Do All Really Lose Their Way?

George Villers, Duke of Buckingham once said, “…the world’s a forest in which all lose their way, though by a different path each goes astray…”

A favorite of King Charles I of England, he was murdered by the assassin John Felton on August 23, 1628.

Villers had just lost an important battle with the French, Felton thought he was doing the kingdom a favor.

According to an eye-witness account, he lived just long enough to jump up, shouted “Villain!” and chased after Felton.

But, alas, he “…fell down dead.”

Felton was an army officer who was wounded in an earlier battle and was passed over for promotion by Buckingham, and not a religious fanatic as portrayed in Hollywood’s Three Musketeers.

Villers was wildly unpopular at the time and some acclaimed Felton a hero.

There were poems, chants, and the like celebrating Felton and justifying his actions.

Villers detractors claimed he was effeminate, cowardly, and corrupt.

Felton was portrayed as manly, courageous, and virtuous.

Felton was convicted and hanged on November 29 and his body was taken to Portsmouth, where it was put on display.

It backfired; the public venerated him rather than vilify him.

Buckingham was buried in Westminster Abbey, his Latin epitaph  translates as “The Enigma of the World”.

Seems they both lost their way.

But, not all do lose their way, nor does everyone have to!

Keep to your path today.




Marius Jean Antonin Mercié was a French sculptor and painter.  I doubt many people know of him, but if they don’t know of him, they may know of or have seen his work.

He has pieces in Paris and other parts of France, but he has works in the United States as well.

So, who was this guy, and why is he important today.

He entered the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris and studied under some of the greats.  He gained the Grand Prix de Rome at the age of 23 in 1868.  The prestigious scholarship dating back to 1663 and French King Louis XIV, allowed the student to live in Rome for five years at the expense of the state!

Mercié was quite the artist and a French hero and icon.  He received the Medal of Honour as well.

His most popular work in France is his Bronze David.  The Biblical hero and shepherd boy who would become King of Israel is shown nude, standing on the head of Goliath.

He later became Professor of Drawing and Sculpture at the École des Beaux-Arts, and was honored with membership in the Academie francaise in 1891.

The awards go on and on, I’ll not belabor his accolades.

In 1891, the statue he created along with Alexandre Falguiere of The Marquis de Lafayette was dedicated in Washington D.C.

Baltimore’s memorial to Francis Scott Key was the work of Mercie as well.

But, his most famous work is one that is at the center of controversy today.  His serene sculpture of Robert E. Lee on horseback towers 60 feet above Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia.  Mercie won the commission and to assure a realistic result, he was allowed access to Lee’s spurs, hat, boots, and death mask.

It was unveiled in front of a crowd of nearly 100,000 on May 29, 1890.

Robert Winthrop, a Richmond architect who is one of the authors of Richmond’s Monument Avenue, said, “The South lost the Civil War in a spectacular and total fashion.  A good portion of the women in Richmond were widows at the end of the war.  It was very much an effort to remember them (their husbands), to treat them as gallant men who fought for a cause.”

Winthrop went on to compare the Lee monument to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in DC.  The Vietnam Memorial went UP before the World War II Memorial.

Winthrop said, “When you lose, you need to put the memorial UP fast. Victors have the victory.  Vietnam was more tragic than World II, we fought a long war for no return, it is similar to the situation the South was in.”

The site was offered in 1886; many were opposed as it was outside the city limits of Richmond.  The $20,000 raised to pay for the land and the work came from across the nation.  Richmond annexed the land in 1892, and it was to be part of a grand real estate development.

Hard times delayed that and the Lee Monument stood alone in a tobacco field until development resumed for Richmond’s Grand Avenue in the early 1900s.

The statue, with exquisite detail and artistic value stands today a symbol of a city which is truly a Phoenix risen from the ashes and is the focal point of not only controversy, but one of the most beautiful streets in America.

My Eyes Are Bad Enough Already!

… I’ll skip the eclipse today and watch it on TV.

Really, I’ve had glasses since the third grade, and as the years pass my vision gets worse.  I am not taking the risk.

Sure, sure, I’ve got a partially empty box or two, I could make one of those pin-hole things we did in grade school, but meh, I’ll wait for the news.

But, for many the eclipse is a big, big deal.  After all, one hasn’t passed over the United States for over a hundred years!

Astrologists tell us that an eclipse is a turning point, a theme for newness, and a good time to start something new.

In the Bible, many eclipses of the sun were seen as token of God’s anger (Joel 3:15 comes to mind.)

During the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the world went dark in what was most probably an eclipse (Matthew 27:45.) Although many will argue as the darkness caused by an eclipse never lasts for more than six minutes and at that time the darkness lasted for three hours.  Also, at the time Jesus was crucified, it was Passover and the moon was full and it could not have been an eclipse.

Hey, God is still God and if He wants to change things…well, guess what, three hours it is, full-moon, half-moon, or blue moon!

Some say that today’s eclipse is a sign from God.

Frankly, I don’t think God speaks to us that way.  We may find God in nature – whether it is the sun, moon, stars, or the majesty of the Rockies, but he speaks to us through His Word.

At any rate, I’ll wait.  I’m sure ABC, CBS, NBC and the rest will all have great coverage and lots of pictures.

Save your eyes!

Have a great Monday.

The Confederate Soldier On My Wall

My great-grandfather, John Alexander Brads was a private in the Confederate Army.  One of thousands of bounty soldiers, he was inducted for a $50 bounty into the Rebel band taking the place of a rich man.

Rich man’s war, poor man’s fight.

John Alexander and Mary Elizabeth Campbell Brads

One of Jackson’s foot soldiers, he was wounded and captured at Harrisonburg, Virginia after the battle of Good’s Farm and during the Battle of Harrisonburg.

Wounded and captured in a battle his army won, he spent 18 months as a Union Prisoner of war, was released in a prisoner exchange and came home with a wounded and gangrenous shoulder.

His mother put maggots in the wound to eat the decaying flesh.

I doubt that Great-Grandpa cared a whit about states’ rights, agrarian v industrial societies, or slavery; the family wasn’t wealthy, owned little, and the only land deeded to anyone with our surname at the time was the property of distant relatives;  a mere 22 acres.

He was a working man, a subsistence farmer.

When my great-grandfather was a child his own dad died while they were living in Ohio.  His mother walked with her two children from the Buckeye State’s Greene County to Rockbridge County Virginia.  She came home with little more than her children.

There was a Bible of course.

She came home because war clouds were gathering and her family in Virginia was her main hope of survival.

Great-Grandpa died in 1913, some eight years before my father was born and nearly forty before I came along.

I didn’t know him, I only knew of him.

There were no great war stories to tell, there was no telling of the lost cause, there were no tales of bravery and courage.  He was just a poor man fighting because an army had invaded his homeland and he was called.

Like many before and millions after him, he went when called, true to his state and his nation.

The fact the cause was not as noble as we’ve been led to believe does not belie the fact that he was a patriot even though he was a rebel.

He fought because he had to; I can’t condemn him for that.

Great-Grandpa came home to Kerrs Creek, Virginia, took the oath, became a Republican, followed Lee’s advice and claimed the United States as his country.

There’s no statue, there’s no plaque to remind us, there’s no Confederate Battle Standard tucked away in a drawer.

But as my ancestor, his picture remains.  It reminds me that I came from a line of principled men who fought for what they believed, realized when they’d been defeated, and cherished the fact that they survived to tell the story.

His picture will remain, my Confederate Great-Grandfather; he is the Confederate Soldier on my wall.

Front row, 6th from the right, under the window. Reunion of Confederate Soldiers in Lexington, VA 1900 or 1901. They are standing in front of the Court House; the picture was taken from the steps of the Stonewall Jackson House.