The Great Beefsteak Raid

Great Beefsteak Raid

One of the more colorful episodes in the siege of Petersburg, the Great Beefsteak Raid of September 14-17 helped cement Major General Wade Hampton III as a worthy successor to Jeb Stuart in command of the Army of Northern Virginia.  Learning that a large herd of cattle were being grazed by the Union at Edmund Ruffin’s plantation on Coggin’s Point on the James River, Hampton decided to launch a raid behind enemy lines with 3,000 troopers, capture the cattle and drive them back into Confederate lines to feed the Army of Northern Virginia that was on starvation rations.

Hampton and his men seized the herd on September 16, and got 2,468 of them back into Confederate lines on September 17.  Along with the cattle he brought back 304 Union prisoners, having suffered 61 Confederate casualties during the course of the raid.  President Lincoln referred to it as “the slickest piece of cattle stealing” he had ever heard of.  An exasperated Grant, when a reporter after the raid asked him when he expected to defeat Lee, snapped, “Never, if our armies continue to supply him with beef cattle.”

In 1966 a heavily fictionalized film on the beefsteak raid, Alavarez Kelly, was released.  Here is Hampton’s report on the raid: (more…)

Published in: on September 30, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Great Beefsteak Raid  
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Mulan Meets My Little Pony

Something for the weekend.  I feel a bit silly this morning, so we have I’ll Make a Man Out of You from Mulan via My Little Pony.  This of course is in line with My Little Pony Cavalry Commander.   Recruiting Poster

Published in: on September 27, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Mulan Meets My Little Pony  
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Art Imitating Life and Life Imitating Art

I finished watching Ken Burns, The Roosevelts:  An Intimate History.  A fair amount of liberal hagiography for FDR and, especially, Eleanor, but on the whole I liked it, and I will review it in a future post.  However, I was struck by a vignette that occurred in the final episode.

By 1944 FDR was in visibly failing health.  Diagnosed with congestive  heart failure, Dr. Howard Bruenn, a Navy Lieutenant Commander and cardiologist, followed him everywhere.  He recommended extended bed rest which was an impossible diagnosis for a Commander-in-Chief during a World War.

At the Quebec Conference with Churchill, in the evening for entertainment, FDR had the film Wilson (1944) shown.  A film biopic of the life of Woodrow Wilson from his election as Governor of New Jersey in 1910, the movie is largely forgotten today.  It won several Oscars, but was a financial flop, people being too preoccupied with the current World War to want to see a movie about the first one.  Alexander Knox, relegated through most of his career in character actor roles, does a good job in the role of Wilson.  Making the dessicated, pedantic Wilson into a heroic figure was difficult, but the film, taking a fast and loose approach with much of the history of the period, and with the help of a majestic musical score, accomplishes the feat.  It is definitely worth watching. (more…)

Quotes Unworthy of Framing: Bishop Sheen

Bishop Sheen

(I originally posted this at The American Catholic and I thought the history mavens of Almost Chosen People might find it interesting.)

 

 

“The very fact that in World War II we chose to fight in alliance with one form of totalitarianism against the other two forms, though all were intrinsically wicked, proves not only the basic sympathy between Western materialism and communism but also the grave mistake of trying to drive the Devil out with Beelzebub.”

Bishop Fulton J. Sheen

The start of a new series.  In this set of posts we will take a look at truly foolish things said by people I generally admire.  First up, this gem from Bishop Sheen.

The idea that we chose to have the Soviet Union as an ally in the Second World War is a doozy.  Hitler made the choice when he invaded the Soviet Union.  If Bishop Sheen had then wanted us to be at war with both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, he would have had to have been content with Western casualty totals probably five times what they turned out to be, and his proposed course of action would have required the existence of Western leaders capable of explaining to puzzled populations why their nations were going to war with the Soviet Union that was holding down 80% of the Wehrmacht.  Such a policy would probably have resulted in an eventual renewal of the alliance between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany and led to a conflict that the Western Allies could not have won without resort to nuclear weapons, something that Bishop Sheen of course opposed.

At the end of the War we could of course have launched a new war to drive the Soviet Union out of Eastern Europe.  With the exception of General Patton, there was zero appetite among the Western Allies for a new conflict after the vast blood letting that had wrecked most of Europe.  I doubt if Bishop Sheen would have supported such a conflict for long, due to his coming out against the Vietnam War in 67.  When the going got tough geo-politically, Bishop Sheen tended to hit the road. (more…)

Published in: on September 24, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Quotes Unworthy of Framing: Bishop Sheen  
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Shenandoah Valley: The Burning

 Shenandoah in Flames196

After his victory over Early at Fisher’s Hill, Sheridan decided that further pursuit of Early up the Valley would be pointless as Early’s force was too small to any longer pose a threat to Union control of the Shenandoah and his time would be better spent carrying out Grant’s wish expressed to General David Hunter that crows have to carry their own provisions over the Shenandoah Valley.  As Sheridan wrote to Grant: , “My judgment is that it would be best to terminate this campaign by the destruction of the crops, &c., in this valley, and the transfer of troops to the army operating against Richmond.”   Grant agreed, and Sheridan over the next two weeks conducted a march from Stanton north to Strasburg, a distance of 70 miles with his army covering a width of thirty miles.

 

On October 7, 1864 Sheridan reported to Grant:

I have the honor to report my command at this point to-night. I commenced moving back from Port Republic, Mount Crawford, Bridgewater, and harrisonburg yesterday morning. The grain and forage in advance of these points up to Staunton had previously been destroyed. In moving back to this point the whole country from the Blue Ridge to the North Mountains has been made untenable for a rebel army. I have destroyed over 2,000 barns filled with wheat, hay, and farming implements; over seventy mills filled with flour and wheat; have driven in front of the army over 4,[000] head of stock, and have killed and issued to the troops not less than 3,000 sheep. this destruction embraces the Luray Valley and Little Forst Valley, as well as the main valley. A large number of horses have been obtained, a proper estimate of which I cannot now make. Lieutenant John R. Meigh, my engineer officer, was murdered beyond Harrisonburg, near Dayton. For this atrocious act all the houses within an area of five miles were burned. Since I came into the Valley, from Harper’s Ferry up to Harrisonburg, every train, every small party, and every small party, and every straggler has been bushwhacked by people, many of whom have protection papers from commanders who have been hitherto in this valley. From the vicinity of Harrisonburg over 400 wagon-loads of refugees have been sent back to Martinsburg; most of these people were Dunkers and had been conscripted. The people here are getting sick of the war; heretofore they have had no reason to complain, because they have been living in great abundance. (more…)

Published in: on September 23, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Shenandoah Valley: The Burning  
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Gettysburg Address in Pirate

(I originally posted this on The American Catholic on September 19, 2014, International Speak Like a Pirate Day, and I thought the history mavens of Almost Chosen People might enjoy it.)

 

 

Ar, it be about four score and seven years ago since our fathers made ye new nation, a liberty port for all hands from end to end, and dedicated t’ t’ truth that all swabs be created equal.

Now we be fightin’ a great ruckus, testin’ whether ye nation, or any nation so minted like it, can last through the long watch. We be met on a great boardin’ fight o’ that war. We have come t’ dedicate a spot o’ that field, as a final restin’ place for those who here swallowed the anchor forever that that nation might live. It be altogether fittin’ and proper that we be doin’ this.

But, truth be told, we can not set aside, we can not pray over, we can not hallow this ground. T’ brave swabs, livin’ and went t’ Davy Jones’ locker, who fit here, have blessed it, far over our poor power t’ add or swipe back. T’ world won’t writ what we say here, but it can never forget what those swabs did here. It be for us t’ livin’, rather, t’ be dedicated here t’  finishin’ t’ work which they who fit here have begun.   It be rather for us t’ be here dedicated t’ t’ great chore remainin’ before us—that from these honored swabs we take increased love t’ what they died for—that we here Bible swear that these shipmates shall not have went t’ Davy Jones’ locker for nothin’—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth o’ freedom—and that government o’ t’ crew, by t’ crew, for t’ crew, shall not perish from t’ earth. (more…)

Published in: on September 22, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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Kentucky Battle Anthem

Something for the weekend.  Kentucky Battle Song, sung by Bobby Horton who has waged a one man crusade to bring Civil War music to modern audiences.. The Civil War in border states was often literally a war of brother against brother.  Some 100,000 men of the Blue Grass State fought for the Union, while 25,000-40,000 served the Confederacy.  Written in 1863, lyrics and music by Charlie L. Ward, the song celebrates the Orphan Brigade and other Kentucky Confederate units who left their homes in Union controlled Kentucky to battle for the South.

Published in: on September 20, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Kentucky Battle Anthem  
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September 19, 1864: Third Battle of Winchester

Third Battle of Winchester

Throughout the War control of the Shenandoah Valley, an incredibly fertile agricultural region had been hotly contested by the Union and the Confederacy.  So long as the Confederates controlled it, they not only reaped the crops, vital to feed Lee’s army, but they also had an avenue to launch sudden invasions of the North, shielded from Northern cavalry observation the Blue Ridge Mountains that marked the eastern border of the Valley.  On September 19, 1864 control of this militarily vital region swung, for the last time, in favor of the Union.

After his conference with Grant on September 16, Sheridan began a drive on Winchester to smash Early’s army.  Early hastily gathered together his scattered forces just in time before Sheridan attacked on the 19th.   The Confederates were heavily outnumbered, 12000 to 40000.    The narrow rode that Sheridan’s men had to take to attack gave Early time, that he took full advantage off, to entrench his force.

With numbers so overwhelmingly in his favor, Sheridan simply ordered a frontal attack against the entire Confederate line.  The attack made slow progress, aided by Brigadier General James Wilson, launching a turning movement with his cavalry against the Confederate right.

By the end of the day Early was in full retreat, a Union two division Union cavalry charge crushing his left flank.  It was a stunning Union victory.  They paid a high price for it, incurring 5,020 casualties to 3, 610 Confederate.  Church bells rang throughout the North in celebration of the victory.  Here is Sheridan’s account of the battle in his memoirs: (more…)

The Most Terrible Bomb That Ended The Most Terrible War

We have discovered the most terrible bomb in the history of the world. It may be the fire destruction prophesied in the Euphrates Valley Era, after Noah and his fabulous Ark.

Harry Truman, Diary entry-July 25, 1945

(I originally posted this at The American Catholic, and I thought the history mavens of Almost Chosen People would find it interesting.)

 

A bit late for the annual Saint Blog’s August Bomb Follies, but here is a new Prager University video by Father Wilson Miscamble defending Harry Truman’s decision to use the atomic bombs to bring World War II to a rapid conclusion.  I will repeat here what I wrote back on July 24, 2012 after Father Miscamble made an earlier video on the subject:

Getting the annual Saint Blogs August Bomb Follies off to an early start.  Father Wilson Miscamble, Professor of History at Notre Dame, and long a champion of the pro-life cause, defends the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the video above. The video is a summary of the conclusions reached by Father Miscamble in his recent book, The Most Controversial Decision.  Go here to read a review of the book by British military historian Andrew Roberts.  Go here to read a review of the book by Father Michael P. Orsi.  Go here to read a review by Michael Novak.

I echo the conclusions of Father Wilson Miscamble and appreciate his heroic efforts to clear up the bad history and inane American self-flagellation that has distorted a very straight-forward historical event.    I also appreciate his willingness to take the heat that his position has caused him.  Go here to read his response to a critique by Professor Christopher Tollefsen.  This portion of his response is something I have noted in regard to many critics of Truman, an unwillingness to address the consequences of not dropping the bombs:

It is when one turns to alternate courses of action that the abstract nature of Tollefsen’s criticisms becomes apparent. He criticizes Truman’s actions as immoral but offers no serious proposal regarding a viable alternative. Elizabeth Anscombe had naively suggested that Truman alter the terms of surrender, but such an approach only would have strengthened the hand of the Japanese militarists and confirmed their suicidal strategy. Tollefsen concedes that “it might well be true that greater suffering would have resulted from a refusal to use the atomic weapons in Japan,” but he backs away from any genuine discussion of what Truman should have done and of what that “greater suffering” might have involved. He provides no evidence that he has considered this matter at all. But should philosophers be able to avoid outlining what they would have done in the demanding circumstances that Truman confronted? I have always thought that moral reflection wrestles with the awful and painful realities. Tollefsen seems to want to stand above the fray, to pronounce Truman’s actions as deeply immoral and to leave it at that. It would have brought greater clarity to this discussion if he had confronted the alternatives seriously.

If Tollefsen were to engage the military issues involved in the war in the Pacific, I suspect he would be forced to raise further objections to the American military practices pursued well before the Enola Gay flew toward Hiroshima. Take as but one example the early 1945 Battle for Manila, in which approximately one hundred thousand Filipino civilians were killed. Some were killed by the Japanese, but many of this large number were killed by aggressive American air and artillery bombardments used, without particular regard for civilian casualties, as the American forces sought to dislodge an established enemy that refused to surrender. These harsh tactics could not meet Tollefsen’s criteria with regard to means. Given his unbending approach on moral absolutes, I assume he would condemn the action; but just what military means would he support in trying to defeat a foe that considered surrender the ultimate disgrace and who fought accordingly? Similarly, Tollefsen could hardly approve of the military force utilized in the taking of Okinawa and the high number of civilian casualties that resulted.

I suspect that Professor Tollefsen would be willing to say that it would be better to do absolutely nothing and to live with the consequences, if I may use that word, than to use morally questionable tactics. But the decision not to act undoubtedly would have incurred terrible consequences. Surely such inaction would carry some burden of responsibility for the prolongation of the killing of innocents throughout Asia, in the charnel house of the Japanese Empire. Is it really “moral” to stand aside, maintaining one’s supposed moral purity, while a vast slaughter is occurring at the rate of over two hundred thousand deaths a month? Isn’t there a terrible dilemma here, namely, which innocent lives to save? Would Tollefsen really have rested at peace with the long-term Japanese domination of Asia? Would that be a pro-life position?

Let me confess that I would prefer that my position had the clarity of Professor Tollefsen’s. It is a large concession to admit that Truman’s action was the “least evil.” Arguing that it was the least-harmful option open to him will hardly be persuasive to those who see everything in a sharp black-and-white focus. Yet this is how I see it. If someone can present to me a viable and more “moral way” to have defeated the Japanese and ended World War II, I will change my position. I suppose my position here has some resonance with my support for the policy of deterrence during the Cold War. I could recognize the moral flaws in the strategy but still I found it the best of the available options, and the alternatives were markedly worse. Interestingly, I think the author of Veritatis Splendor thought the same thing and he conveyed that view to the American bishops as they wrote their peace pastoral letter.

I trust that my pro-life credentials will not be questioned because I refuse to denounce Truman as a “mass-murderer.” Unlike Tollefsen, I do not think that my position initiates the unraveling of the entire pro-life garment. I believe Truman pursued the least-harmful course of action available to him to end a ghastly war, a course that resulted in the least loss of life.

Harry Truman knew that if he ordered the dropping of the bombs, a very large number of Japanese civilians would be killed.  He also knew that if he did not drop the bombs it was virtually certain that a far larger number of civilians, Allied, in territory occupied by Japan, as well as Japanese, would be killed, as a result of the war grinding on until the war ceased due to an invasion of  Japan, continued massive conventional bombing of Japan, or a continuation of the blockade which would result in mass famine in Japan.  He also knew that an invasion of Japan would have led to  massive, almost unthinkable, US military casualties, to add to the 416,000 US deaths and 670,000 US wounded that World War II had already cost.   The morality of Truman’s dropping of the bombs has been a subject of debate since 1945.  Comparatively little attention has been paid to the practical and moral consequences of Truman failing to act.  Father Miscamble is to be congratulated for examining this facet of Truman’s Dilemma. (more…)

Published in: on September 18, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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Quotes Suitable For Framing: Theodore Roosevelt

 

When home ties are loosened; when men and women cease to regard a worthy family life, with all its duties fully performed, and all its responsibilities lived up to, as the life best worth living; then evil days for the commonwealth are at hand. There are regions in our land, and classes of our population, where the birth rate has sunk below the death rate. Surely it should need no demonstration to show that wilful sterility is, from the standpoint of the nation, from the standpoint of the human race, the one sin for which the penalty is national death, race death; a sin for which there is no atonement; a sin which is the more dreadful exactly in proportion as the men and women guilty thereof are in other respects, in character, and bodily and mental powers, those whom for the sake of the state it would be well to see the fathers and mothers of many healthy children, well brought up in homes made happy by their presence. No man, no woman, can shirk the primary duties of life, whether for love of ease and pleasure, or for any other cause, and retain his or her self-respect.

Theodore Roosevelt, Sixth Annual Message (State of the Union) to Congress (1906)

Published in: on September 17, 2014 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Quotes Suitable For Framing: Theodore Roosevelt  
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