Gettysburg

I think most of us have heard of the Mason-Dixon Line, but do we really know what it is and how it came to be called that? Maybe not. It was on October 18, 1767 that two surveyors, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon completed their survey of the boundary between the colonies of Pennsylvania and Maryland, as well as areas that would eventually become the states of Delaware and West Virginia. The Penn and Calvert families had hired Mason and Dixon, two English surveyors, to settle their dispute over the boundary between their two proprietary colonies, Pennsylvania and Maryland. The dispute between the families often resulted in violence between the colonies’ settlers, the British crown demanded that the parties involved hold to an agreement reached in 1732. In 1760, as part of Maryland and Pennsylvania’s adherence to this royal command, Mason and Dixon were asked to determine the exact whereabouts of the boundary between the two colonies. Though both colonies claimed the area between the 39th and 40th parallel, what is now referred to as the Mason-Dixon line finally settled the boundary at a northern latitude of 39 degrees and 43 minutes. The line was marked using stones, with Pennsylvania’s crest on one side and Maryland’s on the other.

When Mason and Dixon began their endeavor in 1763, colonists were protesting the Proclamation of 1763, which was intended to prevent colonists from settling beyond the Appalachians and angering Native Americans. In reality, expansion was inevitable, but many in government couldn’t seem to see that. As the Mason and Dixon concluded their survey in 1767, the colonies were engaged in a dispute with the Parliament over the Townshend Acts, which were designed to raise revenue for the British empire by taxing common imports including tea. A protest that resulted in the Boston Tea Party, but that is another story. Twenty years later, in late 1700s, the states south of the Mason-Dixon line would begin arguing for the perpetuation of slavery in the new United States while those north of line hoped to phase out the ownership of human property. This period, which historians consider the era of “The New Republic,” drew to a close with the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which accepted the states south of the line as slave-holding and those north of the line as free. The compromise, along with those that followed it, eventually failed, and slavery was forbidden with the Emancipation Proclamation in 1862.

One hundred years after Mason and Dixon began their effort to chart the boundary, soldiers from opposite sides of the line spilled their blood on the fields of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in the Souths final and fatal attempt to breach the Mason-Dixon line during the Civil War. One hundred and one years after the Mason and Dixon completed their line, the United States finally admitted men of any complexion born within the nation to the rights of citizenship with the ratification of the 14th Amendment…a poorly thought out amendment which continues to cause illegal immigration to this day, due to birth right citizenship.

Leaving New YorkWhen my sister, Cheryl Masterson got married, and shortly after her then husband’s basic training, moved to Plattsburgh, New York, it marked a huge change in our family’s life. In fact, our family’s home life would never be the same again. Of course, we knew that having our sister get married and move out of the house was perfectly normal, but we were a close family, and somehow, we just weren’t prepared for that day. Of course, it was especially hard on my parents, and I can certainly understand that, since I have a daughter who lives far away now too, but in many ways, I think Cheryl’s move was harder on me than on my little sisters. Cheryl was the oldest, but she had always been a role model for me too. She had style and class, and I was at the very awkward age of fifteen. It seemed to me that she would be gone forever, and in the end, I was married before she came home, and I had my first daughter too. In many ways, we were both very different people by the time she returned. She was the mother of three children, and I had a daughter and one on the way. We were no longer the children we had been just a few short years before.

Of course, we saw Cheryl and her family during the time they lived in New York, in fact the family made two At Niagra Fallstrips and I went up and spent Christmas and New Years the year after I graduated from high school. And the trips were wonderful…a great blessing to be sure. I suppose Mom and Dad might have taken us to the East Coast for a vacation sooner or later, because they did love to travel, but I might not have been still living at home when they did it, so I guess, for me, that this situation opened up doors that might not have been opened otherwise. Nevertheless, I think if we had been given the choice to have the trips to New York or Cheryl and her family living here, we would have taken the latter for sure. Be that as it may, our trips to New York allowed us to see the ocean, eat Maine Lobster, and see Niagara Falls. We saw Washington DC, Gettysburg, the bridges in Vermont, and many other sites up and down the East Coast. I suppose that looking back, we would have to admit that having Cheryl living in upstate New York, was in all reality, the opportunity of a lifetime…were it not for upstate New York being so very far away…that is.

Those trips were a lot of fun, but they did not come even remotely close to having our family all together. And with each trip came the inevitable goodbyes and the parting tears. It felt like our hearts would just break…Chantel, Mom, Cheryl, and Dad ( we were getting ready to leave New York after a visit) 1972especially Mom and Dad, and poor Dad had to be the strong one all the way home with five weepy women in the car with him. He had to be the one to finally say, “We have to go. This is just too hard on everyone.” He had to do it because our sadness would have kept us there in tears for hours, if someone didn’t break us away. He had to be the strong one…because we sure couldn’t. Once Cheryl’s husband’s time in the service was over, they moved back to Casper, where she and her kids have lived ever since. Once the time was suddenly over, we could look back on it and it seemed to go by quite fast, but in the midst of it, that time felt like our world was falling apart. In reality, it was simply that we were no longer children, and life had taken the next logical step for us. I’m just glad that we are mostly closer to home now, with just a few exceptions.

Dr Nicholas C KnoxWhen I first read about the six Knox brothers who were able to place themselves into a family history where they belonged, but in which no one had been able to connect them to before, I was intrigued, for sure. They seemed so resourceful, but I had a feeling that there was a lot more to them than just finding their place in the family history. I’m sure I will come back to these brothers over and over in the future, but when I read about Dr Nicholas C Knox, I was…well, amazed really. This man had the character and fortitude to overcome adversity, and move forward with his life, and in the end, make it better.

The fourth son of Absalom Knox MD, Nicholas married Henrietta Craigan. After their marriage, the civil war slammed its way into the midst of their lives. Nicholas enlisted in the Seventeenth Mississippi Regiment, which was commanded by Colonel WS Featherstone, and was a part of McLaw’s Division. Nicholas took part in all the great battles in the Army of Virginia in which his command was engaged, but it was the Battle of Gettysburg that would change his life forever. On the second day of the battle, Nicholas lost his right arm. To make matter worse, he was captured and confined as a prisoner on Hart Island, off the city of New York, for several months before being parolled and sent into the Confederate lines again…without his right arm, and he managed to stay alive during the remainder of the battles he fought in.

During his entire enlistment time in the Civil War, Nicholas was never home…until the day he was discharged. I don’t know if he had been able to tell his wife about his arm, but even if he did, there is nothing like actually seeing it for the first time. It had to be hard for her…and for him. Many soldiers coming home from wars with life changing injuries feel very concerned about just how their spouse will look at them now. They feel like they are a lesser person than they were when they left, and that is just the physical challenges. I’m sure that an injury that cost you your arm, would be a moment that would live in your memory files for the rest of your life.

Nevertheless, Nicholas was not a man to let adversity take his life or his future from him. He returned to Mississippi, and he started the task of rebuilding his life, and getting reacquainted with his family. He started out by teaching school. Now most people would think that was a noble profession, and they would be right, but The Battle of Gettysburgit was not enough for Nicholas. While teaching school, he began to study medicine, and received a diploma from a medical college at Nashville, Tennessee. When I think about the challenges of being a doctor in post Civil War America, with only one arm, and during a time when prosthetics were primitive at best, I am amazed. Still, Nicholas was not satisfied. He entered politics, and represented his county in the Legislature, and afterward was a practitioner of medicine in Reynolds, Mississippi, and he was an elder in the Presbyterian Church. No matter what challenges hit Nicholas, he met them head on, and succeeded in every endeavor he took on. He was not a man content to settle on the ordinary. He was truly an amazing man.

My dad always loved teaching his family about the history of this great country. He and my mom decided early on that they wanted to show us the country we lived in, and they most certainly did. We traveled from one coast to the other, from the north to the south. Dad would stop at every historical marker he could find along the way. We would get tired of stopping at all the markers, but from that we learned about things like the Oregon Trail…a trail that I’m pretty sure I have seen every marker for…but one that I know all about too.

He took us to Gettysburg, and we walked through the battlefield in hushed silence, because you can almost physically feel that this is hallowed ground…that the men who died there…who shed their blood to purchase freedom for all men…changed that place. Once you have been there and walked that place, you can never feel the same about a war that threatened to rip our country apart. And yet we remained, strong and determined.

Dad told us about the old west, and the cost of settling this country. Families that traveled by covered wagon, westward to find a better life for their families, because there was room to grow out in the west. Room to farm and ranch and carve out a living that was unavailable in the east, which was much too crowded. The settlers were people who longed to find out what was over the next mountain top. Adventurers who wanted freedom to make their own rules.

He taught us about the gold rush in the Black Hills, and then showed us how so much history still remains in the Black Hills. It became a place our family loved to go, and to this day Bob and I go over every year. It just has a hold on me…a draw that I can’t totally explain. I am always in awe there. The beauty of the hills, memorials, the 1880 train, and the old west shows in Keystone. I never get tired of being there.

Dad and Mom took us and later our kids to so many places and showed us so many things. It is something we will always be grateful for, and that we can never thank them enough for. They gave us something no teacher or classroom could have taught us…they gave us a little piece of history.

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Archives
Check these out!