July 30, 2019

July 29, 2019

River Boat


Hudson River, West Park, New York, 2019.

Photo by I. Peterson

July 25, 2019

Aaron Riker at Chancellorsville

This excerpt from the Civil War journal of Aaron Denton Riker (1830-1914) of the 66th Ohio Volunteer Infantry describes his regiment's role in the Battle of Chancellorsville in Virginia (edited for spelling, punctuation, and consistency).
   
At that time in the spring of 1863, the regiment was part of the Army of the Potomac,  commanded by Maj. Gen. Joseph Hooker. The regiment (Lieut. Col. Eugene Powell) was in the first brigade (Col. Charles Candy) of the second division (Brig. Gen. John W. Geary) of the twelfth army corps (XII Corps), led by Maj. Gen. Henry W. Slocum.

Chancellorsville, Virginia, April-May 1863

We remained at Aquia Creek from the 22nd to the 27th of April, when we again marched with the Army of the Potomac in the direction of the Rappahannock [River], arriving at Kelly's Ford on the 29th.

We crossed the river without opposition and traveled down the river, surprised and captured two hundred of the enemy at the crossing [Germanna Ford] of the Rapidan [River]. From the Rapidan we traveled on the [Orange] Plank Road in the direction of Fredericksburg, arriving at Chancellorsville on the 30th of April. Here the army halted in line of battle and rested for the night. The enemy were disposed to dispute our further march.


Maj. Gen. Hooker's forces arrived at Chancellorsville, the site of the Chancellor family home and roadside inn, on April 30, 1863. The large building stood at the intersection of three roads, each of which led to Fredericksburg, and Hooker and his staff established his headquarters at the house.

May 1st
Reconnoitering parties were send out and had some heavy skirmishing with the Rebels. The 66th [regiment] was of the skirmishers. It now became evident a big fight must come off soon. Entrenchments were hastily thrown up by our army behind which they sheltered themselves from the balls of the enemy. The Rebels advanced to the attack and were promptly met by our troops. Heavy fighting afternoon and night.


Much of the battle was fought in the dense, scraggly woods and tangled thickets of the area known as the Wilderness. Maj. Gen. Slocum's Twelfth Corps threw up earthworks and entrenched themselves in these woods until they were finally forced to fall back after several days of fierce combat.

May 2nd
This afternoon, the enemy under Jackson were massed on our right where the 11th corps were stationed. Here the fighting was terrific. After a stout resistance of nearly two hours, the 11th corps gave way and broke their lines. The enemy followed up this advantage, thereby gained a crossfire on the right center 12th corps, causing that to give way.

Our lines fell back slowly and formed anew and checked the tide of battle, which for a time had set against us. The 12th corps was now relieved from the right center and assigned to the left of our line of battle.

May 3rd
The battle raged all day. The cannonading was terrific. There was scarcely any intermission between reports but was almost a constant roar.


Confederate artillery on a hilltop known as Hazel Grove dueled with Union guns at a farmstead know as Fairview, a half mile away, in a furious cannonade.

While the rattle of musketry was almost deafening yet, remarkable as it may appear, I could distinctly hear the cheers of those who were then engaged in deadly strife. Our army held their new position and repulsed every attempt made by the enemy to dislodge them. Yet owing to the disaster of the preceding day, our forces could not successfully advance.


On May 3, Confederate forces converged on the Chancellor house, their artillery shells striking the brick building. One shell hit a porch column on which Hooker was leaning, causing it to collapse and injure the general. Another shell set the building on fire. The house burned to the ground. Only a few remnants of the house's foundation are visible now.

May 4th
On the fourth, the fighting was again renewed and continued throughout the day at intervals, neither army seemingly gaining any advantage. The slaughter of human life has been dreadful. The 66th has again suffered severely, though our loss in killed has been light. This evening, the enemy attempted to cross the Rappahannock at Banks Ford so as to gain our rear. But after a hard fight they were repulsed with great slaughter.

May 5th
This morning, our army fell back, crossing the Rappahannock at United States Ford, each corps falling back to its former camp around Falmouth, Aquia Creek, and Stafford. The Rebels did not pursue, and our retreat from the battlefield was very successfully accomplished.

Thus ended another campaign in which our army has lost much in officers and men, though good authority says the Rebel loss greatly exceeds ours. We have taken a large number of prisoners, while the enemy have taken about an equal number from us. In the assault on our right on the evening of the 2nd, the Rebel General Jackson received a mortal wound and died in a few hours.


This plaque near the site of the Chancellor house summarizes the Battle of Chancellorsville. Contrary to Riker's account, "Stonewall" Jackson died of pneumonia on May 10, eight days after he was accidentally shot by Confederate pickets.

Our division fell back to camp near Aquia Creek.


Aaron Denton Riker (1830-1914) of Champaign County, Ohio, enlisted as a private in the 66th Ohio Volunteer Infantry on October 11, 1861. The regiment was mustered in for three years service on December 17, 1861, under the command of Colonel Charles Candy. In April 1862, while in Strasburg, Virginia, during the Shenandoah campaign, Riker was assigned to the commissary department, handling supplies for the troops. In October of that year, he found himself in charge of the regiment's commissary and subsequently attained the rank of sergeant while his regiment was stationed in Dumfries, Virginia.

Riker was mustered out of the regiment in 1865 as a first lieutenant.


Aaron D. Riker, Columbus, Ohio, July 27, 1865.

Riker kept a journal recounting his experiences during the Civil War. The journal is now housed at the George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections and Archives, Bowdoin College Library, Brunswick, Maine. JournalTranscript.

July 23, 2019

Aaron Riker at Cedar Mountain

This excerpt from the Civil War journal of Aaron Denton Riker (1830-1914) of the 66th Ohio Volunteer Infantry describes his regiment's role in the Battle of Cedar Mountain in Virginia (edited for spelling, punctuation, and consistency).

At that time in 1862, the regiment had marched from the Shenandoah River Valley to become part of the newly constituted Army of Virginia,  commanded by Maj. Gen. John Pope. The regiment (Col. Charles Candy) was in the first brigade (Brig. Gen. John W. Geary) of the second division (Brig. Gen. Christopher C. Auger) of the second army corps (II Corps), led by Maj. Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks.

Cedar Mountain, Virginia, August 1862

We marched over a beautiful country from Warrenton to Culpeper, at which place we arrived in the night of the 8th of August. It was reported the enemy were preparing to dispute our further progress and were massing their forces some six miles south of Culpeper Court House.


Cedar Mountain served as the backdrop for the battle between Union and Confederate forces that occurred on August 9, 1862. Confederate artillery gunners were entrenched along the slope of Cedar Mountain and could fire down upon any units in the fields below.

On the morning of the 9th of August, the various regiments took up the line of march expecting a fight, in which they were not disappointed. The enemy were found strongly posted at Slaughter's or Cedar Mountain. Our men were formed in line of battle, and at 3 p.m. the fight commenced and continued with unabated fury until late at night.


At the start of the battle on a blisteringly hot afternoon, Confederate soldiers were deployed along a road passing parallel to a fenced cornfield, backed by woods, with Maj. Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson in overall command.

Our brigade was exposed to galling fire during the whole fight, and the 66th lost 102 men in killed, wounded, and missing. Our division and brigade commanders were both wounded. When the command fell on Col. Candy of the 66th, darkness put an end to the slaughter.


Brig. Gen. Auger's division, which included the 66th Ohio Volunteer Infantry of the first brigade, attacked the Confederate line directly across a field of tall corn, enduring fire from Confederate infantry in front of them and the Cedar Mountain artillery behind them. Auger and Ohio brigade commander Geary were both wounded during the battle.

Both armies fell back during the night and formed their lines in the rear of the positions occupied during the fight. On Sunday morning after the fight, a flag of truce came in from the enemy asking permission to bury the dead, when both armies performed these sad rites to departed heroes.


Battlefield stone pillar marks the presence of the 66th Ohio Volunteer Infantry at the Battle of Cedar Mountain.

On Monday morning, it was ascertained the Rebels had fallen back. Our cavalry pursued them to Rapidan [River] taking some prisoners. Neither party seemed to have gained much advantage over the other in this fight, both losing heavily.

Our division now fell back to Culpeper, where we encamped, remaining there about 8 days. From spies and scouts sent out by our generals, it was ascertained the enemy were strongly reinforced, and with greatly superior numbers were coming to attack us.

Then commenced on our part what is known as Pope's Retreat. We left Culpeper on Sunday evening, Aug. 17th, and marched all night. We crossed the Rappahannock [River] at daybreak.

Thanks to the efforts of the American Battlefield Trust and Friends of Cedar Mountain Battlefield, significant parts of the land over which the Battle of Cedar Mountain was fought have been protected and restored. Unlike many other civil war battle sites, Cedar Mountain retains much of its period character, with an array of open fields and scrubby woods in an undulating landscape.


Much of the fighting during the Battle of Cedar Mountain took place in dense, scraggly woods next to roads and fields, where visibility was poor.

Nancy Henderson (great great granddaughter of Aaron Riker) and I wish to thank Bradley M. Forbush, our guide at the Cedar Mountain Battlefield, for his insights into the battle and the role played by the 66th Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Forbush has a website devoted to the history of the 13th Massachusetts Volunteers.


Aaron Denton Riker (1830-1914) of Champaign County, Ohio, enlisted as a private in the 66th Ohio Volunteer Infantry on October 11, 1861. The regiment was mustered in for three years service on December 17, 1861, under the command of Colonel Charles Candy. In April 1862, while in Strasburg, Virginia, during the Shenandoah campaign, Riker was assigned to the commissary department, handling supplies for the troops. In October of that year, he found himself in charge of the regiment's commissary and subsequently attained the rank of sergeant while his regiment was stationed in Dumfries, Virginia.

Riker was mustered out of the regiment in 1865 as a first lieutenant.


Aaron D. Riker, Columbus, Ohio, July 27, 1865.

Riker kept a journal recounting his experiences during the Civil War. The journal is now housed at the George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections and Archives, Bowdoin College Library, Brunswick, Maine. JournalTranscript.

July 22, 2019

Rock Wall


Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, New York, 2019.

Photo by I. Peterson

July 21, 2019

July 19, 2019

River Branches


Hudson River, West Park, New York, 2019.

Photo by I. Peterson

July 18, 2019

Grounded Triquetra


Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, New York, 2019.

Photo by I. Peterson

July 17, 2019

Dome Rings


Marist College, Poughkeepsie, New York, 2019.


Photos by I. Peterson

July 16, 2019

Hudson Sunrise


Hudson River, West Park, New York, 2019.

Photo by I. Peterson

July 6, 2019

Physics Demonstrations

For more than 25 years, Richard B. Minnix (1933-2018)  and D. Rae Carpenter Jr., physics professors at the Virginia Military Institute (VMI) in Lexington,Virginia, offered summer courses for high school teachers interested in perfecting the art of presenting physics demonstrations.

The programs, funded in part by the National Science Foundation, gave participants the chance to spend nearly two weeks sharing methods of demonstrating physical principles, learning new techniques for enlivening physics lectures, and building equipment in the well-equipped machine shop to take back to their own classrooms.

As a high school physics teacher at Kingston Collegiate and Vocational Institute in Kingston, Ontario, I participated in the program in 1977, spending the first two weeks of August at VMI. To me, no physics lesson was complete without some link to the real world and everyday experience, and the course provided a wealth of opportunities to engage in that vision.


Attendees at the 1977 "Lecture Demonstration Methods in Physics Instruction" summer course, held at the Virginia Military Institute. Instructor Dick Minnix is on the left side of the second row; Rae Carpenter is on the right side of the top row.


Ivars Peterson getting the point: sitting on a bed of nails to experience the relationship between pressure and surface area.


Field trips took course attendees to the radio telescopes at Green Bank, West Virginia, Thomas Jefferson's Monticello and University of Virginia, and a farm, where they could see vivid demonstrations of physical principles in action, harnessed for human use.


Thanks to gravity and careful design, a wooden millrace delivers water to a mill at Halcyon Farm.



Standing beside a massive radio telescope at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia.


Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, Charlottesville, Virginia, 1977.


Statue of Thomas Jefferson in front of the Rotunda at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville,Virginia, 1977.


Course completion certificate.

In 1993, Minnix and Carpenter published The Dick and Rae Physics Demo Notebook, which contains 650 of their favorite physics lecture demonstrations.

July 4, 2019

Blue Ridge Flag


Little Switzerland, North Carolina, 2017.

Photo by I. Peterson

July 1, 2019

Canada Day 2019


City Hall, Toronto, Ontario.

Photo by I. Peterson