February 27, 1864: First Union Prisoners Arrive at Andersonville

An Andersonville Survivor

One hundred and fifty-seven years ago Union prisoners began arriving at the Andersonville prison camp.  A blot on American honor is the callous way in which many prisoners of war were treated during our Civil War, north and south.    (For a Union prison camp that had a death rate of 25%, google Elmira prison camp, or as the Confederates imprisoned there referred to it, Helmira.)   45,000 Union soldiers would be held at Andersonville and 13,000 of them would die through starvation, bad water, no sanitation and disease.   Accounts of what went on inside Andersonville beggar description.  Jesus wept, sums up the reaction of any decent soul to this abomination.


Published in: on February 28, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on February 27, 1864: First Union Prisoners Arrive at Andersonville  
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Saints of Lent: The POW Servant of God

(I posted this over at The American Catholic and I thought the history mavins of Almost Chosen People might enjoy it.)


Lent is a grand time to confront evil, both that evil which stains our souls, and the evil external to us.  Throughout the history of the Church there have been saints who risked all to bravely confront the popular evils of their time.  This Lent on each Sunday we will be looking at some of those saints.  We began with Saint Athanasius.  Go here to read about him.  Next we looked at Saint John Fisher.  Go here to read about him. Next we looked at the life of Saint Oliver Plunket.  Go here to read about him.  Last week we turned to the Lion of Munster.  Go here to read about him.  For this final Sunday before Holy Week we look at the man I have designated the POW Servant of God.


In the midst of a World War, Emil Kapaun was born in peaceful Pilsen, Kansas on August 20, 1916.  His parents were Czech immigrants and virtually everyone in the area spoke Czech.  From an early age Emil knew that he wanted to be a priest and would play mass with his younger brother. (more…)

Published in: on February 26, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Saints of Lent: The POW Servant of God  
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February 25, 1865: Lee Will Not Give Up the Texas Brigade



..”Attention Texas Brigade” was rung upon the morning air, by Gen. Gregg, “the eyes of General Lee are upon you, forward, march.” Scarce had we moved a step, when Gen. Lee, in front of the whole command, raised himself in his stirrups, uncovered his grey hairs, and with an earnest, yet anxious voice, exclaimed above the din and confusion of the hour, “Texans always move them.”
…never before in my lifetime or since, did I ever witness such a scene as was enacted when Lee pronounced these words, with the appealing look that he gave. A yell rent the air that must have been heard for miles around, and but few eyes in that old brigade of veterans and heroes of many a bloody field was undimmed by honest, heart-felt tears. Leonard Gee, a courier to Gen. Gregg, and riding  by my side, with tears coursing down his cheeks and yells issuing from his throat exclaimed, “I would charge hell itself for that old man.”


Private Robert Campell, 5th Texas Infantry

The fighting erupted early on the second day of the Battle of the Wilderness.  Grant assumed that Hill’s corps had been fought out on the first day and could be overrun with a strong attack.  At 5:00 AM Hancock attacked with three divisions, with two in support.  By 6:00 AM Hill’s corps was in full retreat and disaster loomed for Lee.  At that time the 800 man Texas Brigade, perhaps the elite fighting unit in the Army of Northern Virginia, the vanguard of Longstreet’s corps arrived and saved the day.  Longstreet launched a two division counterattack up the Orange Plank Road, with the Texans, who suffered 650 casualties, leading the attack on the north side of the Road.

This action by the Texan Brigade, and similar actions on many other fields, caused Lee to treasure the unit as his shock troops.  This caused Lee to deny a request by the Governor of Texas in February of 1865.  The request and the denial are contained in this letter from Jefferson Davis to the Governor of  Texas: (more…)

Published in: on February 25, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on February 25, 1865: Lee Will Not Give Up the Texas Brigade  
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Halls of Montezuma

“I believe if we were to plant our batteries in Hell, the damned Yankees would take them from us.”

General Antonio López de Santa Ann, said after his army lost the battle of Chapultepec.


At long last a strategic level computer game on the Mexican War.  I have wanted one since ’77 when I played Veracruz in Strategy & Tactics 63.  Forty three years is a bit of a wait.  Go here to learn more about Halls of Montezuma.


Published in: on February 24, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Halls of Montezuma  
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Remember the Alamo!


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


News that I missed, courtesy of The Babylon Bee:

AUSTIN, TX—There are a few key attributes that define being a Texan: firing guns, yelling “Yee-Haw!”, and remembering the Alamo. But with the winter storm having overtaken Texas and power out in many places, one local Texan has been so focused on keeping warm he has forgotten the Alamo.

“Oh, I know there is something I’m supposed to remember,” said Lyle Thomas as he huddled under a blanket with his wife, “but I can’t think of what. Too busy shivering.”

His wife, Sue Thomas, immediately grabbed him and started shaking him. “The Alamo! You need to remember the Alamo!”

The Alamo, if forgotten, will lose its power and disappear — much like fairies. Without the power of the Alamo holding Texas together, the state could fall into a hundred years of ruin and end up like a common California.

“Sorry, I just can’t remember it anymore,” said Lyle. “Maybe I’m blocking it out of my mind because it was a winter battle.”

Sue started slapping him. “You have to remember! Remember!”

“I’m trying. Just so cold.”

“Then let’s do the other thing we Texans do to warm up,” Sue suggested. “Fire guns.”

Lyle agreed that snuggling recently fired guns is a great way to stay warm. He took out his revolver, pointed it in the air, and shouted, “Yee…” before suddenly stopping. “Oh wait. How does the rest of that go?”

Go here to read the rest.

Published in: on February 23, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Remember the Alamo!  
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Yorktown Campaign


A good video on the Yorktown Campaign by Mount Vernon.  I don’t think any nation on Earth owes more to one man than the US does to George Washington.  Now we have idiots, in the name of malign identity politics, toppling his statues or seeking to topple his statues.  Of course none of this says anything about Washington, but quite a lot about the insane times in which we find ourselves.  Today is the 289th birthday of Washington.  I daresay that Washington will be remembered, and honored, long after those who seek to destroy his memory are entirely forgotten.

Published in: on February 22, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Yorktown Campaign  
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John Brown

Interesting film compilation of the trial and execution of John Brown, that problem child of American history.  He impressed many Southerners at his trial by his courage, Southerners appreciating physical courage even in an enemy.  For a man like John Brown, an Old Testament prophet who somehow was marooned in 19th Century America, it takes a poet to get to the heart of such an odd quirk of history:



       Omnipotent and steadfast God,
       Who, in Thy mercy, hath
       Upheaved in me Jehovah’s rod
       And his chastising wrath,

       For fifty-nine unsparing years
       Thy Grace hath worked apart
       To mould a man of iron tears
       With a bullet for a heart.

       Yet, since this body may be weak
       With all it has to bear,
       Once more, before Thy thunders speak,
       Almighty, hear my prayer.

       I saw Thee when Thou did display
       The black man and his lord
       To bid me free the one, and slay
       The other with the sword.

       I heard Thee when Thou bade me spurn
       Destruction from my hand
       And, though all Kansas bleed and burn,
       It was at Thy command.

       I hear the rolling of the wheels,
       The chariots of war!
       I hear the breaking of the seals
       And the opening of the door!

       The glorious beasts with many eyes
       Exult before the Crowned.
       The buried saints arise, arise
       Like incense from the ground!

       Before them march the martyr-kings,
       In bloody sunsets drest,
       _O, Kansas, bleeding Kansas,
       You will not let me rest!_

       _I hear your sighing corn again,
       I smell your prairie-sky,
       And I remember five dead men
       By Pottawattamie._

       Lord God it was a work of Thine,
       And how might I refrain?
       _But Kansas, bleeding Kansas,
       I hear her in her pain._

       _Her corn is rustling in the ground,
       An arrow in my flesh.
       And all night long I staunch a wound
       That ever bleeds afresh._

       Get up, get up, my hardy sons,
       From this time forth we are
       No longer men, but pikes and guns
       In God’s advancing war.

       And if we live, we free the slave,
       And if we die, we die.
       But God has digged His saints a grave
       Beyond the western sky.

       Oh, fairer than the bugle-call
       Its walls of jasper shine!
       And Joshua’s sword is on the wall
       With space beside for mine.

       And should the Philistine defend
       His strength against our blows,
       The God who doth not spare His friend,
       Will not forget His foes.

Stephen Vincent Benet

Published in: on February 21, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on John Brown  

Bare Necessities


Something for the weekend.  The Bare Necessities from The Jungle Book (1967).  My Bride and I watched The Jungle Book (1967) earlier this week.  It  had been decades since I last watched it and I had forgotten just how immensely entertaining it was and is.  The last film produced by Walt Disney before his death on December 15, 1966, ten days after his 65th birthday, Disney made no bones about the fact that the movie was to bear little relationship to Kipling’s masterpiece which Disney found to be somewhat dark.  This was to be a fun Disney production with lots of singable tunes and endless merchandising opportunities.  (His kindly Uncle Walt image was largely make believe, but Disney was a potent combination of artist and uber shrewd businessman.)  The Jungle Book was the second most popular animated film released by Disney, and I recall how in ’67 families flocked to see it.  The film is all about fatherhood, good and bad.  In Bagheera we have responsible Dad who wants get man-cub to a village to save his life from the tiger Shere Khan.  Baloo the Bear is fun loving Dad who teaches Mowgli about all the food, including tasty ants, that exist in the Jungle.  The various surrogate Dads in the film ultimately save the man cub from the tiger.  One wonders what Kipling would have made out of all this, but doubtless he would have cashed the Disney check, Kipling being one of the few professional writers who didn’t die broke and alcoholic.


That’s What Friends Are For.  The three mop topped Vultures were originally supposed to be voiced by the Beatles, but, regrettably, Lennon nixed the idea.

Bonus 2:


Go here to take The Jungle Book quiz.  I was Mowgli.



Published in: on February 20, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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February 19, 1859: Congressman Dan Sickles Acquitted of Murder


Edwin M. Stanton could be a pill.  Irritable, sarcastic and often completely unreasonable, no doubt many of the Union Generals who had to deal with him often thought that they were dealing with a very mad man.  Mad in an emotional sense Stanton often was, anger often seeming to be the prime emotion he displayed throughout his career, at least after the death of his beloved first wife in 1844 which had a souring impact on his disposition.  However, he was also a very able man, and that compensated for his complete lack of tact in dealing with virtually everyone he came into contact.  Prior to becoming Secretary of War he had been one of the ablest attorneys in the country.  Doubtless his most famous, or rather infamous case, was in the defense of future Union general Daniel Sickles.

Sickles in 1859 was a Democrat Congressman from New York, already notorious for having been censured for bringing a prostitute into the New York General Assembly chamber.  Leaving his pregnant wife at home, on a trip to England he had introduced the same prostitute, Fanny White, to Queen Victoria under an alias, the surname of which was that of a political opponent in New York.  Sickles obviously viewed his vow of marital fidelity with complete contempt.  However he did not view the vow of fidelity given to him by his wife Teresa in the same light.  When he found out on February 26, 1859 that his long-suffering wife was carrying on an affair with the United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, Philip Barton Key II, the son of Francis Scott Key, the composer of the Star Spangled Banner, he murdered Key the next day in Lafayette Park across from the White House, shooting him through the heart.  Sickles immediately surrendered to the Attorney General who lived just a few blocks away.

His trial was one of the most sensational in American history.  Public opinion was almost totally on his side, painting Sickles as an outraged husband defending his wife Teresa from a villain who had seduced her.  Sickles engaged a stellar defense team which included Stanton.  The defense team had a problem.  No matter what the public thought as to his motivation, Sickles was manifestly guilty.  Stanton hit upon the idea of raising the novel defense of temporary insanity which had never before been successful in the United States.  This was a true stroke of legal genius.  It allowed the defense to put on endless lurid testimony as to the affair and, in effect, have the dead man tried rather than Sickles.  In his closing argument Stanton portrayed the ever adulterous Sickles as a defender of marriage: (more…)

Published in: on February 19, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on February 19, 1859: Congressman Dan Sickles Acquitted of Murder  
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History and Rashomon



Akira Kurosawa’s 1950 masterpiece Rashomon in which a murder is told from four differing perspectives, including that of the ghost of the murdered man, details a problem that always plagues historians:   whenever you have more than one source for an event, they are probably going to differ, sometimes in small particulars, although not uncommonly in large ones.  The larger the event, a battle for example, and the more sources, the more differences.  What one reads in a typical history book often glosses over questions on particular points with the writer, assuming he is aware of the differing materials, picking, choosing and interpreting source material rather like an individual putting together a puzzle where some of the pieces have gone astray and some have been savaged by the family dog.  It is not easy work, and that is why some “historians” merely repackage the various books on the subject they have skimmed and eschew actual research by themselves.  If you read a lot on a particular topic of history, you can often tell what source is being used for a particular event.

On February 11, 1861, Lincoln left Springfield, Illinois with his family to travel to Washington DC to be sworn in as President of a very Disunited States of America.  He made a short and, for him, fairly emotional and personal speech to his friends and well-wishers at the train station.  Three versions of his speech have come down to us: (more…)

Published in: on February 18, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on History and Rashomon  
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