Sunday, May 13, 2018

Glen Campbell – "Walls" (2008)

I can’t hold on forever
Even walls fall down

The first thing that struck me about Fort Frederick – an 18th-century fort located on the Maryland side of the Potomac River about 100 miles northwest of the U.S. Capitol – was how thick and high its stone walls were.

Fort Frederick has some big-ass walls
Construction on Fort Frederick, which was one of a chain of forts built during the French and Indian War to protect the British colonists who lived on the western frontier, began in 1756.  

Many of the frontier forts of that era were made of wood.  The Indian tribes who were allies of the French were certainly capable of setting fire to wooden forts.  But Fort Frederick’s stone walls are three to four feet thick and 17 feet high.   Walls that thick and high would have stymied them completely.

The French troops in the area may have possessed some light field artillery, but nothing that would have made a dent in a three-to-four-foot thick stone wall – that would have required much more formidable weaponry, like siege mortars or shipborne cannons.

Given the lack of roads and the shallowness of the Potomac River, there was no reason for the colonists to worry about mortars or ocean-going men of war.

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Horatio Sharpe, Maryland’s colonial governor, was the driving force behind the construction of fort Frederick.  He told the colonial legislature that the fort “will not be completed for less than £5000.”

Fort Frederick from the air
That turned out to be an understatement.  A year later, the legislature expressed alarm at the amount of money that had spent on Fort Frederick, which was nowhere near being complete:

Near the Sum of £6000 has been expended . . . and tho’ we have not any exact Information what Sum may still be wanting to compleat it, (if ever it shall be thought proper to be done) yet we are afraid the Sum requisite for that Purpose, must be considerable . . . 

The legislators were also concerned about the size of the force necessary to man the very large fort:

[W]e are apprehensive that Fort is so large, that in Case of Attack, it cannot be defended without a Number of Men larger than this Province can support, purely to maintain a Fortification.     

The fort had barracks sufficient to lodge some 300 soldiers.  That may not sound like many, but the area surrounding the fort was very thinly populated.

*     *     *     *     *

In 1758, a British expedition captured Fort Duquesne, a French fort located in what is now downtown Pittsburgh.  That victory freed western Maryland from the threat of attack, and whatever militia garrisoned Fort Frederick at that time were sent back home.

The fort was abandoned until 1763, when several hundred settlers took refuge there during Pontiac’s War, a wide-ranging Indian uprising that broke out just after the British and French signed the Treaty of Paris, which brought a temporary end to hostilities between those two empires.

Fort Frederick reenactors
The tribes who united under Chief Pontiac’s leadership attacked several British forts in western Pennsylvania, but never got as far as Fort Frederick.  After a month or so, the settlers returned to their farms.

Fort Frederick was pressed into service to hold British prisoners of war during the Revolutionary War.  Nearly a thousand British soldiers and officers – including some family members – were housed there at the end of that war.

The fort fell into disrepair over the next decades.  Some of its stones were removed and used in the construction of the C&O Canal and for the foundations of several houses in the area.

Maryland sold the land around Fort Frederick to a local farmer in 1791.  (The fort was occupied by a Union regiment during the Civil War, and there were some skirmishes between Union and Confederate forces in the area early in that war.)  The state repurchased the property in 1922, and the Civilian Conservation Corps restored it during the Great Depression.

*     *     *     *     *

I visited Fort Frederick recently during a two-day bike ride on the C&O Canal towpath.

Before entering the fort proper, I sat down on a shaded bench and enjoyed an egg salad sandwich, dill pickle-flavored potato chips, and some Dr. Pepper, which I had picked up at a truck stop just a few miles away.

I posted a photo of the egg-salad sandwich on Facebook, claiming that I had purchased it at a gas station the morning before, stuck it in my backpack, and promptly forgot about it for 24-plus hours.

What a kerfuffle this caused among les femmes d’un certain âge who are my Facebook friends.  

“Don’t eat it!” said one.  “Don’t you eat that!” said another.  “If you decide to eat it, please post the name of the hospital where you're being treated so we can send get well wishes,” said a third.  (HOW STUPID DO YOU THINK I AM, LADIES?)

Imagine the psychic cost of being the husband or child of one of these literal-minded neurotics . . . these worry-warts! . . . these nervous Nellies!

*     *     *     *     *

Glen Campbell, who died last year, was one of 12 children of a poor Arkansas sharecropper.  An uncle gave him a five-dollar Sears guitar when he was four years, and within a few years, he was performing on local radio stations.  He was a talented and highly sought-after studio musician in the sixties, and later became a very successful solo artist.  He eventually released over 70 albums – 12 went gold, four went platinum, and one was double-platinum.

Today’s featured song – which was released on his 2008 album, Meet Glen Campbell – was written and originally recorded by Tom Petty.

Meet Glen Campbell also includes covers of songs by John Lennon, Jackson Browne, Lou Reed, U2, Green Day, and the Foo Fighters.  (Bet you didn’t see that coming.)

Here’s “Walls”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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