Tuesday, April 24, 2018

"In God We Trust"

One of the first found references of the motto “In God We Trust” is heard in the U.S. National Anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner. Francis Scott Key wrote the poem in 1814, which the United States adopted as its national anthem. In the last stanza, Key wrote a similar phrase:

...And this be our motto: In God is our trust. And the Star-Spangled Banner in triumph shall wave, O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
Political rhetoric linking the United States with a divine power appeared on a large scale with the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861. Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase received many appeals from devout persons throughout the country, urging that the government recognize God on United States coins. From Treasury Department records, it appears that the first such appeal came in a letter dated November 13, 1861. It was written to Secretary Chase by Rev. M. R. Watkinson, Minister of the Gospel from Ridleyville, Pennsylvania.

Dear Sir: You are about to submit your annual report to the Congress respecting the affairs of the national finances. 
One fact touching our currency has hitherto been seriously overlooked. I mean the recognition of the Almighty God in some form on our coins. 
You are probably a Christian. What if our Republic were not shattered beyond reconstruction? Would not the antiquaries of succeeding centuries rightly reason from our past that we were a heathen nation? What I propose is that instead of the goddess of liberty we shall have next inside the 13 stars a ring inscribed with the words PERPETUAL UNION; within the ring the all seeing eye, crowned with a halo; beneath this eye the American flag, bearing in its field stars equal to the number of the States united; in the folds of the bars the words GOD, LIBERTY, LAW. 
This would make a beautiful coin, to which no possible citizen could object. This would relieve us from the ignominy of heathenism. This would place us openly under the Divine protection we have personally claimed. From my hearth I have felt our national shame in disowning God as not the least of our present national disasters. 
To you first I address a subject that must be agitated. 
James Pollock
Salmon P. Chase 

As a result, Secretary Chase instructed James Pollock, Director of the Mint at Philadelphia, to prepare a motto, in a letter dated November 20, 1861.

Dear Sir:
No nation can be strong except in the strength of God, or safe except in His defense. The trust of our people in God should be declared on our national coins.
You will cause a device to be prepared without unnecessary delay with a motto expressing in the fewest and tersest words possible this national recognition. 
It was found that the Act of Congress dated January 18, 1837, specified the mottoes and devices that could be placed on United States coins. This restriction meant that the mint could make no changes without passing additional legislation by the Congress. In December 1863, the Director of the Mint submitted designs for new one-cent coin, two-cent coin, and three-cent coin to Secretary Chase for approval. He proposed that upon the designs either “Our Country; Our God” or “God, Our Trust” should appear as a motto on the coins.

Pollock suggested “Our Trust Is In God, Our God And Our Country, God And Our Country, and God Our Trust.”

In a letter to the Mint Director on December 9, 1863, Secretary Chase stated:

I approve your mottoes, only suggesting that on that with the Washington obverse the motto should begin with the word OUR, so as to read OUR GOD AND OUR COUNTRY. And on that with the shield, it should be changed so as to read: IN GOD WE TRUST. 
Congress passed the Act of April 22, 1864. This legislation changed the composition of the one-cent coin and authorized the minting of the two-cent coin. The Mint Director was directed to develop the designs for these coins for final approval of the Secretary. “In God We Trust” first appeared on the 1864 two-cent coin.

Another Act of Congress passed on March 3, 1865 allowed the Mint Director, with the Secretary's approval, to place the motto on all gold and silver coins that “shall admit the inscription thereon.” Under the Act, the motto was placed on the gold double-eagle coin, the gold eagle coin, and the gold half-eagle coin. It was also placed on the silver dollar coin, the half-dollar coin and the quarter-dollar coin, and on the nickel three-cent coin beginning in 1866. Later, Congress passed the Coinage Act of February 12, 1873. It also said that the Secretary “may cause the motto IN GOD WE TRUST to be inscribed on such coins as shall admit of such motto.” By 1909 it was included on most of the other coins. 

"In God We Trust"

Putting the phrase on coins was just the beginning. 

In 1864, a group supported by the North’s major Protestant denominations began advocating change to the preamble of the Constitution. The proposed language would have declared that Americans recognized “Almighty God as the source of all authority and power in civil government.” 

If the amendment’s supporters had succeeded in having their way, Christian belief would be deeply embedded in the United States government.

But, such invocations of God in national politics were not to last. Despite lobbying by major Protestant denominations such as the Methodists, this so-called Sovereignty of God amendment was never ratified. 

Though “In God We Trust” was added to coins, it was not added to the increasingly common paper money. In fact, when coins were redesigned late in the 19th century, it disappeared from coins as well. 

David Mislin, “The complex history of ‘In God We Trust,’ The Conversation, accessed April 22, 2018, http://theconversation.com/the-complex-history-of-in-god-we-trust-91117. 
“History of in God We Trust,” U.S. Department of the Treasury, accessed April 18, 2018, https://www.treasury.gov/about/education/Pages/in-god-we-trust.aspx. 
“In God We Trust,” All About, accessed April 22,2018, https://www.allabouthistory.org/in-god-we-trust.htm.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Lee Surrenders to Grant at Appomattox - April 9, 1865

General Lee Surrenders to General Grant
For most people, General Robert E. Lee's surrender to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House marked the end of the Civil War. The conflict had gone full circle from the First Battle of Manassas (Bull Run) near Wilmer McLean's home in Manassas to the surrender at Wilmer McLean's home in Appomattox. Unfortunately, the formal ceremony on April 12, 1865 did not end the war. The battle between North and South continues today.<1>

After peace was restored, Southern states moved to create a society that came as close as possible to antebellum life. Although formal slavery was abolished and black men had the right to vote, state and local laws limited freedom and denied rights. In the North, white laborers objected to blacks migrating into their community and taking their jobs. As it was from the beginning of the war at Fort Sumter, SC, Northern soldiers fought to preserve the Union and not to free slaves. Northern draft and race riots are prime examples.

Ku Klux Klan

The war entered a new phase of economic slavery with lynchings to enforce obedience to the new /old social and political order. The Lost Cause and the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) furthered resurrected Southern pride and the recognition of white supremacy. Former Confederate states continued to maintain the social structure through Jim Crow laws formally enforced by courts and informally by the KKK. These laws led to segregation throughout Americas. Separate but equal regulations created a dual system of American society. Communities in the North and South maintained segregation and opposed busing to create an integrated school system.
The first Klan prospered in the in the late 1860s, then died out by the early 1870s. It tried to overthrow the Republican state governments in the South during the Reconstruction Era, especially by using violence against African-American leaders. With numerous autonomous chapters across the South, it was suppressed around 1871, through federal law enforcement.

The second group was founded in the South in 1915 and it flourished nationwide in the early and mid-1920s, including urban areas of the Midwest and West. The resurrection of the Klan was inspired by D. W. Griffith's 1915 silent film The Birth of a Nation, which mythologized the founding of the first Klan. The Klan used marketing techniques and a popular fraternal organization structure. Many of the Klans were based in Protestant communities because it tried to maintain white supremacy, often supported prohibition, and opposed Catholics and Jews.
The third and current manifestation of the KKK appeared after 1950, in the form of localized and isolated groups that use the KKK name. They have focused on opposition to the civil rights movement, often using violence and murder to suppress activists.

The second and third incarnations of the Ku Klux Klan made frequent references to America's "Anglo-Saxon blood, hearkening back to 19th-century nativism .Although members of the KKK swear to uphold Christian morality, virtually every Christian denomination has officially denounced the KKK. <2>


This repression of blacks produced a wave of lynchings that sweep across the South like a summer storm. Between 1882 and 1930 in just the ten southern states of Florida, Tennessee, Arkansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana, Alabama, and South Carolina, 2,500 black people were lynched. That is an average of nearly one hanging every week.
Blacks could be lynched for a variety of reasons:
  1. Throwing stones or skipping a rock across a lake.
  2. Being unpopular in the community.
  3. Blacks who were homeless and did not hold regular employment or made an income.
  4. Injuring or killing livestock.
  5. Trying to vote and/or not voting for the “right” candidate.
  6. Acting or looking suspicious around whites.
  7. Demanding to be treated with respect.
  8. Practicing voodoo.
  9. Being too loud or “disorderly” in public.
  10. Gambling.<3>

Amendments to the Constitution

The question is whether suppression of blacks is part of the ongoing Civil War, a separate issue of racism,or both. After the Civil War, Congress submitted three amendments to the the Constitution that sought to establish the former slaves as citizens with rights equal to whites.
  • 13th Amendment - Abolishes slavery, and involuntary servitude, except as punishment for a crime.- January 31, 1865
  • 14th Amendment - Defines citizenship, contains the Privileges or Immunities Clause, the Due Process Clause, the Equal Protection Clause, and deals with post–Civil War issues.- June 13, 1866
  • 15th Amendment - Prohibits the denial of the right to vote based on race, color or previous condition of servitude.- February 26, 1869
The white community, especially in the former Confederate states, sought ways to overturn these measures. Intimidation, obscure laws focused on blacks, and refusal by authorities to enforce Federal laws. The act of refusing or inhibiting the amendments constitutes a rebellion against government and is therefore a continuation of the Civil War or War of Rebellion.<4>

Segregation in the Military

This segregation was enforced in the United States military service. Senior officers believed that blacks were intellectually inferior to whites. Blacks were delegated to support, non-combat roles.
When World War I began, blacks were eager to enlist. By the war's end over 350,000 African-Americans had joined the American ranks. While they were eager to join the fight, the U.S. military was still segregated. The white officers didn't particularly like the idea of arming blacks and training them in how to use the weapons. Most African-American units were largely relegated to support roles and did not see combat.
When the Americans finally arrived in France, the allied commanders pleaded for soldiers. They already had competent officers – they just needed soldiers. The American commander General John J. Pershing refused to cannibalize any of his units nor send them into combat until they were ready. Instead he relinquished his black soldiers to their command.
During World War II, African-American enlistment was at an all-time high, with more than 1 million serving in the armed forces. However, the U.S. military was still heavily segregated. The marines had no blacks enlisted in their ranks. There were blacks in the Navy Seabees and the United States Air Force (Tuskegee Airmen). The army had only five African-American officers. In addition, no African-American would receive the Medal of Honor during the war, and their tasks in the war were largely reserved to noncombat units. Black soldiers had to sometimes give up their seats in trains to the Nazi prisoners of war.
In 1948 President Truman signed Executive Order 9981, officially ending segregation and racial inequality in the military.<5>
Desegregating the armed forces in the twentieth century was slow. While the US military was the largest minority employer during World War II, it remained segregated. Black enlistees were assigned to racially separate units and were typically relegated to combat support roles, like gravediggers, truck drivers, cooks and quartermasters. The few that made it into combat served with distinction, though in largely segregated platoons under the command of white lieutenants.

When African-American soldiers returned home, they encountered more racism and segregation. Rather than honor veterans who risked their lives protecting freedom and democracy, an ungrateful nation often rejected and ostracized them. Returning soldiers were routinely blocked from white neighborhoods, not only in the Jim Crow South but in sprawling northern developments like Levittown on Long Island. They encountered similar discrimination at universities and professional schools. In the end, black soldiers were fighting a double war — against America’s external enemies and the enemy within.<6>

Bryant Integrates Alabama Football

Coach Bryant
The next stage in the continuing Civil War, took place on the football field. Legendary Alabama coach, Bear Bryant, finally had his full of defeats by integrated teams. Bryant said he was unable to recruit black players because the prevailing social climate and the powerful presence of segregationist George C. Wallace. He was finally able to convince the university administration to allow him to recruit blacks after losing 42-12 to a strong University of Southern California team led by black fullback Sam Cunningham in the 1970 opening game. After that season, Bryant was able to recruit Wilbur Jackson as Alabama's first black scholarship player, and junior-college transfer John Mitchell became the first black man to play for Alabama. By 1973, one-third of the team's starters were black, and Mitchell became the Tide's first black coach that season. Now the war between the North and South moved to the living rooms of black families where Northern colleges competed against their southern rivals. The trend has continued and allowed Southern teams to compete for national championships in both men’s and women’s sports.<7>


Removal of Robert E. Lee Monument
The war has been re-ignited over the presence and removal of statues honoring Confederate officials and officers. Although, this war focuses on memorials in the South, it is led by an alliance of local black and white citizens and outside supporters. The opposition is composed of a coalition of historians, descendants of Confederate soldiers and officers, and "white supremacy groups." While there are certainly more Southerners involved in the dispute, this has become part of a national dialogue on race in America.

Yes Virginia and Pennsylvania, we are still fighting the Civil War. 

1. Appomattox Court House - Lee's Surrender, Civil War Trust, https://www.civilwar.org/learn/civil-war/battles/appomattox-court-house
2. Ku Klux Klan, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ku_Klux_Klan.
3. "Outrageous Reasons Black People were Lynched in America," http://atlantablackstar.com/2014/02/14/10-outrageous-reasons-black-people-were-lynched-in-america/10/
4."List of Amendments to the United States Constitution," Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_amendments_to_the_United_States_Constitution
5. “Racism against African Americans in the U.S. military,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Racism_against_African_Americans_in_the_U.S._military.
6.“Black Soldiers: Fighting America’s Enemies Abroad and Racism at HomeNew York Times, June 5, 2017,
7. Bear Bryant, Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bear_Bryant.

Monday, April 2, 2018

New Visitor Center Opens at Fort C. F. Smth in Arlington, Virginia

The new visitor center at Fort C.F. Smith Park in Arlington, Virginia opened on March 31, 2018.

Major General C. F. Smith
Fort C.F. Smith was one of the circle forts that was built around Washington, DC to protect the nation’s capital during the Civil War. Fort C.F. Smith was one of sixty-eight forts. The Union Army built the fort in 1863 and decommissioned in 1865. Most of the garrisons never saw action and the fort was mainly used as a training center. The forts served as a deterrent during the Civil War, so most never saw combat.

Although none of the fort’s buildings remain, there are still earthworks present to remind us of its past.

The new visitor center focuses on the rich Civil War history in Arlington County. However, it falls short in relating the story of Major General C. F. Smith. Announcements about the new center made only a brief statement about Smith.
The fort was named after Charles Ferguson Smith, who served as commandant of cadets. One of his students would go on to lead the Union Army to victory over the Confederates: Ulysses S. Grant.
I profiled the park in a March 21, 2014 Salient Points blog - Fort C. F. Smith - Arlington, VA.

Fort C. F. Smith Marker
Visitors can learn more about the park by visiting https://parks.arlingtonva.us/locations/fort-cf-smith-park/

Monday, March 26, 2018

Spring - Birds, Bees, and Battles

With weather conditions improving, the Union and Confederate armies were able to return to war. There were 93 battles from March 22 to May 31, of which 18 were classified as A, 26 as B rated, and 82 C and D battles.<1>The springtime battles represent 24% of all Civil War battles compared to 19% if the battles were distributed equally throughout the year.

Appomattox Court House, VA - April 9, 1865
Fort Blakely, AL - April 2-9, 1865

Fort Sumter, SC - April 12-14, 1861
Shiloh, TN - April 6-7, 1862

Vicksburg, MS - May 18-July 4, 1863
Battles fought in the Spring that are classified as having a decisive influence on a campaign and a direct impact on the course of the war (A) compose 40% of all A classification battles. The following battles were fought:
  1. Appomattox Court House, VA- April 9, 1865
  2. Champion Hill, MS- May 16, 1863
  3. Chancellorsville, VA - April 27-May 4, 1863
  4. Cold Harbor, VA- June 3-12, 1864
  5. Five Forks, VA - April 1,1865
  6. Fort Blakely, AL- April 2-9, 1865
  7. Forts Jackson and St. Philip, LA - April 16-28, 1862
  8. Fort Stedman, VA- March 25, 1865
  9. Fort Sumter, SC I - April 12-14, 1861
  10. Glorieta Pass, NM- March 26-28, 1862
  11. Mansfield, LA - April 8, 1864
  12. Petersburg, VA II- April 2, 1865
  13. Port Hudson, LA - May 21-July 9, 1863
  14. Shiloh, TN - April 6-7, 1862
  15. Spotsylvania Court House, VA- May 8-21, 1864
  16. Vicksburg, MS - May 18-July 4, 1863
  17. Wilderness, VA - May 5-7, 1864
  18. Winchester I, VA May 25, 1862
Not surprising, half of the battles took place in Virginia. Grant commanded the Union forces in seven battles and Lee led Confederate troops in seven. Union armies were victorious in eleven battles and Confederates in five. The 189,974 casualties in the spring battles accounted for 22% of the total for the entire war.

Battle Classifications:

A = having a decisive influence on a campaign and a direct impact on the course of the war
B = having a direct and decisive influence on their campaign
C = having observable influence on the outcome of a campaign
D = having a limited influence on the outcome of their campaign or operation but achieving or affecting important local objectives