Archive for the ‘American history’ Category

Political Correctness Blurs Then Erases History

December 3, 2008

As an expert in the U.S. Constitution and America’s Founding, I thought I had lost the ability to be shocked by politically correct distortions of our history. Then I visited the new Capitol Visitor Center.

The just-completed Visitor Center, which opened yesterday, is a 580,000-square-foot cavern dug at the foot of the U.S. Capitol at a cost of $621 million (almost 9 times over budget).

The Capitol is a noble monument to American liberty. The neoclassical architecture is meant to be approached from afar. We are supposed to walk up vast flights of stairs to enter a magnificent rotunda, inspired to reflect on the grandeur of our self-governing republic.

Now the public will approach the Capitol underground and enter, mole-like, through the basement. What Congress has arranged for the public to be taught before they get in is a scandal.

Designed to provide “an enhanced educational experience,” the Visitor Center allows guests to make online reservations before spending time at two gift shops, enjoying a 530-seat restaurant, visiting any of 26 restrooms or watching an orientation film in one of two theaters, all in air-conditioned comfort.

The “educational” part is the Exhibition Hall, the theme of which is “E Pluribus Unum – Out of Many, One.” The etching in marble initially referred to that phrase as the nation’s motto. Now, however, that etching is covered by a bad plaster job, because … well, “E Pluribus Unum” is not the nation’s motto. Our actual motto, “In God We Trust,” is notably absent, along with other references to faith.

Take how the exhibit treats the Northwest Ordinance, the 1787 document that signaled the beginning of America’s westward expansion. It’s selectively quoted to encourage education – carefully shorn of its opening clause: “Religion, morality and knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind.”

By Matthew Spalding
The Washington Times

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/
2008/dec/03/a-capitol-crime/

Thanksgiving: The Bounty and Goodness of Our God

November 22, 2007

By Chuck Colson
Thanksgiving

It has become the worst drought in the history of the Southeast. The ground is parched; crops are dying. And last week, Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue decided to do something about it. He urged Georgians to pray for desperately needed rain.

Despite much ridicule and some protest, last week, Gov. Perdue led a prayer vigil on the steps of the State Capitol. Praying along with him were pastors from several denominations and hundreds of Georgians.

Gov. Perdue may not have realized it, but he was following in the steps of our Pilgrim fathers and mothers nearly 400 years ago: Joining together with neighbors for prayer was a familiar ritual for the Pilgrims. For example, in April of 1623—three years after the first Pilgrims landed—the transplanted Englishmen and women planted corn and other crops. A good harvest was essential to their survival. But in the weeks following the planting, it became clear that a dry spell was turning into a drought.

Pilgrim father Edward Winslow recorded their distress in his diary. “It pleased God, for our further chastisement,” he wrote, “to send a great drought; insomuch as in six weeks . . . there scarce fell any rain.” The crops began to shrivel up “as though they had been scorched before the fire . . . God,” Winslow wrote, “which hitherto had been our only shield and supporter, now seemed in His anger to arm Himself against us. And who can withstand the fierceness of His wrath?”

The Pilgrims decided the only solution was to humble themselves before God in fasting and in prayer. They appointed a day of prayer and set aside all other employments.

Winslow describes what happened next. “In the morning,” he wrote, “when we assembled together, the heavens were as clear, and the drought as like to continue as it ever was.” But by late afternoon—after eight or nine hours of prayer—“the weather was overcast, the clouds gathered on all sides,” Winslow wrote. The next morning brought “soft, sweet and moderate shows of rain, continuing some fourteen days.” The needed rain was “mixed with such seasonable weather,” he wrote, “as it was hard to say whether our withered corn or drooping affections were most quickened or revived, such was the bounty and goodness of our God.”

This dramatic answer to prayer was a witness to the local Indians. As Winslow notes, “The Indians . . . took notice . . . all of them admired the goodness of our God towards us, that wrought so great a change in so short of time, showing the difference between their conjuration and our invocation on the name of God for rain.”

The harvest that fall was abundant—and the Pilgrims survived yet another year.

Today is Thanksgiving—the day on which we recall the three-day celebration in 1621 in which the Pilgrims invited local Indians to join them in thanking God for His blessings on them—not, as some school children are taught today in class, giving thanks to Indians. And Americans ever since have been celebrating this, an occasion recognized and enshrined by Congress. We ought to take time to thank God for His manifold blessings on us today.

By the way, the day after Governor Perdue prayed on the Capitol steps, rains swept the state—nearly an inch in places. But the drought has continued. So, as we give thanks today, let’s remember those in the drought-stricken Southeast and ask the Giver of all good gifts to bless the land with rain.

Related:

America’s First Thanksgiving

Our Nation: Based Upon God, Not Fiction

The United States: A Nation of Prayer and Hope

Harry Potter: More Worthless Pop Culture

July 22, 2007

By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
July 23, 2007

I may be the only one in America that isn’t fond of Harry Potter. In fact, I find the book series a time wasting distraction that leads kids towards fantasy and novels and away from much greater reading learning experiences and challenges: like world or American history.

On February 28, 2004, American historian Daniel Boorstin died. On that same day, local high school students on the TV quiz show “It’s Academic,” in Washington D.C., failed to even make a guess at the answer to a simple question about the American Civil War and Fort Sumter.

So you may say, “why is the Civil War so important?” The saving of one continental nation? The emancipation of the slaves? Are there no lessons here about determination, dedication and perseverance for our children to learn?

Boorstin: lawyer, head of the Library of Congress for 12 years, faculty member of the University of Chicago for 25 years, and writer more than 20 books was a spectacular American worth “knowing” though his works. His famous trilogy on the American experience, U.S.A., gave us deep lessons into who we are as Americans.

Boorstin was a man of depth and merit who left us a legacy.

I hate to rain on anyone’s parade, but Harry Potter is not the best use of a child’s time or brain.

Harry Potter is just one more waste of time on top of so many video games, T.V. shows and other horrible uses of wonderful tools like the human mind, the imagination, the intellect and the computers that makes us tick: ourselves and our fellow Americans.

Since there are only 24 hours in each day, and many of those hours are already packed full of clutter and entertainment, I am generally not in favor of more that disassociates people from reality.  Especially those masters of the future universe, our children, should be encouraged to take a bite out of real life a little more often.  The current diet of pop culture is too heavy in what clogs the veins and mind.

Ever wonder why American history, values and society are no longer a mainstay of American schools and media? Because many of the Founders were unusually talented super-achievers and every single one was a firm believer in The Almighty.

Today: your kids’ teachers want them talking about abortion, sex education and gay marriage but certainly not God or the values, traditions and history that made America great. In fact, most of our corps of teachers are liberal and not conservative and don’t really believe that America is great (if it ever was, they say).

And there is another subliminal message: YOU CANNOT EVER be a super-achiever yourself.

We are treating our children to a brainwashing of mediocrity.
Photo
Chinese students take an exam en-masse.

History is filled with super-achievers, inventors, military leaders, scientists and researchers. History teaches that money is not always the most valuable commodity or goal.

American history teaches us the values, rights and responsibilities of our citizenship. History makes us a nation: a race of people and not just a collision of different peoples from many lands.

You can be born French, but when you move in from another land you don’t necessarily become French. When you move to America and become a citizen, you are embraced as an American.

People come here to share in the values and rights of all Americans. Yet we, as parents and teachers, neglect them or even undermine them.

Understanding who gained those American rights and how they achieved them is important because those rights bind us together as a people.

Our history is “Ich bin ein Berliner,” the Boston Tea Party, Ellis Island, Posk Chop Hill, Gettysburg, and “I have a dream.” Our history is the Emancipation Proclamation, Bill of Rights, and Constitution.

Our history is our culture. Our focus upon Paris Hilton, Janet Jackson, “Lord of the Rings,” and, yes, Harry Potter himself, is fleeting, largely meaningless debris. The liberties gained by our history are lasting and binding and allow us a free Hollywood entertainment machine. But you can’t learn history from Michael Moore and Oliver Stone.

How many kids in your child’s classroom know that George Washington was an accomplished horticulturist who created hybrid plants and made his own wine? How many can appreciate the architectural genius of Thomas Jefferson? How many know that Benjamin Franklin charted the ocean’s currents on his way to Europe to serve as an Ambassador?

Do your children know that a Black Man and former slave named Frederick Douglass was instrumental in freeing the slaves and became one of the finest orators of his time? And how many can discuss Mark Twain: another world renown orator? How many know what an orator IS?

How many of your children know that Black Men like Christian Fleetwood were awarded the Medal of Honor during the Civil War? How many know what the Medal of Honor is and what it means?

How many of your children can articulate even one story of an American immigrant super-achiever like Henry Villard: a German speaking immigrant who became one of the finest English language journalists of his day and then rose to become an American Tycoon?

In fact: our American story is filled with super-achievers. Real men and women who were super achievers. Who needs novels and stories of fantasy when the facts of our predecessors from all races and all places is tremendously enlightening and challenging?

Our history teaches us toughness and serenity. Through history we learn the dichotomies of man and the strange bedfellows life brings. We learn that Great Britain, George Bush’s greatest ally in Iraq, is also the nation that burned the White House and the U.S. Capitol in 1814. And yet the Republic survived. So what really did the nation have to fear on September 11, 2001? Fear itself? And who coined that phrase?

And the history of man, world history, teaches us how tribes became cultures and nations.

Madam Curie, Robert Fulton, Robert Peary, Jonas Salk, George Washington Carver, Charles Lindbergh, Albert Einstein and so many more through history offer all of us, and especially our children, lessons in life.

And the stories of these people may inspire future greatness among our children.

History makes us appreciate what it means to be an American and our history compels us read. But don’t read your kids’ history textbooks. They are often politically correct collections of facts and misinterpretation not worth reading. Understanding history, like mining, requires one to dig deep into the writings of and about great men, at least occasionally.

Ignoring our history belittles the greatness of our nation. It also insults the intelligence of our children. By building a national generation of pop culture worshipers instead of a generation of dedicated super-achievers we send the message that Michael Vick and Paris Hilton are really valuable and important.

Is this what we really want?

I don’t like Harry Potter one bit. It is another piece of pop culture trash that detracts from reality instead of embracing it.

Sorry to rain on anyone’s parade but if we as a nation and a culture continue to loudly applaud the stuff that makes the barn floor slippery we can expect a lot more slippery stuff in our society.

Related:
Kids reading fewer books despite Harry Potter hoopla

Priest Says Harry Potter Helps Devil, Evil

Reading American history about the early years of America and the Founders is enlightening…..
Our Nation: Based Upon God, Not Fiction

++++++++++++++++++++++++

An open letter to Free Republic readers and others linking to this article:

Here are a few ideas to consider as you attack my ideas.

–I do not believe that money equals value. In other words, Pet Rocks made a lot of money for someone but we are still a ways from curing cancer. Paris Hilton and Michael Vick have made a lot of money, but in many places they would not be welcome near children…..

–I very much do agree that reading is important (as the essay clearly says). But reading garbage is a waste of time. Harry Potter is 5 books. Those have been blockbusters. Great. But that has not translated into more readership overall. Despite Harry Potter, readership, especially teen readership, is in a steep decline.

Kids reading fewer books despite Harry Potter hoopla

–My recommendation for parent younger than …well, my age…is that they start to attack their schools. If teachers think the learning/reading dilemma is solved with Sir Harry they are wildly off the mark. In fact, off the reservation.

Finally, I hope people will read Part II of this essay which deals with our national well being and understanding America’s Founders and roots.

Part II:
Our Nation: Based Upon God, Not Fiction

All the best to everyone.

American History: Court-martialed Civil War general finds Gettysburg glory

July 21, 2007

By John E. Carey
The Washington Times
June 30, 2007 (Last publication date of the Civil War page prior to the anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg and the 4th of July.)

After the Battle of Kernstown, Va., Lt. Gen. Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson ordered the court-martial of Brig. Gen. Richard Brooke Garnett for cowardice and “unauthorized retreat.” Garnett was deeply hurt by the injustice of the accusation. Nevertheless, Garnett wept at Stonewall’s funeral and served as one of his pallbearers.

Before the disastrous attack that came to be known as Pickett’s Charge, Richard Garnett went with his friend Gen. Lewis A. Armistead to survey the field. “This is a desperate thing to attempt,” Garnett said. Armistead agreed. “Yes it is. But the issue is with the Almighty, and we must leave it in His hands.”

The Almighty took Garnett a short time later.

“General Garnett was gallantly waving his hat and cheering the men on to renewed efforts against the enemy,” recorded James W. Clay, a private in Company G, 18th Virginia Infantry. “I remember that he wore a black felt hat with a silver cord. His sword hung at his side.”

Reportedly, Garnett urged his men forward with the words, “Make ready, Men! Take good aim. Fire low. Fire!”

Though he was wearing a new, heavy coat clearly marked with his general’s rank and carrying a sword engraved with his name, Garnett’s remains were never found.

Confederates suspected that Union soldiers intentionally buried the general in a mass grave with his men, much the way Confederate soldiers buried Col. Robert Shaw of the 54th Massachusetts with his men later in the war. Consequently, Richard Garnett’s exact resting place cannot be determined with certainty.

Also, although nearly every general, North and South, had his photograph taken, Garnett may be the sole exception. In modern times, images thought to be that of Richard Garnett were determined to be of his cousin Robert Seldon Garnett, Richard’s inseparable boyhood companion, West Point classmate and fellow brigadier general in the Confederate army in Virginia. Robert Garnett was mortally wounded in July 1861, the first general killed in the war.

Richard Brooke Garnett (1817-1863) grew up the son of privilege at Rose Hill, the family mansion in Essex County, Va. Educated near home and in Norfolk, Garnett went to West Point with his cousin in 1838.
Richard B. Garnett (maybe).jpg

Richard Garnett graduated from West Point in 1841. He served in the Seminole War in Florida and in the Western campaigns against the Indians. He missed fighting in the Mexican War while assigned staff duties in New Orleans.

Garnett later commanded Fort Laramie, Wyo., against the Sioux. While serving in California during the winter of 1860-61, he learned of the South’s secession and resigned his U.S. Army commission. He joined his home state as an officer in the Army of the Confederate States of America.

Garnett’s Civil War service before March 1862 was largely unremarkable.

However, at Kernstown on March 23, 1862, after two hours of unceasing combat, Garnett’s command began to run low on ammunition. The supply wagons had been left behind. Facing superior Union numbers attacking from three directions, Garnett made the only logical military decision: He ordered his forces to fall back.

Stonewall Jackson was incensed. His anger resulted in the charge of cowardice. Garnett was arrested.

Garnett explained his retreat at Kernstown this way: “Had I not done so, we would have run imminent risk of being routed by superior numbers, which would have resulted probably in the loss of part of our artillery and also endangered our transportation.”

Maj. Walter Harrison of Gen. George Pickett’s staff described Garnett’s “brave, proud and sensitive spirit.” He said the accusation of cowardice deeply wounded Garnett. It “was a cruel blow,” Harrison wrote.

Stonewall died at Chancellorsville, and Gen. Robert E. Lee reassigned Garnett, allowing the issue to die. Still, by the time of Gettysburg, Garnett had not fully lived down the accusations, which weighed heavily on his mind.

Despite severe illness, he refused to excuse himself from leading his men. On July 3, 1863, before the commencement of Pickett’s Charge, Garnett’s colleagues asked him to forgo the attack. Garnett saw an opportunity to clear his name once and for all. He insisted that he would lead his men into battle, mounted on his charger, Red Eye. The other generals were appalled: All the other attackers would be on foot. The mounted Garnett would be an easy target for the Union Army.

This prediction proved true, and Garnett died leading his beloved men of the 8th, 18th, 19th, 28th and 56th Virginia infantry regiments. Red Eye came galloping back into the Confederate line riderless.

“General Garnett’s black war horse came galloping toward us with a huge gash in his right shoulder, evidently struck by a piece of shell. The horse in its mad flight jumped over Captain Campbell and me,” James Clay reported.

Lee reported his losses to President Jefferson Davis, including this line: “Generals Garnett and Armistead are missing, and it is feared that the former is killed and the latter wounded and a prisoner.”

The Confederates were insulted when Garnett’s body and final resting place were never identified. Clay wrote, “General Garnett wore a uniform coat, almost new, with a general’s star and wreath on the collar, and top boots, with trousers inside, and spurs. It is, therefore, inexplicable that his remains were not identified.”

In 1872, remains of Confederate dead were brought from Gettysburg and reburied at Hollywood Cemetery in Richmond. The Hollywood Memorial Association erected a cenotaph in Garnett’s honor in 1991, assuming that his remains were among the others.

Years after the war, Garnett’s sword was located in a Baltimore pawnshop and purchased by former Confederate Brig. Gen. George H. Steuart. The Baltimore Sun reported in articles published in November and December 1905, “The sword is after the pattern for artillery officers in the United States Army, and is inscribed ‘R.B. Garnett, U.S.A.,’ with the name of the maker. The blade is of fine metal, elaborately embellished, and is in perfect order. The scabbard is of fine steel, but somewhat rusty.”

Col. Winfield Peters wrote in the Baltimore Sun that “General Steuart died November 22, 1903. Mr. James E. Steuart, his nephew, is now enabled to forward the sword to its rightful possessor by descent, who is the wife of Col. John B. Purcell, Richmond, Va. General Garnett was the only remaining brother of Mrs. Purcell’s mother, who was deeply attached to him, and, through Col. Purcell, has assured Mr. Steuart, that the sword will be treasured by her, a niece of General Garnett, as a precious heirloom.”

The marker for CSA Gen. Richard Brooke Garnett in the Confederate Section of Hollywood Cemetery reads:

“Among the Confederate Soldiers’ Graves in this area is the probable resting place of Brigadier General Richard Brooke Garnett C.S.A. who was killed in action July 3, 1863, as he led his Brigade in the charge of Pickett’s Division on the final day of the battle of Gettysburg. First buried on the battlefield, General Garnett’s remains were likely removed to this area in 1872 along with other Confederate dead brought from Gettysburg by the Hollywood Memorial Association. Requiescat in Pace

“Richard Brooke Garnett 1817-1863.”

Richard Garnett suffered the ignominy of being accused of cowardice. His remains were never found. Even his likeness may not survive.

He saved his reputation by bravely attacking a much stronger enemy behind stone fortifications. He proved for all eternity his honorable bravery and willingness to sacrifice his own life.

His sword was returned to his relatives. His honor was never lost.

John E. Carey is a frequent contributor to The Washington Times.

Inspiration from American History: James Buchanan Eads

July 20, 2007

By John E. Carey
First Published in The Washington Times
January 31, 2004

When the deans of American colleges of engineering were asked in the early 20th century to name the top five engineers of all time, James Buchanan Eads was among them; the list also included Leonardo da Vinci and Thomas Edison.

He may have been the finest self-educated engineer of all time. Yet Eads also made himself a skilled fund-raiser, diver and inventor and an able leader.
James Buchanan Eads 
James Buchanan Eads

The Eads family was so poor during the 1820s in St. Louis that young James, named for his mother’s cousin who would later become president, had to quit school to sell apples in the street. He then was hired as a clerk in a dry-goods store. The owner gave him access to his personal library, thus stirring the mind and imagination of a gifted young man.

Eads’ lifelong relationship with the mighty Mississippi began in 1838, when he joined the crew of a riverboat. Realizing how many boiler-driven vessels were subject to fires or explosions, Eads entered the salvage business four years later. He was not interested in salvaging ships, however. He laid claim to the valuable cargoes strewn across the floor of the great river and made himself a millionaire.

Eads pioneered a diving bell that permitted divers to walk on the bottom of the Mississippi, and he was the first to risk using his invention, a perilous undertaking. He also became an expert in Mississippi River currents, silt and sand.

In April 1861, as the Civil War began, both the Union Army and Navy scrambled to find a way to fortify the Mississippi and penetrate the Confederacy. Military leaders summoned Eads to Washington, and in August, after months of study and negotiation, he signed a contract to design and build seven ironclad gunboats.

Eads’ first four ironclads sailed downstream to Cairo, Ill., in November 1861 under the command of the U.S. Navy. He had produced a novel kind of American warship in fewer than 100 days.

In February 1862, under the command of Navy Flag Officer Andrew H. Foote, Eads’ gunboats bombarded and contributed to the capture of Fort Henry on the Tennessee River and Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River in a joint attack with troops led by Ulysses S. Grant, then a little-known brigadier general.

On Feb. 4 and 5, Grant landed his divisions in two locations near Fort Henry, a Confederate earthen fort on the Tennessee River with outdated guns. One division went ashore on the east bank of the Tennessee River to prevent the Confederate garrison’s escape. The second division landed on the Kentucky side to occupy the high ground, which would ensure the fort’s fall.

As Foote’s seven gunboats began bombarding the fort, Brig. Gen. Lloyd Tilghman, commander of the garrison, realized that it would be only a matter of time before Fort Henry fell. Leaving the artillery in the fort to hold off the Union fleet, he withdrew nearly all his men to Fort Donelson, 10 miles away.

Foote slowly sailed the Eads gunboats closer and closer to Fort Henry, maintaining a tremendous barrage. Returning to the fort, Tilghman found the gunboats within 400 yards. The vessels continued lobbing shells into his fortifications, and Tilghman capitulated.

Fort Henry’s fall opened the Tennessee River to Union gunboats and shipping as far as Muscle Shoals, Ala.

Ten days later at Fort Donelson, Confederate Gen. Simon Buckner realized his force was beaten by Grant and the gunboats. He requested surrender terms. “No terms except an immediate and unconditional surrender can be accepted,” Grant famously replied.

After the fall of Donelson, the two major water routes in the Confederate west, bounded by the Appalachians and the Mississippi River, became Union highways for movement of troops and materiel. These were the first major Union victories of the war. Eads’ gunboats played a key role.

The gunboats were put to work bombarding the most crucial remaining Confederate stronghold: Vicksburg, Miss. The city fell on July 4, 1863. The combined Army-Navy operation, the first of its kind by U.S. military forces, opened the Mississippi to the sole use of Union forces.

After the war, St. Louis fell behind Chicago as a commercial center in the Midwest. Chicago enjoyed easy east and west railway service, while St. Louis was cut off by the Mississippi River. The city fathers in St. Louis decided they needed a railroad bridge spanning the river. Eads gladly created a design. As chief engineer of the St. Louis Bridge Co., he would become instrumental in building the bridge and reinvigorating the economy of St. Louis.

Eads created a design to compete with a proven method of bridge-building submitted by Brooklyn Bridge designer John Roebling. The Eads plan called for a span longer than any existing bridge, with a triple arch founded on bedrock. The design called for one arch 520 feet long and two arches of 502 feet. If built, it would become the world’s first major steel bridge.

Eads’ critics sent his plan to a board of 27 leading civil engineers for review. The group unanimously condemned it. Eads had stolen a march, so to speak, however, and already had begun construction on the west abutment, where bedrock was just 47 feet below the high-water line. Eads used compressed-air pneumatic caissons to build the west and east piers and the east abutment. He wasn’t the first American builder to use pneumatic techniques, but he would be the first to attempt such a deep penetration using compressed air.

The drawing for the east abutment called for penetration to 136 feet below high water. Unfortunately, the job produced a first – the introduction of “caisson disease,” also called “the bends.” This agony affected 80 of the crew’s 352 sandhogs, and 15 died. Eads again showed his mental acuity, however, developing slower ascent methods and limiting the men’s time at depth to lessen the effects of the bends.

To prevent obstruction of river traffic during construction, Eads developed new methods of bridge building. He used a tieback system that introduced cantilevering to American bridge construction. The bridge’s three arches each consisted of four 18-inch steel tubes composed of steel staves bound together by steel hoops. The massive structure was completed in 1874 at a cost of more than $10 million. The bridge supported two rail lines, with a 54-foot-wide pedestrian promenade above.

Even before Eads had finished his bridge in St. Louis, he became intrigued by another engineering challenge. At New Orleans, every time the “bar” – the blockage of silt and sand in the delta – made passage into and out of the Gulf of Mexico impossible, ships lay at anchor and moored to piers, filled with idle crewmen and stevedores. Commerce came to a standstill. Often, more than 60 ships sat near New Orleans for days while waiting to cross the bar. New Orleans fell to eighth on the list of most productive American port cities.

Eads said he would find a solution, but he didn’t know when he started that he would have to fight the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers every step of the way.

He went to work on one of the largest engineering challenges in the United States. He pledged that he would find a way to remove the silt from the Mississippi River delta without using clumsy and costly dredging boats. He proposed a method to use nature and the river’s own flow to “cleanse” the water.

Eads proposed to Congress that he would create a channel 28 feet deep and 300 feet wide through the river’s southwestern pass. He also wanted a contract to maintain the passage for 10 years. He offered to finance the work himself until his channel reached 20 feet. After that, he wanted $1 million with incremental $1 million payments for each additional foot of depth produced until the channel reached 28 feet. His maintenance fee would then be $500,000 a year for 10 years.

Eads said he could deepen the channels of the Mississippi by narrowing and restricting the flow of the water. The Corps of Engineers, led by Gen. Andrew Atkinson Humphreys, wanted no part of Eads’ scheme. The corps wanted to dredge and build a canal.

Eads had clashed with Humphreys before, over a proposal to build a canal around his bridge in St. Louis. The end of that dispute had come easily when Eads called on his old friend President Grant. The president had sided with Eads, killing Humphreys’ plan.

Eads went to work raising the money for his Mississippi delta project. He hired the Grand Republic, one of the most luxurious steamers of her day. He planned to wine and dine investors and politicians while showing them that his initial jetties were, in fact, deepening the channel. Humphreys sent his own man from the Corps of Engineers, armed with facts and figures disputing every claim Eads made. Humphreys successfully undermined Eads’ fund-raising effort.

In the end, Eads narrowed the south pass of the Mississippi in 1875 by building jetties.

The restricted flow increased the speed of the river, flushing sediment into the gulf. Within eight months, the channel at the sandbar deepened to 13 feet. By August 1876, the channel was 20 feet deep. By 1879, the South Pass Channel was 300 feet wide and 30 feet deep. The force of the river completely removed the sandbar.

The final project of Eads’ enormously productive career – a maritime link between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans – never came to fruition. (His audacious accomplishments are recounted in detail in John M. Barry’s fine book “Rising Tide.”) Eads had proposed not a canal, but a railway to carry oceangoing ships in cradles and huge flat cars across Mexico’s Isthmus of Tehuantepec. The Mexican government endorsed the plan and, largely because of Eads’ reputation and record of success, the House voted for the idea, but the Senate defeated the bill.

Had he lived a few more years, we might today be able to see huge ships crossing the Sierra Madre del Sur by rail. We’ll never be sure whether Eads might have been successful with this wild idea. He had never failed before, though.

John Carey is a retired U.S. Navy Commander and the President of International Defense Consultants, Inc.  He is a frequent contributor to The Washington Times.