Thursday, July 25, 2013

Gaston's Lament

August 6, 1780 was a devastating day for John and Esther Gaston of Chester County, SC.  They had nine sons and three daughters.  ALL 9 sons fought in the War for Independence.  On that hot August day, three of their sons fell dead at the Battle of Hanging Rock.  Robert, David and Ebenezer perished on that one fateful afternoon.  A fourth son, Joseph, was severely wounded, taking a lead ball to the cheek.  The wound took a large chunk of his face and left an open and continually draining wound that would be there for life.  He actually survived until 1836.  Before he died he related a great deal of information about this little known, but pivotable battle in the War for Independence.  Another son, Alexander, succumbed to small pox just thirteen days later on August 20.  John's brother, Dr. Alexander Gaston, was murdered by the Redcoats just one year later while wife and son looked on in horror.  Freedom isn't free.  The Gaston's paid a terrible price for liberty.  They knew all too well the meaning of the Founders phrase in the Declaration that called for all patriots to sacrifice "their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor."  In honor of the this great families sacrifice I've written a poem / song to the memory of what must have been a day of mourning like none other.  It is to be sung to the tune of that classic Revolutionary song; Johnny Has Gone for a Soldier.  A few of the words are similar though the sorrow is universal and the sentiments are pure Gaston, hence the name...Gaston's Lament:

Here we sit on Hanging Rock Hill,
Me and Esther cryin' still.
All our tears a river could fill...
Our sons have gone for soldiers!

The Redcoats came with fear and dread,
at the Waxhaw's killed us dead.
Tarleton's Quarter flowing red...
Our sons have gone for soldiers!

We sold our farm, we sold our fields,
we sold our only water wheel,
to buy nine boys' all rifles primed...
Our sons have gone for soldiers!

Ebenezer, Robert and Dave,
it broke our hearts to see your graves.
Three in one day...Oh, NO, NO, NO!...
Our sons have gone for soldiers!

The Lord He gives and He takes away.
Three sweet boys were slain today.
They longed for peace yet died in war...
Our sons have gone for soldiers!

Brave lad Joseph God did spare.
He now lies wounded in His care,
to honor the lives of brothers three...
Our sons have gone for soldiers!

The war drags and victry is not won.
For our sons we bear our arms,
to rid ourselves of the kings tyranny...
Our Sons have gone for soldiers!

MANY thanks to Diana Nelson and her mom, Betty, for writing the score!  I am eternally grateful!

Rest in peace Gaston Family!

On a personal note, I, for the first time in my life, wrote and sang a song.  I was inspired to do so by the memory of my late sister, Carol Lovell.  She passed away in April of 2010.  She was an accomplished musician as well as a talented singer and song-writer.  As the only one of my generation left in the McCullough family, I honor her memory with Gaston's Lament.  After all, John "Justice" Gaston and Esther Waugh Gaston were her 5th great grandparents too!  Thank you, Carol, for inspiring me to write and sing this song about our brave ancestors!

Russ McCullough - 5th Great Grandson of John "Justice" Gaston, "Patriot of the Revolution"

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Independent Thoughts for Independence Day - 2013

I live in "The Two Thousand and Thirteenth Year of Our Lord" still breathing the pure air of liberty, liberty given me by God and defended by many a patriot over the years.  My father was one such patriot.

He was born after the "Great War" and was just 10 years old at the onslaught of the "Great Depression."  He was a proud member of the class of  '37, Daniel Webster High School, Tulsa, OK.  He died before his time in 1966 at the age of 46 at Hampton, VA.  He was my dad.  He was my hero.  He was an American patriot.

Russ McCullough, Jr. was truly a Renaissance man.  He was an accomplished musician, an engineer of extraordinary merit, a marksman of no small talent and a father of rare dedication to his family.  He somehow sensed the need for service to country while he was still in high school.  Instead of taking advantage of a full music scholarship at the University of Tulsa, he joined the Navy upon graduation.  In 1938 many a patriotic Oklahoman wanted to serve on the proud and mighty U.S.S. Oklahoma, a battleship "of the line."  In those days, one could enlist to serve specifically on the ship named for one's state of residence.  Many "Okies" were on board between the wars.  Even today her lines stir both pride and sorrow.   From 1938 until the fall of 194l my dad served aboard Oklahoma.  He received orders to go to New York where he was to wait for reassignment.  He was there the day Oklahoma rolled over at Pearl on December 7.  Few sailors survived.  He never really talked about his service.  I know very little of it.  One time he said he had to discharge his weapon while off North Africa.  I do know this...though in the Navy, he was a marksman with the 1917 Remington 30.06.

During the Korean War, of all people, the U. S. Army contracted Russ to train its sharpshooters at the Lafayette Gun Club located between Newport News and Williamsburg.  He loved to sing and play the piano.  He was proud of his sharp shooting ability.  He was, however, very focused on his work.  He possessed an uncanny ability to see things in 3D.  Between 1949 and 1953 he went from designing floor furnaces in Tulsa to designing catapults for aircraft carriers at Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry-dock Company. One of my first memories was standing on the bank of the James River with my mother and my sister Carol as we watched the USS Forrestal ship out on her shake down cruise.  Dad was on board to check out his designs. 

She's now stricken since 1993 awaiting the scrap pile.  She will be sold piecemeal to who knows who...the Chinese perhaps?  She served proudly for nearly 40 years, quite a feat for an "oil burner."  From Lebanon to Desert Storm she projected the power of the United States where ever needed.  In her day, she was the very first "flat top" to have an angled deck, steam catapults and an optical landing system.  Fully loaded she weighed in at little over 81 tons!  She was the largest ship in the world for a number of years, and the most revered.

I was only 14 when he passed away.  I still miss him today.  However, his love and dedication to liberty allows me to write this account in 2013.  Though I can't read music, shoot a rifle or design catapults I CAN write about liberty and those who made it possible. The life of Russ McCullough, Jr. was part of that mosaic of sacrifice and dedication.  Thanks, Dad!  Happy Independence Day.