Kill or Be Killed

An Army training film teaching recruits some blunt and sad truths about war summed up in General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s aphorism:  “War means fightin’ and fightin’ means killin’.”  This message was more artistically conveyed in this film: (more…)

Published in: on August 31, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments (4)  
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Did John Pope Say That His Headquarters Was in the Saddle?

One hundred and fifty years ago today General John Pope was busily engaged in having his Union Army of Virginia thrashed by the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia at the Second Battle of Bull Run.  In the 1880’s Pope wrote an article for Century Magazine, one of its many articles by Civil War commanders which would later come out in the four volume set Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, in which Pope did his unconvincing best to defend his conduct in this fiasco.  Go here to read it.  At the end of the article Pope claimed that he never said that his headquarters was in the saddle.

There are other matters which, although not important, seem not out of place in this paper. A good deal of cheap wit has been expended upon a fanciful story that I published an order or wrote a letter or made a remark that my “headquarters would be in the saddle.” It is an expression harmless and innocent enough, but it is even stated that it furnished General Lee with the basis for the only joke of his life. I think it due to army tradition, and to the comfort of those who have so often repeated this ancient joke in the days long before the civil war, that these later wits should not be allowed with impunity to poach on this well-tilled manor. This venerable joke I first heard when a cadet at West Point, and it was then told of that gallant soldier and gentleman, General W. J. Worth, and I presume it could be easily traced back to the Crusades and beyond. Certainly I never used this expression or wrote or dictated it, nor does any such expression occur in any order of mine; and as it was perhaps served its time and effected its purpose, it ought to be retired. (more…)

Published in: on August 30, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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Latter Day Leftist Secessionist

(I originally posted this at The American Catholic, and I assumed that the Civil War Mavens at Almost Chosen People would enjoy reading it.)

Christopher Johnson, a non-Catholic who has taken up the cudgels so frequently in defense of the Faith that I have named him Defender of the Faith, has an unforgettable look at a book written by splenetic Leftist, Chuck Thompson, who wishes that the South would secede:

It may interest you to know that a significant number of those Americans who think that Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox was a devastating tragedy, maybe even most of them, reside north of the Mason-Dixon Line and probably have never been to, have no ancestors from and have no interest in visiting that large area south of it.

If a leftist Yankee travel writer named Chuck Thompson, author of Better Off Without ‘Em: A Northern Manifesto for Southern Secession, ever put together a list of the worst American presidents, George W. Bush would probably come in second behind Abraham Lincoln.  In the Wall Street Journal, Barton Swaim reviews the book:

On the first page, the author wonders why the American electoral system must be “held hostage by a coalition of bought-and-paid-for political swamp scum from the most uneducated, morbidly obese, racist, morally indigent, xenophobic, socially stunted, and generally ass-backwards part of the country.” You expect him to let up, to turn the argument around, to look at the other side of question. But he never does. For more than 300 pages, Mr. Thompson travels through the South observing customs, outlooks and people and subjecting them to an unremitting stream of denunciations.

The American South is certainly not above criticism or satire.  And many writers from other parts of the country or the world have visited the South and written useful and interesting books about their experiences.  Thompson, on the other hand, made up his mind beforehand and went looking for what he thought he needed to see. (more…)

Federalist 55 – Madison

If you were to ask people to name their favorite Federalist Paper, or even what they considered to be the most famous or important, most would indicate either Federalist 10 or 51. Others might name number 68, or perhaps 9 or 14. To me, Federalist 55 is not only one of the most important of the essays penned by Hamilton, Madison, and Jay, it  is one of the foundational texts of modern political thought.

This essay is concerned with the number of representatives in the House of Representatives, particularly the concerns that the Constitution allowed for far too few representatives. To begin with, Madison examined the state legislative assemblies and the wide variation in how they apportioned legislators. Some states had huge legislative assemblies, allotting one representative for every thousand or so citizens. Yet certain states, such as Pennsylvania, had relatively small legislatures, and thereby each elected legislator represented far more people. In the end, no precise formula was perfect.

Another general remark to be made is, that the ratio between the representatives and the people ought not to be the same where the latter are very numerous as where they are very few. Were the representatives in Virginia to be regulated by the standard in Rhode Island, they would, at this time, amount to between four and five hundred; and twenty or thirty years hence, to a thousand. On the other hand, the ratio of Pennsylvania, if applied to the State of Delaware, would reduce the representative assembly of the latter to seven or eight members. Nothing can be more fallacious than to found our political calculations on arithmetical principles. Sixty or seventy men may be more properly trusted with a given degree of power than six or seven. But it does not follow that six or seven hundred would be proportionably a better depositary. And if we carry on the supposition to six or seven thousand, the whole reasoning ought to be reversed.

What follows is a critical passage. (more…)

Published in: on August 28, 2012 at 7:50 pm  Comments Off on Federalist 55 – Madison  

At His Execution

The twelfth in my ongoing series examining the poetry of Rudyard Kipling.   The other posts in the series may be read here, here , here , herehere , here, here, here, here , here and here.  Kipling was not conventionally religious.  He once described himself jokingly as a pious Christian atheist.  However, many of his poems dealt with religious themes.  One of his most moving religious poems he wrote in 1932, four years before his death.

At His Execution


I am made all things to all men–

Hebrew, Roman, and Greek–

In each one’s tongue I speak,

Suiting to each my word,

That some may be drawn to the Lord!

I am made all things to all men–

In City or Wilderness

Praising the crafts they profess

That some may be drawn to the Lord–

By any means to my Lord!

Since I was overcome

By that great Light and Word,

I have forgot or forgone

The self men call their own

(Being made all things to all men)

So that I might save some

At such small price to the Lord,

As being all things to all men.

I was made all things to all men,

But now my course is done–

And now is my reward…

Ah, Christ, when I stand at Thy Throne

With those I have drawn to the Lord,

Restore me my self again!

The poem is of course a tribute to Saint Paul as he awaited his execution at the command of Nero in Rome.  The first stanza celebrates the universal nature of Saint Paul’s mission to the Jews, Greeks and Romans, to anyone and everyone who would hear the Good News. (more…)

Published in: on August 26, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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Neil Armstrong: Requiescat in Pace

For those who may ask what they can do to honor Neil, we have a simple request. Honor his example of service, accomplishment and modesty, and the next time you walk outside on a clear night and see the moon smiling down at you, think of Neil Armstrong and give him a wink.

Statement of the Armstrong Family




The first man to walk on the moon, Neil Armstrong, died today at 82.  He served as a naval fighter pilot in Korea, flying 78 combat missions.  A test pilot after the war, his feats in that field were legendary, combining strong engineering ability, cold courage and preternatural flight skills.  He was accepted into the astronaut program in 1962.  On July 16, 1969, in the middle of the night in Central Illinois, he set foot on the moon.  My father and I, like most of the country, were riveted to the television screen as we watched a turning point in the history of humanity.  He intended to say, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.” It came out: “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”  Godspeed Mr. Armstrong on the journey you have just embarked upon. (more…)

Published in: on August 25, 2012 at 4:37 pm  Comments (6)  
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Haul Away Joe

Something for the weekend.  A traditional sea shanty Haul Away Joe melded to a tribute to the 19th century American navy, a time when the ships were wood or iron, but the men were always made of iron.

Published in: on August 25, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Haul Away Joe  
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Presidential Election 1812

The Presidential election in 1812 was one of the more interesting in our history.  James Madison was running for re-election on the Jeffersonian Republican ticket.  Dewitt Clinton, who was simultaneously Mayor of New York and Lieutenant Governor of New York, received the nomination of a dissident faction of the Jeffersonian Republicans, along with the nomination of the dying Federalist party. (more…)

Published in: on August 24, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Presidential Election 1812  
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Marlene Dietrich: Patriot

Sultry, German born Marlene Dietrich was a major star of the Golden Age of Hollywood.  Less well-known is that she was also an ardent American patriot.  She achieved international stardom with the Blue Angel in 1930.  Moving to America she became a star in the US with a string of films culminating with the hit comedy western Destry Rides Again (1939) with Jimmy Stewart.   In 1939 she became a naturalized American citizen.

An ardent anti-Nazi, Dietrich threw herself into the war effort, selling more war bonds than any other star.  She constantly toured with the USO, often entertaining troops a few miles from active combat zones.  When asked why she took such risks she responded with the German phrase aus Anstand, “out of decency”.  Her act for the troops had Danny Thomas as the warm up.  Dietrich would come out, sing, dance,  tell jokes and mind read.  (The mind reading consisted of Dietrich choosing a soldier from the audience and reading his mind.  She would then state, “Oh think of something else!  I can’t possibly talk about that!”)  Dietrich would sometimes raise her skirts above her knees after telling the troops that they were about to see something that Hitler would never get to see.  Needless to say the troops loved her act. (more…)

Published in: on August 22, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments (4)  
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Everyone Hated John Pope

Few Civil War generals were more reviled by both sides than John Pope.  In posts during the coming days we will see samples of his military incompetence, but plenty of Civil War generals were incompetent without generating a fraction of the dislike that Pope effortlessly created.

Brought by Lincoln from the West, following his victory at Island No 10, to command the newly created Army of Virginia in the wake of the failure of McClellan’s Peninsula Campaign, Pope wasted no time in alienating the soldiers he would command with this bombastic proclamation of July 14, 1862:

Let us understand each other. I have come to you from the West, where we have always seen the backs of our enemies; from an army whose business it has been to seek the adversary and to beat him when he was found; whose policy has been attack and not defense. In but one instance has the enemy been able to place our Western armies in defensive attitude. I presume that I have been called here to pursue the same system and to lead you against the enemy. It is my purpose to do so, and that speedily. I am sure you long for an opportunity to win the distinction you are capable of achieving. That opportunity I shall endeavor to give you. Meantime I desire you to dismiss from your minds certain phrases, which I am sorry to find so much in vogue amongst you. I hear constantly of “taking strong positions and holding them,” of “lines of retreat,” and of “bases of supplies.” Let us discard such ideas. The strongest position a soldier should desire to occupy is one from which he can most easily advance against the enemy. Let us study the probable lines of retreat of our opponents, and leave our own to take care of themselves. Let us look before us, and not behind. Success and glory are in the advance, disaster and shame lurk in the rear. Let us act on this understanding, and it is safe to predict that your banners shall be inscribed with many a glorious deed and that your names will be dear to your countrymen forever.

I really consider it hard to think of a better way to alienate Union soldiers and officers in the East than to compare them unfavorably with those of the West.  The contempt this proclamation inspired was sealed when it was erroneously claimed in the Richmond Inquirer that Pope had boasted that his headquarters would be in the saddle, with the added fictiom of General Robert E. Lee supposedly  noting that Pope’s headquarters were where his hindquarters should be.

Pope endeared himself to the Confederates by announcing that his men could freely forage on Confederate farms, and that Confederate civilians would be subject to compulsorily loyalty oaths and expulsion if they failed to take such oaths.  If a Confederate male civilian took the oath and later violated it, he was  to be shot. (more…)

Published in: on August 21, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments (6)  
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