The Monroe Doctrine…The Original “Get Off My Lawn!”

Today in History, December 2: 1823 – The Monroe Doctrine. European powers had, in recent years, settled wars and were once again turning their attention westward…Russia had declared that the northwest American continent was theirs. In his 7th annual address to Congress, President James Monroe made it clear that while the US would not interfere with current foreign colonies in the western hemisphere, any additional attempts at colonization would draw American ire…

“….We owe it, therefore, to candor and to the amicable relations existing between the United States and those powers to declare that we should consider any attempt on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety. With the existing colonies or dependencies of any European power we have not interfered and shall not interfere. But with the Governments who have declared their independence and maintained it, and whose independence we have, on great consideration and on just principles, acknowledged, we could not view any interposition for the purpose of oppressing them, or controlling in any other manner their destiny, by any European power in any other light than as the manifestation of an unfriendly disposition toward the United States….”

It would be some time before Monroe’s statement of policy would be known as the “Monroe Doctrine”, but it would set the standard for American foreign policy for two centuries. The British wanted to make a joint statement in regards to the policy, wanting to secure their interests in the Americas. Monroe and his Secretary of State, John Quincy Adams, who drafted the statements, refused, still lacking trust of the British after the War of 1812. The Royal Navy would nonetheless enforce the Doctrine for years until the US was powerful enough to do so herself.

Presidents from James K. Polk (Texas independence), US Grant (Venezuela conflict), Theodore Roosevelt (Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine), and John F. Kennedy (Russian missiles in Cuba), and Ronald Reagan (Contra affair) have invoked the Monroe Doctrine in foreign policy incidents. Recently Presidents seem to have put the Doctrine aside (Soviet influence in Venezuela, giving up the Panama Canal, which is now primarily under Chinese control), but the future will someday be history; and I’m not convinced Monroe’s far reaching, prescient policies will not be utilized again, more in cooperation with our neighbors rather than as a “big brother.”

So Much History Today

Today in History, December 2: What a busy day in US History! 1775 – The American flag is hauled aloft aboard the first US Navy ship, the USS Alfred, by her commander, Capt. John Paul Jones. 1823 – President James Monroe announces in his State of the Union address what will become known as the Monroe Doctrine…telling the European powers that America would not interfere in European conflicts (we didn’t want to anyway), and that America would police the western hemisphere…Europeans were to stay out. We couldn’t really enforce this doctrine at the time, but it was to England’s benefit…so the Royal Navy did so for us. 1845 – President James K. Polk, in his state of the Union address, announces what would become known as Manifest Destiny…the notion that the “Americans” of the Eastern American continent were pre-ordained to control the North American continent, encouraging settlement of the west.

The Corrupt Bargain…

Today in History, December 1: 1824 –

The Presidential election had involved 4 candidates; Andrew Jackson, who by far won the most popular votes and the most Electoral College votes, but not a majority amongst the candidates. So, in accordance with the 12th Amendment, on this date the vote for President went to the House of Representatives.

The House, after much deliberation…elected John Quincy Adams President. The problem? One of the other candidates was Speaker of the House Henry Clay, who threw his support behind Adams, causing his win. Clay, “ironically”, was then appointed to the coveted position of Secretary of State under Adams. At that time in our history, becoming Secretary of State almost guaranteed you the Presidency at some point.

The Jackson Democrats claimed (probably correct) a “Corrupt Bargain”, which tainted Adams’ Presidency…minimizing any success he experienced and almost guaranteeing what happened in 1828…the landslide election of Jackson to the Presidency.

Nothing Lives Long. Except the Earth and the Mountains. -Death song of Chief White Antelope, age 75

Today in History, November 29:  1864 –

The Sand Creek Massacre.

As the morning was dawning the sleepy village, Chief Black Kettle saw them approaching, and hoisted the Stars and Stripes above his Tipi as a sign of brotherhood and peace.  And then the blue coated soldiers began firing.

The Cheyenne and Arapaho of Colorado had settled in for the winter along a bend in Sand Creek in eastern Colorado.  Resources in the barren area were in short supply and they expected a harsh time.  900-1,000 people in hundreds of Tipis, although many were out hunting buffalo that morning.

The Civil War raged further east, and in Colorado and New Mexico a few months previous.  Colonel John Chivington of the Colorado Volunteers had fought in those battles, but now was looking for a new fight.  After a family of settlers was killed, allegedly by Arapaho or Cheyenne, the Governor tasked Chivington with raising a regiment to defend against hostile Indians.

But his regiment’s enlistment was nearly up and he hadn’t found any hostile Indians.  So he took over 700 troops to attack the peaceful village along Sand Creek.

After the attack on the settlers, the white authorities told the peaceful Indians to encamp at military forts and facilities where they would be protected.  Chief Black Kettle had spoken to the commander of a nearby fort seeking to comply.  He was told to keep his people at Sand Creek until the commander received further orders, and they would be safe.

Hundreds of women and children dropped to their knees in front of the soldiers that morning, imploring them for mercy.  There was no mercy given as the women and children were shot down or had their skulls caved in.  Many then ran for the creek where they sought cover, or fled north.  For the next several hours Chivington’s soldiers chased them down and killed as many as they could.

Seeing what was happening, Chief White Antelope approached the soldiers, folded his arms, and began singing his death song, “Nothing lives for long.  Except the Earth and the Mountains.”

Chief Black Kettle carried his wounded wife and fled north towards another band of Cheyenne.  He would make his way to Oklahoma, where he led his people to again attempt peaceful existence.  He would live two days shy of four years more…when he and his wife would be chased down and killed by soldiers of George Custer’s command at the Massacre along the Washita River.

One of the Union officers present that day refused to follow commands and ordered his company not to fire; and tried to save some of the victims.  Captain Silas Soule was career Army and recognized the cowardly acts being carried out.  The next day he wrote a letter to a Major friend of his back east, telling of the horrific behavior of Chivington’s “mob”.  He told of women and children having their brains bashed in.  He said that Chiefs had their ears and genitals cut off as trophies, and all those killed were scalped.  The crazed killers cut out many of the women’s genitalia as souvenirs.

Chivington would escape court martial by resigning from the Volunteers.  But even during the Civil War, the government and the people were aghast at the atrocities carried out at Sand Creek, and Congressional hearings were held in 1865, during which Captain Soule testified at against Chivington.

For his trouble he was gunned down in the street in Denver a few months later.  His murderers were never prosecuted.

The assault was supposedly intended to force peace for the nascent settlements in Colorado.  It had exactly the opposite effect, as the Cheyenne Dog Soldiers and others fought a decade’s long war with the settlers, their trust of the white people destroyed.

The story was eventually all but forgotten, and was a touchy subject when it was spoken of.  However Colorado eventually began to come to terms with this dark part of its history, and in 2007 the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site was established, run by the National Park Service.

Many visit the site in homage to the approximately 200 Native Americans who died that day.

Several of the sites I read in preparation for this posting indicated the subject was not covered much until the 2000’s.  However if you read (or watch) James Michener’s “Centennial”, you’ll find that he covered the events very well, just with a change in names.

Giving up Coffee for the Troops

Today in History, November 29: 1942 –

Rationing of Coffee begins in the United States. There wasn’t a shortage…South American coffee growers were experiencing banner years. However with shipping problems (U-boats, etc) and so many American servicemen overseas, the government enacted rationing of basic goods…gasoline, rubber goods, etc to ensure that the troops had what they needed.

And the nectar of the Gods, the elixir of life, coffee. Imagine how thankful those soldiers and sailors were to be able to have a cup of coffee in their distant battlefields.

Battle Order #1

Today in History, November 28: 1941 –

Ten days before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, a Task Force built around the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CV-6) sailed from Pearl Harbor bound for Wake Island.

In response to a “war warning” the Enterprise had taken aboard a squadron of US Marine F4F Wildcat fighter planes and their pilots, with orders to deliver them to Wake to bolster the island’s defenses.

Once they were at sea, the TF commander, Admiral William F. (Bull) Halsey signed off on Battle Order #1, which put the Enterprise and her supporting Cruisers and Destroyers on a war footing.

The crew began adding armor behind the pilot’s position’s in the ship’s fighters, painting them in combat colors, and arming them for combat.

More than a week before the Japanese attacked, the Enterprise TF had orders to shoot first and ask questions later should they encounter any foreign ships or planes. The CAP (Combat Air Patrol) kept watch overhead.

The Big E would deliver the Marines and return to Pearl on Sunday, December 7. Her scout plane pilots would fly ahead, ending up right in the middle of the air raid. But that’s another story.

But on this date, Admiral Halsey and Captain Murray closed by telling their sailors “Steady nerves and stout hearts are needed now.”

US Army War College

Today in History, November 27: 1901 – The US Army War College is established at Washington Barracks, Washington, DC by Secretary of War Elihu Root. Look at the War College as a Masters program for command level military officers. Surprisingly to me, the US Navy had beaten the Army by 17 years, the US Naval War College was established in 1884.