Lincoln’s Premontions of Death

According to Ward Lamon, Marshal of Washington and a former law partner of Abraham Lincoln, three days before his assassination, Lincoln spoke about a strange dream that he had:

“About ten days ago, I retired very late. I had been up waiting for important dispatches from the front. I could not have been long in bed when I fell into a slumber, for I was weary. I soon began to dream. There seemed to be a death-like stillness about me. Then I heard subdued sobs, as if a number of people were weeping. I thought I left my bed and wandered downstairs. There the silence was broken by the same pitiful sobbing, but the mourners were invisible. I went from room to room; no living person was in sight, but the same mournful sounds of distress met me as I passed along. I saw light in all the rooms; every object was familiar to me; but where were all the people who were grieving as if their hearts would break? I was puzzled and alarmed. What could be the meaning of all this? Determined to find the cause of a state of things so mysterious and so shocking, I kept on until I arrived at the East Room, which I entered. There I met with a sickening surprise. Before me was a catafalque, on which rested a corpse wrapped in funeral vestments. Around it were stationed soldiers who were acting as guards; and there was a throng of people, gazing mournfully upon the corpse, whose face was covered, others weeping pitifully. ‘Who is dead in the White House?’ I demanded of one of the soldiers, ‘The President,’ was his answer; ‘he was killed by an assassin.’ Then came a loud burst of grief from the crowd, which woke me from my dream. I slept no more that night; and although it was only a dream, I have been strangely annoyed by it ever since.”
It is a striking account if true, and appropriate for a Halloween Day.  However, there are problems with it.  First, there was no contemporary mention of it in the aftermath of the assassination.  Surely Lamon would have mentioned such a prophetic statement by Lincoln at the time.  Second, during the time period in question when the dream purportedly occurred, the latter part of March, Lincoln was not at the White House but with the Army of the Potomac.  Third, the story didn’t appear in print until 1895, two years after Lamon’s death, in a book of reminiscences compiled by Lamon’s daughter.
However, I am inclined to believe it based upon this incident involving a Lincoln dream which is well authenticated.  Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy, made this notation in his diary regarding the cabinet meeting that occurred at noon on the day of  the assassination of Lincoln: (more…)
Published in: on October 31, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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Election of 1800 Aftermath

Whatever the outcome of the election next week, I think it is a safe wager that it will not be as chaotic as the outcome of the election of 1800.  Initially the outcome of the election was clear-cut enough.  Jefferson defeat Adams, garnering 73 electoral votes to 67 for Adams.  Then the circus began.  When the electoral college met, the Republicans planned that their electors would cast 73 votes for Jefferson and 72 for Aaron Burr.  The reason for this was that under the Constitution as originally drafted, the candidate who received the highest number of electoral votes would be president, and the candidate who came in second would be vice-president.  Each elector could vote for two candidates.  The Republicans bungled the vote, and Burr and Jefferson each received 73 votes!  With a tie the election would be decided in the House of Representatives.

Burr, without a doubt the most unscrupulous major political figure in American history, seized the opportunity to attempt to become president instead of Jefferson.  From February 11-17, 1801 the House cast 35 ballots and seemed deadlocked.  Almost all Federalists supported Burr.    Jefferson received the support of 8 states, by majority vote of each state delegation, one state short of the necessary majority.  The stalemate seemed destined to stretch on indefinitely until Alexander Hamilton stepped in.  Hamilton had no love for Jefferson, but he truly despised Burr, his arch rival in New York politics, who he regarded as a dangerous demagogue.  Hamilton convinced enough Federalists to switch their support for Jefferson, with Jefferson becoming president with the votes of ten state delegations, one more than necessary. (more…)

Published in: on October 30, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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October 29, 1862: Battle of Mound Island

The First Kansas Colored Volunteers was formed of escaped slaves from Missouri and Arkansas in August of 1862.  Because blacks could not officially join the Union Army at the time, the regiment was not mustered into Federal service until January 13, 1863.  Eventually it would be designated the 79th United States Colored Troops.

On October 27, 1862, the First Kansas was sent to the Toothman Homestead in Bates County, Missouri to break up a Confederate guerilla force near there.  The First Kansas found more guerillas than anticipated, supported by Confederate Missouri State Guards, and fortified the Toothman Homestead.  October 28 was spent in skirmishing.

On the 29th a skirmish between a First Kansas patrol and the Confederates led to a general engagement.  The Confederates withdrew.  The First Kansas sustained casualties of 8 killed and 11 wounded.  Confederate losses are uncertain although the First Kansas claim to have inflicted around 40 casualties. (more…)

Kipling and Brown Bess

The fourteenth in my ongoing series examining the poetry of Rudyard Kipling. The other posts in the series may be read here, here , here , herehere , here, here, here, here , here, here, here and here.  Certain themes recurred in many of Kipling’s poems:  a fascination with mechanical devices, strong British patriotism and a puckish sense of humor.  All three of these themes were on display in the poem Brown Bess written in 1911 and which was part of the School History of England authored by Kipling and C.R.L. Fletcher .  The poem was a paean to the British Land Pattern Musket, affectionately know by the Redcoats as Brown Bess.  Brown Bess was the standard English long gun from 1722-1838, an astounding length of service for those who live in a time of ceaseless and rapid technological change.

The video at the beginning of this post is taken from Sharpe’s Eagle and depicts the battle of Talavera.  It illustrates the impact of massed British volleys of Brown Bess  musket fire on French columns.  (The redcoats are armed with muskets;  Sharpe and his green jacketed men are armed with rifles.)  The British Army was a curious thing during the period of Brown Bess.  The men were almost entirely desperately poor, poverty being the main inducement to don the Red Coat, service in the Army with its low pay, harsh discipline and danger being highly unpopular.  The officers tended to be aristocratic wastrels who purchased their commissions and were often regarded by their families as dunderheads fit only for gunpowder.  However, from this unpromising material was created the finest army in the world.  This was largely a function of ferocious discipline, constant training in drill and volley firing, good career noncoms, a few brilliant generals like Amherst and Wellington, and extreme combativeness and courage, amply displayed both by the common soldiers and the aristocrats who led them.

Kipling’s poem was based upon the device of treating the Brown Bess musket as if she was a fashionable belle of society.  Kipling told his father,  ‘A conceit somewhat elaborately beaten out but it amused me in the doing – sign that may be t’will amuse other folks to read.’   Here is the text of the poem: (more…)

Grant, Grant, Grant!

Something for the weekend.  Grant, Grant, Grant the campaign song for Ulysses S. Grant when he ran for President in 1868.  Unsurprisingly Civil War themes were hit hard, along with Republican rage against what they perceived as the soft Reconstruction that Andrew Johnson attempted to give to the South.  The song is sung to the tune of Tramp, Tramp, Tramp, the Boys are Marching!, (Originially entitled Tramp, Tramp, Tramp (The Prisoner’s Hope) which would have had huge emotional connotations in the North as that song was written in 1864 to give hope in ultimate liberation to Union POWs. (more…)

Hero of the Maine

Monsignor Chidwick

The Maine

Night, February 15, 1898, the American battleship USS Maine lay at anchor in the harbor of Havana.  Although tensions were running high between the US government and Spain, the colonial power occupying Cuba, the night was calm.  Suddenly, at 9:40 PM,  a huge explosion devastated the forward section of the Maine, an external explosion setting off the powder in the magazines of the Maine.  Into this vision of hell on Earth strode the Catholic Chaplain of the Maine, John P. Chidwick.

Born in New York City on October 23, 1863,  John Chidwick graduated from Manhattan College with a BA (1883) and an MA (1885).  Ordained at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Dunwoodie, New York in 1887,  he spent several years serving as a parish priest before being commissioned in 1895 as the third Catholic Chaplain in the history of the United States Navy.  He was eventually assigned to the Maine.  He rapidly became popular with the members of the crew, no matter their religion.  Friendly and outgoing, he did whatever he could to help the crew and was always available to listen to their problems.

When he arrived on deck on the night of the destruction of the Maine, Father Chidwick instantly gave a mass absolution.  He then sprang into action, rescuing wounded, giving first aid, and giving the last rites.  He seemed to be everywhere that grim night.  W. T. Culverius, who was serving on the Maine as a naval cadet and who later rose to the rank of Rear Admiral had this to say about Chaplain Chidwick :  On that dread night in 1898 when the MAINE was destroyed, Chaplain Chidwick was everywhere present.  He had a word of cheer to the injured which soothed their pain.  Without thought of himself he helped the helpless and he ministered to the dying who will welcome him now in that Great Ship’s Company above, where shipmates never part.”   It should be remembered that Chaplain Chidwick and the other men engaged in the rescue of their stricken crewmates had no way of knowing that at any moment further blasts might send them all to eternity.  Father Chidwick was one of the last men to leave the Maine that night. 266 sailors died in the sinking of the Maine and 89 survived.

The funeral of the dead of the Maine was held in Havana on February 17, 1898 in the Christobal Colon cemetery in ground donated by the Spanish government.  Father Chidwick conducted the burial service.

Mainefuneral

(more…)

Published in: on October 26, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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597 Years Since Agincourt

The anniversary of the long ago battle of Saint Crispin’s Day gives us yet another opportunity to recall the immortal “Band of Borthers Speech” that Shakespeare put into the mouth of Henry V, a speech that could put fight into a dog dead three days, or, mirabile dictu, even a live Congress Critter:

WESTMORELAND. O that we now had here

    But one ten thousand of those men in England      

That do no work to-day!

  KING. What’s he that wishes so?

    My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;      

If we are mark’d to die, we are enow

    To do our country loss; and if to live,

    The fewer men, the greater share of honour.

    God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.

    By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,     

Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;

    It yearns me not if men my garments wear;

    Such outward things dwell not in my desires.     

But if it be a sin to covet honour,      

I am the most offending soul alive.

    No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.      

God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour

    As one man more methinks would share from me

    For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!    

  Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,    

  That he which hath no stomach to this fight,      

Let him depart; his passport shall be made,

    And crowns for convoy put into his purse;

    We would not die in that man’s company

    That fears his fellowship to die with us.      

This day is call’d the feast of Crispian.

    He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,

    Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam’d,

    And rouse him at the name of Crispian.

    He that shall live this day, and see old age,

    Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,

    And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian.’

    Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,      

And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispian’s day.’

    Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,

    But he’ll remember, with advantages,

    What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,

    Familiar in his mouth as household words-     

Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,

    Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-

    Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb’red.

    This story shall the good man teach his son;      

And Crispin Crispian shall ne’er go by,

    From this day to the ending of the world,     

But we in it shall be remembered-      

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

    For he to-day that sheds his blood with me

    Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,      

This day shall gentle his condition;    

  And gentlemen in England now-a-bed

    Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here,

    And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks

    That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day. (more…)

Published in: on October 25, 2012 at 12:17 pm  Comments (7)  
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Timely Quotes

(I originally posted this over at The American Catholic, and I thought the quotemasters of Almost Chosen People might enjoy it.)

In light of the 47% (oops, where did those one to two minutes of recording go?) non-controversy, I thought that a game of guess who said the quote would be fun. Use of a search engine is verboten!

1.  A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship.

 

2.  The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled. Public debt should be reduced. The arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled. The assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance.

 

3.  I accuse the present Administration of being the greatest spending Administration in peacetime in all American history – one which piled bureau on bureau, commission on commission, and has failed to anticipate the dire needs or reduced earning power of the people. Bureaus and bureaucrats have been retained at the expense of the taxpayer. We are spending altogether too much money for government services which are neither practical nor necessary. In addition to this, we are attempting too many functions and we need a simplification of what the Federal government is giving the people.

 

4.  Some see private enterprise as a predatory target to be shot, others as a cow to be milked, but few are those who see it as a sturdy horse pulling the wagon.

 

5.  It is an injustice, a grave evil and a disturbance of the right order, for a larger and higher organisation, to arrogate to itself functions which can be performed efficiently by smaller and lower bodies. (more…)

Published in: on October 25, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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Give Me Liberty, or Give Me Death

A fine video on the great “Give Me Liberty, or Give Me Death Speech” of Patrick Henry delivered in the Virginia House of Burgesses on March 23, 1775.  It is a remarkable speech, made even more remarkable when we consider that Patrick Henry was in deep mourning for his beloved wife Sarah who, after years of fighting a losing battle with mental illness, had died in February of 1775.   ( Henry refused to have her committed, against the advice of his physician, to the appalling insane asylums of his day, one he inspected would have had his wife chained to a wall, and cared for her at home, bathing her, dressing her and keeping her from harming herself.)

Henry was perhaps the greatest American orator in a time of great American oratory.  It was said of him that cold print did not do justice to the passions he roused in his listeners with his speeches.  American school children used to memorize passages from this speech, a custom I hope is revived, because his speech goes to the core of what it means to be an American.  Here is the text of his speech, as it has been reconstructed, as no manuscript of it survives and our text is based on the recollections of men who heard it: (more…)

Published in: on October 24, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments (7)  
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Cuban Missile Crisis Speech

The world came very close to nuclear war half a century back.  The above video is of the speech that President Kennedy gave fifty years ago on October 22, 1962.  Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in placing nuclear missiles in Cuba brought the world to the brink.  The crisis was ultimately resolved with the removal of the Soviet missiles in exchange for two  agreements between the US and the Soviet Union:  1.  No invasion of Cuba by the US and 2.  The removal of obsolete American Jupiter nuclear missiles from Turkey and Southern Italy.  Unsurprisingly the US kept secret the removal of the Jupiter missiles.  Surprisingly the Soviets also kept mum about the removal of the Jupiter missiles which led to the perception abroad and within the Soviet Union that Khrushchev had lost his confrontation with Kennedy, and paved the way for the Central Committee coup led by Leonid Brezhnev which toppled  Khrushchev from power in October 1964.  Here is the text of the speech: (more…)

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