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Published in: on September 11, 2017 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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September 10, 1776: Nathan Hale Volunteers to Spy on the British

How beautiful is death, when earn’d by virtue!
Who would not be that youth? What pity is it
That we can die but once to serve our country.

Joseph Addison, Cato (1712)

 

 

 

At age 21 Captain Nathan Hale was already marked as  a man on the rise.  A graduate of Yale, he was an early advocate of advanced education for women and had taught a class of college level subjects to twenty young ladies prior to the War.  With the coming of the War he enlisted as a First Lieutenant in the 7th Connecticut regiment.  During the battle of Long Island he distinguished himself by leading a raid seeking to burn the frigate HMS Phoenix.  The raid failed in its main goal but several tenders of the frigate were destroyed and four cannon and six swivel guns were captured.

Due to his enterprise and courage Hale was invited to join the Ranger unit being formed by Colonel Thomas Knowlton.  The ancestral outfit of modern American Army Rangers, Knowlton’s Rangers specialized in reconnaissance and raids and were given their orders directly by General Washington.  On September 10, 1776 Knowlton brought to his officers a personal request from Washington that one of them volunteer to spy in New York to bring him back accurate intelligence on what the British army would do next.  His request was met with stony silence.  These were brave men, but they regarded the work of a spy morally dubious and a death by hanging if discovered, the fate of a common felon rather than a soldier.  Hale, the youngest man present, broke the silence and said simply that he would do it. Captain William Hull, later a Major General in the War of 1812, remonstrated with his friend:  “He said to him that it was not in the line of his duty, and that he was of too frank and open a temper to act successfully the part of a spy, or to face its dangers, which would probably lead to a disgraceful death.” Hale replied, “I wish to be useful, and every kind of service necessary to the public good becomes honorable by being necessary. If the exigencies of my country demand a peculiar service, its claim to perform that service are imperious.” (more…)

Published in: on September 10, 2017 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Goodbye Broadway, Hello France

Something for the weekend.  Goodbye Broadway, Hello France.  A century ago the first American units had landed in France, the vanguard of the American Expeditionary Forces that would grow to over two million men.  To commemorate this vast event, Billy Baskette composed this song in 1917 with C. Francis Reisner and Benny Davis writing the lyrics.  The song became one of the mega-hits of the War.

 

Greene Reports on the Battle of Eutaw Springs

 

The last major engagement of the Southern Campaign, the battle of Eutaw Springs was fought on September 8, 1781.  The sides were numerically evenly matched with each side having about 2000 men involved.  Although tactically a draw or a slight British victory, strategically the battle was an American victory with the British left in control of only Charleston and its environs.  Along with Savannah and Wilmington, the British attempt to conquer the South was clearly failing, a result only underlined by the surrender of Cornwallis in the following month.  Here is the text of General Greene’s report on the battle to Washington.

 

 

 

Head Quarters, Martins Tavern, near Fergusons swamp So. Carolina
September 11th 1781

Sir,

In my dispatch of the 25th of August I informed your Excellency that we were on our march for Frydays ferry to form a junction with the State Troops, and a Body of Militia collecting at that place; with an intention to make an attack upon the British Army laying at Col. Thompsons near McCords ferry. On the 27th on our arrival near Frydays ferry I got intelligence that the Enemy were retiring.

We crossed the River at Howells ferry, and took post at Mottes plantation. Here I got intelligence that the Enemy had halted at the Eutaw Springs about forty miles below us; and that they had a reinforcement, and were making preparations to establish a permanent post there. To prevent this I was determined rather to hazard an Action, notwithstanding our numbers were greatly inferior to theirs. On the 5th we began our march, our Baggage and Stores having been ordered to Howells ferry under a proper Guard. We moved by slow and easy marches; as well to disguise our real intention, as to give General Marion an opportunity to join us, who had been detached for the support of Col. Harding, a report of which I transmitted in my letter of the 5th dated at Maybricks Creek. General Marion joined us on the evening of the 7th at Burdells plantation, 7 miles from the Enemies Camp.

We made the following disposition, and marched at 4 o’Clock the next Morning to attack the Enemy. Our front line was composed of four small Battalions of Militia; two of North, and two of South Carolinians; one of the South Carolinians was under the immediate command of Genl. Marion, and was posted on the right, who also commanded the front Line; the two North Carolina Battalions under the command of Col. Malmady was posted in the center, and the other South Carolina Battalion under the command of General Pickens was posted on the left. Our second Line consisted of three small Brigades of Continental Troops, one from North Carolina, one from Virginia, and one from Maryland. The North Carolinians were formed into three Battalions under the command of Lieut. Col. Ash, Majors Armstrong and Blount, the whole commanded by General Sumner, and posted upon the right. The Virginians consisted of two Battalions commanded by Major Snead and Captain Edmonds and the whole by Lieutenant Colonel Campbell and posted in the center. The Marylanders also consisted to two Battalions, commanded [by] Lt. Colonel Howard and Major Hardman, and the Brigade by Col. Williams Dy. Adjutant General to the Army, and was posted upon the left. Lieut. Col. Lee with his Legion covered our right flank, and Lieut. Col. Henderson with the State Troops commanded by Lieutenant Colonels Hampton, Middleton, and Polk, our left. Lieutenant Col. Washington with his Horse and the Delaware Troops under Captain Kirkwood formed a Corps de reserve. Two three Pounders under Captain Lieutenant Gaines advanced with the front Line, and two fives under Captain Browne with the second.

The Legion and State Troops formed our advance and were to retire upon the flanks upon the Enemy’s forming. In this order we moved into the attack, the Legion and State Troops fell in with a party of the Enemy’s Horse and foot about four miles from their Camp, who mistaking our People for a party of Militia charged them briefly, but were soon convinced of their mistake by the reception they met with, the Infantry of the State Troops kept up a heavy fire, and the Legion under Captain Rudolf charged them with fixed Bayonets, they fled on all sides leaving four or five dead on the ground, and several more wounded. As this was supposed to be the advance of the British Army our front Line was ordered to form and move on briskly in Line, [while] the Legion and State Troops take their positions upon the Flanks. All the Country is covered with Timber from the place the Action began to the Eutaw Springs. The fight began again between two and three Miles from the British Camp. The Militia were ordered to keep advancing as they fired. The Enemies advanced parties were soon driven in, and a most tremendous fire began on both sides from right to left, and the Legion and State Troops were closely engaged. General Marion, Col Malmady and General Pickens conducted the Troops with great gallantry and good conduct and the Militia fought with a degree of spirit and firmness that reflected the highest honor upon this class of soldiers but the Enemies fire being greatly superior to ours, and continuing to advance, the Militias began to give ground. The North Carolina Brigade under General Sumner was ordered to their support. These were all new levees, and had been under discipline but little more than a month, notwithstanding which they fought with a degree of obstinacy that would do honor to the best of veterans, and I could hardly tell which to admire most, the gallantry of the Officers or the bravery of the Troops. They kept up a heavy and well directed fire, and the Enemy returned it with equal spirit, for they really fought worthy of a better cause, and execution was done on both sides. In this stage of the Action the Virginians under Lieut. Col. Campbell, and the Maryland Troops under Col. Williams were led on to a brisk charge with trailed Arms, through a heavy cannonade, and a shower of Musquett [sic] Balls. Nothing could exceed the gallantry and firmness of both Officers and Soldiers upon this occasion . They preserved their order, and pressed on with such unshaken resolution that they bore down all before them. The Enemy were routed in all quarters. Lt. Col. Lee had with great address, gallantry, and good conduct, turned the Enemys left flank and was charging them in rear at the same time the Virginia and Maryland Troops were charging them in front. A most valuable Officer Lieut. Col. Henderson got wounded early in the Action, and Lieut. Col. Hampton who commanded the State Cavalry, and who fortunately succeeded Lt. Col. Henderson in command, charged a party of the Enemy and took upwards of 100 Prisoners. Lieut. Col. Washington brought up the Corps de reserve up from the left, where the Enemy seemed disposed to make farther resistance, and charged them so briskly with the Cavalry and Captain Kirkwoods Infantry as gave them no time to rally or form. Lieutenant Colonels Polk and Middleton who commanded the State Infantry, were no less conspicuous for their good conduct, than their intrepidity and the Troops under their command gave a specimen of what may be expected from men naturally brave, when improved by proper discipline. Captain Lieutenant Gaines who commanded the three Pounders with the front Line did great execution, untill [sic] his pieces were dismounted. We kept close at the Enemy’s heels after they broke, untill [sic] we got into their Camp, and [a] great number of Prisoners were continually falling into our hands, and some hundreds of the fugitives run [sic]off towards Charles Town. But a party threw themselves into a large three story brick House which stands near the Spring, others took post in a picquetted Garden, while others were lodged in an inpenetrable thicket, consisting of a ragged Shrub called a black Jack. Thus secured in front, and upon the right by the House, and a deep Ravine upon the left by the Picquetted Garden, and in the impenetrable Schrubs, and the rear also being secured by the Springs and deep hollow ways, the Enemy renewed the Action. Every exertion was made to dislodge them, Lt. Col. Washington made most astonishing efforts to get through the Thicket to charge the Enemy in the Rear, but found it impracticable, had his Horse shot under him, and was wounded and taken Prisoner. Four six Pounders were ordered up before the House, two of our own, and two of the Enemy’s which they had abandoned, as they were pushed on [so much?] under the command of the fire from the House, and the party in the Thickett [sic] as rendered it impracticable to bring them off again when the Troops were ordered to retire. Never were pieces better served, most of the Men and Officers were either killed or wounded. Washington failing in his charge on the left, and the Legion baffled in an attempt upon the right, and finding our Infantry [galled?] by the fire of the Enemy, and our Ammunition mostly consumed, tho’ both Officers and Men continued to exhibit uncommon acts of heroism, I thought proper to retire out of the fire of the House and draw up the Troops at a little distance [?] the Woods, not thinking it advisable to p[ursue?] our advantage farther, being persuaded the Enemy could not hold the Post many Hours, and that our chance to attack them on the retreat was better than a second attempt to dislodge them, which, if we succeeded, it must be attended with considerable loss.

We collected all our Wounded except such as were under the command of the fire of the House, and retired to the ground from which we marched in the Morning, there being no Water nearer, and the Troops ready to faint with the heat, and want of refreshment, the Action having continued near four Hours. I left on the field of Action a strong Picquett, and early in the Morning detached General Marion, and Lt. Col. Lee with the Legion Horse between Eutaw and Charles Town, to prevent any reinforcements from coming to the relief of the Enemy, and also to retard their march should they attempt to retire, and give time for the Army to fall upon their Rear, and put a finishing stroke to our successes. We left two pieces of our Artillery in the hands of the Enemy, and brought off one of theirs.

On the Evening of the 9th the Enemy retired, leaving upwards of 70 of their Wounded behind them, and not less than 1000 stand of Arms that were picked up on the field, and found broke and concealed in the Eutaw Springs. They stove [in?] between 20 and 30 puncheons of Rum, and destroyed a great variety of other Stores which they had not carriages to carry off. We pursued them the moment we got intelligence of their retiring. But they formed a junction with Maj. McArthur at this place, General Marion, and Lieut. Col. Lee not having a force sufficient to prevent it. But on our approach they retired [to?] the neighbourhood of Charles Town. We have taken 500 Prisoners, including the Wounded the Enemy left behind; and I think they cannot have suffered less than 600 more in killed and Wounded. The Fugitives that fled from the field of Battle spread such an alarm that the Enemy burnt their Stores at Dorchester, and abandoned the Post at Fair Lawn, and a great number of Negroes and others were employed in falling Trees across the Road for some Miles without the Gates of Charles Town. Nothing but the brick House, and the peculiar strength of the position at Eutaw saved the remains of the British Army from being all made Prisoners.

We purued them as far as this place but not being able to overtake them we shall halt a Day or two to refresh; and then take our [old?] position on the high Hills of Santee. I think myself principally indebted for the victory we obtained to the free use of the Bayonet made by the Virginians and Marylanders, the Infantry of the Legion, and Captain Kirkwoods Light Infantry and tho’ few Armies ever exhibited equal bravery with our in general, yet the conduct and intrepidity of these Corps were peculiarly conspicuous. Lt. Col. Campbell fell as he was leading his Troops to the charge, and tho’ he fell with distinguished marks of honor, yet his loss is much to be regretted. He was the great Soldier and the firm patriot.

Our loss in Officers is considerably more from their value than their number, for never did either Men or Officers offer their blood more willingly in the service of their Country. I cannot help acknowledging my obligations to Col. Williams for his great activity on this and many other occasions in forming the Army, and for his uncommon intrepedity in leading on the Maryland Troops to the charge, which exceeded any thing I ever saw. I also feel myself greatly indebted to Captains Pierce, and Pendleton, Major Hyrne, and Captain Shubrick, my aids de Camp, for their activity and good conduct throughout the whole of the Action.

This dispatch will be handed your Excellency by Captain Pierce to whom I beg leave to refer you for further particulars.

I have the honor to be with the greatest respect,

Your Excellency’s
        most obedient and most humble servant

Nath. Greene

His Excely. the President of Congress

Published in: on September 8, 2017 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Grant Puts a Stop to Treason Trials

 

It is little remembered now, but in 1865 there was a brief attempt to conduct treason trials against Confederate generals. On June 7, 1865, U.S. District Judge John C. Underwood in Norfolk, Virginia issued indictments against Lee, Longstreet, Early and other Confederate generals on charges of treason. Lee wrote to General Grant asking if the terms granted at Appomattox were still in effect. Furious at this attempt to undo his work, Grant immediately wrote to Secretary of War Stanton:

In my opinion the officers and men paroled at Appomattox Court-House, and since, upon the same terms given to Lee, cannot be tried for treason so long as they observe the terms of their parole. This is my understanding. Good faith, as well as true policy, dictates that we should observe the conditions of that convention. Bad faith on the part of the Government, or a construction of that convention subjecting the officers to trial for treason, would produce a feeling of insecurity in the minds of all the paroled officers and men. If so disposed they might even regard such an infraction of terms by the Government as an entire release from all obligations on their part. I will state further that the terms granted by me met with the hearty approval of the President at the time, and of the country generally. The action of Judge Underwood, in Norfolk, has already had an injurious effect, and I would ask that he be ordered to quash all indictments found against paroled prisoners of war, and to desist from further prosecution of them. (more…)

Published in: on September 7, 2017 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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September 6, 1847 Thoreau Leaves Walden Pond

 

 

I have always been regretting that I was not as wise as the day I was born.

Henry David Thoreau

 

 

Henry David Thoreau has always struck me as one of the most buffoonish and over-rated characters in American history. His aunt paying his taxes for him so his great tax protest over the Mexican War lasted all of one night, his accidental setting of a fire that consumed 300 acres of Walden woodlands, Thoreau contracting the tuberculosis that would kill him as a result of a middle of the night excursion to count tree rings and the pacifist Thoreau writing a pamphlet in which he claimed that John Brown, a murderer, embezzler, cattle thief and congenital liar, was humane are only a few of the many episodes in his life that are worthy of a great satirical novel. (more…)

Published in: on September 6, 2017 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Darkest Hour

 

You ask, what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory. Victory at all costs—Victory in spite of all terror—Victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival.

Winston Churchill, May 13, 1940

The second Winston Churchill movie this year will appear in the US at Thanksgiving. The first was a bigger bomb than any dropped by the RAF in World War II. Go here to read British historian Andrew Robert’s scorching review. However Darkest Hour, starring Gary Oldham in the title role, looks magnificent. It focuses on Churchill’s role in summoning the British people to fight on alone after the Fall of France.

If the English had negotiated peace with Nazi Germany in 1940, I have no doubt that Hitler would likely have conquered the Soviet Union in the next year. In circa 1948-1952 the US might have faced Japan and a nuclear armed Nazi Germany, controlling Europe and the former Soviet Union, with missile technology, and the world may well have been a much darker place indeed after the rubble settled from such a conflict. The resolution of one man, Churchill, likely changed history for the better, and no greater accolade can be given to any statesman. I am looking forward to seeing this film with great anticipation.

Published in: on September 5, 2017 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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1894 First Federal Labor Day

 

The late nineteenth century was a time of labor unrest in the United States and in much of the Western world.  A holiday to honor workers had been recognized in many states.  In 1894 legislation was rushed through Congress creating a national labor day holiday on the first Monday in September.  This was a small step in separating the American labor movement from socialist and proto-Communist movements with their May Day observations.  Ironically, Cleveland signed the legislation on June 28, 1894 in the wake of the violent, on both sides, national Pullman strike which would take several lives.  A nervous Congress passed the legislation in six days, which is close to a miracle of swiftness where Congress is concerned.  The new holiday quickly became a hit, with picnic lunches and ball games featuring a farewell to Summer.  Americans have a genius for taking events that initially divided them, the Declaration of Independence, and turning them into celebrations enjoyed by all, and Labor Day, now as American as all the hot dogs and apple pie consumed during Labor Day weekend, is part of that tradition. (more…)

Published in: on September 4, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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September 7, 1903: Labor Day Speech by Theodore Roosevelt

 

 

In speaking on Labor Day at the annual fair of the New York State Agricultural Association, it is natural to keep especially in mind the two bodies who compose the majority of our people and upon whose welfare depends the welfare of the entire State. If circumstances are such that thrift, energy, industry, and forethought enable the farmer, the tiller of the soil, on the one hand, and the wage-worker on the other, to keep themselves, their wives, and their children in reasonable comfort, then the State is well off, and we can be assured that the other classes in the community will likewise prosper. On the other hand, if there is in the long run a lack of prosperity among the two classes named, then all other prosperity is sure to be more seeming than real.

It has been our profound good fortune as a nation that hitherto, disregarding exceptional periods of depression and the normal and inevitable fluctuations, there has been on the whole from the beginning of our government to the present day a progressive betterment alike in the condition of the tiller of the soil and in the condition of the man who, by his manual skill and labor, supports himself and his family, and endeavors to bring up his children so that they may be at least as well off as, and, if possible, better off than, he himself has been. There are, of course, exceptions, but as a whole the standard of living among the farmers of our country has risen from generation to generation, and the wealth represented on the farms has steadily increased, while the wages of labor have likewise risen, both as regards the actual money paid and as regards the purchasing power which that money represents.

Side by side with this increase in the prosperity of the wage-worker and the tiller of the soil has gone on a great increase in prosperity among the business men and among certain classes of professional men; and the prosperity of these men has been partly the cause and partly the consequence of the prosperity of farmer and wage-worker. It cannot be too often repeated that in this country, in the long run, we all of us tend to go up or go down together. If the average of well-being is high, it means that the average wage-worker, the average farmer, and the average business man are all alike well-off. If the average shrinks, there is not one of these classes which will not feel the shrinkage. Of course, there are always some men who are not affected by good times, just as there are some men who are not affected by bad times. But speaking broadly, it is true that if prosperity comes, all of us tend to share more or less therein, and that if adversity comes each of us, to a greater or less extent, feels the tension.

Unfortunately, in this world the innocent frequently find themselves obliged to pay some of the penalty for the misdeeds of the guilty; and so if hard times come, whether they be due to our own fault or to our misfortune, whether they be due to some burst of speculative frenzy that has caused a portion of the business world to lose its head -a loss which no legislation can possibly supply- or whether they be due to any lack of wisdom in a portion of the world of labor–in each case, the trouble once started is felt more or less in every walk of life. (more…)

Published in: on September 3, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments (1)  
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Heave Ho My Lads

 

Something for the weekend.  Heave Ho My Lads sung by cadets of the United States Merchant Marine Academy.

Labor Day weekend seems a fitting time to recall again the United States Merchant Marine.  The civilian fleet that carries imports and exports to and from the US, during war time it becomes an auxiliary of the Navy to ship troops and war supplies.  Officers of the Merchant Marine are trained at the Merchant Marine Academy, founded in 1943, at King’s Point, New York.

Technically civilians, one out of 26 merchant mariners died in action during World War II, giving them a higher fatality rate than any of the armed services.   Members of the Merchant Marine were often jeered  as slackers and draft dodgers by civilians when they were back on shore who had no comprehension of the vital role they played, or how hazardous their jobs were.  Incredibly, these gallant men were denied veteran status and any veteran benefits because they were civilians.  This injustice was not corrected until 1988 when President Reagan signed the Merchant Marine Fairness Act.  Some 9,521 United States Merchant Mariners were killed during World War II, performing their duty of keeping the sea lanes functioning in war, as in peace. (more…)

Published in: on September 2, 2017 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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