Trump’s Folly

(I originally posted this at The American Catholic and I thought the history mavens of Almost Chosen People might find it interesting.)

News that I missed courtesy of The Babylon Bee:


NUUK, GREENLAND—There have been rumors that President Trump was considering buying Greenland, and Trump has now confirmed those rumors, revealing that he sees it as a great moneymaking opportunity if the U.S. purchases the world’s largest island, fixes it up, and then sells it at a much higher price.

“Look at it; it’s prime real estate,” Trump told the press. “It’s on the very desirable Upper West Side — you know, of the Prime Meridian — and if we just modernize it a bit, that’s going to be some valuable property. And I’m going to split the profits from selling it with the American people, 60/40.”

Trump says his first plan will be to get rid of the giant glacier in the middle of Greenland. “That used to be popular, but it’s out of style now,” he explained. He plans to replace it all with “ultra-fancy” hardwood floors. In addition, he plans to maybe put up some shiplap, add an island, and upgrade the bathrooms. He’s looking at opening it up into more of an “open concept” feel with some farmhouse sinks for a more rustic feel. The president has reportedly hired Chip and Joanna Gaines to help with the upgrades. They previously worked with him to put some shiplap up on the southern border wall.

Democrats, however, are opposed, as they are usually against all of Trump’s awesome schemes, like his tax cuts and his Robot Force — a fighting force made entirely of robots. “I don’t know if I trust the market to not collapse soon,” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi said. “Plus, with the sheer volume of hardwood floors he’s talking, we’d basically have to deforest all of Brazil.”


Go here to read the rest.  My late father did Arctic Survival Training in Greenland in the early fifties.  I have long thought we should acquire it due to its likely mineral wealth and its strategic location.  Denmark says no sale for now.  Of course it took from 1867-1917 for us to purchase the Danish West Indies and turn them into the US Virgin Islands.  The process was started by Secretary of State Seward at the same time he acquired Alaska, Seward’s Folly, for us.  Trump has started a process and we shall see how it plays out over time.

Published in: on August 19, 2019 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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August 18, 1864: Capture of the Weldon Railroad



On August 17, 1864 Grant was heartened when he received a telegram of support from President Lincoln.  Go here to read about it.  Grant remarked to his staff after reading the telegram:   “The President has more nerve than any of his advisors.”

Lincoln had advised Grant:  Hold on with a bull-dog gripe, and chew & choke, as much as possible.  Unbeknownst to the President, Grant already had underway an operation to do just that.  Major General Gouverneur K. Warren was ordered by Grant to take his V corps, supported by units of the IX and II corps and a small cavalry division, and move to the left to capture a section of the Weldon railroad, the main supply line for the Confederate forces at Richmond and Petersburg, which led south to Wilmington, the last major port of the Confederacy.

By 9:00 AM on August 18, 1864, Warren had brushed aside Confederate pickets and reached the Weldon railroad at Globe Tavern.  He deployed a division of his corps to destroy track, held another division in reserve and set another brigade, deployed in line of battle, north to guard against Confederate attempts to retake the railroad.  A.P. Hill, launching his attack at 2:00 PM used two divisions from his corps to retake Globe Tavern, but Warren counterattacked and recovered the ground he lost, his troops entrenching as night fell.

On the 19th, the IX corps reinforced Warrens V corps while the Confederates received three brigades of Major General William Mahones’ division along with “Rooney” Lee’s cavalry division.  Mahone, cementing his reputation, after the part he played in retaking the Crater, as one of the best generals for the Confederacy in 1864, launched a slashing flank attack that captured two Union brigades.  A Confederate frontal assault by Major General Henry Heth was easily repulsed, and the fighting ended with a IX corps counterattack leading to hand to hand fighting as nightfall brought a  close to the day’s fighting.

Torrential rains on the 20th prevented large scale combat.  Warren withdrew on the night of the 20-21 to a new fortified line.  Confederate attacks failed to dislodge him, and the battle of Globe Tavern ended with the Union in permanent possession of several miles of the Weldon railroad which necessitated the Confederates to bring in supplies to Petersburg and Richmond thirty miles from the nearest section of the Weldon railroad not under Union control.  Union casuaties were 4, 296 to 1,620 Confederates but the noose had been tightened around Petersburg and the Confederacy.

Here are the comments of General Grant on this operation in his Personal Memoirs: (more…)

The Swamp Fox

“[a]s for this damned old fox, the Devil himself could not catch him.”

British Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton after fruitlessly pursuing Marion twenty-five miles through swamps.

Something for the weekend.  The Swamp Fox theme song from the Disney television series, 1959-1961. very loosely based on the exploits of Francis Marion in the American Revolution.  The most successful partisan in American history, Francis Marion and his colleagues Thomas Sumter and Andrew Pickens, led bands of irregulars in South Carolina after the British took Charleston in 1780.  The diminutive Marion kept his men under tight control, and launched constant raids on the British. When regular Continental forces re-appeared in South Carolina, Marion gave invaluable assistance in the liberation of his home state.   Marion and General Nathaniel Greene, commander of the Continental troops in South Carolina frequently clashed as two strong willed men have a tendency to do, but he paid Marion this handsome tribute in a letter on April 24, 1781:


When I consider how much you have done and suffered, and under what disadvantage you have maintained your ground, I am at a loss which to admire most, your courage and fortitude, or your address and management…History affords no instance wherein an officer has kept possession of a Country under so many disadvantages as you have; surrounded on every side with a superior force…To fight the enemy bravely with a prospect of victory is nothing; but to fight with intrepidty under the constant impression of a defeat, and inspire irregular troops to do it, is a talent peculiar to yourself.


August 16, 1812: Surrender of Detroit



One of the more humiliating defeats in US military history, the surrender of Detroit on August 16, 1812 got the War of 1812 off to a disastrous start for the United States.  After his abortive attempt to invade Canada, read about it here,  With the British seizure of Mackinac Island on Lake Huron on July 17, Hull, fearing that his supply lines would be cut by the Indian allies of the British, fell back to Fort Detroit.

Major General Isaac Brock, commander of the British forces in Canada, took the initiative and launched an attack on Fort Detroit with his miniscule force of 400 regulars, 300 militia and 600 Indians.  He was aided in his attack on Fort Detroit by the sloop Queen Charlotte and the brig General Hunter.

The “siege” of Detroit opened on August 15, with both a land and sea artillery bombardment of the Fort.  Brock sent a demand for surrender to Hull which had the implicit threat of a massacre if surrender did not occur:  The force at my disposal authorizes me to require of you the immediate surrender of Fort Detroit. It is far from my intention to join in a war of extermination, but you must be aware, that the numerous body of Indians who have attached themselves to my troops, will be beyond control the moment the contest commences… (more…)

Published in: on August 16, 2019 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Parker Brothers Games on American Wars



While I was at GenCon this year I purchased for a buck a Parker Brothers game published in 1961 called 1863.  The game was a very primitive strategic wargame, no doubt published in an attempt to cash in on the Civil War Centennial.  I hadn’t realized this but Parker Brothers had a long history of publishing games on American Wars, as Susan Asbury noted in a post in 2017:

Recently, as I was conducting dissertation research at The Strong museum on the role of board games in the Victorian parlor, I stumbled across a group of Parker Brothers’ games on the Spanish-American War and the Filipino Insurrection. Reflecting ideas of growth, progress, and material gain, I realized that these games provide perfect illustrations of the ways in which game designers and manufacturers infused their products with the geopolitical conflicts of the day as they fostered new family rituals in the home.  

The Spanish-American War lasted only a few short months in 1898. But newspapers had been reporting on the Cuban insurrection for years beforehand, and Parker Brothers contributed to a  ​ popular understanding of the conflict through games focused on famous battles, military figures, and patriotism. Games such as The War in Cuba (1897) allowed participants to understand the Cuban insurgency against Spain. Once America took up arms against Spain, the company released The Battle of Manila (1898) and The Siege of Havana (1898), both of which recreated famous battle scenes, gave players wooden pieces to use as artillery shells, and allowed players to captain their own American vessels. In each, the winner was the player who inflicted the most damage on the Spanish fleet. Two additional games, The Blockade Runner (1899) and Dewey’s Victory: Never Beaten (1900), again emphasized America’s naval capabilities, with the former game allowing one player to be the blockade runner attempting to reach the port of either Havana or Matanzas with supplies and the latter giving players the opportunity to re-enact the Battle of Manila.

Dewey’s Victory board game

Parker Brothers book-ended the Spanish-American War with The Philippine War: Crushing the Rebellion in Luzon (1900) a game in which each player represented an American general in charge of a regiment. The winner was the first person to capture five towns on the board (a map that included most of the Island of Luzon). Capturing a town meant that players moved game pieces to a city “to crush the rebellion in Luzon by occupying and holding the principal towns throughout the island.” The game represented the company’s shift from supporting a war against Spain to the perspective of supporting American troops against an insurgent population on an island the U.S. had seized as a result of the Spanish-American conflict.

Go here to read the rest.​

Published in: on August 15, 2019 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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August 14, 1864: Second Battle of Deep Bottom


 In late July Northern newspapers were filled with the raids into the North being staged by Jubal Early and his corps in the Shenandoah Valley.  In order to distract Lee from sending reinforcements to Early, Grant decided to make another attempt on Richmond  at the sector named Deep Bottom north of the James River.  (Grant had just made a similar attempt at Deep Bottom to divert Confederate attention just before the mine explosion of the battle of the Crater.  Go here to read about the first battle of Deep Bottom.)  As in the first battle of Deep Bottom, Hancock’s corps crossed to the north side of the James, with hard fighting on August 14-20. Hancock could not make any substantial headway and withdrew south of the James on the night of the 20th.    Union casualties were 2,889 -1500 Confederates.

Here is Grant’s account of this operation in his Personal Memoirs: (more…)

The Purple Heart (1944)



It’s true we Americans don’t know very much about you Japanese, and never did. And now I realise you know even less about us. You can kill us, all of us, or part of us, but if you think that will put fear into the United States of America and stop them from sending other flyers to bomb you, you’re wrong, dead wrong. They’ll come by night and by day, thousands of them. They’ll blacken your skies and burn your cities and make you beg for mercy. This is your war. You wanted it. You asked for it. You started it. Now you’re going to get it. And it won’t be finished until your dirty little empire is wiped off the face of the earth.

Dana Andrews as Captain Harvey Ross, speech before sentence, Purple Heart (1944)

Released on March 8, 1944, the film The Purple Heart (1944) is a dramatization of the show trial the Japanese held of the captured Doolittle raiders.  Eight of the raiders were captured.  Of the captured raiders, three were executed by the Japanese on October 15, 1942 following the show trial.  They were the first of approximately 132 American airmen executed after capture by the Japanese government.  Contrary to the film, the details were not released by the Japanese, the three condemned raiders were not tried in a civilian court but by a drumhead courtmartial consisting of Japanese officers.  The men executed were First Lieutenant William G. Farrow, Sergeant Harold A. Spatz and First Lieutenant Dean E. Hallmark.

The remaining five POWs were placed on starvation rations, with one of them dying prior to liberation by the Allied forces at the end of the War.  Jacob DeShazer, one of the POWs, came back to Japan as a missionary in 1948 and worked there for 30 years spreading the Gospel.

The film is strangely prophetic in regard to the bombing campaign that would bring the Japanese Empire to its knees.  Until 1945 the bombing campaign against Japan had been ineffective, due to lack of air bases close to Japan and the scattered nature of Japanese industry in Japanese cities throughout residential areas.   Precision daylight bombing as performed by the US Army Air Corps in the European Theater was useless under those conditions. After General Curtis E. Lemay was appointed commander of the XX Bomber Command in the Marianas in January 1945 that all changed.  Lemay hit upon the idea of stripping all superfluous equipment, including machine guns, off his B-29s, packing them with incendiary bombs, topping off the gas tanks in midair after take off, and having them fly so high that the Japanese could not intercept them,  He then conducted massive incendiary raids on Japanese cities which, by the end of war, killed around half a million Japanese civilians and left five million homeless.  Some 40% of Japanese urban areas in 66 cities went up in flames, along with most Japanese war industry.  Lemay intended to destroy every Japanese urban center, and he would have if the War had not ended swiftly after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima, August 6, 1945, and Nagasaki, August 9, 1945.


“Don’t let this get you down. Just remember God will make everything right and that I’ll see you all again in the hereafter. . . . Read “Thanatopsis” by Bryant if you want to know how I am taking this. My faith in God is complete, so I am unafraid.”

From a letter by First Lieutenant William G. Farrow to his mother.

Grand Strategy of the Allies

Published in: on August 12, 2019 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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August 11, 1945: US Responds to Surrender Offer



On receipt of the Japanese offer to surrender, the decision was quickly made by Harry Truman as to the US response.  From his August 10, 1945 diary entry:

“Ate lunch at my desk and discussed the Jap offer to surrender which came in a couple of hours earlier. They wanted to make a condition precedent to the surrender. Our terms are ‘unconditional’. They wanted to keep the Emperor. We told ’em we’d tell ’em how to keep him, but we’d make the terms.”

Truman ordered that no more atomic bomb attacks be made, although conventional attacks be continued.  When the press misinterpreted an Army Air Corps briefing that mentioned that no bombers were flying over Japan due to bad weather on August 11, 1945, Truman ordered a halt to conventional attacks so the Japanese would not be confused on his willingness to give them a short time to consider the Allied response.  The response went out on August 11, the Soviets signing on reluctantly as they were busily conquering Manchuria from the Japanese and did not want the War to stop until they had wiped out Japanese opposition.  Here is the text of the Allied response: (more…)

Published in: on August 11, 2019 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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“So he is no more than a common mortal! Now, too, he will tread under foot all the rights of Man, indulge only his ambition; now he will think himself superior to all men, become a tyrant!”

Beethoven upon hearing that Napoleon had proclaimed himself Emperor.




Something for the weekend.  Symphony number three, Eroica, by Ludwig van Beethoven.  Written mainly in 1803-1804, it was originally inspired by Beethoven’s admiration for Napoleon Bonaparte. It is ironic that Beethoven quickly soured on Bonaparte after Napoleon proclaimed himself Emperor of the French.  Beethoven now regarded his former hero as a tyrant.  Good music survives far longer than fleeting political passions.

Published in: on August 10, 2019 at 3:35 am  Leave a Comment  
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