Act of Valor by Tecumseh

So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.imageedit_68_7975298907
Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and grovel to none.
When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision.
When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.


a Common Grave

I am a loosely self-appointed, history buff.  I am a staunch critic of our current and constant fight for human rights for all…in that the beat goes on.  Centuries have passed, and yet, the rights of, women, African-Americans, immigrants, LGBT, etc.; seem to lie in question.  As though, God, whichever one you choose, decided, who shall inherit the earth and handed that message down only to…that ‘moral majority’!

Hence my interest in history.  For as many great and wise poets and sages have pointed out, history will repeat.  Particularly, if we do not face our differences, heal and commune together as the certain ‘melting pot’ society we are!




On Aug. 11, 1862, Robert Gould Shaw arrived in the Virginia town of Culpeper on a grim errand: the young lieutenant was there to accompany the remains of five fellow officers on the first leg of a final journey home to Boston. Before the bullet-ridden corpses were packed for shipment, Shaw carefully clipped a lock of hair from the lifeless head of one body. He repeated the somber act on the others, and put the locks away for safekeeping. He planned to present the keepsakes to mourning friends as a memento mori.

Robert Gould Shaw pictured as a second lieutenant in the Second Massachusetts Infantry, circa July 1861Library of CongressRobert Gould Shaw pictured as a second lieutenant in the Second Massachusetts Infantry, circa July 1861

Two days earlier and five miles south of Culpeper, the five officers were still very much alive as they prepared to go into action during the Battle of Cedar Mountain. Shaw marveled at their courage as they marched “straight up into the shower of bullets, as if it were so much rain; men, who until this year, had lived lives of perfect ease and luxury.”

One of the deceased who inspired Shaw was William Blackstone Williams. Known by his middle name to movers and shakers in Boston’s high society, he was well educated and widely traveled. He prospered as a civil engineer in the booming railroad industry, and served in the militia.

After the bombardment of Fort Sumter, Williams was quick to enter the Army. “I am young and unmarried, and am just the one to go,” he told a friend. At age 30, he wasn’t exactly young for a soldier. He was in fact a reluctant warrior. Williams believed that the war might have been avoided and blamed ruling Republicans for it. He was “staunch in the conviction that the success of that party, following the long agitation at the North of the disrupting question of slavery, had precipitated the Rebellion,” his minister noted. But he set aside political differences to defend the Union.

Williams became a first lieutenant, and along with Shaw and other sons of the first families of Boston signed on to the Second Massachusetts Infantry. It was considered the best-officered volunteer regiment in the Army, due in part to its West Point-educated colonel, George H. Gordon. He broke with the convention of having members of the rank and file elect their own leaders and selected his own subordinates. According to notes kept by Gordon, the first man to apply to join his regiment was Williams.


In July 1861, the Second forded the Potomac River and entered Virginia. Col. Gordon recalled, “The officers were in full uniform, adorned with epaulettes and sashes. The ranks were full, a thousand men, marching in close order, moving with the military precision of veterans, and keeping time to the music of a full band.” He added, “Never again was the regiment to make that march in such style.”

One year later, in the summer of 1862, the Second mustered half as many men. There were also changes in the cadre of officers. Williams had been promoted to captain. Gordon had advanced to general and commanded a brigade that included the Second and two other regiments. Shaw served Gordon as an aide.

Late in the afternoon of Aug. 9, the Second and the rest of Gordon’s Brigade occupied the extreme right flank of a mile-wide Federal front at Cedar Mountain. The brigade on their left received an order to attack. Shaw recalled, “They advanced through a wood, emerged from it, and crossed an immense field under a very heavy fire from forces far superior in numbers. After they were cut to pieces, our Brigade was ordered up.”

“We went through the same wood, but more to the right, and came out into the same broad field,” Shaw explained. “The first thing I noticed upon coming out of the wood, was the immense number of bodies lying about the field, and then I saw a long line of rebel battalions drawn up opposite, and almost concealed by the smoke from their pieces.” He added that the Massachusetts men “were placed on the edge of the wood, behind a snake fence. The men were ordered to lie down until the enemy came nearer; almost all the officers kept on their feet, though.”

Included in this group of officers of the Second Massachusetts Infantry in camp are Capt. Richard Cary (third from left), Lt. Robert G. Shaw (fourth from left), and Capt. Richard C. Goodwin (tenth from left), circa 1861Courtesy of the Massachusetts Historical SocietyIncluded in this group of officers of the Second Massachusetts Infantry in camp are Capt. Richard Cary (third from left), Lt. Robert G. Shaw (fourth from left), and Capt. Richard C. Goodwin (tenth from left), circa 1861

Shaw was called away to another sector of the battlefield about this time. The order might have saved his life.

The Confederates poured forth a perfect storm of fire as Williams and the other captains and lieutenants steadied the men. A soldier in the ranks reported, “The rebel’s assault was met with our accurate heavy fire, and so they did not advance closer than fifty yards of us. Then the heaviest fire yet came down on our right flank.” He went on: “Our line wavered and backed away. The brass eagle was shot from the staff which bore the colors of our regiment, and the staff was shattered by a bullet, but the flag was saved.”

The order to retreat could not come quickly enough. In 30 minutes, the Second had suffered 173 casualties, about a third of the 496 officers and enlisted men engaged. Roughly one of every four Massachusetts men was killed outright. Total casualties, North and South, numbered 3,691. The overall result was a Federal loss.

Gordon and Shaw surveyed the Confederate-occupied grounds on Aug. 11 under a flag of truce. Gordon observed, “In the woods into which our regiments charged and by the fence where my Brigade fought in line of battle, there were ghastly piles of dead.” An eyewitness account reported by one newspaper confirmed their observations: “The view of the battle field was a sight never to be forgotten. It was full of horror. For nearly a mile, the dead lay scattered or in heaps, many disemboweled, decapitated and mangled by shells.” Temperatures hovered near the 100-degree mark, speeding the decomposition process and adding a foul odor to the nightmarish landscape.

Gordon and Shaw arrived at the grisly scene where the Second had been decimated. Among dozens of corpses they found the five officers — four captains and a lieutenant. Shaw found the first captain, Richard Cary, lying on his back, his head resting on a board and his hands crossed over his chest. He had been mortally wounded, and according to an injured sergeant who lay nearby, lingered for some hours before he died. Shaw observed, “He looked calm and peaceful, as if he were merely sleeping; his face was beautiful, and I could have stood and looked at it for a long while.”

George Henry Gordon, West Point Class of 1846, pictured as a brigadier general, circa 1862-1865Library of CongressGeorge Henry Gordon, West Point Class of 1846, pictured as a brigadier general, circa 1862-1865

Shaw then discovered Williams and the two other captains, Edward Abbott and Richard Goodwin, clustered together where the regiment made its last stand. He judged that all three had been killed instantly. He did not attempt to describe their appearance except to note, “all were much disfigured,” and “the heat was very great.” The last man, Lt. Stephen Perkins, Shaw stated, “was some distance to the rear, lying on his back with his face to the front as if he had turned round in the retreat.”

Later, after Shaw snipped the locks of hair and saw the bodies off from Culpeper, he observed, “All these five were superior men; every one in the regiment was their friend. It was a sad day for us, when they were brought in dead, and they cannot be replaced.”

The pastor who presided over the well-attended funeral of Williams echoed Shaw’s sentiment: “My friends, his best eulogy cannot be spoken. It is the silent homage to his worth, of which this immense concourse of friends is the expression; it is the unbounded confidence, respect, and love of his companions in arms, and their pathetic testimony to his extraordinary merit as a man and a soldier; it is the eternal debt which the American Nation owes to his memory, and the enrollment of his name in the grand historical obituary of the peerless defenders of her institutions, her liberties, and her life.”

A month later, an even greater death toll at the Battle of Antietam grabbed headlines across the divided nation. Cedar Mountain faded into oblivion, barely remembered as the opening clash of arms in the Second Bull Run Campaign. In a 1921 biography of the philanthropist Henry Lee Higginson, who served alongside Williams and Shaw, the author Bliss Perry stated, “Cedar Mountain was a stupid, useless sacrifice of brave men.” Two of Higginson’s closest friends were killed in the battle, and he never got over the loss.

But the courage of Williams and the other four officers inspired other survivors of the Second, who achieved a distinguished combat record in 11 engagements. William F. Fox, in his treatise “Regimental Losses in the American Civil War,” lauded it as one of the “Three Hundred Fighting Regiments” in the Union Army, in recognition of its high casualty rate.

Perhaps no soldier was as profoundly moved by the losses at Cedar Mountain as Robert Gould Shaw. He later left the Second and became the colonel of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry, the first regiment of African-Americans raised in the state. He famously fell at the head of his troops during the failed assault against Fort Wagner on July 18, 1863. He and his men were buried without ceremony in a common grave.

We all die the same death.  And, in truth, we will all be in the same common grave!


to all the Characters I’ve loved…Are you the Yum or are you the Yuk?

...of good character...anyone who rocks a fishnet hoodie without robbing a bank
…of good character…anyone who rocks a fishnet hoodie without robbing a bank

To all the Characters I have loved-

After many creative writing classes. Teachings of what it takes to create a protagonist, antagonist, climatic approach, genre,etc., etc., etc. After way too many years of in house schooling…the most difficult persona to capture, in words and in thought, the ‘character’!  Little had I know…IT/SHE/HIM had been right in front of my nose the whole forty odd years of searching.

My father, bless his soul, spoke often of ‘characters’ he would encounter during his daily chores as a manager of linemen. A middle of the road, boss, to men who painted those lines we see in the, you guessed it, the middle of the road!

He spoke of Norm, who at the the time, gave up his day job and decided to chuck life’s little responsibilities..he became homeless. Pushing a Market Basket cart around Concord that came topped with a very ragged sleeping bag from the Army. Perhaps, WWI or WWII!

There had been Igor. Igor, I now realize, had been a hippie. All day long in the cab of a very small truck sat two full sized men and Igor, who did not bath out of respect for Woodstock!

As a child, I sat with mouth open searching for the meaning to his daily statement:

‘Igor thinks he can sue the state for chronic hemorrhoid syndrome. He’s claiming the only relief he gets is when he goes Commando. What a fuckin’ character that one is!’

Currently, in my en devour to find as many ‘characters’ as possible, before I loose my writer’s imagination, I understand what my father’s meaning was.

Though, my current hit list of characters are set apart by demographics, sexual orientation, age and color, they are very much twins with unique hearts.

These artists of life, say more than what sounds right. Alone but never lonely in thought. They say what they mean. Their singleness of purpose is simple truth and the pleasure derived from that pursuit. These are the people who grab your attention through action…though they may say very little. They change with the morning light for to a ‘character’, each day holds new promise.

New definition of ‘he/she is a character’?

They are bolts of thunder, rainbows, fireflies and the lump in your throat while soaring down a wooden roller coaster. They are all these memorable things stuffed into a greasy paperbag filled with a dozen homemade old fashion donuts.

The poets say, one must experience the anxiety, the ecstasy, the losses, the delights in life, to appreciate it’s purpose.

I suppose that is good enough reason to grow old. At least, to those of us who embrace living outside the box.

I have so many elusive and delicious entertainers in my life. And, as always, they are blissfully unaware of their status such is their grace and their speed..

My father, bless his soul, again, and again, eventually, left his line of work due to a life threatening injury…on the job. Yet, as many characters are known to do, he turned to his vibrant imagination. A flickering inferno of brilliant colors that encompass all our minds. He made something infinite and beautiful from a sad sack situation…he became a professional photographer. His work and works have inspired me to search deep into my creative side.

‘So what of these artists…entertainers…?  Character is what you have when the well has run dry and you are thirsty! And, with that, I ask,…if the whole world were blind…how many people would impress you?’


..of good we behave when we think no one else is looking!
..of good character…how we behave when we think no one else is looking!
..of good character...being the squeaky wheel while pushing the envelope...
..of good character…being the squeaky wheel while pushing the envelope…