MAY 2016

MAY 2016
Looking Over Donald Trump's Shoulder.

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Sunday, May 01, 2016

THE FIRST DAY Chapter Fifteen

I believe the story because I believe the man. The legend is that on the evening of Sunday, 29 June 1863, 34 year old Federal Brigadier General John Buford (above) and some of this staff climbed Jack's Mountain, just northeast of  Fountain Dale, Pennsylvania, in the eastern mouth of Monterey Pass, and saw dust rising from the masked Cumberland Valley beyond. 
And being who he was – born in Kentucky, raised in Illinois, disowned by his slave owning family after he chose to defend the union - Buford could sense the brawl that was about to break out, he could smell the testosterone and adrenaline of 160, 000 approaching men. The General turned to his aides and told them, “Within 48 hours the concentration of both armies will take place on a field within view and a great battle will be fought.”
But while the view from 1,775 feet above the Juniata River was and is magnificent, there were  no dust clouds in view.  A little further back down the road, near Emmitsburg, Maryland, marching with the 6th Wisconsin Infantry, Lieutenant Colonel Rufus Dawes remembered “I don't think I ever before saw...such a long continued, misty, drizzling storm as we have been marching through since we crossed the Potomac.”  And two days before he had written to his wife of  "...trudging along all day in soaking rain, getting as wet as a drowned rat...and then wrapping up in a wet woolen blanket and lying down for a sleep.." There was plenty of mud in southern Pennsylvania, but there was no dust.
But this was the third year of a civil war, in which brother literately was killing brother. The vast majority of those 160,000 combat veterans knew what they were marching toward - knew it as sure as they knew it could not be stopped. As the great Historian Bruce Catton put it, The soldiers were, “...led together by the turns in the roads they followed. When they touched they began to fight, because the tension was so high that the first encounter snapped it, and once begun the fight was uncontrollable. What the generals intended ceased to matter; each man had to cope with what he got...” That was the reality I believe General Buford saw in the fading mist.
Perhaps the clearest glimpse of John Buford in this third year of the war was provided by what happened to a young civilian suspected of spying on the Federal cavalry near Frederick, Maryland. A quick “drum-head court martial” found the boy guilty, and he was promptly condemned, and left hanging by his neck from a roadside tree. When a committee of Frederick civilians demanded an explanation from Buford, the General explained he would have sent the boy back to Washington for trial, except he feared the bureaucrats and politicians there would make the spy a Brigadier General. That is what passed for a joke after 2 1/2 years of war.
Twenty miles to the south of Buford's cavalry  were the three leading corps of the Army of the Potomac. From south to north, they were the 13,000 men of the III Corps, under the 44 year old legally insane New Yorker and congressman, Major General Daniel Edgar Sickles (above)
They were following the 9,000 despised and disparaged “Damned Dutch” of the XI Corps under the 33 year old Puritanical nativist Major General Oliver Otis Howard, from Maine. 
In the lead were the 12,200 men of the veteran First Crops, under the command of the 42 year old charismatic Pennsylvanian, Major General John Fulton Reynolds.
President Lincoln had wanted Reynolds to run the Army of the Potomac after the Chancellorsville debacle. But on Tuesday, 2 June, 1863, Reynolds made met the President one-on-one and told Lincoln he would take the job only if Lincoln kept politics out his decisions. Lincoln had his fill with Generals who decided which orders they would follow. He might even have explained to the naive General that all wars were as much political as martial. But whatever he told Reynolds, the top job had gone to Meade.
Meade immediately drew up plans to establish a 20 mile long defensive line facing north (above) - “roughly parallel to the Mason-Dixon line” - between Manchester and Middleburg, Maryland, along the south bank of Big Pipe Creek. It was an extraordinary defensive position. But perhaps still irritated at being passed over for the command, Reynolds expressed concern that Meade's cautious nature would allow the rebels to continue “ plundering the State of Pennsylvania”, referring to the Pipe Creek plans as “dilatory measures”. But Meade had already sent Reynolds west and north of that line.  First Crops and Howard's XI Corps made camp the night of 29 June, around Emmitsburg, Maryland. And as Meade explained in a post script to his orders issued that night, “Your present position was given more with a view to an advance on Gettysburg, than a defensive point.” And screening Reynolds 22,000 men by ten miles or so were the 2 battalions of John Buford's cavalry, just 6 miles outside of Gettysburg, that night.
That damp Sunday morning, 38 miles to the north, 37 year old rebel Brigadier General Henry Heth (above) had marched his infantry division down the eastern slope of South Mountain to occupy a small collection of houses and barns around a store and inn called Cashtwon. They were the advance guard of Lieutenant General A.P. Hill's 22,000 man Third Corps, and Heath's task was to establish a defensive line to hold the pass. The next morning he would send a brigade 8 miles further down the Chambersburg Pike to the little town of Gettysburg, looking for supplies to feed and clothe his men. And looking for Federals.
Thirty miles north and east of Gettysburg on Sunday, 29 June, 1863, was Richard Ewell's 22,000 man Second Corps. Jubal Early's division was due east Gettysburg, at York, Pennsylvania, where they had cut the Baltimore and Harrisburg railroad. The day before a 1,200 man Georgia brigade under the often wounded General John Brown Gordon had even reached as far as Wrightsville, on the Susquehanna River. But after the Yankees burned the bridge, that Sunday Gordon's men returned to York.
The remaining two divisions of Ewell's Second Corps – commanded by 34 year old Major General Robert Emmett Rodes and 37 year old Major General Edward "Allegheny" Johnson - were further north, in Carlisle, fulfilling General Ewell's 4 day old prediction, “We will get fat here.” Georgia private Gordon Bradwell recalled his 20 man company had been issued “two hindquarters of very fine beef, a barrel or two of flour, some buckets of wine, sugar, clothing, shoes, etc.” 
Further east, in Mechanicsburg, Brigadier General Albert Jenkins' (above)  troopers demanded 1,500 rations. After that demand was met within 90 minutes, the rebels started looting, as they had done in Chambersburg. Noted one bitter journalist, “Some people, with . . . antiquated ideas of business, might call it stealing...but Jenkins calls it business...”
On that same Sunday, 29 June, other troopers from Jenkin's cavalry were trading shots with Pennsylvania militia at Oyster's point on the river, while Jenkins himself, along with 3 of General Ewell's engineers , were looking over the defenses of the state capital of Harrisburg (above)  Nobody was impressed. 
Even the burning of the Cumberland Valley Railroad bridge over the Susquehanna (above)  failed to discourage these rebels. That evening, General Ewell ordered his infantry to move toward the river, determined to capture Harrisburg. This was the proof that Hooker's delay in matching Lee's movement across the Potomac, was leading to disaster.
Then an exhausted courier arrived at Ewell' (above)s headquarters outside of Carlisle, with orders issued by General Lee just 12 hours earlier, in Chambersburg. 
In Lee's typical passive-aggressive fashion they read in part, “...if you have no good reason against it, I desire you to move in the direction of Gettysburg....you can thus join your other divisions to Early's...Your trains and heavy artillery you can send, if you think proper, on the road to Chambersburg. But if the roads which your troops take are good, they had better follow you.” 
Ewell, who had some experience with Lee's choice of language, realized the urgency hidden in the message. He immediately called off his attack on Harrisburg, and prepared to swing Johnson's  division and his supply trains back down the Cumberland Valley toward Chambersburg, and Rodes division due south toward Gettysburg – first thing in the morning.
The next morning, on the last day of June, 1863, while Major General J.E.B. Stuart was clashing with Major General Pleasanton's Federal cavalry at Hanover, and General Rodes division was just beginning their 30 mile march south from Carlisle, John Buford was riding onto the high ground south of Gettysburg, at the head of 3,000 troopers. On the ridge opposite the town, known as Seminary Hill, he could see rebel infantry on the Chambersburg turnpike. These were the 2,000 man infantry brigade Heath had sent forward, looking for supplies. But seeing blue cavalry about to enter the town before them, and aware of Lee's orders  to avoid a fight, they reversed their march, returning to Cashtown.
Seeing them retreat, Buford immediately galloped into the town of Gettysburg and arraigned his defenses
His first battalion of 1,500 men, under Colonel William Gamble, (above) were spread out on ridges west of town above Marsh Creek, near where the Pennsylvania volunteers had been overrun the week before. 
The Second Battalion under Colonel Tom Devin (above) was ordered to post pickets as far as 4 miles west and north, and entrench his men along the Mummasberg road. Devin confidently said he thought the command could handle whatever rebels threw at them, but Buford cut him off, saying, “No, you won’t. They will attack you in the morning and they will come booming – skirmishers three-deep. You will have to fight like the devil until supports arrive.”
At 10:30 that night Buford sent his report 10 miles back to Reynolds, now north of Emmitsburg.  It read in part, “...I am satisfied that A. P. Hill's corps is massed just back of Cashtown, about 9 miles from this place...One of my parties captured a courier of Lee's...He says Ewell's corps is crossing the mountains from Carlisle...”.
In short, Lee's entire 75,000 man army was converging on Buford's 3,000 man force in Gettysburg. To have added a cry for help would have been superfluous. After the messengers had left, Buford's signal officer, First Lieutenant Aaron Brainard Jerome, noted that his commander seemed more anxious, “than I ever saw him.”
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Friday, April 29, 2016

HOME IS THE SAILOR

I think that no matter what you have misplaced, the cost of finding it is always double. First there is the cost of the thing. Then because you go crazy looking for the thing, you lose your train of thought about the other thing you were thinking about before you noticed you lost the first thing.. As anybody with OCD will tell you, it quickly becomes more about the crazy than any of the things. I think it's better to avoid the crazy entirely and just assume the thing will eventually turn up on its own. I learned this lesson from John Paul Jones, the pugnacious and self centered Scotsman who founded the American Navy -  and from Teddy Roosevelt, the pugnacious and self centered American President who found Admiral Jones after he got lost.
John Paul had the first requirement for greatness; luck. While serving as third mate on board a merchantman in 1768, both the captain and the first mate died of yellow fever while he didn't.  Thus he won an instant promotion. Over the following years Captain John Paul acquired a reputation for brutality. And just when the bad press had brought his career to a a screeching halt, luckily, his brother in the colony of Virginia dropped dead and left him a small fortune.
Having made the voyage to collect his inheritance, John Paul decided to stay in Virginia.  And to confuse any hounding lawyers Jones added a third name to his moniker. And when, luckily, the shooting started in Boston, Captain John Paul Jones packed up his resume and offered to fight for his new country as a privateer.
At first he did most of his fighting just to get a ship. But when he finally did, flying the American flag while sailing out of France, he at last justified his luck. He raided British ports. He captured British merchant ships in full view of the English coast. He lashed his ship to an English warship and fought it out until both ships were sinking. Offered a chance to surrender, he responded, “I have not yet begun to fight.” Then the British warship surrendered to him.
When that war was over John Paul Jones was out of work. So, with congressional approval, he hired on as an admiral with the Russian Navy. But that did not work out. Jones was pushy, and the Czarina did not trust pushy men.. "Catherine the Great"  told the American admiral  to "go mind your own business."
So in May of 1790 Jones returned to Paris, and took a third floor front apartment at #42 Rue de Tournon (above).  And it was here, over the next two years, that the self assurance and self promotion that served Jones so well in obtaining a ship and winning battles, now isolated him.  The Marquis de Lafayette, once an admirer, could no longer tolerate his "colossal egotism.". And the American Minister to the Court of Louis XVI,  Gouverneur Morris, grew so weary of his badgering demands, that after tending to the Admiral's pneumonia,  Morris retreated from Jones' sick bed for a dinner appointment. It was when he reluctantly returned 2 days later, on the afternoon of 17 July 1792,  that Morris found the 45 year old admiral lying face down on his bed, his feet still on the floor, but dead as a door nail.  Jones' servants and few admirers pickled the hero in rum, packed him into an iron coffin, and buried him in the old Saint Louis Cemetery, set aside for foreign protestants. The expectation was that he would be transferred home to America, as quickly as funds could be raised.
Unfortunately, three weeks after John Paul Jones was laid to rest, a mob descended on the Royal Palace of Tuileries, and captured the King and Queen. To achieve this, they first had to butcher his Swiss guard, which the mob did with relish. During the cleanup their bodies were dumped into a common grave,  right next to Jones' resting place. What with the revolution and the Napoleonic wars, by 1815 when peace finally broke out,  the cemetery was long abandoned and forgotten.
Over the next century,  John Paul Jones floated in rum and slowly pickled while the mundane world continued on with out him.  In time the land atop John Paul Jones came to be occupied by a grocery, a laundry, an apartment house (above) and their attendant backyard sheds, toilets, cesspits  and wells.
And there John Paul Jones might have stayed had not a lunatic shot and killed American President William McKinley in September of 1901.
That lunatic made Vice President Teddy Roosevelt (above), at 44, the youngest man ever to take the oath as President of the United States.
And when Teddy decided to run for his own term, in 1904, he was opposed by Republican National Chairman Mark Hanna (above), who portrayed his fellow Republican Teddy as a wild eyed lunatic, and called him  “that damn cowboy”. What Roosevelt needed in 1904 was anything that would make him look like a stalwart defender of tradition. Luckily, he found what he needed when his ambassador to France pointed out that one of our greatest Revolutionary War heroes had gone missing in Paris  for over one hundred years. So the order went forth in typical Teddy Roosevelt fashion, “Dig up John Paul Jones! Whatever it costs!"
General Horace Porter (above) was a civil war hero and now the American ambassador to France.  And in 1897,  after reading a new biography of Admiral Jones, Porter had become obsessed with finding his body. After three years of research through old maps and confusing government records Porter found the cemetery where Jones had been buried, now adjacent to the Rue de la Grange aux Belles - or in the more prosaic English, Street of the Beautiful Barn.  Because of all the new buildings, the only way to recover Jones was to tunnel into the graveyard -  not a pleasant occupation, but a great plot for a horror movie.
Before he could dig, Porter had to get the current owners’ permission. It took him two more years to negotiate for a 3 month contract with all the local land owners. At the same time President Roosevelt submitted a special appropriation to pay the $35,000 estimated price tag to dig up John Paul Jones’ corpse. John Paul would not have been surprised to discover that a hundred years had not made the American Congress any more rational. On the evening of Friday, 3 February, 1905,  Mr. Porter started the work, on his own dime. Congress had tabled the President's request.
Heading the project was M. Paul Weiss, who had been trained as a mining engineer, and he was going to need all that training. Weiss sunk the first shaft 18 feet straight down in a back yard. It wasn't long before he hit his first corpse. That meant that luckily,  the bodies had not been moved.
Unfortunately, despite the construction over the graves, the ground was not well compacted, and a great deal of time and money would have to be spent shoring up the shafts, and supporting the walls of the buildings above.  Or at least that's what Ms Weiss told Ambassador Porter when he presented the bill.  Noted Porter, “Slime, mud, and mephitic (foul smelling and poisonous) odors were encountered, and long red worms appeared in abundance.”
Wrote Porter, “Two more large shafts were sunk in the yards and two in the Rue Grange-aux-Belles, making five in all.  Day and night gangs of work men were employed…Galleries were pushed in every direction and ‘‘soundings’’ were made between them with long iron tools,…so that no leaden coffin could possibly be missed."
The wooden coffins had long since corroded away and for the last century the bodies had been slowly decaying in the soil. Now the miners working for Ms Weiss (above)  had introduced waves of fresh air, which accelerated that decay. The stench was often overwhelming. Three lead coffins were found, the first on 22 February, 1905, and the second a month later. Those two had copper plates identifying their occupants. Neither was John Paul Jones.  Shortly there after they found King Louis' Swiss Guard, in their mass grave, stacked one atop the other. And now Weiss knew he was on the right track.
On 31 March, 1905, the miners hit a third lead coffin, this one without a copper plate The crew decided they needed more fresh air before they opened it. It was a lucky thing they did.
On 8 April, 1905 they finally pulled the coffin loose from the soil, and while still in the tunnels pried open the coffin lid. Ambassador Porter (above, left) was there,.as was Ms. Weiss (above, right) , to catch by flickering candle light the first glimpse of  the great hero since 1792.  The body inside was wrapped in tin foil. The stench of alcohol filled the tunnel. Rolling back the tin foil, they gazed upon the face of John Paul Jones, a physical connection with the American Revolution. His nose had been bent by the weight of the coffin lid, but the face was still recognizable. It was John Paul Jones. After a hundred years he needed a shampoo, but that was to be expected.
Doctor J. Capitan performed an autopsy and determined that the heart and liver were normal, but the left lung showed signs of “small patches of broncho-pneumonia partially cicatrized” He wrote that he had come to the conclusion that “the corpse of which we have made a study is that of John Paul Jones”.
John Paul Jones came home aboard the CA-3 (cruiser) U.S.S. Brooklyn (above), escorted by 10 other American battleships, and a few French ones as well.
Once in Chesapeake bay,  the coffin was transferred to the smaller U.S.S. Standish (above), for its landing at Annapolis, Maryland -  site of the United States Naval Academy..
On 24 April, 1906, what was left of John Paul Jones was placed in a temporary tomb (above),  because Congress had yet to pass the appropriation to even pay the cost to recover the body, let alone a memorial. And they never did.
When the hero arrived home, Teddy Roosevelt gave a speech in front of his coffin, in which he barely mentioned John Paul Jones. Instead Teddy talked a lot about his plans for the future of the American navy.
By now, Teddy had been re-elected without serious opposition in part because, luckily for Teddy, his Republican foe Mark Hanna had died of typhoid fever in February of 1904. So the the entire effort to rescue John Paul Jones from anonymity to save Teddy's political future  had been unnecessary. In fac it seemed that Teddy's entire effort to recover John Paul Jones had been about Teddy - in much the same way that John Paul Jones' efforts to create an American Navy had been all about John Paul Jones.  And Congress never did pass the authorisation to pay for the effort because the members of Congress were under the impression that "it" was all about them.. Poor General Porter had to take up a collection to repair some of the damage to his purse. Teddy did not donate. . But at least, at last, the body of John Paul Jones had been found and was home.
Requiem
"Under the wide and starry sky
Dig the grave and let me lie:
Glad did I live and gladly die
And I laid me down with a will.
And this be the verse you 'grave for me
Here he lies where he longed to be
Home is the sailor, home from the sea
And the sailor home from the hill."

Robert Lewis Stevenson
I told you John Paul was lucky.
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