Raison D’être – Sam Finishes His Book

Today in History, July 16, 1885: Sam finishes his book.

Sam had led a bit of a rough life. He saw great success, no doubt, but he was also an alcoholic. His father struggled with the demon for a time, and his grandfather had succumbed to it. In those days they didn’t realize it was often a family trait or a disease…it was simply a weakness. Sam had fought the demon his entire adult life. He was brilliant at is chosen profession. He quit it for a time because of his drinking and tried other jobs…farmer, realtor, shopkeeper…none worked out. As brilliant as he was, he had another weakness; he had a big heart and was much to quick to trust people with his money. So Sam spent most of his life broke.

Even with this, events in his life led him in a round about way to the pinnacle of success. He succeeded where others failed miserably due to his tenacity, his organizational skills and his ability to see the big picture. Yet through it all, no matter how much he achieved, his detractors never forgot, and certainly never let him forget, his demons.

Sam had made his fortune at last…but then, in his older years when there was little to no chance of building success anew, his other failure reared its ugly head again. The people he trusted with his money were scoundrels, and he found himself…and more importantly to him, his family, destitute once again.

Living on borrowed money, things got worse. One day while eating a peach his wife had given him, he felt as if he had been stung by something within it. He had no time for doctors and stubbornly toiled for months until the pain was unbearable to relent to his wife’s demands to see his physician. By then, it was too late. The mouth and throat cancer was advanced, and all that could be done was to provide him with pain killers until the end would come.

Sam’s father had been an inveterate braggart, a schemer and an incessant talker. It embarrassed Sam so that he became the exact opposite. Quiet and humble to a fault, it took everything he had to do what he had refused for years…to blow his own horn and tell his own story. But now it was the only way he could leave his wife and children with a means of support. So he threw himself into the task.

For over a year he wrote. He wore a muffler to cover the baseball sized tumor at his throat. Typical of his demeanor, he never complained of the excruciating pain that wracked him day and night…his family only saw him grimace from the pain when he was asleep and unable to hide it.

Sam worked with a purpose…he amazed his publisher by finishing 10,000 words in a day, written out. Mark couldn’t believe it…Mark was one of the most prolific story-telling authors of his time, and could never match Sam, who disliked the task of telling his own story. But now he had to…for his family…for his legacy because his old detractors were only too happy to repeat their own refrain, “See, we told you so.”

Fighting past the pain and past the fog of his medications, he toiled even when he could no longer write, and tortured himself to dictate his story to others.

Finally on July 16, 1885, Sam completed his autobiography. Mark had promised to publish it for a handsome price which would see to it that Sam’s family did not want for anything. It was suspected that Mark had ghostwritten the work…which he adamantly and angrily denied. His friend Sam had written the work…brilliant and surprising as usual.

Having won his last battle, he could let go now. Seven days later on July 23, 1885, Hiram Ulysses Grant, “U.S. Grant” due to an Army administrator’s error in his youth, Sam to his friends, a drunk to his detractors, an amazing horseman and hero of the Mexican-American War, General of the Army and President of the United States, passed from this earth.

Mark Twain saw that “The Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant” was published and the family was treated fairly and well. Sam had found someone trustworthy this time. I’ve read General Grant’s memoirs, and they would be impressive if written by someone in perfect health. They are nothing less that heroic considering the suffering he endured during his final work.

Farewell

Today in History, December 4, 1783:

General George Washington, veteran of the French and Indian War, leader of his men from Bunker Hill to Valley Forge to Yorktown, with all of the hardships involved, announces to his officers that he is resigning his commission and returning to civilian life at the Fraunces Tavern in New York City.

“With a heart full of love and gratitude, I now take leave of you. I most devoutly wish that your latter days may be as prosperous and happy as your former ones have been glorious and honorable.”

Washington then took a moment with each of his officers alone. There was not a dry eye in the house, including the future President…George Washington….wept.

Where Have the “Tough as Nails” Presidents Gone?

There have been several courageous or (I dislike the term) “Badass” Presidents in our history.

They are missed.

January 30, 1835:

Outside the Capitol building in DC a man with two pistols approached President Andrew Jackson…and fired both pistols. Fortunately both misfired and war-hero Jackson, not knowing if the would-be assassin had other weapons, proceeded to use his heavy cane to beat the laundry off of the bad guy until other arrived to secure him.

August, 1864:

President Lincoln had a habit of relaxing at the “Soldier’s Home” to get away from the madhouse. One night he was riding back to the Executive Mansion, by himself, when someone took a shot at him, putting a hole through his hat.

As Lincoln loped up to a young sentry, the sentry noticed the President was missing his trademark hat. Lincoln explained what happened…and then swore the youth to secrecy. No point working the people (and I’m sure the excitable Mary Lincoln) up and causing a panic.

October 14, 1912:

Theodore Roosevelt is running for a third term in Milwaukee. As he enters his car in front of his hotel, the madman pointed a pistol and shot TR in the chest.

Wounded, TR had the where-with-all to save the Assassin from lynching by the angry supporters who captured him. Then TR inspected his injuries…a thick manuscript and glasses case slowed down the bullet, but it still entered his chest. Being a hunter and combat vet, he took note that he wasn’t coughing up blood. Thus assured he wasn’t shot through the lung, he insisted on finishing a lengthy speech before going to the hospital. “It takes more than that to kill a bull moose!”

February 15, 1933:

The President-elect Franklin Roosevelt is in Miami riding with the Chicago mayor (Cermak) when a man fires numerous shots at them. FDR is not hit. However, though handicapped he emulated his cousin, seeing to the care of the assassin and staying by the side of the dying Cermak.

March 30, 1981:

Ronald Reagan is in DC when an assassin approached and began shooting, striking the elderly enigmatic Chief Executive and others. Seriously wounded, Reagan is rushed to George Washington hospital where he entertains the medical staff with one-liners. “Honey, I forgot to duck!” And “I hope there aren’t any Democrats in the operating room”. The chief surgeon assured him, “Mr. President, today we are ALL Republicans.”

Where have such men gone? I believe they are out there. We just have to advance them.

Not in My Backyard…Get Off My Lawn!!

Today in History, December 2, 1823:

President James Monroe announces in his State of the Union address what will become known as the Monroe Doctrine…telling the European powers that America would not interfere in European conflicts (we didn’t want to and did not have the means anyway), and that America would police the western hemisphere…Europeans were to stay out. We couldn’t really enforce this doctrine at the time, but it was to England’s benefit…so the Royal Navy did so for us.

In 1904, when European powers attempted to collect on supposed debts the Americas, Theodore Roosevelt added the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. The Corollary again told outsiders that if there were problems in finances in Western Hemisphere countries, the US would handle it.

The Doctrine has been tested repeatedly over the years, most notably and dangerously during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 when the Soviet Union attempted to place nuclear missiles 90 miles off America’s southern shores. President Kennedy responded with a Naval Embargo, and after a few days Soviet leaders blinked.

Desist from Treasonable Acts and Doings…

Today in History, November 30, 1776:

The Howe Brothers, Admiral Richard and General William, in command of the Engliah Army and Navy in the Americas issue a proclamation that American colonists who will “desist from treasonable acts and doings” would receive a pardon.

Of course, most of the colonists were determined. After the British signed the Treaty of Paris in 1783, those “Tories” that had accepted the offer, mostly New Yorkers, were evacuated by the British to Canada.

Making Sure the Trains Run on Time

Today in History, November 18, 1883:

The origin of time zones.

American railroads were hardly ever on time. Each depot was on a different time, since they used the path of the sun to determine what time it was. As a result, American railroads established a system of “time zones”, so that more of the country would be on the same time.

East, Central, Mountain and Pacific. Eventually cities and then the entire country would adopt the system.

The Heidi Game

Today in History, November 17, 1968:

The Heidi Game.

The game had gone long and the New York Jets were defeating the Oakland Raiders 32-29.

It had been a hard fought contest with lots of injuries and delays. NBC executives tried to call their studios to delay the 7 PM airing of “Heidi”, but the phone lines were jammed by viewers afraid they would miss part of the game. As a result the game dropped in the Eastern time zone and Heidi began.

With only a minute left in the game (who knew), The Raiders scored twice, winning a surprise victory 43-32.

Broadcasters now have dedicated phone lines known as “Heidi phones” to ensure communication with their studios.

Callahan, Scott, the Sullivan Brothers Give Their All

Today in History, November 13, 1942:

The First Naval Battle of Guadalcanal takes place in what would become known as “Iron-bottom Sound” off Guadalcanal.

US intelligence had warned US Navy forces that the IJN planned to bombard Henderson Field and its Marines, and land reinforcements on the embattled island.

Admirals Callahan and Scott took their forces to interdict IJN Admiral Abe’s forces. In a fierce, confusing, intense night action the Japanese won a tactical victory by sinking more American ships, while the Americans won a strategic victory…Henderson was not bombarded and the American troop ships remained undamaged.

But it came at a heavy cost for both sides.

Admirals Callahan and Scott would be the only US Admirals to be killed in direct ship to ship combat in the war, and aboard the USS Juneau, the five “Fighting Sullivan” brothers would all be lost. Of course many more Americans died that night, good Irish names or not.

For the Japanese, surviving battleship Hiei, among others, would fall prey to air attacks from Henderson, Espirito Santo, and the USS Enterprise. And this was only the beginning of the battle.  The American aircrews missed by the Japanese were eager to get some retribution for their big gun Navy comrades.

Lessons came out of the devastation. Commanders learned how to utilize their newly assigned radar equipment to their advantage; they learned how effectively trained the Japanese were at night fighting.

And, they changed the rules to forbid siblings and close relatives from serving in the same units…so some poor Officer wouldn’t have to knuckle a door and tell a mother that ALL FIVE of her sons who she had raised and loved were gone from one horrific action.