Jean Baptiste Charbonneau – Our Decisions Affect Our Children…

Today in History, December 23, 1829:

Prince Paul Wilhelm of Wurttemberg leaves St. Louis and heads up the Missouri River. This was actually the second exploration of the American wilderness by the scientifically inclined German prince.

But a side note is what I find fascinating… Several years earlier, in 1822, the Prince had undertaken his first expedition into the west. To do so he needed the permission of the Superintendent of Indian Affairs in St. Louis, William Clark of “Lewis and Clark” fame, who had originally explored the West.

Clark had a foster son, the son of an Indian girl who had greatly assisted the Lewis and Clark Expedition: Sacagawea. Her son, Clark’s foster son, was Jean Baptiste Charbonneau.

Clark was so impressed with the Prince that when the Prince completed his first expedition in 1822, he allowed Jean (age 16) to accompany the Prince to Europe.

The young Jean was the Prince’s constant companion as they toured Europe and North Africa. Jean learned French, German and Spanish and became quite cosmopolitan. The trip back to the wild of America in 1829 was taken in order to bring Jean back to his home with Clark.

An interesting story, and what I take from it is the impact of decisions we make on our fate and the fate of those around us. Sacagawea could have led out her life quietly; but she made a decision that led her son on an odyssey she likely could never have imagined.

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.

How America Receives News Changes

Today in History, January 17, 1998:

It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is.”

Matt Drudge, of the “Drudge Report” breaks the Clinton-Lewinsky Scandal, in which President Bill Clinton was discovered having an affair with a young White House intern.

Amidst a series of lies and cover-ups, Clinton would eventually be found to be in contempt of court, see charges of perjury, the suspension of his law license by the state of Arkansas and by the United States Supreme Court, and impeachment.

The incident also cemented internet news sources as legitimate, much to the chagrin of the mainstream media, which had tried to kill the story to protect the Democrat in the White House.

Many incidents since have demonstrated for Americans just how few individuals had controlled the information they received, and the bias those sources allowed to drive them.

Presidential Roosevelts…Firsts in Flight

TODAY IN HISTORY, JANUARY 14, 1943:

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt became the first US President to fly in an aircraft for official business.

FDR was to meet Winston Churchill in Casablanca, Morocco to discuss strategy in WWII. For previous meetings the President and Prime Minister had travelled by warship, but the US military was concerned about heightened U-Boat activity in the Atlantic.

As a result President Roosevelt agreed to make the trip by plane, specifically a Boeing 314 four engine flying boat named the Dixie Clipper. The flight flew from Florida to South America and crossed to North Africa. After the meeting, FDR celebrated his 61st birthday on the return flight. He was already in poor health and the 1700 mile trip took its toll.

Thirty-three years earlier, FDR’s cousin Theodore Roosevelt had become the first president to fly in an aircraft. After having left office, TR was on a speaking tour when he encountered pilot Arch Hoxley at Kinloch Field in St. Louis, Missouri.

The always adventurous TR could not resist the offer to go for a jaunt in the Wright built airplane…little more than a powered kite, and much less luxurious than the Clipper his cousin would use. In fact, TR’s pilot, Hoxley, would die in a plane crash the following December.

I have to wonder if this is historic coincidence or much more. FDR grew up in TR’s very large shadow, and greatly admired him. FDR followed TR’s path as much as he could…Under Secretary of the Navy, the New York legislature and New York governor. While TR was a Republican and FDR was a Democrat, FDR traded on TR’s legend…and TR supported his prodigy. TR wanted to break tradition and serve a third term, which did not happen. FDR was into his fourth term when he died.

So of course one has to wonder if from competitiveness or emulation, was the opportunity to follow up on a Presidentially pioneering flight just too much too pass up?

This 1940…or 2020…That Just Doesn’t Happen Any More…Do You Believe in Evil?

Today in History, January 13, 1992:

“The women cried out, but it didn’t matter to us whether the women lived or died. We were the emperor’s soldiers. Whether in military brothels or in the villages, we raped without reluctance.” –Japanese WWII soldier Yasuji Kaneko.

The Japanese government issued an official apology to Korea for having recruited, abducted, and imprisoned thousands of civilian women into “Comfort Stations” to serve as prostitutes for Japanese soldiers and sailors.

Women from Korea, China, Japan and the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan, Indonesia and other Japanese-occupied territories were trafficked and raped repeatedly.

Depending on who you ask, between 20,000 and 410,000 women. 75% of the women died in their captivity, and those that survived were rendered infertile due to sexual abuse or venereal disease.

Yes, evil does exist.

Yes, human trafficking does exist.

Do you believe it exists today? Throughout history, societies have believed the evils of the past don’t exist anymore…that they have outgrown them. “This is 1910…..this is 1940….this is 2013….that stuff doesn’t happen anymore….”

How do We Know the Distance to the Moon? To the Planets?

Today in History, January 10, 1946:

“Operation Diana”.

The US Army Signal Corps, using a “bedspring antenna” radar from a World War II era US Navy ship, somewhat modified, bounces a signal off of the moon, which took 2.5 seconds to return to the Earth.

The experiment was the precursor to using Radar to determine the distance to other bodies, such as Saturn, and for learning to communicate with later spacecraft outside of Earth’s atmosphere.

Diana was the Roman Moon Goddess, and this project would take the lead in naming later space projects after Roman Gods.

Common Sense

Today in History, January 9, 1776:

The first copies of Thomas Paine’s pamphlet “Common Sense” are published in Philadelphia.

Pamplets were the editorials, or blogs, if we must, of the day in the 18th century.

Paine had only recently immigrated to America from his homeland of England, yet he quickly took up the cause of independence. Most of the people in America prior to the Revolution saw themselves not as Americans, but as British subjects, and proudly so. Many wanted to remain such, most were uncertain whether independence was a good idea. Most of the colonists were commoners, and it was assumed that only the elite were worthy of governance.

Paine turned this theory on it’s head. He wrote to the commoners in plain language the difference between society and government; that gov’t was necessary, but must be limited; that AMERICA should govern herself.

He started a firestorm….his pamphlet sold 120,000 copies the first month, 500,000 the first year. Percentages taken into account, Common Sense still counts as the best seller of all time.

Paine refused to take any of the profits, donating all of them to Gen. Washington’s Continental Army.

A Pompous Speech Too Far

Today in History, January 7, 1945:

The Battle of the Bulge.

After the American 101st Airborne held out against overwhelming German forces for days, refusing to surrender;

after American Gen. George S. Patton turned his entire 3rd Army 90 degrees and ran full tilt through winter conditions to reach his comrades;

after American air power helped save the day when the weather cleared,

British Gen. Bernard Law Montgomery held a press conference during which he took credit for the hard won victory. Prime Minister Winston Churchill had to address Parliament to assert the truth that The Battle of the Bulge was solely an American victory after the political fall-out of Montgomery’s typically arrogant statements.

“Ohhh…Do You Remember the FUN of him??”

“Oh…Do You Remember the Fun of Him?”

Posted on JANUARY 6, 2019Categories HistoryUncategorized

Today in History, January 6, 1919:

“The old lion is dead.”

“Death had to take Roosevelt sleeping, for if he had been awake, there would have been a fight.”

-Vice President Thomas Marshall.

President Theodore Roosevelt dies at Sagamore Hill, Oyster Bay, New York in his sleep of a heart attack. “Teddy” had taken every last drop of adventure and worthiness that he could squeeze out of life in the preceding 60 years.

Roosevelt had been a sickly child; constantly plagued by breathing problems, he could rarely play with the other children. His father, Theodore Sr., a remarkable man himself, told “Teedie” that if he wanted to have a successful life, he would have to take charge and force his body into the form he needed to match his intellect. Roosevelt did just that. He took exercise as his “raison detre” until he was barrel chested and of vigorous health. Each time he became sick during his life, he would simply work through it.

As a young man, while serving in the New York Assembly, Roosevelt was called home from Albany by an urgent message. After the train ride to NYC, he arrived home to be met at the door by his brother, “There is a curse upon this house.”

Roosevelt’s wife and mother died on the same day…February 14, 1884, within hours of each other. Writing in his diary only a large X and the words “The light has gone out of my life”, Roosevelt fled into the west, becoming a rancher and for a time a lawman in the Dakota Territory. The experience would strengthen him and give him a background people respected.

During his life he was a state rep from New York, the Police Commissioner for New York City, Governor of New York, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (he oversaw the building of a modern US Navy while his boss was not paying attention), he led the “Rough Riders” (1st Volunteer US Cavalry) up San Juan Hill in the Spanish-American War, became Vice President, and the President after President McKinley was assassinated.

As President he defined the modern presidency, breaking up monopolies, seeing that mistreated workers got a fair shake, sent the “Great White Fleet” around the world establishing American as a world influence, saw the Panama Canal built, saw the establishment of the National Parks Service, and countless other accomplishments.

He worked tirelessly for the American people. After the Presidency he traveled extensively, going on an African Safari, and exploring an unknown region of South America, “The River of Doubt”; a region so treacherous that it was considered a no-man’s land. He nearly died in the mapping of the river, now called “Rio Roosevelt” in his honor.

All of his male children fought in WWI, and the only reason Teddy didn’t was because the Democrat President (Wilson) refused to let him, afraid Roosevelt would run against him in the next election and win. One of his sons, Quentin, would be shot down over France and be killed. That was the last straw for the “Old Lion”. He mourned dreadfully until his death.

One of his other children, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., would be the only General to go ashore with the troops at D-Day in WWII; Teddy Jr would die of a heart attack himself several weeks after the Normandy invasion. The entire world would mourn President Roosevelt’s passing; he had become larger that life, a hero to people the world over. The quintessential American. And in case you couldn’t tell, my favorite Hero.

At TR’s funeral at Oyster Bay, what I believe is the best, most heartfelt eulogy was spoken in passing. Walking from the church a New York City Police Captain who had served with Roosevelt more than 20 years earlier when he was Police Commissioner, was overcome with emotion. He turned to TR’s sister and asked, “Oh…do you remember the FUN of him?”