January 31, 1865: Passage of the Thirteenth Amendment

 

Something for the weekend.  Battle Cry of Freedom.  After the fall elections in 1864 passage of the Thirteenth Amendment banning slavery was inevitable.  In 1864 the Thirteenth Amendment passed the Republican controlled Senate with an overwhelming majority of 38-6.  In the House the Amendment failed 93-65, thirteen votes shy of the two-thirds necessary for passage.  In November the Republicans in the House gained 46 seats and would have a majority of 134 when the new House was seated.  Nonetheless, the Lincoln administration was eager to undertake another vote in the House when the old Congress came into session after the election.  Lincoln made direct emotional appeals to several Democrats in favor of the Amendment.   Favors and appointments were offered to Democrats who switched their votes.  The Amendment passed 119-56.  Black spectators cheered after passage and several members of Congress openly wept.  Here is the text of the Amendment: (more…)

Published in: on January 31, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on January 31, 1865: Passage of the Thirteenth Amendment  
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January 30, 1865: Sherman’s March Through South Carolina Begins

 

On this day Sherman began his march through the Carolinas, with his ultimate destination Lee’s army, trapping it between his army and Grant’s army.  Most Union troops had very little love for the Palmetto State, blaming it for starting the War, and Sherman’s boys were strictly on their worst behavior in South Carolina, as this diary entry by Lieutenant Colonel George Nichols, a Union staff officer, indicates:

January 30th-The actual invasion of South Carolina has begun. The 17th Corps and that portion of the 15th which came around by way of Thunderbolt Beaufort moved out this morning, on parallel roads, in the direction of McPhersonville. The 17th Corps took the road nearest the Salkahatchie River. We expect General Corse, with the 4th Division of the 15th Corps, to join us at a point higher up. The 14th and 20th Corps will take the road to Robertville, nearer the Savannah River. Since General Howard started with the 17th we have heard the sound of many guns in his direction. To-day is the first really fine weather we have had since starting, and the roads have improved. It was wise not to cut them up during the rains, for we can now move along comfortably. The well-known sight of columns of black smoke meets our gaze again; this time houses are burning, and South Carolina has commenced to pay an installment, long overdue, on her debt to justice and humanity. With the help of God, we will have principal and interest before we leave her borders. There is a terrible gladness in the realization of so many hopes and wishes. This cowardly traitor state, secure from harm, as she thought, in her central position, with hellish haste dragged her Southern sisters into the caldron of secession. Little did she dream that the hated flag would again wave over her soil; but this bright morning a thousand Union banners are floating in the breeze , and the ground trembles beneath the tramp of thousands of brave Northmen, who know their mission, and will perform it to the end.

Smedley Butler and the Plot Against FDR

 

In November 1934 Major General Smedley Butler made headlines by alleging that he had been in contact with businessmen since July 1, 1933 who wanted him to lead a coup attempt against FDR.  The allegations became known as the Business Plot.  Congressional hearings concluded that there might be some substance behind the allegations, but that they could not be confirmed.

 

 

Contemporary press accounts indicate a wide spread belief that Butler fabricated the whole thing. Butler was passed over as Commandant of the Marine Corp in 1931 because he publicly accused Mussolini, falsely, in a speech of having run over a child. He never got over it and he ran unsuccessfully for the Senate in 1932 as a Republican. He then turned hard left, attacking capitalism and the military as being gangsters for the capitalists. That is what makes his entire idea of a fascist plot against FDR so laughable. By 1934 he was known as an ardent supporter of FDR and yet shadowy plutocrats wanted him to command a coup against Roosevelt? FDR obviously thought it was rubbish as there were no criminal prosecutions by the Feds of anyone named by Butler. Butler was a very brave man as attested by his two medals of honor. He was also a fabulist, to put it politely, of the first order.

Published in: on January 29, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Smedley Butler and the Plot Against FDR  
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Cardinal Newman’s Rules for Blogging

Cardinal Newman as Blogger

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

 

Blogging can be rough amusement.  I will attempt to keep the Definition of a Gentleman written by Cardinal Newman in 1852 in mind as much as I can and still keep the readers of TAC informed and amused.  It is almost as if Newman could perceive blogging over a century and a third before it began, as  his Definition of a Gentleman is, in part, almost a code of behavior for bloggers.  Here are some rules for blogging I have distilled from it:

Bloggers would do well to keep the following in mind:

1.    His great concern being to make every one at their ease and at home. He has his eyes on all his company; he is tender towards the bashful, gentle towards the distant, and merciful towards the absurd.

2.    He never defends himself by a mere retort.

3.    He has no ears for slander or gossip.

4.    He is scrupulous in imputing motives to those who interfere with him, and interprets every thing for the best.

5.    He is never mean or little in his disputes, never takes unfair advantage, never mistakes personalities or sharp sayings for arguments, or insinuates evil which he dare not say out.

6.    From a long-sighted prudence, he observes the maxim of the ancient sage, that we should ever conduct ourselves towards our enemy as if he were one day to be our friend.

7.    He has too much good sense to be affronted at insults.

8.    He is too well employed to remember injuries, and too indolent to bear malice.

9.    He is patient, forbearing, and resigned, on philosophical principles.

10.   If he engages in controversy of any kind, his disciplined intellect preserves him from the blundering discourtesy of better, perhaps, but less educated minds; who, like blunt weapons, tear and hack instead of cutting clean, who mistake the point in argument, waste their strength on trifles, misconceive their adversary, and leave the question more involved than they find it. (more…)

Published in: on January 28, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Cardinal Newman’s Rules for Blogging  
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American Sniper: A Review

“I am a strong Christian. Not a perfect one—not close. But I strongly believe in God, Jesus, and the Bible. When I die, God is going to hold me accountable for everything I’ve done on earth. He may hold me back until last and run everybody else through the line, because it will take so long to go over all my sins. “Mr. Kyle, let’s go into the backroom. . . .” Honestly, I don’t know what will really happen on Judgment Day. But what I lean toward is that you know all of your sins, and God knows them all, and shame comes over you at the reality that He knows. I believe the fact that I’ve accepted Jesus as my savior will be my salvation. But in that backroom or whatever it is when God confronts me with my sins, I do not believe any of the kills I had during the war will be among them. Everyone I shot was evil. I had good cause on every shot. They all deserved to die.”
Chis Kyle
My wife and I, the kids are back in college and law school, saw American Sniper at a movie theater in Morris, Illinois on Saturday January 24.  It was the second performance of the day, beginning at 1:00 PM, and the theater still was almost full.  After seeing the movie, the one term that seems to me to apply is stunning, in every sense of the word.  Clint Eastwood has made a masterpiece, the finest of his movies as a director, and made a film biopic that perfectly captures the man Chris Kyle and his times.  It is not a film for kids due to intense combat scenes and frequent use of the f-bomb by troops.  My review is below and the usual caveat as to spoilers is in force.

The movie opens with scenes from Kyle’s childhood.  He and his father are hunting and Kyle kills his first deer.  We then see him as a young boy at a church service listening to a minister preaching a sermon.  The minister notes that we see our lives as a series of events and that we do not see the pattern of our lives that God sees, especially since we do not see as God sees.  During the sermon Kyle fingers a blue bound Bible that he will carry for the rest of his life and which appears in many scenes in the movie.  The sermon establishes the method of the movie which consists of vignettes as Kyle proceeds through life.

When he intervenes in school to defend his younger brother from a bully and beats the daylights out of said bully, his father explains to him that night that people are divided up into three groups:  sheep, predators and sheepdogs who protect the sheep from evil and harm, and that he and their mother are not raising either sheep or predators.

As a young man we see him as a rodeo performer, marking time in his life.  A television news bulletin about an overseas bombing of a US embassy enrages him.  We next see him enlisting in the Navy to be a SEAL.  SEAL training is displayed with humorous touches emphasizing how rigorous it is.  After he becomes a SEAL he meets his future wife and their relationship stateside is the counterpoise throughout the film to the War in Iraq.  They are married shortly after 9-11.

The bulk of the movie consists of his four tours in Iraq, interspersed with scenes at home.

 

In Iraq Kyle quickly becomes a legend.  In fact, that is the nickname he is given by the Marines he serves with:  “Legend”.  As a sniper he provides cover for the Marines as they go door to door in the type of urban fighting that typified much of the Iraq conflict.  My guess is that this film will give most Americans their first true understanding of what the fighting in Iraq was like.  Nineteenth century writer Ambrose Bierce, “Bitter Bierce”, once observed that wars, he was a combat veteran of the Civil War, were God’s way of teaching Americans geography.  Sometimes a good film can perform the same function of teaching the general American public the grim realities of combat, and American Sniper does that for the fighting in Iraq.  Peaceful settings can become deadly in an instant, and the line between enemy combatants and innocent civilians is thin to non-existent.   The fighting is shown as being intense and deadly, albeit usually brief.  Kyle eventually joins the Marines in their house to house fighting to show them SEAL techniques that might help save some of their lives.  Kyle is the very essence of a hero:  someone who goes into danger for others, in spite of the risk to his own life.  The Iraqi Jihadists, who called him The Devil of Ramadi, put a bounty on his head.  When it reaches $120,000 in the film Kyle jokes that it might tempt his wife on one of his bad days at home.

We see the moral quandaries that arose for Kyle as women and kids are used by the Jihadists against the American troops.  We see Kyle shooting one boy and a woman as they attempt to attack an American convoy.  Later in the movie we share Kyle’s relief when a boy puts down an rpg and runs away.  Kyle notes however that he regrets none of the shots he made.  What haunts him are the American troops he was unable to save.

There is almost no politics in the film.  Kyle is an uncomplicated patriot who views the US as the greatest nation in the world and sees it as his duty to defend her.  Some of his friends do come to question the Iraq War, viewing it as not worth the cost in American lives.

That such an apolitical film has aroused the ire of the Left is unsurprising however.  The American fighting men in this film are depicted as ordinary men performing heroically in very tough circumstances and that does not play into the stereotype of the Left of American troops being losers, victims or monsters.

The tours in Iraq take a toll on Kyle and eventually his wife convinces him to leave the SEALS, his War finally coming to an end.  In civilian life, he volunteers to help troops with physical and mental problems.  On February 2, 2013 he was slain by a 25 year old former Marine he was attempting to help.  No explanation exists for the slaying.  The film ends with scenes from the funeral of Kyle.  No one moved in the theater until the film was completed.  I think most of the audience was just as stunned by the film as I was.

Bradley Cooper gives a career making performance as Kyle, portraying him as a complete human being.  It is a three dimensional performance that causes us to care about Kyle as we view the arc of his life.

Men like Kyle deserve to be remembered.  American Sniper is a fitting tribute to a man who went into harm’s way for the rest of us.

Published in: on January 27, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on American Sniper: A Review  
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Civil War Facts Missed

An interesting video on the 93rd Illinois volunteer infantry.  Thousands of regiments were raised in the Civil War, and most of them are now veiled in obscurity, the men who served in them long dead and History having passed most of them by.  How much of the history of the War is lost due to this!  The regiment was the chief unit for almost all the men who served in the Civil War.  During their service the regiment was their little world and the events of the regiment often of much greater significance to them than the main events of the War that have come down to us.  Typical of an event that would be completely omitted in almost all Civil War histories is this resolution to mark the death in battle of Colonel Holden Putnam of the 93rd Illinois:

 

Camp. Ninety-Third Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry,Bridgeport, Ala., December 7th, A. D. 1863. At a meeting of the officers of the Ninety- Third Regiment Illinois Volunteer Infantry, called to-day, to commemorate the death of their lamented colonel, Holden Putnam, who fell in the battle of November 25th, 1863, on Mission Ridge, a committee was appointed, consisting of Maj. J. M. Fisher, Capt. J. P. Reel, and Capt. Orrin Wilkinson, to draft appropriate resolutions, the following were reported and unanimously adopted:

Whereas, In the mysterious providence of an all-wise God, we are called upon the mourn the loss of our beloved commander, the late Col. Holden Putnam, who was killed in the battle of Chattanooga, Tenn., November 25th, 1863; therefore, Resolved, That the heart which ceased to beat when he fell upon the crest of Tunnel Hill, bearing down with him the emblem of our national life, yet speaks to us of the brave and efficient officer, the genial friend, and the earnest soldier. Resolved, That the regiment has lost a friend and valiant leader and faithful commander; the country a true and pure patriot, and an unselfish son; his fellow citizens an active and generous helper and a noble delegate in arms.

Resolved, That we tender our heartfelt sympathies to his bereaved family and friends, and pray that God may assuage the grief of the household.

Resolved, That a copy of these resolutions be transmitted to the family, and also sent for publication to each of the county papers of the counties represented in the regiment.

N. C. BUSWELL, Lieut. Col., Commanding Regiment,
Chairman.
Attest: C. A. Griswold, Surgeon, Secretary. (more…)

Published in: on January 26, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Civil War Facts Missed  
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Chris Kyle and Alvin C. York

“I am a strong Christian. Not a perfect one—not close. But I strongly believe in God, Jesus, and the Bible. When I die, God is going to hold me accountable for everything I’ve done on earth. He may hold me back until last and run everybody else through the line, because it will take so long to go over all my sins. “Mr. Kyle, let’s go into the backroom. . . .” Honestly, I don’t know what will really happen on Judgment Day. But what I lean toward is that you know all of your sins, and God knows them all, and shame comes over you at the reality that He knows. I believe the fact that I’ve accepted Jesus as my savior will be my salvation. But in that backroom or whatever it is when God confronts me with my sins, I do not believe any of the kills I had during the war will be among them. Everyone I shot was evil. I had good cause on every shot. They all deserved to die.”
Chis Kyle

 

 

I hadn’t planned on seeing American Sniper, the story of the late Chris Kyle, but with it shattering box office records and driving the Left insane, something that director Clint Eastwood has been doing effortlessly for the past four decades, I will have to go see it this weekend and review it for TAC.  Awarded two Silver Stars and numerous other decorations, Navy Seal Kyle always stated that his motivation for being perhaps the deadliest sniper in American history was to protect his fellow troops.  This resonated with me since it was the same motivation for Corporal Alvin C. York in 1918 during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive to take out several German machine gun nests and to capture 132 German soldiers:

 

 

The paradox of war for any good man who fights in one:  taking lives to save lives.  I will report back as to whether the film American Sniper is successful in addressing this paradox.

Published in: on January 25, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Chris Kyle and Alvin C. York  
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Churchill: The Indispensable Man

Gentlemen, you will never make peace with Napoleon! Napoleon cannot be master of the world until he has smashed us up, and believe me, gentlemen, he means to be master of the world! You cannot make peace with dictators. You have to destroy them, wipe them out!

Lord Horatio Nelson, That Hamilton Woman

 

Something for the weekend.  Heart of Oak from That Hamilton Woman (1941).  Sir Winston Churchill died 50 years ago today.  He loved that film, echoing as it did his own struggle against Hitler in the earlier stand of Great Britain against Napoleon, and would frequently show it to guests during the War.

 

When Churchill was born veterans of Trafalgar still lived, the same vintage as our current World War II veterans.  Churchill lived into the dawning of the Space Age.  He led a long and colorful life and he changed History.  The beginning of World War II seemed like the dawning of a new era:  the age of totalitarian empires.  The weak and disunited democracies seemed to be on their way out.  Churchill changed all this by keeping Britain fighting , even when victory seemed impossible, and gave his nation their finest hour.  Having reduced the Thousand Year Reich to rubble and ashes, he sounded the alarm against the Soviet Union in 1946.  Instead of the democracies ending up on the ash heap of history, it was the totalitarian empires who did so, ending like vanishing fever dreams at the dawn of a new day.  Churchill, although he battled depression his entire life, was ever an optimist about free peoples.  This was captured I think in his finest speech with this passage:

 

 

Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilisation. Upon it depends our own British life, and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be freed and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands.

 

Churchill was the indispensable man of the last century for all those who cherish freedom, and this is a good day to recall him and why it is up to us to continue the fight he waged and to recall his warning if we ever tire of the struggle:

 

But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new dark age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. (more…)

Published in: on January 24, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Churchill: The Indispensable Man  
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January 23, 1865: Battle of Trent’s Reach Begins

30-Trents-Reach

 

 

It is fitting that the swan song of the Confederate Navy was the battle of Trent’s Reach.  Vastly outnumbered by the Union Navy, the Confederates had fought with tenacity and aggressiveness in the teeth of overwhelming odds.  On  January 23, 1865, just after sunset, the James River Squadron under Commodore John K. Mitchell sallied forth, hoping to break through and attack City Point, the logistical base keeping Grant’s army besieging Petersburg and Richmond supplied.  Taking part in the effort was the ironclad CSS Fredericksburg II, two ironclad rams, five gunboats and three torpedo boats.  The flotilla made their way past Union Fort Brady, the fort having been poorly sited so that the cannon mounted in it could not be depressed low enough to hit the passing Confederate ships.

By 10:30 PM the Confederates reached the floating mine field at Trent’s Reach.  Clearing the mine field under Union fire took until the morning of the 24th.  In the ensuing naval battle that day between the James River Squadron and a Union Naval force supported by Union artillery batteries, the Confederates lost one gunboat and one torpedo boat sunk, and damage to 2 ironclads, 3 gunboats and 1 torpedo boats.  The Union had one ironclad damaged.  Human casualties were light:  the Union had three killed and forty wounded, and the Confederacy sustained 4-10 killed and 15 wounded.  The Confederates did not reach City Point, but they had given Grant and Lincoln one of their few anxious moments in what remained of the War.

Published in: on January 23, 2015 at 4:30 am  Comments Off on January 23, 1865: Battle of Trent’s Reach Begins  
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Tour of Duty

 

For a friend who recently passed away and who served his own tour of duty in Vietnam.  He loved the television show Tour of Duty (1987-1990) that followed a platoon  of  American soldiers in Vietnam.  CBS failed to purchase the rights to the Rolling Stones’ Paint It Black for reruns or DVDs, so replacement music is used instead, which is a great shame.  I have seen few videos more evocative of time and place than the intro to Tour of Duty with Paint It Black.  The second and third seasons of Tour of Duty added soap opera and adventure elements which detracted from the realism of the show, but the first season is highly recommended by me for anyone wishing to see a realistic depiction of what life was like for the men who fought one of America’s more unpopular wars and who usually served their country far, far better than their country served them.

Published in: on January 22, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Tour of Duty  
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