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

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Captain Jack's Stronghold (Modoc War of 1872-1873)

The Modoc War of 1872-73 

The Medicine Flag today, and 143 years ago. 

Captain Jack's Stronghold. 

From Modoc War, by Erwin N. Thompson, after the soldiers had driven the Modoc band from the stronghold:

"Among the bones, rags, and wickiups there was little of the loot of war that appealed to the collector instinct among soldiers. However there was one trophy that assumed importance in their minds — the "medicine flag." At three different high points in the Stronghold the Modocs had erected these emblems, the guarantors of victory. One in particular, standing on one of the highest rocks, had long been visible to the soldiers, and to them it had become a symbol of Modoc defiance, the enemy's regimental colors as it were.

The troops captured this medicine flag on the last day of the fight. It was no star-spangled eagle embroidered on a field of blazing color. Simpson, realizing its importance as a symbol, drew and described it as consisting of a "mink's skin and hawk's feathers with medicine bead." These were fastened to the end of a stick "about four feet long, and is just as it was cut from the tree." He said that the small white bead had been placed among the feathers, and the pole "stood on a heap of stones during the fighting." After the battle, a photographer took a picture of two soldiers standing on the "medicine rock." This rock may still be identified today toward the northeastern end of the Stronghold. It is quite possible that the medicine flag fluttered from here during the battle. Its capture and removal symbolized the soldiers' success in taking the Stronghold. But that was all it symbolized. The Modocs were still their own masters, somewhere in the lava beds to the south."

More images of Captain Jack's Stronghold from my recent visit to the Lava Beds National Monument (what happens in Siskiyou County, stays in Siskiyou County).

Captain's Jack's Cave

Friday, August 19, 2016

Men Go to Battle (film)

Still from Men Go to Battle

Men Go to Battle

August 19, 2016 | by 
A small-budget film dramatizes the passive motives of Civil War enlistees.
Men Go to Battle, currently playing in a small number of theaters, is unusual among Civil War movies in that it dares to dramatize the established truth that the war was fought largely by people who harbored no particular ideology whatsoever. Civil War movies are typically about people like Abraham Lincoln (Lincoln), Robert Gould Shaw (Glory), Robert E. Lee (Gettysburg), the founders of the Ku Klux Klan (Birth of a Nation), and principled Southern defectors (this summer’s pedantic Free State of Jones), that is, people who cherish strong beliefs of one kind or another and take a stand. Henry Mellon stands for nothing. But he fights in the Battle of Perryville, at once panicked and sleepy-eyed, marching into artillery fire, shooting his rifle at Braxton Bragg’s line of gray, which must be somewhere out there on the far side of the cloudy explosions...
Read the full article here