Colonel Johnson killed Tecumseh

 

Unless they eventually attain the Presidency, most American vice-presidents are doomed to obscurity, proving the truth of the old joke about the two brothers, one of whom was lost at sea and the other elected vice-president, and neither were ever heard from again.  That is a shame for Richard Mentor Johnson, who was in several ways a fascinating figure.

Born on October 11, 1780 in the pioneer land of Kentucky, Johnson became an attorney, notable for representing poor people pro bono (for free).  He used his house as a shelter for disabled veterans, widows and orphans.  He enjoyed a rapid rise in his political career, being elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives in 1804, and then serving in the Federal House of Representatives from 1806-1819.  In the House he was known by the title “The Poor Man’s Friend”.

During the War of 1812 Johnson divided his time between serving in Congress and leading a Kentucky regiment in the western theater of the war.  At the battle of the Thames on October 5, 1813 he and his regiment were in the thick of the fight with Johnson sustaining five wounds.  During the battle he was probably the man who killed in combat the great Indian leader Tecumseh.

Retiring from the House in 1819, he was chosen by the Kentucky state legislature to fill a US Senate vacancy created by the resignation of John J. Crittenden.  Johnson served in the Senate from 1819-1829.

His successful political career is remarkable when one considers that he lived openly with Julia Chinn as his common law wife.  Chinn was one-eighth black and as a result they could not legally marry, however in every respect they lived as man and wife, with Chinn acting as hostess when they entertained and supervising Mentor’s business interests when he was in Washington.  They had two daughters, Imogen and Adeline, who Johnson recognized as his legal daughters, educated and who he demanded be recognized as his daughters in society.  They would both marry white men, and receive land from their father.  Throughout his political career his enemies used his relationship with Chinn against him.  When he was defeated for re-election to the Senate, Johnson made the following comment:

Unlike Jefferson, Clay, Poindexter and others, I married my wife under the eyes of God, and apparently He has found no objections. (more…)

Published in: on November 30, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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The Curse of Tippecanoe

An odd coincidence in American history is the death of every President in office beginning with William Henry Harrison and ending with John F. Kennedy elected in a year ending in zero.  A myth was developed ascribing this to a curse put on William Henry Harrison by the brother of the great Indian leader Tecumseh, Tenskwatawa, better know as the Prophet: (more…)

Published in: on November 29, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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Into the Minefield

Father Craig in Minefield

October 27, 1913.  The Great War was soon to begin in Europe and Leo Peter Craig was born into this world in Everett, Massachusetts.  He was five years old when his mother died, leaving his father with five young children to raise.  Under these unusual circumstances, his Aunt, Veronica Craig, a member of the Dominican Sisters of Springfield Kentucky, received a dispensation from her vows in order for her to help raise her brother’s children.  For 18 years she dedicated herself to this task, becoming a second mother to young Leo.  After the children were all raised, she returned to the religious life.  Leo attended the LaSalle Academy of the Christian Brothers in Providence, Rhode Island.  Going on to Providence College, he obtained his BA in 1935, at which time he entered the Dominican novitiate at Saint Rose’s in Springfield, Kentucky.  He completed his philosophy courses at the Dominican House of Studies in River Forest, Illinois, and his theological training at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, DC.  He was ordained to the priesthood on May 21, 1942.

Father Leo P. Craig

Subsequent to his ordination he taught at the Aquinas High School in Columbus, Ohio and was curate at Saint Andrew’s Parish in Cincinnati.

In 1949 he joined the Army as a chaplain.  Assigned to the First Cavalry Division fighting in Korea, he had a stop over in Japan where he was able to have a joyful reunion with his big brother Father Lawrence A. Craig, 18 years his senior, who was a mission priest of the Sacred Heart.

The First Cavalry Division was participating in the counteroffensive that had retaken Seoul on March 15, 1951 and was driving the Communist Chinese and North Korean armies out of South Korea.  As they withdrew the Communists left behind unmarked minefields to slow the advance of the UN forces. (more…)

Published in: on November 28, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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Thanksgiving 1952: Red Skelton

Red Skelton rose from poverty to become one of the most popular comedians of his day.  A comedic genius, he created a gallery of comedic personas:  Clem Kaddidlehopper, the Mean Little Kid, San Fernando Red, Freddie the Freeloader  and others, which allowed him not only to amuse but also to engage in wry commentary about some of the foibles of his time. Skelton the man was fairly simple:  he liked to make people laugh, and he loved God, Country and Kids.  The love of God and his dying son I have written about in the post The Pope, the Clown and the Cross.  Skelton’s love of God and Country shines through in his rendition of the Pledge of Allegiance which I have written about here.

His love of kids was no mere entertainer’s pose as the following anecdote illustrates:

“Funny how you can go to a doctor’s offices and find magazines that are years old in the lobby. I had to go to a dentist two week ago and found a Golf magazine from the 80’s. I also found a magazine that told me the following story:

Decades ago, a young American was flying across the mountain ranges of Europe on his way to London. Accompanying his friend, a Catholic priest, the two were scheduled to have a meeting with the Pope in England. As the priest talked, the plane suddenly rocked. Then rocked again.  Something told the priest the plane was not destined to ever touch land again.

The passengers, busy in their individual conversations, failed to notice, the priest observed, until a flight attendant made an announcement of impending doom. The plane was over a mountain range and losing altitude.

As expected, panic set in. (more…)

Published in: on November 27, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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The Doxology

Something for the weekend.  Thanksgiving weekend seems an appropriate time for The Doxology.  Written in 1674 by Thomas Ken, it is the last stanza that is usually performed, a heartfelt call for the worship of God.  The Doxolgy is usually performed to the tune of Old Hundredth.  It has been a popular hymn in America since it was written. (more…)

Published in: on November 26, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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General Wainwright’s Thanksgiving Prayer

After General Douglas MacArthur, over his fiery objections, was ordered to leave Bataan during the Japanese conquest of the Philippines, Lieutenant General Jonathan Wainwright was left in command, putting up a heroic fight until forced to surrender his starving, diseased ridden force.  Wainwright was the only American general to be captured by the Japanese and he endured the hell on earth that was Japanese prison camps, where some 37% of Allied prisoners died of starvation and the brutality of their captors.  Wainwright insisted on sharing the privation of his men, and risked his life many times to intervene on behalf of his fellow prisoners with their captors.

After he was liberated, he was a walking skeleton.  Douglas MacArthur gave him the signal honor  of featuring prominently in the surrender ceremony by which Imperial Japan capitulated.  

After he returned home he was promoted to four star rank and retired to a successful business career.  He received the Medal of Honor as a tribute to the heroic leadership he displayed during the battle for Bataan.  In the fall of 1945 he wrote the following Thanksgiving Prayer: (more…)

Published in: on November 25, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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Thanksgiving 1789

BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA – A PROCLAMATION

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor – and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.” (more…)

Published in: on November 24, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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Remembrance of Turkeys Past

As we prepare for Thanksgiving tomorrow, and as we recall our blessings and thank God for each and every one, let us also remember the humble turkey and the various disasters that result when that proud bird is not treated with the care that it deserves, dead or alive.    Oldtimers like myself will recognize the above video as part of the famous “Turkey Drop” episode from WKRP, a sitcom from the Seventies.

 

Of course Turkey Disasters are not, unfortunately, restricted to the realm of fiction.    Deep frying a turkey poses various risks.

Here we have a case of the flaming avian:

 

 

William Shatner warns of the dangers of deep frying turkeys:

(more…)

Published in: on November 23, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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Thanksgiving 1863

If a nation ever needed Divine assistance it was our own America during the Civil War.  Riven in two, the nation must have seemed on a path to destruction by many of those who lived through that terrible trial.  Abraham Lincoln, as he led the United States through that struggle, increasingly found his mind turning to God.  This Proclamation was written by Secretary of State Seward, but the sentiments are no doubt ones in which Lincoln fully joined.

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward, Secretary of State (more…)

Published in: on November 22, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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Winston Churchill: Thanksgiving 1944

We must never cease to proclaim in fearless tones the great principles of freedom and the rights of man which are the joint inheritance of the English-speaking world and which through Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights, the Habeas Corpus, trial by jury, and the English common law find their most famous expression in the American Declaration of Independence.

Sir Winston Churchill

America has had fewer firmer friends among foreign leaders than the Great Commoner, Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister who heroically led Great Britain to victory in World War II.  Half American courtesy of his mother, Churchill was often regarded as having a brash American style according to more staid English politicians.   The first person to be granted honorary American citizenship by an Act of Congress, Churchill had a life long fondness for his maternal native land.  During World War II he was ever grateful for America as an ally which saved Great Britain.  Here is what he wrote about his reaction to the news of Pearl Harbor:

No American will think it wrong of me if I proclaim that to have the United States at our side was to me the greatest joy. I could not foretell the course of events. I do not pretend to have measured accurately the martial might of Japan, but now at this very moment I knew the United States was in the war, up to the neck and in to the death. So we had won after all! Yes, after Dunkirk; after the fall of France; after the horrible episode of Oran; after the threat of invasion, when, apart from the Air and the Navy, we were an almost unarmed people; after the deadly struggle of the U-boat war — the first Battle of the Atlantic, gained by a hand’s breadth; after seventeen months of lonely fighting and nineteen months of my responsibility in dire stress, we had won the war. England would live; Britain would live; the Commonwealth of Nations and the Empire would live. How long the war would last or in what fashion it would end, no man could tell, nor did I at this moment care. Once again in our long Island history we should emerge, however mauled or mutilated, safe and victorious. We should not be wiped out. Our history would not come to an end. We might not even have to die as individuals. Hitler’s fate was sealed. Mussolini’s fate was sealed. As for the Japanese, they would be ground to powder. All the rest was merely the proper application of overwhelming force. The British Empire, the Soviet Union, and now the United States, bound together with every scrap of their life and strength, were, according to my lights, twice or even thrice the force of their antagonists. No doubt it would take a long time. I expected terrible forfeits in the East; but all this would be merely a passing phase. United we could subdue everybody else in the world. Many disasters, immeasurable cost and tribulation lay ahead, but there was no more doubt about the end.

Silly people — and there were many, not only in enemy countries — might discount the force of the United States. Some said they were soft, others that they would never be united. They would fool around at a distance. They would never come to grips. They would never stand blood-letting. Their democracy and system of recurrent elections would paralyze their war effort. They would be just a vague blur on the horizon to friend or foe. Now we should see the weakness of this numerous but remote, wealthy, and talkative people. But I had studied the American Civil War, fought out to the last desperate inch. American blood flowed in my veins. I thought of a remark which Edward Grey had made to me more than thirty years before — that the United States is like “a gigantic boiler. Once the fire is lighted under it there is no limit to the power it can generate.” Being saturated and satiated with emotion and sensation, I went to bed and slept the sleep of the saved and thankful.” (more…)

Published in: on November 21, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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