November 30, 1862: Micromanaging the War

Any student of the Civil War will quickly discover that both President Lincoln and President Davis concerned themselves with minutiae that would rarely reach a president’s desk today.  A prime example is this telegram that Lincoln sent 158 years ago:

WASHINGTON, November 30, 1862.

MAJOR-GENERAL CURTIS, Saint Louis, Missouri:

Frank Blair wants Manter’s Thirty-second, Curly’s Twenty seventh, Boyd’s Twenty-fourth and the Ninth and Tenth Cavalry to go with him down the river. I understand it is with you to decide whether he shall have them and if so, and if also it is consistent with the public service, you will oblige me a good deal by letting him have them.

A. LINCOLN. (more…)

Published in: on November 30, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on November 30, 1862: Micromanaging the War  
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Perdicaris Alive or Raisuli Dead

 

A video clip from the film The Wind and the Lion (1975) where Brian Keith gave a superb performance as Theodore Roosevelt and John Huston gave an unforgettable portrayal of Secretary of State John Hay.  John Milius’ film was superb entertainment, but poor history.  In the film Perdicaris is Edith Perdicaris, portrayed by Candice Bergen, who is taken captive by Mulai Ahmed er Raisuli, played with considerable panache by Sean Connery, the leader of band of Berber insurgents in Morocco in 1904.  Perdicaris comes to respect, perhaps even to love, her captor, who, after many adventures ultimately frees her.  As is usually the case, reality was more prosaic than fiction.

Perdicaris the captive was not an attractive female, but a 64 year old man, Ion Pericaris.  Perdicaris did grow to respect his captor, who treated him well, regarding him as a patriot fighting against a corrupt regime.  Perdicaris was captured on May 18, 1904.  Raisuli sent to the Sultan a list of demands in exchange for the release of Perdicaris and his stepson who was also a captive.  The demands included $70,000 in gold, safe-conduct for his tribesmen, and being named governor of two districts near Tangier. (more…)

Published in: on November 29, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Perdicaris Alive or Raisuli Dead  
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November 27 1860: Fake News

In November 1860 post election, rumors swarmed throughout the nation.  When we study history we must always bear in mind that the people at the time lack the knowledge that we possess as to not only the outcome of events, but detailed knowledge of the events, often obscured at the time by wild rumors, rumors that sometimes were reported as fact at the time.   Fake news is by no means a 21rst century invention. The Richmond  Dispatch on November 27 attempted to debunk some current rumors from a distinctly Southern viewpoint of course: (more…)

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Thanksgiving 1952: Red Skelton

Red Skelton rose from poverty to become one of the most popular comedians of his day.  A comedic genius, he created a gallery of comedic personas:  Clem Kaddidlehopper, the Mean Little Kid, San Fernando Red, Freddie the Freeloader  and others, which allowed him not only to amuse but also to engage in wry commentary about some of the foibles of his time. Skelton the man was fairly simple:  he liked to make people laugh, and he loved God, Country and Kids.  The love of God and his dying son I have written about in the post The Pope, the Clown and the Cross.  Skelton’s love of God and Country shines through in his rendition of the Pledge of Allegiance which I have written about here.

His love of kids was no mere entertainer’s pose as the following anecdote illustrates:

“Funny how you can go to a doctor’s offices and find magazines that are years old in the lobby. I had to go to a dentist two week ago and found a Golf magazine from the 80’s. I also found a magazine that told me the following story:

Decades ago, a young American was flying across the mountain ranges of Europe on his way to London. Accompanying his friend, a Catholic priest, the two were scheduled to have a meeting with the Pope in England. As the priest talked, the plane suddenly rocked. Then rocked again.  Something told the priest the plane was not destined to ever touch land again.

The passengers, busy in their individual conversations, failed to notice, the priest observed, until a flight attendant made an announcement of impending doom. The plane was over a mountain range and losing altitude.

As expected, panic set in. (more…)

Published in: on November 25, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Thanksgiving 1952: Red Skelton  
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November 24, 1864: Thanksgiving for the Troops

In 1864 the Union League decided to raise a fund to supply Thanksgiving dinner on November 24, 1864 for the Union soldiers and sailors fighting in the East.  The reaction of the Northern public to this plan was overwhelming.  over $56,000 in cash was raised, an enormous sum at the time, 250,000 pounds of fowl, and enormous contributions of foodstuffs of every type.  The Union soldiers and sailors loved their feast and the reminder that they had not been forgotten by the folks back home.  For Confederate soldiers, on starvation rations, there was of course no feast, a fact underlining the overwhelming tragedy of the Civil War.  Here is the Union League appeal which was printed in the New York Times on November 8, 1864.  Note that  Theodore Roosevelt, the father of the future president of the same name, is the Treasurer: (more…)

Published in: on November 24, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on November 24, 1864: Thanksgiving for the Troops  
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Thanksgiving Proclamation: 1864

By the President of the United States of America

A Proclamation

 

It has pleased Almighty God to prolong our national life another year, defending us with His guardian care against unfriendly designs from abroad and vouchsafing to us in His mercy many and signal victories over the enemy, who is of our own household. It has also pleased our Heavenly Father to favor as well our citizens in their homes as our soldiers in their camps and our sailors on the rivers and seas with unusual health. He has largely augmented our free population by emancipation and by immigration, while He has opened to us new sources of wealth and has crowned the labor of our workingmen in every department of industry with abundant rewards. Moreover, He has been pleased to animate and inspire our minds and hearts with fortitude, courage, and resolution sufficient for the great trial of civil war into which we have been brought by our adherence as a nation to the cause of freedom and humanity, and to afford to us reasonable hopes of an ultimate and happy deliverance from all our dangers and afflictions:

Now, therefore, I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, do hereby appoint and set apart the last Thursday in November next as a day which I desire to be observed by all my fellow-citizens, wherever they may then be, as a day of thanksgiving and praise to Almighty God, the beneficent Creator and Ruler of the Universe. And I do further recommend to my fellow-citizens aforesaid that on that occasion they do reverently humble themselves in the dust and from thence offer up penitent and fervent prayers and supplications to the Great Disposer of Events for a return of the inestimable blessings of peace, union, and harmony throughout the land which it has pleased Him to assign as a dwelling place for ourselves and for our posterity throughout all generations.

In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the city of Washington, this 20th day of October, A.D. 1864, and of the Independence of the United States the eighty-ninth.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN.

By the President:

WILLIAM H. SEWARD,

Secretary of State .

 

Published in: on November 23, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Thanksgiving Proclamation: 1864  
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Lincoln and the Creation of Thanksgiving

 

 

In the midst of this, however, He, from Whom all blessings flow, must not be forgotten. A call for a national thanksgiving is being prepared, and will be duly promulgated.

Abraham Lincoln, from his last public address, April 11, 1865

Abraham Lincoln frequently throughout the Civil War called for thanks giving for Union victories and for prayers and repentance for national sins.  The idea however of an annual Thanksgiving did not spring from him but from Sarah Josepha Hale, a noted literary figure who, among other accomplishments wrote the child’s poem Mary Had a Little Lamb.  Born in 1788, for years she had led a movement for a national day of Thanksgiving to be observed annually. (more…)

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November 20, 1945: Nuremberg Trials Get Underway

“But the most interesting — although horrible — sight that I encountered during the trip was a visit to a German internment camp near Gotha. The things I saw beggar description. While I was touring the camp I encountered three men who had been inmates and by one ruse or another had made their escape. I interviewed them through an interpreter. The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were so overpowering as to leave me a bit sick. In one room, where they [there] were piled up twenty or thirty naked men, killed by starvation, George Patton would not even enter. He said he would get sick if he did so. I made the visit deliberately, in order to be in position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to ‘propaganda’.”

General Eisenhower letter to General George Marshall 4/15/45

The Nuremberg Trials got under way seventy years ago today.  One may cavil at some of the procedures used during the trials, and the presence of Soviet judges and prosecutors at the trial, but no decent human being can ever claim that the crimes committed by the leaders of the Third Reich do not, in Eisenhower’s phrase, beggar description.  The video at the beginning of this post consists of film shot by the Army Signal Corps of the Nazi death camps and was admitted into evidence at the Nuremberg trial.  It makes for grim viewing, but the reality it reflected must never be forgotten, lest humanity go down that dark path again.

Published in: on November 20, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on November 20, 1945: Nuremberg Trials Get Underway  
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General Washington and The Lord of Hosts

We live in an age where scoffing at religion and believers in God is all the rage.  In some ways the Eighteenth Century was like this time period.  In the Age of Enlightenment more than a few people scoffed at Christianity and some openly embraced atheism.  It was considered witty and daring and fun by the avant garde, especially in Europe.  It seemed much less humorous at the tail end of the century when the French Revolutionary regime for a time persecuted Christians and slaughtered them for their faith.  This type of hostility was much less in evidence in Eighteenth Century America.  Even those, for example Thomas Jefferson, who had doubts about the divinity of Christ, praised His teachings and had no doubt as to the existence of God.

George Washington, the commanding American figure of his day, was a very conventional Christian.  He attended church regularly, said his prayers and read his Bible.  His faith was as much a part of him as his love of his wife, his love of Mount Vernon and his ability to lead men through sufferings in the War of Independence that most of us today would find simply unimaginable.  Pious without being sanctimonious, Washington had no doubt that the fate of America in the Revolution was firmly in the hands of God.

We see this belief in the General Order he issued to the Continental Army on March 6, 1776:

Thursday the seventh Instant, being set apart by the Honorable the Legislature of this province, as a day of fasting, prayer, and humiliation, “to implore the Lord, and Giver of all victory, to pardon our manifold sins and wickedness’s, and that it would please him to bless the Continental Arms, with his divine favour and protection”—All Officers, and Soldiers, are strictly enjoined to pay all due reverance, and attention on that day, to the sacred duties due to the Lord of hosts, for his mercies already received, and for those blessings, which our Holiness and Uprightness of life can alone encourage us to hope through his mercy to obtain. (more…)

Published in: on November 19, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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Thanksgiving Proclamation 1918

 

 

It has long been our custom to turn, in the autumn of the year, in praise and thanksgiving to Almighty God for his many blessing and mercies to us as a nation. This year we have special and moving cause to be grateful and to rejoice. God has, in His good pleasure, given us peace. It has not came as a mere cessation of arms, a mere relief from the strain and tragedy of war. It has come as a great triumph of right. Complete victory has brought us, not peace alone, but the confident promise of a new day, as well, in which justice shall replace force and jealous intrigue among the nations.

Our gallant armies have participated in a triumph which is not marred or stained by any purpose of selfish aggression. In a righteous cause they have won immortal glory, and have nobly served their nation in serving mankind. God has indeed been gracious. We have cause for such rejoicing as revives and strengthens in us all the best traditions of our national history. A new day shines about us, in which our hearts take new courage and look forward with new hope to new and greater duties.

While we render thanks for these things, let us not forget to seek the divine guidance in the performance of those duties, and divine mercy and forgiveness for all errors of act or purpose, and pray that in all that we do we shall strengthen the ties of friendship and mutual respect upon which we must assist to build the new structure of peace and goodwill among the nations.

“Wherefore, I, Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States of America, do hereby designate Thursday, the twenty-eighth day of November, next, as a day of thanksgiving and prayer, and invite the people throughout the land to cease upon that day from their ordinary occupations, and in their several homes and places of worship to render thanks to God, the ruler of nations.

In witness whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done in the District of Columbia, this sixteenth day of November, in the Year of Our Lord One Thousand Nine Hundred and Eighteen, and of the independence of the United States of America the one hundred and forty-third.

Published in: on November 18, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Thanksgiving Proclamation 1918  
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