JUNE 2017

JUNE  2017
J.P. Morgan as a young man in his own words - "The Public Be Damned."

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Friday, July 05, 2013

IF WISHES WERE KINGS

I cannot conceive of a worst possible moment for the young men to deliver their false missive. Two weeks before, the three day battle of the Wilderness had killed and wounded some 17,666 Federal soldiers. And just three days later General Grant led the same weary army into the seemingly endless meat grinder of the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse, Virginia, which this early morning of May 18th, 1864, was still grinding on, having killed and wounded another 18,400, including legendary Union General John Sedgwick. Three days ago, in the Shenandoah Valley yet another Federal Army, this one 6,275 men strong, had been ambushed by an even smaller rebel force in the Battle of New Market. The Federal troops had suffered 13% causalities, and retreated some 35 miles to Strasbourg, Virginia. It seemed as if everything the Federal government attempted in this third spring of the American Civil War, was producing only disaster. And then these young man arrived at 3:30 in the morning, with their missive, to seemingly drop the other shoe.
 
It purported to be a bulletin from the Associated Press, which had been in business since 1848, and contained the text of a White House Proclamation. In language typical of the President, it began, “In all seasons of exigency, it becomes a nation carefully to scrutinize its line of conduct, humbly to approach the Throne of Grace, and meekly to implore forgiveness, wisdom, and guidance.” The operative passage began in the third paragraph. “In view, however, of the situation in Virginia...and the general state of the country, I, Abraham Lincoln...by virtue of the power vested in me by the Constitution...call forth the citizens of the United States, between the ages of eighteen and forty-five years, to the aggregate number of four hundred thousand, in order to suppress the existing rebellious combinations...”
The reaction to news of a new half million man draft, in the city which the year before had produced three days of rioting (above) in response to the first draft call in America, was expected to be even more violence. One hundred twenty had died in the summer of 1863, at least eleven African-Americans had been lynched, untold numbers beaten, and fifty large buildings had been burned down. Many on Wall Street took this as a sign the Federal government was losing the war, and they expected investors this spring of 1864. to dump their stocks for gold..
At first glance the notice seemed legitimate. It was written on the same cheap oily tissue paper used by the Associated Press, but had not arrived in the usual fashion. Several editors were suspicious, but there were only moments before the deadline to start the presses for the morning papers. Under this time constraint, and fearing they would be “scooped” by competitors, three Democratic leaning papers rushed the story into the print – The World, the Journal of Commerce, and the Brooklyn Eagle. But the night editor of the Times, a Republican paper, did not recognize the handwriting, and found it had not been delivered in an AP envelope. He held his own presses while he dispatched a messenger for confirmation. The AP editor replied, “The 'Proclamation' is false as hell and not promulgated through this office. The handwriting is not familiar.”
Wall Street was in an uproar that morning, with investors and brokers crowding all the newspaper offices (above), demanding an answer. Was the proclamation real or not? When the markets opened, the price of gold rose about 10%, but quickly fell back after William Seward, Secretary-of-State and Edward Stanton, Lincoln's Secretary-of-War, both issued statements declaring the report to be “an absolute forgery.” And if the administration had stopped there everything would have been all right. But Lincoln himself ordered the local commander, General John Dix, to seize the offices of the Journal of Commerce and the New York World, and to ”arrest and imprison...the Editors, proprietors, and publishers.” It seemed the bloody mess in Virginia was making everybody a little jumpy.
The Journal of Commerce was a small anti-slavery newspaper founded by Arthur Tappan and Samuel Morse, inventor of the telegraph. But the owners opposed the Lincoln administration's decision to use force to put down the rebellion. So the Postmaster General had refused to deliver the JOC via the mail, crippling the paper outside New York City, where most of its 35,000 readers lived. William Prime, business manager of the JOC, wrote to his wife that afternoon, “Found on coming down town that we, in common with the World...had been hoaxed by a most ingenious scoundrel.” That evening Federal soldiers arrived to close down the paper and arrest the guiltless Mr. Prime.
Considerably less innocent was the two cent per copy, “New York World”. The paper was owned by the Democratic National Committee, and directed by the DNC chairman, August Belmont. In its pages anything with a whiff of Lincoln or Republicanism abut it was opposed. Every day the paper was filled with articles warning of the threat of the ballooning war debt, and criticism of the administration's military strategy. Its editorials called for repeal of the emancipation proclamation, and a negotiated peace with the Confederacy. It was the platform of the Democratic Party in 1864. But these were not entirely the position of the editor, Mr. Manton Malone Marble.
Marble  (above) was a newspaperman with printer's ink in his veins. Employed as the Night Editor, he had bought the bankrupt World in 1861, dreaming of a non-partisan fact based style of journalism. But after just six months he had been forced to seek new backers, and the Democratic Party had eagerly stepped in. Marble lost friends and staff members when he signed the deal, and the joke among journalists in the city was that Marble was now little more than a conductor for the stories Belmont wanted in the paper day in and day out. But there was still a spark of independence in the man, and when he learned from an alert staffer, before dawn on the morning of 18 May, 1864, that his paper had published the proclamation, he ordered all copies still unsold to be withdrawn from street vendors, and dispatched a fast ship to stop and board a steamer “Nova Scotia”, to return the bundles of the newspaper bound for England - even buying back the free copy provided to the boat's purser. It made no difference, Marble was arrested the evening of 18 May, and the offices of “The World” padlocked shut.
That very night the member papers of the Associated Press telegraphed the President, strongly defending Prime and Marble. The next day several of editors, including Horace Greeley, of the Republican leaning Tribune, joined the chorus of demands that Marble and Prime be released. And it began to occur to Lincoln, that he had stepped into something unpleasant. He also had the calming influence of General Dix, who seems to have quickly suspected, along with the members of the AP, that this was not a rebel plot, nor even a Democratic one.
 
At the same time he arrested Prime and Marble, Dix also ordered the arrest of Joseph Howard, night editor of the Brooklyn Eagle, the only other paper to actually publish and distribute the false proclamation. Within a day Howard, who had previously been the private secretary to the abolitionist firebrand minister Henry Ward Beecher, confessed. He had conceived the fraud as a way to clear himself of debts. Howard assumed the false proclamation would drive up the price of gold, in preparation for which he had bought gold futures “short”, on credit. As one historian has noted, “Nothing worse was ever done for the purpose of speculation.” Two days later, on Saturday morning, 21 May,  police detectives stopped and arrested Francis Mallson, a reporter for the Eagle, who had actually authored the fake telegram.  Francis had just been drafted, and was on his way to report for duty.  He had hoped the scam would provide for his family while he was in the army. The next day, Sunday 22 May, military authorities released both Prime and Marble. But the damage had been done.
Marble was in a rage. He laid the blame for his arrest directly on Lincoln's head. On Monday, 23 May he unleashed his pen, in a letter that took up several columns. “Not until today,” Marble wrote, “has The World been free to speak. But to those who have ears to hear, its absence has been more eloquent than its columns could ever be.” He then went on to do his very best to prove that contention wrong. Lincoln had acted, wrote Marble, “for the purpose of gratifying an ignoble partisan resentment”  He wondered if the Times or Greeley's Tribune had published the Proclamation, “would you, Sir, have suppressed the Tribune and the Times as you suppressed the World and the Journal of Commerce?” He then answered the question for Mr. Lincoln. “You know you would not... Can you, whose eyes discern equality under every complexion, be blinded by the hue of partisanship.” George Templeton Strong, an diarist and observer of politics in New York, noted, “The martyred newspaper...vomits acid bile most copious.”
Marble now became the publicist for the Democratic Party, and its champion, General McClellen (above, center). He spent the next six months retelling and even creating every lie conceivable about Lincoln, charging him with wanting to force race mixing on the public, and ignoring the pain and sacrifices of Union soldiers on the battlefield. 
And it might have worked, excerpt on 2 September, 1864,  Union General William Tecumseh Sherman captured Atlanta, Georgia, the rail and industrial heart of the Confederacy. In that instant it was clear Lincoln was winning the war, and the Democrats were revealed as defeatists, with no answers, only protests. That November Lincoln received only 33% of the vote in New York City. Despite that, he won the state, if barely, on his way to re-election, 55% of the popular vote, and 212 electoral votes to Democrat General George McClellan's 21
The World did not accept defeat, disparaging Lincoln's speech the day after Lee had surrendered, on the night of 13 April, 1865.  It described the President as groping “like a traveler in an unknown country without a map.” The following night John Wilkes Booth murdered the President, transforming Lincoln into a martyr, and the The New York World and it's editor into a petty, vindictive and racist party mouthpiece.
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Wednesday, July 03, 2013

FOG OF WAR


I read all maps with interest, because they always tell a story, about a place and a time - as in Civil War maps.  In textbooks Pennsylvania is a solid blue union state. But the little town Hanover, and its 1,600 residents, where the Hanover Pike crossed the road from Baltimore (30 miles to the southeast) was also a border town. It lay just five miles north of the white stone Mason Dixon line marker (above), the official divide between “slave” and “free” states. 
So at 8 a.m. on the last day of June, 1863, when the 1st and 7th regiments of Michigan volunteer cavalry cantered up the Baltimore Pike into Hanover (above), they were unsure of the reception they would receive. A halt was called and their commander, newly promoted General George Armstrong Custer, ordered most the men to dismount and posted sentries on all the roads into town. Meanwhile, the newly appointed Brigadier General Judson Kilpatrick, commander of the 3rd Cavalry division, greeted the townsfolk and asked for information. He found them pleasant and helpful.So, after a short rest, when the 1st West Virginia cavalry, under Union General Farnsworth, arrived, Custer and Kilpatrick and the Michigan men remounted and continued on to the northeast, toward the Pigeon Hills and Abbottstown beyond. They were looking for the Rebel army, said to be somewhere in the area.In their turn the West Virginians were replaced in Hanover by the 5th New York. And about 11 A.M. the newly formed 18th Pennsylvania cavalry regiment limped into Hanover and the New Yorkers mounted up and, in their turn, began to head toward Abbottstown.Pennsylvanian Captain Henry Potter, commanding 40 men, relieved the New York pickets southwest of Hanover, out on Fredrick road. Their officer informed him of some suspicious men seen lurking at the edge of a nearby wood. When the New York boys left, Potter decided to investigate. He and some of his men advanced down the road to the southwest of Hanover. Three miles later, at a road junction and small farm owned by the Butts family (above), Potter's command was suddenly cutoff by 60 mounted men in grey who appeared behind him. They were members of the 2nd North Carolina cavalry, and their officer demanded that Potter surrender. Instead, Potter ordered his men to draw their pistols and charge.They burst through the startled Rebel line, killing one Confederate trooper and wounding several others. Four of the Pennsylvania men were also killed, but they broke through and raced back toward Hanover. The rebels gave chase.This became a three mile gallop across the countryside, both sides firing wildly. As the pursuit neared Hanover it uncovered the men Potter had left behind. Their seven shot carbines forced the Confederates to pause. But as more of the North Carolina horsemen arrived,  they swarmed over the federals who retreated back down Fredrick street and into town.The center square of Hanover was now jammed with the federal cavalry division’s supply train and ambulances, as well as the rear guard of the 5th New York which had yet to leave town. General Farnsworth was trying to disentangle the one from the other. But he was overrun by his own retreating men, with the rebels pressing closely behind. Farnsworth's federals were driven out of the town.
Farnsworth quickly reformed his troopers, and was reinforced by more who were counter- marching toward the sound of the guns. With the New York rear guard and most of the Pennsylvania regiment, Farnsworth launched a dismounted charge back into the town. The federals now swarmed through the narrow side streets and alleys around the square.Now the mounted rebels found themselves engaged in close combat in the narrow side streets of Hanover, (above)  where there was little room to swing a saber or maneuver a horse. The commander of the Confederate troops had his own horse shot out from under him, was thrown into a vat of dye and was then  captured by a New York trooper.The Confederates were forced to withdraw. As more confederate troopers arrived, they formed battle lines on the hills to the south and west of Hanover, while the Federals were in a defensive arc centered on town (above). Rebel artillery began to lob shells. Battery E of the 4th U.S. Horse Artillery responded.At this point General Kilpatrick arrived back in Hanover, having driven his horse so hard that it immediately broke down and died. He thus lived up to his nickname of General “Kill Cavalry”.Kilpatrick put Custer’s dismounted men to the west of Hanover, and the fair haired Custer (above) began to press toward the Confederate artillery position, forcing the rebels to reinforce that flank and pull their artillery back.And just for a few moments it looked as if a great battle might be fought here (above), with both sides feeding in men until the battle grew to a maw that ground up humanity by the thousands. But it was not to be. That night the Rebel cavalry commander, J.E. B. Stuart, slipped his troopers around the union right flank (to the east) and headed to the north, toward Dover and away from the Confederate main body. . In the morning Kilpatrick’s horsemen followed the Confederates, to the north and to the east. There was to be no great battle in Hanover.But, that same morning, July 1st, 1863, the 2nd Federal Cavalry division was probing 12 miles due west of Hanover, and found not Confederate cavalry but infantry, the entire right flank of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.  It was this force that J.E.B. Stuart was supposed to be screening, and protecting. And it was this battle which would grow over the next three days into the climatic struggle of the American Civil War, in and around a small Pennsylvania crossroads town no larger than Hanover, but destined to be more famous; Gettysburg.
It was an accident of history that Hanover was not the site of the war’s crucial battle: lucky Hanover. It was a combination of human blindness and ambition, and accidents of terrain and of timing that the battle of Hanover produced 28 dead, 123 wounded and 180 missing or captured..Meanwhile at Gettysburg these same imponderables produced 7,864 dead, 27,224 wounded and 11,199 missing or captured. And that illogic is what is called the logic of war.The first soldier killed at Hanover, out near the Butts farm, was Corporal John Hoffacker. He had served in the 18th Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalry for all of two months, and he died barely 20 miles from his home. That too is the logic of war.
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Sunday, June 30, 2013

1828 - A PUNCH IN THE NOSE

I am still angry with John Quincy Adams (above). Yes, he has been dead for 164 years, perhaps the only man to have died in the offices of the Speaker of the House of Representatives. But whenever I think about what he did not do, I want to go back to 1828, and just slap him. Its not that he was without honor. He remains the only President who left the White House and then served 18 years in Congress. And the current craze for large expensive Presidential libraries began with the modest one built in his honor, by his son Francis. But then, I guess Francis felt the need to honor his father, since he was partly responsible for John Q. being a one term President. Not that Charles was to blame, but he was responsible. John Quincy Adams was the Adams to blame for his abbreviated Presidency.
See, in 1809, John Quincy was the first American Ambassador to Russia. But as a diplomat John Quincy had only two qualifications. First, he was very, very smart. And second, he was his father's son. Having accompanied John Adams to Paris to represent the Continental Congress during the revolution, and after the war, to England, John Q was the best trained diplomat in America. On the negative side, neither his father nor John Quincy had the personality for the job. He would later describe himself in his own diary as a “man of reserved, cold, austere, and forbidding manners.” If it hadn't been for his wife, the vivacious and politically astute English-born Louisa, (above) John Q. would have been a complete failure as a diplomat. But even she found the Adams men “cold and insensitive”. Louisa's regrets, and her migraine headaches, may have had something to do with John Quincy's parenting skills. He had none. Both of his older sons became alcoholics.
Anyway, when in 1809 President James Madison appointed John Quincy as ambassador to Russia, Louisa had to leave the older boys at home, and drag two year old Charles on the 80 day sea voyage to St. Petersburg. Louisa brought along her chambermaid, Martha Godfry, who would also serve as Charles' nurse. John Q described Martha as “a very beautiful girl”, and it seems she must have been pleasant as well. In any case, Martha also played her part in the future political troubles of President John Q.
Martha was from a servant class family, and sent a letter back to her mother in Boston, saying she had arrived safely, and how magnificent the Romanov court was, and how handsome the Czar (above) was, and how the women at court practically fainted if he looked at them. Well, the Russian secret police were just as efficient in the 19th century as they would be under the Communists, and they opened Martha's letters. And since the writing was complementary of the Czar, they copied Martha's letters, and showed the copies to Czar Alexander I. The Czar was flattered, and hearing the girl was pretty, he concocted a way to meet her. He contrived to have the daughter of one of his visiting in-laws, the young princess Amelia of Baden, invite Charles to a play date. And when Martha arrived with the boy, the Czar just happened to stop by for a quick visit. He brought along his German wife, Elizabeth (below), as cover.
Alexander spent a few minutes talking to the boy, and tried to strike up a conversation with the beautiful Martha. But either she was too nervous or too naive, or he did not find her as attractive as John Q did, or maybe the Czarina smelled the testosterone in the room, but in any case after this brief encounter, Charles and Martha were never invited back. Alexander went back to his mistress, Maria Antonovna Naryshkina, and Czarina Elizabeth went back to her lover, Adam Czartoryski. As for Martha, after she was debriefed by John Q. - who managed to miss the entire subtext of the encounter – she was allowed to retreat to her bedroom, where she composed a detailed letter to her Mother of the exciting day she actually spoke to the Russian Czar. The secret police must have been sorely disappointed with that month's American diplomatic pouch.
All of that, remember, was twenty years in the past, when President John Q arrived in Baltimore on the afternoon of Sunday, October 14, 1827 – 5 months after Roger Tawny and friends met to plot the President's defeat. The President had sailed down the Chesapeake Bay to dedicate a memorial to the 1814 Battle of Baltimore, but took the opportunity to do a little politicking. Noting the town was also constructing the nation's first memorial to George Washington, he called Baltimore the “city of monuments”, knowing the phrase would stick. He even stayed over an extra day, to attend the funeral of Revolutionary War hero, General John Edgar Howard. And that night John Q spent three hours shaking hands and speaking with some 2,000 locals.
In 1824 Baltimore had gone heavily for Jackson, but logic seemed to dictate the town should support Adams in 1828. The city was the starting point for the Cumberland Highway, now called the National Road. This had been the dream of George Washington, and already snaked west through the mountains toward Pittsburgh. Paid for with high tariffs on imported goods, John Q wanted to push it across the Ohio border to the Mississippi River, binding the nation together ideologically and economically. And Baltimore would be the Atlantic port for everything that came down that road.
And then there was the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal; also partly paid for with tariff revenues, and well begun in 1827, snaking west to the headwaters of the Ohio River. It also began in Baltimore, and with the Wabash and Erie Canal in far off Indiana, would draw corn and pork grown on the frontier down its stone lined walls to be shipped through Baltimore, and then to the world. 
And now, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, raising funds and laying plans, intended, someday, to connect by steel the farms and mines of the Mississippi Valley directly to Baltimore. The Baltimore American urged the city to “imitate the spider and spread her lines towards every point of the compass...The present generation are able to pay interest; let the next generation pay the principle.”
That last sentence was a perfect encapsulation for John Q's “American System”, and a century later, President Eisenhower's interstate highway system - investing in infrastructure today, so future generations could enjoy the harvest. The next evening, after another full day, John Q was the guest of honor at a dinner of the Society of the Cincinnati, named after the Roman Senator who left his plow to lead soldiers of the Republic, and then returned to his farm. This night John Q gave the final toast, to “Baltimore, the Monumental City (above) - may the days of her safety be as prosperous and happy as the days of her danger have been trying and triumphant!” It was an optimistic view of the nation's future. But there were men, like Roger Tawny, who preferred to look backward and saw nothing but threats in the future. And they would do whatever needed to be done to ensure the future did not come.
In far off Concord, New Hampshire, resided a man often accused of being demented, insane and mad – the lunatic's name was Isaac Hill (above). He had been owner and editor of the weekly newspaper, The Patriot, since 1809, and while serving  in the New Hampshire legislature had developed a reputation as a gadfly and political arsonist. He also saw nothing promising in the future. Readers were entertained by his vitriol, vendettas and conspiracies - he was a sort of Michelle Bachmann in knee britches. He called Secretary-of-State Henry Clay, “a shyster, pettifogging in a bastard suit before a country squire" - meaning the President, John Q. Adams.”  Hill saw the National Road as a violation of the Constitution, because it spent tariffs collected in New England, to build a road in Pennsylvania. He saw Adam's American System of internal improvements as a power grab. You get the feeling he hated Adams more because Adams was popular in New England, while Isaac Hill was not.
And it was as the election of 1828 approached, that The Patriot ran a biographical sketch of Andrew Jackson, in which the 38 year old Isaac Hill told the world John Quincy Adams was a pimp. It seems, said Hill, that while serving as America's ambassador to Russia, John Q had presented an innocent American servant girl, to be ravaged by the Czar. The accusation exploded across anti-Adams newspapers like a wild fire. The story had everything for Adams haters – sex, as only a puritan New Englander could enjoy it, with disapproval- degenerate European royalty – who prayed to a bizarre God at that - Adams as a stuck up prude willing to compromise his scruples for success, and a innocent American maiden, giving up her naked body only to force.
It took John Q a little time to figure out Hill was writing about Martha Godfry, and her innocent brief encounter from twenty years earlier. But when he did, the truth was rushed into print. The only problem was, the truth had no sex, no degenerate royalty, no tension or dramatic structure. And thus the truth made for really bad politics. And Adams did not speak out about it, did not address the smear in public, nor did he demand that Jackson denounce Hill as a fraud and madman. And, in much the same way as in 2004, when candidate Senator John Kerry did not denounce the so called Swift Boat Veterans and POW's for Truth, the case against him sat as an unanswered accusation. In the latter case a decorated military veteran had his courage questioned. And in 1828, a long standing patriot, John Quincy Adams, had his honor questioned.
Somebody should have punched John Q right in the nose. Because he thought it was beneath him,  to defend himself against such an accusation.  
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