The Pelican Channel

Some of you out there in Bloggerland know us personally and some do not.  Those that do not know us haven’t met Opal. She’s our eight year old boxer border collie mix who when we aren’t around sneaks an orange word or two into our blog.  So, we would like to tell you something about our “daughter”.

Opal on beach 5 blog

Opal is a wuss.  Never have we seen a dog that is a bigger wuss.  She’s afraid of her own shadow.  If we set some “people food”  in a dish on the floor and while she’s eating, two dishes clank together, she runs and hides.  So, it came as no surprise to us when we first took her to the Outer Banks that she was scared of the waves.  She very tentatively approached the water.  She took a drink and immediately spit it out.  The waves weren’t more than a foot high. When a wave came in and “chased” her she took off running and never looked back!

A year later she reacted in a similar fashion to the gentle movement of calm water at Lake Wateree. After much coaxing Steve did get her to come in and play with him.  She never went in deep enough to get her belly wet.  As long as she didn’t need to go in the water she loved the beach.  Rolling on her back in the sand still sends her into Nirvana.  She’ll run, lay her head down and slide into the stuff like she’s sliding into home plate!  We call it making “sand angels”.  Fun for her and us.

Watching squirrels, especially the chirpy ones, is another of her favorite pastimes.  She’ll watch a squirrel run up a tree and then stand there and stare up the tree for ten or fifteen minutes without moving.  That squirrel has already jumped from one treetop to another and is long gone.  We call it watching “squirrel TV.”  Yesterday, we were sitting inside the trailer and the squirrels were running around on the roof.  She sat here looking up with the same dumb expression on her face.  We figured she was listening to “squirrel radio”.  OK, so we do tend to see her in human terms.

Opal's squirrel TV blog

She’s a good dog even if she is a wuss.  She loves going for walks. Being “off-leash” is even better.  At most of the state parks there is a leash restriction.  We have been known on occasion to break the rules and let her off leash when there is no one around.  She generally stays right with us and comes immediately when called.  Imagine our surprise here at Huntington Beach when we took her for a walk on the  beach and  after making a few “sand angels” she chased a seagull into the water.  Right up to her belly!  (Steve’s comments are in blue). I took off my shoes and rolled up my pant legs and got into the surf with her. She had a grand old time. . The next time we took her out there she almost dragged me into the water.  We ran and splashed around a bit but I didn’t stay in too long. It is after all January and even here in South Carolina the water is chilly.

Opal on beach 2 blog

Chari and I were getting ready to go out for the afternoon.  While Chari was in the shower, I took Opal out for a quick jaunt.  From the campground there is a wooden boardwalk that goes through a patch of woods then over the dunes to the beach.  While crossing the dunes I could see several pelicans flying out ahead of us.  When we got to the beach itself there were hundreds of birds just beyond the breakers.  Later we heard that a huge school of herring had been washed inland from Murrell’s Inlet to Litchfield. Most of the birds were seagulls and pelicans, some sitting and floating on the water, but many more flying and diving.  Opal saw them and headed full throttle for the water. I had to run to keep her from pulling my arm off.  There was no one for two hundred yards in either direction so I unclipped her leashShe ran into the water and dove right into the breakers to get at those pelicans!  Of course she didn’t get anywhere close. They have wings and Opal doesn’t. That didn’t stop her from trying.  She stayed right in front of me. When I saw someone heading in our direction I’d call her back. She very obediently came to me to get hooked up again. When they had passed I unhooked her again.  She was off running and chasing those birds.  Running, splashing and diving right through the breakers!


birds at huntington beach 3 blog

When she looked like she was getting too far away from me, I called her back.  She stopped and looked at me. Then she gave me a look as if to say, “Oh no…  you’re not putting that darn thing on me again!”  And off she went.  She ran into the water, chasing pelicans and never looked back.  She ran down the beach so far that all I could see was a dark dot about half a mile in front of me.  “Oh well,” I said to myself, “Chari and I aren’t going anywhere this afternoon. I’ll be hours getting her back.  If  a park ranger comes along he’ll probably give me a ticket for having her off-leash.” 

Opal on beach 1blog

I don’t know if Opal realized she was so far away from me or if she started chasing birds in my direction but she was working her way back up the beach.   When she got close enough I called her over and went into my “Alpha Dog” mode. I chastised her and forced her down onto her back into a subservient posture.  She looked at me with a glow in her eyes and a look that said “I don’t care if you don’t give me dessert for a week.  That was FUN!!!

Sometimes you know you are going to get into trouble and you just don’t care. Whatever happens is worth it. This was sooooo much fun!

Opal on beach 4 blog

Can This Be January?

We took all day to drive the eight hours from Cordele, Georgia to our next stop at Murrells Inlet, South Carolina. We would truly be snowbirds here as our stay would be for a month. We are taking advantage of a special winter season discount rate offered at five South Carolina coastal parks. Normally stays are limited to 14 days at this park. To attract winter campers the park allows one 30 day stay at a discounted rate. The campground has 135 sites. When we arrived only 30 or so sites were occupied. This is one of the few times of year you could expect to get a “walk in” vacancy. When beach weather hits this park is booked solid months in advance. Over Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend that number doubled. We were able to get a site with 30 amp electric, water and sewer for the equivalent of $18.23 per night. Our site is large and open allowing for a lovely sitting area near the campfire pit and excellent satellite TV reception.Sites with only electric and water are more secluded with trees and bushes separating the sites. Since being here the weather has been unseasonably mild with temperatures in the 50s-70s. I’m walking around in capris and sandals! No, make that shorts and sandals. Can this really be January? This is why I moved south. The only snow I want to see is on TV! I just looked and for the first time in 2 weeks we’ll be having 3 days this coming week where highs are in the mid forties and nighttime temps in the upper 20’s. Yes, that is coastal South Carolina in January.

Google Earth, South Carolina

Google Earth View Of South Carolina Coast

Some states use the term Resort Park for their flagship parks with numerous amenities. While South Carolina doesn’t use this term Huntington Beach State Park would certainly qualify. It is located 30 miles south of the highly developed area of Myrtle Beach and about the same distance north of historic Georgetown, South Carolina. Charleston, SC is only an hour or so away if we run out of things to do but that isn’t likely. Although I’ve been to Charleston several times and always enjoy it, Steve has not been to historic Charleston so we plan to go at least once to see the Battery , the Aquarium, the Charles Pinkney NHS and the Hunley. Huntington Beach has 2 public access beaches but as campers we have several short trails to the beach. Dogs are allowed on the beach on leashes. While not “allowed” many owners do let the dogs off leash as long as others aren’t close by and dogs are under control. Kite flying on the beach is easy as the wind is almost guaranteed. Biking is popular and a 4 mile ride within the park can be supplemented by the Murrell’s Inlet to Litchfield bike path. A causeway over wetlands is a very popular birding and photography spot. Other trails lead to shelters for viewing the many pelicans, herons, egrets, ibis, sandpipers, gulls and an occasional eagle. The park was established from land originally owned by Archer and Anna Huntington when they built their winter home, Atalaya, here in the 1930s. Atalaya is maintained by the park and open for tours. More about this and Brookgreen Garden later. Kayaking is popular and while there are no put-ins at the park there are public landings very nearby.

Atalaya, South Carolina

Atalaya Courtyard

beach, South carolina

Beach Walk

beach, travel

Steve At Huntington Beach

beach, photography

Sand Patterns


The Long And Short Of It

Murrell’s Inlet calls itself ‘the seafood capital of South Carolina’ and the waterfront along US 17 BR is dotted with locally owned restaurants and seafood markets. Looks like we’re in for another oyster, shrimp and fish fest! Adjacent communities of Litchfield, Pawley’s Island and Georgetown also offer many excellent local restaurants, beaches and wetlands for birding. So far we’ve eaten at Nance’s. They claim to be the oldest and largest seafood restaurant in Murrell’s Inlet.

Our time here will be a lot more relaxed than many of our stops. We have some maintenance and personal errands to catch up on and friends visiting from North Carolina. There will be time to see Le Miserables and perhaps an IMAX movie or stage show in Myrtle Beach.

kites, beach

Can $3 Be This Much Fun?

shells, beach

Shell Fragment At Huntington Beach

A Reminder Of Ancient Civilization In The Southeast

Our third and final site was Ocmulgee (pronounced Oak-mull-gee, like the hard G in geese) National Monument in Macon, GA. If you go be sure to visit the Visitor’s Center and museum first. The grounds have four large earthen mounds and surrounding natural area. The emerging wetland area surrounding Ocmulgee is the result of severe flooding in 1994. The walk is about 2 miles or the mounds can be reached by car. With our boats on top of the truck we couldn’t fit through the 8′ limit of the railroad tunnel. We needed to work off some of those holiday calories anyway.

Great Temple Mound, Ocmulgee

View Of Macon From Top Of Great Temple Mound

A Brief Overview Of Macon Plateau Inhabitants:  

(Information is obtained from the Ocmulgee National Monument website

9,000-8,000 BC – Ice Age inhabitants adapt as large, cold weather mammals disappear in a warming climate.

8,000-1,000 BC – Hunter/gatherers develop the atlatyl (spear thrower) and woodworking tools.

2,500 BC – The first pottery is developed on the Georgia/South Carolina coast and gradually moves inland to central Georgia.

1,000 BC-900 AD – Pottery becomes decorative as well as utilitarian with scenes depicting farming activities. Semi-permanent villages are built by the Woodland Indians. Ceremonial and funeral mounds appear.

900-1150 AD – Early Mississippian Indians arrive and bring a different type of pottery to the area. They build large earthen centers to serve as council chambers, funeral mounds and ceremonial centers. Farming becomes the primary source of food. Woodland and Mississippian peoples mingle.

1150-1350 AD – The Macon Plateau inhabitants move downstream on the Ocmulgee river to establish new towns. Old Ocmulgee area is left uninhabited. The reason is prolonged drought which was also the cause for disappearance of the Anasazi in the Southwest.  Evidence of this culture is seen in other mounds as far south and west as Alabama, Illinois and Oklahoma.

1350-1650 AD – The Lamar Culture develops chiefdoms with small stockaded  towns and central mounds

1540 AD – Hernando DeSoto arrives and writes of well developed societies with log homes and mounds. DeSoto’s expedition seizes food supplies and leaves unknown diseases in its wake. Native people are decimated.

1565 AD – The Spanish establish the first permanent settlement at St. Augustine. Priests and soldiers travel the rivers establishing other towns and begin missionizing the Indians.

1670 AD – The British establish Charles Town (now Charleston) and initiate trade with the Indians over Spanish objection

1690 AD – The British establish a settlement at Ochese Creek (site of Ocmulgee NM) and Indians from the Chattahoochee River area move here to trade with the British. They acquire guns from the British and horses from the Spanish. The name Creek Indians is used by the british instead of individual village names.

1704 AD – Col. John Moore from Charleston takes a band of 50 white men and 1,000 Indians to Florida where they devastate the Apalachee Missions. The Spanish are driven back to St. Augustine. The surviving northern Floridians are incorporated into the Creek population and develop into the Seminole.

1715 AD – The Yamassee War erupts due to fur trade irregularities between Indians and British and because of the British selling Indians as slaves to work on Caribbean sugar plantations.

1733 AD – The Georgia colony is established on land given to Ogelthorpe by the Creeks. It serves as a buffer between Charleston and Spanish Florida.

1778 AD – During the Revolutionary War most Creeks tried to stay neutral but a Scottish-Creek chief Alexander McGillivray leads them into an alliance with the British.

Early 1800s – The Creeks cede all but a small area (Ocmulgee NM) to the US for development of a fort and a federal road from DC to New Orleans. Tecumseh, a Shawnee, makes an attempt to unify Indian nations. Tribes become divided between those loyal to the U.S. government and those who follow Tecumseh known as “Red Sticks”. During the War of 1812 the division increases and raids by “Red Sticks” increase. In 1826 the last of Creek lands are ceded to the U. S. Government.

1836 -1837 AD – Creek War of 1836 ends with 2,500 Indians marched through Alabama to Indian Territory (Oklahoma). Over the next 18 mos. another 14,000 Indians are removed from the East over a 1200 mile route with only what they could carry.

1840-1874 AD – The Old Ocmulgee Fields (now Ocmulgee NM) were developed by logging, brick manufacturing and a fertilizer factory. A railroad line was built and cut into the Lesser Temple Mound. A second railroad line was built in 1874 that destroyed much of the Funeral Mound.

1933- present  – Dirt to be used as fill dirt for Main Street in Macon was taken from a mound. Motorcycle riders use the mounds for off road riding, Citizens realize the impending loss of a significant historical site and seek help from the Smithsonian. In 1936 President Roosevelt signs legislation creating Ocmulgee National Monument. In 2009 a new Visitors Center was built and the museum now houses over 2,000 artifacts.

Ocmulgee National Monument

Swamp Land Surrounding Ocmulgee

There is a reconstructed ceremonial hut over the original floor in the first mound along the boardwalk. The floor has been carbon dated to 1015 AD. Look carefully at the pictures below and you will see depressions in the soil that were seats for the council members. Each seat rises a bit higher than the previous one until the center where the chief sat. The shape before him is the Ocmulgee eagle. They are the mound builders. These mounds were ceremonial except for the funeral mound where they buried the nobility. The mounds were built by carrying baskets of dirt on their backs. Now try to do the math for the Great Temple Mound at 200′ by 300′ and 9 stories tall!  Look at the picture of the Great Temple Mound. Can you see 2 small black specs on top on the right side? These are two people standing on top of the mound. That should give you some perspective of size. Today you can climb a stairway to stand on top of the Great temple mound and see the Macon skyline in the distance. The Lamar section of the park is accessible only on Ranger led excursions so we were not able to see it this visit. If you are interested in visiting Ocmulgee you might want to go to the Ocmulgee Indian Demonstration to be held over September 20-21, 2013. Macon offers many other interesting sights but we just didn’t have time this trip. OK,OK so we’ll say “When we come back.”

Ocmulgee, Georgia

Inside Ocmulgee Ceremonial Lodge

Ocmulgee eagle, Georgia

Chief’s Seat In Ceremonial Lodge With Ocmulgee Eagle

Indian mound, Georgia

Great Temple Mound of Ocmulgee

Ocmulgee, American Indian, georgia

First Ocmulgee Mound With Ceremonial Hut

On the way home we stopped at Lane Orchards for some Indian River grapefruit and Honeybell oranges. We normally ordered Honeybells from Florida each January. They are the juiciest oranges you’ll ever eat. We thought we’d miss them now that we’re on the road so finding them avaiable in Georgia was a pleasant surprise. They have a very short season so this was just luck on our part.We also bought a few gourmet items in the Lane store. Another local product you should try if in the area is Stiplings sausage. We tried both the bulk and cased types, plain and smoked, hot, medium and jalepeno with cheese. All were excellent.

With this being our last night at the park we went out to dinner at what we thought was just a local place. We can’t call it a hidden gem except perhaps to us. The Daphne Lodge looks like a house cum restaurant  at first. We walked in and it was a pleasant two room facility with swing music playing in the background. We sat down to look at the menu. On the front was a history of Daphne Lodge. Although the current restaurant has been a family business since 1952, the original Daphne was a dance pavilion at the turn of the century in the park that preceded Georgia Veterans Memorial Park. An excursion train used to bring people out from Cordele for picnics and a dance. Today’s restaurant has been in Southern Living as one of the top ten restaurants serving catfish and appeared on the cover of their Sea and Stream cookbook. Other feature articles have appeared in the New York Times, Washington Post and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. I had the catfish. The portion was huge so there were definitely leftovers. Yipeee! I had quail which tasted good but all the little bones made it a real pain in the a…. to eat. The food lived up to the reviews. If you’re in the area do try it.

Daphne Lodge in Cordele, GA

Daphne Lodge in Cordele, GA

Andersonville – Of Presidents and Prisoners

We thought we’d be able to see the NHS site in Plains and the one at Andersonville in one day. How wrong we were. After spending the morning in Plains we drove to Andersonville and arrived about 2:30 pm. We were surprised to find that the museum was not just about Andersonville but was the National POW Museum. We’d just started to look at the exhibits when the first of two movies was announced. The first one covered the history of POWs from the Revolution through the Gulf War and included former POWs recollections. The second movie was specific to Andersonville. All I knew was that it was an infamous Confederate POW camp. There was so much more involved. I found it fascinating. It was 4 o’clock by the time we left the theatre. We decided to come back the next day. Steve has a great interest in military history and has done research after our visit. He’d like to share this with you.

Andersonville, Part 1

In keeping with our tours whenever possible of Civil War sites and battlefields, one of the reasons we wanted to come to this area of Georgia was to see Andersonville Prison.  I’m sure most people with an interest in Civil War history, like me but not real scholars of the subject, again like me, have heard of the notorious POW camp and its reputation as a “Death Camp” akin to the Nazi concentration camps of the Second World War. Andersonville’s commandant, Captain Henry Wirz, was tried in our first War Crimes Trial.  He was convicted on charges of conspiracy and murder, and hung.  The real story was somewhat different.

There is no question that the Confederate Prison Camp, officially named Camp Sumter, was the worst of all Civil War camps.  Between February of 1864, when it opened, and April of 1865 when the war ended, a mere 14 months, 45,000 Union prisoners passed through its gates, of which almost 13,000 died of starvation, malnutrition, dysentery, and other diseases, a mortality rate of 29%.  But how many of us were aware that the Confederate dead from similar causes were more than 25% at the Union prison camp at Elmira, New York?

At no time in military history prior to the American Civil War did prison camps of this magnitude even exist.  In ancient times, POWs were not even treated as prisoners; they were simply slaughtered or sold into slavery.  There was no attempt to treat them humanely.  In more modern times, there was a gentlemanly code that Western Civilizations adhered to.  Prisoners were either paroled or exchanged.  A paroled soldier was allowed to return home, and on his honor was bound to refrain from fighting until the end of whatever war was currently in progress.  Many soldiers, especially ranking officers, would refuse parole, and instead wait to be exchanged.  A prisoner exchange usually involved approximately equal numbers of equal rank.  An exchanged prisoner was free to rejoin his unit and continue the fight.  While waiting for exchange, they were generally well treated, sometimes being given a limited parole, giving them the freedom of the city or town where they were held, and often being treated as honored guests by their captors.  

Much changed in the Civil War.  Firstly, no one on either side expected that the war would last more than two or three months, and in the beginning, no provisions were made for prison camps by either the Union or the Confederates.  It soon became apparent that this would not be the case, and prisoner exchanges were common.  Things changed after January of 1863.

On January 1, 1863 the Emancipation Proclamation took effect.  In reality, the Emancipation Proclamation didn’t free a single slave.  President Lincoln knew it would never be accepted as anything other than a military measure to shorten the war.  It freed all slaves currently held in areas of the United States that were currently in rebellion.  Not a single slave in areas of the south already under Union control was freed.  Not a slave in any of the slaveholding states remaining loyal to the Union was freed.  In other words, not a single slave in any area where the Union could enforce the Proclamation was freed.  But when slaves held in these areas heard of it, they were given hope of freedom, and knew that if they escaped to Union territory, they would be free, and they also knew they would be welcomed into the Union armies.  In the beginning, most people thought the black man would not fight for his own freedom and blacks were assigned mostly to guard duty in behind-the-lines areas. But this changed after the Battle of Milliken’s Bend, which I mentioned in the post about the Siege of Vicksburg.  At Milliken’s Bend, the black soldier proved to everyone that he could and would fight, and recruitment of blacks began in earnest.  And not as guards, but as fighting men.  

The South would not accept that an escaped slave, serving in the Union forces and taken prisoner during battle was anything other than an escaped slave, and he would be treated as such.  At one point, General Lee wrote General Grant proposing an exchange of prisoners.  Grant replied that no exchange could take place unless all soldiers would be equally considered for exchange.  Lee answered that as the laws of the Confederacy bound him, he could not agree, and that any black troops would not be exchanged.  Prisoner exchanges ceased.

Neither side was prepared for this.  Camps had to be created to hold prisoners.  Prisoners would have to be clothed and fed.  In many cases soldiers of their own armies were not being properly clothed or fed.  With limited supplies, it doesn’t take much of a stretch of the imagination to see which direction those supplies would go.

The camp at Andersonville originally covered 16 acres, and was eventually enlarged to 26.  Intended to hold 10,000 prisoners, more than 45,000 passed through its gates.  A stream passed through the middle of the camp.  Confederate soldiers were camped on the upstream side of this stream, using it for water, and below their camp, for their latrine.  The stream then passed through the camp itself, where the prisoners used it for the same purposes.  It was already fouled when it got to the prison, and didn’t get any better on its way through.  Conditions were bad to start with, and quickly deteriorated.

A group of Union prisoners began attacking their fellow inmates, stealing whatever food and clothing they had.  Calling themselves the Andersonville Raiders, they were armed with clubs and would kill to get what they wanted.  Soon another group arose, calling themselves The Regulators.  They caught most of the Raiders, and tried them, with newly arrived prisoners acting as jurors.  Punishments for those found guilty included running the gauntlet, being sent to the stocks, balls and chains, and in six cases, the ringleaders, hanging.  Captain Wirz, unable to curb the Raiders on his own, approved the sentences.  Six graves remain to this day separated from the rest of the Andersonville dead. 

Civil War Graves

Graves of the Andersonville Raiders

In July of 1864, Wirz paroled five prisoners, and tasked them to deliver a message to authorities in Washington DC telling them of the terrible conditions and asking that the prisoner exchange system be reinstated.  The request was refused, and bound by their honor, the five returned to Andersonville.  Later in the summer, the Confederate government offered to unconditionally release prisoners, providing the Union would send ships to Southern ports to retrieve them.  Andersonville, however, was located inland, accessible only by rail. By autumn, thousands had succumbed to the heat of summer and perished of disease.  Many who were well enough to be moved were transported to other camps in Georgia and South Carolina, but in mid-November, when General Sherman began his “March to the Sea” they were returned to Andersonville.  By this time, however, conditions had somewhat improved, probably due to the cooler weather and less overcrowding.
Marching Through Georgia Bring the good ol’ Bugle boys!
We’ll sing another song, Sing it with a spirit that will start the world along,
Sing it like we used to sing it fifty thousand strong,
While we were marching through Georgia   Hurrah! Hurrah!
We bring the Jubilee. Hurrah! Hurrah!
The flag that makes you free,
So we sang the chorus from Atlanta to the sea,
While we were marching through Georgia.  
How the darkeys shouted when they heard the joyful sound,
How the turkeys gobbled which our commissary found,
How the sweet potatoes even started from the ground,
While we were marching through Georgia.  
Yes and there were Union men who wept with joyful tears,
When they saw the honored flag they had not seen for years;
Hardly could they be restrained from breaking forth in cheers,
While we were marching through Georgia.  
“Sherman’s dashing Yankee boys will never make the coast!”
So the saucy rebels said and ’twas a handsome boast
Had they not forgot, alas! to reckon with the Host
While we were marching through Georgia.  
So we made a thoroughfare for freedom and her train,
Sixty miles of latitude, three hundred to the main;
Treason fled before us, for resistance was in vain
While we were marching through Georgia.
Dorance Atwater was a Union prisoner, chosen by his captors to record the names and numbers of the dead, supposedly to be handed over to the Union government after the war was over.  He sat at a desk next to Captain Wirz, but not believing the list would ever see the light of day, secretly made and hid a copy.  Every day more graves would be dug, marked only with a number.  Atwater’s secret list however, added a name to the number.  Whenever possible, he recorded the rank and unit of the deceased, but in most cases, he at least had a name. When released at the end of the war, he was able to keep the papers hidden in a satchel.  When he tried turning it over to the Federal Government, he met with red tape and received substantial grief from government officials.  He contacted Horace Greeley of the New York Tribune, who published the list.  Together with Clara Barton, he was responsible for marking the graves properly.  But there’s more to this part of the story.  Federal officials, in their infinite wisdom, considered his list secret, and the property of the government.  Atwater was prosecuted and again imprisoned, this time by the government he had so bravely served.  But public pressure forced President Andrew Johnson to release him.  Johnson appointed Atwater first as United States Consul to the Seychelles, then as Consul to Tahiti, about as far away as he could possibly send this troublemaker.  He met, and married, Princess Moetia Salmon, and became quite the businessman, successful in shipping enterprises as well as pearl fisheries.  He did substantial work with lepers and worked tirelessly with many other charities.  The Tahitian people loved him, and called him “Tupuuataroa”, meaning “Wise Man”.  At his passing in San Francisco, in 1910, his body was returned to Tahiti and received the only Tahitian Royal Funeral ever given a non-Royal.  

Dorance Atwater, Andersonville, Civil War, Tahiti

Dorance Atwater

Captain Henry Wirz, originally from Switzerland, lost the use of his right arm after being wounded at the Battle of Seven Pines.  Due to his injury, he had been assigned to work with General John Winder, who was in charge of Confederate Prisoner of War camps. He received a special assignment from President Jefferson Davis to carry secret dispatches to Confederate Ministers in England and France, and after returning to Richmond, worked in various prison camps before taking charge at Andersonville. His treatment of prisoners was indeed brutal, by today’s standards.  He greeted new prisoners with a pistol, threatening to personally shoot anyone breaking his rules.  Even minor infractions were dealt with harshly, including balls and chains.  Many, including Dorance Atwater, believed he was intentionally starving prisoners.  Those of us of a certain age, remember that the Vietnam War was the first “televised” American conflict.  The war was brought each evening into our living rooms, and this constant and direct exposure had severe political ramifications.  Similarly, the American Civil War was the first widely “photographed” war.  Americans newspapers daily published battlefield photographs from Matthew Brady, Alexander Gardiner, and other war correspondents.  But even with this constant exposure, Americans were horrified at war’s end to see photographs of Andersonville survivors.  The only things comparable in more modern times are photos of Holocaust survivors. 

Andersonville survivor Andersonville survivor 2

  Wirz was arrested in May of 1865 and tried by a Military Tribunal between August and October in the U.S. Capitol building.  The trial dominated the front pages of every newspaper across America. Witnesses included inmates, Confederate officers, and residents of the nearby town of Andersonville, but most of the testimony was hearsay.  Felix de la Baume, a descendant of the Marquis de Lafayette and a particularly gifted speaker, was able to give eyewitness testimony of a victim directly killed by Wirz.  His testimony was so compelling that he was given written commendation by members of the tribunal, and rewarded with a position within the Department of the Interior even as the trial progressed.

Henry Wirz, Andersonville Prison

Captain Henry Wirz

Wirz was convicted of murder and conspiracy to imperil the lives of Union prisoners of war. He was hung on November 10.  On November 21, evidence was obtained that Felix de la Baume was really Felix Oeser, of Prussia, was not descended from Lafayette, and was not an Andersonville survivor, but a deserter from the 7th New York Volunteers.  Caught up in his perjury, he disappeared and was never heard from again. Was Henry Wirz any guiltier of war crimes than others in his position?  Or did events of the time make him a scapegoat?  The controversy continues to this day.

The Andersonville site includes a National Cemetery.  Not only those who died at the prison camp are there, but also those who served in other wars.  Wandering through the cemetery, seeing the thousands of graves, and reflecting on the men and women buried here is a very moving experience. 

Some of the thousands of graves of the victims of Andersonville Prison

Some of the thousands of graves of the victims of Andersonville Prison





Spanish American War veteran

Spanish American War veteran

Irish immigrant World War I veteran

Irish immigrant World War I veteran

Army Nurse Corp World War I veteran

Army Nurse Corp World War I veteran

Navy World War 1 veteran

Navy World War 1 veteran

Army Air Force World War II veteran

Army Air Force World War II veteran

Air Force Korea veteran

Air Force Korea veteran

Marine killed in Vietnam

Marine killed in Vietnam

The National Cemetery at Andersonville has monuments erected by the various states whose soldiers perished there.  The Illinois monument contains Abraham Lincoln's words from his Gettysburg Address:  "We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain..."

The National Cemetery at Andersonville has monuments erected by the various states whose soldiers perished there. The Illinois monument contains Abraham Lincoln’s words from his Gettysburg Address: “We here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain…”

Andersonville, Part 2



Much to our surprise, the Andersonville National Historic Site is not only dedicated to the Civil War prison camp, but also includes the National Prisoner of War Museum, all administered by the National Park Service.  This museum is fantastic.  Dedicated to American Prisoners of War from all conflicts, dating back to the Revolution, it’s set up differently than we would have expected it to be.  You don’t go from room to room, seeing first an exhibit for the Revolution, next one for the War of 1812, and so on.  Instead, its purpose is to show the Prisoner of War experience, and is divided into sections explaining that experience.  First are The Capture, and all the fear and uncertainness that comes from it.  Next is Transport to Camp.  Following that is Imprisonment.  Finally comes Liberation.  Each exhibit will take examples from all conflicts to describe that part of the experience. 

Entrance to the National Prisoner of War Museum

Entrance to the National Prisoner of War Museum

But before even getting into these four phases is a very interesting exhibit which asks the question “Who is considered a Prisoner of War?”  The answer is not as easily answered as it may seem.  Are civilians?  Are spies?  Are terrorists?  Who makes the determination?  And how were these various categories of prisoners treated throughout history?  What was the Geneva Convention?  And when a conflict involves nations not signed on to the Convention, what rules apply?  All very interesting and all very important. Many of the exhibits involve interviews and diaries of actual survivors of prison camps.  Oftentimes diaries included drawings depicting conditions and events.  And in some cases, exhibits included artifacts made by prisoners, such as a coffee cup made from a tin rations can.  I was very impressed by a ship model made from bits of bone scavenged from soup by a prisoner during the War of 1812.  There was an extensive exhibit pertaining to the second category, Transport, on the Bataan Death March in World War Two.  Video interviews were included of prisoners from the Vietnam War and Desert Storm.  Senator John McCain and Admiral James Stockdale were featured extensively.  The torture endured by these men was brutal. Admiral Stockdale was the highest ranking American held during Vietnam, and was one of the most highly decorated officers in the history of the United States Navy, including four Silver Stars and the Congressional Medal of Honor.  He spoke of the communication codes they would use when held in solitary, by tapping out letters of the alphabet.  The code was simple to learn, but the North Vietnamese never caught on.  He said that being ordered to go out into the hallways and sweep the floor was an opportunity to “make a speech” by swishing the broom to the appropriate code. 

Admiral James Bond Stockdale

Admiral James Bond Stockdale

Admiral Stockdale in the Hanoi Hilton

Admiral Stockdale in the Hanoi Hilton

Displays included ways the prisoners would offer resistance to their captors whenever and however possible.  Who among us (at least in our age group) can forget the famous photo of the men of the USS Pueblo posed in a group by the North Koreans, supposedly admitting they were all “war criminals”, all standing there with their middle finger extended?  The gesture went totally over the heads of their captors, but was immediately recognized for what it was by the American Public.  Unfortunately, Time Magazine, in its infinite wisdom, published the photos telling the world, including the North Korean captors exactly what the men were doing, subjecting them to a week of hell.



Films were shown of the news coverage when the Vietnam prisoners were released.  I remember being glued to the TV as these heroes kissed the ground when arriving in US territory and were greeted with the hugs and kisses of mothers, wives and children.  Another exhibit spoke to the uncertainty of family back home, who sometimes for years did not know if their son, father, husband was alive or dead.  A poem written by President Jimmy Carter, telling of a true event from his family was on display:

The Ballad of Tom Gordy

 In ’41 the Japanese took our troops on Guam

Alive or dead, we didn’t know. 

One was my uncle Tom.  

He was the Navy Boxing Champ. 

My Hero with his crown.

Now with him gone, his family moved down to our Georgia town.  

My grandma and my aunts felt Tom was not his wife’s, but theirs.

She could feel the coolness but stayed on to join their prayers.  

What bound them all together was the hope and faith and dread.

When two years passed, the dispatch came:  my uncle Tom was dead.  

His wife and kids moved back out west to start their lives again.

And after Tom was gone three years she wed a family friend. 

The end of war brought startling news:  Tom Gordy was alive.

Four years he had been digging coal deep in a mountainside.  

The women took the feeble Tom and smothered him with care.

He never would tell anyone what happened over there.  

Tom Gordy soon regained some strength and craved a normal life.

But mother and sisters told him lies about his absent wife   Betraying him. 

Tom wanted her but couldn’t figure how To bring her back, or overcome her second marriage vow.  

He got four years back pay and made Commander, USN. It didn’t take him long to find a woman’s love again.

Tom closed the past except when his three children came to stay.

When I would mention his first wife, he’d always turn away.  

Once my submarine tied up where she lived with his kin.

I went to visit them afraid they wouldn’t let me in.  

But all the folks they knew were called when I first gave my name.

All night we danced and sang because At least Tom’s nephew came.

Jimmy Carter

We had the opportunity to meet President Carter the following day, which Chari will talk about, and we would have loved to ask him about this story, but unfortunately, we were not permitted.  There was a line of people waiting for their “photo-op” and if everyone wanted to stay and chat, he and Mrs. Carter would never get home! We came to Andersonville late one afternoon, expecting to see a museum dedicated to the Civil War prison camp, and found ourselves returning the following day to take it all in.  Of all the National Park Service sites, and all of them are terrific, this is one of the best.

American flag made and hidden by an American POW in a Japanese camp

American flag made and hidden by an American POW in a Japanese camp

Model ship built from bits of bone scavenged from soup by a prisoner during the War of 1812

Model ship built from bits of bone scavenged from soup by a prisoner during the War of 1812

Plaque honoring the crew of the USS Pueblo, taken by the North Koreans in 1968

Plaque honoring the crew of the USS Pueblo, taken by the North Koreans in 1968

Plaque honoring American POWs during the Korean War

Plaque honoring American POWs during the Korean War


Plaque honoring the Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor in World War II

Plaque honoring the Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor in World War II

Plaque honoring the 28,000 members of the 8th Air Force who were taken captive by Germany in World War II

Plaque honoring the 28,000 members of the 8th Air Force who were taken captive by Germany in World War II

Plaque honoring Americans taken prisoner by the North Vietnamese

Plaque honoring Americans taken prisoner by the North Vietnamese

Plaque honoring those of the 42nd Rainbow Division taken prisoner during World Wars I and II

Plaque honoring those of the 42nd Rainbow Division taken prisoner during World Wars I and II

Plaque honoring the 1225 members of the 27th Bombardment Group.  These men arrived in the Philippines on December 8th, 1941.  Their dive bombers did not arrive in time to stem the Japanese attack, and they formed an infantry regiment, gallantly holding a front line sector until April 9th, 1942 when they were forced to surrender.  Enduring the Bataan Death March, and subsequently the brutal conditions of the "Hell Ships", few survived to war's end.

Plaque honoring the 1225 members of the 27th Bombardment Group. These men arrived in the Philippines on December 8th, 1941. Their dive bombers did not arrive in time to stem the Japanese attack, and they formed an infantry regiment, gallantly holding a front line sector until April 9th, 1942 when they were forced to surrender. Enduring the Bataan Death March, and subsequently the brutal conditions of the “Hell Ships”, few survived to war’s end.

Plaque honoring soldiers held at camps in Szubin and Schokken, Poland during World War II

Plaque honoring soldiers held at camps in Szubin and Schokken, Poland during World War II

Of Peanuts And Presidents

Plains GA.

Downtown Plains, GA

Plains, Georgia would probably have been just another small Georgia town no one ever heard about if it had not been for the election of Jimmy Carter as 39th President of the United States of America. Today carts filled with peanuts roll through town as tourists come to the Jimmy Carter National Historical Site housed in the old Plains school building. This is where Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter attended kindergarten through eleventh grade. At that time Georgia did not have a twelfth grade. It houses a museum covering his boyhood in Plains, his Navy career, his decision to leave the Navy and return to Plains, his political career and his humanitarian work in the post presidential years. The museum mentions that as a going away gift his staff gave him a set of power woodworking tools. Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter have made many of the bookcases and pieces of furniture in their home. His desk used in the Oval Office is on display. I sat down to have Steve take a picture. Jokingly I said “So this is what the first woman president looks like”. One of the NPS rangers said “I’ll get you some paper and pen so it looks like you’re signing something.” I never realized these desks were so big. I need a booster seat. Carter’s Nobel peace Prize is also on display. Other points of interest in town include the train depot which was National Campaign Headquarters, the gas station owned by Billy Carter and the brothers boyhood home. The train depot was chosen as the campaign headquarters because it was the only building available in town that had an inside bathroom! I’m sure when Steve pulled into the old Billy Carter gas station to pose for a picture the locals just shook their heads and thought ‘another tourist’. Billy Beer anyone? Currently the Carters live in Plains but the home is not visible from the street and the grounds are guarded by the Secret Service. After they both pass away the home and their gravesite will be placed under the National Park Service and will be open to the public. Downtown Plains is all of 2 blocks long. We did stop in the store that had been the Carter Seed Company. Now it is a store selling fried peanuts, local products, candy and some very good soft peanut butter ice cream. The Carter Presidential Library is part of the Carter Center at Emory University in Atlanta, GA.

Jimmy Carter, National Park Site

Jimmy Carter NHS Museum

Jimmy Carter, museum

Schoolroom At Jimmy Carter National Historic Site

First Woman President

First Woman President

Jimmy Carter, Nobel Prize

Carter’s Nobel Peace Prize

Jimmy Carter, Presidential Campaign Headquarters

Carter’s National Presidential Campaign Headquarters

Jimmy Carter, Campaign Headquarters

Inside Carter’s Headquarters At Train Depot

Plains GA., Billy Carter

Steve “Filling” Our Truck At Gas Station Formerly Owned By Billy Carter

Plains GA.,

Mural In Plains, GA

On Sunday morning we set the alarm for 6 am. We didn’t want to be late. We’d been told to arrive between 8:30 and 8:45 am to allow ample time for Secret Service screening. Yes, we were going to the Marantha Baptist Church in Plains to see President Carter teach Sunday School. Who would have ever thought we’d get to meet someone who’d been President of the United States. We didn’t get there until a bit after nine. Luckily this week there was a much smaller attendance and we had no difficulty getting into the main chapel. First as you drive in there is a Marine guard with a bomb sniffing dog that checks your vehicle. Then you go through Secret Service checks of cameras and bags plus being wanded. About 9:30 they give you an orientation of what to expect. You are given specific instructions of when you may take pictures, behavior in church and the photo opportunity that will follow. President Carter comes in at 10 o’clock and greets you. He spends about ten minutes talking about what he’s been doing recently. Then the Sunday School lesson follows. At 88 he is still in good health with a strong voice and is an experienced and charismatic speaker. You are invited to stay for church but may leave if you wish. I don’t think anyone left. Following the service the Carters stay for pictures. Again you are told what you may and may not do. The early rain had cleared away leaving a cloudy and cool day. Mrs. Carter is the decision maker as to whether pictures will be done inside or outside. I’m sure they prefer not having hundreds of flashes in their faces and choose outside whenever possible. Everyone lines up. When it’s your turn you hand your camera to the designated church official. As you approach the Carters your hands must be visible and remain so the whole time you are with them. You are not allowed to shake hands. You may nod acknowledgement or answer briefly if spoken to but may not initiate conversation or stay to “chat”. Our sole conversation was when Jimmy Carter said to me “Nice sweater.” I replied “Thank you”. When finished you pick up your camera. It all takes about 30 seconds. So does this mean we have 14′ 30″ left of fame? We  were lucky. It was a small crowd of about 100 people from 20 states and Canada. The line moved quickly. They often average 300-500 people. Take special note of the cross above the altar in the pictures. Jimmy Carter made it. He and Rosalyn hung it place from ladders. He also made a set of 6 collection plates for the church.

Jimmy Carter, Rosalyn Carter

Steve and Chari Maier Meet The Carters

Jimmy Carter, church

Orientation Before Jimmy Carter Speaks

Jimmy Carter

Mr. Carter Asks “Where Are You From?”

Jimmy Carter, bucket list

A Bucket List Moment

Jimmy Carter, photography

Waiting Our Turn

Something’s Phone-y In Georgia

Starting with this post we will be posting shorter and more frequent articles. Consider them a blog form of postcards. Let us know if you like this approach.

We chose Georgia Veterans State Park as it was about halfway between Florida and the South Carolina coast where we would be snowbirds for January and part of February. There are also three National Park sites within easy driving distance. The park is located about 65 miles south of Macon in Cordele, Georgia on Lake Blackshear. We were able to get a lakefront site. This morning just before breakfast Steve said “look out the back window at the egret.” There not more than 50 feet away was a white egret strolling by looking for breakfast. If it hadn’t been raining we’d have had cameras in hand.

Georgia, National Park Service

Google Earth Central Georgia National Park Sites

This is an area of small towns and red clay farms growing cotton, peanuts and pecans. Is it a pecan orchard or a pecan grove? We think it’s a grove so let us know if you know. As I mentioned it was raining this morning so we were in no hurry to get up and out. Plus it was my 66th birthday. Steve’s card was a recorded one playing “I’ve been Everywhere” and he wrote a note saying “We haven’t been everywhere but we’re working on it.” My gift was 2 large chocolate bars, one 72% cocoa and one white chocolate. I think he expects to share don’t you? Our cupboard was looking quite empty so we left to go grocery shopping. First a visit to the Georgia Rural Telephone Museum in Leslie, GA.

telephone, museum, Georgia

Georgia Rural Telephone Museum Mural

We arrived to find the doors locked and a note saying Out To Lunch, Back At 1 o’clock. If you need help go across the street to the phone company. Since it was now 1:30 Steve went across the street to ask and a woman came over and opened up for us, took our $5/person fee and left us alone in the museum. Small town America is alive and well! There was a sign requesting No Food, No Drinks and No Photography. It would have been very easy to snap a few pictures but they had trusted us to follow their requests. We did. So we’ll do our best to describe what we found. From the outside this place doesn’t look that big but once inside it seems to go on and on. Steve has written a summary then I’ll be back to give my impressions.

There are literally thousands of telephones on display, dating back to the earliest, in the 1870s.  One display depicted the first call ever made, when Alexander Graham Bell spoke over the line to his assistant, Thomas A. Watson, after spilling acid on himself and requiring help.  “Mr. Watson, Come here.  I want you.”  The first phone call, was actually a 911 call for help! Another phone was the same type used to call for help when President McKinley was shot and became known as the McKinley phone.

One item I found fascinating was the telephone directory from New Haven, Connecticut, dated February 21, 1878.  There were no phone numbers in it.  The entire city had fifty telephones, and were broken down as follows:  Residence, 11; Physician, 3; Dentist, 2; Miscellaneous, 8; Stores/Factories, 20; Meat or Fish Market, 4; Hack and Boarding Stable, 2.  It’s interesting to note the Police Station was under the Miscellaneous heading.

There is a display of Acoustic Telephones, which are basically the same kind of thing we all made as kids, with two tin cans and a taut string.  These devices, usually with a diaphragm at each end connected by a steel wire were generally used to communicate, for instance, between a farmhouse and a barn, and were quite effective.  Chari has a funny story about one of these when she was a girl.

I was visiting my cousin Jeanne. We were both about ten years old. Her bedroom was large and covered the whole attic. We made a “phone” from 2 cans and a wire so we could talk after ‘quiet time’. One night we were using ‘the phone’ when the wire came in contact with a wall outlet and shorted out every fuse in the house. My uncle couldn’t understand what happened. We certainly didn’t enlighten him!

The first pay telephones were nothing more than regular phones with a locked coin box next to them.  Money was dropped into the box on the “honor system”.  But displays of old coin phones reminded me of a story my Grandmother told on herself, which we in the family found hilarious.  If she was out shopping, and knew there was no one at home, she would often put a dime in a pay phone and call her own number.  Naturally, no one would answer, and when she hung up, her dime would fall back into the coin return drop.  She was “cheating” the phone company by making a call for free!

The technology for “dial” phones was invented in 1892, and was used on a small scale. Because of the huge exchange required, it wasn’t until thirty years later, in 1922 when New York City was able to begin using the system.  But I can remember well, as a kid, having a phone at home with no dial.  You would pick up the receiver and hear the operator saying, “Number, puleeze.”  I thought it interesting to see the first “dial” phones had 11 holes, not the ten we’re more familiar with.  The 11th was used to connect to the Long Distance” operator.  Touch-tone phones were introduced in 1964.

There are numerous other displays of phone-related stuff.  Bell-shaped glass paperweights, telephone pole insulators, switchboards, toy phones; you name it, the Georgia Rural Telephone Museum has it!  They also have a huge display of non-telephone type things…  antique cars and trucks, washing machines, Victrolas, cash registers, musical instruments, arrowheads.  They even had a newspaper clipping showing a photo of the dead Elvis laying in his coffin! I think we’ve come full circle here.

The first phones used a sulphuric acid glass battery and one of the first telephones capable of making long distance calls used six batteries. There was a sign describing the first phone call as Steve mentioned. Toward the bottom it talked about how the telephone had been the “social glue” that held people together as families moved away from each other. I’d never thought of the phone in that sense but it’s very true. One of the exhibits I enjoyed the most was seeing the switchboards that were used in the Jimmy Carter National Campaign Headquarters. They looked much older than I would have expected for 1976. When Jimmy Carter was nominated for president, Plains, Georgia had only 24 lines for calls coming into town. Almost overnight the service had to be expanded to handle thousands of calls. The process for doing this was described.

As I wandered among the phone displays I took special note of the change when desk telephones changed from something strictly utilitarian to something decorative and functional. The sets were named after the shape of the stand such as potbelly or candlestick. Moving from telephone sets into switchboards and telephone poles I found myself humming “I am a lineman for the county and I drive the main road searching for another overload“. I asked Steve if he found himself singing it too. No but thanks a lot. Now that you’ve mentioned the song I’ll probably be singing it all day. 

This is truly a hidden gem you should take time to see if you come to this area.

Roadside Humor # 3

We found this Holiday greeting a bit late as we drove past cotton fields in southern Georgia. It put a smile on our faces and we hope it does the same for you. Click on the picture to enlarge for easier reading.

Roadside Humor

Holiday Humor In The Cotton Field