Presidential Oath of Office

Presidential Oath of Office

Presidential Oath of Office

 

The Presidential Oath of Office is fairly straight forward:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

One thing not so straight forward is the phrase that often follows that oath, “So help me God.” Some traditions attribute that to George Washington. Others are less certain. One thing for sure is that it was not part of the original oath.

Under the Judiciary Act of 1789, all US Judges and offices have the phrase in their oaths. Even before that many State constitutions and even the Second Continental Congress mandated that the words be spoken as part of their oaths.

One exception comes in another display of wordplay. Actually using the phrase “I do solemnly swear…” is what makes the above an actual oath. Which is fine except that followers of certain religions are not permitted to make oaths as such. Especially while invoking God. Certain Christian sects and Quakers among them. Since a good portion of the men that would potentially be taken this version of the oath of office may fit those categories exceptions needed to be made.

As such for those men, the oath is transformed into a simple affirmation. “I do solemnly affirm..” In those cases “So help me God” is to be admitted. Some presidents upon being sworn in have used variations of these phrases. No one though can top Abraham Lincoln. At his second inaugural, he not only repeated the oath in full but then kissed the bible that he swore upon.

The pic above is the cheat sheet that Gerald Ford used as well as the bible he swore it upon.

Wednesday Words & Phrases: Carpetbagger

Carpetbagger

Carpetbagger

Carpertbagger is not a term heard much anymore. In this day and age of small businesses being taken over by big ones it still has meaning.

The term “carpetbagger” entered the American language after the Civil War. Northerners would go south to take advantage of the poor economic state of the region. They would come in fast with just their grasp bag. Which was made out of carpet material, and a wad of cash. They would then go and buy up businesses that were bankrupt or headed that way or plantations that were on the verge of collapse.

These men were not very popular and were targets of the KKK and other Southern groups. The term was also applied to Northern politicians that were sent/came south to take up government jobs.

In the modern vernacular the term has come to be used for politicians that represent one area while living in another. Like someone becoming the Senator for New York without having lived there much before the election. It has also been used to describe someone who purchases a struggling business in an area without having any ties or knowledge with the area.

Republic P-47 Thunderbolt

Republic P-47 Thunderbolt

Republic P-47 Thunderbolt

The good ol’ Republic P-47 Thunderbolt was one of the most stalwart airplanes on the Allied side during WWII. This fighter-bomber entered service in November 1942. Fully loaded with rockets and bombs could tip the scales at almost 8,000 pounds. That meant that it carried by itself about half the payload of the B-17 bomber.

With over 15,000 made during the war the plane saw service with not only the United States, but in the forces of Britain, France, Russia and were piloted by pilots from Mexico and Brazil. One even found its way into the service of the German Luftwaffe! (It was captured after the pilot was forced to make an emergency landing behind German lines.) When the war ended they found service with the Chinese Nationalist forces in Taiwan.

She was heavier than many of planes of the war but was more than able to match their speeds. The cockpit was very large and comfortable for the pilots and the planes were very hard to kill. They had a very good safety record and were truly a favorite among the best pilots. In fact, the P-47 was so effective that in a single two-year period the plane was responsible for downing almost 4,000 enemy aircraft, 9,000 trains, 86,000 trucks, and 6,000 armored vehicles.

While the P-47 was in service among several nations well into the 1960’s its ongoing legacy can be found in the A-10 tank buster. Though mostly known by the loving moniker “warthog” its official name is the Thunderbolt II and like its namesake is an integral part of our military identity.

 

 

The Ferguson Rifle

 

Ferguson Rifle
The lock mechanism of a Ferguson Rifle.

The Ferguson Rifle

It was expensive and hard to produce. Four gunsmiths would struggle to make 100 in six months. It cost four times what the standard musket would cost. What it was though was one of the first breech-loading rifles and it very well could have changed the face of the American Revolution.

A turn of the trigger guard would cause the breech plug to drop down, a standard British .615 caliber lead ball would be put into the barrel followed by the patch and powder. It could be loaded from a prone position, behind cover and loaded faster than a standard Brown Bess musket.

The rifle was designed by Patrick Ferguson a British officer who worked based on an earlier 1720 French design. After making improvements in the mechanism he was awarded the patent in 1776. At the start of the revolution, Ferguson gained permission to outfit 100 men in an “experimental rifle corp” to field test the weapons. At the Battle of Brandywine, the rifle served well but Ferguson himself was wounded. During his recuperation, the unit was disbanded and the rifle was used only sparingly. The cost of production proved too much and the rifle was mothballed.

The Myth

Ferguson would eventually meet his end later in the war at King’s Mountain. One account of his unit at Brandywine would live on well past him. Just before he was wounded in the battle he observed a group of American officers enter a small glade. He and some of his men had taken cover at the edge. From the uniforms, he could tell that these were high-ranking men. He raised his self-named rifle placing the sites on the man in the lead. At that moment the group turned around, oblivious to the dangers lurking at the wood line. Ferguson decided to not take the shot as shooting the man in the back would not be honorable. The group of officers made it back unscathed and Ferguson would later catch a ball in his elbow and be put out of action.

Based on accounts on the day of the battle it is very probable that the man who had been in the sites of Ferguson’s rifle was General George Washington himself. Later upon hearing that it may have been, Washington Ferguson said that he did not regret his decision. A case of honor over expediency.

 

Wednesday Words & Phrases Random

Random

Random: Without System Or Order

The word comes from the German Rand which means rim, edge or outer limit. In the 16th Century, the word “random” came into English as a description for a man or horse running at the limits of its ability or for a gun that is fired at the maximum elevation to reach the outer limits of its range.

A gun fired in this manner sacrificed all accuracy to achieve that max range.  You would fire it and have no idea where the round would land. And that is where our everyday usage of the word comes from.

 

Henry Hill Monument At Manassas

Henry Hill Monument At Manassas

Henry Hill Monument At Manassas

The Civil War began with a slow burn years before any shots were fired. Slavery, states rights, honor, and profit all pulled the men of the country into colliding orbits that collapsed like a supernova on July 21, 1861 at Manassas Virginia on the banks of Bull Run Creek.

The fresh and eager volunteers from North and South were about to start a dance that would last for many. A dance that would cost hundreds of thousands of lives. None of them thought that this would only be the first battle of many. For some, it would be there last.

The monument above was dedicated on June 13, 1865, not long after the war finally ended. It is located on Henry Hill a site on the battlefield that saw some of the hottest action. The monument stood twenty feet tall and was made of from locally quarried red sandstone. It was built by Union soldiers who were garrisoned in nearby Fairfield County. Gaining permission from their officers and the government they spent the last several weeks of their enlistments building the monument to their fallen comrades. A little way down the road the constructed a second monument to the men that fell during the second Battle of Bull Run in 1862.

This stands as one of the first monuments to commemorate the brave soldiers that fought in the war. The simple inscription says everything more that needs to be said.

“Memory of the Patriots Who Fell At Bull Run July 21, 1861.”

 

Civil War Army Organization “In Brief”

Civil War Army Organization

Yes, the photo is a bit unwieldy but we are sticking with our theme on the blog and using our own pictures when possible. While reading or studying about the Civil War you have most likely run across the terms Regiment, Brigade, Division, Corps and Army. Each of those units represents a number of men, but even I sometimes get lost in exactly what each represents. So let’s break it down a little.

A REGIMENT usually contains 800 soldiers and is commanded by a Colonel.

A BRIGADE is usually made up of 2 to 5 Regiments and about 2,600 men. They are commanded by a Brigade General.

A DIVISION usually contains 2 to 4 Brigades or about 8,000 men. A Major General is in command.

Next is a CORPS made up of 2 to 3 Divisions, commanded by a Major General and containing around 26,000 men.

Then comes ARMY. Generally 3 Corps to an Army and about 80,000 men commanded by a Major General.

Now there are actually levels below Regiment. The COMPANY is usually 100 men led by a Captain. Then platoon, section, and the squad as the smallest unit.

The numbers above generally would be considered as best case scenarios and especially as the war went on, no unit stayed at full strength for very long. And of course, the estimated strengths above varied between armies and sides. The actual numbers are less important than knowing the relative size of the units.

So if in doubt just remember the mnemonic RBDCA which stands for Regiment, Brigade, Division, Corps, Army. OK, maybe that isn’t much help.

Wednesday Words & Phrases: UFO

UFO
2014 photo courtesy of the Chilean Navy. Click for the news story!

UFO

UFO, or Unidentified Flying Object,  is a term used for anything that is seen in the sky that can not be identified. Yes, most of the time that would mean spaceships and or objects from other planets. Most often through it is usually an airplane, bird, weather phenomenon, etc. (Yes, I said most often, some things remain unexplained and you just never know.)

The term UFO dates back to 1953. Donald Keyhoe used it in a book about strange things he saw during his time in the service. In 1956, USAF office Edward Ruppelt claims to have coined the phrase to replace the more common term of the day. Flying Saucer.  That term itself came into being in the 1940’s and was used to describe anything that could not be accounted for flying in the sky.

The Raleigh Tavern at Williamsburg

The Raleigh

The Raleigh Tavern

Nestled in the middle of the Duke of Gloucester Street in Colonial Williamsburg stands the Raleigh Tavern. Or at least a close facsimile. The original burned down in 1859 and the lot was built over. In 1926 the forerunner to Colonial Williamsburg began excavation on the site and uncovered the original foundation. The building was restored and opened in 1932 and became the first exhibition building at Williamsburg. It stands today. You can eat lunch and dinner there and take part in reenactments of the history that happened here.

What makes this building so special?

Ground was broken for the tavern around 1717, named of course, for Sir Walter Raleigh. One of the first to try to build a colony in Virginia. The tavern became the social center of the town. It became a favorite place for the delegates to the colonial assembly to meet after sessions. In a lot of ways, these “after session” meetings became the breeding ground of the revolutionary movement.

In 1769 the  Governor dissolved the House of Burgess because they passed a non-importation agreement. This was in response to the Townsend Acts. It was here at the Raleigh that the men met. Here they formed an association that carried out the first boycott in the colonies against the British.

In 1773 in a private room Richard Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and other prominent men meet and created the first of the Committees of Correspondence. This committee traded news and happenings with leaders in other colonies and would become the primary means of organizing colonial resistance to the Crown’s rule.

The next year when Governor Dunmore closed the legislature for objecting to Parliament closing the Port of Boston in reaction to the Boston Tea Party, the delegates meet here again to draft another non-importation agreement.

The Raleigh Tavern became the center point of the revolution in Virginia.  It is very fitting that it became one of the first buildings restored at Williamsburg. If you ever are in the area stop by Colonial Williamsburg and The Raleigh Tavern, a place that earned a spot in history.

 

Assam Draggins

Assam Draggins

Assam Draggins

 

Flying the inestimable P40 Thunderbolt, the 25th Fighter Squadron was formed at Hamilton Field California in January 1941. A year later in January of 1942, this unit became one of the first deployed to fight the Japanese in the.

After a stop in Melbourne Australia, the unit continued to Karachi, India where it began its combat operations. In September it flew its first escort mission.  Eventually, they moved to Assam, India, where the unit picked up the name “Assam Draggins”.

Its primary mission was to disrupt that Japanese in Burma. In February 1943 it carried out its most important mission. With their P40s modified to carry 1,000 pond bombs, they stood in for a B25 squadron. They managed to halt a major Japanese advance.

Over the course of World War II, this unit saw more combat than any other fighter squadron and was finally deactivated in December 1945. Only to be called back into service during the Korean conflict where it flew out of, ironically enough, its base in Japan.

For more on the history of this incredible air unit and its further adventures, click here.

 

 

People, Places and Things from US Military History

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