Something for the weekend.  The mournful tones of Taps, the song written by Union general Daniel Butterfield,  first sounded at the conclusion of the Seven Days on July 1, 1862.  It is a fitting memorial to the Americans, wearing blue or gray, who died in those seven days 150 years ago. (more…)

Published in: on June 30, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Taps  
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Rewriting Jefferson

A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine sent me a link to David Barton’s book, The Jefferson Lies: Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed About Thomas Jefferson. It’s almost like my friend, knowing my academic interest in Thomas Jefferson, cast some bait in my direction. And two months later, I took it.

I can honestly say that I went into it with an open mind. Even if Barton misinterpreted Jefferson, maybe he would do so in at least a semi-convincing way. After all, it’s possible for individuals to have high opinions of Thomas Jefferson without being historical hacks. I have tremendous respect for David Mayer, for example, and his opinion of Jefferson is completely different than mine.

Sadly, my low expectations were met. (more…)

Published in: on June 25, 2012 at 10:10 pm  Comments Off on Rewriting Jefferson  

Fortnight For Freedom Day 4: John Carroll, Bishop and Patriot

(Part of a two week series on American freedom that I am running at The American Catholic.  I thought this post the History mavens of Almost Chosen People might enjoy.)

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.

Pope Leo XIII on John Carroll, first Bishop in the United States

Beginning for two weeks, up to Independence Day, the Bishops are having a Fortnight For Freedom:

On April 12, the Ad Hoc Committee on Religious Liberty of the U.S.  Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued a document, “Our First,  Most Cherished Liberty,” outlining the bishops’ concerns over threats to religious freedom, both at home and abroad. The bishops called for a “Fortnight for Freedom,” a 14-day period of prayer, education and action in support of religious freedom, from June 21-July 4.

Bishops in their own dioceses are encouraged to arrange special events to  highlight the importance of defending religious freedom. Catholic  institutions are encouraged to do the same, especially in cooperation  with other Christians, Jews, people of other faiths and all who wish to  defend our most cherished freedom.

The fourteen days from June  21—the vigil of the Feasts of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More—to  July 4, Independence Day, are dedicated to this “fortnight for  freedom”—a great hymn of prayer for our country. Our liturgical calendar celebrates a series of great martyrs who remained faithful in the face  of persecution by political power—St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More,  St. John the Baptist, SS. Peter and Paul, and the First Martyrs of the  Church of Rome.  Culminating on Independence Day, this special period of prayer, study, catechesis, and public action would emphasize both our  Christian and American heritage of liberty. Dioceses and parishes around the country could choose a date in that period for special events that  would constitute a great national campaign of teaching and witness for  religious liberty.

We here at The American Catholic will be participating in the Fortnight For Freedom with special blog posts on each day.  This is the fourth of these blog posts.

From the beginning of our Republic, American Catholics were at the forefront of the battle to free America from British rule and to enshrine a committment to liberty in our founding documents.  The remarkable Carroll family of Maryland was at the head of this effort by American Catholics.  Charles Carroll of Carrollton signed the Declaration of Independence.  His cousin Daniel Carroll signed both the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution.  Daniel Carroll’s younger brother John Carroll, was the first bishop in the United States of America.

Born on January 8, 1735 in Maryland, he went abroad to study in Flanders and France, joined the Society of Jesus and was ordained a priest in 1769.  With the suppression of the Jesuits in 1773, he returned to his native Maryland as a missionary priest.  A patriot, he served on a diplomatic mission to Canada for the Continental Congress in 1776.  During the War he continued his efforts as a missionary priest, along with efforts to persuade the new states to remove disabilities from Catholics in their new state constitutions.  He was ever an advocate for religious freedom:

When men comprehend not, or refuse to admit the luminous principles on which the rights of conscience and liberty of religion depend, they are industrious to find out pretences for intolerance. If they cannot discover them in the actions, they strain to cull them out of the tenets of the religion which they wish to exclude from a free participation of equal rights. Thus this author attributes to his religion the merit of being the most favorable to freedom, and affirms that not only morality but liberty likewise must expire, if his clergy should ever be contemned or neglected: all which conveys a refined insinuation, that liberty cannot consist with, or be cherished by any other religious institution; and which therefore he would give us to understand, it is not safe to countenance in a free government.

I am anxious to guard against the impression intended by such insinuations; not merely for the sake of any one profession, but from an earnest regard to preserve inviolate for ever, in our new empire, the great principle of religious freedom. The constitutions of some of the States continue still to intrench on the sacred rights of conscience; and men who have bled, and opened their purses as freely in the cause of liberty and independence, as any other citizens, are most unjustly excluded from the advantages which they contributed to establish. But if bigotry and narrow prejudice have prevented hitherto the cure of these evils, be it the duty of every lover of peace and justice to extend them no further. Let the author who has opened this field for discussion, be aware of slyly imputing to any set of men, principles or consequences, which they disavow. He perhaps may meet with retaliation. He may be told and referred to Lord Lyttleton, as zealous a Protestant as any man of his days, for information, that the principles of non-reistence seemed the principles of that religion which we are not told is most favorable to freedom; and that its opponents had gone too far in the other extreme! (more…)

Published in: on June 24, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Fortnight For Freedom Day 4: John Carroll, Bishop and Patriot  
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Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter the Movie

Well the above video has me intrigued.  The movie is being released today.  I think this will be either one of the bigger hits of the year, or a critical and box officer disaster of epic proportions.  I hope it will cause some of the viewers to read about the real Abraham Lincoln.  At any rate I will see the movie, probably next weekend, and I will post a review of it here.

Published in: on June 22, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments (6)  

The Dorr Rebellion

One of the major developments in American history in the first half of the Nineteenth Century was the extension of the franchise to all adult white men.  By 1841, Rhode Island was the only state that had not removed the property requirement for voting by adult white men.  Years of frustration in failed attempts to remove the property requirement through legislation burst out into one of the more unusual rebellions in US history.  Led by Thomas W. Dorr, a so-called People’s Convention was held in October 1841 which drafted a new constitution for Rhode Island.  The convention had not been authorized by the Rhode Island legislature.  Opponents of Dorr and his followers in the state legislature drafted a new constitution for Rhode Island which they designated the Freeman’s Constitution.  This constitution made some concessions to broadening the franchise.  It was defeated in the legislature by followers of Dorr.

A statewide referendum called by Dorr approved the constitution which had been drafted by the People’s Convention.  In 1842 Rhode Island witnessed two sets of election with two competing legislatures and two governors: Thomas W. Dorr and Samuel W. King.

The Dorr forces attempted an attack on the arsenal in Providence on May 19, 1842 and were routed, most, including Dorr, fleeing the state.  The Rhode Island legislature approved a new Constitution which was approved by a referendum.  The new constitution extended the franchise to all adult white men who could pay a poll tax of $1.00.

In the case of Luther v. Borden, 48 US 1, the United States Supreme Court declined to rule on which of the competing Rhode Island governments had been the legitimate government, holding that such a decision was a political one and not subject to judicial determination: (more…)

Published in: on June 20, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Dorr Rebellion  
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Franciscan Love

For love of Him they ought to expose themselves to enemies both visible and invisible.

Saint Francis of Assisi

Born in Louisville, Kentucky on July 17, 1913, Herman G. Felhoelter was ordained a Franciscan priest in 1939.  He served as an Army chaplain during War II and was awarded a Bronze Star.

Reenlisting in the Army after the war, on July 16th 1950 he was a Captain serving as a chaplain with the 19th Infantry in Korea.  The 19th was in a tough spot that day.  The North Koreans had established a road block in the rear of the regiment near the village of Tunam, South Korea.  The regiment was in retreat, moving through mountains, trying to get around the roadblock, and slowed by the numerous wounded being carried due to the heavy fighting with the North Koreans during the battle for Taegu.  It was obvious by 9:00 PM on the evening of July 16th that 30 of the most seriously wounded could go no farther due to their stretcher bearers being exhausted.  Father Felhoelter and the chief medical officer Captain Linton J. Buttrey volunteered to stay with the wounded while the rest of the men escaped.  Father  Felhoelter was under no illusions of what would happen to the wounded and to him after the advancing North Koreans captured them, and swiftly gave them the Last Rites while he tended to them. (more…)

Published in: on June 19, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments (5)  
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Young Abe Lincoln (Make A Tall, Tall Man)

Something for the weekend.   Young Abe Lincoln (Make A Tall, Tall Man), sung and written by Johnny Horton. (more…)

Published in: on June 16, 2012 at 5:32 am  Comments Off on Young Abe Lincoln (Make A Tall, Tall Man)  
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The Valley Campaign Concludes

In two previous posts which may be read here, and here we have looked at Jackson’s Valley Campaign down to the battle of First Winchester on May 25, 1862.  With that victory Jackson had cleared the Valley of major Union forces and alarmed Lincoln who planned to use the armies of Fremont, Banks and McDowell to trap and destroy Jackson’s Army of the Valley.  Fremont with an army of approximately 15,000 men was to march from Franklin, 30 miles west of the Valley, re-enter the Valley at Harrisonburg in Jackson’ rear and co-operate with Banks in destroying Jackson’s army.  McDowell at Fredericksburg was ordered to suspend his advance on Richmond and send 20,000 troops to Front Royal to cooperate in an offensive against Jackson.  Banks was to be the centerpiece of this offensive, but he and his army were badly shaken from First Winchester and he would stay on the far side of the Potomac until June 10, 1862 ensuring that the remainder of the Valley Campaign would not involve any fresh defeats on his record.

Jackson demonstrated against Harper’s Ferry, northeast of the Valley, on May 29th-30th.  Learning that Shield’s division from McDowell’s army had taken Front Royal, Jackson hurried back to the Valley.  Jackson began to retreat to Winchester, with Banks adamantly refusing to move from Harper’s Ferry in pursuit.  Jackson reached Winchester and continued south to Strasburg, unmolested either by Shields or the slow-moving Fremont marching from the West. Jackson was under orders to proceed to Richmond to join the Army of Northern Virginia in defending Richmond.  Jackson could easily have slipped away from Fremont and Shields, but he decided to stay in the Valley until he had defeated both Fremont and Shields.  Holding the town of Port Republic, and the bridges over the rivers near the town, he could prevent Fremont and Shields from uniting and defeat them in detail.

At the hamlet of Cross Keys, northwest of Port Republic, on June 8, General Richard S. Ewell’s force of 5800 defeated Fremont’s army of 11,500, Fremont seemingly unable to launch a coordinated attack, as his army suffered a piecemeal defeat.  Fremont retreated, and Jackson assembled his army at Port Republic and launched an attack on Shields the next day.  After a stubborn resistance Shields retreated and the Valley Campaign was at an end.  Jackson and his men were in command of the Valley and remained so until Jackson and his army left to join Lee on June 18th.

During the Valley campaign, Jackson with a force of 17,000 men held down Union forces of 40,000, preventing these troops from reinforcing McClellan in his drive on Richmond.  He and his troops won five victories and captured badly needed supplies from the beaten Union forces.  (The Confederate troops took to calling Union General Nathaniel Banks “Commissary Banks” as a result.) Perhaps most importantly Jackson and his army helped establish a tradition of battlefield success that would serve Confederate forces in good stead during the three years of lop-sided warfare that awaited them.  It is trite to call Jackson’s Valley Campaign a military masterpiece, but it is also true.

Here is Jackson’s official report on the last portion of the Valley Campaign: (more…)

Published in: on June 15, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Valley Campaign Concludes  
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Tribute to Torpedo Squadron 8

And how can man die better than facing fearful odds, for the ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his gods?

Thomas Babington Macaulay

Director John Ford served in the Navy in the Pacific during World War II making films.  Here is a film that he made as a tribute to the men of Torpedo Squadron Eight from the Hornet, who, as noted last week in a post on Midway, which may be read here, played a pivotal role, along with Torpedo Squadron 6 from the Enterprise, by their sacrificial heroism in attacking the well guarded Japanese carriers, knowing that they would almost certainly not survive.  The film was originally intended only for the families of those gallant men, all but one of whom died in their attack on the Japanese carriers on June 4th. (more…)

Published in: on June 14, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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25 years ago: “Mr. Gorbachev, Tear Down This Wall!”

Twenty-five years ago, on June 12, 1987, President Ronald Reagan challenged Premier Gorbachev of the Soviet Union to tear down the Berlin Wall.  Just a little over two years later, on November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall did fall, a casualty of the movement for liberation in Eastern Europe, started by Solidarity in Poland, and supported throughout the Eighties by President Reagan and Pope John Paul II.  Those who were not alive during those days, or too young to remember the events, I suspect have a difficult time understanding how truly miraculous those events seemed to those of us who grew up during the Cold War.  The Soviet Union and the Communist regimes it imposed in Eastern Europe seemed like a permanent fixture of the World.  Reagan however, never believed this.

In a speech in the House of Commons on June 8, 1982, President Reagan made this startling prediction:

Since 1917 the Soviet Union has given covert political training and assistance to Marxist-Leninists in many countries. Of course, it also has promoted the use of violence and subversion by these same forces. Over the past several decades, West European and other Social Democrats, Christian Democrats, and leaders have offered open assistance to fraternal, political, and social institutions to bring about peaceful and democratic progress. Appropriately, for a vigorous new democracy, the Federal Republic of Germany’s political foundations have become a major force in this effort.

We in America now intend to take additional steps, as many of our allies have already done, toward realizing this same goal. The chairmen and other leaders of the national Republican and Democratic Party organizations are initiating a study with the bipartisan American political foundation to determine how the United States can best contribute as a nation to the global campaign for democracy now gathering force. They will have the cooperation of congressional leaders of both parties, along with representatives of business, labor, and other major institutions in our society. I look forward to receiving their recommendations and to working with these institutions and the Congress in the common task of strengthening democracy throughout the world.

It is time that we committed ourselves as a nation — in both the pubic and private sectors — to assisting democratic development.

We plan to consult with leaders of other nations as well. There is a proposal before the Council of Europe to invite parliamentarians from democratic countries to a meeting next year in Strasbourg. That prestigious gathering could consider ways to help democratic political movements.

This November in Washington there will take place an international meeting on free elections. And next spring there will be a conference of world authorities on constitutionalism and self-government hosted by the Chief Justice of the United States. Authorities from a number of developing and developed countries — judges, philosophers, and politicians with practical experience — have agreed to explore how to turn principle into practice and further the rule of law.

At the same time, we invite the Soviet Union to consider with us how the competition of ideas and values — which it is committed to support — can be conducted on a peaceful and reciprocal basis. For example, I am prepared to offer President Brezhnev an opportunity to speak to the American people on our television if he will allow me the same opportunity with the Soviet people. We also suggest that panels of our newsmen periodically appear on each other’s television to discuss major events.

Now, I don’t wish to sound overly optimistic, yet the Soviet Union is not immune from the reality of what is going on in the world. It has happened in the past — a small ruling elite either mistakenly attempts to ease domestic unrest through greater repression and foreign adventure, or it chooses a wiser course. It begins to allow its people a voice in their own destiny. Even if this latter process is not realized soon, I believe the renewed strength of the democratic movement, complemented by a global campaign for freedom, will strengthen the prospects for arms control and a world at peace.

I have discussed on other occasions, including my address on May 9, the elements of Western policies toward the Soviet Union to safeguard our interests and protect the peace. What I am describing now is a plan and a hope for the long term — the march of freedom and democracy which will leave Marxism-Leninism on the ash-heap of history, as it has left other tyrannies which stifle the freedom and muzzle the self-expression of the people.

Run of the mill politicians deal with crises as best they can, usually on an ad hoc basis.  True statesmen have a vision that allows them to shape the future, and to leave the World better than they found it.  Reagan was a statesman.  Here is the text of his Tear Down This Wall speech: (more…)

Published in: on June 12, 2012 at 7:07 pm  Comments Off on 25 years ago: “Mr. Gorbachev, Tear Down This Wall!”  
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