AUGUST 2017

AUGUST  2017
FACING DOWN THE RULERS OF WALL STREET A HUNDRED YEARS AGO. THEY ARE BACK.

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Friday, August 18, 2017

VICKSBURG Chapter Thirty-Five

I can empathize with 49 year old Lieutenant General John Clifford Pemberton. (above) That spring of 1863, the chain of command dictated he report to and take orders from 56 year old full General Joseph Eggleston Johnston, 600 miles away in Chattanooga, Tennessee. But he was outranked by the President of the Confederate States of America, 57 year old Jefferson Finis Davis, 1,000 miles away in Richmond, Virginia. Davis's his orders to Pemberton conflicted with Johnston's orders so often that the Pennsylvania Confederate had begun to avoid even communicating with Chattanooga. It was just another example of how everything to do with Vicksburg was complicated.
The complications began with the word “state”. The southern slave owners had rejected the
1789 Constitution of the United States, Article I, Section 8 of which tasked the Federal legislature to “...make all laws...necessary and proper...” for the national government to function. That made the Federal authorities sovereign, and the state authorities subservient. So, despite their complete failure, the slave owners sought to return to the 1781 Articles of Confederation, Article Two of which said that “Each state retains its sovereignty...”. It was why the slave owners called their rebellious government The Confederacy.
This theory meant the Army of the Confederate States was not a national army. The approximately 700,000 flesh and blood 18 to 45 year old white males in Confederate service were paid $11 a month – when they were paid - by their home counties in their individual states – their uniforms, shoes, weapons, ammunition, blankets and eating utensils were all supposed to be supplied by their states. So in December of 1862, Davis was forced to remind the Mississippi legislature in Jackson on, “...the necessity of harmony between the Confederate Government and the State Governments. They must act together...” Except they often did not.
As large swaths of Missouri, as well as counties around Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee were lost to the Yankees, Confederate Generals were forced to cajole local farmers out of their crops, local merchants out of their goods and local bankers out of their money, to support troops from those lost counties.  
The Confederate system required that every inch of Confederate territory be defended in order to defend any of it.  It was a matter of faith to the firebrands like Davis who had brought on this war, that the north's industrial and population superiority, as well as their centralized civil authority, would be overcome if the southern people took heed of the greatest military mind of their time. 
He was the genius whose amazing victory at Austerlitz had inspired Beethoven's fifth symphony, the conqueror of Europe from Moscow to Madrid, the Emperor of France, Napoleon Bonaparte (above). And Napoleon had said, “The moral is to the physical as three to one”, and prophesied “...the sword will always be conquered by the spirit.”
But the military genius whose campaign's Napoleon studied was the King of Prussia, Friedrich “Frederick the Great” Holenzollern (above). And Friedrich said, “Little minds try to defend everything at once, but...He who defends everything defends nothing.” And then there was that other Napoleon quote, “An army which cannot be regularly recruited is a doomed army”.
After Grant's army had popped the cork at Port Gibson on 1 May, 1863, Pemberton ordered the 2,000 men at Port Hudson to join his army defending the main point - Vicksburg. But Confederate President Davis (above) had countermanded that order - "To hold both Vicksburg and Port Hudson is necessary to a connection with Trans-Mississippi.”
And Pemberton remembered that in 1862 he had been removed from South Carolina because he favored abandoning Fort Sumter (above).  And the man who had removed him was President Jefferson Davis. So the troops remained at Port Hudson.
But Pemberton still had reason for confidence that first week of May. He had direct command over 33,000 men – the gunners for the batteries defending Vicksburg (above), and 5 infantry divisions. Holding some 11,000 men to defend the city and Haines Bluff above the Yazoo River, Pemberton pushed 17,000 men in three divisions forward 20 miles to the Big Black River. 
For the first time in his career, Pemberton took direct command over combat troops in the field, including those of the argumentative 44 year old Major General William Wing Loring's division , as well as that of 45 year old Major General Carter Littlepage Stevenson and 32 year old Brigadier General John Stevens Bowen's battle scared veterans from Port Gibson.
That force seemed sufficient to defend the 4 crossings of the Big Black River against Grant's 30,000 men. The Yankees had already forced the bridge at Hankinson's Ferry, and pushed a mile or so toward Warrenton. But they showed few hints of continuing that advance. Farther north were Hall's Ferry and Baldwin's Ferry. But Pemberton suspected Grant would prefer the crossing closest to Vicksburg, and the one farthest north, the Big Black River Bridge on the Vicksburg – Auburn - Jackson road. Because as far as Pemberton saw it, Grant's army was living on borrowed time.
Everyday the Yankees spent in Mississippi they were consuming food and ammunition. Their supply lines ran 40 miles down the tenuous cordoryed road from Millikan's Bend to Hard Times Landing. Their cargoes then had to be transferred onto 2 weary steamboats to be transported across the river to Grand Gulf. They then had to be reloaded onto wagons to carry the precious supplies another 20 to 30 miles over bad roads to Rock Springs and the Big Black River crossings. Any break, even a temporary one,  in that line and Grant's men would be left starving and defenseless. Even if the supply line held, Grant could afford maybe one big fight before his ammunition ran out. And his food would very likely run short even before then.
So, as Pemberton slowly shifted his divisions northward along the Big Black, watching for an opening to cut off any dangling parts of McClearand's Corps, while being careful not to offer any vulnerable parts of his own  divisions.  Where ever Grant tried to cross the river, Pemberton intended to  bleed Grant's army.  
President Davis had promised 10,000 more men were on the way from South Carolina. Those reinforcements and the 5-6,000 men Pemberton had already ordered to assemble in Jackson, would sweep up the remnants of Grant's ambitions when his army melted away in the Mississippi interior. So encouraged was Pemberton that he telegraphed Richmond on 3 May that everything was under control.
However, at Rocky Springs 41 year old Lieutenant General Ulysses Simpson Grant was also confident, because he had seen something Pemberton evidently had not.
As his 30,000 plus men edged north along the Big Black River, Grant found himself to be 40 miles from Vicksburg, and 60 miles from the state capital of Jackson, Mississippi. He had achieved what Napoleon called “The Central Position” via “La maneuver sur les derrieres”, or 'A March on the Enemies Buttocks”.
If Grant turned west and successfully forced a crossing of the Big Black, he would drive the rebels into their entrenchments at Vicksburg. Those siege lines would multiply the rebel's numbers. But it would also give the Yankees access to Haines Bluff and re-establish Grant's supply line up the Mississippi to Memphis.
If Pemberton was too vigilant and the Big Black River crossings seemed too strong, Grant could always use McClerand's Corps to screen an attack eastward on Jackson. Destroying the railroad shops and telegraph lines in Jackson would isolate Vicksburg and Pemberton's entire army.  But to attempt that, McPherson's Corps would have to turn their backs on Pemberton's forces, making him vulnerable to being taken in the rear.  In order to improve his chances in either direction, Grant needed Sherman's Corp on the Mississippi side of the river as quickly as possible.
Until then, for the first week of May, 1863, the two armies were like a pair of cobra's locked in a caduceus, both just one bite from total victory or total defeat.
- 30 -

Thursday, August 17, 2017

FUNDALENTALIST CREED

I began reading “The Fundamentals; A Testimony to the Truth”, the seminal work of Christian fundamentalism, because I wondered how such a document had come to exist. The very first sentence of the very first of the 90 essays sought to explain it all. “In 1909 God moved two Christian laymen to set aside a large sum of money for issuing twelve volumes that would set forth the fundamentals of the Christian faith…” Of course, being a skeptic, that explained nothing to me. But, upon further investigation, I discovered that the two anonymous Christian laymen were Lyman Stewart and his younger brother Milton. And their personal history provided some insight into the movement they had fathered.
Lyman Stewart (above) was the deeply religious eldest son of a tanner. He hated his father’s business and wanted to be a missionary. But, as Jesus before him, Lyman found he would need funds to support his ministry. Then, on the morning of 28 August, 1858, almost in Lyman’s own backyard, the foreman of the Pennsylvania Oil Company spotted fresh oil standing in the 69 foot drill hole he had decided the night before to abandon. Within a few weeks this almost abandoned well, outside of Titusville, Pennsylvania, would be producing the unheard of  bounty of 20 barrels a day. Jonathan Watson, the man who had leased the site to Penn Oil, became the first oil millionaire. In that sudden wealth, Lyman  Stewart saw the hand of God.
Yet, it was a risky business, looking for oil. The towers of Ancient Babylon had been constructed in part with asphalt, but even by 1859 there was no explanation of how petroleum, or “rock oil”, was created, nor why it was found where it was. Even today, three out of every four oil fields are discovered because of surface “seeps” of asphalt. Searching for oil beneath the ground remained in 1859 a matter of pure luck - and, if you asked Lyman Stewart, divine intervention.
On 5 December 1858, Layman used his life savings of $125 (equivalent to $3,000 today) to buy an option on a section of land not far from Penn Oil’s big score. But alas, Lyman’s lease proved to be a dry hole. It took this man of faith two years of had work in the oil fields to save up enough cash to finance a second try. In 1861 he joined with other investors in buying another lease. This time Lyman hit oil. But by then over-production had driven the price of oil down to ten cents a barrel, and Lyman and his partners lost their oil stained shirts.
By now chemical analysis had determined that oil had once been living plants and animals. From this it was theorized that oil would never be found in the rocks in which it had formed, the “source rock”.  Instead it was theorized that once having formed (some how) it then flowed into a permeable “reservoir rock”, and might be trapped beneath an impermeable “cap rock”.
If there were no cap rock and the oil made it to the surface, it formed a seep. But geologists still had no way of measure how old oil was. But connecting the work of Scottish geologist James Hutton and the English Naturalist Charles Darwin, whose “Origin of Species” had been published in 1859,  it seemed it might be unimaginably old, hundreds of thousands or even millions of years old.
In 1866, after serving in the Civil War, Lyman Stewart returned to the oil fields. This time, however, he opened an office in Titusville, helping other wildcatters negotiate leases from local farmers. On some of the better looking leases, Lyman waved his fee in exchange for a share of any oil found. By 1868 he had amassed a small fortune on the gambles taken by others, and from that he had somehow acquired a reputation as a savvy oil man. Still, by 1869, he was broke again. But he remained convinced that God would not let him fail.
In 1877 Lymen teamed up with a roustabout from the Pennsylvania and California oil fields, named Wallace Hardison. Hardison had made enough money in California oil to fund Lyman for one more try. And Layman hit the black gold again. This time, when they were on top, the pair sold out to Rockefeller’s Standard Oil of Indiana. In 1883 the Stewart brothers and Hardison packed their bags and moved to California.
The desperate search for oil drove capitalists to take a hard look at the only empirical evidence they had, the pulverized rocks drawn up from both dry and successful drill holes. In that broken and shattered rock they found the fossils of single celled aquatic creatures called Foraminifera. There are some 4,000 species of Formaminifera in today’s oceans, living from the surface to the bottom mud, from the Arctic to the tropics. But the fossils of 275,000 different Foraminifera species were found in the drilling cores.
Obviously the vast majority of these little creatures and plants had gone extinct. By studying which species  had been found the wells that had produced oil,  these practical capitalists could better judge their chances of finding oil in any new drilling hole. Eventually, oilmen found they could depend on Foraminifera fossil species in the cores, to lead them toward unseen oil.
The move west did not change Lyman Stewart's core beliefs. He forbade his normally profane roustabouts from cursing on the drilling site, which earned his first drilling site in California the title of “Christian Hill”. Still, even with the Lyman’s piety, it took seven dry wells before Lyman and Harding produced their first gusher in Santa Clarita, California. But by 1886 the Hadison and Stewart Oil Company was producing 15% of all the petroleum in California.
In 1890 they merged with three other local oil companies controlled by Thomas Bard, to form the Union Oil Company of California. Bard was named President of the new company, Lyman was named Vice President, and Hardison became the treasurer. The company’s headquarters was established in the pretty little town of Santa Paula, at the corner of Main and Ojai streets, surrounded by the nodding mechanical donkeys, pumping oil.
Success and wealth merely confirmed Lyman’s faith in his own righteousness. He had no doubt that God meant him to be wealthy and wanted him to expand his empire. Wallace Hardison was not so certain, and in 1892 he sold out. In 1894 Bard resigned over fights with Lyman. And finally Lyman Stewart had reached the top of the mountain. He kept drilling new wells, to feed the growing demand for his product. He built pipelines and refineries. He built a fleet of tankers to carry Unocal oil up and down the West Coast. He opened a string of service stations, to sell his gasoline. Company profits went from $10 million in 1900 to over $50 million in 1908. California wells were now producing almost 78 million barrels a year. The following year, Wallace Hardison died in Sun Valley, California, when his car was struck by a train. It seemed that God was eliminating all of Lyman's competition.
Now at last Lyman Stewart had the fortune to fund his ministry. Lyman and Milton endowed $300,000 for the publication of 12 volumes (90 essays) in defense of what they believed were the five fundamental tenets of the true faith; the total absolute accuracy of the bible, the divinity of Jesus, his death for humanities’ sins, and his second coming, which was expected soon, perhaps in the lifetime of people then living.
However there were a few other points made in The Fundamentals, in particular a listing of the enemies of Christianity. These enemies included “…Romanism (Catholicism), socialism, modern philosophy, atheism...Mormonism, spiritualism,...and Darwinism, which appeared to undermine the Bible's authority.”  Formed originally as a response to "modernism", the foundations of Fundamentalism are primarily negative, insisting upon what they are against, rather than what they seek to build.  It is impossible to decipher early 21st century conservative politics without an understanding of “The Fundamentals; a Testimony to the Truth”.
The first target of the Fundamentalists was the growing acceptance of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution through natural selection. William Riley, writing for the World Christian Fundamentals Association in 1922, declared “We increasingly realize that the whole menace in modernism exists in its having accepted Darwinism against Moses, and the evolutionary hypothesis against the inspired word of God." There are hundreds of teachers, Riley argued, who were pouring the poison of Darwinism into youthful minds where their evil teachings could "take root in the garden of the Lord.”  Except....
By the 1920’s Union Oil's own  geologists had come to realize that the various species of extinct Foraminifera could be used to measure ancient ocean temperatures, and the amount of oxygen present in the ancient seas. And by mid-20th century they came to understand that the multi-billion dollar petrochemical industry depended upon a detailed understanding of the ancient pre-historic,  pre-biblical, fossilized shells of extinct microscopic creatures found in drilling cores. It was upon the evolutionary lines of those long dead life forms that the profits of the  big oil companies, including Union Oil, were founded.
And thanks to Layman Stewart’s largess, millions of dollars in those profits from this oil provided for the Los Angeles Mission, (above) which has helped to feed and shelter tens of thousands of homeless and lost souls, and a Fundamentalist Christian collage, which explicitly taught its' graduates that evolution, such as that exhibited by those microscopic creatures used to find all that wealth, had not occurred.
 It is that conflict at the core of Fundamentalism which renders it a schizophrenic philosophy, with little positive to teach, but only blinding, dead-end beliefs that lead only into the dark.
  - 30 -

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

HOME IS THE HERO

I hate misplacing things. No matter what you have misplaced, the cost of finding it is always double. First there is the cost of the thing. Then because you go crazy looking for the thing, you lose your train of thought about the other thing you were thinking about before you lost the first thing.. As anybody with OCD will tell you, it quickly becomes more about the crazy than either of the things. I think it's better to avoid the crazy entirely and just assume I lost the thing years ago and it will eventually turn up on its own. I learned this lesson from John Paul Jones, the pugnacious and self centered Scotsman who founded the American Navy, and Teddy Roosevelt, the pugnacious and self centered American President who found Jones after he got lost.
John Paul had the first requirement for greatness; luck. While serving as third mate on board a merchantman in 1768, both the captain and the first mate died of yellow fever, instantly promoting him. Over the following years Captain John Paul acquired a reputation for brutality. And just when the bad press had brought his career to a a screeching halt, luckily, his brother in the colony of Virginia dropped dead and left him a small fortune.
Having made the voyage to collect his inheritance, John Paul decided to stay in Virginia.  And to confuse any hounding lawyers Jones added a third name to his moniker. And when, luckily, the shooting started in Boston, Captain John Paul Jones packed up his resume and offered to fight for his new country as a privateer.
At first he did most of his fighting just to get a ship. But when he finally did, flying the American flag while sailing out of France, he at last justified his luck. He raided British ports. He captured British merchant ships in full view of the English coast. He lashed his ship to an English warship and fought it out until both ships were sinking. Offered a chance to surrender, he responded, “I have not yet begun to fight.” Then the British warship surrendered to him.
When that war was over John Paul Jones was out of work. So, with congressional approval, he hired on as an admiral with the Russian Navy. But that did not work out. Jones was pushy, and the Czarina did not trust pushy men.. "Catherine the Great"  told the American admiral  to "go mind your own business."
So in May of 1790 Jones returned to Paris, and took a third floor front apartment at #42 Rue de Tournon (above).  And it was here, over the next two years, that the self assurance and self promotion that served Jones so well in obtaining a ship and winning battles, now isolated him.  The Marquis de Lafayette, once an admirer, could no longer tolerate his "colossal egotism.". And the American Minister to the Court of Louis XVI,  Gouverneur Morris, grew so weary of his badgering demands, that after tending to the Admiral's pneumonia,  Morris retreated from Jones' sick bed for a dinner appointment. It was when he reluctantly returned 2 days later, on the afternoon of 17 July 1792,  that Morris found the 45 year old admiral lying face down on his bed, his feet still on the floor, but dead as a door nail.  Jones' servants and few admirers pickled the hero in rum, packed him into an iron coffin, and buried him in the old Saint Louis Cemetery, set aside for foreign protestants. The expectation was that he would be transferred home to America, as quickly as funds could be raised.
Unfortunately, three weeks after John Paul Jones was laid to rest, a mob descended on the Royal Palace of Tuileries, and captured the King and Queen. To achieve this, they first had to butcher his Swiss guard, which the mob did with relish. During the cleanup their bodies were dumped into a common grave,  right next to Jones' resting place. What with the revolution and the Napoleonic wars, by 1815 when peace finally broke out,  the cemetery was long abandoned and forgotten.
Over the next century,  John Paul Jones floated in rum and slowly pickled while the mundane world continued on with out him.  In time the land atop John Paul Jones came to be occupied by a grocery, a laundry, an apartment house (above) and their attendant backyard sheds, toilets, cesspits  and wells.
And there John Paul Jones might have stayed had not a lunatic shot and killed American President William McKinley in September of 1901.
That lunatic made Vice President Teddy Roosevelt (above), at 44, the youngest man ever to take the oath as President of the United States.
And when Teddy decided to run for his own term, in 1904, he was opposed by Republican National Chairman Mark Hanna (above), who portrayed his fellow Republican Teddy as a wild eyed lunatic, and called him  “that damn cowboy”. What Roosevelt needed in 1904 was anything that would make him look like a stalwart defender of tradition. Luckily, he found what he needed when his ambassador to France pointed out that one of our greatest Revolutionary War heroes had gone kissing in Paris  for over one hundred years. So the order went forth in typical Teddy Roosevelt fashion, “Dig up John Paul Jones! Whatever it costs!"
General Horace Porter (above) was a civil war hero and now the American ambassador to France.  And in 1897,  after reading a new biography of Admiral Jones, Porter had become obsessed with finding his body. After three years of research through old maps and confusing government records Porter found the cemetery where Jones had been buried, now adjacent to the Rue de la Grange aux Belles - or in the more prosaic English, Street of the Beautiful Barn.  Because of all the new buildings, the only way to recover Jones was to tunnel into the graveyard -  not a pleasant occupation, but a great plot for a horror movie.
Before he could dig, Porter had to get the current owners’ permission. It took him two more years to negotiate for a 3 month contract with all the local land owners. At the same time President Roosevelt submitted a special appropriation to pay the $35,000 estimated price tag to dig up John Paul Jones’ corpse. John Paul would not have been surprised to discover that a hundred years had not made the American Congress any more rational. On the evening of Friday, 3 February, 1905,  Mr. Porter started the work, on his own dime. Congress had tabled the President's request.
Heading the project was M. Paul Weiss, who had been trained as a mining engineer, and he was going to need all that training. Weiss sunk the first shaft 18 feet straight down in a back yard. It wasn't long before he hit his first corpse. That meant that luckily,  the bodies had not been moved.
Unfortunately, despite the construction over the graves, the ground was not well compacted, and a great deal of time and money would have to be spent shoring up the shafts, and supporting the walls of the buildings above.  Or at least that's what Ms Weiss told Ambassador Porter when he presented the bill.  Noted Porter, “Slime, mud, and mephitic (foul smelling and poisonous) odors were encountered, and long red worms appeared in abundance.”
Wrote Porter, “Two more large shafts were sunk in the yards and two in the Rue Grange-aux-Belles, making five in all.  Day and night gangs of work men were employed…Galleries were pushed in every direction and ‘‘soundings’’ were made between them with long iron tools,…so that no leaden coffin could possibly be missed."
The wooden coffins had long since corroded away and for the last century the bodies had been slowly decaying in the soil. Now the miners working for Ms Weiss (above)  had introduced waves of fresh air accelerated that decay. The stench was often overwhelming. Three lead coffins were found, the first on 22 February, 1905, and the second a month later. Those two had copper plates identifying their occupants. Neither was John Paul Jones.  Shortly there after they found King Louis' Swiss Guard, in their mass grave, stacked one atop the other. And now Weiss knew he was on the right track.
On 31 March, 1905, the miners hit a third lead coffin, this one without a copper plate The crew decided they needed more fresh air before they opened it. It was a lucky thing they did.
On 8 April, 1905 they finally pulled the coffin loose from the soil, and while still in the tunnels pried open the coffin lid. Ambassador Porter (above, left) was there,.as was Ms. Weiss (above, right) , to catch by flickering candle light the first glimpse of  the great hero since 1792.  The body inside was wrapped in tin foil. The stench of alcohol filled the tunnel. Rolling back the tin foil, they gazed upon the face of John Paul Jones, a physical connection with the American Revolution. His nose had been bent by the weight of the coffin lid, but the face was still recognizable. It was John Paul Jones. After a hundred years he needed a shampoo, but that was to be expected.
Doctor J. Capitan performed an autopsy and determined that the heart and liver were normal, but the left lung showed signs of “small patches of broncho-pneumonia partially cicatrized” He wrote that he had come to the conclusion that “the corpse of which we have made a study is that of John Paul Jones”.
Teddy Roosevelt ordered up a fleet of 11 battle ships to escort Captain John Paul Jones back to America, and the French threw in a few battle ships of their own.
On April 24, 1906, he was placed in a temporary tomb (above)  at the U.S. Naval Academy, in Annapolis, Maryland. It was temporary tomb because Congress had yet to pass the appropriation to even pay the cost to recover the body. They never did.
When the hero arrived home, Teddy Roosevelt gave a speech, in which he barely mentioned John Paul Jones. Instead Teddy talked a lot about his plans for the future of the American navy.
By now, Teddy had been re-elected without serious opposition in part because, luckily for Teddy, his Republican foe Mark Hanna had died of typhoid fever in February of 1904. So the the entire effort to rescue John Paul Jones from anonymity to save Teddy's political future,  had been unnecessary. And Teddy had already lost interest in the dead hero. It turned out Teddy's entire effort to recover John Paul Jones had been about Teddy - in much the same way that John Paul Jones efforts to create an American Navy had been about John Paul Jones.  And Congress never did pass the authorisation to pay for the effort because the members of Congress were under the impression that it was all about them.. Poor General Porter had to take up a collection. But at least, at last, the body of John Paul Jones had been found and was home.
I told you John Paul was lucky.
- 30 -

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