Wednesday, September 22, 2010

On the Town! Rangers Gentile and Hoptak.

My two favorite Park Rangers swung by the Naval History Center in Washington DC this morning.

The USS Barry, a Vietnam-era destroyer remains at the Navy Yard as a ceremonial platform and museum ship. 

The Yard has cannons everywhere and I got into a hasty arms escalation with John...

who thought he had trumped me with this sixteen-incher,

until I opted for quality and quantity.

The inside of the museum building is bright, airy, colorful, and chockfull of really cool stuff...

including some of my favorite things:

ship models,

ship models,


and more ship models.

On this cutaway model of a Sumner class destroyer, I was able to show John where I lived and worked during my time aboard the U.S.S. Dehaven in 1973-74.

And in this twin 5-inch 38 caliber gun house, 

I was able to show him where I nearly lost my life way back then, as the "hot shell man".

But he wasn't listening.  He was too busy being menaced by...

some sort of undersea robot-monster thingy.

What a fantastic museum facility.


Monday, September 20, 2010

Joseph L. Harsh: rest in peace

Grown men look foolish when they cling to the opinions they formed as nine-year-olds, yet those childish opinions, especially regarding the Civil War and the conduct of the generals involved remain in no short supply among many grown men.

The masterful scholarship of Joseph L. Harsh, a man I never met, collided with my nine-year-old notions upon my arrival at Antietam five years ago.  Reading Harsh's assessment, cool, rational, and filled with a remarkable humility, caused me to reassess my indoctrination especially as regards the abilities of George B. McClellan.

"Life is short, ambiguity is long" is a wonderful Harsh quote that should keep all historians, and history enthusiasts on their guard lest their smug allegiance to folklore cause them to end up looking like callow nine-year-olds walking around in grown men's shoes.

It's a sad loss for the craft and rigor of history, though the Antietam trilogy he left behind will serve generations of future historians who chose to listen.

Joseph L. Harsh was laid to rest last Friday September 17, in Hagerstown.  The 148th anniversary of the battle that he shed such light upon for this former nine year old boy.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Battle Anniversary: best one yet

This weekend was my fifth battle anniversary as a Ranger, and this was the one that will be the most memorable.

Friday started out with a very enthusiastic Ranger Dan (returned for the weekend) posting the many public programs operated out of the visitor's center.

Ranger Snyder kicked the day off with his outstanding power-point on battlefield preservation.  

He was preaching to a packed house.

Rangers Baracz, Snyder, and Hoptak then got the all-day hike underway from the New York monument.

They had well over a hundred happy hikers in attendance.

On Saturday I joined Ranger Baracz for the hike up Nicodemus Heights.  Initially I came along as his radioman, but he also asked me to do a brief presentation on artillery, which I'm always happy to do.

Here I'm working on my upper-body strength with a 3 inch Hotchkiss shell (clearly, a skeptical Brian thinks I've got my work cut out for me).

Then the hike got underway in ernest with about a hundred participants making the two mile trek which included Nicodemus Heights and Hauser Ridge.

The anticipation builds as the hikers climb the heights, and then turn around...

To appreciate the view Stuart's horse artillery had of the Union 1st Corps.

I led the two-hour battlefield tour and still had time to attend local historian,  Reverend John Schildt's wonderful twilight tour of the National Cemetery.

With 85 people in tow,  John told the story of the men who fought and died on September 17, 1862 with great knowledge, humility, and compassion.  It was an outstanding talk.

But the highlight of this battle anniversary, came just about a half hour before John's cemetery walk when Susan gave me the answer I was hoping for when...

I asked her to marry me.