Saturday, September 26, 2020

Woodrow Wilson’s “Beast”


At the Woodrow Wilson Museum, Staunton, Virginia

Woodrow Wilson returned from the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 to be greeted by cheering crowds and this gleaming new Pierce-Arrow limousine.

Leased by the U.S. Government, this car quickly became the President’s favorite. One of the finest luxury cars of the day, Pierce-Arrow sold cars to the Emperor of Japan, the Shah of Persia, the King of Greece and royalty throughout Europe and the Middle East.  The company was often referred to as “the American Rolls-Royce.”

When Wilson left office, five of his wealthy Princeton classmates bought the car and presented it as a gift to the ex-president.  Although the first president to join the American Automobile Association (AAA), Wilson never had a driver’s license.  His wife Edith, however, owned and drove her own electric car.

Edith Wilson and her electric car

Saturday, September 19, 2020

John Singleton Mosby After the War


As a child, John Singleton Mosby was small, sickly and was often the target of bullying. He would respond by fighting back. During the course of the Civil War Mosby was wounded seven times. For someone who had been a sickly youth, he proved quite resilient, dying at the age of 82 on May 30, 1916.

Northern Virginia was a region of small and scattered communities set amid gently rolling hills.  It was an ideal area for cavalry operations; and in the last three years of the war Mosby's horsemen so dominated activities in the area that it was often called "Mosby's Confederacy". 

Mosby never officially surrendered to Federal forces.  Mosby wrote of his exploits, “It is a classical maxim that it is sweet and becoming to die for one's country; but whoever has seen the horrors of a battlefield feels that it is far sweeter to live for it.”

Mosby disapproved of slavery but once said,  “I am not ashamed of having fought on the side of slavery – a soldier fights for his country – right or wrong – he is not responsible for the political merits of the course he fights in . . . The South was my country.”

After the war, the thirty one year old Mosby opened a law office in Warrenton, Virginia and lived in a large white house at 173 Main Street for nine years.  When he decided to support President Grant and the Republican Party, many called him a turncoat. One night someone shot at Mosby after he disembarked from a train at the depot.

Mosby went on to become a distinguished railway lawyer.  He also served as U.S. consul to Hong Kong and in several other Federal government posts.  Although Mosby’s war time exploits have been romanticized, he himself once said that there was, “no man in the Confederate Army who had less of the spirit of knight-errantry in him, or took a more practical view of war than I did.”


Love, Sex, and Marriage in the Civil War

 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.

Civil War Humor 1861-1865

 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.

Sunday, September 06, 2020

The Strange Case of the Republic of Fredonia (Fredonia, Texas)


If you have ever heard of the nation of “Fredonia”, you probably associate it with a mythical European state portrayed in the Marx Brothers' classic film Duck Soup.


There was, however, an actual, all be it short lived, independent state of “Fredonia” carved out in East Texas and centered on the modern day city of Nacogdoches (population 33,500).


In the early 1800’s, the Republic of Mexico granted land and privileges to so called empresarios  who agreed to bring settlers into the sparsely inhabited areas of Texas.  The empresarios pledged loyalty to Mexico, but in reality were a long way from the population centers of Mexico and became quite independent.  Stephen Austin was the most famous of these empresarios, but there were others, including one Haden Edwards.


In September 1825, Haden Edwards acquired a grant from Mexico to settle eight hundred families in an area that included Nacogdoches. Edwards posted notices in Nacogdoches demanding that all current landowners show evidence of their claims or forfeit their land to him. Edwards’ high handed methods alienated the existing population.  Ill feelings festered until authorities in Mexico annulled the Edwards land grant in 1826 and ordered Edwards to leave Texas.


Lt. Col. Mateo Ahumada, set out from San Antonio with 110 infantrymen and twenty mounted troopers to enforce the expulsion order.   Edwards, in turn, vowed to recruit an army and win independence from Mexico.  Edwards named his new country the Republic of Fredonia, and hurriedly sought to finalize a treaty with the nearby Cherokee to strengthen his hand.  Edwards also petitioned Stephen Austin for aid.  Not only did Austin refuse to help the revolution, but he also sent one hundred militiamen to support the Mexican army.


Haden Edwards appointed his brother, Benjamin, to lead the new nation, while he went to the United States to raise support. Benjamin Edwards gathered a band of thirty loyal men and rode to Nacogdoches. The rebels seized control of the Old Stone Fort and ripped down the Mexican flag, re-placing it with the flag of Fredonia.


The new republic only survived a few weeks. When the Mexican army arrived on January 31, 1827, the revolutionaries fled across the border into the United States without firing a shot.

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.

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.

Friday, September 04, 2020

John Singleton Mosby and the Sabre


                                                     John S. Mosby

Recollections of J.F. Breazeale published in Manassas Journal, September 25, 1914

“A few weeks ago I had the good fortune to spend one of the most pleasant days of my life out upon the battlefield (Manassas Battlefield) with the Colonel.  He had not seen the battlefield in fifty three yers and while his step was probably not quite as elastic as it was then, his memory was just as clear as it was when he rode upon the field July 21, 1861.  Here was a man who brought a new system into cavalry tactics.  He has the utmost contempt for the sabre.  “I never saw a man killed with a sabre cut during the war,” he said.  “I remember very well one day in 1861, we charged into a regiment of Yankee cavalry.  A great big cavalry man, weighing over two hundred pounds, rode straight at me.  I hardly weighed a hundred and twenty.  He rose is the saddle and struck overhand with all his might.  My right arm was up in this position,” said the Colonel (holding up his arm as if in the act of firing pistol).  I dodged my head to the left and the blow struck me squarely on the shoulder.  It made a black place there for a week or two but it did not hurt me any.  I was always glad of this encounter as it proved to me the absolute worthlessness of the sabre."

                                          Mosby's Grave, Warrenton, Virginia

                                                        Civil War Humor 1861-1865

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.