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The absolute hope and promise of Christmas

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Dear Editor,

Christmas once again; when we joyfully celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Who is He? Isaiah 9:6 proclaims, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given… and his name shall be called… The mighty God, The heavenly Father…”. John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Verse 14 says, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us… the only begotten of the Father…” Why? God had to become flesh to die! He had to shed His own blood! This is the price God Himself set for our redemption/salvation; and His being willing to pay that price resulted in the birth of the Christ Child at Christmas! Called Immanuel, meaning “God with us”!

Being known to utter amazing and profound things concerning you and me; it seems He was speaking from His heart; the heart of God, to our hearts! Saying (John 10:10), “…I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” Saying, in effect, He came to offer the remedy to the scourge and surety of death! The natural life, suffering death and dying, is both fleeting and temporary. Therefore, Jesus is not speaking of it here. Rather, He is saying He came to give us something we didn’t/don’t already have: Life (never-ending)! The free gift of God revealed in Romans 6:23; Therefore, we will have life forever!

As to “abundantly”, abundant means “existing in plentiful supply; abounding.” An adjective, it here describes the subject “the new life!” We do have spiritual and other blessings in this life, but it here seems opposed to prosperity; for prosperity means “being successful, flourishing, material well-being.” Maybe a care and problem-free life now. Therefore, “abundantly” is speaking to the subject: eternal life, not of “more of”, “better than” or even happiness in this temporal life. Hence, “abundantly” is referring to the plentiful, abounding supply of what we don’t have in the now. It’s what He came to give us: eternal life!

Knowing of our pain, struggles and sorrows, Jesus said in Matthew 11: 28-29, “Come unto me… and I will give you rest… rest unto your souls.” Amazingly, in John 16:33, He said, “…in this world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Also, saying in Revelation 2:9, “I know thy works, tribulation and poverty, but thou art rich!” The more abundant life is achieved in this life in part only, however, in the fact that he will never leave or forsake us. Thus our greatest happiness, glory and joy is in our walk and talk with Him!

Jesus said (John 1o:25-26), “I am the resurrection and the life; he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live, and… shall never die.” In effect, guaranteeing to those who believe, are saved/born again, the abundant, never-ending life! Saying in John 14:2-3; “I go to prepare a place for you… I will come again and receive you unto myself…”

Clearly a “done deal”; The sealing of the deal!

Forever in the place He is preparing, an abundant life guaranteed by our eternal guarantor Jesus Christ, being sealed in His blood!

This then, is the absolute and sure Hope and Promise of Christmas!

Rev. Jess Shifflett
Front Royal, Virginia

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Opinion

PSYWAR in the valley – Jackson’s Valley campaign recalled tonight at Warren Rifles Museum

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(Editor’s note: Author John Paul Morgan will be the featured speaker at tonight’s May 23rd ceremonies sponsored by the Warren Rifles Museum commemorating both the Battle of Front Royal and the 160th anniversary of Jackson’s Valley Campaign. The event will begin at 6:30 PM. Due to the threat of steady rain late this afternoon and evening, the event has been moved indoors to the Warren Rifles Museum at 95 Chester Street in midtown Front Royal, from the good weather site at Soldier’s Circle in Prospect Hill Cemetery.)

There’s a line in the 1968 “Green Beret” movie where John Wayne says, “Put PSYWAR on it.”  That’s essentially what the Confederacy did when things looked bleak 160 years ago. In case you missed that last point – this spring is the 160th anniversary of Jackson’s Valley Campaign. Just so you know, Front Royal is probably the only town in America that can claim a run and gun shootout between opposing armies in its streets. Urban engagements were a rarity in the U.S. Civil War.

As a former Intelligence officer, I was intrigued with the military deception and Information warfare exhibited in the Shenandoah Valley Campaign of 1862 – and in particular – the effects of said campaign. So much so, that I moved from Washington to the Valley in 2007 to have a closer look. I have yet to depart. Today most of us glance at the Civil War historical signs from time to time but rarely do we pause and visualize what the Valley must have been like in yesteryear. Our collective culture and technology have matured so much that it takes an in-depth imagination to construct such a visual. Meanwhile military classrooms around the world continue to regale their students with captivating tales and lessons learned from maneuvers that occurred on the very streets and grounds we walk around on every day in the Valley.

The Visual: The spring of 1862 was much like the one in 2022 – up to this past weekend – colder than most with lingering snow. The future dawned dark for the Confederates as Federal progress threatened to make this conflict a brief footnote in U.S. history. The combined U.S. Army offensive driving westward between the James and York Rivers was coordinated with another U.S. force moving southward along what is now the I-95 corridor from Fredericksburg. This one-two punch comprised the hammer and anvil smash General McClellan had in mind for the Southern capital. All told, the U.S. army had a force of 200,000 closing in on Richmond. The Confederate defenses had roughly 60,000 troops to oppose this enormous force. The numerical disproportion was increased by the North’s vast material resources.

For a gambling man, this is not a difficult wager here. Take the United States to win by 4 touchdowns – no brainer. No doubt a smart bet if the U.S. had not succumbed to a masterful influence operation. As Houdini said, “What the eyes see and the ears hear – the mind believes.”  The brain trust of the rebel alliance found a weakness in the Lincoln Administration’s thinking and the results shocked the world. Lincoln and advisors were very concerned about protecting their capital. General Lee and President Davis would exacerbate those fears by way of a little-known soldier at the time.

For the next three months, General Stonewall Jackson crisscrossed the Valley wired hot with dispatches from General Lee to cause havoc and remain foremost in the mind of the Lincoln Administration. Jackson’s objective was to tie up as many Federal forces as possible thereby relieving pressure on the rebel capital while feigning towards Washington if possible. It was a tall order but if successful, Jackson’s maneuvers would divert troops at the very moment McClellan needed them for the combined offensive against Richmond. This would require fake newspaper stories, deceptive marches eastward to get on train transport westward, operational security and speed.

Advertisement for 150th Anniversary of Jackson’s Valley Campaign in 2012, on display at the Warren Rifles Museum in midtown Front Royal. Acknowledgement of the 160th Anniversary of the Valley Campaign and the Battle of Front Royal will be held at 6:30 PM, Monday, May 23, at Soldier’s Circle in Prospect Hill Cemetery weather permitting, with the author as featured speaker. In event of bad weather the ceremony will be moved indoors to the Warren Rifles Museum at 95 Chester St. Photos of Museum materials by Roger Bianchini

Stonewall’s antics in the Valley did not get inside General McClellan’s head but his actions clearly had effects on the National Command team headed by President Lincoln in Washington. The impact on the President and his advisors caused the redirection of three Federal armies totaling over 50,000 troops away from Richmond at a critical juncture. He essentially removed the anvil portion of the equation. Lincoln re-directed those forces to converge on the Valley with the aim of destroying Jackson and preventing him from threatening Washington. Jackson’s infantry force of about 15,000 was way too small to cause harm to Washington but the U.S. leadership did not know that. Deception is everything in warfare.

One of the advantages Jackson used was a hyper-accurate survey of the Valley’s floor in collusion with cavalry screening and deception to keep the Federal opposition guessing wildly. Federal and Southern newspapers sounded the alarm further enhancing the impact of his exploits – in some cases providing misinformation. Jackson’s troops were known as foot cavalry trudging 40 miles a day. Washington could not make sense of the reports stating Jackson was 60 miles from the last report, so calculations of his troop strength rose exponentially with each report. Federal forces were lulled to sleep by the effective use of cavalry along the valley corridors and mountain gaps. Against Union General Banks, Jackson segregated his force from the protection of his cavalry in order to deceive the opposition as to his location. One minute the Federal forces are exchanging fire with his cavalry diversion in Strasburg and the next minute Banks and staff are reading reports that Jackson is blitzing through Front Royal – seizing Federal supply wagons on his way to Harper’s Ferry. All this was quite alarming to Lincoln and his staff as Harper’s Ferry is in proximity of Washington especially for a force that moves as rapid as Jackson’s appeared to be – and especially since there is minimal protection between them. So Lincoln pulled more troops from McClellan thereby further impeding McClellan’s moves against Richmond. Jackson had no intention of attacking Washington.

Meanwhile Jackson’s use of operational security was so effective that his own brigade commanders had no idea where they were going next. That caused a few problems, as you can imagine, but it also meant that stragglers and the Valley citizens could not reveal what they did not know. We call that OPSEC today. The Richmond papers promoted the idea that Richmond defenses were ringed by an enormous force of two hundred thousand. Interestingly, these numbers were confirmed by McClellan’s chief of Intelligence – a man named Pinkerton. As noted above, there were barely sixty thousand. The results of this disinformation cautioned the Federal leviathan’s movements toward Richmond while Lincoln redirected more troops toward the protection of the capital. In modern parlance – this is called “effects based PSYOP at its best!”

There’s an ole saying, it’s not the years in one’s life that matter but the life in one’s years. Prior to the U.S. Civil War, few had ever heard of Stonewall Jackson. In fact, the following summer Jackson would be killed in battle. But in the spring of 1862, in the span of three months, Stonewall Jackson would become the most famous officer in the world. His forces marched hundreds of miles, fought 5 pitched battles and tied up over 50,000 Federal troops in three months’ time. He effectively saved the Confederacy from certain destruction in 1862. His campaign altered the course of the war, forcing U.S. war planners to vector brigades earmarked for the hammer and anvil out to the Valley to crush him.

The strategic results of the Valley campaign followed up by General Lee’s audacious maneuvers along the Chickahominy provide history with the biggest turnaround ever witnessed in warfare. Within weeks of the Valley exploits, the Confederates were at the gates of Washington staging for the invasion of Northern territory. Unreal. But it all started right out here in the Shenandoah Valley 160 years ago.

How about that.

Soldier’s Circle in Prospect Hill Cemetery in Front Royal where 275 confederate soldiers were laid to rest.

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Growing social division and its political symptoms

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Our country is more deeply divided than it has ever been. Just within the past weeks, we have seen the murder of nearly a dozen people whose only crime was being born with darker skin than that of the murderer.

State legislatures are imposing laws prohibiting all abortions despite the beliefs and desires of the majority of their constituents.

Conservative legislators are actually banning books and the seditious ideas they supposedly contain.

With midterm elections upon us, our so-called Representative, Ben Cline, is again begging for money and denigrating the people who don’t support him by calling their ideas radical and socialistic. Every month Ben Cline puts out a “newsletter” and every newsletter starts with complaints about President Biden. Instead of working to fix his constituents’ problems, he is taking the Moscow Mitch approach to politics by spending 100% of his efforts obstructing the Democrats. How does this help us pay for food and fuel? How does this help our country?

Why would anyone give Ben Cline money to draw the salary WE are paying so that he can continue to whine and complain?

Tom Conkey
Warren County, Virginia

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Opinion

Price of Progress

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Every year in May a colleague and I take about a dozen students on some type of weeklong outdoor experience. In the past we have done backpacking or canoeing, but this year we camped at different historical and environmental locations in western Oklahoma. We spent a few days camping at Black Mesa, followed by a few days at Alabaster Caverns, and concluded at the Battle of Washita. It was on our last day while watching a video about the Battle that a line caught my attention. The video asked, “What was the price of progress?” I have thought about this for a few days. Historically speaking, there have been too many instances to count where we thought we were doing the right thing at the time, in the name of progress, only to realize later that we had made mistakes. It makes me wonder, with so many social and cultural changes, what will our price be for progress.

During the Civil War in 1864, bands of Cheyenne and Arapaho began to attack whites who were encroaching on their lands. In response the Colorado militia under Colonel John M. Chivington attacked a village that included Chief Black Kettle. When the warriors fled, hoping to draw away the soldiers, the soldiers instead attacked the village mostly composed of old men, women, and children. The government acknowledge their wrong and in the 1867 Medicine Lodge Treaty promised to take care of the Indians if they moved to Indian Territory. However, the government did not fulfill their side of the bargain and whites continued to encroach on Indian lands. When the natives fought back and raided settlements, the army decided they needed to put a stop to Indian crimes and ordered General Philip Sheridan to punish they Cheyenne tribes. Sheridan turned to his trusted lieutenant and hero of the Civil War, Lt. Col George Armstrong Custer.

Though seen very differently today, Custer was one of America’s most popular celebrities. Made a General during the war at only age 23, Custer was one of the boy generals and was seen as a romantic dashing character. After the war he was commissioned a Lt. Colonel and followed his mentor Sheridan out west where he continued to build his fame as an Indian fighter.

On the other side of the battle was Black Kettle. Even after the Sand Creek Massacre, Black Kettle tried to work with the U.S. government for peace. He worked so hard for peace that his band was forced to separate themselves from the other Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Kiowa camped along the Washita River. On the morning of November 27, 1868, Custer with the 7th Cavalry attacked at dawn against the isolated camp of Black Kettle. Custer led one unit directly into the village while the others surrounded it to cut off escape. In the end between 30 to 60 Cheyenne lay dead, including Black Kettle. Custer then ordered the destruction of 650 horses belonging to Black Kettle’s people to hurt them in the future. It was only after the other camps began to arrive on scene that Custer retreated to Fort Supply. Here is the thing: today we see Custer as a villain, but in 1868 he was lauded a hero. He would go on to win several other major victories, each time increasing his fame. He was so popular by the time of his death at the Little Big Horn that the American population demanded revenge, which justified Sheridan’s scorched earth policy that devastated the Native tribes and forced most of them onto reservations.

It is hard for us to understand the popularity of Custer today. His methods were almost on the level of genocide, but he did it in the name of progress. At the time Natives were standing in the way of U.S. progress. Their outdated ways and beliefs were hurting America’s greatness. At the time Americans needed to grow. They needed more land.

The problem with Indians was that they had not changed with the times. They were too old-fashioned. For one thing, they did not use the land properly. In the U.S. view, land was meant to be tamed, to be controlled. You were not using the land properly if you did not section off what was yours with a fence, cut down the trees to build a house, and plow under the grass lands to plant crops. New technologies were allowing Whites to progress faster than ever before, with railroads and steel plows. Railroads needed to cross vast areas of land, lands that had been promised to the Native tribes. With these new technologies, as well as the discovery of gold on Indian lands, the U.S. government began to shrink Native lands, or move them somewhere else altogether. Forget that these lands had been theirs for thousands of years. They were in the way of U.S. progress.

It is hard for us today to grasp that in the late nineteenth century, the army was seen as in the right. Those who stood up for the Natives were seen as out of touch and against America’s progress. The Natives did kill Custer and his entire regiment. Anyone capable of such actions needed punishing. Yet the price of such progress was cultural genocide.

What is the price of progress that we will have to pay today? Nineteenth-century Americans could never have imagined that they would be judged harshly for their treatment of Indians, who were considered savages who were hurting America. What are we doing today in the name of progress that people will look back on in 100 years and think why did they allow that? What are we doing that could ultimately cause harm to our society or culture but yet seems like the right thing to do?


Dr. James Finck is a Professor of History at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma and Chair of the Oklahoma Civil War Symposium. To receive daily historical posts, follow Historically Speaking at Historicallyspeaking.blog or on Facebook.

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The Forgotten Variable in Pending Overturn of Roe v Wade – Unwanted Children

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I sat in church Sunday and heard my pastor say abortion is immoral and we should be okay with Roe v. Wade being overturned. It was hardly a trailblazing announcement, but it made me look around and assess the women in that room, many of whom I’d lay money on having had one. There were women of all ages but not too much diversity. Mostly white and mostly middle class. Mostly.

In the immediacy, this likely development doesn’t affect me personally. My uterus is safely on the other side of its sell-by date. The young women that I personally know seem largely indifferent to the fall of Roe v Wade (kind of reminds me of the Iraqis that wouldn’t fight for their own skin.) My two daughters are generally viewed as extremely ill-advised in the reproducing department.

Amelia tells me repeatedly that she has no desire for a baby. I blame Sofi for that. Sofi is 7 years old and who knows what she’ll want? Developmentally she’s about 2.5 years old (according to UVA) so with any luck, she’ll be menopausal before she chooses to be a biological mom.

So, what does this mean to me? Several things. It means Pro-Lifers are delusional if they think they’ll be good at caring for this new onslaught of unwanted children. They’ve done very poorly thus far. There will be more unwanted children languishing in substandard conditions. When a woman has an abortion she’s saying, “I can’t do this.” She means it, people. She always has. Legal and safe abortions tidied that up for all of society.  Orphanages were common until the mid-60s but less so afterward. So, there will still be babies to save. There always have been.

As for Pro-Choicers, well maybe these 50 years were an anomaly. Maybe what the world (or simply America) DOESN’T want for women dwarfs what it does. It DOESN’T want us to be equal financially because we’ve never been, and children are the why for that. It DOESN’T want us thinking we are equal without a willingness to reproduce – a common complaint among my childless women friends.

Legal abortion had its flaws (damnation being a common belief aimed at those unfortunate repeat offenders.) Far more interesting to me is the who, when, and why regarding those who do manage to step up to solve an unsolvable problem – unwanted children. The prevention of and care for will ALWAYS be battles that need fighting. The high-horse attitudes of both sides are laughable in the face of the misery that unwanted children cause, and indeed endure.

Ann Deans Masch
Fauquier County

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Do the homework – and pray for all oppressed peoples

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Shireen Abu Aqla, a Palestinian Christian, reporter, and the mentor and close friend of a dear Palestinian Christian, reporter, and friend of mine of over 25 years, was brutally gunned down recently by the government of “God’s Chosen People”, despite clearly wearing a visible “PRESS” vest. Do your own homework.

While trying to hold a peaceful funeral, the officers of “God’s Chosen People” kicked and beat the pallbearers. Where is the outrage from “Christian” America? Where is the outrage from those who claim to be a “child of God”?, yet remain silent while one of your own is brutally slaughtered? Do your own homework.

So many had no problem jumping on the “Save Ukraine” bandwagon. By the way, I support the people of Ukraine 100%!! – I also happen to support the people of Palestine. I support the beautiful peaceful native Tibetans. For that matter, I support those in Russia who are eager for genuine peace, yet who are stuck with brutal and soulless regime, run by well-known thugs. Do your own homework.

I have to ask: have any of you who say you support Israel actually read that Bible you say you believe in? Please give it a try. Cool book! I’m a huge fan. Enlighten yourselves to the many times that “God’s Chosen People” turned their hearts against God, and God left them to deal with the consequences. Stop making excuses for the thugs and punks that operate against their supposed God at will, just because of a culture they cling to out of convenience, as opposed to purpose. Do your own homework.

Granted, one could say the same about the manner in which U.S. politicians support this brutal government and their paid assassins, all in the name of convenience, while possessing zero value for true faith in a loving and compassionate God, whom I choose to believe sent his son to die for my sins. I want nothing to do with the God of murderers, thugs and the politicians who support them all for self-serving convenience. Do your own homework.

While we all pray for the beautiful people of Ukraine, please (after doing your own homework) also pray for the beautiful people of Palestine. The horrors which the people of Ukraine have been subjected to have been part of Palestinian life for over 70 years. Don’t they, also, have a “Right To Life?!?”

Michael Sean Williams 
Front Royal, Virginia

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All in the training

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As an observer of the video on Mr. Ennis’s arrest, I have to agree with Mr. Candenquist’s letter to the editor.

There was no reason for the officer who came up behind Mr. Ennis to handle Mr. Ennis in the manner of which he did.

Could the officer have been a rookie, just out of training class? Did the officers not know who they were dealing with? I believe they had another encounter with Mr. Ennis before this encounter. Being at night does make an officer warier of approach, but there was enough light from cars and the parking lot to see this man did not even show a threat! WCSO and FRPD need not let officers that seem a little zealous make certain calls to certain situations.

We citizens need to have the utmost respect and trust in our law enforcement; this is one place, if not the last place, for defense against the bad guys and gals. Mr. Ennis was not a bad guy.

Tenia Smith
A former resident of Front Royal

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