We bypassed the peaches (Bar is trying to lose weight) and the candle factory but enjoyed the Bush Museum of The Pacific War (Bar’s daddy was a sailor in it). And our fried catfish at Fredericksburg Brewing. Was surprised to find the streets fairly crowded and few people wearing masks. Retail there certainly isn’t hurting, as it is most everywhere else. Was a long, tiring drive, however. I’m just too old for it anymore.
This wonderful second novel of a trilogy about the German settlements in the Texas Hill Country concerns the tragic Civil War years, when an apparent majority turned its back on the old efforts to bring the proud but always-threatened and always-broke Republic of Texas into the Union. Texas was much smaller then but still had fewer slaves than most slave states, and author Celia Hayes contends that it was mainly the John Brown raid on Harper’s Ferry and subsequent rumors of possible slave insurrections that drove Texas into the Confederacy.
With the departure of so many of the state’s finest (including many Germans) to the battlefields of Tennessee and Virginia, the scoundrels took over the home front. Particularly in the hills where so many settlers more often spoke German than English and so were considered foreigners of dubious loyalty. Indeed many of them were Unionists, as a monument to some murdered ones, erected in Comfort in 1866, still attests. Tragedy likewise comes to Hayes’ main characters, the fictitious Becker and Steinmetz families, and we suffer along with them in the fulsome emotion her story has created in us.
This is old-fashioned story-telling at its best, and I was pleased to see many fewer typos and misspellings than in the first book. And I have bought the third one, the Harvest, and look forward to it. The old German towns of the hills, especially Fredericksburg, the principal place of the tale, are now major tourist attractions, something the old German burghers would have been pleased to know. It’s enriching to now have an emotional attachment to such as the old coffee-mill-style Verein’s Kirche (which still stands amidst the daily bustle on Main Street) thanks to Mrs. Hayes good writings.
The carrier was named for World War II leader Chester Nimitz, of the Hill Country town of Fredericksburg. But the crew consider the ship’s name to be an acronym for Never Imagined Myself In This Zoo. More in a good video not to miss.
Reading the History of the 29th Massachusettes Infantry Regiment, 1861-65, last night, I came to the part, in the summer of 1862, where they were assigned to the Irish Brigade. The 29th went through the battle of Antietam, or Sharpsburg, with the Irish. But they were transferred to another brigade right before Fredericksburg in early December. Putting the book aside for a bit, I went Web wandering and chanced upon this touching clip from Gods and Generals, at Southern Appeal, on the Irish Brigade’s fateful charge at Fredericksburg. It took about fifty percent casualties. The 29th was luckily held in reserve throughout the battle.
The 1883 Keidel Memorial Hospital, on Main Street, was closed when Mr. B.’s mom and I started visiting Fredericksburg every spring. That was about 1990, when the town was still pretty small and uncrowded. But it was poised to boom and it seems to have grown a little or a lot ever since. Compressing the photo fuzzes a lot of the detail, alas. The old hospital, presumably named for early architect Albert Keidel, now has a basement restaurant and Der Kuchen Laden, a ground floor cookware shop. But it still reminds me of when we’d stroll the street in the evening and see hardly anyone else around.
One of my favorite buildings in Fredericksburg, Texas, in the Hill Country west of Austin. There were three White Elephant Saloons, part of a chain built in the 1880s. The others were in Fort Worth and San Antonio. The one in Fort Worth, where Bat Masterson is said to have once worked, is still a bar country-music venue, but this one is a gift shop. Not sure about the one in San Antonio, but it was originally on Alamo Plaza.
UPDATE Here’s a profile of the owner of the Fort Worth one, as of 2002, including details of a historic gunfight.
Neel, a 1998 graduate of Fredericksburg, Tx, high school, and, in 2005, of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, died in Iraq April 9, of wounds from a grenade assualt while leading his 8th Cavalry Regt. platoon:
“Phillip was an inspiration and leader to his five siblings,” his family said in a prepared statement… “He led by example and consistently challenged them to do the right thing in all circumstances, no matter what pressures were involved.”
A memorial service for him is planned Saturday in Fredericksburg.
UPDATE The San Antonio Express News report on the memorial: "Phillip Neel often sat and prayed at the West Point cemetery overlooking the Hudson River in New York, and it was there he watched smoke rise from the World Trade Center in 2001, his dad said."