Archive for the ‘Gettysburg’ Category

America’s First Thanksgiving

November 15, 2007

By John E. Carey
The Washington Times
Thanksgiving, 2006

The first “Official” Thanksgiving in the United States of America was celebrated in 1863. President Lincoln, by proclamation, declared a day of Thanksgiving in the middle of the Civil War!

The original proclamation is in fact dated October 3, 1863. Just a few months before, on July 1-3, 1863, the Union and Confederate Armies had clashed at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. During those three days 3,155 Union soldiers were killed and between 2,600 and 4,500 Confederate soldiers were killed. But they were all Americans.

The total of the killed, wounded and missing during those three days for the Union side was 23,040. The Confederate estimate is between 20,650 and 25,000.

The outcome of the Civil War was by no means clear in October, 1863. We still could have finished the conflict with two separate nations on the North American continent: instead of one United States.

Despite Union victories at Vicksburg and Gettysburg in July, 1863, the nation still had 22 months of bloody Civil War ahead of it. At the end of the Civil War the nation had suffered approximately 630,000 deaths and over 1 million total casualties.

But President Lincoln and his cabinet discussed the situation in the country frequently and they came to several conclusions. Despite the tremendous loss of life and destruction, the population was indeed on the rise. The fields in the north were producing prodigious amounts of food. The mines were producing more coal, iron and precious metals than ever before. The cabinet officers wanted the President of the United States to remind the people to thank God for His blessings!

Amid all this suffering of the Civil War the President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, ordered a Day of Thanksgiving in this Proclamation:

“By the President of the United States of America. A Proclamation. The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy.

It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed. Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth. By the President:

Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,Secretary of State

According to an April 1, 1864 letter from John Nicolay, one of President Lincoln’s secretaries, this document was written by Secretary of State William Seward, and the original was in his handwriting. Lincoln’s Secretary of the Navy wrote in his diary on October 3, 1863 that he had complimented Secretary Seward on his brilliant writing.

Related:
Our Nation: Based Upon God, Not Fiction

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.

From Newt Gingrich: Don’t Legislate Defeat; Work Toward Victory

September 7, 2007

September 7, 2007

Dear Friend,

Next Monday, I will give a speech at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) marking six years since 9/11 and outlining the larger war we should have been waging in order to defeat our terrorist enemies on a worldwide basis.

My speech at AEI is designed to make the case for a larger and more productive dialogue about what we need to accomplish in the Real War we’re engaged in — not only in Iraq and Afghanistan but also in dealing with our enemies on a larger strategic scale, including Iran, Syria, al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas and the worldwide forces of terrorism that want to destroy our civilization and eliminate our freedoms.
The reason I am speaking out is simple: We need a war-winning option, and today we do not have such an option.

Read it all at:
http://extendedremarks.blogspot.com/

Related:
Newt Gingrich For President

Excellent Gingrich Speech, National Press Club, Aug. 7, 2007

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.