Friday, October 31, 2008

Celebrate Lincoln's Birthday Bicentennial

The Smithsonian Institution is celebrating the 200th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth with events throughout 2009. Please see Lincoln at the Smithsonian to learn more about the events planned.

Don't wait until next year to begin the celebration because on November 11, 2008 James McPherson will present Abraham Lincoln as Commander-in-Chief.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Dennis Hart Mahan

Dennis Hart Mahan was an engineering professor at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point who taught fortifications and military tactics. In his classes during the fourth year at West Point he taught the science of war.

His classroom was filled with models of fortifications, bridges, canals, steam engines, water wheels and locks.

Mahan was aloof and demanding and hated sloppy thinking, posture and attitude towards duty. Mahan clearly defined who was in charge. He enforced all of the rigid requirements of military subordination. He insisted that all points of etiquette and every demand of the regulations were strictly followed. Mahan demanded that his students learn every manner and habit that defines an officer.

He was a merciless cross-examiner with the ability of finding and exposing unprepared cadets. Although he had never witnessed a battle, he was considered America’s most brilliant military mind. In fact, he wrote nearly all of the textbooks used in his engineering and science of war classes.

He believed that there was nothing new to be discovered beyond Napoleon’s strategy and tactics. His students were well-grounded in this approach. Unfortunately, adherence to Napoleonic tactics did not always mesh with developments in rifling technology.

Mahan wanted his officers to think for themselves on the battlefield. The two most important aspects of his military philosophy were speed of movement and the use of reason.

Although Professor Mahan never led troops in battle, his impact on the conduct of the Civil War is demonstrated in the officers he produced for both sides.

Source: The Class of 1846, John C. Waugh, Warner Books, pp. 64-66.

Please see Dennis Hart Mahan - Wikipedia, Civil War Defenses of Washington - NPS

Check out books written by Professor Mahan.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

New Information on CSS Hunley

New information reveals that the eight-man crew of the hand-cranked Confederate submarine had not set the pump to remove water from the crew compartment. This might indicate that the H. L. Hunley was not being flooded.

These findings suggest that the crew died because of a lack of oxygen. The remains of the crew were found at their stations which scientists say means that they were not trying to escape the sinking sub.

The H.L. Hunley was a Confederate submarine that demonstrated both the advantages and the dangers of undersea warfare. The Hunley was the first submarine to sink an enemy warship, although the submarine was also lost following the successful attack.

Please see Friends of the Hunley for more information.

Friday, October 17, 2008

80 Acres of Hell

I had the opportunity to view the A&E and History Channel documentary “80 Acres of Hell.”

The two-hour documentary reveals the strange and horrible conditions at a Union prison camp in Chicago and its impact on the community.

During its war-time service approximately 6,000 - 8,500 prisoners died in the camp. The numbers are uncertain because the camp administrators stopped keeping records.

The story also reveals a new Civil War villain. Colonel B. J. Sweet reduced rations, rewarded guards for shooting prisoners, and tortured prisoners. In an even more amazing act, Sweet believing a rumor that Chicago citizens were planning to aid an escape, declared martial law in Chicago and arrested 100 citizens.

The video can be ordered from the History Channel - "80 Acres of Hell."

You might also want to check out the following books:

Friday, October 10, 2008

Obama's Debt to Douglass

This November the United States will witness a historic event --- the election of our first African American President.

Almost 146 years after Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, America will choose Senator Barrack Obama as Commander and Chief. As historic as this event is, it is not the first time an African American has run for executive office. In 1872, Frederick Douglass was nominated as the vice presidential candidate on the Equal Rights Party ticket with Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for President.

Woodhull was nominated on May 10, 1872, at Apollo Hall in New York City. Her selection was ratified at convention on June 6, 1872. Douglass was chosen for Vice President, but he never acknowledged this nomination.

This nomination is almost insignificant relative to Douglass' other achievements. Douglass is one of the most prominent figures in American history. Douglass believed that education was the key for African Americans to improve their lives and was an early advocate for desegregation of schools. Douglass conferred with Lincoln in 1863 on the treatment of black soldiers, and with President Johnson on black suffrage. Douglass believed that since the goal of the Civil War was to end slavery, African Americans should be allowed to enlist in the Union forces to help fight for their freedom.

The labors of Frederick Douglass provided the foothold on which Barrack Obama will ascend to the Presidency. I hope that the Senator will acknowledge his debt to this American legend.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

"Fighting Joe" Wheeler

"Fighting Joe" lived up to his nickname throughout his military career.

He acquired the name while defending a wagon train from Indians shortly after he graduated from West Point in 1859.

When the Civil War began he entered the Confederate Army and served as commander of cavalry in the Army of the Mississippi. After the surrender, he returned to his home in Georgia, where he was elected to Congress and served for seventeen years.

"Fighting Joe" loved the Army and eventually he re-enlisted. During the Spanish-American War, he served as a Major General. He and Fitz-Hugh Lee have the unique distinction of commanding corps in both the Confederate and Union Armies.

Shortly after his arrival in Cuba, he attacked a Spanish position in the village of Las Guasimas. As the Spanish fled, he allegedly shouted, "Give it them, lads. We got the damn Yankees on the run!"

During the advance on Santiago, he contracted a bad case of malaria, but true to his spirit he remained in his saddle and led his men across the San Juan under heavy fire.

Wheeler also served in the Philippines.

When in died in 1906, he was buried in his U.S. Army uniform. An old Confederate soldier who came to pay his respects was surprised by his clothing.

"Jeesus, General, I hate to think of what old Stonewall's going to say when he sees you in that uniform."

From West Point - Two Centuries of Honor and Tradition, Warner Books, p. 132.