Haibun ~ Anita
Editor's Note: This
issue's featured photo-haibun is 'Cornbread and Coffee' by Anita Virgil,
by Jennifer Virgil Gurchinoff and Robert D.
Wilson. I'd like to invite further submissions of photo-haibun to Simply
Haiku and we'll try to feature at least one in future editions
Haibun Column. Send your submissions to me, Paul Conneally,
at: firstname.lastname@example.org . —PC
CORNBREAD & COFFEE
The Civil War
Bedford County and Lynchburg, Virginia
clatter of leaves’
descent into autumn
November dawn. First frost. On my forest floor the leaves of summer
crisp and gold. A mix of tulip, red maple,
and dogwood, white oak, black gum. Terracotta as the sun comes up behind
the pines and the few native red cedars Thomas Jefferson hated when he
lived a mile from here. Tangles of brier climb and hang from the hardwoods,
wait another season along with the died-back poison ivy, wild roses,
honeysuckle—wintergreen and club tree moss beneath. Copperheads
sleep. The stream gold with leaves, water invisible. Crawfish tucked
away in its mud banks, water-striders vanished.
light a candle in my still-dark kitchen, turn on the coffee, and
a wedge of leftover sweet cornbread to lightly broil.
just so I add tiny butter slices and watch them liquefy and sink into
the cake. I pour the ready steaming brew into my cup to sip—and
muse on sustenance . . . .
[click on image for enlarged view]
A pitiful version
of this simple and delicious fare a century and a half ago is what
soldiers lived on in that year before
the Civil War ended in April 1865 at Appomattox, thirty-five miles from
here. Their corn—parched field corn, scavenged along the broiling
dusty summer roads they march. Coarse-cracked, not fine like my soft
golden meal scooped from a clean jar. Mixed with any water they could
salvage, cooked over small smoky fires somewhere in a woods’ clearing
like mine, it cut their guts, made them vomit and shit blood. That April
1865, bedraggled and defeated, they stack their guns before General Grant.
All Confederate supply trains out of their major transportation center,
Lynchburg, captured by Yankees. Cut off. Those very same tracks that
bear today’s Norfolk & Southern [then called Virginia & Tennessee]
freight trains night and day, in and out of Lynchburg, also pass through
below the stars a tiny train travels
into my dream 
But that June in 1864, with Sherman on his way to Georgia, Ulysses S.
Grant orders another attack: Major General David Hunter is sent to destroy
Lynchburg--transportation and supply hub with three railroads, the Kanahwa
Canal on the James River, munitions factories; it is also the hospital
city for the Confederacy.
army coming from Staunton heads up the Shenandoah Valley, the Blue
Ridge Mountains to their left. June
15th it begins its hot eastward climb through the pass between Sharp
Top and Round Top mountains--The Peaks of Otter, heading into Bedford
County and thence northeast to Lynchburg.
scouts watch from high up Sharp Top as the Union soldiers halt for
part-way down the mountain. The
group ahead of them have already reached its base—tent under the
oaks and on green lawns of Fancy Farm. [It still exists in the 21st century.
stayed there in the early 1800s.]
stars and silvery moon shine,
while all around us the campfires and signal lights
add brilliance to the scene.” 
M. Hinkle, a correspondent for the Cincinnati Gazette traveling
on image for enlarged view]
the long sound
the freight train fades 
June 16th. Those camping on the mountain, when “the sun
had not yet baked off the scattered wispy clouds down below”  arise and along the way cut branches of Sharp Top’s rhododendron
blooms. Stick them in their rifle barrels. So many, they were “like
a moving bank of flowers as they came down Sharp Top”  heading
Skirmishes occur all along
the way through Liberty (now renamed Bedford City) and up the Old Forest
Rte. 221] towards Lowry. One
Federal officer’s horse is injured during this action near Lowry
and it is left to be cared for at Byrne’s farm, not far from the
highway. In the summer of 2003, I was told this by Mrs. John Byrne, married
a descendant who is still farming this land one hundred and forty years
later. She is portrayed in my eBook Summer Thunder (2004):
plain farm wife’s
red hibiscus tower
against the summer sky 
name? Captain William McKinley, later the 24th president of the United
the heat . . .
waiting at the railroad bridge
while the clouds pile up 
On the 16th, the Federals move on the 25 mile run into Lynchburg. Some travel
via what is now 221. Some of the Federals march further east and then turn
left onto the other major artery into the city, the Lynchburg-Salem Turnpike
[now Rte. 460].
Those going up 221, after
Lowry pass Goode, then Forest, peppered all the way by delaying attacks carried
out by Major General John D. McCausland
John Daniel Imboden’s cavalry. This slow-down buys valuable time for
Early, who is coming into Lynchburg from across the James River to set up
inner defenses for the city--entrenchments, earthworks. All citizens are
Only twelve days earlier,
June 4 of 1864, the Battle of Cold Harbor was fought. Major General Jubal
who is to defend Lynchburg from General David
Hunter’s impending attack, needs troops. He expects to cull them
from the thousands of soldiers who just fought and defeated Grant at Cold
“It was a thirteen days’ walk from there to Charlottesville, Va..
From Charlottesville to Lynchburg these soldiers were to ride the Orange & Alexandria
railroad. Major General Robert Emmet Rodes--one of my favorites, a good man—Alabama
outfit when he came to Lynchburg, could not board but half his men because there
were so many of Major General John Brown Gordon’s men on the train!”  [LM] This forces Early to come up with some alternate plan to defend the
city with a sudden terrible shortage in manpower.
Elsewhere, in advance
of the impending battle other preparations are being made. Major General
Longstreet (one of Robert E. Lee’s
closest advisors who was with him at Gettysburg) was wounded and is in
a hospital in Lynchburg. Just before the battle is to begin, he is evacuated
to Rustburg, a town south of the city which is off that same Lynchburg-Salem
Turnpike the Federals are marching in on. Unaware of his presence, they
march right by him! 
There are two streets
off Lakeside Drive in Lynchburg that bear the name Moorman. In June
a man named Moorman, whose business was dealing
in country hams, had property which ran some two miles’ distance
up Blackwater Creek in Lynchburg. It included a place called Watermelon
Hole, where 89 year old Lewis Meredith, who told me the following story,
used to swim as a child.
“Before the battle, citizens of Bedford County and Lynchburg were
burying valuables. Moorman put a wagonload of his hams in a huge hole.
found them—and had a picnic. Lynchburgers always say a black man told
the Federals where the hams were!”  [LM]
General Hunter and his men make it up the last part of the macadam
turnpike, arrive at the tumbled down 18th century stone Quaker Meeting
by John Lynch, founder of Lynchburg. The land is open farmland and
the vista broad, falling off as it does towards the array of near
of the Blue Ridge. Hunter leaves his soldiers there for the night and
continues off to the left and down a slope leading to a fine old house
called Sandusky. I was there last autumn. Federal style, old brick
made of local red Virginia clay, double chimneys, oak trees.
boxwoods crowd the path
to the manse 
Instead of his habitual
property destruction, Hunter appropriates this house for himself and his
officers, among whom is Colonel Rutherford B. Hayes who
will become our 19th president.
Hunter knows Sandusky’s
current owner, Major George C. Hutter. They fought in the Mexican War together.
There is a barn (no longer there). This
built back in 1808 by wealthy merchant Charles Johnston who counted among
its guests President Thomas Jefferson. They were neighbors. Jefferson’s
other home, Poplar Forest, restored now, is in Forest, Virginia. A mile and
a half from my home. On December 6, 1817 Jefferson dined at Sandusky. The
very boards I walked one silent autumn afternoon when the house was all but
Just the curator. And me. Breathing in the past.
The day the battle begins. Hunter’s officers climb the roof of Sandusky,
use it for an observation post. By the noon hour, up the Lynchburg-Salem
Turnpike (now Route 460, which becomes Fort Avenue close to town, a road
I drive all the time), the Federal army approaches. At the Quaker Meeting
house, General William Averell’s cavalry opens fire on them. Federal
infantry forces charge. For two hours the fight rages. By afternoon, Hunter
joins the battle. It heads up a ways
to Fort Avenue to the earthworks Early has had constructed.
that old green rise still
at the high point of this road?
to defend this city
I drive into 
1864 & 2004
image for enlarged view]
But the city
is way short of able-bodied people to defend it. As Hunter’s men await the next day’s battle, so too, high on a
hill in the Old City Cemetery not far from the James River east of Lynchburg,
VMI’s [Virginia Military Institute] Cadet Corps bivouacks. Waits for
under the great tree root
the rebel’s headstone 
on image for enlarged view]
It is now
the railroad plays a unique role in the Battle of Lynchburg. General Early
of the Army
of Northern Virginia has come up with his “alternate
plan” for defending the city. He orders hospital convalescents and a
few militia to board empty box cars of the Southside railroad, then all through
the night he has the train run back and forth across the James River bridge.
The ‘passengers’ whoop and holler mightily. Military music plays.
And the Federals within earshot, Hunter included, believe thousands of Early’s
remaining delayed troops are pouring in to defend Lynchburg!
Preparations continue inside Lynchburg: “A Confederate artillery
man from Staunton, Virginia by the name of Berkley, cannot get his cannon
uphill from Church Street to Court Street via 8th Street which connects the
McCausland and Imboden get off their horses though they are heading for Ivy
Creek to hold back Duffié from his western attack on the Outer Defense
to Lynchburg. They help Berkley push his cannon into place.”  [LM]
Union attack makes it into the Inner Defenses of the city that last day. "McCausland
whom the Federals called 'The Bee' because he stung them so much!"  relentlessly pursues them, crosses Ivy Creek and gallops down across the
railroad tracks, then veers right, heading south onto the Old
Forest Road which extends all the way to Liberty where they began their
today is called Langhorne Road was then Old Forest Road and it extended all
the way to Liberty.”  [LM] These
name changes are important to this story for they verify that the Federals
did use both of today’s
Rte. 221 and Rte. 460. Hence it validates the story of Capt. William
wounded horse being left on June 17th at Lowry, which is directly east
of 221. Retreating down it on the 18th, he collected his horse from the
farm, exactly as Mrs. Byrne told me.
Hunter evacuates, fearing he will face defeat by a superior force—the
one his troops thought they heard all through that summer night . . . Back
the Federal army flees under constant sniper fire.
served the Federals as a field hospital. When the fighting ceases and the
soldiers are gone, Confederate soldiers find
(no longer there) “a waist-high pile of arms and legs.”  Inside, a hundred wounded Union soldiers are left behind. And Sandusky has
of all its valuables.
Down the two
main summer roads the Union army flees. Those on the Old Forest Road have
the Blue Ridge
Mountains off to their right, with
Peaks of Otter, their destination, in sight as they pass through Forest.
on to Goode, then Lowry, on towards Liberty. “Ramseur catches the
rearguard of the Federals going west through Liberty (now Bedford City),
them. . . Those Confederates—they could really cover the ground.
They could really move, couldn’t they?”  [LM]
on image for enlarged view]
At Liberty they march through the still-smoking and battered
little town. On they go to Rte. 43, which takes them to The Peaks where they
between Sharp Top and Round Top once more. They clamber towards the lush
Shenandoah Valley into history.
on image for enlarged view]
Now, serene Lake Abbott submerges their path, then meadow, forever.
the edge of the lake
with clouds 
SPECIAL THANKS: On November 23,
2004, Mr. Lewis Meredith (b. June 9, 1915 in Louisa County, Virginia) granted
me an interview. He has been a resident
of Lynchburg since 1926, and has been a Civil War buff for fifty years. Mr.
Meredith is also a long-time member of the Round Table Club, to which renowned
Va. Tech Civil War expert, Professor James I. Robertson, also belongs. Mr.
Meredith’s anecdotal material and confirmation of the facts in this piece
His last words to me serve as EPILOGUE.
“When the war was over, General
McCausland received a gift from the City of Lynchburg. They gave him a sword
and silver spurs. After the war, he settled
in West Virginia on his land consisting of 6,000 acres. He lived to be nearly
100. And in Spring Hill Cemetery there stands a monument to Major General Jubal
A. Early. My mother, who died in 1974, is buried right close to General Early.”
1. Anita Virgil, One Potato Two Potato Etc (Forest, VA, Peaks Press
3. Peter Viemeister, Peaks of Otter: Life and Times (Bedford, VA,
5. Viemeister, op. cit.
7. Anita Virgil, Summer Thunder (Forest, VA, Peaks Press 2004).
8. Virgil, One Potato, op. cit.
9. Lewis Meredith, interviewed by Anita Virgil.
12. Anita Virgil
13. Anita Virgil
14. Virgil, One Potato, op. cit.
15. Meredith interview.
18. James I. Robertson, Jr. narrator, The Battle of Lynchburg.
19. Meredith interview.
20. Anita Virgil.
—Anita Virgil © 2005—
Virgil lives in Forest, Virginia. She is a past president
of the Haiku Society of America. She was a member of the three-person
HSA Committee on Definitions which included Harold G. Henderson and
William J. Higginson. As a member of the Book Committee for A
Haiku Path (HSA, Inc. 1994), she edited the two chapters on
Books: A 2nd
Flake (1974), one potato two potato, etc. (1991, Peaks
Press), on my mind, an Interview of Anita Virgil by Vincent
Tripi (3rd edition, Press Here, 1993), PILOT (1996, Peaks
Press), A Long Year (2002, Peaks Press), and summer
thunder (2004, Peaks Press).
Her poetry and essays and book reviews have appeared in all major haiku magazines
and anthologies for 35 years. Most recently, she appears in the anthologies Where
Dogs Dream (2003, MQP London), Haiku for Lovers (2003, MQP London), Haiku (2003,
Alfred A. Knopf Everyman's Library edition). Poems and essays have also appeared
on the Internet and in magazines in Yugoslavia, Croatia, Slovenia, Russia and
Of her work, Anita
writes: I always had and still have a single goal for haiku: that it
be poetry, that it sit comfortably in its uniqueness amid the literature
of the world. There is no reason for it not to since the best
artists speak "to our capacity for delight and wonder, to the sense
of mystery surrounding our lives: to our sense of pity, and beauty,
from Nigger of the Narcissus by
credit: Jennifer V. Gurchinoff]
2005: Simply Haiku