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.

A Horrific Day over Schweinfurt

Today in History, October 14, 1943:

During it’s Second Raid on Schweinfurt, Germany’s ball bearing plants, the Mighty US Eighth Air Force loses SIXTY B-17 Flying Fortress bombers to German fighters and anti-aircraft fire.

That number becomes more ominous when you know that each aircraft had at least a 10 man crew, meaning that 600 airmen either lost their lives or were captured that day.

The casualties in the Eighth Air Force over Europe accounted for more than half of the losses for the entire US Army Air Corps.

With over 26,000 dead, it surpassed the horrific losses of the US Marine Corps during the war by far…the USMC having lost almost 18,000 dead in the bitter battles in Pacific Islands.

A General Above All Others

Today in History, October 11, 1976:

Lt. Gen. George Washington is promoted to General of the Armies.

No, that is not a typo.

After leading all American Continental forces to victory in the Revolutionary War and serving two terms as our first President, George Washington maintained his rank as Lieutenant General.

In the interim, other men were promoted to Gen. of the Army…Grant, Sherman, Sheridan (4-star), Marshall, Eisenhower, MacArthur, Arnold and Bradley 5-star.). Admirals Leahy, King and Nimitz became 5-star Fleet Admirals. And John “Back Jack” Pershing.

At our Bicentenial, Congress decided, and rightly so, that no General should ever outrank the father of our nation.

So they created the rank of General of the Armies (not to be confused with Gen. of the Army), and posthumously promoted General Washington and declared none should ever exceed his rank.

——————————————–

Hereas Lieutenant General George Washington of Virginia commanded our armies throughout and to the successful termination of our Revolutionary War;

Whereas Lieutenant General George Washington presided over the convention that formulated our Constitution;

Whereas Lieutenant General George Washington twice served as President of the United States of America; and

Whereas it is considered fitting and proper that no officer of the United States Army should outrank Lieutenant General George Washington on the Army list;

Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That

(a) for purposes of subsection (b) of this section only, the grade of General of the Armies of the United States is established, such grade to have rank and precedence over all other grades of the Army, past or present.

(b) The President is authorized and requested to appoint George Washington posthumously to the grade of General of the Armies of the United States, such appointment to take effect on July 4, 1976.

Approved October 11, 1976.

Public Law 94-479

Meriwether Lewis: Murdered? Or Suicide?

Today in History, October 11, 1809:

We all know of the adventures of Lewis and Clark.

But on this day in 1809, only 3 years after the completion of his groundbreaking expedition, Meriwether Lewis died. He was only 35 years old.

The big question is whether it was murder or suicide. He was, at the time, the Governor of Upper Louisiana, and traveling the Natchez Trace to bring information to Washington about his efforts as Governor and as an explorer.

He was staying at Grinder’s Stand, an inn along the Trace, when the owners and other travelers heard “several” gunshots ring out.

Depending on who you talked to, he suffered through the night, the result of gunshots by his own hand or by murderers who stole the money he had with him.

Clark and President Jefferson, who knew him best, were easily convinced that he killed himself. Not publicized nearly as much as his courageous exploits is the reality that he battled depression and alcohol.

Others believed he was murdered by one of the many pirates along the trace. I have to wonder about the “several shots” at a time of flintlock pistols. How determined would a suicidal person have to be to shoot himself several times to complete a suicide then, or even now? The cash he was carrying with him was never found.

The US Naval Institute is Born

Today in History, October 9, 1873:

The United States Naval Institute (USNI) is founded by 15 USN officers, including the first commander of the USS Monitor.

The USNI was initiated to study Naval issues and to report on them. It began publishing “Proceedings”, a publication to report its findings in 1874, a practice that continues today. I know this may not be of tremendous interest to most, but to me it is very important. I receive “Proceedings” and more importantly to me, “Naval History”, from which I obtain many interesting articles to post. USNI is fantastic! It also publishes many books, maintains history sources, and continues to document veteran’s experiences.

The Unknown Soldier & the USS Olympia

TODAY IN HISTORY, OCTOBER 3, 1921:

The USS Olympia sets sail for France.

Her mission: To bring the Unknown Soldier back home for burial at Arlington National Cemetery.

The Olympia had a distinguished career. in 1898 she was Admiral Dewey’s flagship during the Battle of Manila Bay in the Philippines (Spanish-American War) in which the American fleet devastated the Spanish Fleet, propelling the US to international player status.

Dewey stood on the Olympia’s bridge when he famously said, “You may fire when ready, Gridley”.

The trip back to America from France with the Unknown Soldier was not uneventful. The ship feared they would be lost to a devastating storm.

Today, the Olympia is the oldest remaining steel hulled ship of the US Navy, a nearly 130 year old museum ship. But her story is far from over. The Olympia is suffering severe natural damage and it will take millions to keep her from dissolving into the Delaware River in Philadelphia.

And of course you can visit her famous passenger at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington D.C.

“Come and Take It!”

Today in History, October 2, 1835:

Mexican soldiers attempted to retrieve a cannon from American-Mexican settlers in the Village of Gonzales in Tejas.

The settlers fought back and kept their cannon. The Texas war for independence had begun. The Mexican government had encouraged immigration by Americans into the Mexican territory of Tejas in hopes that they would become loyal Mexican citizens.

Instead they continued to speak their native language and maintained loyalty to their native country.

It wasn’t long before Texas was a sovereign nation destined to become an American state.

Government Restricted

Today in History, September 25, 1789:

The US Congress approves the first ten ammendments to the Constitution, or The Bill of Rights.

The ammendments were more about restricting the powers of government than “bestowing” rights the founders considered natural.

The Bill of Rights would be ratified by the states in December, 1791.