Monday, February 22, 2010

Civil War Blooper-Damn the Torpedoes!

Lieutenant Commander Thomas Selfridge of the Union Navy had a unique method for removing torpedoes encroaching toward his vessel. He moved his ship and disposed of the torpedoes by placing his vessel over them.

Source: Civil War Blunders by Clint Johnson
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Friday, February 19, 2010

Totally Burst my Bubble

I just read that the Ashokan Farewell from the Civil War documentary was not a period piece. It was written in the late 1980's. It sounded like an authentic piece of music from the Civil War. I thought so all these years. What is a Civil War buff to do now? Life will never be the same.
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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Civil War Joke-Retreat Song

The experience of battle produced a variety of reactions, among them retreat. This parody of the song Just Before the Battle expressed the rush to the rear:

Just Before the Battle, Mother
I was drinking mountain dew,
When I saw the rebels coming,
To the rear I quickly flew.

Source: A Collection of Civil War Humor by Robert McLernon
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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Conscription Day

Today in 1863, the U.S. Senate passed its version of conscription. The South had already had a draft for over a year. Previously, the North had relied on volunteers. It shows that the weaker side always has to be more innovative in fighting a war.
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Friday, February 12, 2010

Reflection on Lincoln

On this birth anniversary of our great president, I'd like to reflect on one of Lincoln's key personality traits: his lack of ego.

In his pursuit of victory in the war, he was willing to absorb blows to his pride and even his position. When George McClellan snubbed him on a visit to the general's house in Washington, Lincoln said,"I will hold McClellan's horse if he will get me victories." In a letter to Joe Hooker, who had proposed a dictatorship in order to win the war, the president told him,"I will risk the dictatorship if you will get me victories." Lincoln stood ready to sacrifice his own pride and even risk his position as president on the altar of the Union.

In our age of selfish and self-aggrandizing politicians, Abraham Lincoln is a lesson in leadership.
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Thursday, February 11, 2010

Abraham Lincoln-Fireman?

On this day in 1864, Abraham Lincoln dashed outside the White House to fight a fire that broke out in a nearby group of stables. He joined a District of Columbia fire brigade. When it was over, a total of six horses and donkeys died. Already upset because of his son's typhoid fever, tears filled Lincoln's eyes.

The president not only fought fires, but tested weapons. When new armaments came to his attention, he tried them himself. He allegedly inspected the Gatling gun, which eventually led to the machine gun.

At that time, the Presidency was a hands-on affair.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Civil War Story: A Donkey's Love

Monsieur Chillon, a veteran of the French army, decided to throw his lot with the Confederate cause in 1861. He walked across the country through Indian territory accompanied by his donkey, Jason. He reached the French-speaking Third Confederate Louisiana Confederate regiment and enlisted. Unfortunately, the regimental colonel looked very similar to Monsieur Chillon. One night, Jason entered the colonel's tent and tried to curl up next to him.

Source: Robert Burke, Our Incredible Civil War
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Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Lee's Ascension

On this day in 1865, Robert E. Lee became General-in-Chief of the Confederate armies. He did not want the job. A theater commander at heart, he said that he would be guided by the judgments of the field commanders. Until that point, the Confederacy's only supreme commander had been Jefferson Davis. For most of the war, the South did not have a general-in-chief like Halleck or Grant.

I think that fact highlighted one of the Confederacy's great errors: the lack of an overall military strategy. Much of what Lee or Johnston or Bragg did was tactical. Davis had a political strategy but not a military one. The generals seemed to do their own thing and no military staff in Richmond gave them true dictation. This fundamental weakness hurt the South throughout the war.
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Monday, February 8, 2010

A Modest Proposal

In the spirit of Jonathan Swift, I have a modest proposal for the North Carolina Board of Education. In case you haven't heard, the Board is proposing a change to the teaching of history in the state. Under the rationale that events before that year are too distant for students to remember, the Board has proposed that American history be taught from 1877 onward.

Since certain key events occurred before that year, I propose that those events be redated. I think the Declaration of Independence should be recalibrated to 1876. I think the kids wouldn't mind one extra year of rememberance. As for the Civil War, we could move that period from 1861 to 1961. Yes, the surrender at Appomattox occurred in 1965. The troops must have been singing "Satisfaction" and "Hard Day's Night" as they went into battle. We could lop a hundred years off our country's existence, but a little liposuction never hurt anyone.

I hope the North Carolina Board of Education will adopt my suggestion. I hope and pray that the kids' brains will remain free and uncluttered.
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