Jubilation T. Cornpone

Something for the weekend.  Jubilation T. Cornpone (1956) from the musical Li’l Abner, sung by Stubby Kaye.  In his prime, Al Capp was the premier American cartoonist.  Nothing was sacred to him, and his usually hilarious cartoons held up sometimes gentle and sometimes savage mirrors to the foibles of mid-twentieth century America.  It says something good about the country that his daily strips in newspapers enjoyed such broad popularity.

Published in: on April 30, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Jubilation T. Cornpone  
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Settlement of Claim of Estate of Hamilton K. Redway


A good object lesson to those under the mistaken belief that government red tape was an invention of the last century.  Hamilton K. Redway was born in 1829 and died in 1888.  During the Civil War he served in the 24th New York Volunteers and as a Captain in the 1rst New York Veteran Cavalry.  After the war he served as a Second Lieutenant with the 1rst Colored Cavalry until April 15, 1866.  It is interesting that his widow was fighting with the Federal government over his pay during the Civil War with this claim not being settled until May 7, 1891, three decades after the start of the Civil War.  Wars come and go, but the red tape of governments is eternal.

Published in: on April 29, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Settlement of Claim of Estate of Hamilton K. Redway  
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April 28, 1917: Executive Orders


It is sometimes assumed that executive orders are only a feature of modern American life.  Actually they have existed since the beginning of the Republic.  A century ago two war related executive orders were issued by President Wilson:

Whereas, the existence of a state of war between the United States and the Imperial German Government makes it essential to the public safety that no communication of a character which would aid the enemy or its allies shall be had,

Therefore, by virtue of the power vested in me under the Constitution and by the Joint Resolution passed by Congress on April 6, 1917, declaring the existence of a state of war, it is ordered that all companies or other persons, owning, controlling or operating telegraph and telephone lines or submarine cables, are hereby prohibited from transmitting messages to points without the United States, and from delivering messages received from such points, except those permitted under rules and regulations to be established by the Secretary of War for telegraph and telephone lines, and by the Secretary of the Navy for submarine cables,

To these Departments, respectively, is delegated the duty of preparing and enforcing rules and regulations under this order to accomplish the purpose mentioned.

This order shall take effect from this date.

April 28, 1917. (more…)

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April 27, 1865: Sultana: Death on the Mississippi


After the massive bloodletting of the Civil War, one would have hoped that Death would have taken at least a brief holiday in the US.  Such was not the case.  On April 27th 1865, the SS Sultana, a Mississippi paddle-wheeler steamer, constructed in 1863 for the cotton trade, was serving as a transport.  Its cargo was approximately 2500 Union soldiers, many of them former POWS, some of them survivors of Andersonville.  The Union soldiers boarded at Vicksburg.  The Sultana while in port at Vicksburg had a patch put on its steam boiler.  The repair was clearly inadequate, a new  boiler being needed.  (more…)

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April 26, 1962: Ranger 4 Crashes Into Moon


The US Space Program had several rocky moments in its early years, and so it was with Ranger 4.  Launched on April 23, 1962, its trip to the Moon was flawless.  After entering a lunar orbit,  a malfunction caused telemetry to cease, and the capsule to become unresponsive to commands. Ranger 4 crashed into the darkside of the Moon on April 26, 1962.  And thus the first American spacecraft reached a celestial object.  As always, NASA learned from the failure, with a successful lunar mission by Ranger 7 in 194.

Published in: on April 26, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on April 26, 1962: Ranger 4 Crashes Into Moon  
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Historical Malpractice







By military historians I assume that he means grade B war movies made during World War II.  Actually, since the development of stosstruppen tactics in 1916-1917,  German soldiers of all ranks were taught to take the initiative on the battlefield and to be flexible in their tactics.  During World War II Allied generals noted this time and again and envied the ability, as a result, of the Germans to take apparently shattered units, weld them together and put useful ad hoc combat forces back into play in remarkably short time.

All of this is very well known and repeated time and again in standard military histories of World War II.  To see a historian recycle the stale propaganda of German soldiers being mindless automatons is to despair of basic literacy among too many current scholars who are ever eager to sacrifice historical truth to make a contemporary political point.

Well, if the German infantry was that good how did we win?  Numbers partially if we include the Soviet hordes who killed, with the help of American trucks and American food, three out of four of every member of the Wehrmacht who was killed in World War II.  More importantly, the Americans and, to a lesser extent the British, had huge advantages in air supremacy, naval supremacy and mechanization of ground units.  The average American leg infantry division had more tanks, trucks, halftracks, tank destroyers, etc than the average German panzer division.  The Germans relied heavily on horses to move supplies and ammo which struck American GIs as a throwback to our Civil War, if not the Middle Ages.  American divisions deployed immense fire power, in addition to on call air power and centralized corps artillery, which meant that unless some special factor was involved, lousy weather in the Ardennes or the dense forests of the Hurtgen, German offensives against American and British units were often an invitation for mass suicide by the landsers.  German propaganda sometimes hailed their troops as the Supermen of tomorrow.  Actually it was their American and British opponents who were the vanguard of warfare of the future.  A fed up GI put it profanely in the concluding episode of Band of Brothers:



Published in: on April 25, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Historical Malpractice  
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April 24, 1863: Promulgation of the Lieber Code


Art. 43. Therefore, in a war between the United States and a belligerent which admits of slavery, if a person held in bondage by that belligerent be captured by or come as a fugitive under the protection of the military forces of the United States, such person is immediately entitled to the rights and privileges of a freeman To return such person into slavery would amount to enslaving a free person, and neither the United States nor any officer under their authority can enslave any human being. Moreover, a person so made free by the law of war is under the shield of the law of nations, and the former owner or State can have, by the law of postliminy, no belligerent lien or claim of service.

Francis Lieber led a colorful life.  Born in Berlin in 1798, he enlisted in the Prussian Army in 1815 and was wounded at Waterloo.  Unable to attend a University in Berlin due to his membership in a Liberal group that opposed the Prussian monarchy, he attended Jena University and, a brilliant student, completed his dissertation on mathematics in four months in 1820.  He took time out from his academic career to fight in the Greek War of Independence in which he was severely wounded.  He served as a tutor for the son of the Prussian ambassador in Rome for a year and wrote a book about his experiences in Greece.  Receiving a royal pardon, he returned to Prussia only to run afoul of the authorities again for his Republican beliefs.  Imprisoned, he took advantage of the time to do what any good Romantic of his generation would do, he wrote a book of poetry, Songs of Wine and Bliss.

After his release he fled to England, where he supported himself by acting as a tutor.  Meeting his future wife and marrying her, the Liebers left the Old World to start a new life in the New World in 1827.  There Lieber embarked on an academic career.  In Boston he achieved notoriety for opening a school which gave instruction in swimming, a first in America.  He edited a 13 volume Encyclopedia Americana.  From 1833-1835 he resided in Philadelphia while preparing a plan of education for Girard College.  In 1835 he began a sojourn of 21 years duration at the University of South Carolina teaching history and political economics.  He retained an interest in Germany, and returned for a few months after the revolution of 1848 although his hopes that Germany would take the Liberal path he favored were quickly dashed.

From 1856-1865 he was professor of history and political science at Columbia.  In 1860 he was also appointed a professor of political science at the law school at Columbia, a post he would hold until his death in 1872.

The coming of the Civil War tragically divided Lieber’s family, just as it divided the nation.  One of his sons fought and died for the Confederacy, while his other two sons fought for the Union.  Lieber himself was a staunch advocate of the Union and an opponent of slavery.  He founded and headed the Loyal Publication Society that wrote scholarly pro-Union propaganda during the War.  He first met Lincoln at the White House in 1861 to confer upon him an honorary degree from Columbia.  Thereafter he was called to Washington frequently to consult with Lincoln, Stanton and Seward on questions of international law.

During his academic career Lieber had written many books and articles on law, politics and history that had given him an international reputation.  It is therefore not surprising that Lincoln turned to Lieber to draft a code of Law to govern the Union forces during war-time.  The Code was promulgated in General Order 100 on April 24, 1863. (more…)

Published in: on April 24, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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Concordia Choir: Medley of Civil War Songs



Something for the weekend.  A medley of Civil War songs, Tenting on the Old Camp Ground, Johnny Has Gone For a Soldier and The Dying Soldier, sung by the choir of my bride’s alma mater, Concordia College of Morehead, Minnesota.  Go Cobbers!

Published in: on April 23, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Concordia Choir: Medley of Civil War Songs  
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April 22, 1864: Coinage Act of 1864 and In God We Trust


In God We Trust


The Coinage Act of 1864 was passed one hundred and fifty years ago today.  Among other provisions it granted to the Secretary of the Treasury a two cent coin.  On this coin first appeared the motto In God We Trust.  Salmon P. Chase, Secretary of the Treasury had been looking for an opportunity to place such a motto on coins since he received the following letter dated November 13, 1861 from the  Rev. M. R. Watkinson:

Dear Sir: You are about to submit your annual report to the Congress respecting the affairs of the national finances.

One fact touching our currency has hitherto been seriously overlooked. I mean the recognition of the Almighty God in some form on our coins.

You are probably a Christian. What if our Republic were not shattered beyond reconstruction? Would not the antiquaries of succeeding centuries rightly reason from our past that we were a heathen nation? What I propose is that instead of the goddess of liberty we shall have next inside the 13 stars a ring inscribed with the words PERPETUAL UNION; within the ring the allseeing eye, crowned with a halo; beneath this eye the American flag, bearing in its field stars equal to the number of the States united; in the folds of the bars the words GOD, LIBERTY, LAW.

This would make a beautiful coin, to which no possible citizen could object. This would relieve us from the ignominy of heathenism. This would place us openly under the Divine protection we have personally claimed. From my hearth I have felt our national shame in disowning God as not the least of our present national disasters.

To you first I address a subject that must be agitated.

Chase wrote on November 20, 1861 to the Director of the Mint:

Dear Sir: No nation can be strong except in the strength of God, or safe except in His defense. The trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins.

You will cause a device to be prepared without unnecessary delay with a motto expressing in the fewest and tersest words possible this national recognition. (more…)

Published in: on April 22, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on April 22, 1864: Coinage Act of 1864 and In God We Trust  
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April 21, 1910: Out With Haley’s Comet



“I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835.  It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: ‘Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together.’ Oh, I am looking forward to that.”

Mark Twain, 1909

Twain got his wish, dying on April 21, 1910, the day after the perihelion of Halley’s Comet in 1910.  Halley’s Comet will next make its regular appearance in July of 2061, so mark it on your calendars!




Published in: on April 21, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on April 21, 1910: Out With Haley’s Comet  
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