In studying the Civil War it is good to recall that their were countless skirmishes fought throughout the War, most utterly forgotten today. One such minor skirmish was fought on December 13, 1863. The report on the skirmish is well written and is interesting since it was the first time in action of the First Mississippi Cavalry, a Union regiment consisting of black former Mississippi slaves. Here is the report: (more…)
At this time of the year it is appropriate to recall that the modern image of Santa Claus was largely created by a German immigrant to these shores, Thomas Nast, an illustrator for Harper’s Weekly. The above is the first of his many Santa Claus drawings. It appeared on January 3, 1863 and showed a Red, White and Blue clad Santa visiting Union troops. Nast would draw Santa Claus many times throughout his career and the Santa we see today is largely Santa as imagined by Nast.
Born in 1840 in Landau in Germany, then a geographical term rather than a nation, Nast came to America as a child, along with his family. His passion for drawing was notable even as a child. In 1862 he became illustrator for Harper’ Weekly, a post he would hold until 1886.
Nast was a cartoonist with strong convictions. He loved the Union, racial equality, at least for Negroes and the Chinese immigrants in the West, the Republican party, until he supported Grover Cleveland in 1884, political reform, and any number of other reform causes. He was also clear as to what he hated: the Confederacy, political corruption, especially the Tammany Hall organization in New York and the Democrat party, until he supported Cleveland in 1884. Among his hates were Irish immigrants, largely supporters of the Democrat party, and the Catholic Church.
Like many a bitter anti-Catholic bigot, Nast was a born and baptized Catholic. He had left the Faith by his marriage in 1861 to an Episcopalian. Nast’s anti-Catholicism was savage. Typical is an 1870 cartoon where the Pope is depicted as lusting to conquer America:
In a marathon speech before the German Reichstag, Chancellor Adolf Hitler declared war on America. The tone of the speech is indicated in its closing paragraphs:
Ever since my last peace proposal of July 1940 was rejected, we have realized that this struggle has to be fought out to its last implications. That the Anglo-Saxon-Jewish-Capitalist World finds itself now in one and the same Front with Bolshevism does not surprise us National Socialists: we have always found them in company. We have concluded the struggle successfully inside Germany and have destroyed our adversaries after 16 years struggle for power. When, 23 years ago, I decided to enter political life and to lift this nation out of its decline, I was a nameless, unknown soldier. Many among you know how difficult were the first few years of this struggle. From the time when the Movement consisted of seven men, until we took over power in January 1933, the path was so miraculous that only Providence itself with its blessing could have made this possible.
Today I am at the head of the strongest Army in the world, the most gigantic Air Force and of a proud Navy. Behind and around me stands the Party with which I became great and which has become great through me. The enemies I see before me are the same enemies as 20 years ago, but the path along which I look forward cannot be compared with that on which I look back. The German people recognizes the decisive hour of its existence millions of soldiers do their duty, millions of German peasants and workers, women and girls, produce bread for the home country and arms for the Front. We are allied with strong peoples, who in the same need are faced with the same enemies. The American President and his Plutocratic clique have mocked us as the Have-nots-that is true, but the Have-nots will see to it that they are not robbed of the little they have.
You, my fellow party members, know my unalterable determination to carry a fight once begun to its successful conclusion. You know my determination in such a struggle to be deterred by nothing, to break every resistance which must be broken. In September 1939 I assured you that neither force nor arms nor time would overcome Germany. I will assure my enemies that neither force of arms nor time nor any internal doubts, can make us waver in the performance of our duty. When we think of the sacrifices of our soldiers, any sacrifice made by the Home Front is completely unimportant. When we think of those who in past centuries have fallen for the Reich, then we realize the greatness of our duty. But anybody who tries to evade this duty has no claim to be regarded in our midst as a fellow German. Just as we were unmercifully hard in our struggle for power we shall be unmercifully hard in the struggle to maintain our nation.
At a time when thousands of our best men are dying nobody must expect to live who tries to depreciate the sacrifices made at the Front. Immaterial under what camouflage he tries to disturb this German Front, to undermine the resistance of our people, to weaken the authority of the regime, to sabotage the achievements of the Home Front, he shall die for it! But with the difference that this sacrifice brings the highest honour to the soldier at the Front, whereas the other dies dishonoured and disgraced.
Our enemies must not deceive themselves-in the 2,000 years of German history known to us, our people have never been more united than today. The Lord of the Universe has treated us so well in the past years that we bow in gratitude to a providence which has allowed us to be members of such a great nation. We thank Him that we also can be entered with honour into the ever-lasting book of German history!
FDR might have been able to convince Congress to declare War on Germany eventually, but Hitler acting first relieved him of the necessity. Congress declared War on Germany within hours after the news reached the US of the German Declaration of war:
Joint Resolution Declaring That a State of War Exists Between The Government of Germany and the Government and the People of the United States and Making Provisions To Prosecute The Same
Whereas the Government of Germany has formally declared war against the Government and the people of the United States of America:
Therefore be it Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the state of war between the United States and the Government of Germany which has thus been thrust upon the United States is hereby formally declared; and the President is hereby authorized and directed to employ the entire naval and military forces of the United States and the resources of the Government to carry on war against the Government of Germany; and, to bring the conflict to a successful termination, all of the resources of the country are hereby pledged by the Congress of the United States.
(Signed) Sam Rayburn, Speaker of the House of Representatives
(Signed) H. A. Wallace, Vice President of the United States and President of the Senate
Approved December 11, 1941 3:05 PM E.S.T.
(Signed) Franklin D. Roosevelt (more…)
The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—’tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning.
Lou Cannon at Real Clear Politics has a fascinating piece comparing FDR and Reagan as orators:
Naturally I assumed, as children of that era did, that the president wrote all his speeches. In fact, his gifted counsel and speechwriter, Sam Rosenman, wrote some of FDR’s best lines, and playwright Robert Sherwood, a presidential confidant, wrote others. But they didn’t write the Pearl Harbor speech. Sherwood, reliable on such matters, said that Roosevelt wrote every word except for a “platitudinous” sentence near the end suggested by his closest aide, Harry Hopkins.
What Sherwood didn’t bother to say in his lyrical book, “Roosevelt and Hopkins,” was that FDR edited that speech after he wrote it. His best edit produced the most memorable phrase: “a date that will live infamy.” As FDR first wrote it, it was “a date that will live in history.” In 2002 I saw an immense blow-up of the speech draft at an exhibit on American heroes at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Roosevelt had vividly struck through the word “history” and written “infamy” above it.
As a Reagan biographer, I knew that strike-through. My fellow Reagan chronicler, the economist Annelise Anderson, had sent me copies of Reagan speech drafts for use in a table-top book. The drafts were full of such markings and erasures so that one could barely read the words that had been replaced. Like FDR, Reagan also wrote substitute words above the ones he excised.
It’s not surprising that Reagan emulated Roosevelt’s editing. FDR was Reagan’s first political idol. When Roosevelt gave his stirring inaugural address on March 4, 1933, Reagan listened to it on a radio soon after college, a time when he was dreaming of an acting career. Reagan had an excellent memory and passably imitated FDR’s patrician accent. He was soon entertaining friends by reciting passages of the address, using a broomstick as a microphone.
Reagan would in time diverge from FDR ideologically without ever losing his appreciation for Roosevelt as an inspirational leader. Both men were dominant politicians and transformational presidents. Both understood the power of words and the importance of editing. (more…)
Fort Jackson, one of two forts guarding the Mississippi route to New Orleans, seemed to have a predilection for mutinies during the Civil War. In 1862 the Confederate garrison mutinied after it was placed under siege by the Union. On December 9, 1863 a mutiny occurred by the black troops of the Fourth Regiment Infantry of the Corp d’Afrique, caused by the brutal whipping of two drummer boys by Lieutenant Colonel Augustus W. Benedict, who had engaged in ill treatment of his men prior to this incident. About half the regiment mutinied. No one was killed, but the disturbance lasted from the afternoon until 7:30 PM. In the aftermath a military commission was appointed to investigate the mutiny, and punish the guilty. Benedict was cashiered from the service. The ringleaders of the mutiny were sentenced to punishments ranging from 30 days confinement to execution. Go here to read an account of the mutiny which occurred in the New York Times. Here is the report of the commission: (more…)
By the end of 1863 Abraham Lincoln could look back on a year in which the Union had made some progress in its goal of defeating the Confederacy. Although barren of results, the Union had won the largest battle of the War at Gettysburg, a huge boost for Union morale. In the West results were more tangible, with the Union seizing control of the Mississippi, and rooting Confederate forces from Tennessee. The Union certainly had not yet won the War, but the signs were encouraging. This allowed Lincoln to turn his attention to the vexing questions of what to do with former Confederates who wished to pledge their loyalty to the Union and how to re-establish pro-Union civilian governments throughout the Confederacy. Lincoln had always been clear in his view that the Confederate states had never left the Union, and that once the rebels who had seized control of these states were suppressed, that these states could resume their rightful places in the Union. His policy thus favored leniency both to individuals and to states, to ensure that the military victory of the Union would be followed by a lasting peace. It is a great tragedy that Lincoln did not live to attempt to implement the policy. On December 8, 1863 Lincoln issued a Proclamation that set forth his policy regarding amnesty for individuals and the re-establishment of pro-Union civil governments in defeated Confederate states. Here is the proclamation: (more…)
Something for the weekend. The US Naval Academy Glee Club singing Eternal Father aboard the USS Arizona Memorial. The dastardly sneak attack on Pearl Harbor killed 2,402 American servicemen and wounded an additional 1247 wounded. About one hundred civilians were killed or wounded.
For most Americans living today the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, seems like ancient history. It does not seem like that to me. As I was growing up in the Sixties I was surrounded by adults who recalled Pearl Harbor. My father, who was 8 years old at the time of the attack, remembered the long lines the next morning in our small town of men waiting outside of the recruiting offices of the Army and Navy to join up. He also conveyed to me the shock of a nation one moment at peace, and the next morning at war. Until September 11, 2001, I really didn’t fully comprehend what my father was talking about. (more…)
An historical oddity. The day before “the date which will live in infamy” President Roosevelt wrote a letter to Emperor Hirohito. Here is the text of the letter:
December 6, 1941
Almost a century ago the President of the United States addressed to the Emperor of Japan a message extending an offer of friendship of the people of the United States to the people of Japan. That offer was accepted, and in the long period of unbroken peace and friendship which has followed, our respective nations, through the virtues of their peoples and the wisdom of their rulers have prospered and have substantially helped humanity.
Only in situations of extraordinary importance to our two countries need I address to Your Majesty messages on matters of state. I feel I should now so address you because of the deep and far-reaching emergency which appears to be in formation.
Developments are occurring in the Pacific area which threaten to deprive each of our nations and all humanity of the beneficial influence of the long peace between our two countries. These developments contain tragic possibilities. (more…)
Ah, Jefferson Davis. During the War he was a devil figure for the North and after the War many Southerners blamed him for their loss. Actually Davis was a highly accomplished man who came close, against all odds, to achieving independence for his new nation. Often regarded as a bloodless pedant, Davis was instead a man who usually wore his heart on his sleeve, for good and ill. A good example of this is the letter he drafted on August 11, 1863 in which he responded to the offer to resign made by General Robert E. Lee in the wake of the Gettysburg defeat: (more…)
Hattip to Steven Hayward at Powerline. Decades ago I recall watching a commercial, see the video below, where Abraham Lincoln is turned down for an executive position because he lacked a college degree. I have often thought that Lincoln would not have been Lincoln without the arduous process of self education that he continued throughout his life. (During his election campaign in 1860 he was pained to see that his campaign claimed that he had read Plutarch’s Lives. He hadn’t, but he took time out to do so before he was elected.) Of course in his day it was not unusual for a self taught man to rise high politically. In our day it is almost unthinkable, Harry Truman being the last president who did not attend college. This is a great pity. Self taught men and women can sometimes end up as town cranks or bores at bars, but sometimes they bring vitality and fresh insights that cannot be taught at any institution of higher learning, and their intellects are sharpened by their lonely quest for knowledge. Lincoln regretted his lack of almost any formal education, but in his case I suspect his genius would have been lessened by it. (more…)