Do you know this man? (a revised re-posting)

This is a post I wrote almost four years ago.
Since that time my father has passed away and in such,
I have lost one more person who could help with a few of the pieces of the puzzle.
Also in that time since passed, I had put this quest on the back burner
as I spent all my energies caring for Dad…
However in light of the 4th of July celebration and our Nation’s observation of our Independence,
I thought it appropriate to rerun this particular story about a lost soldier who offered
the ultimate sacrifice to this great Nation of ours….

Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into
the deepest valleys;
look on them as your own beloved sons,
and they will stand by you even unto death.

Sun Tzu

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(Capt. Frank F. Crenshaw)

No, of course you don’t.
I wouldn’t think that you would know the man looking
out from a grainy ancient photocopied image, but if you do…
I’d love to talk with you as I have a bit of a mystery on my hands.

This is Captain Frank F. Crenshaw, my great-grandfather.
I always knew that he was heroic in battle during the Philippines Insurrection;
a fallout from the Spanish American War, in which he was gravely wounded
as he lead his men against an ambush attack in a battle known as the Battle of Puttol.
He eventually died from his wounds….
But that’s about all I’ve know of this enigmatic figure.

I always knew that he was buried in a historic cemetery in the west Georgia city of
LaGrange, about an hour south from where I live now.
I’ve driven passed this cemetery for years,
always vowing to stop one day to find his grave.

And that’s exactly what my husband and I decided to do one Sunday afternoon
last summer (2012).
I just knew his was one of the old historic graves with the elaborate decorative headstones.
No problem—I’d find it right off the bat…

Two hours later, having wandered all over an old historic cemetery,
in the heat of day on a hot summer afternoon,
watching for copperhead snakes hiding amongst the rubble of an old cemetery,
and sweating like a dog…I was frustrated like nobody’s business.
“Where in the heck is he?” I lamented to my husband.
Capt. Crenshaw was nowhere to be found.
Ugh!

He had come from a rather well to do family of the area.
He had received a war hero’s funeral but as to where his grave was currently located
was suddenly a huge mystery.
This made absolutely no sense.
“I will follow up tomorrow with a call to the city, to the county,
to someone who knows this cemetery!”
I declare to my husband once we get back in the car headed home.

I called Dad once I got home.
This is his grandfather, his mother’s father.
He had no idea as to why I couldn’t find the grave and was not as up in arms over
the ordeal as I was—and that may have to do with the fact that he never knew the man.
I never knew the man either, but you didn’t see that stopping me!
I was now bound and determined to find him!!

I called my dad’s cousin, his 88 year old cousin,
who is also a grandson to this war veteran.
This cousin is also a bit of the remaining family’s resident historian.
He too was stumped to the lack of a grave.
But I was getting the feeling there was more to be known about the other side,
this long lost soldier’s wife’s side of the family than his—-
which I’m sure is due in part to the fact that he died at such a young age and she went on,
albeit it as a widow for the rest of her life, to live a long life well into old age.

This actually all started really a few weekends prior as I was accompanying my husband
while he was on a quest looking for some recreational property as an investment thought.
We were in the vicinity of the small middle Georgia town in which my grandmother
was born and raised.
I talked my husband into to driving to the town so I could find the city cemetery
and look for the Crenshaw family plot.

I called Dad on my cell phone and he told me where the cemetery was located—-
sure enough we found it.
The town is so small, that finding a city cemetery is not too hard as it just
can’t be missed sitting in the middle of town.
I bound out of the car and within 2 minutes, I spot the Crenshaw’s—
my great-grandmother is buried here but her war hero husband is buried in LaGrange—
“that’s odd” I muse but I’m so taken with this moment of lineage discovery that I simply
file that thought away for later.

My great aunt and her husband, my great uncle and his wife,
another great uncle who died as a child, plus their mom, my great-grandmother are all here.
I take pictures of the graves and markers while feeling a sense of melancholy resignation.
History, family and mystery all buried in the ground before me….
some of whom I knew and others I had never known…
and yet these people were connected to me, as I was to them—
and that connection is in part as to who I am to this day.
Funny how that all works.

Now lets fast forward to a couple of weeks ago.

I had let the whole grave marker search fall by the wayside during the winter months
as it seems other things just took over life.
I’d not thought much of it at all until a couple of weeks ago.
I had actually stumbled upon a number for the Troup Co Clerk of Courts which prompted me
to call inquiring as to how I could go about locating information about burial sites
in the city cemetery.
I was given a number to the city cemetery which I immediately called.

The man who answered probably regrets to this day having answered the phone after
I finish my story.
However he kindly takes my name and number and tells me he’ll “do a little research”
and will call me back the next day.
A week passes with no word.
I give it another go calling the cemetery office.
This time I get a machine.
I briefly recap my story, leaving my name and number.
Within just a few minutes the phone rings.
“Mrs. Cook, I apologize for not calling you back, but I’ve been doing a little research.
It seems your great-grandfather is indeed buried here, but…”
long pause…
“he doesn’t seem to have a marker.”
What!!” I practically scream.
“Well, for some reason, the family didn’t provide a marker.
Perhaps they were not in a position to do so.”
“Oh no sir,” I almost indignity respond,
“they could afford it if that’s what you mean.”

He proceeds to give me another number to the city archive museum of which
I immediately call and, once again, leave a message.
I later get a call from the city historian–a retired history teacher… of course.
I give him my story and he basically reiterates the story I know.
He has some old county local Domesday tome complete with deaths and burials.
Sure enough, Capt. Crenshaw is there,
or so states the book of books,
but as to exactly where, well that’s still up for discussion.
The million dollar question of the hour is–
where is he and secondly– why no marker– given his astonishing story…

And speaking of, here is his story…

My great grandfather, Capt. Frank Frost Crenshaw severed in the 28th Infantry, A Company.
He was a resident of LaGrange, Georgia.
He was first stationed in Guantanamo, Cuba, fighting in the Spanish American War,
with the rank of First Lt.
He was a member of Ray’s Immunes;
a regiment of southern men chosen specifically to serve in Cuba during the
Spanish American War.
It was thought that due to their being from the deep south,
they may be more “immune” to yellow fever
(what a comfort is the logic of our Government, but once again, I digress…).
His regiment was sent to Cuba where many of the men contracted “Cuban” fever,
what I am assuming to be Malaria.
At the end of the war, his unit returned to Georgia.
38 men from the unit died from the fever; my great-grandfather contracted the illness
but fortunately survived.
At the end of the war, his unit was mustered out.

The following year President McKinley appointed him to the rank of Captain
(which I am assuming was incentive for him to “re-enlist” in the then volunteer
branch of the US Army).
He was given command of A Company of the 28th Infantry stationed at Camp Mead in Pennsylvania.
His unit was immediately ordered to Payapa, Batagas Island, the Philippines,
where they were to take command of that particular Island as it had fallen to the control
of guerrilla insurgents.

On June 5, 1900, Captain Crenshaw led his men,
who had been ambushed during a surprise attack by guerilla fighters in the area of Puttol,
the Philippines.
This was a counter attack in order to quell the entrenched militia,
as it seems that one of the trusted local scouts, who was working with the American unit,
deceived the Americans leading them into an ambush.

The American forces fought off the attack, with Captain Crenshaw leading the counter attack.
Captain Crenshaw had his men to take cover but as he rose to lead the charge,
his horse being shot out from under him, he was shot in the head.
Gravely wounded, he continued leading the battalion until the insurgents were defeated,
at which time Capt. Crenshaw lost consciousness.
Only two of the men received wounds, with Capt. Crenshaw’s being the gravest.

He was now paralyzed on his left side and blind in one eye and had lost a considerable
amount of blood.
Evacuated to Manila, he was eventually placed on a transport ship for home,
but due to rough seas in the South China Sea,
the ship had to head to a Chinese harbor to wait out the storms.
Capt. Crenshaw reported of the deplorable conditions,
while aboard the ship, to which he was subjected.
He had received no proper medical care, no surgeries but rather placed
in the cargo hold in the engine room with the men who were held there as having been
labeled as “insane”.
Being paralyzed and in considerable pain, he was unable to care for himself.
He bribed a ship’s steward to help tend to his wounds.

Once docked in China, he again did not receive adequate medical attention.
Almost 2.5 months after being shot in the head, with the musket ball still lodged in his skull,
both blind and partially paralyzed,
the ship eventually docked in San Francisco.
Captain Crenshaw’s uncle had made the journey form Georgia to await the arrival of his nephew
and to procure him proper medical care.
For reasons I do not understand, he did not receive medical attention in San Francisco.
He was placed on a train where he made the journey across country and was immediately
taken to an Atlanta area hospital for emergency surgery.

Sadly Capt. Crenshaw died on the operating table almost 3 months after having been wounded and not properly cared for, yet while fighting to defend his country’s foreign interests.
Captain Crenshaw was only 28 years old.
He left a young widow of 24 with 4 small children to raise alone
(my grandmother being on of the 4 children).

He is recorded as having been the only non-political figure to have ever lain in
state in the rotunda of the State Capital of Georgia.
There was a full military train cortege that escorted the body,
which was led by General John B. Gordon,
taking Capt. Crenshaw from Atlanta to the final destination of LaGrange, Georgia.
Upon his death,
Captain Crenshaw was awarded the title of both Major and Lt. Colonel,
as was put forth by the President of the United States …
and yet he is in an unmarked grave.

The story is a re-cap from the letter I have just sent to the current commander of the 28th Infantry.
It seems The Office of Veteran’s Affairs will provide any war veteran,
who is currently buried in an unmarked grave, a headstone.
I called Washington inquiring into the grave markers but was told I would need to document
his years of service or either document his pension.
“Are you kidding me? 1900 is a long time ago”
hence my letter to the Commander,
as well as copies to both of my senators.
As I told all of them:

It is my desire to be able to provide a marker for this fallen war hero.
It is also my desire to inquire into his being awarded a medal of honor,
posthumously, for his service, leadership and eventual ultimate sacrifice for his Country.
My father told me that his grandmother, who was 24 at the time of the death of her husband,
who was tasked with raising the 4 children alone,
had to actually sue the US Government in order to receive his pension.

So as you can see, I have a mystery and a mission.

Maybe this all matters so much to me because I am adopted
and the concept of “family” is of keen importance to me.
Maybe it’s because this family of mine is disappearing—
only my dad and his two cousins remain of this once older numerous clan—
I sadly feel time is not on my side.
Dad can’t even remember from day to day what I keep telling him about all of this.

And maybe, just maybe, this all matters so much to me because this was a young man,
not even 30, who gave his life for his country who left behind a young 24 year old wife
who had to raise 4 small children all alone–
with only 3 surviving to adulthood.
His widow never remarried as she considered marriage to be so sacred that it was a one
time deal– how I admire that commitment.

It was this young soldier,
not so different from today’s soldiers,
who was a leader of a band of men who fought so very far away from home,
the furtherest fighting of any American soldier to date as we had yet to be involved
in either World War.
It is this now forgotten wartime hero who was laid to rest in an unmarked grave exactly
113 years ago today who I now owe…as I owe him, his wife, his children (my grandmother) the decency of the proper recognition for his sacrifice to this country.

I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

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What will you leave behind

And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase.
Jeremiah 23:3

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(the story of a piece of wood found in a cross cut knot / Julie Cook / 2015)

Recently I read a story on the BBC website about an ominous discovery. It was a story about finding, along with the subsequent necessity of diffusing, an undetonated bomb from WWII. The bomb precipitated the largest post war evacuation ever in the history of Cologne, Germany.

As is often the case, a construction company preparing a site for some new underground pipe made the frightening discovery. The unexploded 1 ton bomb was buried 16 feet below the surface.

20,000 city residents, including those from an elderly care facility along with the Zoo, several schools and surrounding businesses were all evacuated in Cologne yesterday as the Rhine River was closed to commerce as was the air space over the city as a bomb squad team was dispersed to safely unarm the bomb.

According to the German newspaper Die Spiegel it is estimated that hundreds of tons of bombs are discovered yearly littered throughout Europe, with the highest percentage being found in Germany–Thousands of undetonated bombs are either buried underground or lying on the bottom of ocean floors–from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

Underneath the lives of 21st century modern-day Germans—under homes, major thoroughfares, schools, churches, synagogues, shopping centers, business. . .all unsuspecting that there is a dark reminder which lies hidden just below their now busy and peaceful lives.

Several times throughout any given year, global news is littered with stories of farmers, fishermen as well as construction crews who inadvertently make such grim and frighting discoveries. Be it the fishermen off the coast of Denmark dragging their nets to awaiting underwater remnants, to construction crews in Germany, Poland, England, Amsterdam and Russia who accidentally uncover an all too explosive past to the farmers in France and Belgium who simply labor to plant their fields which are rife with a deadly debris—all live bombs that were dropped 70 years ago which still pose a very real and dangerous threat today.

In 2014 a man operating a back hoe in the town of Euskirchen near Bonn was killed when he accidentally hit a buried bomb, triggering the deadly explosion. Eight others were injured

In 2011, 6000 citizens on the outskirts of Paris were evacuated from their neighborhood when a 1000 pound unexploded RAF bomb was discovered by a construction crew.

In 2012 thousands of citizens were evacuated in Munich when the discovery of an undetonated 550 pound bomb was found laying buried beneath a nightclub made famous in the 1970’s by the British Rock Group, the Rolling Stones.

Yet it is not only Germany or her sister countries of Europe or Russia which are sitting on top of potential catastrophes. . .
Millions of buried land-mines litter the Balkan region which spans 11 countries. In recent years, these countries have witnessed heavy and devastating flooding. . . flooding which has in turn unearthed thousands of undetonated deadly land-mines. Long buried reminders from the Bosnian War of 1992-1995.

Last year the British news agency The Telegraph ran an article about how scientists from both France and Croatia have been working together on enlisting “sniffer bees” to help “sniff” out explosives. Scientists discovered that the bees olfactory sense is on par with that of dogs and that the bees can be trained to keenly sniff out TNT. Bomb experts hope to release the bees in the fields while following their movement as they “hone” in on buried explosives.

Southeast Asia is also rife with deadly reminders of its tumultuous past as a fare share of its forgotten nightmares, those thousands of undetonated buried bombs and land-mines, all of which now litter the fields, streams and cities from Vietnam to Laos to Cambodia to Korea and even to Japan.

And then there is the Middle East. . .Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Iraq, Iran. . .

The global list of the dark reminders of conflicts, police actions, as well as world wars, litter the world like a spilled bowl of popcorn.

The mainland of the United States has been left relatively unscathed when it comes to things such as land-mines and buried undetonated bombs. The US is fortunate in that the sorts of discovery of war paraphernalia is from wars fought long past. . . Revolutionary, Indian, Spanish and Civil Wars—all long before modern warfare’s use of live ammunition and bombs.
Only the wayward musket ball, arrowhead, spear, sword or cannon ball. . .

Yet there are those rare times that a country is privy to more shining historical moments such when a farmer, tending a lone field somewhere in the UK, or an errant treasure hunter detects, then digs up, a hoard of Roman coins or battle gear. There was even the recent story of the lost remains of a once dubious king, King Richard III, being unearthed from underneath a parking lot in Leicester.

These are the stories of what lurks beneath our feet. . .

Yet the question remains. . .
What of future generations?
What shall they be unearthing that once belonged to us. . .
What will our discarded, throwaway, perhaps deadly legacy be. . .
What of the dead zones such of Chernobyl or Fukushima?
What of our own Love Canal and Three Mile Island?
What of the mountains of discarded toxic trash littering Paraguay and Argentina?
Much of which has been shipped from the US to be dumped in impoverished countries.
That whole “not in my backyard” mentality.
It is the poisonous remains of our love affair with the never ending growth of technology and electronics. . .all full of lead, mercury,cadmium, dioxin. . .
Thrown out and shipped out. . .as in. . .out of sight, out of mind. . .

Hidden dark reminders of our fractious as well as industrial past, resting unsuspected and forgotten. . .until a child playing in a field finds a shiny piece of metal sticking up out of the ground and makes the fatal mistake of pulling it out. . .

The question remains, what will future generations unearth that once belonged to us and what will be the consensus?

Do you know this man?

This is a post I wrote almost four years ago. Since that time my father has passed away
and in such, I have lost one more person who could answer a few questions.

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No, of course you don’t. I wouldn’t think that you would know the man looking
out from a grainy ancient photocopied image, but if you do…
I’d love to talk with you as I have a bit of a mystery on my hands.

This is Captain Frank F. Crenshaw, my great-grandfather.
I always knew that he was heroic in battle during the Philippines Insurrection;
a fallout from the Spanish American War, in which he was gravely wounded
as he lead his men against an ambush attack in a battle known as the Battle of Puttol.
He eventually died from his wounds.

I always knew that he was buried in a historic cemetery in the west Georgia city of LaGrange
about an hour south from where I live now.
I’ve driven passed this cemetery for years,
always vowing to stop one day to find his grave.

And that’s exactly what my husband and I decided to do one Sunday afternoon last summer.
I just knew his was one of the old historic graves with the elaborate decorative headstones.
No problem—I’d find it right off the bat…

Two hours later, having wandered all over an old historic cemetery,
in the heat of day on a hot summer afternoon,
watching for copperhead snakes hiding amongst the rubble of an old cemetery,
and sweating like a dog…I was frustrated like nobody’s business.
“Where in the heck is he?” I lamented to my husband.
Capt. Crenshaw was nowhere to be found.
Ugh!

He had come from a rather well to do family of the area.
He had received a war hero’s funeral but as to where his grave was currently located
was suddenly a huge mystery.
This made absolutely no sense.
“I will follow up tomorrow with a call to the city, to the county,
to someone who knows this cemetery!”
I declare to my husband once we get back in the car headed home.

I called Dad once I got home.
This is his grandfather, his mother’s father.
He had no idea as to why I couldn’t find the grave and was not as up in arms over
the ordeal as I was—and that may have to do with the fact that he never knew the man.
I never knew the man either, but you didn’t see that stopping me!
I was now bound and determined to find him!!

I called my dad’s cousin, his 88 year old cousin,
who is also a grandson to this war veteran.
This cousin is also a bit of the remaining family’s resident historian.
He too was stumped to the lack of a grave.
But I was getting the feeling there was more to be known about the other side,
this long lost soldier’s wife’s side of the family than his—-
which I’m sure is due in part to the fact that he died at such a young age and she went on,
albeit it as a widow for the rest of her life, to live a long life well into old age.

This actually all started really a few weekends prior as I was accompanying my husband
while he was on a quest looking for some recreational property as an investment thought.
We were in the vicinity of the small middle Georgia town in which my grandmother
was born and raised.
I talked my husband into to driving to the town so I could find the city cemetery
and look for the Crenshaw family plot.

I called Dad on my cell phone and he told me where the cemetery was located—-
sure enough we found it.
The town is so small, that finding a city cemetery is not too hard as it just
can’t be missed sitting in the middle of town.
I bound out of the car and within 2 minutes, I spot the Crenshaw’s—
my great-grandmother is buried here but her war hero husband is buried in LaGrange—
“that’s odd” I muse but I’m so taken with this moment of lineage discovery that I simply
file that thought away for later.

My great aunt and her husband, my great uncle and his wife,
another great uncle who died as a child, plus their mom, my great-grandmother are all here.
I take pictures of the graves and markers while feeling a sense of melancholy resignation.
History, family and mystery all buried in the ground before me….
some of whom I knew and others I had never known…
and yet these people were connected to me, as I was to them—
and that connection is in part as to who I am to this day.
Funny how that all works.

Now lets fast forward to a couple of weeks ago.

I had let the whole grave marker search fall by the wayside during the winter months
as it seems other things just took over life.
I’d not thought much of it at all until a couple of weeks ago.
I had actually stumbled upon a number for the Troup Co Clerk of Courts which prompted me
to call inquiring as to how I could go about locating information about burial sites
in the city cemetery.
I was given a number to the city cemetery which I immediately called.

The man who answered probably regrets to this day having answered the phone after
I finish my story.
However he kindly takes my name and number and tells me he’ll “do a little research”
and will call me back the next day.
A week passes with no word.
I give it another go calling the cemetery office.
This time I get a machine.
I briefly recap my story, leaving my name and number.
Within just a few minutes the phone rings.
“Mrs. Cook, I apologize for not calling you back, but I’ve been doing a little research.
It seems your great-grandfather is indeed buried here, but…”
long pause…
“he doesn’t seem to have a marker.”
What!!” I practically scream.
“Well, for some reason, the family didn’t provide a marker.
Perhaps they were not in a position to do so.”
“Oh no sir,” I almost indignity respond,
“they could afford it if that’s what you mean.”

He proceeds to give me another number to the city archive museum of which
I immediately call and, once again, leave a message.
I later get a call from the city historian–a retired history teacher… of course.
I give him my story and he basically reiterates the story I know.
He has some old county local Domesday tome complete with deaths and burials.
Sure enough, Capt. Crenshaw is there,
or so states the book of books,
but as to exactly where, well that’s still up for discussion.
The million dollar question of the hour is–
where is he and secondly– why no marker– given his astonishing story…

And speaking of, here is his story…

My great grandfather, Capt. Frank Frost Crenshaw severed in the 28th Infantry, A Company.
He was a resident of LaGrange, Georgia.
He was first stationed in Guantanamo, Cuba, fighting in the Spanish American War,
with the rank of First Lt.
He was a member of Ray’s Immunes;
a regiment of southern men chosen specifically to serve in Cuba during the
Spanish American War.
It was thought that due to their being from the deep south,
they may be more “immune” to yellow fever
(what a comfort is the logic of our Government, but once again, I digress…).
His regiment was sent to Cuba where many of the men contracted “Cuban” fever,
what I am assuming to be Malaria.
At the end of the war, his unit returned to Georgia.
38 men from the unit died from the fever; my great-grandfather contracted the illness
but fortunately survived.
At the end of the war, his unit was mustered out.

The following year President McKinley appointed him to the rank of Captain
(which I am assuming was incentive for him to “re-enlist” in the then volunteer
branch of the US Army).
He was given command of A Company of the 28th Infantry stationed at Camp Mead in Pennsylvania.
His unit was immediately ordered to Payapa, Batagas Island, the Philippines,
where they were to take command of that particular Island as it had fallen to the control
of guerrilla insurgents.

On June 5, 1900, Captain Crenshaw led his men,
who had been ambushed during a surprise attack by guerilla fighters in the area of Puttol,
the Philippines.
This was a counter attack in order to quell the entrenched militia,
as it seems that one of the trusted local scouts, who was working with the American unit,
deceived the Americans leading them into an ambush.

The American forces fought off the attack, with Captain Crenshaw leading the counter attack.
Captain Crenshaw had his men to take cover but as he rose to lead the charge,
his horse being shot out from under him, he was shot in the head.
Gravely wounded, he continued leading the battalion until the insurgents were defeated,
at which time Capt. Crenshaw lost consciousness.
Only two of the men received wounds, with Capt. Crenshaw’s being the gravest.

He was now paralyzed on his left side and blind in one eye and had lost a considerable
amount of blood.
Evacuated to Manila, he was eventually placed on a transport ship for home,
but due to rough seas in the South China Sea,
the ship had to head to a Chinese harbor to wait out the storms.
Capt. Crenshaw reported of the deplorable conditions,
while aboard the ship, to which he was subjected.
He had received no proper medical care, no surgeries but rather placed
in the cargo hold in the engine room with the men who were held there as having been
labeled as “insane”.
Being paralyzed and in considerable pain, he was unable to care for himself.
He bribed a ship’s steward to help tend to his wounds.

Once docked in China, he again did not receive adequate medical attention.
Almost 2.5 months after being shot in the head, with the musket ball still lodged in his skull,
both blind and partially paralyzed,
the ship eventually docked in San Francisco.
Captain Crenshaw’s uncle had made the journey form Georgia to await the arrival of his nephew
and to procure him proper medical care.
For reasons I do not understand, he did not receive medical attention in San Francisco.
He was placed on a train where he made the journey across country and was immediately
taken to an Atlanta area hospital for emergency surgery.

Sadly Capt. Crenshaw died on the operating table almost 3 months after having been wounded and not properly cared for, yet while fighting to defend his country’s foreign interests.
Captain Crenshaw was only 28 years old.
He left a young widow of 24 with 4 small children to raise alone
(my grandmother being on of the 4 children).

He is recorded as having been the only non-political figure to have ever lain in
state in the rotunda of the State Capital of Georgia.
There was a full military train cortege that escorted the body,
which was led by General John B. Gordon,
taking Capt. Crenshaw from Atlanta to the final destination of LaGrange, Georgia.
Upon his death,
Captain Crenshaw was awarded the title of both Major and Lt. Colonel,
as was put forth by the President of the United States …
and yet he is in an unmarked grave.

The story is a re-cap from the letter I have just sent to the current commander of the 28th Infantry.
It seems The Office of Veteran’s Affairs will provide any war veteran,
who is currently buried in an unmarked grave, a headstone.
I called Washington inquiring into the grave markers but was told I would need to document
his years of service or either document his pension.
“Are you kidding me? 1900 is a long time ago”
hence my letter to the Commander,
as well as copies to both of my senators.
As I told all of them:

It is my desire to be able to provide a marker for this fallen war hero.
It is also my desire to inquire into his being awarded a medal of honor,
posthumously, for his service, leadership and eventual ultimate sacrifice for his Country.
My father told me that his grandmother, who was 24 at the time of the death of her husband,
who was tasked with raising the 4 children alone,
had to actually sue the US Government in order to receive his pension.

So as you can see, I have a mystery and a mission.

Maybe this all matters so much to me because I am adopted
and the concept of “family” is of keen importance to me.
Maybe it’s because this family of mine is disappearing—
only my dad and his two cousins remain of this once older numerous clan—
I sadly feel time is not on my side.
Dad can’t even remember from day to day what I keep telling him about all of this.

And maybe, just maybe, this all matters so much to me because this was a young man,
not even 30, who gave his life for his country who left behind a young 24 year old wife
who had to raise 4 small children all alone–
with only 3 surviving to adulthood.
His widow never remarried as she considered marriage to be so sacred that it was a one
time deal– how I admire that commitment.

It was this young soldier,
not so different from today’s soldiers,
who was a leader of a band of men who fought so very far away from home,
the furtherest fighting of any American soldier to date as we had yet to be involved
in either World War.
It is this now forgotten wartime hero who was laid to rest in an unmarked grave exactly
113 years ago today who I now owe…as I owe him, his wife, his children (my grandmother) the decency of the proper recognition for his sacrifice to this country.

I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

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Nany’s plant

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She was born into a tiny farming community in middle Georgia to a wealthy family in 1896. Her father was killed when she was only 4 years old–the result of a single shot to the head as he lead the charge of his men in battle, somewhere in the middle of the Philippines, during the Spanish American War. His body returned home to Georgia, to lay in state at the state capital in Atlanta, as a decorated army Captain. It was a new century, 1900.

She grew up to be an attractive, petite, yet rather buxom woman, whose presence could command a room. A southern grand dame of a genteel time. She was the epitome of “a lady” who hopelessly tried to impart in, as well as on, me the same overtly feminine demeanor. I was enrolled in ballet by 4 and tap by 6. I could only wear dresses in her presence, along with those highly shinny, yet stiff and squeaky, black patent leather shoes. White socks with lace and little white gloves.

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No matter how hard she tried, I always maintained that tomboy nature, hating ballet and loving football. I blame our differences of personality on my being adopted—no telling what genes I came prepackaged with, but it wasn’t that of a sweet little girl. I was rambunctious and headstrong– always dreading the yearly shopping trip she would take me on—only to while away the day, waiting for hours, while sales women doted on me, presenting this or that new little frilly dress in order for me to parade before my grandmother as she passed the final judgement….”it’s a keeper, or not”…….

It wasn’t until I was older and in college until I could fully appreciate my grandmother for what all she represented in my life and for what all she had done for me over the years. I was always a bit rough around the edges, but finally I had come to a place of appreciation— Nany was my biggest ally and friend.

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After her death in 1986, 2 months following the premature death of my mother, her daughter-n-law, I was left to help my dad pick up the sad pieces of his and our life/ lives…first his wife and then his mother. That was a difficult time to be sure—I was just 26 years old.

When it came time to pack up Nany’s home, dividing all of her belongings between my dad and my uncle, only leading to further redistribution between all of the grandkids, some things were destined for the rubbish pile—namely all of her plants. Being one who wants to always have something tangible of those I love, I couldn’t let one large plant go. It was healthy and pretty, possessing large shinny dark green leaves. Was this when I fist really noticed plants?

I brought the plant home to grace my newly married life—it must have been my first houseplant—what did I know about plants??—not much that’s for sure!! At some point, that winter or the next, I inadvertently left the plant outside on the night of a hard freeze–obviously I had thought it a good idea to take it outside for a good watering…..like I said what did I know about houseplants…a winter watering outside was not wise.

Spying it sitting on the porch the following day, apparently not a fan of frost or freezing temperatures, I knew immediately I had killed it. My husband however, having a very soft spot in his heart for Nany, mainly because she had been his biggest advocate when he suddenly appeared in my life and equally as suddenly into the lives of my family (that’s all for another post—FYI don’t tell your parents you’re marrying someone they’ve never met and you’ve only dated for 3 months who is also 10 years older—not the best conversation……but there I go digressing again….), thought better of leaving the plant out in the cold.

My husband brought the now frozen plant inside. I cut off the dead leaves and left the pot in the basement, figuring I’d just throw the whole thing out once it warmed up outside. Yet to my astonishment, the now barren looking pot of dried soil was sprouting new leaves. Could it be??? Did the plant survive???

My husband loves telling anyone who will now listen as to how he saved Nany’s plant. The plant has lived with us since 1986. It has also only bloomed twice since I’ve had it. Yes, I am now much better with plants, as I finally have become much older and thankfully somewhat wiser….I do fertilize, I water, I re-pot, I tend to and dote on….and yet, oddly, this plant will only bloom once in a blue moon.

It bloomed shortly after my son was born—a couple of years following Nany’s death. I saw the blooming as her joy over her newest and youngest great grandchild —someone she would have loved as my son seems more akin to Nany more so than I ever did.

And now, this week, the plant is blooming again. This time there is no monumental occasion. It simply sits in its place of importance in my kitchen for all to see as they enter my home. It sits in a corner of dappled sunlight, happy and full of life—and now–full of its single stalk of blooms. Maybe I’ve done something good–maybe Nany is happy as to the woman I have finally become. Still loving football yet quite capable of being a genteel woman when I need be…

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I know this is some sort of lilly but as to which specific species is beyond my soul. I thought I once knew what it was, but that was right after I “rescued” it, or rather, inherited it those 27 years ago. Yes you read correctly 27 years ago, crazy I know—the plant is anywhere from 30 to 40 years old—are they suppose to live that long? Seems awfully long to me as far as house plants are concerned…but nothing Nany ever did surprised me…….

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