K-K-K-K-Katy

Something for the weekend.  KK-K-K-Katy, one of the more popular songs of 1918.  Our times do not have a monopoly on silly music. Kids were still singing this in the Sixties when I was growing up.

 

 

Published in: on October 1, 2022 at 5:50 am  Leave a Comment  
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Our Under Studied Civil War

 

 

It seems shockingly counter-intuitive to suggest that the Civil War is under studied. Beginning while the War was being waged, and continuing to the present day, there have been an avalanche of books about that conflict. However, certain aspects of the War have been understudied. With the advent of almost cost free e-publishing, the legions of amateur Civil War scholars can help rectify this situation. I expect to retire in approximately a decade. If God grants me a long life and good health after retirement I will attempt to aid in shedding light and analysis on facets of the War which have received comparatively little scholarship. Here are ten such areas. I would note that the inclusion of an area for further work does not mean that books and articles have not been written on the subject, but that they are comparatively sparse, especially in reference to topics that receive endless treatment.

The Trans Mississippi- Both the Union and the Confederacy frequently used the conflict beyond the Mississippi as a dumping ground for failed and/or troublesome Generals and that perceived taint has apparently descended down the years to make this the most ignored theater of the War. This has helped give a false impression of the War overall. In the far West the War was fought to the knife and the knife to the hilt, engendering hatreds that lingered for generations after the last shot was fired. The conflict was important with the Union dedicating manpower and resources against local Confederate forces that could have been better spent elsewhere. If the Union had lost the War, the conflict in the Trans Mississippi might well have been blamed for being a drain on Union military and naval resources.

Jefferson Davis-Unsurprisingly, the scholarship on Davis is infinitesimal when compared to the mountain of studies on Lincoln. That imbalance will never be addressed, nor should it be. However, the day to day activities of Jefferson as commander in chief do need a serious and comprehensive study.
United States Colored Troops-Some 180,000 blacks fought for the Union, most in the United States Colored Troops. The scholarship on this organization is limited, weak and much of it dated.

Regimental histories-In the decades immediately following the Civil War, many regimental histories were written, most by former members of the regiments. Although there is valuable history contained in these tomes, the scholarship usually ranged from non-existent to shoddy. Modern regimental histories, in the mode of the pioneering history of the 20th Maine, aren needed. Here, especially, amateur scholars could be quite helpful.

Alcohol and the Civil War-Alcohol tends to be mentioned in most Civil War histories only in reference to General Grant. It was a hard-drinking time and drunkenness was a common problem among officers and men. Alcohol and its impact on the Civil War awaits good, and detailed, studies.

Artillery-Compared to the infantry and cavalry, books on Civil War artillery have been relatively few in numbers. The men who served the king of battle deserve better.

Logistics-Serious consideration of logistics and its impact on Civil War operations tends to be scarce in most histories. A logistical history of the Civil War needs to be written.

Foreign Volunteers-For decades after the Civil War Heroes von Borcke proudly flew the Stars and Bars from the battlements of his Prussian estate, a memento of his service under Jeb Stuart. Considering how many of them there were, the foreign volunteers who fought for the Union and the Confederacy have received little attention in most histories.

Staff work-Ah, the Remfs, always unloved by the frontline soldiers in every conflict. Nonetheless, staff work often determines the success or failure of most military operations, and the scholarship devoted to this important topic is minuscule.

War Governors-Considering the key role they played, the war governors, Union and Confederate, have received, the majority of them, relatively little scholarly attention.

In regard to America’s greatest war, much work remains to be done. Scholars, to your key boards!

Published in: on September 30, 2022 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Zorro: Foe of Big Government?

When I was a small boy, I loved watching the old Walt Disney show Zorro.  I have read recently that Disney, a political conservative, used the Zorro show to argue against big government.  There are some episodes that support this, involving outrage by the people over unjust taxes.  The fictional character Zorro fought against tyrannical government in Old California, and I guess Disney decided that this was  a good story line for how he viewed big government. (more…)

Published in: on September 29, 2022 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Lincoln Courtesy of Walt Disney

Not bad as a simplified version of Lincoln and his role in American history.  The speech of the animatronic Lincoln consists of a compilation from various Lincoln speeches and writings:

The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing.

What constitutes the bulwark of our liberty and independence? It is not our frowning embattlements, our bristling sea coasts. These are not our reliance against tyranny. Our reliance is in the love of liberty, which God has planted in our bosoms. Our defense is in the preservation of the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands everywhere. Destroy this spirit, and you have planted the seeds of despotism around your own doors.

At what point shall we expect the approach of danger? By what means shall we fortify against it? Shall we expect some trans-Atlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined could not, by force, take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years. At what point, then, is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, that if it ever reach us, it must spring from amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we ourselves must be the authors and finishers. As a nation of free men, we must live through all times, or die by suicide. (more…)

Published in: on September 28, 2022 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Legal v. Illegal Rebellions

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XnOjeca4z14

 

Toranaga: “[Another person] says that the Netherlands were vassals of the Spanish king until just a few years ago. Is that true?”

Blackthorne: “Yes.”

Toranaga: “Therefore, the Netherlands – your allies – are in a state of rebellion against their lawful king?”

Blackthorne: “They’re fighting against the Spaniard, yes, but – ”

Toranaga: “Isn’t that rebellion? Yes or no?”

Blackthorne: “Yes. But there are mitigating circumstances. Serious miti- ”

Toranaga: “There are no ‘mitigating circumstances’ when it comes to rebellion against a sovereign lord!”

Blackthorne: “Unless you win.”

Toranaga looked at him intently. Then laughed uproariously. “Yes, Mister Foreigner…you have named the one mitigating factor.”

James Clavell, Shogun

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Hattip to commenter Dale Price for the idea of linking George Washington and Shogun.  Language advisory as to the below video:

 

Published in: on September 27, 2022 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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September 26, 1918: The Meuse-Argonne Offensive Begins

 

The Offensive opened with a six hour bombardment, brief by Great War standards.  In the three hours prior to H hour the Americans fired off more munitions than both sides fired off in the four years of the American Civil War.   Ten American divisions, approximately 260,000 men, advanced along with 700 tanks.  The attack is largely initially successful with some 23,000 German troops captured, with American advances up to six miles.  Here is General Pershing’s report on the first four days of the Offensive:

 

Following three hours of violent artillery fire of preparation, the Infantry advanced at 5.30 a.m. on September 26th, accompanied by tanks. During the first two days of the attack, before the enemy was able to bring up his reserves, our troops made steady progress through the network of defences. Montfaucon was held tenaciously by the enemy and was not captured until noon of the second day.

By the evening of the 28th a maximum advance of 11 kilometres had been achieved and we had captured Baulny, Epinonville, Septsarges, and Dannevoux. The right had made a splendid advance into the woods south of Brieullessur-Meuse, but the extreme left was meeting strong resistance in the Argonne.

The attack continued without interruption, meeting six new divisions which the enemy threw into first line before September 29th. He developed a powerful machine-gun defence supported by heavy artillery fire, and made frequent counter-attacks with fresh troops, particularly on the front of the Twenty-eighth and Thirty-fifth Divisions.

These divisions had taken Varennes, Cheppy, Baulny, and Charpentry, and the line was within 2 kilometres of Apremont. We were no longer engaged in a manoeuvre for the pinching out of a salient, but were necessarily committed, generally speaking, to a direct frontal attack against strong, hostile positions fully manned by a determined enemy.

By nightfall of the 29th the First Army line was approximately Bois de la Cote Lemont-Nantillois-Apremont – southwest across the Argonne. Many divisions, especially those in the centre that were subjected to cross-fire of artillery, had suffered heavily. The severe fighting, the nature of the terrain over which they attacked, and the fog and darkness sorely tried even our best divisions.

On the night of the 29th the Thirty-seventh and Seventy-ninth Divisions were relieved by the Thirty-second and Third Divisions, respectively, and on the following night the First Division relieved the Thirty-fifth Division.

The critical problem during the first few days of the battle was the restoration of communications over “No man’s land.” There were but four roads available across this deep zone, and the violent artillery fire of the previous period of the war had virtually destroyed them. The spongy soil and the lack of material increased the difficulty. But the splendid work of our engineers and pioneers soon made possible the movement of the troops, artillery, and supplies most needed. By the afternoon of the 27th all the divisional artillery, except a few batteries of heavy guns, had effected a passage and was supporting the infantry action.

The initial stage can be rated a success, but with grave deficiencies shown in American training and leadership and hence the pause for reorganization and to replace the initial attacking divisions.  The Offensive would resume on October 4, 1918.

 

Published in: on September 26, 2022 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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September 25, 1918: The Meuse-Argonne Offensive is About to Begin

 

One hundred and four years ago the Meuse-Argonne Offensive is about to begin.  We will be covering it in detail.  In reading about the Offensive, it should be recalled that American divisions were twice the size of European divisions, and with the losses most German and Allied divisions, other than most American divisions, had sustained, the American divisions were often close to triple the size of those divisions.   Here is General Pershing writing about the American forces on the eve of the great battle:

Meuse-Argonne, First Phase

On the night of September 25th, the 9 divisions to lead in the attack were deployed between the Meuse River and the western edge of the Argonne Forest.

On the right was the Third Corps, Maj. Gen. Bullard commanding, with the Thirty-third, Eightieth, and Fourth Divisions in line; next came the Fifth Corps, Maj. Gen. Cameron commanding, with the Seventy-Ninth, Thirty-seventh, and Ninety-first Divisions; on the left was the First Corps, Maj. Gen. Liggett commanding, with the Thirty-fifth, Twenty-eighth, and Seventy-seventh Divisions.

Each corps had 1 division in re serve and the Army held 3 divisions as a general reserve. About 2,700 guns, 189 small tanks, 142 manned by Americans, and 821 airplanes, 604 manned by Americans, were concentrated to support the attack of the infantry.  We thus had a superiority in guns and aviation, and the enemy had no tanks.

The axis of the attack was the line Montfaucon-Romagne-Buzancy, the purpose being to make the deepest penetration in the centre, which, with the Fourth French Army advancing west of the Argonne, would force the enemy to evacuate that forest without our having to deliver a heavy attack in that difficult region.

Published in: on September 25, 2022 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Over There!

Something for the weekend.  George M. Cohan wrote Over There, the song which will always be associated with America in World War I.  He was immortalized by James Cagney in the 1942 film biopic Yankee Doodle Dandy.  Dying on November 5, 1942 of stomach cancer, Cohan saw the film shortly before its release in a private screening.  I do not know if the ending of the film in the clip brought tears to his eyes, but it always does mine.  Cohan wrote the song in under two hours on April 7, 1917, two days after the US declared war on Imperial Germany.  Over There would be introduced to the public during a Red Cross benefit in New York City during the fall of 1917, and swiftly became the American anthem for the war effort.  Son of Union veteran Jeremiah Cohan, who lied about his age to serve as a Union surgeon’s orderly during the Civil War, Cohan attempted to enlist during World War I in the Army but was rejected due to his age.  I have always liked this song.  It has a brash exuberance matched with a determination to accomplish a hard task, traits which have served the US well in dark times.  We could use much more of that spirit today.

 

Published in: on September 24, 2022 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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September 23, 1952: Checkers Speech

The  “Checkers Speech” given by Richard Nixon which allowed him to stay on the ticket as Vice-President on September 23, 1952.  The speech got its name from Nixon’s use of the pet dog given to his daughters, Checkers, to gain sympathy by stating that the girls had gotten fond of the dog and he would not return it.  The speech was classic Nixon:  go on the offensive, self-pitying, maudlin and oh so effective.  Nixon was never a great orator, but until Watergate he never lost the touch of appealing to the average American.  His high brow, usually left wing, critics savaged him, but Nixon never forgot that the purpose of a political speech is  persuasion.

 

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A classic anti-Nixon poster asked if you would buy a used car from him.  For most of his career, Nixon could have sold a car with a shot transmission and four bald tires to to a substantial segment of the American population and they would have thanked him for it.  Whence this power?  I think Nixon early tapped into the resentment that a growing number of average Americans had toward the chattering classes that were rapidly losing touch with them, and looked down on them.  That Nixon privately shared many of the views of the chattering classes that despised him as the ultimate enemy is one of the greater ironies of American political life during Nixon’s career.

 

The “Checkers Speech” will always be remembered for this peroration:

One other thing I probably should tell you because if we don’t they’ll probably be saying this about me too, we did get something—a gift—after the election. A man down in Texas heard Pat on the radio mention the fact that our two youngsters would like to have a dog. And, believe it or not, the day before we left on this campaign trip we got a message from Union Station in Baltimore saying they had a package for us. We went down to get it. You know what it was? It was a little cocker spaniel dog in a crate that he’d sent all the way from Texas. Black and white spotted. And our little girl—Tricia, the 6-year-old—named it Checkers. And you know, the kids, like all kids, love the dog and I just want to say this right now, that regardless of what they say about it, we’re gonna keep it.

 

 

(more…)

Published in: on September 23, 2022 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Long Ride of Colonel Young

 

 

“Get a good life insurance policy, with your family as beneficiary. Bring your Bible and yourself.”

Advice of Charles Davis Young to a friend joining the Tenth Cavalry

 

 

The first black colonel in the United States Army, Charles Davis Young, was born in 1864 in Tennessee, the son of slaves.  His father escaped from slavery in January 1865 and served in the Fifth Regiment Heavy Artillery, United States Colored Troops.  Settling in Ripley, Ohio after the War, Young’s father had saved enough from his military pay to buy land and build a house.  Charles Young attend an otherwise all white school in Ripley and graduated at the top of his class.  Young greatly admired his father, and decided to follow in his footsteps and embark on a military career.  In 1883 he earned appointment to West Point by coming in second on the competitive examination in his Congressional District.  When the first place candidate decided not to go, Young was admitted.

Young’s years at West Point were trying.  He roomed for three years with John Hanks Alexander, the only other black cadet at West Point.   The attitude of the rest of his class to him can be gauged by the nickname he was tagged with:  ” the load of coal”.  As many cadets before and since, he struggled with mathematics and had to repeat his first year as a result.  However, he discovered a hitherto unknown facility for foreign languages and learned several.    The disdainful attitude of most of his fellow cadets was constant, but his endurance and good humor throughout ultimately led to friendships with some white cadets that lasted the remainder of his life.  Young graduated last in his class in 1889.  He was the third black to graduate from West Point and would be the last until 1936.

His service with the Army was largely with the segregated “Buffalo” black cavalry regiments of the Ninth and the Tenth which had earned reputations for valor and professionalism.  On duty Young developed a reputation as all Army, a stern disciplinarian and stickler for regulations.  Off duty he was a kind and cultured man who took an interest in the professional development of his subordinates.  One of those subordinates in 1900 was Sergeant Major Benjamin O. Davis.  Young encouraged him to take the Officer Candidates’ test and tutored him for the test.  Davis passed and was ultimately commissioned.  In 1940 he was promoted to Brigadier General, the first black to attain that rank in US military history.

During the Spanish-American war Young was promoted to the temporary rank of Major of Volunteers and commanded the 9th Ohio, a black volunteer regiment, Young thus becoming the first black to command a regiment in American military history.  Due to the brevity of the War, the 9th Ohio did not see service overseas, a fate common to most of the volunteer regiments raised in that War.  Young did serve in combat in the Philippines, commanding a troop of the Ninth Cavalry in the fight against Insurrectos on Samar.  His courage and leadership caused his men to give him the nickname “Follow me”.

Interspersed with command duties with troops, Young had the usual variety of assignments that were common for Army officers during this time period.  He served as superintendent of two national parks and was assigned as military attache in Haiti and Liberia.  In 1912 he wrote The Military Morale of Nations and Races, which postulated that with good training, and good leadership and fair treatment, the members of any race could make good soldiers.  He dedicated the book to Theodore Roosevelt, a personal friend who had taken an interest in Young’s career.  During the Punitive Expedition in 1916 into Mexico, Major Young attained notoriety due to successful cavalry charges against Mexican bandits while commanding a squadron of the Tenth Cavalry.  Young was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and assigned to command Fort Huachuca in Arizona.

With the US heading to War in Europe it was assumed that Young might become the first black general in the US Army.  That prospect came to an end when Young failed a medical exam in early 1917 due to high blood pressure and damage to his kidneys, a legacy from his service in Liberia.  Young was retired, a retirement that Young protested.  It is likely that racism played a large factor in his retirement, more than a few white officers reacting with dismay to the prospect of serving under a black general.   Writing to Theodore Roosevelt for help in gaining reinstatement, Roosevelt immediately offered him command of one of the two black regiments Roosevelt planned to serve in the Rough Riders that Roosevelt had received Congressional approval to raise for service in World War I. Roosevelt said Young would have carte blanche in choosing the officers of his regiment.  Alas, President Wilson refused to authorize the raising of the Rough Riders.

In June 1918, to show he was physically fit for service, Young rode horseback the 500 miles from Xenia, Ohio to Washington DC.  The trip to Washington took 16 days.  Young experienced both racism and respect from the various whites he encountered.  In a town with a bad reputation for racism against blacks, Young’s attempt to gain reinstatement was met with sympathy by local whites who asked what they could do to help.  Young responded that there was nothing they could do for him, but he would be grateful if black troops traveling through the town would receive a kind welcome.

Young met with Secretary of War Baker who promised to look into the situation.  On November 6, 1918 Young was placed back on active duty and promoted to Colonel.  He remained on active duty until his death of nephritis in 1922 .  He is buried, appropriately, in Arlington.  When he was buried, an estimated 100,000 people lined his funeral procession.