Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Germany's Plan to Attack America in 1897


Kaiser Wilhelm II

     In November 1889, Secretary of the Navy Benjamin F. Tracy called for the rapid expansion of the United States Navy, stating that for twenty years the fleet had been neglected and become technologically obsolete.  America stood twelfth among the naval powers of the earth.  The U.S. fleet consisted of 11 armored and 31 unarmored vessels, whereas the British fleet boasted 76 armored and 291 unarmored vessels.  The German fleet had 40 armored and 105 unarmored ships.  The American fleet was outranked by even the eleventh rate navy of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire which had 12 armored and 44 unarmored ships.
In 1897 a staff officer, Lieutenant Eberhard von Mantley was ordered to draft an operational plan for a combined German naval and infantry attack on America. In the late 19th century both America and Imperial Germany were expanding in the Pacific and German military planners could envision a day when the two countries might clash. Known as Operational Plan 3, the German strategy involved a combined arms thrust against America’s strategic center of gravity, the East Coast. "Here is the core of America and it is here that the United States could be most effectively hit and most easily forced to sign a peace deal," von Mantley wrote.
Sixty German ships with troops and supplies were to make their way across the Atlantic and attack the important U.S. Naval facilities at Norfolk and Newport News, Virginia. Simultaneously, several thousand troops were to occupy Boston, while heavy cruisers bombarded Manhattan. 
The plan was scrapped in 1907, the same year that President Theodore Roosevelt sent the greatly strengthened and enlarged U.S. Navy on an around the world “goodwill” mission.  Known as the “Great White Fleet”, the mission demonstrated America’s new role as a world power.



Sun Tzu, the Master of War, once said, “Those who are skilled in producing surprises will win. In conflict, surprise will lead to victory. ” 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.


Including:
1.The Hostage, in which Abraham Lincoln is kidnapped by the rebels.

2.The German Invasion of America of 1889, in which Germany unexpectedly launches its might against the United States.

3.The Invasion of Canada 1933, in which the new American dictator launches a sneak attack on Canada.

4.Cherry Blossoms at Night: Japan Attacks the American Homeland (1942), in which Japan attacks the American homeland in a very surprising way.





Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Puritans and Sex




Sex was essential to the Puritan’s notion of a healthy marriage.  Refusal to engage in sexual relations with one’s spouse could lead to a disciplinary hearing at the local church or judicial prosecution. James Mattock was excommunicated by the Boston congregation in 1640 for having, among other things, “denied conjugal fellowship unto his wife for the space of two years together.” John Williams of Plymouth Colony was summoned to court for “refusing to perform marriage duty towards (his wife) according to the law of God and man.”



The Puritans believed that both sexes should experience “delight” during sexual intercourse. According to the medical and marital advice literature of the time, procreation could not occur without female orgasm, which required that the woman become sexually aroused.  A popular marital guide of the time admonished men that,  “When the husband cometh into the wife’s chamber he must entertain her with all kind of dalliance, wanton behavior, and allurements to venery.” New England courts upheld the view that women had a right to expect “content and satisfaction” in bed; he who failed to provide it was judged “deficient in performing the duty of a husband.” Colonial Americans generally wore their shirts and shifts or more during sex. Full nudity was uncommon until much after the colonial period.



In New England, where the Puritans had defined marriage as a civil contract, secular law had provided for divorce as early as the seventeenth century.  Marriages could be ended if either party failed to meet the obligations of the contract.  Adultery, impotence, desertion, or conviction for serious crimes were all grounds for divorce.  Additionally, wives could obtain a divorce on the grounds of non-support.



Male inability to provide sexual satisfaction initially constituted grounds for divorce in New England. New Haven’s divorce statute described marital sex as “due benevolence.” It allowed a wife to divorce her husband if he proved unable “to perform or afford the same,” regardless of whether she was “fit to bear children.” A man who proved incapable of providing “that corporal communion which is reciprocally due between husband and wife” was considered nothing more than a “pretended husband.” Abstention from marital sex, wrote Edward Taylor, “denies all relief in wedlock unto human necessity” and would tempt those who lacked “the gift of continency” to engage in illicit unions. Conjugal intercourse, then, constituted a bulwark against sexual sin and chaos.


A brief look at love, sex, and marriage in colonial America and the early republic.




A brief look at love, sex, and marriage in the Civil War. The book covers courtship, marriage, birth control and pregnancy, divorce, slavery and the impact of the war on social customs.







Saturday, May 26, 2018

Civil War Humor 1861-1865


Civil War Political Cartoon

Parody was a favorite form of humor among the troops of both sides. The soldiers of the Army of Northern Virginia, often referred to as “Lee’s Army”, sometimes parodied the title of Victor Hugo’s popular novel Les Miserables and referred to themselves as, “Lee’s Miserables .”

Popular songs were a source for parody. The song Just Before The Battle, Mother (I was thinking most of you), was mangled into:

Just before the battle, Mother,
I was drinking mountain dew,
When I saw the Rebels coming
To the rear I quickly flew.

Not even prayers were spared. The classic children's 18th century prayer:

“Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
If I shall die before I wake,
I pray the Lord my soul to take.”

was revised by Union soldiers on Burnside’s celebrated “Mud March”:

“Now I lay me down to sleep
In the mud that’s many fathoms deep;
If I’m not here when you awake,
Just hunt me up with an oyster rake.”








Despite the horrors of war, or maybe because of them, humor still had a place in American life. Abraham Lincoln best summed up the role of humor in the war when he said, “With the fearful strain that is on me night and day, if I did not laugh I should die.”

A brief but fascinating look at humor in the Civil War including: (1) Stories Around the Campfire, (2) Parody, (3) the Irish, (4) Humorous Incidents, (5) Civil War Humorists, and (6) Lincoln.






Friday, May 25, 2018

George Armstrong Custer: Influence of the Battle of the Washita

CUSTER


     It was during the campaign of 1868 that George Armstrong Custer distinguished himself as an Indian fighter at the Battle of the Washita (Oklahoma).  The formal order directing operations to commence came in the shape of a brief letter of instructions from Department headquarters.  “…as nothing was known positively as to the exact whereabouts of the Indian villages, the instructions (had) to be general in terms.  In substance, I was to march my command in search of the winter hiding places of the hostile Indians and wherever found to administer such punishment for past depredations as my force was able.”

     Major Joel Elliott located the Indian trail.  Custer writes, “We…at once set out to join in the pursuit, a pursuit which could and would only end when we overtook our enemies.  And in order that we should not be trammeled in our movements it was my intention then and there to abandon our train of wagons, taking with us only such supplies as we could carry on our persons and strapped to our saddles….”  The battle of the Washita commenced with the regimental band playing Gary Owen as, “the bugle sounded the charge and the entire command dashed rapidly into the village.  The Indians were caught napping….”

     The actual possession of the village and its lodges was achieved within a few moments, but now on all sides Indians began gathering around Custer’s command.   Custer writes, “Making dispositions to overcome any resistance which might be offered to our advance by throwing out a strong force of skirmishers, we set out down the valley in the direction where the other villages had been reported and toward the hills on which were collected the greatest number of Indians.”  By prominently displaying captive women and children hostages, Custer was able to force the Indians to disengage.  “Whether the fact that they could not fire upon our advance without endangering the lives of their own people, who were prisoners in our hands, or some other reason prevailed with them, they never offered to fire a shot or retard our movements in any manner, but instead assembled their outlying detachments as rapidly as possible, and began a precipitate movement down the valley”

      Understanding Custer’s state of mind and tactics at the Washita is essential to understanding his later actions on the Little Bighorn: (1) the central problem in this type of irregular warfare was catching the enemy, Indians would scatter rather than fight, and (2) Indians would not endanger their women and children (Custer wrote, “Indians contemplating a battle, either offensive or defensive, are always anxious to have their women and children removed from all danger thereof.”)  Clearly, based on his earlier experiences Custer expected the Indians at the Little Bighorn to run.  In any event, he meant to bring them to heel by taking women and children hostages.  His swing to the north of the village was designed to accomplish this one thing.


Battle of the Washita from "Little Big Man"





Views of Custer have changed over succeeding generations. Custer has been portrayed as a callous egotist, a bungling egomaniac, a genocidal war criminal, and the puppet of faceless forces. For almost one hundred and fifty years, Custer has been a Rorschach test of American social and personal values. Whatever else George Armstrong Custer may or may not have been, even in the twenty-first century, he remains the great lightning rod of American history. This book presents portraits of Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn as they have appeared in print over successive decades and in the process demonstrates the evolution of American values and priorities.







Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A Southern Town Goes to War: Holly Springs 1861


Two Confederate volunteers in the
an early uniform of the Civil War

THE SOUTHERN HERALD April 5, 1861:

“Thursday the 28th of March, 1861, was a day long to be remembered in Holly Springs. It was the day appointed for the volunteers from Marshall County, who had nobly responded to the call made upon Mississippi by President Davis for 1,500 troops to go to Pensacola, to set out for the scene of action. The three companies who had been accepted for that service were the Jeff Davis Rifles, Capt. Sam Benton; the Home Guards, Capt. Thos. W. Harris; and the Quitman Rifle Guards, Capt. Robert McGowan Jr…... Three more brave and gallant companies, or companies made up of better material, social, moral, and intellectual, were never mustered into service, in any age, or in any country. The farmer and the mechanic, the teacher and the pupil, the laborer and the artist, the merchant and the lawyer. . .were represented by some of their very best.... The slaveholder and the non-slave owner stood side by side in those gallant ranks, and they go to teach the fanatic and deluded Yankee that they have common cause in the maintenance of our glorious cause....”

Prior to departure , “the presentation of a beautiful flag to the Jeff Davis Rifles, by the young ladies of the Holly Springs Female Institute, of which Prof. Hackelton is the principal. The flag was presented by Miss Jennie Edmonson, who represented the young ladies. She was most tastefully dressed, having on a jacket of gray, trimmed in black, with cap of similar material, to correspond with the uniform of the Rifles. Her address was replete with beauty both in the matter and manner of it. Her graceful figure; her handsome features; her clear, distinct and musical enunciation; and yet more the earnest feelings with which she spoke, all tended greatly to heighten the effect of the burning words and elegant diction of the address itself. The heart would have been hard and the eye cold indeed that could have withheld the homage of a tear to the triumph of woman’s eloquence, when she pledged to the parting soldiers the prayers of her own sex and the blessings of the people, and invoked in their behalf in anxious and trembling tones, the benediction of Almighty God.”

“That flag was received by Capt. Benton, as the gallant representative of his gallant company. Mr. Benton’s reputation as a public speaker is too well established to need any encomium from us. His remarks were brief, appropriate and to the point--promptings of a patriotism as profound as the speaker is known to be generous and brave. But the heart of the soldier was too full for any display of words. In plain feeling language he thanked the young ladies for this token of their regard and confidence, and of their devotion to the cause of independence; and gave them a soldier’s word that that Flag, though perchance stained with blood, should never be stained with dishonor.”






A brief look at love, sex, and marriage in the Civil War. The book covers courtship, marriage, birth control and pregnancy, divorce, slavery and the impact of the war on social customs.







Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The White House of the Confederacy


Called “The White House”, the Executive Mansion was rented from the City of Richmond by the Confederate government to serve as the residence of President Jefferson Davis and his family.  The White House of the Confederacy  is located at Clay and 12th Streets.


Security was lax by modern standards.  The President’s two personal secretaries were armed.  Additionally, a soldier was stationed at the front door, and another at the basement door.  Twelve soldiers were stationed on the grounds.


Jefferson Davis, his wife Varina, and their three small children moved into the White House in August, 1861.  Two more children were born in the White House, in 1861 and 1864 respectively.  Five year old Joseph, died from a fall at the house in 1864.


After the fall of Richmond, President Lincoln and his son Tad went to view the ruined city.  Lincoln went to the Confederate White House (depicted in the next picture), went to the second floor and triumphantly sat at Jefferson Davis’s desk.  Thousands assembled outside to catch a glimpse of Lincoln.






The last death agonies of the Confederacy captured in pictures.




A brief look at love, sex, and marriage in the Civil War. The book covers courtship, marriage, birth control and pregnancy, divorce, slavery and the impact of the war on social customs.








Monday, May 21, 2018

George Armstrong Custer: Life on the Plains

George Armstrong Custer

     In 1874, Custer published My Life on the Plains, an account of his career as an Indian fighter to that time.  This book gives us important insights into the kind of man Custer was and the type of tactics he habitually used.

     Like many professional Victorian era soldiers, Custer saw war as a great adventure, he reveled in the freedom of the frontier, “I had several English greyhounds, whose speed I was anxious to test with that of the antelope….Taking with me but one man…and calling my dogs around me, I galloped ahead of the column as soon as it was daylight, for the purpose of having a chase after some antelope.” While war might be the greatest game of all, Custer respected the Indian as an opponent, “I had an opportunity to witness the Indian mode of fighting in all its perfection. Surely no race of men, not even the famous Cossacks, could display more wonderful skill in feats of horsemanship than the Indian warrior on his native plains, mounted on his well-trained war pony….” (G.A. Custer, 136) He also showed that he knew what defeat meant when writing about the fate of  “…poor Kidder and his party, yet so brutally hacked and disfigured as to be beyond recognition save as human beings….Every individual of the party had been scalped and his skull broken….even the clothes of all the party and him carried away, some of the bodies were lying in beds of ashes with partly burned fragments of wood near them, showing that the savages had put some of them to death by the terrible tortures of fire. The sinews of the arms and legs had been cut away, the nose of every man hacked off, and the features otherwise defaced so that it would have been scarcely possible for even a relative to recognize a single one of the unfortunate victims. We could not even distinguish the officer from his men. Each body was pierced by from twenty to fifty arrows, and the arrows were found as the Savage demons had left them, bristling in the bodies.” (G.A. Custer, 77) 

      Indian warfare was irregular warfare.  The central problem was catching the hostiles, and Custer laments, “Many of (our) men and horses were far from being familiar with actual warfare, particularly of this irregular character.  Some of the troopers were quite inexperienced as horsemen and still more inexpert in the use of their weapons, as their in accuracy of fire when attempting to bring down an Indian within easy range clearly proved.” (G.A. Custer, 137) Custer recounts how he whipped the Seventh Cavalry into shape and prepared it for the Army’s proposed winter campaign, designed to catch the Indians in camp during the supposedly impassable winter snows.







Since his death along the bluffs overlooking the Little Bighorn River, in Montana, on June 25, 1876, over five hundred books have been written about the life and career of George Armstrong Custer. Views of Custer have changed over succeeding generations. Custer has been portrayed as a callous egotist, a bungling egomaniac, a genocidal war criminal, and the puppet of faceless forces. For almost one hundred and fifty years, Custer has been a Rorschach test of American social and personal values. Whatever else George Armstrong Custer may or may not have been, even in the twenty-first century, he remains the great lightning rod of American history. This book presents portraits of Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn as they have appeared in print over successive decades and in the process demonstrates the evolution of American values and priorities.







Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Eighteenth Century Courtship


Courting took place at organized functions such as dances, horse races and church. Dancing was an important courting ritual among the wealthy. It was considered a good way to determine a potential marriage partner’s physical soundness, as well as the state of their teeth and breath. Dancing taught poise, grace and balance, especially important to women who had to learn to remain in their “compass”, or the area of movement allowed by their clothing. Balls often lasted three to four days and took all day and most of the night. 





Women, then as now, had ways of making themselves more alluring.  Among the elite, cosmetics were commonly worn.  Almost everyone had a pock marked face due to the widespread scourge of smallpox, but a handsomely pocked face was not considered unattractive, only an excessively pocked one.  Flour, white lead, orrisroot and cornstarch were common bases to produce the esthetic of a pure white face. Over these red rouge was used to highlight cheekbones, in a manner that would be considered exaggerated by modern standards, but was most effective in the dim light afforded by candles in the eighteenth century. Lip color and rouge were made from crushed cochineal beetles. Cochineal was an expensive imported commodity; country women substituted berry stains. Carbon was used to highlight eye brows and lashes, which were groomed with fine combs.  The key aspects of the 18th century cosmetic look were a complexion somewhere between white and pale, red cheeks, and red lips.  The ideal woman had a high forehead, plump rosy cheeks, pale skin, and small lips, soft and red, with the lower lip being slightly larger thus creating a rosebud effect. Although bathing one’s entire body was not a regular occurrence in the eighteenth century, the daily washing of one’s face and hands was the norm in elite social circles.



An almanac essay entitled Love and Acquaintance with the Fair Sex assures us that men were incapable of “resistance” against a woman’s, “attractive charms of an enchanting outside in the sprightly bloom of happy nature; against the graces of wit and politeness; against the lure of modesty and sweetness.”  Of course some men felt uneasy about female allurements which could account for the introduction of a bill before the British Parliament in 1770 entitled, “An Act to Protect Men from Being Beguiled into Marriage by False Adornments”. The proposed act read, “All women, of whatever rank, age, profession or degree, whether virgins, maids or widows, that shall, from and after such Act, impose upon, seduce or betray into matrimony, any of His Majesty's subjects, by the use of scents, paints, cosmetic washes, artificial teeth, false hair, Spanish wool, iron stays, hoops, high-heeled shoes and bolstered hips, shall incur the penalty of the law in force against witchcraft and like misdemeanours and that the marriage upon conviction shall stand null and void.”  To the everlasting regret of some the Act did not become law.




Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Sneak Attack! (Four Alternative History Stories)




Sun Tzu, the Master of War, once said, “Those who are skilled in producing surprises will win. In conflict, surprise will lead to victory. ” 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.

Including:
1.The Hostage, in which Abraham Lincoln is kidnapped by the rebels.
2.The German Invasion of America of 1889, in which Germany unexpectedly launches its might against the United States.
3.The Invasion of Canada 1933, in which the new American dictator launches a sneak attack on Canada.
4.Cherry Blossoms at Night: Japan Attacks the American Homeland (1942), in which Japan attacks the American homeland in a very surprising way.


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Ivy Hill Cemetery and Wernher von Braun


Ivy Hill Cemetery

The thousands of headstones at Alexandria’s Ivy Hill Cemetery are a portal to the city’s rich past.  Here lie descendants of Thomas Jefferson, Union and Confederate soldiers, members of some of the city's oldest families, and the rocket scientist Wernher von Braun.

Dr. Wernher von Braun is best known as the father of the American space program.   His NASA team developed the Redstone booster, which launched America's first satellite, and the giant Saturn V, which launched America’s missions to the Moon.

Although he worked on Nazi military rocket development during the first half of his career, Wernher von Braun claimed his work on military rockets was ultimately motivated by his dream of utilizing the technology for peaceful space exploration. 

In 1949 von Braun wrote a science fiction story, Project Mars: A Technical Tale,  based on detailed science.   He wanted to inspire people to embrace the challenge of human space exploration.  This story was only published some thirty years after his death and fifty seven years after it was written.

Some readers have noted an odd coincidence in this early work of science fiction which relates to today’s foremost proponent of Mars exploration, Elon Musk.  Von Braun writes on page 177, “The Martian government was directed by ten men, the leader of whom was elected by universal suffrage for five years and entitled “Elon.” Two houses of Parliament enacted the laws to be administered by the Elon and his cabinet. The Upper House was called the Council of the Elders and was limited to a membership of 60 persons, each being appointed for life by the Elon as vacancies occurred by death.”


This never-before-printed science fiction novel by the original "rocket man," Wernher von Braun, combines technical fact with a human story line in the way that only a true dreamer can realize. Encompassing the entire story of the journey, this novel moves from the original decision for a Mars mission, through the mission planning, the building of the mighty space ships, the journey, the amazing discoveries made on Mars, and the return home. The author's attention to the actions and feelings of the characters—both those who went and those who stayed behind—makes this an adventure of human proportions, rather than merely another fanciful tale. This exclusive von Braun treasure comes complete with an appendix of his original technical drawings, made in the late 1940s, on which the story's plot is based.






Friday, April 06, 2018

Mutiny on the Bounty and Pitcairn Island


Pitcairn Island was sighted on 3 July 1767 by the crew of the British sloop HMS Swallow. The island was named after Midshipman Robert Pitcairn, who was the first to sight the island.  The island is best known as the final refuge of the mutineers from HMS Bounty.

On April 4, 1789, the Bounty embarked on the return journey to England from Tahiti. Three weeks later the crew, led by first mate Fletcher Christian, mutinied against Captain William Bligh.  Bligh and eighteen loyal sailors were set adrift in a 23-foot open boat, finally reaching safe harbor seven weeks later.

After the mutiny, Christian and the other mutineers returned to Tahiti, where sixteen of the twenty-five men decided to remain. Fletcher Christian, with eight others, their Tahitian women, and a handful of Tahitian men then sailed in search of a safe hiding place from the British fleet that was sure to scour the Pacific in search of them.  They arrived at Pitcairn Island on January 23, 1790. The island’s location had been incorrectly charted and was therefore an ideal refuge.  The Bounty was burned to prevent detection and the fugitives settled into their new home.  The British navy spent three months searching for the mutineers but never found Pitcairn Island.  The mutineers who had remained on Tahiti were quickly captured and brought to trial in England.

It was not until 1795 that the first ship was seen from the island, but it did not approach. A second ship appeared on the horizon in 1801. The American trading ship Topaz was the first to visit the island and make contact in February 1808, eighteen years after the mutineers first landed. 

The Americans discovered that eight of the nine mutineers had been either murdered, committed suicide, or died of illness during their eighteen years on the island.  Fletcher Christian had not created a paradise on earth.  Mr. Christian had three children by his Tahitian wife but was killed along with four of the other mutineers by the Tahitian men who had accompanied them to the island.  The Tahitian men had grown disillusioned with Christian and the others for treating them little better than slaves.

The remaining four mutineers and the Tahitian wives of the murdered men turned on the Tahitian men and killed all of them.  Four European men now remained, along with ten women and their children.  In the succeeding years, one of the men was executed for the “well-being” of the community, one died a natural death, and one committed suicide by leaping off a cliff.

Pitcairn flourished under the leadership of the last surviving mutineer, John Adams. As leader of the community of ten Polynesian women and twenty-three children the former able seaman, John Adams, showed himself to be capable and compassionate.  Adams insisted on Sunday services, family prayers and grace before and after every meal. Adams saw to it that the land was cultivated and the livestock tended.  The small community prospered in amity.

In 1814 HMS Briton and HMS Tagus rediscovered the island.  The British commanders were charmed by the simplicity and piety of the islanders. Favorably impressed by Adams and the example he set, they agreed it would be “an act of great cruelty and inhumanity” to arrest him.

In 1825, a British ship arrived and formally granted Adams amnesty, and on November 30, 1838, the Pitcairn Islands (which also include three uninhabited islands–Henderson, Ducie, and Oeno) were incorporated into the British Empire.

Today Pitcairn Island is a British possession.  The eighteen square mile island has a population of sixty seven, most descendants of the Bounty mutineers. Pitcairn Island does not have an airport or seaport; the islanders rely on longboats to ferry people and goods ashore across Bounty Bay. A dedicated passenger/cargo supply ship, chartered by the Pitcairn Island Government, is the principal transport to and from the outside world, via Mangareva, Gambier Islands, French Polynesia.  The islanders speak a dialect that is a hybrid of Tahitian and eighteenth-century English.



Phrases in the Pitcairnese Dialect:

I starten. – I'm going.

Bou yo gwen? – Where are you going?

I gwen down Farder's morla. – I'm going down to Father's place tomorrow.

Bou yo bin? – Where have you been?

I gwen out yenna fer porpay. – I'm going out yonder for red guavas.

Foot yawly come yah? – Why did you come here?

Up a side, Tom'sa roll. – Up at that place, Tom fell down.













Thursday, March 15, 2018

American Civil War Demobilization

Grand Review of the Armies May 23-24, 1865


      With the end of the Civil War, the Union army gathered for one last grand victory parade in Washington.  Anne Frobel wrote in May 1865, “Today we see tents and camps spring up in every quarter…. The roads filled with soldiers as far back as we can see through the woods, coming-coming-coming, thousands and tens of thousands. I hardly thought the world contained so many men and the wagons, O the wagons, long lines of white wagons coming by roads and crossroads...Tomorrow there is to be a 'grand review' of the 'grand' U.S. Army at Washington and great has been the stir of preparation...Rose Hill is literally covered with Sherman's army and such immense, immense numbers of splendid horses and mules.”

      The one million men under arms in the Union army at the end of the Civil War were largely volunteers and wanted to go home. (Many professional Prussian officers derided the armies of the American Civil War as, “Two armed mobs colliding.”)  Almost all of the volunteers were mustered out by late October 1867.  Congress voted for the establishment of a regular army of 54,302 officers and enlisted men on July 28, 1866.  This number was reduced to 27,442 in 1876.  The army was scattered over a vast continent, mostly in the West.  America’s defense depended almost completely on the same thinking that existed at the time of the American Revolution, “leave it to the volunteer militias”.

     In November 1889, Secretary of the Navy Benjamin F. Tracy called for the rapid expansion of the United States Navy, stating that since the end of the Civil War the fleet had been neglected and become technologically obsolete.  America stood twelfth among the naval powers of the earth.  The U.S. fleet consisted of 11 armored and 31 unarmored vessels, whereas the British fleet boasted 76 armored and 291 unarmored vessels.  The German fleet had 40 armored and 105 unarmored ships.  The American fleet was outranked by even the eleventh rate navy of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire which had 12 armored and 44 unarmored ships.  Secretary Tracy complained, “We have an exposed coast line of 13,000 miles upon which are situated more than twenty great centers of population, wealth, and commercial activity, wholly unprotected against modern weapons.  These are inviting objects to attack, with a wide range of choice as to the points to be selected.”


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.




Monday, February 26, 2018

George Armstrong Custer: Why All the Controversy?

Custer


     In his book, Custer and the Great Controversy, Robert Utley writes, “Almost every myth of the Little Bighorn that one finds today masquerading as history may be found also in the press accounts of July 1876.”  In the bitter election year of 1876, the Custer tragedy was a godsend for Democrats to use against their Republican opponents.  “The Little Bighorn disaster…instantly became a pawn on the political chessboard.” (Utley, 39)

     Utley writes that the New York Herald launched a vicious attack on the Grant administration, denouncing President Grant as, “the author of the present Indian war.”  On July 16 the Herald asked “Who Slew Custer?”, and in answer declared, “The celebrated peace policy of General Grant…that is what killed Custer.” The press placed the battle “…in a political context that assured its rise to a national issue of the first magnitude.”  (Utley, 39, 41) 

     After the initial wave of political hysteria abated, the press insured that the Custer controversy would be constantly reignited by readily publishing the prejudices, opinions, and grievances of officers who had served with Custer or on the frontier. Pro-Custer editor’s rushed to Custer’s defense.

     And so it continued between pro and anti-Custer partisans for half a century.  Utley concludes that it was the press that, “laid the foundations for the evolution of the history of the Little Bighorn into one of the most misunderstood, confused, and controversial events in American history.” (Utley, 48)








Whatever else George Armstrong Custer may or may not have been, even in the twenty-first century, he remains the great lightning rod of American history. This book presents portraits of Custer and the Battle of the Little Bighorn as they have appeared in print over successive decades and in the process demonstrates the evolution of American values and priorities.