Tuesday, September 05, 2017

President Taft Gets a Bumpy Ride.

 On July 21, 1911 President William Howard Taft was scheduled to address a group of Union and Confederate veterans in Manassas, Virginia at the Jubilee of Peace, celebrating national reconciliation on the fiftieth anniversary of the First Battle ofManassas.  At the suggestion of his military aide, Major Archibald Butt, the President decided to motor to Manassas rather than take the train.  Numerous Congressmen bent on making political points with the visiting veterans accompanied the President.  The Presidential party, due in Manassas at four o’clock, set out from the White House in four motor cars at half past twelve.  About five miles from the town of Fairfax clouds began to gather, and the caravan made speed to reach the town before the storm broke.  The storm was short and sharp, a regular cloud burst. 

The President had lunch in Fairfax and then set out again for Manassas before three.  According to Major Butt, “[we] were bumped and jolted over the worst road I have ever seen” before coming to a motorcar stranded in a stream filled with frantic people.  It was part of the Presidential party, a car filled with Senators.  Major Butt waded into the stream and found the lowest point.  The rest of the cars proceeded to ford the stream, laughing at the stranded Senators as they passed.  The laughter was short lived.  The party soon reached Little Rocky Creek, a stream even more treacherous than the first.  Another car was put out of commission.  The two remaining cars retraced their bumpy route and re-crossed the first stream trying to make a detour that locals said would take the President into Manassas.  As the party re-crossed the first stream yet another car stuck fast in the water.  From here the trip was uneventful, except for twice frightening horses on the road.  Just after passing Centreville the President’s car ran into dust, for between there and Manassas not a drop of rain had fallen.  At the edge of town the President’s car was met by a troop of cavalry and through clouds of dust the President was escorted into town.

 According to Major Butt, once at the Peace Jubilee the President gave, “…a flubdub speech about the Blue and Gray which brought tears to the eyes of the veterans of both sides and smiles to the faces of politicians.  Every politician has a canned speech up his sleeve for these reunions, and while they all smile while someone else makes them, yet they take themselves most seriously when making them themselves.”

While the President gave his speech two members of his staff scurried about trying to see what could be done about getting back to Washington by train.  They succeeded in finding a railroad magnate with a private railway car, which he put at the disposal of the President.  When the President arrived at the little depot at seven, there were gathered most of the party that had set out from Washington, bedraggled, wet and thirsty.  They had arrived in carts, in buggies, and in “any old vehicle which they could hire along the road.”  

General George S. Patton once said, “Compared to war, all other forms of human endeavor shrink to insignificance.” Here are four stories about the history of the world IF wars we know about happened differently or IF wars that never happened actually took place.

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