Sunday, November 17, 2019

A History of the Ukulele








The ukulele is one of the world's most popular instruments.  The ukulele evolved from several small guitar-like instruments of Portuguese origin.  In the early 1880s, Portuguese immigrants began making small guitar like instruments in Hawaii.  The instruments became locally popular and were given the Hawaiian name "ukulele", which means "jumping flea".  

The standard size ukulele is known as "soprano", but the larger "concert" and "tenor" sizes are also popular.  Today the ukulele is a respected solo instrument and is popular for playing many styles of music.


Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The Cuban National Anthem: A History




The Cienfuegos Choir, Cuba

El Himno de Bayamo (The Bayamo Anthem) is the national anthem of Cuba. The anthem was first performed during the Battle of Bayamo in 1868. Perucho Figueredo, who took part in the battle, wrote and composed the song.  Officially adopted in 1902, the anthem was retained after the revolution of 1959. 

The Cuban War of Independence was the last of three liberation wars that Cuba fought against Spain, the other two being the Ten Years' War (1868–1878) and the Little War (1879–1880). The final three months of the conflict escalated to become the Spanish–American War, with United States forces being deployed in Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the Philippine Islands against Spain.

To combat, run, Bayamesans!
For the homeland looks proudly upon you;
Do not fear a glorious death,
For to die for the homeland is to live.


To live in chains is to live
Mired in shame and disgrace.
Hear the sound of the bugle:
To arms, brave ones, run!


Fear not the vicious Iberians,
They are cowards like every tyrant.
They cannot oppose the spirited Cuban;
Their empire has forever fallen.


Free Cuba! Spain has already died,
Its power and pride, where did it go?
Hear the sound of the bugle:
To arms, brave ones, run!


Behold our triumphant troops,
Behold those who have fallen.
Because they were cowards, they flee defeated;
Because we were brave, we knew how to triumph.


Free Cuba! we can shout
From the cannon's terrible boom.
Hear the sound of the bugle,
To arms, brave ones, run!







A brief history of the causes and methods of U.S. intervention in Latin America from the Spanish American War to the era of the Good Neighbor Policy.

The Monroe Doctrine effectively expressed the U.S. conception of the “Western Hemisphere idea” ... that notion which predicates a special relationship between the countries of the Americas that sets them apart from the rest of the world. Largely ineffectual when pronounced the Monroe statement eventually came to delimit relations between the Western Hemisphere and the rest of the world; and served as a constant referral point in the development of U.S.-Latin American policy.

Tuesday, October 08, 2019

The Phoenix Lights (1997)





On March 13, 1997, Arizona experienced one of the largest mass UFO sightings in history, the so called Phoenix Lights. Lights of varying descriptions were seen by thousands of people during a three hour period, over a distance of three 300 miles stretching, from the Nevada line, through Phoenix, to the edge of Tucson. There were two distinct events involved in the incident: a triangular formation of lights seen to pass over the state, and a series of stationary lights seen in the Phoenix area. The United States Air Force identified the second group of lights as flares dropped by military aircraft.  The initial sightings remain unexplained.



The first call came from a retired police officer in Paulden, Arizona, a small town about 2 hours north of Phoenix at approximately 7PM.  After that calls began pouring into television stations and the police.  The reports were unanimous on several key points: there was a triangular craft that was enormous (some witnesses described it as a mile wide), it was totally silent, it moved slowly, and it often stopped to hover.



An eyewitness reported to the National UFO Reporting Center, “…. I looked and what I saw was what looked like, at first, a pattern of 5 lights in a half oval on its upside. I thought it was a blimp with lights on it. It seemed to be floating but I noticed it was coming directly in our direction. My son went in the house and got my wife, my 13 year old grandson and my 18 year old daughter, to come outside. We all watched these lights approach. Whatever it was it was moving rather slowly. As it came close it no longer had an up-oval shape, but began to look more like a "V" of 5 lights, with one light in the center lead point and two lights on each side. The angle of the "V" was not very sharp, maybe 60 degrees. As we stood there watching we were completely flabbergasted because it was going to pass directly over our house. And it did. It passed directly overhead maybe a thousand or so feet overhead. Our house is up on the side of a mountain in the Northeast part of Phoenix and we can see pretty far to the northwest and southwest. When it passed overhead we all were looking at it and talking. For one thing, it seemed to float over us and it made absolutely no detectable sound at all. We were trying to imagine what it was. It certainly couldn't be a group of aircraft flying in formation, because the lights remained absolutely fixed in relationship with each other. As we looked up we could see through the middle of the "V" but each arm seemed to be flat shaped like a ruler, and rather long from the first lead light to the tip lights, maybe a couple of hundred feet or more. It was huge…. My background: I am 54 years old, in perfect health. I have a Master’s Degree from Columbia University Teacher's College. Formerly worked for IBM as a systems engineer. More recently worked in the electronics repair industry in management. Presently executive in a manufacturing firm. My wife is a secretary at St Mary's Catholic High School. My one daughter is an honor student at the High School. We live up on the side of this mountain and are always looking at the sky, so if we're outside not much is going to go by without us seeing it. And we all have never seen anything like this.”



The Governor’s office was besieged with calls, especially after a USA Today article in June brought international attention to the incident.  To stem a mounting sense of panic in the state, Governor Fife Symington, held a press conference during which he claimed to have “found who was responsible” for the lights.  Symington then brought in his chief of staff dressed in an alien costume, handcuffed and looking contrite.  Crisis averted.  Ten years later, however, Symington confessed before the National Press Club, that he had pulled this stunt only to avert public panic.  He said that he himself had seen the object and that it was, “enormous and inexplicable.”



What is the truth behind the Great Secret? Unidentified Fly Objects (UFOs), where do they come from? Why are they here? What do they want? Here are six original short stories dealing with First Contact:
(1)The Vatican’s Dilemma (Is there a Vatican conspiracy?)
(2)Mountain Mist (Does a parallel universe exist?)
(3)Earthly Arrogance (Pity the poor Aliens)
(4)An Intelligent Idea (Is this the end?)
(5)Change and Hopelessness ( The great Civil War)
(6)An Answer on the Moon





Monday, October 07, 2019

The Skeleton Cave Massacre (Arizona)





The Skeleton Cave Massacre was the first principal engagement during the 1872 Tonto Basin Campaign in Arizona conducted by the U.S. Army. On December 28, 1872, elements of the 5th Cavalry under the command of Captain William H. Brown, together with thirty Apache scouts took up positions around the Yavapai stronghold at Skeleton Cave in the Salt River Canyon. The soldiers approached the cave before dawn and surprised the defenders when they tried to leave.  The warriors refused to surrender and the soldiers opened fire. Some of Brown's men aimed for the roof of the cave, causing the deaths of women and children, as well as warriors, within the cave by ricocheting bullets. Others soldiers rolled rocks and boulders down from the cliffs above.



“… (Captain) Brown ordered our fire to cease, and for the last time summoned the Apaches to surrender, or to let their women and children come out unmolested. On their side, the Apaches also ceased all hostile demonstrations and it seemed to some of us Americans that they must be making ready to yield, and were discussing the matter among themselves. Our Indian guides and interpreters raised the cry, ‘Look out! There goes the death song; they are going to charge!’ It was a weird chant … half wail and half exultation—the frenzy of despair and the wild cry for revenge.” So wrote Captain John G. Bourke, U.S. Cavalry.



The warriors counter-attacked to buy time for their women and children to escape. The soldiers stopped the counter-attack, and the surviving Indians were driven back into the cave where they resumed their death chant. At this point, the soldiers were ordered to fire “as fast as the breach-block of the carbine could be opened and lowered ... into the mouth of the cave,” where, according to Captain Bourke, “lead poured in by the bucketful.”

The battle continued, with cries of wounded women and children becoming ever more desperate. “It was exactly like fighting with wild animals in a trap,” observed Captain Bourke. The massacre lasted most of the morning and about seventy men, women, and children were killed. The survivors were taken prisoner. The dead were left unburied.

The cave was rediscovered in the 1890's. Jeff Adam's found the cave again in 1906 and reported it to newspapers. Walter Lubken was guided to the cave in 1908 where he photographed the bones and artifacts within the cave. Around 1920, the bones were removed and buried by some Yavapai Indians. Nothing remains in the cave now.  This site is located on the north shore of Apache Lake, about 1/2 mile northeast of Horse Mesa Dam.




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.





Friday, September 20, 2019

The Strange Case of the Crystal Skull


The Crystal Skull in the British Museum

The Crystal Skull is a 19th century con man’s scam.  In the late 19th century, when European interest in ancient culture was at its peak, clever con men went to work.  Crystal Skulls, supposedly of pre-Columbian Aztec or Mayan origin, soon appeared in major museums in England and France.  It was one, Eugène Boban, an antiquities dealer who opened his shop in Paris in 1870, who is most associated with 19th-century museum collections of Crystal Skulls. Boban is said to have tried to sell a Crystal Skull to Mexico's national museum as an Aztec artifact, but was unsuccessful. Boban later moved his business to New York City. The skull was exhibited at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, in New York. It was sold at auction, and bought by Tiffany andCo., who later sold it at cost to the British Museum in 1897.

The French were no cleverer than the British when it came to skulls.  The Crystal Skull in the Musée de l'Homme's in Paris was donated by Alphonse Pinart, an ethnographer who had bought it from the con man Eugene Boban.

It was not until the 20th century that the truth came out.  Studies demonstrated that the skulls were manufactured in the mid-19th century. The skulls were crafted in the 19th century in Germany, quite likely at workshops in the town of Idar-Oberstein, which was renowned for crafting objects made from imported Brazilian quartz. This type of crystal was determined to be only found in Madagascar and Brazil, and thus unknown to the Aztecs or Maya.


In 1992, the Smithsonian investigated a Crystal Skull provided by an anonymous donor.  Supposedly the artifact was of Aztec origin. The investigation concluded that this skull was made in the 1950s or later.









Philip Wade and Ellen Ellsworth search for Paititi, the lost city of the Incas and final resting place for hidden treasure that eluded the conquering Spaniards hundreds of years ago. They will find more than they ever imagined possible in the high mountains and dark jungles of South America.  A paranormal romance.




Wednesday, September 18, 2019

George Washington and Ham


 The Smokehouse at Mount Vernon

Inside the Smokehouse

Each morning at Mount Vernon, George Washington’s wife, Martha, met with the cooks to plan the menu for dinner, the main meal of the day served between 2:00 and 4:00.  Mount Vernon dinners required two cooks aided by several assistants who performed tedious tasks like peeling vegetables and plucking turkeys.  Martha Washington briefly hired German cooks but most of Mount Vernon’s cooks were slaves.  A great bell was rung fifteen minutes before dinner at Mount Vernon.  Guests changed into dressier clothes for dinner.  George and Martha Washington welcomed thousands of guests to Mount Vernon in the more than forty years they lived there.  A slave butler and waiters, in livery, were responsible for bringing food to the table quickly and efficiently.  Dinner consisted of two courses. 

The first course featured meat and vegetable dishes.  Ham was almost always featured.  A ham was boiled daily and Martha took great pride in her hams.  Martha sent hams as gifts.  In 1796 George Washington informed the Marquis de Lafayette that Mrs. Washington, “…had packed and sent…a barrel of Virginia hams.”  He reminded his friend, “…you know the Virginia ladies value themselves on the goodness of their bacon.”  In addition to ham, foods likely to be found on Martha Washington’s table included carrot puffs, chicken fricassee, pickled red cabbage, fish, and onion soup. Even though these foods appear familiar, the seasonings were very different from those used in modern cooking. Colonial cooks liked nutmeg and especially enjoyed a sweet taste. Salt and pepper were not heavily used. Some foods would make the modern diner blanche, rabbits and poultry, for example, were not only prepared with their heads and feet still attached, they were served at dinner that way as well.




Neither Martha Washington nor the women of the South’s leading families were marble statues, they had the same strengths and weaknesses, passions and problems, joys and sorrows, as the women of any age.  So just how did they live?







These are the often overlooked stories of early America. Stories such as the roots of racism in America, famous murders that rocked the colonies, the scandalous doings of some of the most famous of the Founding Fathers, the first Emancipation Proclamation that got revoked, and stories of several notorious generals who have been swept under history’s rug.


Wednesday, September 04, 2019

The Peralta Stones: Key to the Lost Dutchman’s Mine?



The Superstition Mountains of Arizona, the Legend of the Lost Dutchman’s Mine, and the Peralta Stones are inextricably linked. The entire story supposedly began in 1748 when the Peralta family are said to have started mining silver and gold in the Superstition Mountains. With the Mexican War of 1848, law and order disintegrated in the area and the Apache Indians grew increasingly hostile, attacking the miners almost continuously. It is said, that disaster finally overtook the Peralta family in September 1848 with a general massacre by the Apaches. Following this massacre the Apaches controlled the Superstition Mountains until 1865.  Supposedly after the massacre of 1848 the Indians filled the mine shafts and disguised the remains.

Jacob Waltz, the “Dutchman” enters the picture in 1871 with his partner Jacob Weiser.  The two immigrants supposedly purchased a map drawn by the original Peralta family and located the mine “within an imaginary circle whose diameter is not more than five miles and whose center is marked by the Weaver’s Needle.”  Weiser soon vanished...the victim of either, Indians, desperados, or Waltz, depending on which story you want to believe. The Dutchman continued working the mine, carrying the secret of its location to the grave with him in 1891.

 For over fifty years after the death of the Waltz, treasure hunters followed the ambiguous clues that the Dutchman left behind as to the whereabouts of the mine, such as these helpful clues:

“No miner will find my mine. To find my mine you must pass a cow barn. From my mine you can see the military trail, but from the military trail you cannot see my mine. The rays of the setting sun shine into the entrance of my mine. There is a trick in the trail to my mine. My mine is located in a north-trending canyon. There is a rock face on the trail to my mine.”

Something significant changed in 1949 when the so called Peralta Stones were discovered in the desert. A Mexican bracero (a legal migrant laborer) was digging fence posts near Black Point, in Pinal County, when he came across a large flat stone.  He dug the stone out only to find that it was covered in strange writing.  He recognized a Spanish word, Indian petroglyphs, and some Spanish markings.  In all, the bracero dug up three stones carved with writing and a crude map. The bracero hauled the curious stones into Florence Junction, three miles away, where he washed them, and prepared to sell the curious stones to any willing tourist who might come along.  
Robert G. Tumlinson (or Travis E. Tumlinson depending on who is telling the story) of Portland, Oregon turned out to be that tourist.  The bracero pocketed the equivalent of a week’s wages, and Tumlinson drove off with the stones.  Tumlinson went on to Phoenix, to visit his brother.  The two brothers thoroughly washed the rocks and examined them, determining that what they were looking at was some kind of coded map.

There a number of variations on exactly how, where, and by whom the Stones were discovered, but many “Dutch Hunters” believe that the Stones refer to the location of the Lost Dutchman’s Mine and that they were carved by the Peralta family. The Stones consist of two red sandstone tablets and a heart-shaped rock made of red quartzite. Each red stone block is carved with lines and one long line. When the two blocks are placed side by side and the stone heart is inserted the long line has 18 dots pecked into it. This style of map is known as a Post Road Map and it is a style used in Mexico and Spain during the period of the Mexican-American War. Inscribed on one the stones is the date 1847, and one stone contains a sunken relief of a heart, into which the heart-shaped stone fits perfectly. The back of the stone that the heart-shaped stone fits into has the outline of a cross carved into it.

Apparently, Tumlinson spent a number of years in the Superstition Mountains trying to track down clues from the Stones.  The Stones emerged again in the early 1960s, after Tumlinson’s death.  One Clarence O. Mitchell persuaded Tumlinson’s widow that he could decipher the stone maps.  Mitchell organized the M.O.E.L. Corp. in Nevada and began a stock selling campaign among his friends and close associates to raise capital for the treasure expedition. Mitchell raised more than $70,000 over a two-year period. Eventually Mitchell ran into difficulties with the Securities and Exchange Commission for over selling the number of shares the corporation had issued.  The corporation was forced into bankruptcy.

In 1964, freelance writer Richard B. Stolley sold a story about the stone maps to Life magazine.  The article provided the first public photographs of the Peralta Stones (although certain markings on the maps were covered by black tape).  These photographs inflamed the nation’s imagination.

In 1967, Barry Storm, the “Dean of American Treasure Hunters”, wrote an article for Treasure Hunters in an attempt to decipher the Peralta Stone Maps. This article was followed by a variety of other writers, photographers, film makers, and con men who have since used the Peralta maps as a factual source for treasure hunting in the Superstition Mountains.

So the real question is, “Are the Peralta Stones real or fakes?”  Do they present genuine clues, or phony clues?  For more than seventy years the Peralta Stones have been the subject of heated controversy.  Over this time period those who’ve studied the maps have remained firmly and pretty evenly divided into two separate camps: (1) those who believe, and (2) those who do not believe. It does not appear that this will change anytime soon.





These are the stories of treasures great and small and of those who hunt for them. The book includes the world's most famous treasure cipher, sunken treasure ships, treasure caves, and tales of over fifty of the most famous lost treasures of the globe. For all who dare to go in search of golden opportunities and glittering prizes.




A lively history of the Civil War sprinkled with tales of over 60 buried treasure in sixteen states. History buffs and adventure seekers will enjoy this work.






Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The Battle of Adwa (Italy’s Battle of the Little Bighorn)



The Battle of Adwa (Adowa)

In 1889 Menelik II, having defeated dynastic rivals, declared himself Emperor of Ethiopia.  In exchange for peaceful relations and subsidies, the Ethiopian Emperor ceded part of the province of Tigre to the Italians (forming the Italian colony of Eritrea).  The Italians however were less interested in peaceful relations than the complete subjugation of Ethiopia.  Two versions of the Treaty of Wuchale were prepared for signature, one in Italian and the other in Amharic, the language of Ethiopia.  Article 17 in the Italian version stated that Ethiopia was required to conduct all foreign affairs through Italian authorities (in effect making Ethiopia an Italian protectorate).  In the Amharic version, the Ethiopians were given the option of communicating with foreign powers through the Italians.

In 1893, now secure on his throne, Menelik II repudiated the treaty, and denounced Italian duplicity, calling on the people of Eritrea to expel the evil foreigners.  In December 1894 a revolt in Eritrea was crushed and the Italians decided to punish Menelik for not living up to the terms of the Treaty of Wuchale (as they saw it).  The Italians crossed the Ethiopian border and occupied the towns of Makalle, Adigrat and Adowa.  Returning to Rome briefly to drum up popular enthusiasm for the war, Oreste Baratieri, the Italian commander, told crowds of cheering Romans that he would bring Menelik II “back in a cage.”

Meanwhile, in Ethiopia, Menelik II was assembling his army.  Ultimately, Menelik brought some 100,000 men into the field.  Nor was this the type poorly armed native horde that Europeans were used to facing.  During the previous three years, Menelik had used the gold and ivory of the kingdom (along with the subsidies provided by the Italians under the terms of the Treaty of Wuchale) to buy arms, ammunition and artillery from Europe and the United States.  Although the bulk of the Ethiopian forces carried shields and spears, some forty thousand were well armed with modern rifles and were supported by fifty artillery pieces.

Baratieri was woefully ignorant of these facts.  Italian intelligence indicated that Menelik could not field more than thirty thousand men against the Italian army of seventeen thousand (ten thousand Europeans plus seven thousand Eritreans officered by Italians).  It was expected that the Ethiopian forces would be undisciplined and poorly armed.

During most of 1895, Baratieri engaged in a number of small skirmishes with Menelik’s poorly armed vassals, re-enforcing his view of Ethiopian un-preparedness.  On December 7th, however, a force of twelve hundred Italian trained Eritrean auxiliary troops, under the command of Major Pietro Toselli, were caught out on the open plains and totally annihilated by thirty thousand Ethiopian warriors. The Ethiopians next besieged the town of Makalle.

After forty five days of siege Menelik offered the Italian garrison at Makalle safe passage in exchange for possession of the town. The Italian government of Francesco Crispi ignored Menelik's offer regarding it as an insult to the nation’s honor, instead sending more reinforcements to Ethiopia to aid in the war effort.  Menelik now set out to crush the Italians.  Menelik, easily occupying Adowa and the surrounding country, threatened to outflank the main Italian army.   Baratieri abandoned Adigrat and fell back to better defensive positions to await Menelik's advance.  

Baratieri’s plan was to lure what he regarded as the undisciplined horde of Ethiopian savages into a frontal assault against his strong entrenched defensive position where they would be slaughtered by his rifles and artillery (a strategy which British General Herbert Horatio Kitchener was to successfully employ in the Sudan in 1898 at the battle of Omdurman against Sudanese troops).  Menelik, however, did not take the bait and the armies spent the next several months until late February 1896 staring out at each other. 

Stalemate was not acceptable to the government in Rome which needed victory on the battlefield for domestic political reasons.  Baratieri received a cable from Rome which came close to accusing him of cowardice and demanding action.  His ego pricked, Baratieri called his senior officers together.  Baratieri revealed that the army’s supplies would be exhausted in five days.  They must either retreat soon or attack.  Baratieri’s officers counseled an immediate attack.  Vittorio Dabormida, a brigadier general, proclaimed, “Italy would prefer the loss of two or three thousand men to a dishonorable retreat.”  European contempt for native enemies made even a tactical retreat unthinkable. Initially reluctant, Baratieri finally yielded and ordered an attack.

Baratieri’s “attack” was really no more than an attempt to redraw the existing battle lines to force Menelik to launch the type of frontal assault he had thus far avoided.  The entire Italian force advanced under the cover of darkness with the intention of digging in on the high ground overlooking the Ethiopian camp at Adowa.  Menelik would then either have to attack the Italians or retreat.  The plan made little sense except in terms of placating the government in Rome and his own impetuous officers.  Baratieri knew that the Ethiopians too were running out of supplies and were on the verge of retreat.  He also knew that Menelik was unlikely to attack his entrenched positions on high ground since the wily Ethiopian had steadfastly refused to launch a frontal assault for weeks.  Nevertheless, for reasons which may have had more to do with ego than military necessity, Baratieri proceeded with the attack.

The advance began at 2:30 a.m., but it was not long before difficulties arose.  The maps used for these intricate maneuvers were little better than rough sketches and were of little practical use.  The Italians soon found themselves struggling through steep passes, across barren hills and around dangerous ravines, gorges and treacherous crevasses that cut up the country so badly that one Italian officer described it as “a stormy sea moved by the anger of God.”

The various Italian brigades had become separated during the night march and at dawn were spread across several miles of difficult terrain.  Emperor Menelik, who had been praying for divine intervention, could hardly have been luckier.  Menelik had been planning to break camp and retreat the next day (March 2), and now here was the scattered Italian army advancing against his troops who quickly took up positions on the high ground overlooking the Italians.

Baratieri had squandered the advantages that defensive positions and concentrated firepower had given the Italian army, and now received the Ethiopian assault that he had been longing for.  The Ethiopian cavalry swept in and through the ranks of Italians, slashing and stabbing, while wave after wave of foot soldiers rushed forward, and Menelik’s artillery pounded the Italians from the heights.  The battle began at dawn and was over by noon.

The Italians suffered about 7,000 dead and 1,500 wounded, with 3,000 taken prisoner. The Italians lost all of their artillery and 11,000 rifles.  Baratieri’s army had been annihilated as a fighting force.  The Battle of Adwa (Adowa) was the most crushing defeat ever suffered by a colonial European power by native forces in Africa.



Success leaves clues. So does failure. Some of history’s best known commanders are remembered not for their brilliant victories but for their catastrophic blunders.




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.


Saturday, June 01, 2019

The Exchange Hotel and Civil War Medical Museum, Gordonsville, Virginia



The Exchange Hotel: Gordonsville, Virginia

Gordonsville Virginia’s Exchange Hotel opened in 1860 and provided an elegant stopping place for passengers on the Virginia Central Railway.  In March, 1862 the Confederate army transformed the hotel into the Gordonsville Receiving Hospital.  Dr. B.M Lebby of South Carolina was the director of the hospital and its operations continued under his leadership until October 1865.

The wounded and dying from nearby battlefields such as Cedar Mountain, Chancellorsville, Brandy Station, and the Wilderness were brought to Gordonsville by the trainloads. Although this was primarily a Confederate facility, the hospital treated the wounded from both sides. By the end of the war, more than 70,000 men had been treated at the Gordonsville Receiving Hospital and over 700 were buried on its surrounding grounds and later interred at Maplewood Cemetery in Gordonsville.

By the end of the Civil War, Virginia had fifty three Receiving Hospitals similar to this one.  All were burned to the ground by the Union army except the Gordonsville Receiving hospital.




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.





A quick look at women doctors and medicine in the Civil War for the general reader. Technologically, the American Civil War was the first “modern” war, but medically it still had its roots in the Middle Ages. In both the North and the South, thousands of women served as nurses to help wounded and suffering soldiers and civilians. A few women served as doctors, a remarkable feat in an era when sex discrimination prevented women from pursuing medical education, and those few who did were often obstructed by their male colleagues at every turn.




Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Could George Armstrong Custer Have Been President?

         
George Armstrong Custer

William W. Belknap was a Civil War Union Brigadier General, and later served as Secretary of War during the Grant Administration.  By 1875 allegations of bribery surrounded Belknap because of his appointment of post traders who sold merchandise on military installations.  George Armstrong Custer was called to testify before Congress in the matter. Custer accused President Grant's brother and Secretary of War Belknap of corruption. Belknap was impeached and sent to the Senate for trial.  An enraged President Grant stripped Custer of overall command of a column chosen to subdue the Sioux and placed him under the command of Brigadier General Alfred Terry. 

Before Custer became the mythic figure we know today, he was a lieutenant colonel desperate to find a way to salvage his reputation after this run-in with President Grant.  Custer was on the brink of professional and financial ruin, having run up massive gambling debts (which took years for his widow to pay off) and then having alienated the President of the United States.

Only one thing could save Custer, victory on the battlefield.  If Custer could win a smashing victory over Indians in the West, all would be well again. In his most hopeful fantasies Custer imagined a draft Custer for President Movement at the Democratic convention which was to open in St. Louis on June 27, 1876.  Custer had spent part of his trip East jawboning with political “King Makers”.  More realistically he could expect accolades at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia and big box office receipts for a lecture tour for which he was already booked.

Instead of being swept into the White House in a wave of martial euphoria, George Armstrong Custer met his death along the bluffs overlooking the Little Bighorn River, in Montana, on June 25, 1876.  Custer’s death was immediately politicized.  Enemies of the administration …pointed accusing fingers at President Grant, blaming him for Custer’s death, urging voters to settle with Grant and the Republican Party in the fall elections.  Grant’s partisans struck back vilifying Custer.  Grant weighed in personally claiming that Custer overextended himself and his men to deprive fellow officers of their share of victory.












Thursday, May 02, 2019

Napoleon's Hat: What Price Glory?


Napoleon

Napoleon’s signature two-cornered hats, known as a “bicorne,” were common among military men of the early 1800s.  Napoleon, however, wore his in a distinctive way.  Napoleon wore his hat sideways to make him stand out and be easily identifiable.  Few historical figures can be identified by a single item.  In the case of Winston Churchill, it was his cigars.  In the case of Napoleon it was the way he wore his hat.

It is estimated that Napoleon wore 120 bicorne hats during his career.  Of these, nineteen survive.  Most of these are housed in museum collections, but one privately owned by the Prince of Monaco was auctioned in 2014 for $2.4 million to a South Korean businessman.  Another of Napoleon’s hats, lost at Waterloo, and rather battered from the experience, sold at auction to a European buyer for $400,000 in 2018.




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.









Tuesday, April 30, 2019

A Psychologist Looks at George Armstrong Custer


George Armstrong Custer

Dr. Charles Hofling, a psychiatrist actively interested in western Americana, wrote the first full-length psychohistory of George Armstrong Custer in 1981 entitled, Custer and the Little Big Horn: A Psychobiographical Inquiry.

Some of what Hofling says about Custer could be said of virtually anyone in any age, “What kind of man was Custer?  It is the thesis of this book that a fuller understanding of the man can shed further light on the Battle of the Little Big Horn.  When one seeks this understanding objectively, without any interest in making of Custer either a hero or a villain, what emerges is the picture of an interesting and moderately complex personality, with specific strengths and weaknesses, personal conflicts and defenses, reacting to the stresses of life in ways which have a certain inner consistency.” (Hofling, 84)

     We learn that Custer had a narcissistic personality disorder that offended many persons, but was mild enough “to have permitted friendships, camaraderie, and even love….” (Hofling, 86)  Why did he have this sort of personality?  “One of the key features in any personality consists of the psychological maneuvers, particularly the deep-seated ones…by means of which anxiety is warded off and an equilibrium maintained.  In Custer’s case, it is postulated that the principal anxiety came from his tendency to regress to the passive situation of infancy….The principal defense mechanism used to ward off regression and its attendant anxiety seems very clearly to have been reaction-formation….In other words, tendencies toward assuming the passive, help-seeking, nourishment-needing attitude of the first year…were turned into the confident, aggressive attitude typical of an outward-directed older boy.  As is usually the case when a defense mechanism is used unconsciously, there is a tendency toward exaggeration in the resulting attitudes.  Thus independence, confidence, and socially acceptable aggression tend to become flamboyance and belligerence.” Hofling goes on to write, “The exaggerated quality of Custer’s daring, his tendency to bravado and unnecessary heroics, is suggestive of the use of reaction-formation in a rather specific way, producing what is often called a counterphobic reaction.  In such a reaction the subject does not show or even consciously feel the anxiety or fear which would be natural, but instead rushes to meet or even seeks out the dangerous situation.  One cannot, of course, be certain, but some of Custer’s actions seem to fall in this category.  Sometimes a cavalry charge is not the ideal way of handling a military situation….” (Hofling, 91)

     Because of some unknown and unknowable event in his infancy Custer’s life was a self-perpetuating cycle.  “A sense of humiliation and shame led to vigorous efforts at achievement, restoring feelings of well-being; after a time, a sense of guilt led to self-destructive behavior.  The resulting loss of status gave fresh stimulation to the sense of humiliation and shame and the cycle started over.” Hofling goes on to write, “Custer reacted to a sense of humiliation…with a surge of glory-seeking activity designed to wipe out the negative emotions.”(Hofling, 93)  Custer was a prisoner of his psychology, which impacted his judgment and led to his defeat.





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.




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.