"Ace Preston Captures History" by Tré
Over the years, international photographer and journalist, Ace Preston has compiled one of the most diverse portfolio's, I have been privileged to see. Ranging from captivating photos of Bruce Springsteen to compelling images of war ravaged nations, he has bravely gone where others fear to go, and continues to do so, revealing that which, more often than not, you do not read on the covers of news papers.
Having once served his country, Ace Preston is not a stranger to modern day warfare, he once said:
"I prefer to shoot my camera rather than a firearm. It is a far more Dangerous weapon."
Having accompanied him on a recent historic photo shoot in Northern Virginia, I observed firsthand two poignant locations that he chose to capture, both of which played significant roles in the outcome of our history.
Near where the Civil War was claimed to have been won and lost, you will find the home and grave of John S. Mosby, "The Grey Ghost," the man who would appear out of nowhere and then vanish out of sight. He was a Confederate Ranger, his missions were comparable to that of a guerrilla fighter. He was praised for the ability to lead his men into quick raids and then vanish with them like a ghost, blending in with the landscape and among local farmers.
After Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant in Appomattox April 9 1865, John S. Mosby sat atop his stead in a field in Salem (now known as Marshall), April 21 1865, and read this statement aloud to his band of Rangers:
"I have summoned you together for the last time. The vision we cherished of a free and independent country has vanished, and that country is now the spoil of a conqueror. I disband your organization in preference to surrendering to our enemies."
In the small town of Warrenton Virginia, the Mosby house is nestled amid majestic trees. The property has remarkably survived over the years, peeking through the windows you can see tarnished ceiling medallions, antique fixtures, and a ghostly emptiness befitting the loss of Mosby. In the course of time, he faded into history itself; all that remains is his modest grave that lays amongst the deceased of Warrenton Cemetery.
The famous "Battle of Bull Run" now rests as a peaceful open field. Red clay as dark as blood peeks out from the verdant grass, whispering of the lives it once soaked up. The field is lined by canons placed along the forest line, where in 1861 Private John S. Mosby entered the field in the first Battle of Bull Run.
On a hill overlooking the once glorified scene you will find a sculpture of "Stone Wall Jackson," looking surprisingly buff like Superman. It was bizarre to see such a slim and notoriously elegant man represented so brutishly. Nevertheless, when looking at it from afar, you could easily imagine him sitting upon his horse, charging into the fray, fearlessly determined and unrelenting. As once was shouted by Brig. Gen. Barnard Elliott Bee, Jr. to his troops:
"There is Jackson standing like a stone wall. Let us determine to die here, and we will conquer. Follow me!"
In 1862 this field was revisited in the second Battle of Bull Run, where Stonewall Jackson drove back the Union and John Pope's troops into a speedy retreat. The two epic battles fought at this location have been largely romanticized; however, the actual ground covered was not very expansive. It goes to show, it's not the size of the battle field but the size of men's hearts that wins battles.
The events once witnessed at these and many other historic sights, spanning Virginia, are just small reminders of where we have been, what we have learned, how far we have come, the price we have paid, and of the mistakes we care not to repeat again. In 1864 Robert E. Lee articulately wrote in a letter to his wife:
"What a cruel thing is war: to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors, and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world."
Thus is the lesson of battle, it all ends in peace eventually, one way or another. We shall continue on this road once paved for us by great men fallen. Ace Preston's photos bring the past to the present, and show us the importance of never forgetting.