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DIRECTLY SPEAKING: A museum blog -  “Cruelly endangering the lives of helpless women and children

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DIRECTLY SPEAKING: A museum blog -  “Cruelly endangering the lives of helpless women and children

A week ago the day began with a checklist, preparing the museum for ‘Superstorm’ Sandy. Hurricanes are a fact of life for me, having experienced a few in the category 3 range while growing up in the sub-tropics. Fact of life or not, what we can’t prepare for are the scenes of devastation and news accounts of broken and lost lives as a result of an atmospheric phenomenon. Destruction and injury befell the Caribbean to Maritimes. Hearts in our throats, we saw flames bring to cinders the dreams, the memories, the hometowns of people in New Jersey and New York. Hearts shattered by desperate agony, we learned of precious Brandon and Corey Moore. Little brothers, ages two and four, ripped from their mother in the surge. Bringing rise to the unthinkable, as reports allude to this horror stemming from man’s inhumanity toward man.
A week later we now mark little Nixon Newman’ tragic death in Haymarket, Prince William County. His death was dealt not by a meteorological occurrence, rather through the storm of war, on this date 150 years ago. Nixon, already ill, died of exposure after he, his pleading widowed mother and family were driven into the cold November night by Union troops. Their home was then set ablaze – as were “sundry and divers houses and other buildings.” “About thirteen” -- ten homes and three other structures, nearly the whole town.
“Charge 2nd: Cruelly engendering the lives of helpless women and children and defenseless citizens of the United States.” This, brought against Lieutenant Kurd Veltheime, 63th N.Y., at Headquarters 11 Corps, Army of the Potomac, Gainesville, Virginia on November 6, 1862.
Something quite important and unexpected may have slipped past you in that. The Army of the Potomac was the Eastern Theater of the Union Army. More than a year before (April, 1861) it was officially decreed “That we, the people of Prince William county, in public meeting assembled, are in favor of the State of Virginia seceding from the Union as soon as possible…Seven States have already withdrawn from the Union…in our opinion the welfare and prosperity of Virginia requires her to become a member of the Southern Confederacy at the earliest practical moment.”
Virginia left the Union on May 23, 1861. Richmond, merely 106 miles away, became the capital of the Confederacy. And, yet, the charges read “citizens of the United States.” It gives one pause. Was it that even in the midst of war tragedy transcended the line of Blue and Gray? That, in that moment, all were kindred once more?
The evening of November 4th, from 5:00PM-7:00PM, the Haymarket Museum will be lit in the glow of candlelight for a silent vigil. The bell will be rung at 6:30PM in memory of Nixon, Brandon, Corey, all those lost amidst the Civil War and the SuperStorm. And, in honor of the citizens who began anew – and, will begin again.
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