Tag Archives: History

Battles at Bull Run

Two battles were fought at Manassas. The first in July, 1861, and the second thirteen months later in August of 1862.

I spent three days at Bull Run, walking the battlefields, researching the events and talking with park rangers and volunteers. Manassas is about the best curated of all the battlefields I visited. The National Park Service is trying to return the battlefields to the way they were when the battle occurred. That means removing trees and structures as well as planting trees and restoring or recreating structures. Manassas staff has made the most progress on these projects.

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Geekemeritus 2023 Review

Note: This report was prepared in January, 2024, but due to a “senior moment” (actually more than one), I thought I had posted it, but alas, had not. I only now discovered that.
So a little late, but here it is.

Well, it is the end of another year, one in which several long-time friends and family have died, and life has changed greatly for others. The reality of life’s brevity is finally coming to rest on me. Although I am not a fan of reliving the past, I think it is important to look at my year and revisit some of the events and savor those that were special in some way.

I covered a lot of ground in 2023 — About 10,000 miles, mostly on America’s byways. Only in the early 2000’s when I was flying between the US and UK have I traveled more. In the past 12 months, I…

  • Lived in the Airstream for 7 months
  • Spent time in 18 states and 4 Canadian provinces
  • Visited 11 Civil War battlefields
  • Camped in a World Heritage Site
  • Followed and explored the old Santa Fe Trail
  • Walked on the ocean floor
  • Climbed the Kill Devil hills
  • Camped on several American Indian reservations
  • Explored the original Manhattan Project site
  • Met many interesting people

Of all the places I visited, here is a severely limited list of stand outs.

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Some Memorial Day Thoughts

Spending Memorial Day at Fort Sumter where the Civil War began reminded me that the first celebrations of Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day occurred shortly after at the end of the War, and one of the most remarkable was here in Charleston.

Late in the war Union prisoners were held on the infield of the race track at the Charleston Jockey Club. Over 200 died during the time and were buried in a mass grave behind the grandstands.

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Camp Sumter

This is not a good place. This is Andersonville.

Between February, 1864 and the end of the Civil War Camp Sumter confined Union prisoners of war. Forty-five thousand came here, but only thirty-two thousand left. Thirteen-thousand died of malnutrition, exposure and rampant disease – a 29% death rate.

During the fourteen months Camp Sumter held prisoners, it was known as “Andersonville.”

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The Civil War


This trip has been for planned two years. It was originally set for 2021, but Covid closed all the national parks and many campgrounds, so I headed west that summer.

I had visited the Civil War “Western Front” in 2020 — along the Tennessee, Cumberland and Mississippi rivers — Forts Donelson and Henry, Shiloh, Corinth and Vicksburg. This trip will pass through the Eastern front with stops at battlefields from Savannah to Gettysburg.

A Bit of Background

My maternal grandfather was born in the summer of 1863 in Louisiana. His father, a confederate soldier, was home on a 30-day furlough in 1862, and the following summer, while great-grandfather was fighting at Vicksburg, grandfather was born.

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Canyonlands Cowboys and a Bit of Remembering

From the 1890’s to as recently as 1975 Ranchers have run cattle in Canyonlands. This is not pasture grazing – this is high desert. I imagine the cattle only survived. The cattle and the cowboys that tended them were surely tough. The cowboys lived in open air “bunkhouses” under the overhanging rock for months at a time. The black is the smoke deposits from the stove behind the bush. (No, the white box in the center is not a beer cooler!)

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Medicine Bow Wyoming

Medicine Bow is a really small town on the Lincoln Highway and the Oregon Trail, It’s history is as a bawdy town filled with bars, gunslingers and prostitutes. So much so that it inspired Owen Wister to write the novel, The Virginian, a story about western life, the Lincoln County Wars and the life of a ranch foreman he called The Virginian he placed it in Medicine Bow. I was able to gather much of Owen’s story from folks at the Medicine Bow museum. About 1884 Owen Wister suffered some sort of mental break resulting in vertigo, blinding headaches and hallucinations. His father had a friend in the “Wyoming Territory” and asked the friend if Owen could spend a summer on his ranch to recover, and all was arranged. Owen was met by the ranch foreman when he arrived on the train in Medicine Bow, and they proceeded north to the ranch somewhere near Jackson, Wyoming, a distance of maybe 200 miles. On the trip the foreman told Owen tales of the territory and the foreman’s adventures.

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Ron’s Summer 2022 Begins

Lincoln Highway Marker

I leave in the next few days for another 3-4 month trip into the great west. The only thing I know about this trip so far is I will follow the Lincoln Highway west from Iowa. If you want to follow along, there is an interactive map and a lot of information at the Lincoln Highway Association.

The Lincoln Highway was the first coast-to-coast route that started in Times Square and ended in Lincoln Park, San Francisco, passing through 14 states on the way.

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