DECEMBER 2019

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

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Saturday, June 23, 2018

VICKSBURG Chapter Seventy - One

Eleven River miles above Vicksburg , at Milliken's Bend, were Grant's primary supply depots. With the capture of Haine's Buff these could now to be bypassed, and a new depot established just behind his the front lines - , up the Yazoo River at the Johnson plantation on Chickasaw Bayou. 
The regiments protecting those warehouses were transferred as well. But that left Grant with the same problem he had in December at Holly Springs. There were still depots at The Bend, and 5 miles closer to Vicksburg, new hospitals (above)  which had sprung up at the scene of that previous winter's pestilence and disease, at Young's Point - opposite the mouth of the Yazoo River.
The only combat unit at hand to prevent the rebels from cutting the Mississippi river to Grant's rear was the heavily abused 23rd Iowa Infantry regiment.  After sacrificing themselves at the battles of Port Gibson, Champion Hill and the Big Black River Bridge, there were only 160 Iowa boys left -  barely enough to guard Confederate prisoners captured at the Big Black. The need for more soldiers was so desperate that Grant had been forced to bolster the weary corn huskers were 1,410 black volunteers.
A few short weeks before they had been plantations slaves. Touching a gun would have gotten them shot dead or lynched.  Now they wore blue coats with brass buttons stamped “U.S.” And they carried muskets, produced so quickly some of them would not fire.  They were still largely untrained, but their white officers were mostly veterans and volunteers.  These green soldiers  had been roughly formed into the 9th and 11th Louisiana and 1st Mississippi regiments, referred to as the African Brigade.  In no way could they yet be considered an effective combat force , but they were determined to fight rather than become slaves again.
But that was a drop in the bucket to what Grant needed. He begged General Hallack and the War Department to send new units to free up the XVI Corps, under 45 year old Minnesota businessman, Brigadier General Cadwallader Colden Washburn. These divisions under William Sooy Smith, Greenville Dodge, Nathan Kimball and Jacob Lauman, and been garrisoning Memphis and LaGrange Tennessee and Corinth, Mississippi.  It would take a week, but by the first of June the amazing northern railroad network  and the United States Military Rail Road had these green soldiers moving to occupy central Tennessee, freeing those 15,000 men to fill the southern trenches of McClernand's lines, closing the ring around Vicksburg.
With those men, Grant's strength would top 55,000. But if Joe Johnson's army, gathering around Jackson, Mississippi, could advance quickly enough, he might force an escape route for Pemberton's trapped 20,000 soldiers in Vicksburg. Grant (above) needed more men. And, amazingly, he found them, thanks to the worst disaster suffered by the Union Army in the entire war.
Said a Yankee participant in the bloody fiasco of Saturday, 13 December 1862, “If ever men in this war were slaughtered blindly, it was there.” A federal General observing the battle recalled that rank after rank of blue clad soldiers melted “...like snow coming down on warm ground”. Still, they came on, 47 brigades, one brigade at a time, one after the other, thrown against  entrenched rebels. John L. Smith, of the 118th Pennsylvania volunteers described the attacks as “...simply murder.” The returning wounded warned the fresh brigades they were “marching into an abattoir.” And still they marched on. Pennsylvania Governor Andrew Curtin told Lincoln to his face, “It was not a battle, it was a butchery.”
In this single disaster 1,284 union soldiers were killed, twice as many as were wounded. Almost another thousand were captured or walked away from the war in horror and disgust. Federal losses were 8 times those of the rebel defenders. Lincoln said later that another battle like this might destroy the army. And the sole man responsible for this catastrophe was the commander of the Army of the Potomac, Major General Ambrose Everett Burnside, for ever after known as the “Butcher of Fredricksburg”.
Like a Shakespearean character, command of the Army of the Potomac would be offered Ambrose Burnside (above) three times. Twice he had shown the good sense to reject it, assuring Lincoln, “I am not competent to command such a large army as this." But every time another of his peers failed, his political masters came back to Burnside. 
He was a graduate of West Point. He had invented his own carbine, 55,000 of which were in use. He was a solid Republican, and a popular Rhode Island politician. He was a successful businessman. In 1861 his IX Corps had cleared 80% of the North Carolina coast, and at South Mountain in mid 1862 by itself it had pinned down the rebel army, forcing it to fight for its life at Antietam. So Lincoln offered him the crown for a third time. And as ultimate proof of his incompetence, Burnside accepted.
In many armies, after a disaster like Fredricksburg,  Burnside would have been tried for incompetence, and shot by a firing squad.  In the American Army he was exiled to headquarters in Cincinnati, Ohio. He requested his old IX corp to join him there. And as a sop to his battered ego, in March of 1863, stripped of one division, the 8,000 men were returned to Burnside and took over occupation duties in Kentucky.
And that is why, in late May of 1863, a frantic War Department found two full divisions of damn good soldiers sitting on their behinds in Kentucky. The 1st Division of 39 year old Pennsylvania canal boat operator Brigadier General Thomas Welsh, and the 2nd Division of 33 year old Schenectady lawyer Brigadier General Robert Brown Potter, were transferred to Grant's command and told to quickly move south. Needless to say, General Burnside was ordered not to accompany them.
The IX Brigade was transported to Haine's Bluff, to defend the new supply depot. With their arrival Grant's army numbered about 75,000 men. More troops would follow, with time. The rule of reinforcing success was now working for Grant.
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Friday, June 22, 2018

PEVERSON FOR PROFIT


“If pro is the opposite of con, what is the opposite of Congress?”
Will Rogers
I find it curious that Charlie Humphrey Keating Jr (above) spent his adult life crusading against pornography, which he called a “Perversion for Profit”. At the same time he saw no perversion in profiting from duping naive investors, even telling his sales agents, “...the weak, meek and ignorant are always good targets.” Charlie did not invent hypocrisy, nor the investment scam, nor even political graft. But when asked if he had bought five U.S. Senators, Charlie responded forcefully, “I certainly hope so.” It was Charlie's sociopathic self-serving arrogance which made him famously wealthy and infamously despised. And then Charlie got his hands on a bank.
A holding company is a thing where you hand an accomplice the goods while the policeman searches you.”
Will Rogers
Once upon a time in America there were two kinds of banks, commercial banks, with few restrictions on their investments, and “Savings and Loans”. Federal regulations kept S&L's the dull, cautious bedrock of private home ownership. But even real estate suffers the boom and bust of capitalism, better known as the “business cycle”. So politicians, following an ideology of greed, created the Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act (DIDMCA) of 1980, which among other things, lifted the limit S&L's were allowed to invest in things other than homes. In the decade after, S&L's went from 53% of their money being in home loans, to less than 30%. Seeking profit Savings and Loan bankers then invented the Certificate of Deposit, or CD's, which allowed them to pay higher interest rates and compete with commercial banks for investors. But paying higher interest rates meant each new customer also cost more. In the world of academic economics this is known as an “asset-liability mismatch”. In Charlie Keating's world this was known as a business opportunity.
“Don't gamble. Take all your savings and buy some good stock and hold it till it goes up, then sell it. If it don't go up, don't buy it.”
Will Rogers
Charlie had arrived in Phoenix, Arizona  (above) in 1976, having been chased out of Cincinnati, Ohio by the Federal Securities and Exchange Commission. Once in town he proceeded to duplicate the behavior which had gotten him into trouble in Ohio, metamorphosing a faltering home construction company into American Continental Corporation, a holding company with maze of 54 divisions (and a few secret overseas operations), $6 billion in assets, 2,500 employees and a couple of corporate jets. When federal regulators started sniffing around Charlie even got economics guru Alan Greenspan to write him a letter of recommendation. Forbes Magazine, although impressed with Charlie's explosive growth, noted, “It seems almost impossible to find anyone who actually likes Charlie Keating.” His own brother admitted that Charlie was impatient and aggressive - but he left out, greedy. And then in 1980, Ronald Reagan won the White House, and geed became “good”, and deregulation, such as DIDMCA, became the mantra of the day. In 1984, Charlie used American Continental to buy Lincoln Savings Bank of California, for $51 million. He fired the management wholesale, and converted it into his personal bank.
“Big business don’t go broke any more. The minute it looks bad for them, they combine with something else and issue more stock.”
Will Rogers
Three years later an audit by three investigators for the San Francisco office of the Federal Home Loan Banks Board found that Lincoln had unreported losses of $135 million, and had exceeded the new looser limit on risky investments by $600 million. But what Charlie had learned from his first run-in with financial regulators back in Ohio was that it paid to have friends in high places. He had made over $1 million in political contributions to five U.S. Senators – Alan Cranston (D-Ca), Dennis DeConcini (D-Az), John McCain (R-Az), John Glenn (D-Ohio) and Donald Riegle (D-Michigan). Charlie now insisted that his “Keating Five” have a joint sit down with the three investigators from the FHLBB.
“Ancient Rome declined because it had a Senate. Now, what's going to happen to us, with both a House and a Senate?”
Will Rogers
On Thursday, 19 April, 1987, the investigators were flown to Washington to be intimidated by the five senators in person. DeConcini explained that “Our friend at Lincoln...is a big employer and important to the local economy.” Former Astronaut and former Marine, Senator John Glenn, had little patience for such niceties. “To be blunt”, he told the bureaucrats,. “You should charge them (Lincoln Savings) or get off their backs.” The regulators worked up the courage to explain that it appeared money was being siphoned out of Lincoln to fuel false profits at American Continental. That converted their audit into a criminal investigation. The Senators backed off and rushed to warn  Charlie.
“There ought to be one day - just one - when there is open season on senators.”
Will Rogers
Charlie was not happy that "his" senators had not shut down the investigation. . He even called Senator John McCain a “whimp” to his face, and went looking for politicians more willing to do his bidding. When the San Francisco regulators persisted in recommending that Lincoln Savings be seized, the Reagan administration appointed a new head of the FHLBB, who forgave Lincoln for any past violations and started a brand new audit, this time run from Washington, D.C., where it could be controlled.  Charlie always said if they just relaxed the rules, the Savings and Loan industry could be “the biggest moneymaker in the world.”
“A lobbyist is a person that is supposed to help a politician make up his mind—not only help him but pay him.”
Will Rogers
It was at this point that the tellers at Lincoln Savings were ordered to begin pushing their customers to switch their savings from insured CD's to the uninsured American Continental bonds. Twenty -three thousand eventually fell for this sales pitch. Thanks to the delay in moving against him, Charlie had now bypassed the bank entirely. He was siphoning cash directly out of the customers' pockets into his. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation chairman Seidman would later call this “one of the most heartless and cruel frauds in modern memory.”
“The short memories of the American voters is what keeps our politicians in office.”
Will Rogers
By December of 1988, even the bought politicians had become convinced Charlie was a fraudster. In January they finally ordered him to stop transferring money out of Lincoln savings. Three months later, both American Continental and Lincoln Savings and Loan went bankrupt, and those 23,000 dupes, who on the advice of the tellers and managers at their neighborhood bank, had invested $288 million in uninsured Lincoln bonds, lost it all. Among the many suicides this crime produced, was that of Anthony Elliott, who slit his wrists after losing his life savings - $200,000 – to feed Charlie's ego. Anthony's Thanksgiving Day 1990 note asked, “My government is supposed to serve and protect, but who?" He then answered himself, writing, "Those who can gather the most savings from retired people. . . . It takes billions to fill the pockets of spend-o-crats”.
“I tell you folks, all politics is applesauce.”
Will Rogers
The FDIC had to shell out 3.4 billion in tax payer dollars to cover the insured part of Charlie's looting of Lincoln Savings. Finally, in December of 1991, the state of California convicted Charlie of 17 counts of fraud, racketeering, and conspiracy. In January 1993, the feds convicted him of 73 counts of fraud, racketeering and conspiracy.  In 1994 the Resolution Trust Corporation, which had been created to clean up the Reagan deregulation mess, won the largest judgement against a private person in American history - $4.3 billion, against Charlie Keating.  Still, somehow, after serving just 4 ½ years in jail, Charlie Keating was released, free and clear.  As the authors of the 1993 book wondered, "He did not simply rob a bank, he broke it with his dreams... If he (was) such a devout communicant of his faith, why did he peddle hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of junk bonds to old people when he knew his empire was in serious jeaopardy?"  After living with his daughter in Phoenix, Arizona for a few years, Charlie went back into businss. Successfully. He died in March of 2014, still convinced that if the government had just left him alone, all his investors, even Anthony Elliot, would have been rich.
“There are three kinds of men. The ones that learn by readin’. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.”
Will Rogers
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Thursday, June 21, 2018

VICKSBURG Chapter Seventy

It's unlikely the Jo Davis county courthouse (above) had ever heard a more rousing speech. And the speaker, handsome and profane lawyer, John Aron Rawlins, brought the crowd to its feet with an appeal for the “God of battles to aid the great cause of the North”. Immediately volunteers lined up to sign up. It was Thursday evening, 18 April, 1861. Just 48 hours earlier President Lincoln's call for 75,000 volunteers to defend the union had reached the lead mining boom town of Galena, Illinois.
It was a busy place in the 19th century. Every day 6 – 700 people arrived on the banks of the Fever River by boat, stagecoach or railroad. Most quickly moved on, but enough stayed for the town to boast the largest hotel west of Chicago - the 240 room DeSoto House (above) . It also supported 2 daily newspapers, a dozen mills, 7 breweries and 3 leather shops, including Grant and Perkin's of St. Louis, owned by Jesse Root Grant. 
The Galena store  (above) had been run for several years by Jesse's middle son, Samuel Simpson Grant, with his younger brother Orville.  Samuel's elder brother, Ulysses, had arrived in Galena just the year before, broke and forced to return to the family business he had abandoned for West Point. 
In fact, Ulysses (above)  had been asked to chair the April courthouse meeting by dint of his experience in the Mexican War.   Few outside the army  knew that he had been forced to resign his commission because of excessive drinking. But now the teetotaler clerk Ulysses Grant struck up a friendship with the well spoken teetotaler lawyer, John Rawlings.
While Grant was easy going, the charismatic Rawlings had, in the words of one biographer, “Austere habits, severe morals, aggressive temper, inflexible will, resolution and courage.” Both men were Douglas Democrats, opposing the rebellious south without opposing slavery.   And both men had loved ones who were being consumed from the inside by the Mycobacterium tuberculosis.   Both wife Emily Rawlings and brother Samuel Grant would tragically die in September of 1861, freeing Grant from a life dependent on animal hides, and allowing Rawlings to run away to join Grant's military staff. 
Grant's new purpose was to save the Union of the states, and Rawlings' was to save Grant. In the invasion of Mississippi, Rawlings gained a powerful ally in Julia Grant (above) and their son  Jesse Root, who traveled with the general, even behind enemy lines. Ulysses never drank around Julia. 
That left Rawlings,(above) as Grant's defacto Chief-of-Staff, to protect the general from political threats, like John McClernand. Grant referred to John Rawlings as the one indispensable man – including himself - in the army. Without his friend, General Grant would not have been half as effective a commander.
Grant's other ally in the investment of Vicksburg was a 330 year old orphan from Burgundy, France, named Sebastien Le Prestre de Vauban (above)  – pronounced “vobah”.   During the last half of the 17th century, as a favorite of the spendthrift Sun King, Louis XIV of France, Vauban built 150 fortresses across France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Italy, and captured half as many. It was said, "Whatever he invested, fell; whatever he defended, held.” 
And his book, “On Siege and Fortification”, written in 1706, made the Marquis de Vauban the most famous military engineer of the gunpowder age. He died a year later in Paris suffering from “an inflammation of the lungs” - probably tuberculosis. His heart now rests in Paris, a few feet from the sarcophagus of his greatest admirer, Napoleon Bonaparte.
Vobahn invented the socket bayonet which fit over the end of all Yankee and rebel rifles, combining musketeer and pike man.  The redoubt, the redan and the lenette were all Vauban's inventions. And he created the "M├ęthode” for destroying and capturing them all.   First, just beyond the range of the defender's artillery, the besieging army would create parallel fortifications – known as the First Parallel. This would prevent the defenders from surprise charges out of their forts to disrupt the attacking forces. And it ensured the enemy could no longer be supplied with food or ammunition.
Engineers would then dig a series of zig-zag trenches, called “saps”, toward the enemy lines. The switch backs would prevent the defenders from firing down the entire length of any approach – what was called enfilading fire.  Once within artillery range, the engineers – now referred to as “sappers” - would create The Second Parallel to protect the construction of advanced artillery batteries. 
From these gunners and snipers would harass the enemy while “sappers” pushed ever closer to their forts. Occasionally a Third or even a Fourth Parallel might be required. But once the defender's artillery was suppressed, infantry would burst from the sap to breach the weakened redans and redoubts.
Vobahn's method never failed, unless the enemy could resupply, or an outside force could intervene.
And the truth was, Grant's Army of the Tennessee did not have enough men for an effective siege of Vicksburg. Admiral Porter could relied upon to blockade the river side of the town, preventing supplies from crossing the Mississippi. But Grant's 35,000 troops could not extend their trenches 6 miles to effectively blockade the southern end of the rebel line around Vicksburg. And then there was the problem of Joe Johnston, gathering troops just 50 miles to the west in Jackson.
Still, just two eventful years after his Galena speech, and 3 days after the disastrous assaults of 22 May, on Monday, 25 May, 1863, 32 year old Lieutenant Colonel John Aron Rawlins issued Special Order Number 140.  It read in full, “Corps commanders will immediately commence work at reducing the enemy by regular approaches. 
"It is desirable that no more loss of life be sustained in the reduction of Vicksburg and the capture of the garrison. Every advantage will be taken of the natural inequities of the ground to gain positions from which to start mines, trenches or advance batteries. 
"The work will be under the immediate charge of the Corps engineers, Corps Commanders being responsible that the work in their immediate front is pushed with all vigor. Captain F.E. Prime, Chief Engineer of the department, will have general superintendence of the entire work. He will be obeyed and respected accordingly. By order of Major General U.S. Grant. Signed, John A, Rawlings, Assistant Adjutant-General."
But if the siege of Vicksburg was going to succeed, it was clear to everybody – Grant, Rawlings, Pemberton, Joe Johnston, Abraham Lincoln and even Jefferson Davis – that the Yankees were going to need to find more men from someplace. And soon.
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