Ronald Reagan on How to Recognize a Zero

Captain Ronald Reagan, United States Army, spent World War 2 making training films for the United States Army Air Corps.  Reagan had been an officer in the Army Reserve since 1937.  His bad eyesight qualified him for stateside duty only, and the Army put his skills as an actor to good use.  Over 16 million men and women served in the US Armed Forces during the War, and training films were an essential technique in training huge numbers of civilians quickly.  Reagan would joke about his military service in later years, but he did the work assigned to him and did it well, and the Army can ask nothing more from any of its troops.

Published in: on December 30, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Ronald Reagan on How to Recognize a Zero  
Tags: , ,

Brigham Young, Plural Marriage and the Manifesto of 1890

By his own account Brigham Young was aghast when he heard of the Mormon doctrine of multiple wives.  “It was the first time in my life that I desired the grave.”  However, he got over his initial apprehensions.  By the time of his death he had wedded 55 women.  Of these brides, 21 had never been married before; 16 were widows; six were divorced; and six had living husbands, with the remaining wives having marital histories that are unknown to us.  Some of the marriages were apparently non-conjugal, and some of the marriages were temporary in nature.  He had 54 children, 46 of whom survived into adulthood, a fairly high percentage for nineteenth century America.

The exact number of the descendants of Brigham Young has never been calculated, but apparently there are well over 5,000.  There is a Brigham Young Family Association which holds family reunions, which must be a sight to behold.

Young had been a skilled head of his church, carving the Mormon Zion out of the wilderness in Utah, and placing the Mormon on the path of growth and prosperity.  However, the church was never going to be tolerated by non-Mormon Americans as long as the institution of plural marriage existed, which was simply anathema to almost all non-Mormons.  It was left to the fourth president of the church, Wilford Woodruff, himself a pluralist, to issue the famous Manifesto of 1890.  A small number of plural marriages were celebrated by the church after the Manifesto, but most Mormons readily turned their back on an institution that was manifestly more trouble to them than it was worth, especially since most Mormons had been content with one spouse.  With the Manifesto the Mormons achieved their long-term goal of statehood for Utah, and the beginning of their entry into the American mainstream.  The text of the Manifesto: (more…)

Published in: on December 29, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Brigham Young, Plural Marriage and the Manifesto of 1890  
Tags: , , ,

Battle of Cooch’s Bridge

The state of Delaware contributed some of the finest troops to serve in the Continental Army;  the tiny state however saw only one battle fought within its borders during the Revolution:  the battle of Cooch’s Bridge.

Fought on September 3, 1777, the battle, actually only a skirmish in size, was part of Washington’s tactics to delay the British as they marched on Philadelphia.  The hand-picked light infantry corp of around 800 men under Brigadier General William Maxwell had been scouting and skirmishing with the British after their landing at Head of Elk in late August.  Maxwell and his men on the morning of September 3 had prepared an ambush for the British south of Cooch’s bridge on the main road leading to Philadelphia.  The British marched into the ambush.  The Americans retreated after the British brought up enough troops to overwhelm the force of Maxwell if the Americans did not retreat. (more…)

Published in: on December 27, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Battle of Cooch’s Bridge  
Tags: , ,

One Solitary Life

I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.

H.G. Wells

Here is a man who was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village. He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher.

He never owned a home. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family. He never went to college. He never put His foot inside a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place He was born. He never did one of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself…

While still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies. He went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed upon a cross between two thieves. While He was dying His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had on earth – His coat. When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend.

Nineteen long centuries have come and gone, and today He is a centerpiece of the human race and leader of the column of progress.

I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that were ever built; all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life.

“I know men and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creation of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded His empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him.”


Published in: on December 25, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on One Solitary Life  
Tags: , ,

Thirty Years Ago: Reagan Christmas Address

On December 23, 1981, President Ronald Reagan addressed the nation.  The video above is an excerpt from that speech.  The portion of the address dealing with the attempt by the then Polish Communist regime to crush Solidarity, the Polish labor union leading a movement for freedom that would ultimately be the spark that destroyed Communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, is omitted.  A few things struck me about the address:

1.  When is the last time a president quoted G.K. Chesterton?

2.   Reagan’s reference to children as a gift from God.

3.   His reference to Christ’s first miracle being His coming to humanity as a helpless babe.

They don’t make them like Reagan anymore, and more is the pity.  Here is the text of his address: (more…)

Published in: on December 23, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Thirty Years Ago: Reagan Christmas Address  
Tags: ,

Hobbit Official Trailer

The movie itself will not be released until December 14, 2012 (!), but the trailer is just in time to add to our Christmas cheer!  (Not history related, but I thought the history mavens of Almost Chosen People might enjoy viewing it anway!)

Published in: on December 21, 2011 at 6:18 am  Comments Off on Hobbit Official Trailer  
Tags: , ,

Well That Was Humbling

(This was originally posted over at The American Catholic.  I thought the history mavens at Almost Chosen People might like to try their hands at science!)








The Christian Science Monitor has a science quiz.  I found it rather rough.  I got 37 out of 50 right, and I am afraid quite a few of my correct answers were attributable to my knowledge of history, familiarity with Greek and Latin terms, and good guessing.  Go here to take it, and report back to us in the thread below with the results!

Published in: on December 19, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
Tags: ,

Canadians in the American Civil War

A little known fact about our Civil War is how many of our neighbors to the North participated in it.  Some 33,000-55,000 Canadians came south to fight for the Union, and a few hundred Canadians went further south to fight for the Confederacy. Some 29 Canadian soldiers fighting for the Union earned the newly created Medal of Honor.  The Civil War had a major impact on Canadian history.  The confederation of Canada was created in 1867, and the fathers of the confederation, believing that too strong states had helped lead to the American Civil War, ensured the establishment of a strong federal government in Canada. (more…)

Published in: on December 18, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
Tags: , ,

Washington at Bay

Each year, as Christmas is approaching, I think of a Christmas long ago in 1776.  The year in which we declared our independence from Great Britain was a year of military disaster for the United States.  Washington and his troops had been beaten time after time, and as the end of the year approached the Revolution seemed to be dying.  The British controlled New York, the largest city in the colonies and the major port.  New Jersey had been conquered.  The Continental Congress was in flight from Philadelphia, in expectation that the British would next move on that city.  Washington’s army had been reduced to around 3,000 ill-clad and ill-fed poorly trained troops, vastly outnumbered by their British adversaries and their Hessian mercenaries, all well-trained, well equipped, well clad and well fed.  Defeat seemed all but inevitable to all but Washington.  In this hour of doom, he rallied his troops and launched the Trenton-Princeton campaign, which restored the morale of his Army, liberated much of New Jersey, and put new heart to American patriots everywhere.  Washington had worked a military miracle.

The feat is all the more impressive, in that privately Washington was well-aware of the odds against him, and feared that defeat was probably likely.  We see that in two letters he wrote on December 10 and 17, 1776, to his nephew Lund Washington, who ran Mount Vernon in his absence: (more…)

Published in: on December 16, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Washington at Bay  
Tags: , ,

Ernie Pyle Remembers Clark Kent

Withywindle at Athens and Jerusalem has a spectacular reminiscence by reporter Ernie Pyle of his encounters with Clark Kent during World War II:

We were on a press plane flying from England down to North Africa just after the troops landed in forty two. The ride was bumpy and we were passing around a bottle of whiskey. I offered it to this big man in the back, and he said, “No thanks, Mr. Pyle, I’m tee-total.” But he said it in a friendly way that didn’t seem stuck up at all. I said, “You know my name, but I don’t know yours. Who are you?” Somebody else said, “You don’t know him, Ernie? That’s Clark Kent, the one who did all those Superman stories.” I whistled, because those had been good pieces, and because I could see how young Kent must have been when he wrote them. I took a longer look at him. Big man, handsome man. He looked like he could have been a football player or a movie star. Half Johnny Weissmuller, half Gregory Peck. “I liked those,” I said. “I always wondered how you got that particular interview.” “It wasn’t easy,” Kent said to me solemnly. “First I had to find out where his favorite bar was. Then I had to buy him a drink. And he wouldn’t talk to me until I put a cape on.” He looked at me so seriously that I knew this was God’s own truth—and then he grinned, that wonderful smile that lit up his face and made everyone fall in love with him, even sergeants soaked in vinegar who weren’t that fond of their own mothers. I whooped until my guts hurt and after that he was the best friend I had in the war. (more…)

Published in: on December 15, 2011 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Ernie Pyle Remembers Clark Kent  
Tags: , , , ,