Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Nazi War Aims

     Historians have been able to piece together an outline of Nazi war aims.

    Hitler wanted to create a great Empire in the East (lands conquered in Russia) where Germany's eighty million could grow to 250 million (Shirer, 83).  Hitler said, "The vast expanses of Russia literally cry out to be filled.  I'm not worried about that.  The German families who will live there in our new towns and villages will receive big homes with many rooms, and soon those rooms will be swarming with children.  In contrast to the English, we won't just exploit, we'll settle.  We are not a nation of shopkeepers, but a nation of peasants.  First we'll practice a systematic population policy.  The example of India and China shows how rapidly nations can multiply"(Speer, 51).     

     Initially, European Russia was to be divided into Reich's Commissariats.  After initial ethnic cleansing and colonization by Aryans, the Commissariats were to be annexed to the Greater German Reich.  The great cities of the East, Moscow, Leningrad and Warsaw, were to be erased.  Russian culture was to be stamped out and formal education denied all Slavs.  The industry of the Eastern countries was to be dismantled and shipped to Germany.  The people themselves were to be limited to growing food for Germany, being allowed only a subsistence ration for themselves (Shirer, 937).  

     The general pattern was to follow that established in the 1941 pacification of Poland, "Farm workers of Polish nationality no longer have the right to complain, and thus no complaints will be accepted by an official agency.  The visit of churches is strictly prohibited.  Visits in theaters, motion pictures or other cultural entertainment is strictly prohibited” (Shirer, 950).  “Poland can only be administered by utilizing the country through means of ruthless exploitation, deportation of all supplies, raw materials, machines, factory installations.  Reduction of the entire Polish economy to absolute minimum necessary to bare existence of the population, closing of all educational institutions, especially technical schools and colleges in order to prevent the growth of a new Polish intelligentsia.  Poland shall be treated as a colony.  The Poles shall be the slaves of the Greater German Reich" (Shirer, 944).  

     Colonies of German settlers were to be established in Poland and European Russia.  Each settlement was to be linked by a network of military roads and protected by garrisons set up at key points, whose task was to ensure good order among the native population.  The native population was to provide mandatory labor for German industry and agriculture and remain in a status of inferiority, without rights or education (Bullock, 626).           

     Policing the conquered people was seen as an ongoing problem.  Armored cars were to be used as was low level bombing and strafing (Shirer, 942).  

     New towns were to be established in the vicinity of existing Russian towns.  Towns in Germany were to be painstakingly copied so that, even in Russia, a feeling for the Homeland developed.  Buildings in the Ukraine, in White Russia, and as far east as the Urals were to be identifiable as products of German culture (Speer, 171).  One million Volkswagen automobiles were to be built after the war.  A German farmer from Kiev or Odessa would be able to reach Berlin in about thirty hours on the new Russian autobahns (Speer, 172).  A modern railroad system was also to be built.  Two east-west lines were to be built across all of Europe, one beginning north at the Urals, the southern line beginning at the Caspian Sea (Speer, 173).       

Harper & Row, New York: 1953

Shirer, William
Simon & Schuster, New York: 1960


Macmillan, New York: 1976

What happened to the Confederate treasury?

Here is the answer to at least part of the mystery:

THE LOST RICHMOND BANK LOOT: By May 24, 1865 Jefferson Davis was under arrest and the funds of the Richmond banks, some $345,000 in gold and silver was now deposited in a bank vault in Washington, Georgia, under the protection of the Union army.  Since the gold was private property and not that of the Confederate government, the local Union commander scrupulously protected it from seizure and, in fact, agreed to provide an armed escort to accompany the treasure back to Richmond.

Thus, on the night of May 25 five treasure laden wagons creaked out of Washington, Georgia, with a small guard of Union troops.  The word flashed across northern Georgia.  Rebel veterans, believing the money belonged to the official Confederate treasury, made plans to seize the wagons.

The small caravan camped that night at the home of a three hundred pound Methodist minister named Dionysisus Chenault, near the Savannah River.  The Union soldiers drew up the wagons in a defensive circle and posted a guard. After supper, as the night progressed, a lone horseman wearing a U.S. Army blouse appeared.  The rider did not approach the camp but circled wearily, studying the wagons and the small force of sentries.  Finally the rider disappeared and the camp settled into a nervous slumber.  Long after midnight, the camp was aroused by curses and shots coming from a large group of riders, thundering down on the wagons.  The guards surrendered without a shot.

The Confederate veterans tied up the guards and then broke open the boxes and bags in the wagons.  Coins spilled to the ground and men waded ankle deep in gold and silver.  The raiders filled their pockets and haversacks.  The veterans tied the booty to their saddles and rode off heavily laden.

When news of the raid reached Washington, Georgia, a well known Confederate general, Edward Porter Alexander, rounded up another group of Confederate veterans and rode out to rescue the stolen treasure.  General Alexander reasoned that since the treasure belonged to the Richmond banks and was private property he had a duty, as a man of honor, to protect law and order and recover the treasure for the banks.  Alexander's men rode in hot pursuit, explaining to the raiders they caught that these were private funds and not Confederate property, and should, therefore, be returned.  Alexander recovered $95,000 in this way without firing a shot.  The lion's share of the treasure, however, was never recovered.  Chenault's daughter, Mary Anne Shumate, later told a colorful story of the missing money.  "There were oceans of money scattered all over Wilkes and Lincoln counties, besides what was carried off.  Some of it was hid about in swamps and woods, some was buried in the ground, and there is no telling how much has been forgotten and not found again."

Legends persist that much of the loot taken by the raiders is buried near the Chenault home, since the raiders were so burdened down with the heavy metal that they had to hurriedly stop to conceal their ill‑gotten gains in order to elude their pursuers.  Since Federal soldiers were everywhere, it is doubtful if they returned for their loot.

Dr. A.S. Furcron, in a 1949 article written for the Georgia Mineral Newsletter, asserts some of the gold was buried at Big Buffalo Lick, Public Square (now called Sunshine), north of Union Point.

Most legends suggest that the treasure is buried in numerous small hoards around Washington, or between Abbeville, South Carolina and Washington.  Some of the treasure may be hidden along the banks of the Savannah River.

Despite General Alexander's best efforts very little of the treasure ever made it back to the Richmond banks.  The $95,000 recovered by Alexander was seized by Federal army officials and became the subject of controversy and litigation for almost thirty years.  In 1893 a U.S. Court of Claims finally awarded the Richmond banks $17,000, declaring $78,000 subject to confiscation as Confederate property.

The Most Famous Woman Pirate: Anne Bonny

              The best known woman pirate was Anne Bonny, considered one of the most famous pirates of the Caribbean.  Anne Bonny was born in Ireland.  Moving to Charleston with her father, Anne always proved to be difficult to get along with.  As a child she stabbed a serving girl with a table knife, and as a young woman she beat up a young suitor so badly that he was in the hospital for a month.

     Anne married the penniless Jack Bonny and was disowned by her father.  She and Bonny moved to the pirate haven of New Providence, in the Bahamas.  She soon met a dashing pirate named Calico Jack Rackam, for whom she left her husband.  She joined Calico Jack plying the pirate trade.  Aboard ship Anne wore men's clothes and kept her gender a secret from all.

     As she and Rackam plundered coastal traders, Anne proved that not only could she dress like a pirate but that she could fight like one as well, raging out of the cannon smoke, flashing her cutlass and singeing the air with shrill curses.

     The end of Anne Bonny's pirate career came suddenly when a British Navy sloop swept down upon the pirates as they were getting riotously drunk off the coast of Jamaica.  Calico Jack and his crew were too drunk to fight and hid in the hold.  Captured and tried, most of the pirates ended on the end of a rope, but not Anne.  Anne Bonny's pardon was based not on any hope of rehabilitation but on the fact that she was pregnant.  No record of Anne's execution has ever been found, and there is some reason to belief that her wealthy father bought her release after the birth of her child.

     Anne Bonny buried a cache of gold and silver in the vicinity of Fort Caswell at the mouth of Cape Fear.  Other pirates also used this area.

Eight Hours for What We Will by Roy Rosenzweig

The values of nineteenth century America were largely white Anglo-Saxon values that stressed Protestant self-reliance and Victorian respectability. Men worked and subdued the frontier (both literally and figuratively), while the woman’s domain was religion (moral uplift) and the home. Education, self-cultivation and upward mobility were the hallmarks of Anglo Saxon values. The central theme of this value system was Progress (expressed in terms of material progress) versus primitivism.

According to Larry May in his book Screening Out the Past, immigrants presented a disorganizing element into American society because they brought with them other (less restrictive) value systems. In the view of the white Anglo-Saxon majority, immigrants needed to be Americanized in order to, “make no trouble for the right minded” (May, 15). The workplace was one area in which the immigrant must be bent to (industrial) discipline. The other area was leisure. The middle class wanted to control immigrant leisure, and as Roy Rosenzweig points out in Eight Hours for What We Will leisure became a battleground between groups with different value systems. 

For immigrants, amusements constituted an important counterweight to the rigors of industrial discipline. Movies were particularly appealing to multi-lingual immigrants. Because movies were silent, they were universally available as an outlet for romance and adventure and formed the ground pattern of social life for the young (May, 38). The movies provided immigrants with a form of acculturation into American life. Although the middle class frowned on the low themes of the earliest movies, in general movies were much less of a threat to industrial discipline than were other amusements such as drinking in saloons. Immigrants carved out leisure (and especially movies) as a public space apart from work where they could indulge hopes, dreams and aspirations. In embracing the culture of the movies (and its concomitant consumerism) so enthusiastically, the immigrant movie go-er accelerated the breakdown of old ethnic norms and the development of a more homogeneous society based on mass culture and consumerism. Consumerism offered the image of a homogenous population pursuing the same goals of living well and accumulating goods. The emergence of consumerism served to mask the transformation of the immigrant from person to commodity and tempered resistance to labor discipline.

The development of the movie industry itself was a tremendous social safety valve. The movie industry, in which immigrants were heavily represented, demonstrated that success could be had without a long laborious submission to the Anglo Saxon value system (May, 196). Success was democratized in the persona of the movie star who by talent and imagination could become an overnight success (May, 233).

In Eight Hours for What We Will, Roy Rosenzweig talks about alternative ethnic worker cultures as opposed to oppositional cultures. Rather than directly challenging the economic elite, the alternative culture passively resists. Initially immigrants found strength to passively resist industrial discipline within the traditions and norms of their ethnic communities, to paraphrase Rosenzweig’s book, “they found a different way to live and wished to be left alone with it” (Rozenzweig, 64). Mass culture appears to have taken the place of the immigrant neighborhood. The modern American citizen passively resists labor discipline by immersing in consumerism and the products of mass culture. Meaning is found in conspicuous consumption.

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Alexandria, Virginia in the Civil War (1861 – 1865)

     The book begins with a look at pre-Civil War Alexandria, the city where Robert E. Lee received orders to suppress John Brown’s raid on Harpers Ferry. An old and prosperous colonial town, Alexandria had a rich a vibrant social and cultural life stretching back to 1742.  Alexandria was both a major hub of the intra-state slave trade and, ironically a major center of free African American population and culture.

     War clouds thickened over Alexandria during the early spring of 1861.  The states of the Deep South had voted for secession, and in May, 1861, Virginia was poised to follow.  Alexandria, the “hometown” of George Washington, with its strong Federalist heritage was initially opposed to disunion.  However, when South Carolina fired on Fort Sumter and President Lincoln called for troops to crush the rebellion, the town’s sentiments radically changed.
     As war fever swept the city, militia units drilled.  On May 23, 1861, Virginians voted for secession.  In the early morning hours of the next day, the muffled oars of long boats brought Federal troops down the Potomac River from Washington City.  Union troops proceeded up King Street, where Col. Elmer E. Ellsworth, friend and confidant of Abraham Lincoln, noticed the Confederate flag fluttering above the Marshall House hotel.  The colonel and his troops entered the hotel, raced to the roof and seized the flag of rebellion.  Descending the stairs, Ellsworth was met by the hotel’s owner, James Jackson, who fired a shotgun blast into his chest.  Ellsworth died on the sport and Jackson was bayoneted on the spot by enraged Union soldiers.  As the blood of the two men mingled on the steps, each became a martyr to his cause.

    Alexandria, Virginia the “hometown” of George Washington and boyhood home of Robert E. Lee became the first city in the Confederacy to be occupied by Federal troops.         
The invasion of Alexandria would forever change the fabric of the old seaport community.  After order was restored Alexandrians literally walked the streets as strangers.  They were not permitted out at night, their mail was intercepted, and passes were required to travel.  Alexandria itself was transformed into a huge supply center for Union armies fighting farther south in Virginia.  Homes, churches, and local public buildings were commandeered by the military.  Alexandria became the great warehouse of the Army of the Potomac, and the anchor for the defensive forts surrounding Washington.

     Meanwhile, native Alexandrians served in the 17th Virginia Infantry and other units fighting in the major battles of the War.

     By 1864 Alexandria had also become the great haven for freed ex-slaves.  Little neighborhoods of shanties huddled together with no conveniences called Petersburg, Contraband Valley, Pump Town and twenty other names existed within the midst of the city.
    When General Grant launched his 1864-65 offensive against Richmond, thousands of wounded Union soldiers poured into Alexandria.  With mounting casualties, a mortuary industry soon flourished in town.

     The killing and suffering came to an end on April 9, 1865, when General Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Embalming and the Strange Case of President Andrew Johnson

Andrew Johnson

     The practice of embalming only came into its own at the time of the American Civil War.  Thomas Holmes was a doctor in the Union army who had previously experimented with the process of embalming corpses. Early in the war, he embalmed a few Union officers killed in battle so that their remains could be shipped home for burial.  President Lincoln eventually sanctioned the procedure for all fallen soldiers, and during the course of the war Dr. Holmes embalmed some four thousand soldiers.  Military authorities also permitted private embalmers to work in military-controlled areas. 

     The assassination and subsequent funeral of Abraham Lincoln brought the practice of embalming to the attention of a wider public.  President Lincoln was assassinated on April 14, 1865 but his body was not interred in Springfield, Illinois until May 4.  Lincoln’s body was put on a special funeral train and retraced the route Lincoln had traveled as the president-elect on his way to his first inauguration in Washington.  The passage of body home for burial was made possible by embalming and brought the possibilities of embalming to the attention of a wider public.

     Despite its growing acceptance, by 1875 even some of the most famous in the land were not being embalmed after death.  Andrew Johnson, who succeeded to the presidency after Lincoln’s assassination, who was the first American president to be impeached, and who is widely regarded as one of the country’s worst presidents was one such individual.  Johnson died on July 31, 1875.  His funeral took place on August 3, in Greenville, Tennessee.  The body decomposed rapidly in the summer heat, so the casket was kept closed.  In a folk story, often retold by funeral directors and florists, the resourceful undertaker piled heaps of flowers on the casket to mask the odor of the body.

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Sunday, January 25, 2015

Martha Washington's Slave Half Sister

Martha Washington

Sexual relations between masters and slave women were common during the eighteenth century and later.  Famed Southern diarist Mary Chestnut would observe in the 19th century, “Like the patriarchs of old our men live all in one house with their wives and their concubines, and the mulattoes one sees in every family exactly resemble the white children--and every lady tells you who is the father of all the mulatto children in everybody's household, but those in her own she seems to think drop from the clouds, or pretends so to think.”

One very prominent Virginian well known to George and Martha Washington was engaged in sexual relations with a slave.  Rumors began to circulate that Thomas Jefferson had sired children by a beautiful young slave at his Monticello plantation named Sally Hemings.  Jefferson’s political opponents made much of the rumors at the time, but over the centuries historians largely dismissed the story which was preserved largely through an oral tradition handed down in the Hemings family.  In 1998, however, the British science journal Nature published the results of a DNA study linking a member of the Jefferson family, not necessarily Thomas Jefferson, to the descendents of Sally Hemings. Subsequently, in January 2000, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation, the custodians of Monticello, issued a report concluding that based on all available evidence, Thomas Jefferson was, in all probability, the father of at least one and perhaps all the children of Sally Hemings. 

Author Henry Wiencek, in his 2003 book An Imperfect God: George Washington, His Slaves, and the Creation of America, argues that Martha Washington had a slave half sister, Ann Dandridge Costin, sired by her father John Dandridge.  This supposed half sister was about Martha’s age and lived at Mount Vernon according to Wiencek.  Other historians deny the existence of Martha Washington’s half sister and assert that Wiencek has accepted “lore” as fact.

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The Stolen Election and the Corrupt Bargain

     Viewers of the political thriller House of Cards will probably not be surprised to learn that political intrigue is as old as the Republic.


     The presidential election of 1824 was one of the most hotly contested elections in the nation’s history.  The Federalist Party had dissolved and the United States found itself in the unique position of having only one political party, the Democratic Republicans.  Sadly, this brief period of political unity within the country would be short-lived as members of the Party began to divide into factions.

     What made the election of 1824 so unique was that the four top contenders for the highest office of the land were all favorite son candidates.  Andrew Jackson, the hero of the Battle of New Orleans, was supported by the South, West, and mid -Atlantic.  Henry Clay found some support in the West, but hoped to garner support in the South and East.  William Crawford was supported by the East, while John Quincy Adams was supported by New England. 

     When the final vote in the Electoral College was made, Andrew Jackson had the most votes with ninety-nine.  John Quincy Adams came in second with eighty-four.  William Crawford came in third with forty-one and Henry Clay rounded out the list with thirty-seven.  The presidential election went to the House of Representatives for a decision, in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.  As it was written in the Constitution, only the top three candidates could have their names submitted to Congress for a vote to determine the next president of the United States.  Since he came in fourth place, Henry Clay was automatically eliminated.

     To the surprise of most, the House of Representatives elected John Quincy Adams president of the United States.  Rumors of a “corrupt bargain” spread over the capital city.

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Thursday, December 18, 2014

George Washington's Christmas Camel

George Washington had a life-long interest in exotic animals, at one time or another in his lifetime commenting on seeing a “Lyoness”, a “Cugar” and a “Sea Leopard”.  In 1787, two years before his death, the retired President Washington paid 18 shillings to have a camel displayed at Mount Vernon for Christmas.  The Mount Vernon Estate hosts a camel every year during the Christmas season to commemorate the event.

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Civil War Ghosts: Fact or Fiction?

     Do ghosts from the American Civil War still walk amongst us, or are reported spectral visions and unearthly things that go bump in the night the product of over active imaginations?  Trained lawyer and paranormal researcher Arthur S. Berger points out that paranormal research is not unlike legal advocacy.  In a criminal court both sides present evidence, but evidence is not proof.  It is up to the jury to decide if the evidence presented represents “proof beyond a reasonable doubt”.  If juries have difficulty making decisions even in some fairly straightforward criminal cases, how much more difficult must it be to establish “proof beyond a reasonable doubt” of ghosts. 
     More useful is the standard of evidence used in civil cases, “preponderance of the evidence”.  Preponderance of evidence is based on the quality of the evidence presented and its probable truth or accuracy, and not on the amount of evidence presented. Thus, one clearly knowledgeable witness may provide a preponderance of evidence over a dozen witnesses with hazy testimony.  If a sceptic provides a demonstrable scientific explanation for a seemingly paranormal event, the explanation represents a higher standard of evidence than a dozen sightings by individuals of the paranormal event. 
     Take for example, what are known as “rare atmospheric phenomena.”  In March 2005 a man in Clifton, Virginia reported, “We had a power outage last night and my wife was awakened by the answering machine clicking on and off as the power tried to recover, and then it went out completely. She went to the front door to see if it was raining or windy and saw a very large object hovering over a nearby house about 1/8 of a mile from our house. It was larger than the house, seemed to be at an angle to her view with the bottom exposed and had lights all around it evenly spaced. When it began to move away, several lightning flashes were seen and then it was gone. The power returned two hours later”. The appearance lasted just a few seconds, from the “balls of light” formation to the vertical lightning flash. The woman thought she was seeing a UFO, but was actually witnessing a natural, “rare atmospheric phenomena” involving multiple ball lightening, which, while an extremely rare event, is scientifically demonstrable.

     Preponderance of evidence cuts both ways.  For thousands of years Europeans believed all swans were white.  Black swans were thought to be as mythical as unicorns.  There were “no such things as” black swans.  It only took the discovery of the first black swan in Australia in 1790 to topple thousands of years of European scientific “knowledge”.  Similarly, those who said that tiny invisible organism were swimming in a clear glass of water and causing disease were laughed to scorn until 1676 when Anton van Leeuwenhoek observed bacteria and other microorganism using a single-lens microscope of his own design.

Manassas Battlefield Ghosts

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Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Cusco: Temple of the Sun

"Know, whoever you may be who may chance to set foot in this land, that it contains more gold and silver than there is iron is Biscay."           

The Spaniards conquered Peru over the course of several decades in an atmosphere of civil war and chaos.  The Incas had just concluded a war between two brothers, Atahualpa and Huascar when the Spanish arrived on the scene.  Atahualpa had just captured Huascar and was heading south to enter his capital, Cuzco, when he himself was made hostage by the Spanish.  Atahualpa then had Huascar murdered.  After extorting the proverbial king's ransom, the Spanish, in turn, murdered Atahualpa.  The Spanish next marched on Cuzco, the capital and Holy City of the Inca Empire, installing a puppet emperor.  Throughout the period the Incas scurried about trying to hide the most sacred religious items from defilement.        

Gold and silver had no monetary significance to the Incas.   They were considered sacred, with gold regarded as the sweat of the sun and silver as the tears of the moon.  Religious items were made of gold and silver, but they had no worth, other than artistic, to the common man.              Because of their religious significance, gold and silver objects were well hidden and well guarded for generations, never being turned into cash to satisfy short term needs.         

Cuzco's Temple of the Sun, was the most revered shrine in the empire.  Only three Spaniards ever saw the Temple in its full glory.  These men were sent by the Spanish commander, Francisco Pizarro, to speed up the collection of the royal ransom.  The temple had gardens in which everything.....trees and grass and flowers, animals, birds, butterflies, cornstalks, snakes, lizards and snails were all made of hammered gold.  The main room of the temple held the high altar which was dedicated to the sun.  The four walls of the room were hung with plaques of gold, from top to bottom, and a likeness of the sun topped the high altar.  The likeness was made of a gold plaque twice as thick as those that paneled the walls and was composed of a round face, surrounded by rays and flames.  The whole thing was so immense that it occupied the entire back of the temple, from one wall to the other.  The disc was positioned to catch the morning sun and throw its rays into the gold-lined temple, filling it with radiant light.  

On either side of this enormous golden sun were kept mummies of former Inca kings, which were so well preserved that they seemed alive.  The mummies were seated on golden thrones and looked directly out at the visitor.

Where was the Garden of Eden?

General Gordon

The Seychelles are a group of islands and islets in the Indian Ocean. Praslin Island, the second largest of the group, is unique in all the world...distinguished for being identified as the original earthly paradise, the Garden of Eden.

Praslin is a sun drenched paradise, with lush vegetation and a climate that ranges from 68 o to 88 o Fahrenheit year round. Over a century ago, British General and biblical scholar Charles George Gordon (Gordon of Khartoum) visited the island and became convinced that it was the location of the Garden of Eden.

Gordon developed his extraordinary idea after studying the unique vegetation in the Valle de Mai. Here in this Valley, in the center of Praslin Island, Gordon discovered a unique palm tree that is found nowhere else in the entire world. The male palm is distinguished by a catkin that dangles from a confluence of giant palms and resembles the male sexual organ. The female palm produces a fruit (the Coco de Mer), a giant coconut that resembles the female pelvis.

The island was uninhabited when discovered by Europeans in 1744. Since then an island myth has grown up that on windy nights the tall palms, male and female, sway against each other and entwine to procreate. Anyone foolish enough to venture into the forest to watch the nighttime “mating” will be struck dead on the spot.

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Monday, December 08, 2014

The Original Builder of Mount Vernon

Rippon Lodge

     Richard Blackburn (1705-1757), although little noted in national history, stands out as a kind of “representative” man of the colonial period in northern Virginia.  Born in Ripon, England, Blackburn came to America to make his fortune, and according to his gravestone, because, “He was a man of consummate prudence, frugality and indefatigable industry…he made a large fortune in a few years.”  Among his other talents, Richard Blackburn was a master builder, who built his own house, Rippon Lodge, and the first Truro Parish church at Falls Church.  It was to master builder Richard Blackburn that George Washington’s father turned to build a house on a bluff overlooking the Potomac River, the house that was later to be known as Mount Vernon.  The survival of this early structure within the fabric of the present house is confirmed by a diarist who in 1801 identified the central portion of the house as having been “constructed by the General’s father.” 
     Colonel Thomas Blackburn, the son of Richard, was the contemporary and comrade-in-arms of George Washington.  Thomas Blackburn was a representative to the second, third, and fourth Virginia Conventions in 1775 and was elected Lieutenant-Colonel of the Second Virginia Regiment in 1776.  Colonel Blackburn served as an aide on George Washington’s military staff until he received a disabling wound at the battle of Germantown, after which he returned to Rippon Lodge, where he continued to support the patriot cause, feeding and clothing a regiment of Continental troops at Rippon Lodge one entire winter.  In the spring he sent them back to the army free of expense.
      In the time of Col. Thomas Blackburn, the Washington and Blackburn families were on close terms, and George Washington’s diary speaks of his visits to the Blackburns at Rippon Lodge, and frequently of entertaining the Blackburn family at Mount Vernon.  Thomas Blackburn’s daughter Ann married George Washington’s nephew Bushrod Washington, and a granddaughter (Jane Charlotte Blackburn) married John Augustine Washington. These ladies of Rippon Lodge thus became, in time, each in turn, the first lady of Mount Vernon.

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Friday, November 07, 2014

Civil War Railroads

      Since the dawn of history, military strategy had been dominated by logistics.  According to an old saying, “Amateurs study tactics; professionals study logistics.”  During the civil War, railroads were still a military novelty.  When Union Army General John Pope needed critical supplies in August 1862, packed boxcars were sitting in Washington.  The supplies could not be moved across the Potomac River because authorities were afraid that available locomotives were too heavy for the rickety railroad bridge across the Potomac.

     A single stretch of track of the Orange and Alexandria railroad connected the Union Army of the Potomac to the vast supply depots of Washington.  Confederate raiders periodically cut telegraph lines, tore up railroad tracks and destroyed railway bridges.  Keeping the trains running was an enormous tasks and essential for Union victory.

Civil War railroads

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