Did the Continental Army seize airports during the Revolutionary War?

Yes.  Yes they did.

One of the bloodiest battles of the Revolution was fought on the Field of Logan (as it used to be called) in July 1775 between Massachusetts militia and two British army regiments: The Royal Regiment of Foot, Light  or ROFL Regiment; and the Western Tottenham Regiment of Foot, or WTF Regiment.  They were supported by a battery of artillery known as the Twickenham and Sussex Artillery, or the TSA.

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The Caning of Charles Sumner and the response by Anson Burlingame

I am a bit late to make this a “This Day in History” post, since the actual date in question was May 22nd, 1856.  Still, I wanted to talk about this subject since I have been reading about it and have also recently listened to a rather good podcast about it.  I have only recently begun listening to this Civil War podcast, but I find it quite good so far.  And blogging about history always cheers me up.  Besides, today (May 30th) IS the anniversary of the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854.

Anyway, I have always found the story of the attack on Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts by Congressman Preston Brooks of South Carolina to be one of the most shocking incidents leading up to the Civil War.  Only in recent years did I learn the role Massachusetts Congressman Anson Burlingame played in the events that followed.  In my mind, Burlingame is sort of the hero of the story, much more so than Sumner, anyway.

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Continue reading “The Caning of Charles Sumner and the response by Anson Burlingame”

The “mutiny” in my ancestor’s Civil War regiment

I recently reread a book that I have not read in several years: The Mutiny at Brandy Station: The Last Battle of the Hooker Brigade : a Controversial Army Reorganization, Courts Martial, and the Bloody Days that Followed by Frederick B. Arner.  The book follows through events of early 1864 that led to the dissolution of my ancestor’s former unit, the 3rd Corps, and the assignment of his regiment to the 2nd Corps.  The author makes a compelling argument that one of the major reasons the former 3rd Corps units suffered so severely in the battles of Grant’s Overland Campaign is because the units’ morale had been shattered by the breaking up of the once-proud and distinguished 3rd Corps.

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My Time as a VIP and the National Park Service

Today is the anniversary of the Battle of Stones River.  I could do a long post about what happened on this day in 1863 but instead I want to talk about my own personal experience with the National Park Service, which is currently suffering from the government shutdown, and how that shutdown affects the NPS.

For over a decade I was a member of the Volunteers-in-Parks program for the National Park Service and really enjoyed it.  I spent most of my time at the Stones River National Battlefield in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, although I also spent some time at other nearby parks, especially Fort Donelson National Battlefield and Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park.

When I first joined the National Park Service as a volunteer, it was so I could join the living history program at Stones River.  My first year I probably put in something like 150 to 200 hours of volunteer work, and afterward I was probably regularly doing at least 75 to 100 hours a year.  Even after I moved back to Huntsville and lived 2 hours away, I still managed to put in some hours for the NPS.  Why did I do this?  Because it was wonderful.  In fact, I view my time with the NPS as one of the most positive experiences I have ever had.  The people were just great, and I truly enjoyed interacting with visitors and the public in general.  Although I had done some public speaking before, I really developed that skill with the NPS.  It also gave me the chance to interact with some great historians, like Ed Bearss.

But right now, the NPS suffers from being massively understaffed.  The Trump administration apparently thought they could alleviate some of the effects of the shutdown on the National Parks by allowing them to be open during the shutdown, as opposed to closing them like the government did back in 2013.  It sounds great, at least on paper.  But allowing the public to continue to use the parks even though most park service employees are absent means that no one is cleaning the bathrooms, or handing out maps, or emptying the garbage cans.  It also means no one is collecting admission fees or enforcing rules.  And so the amount of wear and tear that is taking place is pretty bad.  And so many sites are being forced to close their doors.  A recent article from a Nashville TV station showed that many of the Civil War sites where I had volunteered are being affected by the shutdown.

So I hope that the shutdown does not last too long, as I hate to see so many of these parks get wrecked with no one to do any cleaning up.  And maybe one day I will be able to do some history volunteering again.  We’ll see.

~Geoff

The fallacy of civility, or why it’s OK to be rude to racists and Nazis

There has been much discussion lately about whether or not the left should try to maintain some level of civility in these difficult times.  I can’t speak for everyone, but in my own mind, I don’t think there is any point to trying to be civil to a bunch of people who themselves stopped being civil long ago.  The editorial board of the Washington Post does not agree, and they are apparently clutching their pearls so tightly that they have cut off circulation to their brain.

“We nonetheless would argue that Ms. Huckabee, and Ms. Nielsen and Mr. Miller, too, should be allowed to eat dinner in peace. Those who are insisting that we are in a special moment justifying incivility should think for a moment how many Americans might find their own special moment. How hard is it to imagine, for example, people who strongly believe that abortion is murder deciding that judges or other officials who protect abortion rights should not be able to live peaceably with their families?”

I would laugh, except this level of stupidity in one of the supposed flagship newspapers of our era actually makes me want to sob uncontrollably.  Um… news flash, geniuses: those people have not been left in peace for, let’s see, several decades.  In fact, they have been bombed and shot and stabbed and otherwise terrorized in every meaning of that word.  John Salvi killed two people and wounded five right here in the Boston area back in 1994.

It’s like with Trump supporters.  When have they ever been civil, honestly?  They relish being offensive.  It’s one of the things they LOVE about Trump.

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In case you can’t read it, that woman’s shirt says “Fuck your feelings”.  Because civility.

There are times when you can have a reasoned discussion with people who disagree with you.  But we are talking about white supremacists and Nazi sympathizers here.  Oh, sure, maybe there are some Trump supporters who say they aren’t racist.  Maybe, but racism is definitely present in spades among Trumpers, and they are more than willing to put up with a lot of open racism in their ranks, not to mention all the racist garbage spewing from Trump himself and the White House.  And that makes them complicit, or indifferent to evil at best.

Clearly, not all journalists agree with the WaPo editors.  Charlie Pierce had some choice things to say, as did Michelle Goldberg.  She gets it.

But unless and until that happens, millions and millions of Americans watch helplessly as the president cages children, dehumanizes immigrants, spurns other democracies, guts health care protections, uses his office to enrich himself and turns public life into a deranged phantasmagoria with his incontinent flood of lies. The civility police might point out that many conservatives hated Obama just as much, but that only demonstrates the limits of content-neutral analysis. The right’s revulsion against a black president targeted by birther conspiracy theories is not the same as the left’s revulsion against a racist president who spread birther conspiracy theories.

Yes, exactly.  This is NOT a case of “both sides do it.” The right’s criticism that Hillary Clinton and other Democrats are secretly running a pedophile sex ring out of a pizza place IS NOT the same as the belief that Democrats have about President Trump using his office to enrich his family and himself, or that the Russians helped Trump get elected.  So trying to pretend that “both sides do it” is a big reason why we are in this awful place to begin with.  As screwed up as they are, the Democrats don’t hold a candle to the vicious insanity of the Republican party these days.  It’s like trying to point out that both sides are bad because one was caught jaywalking and shoplifting and the other has a basement full of human skins.  Um, no, one is WAY worse than the other, and anyone with more than a handful of brain cells to rub together should be able to see that.  I saw the writing on the wall years ago.  It’s why I left the GOP more than 20 years ago and haven’t looked back.  It’s only gotten worse since then.

So no, I am not going to be civil to these people, not as long as they continue to disregard the essential humanity of immigrants, and gays, and Muslims, and Jews, and everyone else they hate.  I will treat them with the contempt they richly deserve.  It’s far better than the treatment we can expect from them, at any rate.  A lot of them want a second Civil War, or at least a chance to use those guns they have been hoarding.  All we want is equality and justice.

~Geoff

Should we be worried?

Around the same time our “Stable Genius” leader was tweeting about the size of his “nuclear button” like he was a high school freshman, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that they are going to hold a session on January 16th about teaching federal, state, and local first responders how to “prepare for a nuclear detonation”.  Both Guam and Hawaii have been more focused on nuclear threats in recent weeks and months, as both places are likely within the range of ballistic missiles from North Korea.

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It’s that time of year again, Merry, Happy, Blessed Whatever

Most of you know that we’ve been doing this for a few years now.  Partly it’s because we’re cheap broke, and partly it’s because we send this link to nearly 200 people who we’d legitimately want to send a real card to.  Also, I’m not big on the card produced by Shutterfly and never seen by the sender thing, and this method actually has a Snowflake’s chance in Cambridge of generating a conversation*.  So we do it this way.

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