Thursday, May 27, 2010

Continuing a Memorial Day Tradition

Again this year I will have flowers placed on the graveside of David Vickers. He is buried in Pioneer Cemetery in Boise, Idaho. Shelia Coleman, of of City Cemeteries & Special Services will take some pictures for me. My guess is his flag has never had a flag on it for Memorial Day let alone his picture and flowers, as he is not in a military cemetery, so this will be a first. Pictures will follow next week.

Monday, May 24, 2010

More About VMI

Saturday, in the rain, we went on a ride to the New Market Battlefield, 'holy ground" for all VMI cadets and alumni for it was here that the "New Market" cadets from VMI made a name for themselves on 14 May, 1864.  Called upon by Confederate General John C Breckinridge, the VMI cadets (over half of whom were "rats" or first year cadets) marched 81 miles to join in the engagement.

A New Market Day ceremony is an annual observance held at VMI in front of the monument "Virginia Mourning Her Dead." The names of all of the cadets in the Corps of 1864 are inscribed on the monument, and six of the ten cadets who died are buried at this site. The ceremony features the roll call of the names of the cadets who lost their lives at New Market, a custom that began in 1887. The name of each cadet who died is called, and a representative from the same company in today's Corps answers, "Died on the Field of Honor, Sir." A 3 volley salute is executed by a cadet honor guard, followed by an echoing, solemn version of Taps played over the parade ground. To culminate this ceremony, the entire Corps passes "Virginia Mourning Her Dead" in review.

Annually, the newly matriculated Rat Mass travels to the battlefield and recreates the charge of the VMI Cadets across the "Field of Lost Shoes." Four days prior to that, a march team consisting of first classmen (seniors) representing all companies and cadet government organizations depart from the VMI and march the 81 miles.

The service of the Corps of Cadets during the 1864 Battle of New Market marks the only time in the nation's history when an entire student body fought as a unit in pitched battle. That service entitles VMI cadets to parade with fixed bayonets.

Quite a moving story.

While there, Colonel Gibson, who conducted the tour told me he remembered a New Market cadet that had a connection to PMC.  We went to the book store and consulted "Virginia Military Institute Cadets at New Market" and found Jonathan Edward Woodbridge. I quote:

Born Jan 16, 1844. When he was a second classmen he was cadet sergeant major, the highest ranking noncommissioned officer in the corps and in that capacity served in the battle of New Market. 

" 'At-ten-tion-n-n! Battalion forward! Guide Center-r-r' shouted Shipp (Lt. Col. Commandant of Cadets) and up the slope we started.  Fromt he left of the line, Sergeant-Major Woodbridge ran out and posted himself forty paces in advance of the colors, as directing guide, as if we had been upon drill-ground.  That boy would have remained there, had not Shipp ordered him back to his post; for this was no dress parade."

Woodbridge later wrote:

On Saturday night, April 1, 1865, the cadets were called from their barracks in Richmond (having been evacuated there) to go on the lines below the city, taking place of Lee's veterans who had been withdrawn to the south side of the river.  As adjutant of the corps, I took out the last order to evacuate the lines below Richmond.  After marching into the city Sunday night to our barracks, we were disbanded and told to take care of ourselves....I with several other cadets started at midnight to make our way to join Genl. Lee. I got up to the army at Appomattox late Saturday evening.  On Sunday morning I learned of the probability of surrender, so went to Lynchburg, thinking a stand might be made there. 

The autumn of 1865 (September) ( went to Chester, Penna., entering the shipbuilding yard of Reany Son & Archbold...covering a period of 20 years.  In a885 I entered the US Government service in a civil capacity.  For forty years I was employed as naval architect and mechanical engineer during which time I was engaged in the construction of many of the largest and finest vessels of the American Merchant Marine, as well as most of the great fighting ships of the United States navy.

On May 23, 1876 I married Louise, only daughter of John O. Deshong, a wealthy and influential citizen of Chester.  In April of 1905 I retired from active work and have devoted my time to my private affairs and travel."

The books ends his entry: :He is not living at 1401 Potter Street."

Check out the pictures.  PMC cadets will remember this house!

Here are a couple photos of in John:

Small world!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Society For Military History @ VMI

Well, here I am at VMI for the next few days.  I must admit I have a strange feeling here thanks to my very close contact with the Citadel.  I made a point not to bring any Citadel wear as I think that would be rude.

The campus is well done, the parade ground VERY large and nicely kept.  At the moment it is in much better shape that the parade deck at the 'del.  Not sure why as each are used for the whole year for training. 

I had a wonderful chat with the VMI Sergeant Major, Neel.  He is an 82nd Airborne guy and have been here for the last 10 years.  Great guy, great example of what the Army is. 

The conference, for me,  kicked off today with an interesting sessions on Logistics from the last 1700s to the Civil War.  Nicely done.

Then a session in the George C. Marshall Library on the Army in the Pacific during WWII.  It started with an informative overview of Army education in the inter-war years.  Then Pete Mansoor (some of you may know of him) spoke about the 1st Cavalry in the Pacific.  It was one of the premier divisions there.

In the afternoon, I attended a session chaired by Rob Citino  called: "What is Victory?"  All the presenters are from USMA and they provided a comprehensive picture of the difficultly of defining victory in the current war.

I finished my session day with a wonderful discussion of the Southern way of War.  I especially enjoyed Susannah Ural's paper on The Texas Brigade and the Lost Cause.

I also went to the VMI museum and the Washington & Lee chapel where Lee and all teh distinguished members of his family are buried, including Traveller!

I will be posting pictures on Facebook when I get back.  As an aside, I HATE typing on a lap top so apologies for the shorten comments.

Tomorrow it is off to the New Market battlefield where cadets from VMI played fought and died and played a pivotal role.,

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Vickers at DMA

Came across some interesting information today. In Buxton's book on PMC he quite a Judge Grubb another DMA graduate:

"In the military department I was second in command of the cadets while David Vickers of Camden, N. J., a man of fine military figure, was first in command. Vickers, who was a brother-in-law of General Kilpatrick the famous Union cavalry leader, went through our Civil war, and afterwards was retired with the rank of brigadier general."

It also turns out that Robinett was the cadet sergeant Major that year as well. They just had to be good friends, I am supposing!

I am off to the Society for Military Conference at VMI this Thursday, maybe I will get a chance to poke around their archives a bit!

Keep history Alive.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

More Vickers Progress.

Things are moving along nicely. Janet Burkitt reports:

"I talked to a State Dept. archivist and reviewed the RG 59 finding aids. It appears that there is quite a bit of potentially relevant material and most (if not all) of it is on microfilm, which is great.

"The only indication I found of any potential scandal on his part while he was consul at Matanzas involved a dispute with Spanish officials over a fine that the Spaniards imposed on an American ship that Vickers argued should be waived; the ship was evidently missing some cargo it was supposed to have and it sounded like the Spaniards were making some accusations of fraud.

"I don't know yet if this incident, which happened in January and February 1885, led to his suspension in May. But whatever precipitated the punishment, it does appear that Vickers' reputation was ultimately restored, as he was appointed major and inspector-general of the U.S. Volunteers during the Spanish-American War. He also appeared to be considered a prominent authority on Cuba, judging from newspaper references, but I never saw any more mention of 'bad moral conduct.'"

I am looking forward to seeing the primary source documents soon.