JUNE 2017

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

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Friday, January 15, 2016

DAWN OF BATTLE Part Two

I know Gettysburg (above) has been portrayed as a sleepy agricultural center before Colonel Elijah White's Virginia “Commanches” galloped into town that rainy Friday noon – 26 June, 1863. Young student Tillie Pierce, was abruptly sent home from the Gettysburg Girls Seminary. “I had scarcely reached the front door” she wrote later, “when...I saw some of the men on horseback...Clad almost in rags, covered with dust, riding wildly, pell-mell down the hill toward our home! Shouting, yelling...brandishing their revolvers, and firing right and left.” But a diverse community had already been gravely wounded before the Confederates even broached the city limits.
In 1860, the citizens of Gettysburg thought their future was bright. After four years of effort the Gettysburg Railroad Company had completed 17 miles of track from Hanvover Junction, through New Oxford, to the new 2 story station (above) at the corner of Carlise and Railroad Streets. 
What had financed this investment was a 20 year growth in the backyard construction of farm wagons and buggies, stamped with the good local German names of their makers, like Studebaker, Culp, Danner, Ziegler and Troxell
Their customers were the plantation owners and farmers in Maryland, Virginia and further south. And with the outbreak of the civil war many of those markets were cut off...
...while the lucrative contracts for the northern war effort favored larger manufacturers (above)  in cities like Philadelphia and Harrisburg. By the third year of the war, ambitious young white men were leaving Gettysburg to join the army or for jobs they could not find in a small Pennsylvania town. Left behind were middle aged men, women and blacks, because neither were considered players in the larger community.
In 1860, being just 10 miles from the Mason-Dixon Line, there was a strong if small African American community in Gettysburg. But we have little contemporaneous record of what the 8 % of Gettysburg's 2,400 residents who were African American experienced during the 1863 invasion, such as diaries or letters, in part because revealing education was dangerous for people “of color” even in a “free” state. But there is reason to believe that two weeks earlier the 200 black adults in Gettysburg had gotten warning of the coming rebel invasion. Caucasian school teacher “Sallie” Myers, complained she got no sleep on the night of Monday, 15 June, because “the Darkies made such a racket.” Those “darkies” spent that night packing their belongings into wagons and heading north before dawn.
All knew that if the rebels captured them, even those born free, they would be driven south in bondage, and the women, it must be assumed, would be raped. Still, many stayed. Eventually at least fifty Gettysburg men, women and children - 1,000 from all of Pennsylvania - would suffer being sold on Virginia slave blocks or forced to slave for the rebel army. To say the American Civil War was not about slavery is to ignore the priority given to slave hunts by Rebel soldiers in the 1863 invasion of Pennsylvania.
So why did some not run? For blacks, running meant freedom, but it also meant poverty, at least for a time. The fifty blacks who were employed in Gettysburg, such as 28 year old laundress Margaret "Meg" Palm (one of 17 working women) or Pennsylvania College janitor John Hopkins (above),...
...or tenant farmer Basil Biggs (above, with family). had to balance their salary against their freedom. For the dozen or so black property owners, like wagon maker Samuel Butler, restaurateur Owen Robinson, or farmer Abraham Brien, the choice was between freedom and loss of status.
But for Meg Palm (above) there was also a moral obligation to stay. Beyond her devotion to her husband Alfred and infant son, Joseph, Meg was a station master on the Underground Railroad, smuggling escaped slaves to freedom in Canada. Known as “Maggie Blue Coat”, for the used military jacket she wore, she was infamous to the slaver catchers in Maryland, who had already tried to kidnap her at lest once. But Meg was not a small woman in size or in courage, and she had battled her attackers bare handed. That night she saw Alfred and Joesph flee north, to safety, while she stayed behind to continue helping the weakest most recent survivors of the south's “pecular institution”.
Tillie Pierce (above) continued her story, writing, “Soon the town was filled with infantry, and then the searching and ransacking began in earnest. They wanted horses, clothing, anything and almost everything they could conveniently carry away...Whatever suited them they took” Well, that was not quite the way it happened.
Just after General Gordon's men occupied the city square and chopped down the flag pole, his boss arrived from Mummasburg.
The cranky, hot tempered 46 year old Major General Jubal Anderson Early (above) set up office near the town square, and handed the city council a demand for 60 barrels of flour, 6,000 pounds of bacon, 1,000 pairs of shoes and 500 hats. If they did not hand over these items, he promised to burn the town. It was not an idle threat.
One of the rebel's primary justifications for invading Pennsylvania was to transfer the cost of supporting the war from the exhausted farms and towns of Northern Virginia, onto fat and prosperous Pennsylvania. Early had brought 15 empty wagons across the Potomac, to be filled with “confescated” food and clothing. Because so many of his men needed shoes, the rumor persisted that Gettysburg held a shoe factory, or a warehouse. It did not. And most private stocks of clothing and “dry goods” in town had already been sent across the Susquehanna River, to safety. The council explained this to General Early, and invited him to look for himself. So he did.
What he found was almost not worth the effort. In railroad cars left on a siding near the train station, his men located the food meant to support Colonel Jennings' 700 man militia regiment for three days - 2,000 Union army rations. Each individual ration was 10 ounces of canned salted meat and a 1 pound of 3 inch by 3 inch dehydrated baked briskets (above) - called" hardtack". The soldiers were expected to crumpled them into their coffee for breakfast, chew them for lunch on the march, and boil them into mash or grill them into paddies for dinner. Distributed to Gordon's 1,500 men, this would only give them enough energy to reach their next target – York, Pennsylvania – where they would have to repeat the effort.
Hidden in all of this was the truth of the rebel 1863 invasion. It was just a raid. General Robert E. Lee, commander of the 70,000 man Army of Northern Virginia, had no hope of holding or occupying any part of Pennsylvania. And come morning, Jubal Early (above) and his entire corps would be leaving Gettysburg, moving on to find enough food and clothing to keep moving.
So after stripping the 170 captured militia of their weapons, horses and shoes, “Old Jube” took a moment to discourage them from causing him any more trouble. He told the humiliated and frustrated men, “You boys ought to be home with your mothers and not in the fields where it is dangerous and you might get hurt.” The unionist were then locked in the Adams county courthouse until they could individually sign an oath pledging not to serve again until they had been exchanged for a rebel parolee.
To protect the looters, General Early sent White's cavalry out to “picket” the roads into Gettysburg. And on the Baltimore Pike these rebels surprised the men farmer-turned-Captain Robert Bell had earlier posted and then in his haste to retreat, forgotten. The rebels demanded the startled militia surrender. Instead the militia spurred their horses to run. The rebels fired.and several Gettysburg men fell from their saddles. Later, a horse with familiar tack was being led back into town, when a Gettysburg woman asked if the “Commanche” who held the bridle knew what had happened to the rider. The Virginian replied, “The bastard shot at me, but he did not hit me, and I shot him and blow ed him down like nothing, and here I got his horse and he lays down the pike.”
Mill owner James McAllister found the body of the horse's owner the next day, lying in a field along the Baltimore Pike, just south of Gettysburg. He identified the dead man as 21 year old George Washington Sandoe (above, right). George had joined the militia just nine days earlier, and he died within 2 miles of his own farm, south of Mt. Joy Church.. 
In the morning, after the rebels had abandoned the town, Mr. McAllister took George home to his wife of 4 months and 7 days, Dianna Anna Caskey Sandoe (above). She was carrying George's unborn son, Charles. Dianna never remarried. And George Sandoe would be the only man killed on Friday, 26 June, 1863, thus becoming the first of some 15, 500 men to die in and around Gettysburg over the next week.
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Wednesday, January 13, 2016

SISSYSPHUS ON THE WABASH

I want to take you back to a time when there were just two million Hoosiers in the whole wide world, and yet Indiana had 13 seats in the United States House of Representatives and 15 electoral votes. Today they have just nine,  and 11 electoral votes. Even more improbable to modern ears, this smallest state west of the Allegheny mountains was a crucial "battleground" state, oscillating like a bell clapper, clanging first Republican and then ringing Democratic, changing six times between 1876 and 1888, swinging each time at the whim of some 6,000 reasonably fickle independent voters.
As part of these rhythmic revolutions was the winter of 1885 when the dynamic Democratic Governor Isaac Gray (above), dreaming of being President of the whole United States, decided that after being Governor, he wanted to be a United States Senator. And since Senators were elected by the legislature, which was split pretty evenly along party lines, he came up with a clever plan to ensure himself  the stepping stone post of Senator. First he jammed through a gerrymander redistricting of the state legislative offices, re-designing ten traditionally Republican state assembly seats so they would more likely elect Democrats instead. This would prove to be such an outrageous power grab, a Federal court would declare it unconstitutional in 1892. But that was all part of Gray's plan, because he knew the voters would take their revenge far sooner than the courts.
So, in the summer of 1886, Grey convinced his Democratic Lieutenant Governor, Mahlon Manson. to take early retirement. Then he scheduled a mid-term election to refill that. And as Gray had expected, the Republican base was so energized by the Democratic gerrymander, that their party was swept back into power that November with a 10,000 vote majority, recapturing seven of those redistricted Assembly seats that were supposed to go Democratic.  (The state Senate, remained 31 Democrats and 19 Republicans.)  
But more importantly for Governor Gray, the newly elected Lieutenant Governor was a Republican, Robert Robertson. Thus, should Democrat Gray offer his resignation as Governor in exchange for being elected U.S. Senator, the Republican dominated Assembly would probably go along because that would make the Republican Robertson the new Governor. Now, it was not an impossible dream, as another Hoosier politician would shortly prove – one Benjamen Harrison.
Yes, Grey (above) had a nifty plan, clever enough to be worthy of Machiavelli. But it faced one insurmountable hurdle. Governor Isaac Grey was without doubt the most hated Democratic governor among Democrats, in the entire history of the state of Indiana. He was the original DINO -  a Democrat in Name Only.
Twenty years earlier, at the close of the Civil War, this same Isaac Grey,  had been the Republican Speaker of the state Assembly (above).  To pass the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution, making ex-slaves American citizens, and giving black males the right to vote, Speaker Grey had literally locked the doors, preventing Democrats from bolting the building and thus denying a quorum to the Republican majority. While the trapped Democrats sulked in the cloak room, Speaker Grey staged successful votes for the three amendments. It had been a brutal scheme, again worthy of Machiavelli, like his latest plot.. But racists in the Democratic party never forgot Grey had counted them as "present but not voting",  even after he had switched parties and gave them the governship.  And as the Assembly session for 1887 opened, these hard liners were willing to set the state on fire if they could also burn up their Governor's Presidential dream boat.
The Indiana State Senate (above)  was about to come into session at  9:35 on the morning of Saturday 24 February, 1887, when Republican Lt. Governor Robertson entered the second floor chambers to take his seat as the new President pro tempore of the Senate.  But a flying squad of Democrats physically blocked him from reaching the dais. He shouted from the floor, "Gentlemen of the Senate, I have been by force excluded from the position to which the people of this state elected me.” But at this point the out going President pro tempore, Democratic Senator Alonzo Smith, ordered doorkeeper Frank Pritchett, to remove the Lt. Governor, “...if he don't stop speaking.”
As the doorkeeper and his assistants advanced on Roberts, he announced, “They may remove me. I am here, unarmed.” Smith testily responded, “We are all unarmed. We are fore-armed, though.” That belligerent mood was now general in the chamber. Republican Senator DeMotte from Porter county shouted something from the floor, and acting President Smith ordered him to take his seat. Responded DeMotte, “When he gets ready, he will.”
As the Lt. Governor was dragged toward the rear doors of the Senate Chamber a Republican Senator shouted that if he went, all the Republicans were going with him. President Pro tem Smith shouted back, “They can go if they want to. They will be back, ” he predicted. At this point Republican Senator Johnson challenged the chair directly, telling him, “No man will be scared by you.” “You're awfully scared now, “ said the Democrat. “Not by you”, answered the Republican. It sounded like five year olds had taken over the state senate.
A general fight now broke out in the Senate chamber, with the outnumbered Republicans giving such a good account of themselves that one Democrat drew a pistol and – BANG! - shot a hole in the brand new ceiling of the still unfinished statehouse. Into the acrid gun smoke and sudden silence this unnamed Democrat announced that he was prepared to start killing Republicans if they kept fighting.
With that, Lt. Governor Robertson was thrown out of the Senate and the doors were locked and bolted behind him. As the official record notes those were “...the last words spoken by a Republican Senator in the 55th General Assembly.” The Senate then tried to get back to business, appropriately taking up Senate bill 61, setting aside $100,000 for three new hospitals for the mentally insane. It was decided it was self evident the state was going to need them, and the measure was approved by a vote officially recorded as 31 Ayes, 0 nays and 18 “present but not voting”. Ah, revenge must have seemed sweet for the Democrats – for about half an hour.
Outside in the central atrium, the gunshot had attracted a crowd, mostly from the Republican controlled House on the East side of the capital. Faced with a bruised and enraged Robertson, the Republicans caught his anger. Similar fights sparked to life in the chamber of the House of Representatives, and a “mob” of 600 angry Republicans descended upon every wayward Democrat in the building, punching and kicking them, and, if they resisted, beating them down to the marble floors of the brand new “people's house”.
Eventually, the pandemonium returned to its source; the Republicans laid siege to the Senate chamber. They beat against the doors, and smashed open a transom. Vengeful Republicans poured in and the haughty Democrats were assaulted in their own chamber and thrown out of it. By now Governor Grey, down in his offices on the first floor, had heard the ruckus upstairs, and had called in the Indianapolis Police. Four hours after the legislative riot had begun, order was restored to the capital of Hoosier democracy. History and many newspapers would record it as the “Black Day of the Indiana Assembly.”
The following Monday the triumphant Republican dominated Assembly dispatched a note to the battered Democratically controlled Senate, that the Repubs would have no further correspondence with the Dems. Snap of finger dismissal. The Senate counter-informed the lower house, ditto, and same to you.. State government in Indiana had ground to a halt. Lt. Governor Robertson never presided over the Senate, and Governor Gray never served as a Untied States Senator. He came to be known as the “Sisyphus of the Wabash”, after the legendary Greek king, renown for his avariciousness and deceit. A few years later Hoosiers elected to choose their Senators by popular vote,  I suppose under the theory that the general population of drunks and lunatics could do no worse then the professional politicians had already done.  And they were most certainly correct.
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