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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.”

An Artifact From Commodore Arnold

Royal Savage Commodore Arnold

An Artifact From Commodore Arnold


In the picture is actual shot from a swivel gun mounted on the Royal Savage. The quarter is there to show scale. So, what makes this so special? Well, it starts with a name you probably recognize, Benedict Arnold. In 1776 Arnold led an American fleet on Lake Champlain against the quickly advancing British. The Battle of Valcour Island was fought on October 11, 1776 and it was a stunning loss to the Americans. Or was it?

The Battle

On the heels of their retreat from the failed campaign to turn Canada into the fourteenth colony, the Americans gathered every ship they had on the lake to take a stand against the oncoming British forces. Command of the makeshift fleet fell to Benedict Arnold who as an experienced ship captain as well as one of the “heroes” of the invasion of Canada, looked to have the best chance to make the stand.

In the end, the American fleet was almost totally destroyed, but even so, Arnold managed to accomplish an incredible fleet. He had managed to convince Guy Carlton, the British commander, to take a slower pace on his advance. Carlton came to the decision that it was too late in the year to continue his invasion of New York. The British withdrew back to Canada until the following year. Had they continued they would have found very little in the way of defenses. They could have made it all the way to Albany without much of a fight.

The Royal Savage was one of the ships in Arnold’s fleet, commanded by David Hawley. The ball in the picture was forged at the Skeene Foundry and was sized for one of the lightweight swivel guns on the vessel. Usually several of these balls were loaded into the canon. This turned it into a sort of giant shotgun.

As a part of my personal collection, it is a reminder of Arnold on his ascent. The battle at Valcour was just one in a series of episodes where Arnold very well may have saved the revolution.


You Audie Know This Guy!

You Audie Know This Guy!

You Audie Know This Guy!


Quick question. When asked to name a WWII hero, what names come to mind? If Audie Murphy is not one of the first names you think of, you need to learn more about this man.

Born  June 20, 1925, In Texas, he lied about his age to join the military during WWII.  He tried to get into the Navy and the Marines before finding a home in the Army. In 1945, at the ripe old age of 19, he won the Medal of Honor after single handily holding off an entire German company. For over an hour! BY HIMSELF! What did you do today?

But wait, that is not all. After holding them off he helped to lead the counter-attack even though he was out of ammunition and wounded.

During the war, he served with distinction in Tunisia, Sicily, Naples, Anzio, Rome,  France, the Ardennes and on into Germany. During that time he won every single award for valor that the US Army had. Then added several from France and Belgium for good measure.

After the war, Audie became an actor, best known for playing himself in the movie To Hell and Back and numerous westerns. For the rest of his life, he fought against what would be known today as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and worked hard for the cause of getting this disorder into the spotlight. Even our greatest heroes did not go untouched by their experiences. In 1971 he finally met a foe he could not defeat and died in a plane crash.

The picture above shows one of his caps and just a few of the multitude of ribbons that this man earned. There is no greater example of the American Warrior than this man and I behoove you to find out more of the details of his life and actions.


Don’t Forget the French

French Contribution

Don’t Forget the French

From the years 1778 to 1783 the American Revolution was a world war.

In 1777 after capturing an entire British army at Saratoga, NY the Americans were finally able to convince the rest of the world that they had a chance of winning. Up until that point France had been willing to provide a trickle of support to the Americans, unofficially of course., but they sought to avoid a war with the British. After Saratoga, however, they felt that they were ready to join the fight.

At first, their main support was money and supplies. With the American economy failing and the Congress inept both of these contributions were desperately needed. What was need more, however, was the French navy for the Americans would never be able to match the British on the oceans themselves. After several false starts and aborted expeditions, France provided ships and men to the Revolution culminating in the Siege of Yorktown and an American victory in the war.

The detail of their support is a fascinating story itself, and one that deserves more than just a few hundred words here. The plaque in the photo is located in the siege works of Yorktown and serves as a reminder that whatever we have today, we owe to the Frenchmen that gave their lives for our cause. Over 2,000 French sailors and soldiers paid the ultimate price for our freedom while fighting in direct support of America. Counting all French casualties during the period of an alliance, that number soars to almost fifteen thousand. This fantastic website details those losses, French Sacrifice.

How did repay them?

We refused to pay back much of the money they loaned us. Instead, Congress claimed that it was a gift and not a loan. (Thank Arthur Lee for that.)

We refused to help support their own revolution. A revolution that was caused in part due to the financial impact of loaning us the money they did.

From 1798 to 1800 we actually fought our “allies” in an undeclared Quasi-War on the ocean.

Now of course none of those things as clear-cut as they sound, but those will be stories for another time.


Supper Time!

Supper Time!

Supper Time!


Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “An army travels on its stomach.” If any one would know it should be him.  During war, sometimes finding time to eat is one of the biggest challenges. The body is an engine and the engine needs fuel.

The picture above shows a meal being served to troops in the field during the Vietnam War. In this case, the food is classified as “B Rations”. These sorts of meals were usually prepared in a field kitchen from non-fresh ingredients, then shipped to the units where they were heated up and served.  Not needing to be frozen or refrigerated means that even the guys far from the supply center would have the chance for a hot meal on occasion.

These were usually better than the C Rations or MRE’s that the individual soldier would prepare for themselves. Often from a package, and of dubious quality and taste.  However that A Ration is the holy grail. A warm meal, made in a real kitchen, served in a nice safe dining hall.

“We ate when we could and what we could,” Bill Hatfield, who took the picture above, reminisced. “Sometimes we would be out on patrols that lasted longer than we planned and we never had enough of anything. After a couple of days of C-Rats, we didn’t really care how the food at the fire base tasted, just that there was plenty of it.”

Want to know more? Click here

From the picture it looks  a lot like lining up for lunch in school. Except outside and with a chance of being shot at while you are eating. OK, maybe not that different.

Hot Racking

Ah the US Navy. So many young people join up expecting to see the word, new and exotic places and people. However there may be something left out of most of the “travel brochures.” In the photo above you see racks, also known as bunks from a US Navy warship, in this an aircraft carrier.  Three beds in a fairly small space. See during you time stationed aboard the ships that tiny space is your home and your personal space. The beds lift for storage for your personal items and you have the little curtains, so maybe not so bad right?


Or maybe not.

See on some ships, smaller ones for sure, submarines for certain, that bed you see. Well, odds are good you share that with at least one, maybe two other people. Not at the same time of course.

It is called hot racking (or hot bunking) and it is the process where multiple people share a single berth. While one person is on watch (working) someone is sleeping in the bed. When when the shift is over the one returns to the rack that is probably still warm from the person that just got up to go and enjoy their day of work. Wash, rinse repeat, for six months. Yes, that also means that you could be sharing a bed with someone who you have never actually met. What would your mother say?

Don’t feel bad though. They do the same sort of things in prisons sometimes.


Thank God That Such Men Lived…

General George Patton was a lot of things. He was a warrior and a poet in the classical sense. He thought that he had lived many lives before and sometimes did not understand things such as weakness or fear. He was a man who had a purpose and it just so happened that the times he lived in were ripe for that purpose.

The quote of his above is from a speech that he gave at the Copley Plaza Hotel in Boston, on June 7, 1945. It is ingrained in the wall of the Illinois WWII Memorial and at first glance it causes one to take pause and much like Patton himself you need to look at it fully to appreciate the merit of what he is saying.

He had used similar words before in 1943 while dedicating an Allied cemetery in Italy, “I consider it no sacrifice to die for my country. In my mind we came here to thank God that men like these have lived rather than to regret that they have died.” This quote, which came first, sheds light on the second and provides it with a little context.

Patton was a warrior in the classical sense. His job was war and he was good at it. To his detriment he did not always grasp some of the finer details of the job, some of the more human aspects. The slapping incidents are one example. (If you need background on that click here.) He expected every man under him to fight, that was their job, and when he found these men that were unable to mentally continue the fight he lashed out. it is not that he was a callous man, he was just a man who saw a job that needed done and stood for no obstacles in that path. His superiors recognized that in him and while such actions from almost any other general would have seen them dismissed, they need what Patton brought to the table.

Now back to the quote. it would be easy to read the first part and think that those were the words of a callous Patton, one who did not fully grasp the human cost of war. Perhaps he did not even see the men that he commanded but only pieces on a chess board. That is not the fact however. He did see the men and knew the cost, in his role though he had to be able to put it into context. No better quote by the man shows how he was able to do that. By thanking God that these men lived he is showing that their sacrifice, though great, was what was necessary to defeat their enemy. He elevates them in a way from men to legends, and such a thing from this man can not be taken lightly.

Yes, light on history but heavy on commentary. Just that kind of day…

Leaving His Mark: General Lincolns Lows and Highs

Benjamin Lincoln is often an overlooked player on the Patriot side of the American Revolution. In a conflict where most the leaders were either exceptionally or incompetent he rides right in the middle, for the most part. He started in the Massachusetts militia in 1772 and eventually rose to the rank of Major General of the militia in 1776.  Showing some gumption and a little bit of skill he was noticed by General Washington who brought into the Continental Army as a major-general in 1777. After seeing some action including leading troops at Saratoga where he was wounded, Lincoln spent time recovering and preparing for his next step. It would be a big one.

In September of 1778 Washington chose Lincoln to be the commander of the southern department. It went OK for Benjamin. Until March of 1780 when a large British force under General Clinton landed and besieged Charleston, South Carolina.

The siege was text-book and though some believe that Lincoln should have abandoned the city and kept his army intact he decided to stay put, hope for reinforcements and try to survive the siege. Despite long odds he was able to do so for about six weeks. Then faced with pressure from the merchants and well to do in town (they didn’t want to lose their property) he was finally forced to surrender.

In total Lincoln surrendered to the British:

Over 5,000 soldiers

More than 300 artillery pieces

Over 9,000 artillery rounds

33,000 barrels of ammunition

49 ships

120 boats

and a lot more.

This was by far the worst defeat the Continental Army had ever, or would ever suffer and nearly broke the back of the new country. It would have been easy to lay the defeat at the feet of Lincoln and many did, but for the most part his reputation stayed fairly clean (as opposed to someone like Schuyler who faced charges after Ticonderoga).

Lincoln was eventually exchanged and rejoined the army, mainly as a staff officer, keeping his head down and avoiding controversy. in October 1781 however he was thrust back upon the stage at a place called Yorktown.

When the combined French and American forces besieged the army of British General Cornwallis, Lincoln found himself in command of a large portion of the American forces and as second in command to General Washington. In that role he played a huge part in the battle.

on October 19, 1781 the British forces surrendered to the allies. General Cornwallis, who plead illness, sent his second in command to meet the victorious army, General O’Hara, and to surrender his sword. one version of the story says that O’Hara first attempted to surrender the sword to French General Rochambeau who politely refused and indicated it should go the Washington. When offering the sword to Washington O’Hara was gently directed to turn the sword over to Washington’s second in command, General Benjamin Lincoln which accepted the sword and perhaps a little bit of satisfaction. Present at the biggest defeat and the biggest victory Lincoln left his mark on the American Revolution.


Meet General Nicholas Herkimer…

Nicholas Herkimer was a Patriot militia General during the American Revolution. Odds are good you have not heard his name as he is certainly not in the top-tier of American or British leaders during the war. The one thing that he was though was easily one of the bravest generals of the war. To be honest several years ago when I started putting together the idea of this blog, General Herkimer was one of the reasons why and I am pleased to tell you a little bit about him.

Herkimer was the son of German immigrants, born in the Mohawk Valley of what was then the Colony of New York. He participated in the French and Indian War as a captain and as tensions with Britain escalated in 1775 he was named a colonel of the Tryon County militia, soon promoted to brigadier general by the Provincial Congress. He and his militia were instrumental in the struggle against the British aligned natives and Herkimer himself, who spoke Iroquois, worked to keep the tribes as neutral as possible.

In 1777 as part of the Hudson Valley campaign one wing of the British Army from Canada came south to invest Ft Stanwix in New York. Their force was mixed regular, militia and Mohawk Indians. As soon as Herkimer heard they fort was under attack he called out his militia and rushed them to the rescue.

And they never made it. On their way his troops were ambushed by a large force of Mohawks and the Battle of Oriskany was on. In the opening moments of the battle Herkimer was wounded and despite the pleas of his men, refused to be taken off the field. instead his wound was dressed and he was propped up with his saddle next to a tree where he continued to direct his troops, calmly smoking his pipe all the while as chaos erupted all around him. twice the tide of battle turned against his men and they were on the verge of a route, but he rallied them and kept them in the fight. Eventually the Mohawk attackers realized that their losses in the fight did not make for the gains and the retreated back to the British lines at Ft Stanwix. Herkimer was carried off the field by his men, victorious. S few weeks later, due to an inexperienced surgeon Herkimer died from a botched amputation as his wounded leg had become infected.

So a little known battle in the wilds of New York, but the consequences were huge. The Mohawks confronted the British after the battle wondering why they were being sent out to die while the British sat safely in the siege lines. Tensions between the British and Indians grew worse until eventually the Indians quit the British camp to return home, sacking the place on the way out. this would set the stage for the siege to be lifted (By none other than Benedict Arnold) and was one more nail in the British coffin that would be sealed that fall at Saratoga. All thanks to cool and calm General Herkimer who refused to leave the field…


Lt. General Hal Moore, A True Hero

A few weeks ago I posted a movie review of We Were Soldiers, one of the best Vietnam Era movies and for many people the method to which they were introduced to Hal Moore, the commander of the American forces in battle in the Ia Drang Valley.  A few days ago no Lt. General Hal Moore passed at 94 years old. It is strange when these kind of coincidence cross our lives, but I wanted to take this chance to tell you a little more about Moore.  Before I go on I want to say that the picture above is not Moore, but it is from that era and General Moore will always be tied to the image of the helicopter as the modern-day cavalry. So just a little reminder.

Hal Moore graduated from West Point in 1945 as a second lieutenant in the infantry, just missing serving in WWII. he served in post war Japan and eventually found himself assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, NC. While there, and I am not joking, he tested experimental parachutes making over 130 test jumps in his two-year term. Yep, he jumped out of airplanes with experimental parachutes, that alone should make you say wow.

He served in the Korean War and made a name for himself as a regimental officer. In 1964 he went to Fort Benning and was given command of the newly formed air mobile 11th Air Assault Division where he was one of the men who developed the strategy and tactics that would see the helicopter become the staple of the Air Cav.

As the commander of the 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment in Vietnam in 1965 he led his troops into battle against the North Vietnamese Army in the Ia Drang Valley. 450 American soldiers faced off with over 2,000 of the enemy over three days. Under Moore’s leadership the Americans not only held the field but drove the enemy from it. An unbelievable testament to his talents.

In the wake of the battle Moore was promoted and spent the rest of his career in and out of various posts inside the Pentagon, finally retiring in 1977.

The links below go to the two books about the Ia Drang Valley that Moore wrote along with Joseph Galloway. I encourage you to read these books and watch this movie. General Moore did the country a proud service and he will be missed.


We Were Soldiers Once…and Young: Ia Drang – The Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam

We Are Soldiers Still: A Journey Back to the Battlefields of Vietnam