Washington and the Painters

 

George Washington was one of the first global celebrities who was not a monarch.  How tiresome this was to him he revealed in a letter:

Dear Sir,

Your letter of the 20th Ulto was presented to me yesterday by Mr Williams—who as a professional man—may, or may not be for ought I know, a luminary of the first magnitude. But to be frank, and I hope you will not be displeased with me for being so—I am so heartily tired of the attendance which from one cause or another has been given ⟨to⟩ these kind of people, that it is now more than two years since I have resolved to sit no more for any of them and have adhered to it, except in instances where it has been requested by public bodies, or for a particular purpose (not of the Painters) and could not, without offence be refused.

I have been led to make this resolution for another reason besides the irksomeness of sitting, and the time I loose by it—which is, that these productions have in my estimation, been made use of as a sort of tax on individuals by being engraved (and that badly) and hawked about or advertised for Sale. With very great esteem & regard I am Dear Sir Yr most Obt & Affe Servt

G.W——n

Two years later in 1794 Washington did sit for the painter at the request of Masonic Lodge 22.  Washington is wearing Masonic regalia and looks quite unhappy:

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Published in: on January 21, 2022 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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John B. Gordon on General Grant

When Ulysses S. Grant was dying from cancer, he made this prediction in the concluding paragraphs of his brilliant Personal Memoirs:

I cannot stay to be a living witness to the correctness of this prophecy; but I feel it within me that it is to be so. The universally kind feeling expressed for me at a time when it was supposed that each day would prove my last, seemed to me the beginning of the answer to “Let us have peace.”

The expression of these kindly feelings were not restricted to a section of the country, nor to a division of the people. They came from individual citizens of all nationalities; from all denominations—the Protestant, the Catholic, and the Jew; and from the various societies of the land—scientific, educational, religious or otherwise. Politics did not enter into the matter at all.

I am not egotist enough to suppose all this significance should be given because I was the object of it. But the war between the States was a very bloody and a very costly war. One side or the other had to yield principles they deemed dearer than life before it could be brought to an end. I commanded the whole of the mighty host engaged on the victorious side. I was, no matter whether deservedly so or not, a representative of that side of the controversy. It is a significant and gratifying fact that Confederates should have joined heartily in this spontaneous move. I hope the good feeling inaugurated may continue to the end.

The prediction came true as the whole nation soon mourned his passing and former Union and Confederate generals rode together in Grant’s funeral procession.

I have always been struck by these words of John B. Gordon, former commander of the Second Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia, after Grant died: (more…)

Published in: on January 20, 2022 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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General William Sibert

 

 

A skilled engineer, General William Sibert led the First Division initially in France during World War I.  Sibert was an engineering officer who had won accolades for his work on the construction of the Panama Canal Zone.  In 1915 Congress had promoted him from Lieutenant Colonel to Brigadier General.  However, the Army Corps of Engineers at that time was authorized only one general.  Sibert thus found himself at age 55 suddenly an infantry General who had never led an infantry unit or been in the infantry.  The Army put him in command of the West Coast artillery where it was reasoned an inexperience general could do little harm.

However in 1917 he suddenly found himself in command of the infantry units that landed in France on June 26, 1916 and which would eventually make up the First Division.  Sibert had a great deal of doubt as to whether he was suitable for this command.  Eventually Pershing shared his doubts, and along with several other general officers, Pershing relieved him in January 1918 prior to the First Division before the Division began duty in the trenches.

Pershing bore Sibert no ill will, understanding that he was not responsible for the attempt by Congress to force a round peg into a square hole.  When the Chemical Warfare Service was created later in 1918, Pershing recommended Sibert to command it in the continental United States, which he did.  After retirement as a Major General, Sibert would go on to work as an engineer in Mobile, Alabama and he served on the Presidential Commission which led to the construction of Hoover Dam.  He died in 1945.  Two of his five sons would go on to be Major Generals in the Army.

January 18, 1863: Murder of Mangas Coloradas

 

A chief of the Chiricahua Apaches, Mangas Coloradas (Red Sleeves) in alliance with his son-in-law Cochise, a chief of the Chokonen Apache had been waging an all out War to drive the encroaching white settlers from Apache lands since 1860.  It was war to the knife and the knife to the hilt and atrocities were common on both sides.  They never achieved their goal of eliminating all whites from Apache territory, but with the withdrawal of Federal troops at the beginning of the Civil War, the white population was greatly reduced.  The war began to turn against the Apaches as volunteer troops were sent to New Mexico and Arizona and Union control reasserted.

On January 18, 1863, the seventy year old Mangas Coloradas appeared at For McLane to talk peace.  General Joseph Rodman West, a volunteer officer with the California volunteers was not interested in discussion.  He ordered that the apache chief be taken into custody and tersely ordered his guards to murder him. (more…)

Published in: on January 18, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments (3)  
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Frederick Douglass

 

Published in: on January 17, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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January 16, 1865: Special Field Order No. 15

 

Sherman

In an attempt to deal with the tens of thousands of black refugees who were following his army, General Sherman issued Special Field Order No. 15.  Issued to deal with an emergency situation and not as an attempt to chart Reconstruction Policy, the order looms large in the mythology of Reconstruction and is the origin of the belief that freed slaves were all promised 40 acres and a mule.  The order was rescinded by President Johnson in the fall of 1865.

Sherman commented on the Order in his Memoirs:

During Mr. Stanton’s stay in Savannah we discussed this negro question very fully; he asked me to draft an order on the subject, in accordance with my own views, that would meet the pressing necessities of the case, and I did so. We went over this order, No. 15, of January 16, 1865, very carefully. The secretary made some verbal modifications, when it was approved by him in all its details, I published it, and it went into operation at once. It provided fully for the enlistment of colored troops, and gave the freedmen certain possessory rights to land, which afterward became matters of judicial inquiry and decision. Of course, the military authorities at that day, when war prevailed, had a perfect right to grant the possession of any vacant land to which they could extend military protection, but we did not undertake to give a fee-simple title; and all that was designed by these special field orders was to make temporary provisions for the freedmen and their families during the rest of the war, or until Congress should take action in the premises. All that I now propose to assert is, that Mr. Stanton, Secretary of War, saw these orders in the rough, and approved every paragraph thereof, before they were made public.

Here is the text of the Order:

IN THE FIELD, SAVANNAH, GA., January 16th, 1865.

SPECIAL FIELD ORDERS, No. 15.

I. The islands from Charleston, south, the abandoned rice fields along the rivers for thirty miles back from the sea, and the country bordering the St. Johns river, Florida, are reserved and set apart for the settlement of the negroes now made free by the acts of war and the proclamation of the President of the United States.

II. At Beaufort, Hilton Head, Savannah, Fernandina, St. Augustine and Jacksonville, the blacks may remain in their chosen or accustomed vocations–but on the islands, and in the settlements hereafter to be established, no white person whatever, unless military officers and soldiers detailed for duty, will be permitted to reside; and the sole and exclusive management of affairs will be left to the freed people themselves, subject only to the United States military authority and the acts of Congress.  By the laws of war, and orders of the President of the United States, the negro is free and must be dealt with as such.  He cannot be subjected to conscription or forced military service, save by the written orders of the highest military authority of the Department, under such regulations as the President or Congress may prescribe.  Domestic servants, blacksmiths, carpenters and other mechanics, will be free to select their own work and residence, but the young and able-bodied negroes must be encouraged to enlist as soldiers in the service of the United States, to contribute their share towards maintaining their own freedom, and securing their rights as citizens of the United States.

Negroes so enlisted will be organized into companies, battalions and regiments, under the orders of the United States military authorities, and will be paid, fed and clothed according to law.  The bounties paid on enlistment may, with the consent of the recruit, go to assist his family and settlement in procuring agricultural implements, seed, tools, boots, clothing, and other articles necessary for their livelihood. (more…)

Be My Baby

 

Something for the weekend, the Ronettes singing Be My Baby (1963).  Lead singer Veronica Bennett, better known as Ronnie Spector, passed away this weekend at age 78.  She led a turbulent life, largely due to her marriage to the murderous Phil Spector, up until her second marriage in 1982.  I pray that her life in the next world will be peaceful and blessed.

Published in: on January 15, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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The Court-Martial of Winfield Scott

Two hundred and ten years ago the War of 1812 was about to break out.  Winfield Scott would become a national hero in that war, rising from Captain to Brigadier  General, with a brevet rank of Major General, all before his thirtieth birthday.  However, before the War his military career almost ended when he was convicted at a court-martial.

One of the greatest scoundrels in American history was doubtless James B. Wilkinson.  Twice commander of the American Army between the Revolution and the War of 1812, Wilkinson was also a spy for the Spanish government.  In addition to this treachery, Wilkinson was corrupt and was always quite ready to harm his country if he would personally benefit.  Although his being a spy for Spain was not discovered until after his death, enough of his other infamies were known during his lifetime for him to be held in low esteem by his fellow officers.

In 1809 Captain Scott was court-martialed for accurately calling Major General Wilkinson a liar and a scoundrel, and ventured the opinion that serving under Wilkinson was as dishonorable as being married to a prostitute.  There was also a trumped-up charge of Scott pocketing the money of the men under his command.  In January 1810 Scott was convicted on the fairly nebulous charge of engaging in conduct unbecoming of an officer and suspended from the Army for one year.  Many another man would have given up a military career after this rocky start, but not Captain Scott.  He merely resumed his duties after the year and proceeded on with his meteoric career as if nothing had happened.  His bete noir General Wilkinson would go on to lead American forces to defeat in two battles in 1814 and was relieved of command.  The war that made the career of Scott ended the career of his arch enemy.  President Theodore Roosevelt in the third volume of his The Winning of the West has this to say about Wilkinson: (more…)

Published in: on January 14, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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The Boyhood of Abraham Lincoln

 

The things you find on the internet!  An educational film on the boyhood of Abraham Lincoln made in 1968.  I used to love these films as a kid, usually shown towards the end of the day when neither the students nor the teacher felt like doing much more work.  In the Dark Ages before the internet, these films often did convey information that the kids hadn’t heard before.  I was eleven in 1968 and this film brought back fond memories of days gone by for me.

Published in: on January 13, 2022 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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January 12, 1864: Fighting in Matamoros

Juan Cortina

There is a great book waiting to be written about the Civil War along the Mexican border.  Full of intrigue and smuggling with two civil wars raging,  Union vs. Confederate and the French and their Mexican sympathizers v. the Juaristas, it is a tale full of color and drama that has received shockingly little scholarly treatment.

On January 12, 1864 fighting broke out in Matamoros between the French and the Juaristas which would rage for two days.  US Consul Leonard Pierce, Jr. sent an urgent message for aid to the Union General Francis J. Herron commanding the garrison in Brownsville, Texas:

“General: A battle is now raging in the streets of this City between the forces of Governor Manuel Ruiz and Col. Juan N. Cortina. My person and family are in great danger as the road between here and the ferry is said to be infested with robbers. I have also about $1,000,000 in specie and a large amount of other valuable property under my charge in the consulate, and from the well-known character of Cortina and his followers, I fear the city will be plundered. I therefore earnestly request that you will send a sufficient
force to protect myself and property and to transport the money within the limits of the United States at the earliest possible moment.” (more…)

Published in: on January 12, 2022 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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