Stopping the Buck- Truman

When Donald Trump turned on his “Generals” and Barack Obama fired General Stanley McChrystal… partisans were quick to compare the moves to Truman’s relieving of Douglass MacArthur.   Trump’s utter lack of policy depth caused a rift with his inner circle of former generals.   McChrystal was placed in the improper position of a celebrity and interviewed by a journalist who did not provide proper boundaries for what was on or off the record.  All of his comments, even the off-color ones, were printed in Rolling Stone magazine.  Obama didn’t like the opinions of his commander and fired him for personal reasons.

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These have all been politically motivated- Truman faced a Constitutional crisis in 1951. 

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MacArthur disobeyed orders from Truman… disregarded mandates from the United Nations, and was insubordinate when he met with members of Congress behind Truman’s back.  Truman understood that generals would disagree with him, may even do so publicly.  But MacArthur’s actions went far beyond critical words and Truman had to take action, “I fired him because he wouldn’t respect the authority of the President. I didn’t fire him because he was a dumb son of a bitch, although he was, but that’s not against the law for generals. If it was, half to three-quarters of them would be in jail.”    The official public notice made it clear, in America, civilian authorities make policy, not soldiers.

“With deep regret I have concluded that General of the Army Douglas MacArthur is unable to give his wholehearted support to the policies of the United States Government and of the United Nations in matters pertaining to his official duties. In view of the specific responsibilities imposed upon me by the Constitution of the United States and the added responsibility which has been entrusted to me by the United Nations, I have decided that I must make a change of command in the Far East. I have, therefore, relieved General MacArthur of his commands and have designated Lt. Gen. Matthew B. Ridgway his successor.

Full and vigorous debate on matters of national policy is a vital element in the constitutional system of our free democracy. It is fundamental, however, that military commanders must be governed by the policies and directives issued to them in the manner provided by our laws and Constitution. In time of crisis, this consideration is particularly compelling.

General MacArthur’s place in history as one of our greatest commanders is fully established. The Nation owes him a debt of gratitude for the distinguished and exceptional service which he has rendered his country in posts of great responsibility. For that reason I repeat my regret at the necessity for the action I feel compelled to take in his case”

The Civil War is Being Lost

In 2013 I attended the sesquicentennial celebrations at Gettysburg.  150 years of living history, remembrance,  and understanding.

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I tried to describe the experience in words….

 

A week never to be forgotten– the perfect culmination to my 20+ years of reenacting – men and women from all over the country coming together for history and remembrance-

Spiritual connections–  Every reenactor on the field could feel the magnitude of the occasion, and at times it was awe inspiring.  The brave men who struggled here do speak to us, we do our best to honor their memory- by sharing the experience with the latest generation.

The real purpose-  Living history is an education experience.  Reenactors are students of the Civil War as well as a gateway to the past for spectators.  A reenactor who quits learning has already left the hobby.  There was plenty to learn this week by all in attendance…  for the sake of our country, let’s hope the lessons were embraced by everyone.

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        Learning- Remembrance- Inspiration- Healing….

I believed the event had helped our country turn a corner

    I was wrong…

 

The seminal event of our history- the most written about subject in all of our history-  is being rebranded by overly-sensitive reactionaries completely disinterested in finding meaning in the sacrifice made by 715,000 Americans.

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James McPherson described our Civil War experience the best:

Five generations(now six)  have passed and the War is still with us…”

Douglass Out of Context

Armchair historians like Colin Kaepernick often quote Frederick Douglass when making disingenuous points about civil rights history.

Douglass is too often misquoted or valuable context is ignored, most persistently in regards to Abraham Lincoln and emancipation.

In history, context does matter.

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Frederick Douglass is often cited as proof that slaves never cared for Lincoln or his deeds.  Ignoring context, Douglass is cited as the authoritative critic of Lincoln….

“you (white people) are the children of Abraham Lincoln. We are at best only his step-children.”

This disingenuous, lazy, line of reasoning…  has created a terrible myth about the creation of the civil rights movement.  Failure to place words in a proper context have terrible implications on historical interpretation.  In the same speech, Frederick Douglass explained to his predominately white audience, his true feelings for Abraham Lincoln:

“Viewed from the genuine abolition ground, Mr. Lincoln seemed tardy, cold, dull, and indifferent; but measuring him by the sentiment of his country, a sentiment he was bound as a statesman to consult, he was swift, zealous, radical, and determined…. infinite wisdom has seldom sent any man into the world better fitted for his mission than Abraham Lincoln.”  Frederick Douglass  April 14, 1876

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Madison Would Never Agree

Words James Madison never uttered…. but when considering the US Senate as it exists today, the naive can almost hear the Father of the Constitution proclaim the following lunacy with pride:

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Not a body of amateurs

So let’s describe the US Senate as it exists today…

The United States Senate will be chosen by popularity contest in each state.  There will be no prerequisites to holding membership, citizens seeking their very first public office are preferred candidates.  Legislative inexperience is desired to gain popular support from the well-educated masses.  Citizens from different states should establish residence in select states and seek the office of US Senator there.  Unfamiliarity with the constituencies in the new states must not deter ambitious office seekers.  Key political alliances and endorsements will sway the voting public when these insignificant issues arise.  Once is session, the Senate will thrive due to all the untested legislative acumen and uninformed opinions. 

South Mountain State Battlefield, Maryland

M.A. Kleen

Idyllic southern Maryland scenery overshadows the carnage that once took place here.

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The Battle of South Mountain was fought on September 14, 1862 between Union forces commanded by Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside and Confederate forces commanded by Maj. Gen. James Longstreet in Frederick and Washington counties, Maryland during the American Civil War. The battle was a Union victory, with the Confederate army withdrawing and General Robert E. Lee considering prematurely ending his invasion of Maryland.

After General Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia destroyed the Union Army of Virginia at the Second Battle of Manassas, Lee saw an opportunity to invade Maryland, threaten Washington, DC, and possibly influence European powers to recognize Confederate independence. Lee divided his army and sent one wing to capture Harper’s Ferry, Virginia and the other into Maryland. A copy of his orders fell into enemy hands, however, and for…

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Secret Agents in Hoop Skirts

History Imagined

This post originally appeared in September, 2017, and has been updated. 

As March is Women’s History Month, it’s a perfect time to revisit the role so many women played in the Civil War. Since women weren’t allowed to fight on the battlefield, many of them worked behind the scenes passing on intelligence on battles and strategy. Since ladies didn’t normally engage in affairs outside the home, they weren’t considered a threat, which perfectly hid their activities. One of the best of these was Elizabeth Van Lew.

The Civil War was a trying time in America’s history, and brought out the best and worst in people. The nation divided itself into North and South, with the livelihood and culture of the South hanging in the balance. A person’s sensibilities on the issue of slavery did not always necessarily align with their state’s position on the matter.

Female spies on both sides…

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Lincoln’s White House: A Book Review

Presidential History Blog

If one had to describe Lincoln’s White House: The People’s House in Wartime, one could easily call it a string of pearls encased in a Tiffany box. It is more than just a mere delight. It is a treasure that belongs in every Lincoln lover’s library.

James B. Conroy, the author of this gem, is not an historian by profession, or even a writer by profession. He is an attorney, but we do forgive him. He has managed to put together an eminently well-constructed book. Lawyers are usually excellent at the well-constructed. Conroy is also readable, detailing the ins and outs of the White House for four years of Civil War, the Lincolns, and Washington DC in general.

He has included drawings of the main and second floor of the White House as it was in 1861, which adds to the understanding of the book’s thrust. The better to visualize…

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