Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Interested in the 11th NJ? Me? Nahhhhh..

I have been so busy working and helping with edits on other peoples works besides having a life  I forgot to update this... My apologies.. Its been since March.. YIKES!!!

OK... Its time to get back to it.. But before I do.. A question from a co-worker got me thinking about why I have been reading and writing so much about New Jersey at Gettysburg.. And then specifically why the 11th New Jersey Volunteers.

Ever since that hot August afternoon, on a break from the heat outside at Gettysburg itself a chance meeting between myself and the wife of a historian, I have spent a great deal of time reading, researching, photographing on New Jersey there. I have so immersed myself in the research into the 11th NJ that I find myself just shaking my head at it all. Some times it has taken on a life of its own. I have also spent by now, what has to be hundreds of hours and thousands of miles driving from home to places such as Belvidere NJ, in Warren County, to Sea Girt New Jersey, to Manasquan, to Somers Point NJ, to Cape May, to Phillipsburg, to Stroudsburg Pa, Easton Pa, and even many trips to Gettysburg. And countless hours in the State Archives of New Jersey, the War College library at Carlisle, and by now ohhh 20 to 30 historical societies in New Jersey and Pa alone..  I owe an incredible debt to people like Bette in the State Archives and Sue and so many others.. And even the Monroe County historical society where I found leads into John Schoonovers life that are still slowly but surely coming into the light of day after being hidden for over a century.

I have handled the shell fragment that tore the bottom of the boot of McAllister at Gettysburg and the part of a canister round that almost killed him. I have touched the pistol that Schoonover fired most likely in every engagement that he served in.  Caress with tears in my eyes the buttons that were on McAllisters coat, the Eagles shoulder boards that he wore as a Colonel of the 11th.  My paper back edition of his letters is now so dogged eared from use and reading and rereading I just may have to replace it, as I dont want to wear out the hard bound version I know have as a gift from a very dear friend. Some one who I have come to know and cherish as a very good friend and is a nationaly known historian in his own right.

I cannot understate the impact of all of this has on my own life. My own sense of self worth. All during a time when I almost quit it all, and got off by myself for the rest of my days, surrendering to a depression so deep that it was robbing me of my sense of values, moral center, and spiritual place and peace.

All of this has played a huge role in the recovery of me. Of refinding me. It has recentered me. Especially getting to know a man who has been in Heaven now for over 100 years.  I speak of Robert McAllister.

His life, his persistence, his persevering ad midst such horrors of such magnitude that would have caused even stronger men to curl up and just die. He survived and thrived during that time. And became a leader that men looked up to. His life, his sense of duty, has caused me to rally. To as he puts it in the 11th New Jerseys regimental history, to press on... Press on.. Press on..

The men of the 11th New Jersey.. The Ackermans, Mounts, Martins, Dunning, Kearny, all of them.... I owe them a debt I will never ever be able to pay.....

Some one once said of me that I was basically a low life, with no meaning no purpose. And yes at one time he would have been right...... But now... I have been given a new life, a renewed sense of purpose. To press on.....

I can do no less.. I have to .. For not only my sake but for them as well...... I owe them that.. So I can make sure I say thank you for saving me. And in that they get the glory and the honor that is so deservedly theirs. Not mine. Theirs.....

To them..... I say thank you! And I salute each and every one of you......

1 comment:

  1. Jim;
    Bro, I love your comment of what McAllister would have said, "Press on..." That is so Stonewall Jackson as well! Press ON, my friend, and you will finish all your projects... including your book!