Been There, Done That

commentary on many different thoughts

Month: May, 2014

Back to Georgia

So here we are. It’s 14 May 1864 and General Sherman has just flanked Confederate General Johnston, again, at Resaca. That’s exit 312 off I-75, and there is a marker to that effect at the gas station at the exit!

The Union army is now 15 miles south of Dalton (yes, that Dalton all you 3-day fans!) and General Johnston has been caught by surprise. He didn’t believe the Union army could force Snake Creek Gap, and once they did, he had to withdraw.

Snake Creek Gap could have made an end to the Confederate army, but over-caution on the part of one of the Union generals let the opportunity slip away.

Just a Thought

Back when I was living in England, I did a bit of touring on my own. At a quaint village pub which had outdoor seating (to take advantage of the rare English summer sunshine), I sat down to enjoy my half-pint in the quaint plastic chair. Granted the plastic furniture didn’t help the ambiance (the pub itself was probably mid 16oos construction) but the beer was good.

I watched with a sense of disquiet as another customer sat down and tied the leash of a border collie to the leg of the chair. Sure enough, she stood up, rattled the chair, the dog startled and panicked as the chair followed it. It took fifteen minutes and the whole pub crowd to finally catch the dog which had, fortunately, avoided being hit by traffic and got tangled in a hedge.

Many years later, at a very warm summer horse show in the Midwest, I watched as a girl who should have known better tied her horse’s lead rope to the lawn chair in which she was sitting. As I opened my mouth to warn her about this, she got up, the chair moved, spooked the horse, and he took off in a blind panic with the chair banging behind him. He narrowly missed running over someone’s stray five-year-old kid. Fortunately we were out in the middle of nowhere, so he didn’t get into traffic, and, even more fortunately, the chair caught on something and the panicked pulling broke the tie.

It took an hour and multiple vehicles and mounted pursuit to finally catch the horse, which also fortunately hadn’t injured himself (at least physically – he’ll probably never stand tied again).

So a word to the wise with spring and summer on the way: never, ever, tie a dog or a horse to something that you are absolutely sure (not just maybe) will not budge if pulled on. I’ve seen carelessly tied horses pull the door-handle off a car, uproot a sapling, and pull up a street light. A panicked animal can exert an immense amount of force.

Diversions

This morning’s paper ran a Dear Abby column that set me off. The writer was attending some kind of celebration, and had gone in with a friend to purchase a gift for the honoree. Friend, it appears, recycled some very up-scale wrapping paper for this gift. Honoree was upset when the gift was not of the same quality as the wrapping paper. Dear Abby’s comment was that Honoree must have been poorly brought up, and that such displays of disappointment are something one learns to hide by the second grade. My thought: what a shallow group of people!

Where this leads: years ago, a friend of mine (very, very image-conscious) was getting married. Since she was a dear friend, and since I was living in Ireland at the time, I stopped at the Waterford Crystal plant and had a gift shipped from there. Knew it would ring the right notes – pun intended – even though I could have picked up the identical item at the local ritzy department store and saved the international shipping charges. But hey … (gift took pride of place in display, by the way!)

Further down the road: I was, at that time, living in the heart of conspicuous consumption, Los Angeles. One of my very best friends lived on a very large cattle ranch in the Rockies, and was marrying the rancher. The wedding was going to be jeans – ranch-house. Very casual even by ranch standards. Since both of the couple had been married before, they didn’t really need much in the way of gifts, and made that clear to all friends.

While on a day’s stroll with a friend down Melrose Avenue (this was, at the time, the height of Hollywood funk shopping) mostly people-watching, we saw in the window of one shop a pair of over-the-elbow long gloves. They were cotton knit, and the print looked like Carmen Miranda met Jimmy Buffett in a blender. The word ghastly wasn’t adequate to describe them. And they were CHEAP (I guess the shop wanted to get rid of them.)

Having made our purchase, my buddy and I were seized with an inspiration. We trotted over to Rodeo Drive, to the Gucci store. Fortunately, it was way too early for the rich people to be out and about, and they were not busy. We lucked into a salesman with a warped sense of humor as we explained the situation. For a very small consideration (all things considered), he nestled these appalling gloves in Gucci tissue in a Gucci glove box, and shipped them from Gucci to the ranch with a card reading “because every bride needs a long pair of gloves”.

According to my spies, the bride-to-be was horrified when the box arrived – from Gucci. She was frantic that I hadn’t gotten the message about “ranch-house, jeans” wedding. Until she opened the box. She wore the gloves to the ceremony. It remains one of the best rigs I’ve ever run.

You Know Spring is Here:

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Met this lovely little fellow on my walk.

Spring in the Georgia Swamps!

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Absolutely gorgeous spring day.

Time Out

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Spring on the Chattahoochee River.

Resaca

A few more miles down I-75, you will come to the exit for Resaca. Here, General Johnston fell back into the town and fortified there. Sherman had sidestepped his Army through the mountains, and Johnston was determined to try and stop his advance.

Johnston’s troops held off repeated attacks and both sides incurred significant casualties, 2000 each side, approximately. After repeated unsuccessful attacks, Sherman initiated what would become his signature style through the northern Georgia mountains: attack, fail to route the Confederates from their trenches (and you can still see much of the trenchworks still in evidence. Many of the local Boy Scout troops restore them and provide a great deal of research on the area happenings as Eagle Scout service projects) and attempt to flank Johnston’s army by moving around them, always heading south. Johnston responded by withdrawing, racing south ahead of Sherman, and entrenching across his path. This begins 10 May.

Tunnel Hill

Leaving Tennessee and heading south on I-75 into Georgia, you pass brown interstate highway signs denoting significant historical sites: Chickamauga and Lookout Mountain. Save those for another time. Keep driving. You are literally driving in the tracks followed by the Union Army on 7 May 1864.

One of the early exits is for Tunnel Hill. Between 6 and 7 May 1864, the armies fought over control of the Western & Atlantic railroad passage through the Appalachian Mountains at (you guessed it) Tunnel Hill. General Sherman needed to control the passage to guarantee his supply line and his anchor back to Chattanooga. General Johnston needed to control the tunnel in order to deny Sherman supply lines. Remember, this wwas before the famous “March through Georgia”, with its 60-mile-wide swath of destruction. (That comes later)

History Lesson

Here in Georgia, 2014 is significant to an historian. It marks the 150th anniversary of the year that the Late Unpleasantness came to Georgia, and disillusioned its comfortable inhabitants. If you’ve not read Gone With the Wind, the passages describing the Yankee incursions into Georgia, as seen from Atlanta, are fairly accurate.

We start this month. On 5 May, 1864, Major General William T. Sherman marched 100,000 Union forces across the Tennessee line into Georgia. For the first time, real war actually came here. You can see the spot where the Union army crossed the line: it’s marked by a “Welcome to Georgia” sign on I-75 and is truly the route followed by the Army.

Points to remember: at this time, the war had been dragging on relentlessly for 3 years. This was a presidential election year, and a great many Northern voters were getting very tired of the seemingly endless casualty lists. (Can’t say that I blame them.) General Grant, in the Wilderness campaign, was harrying the Army of Northern Virginia and gradually bleeding it out, but the brutal slugging match in the Wilderness did not offer victory. Just more casualties.

Lincoln’s order to Sherman was simple: Break up Joseph E. Johnston’s army and break the back of the Confederate supply and railroad system – Atlanta.

Look, up in the sky!!!

bike

Construction site near my place. I guess this is a new way to park your bike!