Archive for the ‘dead’ Category

“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.”

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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

Paul Newman, actor who personified cool, dies

September 27, 2008

By JOHN CHRISTOFERSON, Associated Press Writer

WESTPORT, Conn. – Paul Newman, the Oscar-winning superstar who personified cool as the anti-hero of such films as “Hud,” “Cool Hand Luke” and “The Color of Money” — followed by a second act as an activist, race car driver and popcorn impresario — has died. He was 83.

Newman died Friday at his farmhouse near Westport following a long battle with cancer, publicist Jeff Sanderson said. He was surrounded by his family and close friends.

File photo shows Actor Paul Newman is on 'The Tonight Show,' in Burbank, California April 8, 2005. (Jim Ruymen REUTERS/Reuters)

Reuters Photo: File photo shows Actor Paul Newman is on ‘The Tonight Show,’ in Burbank, California

In May, Newman dropped plans to direct a fall production of “Of Mice and Men” at Connecticut’s Westport Country Playhouse, citing unspecified health issues. The following month, a friend disclosed that he was being treated for cancer and Martha Stewart, also a friend, posted photos on her Web site of Newman looking gaunt at a charity luncheon.

But true to his fiercely private nature, Newman remained cagey about his condition, reacting to reports that he had lung cancer with a statement saying only that he was “doing nicely.”

As an actor, Newman got his start in theater and on television during the 1950s, and went on to become one of the world’s most enduring and popular film stars, a legend held in awe by his peers. He was nominated for Academy Awards 10 times, winning one Oscar and two honorary ones, and had major roles in more than 50 motion pictures, including “Exodus,” “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “The Verdict,” “The Sting” and “Absence of Malice.”

Newman worked with some of the greatest directors of the past half century, from Alfred Hitchcock and John Huston to Robert Altman, Martin Scorsese and the Coen brothers. His co-stars included Elizabeth Taylor, Lauren Bacall, Tom Cruise, Tom Hanks and, most famously, Robert Redford, his sidekick in “Butch Cassidy” and “The Sting.”

He sometimes teamed with his wife and fellow Oscar winner, Joanne Woodward, with whom he had one of Hollywood‘s rare long-term marriages. “I have steak at home, why go out for hamburger?” Newman told Playboy magazine when asked if he was tempted to stray. They wed in 1958, around the same time they both appeared in “The Long Hot Summer.” Newman also directed her in several films, including “Rachel, Rachel” and “The Glass Menagerie.”

With his strong, classically handsome face and piercing blue eyes, Newman was a heartthrob just as likely to play against his looks, becoming a favorite with critics for his convincing portrayals of rebels, tough guys and losers. “I was always a character actor,” he once said. “I just looked like Little Red Riding Hood.”

Newman had a soft spot for underdogs in real life, giving tens of millions to charities through his food company and setting up camps for severely ill children. Passionately opposed to the Vietnam War, and in favor of civil rights, he was so famously liberal that he ended up on President Nixon’s “enemies list,” one of the actor’s proudest achievements, he liked to say.

 

A screen legend by his mid-40s, he waited a long time for his first competitive Oscar, winning in 1987 for “The Color of Money,” a reprise of the role of pool shark “Fast Eddie” Felson, whom Newman portrayed in the 1961 film “The Hustler.”

In that film, Newman delivered a magnetic performance as the smooth-talking, whiskey-chugging pool shark who takes on Minnesota Fats — played by Jackie Gleason — and becomes entangled with a gambler played by George C. Scott. In the sequel — directed by Scorsese — “Fast Eddie” is no longer the high-stakes hustler he once was, but an aging liquor salesman who takes a young pool player (Cruise) under his wing before making a comeback.

He won an honorary Oscar in 1986 “in recognition of his many and memorable compelling screen performances and for his personal integrity and dedication to his craft.” In 1994, he won a third Oscar, the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award, for his charitable work.

His most recent academy nod was a supporting actor nomination for the 2002 film “Road to Perdition.” One of Newman’s nominations was as a producer; the other nine were in acting categories. (Jack Nicholson holds the record among actors for Oscar nominations, with 12; actress Meryl Streep has had 14.)

As he passed his 80th birthday, he remained in demand, winning an Emmy and a Golden Globe for the 2005 HBO drama “Empire Falls” and providing the voice of a crusty 1951 car in the 2006 Disney-Pixar hit, “Cars.”

But in May 2007, he told ABC’s “Good Morning America” he had given up acting, though he intended to remain active in charity projects. “I’m not able to work anymore as an actor at the level I would want to,” he said. “You start to lose your memory, your confidence, your invention. So that’s pretty much a closed book for me.”

Newman also turned to producing and directing. In 1968, he directed “Rachel, Rachel,” a film about a lonely spinster’s rebirth. The movie received four Oscar nominations, including Newman, for producer of a best motion picture, and Woodward, for best actress. The film earned Newman the best director award from the New York Film Critics Circle.

In the 1970s, Newman, admittedly bored with acting, became fascinated with auto racing, a sport he studied when he starred in the 1969 film, “Winning.” After turning professional in 1977, Newman and his driving team made strong showings in several major races, including fifth place in Daytona in 1977 and second place in the Le Mans in 1979.

“Racing is the best way I know to get away from all the rubbish of Hollywood,” he told People magazine in 1979.

Newman later became a car owner and formed a partnership with Carl Haas, starting Newman/Haas Racing in 1983 and joining the CART series. Hiring Mario Andretti as its first driver, the team was an instant success, and throughout the last 26 years, the team — now known as Newman/Haas/Lanigan and part of the IndyCar Series — has won 107 races and eight series championships.

Despite his love of race cars, Newman continued to make movies and continued to pile up Oscar nominations, his looks remarkably intact, his acting becoming more subtle, nothing like the mannered method performances of his early years, when he was sometimes dismissed as a Brando imitator.

In 1995, he was nominated for an Oscar for his slyest, most understated work yet, the town curmudgeon and deadbeat in “Nobody’s Fool.” New York Times critic Caryn James found his acting “without cheap sentiment and self-pity,” and observed, “It says everything about Mr. Newman’s performance, the single best of this year and among the finest he has ever given, that you never stop to wonder how a guy as good-looking as Paul Newman ended up this way.”

Newman, who shunned Hollywood life, was reluctant to give interviews and usually refused to sign autographs because he found the majesty of the act offensive, according to one friend. He also claimed that he never read reviews of his movies.

“If they’re good you get a fat head and if they’re bad you’re depressed for three weeks,” he said.

Off the screen, Newman had a taste for beer and was known for his practical jokes. He once had a Porsche installed in Redford’s hallway — crushed and covered with ribbons.

“I think that my sense of humor is the only thing that keeps me sane,” he told Newsweek magazine in a 1994 interview.

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For A Few Americans; War Means Devastating Loss Of Life

March 9, 2008
By Kimberly Hefling, Associated Press Writer

Laura Youngblood clutched her husband’s photo as she drove alone to the hospital. She’d become pregnant nearly nine months earlier, the day he’d left for training for Iraq. Hours later, after the baby was born, she placed the photo in the bassinet next to the infant he’d named Emma in his last letter home. He would never hold her.

 

Petty Officer 3rd Class Travis L. Youngblood, 26, had died two months earlier, killed by an improvised explosive device.

Laura Youngblood is just 29 years old, but she insists she will not remarry. Her life is her children, now ages 2 and 7. One day, she says, she’ll be buried in the plot with her husband at Arlington National Cemetery.

“I tell people I’m a happily married woman,” she says, crying.

Five years after U.S. troops invaded Iraq, there are many tears — though not everyone is crying. For the great majority of Americans, this is a war seen from afar. They turn off the news and forget about what is happening a world away.

Then there’s the other war, the one that’s a very vivid and present part of some Americans’ lives.

It’s the war that more than a million U.S. soldiers have fought, leaving nearly 4,000 dead and more than 29,000 wounded in action. The one in which thousands of contractors rushed in to serve and to make a buck — though some paid the ultimate price, as well.

Around military bases across America, vacations are planned around deployment schedules. Mini baby booms occur nine months after troops come home. Support groups for widows and injured soldiers have come together.

At small town National Guard armories, the focus has shifted from one weekend a month to filling out life insurance forms and packing a rucksack for war.

“‘How did I end up in this kind of a situation?’ There were a lot of guys that said that,” says Jeff Myers, 48, a tech sergeant in the Pennsylvania Air National Guard from Pillow, Pa. His lips still discharge shrapnel shreds, the residue of two roadside bombs he survived in 2004; a neurologist monitors the concussions he sustained.

In his job as a gunner guarding Army convoys, he saw men so paralyzed by fear they wouldn’t go outside the wire. He saw others die 15 minutes after he was chatting with them.

It’s not a matter of whether you will have to deal with things like irritability and nightmares after you get home, he says: “It’s how you deal with it when it does happen.”

And how you deal with your fellow Americans who experience Iraq from a distance.

Amanda Jordan, whose Marine husband was killed three days into the war, says she doesn’t know what bothers her more — the days that go by when no one speaks of the war, or the punditry. At a local diner she frequents with her 11-year-old son near their home in Enfield, Conn., she’s contemplated standing up and leaving so he doesn’t hear when people say Iraq was unnecessarily invaded.

“This is like my life. You’re saying my spouse, my child’s father, is dead for no reason,” says Jordan, a 39-year-old former paralegal who is studying to be a therapist specializing in grief. “That’s a pretty harsh thing to hear all the time.”

___

Some can tell you exactly when their lives changed.

For Hazel Hoffman, from outside Grand Rapids, Mich., it was when the phone rang and she learned her son, Josh, was shot by a sniper. He was left a quadriplegic, unable to speak.

“I cried so hard that I had tears of blood. I remember looking down wondering, where is all this blood coming from? And it took a few seconds for me to realize this was coming out of me,” says Hoffman, who has lived more than a year in an apartment with her son’s girlfriend near his hospital in Richmond, Va.

Suzanne Stack, 48, was soaking in the bathtub in their house at Fort Campbell, Ky., when the doorbell rang. There were two officers at the door.

Afterward, still numb from the news of her husband’s death, she walked her kids to the school bus. She sensed that people were looking at her fearfully, as if they were afraid they would be next. Even before the funeral, one spouse told her there was a waiting list for post housing. When would she be moving out?

“One day you’re one thing. The next thing you’re not. It’s really quite a shock,” says Stack, of Fredericksburg, Va., who now volunteers as an advocate for widows on Capitol Hill.

Walter Lajuane Williams, 33, of Fremont, Calif., was stoned when his turning point came. He was couch surfing, unemployed and in an abusive relationship after he left the Army, which took him to Iraq and Afghanistan. Even his service was criticized: “I had a person tell me, `How could you kill another person?'”

He went to the nonprofit Swords to Plowshares, looking for help finding work. A caseworker, wise to his drug use, took him aside. “I’m going to tell you candidly how I feel and what I smell,” he said. “I’m going to work with you. Don’t make me regret it.”

Williams now helps other vets find jobs.

“All we need is a chance,” Williams says.

___

Recently, an Iraq veteran came to Daniel Fox’s office and asked to take a screening exam for post-traumatic stress disorder a second time. He’d lied the first time, he said.

“When I asked him why he wasn’t honest, he said because I had just gotten home and everybody’s like saying, ‘Welcome home hero,'” Fox says. “And how could he tell him that this hero was not doing well?”

Fox, 47, works for the Department of Veterans Affairs as a case manager, assisting Iraq and Afghanistan veterans. For a year, Fox, an Army Reservist, worked as an intensive care nurse at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany; the injured would be airlifted from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Fox and his fellow nurses called themselves the ICU angels on the ICU angels tour. To lighten the mood, they made T-shirts with the slogan. Their bravado just helped mask their intense emotions.

“You had a mom and dad and the new wife with the babies in their arms standing in the door of this patient’s room and he’s got a gunshot wound to the head,” says Fox, of Wichita, Kan. “How do you explain that to them? You can’t console them.”

“After a while, you go home and you cry about it,” he says.

He used to be more macho and unemotional. Today, “I have more sympathy, more compassion,” he says.

Lt. Col. Douglas Etter’s job was sympathy and compassion. Etter, a minister, was a chaplain with the Pennsylvania National Guard in Al Anbar Province; his battalion lost 13 soldiers and two Marines.

He laid his hands on some of the men and delivered last rites. One morning, after he memorialized two of the dead, he says his stoicism dissolved; jogging by the Euphrates River, he cried.

In blunt newsletters home, he chronicled what the troops were seeing and experiencing, from delivering shoes and school supplies to happy Iraqi children to the story of a dead soldier wrapped in a flag by his fellow soldiers in the middle of a firefight because nothing else was available.

“As excited as we are to go home, many are equally afraid,” he wrote in one of his last letters.

When Etter himself returned on leave to Pennsylvania to officiate at the funeral of a close friend, he turned to his wife and said he wanted to go home.

“I said, `OK, get in the car. Let’s go home,'” said Jodi Etter. “And you said, ‘No, my home in Iraq. I just want to go home.'”

When his tour was over, and he went with his wife to buy furniture for their new house in Lebanon, Pa., he had to remind himself that it was important to her — even if it seemed trivial to him after the war. He drove fast, and bought a BMW so he could do it. One day, Jodi pointed out that he was drinking more.

With time, his life settled down, and he came to feel that his months in Iraq were a time of growth. Now executive director of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Veterans Affairs, Etter says a deployment is like a magnifying glass.

“Personalities that are strong become stronger,” he says. “Personalities which are weaker are made to become weaker.”

___

Phil Nesmith came away from Iraq with a certain clarity.

It wasn’t the money that lured him to Iraq, he insists. He was like most of the U.S. troops he was living with at the time — idealistic about the mission.

He had been an Army paratrooper, but now he was among the first group of government contractors to arrive in Iraq after the invasion in 2003. His task was to help get telecommunications running.

At night, rockets flew into their compound. Sometimes they missed and hit apartments nearby, killing Iraqis. On the ground near where he was sleeping, a young officer shot and killed himself.

Violence did not account for all the stress. While he was there, Nesmith says, his relationship with his girlfriend of three years ended and she got pregnant by another man. “Pretty much every other soldier around me, husband, wife, boyfriend, girlfriend, whatever, had left them or they suspected them cheating on them.”

It was hard. “You’ve left your life and you’re wanting to maintain some kind of connection with that, but everything you left behind is continuing on even though your life is kind of suspended while you’re there.”

As he left Iraq, he crossed paths with a contractor who bragged about what he was going to buy with the money he was going to make in Iraq.

“I was just like, well, `You know, everybody’s got their reasons, but I’ve got to ask you this: You lose both your legs, is that $160,000 going to be worth it?'” he says.

By that point, Nesmith says he knew what he wanted, what was important. He wanted to backpack through Australia, visit Montana, and go to photography school.

He did all three.

He had taken pictures in Iraq. Now he took some of those shots and manipulated them to look like they were taken in the Civil War era. They were shown at Washington, D.C.’s Irvine Contemporary Gallery in Washington, D.C., and priced at $1,500 each.

One photo depicts a single soldier standing alone in the desert. It reminds him of his own plight. “I knew I was on my journey back and when I got there I was going to be alone,” Nesmith says. “No one was going to understand what that year was like.”

Another photo, his favorite, is of an Iraqi flag flying outside a government utility office. Some Iraqis had just put it up. It was a time of optimism.

But now, he says, “it just seems like a more naive time, when you thought there was so much more that could possibly happen.”

___

Before Travis Youngblood left for Iraq, he and his wife watched a TV interview with a pregnant woman whose husband had died in Iraq. Laura Youngblood cried.

“I felt so sorry for her,” Youngblood says.

But then, “When my husband died, my first words were, ‘I became her.'”

Today in nearly every room of her Florida house, there’s a photo of her husband.

“It is hard. I feel bad for my son because he’s 7. He doesn’t know how to ride a two-wheel bike. His daddy was going to teach him,” she says. “I can’t do all the boy things that he wants to do.”

She put together videos so her daughter will know the father she never met.

“I’m a survivor of the war. I’m a surviving spouse,” Youngblood says. “That’s the best way I can say it because every day you’re surviving.”

Sean Taylor, 24, Redskin, Dead

November 27, 2007

MIAMI – Washington Redskins safety Sean Taylor died early Tuesday, a day after the Pro Bowl player was shot at home by what police say was an intruder. He was 24.  

Washington Redskins fans stood vigil for Sean Taylor on Monday night at the team’s training complex. Meanwhile, teammates and coaches offered their own prayers for a player that they said had matured beyond the early troubles of his NFL career.

“This is the worst imaginable tragedy,” Redskins owner Daniel Snyder said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Sean’s family.”

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The shooting, called a “deliberate attack” by Redskins vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato was reported to police at 1:46 a.m. Monday by Taylor’s girlfriend. Taylor’s house had been broken into a week earlier.

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Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs talks about Redskins star safety Sean Taylor during a news conference, Monday, Nov. 26, 2007 in Ashburn, Va. Taylor was in critical condition Monday after surgery for a gunshot wound to his leg during what police are investigating as a possible armed robbery at his home. (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

Taylor, 24, the fifth overall pick of the 2004 draft by the Redskins, was airlifted in critical condition to Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital for treatment, police said.The Miami Herald reported that Taylor and other occupants of the house heard intruders at the rear door and that Taylor was shot in the leg, but police said they could not confirm those details.“We’ve yet to determine the circumstances surrounding the shooting,” Miami-Dade Police spokeswoman Kathy Webb said.Miami-Dade police Lt. Nancy Perez, speaking to reporters outside Taylor’s home, said Taylor “was shot in the lower extremities. He was airlifted to Ryder Trauma (center at Jackson Memorial Hospital) in critical condition.”Taylor, a college star with the University of Miami, bought the four-bedroom home in Palmetto Bay, a village just south of Miami, for $900,000 two years ago.Taylor had five interceptions this season but had been sidelined the last two weeks with a leg injury.
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Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder leaves Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center in Miami, Florida, November 26, 2007, after visiting for Washington Redskins football player Sean Taylor who was shot at his home. Taylor, 24, who was the Redskins first pick in the 2004 draft, was airlifted to Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital for treatment and is in critical condition, police said. REUTERS/Hans Deryk (UNITED STATES)