Jefferson on Jackson

Thomas Jefferson saw enough of Andrew Jackson to form this succinct, remarkably accurate description of the “military chief” in 1823.

I feel much alarmed at the prospect of seeing General Jackson President.  He is one of the most unfit men I know of for such a place.  He has had very little respect for laws and constitutions, and is, in fact, an able military chief.  His passions are terrible.  When I was President of the Senate, he was Senator; and he could never speak on account of the rashness of his feelings.  I have seen him attempt it repeatedly, and as often choke with rage.  His passions are, no doubt, cooler now; he has been much tried since I knew him, but he is a dangerous man.

1823 this was a warning.

We had plenty in 2015 as well.

Finest Two Minutes


Lincoln thought he failed November 19, 1863…  obligatory applause from a damp crowd in Gettysburg offered him little consolation.  Lincoln had just followed a masterful two-hour speech from America’s greatest orator, Edward Everett.  The President sat down in his seat and commented to his friend, Ward Lamon, that the speech wouldn’t “scour” (would fail to clear away.)  He left Gettysburg concerned with the bad press and his message resonating.

The Chicago Times recorded, “The cheek of every American must tingle with shame as he reads the silly, flat and dishwatery utterances of the man who has to be pointed out to intelligent foreigners as the President of the United States.”


Edward Everett put the ceremony in the proper perspective:

“Permit me also to express my great admiration of the thoughts expressed by you, with such eloquent simplicity & appropriateness, at the consecration of the Cemetery. I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.”

John Wilkes Booth: Heartthrob and Assassin

Presidential History Blog

In April 1865, John Wilkes Booth was 26 years old.

JWB: The Solid Theatrical Pedigree

Edwin Booth, legendary actor

In a day when theatrical personages were still looked on askance, the Booths of Maryland had a fine and well regarded pedigree. Junius Brutus Booth was one of the foremost Shakespearean tragedians of his day. His sons Edwin and Junius Brutus Jr., were established in theatrical hierarchy by the Civil War. All had been headliners all up and down the East Coast, and even points inland. A third up-and-coming son, John Wilkes, was the best looking, most athletic, and flashiest of all them.

John Wilkes, the youngest Booth actor

John Wilkes Booth (1838-65) began his career practically from birth, learning his craft from family members, and blessed with the invaluable ability to learn and remember lines easily. By the time he was out of his teens, he was already performing, and…

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Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park in Pocahontas County, West Virginia

M.A. Kleen

Visit the scene of West Virginia’s largest Civil War battle, with breathtaking mountain views.

Click to expand photos

The Battle of Droop Mountain was fought on November 6, 1863 between Union forces commanded by Brig. Gen. William W. Averell and Confederate forces commanded by Brig. Gen. John Echols in Pocahontas County, West Virginia during the American Civil War. The battle was a complete Union victory, resulting in 394 total casualties. It effectively ended Confederate resistance in western Virginia.

In October 1863, Brig. Gen. Benjamin F. Kelley, commander of the Department of West Virginia, ordered Brig. Gen. W.W. Averell to clean out Confederate troops from the newly formed Union state of West Virginia. On November 5, 1863, Averell attacked Confederate forces under Col. William L. Jackson (approximately 600 men) at their supply depot at Mill Point. The outnumbered Confederates withdrew to Droop Mountain, where they were reinforced by Brig. Gen. John…

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Citizen Soldiers Pt. 2

Soul of a Lion

Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain answered his… nation’s call with extraordinary valor.  His standing in the social circles of Maine could have won him a Colonel’s commission, but Chamberlain deferred- he wanted to  learn the craft of soldiering before commanding troops.  His training was hands-on and brutal.  The 20th Maine’s baptism of fire was on the killing fields of Fredericksburg- Chamberlain and the men spent a miserable night on the battlefield between the lines;

     “…the writhing concord broken by cries for help, some begging for a drop of water, some calling on God for pity; and some on friendly hands to finish what the enemy had so horribly begun; some with delirious, dreamy voices murmuring loved names, as if the dearest were bending over them; and underneath, all the time, the deep bass note from closed lips too hopeless, or too heroic to articulate their agony…It seemed best to bestow myself between two dead men among the many left there by earlier assaults, and to draw another crosswise for a pillow out of the trampled, blood-soaked sod, pulling the flap of his coat over my face to fend off the chilling winds, and still more chilling, the deep, many voiced moan that overspread the field.”

Chamberlain’s Medal of Honor- Maine Historical Society

Commanding the regiment at Gettysburg… the following Summer, Chamberlain led his men to glory on the slopes of Little Round Top.  The bayonet charge he ordered helped save the Union left- it also earned him the Medal of Honor;


The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, United States Army, for extraordinary heroism on 2 July 1863, while serving with 20th Maine Infantry, in action at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, for daring heroism and great tenacity in holding his position on the Little Round Top against repeated assaults, and carrying the advance position on the Great Round Top.

Major General of Volunteers- College Professor

Gallantly leading his brigade in action… near Petersburg, Virginia on June 18, 1864, Chamberlain was struck down by a ball, leaving a wound surgeons believed mortal.  Lt. Gen. US Grant finally granted Chamberlain the long overdue promotion to Brigadier General;

“Col. JL Chamberlain was wounded on the 18th- he was gallantly leading his brigade at the time, as he had been in habit of doing in all the engagements… on this occasion, however, I promoted him on the spot…”

Citizen Soldiers Pt. 1

Olive Wendell Holmes Jr. was a soldier...  Many present day Conservatives strongly dislike him. They accuse him of being a eugenicist (tantamount to being a communist these days,)  and his opinion on national security makes their blood boil.   If ever there were sunshine soldiers and summer patriots, they are in the modern Conservative movement.  Oliver Wendell Holmes was a man of action.  His career as a jurist wasn’t forged in smoke-filled offices by arm-chair warriors.  Holmes answered the call and put on a uniform.

As a member of the famous ‘Harvard Regiment’… Holmes saw his first action at Ball’s Bluff, Virginia in October of 1861.  He was grievously wounded, shot through the lung while leading his men into action.  Holmes returned to the ranks only to see his next action on September 17th, 1862, America’s bloodiest day.  Shot through the neck and left for dead, he survived a second serious wound to return to the ranks.  He would be wounded a third time in his service, rising to the rank of Lt. Colonel of volunteers.

“Comrades, some of the associations of this day are not only triumphant but joyful. Not all of those with whom we once stood shoulder to shoulder—not all of those whom we once loved and revered—are gone. On this day we still meet our companions in the freezing winter bivouacs and in those dreadful summer marches where every faculty of the soul seemed to depart one after another, leaving only a dumb animal power to set the teeth and to persist—a blind belief that somewhere and at last there was rest and water. On this day, at least, we still meet and rejoice in the closest tie which is possible between men—a tie which suffering has made indissoluble for better, for worse….But, nevertheless, the generation that carried on the war has been set apart by its experience. Through our great good fortune, in our youth our hearts were touched with fire.”

Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest (Virginia)

The History Mom

Thomas Jefferson’s Poplar Forest

Virginia is rich in Presidential history, with 4 of the first 5 Presidents hailing from the Commonwealth. While most people know about Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, fewer people know about his country retreat, Poplar Forest. Located in the picturesque mountains around Lynchburg, this historic home has plenty of outdoor space to enjoy during these fall months.


Thomas Jefferson and his wife, Martha, inherited Poplar Forest in 1773 from her father’s estate. At the time, Jefferson served as a member of the House of Burgesses. In just a few short years, he would be known as the “pen of the Revolution” for his work on the Declaration of Independence, along with other revolutionary documents.

Poplar Forest first comes into history as a place of refuge when Jefferson flees capture by the British at Monticello in 1781. Over the years, Jefferson used his architectural skills honed by…

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November 5, 1775: Washington Ends Guy Fawkes Day

Almost Chosen People


The idiotic anti-Catholic celebration of Guy Fawkes Day , observed each November fifth, was effectively ended two hundred and forty-tw0 years ago in America during the Revolution, in large part due to George Washington.  Here is his order on November 5, 1775:

As the Commander in Chief has been apprized of a design form’d for the observance of that ridiculous and childish custom of burning the Effigy of the pope–He cannot help expressing his surprise that there should be Officers and Soldiers in this army so void of common sense, as not to see the impropriety of such a step at this Juncture; at a Time when we are solliciting, and have really obtain’d, the friendship and alliance of the people of Canada, whom we ought to consider as Brethren embarked in the same Cause. The defence of the general Liberty of America: At such a juncture, and in such…

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Wyatt Earp on Film

Wyatt Earp has been the subject of 13 major feature films…and has appeared in dozens of television shows.  Which portrayals stand up to the scrutiny of history?

All business
  1. James GarnerHour of the Gun :   Dark, torn, repressed…Earp at his most troubled.  Garner is the real deal in this John Sturges classic.
  2. Kurt Russell- Tombstone :  A good mix of Earp the capitalist and Earp the lawman, Russell is workman-like in his performance.  Unfortunately, Val Kilmer steals the show as Holliday.
  3. Henry Fonda- My Darling Clementine :  Fonda portrays a humorless Earp?  Who would have guessed?  John Ford’s masterpiece is short on history, long on drama. 
  4. Hugh O’Brian- The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp : Dapper dresser, serious lawman, frontier justice personified….O’Brian brought a believable Earp to the small screen.
  5. Kevin Costner – Wyatt Earp :  Properly displaying Earp’s stern disposition, Costner is almost too dour in his 1994 performance.  Wyatt didn’t overpower his brothers like a misguided patriarch. 
Too serious

Infamy in Tombstone

Wyatt Earp fired the most important shot…during the gunfight at the OK Corral.  Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday enjoyed the name recognition, but the most dangerous man on the streets of Tombstone that day was Frank McLaury.  McLaury was known throughout the Arizona territory as a dangerous gunman; but, he was also a notorious cattle thief.  On October 26, 1881, his brand of criminality threatened the Earp clan’s plans to exploit the saloons of Tombstone. 

Deadliest man in the territory

At the pivotal moment… when Billy Clanton and Frank McLaury reached for their Colt revolvers, Wyatt Earp described his move,  “Billy Clanton leveled his pistol at me, but I did not aim at him. I knew that Frank McLaury had the reputation of being a good shot and a dangerous man, and I aimed at Frank McLaury.”  Earp hit McLaury squarely in the stomach, badly wounding him.  Billy Clanton began firing wildly drawing the attention of the other Earp gunman, but Frank McLaury continued firing as he tried to exit the Corral to Fremont Street. 

Waiting for the Earps

  • His first shot hit Virgil Earp in the right calf
  • As he reached the mouth of the lot, his second shot, across his body, hit Morgan Earp in the shoulder
  • During the final confrontation with Doc Holliday in the middle of Fremont Street, his last shot hit Holliday in the hip, knocking him down
  • Wyatt Earp’s duster had two bullet holes in the right sleeve, possibly from McLaury’s gun The fight then became general….
Earp party leader

Frank McLaury likely hit every member of the Earp party… during the gunfight….with a bullet in his stomach.  Wyatt Earp’s first shot likely saved all their lives that day.  Had he missed, McLaury might have killed them all.