DECEMBER 2019

DECEMBER   2019
Please, Have a Merry. Please. Oh, and get rid of the Orange Jerk!

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Saturday, December 23, 2017

KISSING GEORGE WASHINGTON Chapter Two

I consider North Carolina the arena of storms. It's where the 6,000 foot high Black Mountains constrain the invading cold dry Canadian air, so that it clashes with the moist tropical on-shore winds born from the Gulf Stream,  just off Cape Hatteras. The spinning earth puts a twist on the collision of these conflicting air currents, and the jet stream rushes each cyclonic eddy away, drawing in even more warm air, dropping the barometric pressure at the ever tightening center of each newborn tempest. The leading edge of these storms is first felt by the farmers and seamen of New Jersey, New York and New England coming from the northeast, which is why the storms came to be called Nor'easters
Christmas morning of 1776 in the Delaware River Valley was overcast, with temperatures well below freezing in a soft northeast wind. After a meager breakfast, the foot soldiers of the Continental army were told there would be no drilling, but were issued fresh flints for their muskets, and told to pack three days rations.  After almost a year of service they knew what this meant. They were soon going into action. The few who had paper, composed letters to loved ones at home. Most spent the morning struggling to repair their clothing,  tying rags about their disintegrating shoes,  fashioning their new blankets into repairs for overcoats and pants and gloves.  In those hours, even the most fanatical must have wondered what the hell they were doing, suffering for a commander who had so far had brought them nothing but defeat, retreat and misery.
After noon, as the thermometer struggled to climb under lowering clouds, the men were were told to leave their personal effects in their huts and tent dugouts, and form into companies. The roll was called, and then the companies formed into battalions. The men were now issued 60 musket balls and powder, and about three in the afternoon, with the winter solstice sun fading, 2,400 marched eight abreast in tight formations, three miles south to the ferry operated by Samuel McConkey.  Major John Wilkinson, following on horseback, tracked his unit's progress through the hard packed week old snow “tinged here and there with blood from the feet of the men who wore broken shoes.”  Near the ferry the troops formed up again, hidden from the river by high ground, to wait for darkness in a spitting rain. And to pass the time, the officers read to them a new pamphlet from the quill pen of Thomas Paine.
Ben Franklin had recruited Thomas Paine (above) to the American cause two years earlier, just as the ruling English conservatives were about to have the author of “Common Sense” arrested.  Paine served on Washington's staff, and suffered the grinding retreat across New Jersey, inspired by the experience to scribble out a new monograph. Once safely across the Delaware, Paine had hurried ahead to Philadelphia, but found the government gone, and the town filled with “fears and falsehoods”. It had taken him ten days to find a printer who could have “The American Crises” produced as a pamphlet, but it's inspiring cadence would prove as effective for the American cause as a broadside from a 44 gun man-of-war.
These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet... it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated. Britain, with an army to enforce her tyranny, has declared that she has a right...”to bind us in all cases whatsoever,”....Even the expression is impious; for so unlimited a power can belong only to God...There is a natural firmness in some minds which cannot be unlocked by trifles, but which, when unlocked, discovers a cabinet of fortitude; and I reckon it among those kind of public blessings...that God hath blessed (General Washington) with...a mind that can even flourish upon care....”
The 44 year old George Washington had personally planned the entire crossing, having the Durham boats brought down river over several nights and hidden behind Taylor Island near the ferry point. The Congress had not provided funding for a dedicated staff, so Washington surrounded himself with fellow FFVs, members of the First Families of Virginia, a social class he understood and could trust. But his new responsibilities also brought him into a new world. A year ago, when he first arrived in Boston he had been accompanied by a “body slave”, dressed in an exotic oriental costume. But he had noticed the reaction of men like Hancock and Adams, and he was beginning to doubt slavery was economically viable or morally defensible for a man leading a war for freedom. In a year, he would be writing to the manager of his Virginia plantation that he intended to free all his slaves in his will. The password he gave to his command this night was "Victory". And the answer was to be, "Or Death."
The first to be polled across the Delaware River in the gathering winter gloom were 40 mounted dragoons under Captain William Washington (second cousin to the General), and including future President Lieutenant. James Monroe, another FFV'er. Their assignment was to ride three miles north of Trenton and block the road to Princeton for six hours, then rejoin the army either at Trenton, or back on the Pennsylvania shore. 
About six, as the sun set and the wind increased, the light rain began to come down harder, and to turn into sleet. Washington sent a note to Lieutenant Colonel John Cadwalader, preparing to cross over at Bordentown, “I am determined, as the night is favorable, to cross the River.” .  But the night was not favorable. One soldier described conditions as a “violent storm of rain, hail, and snow [the nor’easter] coupled with the ice flows and high winds, (which) slowed operations.”  Said another, "It blew a hurricane."
In direct command of the crossing was 26 year old barrel chested 280 pound Henry Knox (above) . Henry helped throw tea into Boston Harbor, had witnessed the Boston Massacre, and it was Henry who had manhandled captured cannon 100 miles across snowbound Massachusetts to Dorchester Heights, forcing the British to evacuate Boston. 
Henry had barely escaped British capture after the disaster at Manhattan, and now Washington was relying on Henry's booming voice to keep the 2,400 infantry, 18 cannon and 100 draft horses ferried safely and efficiently across the 300 yard water. Noted John Greenwood, “no sooner had the sun set than it began to drizzle, and when we came to the river, it rained.”
Washington went across with the second wave, landing on the New Jersey shore about 7:00 pm. He stood on the bank, “...wrapped in his cloak, superintending the landing of his troops. He is calm and collected, but very determined. The storm is changing to sleet and cuts like a knife.” Said Greenwood, “...it commenced to snow about eleven, and the river ran strong with ice. “ Henry Knox said , “It hailed with great violence.” 
With each minute, the crossing fell farther behind schedule. Washington considered canceling the attack, but as there was no alternative, he sat on a box and kept his concerns to himself.  By midnight, all the infantry were over, and Knox started to load the 18 cannon, their draft horses and ammunition. It was Knox who took the cannon out of order, in case Washington decided to attack with only infantry. By the time the big Durham boats could be adjusted to carry their new load, it was snowing heavily. Wrote Greenwood later, "The noise of the soldiers coming over and clearing away the ice, the rattling of the cannon wheels on the frozen ground, and the cheerfulness of my fellow-comrades... I felt great pleasure..."
At the same time, and some 20 miles to the south, near Bristol, Pennsylvania,  Colonel Cadewalder ferried his 1,500 infantry across the river, to begin his diversionary attack against Bordentown. But river ice kept his artillery on the Pennsylvania shore. Not wanting to move without artillery support, after midnight Cadewalder pulled his infantry back to Pennsylvania. Thus, Washington's diversion did not bring von Dunop rushing back to Bordentown, just 9 miles or half day's march south of Trenton. As Napoleon would say a generation later, “I do not want a good general, I want a lucky one.”
The last gun and dray horse landed on the Jersey shore, about 3 in the morning of Thursday, 26 December, 1776 - Boxing Day. At about 4 am, as the army set off on the nine mile march to Trenton, the snow, which had slowed, whirled down the Delaware Valley  with renewed force. Private Greenwood captured the night decades later. "During the whole night it alternately hailed, rained, snowed, and blew tremendously...when we halted on the road, I sat down on the stump of a tree and was so benumbed with cold that I wanted to go to sleep; had I been passed unnoticed....(but) Sergeant Madden came and rousing me up, made me walk about. We then began to march again...until the dawn of day, about half-past seven in the morning."  By eight in the morning, Washington's small army was in position to attack. The men could not know, the hardest part of the operation was already over.   
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Friday, December 22, 2017

KISSING GEORGE WASHINGTON Chapter One

I gott'a admit, there was one lesson in military science that General George Washington never learned – Keep It Simple, Stupid. Consider George's plan for his greatest victory: First, 3,000 men under Lieutenant Colonel John Cadwalader would slip across the icy Delaware river near Bristol, Pennsylvania, and threaten the redcoats and their hired mercenaries (the Hessians) billeted around Bordentown, New Jersey. Once the British were distracted, Washington himself would lead 2, 500 men across McKonkey's Ferry, 15 miles to the north, and march 7 miles south to attack the 1,500 Hessian troops camped at Trenton, while 700 militiamen under General James Ewing would cross just south of  Trenton, and block the Hessian's retreat.   If all these moving parts managed to work, Washington plan would be judge brilliant. Luckily for Washington, it did not work.
There was no reason why it should. The Continental Army had numbered 20,000 men outside New York in August. But by Friday, 20 December, 1776, it was reduced to less than 6,000 exhausted, starving, freezing, dispirited and nearly naked men, huddled on the south bank of the Delaware River, Washington admitted most of his men were “so thinly clad as to be unfit for service.” Desertions were melting the army into slush, and half of the enlistments were up on New Year's Day, “I rather think the design of General Howe is to possess himself of Philadelphia this winter,” Washington warned Congress, “and in truth I do not see what is to hinder him...”. In February the Delaware River would likely freeze over, and Howe's 30,000 men could march across the ice into the American capital. Knowing this, the bickering Continental Congress had already retreated to Baltimore. It all made Washington's grandiose plan seem a pipe dream. But Washington did have a few advantages.
First, there was the Delaware River (above) , named after Thomas West, the Third Baron De la Ware. Iron ore and grains were carried by 40 foot long flat bottom Durham boats on the upper river as it cut a gap southeastwards through the last ridges of the Appalachian mountains to the 8 foot falls at Trenton. The river turned southward 20 miles later at Bordentown, before the last 30 mile reach to the Philadelphia docks. When Washington retreated across the mile wide river he had gathered every Durham boat capable of carrying artillery or cavalry withing 70 miles upstream, onto the south bank. And with American defenses dug in at every ford, it left General Howe the choice of either building a new fleet of boats, or just waiting for the freeze.
The second item in Washington's favor was the well known and well hated Tory, John Honeyman, a butcher and weaver from Griggstown, New Jersey. In mid-December Honeyman was captured and dragged before General Washington for a personal interrogation.  The truth was, Honeyman was a spy for Washington.  In private the butcher informed his spymaster that General Howe was not waiting for the river to freeze. On Saturday, 14 December Howe had ordered his 20,000 regulars to disperse into winter quarters in northern New Jersey, where the accommodations and accommodating companionship were plentiful.  That left 10,000 Hessian's in a string of outposts within mutually supporting distance across southern New Jersey.
Then on Saturday, 21 December 1776, the amazing John Honeyman somehow managed to escape Washington's clutches and cross the Delaware, where he sought refuge with Colonel Johann Gottlieb
Rall, commanding the three regiments of Hessians at Trenton. While being congratulated for his escape, Honeyman assured Rall the Americans could not possibly mount any operations until spring. This confirmed Rall's personal appraisal of the undisciplined Americans, and convinced him he needed no trenches to defend Trenton. “Let them come!”, he boasted, “We'll at them with the bayonet!”
But also on that Saturday, 400 Philadelphia militia surprised a Scottish redcoat picket company at the tiny Petticoat Bridge, north of Mount Holly, New Jersey. The Scotsmen fell back on their regiment, billeted a mile north in a village called Blackhorse, and they alerted the man Howe had left in charge of most of southern New Jersey, the Hessian General Count Carl Emil Ulrich von Donop (above). The Count was a competent soldier, and ambitious enough to despise Colonel Rall, who had been left out of his chain-of-command. Disturbed by the rebels growing boldness, von Donop roused his two Hessian regiments at Bordentown and put them onto the road, south to Blackhorse.  Normally, faced with such an active response, the American militia would have scattered, but their commander, a Virginian Colonel named Samuel Griffin, got a visit from General Washington's aid, Joseph Reed, who urged the militia to hang on for a little while. But, Reed did not tell Griffin why he was asking his men to make the effort, ",..as the discovery of it may prove fatal to us".
Although ill, Griffin was willing. So on 22 December, when von Dunop's 2,000 men crossed over the Petticoat Bridge and pushed toward Mount Holly (above, center- right), the militia stayed in contact, taking causalities and even trading some long range artillery fire. But they avoided a full fight.  The dilatory shooting continued into the short day of 23 December. The Hessian planned a full assault for the morning of  24 December, but Griffin sensed the blow and retreated during the night. Frustrated, von Donop would decide to tempt the Americans and remain in Mount Holly another day. He was also, charged one of his disgruntled subordinates, enjoying the company of an attractive local widow -  who might have been seamstress Betsy Ross.  Whatever the truth, the skirmish had drawn von Dunop a full day's march south of Bordentown, even farther away from Trenton then Washington's diversion had intended to draw him.
That same Monday, 23 December, General Washington (above)  was at his modest headquarters in William Keith's Pennsylvania farm house, about 10 miles north of Trenton.. In the afternoon he was visited by the handsome, urban and catty Doctor Benjamin Rush, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and distinguished member of the Continental Congress. Dr. Rush found Washington moody. “While I was talking to him”, Rush wrote later, “I observed him to play with his pen and ink upon several small pieces of paper. One of them by accident fell upon the floor near my feet. I was struck with the inscription upon it. “Victory or Death.” Rush decided the general was depressed, and probably would have prescribed his favorite treatment - a bleeding. Luckily for the United States, Washington could not spare the time to open a vein.
The spirits of Washington's men were improving. It had snowed, the cloud cover moderating the overnight temperatures, and a supply of long promised blankets from Virginia had finally reached the army. The colonists were getting a first painful lesson -   that a nation of 50 independent sovereign states, is not a nation. A year earlier, the Continental Congress had established the soldier's daily ration as one pound each of meat and bread, a pint of milk and a quart of beer or cider per man. But the rations were almost never met. Without an internal system of roads, or a navy, the colonies occupied by the army, were really the only ones that could supply the army. And they would always short of resources. Washington's little army was in such terrible condition, that a few blankets could raise the spirits of the men. But change was on the wind.
Around noon, on Christmas Eve, 1776, Washington called his commanders to a meeting in his headquarters. It was only then that he informed them of his plan. The next evening the army would cross the river at McKonkey’s Ferry, at the mouth of Knowles' creek. The Delaware River was only 300 yards wide here, and Washington calculated it would take about six hours to carry 2,500 men to the New Jersey shore.
Once reformed, the army would march 7 miles south to Trenton, surprising Rall's Hessians before dawn and trapping them against General James Ewing's 700 man militia, which would cross after midnight at the Trenton ferry. The Hessians at Bordentown would be prevented from reinforcing by Colonel John Cadwalader's force.  After Trenton was captured, and joined by General Ewing's militia, the victorious army would march the 13 miles north to Princeton, and attack the British force there under Major General James Grant.
It was a bold plan. It took account of Colonel Rall's unprepared position at Trenton and General Howe's dispersed forces. But it could not allow for the huge storm winding up off the Carolina coast, and about to slam into the American army.
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Thursday, December 21, 2017

BATTLE OF THE NATIVITY

I am tempted to call it a primeval struggle, drenched in antiquity, shrouded in religious fervor and destined to feed future conflict until come judgment day, whenever the heck that may  be. Except it just ain’t so. It is much simpler than that. The day after Christmas 2007, two rival gangs got into a turf dispute and started a  rumble. Somebody called the cops, who managed to separate the combatants, The Jets (AKA the Greek Orthodox Priests), and the Sharks (AKA the Armenian Apostolic Priests) were battling inside the Church of the Nativity, the traditional birth place of the Prince of Peace in Bethlehem, Israel, Palestinian Territories. And nothing about this melee made any more sense than your standard gang brawl. And yet I blame the French Emperor Napoleon III for the entire mess.
First, a word about all that antiquity – it does not appear to have happened where or when everybody now thinks it did - assuming it happened at all. Roman census or no census, there was no reason for a pregnant Mary to be making a 90 mile donkey ride from Nazareth, on the Galilee plain of northern Israel, to Bethlehem in the mountains just south of Jerusalem, in the west center of Israel. Being the man, Joseph was expected and qualified to speak for his entire family. He would have been the only one required to travel. But why require anybody to travel? The Romans census takers did what census takers still do today - they counted people where they were. That would be where their property was, and where their money was. Why disrupt business all across a rebellious province, in the name of counting people where they were not? It makes no sense.
And there is another problem, an archaeological problem. There is no archeology in Bethlehem from that period. The ground under today's Bethlehem contains Iron Age artifacts and Byzantine artifacts, but nothing in between, nothing from the age of Jesus. The village outside of Jerusalem did not exist on the night that Jesus was born.. However, there was another Bethlehem, “Bethlehem Ha Galilit”, Bethlehem of Galilee, just about 7 miles to the west of Nazareth. It seems far more likely that Jesus of Nazareth was born in Bethlehem Ha Galilit, than in Bethlehem Judea. But because Bethlehem Ha Galilit no longer existed in the fourth century of the common era, when the Byzantine Christians came looking for Jesus' birthplace, they jumped to the wrong conclusion and picked the wrong Bethlehem. So did the followers of Islam, when they first captured the region in year 627 B.C.E.  After all, Jesus is one of their prophets. But after this, things got really complicated.
See, after the Crusaders were driven out of the Holy Land in 1187 the Muslim rulers had enough respect for Christianity that they were willing to protect the Christian holy sites, and, of course, tax them. But they did not trust the Roman Catholics, who had invaded them and now made up a majority of Bethlehem Judea’s population.  So the Muslim rulers split control of the profitable tourist sites in Bethlehem Judea between the Greek and Armenian Orthodox churches, in particular the church built upon the “traditional” site of the birth of Jesus. The Greek Orthodox were given control of one part of the building, the Armenian Orthodox control of another part. This allowed the Muslims rulers to play the two Christian sects one against the other, and to play them both off the Roman Catholics, who were now the poor relations in town.
And thus some calm was achieved in a region not famous for calm, at least until 1852, when a “firman” (or edict) was issued by Abdulmecit I, Sultan of the Ottoman Empire and Caliph of the Muslim World (above). Abdulmecit issued his edict because…well, because first, in 1847 some thug stole the silver star which marked the “traditional” spot of Jesus’ birth, in the floor of the Church of the Nativity, and, more importantly, because the Sultan was weak and because Louis Napoleon III of France was a pompous political hack, who believed that he had been chosen by God to fix, first France, and then rest of the world.
Louis Napoleon III was elected to a ten year term as the first President of the Second Republic of France in December of 1848. He immediately started plotting to follow in his uncle’s imperial boot prints. By early in 1852 Louis had helped to restore the Vatican’s independence in Rome (which pleased French Catholic voters), but he had also insisted that the new Papal government be drawn up along “liberal” lines, to placate the liberal (meaning non-Catholic) French voters. But no Church ever likes to be lectured about liberal policies from secular politicians. Just try it some time and see.
In an attempt to placate the now angry Catholic voters, Louis III suggested that the theft of the star from the Church of the Nativity (five years earlier) proved that the Church of the Nativity was no longer “safe”, and control should be handed over to the Roman Catholic Church for protection - yet another politician declaring a crises which needed his genius to solve. This particular crises pleased Pope Pius IX., who had come to the conclusion that Czar Nicholas I of Russia was intent upon wiping out Catholicism in his country - which Nicholas was, the Czar being the head of the Russian Orthodox Church.
Louis' demand also pleased Abdulmecit I, because Albdulmecit had the distinct feeling that Czar Nicholas was about to invade Turkey - which he was. So,  under Abdulmecit's edict, the keys to the Church of the Nativity were now handed over the representatives of the Roman Catholic Church. At the same time the edict also required the Vatican to maintain the church “in statu quo res errant”, or, “as it was before”. This edict is linguistically important because it popularization the English phrase “status quo”.
Now, all of his life Russian Czar Nicholas I had been told that Russia was a military superpower and protector of the true faith, that faith being Russian Orthodoxy. And Nicholas was not about to allow a mere “politician”, least of all a trumped up “Bonaparte”, to usurp his regal and holy authority. Nicholas demanded the keys to the Church of the Nativity be returned to the Armenian and Greek priests, who would, he was certain, be controlled by him. And when the keys were not handed over,  he declared war on Turkey - of course, he had been planning on doing that anyway.  Britain and France then came to Turkey’s defense. And so Louis’ gambit to impress French voters led directly to the Crimean War, and 118,000 dead; of whom 20, 000 were French, and 73,000 were Russian.
In his rise to power Napoleon III (above) had shamelessly played one political faction off another, and eventually abolished democracy in his own state, created a throne for himself, invaded Algeria and Vietnam - both of which actions came back to haunt France a century later - and was finally goaded into the 1870 Franco-Prussian War,  which resulted in his humiliating defeat, the creation of Germany,  Louis’ own overthrow and his death. This guy was the Donald Trump of 19th century French diplomacy.
The Crimean War also cost Nicholas I his life. While on campaign against Turkey he caught a chill and died of pneumonia on 2 March, 1855. The Ottoman Sultan, Abdülmecit, lived long enough to see his nation plunged into debt by that same war.  By Abdulmecit's death from tuberculosis in 1861, Turkey was flat broke. His successor was dethroned.
Amazingly, the same war left Pope Pius IX alive but very frustrated. Because France had been distracted by the Crimean War, there was no help from France when Victor Emmanuel took control of Italy in 1860 from the Catholic Church and established the modern semi-secular nation of Italy.  But Pius achieved a measure of revenge when, in 1869 he issued the decree of Papal Infallibility and declared the dogma of Immaculate Conception. Together these meant that Mary, mother of Jesus, was born without sin because the Pope said she was without sin. And the Pope was never wrong, because he said he was never wrong. Neither of these were official Roman Catholic dogma until 1869, but it has been church dogma ever since. The last American President to declare this was Richard Nixon, and he got impeached anyway - so evidently it only works for religious leaders.
But, let us finally return to the Church of the Nativity on 27 December, 2007. According to the Associated Press; “....dozens of priests and cleaners came to the fortress-like church to scrub and sweep the floors, walls and rafters ahead of the Armenian and Orthodox Christmas, celebrated in the first week of January...  But the clean-up turned ugly after some of the {Greek) Orthodox faithful stepped inside the Armenian church's section, touching off a scuffle between about 50 Greek Orthodox and 30 Armenians. Palestinian police, armed with batons and shields, quickly formed a human cordon to separate the two sides so the cleaning could continue...Four people, some with blood running from their faces, were slightly injured.”
Traditionally both the Orthodox and Armenian churches have recruited their priests for this sacred post from tiny isolated villages scattered across Greece and the Balkans, where Christians (and Muslims) have been slaughtering each other for a thousand years. These naive young men now suddenly found themselves working in intimate contact and sharing the most precious artifacts of their faith with heretics. Nothing in their lives or their training prepared them for any kind of peaceful coexistence.
And the whole thing was Louis Napoleon III’s idea.  But try explaining that to a bunch of uneducated foreigners.
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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

VICKSBURG Chapter Forty-Eight

When 41 year old Major General Ulysses Simpson Grant (above) entered Jackson, Mississippi there were warehouses full of Confederate supplies burning furiously. These fires had been set by Johnston's retreating men, to destroy military equipment they could not evacuate. But as yet Grant took little notice of the destruction. Instead, wrote Grant, “I rode immediately to the State House, where I was soon followed by Sherman.” 
About 4:00pm, Thursday, 14 May, 1863, Grant held a council of war with his 3 corps commanders. He ordered 43 year old Major General William Tecumseh Sherman (above) to destroy everything of value to the Confederacy in the state capital, before returning it's burned out shell to the Confederates and marching his XV Corps west, toward Clinton.
Grant ordered 34 yea old Major General James Birdseye McPherson  (above) to halt hisXVII Corps  on Jackson's west side, and in the morning, march them 30 miles back to Clinton, and then another 8 miles further west to Bolton. 
Grant's ordered 49 year old Major General John Alexander McClernand, whose XIII Corps was now centered around Raymond, to march toward Bolton as well. Grant was concentrating his army. He had been inspired by the first message from Johnston to Pemberton, ordering him to advance on Clinton.
His work done, Grant and Sherman then took a tour of a nearby factory. Remembered Grant, “Our presence did not seem to attract the attention of either the manager, or of the operatives (most of whom were girls). We looked on awhile to see the tent-cloth which they were making roll out of the looms, with C. S. A. woven in each bolt. There was an immense amount of cotton in bales stacked outside. Finally I told Sherman I thought they had done work enough. The operatives were told they might leave and take with them what cloth they could carry. In a few minutes cotton and factory were in a blaze.”
Grant then checked into the Bowman House Hotel, across the street from the capital building. He received the room occupied the night before by his opponent, General Joseph Johnston. Scattered about the city in public and private houses were the 16,000 men of Sherman's corps. The 31st Iowa was encamped in the state house chamber, and entertained themselves for an hour or so by holding a mock session to repeal Mississippi's 9 January 1861 Ordinance of Secession.
The 688 word long justification for Mississippi secession referred to slavery either directly or indirectly 12 times. “Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery...a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization...” Complained the slave owners, northern hostility had deprived them, “...of more than half the vast territory acquired from France....dismembered Texas and seized upon all the territory acquired from Mexico...(and) denies the right of property in slaves, and refuses protection to that right on the high seas, (and) in the Territories...” (In fact the British Royal Navy had been choking off the transatlantic slave trade since 1807.) Further, said those who had built their wealth on the backs others, the Federal government, “...refuses the admission of new slave States....denying (slavery) the power of expansion...”
And what was Mississippi's justification for the lifelong bondage of 4 million human beings, the commonplace humiliation and rape of slave men, women and children, the beatings, the murders, the toil and early deaths demanded by a soul crushing life of servitude? It was because “...none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun...”. Light skinned people got sunburned, and they sweated. That was the justification. It was a laughable rational for moral bankruptcy in the state of Mississippi, and had been since at least 1807.
In orders received from General Johnston on 13 May, 49 year old Lieutenant General John Clifford Pemberton (above)  was to advance with his entire force  from Bovina Station 40 miles east toward Clinton, Mississippi – the last reported position of Grant's army – and meet up with Johnston's gathering force.  
So on Thursday, 14 May the division of 45 year old Major General Carter Littlepage Stevenson...
...and that of 32 year old Major General John Stevens Bowen  crossed the Big Black River and marched 20 miles to Edward's Depot. 
That evening Pemberton was joined by 44 year old Major General Willing Wing Loring (above), whose infantry division...
...and The Mississippi Cavalry regiment under 44 year old Colonel William Wirt Adams were added to his command - some 17,000 men in total. And that evening Pemberton also held a council of war.
Pemberton began by explaining his orders from Johnston. He had left 2 division in Vicksburg, because protecting the riverfront town was his primary duty, per his instructions from President Jefferson Davis.  But moving all his remaining men to Clinton might give Grant a chance to slip south and capture Vicksburg behind him. Pemberton was also concerned that marching on Clinton might be leave his flank vulnerable to an attack by McClernand's XIII Corps, which Adams accurately reported was near Raymond. So the paper pusher, struggling with his first field command, asked his 4 subordinates for their opinions. Should he advance on Clinton? Or should the army stay were it was?
It seems obvious that none of the officers in that room had much respect for Pemberton. But was the fault actually Pemberton's or his disorderly officers? Perhaps the most objective estimation of Pemberton we have, comes from a man not in that room - Captain G. Campbell Brown (above).
The Captain was the son of Lizinka Campbell Brown. She was first cousin and the great love of Virginia born Army officer Richard Stoddard Ewell (above). Broken hearted when Lizinka was forced to marry Tennessee Lawyer and player, James Percy Brown in 1839, Ewell exiled himself on the western frontier. Then James Brown committed suicide in 1844, leaving Lizinka a widow with 2 children. But “the widow Brown” as Ewell ever after referred to her, proved a smart business woman, and increased her inheritance and property holdings. The outbreak of war brought Richard back east, where he renewed his love affair with Lizinka, and making her eldest son, G. Campbell Brown, his personal aide.
In that position, Captain Brown met most of the famous and infamous Confederate officers and politicians in the first two years of the war, and formed concise, vivid and accurate opinions of them. In August of 1862, at the Second Battle of Mananas, a minie ball shattered Richard Ewell's right knee, and his leg had to be removed. While Ewell recovered, Captain Brown was transferred to Joe Johnston's staff in Tennessee, and came with him to Vicksburg. Now he found himself reading the telegrams and letters of John Clifford Pemberton. And it was Brown's firm belief that Pemberton was an idiot. The Captain wrote, “I never knew, in all my life, so provoking a stupidity as Pemberton’s.”
So the officers facing General Pemberton that 14 May evening were on the spot. What was this fool asking of them? Permission to disobey orders? And if the campaign led to disaster, lost the war and lost their men's lives. they would be blamed right along with the stupid fool Pemberton. Major General Stevenson and Major General Bowen did the equivalent of saying nothing. They advised Pemberton he should follow his orders from General Johnston. But the one armed Major General Loring was made of more aggressive metal.
Since 30,000 men were tied down in the Vicksburg trenches, explained Loring , an advance on Clinton would place 17,000 Confederate soldiers up against 45,000 Yankees. That was a battle they could not win. Johnston might be besieged in Jackson with 20 or 30,000 men. Or he could have only 10,000.  He had never told Pembeton exactly how many men he had. 
Advancing on Clinton was too risky. Staying in Edward's Depot meant waiting for Grant to destroy Johnston's force, before turning on them. Again, that was a battle they could not win. But, advised Major General Loring, there was third option.
Grant's army must still be drawing supplies from Grand Gulf. So, suggested Loring, put 17,000 rebels astride the roads between Grand Gulf and Raymond (above), and the Yankees would be forced to withdraw from Jackson to defend their supply line. That would give Johnston time to advance his new army to combine with theirs, giving them, perhaps 50,000 men total.
It was an aggressive approach, the kind of bold attack typical of Loring. When asked to comment, both Stevenson and Bowen agreed that it was bold move, and not something Grant would be expecting. General Pemberton took their non-committal statements for advocacy. And when Wirt Adams suggest they aim their attacks at Raymond, and the Natchez Trace, just south of 14 Mile Creek, because that was the last reported position of General Grant, Pemberton decided to follow Loring's advice.
Come the dawn, of 15 May, 1863, Pemberton's army of 17,000 men, would be advancing south, to cut Grant's supply line.  The only problem was, there was no supply line for Pemberton to cut.
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