Friday, November 27, 2009

Custer 170th Birthday Celebration, Historic Holiday Walking Tour, and Civil War Music Concert by Kristina Austin Scarcelli

Hometown History Tours is pleased to announce a special December 5th tour and celebration to commemorate the 170th birthday of Civil War General George Armstrong Custer, commander of the Michigan Cavalry Brigade and America’s youngest general.

Custer 170th Birthday Celebration & Historic Hometown Holiday Tour
Saturday, December 5, 2009
10 AM to 3:30 PM

General Custer invites you to celebrate his 170th birthday in his adopted hometown of Monroe, Michigan We are pleased to announce that the esteemed Governor and Mrs. Austin Blair and United States Marshall Ward Hill Lamon will be in attendance to commemorate this momentous occasion. Won’t you join us too?

Celebrate the General’s 170th birthday by traveling with him through the streets of downtown Monroe, Michigan, the historic city he once called home.

Reminisce with “the General” as he points out significant sites from his past such as the street corner where his favorite barbershop once stood, the shoe store (still operating today) where he purchased his boots, the church he joined in order to woo the charming and eligible local lass, Elizabeth Clift Bacon, and where he later wed her in what was called the “wedding of the century”, and the restored home he and his wife later shared.

Narrated bus tour includes lunch with the General at one of his favorite watering spots. According to local lore, Custer swore off alcohol after embarrassing himself in front of the esteemed Judge Bacon and his lovely daughter Libbie following a raucous celebratory evening at this particular establishment.

Tour concludes with a special birthday celebration at the Monroe County Historical Museum’s Custer exhibit.

Two brief presentations, Custer’s Impact on Monroe – Past and Present (David Ingall, MCHM assistant director) and Revered or Reviled – The Custer Controversy Confronted (speaker TBA) and remarks by the General will be followed with a Civil War concert by Kristina Austin Scarcelli.

The former Mrs. Michigan will sing a haunting rendition of Faded Coat of Blue and other selections from her soon-to-be released CD Daughter of the 24th Michigan.

Kristina is the descendent of two Civil War soldiers. Her Great Great grandfather was a private in the 24th Michigan Infantry and was wounded at the Battle of Gettysburg. His brother (Kristina’s Great Great Grand Uncle) served in Company A of the Fifth Michigan Cavalry, part of the Michigan Cavalry Brigade led by Brigadier General George Armstrong Custer.

The audience will join Kristina in a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday as the General cuts the cake with his favorite captured Confederate sabre.

(Birthday celebration is open to the public, but tour participants enjoy VIP reserved seating).

Tour cost: $35 per person includes narrated, one-hour bus tour, lunch*, VIP seating at Custer Birthday Celebration, commemorative Custer’s Monroe inspired holiday ornament, and birthday cake. *Soft drinks/coffee included. Cash bar available,

Bus tour only/ unreserved seating at Custer Birthday Celebration – $20 Adults, $15 Seniors/Students.

Tickets on sale now! Advance Registration Required.

Proceeds benefit the Monroe County Historical Museum’s commitment to provide quality programming leading up to and throughout the Civil War Sesquicentennial.

For more information, or to make payment via mail, contact:

Hometown History Tours
734 642-5712

Period attire encouraged but not required

Bus tour departs form the Monroe County Historical Museum, 126 South Monroe Street, at 10 AM, 11 AM, Noon, 1 PM. $35 ticketholders will want to board the 1o or 11 AM bus.

First two bus tours are narrated by none other than renowned Custer living historian Steve Alexander. Proclaimed by United States Congress as the “foremost Custer living historian,” Alexander has appeared as the General in over 20 television docudramas featured on the Arts & Entertainment, Discovery and History channels. Both the Michigan and Ohio Senates have acknowledged him for his lifetime work and portrayal of America’s most controversial military leader.

Enjoy the ambiance of a historic American city decked out in its holiday finery. While at the museum, don’t forget to check out the annual Christmas Tree Festival.

For more information, please visit: or

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Michigan - Ohio War (a/k/a The Great Toledo War)

The Michigan - Ohio rivalry is much more than just a football game. Did you know that Wolverines and Buckeyes were battling each other long before the annual meeting on the fields of college football ever began? That famous rivalry goes back much farther … all the way back to the Michigan - Ohio War -- the original War Between the States -- which took place in 1835 – 1836.

The Michigan - Ohio rivalry actually dates all the way back to 1787, when the U.S. Congress drafted the Northwest Ordinance, which laid out guidelines for the formation of states' boundaries from the Union's Northwest Territory: Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana. One important line used to divide up the Northwest Territory was a line drawn east from the southern tip of Lake Michigan to Lake Erie.

So, when Ohio was granted statehood in 1803, its Governor Robert Lucas established the new state’s northern land boundary along this line. However, when the Michigan Territory was created in 1805, surveyors realized that the tip of Lake Michigan was actually further south and that the land including the Maumee River and its crucial port at the mouth of Lake Erie as set forth by the language in the Northwest Ordinance actually belonged to the Territory of Michigan.

Thus, because of poor understanding of geographical features of the Great Lakes at the time and varying interpretations of the law, the state government of Ohio and the territorial government of Michigan both claimed ownership of the region now known as the City of Toledo … in a dispute that would last for 30 years.

Immediately, Ohioans in Congress begin campaigning to have the line re-surveyed and work finally began in 1817. As if there wasn’t enough confusion, two surveys later, there were now TWO boundary lines drawn, eight miles apart at Lake Erie and five miles apart at the Indiana border, with a total of 468 square miles in between. Although Ohio still claimed this "Toledo Strip" as its own, the squabbling temporarily ceased and Michigan quietly assumed jurisdiction over the area.

This all came to an end when Michigan sought admission to the Union on December 11, 1833. The Buckeyes’ refusal to recognize the Wolverines’ ownership of the region halted Michigan's admission to the Union as a state. The seeds of war were planted.

Beginning in 1835, both sides passed legislation attempting to force the other to surrender the land. Ohio’s Governor Lucas and Michigan's then 24-year-old "Boy Governor" Stevens T. Mason both refused to yield, so they raised militias and established laws of treason applicable to any citizen that did not abide by their respective authorities.

The Michigan and Ohio militias were mobilized and sent to positions on opposite sides of the Maumee River near Toledo. But besides mutual taunting and saber-rattling (sound familiar?), there was little interaction between the two forces. The single truly combative confrontation of the Michigan - Ohio War ended with a report of shots being fired but no human casualties.

President Andrew Jackson then stepped in and Congress held Michigan's statehood hostage until it agreed to Ohio's claims. As a consolation, Michigan was given the western portion of the Upper Peninsula … 9,000 square miles of the most valuable timber, iron, and copper country in America. You be the judge as to whom went the spoils!

This wooden case labeled “Toledo, Michigan” is believed to have been an ammunition box used by the territory's militia during the Michigan - Ohio War. (Michigan Historical Museum)

The Michigan - Ohio War exhibit at the Michigan Historical Museum in Lansing.

Michigan, now complete with its two distinctive “mittens” as we know it today -- a focal point of our nation’s outline even visible from space -- became our 26th state and formally entered the Union on January 26, 1837.

How ironic is it that we had to fight our way into the Union and, less than 25 years later, the President of the United States was thanking us for fighting to preserve it:

“Thank God for Michigan” - Abraham Lincoln, 1861.



Wednesday, November 11, 2009

2009 Canton Salute to Service at the Village Theater at Cherry Hill

Tonight, I had the honor of performing in the 2009 Canton Salute to Service Veterans' Day Show at the Village Theater at Cherry Hill in Canton, Michigan.  Here's a little information about the show from the official press release:

"Canton is proud to honor area service men and service women who have served and who are currently serving in our Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, National Guard, and Reserves. On Wednesday, November 11, a "Salute to Service" ceremony will take place at the Village Theater at Cherry Hill, located 50400 Cherry Hill Road from 6:00 – 8:30 p.m., which will recognize our military personnel currently in active duty and our veterans for their exceptional commitment and dedication.

The public is encouraged to attend this free event, presented by the Canton Community. Photos of Canton residents who are presently in our Armed Forces will be on display, as well as additional military memorabilia. A short program will take place on the Village Theater’s main stage starting at 7 p.m., featuring music by Workman Elementary School Choir, under the direction of Keri Mueller, and Kristina Austin Scarcelli, Mrs. Michigan 2006.

The evening’s Master of Ceremonies will be Todd Caccamo, Canton Township Trustee and John Santomauro, Canton Township Public Safety Director, will present the keynote address. A short video presentation, featuring the first-hand recollections of local WWII veterans, will be introduced by John Anthony, Canton Township Trustee. In addition to the formal presentation, the Michigan Military Moms will be on hand collecting items for service men and women who are currently serving overseas.

Join us as we salute all veterans, living and deceased, and especially those active duty military men and women who are currently serving in harm's way in faraway places and across our homeland. For more information on the Salute to Service ceremony scheduled for Wednesday, November 11 at the Village Theater, please call 734/394-5460 or visit"

Below are video clips of my performances.  Thanks to everyone whose hard work makes this annual event possible!