January 7, 1815: Old Hickory and Our Lady of Prompt Succor

 

When one thinks of Andrew Jackson, Our Lady of Prompt Succor and the Ursuline nuns do not spring to mind, but they should. (more…)

Advertisements

Winter

Something for the weekend.  The winter season is hard upon Central Illinois, and it seems an appropriate time for Vivaldi’s Winter.

 

 

Published in: on January 6, 2018 at 3:30 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

January 5, 1781: Benedict Arnold Takes Richmond

Benedict Arnold:  “What will the Americans do with me if they catch me?”

American Officer:  “They will cut off the leg which was wounded when you were fighting so gloriously for the cause of liberty, and bury it with the honors of war, and hang the rest of your body on a gibbet.”

Response of a captured American officer during Arnold’s Virginia campaign in January 1781 to a query by General Arnold

 

 

 

 

One of the more humiliating events in the American Revolution for the patriots was the seizure of Richmond, Virginia on January 5, 1781 by a largely Loyalist raiding party under American turncoat and traitor Benedict Arnold:

In pursuance of the orders which he had received, General Arnold sailed from Sandy Hook on the nineteenth of December, 1780[5], with the Eigtheenth or Edinburg regiment, under Lieutnant-colonel Dundas; the Queen’s Rangers, under Lieutenant-colonel Simcoe; a detachment from the New York Volunteers, under Captain Althause; and about two hundred men, whom the General had enlisted into his own corps, in New York, [6], the whole force embracing a force of sixteen hundred men.[7]. The troops were among the best in the service, and General Arnold might reasonably have felt proud of his command, had not the commander-in-chief, with commendable caution, manifested his distrust of the traitor, not only by the strictness of his orders, but by the appointment of “two officers of tried ability and experience, and possessing the entire confidence of their commander”–Colonel Dundas and Lieutenant Colonel Simcoe, –to accompany him, and to share, with him, the honors and responsibilities of the command. A violent gale, which occurred on the twenty-sixth and twenty-seventh, separated the fleet, but the scattered vessels, except three transports, on board of which were four hundred men, and one armed vessel, rejoined it off the Capes of the Chesapeake, and entered Hampton Roads on the thirtieth.

On the thirty-first, without waiting for the arrival of the transports, which were still at sea, the troops–about twelve hundred in number–were transferred to small vessels and boats, adapted to the navigation and proceeded up the James River under convoy of the Hope and Swift, two small armed vessels. Late in the evening of the third of January, 1781, the expedition came near Hood’s Point, on which a small party of fifty men had been stationed with three eighteen-pounders, one twenty-four pounder, and one brass eight-inch howitzer. When the vessels approached the Point this little force gallantly opened a heavy fire on them; and, as it was quite dark, the enemy had no means of knowing the strength or position of his opponents, he cast anchor until the next morning. While it was still dark, General Arnold ordered Lieutenant- colonel Simcoe to land with one hundred and thirty of the Queen’s Rangers, the light-infantry, and the grenadiers of the Eightieth regiment, and to attack the battery. With the greatest possible secrecy a landing was effected at about a mile from the Point, and, by a circuitous route, the troops were led to the attack; but the little garrison having heard the movement had retired, and the Rangers and their commander found no laurels in their victory. After spiking the guns, Lieutenant-Colonel Simcoe returned to the vessels, carrying with him the brass howizter, and the expedition moved up the river. On the next day (Jan. 4th) it anchored at Westover, about twenty- five miles below Richmond, where the troops were landed; and at two o’clock in the afternoon, the line of march to the latter place was taken up.

This descent of the enemy appears to have been entirely unexpected, and no provision had been made to guard against the contingency. When the fleet arrived, the State had no immediate means of defense, and the people appear to have been comparatively helpless. It is true that Governor Jefferson sent General Nelson to “the lower country” as soon as the presence of the fleet had become known, and had vested in him full “powers to call on the militia in that quarter, or act otherwise, as exigencies would require;” and it is no less true that General Steuben, supposing the stores at Petersburg were the objects of attack, employed about two hundred Continental troops, which he had under his command, to remove them beyond the reach of the invader. It is equally true, however,–and it was the source of evident mortification to the patriotic leaders in Virginia,–that the enemy moved into the heart of the country, accomplished his work, and retired with, comparatively no opposition, while every foot of his progress was susceptible of an obstinate and successful defence. The causes which have been assigned–the numerous impassable rivers which intersect “the lower country,” and the thinness of the population–in fact, furnish reasons against the surprise and disgrace with which she was then overtaken, and Virginia can never wholly excuse the apathy which was apparent throughout the entire extent of her central and lower counties.

The march of the enemy from Westover to Richmond was entirely unopposed,–the few militia who had responded to the orders which had been issued, being too weak to offer any effectual resistance, having fled as he approached,–and at one in the afternoon of the fifth of January, he entered the town.

About two hundred men had assembled, under Colonel John Nicholas, on the heights of Richmond Hill, near the venerable meeting-house of St. John’s Church; and Lieutenant-colonel Simcoe was ordered to dislodge them, but, without firing a shot, they fled in confusion when he reached the summit of the hill. A small body of cavalry, near the site of the capitol, on Shockoe Hill, who had been watching the movements of Colonel Dundas, also fled when they were approached.

Without halting at Richmond, after the dispersion of the militia, Lieutenant-colonel Simcoe, with his Rangers and the flank companies of the Eightieth regiment, pushed forward to Westham, six miles above, where were a fine foundry, laboratory, and workshops; while General Arnold and the main body remained at Richmond. As no resistance was offered, the expedition was perfectly successful, and, after destroying the greater part of the papers of the auditor’s office, and the books and papers of the council office–which had been removed thither for safety– together with five or six tons of gunpowder, the boring mill, workshops, public store, and foundry; knocking off the trunnions of some iron field pieces; and carrying off a few muskets, and some other articles, it returned to Richmond, where it arrived the same night.

In the mean time the main body, at Richmond had not been idle. With characteristic impudence the enemy had sent two citizens to Governor Jefferson, with an offer that he would not burn the city, provided the British vessels were allowed to come up the river and remove the tobacco from the warehouses without molestation. This proposition was instantly rejected; and, on the morning of the sixth, the public property and large quantities of private property, together with some buildings, both public and private, were destroyed.

The public loss was much less than has been generally supposed. Besides the destruction of the roof of the foundry, –the furnaces and chimneys of which remained uninjuried, — the magazine, boring-mill, four workshops, the public store, and quartermaster’s store, the public loss appears to have been confined to the books and papers of the council, the papers of the auditor’s office; five brass field pieces; one hundred and fifty stand of arms, from the loft of the capitol; the same number taken in a wagon; a small quantity of linen, cloth, &c.; some quartermasters’ stores, including one hundred and twenty sides of leather; the tools in the workshops; and three wagons. The loss to private individuals was much greater.

About noon, on the sixth of January, the enemy retired from the city, and the next day he reached Westover, without the loss of a man.

 

Chapter LXXX of Henry B. Dawson’s Battles of the United States, Volume I, New York, 1858, pp. 641-644.

Washington was so enraged by this event that he placed a 5,000 Guinea reward on the head of Arnold;  He ordered the Marquis de Lafayette, commanding American forces in Virginia, to immediately hang Arnold if he was captured; and  He had targets in the shape of Arnold distributed to the Continental troops to practice their marksmanship upon.

 

Published in: on January 5, 2018 at 5:26 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

On Caesar

(I originally posted this on The American Catholic, and I thought the history mavens of Almost Chosen People might enjoy it.)

 

Caesar was and is not lovable. His generosity to defeated opponents, magnanimous though it was, did not win their affection. He won his soldiers’ devotion by the victories that his intellectual ability, applied to warfare, brought them. Yet, though not lovable, Caesar was and is attractive, indeed fascinating. His political achievement required ability, in effect amounting to genius, in several different fields, including administration and generalship, besides the minor arts of wire pulling and propaganda. In all these, Caesar was a supreme virtuoso.

Arnold Toynbee

Among the gifts my bride gave me at Christmas was a copy of The Landmark Julius Caesar, a new translation of Caesar’s Gallic War and Civil War, along with The Alexandrine War, The African War and The Spanish War, authored by unknown contemporaries of Caesar, and which rounded out the tale of Caesar’s campaigns during the Civil War.  Go here to download 334 pages of essays on Caesar that accompany this volume.

 

Of all the “bold, bad men” that infest the pages of human history, Caesar has always had a special fascination for me.  He completed the suicide of the Roman Republic, that had been initiated a third of a century before he was born.  A man of genius, and so recognized by his contemporaries, he had not a scintilla of sentiment for the political forms that had governed Rome for perhaps five centuries and clearly had lived beyond their time.  It is beyond ironic that he did not live to create the new state that his life was clearly dedicated to bringing into being.  That task was left to his great nephew, the colorless Octavius, aka Augustus Caesar, who was devoid of military talent, but who knew how to make good use of men of genius in all spheres, and who, while creating permanent one-man rule in Rome, constantly proclaimed himself a Republican, and actually at one point proclaimed that he had restored the Republic.  (He had learned the lesson well of his great uncle’s assassination, that one man rule in Rome needed to be disguised and not flaunted, even if everyone could see through the fig leaf.)   Elite opinion in Rome was intensely Republican during his life, but almost all realized that a return to the Republic meant a return to endless Civil War.  Thus Octavian gave to Rome a century of civil peace, and banished from the ancient world the concepts of liberty that inspired  “the Glory that was Greece and the Grandeur that was Rome.”  Men like Caesar remind us how swiftly that political freedom can die an unmourned death.

 

SCOTT: I must confess, gentlemen. I’ve always held a sneaking admiration for this one.
KIRK: He was the best of the tyrants and the most dangerous. They were supermen, in a sense. Stronger, braver, certainly more ambitious, more daring.
SPOCK: Gentlemen, this romanticism about a ruthless dictator is
KIRK: Mister Spock, we humans have a streak of barbarism in us. Appalling, but there, nevertheless.
SCOTT: There were no massacres under his rule.
SPOCK: And as little freedom.
MCCOY: No wars until he was attacked.
SPOCK: Gentlemen.
KIRK: Mister Spock, you misunderstand us. We can be against him and admire him all at the same time.
SPOCK: Illogical.
KIRK: Totally. This is the Captain. Put a twenty four hour security on Mister Khan’s quarters, effective immediately.

Star Trek, Space Seed

 

 

Published in: on January 4, 2018 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags:

Dunkirk Is Ready For Its Close-up Mr. DeMille

I didn’t think much of the film Dunkirk (2017).  Go here to read my review.  I like it better as a re-imagined silent film.

 

 

Published in: on January 3, 2018 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
Tags: , ,

Theodore Roosevelt on 50-50 Loyalty

 

 

During World War I Theodore Roosevelt contributed what we would call op ed pieces to The Kansas City Star.  They make fascinating reading.  It is interesting how many of the issues he discusses remain hot topics today.  On March 2, 1918 he wrote about what he called 50-50 loyalty.  It should be noted that as a teenager Roosevelt had lived and studied in Germany and was fluent in German.  Here is the text of his piece: (more…)

Published in: on January 2, 2018 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,

January 1, 1753

January 1, 1753 was the first New Year’s Day on January 1 celebrated in the English Colonies in America.  Britain finally adopted the Gregorian Calendar, after almost two centuries of resistance to embracing this “popish” innovation, in 1752 when September 2, 1752 was followed by September 14, 1752.  The New Year, which had previously begun on March 25, would now begin on January 1.  All American school children owe a debt of gratitude to the fact that this change occurred prior to the American Revolution, so they are not plagued with distinguishing Old Style dates under the Julian calendar from New Style dates under the Gregorian calendar in that conflict.  An extra reason to celebrate today!

Published in: on January 1, 2018 at 5:08 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags:

Make the Sign of the Cross and Go In!

General William S. Rosecrans

My avatar when I blog and when I comment on blogs is Major General William Rosecrans.

Outside of his family, General William S. Rosecrans had three great passions in his life:  His religion, Roman Catholicism, to which he had converted as a cadet at West Point, the Army and the Union.  In the Civil War all three passions coincided.  Rising to the rank of Major General and achieving command of the Army of the Cumberland, until he was removed in the aftermath of the Union defeat at Chickamauga, Rosecrans conducted himself in the field as if he were a Crusader knight of old.

Raised a Methodist, Rosecrans’ conversion was a life long turning point for him.  He wrote to his family with such zeal for his new-found faith that his brother Sylvester began to take instruction in the Faith.  Sylvester would convert, become a priest, and eventually be the first bishop of Columbus, Ohio.

His most precious possession was his Rosary and he said the Rosary at least once each day. In battle the Rosary would usually be in his hand as he gave commands.  He had a personal chaplain, Father Patrick Treacy, who said Mass for him each morning and would busy himself the rest of the day saying masses for the troops and helping with the wounded.  In battle he exposed himself to enemy fire ceaselessly as he rode behind the General.   Rosecrans, after military matters were taken care of, delighted in debating theology with his staff officers late into the evening.

As a general Rosecrans was in the forefront of Union commanders until his defeat at Chickamauga.  His removal from command following the battle was controversial at the time and has remained controversial, some historians seeing in it a continuation by Grant, who was placed in charge of Chattanooga following Chickamauga, of his long-standing feud with Rosecrans.  Certainly Rosecrans had already drafted the plan followed by Grant to reopen the lines of supply to the Union forces in Chickamauga.  Go here to read a spirited defense of General Rosecrans which appeared in issue 401 of The Catholic World in 1898. (more…)

Published in: on December 31, 2017 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , ,

Auld Lang Syne

 

Something for the weekend.  Auld Lang Syne.  Written by the immortal Scots poet Bobby Burns in 1788, his poem captured perfectly the grandeur of human memory as it ponders the cherished past.  It is very appropriate that it has become an essential part of New Year’s Eve celebrations.  Here is his original version:

 

 

 

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

and never brought to mind ?

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

and auld lang syne ?

For auld lang syne, my jo (or my dear),

for auld lang syne,

we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness

for auld lang syne.

And surely ye’ll be your pint-stowp !

and surely I’ll be mine !

And we’ll tak a cup o’ kindness yet,

for auld lang syne.

We twa hae run about the braes,

and pu’d the gowans fine ;

But we’ve wander’d mony a weary fit,

sin auld lang syne.

We twa hae paidl’d i’ the burn,

frae morning sun till dine;

But seas between us braid hae roar’d

sin auld lang syne.

And there’s a hand, my trusty fiere!

and gie’s a hand o’ thine !

And we’ll tak a right gude-willy waught,

for auld lang syne.

Translated into Sassenach: (more…)

Published in: on December 30, 2017 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: ,

Arlington at Christmas

 

 

I  choked up when I saw the above.  Go here to learn more about Wreaths Across America.

Go tell the Spartans, passerby:
That here, by Spartan law, we lie.

Simonides, Epitaph for the Spartan dead at Thermopylae

 

Published in: on December 29, 2017 at 3:14 am  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , ,