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Thursday, March 17, 2016

Who Was Jubal Early?

Mar mtd:56 ytd:190
Departed Pittsburgh with Amtrak's roll-on, roll-off bike service to Harper's Ferry, WV.

The Amtrak bike service was just perfect. I have been wondering how a loaded touring bike would be handled given Amtrak's baggage policy, but there was no problems. I went on board with four panniers, a medium-size drybag athwart-ships on my rear rack, and a small drybag on top of my front rack and it was no problem at all. I took the bags off the bike in the luggage car and set them on the deck. No discussion of excess baggage charges.

Although I was the only bike on the train when it departed Pittsburgh, when I departed in Harper's Ferry there were 3 bikes on the rack. I'm glad to see the RORO service is being used. I've never been to the Amtrak Station in Harper's Ferry.

I hadn't been in Harper's Ferry since the July 2015 fire, which was kind of a big deal. The tourist industry is still very much intact.

While I was in town I stopped at The Outfitter at Harper's Ferry, which is co-located with a General Store. They have a pretty-well stocked bike section, and also a camping section. Met a lovely lady at the cash register, which had two phone numbers prominently displayed for customers: one for NASA, one for the White House.

I asked, What's with the phone numbers? She said, a surprising number of people coming of the Appalachian Trail need one or the other. She explained, people are alone on the trail for a while, maybe there's some drinking or drugs involved - I'm not saying - but they've seen something and feel the need to report UFOs. I just give them the NASA number and we move along.

I ask, and the White House? She said, some other folks do a lot of thinking on the AT, and they come into town convinced they've found a solution to one of the world's big problems. I give them the White House number and somebody there takes their message. She had a certain mirth in her explanation, I liked it a lot.

Anyway, I think The Outfitter at Harper's Ferry is a good place for supplies. Not a full bike shop by any means, but tubes and common items.

Rode into Brunswick. The local bike shop, Three Points Cycles, is closed Tues-Wed-Thur, but there was a really nice sign in the window to the effect, "Closed T-W-Th during the winter, but here's my cellphone number. If you're in a jam, call me and I'll help you if I possibly can." I really liked that.

The trail was in excellent condition. No handles on any of the hiker-bike water pumps; maybe it's too early in the year. No leaves on the trees yet, so I saw a few things I didn't know were there; a few train tunnels, for instance, such as the one at Point of Rocks. Saw a lot of squirrels, turtles big as my dog (I have a small dog), ducks, some turkey vultures, and got to see a magnificent blue heron takeoff.

Pulled into White's Ferry to cross the Potomac to Leesburg. The ferry bears the name, General Jubal Early. I've been on this ferry a dozen times but never pondered the namesake.

Turns out Jubal Early was a Confederate officer who attacked Washington DC. His forces were winning the day, unexpectedly, but he knew he didn't have enough men to hold the city if they took it. So he fired artillery into the city, saw Abraham Lincoln on the defenses, and withdrew - crossing the Potomac back into the Confederacy. Kind of interesting that his crossing the Potomac is memorialized every time this ferry crosses the river. Kind of weird, the entire presentation of Confederacy "heroes" in the South.

Jubal Early went on to develop and promulgate the Lost Cause of the Confederacy myth, which was embraced by Southerners and is still heard in today's rhetoric. The Lost Cause apologists gave us today's "South Shall Rise Again" idiocy.

The Legend of the Lost Cause began as mostly a literary expression of the despair of a bitter, defeated people over a lost identity. It was a landscape dotted with figures drawn mainly out of the past: the chivalric planter; the magnolia-scented Southern belle; the good, gray Confederate veteran, once a knight of the field and saddle; and obliging old Uncle Remus. All these, while quickly enveloped in a golden haze, became very real to the people of the South, who found the symbols useful in the reconstituting of their shattered civilization. They perpetuated the ideals of the Old South and brought a sense of comfort to the New.

So there's that.

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