Monday, April 23, 2012

Romney Declares War on National Parks

Mitt Romney
Presidential candidate, Mitt Romney has announced plans to close and/or reduce funding of our national parks.  This action is not surprising as politicians often target education and national resources as part of campaigns to cut government spending.  They attempt to find areas that we think are important in the hope that we will agree to cuts in other areas to save funding in more visible items.  By attacking our national parks, Romney scores a double hit on education and our environment. 

Many national parks are dedicated to the preservation of battlefields where Americans fought for liberty and democracy.  Such sites include Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Mexican American War, and the Civil War. Any attempt to close these places that honor those that made the ultimate sacrifice is an insult to all Americans who have fought to defend our country.

Lincoln's Gettysburg Address
Many of these places are under threat from developers and those who put profit ahead of preservation.  Now these national treasures face a new concern from candidate Romney who would close and/or privatize these special locations.  Maybe Romney will increase the fees so much that only a few, privileged wealthy people will be able to visit them.  This would be in keeping with the rest of his proposed cuts that target poor and disadvantaged Americans.  Perhaps, he will sell the parks to some Chinese company who will move their contents to Beijing.  Want to see the Liberty Bell?  It's in a museum in Hong Kong.  What about all those  memorials at Vicksburg and Gettysburg.  Sorry you'll have to go the Shanghai Museum of the American Civil War to see them.  Seems like another option to a businessman who thinks outsourcing American jobs helps the economy.  My sarcasm has its roots in the skillful dismantling of American industry leading to the destruction of the American worker and the corresponding rise in the Chinese economy. 

President Teddy Roosevelt
Romney may be a Republican but he bears no resemblance to truly great Republicans Lincoln, Roosevelt, and Reagan.

I believe that our national parks should be guarded as strongly as we guard our freedom.  If the parks need money, increase the fees to visit them. Don't close them down.  Any real American should defend our parks and work to make them part of the legacy we give to our children and grandchildren. 

As the National Park Service website boasts, the service cares for the environment, preserving history, revitalizing communities and inviting stewardship.   Writer and historian Wallace Stegner called national parks "the best idea we ever had. Absolutely American, absolutely democratic, they reflect us at our best rather than our worst."

If our national parks are the best idea, Romney's plans are the worst. 

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Fourteenth Amendment and Confederate Officers

As most African Americans know the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments effectively ended slavery as a legal institution.

The 13th Amendment declared that "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."
Section 1 of the 14th Amendment stated that "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."
The 15th Amendment provided that " The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."
Each of these amendments contained a clause that gave the Congress the power "to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."
Also, as most African Americans know the Congress chose for more than one hundred years not to rigorously enforce these amendments.
The 14th Amendment contains three other sections.  Section 2 deals with how representatives are be apportioned and Section 4 forbids questioning the public debt and declares  that "neither the United States nor any State shall assume or pay any debt or obligation incurred in aid of insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or any claim for the loss or emancipation of any slave; but all such debts, obligations and claims shall be held illegal and void." 

Fitzhugh Lee
Let us now consider Section 3 of this amendment which states:  No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.  But Congress may, by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.  This provision effectively prohibits former Confederate officers from who were in government or the military before the war from serving  in a State or National government.

Joe Wheeler
Judging by the number of former Confederate officers who held elected positions, this provision, like other parts of the three amendments cited, was largely ignored.  The list contains the names of 49 general officers who went on to serve in the government.
1.      Bate, William Brimage- MG - US Senator - March 4, 1887–March 9, 1905
2.      Beale, Richard Lee Turberville - BG - US Representative, January 23, 1879–March 3, 1881
3.      Bratton, John "Reliable" - BG - US Representative, December 8, 1884–March 3, 1885
4.      Bullock, Robert - BG - US Representative, March 4, 1889–March 3, 1893
5.      Butler, Matthew Calbraith - MG - US Senator from South Carolina, March 4, 1876–March 3, 1894 and Maj. Gen. US Volunteers, 1898 through April 15, 1899, Spanish-American War
6.      Chalmers, James R. - BG - Three-term US Representative from Mississippi, March 4, 1877–April 29, 1882 and June 25, 1884–March 3, 1885
7.      Churchill, Thomas J. - MG - Arkansas governor, January 13, 1881–January 13, 1883
8.      Clark, John Bullock Jr. - BG - US Representative from Missouri, March 4, 1873–March 3, 1883 and From 1883 until 1889, served as Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives
9.      Cockrell, Francis M. - BG - US Senator from Missouri, March 4, 1875–March 3, 1905. Interstate Commerce Commission, 1905–1910. Texas–New Mexico boundary commission. U.S. War Department Director of Ordnance, 1912–1915
10.   Colquitt, Alfred Holt - BG - Governor of Georgia, January 12, 1877–resigned November 4, 1882 and US Senator from Georgia, March 4, 1882–March 26, 1894
11.   Cook, Philip - BG - US Congressman, March 4, 1873–March 3, 1883. *Secretary of State of Georgia, 1890–1894
12.   Cox, William Ruffin - BG - US Representative, March 4, 1881–March 3, 1887 and Secretary of U.S. Senate, 1893–1900
13.   Dibrell, George Gibbs - BG - US Representative, March 4, 1874–March 3, 1884
14.   Du Bose, Dudley M. - BG - US House of Representatives from Georgia, 1871–1873
15.   Field, Charles W. - MG - Doorkeeper of the US House of Representatives
16.   Finley, Jesse Johnson - BG - Served part of three contested terms as US Representative, April  19, 1876–March 3, 1877; February 20, 1879–March 3, 1879 and March 4, 1881–June 1, 1882
17.   Forney, William Henry - BG - US Representative, March 4, 1875–March 3, 1893
18.   Gibson, Randall Lee - BG - US Representative from Louisiana, March 4, 1874–March 3, 1882. US Senator from Louisiana, March 3, 1883–December 15, 1892
20.   Gordon, George Washington - BG - Member of US House of Representatives, March 4, 1907–August 9, 1911
21.   Gordon, John Brown - MG - US Senator from Georgia, March 4, 1873–May 26, 1880; March 4, 1891–March 3, 1897, Governor of Georgia, 1886–1890
22.   Hagood, Johnson - BG - Governor of South Carolina, November 30, 1880–December 5, 1882
23.   Hampton, Wade - Governor of South Carolina, December 14, 1876–February 26, 1879; US Senator from South Carolina March 4, 1879–March 3, 1891. US Railroad Commissioner, 1893–1897
24.   Hunton, Eppa - BG
25.   Jackson, Henry R.  - BG - Minister to Mexico, 1885
26.   Kemper, James Lawson - MG - Governor of Virginia, January 1, 1874–January 1, 1878
27.   Lee, Fitzhugh - MG - Governor of Virginia, January 1, 1886–January 1, 1890. US Consul General to Havana, Cuba, 1896–1898. Major General of US Volunteers in the Spanish-American War. Retired as brigadier general, US Army, 1901
28.   Lewis, Joseph Horace - BG -Two terms in state legislator, three terms in US Congress, May 10, 1870–March 3, 1873. Judge in Kentucky for 18 years starting in 1880, last four years as chief justice of the court of appeals
29.   Longstreet, James - LG - US IRS agent, postmaster, Gainesville, Georgia, 1879–1880. US. Minister to Turkey, 1880– 1881. US Marshal, 1881– 1884
30.   Lowry, Robert - BG - State senator for two years. Governor of Mississippi, January 9, 1881–January 13, 1889
31.   Mahone, William - MG - U.S. Senator, 1881–1887
32.   Marmaduke, John Sappington - MG - Governor of Missouri, January 12, 1884–December 28, 1887
33.   Martin, William T. - MG - Mississippi state senator for 12 years
34.   Maxey, Samuel Bell - BG - US Senator, March 4, 1875–March 3, 1887
35.   McGowan, Samuel - BG - State legislator, 1878. Associate justice of South Carolina Supreme Court, 1879–1893
36.   Morgan, John Tyler - BG - US Senator, March 4, 1877–June 11, 1907
37.   Nicholls, Francis Redding Tillou - BG - Governor of Louisiana, January 8, 1877–January 13, 1880, May 21, 1888–May 16, 1892
38.   Perry, Edward Aylesworth - BG - Governor of Florida, January 6, 1885–January 13, 1889
39.   Pettus, Edmund Winston - BG - US Senator from Alabama, March 4, 1896–December 27, 1907
40.   Ransom, Matt Whitaker - BG - US Senator from North Carolina, January 30, 1872–March 3, 1895. U.S. Minister to Mexico, 1895–1897
41.   Ross, Lawrence Sullivan - BG - Governor of Texas, January 18, 1887–January 20, 1891
42.   Scales, Alfred Moore - BG - North Carolina. State legislator, 1866–1869. US Representative, March 4, 1875–December 30, 1884. Governor of North Carolina, January 21, 1885–January 17, 1889
43.   Shelley, Charles M. - BG - US Representative from Alabama, March 4, 1877–March 3, 1881 and November 7, 1882–January 9, 1885. President Cleveland appointed him fourth auditor of the U.S. Treasury, 1885–1889
44.   Terry, William - BG - Served two terms in the US House of Representatives, March 4, 1871–March 3, 1873 and March 4, 1875–March 3, 1877
45.   Vance, Robert Brank - BG - US Congressman, March 4, 1873–March 3, 1885. Assistant commissioner of patents
46.   Walker, James Alexander - BG - Republican, US Congressman, March 4, 1895–March 3, 1899
47.   Walthall, Edward Cary - MG - US Senator, 1885–1898
48.   Wheeler, Joseph - MG - US Congressman, 1882–1900. Major general of US Volunteers in the Spanish-American War. Retired as brigadier general in the US Army
49.   Young, Pierce Manning Butler - MG - US House of Representatives, July 25, 1868–March 3, 1869, December 22, 1870

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

American History TV

Battle of Shiloh
For those of you who have time on weekend or have mastered the art of recording programs, I recommend The Civil War 150 Years on American History TV.  The C-Span network is doing a series of telecasts to celebrate the Sesquicentennial.   The website contains copies of the program that you can download for viewing.  I saw some of the program on The Battle of Shiloh which was a guided tour of the battlefield conducted by Mr.Stacy Allen, the NPS Chief Ranger at Shiloh. 

The series has also presented programs on The Battles of Bull Run, Ball's Bluff, and Wilson's Creek.  The channel presents lectures by leading historians on various aspects of the conflict.  Recent subjects include:

  • Harold Holzer on Abraham Lincoln and Freedom of the Press
  • William Dobak on his book, "Freedom by the Sword: The U.S. Colored Troops, 1862-1867"
  • Five historians presented their candidates for Person of the Year 1862 at a forum organized by Museum of the Confederacy and hosted by the Library of Virginia.
  • Lincoln and Civil War scholars discussed why the Civil War didn’t end in 1861 at the Lincoln Forum Symposium in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
  • Naval Academy history professor Craig Symonds talked about the War along the Atlantic Coast at The Mariners’ Museum in Newport News, Virginia.
I know these presentations will add to your understanding and appreciation of the many aspects of the war.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

150th Anniversary of Shiloh

Confederates Attack Union
Forces in the Hornet's Nest
This past weekend we drove 600 plus miles from Dallas to attend The Blue-Gray Alliance 150th Anniversary Reenactment.  I want to thank all of the reenactors for their contributions.  Unfortunately, my compliments have to end there.  I was very disappointed in the event as were others who I talked with.  Rather than point out the flaws, let me instead suggest some things that can be done from a spectator perspective to have a successful event. 

  1. Have a simple, easy to navigate web site for the battle.  Include the usual who, what, where, when information.  Provide a local map and a map of the reenactment site.
  2. Put up road signs indicating the way to the site from major intersections.  Don't assume all of your attendees will be from the immediate locality.  This is a great way to attract tourists and their money to your town. 
  3. Make it easy to enter the site and park.  Having one or two people help cars park or collect parking fees is not sufficient.  It shouldn't take 45 minutes to get into the site.
  4. Provide transportation from the parking lot to the spectator area.  A 3/4ths of a mile walk may not seem like much unless you are carrying a small child or a senior citizen with a bad back or leg.
  5. Have plenty of signs and volunteers to help people.  People should not have ask other spectators for directions.  Volunteers should help guide people.  This is another opportunity to sell your community to the folks who drove hours to get there. Have your rude and indifferent friends stay home.  This is the time and place for smiling faces and friendly people.
  6. Don't promise what you can't deliver.  If you say you are going to do something make sure you do it.  The Shiloh event touted that spectators could watch two battles simultaneously.  That was impossible for virtually all the people who attended.  The place in the middle of the field that you might see both battles from was lined with trees and underbrush making it virtually impossible to see the battle.  The second battle could not be seen from the main viewing center where most people stayed.  The organizers promised an appearance by the CSS Hunley.  It wasn't there. 
  7. Provide water and bathrooms near the spectator area.  Realize that the reenactors aren't the only ones who can become ill. 
  8. Start the event on time.  If the program is supposed to start at 1:30 pm start then not at 2:00 pm 
  9. Provide narrative for the battle using a public address system. It will help explain what's going on so that the events on the field have some meaning for the spectators. We were fortunate in having a kindly reenactor near us who explained to those with earshot what was going on.  I brought my handouts from my class on Shiloh so I had a pretty good idea about what the reenactors were trying to recreate.
  10. Have plenty of toilets and make sure that they are fit for use by human beings. 
  11. Keep the trails and pathways passable.  Rain will come, but that doesn't mean the place needs to become a swamp.  Put down some straw or sand or boards.  Leaving the site with enough mud on your shoes and clothes to plant a small garden is not how you want to remember the event.
  12. Have enough food for hungry spectators.  Shiloh did a good job in this capacity.
  13. Set up an information/help station.  This provides a rallying point and place to find lost kids or grandparents.  A great place for the Chamber of Commerce to set up house.
  14. Provide access to the encampments and living historians.  Its nice to be able to visit with the reenactors.  They might even want to recruit you.  Allow access to the living historians throughout the day.
View of the battlefield
before cannon volley
The bottom line is the good old golden rule.  Treat your guests as you would like to be treated.

If don't think these suggestions are appropriate, you might want to consider having a reenactor only event.

If your reenactment event subscribes to these ideas, let me know I'd like to attend.  If you think my suggestions are a lot of nonsense, let me know as well so I can skip your event.