To Go To Troutbirders Nature Blog (click on above picture)

Thursday, April 28, 2011


No not THAT E.T.

This one. Elizabeth Tudor. The magnificent indomitable Queen Elizabeth I , who signed her personal notes E.T. Daughter of Henry the VIII and Anne Boleyn. She of the Spanish Armada & Mary Queen of Scots fame.
Historical novels are one of my favorite venues That is, if the book is well researched, historically accurate and written with a certain flair. Margaret George’s new best selling Elizabeth I meets these tests in every way.
This is an account of the last thirty years of the queen’s life. Written in both Elizabeth’s voice and also that of her childhood nemesis, Lettice Knollys. It begins with her greatest test, the Spanish Armada..... Armadas really. We get to see the queen who rules and brings England into its golden age. More interesting yet, we meet the woman behind the carefully crafted image. The image she created for herself.
Her dreams and loves are real. The nation, which above all, she the Virgin Queen, wed herself to. The men she wisely surrounds herself with as supporters and advisors. And also a few men she unwisely uses and coddles. Such a woman at the heart of history faces constant crises. Always short of money she pawn her jewels to build armies and navies and feed a starving populace. Just another day at the office she deals with the Irish rebels, Spanish would be conquerors, stiff-necked Puritans and prejudiced Catholics.
There have been many biographies written of this, perhaps most the interesting woman in history.
When I looked at the back of the books jacket and saw it was recommended by Sharon Kay Penman, I knew it would be worth reading. Occasionally, I get dragged to a "chick flick" by my spouse and find I really enjoyed the story. I guess this book might be labeled "chick prose." It must be said the majority of the really good historical fiction authors are women and their main audience (judging by comments on reviews) are also women. Well, I’m always happy to join them. I do love history. And when an author can realistically bring people, behind the events, to life, something magical has happened. This book does that.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Little Roundtop

I'm not sure if the following story is best representative of the fruits of an exciting and interesting middle school education or some serious irony. You judge for yourself.

We were on on way, with friends Gary and Rosie, to visit the (at that time) the new Holocaust museum in Washington D.C. to be followed by a first ever trip to Colonial Williamsburg.

Although I'd been there before, a side trip to Gettysburg's National Battlfield seemed in order. We had all seen the film Gettysburg and I wanted the opportunity to point out to my friends the actual site of Professor Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain's and the 20th Maine regiments heroics. As we were standing on the now famous hill looking down at the infamous "Devils Den", several orange school buses pulled into the nearby parking lot.
Checking with my ever handy binoculars, they seemed to be from Alexandria, Virginia. Being teachers ourselves, we immediately recognized the drill, as the middle school teachers jumped off the buses and began creating order out of chaos. Soon the students were lining up in ranks facing the famous hill. "There going to charge us," I commented to my companions. Sure enough. There was a whistle, some yelling and 3 busloads of eager "civil war soldiers" started running up the hill. This was the moment that General Gouvenor Morris, who was standing right behind us had anticipated, when he ordered newly arriving Union regiments up the hill and to hold it at all hazards.
As one might expect, being a fairly steep climb, some and then more and more "soldiers" slowed down at the pace. Finally, only a few stalwarts were still running while their comades continued the slow trudge up the hill. Finally, three young men, all black, staggered to a halt right in front of us. Hands on hips, bent over gasping for air, they looked up at us, when I shouted at them, "WHO ARE YOU," I was,no doubt, expecting the name of their school. Straightening up with raised arms, they all shouted in unison, 'WE'RE THE REBELS." And perhaps that was their schools mascot or maybe in a moment of excitement and irony, they really were the rebels. We all smiled and congratulated them on their accomplishment.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

1861 The Civil War Awakening

I just finished reading Adam Goodhearts best-selling 1861 The Civil War Awakening. Their have probably been more history books written about the Civil War than any other topic. I found this newly published book among the very best. It’s not about the well known Generals and battles. Instead, it focuses on a little known collection of heroes and events who helped bring about the changes in thought that were required to win the war and set the nation on a new course of freedom and equality. When it all began at Fort Sumter that course and the end result would have been unthinkable to the majority of Americans both North and South. It was all sustained in an ideal that previous generations had either forgotten or negotiated and compromised away. The secessionist traitors tried to justify there betrayal of democracy as a "2nd American Revolution." This was done against the principle of majority rule which is the cornerstone of a functioning democracy. And it was all done in the name of freedom and liberty for some but not all. This was the slavery justifier’s ultimate hypocrisy. How the mind set of the American people changed in the early days of the war makes for a gripping and original story. Today this story is more relevant than ever. It’s relevant when the governor of Texas and others speak of secession as if it were a viable alternative to federal law they don't like . President Andrew Jackson, a slave holder himself, responded to that notion when he said he would lead the army himself into South Carolina during the so-called "nullification crises." Nullification was the "state rights" idea that states could pick and chose which federal laws to follow. What came then, was thirty plus years of weak leadership & compromise after compromise. Then most disastrous war in American History. It was President Lincoln himself, who so eloquently pointed out on numerous occasions, that democracy itself depends on union and majority rule. Goodhearts book reminds us of this fact in countless ways. May it ever be so. Beautifully written and thoroughly original--quite unlike any other Civil War book out there. I highly recommend this wonderful book to all of those who love liberty thru democracy above anarchy and dissolution.