Vandal and Thief
It has been a very long time since I walked the canal trail. Actually it’s been a long time since I walked on a regular basis anywhere. I’ve been trying to keep myself very busy scrapping, cleaning and painting the wood work on the nearly 170-180 year old Thompson house along River Road near Mexico, PA. BUT; recently I decided it was time for me to work on me. The Canal House Trail was supposed to be something similar to a “Rails to Trail” deal. However; no one wanted the responsibility of maintaining this Juniata County asset. It is named the Mifflin Juniata County; Lewistown Narrows Canal House and Trail, although none of it is in Mifflin County. Maybe this was one of the first steps at relinquishing all our citizen rights to that county north of us. Whatever!
The reason I’m doing this piece this week is because I walked that trail last week and it is with much righteous indignation I do this now. I say this as kindly as my heart will allow me. About three hundred yards from the pavement was a heavy bronze plaque that only said “JUNIATA RIVER.” It was attacked, anchored, tightly to a two – three hundred pound river rock. This low life excuse for a human being had to have used a pry bar and he or she would have probably had help in this dastardly deed. The sign is 10 inches by 20 inches also about a half inch thick and made of bronze. If you see this anywhere, it is stolen from the people of this Commonwealth, but more importantly from this people of this county and those who for the last four years have enjoy the mile and a half one way trail; of course, who only walks one way. I was taught very young if you carry it into the woods; you also carry it back out. If you can’t walk on this trail and make it cleaner than you found it, or at least the same; stay at home, because troubled minds don’t have difficulty figuring what their next move is. Only beware; someone will find you out. Just please don’t ruin something that so many other enjoy and use.
If you see this sign anywhere; it is stolen and should be reported to the PA State Police. It should be returned and replaced on the stone that will forever show the scars where the anchors held it firmly for these four short years. Parents if you find out your offspring had anything to do with this senseless act of vandalism and don’t want them to get into trouble figure out an anonymous way to return the plaque. Scrap yards look out for this piece because it is stolen. Auctioneers look out for this piece because it is stolen. Do I have to say any more? I hope not.
150 Years Ago
Last year July 21st 1861 was the “1st Manassas” or “Bull Run.” This week August 28-30th 1862 marks the “Battle of 2nd Manassas” The ground still shows signs of the battle 13 months ago. And now the battle field is has a good defensive breastwork network, in which they are well entrenched. However the battle is again fought mostly on the same ground both armies faced each other before. The entire Army of the Potomac faces only 24,000 Confederate troops; but as always McClellan and Pope move cautiously. During the battle the 8th Georgia infantry run out of ammunition near the railroad cut and dropped their weapons and start throwing bed rock from the railroad bed at the federal troop. The federal troops reciprocated by laying down their weapons and throwing the stones back toward the enemy. It was probably as amusing then as it was to us. It looked like one massive snowball fight, only with heavy projectiles flying through the air. The confederate held their position because the Union attack was poorly coordinated. Second Manassas was the most complete of Lee’s victories. At a cost of 9,500 casualties, he inflicted 14,500 casualties to Pope’s army and ended another Union attempt to capture Richmond. It was the highlight of the summer and for Lee it means he is now given command of the entire “Army of North Virginia.” The momentum is now in his hands and he decides to invade the North in hopes of another decisive victory. That battle will be Antietam, near Sharpsburg, Maryland. There will be plenty to say about in another month.
As for this event; it was fought at Cedar Creek Battle field for a lack of a better site. We are rarely allowed to reenact battles on their sacred ground. The ground at Middletown, Virginia site of the Cedar Creek Battle in October of 1864, suited our purpose. With nearly 1,600 re-enactors we concentrated our strength and were able to give the observers a reasonable portrayal of the event. This included the railroad cut portion of the field where the soldiers actual threw (paper-mache) rocks at each other. The observers are watching from about 100-300 hundred yards and seeing the missiles flying through the air must have thought it a sight to behold. To me it looked as if 300 kids were in the largest snowball fight ever. All three battles of this event were intense. Friday evening from 6:30 to about 8:30 was brutally hot with a heat index near 120 degrees. Saturday and Sunday’s battles were in the morning. The Saturday battle was cooler but equally intense. Sunday’s battle occurred after 9:00 church service in the USV camp. There is almost always a church service somewhere in the camps. Sunday’s battle was one of those rare times when an artillery piece rolls up on our front. We could see the piece coming with 4 horses drawing the cannon into position, the gun is unhitched from the team and they are led away. The gun was loaded and aimed directly at us. Our Captain Eller shouts at us that when this gun goes off we were all taking a hit. The gun roared at about a hundred yards away and 27 men from our regiment fell as casualties with this one blast. This would have happened.
One last item; in the 69th PA Irish we have an empty chair with our General Rich Dussinger’s hat on it. The chair will remain empty for the balance of the years in his honor. He died suddenly this spring.
As always this local event at Tuscarora Academy had many visitors and it was our honor and privilege to be able to talk and demonstrate this period in our history. We were able to show a few more folks what we are doing with the “Memorial Wall.” The names verification is almost completed. When that is done, the engraving will begin. We “Thank” everyone who has had a part of this honorable memorial and we continue to appeal to many others to join the effort. This week, “Thank You” to Mrs. Florence Corbin, from McVeytown gave us a $20.00 cash gift. She visited us to tell me she and her daughter both enjoy reading my column, also to tell me about her ancestor, who survived the war. She is related to the James Reeder from California, but formerly Reeds Gap. Jim gets the Times to keep up with local news. Hi Jim! Hope you’re doing well.
Juniata County Casualty
Pvt. William Swartz; 107th “F”, From Patterson (Mifflin), Wounded at 2nd Manassas, 8-28-1862
Donald E. Husler Jr.