February 28, 1861: Jefferson Davis and the Slave Trade

Prior to the Civil War, the radical fringe of the pro-slavery movement was pushing for re-opening of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, banned under federal law since 1808.  Davis, and most pro-slavery leaders opposed this effort.  When Davis was attacked by Southern firebrands prior to the War for his opposition to a renewed international slave trade, Davis stated that his concern was for the well-being of Mississippi, a state with a large slave population, rather than abolitionist concern over the well-being of slaves.

The Confederate Constitution banned the international slave trade, except with the United States:

(1) The importation of negroes of the African race from any foreign country other than the slaveholding States or Territories of the United States of America, is hereby forbidden; and Congress is required to pass such laws as shall effectually prevent the same.

The issue came up quite early in the term of Davis as President of the CSA, when he vetoed a measure in regard to the international slave trade. (more…)

Published in: on February 28, 2023 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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Wyatt Berry Stapp

In 1847 Wyatt Berry Stapp was busily organizing a volunteer company of mounted volunteers to serve in the Mexican War in Warren County, Illinois.  Among his recruits was a young man named Nicholas who was familiar with raising horses.  Captain Stapp liked what he saw in the young man and he was pleased when the men chose Nicholas to be senior sergeant in the company.

The company landed with Scott’s army at Veracruz on March 19, 1847.  In the numerous battles Scott fought before taking Mexico City and winning the war, Captain Stapp and Sergeant Nicholas both distinguished themselves, with Captain Stapp receiving a brevet promotion to Colonel and Sergeant Nicholas a brevet promotion to Captain.  Nicholas received a leg wound and was invalided back to Illinois. (more…)

Published in: on February 27, 2023 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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February 26, 1941: Eddie Rickenbacker Cheats Death Again

Eddie Rickenbacker, America’s Ace of Aces in World War I, cheated death in aerial combat many times over France.  Between April 29, 1918 and October 30, 1918, with several weeks lost due to being grounded for an ear infection, he shot down 26 German planes and observation balloons and earned seven Distinguished Service Crosses, the French Croix de Guerre and the Medal of Honor.  Here is the Medal of Honor citation:

Edward V. Rickenbacker, Colonel, specialist reserve, then first lieutenant, 94th Aero Squadron, Air Service, American Expeditionary Forces. For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy near Billy, France, September 25, 1918. While on a voluntary patrol over the lines Lieutenant. Rickenbacker attacked seven enemy planes (five type Fokker protecting two type Halberstadt photographic planes). Disregarding the odds against him he dived on them and shot down one of the Fokkers out of control. He then attacked one of the Halberstadts and sent it down also.

One would have thought that with the ending of the War Rickenbacker could have said farewell to the Grim Reaper until his peaceful death in civilian life, but such was not the case with Rickenbacker.  He went on to an extremely successful business career, most notably as the head of Eastern Air Lines. 

On February 26, 1941, Rickenbacker was on board a Douglas DC-3 that crashed outside of Atlanta, Georgia.  Rickenbacker suffered grave injuries and was trapped in the wreckage.  Despite his own predicament he did his best to keep up the spirits of the other survivors who were injured, and guided the ambulatory survivors to find help.  Rickenbacker’s death was erroneously reported in the press, and he spent ten days near death, an experience he reported as being one of overwhelming calm and pleasure. (more…)

Published in: on February 26, 2023 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Don’t Fear the Reaper

Something for the weekend.  Don’t Fear the Reaper (1976) by Blue Oyster Cult.  Ever find a song so catchy that you like it even if you find the lyrics appalling?  That is me and this paean to suicide that was popular when I was a sophomore in college.  Of course perhaps I can be excused because I was 19 at the time and it was in the midst of that vast musical desert known as the Seventies.




Published in: on February 25, 2023 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Battle of Bentonville

The Battle of Bentonville fought on March 19-21 amply demonstrates just how hopeless the military situation confronting the Confederacy in 1865 was.  Responding to an urgent request from General Lee that he stop Sherman’s army,  General Joe Johnston, scraping together an army together of 21,000 men, skillfully attacked one wing of Sherman’s army under General Slocum on March 17, near Bentonville, North Carolina.   The Union forces weathered fierce attack by the Confederates and remained on the field.  Over the next few days, the rest of Sherman’s army came up, and Johnston, facing odds of three to one, had no choice but to retreat after nightfall on March 21.  Skill and valor could do little against the odds that the Confederate armies faced everywhere in 1865. (more…)

February 22, 2023: 291th Birthday of George Washington


It won’t be that long, only nine years, until it will be three centuries since the birth of the Father of our Country.  Washington, as one might expect, paid little attention to his birthdays, not taking note of them in his diaries.  However, even during his lifetime the date was being observed with celebrations by the American people.  On his last birthday in 1799 when he turned 67,  the Washington family observed the marriage of his step granddaughter, Eleanor Parke, called Nellie, Custis.  After the death of her father, who died of camp fever contracted during the siege of Yorktown in 1781, she and her brother George Washington Parke Custis, with the consent of their mother who was raising the five other children she and her late husband had, lived with the Washingtons and were informally adopted by them.  Throughout her life she regarded herself as the custodian of her adopted father’s memory.  Much of what we know about the personal life of the Washington’s comes from her correspondence with biographers seeking information about Washington.

I suspect that the topic of mortality may have crossed Washington’s mind on his last birthday.  His father had lived only until 49 and Washington had a bout of his recurrent malaria in 1798 and had only tardily responded to quinine.  Washington had been enjoying his retirement from public life, but he was beginning to feel his years.  However he had no fears of death and approached it with a sense of humor.  Martha Washington in 1797 in a letter to Elizabeth Willing Powel, made the following observation from her husband:  “I am now, by desire of the General to add a few words on his behalf; which he desires may be expressed in the terms following, that is to say, that despairing of hearing what may be said of him, if he should really go off in an Apoplectic, or any other fit, (for he thinks all fits that issue in death, are worse than a love fit, a fit of laughter, and many other kinds which he could name); he is glad to hear beforehand what will be said of him on that occasion; conceiving that nothing extra: will happen between this and then to make a change in his character for better, or for worse.”

Published in: on February 22, 2023 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Jefferson on Education

Thomas Jefferson wrote lengthy letters throughout his life, and as a result we know his views on almost all subjects under the sun.  He wrote a series of letters to Peter Carr, a nephew, in which he discussed the course of study that Carr should follow in pursuing his education.  The letter is grounded in a belief that studying the Latin and Greek classics is the basis of any good education.  I tend to agree with Mr. Jefferson, although I have read the works he cite only in English translations.  The works are valuable in that they are reflections on life, history and philosophy from a bygone age and help us put up a mental mirror in our minds when judging events in our own time.  Many homeschooling parents make the classics the core of their curriculum for their offspring, and I believe they are wise to do so.  Mr. Jefferson’s letter to Peter Carr: (more…)

Published in: on February 21, 2023 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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February 20, 1962: God Speed John Glenn

Published in: on February 20, 2023 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  

Longest State of the Union


At just over a thousand words, George Washington delivered the shortest State of the Union address.  The longest was by Jimmy Carter on January 16, 1981 at 33, 667 words.  Mercifully he sent it as a written message rather than delivering it as a speech.  If he had attempted to give it as a speech, he would have been speaking for around six hours.  Here is the text:




To the Congress of the United States:
The State of the Union is sound. Our economy is recovering from a recession. A national energy plan is in place and our dependence on foreign oil is decreasing. We have been at peace for four uninterrupted years.
But, our Nation has serious problems. Inflation and unemployment are unacceptably high. The world oil market is increasingly tight. There are trouble spots throughout the world, and 53 American hostages are being held in Iran against international law and against every precept of human affairs.1
However, I firmly believe that, as a result of the progress made in so many domestic and international areas over the past four years, our Nation is stronger, wealthier, more compassionate and freer than it was four years ago. I am proud of that fact. And I believe the Congress should be proud as well, for so much of what has been accomplished over the past four years has been due to the hard work, insights and cooperation of Congress. I applaud the Congress for its efforts and its achievements.
In this State of the Union Message I want to recount the achievements and progress of the last four years and to offer recommendations to the Congress for this year. While my term as President will end before the 97th Congress begins its work in earnest, I hope that my recommendations will serve as a guide for the direction this country should take so we build on the record of the past four years.



Published in: on February 19, 2023 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Liberty Song


Something for the weekend.  The Liberty Song sung by Bobby Horton.

Written by Founding Father John Dickinson in 1768, the song was sung by patriots in America to the tune of Heart of OakThe video below is the most hilarious scene from the John Adams mini-series where a completely fish out of water John Adams gets donations for the American cause from French aristocrats as they sing the Liberty Song, led by Ben Franklin who is obviously immensely enjoying himself.  It is a good song for Americans to recall, and perhaps especially so in this year of grace, 2019.



Published in: on February 18, 2023 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Liberty Song  
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