April 29, 1945: US Troops Liberate Dachau

2,579 Catholic priests, seminarians and brothers were thrown by the Nazis during World War II into Dachau.  1,780 of these were from Poland.  Of these, some 868 priests perished, 300 in medical “experiments” or by torture in the showers of the camp.

The remaining priests, seminarians and brothers came from 38 nations.  Besides the Poles the largest groups were 447 German and Austrian priests, 156 French priests and 46 Belgian priests. (more…)

Published in: on April 29, 2019 at 11:45 pm  Comments Off on April 29, 1945: US Troops Liberate Dachau  
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Ah the Golden Age of Hollywood! Hollywood made lots of  “historical films” during this period, usually filled with historical howlers. Juarez is one of the more accurate “historical films” of this era, the biggest howler being the complete absence of the extreme anti-clericalism of Juarez and his Liberals.  Also, the Mexican Conservatives were not the cardboard reactionary villains they are depicted as being in the film.  Alas, Emperor Maximilian was as idealistic and wooden headed as he is portrayed in the film. As one can see from the trailer, the film, released in 1939, had a definite anti-Axis theme, with Napoleon III, brilliantly portrayed by Claude Rains, as an unlikely stand-in for Hitler.

Paul Muni gives a dead-on portrayal of President Benito Juarez of Mexico.  Bette Davis, as usual, is incandescent as the Empress Carlotta as she begins her descent into madness.  Brian Aherne gives a competent portrayal of Emperor Maximilian, for which he received an oscar nomination.


The US opposed French intervention in Mexico from the start, but could do little in the midst of the Civil War, although Lincoln gave verbal encouragement to Juarez.  With the US distracted, the French took control of Mexico in 1862-63 and placed the Austrian Archduke Maximilian on the throne of Mexico as Emperor Maximilian in 1864.  After the war in 1865 a 50,000 man army under Phil Sheridan was dispatched to the Mexican border to threaten intervention against the French and to provide arms to the Juaristas. Napoleon III took the hint and the French withdrew in 1866. The Mexicans under Juarez triumphed in 1867.  Maximilian died bravely on June 19, 1867 before a Mexican firing squad, and a very odd interlude in Mexican history was at an end.





Published in: on April 29, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Juarez  
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The Vikings and America

I have always loved the introduction to the movie The Vikings (1958) with Orson Welles narrating and Bayeux Tapestry effects!  The Vikings and their attempted colonization of “Vinland” in North America demonstrates that certain harsh facts cannot be overcome by will alone.  It was a tour de force for the Vikings to even get to America considering the technology of the time.  However, long term colonization proved impossible for them, I assume because of the sheer difficulty of getting there, the relatively scanty numbers of potential colonists in Scandinavia and the fact that the Vikings were not that far in advance of the Indians as to weapons technology.

Published in: on April 28, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Vikings and America  

All of No Man’s Land is Ours


Something for the weekend.  All of No Man’s Land is Ours (1919) by James Reese Europe.  One of the most talented of rag time composers, and a jazz pioneer, Europe during World War I led the regimental band of the famed 369th Infantry, “Harlem Hellfighters”, who earned accolades fighting under French command.  The future was bright for him, a future that came to a sudden end when he died from a stabbing by one of his drummers on May 9, 1919.  He is buried in Arlington.

Published in: on April 27, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on All of No Man’s Land is Ours  
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The Ark and the Dove


Andrew White, born in 1579 in London, followed the well worn path of many English Catholics of the period to study for the priesthood at the English seminary in Douai, France.  Continuing his studies at St. Alban’s College in Valladolid, Spain,  he was ordained at Douai in 1605.  Returning to England as an undercover mission priest, he was arrested in the persecution that occurred after the Gunpowder Plot and was exiled from England in 1606.    He joined the Society of Jesus in 1607.  Defying a death sentence hanging over his head, he continued to visit Southern England to say clandestine masses and to preach to the faithful.  He also served as prefect at the seminaries of Leuven and Liege.

Father White was instrumental in the conversion of George Calvert to Catholicism in 1625.  Calvert was a truly remarkable man, a favorite of James I, who sacrificed a promising career in English government by publicly declaring his Catholicism at a time when being a Catholic in England was a criminal offense.  After his conversion his main goal in life was to create a colony where English Catholics could worship freely.  He established a small colony called Avalon in Newfoundland for Catholics in 1627.  Appalled by the rough climate of Newfoundland, and the author of this post knows from first hand experience how rough that climate can be, he sought and received lands from Charles I that became the foundation of Maryland.  Like Moses, Calvert was not fated to enter the promised land, dying in 1632.  Fortunately he had a Joshua in his son Cecilius Calvert,  who carried on with the colonization project,  paying out of his pocket the  sum of 40,000 pounds which would have a current value of approximately 8,000,000.00 dollars.  Under his brothers George and Leonard, the colonists, a mixed group of Protestants and Catholics,  the Calverts emphasized that their colonly would be a bastion of religious tolerance, sailed in The Ark and The Dove on November 22, 1633 (Old Style) from the Isle of Wight for America.  Father White sailed with them. (more…)

Published in: on April 26, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Ark and the Dove  
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April 25, 1861: Stephen A. Douglas: “Protect the Flag”

Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois, the great antagonist of Abraham Lincoln, gave many eloquent speeches in his career, but the finest one he delivered was at the end of that career on April 25, 1861 to a joint session of the General Assembly of the State of Illinois.  In broken health, his coming death on June 3, 1861 already foreshadowed, he summoned the energy to help save his country.  Always first and foremost a patriot, Douglas was intent on rallying members of his party to the cause of the Union.  After one of the most vitriolic presidential contents in the history of the nation, it was an open question as to whether most members of the Party of Jackson would stand in support of the efforts of the Lincoln Administration to fight to preserve the Union.  Douglas, putting country above party, helped ensure that they would.

Immediately after the election of Lincoln he made it clear that he would make every effort in his power to fight against secession.  At the inaugural speech of Lincoln, he held the new President’s hat, giving a strong symbol of his support.  Illinois was a key state for the Union in the upcoming conflict.  Pro-Southern sentiment was strong among Illinois Democrats in the southern portion of the State, with even some talk that “Little Egypt”, as the extreme southern tip of Illinois is called, should secede from the rest of the state and join the Confederacy.  To rally his supporters for the Union, and at the request of President Lincoln, Douglas returned to Illinois and on April 25, 1861 had his finest hour. 

The speech he delivered that day has gone down in Illinois history as the “Protect the Flag” speech.  It was received by both Republicans and Democrats with thunderous applause and cheers throughout.  Although there would be much dissension in Illinois during the War, Douglas helped ensure that Illinois would be in the forefront of the war effort, with its quarter of a million troops,  among whom was Ulysses S. Grant, who would ultimately fight under the Stars and Stripes being absolutely crucial to Union victory.

Here is the speech, interspersed with comments by me: (more…)

Published in: on April 25, 2019 at 3:30 am  Comments Off on April 25, 1861: Stephen A. Douglas: “Protect the Flag”  
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Irvin McDowell


History is unkind to defeated generals.  All most of us recall about Irvin McDowell is that he commanded the Union army at First Bull Run and was beaten by the Confederates.  He had a long and illustrious career in the Army both before and after Bull Run, but none of that matters.  He is the defeated general at Bull Run, and after History places that stamp on him, nothing else really matters.  In John Brown’s Body, his epic poem on the Civil War, Stephen Vincent Benet has a few words on McDowell that I believe should be remembered. (more…)

Published in: on April 24, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Irvin McDowell  
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Now That is a Coke Commercial!

The things you find on Youtube!


Published in: on April 23, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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April 18, 1919: Alvin C. York Decorated With the Medal of Honor


The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Corporal Alvin Cullium York (ASN: 1910421), United States Army, for extraordinary heroism on 8 October 1918, while serving with Company G, 2d Battalion, 328th Infantry, 82d Division, in action at Chatel-Chehery, France. After his platoon had suffered heavy casualties and three other noncommissioned officers had become casualties, Corporal York assumed command. Fearlessly leading seven men, he charged with great daring a machinegun nest which was pouring deadly and incessant fire upon his platoon. In this heroic feat the machinegun nest was taken, together with four officers and 128 men and several guns.

Published in: on April 22, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on April 18, 1919: Alvin C. York Decorated With the Medal of Honor  
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Easter and History


I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.

H.G. Wells

How many movements throughout the history of Man have flourished briefly and then vanished into everlasting oblivion, forgotten entirely by History or relegated to the briefest of footnotes?  From a human standpoint that was clearly the fate of the movement started by the carpenter/rabbi from Galilee following His death on a cross.  His followers had scattered and went into hiding at His arrest.  He was denied by the mob, their choosing a bandit and murderer over Him.  Condemned by the foreigners occupying His country, His people observed His death by mocking Him.  The idea that He had founded a “Church” that would spread around the globe, altering all of human history, and causing Him to be worshiped as God by billions of people would have struck any neutral observer as mad ravings.  Yet that is precisely what happened. (more…)

Published in: on April 21, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Easter and History  
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