Friday, June 28, 2013

150 Years Ago: Meade for Hooker

Joseph Hooker - Brady-Handy--restored.jpgGeorge G. Meade Standing.jpg
Left: US General Joseph Hooker; Right: US General George Meade

On this day in 1863, Major General Joseph Hooker was relieved of command of the Army of the Potomac, and replaced by the Pennsylvania native, Major General George G. Meade.  Hooker, of course, had been crushed at the Battle of Chancellorsville that May 1863.

Meade would have his work cut out for him and his 90,000 men of the Army of the Potomac -- Robert E. Lee and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, 75,000 strong, was across the Potomac and menacing Union territory.

File:Gettysburg Campaign.png
Map of the Gettysburg Campaign, leading up to the great battle.  Attribution: Map by Hal Jespersen,

Already, in the last couple of weeks following the clash at Brandy Station, the Confederate Army had advanced north, and sparred with Union pursuing Union forces at the Battles of Aldie (, Middleburg (, and Upperville (, fought from 17-21 June 1863.  These three battlefields can all be found along US Route 50 in Loudoun County, VA.

A great battle was on the horizon in Pennsylvania...

Live well!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Original Doctors of the Church

File:Chair of Saint Peter.jpg
The Chair of Peter by Bernini in the Vatican Basilica -- supported by four figures, four of the eight original doctors of the Church: Sts. Ambrose, Athanasius, John Chrysostom, and Augustine.

Originally there were 8 great doctors of the Church, four from the Eastern Roman Empire and four from the Western Roman Empire: The Greek Doctors and the Latin Doctors.

Of course, since that time, a couple dozen other individuals of great holiness and significant learning have been added to the list.

This article discusses the idea of the doctor of the Church: Old Catholic Encyclopedia: Doctor of the Church

In days of old, however, the list was much more brief, and I present those doctors here in thumbnail summaries:


Ikone Athanasius von Alexandria.jpg

St. Athanasius (+373AD):  The champion of Orthodoxy against the Arian heresy, St. Athanasius was present at the Council of Nicaea in 325, and reigned himself as Patriarch of Alexandria, in Egypt, from 328-373.  Of course, he was greatly persecuted and often exiled for his defense of the Divinity of Christ!

St. Basil the Great, lower register of sanctuary.jpg

St. Basil "the Great" (+379): This Bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia was a champion and father of Monasticism.  He, himself, came from a family of great saints, including St. Gregory of Nyssa.  He, too, opposed the error of Arius.


St. Gregory Nazianzen, "the Theologian" (+389): St. Gregory reigned as Patriarch of Constantinople for only a few years, from 379-381.  Nevertheless, his theological writings, including poetry, are sublime, both in their profundity and in their orthodoxy.  He had been educated with St. Basil.


St. John Chrysostom (+407):  St. John, the "golden tongued" was another Patriarch of Constantinople who time in office was rather brief: 398-404AD.  His time was one of political persecution, and eventual deposition.  Nevertheless, his eloquence in preaching was renowned, and his homilies on Marriage, for instance, have lost none of their relevance.

Those four gentlemen make me want to apply myself to learning the Greek language!  At the very least, Greek and Latin Christians alike should be familiar with these four giants of the Faith!


St. Ambrose (+397AD): The Bishop of Milan from 374-397, St. Ambrose was an administrator elevated to that post while still a catechumen.  He is notable for his contribution to liturgy (the Ambrosian Rite), the political world (rebuking the Emperor Theodosius), as well as for his splendid writings and oratory.


St. Jerome (+420): This irascible doctor is most famous for his translation of the Sacred Scriptures into Latin -- the Latin Vulgate.  A native of Dalmatia, he spent time both in Rome, working for Pope St. Damasus, in the wilderness of Syria, and ended his life in Bethlehem.

Saint Augustine Portrait.jpg

St. Augustine (+430): The Bishop of Hippo in North Africa, St. Augustine is probably the most famous of the Latin Doctors.  Certainly his Confessions and City of God stand out of an almost incredible number of writings.  He was received into the Church by St. Ambrose, and had some rather amusing correspondence with St. Jerome!  For the Latin Church, he is most certainly the most influential of the early Doctors, and his contribution is hard to overestimate.

Registrum gregorii, san gregorio magno ispirato dalla colomba, 983 miniatura, treviri stadtbiblithek, 19,8x27 cm.jpg

Pope St. Gregory "the Great" (+604): This "doctor of desire" was Bishop of Rome from 590-604AD and is famous for a host of accomplishments from Gregorian Chant to sending St. Augustine of Canterbury to convert England to his great Pastoral Rule. []

Greek and Latin, both, should know and revere these four Doctors as well -- for Latins, in particular, we must know the well from which St. Thomas Aquinas drew!

Thus, if you seek excellent summer reading, perhaps you might look back to the original doctors!

If you wish to read some of their work, you might check here:

Live well!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

150th of West Virginia

File:Seal of West Virginia.svg
The Seal of  the State of West Virginia.

On 20 June 1863, a new state of "West Virginia" was carved from the boundaries of the Commonwealth of Virginia.

The Convention in Richmond, Virginia had voted against secession prior to the action at Fort Sumter, and President Lincoln's call for troops to invade the South.  Those events, however, and the administration's requirement that Virginia raise troops to coerce the Cotton States to remain in the Union, were enough to convince the convention to reconsider, and vote to secede -- this in April 1861.  The convention, of course, required that their vote be ratified by a popular referendum, which it was in May 1861.  A number of the counties in Virginia along the Ohio River, however, had opposed this move, and in both the vote in the Convention and the Referendum, they had voted against the move.  When Virginia's place within the Confederacy was secure, delegates for these Unionist counties began separate meetings to discuss the possibility of seceding from Virginia!  A Convention of delegates had met in Wheeling, on the Ohio, on 13 May 1861, prior to the referendum.

File:Wheeling West Virginia.jpg
Wheeling, West Virginia, on the Ohio River.  Meeting place of the Conventions that led to the formation of a new state.

With the overwhelming support of secession from the Union voiced in that popular referendum on 23 May 1861, (unelected) delegates from the western counties met again in Convention at Wheeling, this on 11 June 1861, where they decried the validity of secession.  They also nominated Francis Pierpont to be "governor of Virginia" as they claimed to form a reorganized government of Virginia. 

Results of the Referendum on West Virginia Statehood.  Notice Berkeley and Jefferson county in the far eastern corner of the state.  They would be the focus of the Virginia v. West Virginia case.

In August 1861, the Wheeling Convention called for a referendum in the western counties on the question of forming a new state.  On 24 October 1861, that vote would be held, though turnout was much smaller than the secession referendum had been in May, and occupying Union troops were eager to help oversee the vote.

File:Proposed state of kanawha.jpg
1862 Map showing the proposed state of Kanawha.  It would be enlarged and dubbed "West Virginia."

The vote being favorable to a new state, work began in November to draft a new Constitution, a job that would be complete in February 1862.  The new Constitution was ratified in April 1862.  West Virginia would seek admission as a new state in December 1862, and President Lincoln, on the condition that they insert a clause phasing out slavery in their constitution, approved the request.

On 20 June 1863, West Virginia was admitted as a state of the United States -- the 35th state.  Of course, the state would include a number of counties that had not voted to leave the Commonwealth of Virginia, but, in order to form a state of sufficient size, many occupied counties were included regardless.

West Virginia was a legal oddity.  The federal Constitution states in Article IV, Section 3: "New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new States shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress."  Clearly the General Assembly in Richmond had not authorized the formation of this new state from Virginia -- but the Lincoln administration considered the Richmond Legislature to have forfeit its authority by participating in secession from the Union.  The Pierpont government, and the Wheeling Convention, then, was the Union-recognized government of Virginia, and its permission was the basis of forming a new state.  Indeed, Pierpont would move to Alexandria after the formation of West Virginia to remain within "his state."  He would oversee those areas that Union troops occupied.  Government "by the people," indeed.

A legal challenge did come after the war, in 1870, and focused on the panhandle counties of Berkeley and Jefferson, which were added to West Virginia after its initial formation.  Virginia challenged the legitimacy of the referendums in those counties that chose to join West Virginia.  The Supreme Court, in Virginia v. West Virginia ruled in favor of West Virginia retaining those counties, regardless of the circumstances of the referendums there.  This also affirmed the legal existence of West Virginia as a state, though that question was not the direct focus of the court in that case.

The full text of that decision is here:

West Virginia, then, is a monument to the Lincoln administrations unique approach to law and a punishment for Virginia's role in the Confederacy.  Convenient interpretations of law and coercive tactics, in the end, carried the day.  If Virginia is Abraham, Kentucky is Isaac and West Virginia Ishmael.

Still, West Virginia, for its legally troubling birth, is today a beautiful state home to many great folks.  Happy Birthday, West Virginia.

Live well.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

North American English Dialects

Mark Twain (+1910).  He spoke English, and that in the United States.

The varied manner in which various folks pronounce and speak the English language across the United States and Canada, is, indeed, a rather fascinating study.  We all know the unique drawl of the aristocratic Southern accent, or the Wisconsin "O," or the distinctive sound of the New Yorker or Bostonian.  Certainly it is great to have an account of what those differences are, where they are to be found, and, at least in theory, where they come from.

In this post, I wish simply to provide a couple of links to relevant and, in my opinion, useful, sources.

American Tongues - North American Dialect Map

The dialect map from the website linked immediately below.

Recently, I happened upon this site, which includes not only a detailed map, but links to dozens of youtube videos featuring folks speaking with the accents proper to their locality:

Once such video is that of these Tangier Island, Virginia, watermen:

This site includes accents of English from outside the North American region, as well:

Here is a project from the University of Georgia:

This link takes you to an atlas at the University of Pennsylvania:

Here we have a PBS attempt at the subject, and including a little quiz:

Finally, here is a link to a book on the subject of the development of the language, this by H. L. Mencken, The American Language, published in 1921:

Live well!

Monday, June 17, 2013

St. Botulph & Bunker Hill

Today is the feast day of St. Botulph or Botolph, a 7th Century Anglo-Saxon Abbot that few have ever heard much about.  His connection to Boston, however, means that his name is not altogether forgotten!

St. Botulph was the first abbot in Lincolnshire and was a man of great holiness of life, who died in 655AD.  Here is a bit more about this obscure saint:

Also, from the Old Catholic Encyclopedia:

 A town was named for him in Lincolnshire, England, originally called Botulph's Town, then Botulphstown, which became, simply, Boston.  Thus, Boston, Massachusetts is at least indirectly named for a 7th century abbot.

File:Boston, 1775bsmall1.png
Map of the City of Boston during the time of the American Revolution.

Boston was, of course, one of the earliest settlements of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, receiving its name and date of foundation in 1630AD.  It was named directly for Boston, Lincolnshire, England.  It was founded by Puritans from England.  Notably, Samuel Cole founded the city's first Tavern & Inn in 1634AD.

Boston remains a city with a rich history involving not only the days of Colonial rule, the Revolution, but also of massive Irish immigration that remade the city as it is today.

Here is a link to the Catholic Cathedral Church of Boston, MA, the Cathedral of the Holy Cross:

The National Park Service has a National Historical Park that includes some of the more notable sites downtown:

UPDATED: 17 June 1775 was the day of the Battle of Bunker Hill, as well.  The British, who controlled the city of Boston, sought to drive a colonial force off of Breed's Hill next to Charlestown.  This was, of course, in the wake of the clash at Lexington and Concord, MA earlier that April 1775.  The colonists had occupied the position only days before in anticipation of the British securing the hills about Boston.

It took multiple assaults, and cost the British a thousand casualties of the 3,000 men engaged, but the succeeded in securing the position and driving the rebels from the hill.

File:Bunker hill final attack.gif
Map of the Final Assault on Breed's Hill during the Battle of Bunker Hill.

Please note this splendid link with resources on that battle where Dr. Joseph Warren, namesake of Warrenton, VA, lost his life:

Death of General Joseph Warren by Trumbull.

This was a show of the discipline and fighting resolve of the British Redcoat.  It also demonstrated rather clearly that the situation in Massachusetts, a year before the Declaration of Independence, had deteriorated to open conflict.  Loyal subjects of the crown?

Live well!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

150th of the Battle of Brandy Station

Brandy Station Review (cf.,

On 9 June 1863, the American Civil War witnessed the largest cavalry engagement of the entire war, this in Culpeper County, Virginia: the Battle of Brandy Station.

The mighty cavalry clash between the mounted forces of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, under J.E.B. Stuart, where surprised and set upon by the horsemen of the Union Army of the Potomac, under Alfred Pleasonton, just south and west of the Rappahannock River.  The two armies had shifted to this front in the wake of the Battle of Chancellorsville the previous month.  The Confederates had about 9,500 in this fight, and the Union 11,000 -- though these numbers seem to vary quite a bit by source!

File:Brandy Station Overview.png
Map of the troop positions just before the start of hostilities at Brandy Station.  Attribution: Map by Hal Jespersen,
The National Park Service describes the battle thus:
"At dawn June 9, the Union cavalry corps under Maj. Gen. Alfred Pleasonton launched a surprise attack on Stuart’s cavalry at Brandy Station. After an all-day fight in which fortunes changed repeatedly, the Federals retired without discovering Lee’s infantry camped near Culpeper. This battle marked the apogee of the Confederate cavalry in the East. From this point in the war, the Federal cavalry gained strength and confidence. Brandy Station was the largest cavalry battle of the war and the opening engagement of the Gettysburg Campaign."

The Union took some 868 casualties to the South's 515.  In the wake of this battle, the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia would begin its invasion of Pennsylvania, and the Union horsemen, having gone toe-to-toe with Stuart, were a bit more confident.

Here is a link to the historical sign at the site -- useful for its details, and for pinpointing the location of the modern field:

The Restored Brandy Station Marker
Civil War Trails sign at the site of the battle, at Brandy Station, Culpeper County, Virginia.

The modern Battlefield is in the care of the Civil War Preservation Trust, not the NPS, and they have a wonderful website on the subject, well worth your time:

Live well!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Brood II: A tale of three species

With the coming of Brood II of the Magicicada species, the Periodical Cicadas, this blogger has had the opportunity to take some photographs and video of this remarkable natural occurrence.  In the photos and videos that follow, I present all three of the species of 17-year Magicicada, and all of these images were taken by the blogger in Prince William County, Virginia.  If one with more expertise detects any erroneous identification of species, do please let me know!

Magicicada septendecim
(N.B., M. septendecim)

The most common of the three 17-year Cicadas of the genus Magicicada is Magicicada septendecim.  They are characterized by their "alien drone" like call, as heard rather clearly in the following video:

Individually, the call sounds like this:

The M. septendecim are a stout little bug, that has yellow markings on the abdomen:

Like all Magicicada species, Magicicada septendecim first emerge from the ground as nymphs, as you see pictured here:

Once they reach a suitable place, the molting process takes place:

The newly emerged adult has a ghost-like complexion until the exoskeleton dries:

With hundreds emerging at once, and not every molt successful, a great deal of litter can be left behind:

For those that do succeed, they climb up, and it is in the leaves that they gather, sing (at least the males), mate, and lay eggs (for the females):

When they reach their peak in the trees, you can see them swarming about in some numbers, as you can detect in this video, if you view it in full-screen mode:

Here is a close up shot of a female M. septendecim using her ovipositor (the black tube coming from the abdomen) to lay eggs on a stem:

I also happen to have video of egglaying:

Magicicada cassini
(N.B., M. cassini)

The second most common species, at least from this blogger's observations in Northern Virginia, seems to be the diminutive Magicicada cassini.  Noticeably smaller than M. septendecim, M. cassini, are characterized by their buzzy call, reminding one of the annual Cicadas of the genus Tibicen.  They seem to favor singing in the afternoon, and their chorus is seldom heard without M. septendecim in the background.  Listen to the buzz of M. cassini in this video, recorded at the Brentsville Courthouse historic centre:

In appearance, M. cassini is not only smaller, but it also has a jet black abdomen, making it easy to distinguish from the other two species:

While not seemingly as numerous, the little Cassini are, with the tone of their choruses, easier to hear from a moving car!

Magicicada septendecula
(N.B., M. septendecula)

The third species of 17-year Magicicada is the most recently described: Magicicada septendecula.  Closer in appearance to M. septendecim, M. septendecula also seems to prefer to sing in the later afternoon, and it can be detected by the popping sound of the end of its call.  It begins with a wild buzzy sound, but that tapers to a popping that reminds this blogger of an Angle-wing Katydid.

While only hearing them up in trees, and having not been able to capture of photograph any, I believe I have a decent recording of one in the following video.  Of course, the drone of the M. septendecim is prominent, but listen for the buzzing and popping of M. septendecula.  You might listen to this professional recording first to note what you are listening for: M. septendecula call

Here is my video of this third species -- listen carefully!:

So, with a short time of the Brood II appearance left, enjoy them while you can, if you are so fortunate to have them in your area.

For tips on what to look for when taking your own photos of these three species, you should note this article:

Next year, it will be off to Iowa for Brood III if you want to observe these fantastic insects.

I leave you with two wonderful videos that I can take no credit for.  Follow the links and enjoy!
"Return of the Cicadas" Video

"Meta Morphosis" Video

Live well!