Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Yosemite bridge may be Stoneman's last stand

Stoneman as governor of California, 1883-87

     On April 8, 1865, while Stoneman's 1st Brigade was fighting through Martinsville, the general and his 2nd and 3rd Brigades camped 30 miles west near Taylorsville, Va.
     You won't find Taylorsville on a map anymore. In the 1880s, the town was renamed Stuart in honor of the flamboyant Confederate martyr Gen. James Ewell Brown "Jeb" Stuart.
     On the other hand, there are no towns named for Gen. George Stoneman, who was Stuart's counterpart in the Union cavalry.
     Most of the locations honoring Stoneman's name are in California, where he served as governor from 1883 to 1887. In 1942, the Army established Camp Stoneman near Pittsburg, Cal., which was the last stop for many American soldiers headed to Pacific battlefields during World War II. There is a George Stoneman Elementary School near the old Army base, and there used to be another one in San Marino on the grounds of Stoneman's former ranch.
     In New York, his hometown of Busti built the George Stoneman Business Park on land that used to be his father's farm. In parts of Albany, his fame is overshadowed by his sister, Kate Stoneman, a prominent suffragette who was the first woman to practice law in New York.
     Arizona (where he served as territorial commander in the 1870s) remembers him with the Stoneman Historic Trail northeast of Phoenix and picturesque Stoneman Lake near Flagstaff.
     Gen. Stoneman's bloodline died out with his grandson, George John Stoneman IV (1906-1988), who served in the Navy in World War II.
     The finest memorial to the general-turned-governor is the Stoneman Bridge, built in 1933 in California's Yosemite Valley. Gov. Stoneman was a member of the Yosemite Commission, which was instrumental in the establishment of Yosemite National Park in 1890. His administration funded road construction in the valley as well as a hotel called the Stoneman House that was opened in 1887 and burned in 1896.
     Recently, the National Park Service has proposed removing the Stoneman Bridge and two others to restore the natural flow of the Merced River as a federally designated "wild and scenic river."
     I can't speak for wild, but personally I don't think it could get any more scenic than it already is: 

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