Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Monty Meigs Masterpiece: the Pension Building

(four of the following photos weren't taken from me, but lifted off of the internet)

Two of the things that have secured Montgomery C. Meigs place in design history are the much despised 1881 U.S. Cavalry helmet...(modeled by yours truly)

and the much beloved Civil War soldiers pension building, now the National Building Museum in Washington D.C.

Designed in 1881 by Civil War Quartermaster General and later civil engineer, Montgomery C. Meigs, the Pension Building (Now the National Building Museum) is one of the  landmark buildings of our nation's capitol.

This now cherished building was originally ridiculed as Meigs' "red barn". The Red brick facade of the edifice was so at odds with the marble and alabaster of Washington DC that it was viewed by many as an eyesore.

Fortunately time, and good taste prevailed, and we are left today with a masterpiece of engineering and asthethics. The pension building is, for my money, one of the most beautiful buildings in Washington City.

The building served as the repository of all Civil War veteran's pensions claims into the 1940s and has more recently become the site of inauguaral balls, state occaisions, and now, the Smithsonian Craft shows.

Here is the Haughty Monty Meigs who delighted in confiscating the Arlington home of Robert E. Lee to inter the dead of the first Manassas on the grounds of "Mars Robert's" slaveholding.

But a closer look at Meig's very, very sad countenance provides us with a hint of his deep bitterness toward the traitorious Southland...

his much beloved son, killed in battle was a loss that devastated the general.

The bronze monument of the younger Meigs at Arlington National Cemetery is located directly behind that of his father.

Montgomery Meigs transended that loss to go on to be one of the most influential post-war generals of the United States Army. He would prevail over his own personal loss to embrace the plight of all disabled Union veterans and design for them a revolutionary records center in the nation's capitol; the pension building.

An exterior frieze wrapping around the entire building depicts a parade of Civil War military units.The frieze was designed by Bohemian-born sculptor Caspar Buberl (1834-1899). The frieze is made of terra-cotta and measures 1,200 feet long, 3 feet high.

It salutes the foot slogging infantry,

The cavalry,

the hard working artillery,
our Navy,

Meig's own Quartermaster Corps,
and the halt, lame, and wounded to whom this magnificent edifice is dedicated.

The National Building Museum ,nee,  the Pension building is one of our nation's premier treasures and I highly recommend a visit.

I think you'll like it.

Looking toward spring,

Your friend,

Ranger Mannie

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Boonsboro Fire: another historic building lost

Around 7:45 Friday morning calls were placed to local fire departments regarding the historic Boone Hotel in the heart of historic Boonsboro (1 North Main Street).

The century-old structure, owned by local novelist Nora Roberts, was undergoing extensive renovation for use as an inn.

Connecting buildings, also historic, were badly damaged.

This is a reminder of the fragile nature of the fabric of history.
Fortunately, there were no injuries.  Still the town is bereft by this loss.

Ranger Mannie

p.s. I'd add more pix but those numnutz at blogger have left me clueless as to how to do it in this new format.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Blogger torques me off yet again

I cannot figure out this whole new format that blogger has foisted upon me so unexpectedly.

Kooky artillery

This artillery demonstration must be seen to be believed!

View it with your dear old mum.

Monday, February 18, 2008

I salute the worst Civil War movie ever made

The cool thing about "Gods and Generals" is that not only is it the worst Civil War movie ever made, it's also the worst movie ever made.  Finally I've found a movie that is worse than "Adventures in Babysitting", " The Dirtbike Kid", and "Oscar"...combined!

This crazy five or six or nineteen hour slog through poor direction, Jeff Daniels' larger-than-life jowels, and slaveocracy apologia is the nearest thing to purgatory on earth, even for this non-beliver!

Do note Steven Lang's portrayal as Forest Gump in the Christmas Eve scene.

A friend loaned  this movie  to me with the caution that it's a stinker, which I was fully aware of as I viewed  half of it in the theater when it was first released (I left at intermission).

Above is my impression of  fascist Francisco Franco's salute to a really stinky piece of bogus history.

With Boo Radly in the background giving his interpretation of Robert Duvall's impression of R.E.Lee's take on reality according to director Ron Maxwell I can only exhort...
No "Last Full Measure" por favor.


(nice Spanish helmet, eh?)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

You shall know us by our name tags

Dear Ranger Wannna-bees, 

This photo illustrates a path to a seasonal Ranger job with the NPS.

To get the badge and nametag in the center, start by getting the one at the top (volunteer) and make sure you've got one at the bottom (the steady winter/spring day job) and all the others, (there will  be others) will naturally fall into place.

All those holes in your shirt will be worth it in the long run.

Keep the faith!


That Wonderful Book

Our friends over at Civil War Interactive are taking a readers poll to come up with the 50 best books on the Civil War. Go check it out here.

My vote would have to go to the classic that sparked the imagination of so many of us when we were still little:
The Golden Book of The Civil War Published in 1961 by American Heritage.

This simple (some would argue "simplistic") book with its wealth of photographs, graphics, and those wonderfully detailed battlefield map/illustrations with all the little soldiers scurrying around, captured the fancy of two and a half generations of children and propelled many of us to become lifetime learners (and teachers) on the subject of the ACW.

I still have my copy that my dad gave me in 1961, I was nine, we were going to Gettysburg, and I haven't looked back!

Reading is FUNdamental!
Ranger Mannie

Update 2/17  Oh my, do read the comments.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Me and Old Man Winter

We are coming through our second winter here in Maryland. It's a very different kettle of fish from what we were used to.

Click here for a glimpse of how we spent much of our time in Michigan.

Life in Maryland is good.



(My Michigan back yard, 2005)

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The loss of a drinking buddy

It was bound to happen, its just the completion of the great circle.

He showed up on my porch last September. A good listener, with a shared interest in 20th Century combat helmets, and Budweiser.

I wonder now if "the king of beers" may have been his undoing. Its not for me to judge. He chose his rough-and -tumble outdoor lifestyle. To call him "homeless" would have been patronizing. The outdoors was his home, and he was clearly the master of his natural domain. Most of his peers were terrified of him, and for good reason.

He was a killer, cold-blooded and instinctive, this I knew and accepted.

There was something so compelling about his poise, and athletic grace that captivated me. I was also won over by his trust in me and his acceptance of my hospitality, and oh, how we did merrily hoist more than a few steins as the evenings grew shorter.

But now, that's all in the past.

This afternoon my wife found him, or at least the mortal remains of him under an icy shroud in the bushes of our sun porch.

Had he been trying to return for one final round? Or had he simply been there, all along, unnoticed?

All is dust.

May the great hunter rest in peace.

Click here for a YouTube of he and I in happier times (then it'll all make sense).



Terrain and Perspective at Antietam

In the Ranger-led tours, hikes, and other programs at Antietam, a special emphasis is placed on the role of terrain in battle and in this battle in particular. We direct visitors' attention to the subtle folds in the landscape that made maneuver, communication, and observation so difficult and confusing during the battle.

While driving in to the park recently, I had more of a macro view of the lay of the land around the battlefield as illustrated by the pictures below:

As you approach the battlefield along the Boonsboro/Shepherdstown Pike, just as you get to the intersection of the Porterstown Road this distinctive red barn comes into view. Note that it towers over the road as you descend toward Antietam Creek.

That barn seems to be a particularly high elevation, and is very near the positions of the Union long-range guns on the day of the battle.

But here's that same barn as seen from the patio of the Visitor Center,

Note that from this position we're looking down at that once towering barn.

Living in 3-D, just north of Sharpsburg,

Ranger Mannie

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Another piece in my patch-work career

Hey, check it out:

I'm now an official tour guide for the Western Maryland Interpretive Association, the latest link in this new career of mine.

The tour program is in its second year and is really developing a critical mass. We've about a dozen guides, and we're staying pretty busy during the tourist season. Click HERE to find out about booking tours at Antietam.

Today I gave a tour of Harpers Ferry and Antietam to a group of 40 high-schoolers from Manhattan Beach California.

Here's a shot of Harpers Ferry on Saturday when I went to scout out logistics.

What a pleasant day it was.

This was Harpers Ferry this morning as I guided those forty kids from sunny Southern California through town,

Welcome to the sunny south, kids!

Fortunately they were all very good sports. Conditions at Harpers Ferry were pretty frigid, so we pulled the plug early, got back on the warm bus and headed for lunch and Antietam (between snowball fights).

At Antietam I gave them a 30 minute program in the warmth of the observation room and then we toured the battlefield in the toasty motorcoach while I gave commentary over the microphone.

Of course I just had to have them get out one last time for...

and they seemed to think the view was indeed worth the chill.

It was a fun day for all of us (and a pay check for me).

Here's one last glimpse of a very pretty Harpers Ferry:

At your service,

tour guide Mannie

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Antietam National Battlefield: behind the scenes

Everybody likes "behind the scenes" glimpses of their favorite places.

For all the years that I'd stop by the visitor center at Antietam National Battlefield, I'd see this door as I walked to the theater.

I'd think; "What wonders lay beyond this portal? cannon projectiles, uniforms undergoing restoration, lost orders, the sidearms of underrated generals?

Now, as a ranger, the ultimate insider, I can reveal to you what lies behind that door of wonder:

Secrets continue to be revealed, just north of Sharpsburg.

Ranger Mannie

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Back to Piper Lane

Last Sunday was a warm and clear day at the park. I found myself with a little time on my hands so volunteer John and I hopped in the park station wagon to explore the Piper Lane.

Piper Lane at Antietam National Battlefield runs parallel to the Sunken Road, one quarter mile to the SOUTH (thanks for catching that HankC).

Walking the lane you get the feeling that yours are the only boots that have trod this lane in generations.

(photo courtesy John Nicholas)

Piper Lane is slated for some restoration work, which I can only assume means removing fallen branches and replacing fences, otherwise it seems pretty untouched.

The lane affords great vistas including the heights above the Sunken Road to the north...
as well as the ever-reliable observation tower.

It is a wonderful and evocative place; and it's all yours, just north of Sharpsburg.

Come see for yourself!

Ranger Mannie

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Making ends meet

Tomorrow I have a substitute teaching job as an educational aide for a third grade boy with cerebral palsy. The job includes heavy lifting...specifically "transfer and toileting". I've worked with him before, he's a good kid. Some things keep you humble.

Whatever it takes to stay a ranger, Dirk Kempthorn, are you listening?


Ghost Park; part 2 the road to Burnside Bridge

Just outside of Sharpsburg is the trace of the road that used to go from Rohersville to Sharpsburg, across what is now known as Burnside Bridge.

You've got to know where to look.

I love this place!

Ranger Mannie