Archive for the ‘Civil War’ Category

Somali pirates try to hijack British ship; demanding $10m ransom for captured Saudi supertanker

November 19, 2008

Somali pirates who captured a Saudi supertanker have narrowly failed in hijacking a British tanker.

The British tanker Trafalgar was suddenly surrounded in the Gulf of Aden by at least eight speedboats.

By David Willaims
The Mail (London)

Negotiations over the Sirius Star, packed with two million barrels of crude oil worth $100million (£67m) – enough to supply the whole of France for a day – were said still not to have opened formally.
An undated photo of the Sirius Star in South Korean waters.

Above: The Sirius Star — a crude “super tanker” flagged in Liberia and owned by the Saudi Arabian-based Saudi Aramco company — was attacked on Saturday more than 450 nautical miles southeast of Mombasa, Kenya.

Meanwhile a Greek carrier and a Thai fishing vessel were the latest to be captured by pirates this week.

Read the rest:
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-
1086658/Now-Somali-pirates-try-hijack-British-s
hip-demanding-10m-ransom-captured-Saudi-sup
ertanker.html

It was rescued when the German frigate Karlsruhe on patrol 12 miles away sent a helicopter to scare off the pirates who fled at high speed.

The latest audacious attack by Somali pirates comes as they are expected to a record ransom of more than $10million for the release of the Saudi oil supertanker hijacked off the Kenyan coast.

Advertisements

Barack Obama Needs To Know: Lincoln’s Dysfuncional Cabinet Was Not Your Mother’s A-Team

November 18, 2008

People love Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book on the Lincoln presidency, “Team of Rivals.” More important, for this moment in American history, Barack Obama loves it. The book is certainly fun to read, but its claim that Abraham Lincoln revealed his “political genius” through the management of his wartime Cabinet deserves a harder look, especially now that it seems to be offering a template for the new administration.

“Lincoln basically pulled in all the people who had been running against him into his Cabinet,” is the way Obama has summarized Goodwin’s thesis, adding, “Whatever personal feelings there were, the issue was how can we get this country through this time of crisis.”

By Matthew Pinsker
The Los Angeles Times

That’s true enough, but the problem is, it didn’t work that well for Lincoln. There were painful trade-offs with the “team of rivals” approach that are never fully addressed in the book, or by others that offer happy-sounding descriptions of the Lincoln presidency.

Lincoln’s decision to embrace former rivals, for instance, inevitably meant ignoring old friends — a development they took badly. “We made Abe and, by God, we can unmake him,” complained Chicago Tribune Managing Editor Joseph Medill in 1861. Especially during 1861 and 1862, the first two years of Lincoln’s initially troubled administration, friends growled over his ingratitude as former rivals continued to play out their old political feuds.

In fairness, Goodwin describes several of these more difficult moments, such as when Secretary of State William Seward tried to seize political command from Lincoln during the Ft. Sumter crisis. But she passes over their consequences too easily.

Though Seward, the former New York senator who had been the Republican front-runner, eventually proved helpful to the president, the impact of repeated disloyalty and unnecessary backroom drama from him and several other Cabinet officers was a significant factor in the early failures of the Union war effort.


Above: Seward

By December 1862, there was a full-blown Cabinet crisis.

“We are now on the brink of destruction,” Lincoln confided to a close friend after being deluged with congressional criticism and confronted by resignations from both Seward and Treasury Secretary Salmon P. Chase. Goodwin suggests that Lincoln’s quiet confidence and impressive emotional intelligence enabled him to survive and ultimately forge an effective team out of his former rivals, but that’s more wishful thinking than serious analysis.

Consider this inconvenient truth: Out of the four leading vote-getters for the 1860 Republican presidential nomination whom Lincoln placed on his original team, three left during his first term — one in disgrace, one in defiance and one in disgust.

Simon Cameron was the disgraced rival, Lincoln’s failed first secretary of War. Goodwin essentially erased him from her group biography, not mentioning him in the book’s first 200 pages, even though he placed third, after Seward and Lincoln, on the first Republican presidential ballot. Cameron proved so corrupt and inept that the Republican-controlled House of Representatives censured him after he was removed from office in 1862.

Above: Portrait of Simon Cameron by Freeman Thorp.

Chase was the defiant rival. As Goodwin acknowledges, the Treasury chief never reconciled himself to Lincoln’s victory, continuously angling to replace him. Lincoln put up with this aggravation until he secured renomination and then dumped his brilliant but arrogant subordinate because, in his words, their “mutual embarrassment” was no longer sustainable.

Atty. Gen. Edward Bates was the disgusted rival. The elder statesman — 67 when he was appointed — never felt at home in the Lincoln Cabinet and played only a marginal role in shaping policy. He resigned late in the first term. His diary reflects deep discontent with what he considered the relentless political maneuvering of his Cabinet peers and even the president.

“Alas!” Bates wrote in August 1864, “that I should live to see such abject fear — such small stolid indifference to duty — such open contempt of Constitution and law — and such profound ignorance of policy and prudence!”

Only Seward endured throughout the Civil War. He and Lincoln did become friends, and he provided some valuable political advice, but the significance of his contributions as Lincoln’s secretary of State have been challenged by many historians, and his repeated fights with other party leaders were always distracting.

John Hay, one of Lincoln’s closest aides, noted in his diary that by the summer of 1863, the president had essentially learned to rule his Cabinet with “tyrannous authority,” observing that the “most important things he decides & there is no cavil.”

Over the years, it has become easy to forget that hard edge and the once bad times that nearly destroyed a president. Lincoln’s Cabinet was no team. His rivals proved to be uneven as subordinates. Some were capable despite their personal disloyalty, yet others were simply disastrous.

Lincoln was a political genius, but his model for Cabinet-building should stand more as a cautionary tale than as a leadership manual.

Matthew Pinsker, author of “Lincoln’s Sanctuary: Abraham Lincoln and the Soldiers’ Home,” teaches Civil War history at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania.

“Audacity” Of Somali Pirates No Surprise: Their Nation is in Turmoil, Piracy Makes Them Wealthy in “Pirate Towns”

November 18, 2008

From NPR

Pirates who seized a Saudi supertanker earlier this week were nearing a Somali port on Tuesday, where they were expected to begin negotiations for the release of the crew and cargo.

The Sirius Star is three times the size of an aircraft carrier and believed to be carrying more than $100 millions worth of crude oil.

Piracy is a multi-billion dollar industry off the coast of Somalia, where commercial ships are routinely seized for the value of the cargo and to ransom the crew.

This undated picture made at an unknown location shows the the ... 
This undated picture made at an unknown location shows the the MV Sirius Star a Saudi oil supertanker which has been hijacked by Somali pirates. The owner of a Saudi oil supertanker hijacked by Somali pirates over the weekend said the 25 crew members are safe and the ship is fully loaded with crude — a cargo worth about US$100 million at current prices. Dubai-based Vela International Marine Ltd., a subsidiary of Saudi oil company Aramco, said in a statement Monday, Nov. 17, 2008, that company response teams have been set up and are working to ensure the release of the crew and the vessel.(AP Photo/Fred Vloo)

Despite anti-piracy efforts by the U.S., NATO and other European powers in the Gulf of Aden, the pirates have widened their field of operation. The Sirius Star was hijacked in the Indian Ocean, 450 miles off the coast of Kenya.

The vessel reportedly appears to be heading for the coastal village of Eyl in the semi-autonomous province of Puntland — a known pirate base.

The attacks have driven up insurance costs, forced some ships to go round South Africa instead of through the Suez Canal and secured millions of dollars in ransoms.

Hear the radio report:
http://www.npr.org/templates/player/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=97124768&m=97124740

******************************

“They have money; they have power and they are getting stronger by the day,” says Abdi Farah Juha who lives in the regional capital, Garowe.

They wed the most beautiful girls; they are building big houses; they have new cars; new guns,” he says.

“Piracy in many ways is socially acceptable. They have become fashionable.”

Most of them are aged between 20 and 35 years – in it for the money.

And the rewards they receive are rich in a country where….

Read the rest:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7650415.stm

Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Michael Mullen gestures during a ... 
Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, says the hostages held at sea by pirates makes military intervention difficult and dangerous…..(AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

From AFP

The top US military officer said Monday he was “stunned” by the reach of the Somali pirates who seized a Saudi supertanker off the east coast of Africa, calling piracy a growing problem that needs to be addressed.

But Admiral Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said there were limits to what the world’s navies could do once a ship has been captured because national governments often preferred to pay pirates ransom.

“I’m stunned by the range of it, less so than I am the size,” Mullen said of the seizure of the Sirius Star Sunday by armed men.

The huge, oil laden prize, which is three times the size of a US aircraft carrier, was some 450 miles east of Kenya when it was boarded, he said.

That is the farthest out at sea that a ship has been seized in the latest surge of piracies, according to Mullen.

The pirates, he said, are “very good at what they do. They’re very well armed. Tactically, they are very good.”

“And so, once they get to a point where they can board, it becomes very difficult to get them off, because, clearly, now they hold hostages.

“The question then becomes, well, what do you do about the hostages? And that’s where the standoff is.

“That’s a national question to ask based on the flag of the vessel. And the countries by and large have been paying the ransom that the pirates have asked,” he said.

Mullen said the number of successful piracies have gone down, but the incidence of ship seizures were way up.

“It’s got a lot of people’s attention and is starting to have impact on the commercial side, which I know countries raise as a concern,” he said.

“And so there’s a lot more focus on this. It’s a very serious issue. It’s a growing issue. And we’re going to continue to have to deal with it,” he said.

An undated photo of the Sirius Star in South Korean waters.

An undated photo of the Sirius Star in South Korean waters.

The Sirius Star — a crude “super tanker” flagged in Liberia and owned by the Saudi Arabian-based Saudi Aramco company — was attacked on Saturday more than 450 nautical miles southeast of Mombasa, Kenya.

The crew of 25, including British, Croatian, Polish, Filippino and Saudi nationals, are reported to be safe.

U.S. Navy Fifth Fleet Cmdr. Jane Campbell said the super tanker weighs more than 300,000 metric tons and “is more than three times the size of a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier.”

Oil industry insiders say a tanker of this size can carry up to 2 million barrels of oil, and the ship’s operator, Dubai-based Vela International Marine Ltd, says it is fully laden.

A U.S. Navy spokesman said the tanker is approaching Eyl, Somalia, on the Indian Ocean coast. It is routine procedure for pirates to take hijacked ships to shore, where they will keep them while they discuss negotiations.

A multinational naval force including vessels from the U.S., the UK and Russia has been patrolling the Indian Ocean waters seas near the Gulf of Aden, which connects the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea, following a sharp increase in pirate attacks in the region.

Related:

Somali Pirates Capture Biggest Prize Ever: “Supertanker” Loaded With Oil
.
Somali Pirates, After Grabbing Biggest Prize, Negotiate for Loot

Read the rest from CNN:
http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/africa/11/17/
kenya.tanker.pirates/index.html?section=cnn_latest

“Most Famous” Lincoln Letter of Civil War Found?

November 17, 2008

A Texas museum hopes a document found in its archives turns out to be an authentic government copy of Abraham Lincoln‘s eloquent letter consoling a mother thought to have lost five sons in the Civil War.

The famed Bixby Letter, which the Dallas Historical Society is getting appraised as it prays for a potential windfall, has a fascinating history.

By JEFF CARLTON, Associated Press Writer

The original has never been found. Historians debate whether Lincoln wrote it. Its recipient, Lydia Bixby, was no fan of the president. And not all her sons died in the war.

The letter, written with “the best of intentions” 144 years ago next week, is “considered one of the finest pieces of American presidential prose,” said Alan Olson, curator for the Dallas group. “It’s still a great piece of writing, regardless of the truth in the back story.”

Historians say Lincoln wrote the letter at the request of a Massachusetts official, who passed along news of a Boston woman grieving the loss of her five sons. The letter is addressed to “Mrs. Bixby, Boston, Mass.” and begins with an acknowledgment that nothing written could possibly make a grief-stricken mother feel better about such a horrific loss.”I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming,” Lincoln wrote.

After thanking Bixby on behalf of a grateful nation, Lincoln wrote that he would pray that God relieve her anguish and leave her with only the “cherished memory of the loved” along with “the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.”

The letter, as was the president’s custom in his personal correspondence, is signed “A Lincoln.”

“It is so beautifully written,” said James Cornelius, curator of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill. “It is an extraordinarily sensitive expression of condolence.”

There was renewed interest in the letter after it was read in the 1998 film “Saving Private Ryan.” It also sparked a new round of debate centering on Lincoln’s authorship and the fate of Bixby’s sons.

Evidence indicates two of Bixby’s sons died, a third was a deserter and a fourth ended up in a prisoner-of-war camp, Cornelius said. A fifth is believed to have received a discharge, but his fate is unknown.

Historians have also argued that John Hay, one of Lincoln’s secretaries, wrote the letter. Hay was an accomplished writer who wrote a biography of Lincoln and later became ambassador to the United Kingdom.

“Lincoln probably wrote it,” Cornelius said. “Hay did on some occasions write letters in Lincoln’s name and sign them — or have Lincoln sign them — but probably not something like this that purports to be so personal and individual and heartfelt.”

The letter received widespread attention days after it was written. Bixby either sent it to the Boston Evening Transcript or a postal worker intercepted it and tipped off the newspaper, which reprinted the letter, Cornelius said.

The touching note came about two months after Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman had broken through Atlanta on his march to the coast and about two weeks after Lincoln won re-election. Union spirits were high, Cornelius said.

“The letter was so popular that it was published in newspapers and people copied and sent it to relatives,” Olson said. “That letter and the words in it affected the nation. It tugged at people’s hearts at the time of a really bloody period in America.”

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081117/ap_on_re_us/lincoln_
letter;_ylt=ApB_WT7xHW7RTpr93Vz97SSs0NUE

*******************

Abraham Lincoln seated, Feb 9, 1864.jpg

Text of the Bixby letter:
Executive Mansion,
Washington, Nov. 21, 1864.

Dear Madam,–

I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle.

I feel how weak and fruitless must be any word of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save.

I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.

Yours, very sincerely and respectfully,

A. Lincoln

(file image)
AP

Pope at St. Patrick’s in New York: We Owe Bishop Hughes

April 20, 2008

When the Pope celebrated Mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, a TV newsman reminded us that the cornerstone of that magnificent church was laid in 1858.  But I was reminded of one of the men who made that church possible: “Dagger” John Hughes….

By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom

John Joseph Hughes (1797–1864), Catholic Archbishop of New York, played three critical roles for Lincoln and the United States during the Civil War. He traveled to Europe in search of able-bodied Irishmen to enlist in the Union Army. He participated in tricky diplomatic missions to France and the Vatican to keep them out of the war. Finally, Hughes used his personal powers of persuasion and clout to help quell the 1863 draft riots in New York.

Archbishop John Hughes is also responsible for starting the project, raising the first monies and laying the cornerstone for St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York — where Pope Benedict XVI celebrated Catholic Mass this week end.

View of the cathedral from Rockefeller Center.

St. Patrick’s Cathedral, New York
.
By the time of the Civil War, “Dagger” John Hughes was nearing the end of his influence and his life. He earned the nickname “Dagger” for two reasons: first, he signed his name to include a small cross, often confused for a dagger. Second: Hughes’ hard-nosed style and ability to toughly face difficult challenges earned him the reputation as the “Dagger” of the Irish community in New York.After the Civil War began in 1861, Lincoln desperately needed to keep up a dialogue of understanding with European monarchs. Lincoln wanted to keep European nations from assisting the Confederacy. Lincoln wanted a Catholic of stature to assist him in dealing with the Catholic leaders in Europe. He chose Dagger John Hughes.

Lincoln paired Hughes with Thurlow Weed to head the mission to Europe.

Harper’s Weekly reported on November 23, 1861 that “Mr. Weed [and Archbishop Hughes] left this port [New York] on Saturday last for Europe. He states himself that he goes on private business; the public, however, will be apt to suspect that his private business concerns the public interest. If the suspicion be correct, we may feel assured that our affairs will suffer no mischance in his hands. Few men in the country are such true patriots as Thurlow Weed.”


Archbishop John Hughes

European leaders wanted a divided nation on the American continent. In September 1861, England’s former Colonial secretary Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton stated that a permanent division of the United States would benefit the “safety of Europe.” A truly united United States “hung over Europe like a gathering and destructive thundercloud … [but] as America shall become subdivided into separate states … her ambition would be less formidable for the rest of the world.”

“Dagger” John understood his mission and President Lincoln’s concerns: even though he harbored no animosity toward the Confederacy. “My mission was and is a mission of peace between France and England on the one side, and the United States on the other. ….I made it known to the President that if I should come to Europe it would not be as a partisan of the North more than of the South; that I should represent the interests of the South as well as of the North; in short, the interests of all the United States just the same as if they had not been distracted by the present civil war. The people of the South know that I am not opposed to their interests.”

While Weed headed to London to apply his tact and persuasion on members of Queen Victoria’s government, Dagger John went to France to call upon Napoleon III.

Historian Dean B. Mahin wrote that “Napoleon thought an independent Confederacy would provide a buffer between royalist Mexico and the republican United States.”

Even so, Hughes convinced the monarch to avoid involvement in the American conflict.

Then Hughes went to Italy on two missions. The first mission involved convincing the Vatican to keep out of the conflict. Hughes’ second mission was to persuade Irishmen serving as mercenaries in the Army of the Vatican to join their Irish immigrant countrymen in America and fight for the Union.

Hughes accomplished both missions. The Catholic Pope stayed out of the war, despite intense pressure and diplomatic maneuvering from the Confederacy. Jefferson Davis sent Bishop Patrick Lynch of Charleston to the Vatican in 1861 and Father John Bannon in 1864. Nether could change the neutrality of the influential Pontiff.

In Rome, Hughes also met with leading and influential Irish mercenaries, including Miles Keogh and John Coppinger. Both agreed to join the Union cause and both persuaded others to join them.

A short time later General George McClellan described Keogh as “a most gentlemanlike man, of soldierly appearance,” whose “record had been remarkable for the short time he had been in the army.”

Keogh would serve in many engagements of the Civil War and die alongside George Armstrong Custer at the Little Big Horn on June 25, 1876.

Bishop Hughes recruit John J. Coppinger also served with Custer. During the Civil War, General Custer wrote that Coppinger’s “ability as an officer is of the highest order. … As a soldier I consider him a model.”

Coppinger was still serving the United States during the Spanish-American War of 1898 when he was promoted to Major-General of Volunteers.

Hughes remained on his diplomatic mission in Europe until the summer of 1862.

Dagger John’s final, but perhaps most significant, contribution to the Union cause came during New York’s draft riots of July 1863.

The Irish, most of whom were Catholics, hated the Union Army draft. Most Irishmen lacked the funds to buy their way out of service, the way more wealthy men did throughout the war. The Irish also avidly read newspapers recounting the valor of the Irish Brigade and other units. But Irish losses appalled them — and seemed disproportionate to the losses of non-Irish units. Irish boys made up about 15 percent of the Union army – and they were dying in droves.

The Irish had also reacted badly to Lincoln’s January Emancipation Proclamation. The Irish, arguably members of the lowest echelon of free American society, believed Lincoln’s emancipation of the slaves only added another large population to their small niche of society.

So when Lincoln called a draft of even more men, the Irish went wild.

The New York Times reported that, “It seemed to be an understood thing that the negroes should be attacked wherever found.” An orphanage was burned to the ground, stores were ransacked and dozens of police officers were killed or injured.

In three days of mayhem and unrest, 443 people were arrested, 128 wounded, and over 50 people dead. The rioters also burned down more than 100 buildings and damaged about 200 others. Many of the killed and wounded were free Black men. were killed. Irishmen were largely responsible for the rioting.

“In New York no one had to ask who ruled the Church,” explained Professor Jay P. Dolan of the University of Notre Dame in his book “The Immigrant Church: New York’s Irish and German Catholics, 1815-1865.”

“John Hughes was boss….He ruled like an Irish chieftain,” wrote Professor Dolan. A newspaper reporter of the time wrote that Archbishop Hughes was “more a Roman gladiator than a devout follower of the meek founder of Christianity.”

But Hughes and the Irish did not rule all New York. New York was rued by Protestants, who winked at the unruliness of the Irish Catholics. The historian E.P. Spann called New York City in the mid-19th century “the capital of Protestant America.” Protestant leadership, said Spann, “made no secret of their belief that Roman Catholicism was alien and inferior.” Though not condoning the riot, the Protestant leadership of New York largely considered the disorder “a Catholic problem.”

Hughes left his death bed to appeal to the Irish, their honor and their pride. Hughes challenged the Irish leaders with the words, “no blood of innocent martyrs, shed by Irish Catholics, has ever stained the soil of Ireland.” Thus Archbishop Hughes convinced the Irish to end the rioting and peace was restored in New York.

President Lincoln wrote that “having formed the Archbishop’s acquaintance in the earliest days of our country’s present troubles, his counsel and advice were gladly sought and continually received by the Government on those points which his position enabled him better than others to consider. At a conjuncture of deep interest to the country, the Archbishop, associated with others, went abroad, and did the nation a service there with all the loyalty, fidelity and practical wisdom which on so many other occasions illustrated his great ability for administration.”

Dagger John Hughes proved himself a formidable force in an era when a fighting bishop was needed. When the Vatican nuncio, Archbishop Bedini, asked an American priest to explain why people in America held Archbishop Hughes in such esteem, the answer was: “It is because he is always game.”

Dagger John Hughes: Lincoln emissary and leader of American Irishmen died in New York on January 3, 1864.

John Hughes is also the one man most responsible for the building of the St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
.
Catholics have made a very long and indelible contribution to the history of North, South and Central America.  It is appropriate at the time of Pope Benedict’s visit to recall Archbishop John Hughes.
****
Mr. Carey is president of International Defense Consultants, Inc.  He writes for the Washington Times.

Pope Benedict XVI waves before leaving Saint Joseph Seminary ... .
Pope Benedict XVI

Pope Benedict XVI holds a Mass at Nationals Park in Washington ... 
From

REUTERS/Jim Bourg 

Pope Benedict XVI passes St. Patrick's Cathedral in New ... 
.
Pope Benedict XVI passes St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York while riding up 5th Avenue in the Popemobile following a Mass at the Catherdral April 19, 2008.REUTERS/Mike Segar 
  

 
 
 

 

 

Consequences of Speedy Withdrawal From Iraq?

March 31, 2008

By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
March 31, 2008

Every time I hear someone like Barack Obama talk about an immediate removal of American troops from Iraq, I say to myself: “you will condemn unknown millions to death and torture.”Even former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski believes a speedy U.S. troop removal will be a good thing.  And he said he supports Mr. Obama.

Writing in the Washington Post yesterday (March 30, 2008), Mr. Brzinski said, “The contrast between the Democratic argument for ending the war and the Republican argument for continuing is sharp and dramatic. The case for terminating the war is based on its prohibitive and tangible costs, while the case for ‘staying the course’ draws heavily on shadowy fears of the unknown and relies on worst-case scenarios. President Bush’s and Sen. John McCain’s forecasts of regional catastrophe are quite reminiscent of the predictions of ‘falling dominoes’ that were used to justify continued U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Neither has provided any real evidence that ending the war would mean disaster, but their fear-mongering makes prolonging it easier.”

Ironically, many of the same liberals who demand an immediate withdrawal of American troops from Iraq are the same ones who believe they are great protectors of human rights and also suffer from the dream that America’s withdrawal from Vietnam was justified and made Southeast Asia a better place.

The truth is: America’s departure from Vietnam meant death, torture and imprisonment for millions of Vietnamese and Cambodians. Both contries became communist — which is hardly a good thing. 

In my view, America’s withdrawal from Vietnam was the biggest tragedy of American foreign policy during the last century. America’s withdrawal from Vietnam is a gigantic black mark on America’s history.

Yesterday, Dith Pran died. Dith Pran is the person who called the carnage in Cambodia after America left Vietnam “The Killing Fields.”

Mr. Max Boot, writing in today’s Washington Post said, “Why am I not reassured by Zbigniew Brzezinski’s breezy assurance in Sunday’s Outlook section that ‘forecasts of regional catastrophe’ after an American pullout from Iraq are as overblown as similar predictions made prior to our pullout from South Vietnam? Perhaps because the fall of Saigon in 1975 really was a catastrophe. Another domino fell at virtually the same time — Cambodia.”

Mr. Boot continued, “Estimates vary, but a safe bet is that some two million people died in the killing fields of Cambodia. In South Vietnam, the death toll was lower, but hundreds of thousands were consigned to harsh ‘reeducation’ camps where many perished, and hundreds of thousands more risked their lives to flee as ‘boat people.’”

How do I know personally about the carnage of refugees when America departs from a far away war zone? I am married to a former prisoner of communism and a refugee who was born in Vietnam.

Saigon fell to the communists in 1975. My bride made it to America in 1998. She considers herself one of the “lucky ones.”

Just yesterday, as my wife and I were teaching English to Vietnamese-Americans, a man named Chien told me that in 1975 his father was given three days notice by the communists to report for reeducation. He was gone for six years and ten months. When he returned, he had lost nearly half his body weight due to overwork, malnourishment and harsh conditions with no medial care.

Chien’s father considered himself one of the “lucky ones” — because he had seen so many tortured and seen so many deaths.

One of the most degrading and harmful crimes committed against refugees is rape. Pirates, criminals, police, guards, soldiers even sometimes representatives of the United Nations have been known to rape refugees.

The criminal act of rape is not so much a sexual act of gratification, according to psychologists. Instead, in the case of refugees, it is a barbaric act of power, control and forced compliance with any order or directive.

After hearing countless stories of rape and humiliation related to me by Vietnamese refugees and “boat people” who fled communist Vietnam between 1975 and the late 1990s, I thought it might be useful to share some small bits of these stories without using the real names of any of the victims.

May was about 25 years old when she left Saigon and began to run away from communism and toward freedom. She traveled with her family to the sea coast and as a group they paid a broker about $1,000 per person for the privilege of leaving Vietnam by boat.

They transited by sea toward Thailand and freedom but they had never heard about the pirates plying the seas in search of the vulnerable and weak.

May’s entire family and everyone else in her boat suffered the horrible fate of being descended upon by armed pirates. Four Vietnamese men were killed in the attack and two more were slaughtered because they did not react quickly enough to the orders of the pirates. One man was beheaded by the pirates in front of the horrified refugee women and children.

May and all the other women in the boat were raped repeatedly. But, because she was one of the youngest and most beautiful women in the boat, May was singled out for special humiliation, abuse and torture. Her arms were tied so each spread out parallel to the deck and away from her torso. The lines were knotted painfully tight so that she could not move. She looked like someone subjected to crucifixion. Then her ankles were bound and tied so that her legs were apart. More than 22 men had they way with May before she lost consciousness.

When she regained the ability to think, she felt unbearable pain and shame and embarrassment. He own mother cut her down after the pirates left and tended to her bleeding.

When this refugee boat made landfall in Thailand, every woman was “rinsed out” without her own consent or authorization. The Thais didn’t want any pregnant refugees on their hands.

“And the cost of entering Thailand and the cost of entering the refugee camp was rape,” a Vietnamese American woman told us.

“My sister was raped 13 times,” she said.

“Many of my relatives disappeared. We are sure they must have been killed.”May wound up in the infamous Thai refugee center called “Sikhiew Camp.” She estimated that in her two year stay there she was raped about 60 more times.

Another Vietnamese woman named Suan told me a heartening story about the value of human life.

Like May, Suan was raped on the boat trip from Vietnam to Thailand. When she debarked from the boat in Thailand and saw the women being rinsed out, she faked an illness and refused the procedure. For some reason the Thai police sent her on her way to the refugee camp.

A few months later Suan realized that she was pregnant. All of her relatives and friends told her to abort the baby – and an old woman said she knew how to carry out the procedure as painlessly as possible.

Suan, a Roman Catholic who believed abortion to be a sin, prayed for two weeks for guidance. Then she told her mother she would need help having “her baby.”

Suan gave birth to a baby boy while in the refugee center. Today he is an American citizen who is a policeman in New England.

Suan’s decision to have her baby — a baby forced upon her by a man she didn’t know and didn’t love — turned out to be a good one. A real lesson in the value of human life and our ability to overcome hardship.

So when I hear people talk about quickly pulling American troops out of Iraq without discussing the implications for so many in that region who will then be at risk, I think about the refugees and their hardship. I live among them every day.

I live among the “lucky ones,” because millions died and we’ll never know how many.

Related:
Zbigniew Brzezinski’s Plan to End Iraq War

How Not to End the War
By Max Boot

‘Killing Fields’ survivor Dith Pran dies

Disaster of Hasty Withdrawal
By Henry Kissinger

Vietnam After the Fall of Saigon: 1975 Until Present

The Fall of Saigon: 1975 (Part II)

The Fall of Saigon: 1975 (Part I)

Thailand’s Criminal Abuse of Refugees: a Shameful 30+ Year Saga

Blair family had many historic roles

March 21, 2008

By John E. Carey
The Washington Times
February 23, 2008

One family participated in many historic and breathtaking moments of the Civil War. Its members helped Abraham Lincoln get elected twice to the presidency. On behalf of Lincoln, the elder statesman of the family apparently offered command of the Union Army to Robert E. Lee in 1861.

In 1865, that same Washington elder statesman tried to negotiate a peace settlement with his longtime friend Jefferson Davis.

One son served in Lincoln’s Cabinet, had his house burned to the ground by Gen. Jubal Early’s Confederate forces and resigned his high government post in a sort of political trade.
Another son served in Congress, became a general in the Union Army and then a senator after the war and led a life of brawling adventure.

Jubal Early

The family name still causes tourists to stop in awe and respect just one block from the White House, inside the nation’s Capitol and in front of a handsome bust in Vicksburg, Miss.

The Blairs of Virginia, Kentucky, Missouri, Maryland and the District of Columbia played a uniquely influential role in American politics from the time Francis P. Blair Sr. became involved in the financial Panic of 1819 until the end of son Frank Blair’s Senate term in 1873.
.
Francis P. Blair Sr.
.
Francis Preston Blair Sr. (1791-1876) began a long and distinguished career of semigovernment service and influence during the 1819 crisis. He led the Relief Party and became an influential writer of newspaper opinion pieces on politics.
Montgomery Blair

His articles and support for Andrew Jackson so impressed the new president that Jackson urged Blair to move from Kentucky to Washington to become a full-time newspaperman.

In 1830, Blair established the Washington Globe, a party organ, and also published the Congressional Globe. He gained national importance as a political journalist and ran the printing business for Congress. However, he is remembered best as the leader of Andrew Jackson’s “kitchen cabinet.

Blair’s business partner, John Rives, described Blair as 85 pounds of bones and 22 pounds of “gristle, nerve and brain.”
 

Blair continued to run and edit his newspaper throughout the presidencies of Jackson and Martin Van Buren. When James K. Polk was elected president in 1844, Blair excused himself from the newspaper business but not from his role as an influencer of government policy. He traveled all the way to Jackson’s home, the Hermitage, in Tennessee to visit the former president.
 

Blair supported John C. Fremont’s 1856 Republican presidential nomination even after he “retired” to his 20-room mansion, Silver Spring, in Maryland.
John C. Frémont 
John C Fremont

He aided Lincoln from the first days of the crisis between the states, offering a prestigious Union Army position to Robert E. Lee, apparently on the president’s behalf. (Controversy continues.)
 

He also crossed Union lines into the Confederacy more than once on peace missions, using a note Lincoln had written that read: “Allow the bearer; F.P. Blair, Sr., to pass our lines, go South, and return.”

Abraham Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln

President Lincoln was a frequent guest at Blair’s Maryland home, where Blair and his family entertained and persuaded the president.

Montgomery Blair

Montgomery Blair (1813-1883) graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in 1835. He saw action in the Seminole War, established himself as a lawyer and served as mayor of St. Louis (1842-1843).
 

He moved to the nation’s capital in 1852. His family established residence at the town home (now called Blair House) owned by his father on Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House.
 

He was U.S. solicitor in the Court of Claims from 1855 to 1858. He and associate George T. Curtis served as counsel for the plaintiff in the Dred Scott case of 1857. Scott and his wife sued in federal court for their freedom after their master moved them to Missouri, a free territory.
 

Blair and his partner represented Scott before the Supreme Court but lost the case when Justice Roger Taney ruled that a slave’s status did not change when he moved from territory to territory. Taney held that Dred Scott, a slave, was property. Thus, Scott was not a man and had no standing in federal court.
 

A fervent opponent of slavery, Montgomery Blair joined the new Republican Party. He became an ardent supporter of Abraham Lincoln for president.

In 1861, Lincoln appointed him postmaster general, but Blair’s influence far exceeded the standard definition of that office.
 

Modern observers would find it difficult to understand the importance of the postmaster in 1860. One line in Lincoln’s first inaugural address indicated the importance of the mail in those days. Faced with secession, Lincoln asserted: “The mails, unless repelled, will continue to be furnished in all parts of the Union.”
 

Described as the most learned man in Lincoln’s Cabinet, Blair is credited by most with founding the Universal Postal Union, an international agreement that standardized postal rates and services. He also originated prepaid postage, free mail delivery in cities, money orders, and postal railroad cars.
 

House burned
 

Montgomery Blair became a key Lincoln confidant and leader of Lincoln’s kitchen cabinet. In 1861, he was the only Cabinet member who urged Lincoln to reinforce Fort Sumter, a subject far afield of his duties as postmaster. During the war, Montgomery Blair and his father frequently had the president’s ear.
 

When Gen. Jubal Early and his Confederate army invaded the North to pressure Washington in 1864, his troops sacked and burned Falkland, Montgomery Blair’s rural retreat in what is now Silver Spring.
 

Early recalled the day this way: “[W]hen in front of Washington some of my troops were very determined to destroy the house of Mr. Francis P. Blair and had actually removed some furniture, probably supposing it to belong to his son, a member of the Federal Cabinet. As soon as I came up, I immediately stopped the proceeding and compelled the men to return every article so far as I knew, and placed a guard to protect it. The house of his son, Montgomery Blair, a member of the Cabinet, was subjected to a different rule for obvious reasons.”
 

Letter from Lincoln
 

In May 1864, a convention of Radical Republicans selected John C. “Pathfinder” Fremont as their candidate for president. Fremont accepted the nomination and told the audience: “Today we have in this country the abuses of a military dictation without its unity of action and vigor of execution.” Lincoln wanted Fremont out of the race.
 

Fremont demanded the resignation of the man who had urged Lincoln to make Fremont a general earlier in the war, Montgomery Blair, who was disliked by Radical Republicans.
 

On Sept. 22, 1864, Fremont withdrew from the contest. On Sept. 23, 1864, President Lincoln sent the following letter to Montgomery Blair:
 

“My Dear Sir: You have generously said to me more than once, that whenever your resignation could be a relief to me, it was at my disposal. The time has come. You very well know that this proceeds from no dissatisfaction of mine with you personally or officially. Your uniform kindness has been unsurpassed by that of any friend; and, while it is true that the war does not so greatly add to the difficulties of your Department, as to those of some others, it is yet much to say, as I most truly can, that in the three years and a half during which you have administered the General Post-Office, I remember no single complaint against you in connection therewith.”
 

After the Civil War, Montgomery Blair rebuilt Falkland, which Early’s raiders had burned. He became active in Maryland politics and practiced law with his son, Woodbury. After Montgomery Blair died, Woodbury continued the law practice with his brothers Gist and Montgomery Jr.
 

Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring is named for him.
 

Frank Blair
 

Francis P. Blair Jr. (1821-1875), the younger of Francis P. Blair Sr.’s two sons, was commonly known as Frank.

A lawyer, Civil War general, attorney general of the Territory of New Mexico, member of the Missouri Legislature and the U.S. House of Representatives, he spent his final time in public life in the U.S. Senate.
Francis Preston Blair, Jr. 

He probably drank too much alcohol, used too much tobacco and too quickly let his anger get the best of him. Yet he was a Lincoln man, a dedicated Union man and perhaps the best of Lincoln’s politically appointed generals.
 

Frank Blair certainly earned the right to be called the most colorful of the amazing Blairs. He exhibited his rambunctious nature at college. A professor at Yale said Frank gave him more trouble than all the other scholars combined. Frank also attended the University of North Carolina before ending up at Princeton.
 

Colonization
 

Although Frank, like the other Blairs, supported Lincoln and decried slavery, he was a bigot and owned slaves himself. When his brother Montgomery moved to Washington, taking Frank’s favorite slave, Nancy, Frank griped, “It is indispensable comfort to have a neat servant, particularly in this region of dirt and coal dust.”
 

As a member of the House of Representatives, Frank Blair generally defended Lincoln’s policies. Nevertheless, the Blairs and the president were not in complete agreement on the question of slavery. Every man in the Blair family, it seemed, favored separation of the races through the colonization of American blacks abroad.
 

On April 12, 1862, the day after slavery was abolished in Washington, Frank Blair said on the House floor that Liberia had “failed to attract the freed negro population in any considerable numbers” but stated his support for Negro colonization in Central America. “There is a vast difference,” he said, “between the idea of being colonized on our own continent, under our own flag, and being buried in Africa.”
 

Blair hoped colonization would serve to avoid present and future racial disharmony.
 

He also believed colonization might disrupt the political power of slaveholders in the South. Blair said, “We can make emancipation acceptable to the whole mass of non-slave-holders at the South by coupling it with the policy of colonization. The very prejudice of race which now makes the non-slaveholders give their aid to hold the slave in bondage will induce them to unite in a policy which will rid them of the presence of negroes.”
 

Blair pushed a bill through the House that authorized the president to spend $100,000 for colonizing the freedmen of the District.
 

A warrior
 

The Blair family made several efforts to persuade Lincoln to make Frank a general, but at first the president put them off. Finally, in the autumn of 1862, after Frank had raised five regiments of troops and said he hoped to raise two or three more, the president made Blair a general in the Union Army.
 

Despite much newspaper criticism, Frank Blair proved himself one of the better political generals. A very capable and fearless leader at Vicksburg, he gained Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s notice and praise. “There was no man braver than he,” Grant wrote of Blair. “No man obeyed all orders of his superiors in rank with more unquestioning alacrity.”
 

Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant

After a shaky start, Blair also established a lifelong mutual respect with Gen. William T. Sherman. The men served together during the campaigns for Vicksburg and Atlanta, and Blair commanded the 17th Corps during the March to the Sea. When newspapers criticized Blair as a political general, Sherman said Blair was “brave, cool and of ability.”
 

Franc B. Wilkie, a reporter for the New York Times, described Frank Blair this way: “He was a most interesting man in every respect. … He was versatile, doing everything well, from leading a charge to uncorking a bottle, and in all instances characterized by a calm, dispassionate manner. … Beneath all his outward calmness he had a tremendous force — a fact demonstrated by the momentum with which he threw his columns against the bristling, deadly heights of Chickasaw Bayou.”
 

A bust of Frank Blair causes visitors to marvel at Vicksburg. A statue of him campaigning in St. Louis entertains tourists in Missouri. Both were created with family money. In Statuary Hall within the U.S. Capitol, Frank Blair’s larger-than-life statue represents his state of Missouri along with a statue of Thomas Hart Benton.
 

The term “larger than life” perfectly describes the Blair family.

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

Congratulations to American College Students: You Win!

September 19, 2007

By John E. Carey
Peace and Freedom
September 19, 2007

Yesterday, September 18, 2007, was Constitution Day in the United States. As far as we can tell, nobody noticed. Except maybe the Washington Times’ editorial page editor Joel Himelfarb who started his editorial this way: “It is an honor and privilege to live in the United States, the greatest country in the world.”

Why does Mr. Himelfarb believe that do you think?

Because the rights and freedoms of every American are protected by the Constitution; the document that is the foundation of all our laws, government and society.

I scoured the newspapers this morning looking for a story, at least one story, that showed some group or segment of our busy American people honoring Constitution Day. What I found instead was this: American college students, even at Harvard University, are among the most ignorant college student in the world on the subjects of history, world events, their own government and their own constitution.

The Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) as part of the American Civic Literacy Program surveyed American college student and found this result: in four major subject areas (American history, government, world relations and the market economy).

Students surveyed from 50 colleges averaged a failing grade of 54.2 percent on the 60-question test, and even seniors at Harvard University, the highest scorers, achieved a meager 69 percent average, a D-plus on most grading scales.

Congratulations American college student; you have excelled beyond expectation in …. ignorance.

Here’s an example: American college students were asked to identify, in a multiple choice format, the source document of the following words: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”  The students chose the Communist Manifesto.  The words come from the Declaration of Independence: one of the most important documents in the history of the United States.

Congratulations, students, you just gave the communist world credit for your most sacred legacy.

So, we submit, history might be of some importance.

Why should we care about history, civics and Constitution Day? Well, I do not pretend to know the answer, not being a college educator, but here are a few ideas.

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

Boorstin, lawyer, head of the library of Congress for 12 years, faculty member of the University of Chicago for 25 years, wrote more than 20 books. His famous trilogy on the American experience gave us deep lessons into who we are as Americans.Boorstin’s death, coupled simultaneously with speechless students confronted with the simplest historical question, leads one to wonder: “why do we study history?”

History, especially 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. Understanding who gained those 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, Gettysburg, and “I have a dream.” Our history is the Emancipation Proclamation, Bill of Rights, and our Constitution.

Our history is our culture. Our focus upon “Ben and Jen,” Janet Jackson, “Lord of the Rings,” is fleeting, largely meaningless debris. The two biggest stories in American media on Constitution Day, 2007, as far as I could tell, were O. J. and Britney Spears.

The liberties gained by our history allow us a free Hollywood entertainment machine. But you can’t learn history from Michael Moore and Oliver Stone.

Our history separates us from the rest of the world and, at the same time, unites us to people everywhere who long to live free in a land with rights, courts that function and police governed by proven laws and legal precedents. Reading and learning our history teaches us to appreciate America’s place in the world.

Our history is the struggle of man, wars, sacrifices, torture, anguish and great joy and achievement. It is thrilling, heartbreaking and often amusing at the same time. The “why did that happen” and “what was gained” is often more important than the event alone.

Our history teaches us that men find some things worthy of their blood, their anguish, even their own death.Our history keeps our debates honest. Is Iraq really “Another Vietnam” as so many pundits have claimed? We cannot know (and they may get away with misrepresentations) unless we understand our history. So history makes us more informed as voters, which is very good, maybe even essential, for the health of our Democracy.

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?

History makes us appreciate what it means to be an American.

Ken Burns, who made the Civil War video series, has just completed a new series on World War II.  Says Burns, “We are losing 1,000 veterans a day in the United States. We are losing among our fathers and our grandfathers a direct connection to an oral history of that unusually reticent generation. And that if we, the inheritors of the world they struggled so hard to create for us, didn’t hear them out, we’d be guilty of a historical amnesia too irresponsible to countenance. ”

He says the death of every veteran “is like a library burning down.  You lose all their stories.”

Our history makes us read. But don’t read your kids’ history textbooks. They are often politically correct collections of fact 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.

FDR, George Washington, Lincoln and many, many more standout in our history. These men inspire us, encourage us and teach us (and our children).

And it is not just the well-known headliners who cause us to work harder and live better lives. Henry V. Plummer inspires me. A slave who escaped to enlist in the U.S. Navy, he served in many battles during the Civil War, then became a minister and served a congregation. When he read about the Buffalo Soldiers, he traveled west and became their chaplain. To find such men, you almost always have to read history.

Our American history is the thread that slowly becomes, over the years, a bond that ties us together as Americans. Our history encompasses our liberties, our values, our sense of nation.

Historian David McCullough said last year, “Something is eating away at the national memory, and a nation or a community or a people can suffer as much from the adverse effects of amnesia as can an individual.”

The state of our national understanding of history is suffering, thus causing a concomitant negative impact on our Democracy. Maybe it’s time to read some history and share the joys with our children.We study our history because it is a collection of inspiring life-lessons filled with great men who gave us the meaning of our Democracy.

Post script: My wife was born in Vietnam in 1955, less than a full year after the communists forced her family to move from the north to the south after the French were ejected from Vietnam. Until 1998, she lived her entire life in war, as a prisoner of the communists, as a refugee or as a detainee. She doesn’t feel sorry for herself but she sure appreciates the freedoms and goodness of America.

American History: Diary of a Civil War Marine

September 15, 2007

By John E. Carey
First Published August 19, 2006
For The Washington Times

I have read and reported upon five or six Civil War journals and diaries over the course of the last ten years for The Washington Times and this is by far the best.

The newly released “note-book” or diary of Marine Henry O. Gusley (The Southern Journey of a Civil War Marine: The Illustrated Note-Book of Henry O. GusleyEdited and Annotated by Edward T. Cotham Jr., Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press, March 2006, 223 pp. $24.95.ISBN: 0-292-71283-9) is a wonderment for several reasons. First, Gusley proves a remarkably colorful, humorous and articulate story teller and observer of naval operations in the Gulf of Mexico in 1862-3. There are no diaries or memoirs quite as good as this.
Second, the editor of this “note-book,” Edward T. Cotham, combines Gusley’s book with the drawings of another keen observer in the same U.S. Navy Mortar Squadron, Dr.Daniel D. T. Nestell, and Acting Assistant Surgeon in the West Gulf Blockading Squadron.

To paraphrase the editor, if Gusley supplies the sound track and very colorful narration of navy operations in the Gulf of Mexico, Dr. Nestell provides the video tape.

And then there is the wonderful contribution of the editor himself, Edward T. Cotham Jr., who gives us a terrific forward and overview with context, and then follows-up with detailed notes. If most readers are like me, they rarely read the end or footnotes. This time you will want to.

The United States Marine Corps is the forgotten service of the Civil War. More than overlooked, many Civil War historians and enthusiasts don’t even know that the Marines served.

Henry O. Gusley fully covers shipboard life; the armaments, capabilities and limitations of his vessels; the social aspects of the war including emancipation; the duties of a U.S. Marine at sea during the Civil War; and at-sea operations.

Gusley participated in so many sustained shore bombardments of Confederate forts and concentrations that he was already losing his hearing at the end of the war. Although he participated in numerous operations, including against New Orleans, Vicksburg, Mobile, and Galveston; his book gives one of the few Union Navy first-hand accounts of the terrible defeat at the hands of the Confederates at Sabine Pass, Texas, on September 8, 1863. Gusley was captured in this engagement.

Still, Gusley recorded just after the Sabine Pass engagement, “We have been in several battles since our enlistment, but never have we been in one where we saw displayed so much coolness and calm courage. From the captain to the powder boys, without exception, everyone stood by his quarters until we were compelled to strike our flag.

On July 5, 1863, just after Grant’s victory at Vicksburg and Lee’s loss at Gettysburg, while in the Gulf of Mexico and unaware of either outcome, Gusley wrote, “The ‘Glorious Fourth’ passed…We flew four flags instead of one in honor of the day: we fired a salute of twenty-one guns at noon, and all hands were dressed in white….”

After recording the Fourth of July gun salute, Gusley adds, “The rebels…did not, of course.” Later that day Gusly tells us the squadron got “the latest rebel news that ‘General Lee has taken Pennsylvania!’”

Only weeks later did the Union Navy in the gulf learn the true successes of Union forces in early July, 1863.

Among Gusley many eyewitness accounts and reflections on his duties this is included on April 1, 1863: “One of our steamers, the [USS] Diana, had been captured by the rebels….with the greater part of her crew killed….The bodies of her captain and executive officer had been recovered and were to be buried that afternoon. It being a military funeral, the marines and sailors of the [USS] Clifton …for the first time in our life we took part in a soldier’s burial. The marines acted as guard of honor. We buried them in a beautiful orange grove, close by the town. ‘May they rest in peace.’”

Gusley also tells us about the steady dwindling of diversions and distractions at sea, including the elimination of the rum ration and running out of tobacco.

“We…organized a band of minstrels, and that we have nightly serenades and impromptu dances. Such things serve to make things more pleasant,” wrote Gusley on February 26, 1863. “We love music, however rude, and although not much of a dancer we do sometimes ‘shake a leg.’”

“The Southern Journey of a Civil War Marine: The Illustrated Note-Book of Henry O. Gusley,” Edited and Annotated by Edward T. Cotham Jr., will enthrall most all Civil War enthusiasts. Its appeal transcends regions, North, South, Army and Navy.

John E. Carey is a frequent contributor to the Civil War page.

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.