Not My President
By Morgan Gates
Editors note: Please read to the end before passing judgment
A scene from an Episcopal prayer service, in Vicksburg Mississippi the Rector leads the congregation in prayer:
O LORD, our heavenly Father, the high and mighty Ruler of the universe, who dost from thy throne behold all the dwellers upon earth; Most heartily we beseech thee, with thy favor to behold and bless thy servant THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES, and all others in authority; and so replenish them with the grace of thy Holy Spirit, that they may always incline to thy will, and walk in thy way. Endue them plenteously with heavenly gifts; grant them in health and prosperity long to live; and finally, after this life, to attain everlasting joy and felicity; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
A murmur runs through the congregation, there is a tension in the room, most are too polite to speak it, but the thoughts running through their minds are almost audible. Oh My God, did he really just pray for God to bless that awful man? He is not my President! The only reason he is in charge of us is due to outside meddling!
There are also members of the local government and law enforcement in the congregation that day as well. They can see the discontent in the crowd; they wonder if a violent protest is about to break out right here in this church service. Churches have often been hotbeds of political dissent. One of them wonders if he should summon back up immediately. Another thinks “what is wrong with these people, can’t they at least respect the office if not the man?” Then several of the leading ladies of the congregation storm out the back door in protest! The tension breaks the officials breath a sigh of relief.
The protest described above was not a protest against Donald Trump, it was against Abraham Lincoln, and it occurred in a prayer service in Christ Episcopal Church on Christmas Eve in 1863! On December 24th, 1863 Vicksburg had been an occupied city for six months! Martial law was in effect; Blue coated troops patrolled the streets! The previous rector of the church the Reverend W.W. Lord and ardent Confederate had departed the City after the surrender. Another man now filled the pulpit. Quite a few of the Union occupiers were of the Episcopal denomination and attended services at the church regularly, and it was at their insistence that he pulled out the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, and led the congregation that particular prayer on that particular day. The Prayer for the President of the United States was not something new, but it had been modified to read the Prayer for the President of the Confederate States by most southerners since succession! The protesting ladies did not get off “scot free” however, they were identified by the Union officials and banned from the city for the duration of the war! It was said that the Union officials discovered that: The Men of Vicksburg had surrendered, but the women had not!
Leaving Something Behind!
by Morgan Gates
Nobody passes through this world without leaving something behind. Maybe something good, maybe something bad, perhaps neither good nor bad but something that will be just another piece of that great cosmic puzzle we call life. Of course, we immediately call to mind the great men and women of history. Alexander, Julius Cesar, Elizabeth I, George Washington, Madame Curie, etc. but many more have made significant contributions, most will remain forever anonymous. The prehistoric cave painters at Lascaux in France, or the first man to figure out how to work with iron for example. But we all leave something behind. Perhaps it is nothing more than a bit of genetic material, like that blonde-haired blue-eyed child that pops up in dark complexion families from time to time, or that fellow who scratches his name somewhere just because he's bored. Well, let me introduce to a man in that last category.
Private Henry Ashbaugh of the 45th Illinois was one such man. He was an ordinary man from an ordinary little village in western Illinois. An ordinary man caught up in a very UN - ordinary time in history. Mustered in on Christmas Eve of 1861 and out on December 23 of 1864. He followed Grant to Fort Donaldson, Shiloh, and on to Vicksburg. He was part of the famous Lead Mine Regiment, likely he participated in the Assault of May 22nd, it was this regiment that was dug into the hill behind the Shirly House and constructed of Logan’s Approach. They assaulted the crater at Third Louisiana Redan and when the city surrendered it was the 45th that unfurled the stars and stripe once more for the courthouse clock tower. We know few details about his life, perhaps someone does, but these details are not readily googled as they would be for U.S. Grant or other famous names from the Civil War. So why do we discuss him today? Because sometime after the digging and fighting and heroic deeds were done Private Ashbaugh was likely pulling guard duty at that the Warren County Courthouse and in a moment of boredom scratched his name in the soft slate that floors the west portico of the Old Warren County Courthouse, and that evidence of his presence is still visible 155 years later. We all leave something behind.
On September 14 & 15 The Old Courthouse Museum will present Night at the Museum a living history portrayal of historic figures form Vicksburg's past private Henry Ashbaugh will be one of the characters portrayed
You Ain’t Worth the Whiskey!
By Morgan Gates
I’ve been reading the 19th century classic Life Along the Mississippi by Mark Twain. If you’re not familiar with this book Mark Twain a.k.a. Samuel Clemens was a renowned author and famous humorist of that era. Much of the first half of the book recounts his adventures as a young Mississippi riverboat pilot in training in the antebellum period. Leaving the profession at the outbreak of the Civil War he returns some twenty years later as a writer and finds the river and the cities along it much changed. The book although based on fact is full of hyperbole and exaggeration, it is first and foremost a book designed to entertain, and Twain’s famously dry wit translates surprisingly well even today.
As he travels from Saint Louis to New Orleans, he recounts his observations and conversations with people along the way. Of course, he visits Vicksburg in this voyage and records his observations and conversations. So, allow me to recount a story of a conversation he had with a Vicksburg citizen, the conversation allegedly happened some twenty years after the siege:
“…we had church Sundays, not many there along at first but by and by pretty good turnouts. I’ve seen service stop a minute and everybody sit quiet. No voice heard, pretty funeral like, then even more so because of the awful boom and crash going on outside and overhead and pretty soon when a body could be heard service would go on again… coming out of church one Sunday we had an accident, the only one that happened around me on a Sunday. I was just having a hearty handshake with a friend I haven't seen for a while and said drop into our cave tonight after bombardment, we got hold of a pint of prime whisky… I was gonna say you know but a shell interrupted. A chunk of it cut the mans arm off and left It dangling in my hand… and you know the thing that is gonna stick the longest in my memory and outlast everything else little and big I reckon… the mean thought I had then, it was “the whisky is saved” and don’t ya know it was kind of excusable because it was as scarce as diamonds and we had only just that little never had another taste during the siege…”
Now keep in mind the by his own words Mark Twain was not a man to let the truth get in the way of a good story but this story syncs quite well with historical accounts of life in Vicksburg that awful summer. So, until next time keep your friends close and your whiskey closer!
Life Along the Mississippi by Mark Twain available from Audio Books published by Mission Audio.