Designer of the Monitor

John Ericsson, designer of the Monitor, was an unusually productive inventor even by Nineteenth Century standards, the age of invention.  In addition to the Monitor, which went from paper plans to launch in an astounding 100 days, he invented the surface condenser, the hot air engine and a solar machine which used solar energy to run an engine.  He did some of the first work on torpedos and advanced hoop gun construction techniques.  He designed the Princeton in 1843, the first two screw propellor ship in the US Navy and probably the most advanced warship of its day.  Ericsson lived from July 31, 1803-March 8, 1889, a long life but seemingly too brief for the amount of work he packed into it.

Published in: on April 30, 2010 at 5:46 am  Comments Off  
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Sheridan, Hell and Texas

 

 

 

Phil Sheridan could be a nasty piece of work on duty.  A bantam Irish Catholic born in Albany, New York on March 6, 1831, to Irish immigrants, Sheridan carved a career in the Army by sheer hard work and a ferocious will to win.  He had a hard streak of ruthlessness that Confederates, Indians and the many officers he sacked for incompetence could attest to.    His quote, “If a crow wants to fly down the Shenandoah, he must carry his provisions with him.”  after he ordered the burning of crops in the Shenandoah Valley in 1864 to deny them to Confederate troops indicated just how hard a man he could be when waging war. 

Off duty he was completely different.  He had the traditional Irish gift of gab and in social settings was charming and friendly. 

After the Civil War he commanded an army of 50,000 troops in Texas to send a none-too-subtle hint to the French who had used the opportunity of the Civil War to conquer Mexico that it was time for them to leave.  The French did, with the Austrian Archduke Maximillian they had installed as Emperor of Mexico dying bravely before a Mexican firing squad.  During his stay in Texas Sheridan made a famous quip about Texas.  It was swiftly reported in the newspapers:

“14 April 1866, Wisconsin State Register, pg. 2, col. 3:
GEN. SHERIDAN, after his recent Mexican tour, states his opinion succinctly and forcibly, as follows: “If I owned h-ll and Texas, I would rent Texas and live at the other place!”

“19 April 1866, The Independent, pg. 4:
But these states are not yet reduced to civil behavior. As an illustration, Gen. Sheridan sends word up from New Orleans, saying, “If I owned Texas and Hell, I would rent Texas and live in Hell.” This is the opinion of a department commander.”

“15 May 1866, Idaho Tri-Weekly Statesman (Boise, ID), pg. 7?, col. 3:
GEN. SHERIDAN does not have a very exalted opinion of Texas as a place of resident. Said he lately, “If I owned hell and Texas, I would rent Texas and live at the other place.” In former times, before Texas was “re-annexed,” Texas and the other place were made to stand as opposites. Thus, when Col. Crockett was beaten in his Congressional district, he said to those who defeated him, “You may go to hell, and I’ll go to Tex!” which he did, and found a grave.” (more…)

Published in: on April 29, 2010 at 4:26 am  Comments Off  
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The Devil and Andrew Jackson

 

 

 

We have had  great presidents, and one of them, although Republican as I am I bridle on bestowing the title upon him, was Andrew Jackson. No one was ever neutral about Old Hickory. He is described as the father of the Democrat party. Actually, both major parties owe their existence to him. The Whig party, the main ancestor of the modern Republican party, was founded in opposition to Jackson’s policies. For his entire life he stormed through the pages of American history, and he was many things during his life but never dull.

 As a 13 year old POW during the American Revolution he refused to polish a British officer’s boots and received a saber slash across his head for his defiance, a scar he bore proudly for the rest of his life. Here we see Jackson’s life in miniature: a refusal to bend no matter what the consequences. By the age of 14 his mother and immediate family were dead and he was left a penniless orphan. By the age of 20 in 1787 he was an attorney, still penniless. Restless and ambitious, he set out for the Tennessee frontier where attorneys were rare, but litigation was not. By sheer determination Jackson carved a name for himself, first as Solicitor, we would say state’s attorney, of the Western District of North Carolina now part of Tennessee, and then as the first Congressman for Tennessee in 1796, before being elected a US Senator for Tennessee in 1797. In 1798 he was appointed a judge for the Tennessee Supreme Court. When charging juries before their deliberations, he would always say: “Do what is right between these parties; that is what the law always means.” It was proper that he did that. Jackson’s knowledge of the law was so minimal, due to his lack of education, that he probably could not have instructed them on the actual law applicable in most cases in any event, and because Jackson throughout his life strove to do what was right, but only by his lights of what was right.

 In 1791 he married Rachel Jackson. Theirs was the great presidential love match. Jackson loved “his Rachel” to idolatry, and in his eyes she was perfection. In 1794 they learned to their intense dismay that her first husband had not divorced her prior to 1791 as she and Jackson had thought. She had been separated from her first husand since 1788, but prior to her marriage to Jackson her first husband had merely filed a document with the court stating his intention to divorce her. The divorce was not granted until 1793. The Jacksons quickly remarried. His political enemies used the scandal against him for the rest of his life, to the intense and bitter anger of Jackson. He often said that he could easily forgive what his enemies said against him, but that he could never forgive their attacks against Rachel. As Rachel grew older she became more religious and caused Jackson to become more religious. By all accounts she was a very good and charitable woman, and it was the great tragedy of Jackson’s life that she died just before he left for Washington to assume his duties as President. (more…)

Published in: on April 28, 2010 at 5:33 am  Comments (8)  
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Battle of Honey Springs

The Civil War in the Indian Territory, now Oklahoma, is an untold story to most Americans.  Throughout the Civil War pro-Union and pro-Confederate Indian tribes, and factions within the tribes, struggled for control of this region.  The turning point in that conflict was the Battle of Honey Springs fought on July 17, 1863.  Most of the troops who fought in this engagement were Blacks or Indians, with White troops on both sides being in a distinct minority.

The orders of battle for both sides were as follows:

Union

District of the Frontier – Major General James G. Blunt

  • 1st Brigade – Colonel William R. Judson
    • 2nd Indian Home Guard — Lieutenant Colonel Fred W. Schaurte
    • 1st Kansas Colored Infantry— Colonel James M. Williams(W), Lieutenant Colonel John Bowles
    • 6 Companies, 3rd Wisconsin Cavalry — Captain Edward R. Stevens
  • 2nd Brigade – Colonel William A. Phillips
    • 6 Companies, 2nd Colorado Infantry — Colonel Theodore H. Dodd
    • 1st Indian Home Guard — Colonel Stephen H. Wattles
    • Detachments of 6th Kansas Cavalry — Colonel William F. Campbell
  • Artillery
    • 2nd Kansas Light Artillery
    • 1st Section — Captain Edward Smith
    • 2nd Section — Lieutenant John P. Grassberger
    • 3rd Kansas Light Artillery — Captain Henry Hopkins

 Confederate

1st Brigade, Indian Troops – Brigadier General Douglas H. Cooper

  • Texas Brigade – Colonel Thomas C. Bass
    • 20th Texas Cavalry (Dismounted) — Colonel Thomas Coker Bass
    • 29th Texas Cavalry – Colonel Charles DeMorse (W)
    • 5th Texas Partisan Rangers— Colonel Leonidas M. Martin
  • Indian Brigade – Brigadier General Douglas Cooper
    • 1st Cherokee Mounted Rifles — Major Joseph F. Thompson
    • 2nd Cherokee Mounted Rifles — Lieutenant Colonel James M. Bell
    • 1st Choctaw—Chickasaw Mounted Rifles — Colonel Tandy Walker
    • 1st Creek — Colonel Daniel N. McIntosh
    • 2nd Creek— Colonel Chilly McIntosh
  • Artillery & Cavalry
    • Lee’s Battery— Captain Roswell W. Lee
    • Scanland’s Squadron Texas Cavalry — Captain John Scanland
    • Gillett’s Squadron Texas Cavalry — Captain L. E. Gillett

The Union had around 3,000 men and the Confederates between 3,000-6,000. (more…)

Published in: on April 27, 2010 at 6:07 am  Comments (2)  
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Federalist 31 – Hamilton

Through the first thirty essays that we have covered, there have been plenty of examples of Hamilton’s penetrating logical analysis.  He had an ability to take issues and examine them point-by-point (almost like a modern-day blogger).  He was one of the greatest minds ever produced by America (or nearby islands). There have also been several example of Hamilton’s rhetorical excess.  He had an amazing ability to, in effect, completely dismiss his opponents’ arguments through grandiose rhetorical flourishes.  The reader is bedazzled by the weight of Hamilton’s words, but in the end all he has done is call his opponents stupid or crazy – but in a very elegant fashion.

Federalist 31 would be one of those works of great rhetorical excess, though it has a few moments of keen insight.

The first time I read this essay, I was somewhat befuddled by the opening paragraphs.   Hamilton embarks on a rather wordy philosophical disquisition about geometric and theoretical certainty.    This prologue – which runs to 526 words by my count – essentially serves to set up a zinger.

How else could it happen (if we admit the objectors to be sincere in their opposition), that positions so clear as those which manifest the necessity of a general power of taxation in the government of the Union, should have to encounter any adversaries among men of discernment?

Hamilton took a very long time to baldly assert that the “manifest the necessity of a general power of taxation in the government of the Union” was, in essence, a self-evident truth that only an ignoramus could possibly deny.

As alluded to above, Hamilton would have made an excellent blogger.

There is a bit more to this essay.  Hamilton makes a very sound logical case regarding the necessity of taxation:

A government ought to contain in itself every power requisite to the full accomplishment of the objects committed to its care, and to the complete execution of the trusts for which it is responsible, free from every other control but a regard to the public good and to the sense of the people.

As the duties of superintending the national defense and of securing the public peace against foreign or domestic violence involve a provision for casualties and dangers to which no possible limits can be assigned, the power of making that provision ought to know no other bounds than the exigencies of the nation and the resources of the community. As revenue is the essential engine by which the means of answering the national exigencies must be procured, the power of procuring that article in its full extent must necessarily be comprehended in that of providing for those exigencies.

As theory and practice conspire to prove that the power of procuring revenue is unavailing when exercised over the States in their collective capacities, the federal government must of necessity be invested with an unqualified power of taxation in the ordinary modes.

To put it more succinctly: the government needs to have some self-sustaining power to execute its laws, and there must be some method by which the government can draw revenues to sustain the national defense; therefore the government must have “unqualified power of taxation.”

Hamilton proceeds to knock down the counter-argument.  As he has done in previous entries, Hamilton dismisses the fears held by the Anti-Federalists about federal usurpation of state authority.

The moment we launch into conjectures about the usurpations of the federal government, we get into an unfathomable abyss, and fairly put ourselves out of the reach of all reasoning. Imagination may range at pleasure till it gets bewildered amidst the labyrinths of an enchanted castle, and knows not on which side to turn to extricate itself from the perplexities into which it has so rashly adventured. Whatever may be the limits or modifications of the powers of the Union, it is easy to imagine an endless train of possible dangers; and by indulging an excess of jealousy and timidity, we may bring ourselves to a state of absolute scepticism and irresolution.

Long story short: don’t worry your silly heads off.  Everything is going to be all right.

Hamilton then repeats another argument made elsewhere: the federal government has more to fear from the states than vice versa.

It should not be forgotten that a disposition in the State governments to encroach upon the rights of the Union is quite as probable as a disposition in the Union to encroach upon the rights of the State governments. What side would be likely to prevail in such a conflict, must depend on the means which the contending parties could employ toward insuring success. As in republics strength is always on the side of the people, and as there are weighty reasons to induce a belief that the State governments will commonly possess most influence over them, the natural conclusion is that such contests will be most apt to end to the disadvantage of the Union; and that there is greater probability of encroachments by the members upon the federal head, than by the federal head upon the members. But it is evident that all conjectures of this kind must be extremely vague and fallible: and that it is by far the safest course to lay them altogether aside, and to confine our attention wholly to the nature and extent of the powers as they are delineated in the Constitution. Every thing beyond this must be left to the prudence and firmness of the people; who, as they will hold the scales in their own hands, it is to be hoped, will always take care to preserve the constitutional equilibrium between the general and the State governments. Upon this ground, which is evidently the true one, it will not be difficult to obviate the objections which have been made to an indefinite power of taxation in the United States.

Hamilton’s objective over the next few papers is to obviate these objections, and we will examine these shortly.

Published in: on April 26, 2010 at 3:00 pm  Comments Off  

Hiram Cronk: Last American Veteran of the War of 1812

The above video is of the funeral in 1905 of Hiram Cronk, last surviving veteran of the War of 1812.  On August 4, 1814 at the age of 14, Cronk enlisted with his father and two brothers in the New York Volunteers.  He participated in the defense of Sackets Harbor.  He was mustered out on November 16, 1814.  Cronk worked as a shoemaker and he and his wife had seven children.  At the time of his funeral 25,000 people came out to pay their respects to him, the last link with what some have called our Second War for Independence.

Published in: on April 26, 2010 at 5:22 am  Comments Off  
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Confederate Arizona

 

One of the lesser known aspects of the Civil War is the fighting that occurred in the far west in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado.  If the Confederacy had managed to win independence, there would have been much wrangling around the negotiating table about the territories of New Mexico and Arizona which had a fair number of Conferate sympathizers in them.

On March 16, 1861, a secession convention met in Mesilla, New Mexico.  The delegates were from southern New Mexico and Arizona.  The delegates adopted a secession ordinance which is set forth below.  The Confederate territory of Arizona consisting of southern Arizona and New Mexico was organized.  The territory was recognized by the Confederacy on February 14, 1862 and representatives of the territory sat in the Confederate Congress until the end of the war.  After the Confederate defeat at Glorietta Pass on March 26-28, 1862 in New Mexico, the tide of war went strongly against the Confederates in Arizona and New Mexico, with the Confederate territorial government of Arizona relocating to El Paso, Texas in July of 1862. (more…)

Published in: on April 25, 2010 at 5:50 am  Comments Off  
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Come, Come Ye Saints

Something for the weekend.  A blues arrangement of the Mormon hymn Come, Come Ye Saints.  The hymn was written as the Mormons were making their epic trek in 1846 from Illinois to Utah in order to carve their new Zion out of the wilderness. (more…)

Published in: on April 24, 2010 at 5:16 am  Comments Off  
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Alexis de Tocqueville: Our Mirror

I have always found it odd that the man who has displayed the greatest insight into the American character is a foreigner, and a Frenchman at that!  In his great Democracy In America he provides all Americans a map of the American national soul.

Some quotes from Tocqueville that demonstrate how well he understood us:

The surface of American society is covered with a layer of democratic paint, but from time to time one can see the old aristocratic colours breaking through.

I know of no country, indeed, where the love of money has taken stronger hold on the affections of men, and where the profounder contempt is expressed for the theory of the permanent equality of property.

With much care and skill power has been broken into fragments in the American township, so that the maximum possible number of people have some concern with public affairs.

Useful undertakings which require sustained attention and vigorous precision in order to succeed often end up by being abandoned, for, in America, as elsewhere, the people move forward by sudden impulses and short-lived efforts.

In order to enjoy the inestimable benefits that the liberty of the press ensures, it is necessary to submit to the inevitable evils it creates.

In countries where associations are free, secret societies are unknown. In America there are factions, but no conspiracies.

A democratic government is the only one in which those who vote for a tax can escape the obligation to pay it.

The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.

In the United States, except for slaves, servants and the destitute fed by townships, everyone has the vote and this is an indirect contributor to law-making. Anyone wishing to attack the law is thus reduced to adopting one of two obvious courses: they must either change the nation’s opinion or trample its wishes under foot.

In America the majority raises formidable barriers around the liberty of opinion; within these barriers an author may write what he pleases, but woe to him if he goes beyond them. (more…)

Published in: on April 23, 2010 at 12:29 pm  Comments Off  
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Oliver Hazard Perry

If ever a name given to an infant was prophetic for the life he would lead, it was certainly so of the infant christened Oliver Hazard Perry.  Born on August 23, 1785 to Christopher Raymond Perry and Sarah Wallace Perry, from earliest childhood his ambition was to be a US naval officer.  He came by this naturally as his father had served aboard a privateer in the American revolution, meeting Perry’s mother while he was a prisoner of war in Ireland.  In 1799 Christopher Perry was appointed a Captain and place in command of the US Navy frigate General Greene.  13 year old Oliver went with him as a midshipman, beginning his naval career.

During the First War Against the Barbary Pirates, he served aboard the USS Adams.  At the age of 17 he was promoted to Lieutenant.  In 1804 when the pirate stronghold at Derna was taken, he commanded the schooner, the USS Nautilus.

After the Barbary War, he supervised the construction of a flotilla of small gunboats during 1806-07 in Rhode Island and Connecticut, a task he found tedious at the time, but which would serve him in good stead later. 

In April he obtained the sea command he had been eager for and was appointed to command the schooner USS Revenge.  Perry’s command aboard the Revenge turned out to be the low point of his career.  The Revenge suffered extensive damage in a storm in June of 1810, Perry was plagued with illness, and on January 8, 1811, the schooner struck a reef off Block Island Sound off the coast of southern New England and sank.  Perry was cleared in the ensuing courtmartial, but he could be excused if he suspected that his naval career was coming to an abrupt end. (more…)

Published in: on April 22, 2010 at 5:36 am  Comments (2)  
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