An Epic Hail Storm

Today in History, April 13, 1360:

“Black Monday”. During the Hundred Years War, English King Edward III had invaded France, bent on taking the French crown. The French locked themselves up within fortresses and castles while Edward and his armies sacked and pillaged the countryside. The English burned the Paris suburbs and then set their sights on Chartres. But on this date a sudden storm rose up….over 1,000 English troops, including two of their top commanders, were killed by….hail. The English saw this as a sign from God, and Edward soon agreed to a peace that included ending his desire for the French Monarchy. Within 9 years the French would declare that Edward had not lived up to the treaty they had signed, and the war would continue until 1453.

Steam

Today in History, April 11: 1803 – Instrumental in establishing the US Patent system, John Stevens receives a patent for the first screw driven, steam powered boat, or steamboat. The son of a member of the Continental Congress, A Captain and later Colonel in the Continental Army, Stevens turned his talents to inventions after the war. Robert Fulton would win the most fame for the steamship, but it was Stevens who first tied steam power to propeller driven naval craft. He would be best known as the father of the American railroad for steam powered railroad engines. Not nearly as famous as George Washington, or other American heroes…but how much more impact did Stevens have on the world with his inventions? He and his contemporaries took us from a world of sail to paddle wheeled steamships, to ironclads, to battleships, liners, supertankers, and more.

Appomattox

Today in History, April 9, 1865:

After years of foiling every move the Union made, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee had finally been run to ground. Several Yankee Generals had been bested by him, but he had finally met his match…not tactically, but in determination, by Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant.

At Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia, Lee, his army starving and with nowhere else to run, in spite of the fact that he would “rather die a thousand deaths”, agreed to surrender the Army of Northern Virginia to Grant.

Lee arrived in his best uniform; Grant, typically, arrived in a muddy private’s uniform. Grant offered terms that included Confederate officers keeping their horses and sidearms, enlisted men keeping their horses so that they could farm their land, as long as they agreed to abide by their paroles and obey the laws of the land. Lee was very appreciative of these terms, saying they would be helpful to his army, men he loved.

As Lee mounted his horse and left the site of the surrender, Union soldiers began to cheer. Grant quickly silenced them, reminding them that the Confederates were once again their countrymen.

The surrender document was signed in the home of Wilmer McLean. Ironically, in the first battle of the war, First Bull Run, or First Manassas if you are from the South, Confederate Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard’s headquarters were in McLean’s home in Manassas, where cannon shot destroyed part of the house. McLean moved south to Appomattox Courthouse to keep his family safe. So, as is said, the Civil War began in Wilmer McLean’s front yard, and ended in his parlor.

McLean’s home was almost completely stripped of furniture by Union officers seeking momentos of the occasion.

Lee was given the opportunity by Grant to allow one of his subordinates to accept the surrender…to avoid humiliation. Lee refused…his FATHER, Light Horse Harry Lee, had been with Washington at Yorktown and witnessed the ungentlemanly act of British Gen. Lord Cornwallis sending a subordinate to surrender his sword to Washington. Lee refused to dishonor his family name by repeating the act. Grant did not require Lee to surrender his sword, but Lee was the man that represented his army at Appomattox Courthouse. Both gentlemen, North and South, maintained their honor.

John D. Lynde Improved Your Life…

aerosol

Today in History, April 8, 1862:

John D. Lynde of Philadelphia receives a patent for an “improved” aerosol spray bottle.  The concept was not new, but Lynde perfected the use of gasses to propel spray mists from a bottle.

Today we use aerosol devices for personal care products, kitchen sprays and many other applications in farming and industry.  Perhaps most importantly for medical purposes such as inhalers and atomisers.

Shiloh

Today in History, April 7, 1862:

The Battle of Shiloh comes to and end with a Union “Victory”. Union Gen. US Grant had moved his army into Tennessee and was preparing his next campaign.

But Confederate Gen. Albert Sidney Johnston, considered second only to Robert E. Lee by both armies, had different ideas. His troops, in addition to those of CSA Gen. Pierre G. T. Beauregard almost literally caught the Northern Army sleeping….attacking in the morning and routing the Yankees.

The Confederates, always hungry due to their lack of supplies, actually stopped to eat the breakfasts the Union soldiers left in flight. The battle was vicious all through the day. But by the morning of the 7th, Grant had been reinforced by Gen. Buell’s Corps, and Grant quickly turned the rebels back. Shiloh was not so much a victory as a recovery for the North.

But the North nearly lost it’s best commander in the aftermath, as the press excoriated Grant as a drunk who was asleep at the wheel. President Lincoln answered the charges by saying that he could not spare Grant, “he fights” and offering to buy his other generals the brand of whiskey Grant used. In truth Grant had taken to drink when missing his family during his pre-war assignment in California, but was always focused during the Civil War Campaigns.

During the battle, Albert Sydney Johnston was mortally wounded. He died looking in fascination at the sky above.

The Grand Army of the Republic

Today in History, April 6, 1866:

Fraternity, Charity and Loyalty.” The Grand Army of the Republic is formed in Decatur, Illinois, bringing together a Fraternal organization of veterans of the Union (US) Army, Navy, Marines, and “Revenue Cutter Service” (Coast Guard) from the Civil War.

Admittedly an arm of the Republican Party, the GAR was one of the first bi-racial fraternal organizations in the US…white and black veterans worked together to gain veteran’s pensions, elect Republican Presidents Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Harrison and McKinley, all Civil War veterans.

At it’s high point, the organization had 490,000 members; it passed with it’s last member’s death in 1956, to be replaced by the “Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.

Victory and Assassination

Today in History, April 4: 1865:

150 years ago today. President Lincoln enters Richmond, the Confederate Capitol. Lincoln had been at City Point when informed that Richmond had been taken the day before by Union Army forces.

He immediately sailed on the USS Malvern, Flag Officer David Dixon Porter’s flagship for Richmond. After he disembarked, he was initially escorted through crowds by a contingent of sailors, who were very relieved when they were met by a group of Union Cavalry to assist in escorting the President to the home of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.

Many former slaves attempted to pay homage to Lincoln, who would not allow it. Onlookers watched from the windows and street corners.

At Davis’ house, Lincoln sat in Davis’ chair, then toured the house.

When later asked by Union Gen. Weitzel how the conquered rebels should be treated, Lincoln indicated that he would not give an order in that regard, but that his advice would be to, “Let them up easy….let them up easy”.

As for the nervous sailors and cavalrymen that escorted him? As it turns out, Lincoln was safer in the Confederate capitol that his own. He had only ten days until he would be assassinated.

103 years later to the day, another man dedicated to civil rights and the advancement of justice, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would be assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee.

April is a Historic month with many stories to tell.