We Are Going “Over There!”

TODAY IN HISTORY, APRIL 6, 1917:

President Woodrow Wilson asks Congress for a Declaration of War.

“It is a war against all nations. American ships have been sunk, American lives taken, in ways which it has stirred us very deeply to learn of, but the ships and people of other neutral and friendly nations have been sunk and overwhelmed in the waters in the same way. There has been no discrimination. The challenge is to all mankind. Each nation must decide for itself how it will meet it.

The choice we make for ourselves must be made with a moderation of counsel and a temperateness of judgment befitting our character and our motives as a nation.

We must put excited feeling away. Our motive will not be revenge or the victorious assertion of the physical might of the nation, but only the vindication of right, of human right, of which we are only a single champion.”

The Great Gettysburg Reunion

Today in History, June 25, 1913:

“We have found one another again as brothers and comrades in arms, enemies no longer, generous friends rather, our battles long past, the quarrel forgotten—except that we shall not forget the splendid valor.” –President Woodrow Wilson.

The Great Civil War Reunion at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Nearly half a century after the end of the Civil War, aged men and women who had been sworn enemies, who had lost loved ones on both sides of the great conflict, began to gather at Gettysburg for a reunion to honor those they had lost…and each other.

Men missing limbs commiserated with each other, slapped backs, shared stories, joined together as brothers…Union, Confederate, White, Black, recognized that the War was history and they were comrades again. If men and women that were so committed to killing each other could do this….can’t we?

Heck no…They All Have Guns! The Zimmerman Telegram

Today in History, March 1, 1917:

The Zimmermann Telegram is made public by the United States, on the authority of President Woodrow Wilson.

The German government had sent the telegram to their envoy in Mexico City in January, in anticipation of beginning unlimited submarine warfare in the North Atlantic Ocean on February 1st.

Germany wanted the United States, and her supply of men and materiel, to stay out of the war. And, should she enter the war, Germany wanted to limit her ability to assist Great Britain.

And that is what the Zimmermann Note was all about. It was an offer to the Mexican government; if Mexico would open up a “second front” for the United States by siding with Germany, the Germans would provide monetary support and promise to return Texas, New Mexico and Arizona to Mexico.

Germany hoped the second front would distract the Americans from shipping men and equipment to Britain, and that the sinking of what ships did venture forth by U-Boats would strangle the UK, forcing her to sue for peace.

The Mexican government actually established a committee to study the proposal…things had not been good between the US and Mexico, what with Gen. John Joseph “Black Jack” Pershing chasing Poncho Villa around Northern Mexico in recent years.

Mexico decided against the offer…because America was too powerful, because she would anger her neighbors, and (I find this VERY important), because they considered the fact that the citizens in the suggested states WERE ALL ARMED.

British intelligence managed to obtain a copy of the telegram and give it to the Americans. Our ancestors in the beginning of the 20th century shared our isolationist views and were not excited about involvement in a European War.

The release of the Zimmermann Telegram and unrestricted submarine warfare against our shipping helped change public opinion…and we were soon headed “over there”.

First Female President in 1919?


Today in History, October 2: 1919 – President Woodrow Wilson (D) had been on a whirlwind tour of the nation, 8,000 miles in 22 days, pushing America’s entry into the League of Nations (precursor to the United Nations). 

 On September 25 in Pueblo, Colorado, suffering from exhaustion and recovering from a bout with influenza, he collapsed. He made it back to DC before suffering a debilitating stroke that paralyzed his left side and left him bedridden. 

His wife Edith, fiercely protective, cut off almost all access to him in order to keep his incapacitation a secret. She signed off on paperwork and made decisions without consulting the President, claiming she was only acting as a steward to him. He would eventually recover enough to take part in cabinet meetings, but his participation was severely limited. 

 As for the League of Nations? Wilson’s Republican opponents in the Congress, ferociously opposed to the League, continued to fight it, and with the election of Republican President Warren Harding, the League of Nations issue died.

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. A Date Full of Historic Significance!


Today in History, July 4: This is my favorite day of the year to post, not only because it is America’s birthday, but because the date is so rich in American History. 

 1754 – During the French and Indian Wars, a young colonial member of the British Army abandons “Fort Necessity” after surrendering it to the French the day before. The officer, 22-year-old Lt. George Washington had also commanded British forces in the first battle of the war on the American continent weeks before. The French and Indian Wars were only part of a global conflict between England and France, the Seven Years War. His experience here would serve Washington well in our War for Independence. 

 1776 – The second Continental Congress adopts the Declaration of Independence from England after years of conflict as colonists, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” 

 1803 – President Thomas Jefferson announces the signing of a treaty in Paris formalizing the Louisiana Purchase, effectively doubling the size of the United States in one day for $15M. 

 1826 – 50 years after the adoption of the Declaration of Independence, two of it’s signers, second President John Adams and third President Thomas Jefferson, die on the same day. The two had become bitter political enemies for years (Adams a devout Federalist, Jefferson an equally devout state’s rights man, in addition to vicious political vitriol the two had exchanged). But in 1812 they made amends and began a years’ long correspondence, making them good friends again. It is said that Adams’ last words were, “Jefferson survives”. He was wrong, Jefferson had died five hours before. Many Americans at the time saw their death on the same day 50 years after the Nation’s birth as a divine sign. 

 1863 – Confederate General John C. Pemberton surrenders Vicksburg, Mississippi to Union General Ulysses S. Grant. Pemberton had sent a note asking for terms on the 3rd, and initially Grant gave his usual “unconditional surrender” response. He then thought about what he would do with 30,000 starving Southern troops, who he had lay siege to since May 18th, and granted them parole, accepting the surrender on the 4th. The capture of Vicksburg effectively secured the main artery of commerce for the Union and cut off of the Confederate states west of the Mississippi (and their supplies) from the South. Grant’s parole of the rebels would come back to haunt him, as the Confederacy did not recognize it’s terms and many of the parolees fought again…which came back to haunt the Confederacy because as a result the Union stopped trading prisoners.  Celebrated as a great victory by the North, but by Vicksburg not so much. The Citizens of the Southern city had to take to living in caves during the siege as US Navy and Army continuously bombarded their homes.  Starving and desperate, they saw Grant’s waiting a day to accept surrender as malicious.  Independence Day would not be officially celebrated in Vicksburg for a generation. 

1863 – On the same day, half a continent away, Confederate General Robert E. Lee led his defeated Army of Northern Virginia south away from the Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. This was no small matter…”Bobby Lee” had been out-foxing and out-maneuvering multiple Union Generals practically since the war began. No official surrender here…Lee’s army would survive to fight another day. While both battles were turning points, they did not spell the end of the South as many believe. There were years of hard, bitter fighting still to come with ghastly losses in life and injury. Gettysburg was, however, the last serious attempt by the South to invade the North. 

 1913 – President Woodrow Wilson addresses the Great 50 Year Reunion of Gettysburg, attended by thousands of Veterans from both sides, who swapped stories, dined together…and it would seem, forgave for a time. 

 1939 – “I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth”. After 17 years as a beloved member of Major League Baseball, New York Yankee Lou Gehrig stands in Yankee Stadium and says goodbye to his fans, having been diagnosed with a terminal disease that now bears his name. I doubt there was a dry eye in the house. I’ve posted the video below. 

God Bless America! And thank you to our service men and women that continue to make our freedoms possible.

William Jennings Bryan


Today in History, June 9: 1915 – William Jennings Bryan, US Secretary of State, resigns. After a German U-Boat had torpedoed a British passenger ship, the Lusitania, resulting in the deaths of 128 Americans, Bryan sent a conciliatory, almost apologetic message to the German government without President Wilson’s consent. Germany felt impowered and issued an aggressive statement, to which Wilson replied in kind, leaving little doubt that America would not tolerate the sinking of non-combatants. Germany backed off, for a time, and Bryan resigned in protest, believing Wilson was leading the nation towards war. Bryan had been an impressive orator, 3 times a candidate for president, and L. Frank Baum’s inspiration for the Cowardly Lion of the Wizard of Oz in 1900.

“Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is. Do nothing to mar its grandeur, sublimity and loveliness. You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is to keep it for your children, your children’s children, and all who come after you, as the one great sight which every American should see.” -President Theodore Roosevelt

grand-canyon-lighting

Today in History, February 26: 1919 – President Woodrow Wilson designates the Grand Canyon as a National Park. His nemesis and predecessor, President Theodore Roosevelt, had designated the Grand Canyon as a National Monument in 1908. Thanks, guys!