JULY 2018

JULY 2018
One Hundred Years Later, Same Message. 1916 - 2017


Friday, February 26, 2016


I remember a proverb that says opportunity knocks only once. That may be true, but it is also true that having heard the knock you still have to get off your behind and open the door. And, in one of the most amazing twists of history, when the scientists at the Royal observatory at Greenwich, England heard that knock they were mightily annoyed. So they pawned off the job of dealing with the disturbance to one of their servants. He turned that disturbance into a career. In fact he made three careers out of simply telling the time. The Royal Observatory was founded by Charles II in 1765 as part of his restoration and “re-scientific-ication” of government after the religious fanaticism of that great Puritan villain Oliver Cromwell. The observatory was to use the stars to perfect “the art of navigation.” But the builders, despite going over budget by all of twenty pounds, went cheap on the materials, and the observatory, which was to house the most accurate telescopes of the day, was constructed 13 degrees out of alignment. The Royal astronomers, like the NASA astronomers dealing with the deformed mirrors on the orbiting Hubble telescope, have had to make mathematical adjustments from that day to this.
But besides powerful telescopes, the scientist at the Greenwich observatory also needed accurate clocks. In order to say a particular star was at a particular point in the sky at midnight, they had to know precisely when midnight was. So they also installed two pendulum clocks, built by Thomas Tompion, each accurate to within seven seconds a day. By 1833 (sixty-four years later) the observatory had done its job so well that ships’ captains and navigators had come to rely on the precise time provided by Greenwich to follow the charts provided by Greenwich. That year the observatory began a practice they follow to this day.At exactly 12.55 p.m., (they do it then so as not to interfere with the weather observations made at noon) a large red “time ball” is raised half way to the top of a mast erected atop the observatory. At 12.58 the time ball is pulled all the way to the top. And then at 1:00 P.M., exactly, the ball quickly falls to the bottom of the mast. (If you have ever wondered why they use a ball to mark midnight on New Years Eve in Times Square, New York City, this is it.) Any ship’s captain waiting in the Thames River to set sail could now coordinate their shipboard watches and clocks with the official time as they set off from the “prime meridian” or “longitude naught” - "0" degrees, "0" seconds and "0" minutes east/west, because Greenwich is where longitude starts - and time.Two years later, in 1835, the observatory got a new boss, George Biddle Airy. He figured his primary job was to perfect the astronomical observations for those ships, and he hired more “computers”, which in the 19th century were actually men who did the dull and boring math required to confirm and correct the stellar charts used to navigate on voyages to the far flung corners of the empire. So when the London merchants appealed to Mr. Airy to share in the time service he saw them as an annoyance. He asked one of his assistants, a man not qualified to be a “computer”, Mr. John Henry Belville, to handle the problem.Airy gave Mr. Belville a pocket watch to use. It had been originally owned by Prince Augustus Frederick, the Duke of Sussex (above), the sixth son of George III, the favorite uncle of Queen Victoria and the man who gave her away at her wedding. The watch had been made by Mr. John Arnold & Sons in 1794 and it was accurate to within one tenth of a second per day. Each Monday John Henry (he rarely used his last name because of the anti-French public bias in the post Napoleonic wars) would present himself and “Faithful Arnold”, the watch, to a clerk at the observatory time desk. The clerk would set the watch and then hand John  a certificate asserting to the watch’s accuracy for that day. Then John Henry would make his way by carriage and rail to London, where he would literally deliver the time to some two hundred customers; shops, factories and offices. He charged for the service, of course.  For most of the people in London, John Henry Belville was the face of official time, and he was earning four hundred pounds a year doing it when he died in 1856.After John’s death his widow, Maria, still had a daughter to support. She begged the observatory to allow her to continue the time service as a private business, and they agreed. By now (1852) Charles Shepherd had designed and installed a “Galvano-Magnetic” clock (above) at the Observatories’ gate (now called Shepherd’s Gate) where anyone could get the time at any time day or night, for free. But still the London merchants continued to pay for Maria’s direct door service. Every Monday she strode up the observatory hill, watched while Arnold was synchronized with the official time, and then went on her rounds by rail and on foot. To those who saw her trudging across the streets of London, she became known as the Greenwich Time Lady.Maria retired in 1892, and her daughter Ruth now took over the employment (above), carrying the tool of her trade, Faithful Arnold, in her handbag. By now (1884) 25 counties had agreed to set their watches by Greenwich time, and every clock at every railroad station in England was connected directly via telegraph lines with the Royal Observatory. And still, the time delivered by Ruth Belville was just as accurate, if slightly less convenient.Beginning in 1924 the BBC Radio began broadcasting “pips” before each hour announcement and in 1936 the Royal Observatory set up a “talking clock” which anyone could dial at any time to get the correct time to within a hundredth of a second. And still Ruth Belville was making her rounds, still serving more than fifty paying customers over a hundred years after her family business had begun.Finally, in 1940, Ruth celebrated her 86th birthday and decided to retire. In America we would have long since replaced her with newer technology. But the English have more respect for keeping what works, particularly if it is a living person. On her retirement, Ruth agreed to pose for a photograph (above), looking a bit like a visitor from another time in 1940's London. And , since she had no one to pass the task on to, when Ruth retired the Belville family work was finally completed.
Ruth received a pension from London’s clockmaker’s guild, “The Worshipful Company of Clockmakers”, where "Faithful Arnold" was also granted a rest and a place of honor. Ruth retired to a home in Croydon. One night not two years later, during one of the night bombing raids of London, Ruth turned her bedside gas lamp down low to save fuel.  The flame sputtered out, produced carbon dioxide, and Ruth Belville suffocated in her sleep.In effect, she ran out of time.
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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

BLOODY JACK Chapter Five

I almost feel sorry for Detective Inspector Edmund Reid – “almost” because he should have known better than to rely on Mary Ann Connolly, aka Pearly Poll', who had a flimsy grasp on reality. When she did not show up for the 10 August parade of suspects at the Tower of London, the 42 year old Reid, should have written her off as a witness. In his defense he was desperate for clues, and eager to close the case before any other women were murdered. And he was getting little support from the upper management of the Metropolitan Police Service, because, in the words of the old soldier's chant, “They were playing leap frog,.” where “One staff officer jumped right over another staff officer's back.”
Conservative Home Secretary Robert Peel formed the Metropolitan Police in 1822 – the officers were first called Peelers, and then Bobbies, in his honor. Over the next sixty years the bobbies became a whipping boy for using too little or too much force. Budgets became political bargaining chips, and by 1886 moral within the service was on its knees. Enter the mercurial and charismatic Sir Charles Warren (above), a hot tempered, myopic martinet and firm believer in himself.
The 46 year old Sir Charles had been born to privilege and educated to rule. He had spent half of the previous 20 years in the Royal Engineers in first Palestine and then Africa, where he was Knighted for bravery. During one of his brief returns to Britain in 1885, he had run for Parliament on the Liberal ticket. He lost, but in February of 1886 the liberal Gladstone government offered him the job of running the MET police. A week into the job Warren realised a liberal in the military was not a liberal in the private sector, and he tried to resign. The Liberals were too busy to accept, and in August, when they were replaced by the Conservatives government of Lord Salisbury, Warren felt much more at home. 
And on Bloody Sunday – 13 November, 1886 – Sir Charles Warren showed just how conservative he really was. 
That day between 10 and 20,000 peaceful protesters in Trafalgar Square were attacked by 5,000 of Warren's constables, backed up by the Coldstream guards. 
One reporter described the attacks as being of “...a violence and brutality which were shocking to behold.” By nightfall 2 protesters were dead (officially), a hundred people were in the hospital and 77 constables were injured. 
The Times praised Warren as “...a man of science and a man of action…”. Overnight, Warren became a right wing political hero who could do no wrong and who could not be denied anything he wanted. Less conservative papers noted that he was “blunt, tactless and contradictory”, and had adopted policing policies that were “rigid, impractical and unimaginative”. 
 Members of the police service were split between the minority who hated Warren for making their jobs harder, and the majority who admired him for being tough on crime and trouble makers. And then there were those who just wanted his job.
As part of his house cleaning after Bloody Sunday, Warren appointed lawyer James Monroe (above) to be Assistant Commissioner of the Criminal Intelligence Department. He chose Monroe in part because they shared colonial experience. The 50 year old Monroe had served in India, as Inspector General of Bengal, where he had commanded a 20,000 man police force. 
Home Secretary Henry Matthews (above), who had already grown weary of Warren's temper tantrums and his repeated threats to resign, approved Monroe's appointment, but also gave Monroe responsibility over the secret Section D, intelligence division. It ran informants across the city, and conducted misinformation campaigns against Irish nationalists in Ireland. Warren was excluded from all of this  information, and their private meetings created opportunities for Matthews and Monroe to plot against Sir Charles.
Secretary Matthews would later admit that Assistant Commissioner Monroe was “consulted by the Home Office..".  In other words, he admitted Monroe had been badmouthing Warren to their political masters. 
In November of 1887, Monroe floated the idea of creating a new position to assist him, Assistant Chief Constable, and hiring Melville McNagthen for the job.  Warren suggested Monroe would not need an assistant if he simply gave up running Section D. After that, Warren and Monroe stopped talking to each other, and the Home Secretary urged other members of the Metropolitan Police Force to start sharing gossip about their boss, Warren. During the investigation into the murder of Emma/Martha Turner, Inspector Detective Reid could no longer trust his superiors, who no longer trusted their subordinates.
Closer to home, Reid had the full support of the 53 year old Whitechapel Police Superintendent, and Reid's immediate superior, Thomas Arnold (above).  Superintendent Arnold had no personal political ambitions, but saw himself as a facilitator for his men. 
And when Pearly Poll missed her 10 August appointment, Arnold approved sending 36 year old Detective Sergeant Eli Caunter after the missing woman. Caunter's nickname was "Tommy Roundhead", because of his "excessive round head". .But he was also one of the most experienced detectives in H Division,  and had a reputation for finding people in the confusing maze of Jewish poverty that was Whitechapel. He began that afternoon by going to the address Poll had given Inspector Reid - 35 Dorset Street.
Dorset Street (above) ran between Crispin Street and Commercial Street and was often described as "the worst street in London", because of the poverty and crime rampant over it's 130 yards of vice and vermin. And it was sandwiched between two large pubs. 
At the corner of Dorset and Commercial Street was the Britannia (above), and at 5 Crispin street, at the corner of Crispin and Dorset, was the Horn of Plenty. Between them, along the south side at number 32 Dorset , was a smaller pub, The Blue Coat Boy. 
And here was the secret of Whitechapel laid bare - three busy pubs within 150 yards of each other. In 1888 there were 48 pubs on a half mile stretch of Whitechapel Road alone. The most profitable businesses in Whitechapel were prostitution and selling gin or beer for “three ha'pence”. Volume kept prices so low it was said any customer could get roaring drunk for a shilling.
It was not the opiate of religion that kept 4 in 10 residents of Whitechapel living in crushing poverty, it was alcohol. It made safe the poison that was the only available water supply. Gin dulled the misery of their lives, and beer filled their bellies. The government even strove to keep beer cheap because it was "nutritious". And it also swallowed what little money, hope and cleverness the residents of Whitechapel possessed, keeping labor cheap and keeping the workers in constant anxiety.
Poll had given her address as number 35 Dorset Street, which was on the north side of Dorset Street. Between number 35 and 37 Dorset was Paternoster Row (above, in red) , another dark forbidding alley running to Bushfield Street, and ending next to the Oxford Arms, yet another pub. Between numbers 26 and 27 Dorset Street was another such alley, this one called Miller's Court (above, in green) . And at 13 Miller's Court a woman named Mary Jane Kelly had a true rarity in Whitechapel -  a room of her own. Pearly Poll and Mary Kelly knew each other, although they do not seem to have been close friends..
Sargeant Caunter found that 35 Dorset Street, was a private doss house – a doss being a cheap straw bed. Such places were also known as a  “common lodging house”.  Speaking with the owner William Crossingham,  Caunter learned that Poll had left her  meeting with Inspector Reid very worried. Her paranoia running on full steam, she had quickly packed what little she owned and left, telling residents that she was going to drown herself.  But Caunter doubted that story. Why bother to pack for your own drowning?
And he found Poll the next day, Saturday, 11 August, 1888,  having moved in  with her cousin, Mrs. Shean, at 4 Fuller's Court, off  Drury Lane (above). When informed of Poll's presence, Inspector Reid decided not to wait until Monday. He and Sargents Caunter and Leach arrived the next morning, Sunday, 12 August, to escort Poll to the Tower of London for a parade of the soldiers. 
After she had viewed the men, Reid asked Polly, “Can you see here either of the men you saw with the woman now dead?” A newspaper described her response. “Pearly Poll”...placed her arms akimbo, glanced at the men with the air of an inspecting officer and shook her head. This indication of a negative was not sufficient. “Can you identity anyone?” she was asked again. “Pearly Poll” exclaimed, with a good deal of feminine emphasis, “He ain’t here.”’ And only now did Poll add the crucial detail that the men she and Martha had been drinking with had a white band around their hats. This meant the men were in an entirely different regiment. The police would have to do it all over again.
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Sunday, February 21, 2016

THE FIRST DAY Chapter Four

I find it such a deceptively simple sentence: on Wednesday, 10 June, 1863, the second corps of the Army of Northern Virginia, under the command of Lieutenant General Richard Ewell, marched out of their camps around Culpeper Virginia, headed for Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, 130 miles to the north. The reality is that Ewell's corp did not move as 22,000 individuals. The second regiment in line could not step off until the first regiment had cleared the road space, and the third not until the second was away. And as Ewell's men were using a single dirt road, any delays would be multiplied accordion like for the regiments behind. It is has been a tried and reliable and potentially exhausting mode of march since the days of Julius Caesar's grandfather.
In the American Civil War the object of every march – no matter its length - was to put as many of your regiments as possible within musket range of what Napoleon called the point d'√©quilibre - "Fire must be concentrated on one point”, he said, “and as soon as the breach is made, the equilibrium is broken and the rest is nothing." Achieving that is not strategy or tactics. It is logistics. And as 20th century 5 Star General Omar Bradley put it - “Amateurs study strategy. Professionals study logistics.”
The marching routes were always scouted in advance by cavalry, searching for information on roads and enemy troops. The lead infantry regiments for Ewell's corps rose about 4:00 in the morning, and after a quick breakfast, assembled and then set out at dawn at the route march - about 2 miles an hour, with a 10 minute break to rest and close up for “lame ducks” every hour. Each regiment was followed by a horse drawn wagon carrying it's tents and tent pegs, tarps, cooking utensils – pots, pans, knives and ladles, flour and salt, and reserve ammunition. Each foot soldier carried about 40 pounds of personal gear – musket and bayonet, canteen, blanket, shot and powder, a lead shot making kit and extra clothing if available.
The average day's march was limited to between 8 and 10 hours, so that tailing regiments could get of the road before dark. The first day's march – Wednesday, 10 June - was made in “pleasant” weather and covered 25 miles. It ended at the base of the 4,600 foot high Chester Gap (above), through the Blue Ridge Mountains. 
On Thursday, 11 June – after a ten mile march through the Gap and down the western slope along side Slaone Creek, Ewell's infantry reached the pretty little village of Front Royal (above), where north and south forks joined to form the Shenandoah River. 
The road in front of Lt. General Ewell now split. The Valley Pike followed the Shenandoah northeast 35 miles to Harper’s Ferry, where the river joined the Potomac. The Front Royal Pike angled northwest 20 miles to Winchester, where Major General Robert Milroy patiently waited with his 9,000 man Federal division. Ewell spent Friday 12 June, closing up his men, and and inching forward.
On Saturday, 13 June, 1863, Brigadier General Ewell sent Major General Edward Johnson's division straight up the Front Royal Pike, slowly driving the Federal skirmishers back onto their entrenchments. At the same time Major General Jubal Early's division marched up the Valley Pike, out flanking the Federal positions. That night it rained hard but stopped shortly after midnight, allowing Early's men to launch their flanking assault on Sunday morning, 14 June, unimpeded by mud. Squeezed between the 2 Confederate attacks, the Federals were driven into their forts where rebel artillery pounded them most of the afternoon.
It was after 1:00 on the morning of Monday, 15 June, that General Milroy realized his mistake in waiting, and pulled his men out of Winchester. But at dawn Ewell's trap sprang shut, when troops of Major General Robert Rodes' division caught the Federals out in the open at Stephen's Depot, and forced half of them to surrender. General Ewell immediately released a cavalry brigade under Brigadier General Albert Jenkins’ which galloped 20 miles on to the railroad warehouses at Martinsburg, Virginia. 
A detachment even reached the Potomac River before nightfall and crossed into Maryland at Williamsport, thus confirming the Shenandoah Valley was now clear of Federal troops.
That same day, 15 June, 1863, the 21,000 men of 42 year old Lieutenant General James Lonstreet's (above) First Corps left Culpeper and began their march up the same road to Front Royal. 
Riding with “Old Pete” was his boss, the 53 year old commander of the entire Army of Northern Virginia, Robert Edward Lee (above). The First Corps was the middle of Lee's army, a logical place for the commander to be. But I suspect he also wanted to keep a close eye on his “old war horse”. Until the death of “Stonewall” Jackson in early May, Longstreet had been Lee's second favorite subordinate.
Back in May it had been Longstreet who suggested to Confederate Secretary of War Seddon that the First Corps be sent west to rescue Vicksburg, rather than invade Pennsylvania. But Lee had persuaded Longstreet to drop his own plan by promising to remain on the defensive during the Pennsylvania invasion, and entice the Federals into doing all the attacking. But Longstreet also surrendered his own plan because “Old Pete” realized, as that Georgia soldier had put it, the fate of the Confederacy rode on Robert E. Lee's horse (above). The slave south had tied its fate to the personal strengths and weaknesses of the man from Virginia.
At the moment the fate of the Federal Union was tied to General “Fighting Joe” Hooker (above), who held onto his bridges at Frederick's Crossing and his dream of a coupe de main on Richmond, until Saturday, 13 June when he finally had the bridges dismantled.  Sunday was “Fighting Joe”'s “come to Jesus” moment. The next morning, Monday, 15 June he was able to telegraph Halleck that he was pulling back from the river and gathering his troops further north around Manassas. And that evening he even displayed the self confidence to admit to Lincoln “...the enemy nowhere crossed the Rappahannock on our withdrawal from it, but General Hill's (rebel) troops moved up the river in the direction of Culpeper this morning, for the purpose, I conclude, of re-enforcing Longstreet and Ewell, wherever they may be.” Then, at this very moment of insight and self awareness, Joseph Hooker's paranoia reared its ugly head again in his very next words to the President. “ I request that I may be informed what troops there are at Harper's Ferry, and who is in command of them, and also who is in command in this district.”
Like most paranoids, Hooker had reason to suspect others were out to get him. First there was what Lincoln had warned him about - the way he had undermined his old boss, Burnside. And second there was his old-old boss, "Old fuss and feathers", the 300 pound Winfield Scott (above). 
General Scott had promoted Hooker to Lieutenant Colonel during the Mexican-American war, and assigned him as second in command to General of volunteers, Gideon J. Pillow (above), “One of the most reprehensible men to ever wear 3 stars”. Hooker kept Scott informed of Pillow's disloyalty to Scott. After the Mexican War, as General-in-Chief of the Army,  Scott court marshaled Pillow,  mostly based on information Hooker supplied. But Hooker was called to testify in Pillow's defense, and Pillow got off. Scott then preceded to hound Hooker out of the army. “Fighting Joe” only got back in the fight after the outbreak of war in 1861 as a general of volunteers.
Hooker's current superior was called “Old Brains” as a joke. Henry Halleck (above) was described by historian Allen Nevins as displaying “...irresolution, confusion, and timidity...” A contemporary Union General described Hallek as “a lying, treacherous, hypocritical scoundrel with no moral sense." That other general was Benjamin Butler, and he might have been describing himself, but most of the Federal officer corps agreed with him about Halleck.  But behind Halleck stood Lincoln, who had entrusted Hooker with the Army of the Potomac, even after he was defeated at Chancellorsville. Still, by June of 1863 Hooker was becoming ever more sensitive to slights and insults from superiors. Which may explain why he did the stupid thing he did next.
On 16 June he telegraphed Lincoln again. “You have long been aware, Mr. President, that I have not enjoyed the confidence of the major-general commanding the army, and I can assure you so long as this continues we may look in vain for success”. He then suggested that he might defeat A.P. Hill's Corps before it could rejoin the rest of Lee's Army, but insisted, “... the chances for my doing this are much smaller than when I was on the Rappahannock.” It is hard to see a purpose in this whining, petulant note other than to provide post failure proof he had kept Lincoln fully informed.
Halleck obviously saw Hooker's message, because within half an hour he telegraphed Hooker, “Unless your army is kept near enough to the enemy to ascertain his movements, yours must be in the dark or on mere conjecture.” He then provided the information Hooker had requested from Lincoln -  just in case there was any doubt the 2 men in Washington were speaking with each other.  Tyler is in command at Harper's Ferry, with...little or no movable troops.” Halleck closed by suggesting that if Hooker wanted to use Tyler's men, he should contact Tyler's superior directly.”

So there was a single simple sentence to describe the situation. The 70,000 man Army of Northern Virginia was moving north behind the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the 85,000 man Army of the Potomac was belatedly moving north to follow it. But although both armies were moving en-mass, their members remained individuals - particularly their commanders - prey to all the failings of individuals – pride, panic and lack of perception - proving as they approached the moment of most violent contact, how alike as individuals they all were.
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