“A House Divided Cannot Stand”

Today in History, June 16, 1858:

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.

I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free.

I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of slavery will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward, till it shall become lawful in all the States, old as well as new — North as well as South.”

Unsuccessful Senatorial candidate Abraham Lincoln delivers his “house divided” speech when he is nominated as the Republican candidate for the Illinois senatorial seat.

It would be one of his most notable speeches, perhaps only second to the Gettysburg Address.

His message about a house divided…still stands.

A.S.P.C.A. is Born

Today in History, April 10, 1866:

Philanthropist Henry Bergh begins the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals in New York City.

While a diplomat in Russia, Bergh had been horrified by the mistreatment of horses by their Russian owners.

On his way back home, he spent time in London, and learned of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Inspired, he lobbied for the creation of a similar group at home.

New York gave the ASPCA authority to investigate and arrest for cruelty to animals, including horses and dog and rat fighting.

Eight years later Bergh and others would create the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.

By 1888 thirty-seven of thirty-eight states had created versions of the ASPCA.

Savannah Falls…

Today in History, December 29, 1778:

It appears Christmas time is not lucky for Savannah, Georgia in war time. On this date in 1778 British forces over powered the Colonials and took the city; they would hold the city, despite a seige by American and French forces, until the end of the Revolutionary War.

86 years later on Dec. 22, 1864, Union forces under William T. Sherman would take Savannah again, presenting it as a “Christmas gift” to President Lincloln during the American Civil War.

The Thirteenth Amendment & The House of Representatives

Today in History, December 18, 1865:

The US House of Representatives passes the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery in the United States. “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude…shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” The issue had divided the nation from its inception due to its inherent disagreement with our founding principles….

The Republican Party had been founded by break-away former members of the Whig party, who had formed the new party in the 1850’s because of their abolitionist beliefs. The Civil War had begun because of the election of the first Republican President, Abraham Lincoln; the largely Democrat South believed abolition was eminent due to his election and seceded from the Union rather than give up their slaves. Republican Lincoln did in fact enact the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863, freeing slaves in southern states, an admittedly partial measure. For his efforts a Democrat radical assassinated him in 1865 before he could see the realization of the 13th Amendment. Lincoln had wanted the measure to be bi-partisan in an effort to re-unite the nation. Although he wouldn’t live to see it, he got his wish, to an extent. 7 Democrats abstained from voting rather that be a part of freeing the slaves, but the measure still passed due to a Republican majority and partial Democrat support. Angry southern Democrats would go on to form the KKK, resulting in another century of violence before civil rights measures were finally passed.

Where Have the “Tough as Nails” Presidents Gone?

There have been several courageous or (I dislike the term) “Badass” Presidents in our history.

They are missed.

January 30, 1835:

Outside the Capitol building in DC a man with two pistols approached President Andrew Jackson…and fired both pistols. Fortunately both misfired and war-hero Jackson, not knowing if the would-be assassin had other weapons, proceeded to use his heavy cane to beat the laundry off of the bad guy until other arrived to secure him.

August, 1864:

President Lincoln had a habit of relaxing at the “Soldier’s Home” to get away from the madhouse. One night he was riding back to the Executive Mansion, by himself, when someone took a shot at him, putting a hole through his hat.

As Lincoln loped up to a young sentry, the sentry noticed the President was missing his trademark hat. Lincoln explained what happened…and then swore the youth to secrecy. No point working the people (and I’m sure the excitable Mary Lincoln) up and causing a panic.

October 14, 1912:

Theodore Roosevelt is running for a third term in Milwaukee. As he enters his car in front of his hotel, the madman pointed a pistol and shot TR in the chest.

Wounded, TR had the where-with-all to save the Assassin from lynching by the angry supporters who captured him. Then TR inspected his injuries…a thick manuscript and glasses case slowed down the bullet, but it still entered his chest. Being a hunter and combat vet, he took note that he wasn’t coughing up blood. Thus assured he wasn’t shot through the lung, he insisted on finishing a lengthy speech before going to the hospital. “It takes more than that to kill a bull moose!”

February 15, 1933:

The President-elect Franklin Roosevelt is in Miami riding with the Chicago mayor (Cermak) when a man fires numerous shots at them. FDR is not hit. However, though handicapped he emulated his cousin, seeing to the care of the assassin and staying by the side of the dying Cermak.

March 30, 1981:

Ronald Reagan is in DC when an assassin approached and began shooting, striking the elderly enigmatic Chief Executive and others. Seriously wounded, Reagan is rushed to George Washington hospital where he entertains the medical staff with one-liners. “Honey, I forgot to duck!” And “I hope there aren’t any Democrats in the operating room”. The chief surgeon assured him, “Mr. President, today we are ALL Republicans.”

Where have such men gone? I believe they are out there. We just have to advance them.

A General Above All Others

Today in History, October 11, 1976:

Lt. Gen. George Washington is promoted to General of the Armies.

No, that is not a typo.

After leading all American Continental forces to victory in the Revolutionary War and serving two terms as our first President, George Washington maintained his rank as Lieutenant General.

In the interim, other men were promoted to Gen. of the Army…Grant, Sherman, Sheridan (4-star), Marshall, Eisenhower, MacArthur, Arnold and Bradley 5-star.). Admirals Leahy, King and Nimitz became 5-star Fleet Admirals. And John “Back Jack” Pershing.

At our Bicentenial, Congress decided, and rightly so, that no General should ever outrank the father of our nation.

So they created the rank of General of the Armies (not to be confused with Gen. of the Army), and posthumously promoted General Washington and declared none should ever exceed his rank.

——————————————–

Hereas Lieutenant General George Washington of Virginia commanded our armies throughout and to the successful termination of our Revolutionary War;

Whereas Lieutenant General George Washington presided over the convention that formulated our Constitution;

Whereas Lieutenant General George Washington twice served as President of the United States of America; and

Whereas it is considered fitting and proper that no officer of the United States Army should outrank Lieutenant General George Washington on the Army list;

Now, therefore, be it

Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That

(a) for purposes of subsection (b) of this section only, the grade of General of the Armies of the United States is established, such grade to have rank and precedence over all other grades of the Army, past or present.

(b) The President is authorized and requested to appoint George Washington posthumously to the grade of General of the Armies of the United States, such appointment to take effect on July 4, 1976.

Approved October 11, 1976.

Public Law 94-479

Heroism and Treachery at Chapultepec

Today in History, September 13, 1847:

In the midst of the Battle for Mexico City during the Mexican-American War, The US Army, US Marines, work together to storm Chapultepec Castle, and take it. It was a key defensive position for General Antonio López de Santa Anna.

While the battle itself was of importance in establishing American presence on the international stage, it is much more important in my estimation for other reasons.

Key players amongst the American forces were US Army Capt Robert E. Lee, who convinced commanding General Winfield Scott of the winning strategy, along with a young US Army Lieutenant, Pierre G. T. Beauregard. Lt. Col. Joseph E. Johnston fought in the battle, and George Pickett was the first soldier to top the wall of the castle. Lt. Thomas J. Jackson (Stone Wall) fought valiantly;

Lt. Ulysses S. Grant found a strategic artillery position from which to fight during the taking of Mexico City; Naval officer Raphael Semmes saw Grant’s actions and found an equal position on the opposite side of the road to cover the enemy.

Can you imagine? All of these men served together, bled together, and then in the end took up arms against each other in the Civil War over ideological differences.

Think of your very best friend…and then think about taking up arms against him. This was an enigma of the Civil War. There are countless stories of episodes where, during a lull in a battle, or after a defeat, Confederates and Unionist soldiers took the opportunity to meet and commiserate with old friends on the opposite side.

Another aspect is that the US Marines played an important part in the seizure of the castle, thus the beginning lines of the Marine Hymn, “From the Halls of Montezuma…”. My research also indicates that the red stripe down the side of the blue slacks of the US Marine uniform represents the blood shed by US Marines during this battle.

Also that day, the last 30 of the “Saint Patrick’s Battalion”, deserters from the US Army who served as artillery for the Mexican Army, are publicly hanged en masse…by the US Army. They had been poor immigrants who, disenchanted with their lot, were coaxed to the opposite side, making them traitors to their new nation.

“Anguish and grief, like darkness and rain, may be depicted; but gladness and joy, like the rainbow, defy the skill of pen or pencil.”

Today in History, September 3, 1838:

A young man 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.”

Thank You, Grigory Shelikhov!

Today in History, August 14, 1784:

Russian Grigory Shelikhov founds Three Saints Bay on Kodiak Island, establishing Alaska for Russia. Over the next several decades Russian fur trappers moved into the interior, and down into California, where they were turned back by American frontiersmen.

By the 1850’s Russia was ready to sell Alaska and offered it to the United States. The negotiations were delayed during the American Civil War, but in 1867 Secretary of State William H. Seward negotiated it’s purchase for .02 cents per acre.

He was excoriated for the purchase; it was called “Seward’s Folly” or “Seward’s Icebox”. The treaty passed the Senate by just one vote. Since then Seward has been vindicated, with gold and oil and nature.

“Damn the Torpedoes!”

Today in History, August 5, 1864:

“Damn the Torpedoes, Full Speed Ahead!!”

The Battle of Mobile Bay. During the Civil War, Confederate “blockade runners” (Rhett Butler types) kept the South in vital supplies by running past the Union Navy blockade from Cuba to ports like Mobile Bay, Alabama.

US Navy Admiral David Glasgow Farragut was tasked with closing this last Confederate source of supplies. His fleet had to fight past the Confederate fleet of ironclads and two forts that guarded the bay. As the battle progressed, the Union fleet began to fragment, until Farragut rallied his sailors with famous admonition, winning the battle.

Mobile would remain in Confederate hands, but access to it was cut off for the duration. Farragut was the adopted son of US Naval Officer David Porter, who also raised his biological sons, famous Naval officers David Dixon Porter, and William Porter. One family played such a vital role in the glory of the US Navy. Can you imagine being a part of it?