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.)

Happy Constitution Day!

Today in History, September 17: 1787 –

The Constitutional Convention draws to a close with the signing of the final draft of the United States Constitution.

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” We owe so much to our nation’s founders and to this document. We must continue to defend it from it’s detractors.

Stockholm Syndrome

Today in History, August 23, 1973:

During a hostage situation resulting from a bank robbery of “Kreditbanken” in Normalmstorg, Stockholm, Sweden, the hostages become sympathetic to the robbery/hostage suspects, even defending them once they were taken into custody. Criminologist and psychiatrist Nils Berjerot termed it “Norrmalmstorgssyndromet”, which would be translated as Stockholm Syndrome. The syndrome is related not only to hostage situations, but also domestic violence situations. Freud explained it as a victim relating to the aggressor as a means to protect the ego, bonding with the aggressor to cease feeling like a victim.

Woolaroc Lands in Hawaii

Today in History, August 16, 1927:

“The Dole Air Race” ends in tragedy and glory. Depending on who you were.

James Drummond Dole, heir to the Dole Pineapple industry that had been initiated in the 19th century, sponsored an air race to prove that air travel could be made between the mainland and Honolulu. He had been inspired by Charles Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight. Whoever reached Honolulu first would win $25,000.

Several entrants would drop out before the flight even began, but of the eight that left the mainland, six would be lost without a trace.

Two Army Air Corps Lieutenant’s had already made the flight successfully…but since they landed at Wheeler Field rather than Honolulu, they were disqualified.

Two Travel Air 5000 monoplanes were sponsored by Oklahoma Oilman Frank Phillips…the “Oklahoma” and the “Woolaroc.” The Oklahoma had to turn back….but the Woolaroc, piloted by Arthur C. Goebel and William V. Davis, Jr. took the prize, being the first to arrive in Honolulu.

Once again, Oklahoma wins. You can visit the “Woolaroc”, at Woolaroc near Bartlesville.

The Second Seminole War Ends

Today in History, August 14, 1842:

After seven years of war on the Florida peninsula, the second Seminole War is declared to be at an end.

The war had begun when the US government attempted to enforce the Indian Removal Act and the Treaty of Ft. Gibson in which the Seminole Tribe was to move to the Creek Reservation west of the Mississippi River, in Indian Territory.

The tribe resisted with the leadership of Osceola beginning in 1835. Numerous battles ensued, but the government began to succeed with smaller raids and false truces with which they captured as many as 3-4,000 Seminoles, forcing their removal.

Osceola was captured in 1837 and imprisoned in Charleston, SC where he died.