Patton Gets Himself Fired

Today in History, September 22: 1945 – 

Gen. George S. Patton gets himself fired. The war in Europe was over, and establishment of civil policies underway. 

While talking to reporters, Patton comments that he doesn’t see the need for “this denazification thing”. Then he went on to relate the “Nazi thing” to Republicans and Democrats. 

 This was the final straw in regards to Patton saying what he thought in public. He had frequently gotten himself in hot water. His gaffs had been overlooked due to his talents on the battlefield. With the war over he no longer had this cover. 

Had he articulated his views better he could have proven he was correct. Most of the “Nazis” that he wanted to leave in administrative positions were only German civilians who were Nazis because they didn’t want to cross the SS or Hitler. They kept the trains running on time, etc. They were not leaders. Patton had just spent years encouraging his soldiers to kill nazis. It is not reasonable to believe he was defending nazis. 

Patton would never make it home, being killed in an automobile collision. But that is another story. 

 Years later, long after his death, of course, Patton would be proven correct during the Iraqi war. All of the “Bathists” were removed from their administrative positions and from the Iraqi army. And many of them had been part of the Bath party to survive. The move created many problems in the Iraq War.

“From Where the Sun Now Stands, I Will Fight No More Forever”

Today in History, September 21: 1904 – 

“I am tired of fighting. “Our chiefs are killed. Looking Glass is dead. Toohoolhoolzote is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say, ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’ He who led the young men (Olikut, his brother) is dead. It is cold, and we have no blankets. The little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food. No one knows where they are—perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children, and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs! I am tired. My heart is sick and sad. FROM WHERE THE SUN NOW STANDS, I WILL FIGHT NO MORE FOREVER.” 

 Chief Joseph, who in 1877 had led his band of the Nez Perce in a running battle for 1400 miles in an attempted retreat into Canada from the US Cavalry, ending in his surrender to US troops under Gen. Nelson A. Miles, dies in Washington State. His people had been friendly with the white people since the time of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Goodbye 55

Today in History, September 20: 1995 – The US House of Representatives votes to approve the National Highway Designation Act, intended among other things to repeal the mandatory National Speed Limit of 55 MPH signed into law by President Nixon in 1974. The Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act had been enacted as a response to the 70’s oil embargo by OPEC nations. 

 President Clinton would sign the law repealing it on November 28th, and speed limits would go back up almost immediately when it went into effect December 8th.

Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory 

Today in History, September 18: 1862 – Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory…again and for the last time. The Battle of Antietam in Maryland had drawn to a close the previous day. The bloodiest single day battle in American history, it can’t be said that either side “won” the battle, but it was a tactical victory for the Union. Lee had to retreat back to Virginia, Lincoln was able to announce the Emancipation Proclamation, and European powers decided not to recognize the Confederacy as a result. And yet, Union Major General George B. McClellan managed to let go of an advantage that could have ended the war much earlier, saving countless lives….

Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, arguably the most fierce force the South had at it’s disposal, 43,000 strong, was exhausted, demoralized, and had it’s back to the Potomac River. McClellan, who had 50,000+ in his Union army, a third of which (the portion under his immediate control) had not engaged in the battle, and with thousands of fresh reinforcements arriving by the hour, refused to engage with Lee, allowing the Army of Northern Virginia to escape across the Potomac. He then refused for over a month to give chase. McClellan had an incredible ego, but it was not commensurate with his abilities. He had a persistent knack for overestimating his enemies. He assumed that Lee had 100,000 troops, which was a ridiculous assumption…he had done this several times in his career…if he’d had a million troops, he would have said his enemy had five. President Lincoln and Chief of Staff Henry Halleck implored McClellan repeatedly to use the army he commanded, but he made excuse after excuse and refused. Finally, on November 9th, Lincoln fired him for the final time. McClellan would run against the President in ’64 on a platform calling for an end to the war without achieving victory (a platform he reportedly denounced.)

Bloody Antietam’s Importance 

Today in History, September 17: 1862 – The Battle of Antietam during the Civil War. Confederate General Robert E. Lee made the first of several attempts at taking Washington, DC. The Army of the Potomac met Lee’s army at Antietam Creek to defend the city. Lee, Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, and James Longstreet lead the Southern forces, While George McClellan, Ambrose Burnside and Joseph Hooker lead the Union forces. In 13 hours of fierce fighting, 23,000 of 100,000 combatants are killed or wounded, more in one day than all of America’s wars to that point, and the most American’s ever killed in a single day in our history. Typically, while Hooker’s and Burnside’s commands moved on their enemy, McClellan stayed in place, not engaging. The end of the battle found both armies where they were when it began. But Lee soon retreated back to Virginia. Two important consequences of the battle…it gave President Lincoln a victory that gave him the confidence to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, and European powers decided against recognizing the Confederacy.

“Now look! That damned cowboy is President of the United States!” -Sen. Mark Hanna

Today in History, September 14: 1901 – About a year earlier, Senator Mark Hanna had been discussing with other high-powered Republican leaders whether or not to enlist New York Governor Theodore Roosevelt to be the Vice-Presidential nominee for President William McKinley’s second term. Hanna made no bones about his opposition, “Don’t any of you realize there’s only one life between this madman and the presidency?” But, other political leaders from New York state wanted the head-strong reformer out of their governor’s office, and most felt he would be rendered harmless as VP. However this former NYC Police Commissioner, Under Secretary of the Navy, Colonel of the Rough Riders and yes, Cowboy, was wildly popular and would be a boon for the ticket. When named, TR set records on the campaign trail.

On today’s date in 1901 President McKinley succumbed to infection from his wounds from being shot by an anarchist at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York. McKinley had prided himself on shaking as many hands as possible, and was prepared to shake his assassin’s hand when shot by a concealed .32 revolver.
It initially looked as if President McKinley would recover, so Roosevelt left his side in Buffalo and joined his family mountain climbing in the Adirondacks. When the first messenger ran up the mountain to inform TR that the President had taken a turn for the worse, he decided to stay with his family. When the second messenger came up the mountain to say the President was dying, Roosevelt left immediately. He once gain set records in wild wagon rides to make it to the nearest train station and return to McKinley’s side. It was not to be….WM had passed while TR was on his wild ride down the mountain.
Theodore Roosevelt paid his respects at the residence where McKinley’s body laid, then was sworn in as the youngest President at a friends home in Buffalo in a small ceremony.
When TR asked Mark Hanna for his support, Hanna had two conditions…that Roosevelt would continue McKinley’s policies (sort of did) and…if Roosevelt would stop calling Hanna the “old man”, Hanna would stop referring to TR by the nickname he hated, “Teddy.” Hanna gave his support, but the nicknames continued.