Hidden Away in Plain Sight


This old piece of furniture was at a flea market we attended a while back. I don’t know how old it was, but I’m sure it was not a faux antique. I remember as a kid on the farm that we had some things similar to this so that may be why I found it so interesting. I wonder how long this cupboard sat around empty, wondering if it would ever be appreciated again.

And that got me thinking about people, especially old folks. This morning at church we were greeting people as they came to the front door and I was encouraged to see several young men (mid-to-later teens) helping their grandmothers in and out of the building. They held their arm out, bent at the elbow, while grandma had her hand ttheir arm as if she were on her way to the king’s ball. It did my heart good. Sadly, though, many old folks may be wondering if they will ever be appreciated again. The “glory” years of youth, beauty and fitness are in the past. But there is something about getting older – like an antique – that makes things more beautiful and valuable in their own way, don’t you think?

ON THIS DAY IN HISTORY: in 1862, the C.S.S. Arkansas, the most feared Confederate ironclad on the Mississippi River, was blown up by her crew after suffering mechanical problems during a battle with the U.S.S. Essex near Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

The Arkansas‘s career lasted just 23 days. In August 1861, the Confederate Congress appropriated $160,000 to construct two ironclad ships for use on the Mississippi. Similar in style to the more famous C.S.S. Virginia (Merrimack), the ships were both 165 feet long and 35 feet wide, and were constructed in Memphis. Since a labor shortage delayed completion, they were not finished when the Union captured Memphis in May 1862. One ironclad was burned to prevent capture, and the Arkansas was towed south to the Yazoo River.

Lieutenant Isaac Brown, the ship’s commander, showed great innovation and determination in completing construction of the craft. A sunken barge loaded with railroad rails was raised so that the rails could be bolted to the hull of the Arkansas, and local planters opened their forges to the builders. On July 12, the work was completed and Brown steered the ship down the Yazoo and into the Mississippi.

The Arkansas came out of the Yazoo with guns blazing. She ran off three Union ships, inflicting heavy damage on two of them, and ran a gauntlet of 16 Union ships, damaging several as she slipped down the river toward Vicksburg, Mississippi. The Union commander, Admiral David Farragut, was furious that a single ship could cause so much damage to his flotilla, so he sent his ships in pursuit of the Confederate menace. At dusk, Farragut marked the position of the Arkansas as it lay anchored at Vicksburg. In the dark, he sent his ships one by one past this position, and each ship fired a volley into the spot where the Arkansas should have been. But Brown had fooled the Yankees by moving his ship after dark.

The Arkansas sparred with two other Union ships on July 22, successfully running off the ships but suffering damage to her engines. The ship was ordered south to Baton Rouge on August 3 to support Confederate operations there, but the Arkansas suffered more engine problems and ran aground. While the crew worked on repairs, the U.S.S. Essex steamed up for a confrontation. The Arkansas set sail, but a propeller shaft broke and left the vessel circling helplessly. She ran aground again, and the crew blew up the ship before the Essex could move in for the kill.

Although the Arkansas was never defeated, unreliable engines doomed the craft to an early death.

TRIVIA FOR TODAY: a Spartan specialty was a black soup made from salt, vinegar, and blood. No one in the rest of Greece would drink it.


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