A story from the road for your reading enjoyment. This is a submission that took me a little time to get here for you. A short story about a story from the past between a man and his relationship with the past–and so much more. Enjoy my fellows!
I’m a lucky guy. So are you. You can make your life whatever you want it to be, stop your sniveling and make your dreams come true. The following story is true. Motorcycle adventures are the best and there is never a need to embellish or change names. Just go out and do it.
“This is the end”
Hey, after you’ve done the big three, everything else in between, and motorcycled all over the world; it’s time to try something different. So I closed my eyes and put all my thoughts together to combine my love of motorcycling touring, photography and civil war history into one epic journey. The plan was set; I would be in Gettysburg on July 3, 2013 at Pickett’s charge at 2 P.M. exactly 150 years after the actual event. I hoped to cross those sacred fields and feel what it was like to charge the cannons in sweltering heat wearing a wool uniform and crossing the stone wall at the angle. I could just ride there and walk the fields as I had done previously carrying the stars and bars on a PVC pipe that I had bought at a Pennsylvania Home Depot. But the devil is in the details and my quest to make my 5 week ‘Civilwargasm’ come true began a year before with much meticulous planning.
There’s a lot to plan. What bike to take, buying the right uniform, gun, sword, stops to make and what to name the trip and a thousand and one other small details to go back in time to 1863. The idea for the trip name; Civilwargasm came from reading a highly recommended civil war read called “Confederates in the Attic” by Tony Horwitz. In chapter ten (easily found on the internet) he embarked on a one week civil wargasm with famed civil war reenactor Robert Lee Hodge. They spent seven days putting as much civil war history as they could fit in their schedule. So I stole the name and planned on jamming as much civil war history in five weeks as time would allow. I have been a student of the civil war and have read dozens of books and visited so many sacred battlefields but planned on adding dozens to my bucket list. So the name was chosen and I pulled out my favorite AAA maps and started to sketch the trip out. Weather would change my plans (dying in an Oklahoma tornado on the interstate is a little different than rain). So the next step was my uniform.
If you have never been to a Civil War reenactment, go. History comes to life and you don’t need to use your imagination because it is in 3D; right before your eyes. They didn’t wear black leather in 1863 so I searched companies and had a catalog sent to me from Fall Creek Suttlery in Lebanon, Indiana. I studied the catalog and planned to stop there on a motorcycle trip in the fall of 2012. I slept in Indianapolis and made the 27 mile trek up interstate 65 in the pouring rain and found their small retail store. I stripped out of my rain soaked clothes and began to buy my gear. I found my cavalry boots, sword, and bummer hat. And then I had to decide on a gun; would I buy a functional black powder replica or a non firing replica? Eventually I choose a Colt 1851 Navy revolver, non-firing replica as I knew that law enforcement was in my future and I didn’t want to lose the piece. It came time to choose my uniform and they pulled out a thick catalog of Northern and Southern uniforms. The choice of the southern grey was easy–if you have to ask; you wouldn’t understand. The north had standard issued uniforms but the south had no such regulations. Officers designed their own uniforms and the enlisted men wore whatever they could find and often had to harvest clothing off dead soldiers, especially shoes. Each general had a page in this catalog and when it came time to choose; I chose: Nathan Bedford Forrest; the Wizard of the saddle. He was a pre-war slave trader who joined the confederate army as a private and rose to the rank of Major General with no formal military training. He had 29 horses shot from under him, was wounded four times and killed or seriously wounded thirty men in hand to hand combat. This guy was one bad hombre. The bolts of wool for the southern uniforms are surprisingly blue and even though they took measurements the jacket had to be altered before the gasm began. My wife still calls it a costume. She asked with on snicker on her lips why I choose to be a general instead of a dirt poor farmer. I replied that the job was open and it’s my fantasy. It took a while to break my uniform in, get used to and years later I still wear my uniform proudly for Civil War days in Yuma, Arizona.
So many bikes, so little time. General Lee had Traveler, Stonewall Jackson rode little Sorrell, I rode the General; my nine year old, black and orange Harley 103 CVO. I bought a leather bib for the front fairing and started designing my war flag. Civil war flags were the heart of every regiment and men died carrying the flag and never letting it hit the ground or be captured. During the war regiments had the battles they fought it embroiled on their flags. These were called battle honors. I spent hours designing the bib with twenty battle honors embroidered on it as well as the stars and bars. It was a challenge to embroider the battle names with the curved lines of the fairing but kudos to my guy who did an outstanding job.
I ride down the Yuma Territorial Prison for self portrait time looking east to known and unknown battlefields in the distance. Across the river lies historic: Fort Yuma where the California column stopped on their journey east to evict confederate Texans from Arizona. Finally it is time to leave. Sad goodbyes and tears are felt as General ZZ Mutazarnek, Confederate territory; Arizona, Arizona Rangers, Company A, packs the General, kicks the bike into first gear and heads east. My sesquicentennial Civil War Gasm has begun. I will relive the War of Northern Aggression one field at a time and see Americana as only this time machine can take me.
“I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name”
Get your motor runnin’, head out on the highway. If you read books or blogs about international motorcycle travel, a common theme runs through them all. When the round the world traveler gets to the good old USA he/she usually doesn’t have much to say except the desert Southwest always receives honorable mention. They marvel at the vast openness and the desert solitude that has not been invaded and encroached upon by modern un-civilization. The 180 miles between Fort Yuma and Casa Grande Arizona appears to the wandering eye as it did in 1863, with the exception of solar farms and cattle ranches. I turn off Interstate 8 at exit 78, Spot road. I am looking for the location of Stanwix Station, a stop on the old Butterfield Stagecoach line that had been provisioned with hay for the eastern bound California column. Stanwix Station marks the site of the western most civil war skirmish when 272 union troops ran into 10 confederates who were burning the hay to slow the union progression to Mesilla; the territorial capital of Confederate Arizona. I tried to find the location in the desert but settled for a half broken down adobe house to mark the occasion. I had ordered one hundred 3 by 5 inch confederate battle flags; the famous stars and bars to mark and pay homage to our fallen southern heros at sites on my trip. I found some hay on the ground, planted the stars and bars into the crumbling adobe, lit the hay and said a silent prayer. Time was wasting so I headed the general in an eastern direction to Picacho Peak, the westernmost battle of the civil war. I was lucky that I had attended a prior re-enactment at the site because when I pulled up the state park was closed due to budgetary shortfalls and there was no way to maneuver The General around the steel gates. I sat there for a while and thought about why I was being punished for my tax dollars when my state can’t give away freebies fast enough. Two more battlefields completed by Civilwargasm in the desert Southwest. First stop was the battle of Valverde; a confederate victory as well as Glorietta Pass, another Confederate victory. Both of these battles were fought in New Mexico. The confederates won both battles but lost their overall goal of securing the west and retreated back to El Paso Texas. So many details, so little time. If your interest in any battlefields visited or the civil war in general just pull out your IPad and everything you ever wanted to know is there for your mind’s expansion.
“The Truth Will Set You Free”
After Glorietta Pass I headed north to Taos, New Mexico to find the grave of Dennis Hopper; who is buried in an unmarked grave in an old Indian cemetery. Dennis edited Easyriders in Taos and when he went to film the commune scenes he was denied access to the commune and those scenes were filmed in Malibu, just 100 yards from where I lived a lifetime ago. Interesting to note that Peter Fonda flew into Taos for Dennis Hoppers church service and was denied entry. They had a lifetime riff concerning distribution of profits that were never fully given to Terry Southern who was instrumental in the original screenplay and even contributed the title to the movie. Years later when a Captain America bike was coming to auction; Peter Fonda finally confessed that he did not design or build the “Captain America” bike and finally gave credit to Cliff Vaughn and Ben Hardy. Those two never received credits in the film and Cliff Vaughn was so cool he never went to see the movie. He knew what he designed and built and his only regret that he did it for a movie that did not have any black actors. The man who owned the replica bike had originally opened a bike store /restaurant on Sunset boulevard in L.A. called Sunset Roadhouse. I had personally sold him one of his first bikes in the roadhouse, a 1980 stock 80 FLH Shovelhead. The restaurant eventually closed and I was able to buy some pieces at auction. What does any of this have to do with the Civil War? Absolutely nothing. It just goes to show you if you’ve been around the bike scene for longer than the “Sons of Anarchy” debuted; there aren’t many of us old timers left and even fewer that can remember. One final thought if you ever ride “Run for the Wall” you will find Peter’s sister, Hanoi Jane, in every male urinal across our country in V.F.W.’s, being pissed on. She has tried to apologize for her offense’s, but like her unrepented brother; actions speak louder than words.
“Hide and Seek”
Where was I? So I wanted to find Dennis’s grave and I got on you tube. I finally found the video that–after watching five times–led me to the gas station where I made a left, followed the road to the fence where I made another left, down the dirt road and finally to the dirt parking lot. I dismounted the General, and headed over mounds of dirt and there was the grave decorated with memorabilia left by the followers. Empty liquor bottles, bike models, a large wooden crucifix and around its base, bungeed to the cross was the confederate flag that I left behind. I think Mr Hopper is smiling up in the heavens.
“November 22, 1963”
I headed southwesterly, in the general direction of Texas but not before stopping in Las Vegas, New Mexico. In the town square are the streets where Billy and Wyatt rode in the parade, and you can find the jail cell where they met Jack Nicholson and the original firehouse their choppers were parked out front of when they were bailed out. Someone turned me onto the lady that was the head majorette in the film’s parade scene and I found her in a restaurant. She came outside, posed for pictures on the General and told me of her recollection of meeting Hopper and Fonda and how the film shoot went. I hit Interstate 40 and after a night on Old Route 66 in Tucumcari, New Mexico decided to head east to my Missouri destinations. A quick peak at the weather channel showed the destruction that was occurring straight ahead in Oklahoma City so I made slight detour into Texas. Texas served the south proudly in the war and my favorite son of Texas was John Bell Hood. He lost an arm and a leg, had to be to be tied to his saddle but never lost his will to fight. I would cross paths with him many times in the future. As I crossed that lonely state on back roads and highways; I would pull into small towns and ultimately see the statues of confederate soldiers who heeded the call of their Confederate nation and went east to fight and keep the legend of the Alamo defenders’ bravery alive. The traffic in Fort Worth / Dallas is some of the worst I’ve ever ridden, but there is a stop to be made… Just off Interstate 35E is Dealey Plaza: site of President John F Kennedy’s Assassination in 1963, 100 years after Gettysburg and just under 100 years after the assassination of Lincoln. I parked the General a block from the plaza and its was like time stood still. If you look at pictures from the time all the Dallas cops are riding vintage pan-heads. The book depository, the grassy knoll, the wooden picket fence, the triple underpass are all there. It struck me how small this area is. You can go to the sixth floor of the Texas book depository and visit the snipers nest where Lee Oswald fired that fateful day and see right down to the spot that changed American history. I would visit Fords theatre in a month, another place in time that defined our history,
As I made the transition onto Interstate 20 and points east, a group of six Texas riders came up and passed me. Their “Sunday biker” gear were the antithesis of my disheveled riding appearance. The designer jeans they sported were pressed with a seam. Their Harley dress shirts were equally dry cleaned and buttoned down. Their boots were so polished and shiny that the sun reflected off them causing me to have temporary road blindness. They rode in a tight pack and soon left me in their dust I kept looking for their hair and makeup support van. Maybe it was that black Mercedes that just blew by me.
“She ate it before Mama Cass Elliot choked on it.” Before I knew it I passed that gold and yellow Flue de Lis and the words Boenvenue en Louisiane. I would run into the hard fighting Louisiana Tigers at Gettysburg, but still a bit of cajun Americana awaited me in Gibsland. I turned off the Interstate at exit 61 and headed south down hwy 154 and stopped at the Bonnie and Clyde Ambush Museum. The Curator: “Boots” Hindon, was the son of one of the original lawman that gunned the outlaw couple down. He packed a snub nose 38 on right hip. We sat down and he shared first hand stories of the ambush. I figured they were the real McCoy as his father was there. The museum was located in the old Ma Canfield’s Cafe where Clyde stopped the morning of May 23, 1934 and ordered two ham sandwiches to go. They continued down hwy 154 until they met their fate driving their soon to be bullet riddled 1934 Ford Deluxe. Bonnie was said to have her ham sandwich in her hand as she died. At the ambush site is the desecrated monument to their deaths. I planted a flag in memory of these two bad-ass peoples’ heroes.
Heading back down the interstate, I finally crossed the mighty Mississippi River at Vicksburg. Two years prior when I rode the Run for the Wall, Southern Route; the pack of 650 riders was met at the state line by state troopers and escorted all the way to Jackson, Mississippi on a closed freeway by a Huey helicopter and a cobra gunship. Today there was no escort, just the ghosts of thousands of brave men who gave their lives fighting for their beliefs during the 47 day siege. Vicksburg fell July 4,1863, just one day after the battle of Gettysburg ended. The city refused to Celebrate July 4th for 81 years until the end of WW 2. The Military park is undergoing battlefield restoration to clear overgrown vegetation and return the landscape to its 1863 appearance. I came to the park entrance and the park ranger spotted my revolver and sword. I had not been bothered by any police so far even though I routinely stopped them to ask directions. I told the ranger that I was General ZZ Moutazarnek and headed for battle. She let me pass. As the General drove through the park, I stopped at the site where General Grant met General Pemberton to discuss terms of surrender. A young bride was taking her wedding pictures and they asked me to pose in the pictures. They thought I was a park employee. I gave away my daughter with sad thoughts in my mind that I may never return from war to see my future little rebels. The old park is one of my top ten favorite civil war picks. Especially interesting are the remains of the USS Cairo, an ironclad gunboat that was sunk in the Yazoo River, found and risen in 1966.
The surrounding area is rich in civil war history and I checked off Champion Hill. Big Black River Bridge, Grants canal, Port Gibson, Grand Gulf, Raymond, and the ruins of the Windsur Mansion. On the way south to Natchez I stopped at Brierfield plantation, the home of Jefferson Davis. It was here, while tending flowers in his garden, that he was elected president of the Confederate States of America and was summoned to Montgomery, Alabama, the first capital of the Confederacy. While I did not visit Montgomery on this trip, I had been to the capital building before and stood on the spot marked by a bronze star, that Jefferson Davis took the oath as President of the Condederate States of America. The capital was moved to Richmond, Virginia but that story is thousands of miles away. I continued south and finally reached Natchez, Mississippi. Natchez was one of the richest towns in America before the civil war. It was never destroyed during the war and is home to a dozen or more Civil war era Antebellum Mansions. There is an annual spring and fall pilgrimage when all the antebellum homes are open for tours. Natchez is also the southern terminus of the Natchez Trace, a National Park that begins in Nashville. The trace is 444 miles long with a speed limit of 50 mph. No commercial traffic is allowed. Imagine traveling 1910 two lane America for two days with no signs, billboards or McDonalds. Trust me, this is motorcycle nirvana and my wife’s favorite road in America. I stayed at the Monmouth historic inn and gardens. I will never forget arriving for formal dinner in my full dress uniform. Definitely Gone with the Wind vibes. Guys, if you want to score big points with your special lady here is a city, festivals and lodging that guaranteed will make you a hero.
After a much needed break from the “gasm”, it was south again to Port Gibson,. This state park was closed for budgetary constraints and again there was no was no way to get the General around the closed entrance. so I headed south to New Orleans but not before two stops on the trail of Easyriders. I pulled into Morganza, Louisiana looking for Melancon’s Cafe. That’s the location where local teenage girls become flirtatious with Billy, Wyatt and Jack under the eyes of the unappreciative local law enforcement. The cafe is gone but marked with a bronze plaque. I drive the General south for a quick 25 miles to Krotz Springs. After crossing the Atchafalaya river, I turn north onto state route 105. I travel the road north then turn around and find the general location where Billy and Wyatt ended their cross country trip at the end of a red neck shotgun barrel. I plant a flag, spend a moment in silence then head out on the highway, looking for adventure and whatever comes my way. I headed to the Great Mississippi River Road and took my classic oak tree lined mansion picture At Oak Alley Plantation. As I stood there with visions of the old south in my head Neil Young’s song “ Southern Man” came to mind.
saw cotton and I saw black
Tall white mansions and little shacks
Southern man when will you pay them back
I heard screaming and bullwhips cracking
I was on the south side of the river and it took a while to get back to the north side and I found myself getting into New Orleans past sunset. I was tired and headed down canal street towards the French quarter. I could not make a left hand turn off canal and as I almost got to the ferry I made a sharp left hand turn and instinctively hit my brakes. My vision is poor at the best of times and night riding is a big no-no with me. I had come to a stop six inches from a curb that would have toppled the General at a minimum. I got to the other side of canal street by crossing trolley tracks and found my way to my hotel in the French Quarter.
“R E S P E CT”
The premier civil war site in New Orleans is the Confederate Memorial Hall. It houses the second largest collection of confederate memorabilia outside of Richmond. After Jefferson Davis’s body was exhumed from his tomb at the Army of North Virginia tomb in Metairie Cemetery (final resting spot of John Bell Hood), he laid in state at the memorial for two days. 60,000 people paid their respects before his body was transferred to Richmond’s Hollywood cemetery. Directly across the street is the fantastic; not to be missed WWII museum. My wife flew in that evening and joined the “gasm” ( no pun intended). She would ride on the General for a few weeks until she flew out of Atlanta, Georgia.
We headed to Mobile, Alabama where during the battle of Mobile Bay, Admiral David Farragut climbed his boats rigging and supposedly shouted: “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.” We partied at the hotels bar after dinner and I disappeared upstairs, put on my uniform, came back to the bar and the patrons went crazy. I did an Irish jig in my cavalry boots. Women do love a man in uniform. Sweet home Alabama! Lord, I’m coming home to you. The General headed a little more east towards Biloxi, Mississippi where we visited Beauvoir, the last home of Jefferson Davis. It sits on the white sands of the gulf coast. The estate was willed to Davis by the widow Sarah Ellis Dorsey. The Davis’s sold the estate to the Sons of Confederate Veterans with the stipulation that it be used as a Confederate State Veterans home (the last Mississippi veteran died in 1953), then later as a memorial to her husband. Today, next to the main house sits the Jefferson Davis Presidential Library and Museum. I just looked at a post war portrait of Davis and I gotta admit that Dennis Hopper sure looks a lot like him, brothers with different mothers. We headed north and as I saw a roadside marker in Citronelle, Alabama, there were five major confederate surrenders that ended the Civil War. It was here under the ”Surrender Oak” that Lieutenant General Richard Taylor surrendered. his Confederate departments of Alabama, Mississippi, and East Louisiana regiments. I’ve been thinking of wargasm sites down the road and went into my motorcycle man cave to look at the collage and map that commemorates this trip. I just realized that Beauvoir was before Mobile but this writing thing is harder than it seems and I’m too lazy to entertain a rewrite.
“The other Sturgis”
So the General headed north and we again were on the Natchez Trace visiting the battle of Tupelo. Tupelo, Mississippi is the birthplace of Elvis Presley and the shot gun shack he was born and raised in until he was thirteen is now a park. The shack is still there to be visited by his fans. Just twenty miles north was our next stop at Brice’s crossroads. Nathan Bedford Forrest defeated union general Samuel D. Sturgis thus ending the union generals civil war career here. If the name sounds familiar, it’s the same Sturgis that Sturgis, South Dakota is named after. If you look in your dresser you may find his name on a t-shirt or two. Continuing north found me at the battles of Luka and Corinth. In Corinth there is an intersection of the Mobile and Ohio Railroad and the Memphis and Charleston railroad. This famous spot was called the “Crossroads of the Confederacy”. I stood on he spot, planted a flag, then headed north to Shiloh.
Shiloh is another top ten must see Civil war battlefield. This pristine battlefield is nearly 100% preserved and is the middle of no where. There are no signs pointing to its location so your visit there will be peaceful . This two day battle saw 23,000 casualties, the biggest loss in battle up to that time. The next field of honor was at Fallen Timbers where General Nathan Bedford Forrest was surrounded by federal skirmishers, fought his way out with pistols, and sustained a gun shot wound that entered just above his left hip bone, penetrated to his spine and lodged there. The surgeons thought his wounds were fatal and decided not to operate. He went home to recuperate and two months later due to excruciating pain, surgeons removed the mini ball and the wizard was back in the saddle again.
“Some CEO’s wife is smiling tonight”
Memphis is a fun party town, especially Beale street where they pat you down before being allowed onto the closed off street. How can you skip Elvis’s home: Graceland and Meditation Garden where the King and his family were laid to rest? You can almost see Elvis drive up on his 1957 Panhead through the front musical gates and up the circular driveway. I had first visited Graceland 10 years prior when I took my young nephew on a motorcycle trip from Florida to Milwaukee for Harley’s 100th birthday. I’ll never forget waiting all day for the final concert of the event. Rumors swirled all day to who the headliner would be .Everyone hoped it would be the Stones. Disappointed jaws dropped when out came Elton John. Someone forget to tell him that “Rocket Man” wasn’t about a Harley Davidson but was a tribute to rice rockets. The night was saved when Kid Rock jumped up on Elton’s baby grand and sang “COWBOY”. The ground was rocking!! It was at the 100th when I first spotted a model of my future Black and Orange glide. If it ain’t a panhead or knucklehead my blood doesn’t get flowing but this bike struck my soul. The owner of Bobby’ territorial Prison in Yuma, had hooked me up with tickets to the 100th and fortunately he was staying in the same hotel as me. Over drinks I told him I wanted the bike and even though he had eyes on it too he agreed to sell it to me. Don’t worry about Bobby, he gets first dibs ever since and they all have orange in them. The only rain on the whole trip was when we walked from Elvis’s racquet ball court to his grave. After paying our respects along with hundreds of blue hair women fans the rain immediately ceased. My friends Kim and Bob had flown in from California to visit Fort Pillow with us just north of the city. This site is famous as a confederate victory where Nathan Bedford Forrest’s troops massacred 300 black soldiers after the union garrison had surrendered.
The general headed east again and interstate 40 transected the battle of Parkers Cross Roads. During this battle when General Forrest was surrounded on both sides he gave the order to “charge em both ways”.
“Killing an Army at Franklin”
The battlefields started coming fast and furious, I gave each one the time, exploration, and planted flags that they all deserved. Fort Donelson, Nashville, Stones River, and then on to Franklin. When the confederate army surrender at Fort Donelson, Nathan Bedford Forrest broke out of the siege with 700 troopers after refusing to surrender. Franklin, Tennessee was the site of John Bell Hood’s frontal attack that, at 20,000 men was larger than Pickett’s charge in Gettysburg. Fourteen Confederate generals were casualties. Most of the battlefield has been swallowed up by commercial development but organizations like the Civil War Trust are buying the plots back and returning the land back to its 1864 appearance. At Carlton Plantation, you can visit the back porch of the mansion where four confederate generals were laid out after the battle. You can still see the blood stained floors from when the mansion was turned into the largest field hospital in the area. Finally I had to pay my respects at the McGavock Confederate Cemetery, the largest private military cemetery in the country. 1481 soldiers are buried there and the cemetery is maintained by the United Daughters of the Confederacy. The story is told that a family came up from Georgia to retrieve the remains of their fallen son. When they saw how well the cemetery was taken care of and that their son was among his fallen comrades, they decided to leave him where he was left to rest in Tennessee. I visited over a dozen Confederate cemeteries on the “Gasm” and all were meticulously maintained. I especially liked the small ones in the middle of no where where I would be blasting down the road, spot the cemetery entrance, flip a U, stop to pay my respects and plant a flag or two.
Continuing towards Georgia I came to the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, which is the oldest and largest military park in the nation. There is so much to see here but southern patriots make Chickamauga their most visited battlefield as it was the site of the largest Confederate victory in the western theatre, The General headed southeast following the route of Sherman’s Atlanta campaign where Confederate General Joseph E.Johnson displayed amazing tactical defensive tactics while preserving the lives of his army.
“Chattanooga” Choo Choo”
I visited Dalton, Resaca, Adairville, Alatoona, Pickett’s Mill, Tunnel Hill, Pine Mountain and finally Kennesaw Mountain. Tunnel Hill is where General John Bell Hood recuperated after losing his right leg at Chickamauga. The small museum there also has a collection of Sherman neckties. Sherman had his troops heat up railway rails until malleable then bent them around trees so that they could not be used again. At Pine Mountain I had to do a little detective work to find the neighborhood, then a trail that led across private property to the gated monument that marks the site where General Leonidas Polk was eviscerated by a yankee cannonball. General Polk was a slave owner, classmate of Jefferson Davis, a Bishop, and was loved by all the soldiers. Finally, at the gift shop at Kennesaw Mountain a southern soccer mom reviewed my uniform then chastised me for wearing jeans. The other site to see in Kennesaw is the original locomotive “The General” from the famed great locomotive chase of 1862. A group of union volunteers captured the train in Kennesaw and tried to make their way to Chattanooga as they tore up tracks and tried to cause destruction along their path. The chase lasted one day as they fell 18 miles short of Chattanooga. The raiders escaped into the countryside and after their capture some were hung, and others exchanged for southern prisoners.Most were awarded the first “Medal of Honor”.
“Frankly Scarlett, I don’t give a damn!”
I rode Down the road to Atlanta to relive the “Gone with the Wind” days. I ain’t no Clark Gable but the southern belles on the bar at Coyote Ugly in Buckhead sure made me “give a damn”. Atlanta was burned to the ground but “Hotlanta” is a rebuilt modern city of tall skyscrapers. A visit to the Atlanta is never complete without a visit to the Atlanta “cyclorama” a hugh circular painting that depicts that 1864 battle of Atlanta. Margaret Mitchell’s apartment where she wrote “Gone With the Wind” still stands and is on the National Historic Place registry A final enduring tribute to Atlanta’s southern roots is Stone Mountain. Stone Mountain is a quartz monzonite dome monadnock (try saying that three times) upon which are carved Jefferson Davis, Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and their favorite horses The original artist on the project was Gutzon Borglum. After he was fired he went north to South Dakota to create Mount Rushmore. My wife flew home from Atlanta and I hit the road solo with 675,000 ghosts of fallen civil war soldiers.
“Bad Boy and a job offer”
My next stop was Warm Springs, Georgia which was the home of the southern “Little White House” of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He was there on April, 12, 1945 having a portrait painted when he had a massive stroke, slumped over and died. The part of the story that was covered up for years that he was there with his mistress, Lucy Page Mercer Rutherford. I found a closed motorcycle museum, the Art in Motion Vintage Motorcycle Museum and called the number on the door to get a tour. The owner finally showed up, opened the doors and led me around the many rooms of vintage bikes and collectible artifacts. I turned the tables on the owner as I started reeling off facts about all the displayed bikes. He immediately offered me a job but the road and the bugles were calling.
“Prison Blues and the Peanut farmer”
Anderson prison was next and the original compound and stockade have been recreated. 45,000 union soldiers served time there in the last year of the war and one third of them died. The conditions in this confederate prisoner of war camp were horrible but to be fair the conditions up north weren’t much better. Plains, Georgia; the home of President Jimmy Carter, is only 22 miles away. I called to stop by and have lunch but he was out of town. President Carter has said that without the Allman Brothers Band raising money for his campaign he never would have been elected president. He was a good friend of Greg Allman; who was invited to dinner the first night that Carter spent in the White House.
I headed east to Irwinville, Georgia where fleeing Confederate President Jefferson Davis was captured. I drove my bike over the curb and to the memorial site and when the caretaker returned he told me to move off the grass. The General gives orders, doesn’t take them. Later dude.
A short hop north brought me the city of Macon, Georgia, home of the Allman Brothers band. Macon was the only southern town on Sherman’s March through middle Georgia to the sea that was not destroyed. I had recently read Gregg Allman’s autobigraphy “My Cross to Bear” so knowing what sites to visit was easy as one, two, three. First stop was the Big House Museum. The house the Allman Brothers Band first lived in from 1970 to 1973 is now a museum that houses a hugh collection of memorabilia. I took a picture of the General outside it’s gates that had a large mushroom and the words “And The Road Goes On Forever”. My second stop was Rose Hill cemetery, the final resting spots of Duane Allman and Berry Oakley who are buried side by side. Just below their graves is a hillside containing the graves of over 600 confederate soldiers. Next on tour was the abandoned building of Capricorn records where the cover shot of “The Allman Brothers at Fillmore East” was shot across the street at. The band is on the front and the roadies are on the back. The photographer could not get the band to smile as it was a frigid day until Duane saw his drug dealer walking down the street, jumped up, made his purchase and then rejoined the band with his stash hidden in his hands. The band broke up laughing and the shot is rock history. Finally it was time to trace the routes of two motorcycle deaths less than a mile and year apart that changed the bands early history. Duane was traveling on his Harley Sportster at a high rate of speed when a truck made a left turn in front of him and he hit the back of the truck. Berry Oakley was also traveling fast, misjudged a turn and wrecked into a city bus while riding his triumph. These two accident sites are only three blocks apart and both musicians were 24 years old.
I headed east following the trail of destruction that Union Major General William Tecumseh Sherman laid upon Georgia. This “scorched earth” march ended in Savannah, Georgia which was not destroyed. Sherman offered Savannah to Lincoln as a Christmas present. The house that Sherman was offered as his headquarters is still there. I stopped by Chippewa Square, the site of the bench Forrest Gump sat on while dispensing such memorable advice as “stupid is as stupid does”’ and “life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna get”. Quick visits to Fort Jackson and Fort Pulaski ended my time in Georgia.
“In the Beginning”
I finally reached where it all started, Charleston, South Carolina. After viewing the harbor from the Battery where Charleston residents viewed the shelling of Sumter it was time to board the ferry to visit the fort that received the first shots of the civil war. After the 34 hour bombardment during which no one was killed , the union forces surrendered and the union flag was lowered At the visitors center two teachers found me and told me that I’d be a feature of their civil war reports. I soon landed at the fort and my boots touched the southern soil that resisted union capture until two months before the war ended. On April 14, 1865 Retired Major General Robert Anderson returned to Fort Sumpter to raise the exact Union flag he had lowered exactly four years before. I headed to Fort Moultrie on the north side of bay. This Fort participated in the bombardment of Fort Sumter. Upon leaving the fort it started to rain cats and dogs. While waiting at a local gas station a car drove up to me and asked if I was SCV? I would be asked several times if I was a Son of Confederate Veterans. I wish I could have told them I was, but I think they appreciated my remembrance and support of a cause that burns deep in their hearts. The SCV is an organization devoted to commemorating and honoring Confederate soldiers.
“Know when to hold them, Know when to fold them”
The northern trek continued up to Wilmington then down the Cape Fear river to Fort Fisher. The earthen fort protected the blockade runners that supplied the Army of Northern Virginia from Wilmington and when the fort fell to union guns the war ended two months later. Next stop was the Battle of Bentonville, which proved to be the last battle fought between Union General William T. Sherman and Confederate General Joseph Johnson. These two would meet again a month and a half later at Bennett Place near Durham, North Carolina when against Jefferson Davis wishes, Johnson surrendered the largest confederate army still in the field. While Lee’s army that had surrendered 17 days prior at Appomattox Courthouse had been decimated and surrounded, Johnson still commanded over 89,000 troops. After the war the two generals became friends and Johnson served as an honorary pallbearer at his funeral in 1891.Although the weather was cold and raining, Johnson would not put on a hat as a sign of respect, caught a cold that day that turned into pneumonia and he died a few weeks later.
“Pass the Kleenex and the fifty weight”
A quick 105 miles southwest and I entered the holy grail of the chopper world, the Smokeout in Rockingham, North Carolina. I had never been to this event but it’s a kickass event that goes back to the roots of why we ride motorcycles, FUN. There is no overt brand loyalty, just two wheels. I didn’t see any high dollar machines. A theme to the show seems to be less is more. Hot bikes, hot chicks, killer music, swap meet , drag racing, mini bike racing, and an event that is small and friendly. The stampede riders entered to loud applause and suddenly I found myself in full confederate uniform when Rebel-Son hit the stage. Sometimes the stars line up and as I listen to “Bury Me in Southern Ground”, “Drinking with Robert E Lee” and “Mr. Confederate Man” my heart swells with southern pride and a tear leaves my eye. Very few people understood what the Civilwargasm represented and very few Americans even know anything about the civil war. I was now surrounded by long bearded southern boys who in a different time would answer the call to service in a heartbeat and they flew the stars and bars with pride and respect. Rebel-Son summed it all up when they sang “Redneck Piece of White Trash”. Well, let’s just say the General got a little toasted and couldn’t stay up and party all night. I laid my Calvary blanket next to my trusty mount and tried to go to sleep while the party raged to the wee hours. I wanted to stay the second day but time was closing in. There was so much to see up north that I got up in the early misty morning and decided to let the troops sleep in. They had fought and partied hard . As my bike headed north the return throttle cable snapped and wouldn’t you know it there happened to be a Harley dealer right there. They were nice and got my bike right up on a lift. They kept asking if my bike was under warranty. I guess they were ready to rebuild the engine and stick it to the factory. The General was getting old and I was on my own with repairs so they fixed the cable and said that my bike had a lot of miles on it. I asked what did they mean? They said most bikers around those parts only had 5,000 miles on their five year old machines.
“Dinner at 6”
I crossed the state line into Old Virginia, a state that would prove be Civilwargasm nirvana. The ghosts of the army of Northern Virginia litter this state from west to east, and north to south. I pulled out my map and started to check off my bucket list notations one by one. The first stop was Roanoke, Virginia in the southern end off the Shenandoah Valley. The General pulled up up to the entrance at the lobby of of the Hotel Roanoke and Conference center, an old railroad hotel that has been meticulously restored. In the lobby is a full size portrait of General Robert E. Lee. I had someone take my picture in front of his portrait. The formal dining room is amazing and a meal with white gloved servers is a blast from our southern past.
Continuing up Interstate 81 I quickly came to Lexington, the final home of Robert E Lee. His home at the beginning of the war was at Arlington but the Union Government confiscated the property and began to bury union dead on the grounds. They continued to desecrate the grounds that had been willed to the general’s wife, Mary Lee. After the war Mary continually tried to get her property back but was unsuccessful. In 1879, her Son: Curtis Lee, finally got his family’s property back by appealing to the US Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision. He paid back taxes and eventually resold the property to the federal government.
Lee went to Lexington and became the president of Washington College, now called Washington and Lee. He died there on October 12,1870. I went to the Lee Chapel and on the stage is the “Recumbent Lee” a sculpture of Lee in full battlefield dress sleeping on the battlefield. It was interesting to note how small his feet were. Continuing to the chapels basement one finds the family mausoleum where Lee, his wife, parents and children are buried. Next to the crypts his old office is preserved and looks identical to the day he died. Just outside the mausoleum are the remains of his trusty horse Traveler. I planted a flag . Directly adjacent to Washington and Lee is the Virginia Military Academy. Stonewall Jackson was a professor of artillery for ten years before he answered Virginia’s call to service. On the VMI parade grounds you can find the “Four Apostles” Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the miniature red painted cannons that Jackson used to train his students at the school. These canons participated at the first battle of Bull Run and during Jacksons famous 1862 Shenandoah Valley campaigns. I ventured into The campus museum and found Jackson’s stuffed horse “Little Sorrell” as well as the raincoat the General was wearing the night he was shot at Chancersville. You can see the bullet hole in his left shoulder. I left and traveled less than a mile to The Jackson Memorial Cemetary and found the site of Jackson’s original interment first before he was moved to his present memorial where he and his family are buried. I left several lemons at his grave as the general was often seen sucking them and tourists leave them as a tribute. I spent some time here and was approached by two army photographers who had just come from a battlefield photography class. They couldn’t believe their luck on finding a full dressed southern officer at the memorial and soon made me the object of their cameras.
“Bros till the end”
A beautiful ride across the Blue Ridge Mountains brought me to the small western town of Lynchburg. I had crossed the Blue Ridge Parkway that for my money is the best motorcycle ride in America. It extends 469 miles from the southern terminus of Shenandoah National Part to Great Smoky Mountain National Park. It is magical ride with no signage the goes down the spine of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Just sixteen Miles east of its southern end in Cherokee, North Carolina you will find the Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley. This 38,000 square foot museum has over 300 plus rare bikes and if you ask curator Dale Walksler to start any bike you chose, he will. It is known as the motorcycle museum that runs. I can not say that about my collection. They look good as they collect dust. Someday, maybe. Let’s get back to Virginia. I found Spring Hill Cemetery and the grave of Jubal Early, the “unrepentant general” who never surrendered and escaped to Texas , then to Cuba and finally Canada. He was pardoned by President Andrew Johnson and resumed his law practice and only wore Confederate grey until he died. He often visited Jefferson Davis at Beauvoir and Jefferson Davis was buried a suit of confederate grey cloth that Early had given him. He was a major proponent of the “lost cause”, the belief that even though the south lost the war, the basis of the Confederacy was just and heroic.
“Going Home at Last”
I headed east and came to the tiny village of Appomattox Court House. It was here on April 9, 1865 that Robert E. Lee was out of food, out of men, and out of luck surrendered to General Grant. It was the first surrender of the civil war. I was walking down the old Richmond-Lynchburg Stage Road heading to the McClean house, the site of the surrender, when a park ranger came running up to me and demanded that I surrender my pistol. He examined it and when he realized it was a replica he turned around and told his fellow rangers that all was O.K. I visited the parlor in the McClean house where the two generals discussed their memories of Mexican American war when they had first met. General Grant offered most generous terms of surrender and General Lee headed back to his loyal troops for a tearful goodbye. A printing press was set up in the Clover Hill Tavern and 28,231 paroles were given. I headed to the tavern and received my own parole. It guaranteed me safe passage back to Arizona using government supplied transportation. I wasn’t ready to go home yet. I then retraced Lee’s route from Richmond to Appomattox in reverse. Cumberland Church, Farmville, High Bridge, Sailor’s Station, and Amelia Court House all received flags.
Next stop was Five Forks where the breakthrough of the 9 month siege of Petersburg initially happened. General George Pickett attended a fish fry one mile away and due to an “acoustic shadow” the General did not hear the opening of the battle. Pamplin Historical Park and the National Museum of the Civil War Soldier is just down the road. This site is amazing and must not be missed. City Point on the James and Appomattox was a major port and supply hub and also served as Grant’s headquarters during the siege. There is a reconstructed cabin on the original site of Grant’s headquarters. Finally, I visited the Petersburg battlefield and visited the crater. This was the site of the underground mine that Pennsylvania miners dug and exploded underneath the Confederate lines. Petersburg is another top ten.
Heading north brought me to the capital of the Confederacy; Richmond, Virginia. Richmond was the birthplace of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. A battlefield cry of the north was “On to Richmond”. So much to see, so little time. Each site was fascinating with its own story to tell so I’ ll list the sites I saw with a few special notes. Drewry’s Bluff, Cold Harbor, Glendale, Gaines Mill, Malvern Hill, Yellow Tavern, Chimborazo Medical Museum, Hollywood Cemetery, Tredegar gun foundry, North Anna River, Belle Isle, White House of the Confederacy, Virginia State Capital. Kanawha Canal, James River, Monument Avenue, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Chicakhominy bluffs and the Shockoe Hill Cemetery.
I parked the General across the street from the Confederate White House and walked up the stairs to Jefferson Davis’s private office. It was here, 40 hours after Davis evacuated the city and gave orders to set it on fire, that Abraham Lincoln sat down in Davis’s easy chair and asked for a glass of water. The next day prominent citizens of Richmond met with the president and asked him what his policy towards the soon to be defeated south was going to be. He said he would be magnanimous, forgiving and generous. An assassins bullet ended all that one week later. I entered St. Paul’s church and found the pew where Davis was praying on Sunday morning when he got the bad news about the fall of Petersburg. Several days after his surrender, General Lee returned to his home at 707 E Franklin St in Richmond. It was there on Easter Sunday that Matthew Brady, the famed Civil was photographer, got the General to sit for the now famous pictures of Lee along with his son Curtis, and his aide Walter Taylor. I found the house but had to find the location of the picture. I hopped the fence and went around to the back of the house where I was able to locate the exact spot due to the door, lock and brick pattern on the back porch. Next it was a quick ride to Hollywood cemetery where I found Jefferson Davis’s grave overlooking the James River. J.E.B. Stuar , the flashy cavalier Cavalry General who was shot in the stomach at the battle of Yellow tavern, was laid to rest in Hollywood cemetery. General Lee could not say his name without breaking down in tears. His grave is marked with a large monument but when I dismounted the General and walked behind his memorial I found the original stone marker broken in two and lying on the ground. I put the two half’s together as best I could, stood it upright and took a picture of it with my 1951 Colt next to the planted stars and bars. I then headed over to Shockoe cemetery and found the Jewish cemetery across the street. Thirty “Sons of Israeli Anarchy”are buried there and it is the largest Jewish military cemetery outside of Israel. Finally I the spot where General A.P. hill was shot and killed. His name was said by both Generals Lee and Jackson on their deathbeds and he died on the first day of the break through of Petersburg after leaving Lee”s headquarters riding towards the sounds of battle.
The Union capital and the Confederate capital were only 100 miles apart, and halfway between them you find the town of Fredericksburg. I had finally come to the mother lode of the “Gasm”. The area contained four major battlefields that were all top ten sites. These killing fields produced over 100,000 battlefield casualties in just 18 months. Fredericksburg has a few famous sites the first being the sunken road and stone wall on at Marye’s heights where 3000 confederates withstood seven charges by union troops of which none reached the wall. The second site is Lee’s hill where as General Lee watched the battle unfold he uttered “ It is well that war is so terrible, or we would grow too fond of it”. The third site is the Slaughter Pen Farm where the union advance was repulsed. I found the Civil War Trust sign on the battlefield with donors names listed. I found mine listed and felt a sense of pride that I helped save this national treasure. Next stop was the Wilderness that was the first battle of Grant’s overland campaign. At Tapp field an excited General Lee tried to lead a Texas brigade into battle. Dozens of Texans surrounded him shouting “Lee to the rear”. A staff officer grabbed the reigns of Lee’s horse and led him to safety.General James Longstreet was shot in the neck by friendly fire during the battle. Four miles to the east , and one year before, Stonewall Jackson was also shot by friendly fire. On this field you can find Ellwood Manor. Stonewall Jackson’s left arm was buried here in the family cemetery after its amputation at the nearby Wilderness Tavern.
Chancellorsville was considered Lee’s greatest victory as he spilt his forces three times against a numerically superior army and soundly defeated that force. However, he lost his right arm; General “Stonewall” Jackson. My first “Gasm site” was the Lee-Jackson Bivouac site. It was here that Generals Lee And Jackson sat on cracker boxers on the night of May 1, 1963 and planned their strategy for Jackson’s flank attack the next day. I kicked the General into gear and followed the route of Stonewall as he led his 28,000 troops on a surprise flanking move of fifteen miles. The next stop is where General Jackson was shot by friendly fire that evening. Finally I saw the foundation of the Chancellorsville house, where during the battle, union general Hooker was knocked senseless when a cannon ball hot a nearby pillar. General Hooker was famous for his hard partying and the prostitutes that followed his encampments for the relaxation of his troops after a hard battle. They were known as “Hooker’s Brigade”
Next stop was The battle of Spotsylvania. The first stop was the location where beloved General John Sedgewick was killed by a confederate sharpshooter from a distance of 1000 yards. He was the highest ranking union officer killed in the war. His last words were “they couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance”. Following the park road I came upon the “bloody angle” where troops fought in hand to hand combat for 24 hours. It was the longest sustained hand-to-hand combat of the entire war. The intensity of the small arms firing was so severe that a 22 inch oak was felled by bullets. The stump is now located at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. General Lee again tried to gallop into combat again and had to be restrained with shouts from his men of “Lee to the rear”.
“Lee loses his right arm man”
A beautiful empty Virginia countryside ride brought the General to the final stop in the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Park, Guinea Station. General Jackson was transported here from the field hospital near Chancellorsville where his left arm was amputated. He endured the 17 mile ambulance ride to the plantation where he died 6 days later of complications of pneumonia on the sabbath with his wife and baby by his side. His last words were “Let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees”. I could see the original bed frame, blanket and clock that witnessed his death through the window. A flag was planted.
“The General will see you now”
I headed west again towards to Shenandoah valley to pick up some loose ends. On the way I stopped at Brandy Station, the site of the largest cavalry battle of the war. Next stop was the battle of New Market where V M I cadets were thrown into the battle and helped to win the Confederate victory. Every year the first year students “ the Rats” are sworn in on the battlefield. I followed the valley north and came to Winchester a town which changed hands more than seventy times during the war. I visited Stonewall Jackson’s headquarters and left my calling card on his desk. Next stop was Harper’s Ferry, the site of the largest union surrender of the war when 12,419 prisoners were processed and paroled. I headed west up the Potomac river to Shepardstown, West Virginia ,the site where confederate troops crossed the river during their invasion of Maryland and after the battle of Antietam. I headed up to Sharpsburg , Maryland to revisit the battlefield of Antietam.
“Free at last”
The battlefield of Antietam is my favorite. To walk these fields at 5 in the afternoon when the visitors have left is magic. You have the whole place to yourself and there is a calm and serenity to be cherished. The town of a Sharpsburg is pretty much the same as it was back then. The National Park is pretty much complete although the Civil War Trust keeps adding pieces of the puzzle as they become available. The highlights are all there including the Cornfield, the Sunken Road, Burnside’s Bridge, the Dunkers Church and the North, East and West Woods. There were over 23,000 casualties in the one day battle making it the bloodiest day in American history. General George McClelland was unable to defeat Lee even though he had a copy of Lee’s battle plans before the battle. Abraham Lincoln used the results of this battle to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. I rode east visiting the battles fought directly before Antietam. Boonsboro and Crampton’s, Turner’s and Fox Gaps on South Mountain preceded by Frederick, Maryland. I had my hair and beard trimmed which proved to be a mistake. I visited the Monocacy National Battlefield which was the site of the South’s northernmost victory.
“One for the Ages”
I headed into the union capital and made my stay brief but pleasant. I drove by the White House and the Capital and headed to the Vietnam Memorial. I looked over the sea of names and visited the statute of the “The Three Soldiers” I headed past the Lincoln Memorial and over to Arlington National Cemetary, the pre war home of Robert and Mary Lee. My final stop in the Yankee Capital was Ford’s theatre where Lincoln was assassinated. The museum there has the actual .44 caliber Derringer pistol that killed Lincoln on display. You can visit the boardinghouse across the street from the theatre where Lincoln died April 15, 1865. I felt uneasy in the Union capital and got out of town and headed west.
“Stonewall gets his name”
Manassas is a small town 25 west of Washington. Two battles were fought here and both ended as Confederate victories. During the first battle as the confederates were being pushed off Henry Hill , General Jackson rushed his troops forward to close a gap in the line. General Bee said “Look, men, there is Jackson standing like a stone wall”. His name stuck after that day.
I finally headed north for the last time and the General crossed the Mason-Dixon Line, the boundary between the north and the south. I could hear the bugles blow and the sound of distant cannons at Gettysburg, One hundred fifty thousand men fought hard here for three days in July, 1863. When the battle was over there were over 51,000 casualties. The week before the anniversary of the battle a monument of the 72nd Pennsylvania Infantry fell off its pedestal. The paranormal activity was through the roof. There were over 200,000 tourists and reenactors in town for the 150th, more people than were at the actual battle. The plan for July 3rd is for nine park rangers to guide nine brigades of tourists across the fields of Pickett’s charge at 2:00 P.M. The destination is the famous clump of trees if they make it alive. Bus after bus drop of thousands of excited t shirt and short clad tourists along West Confederate Avenue and they wait in excitement for the cannonade to be over. The General weaves its way through the throng and I park just yards away from The Virginia Monument.On top of the monument sits General Lee on his horse Traveler looking out over the famous field. I make my way in front of the monument and wait for the signal to advance to my fate. It’s been five long weeks and thousands of miles to reach this point. It is hot and I’m wearing 100% wool as I take off across the field with my sword drawn. I meet up with other reenactors in full butternut grey, bummer hats, and long beards. All of a sudden it’s July 3rd, 1863 and the flags are unfurled and destiny waits one mile of undulating fields away. The battle lines break as we come to fences The rangers try to herd us through gaps in the fences but true to that fateful day we climb over these obstacles. There is a group to my left that is ahead of me but I make a mad dash and end up being the first Confederate over the wall at the famous angle. Thousands of tourists and television cameras are there to record the event and I make my way over to the plaque that marks the High Water Mark Of the Rebellion. 150 Virginians made it over the wall but were soon taken prisoner. Too many people here so I make my way back across the fields and to the General. I need water, fast. Someone hands one to me. I sit for a moment and wonder how those boys in grey made the advance under fire and after days of marching. The buses were all gone and I find the spot where Lee met his returning troops and told them its “all my fault”. I had one more stop to make on town.
The town of Gettysburg was packed but I found a tintype studio and went in to get my picture made to send home to my family deep down south in Dixie. The photographer approached me and told me that I was a mess. He tugged my uniform this way and tugged my sash that way until I looked like the Southern Gentleman I was . He posed me for the picture and told me to come back in two hours to pick up the finished product. When I returned he told me there was a problem and I didn’t have to pay for the picture. I eagerly opened the envelope and there was my likeness but my face was black. Nobody works for free and I paid him and got out of town.
At the end of the summer I turned the General towards the west where after the civil war the victorious Yankees beat down the Indians and Chinese. I planned to visit the two fields of honor I missed due to that killer tornado in Oklahoma. In southern Missouri. I visited Wilson’s Creek and Pea Ridge National Battlefields. I made it back to Arizona and started to plan for the final chapter of this saga. The Civil war ended in 1865 and I wanted to attend the end of war events that surrounded Lee’s surrender at Appomattox courthouse. My wife found an Antebellum black dress that the widows of the south wore. We attended the 150th anniversary of Appomattox on April 9th, 2015. Those in the viewing crowd of southern persuasions all had tears in our eyes. I saw General Grant ride up the stage road in his mud splattered uniform, I saw General Lee arrive dressed meticulously in his brand new uniform. I saw two black slave reenactors. I saw southern troops stack their arms and surrender to respectful union men. I saw history and I was touched. We headed back to Richmond where we were staying at the Jefferson Hotel. I had Sunday brunch reservations there and I hired a championship banjo to play “Dixie” as my wife and I made our grand entrance down the formal staircase leading into the massive marble dining hall. My wife kept bugging me to tell the management of my plans. I finally let them know twenty minutes before brunch. The manager told me that my plans were not going to happen. I then went outside to the valet parking who agreed to my plans. I went back to my room and the phone immediately rang and again I was shut down. I cancelled the banjo and we made our entrance without the strains of “Dixie” which was a favorite song of Abraham Lincoln. As we enjoyed lunch a well dressed southern couple came to our table and thanked us for keeping the memory of their southern childhood alive. They recalled “Dixie” being played at every parade, sporting event, and social event in the city. They took picture of us with their grandchildren.
O.k. You caught me in one lie. I didn’t actually call Jimmy Carter in Plains Georgia. I started the “Gasm” with one hundred flags and ended the trip with two flags left. I sold the General a few years ago but kept my bib battle-flag that hangs proudly framed in my office. The coyote Ugly Saloon in Buckhead, Atlanta has closed, the Art In Motion Motorcycle Museum was sold at auction , and they are taking down statues of southern heroes all over the south. They can never take away my memories and I guarantee that Lee Johnson of Rebel-Son isn’t changing his set list. The Sons of Confederate Veterans and The Daughters of the Confederacy never put away their stars and bars. You can not take away southern heritage and you can’t rewrite history. Southern pride won’t ever be “Gone with the Wind”. I got to see Greg Allman sing Midnight Rider. There was a picture of the General in front of the mushroom gate at the Big House in Macon, hanging in my office. Right after Greg died the picture disappeared. It’s never showed up again. Greg died and is buried in “Southern Ground” in Macon, Georgia. Jimmy Carter was an honorary pallbearer. And the road goes on forever………….