Wednesday, October 27, 2010

America's Plan to Invade Canada (1930)

After World War I the British Empire was at the height of its world wide power. The rivalry between the United States and Great Britain during the 1920s and 1930s over who would control the world’s oil supply led American strategic planners to envision the day when America might be at war with Great Britain. War Plan Red ("Joint Army and Navy Basic War Plan -- Red"), formulated and approved in 1930 and declassified in 1974, set out America’s plan to eliminate Great Britain as a significant economic rival. Most of America’s plans revolved around the annexation of Canada and the islands of Jamaica, Barbados and Bermuda. These were American imperial dreams dating to the time of the American Revolution, when American forces were repulsed in their attempt to conquer Canada. American attempts to annex Canada during the War of 1812 were similarly repulsed.

Plan Red contemplated the immediate seizure of Halifax to deny the British an Atlantic port from which they could reinforce Canada. U.S. forces would then launch a three pronged attack, (1) an attack from Vermont to take Montreal and Quebec, (2) an attack from North Dakota to seize the strategic rail center at Winnipeg, splitting the country, and (3) an attack launched against the province of Ontario from Detroit and Buffalo. Mopping up on the West Coast was to include the seizure of Vancouver and Victoria.

Canada, not unaware of America’s historical aggressive designs had earlier developed “Defence Scheme No. 1” which, in the event of hostilities, called for flying columns to quickly enter American territory. These small mobile forces were to capture such cities as Seattle, Minneapolis and Albany, and then fall back in a scorched earth retreat that would slow down the invading Americans, giving Great Britain time to re-enforce Canada.

The Invasion of Canada 1933

     Sticking as closely as possible to the real history of the period, making no radical leaps in terms of behavior, logic, or technology, the author paints a stunning picture of how the history of the world could have been radically different.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

An Englishman Fighting in the American Civil War

                                                              Bradford Smith-Hoskins

It was not unusual to find British officers visiting or even fighting with the opposing armies during the American Civil War. Colonel Sir Percy Wyndham, for example, commanded the 1st New Jersey Cavalry and was the arch nemesis of Colonel John Singleton Mosby, the “Grey Ghost” of the Confederacy. Another Englishman, Bradford Smith-Hoskins, “Late Capt. in her Britannic Majesty’s Forty Fourth Regiment”, fought under Mosby’s direct command.

Mosby described the engagement in which the thirty year old Englishman died. “Captain Hoskins, an English officer, was riding by my side. Hoskins was in the act of giving a thrust with his saber when he was shot….Hoskin’s wound was mortal. When the fight was over, he was taken to the house of an Englishman nearby, and lived a day or two.” The house in question was called “The Lawn” and was owned by Charles Green, himself an Englishman. Green preserved the house from occupation or destruction by the Union army by flying a British flag over the property throughout the war and proclaiming it neutral territory.

The grave of this British officer, buried so far from home, is in the small cemetery of the Greenwich Presbyterian church in the village of Greenwich in Prince William County, Virginia.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Werewolf as Urban Legend

How much have our thought processes changed since the werewolf scares of the Middle Ages? Sometimes one wonders.

In August 1972, the Ohio Crescent-News reported that police were searching for a “wolf-man” who attacked at night in the town of Defiance, Ohio on three separate occasions within one week. The attacker was described as tall with an "animal-like head". Witnesses said the werewolf was seven to nine feet tall, and wore blue jeans and a dark shirt. He was said to have hairy feet, fangs, and a caveman-like canter.

The Toledo Blade dispatched reporter James Stegall to the scene. Stegall reported, “Three persons have told police that they saw a large beast that resembles a werewolf lurking along railroad tracks near downtown Defiance in the last week. In each case he was spotted during the early morning hours, and one man, a train crewman switching trains, said that he was approached from behind and was struck on the shoulder with a piece of 2-by-4 lumber. But when he ran the "werewolf" also disappeared into some nearby brush. In the other reported incidents the "werewolf" was seen by another train crewman about 3 a.m. Police say the third report came from a motorist who said "it" ran in front of his car about 4 a.m. and then quickly disappeared. ‘We don't know what to think.’ Chief Donald Breckler said. ‘We didn't release it (to the news media) when we got the first report about a week ago. But now we're taking it seriously. We’re concerned for the safety of our people.’”

And thus an urban legend was born. Notwithstanding the fact that Chief Breckler said that he believed that the attacks were being made by a man wearing a mask, within the week at least three hysterical people sought protection from the police. Many people who had not actually seen the creature felt sure they were being watched or were in imminent danger. One woman told the police that every night at 2:00 a.m., something rattled her door knob. Another woman phoned the police to say there was something scratching at her door and she intended to shoot, if anything came through it. No more was heard from the creature after mid-August.

Urban Legends of Virginia

Mind bending stories from the Old Dominion. A collection of Virginia’s most notable Urban Legends, many include the true stories behind them.

Benjamin Franklin and Slavery

At the age of 81, Benjamin Franklin became the president of the Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery and the Relief of Negroes Unlawfully Held in Bondage. The society, founded by Philadelphia Quakers was one of the first abolitionist organizations in America.

Franklin had not always been such an ardent abolitionist, and is known to have owned two slaves, George and King, who worked as personal servants.

Benjamin Franklin began life as an apprentice, legally bound to a master for a set term. He did not care for the restrictions and ran away from the master, settling in Philadelphia. As an up and coming businessman, however, Franklin had no problem with the institution of slavery. His newspaper, the Pennsylvania Gazette regularly ran notices regarding the purchase and sale of slaves.

Franklin’s views gradually changed as he grew older. After about 1770 his writings became progressively more anti-slavery, and in a letter to the London Chronicle he called slavery "a constant butchery of the human species by the pestilential detestable traffic in the bodies and souls of men."

By 1789 Franklin had freed his slaves and become a fervent abolitionist.

Who were the slaves of the Founding Fathers? What do their individual stories tell us about the Founding Fathers as men?

A Plot to Kill Martha Washington?

George Washington died on December 14, 1799. At the time of Washington’s death, there were some 317 slaves living on his Mount Vernon estate in Virginia (123 were owned by Washington outright, forty were rented from a neighbor, and 154 belonged to Martha Washington under the term of her first husband’s will). Under the terms of Washington’s will, his slaves (not including the forty who were rented or the slaves belonging to Martha Washington) were to be freed upon the death of his wife. Only one slave, William Lee was freed outright in Washington’s will.

The terms of the will created an almost immediate problem for Martha Washington. The only thing standing between 123 slaves and their freedom was her life. According to a contemporary letter, Martha Washington “did not feel as tho her Life was safe in their [slaves] Hands”. Martha Washington’s fears may or may not have been misplaced, but they certainly reflected the attitudes of slave owners of her day. The closeness of house servants to their masters, for whom they cooked and washed in the very house where the master slept, made the threat of poisoning terrifying. Nor was this fear groundless. The records of colonial Virginia document the trial of 180 slaves tried for poisoning. Martha freed Washington’s slaves within a year after his death. She never freed her own slaves.

Murder and mayhem at Mount Vernon