Off to the races with the armiesErnest F. Imhoff wrote a...

Letters

September 13, 1996

Off to the races with the armies

Ernest F. Imhoff wrote a most interesting article Sept. 4, headlined, ''History resurfaces in Barney's barges.''

I was especially intrigued by his description of the engagement at Bladensburg in which the British tagged their rout of the American forces as the ''Bladensburg Races.`

Sixteen years previously, almost to the day, on Aug. 27, 1798, known in Ireland as the Year of the French, Irish rebels aided by French forces under General Humbert struck such terror into the British army at Castlebar that they didn't stop running except to burn the bridge behind them when they reached their headquarters in Tuam.

Their disorderly retreat, killing and looting, was scornfully called the "Races of Castlebar.'' General Lord Cornwallis, of Yorktown fame, in overall command of the British forces in Ireland and who subsequently put down the rebellion, said of General Lake's troops at Castlebar that he had never before seen a more disgraceful performance.

Thus the Brits, famous for their battlefield bon mots, recycled this term after Bladensburg.

Another example of the quixotic nature of the British occurred after the brutal conclusion of the '98 Rebellion. While accepting the gentlemanly surrender of the French regulars, the Irish rebels were hunted down and hanged as traitors.

One of the few who lived to be tried was a soldier who had deserted the British and joined the rebels. At his court martial, facing certain hanging, he solemnly explained to the judge that he had not run away from the army, the army had run away from him. The judge was so amused, the deserter's life was spared.

Margaret Doyle

Baltimore

Two midshipmen did what was right

With all the news concerning the alleged murder conspiracy by a Navy midshipman and Air Force cadet, I think we should focus on the real story.

It lies in the action of the two female midshipmen who had the unenviable but necessary job of reporting Diane Zamora's confession.

These two young Americans should be applauded. I would hope this type of action would take place at all of our colleges and universities.

It is obvious that Naval Academy Superintendent Adm. Charles Larson and his staff have done a great job in boosting the moral, ethical and honor focus of the Brigade of Midshipmen. They should be commended.

As a Navy midshipman in the early 1980s I had the honor to serve under both Admiral Larson and Adm. Leon Edney, our commandant at the time. It was Admiral Edney who said something I'll never forget.

He said, ''A midshipman does what's right, not because of any perceived outcome of the action, but simply because it's the right thing to do.'' Those are words to live by.

If our society could grasp and follow such a creed in all of our actions, the country would be a much better place. Even the midshipman who resigned due to his inaction in this matter ultimately had a true sense of the right thing. His resignation was the honorable thing to do.

Too often we have focused on what's wrong with our society, our nation, our institutions. Doing so has become counter-productive.

I submit that we should concentrate instead on what's right with these areas, simply because it's the right thing to do.

Steve Young

Towson

Ravens wonk, never caw

Ravens are not, I repeat, not, crows.

If John James Audubon is watching Ravens' games on that big TV in the sky, he is surely weak and weary from the crow ''caws'' emitted from the stands.

I could have stood by and allowed this ornithological travesty to continue. But I live here in Birdtown. And I would rather my neighbors be labeled bird-wise than bird-brained.

The season is early. Let's nip this thing in the bud.

Many years ago, early in my bird-watching life, as I stood atop Reddish Knob on the Virginia-West Virginia border, I heard what I thought was the honking of geese in the distance.

Searching the skies for the gaggle, and continuing to hear the honks, I saw only a few large, black, crow-like birds frolicking in the wind.

It was not long before I determined the source of the noise to be not from geese but from those black birds (which were not crows).

Upon returning home, I flew to my fledgling library, where I soon discovered the noise I had heard was not the ''honk honk'' of geese, but rather, according to my Audubon Field Guide, the telltale ''wooden wonk wonk'' of the common raven.

Over the years I have all but perfected the raven call, and I would like to share my technique with Baltimore Ravens' fans at this time, no purchase necessary:

1. Using thumb and index finger, squeeze nostril flaps shut.

2. Say the following (in the deepest voice possible): ''Wonk, wonk.''

One more time: "Wonk, wonk."

I look forward to hearing crows at Ravens' games nevermore.

Don Vovakes

Towson

Public libraries spread wisdom

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