Something for the weekend.  Spring Symphony by Robert Schumann.  Written in 1841 it is a fine example of the genius of Schumann, a genius cut short by mental illness, probably caused by a brain tumor.  Schumann left this vale of tears in 1856, but his music remains to lighten our way.


Published in: on March 30, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Spring  
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March 29, 1865: Battle of Lewis Farm

General Chamberlain

Battle of Lewis Farm


 The Appomattox Campaign began on March 29, 1865, with Grant moving the V and II corps to the west to outflank Lee’s lines, while Sheridan and his troopers were sent south to rip up the rail lines linking Petersburg and Richmond to what remained of the Confederacy.  Lee, with that preternatural sixth sense he seemed to often possess regarding the intentions of his enemies, had moved his cavalry, along with infantry under Major General George Pickett to the west to beat off Union attempts to outflank his army.

The first Union objective was to cut the Boydton Plank Road.  After crossing Gravelley Run stream, the leading brigade of the first division of the V corps ran into Confederate fortifications.  The brigade was led by Brigadier Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, the heroic officer who had commanded the 20th Maine during its stand on Little Round Top at Gettysburg. In a fierce action of several hours duration, Chamberlain held his position only falling back as Union reinforcements arrived.  The reinforcements caused the Confederates to retreat to their White Oak Line.  Union casualties were 381 to 371 Confederate.

Late in the afternoon Sheridan’s cavalry occupied Dinwiddie Court House without opposition.  The end of the day saw the vital, for the Confederates, Boydton Plank Road cut in two locations, and the Confederate right dangerously exposed.  Here is Chamberlain’s account of the fighting: (more…)

Published in: on March 29, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on March 29, 1865: Battle of Lewis Farm  
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Hello Girls of World War I

 “The humblest hello-girl along ten thousand miles of wire could teach gentleness, patience, modesty, manners, to the highest duchess in Arthur’s land”.

Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1889)


“Hello girls” was the popular term for female switchboard operators in the US prior to World War I.  Four hundred and fifty of them were recruited to serve with the AEF in France during the Great War.  Receiving Signal Corps training, they earned the same pay as their male colleagues in the Signal Corps.  The women had to be bilingual and fluent in both English and French.  Although uniformed, and subject to Army discipline and eligible for Army decorations, they were not given veteran status by Congress until 1978.



The women were an essential part of the war effort.  They were simply swifter, about six times so, than their male colleagues who lacked their experience as switch board operators.  They were also faster than female French telephone operators in France, as Captain E.J. Wesson, who recruited the Hello Girls, noted at the time:  “In Paris, it takes from 40 to 60 seconds to complete one call. Our girls are equipped to handle 300 calls in an hour.”

The women lived up to their billing, vastly improving telephone communications as the AEF went into battle, the women often serving in areas subject to artillery fire near the front lines.  Pioneers, the Hello Girls paved the way for expanded service of American women for the much larger conflict fought just over two decades later.



Published in: on March 28, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Hello Girls of World War I  
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Soldier’s Prayer






I asked God for strength that I might achieve, I was made weak, that I might learn to humbly obey.

I asked God for health, that I might do greater things, I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.

I asked for riches, that I might be happy, I was given poverty, that I might be wise.

I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men, I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.

I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life, I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.

I got nothing that I asked for – but everything I had hoped for.

Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.

I am among men, most richly blessed.

Found on the body of a Southern soldier 1861–1865

Published in: on March 27, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Soldier’s Prayer  
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Hanson on World War II


My favorite living historian, Victor Davis Hanson, has a lecture series on World War II through Hillsdale College.  Go here to view it.  His companion history on World War II, go here to view it, is a masterpiece.  Go here to read a review of the book by historian Andrew Roberts.

Published in: on March 26, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Hanson on World War II  
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March 25, 1863: First Awards of the Medal of Honor

Original Army Medal of Honor

On March 25, 1865 Secretary of War Stanton made the first awards of the Medal of Honor.  Amazingly enough, the United States had no medals for members of its armed forces who distinguished themselves in battle at the beginning of the Civil War.  General in Chief Winfield Scott, who ironically had been awarded  gold medals by Congress in 1814 and 1848, was adamantly against officers and men receiving medals for valor, viewing them as a European affectation and that it was insulting to give special recognition for courage, since officers and men had a duty to be brave and giving anyone a medal for simply doing his duty was preposterous in his opinion.  Medals had been used during the American Revolution but not in following conflicts, other than Congress voting a special gold medal, except in the Mexican War during which Congress authorized the issuance of certificates of merit. (more…)

Published in: on March 25, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on March 25, 1863: First Awards of the Medal of Honor  
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Something for the weekend.  The Magnificat of Bach.

Published in: on March 23, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Magnificat  
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The Electoral College: Fact and Fancy


My friend Cato at his blog Letters From Cato explains the real history of the creation of the Electoral College:


Note: I’m reposting this from my old blog thanks to renewed efforts to get rid of the electoral college based on faulty premises.

It would take an act of enormous historical illiteracy to end my blogging hiatus. Congratulations are thus in order to the New York Times for providing me with such an example. In an editorial Jay Caruso has accurately labeled “historically inaccurate garbage,” the Times has called for the abolition of the electoral college. In the process of doing so, the Times’ editors reveal an understanding of American history which calls into question whether they’ve even taken high school-level American history classes.

The Electoral College, which is written into the Constitution, is more than just a vestige of the founding era; it is a living symbol of America’s original sin. When slavery was the law of the land, a direct popular vote would have disadvantaged the Southern states, with their large disenfranchised populations. Counting those men and women as three-fifths of a white person, as the Constitution originally did, gave the slave states more electoral votes.

Let’s address the slavery as the reason behind the electoral college argument. The New York Times links to a Time magazine article written by Akhil Reed Amar in which Amar attributes the electoral college’s existence to the advocacy of the slave states. He begins:

Some claim that the founding fathers chose the Electoral College over direct election in order to balance the interests of high-population and low-population states. But the deepest political divisions in America have always run not between big and small states, but between the north and the south, and between the coasts and the interior.

Some “claim” this because, well, it happens to be true. The divide at the constitutional convention was not between slave states and non-slave states,* but rather between large and small states. Remember, the convention kicked off with a presentation of the Virginia plan. This plan, authored in large part by James Madison but presented by Edmund Randolph, set the framework for much of the debate at the convention. Among other things, the plan proposed a bicameral legislature with representation in both houses based on population. The smaller states objected to it, and put forward their own plan. The New Jersey plan called for each state to have an equal voice in the legislature, a la the Articles of Confederation.

* As Caruso correctly notes, at the time of the convention, only a handful of states had even partially abolished slavery, and only Massachusetts had totally abolished it. That’s not to say that New York and South Carolina were equally vested in the continued propagation of the institution, but in 1787 the north-south divide on this issue was not nearly as intense as it would become in future years.

When it came to the large-small divide, there was a mixture of states. The large states included Massachusetts, Virginia, and Pennsylvania – in other words a mix of predominant slaveholding states and anti-slavery states. The small states included Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey and Georgia – again, a mix of states with different views on slavery. Thus feelings about slavery had little to do with these respective coalitions. So already Amar is off to a poor start in actually grasping the nuances in early American history. But he’s not done.

Go here to read the rest.

Published in: on March 22, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Electoral College: Fact and Fancy  

March 21, 1864: Lincoln’s Reply to New York Workingmen’s Democratic Republican Association

Rail splitter

Some political charges have a very long pedigree indeed.  An example is the Democrat charge that Republicans are the party of the rich.  Precisely the same charge was made by the Democrats against the Whigs.  Lincoln, an old line Whig who had scrambled up from profound poverty, was ever sensitive to the charge and ever careful to underline that he and the policies he embraced were favorable to any working man who wished to better his condition through honest toil.  We see this in his reply to an honorary membership he received from the New York Workingmen’s Democratic Republican Association: (more…)

Published in: on March 21, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on March 21, 1864: Lincoln’s Reply to New York Workingmen’s Democratic Republican Association  
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Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

Jonathan Edwards preached perhaps the most powerful single sermon ever delivered on American soil on July 8, 1741.  Edwards was not a spell-binding orator.  He read out his sermons in a fairly lack-lustre tone and rarely looked up at his listeners.  However, this sermon had a major impact on his congregation that day and has resonated in the American psyche ever since.  Hell and Damnation sermons are not in favor, to say the least, in our generation.  However, for earlier generations of Americans Edwards was merely giving a powerful reminder of the terrors that awaited the unrepetant sinner who died without embracing Christ.  It is easy for us to simply deride it as harsh and bleak, full of supernatural terrors that even the religious among us do not dwell upon.  To many Americans of the past the sermon would have been seen as written out of anguished love for sinners doomed to eternal pain if they did not embrace Christ.  The past really is a different country and if one is to understand it, one must understand it on the terms of those who lived then, and not as filtered by our modern sensibilities. (more…)

Published in: on March 20, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God  
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