History

Meet the Constitution: The 17th Amendment

Posted on October 29, 2013. Filed under: Founding Fathers, Government, History, United States Constitution | Tags: , |

It’s been awhile since I worked on my Constitution page, but I have added a new article to it on the 17th Amendment to the Constitution; the amendment that changes how Senators are elected.

As I was doing research on this piece, I ran across a liberal article where the subject was reform of the US Senate. It was not my intention to rebut this article, but I had to in order to highlight how some people perceive that the government should work versus how the Constitution outlined it. In the end, I had to rebut the entire article, because the author did little in the way of research, and it also shows how our educational institutions have failed people by teaching them how the government is supposed to work under the Constitution.

You can read the entire article here.

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The Real Meaning of the Pledge of Allegiance

Posted on September 24, 2013. Filed under: Government, History | Tags: |

English: American students pledging to the fla...

English: American students pledging to the flag in a former form of the salute, specifically the Bellamy salute . (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I see a lot of political posts floating around Facebook, because my friends post a lot of political stuff.

One of the things that I see a lot of is people saying we should repost the Pledge of Allegiance, either to “annoy a liberal”, to get back at NBC, or to show that they think “God, our country and our flag deserve respect”.

On another website, I saw that it said that we need to stop pledging allegiance to our government.

I’m an American. I love my country, and there is an American flag on the exterior of my home.

However, as an American, I pledge allegiance to no one. I do not pledge allegiance to any man, flag, or government.

I pledge allegiance to my wife, because if I didn’t, she would kill me.

The Pledge of Allegiance has been around since its inception in 1892. Prior to that, no such pledge existed. As a nation, we survived more than 100 years without having to recite such a pledge. Over the years, the pledge has undergone a series of changes, the last of which was the addition of “under God” in 1954.

The reasoning for the creation of the pledge was because patriotism was at a low point in the 1890’s, and by introducing the pledge into the classroom, it would be the start of a “patriotic education” for the children.

What most people don’t know, is that the pledge was written by Francis Bellamy, a socialist. Take a look at the salute in the picture. Bellamy was dead before the Nazis took power in Germany, but isn’t that image frightening?

So, what do all of you American anti-socialism patriots think of that?

The reality is that the pledge became part of the daily school routine. I said it as a kid, but never really understood what I was doing or what it meant. Now that I’m older, I do know what it means, and that subjecting children to it every day amounts to indoctrination, especially since the Federal government controls our children’s education.

The great irony of the pledge is that the American Revolution, the war that won our independence from England, was a war that burned away our allegiances. Those who maintained their allegiance to Britain were driven from the country.

The American Civil War saw the south dissolve their allegiances, thinking that the states should have more power than the Federal government to decide what was right for them. I’m not trying to justify slavery. There is no justification for the institution, but most who fought for the south during the war did not own slaves. They fought because they felt they were defending their homes against an aggressor in the Federal government. It was Abraham Lincoln who first acted upon the concept of Nation, rather than a confederacy of sovereign states. The concept of an all powerful Federal government has grown from there.

During reconstruction, all southerners who had fought for the Confederacy were required to swear loyalty oaths in order to be pardoned. Those who would not were barred from government positions.

The words of the pledge sound like something you would hear in another country, in another time; swearing fealty to the King or government.

I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation…..

Is that not an oath of fealty to the government? Like I said, I swear no oaths of fealty to the government, and I mean it when I say that the government can kiss my backside. Unfortunately, the flag has come to represent the country less and less, and the government more and more.

The fact of the matter is that if we should be loyal to anything, it should be the state in which we live (not the state government, but to the state itself).

Robert E. Lee was a Colonel in the Federal army at the outbreak of the Civil War. The Federal government wanted him to stay, but he said he could not fight against Virginia, his native state. We have fewer people today who can claim where they live as their native state. I can do so for Oregon, as can many of my friends, but my wife, and in some cases, my friends’ wives cannot claim Oregon as their native state. But it is their home state, and that in itself is enough to claim loyalty to the state (again, the state itself, not the government).

That’s where we are today. Those who pledge to support the Constitution (I am one of them), and those who pledge to support the government. It is the Patriots against the Tories all over again. Almost 240 years after the American Revolution began, we are right back where we started.

Just look at the words. We are to pledge our allegiances not just to the flag, but to the government, to the nation, instead of to the state where we live.

Before tossing out something about the Pledge of Allegiance, take a moment and ask yourself, “what does it really mean?”

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American Exceptionalism: What Is It?

Posted on September 16, 2013. Filed under: History, Society, World Affairs | Tags: |

English: American Flag blowing in the wind

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A recent comment on my post about Putin and his mocking of “American Exceptionalism” gave me cause to think.

What is American Exceptionalism, exactly?

Is it the belief that American is the greatest nation on earth, that we are better than everyone else?

There are those who have called “American Exceptionalism” a myth, and honestly, I would expect nothing less from the Huffington Post. But if you read the column that I linked to, he isn’t talking about American Exceptionalism at all, but American Exceptionism, and the actions of our government do not necessarily mean that it has the support of the people. Current events in Syria are proof of that. Vietnam was proof of that.

Since the Second World War, this nation has been getting involved more and more in the business of sovereign nations. For the most part we have done most of the heavy lifting, while China and the former Soviet Union just sent equipment, and in a few cases, particularly in Korea, troops.

But getting involved in other nation’s business does not make us exceptional. The government taking an attitude of “good enough for me, but not for thee” does not make us exceptional.

It is the people who make us exceptional.

But the author of the HuffPo piece seems stuck on the 20th Century, thinking that is where the concept came from.

It didn’t.

The Washington Post has a pretty good write up about American Exceptionalism, but while I think it scratched the surface, it did not go far enough. It doesn’t go far enough, because like the Huffington Post piece, it assumes that the government is what makes us exceptional.

It isn’t.

Like I said, the Washington Post scratches the surface, but doesn’t look any deeper.

[American Exceptionalism]  “can be described in five words: liberty, egalitarianism, individualism, populism, and laissez faire.”

Those are the words of political sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset, which the Post quotes, then moves on to Exceptionalism as a government function, ignoring what he said.

The concept of American Exceptionalism has been around a long time.

The concept originated, believe it or not, by a French political thinker; Alexis de Tocqueville in the 1840’s. The term has since been hijacked, like most other things, by politicians.

Most Americans think that the US is the greatest nation on earth, warts and all.

That’s what makes us exceptional, in part. We were the first nation to break away from a major power and form our own government. We were the first to decide that we were not beholden to the government, that government is supposed to be beholden to us. The idea that government does not grant us rights, but is supposed to protect those rights. The notion that all men are created equal, but do not mistake that to mean that we all remain equal. Your life is what you make of it, not what the government makes of it. Have we had our struggles with that concept? Certainly, but we have worked towards correcting that problem.

We believe that we all have the same rights. That does not mean that those rights do not get trampled from time to time, but we all have them. So far in this century, the government has done more to take away our rights than at any other time in history. When we talk about taking our country back, we do not mean that we want to take it from the blacks, or the Hispanics, or the Asians. It means that we want to take it back from the government.

This country works best when government gets out of the way, not when it gets in the way, over taxing and over regulating us, passing silly laws, or laws that unduly burden the citizenry.

This country has a long history of heroism and individualism, and it is that individualism that makes us great. Look to the two world wars for examples of that individualism, the airborne troops scattered over Normandy, Sergeant Alvin York in the First World War, who fought the Germans despite being a conscientious objector. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin who went to the moon and back. The pioneers who moved west.

For all of our faults, and those who would tell us otherwise, this nation above all is still the freest in the world. More people try to make their way to this country than any other country.

Our exceptionalism does not spring from government, just as our rights do not.

If you believe that the idea of American Exceptionalism is the idea that we feel we are better than everyone else, then you really don’t know what American Exceptionalism is, or what it is all about.

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World War II and the Atomic Age

Posted on August 8, 2013. Filed under: History | Tags: , , , |

The mushroom cloud over Hiroshima after the dr...

The mushroom cloud over Hiroshima after the dropping of the atomic bomb nicknamed ‘Little Boy’ (1945). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

August 9 marks the 68th anniversary of the dropping of Fat Man over the city of Nagasaki, Japan, which helped speed the end of the Second World War.

Today, we look through rose colored glasses and ask if the dropping of these bombs was necessary. Today, the Japanese ask why. Why did we feel the need to kill up to a quarter million people in the blink of an eye and vaporize two cities?

It is generally acknowledged that the dropping of Little Boy on the city of Hiroshima by the Enola Gay on August 6, 1945 ushered in the nuclear age. The reality is that the day that ushered in the nuclear age was July 16, 1945, when Dr. Robert Oppenheimer and his team successfully detonated the first atomic device at Alamogordo, New Mexico.

It’s a complex answer to a complex question. The reason were myriad, depending on who you ask, or who you use as your source.

The war was coming to an end, and people on both sides were growing war weary. The Japanese had been defeated, but had yet to admit it. Peace feelers had been sent out through the Soviet Union, seeking a way out while saving face. Why did they seek peace through the Soviet Union? Because at that time, there was still a non-aggression treaty still in force. But Stalin saw the opportunity to expand Soviet influence elsewhere in the world.

The ruins of Hiroshima (click image to enlarge)

The ruins of Hiroshima (click image to enlarge)

The Japanese military wanted to fight to the death, the Samurai tradition of never surrendering. The US demanded unconditional surrender. Some claim that this demand of unconditional surrender was “somewhat vague”. There is nothing vague or ambiguous about unconditional surrender. It is surrender without conditions placed on that capitulation.

There were factions in the Japanese Diet (the Japanese equivalent of Congress) who wanted to surrender, but only on the condition that they could keep their Emperor, Shōwa, better known in the US as Hirohito.

No, Tojo was not the Emperor, only the Prime Minister, much like Prime Minister David Cameron isn’t the queen.

This was a sticking point between the US and Japan to bring the war to a conclusion, because the US did not understand the significance of the Emperor to Japanese culture.

The ruins of Hiroshima. Note the tower with the rounded top (from the above picture) in the background. (click image to enlarge)

The ruins of Hiroshima. Note the tower with the rounded top (from the above picture) in the background. (click image to enlarge)

What other options, then,  did President Truman have?

1. He could have waited for the Soviet Union to enter the war, as promised since 1943, despite a non-aggression pact existing between the Soviets and Japan.

After the Soviets did enter the war, they invaded Manchuria and the Korean peninsula, completely overrunning the Japanese and hastening the Japanese surrender. It needs to be pointed out that the Soviets did not invade until the first atomic bomb had been dropped.

So, if the Soviets were defeating the Japanese in China, why not wait for the Japanese to give up?

After the war in Europe ended, the Western Allies watched as the Soviets took total control of Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. Stalin did not fear the Western Allies as much as he feared a resurrected and rearmed Germany, so he wanted to keep a buffer that he controlled between Germany and the Soviet Union. The Western Allies did not want this same thing happening in Asia as well, but it was Mao Tse-tung and the Communists backed by the Soviets that ran Chang Kai-sheck’s Nationalist government out of China.

President Truman did not want Soviet influence spreading through Asia.

2. He could have allowed the bombing of industrial targets to continue, but as early as September, 1944, the US was running out of industrial targets, despite propaganda claims by the Japanese that aircraft production was soaring.

Eventually, the Japanese would be unable to produce anything at all, and that, coupled with the blockade of Japan would have ultimately brought the nation to its knees.

3. The US could have invaded the Japanese mainland in Operation Downfall. Downfall included two separate invasion points, Operation Coronet and Operation Olympic. Coronet called for a force of 25 divisions to land just southeast of Tokyo on the Kanto Plain, arguably the best place in Japan for tanks to operate. But the plain also includes Tokyo, Japan’s capital and largest city. This would be an area the Japanese would fight hard for.

What would the cost have been in human lives?

The battles of Iwo Jima and Okinawa were eye opening for the US. At Iwo Jima, the US suffered over 26,000 casualties, over a third of the invasion force. The Japanese, on the other hand, lost nearly every man on the island, just short of 22,000 casualties out of 22,000 on the island.

At Okinawa, it was nearly the same. The Allies suffered 84,000 casualties, including 33,000 non-combat losses out of a force of 180,000. The Japanese suffered almost 106,000 casualties out of 120,000 soldiers, PLUS an estimated 42,000 -150,000 civilians killed. Keep in mind, however, that many of these civilian casualties were people who jumped off cliffs to their deaths because they feared the Americans would eat them.

Iwo Jima had a 37% casualty rate for the Americans, and Okinawa was 46.7%, although that number could be exaggerated due to non-combat losses.

The Japanese fought nearly to the death in both battles.

What would that mean for an invasion of the Japanese mainland? Why would they not fight to the death in Japan?

The Japanese figured that a landing would occur on the Kanto Plain, and were prepared. Would we have had to fight soldiers AND civilians, as we had to in Germany? We may never know, and can only speculate.

Casualty estimates ranged from 125,000 US casualties in 120 days, to well over a million for a 90 day period. These estimates do not include an estimate on the number of Japanese casualties, because frankly, the US didn’t care how many Japanese died.

A direct invasion of Japan would cost a lot of American lives, and it was decided that this would have to be the plan of last resort.

Enter the atomic bombs.

Did they absolutely have to be used?

The answer is not as simple as yes or no. Those who argue that there was no reason to use it are injecting their 21st century sensibilities into a brutal, bloody and racist war.

The ruins of Nagasaki (click image to enlarge)

The ruins of Nagasaki (click image to enlarge)

In 1945, the American public still remembered the attack on Pearl Harbor. They wanted revenge. The firebombing of Tokyo in 1942 was not enough. Dropping Little Boy on Hiroshima and removing that city from the earth was only the beginning of their vengeance.

Again, the US demanded unconditional surrender. Again, the Japanese balked, but the military was beginning to lose power, and those who wanted peace openly came out in the Diet.

On August 9, 1945, the Soviets invaded Manchuria, and the US dropped Fat Man on Nagasaki a few hours later.

During the course of the war, Germany, the United States, and the Soviets were all researching the atomic bomb. Germany fell before it could complete its research, and many of the German scientists working on the program were brought to the US to continue their research in New Mexico.

The US had two bombs, the Soviets none. Even though the Soviets were allies, they were not friends, and Truman decided to not only bring the Pacific war to an end without having to invade Japan, but to show the Soviets the capability the US had in destructive power.

So, the bombs were not just to bring the war to an end, they were not just to exact vengeance on the Japanese, but it was a demonstration for the Soviets.

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission historian J. Samuel Walker wrote:

“The consensus among scholars is that the bomb was not needed to avoid an invasion of Japan and to end the war within a relatively short time. It is clear that alternatives to the bomb existed and that Truman and his advisors knew it.”

Scholars are not soldiers, nor the people tasked with making these decisions, and we are the better for it. The reason for the demonstration was to show the Soviets that their plans for expansion would be opposed, and we had the capability of destroying them.

Few people realized at the time that this would lead to the Cold War, or to Korea, or to Vietnam.

Did the desire for revenge make our ancestors wrong? Did it make them evil?

After 9/11, the people of this nation wanted blood. Only the most cowardly of us didn’t.

It’s easy to forget that today, 12 years after the fact.

History is something that needs to be studied with objectivity, not an agenda. Had the US not developed the bomb and used it, someone else would have, most probably the Soviet Union.

Did we have to use the bomb on Japan?

Or would we have been satisfied with another million men coming home killed or maimed?

In 1963, former President Harry Truman wrote the following letter:

August 5, 1963

Dear Kup:

I appreciated most highly your column of July 30th, a copy of which you sent me.

I have been rather careful not to comment on the articles that have been written on the dropping of the bomb for the simple reason that the dropping of the bomb was completely and thoroughly explained in my Memoirs, and it was done to save 125,000 youngsters on the American side and 125,000 on the Japanese side from getting killed and that is what it did. It probably also saved a half million youngsters on both sides from being maimed for life.

You must always remember that people forget, as you said in your column, that the bombing of Pearl Harbor was done while we were at peace with Japan and trying our best to negotiate a treaty with them.

All you have to do is to go out and stand on the keel of the Battleship in Pearl Harbor with the 3,000 youngsters underneath it who had no chance whatever of saving their lives. That is true of two or three other battleships that were sunk in Pearl Harbor. Altogether, there were between 3,000 and 6,000 youngsters killed at that time without any declaration of war. It was plain murder.

I knew what I was doing when I stopped the war that would have killed a half a million youngsters on both sides if those bombs had not been dropped. I have no regrets and, under the same circumstances, I would do it again — and this letter is not confidential.

Sincerely yours,

Harry S. Truman

Did we have to drop the bomb?

I think yes, we absolutely had to.

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The Price of a Mile

Posted on August 7, 2013. Filed under: History | Tags: , , |

Today is August 7, 2013. Three days ago, August 4, marked the 99th anniversary of the outbreak of war on the Western Front when Germany invaded Belgium, Luxembourg and France.

The war was one of the most horrific wars ever known. World War II had a higher cost in lives and dollars spent (or pounds or francs or whatever), but the Second World War never saw battles where casualties would rise into the hundreds of thousands. The Battle of Verdun alone cost both sides over 700,000 casualties in 10 months of fighting.

It’s amazing that both sides were able to recover sufficiently to fight again 20 years later.

Trench warfare deadlocked the front, and many lives were wasted as both sides tried to figure out how to break the stalemate. It reached a point where the French Army mutinied and refused to go over the top one more time, only to be killed or watch their friends and comrades get mowed down by German machine gun fire.

I am a huge heavy metal fan. I recently discovered this band from Sweden called Sabaton. They have a song they wrote about the war called The Price of a Mile. I’ve linked to the video (not official) below.

The Great War’s generation is almost all gone now. Please remember the sacrifices these men made, and the horrors of that war.

 

 

Throw your soldiers into positions once there is no escape, and they will prefer death to flight.

Hear the sound of the machine gun
Hear it echo in the night
Mortars firing, rains the scene
Scars the fields that once were green
It’s a stalemate at the front line
Where the soldiers rest in mud
Roads and houses, all is gone
There’s no glory to be won

Know that many men will suffer
know that many men will die
Half a million lives at stake
At the fields of Passchendaele
And as night falls the general calls
And the battle carries on
And on
What is the purpose of it all
What’s the price of a mile

CHORUS:
Thousands of feet march to the beat
It’s an army on the march
Long way from home
Paying the price in young mens lives
Thousands of feet march to the beat
It’s an army in despair
Knee-deep in mud
Stuck in the trench with no way out

Thousands of machine guns
Kept on firing through the night
Mortars placed and wreck the scene
Guns the fields that once were green
Still a deadlock at the front line
Where the soldiers die in mud
Roads and houses since long gone
Still no glory has been won

Know that many men has suffered
Know that many men has died
Six miles of ground has been won
Half a million men are gone
And as the men crawled the general called
And the killing carried on
And on
What was the purpose of it all
What’s the price of a mile

Thousands of feet march to the beat
It’s an army on the march
Long way from home
Paying the price in young mens lives
Thousands of feat march to the beat
It’s an army in despair
Knee-deep in mud
Stuck in the trench with no way out

Young men are dying
They pay the price
Oh how they suffer
So tell me what’s the price of a mile

That’s the price of a mile!

Thousands of feet march to the beat
It’s an army on the march
Long way from home
Paying the price in young mens lives
Thousands of feat march to the beat
It’s an army in despair
Knee-deep in mud
Stuck in the trench with no way out

Thousands of feet march to the beat
It’s an army on the march
Long way from home
Paying the price in young mens lives
Thousands of feat march to the beat
It’s an army in despair
Knee-deep in mud
Stuck in the trench with no way out

Thousands of feet march to the beat
It’s an army on the march
Long way from home
Paying the price in young mens lives
Thousands of feat march to the beat
It’s an army in despair
Knee-deep in mud
Stuck in the trench with no way out

Thousands of feet march to the beat
It’s an army on the march
Long way from home
Paying the price in young mens lives
Thousands of feat march to the beat
It’s an army in despair
Knee-deep in mud
Stuck in the trench with no way out

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Dick Durbin Wants Federal Government to Decide Who Are “Real” Reporters

Posted on July 3, 2013. Filed under: Founding Fathers, Government, History, Politics | Tags: , , |

English: Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) meets with...

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) meets with Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Whenever a government grows too large, it tends to encroach on the rights of the people. Benjamin Franklin said, “They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

It seems that these days, whenever the government wishes to curtail our rights, they claim public safety, national security, or the war on terror.

Our Founding Fathers had experience with a government that curtailed their rights.Their belief was that governments are founded to secure those rights, not take them away.

However, they were also aware that people would not want to abolish a government that they had grown accustomed to:

…and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.- The Declaration of Independence

Let’s look at some of the grievances our Founders had with King George:

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent: 

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

Some of those may sound very familiar, as our government is acting in much the same way. There are those who like to say that the Revolution occurred because of taxation without representation, but it went deeper than that.

Have we been deprived of Trial by Jury? The NDAA 2012, sections 1021 and 1022 provide for that.

Have they imposed taxes without our consent? They keep trying, by raising taxes and constantly creating new taxes and fees.

Have they suspended our Legislatures? No, but with the adoption of the Sixteenth and Seventeenth amendments, the Federal government has effectively neutered the State legislatures, and are always passing laws to tell the States what they can and can’t do.

Have they created new offices and sent officers to harass our people? Have you been paying attention to the IRS intimidation and NSA wiretapping scandals?

What began under the previous administration has carried forward to this administration, and been expanded.

The Federal government is trying to pass laws to deprive citizens of weapons, despite our Second Amendment guarantees.

The government is trying to strangle freedom of religion by forcing companies that are owned by religious people to pay for acts they find intolerable, like abortion and birth control.

They have circumvented the Fourth Amendment by watching us. Constantly.

They have circumvented the Fifth and Sixth Amendments with the NDAA 2012, sections 1021 and 1022.

They have circumvented the Constitution by suspending Habeas Corpus during a time when there is no rebellion.

Now, Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, wants to restrict the First amendment, specifically, the freedom of the press by declaring who are “legitimate” journalists. Of course, this would mean that only newspaper companies could write anything.

I would probably be classified as an “illegitimate” journalist.

So, while I still have the ability to say what I want on this internet medium, I am going to take the opportunity to exercise my First Amendment rights.

Fuck.

You.

Dick.

Durbin.

Essentially, Durbin wants to create a “privileged” class that has rights the rest of us don’t.

It all comes down to laws that protect journalists from having to reveal their sources, unless there is a compelling public interest reason to do so.

Okay, fine, but it seems to go further than that.

I write commentary. I don’t chase stories, or go undercover, or interview people. I comment on stories that I read from various sources.

But there are bloggers out there who do journalistic work. The folks over at hotair.com, for example, or Powerline. Even the Daily Kos falls into the category of a blogger who does work as a journalist. Does this mean that if they interview someone who doesn’t want to be identified, that the government can compel them to reveal that source, because they aren’t “legitimate” journalists?

People may think I am overreacting, but whenever the government tries to take your rights away, they always try to frame it to look like it is for your own good, for your safety, that they aren’t doing it to take your rights away.

Give up your guns. It is in the public interest. We can’t have the occasional nut job killing innocent people.

No, I can’t see anything going wrong with that.

Someone once told me that if our Founding Fathers were alive today, they would be surprised that the Constitution still stands and we are using it today.

I disagree.

If our Founding Fathers were alive today, they would be surprised, dare I say, shocked, that we haven’t overthrown this government yet.

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The Battle of Gettysburg, The Final Day; July 3, 1863

Posted on July 3, 2013. Filed under: History | Tags: , , |

Pickett's Charge - Runaway Horse

Pickett’s Charge – Runaway Horse (Photo credit: ronzzo1)

After failing to take Culp’s Hill in the north, and Little Round Top in the south, General Robert E. Lee was more determined than before to take these positions.

Major General J.E.B. Stuart had finally arrived with his cavalry the day before (his role was limited), and Major General George Pickett arrived with his division of Virginians to reinforce Longstreet.

Lee attacked Culp’s Hill again, but the fight was short lived, with the Union position being intact and stronger than the previous day. General Meade had decided to reinforce his flanks, since that’s where the confederates had been attacking.

Lee then switched tactics and decided to attack the Union center, on Cemetery Ridge. Leading this assault would be Pickett’s Division. The assault would cover nearly a mile in wide open ground across a field. Longstreet was against this move, realizing that such a move would expose the men to murderous fire, not just from rifle fire, but artillery fire.

Lee gave Longstreet his orders, despite his protests, and Longstreet, being the dutiful soldier that he was, carried them out.

Pickett was eager to get into the fight, and even though Longstreet shared his misgivings, Pickett told Longstreet that they would carry the day.

Gettysburg - Approaching Union Center at "...

Gettysburg – Approaching Union Center at “Bloody Angle” (Photo credit: roger4336)

That afternoon, almost 200 confederate guns opened up on the Federal positions, perhaps the largest artillery barrage of the war. The bombardment lasted two hours, with the Federal position unaffected. Return fire by the Union artillery was limited, as they were conserving ammunition for the infantry attack they knew was coming.

After the bombardment was lifted, the Virginians stepped off. Almost immediately, they were taking cannon fire from Cemetery Ridge, and an area just north of Little Round Top. For three quarters of a mile, they marched straight towards a little jog in the Union lines that would become known as the “Bloody Angle”. Across the field and over fences under murderous fire, until they came within range of the Union rifles.

Still, the confederates reached the Bloody Angle and breached the Union lines.

Temporarily.

Reserves were rushed into the breach, and the confederate strength ebbed. Pickett’s division began to fall back. Less than half his division made it back to confederate lines. Over 12,000 men started Pickett’s Charge; 6555 did not make it back. That number is not just from Pickett’s division, but everyone who participated in the charge; Brigadier General J. Johnston Pettigrew’s division, and Major General Issac R. Trimble’s two brigades, both of whom were wounded during the charge.

Picket was devastated and inconsolable. He never forgave Lee for ordering the charge.

When Lee ordered Picket to rally his division, Pickett is alleged to have said “General, I have no division.”

English: Incidents of the war. A harvest of de...

A harvest of death, Gettysburg, PA. Dead Federal soldiers on battlefield. Negative by Timothy H. O’Sullivan. Positive by Alexander Gardner.

As the men were returning, General Lee told all of them that the loss was all his fault. He had fallen victim to the human flaw of starting to believe his own press that he was invincible.

After the battle, bloodied and exhausted, the Army of Northern Virginia began the long retreat back to Virginia. Lee tried to keep them organized, expecting Meade to chase him back to Virginia or launch a counter offensive.

The truth is, the Army of the Potomac was just as exhausted, just as bloodied, and just as damaged as the Army of Northern Virginia. General Meade was content to just hold the field.

About 51,000 men fell that day, with at least 7000 dead. It was one of the bloodiest battles of the war. Never again would Lee attempt to invade the Union, and the life was beginning ebb from the Confederacy. General Lee and the confederacy would fight for nearly two more years before the conflict would be resolved.

President Abraham Lincoln would visit the battlefield four months later in November to dedicate the Gettysburg National Cemetery. There, he gave a hastily written speech that became one of the best known speeches in American history.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

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The Battle of Gettysburg: Day 2; July 2, 1863

Posted on July 2, 2013. Filed under: History | Tags: , |

Overnight, General Robert E. Lee determined to take Cemetery Hill (not to be confused with Cemetery Ridge) and Culp’s Hill, both of which dominate Gettysburg, that Lieutenant General Ewell had failed to take the day before.

Lieutenant General James Longstreet, on the other hand, wanted to abandon their current positions, and swing around the Union left flank (to the south) and place the army astride Meade’s line of communication, forcing him to attack. Lee’s entire doctrine for invading Pennsylvania was to move strategically, and only fight defensive battles. Lee abandoned this plan because he did not want to hurt morale by asking his men to give up their gains from the day before, and he believed, based on their success at Chancellorsville and the first day of fighting at Gettysburg, that they had the momentum and the ability to carry this battle.

Lee ordered Ewell to make demonstrative attacks on Culp’s Hill to distract the Federals and prevent them from reinforcing the left flank near Little Round Top, where the main attack was coming from. Longstreet was worried that the division commanded by Major General John Hood had not completely arrived, and the division commanded by Major General George Pickett had not arrived at all.

Still, Lee expected Longstreet to launch an early morning attack.

So, if Lee wanted Cemetery Hill and Culp’s Hill, why attack to the south? If Lee could envelop the southern flank, the Union army had to budge or risk being completely surrounded.

Longstreet’s attack was late in starting, because he was waiting for Brigadier General Law’s Brigade to arrive, then had to make a long march to remain undetected by Union signalers on Little Round Top.

Hood didn’t like the plan, because the area that would become known as the Devil’s Den was uneven and strewn with boulders, and was hard to move units around in. He wanted to flank the Federals around Big Round Top. Longstreet denied him permission to make that movement, citing Lee’s orders. Hood launched the attack at 4 PM.

Gettysburg - The Second Day (click image to enlarge)

Gettysburg – The Second Day (click image to enlarge)

After a 30 minute artillery barrage that severely impacted Union troops stationed in a peach orchard, Hood signaled for the attack to start.

As Hood advanced with his troops, a shell exploded overhead, severely wounding Hood and taking him out of the fight.

The division continued to march east, no longer under central control, because Brigadier General Evander Law never knew of Hood’s injury, nor that he was now in command of the division.

Hood would survive the wound.

Law would direct his men around the Union flank, heading towards the two Round Tops. The 3rd Arkansas regiment and 1st Texas regiment pushed into the Devil’s Den. The fighting was ferocious, as both sides fought for over an hour, slugging it out. In the meantime, Law and five regiments from Alabama swept around the flank, overrunning Big Round Top and moving up the Plum Run, a creek that ran between the Round Tops and the Devil’s Den.

The pressure exerted by by Laws became so great that Union Brigadier General J.H. Hobart Ward had to move the Pennsylvanians from his right flank down to his left.

The movement of the 99th Pennsylvania regiment to the Union left opened a gap in the Union lines, one that the Confederates attempted to exploit. Union general Régis de Trobriand later wrote, “[The confederates] converged on me like an avalanche, but we piled all the dead and wounded men in our front.” Union forces put up stiff resistance, and refused to allow the rebels to exploit the gap, and eventually pushed them back.

Casualties at the Devil's Den (click image to enlarge)

Casualties at the Devil’s Den (click image to enlarge)

The fighting was so fierce that most of the regiments involved lost half their men, and many of their commanders that day.

The Union engaged 2400 men, 800 of them fell.

The Confederates engaged 5500 men. 1800 were carried out.

Ward was forced to retreat at the end of the fight, the Plum Run became known as the “Valley of Death” and “Bloody Run”, but the heaviest fighting was yet to come.

Little Round Top had been occupied only by Union signalers, and five Alabama and two Texas regiments were heading straight for it.

Union Major General Daniel Sickles was supposed to be defending the south end of Cemetery Ridge, which would have included Little Round Top, but he disobeyed orders and moved his troops to defend the Emmitsburg Road, anchoring his flank at the Devil’s Den.

Little Round Top, the Western Slope - after the Battle of Gettysburg, July, 1863 (click image to enlarge)

Little Round Top, the Western Slope – after the Battle of Gettysburg, July, 1863 (click image to enlarge)

When Meade discovered this, he sent Brigadier General Gouverneur K. Warren to Little Round Top to deal with the situation.

Warren found only the signal corps atop Little Round Top, and in the distance, he saw the gleam of bayonets approaching. Messages were dispatched for help from any available units. Major General George Sykes, commander of the V Corps, immediate dispatched orders to his First Division to rush to Little Round Top. However, before these messages reached Brigadier General James Barnes, commander of 1st Division, the messenger ran into Colonel Strong Vincent. Vincent immediately ordered his entire brigade up to Little Round Top without waiting for orders from above. His brigade consisted of:

  • 16th Michigan regiment
  • 44th New York Regiment
  • 83rd Pennsylvania regiment
  • 20 Maine regiment

Vincent arrived only about 10 minutes before the confederates did.

The 20th Maine is famous because it was on the extreme left of the Union position. It was highlighted in the movie Gettysburg. As the confederates continued to try to find a way around his flank, Colonel Joshua Chaimberlain kept shifting positions to hold them off. He formed his line at an angle, holding off confederate charge after confederate charge. The fighting lasted for more than 90 minutes, ending with a charge down the hill, sweeping up the exhausted confederates.

While the movie shows the charge and the rebels giving up, it doesn’t tell us why they were exhausted.

On their way to Little Round Top, they had just marched 20 miles in the heat, and their canteens were empty. The order to attack came before they could refill their canteens.

Then they had to charge up a steep hillside.

Chaimberlain and the 20th Maine are the most famous, but they were not the only ones making names for themselves that day.

Further north on the hill, Colonel Patrick “Paddy” O’Rourke, commander of the 140th New York regiment was ordered to get up the hill as quickly as possible, and not to worry about formation. O’Rourke rushed his men up the hill, but didn’t stop. His regiment crested the hill, and kept going down the other side, sweeping the rebels off the hill. O’Rourke came across his flag bearer who had fallen, and taking up the colors, he climbed onto a rock and started waving the flag, urging his men on. He was shot in the neck and killed.

First Lieutenant Charles Hazlett was an artillery officer who was ordered to get his battery up to the top of Little Round Top. Getting the ten inch guns up the rocky slope was not easy, but he did it, and while his battery was exposed to constant confederate sniper fire, his battery readied their guns and started firing. The sniper fire made it difficult to work the guns, and ultimately had little effect on the battle, but he did his duty as ordered.

Brigadier General Stephen H. Weed, commander of the brigade, was mortally wounded by a bullet to the head. His last words were reported to be “I would rather die here than that the rebels should gain an inch of this ground.” Hazlett was reportedly killed trying to hear Weed’s last words.

And Colonel Strong Vincent, the man who took the initiative to get his brigade up on Little Round Top to defend it?

He was struck fatally by a bullet early as the battle started. His last command was “Don’t give an inch.”

By the end of the day, the confederates withdrew, both sides exhausted. The quick thinking and heroic actions of General Sykes, Colonel Strong Vincent and their men saved the Union army that day, along with confederate delays and premature attacks.

But the battle was not over.

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The Battle of Gettysburg Day One: July 1, 1863

Posted on July 1, 2013. Filed under: History | Tags: , |

The battle of Gettysburg, Pa. July 3d. 1863, d...

The Battle of Gettysburg, Pa. July 3d. 1863, Hand-colored lithograph by Currier and Ives. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today, July 1, 2013 is the 150th anniversary of the turning point of the American Civil War. The Battle of Gettysburg opened today, on a hot day in rural Pennsylvania, July 1, 1863.

The three day battle ended with General Robert E. Lee retreating back to Virginia, where he and his Army of Northern Virginia would hold out for nearly 2 more years before surrendering.

Year after year, Lincoln sent general after general to fight Lee, and his best generals, Stonewall Jackson and James Longstreet. Longstreet has long, and wrongly, been blamed for the Confederate defeat at Gettysburg, and ultimately the war. Irvin McDowell, George B. McClellan, Joseph Hooker, and Ambrose Burnside; all sent to fight in Virginia, all defeated one by one.

The Confederate Army had been riding a wave of success. Lee attempted to invade the Union once before, but was checked by McClellan in September of 1862 at the Battle of Antietam. While the Confederates were not defeated, the Maryland campaign was forced to end, and the Army of Northern Virginia withdrew back into Virginia.

Nine months later, near Chancellorsville, Virginia, Joe Hooker intended to envelop Lee’s army, attacking from both the front and rear. Lee then did the unthinkable.

He split his army in two in the face of superior numbers.

With only about 80% of his forces at his disposal, Lee attacked Hooker, forcing Hooker to withdraw back to defensive lines in Chancellorsville.

Lee then split his army againsending Jackson to attack Hookers right flank, completely routing the Union XI Corps.

Jackson, as he was wont to do, went out on a personal scouting mission to take in the situation and dispositions. When he returned, as darkness was falling, he was mortally wounded by his own men, mistaking his group for Union cavalry.

Jackson was shot in the left arm, and it was amputated, but he died of complications due to pneumonia on May 10, 1863.

Lee, on hearing that Jackson had been wounded, immediately sent a message to Jackson:

Give General Jackson my affectionate regards, and say to him: he has lost his left arm but I my right.

Upon receiving news of Jackson’s death, Lee was devastated. He told his cook,

William, I have lost my right arm.

Lee had to move on from the loss of his right hand man, because there was still a war that needed to be fought.

It is generally said that Lee invaded Pennsylvania because he was in search of shoes. While this may be true, it was only a small part of Lee’s reasoning. Lee decided to invade the north to let his troops live off the northerners crops  for awhile, which were just coming in, and grant a reprieve to the farmers of northern Virginia. There was also a peace movement underway in the north, and he hoped to bolster that movement, if not make it stronger.

As Lee moved north, he allowed his best cavalry general, J.E.B. Stuart to take some of the cavalry and ride around the east flank of the Union Army of the Potomac. Stuart rode around southern Pennsylvania, getting his name in the papers while Lee was left virtually blind. It was Lee’s own doing, his orders left Stuart too much latitude.

Joe Hooker, commander of the Army of the Potomac, and the man who was defeated at Chancellorsville, resigned, and was replaced by George Meade.

The day before the battle began, on June 30, 1863, General John Pettigrew was sent from Cashtown, a few miles to the northwest of Gettysburg, to Gettysburg proper in search of supplies, shoes in particular. This may be where the perception that Lee was searching for shoes came from.

As Pettigrew entered the town, he ran into a Federal cavalry force, commanded by Brigadier General John Buford, moving in from the south. Pettigrew withdrew without engaging, but when he relayed the information to his superiors, Lieutenant General Ambrose P. Hill and Major General Henry Heth, neither believed that a substantial Union force was in the area, thinking it was Pennsylvania militia instead.

Hill, disregarding orders from Lee to not engage the enemy until the entire army was concentrated (it was strung out from Cashtown to Chambersburg), he mounted a reconnaissance in force to Gettysburg on the first of July.

So the Battle of Gettysburg began.

Buford had laid his defenses with the idea of fighting only a delaying action, allowing the rest of the Army of the Potomac to arrive in the area.

As the Confederates were pushing Buford’s small cavalry force off the ridges and towards the town, Major General John F. Reynolds arrived with his I Corps. He was regarded by many in Washington as the best general they had. As he was directing the placement of his men and artillery, Reynolds was fatally shot near McPherson’s Woods northwest of town.

Major General Abner Doubleday, the purported father of baseball, took command of the corps.

Gettysburg: July 1, 1863

Gettysburg: July 1, 1863 (click image to enlarge)

Major General Winfield Hancock was sent by General Meade to stabilize the situation as soon as word was received that Reynolds had been killed. Hancock, upon seeing the ground that Buford had chosen for the battlefield, determined to hold the high ground and fight the battle there. The Union generals decided that they were not going anywhere.

The Confederates continued to push the Union forces back, as more and more troops from both sides began to reach the battlefield.

Lee came forward to appraise the situation, and ordered Lieutenant General Richard S. Ewell and his Second Corps to take Cemetery Ridge, just to the south of Gettysburg “if practicable”. One of Lee’s greatest weaknesses is that when he gave orders, he provided the means for them to be disobeyed. He was too much the gentleman.

Lee’s orders to Ewell were to press the advantage as the Federal forces were starting to flee in great confusion over Seminary Ridge towards Cemetery Ridge. Ewell only needed fall on them from the rear, giving the a swift kick in the ass, so to speak, and the Confederates would have ended up with possession of all the high ground in the area.

Ewell decided that taking Cemetery Ridge was “not practicable”, and never even attempted an assault on the ridge.

The Federals ended up rallying, and digging in atop Cemetery Ridge.

The Three Days at Gettysburg blog has a great analysis of why Ewell may not have found an assault practicable.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

By the end of the day, the Federals had fled through the town of Gettysburg, but rallied after the Confederates failed to press the attack, and dug into Cemetery Ridge. Over 49,000 men fought that first day, and reinforcements continued to march to the battle field, almost all had arrived by the evening of July 2.

The Confederates were still flying high, thinking themselves invincible as they were beginning to route the Federals. But the battle turned from a route into a withdrawal to the remaining ridges south of town, anchoring on Culp’s Hill to the north, and Little Round Top to the south, a name that will become synonymous with Gettysburg itself.

The battle that ultimately saved the Union, and prompted Abraham Lincoln to make his no famous Gettysburg Address.

A quick note about rank. During the Civil War, generals ranked like this (from highest to lowest):

  • General
  • Lieutenant General
  • Major General
  • Brigadier General
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The Longest Day

Posted on June 6, 2013. Filed under: History | Tags: , |

A LCVP (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel) fro...

A LCVP (Landing Craft, Vehicle, Personnel) from the U.S. Coast Guard-manned USS Samuel Chase disembarks troops of the U.S. Army’s First Division on the morning of June 6, 1944 (D-Day) at Omaha Beach. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today is the 69th Anniversary of the Day of Days.

Today, British and American troops, after months of preparation and deception, landed in Normandy, on the beaches of France.

Although the 101st Airborne Division is highlighted and celebrated on television (and if you have never seen HBO’s Band of Brothers, find it. It is well worth the watch), never forget that the men of the 82nd Airborne were there also.

Scattered behind enemy lines in the darkness of the early morning, these men still found the wherewithal to pick up and still complete their objectives, even if they were miles from their units.

Rangers scaled sheer cliffs to knock out coastal guns, only to find there were none. They picked up their equipment and moved inland in search of the guns they were supposed to knock out, eventually finding them and completing their mission.

These men, with their incredible bravery did their duty in an attempt to liberate France and bring the war to an end.

We are losing that generation to history now. The further we move away from that period in time, the more of us forget, or never learned of it to begin with.

While we often talk about the Revolution, and how it brought a viable democracy to this world, let us never forget the sacrifices these men made to save democracy for the world.

We will forever be indebted to these men, nay that entire generation who sacrificed so much to save the world.

We’ve had hard times recently, but we have never been asked to sacrifice as much as this generation was asked to, especially coming off a depression less than a decade earlier.

As we go about our business today, let’s take a moment to reflect on what we have, and thank those who have gone before for protecting and sacrificing for us, so that we could live free.

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