generally one, would be sent frequently to the Potomac for the purpose of blockading the canal on the Maryland side, by which immense supplies of coal and provisions were brought to the capital. We would go down before daylight, conceal ourselves behind rocks or trees, or in some small building, and, when the sun was up, not a soldier or boat could pass without our taking a crack at them, and generally with effect, for we were all good shots. We became a perfect pest to them, and many an effort was made in vain to dislodge us; but wo could not be found, for every day we were in a new spot, miles apart. Friday-Sunday – September 13-15, 1861: Shepherdstown, Va.


A Brisk Skirmish — We learn that a spirited skirmish took place on Friday last (Sept. 13), between the rebels at Shepherdstown, and the Federal troops stationed opposite the town on the Maryland side. The troops fired at each other across the river first with small arms, and then with cannon. When the rebels commenced firing with a cannon, our troops procured two old six pounders from Sharpsburg, and planted them on the borders of the river, and returned the fire with vigor, sending balls and other missiles into the town, which soon put the enemy to flight, and terminated the engagement. On our side a tow boy on the canal was killed, but none of the troops were hurt; on theirs it is believed that several were killed and wounded. – The Herald of Freedom and Torch Light, September 18, 1861.


Major J. Parker Gould of the 13th Massachusetts in Sharpsburg wrote: There was a skirmish yesterday at Shepherdstown between the rebels and our troops. A canal-boat was passing at the time and 1 boatman was mortally wounded. The Confederates seem to know our weakness in numbers, and are becoming saucy.


There was a serious flood in November that put the canal out of commission; but in December, canal boats began to move again toward Cumberland. Reports were coming that eighty-seven boats had cleared Cumberland and carried 7,613 tons of coal, 633 tons of lumber, cord wood, cooperage, eighty tons of hay and oats –


all heading to Harpers Ferry and Sandy Hook where at least half of that overall load would be loaded on eastbound Baltimore and Ohio cars. And those emptied cars would be heading back up to Cumberland imminently.


"Stonewall" Jackson, by this time his name is "Stonewall," (he earned that name at First Manassas, First Bull Run), by this time his headquarters was at Winchester and he sent a number of expeditions to the north to disable Dam No. 5 and wanted to disable Dam No. 4. While the destruction of both dams was important to the Confederates,


Dam No. 5 was Jackson’s first choice. Why? Both dams were built logged-cribbed and rock-filled in the 1830s. Dam No. 4’s leakiness had been fixed with new masonry by the spring of 1861. But Dam No. 5 was, not only still leaking and prone to sabotage, but it was just that much


further up river away from Federal General Banks’ men further east in Frederick, Maryland. Friday – December 6, 1861: Dam No. 5. Saturday-Monday – December 7-9, 1861: Dam No. 5. The first one was in the first week of December against Dam No. 5. It was led by Turner Ashby, All of them were a failure.


The Union troops were strongly posted and, of course, they had the icy Potomac River between them. Working conditions were difficult. The Confederates tried to divert water around the Virginia end of the dam. They also tried to cut the wooden cribbing of the dam on the Virginia side of the dam. But the strongly posted Union sharpshooters prevented them from inflicting any damage. Saturday-Sunday – December 7 thru -8 – Federal


Col. Samuel Leonard Turns the Tables: Confederate Major Elisha Franklin Paxton of the 27th Va., who arrived at Dam No. 5 on the Virginia side near dusk that Saturday, December 7th, seemed to have his work of dam destruction well under control. With arms fire for cover, for 5 hours his men worked at destroying the Dam in the ice cold water. Col. Samuel Leonard of the 13th Massachusetts saw that his men, armed with short-range smoothbores at Dam No. 5 couldn’t withstand the onslaught from Confederate Rockbridge Artillery Captain William McLaughlin’s six gun battery and the fire of 600 better armed regulars firing from the Virginia side. So Col. Leonard gave new orders, using the nighttime to change things. He replaced the company with another company from Williamsport that had much better Enfield rifled muskets. Leonard switched two companies sending the C company with shorter-range smoothbore rifles from Dam No. 5 to No. 4 and replacing them with Company G at the besieged Dam No. 5. William McLaughlin’s Rockbridge Artillery began early the next morning – Sunday, December 8th – this time, firing boldly right from the brink of the river. But they became surprised to face a barrage of fire that was much more lethal than the day before. They were driven back and after dark they snuck back to retrieve their pieces.


Confederate Paxton, supervising the assault, wrote later: At daybreak Sunday morning our cannon opened fire upon them again, but they were so sheltered in the canal from which in the meantime they had drawn off the water that it was found impossible to dislodge them. As my workmen could not be protected against the enemy’s fire, I found it necessary to abandon the enterprise.


Charles E. Davis of the 13th Massachusetts remembered the vast difference bertween the Enfield rifled muskets and the smoothbores: Prior to our arrival, this part of the river was protected by troops supplied with the old smooth-bore musket of a very antiquated pattern, with too little power to carry a bullet across the river, so that they were a


constant source of ridicule by the enemy, who were much better armed, and who amused themselves by coming down to the river daily, and placing the thumb of the right hand to the nose, and the thumb of the left hand to the little finger of the right hand,


would make rapid motions with the fingers, to the great exasperation of the Union men, who were powerless to prevent it. After we were placed there with our Enfield rifles, there was less time spent in arranging their fingers, and more in the use of their feet. Late that Sunday, December 8th,

Harry Gilmore and his friend, Welch, try to recover Confederate pieces near the shore.


The enemy were all concealed behind the rip-rap walls of the canal, and impossible to shell them out. Our men were prevented from limbering and carrying off our pieces by a very hot fire of musketry from the enemy on the other bank; and, when two or three men had been wounded, Colonel Ashby rode up, and told Captain McLaughlin that the guns must be brought away, and also the horses of a lieutenant and sergeant tied near them; but not a man of the battery would volunteer to go after them. I proposed to Welch that we should procure the horses. He agreed, and, without saying a word to anyone, we tied our horses behind the cliff; and crawled to within two hundred yards of the horses and guns, when the enemy opened on us a brisk fire from the canal. Without stopping, we made a dash for the horses, and never probably before were halters unloosed in so short a time. This done, we leaped on them and fled, lying flat on their necks.


The leaden hail was all around us, but we soon got out of range, and, vaulting on our own, we led the recovered horses back, very much to the amusement of the colonel and the chagrin of the lieutenant and sergeant, when we said, "Gentlemen, here are your horses. Don’t get them into such a tight place again." Welch and I then offered to take our company and bring off the guns; but Captain McLaughlin would not consent, bringing them away himself after night. Soon after Welch and I had recovered the horses, I was lying down in a field, under cover of a knoll, my horse browsing in the bottom, when Colonel Ashby came and informed me that Captain Moore, of the 2d Virginia Infantry, was in a very precarious position in a large mill, and he wished me to take a message to him, which must be done on foot. I took the message and started on this dangerous mission, being obliged, for five hundred yards, to cross in full view of the enemy on the other side of the river. Of course I was in a great hurry to accomplish my task; and, as soon as I got within range of their muskets, I started at full speed across the flat, the balls flying around, and cutting up the sod in a lively manner. Three or four times I halted, and found refuge behind piles of friendly rocks or trees to take breath. At last I reached the mill in safety, and delivered the message, I returned in greater fear than ever, lest I might receive a wound in the back , a soldier’s dread; but I reported all safe to Colonel Ashby, and was fully repaid, by his kind thanks and complimentary speeches.

The storm that night was terrific, and the men suffered awfully from cold. One of our


officers had a flagon of whisky, and, under the pressing necessities of the case, I stole it from his ambulance and divided it among the field officers. Next morning the officer was in a towering rage about it. A Confederate team crept down to the dam,


gathered at its southern abutment with the idea of digging a ditch around the southern end of the dam, so the flowing water would undermine the dam, causing it to collapse. The dam didn’t collapse because the water level dropped quickly after their work, reducing the diverted stream to a trickle.


During the second attempt, it was actually at Dam No. 4, again led by Ashby during the second week of December, it was a failure as well. Wednesday – December 11, 1861: Dam No. 4 (north of Shepherdstown, Va.} Initially the Confederates were spied opposite Dam No. 4. They disappeared. The 12th Indiana, who was on duty there at Dam No. 4, sent a party of men across to see if the Confederates had,indeed, left. They were captured, as the most significant thing that occurred there. That precipitated a sharp exchange, but no damage was done to the canal.


The third attempt was the one that Jackson attended in person. It was during the third week of December for about five days. The Confederates were opposite, arrayed from Falling Waters to Little Georgetown. They made threats and demonstrations as if they were going to cross the river at Falling Waters, where their main intention was to try to breach Dam No. 5.


Tuesday – Dec. 17 – Confederate Captain Raleigh T. Colston of Berkeley County led a team onto Dam No. 5

after dark, and through the night hacked away at

the log cribbing in the middle of the dam.


The rubble held by the log cribs was piled up on the dam so that by morning of the 18th the piled rubble atop the still-standing dam was a breastworks shielding them from Federals gunfire. At daybreak the Federals discovered the breastworks.


Massachusetts soldiers went down river and found a location from which they could bring fire upon the workers and soon drove the southerners from the dam and into the millhouse. For cover Charlestown-born


artillerist Roger Preston Chew’s two artillery pieces had been shelling a brick house on the Maryland side, where the shooting was coming from. But on December 19th, Wednesday,


Battery E of the 1st Pennsylvania Artillery answered with two ten pound parrotts forcing Chew to take cover fifty yards to their right.


Lt. William Thomas Poague of the Confederate Rockbridge Artillery remembered seeing Chew and others shrunk behind a large tree with shells flying by, to the left and to the right. Finally, on the last day, I think it was December 20th, the last day of the expedition, Jackson, in the words of one of his officers, "Yankee’d the Yankees," meaning that he had tricked them. He had boats made to potentially cross the river in a full view of the Union troops at Dam No. 5. He sent them up river toward Little Georgetown. The Union troops were sure that he was going to cross there. Threats had been made the previous day. So they all followed and apparently left the work party with an evening to work on the dam without being fired upon. They heard timber breaking and soon the dam had been breached and (they) left. The very next day the Union Gen. Banks reports that canal


boats are still traveling in both directions. Jackson sent one more, small expedition back to Dam No. 5. They spent two nights at the dam – January 1st and January 2nd; and one of their men in charge there wrote that they spent two additional nights widening the breach.

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