Lincoln In a Glass Darkly

 Mirror Mirror

There is rather good historical evidence that Abraham Lincoln had premonitions of his death.  John Hay, one of Lincoln’s two personal secretaries, wrote about one such premonition in the July 1865 issue of Harper’s Magazine, as related to him by Lincoln which occurred the morning after his election in 1860:

Looking in that glass, I saw myself reflected, nearly at full length; but my face, I noticed, had two separate and distinct images, the tip of the nose of one being about three inches from the tip of the other. I was a little bothered, perhaps startled, and got up and looked in the glass, but the illusion vanished.

On lying down again, I saw it a second time — plainer, if possible, than before; and then I noticed that one of the faces was a little paler, say five shades, than the other. I got up and the thing melted away, and I went off and, in the excitement of the hour, forgot all about it — nearly, but not quite, for the thing would once in a while come up, and give me a little pang, as though something uncomfortable had happened. (more…)

Published in: on October 31, 2014 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Abraham Lincoln’s Ghost Walks at Midnight

Tragic is the only word to describe the life of Vachel Lindsay.  Perhaps the greatest of the poets of Illinois, he deserves his appellation the Prairie Troubador, his life was haunted by mental instability and money woes.  He committed suicide at age 52 in 1931 by drinking a bottle of Lysol.  His last words indicated the paranoia that beset him at the end:  “They tried to get me; I got them first!”

A sad life, but a great talent.  In 1914, anguished by the outbreak of World War I, he wrote this haunting homage to Lincoln:

(more…)

October 20, 1944: MacArthur Returns to the Philippines

Mine eyes have seen MacArthur
With a Bible on his knee,
He is pounding out communiqués
For guys like you and me,
And while possibly a rumor now,
Someday ’twill be a fact,
That the Lord will hear a deep voice
Say, “Move over God, it’s Mac!”

Anonymous Marine on Corregidor (1942)

 

The most controversial of American commanders in World War II, MacArthur has always roused strong emotion.  Reviled by some as a supreme egotist and an overrated general, and hailed by others as the greatest general in American history, MacArthur will be fought over in history books from now until Doomsday, a fate which I think would not have displeased him.  However, I suspect critics and admirers alike can agree on one thing.  Seventy years ago in October 1944 MacArthur had the supreme moment of his life: (more…)

Published in: on October 29, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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Prelude to November 8, 1864

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In the 1864 Presidential election, both Democrats and Republicans assumed they had a way to predict beforehand what the outcome would be on November 8 in the Presidential contest.  Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania held state elections, including Congressional elections, in October.  Each of these states were hotly contested between the parties, and it was assumed that if one party swept these elections, it would likely prevail in November.  Strenuous efforts were undertaken in each of these states by Republicans to make certain that all Union soldiers and sailors possible from these states got to vote, assuming, correctly as it turned out, that they would vote Republican.   The Republicans swept the states, reversing the defeats they suffered in 1862.  The Republicans now looked forward to November 8 with confidence while the Democrats now feared defeat.

Published in: on October 28, 2014 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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October 27, 1864: Battle of Boydton Plank Road

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The last significant military operation at Petersburg in 1864, the battle of Boydton Plank Road was  part of the efforts of the Army of the Potomac to cut the Confederate South Side Railroad that supplied Petersburg and Richmond from the west. This was no small effort, consisting of Winfield Scott’s corps, reinforced by infantry divisions from other corps and a cavalry division.

On October 27, 1864 Hancock crossed Hatcher’s Run creek and moved around the Confederate right flank heading for Burgess Mill.  General Henry Heth, commanding A.P. Hill’s corps due to the illness of Hill, interposed two divisions to stop Hancock.  Hancock made good progress when Meade ordered a hault to the offensive, concerned about a five mile gap developing between the Union left and Hancock.

Hancock retreated to Hatcher’s Run, only to find the ford now being held by Confederate cavalry.  Heth now went on the offensive, hoping to bag Hancock’s corps, isolated as it now was from the rest of the Union army.

Hancock kept calm, beat off the Confederate attacks and retreated across Hatcher’s Run during the night.  Union casualties were 1700 to 1300 Confederate.  Grant in his memoirs summed up this action and the closing down of operations around Petersburg for the remainder of the year: (more…)

October 26, 1864: Bloody Bill Anderson Killed

LeBoeuf: The force of law! This man is a notorious thumper! He rode by the light of the moon with Quantrill and Bloody Bill Anderson!
Rooster Cogburn: That men was patriots, Texas trash!
LeBoeuf: They murdered women and children in Lawrence, Kansas.
Rooster Cogburn: That’s a G-d d—-d lie! What army was you in, mister?
LeBoeuf: I was at Shreveport first with Kirby-Smith, then…
Rooster Cogburn: Yeah? What side was you on?
LeBoeuf: I was in the army of Northern Virginia, Cogburn, and I don’t have to hang my head when I say it!
Rooster Cogburn: If you had served with Captain Quantrill…
LeBoeuf: Captain? Captain Quantrill indeed!
Rooster Cogburn: Best let this go, LeBoeuf!
LeBoeuf: Captain of what?
Rooster Cogburn: Good, then! There are not sufficient dollars in the state of Texas to make it worth my while to listen to your opinions. Our agreement is nullified.
LeBoeuf: That suits me!

Charles Portis, True Grit

 

 

 

Our Civil War was a relatively clean war in that the mass murder  of civilian populations that are often a feature of civil wars was mercifully absent from that conflict.  However, some atrocities did occur, and many of them were in the ferocious fighting that raged in Kansas and along the Kansas-Missouri border.  There the Civil War had begun in 1854, with a brief truce in 1859-60.

Anderson, born in 1839, came from a family of horse thieves.  Residing in Agnes, Kansas in March 1862, his father was shot by a local Judge in regard to a stolen horse.  Bloody Bill and his brother Jim took revenge by shooting to death the Judge and his brother-in-law.   Bloody Bill left Agnes, Kansas with his family and moved to Western Missouri.

By the spring of 1863 Bloody Bill and Jim had joined up with William Quantrill and his Confederate guerillas.

Union General Thomas Ewing, Jr., the commander of the military district which comprised Kansas and Western Missouri, ordered the arrest of relatives of the members of Quantrill’s band.  12 women among those arrested were housed in a three story house in Kansas City, Missouri.  The house collapsed on August 14, 1863, killing four of the women.  Anderson’s sister Josephine was killed in the collapse and his sister Mary was rendered a permanent cripple.

Anderson went crazy with grief and rage when he heard the news.   In retaliation, Quantrill raided Lawrence, Kansas on August 21.  200 men and boys were murdered by Quantrill’s men, with Bloody Bill living up to the nickname by which he is known to history. (more…)

Published in: on October 26, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments (4)  
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Elections

Something for the weekend.  The score to the movie Lincoln (2012).  Go here to read my review of this masterpiece.  One hundred and fifty years ago there was little doubt now that Lincoln was going to be re-elected and the Union was going to win the War.  The Civil War had just a little over six months to go, as did Lincoln’s life.

After he was re-elected, Lincoln on November 10, 1864 responded to a serenade outside the White House with this brief speech:

It has long been a grave question whether any government, not too strong for the liberties of its people, can be strong enough to maintain its own existence, in great emergencies.
 
On this point the present rebellion brought our republic to a severe test; and a presidential election occurring in regular course during the rebellion added not a little to the strain. If the loyal people, united, were put to the utmost of their strength by the rebellion, must they not fail when divided, and partially paralized, by a political war among themselves?  But the election was a necessity.
 
We can not have free government without elections; and if the rebellion could force us to forego, or postpone a national election, it might fairly claim to have already conquered and ruined us. The strife of the election is but human-nature practically applied to the facts of the case. What has occurred in this case, must ever recur in similar cases. Human-nature will not change. In any future great national trial, compared with the men of this, we shall have as weak, and as strong; as silly and as wise; as bad and good. Let us, therefore, study the incidents of this, as philosophy to learn wisdom from, and none of them as wrongs to be revenged.
 
But the election, along with its incidental, and undesirable strife, has done good too. It has demonstrated that a people’s government can sustain a national election, in the midst of a great civil war. Until now it has not been known to the world that this was a possibility. It shows also how sound, and how strong we still are. It shows that, even among candidates of the same party, he who is most devoted to the Union, and most opposed to treason, can receive most of the people’s votes. It shows also, to the extent yet known, that we have more men now, than we had when the war began. Gold is good in its place; but living, brave, patriotic men, are better than gold.
 
But the rebellion continues; and now that the election is over, may not all, having a common interest, re-unite in a common effort, to save our common country? For my own part I have striven, and shall strive to avoid placing any obstacle in the way. So long as I have been here I have not willingly planted a thorn in any man’s bosom.
 
While I am deeply sensible to the high compliment of a re-election; and duly grateful, as I trust, to Almighty God for having directed my countrymen to a right conclusion, as I think, for their own good, it adds nothing to my satisfaction that any other man may be disappointed or pained by the result.
 
May I ask those who have not differed with me, to join with me, in this same spirit towards those who have?
 
And now, let me close by asking three hearty cheers for our brave soldiers and seamen and their gallant and skilful commanders.

(more…)

Published in: on October 25, 2014 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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October 24, 1864: Moses of the Colored Man Speech

 

On the evening October 24, 1864, addressing a torchlight crowd of blacks in Nashville, Andrew Johnson, military governor of the state of Tennessee and the nominee for Vice President on the National Union ticket headed by Lincoln, freed the slaves of Tennessee.  No doubt it was done for the campaign, but it also was a remarkable event, especially due to the fact that although Johnson had fought throughout his political career in Tennessee prior to the war against the political influence of the large plantation owners, he had never breathed a word against slavery.  However, although still not in favor of Negro equality, the war had radicalized him into an opponent of slavery.  Here is his speech:

Colored men of Nashville: You have all heard of the President’s Proclamation, by which he announces to the world that the slaves in a large portion of the seceded States were thenceforth and forever free. For certain reasons, which seemed wise to the President, the benefits of that Proclamation did not extend to you or to your native State. Many of you consequently were left in bondage. The task-master’s scourge was not yet broken, and the fetters still galled your limbs. Gradually this iniquity has been passing away, but the hour has come when the last vestiges of it must be removed. Consequently, I, too, without reference to the President or any other person, have a proclamation to make; and, standing here upon the steps of the Capitol, with the past history of the State to witness, the present condition to guide, and its future to encourage me, I, Andrew Johnson, do hereby proclaim freedom to every man in Tennessee!

 
I invoke the colored people to be orderly and law-abiding, but at the same time let them assert their rights, and if traitors and ruffians attack them, while in the discharge of their duties, let them defend themselves as all men have a right to do.

 
I am no agrarian. I respect the rights of property acquired by honest labor. But I say, nevertheless, that if the great farm of Mark Cockrill, who gave $25,000 to Jeff. Davis’s Confederacy, were divided into small farms and sold to fifteen or twenty honest farmers, society would be improved, Nashville mechanics and tradesmen would be enriched, the State would have more good citizens, and our city would have a much better market than it now has.

 
I am no agrarian, but if the princely plantation of Wm. G. Harding, who boasted that he had disbursed over $5,000,000 for the rebel Confederacy, were parcelled out among fifty loyal, industrious farmers, it would be a blessing to our noble Commonwealth. I speak to-night as a citizen of Tennessee. I am here on my own soil, and mean to remain here and fight this great battle of freedom through to the end. Loyal men, from this day forward, are to be the controllers of Tennessee’s grand and sublime destiny, and Rebels must be dumb. We will not listen to their consels. Nashville is no longer the place for them to hold their meetings. Let them gather their treasonable conclaves elsewhere; among their friends in the Confederacy. They shall not hold their conspiracies in Nashville.

 
The representatives of the corrupt (and if you will permit me almost to swear a little) this damnable aristocracy, taunt us with our desire to see justice done, and charge us with favoring negro equality. Of all living men they should be the last to mouth that phrase; and even when uttered in their hearing, it should cause their cheeks to tinge and burn with shame. Negro equality, indeed! Why pass, any day, along the sidewalks of High street where these aristocrats more particularly dwell – these aristrocrats, whose sons are now in the bands of guerillas and cut-throats who prowl and rob and murder around our city – pass by their dwellings, I say, and you will see as many mulatto as negro children, the former bearing an unmistakable resemblance to their aristrocrat neighbors! (more…)

Published in: on October 24, 2014 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Strange Case of Father Damien and Mr. Hyde

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Father Damien, now Saint Damien de Veuster, achieved fame in his life for his self-sacricing care of the lepers of Molokai.   So much has been written about the famed leper priest that I feel no need to discuss here the basic facts of his life.   After his death from leprosy grave libels were made against Father Damien, chiefly by a presbyterian minister C.M. Hyde, who, oddly enough, had praised Father Damien during his life.

 

The defense of Father Damien came from an unsual source, the novelist Robert Louis Stevenson.  Stevenson had visited Molokai shortly after the priest’s death and had been deeply moved by what Father Damien had accomplished.  When the libels of Hyde against Father Damien were published in the newspapers, Stevenson took up his pen and composed a reply to Hyde in the form of an open letter.

I have always been moved by the ending of Stevenson’s  letter:

This scandal, when I read it in your letter, was not new to me. I had heard it once before; and I must tell you how. There came to Samoa a man from Honolulu; he, in a public- house on the beach, volunteered the statement that Damien had “contracted the disease from having connection with the female lepers”; and I find a joy in telling you how the report was welcomed in a public-house. A man sprang to his feet; I am not at liberty to give his name, but from what I heard I doubt if you would care to have him to dinner in Beretania Street. “You miserable little ——-” (here is a word I dare not print, it would so shock your ears). “You miserable little ——,” he cried, “if the story were a thousand times true, can’t you see you are a million times a lower —– for daring to repeat it?” I wish it could be told of you that when the report reached you in your house, perhaps after family worship, you had found in your soul enough holy anger to receive it with the same expressions; ay, even with that one which I dare not print; it would not need to have been blotted away, like Uncle Toby’s oath, by the tears of the recording angel; it would have been counted to you for your brightest righteousness. But you have deliberately chosen the part of the man from Honolulu, and you have played it with improvements of your own. The man from Honolulu–miserable, leering creature–communicated the tale to a rude knot of beach-combing drinkers in a public-house, where (I will so far agree with your temperance opinions) man is not always at his noblest; and the man from Honolulu had himself been drinking–drinking, we may charitably fancy, to excess. It was to your “Dear Brother, the Reverend H. B. Gage,” that you chose to communicate the sickening story; and the blue ribbon which adorns your portly bosom forbids me to allow you the extenuating plea that you were drunk when it was done. Your “dear brother”–a brother indeed–made haste to deliver up your letter (as a means of grace, perhaps) to the religious papers; where, after many months, I found and read and wondered at it; and whence I have now reproduced it for the wonder of others. And you and your dear brother have, by this cycle of operations, built up a contrast very edifying to examine in detail. The man whom you would not care to have to dinner, on the one side; on the other, the Reverend Dr. Hyde and the Reverend H. B. Gage: the Apia bar-room, the Honolulu manse. (more…)

Published in: on October 23, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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Saint Albans Raid

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When one thinks of the Civil War, bucolic Vermont usually does not come to mind, except for the troops from Vermont who fought for the Union.  However, on October 19, 1864 the Civil War came to Saint Albans, Vermont.

21 Confederate raiders from Canada disguised as civilians, the border being only 15 miles from the town, entered Saint Albans beginning October 10, two or three arriving each day so as not to attract attention.  At 3:00 PM they staged three simultaneous bank robberies.  Several armed citizens of Saint Albans resisted the raiders, with one of the civilians killed and one wounded.  Infuriated by the resistance, the raiders attempted to burn the town but succeeded only in burning a shed.  Escaping with $208,000.00 dollars the raiders, under pursuit, escaped to Canada.

The raid caused an enormous furor in Canada which wanted no part of the Civil War.  The raiders were arrested and $88,000 returned to the banks in Saint Albans, all that could be recovered by the Canadian authorities.  A Canadian court however ruled that the Confederates, because they were members of the Confederate Army, were not criminals and could not be extradited to the Union.  No further raids were stage from Canada.

The leader of the raid, Lieutenant Bennett Young, was excluded from President Andrew Johnson’s amnesty and spent several years abroad, studying law and literature in Ireland and Scotland.  Being permitted to return to the US in 1868, he became a prominent attorny in Louisville, Kentucky.  His charitable works were legion, including founding the first black orphanage in Louisville and a school for the blind, along with quite a bit of pro bono legal work for the poor.  He served as national commander of the United Confederate Veterans. (more…)

Published in: on October 22, 2014 at 7:13 pm  Leave a Comment  
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