Patty Andrews: Requiescat in Pace

The last of the Andrews Sisters, Patty Andrews, died yesterday at 94.  The daughters of a Greek immigrant and a Norwegian-American mother in Minnesota, the Andrews Sisters were an amazingly successful singing act, selling over 75 million records.  They were also ardent patriots.

During World War II The Andrews Sisters tirelessly performed for the USO stateside and in Africa and Italy.  They were enormously effective at selling war bonds with their rendition of Irving Berlin’s Any Bonds Today.  They helped found The Hollywood Canteen and donated their time to perform there, a memorable pleasant stopping off point for sailors, marines, soldiers and airmen on their way to the hell of war in the Pacific.  When they were entertaining troops they often would pick three servicemen at random to dine with them after the show.  Performing so frequently on Armed Forces Radio, they were designated the Sweethearts of the Armed Forces Radio Service.  They recorded millions of V-Disks for distribution of their songs to the troops.  (more…)

Published in: on January 31, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments (3)  
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The Muse Among the Motors

Rudyard Kipling and car

The eighteenth in my ongoing series examining the poetry of Rudyard Kipling. The other posts in the series may be read here, here , here , here, here , here, here, here, here, here, here, here , here, here, here , here and here.  Kipling had a very distinctive style, a style which has produced endless poems imitating him.  It occasionally amused Kipling to do a poem in the style of some other poet.  Between 1904 and 1929 he did a series of short poems in the style of various poets.  The subject of the poems was the new horseless carriage.  Kipling loved cars, although it is unclear whether he ever drove one himself.  Here are a few of the poems in his series The Muse Among the Motors.  I will leave to the readers in the comboxes to guess the poet being copied.  We will start out with an easy one:

The Justice’s Tale

With them there rode a lustie Engineere
Wel skilled to handel everich waie her geere,
Hee was soe wise ne man colde showe him naught
And out of Paris was hys learnynge brought.
Frontlings mid brazen wheeles and wandes he sat,
And on hys heade he bare an leathern hat.
Hee was soe certaine of his governance,
That, by the Road, he tooke everie chaunce.
For simple people and for lordlings eke
Hee wolde not bate a del but onlie squeeke
Behinde their backes on an horne hie
Until they crope into a piggestie.
He was more wood than bull in china-shoppe,
And yet for cowes and dogges wolde hee stop,
Not our of Marcie but for Preudence-sake–
Than hys dependaunce ever was hys brake. (more…)

Published in: on January 30, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments (12)  
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Oops!

Monterey Incident

 

One of the more embarrasing incidents in American military history occurred on October 8-9, 1842.  Commodore Thomas ap Catesby Jones, commander of the Pacific Squadron, acting upon rumors that the United States and Mexico were going to war, and that Mexico would cede California to Great Britain, seized the town of Monterey, California, on October 8, landing 50 Marines and 100 sailors.  No blood was shed in the takeover. (more…)

Published in: on January 29, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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January 28, 1813: Pride and Prejudice Published

Two centuries today since the publication of Pride and Prejudice.  I confess that I have generally found Jane Austen to be a snore fest unless her text is enlivened, if that is the proper word when Zombies are involved, as in the above video.  Austen’s books began to be published in America in 1832, although they made little impact with the general public until the latter part of the Nineteenth Century when the novelist William Dean Howells wrote several essays celebrating Austen as an author.

One of her most biting critics was Mark Twain.  A sample of his Austen tirades:

Jane Austen? Why I go so far as to say that any library is a good library that does not contain a volume by Jane Austen. Even if it contains no other book.

I haven’t any right to criticise books, and I don’t do it except when I hate them. I often want to criticise Jane Austen, but her books madden me so that I can’t conceal my frenzy from the reader; and therefore I have to stop every time I begin. Everytime I read ‘Pride and Prejudice’ I want to dig her up and beat her over the skull with her own shin-bone. (more…)

Published in: on January 28, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments (34)  
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Morton of Merry Mount

There was Morton of Merry Mount, who so vexed the Plymouth Colony, with his flushed, loose, handsome face and his hate of the godly.

Stephen Vincent Benet, The Devil and Daniel Webster

In his short story The Devil and Daniel Webster, Benet has Satan conjure up the damned souls of 12 villains from American history to serve as a jury in the case of Satan v. Jabez Stone. Only seven of these entities are named. This is the fourth in a series giving brief biographies of these men. Go here to read the biography of Simon Girty, here to read the “biography” of the Reverend John Smeet and here to read the biography of Major Walter Butler.  In this post we direct our attention to Thomas Morton of Merry Mount.

A Devonshire man born in circa 1578, Morton was an attorney and a lover of plays and classical learning.  In 1624 he became involved in a trading venture to the Algonquian Indians in what is now Massachusetts.  In 1626 he founded the settlement of Merry Mount.  Morton ran a free and easy settlement, with the English settlers mixing freely with the Indians and quite a good time apparently being had by all.  On May 1, 1627 Morton erected a Maypole with much frolicking going on around it.

The pilgrims were shocked.  Governor William Bradford of Plymouth wrote: (more…)

The Rifleman

Something for the weekend.  With all the recent furor over the Second Amendment, I thought the theme from one of the my favorite childhood friends, The Rifleman, was appropriate.  Broadcast from 1958 to 1963 The Rifleman featured Chuck Connors as Lucas McCain, the eponymous star of the show, and his son Mark McCain, portrayed by Johnny Crawford.  Unlike almost all westerns of the time, the title character, Lucas McCain, was not a sheriff or gunfighter, but rather a widowed farmer raising his son near the town of Northfork.  Each of the shows was a skillfully done morality play focusing on the human condition.  Many of the episodes had plots drawn from the Bible and placed in a western setting.  McCain’s modified Winchester 73 almost always came into play, but simple gun play and violence was not the focus of the series. (more…)

Published in: on January 26, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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Letter to Hooker

Joe Hooker

 

 

One hundred and fifty years ago tomorrow, President Abraham Lincoln sent what is doubtless the most unusual letter ever sent by an American president to an American general:

Executive Mansion Washington, January 26, 1863

Major General Hooker: General.

I have placed you at the head of the Army of the Potomac. Of course I have done this upon what appear to me to be sufficient reasons. And yet I think it best for you to know that there are some things in regard to which, I am not quite satisfied with you. I believe you to be a brave and a skilful soldier, which, of course, I like. I also believe you do not mix politics with your profession, in which you are right. You have confidence in yourself, which is a valuable, if not an indispensable quality. You are ambitious, which, within reasonable bounds, does good rather than harm. But I think that during Gen. Burnside’s command of the Army, you have taken counsel of your ambition, and thwarted him as much as you could, in which you did a great wrong to the country, and to a most meritorious and honorable brother officer. I have heard, in such way as to believe it, of your recently saying that both the Army and the Government needed a Dictator. Of course it was not for this, but in spite of it, that I have given you the command. Only those generals who gain successes, can set up dictators. What I now ask of you is military success, and I will risk the dictatorship. The government will support you to the utmost of it’s ability, which is neither more nor less than it has done and will do for all commanders. I much fear that the spirit which you have aided to infuse into the Army, of criticising their Commander, and withholding confidence from him, will now turn upon you. I shall assist you as far as I can, to put it down. Neither you, nor Napoleon, if he were alive again, could get any good out of an army, while such a spirit prevails in it.

And now, beware of rashness. Beware of rashness, but with energy, and sleepless vigilance, go forward, and give us victories.

Yours very truly

A. Lincoln (more…)

Published in: on January 25, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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History is Boring!

No History is not boring, but it certainly is usually taught in a boring fashion.  The main culprits:

1. Badly Written Textbooks-Usually drafted by committees of fairly untalented hacks, they frequently make the reading of technical manuals seem exciting by comparison.

2.  Politicized Drek-Textbooks often have a strong ideological slant.  These days that slant is usually, although not always, driven from the Left.  Therefore students are likely to read quite a bit on the treatment of women in colonial America, with the military history of the American revolution left to a scant two pages.  This distorts History and usually drains the life out of it, as the study of the past becomes yet another opportunity to deliver a twenty-first century political diatribe.

3.  Ignorant Teachers-Too often History is taught by teachers who have little knowledge of it and no passion for it.  When I was in high school back in the early Seventies, coaches often were  assigned to teach History, under the assumption that anyone could teach it.  There were exceptions, and I still have fond memories of Mr. Geisler who taught American history and Mr. Vanlandingham who taught European history, but the usual level of the teaching of History was quite low.

4.  Laundry Lists- States often mandate inclusion of certain subjects in History.  This results in a laundry list approach of teaching History in which so many topics must be covered that short shrift is given to understanding a period as a whole. (more…)

Published in: on January 24, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments (4)  
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January 23, 1863: Expedition of First South Carolina Volunteers

First South Carolina Volunteers

The first black regiment organized with the blessing of the Federal government, the First South Carolina Volunteers consisted of former slaves from the coast of South Carolina, most of whom spoke the Gullah dialected.  The commander of the regiment was Colonel Thomas Higginson, a Unitarian Minister and abolitionist, who had been one of the Secret Six backers of John Brown for his Harper Ferrys raid.  Here is his report of the expedition of the regiment that began on January 23, 1863:

ON  BOARD STEAMER  BEN DE FORD, February 1, 1863.

GENERAL: I have the honor to report the safe return of the expedition under my command, consisting of 462 officers and men of the First Regiment South Carolina Volunteers, who left Beaufort on January 23, on board the steamers John Adams, Planter, and Ben De Ford:

The expedition has carried the regimental flag and the President’s proclamation far into the interior of Georgia and Florida. The men have been repeatedly under fire; have had infantry, cavalry, and even artillery arrayed against them, and have in every instance come off not only with unblemished honor, but with undisputed triumph. (more…)

Walter Butler

For there was Walter Butler, the loyalist, who spread fire and horror through the Mohawk Valley in the times of the Revolution.

 Stpehen Vincent Benet, The Devil and Daniel Webster

In his short story The Devil and Daniel Webster, Benet has Satan conjure up the damned souls of 12 villains from American history to serve as a jury in the case of Satan v. Jabez Stone. Only seven of these entities are named. This is the third in a series giving brief biographies of these men. Go here to read the biography of Simon Girty and here to read the “biography” of the Reverend John Smeet.  In this post we will examine the life of Major Walter Butler.

Walter Butler was a young man of 23 at the start of the Revolution, the son of John Butler, a wealthy Indian agent and a judge in frontier Tryon Country, soon to be the scene of many desperate frontier battles between Patriots and Loyalists, and their Indian auxiliaries.  John Butler was a firm loyalist as was his son.    Walter Butler served as an Ensign at the battle of Oriskany in 1777 during the Saratoga campaign.  Shortly after Oriskany he was captured behind enemy lines.  Sentenced to death he succeeded in escaping.  When his father formed the Loyalist Butler’s Rangers, Walter served in it as a Captain.

On November 11, 1778 at Cherry Valley, New York, Butler, leading a mixed force of Loyalists and Mohawks and Seneca under Joseph Brant, easily overcame the heavily outnumbered 7th Massachusetts Continentals.  In the aftermath of the battle, 30 settlers were murdered, including women and children.  In his report Butler blamed Brant and his Indians and steadfastly insisted that he spared no effort to rescue settlers from them.  However, Patriots claimed that Brant attempted to save settlers and that it was Butler who instigated the massacre.  My estimate is that neither Brant nor Butler were directly responsible and that it was independent action by the Seneca and the Mowhawk, who had many scores to repay, that resulted in the murders.  Like many historical questions the evidence now is too fragmentary and conflicting for complete certainty. (more…)

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