Saturday, June 05, 2021

Two men and a zinc coffin, a Great Dane and a 'pile of goo'

History nerd Jack Richards and some dude in a Yellow Donkey beer T-shirt.

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On the Civil War history trail recently, I asked a docent in Kingston, Ga., about the “snake church,” swore at wayward cows and a bull on the Widow Pence farm at the Cross Keys (Va.) battlefield, gently explained to a waitress in a bar in South Philadelphia that a munitions explosion occurred on the site in 1862, spent a few moments in North Philly looking for Old Baldy’s decapitated head, deftly avoided bears, coyotes, and ticks on the bluffs above the Potomac River at Shepherdstown, W.Va., and watched a history-loving former cop mow grass at the New Market (Va.) battlefield. (Read more in this space and elsewhere soon!)

William "Bill" Shy, killed
at Battle of Nashville.
Then things really got weird. 

At the Williamson County Archives and Museum in Franklin, Tenn., my friend and fellow western Pennsylvanian Jack Richards and I perused the zinc coffin of 20th Tennessee Col. William Shy, who was killed at the Battle of Nashville and whose remains were unearthed by an apparent grave robber in 1977. How Shy was tucked into this tiny coffin is one of history’s mysteries. You can dig into this story — damn, sorry — by reading my “Rambling” column in Civil War Times magazine. (It includes a reference to a 150-pound Great Dane named “River” and the words “pile of goo.”) 

Please note: My T-shirt is not necessarily an endorsement of Yellow Donkey pale ale. 

A close-up of Colonel Shy's zinc coffin. How did he fit into that thing?

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