Tag Archives: Heroes

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.”

 

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.

 

 

Lt. CMDR G. R. Ford Jr. USNR

Lt. CMDR G. R. Ford Jr. USNR

Lt. CMDR G. R. Ford Jr. USNR

 

In the wake of the Japanese assault on Pearl Harbor In December 1941 a young college football star from the University of Michigan decided to put his life on hold in order to join the US Navy. That young man would serve in the war and end up going into politics. Eventually, he would serve as the President of the United States.

That young man was Gerald R. Ford who gained his commission in the US Naval Reserve as an ensign in April 1942.  The first year of the war he spent training  Navy pilots in basic navigation, ordnance, gunnery, first aid, and drill. And of course, he acted as a coach for all the sports that were offered on the base.

In May 1943 he was assigned to the USS Monterrey, a light carrier that was still under construction in New Jersey. During his time attached to the ship, he served as the assistant navigator, Athletic Officer and commanded an anti-aircraft battery. He saw plenty of action during the tour. The Gilbert Islands, New Ireland, the Marianas, and Western Carolines, Wake Island and many actions in the Philippines. After almost losing his life in a typhoon that did major damage to the ship and the fleet, in December 1944 he was transferred off the Monterrey and was sent to the Navy Pre-Flight School at Saint Mary’s College of California where he became the football coach. He passed the rest of the war in that post.

On February 23, 1946, he left the service under honorable conditions. During his military career, he was awarded the American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with nine and 3/16 bronze stars, the Philippine Liberation Medal with two and 3/16 bronze stars and a World War II Victory Medal.

During those years he learned many lessons about leadership and sacrifice that would serve him for many years to come. From college football star to a warrior, to President of the United States, Ford did pretty well for himself.

The Quotable US Grant

The Quotable US Grant

The Quotable US Grant

Rather than do another post rehashing the biography of General Grant (later President Grant) I thought it would be fun to look at some of the most famous quotes attributed to the man. So here are some of my favorites:

Labor disgraces no man; unfortunately, you occasionally find men who disgrace labor.

I know only two tunes: one of them is ‘Yankee Doodle’, and the other isn’t.

Nations, like individuals, are punished for their transgressions.

Leave the matter of religion to the family altar, the church, and the private school, supported entirely by private contributions. Keep the church and state forever separate.

Although a soldier by profession, I have never felt any sort of fondness for war, and I have never advocated it, except as a means of peace.

If men make war in slavish obedience to rules, they will fail.

I would suggest the taxation of all property equally, whether church or corporation, exempting only the last resting place of the dead and possibly, with proper restrictions, church edifices.

I have never advocated war except as a means of peace.

It was my fortune, or misfortune, to be called to the office of Chief Executive without any previous political training.

The art of war is simple enough. Find out where your enemy is. Get at him as soon as you can. Strike him as hard as you can, and keep moving on.

Grant was a good man and a good general. Some say he lacked as President because he was a good man who felt like he needed to take care of his friends. There is no doubt that his two terms were by far, to this point, the most corrupt administration on record. That should never take away from the man himself.

Thanks to Brainy Quote for these gems.

Ulysses S. Grant. BrainyQuote.com, Xplore Inc, 2016. http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/u/ulysses_s_grant.html, accessed August 23, 2016.

The Titans of Appomattox

The Titans of Appomattox

The Titans of Appomattox

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.

Peace

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

 

Continental Pensions

Continental Pensions

Continental Pensions

The gentleman in the picture above is one of the wonderful staff at Colonial Williamsburg. I did not catch his name but the “character” he played had an interesting evolution. He played his character at different points in time. Starting from when the trouble with Britain was beginning all the way to the end of the war. In this picture was a  Continental soldier after the war trying to figure out was next for himself. Many like him thought they would have some sort of pension to lean on, here is part of that story.

First Pension Act

Pensions and land grants were two methods used to entice young men to join the Continental Army. As early as 1776 Congress passed the first of the pension laws which promised half-pay for a period of time to anyone that served in The Continental Army. With the caveat that the only men eligible were those that lost a limb or that were rendered unable to earn a living after the war. So a start.

Amendment #1

In 1778 General Washington convinced Congress to amend that to include half-pay for 7 years to all officers that remained in the service until the end of the war. Enlisted men who stayed would be eligible for an $80 annuity after the war.

Amendment #2

In 1780 Congress amended the act again to provide the half-pay for 7 years to the orphans and widows of Continental officers who died in service.

Amendment #3

Later in 1780, it was amended again, once more at the insistence of Washington, to give officers half-pay for life.

Amendment #4

After the near revolt of the officer corps at Newburgh, NY in March 1783, a new pension act was passed giving the officers full pay for 5 years payable in hard money or interest-bearing annuities. Officers could choose which they wanted

Amendment #5-10

The pension laws would be changed another six times over the years. In 1828 Congress provided for full pay to surviving officers and enlisted men without any further requirement of disability or financial need. In 1832 they extended further, full pay for life for all officers and enlisted men who served at least 2 years in the Continental Line, the state troops or militia, the navy or marines. Men who served less than 2 years but at least 6 months were granted pensions of less than full pay.

100 Years and Still Tweaking

Fifty-six years after the start of the war everyone who fought was now eligible for a pension. The final actual pension legislation regarding the American Revolution was passed in 1878. This last one extended lifetime benefits to any widow whose husband served at least 14 days or participated in any engagement during the war.

The sad part is that many of the men and widows were never able to actually collect their pensions. That is a story for another time though.

A Doughboy In The Trenches

Doughboy

A Doughboy In The Trenches

The term doughboy was used for members of the American Expeditionary Force that fought in France during WWI. The name itself though was used long before that. During the Napoleonic wars, a doughboy referred to a fried flour dumpling that was popular among the British in Spain. Eventually, this small cake would evolve into the modern doughnut.

Mexican War

The term doughboy in reference to soldiers, however, started a little after that. During the Mexican – American War (1846-48) the term was used for American infantry and while no one knows for sure where the term came from there are a number of possibilities.

One theory has to do with the environment that the infantry marched through in Mexico. It was dry and very dusty. As they marched mile after mile they became covered head to toe in a fine layer of dust. To some, it looked like they were covered with flour. The cavalry, with no love lost for the infantry, took to calling them doughboys as a derogatory term.  Sounds about right and would fit in with other appellations for American soldiers such as dog face, grunt, joe, etc.

WWI

In the years between the Mexican War and WWI, the name was not used very much though, only becoming popular again when the Americans showed up in France. This time though it may have come from another source. It seems that along with hundreds of thousands of infantry, the Americans also sent the Salvation Army volunteers to support the troops. One of their best-known services for the men was the making of doughnuts. Millions of them that were delivered to the American troops serving on the front-lines. It would not be a huge jump in logic to see French and British troops chiding the Yankees and amount of fried dough they were subject to. Doughboy would not be that much of a leap. (It could also have been used to mock the perceived weakness of the raw and unblooded American troops.)

Whichever theory you want to subscribe to the fact is the term doughboy is one that will always bring to mind the American soldiers in the muddy and dark trenches in France, much like those young men in the picture above.

“Retreat, Hell!”

"Retreat, Hell!"

“Retreat, Hell!”

Few quotes actually do justice to the US Marine Corps and the one above that was offered up by General Oliver Smith during the Korean War is one that does in a nutshell.

By November 1950 the Chinese had been involved with the war in Korea for about a month. After a number of actions, it appeared that they may not be a match for the UN troops. Several initial battles led to Chinese defeats with high casualties around the area known as the Chosin Reservoir.  Expecting a different result Chairman Mao Zedong personally called for the destruction of the UN troops. To achieve this he sent the 9th Army across the border into North Korea. UN intelligence never saw it coming.

On the night of November 27th, the Chinese 9th army completely surprised the US X Corps at the Chosin Reservoir and kicked off a terrible 17-day battle. The X Corps was made up of American, South Korean and British troops, about 30,000 strong. They were quickly surrounded by almost 120,000 Chinese soldiers hell-bent on their destruction.

General Smith, the commander of X Corps knew the only way out was through the Chinese lines. On December 6th Smith began the breakout with the 7th Marines in the lead and the 5th Marines bringing up the rear. When asked by a member of the press corps if the Marines were retreating Smith responded, “We are not retreating, we are just advancing in a different direction.” As happens with most historical quotes, time has changed it into the more familiar one seen above.

Breakout

The running battle was the stuff of legend as the Marines did the impossible.  Fighting through Chinese night attacks, ambushes, human wave attacks and even having to build a bridge from sections dropped by plane, the finally reached friendly territory on December 11th. When all was said and done the UN forces lost almost 13,000 men to the Chinese nearly 60,000. The Marines were a rock that the Chinese nearly broke on. It would it would be many months before the Chines would be able to continue offensive operations.

 

 

 

A. Lincoln, Soldier

A. Lincoln, Soldier

A. Lincoln, Soldier

At Lincoln’s Tomb, as you leave the entrance way and walk the hallway to the antechamber where the sarcophagus is, you are shown a number of statutes that represent certain periods of Lincoln’s life. The one above is of Lincoln the soldier. While his actual time spent in that role was short, it shaped him in a number of ways.

In early 1832 Black Hawk and a band, his followers crossed the Mississippi River in an attempt to reclaim their lands from the white settlers. This attack caused Illinois to call out there militia, among them a young man named Abraham Lincoln who would serve over the next couple of months.

Lincoln served in a number of roles during the war as he came in out of the service. At one point he was elected captain of his company, his first brush with an electoral process. Most accounts show he was a well thought of and capable leader. While he never actually saw combat during the war, he was on hand for the aftermath of several battles, tasked with helping to bury the dead each time.

Later in life, Lincoln would reflect on his time in the service. It would be one of the many starting points for his famous stories. During this period he made a number of contacts that would serve him in his career. The images of the aftermath of the war would never stray far from his mind. Of the many roles, Lincoln undertook in his life this was one of the smallest. Certainly not a legendary one. Still, that brief time did help make the 23-year-old into the man he would later become.

Uncle Billy Sherman

Uncle Billy Sherman

Uncle Billy Sherman

The picture above is of a photo of General William Tecumseh Sherman that was taken later in life and is on display the Museum of the Grand Army of the Republic. Few Civil War figures on either side bring out the sheer emotion of General Sherman.  Emotions that for the most part vary depending on what part of the country you are from.

In the South, too many he is a villain who wrecked the South and will never be forgotten. In the North, he did what he had to do to bring the war to an end.

To the soldiers that served under him, he was quite affectionately known as Uncle Billy.  He was a General that honestly cared for his soldiers, but never let that stand in the way of doing his job. Often after the war men that served under him would show up at his door hungry, broke and abandoned. He never turned them away. He always provided what food or money he could to help them make it one more day. That was Uncle Billy.

Quotes From the Man

 

  • “War is cruelty. There is no use trying to reform it. The crueler it is, the sooner it is over.”
  • “Every attempt to make war easy and safe will result in humiliation and disaster.”
  • “In our country…one class of men makes war and leaves another to fight it out.”
  • “I am tired and sick of war. Its glory is all moonshine. It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, for vengeance, for desolation. War is hell.”
  • “War is the remedy that our enemies have chosen, and I say let us give them all they want.”
  • “I would make this war as severe as possible, and show no symptoms of tiring till the South begs for Mercy.”