JUNE 2020

JUNE   2020
He Has Dragged Us Back Forty Years.


Saturday, June 30, 2018


I believe I have stumbled upon a way to spot a deranged maniac with a gun before they even get the gun, and it ain't their choice of video games or violent movies that gives them away. Simply criticize their poetry, and the unbalanced individual is instantly revealed. My case in point  -  in early 1910 Fitzhugh Coyle Goldsborough once again had “insisted on inflicting his home-made poetry and epigrams on all who would listen",  this according to William Mossman,  manager of the Pittsburgh Orchestra.   Now, the experienced members of the orchestra always listened politely to Fitzhugh, and kept their spit valves firmly closed until the maudlin verse was over,  But on this day, brass section member Otto Kegel could no longer resist trumpeting his opinion, which was that Fitzhugh wrote the worst poetry ever written   Fitzhugh's response was to grab his own $400 violin and smash it over the critic's head.  Fitzhugh then fled screaming from the building.  He sulked for 72 hours, and when he returned he was not a better poet.  However  this incident proved beyond a doubt that Fitzhugh was a lunatic destined to kill somebody. And he soon did.
Fitzhugh Coyle Goldsborough's story began inside 1331 K Street Northwest, Washington, D.C.. The row house  mansion stood just across the street from Franklin Square Park, on the corner lot with 13th Street.  In this wealthy abode resided the imminent Dr. Edmund K. Goldsborough, his wife Julia and their children - two sons, Fitzhugh, the eldest, and Edmond the youngest child, - and two daughters in-between – Francis the older and Ann the younger girl. Julia doted on all her children, and denied them nothing,  But Fiitzhugh was her favorite.  He showed real talent with the violin and he loved poetry, which he produced in prodigious quantities.  He composed, by his own admission, a new ode to Venus about once a week. And his mother assured him every line was sheer genius.
In 1898 Dr. Goldsborough decided his son needed a profession. And that year the would-be poet was dispatched to Harvard College, to become an attorney.  After just one year however, the boy withdrew and returned home. Tensions in the house on K Street began to rise.  Fitzhugh  (above) told his diary that he was being followed by private detectives, and increasingly,  the volatile young man would intervene when his father tried to discipline Francis or Ann,  eventually even threatening violence if the doctor “so much as laid a hand” on either girl.  There is no record, Dr. Goldsborough ever did. After two years of this, in 1901, and by mutual consent, Fitzhugh  left home again,  this time for Europe, to study the violin.  Here he met with considerable success, and he did not return for four long years, coming home briefly during the winter of 1905-06. That spring he left again, first to Montreal, Quebec where he worked as an instructor, and then in 1907 he followed a Berlin acquaintance, Karl Pohlig, who had been hired as the new conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra.
The city of brotherly love offered Fitzhugh his best chance for normality, and he became first chair violinist. However, at the same time he took to signing his name with a multi-pointed star, with his name forming all the spokes. But then in 1909 he followed an offer of more money, when half the Pittsburgh orchestra quit in a dispute with their new cold intellectual conductor, the Frenchman Emil Paur. The labor tensions had an impact upon Fitzhugh, as shown by his attack upon the head of the unfortunately outspoken Mr. Kegel.  As the orchestra teetered on the verge of bankruptcy early in the 1910 season, the 31 year old Fitzhugh learned that his little sister Ann had become engaged to William Stead, and the pair intended on moving to England.  Shortly there after Fitzhugh Coyee Goldsborough disappeared from Pittsburgh, leaving behind only a note of explanation. “The Pittsburgh smoke has driven me crazy”, he wrote. “You will never see me again.” He confided to his diary that he had decided to murder a man he had never met, the journalist, social novelist, and affected eccentric, David Graham Phillips.
The tall, handsome and beryl eyed Phillips once said he would rather be a journalist than President. His 1906 series “Treason in the Senate”, serialized in the magazine “Colliers”, was such a scathing indictment of political corruption that it led by 1912 to the 17th amendment to the Constitution, requiring the open election of senators.  Phillips was a workhorse,  writing late into the night while standing at his desk (above), grinding out 6,000 words a day.   He said, “If I were to die tomorrow, I would be six years ahead of the game”  And beginning in 1901 he also produced six popular pot boiler novels like his 1909 best seller “The Fashionable Adventures of Joshua Craig”.
His characters were little more than caricatures, but because Phillips (above) told interviewers he based them on living people, readers were intrigued. Phillips described his female protagonist in “Craig” , the wealthy “noodle-head” Margaret Severence, in venomous terms. “To her luxurious, sensuous nature every kind of pleasurable physical sensation made keen appeal, and she strove in every way to make it keener.” In reality Phillips wrote from his fertile imagination, and what he knew his readers wanted. The hint of slander was a marketing ploy, like the white suits with a mum in the lapel Phillips always wore in public, or his crumpled alpine hat. It was all a front. The problem was, Fritzhugh fell for the ploy.
And when the mad young Mr Goldsborough read the “Fashionable Adventures of Joshua Craig” he was convinced the unflattering character of Miss Severence (above)  was based upon his own younger sister, Ann.  Fitzhugh wrote to Phillips, claiming libel and asking for an apology. However, since he did not sign his name and failed to provide a return address, Phillips could not apologize, even if he had wished to.  Fitzhugh took the lack of response as arrogance, and wrote a series of increasingly angry and threatening letters, eventually signing them in Phillips' own name,  convincing the novelist his mysterious correspondent was a lunatic - which he was. Clearly this miss-communication could not continue.
With his sister Ann's wedding day scheduled for 25 February, 1911,  Fitzhugh rented a top-floor rear room for $3 a week at the Rand School on East 19th Street in New York City.  His check in date was 2 November, 1910.  He informed no one of his new address.  His family thought he was still in Pittsburgh. In fact he was now just a block away and just around the corner from the brownstone National Arts Club at 16 Gramercy Park South – where David Graham Phillips lived. And almost directly across that small private Gramercy Park was the Yale Club, where Phillips received his mail.  Fitzhugh spent the next two months stalking his victim.
As was his usual habit, the 42 year old David Phillips rose late on Monday, 23 January, 1911. He had been working the night before, grinding out his six thousand words, and after breakfast and dressing, it was well after one before he took the elevator to the first floor and hurried down the front steps of the Arts Club (above) . He carried with him the corrected proofs of his new short story, “Susan Lenox:  Her Fall and Rise”,  ready to be mailed to the Saturday Evening Post magazine
Rather than cutting through the gated park, Phillips turned left and walked the few steps to the corner of Gramercy Park West, and then turned right.  It took him less than a minute to cross 21st Street, or Gramercy Park North, where he turned right again, walking the half block toward Lexington Avenue, which “T”ed into Gramercy Park. At the corner was the mansion that housed the Princeton Club (above).
As Phillips approached 115 East 21st Street a man stepped away from the cast iron fence he had been leaning against, and blocked Phillip's way. From his coat pocked the assassin pulled a ten shot .38 caliber pistol, and was heard to announce, “Here you go.”  Then, with a sweep of his arm he fired six shots, each one hitting Phillips, once in the right lung, once in the intestines, the left forearm, the right hip and both thighs. Phillips staggered backward against the fence, almost falling into the arms of John Jacoby, a passing florist. Then, according to two other wittiness who had just come out of the Princeton Club, and without bothering to look at his victim,  Fitzhugh stepped into the gutter and, announced, “And here I go”. Fitzhugh then shot himself in the head.
The Princeton Club's paper recorded the incident as follows. “David Graham Phillips, (class of ) '87, editor, publicist and novelist,  was shot six times today as he approached the Princeton Club, by Fitzhugh Coyle Goldsborough, a Harvard man...”
The three witnesses carried Phillips into the club's foyer and laid him on a settee. There the victim said he had no idea who his assassin was, and begged them not to tell his mother of his shooting because “the shock might kill her.” Out in the gutter Fitzahugh's body lay under a sheet for hours while police tried to understand. In Fitzhugh's pockets they found two short story manuscripts, and a membership card for the American Federation of Musicians. Now they knew the who and what, and after they read Fitzhugh's diary found in his room at the Rand School, they understood the why. He was a lunatic.
Three days after the shooting, David Graham Phillips died in a fever of septicemia. He was survived by his sister Caroline, who had been sharing his apartment at the Arts Club after leaving her abusive husband. She finished up her brother's final short story, and it was published posthumously. And in 1931 it was made into a motion picture, staring Clark Gable and Greta Garbo (above) . The Goldsborough family sent their sincere regrets to the Phillips family. The Goldsboroughs held the mad man's funeral service in the family home at 1331 K Street Northwest, and a month later held Anne's wedding in the same rooms. After the wedding, Mr and Mrs. William Stead moved to Nottingham, England, where he served as the United States Counsel.
The only positive outcome from the shooting was the passage of gun regulation, named after its co-author, State Senator Tim (Big Feller) Sullivan, which went into effect in August, just seven months after the shooting. To this day, the Sullivan Act requires a license to carry a hand gun in New York State, and allows each county to set their own limits on handgun licenses. Possession of an unlicensed gun in New York City results in an automatic one year in jail. Similar murders have occurred since, of course, but then crime prevention does not have to be 100% effective. Every life saved is of value, even if it is the life of an arrogant obnoxious lunatic like Fitzhugh Coyle Goldsborough
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Friday, June 29, 2018


I'm amazed that more people in 1892 did not heed the observation of steel mill owner John Metzlaff. He summed up the entire summer of acrimony and fear mongering over whether English should be the only language used in Wisconsin schools, in a single world - “ridicules”. As impossible as it might have been to believe at the time, this ultra-conservative capitalist asserted that in “10 or 20 years, almost nobody in Milwaukee would even be speaking German”.  Wisconsin Republican Secretary of State Jerry Rusk agreed, calling the campaigning that year a “blundering business”. But the idea that the crises then gripping the state was not really a crises, does not seem to have occurred to many others in authority, which is fairly depressing, if you stop to think about it.  Because its so familiar.
William Dempster Hoard saw the world as his Methodist minister father had seen it, as the minister “Demp” himself might have become, had he not as a child, argued with his instructors over church doctrine.  Even as a young man Dempster already “knew what he knew, and was not to be deflected,.” as Robert Nesbit has put it.  Instead, Hoard built a small newspaper empire in rural Wisconsin, promoting his ideas about politics and agriculture with that religious fervor he might have better directed toward religion.  In the pages of “Heord's Dairyman” he invented the modern dairy farm, from the alfalfa forage to silos for storage to breeding that produced bountiful milk and sweet cheese. He counseled his farmer congregation to “Speak to a cow as you would to a lady.” Then, at 56, in his 1888 campaign for governor. the Republican “Cow Candidate” preached to the voters his second great secular passion – education. “The child ...has a right to demand of the State”, he said, to be “provided with the ability to read and write the language of this country....I would recommend to require that reading and writing in English be daily taught” Such political theology led to Hoard's victory in 1888, winning with a 21,000 vote majority.
But Wisconsin was no longer the homogenized Anglo-America it had been in Hoard's youth, which contained, he a admitted, “no foreign element but the Irish”. By 1890 over 70% of the million and a-half residents of Wisconsin were either foreign born or first generation Americans. Four out of ten Wisconsinites spoke German in their homes and in their Lutheran and Catholic churches and parochial schools. And they were already having an impact on state politics. Since 1874 it had been legal for Milwaukee factory workers to enjoy a beer with their Sunday meal. But that change tasted sour to the temperance leaning Methodists and Episcopalians across the rolling farm districts that were Governor Hoard's base. It wasn't that the Anglo-Americans descendants were any more bigoted than the the newly arrived German-Americans. But it is human nature to mistrust strangers.
Early in 1890, as Governor Hoard's re-election campaign was just gearing up, he was visited by five Lutheran ministers. The men of the cloth warned Demp not to enforce the objectionable portions of Bennett's Law, or he would be a one term governor. According to his own account, Governor Hoard chose to lecture the petitioners. “If you plant your church across the pathway to human enlightenment,” he warned, “you will lose the respect of the young men in your church.” The offended Lutherans, who believed they WERE on the path to enlightenment, stormed out the Governor's office, determined to do battle. This is what happens when ministers think they are politicians and visa versa.
It was named Bennetts law, after Assemblyman Michael Bennett from the farming village of Dodgeville. But Governor Hoard had written it, and inspired it, and forced it through the legislature with a minimum of debate on 18 April 1889. The bill required daily school attendance for all children between seven and fourteen, and it required that all instruction be in English. To meet the first requirement, the law mandated all schools, public and parochial, report attendance records in the public press. And to insure this, the law levied fines on  school officials and parents who failed to ensure their children met both requirements - daily attendance and proficiency in English.
Lutherian clergy saw Bennett's Law as over reaching by the government, and an usurpation of parental rights. And, they pointed out, of the 346 Lutheran and Catholic schools in Wisconsin , just 139 did not teach in English. And in those school that taught in German, most of the students also attended public schools. The alliance of Democrats and Church groups was strengthened when the Republican claim of 40,000 to 50,000 children in the state not attending any school at all was shown to be mere hyperbole. However, the proof did not prevent the bogus number from being repeated as fact in Republican circles. Sound Familiar?
In his stump speech that year, William Hoard proclaimed, “The parents, the pastor, and the church have entered into a conspiracy to darken the understanding of the children, who are denied by cupidity and bigotry the privilege of even the free schools of the state.” He also claimed he possessed “as friendly a feeling towards our German-American population as any man in this country;...I want the little German boy and girl...to have the same chance in life as my children. Without a knowledge of the English language they can not have this chance.”
A German language newspaper responded, “It is not sufficient for them that we should become Americanized...but they want us to become de-Germanized. And they think that can be accomplished first by destroying German schools.” U. S. Senator, Democrat William Vilas, pandered by asking, “What is the difference if you say 'two and two make four' or 'zwie und zwei machen vier?” And then on 1 April, 1890, the Republican incumbent mayor of Milwaukee was handily defeated by a Democratic newcomer, newspaper man and humorist George Peck.   A month later 100 Republican bigwigs met in Madison to supposedly endorse Bennett's Law, and the best Hoard's people could get from them was a no comment.
At their state convention in August, the Democrats sounded like winners. They nominated Peck to run for Governor, declaring Bennett's law “unwise, unconstitutional, UN-American, and undemocratic.” The Republicans met the same month (and in the same city) and renominated Hoard, while promising to modify the law. They also raised a red flag over their Milwaukee headquarters bearing the image of a one room schoolhouse. The words on the flag read, “Stand by it”.
Hyperbole became the favored language of public discourse. The Chicago Journal called Hoard a “giant armed for the war against...pestilent foreign-ism.” Hoard warned that those who stood in his way were “like cows in front of a locomotive”. The Republican Stevens Point Journal suggested that Governor Hoard would rather die than abandon Bennetts Law. Democrats called Episcopalian clergymen, liars. A Catholic Bishop claimed from the pulpit that Bennetts law had been secretly written by the anti-religious Freemasons. And a Freemason newspaper seemed to confirm this when it trumpeted, “give us ten years under the Bennett Law and we will in each town where English is now spoken, have a lodge...The Bennett Law will be the keystone of a higher civilization.”
It was, in fact, not. On Tuesday, 4 November, 1890 Hoard's cows came home. His 21,000 vote majority in 1888 became a 30,000 vote minority, as he lost 43% to 52% to Peck. The Democrats won every seat in the executive branch, and control by a 2-1 advantage in both houses of the state legislature. Wisconsin's congressional representation went from 7 Republicans and 2 Democrats, to 8 Democrats and 1 lone Republican. That year Wisconsin voted for a Democratic President for the first time since 1852. And everybody blamed William Dumpster Hoard (above, left) and his damn cows.
On 3 February. 1891 the new Democratic Wisconsin legislature repealed Bennett's law.  It was replaced a few months later with an almost identical law, but without the English only requirement. But, as John Metzlaff had predicted. just seven years later the Democrats in Wisconsin passed a law requiring English only be used in even parochial schools, and this time there were no mass protests. It seemed as if the citizens of Wisconsin did not so much object to the language requirement, as they did not trust preachers like William Demptser Hoard to make that decision for them. “Demp” might be able to energize his base, but his inability to respect his opponents lead the Republican party to an electoral disaster. 
“Demp” would have done well to remember his own advice, from the pages of “Hoard's Dairyman”. “Happiness”” he observed, “doesn't depend on what we have, but it does depend on how we feel toward what we have.”
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Thursday, June 28, 2018

VICKSBURG Chapter Seventy - Three

The boys in butternut brown stoop up just as their supporting cannon opened fire. The blasts caught the 48th Massachusetts regiment just as they were staking tents and starting cook fires. 
And then, while the 110 Yankees were still reeling from that shock, the 400 veterans of 19th Arkansas let fly a volley into the blue flank. 
Desperately Colonel Eben Francis Stone (above) struggled to get his still green companies into a battle line facing the new threat. But the Bay State boys wavered, and to buy time, Stone ordered a retreat of 100 yards. 
It was almost 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, 21 May, 1863. The battle for Port Hudson had just begun on a flood plain 3 miles to the east, in a clearing containing a general store run by a family named Young, with a Masonic Lodge on it's second floor.
Located on a sharp bend in the Mississippi River, 140 road miles below Vicksburg, the 80 foot high cliffs of Port Hudson were the penultimate thread connecting the productive Trans-Mississippi to the rest of the Confederacy. 
But on 7 May, 1863, when Federal Major General Nathanial Banks' 15,000 men captured Alexandria, Louisiana (above)  on the Red River, that thread unraveled.   Confederate Western theater commander, General Joseph Johnston, thought the 7,000 men in Port Hudson could be put to better use relieving Vicksburg, the final connection to Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas. His message to Gardner ordered him to "...evacuate Port Hudson forthwith... "  But Gardner resisted because Confederate President Jefferson Davis had forbid the now isolated fort's evacuation.
The garrison was reduced to relying on a rickety rail line that only ran as far east as Clinton, Louisiana. Food, ammunition and replacements were supposed to come down that line, but little did. Complained a hungry Tennessee gunner at Port Hudson, “We are living in a swamp and drinking water out of a mud hole.” The men suffered from typhoid, malaria, smallpox, and diarrhea. But their admiration for their commander, 40 year old New York born Brigadier General Franklin Kitchell Gardner, held the command together.
Gardner (above)  knew Federal Admiral David Farregut's blue water navy was now transporting Bank's 3 divisions down the Red to the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers to his north. 
With that many men and that much fire power on the big river, Gardner had to beware an assault directly on Port Hudson. But he suspected Banks would instead land his 25,000 men 20 miles to his north at the once busy river port of Bayou Sara – which might offer Gardner an opportunity. 
Over looking Bayou Sara, atop a high narrow ridge, was St. Francisville (above) , “the town 2 miles long and 2 yards wide”.   If he waited until Banks had committed to the landing at Bayou Sara, Gardner might, by a forced march, capture St. Francisville, and pound the more numerous Yankees into submission. It was a long shot, but...
And then on 11 May Gardner learned that 25 miles to his south Federal soldiers – the ex-slaves of the 3rd Louisiana Native Guards – were rebuilding a bridge just north of Baton Rouge.  And on 14 May,  he learned that 3 Yankee divisions had left Alexandria for Simmesport. Louisiana, on the Atchafalaya river.  A day's steaming up the Atchafalaya would bring Bank's men to the Mississippi, and another day would bring them to Bayou Sarah.  Even the long shot was now gone, and Gardner could feel the teeth of a blue vice closing in on him.  He dispatched men across the Mississippi to slow General Bank's advance, and  sent a portion of the 14th Arkansas cavalry under Colonel Frank W. Powers, south, to slow Yankee movement out of Baton Rouge.
A week later, the Yankees moved. Coming by road were 14 regiments and 7 artillery batteries of the 1st Division under 42 year old Brigadier General Christopher Columbus Augur (above)  – another of Grant's West Point classmates.   
Leading the way for Augur were the 3 cavalry regiments under 36 year old newly promoted Brigadier General Benjamin Henry Grierson (above).   
Following by riverboats from New Orleans was the 2nd Division of 50 year old Rode Island born Brigadier General Thomas West “Tim” Sherman  (no relation to "Cump" Sherman) – with 12,000 men,  enough to handle  Gardner's 7,000 man garrison.
Since 2 May, when their 600 mile ride across Mississippi had ended with a parade into Baton Rouge (above)  Grierson's 1,700 troopers had been resting and rearming.  Starting well before dawn on Thursday, 21 May, the Yankee troopers easily pushed Colonel Power's horsemen, back.   By noon Grierson's men had reached the little cross roads and clearing called Plain's Store.
Grierson did not pause here, continuing another 10 miles north to secure the crossings of Thompson's Creek. Ten miles beyond Thompson's Creek was St. Francisville. But more importantly, right behind Greierson's midwest cavalry was Augur's 1st Brigade, the 2nd Louisiana, the 21st Maine, the 48th and 49th Massachusetts and 116th New York regiments, along with a battery of artillery. Meanwhile, Augur's 3rd Brigade, 4 regiments under 37 year old Colonel Nathan Augustus Monroe Dudley, swung toward the river to secure a spot called Springfield Landing, to receive the division of Rhode Island native, General "Tim" Sherman.  
And that, as the saying goes, cut it, - the “it” being the supply and communication line to Clinton, Louisiana and Jackson, Mississippi and, Mobile, Alabama. Federal infantry and artillery astride the Plains Store crossroads was the knock out punch to the much feared artillery bastion high above the choke point on the Mississippi (above).  Farregut's blue water battleships could not silence the place. But Port Hudson now became just another isolated fortification occupied by not enough men to hold it, but more men than the Confederacy could afford to lose defending it.
Still, like a punch drunk boxer, General Gardner reflexively counter punched. Learning of the arrival of the Yankee infantry, Gardner dispatched a battery of artillery and 400 men from the 32nd Louisiana regiment – 7 infantry companies and 5 of cavalry known as Miles' Legion – under 47 year old wealthy landowner and New Orleans lawyer, Colonel William Raphael Miles. Luckily for the rebels, Miles discovered the Yankees had made a mistake.
The mistake was made by an unnamed captain or lieutenant on General Augur's staff. It was the kind of mistake made by an army stagnant for too long. To be good at moving troops and posting them into defensive positions you need practice, and repetition. And Augur's staff had done little moving in the past year.   And so, after a forced march of 20 miles, this particular staff officer, charged with seeing the 48th Massachusetts Infantry securely posted a quarter mile west of the crossroads, placed the regiment a hundred yards too far forward, beyond the protection of their supporting artillery, in the woods straddling the Port Hudson road.
Colonel Eben Francis Stone (above) , the 40 year old lawyer out of the fishing village of Newburyport,  may have had concerns about the position, but he never had time to express them. He placed half his men in the woods to the north of the Port Hudson road, and half to the south. 
And no sooner had Stone finished this task that rebel artillery began blasting straight down the road, between them. Alerted to the threat to their front, the 3 companies south of the road were caught when the Confederate infantry opened fire on their right flank. A few moments later Stone ordered the men to fall back.
The battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel James Francis O’Brien, rushed forward when the artillery opened up and had took charge of the 3 companies north of the road. O'Brien had been born in born in Tipperary, Ireland. But his immigrant home stood on Bunker's Hill above Boston harbor, and in the spirit of his adopted neighborhood, he ordered these men to stand where they were. Not being outflanked, they did.  
The right wing of the 48th fell back to its new position in the clearing around the Plains Store, where the presence of their own artillery bolstered their confidence. And when the 19th Arkansas emerged out of the woods – 400 strong against perhaps 40 Yankees - the New England boys stood firm. Just as the rebels prepared to fire upon the 48th a second time, the 116th New York regiment, stationed to their right, charged into the rebel flank.  Following Captain John Higgins, the upstate New Yorkers drove the rebels to retreat. And that quickly the threat to the Yankee line was swept away.
The battle of Plains Store cost the Yankees 15 dead, 71 wounded and 14 captured. The rebels lost in total about 90 men., some 70 of those French Creoles who surrendered saying "Viva la Republic!"  But the battle  ended as it began – with Port Hudson cut off,  just like Vicksburg. The next day yet another message arrived from General Joe Johnston in Jackson. It again ordered General Gardner to destroy his guns and evacuate Port Hudson at once.  This time Gardner was inclined to obey. But it was a day late, as the saying goes, and a dollar short. 
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