Fierce Enemies…and Brotherly Love

Today in History, October 20, 1864:

The relationships in the Civil War have always amazed me.

Read to the end to be amazed.

Stephen Dodson Ramseur was born in Lincolnton, North Carolina in 1837.

In 1860, he graduated the United States Military Academy at West Point in the US Army.

The next year he was one of many in the US Army who left the service to join the Confederacy…because it encompassed their “Country”.

Young “Dod” proved to be a daring, impetuous, and courageous leader and quickly rose to be the youngest Major General in the Confederate Army.

At the Battle of Malvern Hill in the Peninsular Campaign, he was seriously wounded when shot in the right arm, temporarily paralyzed. He drew the attention of Gen. Robert E. Lee and was promoted.

At Chancellorsville his brigade scored a major victory, fighting with Stonewall Jackson and J.E.B. Stuart. Ramseur was wounded in the leg during this battle.

At Gettysburg, it was Dod’s Brigade that chased the Union forces back through the town in a rout.

In the Wilderness Campaign he fought valiantly at the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, being shot from his horse, once again hit in the right arm.

Taking over Jubal Early’s division, he fought courageously at Cold Harbor and Petersburg. During the Shenandoah Valley Campaigns, he again fought hard…

On October 19, during the Battle of Cedar Creek, he was shot from his horse again. He mounted a second horse, and was again shot from it. Mounting a third horse to continue the fight, he was shot twice through the lungs, finally bringing him down.

He was loaded into an ambulance to be treated…and his ambulance was captured by Union forces. The Union took him to Belle Grove Plantation for treatment by Union doctors, but it was no use.

Next is the most telling part of Dod’s fascinating story. Word of his capture and condition spread quickly.

As he lie dying, many of his friends…Union officers including George Armstrong Custer that had been his contemporaries before the war, rushed to his side and held an hours long vigil for their friend, keeping him company until he passed on October 20, 1864.

If only we could emulate to recognize our “enemies” were not always so, or to show mercy to them.

Gladness and Joy

Today in History, September 3, 1838:

A young slave named Frederick Douglass manages, on his third attempt, to escape slavery by hiding aboard a train headed north.

The future abolitionist leader, author, statesman, marshal, and presidential confidant, after a dangerous trip through several states, finds himself in New York City.

“I have often been asked, how I felt when first I found myself on free soil. And my readers may share the same curiosity.

There is scarcely anything in my experience about which I could not give a more satisfactory answer.

A new world had opened upon me.

If life is more than breath, and the ‘quick round of blood,’ I lived more in one day than in a year of my slave life.

It was a time of joyous excitement which words can but tamely describe.

In a letter written to a friend soon after reaching New York, I said: ‘I felt as one might feel upon escape from a den of hungry lions.’

Anguish and grief, like darkness and rain, may be depicted;

but gladness and joy, like the rainbow, defy the skill of pen or pencil.”

Casus Belli

Today in History, August 31, 1939:

Casus Belli: : an event or action that justifies or allegedly justifies a war or conflict

“I will provide a propagandistic casus belli. Its credibility doesn’t matter. The victor will not be asked whether he told the truth.”

— Adolph Hitler.

The Gleiwitz incident, an assault on a German radio station near the border with Poland, as part of Operation Himmler, takes place.

The assault was conducted by GERMAN SS troops, posing as Polish troops, upon a German radio station. The ruse went so far as to leave Polish prisoners, captured previously, dead at the station as “proof” of the assault.

The next day, already prepared, German troops invaded Poland in “response” to the atrocity.

Thus began the conflict which would cost millions of military and civilian peoples of many nations their lives. In a real sense, WWII had been raging in Asia and through limited German actions already, but September 1, 1939 is considered the beginning.

The victors will not be asked whether they told the truth. Unfortunately this is usually accurate, similar to “to the victor go the spoils” and “the victors write the history books.”

Either contemporaries are actually trusting, or to fearful the wolf will turn on them, to act.

We should remember our history. We are MERELY human, and always shall be. It is arrogance to believe we will not achieve the same mistakes.

“I Have a Dream Today”

Today in History, August 28, 1963:

“I still have a dream, a dream deeply rooted in the American dream – one day this nation will rise up and live up to its creed, ‘We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal.’ I have a dream . . .”

Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr speaks before a crowd of 250,000 civil rights advocates (of several races), standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, paying his respects to the man who signed the Emancipation Proclamation and calling for an end to racial division in America. He was the 16th of 18 speakers, but this became his day in history.

The event was the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, organized as a mass public demonstration in support of Civil Rights Legislation proposed by President John F. Kennedy earlier that year.

Dr. King’s speech became a landmark in our history as he tied everything from the Constitution to the Emancipation Proclamation together to point out the injustice still prevalent at that time, and to share his vision of a time when the color of one’s skin would be unimportant.

We have come a long way since that summer day in ’63. I believe that extremists on both ends of the spectrum, deaf to Dr. King’s message, are the only hindrance to the final realization of his dream. At the same time I share his faith that we will get there.

The Lincoln – Douglas Debates & Abolition

Today in History, August 21, 1858:

The first of seven debates between two candidates for an Illinois Senate seat begins.

Now famous as the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, former Congressman Lincoln, a former Whig and member of the infant Republican Party, tried for incumbent Democrat Stephen A. Douglas’ Senate seat.

The primary focus of the debates was Lincoln’s desire to curtail the spread of slavery to midwest and western states, and Douglas’ belief that each state should be able to decide for itself.

It is “debatable” who won the debates, but Lincoln lost the election.

Yet the debates launched this little known lawyer onto the national stage. Two years later he would face Douglas and others for the Presidency and would win.

It is important to note that while Lincoln was an abolitionist at heart, he was not yet arguing for complete abolition, only restrictions on slavery. Each of the debates lasted for hours. Here is one telling quote from Lincoln,

“This declared indifference, but, as I must think, covert real zeal for the spread of slavery, I cannot but hate. I hate it because of the monstrous injustice of slavery itself. I hate it because it deprives our republican example of its just influence in the world—enables the enemies of free institutions, with plausibility, to taunt us as hypocrites—causes the real friends of freedom to doubt our sincerity, and especially because it forces so many really good men amongst ourselves into an open war with the very fundamental principles of civil liberty—criticizing the Declaration of Independence, and insisting that there is no right principle of action but self-interest.”

Lincoln did not have all of the answers. He had little choice but to play politics and compromise to achieve his goals. I personally do not see how an analysis of his speeches, writings, and actions can lead to any conclusion other than he was an abolitionist.

Mount Rushmore

Today in History, August 10, 1927:

The Memorial at Mt. Rushmore is dedicated by President Calvin Coolidge.

The memorial wouldn’t be declared complete until October 31, 1941, seven months after the man in charge of it’s carving, Gutzon Borglum, had died. His son Lincoln finished the project.

President Washington was chosen for obvious reasons, having led the battles that created our nation;

President Jefferson was chosen due to his instrumental work in creating our Declaration of Independence, which has inspired Democracy around the world;

President Lincoln was chosen for leading the nation through the Civil War, preserving the Union and abolishing slavery;

Theodore Roosevelt was chosen for leading the nation through the industrial revolution of the late 19th century, seeing to the construction of the Panama Canal.

An interesting aside…Mt. Rushmore is named for a young NYC attorney who visited the area in 1884 to check land ownership for some eastern investors. He was impressed with the mountain and asked prospectors what it was called…they replied that it had no name, but since he had asked, they would call it Rushmore Peak…and so it was.

An Emergency…”Temporary” Tax

Today in History, August 5, 1861:

“This bill is a most unpleasant one. But we perceive no way in which we can avoid it and sustain the government. The rebels, who are now destroying or attempting to destroy this Government, have thrust upon the country many disagreeable things.”

— Thaddeus Stevens, Chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means speaking on the Revenue Act of 1861, the nation’s first income tax, which was signed into law by President Lincoln on this date.

The law also provided for certain property taxes and levies on imports, which Lincoln feared would be impeded in the Southern ports by seceding states.

The tax was by intent and design temporary, meant to fund the fight to restore the Union in the Civil War. Changes would be made in 1862, and the law would be repealed in 1871.

But the dye had been cast, and the 16th Amendment of 1909/1913 would bring the ever increasing tax back for good.

The Six Flags Phenomenon

TODAY IN HISTORY, AUGUST 1, 1961:

The first Six Flags Over Texas amusement park opens in Arlington, Texas.

A park with an amazing assortment of rides, games and shows, designed with history themes, Six Flags was wildly successful. There were over 17 million visitors in its first decade.

I remember a beautiful 20 something “dance hall girl” in a sun dress flirting with and singing just to me…my sisters gave me a hard time about it. I think I was about four!

Do you know what the Six Flags which flew over Texas were?