Full-Contact Politics

Today in History, May 22, 1856:

Years before the Civil War. On May 20, 1856 US Senator Charles Sumner, a free soil Democrat and later Republican from Massachussetts, had given a firey speech entitled “Crime Against Kansas” about the violence in that state over slavery.

A devout abolitionist, he excoriated the south, in particular Senator Andrew Butler of South Carolina, who he likened to a pimp abusing a prostitute (slavery).

This enraged Butler’s nephew, Senator Preston Brooks. When Sen. Stephen Douglas heard the speech, he commented, “this damn fool Sumner is going to get himself shot by some other damn fool.”

On the 22nd, Brooks entered the Senate chamber with two other Southern Senators, found Sumner at his desk writing and proceeded to bludgeon him nearly to death with his heavy metal tipped cane while Sumner was trapped within his desk, defenseless.

Southerners hailed Brooks a hero.

Northerners called him a coward. One of these, Republican Representative Anson Burlingame called him such on the House floor.

Brooks challenged Burlingame to a duel. When Burlingame actually accepted and showed up, Brooks did not.

Sumner would suffer debilitating pain for the rest of his life from his injuries, but would recover to become a key proponent of abolitionist policies during reconstruction, living until 1872.

Brooks on the other hand died in January 1857, less than a year after the attack, of the croup.

A Clothing Revolution

Today in History, May 20, 1873:

Jewish immigrant, successful San Francisco businessman Levi Strauss and Reno, Nevada tailor Jacob Davis go in together and obtain a patent for a revolutionary, extremely durable work pant….the XX model (eventually 501) denim pant, reinforced at the stress points by copper rivets.

Cowboys and other hard working people needed a pant that would last. The “jeans” fit the bill and sold like hotcakes. I’m told there was originally a rivet at the crotch…but cowboys began complaining about crouching over the campfire with obvious results…and it was removed….

You Must First Catch the Rabbit…

Today in History, May 19, 1863:

The Siege of Vicksburg continues.

After two failed assaults, the Union troops and the Union Navy settle in for an extended siege.

After 44 days, during which Vicksburg would be compared to a “Prairie Dog Town”, with most of the population living underground, the Vicksburg newspaper, “The Daily Citizen” was reduced to printing it’s media on used wallpaper,

By day 44, the paper printed, “[T]he great Ulysses—the Yankee Generalissimo, surnamed Grant—has expressed his intention of dining in Vicksburg on Saturday next, and celebrating the 4th of July by a grand dinner and so forth. When asked if he would invite Gen. Jo Johnston to join he said. ‘No! for fear there will be a row at the table.’ Ulysses must get into the city before he dines in it. The way to cook rabbit is ‘first catch the rabbit.’ &c.” A week later, the Union troops had taken over the paper, having taken Vicksburg, and added and addendum, “Two days bring about great changes, The banner of the Union floats over Vicksburg, Gen. Grant has ‘caught the rabbit;’ he has dined in Vicksburg, and he did bring his dinner with him. The ‘Citizen’ lives to see it. For the last time it appears on ‘Wall-paper.’ No more will it eulogize the luxury of mule-meat and fricasseed kitten—urge Southern warriors to such diet never-more.”

“I Cannot Spare This Man…He Fights!”

Today in History, May 18, 1863:

Running the Table.

Gen. Grant planned the taking of Vicksburg and Admiral David Dixon Porter’s running of the guns at that fortress city. In the interim between then and today’s date, Grant’s army was taken across the Mississippi from several victories in Louisiana, won five major victories in Mississippi, including taking the capitol of Jackson. He pushed Confederate Gen. John C. Pemberton back to the Big Black River Bridge, which Pemberton burned on the 14th during his retreat to Vicksburg.

Pemberton could no longer face Grant in the field, having lost three quarters of his army. Grant had the bridge rebuilt by the 18th, and the siege of Vicksburg had begun.

Grant made two unsuccessful attempts to take the city and then determined to have no more losses, lay siege to the city. The siege involved entrenchments, mines and bombardment by land based artillery as well as by Admiral Porter’s ships.

The civilians and soldiers in the city had to live underground. By July 4th, his troops and civilians starving and demoralized, Pemberton agreed to surrender. Grant initially demanded his trademark “Unconditional Surrender”, then reconsidered. Even after having lost 3/4 of it’s manpower, Pemberton’s army still numbered 30,000 famished troops. He decided instead to utilize a long respected military method of “paroling” the rebel troops. That meant that they would be freed as long as they never took up arms against the Union again. It would have taken months and a great deal of manpower Grant did not want to expend to move 30,000 prisoners north. The Confederates agreed to the terms. Yet many of them were back in battle against Union troops by Pemberton could no longer face Grant in the field, having lost three quarters of his army. Grant had the bridge rebuilt by the 18th, and the siege of Vicksburg had begun. Grant made two unsuccessful attempts to take the city and then determined to have no more losses, lay siege to the city. The siege involved entrenchments, mines and bombardment by land based artillery as well as by Admiral Porter’s ships. The civilians and soldiers in the city had to live underground. By July 4th, his troops and civilians starving and demoralized, Pemberton agreed to surrender. Grant initially demanded his trademark “Unconditional Surrender”, then reconsidered. Even after having lost 3/4 of it’s manpower, Pemberton’s army still numbered 30,000 famished troops. He decided instead to utilize a long respected military method of “paroling” the rebel troops. That meant that they would be freed as long as they never took up arms against the Union again. It would have taken months and a great deal of manpower Grant did not want to expend to move 30,000 prisoners north. The Confederates agreed to the terms.

Yet many of them were back in battle against Union troops by September. This ended the act of paroling for the remainder of the war.

After Vicksburg and Port Hudson fell in July, President Lincoln proclaimed, “The Father of Waters again goes unvexed to the sea.” This victory was considered the turning point in the Civil War; Union control of the Mississippi not only allowed US Navy movement and resupply all along it’s course, it effectively cut the Confederacy in half, depriving it of the resources and armies of the west. This battle is also largely the reason Grant was advanced to command of all Union Armies…as Lincoln said, “I cannot spare this man…he fights!” A quality the President found lacking in many of his other Generals.

Today in History, May 17, 1954:

In 1898 the Supreme Court had ruled in Plessy v Ferguson that keeping blacks and whites separate on railroad cars was constitutional, as “separate but equal” didn’t violate the 14th Amendment.

This was eventually perverted to all public facilities being segregated.

In the 1954 Decision of Brown v Board of Education of Topeka, the Supreme Court Ruled that 3rd grader Linda Brown could attend a white school, and that segregation was illegal. The Civil Rights evolution in America had begun. Future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall led the team that won this case.

H. Norman Schwarzkopf Stared Down into Baby Charles Lindbergh’s Shallow Grave…

Today in History, May 12, 1932:

H. Norman Schwarzkopf looks down into the recently found shallow grave of infant Charles Lindbergh, Jr. in a field not far from the Lindbergh home.

The Lindbergh baby had been kidnapped from his home on March 1st, the ransom paid, but the child was not returned to his parents.

Schwarzkopf, a West Point graduate and WWI veteran, had been appointed in 1921 by the Governor of New Jersey to create, organize and train the New Jersey State Police.

It was in this capacity that he led the investigation of the Lindbergh Kidnapping, the “Crime of the Century”. He would prove that the baby had been killed accidentally as he was being carried down a ladder from his second floor bedroom.

When a new governor took office, Schwarzkopf would be sacked. Politics.

He would return to the US Army when WWII broke out, where he would be tasked to use his logistics and organizational talents to train the Iranian police, a country where the US was setting up railroads to supply the Soviet Union for the fight against Germany.

After the war, Schwarzkopf would also help set up the security forces of the Shah of Iran…back before the Iranian revolution made that country enemy #1.

Two years after he investigated the Lindbergh kidnapping, his son, H. Norman Schwarzkopf, Jr. would be born.

And as most know, “Stormin’ Norman” would follow his father to the middle east in the service of his country nearly six decades later.

The elder H. Norman Schwarzkopf would take part in the intrigue and skullduggery of the Middle East during the forties and fifties after solving the Lindbergh Kidnapping; his namesake would go back to the volatile region with him father’s background and wisdom, but to kick ass and take names.

“A Very Sacred Intercession”

Today in History, May 8, 1919:

“Five little minutes only. Five silent minutes of national remembrance. A very sacred intercession. Communion with the Glorious Dead who won us peace, and from the communion new strength, hope and faith in the morrow. Church services, too, if you will, but in the street, the home, the theatre, anywhere, indeed, where Englishmen and their women chance to be, surely in this five minutes of bitter-sweet silence there will be service enough.”

Australian WWI veteran Edward George Honey sends a letter to The London Evening News suggesting a moment of silence on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of each year…when the WWI Armistice was signed in 1918.

He had been angered at the rowdy partying when the Armistice occurred, and felt the event should be recognized with reverence.

The British government soon agreed, and Remembrance Day was established, about the same time that Veteran’s Day was established in America.