MARCH 2017

MARCH  2017
The Last Time a Republican Reigned in Big Business - 1903

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Friday, March 11, 2016

A PLATE OF HUMBLE PIE

I suspect the problem begins with the oft quoted but not well understood phrase, “pie are squared.” In the first place, it’s not. It is a fact that you cannot square a circle, and yet it is done everyday, out of sight for those of use who are math-impaired. This is so because  pi is the relationship between the length of the line forming a circle, divided by the distance across that same circle. And this relationship somehow always works out to be 3.141592653589793238…etcetera, etcetera, ad infinitas, add nfelicitous, and never ever repeating. This makes Pi an irrational number, which is confusing again because I find all numbers irrational, even on Pi day (3/15).
To find the area of a living room you simply ask a realtor, and then add  10%. But to find the area of a circle you must  measure the radius of a circle and then square it -  or to put it another way, the radius of the circle times the radius of the circle times the radius of the circle - three times.  In the shorthand of math-speak that becomes, A(rea)= pi Radius squared. This is true math-media.      
What this mystery formula really means is that you can never turn a circle into a square of the exact same size: close, but never exactly. And it doesn’t matter if it is a great big circle or an itty-bitty one. Pi is always 3.141 etcetera, etcetera, etcetera..
If you are a math freak this is obvious, while the rest of us have to be satisfied with accepting that Pi is an irrational number and live with it. But I ask you, what is the value of knowing pi? 
I had a fourth grade teacher who was so obsessed with having her students memorize the value of Pi to twenty decimal places that she had us memorize the following poem: “Sir, I send a rhyme excelling, In sacred truth and rigid spelling, Numerical sprites elucidate, For me the lexicon’s full weight”. Each of the 20 words of that poem has the number of letters required to read out the first twenty digits of pi, in order. . I had to memorized that poem again in my thirties because as a ten year old I couldn’t spell the word Nantucket, and as a sixty year old I rely upon a spell checker to detail any word long enough to rhyme with  “elucidate”. So this poem was as much a mystery to me then as the number Pi remained for years.
But I am older now and I have grown so used to making mistakes in public that I hardly notice the embarrassment anymore. So I openly admit that I still find pi a puzzle. Besides, every time I make a mistake, I learn something new. Things my mistakes have taught me so far include, never turn down a chance to use the bathroom, never loan money to attractive women, never invest in Nigerian lottery tickets, never give out my social security number over the net, and never question the value of pi. But, why pi?
Legend has it that the great Greek mathematician Archimedes of Syracuse was struggling over the solution to pi when a Roman soldier blundered into his garden. The old man supposedly snapped, “Don’t touch my circles!”, whereupon the chastised legionary pulled his Gladius and separated Archimedes’ head from his face. I suppose that if Archimedes had been sitting in his bathtub, as he allegedly was when he discovered that displaced water could be used to measure density (Eureka!), something else might have been separated. But, suffice it to say that before computers, finding pi was a great big pain in the Archimedes. He managed to figure out that pi was somewhere between 3 10/71 and 3 1/7. He might have done better if he had invented the decimal point, first. But...
About the year 480 CE the Chinese mathematician Zu Chongzhi figured out that pi was a little more than 3.1415926 and a little less than 3.1415927. After that the decimal point zealots took over. The German mathematician and fencing instructor Ludolf van Ceulen worked out pi to 35 decimal places. And in 1873 the amateur geek, William Shanks, worked it out to 707 decimal places. But William made one tiny little mistake in the 528th number and that threw everything else off. But it was such a good try that nobody noticed his screw up until 1944. Today computers have figured pi out to one trillion digits to the right of the decimal point and still no repeatable pattern has been detected, and still it never reaches zero. It is still a little bit less than 3.15 and a little bit more than 3.14. All that has changed is the definition of “a little bit”. It keeps getting smaller and smaller -  but it will never be zero.
But what does that mean? What does Pi mean, beyond its face value? Well, it turns you can find it in the   curve of the double helix of a DNA molecule, the chemical code of all living plants, animals and bacteria, and the behavior of light coming from distant galaxies, or out sun. Einstein himself realized that if you want to describe why and how a river "meanders"  to the sea, you need to use Pi , because the actual length of a stream, with twists and bends is usually between 1.3 and 1.4 times the straight line distance - called the "meander ratio".  All the geologists have to do is plug in the variables for soil type, and angle of slope and latitude and drawing rivers on a map becomes predictable. Pi is why why so many rivers look the same when seen from space or on a map. Pi is what all rivers have in common with DNA. And airplane wings. And sewer pipes. And eye balls, human and otherwise. 
Pi reveals the underlying structure of the universe, the lines of force - magnetic,  gravity, chemical or electrical.  Pi is like a master key, that with a little jiggling, can be made to open just about any door. The mere fact that such a key exists, tells you that everything we can see, hear and feel is connected to everything else, even the stuff we can't see. Pi tells you the chaos inside an exploding super nova is governed by the same laws that control the budding of a flower. It is the mathematical proof that there is a logic to the entire universe, and that logic is 3.141592653589793238...etcetera, etcetera.        
Thus pi is the “admirable number” according to the devilish little Polish poetess Wislawa Szmborska. While being infinitely long it includes “…my phone number, your shirt size, the year nineteen hundred and seventy-three, sixth floor number of inhabitants, sixty-five cents, hip measurement, two fingers, a charade and a code, in which we find how blithe the trostle sings!” (…and no, I have no idea what or who the hell a trostle is or what makes it blithe or unblithe. Do you?)
Daniel Rockmore, in the pages of "The Chronicle of High Education" for 12 March 1999, wrote that Pi was "Foreign, unpredictable, otherworldly, yet as common as a circle...it's easy to find, but hard to know. Among mathematicians there still rages a fierce, unsettled debate about whether pi is a "normal" number--that is, whether each of the digits 0 through 9 each occur on average one-tenth of the time in the never-ending decimal expansion of pi...making...Pis...a veritable poster number for the fashion world's ambiguous and androgynous advertising campaigns."  And you thought mathematics had no sex appeal  Why, if Pi was plain old 3 or dull old 4, there would be no sex. Sex is made possible by being 3.14159265358979.... etceteraetcetera.. And it cannot be and will not be controlled. And certainly not owned.
A physician and a crackpot amateur mathematician from Solitude, Indiana named Dr. Edwin J. Goodwin thought that he had “solved” pi to the last digit - and none of this irrational numerical horse feathers for him!  He decided to make Pi his own personal private property by copyrighting it.  But in order to profit from his discovery (you know how wealthy the Pythagoras estate is) Dr. Goodwin needed a legal endorsement. And rather than subject his brainchild to the vagaries of the copyright peer review, the good doctor instead offered his theory as an accomplished fact to the local politicians. The proposal, Indiana House Bill 246, “…an act introducing a new mathematical truth and offered…to be used only by the State of Indiana free of cost…provided it is accepted and adopted by the official action of the Legislature…”. this insanity actually made it through the Committee on Canals and Swamps (Perfect place for it!) in record time, and was passed by the full Indiana house on 5 February, 1897, by a vote of 67 to 0.  Who says politicians don't spend time on important issues?
Unfortunately, in the Indiana Senate some wiseacre showed the bill to a visiting Purdue party- pooper, Professor of Mathematics C.A. Waldo. And now we at last know where Waldo was, at least in 1897. The lawmaker asked if the professor would like the honor of meeting the amazing Dr. Goodwin, and Professor Waldo replied that he already knew all the lunatics he cared to know, thank you very much. And with that comment Dr. Goodwin’s brief bubble of fame was burst. On 12 February, 1897 any further vote on the bill to copywrite the perfect definitive solution to Pi was postponed indefinitely.  Hoosier lunatics have since moved on to more productive fields.
It was not a victory for logic so much as an avoidance of a victory for ignorance, which is pretty much the same thing that happened in Tennessee about 30 years later when they tried to make evolution illegal. Don't tell the whales. They'll have to go back to being dogs. 
Still pi remains one of the most popular mathematical equations, if mostly poorly appreciated by those of us who aren’t trying to generate a random number or navigate a jet plane across the North Pole, or predict the next stock market bubble, or launch a satellite, run a radio station, process an X-ray or a Cat-scan, drive a submarine, drill for oil, purify gold or etcetera, etcetera, ad infinitas, add infelicity.
Just trust me, and always trust pi. It lifts your spirit, gives you a sense of security and keeps your circles on the square. To share it just try singing..."Pi, Pi, Me oh my, Nothing tastes sweet, wet, salty and dry, all at once, ...oh my, I love pi!
- 30 -

Wednesday, March 09, 2016

BLOODY JACK Chapter Seven

I don't believe Scotland Yard got its name because the Thames riverfront was a vacation home for Medieval Scottish royalty. I prefer the story that Cardinal Wolsey stole the strip of land in 1519 from a family named Scott, and used it as a boat landing for his new mansion - until Henry VIII had the Cardinal beheaded and stole the mansion and the landing from his corpse. The important thing is that by 1880, the collection of office buildings, stables and storage sheds along Whitehall Street, facing the river,  was the headquarters of Metropolitan Police. The back of this hodgepodge complex - the city side, through which most people had access during the two decades while the Victorian Embankment of the Thames river was being built - was a central courtyard called Scotland Yard (above).
A few hundred yards downstream, at the Westminster Bridge,  was the new Westminster palace,  which housed the houses of Parliament. Just behind was 10 Downing Street, which housed the Prime Minister. And a few hundred yards inland was Buckingham Palace, originally  Cardinal Wolsey's palace but which now  housed Queen Victoria. It was a perfect place to locate the Metropolitan Police Force, which had come to be known simply as Scotland Yard.
It should be clarified that the Metropolitan Police were not the London Police. The old walled City of London remained as much a political and financial entity as it did when Wat Tyler marched his pre-tea party tax rebels across London Bridge and threw open the Aldgate gate in 1341. The authority of the London Police police ended pretty much where the long gone city walls had.  Scotland Yard had authority for “Greater London”, which meant the only way to get from Scotland Yard to Whitechapel was to either cross London Police territory, or take to the river – which was also policed from Scotland Yard (above).
With the same fervent Christian militarism that empowered William Bazalgette to overcome all opposition and build the Thames Embankment to house his new London sewer system,  Sir Charles Warren (above), Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police after February 1886, believed in his own divine mission to make London safe. And Sir Charles was the original advocate of  "community based policing".  He wrote, “The whole safety and security of London depends...upon the efficiency of the uniform police constables acting with the support of the citizen...the primary object of an efficient police is the prevention of crime. The next is the detection and punishment of offenders if a crime is committed.” 
Sir Charles saw the Sherlock Holmes intellectual plain-clothes detective as supporting the uniformed officers, not leading them. Warren's temper exploded whenever his decisions were questioned,  and he insisted on making all the decisions, from when to promote officers, to where they should live. As a modern writer has pointed out, “Warren believed, probably rightly, that he had been appointed...to reorganized a demoralized police force and had been given a free hand in how he achieved that.”
 
But Warren was not an easy man to work for, as his subordinate, Assistant Commissioner for the Criminal Intelligence Division – plain clothes detectives - James Munro (above), could testify.  And Warren was an even harder man to have as a subordinate, as Sir Charles' boss,  Home Secretary George Matthews could also testify. But Secretary Matthews was a far better politician than Sir Charles.
It was Matthews who gave Assistant Commissioner Munro (above) the additional duty of running Section D - 4 CID Inspectors and 79 Officers recruited from Scotland and Ireland, whose public job was to keep track of Irish militants both in Ireland and in England. 
Irish bombs were already going off in England, one of them, in 1884 (above), in the Section D offices in Scotland Yard itself.  The secret assignment of Section D was to disrupt, smear and blackmail Irish politicians, using prostitutes, thugs and forged letters to newspapers. 
Housed in a 2 story building in Scotland Yard (above), Section D was strictly “black ops”, shielded from parliamentary budget oversight. That also meant it was shielded from Sir Charles' oversight. Although Commissioner Warren could look down on Munro's office from his own, he had little idea what as going on in that building, or in the private meetings between his subordinate Munro and his boss, Matthews.
Munro (above) shared Sir Charles' self-confident moral vanity - and his mustache. He saw his own recovery from a bout of infantile paralysis – polio – as his own divine endorsement. And he made up for the limp it left him with by carrying a very big walking stick. He was “very unwilling to give up an opinion once he had formed it”. The two mustaches were bound to bang heads.
When Munro wrote a memo bemoaning his heavy workload, and suggesting he needed an assistant, Sir Charles (above) replied that the Assistant Commissioner should “...be allowed to devote his time and energy to his legitimate work, and that he should not be burdened with the care and anxieties of duties...” outside the Metropolitan Police. In other words, Commissioner Warren told Assistant Commissioner Munro, if you are too busy, give up running the Special Irish section, Section D.
As expected Munro appealed to Home Secretary Matthews (above), who happily agreed to fund an additional Assistant Chief Constable. 
The victorious and confident Munro was quick to suggest just the man for the job – Sir Melville Macnaughten (above). Munro had known him in India, and knew him to be a man of courage and good sense. And loyal to Munro.
Sir Charles (above) did not agree. He reminded Secretary Matthews that during a New Delhi riot, Sir Melville had been so far ahead of events that he was knocked unconscious by a rioter, making him “...the one man in India who has been beaten by the "Hindoos".” There were lots of men more qualified for the position of Assistant Chief Constable, said Warren. And if Mcnaughten were offered the job, Warren said he would resign. 
It was not Warren's first resignation threat, but once again, it worked. Secretary Matthews (above) caved, and would not offer the job to Mcnaughten.
Munro (above, center)  had already assured Sir Melville that he had the job, and was embarrassed and furious when he could not deliver it. And on Friday, 31 August, 1888, he submitted his own resignation to Sir Charles (above, left), who happily accepted it,  replacing him by promoting Robert Anderson to Assistant Commissioner of CID.  Sir Charles Warren had won.  
Matthews immediately offered Munro a job as consultant to the Home Office, while retaining Munro as chief of Section D - housed in Scotland Yard (above). So Munro had been removed, but he had not gone. And Secretary  Matthews would remember he had been manhandled by Warren, again. And the tool the Home Secretary would use to remove his troublesome Commissioner would present itself that very morning.
At about 3:45 that same Friday morning, 31 August, 1888, 39 year old Charles Cross left his apartment at 22 Doveton Street, at the eastern edge of Whitechapel. He was heading for the Pickford & Company stables beneath the London and Northwestern Railroad Broad Street elevated station, where he worked as a driver on a delivery wagon. Pickford was the largest shipping company in England, and kept some 600 horses at the Broad Street stables, from where they were dispatched each day to move cargo from factories and shops in London to and from the NW Railroad and the London Docks..
Charles' walk  (above) usually took him about 20 minutes, but this morning, as he headed west across Cambridge Road to Oxford Street, he was already late. He walked briskly through the cold drizzle. Lightning flashed as he took the shortcut around St. Bartholomew’s Church, and thunder followed him down Trapp Street. He made a left on Sommerford, and a right on Brady, before turning right again and heading down Buck's Row. 
He was about half way down the north, private home side of the dark cobblestone street and about half way to work, when across the street, on the warehouse side, in the shadows thrown by the only gas light on that side of the street, Cross saw a bundled tarp lying in front of the closed stable gate for the Brown and Eagle Wool Warehouse.
Charles wasn't sure why, but he impulsively started to cross the road toward it. Perhaps the idea of snatching a new tarp gave him reason. Perhaps he could use it to cover himself from the rain today, or sell it when he got to work. But another flash of lightning revealed the lump in the shadows had a human outline. Charles slowed, but continued another two steps for a closer look. 
He stopped when he realized what he thought was a discarded tarp was actually a woman, lying on her back, her head away from him, her legs open toward him, her dress pushed up above her knees (above)  He could not move for a long moment. Was she drunk? She must be drunk. She was going to drown in this weather, Could a person drown in the rain?
He heard the click of an approaching hob nail boots on the cobblestones.  It was a man, hunched shouldered and collar turned up against the rain. Charles suddenly felt ashamed, as if he had been staring at the woman's private parts. It was absurd, in the dark, that he would do such a thing, he couldn't even see her private parts, he never...Still, he realized he must confront this false image of himself. Charles didn't want this stranger suspecting he had been involved with this woman, lying in the street. He stepped toward the approaching man, and saw he was dressed, as Charles was, in a workman's clothes. Charles called out, “Come and look over here, there's a woman."
The other man stopped, and for a second Charles thought he might turn and run. It was to be expected that he might run. Charles could be a mugger or part of a gang.  But Charles pointed toward the woman, and the man came on again, but this time angling toward the body. As the man passed him, Charles said, “I think she may be dead.” The man knelt down and touched her face and hands. “Cold” was all he said. Then he put a hand on her chest. The man said, “She has a heartbeat. It's faint.” Then he said, “I think she's breathing. But it is little, if she is.” The man stood, and said, “I've got to get to work. I'm late, already.”
They stood for a long moment side by side, in silence, looking down at the body, but not seeing it. Then the other man suggested, “We should move her out of the way.” The words hung in the cold damp air for a long moment. Charles could not make himself move, for some reason. He said, “I don't want to do that.” He'd meant to say we shouldn't do that, but the words had already escaped in the cold damp air. They could not be withdrawn. Again a silence fell upon them. They had to do something. Didn't they? Charles saw the other man glance back up Bucks Row. The street was still empty. It would not be, it couldn't be for much longer.. London Hospital was two blocks away.  The rain was growing lighter. Charles said, “We have to do something.” Then, the other man squatted between the woman's legs, like a midwife, Charles thought, delivering a newborn, and he pulled her dress down over her legs. As he stood again, the other man said, “I have to be at Corbetts Court by four.” Charles understood. The man said, “We can look for a Bobby on the way.” The man took two steps toward toward Brady Street,  then paused, waiting for Charles.
Charles realized he was not looking at the woman's body. What was he doing here? Why did he have to be the one who found her? If he had just gone the other way, down Little North Street, and he would not have seen her at all. Many mornings he did just that. But this morning, he had turned down Buck's Row. She was probably just drunk. Charles turned on his heel, and blocked her out of his mind. Both men walked to the west end of Buck's Row together, without saying another word to one another.
Behind them, where the killer had released another of his demons into the world, the woman's soul slipped from her body and floated away in the dark, evaporating in loneliness until it was so thin there was nothing left of her but air. And then not even that.
- 30 -

Sunday, March 06, 2016

THE FIRST DAY Chapter Six

I can almost taste the fear and the fascination when reading 27 year old pretty and proudly plain dunkard Rachel Bowman-Cormnay's account of being awakened by the “clatter of hoofs” in the last half hour of Tuesday, 16 June, 1863. Glancing to make sure her infant daughter Cora was still asleep, Rachel padded barefoot to the front window of her boarding-house and saw, “...sure enough the Greybacks were going by as fast as their horses could take them.” 
The rebel cavalrymen disappeared northward up the dark street toward “The Diamond” at the center of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. But rather than turn away to dress or climb back into bed,  Rachel waited at the window until,  in a few moments,  she heard a gun shot.  And “then they came back faster...” You can almost feel her anticipation as she waited in her nightgown for what would come next.
What came were the leading elements of “Grumble” Jenkin's 1,600 man cavalry brigade. “They came in, the front ones with their hands on the gun triggers ready to fire and calling out...that they would lay the town in ashes if fired on again...” Finally, about 2 in the morning of Wednesday, 17 June, things quieted, and Rachel caught a few hours of sleep. She was up again at 5 in the morning. “All seemed quiet...We almost came to the conclusion that the reb's had left again...Soon however they became more active.”
Their activity was hunting food, horses, clothing and Negroes. Any who think the American Civil War was not about human bondage, need only read Rachel's diary. “O! How it grated on our hearts to have to sit quietly and look at such brutal deeds...Some of the colored people who were raised here were taken along.” In other words, about 50 black skinned human beings were kidnapped at the point of a gun. “I sat on the front step,” said Rachel, “as they were driven by just like we would drive cattle...nearly all hung their heads. One woman was pleading wonderfully with her driver for her children – but all the sympathy she received from him was a rough "March along". 
Like most people in any age, Rachel Bowman (above) was a collection of contradictions. Raised in a conservative evangelical family, her parents sacrificed to get her a college education - a rare liberal achievement for any woman 1850. At Otterbein College, just north of Columbus, Ohio, she met a divinity student named Samuel Cormany. And after they were graduated, they were married in 1860. They moved to her native Ottawa, Canada, where Cora was born in 1861.
With the outbreak of the American Civil War, the devout pacifists and dedicated abolitionists returned to the Cormay family farm just north of Chambersburg (above), where Samuel joined the 16th Pennsylvania Cavalry, and marched off to war. Rachel and Cora lived with Samuel's parents for a time, but when family tensions rose she moved into town, surviving on Samuel's pay.
The rebels who frightened and fascinated the 4,000 residents of Chambersburg were not regulars but self named “Border Rangers”, irregulars under 33 year old Brigadier General Albert Gallatin Jenkins (above, before the war) - described as  "about 5 foot 10 inches high, well-formed and of good physique; dark hair, blue eyes, and heavy brown beard; pleasing countenance, kind affable manners, fluent and winning in conversation; quick, subtle, and argumentative in debate". Upon his father's death Albert exchanged his law career for running the family's 4,400 acre plantation, Green Bottom, on the banks of the Ohio River – worked by about 100 black slaves. His troopers were mostly local small farmers who had spent the war trading raids – house burning,  kidnapping,  murder and mutilation - with local Union sympathizers. Like border “rangers” on both sides, these men fought more out of hate than principle.
The troopers under “Grumble” Jenkins were scouts for Major General Robert Edwin Rodes' 21,000 man infantry division. On 14 June, 1863, after being relieved in front of Martinsburg, most of Jenkin's men crossed the Potomac and drove the 25 miles north to Chambersburg on Tuesday, 15 June.. On Wednesday morning, 16 June, Rachel Cormany observed “they were carrying away men's clothing and darkeys.” - slaves. The rebels showed a particular affinity for stealing men's hats, snatching them right off the owner's heads. 
Rachel also saw General Jenkins in the flesh ( in his best pirate appearance) . “He is not a bad looking man,” she confided to her diary. “There were a few real intelligent, good looking men among (his troopers). What a pity that they are rebels. After the main body had passed the news came that our soldiers were coming...” And with that, Jenkin's entire Brigade grabbed what they could carry and headed back south.
General Rodes (above) had ordered Jenkins to hold Chambersburg. But hearing a bugle call, and fearing approaching Federal troops, Jenkins abandoned the town on Thursday, 18 June, retreating 20 miles back to Hagerstown, Maryland, where he met General Rodes, who had just crossed the Potomac. Rodes was infuriated. In fact, on 18 June, there were no Federal troops within 50 miles of Chambersburg, and in their rush any goods not of immediate use to Jenkin's men were abandoned. The fuming 34 year old Rodes noted, “The result was that most of the property... which would have been of service to (my) troops...was removed or concealed before it (Chamberburg) was reoccupied.” Although Rodes commissariats estimated some 3,000 head of cattle had already been captured in Pennsylvania, only some 1,500 head had reached the rest of the army. Meanwhile, “The horses were almost all seized by the cavalry of General Jenkins, and were rarely accounted for.”
In all fairness, the “Border Rangers” were neither trained nor equipped to stand and fight. And hearing Rodes' complaints, his boss, Second Corp commander Lieutenant General Richard Ewel (above)l, took over direct command of Jenkins' brigade. He no more approved of Jenkins actions than Rodes, but he knew Jenkins raiders were the only cavalry his corps had to lead the way into Pennsylvania. The best troopers were riding with Stuart, shielding the right flank of the army from the Federals.
Meanwhile, Ewell's own infantry had been exhausted by the forced marches since Front Royal, the capture of Winchester and Martinsburg, and then the advance to the Potomac. So after crossing the river at Williamsport  (above) , “Baldy” Ewell sent his 4 brigades into camp, allowing them to rest and send out foraging parties to confiscate food and goods, the excess which could be ferried back across the river.. The pause also allowed Lieutenant General James Longstreet's First Corps to close up to the south shore of the Potomac, and Lieutenant General A. P. Hill's Third Corps to do the same, closer to Harpers Ferry.
Lee's plan continued to tempt Federal General Joe Hooker to strike toward Richmond. Had Fighting Joe done so, J.E.B. Stuart's cavalry would delay the Army of the Potomac while Longstreet forced march his First Corp to meet them from behind Richmond's defenses. At the same time, A.P. Hill's Third Corps was just a 2 day march from the outskirts of Washington. And, Ewell could continue his collecting supplies from the Pennsylvania country side, unmolested. In the same tactical position Hooker had faced -  with part of one corps across the Rappahancock -  Lee was in the stronger strategic position with one corps across the Potomac. And Hooker continued to seem determined not to understand that.
During the afternoon of Wednesday,  16 June, 1863, while Rachel Cormany was watching Jenkin's Brigade looting Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, a panicky General-in-Chief Henry “Old Brains” Halleck (above) telegraphed Major-General Joesph Hooker, “There is now no doubt that the enemy is surrounding Harper's Ferry, but in what force I have no information...our force there...cannot hold out very long.” He added there was no hope for relief “excepting from your army.” 
Hooker (above) took the bait and replied a few hours later, “In compliance with your directions, I shall march to the relief of Harper's Ferry. I put my column again in motion at 3 a.m. tomorrow. I expect to reach there in two days...” Hooker then sent a similar notification to the President, Abraham Lincoln, adding, “I am prepared to move without communications with any place for ten days”
At that point, it seems,  the long suffering Abraham Lincoln (above) hit the roof of both the White House and the War Department. Hooker had been playing Lincoln and Halleck against each other, like a child plays divorced parent.  Lincoln also suspected Hooker of attempting to sneak in his plan for a march south while Lee's Army was headed north, despite Lincoln's repeated orders, “Your objective is Lee's army.” 
At 10:00 that night, Lincoln replied to Hooker, “ To remove all misunderstanding, I now place you in the strict military relation to General Halleck of a commander of one of the armies to the general-in-chief of all the armies. I have not intended differently, but as it seems to be differently understood, I shall direct him to give you orders and you to obey them.”
Within 15 minutes, Hooker received a second telegram, this one from Halleck. “I have given no directions for your army to move to Harper's Ferry. I have advised the movement of a force, sufficiently strong to...ascertain where the enemy is...I want you to push out your cavalry, to ascertain something definite about the enemy.” It was as complete a smack down as could be conceived. 
And yet Hooker, ever the anarchist,  was determined to find somebody to play along with his dramatic performance. Half an hour after receiving Hallecks telegram, “Fighting Joe” dispatched a new request to Secretary of War William Stanton. “If General Cadwalader has gone to Pennsylvania, please request him to send me information of the rebel movements...”
But Stanton (above)  was a Washington drama queen himself and far better at the game then Hooker. He responded before midnight, “General Cadwalader has not gone to Pennsylvania, but is here waiting for orders. You shall be kept posted upon all information received here as to enemy's movements, but must exercise your own judgment as to its credibility. The very demon of lying seems to be about these times, and generals will have to be broken for ignorance before they will take the trouble to find out the truth of reports”.
At 9:30 the next morning, Thursday, 17 June, Lincoln telegraphed Hooker yet again, informing him that the superintendent of the telegraph office had assured the President that everything about enemy movements had been and would be forwarded to Army of the Potomac. The rough translation was that Lincoln was just about fed up with Hookers equivocation and excuses.
To which Hooker (above) offered up yet his final whining excuse. “The advice heretofore received by telegraph from Washington has stated successively that Martinsburg and Winchester were invested and surrounded; that Harper's Ferry was closely invested, with urgent calls upon me for relief; that the enemy were advancing in three columns through Pennsylvania...Now I am informed...that General Tyler, at Harper's Ferry...seems to think that he is in no danger. Telegraph operator just reports to me that Harper's Ferry is abandoned by our forces. Is this true?...I should very much like to have reliable and correct information concerning the enemy on the north side of the Potomac.”
Imagine that - a general in time of war, wishing he knew for for certain what his enemies' intentions were. 
And just where did Hooker think that information was going to come from? Before noon General Halleck replied to Hooker as bluntly as he could, without actually calling him a lunatic and a great big baby. “No reliable information of rebel movements in Maryland.” 
Then, just in case Hooker was unaware that his bosses were looking over his shoulder, Halleck added - “All telegrams from you or to you are subject to the hourly inspection of the Secretary of War and the President. No important instructions have or will be sent to you without their knowledge.” In other words -  Hooker, you wanted this job, so go do it. 
Halleck later added, “I regret...that reports from north side of the Potomac are so unreliable and contradictory, but they are given to you as received. What is meant by abandoning Harper's Ferry is merely that General Tyler has concentrated...on Maryland Heights. No enemy in any force has been seen below Harper's Ferry, north of the river...So far, we have had only the wild rumors of panic-stricken people.” And, Halleck might have added, one of those panic-stricken people seemed to be Hooker.
- 30 -

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