Category Archives: Museum

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.

Purple Heart


Purple Heart

Purple Heart


On August 7th, 1782 from his headquarters in New York General George Washington established the Badge of Military Merit, the precursor to the Purple Heart you see above. In his official order creating the award he wrote that “the road to glory in a patriot army and a free country is…open to all.” For what is believed to be the first time a military service award could be given to an enlisted man instead of just officers which was the European tradition.

Three soldiers of the Revolution were awarded the Badge of Military Merit and hold the distinction of being presented with the award by General Washington personally.

  • William Brown, Sergeant of the 5th Connecticut Regiment of the Connecticut Line
  • Elijah Churchill, Sergeant of the 2nd Regiment Light Dragoons
  • Daniel Bissell. Sergeant of the 2nd Connecticut Regiment of the Connecticut Line

After the war, the award was almost forgotten and fell into disuse, but never officially decommissioned. After WWI an attempt was made by the Army to revive it, but the attempt faltered until 1931. That year General Douglas MacArthur, the Army Chief of Staff, moved ahead with the process and a total redesign.

Unveiled on the bicentennial of Washington’s birth. The new design features a heart-shaped medallion that features the bust of General Washington, hanging on the purple ribbon.

Originally the award was given for those wounded in combat as well as those who performed meritorious achievement. Eventually, with the commissioning of the Legion of Merit, the Purple Heart was reserved exclusively for the wounded. The first recipient of the Purple Heart? General Douglas MacArthur himself!

For more information on the award, please visit


Swagger stick


Yes, it used to be en vogue for members of the US Military to carry swagger sticks. See way back in the day Roman Centurions carried rods of vine wood about three feet in length. They used these to guide drills of their soldiers and to discipline them when needed.

Not as long as a full staff or cane it found its way through the ages to the British Army. Where at one point it was part it became part of the “walking out” uniform for all ranks. It survived until off-duty soldiers were able to wear civilian clothes then it kind of faded from popular use.

In the US it started in the late 18th century and took strong hold during WWI when the troops saw how cool the British looked with them and in 1922 it became a part of the US Marines regulation uniform where it would come in and out of vogue several times until finally being dismissed from active service in 1960 when the Commandant of the Marine Corps officially designated it as optional.

It will surprise no one that General George S. Patton carried a swagger stick with him that also managed to conceal a blade, he was always prepared, but the best modern story of the swagger stick belongs to General William J. Livsey. From 1864 to 1987 he was the US 8th Army Commanding General in South Korea. He carried a very special swagger stick made from wood from the poplar tree that was the center of the Axe Murder Incident that occurred in the DMZ in 1976, that will be something we will we cover in another story though…

The Governor’s Palace At Williamsburg


The Governor’s Palace At Williamsburg


The picture above is the Virginia Governors Palace at Colonial Williamsburg. Construction on the original building started in 1705 and continued off and on until 1718. That year Governor Spotswood finally took up residence. It was not totally completed, however. Lack of funds and growing expenses dragged the construction out. A total of nine Governors would live in the “palace”. Including such men at Robert Dinwiddie, John Murray, fourth Earl of Dunmore, Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson. In 1780 the capital moved to Richmond where it would stay.

The original palace burned down in 1781, and it pretty much stayed that way for a very long time. After the Revolution, the land was given over to the College of William & Mary and several instructional buildings took over the location. In 1928 The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation purchased the site and began an extensive archaeological survey of the site. During this survey, they were able to locate the original foundation and were able to get a good idea of the structure which for many had only ever existed in paintings of descriptions.

In 1929, armed with the results of the survey an extensive reconstruction of the original building started. In 1934 the restored building opened to the public and serves as a historic site and museum to this day.

Certainly one of the highlights of any trip to Williamsburg, there is no description that can possibly translate what it feels like to be standing on the top floor of that building and looking through the window, out over the town square and imagining what it was like in the days before the Revolution.

The U-505 On Display

The U-505 On Display

The U-505 On Display


At the Museum of Science & Industry in Chicago, Il you will find the WWII German submarine, U-505 on display. The Allies captured her in 1944 and she came to the museum in 1954.  You might expect this post will be about the submarine, with technical specs and telling the story of its capture, but it’s not. That will most likely come later. Today’s post is about something over heard when we were taking in the exhibit.

First off I want to say hats off to the museum on the display. It is breathtaking. As we were moving around from one side of the boat to the other and checking out the various artifacts in the room a young couple was following close behind, parts of their conversation wafted through the hubbub of the cavernous room but plain as day these words were clear, “Why are we looking at a German submarine? We need to get rid of it and all the Nazi stuff…”

Say What Now?

It took a second to realize what she was saying and now fully dropping eaves on the conversation it appeared that the young woman had the impression that anything to do with the Nazi’s needed destroyed or buried deep. Her boyfriend/husband/partner agreed wholeheartedly and as we neared the exit of the exhibit, where a German Kreigsmarine Flag was displayed, they almost ran out of the hall.

Let me get this out there first. The Nazi’s were the bad guys and there is little dispute to that. You can get into the nuances of the politics and such all day but that does not change the facts. If you fought under the Nazi regime, you were not on the side of the angles.

What that overheard conversation brought to mind though is the idea that all traces of the Nazis should be removed, just like some people are looking to remove all traces of the Confederacy. The thing is if you remove or hide all traces of the past, especially the bad things, and bad people or even just things you don’t agree with, you increase the chances of those things happening again.

The Lesson

The U-505 is a reminder of a war that happened. As a relic from the defeated side, we should treated it with the same reverence as an American naval vessel. It is OK to respect your enemy, even if they are “evil”.  Hopefully the couple that came out that day realizes looking into the past does not mean just the good parts. I bet they are the kind of people who jump to the last chapter of a book.  Than judges the entire novel based on the ending. OK, this rant is over, next time you see the U-505 here, we’ll get into the good stuff.

The Maine Thing

On February 18, 1898 the American battleship, USS Maine exploded in the harbor of Havana Cuba and catapulted the United States onto the world stage. Above is a photo of a porthole that was recovered from the wreckage and is on display at the National Infantry Museum.

Tensions between the US and Spain had been on the rise as the people of Cuba were fighting Spain for the freedom. America supported the rebels but was in such a position where they could not do so openly. In fact President McKinley sent the Maine to Havana, with permission from the Spanish government, to protect Americans in the country. When the ship inexplicably exploded that night over 200 American sailors lost their life and all any one could ask was why?

The initial investigation placed the cause for the explosion on a mine that had detonated underneath a powered magazine. When the results of the inquiry were made public, the American press immediately laid the blame on the Spanish and demanded that the US intervene in the rebellion on the side of Cuba. Before long the fervor for war grew and led to Congress declaring war on Spain on April 23, 1898. The war itself did not last long, Spain had long been on the decline and none of the other powers felt compelled to help. Before long the US Navy had all but obliterated the Spanish Navy while the ground forces took Cuba and the Philippines, among others.

Several years later, a follow-up inquiry into the fate of the Maine, contradicted the mine findings and instead suggested that the cause of the explosion was spontaneous combustion inside the power magazine. Even today the actual cause of the explosion is debated and serves as fodder for conspiracy theorists. It does seem mighty convenient that such an event occurred just when the desire to create and American Empire at the expense of a dying European power seemed the most, opportune.

To read more about the Maine click here.


An Opening Salvo – Historia Militaris

Historia Militaris - The Old Museum


Welcome to Historia Militaris!


So with the first post, I give you a view of my personal Museum. Here I collect artifacts, items of interest and knowledge. You are seeing three sections here. On the left is the American Revolution, the center is the American Civil War, the right is Napoleon and the French Revolution. There are more sections, by why give up the good stuff on the first date?

As the weeks progress we will look at some pieces of this collection as well as pieces from other museums and historic sites I have visited.

Besides artifacts we will also meet some lesser-known people in history. Sort of the B level that you may heave heard about, but could always stand to know a little bit more of.

And Maps, I love maps, especially of battles. You will see a fair share of those.

Don’t worry, my posts will be kept reasonable, no more than 250-500 words. Soon I hope to open this up for other contributors, but for today and the near future, welcome to the museum section of Historia Militaris.