Father John Ireland and the Fifth Minnesota

One of the titans of the Catholic Church in the Nineteenth Century in the United States was Archbishop John Ireland, the first Archbishop of Saint Paul, Minnesota.  Future blog posts will cover his career as Archbishop.  This blog post is focused on his service during the Civil War.  Ordained a priest only a year, Father John Ireland at 24 in 1862 received permission of his bishop to join the Fifth Minnesota Volunteer Infantry.  He joined the regiment immediately after the battle of Shiloh.

At the battle of Corinth on October 4, 1862 the Fifth Minnesota saved the day for the Union with a charge that stopped a Confederate breakthrough of the Union lines.  Running short on ammunition, the troops received additional cartridges from Chaplain Ireland who ran down the line dispensing ammunition.  When the fighting was over, the soldiers noted that their chaplain tirelessly tended the wounded and administered the Last Rites to soldiers whose wounds were beyond human aid.

The troops were very fond of their young priest and built him a portable altar from saplings.  His sermons were popular with the men, being direct, blunt and brief.  He was noted for his sunny disposition, quick wit  and his courage.  He was also an enthusiastic chess player, and would take on all comers in the evenings in camp.

Before battles he would hear the confessions of huge numbers of soldiers, with some Protestant soldiers often asking for admission to the Church.  He was always ready to pray with any soldiers no matter their religion, and give them what comfort he could in reminding them that God was ever at their side during their time of peril.  On one occasion he went to the side of an officer who had been shot and was bleeding to death and had asked for a chaplain.   the Archbishop recalled the scene decades after the War.   ‘Speak to me,’ he said, ‘of Jesus.’ He had been baptized — there was no time to talk of Church. I talked of the Savior, and of sorrow for sin. The memory of that scene has never been effaced from my mind. I have not doubted the salvation of that soul.”

Father Ireland was mustered out of service in March of 1863 due to ill-health, but he never forgot his time in the Union Army.   He was ever active in the Grand Army of the Republic, the Union veterans’ organization,  and would write about his experiences as a combat chaplain.  Unlike most Catholics of his day, he was a firm Republican, the friend of Republican presidents including McKinley and Roosevelt, and never forgot why the Civil War had to be fought, as this statement by him regarding the rights of blacks indicates: (more…)

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Published in: on August 23, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments (3)  
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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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August 20, 1862: The Prayer of Twenty Millions

Half sage and half quack, Horace Greeley, who in 1841 founded the New York Tribune, was a power to be reckoned with in the United States one hundred and fifty years ago.  On August 20, 1862 he published in his paper an open letter, entitled The Prayer of Twenty Millions,  to President Lincoln demanding the abolition of slavery within the Union.

To ABRAHAM LINCOLN, President of the United States

DEAR SIR: I do not intrude to tell you–for you must know already–that a great proportion of those who triumphed in you election, and of all who desire the unqualified suppression of the Rebellion now desolating our country, are sorely disappointed and deeply pained by the policy you seem to be pursuing with regard to the slaves of the Rebels. I write only to set succinctly and unmistakably before you what we require, what we think we have a right to expect, and of what we complain.

I. We require of you, as the first servant of the Republic, charged especially and preeminently with this duty, that you EXECUTE THE LAWS. Most emphatically do we demand that such laws as have been recently enacted, which therefore may fairly be presumed to embody the present will and to be dictated by the present needs of the Republic, and which, after due consideration have received your personal sanction, shall by you be carried into full effect, and that you publicly and decisively instruct your subordinates that such laws exist, that they are binding on all functionaries and citizens, and that they are to be obeyed to the letter.

II. We think you are strangely and disastrously remiss in the discharge of your official and imperative duty with regard to the emancipating provisions of the new Confiscation Act. Those provisions were designed to fight Slavery with Liberty. They prescribe that men loyal to the Union, and willing to shed their blood in her behalf, shall no longer be held, with the Nations consent, in bondage to persistent, malignant traitors, who for twenty years have been plotting and for sixteen months have been fighting to divide and destroy our country. Why these traitors should be treated with tenderness by you, to the prejudice of the dearest rights of loyal men, We cannot conceive.

III. We think you are unduly influenced by the counsels, the representations, the menaces, of certain fossil politicians hailing from the Border Slave States. Knowing well that the heartily, unconditionally loyal portion of the White citizens of those States do not expect nor desire chat Slavery shall be upheld to the prejudice of the Union–(for the truth of which we appeal not only to every Republican residing in those States, but to such eminent loyalists as H. Winter Davis, Parson Brownlow, the Union Central Committee of Baltimore, and to The Nashville Union)–we ask you to consider that Slavery is everywhere the inciting cause and sustaining base of treason: the most slaveholding sections of Maryland and Delaware being this day, though under the Union flag, in full sympathy with the Rebellion, while the Free-Labor portions of Tennessee and of Texas, though writhing under the bloody heel of Treason, are unconquerably loyal to the Union. So emphatically is this the case, that a most intelligent Union banker of Baltimore recently avowed his confident belief that a majority of the present Legislature of Maryland, though elected as and still professing to be Unionists, are at heart desirous of the triumph of the Jeff. Davis conspiracy; and when asked how they could be won back to loyalty, replied “only by the complete Abolition of Slavery.” It seems to us the most obvious truth, that whatever strengthens or fortifies Slavery in the Border States strengthens also Treason, and drives home the wedge intended to divide the Union. Had you from the first refused to recognize in those States, as here, any other than unconditional loyalty–that which stands for the Union, whatever may become of Slavery, those States would have been, and would be, far more helpful and less troublesome to the defenders of the Union than they have been, or now are. (more…)

“The People of Ohio Don’t Send Cowards Here!”

Few opponents of slavery prior to the Civil War in Congress were more outspoken or more courageous than Joshua Giddings.  Born on October 6, 1795. Giddings moved with his family to Ashtabula County, Ohio in 1806, part of the Western Reserve in Northeastern Ohio.  A sparsely settled pioneer region, Giddings had little formal education, but spent a great deal of time as he grew reading and studying.  In 1821 he was admitted to the Ohio bar.  From 1838-1959 he served in the House of Representatives.

He quickly became known as a fierce opponent of slavery, taking every opportunity to attack it.  He came to national notice in 1842 when he defended in Congress the slaves who had mutinied aboard the brig Creole.  Sailing to Nassau, the slaves were freed by the British.  The American government demanded the return of the slaves on the grounds that they were property.  The British refused to return the slaves.  Giddings proposed resolutions in Congress defending the right of the slaves to rebel and regain their God-given right to liberty.  This aroused a furor among pro-slavery members of Congress and Giddings was censured by the House. Nothing daunted, he resigned from the House, and was re-elected by his constituents with a large majority.

Unlike most abolitionists, Giddings had no problem calling for violence to be used to free the slaves.  He constantly called for slave insurrections, and stated that the people of the North had a moral duty to assist such insurrections.

Naturally this made him a marked man.  In the House in 1846 he was threatened by a representative from Georgia with a pistol and a sword cane.  Giddings yelled out to him, Come on! The People of Ohio don’t send cowards here! (more…)

Published in: on August 19, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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Guilty, Guilty, Guilty!

(I originally posted this at The American Catholic, and I thought that the film mavens of Almost Chosen People might enjoy it.)

 

One of my least favorite trial dramas is Twelve Angry Men (1957).  As a defense attorney with thirty years experience I find it hilarious as Henry Fonda convinces his fellow jurors that the Defendant is not really guilty.  Why do I find it hilarious?  It is such a stacked deck!  Just like a Socratic “Dialogue” the argument is tailored to make the case for the Defendant, and no contrary arguments are allowed to stand as Fonda steamrolls all opposition and saves the day for truth, justice and the American way! Or did he?  Mike D’Angelo at AV Club has a brilliant analysis of why Fonda and his fellow jurors likely let a murderer off the hook:

Here’s what has to be true in order for The Kid to be innocent of the murder:

  • He coincidentally yelled “I’m gonna kill you!” at his father a few hours before someone else killed him. How many times in your life have you screamed that at your own father? Is it a regular thing?

AND

  • The elderly man down the hall, as suggested by Juror No. 9 (Joseph Sweeney), didn’t actually see The Kid, but claimed he had, or perhaps convinced himself he had, out of a desire to feel important.

AND

  • The woman across the street saw only a blur without her glasses, yet positively identified The Kid, again, either deliberately lying or confabulating.

AND

  • The Kid really did go to the movies, but was so upset by the death of his father and his arrest that all memory of what he saw vanished from his head. (Let’s say you go see Magic Mike tomorrow, then come home to find a parent murdered. However traumatized you are, do you consider it credible that you would be able to offer no description whatsoever of the movie? Not even “male strippers”?)

AND

  • Somebody else killed The Kid’s father, for reasons completely unknown, but left behind no trace of his presence whatsoever.

AND

  • The actual murderer coincidentally used the same knife that The Kid owns.

AND

  • The Kid coincidentally happened to lose his knife within hours of his father being stabbed to death with an identical knife.

The last one alone convicts him, frankly. That’s a million-to-one shot, conservatively. In the movie, Fonda dramatically produces a duplicate switchblade that he’d bought in The Kid’s neighborhood (which, by the way, would get him disqualified if the judge learned about it, as jurors aren’t allowed to conduct their own private investigations during a trial), by way of demonstrating that it’s hardly unique. But come on. I don’t own a switchblade, but I do own a wallet, which I think I bought at Target or Ross or some similar chain—I’m sure there are thousands of other guys walking around with the same wallet. But the odds that one of those people will happen to kill my father are minute, to put it mildly. And the odds that I’ll also happen to lose my wallet the same day that a stranger leaves his own, identical wallet behind at the scene of my father’s murder (emptied of all identification, I guess, for this analogy to work; cut me some slack, you get the idea) are essentially zero. Coincidences that wild do happen—there’s a recorded case of two brothers who were killed a year apart on the same street, each at age 17, each while riding the same bike, each run over by the same cab driver, carrying the same passenger—but they don’t happen frequently enough for us to seriously consider them as exculpatory evidence. If something that insanely freakish implicates you, you’re just screwed, really. (more…)

Published in: on August 17, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Guilty, Guilty, Guilty!  
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August 16, 1812: Surrender of Detroit

 

One of the more humiliating defeats in US military history, the surrender of Detroit on August 16, 1812 got the War of 1812 off to a disastrous start for the United States.  After his abortive attempt to invade Canada, read about it here,  With the British seizure of Mackinac Island on Lake Huron on July 17, Hull, fearing that his supply lines would be cut by the Indian allies of the British, fell back to Fort Detroit.

Major General Isaac Brock, commander of the British forces in Canada, took the initiative and launched an attack on Fort Detroit with his miniscule force of 400 regulars, 300 militia and 600 Indians.  He was aided in his attack on Fort Detroit by the sloop Queen Charlotte and the brig General Hunter.

The “siege” of Detroit opened on August 15, with both a land and sea artillery bombardment of the Fort.  Brock sent a demand for surrender to Hull which had the implicit threat of a massacre if surrender did not occur:  The force at my disposal authorizes me to require of you the immediate surrender of Fort Detroit. It is far from my intention to join in a war of extermination, but you must be aware, that the numerous body of Indians who have attached themselves to my troops, will be beyond control the moment the contest commences… (more…)

Published in: on August 16, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on August 16, 1812: Surrender of Detroit  
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How to Fly a B-26

During World War II the Armed Services made constant use of films for training purposes.  Hundreds of such films were produced.  I was surprised that the films included such complicated tasks as flying a B-26, but the above video is proof that such films were produced.

Published in: on August 15, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on How to Fly a B-26  
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Lincoln’s Sum Book

A fascinating look in the video above at the earliest writing we have from Abraham Lincoln, his “sum book”.  The tenacity with which Lincoln pursued education and self-improvement as a child and young adult is awe inspiring, especially in our age of free public education for all, and the knowledge that many students fail to make much use of this opportunity.  Lincoln’s thirst for knowledge remained with him all his life.  In his eulogy for Henry Clay in 1852 he stated, Mr. Clay’s lack of a more perfect early education, however it may be regretted generally, teaches at least one profitable lesson; it teaches that in this country, one can scarcely be so poor, but that, if he will, he can acquire sufficient education to get through the world respectably.  I suspect that Lincoln thought that quote applied to him, just as much as it did to Henry Clay.

Published in: on August 14, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments (6)  
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On Vacation 2012

Family on Vacation

I am on vacation this week with my family.  My internet connection in the coming week will range from intermittent to non-existent.  I will have posts for each day I am away on the blog, but if something momentous occurs, for example:  Elvis is discovered working at a Big Boy’s in Tulsa, the Pope issues a Bull against blogging as a complete waste of time, or Obama dumps Biden and picks his teleprompter as his running mate, I trust that this post will explain why I am not discussing it.

Among other activities we will be attending the Gen Con Convention in Indianapolis, a pilgrimage the McClarey clan makes each year to renew our uber-Geek creds.  If any of you are close to Indianapolis and you have never attended, it is worth a drive to see tens of thousands of role players, board gamers and computer gamers in Congress assembled.  If nothing else you will go home reassured as to how comparatively normal you are.  Last year’s attendance was in excess of 36,000 and there are multitudes of gaming related events.  A good symbol of the holy grail of nerdiness that is Gen Con is here.  Below is a Gen Con video from 2011 which gives a nice feel of the convention.

(more…)

Published in: on August 12, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on On Vacation 2012  
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