‘Martyrs’ on our Potomac

On May 23, 1861, Virginia’s voters ratified the state’s ordinance of secession.

Perhaps you will remember that one of my favorite subjects is: Things that happened on May 24:

Confederate militia had held Alexandria, Virginia, since shots were fired at Fort Sumter. Only the “Long Bridge” over the Potomac separated them from tens of thousands of Union soldiers mustering in the capital.

Shortly after midnight on May 24, 1861, a force of thousands of Federal troops crossed the Potomac.

New York Militia Major General Charles Sanford marched to Arlington Heights and established headquarters in Robert E. Lee’s vacated home.

The few Virginia militia who remained in Alexandria retreated to Culpeper.

New York Fire Zoave Colonel Elmer Ellsworth marched with his troops down Main Street in Alexandria to cut the telegraph wires to Richmond. Ellsworth was a friend of Abraham Lincoln’s.

Ellsworth espied the Sic Semper Tyrannis secessionist flag flying over an inn called Marshall House. He entered the edifice, and climbed the stairs to remove the flag. James W. Jackson, the proprietor of the house, announced that the flag would be removed over his dead body. After the exchange of gunfire which followed, both Ellsworth and Jackson lay dead.

Lincoln wept at Ellsworth’s funeral the following day, and the northern press hailed him as a martyr. Later, the Sons and Daughters of Confederate Soldiers erected this plaque:

ADDENDUM/ERRATA:

Please forgive my haste in the original post. According to this Currier and Ives print from 1861, the flag flown over the Marshall House was in fact the Confederate “Stars and Bars.”

Apparently one of the stars of the flag can be seen at the Fort Ward museum in Alexandria. If the flag had stars, it couldn’t have been the Virginia state flag. Sorry.

Alexandria, Honor, and Giddiness on the Airwaves

Ruins in Alexandria, Egypt
Ruins in Alexandria, Egypt

A fairly massive Tuesday-night wrap-up here, what with all the interesting developments…

alexandriaToday the Church keeps the Memorial of St. Catharine of Alexandria. She was not from Alexandria, Virginia.

We do not know much about St. Catharine, other than that she was a virgin and a martyr. But we do know this: Most of the city she lived in is under the Mediterranean Sea.

Once, Alexandria was one of the great cities of Christendom, the site of the world’s largest library. Not any more.

This week is the last week of the Church year. It is the time for us to meditate on the end of things. We do not not know when, but it is inevitable. Everything under the sun will end.

Kingdoms rise and fall. Great cities slip into the sea. Our days on earth are numbered.

Sir John Falstaff
Sir John Falstaff
At the end of Act V, Scene 1 of Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part One, Falstaff gives his “catechism.” (You can skip to Prince Henry’s speech halfway through the scene if you don’t feel like wading through a lot of Scotch-English history.)

The Knight of Sack and Bawdyhouses declares that “honor is a mere scutcheon.” It is “air.” It will not outlive death.

Falstaff is a lovably honest character. Two scenes earlier, he admitted to the audience that he had shamelessly abused his commission as an officer of the King’s army and profited by drafting unworthy soldiers.

Falstaff’s speech against honor is disturbingly cogent. And it is especially ironic, considering that, earlier in the scene, Falstaff’s drinking buddy–the Prince–has just made an enormously honorable offer to risk his life for the sake of his army.

Is Falstaff correct? What is honor? Is it worth dying for?

Certainly we all want to have a good reputation. But is that all honor is?

Discuss, and get back to me.

dave-johnsonglenn-consorFinally: Dave Johnson and Glenn Consor were so giddy during the third quarter of tonight’s Wizards blowout of the Golden State Warriors that they started joking about teaching Yiddish and Latin to each other. (Glenn Consor sounds a great deal like Ray Romano of “Everybody Loves Raymond.”)

124-100!!! Blatche rocks.

blatche