In 2017, when Donald Trump predicted the removal of Confederate monuments would lead to attacks on George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, he was roundly ridiculed in the media. This blog was not particularly enamored with the 45th President, but look where we are today. Everyone from rioters in the streets to US Senators are calling for monuments to our Founders to be removed.
It was never just about Confederate monuments. We can all agree that memorials to the Confederacy have no place on public grounds. Rather, this was always about a radical revision of American history. The demand that all historical figures be measured by our modern sensibilities. Those who do not meet the current politically correct standard must be removed.
Questioning the “woke” mob will only expose you to social media harassment and ridicule. Rather than debate, there is pandering to these newly designated cultural assessors. A descendant of Thomas Jefferson called for his memorial to be removed in the New York Times(he called himself a direct descendant, but Jefferson has none, but I digress.)
Thomas Jefferson was a man of many contradictions, and like everyone, he had flaws. But he is absolutely essential in telling the American story. He gave us our creed; crafted words that changed not only our history, but the history of the world. He was the first to admit that the sentiments were not his alone, but he was able to mold the many liberal ideals of the enlightenment into a statement that could transcend mere politics. The foolishly convenient calls for his removal from our national story, even by members of his extended family, are grounded in a fallacy. The erroneous belief that we possess all the answers, that our interpretations are just and final. History does not belong to the self-righteous few. Jefferson belongs to us all.
I have always thought that the Copperhead Movement in the North, those Northerners who believed that war to preserve the Union was wicked and/or futile, had a great deal of potential strength and it is something of a puzzle as to why it did not have a greater impact on the War. One reason is that the Copperhead political leadership tended to be second raters at best. A case in point is Clement Vallandigham, a Congressman of Ohio, and most definitely the most famous Copperhead.
Ironically a personal friend of Edwin Stanton before the War, Vallandigham served for one term in the Ohio legislature before being elected to the House of Representatives in 1858, after a disputed election loss in 1856. Re-elected to the House in 1860, he became famous throughout the nation for his fiery speeches opposing the war policies of the Lincoln administration and condemned what he viewed as the administration’s infringement on civil liberties. Vallandigham lost…
Boeing B-29 Superfortress “Bockscar” at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. This was the B-29 that dropped the atomic bomb, nicknamed “Fat Man”, on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. Bockscar was commanded by Maj. Charles W. Sweeney. Its single atom bomb destroyed approximately 44% of Nagasaki, killing 35,000 people and injuring 60,000.
Jefferson loved two women in his life… both brought him periods of blissful happiness and profound sadness. Through all the sadness, Jefferson’s optimism could always be felt- He told his second love, Maria Cosway in 1786:
“Heaven has submitted our being to some unkind laws. When those charming moments were present which I passed with you, they were clouded with the prospect that I was soon to lose you… I am determined when you come next not to admit the idea that we are ever to part again… May your days be many and filled with sunshine, may your heart glow with warm affections… Write to me often- write affectionately and freely as I do to you. Say many kind things and say them without reserve. They will be food for my soul…
Major Sullivan Ballou of the 2nd Rhode Island Volunteers was mortally wounded leading his regiment on Mathews Hill during the First Battle of Bull Run. Solid shot from a Rebel battery smashed his right leg beyond repair. The shattered limb was amputated later that afternoon; Ballou died on July 28th. He was buried near the Sudley Springs Church in a spare coffin.
Rhode Island Governor William Sprauge led a detachment of 75 troops to the Church the following Spring. Their mission was to recover the remains of their fallen comrades. Local witnesses described the horrific events of that Winter. Rebel soldiers had exhumed the body of a Federal officer, robbed it, and desecrated the corpse. The party initially believed it to be the remains of Regimental commander Colonel John Slocum. Slocum’s body was in tact and properly exhumed by the party. Troopers discovered discarded clothing belonging to the Major Ballou. A young girl led them to a fire pit where the corpse was burned. Another witness provided Sprague with a lock of hair she managed to remove from Ballou’s head, before the Rebels severed it.
Governor Sprague was appalled at the actions of the Rebels(most likely soldiers in the 21st Georgia) and testified before a Congressional Committee investigating the allegations. Feeble attempts to attribute the desecration to American Indians in the employ of the Confederate government were easily dispelled by numerous eyewitnesses to the widespread grave robbing.
The historical record has been muddied by the sensational press coverage of the hearings and the later focus on Ballou’s heartfelt letter to his wife, Sarah. The Wikipedia entry for Ballou erroneously attributes the event as “Northern Propaganda.” The fact remains that Major Ballou’s corpse was robbed and desecrated by Rebel soldiers.
Relief sculpture on the Irish Brigade monument, Bloody Lane, at Antietam National Battlefield. The Irish Brigade, consisting of the 63rd New York Infantry, 69th New York Infantry, 28th Massachusetts Infantry,116th Pennsylvania Infantry, and 88th New York Infantry regiments, was first commanded by Colonel Michael Corcoran, then Brigadier General Thomas Francis Meagher, and finally Colonel Patrick Kelly. It experienced one of the highest casualty rates in the Civil War.
Ulysses S. Grant was never happier than with his beloved wife and children.
USG & Julia: The Long Courtship
For Second Lt. Ulysses S. Grant, it was truly love at first sight when he met Julia Dent. Her brother Fred had been his West Point roommate. Being stationed after graduation at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis, USG took a courtesy ride out to meet Dent’s family, who lived about ten miles from town. The Dents welcomed him warmly, and encouraged him “not to be a stranger,” and the 21-year-old soldier, unaccustomed to close family dynamics, began coming for Sunday dinner every couple of weeks.,
He finally met the eldest Dent sister (four brothers/three sisters, in that order) a few months later, when she graduated from finishing school. She was just shy of eighteen. The attraction between Grant and the plain young…
William S. Rosecrans fought nearly perfect campaign forcing his Confederate opponent out of Tennessee. When the newly reinforced Confederates finally turned to fight Southeast of Chattanooga, he and his subordinates were unprepared for the strategic implications.
George H. Thomas, “The Rock of Chickamauga,” is justly praised for his dogged defense of Horseshoe Ridge on September 20. But, his earlier failure to grasp tactical realities on his front, his near compulsion with protecting his left flank, clouded the decision making of the man who most trusted his judgment, Rosecrans. Thomas’s tunnel vision weakened the rest of the Union position.
Recent scholarship on the battle inexplicably gives Thomas Wood a pass for his discreditable decision making on September 20. This in large part is due to his service record(and favorable mentions in Grant’s memoirs) after the battle. Handed a discretionary order, he made the unfathomable choice to exercise no discretion at all. He had an axe to grind with his commander and blindly obeying this order, with all its pettiness, doomed the Army of the Cumberland.
Rosecrans was a trusting soul, often loyal to a fault. James A. Garfield joined the Army at the outset of the campaign accepted the offer to become Rosecrans’s Chief of Staff. Rosecrans took a liking to the ambitious brigadier, but Garfield was only partially up to the task. During the heat of battle, Garfield was preoccupied with writing orders, losing track of the many moving parts of headquarters- confusion ruled the day under his watch. His insistence that Rosecrans push on to Chattanooga and not join Thomas at Horseshoe Ridge was most fortuitous for his career.
Secretary of War Edwin Stanton did not trust Rosecrans leading an army- going as far as dispatching a spy, Charles Dana, to inform on all Rosecrans’s decisions. The War Department knew of Longstreet’s movement west within days of it beginning. Rosecrans was not notified of the movement until after crossing the Tennessee river into Georgia. There would be no time to counter the deployment with any other Union troops.
Months of campaigning had taken a toll on Rosecrans. Notorious for endless banter and insomnia, the Union commander was haggard and his nerves frazzled when the Army of Tennessee stopped running to turn and fight. His compromised personal state, combined with the other actors in play, provided the perfect recipe for defeat along the banks of the Chickamauga creek.
Before dawn on September 17, 1862…. Maj. General Joseph Hooker’s men waited pensively in the woods North of Sharpsburg, Maryland. Neither Hooker nor his troops knew what awaited them on the other side of the Miller cornfield. Through the pre-dawn mist, Hooker could barely make out a small white building, that would be their target. Hooker was on his own that morning, tactics were left to his discretion; his commander was nearly three miles away, on the other side of the Antietam creek. Hooker’s men crossed the cornfield with military precision and entered a maelstrom.
“At daylight Gibbon’s and Hartsuff’s brigades were thrown forward, supported with the brigades of their respective divisions, while Meade followed them up in the center, instructed to spring to the assistance of either, as circumstances might require. We had not proceeded far before I discovered that a heavy force of the enemy had taken possession of a corn-field (I have since learned about a thirty-acre field) in my immediate front, and from the sun’s rays falling on their bayonets projecting above the corn could see that the field was filled with the enemy, with arms in their hands, standing apparently at “support arms.” Instructions were immediately given for the assemblage of all of my spare batteries, near at hand, of which I think there were five or six, to spring into battery, on the right of his field, and to open with canister at once. In the time I am writing every stalk of corn in the northern and greater part of the field was cut as closely as could have been done with a knife, and the slain lay in rows precisely as they stood in their ranks a few moments before. It was never my fortune to witness a more bloody, dismal battle-field” Maj. General Joseph Hooker, Commanding, First Army Corps
The task confronting MacArthur seventy-six years ago in Japan was absolutely staggering. As Supreme Commander Allied Powers, he found himself in charge of a devastated Japan. Most of its major cities were collections of rubble. The Japanese rail system was in shambles from Allied bombing. Most of the Japanese merchant fleet was now sailing the bottom of the Pacific. An immense famine was manifestly waiting in the wings. The Japanese shattered medical system was unable to cope with rampant disease. Finally, the Japanese economy was at a virtual standstill, awaiting the repatriation of millions of Japanese troops stationed overseas to add to the ranks of the unemployed. To top this off, MacArthur also had to fend off loud demands from politicians and ordinary American citizens that Japan be punished, anger at the unprovoked war still being raw in the United States. MacArthur, ever sensitive to public opinion, on September 14, 1945 released a…