America, Countries

Civil War home to roost

As the fighting started in Manassas, Virginia, farmer Wilmer McLean was in the wrong place with the Civil War home to roost.

Fortunately for Wilmer he was too old at 47 to sign up for the Confederate Army.

Go Mac: Wlmer McLean

But the war came to him with his house in Virginia used as Brigadier General PGT Beauregard’s headquarters.

And a cannonball dropping into Wilmer’s kitchen fireplace.

The beginning and end

The house that Mac built: Wilmer’s house

With all that death and destruction on his land he can be forgiven for moving on after battle.

And heading 120 miles to the hamlet of Appomattox Court House.

Yes, that Appomattox Court House where 157 years ago today General Robert E Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S Grant.

And you can visit the museum there today and learn more about a war that changed America and the world.

And perhaps Wilmer McLean (Scottish surely).

Wilmer’s stuff and Custer

Dress-ups: In Virginia

If you’re looking for Wilmer’s original furniture I’m afraid you’ll be disappointed.

As the Army of the Potomac made off with them as souvenirs giving Wilmer a paltry financial recompense.

The table on which Lee signed the surrender documents came into General Custer’s possession.

And you can see it now in the American History Museum at the Smithsonian in Washington DC.

With an authentic recreation of McLean’s second home is now part of the Appommattox Court House National Historic Park.

Civil War sites

Let battle begin: Manassas

Now where Wilmer led I have still to follow.

Visiting, yes, Manassas, but still to make Appomattox.

Which I will, and as much of the pristine American Civil War sites that I studied way back in my University days.

And remember that all major airlines fly into Dulles Airport, the feeder airport for Washington DC.

Which Virginians never tire of reminding you is in their Commmwealth.

And not state as former governor, and Bill Clinton’s best buddy, Terry McAuliffe was at pains to tell us all.

Over a pint of stout in the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin.

But that’s another story.

And today is about marking the date with the Civil War home to roost for Wilmer McLean.

Countries, Culture, Europe, Pilgrimage

Holocaust Memorial Day

It was a moral dilemma to test the wisdom of Solomon himself, if bombing Auschwitz would justify the loss of life.

A major consideration was that Hitler’s Third Reich would paint the Allies as anti-Semitic.

History tells us that bombs did rain down on Auschwitz but the damage and deaths to inmates and guards were collateral damage.

Behind the wire: Auschwitz

From a raid on a nearby industrial installation.

It was the Soviets who eventually liberated Auschwitz. 76 years ago today, January 27.

And in the the aftermath of the War the Poles decided to preserve Auschwitz.

Dramatic Dachau

Lest We Forget Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen and Dachau and the 20+ other Third concentration camps in tbs Third Reich.

Dachau may seem a strange inclusion in a Topdeck Oktoberfest bus booze tour.

But the first German concentration camp left a lasting mark on the Aussie and Kiwi (and one Scot) hard-drinkers.

Manassas battlefield in Virginia

War tourism is not for everyone and its critics decry it as mawkish, but it is for me.

And I would much rather visit the Flanders Fields and the Somme, the American Civil War Manassas battefield, Anne Frank’s House and Dresden than sit on a beach.

Although thankfully they’re not mutually exclusive for the curious visitor.

Old Town Krakow

My passion for history has thankfully been taken up by my family (they had little choice).

And the Son and Heir sought out Auschwitz on his trip to Krakow for World Youth Day.

Of course, you can only truly appreciate the gravitas of these concentration camps by visiting them.

But since we all can’t go we must rely on the witness testimonies of those who survived its horrors.

And those of us who pay our respects.