Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Brief Intermission! Win Photo!

A trip west from Tallahassee, Florida across Interstate 10 has unexpectedly presented itself. This drive through the Mississippi delta has been something I've wanted to do for years, taking in Pensacola, Mobile, Biloxi, Gulfport, and New Orleans. Then it's up through Jackson and Memphis. As a result, there will be a lag in posts after today. Probably not much more than the week it usually takes me to post anyway, but possibly 10 days or so. We'll see. In any case, I'll bring my camera and hopefully some shots will eventually (who knows when) make it to City of Dust.

Also unexpected, perhaps, are these photos. It sure ain't the Central Savannah River Area. In my absence, I'm going to hold a contest. The person who correctly guesses the location of these shots will win their choice of an 8" x 12" enlargement of the 1st photo in Parade of Shacks II, the 5th photo in The Brick Factory, or the 7th photo in The Brick Factory. Prints are suitable for tacking to your refrigerator with a magnet. By location, I'm hoping for either the name of the town where the first two photos were shot, or the town near where the third picture was taken, a little to the south. However, I realize that I'm being slightly ridiculous, so whoever gets closest will win, even if they guess Mexican Hat, Utah. That's a hint: it's not Utah. In the event of a tie... Aw, who am I kidding?! If there are actually enough entries to create a tie, I'll figure something out. Enter your answer in the comments section, or send me an e-mail. I might not have internet access until I return, so don't expect a quick response. Good luck!

If you'd like more entertainment in the meantime, I highly recommend checking out Found Magazine, a magazine (and book) composed entirely of things people found. Photos, love notes, diary entries, threats... It's amazing how poignant many of the pieces are, little snippets of other people's lives devoid of any context. It'll pique your curiosity, that's for sure. From the intro to the book: "I ask folks to name their finds, just as they'd name a painting or a song or a story they'd written. Picking a note up from the ground - something that everyone else has walked past and seen as trash - seems to me an equally noble act of creation." Now that's a philosophy I can get behind! Just look at most of the photos on this site. Make sure you check out Found's "find of the week!" Next time, downtown Augusta, GA. Really.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

There Goes the Neighborhood

Back when I was finishing up the four-post saga on Horse Creek Valley and the Clearwater Mill I mentioned a deserted neighborhood between 421 and the Aiken-Augusta Highway, not too far from the junkyard. At the time, I said I couldn't post any photos because I didn't have the pictures digitized. Well, in the meantime I've obtained a film scanner, so we're going to try it out and visit that neighborhood for this post, just as the sun starts going down. Actually, the neighborhood begins right off the Aiken-Augusta Highway and goes down a bit toward the Valley proper. This is the first old house I went into. The graffiti, in red spray paint, reads, "AUi, ESTUBO JHNON THE O. HDOO TAXAS--TAJURO? MEXICO JUAREZ," possibly written by a semi-literate Spanish speaker.

There's a new website up and running that is compiling the history of Horse Creek Valley. (Update: This website no longer exists.) The site features all the great Richard Pearce pieces that I cannabalized for my own Valley posts, as well as current events, and a variety of additional background material. And more is being added all the time. It's a really great idea, so I'd recommend stopping by Horse Creek Valley SC. This is the house in the photo above, just inside and to the left of the door. Up against the wall, just under the graffiti, was what had been someone's bed. This, then, was the view out their back window.

The Metro Spirit of Augusta has an interesting story this week on "The Bottoms", the area around East Boundary Rd. and along Sandbar Ferry toward South Carolina. This is where the Goodale Inn and many stray dogs can be found. I don't know how long the Spirit keeps their features on-line, but for now you can find it here: The Bottoms. The lead-off photo looks pretty familiar, but I've also got a wider angle shot. I have an entire series on Sandbar Ferry Rd. that I'd like to scan and post soon. Thanks to Mr. XT235 for the heads-up on the article. Anyway, back to the Valley: the deserted block contained several homes, a bar/restaurant, a larger restaurant/nightclub on the corner, and this shop, Simpkins and Sons Cleaners. I assume it was a laundromat/dry cleaners, but even that's a guess. You can get some idea of how old these buildings are (and how long they've been empty) by the phone number listed: # 3313. The lack of walls is also a clue.

Each house had a weathered bank foreclosure notice tacked to the front, but it doesn't seem like the bank has been too enthusiastic about assuming ownership. I'd like to say I had photos from inside most of the homes, but I don't. You think an entrance that looked like this scared me?! Pshaw. Imagine if you took all the belongings in your home--picture frames, clothes, books and magazines, children's toys, crockery, furniture--I mean, EVERYTHING--and threw them all on the floor. Add rain, snow, and dirt, mix, and repeat. For seven or eight years. The resulting goo, filled with broken glass and oozing mildew, simply cannot be walked across in any sane way. There's not many buildings I won't go into, but garbage houses are definitely one. Most of the homes on this block were garbage houses, with nearly all the belongings left behind. That always creates an odd feeling. Where'd these folks go so fast? And why? Back in the original post, you can see the piano and TV abandoned in one of the houses I did enter. I couldn't go much further in that shot because the floorboards in the kitchen were sagging so badly that each step might've been a quick ticket to bloody disaster.

I'm going to mention a few photo sites that I've been enjoying, for those of you that want to see a little more of the GA/SC area. And She Was is a great site that covers northwestern South Carolina, up by Clemson, and also exhibits a fondness for mills. Lunchdroid, aside from having a nice name, posts great photos from Savannah and the lowcountry. Right now, would you believe, the Whittier Mill is featured. Hopefully the owners of these sites won't be too offended if I say I see similarities between some of our photographs. This place has a hand-painted "Keep Out" sign tacked to the front. For once, I decided to heed the sign. Yup, another garbage house.

You'd never know it from City of Dust, but I really love the desert. I've always wanted to live in the Southwest and, if I can find a reason (even a small one, like a job!), I might try to do so fairly soon. Desert Dream is doing nothing to change my mind, that's for sure. Beautiful photos of that big sky and rolling open landscape. Well worth taking a look at. You know, they say people that like the desert also like the sea. Hmm, I do like 'em both. Finally, many of the finest photos I've seen on the web have been on The Narrative. Simply amazing shots that always remind me not to quit my day job. Oh yeah, no day job. Anyway, stunning photographs. This is the rear entrance/exit of the house shown in the first two photos. I'm glad I decided to go out the way I came in, through the front door.

I took three shots in the bar/restaurant, and was really excited about them at the time. As happens so often, it seems, when they were developed they looked pretty weak. So, I won't bore you with them. The larger nightclub/restaurant on the corner looked really cool, but, in an admirable fit of self-preservation, I decided not to look for a way in. Driving by a week later, I noticed it had completely collapsed. Let's hear it for good judgment! Thus, as the sun sets behind the Savannah River, it's time to get back in the car and drive out of the Valley. On the way, we can stop at the Big H' Food Store and get some, uh, cigarettes. By the way, now that I have this scanner, I can scan in negatives at high resolution. So, if you see a photo you'd actually want to own for some reason, I can make nice enlargements for a couple bucks at Costco. Black and white should look really good. I'd be willing to trade, too. Just get in touch. Next time, it's back to downtown Augusta. Until then, take care.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Communist Eyes

We interrupt this broadcast to bring you...LOMOGRAPHY! We left Cumberland Island, then drove down a residential block in St. Mary's to look at where the first pecan trees in Georgia were planted. The seeds were found floating in the Atlantic Ocean by Captain Samuel F. Flood, who brought them home. Flood's wife, Rebecca, and a neighbor planted the seeds around town in about 1840, setting the stage for the making of many tasty pies. After a quick peek from outside the gates of the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base, where nuclear subs are made, it was back to the CSRA. We arrived to find that we saw the world much as a housefly might. Normally a cause for alarm, in this case it's just the result of cheap cameras and expired film. Here's some flat car wheels, the flat car itself soon to become a bridge in the Hammond's Ferry subdivision, North Augusta, SC.

Lomography has its roots in St. Petersburg, Russia. In 1982, with the Cold War in full-swing, Michail Panfilowitsch Panfiloff was director of the LOMO Russian Arms and Optical factory. One day, General Igor Petrowitsch Kornitzky, assistant to the USSR Minister of Defense and Industry, walked into Pantiloff's office holding a small Japanese camera. He reportedly slammed the camera on the desk and demanded the Director take a close look at it. Pantiloff did so, and noted that the camera had a high-quality lens, good light sensitivity, and a sturdy case. The two Communists realized that, with some modifications, this could be a camera for the people! Thus, the LOMO Kompakt Automat (AKA LOMO LC-A) went into development, with the goal of providing a small, black, steel camera to every citizen of the USSR. Here is a shot of a sidewalk grate along James Brown Blvd.

The LOMO LC-A was an immediate hit. Millions of the little inexpensive cameras were sold throughout the Soviet Union and other Communist countries, such as Viet Nam, East Germany, and even Cuba. And Communist photography flourished. But Communism hit some hard times in the late 1980's, and by 1991, with the Berlin Wall a memory, the LOMO LC-A was heading toward the dustbin of history. Then, the story goes, some Viennese students found a few cheap relics in a camera shop. They bought them and started taking pictures of everything they could find. Upon developing the film, they were fascinated with the strange colors, shading, and depth of focus (or lack thereof) that the cameras provided. Word spread, and, by the mid-1990's, LOMO's were being smuggled in from the former Eastern Bloc. In 1994, LOMO exhibits were held in Moscow and New York. A Lomographic Embassy was established in Berlin, with more soon springing up around the world. Waiting to see what's around the bend, Aiken, SC.

The LOMO LC-A was sure popular again, but the LOMO Arms and Optical Factory had ceased production years before. So, some LOMO emissaries went to St. Petersburg and, with the help of then-Mayor Vladimir Putin, convinced the factory to resume production. There was much rejoicing and launching of websites. In the late 1990's, a new LOMO camera was introduced, the Action Sampler, which takes 4 little photos via a series of lenses that open and close in sequence. The photos are all on one standard photo, looking just like what you see here: a chunk of the downtown Augusta skyline. Although this was taken with an eight-lens camera.

People really started to get obsessive about lomography. Contests were started, exhibits held, and, in 2000, the first LOMOLYMPICS. By now, the Lomographic Society International had been around for years, with the stated objective "to study and document the world's surface by taking millions of snapshots of it." New cameras were created, galleries opened, shops stocked equipment, and rules were drawn up. Yup, there's 10 Rules of Lomography. They include things like, "Take Your Camera Everywhere," "Don't Think," "Be Fast," and, of course, "Don't Worry About Any Rules." Kinda silly, maybe. But you can't deny the energy and passion these people bring to photography. If you don't believe me, go to the website of Lomographic Society International. I'll credit them for providing most of the information for this post right now. Here's the Savannah River, looking east toward Augusta from the South Carolina side.

Some of the pictures here were taken with an eight-lens disposable loaded with expired film. They were sold by Fuji in lots of twelve or something for a couple bucks each. The four-frame shots were taken with the aforementioned Action Sampler. You'd think it would be easy to take interesting photos with these things, if for no other reason than the sheer novelty of the product. But, in fact, it turns out to be damn hard. Most of the photos I've taken with lomographic cameras have been pretty uninteresting. So, some respect is due to people that are good at it. The Action Sampler I used appears to bleed light on the sides--nothing some electrical tape can't fix. Also, it winds by pulling a little string, which sure felt unreliable, but seemed to do okay. Oh, and the Action Sampler has no view-finder beyond a weird rubber rectangle that corresponds only vaguely to the actual photo taken. That makes things challenging! This is a side entrance to the abandoned Woolworth's on 8th St.

The shutters on the lenses open and close over a 2-second interval, allowing you to capture action (or make your own). In fact, lomographic cameras are frequently used to examine golf-swing technique. I soon found out that moving the camera was tricky; it was easy to move too fast and blur the image. Eventually, I stopped moving at all, or moved only slightly, as you can see from most of these shots. Here, the first instance of live creatures on this site, a South Carolina tabby attacks (unprovoked) his long-suffering housemate. And that's lomography. Again, I recommend going to the Lomographic Society International website to see a little more. Incidentally, lomographers also include the much-beloved Holga, an inexpensive medium-format camera developed in Hong Kong in the early 1980's, on their list of accepted equipment.

I'm gonna finish off this post with a little addendum to last week's bit on Light Horse Henry Lee. You see, there's a story about Lee's second wife, Ann Hill Carter, that is considered apocryphal in some quarters, but I think is interesting. Ann's health had never been robust, and she was afraid of becoming an invalid (which she did). There's also evidence that she suffered from narcolepsy. In 1804, Ann was struck with a severe fever and was in bed for months. At one point, she ceased responding to any external stimuli. Physicians said they could find no heartbeat, and Ann was pronounced dead and put in a coffin, which was placed in the family vault. A bit later, a church caretaker bringing flowers to the coffin heard a noise. Listening carefully, he thought someone was calling for help from inside the casket. The caretaker opened the coffin, and Ann Hill Carter sat bolt-upright. It took months for her to once again function properly, but she eventually did. And, just over a year later, she gave birth to Robert E. Lee. Some legends actually have Robert E. Lee being born MOMENTS after his mother's presumed death. Doubtful, right? However, there IS plenty of precedence for being buried alive. Below is Telfair St., Augusta.

Centuries ago, in England, coffins were often dug up so that room could be made for new burials. Land was scarce and people were always dying. When removing the corpse, about 1 in 25 coffin lids had scratch marks on the inside, indicating that someone wanted to get out very badly. This was a worrisome situation, as it either meant England had a lot of zombies at the time, or people were being buried alive. Remember, medical science has come a long way over the last 150 years, and it wasn't always clear when someone was dead. The practice was started of tying a piece of string around the wrist of the "deceased," the other end of which was attached to a bell. Thus, if the "dead" person wasn't really dead, they'd wake up, panic, and the bell would ring. Then, they'd just have to be patient and not suffocate while the graveyard attendant (and hopefully assistants) dug them up and welcomed them back to the land to the living. Oh, yes, and there WAS an attendant. His job, watching and waiting for the tinkling (and hopefully not falling asleep), was known as the "graveyard shift." If you were one of these unfortunate undead people, and rang your bell, you were considered a "dead ringer." If you were actually exhumed and put back on your feet again, you were "saved by the bell." Right? No?! Okay, FINE, I admit it!! ALL that popular etymology is WRONG! But, man, it sounds so good! And, being buried alive WAS a big fear. Even George Washington said, "Have me decently buried, but do not let my body be put into a vault in less than two days after I am dead". And Chopin: "Swear to make them cut me open, so that I won't be buried alive." And, the safety coffin DID exist (and does--the new ones have oxygen tanks), but may never have been used due to, er, design problems. So, who knows, maybe Robert E. Lee's mother WAS once put into her coffin alive. Here's a graveyard, in motion. No bells. Info on Ann Hill Carter's "death " from Gail Jarvis.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Light Horse Henry Lee

I take a lot of pictures of buildings. You may have noticed. I don't take many pictures of people. Beyond holiday snapshots, never in my life have I made a serious attempt at photographing a person. That might change one day, but, for now, I'm still taking pictures of buildings. Really, I think shooting buildings is about as close as you can get to photographing people. It's all about character and transience. Larry Millet, an historian and photo aficianado, has said, "Although architecture is often thought of as the most monumental and enduring of the arts, it is actually among the most fragile." He also said, "...buildings provide a palpable link with the past, which in turn gives meaning to the present." So, that makes me feel a little better about myself. That said, this is a rare post with NO real buildings. Don't get used to it. It was Alec Soth's portrait photos that made me think about this in the first place. Oh yeah, we're still on Cumberland Island.

The skipper of Life and Times on the Florida North Coast graciously pointed out something that I did not know: Cumberland Island was the original resting place of Henry "Light Horse Harry" Lee. After looking into it, I realized Henry Lee's tale was sufficiently tragic to warrant inclusion here. Hurrah! Henry Lee III was born in Leesylvania, VA, (yes, LEEsylvania) on January 29, 1756. His mother was described as a "lowland beauty" and had been courted by George Washington. Henry went to Princeton, where his classmates were James Madison, James Monroe, and Aaron Burr. At school, no one liked young Henry. Historian Paul Nagel says Lee was "arrogant, vain, imperious, ambitious to a fault, and painfully sensitive." After graduation, the 17 year-old Lee got right into the thick of what would become the Revolutionary War. Commissioned as a captain in the Virginia Light Dragoons, Lee, daring and brave in battle, quickly became one of his mother's former beau's (i.e. George Washington) favorite soldiers. It was Lee's excellent horsemanship that earned him the nickname "Light Horse Harry." In fact, 200 British troops were sent to capture Lee and failed. Washington offered him a position on his staff, but Henry turned it down, replying "I am wedded to my sword." So, Washington made him a Major and commander of a corps of dragoons. (A dragoon platoon?) Henry wanted to undertake a major battle at Paulus Hook, New Jersey, and gained Washington's consent. However, wet muskets and a lack of men resulted in a bit of a fiasco. Still, Lee's force killed 50 Redcoats and captured 150. Washington congratulated him and Light Horse received the Congressional Gold Medal. Oh, and he was also court-martialed for lying about his date of rank when challenged by a commander in the field. Washington got him off the hook. This is not Light Horse's grave, but a former neighbor: Catherine Rikart, the Carnegie's French housekeeper. Died "In Dungeness", May 12, 1911.

In 1782, near the end of the war, Henry Lee unexpectedly left the military and went back home, where he married his 19 year-old cousin, "Divine Matilda" Lee. George Washington himself sent pipes of his best Madeira wine to the wedding. Matilda had inherited a large estate, Stratford Hall Plantation, from her father, and that's where the newlyweds set-up house. But Henry wasn't too keen on farming, so he got into politics, gaining election to the Virginia House of Delegates. He also got into land speculation and started to build a city, Matildaville, by the falls of the Potomac. He ALSO began work on a canal to go around the falls, at one time considered the greatest American engineeing feat of the 19th century. Yes, the NINETEENTH century. Lee made a seemingly endless series of bad business deals, including buying 300,000 acres of land that was really 133,000. He didn't even own the title to the land the doomed Matildaville sat on. But he kept buying, even after his friend Washington had begun selling. Eventually, he got desperate, offering land he didn't own for security, spending his daughter's dowry, and even passing a rubber check off on Washington. On the other hand, he was against slavery, was an outspoken supporter of the Constitutional Congress, and provided assistance to veterans, though he himself was broke. There's a name for this structure, but I've forgotten it. It's sort of like a greenhouse for rich people.

Then, after eight years of marriage and three children, Matilda died. Next, his first-born child, Nathanael Greene Lee (named after Lee's old commander), died. Light Horse was devastated. With two children to support he went back to the army and even considered joining the French Revolution. In 1792, Henry became Governor of Virginia, although the post was largely ceremonial. A year later he married his neighbor, Ann Hill Carter, the daughter of Charles Carter, one of the richest men in Virginia. Of the affect of the marriage on Ann, a friend wrote, "One fortnight was her dream of happiness from which she awoke to a life of misery." Ann's father quickly made sure Light Horse couldn't touch his daughter's inheritance. In 1794, Lee accepted the position of Major General from Washington and led a Federal Army against farmers in Pennsylvania opposed to whiskey taxation. His constituents in Virginia were not happy and Lee returned to find that he was no longer governor. This growing government of the people was not something Lee, who believed government should be the province of the educated few, supported. To that end, he hated Jefferson, who he considered a coward for not fighting in the war. More old gardening styles of the rich and famous.

In 1798, Lee was elected to Congress and, a year later, upon Washington's death, delivered his most famous words after being asked to compose a tribute: "First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen." But the next year Henry was out of the legislature with creditor's knocking. To escape, he tried to get a foreign appointment, but the new Jeffersonian government would have none of it. On January 19, 1807, Ann gave birth to the couple's fifth (and last to survive) child. She named him Robert Edward Lee, after two of her favorite brothers. Robert E. Lee. Robert was just a toddler when Light Horse went off to debtor's prison. Indeed, Robert would rarely see his father, and assumed control of the household at age 12. With nothing but time while living in a 12' x 15' foot cell, Henry wrote "Memoirs of the War in the Southern Department of the United States," a still-popular text on the Revolutionay War. In 1810, when Henry got out of prison, the Lee's scaled-down and moved to Alexandria, finally able to use some of Ann's inheritance. Henry left prison just as France and England were starting to mix it up. By 1811, support for declaring war on Great Britain was building, a move Lee was against, believing England's forces were superior.

In July 1812, a newspaper in Baltimore, owned by Alexander Hanson, publicized its fervent opposition to the war, which was now moving forward. As a result, Hanson's press was burned down, but the proprietor reopened and published shortly after. Then a mob came after Hanson and his associates. Lee was in the vicinity and banded together with Hanson. When escape seemed impossible, the men accepted "shelter" at the local jail. This was a trap and, upon arrival at the jail, the party was attacked. Revolutionary War veteran General Lingan was killed, and at least one man tarred and feathered. Light Horse Henry Lee was savagely beaten and left to die. Lee didn't die, but was broken, afflicted with internal injuries. Now he wanted to fight the British, but could not. So, he went to Barbados for his health, a violation of his release from debtor's prison. His brother, Richard, had put up the bond for his release, now forfeited, sowing the seeds of Richard's own financial ruin. Behind Dungeness are a fleet of decaying luxury cars, one for each era of the early automobile. There's a Model T and a 1920's era gangster-type car, a car from the 1940's and, finally, a sports car from the early 1950's. Here's the entry from, I believe, the 1930's.

At first, Henry Lee tried to be a diplomat in Barbados and work for peace between England and America. But no one wanted to hear from him. So, he gave up. The Caribbean wasn't improving his condition, and he decided to come back to America to die. He made it all the way to Cumberland Island, where he sought refuge at Dungeness, dream home of Nathanael Greene, Lee's former commander and namesake of his deceased first-born. He died a few days later on March 25, 1818 and was buried nearby. Robert E. Lee visited his father's grave in 1862 and 1870, and the grave was moved to the Lee family crypt in Virginia on May 30, 1913. A broken failure at his death, considered "a heartless and depraved profligate" by some, Lee's legacy lives on through his famous son. Of course, back in my younger days, the family name became synonymous with a certain orange stock car...

As Willow (No, not the one from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. This one wouldn't look nearly as good as a black witch!) pointed out, Cumberland Island will not be roadless for much longer. Legislation was tacked onto last year's budget bill opening the northern part of the island to vehicles, including eight bus or van trips per day. Land deals are always complex and, while I made it seem like the Park Service owned the island, it's really more a patchwork of titles and long-term leases. In fact, there's 300 acres to which the NPS has no claim. Some of this is land owned by the Ferguson's, Carnegie's descendants, who operate the only hotel on the island, the Greyfield Inn. At $395-$475 a night, those tourists have big dollar signs for heads. And so, there's another part of the country you won't have to get out of your car to see. Geez, what a relief. Information for this post was collected from "Almost a Great Man" and the Stratford Hall Plantation, great (and occasionally contradictory) historical sources associated with the Lee family homes. Finally, no, I don't know what Dungeness means. The house was possibly named after an English harbor, and there's a similarly-named ghost town on the Washington coast. Also, a species of large crab. Otherwise, I dunno, a female dungeon keeper...

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Cumberland Island, GA

We're gonna make like a bastard out of Carolina and head all the way down the Georgia coast tonight. Which reminds me, I haven't heard much from Dorothy Allison lately. She's a South Carolina native (Greenville). By chance, I came across Buggydoo blog, whose author, in the 12/10/04 entry (Every Little Girl is a Princess), calls Aiken "one of the most beautiful places in the world," and relates a good story about growing up in the town. Nothing as harrowing as Dorothy Allison's story, thankfully. There's also a joke about South Carolina virgins, but you'll have to check out the site to read it. I don't want to offend the delicate sensibilities of my regular readers (or reader). You don't believe that, do you? Oh well, more weirdness and destruction awaits! Like this MG, still parked in front of a long-abandoned store. If you're heading out of Aiken on US 278 toward the coast, you might pass it. Only, don't tell 'em I sent ya.

The Golden Isles, as they're known, are barrier islands all down Georgia's coast. There's Tybee, St. Simons, Little St. Simons, Jekyll, Sapelo (access restricted to scientific research), Cumberland, and a few more. Since I only have so much time in this life, we're going to skip all of them except the southernmost (and largest), Cumberland. I will say this, though: it's always taken bucks to live on these islands. Jekyll Island was the winter home of the Rockefeller's, Morgan's, Astor's, Pulitzer's, Hill's, and Vanderbilt's. From 1885 to WWII all these cats hung out together, but toward the end of the war the US government decided it didn't want so many captains of industry in one place at one time (bombing target!), so the party broke up and never really returned. Where were the Carnegie's in all this, you ask? Well, it was Thomas Carnegie, Andrew's brother, who bought up large bits of Cumberland Island in the 1880's. Just before I took this shot of a building at a deserted intersection I noticed a woman on a riding lawnmower heading toward me. She was wearing a motorcycle helmet, but I could tell from the speed of the mower that things were going to get interesting. I snapped this picture since, well, I was gonna get in trouble anyway. After a few minutes of tense "discussion," during which I refused to hand over my film (?!), we managed to get out of the situation. My friend Chris XT235 was once threatened with a shotgun for accidentally riding his bike into someone's backyard. Trust me, these folks aren't kidding. I'm not saying people shouldn't protect their property, but, geez, let's not lose our heads. I still wonder if she actually owned this place...

About 30 miles north of Jacksonville, just across the Florida border, is St. Mary's, the access point for Cumberland Island. Florida is out of my jurisdiction, but I highly recommend checking out Life and Times on the Florida North Coast to see what's going on in the Sunshine State, including a photo trip to the Timucuan Ecological and Historical Preserve. Before the Carnegies, the Timucuan Indians lived on Cumberland Island for 3,000 years. Their principal food was oysters, which must've been, well, either really boring or totally exhilirating. It also resulted in large piles of discarded shells around the island. In the 1550's, the Spanish arrived bringing horses and missionaries. The Timucuan's eventually made the missionaries leave, but kept the horses. General James Oglethorpe arrived in 1736 and built two forts and a hunting lodge on the southern end of the island. He named the lodge Dungeness, but no one really stayed on the island until Nathaniel Greene, a Revolutionary War General, bought the whole shebang, logging the island's live oaks for navy ships and building a mansion on the Oglethorpe site. He named the place Dungeness, but died before it was finished. Here are some of the wild horses that still populate the island, remnants from the Spanish. No wild missionaries have been sighted for some time. Yes, I am available for birthdays and bar mitzvahs!

Greene's widow continued building his four-story mansion, complete with six-foot-thick tabby walls. No, not kittens. Tabby is a concrete-like compound made of crushed oyster shells, sand, water, and lime. The lime was obtained by burning the shells which, as I mentioned, had already been stacked into neat piles by the indigenous people. Pretty convenient. Tabby was a common building material along the coast, used chiefly by plantation owners in the 19th century. Anyhow, Greene's family used the mansion for 60 years, but the Civil War put an end to that. In 1866, at the start of Recontruction, Dungeness burned and Greene's heirs left. Next, Carnegie came along and decided to build a mansion on the Greene homestead. He named the mansion Dungeness, but died before it was finished, leaving the widowed Ms. Lucy Carnegie to finish the job. Sounds like a good, old-fashioned curse to me. Pictured above is the entrance to Carnegie's Dungeness.

The Carnegie house was used for three generations of balls, banquets, and soirees, but by 1950 it had become impractical to live on an island, so Dungeness was literally abandoned. Nine years later, vandals snuck onto the island and into the deserted mansion. This picture shows the result. The fire was so bright it could be seen across the inlet in St. Mary's. But, the question remained, what to do with the island? Develop the hell out of it, like any reasonable person would do? Or something else? Surprisingly enough, the answer was "something else." At least it has been.

Over time, ownership of Cumberland Island had been inherited by any number of Carnegie relations. Some couldn't afford to keep their shares and were looking to sell. Others weren't sure what they wanted to do. A famous developer, Charles Fraser, wanted to build what is now known as a "gated community" on the island. It was to be called "Cumberland Oaks." On the other hand, David Brower of the Sierra Club and, later, Earth Island Institute, considered the island the last remnant of pre-Spanish settlement landscape left on the East Coast and wanted it preserved. Some Carnegie's sided with Brower, others Fraser. Thus, the Carnegie's began to wrangle and bicker amongst themselves, as any family worth their salt would do. More of Dungeness.

Brower began to push for making Cumberland Island a national seashore. Fraser was okay with that--as long as the preserve was situated AROUND his development. Fraser was being a bit disingenuous since a national seashore would increase the value of his development exponentially by preventing further construction nearby. At the time the Carnegie's finally decided to sell all their holdings to the National Park Service in 1972, Fraser owned 3,000 acres. Seeing the writing on the tabby, Fraser finally decided to throw in his hand and sold to the Park Service. That made 36,415 acres, 16,850 of which are marsh, mud flats, and tidal creeks. Should I just steal from the National Park Service? Okay: "(Cumberland Island National Seashore) is well known for its sea turtles, wild turkeys, wild horses, armadillos, abundant shore birds, dune fields, maritime forests, salt marshes, and historic structures." And so Cumberland today looks much as it did in 1600.

At least I assume it looks much as it did in 1600. Most of the island is totally inaccessible to the casual (or even not-so-casual) visitor. Vehicles are not allowed on the island and the southern end contains the only drop-off and pick-up points for the ferry. So, no, you can't just go off and buy a cheeseburger and fries. Actually, you'd be lucky to find a picnic table. You can, however, do other stuff, like, uh, swim or check out Dungeness. Just don't mistake the cisterns for garbage cans. That's really frowned upon. You can't actually go IN Dungeness, which accounts for all my exterior photos. This is a shot of the guest digs next to Dungeness. For the discerning associate of the Carnegie's, who needed a thatch tower all to themselves, this was the preferred option. Obviously, it met much the same fate as the mansion. Cumberland is so nice we're gonna stay for a bit. Oh, I got bits of info for this post from Kap Stann's Georgia Moon Travel Handbook and The New Georgia Guide, by a whole bunch of people. Both are good references. More next time.

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

The Battle of Aiken

Out of the land of the lost and back to the land of the living, we'll head down the Whiskey Rd. (so-named for its storied history as a main drag for bootleggers) and then out to the edge of Aiken, currently the site of much road contruction. But first let's make a slight detour to Hitchcock Woods, a 2000-acre forest and municipal park that will be preserved in perpetuity thanks to Thomas Hitchcock and his daughter, Helen, who donated the first 1,200 acres in 1939. The residents of Aiken, including countless horses, thank them. I've heard it said that Hitchcock Woods is the largest municipal park in the country, but this isn't true. Hitchcock Woods is the largest FORESTED municipal park in the country. Incidentally, the largest municipal park in the country (and world!) is South Mountain Park in Phoenix, at a whopping 17,000 acres. I've found it a good place to experiment with sunstroke.

One day we took a trek through the woods, stopping by the site of an old mansion. Unfortunately, all that was left were some stairs and a brick retaining wall. Now, I've posted some photos of questionable quality, but I'll spare you these. Then we stepped down into a creek and started walking. It hadn't rained in awhile, so we were pretty certain a flash flood wouldn't come through. I wouldn't be typing this if it had. The name of the creek escapes me, but I recall it being really obvious. It might have been Sandy Creek, actually. Does it look like something Hitchcock would shoot? Hey, I tried! Civil War-era ammunition, bayonets, and muskets are still being found, buried in the sand for nearly 150 years. Now, that's a perfect segway to...

...the Battle of Aiken. Every year in late February folks from all over turn out to re-enact the Battle of Aiken. Yeah, if I posted more often I could've given you enough notice to get your flights booked and get down there. As it is, it was last weekend. People camp out all weekend and dress up in Civil War-era costumes. It's really a big deal. You want to know why it's a big deal? Okay, I'll tell ya. As for the photos in this post, they're all from this little spot on the outskirts of town. We had initially gone to check out the Dinner Bell, an apparently abandoned restaurant. However, when we got there we not only weren't sure that it was abandoned, but, in a move certain to give the Health Department fits, it looked like it might've been in operation. There were two cars outside (granted, one had a flat tire) and the door was open. We considered going over to see what was up, but decided against it. And, anyway, this Travel Trailers outlet and a video game store were right across the street.

“When I go through South Carolina, it will be one of the most horrible things in the history of the world. The devil himself couldn’t restrain my men in that state.” That's William Tecumseh Sherman, while he and his troops caught their breath in Savannah, GA. Sherman's cavalry commander, Union Brigadier Hugh Judson Kilpatrick (AKA Kill Cav), was of the same mind: “In after years, when travelers passing through South Carolina shall see chimney stacks without houses, and the country desolate, and shall ask who did this? Some Yankee will answer: Kilpatrick’s Cavalry!” The guy reportedly spent $5,000 just outfitting his troops with matches before they left Savannah. Here's a look at the HVAC set-up in the travel trailer, in case you were interested.

Union troops began invading SC on February 1, 1865, with one wing of Sherman's Army, including Kilpatrick, following the Savannah River, seemingly headed toward Augusta and the Confederate Powder Works, which was producing most of the Confederacy's gunpowder. The other wing of the army was heading toward Charleston. Thus, the Confederacy was not sure if Augusta or Charleston would be hit next. In fact, Sherman's real plan was to attack Columbia. Four days later Kilpatrick was in Barnwell, just outside Aiken. In a letter to Sherman reporting on the state of things, Kill Cav referred to the town as "Burn-well." Next he turned his attention to the railroad. Please, not the Hamburg-Charleston! The railroad had been transporting Confederate troops during the war and Kilpatrick went to nearby Blackville and began tearing up track and lighting more stuff on fire. Here's the inside of Travel Trailers HQ. I guess no one wanted the furniture.

On February 8, Kilpatrick wrote to Sherman that he was heading into Aiken. "I will be prudent, bold, but not rash." Kill Cav then crossed into Aiken County and began fighting Col. Charles C. Crew’s regiment of Major General Joe Wheeler's Cavalry, thus commencing the Battle of Aiken. At this point, near the end of the war, the Confederacy was in bad shape. Many outfits were comprised of young boys and old men. And the Confederacy desperately wanted to protect the Confederate Powder Works and the Graniteville Mill (and the 4,000,000 yards of cotton cloth it produced each year). Major General D. H. Hill, the commander at Augusta, positioned 3,060 men to protect the area, while Joe Wheeler began defensive maneuvers with his 4,500 troops. Meanwhile, Kilpatrick's men were beginning their work in Aiken, shooting Mr. James Courtney after he repeatedly doused the flames with which Union troops were trying to burn his home. Denied aid from the Union surgeon, Courtney bled to death on his lawn while his house burned, and became the first casualty of the battle. Lots of times you wonder how long a place has been abandoned. Here, this swell calendar was thoughtfully left behind and we know that everyone high-tailed it sometime in September 1996.

People started to flee Aiken, fearing the worst. One woman reported, "This band of 150 men ransacked every nook and corner, breaking open trunks and boxes, singing, whistling, young villain came in, fastened the doors, demanded our watches, and, using the most profane language and terrible threats, ordered us to confess where our gold and silver was buried." The young Toole brothers had nooses put 'round their necks and were threatened with lynching if they didn't give up their horses. Mrs. Toole provided dinner for some Union troops, only to have the diners set her house on fire. (She was able to put it out.) Confederate troops went about finding a way to ambush Kilpatrick's forces, arrayed in a "V" formation as they moved forward. Major General Wheeler hoped Kilpatrick would go after retreating Confederates, allowing Wheeler's men to sneak up behind and attack the upper flanks of Kilpatrick's "V".

Kilpatrick had been warned by civilians of Wheeler's activities, but kept going. On Febraury 11, Kilpatrick's men were moving through the streets of Aiken. Confederate troops were ready to ambush, waiting for the signal to attack. It was at that point that a soldier from Alabama got a little nervous and fired his gun prematurely, alerting the Union soldiers to the Confederate's presence and wrecking the ambush. Wheeler gave the order to attack immediately and hand-to-hand fighting broke out amidst the streets and homes of Aiken. Meanwhile, a Federal battery of the 10th Wisconsin started shelling the town. Sounds like chaos, eh? John Reed, serving with the 92nd Illinois Mounted Infantry, made a few interesting observations, noting that "Kilpatrick...called on the 92nd Illinois Silver Cornet Band to play Yankee Doodle" and "The ladies of the town waved their handkerchiefs in welcome and smilingly invited the officers and men into their houses. But that kind of a welcome was unusual in South Carolina. It was an additional evidence of danger." Fighting was fierce as Union troops looked for a way through the Confederate's line as the Confederate's continued their attack. Here's a shot of Bubba's Video Games, just next door to Travel Trailer's.

Here's a Confederate account from Private D. B. Morgan of the 5th Georgia Cavalry: "Our regiment had just been issued sabers with wooden scabbards, which were awkwardly attached to our saddles. I was mounted on a very fine mule. We charged the enemy through scrub oak forest and open peach orchard, through the village, driving them back. It was an all-day fight. As we halted in one of the charges, my mule was shot from under me, the ball passing immediately under my left leg and entering the poor creature's heart. With an unearthly yell...she bounded into the air and in falling, caught me half dismounted, with my left leg under her body. The soft plowed ground on which I fell prevented its being broken." The Rev. John Henry Cornish of St. Thaddeus Church reported that, "The enemy was driven back to Pole Cat Pond. Five of our wounded were brought to my house where the surgeons attended to them. Two of the killed were taken to the church yard, where they were put in coffins and buried." Kilpatrick and his men were finally forced to retreat. It is alleged that during the retreat a Confederate calvaryman shot his pistol at Kilpatrick's chest point-blank, but it failed to go off. On February 12, Kilpatrick raised the white flag and each side went to deal with the dead and wounded. The next day Kill Cav's force was off to join Sherman in his attack on Columbia, with Wheeler, considered the hero of the Battle of Aiken, sweeping wide, trying to arrive at the capital city before Sherman. Wheeler was unsuccessful; Sherman entered Columbia on February 17, 1865 and took the city.

During the Civil War no one could agree on casualties. Kilpatrick claimed there were 251 killed or wounded Confederate soldiers, while Wheeler said their were 50. Wheeler, on the other hand, claimed 495 Union soldiers killed or wounded; Kilpatrick said there were less than 45! In any case, Wheeler's defeat of Kilpatrick is considered to have saved everything from the Hamburg-Charleston Railroad to the Powder Works to Augusta itself from certain destruction, later easing the pain of Reconstruction. And the Battle of Aiken is refought every year! If you want more info, go to the Battle of Aiken home page, which provided much of the detail for this post. Thanks Pete Peters!

Above is a Willie Nelson sticker from behind Bubba's Video Games. I saw Willie and Company do their thing at the Augusta-Richmond Civic Center about a year ago. Great show. Willie's guitar playing was stellar, incorporating some nice Spanish/flamenco touches. Incidentally, Willie is marketing his own biofuel (i.e. vegetable oil) for use in diesel engines. His own tour bus has used it for some time. Go Willie! This post was powered by Sister Rosetta Tharpe-The Original Soul Sister, a lovely 4 CD box set of her blues and gospel tunes. Dunno who Rosetta Tharpe was? Go here and watch the video. But don't stop until you've made it to the guitar break in the middle. Not THAT'S cool. Y'know, it's not all blues with me. I come from the land of former independent rock giants and r & b superstars. It was all I could do not to title this post "Aiken to Be." Next time it's off to Cumberland Island on the Florida border. See ya then.