Audie Murphy: American Hero

In the Fifties actor Audie Murphy achieved stardom, mainly in Westerns.  Murphy looked like a typical Hollywood “pretty boy” but he was anything but.  From a family of 12 in Texas, Murphy had dropped out of school in the fifth grade to support his dirt poor family after his worthless father ran off.    His mother died in 1941.  In 1942 he enlisted in the Army at 17, lying about his birthday, partially to support his family and partially because he dreamed of a military career.  He served with the Third Infantry Division in North Africa, Sicily, Italy, France and Germany.  By the end of the war, before his 21st birthday, (it is possible that he was only 19 at the time as his older sister Corrine may have added two years to his birth certificate in order to help him get in the Army) he was a First Lieutenant and had earned, in hellish combat, a Medal of Honor, a Distinguished Service Cross, two Silver Stars, a Legion of Merit, a French Legion of Honor, a French Croix de Guerre, a Belgian Croix de Guerre, two Bronze Stars and three Purple Hearts.  He was the most decorated soldier of the US Army in World War 2.  Here is his Medal of Honor Citation and which helps explain why Murphy entitled his war memoir, To Hell and Back: (more…)

Published in: on September 30, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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McKinley Speaks!

A voice from 115 years ago.  The campaign of 1896 was a study in contrasts.  William Jennings Bryan, the Democrat candidate for President, was the premier orator of his day, and during the campaign he barnstormed across the nation, giving over 600 speeches.  As the video indicates, McKinley was not an orator.  McKinley stayed close to home, conducting a front porch campaign, and gave speeches to supporters brought to his home to hear him speak.

Mark Hannah, McKinley’s campaign manager, put together one of the most effective Presidential campaigns in American history, outspending Bryan’s campaign by a stunning 12-1, and flooding the nation with pamphlets, flyers, pro-McKinley parades and surrogate speakers for McKinley.  On election day McKinley crushed Bryan, 271-176 in the electoral college, ushering in a period of Republican political dominance, which, with the exception of Wilson’s two terms in the White House, would last until 1932. (more…)

Published in: on September 28, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on McKinley Speaks!  
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De Kalb at Camden

The battle of Camden, August 16, 1780, was a humiliating defeat for the Americans.  Led by General Horatio Gates, a former British officer, 3700 Americans, more than half of them militia, were defeated by 1500 British regulars and 600 Loyalist militia.  900 Americans were killed and wounded, and a thousand Americans captured, compared to a British loss of 68 killed and 250 wounded.  Most of the American militia ran at the opening of the battle and Gates fled with them, riding his horse 60 miles to Charlotte, North Carolina.  Gates, thankfully, was never given a field command again.  His blundering had thrown away the only major American regular military force remaining in the South.  It was a disaster for the Americans and a humiliating one.

The one bright spot in this fiasco was the heroism of General Johann de Kalb and the Maryland and Delaware Continentals he led.  Born in 1721 into a family of peasants, de Kalb managed the incredible feat in Eighteenth Century Old Regime France of rising due to sheer ability to the rank of Brigadier General and entered the ranks of the nobility as a baron.  He first became familiar with America in 1768:  serving as a French spy he traveled throughout the colonies to determine the level of dissatisfaction of the colonists with British rule.  He grew to sympathize with the Americans.  He came back to America with Lafayette in 1777, becoming a Continental Major General. (more…)

Published in: on September 26, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on De Kalb at Camden  
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Gary Grigsby’s War Between the States

I am sure it will come as little surprise to the faithful readers of this blog to learn that in my spare time I like to play computer wargames.  The games that I play tend to be historically accurate grand strategic recreations  of  wars of the past.  One of my favorites is Gary Grigsby’s War Between the States by Matrix Games. Gary Grigsby is near legendary among computer war gamers for his game designs of computer wargames going back into the early eighties.  His designs are noted for both their historical accuracy and their complexity and they are not for the faint of heart.  However, for those who take the time to master them, his games can not only give an enjoyable gaming experience, but also insights into conflicts, as one learns such lessons as the impact of supplies on military movements, the impact on a War of an able commander, raising troops, keeping up civilian morale, the effect of taking high losses among veteran units, etc.  To someone who truly enjoys military history as I do, they can be a real intellectual feast. (more…)

Published in: on September 25, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Gary Grigsby’s War Between the States  
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There’ll Be A Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight

Something for the weekend.  Hands down the favorite song of the troops during the Spanish-American War was the ragtime hit There’ll Be a Hot Time in the Old Time Tonight.  This presented something of a generational music gap as most of the older officers were used to the more sedate melodies of the earlier Nineteenth Century, but most of the men in the ranks and the younger officers were more attuned to ragtime and its syncopated style.  (more…)

Published in: on September 24, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on There’ll Be A Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight  
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Catholics in the American Revolution

Nor, perchance did the fact which We now recall take place without some design of divine Providence. Precisely at the epoch when the American colonies, having, with Catholic aid, achieved liberty and independence, coalesced into a constitutional Republic the ecclesiastical hierarchy was happily established amongst you; and at the very time when the popular suffrage placed the great Washington at the helm of the Republic, the first bishop was set by apostolic authority over the American Church. The well-known friendship and familiar intercourse which subsisted between these two men seems to be an evidence that the United States ought to be conjoined in concord and amity with the Catholic Church. And not without cause; for without morality the State cannot endure-a truth which that illustrious citizen of yours, whom We have just mentioned, with a keenness of insight worthy of his genius and statesmanship perceived and proclaimed. But the best and strongest support of morality is religion.

Pope Leo XIII

American Catholics, a very small percentage of the population of the 13 colonies, 1.6 percent, were overwhelmingly patriots and played a role in the American Revolution out of all proportion to the small fragment of the American people they represented.  Among the Catholics who assumed leadership roles in the fight for our liberty were:

General Stephen Moylan  a noted cavalry commander and the first Muster Master-General of the Continental Army.

Captains Joshua Barney and John Barry,  two of the most successful naval commanders in the American Revolution.

Colonel John Fitzgerald was a trusted aide and private secretary to General George Washington.

Father Pierre Gibault, Vicar General of Illinois, whose aid was instrumental in the conquest of the Northwest for America by George Rogers Clark.

Thomas Fitzsimons served as a Pennsylvania militia company commander during the Trenton campaign.  Later in the War he helped found the Pennsylvania state navy.  After the War he was one of the two Catholic signers of the U.S. Constitution in 1787

Colonel Thomas Moore led a Philadelphia regiment in the War.

Major John Doyle led a group of elite riflemen during the War.

The list could go on at considerable length.  Figures on how many Catholics served in the Continental Army or the American militias is speculative as records of religious affiliations were not normally kept.  From anecdotal evidence my guess would be at least five percent, far in exess of the Catholic percentage of the population.

The foreign volunteers who came to fight for our freedom were overwhelmingly Catholic, including LaFayette,  de Kalb and Pulaski.  Of course the French troops were almost all Catholic, and there were tens of thousands of them who saw service in the US.  The first mass in Boston was a funeral mass for a French soldier with members of the Continental Congress in attendance.  Washington on occasion attended mass during the War along with other Founding Fathers.

After the War Washington paid tribute to the role Catholics played in the American Revolution:

As mankind become more liberal they will be more apt to allow that all those who conduct themselves as worthy members of the community are equally entitled to the protection of civil government. I hope ever to see America among the foremost nations in examples of justice and liberality. And I presume that your fellow-citizens will not forget the patriotic part which you took in the accomplishment of their Revolution, and the establishment of their government; or the important assistance which they received from a nation in which the Roman Catholic faith is professed.

Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, sums up Catholic participation in the Revolution:

Their blood flowed as freely (in proportion to their numbers) to cement the fabric of independence as that of any of their fellow-citizens: They concurred with perhaps greater unanimity than any other body of men, in recommending and promoting that government, from whose influence America anticipates all the blessings of justice, peace, plenty, good order and civil and religious liberty.

Published in: on September 23, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Catholics in the American Revolution  
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President Theodore Roosevelt: Fourth of July 1903 Oration



Ah, if only “talkies” had existed during Theodore Roosevelt’s life.  Here we see a silent film of the Fourth of July speech in 1903 given by Roosevelt in Huntington, New York, during the 250th anniversary year of that town.  We cannot hear him speak, but the energy and passion which he poured into every speech he gave is clear from the film.  Here is the text of the speech: (more…)

Published in: on September 22, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments (4)  
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Lee Photgraph Sells For $23,001.00

A tribute to the continuing fascination of the American public with our Civil War.  As an added plus the $23,001.00 will aid Goodwill in its work.   I began my personal library as a child and teenager by going to a local goodwill store and buying paperbacks for 20 cents and hardbacks for a quarter.  Thus I first made the acquaintance of Plutarch, Plato, Aristotle, Thucydides, Herodotus, Dante and many other authors who set my feet on the path of knowledge.  Goodwill will always have a warm place in my heart. (more…)

Published in: on September 21, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Lee Photgraph Sells For $23,001.00  
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September 19, 1861: Battle of Barbourville, Kentucky

The first Confederate victory of the Civil War in Kentucky, the Battle of Barbourville is one of the first of hundreds of skirmishes and battles fought in the Dark and Bloody Ground during the Civil War.  Throughout the summer of 1861, Unionists had been training troops at camp Andrew Johnson near Barbourville.  Brigadier General Felix Zollicoffer had recently seized the Cumberland Gap.  Zollifcoffer sent forward 800 men under Colonel Joel Battle to seize Camp Andrew Johnson and disperse the Union forces there. (more…)

Published in: on September 19, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on September 19, 1861: Battle of Barbourville, Kentucky  
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Andrew Klavan Explains the Constitution

Special for the day after Constitution Day!  Andrew Klavan explains the Constituion in his own inimitable fashion!

Published in: on September 18, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Andrew Klavan Explains the Constitution  
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