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I Don’t Have the Answers but You Might as Well Live: Thoughts on Suicide

Suicide-Hotline

Friends of Padre Steve’s World,

This is a hard article to write because it takes me back to points in my life after my return from Iraq that all I wanted to do was die and even had plans of how I would kill myself. The worst period was between 2010 and 2013 when I was stationed away from my wife Judy on an unaccompanied assignment at Camp LeJeune North Carolina. But I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to subject my dog Molly to me not coming home, she helped save my life, as did thoughts of Judy and the friends I had at a local bar who cared for me during that time.

It wasn’t my faith or for that matter most of the people I knew in the Chaplain Corps or my former Church that kept me from it, it was a dog, my wife, and regular guys that I ate and drank with regularly: Mike and New York Mike, Walt, Eddie, Felicia, Bill, “Judge Ito”, Billy, and other regulars at Rucker Johns in Emerald Isle made sure that I lived. So did friends at Granger Stadium in Kinston North Carolina where I would drive an hour to and back to watch minor league baseball games two or three times a week: Toni and Jerry, Anne, Cara, and Negro League Hall of Fame player Carl Long. Sadly, New York Mike, Judge Ito, Walt, Cara, and Carl have all passed away since I came back to Virginia.

During those dark times I had friends including men and women that I had served with in the military or their family members kill themselves. I can visualize their faces as I write this. They ranged in age from barely twenty years old to nearly sixty, all at different stages of life and their career. Quite a few were combat vets of multiple deployments and in one case both the Vietnam and the Iraq wars. They were real heroes but they defeat the figurative demons within them. I also have had a great grandfather and great uncle who afflicted with terminal cancer killed themselves.

I still struggle with the effects of PTSD, Traumatic Brain Injury, and Moral Injury. I still suffer from depression and anxiety, thankfully not nearly as bad as it used to be. I still avoid most crowded places unless they are very familiar to me. I am still hyper-vigilant and on guard. I plot escape routes or have memorized what I as an unarmed person would do to neutralize a threat in a public place because I don’t plan on going down without a fight or let innocent people get killed.  I also suffer from frequent flashbacks and terrible nightmares and night terrors. I threw myself off the bed in the middle of one again Thursday night. Thankfully I didn’t get a concussion or break my nose leading to emergency room visits like happened in 2014 and 2016.

Suicide is something I try not even to think about because it takes me back to very bad times that I don’t want to experience again. At the same time when I have to deal with suicides at work or read about high profile suicides, such as those of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade I feel all of the anguish that I went through during the worst times, but without any desire to kill myself, I think that is a good thing.

At the same time when I deal with or hear about a suicide my mind starts playing the them song from M*A*S*H; Suicide is Painless, which was written for the movie by the fourteen year old son of director Robert Altman. Altman wanted the song for a specific scene in the film and he wanted it to be named Suicide is Painless, he also wanted it to be the stupidest song ever written. He couldn’t wrap himself around that and his son wrote it in about 15 minutes. It’s a strange song for me. I grew up with the movie and the TV show and I started my career as a commissioned office as a Medical Service Corps Officer in the Army. The song was the official song of the Army Medical Department and the instrumental version was played at every graduation or function that we had. Two decades later in the trauma hall of a Navy Trauma platoon in Iraq I felt like Father Mulcahy

I have a deep sense of empathy for those who suffer from deep depression and feel that sense of hopelessness, abandonment, and god-forsakenness that often lead to suicide. When I see people who complete a suicide condemned as weak, selfish, or even worse as deserving of God’s wrath and judgment I do get angry, especially when the accusers are Christians. I believe than nobody is outside the mercy and love of God, even those who commit suicide. At the same time it is hard for me to know what to say anymore without sounding trite because I know how deeply someone has to be hurting to consider suicide, and words cannot go there, there is a profound hollowness to them. The last verse of Suicide is Painless note something that I feel when dealing with a suicide situation because I just don’t have the answers:

A brave man once requested me
To answer questions that are key
Is it to be or not to be
And I replied oh why ask me…

That being said I do believe that help can be found and that even in the midst of struggle people can get help and find meaning in life, and I want them to find whatever they need to help them live, thrive, and survive. I don’t believe that life is without struggle, many of my personal heroes dealt with terrible depression at various times of their lives. Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses Grant, Gouverneur Warren, and T.E. Lawrence among them.

As opposed to the thought that suicide is painless, I think that the great American poet and satirist Dorothy Parker said it well, suicide is not painless, she wrote:

“Razors pain you,
Rivers are damp,
Acids stain you,
And drugs cause cramp.
Guns aren’t lawful,
Nooses give,
Gas smells awful.
You might as well live.”

So please, if you or someone that you know are struggling with issues in life that are so bad that suicide has become an option, please reach out and get help. Getting help is worth it, I know, I wouldn’t still be here without it. As Seneca said: “Sometimes even to live is an act of courage.”

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number is 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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The Romantic Rebel: George Pickett

Friends of Padre Steve’s World

I am continuing to periodically intersperse and publish short articles about various commanders at Gettysburg on the site. These all are drawn from my student text and may become a book in their own right.  The reason is I am going to do this is because I have found that readers are often more drawn to the lives of people than they are events. As I have noted before that people matter, even deeply flawed people, and we can learn from them.

Today’s article is about Major General George Edward Pickett who gained immortal fame at Gettysburg. He too is a complex, contradictory and controversial  figure in the Civil War, particularly in regard to the post war controversies regarding who was to blame for the Confederate defeat and his open criticism of Robert E. Lee’s decision to order the ill fated charge that made him famous.

Peace

Padre Steve+

Pickett

George Pickett was born to wealth and privilege in a Neo-feudal society [1] and came from an old and distinguished Virginia family with a long military heritage dating to the Revolution and the War of 1812. He attended the Richmond Academy until he was sixteen and had to withdraw due to the financial losses his parents had suffered during the panic of 1837.

This led to the young Pickett being sent to live with and study law under his mother’s older brother, Andrew Johnston in Quincy Illinois. Johnston was a lawyer, Whig politician and friend of Abraham Lincoln. The family’s continued financial distress led them to get George to consider the free education provided by West Point. His mother asked Johnston to assist and Johnston set about obtaining an appointment for his nephew. As befit an up-and-coming politician, his quest was short and successful. His Springfield acquaintances included a United States Congressman who happened to be a fellow Southerner and brother Whig, Kentucky native John T. Stuart. [2] There is a long running myth that connects Pickett’s appointment to West Point to Abraham Lincoln, but it is fiction, fabricated by Pickett’s widow Sallie long after her husband and Lincoln’s death. [3]

Pickett entered West Point in 1842 where he was described by a fellow cadet thought a jolly good fellow with fine natural gifts sadly neglected [4] through his tendency to demonstrate in word and deed that henhouse neither to authority nor submit to what’re considered the Academys narrow, arbitrary, unrealistic, harshly punitive, and inconsistently applied code of conduct [5] became a loyal patron of Benny Havens tavern where he was stealing away regularly now to life his glass in good fellowship…” [6]

Pickett’s academic performance, as well as his record of disciplinary infractions at West Point was exceptionally undistinguished. He racked up vast amounts of demerits for everything from being late to class, chapel and drill, uniform violations and pranks on the drill field where he mocked those who observed proper drill and ceremonies. Pickett graduated last in the class of 1846, something that his vast amount of demerits contributed.

His widow Sallie wrote after his death that he accumulated them so long as he could afford the black marks and punishments they entailed. He curbed his harmful behavior, however, when he found himself approaching the magic number of 200 demerits per year that constituted grounds for dismissal. [7] Pickett finally graduated only five behavioral demerits short of expulsion. [8] The graduating class included George McClellan, A.P. Hill, Thomas, later “Stonewall” Jackson as well as a number of other cadets, most of whom who went on to distinguished military and other careers. At West Point Pickett was considered to be the class clown by many of his classmates was the most popular and prominent young man in the class. [9] Among the many friends that he made was an upperclassman named Ulysses S. Grant and their friendship would span decades and would survive the fire of a war that placed them at swords point. [10]

Pickett was commissioned into the infantry and served alongside James Longstreet in the Mexican War where they fought valiantly in a number of battles, including Contreras, Churubusco, El Molino Del Rey. [11] Pickett distinguished himself at Chapultepec where he had been the first American to scale the ramparts of Chapultepec, where he planted the flag before the admiring gaze of his friend Longstreet. [12] During that assault Longstreet was wounded and Pickett had snatched the colors and planted them on the castle heights for all to see and cheer. [13] For his actions he received a brevet promotion to First Lieutenant.

Following the war Pickett married but was widowed less than two years later when his wife Sally Minge Pickett died during childbirth along with their infant son in 1852. The loss was devastating to the young officer. He went into a deep depression caused by grief and considered leaving the army. He was persuaded by friends, peers and understanding commanding officers to remain.

While on leave following Sally’s death, he was at Fort Monroe, laying under an umbrella at Point Comfort when a child approached him and took pity on him. The child was the nine year old La Salle “Sallie” Corbell and she broke through his emotional defenses by persistently, as only a child can do asking what the source of his grief was. Pickett told the child that his heart had been broken by a sorrow almost too great to bear. When the child asked how ones heart could break, he replied that God broke it when he took from him his loved ones and left him so lonely. [14] While Pickett may not have thought much of the meeting, he did give the little girl a ring and a golden heart bearing his wife’s name. He likely expected never to see her again but though she was a child she was a willful and determined one. She knew her own mind and heart, both told her that one day she would marry George Pickett. [15]

Pickett returned to Texas to serve with the 8th Infantry and was promoted to Captain and ordered to take command of the newly raised Company “D” 9th Infantry at Fort Monroe. Transferred to the Pacific Northwest he married. Widowed after that war he served in the Pacific Northwest where he took a Native American wife who bore him a son, however she did not survive childbirth and when she died in early 1858 Pickett was again widowed. In 1859 Captain Pickett faced down British troops from the Hudson Bay Company in an incident now known at the Pig War which at its heart was a dispute about whether the British or the Americans own San Juan Island. The dispute, which brought the two nations to the brink of war, was settled without bloodshed, save for the unfortunate pig, and Pickett became a minor celebrity in the United States and anathema to the British.

When Virginia seceded from the Union, Pickett like many other southern officers was conflicted in his feelings and loyalties and hoped to the last that he would have to take up arms against neither state nor country. [16] Pickett resigned his commission on June 25th 1861. He wrote to Sallie with who he now maintained a frequent correspondence about his decision and decidedly mixed feelings as he:

Always strenuously opposed disunion…” But While I love my neighbor, i.e., my country, I love my household, i.e., my state, more, and I could not be an infidel and lift my sword against my own kith and kin, even though I do believethat the measure of American greatness can be achieved only under one flag. [17]

Pickett returned to Virginia by a circuitous route where he was commissioned as a Captain in the new Confederate army on September 14th and two weeks later was promoted to Colonel and assigned to command forces along the Rappahannock. Though he had as yet seen no combat serving in the Confederate army, Pickett was promoted to brigadier General and assigned to command a Virginia brigade belonging to Longstreet’s division.

Pickett led his brigade well on the peninsula and at Williamsburg was instrumental in routing an advancing Federal force, and at Seven Pines had helped repel a dire threat to the Confederate position. At Gaines Mill Pickett was wounded in the shoulder during the assault put out of action and placed on convalescent leave to recover from his wounds. During his convalescence he fell in love with an old acquaintance; La Salle Corbell, who as a young girl had cheered him after the loss of his wife now a beautiful young woman nursed him back to health and started a chain reaction that would nearly engulf the Confederate officer. [18]

Pickett was promoted to Major General in October 1862 and was assigned command of the division formerly commanded by David R. Jones, which was assigned to Longstreet’s First Corps. The division was sent to peripheral areas and took no part in the battles of late 1862 or Chancellorsville serving instead in the Tidewater with Longstreet’s corps. The corps took part in a series of operations against Union forces in the Hampton Roads area and Pickett’s division bested a Federal force at Suffolk on April 24th 1863, though it was hardly a true test of his ability to command the division in combat. During this time Pickett spent much time visiting La Salle, much to the concern of some of his officers and Longstreet’s staff, and by the time the corps left the area the two were engaged to be married.

When the Division returned to the Army of Northern Virginia after Chancellorsville, it was among the forces considered by Jefferson Davis to be sent west for the relief of Vicksburg. Since that operation never materialized, the division was assigned to accompany First Corps with the army during the upcoming Pennsylvania campaign. However, much to the consternation of Lee, Longstreet and Pickett, two of its brigades were detached by the order of Jefferson Davis to protect Richmond from any Federal incursion.

During the advance into Pennsylvania the division, now composed of the brigades of James Kemper, Lewis Armistead and Richard Garnett was the trail division in Longstreet’s corps and often, in the absence of cavalry assigned to guard the corps and army trains. Due to its late release from these duties at Chambersburg, Pickett’s Division did not arrive at Gettysburg until late afternoon on July 2nd. Lee decided that they would not be needed that day and Longstreet placed that the division in bivouac at Marsh Creek for the night, sending word by messenger to tell Pickett I will have work for him tomorrow. [19]

Pickett spent the night with his soldiers and woke them about 3 a.m. After a quick breakfast Pickett moved the division to Seminary Ridge marshaling his troops in Spangler’s Woods where there was a modicum of protection from Federal fires and observation. However, despite these advantages it placed his division about 1000 yards from the extreme right of Pettigrew’s division with which he would have to coordinate his attack that fateful day.

Pickett scribbled a final note to Sallie as his troops prepared to attack. Oh, may God in his mercy help me as He never has helped me beforeremember always that I love you with all my heart and soul That now and forever I am yours. [20]

Pickett was never the same after the charge of July 3rd 1863. Pickett’s after action report which complained about the lack of support his division received was suppressed and destroyed by Lee who wrote Pickett You and your men have crowned yourselves in glory But we have an enemy to fight, and must carefully, at this critical moment, guard against dissections which the reflections in your report will create. [21]

Pickett married La Salle “Sallie” Corbell in September of 1863, and the marriage would last until his death in 1875. Sallie, impoverished by the death of “her soldier” took up writing as well as speaking tours in both the South and the North. Sallie was a stalwart defender of her husband, who she said had the keenest sense of justice, most sensitive consciousness of right, and the highest moral courage but also opposing hatred, sectionalism and strife. [22] Though much of her work was panned by historians and shunned by established magazines and periodicals; her writing were published by newer popular magazines. Her book The Heart of a Soldier, as Revealed in the Intimate Letters of General George Pickett, C.S.A. was for the most part fabrications authored by her, but she found a niche in newer popular magazines and journals, including Cosmopolitan for which she authored a ten part serial of the Pickett family story on the fiftieth anniversary of the battle. Sallie Pickett’s:

idealized portrait of her husband made him a Confederate hero. He never reached the status of Robert E. Lee or Stonewall Jackson, but his association with the famed but futile charge at Gettysburg helped. Virginia veterans and newspapers began romanticizing Picketts all-Virginia divisions role soon after the battle; it was almost by association that George too would share in this idolization…” [23]

Pickett retained command of his division after Gettysburg. The division was reconsituted and shipped off to North Carolina where he and it performed adequately but without marked distinction. Pickett had one moment of glory when reacting to a Federal Army under Benjamin Butler advancing on Petersburg he threw a scratch force together which preserved Petersburg and its vital rail line in early May 1864. This allowed General P.T.G. Beauregard to bring up more troops to hold the city.

The division performed adequately in the defensive battles around Richmond and Petersburg, though it suffered terribly from the lack of rations, medicines, clothing and equipmentaggravated by the rigors of life in the trenches. [24] Morale and desertion was a terrible problem in Pickett’s division and Lee was concerned enough to bring enough to bring the matter to Longstreet. Lee used terms like unsoldierly and unmilitary, lax in discipline, loose in military instruction [25] to describe the division. Though he was fully cognizant of the conditions of the trenches Lee identified the source of the problem as Pickett and his officers who were not sufficiently attentive to the men,not informed as to their condition and he told Longstreet: I desire you to correct the evils in Picketts divisionby every means in your power… I beg that you will insist upon these points. [26]

During the Richmond and Petersburg campaign, Pickett was often sick, and at several intervals he was unable to exercise command, and the poor state of his general health, aggravated by the unusually stressful conditions of the past year, age him beyond his years. [27]

The end came at the battle at Five Forks where Pickett’s division was deployed on the far right of the Confederate line, was overwhelmed by a massive assault by Sheridan’s cavalry and the Fifth Corps which destroyed it as a fighting formation. Pickett, for unknown reasons did not put much effort into the defense of Five Forks. He successfully repulsed an attack by Sheridan on March 31st but evidently did not expect an attack the following day. On the afternoon of April 1st Pickett was away from his division at a Shad bake with Fitzhugh Lee and Thomas Rosser when the attack came and destroyed his division as a fighting unit. No cowardice was involved; Pickett simply misjudged the situation by assuming that no attack was imminent, yet it left a bad taste in everyones mouth. [28] That being said Picketts lackadaisical effort in holding Five Forks is indefensible. So to is his incredible derelict behavior late on the morning of April 1st when he slipped away from his command to the shad bake not even informing the next senior officer, Rooney Lee that he was gone. [29]

Whether cowardice was involved or not, Pickett’s decision to be away from his division with a very aggressive Federal army at his front was ill-advised and demonstrated to Lee that Pickett was unfit for command. Two days later Pickett and two other generals, including Richard Anderson were relieved of their duties and dismissed by Lee. However Pickett remained with his division until the end and at Appomattox Lee was heard to remark in what some believed was a disparaging manner Is that man still with this army? [30]

George Pickett attempted to rebuild his life after the war and the task was not easy, for though he applied for amnesty, his case was complicated by an incident where he had ordered the execution of twenty-two former North Carolina militiamen who had defected to the Union and been re-captured by the Confederates. Pickett’s action was no different than many Confederate commanders who followed the Richmond government’s decision to take ruthless measures to suppress Unionist sentiments and secession of areas of the Confederacy where Union sympathies ran high. The area of Pickett’s operation was a haven for Tories who openly supported U.S. troops. What was worse, hundreds of local Unionists engaged in the most violent guerrilla activities, shooting and burning out their secessionist neighbors, waylaying Confederate supply trains, attacking outposts. [31] Some of these men had previously served in Confederate service which in the eyes of Pickett and many others made them traitors to the Confederate cause.

In a sense Pickett was engaged in what are now known as counter-insurgency operations. Like many commanders involved in such operations, he descended into the same type of barbaric actions of those he was fighting. “By early 1864 the war was turning into a grim, hate-filled struggle that knew few rules and niceties, and Pickett was changing to the pattern. [32] When Pickett captured the former militiamen he refused to treat them as prisoners of war and instead he court-martialed them and hanged them all. [33] He established a military court composed of Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia officers, hauled the deserters-in-arms before it, and approved the death sentences. [34] When the prisoners went to the gallows Pickett reportedly told each of them God damn you, I reckon you will ever hardly go back there again, you damned rascals; Ill have you shot, and all the other damned rascals who desert. [35]

Federal authorities thought about charging him with war crimes. Pickett fled to Canada in late 1865 before returning to Virginia. It took the intervention of Pickett’s faithful friend Ulysses S. Grant to have the charges dismissed and for Pickett to be granted amnesty by President Johnson in 1868. Grant admitted that the punishment was harsh, however, Grant’s judgment was steeped in the fact that many Northern commanders had resorted to similar actions in combating insurgents and deserters. Grant wrote in his friend’s defense:

But it was in time of war and when the enemy no doubt it necessary to retain, by some power, the services of every man within their reach. Gen. Pickett I know personally to be an honorable man but in this case his judgement [sic] prompted him to do what can not well be sustained though I do not see how good, either to the friends of the deceased or by fixing an example for the future, can be secured by his trial now. [36]

Even so, Pickett’s life was difficult. Health difficulties plagued him and employment was scarce, even for a man of Pickett’s stature in Virginia. He refused employment which would take him away from Sallie and his children and finally took a job as an insurance agent in Richmond. It was a job which he felt demeaning, requiring that he attempt to sell insurance policies to destitute and out of work Confederate veterans and their families. Sallie wrote that he could not come to terms with a profession that made its profits through what one colleague called gall, gall, old man, gall and grub. [37] Distinctly unhappy the dejected old soldier told her Id sooner face a canon,than to take out a policy with me. [38]

In 1870 he was convinced by John Singleton Mosby to visit Lee when the latter was visiting Richmond as Lee was making a final tour of battlefields and other sites. For Pickett the visit only reinforced his resentment that he felt for Lee, who he felt blamed him for the defeat at Five Forks and had ostracized him. The meeting occurred in Lees room at the Ballard Hotel was icy and lasted only two or three minutes. [39]

Mosby realized quickly that the meeting was not going well and Sensing the unpleasantness of the meeting, Mosby got up in a few moments and Pickett followed him. Once outside the room, Pickett broke out bitterly against that old man who, he said, had my division massacred at Gettysburg. [40] Mosby attempted to assuage his friend’s feelings but Pickett was not mollified by Mosbys rejoinder that it made you immortal. [41] Edwin Coddington wrote that it would have been better for his reputation if had been called to give his life or if the attack had been known for what it was, Longstreets Second Assault. [42]

George Pickett was a romantic as well as a true believer in the cause of the Confederacy. Pickett was vain, often self-serving and even irresponsible. He certainly as Porter Alexander noted was a better brigade commander than division commander, a position that he desired but at which never excelled. He was a poor administrator, and in the campaigns of 1864 and 1865 demonstrated exceptionally poor leadership.

His temperament, especially his seeming inability to function in a hierarchical structure, and the rebellious streak that he had as a cadet at West Point was never exercised: He resented authority and chafed at deferring to any man as his superiorPickett never understood his place in the hierarchy. He considered himself part of the cream of the Army of Northern Virginia, but without being willing to shoulder all the responsibilities and sacrifices that entailed. [43]

He died in the summer of 1875 while on a business trip to Norfolk with his wife at his side, but a single tragic charge had made his name immortal. [44] Bitter and discouraged at the end of his life he uttered his last words to Sallie’s uncle who had also served in the Army of Northern Virginia Well, Colonel, the enemy is too strong for me againmy ammunition is all out He closed his eyes, and settled back as if at peace for the first time in his life. Sallie never left his side; two hours after his death they gently pried her hands from his. [45]

[1] Ibid. Longacre Pickett p.4

[2] Ibid. Longacre Pickett p.6

[3] See Longacre Pickett pp.6-7. The myth was quite successful and it endures in some accounts of Pickett’s life and in a number of military histories including Larry Tagg’s The Generals of Gettysburg

[4] Waugh, John C. The Class of 1846 from West Point to Appomattox: Stonewall Jackson, George McClellan and their Brothers A Ballantine Book, New York 1994 pp.38-39

[5] Ibid. Longacre Pickett p.7

[6] Ibid. Waugh The Class of 1846 from West Point to Appomattox p.39

[7] Ibid. Longacre Pickett p.12

[8] Guelzo, Allen C. Gettysburg: The Last Invasion Vintage Books a Division of Random House, New York 2013 p.378

[9] Ibid. Guelzo Gettysburg: The Last Invasion p.378

[10] Ibid. Longacre Pickett p.20

[11] Ibid. Hess Picketts Charge p.37

[12] Ibid. Dowdy Lee and His Men at Gettysburg p.264

[13] Ibid. Waugh The Class of 1846 p.457

[14] Ibid. Longacre Pickett p.32

[15] Ibid. Longacre Pickett p.33

[16] Ibid. Longacre Pickett pp.50-51

[17] Ibid. Longacre Pickett p.51

[18] Ibid. Hess Pickett’s Charge p.38

[19] Ibid. Hess Pickett’s Charge p.47

[20] Ibid. Dowdy Lee and his Men at Gettysburg p.296

[21] Ibid. Hess Pickett’s Charge p.354

[22] Ibid. Reardon The Convergence of History and Myth in the Southern Past: Pickett’s Charge p.76

[23] Gordon, Lesley J. “Let the People See the Old Life as it Was” La Salle Corbell Pickett and the Myth of the Lost Cause in The Myth of the Lost Cause and Civil War History edited by Gallagher, Gary W. and Nolan, Alan T. Indiana University Press, Bloomington and Indianapolis 2000 p.170

[24] Ibid. Longacre Pickett p.160

[25] Selcer, Richard F. Lee vs. Pickett: Two Divided by War Thomas Publications, Gettysburg PA 1998 p.66

[26] Ibid. Selcer Lee vs. Pickett p.66

[27] Ibid. Longacre Pickett pp.160-161

[28] Ibid. Hess Pickett’s Charge p.375

[29] Ibid. Longacre Pickett pp.166-167

[30] Ibid. Hess Pickett’s Charge p.375

[31] Ibid. Longacre Pickett p.137

[32] Ibid. Longacre Pickett p.141

[33] Guelzo Allen C. Fateful Lightening: A New History of the Civil War Era and Reconstruction Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York 2012 p.368

[34] Ibid. Longacre Pickett p.140

[35] Ibid. Guelzo Fateful Lightening p.368

[36] Ibid. Longacre Pickett p.175

[37] Ibid. Longacre Pickett p.178

[38] Ibid. Longacre Pickett p.178

[39] Ibid. Hess Pickett’s Charge p.377

[40] Ibid. Freeman Lee p.569

[41] Ibid. Waugh The Class of 1846 p.529

[42] Ibid. Coddington The Gettysburg Campaign p.528

[43] Ibid. Selcer Lee vs. Pickett p.101

[44] Ibid. Waugh The Class of 1846 p.529

[45] Ibid. Longacre Pickett p.180

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Baseball in February: The Freedom Classic and an MVP Beats a Drug Charge

I was able to go to a baseball game today. It is hard to believe that there are ball games going on outside of Spring Training but NCAA College Baseball has been underway for over a week. Today drove up to Kinston to take in a game between the Naval Academy and the Air Force Academy. The occasion was the Second Annual Freedom Classic.

It was a cold day with temps in the low 50s and winds blowing 15-25 miles an hour but I was able to get together with my friends in Kinston to watch a game for the first time since the Kinston Indians final season ended with a loss to Frederick in the Carolina League Championship series on September 15th.  Though the weather was cold it was good to be back with my friends watching a game at a wonderful baseball venue.  I hate the fact that the Indians owner sold them without a replacement team and did not offer the city a chance to find an owner that would keep the team in Kinston. But at least there was baseball in Kinston this weekend.

Of course spring training is underway and all of the teams are working out.  Lots of moves were made in the post season following one of the most dramatic seasons in baseball history. Big names moved, Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson to the Angels, Prince Fielder to the Tigers, Ozzie Guillen taking over the Marlins and a host of other situations.

But despite all the positives there was a cloud during the post season involving the National League MVP, Milwaukee Brewers Left Fielder Ryan Braun reportedly failed a drug test for Performance Enhancement Drugs (PEDs).  Braun appealed the results of the test and Friday it was announced that Braun won his appeal based on issues with the chain of custody of the sample. Evidently the collector of the sample who was required to immediately send the sample to the testing lab via FedEx held onto the sample.

Braun was out proclaiming his innocence today. He was articulate and appeared humble but at the same time there are still questions in many people’s minds about the test and if he was clean or not.  Having been in the military for over 30 years I have been repeatedly drug tested and as a Company Commander had to oversee a unit drug testing program.  When I heard about the process used and the actions of the collector I was appalled. Chain of custody does matter in any type of drug test that can impact someone’s career no matter what line of work they are in.  Failure to safeguard samples undermines the integrity of any drug testing program and there are cases every year where positive results are thrown out because of a chain of custody violation.

I learned about the importance of chain of custody as a Company Commander back in 1986. I had a soldier test positive for THC, the active ingredient in marijuana. We were sticklers about maintaining a solid chain of custody and based on the test results and the un-impeachability of the chain of custody I offered non-judicial punishment under Article 15 and reduced the soldier in rank. Since the soldier was otherwise a good soldier and back then a commander did not have to separate a soldier under pay grade E4 for a first drug related offense I elected to keep the soldier in the Army. The soldier appealed the sentence as is his right and to my surprise I was called to my higher headquarters and had my ass chewed by the group commander and Sergeant Major for not maintaining the chain of custody. I knew that was not the case but the Platoon Sergeant who had accompanied the soldier to the headquarters for the appeal inadvertently left the chain of custody documentation on his desk. When the group commander reviewed the paperwork he thought that the chain of custody had not been maintained. Within 5 minutes I produced the original documents which changed the nature of the conversation, the sentence was upheld and the ass chewing stopped. But I learned that the chain of custody for a drug test or paperwork regarding a failed drug test needs to be airtight to maintain the integrity of the system.

In the case of Ryan Braun I have my doubts, I but the incompetence of the collector who did not adhere to established rules of shipping a sample brought the chain of custody into question. If Braun was indeed innocent as he maintains then he will always have a cloud that follows him. If he lied and the test was really positive then justice was not done because chain of custody was called into question.

The little things do matter.

Since I got home I have had the MLB Channel on all night, that is so much more relaxing than almost anything else on television. Only about a week until the first Spring Training games begin. It may be cold but spring is in the air.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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A Season and Team Remembered: Images of the Kinston Indians Final Season

Saturday marked the final game in the long association of Kinston North Carolina and their advanced Single-A Carolina League team the Kinston Indians.  The K-Tribe as they were affectionately known was sold in a deal to replace the AA Southern League Carolina Mudcats who are moving to Pensacola Florida.  While it is unknown when, if or in what form professional baseball will return to this small Eastern North Carolina town.  Most people are hoping for another Single-A team to take up residence in Historic Grainger Stadium which received a major facelift at the expense of the city to demonstrate their commitment to keeping baseball a part of the town.  There are rumors and speculation but nothing official yet. The visit of both the President and Vice President of Minor League Baseball to the town this year gives me some measure of hope that they will bring a team to Kinston next year.

The K-Tribe gave their faithful at Historic Grainger Stadium a memorable final season advancing to the Mills Cup Championship series after winning the Southern Division of the Carolina League for the 11th time.  I have been following the team since my first tour at Camp LeJeune  in 1999 and have made periodic visits to see the Indians between then and my reassignment to the Naval Hospital Camp LeJeune last October.  This year I made sure that I attended as many games as I could knowing that it was the last season for a team that I had come to love.

As I began attending I met some wonderful people.  One gentleman, Rick Holder gave me some of his season tickets on games that he knew that he could not attend.  I came to know former Negro League and Carolina League pioneer Carl Long and his wife Ella, as well as my friends Toni and Jerry, Anna and Rocky, Lori, Cara and Jennifer.  There were the players that I was able to spend time with, the off field staff and the K-Tribe General Manager Benjamin Jones.  His predecessor in the job was Shari Massengale, the first female GM in the Minor Leagues.

The team allowed me to throw out the first pitch and when I was interviews and filmed for the Department of Defense sponsored Real Warriors campaign which features how military personnel deal with PTSD.  That was a special night.  I was also in Kinston shorty after Hurricane Irene struck, the town was hit hard and even Chief  Tom A. Hawk in right center field was damaged.

Granger Stadium is a special place. The grounds crew which has won 5 awards for best field in the league in the last 10 years may win yet another this year.  The people are good people and good fans.  Though the K-Tribe did not win a final Mills cup they have contributed much to the town and the town to them.

Early on I decided that I would attempt to chronicle as much of the season in photos as I could.  Since I took well over 1500 photos this year these are just a small portrait that I hope will help people remember this last season of K-Tribe Baseball.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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A Cold Rain Fell: The last Night of Kinston Indians Baseball as K-Tribe Falls to Frederick 11-3

The Kinston Indians ended their 25 years in Kinston losing to the Frederick Keys on night that seemed more like early November than mid-September in Eastern North Carolina.  In a game that was delayed by rain an hour and 11 minutes at the outset which experienced a second delay in the 4th inning

It seemed that the K-Tribe never recovered their edge after their heartbreaking loss in Frederick Tuesday night in game two of the Carolina League “Mills Cup” Championship Series.  For the second strait night in the series ineffective pitching and critical fielding errors doomed the K-Tribe. The damage all was done in the 3rd inning when the Keys, down 2-0 found the range early and often.  Once again they used excellent hitting and aggressive base running taking advantage of every opportunity that they were given by the Indians.  The Keys had doubles by Dale Mollenhauer and Miguel Abreu and Manny Muchado had a 3 run home run which served as a coup de gras capping an 11 run 3rd inning in which 7 of the runs were scored with 2 outs.  In the inning the Indians committed 3 errors and had a wild pitch.

It was a sad end to what had been a magical final season for the K-Tribe.  The Indians become the Carolina Mudcats in 2012.  Many fans plan to continue to follow the team and make trips over to Zebulon to see “their” Mudcats next year.  Many are pessimistic about the possibility of a new team coming to Kinston next year though management is hopeful of something coming through. Kinston is the smallest city to have a Minor League Baseball team in the country with a baseball tradition that dates back over 100 years.  During the 25 years of their affiliation with the Cleveland Indians the K-Tribe won 5 Carolina League Championships and 11 Division titles.  The playing field has been named the best in the Carolina League 4 of the past 10 years. Numerous Major Leaguers including Jim Thome, C.C. Sabbathia, Manny Ramirez, Shane Victorino, Alex White, Grady Sizemore, Albert Belle, Matt Williams, Bartolo Colon, Marco Scutaro, Jhonny Peralta, Cliff Lee, Luke Scott, Fausto Carmona and Lonnie Chisenhall along with many more Indians have reached the Majors.  I expect that a number of the current K-Tribe players will follow in their illustrious footsteps.

One has to compliment the Orioles organization and the Frederick Keys.  They put together a talented team that played aggressive yet solid fundamental baseball.  A number of these young players will likely become outstanding Major League players.

I watched the game with the friends that I met this year and as we filtered out of the stadium we agreed to meet for dinner once a month.  Since we are all connected on Facebook this will be much easier than in the past.  Hopefully Kinston will land a Minor League Franchise next year.  I appreciate the people of the city and hope for both baseball and better economic times for it and them in the future.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Celebration in Kinston as K-Tribe Wraps Up Carolina League South Title

The Kinston Indians (Cleveland) are now on the verge of finishing their 25th and final season in the Eastern North Carolina city in a grand fashion by defeating the Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Texas) for the Carolina League Southern Division title.

Jesus Aguilar crosses home plate after his massive 3 run blast

The Indians (76-62) who won the second half battered the first half leading Pelicans (72-67) winning the series 3-1 battering the birds with 24 runs in the final three games.  Led by strong pitching and the hitting of  Tyler Holt, Adam Abraham and a massive final game three run homerun by Jesus Aguilar the Indians capitalized on defensive mistakes and pounded the Pelicans in the final three games by scores of 8-6, 7-0 and 9-2.

Indians starting pitcher Mike Rayl

I was at the two games in Kinston against Myrtle Beachand the K-Tribe was fun to watch. When the last out was recorded on Saturday night the celebration was something to remember. I have not seen a championship game in person although I did attend two games in the 1972 ALCS which the Oakland Athletics took from the Detroit Tigers winning the final game in Detroit.  To see the players celebrate and the fans remain after the game was special.

My friends and loyal K-Tribe fans

The Indians will open the final series for the Mills Cup against the Frederick Keys on Tuesday the 13th in Frederick.  The teams will play the first two games in Frederick and return to Kinston on Thursday the 15th.  The Keys (Baltimore) (80-60) defeated the Potomac Nationals in 5 games to win the Northern Division in a series extended by a rain out.

The Keys hold an 8-7 head to head advantage against the Indians in 2011. The teams during the second half of the season have been exceptionally well matched and the series should be exciting.

It ill also be the last series played inKinstonwin or lose. The K-Tribe will move to Zebulon to take the name of the AA Carolina Mudcats of the Southern League who are moving toPensacolaFlorida.  While it is indeterminate if Kinston will have a team next year both the President and the Vice President of Minor League Baseball have visited this year.  While old, Historic Grainger Stadium is very well maintained and its immaculately kept field is among the best in Single-A baseball.   Frederick whose future with the Keys was in doubt now appears to be on the verge of signing a 10 year stadium lease agreement with the Orioles affiliate.

Kinstonhas a long baseball history in the Carolina League and the team is central to the identity of this city which has been hard hit with the exporting of most of its textile jobs overseas.  I hope that Minor League Baseball finds a team for Kinston and I hope that the K-Tribe gives the city one last Carolina League title.  It has been a special season; why not go out on top?

I plan on being at each game to be played inKinstonwith my friends.  Watching a game at Grainger Stadium is like being in the stands in the movie Bull Durham.  The people fans and the team are special. It is the end of an era that hopefully will be the prelude to a new era of baseball in this historic town.

Peace,

Padre Steve+

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