"That was a good night - I really enjoyed it."
Angus McKinnon - PGLE
"I'm looking forward to my supper and wish you all the best for the coming year."
Ewan Rutherford - PGLE
"May you go from strength to strength"
Maurice Wilson - PGLE
"Brotherly Love's a great wee lodge - I love it."
Jim Gillanders - 1316
"The Brotherly Love Burns Night? Never surpassed!"
Robert Sinclair - 226
"Just go over that bit again, son"
Jimmy Knox - 1428
"You always get the warmest of welcomes."
Roddy Henretty - CLX
"I only need the one prompt, thank you!"
John McQueen - 1428
"Affiliating to 1428 is one of the best things I've done!"
Keith Millar - 1428
"That's no the Tyler's Toast already, is it?"
Kenny Renton - 392
"That's another excellent degree tonight lads, well done."
Ronnie King - 1316
"Mind now - they pies are hot!"
Dougie Sneddon - 151
"I might affiliate next year."
David McNeill - 392
"A very good FC degree followed by a very good harmony."
Ralph Shaw - 48
more to come . . .
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drove by Gaunt's Drugstore, the shop where Patsy Cline worked, and past her home on Kent Street in Winchester. At Stonewall Cemetery, I saw the soldiers graves, grouped by States with the monument to the Unknown Confederate Soldier in the centre. I also saw the graves of the Ashby Bros, one of the many gravestones in the cemetery which had the Square and Compasses carved on it, the Patton Bros and the Heater Bros. These were all locals who played prominent parts in the war, in that area. Also buried there are members of the United Confederate Veterans camp. This organisation was set up after the Civil War, so that veterans could meet as an organisation. As veterans of the war, they were entitled to be buried with their comrades in arms. Across the road is the graveyard for the Union dead. Charles "Broadway" Rouss, a local philanthropist, paid for the iron fence round the cemetery, and some of the memorials within it.
We then went into Winchester, where I saw the old courthouse, and the remnants of the Taylor Hotel. On the top floor of the Hotel was a photographer’s studio, where "Stonewall" Jackson sat for his portrait. (He received his nickname at the First Battle of Manassas, (Bull Run if you were writing the Northern history) where General Bernard Bee of the 4th Alabama shouted to his men, "There stands Jackson, like a stone wall, rally around the Virginians". General Bee was later killed during the battle.
I saw the site where the original Masonic Lodge been, where Lieutenant Mckinley, (later 25th President of the U.S.) was initiated in 1865. I was then given a VIP tour of Hiram Lodge, No.21 (by Bro. John Westervelt, Past W.M.), "the oldest lodge West of the Blue Ridge Mountains" Their present building was erected in 1868 with Yankee money. This was because, after Fredricksburg was occupied by the North at the end of the War, many of their soldiers wished to become Freemasons. Between November 1864 and June 1865, 231 men were raised to Master Mason. Their raising fees caused the treasury to raise $4,000 which is how they paid for the new building. Inside, I saw the magnificent murals, frescos executed in 1868, which look just as fresh today as when they were painted. I was also given a tour of the lodge museum, containing many items of interest. One exhibit I immediately recognised was a statuette of King Robert the Bruce on horseback, a smaller copy of the one at the Bannockburn Memorial. This had been presented by Bro. Jim Jack, Provincial Grand Master of Lanarkshire Middle Ward, who had visited the previous year. We stopped for lunch, before visiting Stonewall Jackson's HQ and the Graham house, just a few houses down the street, where he lived with his wife when she visited him in Winchester.
We passed George Washington's office, a small wooden building with a stone base, which he used when he was employed as a Land Surveyor, in his youth. On the way south, we stopped in Shenandoah Memorial Park in Winchester, at the grave of Patsy Cline. This would prove difficult to find if you searched the cemetery gravestone by gravestone. I shall explain. Patsy was born Virginia Patterson Hensley, the oldest of three children, the others being Samuel and Sylvia. They were, naturally, called Ginny, John and Sis by their parents. The next change comes after she marries Gerald Cline. (things are now starting to evolve). Her agent decided she should change her name, using a combination of her middle name, (Patterson) and her mother's maiden name (Hensley). When Henson Cline didn't work, she changed it to Patsy, and never looked back. After divorcing Gerald, she married Charles Dick, but, as her name was already famous, she continued to use Cline as her stage name. (I'm almost finished) However, after being involved in the road accident which ended her life, she was buried in the Memorial Park, as Virginia Dick.
We then went to the site of the Battle of Fisher's Hill, then on to Brother Bill Erbach's Mill, which he has spent many years renovating and restoring. I was given the full tour, and was impressed at how well-finished and comfortable it looks. Bro. Bill is also a member of Spurmont Lodge, and a holder of the Silver Star, Bronze star and Purple Heart, awarded during the Vietnam War. Higher up the hill gave me another view of the battlefield from Brother Paul Fravel's driveway. Rich later presented me with a bullet which he'd dug up a few hundred yards behind Paul's house. He told me it was a Yankee one, as it had three rings around the base, the Confederate ones having two rings. It also had a hollow point, which I thought meant it was a dum-dum. Rich explained that this particular round had been "pulled". If a musket was loaded but not fired, rather than waste ammunition by discharging it into the air, a long rod with a corkscrew tip was put down the barrel, turned and the bullet removed on the end of it. We then went back to Wayne's for a delicious dinner with the ladies.
On Saturday, Rich came round to take me to the airport. He presented me with a book entitled "The Ashby Camp revisited". This contains extracts from the Minute Books of Ashby Camp No.22, a U.C.V. association formed by Southern veterans of the Civil War. It was called a Camp, to emphasise the military nature of the group, and named after General Turner Ashby, a cavalry commander who was killed leading an infantry charge at the Battle of Harrisonburg in 1862. This book was co-written by Rich and the late Robert Mallin, another Civil War historian. We went to the National Sojourners meeting & breakfast, but the cook hadn't turned up - so we went to the "Cracker Barrel" instead.
Wayne had presented me with an impressive brass belt buckle, (Note - I am now a member of the Civil War Lodge of Research No.1865) consisting of a Square and Compasses, superimposed on a Confederate flag. I HAD to get a belt to put it on, so we went to Stokes Store where I had a very good look around! It was one of those stores selling almost everything, from hunting clothes and knives, to ammunition and boots, with other areas devoted to specialist items, such as beef jerky and sunglasses.
Rich then drove me to the Air & Space Museum which is 5 miles from Dulles Airport. We were able to see the evolution of air warfare, from the spotter balloons used in the Civil War, to discern troop movements and direct artillery fire, the early powered flights of bi-planes, the prop-driven passenger aircraft and warplanes, through to the first jets, V-1 and V-2 rockets, and including the "Enola Gay", which dropped the first atomic bomb on Nagasaki, and Concorde. It made me wonder what stage in evolution our mastery of the air would have reached if it had not been for the demands of various wars, and the rapid advances and innovations they necessitated.
After an interesting and enjoyable couple of hours, Rich then delivered me to the airport in fine time for my flight.
On the morning of Thursday 25th November, after what I considered a traditional American breakfast of coffee and a MacDonalds, I was sitting in a hotel foyer with a small suitcase and a flight bag. On two separate occasions, people walking by nodded and said that it must be "tough travelling at Thanksgiving". I hadn't really thought about it being Thanksgiving, as it's not something I regularly celebrate. It didn't create a deep impression like Christmas, New Year, Burns Night, birthdays (all associated with an above-average consumption of food and drink), or that of Easter, Halloween and Remembrance Sunday. I wasn't sure what position Thanksgiving should occupy on that list, but I recognised it as an occasion which called for a fair amount of celebration (and an above-average consumption of food and drink). After a short time people-watching, I slung my bags into the back of a Chevy Blazer, driven by Bro. Wayne Price. Wayne is the W.M. of Spurmont Lodge No.98 in Strasburg, Virginia, and a member of the Civil War Lodge of Research No.1865. His passenger and consultant navigator was Bro. Rich Radi. Rich is the Treasurer of Spurmont Lodge No.98, and also Secretary of C.W.L.R. No.1865. We set about leaving D.C. Apparently Thanksgiving is the best time to drive there, as most people leave for the holiday, the streets are almost devoid of traffic and pedestrians and there are no tail-backs on the roads leaving the Capital. After about an hour’s drive, and interesting conversation, mainly about Freemasonry, or the Civil War, (depending on which side you support, it's usually called either "The War between the States, "Yankees against the Americans" or "The War of Northern Aggression") we left Highway 66 and went up on Skyline Drive, part of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We did this so I could view the Shenandoah Valley, or the Great Valley of Virginia (and so Rich could have a cigar, as Wayne won't let him smoke in the car). From this vantage point, with a panoramic view, a slight mist and a blue sky, it looked spectacular.
Rich pointed out Massanutten Mountain, which separates the Valley from Strasburg to Harrisonburg (60 miles) and also separates the North and South Forks of the Shenandoah river, and Signal Knob, the lookout station who's position proved so successful in the Battle of Cedar Creek (pay attention, this will be mentioned again). The Civil War lasted for four years. During that time there were many battles, in various locations, in different States, but the Great Valley became a constant battle-ground, where the same land was fought over and the same towns were liberated (or destroyed) time and again. Because the Valley was the scene of incessant conflict, and because the Union army pursued a policy of scorched earth policy to deny the Confederate troops shelter and supplies, it became almost a desert.
The Confederate forces, however, used the contours of the Valley to their advantage. This can be illustrated by the tactics of Col. John S. Mosby, who commanded the 43rd Virginia Battalion of cavalry, known as "Mosby's Rangers". His methods were simple, and unorthodox. He attacked Union forces numerous times, in various locations, then vanished into the many ravines and valleys found within the Great Valley. Instead of carrying sabres, each man had two revolvers, sometimes carrying an extra pair in their boots. Captured Union cavalry carbines were tried, but were too awkward and unwieldy in length for effective use in the close-quarter fighting they excelled in. Those of Mosby's men who kept the carbines generally used them as clubs. Mosby's Raiders kept thousands of Union troops occupied in the Valley, when they could have been effectively deployed elsewhere. After Lee's surrender at Appomattox, Mosby did not surrender, he simply disbanded his troops, and let them return home.
After a few more stops around the mountain, to have other points of interest concerning various battles of the Civil War pointed out to me, (and to let Rich have a smoke at his ever-present cigar) we came back down the mountain. We stopped at Rich's house so I could see the beautiful view that greets him every morning, to meet his wife, Catherine, and to see his chickens and guinea fowl (and so he could light his cigar again). He was rather annoyed, as a fox had killed three of his chickens just prior to my arrival. We left Rich there, to prepare for our meeting later, and Wayne drove me to his home. On arrival at Wayne's house, I met Joyce, his wife, who offered me a cup of tea, Liptons Breakfast, un-iced! I was then shown to my own detached accommodation behind the house, known as "The Plumber's Arms". This is situated above the garage and next door to Wayne's office (he runs a plumbing business. I mention this to explain the name of the accommodation), which is full of Masonic and Civil War (note the neutral wording) memorabilia. This was a large comfortable room, complete with a fan for summer, heating for winter, a double bed, wardrobe and a coffee machine! And a bathroom next door. Indoors! Better than my place. I feel like adding, reasonable rates, book early for peak periods, no pets, no smoking in the rooms, breakfast included. After I got changed, the three of us went to the Strasburg Hotel where we met up again with Rich and Catherine and had Thanksgiving Dinner. As it was a buffet, I did my best to clear my own plate, and any others in my immediate vicinity. It's the first time I've had mashed sweet potato with marshmallows, but I'd recommend them! After this, we all returned to Wayne's house for coffee, a chat, a rest....and a chance for Rich to go outside for a cigar!
Early on Friday morning, Wayne drove me down to Spurmont Lodge No.98, so I could have a tour around it. It's a nice, modern lodge, quite large and looks very comfortable. Wayne was going to spend the day acting as chauffeur and Rich, who turned up as we finished looking round, would be my tour guide for the day. Rather than waste valuable sight-seeing time on breakfast, we got into Wayne's car, and, at Rich's urging, headed to the local "Subway", his favourite local dining establishment. Rich was devastated to find that it was closed for renovation, so we dashed down the street to Denny's, to get him a strong coffee to help him recover from the shock! After a hearty breakfast, we travelled the Valley Pike. We travelled North or Down the Valley, where Rich pointed out the place where the Battle of Cedar Creek took place. The Confederate forces under General Early, who had been observing Union troop movements from Signal Knob (told you it would get a mention again) were able to calculate the strength of the opposing forces by counting the number of flags belonging to the various units in the valley. At dawn on October 19th 1864 Early (by name and by nature) attacked, catching the Yankee forces asleep. They rolled them back for over 4 miles, until the Confederates stopped at one o'clock in the afternoon to rest. This was a major error in judgement by Early, as it gave the Union forces time to re-group and counter-attack at 4pm, winning back all the ground they had just lost.
The commentary continued as we travelled and then stopped at the Battles of Kernstown. As we made our way to the Confederate Stonewall Cemetery, we