“Here Rests in Honored Glory an America Soldier Known but to God”
Assault. Survivors. Living Museum. Colonial Triangle. Crux and Stickiness. The Law. Jefferson’s Raven. The Meat-Grinder. Potomac. The Dead. Montbooks. Daughter of the Stars. Where There’s Smoke. Homestead. Fire Flies. Moomaw. Virginia Reading. Recipe. Gratitude.
Soldier: n 1a: one engaged in military service and especially in the army b: an enlisted man or woman c: a skilled warrior 2: a militant leader, follower, or worker
Soldier: v 1a: to serve as a soldier b: to behave in a soldierly manner c: to push doggedly forward
It was dark and the soldiers dug, methodically shoveling the dirt over their shoulders, making headway inch by inch. The sound of their work was absorbed by the massive colonnades of canon fire bursting around them. The air glowed slightly with smoke, which hid the stars, and burned the men’s lungs as they breathed. They were sappers, grunts who dug the trenches at night towards the earth embankments of the British army, a desperate army, which had assembled in a final stand with the river at its back. These were the dangerous front lines at Yorktown.
Suddenly a large figure was among them, they could barely make out his features in the blurring shadows, but he asked how they were and about the digging. They replied it was going well. The figure picked up a shovel and helped for a while. Then he told them he was going to check on the others, and to keep up the good work. “Do you know who that was?” said one of the soldiers, staring after him in the darkness. The others shook their heads. He stabbed his shovel into the hard dirt. “That was his Excellency, General Washington.”
Not far from there and over 200 years before, the first English explorers arrived in the New World, but their expedition failed due to a lack of supplies. Even earlier, Spanish missionaries had also attempted a settlement along the York River, but were killed only a few months later. And then there was Jamestown, decades before the Mayflower landed, established on a marshy island under the leadership of John Smith. He and his crew sailed up Chesapeake Bay in three small ships hoping to find gold and possibly discover a route to Asia. They named the new land, Virginia, after their Virgin Queen, Elizabeth the First. The label was subsequently applied to much of the eastern seaboard as her dominion.
Within a few years, most of the colonists were dead due to starvation and disease. They may have disappeared too, sucked into history with only a carving on a tree like their brethren at Roanoke, if it weren’t for the aid of the Indians they were in frequent conflict with, and the truce established by John Rolfe who married the Indian princess Pocahontas. Rolfe also established the seeds that would grow into a successful colony, planting tobacco from the Caribbean. These industrious leaves became the region’s single most important cash crop and the colonists weathered its heady booms and busts for several hundred years to follow. The citizens at Jamestown were the first successful Europeans on the northeast coast of the New World, they created a thriving settlement, they convened the first democratic government in the Americas, and they celebrated the first Thanksgiving.
Not far from there and sometime after, the British created the town of Williamsburg, which became the capital of the new colony. But Virginia’s borders were shrinking to make room for other colonies, founded by other enterprises, for other purposes by the Crown. Still, the Virginia Commonwealth was by far England’s largest colony and Williamsburg its cultural and political hub, until the Revolution when the capital moved to Richmond.
Williamsburg was a busy port town, where cargo was loaded and unloaded in a great cross-Atlantic mercantilist exchange. In the dusty streets, blacksmiths hammered on their anvils, aproned printers made deliveries, barmaids hurried to work, and clergy hovered over blooming azaleas poking between white picket fences. They were still here, but now they were actors, breathing monuments in a living museum. I picked a path amid Williamsburg’s studiously preserved 18th century buildings and walked with these costumed townspeople. Woven among them were modern families with their children, and students from William and Mary riding their bikes. I admired the weird juxtaposition of a father in lycra running-shorts pushing a sports stroller past a man in a tri-fold hat, who sat erect and upright in a horse-drawn carriage. Reclining in the grass, I listened to the horse’s hooves make thick ruffled clops on the cobble-stone. It was dusk and the shadows lengthened into a web beneath the Governor’s mansion where Thomas Jefferson once lived. Ready to fade into night, the smoke-colored evening pressed between the houses to collect in the yards. Falling back I closed my eyes; I’d had a long day.
That morning I stood on the grassy battlements of Yorktown, walking among the trenches where soldiers labored in sweat. Kids now ran the narrow paths and bumble-bees hummed, oblivious to the attachments our memories gave the grounds. They didn’t know this was where Washington and his Revolutionary Army, with the help of the French, defeated the British. Yorktown was the site for their final surrender, and a notorious snub. Cornwallis claimed he was too sick for the ceremony and sent lower ranking officers to render his sword. Washington got him back however, and named one of his dogs after him.
I visited Jamestown as well, peering up at the remains of an 18th century church, watching the brown river waves lap at the reeds along the shore. John Smith still presided over the town, his features frozen into the stained bluish bronze of a statue. Tourists sat on the benches and read, or wandered through the Visitor Center with electricity and flush toilets and digital movies displaying the hardships and successes Smith endured. I lived in a world he couldn’t have conceived, and wondered what unimaginable future would greet the person who stood where I was, 400 hundred years from now.
Jamestown, Williamsburg, Yorktown. What linked this triangle of history together was the Colonial Parkway, a narrow road whose borders burst with the rigors of spring. The varied hues of green among the trees washed down by golden sunlight, fell like the golden coins Smith sought among fields that shined with golden flowers. The day itself was treasure. The Parkway curved among the creeks, sometimes rubbing up against the river, sometimes darting away to duck under a brick bridge or skip across a narrow causeway, rendering a panoply of beauty that never seemed to end, smearing itself across the windows and retinas of the drivers whose eyes widened and jaws opened as if in an effort to catch it. Virginia.
Crux and Stickiness
Indeed, Virginia always seemed to be at the crux of American history. Not only was it the first permanent British settlement in the New World, it also played an important part in the Revolution, becoming the birthplace of the United States; it was riven in two by the Civil War; it was a battleground in the Civil Rights movement; it was a victim of the attacks at 911.
There was so much history embedded in this state that it hit me from all angles, swirling into a confusion of epochs defined by plaques, protected buildings, museums, and brochures. I had to tread among them lightly, printing them on the correct pages in my mind, trying to make sure these pages didn’t clump together; they were too sticky with information…several centuries worth. How could I make sense of it –the buildings, the battlefields, the monuments, and all the stories behind them? And then there were less known facts to contend with. For instance, the first peanuts in North America were grown here. Virginia was known as the internet capital of the world, with more tech workers than any other state. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were born here, but so were Warren Beatty and Shirley Macclaine. Ella Fiztgerald and Pat Benatar. Wayne Newton and Jim Morrison. And what about Sandra Bullock? Clearly my pages were already sticking together.
After sleeping in a Walmart parking lot as usual, I got up ready to fill one of my blank mental pages with Richmond, the state capital. About half the population of the United States works within 500 miles of Richmond. I was interested in seeing the state’s epicenter. The Chief was a bit too tall to fit into a parking structure, but I had no problem parking on the street a few blocks from the capital building, famously designed by Thomas Jefferson. The gardens surrounding it were in bloom, attended by a team of gardeners in bright yellow vests flitting over the lawns and among the flowers like bees.
Leaning against an enormous statue of George Washington, I inhaled the aroma of fresh cut grass, trying to imagine a city nearly burned to cinders by retreating Confederate and incoming Union troops. Richmond was the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War. Now there were traffic lights and office towers and delis, standing beside the stately older buildings erected after the city smoldered.
To me, the great white columns of the Capital building were fitting supports for the serious and monumental history piled up here, where great and important Laws were made, Laws that effected and inspired many parts of the world. I pulled up a few on my iPhone: In Virginia you must honk your horn while passing other cars. Children are not allowed to trick-or-treat on Halloween. No animal may be hunted on Sundays, with the exception of raccoons, which may be hunted until 2:00am. It’s illegal to tickle women.
In an effort to adhere to local laws, I honked when I pulled the Chief from his metered space and found myself passing a car. But the Chief’s horn didn’t work. Improvising, I rolled down the window and yelled, “Hey!” The other driver, busy on his Blackberry, peered at me from under his visor and gave me a thumbs-up. The people in Virginia were very nice. But the Honking Law quickly became a nuisance as I realized I was the only law-abiding citizen on the streets. So I ceased, and hoped that anonymity in the masses of traffic would save me from a possible ticket.
Luckily my destination wasn’t far. A pair of friendly doormen waved me into one of the finest hotels in America, called the Jefferson, and let me park right in front. They then took me through the lobby and showed me around. An ex-Confederate officer and tobacco tycoon built the prestigious hotel in beaux-arts-style at the turn of the 19th century. The interior was adorned with an impressive Tiffany stained-glass dome and rotunda; at its center was a statue of Thomas Jefferson. A broad staircase descended into an ornate sub-lobby with couches and columns. I was told their impact on visitors was so stunning that it was replicated for Tara’s staircase in Gone with the Wind.
As I ascended a little boy rushed up to me pointing at my T-shirt. “Hey, you’re Captain America.” I smiled, “No, Captain America is blond, I have brown hair.” He looked confused. His mother grabbed his hand and winked at me, “He knows who his heroes are.”
In contrast to the hotel’s wistful decadence I next visited a small stone building near the river, crouching below a copse of haunted trees. Inside was the largest collection of Edgar Allen Poe manuscripts and memorabilia in the world, kept company by plenty of tchotchkes, like finger-sized skulls and a stuffed raven. It was a shrine to the macabre saint who once lived and worked in Richmond. When I was a kid my father gave me a hard-back of Poe’s short stories with some rather gruesome illustrations. I vividly remember the dismembered body of the old man in A Tell-tale Heart, and the bloody swinging blade in The Pit and the Pendulum. I was tempted to buy a book, company for the road, but didn’t; they were currently out of my budget range.
I did however, buy a book for $2 in Fredericksburg at a used bookstore. I couldn’t resist; it was a thin Tarzan book by Edgar Rice Burroughs and the first picture-less book I read as a child. I was curious to delve into it again after over 30 years. Would it hold up? Books were my weak spot. While others might be excited in shoe stores, or tech malls, I’m excited in bookstores. My palms sweat, my mouth salivates, my pupils dilate. It’s rare to escape without a purchase, and I dreamt of the day I could have my own space again lined with rows and rows of books. The bookstore in Fredericksburg reminded me of how much I missed reading. I hadn’t read a book in 4 months now; I was too busy. This was the longest I’d gone without a read in nearly 40 years.
A perfect little town, it was hard to believe that just a few miles from Fredericksburg, beyond the pleasant districts with coffee houses and fast food restaurants was an important Civil War battlefield; a meat-grinder where over 15,000 soldiers died. Did they die on a day like this? The sun high, rustling up a light breeze that skirted the Rappahannock River? A river George Washington grew up on. I ambled down to it and tested myself against his legend, trying to throw a stone across the water, but it fell short.
Against the hills, colorful houses peppered the neighborhoods. I strolled past his mother’s house, poked my head into the famous Rising Sun Tavern, and visited Mercer Apothecary where his Excellency was a patient. When I returned to the Chief, I sat at the river’s edge for a while, watching the slow message of its waters. Washington read the message, and that message drew him north to another, greater river, where he and his wife Martha made their home. I followed it too.
I visited Mount Vernon the next day with a childhood friend of mine, Kenneth, who put me up for the night. It was a gray, almost rainy morning, and we raced to beat the platoons of school children marching up the walkways. As the path curved past corrals of sheep and gardens, the mansion loomed at the end of a wide green lawn. The house contained 21 rooms with a columned porch and plenty of rocking chairs to view the great Potomac River. Its roof was crowned with a weather vane dove, symbolizing peace. The premises showed a planter’s life in the 18th century, cooking rooms, and slave’s quarters. Down a dusty walk was a whisky distillery, reportedly the largest in the colonies at the time.
George and Martha spent their entire married life at Mount Vernon, although as a soldier and more, he was mostly gone. But it was a sanctuary he wrote often of returning to; it was where he died. I stood over his grave and it didn’t seem real.
Neither did the dead at Arlington Cemetery. Vast closely cut lawns, old twisted trees, and beds of colorful flowers shared time with lines of tourists, and mourners, and school children. But it was those who had passed who held dominion here. Still, as I stood amid the endless rows and graves, knowing, as an idea more than a feeling, that these soldiers and their families made the ultimate sacrifice so that I could stand here, healthy, free, well fed after a burger at 5 Guys, and driving around the country in the comfort of my van listening to a borrowed iPod. How different the world would have been, many times over, if they had not given their lives? And yet even here, it was easy to forget, easy to view the graves as only pretty patterns in the grass, to scan their beauty, but not ingest what each and every one of them really meant. If I wasn’t careful and alert, the names on them might slip into handsome etchings somehow unattached to the past, or the person that lived, a person tethered by innumerable unknowable strands to me and my life, to each of us. This was a page in my personal book I meant to mark, and refer to often.
Many American soldiers who died were buried here, most of them from the conflicts during and following the Civil War. Over 2,200 of the 4,000 battles fought in the Civil War were fought in Virginia. The war ignited not only by a dispute over the issue of slavery, but as a stand-off between two very different, diverging cultures and ways of life, the industrial North and the agrarian South. Due to the amount of work necessary for tobacco production, and even more so for cotton, an entrenched Feudal structure formed in the South based on slave labor. As more states were added to the Union, the South felt threatened by the growing democratic power of the non-slaving owning states. Although various compromises were formed to alleviate this, the South eventually decided to succeed. Virginia became the primary clashing ground for war.
As the fighting raged on, Abraham Lincoln famously freed the slaves, Europe thankfully stayed out of the conflict, and eventually, the superior numbers and industrial power of the North overwhelmed the South, despite early heroic Confederate victories. General Robert E. Lee surrendered his men to General Ulysses Grant on April 9, 1865 at the Appomattox Court House. Lee had no home to return to; his Greek-revival mansion and estate were appropriated and peppered with the graves of Union dead as punishment. It became the country’s most important memorial, known as Arlington National Cemetery.
With over 600 acres, the cemetery holds nearly 300,000 graves of military personnel and their dependents. According to a few estimates I read, it may run out of room by 2020. Lee’s columned home remained, on a hill over-looking the grounds. Below the mansion stretched the markers of the dead, white marble headstones perfectly spaced like ivory dominoes organized by an obsessive genius. Red-breasted robins perched on the graves, piles of pebbles adorned some as well. The skies frowned gray with rain, its dour countenance causing an American flag to flutter at half-mast, and teasing the Eternal Flame of John F. Kennedy into a sad flickering dance. As the drops came down, Kenneth and I gravitated to the tomb of the Unknown Soldier and watched in silence as its guard in full military uniform made his cadenced walk before the grave. I couldn’t imagine how hellishly hot this duty must be in the summer.
We passed by the Pentagon, the largest office building in the world, and home to another memorial for those who died at 9-11, before making our way back to Old Alexandria. The colonial port village of red brick and cobblestone was where my friend Kenneth lived, situated on the West bank of the Potomac and south of DC. The town was a treasure of over 4000 historic buildings, frequented in the past by the ubiquitous Virginian quartet, Jefferson, Madison, Lafayette, and Washington. Down by the river there was a torpedo factory which now housed studios for local artists. We didn’t make it there. Instead Kenneth and his brother Brian took me to a neighborhood tavern for dinner where we met a my friends, Anne and Megan. After drinks, and a shot into an elegant speakeasy, my Irish demons rose, and I suppressed an urge to commit a crime and tickle one of the gals. I wondered if they knew it was illegal.
The country I drove through was gorgeous, green hillsides undulating under a dazzle of blue, dotted by attractive homes with white wood fences. I was driving the Revolution Road to the estates of James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. Along the way I picked up a hitch-hiker; figuring I owed the karmic gods for the many times I’d been given a ride. It turned out he was on his way to see his parole officer.
My first stop was Montpelier and the restored manor of James Madison, one of the primary architects of our democracy. I walked through the house and gardens, perused the gift shop and returned to find that my van, the Chief, had rolled and someone kindly stopped its descent, placing bricks under its tires.
In a van driving at 50 miles per hour, Thomas Jefferson’s self-designed domicile took little time to get to. The estate, called Monticello, peered from a hilltop over a verdant valley property once over 5000 acres. The lands centered on a Palladian-style home that took over 40 years to build. Jefferson famously altered the design several times, most egregiously when he returned from France and erected the first residential dome in North America. It arched over an eclectic personal museum boasting artifacts and maps from Jefferson’s collection.
I half listened to the guide, but my curiosity led me to his library as the rest of the tour huddled in the entry. I directed my eyes to the arrayed volumes of knowledge. It was Jefferson’s library that formed the seed for the National Library. He donated his collection after it was burned by the British in the War of 1812. He spent the rest of his life replacing the books he’d contributed. I stared at their fading spines, lined carefully along the shelves. Here was a man who believed in the supreme value of books. “A library book lasts as long as a house,” he wrote, “for hundreds of years. It is not, then, an article of mere consumption but fairly of capital, and often in the case of professional men, setting out in life, it is their only capital.” I was no longer a young man, but if books were capital, I could consider myself wealthy.
Outside, tables and chairs and centerpieces arrived on lumbering catering trucks. There was to be a big function among these books tomorrow; it was Jefferson’s birthday. I spent the night just down the hill in Charlottesville, home to the University of Virginia and a World Heritage Site. It opened as America’s first secular college in 1825, and was meticulously conceived by Jefferson as an “academic village” clustered around long grassy center. At its head he erected a rotunda library modeled after the Pantheon in Rome.
Daughter of the Stars
After another night on asphalt, I was was eager to get into the Shenandoah Valley, an area rhapsodized by Washington. This meant crossing the Alleghenies and climbing up to Rockfish Gap where I witnessed a splendid sunrise. From there I could see the valley ringed by mountains, filled like a basin with dawn. This was the northern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway, the same Parkway I drove through the Southern Appalachia in North Carolina. Without interruption at Rockfish, the Parkway became Skyline Drive and Shenandoah National Park, where the thin twisting roadway continued along the spine of the mountains. Each turn revealed another awesome view point. To the east were the plains near Charlottesville, where the worn hills tumbled down in a rough, densely wooded thicket of green. In the west were glimpses of the fertile Shenandoah Valley, where the sun glanced over the fields as if against shallow waves in a verdant sea. The forest seemed to move and settle around us as we rose; deer darted through the trees. I turned west at the next pass, before me was a mild descent into the “Daughter of the Stars”, the Shenandoah Valley, almost 200 miles long.
Unsurprisingly, the valley was full of farms and cows and great expanses of green. Homesteads flecked the emerald sea like small boats, some cresting, some hidden in the troughs. The plain itself lapped against the feet of the mountains which rose gently from the ground. In the distance I could see whitish-grey clouds clinging thickly to the forest, and knew instinctively that it was smoke, somewhere out there was a very large fire.
I was hungry and stopped at McDonald’s where a local woman saw my American flag cap and said, “I love America. You gotta keep wearin’ that hat.” “I will,” I told her. I also pulled over at a lavender farm, kneeled among the lavender flowers and watched fat bumble bees zip by, but the aroma made me sleepy. Across the road, the wind breathed down the long plain, where it broke against the fields and turned the grass yellow, leaving in its wake clusters of dandelions. A friend told me that blowing on the open seeds of a dandelion would carry my wishes to heaven. I picked a couple, and set the little soldiers free to do their work, soon they lifted, individual umbrellas of possibility rising to invite good fortune into my fate.
Where There’s Smoke
I chased them south to Staunton, a regal little town and home to Woodrow Wilson. Jumping out of the van, I snapped a few pictures around the main street and then headed for the mountains on the western side of the valley. It was my intention to camp there and spend the weekend. On the way, the winding road followed the contour of the hills; creeks lanced beside us where pick-ups had parked along the shoulder, and men waded into the gleaming waters to fish. I noticed also the tree branches were gloved in white silk webs and sometimes leaves splashed the forest a festive purple or pink.
I sat motionless on the curving roads, allowing my body to sway to the van’s rhythm. Our shadow paced beside us, shrinking and growing, attached directly to the line where our tires met the road. The only sound was wind rushing headlong into the cabin, and the long surfeited sigh of the van’s engine on the steep grades.
I switched on the radio. It was rare to get any signal on any frequency, especially this far from a major town. But I managed to find a station reporting on the fires I saw. Firefighters were battling a wildfire out of control near Interstate 64, having burned over 2600 acres. At the top of the pass, I could see plumes of smoke from the flames, rising hundreds of feet in the air. A man and woman sat on a bench gazing at the spectacle too, sharing a bag of Doritos and watching the distant forest burn. The spectacle left them expressionless, as if the wind or taste of the chips had snatched their breath and made them numb. I sat in silence with them. The plumes rose in spindles, mushrooming out at the top, billowing windless, like elongated strands of grey broccoli.
Nestled between rounded hills, the magnificent Georgian brick and limestone Homestead Resort was one of the first in North America, renowned for its spa and golf course. The natural hot springs that filled the resort’s pool had long been used by native peoples. I met some friendly workers in the parking lot who proudly chirped from their open truck window that Bath County was the best in Virginia, and told me about the town and where the locals went. Apparently, much of Virginia’s colonial elite made pilgrimages to the region, including an elderly Jefferson who enjoyed a nearly 3 week stay at neighboring Warm Springs, in an effort to find solace from what he believed was rheumatism. Now called Jefferson Pools, the worker’s said the resort spa was too expensive, and suggested I head up there for a soak.
The building was a wonder of decrepit authenticity. White paint peeled from centuries old wooden walls, the shingles had fallen from the roof, leaving it open to the sky. The light broke through in elegant shafts, falling like tapestry threads to pierce the water and settle playfully on the blue rocks below. The caretaker, an old ship’s captain and soldier, said the water was the exact temperature of the human body, so you could float in it forever. He told me many things: he told me about Vietnam, he told me about his chartered trip to Indonesia, he told me about how he left the Carolinas and moved here to hunt. I reminded him according to Virginia Law, he couldn’t hunt animals on Sunday, but raccoons were exempt until 2:00am. He stared at me and shrugged.
A group of elderly city fishermen came in, talking loudly about what the fish were biting on that afternoon. As they floated next to me, wrinkly and white on their fluorescent tubes, they complained about the dilapidated condition of the facility, and wondered why the Homestead didn’t fix it up. I looked around. I really liked the atmosphere; there was purity to it. I was glad the resort had foresight enough to let the pools be themselves, in full character, rather than enforcing the sameness that bleeds across everything. Giving me a tip, the fishermen told me not to go to Greenbrier, a resort I’d heard about in West Virginia. Returning in kind, I told them not to tickle their wives. I soon left them to their floaties. Outside the air was smoky with mountains. I drew my eyes up over the splinters of color and smelled the distant burn sift through the leaves.
Some miles away at Blowing Spring, I camped on a grassy patch by the river. The camp host was outside his RV hurling a tennis ball for his black lab, named Shooter. I spent several afternoons exercising my left shoulder with his tireless dog, using the owner’s plastic atlatl to avoid the saliva soaked ball. In the evenings I walked along the river burrowing back into the low hills, through thickets of trees and brush and the boundless weaving of their branches. The trees embraced me in a wandering maze of corridors along the water.
The air was heavy, burning my lungs slightly, and the smoke seemed to elicit sparks from the trees. As night fell, these sparks fed the dark with floating stars, flaring brightly against the faint wash of sky. Wrapped in the chill mountain air, I reached tentatively for the fireflies but they danced from my grasp like burning embers. They whirled around me in the darkness, becoming my thoughts in a lovely, wordless song that hovered among the branches with them. The song grew to combine with the babbling creek, which itself lured into harmony the frogs and crickets, until the song was the night and the earth and the forest, holding us in gentle dominion.
The next morning, retreating reluctantly from my sleeping bag into a crisp and beautiful morning, I succumbed to the expectant gaze of Shooter, who’d deposited a stick at my feet. I asked the camp host if fireflies were common this early in the year. He said no they definitely were not. “But this shows something.” “Is it a sign?” I asked. “We’ll see what happens,” he answered with a note of foreboding, “but something will happen.” He mumbled and asked me what I was doing today. “Go to Lake Moomaw,” he said and gave me directions. Later, I drove the Chief to the mountain lake some miles away, right near the West Virginia border.
By the time I got there, it was late afternoon and the sun was low. Fishermen were silhouetted in a boat against water inflamed by the sun. Bare ripples broke the glassy surface whose clear waters carried an elusive scent. I kicked off my shoes and sat in the long grass near a lone Canadian goose who gazed quietly over the water as I did, with black shining eyes. Soon the sun was almost down, and a light breeze coaxed the leaves into chattering a timeless, ancient tongue. I was held by their beauty. For some reason I remembered the words of John F. Kenney, etched into stone among fields of American dead, and this reminded me to open the bookmarked page in my mind, where I remembered to thank the soldiers for making it possible to be here, to witness the wonder of the world in this way:
“KNOWING THAT HERE ON EARTH
GOD’S WORK MUST TRULY BE OUR OWN.” –John F. Kennedy
A Land as God Made it: Jamestown and the Birth of America by James P. Horn; A Narrative of a Revolutionary Soldier: Some Adventures, Dangers, and Sufferings of Joseph Plumb Martin by Joseph Plumb Martin; Founding Brothers: The Revolutionary Generation by Joseph J. Ellis; American Sphinx: The Character of Thomas Jefferson by Joseph Ellis; 1776 by David McCullough; Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow; The New York Times The Complete Civil War 1861-1865 edited by Harold Holzer, Craig Symons; The Civil War: A Visual History published by DK; The Civil War; A Narrative (3 Vol. Set) by Shelby Foote
14 pounds country ham
2 cups orange juice, divided
3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
fresh parsley sprigs (optional)
***WINE MEAT SAUCE***
18 ounces jar apple jelly
1/2 cup port wine
1/4 teaspoon onion juice
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 pinch black pepper
The Ham: Place ham in a very large container; cover with cold water, and soak overnight.
Remove ham from water, and drain. Scrub ham thoroughly with a stiff brush, and rinse well with cold water. Replace ham in container, and cover with fresh cold water. Bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, civered, 1 hour.
Drain off water. Cover ham with fresh cold water. Cover and simmer an additional 4 to 5 hours, allowing 25 minutes per pound. Turn ham occasionally during cooking time. Cool. Carefully remove ham from water; remove skin. Place ham, fat side up, on a cutting board; score fat in a diamond design, and stud with whole cloves. Place ham, fat side up, in a shallow roasting pan. Combine 1 cup orange juice and sugar. Coat exposed portion of ham with orange juice mixture.
Bake, uncovered, at 325 degrees F for 30 minutes, basting frequently with remaining orange juice. Transfer to serving platter; garnish with parsley, and serve with Wine Meat Sauce, if desired, as a side dish.
Wine Meat Sauce directions: Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan; cook until thoroughly heated. Remove from heat; skim off foam with a metal spoon. Serve with sliced ham.
Kenneth Medley, Brian Medley, Ann St. John, Megan Noonan
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