April 15, 1865: Death of Lincoln

Death of Lincoln

Due to an assassin’s bullet, the story of Abraham Lincoln came to an end one hundred and fifty-four years ago.  Gideon Welles, Secretary of the Navy, noted in his diary the last few hours of our sixteenth president:

 

 

“The President had been carried across the street from the theater to the house of a Mr. Peterson. We entered by ascending a flight of steps above the basement and passing through a long hall to the rear, where the President lay extended on a bed, breathing heavily. Several surgeons were present, at least six, I should think more. Among them I was glad to observe Doctor Hall, who, however, soon left. I inquired of Doctor Hall, as I entered, the true condition of the President. He replied the President was dead to all intents, although he might live three hours or perhaps longer.

The giant sufferer lay extended diagonally across the bed, which was not long enough for him. He had been stripped of his clothes. His large arms, which were occasionally exposed, were of a size which one would scarce have expected from his spare appearance. His slow, full respiration lifted the clothes with each breath that he took. His features were calm and striking. I had never seen them appear to better advantage than for the first hour, perhaps, that I was there. After that his right eye began to swell and that part of his face became discolored.

Senator Sumner was there, I think, when I entered. If not he came in soon after, as did Speaker Colfax, Mr. Secretary McCulloch, and the other members of the cabinet, with the exception of Mr. Seward. A double guard was stationed at the door and on the sidewalk to repress the crowd, which was of course highly excited and anxious. The room was small and overcrowded. The surgeons and members of the cabinet were as many as should have been in the room, but there were many more, and the hall and other rooms in the front or main house were full. One of these rooms was occupied by Mrs. Lincoln and her attendants, with Miss Harris. Mrs. Dixon and Mrs. Kinney came to her about twelve o’clock. About once an hour Mrs. Lincoln would repair to the bedside of her dying husband and with lamentation and tears remain until overcome by emotion. (more…)

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Published in: on April 15, 2019 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Triumph of the Cross

In Hoc Signo Vinces

(This is my regular post for Palm Sunday which I repost each year.  Have a happy and blessed Palm Sunday and Holy Week.)

9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion, shout for joy, O daughter of Jerusalem: BEHOLD THY KING will come to thee, the just and saviour: he is poor, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. 10 And I will destroy the chariot out of Ephraim, and the horse out of Jerusalem, and the bow for war shall be broken: and he shall speak peace to the Gentiles, and his power shall be from sea to sea, and from the rivers even to the end of the earth.

Thus did the prophet Zechariah, writing half a millennium before, predict the entry of Christ into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.  How many such glorious entrances into cities have there been over the ages?  Every civilization I am aware of has such ceremonies, either parades in peace time or entrances of conquest or liberation in war time.  The Romans turned this into an art form with their triumphs, with the reminder of the slave to the imperator of  fleeting human mortality: “Respice post te, hominem memento te”.

Few such triumphs have turned into utter disaster as quickly as that of Jesus:  Jerusalem at His feet on Sunday, and Christ dead on a Roman Cross before the sun had set on Friday.  Small wonder that no contemporary historian or chronicler at the time took note.  However some sort of official report probably was filed after the crucifixion.  Writing circa 116 AD, and relying heavily on official records for his history, in regard to the great fire at Rome under Emperor Nero Tacitus states:

“15.44.2. But, despite kindly influence, despite the leader’s generous handouts, despite appeasing the gods, the scandal did not subside, rather the blaze came to be believed to be an official act. So, in order to quash the rumour, Nero blamed it on, and applied the cruelest punishments to, those sinners, whom ordinary people call Christians, hating them for their shameful behaviour. 15.44.3. The originator of this name, Christ, was sentenced to torture by Procurator Pontius Pilate, during the reign of Tiberius, but although checked for a moment, the deadly cult erupted again, not just in Judaea, the source of its evil, but even in Rome, where all the sins and scandals of the world gather and are glorified.”

Tacitus, clearly hostile to the Christians, points his finger at one of the great mysteries of history.  In human terms the Jesus movement was nipped in the bud at its inception.  Yet in less than three centuries the Roman emperor bowed before the cross.  The triumph of Palm Sunday led only to disaster, and the humiliation and death of the cross led to triumph in eternity and here on Earth.

For we Catholics, and for all other Christians, no explanation of this paradoxical outcome is needed.  However there is much here to ponder for non-believers and non-Christians.  In purely human terms the followers of Christ had no chance to accomplish anything:  no powerful supporters, no homeland embracing their faith, cultures, both Jewish and Gentile, which were hostile to the preaching of the Gospels, other religions which were well-established, the list of disadvantages could go on at considerable length.  We take the victory of Christianity for granted because it happened.  We forget how very improbable such a victory was. Even more improbable is that what began on Palm Sunday, the triumph of Jesus, has continued till today in spite of all challenges that two thousand years of human folly could cast up.  How very peculiar in mortal terms!

Let us give the last word to the patron saint of paradox G. K. Chesterton: (more…)

Published in: on April 14, 2019 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Requiescat in Pace: Colonel Richard Cole

Inevitable but sad:

Sad news—the last Doolittle Raider has died. Lt. Col. Richard Cole passed away Monday at the age of 103.

Cole was the final surviving member of the daring raid on Tokyo by carrier-launched B-25s. As I wrote for his 100th birthday in 2015:

Col. Richard Cole was the co-pilot of “Crew 1,” which means he sat alongside Col. Jimmy Doolittle at the tip of the tip of the American spear aimed at Imperial Japan. The Doolittle Raid on April 18, 1942, was a virtual suicide mission. It was a daring sea-launched bombing mission in the earliest days of World War II.

After Pearl Harbor, Americans were desperate to hit back, and that first hit was the Doolittle Raid. Sixteen Army Air Force B-25s took off from the USS Hornet to hit multiple Japanese cities. The plan was to fly to China because a B-25 could not land on an aircraft carrier. Only one of the 16 planes actually landed safely — in the Soviet Union. The fate of the rest of the crews was a story of heroism and sacrifice.

Many didn’t survive. Some were beheaded by the Japanese. The Japanese burned entire towns in occupied China that helped the Raiders.

Go here to read the rest.

 

 

Seventy-seven years ago 80 very brave Americans, led by Army Air Corps Lieutenant Colonel James H. Doolittle, brought the nation a badly needed morale boost.  The War in the Pacific was going badly as defeat followed defeat.  Navy Captain Francis Low hit upon a plan to send a message, not only to the American public, but also to Japan, that the United States was not beaten and that it would strike back and prevail.

16 Mitchell B-25B bombers were placed on the carrier USS Hornet.  In great secrecy the Hornet and its escorts steamed to within 650 nautical miles of Japan when the force was discovered by a Japanese picket boat which was sunk by gunfire from the USS Nashville.  Fearing discovery the Doolittle force launched immediately, some 10 hours earlier than planned, and 170 nautical miles further from Japan.

The raiders reached the Japanese Home Islands at around noon.  They had split up into groups ranging from two to four planes and struck targets in Tokyo, Yokohama, Yokosuka, Nagoya, Kobe and Osaka.  The raiders then planned to fly their planes into Nationalist controlled China and make their way back to the US.  Miraculously 69 of the raiders did just that.  Three of the raiders died and eight were captured.

Of the captured raiders, three were executed by the Japanese on October 15, 1942 following a show trial.

 

 

The remaining five POWs were placed on starvation rations, with one of them dying prior to liberation by the Allied forces at the end of the War.  Jacob DeShazer, one of the POWs, came back to Japan as a missionary in 1948 and worked there for 30 years spreading the Gospel. (more…)

All Glory, Laud and Honor

 

Something for the weekend.  Always a favorite on Palm Sunday, All Glory, Laud and Honor has a long history.  Theodulf was Bishop of Orleans under Charlemagne.  Running afoul of his son Louis, he was thrown into prison.   Theodulf wrote the hymn in 820 while incarcerated.  Released the same year, he died in 821 on his way to resume his ecclesiastical duties in Orleans.  The tune to which the hymn is sung was composed by Melchior Teschner in 1603.  The commonly used English translation was written by John Neale in 1851.

Published in: on April 12, 2019 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Why Did the South Lose the Civil War?

Why The South Lost the Civil War, a companion book to the earlier How The North Won, by Archer Jones, Herman Hattaway, Richard E. Berenger and William M. Still, Jr,  published in 1986  has always struck me as giving one of the worst answers to the question of “Why did the South lose the Civil War?”   The thesis of this book is that the South lost the War because of insufficient nationalism. To call this argument preposterous is to be kind. Out of a white population of nine million the South lost a quarter of a million dead and many times that number in wounded. The South kept fighting until every Southern city was controlled by the Union. A small agrarian nation, the South fought a large, industrialized nascent world power. Unbelievably the South came close to winning this unequal contest. To contend that the South failed because of lack of will is ahistoric and a contemptible insult to the brave rebels who fell under the stars and bars. A better judge of Southern will during that war was General Grant who, while attacking the Southern cause, admitted that never had men fought harder for a cause than the Southerners. (more…)

Published in: on April 11, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments (9)  
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April 10, 1865: Lee’s Farewell to the Army of Northern Virginia

Starving army,
Who, after your best was spent and your Spring lay dead,

Yet held the intolerable lines of Petersburg
With deadly courage.
                    You too are a legend now
And the legend has made your fame and has dimmed that fame,
–The victor strikes and the beaten man goes down
But the years pass and the legend covers them both,
The beaten cause turns into the magic cause,
The victor has his victory for his pains–
So with you–and the legend has made a stainless host
Out of the dusty columns of footsore men
Who found life sweet and didn’t want to be killed,
Grumbled at officers, grumbled at Governments.
That stainless host you were not.  You had your cowards,
Your bullies, your fakers, your sneaks, your savages.
You got tired of marching.  You cursed the cold and the rain.
You cursed the war and the food–and went on till the end.
And yet, there was something in you that matched your fable.

Stephen Vincent Benet, John Brown’s Body

 

It was fitting that one of the great armies of American history would go out of that history with a salute from its commander, Robert E. Lee.

Against high odds Lee and his army had come close to creating a new nation.  Always outnumbered, with troops often dressed in rags, ill-fed, ill-supplied, he led his men to magnificent victories in the Seven Days, Second Manassas, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville.  Fighting another great general, Grant, he achieved a stalemate in 1864 against an army that had more than a two-to-one advantage, and prolonged the life of his country by almost a year.  A fighting general with a propensity for taking huge risks, he was also a humane man with unfailing courtesy for both friend and foe.  In this final order he told the men who loved him, how much he loved them: (more…)

PopeWatch: Sacred Betrayal

The most interesting tidbits about this Pope and the gang of villains he surrounds himself with tend to be in Spanish.  Edward Pentin gives us the latest:

The widow of a former dean of the Vatican diplomatic corps has written an exposé accusing one of Pope Francis’ closest aides of betraying her family and covering up for grave misconduct.

Martha Alegria Reichmann, whose late husband, Alejandro Valladares, was the Honduran ambassador to the Holy See for 22 years, explains in the book, Sacred Betrayal, how they were once close friends of Cardinal Óscar Rodriguez Maradiaga, the longtime archbishop of Tegucigalpa.

Her book, so far only in Spanish, chronicles how the cardinal, who is coordinator of the “council of cardinals” advising the Holy Father on Church reform, advised her to make a bad financial investment that caused her to lose her life savings. She also provides details of the cardinal’s support for Bishop Juan Josè Pineda, who has been accused of sexual abuse of seminarians, living in active homosexual relationships and financial impropriety. Pope Francis accepted Bishop Pineda’s resignation last July, but no details of any disciplinary measures have been revealed.

The Register spoke to Alegria March 26.

 

Mrs. Alegria, what are your reasons for writing this book?

First of all, because, following the fraud, I suffered; and the consequent betrayal of Cardinal Maradiaga to my family: I discovered a dark side in him, and I could not live in peace and serenity for the rest of my life without having made this public denunciation; because my Christian, ethical and moral principles did not allow me to keep quiet about such terrible things — that would have made me responsible for a cover-up; because to declare what I know and what they have done to me is not only a right that I have, but a duty; because I am a victim of the corrupt system that reigns in the current papacy.

I do not limit myself to telling my painful experience. I go much further because there are things that many people don’t know for lack of information; also, because the wicked triumph when the righteous are silent; and because God himself is being mocked.

 

Why did you choose the title Sacred Betrayal?

Because I have been betrayed by people who carry a sacred investiture: former Bishop Juan Josè Pineda, Cardinal Oscar Andrès Rodrìguez Maradiaga and Pope Francis — three people I trusted blindly. In my book, everything is very well explained and demonstrated. There’s no doubt that’s how it was.

Go here to read the rest.  PopeWatch is sure that the author and her late husband were pure as the driven slush in their dealings involving Maradiaga, and she seems to be coming forward now due to her grievance about losing a wad of cash in the investment recommended by Maradiaga, but you don’t find swans in sewers, and that is what crooks like Maradiaga have been busily transforming the Vatican into.

Published in: on April 10, 2019 at 3:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Tax Revolt 1676

In many ways Bacon’s Rebellion in Virginia in 1676 was an eerie first run, a century early, of the same type of conflicts which would lead to the American Revolution.  Complaints by colonists of high taxes, a Royal Governor acting in defiance of a colonial legislature, a Virginia planter leading the forces in revolt, etc.  It was also a fierce struggle for power between  Royal Governor William Berkeley, and Nathaniel Bacon, a new comer to the colony from England, who was the leader of the rebels.  If Bacon at 29 hadn’t died suddenly on October 26, 1676 of dysentery, it is hard to say how much larger a role he would have played in American history.  Without him the revolt collapsed and Berkeley wreaked a bloody vengeance, executing 23 men.  He was recalled the next year to England by Charles II, the Merry Monarch, according to tradition, quipping, “That old fool has put to death more people in that naked country than I did here for the murder of my father.”

Here is the Declaration of the People drawn up by Bacon on July 30, 1676 to explain why action had to be taken against Governor Berkeley.  I have always thought Jefferson borrowed parts of the style of this document in the indictments against the actions of King George III in the Declaration of Independence. (more…)

Published in: on April 9, 2019 at 5:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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April 8, 1865: Lee Rejects Guerrilla Warfare

On April 8, 1865 the last hope of escape for Lee’s army flickered out.  Union cavalry under Custer seized the critical supplies waiting for the Confederates at Appomattox Station.    Lee’s line of march to the west was now blocked as parts of three Union corps were making forced marches to reinforce Custer and would arrive on the morning of the ninth.  On the eighth Grant and Lee exchanged these letters:

APRIL 8, 1865

General R. E. LEE:

Your note of last evening, in reply to mine of same date, asking the condition on which I will accept the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, is just received. In reply I would say that, peace being my great desire, there is but one condition I would insist upon, namely, that the men and officers surrendered shall be disqualified for taking up arms again against the Government of the United States until properly exchanged. I will meet you, or will designate officers to meet any officers you may name for the same purpose, at any point agreeable to yell, for the purpose of arranging definitely the terms upon which the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia will be received.

U.S. GRANT,
Lieutenant-General.

________
 
HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF NORTHERN VIRGINIA,
APRIL 8, 1865

Lieut. Gen. U.S. GRANT:

I received at a late hour your note of to-day. In mine of yesterday I did not intend to propose the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, but to ask the terms of your proposition. To be frank, I do not think the emergency has arisen to call for the surrender of this army, but as the restoration of peace should be the sole object of all, I desired to know whether your proposals would lead to that end. I cannot, therefore, meet you with a view to surrender the Army of Northern Virginia, but as far as your proposal may affect the C. S. forces under my command, and tend to the restoration of peace, I should be pleased to meet you at 10 a.m., to-morrow; on the old stage road to Richmond, between the picket-lines of the two armies.

R. E. LEE,
General.

 

It was becoming clear to the officers of the Army of Northern Virginia that surrender loomed and most of them were heartsick at this fact.

 

We Americans today view the Civil War as part of our history.  If different decisions had been made at the end of that conflict, the Civil War could still be part of our current reality.  Just before the surrender at Appomattox, General Porter Alexander, General Robert E. Lee’s chief of artillery, broached to  Lee a proposal that the Army of Northern Virginia disband and carry out a guerrilla war against the Union occupiers.  Here history balanced on a knife edge.  If Lee had accepted the proposal, I have little doubt the stage would have been set for an unending war between the North and the South which would still be with us.  Douglas Southall Freeman, in his magisterial R. E. Lee, tells what happened next, based upon Alexander’s memoirs, Fighting for the Confederacy. (more…)

April 7, 1865: Surrender Correspondence Begins

Appomattox_Campaign_Overview

 

April 7, 1865 was a day of intense frustration for Robert E. Lee.  Hoping to feed his army with rations waiting at Farmville,  Union troops prevented that, crossing the Appomattox at bridges that Lee had ordered to be burned.  His army had no choice but to continue on its hungry way, the nearest rations being at Appomattox Court House some twenty-five miles away.  Longstreet in his memoirs recalled that dismal day.

 

I heard nothing of the affair at Sailor’s Creek, nor from General Lee, until next morning. Our work at Rice’s Station was not very serious, but was continued until night, when we marched and crossed the Appomattox at Farmville without loss, some of Rosser’s and Mumford’s cavalry following.  We crossed early in the morning and received two days’ rations,–the first regular issue since we left Richmond,–halted our wagons, made fires, got out cooking utensils, and were just ready to prepare a good breakfast. We had not heard of the disasters on the other route and the hasty retreat, and were looking for a little quiet to prepare breakfast, when General Lee rode up and said that the bridges had been fired before his cavalry crossed, that part of that command was cut off and lost, and that the troops should hurry on to position at Cumberland Church.

I reminded him that there were fords over which his cavalry could cross, and that they knew of or would surely find them. Everything except the food was ordered back to the wagons and dumped in.

Meanwhile, the alarm had spread, and our teamsters, frightened by reports of cavalry trouble and approaching fire of artillery, joined in the panic, put whips to their teams as quick as the camp-kettles were tumbled over the tail-boards of the wagons, and rushed through the woods to find a road somewhere in front of them. The command was ordered under arms and put in
quick march, but General Lee urged double-quick. Our cavalry was then engaged near Farmville, and presently came a reckless charge of Gregg’s troopers towards parts of Rosser’s and Mumford’s commands. Heth’s division of infantry was sent to support them. As the balance of the command marched, General Lee took the head of the column and led it on the double-quick.

I thought it better to let them pass me, and, to quiet their apprehensions a little, rode at a walk. General Mahone received the attack of part of the enemy’s Second Corps, like Gregg’s cavalry making reckless attack. The enemy seemed to think they had another Sailor’s Creek affair, and part of their attack got in as far as Poague’s battery, but Mahone recovered it,
and then drove off an attack against his front. General Gregg and a considerable part of his command were captured by Rosser and Mumford. At Cumberland Church the command deployed on the right of Poague’s battery, but Mahone reported a move by part of Miles’s division to turn his left which might dislodge him. G. T. Anderson’s brigade of Field’s division was sent with orders to get around the threatening force and break it up.  Mahone so directed them through a woodland that they succeeded in over-reaching the threatened march, and took in some three hundred
prisoners,[211] the last of our trouble for the day. General Lee stopped at a cottage near my line, where I joined him after night; the trains and other parts of his army had moved on towards Appomattox Court-House.

Just after sunset, a letter from General Grant arrived: (more…)