The State of Franklin

 

 

One of the fascinating aspects of American history is the great number of alternate paths that history could have taken if only a few events had been slightly different.   One of the more interesting might have beens is The State of Franklin.

In 1784 North Carolina ceded territory occupied by North Carolina settlers in what is now north-eastern Tennessee to the Continental Congress.  North Carolina, as a result of a new legislature coming into office, attempted to take the gift back a few months later, but the abandonment of the area by North Carolina fueled a secession movement.  On August 23, 1784, delegates meeting in the town of Jonesborough proclaimed the area independent of North Carolina, named the area the State of Franklin, in honor of Benjamin Franklin and organized a government.

On May 16, 1785, a delegation from Franklin presented a petition to the Continental Congress for statehood under the name of Frankland.  Seven states voted in favor of the petition, falling two short of the votes necessary to win approval.  Changing the name back to Franklin, the government of  the would be state wrote to Benjamin Franklin to enlist his support for a second try at statehood.  Artful as ever, Dr. Franklin refused to commit himself: (more…)

Published in: on May 31, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  

Black Jack Logan and Memorial Day

Freedom is not only a gift, but also a summons to personal responsibility. Americans know this from experience — almost every town in this country has its monuments honoring those who sacrificed their lives in defense of freedom, both at home and abroad.

                                                         Pope Benedict, April 16, 2008

John A. Logan is the father of Memorial Day.  Today he is largely forgotten except to Civil War buffs and that is a shame.  He was a fascinating man and he is largely responsible for establishing the tradition of putting aside a day in the calendar to our nation’s war dead.

Logan began the Civil War as a Democrat congressman from southern Illinois.  He was ardently anti-War even after the firing on Fort Sumter, denouncing the Lincoln administration and calling for peace and compromise.  He was attacked as being disloyal to the Union and an almost advocate of the Confederacy. 

This perception changed in the twinkling of an eye at the battle of Bull Run.  Like many another congressman he went out to view the Union army launch an attack on the Confederates.  Unlike the other congressmen, Logan picked up a musket and, attaching himself to a Michigan regiment, blazed away at the Confederates with that musket.  This experience transformed Logan into an ardent advocate of the War.

He returned to Southern Illinois and gave a fiery speech in Marion, Illinois for the Union that helped swing that section of the state in support of the War.  Resigning from Congress, he helped raise an infantry regiment from southern Illinois, and was made colonel of the regiment, the 31rst Illinois.

Logan quickly made a name for himself as a fighter.  At the battle of Belmont he led his regiment in a successful charge, and was noted for his exceptional courage.  He would eventually be promoted to major general and was one of the best corp commanders in the Union army, briefly commanding the Army of the Tennessee.  He was wounded three times in the war, one of the wounds being serious enough that he was erroneously reported as killed, a report that might have been proven to be accurate if he had not been nursed back  to health by his wife.

Logan was never beaten in any engagement that he fought in during the War.  He was popular with his men who affectionately called him “Black Jack”, and would often chant his name on the battlefield as he led them from the front.  On May 24th 1865, as a tribute to his brilliant war record, he commanded the Army of the Tennessee during the victory Grand Review of the Union armies in Washington.

After the War, Logan began his political career anew, serving as a congressman from Illinois and a senator.  He was now a radical Republican and fought ardently for civil rights for blacks.  He ran for Vice President in 1884 on the Republican ticket that was defeated by Grover Cleveland.  He was considered the leading candidate for the Republican nomination in 1888, and might well have been elected President that year, but for his untimely death in 1886 at the age of sixty.

From 1868 to 1871, Logan served three consecutive terms as commander in chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, the Union veteran’s association.  He started the custom of remembering the Union war dead on May 30th when he issued General Order Eleven on May 5, 1868: (more…)

Published in: on May 30, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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Memorial Day

“Dulce et decorum est”

The bugle echoes shrill and sweet,
But not of war it sings to-day.
The road is rhythmic with the feet
Of men-at-arms who come to pray.

The roses blossom white and red
On tombs where weary soldiers lie;
Flags wave above the honored dead
And martial music cleaves the sky.

Above their wreath-strewn graves we kneel,
They kept the faith and fought the fight.
Through flying lead and crimson steel
They plunged for Freedom and the Right.

May we, their grateful children, learn
Their strength, who lie beneath this sod,
Who went through fire and death to earn
At last the accolade of God.

In shining rank on rank arrayed
They march, the legions of the Lord;
He is their Captain unafraid,
The Prince of Peace . . . Who brought a sword. 

 

Joyce Kilmer (more…)

Published in: on May 29, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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Battle Hymn of the Republic

Something for the weekend.  Only the Battle Hymn of the Republic seems appropriate to me for this weekend. (more…)

Published in: on May 28, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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Top Ten Films For Memorial Day Weekend

“When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say,
For Your Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today”

              Inscription on the memorial to the dead of the British 2nd Infantry Division at Kohima.

The upcoming Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer, is a time of fun here in the US.  However, it should also be a time of memory.  Memorial day is derived from the Latin “memoria”, memory, and we are duty bound this weekend to remember those who died in our defense, and who left us with a debt which can never be repaid.  One aid to memory can be films, and here are a few suggestions for films to watch this weekend.

10.  300-This may seem like an odd choice, not involving Americans, and a fairly bizarre retelling of the battle of Thermopylae.  However, it celebrates the idea of never forgetting those who died for their country.  “Go tell the Spartans passerby, that here, obedient to their laws, we lie”.  So wrote Simonides, the greatest poet of his time, in tribute to the Spartans who fell at Thermopylae.  The speech of Dilios at the end of the film, which may be viewed here, reminds us of our duty to remember those who laid down their lives for us, a message to be recalled this weekend.

  9.   They Were Expendable (1945) John Ford and John Wayne tell the story of the doomed PT Boat crews that fought against overwhelming odds during the invasion of the Philippines in 1941-42.  The film has a gritty downbeat feel, appropriate to the subject matter, but an oddity for a film made during the War.

  8.    Hamburger Hill (1987)-Content advisory: very, very strong language in the video clip which may be viewed here.  All the Vietnam veterans I’ve mentioned it to have nothing but praise for this film which depicts the assault on Hill 937 by elements of the 101rst Division, May 10-20, 1969.  It is a fitting tribute to the valor of the American troops who served their country in an unpopular war a great deal better than their country served them.

   7.   Porkchop Hill (1959)-Korea has become to too many Americans The Forgotten War, lost between World War II and Vietnam.  There is nothing forgotten about it by the Americans who served over there,  including my Uncle Ralph McClarey who died recently, and gained a hard won victory for the US in one of the major hot conflicts of the Cold War.  This film tells the story of the small American force on Porkchop Hill, who held it in the face of repeated assaults by superior forces of the Chinese and North Koreans.  As the below clip indicates it also highlights the surreal element that accompanies every war and the grim humor that aspect often brings.

  6.    Glory (1989)-A long overdue salute to the black troops who served in the Union Army during the Civil War.  Robert Gould Shaw the white colonel who led the 54th Massachusetts died at Fort Wagner in the assault of the 54th.  He was buried by the Confederates with his black troops.  His parents were given an opportunity to have his body exhumed and returned to Boston for burial.  Their reply was immortal:    We would not have his body removed from where it lies surrounded by his brave and devoted soldiers….We can imagine no holier place than that in which he lies, among his brave and devoted followers, nor wish for him better company – what a body-guard he has!

(more…)

Published in: on May 26, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments (7)  
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Battle of Ninety-Six

One of the last major engagements in the South during the American Revolution, the siege of Ninety-Six was conducted between May 22, 1781 and June 18, 1781.  Ninety-Six acquired its unusual name from the mistaken belief that it was ninety-six miles from the nearest Cherokee Village.  The “British” who garrisoned Ninety-Six were all American Loyalists, 550 experienced troops from New York, New Jersey and South Carolina under Lieutenant Colonel John Cruger.

The Americans were about 1,000 men under Major General Nathaniel Greene, the commander of American forces in the South. (more…)

Published in: on May 25, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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Trouble in Tubbyland

(Off topic.  I originally posted this at The American Catholic and I thought that our Almost Chosen People readers might get a kick out of it.)

Hattip to Hank at Eclectic Meanderings.

One of the more obscure Victorian military campaigns, the British conquest of Tubbyland was notable for a fair amount of ineptitude among the British commanders, redeemed by the usual courage shown by the “Tommy Atkins” in the ranks.  For a small war, a fair amount has been written on it, and here are some of my thoughts on the more useful works that I have found in my own research into this “savage war of peace”.

Report of Operations of Tubbyland Field Force, three volumes, Captain Gilbert Bryant-Norris, editor in chief,  Her Majesty’s Stationery Office,  (1888).  The official history, these three volumes go into extensive detail and are essential reading for any serious student of this conflict.  Unfortunately, the various authors are at pains to save the reputations of the commanders involved, and therefore the conclusions set forth should be taken with a boulder of salt.  The volumes do have excellent maps, and the texts of letters and telegrams are of great use in piecing together the somewhat convulted operations.

A Child’s History of the Tubbyland War, Winston Churchill, Longmans Green, (1899).  Leave it to Winston Churchill to write a kids’ book about the conflict!  He softens the rough edges of the War for his young readers, but gives a fairly accurate retelling.  The book of course emphasizes British patriotism and the grandeur of the Empire, but not without some criticism of the British commanders and a fair amount of sympathy for the Tubbies.  This passage is indicative of the style of the work:

 “There was plenty of work here for our brave soldiers and Tubbyland was well worth the cost in blood and money.  Were the gentlemen of England all out fox hunting?  No!  For the sake of our manhood, our devoted colonists and our dead soldiers, we perserved and won our War against a brave, albeit soft and cuddly, adversary”. (more…)

Published in: on May 24, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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May 23, 1861: Virginia Votes to Secede

On May 23, 1861 Virginia held its referendum on Secession.  The results were 132, 201 to 37, 451 opposed.  The referendum was voted down in most of the counties that would eventually form West Virginia, and the stage was set for a civil war within the Civil War in Virginia, as ultimately 29,000 Union troops would be raised in West Virginia.  Here is the text of the Ordinance of Secession approved by the referendum: (more…)

Published in: on May 23, 2011 at 5:51 am  Comments (4)  
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Alfred Vail: Forgotten American Genius

Samuel Morse achieved historical immortality as the inventor of the telegraph.  Alfred Vail is a victim of that historical obscurity that envelopes the vast majority of people who have ever lived, but in his case unjustly.

Son of the industrial who made the Speedwell Ironworks into one of the most technologically advanced ironworks of its day.  From 1832-1836 Vail attended college at New York University, studying theology.  At New York University on September 2, 1837 he witnessed an early demonstration of the telegraph by Morse.  Vail signed on to work with Morse for a 25% share in the profits and convinced his father to help fund the project.  Vail signed an agreement with Morse by which the name of Morse alone would appear on any patents based on developments made by Vail of the Morse telegraph.  It should be noted that Vail gave no indication at any time that he thought he was being treated unfairly by Morse. 

Vail’s work vastly improved the telegraph of Morse, and Vail has a better claim than Morse to the title of  inventor of the Morse code.  Vail’s assistant William Baxter wrote about this in later years: (more…)

Published in: on May 22, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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Get Off The Track!

Something for the weekend.  Get Off The Track! by the Hutchinson Family Singers, a family group of singers who were very popular in the North during the 1840’s, 1850’s and 1860’s.  They were fiery abolitionists and this song became the anthem of the crusade against slavery in the US. (more…)

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