Millard Fillmore?

Ah, Millard Fillmore, doubtless the most obscure of American presidents.  As far as most Americans are concerned, everything in the above video could have been true.  For a somewhat, hopefully, more factual look at our thirteenth president, go here.

Published in: on February 28, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  

Dixie Diarist

Perhaps the most informative diary written in the Old South was that kept by Mary Boykin Chesnut, wife to James Chesnut, US Senator from South Carolina and during the war a Confederate General and aide to General Beauregard and President Davis.  Her diary is filled with intelligence and wit and is a treat to read.  Here are a few selections: (more…)

Published in: on February 25, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Dixie Diarist  
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The Day Lincoln Jumped Out A Window

The news is currently filled with reports of Democrat state senators from Wisconsin on the lam in my home state of Illinois in an attempt to prevent a quorum in the Wisconsin state senate and stall action on Governor Scott Walker’s public employees union bill.  Fleeing from a legislative chamber to prevent a quorum from being formed and stall legislation is a tactic probably as old as legislative chambers.  In 1841 Illinois Representative Abraham Lincoln was involved in such an attempt. (more…)

Published in: on February 24, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Day Lincoln Jumped Out A Window  
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It’s On: Adams v. Jefferson!

One of the more interesting aspects of the conflict between Jefferson and Adams is how little difference it made in the long run in American history, except, perhaps, for an early establishment of the two party tradition.  For all Jefferson’s partiality to France, when he was in office he steered a strictly neutral course.  The economic development of the country was little changed by the switch in parties in power.  The battles over internal developments that marked the conflicts between Democrats and Whigs, were matters for a later time when expansion and technological progress brought them to the fore.  The Alien and Sedition Acts which loom large in the below video:

involved less of principle and more of politics.  Jefferson, for example, was in favor of prosecutions of federalists under state sedition laws in states which his followers controlled. 

As Jefferson and Adams found when they began an increasingly friendly private correspondence in 1812, the two old revolutionaries agreed on far more than they differed, and I would argue that their differences were usually more theoretical than practical, as both demonstrated in their presidencies. (more…)

Published in: on February 23, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on It’s On: Adams v. Jefferson!  
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February 22, 1861: Lincoln on the Declaration of Independence


One hundred and fifty years ago Abraham Lincoln was getting close to Washington as he traveled there to be sworn in as our sixteenth president.  On February 22, the birthday of Washington, he stopped at Independence Hall in Philadelphia and made a brief speech on the Declaration of Independence.  The Founding Fathers were the political lodestar for Lincoln all of life, so his remarks on this occasion are of special interest: (more…)

Published in: on February 22, 2011 at 6:48 am  Comments Off on February 22, 1861: Lincoln on the Declaration of Independence  

Lincoln on Washington

Most lists of great American presidents have two names at the top:  George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.  There is some debate as to which should be first.  If it were possible to ask Lincoln his opinion, I have little doubt how he would respond based upon the closing of a speech that he gave to the Washington Temperance Society in Springfield, Illinois on February 22, 1842: (more…)

Published in: on February 21, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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Washington’s Second Inaugural Address

The video above from the magnificent John Adams series depicts the first inaugural of George Washington.  Washington for me is the standard by which all our other presidents are judged.  Without him of course, in all likelihood, there would be no United States as the American Revolution would have been lost without him to lead the starving, ragged Continentals to an against the odds victory.  In turbulent times he then led the nation for the first eight years under the new Constitution, setting the nation firmly on a course of prosperity, growth and expanding liberty.  A statesman like Washington comes to a people once every few centuries if they are fortunate, and we had him precisely when we needed a leader of his calibre most.

Would that our other presidents, with the exception of Lincoln, had possessed a fraction of his ability to lead and his wisdom to chart a sound course.  I also wish that our other presidents had one of his minor traits:  brevity.  Here is his second inaugural address in its entirety: (more…)

Published in: on February 20, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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The Battle of Bull Run


Something for the weekend.  The Battle of Bull Run by Johnny Horton. (more…)

Published in: on February 19, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Battle of Bull Run  
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The Horse Soldiers

In 1959 John Ford and John Wayne, in the last of their “cavalry collaborations”, made the Horse Soldiers, a film based on Harold Sinclair’s novel of the same name, which is a wonderful fictionalized account of Grierson’s Raid April 17-May 2 1863 during Grant’s Vicksburg campaign where 1700 Union troopers, under Colonel Benjamin Grierson, a music teacher and band leader from Jacksonville, Illinois turned soldier, rode 600 miles through Confederate territory from southern Tennessee to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, providing a diversion as Grant moved on Vicksburg. The video above shows an interview done of Harold Sinclair during the making of the film.  Go here to read a note by Sinclair at the beginning of the novel in which he describes the liberties taken in the novel from the historical events. (more…)

Published in: on February 17, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Horse Soldiers  
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Why Are You Interested in the Civil War?

My co-blogger Paul Zummo and I also blog at The American Catholic.  Yesterday we were asked by a commenter why we were interested in the Civil War.

Here is my answer:

There are many eras of history that interest me, Pinky, but I am especially interested in the Civil War for the reason noted by Shelby Foote:

“Any understanding of this nation has to be based, and I mean really based, on an understanding of the Civil War. I believe that firmly. It defined us. The Revolution did what it did. Our involvement in European wars, beginning with the First World War, did what it did. But the Civil War defined us as what we are and it opened us to being what we became, good and bad things. And it is very necessary, if you are going to understand the American character in the twentieth century, to learn about this enormous catastrophe of the mid-nineteenth century. It was the crossroads of our being, and it was a hell of a crossroads. “

Here is Paul’s answer:

I’m an American history buff, and the Civil War is the seminal moment in our history. There’s also something to the fact that many of the battlefields are either wholly or at least partially preserved. You can go to Gettysburg, spend a couple of days there, and still not see everything. So being able to stand on the fields and see how the battles played out is something that is unique to the Civil War, as I don’t believe the Revolutionary War battlefields are as ubiquitous. (more…)

Published in: on February 15, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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