Abraham Lincoln’s Ghost Walks at Midnight

Tragic is the only word to describe the life of Vachel Lindsay.  Perhaps the greatest of the poets of Illinois, he deserves his appellation the Prairie Troubador, his life was haunted by mental instability and money woes.  He committed suicide at age 52 in 1931 by drinking a bottle of Lysol.  His last words indicated the paranoia that beset him at the end:  “They tried to get me; I got them first!”

A sad life, but a great talent.  In 1914, anguished by the outbreak of World War I, he wrote this haunting homage to Lincoln:


Published in: on October 31, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Abraham Lincoln’s Ghost Walks at Midnight  
Tags: , ,

October 30, 1918: Theodore Roosevelt Responds to the Fourteen Points



As the War was nearing its close, Theodore Roosevelt responded in the Kansas City Star with a blistering assessment of  the Fourteen Points that President Wilson was seeking to make the basis of the peace:


THE European nations have been told that the fourteen points enumerated in President Wilson’s message of January last are to be the basis of peace. It is, therefore, possible that Americans may like to know what they are. It is even possible that they may like to guess what they mean, although I am not certain that such guessing is permitted by the Postmaster-General and the Attorney-General under the new theory of making democracy safe for all kinds of peoples abroad who have never heard of it by interpreting democracy at home as meaning that it is unlawful for the people to express any except favorable opinions of the way in which the public servants of the people transact the public business. The first point forbids ” all private international understandings of any kind,” and says there must be ” open covenants of peace, openly arrived at,” and announces that ” diplomacy shall always proceed frankly in the public view.” The President has recently waged war on Haiti and San Domingo and rendered democracy within these two small former republics and has kept all that he has done in the matter absolutely secret. If he means what he says, he will at once announce what open covenant of peace he has openly arrived at with these two little republics, which he has deprived of their right of self-determination. He will also announce what public international understanding, if any, he now has with these two republics, whose soil he is at present occupying with the armed forces of the United States and hundreds of whose citizens have been killed by these armed forces. If he has no such public understanding, he will tell us why, and whether he has any private international understanding, or whether he invaded and conquered them and deprived them of the right of self- determination without any attempt to reach any understanding, either private or public.

Moreover, he has just sent abroad on a diplomatic mission Mr. House, of Texas. Mr. House is not in the public service of the Nation, but he is in the private service of Mr. Wilson. He is usually
called Colonel House. In his official or semi-official biography, published in an ardently admiring New York paper, it is explained that he was once appointed colonel on a governor s staff, but carried his dislike of military ostentation to the point of giving his uniform to a negro servant to wear on social occasions. This attitude of respect for the uniform makes the President feel that he is peculiarly fit to negotiate on behalf of our fighting men abroad for whom the uniform is sacred. Associated with him is an editor of the New York World, which paper has recently been busy in denouncing as foolish the demand made by so many Americans for unconditional surrender by Germany.

I do not doubt that these two gentlemen possess charming social attributes and much private worth, but as they are sent over on a diplomatic mission, presumably vitally affecting the whole country, and as their instructions and purposes are shrouded in
profound mystery, it seems permissible to ask President Wilson why in this particular instance diplomacy does not ” proceed frankly in the public view ” ?

This first one of the fourteen points offers such an illuminating opportunity to test promise as to the future by performance in the present that I have considered it at some length. The other thirteen points and the subsequent points laid down as further requirements for peace I shall briefly take up in another article. (more…)

Published in: on October 30, 2018 at 11:50 pm  Comments Off on October 30, 1918: Theodore Roosevelt Responds to the Fourteen Points  
Tags: , , ,

October 30, 1918: Pershing Opposes an Armistice






General John J. Pershing was not pleased at the idea of giving an Armistice and expressed his views strongly in a letter on October 30, 1918:


Paris, October 30, 1918.

To the Allied Supreme War Council, Paris.

Gentlemen: In considering the question of whether or not Germany’s request for an armistice should be granted, the following expresses my opinion from the military point of view:

Judging from their excellent conduct during the three months, the British, French, Belgian and American armies appear capable of continuing the offensive indefinitely. Their morale is high and the prospects of certain victory should keep it so.
The American army is constantly increasing in strength and experience, and should be able to take an increasingly important part in the Allied offensive. Its growth, both in personnel and material, with such reserves as the Allies may furnish, not counting the Italian army, should be more than equal to the combined losses of the Allied armies.
German man power is constantly diminishing and her armies have lost over 300,000 prisoners and over 1,000 piece[s] of artillery during the last three months in their efforts to extricate themselves from a difficult situation and avoid disaster.
The estimated strength of the Allies on the western front, not counting Italy, and of Germany, in rifles is: Allies, 1,564,000; Germany, 1,134,000; an advantage in favor of the Allies of 37 percent. In guns: Allies, 22,413; Germany, 16,495; advantage of 35 percent in favor of the Allies. If Italy’s forces should be added to the western front we should have a still greater advantage.
Germany’s morale is undoubtedly low, her allies have deserted her one by one and she can no longer hope to win. Therefore we should take full advantage of the situation and continue the offensive until we compel her unconditional surrender.
An armistice would revivify the low spirits of the German army and enable it to organize and resist later on and would deprive the Allies of the full measure of victory by failing to press their present advantage to its complete military end.
As the apparent humility of German leaders in talking of peace may be feigned, the Allies should distrust their sincerity and their motives. The appeal for an armistice is undoubtedly to enable the withdrawal from a critical situation to one more advantageous.
On the other hand the internal political conditions of Germany, if correctly reported, are such that she is practically forced to ask for an armistice to save the overthrow of her present Government, a consummation which should be sought by the Allies as precedent to permanent peace.
A cessation of hostilities short of capitulation postpones, if it does not render impossible, the imposition of satisfactory peace terms, because it would allow Germany to withdraw her army with its present strength, ready to resume hostilities if terms were not satisfactory to her.
An armistice would lead the Allied armies to believe this the end of fighting and it would be difficult if not impossible to resume [Page 171]hostilities with our present advantage in morale in the event of failure to secure at a peace conference what we have fought for.
By agreeing to an armistice under the present favorable military situation of the Allies and accepting the principle of a negotiated peace rather than a dictated peace, the Allies would jeopardize the moral position they now hold and possibly lose the chance actually to secure world peace on terms that would insure its permanence.
It is the experience of history that victorious armies are prone to overestimate the enemy’s strength and too eagerly seek an opportunity for peace. This mistake is likely to be made now on account of the reputation Germany has gained through her victories of the last four years.
Finally, I believe that complete victory can only be obtained by continuing the war until we force unconditional surrender from Germany; but if the Allied Governments decide to grant an armistice the terms should be so rigid that under no circumstances could Germany again take up arms.

Respectfully submitted. John J. Pershing, Commander in Chief American Expeditionary Forces.”


The “stab in the back” myth that the German Army had not really been beaten, and that Germany had been defeated by internal subversion, the single most important element in Hitler’s rise to power, makes Pershing’s arguments in favor of unconditional surrender appear prophetic.

Published in: on October 30, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on October 30, 1918: Pershing Opposes an Armistice  
Tags: , ,

Baseball 1918


An interesting discussion of the impact of World War I on the baseball season by Indiana “Indy” Neidell, host of the internet week by week series on the Great War.  With the World War I series coming to an end, Mr. Neidell has commenced a week by week look at World War II.  Below is the first episode in the new series:


Published in: on October 29, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Baseball 1918  
Tags: , ,

October 28, 1918: Lieutenant Kindley Scores His 12th Victory

The most famous member of the United States Army Air Service 94th Aero Squadron, the fabled Hat in the Ring Squadron, was Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, America’s Ace of Aces with 26 victories.  Another notable flier in the unit was Lieutenant Field Eugene Kindley.  He scored his last victory on October 28, 1918.  His most notable feat was shooting down, on August 13, 1918, Lothar Von |Richthofen, the brother of the Red Baron, Manfred Von Richtofen.  With 40 kills Lothar was a formidable pilot.  He survived the clash, but because of his wounds he never returned to combat flying.




In the above photo he is the man in the center, holding his dog Fokker.  During the War he earned two Distinguished Service Crosses:


The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Field E. Kindley, First Lieutenant (Air Service), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in action near Bourion Wood, France, September 24, 1918. Lieutenant Kindley attacked a formation of seven hostile planes (type Fokker) and sent one crashing to the ground.


The Distinguished Service Cross is presented to Field E. Kindley, First Lieutenant (Air Service), U.S. Army, for extraordinary heroism in action near Marcoing, France, September 27, 1918: Flying at a low altitude, First Lieutenant Kindley bombed the railway at Marcoing and drove down an enemy balloon. He then attacked German troops at a low altitude and silenced a hostile machine gun, after which he shot down in flames an enemy plane (type Halberstadt) which had attacked him. Lieutenant Kindley has so far destroyed seven enemy aircraft and driven down three out of control.


After the War he command the 94th.  Tragically he died on February 1, 1920 at age 23.  Like so many pioneering aviators he died young in a crash.   Flying a simulated dive bombing mission, in preparation for a visit by General Pershing the next day, he pulled up on the stick to avoid a group of enlisted men who had wandered into the area.  The engine stalled and  wing  cables snapped, sending the SE-5 hurtling to the ground from 100 feet.  A time when daring exceeded the technology of the day, a somber fact that all aviators of the day knew and accepted as the price to fly.


Published in: on October 28, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on October 28, 1918: Lieutenant Kindley Scores His 12th Victory  
Tags: , , , , ,

Henry V, Shakespeare and Just War



(Off topic.  I originally posted this on The American Catholic back in 2011, and I thought our Almost Chosen People readers would enjoy it on the 603rd anniversary of Agincourt.)

In the comments to  my post last week, Henry V Times Four, which may be viewed here, and which had four versions of the immortal “band of brothers” speech, commenter Centinel posed a very interesting question to me:

Mr. McClarey,

I’ve come to respect your knowledge of history and your insights. I just wanted to get your honest opinion on oneissue. As I understand it, Catholic doctrine would say that wars of aggression are not justified (most of the time). Though I enjoy Shakespeare’s plays, it bothers me that Henry V was fighting a war of aggression – hence, an unjust war.

From Henry V’s point of view, the war was about his (legitimate?) claim to the French throne. But from the point of view of the French peasantry, whichever dynasty sat on the French thronedid not really make any difference in their lives. They were merely caught in the middle; the longer the war lasted, the greater the collateral damage to French civilians. Besides, Henry V already had the Kingdom of England. Hence, it was just pure greed driving Henry V to claim the French throne.

I would appreciate your opinion on this.

My response:

Centinel thank you for very kind words and for inspiring a forthcoming post! The more I thought about your question the more complicated my answer became and only a post length reply, which I will attempt to do in the next week, will do it justice. The short answer is that Henry V, by the just war analysis of his day, had a defensible claim to be fighting a just war, while under the just war analysis of our day his war would be unjust. However, there is much more to say than that, and I will attempt to do this intriguing question justice in my forthcoming post.

In answering the question we must first examine how the formulation of the Just War doctrine has changed from the time of Henry V to our time. (more…)

Published in: on October 25, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
Tags: , ,

Brazil and World War I


Unlike World War II where almost all of Latin America would join the US in declaring war, of the large nations of Latin America only Brazil would declare war on Germany.  Brazil participated in the War with naval patrols and allowing other Allied nations port facilities.  Brazil would be the only nation in Latin America to send troops abroad, to the Italian theater, to fight in World War II.  Go here to read a good look at the participation of other Latin American nations in World War I.  Although most Latin American nations remained neutral, the neutrality tended to be friendly to the Allied cause.  Latin America throughout the War was important to the Allies for resources and good, resources and goods that they could access due to Allied control of the seas, and which the Central Powers could not.

Published in: on October 24, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Brazil and World War I  
Tags: , ,

They Shall Not Grow Old

I am surprised that I did not dislike the Army more. It was, of course, detestable. But the words “of course” drew the sting. That is where it differed from Wyvern. One did not expect to like it. Nobody said you ought to like it. Nobody pretended to like it. Everyone you met took it for granted that the whole thing was an odious necessity, a ghastly interruption of rational life. And that made all the difference. Straight tribulation is easier to bear than tribulation which advertises itself as pleasure. The one breeds camaraderie and even (when intense) a kind of love between the fellow-sufferers; the other, mutual distrust, cynicism, concealed and fretting resentment. And secondly, I found my military elders and betters incomparably nicer than the Wyvern Bloods. This is no doubt because Thirty is naturally kinder to Nineteen than Nineteen is to Thirteen: it is really grown-up and does not need to reassure itself. But I am inclined to think that my face had altered. That “look” which I had so often been told to “take off it” had apparently taken itself off–perhaps when I read Phantastes. There is even some evidence that it had been succeeded by a look which excited either pity or kindly amusement. Thus, on my very first night in France, in a vast marquee or drill hall where about a hundred officers were to sleep on plank beds, two middle-aged Canadians at once took charge of me and treated me, not like a son (that might have given offence) but like a long-lost friend. Blessings upon them! Once, too, in the Officers’ Club at Arras where I was dining alone, and quite happy with my book and my wine (a bottle of Heidsieck then cost 8 francs, and a bottle of Perrier Jouet, 12) two immensely senior officers, all covered with ribbons and red tabs, came over to my table towards the end of the meal, and hailing me as “Sunny Jim” carried me off to their own for brandy and cigars. They weren’t drunk either; nor did they make me drunk. It was pure good will. And though exceptional, this was not so very exceptional. There were nasty people in the army; but memory fills those months with pleasant, transitory contacts. Every few days one seemed to meet a scholar, an original, a poet, a cheery buffoon, a raconteur, or at the least a man of good will.

CS Lewis, Surprised by Joy




Hattip to Dave Griffey at Daffey Thoughts who alerted me to this grand updating of World War I films by Peter Jackson.  Go here to read his post.  This is the proper way to approach history:  to always remember that real men and women made the history in which they lived, and that they are not merely dead figures on cold pages in books.


They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

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.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.

Laurence Binyon



Published in: on October 22, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on They Shall Not Grow Old  
Tags: , , ,

October 20, 1918: Germany Responds to Wilson’s Second Note


On October 20, 1918 the German government, through the Swiss, sent out a response to President Wilson’s Second Note:



In accepting the proposal for an evacuation of the occupied territories the German Government has started from the assumption that the procedure of this evacuation and of the conditions of an armistice should be left to the judgment of the military advisers and that the actual standard of power on both sides in the field has to form the basis for arrangements safeguarding and guaranteeing this standard. The German Government suggests to the President to bring about an opportunity for fixing the details. It trusts that the President of the United States will approve of no demand which would be irreconcilable with the honor of the German people and with opening a way to a peace of justice.

The German Government protests against the reproach of illegal and inhumane actions made against the German land and sea forces and thereby against the German people. For the covering of a retreat, destructions will always be necessary and are insofar permitted by international law. The German troops are under the strictest instructions to spare private property and to exercise care for the population to the best of their ability. Where transgressions occur in spite of these instructions the guilty are being punished.

The German Government further denies that the German Navy in sinking ships has ever purposely destroyed lifeboats with their passengers. The German Government proposes with regard to all these charges that the facts be cleared up by neutral commissions. In order to avoid anything that might hamper the work of peace, the German Government has caused orders to be despatched to all submarine commanders precluding the torpedoing of passenger ships, without, however, for technical reasons, being able to guarantee that these orders will reach every single submarine at sea before its return.

As the fundamental conditions for peace, the President characterizes the destruction of every arbitrary power that can separately, secretly and of its own single choice disturb the peace of the world. To this the German Government replies: Hitherto the representation of the people in the German Empire has not been endowed with an influence on the formation of the Government. The Constitution did not provide for a concurrence of the representation of the people in decision on peace and war. These conditions have just now undergone a fundamental change. The hew Government has been formed in complete accord with the wishes of the representation of the people, based on the equal, universal, secret, direct franchise. The leaders of the great parties of the Reichstag are members of this Government. In future no government can take or continue in office without possessing the confidence of the majority of the Reichstag. The responsibility of the Chancellor of the Empire to the representation of the people is being legally developed and safeguarded. The first act of the new Government has been to lay before the Reichstag a bill to alter the Constitution of the Empire so that the consent of the representation of the people is required for decisions on war and peace. The permanence of the new system is, however, guaranteed not only by constitutional safeguards, but also by the unshakable determination of the German people, whose vast majority stands behind these reforms and demands their energetic continuance.

The question of the President, with whom he and the Governments associated against Germany are dealing, is therefore answered in a clear and unequivocal manner by the statement that the offer of peace and an armistice has come from a Government which, free from arbitrary and irresponsible influence, is supported by the approval of the overwhelming majority of the German people.

The bottom line is that this is a formal request by Germany for what amounts to surrender on the basis of Wilson’s Fourteen Points.
Published in: on October 20, 2018 at 5:35 am  Comments Off on October 20, 1918: Germany Responds to Wilson’s Second Note  
Tags: , , ,

String Quartet Number Four


Something for the weekend.  George Whitefield Chadwick’s String Quartet Number Four (1895).  Chadwick was perhaps the finest representative of what has come to be called the Second New England School of composers.   I have always regarded this composition as the realist movement in Art set to music.

Published in: on October 20, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on String Quartet Number Four  
Tags: , ,