Sunday, December 16, 2018

Spirited: Church, whiskey, bourbon, gin and a little Civil War

Kim Peterson, tour experience manager at H Clark Distillery, stands next to a tub of "spent grain." 
The distillery gives the waste product from the production of spirits to a farmer, 
who feeds the slop to his cows.  It makes the animals happy. (CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE.)
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Channeling my inner demon, I rush from a church service to a distillery in Thompson’s Station, Tenn., on Sunday morning. Somewhere David Allan Coe is smiling and thinking, “Damn, there’s a mighty good country music song there. All we need is a train, a pickup truck and a prison.”

Barrels of spirits in "The Shop," nerve center
of the distillery in Thompson's Station, Tenn.
My aim is to meet  H Clark Distillery owner/founder Heath Clark, an attorney, I’m told, with an above-average Civil War IQ. The 1863 Battle of Thompson’s Station was fought near the 100-year old granary where his team produces fine Tennessee bourbon, whiskey and dry gin. Clark's law office is in a small room in the three-year-old distillery, perhaps making him unique among legal practitioners in the United States. A family obligation prevents Heath from connecting with me, but I don’t leave his distillery disappointed.

Enter Kim Peterson, H. Clark's tour experience manager and a woman who obviously loves her job. “I have a blast here,” she tells me minutes into our visit.

A former hairdresser and special education teacher, Kim oozes charm and knowledge about the whiskey/bourbon/gin-making process. Ever-smiling, the 56-year-old Michigan native and Central Michigan women’s basketball fan eagerly gives me a tour.

H Clark is a micro-batch distillery — it produces one 53-gallon barrel of bourbon a week and a similar amount of whiskey and gin. By contrast, Jack Daniel’s distillery in Lynchburg, Tenn., produces thousands of barrels in the same timeframe.

The H. Clark Distillery is in a former granary in Thompson's Station, Tenn., where a Civil War battle
was fought on March 5, 1863.

The magic at H. Clark is created in “The Shop,” a room about twice the size of an average living room. As Kim and I enter the nerve center, the sweet (and tremendous) aroma of mash is apparent. She lifts the large lid on a vat of the mighty mixture of grains and water -- its creation is one of the early steps in the making of fine spirits. Tempted to dip my face into the thick, oatmeal-like mass, I instead place my nose as close as I can, careful that sunglasses tucked into my shirt don’t drop into the ooze.

"Doesn’t that smell great?” she says. Mmmmm, good.

Behind the red door, Tennessee
bourbon, whiskey and dry gin are made.
As I take notes on my church bulletin, wary of a lightning strike as I write, Kim talks in detail about the process of creating fine spirits. Think of it as symphony -- all steps must be in perfect harmony.

In The Shop, barrels of bourbon sit next to bags of corn and other grain, the key ingredients. Perhaps the most important piece of equipment  in the room is the large copper still, made in Portugal. The product is hand-bottled on the opposite side of "The Shop," a few steps away.

Near a long wall, a massive tub of brown liquid — spent grain, it’s called — sits. A local farmer takes this waste product from the alcohol-making process and feeds it to his cows, a pleasing feast for the animals.

“The cows love our bourbon mash,” Peterson says. “They come running for it. Then they just lay in the field, chilling.” She wants to shoot video of the cows enjoying the mostly alcohol-free slop someday. I take her word for it.

Of course, no visit to a distillery is complete without sampling the goods. As I sit in metal chair at the bar in the tasting room, a small sign on the mantle, near a broken Civil War bayonet, catches my eye: “Alcohol. Because no great story ever started with someone eating a salad.”

God, I’m sorry, but I love this place!

Peterson pours me snorts of bourbon, whiskey and dry gin. The really good bourbon — it’s 100 proof — goes for 100 bucks a bottle. I sniff each, then savor the greatness.

Euphoric, I say goodbye to Kim and step out into the sunshine. At the old railroad station across the road, I immediately see a bright red caboose.

Dang, David, about that song...

H Clark Distillery's copper still, made in Portugal. 
The final products. 

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Saturday, December 15, 2018

Nashville battlefield today: A visit to Redoubt No. 3 site

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Colonel Sylvester Hill,
killed at Nashville'
on Dec. 15, 1864.
In overrunning Redoubt No, 3 during the Battle of Nashville on Dec. 15, 1864, Union Colonel Sylvester Hill’s III Brigade swept through a playground, overturning children’s slides and ruining a garden at the Calvary United Methodist Church. (Sarcasm alert.) Once countryside south of Nashville, the battlefield long ago was lost to urban development. The church was built in the late 1940s.

Of the five redoubts constructed by John Bell Hood’s Army of Tennessee in the countryside south of Nashville, only traces of Nos. 1, 3 and 4 survive. A marker along Hillsboro Pike once noted the site of Redoubt No. 3, but it was damaged when it was struck by a car several years ago and never replaced.

No marker here notes the fate of the 44-year-old Hill, a married father of two children. The colonel was killed in his brigade's attack near the  modern-day United Methodist Church and across from the long-ago obliterated Redoubt No. 2 site.

Every so often, Calvary United Methodist parishioners receive a reminder of the significance of the land their church was built upon. “We have had sermons about how a battlefield was turned into a church,” church archivist Dave Nichols told me. “This is a place where people were killed that has been turned into a place of peace.”

A war-time illustration of the attack at Redoubt No. 3 during the Battle of Nashville depicts the moment
 Colonel Sylvester Hill (on horse) was wounded. (CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE.)

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Tuesday, December 11, 2018

'Gone for nothing!' Soldiers who died storming Marye's Heights

The Stone Wall at the base of Marye's Heights, the objective of Union soldiers on Dec. 13, 1862.
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After the armies agreed to a truce, the horrifying work of burying dead from the Battle of Fredericksburg on Dec. 13, 1862, began in earnest. On the plain below Marye's Heights, Union burial crews found bloated and blackened bodies of comrades, some stripped of uniforms -- even of their  undergarments. Remains often could not be identified.

Granite markers for Union unknown buried in
Fredericksburg National Cemetery.
"As we approached the battle field," wrote a Federal soldier of the plain in front of the Stone Wall on Mayre's Heights, "the sight reminded me of a flock of sheep reposing in the field. But as we approached nearer, who can describe my feelings when I found them to be the dead bodies of our brave men, which had been stripped of their clothing."

More than 600 Yankee dead were buried in a 100-yard trench, a makeshift Union defensive position during the battle. Twenty-three were placed in another trench; 123 more were tossed into another.

Word of the fate of Union soldiers on the plain outside Fredericksburg soon filtered to Northern newspapers, Many publications expressed outrage over treatment of the dead.

"Persons who visited the battlefield of Fredericksburg with our burial parties," a Pennsylvania newspaper reported, "state the dead were all stripped of coats, pants, shoes, stockings, and in some instances drawers. The old garments of the rebels were strewed all over the battlefield. Evidently as they stripped our dead they took off their old 'duds' and put on the garments of the dead.

"Could anything exceed this in disgusting cruelty?"

Wrote a 7th Rhode Island soldier: "They are making a complete burying ground of Virginia. I cannot describe the scene."

Who were these Union dead, most of whom probably rest today in the national cemetery in Fredericksburg? Based largely on pension file documents, here are snapshots of soldiers who died storming Marye's Heights:


While Jesse Banker's pregnant wife agonized over his fate, Bennett Banker searched for his brother's body.

On Dec. 13, Bennett was by his 24-year-old brother's side when Company I of the 51st New York was ordered on the double quick into the fight for the heights. In the awful chaos, 19-year-old Bennett lost track of his brother. Before a 51st New York lieutenant left the battlefield, however. he saw Jesse fall, apparently from a bullet through the lungs.

During a truce, one of Banker's comrades found Jesse's cap on the plain -- Bennett was certain it was his brother's because part of his name as well as his regimental and company designations appeared inside it. Jesse was presumed dead, killed the day after his third wedding anniversary.

Based on a tell-tale scar on a body's knee, a soldier in Company I who was part of the burial detail believed he may have found Jesse's remains. The dead man was "naked," the hair on the head was gone and the body was "nearly rotten."  Many decomposing dead, their clothes stripped off, had gruesomely turned black, making certain identification almost impossible.

By the time Mary Banker's widow's pension application was winding its way through government bureaucracy, the Company I soldier who was part of that Fredericksburg burial crew could not be deposed -- he had died in a Confederate prison.

On June 5, 1863, Mary gave birth to a son. She named the boy Jesse.


John A. Kerr's promotion certificate to second lieutenant, found in his mother's pension file.
(National Archives via
Evidently impressing his superiors, Kerr was given a promotion from sergeant to second lieutenant in the fall of 1862. He was never mustered in at the higher rank.

 "His failure ... was not through neglect or refusal on his part," 53rd Pennsylvania Colonel George Anderson wrote, "but because he was killed at the Battle of Fredericksburg, Va., on the 13th day of December, and his commission did not reach the Head Quarters of said Regt. until two days after he was killed."

When she sought an increase in her pension in 1866, John's mother included the promotion document in paperwork. During the war, Kerr sent home to Latrobe, Pa., part of his wages to support his parents -- it amounted to at least $80 within a year's period, according to his mother's neighbors.


No Union soldier reached the Stone Wall at the base of Marye's Heights on Dec. 13, 1862.
Danger lurked around every corner as Cole, Ratcliffe, Kenyon and the rest of their 7th Rhode Island comrades formed up in the streets of Fredericksburg for an attack on the heights. A shell exploded on a side street at the feet of Nicholas Matteson of Company F, "cutting off one foot at the instep as with a cleaver and mangling the other at the ankle," a soldier in the regiment recalled. He bled to death at a makeshift hospital nearby. Another Rhode Island private was struck by a bullet in the right temple, leaving a ragged hole and turning his face a gruesome shade of purple. He somehow survived.

"...the shot and shell from the enemy were falling around us" before the regiment moved out into the open, recalled Ethan Jenks, a 2nd lieutenant. "Men of the regiment were killed then & there."

By the time the 7th Rhode Island had crossed a railroad cut and advanced toward the Stone Wall, Jenks had lost track of Cole, a 33-year-old farmer and a close friend. "I never heard anything more of him," he recalled, "though I made a very diligent inquiry for him because of my long intimacy with him. He was a good soldier. From my long acquaintance with him & his general good character, I feel confident that he could not have have deserted but must have been killed that day ..."

Probably stripped of his clothing, as were many Union dead, Cole's body would have been impossible to identify, Captain George Durfee noted. In a post-battle report, he was simply listed as "missing." Cole left behind a widow,  Frances, and two children, Minnie, 7, and Georgianna, 4.

No one in the regiment knew what became of Ratcliffe or Kenyon either.

Perhaps Ratcliffe, an immigrant from England, was blown to atoms by artillery -- the fate of some other soldiers that awful Saturday.  "I testify that his name appears in the records of the regiment as missing after action & supposed to have been instantly killed during the progress of the battle of Fredericksburg," 7th Rhode Island Surgeon James Harris wrote nearly a year after the private's death. In her widow's pension claim, Ratcliffe's wife included a copy of the couple's 1849 marriage certificate. Married in England, Sarah and Richard had no children.

A farmer, Kenyon was "struck by a shell and both legs were shot off," Captain Rowland Rodman recalled of the married father of a 4-year-old son. "I saw him after he was struck & left him on the field. I have no doubt that he died that day from said wound."

1849 marriage certificate for "bachelor" Richard Ratcliffe and "spinster" Sarah Turner.
(National Archives via


In the heat of battle, James McAneny was just a few steps from James Kennedy, a fellow private in the Irish Brigade regiment. Then a bullet crashed into Kennedy. "He did not move but once after he was struck," McAneny recalled, "and that was very soon after he fell." Presumed dead by comrades, Kennedy fell into the hands of the enemy; the 19-year-old soldier's body apparently was not recovered.

For Kennedy's mother Margaret, his death was another awful blow. A widow in her 50s, she had for years earned a meager living as a peddler of chinaware in Boston. In the two years before he enlisted in January 1862, James earned about $4-$5 weekly selling dishes and such for his mother. He gave half his earnings to Margaret, two close friends of the family recalled, and kept the remainder to buy himself clothing and other goods.

In poor health, Margaret could only work during the summer months. Neighbors claimed she had little use of her limbs for nearly two decades. Mrs. Kennedy's two daughters weren't old enough to help in the family business.


1851 marriage certificate for Charles and Abby Knowles.
(National Archives via
Killed by a bullet through the neck, Knowles was found rolled up in a blanket -- an ignominious end for the wheelwright from South Kingstown. Knowles was among the 150 casualties, including 38 killed, in the regiment of about 550 soldiers.

Born in Rhode Island on March 10, 1826, Charles was the eldest son of James and Ann Knowles. When he was 25, he married Abby Snow Baker on Sept. 21, 1851 -- she used the couple's marriage certificate as proof of their union when she filed for a widow's pension. The Knowles had five children: Kate, 9;  James, 7; twins Ella and Alice, 7; and Maggie, 1.

Charles' brother, John, a 2nd lieutenant in the 4th Rhode Island, was killed at the Battle of the Crater, near Petersburg, Va., on July 30, 1864. The gravesites of the brothers are unknown.


Reilly's death was a staggering emotional blow for his family in Chelsea, near Boston. A significant financial hardship, too.

Before his enlistment in January 1862, Patrick worked odd jobs to help support his Irish-born mother, Catharine. A local storekeeper said Patrick, whom he described as "very steady," bought his mother groceries, often with his own money. After he joined the army, the 19-year-old soldier regularly sent home part of his pay, a major assist to a family that made do without paternal support.

"My husband is still living," Catharine noted in an affidavit for a mother's pension on Jan. 9 1863, "but he has not supported me for five years. During that time he has been confined in the house of correction as many as five times."

Friends of the family were scathing in their assessment of Phillip Reilly, whom Catharine had married in Ireland in the early 1840s. He was a "worthless character," two of them noted in January 1863 in a pension affidavit. A "common drunkard," another one called him.

Catharine's pension request eventually was approved at the standard $8 a month.


In a field beyond the Stone Wall, Warner Valentine was buried by comrades.
Before the war, Valentine was a college student at the Free Academy in New York, where the children of immigrants and the poor could get a good education. Because his father could provide sufficiently for the family at the time, Warner wasn't required to work. But sometime after the war started, Valentine's father suffered from paralysis and became bed-ridden. To support his Dutch-born parents, Warner sent home a portion of his army wages -- according to his mother Anna's acquaintances, he provided at least $150.

It's unknown whether Valentine was wounded during the 57th New York's storming of Marye's Heights or during the regiment's escape from the plain the night of Dec. 13. According to a 57th New York officer, artillery and gunfire from behind the Stone Wall was "so tremendous that before we knew it our momentum was gone, and the charge a failure."

"Within one hundred yards of the base of the hill we dropped down, and then flat on our bellies, opened fire while line after line of fresh troops, like ocean waves, followed each other in rapid succession," 57th New York Lieutenant Josiah M. Favill recalled, "but none of them succeeded in reaching the enemy's works."

After the battle, no one in the 57th New York saw Valentine. The 20-year-old soldier was presumed dead. Bodies of the regiment's fallen remained on the field for "two or three days,"  Sergeant John McConnell recalled, until a burial crew took care of the remains. A member of the detail -- a soldier in Valentine's Company D -- believed he saw Warner's corpse, but the remains were in such rough shape that he wasn't sure.


Marriage certificate of Owen and Margaret Gallagher, dated Sept. 4, 1859.
(National Archives via
A 24-year-old factory worker from South Kingstown, the Irish-born Gallagher died from a head wound. Married to Margaret Fagan in 1859, the couple had two sons, Francis, 2, and Owen Jr., born 22 days before his father's death. Apparently illiterate, Margaret signed a widow's pension affidavit simply with an "X."

A day or two after the battle, a 7th Rhode Island soldier wrote a searing account of the carnage he witnessed at Fredericksburg. Perhaps he summed up the feelings of other soldiers who stormed Marye's Heights:
"We were burdened with the thought that the glory of the starry flag was departing; that the Union, which had stood forth like the sun in heaven, was passing away with dishonor. During our brief absence at the firing line a terrible change had come over the city. The windows had been broken out or removed, the doors were utilized for stretchers, while parlor and cellar, corridor and garret, court-yard and garden were filled with the wounded and dying.
"The harrowing industry of the surgeons was conspicuous. Men with every degree of mutilation were lying around on bare boards with only a haversack or a canteen under their head, seldom a blanket. Most were suffering keenly, some were dying. The floors were stained with pools of blood. One of the saddest sights the author witnessed was that of a soldier whose leg had been amputated close to his body. Almost choking with grief he exclaimed, noting the compassionate look of the stranger, 'I should not care for this if we had been put in where we had the least chance. I would not have cared for my leg so much if we'd had any show. It's gone for nothing!' "

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-- Favill, Josiah Marshall, The Diary of a Young Officer Serving with the Armies of the United States During the War of the Rebellion, Chicago, R. R. Donnelley & Sons Co., 1909
-- Hopkins, William Palmer and Peck, George Bacheler, The Seventh Regiment Rhode Island Volunteers in the Civil War, 1862-1865, Providence, R.I., Snow & Farnham, Printers, 1903.
-- Jesse Banker, Owen Gallagher, James Kennedy, John Kenyon, John A. Kerr, Charles Knowles, Richard Ratcliffe, Patrick Reilly, Warner Valentine pension files, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C., via
-- The Free Lance-Star, Fredericksburg (Va.), Sept. 22, 2001.
-- 7th Rhode Island Private William "Henry" Jordan letter to his parents, Dec. 28, 1862, accessed on eBay, Dec. 6, 2017.
-- Raftsman Journal, Clearfield, Pa., Jan. 21, 1863.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

In 20 images: A journey to find Nashville's 'hidden' battlefield

U.S. Colored Troops are believed to have formed here before their assault on Peach Orchard Hill 
on Dec. 16, 1864, the second and final day of the Battle of Nashville.  This sliver of land, 
near six-lane Interstate-65, is in a residential neighborhood. (CLICK ON IMAGES TO ENLARGE.)
Near downtown Nashville, Union General John Schofield's "jump-off" point looks much 
different than it did in 1864.
Now in a residential neighborhood, remains of Confederate Redoubt No. 1 are preserved by the 
Battle of Nashville Preservation Society.

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Attorney Jim Kay of the Battle of Nashville Preservation Society
shows artifacts from the battle discovered on his property
in the Oak Hill suburb of Nashville.
"The Nashville battlefield has a torturous history," I wrote in my Rambling column in the February 2019 issue of Civil War Times, "Bulldozed, paved over, developed and mostly ignored, the hallowed ground on which John Bell Hood’s Army of Tennessee was nearly destroyed December, 15-16, 1864, is today unrecognizable as a battlefield. Only pockets of core battleground remain — in a grimy industrial area, on the grounds of a modern church, in residential neighborhoods, on a golf course, and elsewhere. Sadly, Nashville is mostly a battlefield of the mind." (Read the column here.)

Over the past several months, I explored many of the mostly forgotten sites on the massive battlefield. Of 3,840 acres of core battlefield, only about 320 acres are preserved, according to the most recent survey. The total battle acreage is approximately 39,500 acres.

RESOURCES: Battle of Nashville Preservation Society | Maps | American Battlefield Trust

Near Redoubt No. 1, a historical sign notes the site of Confederate trenches. 
The meager remains of  Redoubt No. 3 -- one of five redoubts Hood's army constructed in the countryside
south of Nashville -- may be found near the parking lot of Calvary United Methodist Church off Hillsboro Pike.
The Union army's III Brigade charged up this hill on the battle's first day, routing the defenders.
“We have had sermons about how a battlefield was turned into a church,” says Dave Nichols. archivist
of United Methodist Church, standing by remains of Redoubt No. 3. “This is a place where people
 were killed that has been turned into a place of peace.” (READ MORE.)
The remains of a war-time wall along busy Hillsboro Pike. Near here Iowan Sylvester Hill, 
the 44-year-old colonel  of the Union's III Brigade, was killed during the attack at Redoubt No. 3. 
Gary Burke, descendant of Peter Bailey of the U.S. Colored Troops, stands at Granbury's Lunette
 in industrial South Nashville. This was the extreme right of the Confederate line on the first day
 of the battle. Bailey fought here and at Peach Orchard Hill on the second day. (READ MORE.)
Raines' Cut, the seldom-visited railroad cut where U.S. Colored Troops were ambushed on 
Dec. 15, 1864, the battle's first day. Gary Burke (photo above) once sneaked into the cut because
 he wanted “to feel the fear that went through [U.S. Colored Troops]."
This stone wall on busy Granny White Pike dates to the battle. Confederate Brigadier General 
Henry Jackson was captured along the wall on Dec. 16, 1864. The historical sign is in a residential area.
On busy Franklin Road near downtown Nashville, few stop to read this Battle of Nashville historical sign.
A battlefield "witness" tree frames the Battle of Nashville Peace Monument, dedicated in 1999.  The 
original monument, located off Franklin Road, was toppled in a storm in 1974. Fighting occurred here
on the old Noel farm on the first day of the battle. The monument is just off Granny White Pike.
A stone wall snakes through the Oak Hill residential neighborhood near Nashville. On the second day
of the battle, the Army of Tennessee fought from behind it. (READ MORE.)
The left flank of the Army of Tennessee was anchored on Shy's Hill, known as Compton's Hill in 1864.
When John Bell Hood's army was routed here, his soldiers fled south on Franklin and Granny White pikes.
A portion of Shy's Hill, located in a residential neighborhood, is one of the few 
undeveloped sections of core battlefield.
The only monument on Shy's Hill honors soldiers from Minnesota who fought here.
The steep slope of Shy's Hill. The site is located in a residential neighborhood.
A deer dashes across the crest of Shy's Hill, defended by Confederates on Dec. 16, 1864.
Peach Orchard Hill, where the right flank of Hood's army was anchored on Dec. 16, 1864, 
bears no resemblance to its war-time  appearance. A residential neighborhood and high school 
was built on the site of brutal second-day fighting.
 Fierce, often hand-to-hand, fighting broke out on Dec. 16, 1864, during the Army of Tennessee's
 retreat from Nashville. The "Battle of the Barricadeoccurred on or near the present-day site 
of Richland Country Club, off Granny White Pike.  Here, club president Jim Kay 
stands near a replica cannon on the course.  (READ MORE.)
Glen Leven, a plantation house four miles from downtown, served as a hospital for Union wounded.

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Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Lessons in a friend's death: Meet Ed Knocke, newspaperman

Ed Knocke, newspaperman, at a reenactment of his re-crafting of Page 1 of The Dallas Morning News
the night  RFK was shot in Los Angeles in June 1968.
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We laughed when my wife pronounced Ed Knocke’s last name “knock.” We Dallas Morning News employees, of course, knew him as KAH-No-KEE. The longtime newspaperman and rodeo writer also went by "Big Ed,” “Prince of the Pica Pole” and, most affectionately, “Doc.” On deadline, some us called him names that are not for public consumption. Big Ed, 79, died Monday from complications of a stroke and Alzheimer’s, that bastard of a disease. We who knew him mourn. For those who didn't know Ed, let me introduce you.

A lifelong Texan, Ed was a product of a bygone era of newspapering — an era of great, colorful characters. People like “Gator,” a printer who kept an alligator in his bathtub, an old cigar in his mouth and a thick wad of cash in his back pocket. And Augie, Billy, Marvin and the rest of the gang in the backshop, where the newspaper was pasted up on boards. They made us night sports editors laugh — and sometimes cry -- while we combined to put out a newspaper. And then there was another born-and-bred Texan, Harless Wade, the columnist, golf writer, Man About Town and Mickey Mantle’s buddy. He had a nickname for everyone. (“Sawed-off Mountain Yankee,” Harless called me.) The ringleader of it all was Dave Smith, the greatest newspaper sports editor of all time.

My brother-in-law Nels Jensen, another outstanding newspaperman,
with our friend Ed Knocke, "Big Ed," recently in Arizona.
Damn, we sure had fun back then, and Ed, in a way, was the center of attention. Layout man Knocke designed the morning paper in the era before pagination, drawing the lines that resulted in the daily miracle of The Dallas Morning News’ fabulous sports section. Oh, how the University of Texas grad loved the newspaper and newspapering. Open up his veins and we swear black ink would gush out.

Stories oozed out of Ed, too. Lord, the man could tell stories. Some of us heard the same ones repeatedly, but we never cared. When you were around Ed, he made you feel good.

True story: Ed was the only editor in The Dallas Morning News' newsroom super-early one June morning in 1968. The paper had been put to bed. Suddenly, the bells on the teletype machine — look it up, youngsters — sprang to life. Something massive was happening. Robert Kennedy had been shot in Los Angeles. Ed, the sports guy, re-crafted Page 1, and the story made the final edition of The Miracle. A newspaper legend was born.

On deadline, Ed was a trip, a whirling-dervish of emotion and intensity. We winced as Doc spewed food from his mouth while he rushed to complete another sports section of the newspaper. Dang, I wish that were available on YouTube. After the paper was put to rest for the night, Ed would often say, "We're in the tub." Then he might go off to write a column about rodeo, another one of Ed's great loves.

My brother-in-law Nels Jensen — God bless him — visited with Knocke in Arizona recently. The effects of Doc's disease were apparent. Soon after Nels posted on Facebook last night about Ed’s death, tributes poured in.
How to donate
 to Alzheimer's Association

"What a consummate pro."

"It was an honor working alongside Ed."

"I am a better person for knowing Ed."

"I’m thankful Ed helped a guy from the Bronx figure out his first rodeo."

"Brady, LeBron, Serena ... greatest of all time? No, it was Ed."

"No matter the night or whatever we faced on the sports desk," read another, "Ed always had a moment with his infectious laugh that made you know it was all going to be OK."

As I was walking early this morning, I couldn’t get “Big Ed” off my mind. I had not seen him in years, and felt poorer for that. I planned to visit with him later this month during a family visit in Arizona for the holidays. There are lessons in Ed Knocke's life — and in his death — for all of us.

Stay in touch with those you love. Put your phone down. Observe. Be kind. Get to know your neighbor or co-worker. Listen. Embrace the characters in your life.

Enjoy the journey. 

You don't want an Ed Knocke to pass you by.

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From Antietam to West Point: 18 of my favorite 2018 photos

FRANKLIN, TENN.:  Bullet-riddled Fountain Carter farm office interior, stark evidence 
of battle Nov. 30, 1864.  (CLICK ON ALL IMAGES TO ENLARGE.)
FRANKLIN, TENN.: Lighted inside on the anniversary of the battle, the bullet-riddled Carter outbuilding.
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From Antietam, Gettysburg, Brandy Station and South Mountain in the eastern theater to Nashville, Perryville, Shiloh, Franklin and Lookout Mountain in the western theater, I have been fortunate to walk many miles on hallowed ground in 2018. When I travel, I make good use of my iPhone 8S camera. (Remember: "Portrait" mode is your friend.) Here are 18 of my favorite photos this year.

ANTIETAM: 50th Pennsylvania monument on Rodman Avenue at sunrise.
ANTIETAM: Irishmen Thomas Meagher in bas-relief on Irish Brigade monument.
NASHVILLE: The pedestal of the old Battle of Nashville monument, which was toppled in a storm in 1974.
GETTYSBURG: Winfield Scott Hancock monument on East Cemetery Hill.
NASHVILLE: At Richland Country Club, massive Sharps carbine bullets serve as tee markers.
ANTIETAM:  Sunlight squeezes through openings in William Roulette barn, a hospital during and after battle.
ANTIETAM: Sunrise at the Mississippi monument on Cornfield Avenue.
BOONSBORO, MD.: Miniature donkeys and a peacock greeted me at the crumbling house
 where a Union officer died from his Antietam wounds. (READ MORE)
ANTIETAM: Shadow of the old War Department tower at Bloody Lane.
WEST POINT, N.Y.: Grave memorial for General John Buford, a hero of Gettysburg.
FRANKLIN, TENN: Heavenly effect at South Carolina monument at McGavock Confederate Cemetery.
ANTIETAM: A figure of an eagle atop the 28th Ohio monument on Branch Avenue.
GETTYSBURG: Irish wolfhound on the tremendous Irish Brigade monument.
ANTIETAM: The 16th Connecticut monument in the 40-Acre Cornfield, the southern end of the battlefield.
FRANKLIN, TENN.:  Two markers for the same unknown soldier at McGavock Confederate Cemetery.
ANTIETAM: 124th Pennsylvania monument at sunset.

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