If you seek a historically acceptable wine… for this holiday season, consider Madeira. The fortified wine is produced in the island group of the same name. Madeira is fortified with another spirit, typically rum. The fortification process dates to the 16th century where it prevented spoilage over long ocean voyages. Tinta Negra Mole grapes are used to produce a pale red wine in a variety of strengths. Rainwater is dry served at room temperature making a fine dinner choice. Malmsey is a heavy, sweet option best served chilled with dessert. Remember that the fortifying spirit provides an extra ‘bite.’
Madeira was a favorite of the American Founders… including John Hancock, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams. A riot rattled Boston in 1768 when John Hancock’s sloop, Liberty was seized, loaded with Madeira. John Adams would enjoy three glasses every night before bedtime. Jefferson enjoyed Malmsey and Monticello’s wine cellars were well stocked with it. Later in life, he preferred lighter French wines. Most historians agree Madeira was used to toast the Declaration of Independence.
If you raise a glass this holiday season… you can feel closer to our Founders with a glass of Madeira.
Thomas Jefferson celebrated Christmas… but not with stockings and Christmas trees- modern incarnations of the season didn’t take hold in America until after the Civil War. Jefferson’s Christmas was a time for family, friends, and as he described it, “merriment.” Family was all important to the Sage of Monticello, and he described the day” “the day of greatest mirth and jollity.”
He received the greatest joy from watching his grandchildren… opening gifts and playing games in Monticello. Describing the scene to a friend, Jefferson observed his youngest grandson; “He is at this moment running about with his cousins bawling out ‘a merry christmas’ ‘(this is) a christmas gift” His music library included many Christmas standards including the family favorite, Adeste Fideles.
Good friends, good food, and good conversation… marked the holiday season at Monticello. Plenty of wine was on hand to compliment Jefferson’s holiday favorite, mince pie. Mince at Monticello consisted of apples, raisins, beef suet(fat), and spices.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu made national headlines for rationalizing his city’s iconoclastic fury in 2017.
“Another friend asked me to consider these four monuments from the perspective of an African American mother or father trying to explain to their fifth grade daughter who Robert E. Lee is and why he stands atop of our beautiful city. Can you do it? Can you look into that young girl’s eyes and convince her that Robert E. Lee is there to encourage her?”
Purdue historian Caroline Janney explains the folly of Landrieu’s grandstanding:
“Landrieu’s removal of the statues, however, does precisely what he rails against: It omits the past. Empty pedestals are just that: void of meaning all together.”
Stripping our landscape of historical images that make us uncomfortable is simply a destructive solution to the complex task of interpreting our history. Rather than explain the past to the young girl, Landrieu would prefer she mature blissfully unaware.
The charge of the Irish Brigade against the Confederate position at Marye’s Heights outside Fredericksburg is the stuff of legend.
The legendary stature of these men and their deeds is largely due to the reminiscences of their opponents.
James Longstreet, whose troops occupied the stonewall position at Marye’s Heights remembered:
“The manner in which Meagher’s Irish Brigade breasted the death storm from Marie’s Heights of Fredericksburg, was the handsomest thing in the whole war. Six times in the face of a withering fire, before which whole ranks were mowed down as corn before the sickle, did the Irish Brigade run up that hill—rush to inevitable death.”
Robert E. Lee also praised the Irishmen:
“The gallant stand which his bold brigade made on the heights of Fredericksburg is well known. Never were men so brave. They enobled their race by their splendid gallantry on that occasion.”
The Irish Brigade crossed the Rappahannock river at Fredericksburg… a shadow of its former self. Three months earlier, along the banks of the Antietam Creek, the Irish Brigade marched to glory with more than 2,000 men. At Fredericksburg, the newly arrived 28th Massachusetts regiment bolstered the ranks to 1,200, but the veteran regiments had been decimated during the campaigns of 1862.
**Don Troiani’s “Garry Owen” – General Meagher salutes his troops crossing the Rapphannock
Four Union brigades were beaten back… in front of the stone wall at Marye’s Heights. The Irish Brigade was next in the fight and started their advance at 1230pm. The men were briefly unsettled by a muddy canal ditch in the shadow of a low ridge. The order was given to reform and after a brief pause, bayonets were fixed. An officer remembered those harrowing moments: “In a few minutes came the word, ‘Attention!’ and every man was upon his feet again; then ‘Fix bayonets!’ and as this was being done, the clink, clink of the cold steel sounding along the line made one’s blood run cold.” Officers and men fell rapidly as casualties mounted across the front of the stone wall. Despite the harrowing losses, the brigade pushed on toward the wall, battling other Irish immigrants. Of all the Union troops which assaulted Marye’s Heights on December 13, the Irish Brigade advanced the farthest.
** Don Troiani’s “Clear the Way” – The Irish Brigade assaults Marye’s Heights
Lt. Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain describes the horrific night of December 13th, 1862 at the base of Marye’s Heights.
Fredericksburg, Virginia- December 14, 1862
“But out of that silence rose new sounds more appalling still; a strange ventriloquism, of which you could not locate the source, a smothered moan, as if a thousand discords were flowing together into a key-note weird, unearthly, terrible to hear and bear, yet startling with its nearness; 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.”
Despite the best efforts of pseudo-historians to argue otherwise, Jefferson’s personal bible is on display at the Smithsonian’s American History museum.
Religiously motivated writers do their best to portray Jefferson as a devout Christian despite the historical record. Jefferson’ s religious beliefs were a deeply personal matter and he shared them with few.
“Our particular principles of religion are a subject of accountability to God alone. I inquire after no man’s, and trouble none with mine.”
He did produce an altered version of the New Testament, writing his view of the “Christian system,” removing all mention of miracles and other -worldly occurrences. He physically cut and pasted together The Philosophy of Jesus of Nazareth in 1804, complete with his hand-written notes in the margins.
Fans of the musical should actually take some time and read something from their historical hero.
Trump idolizes military figures, but refuses to accept them as citizens.
One soldier after another has been dismissed from his administration, largely for performing their duties as civilians. The President has fallen victim to the cult of the uniform.
Alexander Hamilton warned us about the dangers of elevating soldiers above the citizenry.
“But in a country, where the perpetual menacings of danger oblige the government to be always prepared to repel it, her armies must be numerous enough for instant defence. The continual necessity for his services enhances the importance of the soldier, and proportionally degrades the condition of the citizen. The military state becomes elevated above the civil. The inhabitants of territories often the theater of war, are unavoidably subjected to frequent infringements on their rights, which serve to weaken their sense of those rights; and by degrees, the people are brought to consider the soldiery not only as their protectors, but as their superiors.” Federalist #8
A periodic look into the mind of Jefferson
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…