They had met before, back in the Mexican War where both men distinguished themselves. Robert E. Lee had been the engineer that seemed to be everywhere at once. Ulysses S. Grant led men into the fray numerous times during the conflict. At the meeting above Grant actually mentioned the shared service. Lee remembered and for a moment they were just two old soldiers. Not commanders of opposing armies. With the events of the Civil War, these two men would be exorbitantly linked through history. Their meeting at Appomattox would start the process of healing the country.
Lee wore his last dress uniform a son of the Southern aristocracy he believed in always looking his best, especially for important occasions and on April 9th, 1861 the occasion was the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia. he had led them through victory after victory, but in the end, the army had been ground into the dust. He had no choice.
Gran arrived at Appomattox Courthouse in a mud-splattered field uniform. He was not one for pomp and in their field preferred to be comfortable rather than pretty. Grant was a man with a past but he had the ability to lead which was something that President Lincoln desperately needed out of him. In the final campaigns of the war, Grant used the Unions advantage in manpower and resources to pound Lee and his army at every chance, eventually overwhelming them. the cost was great and each life weighed on Grant. As he prepared to accept Lee’s surrender though he had to have felt vindicated.
There was no outward hostility between the two warriors. Grant set the terms for the surrender, which were generous. Lee agreed to ask only for one change, that his men be allowed to keep their horses. Grant did not amend the terms but insured Lee that his men would not stop any of the Confederates from keeping what was theirs. He also provided the defeated army with 25,000 rations once Lee mentioned that his men had not eaten for days.
It was a quiet day when contrasted to how the war had started. Had either of these armies been commanded by other men, by lesser men, who knows what the cost would have been? Then and there between these two titans, the path to peace and reconciliation had begun
Before it was something you accused your second-grade classmates of having “cooties” reached popular use in the British Army during WWI. Yes, even cooties have military implications.
There are two versions of the origin of the word. The first one comes from the Malaysian word kutu which refers to a parasitic biting insect. Sure that sounds good and kind of fits but…
The second origin comes from the first recorded use of the word in English. In some regions of England, waterfowl that were known to be infested with lice and other parasites were called coots. Which itself comes from Middle English cote. In the British trenches of WWI, as lice took the top enemy spot from the German, the term came in wide-spread usage. Soldiers returning after the war helped spread it even more.
Oddly enough what put the term into widespread usage was the number of “cootie” based games that were put out. All were variations of moving small grains into a basket or cootie trap. These popular games spread cooties all over the civilized world.
There are a lot of books about the Civil War out there. Most focus on the military side. Strategy and tactics, battles and losses. Or they go the other way and deal with the politics of era in such detail that even the most hardcore policy wonks get tears in their eyes. This book is different. I would consider it almost a social history of this one particular year before and after the war broke out. It tries and tells the story of the start of the Civil War from how the people saw it.
We live in a time when our country is divided. (When has it not been?) We see events happen in our country through the prism of the news and entertainment that we consume. We talk with others to figure out what we think. People are either right or wrong, with us or against us. It was the same then and that is why this book was so fascinating. Our last presidential election was controversial and left half the country unhappy. In 1860 the election was so controversial that the States actually rebelled and left the Union. Imagine that happening today.
The author, Goodheart, does a fantastic job of capturing the uncertainty of the time. Would war actually come? Should we just let the South go? Are we willing to fight and die over slavery? Would Lincoln be able to step up? Many questions that left the country reeling are looked at through the eyes of the people.
Secession and Contraband
On top of that, the author looks at other, less covered aspects of the time. California could have seceded if not for literally a handful of people. Missouri was kept in the Union when it could have easily changed hands. Maryland also was kept in when it could have easily slipped away. Then the issue of what to do with slaves that made their way to Union lines. The “contraband” issue was one of the thorniest issues in 1861 and drives a large portion of this narrative.
It is all covered well and naturally by the author. I recommend it for people that want to step away from the blood and battlefields fo the war and dig into other issues.
As always you can find the book on Amazon by clicking on the cover above.
The uniform above is the female version of the standard Navy dress uniform from the time of the Korean Conflict. Women have always had roles in the military. Over time those roles have shifted and changed as the traditional roles of women in society have changed. Women served in World War II but after the war, they were mostly shut out from serving and returned back to civilian life. To President Truman, that was not acceptable.
On June 12, 1948, the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act was enacted that allowed women to serve as permanent and regular members of the US military. Previous to this they could only serve during wartime. Even then under very limited circumstances. It was not completely a brand new day however as they were excluded from aircraft and ships which may engage in combat.
In 1949, the Army established a regulation that mothers with dependent children could not serve. Immediately any female with a child under 18 years old was discharged. This was rolled back in the 70’s with federal regulation.
On the cusp of the Korean War, women were able to serve in the conflict and many did. Over 120,000, in fact, served in various roles. Mainly in so-called “pink collar” positions, administrators and such. They also served as nurses in various units including the Mobile Army Surgical Hospitals, that’s right. If not for the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act who would Hawkeye have had to harass on M*A*S*H?
Most importantly this act symbolizes the road that women have had to travel to be treated as equals during wartime. The process continues today and there are always bumps in these long and winding roads. When it comes to war through the old adage of “any warm body will do” may soon become the watchword.
America has always had a complicated relationship with its military. When there is a need for a strong army, to defend and protect our way of life we celebrate and honor them.
Once the wars are over we tend to shove them out of sight and out of mind. It’s a pattern that has followed the soldiers of our country from the middle of the Revolution to this very day. Yet still, they serve. Without question. Without thought. They sacrifice their lives and families so that we can all go about our lives without fear.
Men like the one in the photo above.
His name is lost to history. The man who took the picture is gone and so is his memory of his fellow soldier. This was taken somewhere in Vietnam during that conflict.
The picture shows a man who is battle-worn and tired, exhausted from having not slept for who knows how long. Cans on the ground around him indicate a hastily eaten meal of c-rations, his head resting on the pack that carried everything that he currently owns.
The rest is well-earned, the enemy in this case never far away and constantly on his mind. Dreams of home the only defense against the horrors of war he faces on a daily basis.
Odds are if you ask him why they fight they won’t say for God and country. They won’t spout some great political treatise on Capitalism versus Communism. They will tell you they fight for the people at home. For the others who are just as tired and exhausted as they are.
We still field a mostly volunteer military. True, some don’t have a choice, but all make the decision to serve. Rember them tonight when you are safe and warm.
We use baffle today to mean “confuse or disorient”.
The shocking event baffled the crowd.
The term has its roots in a number of languages but they all pretty much mean the same thing, “mockery”. Appearing first in the 16th Century it described the public humiliation of a disgraced knight whose punishment usually was to be hung upside down from a tree and left for the peasants to treat poorly. (I expect that would mean things like throwing rotten vegetables and fruit or just making fun of.) When the knight had enough he would be let down from the tree and as you may imagine having been hung upside down for a time was dizzy and discombobulated causing him to stumble and fall. By the 17th century, the term baffle came to be used much as we do today.
I think that should be a scene the re-enact at the Ren Faire. Whose with me?
The New World brought untold riches to the powers of the Old World. Gold, silver, furs, tobacco, and many, many other resources became the currency of conquest. There was however one other resource that can not be left off that list, souls. Religion, as is almost always the case, became a weapon and resource in the New World.
The natives that lived in North America had beliefs and religion of their own. That didn’t really matter. The Catholic Church, under the auspices of both Spain and France, saw the natives as savages and pagans. They sought to “rescue” their souls for God.
To do so they established missions all through the New World. These missions often became the center of life for many of the Europeans living in the frontier. They became crucial to not only gaining the support of the natives but converting them to Christianity.
In particularity unsafe or contested areas, sometimes these missions would become forts. From there they would be able to attack enemies and aggressively spread the word of God.
Not all native tribes took to the missionaries very well. They saw no reason to change their traditions and beliefs. There was an effort to make them more like the white man by encouraging them to move from the hunter/gatherer society they had always known to an agrarian based society. All too often the attempts to “civilize” the natives lead to bloody conflict that never ended well for them.
The crosses that are shown in the picture above came were found in the area of one of the old mission/forts. Where the meaning of cross to some is death and rebirth, to others it could just as easily be about the end of a way of life.
Starting this week we are going to do a new poll feature. Every Monday we will put out a new question and collect responses all week. On Friday we’ll look at the results and see what you all think. Feel free to discuss the poll and results on the Facebook page!
The first question is, “Which American Revolutionary War battle had the greatest impact?”
Was it Cowpens and the loss of the British Light Infantry that caused Cornwallis to head north?
Was it Monmouth where the revitalized and newly train Continental Army fought the Red Coats to a draw?
Maybe Trenton where the American cause hung on the knife edge until a surprise victory restore hope?
Perhaps when the French defeated the British Navy off the Virginia Capes opening they way for the Siege of Yorktown?
Or the incredible American defeat at Long Island that nearly broke the cause before it truly got started?
Out of these listed, which do you think had the biggest impact?
Chose from the ones listed in the poll, even if the one you think should be there isn’t. Heck, this may become a tournament at some point! Remember to respect other people’s opinions in the comments. Let’s see how this goes…
The photo above is of a map from 1755 that shows the extent of the British holdings in North America. And yes, if you look close you will see that many of the colonies stretched well beyond what is their western border today. Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia do not stretch all the way to the Pacific ocean, but for a time they did. Most of the original colonial charters didn’t set a fixed western boundary for the colonies
Do you mean to tell me that you never heard of the Pennamite–Yankee Wars? Three times between 1769 and 1784 men from Pennsylvania and Connecticut faced off in the Wyoming Valley near the north branch of the Susquehanna River because each claimed it as their own. (Eventually, it ended up with Pennsylvania.)
Or in the early 1700’s when New York and Connecticut nearly came to blows over their border? Or Connecticut and Rhode Island (Which flared up in 2003)? Don’t think that Massachusetts avoided conflict with them either. Come to think of it Connecticut, for being such a small colony, sure did like to scrap.
The map above was compiled by John Mitchell. He was commissioned by the British Board of Trade to put together a comprehensive map of all their holdings in North America. He was given access to every existing map and chart as well as journals and colonial charters. From that, he put together the map above.
When finished it was found to place a large amount of territory into a dispute with France. This fact was used as a propaganda tool to help incite the French and Indian War.
When the American Revolution ended it was this map that the main parties used to work out the borders for the new United States of America.
You may have heard that phrase from time to time. Head Honcho is another name for the boss, commander, or anyone in charge. It comes from the Japanese han-cho, which is roughly translated to “squad leader”. For the most part, this was meant to denote a corporal or sergeant.
The Americanized version became popular during WWII and Korea and is one of several Japanese phrases that found its way into the American vernacular.
People, Places and Things from US Military History