Defeat at Quebec



The year 1775 ended on a note of defeat for the Americans. Since December 6, 1776 the city had been under siege by the combined forces of General Richard Montgomery and Colonel Benedict Arnold. Twelve hundred Americans confronted 1800 British regulars and French Canadian militia.  The Americans realized that the British would eventually strongly reinforce Quebec by sea, and that a prolonged siege in the teeth of a Canadian winter would probably do far more harm to the besiegers than the besieged.

Thus before dawn on December 31, 1775, in the midst of a blizzard, the Americans began a two pronged assault on the lower town of Quebec, the plan being that the forces led by Montgomery and Arnold would meet in the lower town, and then scale the walls of the upper town.


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One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

“They were a luckless lot too. What harm did they do anyone by praying to God? Every man Jack of ’em given twenty-five years.”
Alexander Solzhenitsyn, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich



The things that you find on the internet.  From 1963, broadcast on the anthology series Bob Hope Presents The Chrysler Theater, a televised adaptation of Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s searing masterpiece, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. Considering that the book, based on Solzhenitsyn’s experiences in the Soviet Gulag from 1945-1953, was published only in 1962 this was a rapid transition to television, attesting to the immense impact of the book.

Published in: on December 30, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich  
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Interview With Truman

The Kansas City Public Library has a fascinating series where historical figures who have played a role in the history of Kansas City are “interviewed”.  Here we have Harry Truman, portrayed by Ray Starzmann, questioned by  Crosby Kemper III, the director of the Kansas City Public Library. (more…)

Published in: on December 29, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Interview With Truman  

Washington’s Trenton Report

27 December 1776


I have the pleasure of congratulating you upon the success of an enterprise which I had formed against a detachment of the enemy lying in Trenton, and which was executed yesterday morning. The evening of the 25th I ordered the troops intended for this service to parade back of McKonkey’s Ferry, that they might begin to pass as soon s it grew dark, imagining we should be able to throw them all over, with the necessary artillery, by twelve o’clock, and that we might easily arrive at Trenton by five in the morning, the distance being about nine miles. But the quantity of ice, made that night, impeded the passage of the boats so much, that it was three o’clock before the artillery could all be got over; and near four before the troops took up their line of march. This made me despair of surprising the town, as I well knew we could not reach it before the day was fairly broke. But as I was certain there was no making a retreat without being discovered and harassed on repassing the river, I determined to push on at all events. I formed my detachment into two divisions, one to march by the lower or river road the other by the upper or Pennington road. As the divisions had nearly the same distance to march, I ordered each of them, immediately upon forcing the out-guards to push directly into the town, that they might charge the enemy before they had time to form. (more…)

Published in: on December 27, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Washington’s Trenton Report  
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Greece v. Rome

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

From 2016.  Boris Johnson stands for Ancient Greece and historian Mary Beard stands for Ancient Rome.  A politician like Boris Johnson is odd on the British contemporary scene and almost unthinkable on the American scene at any time since the earliest days of our Republic.   Politicians with good academic skills can be good or bad, but I do view Johnson as refreshing at a time when most politicians seem to get their knowledge base from Twitter.

Published in: on December 26, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Greece v. Rome  

One Solitary Life

All the armies that have ever marched

All the navies that have ever sailed

All the parliaments that have ever sat

All the kings that ever reigned put together

  Have not affected the life of mankind on earth

As powerfully as that one solitary life

From One Solitary Life

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 (more…)

Published in: on December 25, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on One Solitary Life  
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George Washington and the Divine Author of Our Blessed Religion

In 1783 the Revolutionary War was coming to a close, Washington now waiting for negotiations to conclude and the British to evacuate New York.  On June 8, 1783 he sent a circular letter out to the states discussing his thoughts on the importance of the states remaining united, paying war debts, taking care  of the soldiers who were wounded in the war and the establishment of a peace time military and the regulation of the militia.  It is an interesting document and may be read here.

Washington ends the letter with this striking passage:

I now make it my earnest prayer, that God would have you, and the State over which you preside, in his holy protection, that he would incline the hearts of the Citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to Government, to entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another, for their fellow Citizens of the United States at large, and particularly for their brethren who have served in the Field, and finally, that he would most graciously be pleased to dispose us all, to do Justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that Charity, humility and pacific temper of mind, which were the Characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed Religion, and without an humble imitation of whose example in these things, we can never hope to be a happy Nation. (more…)

Published in: on December 24, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on George Washington and the Divine Author of Our Blessed Religion  
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We’re No Angels

What would Christmas be without Devil’s Island and escaped convicts?  This is probably a Christmas movie to avoid unless, like me, you are blessed\cursed with a quirky sense of humor.  On Christmas Eve 1895, three escaped convicts from Devil’s Island, portrayed by Humphrey Bogart, Peter Ustinov and Aldo Ray, fall in with a family who run a store.  Initially planning on robbing and murdering them, the convicts instead end up helping the family and by the conclusion of the film decide to return to prison to serve out their sentences.  Hearing the plot, I am sure you are aware that a fair amount of suspension of disbelief is required while watching the film.

The dialogue is witty and the performances are superb, especially that of Basil Rathbone who portrays the greedy and villainous Uncle of the family.  His greed proves his undoing as this scene relates:




Published in: on December 22, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on We’re No Angels  
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Video Clips Worth Watching: Dudley Summons the Choir

An unforgettable scene from The Bishop’s Wife (1947) when undercover angel Dudley, Cary Grant, uses his powers to summon a tardy boy’s choir for an unforgettable rendition of O Sing to God: (more…)

Published in: on December 16, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Video Clips Worth Watching: Dudley Summons the Choir  
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December 12, 1860: Secretary of State Lewis Cass Resigns

150 years ago the stage was being set for the Civil War.  The Buchanan administration sat paralyzed as the tide of secession was about to begin throughout the lower South.  One member of the administration was fed up by its inaction.  Lewis Cass was Secretary of State in the Buchanan cabinet.  He was the Grand Old Man of the Michigan Democrat Party.  A strong believer in Popular Sovereignty, a belief that the citizens of a territory should decide the slavery issue themselves, he had long been considered a doughface, a Northern politician who had Southern sympathies.

However, Cass, who was born during the Revolution, also had a deep love for the Union, and he was appalled by the refusal of Buchanan to take a firm military stand against the secessionists.  His letter of resignation: (more…)

Published in: on December 12, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on December 12, 1860: Secretary of State Lewis Cass Resigns  
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