April 30, 1864: Lincoln’s Letter to Grant

 

What became known as Grant’s Overland Campaign, his drive to destroy Lee’s Army by threatening Richmond, was about to begin 150 years ago.  Lincoln writes a letter to Grant expressing full confidence in him.  Lincoln has often intervened in military matters over the years, maddened by Generals he perceived as being unwilling to fight.  Lincoln knows that, whatever else may occur, Grant will fight with all resources in his command.  Lincoln can now place on Grant’s shoulders the task of beating one of the great commanders in world history, Robert E. Lee.  The destiny of the country, and the Lincoln administration, is now in the hands of the failure from Galena, and his unexpected genius for war: (more…)

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Published in: on April 30, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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Thanks, God, We’ll Take It From Here

Have you ever heard of some fellows who first came over to this country? You know what they found? They found a howling wilderness, with summers too hot and winters freezing, and they also found some unpleasant little characters who painted their faces. Do you think these pioneers filled out form number X6277 and sent in a report saying the Indians were a little unreasonable? Did they have insurance for their old age, for their crops, for their homes? They did not! They looked at the land, and the forest, and the rivers. They looked at their wives, their kids and their houses, and then they looked up at the sky and they said, “Thanks, God, we’ll take it from here.” (more…)

Published in: on April 29, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Thanks, God, We’ll Take It From Here  
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United Socialist States of America

An exercise in alternate history.

The path to the creation of the United Socialist States of America began with the death of President Franklin Roosevelt on  April 12, 1944 and the accession to the Presidency by Vice-President Henry Wallace.  Personally favorable to the Soviet Union, the new President surrounded himself with fellow travelers and security risks.

In the Presidential election of 1944 Thomas E. Dewey, the Republican nominee, denounced Wallace as “soft on Communism”, a charge that Wallace vigorously denied. Wallace was elected in a close contest with Senator Glen Taylor (D.Id) as his Vice-President.

Following the conclusion of World War II, Wallace followed a policy of rapid demobilization which was quite popular, leaving only three divisions in Europe for occupation duties. General Eisenhower denounced this as being an inadequate force and resigned from the Army.  Wallace turned a blind eye to the Soviet imposition of Communist governments in Eastern Europe, with his inaction being denounced vociferously by the Republicans and by many Democrats, most notably Senator Harry Truman (D.Mo.).

Which member of the Wallace administration secretly provided the Soviets with the blue prints to build atomic bombs in 1945 remains unclear, but suspicion has usually focused on Secretary of State Alger Hiss.  Hiss was certainly instrumental in turning Werner von Braun and his associates over to the Soviets in 1945.  By 1948 Communist parties dominated all of Eastern Europe and Italy.

Wallace was defeated for re-election in 1948, running on the Progressive Party ticket after being denied the Democrat nomination which went to Harry Truman.  Thomas E. Dewey, the Republican standard bearer,  won in the fall with Truman a close second and Wallace a humiliating third with 2.4% of the votes.

The Wallace administration was history, but it left behind in the government bureaucracies many individuals who served as agents for the Soviet Union out of ideological conviction.  Steps to remove them were only partially successful, and throughout the ensuing Cold War they provided steady intelligence to the Soviet Union which allowed it to maintain a technological parity with the United States as the years passed.  Rising to senior positions in the various government bureaucracies they sheltered younger agents who joined them over the years.

With the defeat of US forces in Vietnam, the Henry Wallace wing of the Democrat party became dominant, with George McGovern narrowly defeating Ronald Reagan in 1976.  Embarking on a policy of a 37% reduction in military spending, which represented in practice a policy of unilateral disarmament, McGovern was not a knowing agent of the Soviet Union, although it is difficult to see what difference  it would have made in his policies if he had been.  He steadfastly ignored the toppling of governments of Central America by communist insurrections and the swarms of Soviet advisors that helped prop up the new regimes.  The beginning of a Communist insurrection in Mexico in 1978 alarmed many in the United States, but McGovern stuck to his policy of “Come Home America” and continued his policy of non-involvement in military struggles abroad. (more…)

Published in: on April 28, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments (8)  
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April 27, 1864: Jacob Thompson

Jacob_Thompson_-_Brady-Handy

Jacob Thompson of North Carolina was Secretary of the Interior under James Buchanan.  Resigning his cabinet post to follow the Confederacy, he joined the Confederate Army and rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, fighting in several battles in the West.

On April 27, 1864 he met with Jefferson Davis who appointed him to lead a delegation of “special commissioners” to Canada.  In effect, he was the head of the Confederate Secret Service in Canada.  During 1864 he would concoct plots to free Confederate prisoners in Union POW camps with the help of copperheads.  He met with disaffected Northern politicians to plot the formation of a Northern Confederacy.  He was behind a plot to burn New York City in revenge of the burning of Atlanta.  He was accused of meeting with John Wilkes Booth, although this has not been proven, and after the War Thompson vigorously denied any involvement with the assassination of Lincoln.

All the plots proved abortive, although his activities attracted the attention of the Northern Press who painted Thompson as a malevolent master schemer.  After the War Thompson spent several years in England and Canada before returning home.  He became a great benefactor of the University of the South and is buried in Memphis.  Novelist William Faulkner loosely based his fictional Compson family in The Sound and the Fury on Jacob Thompson and his family.

Published in: on April 27, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on April 27, 1864: Jacob Thompson  
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Kate Smith Sings the Marines’ Hymn

Seventy years ago the Marine Corps was preparing to add to its legend with bloody fighting for islands with strange names that soon would become enshrined in American history.  Kate Smith, the songstress of the American war effort in World War II, sang the above tribute to the Marines on February 19, 1942 at the start of the War.  Interestingly enough she sang the pre-1929 version of the Marines’ Hymn, the version that she, and most of her audience were most familiar with, prior to this sequence from the 1948 Sands of Iwo Jima imprinting the new version on the American psyche: (more…)

Published in: on April 26, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Kate Smith Sings the Marines’ Hymn  
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Grant’s Plan For 1864 Campaign

 

 

One hundred and fifty years ago the decisive campaigns in the Civil War were about to get under way.  This is a good time to recall Grant’s plans for 1864.  Here Grant outlines them in his Memoirs:

The Union armies were now divided into nineteen departments, though four of them in the West had been concentrated into a single military division.   The Army of the Potomac was a separate command and had no territorial limits.   There were thus seventeen distinct commanders.   Before this time these various armies had acted separately and independently of each other, giving the enemy an opportunity often of depleting one command, not pressed, to reinforce another more actively engaged.   I determined to stop this.   To this end I regarded the Army of the Potomac as the centre, and all west to Memphis along the line described as our position at the time, and north of it, [as] the right wing;  the Army of the James, under General [Benjamin] Butler, as the left wing, and all the troops south, as a force in rear of the enemy.   Some of these latter were occupying positions from which they could not render service proportionate to their numerical strength.   All such were depleted to the minimum necessary to hold their positions as a guard against blockade runners;  where they could not do this their positions were abandoned altogether.   In this way ten thousand men were added to the Army of the James from South Carolina alone, with General [Quincy A.] Gillmore in command.   It was not contemplated that General Gillmore should leave his department;  but as most of his troops were taken, presumably for active service, he asked to accompany them and was permitted to do so.   Officers and soldiers on furlough, of whom there were many thousands, were ordered to their proper commands;  concentration was the order of the day, and to have it accomplished in time to advance at the earliest moment the roads would permit was the problem.  (more…)

Published in: on April 25, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Grant’s Plan For 1864 Campaign  
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Sherman Asks Grant to Come West

An interesting letter from General Sherman in which he urges Grant to take direct command in the West.

 

NEAR MEMPHIS,

March 10, 1864

General GRANT.

DEAR GENERAL: I have your more than kind and characteristic letter of the 4th, and will send a copy of it to General McPherson at once.

You do yourself injustice and us too much honor in assigning to us so large a share of the merits which have led to your high advancement. I know you approve the friendship I have ever professed to you, and will permit me to continue as heretofore to manifest it on all proper occasions.

You are now Washington’s legitimate successor, and occupy a position of almost dangerous elevation; but if you can continue as heretofore to be yourself, simple, honest, and unpretending, you will enjoy through life the respect and love of friends, and the homage of millions of human beings who will award to you a large share for securing to them and their descendants a government of law and stability.

I repeat, you do General McPherson and myself too much honor. At Belmont you manifested your traits, neither of us being near; at Donelson also you illustrated your whole character. I was not near, and General McPherson in too subordinate a capacity to influence you.

Until you had won Donelson, I confess I was almost cowed by the terrible array of anarchical elements that presented themselves at every point; but that victory admitted the ray of light which I have followed ever since.

I believe you are as brave, patriotic, and just, as the great prototype Washington; as unselfish, kind-hearted, and honest, as a man should be; but the chief characteristic in your nature is the simple faith in success you have always manifested, which I can liken to nothing else than the faith a Christian has in his Saviour.

This faith gave you victory at Shiloh and Vicksburg. Also, when you have completed your best preparations, you go into battle without hesitation, as at Chattanooga—no doubts, no reserve; and I tell you that it was this that made us act with confidence. I knew wherever I was that you thought of me, and if I got in a tight place you would come—if alive.

My only points of doubt were as to your knowledge of grand strategy, and of books of science and history; but I confess your common-sense seems to have supplied all this.

Now as to the future. Do not stay in Washington. Halleck is better qualified than you are to stand the buffets of intrigue and policy. Come out West; take to yourself the whole Mississippi Valley; let us make it dead-sure, and I tell you the Atlantic slope and Pacific shores will follow its destiny as sure as the limbs of a tree live or die with the main trunk! We have done much; still much remains to be done. Time and time’s influences are all with us; we could almost afford to sit still and let these influences work. Even in the seceded States your word now would go further than a President’s proclamation, or an act of Congress.

For God’s sake and for your country’s sake, come out of Washington! I foretold to General Halleck, before he left Corinth, the inevitable result to him, and I now exhort you to come out West. Here lies the seat of the coming empire; and from the West, when our task is done, we will make short work of Charleston and Richmond, and the impoverished coast of the Atlantic.

Your sincere friend,
W. T. SHERMAN (more…)

Published in: on April 24, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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In God We Trust Adopted as National Motto

Yesterday we had a post which noted the appearance of In God We Trust on US coinage after the passage of the Coinage Act of 1864.  The phrase became the national motto in 1956 pursuant to a Joint Resolution of Congress which should be celebrated for its brevity as well as for its substance:

 

 

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

That the national motto of the United States is hereby declared to be “In God we trust.´´

Approved July 30, 1956.

 

President Eisenhower summed up the sentiments that led to the adoption of “In God we trust” as the national motto in remarks he made on October 24, 1954 in observance of the 75th anniversary of the light bulb:

FAITH, faith and the American individual. Yes, it is on these two pillars that our future rests.

It was Thomas Edison who said: “Be courageous; be as brave as your fathers before you. Have faith. Go forward .”

Seventy-five years ago this very week, Tom Edison–a humble, typical sort of American–put this credo into action and gave a new light to the world.

It is faith that has made our Nation–has made it, and kept it free. Atheism substitutes men for the supreme creator and this leads inevitably to domination and dictatorship. But we believe–and it is because we believe that God intends all men to be free and equal that we demand free government. Our Government is servant, not master, our chosen representatives are our equals, not our czars or commissars.

We must jealously guard our foundation in faith. For on it rests the ability of the American individual to live and thrive in this blessed land-and to be able to help other less fortunate people to achieve freedom and individual opportunity. These we take for granted, but to others they are often only a wistful dream.

“In God we trust.” Often have we heard the words of this wonderful American motto. Let us make sure that familiarity has not made them meaningless for us.

We carry the torch of freedom as a sacred trust for all mankind. We do not believe that God intended the light that He created to be put out by men.

Soon we will be celebrating one of our holidays, one that typifies for me much of what we mean by the American freedom. That will be Halloween. On that evening I would particularly like to be, of course, with my grandchildren, for Halloween is one of those times when we Americans actually encourage the little individuals to be free to do things rather as they please. I hope you and your children have a gay evening and let’s all give a little prayer that their childish pranks will be the only kind of mischief with which we Americans must cope. But it can be a confident kind of a prayer too, for God has made us strong and faith has made and kept us free.

Good night. (more…)

Published in: on April 23, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments (3)  
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April 22, 1864: Coinage Act of 1864 and In God We Trust

 

In God We Trust

 

The Coinage Act of 1864 was passed one hundred and fifty years ago today.  Among other provisions it granted to the Secretary of the Treasury a two cent coin.  On this coin first appeared the motto In God We Trust.  Salmon P. Chase, Secretary of the Treasury had been looking for an opportunity to place such a motto on coins since he received the following letter dated November 13, 1861 from the  Rev. M. R. Watkinson:

Dear Sir: You are about to submit your annual report to the Congress respecting the affairs of the national finances.

One fact touching our currency has hitherto been seriously overlooked. I mean the recognition of the Almighty God in some form on our coins.

You are probably a Christian. What if our Republic were not shattered beyond reconstruction? Would not the antiquaries of succeeding centuries rightly reason from our past that we were a heathen nation? What I propose is that instead of the goddess of liberty we shall have next inside the 13 stars a ring inscribed with the words PERPETUAL UNION; within the ring the allseeing eye, crowned with a halo; beneath this eye the American flag, bearing in its field stars equal to the number of the States united; in the folds of the bars the words GOD, LIBERTY, LAW.

This would make a beautiful coin, to which no possible citizen could object. This would relieve us from the ignominy of heathenism. This would place us openly under the Divine protection we have personally claimed. From my hearth I have felt our national shame in disowning God as not the least of our present national disasters.

To you first I address a subject that must be agitated.

Chase wrote on November 20, 1861 to the Director of the Mint:

Dear Sir: No nation can be strong except in the strength of God, or safe except in His defense. The trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins.

You will cause a device to be prepared without unnecessary delay with a motto expressing in the fewest and tersest words possible this national recognition. (more…)

Published in: on April 22, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on April 22, 1864: Coinage Act of 1864 and In God We Trust  
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April 21, 1910: Out With Haley’s Comet

 

 

 

“I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835.  It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: ‘Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.’ Oh, I am looking forward to that.”

Mark Twain, 1909

Twain got his wish, dying on April 21, 1910, the day after the perihelion of Halley’s Comet in 1910.  Halley’s Comet will next make its regular appearance in July of 2061, so mark it on your calendars!

 

 

 

Published in: on April 21, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on April 21, 1910: Out With Haley’s Comet  
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