Memorial Day

“Dulce et decorum est”

The bugle echoes shrill and sweet,
But not of war it sings to-day.
The road is rhythmic with the feet
Of men-at-arms who come to pray.

The roses blossom white and red
On tombs where weary soldiers lie;
Flags wave above the honored dead
And martial music cleaves the sky.

Above their wreath-strewn graves we kneel,
They kept the faith and fought the fight.
Through flying lead and crimson steel
They plunged for Freedom and the Right.

May we, their grateful children, learn
Their strength, who lie beneath this sod,
Who went through fire and death to earn
At last the accolade of God.

In shining rank on rank arrayed
They march, the legions of the Lord;
He is their Captain unafraid,
The Prince of Peace . . . Who brought a sword. 

 

Joyce Kilmer (more…)

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Published in: on May 29, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Memorial Day  
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Battle Hymn of the Republic

Something for the weekend.  Only the Battle Hymn of the Republic seems appropriate to me for this weekend. (more…)

Published in: on May 28, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Battle Hymn of the Republic  
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Top Ten Films For Memorial Day Weekend

“When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say,
For Your Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today”

              Inscription on the memorial to the dead of the British 2nd Infantry Division at Kohima.

The upcoming Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer, is a time of fun here in the US.  However, it should also be a time of memory.  Memorial day is derived from the Latin “memoria”, memory, and we are duty bound this weekend to remember those who died in our defense, and who left us with a debt which can never be repaid.  One aid to memory can be films, and here are a few suggestions for films to watch this weekend.

10.  300-This may seem like an odd choice, not involving Americans, and a fairly bizarre retelling of the battle of Thermopylae.  However, it celebrates the idea of never forgetting those who died for their country.  “Go tell the Spartans passerby, that here, obedient to their laws, we lie”.  So wrote Simonides, the greatest poet of his time, in tribute to the Spartans who fell at Thermopylae.  The speech of Dilios at the end of the film, which may be viewed here, reminds us of our duty to remember those who laid down their lives for us, a message to be recalled this weekend.

  9.   They Were Expendable (1945) John Ford and John Wayne tell the story of the doomed PT Boat crews that fought against overwhelming odds during the invasion of the Philippines in 1941-42.  The film has a gritty downbeat feel, appropriate to the subject matter, but an oddity for a film made during the War.

  8.    Hamburger Hill (1987)-Content advisory: very, very strong language in the video clip which may be viewed here.  All the Vietnam veterans I’ve mentioned it to have nothing but praise for this film which depicts the assault on Hill 937 by elements of the 101rst Division, May 10-20, 1969.  It is a fitting tribute to the valor of the American troops who served their country in an unpopular war a great deal better than their country served them.

   7.   Porkchop Hill (1959)-Korea has become to too many Americans The Forgotten War, lost between World War II and Vietnam.  There is nothing forgotten about it by the Americans who served over there,  including my Uncle Ralph McClarey who died recently, and gained a hard won victory for the US in one of the major hot conflicts of the Cold War.  This film tells the story of the small American force on Porkchop Hill, who held it in the face of repeated assaults by superior forces of the Chinese and North Koreans.  As the below clip indicates it also highlights the surreal element that accompanies every war and the grim humor that aspect often brings.

  6.    Glory (1989)-A long overdue salute to the black troops who served in the Union Army during the Civil War.  Robert Gould Shaw the white colonel who led the 54th Massachusetts died at Fort Wagner in the assault of the 54th.  He was buried by the Confederates with his black troops.  His parents were given an opportunity to have his body exhumed and returned to Boston for burial.  Their reply was immortal:    We would not have his body removed from where it lies surrounded by his brave and devoted soldiers….We can imagine no holier place than that in which he lies, among his brave and devoted followers, nor wish for him better company – what a body-guard he has!

(more…)

Published in: on May 26, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments (7)  
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Battle of Ninety-Six

One of the last major engagements in the South during the American Revolution, the siege of Ninety-Six was conducted between May 22, 1781 and June 18, 1781.  Ninety-Six acquired its unusual name from the mistaken belief that it was ninety-six miles from the nearest Cherokee Village.  The “British” who garrisoned Ninety-Six were all American Loyalists, 550 experienced troops from New York, New Jersey and South Carolina under Lieutenant Colonel John Cruger.

The Americans were about 1,000 men under Major General Nathaniel Greene, the commander of American forces in the South. (more…)

Published in: on May 25, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Battle of Ninety-Six  
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Trouble in Tubbyland

(Off topic.  I originally posted this at The American Catholic and I thought that our Almost Chosen People readers might get a kick out of it.)

Hattip to Hank at Eclectic Meanderings.

One of the more obscure Victorian military campaigns, the British conquest of Tubbyland was notable for a fair amount of ineptitude among the British commanders, redeemed by the usual courage shown by the “Tommy Atkins” in the ranks.  For a small war, a fair amount has been written on it, and here are some of my thoughts on the more useful works that I have found in my own research into this “savage war of peace”.

Report of Operations of Tubbyland Field Force, three volumes, Captain Gilbert Bryant-Norris, editor in chief,  Her Majesty’s Stationery Office,  (1888).  The official history, these three volumes go into extensive detail and are essential reading for any serious student of this conflict.  Unfortunately, the various authors are at pains to save the reputations of the commanders involved, and therefore the conclusions set forth should be taken with a boulder of salt.  The volumes do have excellent maps, and the texts of letters and telegrams are of great use in piecing together the somewhat convulted operations.

A Child’s History of the Tubbyland War, Winston Churchill, Longmans Green, (1899).  Leave it to Winston Churchill to write a kids’ book about the conflict!  He softens the rough edges of the War for his young readers, but gives a fairly accurate retelling.  The book of course emphasizes British patriotism and the grandeur of the Empire, but not without some criticism of the British commanders and a fair amount of sympathy for the Tubbies.  This passage is indicative of the style of the work:

 “There was plenty of work here for our brave soldiers and Tubbyland was well worth the cost in blood and money.  Were the gentlemen of England all out fox hunting?  No!  For the sake of our manhood, our devoted colonists and our dead soldiers, we perserved and won our War against a brave, albeit soft and cuddly, adversary”. (more…)

Published in: on May 24, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Trouble in Tubbyland  
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May 23, 1861: Virginia Votes to Secede

On May 23, 1861 Virginia held its referendum on Secession.  The results were 132, 201 to 37, 451 opposed.  The referendum was voted down in most of the counties that would eventually form West Virginia, and the stage was set for a civil war within the Civil War in Virginia, as ultimately 29,000 Union troops would be raised in West Virginia.  Here is the text of the Ordinance of Secession approved by the referendum: (more…)

Published in: on May 23, 2011 at 5:51 am  Comments (4)  
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Alfred Vail: Forgotten American Genius

Samuel Morse achieved historical immortality as the inventor of the telegraph.  Alfred Vail is a victim of that historical obscurity that envelopes the vast majority of people who have ever lived, but in his case unjustly.

Son of the industrial who made the Speedwell Ironworks into one of the most technologically advanced ironworks of its day.  From 1832-1836 Vail attended college at New York University, studying theology.  At New York University on September 2, 1837 he witnessed an early demonstration of the telegraph by Morse.  Vail signed on to work with Morse for a 25% share in the profits and convinced his father to help fund the project.  Vail signed an agreement with Morse by which the name of Morse alone would appear on any patents based on developments made by Vail of the Morse telegraph.  It should be noted that Vail gave no indication at any time that he thought he was being treated unfairly by Morse. 

Vail’s work vastly improved the telegraph of Morse, and Vail has a better claim than Morse to the title of  inventor of the Morse code.  Vail’s assistant William Baxter wrote about this in later years: (more…)

Published in: on May 22, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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Get Off The Track!

Something for the weekend.  Get Off The Track! by the Hutchinson Family Singers, a family group of singers who were very popular in the North during the 1840’s, 1850’s and 1860’s.  They were fiery abolitionists and this song became the anthem of the crusade against slavery in the US. (more…)

Reveille in Washington

It is easy to forget that Washington in Lincoln’s day bore little relationship to the Washington of our day.  In many ways the Washington of Lincoln’s time was still a small town, ill-prepared for the avalanche of rapid growth forced on it by the War.  The classic account of Washington during the Civil War is Margaret Leech’s Reveille in Washington, published, ironically, in 1941, just as Washington was about to undergo another rapid period of expansion during World War II. (more…)

Published in: on May 18, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Reveille in Washington  
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General Longstreet, Catholic Convert, Husband of “The Fighting Lady”

Hattip to Pat McNamara for his post on Longstreet’s conversion which inspired this post.

Lee referred to James “Pete” Longstreet as his “Old War Horse”.  One of the most talented corp commanders of the Confederacy, Longstreet’s memory was long blackened in the South after the War due to Longstreet becoming a Republican and working as surveyor of customs at the port of New Orleans in the Grant administration, and by the efforts of a coterie of former officers of the Army of Northern Virginia, led by Jubal Early, who blamed Longstreet for the defeat at Gettysburg.  The vituperation that he received mattered little to Longstreet who throughout his life did what he thought was right no matter what other people might think.  In 1874 he became adjutant general of the Louisiana militia.  In an uprising of the White League he was wounded and taken prisoner in his own customs house.  His captors gave the rebel yell.  The wounded Longstreet looked at them with disdain and said, “I have heard the yell before.” (more…)

Published in: on May 17, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on General Longstreet, Catholic Convert, Husband of “The Fighting Lady”  
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