June 20, 2014

Congressman Alfred Ely

For more on Ely, his capture, and his captor, go here.

Eliot, Joyce, Gogarty, Jesus

It’s a while since I last read the ‘Nighttown’ episode of Ulysses, but it’s where I opened the book when I took it off  the shelf  this evening, and I kept on reading.  Suddenly I came on something oddly familiar from a different context. It’s at the point in the fantasy when Edward the Seventh […]

CIVIL WAR BATTLES - CORINTH app for Android devices now available at Google Play & Kindle stores

Civil War Battles - CORINTH, my latest wargaming mobile app collaboration with John Tiller Software is now available for Android devices. You can download it from the Google Play and Kindle app stores for only $2.99. Scenario List (16 scenarios): 1. Armstrong's Raid: Middleburg (Historical) - Aug. 30 1862 2. Armstrong's Raid: Britton's Lane (Historical) - Sept. 1 1862 3. Hamilton's Tuscumbia

June 19, 2014

Emily Warren Roebling

The Woman Who Saved the Brooklyn Bridge

Emily Warren Roebling (1843-1903) was married to Washington Roebling, who was Chief Engineer of the Brooklyn Bridge. After her husband was incapacitated by caisson disease (the bends), Emily helped him complete the building of the bridge. First American woman engineer, one source calls her a prioneering example of independence.

Childhood and Early Years
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June 18, 2014

Booknotes III (June '14)

New Arrivals: 1. Guide to the Richmond-Petersburg Campaign by Charles R. Bowery and Ethan S. Rafuse (UP of Kansas, 2014). This is the thickest tome yet from the venerable U.S. Army War College Guides to Civil War Battles series, which isn't surprising given how many sites from the massive 1864-65 campaign it endeavors to cover. It has the series's familiar presentation framework but the maps

June 17, 2014

Did Wilson have a brain malfunction?

This article argues that Wilson had serious issues well before his stroke:
Wilson’s judgment seemed grossly impaired by the war years. He was extraordinarily petulant and irrational by 1918, and contemporaneous observers who were in a position to know commented often on his strange and quirky ways.

In 1919, Wilson’s pre-existing medical and mental conditions arguably led to a breakdown months before his paralytic stroke, which occurred on October 2. The nature of this breakdown could be seen as early as February, in a series of words and actions that prefigured his behavior of November and December, at which point he was clearly out of his mind.

When Wilson sailed to Europe aboard the USS George Washington, he had — typically — no substantive strategy for preventing the kind of vindictive peace that he had warned against in his 1917 “Peace Without Victory” speech. One of the advisers recruited for the U.S. peace delegation, Yale historian Charles Seymour, recalled that Wilson turned to him during the voyage and asked, “What means, Mr. Seymour, can be utilized to bring pressure upon these people in the interest of justice?” It was very late indeed for Wilson to be thinking in these terms, especially after the many missed opportunities in 1917 and 1918 to build the political pre-conditions for “peace without victory.”

This talks about a major shift in his health and behavior:
...something drastic seemed to happen to him on April 28 — something that did not come to light until many years later, when historian Arthur S. Link was editing the Wilson documents from 1919. Let Link and his editorial colleagues tell the story: “It became obvious to us while going through the documents from late April to about mid-May 1919 that Wilson was undergoing some kind of a crisis in his health . . . . Whatever happened to Wilson seems to have occurred when he was signing letters in the morning of April 28” when his handwriting changed and became almost bizarre.

 The editors continue: “Wilson’s handwriting continued to deteriorate even further. It grew increasingly awkward, was more and more heavily inked, and became almost grotesque.” Link summoned some medical specialists who told him that in their own opinion there was simply no doubt about it: Wilson had suffered a stroke on the morning of April 28.

And then he threw away yet another opportunity to strike a blow for “peace without victory.” When the terms of the Versailles treaty were made public there was widespread outrage regarding their severity. David Lloyd George, the British prime minister, was stricken, and he called the British delegation together on June 1. Their decision was unanimous: the terms of the treaty should be softened.

But when Wilson was approached, he declared that the severe terms were perfectly appropriate. According to one account, he proclaimed that “if the Germans won’t sign the treaty as we have written it, then we must renew the war.”

June 10, 2014

Mary Harris Thompson

Pioneer Doctor and Educator of Women in the Medical Professions

Dr. Mary Harris Thompson (1829–1895) was one of the first women to practice medicine in Chicago, and by some accounts the first female surgeon in the US. She was founder, head physician and surgeon of the Chicago Hospital for Women and Children, founder of the Women's Medical College, the first [Read More ...]

June 04, 2014

Quoting Madison

This article talks about how we quote Madison on the Constitution, but Madison is very contradictory:
The publication of Lynne Cheney’s new blockbuster biography of James Madison revives one of our most cherished founding myths: Madison was the “father” (assertive textbook version) or “chief architect” (modification for a more sophisticated audience) of the Constitution. The New York Times headline writers selected “American Architect” to announce Gordon Wood’s review of Cheney’s book. This honorific appellation calls forth Madison’s claim to fame and his tug on our hearts.


Much is at stake here. If Madison were truly the chief architect of the Constitution, what he said and wrote (in 1787) bears heavily on the meaning of that document. Through the informal doctrines of original intent and original meaning, so pervasive in our political culture, Madison’s views become scripture. Then, if we casually omit the key words “in 1787,” what he did, said, or wrote at any time in his career wind up guiding Constitutional interpretation. Madison conceived the Constitution. Madison believed thusly, so that’s what the Constitution says. Our public policy, to follow the Constitution, must follow James Madison. By applying this sloppy syllogism, pundits, politicians, and Supreme Court justices can redirect the course of the nation. It all starts with that initial premise: James Madison, American Architect.


Was Madison the (chief) architect of the Constitution? An architect lays out a plan that that will be put into effect. Even metaphorically, this does not describe James Madison’s relation to the United States Constitution.


In fact, Madison did not always get his way at the Federal Convention of 1787. By one tabulation, he offered an opinion on 71 motions but lost out on 40 of these.1 This is not to denigrate Madison in any way; perhaps we would have been better off if other framers had followed his advice more often. But if Madison had had his way, the edifice created by the Convention would look very different than it does.

Why does this matter according to the author?
Viewing Madison as the architect of the Constitution has political overtones. Madison’s ideological evolution, from his expansive nationalism in 1787 to his advocacy of strict construction and states’ rights in the 1790s, can be and is manipulated into a distorted view of the Constitution’s meaning. If the alleged architect of the Constitution said the powers of the federal government are limited to those that are “expressly delegated” in the Constitution and states have the right to “interpose” between the people and the federal government, enemies of federal power backdate these words, implicitly but erroneously, to 1787. Once there, they become proof positive that the Constitution favored the states. Madison-the-Architect said so.

This unwarranted notion has penetrated to the core of our public discourse. It informs constitutional jurisprudence at the highest levels and affects national policy. In their dissent to the 2012 Affordable Care Act decision, Justices Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito complained that the “power to tax and spend for the general welfare” has unfortunately come to extend “beyond (what Madison thought it meant) taxing and spending for those aspects of the general welfare that were within the Federal Government’s enumerated powers.”18 The words within parentheses speak volumes. “What Madison thought it meant,” in this context, stands for “what the founders thought it meant” and finally “what the Constitution really means.” On this view, Madison supposedly favored a strictly limited government, so that is what the document must prescribe. However misguided, Madison-the-Architect mythology is embedded within the default logic of constitutional reasoning, and it tilts that reasoning subtly yet significantly toward the right.

June 01, 2014

Civil War 150th: Grant's Regret

May 31-June 12, 1864 - Union and Confederate armies meet at the Battle of Cold Harbor. Pushing south after the Battles of the Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant dispatched Maj. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan's cavalry to capture the crossroads of Old Cold Harbor. Taking them on May 31, the Union horse defeated a Confederate counterattack the next morning. Later on June 1, the Union VI and XVIII Corps arrived on the scene and launched a major assault on the Confederate lines. Thrown back, the Union troops dug in after retreating. Wishing to attack again on June 2, Grant was forced to wait until early on June 3. Sending three corps forward against Gen. Robert E. Lee's entrenched army, his troops were cut down en masse and forced to seek cover until they could safely retreat. After pausing for several days, Grant slipped away from Cold Harbor on June 12 and moved south towards the James River and Petersburg. He later admitted that he always regretted the June 3 attack at Cold Harbor.

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May 31, 2014

Some News

This weekend, there's news of bones, castle excavations, manuscript treasure, and more bones.

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Charles the Bald

He was the grandson of Charlemagne and the youngest son of Louis the Pious, and when he was born to his father's second wife, trouble started brewing. He would become ...

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Church, Mosque, Museum ... Mosque?

The magnificent Hagia Sophia cathedral spent several centuries as a mosque before being turned into the museum it is today. Now there's a fairly strong movement among Turkish Muslims to ...

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May 30, 2014

Edward, the Black Prince

The eldest son of Edward III was a renowned military commander and was considered a chivalrous knight. However, he was not quite so successful in governing Aquitaine. And, sadly, he ...

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Wrestling on Mules?

This article from the Guardian about WW1 documents released by Britain's National Archives soon returns to the horror of that conflict. But early on there is some light relief, in the form of a sport's day programme from October 1914 in which soldiers took part in wheelbarrow races, pillow fights and even wrestling on mules for entertainment.

Adam Tooze's New Book Looks Interesting

Many people, myself included, first heard of economic historian Adam Tooze with his critically acclaimed 'The Wages of Destruction: The Making and Breaking of the Nazi Economy'. Well, he's got a new book out looking a little earlier in the century: 'The Deluge: The Great War and the Remaking of Global Order'. If this review in The National is anything to go by it looks a thought provoking, and not necessarily comfortable, work worth a read.

World War I: USS North Dakota (BB-29)

Commissioned in 1910, USS North Dakota (BB-29) (right) was the second ship of the Delaware-class of battleships.  Approved due to the perceived inferiority of the earlier South Carolina-class relative to HMS Dreadnought, the Delaware-class featured ten 12" guns spread through five twin turrets.  Along with its sister ship, North Dakota was a key asset for the Atlantic Fleet in the years before World War I.  Largely operating in the Atlantic and Caribbean, it aided in the US occupation of Veracruz in 1914. With the US entry into World War I in 1917, North Dakota was ordered to remain in home waters due chronic issues with its engines.  Operating in the Chesapeake Bay, it trained gunners and engineers for the fleet.  Resuming normal duties with the Atlantic Fleet after the war's end in November 1918, it continued in this role until being retired in 1923.  Converted to a target ship, North Dakota fulfilled this duty until 1930.  It was later sold for scrap in 1931.

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May 28, 2014

News Roundup

This week there are several archaeological discoveries, including another vampire burial, and the opportunity to smell like a Viking. Assuming you'd want to.

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Augustine of Hippo

By fusing classical philosophy and Christian doctrine in his many writings, Augustine set forth ideas that would profoundly influence medieval thought. A bishop, a saint, and a Doctor of the ...

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Russo-Japanese War: Russians Crushed at Tsushima

May 27-28, 1905 - The Japanese destroy the Russian fleet at the Battle of Tsushima. Following several reverses in the conflict, Tsar Nicholas II dispatched five divisions of the Baltic Fleet to the Pacific to aid in breaking the siege of Port Arthur and to reclaim naval supremacy from the Japanese. Forced to steam around Africa, the Russian fleet, led by Admiral Zinovy Rozhestvensky, traveled over 18,000 miles before approaching the Strait of Tsushima. Having been informed of Port Arthur's fall, it was Rozhestvensky's goal to make for Vladivostok. Alerted to the Russian fleet's approach, Japanese Admiral Togo Heihachiro sortied the Combined Fleet and moved to intercept them in the strait. Attacking on May 27, Togo's skilled gunners pounded the Russian fleet's older battleships, sinking four. As the sun set, Togo unleashed torpedo boats upon Rozhestvensky's battered ships. When the fighting ended late on May 28, the Russian fleet was effectively destroyed with 21 ships sunk and 6 captured. Japanese losses in the stunning victory were only 3 torpedo boats.

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May 26, 2014

May 24, 2014

World War II: British Escape Dunkirk

May 25, 1940 - British General Lord Gort decides to evacuate troops from France (right) beginning the Battle of Dunkirk. On May 24, 1940, Hitler urged General Gerd von Rundstedt to push forward the infantry of Army Group B with the goal of destroying the British Expeditionary Force in northern France. The next day, with the Allied situation in France rapidly decaying, the commander of the BEF, General Lord Gort, made the decision to evacuate his force back to England. Retreating 30 miles northwest, the BEF and other Allied forces formed a pocket around the port of Dunkirk. To remove the forces from the Dunkirk pocket, the Royal Navy organized Operation Dynamo. Using destroyers, merchant ships, and over 700 "little ships" (privately owned, smaller boats), rescue operations began on May 26. Despite Luftwaffe attacks, the evacuation proceeded for nine days ultimately rescuing 338,226 men. Among these were 139,997 French, Belgian, and Dutch soldiers. Though much of their heavy equipment was lost in France, the successful evacuation ensured that Britain would be able to continue the war against Germany.

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May 23, 2014

NOVA Cold Case JFK

I taped the NOVA Cold Case on JFK quite awhile ago and just finally got to watching it.   This wasn't a bad program, talking about all the various angles of this extremely complex assassination story.  Conspiracy theories sprouted up almost immediately and this talked about some new ways to look at the bullet evidence.  What I found most interesting was the information about how the evidence got mixed up over time, for the most part, completely unintentionally.  I did also like that the conclusion was pretty much there was no conspiracy theory.  I'm sure this won't change many people's mind, but I enjoyed it and liked the tests and found it nicely laid out to really showcase what we do know and how what we know has gotten muddled. 

Highs and Lows of WW1 Relationships

I'm pointing you to two news stories this week, both about relationships during World War 1. The Daily Mail have the tragic tale of Mr and Mrs Critchley, who killed themselves rather than be parted when Mr. had to go to war. A sad story, so I'm also mentioning the darkly heartwarming story of Mr and Mrs Oldham from History Extra...

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New This Month: May Part 3

More Industrial Revolution this week, as we tackle the question of whether it was really a revolution, or actually an evolution. We also look at one of the landmark buildings of the era in the Iron Bridg...

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May 22, 2014

War of the Spanish Succession: Marlborough Triumphant at Ramillies

May 23, 1706 - The Duke of Marlborough (left) crushes the French at the Battle of Ramillies. Advancing through the the Spanish Netherlands, an army of the Grand Alliance, led by the Duke of Marlborough, encountered a mixed French-Bavarian army led by the Duc de Villeroi near Ramillies. Occupying a position along a ridge with his forces occupying the villages of Autre Eglise, Offus, Ramillies, and Taviers, Villeroi prepared to fight a defensive battle. Advancing Dutch infantry on his left, Marlborough was able to capture Taviers and destabilize the French right flank. Pushing on the left against Autre Eglise, he forced Villeroi to shift his forces to meet this threat. This led to a weakening of the French center around Ramillies. Sending his infantry forward against the village, Marlborough also ordered his cavalry to attack to the south. As both fights raged, the Duke shifted forces from his right to build numerical superiority at the points of attack. This movement was not noticed by Villeroi and soon the French were at a disadvantage. The first breakthrough came when the Danish cavalry pierced the French lines and turned their flank. This was quickly followed by a penetration in Ramillies. With their lines crumbling, Villeroi's army began to collapse which quickly deteriorated into a rout.

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May 20, 2014

World War I: USS Delaware (BB-28)

Entering service in 1910, USS Delaware (BB-28) (right) was the lead ship of its class of battleship.  Authorized due to the perceived inferiority of the earlier South Carolina-class relative to HMS Dreadnought, the Delaware-class featured ten 12" guns spread through five twin turrets.  Along with its sister, USS North Dakota, Delaware formed part of the backbone of the Atlantic Fleet in the years prior to World War I.  After supporting the US occupation of Veracruz in 1914, the battleship sailed for Britain after the US entered World War I in 1917.  Serving in the 6th Battle Squadron based at Scapa Flow, Delaware helped escort convoys in the North Sea as well as took part in the operations of the British Grand Fleet.  Returning home in the summer of 1918, it remained active until 1923.  Decommissioned late that year, it was sold for scrap in February 1924.

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May 18, 2014

American Civil War: Victory at Champion Hill

May 16, 1863 - Union forces triumph at the Battle of Champion Hill.  Having crossed the Mississippi River on April 30, 1863, Maj. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant (right) commenced a campaign against the Confederate fortress of Vicksburg, MS.  Located on bluff overlooking the river, the town was critical to controlling traffic on the waterway.  Capturing Jackson, MS, Grant turned west towards Vicksburg and sought to engage Lt. Gen. John C. Pemberton's army.  Having fought with his superior, Gen. Joseph E. Johnston, over strategy, Pemberton found himself halfway between Vicksburg and Jackson.  Ordered to assault Grant's rear on May 16, he found himself under attack at the Battle of Champion Hill before he could act.  In a back and forth fight, Grant overwhelmed the Confederates and drove them from the field.  A key victory for the Union, it ensured that Pemberton and Johnston could not unite and forced the former's army back towards Vicksburg.  Fighting would be renewed the next day when Grant's men triumphed at the Battle of Big Black River Bridge...

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May 16, 2014

New This Month: May Part 2

This week we look at the railways, whose mania gripped Britain during the Industrial Revolution, and the textiles industry, often called the sector which drove the revolution.

Christopher Clark on Tim Butcher's New Book

The Guardian newspaper has published an article by Christopher Clark, author of an excellent recent book about World War One's start, on a new work by Tim Butcher all about Gavrilo Princip. The latter was the man whose assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand provided a spark for World War One, and the review (and seemingly Butcher's book) ranges widely on the events then and the tragic history of the region all too close to now.

New Quiz: Medieval Terms II

How well do you know your medieval terminology? If you've visited our glossary, you may know it pretty well. So test yourself in our new Medieval Terms Quiz, ...

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World War II: The Dambusters Strike

May 17, 1943 - British bombers conduct the famous Dambuster Raids. Seeking to inflict damage on water and electricity production in the Ruhr, the Royal Air Force's Bomber Command began planning a raid on the dams at Möhne, Sorpe, and Eder. For the mission, a specially designed "bouncing bomb" known as Upkeep was designed by Barnes Wallis. Spun backwards in the bomb bay of specially modified Avro Lancaster bombers, the bomb was intended to skip over the water before sinking and detonating at the base of the dam. To undertake the raid, a new unit, 617 Squadron, was created under the command of Wing Commander Guy Gibson. Taking off in three groups on May 17, Gibson led successful attacks against the Möhne and Eder dams. The second group suffered heavy losses during the outbound flight and was reinforced by aircraft from the reserve third group. Striking the earthen dam at Sorpe, they failed to breach it. Though the military effects of the mission were short-term, its overall success provided a high boost to British morale.

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May 14, 2014

The "Maleficent Ecology" of Civil War history

From Baudrillard's essay "Maleficent Ecology": By producing highly centralized structures ... by remorselessly condensing down functions and models, we are transforming all the rest into waste, residue, useless relics. How much Civil War history has been transformed into "waste, residue" by the prevailing narratives and the huckster authors who haunt this corner of the nonfiction world?

Civil War 150th: VMI Cadets Help Win Battle of New Market

May 15, 1864 - Confederate forces win the Battle of New Market. Operating in conjunction with Lieutenant Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's main advance in Virginia, Major General Franz Sigel marched into the Shenandoah Valley in May 1864. Tasked with clearing the area of Confederate forces, Sigel began moving up the Valley. To block this Union thrust, Major General John C. Breckinridge gathered what Confederate troops he could find including the 257-man Corps of Cadets from the Virginia Military Institute. Encountering Sigel near New Market on May 15, Breckinridge formed his men for battle, but deliberately placed the cadets in the reserves with hope that the boys, aged 15 to 21, would not be needed. Advancing on Sigel's position, the Confederate lines were hit hard with artillery and musket fire. Seeing Breckinridge's line faltering, Sigel ordered his men to attack. With a gap forming in his lines, Breckinridge ordered the cadets forward into the breach. Meeting the Union charge, the Confederates held and then launched a counterattack. Surging forward with the cadets in the lead, Breckinridge's men drove the Union troops from the field, forcing Sigel to retreat down the Valley. The Battle of New Market cost VMI ten cadets who either died during the fighting or later from their wounds.

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May 12, 2014

May 09, 2014

New This Month: May Part 1

Continuing our coverage of the Industrial Revolution, we begin to look at transport. As well as an overview of what changed, we examine the often overlooked roads, and then at the far better known canals: how the revolution changed them, and how they changed the revolution.

Some Fun: Man finds Air Raid Shelter while Digging Pond

I've dug a lot in my back garden, but I've never uncovered a World War 2 air raid shelter, unlike the man in this Portsmouth News story. Jealous? Yes, very.

May 08, 2014

May 07, 2014

In the News

This week, just a few items about treasure and science.

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Copperhead, the film

Bill Kaufmann and Tom Woods discuss the Kaufmann/Maxwell film Copperhead and make a few interesting points. I paraphrase and summarize: Woods: Do we not today use "The North"* as a foil** against "the South"*? Kaufmann: The greatest anachronism in an historical film is to have a character reflect 21st Century ideas and values. Woods: The Liberty Party received 2% of the vote before the Civil

May 06, 2014

May 05, 2014

May 03, 2014

The D-Day Crosswords

This Telegraphy article narrates a story that's been in the public domain for a while now, and is being retold because the central crosswords are being collected by the paper. But if you want a tale involving war, alleged skulduggery, the difficulties of secrets, crosswords and a potential leak of D-Day details, you won't be disappointed.

Well that’s a New Festival Experience

I've been to a few fairs with re-enactors, but I've never been to one where people had re-created medieval injuries. However, according to this Sussex Express article the Lewes Chalklife Festival featured a 'Medieval Medicine' stand where children could be made up in all manner of hideous ways.

April 30, 2014

Emperor Phocas

History is written by the victors, which is one reason why Phocas has had such a bad reputation through the centuries. After overthrowing Emperor Maurice, Phocas faced a plethora of challenges, and he would not conquer them all. Perhaps it was a matter of inexperience, or maybe he really was a jerk. But you can probably guess his ending.

Or maybe you can't, 'cause it was fairly, um... Well, find out for yourself in Emperor Phocas' Who's Who Profile.

History of the Easter Egg Roll

So this is a little late, but the National First Ladies Library Blog did a nice 5 part piece on the history of the Easter Egg roll at the White House.

Check out this blurb from Part 2:
Documentation does show, however, that a far more obscure First Lady was likely the first to appear at a White House Easter Egg Roll event.

In his memoirs, White House clerk William Crook recorded the fact that, despite her chronic condition of tuberculosis limiting most of her public appearances on the state floor at public social events, First Lady Eliza Johnson came out onto the South Portico to watch her five little grandchildren rolling colored eggs on Easter Monday and taking great delight in watching their games.

There was no mention, however, about whether there were other children present.

What is established as fact is that, formally or informally, sometime before or after the Civil War era, children of Washington were coming to the greensward of the U.S. Capitol Building the Monday after Easter Sunday, where its sweeping lawn provided the perfect place to hold contests to see who could roll their brightly-colored dyed Easter eggs along with a spoon the fastest.

April 27, 2014

Emperor Maurice

Maurice is credited with helping to create an organized, well-run Byzantine Empire, and he was a notable military leader. When he succeeded Tiberius II to the throne, he discovered that the empire was in a bad financial situation. So he raised taxes -- which, as you can imagine, did nothing to engender warm, fuzzy feelings from the people. Lots of rulers are disliked for their parsimony, but Maurice's reputation for miserliness would prove catastrophic for him.

Find out more about Emperor Maurice in his Who's Who Profile.

April 24, 2014

Nixon's Baseball Picks

Want a spring time video? Check out Nixon talking about his baseball picks!

April 18, 2014

Wilson's Letter to the Pope

You can read Wilson's reply to a letter by the Pope in 1917:
To His Holiness Benedictus XV, Pope:

In acknowledgment of the communication of Your Holiness to the belligerent peoples, dated August 1, 1917, the President of the United States requests me to transmit the following reply:

Every heart that has not been blinded and hardened by this terrible war must be touched by this moving appeal of His Holiness the Pope, must feel the dignity and force of the humane and generous motives which prompted it, and must fervently wish that we might take the path of peace he so persuasively points out. But it would be folly to take it if it does not in fact lead to the goal he proposes. Our response must be based upon the stern facts and upon nothing else. It is not a mere cessation of arms he desires; it is a stable and enduring peace. This agony must not be gone through with again, and it must be a matter of very sober judgment that will insure us against it.

His Holiness in substance proposes that we return to the status quo ante bellum, and that then there be a general condonation, disarmament, and a concert of nations based upon an acceptance of the principle of arbitration; that by a similar concert freedom of the seas be established; and that the territorial claims of France and Italy, the perplexing problems of the Balkan States, and the restitution of Poland be left to such conciliatory adjustments as may be possible in the new temper of such a peace, due regard being paid to the aspirations of the peoples whose political fortunes and affiliations will be involved.

It is manifest that no part of this program can be successfully carried out unless the restitution of the status quo ante furnishes a firm and satisfactory basis for it. The object of this war is to deliver the free peoples of the world from the menace and the actual power of a vast military establishment controlled by an irresponsible government which, having secretly planned to dominate the world, proceeded to carry the plan out without regard either to the sacred obligations of treaty or the long-established practices and long-cherished principles of international action and honor; which chose its own time for the war; delivered its blow fiercely and suddenly; stopped at no barrier either of law or of mercy; swept a whole continent within the tide of bloodпїЅnot the blood of soldiers only, but the blood of innocent women and children also and of the helpless poor; and now stands balked but not defeated, the enemy of four-fifths of the world. This power is not the German people. It is the ruthless master of the German people. It is no business of ours how that great people came under its control or submitted with temporary zest to the domination of its purpose; but it is our business to see to it that the history of the rest of the world is no longer left to its handling.

To deal with such a power by way of peace upon the plan proposed by His Holiness the Pope would, so far as we can see, involve a recuperation of its strength and a renewal of its policy; would make it necessary to create a permanent hostile combination of nations against the German people who are its instruments; and would result in abandoning the newborn Russia to the intrigue, the manifold subtle interference, and the certain counter-revolution which would be attempted by all the malign influences to which the German Government has of late accustomed the world. Can peace be based upon a restitution of its power or upon any word of honor it could pledge in a treaty of settlement and accommodation?

Responsible statesmen must now everywhere see, if they never saw before, that no peace can rest securely upon political or economic restrictions meant to benefit some nations and cripple or embarrass others, upon vindictive action of any sort, or any kind of revenge or deliberate injury. The American people have suffered intolerable wrongs at the hands of the Imperial German Government, but they desire no reprisal upon the German people who have themselves suffered all things in this war which they did not choose. They believe that peace should rest upon the rights of peoples, not the rights of GovernmentsпїЅthe rights of peoples great or small, weak or powerfulпїЅtheir equal right to freedom and security and self-government and to a participation upon fair terms in the economic opportunities of the world, the German people of course included if they will accept equality and not seek domination.

The test, therefore, of every plan of peace is this: Is it based upon the faith of all the peoples involved or merely upon the word of an ambitious and intriguing government on the one hand and of a group of free peoples on the other? This is a test which goes to the root of the matter; and it is the test which must be applied.

The purposes of the United States in this war are known to the whole world, to every people to whom the truth has been permitted to come. They do not need to be stated again. We seek no material advantage of any kind. We believe that the intolerable wrongs done in this war by the furious and brutal power of the Imperial German Government ought to be repaired, but not at the expense of the sovereignty of any peopleпїЅrather a vindication of the sovereignty both of those that are weak and of those that are strong. Punitive damages, the dismemberment of empires, the establishment of selfish and exclusive economic leagues, we deem inexpedient and in the end worse than futile, no proper basis for a peace of any kind, least of all for an enduring peace. That must be based upon justice and fairness and the common rights of mankind.

We cannot take the word of the present rulers of Germany as a guaranty of anything that is to endure, unless explicitly supported by such conclusive evidence of the will and purpose of the German people themselves as the other peoples of the world would be justified in accepting. Without such guaranties treaties of settlement, agreements for disarmament, covenants to set up arbitration in the place of force, territorial adjustments, reconstitutions of small nations, if made with the German Government, no man, no nation could now depend on. We must await some new evidence of the purposes of the great peoples of the central powers. God grant it may be given soon and in a way to restore the confidence of all peoples everywhere in the faith of nations and the possibility of a covenanted peace.
Robert Lansing,
Secretary of State of the United States of America
 

April 16, 2014

JFK's Harvard Application

This is a fun little thing - you can read JFK's Harvard application online!  Thoughts on this essay:
Business Insider dismisses the essay for being five sentences long (I'm not sure how much more he could have written given the space) and implies that his answer wasn't carefully considered. That's probably true—Kennedy's grades show that he wasn't an especially good student in high school, and there's not much evidence that he took his education seriously at this point in his life. Plus, as Gawker points out, Kennedy wrote nearly exactly the same essay for his Princeton application.

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Still, Kennedy's essay shows a profound, if implicit, understanding of the primary value of attending an elite school: status and personal connections, rather than mastery of academic skills and knowledge. Notice that he only makes one mention of the education he'd receive at Harvard—a passing reference to the school's superior "liberal education." The rest of the paragraph focuses on the the non-academic benefits: having a "better background," sharing the same alma mater with his dad, and enjoying the "enviable distinction" of being a Harvard Man.

April 15, 2014

April 10, 2014

New Funeral Photos?

Two new photos of Lincoln's funeral procession might have been found:
Paul Taylor, 60, of Columbia, a retired federal government accountant, believes the scene is on Broadway, outside New York’s historic Grace Church.

The day is Tuesday, April 25, 1865, 11 days after Lincoln was shot at Ford’s Theatre in Washington.
 
And the crowd is waiting for, and then seems to be paying homage before, a horse-drawn hearse, whose motion makes it appear as a black blur as it passes by in the second picture.
If Taylor is right, scholars say he has identified rare photos of Lincoln’s marathon funeral rites, as well as images that show mourners honoring the slain chief executive.
 
Plus, it appears that the photographs were taken from an upper window of the studio of famed Civil War photographer Mathew Brady, which was across the street from the church.
 
“It’s a big deal,” said Richard Sloan, an expert on the Lincoln funeral ceremonies in New York.
 
“What makes it even a bigger deal is to be able to study the people. Even though you can’t see faces that well, just studying the people tells a story.”
 
Sloan added, “It’s as if you’re there, and you can see the mood.”
 
Many people, including children, are in their Sunday best. A few look up at the camera. Flowers are in bloom. But there is no levity.
 
Sloan said he is convinced that the pictures show the funeral scenes: “There’s no doubt about it.”
 
But experts at the Archives caution that although the theory sounds good, there could be other explanations, and no way to prove it conclusively.

April 05, 2014

Lincoln's son and College

So we all worry about college entrance exams, but imagine you are Lincoln's son.  In 1859, Robert Todd Lincoln failed his entrance exams to Harvard and had to go to Phillips Exeter Academy to improve his academics.

So what happens to Robert?
Robert Todd was accepted into Harvard in 1861, his father now in the White House and the country embroiled in war. At school, he was an average student with an active social life. But he rarely got letters like the one his father wrote to Latham. "I do not possess a single letter written by my father," the president's son said later. "When I was in college he was, of course, too much occupied to be writing me, except very rarely; and it never occurred to me then to keep those letters." 

The thing that "too much occupied" President Lincoln was, of course, the Civil War—not the best time for Robert Todd to be sending home mediocre grade reports. 

Despite all the heartache over admissions, the young Lincoln became a Harvard graduate in 1864, proving that even college rejections aren't the end of the world.

April 04, 2014

Nixon and the FBI

Did you know that Nixon applied for to be a FBI agent?  I can actually see him in the FBI, I have to say....anyway, check out this cool interactive view at his application!
“It is a nice window into a moment in Richard Nixon’s life that people probably don’t think about,” says Jennifer Johnson, the exhibition’s curator. “He has just finished law school, and like everyone, he is clearly trying to figure out what he wants to do.”

As the story goes, Nixon attended a lecture by an FBI special agent while studying at Duke. Just before he graduated with his law degree in June, 1937, he formally applied to the bureau. He was contacted for an interview, which he did in July of that year, and completed a physical exam at the request of J. Edgar Hoover, director of the FBI. But, after that, it was radio silence. He never received a response.

On June 11, 1954, the then-Vice President Richard Nixon spoke at the FBI National Academy’s graduation. Hoover actually introduced him, saying that he took special pleasure in doing so, because Nixon had once applied to the bureau. “Having already embarked upon the practice of law, the FBI’s loss ultimately became the country’s gain,” remarked Hoover. Nixon, in a later address to the academy, said, “he never heard anything from that application.”

March 31, 2014

Ida's tiara

Ida McKinley's tiara was featured on Pawn Stars.  The McKinley museum is trying to raise the money to bring the tiara back home to Canton:
Wm. McKinley Presidential Library & Museum has started a fund-raising campaign to purchase the diamond-crusted tiara from “Pawn Stars” celebrity Rick Harrison for the amount he purchased it — $43,000 — from a Canton family.


“We knew it existed. We borrowed it twice to display at special events,” said Kimberly Kenney, curator at the McKinley museum. “It came down through Ida’s sister’s family. When we borrowed it, it belonged to a woman who was a great-great-neice of Ida’s. She passed away and it was her family that sold it.”