‘weeniversary and whatnot

1. ‘weeniversary: In addition to being a fun, filling holiday, Hallowe’en is also my parents’ wedding anniversary. My father was on active duty as a young officer in the Marine Corps back when they decided they wanted to get married, and back in those hardcore, oldschool days, when the Corps wanted you somewhere, you went, no matter what else you might have going on in your life. So if the only available day for the nuptials, given your busy work schedule, was Hallowe’en, then hey presto Semper Fi, that was the day you got married! I always admired my Mom and Dad for spending their anniversary day taking us out to grub for candy or staying at home shoveling candy into the gaping, clamoring maws of the other neighborhood grubs. So happy anniversary to my Mom in Beaufort and my Dad in Glory. Now give us some candy.

2. Don’t Say Mope: I have been very expectantly awaiting the new album from the Cure, 4:13 Dream, which arrived on Tuesday and is, I think, the best thing they’ve issued since The Head on the Door in 1985. While most folks only pay attention to Robert Smith when they consider the Cure, I’m one of those music geeks who also appreciates the less-well-known members of bands, and what makes this new disc so good is the return of prodigal guitarist Porl Thompson, who’d last been heard with the Cure on 1992’s Wish. The records since that time had featured guitar by Perry Bamonte and keyboards by Roger O’Donnell, both of whom I considered wan and uninteresting, so those albums suffered by my accounting. Thompson’s got a great, unique tone and attack to his instrument, and his return restores the best frontline the Cure have ever had, with Robert Smith (guitar, keyboards), Thompson (guitar) and stalwart Simon Gallup (bass). The other thing that people always seem to bring up whenever the Cure have a new album out is the whole mope-rock factor, since they did put out some dreary records back in the day. But fact of the matter is, for every dirge that Smith writes these days, he writes three wiggly, funny, goofy, sexy tracks, and his chops as a pop craftsman are truly impeccable. Add in the fact that his voice at 50 sounds better than it did at 20, and this record is a winner from start to finish, a wonderful return to form by a group who I really adored once upon a time. It’s too bad that they get blamed for emo kids (like Bauhaus get blamed for goth kids), since those latter day wannabes are pale immitations of one passing facet of those groups’ styles, minus the humor and warmth. 4:13 Dream isn’t mopey at all, no matter what the critics will tell you. It’s giddy and sweet, and I like it bunches.

3. Gym Rat: Since March or thereabouts, the co-pilot and I have been playing five games of 21 Rebound every work day at lunch time, and most weekend days from April to September were filled playing golf with Marcia, while I spent non-golf days tearing up my body on my bike doing the Hidden in Suburbia series. Weather has ended the golf season at this point, and the 21 Rebound season is getting close to wrapping up, since we’ve been out playing in blowing snow at 34 degrees for a couple of days now. (I actually do better on those days than I do most times, since the insanely-high-percentage three-pointer shooting co-pilot not being able to feel his hands sort of levels the playing field a bit). So in order to keep fit over the winter, Marcia and I re-joined our neighborhood gym a month or so ago, and I’ve been giving it my usual masochistic applomb with daily attendance since that time. I have a short attention span, so what I like most about the gym is the fact that I can do three or four things for fifteen or twenty minutes and get an hour’s workout in without getting too skull-crushingly bored. I’ve been doing cycling machines, ellipticals, playing basketball, running on their indoor track, and for the first time since college putting on boxing gloves and giving the heavy bag a thorough what-for. There is something very satisfying about beating up dead weight for ten or fifteen minutes. Plus it’s a darned good workout to keep on your toes through a simulated Golden Gloves match with the heavy bag, and much more enjoyable than actually boxing other people, because the bag doesn’t punch you in the head when you let your guard down.

_ Harris, U.S.C.T.

(Note: I am sorry that the links in this article are, for the most part, no longer active. Chalk it up to a mistake in hosting services . . . though the text included in this article remains very relevant, even without the links and photos).

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about visiting Beaufort National Cemetery and paying respects to my father and to his next door neighbor, Private (PVT) Harris, of the United States Colored Troops, the African-American soldiers who fought for the Union in the Civil War. (In the “Beaufort National Cemetery” link in the last sentence, if you look three rows to the left of the big live oak tree in the middle of the shot, there’s an American flag on a grave; that’s my father, and PVT Harris is one grave closer to the camera).

When standing at his grave, I’ve always looked at PVT Harris’ discolored, weathered stone and read his name as “L. Harris,” but as I was looking at my pictures again after I got home, I glanced at a contrast-enhanced, close-up shot of his marker and realized that it actually said “_ Harris.”

They didn’t know his first name! He fought for his country and his freedom under the most harrowing circumstances imaginable (when black soldiers were captured by Confederate troops, they weren’t treated as POW’s, but rather as escaped slaves, and it was a capital offense for escaped slaves to bear arms; atrocities were common), died, was buried in a National Cemetery . . . and they didn’t know his first name! How crazy wrong is that? Wow!

I’ve been thinking about PVT Harris a lot since realizing that he was buried without a first name, so I decided to do little research to see what I could find. The official register of graves at the National Cemetery did, indeed, list him without a first name, as follows:

Harris, d. 11/11/1865, PVT 128 USCT, 11/11/1865, Plot: 32 3442

This tells me that he died on November 11, 1865 (which half a century later would become Veteran’s Day), and that he was a Private in the 128th Infantry of the U.S.C.T.

The 128th was one of the last U.S.C.T. regiments formed: it was organized at Hilton Head, South Carolina from April 23 to 29, 1865, served in the Department of the South, and was mustered out on October 20, 1865.

I found a roster of the 128th Infantry, and was intrigued to note that there was no one with the surname “Harris” in the unit. That’s not entirely surprising, since looking a surnames of major slave owners in Beaufort County in 1860, there were no Harrises there either. (Though, alas, my forebears Congressman William Ferguson Colcock and Colonel Charles J. Colcock are on the list, along with various Huguenins, Gregories and Heywards, also relatives of mine).

It occured to me then that “Harris” might not have been a last name: if a soldier fell and his comrades could only identify him by one name, might it be a first name instead of a surname? I re-searched the roster of the 128th Infantry and, sure enough, found two records, back to back:

Harris Deppee, Company A, (no incoming or outgoing rank listed)

Harris Deppu, Company A, PVT in, PVT out

It seems hard to believe that “Harris Deppee” and “Harris Deppu,” both in the same company, were different people. I suspect there was a record-keeping error here, and these records represent a single person. Could this be PVT Harris, my father’s neighbor?

Maybe, though there was another thing that was bothering me about this information: If the 128th Infantry was mustered out on October 20, 1865, and PVT Harris died on November 11, 1865, then why was he buried in the National Cemetery? Perhaps he had been injured before his unit was disenrolled, lingered, died, and then was buried. But if that were case, it would seem that there would have been more information available about him, from those who cared for him during his terminal injury, at least enough to provide a full name for a grave.

I began to wonder whether the National Cemetery’s records about PVT Harris were accurate with regard to his unit. There were only six Infantry regiments of U.S.C.T. troops enlisted from South Carolina: the 21st, 33rd, 34th, 103rd, 104th and 128th, so it was relatively easy to look at the rosters and dates of service for each of those units to see if perhaps PVT Harris had been posthumously assigned to the wrong unit.

The 21st Infantry U.S.C.T. was organized from earlier units of the S.C.C.I. (South Carolina Colored Infantry). They conducted garrison duty at Charleston and Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, until August, 1865 and at various points in South Carolina and Georgia until October, 1866. They had four Harrises: Cato, George, Napoleon and Simmons. It’s possible one of them is my dad’s neighbor, especially since Cato Harris of the 21st is also buried at Beaufort, having died July 29, 1864.

The 33rd Infantry U.S.C.T. was also formed from earlier S.C.C.I. units. The 33rd was at Pocotaligo, South Carolina until February, 1865, then were involved in the occupation of Charleston until March 8. They moved to Savannah on March 8, and served there until June 6. They moved from there to Augusta, Georgia and served there and at various points in the Department of the South until January, 1866. They had six Harrises: Arthur, Edward, two Georges, Isaac and William. It seems unlikely that any of them would have ended up at Beaufort National Cemetery either, since the unit had moved into Georgia by the time PVT Harris died.

The 34th Infantry was a heavily-deployed combat unit also formed from the S.C.C.I. Among many other engagements, they fought in the Battle of Honey Hill near Beaufort, in which the Confederate Troops were commanded by my ancestor, the aforementioned Colonel Charles J. Colcock. This seemed auspicious, until I noted that Honey Hill was contested on November 30, 1865, 19 days after PVT Harris died. The 34th has been in Florida until November 25, when they were ordered north, so it seems unlikely that one of the their three Harrises (Andrew, Charles and Harvey) include the one I’m seeking.

The 104th Infantry was organized at Beaufort, April 28 to June 25, 1865. They were attached to Deptartment of the South and performed garrison and guard duty at various points in South Carolina until mustering out on February 5, 1866. Like the 128th, the 104th Infantry contained no one with the surname Harris.

That leaves the 103th, with Jacob, Lewis, Ned, Samuel and Stephen Harris listed on their roster. The 103rd was essentially a sister regiment to the 128th: it was organized at Hilton Head on March 10, 1865 from scratch (not from earlier S.C.C.I regiments), attached to District of Savannah, Department of the South, to June 1865 and then the Department of the South to April, 1866. The 103rd served garrison and guard duty at Savannah and various points in Georgia and South Carolina for their entire term, and were mustered out April 15-20, 1866.

That makes the 103rd the most likely unit in which the enigmatic PVT Harris might have served: it came from Hilton Head (like the 128th), and was still on active service at the time that PVT Harris died in November 1865 (unlike the 128th). If the two units were serving in similar capacities, and both came from Hilton Head, records-keepers at the National Cemetery might not have been overly concerned with distinctions between the two groups.

Interestingly, the Cemetery records list a grave for Isaac Harris of the 103rd Infantry, died May 28, 1865, though he is not listed on the 103rd roster. This sort of confirms my hunch that the units listed for fallen U.S.C.T. soldiers might have been handled in something of a casual, estimated fashion. (Other than the aforementioned Cato and Isaac, there are four other Harrises from the U.S.C.T. at Beaufort: Benjamin of the 26th Infantry from Riker’s Island, NY; Daniel of the 32nd Infantry from Camp William Penn, PA; another Isaac of the 3rd Infantry, also from Camp William Penn;and Taylor, no unit listed).

So I still don’t know whether the fallen soldier who lies next to my father is Jacob, Lewis, Ned, Samuel or Stephen Harris of the 103rd, or George, Napoleon or Simmons Harris of the 21st, but my gut tells me that its slightly more likely to be one of the 103rd soldiers than it is to be one of the 21st, or Harris Deppee/Deppu of the 128th, who had already been sent home by November 11.

I’m going to continue researching to see if I can confirm my gut, and plan to send a letter to the National Cemetery noting the information I’ve collected above, in the hopes that they might have additional information that’s not been made public to date.

PVT Harris needs a first name. Or a last name, if Harris is what his mother called him. And I really want to find out what it is. He deserves having someone interested on his behalf, don’t you think?

Adieu Victoria

Mars Rover Opportunity is finally leaving the Victoria Crater region, heading off on a 7.5 mile trip toward the much larger Endeavor Crater. It tickles me to no end that this doughty robot, and its sleepy sidekick Spirit, are still rolling around on the Martian plains, years after they were supposed to succumb to the Red Planet’s grueling climate.

The less fortunate Phoenix isn’t mobile, and is situated in the Martian arctic, so it won’t survive this winter, though it will hopefully capture some spectacular scenes as the ice cap creeps southward from the pole to overwhelm it. Phoenix already captured imagery of snow falling on Mars, so its death throes could come with some riveting footage.

And speaking of riveting footage, Cassini continues to send amazing imagery from the Saturn system, revealing massive cyclones and mysterious hexagons at the planet’s poles, not to mention water plumes being expelled from the enigmatic Enceladus.

I’m even excited to note that the New Horizons mission is nearing the one-third point on its nearly ten year trip to Pluto.  It’s a grand time to be a space nerd, indeed.

Listening (Easy)

My monthly download binge has brought me six new albums, two of which have the potential to be serious keepers: Inside the Human Body by Boston’s Ezra Furman and the Harpoons and Forfeit/Fortune by Crooked Fingers, who feature North Carolina-bred Eric Bachmann, formerly of the late, great Archers of Loaf. Furman and his Harpoons sort of sound like early Gordon Gano and Violent Femmes, all squeaky-voiced intensity and powerful acoustic-anchored riff-rockery, supporting fantastic semi-stream-of-unconsciousness lyrics about all sorts of stupid/sublime stuff. Crooked Fingers offer a duelling male/female vocal ethos atop an odd and interesting musical ethos anchored in carnival music and odd found sounds, with a great tension between the offputting and inviting elements.

In the “jury’s still out” department, I’ve got Moonwink by The Spinto Band, who sound somewhat like Crooked Fingers, oddly enough, with a similar calliope/carnival vibe and borderline annoying nasal lyrics, with just a little bit less of the experimentation that makes Crooked Fingers work for me. Likewise, Cold War KidsLoyalty to Loyalty grabbed me immediately with the insinuating and urgent “Against Privacy” and “Mexican Dogs,” but the rest of the album has yet to live up to those two great openers. I’m also trying hard to get into In Ear Park by Department of Eagles, whose debut album, The Cold Nose, is one of my alltime favorite records, hands down. The new one, unfortunately, dismisses with many of the quirky elements that made the prior record so excellent, and sounds a lot like singing Eagle Daniel Rossen’s other band, Grizzly Bear, who I don’t really like. Still, there is worth in this album, and I am still keeping my mind open to it.

The only disc that’s been removed from circulation already is The Orion Songbook by Frontier Ruckus. I liked their creaky Americana at first, but somehow after a couple of listens, it began to sound forced and irritating. And no one needs that, do they?

Home Again, Home Again II: A Genealogical Addenda

I’ve mentioned before that I spring from some of the the oldest European stock in South Carolina history. How old? As old as it can get. It’s a mere dozen direct steps from Dr. Henry Woodward (who in 1666 became the very first permanent English settler in South Carolina) to my daughter.

Generation One: Doctor Henry Woodward married Mary Godfrey and begat:

Generation Two: Colonel Richard Woodward, who married Sarah Stanyarne and begat:

Generation Three: Mary Woodward, who married Reverend William Hutson and begat:

Generation Four: Major Thomas Hutson, who married Esther Maine and begat:

Generation Five: Mary Woodward Hutson, who married Judge Charles Jones Colcock and begat:

Generation Six: Congressman William Ferguson Colcock, who married Emmeline Huguenin and begat:

Generation Seven: Marion Woodward Colcock, Sr., who married Sarah Hutson and begat:

Generation Eight: Henrietta Colcock, who married Lafayette Calhoun Cheshire and begat:

Generation Nine: Henrietta Cheshire, who married Delmas Glynn Waters and begat:

Generation Ten: Linda Ann Waters, who married Colonel Charles Ross Smith, Jr., and begat:

Generation Eleven: Lieutenant John Eric Smith, who married Lieutenant Marcia Kathryn Brom, and begat:

Generation Twelve: Kathryn Linda Smith

That’s why I think it’s important to take her to places like Stoney Creek Cemetery. There’s value to knowing who your people were.

Touch Typing (Sorta)

It’s probably not surprising, given how many words I pump out on various keyboards every week, that I am a very accomplished typist. I would readily put my words-per-minute and accuracy rates up against pretty much anybody, and I know that I can hold my own against a lot of really speedy administrative professionals when it comes to moving words from brain to screen. What might surprise people, though, is how I manage to type extremely quickly and accurately without ever having learned the “proper” way to work a keyboard. I do not use all of my fingers when I type, and the ones that I do use don’t ever sit on their home keys the way they are supposed to. I was sitting in a meeting a couple of weeks ago, recording the proceedings in my role as secretary of the corporation, and I found myself actively watching my fingers as they worked, which I don’t think I’ve ever done before. So here’s a synopsis of how hideously I type, by finger, recorded while watching myself pound the keyboard in real time:

Left hand, pinky: Shift key.

Left Hand, ring finger: Not used.

Left hand, middle finger: Q, A, Z, W, S, X, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 keys.

Left hand, pointer finger: E, D, C, R, F, V, T, G, B keys.

Left hand, thumb: Not used.

Right hand, thumb: Space bar.

Right hand, pointer finger: Y, H, N, U, J, M, I, K O, L, P, 6, 7, 8, 9, 0, colon, quotation, comma and period keys.

Right hand, middle finger: Backspace.

Right hand, ring finger: Not used.

Right hand, pinky finger: Not used.

I have had several surgeries on my right hand, and I think that the fact that I don’t use most of that hand is probably a function of the fact that it was often wrapped in casts and splints when I started typing regularly in college. I had not realized how much distance on the keyboard I covered with my right pointer finger, though. And I don’t know why my left ring finger never strikes the keyboard. That just seems weird. But I guess it doesn’t matter, in the end, since I manage to do something in a completely inept and unconventional way, but yet manage to achieve above satisfactory results while doing so. I think there’s probably a lesson in here, somewhere. Do you know what it might be?