Thursday, August 17, 2017

Ulysses S. Grant on the Next Civil War



Ulysses S. Grant's vision of the next civil war seems disturbingly correct.  He said that a future civil war will not be based on geography. He believed the conflict will take place "between patriotism, & intelligence on one side, & superstition, ambition, and ignorance on the other."  

State Department employee, Keith Mines has spent his career in the U.S. Army Special Forces, the United Nations, and State Department navigating civil wars in other countries, including Afghanistan, Colombia, El Salvador, Iraq, Somalia, and Sudan. Mines concluded that the United States faces a sixty-per-cent chance of civil war over the next ten to fifteen years. Other experts interviewed by Foreign Policy  magazine predicted probabilities ranging from five per cent to ninety-five per cent. The consensus was thirty-five per cent.

Based on his experience in civil wars on three continents, Mines cited five conditions that support his prediction: "entrenched national polarization, with no obvious meeting place for resolution; increasingly divisive press coverage and information flows; weakened institutions, notably Congress and the judiciary; a sellout or abandonment of responsibility by political leadership; and the legitimization of violence as the 'in' way to either conduct discourse or solve disputes."[1]

Joni Avram writing in the Chronicle Journal reports that "various commentators have concluded that America is in the throes of its second civil war." Dennis Prager, a conservative radio host, believes  that the political left and right share no common value system. He says that the two sides cannot collaborate over core beliefs. Prager argues that the only way the new civil war will end is when one side “vanquishes” the other. 

Avram cites as evidence social channels "where the idea of respectful dialogue and consideration of opinions is long gone." 

According to the 2008 book The Big Sort, American have segregated themselves into "siloed communities" for years. However, the trend has intensified over the past forty years. People are choosing to live in homogeneous communities with others who share their political, religious and social points of view. This isolates them from people with a different mindset.

Cable news fosters this polarization by allowing people to watch coverage that reinforces their beliefs. Trends like home-schooling allow parents to keep strict control over which ideas their children are exposed to. Observers have likewise commented with alarm over the growing resistance by universities to welcome diversified thought.

This is dangerous because studies suggest that when a group is ideologically homogeneous, its members tend to grow more extreme. As a result, The Big Sort author Bill Bishop says that America "is splitting into balkanized communities whose inhabitants find other Americans to be culturally incomprehensible” and "culturally reprehensible." As the country becomes more polarized, debates turn into shouting matches and consensus on critical issues is "elusive."[2]

Faced with polarization and isolation we need to find an arena to have informed and courteous discussions. The issue we should be debating is how Americans can work together to uncover our common interests, identify areas that we have different opinions, respect opposite beliefs, and find solutions satisfactory to both sides. The lack of compromise caused the American Civil War to begin and catapult the nation into four years of war.  

[1] Robin Wright, "Is America Headed for a New Kind of Civil War?" The New Yorker, August 14, 2017. 
[2] Joni Avram, "Feuding ideologies next civil war?" Chronicle Journal,  August 17, 2017.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

What About African-American Monuments


In the dialogue between those who want to keep Confederate monuments at their current location and those who want to remove them historians have missed an important part of the historic record - the role African-Americans played in winning the war and ending slavery.

According to Black Soldiers in the Civil War, by the end of the Civil War, approximately 179,000 black men (10% of the Union Army) served as soldiers in the US Army and another 19,000 served in the Navy. Nearly 40,000 black soldiers died during the of the war including 30,000 who died from infection or disease. Black soldiers served in artillery and infantry and performed all noncombat support functions that sustain an army. Black carpenters, chaplains, cooks, guards, laborers, nurses, scouts, spies, steamboat pilots, surgeons, and teamsters also contributed to the war cause. There were nearly eighty black commissioned officers. Black women, who could not formally join the Army,  served as nurses, spies, and scouts. The most famous of which was Harriet Tubman, who scouted for the Second South Carolina Volunteers.

Because of prejudice against them, black units were not used in combat as extensively as they might have been. Nevertheless, the soldiers served with distinction in a number of battles. Black infantrymen fought at Milliken's Bend, Louisiana;  Port Hudson, Louisiana; Petersburg, Virginia; and Nashville, Tennessee. In the July 1863 assault on Fort Wagner, South Carolina, the Fifty-Fourth Regiment of Massachusetts Volunteers lost two-thirds of their officers and half of their troops.
Battle of Milliken's Bend, Louisiana
Wikipedia compiled a list of 138 USCT infantry regiments, 6 cavalry regiments, and 15 artillery units.

Black troops faced greater peril than white troops when captured by the Confederate Army. In 1863, the Confederate Congress threatened to severely punish officers of black troops and to enslave black soldiers. As a result, President Lincoln issued General Order 233, threatening reprisal on Confederate prisoners of war for any mistreatment of black troops. Although the threat generally restrained the Confederates, black captives were typically treated more harshly than white captives. In perhaps the most heinous known example of abuse, Confederate soldiers shot to death black Union soldiers captured at the Fort Pillow, Tennessee, engagement of 1864.



54th Massachusetts Monument
Boston, Massachusetts
Where are the monuments to these men? There are more than you might expect. The CivilWarTalk blog lists thirty sites. At least fifteen of these monuments were erected in the past twenty years. Perhaps this activity is due to the 1989 movie Glory that celebrates the 54th Massachusetts.






Corinth, Mississippi Visitor Center

The following images from sites in Corinth, Mississippi are among my favorites. They illustrate how important literacy was to liberated African-Americans. They show US Colored Soldiers giving books to the former slaves. The ability to read and search for knowledge was denied to slaves.

Corinth Contraband Camp 

Corinth Contraband Camp











1. The Connecticut Twenty-Ninth Colored Regiment, C. V. Infantry; New Haven, Connecticut.
2. The African-American Civil War Memorial - The Spirit Of Freedom; Washington, District of Columbia
3. Memorial to Robert Gould Shaw and the Massachusetts 54th Regiment; Washington, District of Columbia
4. 2nd Regiment Infantry, U.S. Colored Troops; Fort Myers, Florida
5. Colored Soldiers Monument (AKA Kentucky African American Civil War Veterans Monument); Frankfort, Kentucky
6. In Memory of More Than 400 Prominent United States Colored Troops from Kent County; Chestertown, Maryland
7. Memorial to Robert Gould Shaw and the Massachusetts 54th Regiment; Boston, Massachusetts
8. African American Monument; Vicksburg, Mississippi
9. 1st Kansas Colored Infantry Civil War Monument - “Battle of Island Mound;” Butler, Missouri
10. 56th United States Colored Troops Monument; St. Louis, Missouri
11. Soldiers’ Memorial at Lincoln University, Missouri; Jefferson City, Missouri
12. In Memory of the Colored Union Soldiers; Hertford, North Carolina
13. Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument, Cleveland, Ohio
14. United States Colored Troops National Monument; Nashville, Tennessee
15. West Point Monument (AKA Norfolk African-American Civil War Memorial); Norfolk, Virginia
16. Civil War Monument; Portsmouth, Virginia
17. Freedom Park; Helena, Arkansas
18. African American Soldiers Monument; Danbury, Connecticut
19. African American Medal Of Honor Recipients Memorial; Wilmington, Delaware
20. African American Civil War Monument; Decatur, Illinois
21. Union Monument at Fort Butler; Donaldsonville, Louisiana
22. United States Colored Troops Civil War Memorial Monument; Lexington Park, Maryland
23. 54th Regiment Massachusetts Voluntary Infantry Plaza; New Bedford, Massachusetts
24. Corinth Contraband Camp; Corinth, Mississippi
25. Monument to 26th Regiment United States Colored Infantry; Ithaca, New York
26. All Wars Memorial to Colored Soldiers & Sailors in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
27. Camp William Penn Memorial; Cheltenham, Pennsylvania 
28. Monument to the 1st Regiment, Kansas Colored Volunteers, Honey Springs Battlefield; Checotah, Oklahoma
29. Monument at Petersburg National Battlefield; Petersburg, Virginia
30. Memorial to the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteers; Cabin Creek Battlefield near Pensacola, Oklahoma

I think that you could plan a trip to several sites as part of African-Americans in the Civil War Tour. I would start at the African American Civil War Museum in Washington, DC. Then visit the African-American Civil War Memorial - The Spirit Of Freedom in Washington. The following sites could be visited as part of Eastern US tour:  Memorial to Robert Gould Shaw and the Massachusetts 54th Regiment in Washington, DC; African American Medal Of Honor Recipients Memorial in Wilmington, Delaware; Camp William Penn Memorial in Cheltenham, Pennsylvania (near Philadelphia); All Wars Memorial to Colored Soldiers & Sailors in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; 54th Regiment Massachusetts Voluntary Infantry Plaza in New Bedford, Massachusetts; Memorial to Robert Gould Shaw and the Massachusetts 54th Regimen in Boston, Massachusetts; African American Soldiers Monument in Danbury, Connecticut. 

African American Monument
Vicksburg, Mississippi














African American Monument
Vicksburg, Mississippi

Of the thirty sites, nine are located in former Confederate states.

Five are located at or near battlefields where African-American troops fought - Honey Springs, Oklahoma; Petersburg, Virginia; Cabin Creek, Pensacola, Oklahoma; Nashville, Tennessee; and Donaldsonville, Louisiana.





First Kansas Marker
Honey Springs, Oklahoma
Perhaps additional monuments could be placed next to existing Confederate monuments in honor of African-Americans who fought and helped to preserve the Union, and in the memory of the of the slaves who suffered under bondage. I think that either of these ideas would be better than a marker explaining why a statue of a former general was placed at a site. 


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Presidio's Connection to the Civil War


A former Spanish fort in San Francisco played major role in US history but only minor role in the Civil War. We had the opportunity to visit the Presidio of San Francisco on June 30, 2017.





Juan Bautista de Anza selected the site for a Spanish fort on March 28, 1776. Later that year, a party led by José Joaquin Moraga built the fort. In 1783, the fort had a small garrison of only thirty-three men. Today, a group of archeologists digs next to a parking lot and excavates walls of the original fort.

When Mexico achieved her independence from Spain in 1821, the Mexican Army occupied the fort. A Mexican garrison manned the Presidio for the next twenty-five years.


During the Mexican-American War, the US military seized the Presidio in 1846. American settlers and adventurers in Sonoma staged the Bear Flag Revolt against Mexican rule. Lieutenant John C. Fremont led a small detachment of soldiers and frontiersmen crossed the Golden Gate in a boat and "captured" the Presidio without resistance. A cannon that was spiked by Fremont remains on the Presidio today.
The fort was officially re-opened by the Americans in 1848. The US Army occupied the Presidio. The Presidio began a period directing operations to control and protect Native Americans as headquarters for scattered Army units on the West Coast. The fort served as base for several army headquarters and units. A number of famous US generals (William Sherman, George Henry Thomas, and John Pershing) spent time on the post.

In 1853, work was begun on Fort Point. The fort became a fine example of US coastal defenses. Fort Point, located at the foot of the Golden Gate in the Presidio, was the keystone of an elaborate network of fortifications to defend San Francisco Bay. These fortifications now reflect 150 years of military concern for defense of the West Coast.

Colonel Albert Sydney Johnston protected Union weapons from being taken by Southern sympathizers in San Francisco. Later, he resigned from the Union Army and became a general in the Confederate Army. The Presidio organized regiments of volunteers for the Civil War and to control Indians in California and Oregon during the absence of federal troops.

Civil War Era Housing
Civil War Era Housing





Civil War Era Housing
Major General George Henry Thomas led the Division of the Pacific in 1869-1870 from the Presidio.

Troops from the Presidio defeated the Modoc Indians in the 1872–1873 campaign. This was the last large-scale US Army operation against Native Americans in the Far West.









During its long history, the Presidio was involved in most of America's military engagements in the Pacific. It was the assembly point for army forces that invaded the Philippines in the Spanish-American War.
Dr. John Letterman
"Father of Battlefield Medicine" 
In the 1890s, the Presidio became home to the Letterman Army Medical Center. The medical facility was named for Jonathan Letterman in 1911. Letterman was medical director of the Army of the Potomac and developer of battlefield triage. The center provided thousands of war-wounded with high quality medical care during every US foreign conflict of the 20th century.


One of the last two remaining cemeteries within the city's limits is the San Francisco National Cemetery. Among the military personnel interred there are General Frederick Funston, hero of the Spanish-American War, Philippine-American War, and commanding officer of the Presidio at the time of the 1906 earthquake; and General Irvin McDowell.


The Marine Hospital operated a cemetery for merchant seamen approximately 100–250 yards from the hospital property. Based on city municipal records, historians estimate that the cemetery was in use from 1885 to 1912. As part of the "Trails Forever" initiative, the Parks Conservancy, the National Park Service, and the Presidio Trust partnered to build a walking trail along the south side of the site featuring interpretive signage about its history.


The Presidio was the center for defense of the western US during World War II. The infamous order to intern Japanese-Americans, including citizens, during World War II was signed at the Presidio. Until its closure in 1995, the Presidio was the longest continuously operated military installation in the United States.



Internment Order

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Galena, Illinois




We recently returned from Galena, Illinois. The town is about two hours west of Chicago along the U. S. Grant Highway. I strongly recommend you visit Galena. With its great restaurants, shops, museums, and historic homes, it is a great place for a weekend or week long getaway.

Galena is the largest city in and the county seat of Jo Daviess County, Illinois, with a population of 3,429 at the 2010 census. A 581-acre section of the city is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Galena Historic District. It is named for the mineral galena, which was mined by Native Americans in the area for over a thousand years. Owing to these deposits, Galena was the site of the first major mineral rush in the United States. The first American settler arrived in 1821, and by 1828, the population was estimated at 10,000, rivaling the population of Chicago at the time. The city emerged as the largest steamboat hub on the Mississippi River north of St. Louis, Missouri. Galena was the home of Ulysses S. Grant and eight other Civil War generals. Today, the city is a tourist destination known for its history, architecture, and resorts.


I hope the following photographs will give you an idea about this charming, tourist friendly city.

We began with a tour on the Galena Trolley & Depot Theatre 

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Galena Train Station







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U. S. Grant Home

On August 18, 1865, Galena celebrated the return of its Civil War hero General Ulysses S. Grant. Following a jubilant procession with much flag waving and speeches, a group of Galena citizens presented the General with a handsome furnished house on Bouthillier Street.

It was opened to the public in 1904. Furnishings are original. The house is now managed by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency as the U.S. Grant Home State Historic Site.

U. S. Grant Home





Julia Grant
 We had an excellent tour of the Ulysses S. Grant Home State Historic Site from one of the volunteers.
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U. S. Grant Park 

Civil War Monument
Civil War Monument

Civil War Monument - Detail
Civil War Monument - Detail

Civil War Monument - Detail



U. S. Grant Statue

U. S. Grant Statue

U. S. Grant Statue

U. S. Grant Statue - Detail

U. S. Grant Statue - Detail

U. S. Grant Statue - Detail
U. S. Grant Statue - Detail
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Some of Galena's Grand Homes











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Desoto House Hotel

The Desoto House Hotel opened its doors in 1855. It is Illinois' Oldest Operating Hotel.





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 Drawings in the Desoto House Hotel








Please see the DeSoto House Hotel for more in formation.

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Around Town















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U. S. Grant Museum

The Galena and U. S. Grant Museum contains information about the city's lead mining and a collection of Grant memorabilia. Visitors are introduced to the spirits of Ulysses and Julia Grant in a hologram. The museum contains many treasures, such as the "Peace in Union" painting, "General Grant on the Battlefield" painting, and the Flag from the Vicksburg Siege. The museum contains a topographical map of Jo Daviess County, information about lead mining, and exhibits about the steam boats that visited the city.

























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Reproduction of Grant Leather Shop

A special feature of the museum is the reproduction of the Grant family leather shop.












Please see U. S. Grant Museum for more information.


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Elihu Washburne House

Elihu Washburne (1816-1887), a prominent Galena attorney and later a U.S. congressman (1853-1869), political adviser to Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant, and ambassador to France (1869-1877), occupied the house with his family until 1882.




Please see Elihu Washburne House for more information.