Monday, October 17, 2016

Today in 1859: John Brown at Harpers Ferry

From the National Museum of American History:

Today in 1859: Abolitionist John Brown seizes the arsenal at Harpers Ferry, hoping to spark a slave uprising. This pike was among 950 pikes that John Brown acquired to arm slaves incited to rebel by his raid on Harpers Ferry.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Ronald White’s magisterial new biography offers a fresh view of Ulysses S. Grant (Boston Globe)

By Jordan Michael Smith GLOBE CORRESPONDENT  9/29/16

Ronald White’s magisterial new biography, weighing in at over 800 pages, is the newest heavyweight champion in this movement. White doesn’t explicitly say that Grant was a great president, but instead approvingly cites the favorable judgments of Frederick Douglass and Teddy Roosevelt. The latter, in fact, perhaps overexuberantly ranked Grant with Washington and Lincoln as leaders, ahead of Jefferson, Jackson, and Hamilton. [REVIEW]

Thursday, September 29, 2016

From the Lab: Civil War Blood (NYHS)

 From the Lab: Civil War Blood

The Story . . .
While processing the records of the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States, New York Commandery, we came across a poignant relic of the Civil War: a note passed between the lines at the Battle of Antietam, one of the bloodiest battles in the history of the nation.
The note was sent to the Loyal Legion by Union Captain William J. Carlton, who explains in an accompanying letter that while he was posted “in front of the little Dunker church” – the site of some of the sharpest fighting of the battle – a Confederate soldier approached with a flag of truce and handed over a note asking for the body of confederate Lieutenant Paul Newton.  The note, signed by Colonel A.H. Colquitt – a Georgian who after the war was elected to the U.S. Senate — describes Newton as “tall and well proportioned, has … blond hair and mustaches, with 2 stars on the collar of his coat.”
Carlton took the note to Union Generals William B. Franklin and Henry Warner Slocum, who agreed to comply with the request, and the body was sent across the lines.
The story doesn’t end there, though.  In a sad postscript, Carlton notes that the following morning, after the Confederates retreated into Virginia, he saw the body of Paul Newton with a number of other dead Confederate officers left abandoned on the field: “evidently they had not the means of transportation and had to leave their fallen comrades to be found in unknown graves.”
Click here to read the full article

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Remembering Rick Rescorla, an American soldier, on September 11

"You see, for Rick Rescorla, this was a natural death. People like Rick, they don’t die old men. They aren’t destined for that and it isn’t right for them to do so. It just isn’t right, by God, for them to become feeble, old, and helpless sons of bitches. There are certain men born in this world, and they’re supposed to die setting an example for the rest of the weak bastards we’re surrounded with."

Quoted from this New Yorker article from 2002, featuring Rescorla: "The Real Heroes are Dead, A Love Story," by James B. Stewart. Rescorla died on September 11, 2001 in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center towers, while helping others to safety.

He is the soldier pictured in the foreground of the dust jacket photo on the Moore and Gallagher book, We Were Soldiers Once and Young. 
In this 8-minute video, Rescorla discusses the Ia Drang battle (Vietnam War), and the future of warfare (terrorists).  

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

"Last photograph of Gen. Grant, four days before death"

Ulysses S. Grant, by John D. Gilman, 1885. National Portrait Gallery

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Medals of Honor — fathers and sons

Arthur MacArthur, Jr.
Arthur MacArthur, Jr., and his son, Douglas MacArthur, became the first father and son Medal of Honor recipients. Arthur MacArthur, 19-year-old first lieutenant of the 24th Wisconsin Infantry in the American Civil War, was awarded the Medal for actions in the Battle of Missionary Ridge, east of Chattanooga. In the stunning Union assault on November 25, 1863, MacArthur led his men with a shout of "On Wisconsin," and planted the regimental colors atop the ridge.

General Douglas MacArthur, 1940s,
by John Florea, Life Photo Collection
Douglas, 62-years-old when he was awarded the Medal, may be the oldest recipient. George Marshall penned his citation which read, in part:

"For conspicuous leadership in preparing the Philippine Islands to resist conquest. . . . He mobilized, trained, and led an army which has received world acclaim for its gallant defense against a tremendous superiority of enemy forces in men and arms. His utter disregard of personal danger under heavy fire and aerial bombardment, his calm judgment in each crisis, inspired his troops, galvanized the spirit of resistance of the Filipino people, and confirmed the faith of the American people in their Armed Forces.” 

"Eisenhower pointed out that MacArthur had not actually performed any acts of valor as required by law, but Marshall cited the 1927 award of the medal to Charles Lindbergh as a precedent" [Wikipedia].

Theodore Roosevelt, Jr.
The next father and son recipients were President Theodore Roosevelt and his son, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. While junior received the award posthumously for valor at Utah Beach, Normandy, in June, 1944 (Roosevelt died of a heart attack just over a month after D-Day), it wasn’t until 2001 that Teddy Roosevelt (likewise posthumously) received the award for actions at San Juan Hill in 1898. Read a fascinating four-part article on Roosevelt’s persistent efforts to receive the award here (note: the article was written a few years before 2001).

Teddy Roosevelt
Library of Congress