Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Trip To West Virginia and Harpers Ferry

Last week Madame Padre and I got away to West Virginia and stayed at a cabin we found on a travel website called VRBO.  I say cabin but really it was like a hotel, with all the comforts one could want, including wifi and abundant views of the hills covered in fall foliage, at least, when the clouds lifted.   The local countryside has numerous places like this one, set off winding and hilly dirt roads.   Each place, it seemed, had abundant “No Trespassing” signed posted, so when I went for runs, I was always careful to stay on the road.


There was a always a hill to run up.




We chose WV because it was half way between our house in Ontario and Kay’s brother and sister who live in the US South.  We arrived a day ahead of them, and went into the nearby town of Berkeley Springs, a pleasant artsy kind of place, which just happened to having a parade to kick off the start of its apple butter festival.   Kay loves a parade.  there were tons of local politicians out campaigning and they all came to offer us pamphlets and sales pitches.  It was very convenient to say that we were from Canada, which got some odd looks.


These lovely ladies had something to do with nature.



And these people were all dressed up as various kinds of apples.   I’m not sure what the cat in the background is all about. 



As you can see, after 9-11, small US towns have gotten a lot of money for their first responders.



I have no idea.



Making apple butter in the town square. 



After a few days of rain we had a good day and I couldn’t resist suggesting that we go nearby Harpers Ferry for the day.    I was pleased that Kay’s siblings seemed to think it was a good idea, and they had a pretty good day.   This is the second time in a year that I’ve been to a US National Park, and I have to say that the NPS staff do a very fine job.   An NPS ranger gave us an eloquent and polished lecture on the John Brown Raid - he would have been a credit to any university history department.

Part of the preserved town from the Civil War period.  Between the war and the occasional floods that would go half way up these buildings, the folks here had a pretty rough go of it.



A machine shop with the sort of equipment that was used at the US government armoury.   My brother in law is a mechanical engineer and he was quite intrigued at the idea that this sort of shop could assemble rifles out of any  of standardized mass-produced parts, rather than making each rifle separately.


The site where the Firehouse, the site of Brown’s last stand, was originally located.  St. Peter’s, the Catholic church on the hilltop was built before the ACW to minister to the many Irish labourers who worked in the area.  The priest, Fr. Costello, often flew the British flag from the church to protect it from fighting during the several occasions that Harpers Ferry changed hands.



The firehouse, which was known afterwards as John Brown’s Fort.   In one of those odd details about the Civil War, Robert E. Lee and J.E.B. Stuart led the US Marines that stormed the building and captured Brown.  The building itself has been moved quite a few times since, including once all the way to Chicago for an exhibition, and isn’t exactly in its original condition.  African-Americans treated it as something of a shrine after the ACW. 



I tried a bottle of the local beer at lunch.   It was pretty rough stuff, I suspect it was made out of coal. 



I love rivers - Harpers Ferry is where the Potomac and the Shenandoah rivers come together. 



Harpers Ferry is surrounded by mountains.   Once you stand there and look around for a few minutes, you can understand why the place surrendered during the Antietam Campaign.  Once Jackson got control of the surrounding heights, and got his guns up on them, it was pretty much all over. 



Get a battery up there and the town’s in trouble.



It would be an amazing place to tromp around and try to suss out the two day battle that led to the Union surrender.   I’d like to go back and do that one day.   It would also be amazing to try and hike the distance from Harper’s Ferry to the Antietam battlefield , following the route that A.P. Hill’s division took to make its save the day arrival late in the day.  That would be about 17 miles of fast marching to do it in the time that the rebs did.

Highly recommended if you have never visited this part of the country, especially if you want to see a place where the Civil War started, at least before it started officially at Fort Sumter.

Cheers,  MP+

Friday, October 17, 2014

What Started Here?


Madame Padre and I just got back from a week in West Virginia, where we rented a place and visited with her in-laws, which was surprisingly pleasant.   We managed a few day trips.   I am off to a conference in Ottawa in minutes and I have more photos of this place which I’ll post when I get back.  For extra marks, can you identify this place, the event represented by this marker, and the significance of it all?  Clue:  regular readers of this blog will know it’s a period close to my heart (and will infer that it’s somewhere within driving distance of W. Virginia).


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Daily Dissembler, Spring 1903: Your Trusted Source For News From An Imaginary Europe

The Daily Dissembler, Special European Gazette Issue, August 15, 1903

We make sense of a complicated, far-off world so you, dear reader, can enjoy the Gilded Age.



General Sir John Monash, Answering the Call

A second British Army has now landed on the Continent, challenging ideas that England is content to be just a naval power.  The Imperial Expeditionary Force, commanded by Australia’s Sir John Monash, consists of soldiers from Canada, South Africa, India, Australia and New Zealand.   As we go to press, news arrives that they have successfully landed in Oslo and secured Norway, with detachments on their way by dog-sled and elk-drawn sleighs to the northern border with Russia.  While some of these soldiers from warmer climes were surprised to be finding themselves in frigid Norway, they have accepted their duty with the sturdy, simple, dog-like devotion that characterizes the best scions of England’s far-flung domains.   As Colonel Sterling Moose, the commander of the Strathcona Mounted Rifles (Alberta’s Best), some with snow still on their boots, told the Dissembler, “It’s all rather complicated for Colonials to discuss, but it’s much too high and mighty to ignore.  If it’s good enough for England, it’s good enough for us, so we colonial boys are lining up for war."


The Russian government today issued a statement on the recent happenings in Rumania.
"This was a carefully planned relocation of our forces in line with a long standing agreement with Turkey.  As as well known in the world, the Czar never goes back on a promise."

When asked for comments, a number of European governments expressed doubts about the second part of this statement.
The Czar went on to claim that "our forces are being moved further north to deal with the real enemy...."

By “Franz Ferdinand"


All calm in the Balkans!  Our on-location reporter 'Elgar' tells us that all is now quiet in the Balkan territories of the apparently resurgent Ottoman Empire.  According to sources in the Turkish Military, the battle for Romania was sparked off by a "popular uprising" amount the local population who requested the support of the Sultan's Armies in "throwing off the shackles of the Russian occupation."

Several eyewitnesses reported Russian troops "fleeing in terror" as the Sultan's forces advanced almost unapposed.

Russian prisoners of war taken near Bucharest by Turkish forces.


Our Man Ernest Harrison reports.

[Note to Ed – Bill if things don’t turn out this way run my other article ‘Ministry Calls for Inquiry as Navy Lets Italy Down Again!”]

Sources close to the Foreign Ministry [Bill, send £5,000 dollars, establish an account for me with the best Parisian milliners and a set up subscription to the Boston Woman’s Weekly] tell me that a dossier reputing to contain secret negotiations between the Ottoman and Russian Empires recently arrived in Rome.  The aim of these negotiations was supposedly to establish a cease-fire between the Empires, so that the Turks might attack Italy.  

Despite initial consternation (readers will remember that the Foreign Minister suddenly cancelled his visit to the Bey of Tunis), the reports were quickly dismissed by the Admiralty.  One recently retired admiral told this reporter “This is a load of nonsense!  Those dimwits in the War Ministry might believe such things, but we have a good relationship with the Ottomans – I’ve had my share of Turkish Delight, if you know what I mean, narf, narf!”

Bolstered by naval assurances, the dodgy dossier was immediately dispatched to Constantinople.  “You see” my Foreign Ministry source pointed out, “the fact that the Russians have done this plays into our hands: if it’s true, we can show the Sultan that he has been betrayed; if it’s not it just goes to show the Sultan that the Ruskies are a load of bungling bodgers.”

Wider Implications?

 The real concern in the Ministry is who else the Russians might have sent dossiers to, and what they contained.  “We have good reason to believe that London is receiving this stuff, but what about Paris?  If the Czar is behind the deployment of a fresh fleet in Marseilles, it could mean trouble – after all if we and the French start facing off he has less competition in Central Europe.  No, the sooner the Czar stops playing at puppet-master the better!  Someone might just have to go and cut his strings!”



Story filed by the Daily Dissember’s own Miss Amelia Roosevelt, Intrepid Girl Reporter and niece of the Vice President.

It was not without adventure that I made my way from St. Petersburg to London this fall. My first hurdle was a request from the Italian authorities to detain me, since Count de Graspi, who my sources tell me may soon be Italy’s Commander in Chief, had informed the Russians that I was wanted for “extensive close questioning” with regard to “unfinished business”.   However, thanks to my acquaintance with the young wife of the Tsar’s chief of intelligence, Duchess Molotova Smoulderina, I was able to have this request delayed until I was safely on a British steamer.   Apparently the Duchess is more than familiar with Count de Graspi, and her acquaintance with him dates from when she was an actress in Rome.  She was thus able to persuade her husband that the Count’s request had more to do with matters of the heart than with matters of state.
A further hurdle was an encounter with the Russian Fleet as we were making our way through the Baltic.   A Russian destroyer came alongside, and despite our Captain’s protests, insisted on sending a boarding party aboard to make sure that all papers and cargo were in order.  A Royal Navy officer aboard my steamer, Captain Clive Whickker-Baskett, returning to England after his duty as a military attache, told me that he feared relations between England and Russia might be taking a turn for the worse.  It was a relief to arrive in Copenhagen, where the British flag was flying, and to find the city prosperous and orderly.  From Copenhagen an American steamer took me safely to London, where the newspapers are confident in future British successes on the continent.
Sadly the King was unable to meet with me, and expressed his regret.  The Palace did however give me an interview with Lord Lansdowne, the British Foreign Secretary.  He was a most courteous and knowledgeable gentleman.  I thanked him for his time and he told me that “All of England followed my adventures with great interest.  In fact, young lady, a popular novelist has published an ongoing series of stories in the weekly papers, loosely based on your adventures and entitled "The Perils of Amelia".   While I do not read themselves myself, due to their somewhat risqué character, they are said to be popular with the working classes."
I asked Lord Lansdowne about the role of the King in the current crisis.
"King Edward VII's main interests are in the fields of foreign affairs and naval and military matters.  He is fluent in French and German, and has made a number of visits abroad.  While he usually takes his annual holidays in Biarritz and Marienbad recently he has been looking at visiting his brother-in-law, King Frederick VIII, in Denmark and his son-in-law, King Haakon VII, in Norway who have recently placed themselves under British protection.   One of his most important foreign trips was an official visit to France in May 1903 as the guest of President Émile Loubet. Later he hopes to visit the Pope in Rome to further create a cordial atmosphere for the European powers and seek an agreement delineating colonies in North Africa, and hopefully ruling out any future war between affected countries.
What of King Edward’s special relationship with the German Kaiser?    King Edward likes to think of himself as the "Uncle of Europe" and has been trying to resolve difficulties faced by his dear nephew, Kaiser Wilhelm.  A key aspect of this has been fleet modernisation and his majesty was most pleased to see the Kaiser embrace the first step in modernising his fleet by the recent scrapping of a number of obsolete battleships in the Baltic.  Some Russian scrap iron dealers, the King understands, have made a late bid for the ships, but are believed to be dismayed that the iron had already been acquired by German munitions factories."
What troubles the King about the current situation?  "The King is troubled by the Russo-Japanese War and its unsettling effect on the colonies, past and present.  This coming so soon after the unpleasant business with the Boers has been resolved is most unfortunate.   The King feels the colonies are often over looked and indeed cannot even be found on the map these days."
A week after my interview with Lord Lansdowne, I was invited by a friend in the War Office to travel to Plymouth, where a large contingent of soldiers from the Colonies were arriving to swell the British forces.    I was thrilled to see many strapping Sikhs, Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders arriving, and to note their patriotic reception by the local populace.  As I finish this dispatch, I have been informed that the Commander of the Imperial Expeditionary Force, General Monash, has asked me to join the Force as an “embedded reporter” (I am not sure what that term means, exactly) to come and “see how we colonial boys do things.”  I expect that my next dispatch will be from Scandinavia.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Diplomacy Game: Spring 1903 Results

Some interesting developments occurred in the fifth turn of our Diplomacy game.

Russia’s position has taken a turn for the worse as Turkey has turned its cannons north.   The Russian Army in Rumania has been forced out by three Turkish units and has to retreat north to Ukraine (or be disbanded - Russian player’s choice but the retreat seems a no-brainer.  

Germany’s enigmatic foreign policy has contributed to Russia’s setbacks as the German army in Bohemia tips the balance in giving Italy the keys to Vienna.   England’s second army now makes its appearance on the continent.   France and Italy continue to advance their interests in the south of Europe.    

More analysis coming in the next Daily Dissembler.

Results for Spring, 1903 (Movement)
General Notices:
Order resolution completed on 13-Oct-2014 at 08:11:07 EDT

Order Results:

Austria: The Army in Vienna cannot retreat; unit destroyed.

No order for unit at Vienna. Hold order assigned.  Austria:
A vie Holds  Dislodged from tyr (3 against 1). 


England:  England: A den Holds   England: F hel Supports A den  England: A lon -nwy

Convoy path taken: lon- nth- nwy. 
England: F nth Convoys A lon - nwy  England: F ska Supports A lon -nwy


France: A bel Holds  France: A bur Holds  France: F hol Holds  

France: F mar - lyo  France: A par - pic;  France: A por - spa


Germany: A boh Supports A tyr -vie;  Germany: A kie - ber;

Germany: A sil - gal;  Failed because Russia: A gal - vie failed. 


Italy: A tri Supports A tyr - vie;  Italy: F tun -tys;  Italy: A tus -pie;

Italy: A tyr -vie;  Italy: A ven -tyr


Russia: A bud Supports A gal - vie; Russia: A gal -vie Failed. 

Russia: A mos -war; Failed because Russia: A war -sil failed. 

Russia: A rum Holds; Dislodged from bul (3 against 1).  A Gal has only one retreat option, to Ukr.

Russia: F sev Holds; Russia: F swe - bal;  

Russia: A war -sil  Failed because Germany: A sil - gal failed. 


Turkey: F aeg - con; Turkey: A ank - arm;  

Turkey: F bla  Supports A bul - rum; Turkey: A bul -rum;

Turkey: F gre Holds; Turkey: A ser Supports A bul - rum


Saturday, October 11, 2014

Men of Gondor

“Men of Gondor” makes me think of a patriotic song in an ancient tongue of Men to the tune of “Men of Harlech”, to be sung from the ramparts of Osgiliath while the hordes of Mordor approach.   But I digress.
I’m on holiday with Madame Padre this week, but have some images on iCloud that I haven’t posted yet.   Here are four figures from GW’s LOTR range.  The middle two are from the “Gondorian Command” blister, and the two identical fellows with bows and swords are the “Beregond” figure, who will make a great captain of archers figure.   One is a prize from my blog competition this spring, which is for Baconfat if he ever wants to tell me how to get it to him.  Since I was painting one Gondorian, I thought I might as well paint the others in my lead pile.

A very simple palette, really.    I used Citadel Chainmail for the armour, then a wash of black ink, then picked out the highlights, edges and embossed tree on the breastplates with Citadel Mithril Silver.  I simply used a dark blue for the cloaks and tunics, with a medium blue dry brush.

 And here’s the sum total of my Gondorian army to date:  the command group, one Beregond figure, and the three figures from the Osgiliiath veterans blister.   I have a whack of plastic Gondorians still to paint, but this is a start.

These figures bring my 2014 totals to:
28mm Mounted: 13, 28mm Foot: 42, 28mm Artillery: 1; 28mm terrain pieces: 9.
20mm Foot: 33, 20mm Artillery: 2, 20mm Vehicles: 2, 20mm Terrain Pieces: 2
15mm Vehicles: 5, 15mm Foot: 26, 15mm Terrain Pieces: 3
6mm Foot:  120, 6mm vehicles: 4, 6mm Terrain Pieces: 2
Kilometres Run: 946

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

On His Way To Sweden

Back in late April I announced some prizes and I am slowly delivering on them.   I’m not proud of my tardiness, but I note in my defence that I didn’t promise a delivery date.  I know, what a weasel I am.
This rugged adventurer from Bob Murch’s Pulp Figures is on his way to Joakim Strom, the Miniatures Man.  Joakim is just starting a pulp project, so I am sure this fellow will get some two-fisted action before too long.  Enjoy him, Joakim.

Diplomacy Game: Fall 1902 Adjustments Are Complete

Here are the results at the end of the F1902 Adjustment Phase, with a summary of builds:


Results for Fall, 1902 (Adjustment)

General Notices:
Order resolution completed on 08-Oct-2014 at 10:30:02 EDT

Order Results:  Austria:

England: England: Builds A lon

France: France: Builds F marFrance: Builds A par

Germany: Germany: Removes F bal

Italy: Italy: Builds A ven

Russia:Russia: Builds A war

Turkey: Turkey: Builds A ank

.General Erasmus Blatt is a better judge of these things than I am, but here are some quick comments.

England surprised me by building an Army rather than a Fleet.

France is hedging its bets between naval and land policy and holds the balance of power in the West.  

Turkey’s new Army in Ankara should give the Russians pause for though, although Sev is safe for the moment.  On the other hand, Russia’s build of an Army in Warsaw shows that it wants to be a serious player in the battle for the remnants of the Austrian empire and for a share of the Balkans.   I don’t see how long-term peace between Russia and Turkey is possible at this rate.

Italy’s build of an Army in Venice is also surprising and shows that it has, with some justification, trust in France and Turkey, though with only one fleet in Tunis,  Italy has to be watching the waters east and west with some trepidation.

While Germany bids adieu to being a sea power, it has two armies concentrated in the east and could be a definite spoiler.

Let the Spring 1903 turn begin!  Hopefully we can get all orders in by Saturday midnight my time, but I want to leave some time for diplomacy.   I’m sure there will be a lot of it.


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