During October 1838, the United States government began
the forced removal of 16,000 Cherokees from their native
territories east of the Mississippi to the “Indian
Territory” of today’s Oklahoma.
The Cherokee people were not the “wild-Indian”
nomadic savages as envisioned by many whites.
They had in fact assimilated many European-style
customs, including the wearing of gowns by Cherokee women,
and suits by the men. They built roads, schools, and
churches, had a system of representative government, and
like their white neighbors were farmers and cattle
young Cherokee had invented an alphabet called the
“Talking Leaves" allowing for their language to be
had even been some acceptance of inter-racial marriage.
The Supreme Court of the United States ruled the
removal policy unconstitutional, but President Andrew
Jackson ordered it carried out anyway.
In direct challenge to the court, Jackson’s
attitude was “How are they going to stop me?”
In an attempt to prevent it, Tennessee frontiersman
David Crockett ruined his political career by opposing the
powerful Jackson and as a result, left for Texas.
Thousands of Native Americans died on the march.
The Cherokees called it, “Nunna da ul-tsun-ji”
(Trail where they cried.)
Today, this sad chapter in American history is
remembered as the “Trail
3, 2009: It
is announced today that over the past summer a major
archeological find has been unearthed just over a mile
from Briton’s famous Stonehenge.
The discovery, called “Bluehenge,” is both
similar and related to Stonehenge.
Bluehenge, a formation of rocks contemporary to
Stonehenge, is a circle of some 30 stones that originally
were six-feet high and weighed up to four tons each.
The Bluehenge name refers to the dolerite blue
stone, which was brought to the location from the Preseli
Mountains in Pembrokeshire, Wales, approximately 200 miles
west of Stonehenge. Today
these stones are no longer in their original location;
what the archeologists actually found were their remains;
chips of blue stone in holes on a ramped mount.
originally installed some 5000 years ago, “the stones
would have been polished to a dark blue with silver flecks
resembling the night sky.”
Approximately 500 years after the circle’s
initial construction, the stones were apparently moved and
added to Stonehenge. The
discovering archeologist, Professor Mike Parker Pearson,
of Sheffield University, suggests that the circle of
stones, like the much larger Stonehenge, were linked to
rituals of life and death.
Bluehenge possibly was part of a ritual
processional that involved the River Avon and ended at
many people know that Stonehenge was Britain’s largest
burial ground … maybe the bluestone circle is where
people were cremated before their ashes were buried at
Some 1.2 miles NE of Stonehenge is Woodhenge, a
circle of timber posts also contemporary to Stonehenge.
Reasoning that all three circles being of close
proximity are thus connected, the possibly exists that the
dead were brought to Woodhenge; a symbol of “life,”
transported down River Avon; a symbolic journey from
“life” to “death,” brought ashore at Bluehenge,
cremated, and given a final journey the 1.8 miles to their
burial site at Stonehenge.
Although it may not be well-known that Stonehenge
was a pre-historic burial site, it is well-known that for
some ritualistic reason it was constructed in alignment
with the summer solstice.
21, 1797: Launched
on this date in Boston harbor is the USS
Constitution, one of six frigates authorized by
Congress in 1794. Never
defeated in combat, she has remained a part of the United
States Navy since that day, and is the oldest commissioned
warship afloat in the world.
Her nickname, "Old Ironsides," comes from
a famous engagement during the War of 1812, when Constitution
took on the HMS
Guerriere some 600 miles east of Boston.
After an hour of maneuvering and inconclusive
firing, the two ships pulled next to each other for a
short-range duel. Almost
side-by-side the two ships blasted away.
Within 20 minutes, Guerriere's
mizzenmast was shot away, and then her two remaining masts
fell into the sea. At
some point during the battle, the Americans saw British
cannonballs bounce off Constitution's oaken sides and splash harmlessly into the sea.
A cheer went up, "Hooray! Her sides are made
of iron," and her nickname became part of history.
She was on the way to becoming to Americans that
very special ship she is today.
In 1830, when it was misreported in a Boston
newspaper that the Navy planned to scrap "Old
Ironsides," the public outcry in support of her
preservation led to a total refurbishing.
Today the USS
Constitution can be visited by the public daily in
1, 1849: On this
approximate date, Alexander Todd joined the men scrounging
for a fortune in the California gold fields.
He soon learned, however, that compared to the
number of men and the hard work put in, few became rich.
There were other ways to make it, and he recognized
something that was needed.
At Jacksonville he offered to fetch the mail, which
had been piling up in San Francisco.
Leaving with a packet of signed letters of
authorization, he returned with sacks of mail.
Here was an entrepreneur that was willing to
fulfill a needed role and by so doing earned the miners’
asked him not only to carry the mail, but to transport
their gold dust and deposit it in the banks being
established in San Francisco.
He agreed, and his first load amounted to an
estimated $200,000 – some 15,000 ounces of gold. He
transported it down the San Joaquin River and across San
Francisco Bay. For
his return trip, he fitted out a pack train with his own
proceeds, and then carried the mail and the miners’
deposit slips back to the camps.
Aside from the rowboat water route, a pack train
was the only real feasible choice, for most of the
“roads” were no more than mere rough trails.
In today’s world with the influence of television
and movie westerns, one would think that such a
transportation system would be the ready target of any
road agent or bandit that took a notion to get rich quick.
Yet in the early days of the California Gold Rush,
that was not the case.
Todd explained of his express service;
express man on the road was almost exempt from
interference because everybody was interested, and if an
express man had been attacked, and his assailant
discovered, punishment would have been very speedy…An
express man though carrying large sums of money, bore
almost a charmed life in those days.
in 1849, a number of formal express companies operated in
the East and Midwest, there was only one such company
operating along the Pacific Coast.
That was the Adams Express Company, and as time
went along they absorbed the express routes of men like
Alexander Todd. By
1854 the Adams Express Company virtually monopolized the
California and coastal express trade.
A year later, however, they in turn were absorbed
by a new enterprise: Wells, Fargo and Company.
14, 1974: Dying
on this date was a Hollywood actor who appeared in some
170 films, yet very few today likely remember his name.
It was Johnny Mack Brown, and his name was famous
before he ever stepped upon the silver screen.
Johnny Mack Brown played football for the
University of Alabama, and it was his play that led to
victories in the New Year’s Day Rose Bowl game two years
in a row. He
caught a 65-yard pass to score the winning touchdown
against Georgia Tech in 1926, and he intercepted a pass
for a touchdown in the last seconds against the Washington
Huskies in 1927. Johnny
Mack Brown was elected to the 1927 All-American Team, the
All-American Hall of Fame, The College Football Hall of
Fame, and The Rose Bowl Hall of Fame.
He was slated to coach for the University of
Alabama after graduation, but he received an invitation to
head west to Hollywood.
His good looks and athletic physique helped land
parts and soon he graduated to stardom.
But the Hollywood dramas and romances he stared in
were silent films, and when movies began to talk, his deep
southern drawl simply didn’t fit with his characters’
let his contract lapse.
But that setback didn’t stop Johnny Mack Brown.
Soon Hollywood executives realized that good looks,
athletic ability, and a deep Southern drawl actually made
for a perfect cowboy.
Monogram Studios alone stared Johnny Mack Brown in
47 western films. True
to the make-up of a Hollywood cowboy, no other Western
star was his equal at twirling, flipping, and spinning his
28, 1942: Today
in places of public assembly, like theaters, there are
lighted "Exit" signs – they are something the
public takes for granted, but such was not always so.
During the early days of World War II, a major fire
struck the Cocoanut Grove nightclub in Boston,
one-time speakeasy, multi-roomed restaurant / dance hall
had a South-sea theme with fake palm trees, bamboo, rattan
furniture, and tapestries that draped the walls and
owner, who boasted of links to organized crime, had hidden
as well as intentionally blocked entrances / exits to
eliminate the possibility of patrons entering without
fateful night "The Grove" had a
standing-room-only crowd of approximately 1,000 patrons,
many of whom were servicemen about to ship overseas for
combat duty. A
busboy's lighted match accidentally ignited a fake palm
tree and the extensive flammable decorations rapidly
spread the fire throughout the building.
Almost half of the occupants were killed (497), and
many more were seriously injured.
In total panic, people fought to get out of the
the fire was brought under control, charred bodies were
stacked four and five deep before the two revolving doors
at the main entrance.
Authorities estimated that 300 of those killed
could have been saved had the doors simply swung outward.
The Cocoanut Grove fire led to new laws for fire
prevention and safety in places of public assembly.
Lighted "Exit" signs were a part of those
today’s America, with a myopic and uneducated in history
media, often it is believed that racism was an
ever-present and overwhelming condition of our past – if
not also today. Yet,
even in places and conditions where we might not expect
it, often we can find the Christmas Spirit and the full
cup of human kindness.
Benjamin Butler Harris, a Virginian living in East
Texas decides to pull up stakes and head to the California
gold fields. For
six grueling months he works his way across Texas, New
Mexico, Mexico and Arizona to the Golden State.
When finally there, he finds the life of a
prospector is much more difficult than expected.
One of the dangers is disease.
He makes the following entry into his journal:
“During the winter of 1849, scurvy raged among
the miners, more extensively among the Mexicans, due
probably to their diet or thinness of clothing, which is
usually of cotton. At
its height, about seven hundred Mexican patients in my
neighborhood were sheltered, doctored, nursed, and
maintained by miners’ subscriptions alone.
In the absence of law and government institutions
of benevolence, the whole-souled pioneers came liberally
to the aid of those unfortunates, wreathing with beaming
smile the face of sweet charity then walking abroad in the
12, 1941: There
are phrases uttered in American military history that when
they are heard at home waves of pride wash through the
examples include statements like “I have not yet begun
to fight;” “I only regret that I have but one life to
lose for my country;” “Damn the torpedoes.
Full speed ahead!” and “Don’t shoot until you
see the whites of their eyes.”
After the Japanese surprise attacks of December 7
– 8, 1941, the little American garrison at Wake Island
became a target for Japanese invasion.
Located halfway between Hawaii and Japan, air
forces stationed there could control a vast area of the
the taking of Wake was considered a strategic necessity.
On December 11, the Japanese attempted their
invasion, but the tenacious Wake defenders repulsed the
attack, and the Japanese invasion force embarrassingly had
to return to their base for reinforcements.
For the American public, this successful defense of
Wake Island became the only bright spot in a litany of
December disasters. Then
there came a radio message from Major James Devereux, the
commander of the US Marines on Wake Island.
When asked if the Wake defenders needed anything,
Devereux grittily replied, “Send us more Japs.”
Instantly the message raced across the nation and
newspapers splashed it across their front pages.
The little garrison of Wake Island was shaking its
fist at the seemingly invincible steam rolling forces of
the Japanese Empire. America
loved it! So,
how come when the slogan was heard by the defenders at
Wake Island, one of the Marines retorted, “Who in the
crap said that! He’s
out of his gourd!” The
Wake Island Marines knew full well that their successful
defensive action on December 11 would embolden the
Japanese to return with heavier forces.
They knew full well that without resupply and
support from home their days were numbered.
In reality, the Wake defenders had already had
where did the phrase, “Send us more Japs” really
was common in radio transmissions for operators to add
nonsense words to the front and rear of messages to
confuse enemy translations.
On the message from Wake after the December 11
attack, the words “send us” were added to the front of
the message and the words “more Japs” were added to
the end of the message.
These words were removed and combined by someone at
Pearl Harbor to create the “Send us more Japs,” and
the message was attributed to Major Devereux.
The original message actually did not come from
Devereux, but rather from Commander Winfield Cunningham, a
Naval Academy graduate and the over-all commander of Wake
Island. It was
not until after the war that the false origins of the
“Send us more Japs” message became known.
Like the much earlier patriotic slogan, “Remember
the Alamo,” the slogan – mistakenly or not - for the
Pacific Theater in World War II was, “Remember Wake
1. When Devereux was liberated from a Japanese prison camp
in 1945, he said, “The first thing I would like to get
on record is that we did not send that radio message
saying, ‘Send us more Japs.’
We had all and more than we could handle right then
and there.” 2.
This was not the only time the message system of adding
words caused confusion in WW II.
In the later stages of the Battle of Leyte Gulf,
such a message literally bit Admiral Halsey in the seat of
General George Washington settles his continental army at
Valley Forge, Pennsylvania for the winter. Earlier
in the year the British had taken the American capital of
Philadelphia. After attempts to dislodge them,
Washington realized that his inexperienced and
ill-equipped men were in no shape to continue fighting.
He decided to camp his army at Valley Forge for the winter
and renew the fight in the spring. Of all the places
associated with the American War for Independence, perhaps
none has come to symbolize perseverance and sacrifice more
than Valley Forge. Although
Washington cared deeply for his men, they were forced to
endure a severe winter with almost no food, no winter
clothes, and very little firewood.
Many of the men did not even have shoes and wrapped
their feet in rags. The
hardships of the encampment claimed the lives of one in
ten, nearly all from disease.
One of Washington’s soldiers probably said it
best when he described his reasons for not abandoning the
field despite the harsh conditions: "We had engaged
in the defense of our wounded country and . . . we were
determined to persevere." Things began to
improve when spring came, and in 1778 Washington's army