Mister Here’s Your Mule!

Something for the weekend.  Mister Here’s Your Mule!  The Civil War had a great many comic songs and one of the best was Mister Here’s Your Mule which was popular with soldiers on both side.  Written in 1862 by C.D. Benson, the song swiftly became a campfire favorite.

Published in: on April 27, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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The Battle of San Pietro

Probably the most realistic depiction of World War II combat put to film, The Battle of San Pietro, in the public domain, is now considered a minor masterpiece.  At the time of its release in 1945 it was intensely controversial.  Fought between December 8-17 in 1943, the assault of the 143rd Infantry of the 36th Division was filmed by Captain John Huston, who was making films for the Army, a rare case where the Army actually made use of the civilian expertise of one of its soldiers.  Huston’s film shows war in all of its unglamorous horror.  After the Hollywood depiction of war during World War II it came as an unpleasant revelation for viewers.  Army brass were concerned about the film having a depressing effect on the morale of the troops.  Army Chief of Staff, General George C. Marshall, however, came to the defense of the film, thinking that it would make a good training film, underlining to troops why they had to take their training seriously.  The film was used in training and Huston was promoted to major.

Published in: on April 26, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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April 25, 1943: ANZAC Day and Easter

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.

Laurence Binyon

In 1943 Anzac Day, April 25, fell on the same day as Easter.   Anzac Day commemorates the landing of the New Zealand and Australian troops at Gallipoli in World War I.  Although the effort to take the Dardanelles was ultimately unsuccessful, the Anzac troops demonstrated great courage and tenacity, and the ordeal the troops underwent in this campaign has a vast meaning to the peoples of New Zealand and Australia.

New York City saw its first public observance of Anzac Day that year as some 300 Australian airmen and sailors marched in the Easter Parade and were cheered by the crowds lining the parade route.  Anzac Day observances in Australia and New Zealand were muted that year, due to the day falling on Easter, and so many men were away fighting in the War.

American audiences had become familiar with the courage of Anzac troops by viewing the documentary Kokoda Front Line, the video at the beginning of this post, which memorialized the struggle of Australian troops fighting in New Guinea.  Damien Parer, the cinematographer on the film won an Oscar for the film in 1943.  He would die on September 17, 1944, age 32, filming Marines in combat on Peleliu

In Melbourne, Australia on Anzac Day, the US 1st Marine Division marched through the streets in honor of the day to the cheers of their Australian hosts. (more…)

Published in: on April 25, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments (3)  
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April 24, 1863: Promulgation of the Lieber Code

Art. 43. Therefore, in a war between the United States and a belligerent which admits of slavery, if a person held in bondage by that belligerent be captured by or come as a fugitive under the protection of the military forces of the United States, such person is immediately entitled to the rights and privileges of a freeman To return such person into slavery would amount to enslaving a free person, and neither the United States nor any officer under their authority can enslave any human being. Moreover, a person so made free by the law of war is under the shield of the law of nations, and the former owner or State can have, by the law of postliminy, no belligerent lien or claim of service.

Francis Lieber led a colorful life.  Born in Berlin in 1798, he enlisted in the Prussian Army in 1815 and was wounded at Waterloo.  Unable to attend a University in Berlin due to his membership in a Liberal group that opposed the Prussian monarchy, he attended Jena University and, a brilliant student, completed his dissertation on mathematics in four months in 1820.  He took time out from his academic career to fight in the Greek War of Independence in which he was severely wounded.  He served as a tutor for the son of the Prussian ambassador in Rome for a year and wrote a book about his experiences in Greece.  Receiving a royal pardon, he returned to Prussia only to run afoul of the authorities again for his Republican beliefs.  Imprisoned, he took advantage of the time to do what any good Romantic of his generation would do, he wrote a book of poetry, Songs of Wine and Bliss.

After his release he fled to England, where he supported himself by acting as a tutor.  Meeting his future wife and marrying her, the Liebers left the Old World to start a new life in the New World in 1827.  There Lieber embarked on an academic career.  In Boston he achieved notoriety for opening a school which gave instruction in swimming, a first in America.  He edited a 13 volume Encyclopedia Americana.  From 1833-1835 he resided in Philadelphia while preparing a plan of education for Girard College.  In 1835 he began a sojourn of 21 years duration at the University of South Carolina teaching history and political economics.  He retained an interest in Germany, and returned for a few months after the revolution of 1848 although his hopes that Germany would take the Liberal path he favored were quickly dashed.

From 1856-1865 he was professor of history and political science at Columbia.  In 1860 he was also appointed a professor of political science at the law school at Columbia, a post he would hold until his death in 1872.

The coming of the Civil War tragically divided Lieber’s family, just as it divided the nation.  One of his sons fought and died for the Confederacy, while his other two sons fought for the Union.  Lieber himself was a staunch advocate of the Union and an opponent of slavery.  He founded and headed the Loyal Publication Society that wrote scholarly pro-Union propaganda during the War.  He first met Lincoln at the White House in 1861 to confer upon him an honorary degree from Columbia.  Thereafter he was called to Washington frequently to consult with Lincoln, Stanton and Seward on questions of international law.

During his academic career Lieber had written many books and articles on law, politics and history that had given him an international reputation.  It is therefore not surprising that Lincoln turned to Lieber to draft a code of Law to govern the Union forces during war-time.  The Code was promulgated in General Order 100 on April 24, 1863. (more…)

Published in: on April 24, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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The Men That Fought At Minden

The twenty-third in my ongoing series examining the poetry of Rudyard Kipling. The other posts in the series may be read here, here , here , here, here , here, here, here, here, here, here, here , here, here, here , here, here, here , here, here, here and here.  In his poems Kipling was fond of the theme of education.  In several poems he tied in education with another great theme of his poetry, the British Army, Kipling being fascinated by the rough and ready process by which soldiers learned how to be soldiers.

One feature of the British Army that has helped make it such a formidable force over the centuries is the pride in regimental history taken by officers and men.  In the poem The Men That Fought at Minden a sergeant, or perhaps a corporal, is using the battle of Minden as an example to tell new recruits what to expect as they learn how to be soldiers.

On August 1, 1759 an Anglo-German army won a striking victory over a larger French army at the battle of Minden in Germany.  The victory was one of the numerous victories won by the British in 1759, the Annus Mirabilis, which included the taking of Quebec.  The following British regiments fought at Minden and are known as Minden regiments:   12th of Foot, 20th Foot, 23rd of Foot, 25th of Foot, 37th of Foot and  51st Foot.  Minden Day is still observed on August 1, when the men of these regiments wear roses in their caps.  Lord George Sackville was cashiered from the British Army due to cowardice that day.  As Lord George Germain he would serve as George III’s Secretary of State during the American Revolution, contributing greatly to the British loss in that War.  The Marquis de Lafayette’s father died at the battle, and sparked in Lafayette a strong desire for revenge on the British that he brought to fruition in the aid that he brought to the American cause in the Revolution.

Kipling published this poem in 1896 as part of his second series of Barrack Room Ballads, poems on the British Army as seen through the eyes of common soldiers.

The noncom in the poem is remarkably ignorant of the actual battle of Minden, but he is no doubt completely accurate in his description of what the recruits can expect as they learn to be soldiers.  He is telling them not to be disheartened by their experiences, and that all soldiers of the regiment start out the same way.  They are part of the chain that stretches back through the history of the regiment, and for most of the soldiers that knowledge they ultimately will take pride in, although probably not as much comfort as they take in the beer mentioned at the end of the poem!  Here is the text of The Men That Fought at Minden: (more…)

Published in: on April 23, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Men That Fought At Minden  
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April 21, 1863: Streight’s Mule Raid Begins

In reviewing the history of this ill-fated expedition, I am convinced that had we been furnished at Nashville with 800 good horses, instead of poor, young mules, we would have been successful, in spite of all other drawbacks; or if General Dodge had succeeded in detaining Forrest one day longer, we would have been successful, even with our poor outfit.

Colonel Abel Streight

Streight's_Raid_route

One of the more unsuccessful raids of the Civil War, Colonel Abel Streight’s Mule Raid was filled with high drama and low comedy.  Go here for a first rate video presentation of the raid.

A bookseller in Indianapolis at the beginning of the war, Streight was Colonel of the 51rst Indiana Infantry in 1863.  He hit upon the idea of a raid through Northern Alabama.  With Union loyalist Alabamians as guides, Streight planned to drive through Northern Alabama and on into Northern Georgia to destroy the rail hub of the Western & Atlantic Railroad, which would have cripple the ability of the Confederates to supply their forces in Tennessee.  The raid was not intended as a cavalry raid, most of Streight’s force to consist of mounted infantry, their mounts being used for transportation and not to be fought from.  Streight was given command for his raid of a brigade of 1700 men, consisting of  two companies of the First West Tennessee and First Alabama Cavalry regiments, and the Third Ohio, Fifty-First Indiana and Eightieth Illinois Infantry regiments.

Signs that the expedition was ill-fated began when most of the men were mounted on temperamental, is there any other type?, mules.  Riding a mule can be a trial even for a skilled rider, and most of Streight’s men were novices.  Confederates during the expedition had great fun laughing at the “Jackass Cavalry” as Streight’s men were deemed, and Union morale suffered as a result.  The constant braying of the mules made finding the raiders an easy task for the Confederates during the raid, as well as getting on the nerves of their unfortunate riders.  The slow pace of the mules made certain that any Confederate force mounted on horses was going to be much faster.  Streight recognized the problem with the mules from the outset, and objected to them prior to the raid, to no avail.  To make the fiasco complete, about 200 of Streight’s men had no mounts at all at the beginning of the raid. (more…)

The Star Spangled Banner-Boston Style

Something for the weekend.  The most stirring rendition of our national anthem I have ever heard, at a Boston Bruins game in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombings.

Published in: on April 20, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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Doolittle Raiders Hold Their Final Public Reunion

Inevitable, but still sad:

Wednesday’s event at the base is part of a weeklong series of activities planned by the military and community leaders to honor the men.

Thomas Casey, business manager for the Raiders and a longtime fan of the men, said the four survivors have decided they can no longer keep up with the demands of group public appearances.

“The mission ends here in Fort Walton Beach on Saturday night, but their legacy starts then,” he said.

Casey said he hopes everyone who has had a chance to interact with the men will keep their legacy alive. “I want them to tell the story to their children, their grandchildren, their neighbors and keep their story going because their story is worthwhile telling.”

At each reunion is a case containing 80 silver goblets with the name of each raider inscribed right-side up and upside down on a single goblet. The men toast their fallen comrades each year and turn their goblets upside down in their honor.

 

(more…)

Published in: on April 18, 2013 at 6:51 am  Comments Off on Doolittle Raiders Hold Their Final Public Reunion  
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Paul Revere’s Ride and the Civil War

A nice rendition of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.  The poem was published in January of 1861 on the eve of the Civil War which gives added meaning to the closing lines of the poem:

For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the
last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken
and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight
message of Paul Revere. (more…)

Published in: on April 18, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Paul Revere’s Ride and the Civil War  
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April 16, 1863: Porter Runs the Batteries

Admiral David Dixon Porter

On the dark evening of April 16, 1863 at 9:15 PM, Rear Admiral David Dixon Porter had his fleet cast off from its anchorage above Vicksburg.  Not a light gleamed on the ships of the fleet and the engines were muffled.  Porter had to get his fleet south of Vicksburg to rendezvous with Grant’s Army of the Tennessee and transport it across the Mississippi from the Louisiana side of the river.

It was very much an open question as to whether the fleet could successfully run the batteries without ruinous losses.  Grant had spent the months since December 1862 attempting to arrange an alternative route for the fleet that did not involve it steaming in front of the guns of Vicksburg, to no avail.  Now, the great experiment was underway.

The Confederates quickly realized the fleet was coming, and  barrels filled with tar and cotton bales drenched with turpentine were set ablaze to illumine the river.  Each vessel was hit repeatedly, but, with the loss of one transport, the fleet succeeded in passing Vicksburg and could now transport Grant’s army across the river for the Vicksburg campaign to begin in earnest.

Charles A. Dana, a War Department investigator who was with the fleet, wrote Secretary of War Stanton a report of the passage of the fleet: (more…)

Published in: on April 16, 2013 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on April 16, 1863: Porter Runs the Batteries  
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