May 23, 1865: Grand Review

Something for the weekend:  Battle Hymn of the Republic.  Doubtless many men who fought in the Civil War thought, and dreaded, that the War might go on forever.  Now, however, it had ended with Union victory.  Some European powers speculated that the United States would now use its vast armies to take foreign territory:  perhaps French occupied Mexico, maybe settle old scores by taking Canada from Great Britain, Cuba, held by moribund Spain was certainly a tempting target.  But no, the armies had been raised for the purpose of preserving the Union.  Now the men in the ranks were eager to get home, and the nation was just as eager to enjoy peace.

One last duty remained however:  an immense victory parade in Washington.  On May 23, 1865, the 80,000 strong Army of the Potomac marched happily through the streets of Washington on a glorious spring day.  For six hours they passed the reviewing stand, where President Johnson, the cabinet, General Grant and assorted civilian and military high brass, received the salutes of, and saluted, the men who had saved the Union.  Most of the men had hated the Army, and were overjoyed to be going home, but for the rest of their lives they would remember this day and how all the death and suffering they had endured over the past four years had not been in vain after all.    Almost all of them were very young men now, and many of them would live to old age, future generations then having a hard time picturing them as they were now:  lean, battle-hardened and the victors of the bloodiest war in the history of their nation.  When they died iron stars would be put by their graves, and each Decoration Day, eventually called Memorial Day, flags would be planted by their graves, as if to recall a huge banner draped over the Capitol on this day of days:

“The Only National Debt We Can Never Pay, Is The Debt We Owe To Our Victorious Soldiers.”   (more…)

A Second Review of the Grand Army

Recently I have been reading of the Grand Review of the Armies which occurred in Washington DC on May 23 and May 24, 1865.  This was a victory parade of Grant’s Army of the Potomac and Sherman’s Army.  I was struck by a banner that was spread on the capitol dome those two days: “The Only National Debt We Can Never Pay, Is The Debt We Owe To Our Victorious Soldiers.”   Indeed.    So the boys in blue enjoyed two days of being cheered as heroes and saviors of their country, before they were demobilized and went back to their homes, the War left behind to fading memories and imperishable history.

However, there were silent victors who could not march in the Grand Review, and humorist Bret Harte remembered them in this poem:

I read last night of the Grand Review
    In Washington’s chiefest avenue,–
Two hundred thousand men in blue,
    I think they said was the number,–
Till I seemed to hear their trampling feet,
The bugle blast and the drum’s quick beat,
The clatter of hoofs in the stony street,
The cheers of the people who came to greet,
And the thousand details that to repeat
    Would only my verse encumber,–
Till I fell in a revery, sad and sweet,
    And then to a fitful slumber.
   
When, lo! in a vision I seemed to stand
In the lonely Capitol. On each hand
Far stretched the portico, dim and grand
Its columns ranged, like a martial band
Of sheeted spectres whom some command
    Had called to a last reviewing.
And the streets of the city were white and bare;
No footfall echoed across the square;
But out of the misty midnight air
I heard in the distance a trumpet blare,
And the wandering night-winds seemed to bear
    The sound of a far tatooing.

Then I held my breath with fear and dread;
For into the square, with a brazen tread,
There rode a figure whose stately head
    O’erlooked the review that morning.
That never bowed from its firm-set seat
When the living column passed its feet,
Yet now rode steadily up the street
    To the phantom bugle’s warning:
   
Till it reached the Capitol square, and wheeled,
And there in the moonlight stood revealed
A well known form that in State and field
    Had led our patriot sires;
Whose face was turned to the sleeping camp,
Afar through the river’s fog and damp,
That showed no flicker, nor warning lamp,
    Nor wasted bivouac fires.
   
And I saw a phantom army come,
With never a sound of fife or drum,
But keeping time to a throbbing hum
    Of wailing and lamentation:
The martyred heroes of Malvern Hill,
Of Gettysburg and Chancellorsville,
The men whose wasted figures fill
    The patriot graves of the nation.
   
And there came the nameless dead,–the men
Who perished in fever-swamp and fen,
The slowly-starved of the prison-pen;
    And marching beside the others,
Came the dusky martyrs of Pillow’s fight,
With limbs enfranchised and bearing bright;
I thought–perhaps ’twas the pale moonlight–
    They looked as white as their brothers!
   
And so all night marched the Nation’s dead,
With never a banner above them spread,
Nor a badge, nor a motto brandished;
No mark–save the bare uncovered head
    Of the silent bronze Reviewer;
With never an arch save the vaulted sky;
With never a flower save those that lie
On the distant graves–for love could buy
    No gift that was purer or truer.
   
So all night long swept the strange array;
So all night long, till the morning gray,
I watch’d for one who had passed away,
    With a reverent awe and wonder,–
Till a blue cap waved in the lengthening line,
And I knew that one who was kin of mine
Had come; amd I spake–and lo! that sign
    Awakened me from my slumber.

Published in: on May 22, 2015 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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May 21, 1865: Jeremiah Clemens

Jeremiah Clemens

 

 

A second cousin of Samuel Clemens, Mark Twain, Jeremiah Clemens led a colorful life that came to an end on May 21, 1865. Born in 1814 in Alabama, he became a lawyer and served in the Alabama House before enlisting as a volunteer during the Mexican War, rising to the rank of Colonel.  After the War he served in the United States Senate from 1849-1853.  He achieved fame as a novelist, writing Bernard Lyle in 1853 and Mustang Grey in 1857, the novels set during the Texan War for Independence and the Mexican War.  In 1859 he published The Rivals, a novelization of the Hamilton-Burr feud.  (more…)

Published in: on May 21, 2015 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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May 20, 1865: Emancipation Day

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The Civil War in Florida had been one of frustration for both sides.  A sideshow, neither government was willing to dedicate the resources needed to control the sparsely populated, and almost entirely rural, state.  Small battles and minor skirmishes were the order of the day.  The War ended with the Union controlling the coastline and the Confederacy controlling the interior, Tallahassee being the only Confederate state capitol east of the Mississippi not under Confederate control.  Union troops entered Tallahassee on May 10, 1865 and took control formally of the state on May 20, 1865 in a ceremony which included a reading of the Emancipation Proclamation.  Thereafter Black Floridians for generations observed May 20 as Emancipation Day.

Published in: on May 20, 2015 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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May 19, 1865: Skirmish at Hodby Bridge

 

One of the odd things about the Civil War is how often statements that are assumed to be facts are not.  For example, it is usually stated that Private John J. Williams of the 34th Indiana, killed on May 13, 1865 at the battle of Palmito Ranch is the last man killed in the Civil War.  That is almost certainly incorrect.  That sad distinction may belong to Corporal John W. Skinner, 1rst Florida US Cavalry, who was killed at an ambush at Hodby’s Bridge in Alabama, by Confederate guerillas.  This skirmish would probably have been lost to history, but for a legal battle waged by the wounded Union soldiers for pensions.  The complicating factor was whether the Union soldiers returning from a furlough were on active duty at the time, in which case they were entitled to pensions, or whether they were on furlough and not entitled to pensions.  Ultimately the government ruled in favor of the soldiers in 1900 after initially rejecting the pension applications in 1896.  How many other men were killed in skirmishes completely missed by history in the closing weeks of this vast struggle?

Published in: on May 19, 2015 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Lincoln-Douglas Debate on Utah: June 1857

Lincoln-Douglas

 

 

It is easy to assume that in the 1850s there was only one issue in American politics, slavery.  This is of course incorrect, there were many issues, most forgotten now that attracted attention of voters and politicians.  One hot issue in 1857 was Utah and the on-going conflict between the Federal government and the Mormon settlers.  The issue was addressed in Springfield, Illinois in June 1857 in separate appearances by Stephen Douglas and Abraham Lincoln, both warming up for the Senate contest in 1858.  It is easy to forget that the Mormons had a sojourn in Illinois, until they were chased out after the murder of Joseph Smith on June 27, 1844.  Stephen Douglas was usually on friendly terms with the Mormons, he and Smith both being native Vermonters.  Smith predicted that Douglas would run for President one day and would win, unless he became unfriendly to the Mormons.  Lincoln represented both Mormons and non-Mormons in lawsuits against each other and in 1840 in the state legislature voted in favor of the incorporation of the Mormon town of Nauvoo, which granted unusually broad powers to the Mormon controlled town government.  Nauvoo at the time rapidly became the largest city in Illinois, and Smith and his co-religionists were a subject of considerable controversy in Illinois that eventually broke out into open war between Mormons and anti-Mormons.  By 1857 the Mormons, and their polygamy, were no longer a local issue in Illinois, but were definitely a national issue.

Douglas spoke first at the State House on June 12, 1857 on Kansas, the Dred Scott decision and Utah.  Here is the section of his speech that dealt with Utah:

Mr. President, I will now respond to the call which has been made upon me for my opinion of the condition of things in Utah, and the appropriate remedy for existing evils. , The Territory of Utah was organized under one of the acts known as the compromise measures of 1850, on the supposition that the inhabitants were American citizens, owing and acknowledging allegiance to the United States, and consequently entitled to the benefits of self-government while a territory and to admission into the Union, on an equal footing with the original States [12] so soon as they should number the requisite population. It was conceded on all hands, and by all parties, that the peculiarities of their religious faith and ceremonies interposed no valid and constitutional objection to their reception into the Union, in conformity with the federal constitution, so long as they were in all other respects entitled to admission. Hence the great political parties of the country indorsed and approved the compromise measures of 1850, including the act for the organization of the Territory of Utah, with the hope and in the confidence that the inhabitants would conform to the constitution and laws, and prove themselves worthy, respectable and law-abiding citizens. If we are permitted to place credence to the rumors and reports from that country, (and it must be admitted that they have increased and strengthened, and assumed consistency and plausibility by each succeeding mail,) seven years experience has disclosed a state of facts entirely different from that which was supposed to exist when Utah was organized.

 

These rumors and reports would seem to justify the belief that the following facts are susceptible of proof:, 1st. That nine-tenths of the inhabitants are aliens by birth, who have refused to become naturalized, or to take the oath of allegiance, or to do any other act recognizing the government of the United States as the paramount authority in that Territory., 2d. That all the inhabitants, whether native or alien born, known as Mormons, (and they constitute the whole people of the Territory,) are bound by horrid oaths and terrible penalties to recognize and maintain the authority of Brigham Young, and the government of which he is the head, as paramount to that of the United States, in civil as well as religious affairs; and that they will, in due time, and under the direction of their leaders, use all means in their power to subvert the government of the United States, and resist its authority., 3d. That the Mormon government, with Brigham Young at its head, is now forming alliances with the Indian tribes of Utah and the adjoining Territories – stimulating the Indians to acts of hostility – and organizing bands of his own followers, under the name of ”Danites or Destroying Angels,” to prosecute a system of robbery and murder upon American citizens, who support the authority of the United States, and denounce the infamous and disgusting practices and institutions of the Mormon government. , If, upon a full investigation, these representations shall prove true, they will establish the fact that the inhabitants of Utah, as a community, are out-laws and alien enemies, unfit to exercise the right of self-government under the organic act, and unworthy to be admitted into the Union as a State, when their only object in seeking admission is to interpose the sovereignty of the State as an invincible shield to protect them in their treason and crime, debauchery and infamy. [Applause.] 

 

Under this view of the subject, I think it is the duty of the President, as I have no doubt it is his fixed purpose, to remove Brigham Young and all his followers from office, and to fill their places with bold, able, and true men, and to cause a thorough and searching investigation into all the crimes and enormities which are alleged to be perpetuated daily in that Territory, under the direction of Brigham Young and his confederates; and to use all the military force necessary to protect the officers in the discharge of their duties, and to enforce the laws of the land. [Applause.] , When the authentic evidence shall arrive, if it shall establish the facts which [13] are believed to exist, it will become the duty of Congress to apply the knife and cut out this loathsome, disgusting ulcer. [Applause.] No temporizing policy – no half-way measure will then answer. It has been supposed by those who have not thought deeply upon the subject, that an act of Congress prohibiting murder, robbery, polygamy, and other crimes, with appropriate penalties for those offences, would afford adequate remedies for all the enormities complained of. Suppose such a law to be on the statute book, and I believe they have a criminal code, providing the usual punishments for the entire catalogue of crimes, according to the usages of all civilized and christian countries, with the exception of polygamy, which is practiced under the sanction of the Mormon church, but is neither prohibited nor authorized by the laws of the Territory., Suppose, I repeat, that Congress should pass a law prescribing a criminal code and punishing polygamy among other offences, what effect would it have – what good would it do? Would you call on twenty-three grand jurymen with twenty-three wives each, to find a bill of indictment against a poor miserable wretch for having two wives? [Cheers and laughter.] Would you rely upon twelve petit jurors with twelve wives each to convict the same loathsome wretch for having two wives? [Continued applause.] Would you expect a grand jury composed of twenty-three ”Danites” to find a bill of indictment against a brother ”Danite” for having, under their direction, murdered a Gentile, as they call all American citizens? Much less would you expect a jury of twelve ”destroying angels” to find another ”destroying angel” guilty of the crime of murder, and cause him to be hanged for no other offence that that of taking the life of a Gentile!

 

No. If there is any truth in the reports we receive from Utah, congress may pass what laws it chooses, but you can never rely upon the local tribunals and juries to punish crimes committed by Mormons in that Territory. Some other and more effectual remedy must be devised and applied. In my opinion the first step should be the absolute and unconditional repeal of the organic act – blotting the territorial government out of existence – upon the ground that they are alien enemies and outlaws, denying their allegiance and defying the authority of the United States. [Immense applause.], The territorial government once abolished, the country would revert to its primitive condition, prior to the act of 1850, ”under the sole and exclusive jurisdiction of the United States,” and should be placed under the operation of the act of Congress of the 30th of April, 1790, and the carious acts supplemental thereto and amendatory thereof,” providing for the punishment of crimes against the United States within any fort, arsenal, dock-yard, magazine, or ANY OTHER PLACE OR DISTRICT OF COUNTRY, UNDER THE SOLE AND EXCLUSIVE jurisdiction of the United States. All offences against the provisions of these acts are required by law to be tried and punished by the United States courts in the States or territories where the offenders shall be ”FIRST APPREHENDED OR BROUGHT FOR TRIAL.”

 

Thus it will be seen that, under the plan proposed, Brigham Young and his confederates could be apprehended and brought for trial” to Iowa or Missouri, California or Oregon, or to any other adjacent State or territory, where a fair trial could be had, and justice administered impartially – where the witnesses could be protected and the judgment of the court could be carried into execution, without violence or intimidation. I do not propose to introduce any new principles into our [14] jurisprudence, nor to change the modes of proceeding or the rules of practice in our courts. I only propose to place the district of country embraced within the territory of Utah under the operation of the same laws and rules of proceeding that Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota, and our other Territories were placed, before they became organized Territories. The whole country embraced within those Territories was under the operation of that same system of laws, and all the offences committed within the same, were punished in the manner now proposed, so long as the country remained ”under the sole and exclusive jurisdiction of the United States;” but the moment the country was organized into territorial governments, with legislative, executive and judicial departments, it ceased to be under the sole and exclusive jurisdiction of the United States, within the meaning of the act of Congress, for the reason that it had passed under another and a different jurisdiction. Hence, if we abolish the territorial government of Utah, preserving all existing rights, and place the country under sole and exclusive jurisdiction of the United States, offenders can be apprehended, and brought into the adjacent States or Territories, for trial and punishment, in the same manner and under the same rules and regulations, which obtained, and have been uniformly practiced, under like circumstances since 1790., If the plan proposed shall be found an effective and adequate remedy for the evils complained of in Utah, no one, no matter what his political creed or partizan associations, need be apprehensive that it will violate any cherished theory or constitutional right, in regard to the government of the Territories.

 

It is a great mistake to suppose that all the territory or land belonging to the United States, must necessarily be governed by the same laws and under the same clause of the Constitution, without reference to the purpose to which it is dedicated or the use which it is proposed to make it. While all that portion of country which is or shall be set apart to become new States, must necessarily be governed under and consistent with that clause of the Constitution, which authorizes Congress to admit new states, it does not follow that other territory, not intended to be organized and admitted into the Union as States, must be governed under the same clause of the Constitution, with all the rights of self-government and State equality. For instance, if we should purchase Vancouver’s Island from Great Britain, for the purpose of removing all the Indians from our Pacific Territories, and locating them on that Island, as their permanent home, with guarantees that it should never be settled or occupied by white men, will it be contended that the purchase should be made and the island governed under the power to admit new States when it was not acquired for that purpose, or intended to be applied to that object? Being acquired for Indian purposes, is it not more reasonable to assume that the power to acquire was derived from the Indian clause, and the island must necessarily be governed under and consistent with that clause of the Constitution which relates to Indian affairs. Again, suppose we should deem it expedient to buy a small island in the Mediterranean or Carribean sea, for a naval station, can it be said, with any force or plausibility, that the purchase should be made or the island governed under the power to admit new States? On the contrary, is it not obvious that the right to acquire and govern in that case is derived from the power ”to provide and maintain a navy,” and must be exercised consistent with that power. So if we purchase land for forts, arsenals, or other military purposes, or set apart and dedicate any territory, which we now own, for a [15] military reservation, it immediately passes under the military power, and must be governed in harmony with it. So, if land be purchased for a mint, it must be governed under the power to coin money: or, if purchased for a post-office, it must be governed under the power to establish post-offices and post-roads; or, for a custom house, under the power to regulate commerce; or, for a court house under the judicial power.

 

In short the clause of the Constitution under which any land or territory, belonging to the United States, must be governed is indicated by the object for which it was acquired and the purpose to which it is dedicated. So long, therefore, as the organic act of Utah shall remain in force, setting apart that country for a new State, and pledging the faith of the United States to receive it into the Union so soon as it should have the requisite population, we are bound to extend to it all the rights of self-government, agreeably to the clause of the Constitution, providing for the admission of new States. Hence the necessity of repealing the organic act, withdrawing the pledge of admission, and placing it under the sole and exclusive jurisdiction of the United States, in order that persons and property may be protected, and justice administered, and crimes punished under the laws prescribed by Congress in such cases. , While the power of the Congress to repeal the organic act and abolish the Territorial government cannot be denied, the question may arise whether we possess the moral right of exercising the power, after the charter has been once granted, and the local government organized under its provisions. This is a grave question – one which should not be decided hastily, nor under the influence of passion or prejudice. In my opinion, I am free to say there is no moral right to repeal the organic act of a territory, and abolish the government organized under it, unless the inhabitants of that territory, as a community, have done such acts as amount to a forfeiture of all rights under it – such as becoming alien enemies, outlaws, disavowing their allegiance, or resisting the authority of the United States. These and kindred acts, which we have every reason to believe are daily perpetrated in that Territory, would not only give us the moral right, but make it our imperative duty to abolish the territorial government and place the inhabitants under the sole and exclusive jurisdiction of the United States, to the end that justice may be done, and the dignity and authority of the government vindicated., I have thus presented plainly and frankly my views of the Utah question – the evils and the remedy – upon the facts as they have reached us, and are supposed to be substantially correct. If official reports and authentic information shall change or modify these facts, I shall be ready to conform my action to the real facts as they shall be found to exist. I have no such pride of opinion as will induce me to persevere in an error one moment after my judgment is convinced. If, therefore, a better plan can be devised – one more consistent with justice and sound policy, or more effective as a remedy for acknowledged evils, I will take great pleasure in adopting it, in lieu of the one I have presented to you to-night. , In conclusion, permit me too present my grateful acknowledgments for your patient attention and the kind and respectfully manner in which you have received my remarks.

Lincoln made a speech in response at the State House in Springfield on June 26, 1857.  Although the Republican platform in 1856 denounced the “twin relics of barbarism” of polygamy and slavery, Lincoln himself rarely mentioned polygamy or the Mormons.  In his speech he used Utah and the Mormon belief in polygamy to attack the popular sovereignty doctrine by which Douglas left up to the people of a territory the issue of slavery.  Lincoln wondered why this didn’t also apply to polygamy.

 

I begin with Utah. If it prove to be true, as is probable, that the people of Utah are in open rebellion in the United States, then Judge Douglas is in favor of repealing their territorial organization, and attaching them to the adjoining States for judicial purposes. I say, too, if they are in rebellion, they ought to be somehow coerced to obedience; and I am not now prepared to admit or deny that the Judge’s mode of coercing them is not as good as any. The Republicans can fall in with it without taking back anything they have ever said. To be sure, it would be a considerable backing down by Judge Douglas from his much vaunted doctrine of self-government for the territories; but this is only additional proof of what was very plain from the beginning, that that doctrine was a mere deceitful pretense for the benefit of slavery. Those who could not see that much in the Nebraska act itself, which forced Governors, and Secretaries, and Judges on the people of the territories, without their choice or consent, could not be made to see, though one should rise from the dead to testify.

But in all this, it is very plain the Judge evades the only question the Republicans have ever pressed upon the Democracy in regard to Utah. That question the Judge well knows to be this: ‘If the people of Utah shall peacefully form a State Constitution tolerating polygamy, will the Democracy admit them into the Union?’ There is nothing in the United States Constitution or law against polygamy; and why is it not a part of the Judge’s ‘sacred right of self-government’ for that people to have it, or rather to keep it, if they choose? These questions, so far as I know, the Judge never answers. It might involve the Democracy to answer them either way, and they go unanswered.

 

Published in: on May 18, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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Mark Twain’s Civil War

 

Mark-Twain-Samuel-Clemens-at-the-time-of-the-Civil-War

 

 

Mark Twain, like many young men North and South, decided that the Civil War was not to his taste, and went West.  In 1887 he addressed a reunion of Maryland Union troops and gave a short, humorous, and dark, look at his war:

“When your secretary invited me to this reunion of the Union veterans of Maryland he requested me to come prepared to clear up a matter which he said had long been a subject of dispute and bad blood in war circles in this country – to wit, the true dimensions of my military services in the Civil War, and the effect they had upon the general result.  I recognise the importance of this thing to history, and I have come prepared.  Here are the details.

I was in the Civil War two weeks.  In that brief time I rose from private to second lieutenant.  The monumental feature of my campaign was the one battle which my command fought – it was in the summer of ’61.  If I do say it, it was the bloodiest battle ever fought in human history; there is nothing approaching it for destruction of human life in the field, if you take into consideration the forces engaged and the proportion of death to survival.  And yet you do not even know the name of that battle.  Neither do I.  It had a name, but I have forgotten it.  It is no use to keep private information which you can’t show off.  In our battle there were just 15 men engaged on our side – all brigadier-generals but me, and I was a second-lieutenant.  On the other side there was one man.  He was a stranger.  We killed him.  It was night, and we thought it was an army of observation; he looked like an army of observation – in fact, he looked bigger than an army of observation would in the day time; and some of us believed he was trying to surround us, and some thought he was going to turn our position, and so we shot him.

Poor fellow, he probably wasn’t an army of observation after all, but that wasn’t our fault; as I say, he had all the look of it in the dim light.  It was a sorrowful circumstance, but he took the chances of war, and he drew the wrong card; he over-estimated his fighting strength, and he suffered the likely result; but he fell as the brave should fall – with his face to the front and feet to the field – so we buried him with the honours of war, and took his things.

So began and ended the only battle in the history of the world where the opposing force was utterly exterminated, swept from the face of the earth – to the last man.  And yet you don’t know the name of that battle; you don’t even know the name of that man.

Now, then, for the argument.  Suppose I had continued in the war, and gone on as I began, and exterminated the opposing forces every time – every two weeks – where would your war have been?  Why, you see yourself, the conflict would have been too one-sided.  There was but one honourable course for me to pursue, and I pursued it.  I withdrew to private life, and gave the Union cause a chance.  There, now, you have the whole thing in a nutshell; it was not my presence in the Civil War that determined that tremendous contest – it was my retirement from it that brought the  crash.  It left the Confederate side too weak.”

Twain could see the good and bad in both sides, and after the War became a friend of General Grant.  The older he got the more cynical he got, and his final biting verdict on the enthusiasm for war that he saw as a young man at the start of the Civil War is his 1907 War Prayer: (more…)

Published in: on May 17, 2015 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Ship That Never Returned

 

Something for the weekend:  The Ship That Never Returned.  Written in 1865 by Henry Work, who the same year wrote Marching Through Georgia, it enjoyed immense popularity.  I can’t help but imagine that many of the listeners at the time were thinking of all the ships and men lost in the maelstrom of war in the preceding four years.  The song is sung by Tom Roush who has developed quite a following on YouTube with his heart felt renditions of 19th century songs.

Lincoln and Pigs

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The state of Illinois has quite a few statues of Abraham Lincoln.  One of the more unusual is one erected in 2005 outside the Taylorville, Illinois courthouse showing Lincoln with a pig.  The statue is the work of noted sculptor John McClary.  According to local Lincoln lore, Lincoln was arguing a case in Taylorville when pigs were heard squealing under the floor.  Lincoln suggested to the presiding Judge that a Writ of Quietus be issued by the Court ordering the pigs to be silent!

A pig figures in another Lincoln story.  As the story goes Lincoln and other attorneys were riding on the old Eighth Judicial Circuit when they passed by a pig caught firmly in a mud mire.  The poor pig was squealing piteously, slowly sinking to its doom.  Lincoln and his fellow attorneys rode by.  After about a mile Lincoln stopped.  He couldn’t get that pig out of his mind.  Turning back he rescued the pig using two boards, the pig getting him muddy in the process and ruining the new suit he was wearing.  Lincoln noted that by freeing the pig from the mire, he had also freed him from his conscience, and that was worth a suit.

Lincoln seems to have been fond of pigs from his earliest days, at least according to this story written by Ferdinand C. Iglehart in 1902: (more…)

Published in: on May 15, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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Arise Ye Russian People!

 

The Russians were celebrating the defeat of Nazi Germany last weekend.  It is fair to say that in that defeat the Soviet Union did the lion’s share of the fighting, the Soviets suffering more than twenty million war dead.  For all their heroism and suffering , the Soviets were still enslaved to a tyranny just as bad as the Third Reich, with that system now extended throughout Eastern Europe.  This cold fact is why Churchill entitled the final volume in his World War II history:  Triumph and Tragedy.

The clip from the  film Alexander Nevsky at the beginning of this post underlines the tragedy for the Russian people of World War II.   A true work of genius by Sergei Eisenstein, who somehow pulled off the feat of making a film about an Orthodox Saint, an aristocratic Prince and pillar of the Church, and ladling it with Communist and anti-religious propaganda, and yet having the final result not be laughably absurd.  The film was among the first efforts of Stalin to rally traditional Russian patriotism against the looming threat of Nazi Germany.  Poor Eisenstein found himself in the doghouse soon after the release of the film due to the Nazi-Soviet pact.  After the onset of Operation Barbarossa, the film was once again released and played to packed houses throughout the war.

 

 

The Russian rallying song in the film was composed by Sergei Prokofiev.  The lyrics roughly translated are :

Arise, ye Russian people,
to glorious battle, to a battle to the death:
arise, ye free people,
to defend our beloved country!
All honour to the warriors who live,
and eternal glory to those slain!
For our native home, our Russian land,
arise, ye Russian people!

(more…)

Published in: on May 14, 2015 at 5:30 am  Comments (3)  
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