Presidential Thanksgiving – 1789

Thanksgiving

Presidential Thanksgiving – 1789

Happy Thanksgiving

Below is President Washingtons Thanksgiving Proclamation. While the official holiday was not made into law until 1941 it was not uncommon for Congress and or the President to call for days of thanks. Enjoy below. Have fun and get some turkey.

 


Thanksgiving Proclamation

Issued by President George Washington, at the request of Congress, on October 3, 1789

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and—Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”

Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favor, able interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted; for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations, and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally, to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Go. Washington

Bull Run vs Manassas

Bull Run vs Manassas

Bull Run vs Manassas

This hand-drawn map of the Battle of Bull Run is on display at the Manassas National Battlefield Park. As far as artifacts go it is fairly standard. A participant of the battle recreated the battlefield on paper. Possibly as part of an after-action report, or maybe just so they would not forget. We don’t know about the author, but we know one thing for sure.  The person who made the map was from the Union.

How do we know? The title on the map is Battle fo Bull Run. Had it been a Confederate that drew the map most likely it would have been labeled Battle of Manassas. During the war, the Union Army tended to name battles after the closest body of water. The Confederates used the nearest town.

Examples

Some other examples are:

The battle fought between April 6 and 7, 1862 is known in the North as Pittsburg Landing, but in the South, it was called Shiloh.

September 17, 1862, found the north fighting the Battle of Antietam, but the South fought the Battle of Sharpsburg.

April 8th, 1864 was the Battle fo Mansfield to the Confederates, but to the Union, it named Sabine Cross Roads.

Of course, in the end, the name of a particular battle was usually determined by the winner. Today, especially if you visit the national parks that have sprung up around the former battlefields you may recognize most of the ones in the South will use the Southern names.

As for why they were named as such, one historian theorizes that since many Northerners were from cities they considered bodies of water as the more noteworthy geographic feature. Southerners, however, tended to be more rural so they regarded towns as most noteworthy.

So if you are discussing the Civil War with someone pay attention to how they refer to battles, it may give you some insight as to where they are from!

Play Dixie For Me

Play Dixie For Me

Play Dixie

This painting, Play Dixie,  that hangs in a gallery at the Lincoln Presidential Museum and Library captures one of the moments that made Lincoln who he was. There are a couple of different versions of this story, the one below comes from the Daily National Intelligencer a Washington paper at the time.

On April 9th, 1865 General Lee surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to General Grant. This effectively ended the Civil War. The next day thousands of people flooded into the streets of Washington DC. They celebrated the victory by marching and singing through the streets. Eventually, the crowd was able to catch the attention of the President who after some cajoling came forward to address the crowd.

A Fair Won Prize

Below is the brief address that Lincoln gave to the crowd.

‘FELLOW CITIZENS: I am very greatly rejoiced to find that an occasion has occurred so pleasurable that the people cannot restrain themselves. [Cheers.] I suppose that arrangements are being made for some sort of formal demonstration, this, or perhaps, to-morrow night. [Cries of `We can’t wait,’ `We want it now,’ &c.] If there should be such a demonstration, I, of course, will be called upon to respond, and I shall have nothing to say if you dribble it all out of me before. [Laughter and applause.]

I see you have a band of music with you. [Voices, `We have two or three.’] I propose closing up this interview by the band performing a particular tune which I will name. Before this is done, however, I wish to mention one or two little circumstances connected with it. I have always thought `Dixie’ one of the best tunes I have ever heard. Our adversaries over the way attempted to appropriate it, but I insisted yesterday that we fairly captured it. [Applause.] I presented the question to the Attorney General, and he gave it as his legal opinion that it is our lawful prize. [Laughter and applause.] I now request the band to favor me with its performance.’”

The band played the song and then rounded it out with a flourish of Yankee Doodle. When the music ended, Lincoln led the crowd in a round of cheers for General Grant and his soldiers. Then the valiant Navy.

A week later Lincoln was assassinated. Was it his favorite song or was it just a great piece of propaganda? Which one of the dozen versions of the story is true? Honestly, it doesn’t really matter. All that does matter is that Lincoln and the Union Army brought Dixie home in the end.

F-4 Phantom By The Book

F-4 By The Book

F-4 Phantom By The Book

How cool would your job be if this was one of the books that you used?  Sitting on a cart at the Airzoo, along with a tool kit and a cup of coffee was this book. It appears that part of the work scheduled for that day was work on an F-4 Phantom.

The F-4 was first put into service in the US military in 1960 and found its way into the air wings of the Navy, Marines and Air Force.  As an air superiority fighter, it was one of the primary machines used during the Vietnam War and continued to be used in the later decades. Eventually, the F-15, F-16, and F-14 supplanted it in the different branches.

The last hurrah for the Phantom was in the first Gulf War in 1991. There it was used to suppress enemy air defenses.  In 1996 it was finally retired from active duty in the US military. The model did see extensive use in other military forces around the world and as of June 2013 still was seeing duty in Germany.

The book above is a pretty cool piece that acts as an owner’s manual for the model. From schematics and photos to break downs of all the major components. Sort of like what you may find for your car, except with places for guns and missiles. If you want a copy they are only about $20 and can be found here.

 

Dodgers and Ford Dodgers – Vietnam

Ford and the Dodgers - Vietnam

Medals of the Vietnam Conflict given to President Ford out of protest.

Ford and the Dodgers – Vietnam

The trope is a familiar one. Returning veterans of the war in Vietnam joining in with the protesters all over the country, trying to bring the war to an end. As a sign of protest, they would take their medals and citations and toss them in the reflecting pool at the Mall in Washington. Sometimes over the fence at the White House as a sign of anger and frustration.

The war was something that people didn’t understand. Unlike WW2 there was no clear-cut definition or goal. It was a war that was being fought mainly to prove that we were willing to fight. The men and women that served often felt like tools and pawns of the power in Washington. Their need to protest to be heard and understood was well-founded. But there is another side to the story.

Many men and women served and did their duty. While they may have had strong feelings about the right or wrong of the war, they fought it. They did their duty when called. Then something amazing happened to them that caused many to speak out though they had remained silent so far.

Counter Protests?

On September 16, 1974, President Gerald Ford announced that those who had dodged the draft (Draft Dodgers) and avoided service would be allowed to earn clemency by providing an “alternate” service to their country. In exchange for two years of public service, their sins would be forgiven.

A new wave of protests was started, this time not against the war but against the idea that those who illegally avoided fighting would be forgiven. Many veterans sent their medals and citations directly to President Ford himself in protest. The photo above is a collection of just some of the medals that Ford received in protest. In an effort to heal the wounds of the nation, he only created a deeper divide.

 

The Dunker Church At Antietam

Dunker Church At Antietam

The Dunker Church

 

On the morning of September 14, 1862, the congregation of the small Dunker Church just outside Antietam Maryland heard the cannons in the distance. Seven miles away a battle was underway at South Mountain as Union and Confederate forces vied for supremacy.

A couple of days later on the morning of the 16th, the Confederate forces were at the church digging in and preparing for the battle that was coming the next day. The church would be one of the main focal points of the Battle of Antietam. The Union forces pushed hard against the Confederate position that made up their left flank.

After the battle was over the church stood standing with hundreds of bullets stuck in its walls. It served as an aid station for Confederate wounded and served as a meeting place for the two sides to exchange wounded. In 1864 the church was repaired and services were resumed.

Eventually, the congregation built a new church in Sharpsburg. Now abandoned, the structure became a target for souvenir hunters. A strong storm in 1928 finished what they started. The church collapsed altogether.

In the 1930’s the owner built a house and gas station / souvenir shop on the foundation. In 1951 the Washington County Historical Society purchased the building. They cleared the newer structures and turned the foundation over to the National Park Service. In 1962 on the 100th anniversary of the battle the church was rebuilt using as much as the original material as possible. There it stands today. A place of peace and serenity serving as a counterweight to the tragedy that surrounds it.

 

 

The Groove is the Thing

Groove

Feeling the Groove…

Firearms for a very long time were fairly simple things. A barrel of some sort with two holes. One at the front for the projectile to come out. One in the back to light the powder that sent the projectile out.

Starting from there, people would go on to add different kinds of trigger mechanisms. Matchlocks which actually used a piece of burning cord to light the fuse. Flintlocks which used sparks to light the fuse.  Percussion caps and the modern trigger mechanisms of today. All showed an evolution but didn’t do much to help the main issue that a smoothbore firearm had. Range and accuracy. You could aim at a target but hitting anything more than a couple of dozen yards away was a matter of luck more than skill. This was why armies stood in long lines real close together and firing all at once became the way wars were fought. The more muskets pointed in a direction, the better the odds were one would hit a target.

That all changed with the invention of rifling. Rifling, which is adding a series of groove to the barrel of a firearm, was first done in what would be Germany in the late 15th, early 16th century tough it would not become standard until the nineteenth century. The grooves in the barrel cause the projectile to spin which greatly stabilizes the flight due to centrifugal force. With its flight more steady the projectile more often than not would go to where it was aimed greatly increasing accuracy. Suddenly a bunch of men standing in line a few yards from each other became less of a good idea. Unfortunately, it would take a bit for tactics to catch up with technology and a lot of people dies needlessly. That is a story for another time though.

The pic above shows the rifling grooves on a Civil War-era cannon, looking down the barrel you could see the spiral pattern that imparted the spin which gave the guns the greater range and accuracy.

Fort Stanwix: The Key to the West

Ft. Stanwix

Located near what is today Rome, New York Ft. Stanwix at one time was one of the primary guardians of the frontier world. When the construction began on August 26, 1758, during the French and Indian War, it was designated to defend the Oneida Carrying Place. An important portage that could command traffic from the Atlantic seaboard to Lake Ontario. British General John Stanwix oversaw the construction of the fort which is done in a standard star design.

Conference

In 1768 the fort was the site of a treaty conference between the British and Iroquois. The purpose of the conference was to redraw the boundary lines between the white settlements and the Indian lands based on the Proclamation of 1763. The proclamation basically forbid British subjects from settling across the Appalachian Mountains. Thus giving the Indians control of the land. Both sides hoped that the conference would lead to an end to the frontier violence that was costing both sides lives. They also cost the British a lot of money to maintain a defense force in North America.

Of course, as with most treaties of the time, no one got everything they wanted. The Iroquois maintained their boundaries in the north, much to the chagrin of the white settlers. In return, the Iroquois ceded the better part of what would become Kentucky. There was just one problem, the tribes that actually lived in that area Shawnee, Delaware, and Cherokee were not represented at all in the negotiations! So, of course, this treaty just paved the way for the next round of frontier violence.

American Revolution

After the treaty was signed Ft. Stanwix was abandoned and fell into disrepair until American troops occupied it in July of 1776. Officially renamed Ft Schuyler, it was repaired and fortified. In August of 1777, it came under siege by the British. At the time British General Burgoyne was leading one arm of the British army on his ill-fated Hudson River campaign. General Barry St. Ledger led another arm against the Continentals at Ft. Stanwix.

On the day that the siege began the defenders of the fort raised the flag that was based on the designed approved by Congress. For the first time, the flag of the United States of America was flown in battle. The Americans held out, thanks to General Herkimer at the Battle of Oriskany, and double thanks to General Benedict Arnold. St. Ledger retreated to Canada and his defeat helped set the stage for Burgoyne’s surrender at Saratoga months later.

In May 1781 the fort burned down and was not rebuilt. During the War of 1812, a blockhouse was built on the site. Designated a National Monument in 1935 the fort was reconstructed between 1974 and 1978 and remains in place, run by the National Park Service and open year-round.

Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard (P.G.T)

Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard (P.G.T)

Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard (P.G.T)

The Little Creole, The Little Napoleon, Bory, Felix, The Hero of Fort Sumter, P.G.T., and too himself just G.T. The man had many names and many different roles during his lifetime. He graduated from the US Military Academy as an Engineer and served in the Mexican War.

In 1861 he was the Superintendent of the Academy when South Carolina seceded. He resigned his post and the US Army and became the first brigadier general in the Confederate Army. There he led the defense of Charleston and was victorious against the Union forces at Ft. Sumter. A couple of months later he led the CSA in battle at Bull Run in Virginia. Defeating the Union Army again.

Soon after he was sent to the Western theater and led armies at Shiloh and the Siege of Corinth in Tennessee. In 1863 he went back Charleston and defended the city from a number of attacks by Union forces. In perhaps his greatest achievement he managed to keep Petersburg from falling into Union hands. This prevented the Union Army from attacking Richmond directly.

So one of the most successful Confederate generals, maybe one of the best on either side. Why do we not know his name like we do Jackson, Lee, Longstreet and the others? Most likely it was because he was not that great at the political aspects of generalship. He did not play well with others. Including the president and the rest of the high command.

Life After War

After the war, he was offered positions in the armies of Brazil, Romania, and Egypt. All of which he declined instead focusing his energy on freeing the South from the Union occupation forces. He spoke out for civil rights and the ability to vote for recently freed slaves. Later he ran a railroad and even invented cable cars. He was also a proliferate author relying on his experiences in the war.

In 1889 when Jefferson Davis passed, Beauregard was asked to head the funeral procession for his former president. He turned it down saying, “We have always been enemies. I cannot pretend I am sorry he is gone. I am no hypocrite.”

 

Army Commendation Medal

Army Commendation Medal

Army Commendation Medal

 

The Army Commendation Medal is a mid-level award given out for “sustained acts of heroism or meritorious service.” It entered service in 1945 as the Army Commendation Ribbon. By 1960 it had achieved full medal status.

The medal can be awarded to any member of the US Armed Forces (except general officers) that distinguishes oneself while doing service with the US Army anytime after December 6, 1941.  Members of a friendly foreign military are eligible as of  June 1, 1962.

The commendation is awarded on the approval of a Colonel or higher. The medal is a bronze hexagon approximately 1 3/8 inches wide. The medallion shows a bald eagle with the wings spread, three arrows grasped in its talons. On its chest is a shield with thirteen stripes. The reverse of the medallion contains the words For Military Merit. There is a space between the military and merit for the recipient’s name along with a laurel sprig. The ribbon is 1 3/8 inches wide in myrtle green with five white stripes spaced evenly apart.

People, Places and Things from US Military History

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