November 30, 1862: Micromanaging the War

Any student of the Civil War will quickly discover that both President Lincoln and President Davis concerned themselves with minutiae that would rarely reach a president’s desk today.  A prime example is this telegram that Lincoln sent 150 years ago:

WASHINGTON, November 30, 1862.

MAJOR-GENERAL CURTIS, Saint Louis, Missouri:

Frank Blair wants Manter’s Thirty-second, Curly’s Twenty seventh, Boyd’s Twenty-fourth and the Ninth and Tenth Cavalry to go with him down the river. I understand it is with you to decide whether he shall have them and if so, and if also it is consistent with the public service, you will oblige me a good deal by letting him have them.

A. LINCOLN. (more…)

Published in: on November 30, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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“Everything’s Lovely and the Goose Hangs High!”

I was born and reared in Paris, Illinois.   Recently I learned that the saying,  “Everything’s lovely and the goose hangs high” originated in Paris.  I had never heard of the expression before, but curious I researched it.  I certainly encountered quite a few examples of the use of the expression, normally in works that dated from early in the last century.   I ultimately found out that the expression originated from a cruel “sport” popular around Paris long before I was born in 1957.  It was called goose pulling.  A goose was tied by its neck to a branch on a tree.  Horsemen then would compete to ride by the goose and to pull it from the tree.  The successful competitor would rip the goose from the tree by the neck , killing the goose and being awarded the carcass for his “skill”. (more…)

Published in: on November 29, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments (5)  
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Cows and Governments Open Thread

Well cows and politicians do have a lot a lot in common in that they are fond of bull, produce some noxious by products and tend to complain a lot when their sacred calves are taken away.  I originally posted this as an open thread at The American Catholic, and I decided this would serve for the first ever open thread for Almost Chosen People.  Have at it!

Published in: on November 28, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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Edwin M. Stanton and Temporary Insanity

Edwin M. Stanton could be a pill.  Irritable, sarcastic and often completely unreasonable, no doubt many of the Union Generals who had to deal with him often thought that they were dealing with a very mad man.  Mad in an emotional sense Stanton often was, anger often seeming to be the prime emotion he displayed throughout his career, at least after the death of his beloved first wife in 1844 which had a souring impact on his disposition.  However, he was also a very able man, and that compensated for his complete lack of tact in dealing with virtually everyone he came into contact.  Prior to becoming Secretary of War he had been one of the ablest attorneys in the country.  Doubtless his most famous, or rather infamous case, was in the defense of future Union general Daniel Sickles.

Sickles in 1859 was a Democrat Congressman from New York, already notorious for having been censured for bringing a prostitute into the New York General Assembly chamber.  Leaving his pregnant wife at home, on a trip to England he had introduced the same prostitute, Fanny White, to Queen Victoria under an alias, the surname of which was that of a political opponent in New York.  Sickles obviously viewed his vow of marital fidelity with complete contempt.  However he did not view the vow of fidelity given to him by his wife Teresa in the same light.  When he found out on February 26, 1859 that his long-suffering wife was carrying on an affair with the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, Philip Barton Key II, the son of Francis Scott Key, the composer of the Star Spangled Banner, he murdered Key the next day in Lafayette Park across from the White House, shooting him through the heart.  Sickles immediately surrendered to the Attorney General who lived just a few blocks away.

His trial was one of the most sensational in American history.  Public opinion was almost totally on his side, painting Sickles as an outraged husband defending his wife Teresa from a villain who had seduced her.  Sickles engaged a stellar defense team which included Stanton.  The defense team had a problem.  No matter what the public thought as to his motivation, Sickles was manifestly guilty.  Stanton hit upon the idea of raising the novel defense of temporary insanity which had never before been successful in the United States.  This was a true stroke of legal genius.  It allowed the defense to put on endless lurid testimony as to the affair and, in effect, have the dead man tried rather than Sickles.  In his closing argument Stanton portrayed the ever adulterous Sickles as a defender of marriage: (more…)

Published in: on November 27, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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First of the Founding Fathers to Die

The improbably named Button Gwinnett was the first of the Founding Fathers to depart this vale of tears.  Born in 1735 in England, in 1762 he and his wife departed England for Charleston, South Carolina.  A merchant, in 1765 he left that trade and purchased a plantation in Georgia, the youngest of the 13 colonies.  In 1769 he was elected to the provincial legislature.   Sent as a delegate from Georgia to the Second Continental Congress, he signed the Declaration of Independence.

Back in Georgia he was elected Speaker of the Georgia Assembly.  After the death of the President (Governor) of Georgia he was elevated to that position.  He did not have long to enjoy it, receiving a mortal wound in a duel with arch political foe Lachlan McIntosh following a dispute arising out of a failed invasion of East Florida and dying on May 19, 1777. (more…)

Published in: on November 26, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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The Father of Our Country and the Almighty

Today is the feast day of Christ the King in the Catholic Liturgical Calendar, signaling the ending of the Church year.  On this date my thoughts turn to April 30, 1789 when President George Washington commenced the government of the United States under its new Constitution with the first inaugural address.  Below is the address.  Pay special attention to the second paragraph where Washington acknowledges the role of God in bringing about the American Republic and his final paragraph where he states that America depends upon God’s cotinued blessing:  so His divine blessing may be equally conspicuous in the enlarged views, the temperate consultations, and the wise measures on which the success of this Government must depend.

Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and of the House of Representatives:

AMONG the vicissitudes incident to life no event could have filled me with greater anxieties than that of which the notification was transmitted by your order, and received on the 14th day of the present month. On the one hand, I was summoned by my country, whose voice I can never hear but with veneration and love, from a retreat which I had chosen with the fondest predilection, and, in my flattering hopes, with an immutable decision, as the asylum of my declining years—a retreat which was rendered every day more necessary as well as more dear to me by the addition of habit to inclination, and of frequent interruptions in my health to the gradual waste committed on it by time. On the other hand, the magnitude and difficulty of the trust to which the voice of my country called me, being sufficient to awaken in the wisest and most experienced of her citizens a distrustful scrutiny into his qualifications, could not but overwhelm with despondence one who (inheriting inferior endowments from nature and unpracticed in the duties of civil administration) ought to be peculiarly conscious of his own deficiencies. In this conflict of emotions all I dare aver is that it has been my faithful study to collect my duty from a just appreciation of every circumstance by which it might be affected. All I dare hope is that if, in executing this task, I have been too much swayed by a grateful remembrance of former instances, or by an affectionate sensibility to this transcendent proof of the confidence of my fellow-citizens, and have thence too little consulted my incapacity as well as disinclination for the weighty and untried cares before me, my error will be palliated by the motives which mislead me, and its consequences be judged by my country with some share of the partiality in which they originated.

  

 

  Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station, it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes, and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success the functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own, nor those of my fellow-citizens at large less than either. No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency; and in the important revolution just accomplished in the system of their united government the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities from which the event has resulted can not be compared with the means by which most governments have been established without some return of pious gratitude, along with an humble anticipation of the future blessings which the past seem to presage. These reflections, arising out of the present crisis, have forced themselves too strongly on my mind to be suppressed. You will join with me, I trust, in thinking that there are none under the influence of which the proceedings of a new and free government can more auspiciously commence. (more…)

Published in: on November 25, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments (31)  
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To Jesus Christ Our Sovereign King

Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing.

Isaiah 40:15

Something for the weekend.  To Jesus Christ Our Sovereign King.  Written in 1941 by Father Martin B. Hellriegel, a German-American pastor in Saint Louis, as a direct response to the pretensions of the Third Reich and to remind people who actually reigns eternally.   We Americans have traditionally understood that God is in charge:  We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Abraham Lincoln ringingly set forth what this section of the Declaration means:  “These communities, by their representatives in old Independence Hall, said to the whole world of men: “We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” This was their majestic interpretation of the economy of the Universe. This was their lofty, and wise, and noble understanding of the justice of the Creator to His creatures. [Applause.] Yes, gentlemen, to all His creatures, to the whole great family of man. In their enlightened belief, nothing stamped with the Divine image and likeness was sent into the world to be trodden on, and degraded, and imbruted by its fellows.”

Nothing could be further from the nightmarish ideas that fueled the Third Reich, and Father Martin B. Hellriegel in his magnificent hymn conveys this majestic conception of God and of humanity under God.

(more…)

Published in: on November 24, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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Confederate Thanksgiving: 1862

Abraham Lincoln was not the only president to issue a Thanksgiving Proclamation in the Civil War:

Once more upon  the plains of Manassas have our armies been blessed by the Lord of Hosts with a  triumph over our enemies.  It is my privilege to invite you once more to His  footstool, not now in the garb of fasting and sorrow, but with joy and gladness,  to render thanks for the great mercies received at His hand.  A few months  since, and our enemies poured forth their invading legions upon our soil.  They  laid waste our fields, polluted our altars and violated the sanctity of our  homes.  Around our capital they gathered their forces, and with boastful  threats, claimed it as already their prize.  The brave troops which rallied to  its defense have extinguished these vain hopes, and, under the guidance of the  same almighty hand, have scattered our enemies and driven them back in dismay.   Uniting these defeated forces and the various armies which had been ravaging our  coasts with the army of invasion in Northern Virginia, our enemies have renewed  their attempt to subjugate us at the very place where their first effort was  defeated, and the vengeance of retributive justice has overtaken the entire host  in a second and complete overthrow. (more…)

Published in: on November 23, 2012 at 4:07 pm  Comments (5)  
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Thanksgiving Proclamation: 1795

When we review the calamities which afflict so many other nations, the present condition of the United States affords much matter of consolation and satisfaction. Our exemption hitherto from foreign war, an increasing prospect of the continuance of that exception, the great degree of internal tranquillity we have enjoyed, the recent confirmation of that tranquillity by the suppression of an insurrection which so wantonly threatened it, the happy course of our public affairs in general, the unexampled prosperity of all classes of our citizens, are circumstances which peculiarly mark our situation with indications of the Divine beneficence toward us. In such a state of things it is in an especial manner our duty as a people, with devout reverence and affectionate gratitude, to acknowledge our many and great obligations to Almighty God and to implore Him to continue and confirm the blessings we experience. (more…)

Published in: on November 22, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation: 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. (more…)

Published in: on November 21, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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