Thursday, April 30, 2015

Parody Or Reality?

From The Onion:

College Encourages Lively Exchange Of Idea

Students, Faculty Invited To Freely Express Single Viewpoint

BOSTON - Saying that such a dialogue was essential to the college's academie mission, Trescott University president Kevin Abrams confirmed Monday that the school encourages a lively exchange of one idea:

"As an institution of higher learning, we recognize that it's inevitable that certain contentious topics will come up from time to time, and when they do, we want to create an atmosphere where both students and faculty feel comfortable voicing a single homogeneous opinion."

said Abrams, adding that no matter the subject, anyone on campus is always welcome to add their support to the accepted consensus:

"Whether it's a discussion of a national political issue or a concern here on campus, an open forum in which one argument is uniformly reinforced is crucial for maintaining the exceptional learning environment we have cultivated here."

Abrams told reporters that counseling resources were available for any student made uncomfortable by the viewpoint.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 Editorial from The Hoya, Georgetown University

No Distractions

The Georgetown University College Republicans hosted Christina Hoff Sommers, an author and philosophy professor known for her criticism of contemporary feminism and her disavowal of a so-called “rape myth,” last week.

By giving Sommers a platform, GUCR has knowingly endorsed a harmful conversation on the serious topic of sexual assault.

Giving voice to someone who argues that statistics on sexual assault exaggerate the problem and condemns reputable studies for engaging in “statistical hijinks” serves only to trigger obstructive dialogue and impede the progress of the university’s commitment to providing increased resources to survivors.

It is necessary and valuable to promote the free expression of a plurality of views, but this back-and-forth about whether or not certain statistics are valid is not the conversation that students should be having. Students should engage in a dialogue that focuses on establishing a safe space for survivors while at the same time tackling the root causes of sexual assault.

-----------------------

If you're interested you can find Professor Sommers and her "harmful conversation" right here.


 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Deliver Me

Take some Stevie Ray Vaughan, add a bunch of Sly & The Family Stone, a pound of Allman Brothers, a pint of Parliament Funkadelic and a pinch of Red Hot Chili Peppers and you've got Robert Randolph & The Family Band.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

That 'Ol Liquid Mercury (Cast Its Spell On Me)

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a1/Piramide_de_la_Luna_072006.jpg (Teotihuacan from wikimedia)

A Mexican archaeologist has announced the discovery of a large quantity of liquid mercury sealed in a chamber beneath the ancient city of Teotihuacan.  The ruins, which lay about thirty miles from Mexico City, were the largest city in the Americas from 100 AD to 700 AD with a population estimated at 200,000.  The location is a World Heritage Site and contains several stunning pyramids (THC had the thrilling experience of climbing one of them several years ago).
http://www.destination360.com/north-america/mexico/images/s/mexico-teotihuacan-s.jpg(Pyramid THC climbed)
Much of the history and purpose of Teotihuacan remains a mystery and the discovery of the mercury only adds to it.  It may very well be evidence of a royal burial chamber.  In this it may be strikingly similar to the burial tomb of the Emperor Qin in Xian, China, also the location of the Terracotta Warriors, which THC and the Mrs visited in 2004.
http://thumbs.media.smithsonianmag.com//filer/terra-cotta-soldiers-631.jpg__800x600_q85_crop.jpg(From Smithsonian)

The warrior figures were buried as part of the burial plan for the Emperor Qin, who died in 209 BC, after brutally unifying China.  A mile from the burial site of the warriors is the burial mound of the Emperor which stands several hundred feet tall.  It has never been opened.  Legend had it that within the burial chamber:
‘Mercury was used to fashion the hundred rivers, the Yellow river and the Yangtze river, and the seas in such a way that they flowed’.
http://www.dailygrail.com/sites/dailygrail.com/files/storyimages/huang_tomb.jpg (Qin burial mound from dailygrail)

While formerly dismissed as mere legend, measurements taken of the soil in the mound since the 1980s have shown unusually high levels of mercury.  We may not know the truth about the presence of mercury for some time as Chinese authorities have decided that no excavations will be permitted until such time as it is certain that whatever is uncovered can be preserved.  When the Terracotta Warriors, discovered in 1974, began to be excavated their brightly painted exteriors, which had survived 2,000 of burial, vanished when exposed to the air and the Chinese do not want a repeat of that with the Qin burial mound.

THC will keep you posted!

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Sultana Explodes

On this date in 1865 nearly 2,000 United States soldiers died in the greatest maritime disaster in America history, more than were killed in any single day of battle during the Civil War other than at Antietam, when the paddle wheel steamer Sultana exploded in the middle of the night, several miles south of Memphis, Tennessee.  Reporting on the tragedy was overshadowed by the news of the death of Abraham Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth, who was cornered and then shot in a tobacco barn in Virginia and of the surrender of Joseph E Johnston's army in North Carolina, both of which took place on the prior day.

The first steamship was built in France in the late 1700s but it was in the new United States that they came widely into use.  The first commercially successful steamboat was Robert Fulton's Clermont which began operating in 1807 between New York City and New Jersey and the first steamboats appeared on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers in 1811 and 1812.
http://www.twainquotes.com/Steamboats/PJMIRROR.jpg
Paddle steamers have a romantic image (think of the musical Show Boat) and remained in common use on the Mississippi well into the early 20th century.  But they also were inherently prone to risk of catastrophic failure.

The steamers were powered by large boilers (usually four and consuming 5 to 15 tons of coal a day) located between the paddles to generate steam and turn the wheels. Operating at high pressure in an environment where pressure gauging was rudimentary and construction techniques and quality highly variable, safety often depended upon the constant supervision of the boilers by a competent engineer.  Disasters were not uncommon and there are many instances when boilers failed resulting in explosions, fire and scalding steam being sprayed over passengers and crew.

Samuel Clemens, later better known as Mark Twain, was a steersman on the Mississippi River steamer Pennsylvania.  A few days after he left the boat in 1858 it exploded killing most of those aboard, including Twain's brother.  The Pennsylvania disaster resulted in a couple of hundred deaths like most of these incidents.  The huge scale of the Sultana disaster in 1865 was a byproduct of the conditions surrounding the end of the Civil War.

As the Confederacy collapsed in April 1865, thousands of Union prisoners were released from camps operated by the rebels and the Federal army was seeking ways to get them home quickly, along with other sick and hospitalized soldiers.  Many of them, including some from the notorious Andersonville prison in Georgia, were transported to the area around Vicksburg, Mississippi.

The Sultana was built in Cincinnati going into service in 1863.  In April it started a trip downriver making multiple stops, including at Vicksburg, before reaching New Orleans, where it loaded about 150 civilian passengers for the trip back upriver starting on April 21.

The Vicksburg stop on the downriver route was crucial.  Captain J Cass Mason met with Army officers responsible for arranging for the return of soldiers in order to arrange to pick up a load on his return trip upriver.  It was a lucrative contract for any steamboat owner, paying $5 a head per enlisted man and $10 for officers.

As Sultana neared Vicksburg on its return trip steam began escaping from a crack in one of the boilers and the boat limped into the city.  After looking at the boilers a local boilermaker told the captain that extensive repairs were required.  Under pressure to get underway quickly so he could board the soldiers before they could get on another steamboat the captain pressured the boilermaker to do some quick patches, promising he would make full repairs when Sultana reached St Louis.

During the 24th, the former prisoners boarded the vessel.  The rated carrying capacity of Sultana was 376, which since the crew was 80-85, meant about 290 passengers but on that day about 2,100 soldiers were allowed to board by the military authorities and the captain bringing the total onboard to around 2,300.

(Sultana at Helena, Arkansas the day before explosion from Wikimedia)
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/69/Ill-fated_Sultana,_Helena,_Arkansas,_April_27,_1865.jpg

Sultana slowly made its way north on the river.  The soldiers, jammed together, slept on the open deck.  The crew had to work to control the passengers because any sudden movement in one direction could capsize the overloaded boat.  Then, without warning, at about 2AM on April 27, the boilers exploded.  Many of the passengers and crew were immediately killed and the rest thrown into the water or clinging to the remains of the boat as it sank.  There were only two small lifeboats and many of the soldiers who were ill and/or weakened from their captivity had little strength left to save themselves.

(The Sultana on fire from Harper's Weekly)
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a2/Sultana_Disaster.jpg
HistoryNet carried a vivid description of the horror of that night:
Suddenly, three of the huge boilers exploded with a volcanic fury that a witness on the shore described as the thundering noise of 'a hundred earthquakes.' The blast tore instantly through the decks directly above the boilers, flinging live coals and splintered timber into the night sky like fireworks. Scalding water and clouds of steam covered the prisoners who lay sleeping near the boilers. Hundreds were killed in the first moments of the tragedy. The upper decks of the Sultana, already sagging under the weight of her passengers, collapsed when the blast ripped through the steamer's superstructure. Many unfortunate souls, trapped in the resulting wreckage, could only wait for certain death as fire quickly spread throughout the hull. Within twenty minutes of the explosion, the entire superstructure of the Sultana was in flames.

The burning wreckage began to drift slowly downriver, as those on board fought to survive. With only 76 life preservers and two small lifeboats available, most of those who survived the blast jumped for their lives into the river. In the hours before dawn, hundreds of soldiers and civilians struggled in the river as they awaited rescue. But help did not come until 3:00 a.m., an hour after the explosion. The Bostonia II, plowing downriver, came upon the Sultana engulfed in flames, and immediately began to haul the survivors from the water around the wreckage.
You can also read a New York Times account of the event from April 29, 1865.

Although several hundred were rescued, many were horribly burned and at least two hundred died in the next few days.  The death toll remains unknown but is estimated to be 1,700-1,800.  So many who had suffered yet survived the war dying so close to getting home.

An Army investigation concluded that its officers were negligent in allowing the overloading of the vessel but court-martial proceedings did not result in any convictions despite the clear evidence of negligence and incompetence (along with some indirect evidence of bribery).

The remains of the Sultana were discovered in 1982 in a filled-in former channel of the Mississippi River.







Saturday, April 25, 2015

April 1945: Germany's End



http://i.imgur.com/qh9AoZz.jpgWaldenburg, Germany April 1945 from Reddit.com

On April 25, 1945 American and Soviet troops met near the town of Torgau on the Elbe River, cutting the remaining and rapidly shrinking Nazi held lands in half.  Two weeks later the war in Europe would be over.
http://www.torgau.eu/images/2772006_133924_18.jpg(Americans & Soviets at Torgau, from Torgau.eu)

The path to that historic meeting began in an April twenty eight years before.  On April 6, 1917 the United States declared war on Germany and entered World War One and three days later Vladimir Ilyich Lenin began his journey via a sealed railcar from exile in Switzerland across Germany to Russia.  Both events occurred because of massive miscalculations by German military leadership.  In the first instance it was the unleashing of unrestricted submarine warfare against all shipping to Great Britain, including that of the neutral United States, the Germans understanding it would trigger American entry into the war but gambling they could starve England out of the war before the United States could bring its military to Europe in any meaningful numbers.

In the case of Lenin, the German strategy was to insert a virus into the ongoing chaos of revolution in Russia following the abdication of the Czar in March 1917 and thus knock Russia out of the war.  In the short-term the strategy worked; under Lenin's direction the Bolsheviks outmaneuvered their fellow, more moderate revolutionaries who were reluctant to use force against the violent Bolsheviks.  Lenin, perfectly willing to use force against his enemies, organized a coup and took over the reigns of government, dismissing the Constituent Assembly and establishing the Bolsheviks as the revolutionary vanguard and within a year of taking power setting up the initial prison camps for political prisoners that later became known as the Gulag.  By March 1918, the Bolsheviks had accepted a humiliating peace treaty with the Germans.  But it was too late for Germany.  The submarines failed to starve the British, the last German offensives in France ground to a halt, the Allies (including the Americans) counterattacked, German army morale collapsed and the German High Command panicked beseeching the Kaiser and politicians to seek a truce.  And longer term, the new Soviet Union was to arise as a much more formidable opponent than the old Russian Empire.

In 1941, Germany's Fuhrer, Adolph Hitler, made his own miscalculations about the same two countries.  On June 22, 1941 he launched a surprise attack on the Soviet Union, Germany's ally since August 1939, confident that his armies could easily overwhelm the Soviet military before the onset of winter but, along with his military commanders, drastically underestimating the resiliency of the Red military, the ruthlessness of Joseph Stalin and Soviet leadership in their conduct of the war and how the atrocious Nazi occupation policies would alienate many potential supporters in the recently occupied borderlands and The Ukraine.  The result was the largest and murderous military campaign in human history leading to the deaths of up to thirty million soldiers and civilians.

Later that year, Hitler compounded his mistake when he declared war on the United States only four days after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, an attack of which he had no prior knowledge and an action he was not required to take under his loose alliance with Japan.  The reasons for his decision remain unclear and controversial among historians but what is true is that it rescued President Franklin Roosevelt and U.S. military leaders from a dilemma.  They viewed war with Germany and Japan as inevitable but they saw Germany as by far the bigger threat and had already agreed that in the event of war with both countries the United States would direct 85% of its resources against Germany.  During those four days when Japan, but not Germany, was at war with the U.S., Roosevelt and his military commanders knew that public opinion would require all efforts to be directed against the Japanese, taking away from American military capabilities for what they still saw as the inevitable war against Germany.  With Hitler's decision, the bulk of the American war effort was directed against Germany and the opening of a Second Front landing in Western Europe became a possibility, something that Britain alone could never have done (it's also the most effective practical rebuttal to continuing conspiracy theories that FDR knew in advance of the Japanese attack and wanted the war; in reality it complicated his foreign policy).

June of 1944 again saw critical miscalculations by Hitler regarding the U.S. and the Soviet Union.  In the West he was convinced that the long-anticipated Allied landing would take place at the Pas de Calais region of France where he concentrated his best armored and infantry units but the invasion instead took place in Normandy against weaker German opposition and the Allies gained a foothold from which they could not be dislodged.

That same month, the Germans were anticipating a large Soviet offensive on the Eastern Front.  They believed the attack would come either in the Baltic region or in The Ukraine and made their dispositions accordingly.  Instead the massive assault, begun on June 22 (the third anniversary of Hitler's surprise attack), took place against the undermanned Army Group Center in what is now the country of Belarus resulting in a catastrophic defeat for the Nazis with Soviet armies advancing hundreds of miles into Poland and reaching the outskirts of Warsaw, where Stalin cynically ordered a halt (for more as to why, read Volunteering For Auschwitz).

By late March 1945, American, British and Canadian armies were crossing the Rhine and moving into the heart of Germany against crumbling, but occasionally fanatical, resistance (particularly from SS units).  To the east the Soviets began their final assault on Berlin on April 16, still desperately defended by the German army.  Though the war was clearly lost Hitler felt that Germany was not worthy of him and rather than surrendering deserved total destruction in a final orgy of bloodletting.  It took three days for Soviet armies to encircle the German capital and launch their final assault to capture the city.

Hitler emerged from his bunker in Berlin on April 20 making his last appearance above-ground to award Iron Crosses to members of the Hitler Youth. http://www.gonemovies.com/WWW/MyWebFilms/Oorlog/UnterRealHitler.jpg Two days later Hitler was advised by his military staff that his plan to have Berlin relieved by an Army Group under General Steiner had failed, or to be more accurate, his fantasy that there ever was a Steiner Army Group capable of relieving the Nazi capital was finally punctured.

The failure of the Steiner attack was the basis for one of the most memorable scenes in the 2004 German film Downfall, which recounts the final days in the bunker, much of it told from the perspective of Traudl Junge, a young secretary to the Fuhrer.  The film is stunning in its grim account of the end of an evil era and Bruno Granz, in the role of Hitler, is astonishing.  Ian Kershaw, the author of an excellent two-volume biography of Hitler (Hubris and Nemesis) wrote of the performance:
Of all the screen depictions of the F├╝hrer, even by famous actors, such as Alec Guinness or Anthony Hopkins, this is the only one which to me is compelling. Part of this is the voice. Ganz has Hitler's voice to near perfection. It is chillingly authentic.
You can watch the scene by clicking here; it's well worth your time.  In the room with Hitler at one point we see two men standing, one thin and odd looking in a brown uniform. The figure in brown is Joseph Goebbels, the Minister of Propaganda.  Next to him is Martin Bormann, the Fuhrer's Chief Secretary and nominal head of the Nazi Party - they are the primary political figures left in the bunker as both Heinrich Himmler and Hermann Goering had fled the city.  Outside the room are two women standing next to each other.  The taller one on the right is Traudl Junge.  Towards the end of the scene another woman moves forward in the crowd; Eva Braun, Hitler's long-time mistress.

[This scene has since been adopted for hundreds of parodies along the lines of "Hitler finds out . . . ".  You can sample a recent and well done one here: Hitler finds out about Brian Williams.]

The fighting for the city ground on day after day with the Soviets inching forward towards the Reichstag and the Chancellery under which the Fuhrer's command bunker was located.  This video contains footage of the street fighting as recorded by Soviet cameramen.
Hitler and Eva Braun were married on April 29 and killed themselves the following day.  Joseph Goebbels and his wife Magda killed their six young children by having a doctor inject them with morphine and then crush cyanide capsules between their teeth.  Goebbels and his wife then committed suicide.

The burned remains of Hitler, Braun and the Goebbels were discovered and identified by the Russians (though they did not inform the British or Americans), reburied and reexcavated several times, winding up at a Soviet security base in Magdeburg, East Germany.  In 1970 the KGB conducted a final excavation, smashing and burning the remains and scattering them in a river (though part of Hitler's skull may have been preserved in the Moscow archives of the KGB).

Martin Bormann attempted to escape the bunker on the night of May 1-2 but likely committed suicide when trapped by Russian patrols.  His fate remained uncertain for many years until remains were found at a West Berlin site in 1972 and identified as his (later confirmed by genetic testing in 1998).  Himmler committed suicide on May 23 after being captured by the British and Goering killed himself the following year at Nuremburg just hours before his scheduled hanging.

The formal German surrender of the city took place on May 2, 1945 and the overall capitulation of Germany took place on May 7 (US and British front) and May 8 (Russian front) though severe fighting continued in the area around Prague, Czechoslovakia until May 11.

Stalin ordered the Soviet military commanders to take Berlin as quickly as possible and not to be concerned about casualties (not that the Soviet leaders ever appeared to be concerned about casualties).  The cost was about 350,000 Soviet soldiers killed or wounded in the Battle of Berlin (for comparison, American losses for the entire war were about one million) along with an indeterminable but probably similar number of German soldiers and civilians.  The city, already heavily damaged by British and American bombing raids, was reduced to rubble and significant reconstruction did not begin  until after the Soviet blockade of West Berlin in 1948-9 and the founding of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949.

Traudl Junge was among those that left the bunker on the night of May 1-2 and was one of the few who escaped death or Russian captivity.  Just before her death in 2002 she gave an interview, parts of which are included at the beginning and end of Downfall.  This excerpt from the close of the movie shows her escape (the depiction of which is largely fictional unlike much of the rest of the movie which is factually accurate) and then at the 4 minute mark the elderly Junge speaks about her actions.
For the returning Russian soldiers, of whom 8 to 9 million had died in the war, the hopes of many for a better life and less arbitrary cruelty by their rulers were destroyed by Stalin's suspicion as told in the greatest and most factually accurate of rock/pop history songs, Roads To Moscow by Al Stewart, of which THC has written before, with its haunting and poignant closing verse.


Friday, April 24, 2015

Martha & Louis

After doing the posts of the past two days, THC realized he needed to update the first of those posts:

The greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our disposition and not upon our circumstances
Martha Washington

That's me and I don't want to be nobody else.  They know I'm there in the cause of happiness.
Louis Armstrong in 1965 explaining his approach to entertaining audiences and of whom Terry Teachout wrote in his biography, Pops, "he lived life in a major key".

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/f6/Martha_washington.jpg/210px-Martha_washington.jpghttp://jewishcurrents.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/louis-armstrong-12.jpg

Thursday, April 23, 2015

How Long Has This Been Going On?

I know how Columbus felt
Finding another world

Kiss me once and then once more
What a dunce I was before
What a break!  For Heaven's sake
How long has this been going on?
A wonderful vocal by Louis Armstrong (listen to his handling of the tricky melody) accompanied by Oscar Peterson on piano.  From 1957.  Composed by George and Ira Gershwin.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Our Disposition, Not Our Circumstances

The greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our disposition and not upon our circumstances

Martha Washington
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/f/f6/Martha_washington.jpg/210px-Martha_washington.jpg

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The New Face Of The Yankees

With Derek Jeter's retirement there was a lot of talk about who should be the "new face" of the New York Yankees franchise.  THC thinks the answer is pretty clear.  Shouldn't it be the everyday player who leads the team in home runs, batting average, RBIs, slugging and on-base percentage?  You betcha and here he is!  THC is sure that Derek, and for that matter, Hank Steinbrenner and Brian Cashman, could not agree more!
http://images.complex.com/complex/image/upload/t_article_image/itpqhixdzr3xl0vtkb2r.jpg

http://s1.totalprosports.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/a-rod-as-centaur.jpghttp://i.kinja-img.com/gawker-media/image/upload/s--9SwIeNtl--/c_fit,fl_progressive,q_80,w_636/18j4wt05z0wd5jpg.jpghttp://sportsofboston.com/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2009/11/alex_rodriguezKiss-300x200.jpghttp://pixel.nymag.com/imgs/daily/sports/2012/02/28/28_arod.o.jpg/a_560x375.jpg

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Only TV News Report On The Economy You'll Ever Need To Watch

From the Weekly Wipe; the essential generic report on the economy.  Watching it will save you much time in the future as you'll never need to see another report.  Done perfectly.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The End Is Justified

Justified, one of the two shows that THC regularly watches just finished its sixth and final season (the other is Better Call Saul).  Based on Elmore Leonard's novel, it follows US Deputy Marshal Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant) who's returned to his native Harlan County in the coal-mining hills of eastern Kentucky to chase the bad guys, most prominent of whom is his former coal-digging buddy, Boyd Crowder (the brilliant Walter Goggins).

The last episode was unexpectedly less bloody than THC (and everyone else) expected, though there was one old fashioned Western style shoot-out, but it was surprisingly satisfying it how it wrapped up.

There were a lot of nice touches in that last episode and the best was when, as Raylan is leaving the Lexington, Kentucky Marshal's office to go to Miami, he pulls a dog-eared copy of The Friends Of Eddie Coyle by George V Higgins out of his desk and gives it to a fellow deputy.  It was a tribute to Elmore Leonard who died a couple of years ago and always said Eddie Coyle was the best crime novel ever written and the one that most inspired him (for more see Eddie Coyle's Friend).

(Pictures from Vanity Fair)

Friday, April 17, 2015

Can You Take Me Back?

Can you take me back
Where I came from?
Can you take me back?

Can you?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

One Thousand Posts

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7f/Fireworks_DetroitWindsorIntlFreedomFest.jpg

With tonight's nationwide celebration of the 1,000th post on Things Have Changed since it started in April of 2012, THC felt it appropriate to make this a post about itself.

THC thanks all of you who've taken the time to read any of these posts.

We also thought we'd take the time to review some of the essential background of Things Have Changed:

The Official Policy Of This Blog as explained by Mr Jimmy Stewart and friends.

The origin of The Name Of The Blog (our alternative title was Brilliant Mistake)

The Value of Useless Knowledge and the legacy of that crazy party animal, Erwin Panofsky.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Now He Belongs To The Ages

President Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth at Ford's Theater on the evening of April 14, 1865 and died the next morning, ten days after his tour of Richmond and only five days after the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House.
http://www.authentichistory.com/1860-1865/1-images/Lincoln_Photo_Comparison_1860-1865.jpg

Of the seven Presidents who have died in office, Lincoln's death was the most consequential for America. Lincoln was succeeded in office by his Vice-President, Andrew Johnson, a shallow, resentful drunk who hated Southern aristocrats and blacks (freed and slave) equally and whose only  gift was for alienating his fellow politicians.

 In 2012 THC wrote:
I'd like to think that Reconstruction would have achieved more for the former slaves if Abraham Lincoln had lived rather than having Andrew Johnson, who was actively hostile to all African Americans, in charge from 1865 to 1868.  But even Lincoln would have faced a huge challenge since Northern public opinion would not have accepted full equality.  Could he have successfully maneuvered to create a future where the post-war Constitutional amendments and the Civil Rights Act of 1866 did not become dead letters and at the same time not trigger a second rebellion or electoral defeat even in the North for the Republicans?  If so, it might have been an even greater achievement than preserving the Union and guiding us through the Civil War.
The great tragedy for America was that Lincoln never had the chance.


Monday, April 13, 2015

FDR

In the early afternoon of April 12, 1945, while sitting for a portrait at Warm Springs, Georgia,  President Franklin Delano Roosevelt complained of a terrible headache and died shortly thereafter of a cerebral hemorrhage.  He was 63 years old.  His health had been failing for some time and during the last year of his life many of his acquaintances were shocked at his visible deterioration.  A year earlier his physicians had diagnosed him with congestive heart failure (it is unclear how much they told him) and his blood pressure, according to our guide at Hyde Park last summer, was as high as 260/130!!   Below are pictures of FDR from 1940, just after winning his third term and prior to the U.S. entry into WWII, and 1945.
http://pdxretro.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/life-cover-fdr-3rd-term_thumb.jpg(FDR, 1940)http://ic.pics.livejournal.com/kensmind/1278588/397528/397528_600.jpg(FDR 1945)

Like Abraham Lincoln, who was murdered near the end of the four year long Civil War, America's bloodiest conflict, Roosevelt died in the fourth year of America's involvement in World War II, our second bloodiest conflict, with the Nazi capitulation only twenty-five days away and only four months before Japan's surrender.

Last summer, THC and the Mrs, along with the THC Sister and Niece visited FDR's family home at Hyde Park, New York on a bluff overlooking the Hudson River and it is well worth a trip if you live in the area or are visiting the New York area. Both the house itself and the museum are fascinating.  It is striking to walk through the home of a very wealthy family of the early 20th century and see how small and simple, by today's standards the bedrooms were for Franklin and Eleanor as well as their guests including Churchill and the Queen of England.  Eleanor turned the house over to the National Park Service shortly after Franklin's death so the house and grounds are pretty much as they were then with the original furnishings.


THC also recommends reading The Man He Became by James Tobin, about FDR's struggle with polio in the 1920s and his return to public life which gives the reader a great appreciation of what it took for him to cope and overcome, to some extent, the virus (as well as providing a fascinating primer on polio).

As President, THC's assessment of FDR is mixed.  He was a splendid war president, particularly in its most critical phase during the 18 month period after Pearl Harbor (see, The Day After Pearl Harbor).  FDR's self-confidence in his persuasive ability and lack of ideological interest led him to severely misunderstand Stalin but this had little impact on the events of the war (for more see Who Was Harry Hopkins?).

On the domestic front there is no doubt that FDR through his presence and voice played a powerful role in giving the American public confidence in the future during the worst of the Depression and providing a sense of stability.  Just listen to a random Fireside Chat and you'll understand; it's important not to underestimate the importance of instilling confidence during those turbulent times when demagogues like Huey Long stalked the country.

His reforms of the banking system, done in the early days of his First Administration, were effective.  After that, most of the rest of the New Deal was either ineffective or even, in some instances counterproductive (see, for instance, The National Recovery Administration), counterproductive.  Unemployment was still 14% in 1939, six years after Roosevelt was elected and the Depression was deeper and longer in the U.S. than in any other Western industrialized country.  And the degradation of Constitutional liberties, undertaken by the Supreme Court at FDR's urging, and all in the cause of making food more expensive for consumers, has wreaked long-term havoc in the country (for more see My Senator).

There is a famous remark, supposedly by Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr, about FDR to the effect he was a second-rate intellect but had a first class temperament, an assessment that rings true [there is some doubt whether Holmes was referring to FDR].  One can examine FDR to find deep thought and not see it.  But THC has come to the view, that once a basic threshold of intelligence is passed by a President, a good temperament is a much more important and crucial factor for the success of a President and Franklin Roosevelt had it (for an example see Management Lessons).  Oddly, the 20th century President he most resembles in that respect is Ronald Reagan.   Though THC rates Reagan's intellect higher than FDR's, having read his work from the 1960s and 70s, he does not think either FDR nor Reagan would be among the higher IQ scores among 20th century Presidents.  THC is confident that both Herbert Hoover and Jimmy Carter would score among the highest on an IQ test which tells you all you need to know about the value of sheer intelligence.

There were other similarities in personality between FDR and Reagan, though one was born into a wealthy well-established family and the other was born poor and raised in an unstable home environment.  Both had management styles that those working for them often found enigmatic, baffling and frustrating and they did not develop close personal relationships with their staff.  Both dealt with strong and formidable women (FDR's mother and Eleanor; Reagan with Nancy).  Both seemed emotionally detached from ,and had difficult relationships with, their children.

Give THC a candidate with some decent ideas and a great temperament over someone brilliant who doesn't understand people.











Sunday, April 12, 2015

We Suffered No Insult In Any Way

The Appomattox Campaign
http://www.civilwar.org/photos/galleries/appomattox-court-house/images/last-salute.jpg(from Civil war.org)

April 12 was the appointed day for the formal surrender of the last and largest component of the Army of Northern Virginia, the infantry.

Before leaving Appomattox, U.S. Grant appointed General Joshua Chamberlain of Maine to receive the surrender on behalf of the Union army giving him instruction that "the ceremony to be as simple as possible, and that nothing should be done to humiliate the manhood of the Southern soldiers".

Chamberlain, one of the many heroes of Gettysburg (for others see The Last Full Measure and Forgotten Americans: George Sears Green), received a battlefield promotion to General at Petersburg in June 1864 after receiving a wound that was thought to be fatal.  It did indeed prove so, but not until 1914 when he suffered an infection related to the wound and was treated by the same doctor who had saved his life fifty years before (for more on Chamberlain's life see In Great Deeds Something Abides).

To conduct the Confederate surrender Lee selected General John B Gordon of Georgia, one of his best division commanders (and later to be Senator and Governor in Georgia, along with possibly being one of the leaders of the newly-formed Klu Klux Klan).
http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/sites/default/files/styles/article-gallery/public/m-6736.jpg?itok=oFNIgLW8(John Gordon)

The final ceremony began at 6 A.M. and it took nearly ten hours for all the Confederates to march by and stack arms.  Let's listen to the glorious 19th century prose of General Chamberlain, which made him such a popular commemoration speaker for decades, describing the surrender (from Bayonet! Forward):
It was now the morning of the 12th of April . . .

We formed . . .  to face the last line of battle, and receive the last remnant of the arms and colors of that great army ours had been created to confront for all that death can do to life.  We were remnants also . . . veterans, and replaced veterans; cut to pieces, cut down, consolidated, divisions into brigades . . . men of near blood born, made nearer by blood shed.  Those facing us - now thank God, the same.

Our earnest eyes scan the busy groups on the opposite slopes, breaking camp for the last time - taking down their little shelter-tents and folding them carefully, as precious things, then slowly forming ranks as for unwelcome duty.  And now they move.  The dusky swarms forge forward into gray columns of march.  On they come, with the old swinging route step, and swaying battle-flags.

. . . when the head of each division column comes opposite our group, our bugle sounds the signal and instantly our whole line from right to left, regiment by regiment in succession, gives the soldier's salutation, - from the "order arms" to the old "carry" - the marching salute.  Gordon at the head of the column, riding with heavy spirit and downcast face, catches the sounds of shifting arms, looks up, and, taking the meaning, wheels superbly, making with himself and his horse one uplifted figure, with profound salutation as he drops the point of his sword to the boot toe; then facing to his own command, gives word for his successive brigades to pass us with the same position of manual, honor answering honor.  On our part not a sound of trumpet more, nor roll of drum; not a cheer, nor word nor whisper of vain-glorying, nor motion of man standing again at the order; but an awed stillness rather and breath-holding as if it were the passing of the dead!
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/db/Joshua_Chamberlain_-_Brady-Handy.jpg (Joshua Chamberlain)

Now, it needs to be noted that Chamberlain was a renowned speaker for decades after the war and many of his stories grew in the repeated tellings.  The specifics of the gallantry of the surrender ceremony were, in reality, exaggerated in his tale but it's still a good story and in full accord with The Official Policy Of This Blog.

In Calkins' The Appomattox Campaign he quotes a Southern soldier:
We suffered no insult in any way from any of our enemies.  No other army in the world would have been so considerate of a foe that it had taken so long, so much privation, so much sacrifice of human life, to overwhelm.
EP Alexander left Appomattox that morning, riding to Richmond with a mixed group of Confederate and Union officers, including a United States Senator from Illinois.  Returning to his home in Georgia, he took a job teaching mathematics at the University of South Carolina before becoming a railroad executive.  Alexander became friends with President Grover Cleveland who in 1897 appointed him as arbiter in a boundary dispute between Nicaragua and Costa Rica which led to him living in Nicaragua for two years.

Returning to the U.S. he published the well-regarded Military Memoirs of a Confederate (1907), an  academic-style work of military history and analysis, and lectured at West Point before dying in 1910.

It was only decades later that historians researching his personal papers housed at the University of North Carolina realized that during his time in Central America, Alexander had written a much more personal and critical history of the Army of Northern Virginia, which was embedded in scattered form among his papers.  Reassembling and editing these paper took some time and Fighting For The Confederacy: The Personal Recollections of General Edward Porter Alexander was not published until 1989.   It is unusual among general officer memoirs of the Civil War in that it provides full and balanced portraits of the principals, even criticizing Robert E Lee, a man held in the highest esteem by Alexander.  Along with Grant's Personal Memoirs it represents the best of such writing.

Joshua Chamberlain later wrote of watching the remaining Confederates break camp the next morning:
. . . the morning of the 13th, we could see the men, singly or in squads, making their way slowly into the distance, in whichever direction was nearest home, and by nightfall we were left there at Appomattox Courthouse lonesome and alone.
It was over.


Saturday, April 11, 2015

Hope Of A Righteous And Speedy Peace




http://www.whitehousemuseum.org/images/white-house-north-face-c1853.jpg
The Appomattox Campaign

On the evening of April 11, four days after returning from City Point and two days after hearing the news of Lee's surrender, Abraham Lincoln speaks from a second floor balcony on the north side of the White House.  To the crowd gathered below, the President talks briefly about his thoughts on reconstruction for the seceeding states, focusing on the recent case of Louisiana.  It is his only public address between Lee's surrender and his own death three days hence.

The President starts by noting that the surrender two days prior of the "principal insurgent army, give hope of a righteous and speedy peace whose joyous expression can not be restrained".  He then passes on to the thorny issue of reconstruction and addresses criticism of his approach to the proposed reconstruction of Louisiana.

The pragmatism of Lincoln shows in his remarks regarding those who express disappointment that his mind does not appear firm on how reconstruction is to be implemented:
I have been shown a letter on this subject, supposed to be an able one, in which the writer expresses regret that my mind has not seemed to be definitely fixed on the question whether the seceding States, so called, are in the Union or out of it. It would perhaps, add astonishment to his regret, were he to learn that since I have found professed Union men endeavoring to make that question, I have purposely forborne any public expression upon it. As appears to me that question has not been, nor yet is, a practically material one, and that any discussion of it, while it thus remains practically immaterial, could have no effect other than the mischievous one of dividing our friends. As yet, whatever it may hereafter become, that question is bad, as the basis of a controversy, and good for nothing at all--a merely pernicious abstraction.
His advice against premature expression on questions that are still abstractions is something that should be remembered by all politicians.

In the course of discussing Louisiana, the President comments on voting rights for "the colored man".
It is also unsatisfactory to some that the elective franchise is not given to the colored man. I would myself prefer that it were now conferred on the very intelligent, and on those who serve our cause as soldiers.
Among those listening to the speech is John Wilkes Booth, who has spent the last several months organizing a plot originally to kidnap the President and spirit him to Richmond, a plot which, with the collapse of the Confederacy, has now mutated into a plan for assassination.  Upon hearing Lincoln endorse enfranchisement for some colored men, an enraged Booth turns to one of his co-conspirators and says: "That is the last speech he will make".
Image(Lincoln, April 11 from pogues. com)
________________________________________________________________________
That day at Appomattox Court House, in the midst of a pouring rain, 2,576 artillerymen surrendered and gave their parole.

Full Text of Remarks by Abraham Lincoln; April 11, 1865

We meet this evening, not in sorrow, but in gladness of heart. The evacuation of Petersburg and Richmond, and the surrender of the principal insurgent army, give hope of a righteous and speedy peace whose joyous expression can not be restrained. In the midst of this, however, He from whom all blessings flow, must not be forgotten. A call for a national thanksgiving is being prepared, and will be duly promulgated. Nor must those whose harder part gives us the cause of rejoicing, be overlooked. Their honors must not be parcelled out with others. I myself was near the front, and had the high pleasure of transmitting much of the good news to you; but no part of the honor, for plan or execution, is mine. To Gen. Grant, his skilful officers, and brave men, all belongs. The gallant Navy stood ready, but was not in reach to take active part.

By these recent successes the re-inauguration of the national authority -- reconstruction -- which has had a large share of thought from the first, is pressed much more closely upon our attention. It is fraught with great difficulty. Unlike a case of a war between independent nations, there is no authorized organ for us to treat with. No one man has authority to give up the rebellion for any other man. We simply must begin with, and mould from, disorganized and discordant elements. Nor is it a small additional embarrassment that we, the loyal people, differ among ourselves as to the mode, manner, and means of reconstruction.

As a general rule, I abstain from reading the reports of attacks upon myself, wishing not to be provoked by that to which I can not properly offer an answer. In spite of this precaution, however, it comes to my knowledge that I am much censured for some supposed agency in setting up, and seeking to sustain, the new State government of Louisiana. In this I have done just so much as, and no more than, the public knows. In the Annual Message of Dec. 1863 and accompanying Proclamation, I presented a plan of re-construction (as the phrase goes) which, I promised, if adopted by any State, should be acceptable to, and sustained by, the Executive government of the nation. I distinctly stated that this was not the only plan which might possibly be acceptable; and I also distinctly protested that the Executive claimed no right to say when, or whether members should be admitted to seats in Congress from such States. This plan was, in advance, submitted to the then Cabinet, and distinctly approved by every member of it. One of them suggested that I should then, and in that connection, apply the Emancipation Proclamation to the theretofore excepted parts of Virginia and Louisiana; that I should drop the suggestion about apprenticeship for freed-people, and that I should omit the protest against my own power, in regard to the admission of members to Congress; but even he approved every part and parcel of the plan which has since been employed or touched by the action of Louisiana.

The new constitution of Louisiana, declaring emancipation for the whole State, practically applies the Proclamation to the part previously excepted. It does not adopt apprenticeship for freed-people; and it is silent, as it could not well be otherwise, about the admission of members to Congress. So that, as it applies to Louisiana, every member of the Cabinet fully approved the plan. The message went to Congress, and I received many commendations of the plan, written and verbal; and not a single objection to it, from any professed emancipationist, came to my knowledge, until after the news reached Washington that the people of Louisiana had begun to move in accordance with it. From about July 1862, I had corresponded with different persons, supposed to be interested, seeking a reconstruction of a State government for Louisiana. When the message of 1863, with the plan before mentioned, reached New-Orleans, Gen. Banks wrote me that he was confident the people, with his military co-operation, would reconstruct, substantially on that plan. I wrote him, and some of them to try it; they tried it, and the result is known. Such only has been my agency in getting up the Louisiana government. As to sustaining it, my promise is out, as before stated. But, as bad promises are better broken than kept, I shall treat this as a bad promise, and break it, whenever I shall be convinced that keeping it is adverse to the public interest. But I have not yet been so convinced.

I have been shown a letter on this subject, supposed to be an able one, in which the writer expresses regret that my mind has not seemed to be definitely fixed on the question whether the seceding States, so called, are in the Union or out of it. It would perhaps, add astonishment to his regret, were he to learn that since I have found professed Union men endeavoring to make that question, I have purposely forborne any public expression upon it. As appears to me that question has not been, nor yet is, a practically material one, and that any discussion of it, while it thus remains practically immaterial, could have no effect other than the mischievous one of dividing our friends. As yet, whatever it may hereafter become, that question is bad, as the basis of a controversy, and good for nothing at all--a merely pernicious abstraction.

We all agree that the seceded States, so called, are out of their proper relation with the Union; and that the sole object of the government, civil and military, in regard to those States is to again get them into that proper practical relation. I believe it is not only possible, but in fact, easier to do this, without deciding, or even considering, whether these States have ever been out of the Union, than with it. Finding themselves safely at home, it would be utterly immaterial whether they had ever been abroad. Let us all join in doing the acts necessary to restoring the proper practical relations between these States and the Union; and each forever after, innocently indulge his own opinion whether, in doing the acts, he brought the States from without, into the Union, or only gave them proper assistance, they never having been out of it.

The amount of constituency, so to speak, on which the new Louisiana government rests, would be more satisfactory to all, if it contained fifty, thirty, or even twenty thousand, instead of only about twelve thousand, as it does. It is also unsatisfactory to some that the elective franchise is not given to the colored man. I would myself prefer that it were now conferred on the very intelligent, and on those who serve our cause as soldiers. Still the question is not whether the Louisiana government, as it stands, is quite all that is desirable. The question is, "Will it be wiser to take it as it is, and help to improve it; or to reject, and disperse it?" "Can Louisiana be brought into proper practical relation with the Union sooner by sustaining, or by discarding her new State government?"

Some twelve thousand voters in the heretofore slave-state of Louisiana have sworn allegiance to the Union, assumed to be the rightful political power of the State, held elections, organized a State government, adopted a free-state constitution, giving the benefit of public schools equally to black and white, and empowering the Legislature to confer the elective franchise upon the colored man. Their Legislature has already voted to ratify the constitutional amendment recently passed by Congress, abolishing slavery throughout the nation. These twelve thousand persons are thus fully committed to the Union, and to perpetual freedom in the state--committed to the very things, and nearly all the things the nation wants--and they ask the nations recognition and it's assistance to make good their committal. Now, if we reject, and spurn them, we do our utmost to disorganize and disperse them. We in effect say to the white men "You are worthless, or worse--we will neither help you, nor be helped by you." To the blacks we say "This cup of liberty which these, your old masters, hold to your lips, we will dash from you, and leave you to the chances of gathering the spilled and scattered contents in some vague and undefined when, where, and how." If this course, discouraging and paralyzing both white and black, has any tendency to bring Louisiana into proper practical relations with the Union, I have, so far, been unable to perceive it. If, on the contrary, we recognize, and sustain the new government of Louisiana the converse of all this is made true. We encourage the hearts, and nerve the arms of the twelve thousand to adhere to their work, and argue for it, and proselyte for it, and fight for it, and feed it, and grow it, and ripen it to a complete success. The colored man too, in seeing all united for him, is inspired with vigilance, and energy, and daring, to the same end. Grant that he desires the elective franchise, will he not attain it sooner by saving the already advanced steps toward it, than by running backward over them? Concede that the new government of Louisiana is only to what it should be as the egg is to the fowl, we shall sooner have the fowl by hatching the egg than by smashing it? Again, if we reject Louisiana, we also reject one vote in favor of the proposed amendment to the national Constitution. To meet this proposition, it has been argued that no more than three fourths of those States which have not attempted secession are necessary to validly ratify the amendment. I do not commit myself against this, further than to say that such a ratification would be questionable, and sure to be persistently questioned; while a ratification by three-fourths of all the States would be unquestioned and unquestionable.
I repeat the question, "Can Louisiana be brought into proper practical relation with the Union sooner by sustaining or by discarding her new State Government?

What has been said of Louisiana will apply generally to other States. And yet so great peculiarities pertain to each state, and such important and sudden changes occur in the same state; and withal, so new and unprecedented is the whole case, that no exclusive, and inflexible plan can be safely prescribed as to details and colatterals [sic]. Such exclusive, and inflexible plan, would surely become a new entanglement. Important principles may, and must, be inflexible.

In the present "situation" as the phrase goes, it may be my duty to make some new announcement to the people of the South. I am considering, and shall not fail to act, when satisfied that action will be proper.

Friday, April 10, 2015

I Bid You All An Affectionate Farewell

The Appomattox Campaign

The Confederate cavalry surrendered on the 10th with officers and men giving their parole.  EP Alexander encountered many of his former colleagues:
I met at the Federal headquarters many old army friends & acquaintances & the courtesy, consideration & good will of every one of them was shown in every way possible.  Indeed, Gen. Grant's spirit of kindness seemed to imbue his whole army down to the private soldiers & the teamsters one met upon the roads, who would turn out into the mud for any Confederate officer, & salute him . . .
He refers to running into one of his former classmates who offers him money to help get Alexander back to Georgia, remarking of the offer:
It is only a fair sample of the spirit that breathed everywhere, & which I believe would have animated the North every where but for the assassination of Lincoln.
It was also the day that both commanding generals took leave of their armies.

Robert E Lee issued a farewell to his troops:
General Order
No. 9

After four years of arduous service marked by unsurpassed courage and fortitude, the Army of Northern Virginia has been compelled to yield to overwhelming numbers and resources.

I need not tell the survivors of so many hard fought battles, who have remained steadfast to the last, that I have consented to the result from no distrust of them.

But feeling that valour and devotion could accomplish nothing that could compensate for the loss that must have attended the continuance of the contest, I have determined to avoid the useless sacrifice of those whose past services have endeared them to their countrymen.

By the terms of the agreement, officers and men can return to their homes and remain until exchanged. You will take with you the satisfaction that proceeds from the consciousness of duty faithfully performed, and I earnestly pray that a merciful God will extend to you his blessing and protection.

With an unceasing admiration of your constancy and devotion to your Country, and a grateful remembrance of your kind and generous consideration for myself, I bid you an affectionate farewell.
The next morning he left Appomattox to ride to Richmond where he resided for two months before accepting an offer to become President of Washington College (now Washington & Lee University) in Lexington, Virginia, a position he held until his death in 1870.

U.S. Grant left Appomattox Court House to make his way back to City Point and from there left for  Washington DC on April 12.  On the 14th, Grant would attend a Cabinet Meeting where President Lincoln would invite the General and his wife to join he and Mrs Lincoln in his box at Ford's Theater later that evening.  Grant declined as he and his wife had plans to travel later that day by train to Burlington, New Jersey to see their children.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

At Appomattox Court House

http://cdn2.americancivilwar.com/americancivilwar-cdn/north/grant_standing_promo.jpg (U.S. Grant)
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7e/Robert_E_Lee_in_1863.png(R.E. Lee)
The Appomattox Campaign
 
At daybreak the Army of Northern Virginia launched its last offensive, designed to push the Federal cavalry off the road from Appomattox Court House to Appomattox Station.  After their long ride and fight of the previous evening Custer's troopers had been relieved and two other Union cavalry brigades held the position astride the road.

Initially the rebel infantry were successful driving the outnumbered Union horseman back but then, at the last possible moment, General Ord's infantry arrived, having marched more than thirty miles in twenty-four hours, sealing off the escape route and with Custer riding rapidly to the scene.  The end had come.Appomattox Court House
 (from history-map.com)

In his memoirs, Edward Porter Alexander recounts meeting with Lee who told him of his plans to surrender.  General Alexander recommended Lee instead order the army to scatter and make their way to either join General Johnston in North Carolina or report to their state governors for assignment.  He describes verbatim and at length both his argument and Lee's response which, since the memoir was written 30 years after the event is unlikely to be word for word accurate.  Nonetheless, the commander's response, as described by Alexander, is very much what we would have wanted the Lee of our imagination to say:
Suppose I should take your suggestion & order the army to disperse & make their way to their homes.  The men would have no rations & they would be under no discipline.  They are already demoralized by four years of war.  They would have to plunder & rob to procure subsistence.  The country would be full of lawless bands in every part, & a state of society would ensue from which it would take the country years to recover.  Then the enemy's cavalry would pursue in the hopes of catching the principal officers & wherever they went there would be fresh rapine & destruction.

And, as for myself, while you young men might afford to go to bushwhacking, the only proper & dignified course for me would be to surrender myself & take the consequences of my actions.

But it is still early in the spring, & if the men can be quietly & quickly returned to their homes there is time to plant crops & begin to repair the ravages of war.  That is what I must now try to bring about.
On hearing Lee's response, Alexander writes that he "was so ashamed of having proposed to him such a foolish and wild cat scheme".

Shortly thereafter, Lee received Grant's response to his letter of the previous evening; the note that had caused Grant's aide such consternation and of which Alexander, who only saw the text years later, remarked "I must say that I think this letter somewhat difficult to understand, & I could easily imagine Gen. Grant taking it only for a ruse to gain time":
Your note of yesterday is received.  I have no authority to treat on the subject of peace.  The meeting proposed for 10 A.M. today could lead to no good.  I will state, however, that I am equally desirous for peace with yourself, and the whole North entertains the same feeling.  The terms upon which peace can be had are well understood.  By the South laying down their arms, they would hasten that most desirable event, save thousands of human lives, and hundreds of millions in property not yet destroyed.  Seriously hoping that all our difficulties may be settled without the loss of another life, I subscribe myself, etc.,

                                                        U.S. Grant, Lieutenant-General
Lee replied immediately:
I received your note of this morning on the picket-line whither I had come to meet you and ascertain definitely what terms were embraced in your proposal of yesterday with reference to the surrender of this army.  I now ask an interview, in accordance with the offer contained in your letter of yesterday, for that purpose.
Now the mechanics of passing the messages and trying to arrange a cease-fire across a battlefield where the armies were in close contact over an area of several square miles, became extremely important.  Scattered fighting continued until between 10 and 11 A.M.  Several Confederate commanders sent out officers with truce flags.  At some locations Federal officers rode out from their lines and cease-fires took hold.  At another location a Confederate officer approached General Custer, who knowing nothing of the Lee-Grant letter exchange rejected the truce offer.  Shortly thereafter Custer, accompanied by only one orderly, rode into the Confederate lines and encountering General Longstreet demanded he unconditionally surrender his command and threatened to attack if he did not do so.  Longstreet's response to Custer is variously reported as "Pitch in as much as you like" or "go ahead and have all the bloodshed you want" and had him escorted back to the Union lines.

Around noon, Grant received Lee's note and he later remarked that the migraine headache he'd had since the prior day immediately lifted.

Lee's aides selected the home of Wilmer McLean for the meeting with Grant.  McLean was a wholesale grocer who, in 1861, owned a home in Manassas, Virginia, which served as headquarters for General Beuregard, commander of the Confederate Army, at the Battle of Bull Run, the first major battle of the war.  Deciding to move his family to safer ground he settled in 1863 at Appomattox Court House.  EP Alexander, who had met McLean in 1861, wrote:
The first hostile shot I ever saw strike, went through his kitchen.  The last gun was fired on his land and the surrender took place in his parlor . . . http://spotlights.fold3.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/wilmer-mclean_house1.jpg(McLean House)

Lee arrived at the McLean house around 1 P.M. dressed in a new, clean uniform.  When asked by one of his officers why he was dressed so well, Lee replied "I have probably to be General Grant's prisoner, and I must make my best appearance".

Grant arrived, rumpled and dirty, about a half hour later, having ridden eighteen miles since the morning with no chance to change his uniform.
http://media-1.web.britannica.com/eb-media/35/93035-004-E1A56FF0.jpg(from brittanica.com)

After some small talk, Grant sat down to write the terms of surrender.  He was known to be a remarkably fast and precise draftsman and this is what he handed Lee:
                                                               Headquarters, Armies of the United States
                                                               Appomattox Court House, Va., April 9, 1865
                                                               General R.E. LEE
                                                               Commanding C.S. Army

GENERAL:

In accordance with the substance of my letter to you . . . I propose to receive the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia on the following terms; to wit:  Rolls of all the officers and men to be made in duplicate, one copy to be given to an officer to be designated by me, the other to be retained by such officer or officers as you may designate; the officers to give their individual paroles not to take up arms against the Government of the United States until properly exchanged; and each company or regimental commander sign a like parole for the men of their commands. The arms, artillery, and public property are to be parked and stacked, and turned over to the officers appointed by me to receive them.  This will not embrace the side-arms of the officers, nor their private horses and baggage.  This done, officers and men will be allowed to return to their homes, and not be disturbed by United States authority so long as they observe the their paroles and the laws in force where they may reside.

                                                                                      Very respectfully,
                                                                                      U.S. GRANT,
                                                                                      Lieutenant - General
(Original draft of surrender terms; preserved by Ely S Parker of Grant's staff)
2TermsofSurrender
1TermsofSurrender
Upon reading the terms Lee remarked to Grant, "This will have a very happy effect upon my army".

Lee had only one additional request, pointing out to Grant that many of his non-officer cavalrymen and artillerymen owned their own horses which they had brought into service and would need for spring planting.  Although Grant did not want to alter the written terms, he instructed his officers to allow all Confederates to keep their mounts when they left after the formal surrender.

Lee wrote out his acceptance of the terms, both commanders signed the papers, saluted each other and then Lee and his subordinates left the McLean house a little after 3 P.M.

Upon hearing the news, the Union troops erupted with cheers and the artillery fired salutes.  Hearing this Grant ordered the celebrations stopped saying "The Confederates are now our prisoners, and we do not want to exult over their downfall".

In his remarkable Personal Memoirs (a classic of American literature), written on his deathbed twenty years later, U.S. Grant reflected upon the day:
I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse. 
Edward Porter Alexander wrote - with special emphasis:
For all time it will be a good thing for the whole United States, that of all the Federal generals it fell to Grant to receive the surrender of Lee.
Alexander also remarked on the importance of the last sentence in Grant's surrender terms allowing the Confederates to "not be disturbed by United States authority" as long as they abided by the terms of their paroles:
I've always been particularly impressed with the last sentence, which in such few & simple & unobjectionable words, practically gave an amnesty to every surrendered soldier for all political offences.  The subject had not been discussed, nor referred to in any way.  Nor did there seem, at the time, any likelihood that there would ever be any vindictive desire to hang or punish our prominent men for treason.  Nor would there have been had Mr. Lincoln lived.  But after his death there came a time when even Gen. Lee's blood was specially thirsted for, and when this provision enabled Gen. Grant to protect him even against President Johnson & with him every paroled soldier in the South.  For the terms given by Gen. Grant were followed in the surrender of all the other armies [for more, see The Largest Confederate Surrender].  Gen. Horace Porter has told me personally of President Johnson's insisting that "the hanging should begin" & of Gen. Grant's threatening to resign from the command of the army if the protection he had promised to the surrendered were violated in a single instance.
Alexander was right in recognizing this sentence's importance.  It meant no prison, no treason trials, no penalties for those who surrendered.  Arguably, Grant exceeded his authority by writing terms of peace, not just of capitulation for an army.  Fortunately, his personal prestige was such that later political attempts to alter the terms failed.

The formal surrender of the nearly 30,000 men of the Army of Northern Virginia was scheduled for April 10 (cavalry), April 11 (artillery) and April 12 (infantry).

While Lee and Grant were inside the McLean House, George Armstrong Custer was nearby renewing acquaintances with old Confederate friends.  After Lee and Grant left, General Sheridan paid Wilmer McLean $20 for the pine table on which the surrender documents were written.  He gave it to Custer for him to give to his wife, Libby, along with a note penned by Sheridan:
My dear Madam, I respectfully present to you the small writing table on which the conditions for the surrender of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia were written by Lieutenant General Grant, and permit me to say, Madam, that there is scarcely an individual in our service who has contributed more to bring this about than your very gallant husband.
Libby Custer, who outlived her husband by nearly 57 years, cherished the table, which is now in the Smithsonian Museum.

(Replica of table at which Grant wrote surrender terms & given to Libby Custer)



Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Custer's First Stand

The Appomattox Campaign

The two armies raced to reach the "neck of the jug" first at Appomattox.  For the Federals, General Phillip Sheridan assigned the task to his favorite subordinate, General George Armstrong Custer.
http://www.old-picture.com/civil-war/pictures/George-Custer-001.jpg(Lieutenant George Armstrong Custer, 1862)

George Armstrong Custer is remembered today for his reckless decisions on June 25, 1876 when he decided, against orders, to have his 7th Cavalry Regiment attack a large Indian village along the Little Bighorn River in Montana.  Dividing his 600 trooper command into three detachments, Custer led 209 of his men along a high ridge overlooking the Indian encampment, which turned out to be the largest such gathering ever of the Plains Indians.  Custer and all his men would be dead within two hours and, six decades later, have the added ignominy of being subject to perhaps the least historically accurate, albeit very popular, Hollywood movie ever made (see They Died With Their Boots On).

The Custer of the Civil War is far less well known.  Born in 1839, Custer entered West Point in 1858 in the class of 1862 which, because of the outbreak of the Civil War, graduated a year early in 1861.  Custer ranked dead last academically in his class of 34, accumulating a then-record of 726 demerits for personal misconduct and coming near expulsion on several occasions.  With that record, and absent the war, Custer would have been assigned to some obscure frontier outpost.  Instead, he participated in the first Battle of Bull Run and was assigned to the staff of the Army of the Potomac.  Handling his assignments with alacrity and elan he quickly rose to command a brigade, becoming  Brigadier General of Volunteers on June 28, 1863.  He was 23 years old.
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/80/CusterandWashington01.jpg/220px-CusterandWashington01.jpg(Custer in 1862 with a former classmate captured by the Federals)

On the final day of the Battle of Gettysburg on July 3, 1863 he led his outnumbered brigade in a series of charges against the Confederate cavalry commanded by the famed and feared J.E.B. Stuart, thwarting his attack on the Union rear.  Throughout 1863 and 1864 he was successful in actions throughout Virginia and was promoted to command of a division in May 1864.  Later that year he helped destroy Jubal Early's army in the Shenandoah Valley.

Custer led his troops from the front and was solicitous of their welfare, a combination that made him very popular.  His aggressiveness made him a favorite of General Sheridan.  And he's all over the Appomattox Campaign.

http://thefederalistpapers.integratedmarket.netdna-cdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/staff-of-general-fitz-john-porter-lieutenant-william-g-jones-and-then-lieutenant-george-a-custer-reclining-the-peninsula-va-may-20-1862.jpg
(Custer, with dog on lower right, with his staff

Custer played a key role at the battles of Dinwiddie Court House and Five Forks at the start of the campaign.  On April 3 it was Custer's division that defeated General Barringer (see General Barringer's Ride) at Namozine Church.  Two days later, his troops were part of the force blocking Lee's advance towards Jetersville and North Carolina.  The next day at Sailor's Creek, his division made the assault that broke the Confederate lines.  In that action, Custer captured Edward Porter Alexander's former artillery battalion commanded by Colonel Frank Huger.  Alexander wrote:
Custer & Huger had been great friends & class mates, & Custer made him ride along all day, & sleep with him that night, & treated him nicely.
For much of April 8, 1865 there was little contact between the armies.  Lee was north of the Appomattox River marching hard towards the neck of the jug, pursued by much of Grant's army.  Parallel to Lee, Sheridan's cavalry, led by Custer's division and trailed by General Ord's infantry was south of the river trying to reach Appomattox Station and Court House before the rebels.

Late that afternoon, Custer's troopers reached the Southside Railroad at Appomattox Station and captured a train with 300,000 rations intended for the hungry Confederate soldiers.  The rebel forces, mostly artillerymen, in the vicinity were startled to see Union troops in the area while most of Lee's army was still strung out on several miles of road to the east of Appomattox Court House.

After skirmishing, Custer ordered a full assault on the Confederates around 8pm under a full moon, scattering the enemy force and capturing 30 cannon and almost 1,000 prisoners.  Custer's division was now positioned directly in front of Lee's advancing army, blocking the only road to the west.  To locate Lee, Custer sent a unit under Colonel Augustus Root to Appomattox Court House.  Entering the village, they encountered Confederates and Root was killed in the fighting.
http://1stconfederatebattalion.org/battle-of-appomattox-station.jpg
Lee knew that in the morning he would have to move west from the Court House and try to push aside the Union cavalry.  But if the Federal infantry under Ord reached the field before that could be accomplished the game would be up for the Army of Northern Virginia.
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 The plight of the Army of Northern Virginia was obvious to its general officers.  General Alexander recounts in his memoir that sometime on the 8th several rebel generals conferred and "agreed that a speedy surrender was inevitable" and that they "thought it desirable that they should first suggest the necessity to Gen. Lee, that the blame or odium, if any, might be laid upon them instead of upon him".   Alexander reports that General Pendleton, who delivered the message to Lee, was "coldly received".

Despite Lee's rejection of his own officers suggestion of surrender, he and Grant continued their correspondence that day.  Grant sent a note:
Your note of last evening in reply to mine of the same date, asking the conditions on which I will accept the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, is just received.  In reply I would say that, peace being my great desire, there is but one condition I would insist upon, - namely, that the men and officers surrendered shall be disqualified for taking up arms against the Government of the United States until properly exchanged.  I will meet you, or will designate officers to meet any officers you may name for the same purpose, at any point agreeable to you, for the purpose of arranging definitely the terms upon which the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia will be received.
Lee's response reached Grant around midnight:
I received at a late hour your note of today.  I did not intend to propose the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia, but to ask the terms of your proposition.  To be frank, I do not think the emergency has arisen to call for the surrender of this army; but, as the restoration of peace should be the sole object of all, I desire to know whether your proposals would lead to that end.  I cannot therefore meet you with a view to surrender the Army of Northern Va., but, as far as your proposal may affect the Confederate States forces under my command, & tend to the restoration of peace, I should be pleased to meet you at 10 A.M. tomorrow on the old stage road to Richmond between the picket lines of the two armies.
Grant's Chief of Staff, General John Rawlins, upon reading Lee's note aloud, pronounced it "a positive insult" reminding the Union commander that he had no authority to meet with Lee to discuss the subject of a general peace, but the imperturbable Grant, echoing Lincoln's sentiments of April 4, responded that "Lee was only trying to be let down easily".