Updated on Wednesday*:
“I am sitting this beautiful morning, on a rock by the
side of the creek. The placid water rolling gently past my feet, and
surrounded on either hand by the tangled brushwood that line the banks
of the stream. I am writing this letter as I sit here, and it is a spot
I have chosen on account of its beauty and solitude, away from the
confusion of camp, and here amid the surroundings of nature, alone and
undisturbed I can permit my
mind to wander back . . .”.
--Michael Ayers, Co. C., 11th Regt., Camp McDonald, Va., June 15,
It is odd how these very words ring true for this
writer. They could be my very own thoughts.
On Sunday, a group interested in the county’s history
spent the afternoon walking the hilltops and water edges that Michael
Ayers was describing in a letter almost 150 years ago.
We could imagine the handsome soldier as he wrote of the
beautiful outskirts of Camp McDonald, Arnoldsburg, in 1862.
It is powerful to envision him sitting beside the
streams in his blue uniform, a young man with so much before him. Many
are reading his memoirs and letters, and know that in these early days
of war he has only seen a glimpse of the treachery that the war holds
Ayers will march countless miles; he will face perils
untold, and he will see the wickedness of war. Yet, we look back at his
thoughts and see an eloquence that not even war could destroy.
Today, those hillsides are aged. Mother Nature and man
have had a toll on Ayers’ creek banks. How much is the same? How much is
different? We can only guess and hold out hope that something still
remains of those same scenes he described long ago.
As I walked the trails that only deer seem to be privy
to, I was not alone like Ayers had been. I was in attendance on Camp
McDonald Hill with members of Calhoun Historical Society and others.
With metal detectors and cameras, the group spread out to cover as much
room as possible.
After a couple of hours had passed, it seemed that the
treasures to be found were old nails, cans, and, strangely enough, a
vacuum cleaner piece.
Yet, it was not time wasted. The weather was glorious,
the company was outstanding, and the hunt for history was exciting.
Dennis Carder and Andy Mlynek dig for
John Schneider and Ezra Conrad of the Moccasin
Rangers look over the skeleton of an animal. The Camp McDonald tour was
Ezra’s first event as a member of the Rangers. He is the 10-year-old son
of Dennis and Tammy Conrad.
Left to right, Dennis Carder, John Schneider,
Terry Whited and Bob Bonar use their historical knowledge to recreate
the battle area.
At the end of the hunt, we enjoyed refreshments at the
home of Mike and Jessie Wilson, who generously invited the Historical
Society to inspect the fields of Camp McDonald Hill.
So no, during the initial search, we did not find
treasure of monetary value, but we found new friendships and a closer
tie to the ones we already called friends.
“Amid the surroundings of nature, alone and
undisturbed,” the treasure we found was an afternoon of more memories
and time with dear people.
Though memories are good to make, and developing
friendships are invaluable, a few other treasures were found. A few
stayed into the evening and reported the find of items that will be
Those attending the Camp McDonald outing at
Arnoldsburg included, left to right, Andy Mlynek, Terry Harris, Bob
Bonar, Shirley Ball, Karen Bonar, Linda McCartney, Nub Marks, Helen
Morris, Roger Jarvis, Ezra Carder, Dennis Carder, John Schneider, Cyrena
Wilson, Jessie Wilson, Emily Wilson, Justine Rogers and Mike Wilson. Not
pictured - Rod Lynch, Maricia Mlynek, Ed Norman, Terry Whited, and John
and Ann Newell.
Mike, Jessie, Cyrena and Emily were gracious hosts, and
the Historical Society appreciated the opportunity that the Wilsons
offered. Camp Mc-Donald Hill is private property and not open to the
This Week's Editorial:By Helen Morris:
Calhoun County Map