Monday, March 29, 2021

George Armstrong Custer and the Judgement of History

George Armstrong Custer

Is it possible to write “objective” history? Every writer is a prisoner of his/her own time and personal biases (both intentional and unintentional). “Good history” is as subjective a term as “good law”, both are subject to the shifting values of the times and subject to the vagaries of advocacy. Just as there is “Enough law for every client’s position”, so too there appears to be enough history to serve a multitude of worthy ends if one doesn’t insist on one eternal, immutable and knowable Truth. Worthy ends such as: (1) History as art (fact based expositions of the human condition much like the fictional exposition of the human condition found in novels), (2) history as predictive tool (e.g. military after action reports), and (3) history as an instrument of socialization (an inclusive and expanding public mythology for an immigrant nation). History is not an immutable thing, but a process and a set of relationships…fragile, contested, unstable, and sometimes explosive. Robert M. Utley perhaps said it best in remarks made at the ceremonies commemorating the centennial of the Battle of the Little Bighorn. “The fact is that history, like life, is complex, contradictory, and ambiguous. There are few genuine heroes or villains in real life, merely people who are sometimes heroic, sometimes villainous, but most of the time simply human.”

The Tragic story of Marcus Reno

Custer’s Last Stand: Portraits in Time

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.




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Monday, January 25, 2021

The Only Roman Catholic Chaplain in the American Revolution


The efforts of the Continental Congress to gain support for the American Revolution in Canada led to the organization of two pro-American Canadian regiments, the 1st and 2nd Canadian Regiments.  There were many French Canadians only too willing to help oust the British from North America.

On January 26, 1776, Father Louis Eustace Lotbiniere, although more than sixty years old, was appointed chaplain of the First Canadian Regiment and became the first Roman Catholic chaplain in the United States Army.  Father Lotbiniere was a native French speaker and ministered to the French-Canadian troops rallying to the American cause.

With the failure of the invasion of Canada, the First Canadian Regiment was transferred to the vicinity of Philadelphia.  Fathter Lotbiniere died in poverty in October 1786.  In support of American liberty he had given up his parish, his family associations, incurred the censure of his Bishop and spent his last years in exile among a strange people whose language he could scarcely speak.

Love, Sex, and Marriage in Colonial America 1607-1800

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Monday, January 04, 2021

The Southern Cross of Honor


The Southern Cross of Honor (seen in front of this grave) was created by the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC), and is used as a symbol on the graves of Confederate veterans in recognition of, “loyal, honorable service.”  The Southern Cross takes two different forms.  One is an engraved outline on the gravestone.  The other is a two-sided, cast iron replica of the medal placed at the grave site.  Founded in 1894, the UDC was influential throughout the South in preserving and upholding the memory of Confederate veterans, especially those husbands, sons, fathers and brothers who died in the war.

Treasure Legends of the Civil War

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, December 02, 2020

Building the Pentagon

 The Pentagon

     In the 1930s the War Department was scattered throughout dozens of buildings in Virginia, Maryland and the District.   In May 1941, the Secretary of War told the President that the Department needed a central location.  Congress authorized a new headquarters for the War Department and plans were drawn up.  Arlington Farms, between Arlington National Cemetery and Memorial Bridge was selected as the site.  The building was designed to conform to the dimensions and terrain of the site.  In short, it was designed to be a pentagon to fit the space.

     When presented with the plan, President Roosevelt liked the design but hated the site, which would have impaired the view of Washington from Arlington National Cemetery. Consequently the design remained, but a new site was found.  Ground was broken on September 11, 1941, less than two months prior to America’s entry into World War II.  The building was officially dedicated and ready for occupancy on January 15, 1943. Design and construction of such a building would normally have taken four years

     Minimizing the use of steel because of the exigencies of World War II, the Pentagon was built as a reinforced concrete structure, using 680,000 tons of sand, dredged from the Potomac River.  Army engineers avoided using critical war materials whenever possible. They substituted concrete ramps and stairways for passenger elevators and used concrete drainpipes rather than metal pipes. They eliminated bronze doors, copper ornaments, and metal toilet partitions, and avoided any unnecessary ornamentation.

     The Pentagon is the world's largest office building by floor area, housing some twenty six thousand military and civilian employees.  The building has five sides, five floors above ground, and five ring corridors per floor with a total of 17.5 miles of corridors.  It covers twenty six acres.

     Exactly sixty years after the groundbreaking ceremony, the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks occurred.  Hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the west side of the Pentagon, killing almost two hundred people both on-board the plane and inside the building. The plane penetrated three of the Pentagon’s five rings.  The task of rebuilding the damaged section of the Pentagon was given the name, the "Phoenix Project", and set a goal of having the outermost offices in the damaged section occupied again by September 11, 2002. The first Pentagon tenants whose offices had been damaged during the attack began moving back in on August 15, 2002, nearly a month ahead of schedule.

Audio Book

Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Top Holiday Songs of the Decade

 The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP) reports that the following were the top ten holiday songs of the last decade:

1.     Winter Wonderland

2.     The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire)

3.     Sleigh Ride

4.     Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

5.     Santa Claus is Coming to Town

6.     White Christmas

7.     Let it Snow!  Let it Snow!  Let it Snow!

8.     Jingle Bell Rock

9.     Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer

10.  Little Drummer Boy

Other fun facts:

     “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “Winter Wonderland” are the oldest non-religious Holiday songs having both been published in 1934.

      “White Christmas” is the most recorded Holiday song, with over five hundred versions in multiple languages.

      “White Christmas” was introduced in the movie Holiday Inn (1942)

      “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” was introduced in the movie Meet Me in St. Louis (1944)

       “Silver Bells” was introduced in the movie The Lemon Drop Kid (1950)

       “A Holly Jolly Christmas” was introduced in the TV special Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (1962)


Friday, November 20, 2020

A Short History of the Cigar


The native people of the American continent were the first to grow and smoke tobacco. Tobacco was first used by the Maya of Central America.  When the Maya civilization collapsed, scattered tribes carried tobacco into North and South America. Columbus brought awareness of tobacco to Europe.

In due course returning conquistadores introduced tobacco smoking to Spain and Portugal. The habit, a sign of wealth, then spread to France, through the French ambassador to Portugal, Jean Nicot (who eventually gave his name to nicotine).

The word tobacco, some say, was a corruption of Tobago, the name of a Caribbean island. Others claim it comes from the Tabasco province of Mexico. The word cigar originated from sikar, the Mayan word for smoking.

The habit of smoking cigars spread from Spain, where cigars using Cuban tobacco were made in Seville from 1717 onwards. By 1790 cigar manufacture had spread north of the Pyrenees with small factories being setup in France and Germany.  Cigar smoking did not become really popular in Britain until after the Peninsular War (1806-12) against Napoleon, when returning British veterans spread the habit they had learned while serving in Spain. Production of segars, as they were known, began in Britain in 1820.

Cigar smoking became such a widespread custom in Britain that smoking cars became a feature in trains, and the smoking room was introduced in clubs and hotels. The habit even influenced clothing--with the introduction of the smoking jacket.

How Sherlock Holmes Lived

Arizona’s Superstition Mountains are mysterious, forbidding, and dangerous.  The Superstitions are said to have claimed over five hundred lives.  What were these people looking for?  Is it possible that these mountains hide a vast treasure?  Is it possible that UFOs land here?  Is it possible that in these mountains there is a door leading to the great underground city of the Lizard Men?  Join us as we recount a fictional story of the Superstitions and then look at the real history of the legends that haunt these mountains in our new book:  Gold, Murder and Monsters in the Superstition Mountains.

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Richmond Hospitals 1861-1865

Richmond became a major hospital center during the Civil War.  The Moore Hospital is seen below.  Running a hospital presented many challenges, none more challenging than obtaining supplies.  When the Civil War began, the Federal government cut off sales of medical supplies to the Confederacy. Unable to import enough medical supplies, the South began manufacturing medicines from its own native plants.


Chimborazo Hospital, Richmond, Va., April, 1865 (seen below) was the largest Confederate hospital.  With over five thousand beds in 150 buildings and tents, Chimborazo Hospital treated over 77,000 patients during the war.  The hospital relied on male slaves rented from local plantation owners to serve as nurses.

Women Doctors in the Civil War