July 21, 1861: Battle of Bull Run-Lessons to Learn

 

The First Battle of Bull Run, or First Manassas, was the first major battle of the Civil War.  A Confederate victory, it gave lessons to those paying attention:

1.    It amply demonstrated the hazards of sending half-trained troops into combat.  Both the Union and Confederate armies were green, and it showed in clumsy battlefield maneuvers and  an inability to coordinate attacks.

2.   An early indication that it was much easier to defend and counter-attack than to launch an initial attack in the Civil War.

3.    Rifled muskets were going to make this an exceptionally bloody war.  5,000 Union and Confederate casualties resulted from this battle, just slightly below the total American killed and wounded for either the entire War of 1812 or the entire Mexican War.

4.    One able general, Stonewall Jackson in the case of Bull Run, could seize the initiative and turn the tide of a battle. (more…)

Roosevelt Ambushing Grim Reaper

 

Had death been French, then death had died to-day.

Henry VI Part I-Act 4, Scene 7

Published in: on July 20, 2017 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Robert E. Lee’s Greatest Victory

 

He was a foe without hate; a friend without treachery; a soldier without cruelty; a victor without oppression; and a victim without murmuring. He was a public officer without vices; a private citizen without wrong; a neighbor without reproach; a Christian without hypocrisy and a man without guile. He was a Caesar without his ambition; Frederick without his tyranny; Napoleon without his selfishness; and Washington without his reward.

Benjamin H. Hill on Robert E. Lee

 

 

“It’s a warm spring Sunday at Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church in Richmond. As the minister is about to present Holy Communion, a tall well-dressed black man sitting in the section reserved for African Americans unexpectedly advances to the communion rail; unexpectedly because this has never happened here before.

The congregation freezes. Those who have been ready to go forward and kneel at the communion rail remain fixed in their pews. The minister stands in his place stunned and motionless. The black man slowly lowers his body, kneeling at the communion rail.

After what seems an interminable amount of time, an older white man rises. His hair snowy white, head up, and eyes proud, he walks quietly up the isle to the chancel rail.

So with silent dignity and self-possession, the white man kneels down to take communion along the same rail with the black man.

Lee has said that he has rejoiced that slavery is dead. But this action indicates that those were not idle words meant to placate a Northern audience. Here among his people, he leads wordlessly through example. The other communicants slowly move forward to the altar with a mixture of reluctance and fear, hope and awkward expectation. In the end, America would defy the cruel chain of history besetting nations torn apart by Civil War.”

From “April 1865:  the Month that Saved America(more…)

Published in: on July 19, 2017 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Quotes Suitable for Framing: Abraham Lincoln

 

And, after that, the chunky man from the West,
Stranger to you, not one of the men you loved
As you loved McClellan, a rider with a hard bit,
Takes you and uses you as you could be used,
Wasting you grimly but breaking the hurdle down.
You are never to worship him as you did McClellan,
But at the last you can trust him.  He slaughters you
But he sees that you are fed.  After sullen Cold Harbor
They call him a butcher and want him out of the saddle,
But you have had other butchers who did not win
And this man wins in the end.

Stephen Vincent Benet, John Brown’s Body

 

“I appealed to Lincoln for his own sake to remove Grant at once, and, in giving my reasons for it, I simply voiced the admittedly overwhelming protest from the loyal people of the land against Grant’s continuance in command. I could form no judgment during the conversation as to what effect my arguments had upon him beyond the fact that he was greatly distressed at this new complication. When I had said everything that could be said from my standpoint, we lapsed into silence. Lincoln remained silent for what seemed a very long time. He then gathered himself up in his chair and said in a tone of earnestness that I shall never forget: ‘I can’t spare this man; he fights.‘”

Alexander McClure recalling a meeting with President Lincoln shortly after the Battle of Shiloh (more…)

July, Lincoln and Springfield

 

 

Last Friday my family and I made our annual pilgrimage to Springfield to attend the Lincoln Museum and go to the Lincoln Tomb.  As we made our way though the Museum we encountered, for the second year in a row, a large number of Amish touring the Museum, the women wearing long dresses and poke bonnets that made them look as if they stepped from the 1860s.  The Amish were obviously fascinated by what they were seeing and talked among themselves in “Pennsylvania Dutch”.   Illinois has had a large colony of Amish in the Arthur, Illinois area, about 72 miles from Springfield, since the 19th century.  (Although the Amish are as theologically as far from the Church as it is possible for Christians to be, I should note that I have a huge amount of respect for them.  They take care of their own, and ask nothing from the larger society in which they live, except to be left alone, a sentiment which resonates with me.)

After the museum, as usual we had a first rate lunch at the nearby The Feed Store.  (Nothing shouts Midwest more than eating in a restaurant with a name like that.)  (I highly recommend their barley soup, their tuna fish salad sandwich, and any of their many variants of cheesecake.)

We finished our day at Lincoln’s tomb praying for the repose of his soul and the souls of his wife and kids.)  Once again I thought to myself how nice it was that the first or second greatest President in our history, has his tomb in a cemetery open to all, where there are no guards, no charges for admission, not even for parking.  You simply pull up to the small parking area next to the tomb, go in and make your way through the tomb.  We owe Mary Todd Lincoln for that.  After Lincoln’s murder, there was an attempt to have Lincoln buried in Washington with a grand mausoleum being erected thereafter over his remains.  Mary Lincoln would have none of it.  She took her dead husband, and had the remains of her dead son Willie exhumed, and traveled with them both back to Springfield for burial.  She wanted nothing more from Washington except to get out of there as quickly as she could, a city where she had suffered grief that makes her such a poignant figure in American history.  (An exhibit in the Museum shows her framed by a rain stained window, sitting forlornly, mourning the loss of Willie.  My bride and I, sadly, having lost a son know precisely how she feels.)  We made sure to rub the nose of the nose of the huge bust of Lincoln outside of the tomb.  Most noses of Lincoln on metal statues and busts in Illinois are shiny due to the Illinois superstition that rubbing the nose of a bust or a statue of Lincoln brings good luck.  With my son taking the Illinois bar at the end of July, it can’t hurt.

It wouldn’t be a McClarey expedition if we didn’t buy books.  We bought books yesterday at the Museum and the Prairie Archives bookstore in Springfield which boasts a collection of a quarter of a million books. Most of the books were about Lincoln or the Civil War (surprise!) and here are those books:

Lincoln the President:  The Last Full Measure, J. G. Ballard and Richard N. Current (1955).  This is the fourth and final volume in Ballard’s study of Lincoln.  At the time of his death in 1953 he had written only eight chapters.  In his will he suggested either historian Allan Nevins or Richard N. Current to finish his work if he could not.  Current took up the challenge, even though he had never written about Lincoln before, and completed the volume in 1955.  He later became one of the great Lincoln scholars of his day, writing numerous books on Lincoln and dying in 2012 at age 100.  Now I have the complete set.  I think I will read it backwards like witches are said to say their prayers. (more…)

Published in: on July 17, 2017 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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July 16, 1769: Saint Junipero Serra Founds First Mission in California

 

By the 18th Century Spain’s glory days were in her past, and her time as a great power was rapidly coming to an end.  It is therefore somewhat unusual that at this period in her history, Spain added to her vast colonial empire.  It would never have occurred but for the drive of one Spanish governor and the burning desire of a saint to spread the Gospel of Christ.

Miquel Josep Serra i Ferrer was born on the island of Majorca, the largest of the Balearic islands, off the Mediterranean coast of Spain on November 24, 1713.  From his youth he had a desire to join the Franciscans and on September 14, 1730 he entered the Order of Friars Minor, and took the name of Junipero after Saint Junipero, one of the closest companions of Saint Francis.  He had a sharp mind, and before his ordination to the priesthood was appointed lector of philosophy.  He would go on to earn a doctorate in philosophy from Lullian University and went on to occupy the Duns Scotus chair of philosophy there.  A quiet life teaching philosophy was his for the asking.  Instead, he went off to be a missionary in the New World in 1749.

His first assignment was to teach in Mexico City, but that was not why he had left the Old World.  At his request he was assigned to the Sierra Gorda Indian missions in Central Mexico as a mission priest, a task which occupied him  for the next nine years.

In 1768 he was appointed the head of 15 Franciscans in Baja California who were taking over Jesuit missions to the Indians there, following the suppression of the Jesuit Order.  It was in Baja California that he met the Governor of that province, Gaspar de Portola. (more…)

Published in: on July 16, 2017 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Poor Kitty Popcorn

 

 

Something for the weekend.  One of the more bizarre songs to arise from our Civil War:  Poor Kitty Popcorn.  Sung by Bobby Horton who has a talent for resurrecting even the most obscure of Civil War tunes.

Published in: on July 15, 2017 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Bastille Day and Les Sammes

Uncle Sam shaking hands with the Marquis de Lafayette, French poster-1917

 

 

On Bastille Day 1917, General John J. Pershing reviewed French troops and pinned the Croix de Guerre on men who had earned the award by their valor.  The Star Spangled Banner and the Marseillaise were played and many of the civilian observers wept with joy and emotion that American help was on the way.  Today the French are honoring Les Sammes, as they are all year, who came to France in World War I to fight to keep France free.  US Marines will march down the Champs-Elysees with French troops in Paris, a symbol of the good relations that have usually existed between the old Allies.

 

Published in: on July 14, 2017 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Black Doughboys

 

“Once let the black man get upon his person the brass letter, U.S., let him get an eagle on his button, and a musket on his shoulder and bullets in his pocket, there is no power on earth that can deny that he has earned the right to citizenship.”

Frederick Douglass

 

National mobilization during World War I meant national mobilization and that included the black citizens of the United States.  In a time of virulent racism some 370,000 blacks were inducted into the Army, dwarfing the 180,000 blacks who served in the Union Army in World War I.  For the first time, over a thousand blacks earned commissions as officers.  Two hundred thousand black troops served in France during the War, most as laborers and stevedores, but many in combat units like the all black 92 and 93 Divisions.   German propaganda leaflets attempted to cause black troops to desert, pointing out, all too accurately, how badly blacks were treated in the United States and the Army.  The propaganda was ineffective, blacks usually fighting with distinction, despite the rampant race prejudice to which they were subjected.  White troops sometimes defended their black comrades from prejudice, especially on the home front.

The worst race riots in the nation’s history broke out in 1919.  The status quo of blacks in a permanent inferior status was beginning to break down, and black service in World War I gave a huge impetus to this process.

Published in: on July 13, 2017 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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The Home of the Future: 1999

 

 

The things you find on You Tube!  A film from 1967 predicting what a home of the far distant future (1999) would be like.  As one would expect, some on target predictions and some that are laughable in retrospect.

Published in: on July 12, 2017 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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