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Calhoun Historical Society Inspects
Arnoldsburg's Camp McDonald
by Maricia Mlynek

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“I am sitting this beautiful morning, on a rock by the side of the creek. The placid water rolling gently past my feet, and surrounded on either hand by the tangled brushwood that line the banks of the stream. I am writing this letter as I sit here, and it is a spot I have chosen on account of its beauty and solitude, away from the confusion of camp, and here amid the surroundings of nature, alone and undisturbed I can permit  my mind to wander back . . .”.   --Michael Ayers, Co. C., 11th Regt., Camp McDonald, Va., June 15, 1862.

It is odd how these very words ring true for this writer. They could be my very own thoughts.

On Sunday, a group interested in the county’s history spent the afternoon walking the hilltops and water edges that Michael Ayers was describing in a letter almost 150 years ago.

We could imagine the handsome soldier as he wrote of the beautiful outskirts of Camp McDonald, Arnoldsburg, in 1862.

It is powerful to envision him sitting beside the streams in his blue uniform, a young man with so much before him. Many are reading his memoirs and letters, and know that in these early days of war he has only seen a glimpse of the treachery that the war holds for him.

Ayers will march countless miles; he will face perils untold, and he will see the wickedness of war. Yet, we look back at his thoughts and see an eloquence that not even war could destroy.

Today, those hillsides are aged. Mother Nature and man have had a toll on Ayers’ creek banks. How much is the same? How much is different? We can only guess and hold out hope that something still remains of those same scenes he described long ago.

As I walked the trails that only deer seem to be privy to, I was not alone like Ayers had been. I was in attendance on Camp McDonald Hill with members of Calhoun Historical Society and others. With metal detectors and cameras, the group spread out to cover as much room as possible.

After a couple of hours had passed, it seemed that the treasures to be found were old nails, cans, and, strangely enough, a vacuum cleaner piece.

Yet, it was not time wasted. The weather was glorious, the company was outstanding, and the hunt for history was exciting.

Dennis Carder and Andy Mlynek dig for artifacts.

John Schneider and Ezra Conrad of the Moccasin Rangers look over the skeleton of an animal. The Camp McDonald tour was Ezra’s first event as a member of the Rangers. He is the 10-year-old son of Dennis and Tammy Conrad.

Left to right, Dennis Carder, John Schneider, Terry Whited and Bob Bonar use their historical knowledge to recreate the battle area.

At the end of the hunt, we enjoyed refreshments at the home of Mike and Jessie Wilson, who generously invited the Historical Society to inspect the fields of Camp McDonald Hill.

So no, during the initial search, we did not find treasure of monetary value, but we found new friendships and a closer tie to the ones we already called friends.

“Amid the surroundings of nature, alone and undisturbed,” the treasure we found was an afternoon of more memories and time with dear people.

Though memories are good to make, and developing friendships are invaluable, a few other treasures were found. A few stayed into the evening and reported the find of items that will be researched.

Those attending the Camp McDonald outing at Arnoldsburg included, left to right, Andy Mlynek, Terry Harris, Bob Bonar, Shirley Ball, Karen Bonar, Linda McCartney, Nub Marks, Helen Morris, Roger Jarvis, Ezra Carder, Dennis Carder, John Schneider, Cyrena Wilson, Jessie Wilson, Emily Wilson, Justine Rogers and Mike Wilson. Not pictured - Rod Lynch, Maricia Mlynek, Ed Norman, Terry Whited, and John and Ann Newell.

Mike, Jessie, Cyrena and Emily were gracious hosts, and the Historical Society appreciated the opportunity that the Wilsons offered. Camp Mc-Donald Hill is private property and not open to the public.

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