3, 1863: Today is the
third day of battle at Gettysburg, and out of the trees on
Seminary Ridge and across the broad fields will march and
then charge some 15,000 Confederates.
Their intention – the intention of General Lee
– is to break the center of the Union line.
This, “the most celebrated forty minutes in all
of American military history,” however, is not the only
action this day. About
three miles east of Gettysburg, beyond the Confederate
lines and behind the Union lines, is fought a desperate
cavalry battle, which in history has gone down
more-or-less as an afterthought to the Battle of
the Confederates, of course, was the dashing General J. E.
B. Stewart. One
of the Union officers opposing him was the newly promoted
Brigadier General George Armstrong Custer.
Much has been made of Stewart’s part – or lack
of it – in the Battle of Gettysburg; primarily his late
arrival on the 2nd day of battle.
Writings both condemning and supporting Stewart
have discussed his role since almost the moment the last
shot was fired. One
popular source today is Michael Shaara’s Pulitzer Prize
winning novel, The Killer Angels, and its Turner film partner, Gettysburg.
In both the book (remember it is a novel) and
film, General Lee reprimands General Stewart with the
wonderful line, “Without your cavalry we are blind, and
that has happened once but must never happen again.”
We get the impression that Stewart was “joy
riding for glory” and ignoring his true duty.
Then, beyond the late arrival but adding to the
fault, is Stewart’s defeat in the July 3rd cavalry
battle by a force half his size.
What if Stewart had victoriously cleared that
field, and rode on to attack the rear of the Union center
in support of Pickett?
So, what is the reality of all this?
Prior to the battle, Lee spoke to General Isaac
Trimble, one of the generals who led Pickett’s Charge,
saying, “Our army is in good spirits, not overfatigued,
and can be concentrated on any one point in twenty-four
hours…they (the Union army) will come up broken down
with hunger and hard marching, strung out on a long line,
and much demoralized…I will throw an overwhelming force
on their advance, crush it, follow up the success, drive
one corps back upon another…create a panic and virtually
destroy the army.” He
then pointed at Gettysburg on the map predicting a great
battle would be fought thereabouts.
Lee later wrote that not having Stewart was “an
embarrassment,” but Lee knew what was coming.
As to reprimanding Stewart, witnesses said Lee
simply commented to Stewart, “Well, General Stewart, you
are here at last.” It
was a reprimand, but mildly so.
The truth is that General Stewart’s cavalry had
been riding hard; some 210 miles in eight days, often at
night; approximately twenty-six miles per day.
He engaged with the enemy several times, and, in
fact, had to disengage at Carlisle upon learning the
Battle of Gettysburg had commenced. Those eight days came
directly upon the heels of more than two weeks of hard
riding and battle. In
short, Stewart’s cavalry was worn out, and the battle of
July 3rd simply proved it so.
16, 1911: On
this date the Sunday New
York Times published an interview with a gentleman
named Emmanuel Rauch who claimed that as a boy of 10 he
was ringing the Liberty Bell when it cracked.
According to his story, as he and several other
boys were walking through
State House Square
on Washington’s Birthday in 1835, the steeple-keeper,
Major Jack Downing, invited them to ring the bell.
After they had rung the bell about a dozen strokes,
the boys and Major Downing recognized a change in the
bell’s sound. After
stopping the bell, they found a crack over a foot long.
Whether this story is really true is questionable,
but so is the traditional belief that the bell cracked
while tolling the death of John Marshall on July 8, 1835.
At any rate, the Liberty Bell at that time was
actually called the Old State House Bell, and it had
actually cracked the very first time it was rung (1753).
Two local craftsmen,
and John Stow, then recast a new bell using the metal of
the original bell. The
name, Liberty Bell, stems from an 1839 poem published by
abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison published in his
anti-slavery newspaper, The
famous zig-zag crack that ended the use of the Liberty
Bell occurred on Washington’s Birthday in 1846.
Public Ledger stated that “The Old Independence Bell” had been
repaired by having the edges of its previous crack filed
“so as not to vibrate against each other,” and that
with such repair had “gave out clear notes and loud.”
But the newspaper went on to say that about noon it
had “received a sort of compound fracture in a zig-zag
direction…which put it completely out of tune and left
it a mere wreck of what it was.”
Today some 1,500,000 people yearly view the Liberty
29, 1838: The
following newspaper report was printed in The
Brunswick Advocate on August 9, 1838:
Saturday night, last, in the neighborhood of Kettle Creek,
Ware County, and within a very short distance of Okefinoke,
a horrible slaughter occurred in a family named Wildes.
This family consisted of ten persons of whom seven
were killed. Two
children escaped, and one, a boy, was taken prisoner by
the Indians, it is supposed, as he is missing.
One of those who escaped is a boy about twelve
years of age. He
says that just before daybreak the savage yell was raised
at each corner of the house and was followed by a
discharge of rifles. Mr.
Wildes fired his rifle at once at the assailants, then
fled through a back door, but was pursued and shot dead
after going 100 yards.
An indiscriminate slaughter then took place among
the children, all of whom it appears were shot except one,
of 3 or 4 years old, who was found with its brains beaten
out, and the instrument of death (a pine knot) lying close
by with the marks of destruction upon it.
Mrs. Wildes was among the slain.
The boy says this was the work of six Indians.
After the massacre, the house was burned to the
a few miles of this, Maj. Dearborn’s detachment of
Regulars were encamped, and upon first news, marched to
the place, but only arrived to behold the scattered wreck.
Indian attack described in this article was led by Chief
Holata Micco, a Seminole leader commonly called Billy
next day in the same area of
, a second attack killed fourteen members of the John
Davis family. Encroachment
by settlers seeking “free land” had been a constant
source of conflict since the establishment of the Seminole
reservation in 1823. These
two attacks added to a litany of frontier guerilla warfare
in Southern Georgia and Florida and helped lead President
Andrew Jackson into believing right or wrong that the only
solution was removal of the southeastern Indian tribes to
fourteen hundred ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
He had three ships and left from
He sailed through sunshine, wind and rain.
He sailed by night; he sailed by day;
He used the stars to find his way.
so goes the first three stanzas of the old familiar poem;
it was on this date that the Italian-born Columbus set
sail from Spain. On
October 12, 1492, the ships sighted land, probably
went ashore to claim the land for
. The poem
goes on to say of this:
after day they looked for land;
They dreamed of trees and rocks and sand.
October 12 their dream came true,
You never saw a happier crew!
to see land? One
would definitely think so, for the three ships Columbus
piloted across that seemingly unending sea were
questionable for the duty.
’ flagship, was the Santa
was a merchant ship approximately 75 feet long with a 25
foot beam and sat deep in the water.
She was, in fact, a floating tub that
thought ill-designed for exploration.
This proved true as the Santa
Maria was abandoned after she ran aground off
Nina and Pinta
much smaller than the Santa
design was called a caravel, which had a square-rigged
foremast and a triangular or “lateen sail” mainmast.
Caravels were easy to control and their shallow
draft allowed them to sail near shore or into bays and the
mouths of rivers. There
was little extra room on a caravel and the twenty or so
men it took to man them usually slept on deck.
One can only imagine living in such a condition
during a voyage of unknown duration into virtually the
unknown – but on the bright side, it might afford the
opportunity for a fearful crew to see the edge of a flat
earth before plunging off of it.
19, 1812: When
declared war on
(June 18, 1812), the young nation was profoundly ill
was virtually no standing army and the seagoing navy
consisted of just nineteen vessels.
Seven of those vessels, however, were wonderfully
constructed frigates; a handful of the world’s finest
were fast enough to escape from heavily armed
ships-of-the-line, and capable of out-gunning any other
reality was grim, as the Royal Navy possessed more than
600 active war vessels with an availability of 250 more.
On this date some 750 miles east of
, the American 44-gun frigate Constitution
encountered the British 44-gun frigate Guerriere.
Although the number of guns seemed to indicate
an even match, the Constitution
mounted heavier guns.
Yet there was no give in the British frigate, and
at maximum range they opened fire with two full
was negligible, and yet to fire, the Constitution
moved closer. At
75 yards the Guerriere’s
guns raked Constitution,
each gun firing as it came to bear.
Damage again was minimal, and First Lieutenant
Morris asked Captain Hull, “Shall we return fire?”
remained silent, the men at their stations, the only
sounds an occasional order and the rush of the wind and
within pistol-shot range, Captain Hull ordered adjustments
in the sails to slow the ship and to Morris said, “Yes
sir, you may now fire.”
with the eruption of a full broadside; each gun double
loaded with round ball and grapeshot.
Immediately the gun crews shouted a triple cheer
that could be heard on the Guerrier’s
suddenly mangled deck, and as the wind cleared the
smoke, the results of that initial broadside became clear.
One of the Guerrier’s masts was falling over the side, yardarms were crashing
down, sails dragging in the water, and the deck was
littered with dead and wounded.
Climbing the mizzenmast to get a better look,
Captain Hull shouted, “By God, that ship is ours!”
The battle was not yet over, but the outcome was
already clear. Then,
as tradition has it, one of Guerrier’s
18-pound cannon balls bounced harmlessly off Constitution’s
oaken side, a member of the crew yelled, “Her sides
are made of iron!”
And so, the nickname of “Old Ironsides” was born. Today
Old Ironsides, still exists, and as the world’s
oldest warship still in service, she can be visited in
25, 1804: The father
of this author of Historical Footnotes was born and raised
near Wakonda, South Dakota; a small farming town just off
State Route 19 northeast of Vermillion and Yankton.
Once, while on vacation visiting the family farm,
my father took us over to see Spirit Mound.
I was a little boy then, and when we got there I
just couldn’t understand the fuss over what appeared to
me as a small hill sticking up in a corn field.
After all, we usually spent our vacations amid the
peaks and lakes of California’s High Sierra.
They are a far cry from little hills.
(It should be noted that today Spirit Mound has
been “reclaimed” as a S.D. State Park: 55 or so years
ago it was not.) But
on this date, Spirit Mound was a significant thing, for
Captains Lewis and Clark in the company of several men and
Lewis’s dog, Seaman, walked some nine miles from the
Corps of Discovery’s camp on the Missouri River to see
wanted to see this thing that was apparently so feared by
the local Indians. Clark
commented in his journal that the Indians believed of
Suppose to be the residence of Deavels.
That they are in human form with remarkable large
heads, and about 18 inches high, that they are very
watchful and are arm’d with Sharp arrows with which they
Can Kill at a great distance: they are Said to Kill all
persons who are So hardy as to attempt to approach the
hill: they state that tradition informs them that many
Indians have Suffered by these little people.
So much do the Maha (Omaha), Soues (Sioux), Ottoes
(Otoes) and other neighboring nations believe this fable,
that no Consideration I Sufficient to induce them to
approach the hill.
simply a walk across the relatively flat Dakota plains,
the heat of the day was troublesome.
Seaman had to be returned to the refreshment of the
the view from the top of Spirit Mound was worth the
a most beautiful landscape; Numerous herds of buffalo were
seen feeding in various direction; the Plain to the North
N.W. and N.E. extends without interruption as far as can
September 2, 1944: On this date 20-year-old Navy
pilot George Bush, who would eventually become the 41st
President of the United States and fathered the 43rd
President, is shot down over the little Pacific island of
Chichi Jima. Japanese
soldiers on the island watched him parachute into the sea
to soon be picked up by a patrolling American submarine (USS
2002, the then ex-president Bush visited the islands of
and Chichi Jima. He
became only the second president to stand where the US
Marines raised the flag on Iwo Jima, and when he visited
Chichi Jima he spent time with one of the ex-Japanese
soldiers who had watched him parachute into the sea some
58 years before. That
same Japanese soldier, Nobuaki Iwatake, had known another
American flyer that had been brutally executed on Chichi
Jima. (It is a
seldom-discussed fact that American pilots were
decapitated with Samurai swords by Japanese officers on
Chichi Jima; their livers then eaten as cocktail party
delicacies.) The same fate had awaited George Bush had he
swam into the island rather than be picked up by
they stood together quietly looking out to sea, Iwatake
said to the ex-president, “Do you know what the Japanese
soldier next to me said when we saw the submarine that
rescued you? He
said, ‘Americans sure take good care of their pilots!’
Sending a sub for one pilot was something
would never have done.”
Fifty-eight years before Bush and Iwatake had been
enemies and representatives of two totally different
and understanding rendered that into friendship.
14, 1786: On
this date, the first foreign ships to ever visit Spain’s
California colonies sail out of the fog into Monterey Bay.
It has been 17 years since
, the first Spanish mission / village in
was founded, with
being founded a year later.
The presidio at
and the nearby mission at
are still just rudely constructed mud huts.
Word of the ships had preceded their arrival via
the very occasional traffic along the rough north-south
trail between the settlements with the overly impressive
name of “El Camino Real” (The King’s Highway).
Considering how busy and populated
is today, it is hard to comprehend how isolated it was in
Spanish mother-colonies in
were 2000 miles away.
Only a single supply ship was expected each year,
and because of this, the arrival of such a ship
constituted the single great event of the year.
Its late arrival resulted in almost intolerable
frustration and anxiety.
The Pacific Ocean, which stretched endlessly away
coast, was virtually unexplored.
Neither was the interior of
, with its broad, swampy valley of the
and eastern wall of snowy
. The numbers,
kinds, and attitudes of the Native Americans that might
inhabit this uncharted land could only be imagined.
However, today the arriving French ships were
bringing a real treat, for aboard were scientists,
navigators, cartographers, illustrators, and physicians.
Among the needed goods carried in the ships’
holds were cloth, tools, seeds, and musical instruments.
But, the most valuable and sought after of all the
cargo, was news.
20, 1968: One
of the difficult problems in the Vietnam War was finding
the enemy. By
the time American troops entered
in the early to middle 1960’s, the Vietnamese had been
fighting for years. They
had dug miles of tunnels to evade the French, and they
continued the practice against
. The tunnels
were extensive, sometimes ran for miles, were several
stories deep, interlocked with special trap doors,
included meeting rooms, sleeping quarters, supply depots,
and even hospitals with surgeries.
Difficulty in the field for American forces, led to
ingenuity in the American lab, as devices – gadgets –
were developed to assist the troops.
One such gadget was the “People Sniffer.”
Officially called the Olfractronic Personal
Detector, the gizmo was attached to a helicopter and
detected “humans by acquisition and sensing of natural
human exudates and effluvia, either vaporous or
other words, when the Viet Cong climbed out of their
tunnels at night to fight and in the process took the
obvious opportunity to answer “nature’s call,” the
People Sniffer detected the ammonia and methane gas from
these natural body functions.
Although the People Sniffer could not differentiate
between Viet Cong urine and American urine, surprisingly,
under certain circumstances the contraption worked, but
not for very long. Through
their amazingly efficient spy system or whatever, the
cagey Viet Cong caught on. By
hanging bags of buffalo urine in trees, they fooled the
People Sniffer and American artillery zeroed in on the