3rd QUARTER 2016

Jake Jacobson



 July 1 to 4, 1913:  Virtually all Americans, as well as many educated people throughout the world, know what happened around the Pennsylvania town of Gettysburg during July 1 to 3, 1863.  Some 160,000 men of the two most prominent American Civil War armies engaged in some of the most savage fighting of the war.  Some historians have arguably labeled the Union victory at Gettysburg as the turning point of the Civil War.  Certainly that week, which included not only the loss at Gettysburg, but also the fall of Vicksburg, was disastrous to the Confederacy.  Still, the war continued for two more bloody years.  On these dates, some 47,000 Union Civil War veterans joined with some 9,000 Confederate veterans in a grand reunion on the sacred ground of the Gettysburg Military Park.  The administration of the Military Park Association, a reunion commission appointed by the state of Pennsylvania, the veterans association of the Grand Army of the Republic, and the United Confederate Veterans orchestrated the event.  Old political resentments were to be laid aside and the intention of the reunion was to stress the personal courage of the soldiers who fought upon that ground, national reconciliation that had grown since 1865, and the laying of the cornerstone for a national Peace Memorial located within the park.  Emotional reunions between members of regiments, brigades and divisions that participated in the battle were covered in the national press, and on July 3rd around 150 survivors of the original Picket’s Charge walked across the fields from the Confederate positions on Seminary Ridge to the Union line on Cemetery Ridge.  They were led by a band playing Dixie and were met with cheers and handshakes at the “High Water Mark” by several hundred Union veterans of the Philadelphia Brigade Association.  They all then joined in the singing of “My Country ‘Tis of Thee.”  The next day, July 4, 1913, President Woodrow Wilson highlighted the theme of national reconciliation by laying the cornerstone of the Peace Memorial.  In 1938 the Peace Memorial, which included an eternal flame, was dedicated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.  World War II, politics (the 1970’s oil shortage), and the Eternal Flame on John F. Kennedy’s grave all adversely affected the Peace Memorial’s “eternal” gas flame.  At one point it was replaced by a light bulb.  But, for the 50th rededication of the Peace Memorial in 1988, the gas flame was restored.  For those who visit the battlefield, the Peace Memorial with its Eternal Flame is located NW of town near the Mummasburg Road in the general area of the 1st day’s fighting.  


July 23, 1945:  The “battle flag” of a submarine was generally an informal affair hand-crafted by the crew to designate victories on their war patrols.  The battle flag of the American WW II submarine, USS Barb, is one of the most unusual.  Not only are there symbols – Japanese flags – depicting more than 29 enemy vessels (there is also a Nazi flag symbolizing a German vessel), but at the top of the flag there is a symbolic Medal of Honor ribbon representing the Congressional Medal of Honor awarded Captain Eugene Fluckey, which he received in name of the submarine and crew during their eleventh war patrol.  At the bottom of the flag is the symbol of a locomotive and its tender, which represents a Japanese train the Barb “sank” on this date.  While searching for targets near Patience Bay off the coast of Karafuto, Japan, the Barb noted a rail line running along the coast.  Captain Fluckey determined that under the cover of darkness a shore party could plant explosives to destroy the rail line, but also seeing frequent trains using the rail line sparked the idea that possibly the Barb could nail a train too.  It had to be accomplished, however, without endangering the lives of the shore party.  The problem was how to detonate an explosive charge at the moment a train was passing over it.  One of the crewmen, Billy Hatfield, explained that as a boy he had cracked nuts by placing them on a tie so that when the rail sagged from the weight of the train it would crack the nut.  “Just like cracking walnuts,” Hatfield continued, “to complete the circuit (for the explosive charge’s detonator) we hook in a microswitch between two ties.  We don’t set it off, the train does.”  It was a brilliant idea!  By midnight the Barb had approached within 950 yards of the coast, and eight crewmen, including Billy Hatfield, paddled to the beach.  They made their way to the railway line, but to their surprise found that what they had believed was a water tower, was actually an occupied enemy watch tower.  The Japanese sentry, however, was asleep.  Quietly they dug holes for the explosives and the batteries, covered them with fresh soil, and then Hatfield attached the switch.  At approximately 1:32 a.m. the Barb received a flashlight signal indicating the shore party was returning to the sub.  Thirteen minutes later, well before the shore party made it back to the sub, one of the Barb’s lookouts reported a train coming up the tracks.  At 1:45 a.m. the weight of the train set off the explosive charge blowing pieces of the locomotive over 200 feet in the air.  As explosions continued through the length of the train, the shore party was picked up, and the Barb slowly made her way out to deep water with her crew admiring their work from the submarine’s deck.  The eight sailors from the USS Barb became the only American servicemen to conduct a ground combat operation on Japanese “homeland” soil in World War II.       

 July 26, 1903:  On this date, automobile enthusiast Dr. Horatio Nelson Jackson completed the first coast-to-coast drive in an automobile.  At a time when America had only 150 miles of paved road, he bet $50 that he could drive from San Francisco to New York in 90 days.  He won the bet.  The drive took 63 days, 12 hours and 30 minutes.  To make the drive, Dr. Jackson bought a bright red Winton touring car.  It had no top, no windshield, a right-hand steering wheel that tilted forward to allow the driver easier entrance, and a 2-cylinder, 20-horsepower engine that could race the vehicle along at 30 mph.  Joined by Sewall Crocker as mechanic and co-driver, they packed the Winton with tools, extra gas tanks, oil cans, personal necessities, and tied a spare tire around the single acetylene-fired headlight.  While cruising through Idaho, he picked up an extra passenger: a bulldog named “Bud” he bought for $15.  Dr. Jackson commented that Bud was the only one “who used no profanity” during the trip.  Not subtracting the won $50 wager, Dr. Jackson’s coast-to-coast bet cost him some $8000.  As that investment included purchasing the car, one can only wonder with the relative differences in the value of a dollar and today’s prices, if the same trip today wouldn’t cost more.



August 2, 1876:  At age 39, Wild Bill Hickok is one of the most famous personalities in the American West.  His reputation has been built upon real deeds, dime novel stories, his participation on stage with Western showman and friend Buffalo Bill Cody, and his own knack for exaggeration.  (Hickok claimed in interviews to have killed “considerably over a hundred” men.)  Tall, muscular, well-dressed in frock coat and broad-brimmed hat, with flowing mustache, hair down to his shoulders, and two ivory-handled Colt Navy revolvers tucked backwards into a sash, he fully looks the part.  He is the “Prince of Pistoleers.” Yet, reputation or not, reality catches up with all men, and Bill is now older, slower, and suffering from poor eyesight.  On the afternoon of this date, he sits down to play poker in Nuttal and Mann’s Saloon No. 10, Deadwood, Dakota Territory.  For self-protection he commonly sits with his back to the wall.  Today, however, he picks a different chair.  Whether this is personal oversight, or he is denied his favorite chair because of his ebbing skills as a dangerous man, is a matter of question.  Tradition has it that he was denied the chair.  At any rate, it is a fatal error.  Jack McCall, who later claimed to be avenging a slain brother, edges up behind Hickok and shoots him through the head.  Bill’s poker hand containing two black aces and two black eights, has forever since has been dubbed “The Dead Man’s Hand.”  (Tradition on the fifth card differs: some sources say it was the Jack of Diamonds, while others say the fifth card had yet to be dealt.)  Wild Bill is laid to rest in Deadwood’s Mt. Moriah Cemetery.  (Actually Mt. Moriah is his second resting place, as Deadwood’s first cemetery was moved due to expansion of the town.)  McCall, who initially gets away with the murder, is eventually hung in Yankton.  He made the mistake of leaving the Black Hills, where there was no official legal jurisdiction, for the federal jurisdiction of Dakota Territory.  In 1903, one of Bill’s friends, Calamity Jane (Martha Jane Canary-Burke), is by her last request buried next to him.  Possibly because these two share eternity, they have been traditionally matched as oddly-paired lovers.  However, one must consider that at the time of his death, Bill Hickok was married to Agnes Lake , a circus performer he met as Marshal of Abilene, Kansas.  They were married on March 5, 1876 – only 5 months before his death.  Possibly Bill’s true feelings are revealed in the last letter Agnes received: “Agnes, darling, if such should be we never meet again, while firing my last shot, I will gently breathe the name of my wife, Agnes, and with wishes even for my enemies I will make the plunge and try to swim to the other shore.”   Clearly, despite personal fault or historical error, James Butler Hickok was a class act. 

Note:  The story that Bill was holding the so-called “Dead Man’s Hand” – aces and eights – was originally authored by Dr. Ellis T. Pierce, who prepared the body for funeral.  Also, when the fatal shot was fired, the ball traveled through Wild Bill’s head, exited his right cheek, and lodged in the wrist of William Massie, a steamboat captain, who was seated opposite to Bill.  He carried that ball in his wrist for the remainder of his life and on occasion enjoyed the bragging rights.  So, while Wild Bill Hickok is buried on Mt. Moriah in Deadwood, the bullet that killed him is buried in St. Louis.              

 August 22, 1903:  Professional baseball’s National League was established in 1876 and the American League played its first season as an equal in 1901.  On this date, Barney Dreyfuss, owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1900 to 1932, wrote a letter to Henry J. Killilea, president of the Boston Americans saying, "The time has come for the National League and American League to organize a World Series. It is my belief that if our clubs played a series on a best-of-nine basis, we would create great interest in baseball, in our leagues, and in our players. I also believe it would be a financial success."  The Boston Americans were given the nickname “Pilgrims” by sportswriters and fans, but as we all know, eventually they became the Boston Red Socks.  That first World Series started on October 1, 1903 and as is continued today, the games were played at two “home” stadiums: Huntington Avenue

Grounds in Boston and Exposition Park in Pittsburgh.  For that first game, Boston rolled out its big pitching weapon, 28-game winner Cy Young, but the Pirates jumped on him immediately.  After two quick outs, a combination of Pirate hitting and Boston errors put Pittsburg ahead 4 to zip, and the Americans never recovered: they lost that first game 7 to 3.  The series was to go eight games, and although the  Pittsburg Pirates won three of the first four games, the Boston Americans won the last four giving the first World Series to Boston.  Barney Dreyfuss’ team may have lost, but his prediction of the World Series being a financial success was correct.  In an era before both radio and TV, local fans flocked to the games.  Attendance ranged from 7,455 fans in the last game to 18,801 in the third game – the average crowd being 12,554.  The first World Series game drew 16,242 fans.  Those were unheard of numbers for a sports event in those days and they clearly heralded the start of a new American tradition.  The 2015 World Series between the Kansas City Royals and the New York Mets averaged over 40,000 attendees per game, while the 2012 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Detroit Tigers had a stadium attendance of over 49,000 per game.  Obviously, stadiums today are much larger than those in1903, but also, millions of fans around the world watch the series on TV. 


August 31, 1895:  There can sometimes be found in history little anomalies that are quite surprising.  For example, did you know that the Union general that wrote out the articles of surrender for Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia at Appomattox Court House was a full-blood American Indian?  His name was Ely S. Parker, and he was General Ulysses S. Grant’s adjutant.  A Seneca, he was given the birth name of Hassanoanda (“Leading Name”) and then with the advent of manhood was renamed Donehogawa (“Keeper of the Western Door of the Iroquois Loghouse”).  His father was a Seneca chief, a veteran of the War of 1812, and his mother was Iroquois.  In 1851 he became the head-chief – the great sachem – of the Six Tribes.  Referred to as the "Iroquois League" the Six Tribes, or "Six Nations", comprised the Mohawk, Onondaga, Oneida, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora.  Although this was a respectable position, it did him little good in a white world.  Wanting to practice law, he was refused admission into Harvard University, and was denied the over-all right to practice law because he was “not a citizen.”  He therefore switched his education to engineering and earned a degree from Rensselar Polytechnic Institute.  Parker met Grant while working on a government project in Galina, Illinois and they became life-long friends.  When at the outbreak of the Civil War Parker was again told that his services were unwanted due to his Indian blood, he sought out his friend, then General Grant.  The friendship worked, and as a captain, Parker served as an engineer during the Vicksburg campaign, and from that point on served as a member of Grant’s staff.  By Appomattox, he had reached the rank of brigadier general.  After the war, Parker told an interesting story about the Appomattox surrender meeting.  Seeing General Parker at work, General Lee assumed he was of African-American descent, and was surprised to see such an individual in such a high position.  When Lee learned Parker was a Native-American, he reportedly commented that he was pleased to see “one real American” among the assembly of officers.  Parker said that he replied, “We are all Americans.”  Parker continued to serve with Grant after the war, but this time with President Grant as Commissioner of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  Sadly however, as most students of history know, the Grant Administration fell on its nose with corruption and Parker’s Indian Bureau was fully awash in scandal.  Never recovering any real success, Ely S. Parker passed away in poverty on this date.  In 1897 his remains were moved from Connecticut to the Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo, New York, where he was reinterred with tribal members.          




September 1, 1842:  Approximately 100 miles north of today’s San Francisco is Fort Ross, once the California outpost of the Russian American Fur Company.  For thirty years, as the Russians drained the coast of otters, they had been quietly friendly to their Spanish / Mexican neighbors whose authority they simply did not recognize north of Yerba Buena (San Francisco.)  There was no army in California to oppose them.  Now the company had ordered Fort Ross to close up shop and return north to Sitka.  What would they take with them and what would they leave behind?  Personal possessions could be loaded aboard ship at Bodega Bay, but there were besides the fort, homes, and out buildings, a twenty-two ton launch, several boats, forty-nine plows, a well-stocked granary, hundreds of oxen, cows, sheep, horses and several cannons.  To whomever the Russians sold these supplies could be a powerful force in California.  Their first offer was to Mexico, but authorities in Mexico City thought the Russians were leaving in defeat and that their California governor would simply walk into Fort Ross.  They would not buy.  Next the Russians offered everything to a neighbor, Colonel Mariano Vellejo, but he was only interested in the livestock.  They offered everything to the Hudson Bay Company for $30,000, but because HBC could not buy the land, they also refused.  Into the picture stepped Swiss-born John Sutter.  The Russians liked Sutter, he had been their guest at Fort Ross and had been to Sitka, but he had little money and could make only a small down payment.  Yet, in California’s great inland valley between the American River and the Sacramento River, Sutter was building an empire based on crops and livestock.  They made a deal.  Beginning on this date, Sutter was to make four payments for Fort Ross and its supplies: the first two at $5000.00, the other two at $10,000.  The first three payments could be made in crops and goods.  Only the last payment was for cash.  History has its great moments.  Consider the possibilities of this moment.  Gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill in 1848 igniting the California Gold Rush of 1849.  What if the Russians had stayed a few more years?  What if the Mexicans had purchased the supplies and cannon of Fort Ross?  Would there have been a Bear Flag Revolt in 1846?  Would it have been successful?  What if the Hudson Bay Company had moved into Fort Ross establishing British authority in California?  


September 9, 1923: As the morning fog slowly melts away, the California sun finds seven United States Navy destroyers wallowing in the rocks and surf of Point Pedernales.  It is the U. S. Navy's worst peacetime disaster.  The destroyers of Squadron 11 ran aground in fog shortly after 9:00PM, and during the long confused hours before dawn 800 lives hung in the balance - nearly two-dozen sailors died.  The warships were healed over on their side, pushed into the beach's shallow water, with waves washing over them.  The USS Young had huge holes torn in her bottom.  Although navigation clearly had lacked that night, courage did not.  Sailors from the stricken ships worked together running lifelines between ship and shore.  Men braved heavy seas to swim the ropes between the ships.  A USS Delphy sailor, James Conway, fell between his rolling ship and the rocks.  His legs were crushed, and when the ship rolled back he was whipped at the end of a rope past the spinning propellers into the raging sea.  Another Delphy sailor had his glasses crushed into his eyes.  But, by dawn most of the sailors were on the beach and people from Lompoc and Santa Barbara were arriving to help.  The officers in command of the USS Delphy, the lead ship, took full responsibility for their navigational error.  Although much equipment was salvaged off the seven destroyers, the ships were a total loss.  Their rusting pieces could be seen in the surf for years. 


(NOTE: Point Pedernales, also called Honda Point, is located approximately two miles north of Point Arguello west of the city of Lompoc on today’s Vandenberg Air Force Base.)      


September 26, 1820: On this date, the famous “Longhunter,” Daniel Boone, quietly dies in his sleep at his Missouri home.  He was 86 years old.  Boone became famous “in-his-own-time” for his role in the early settlement of Kentucky through the opening of the Wilderness Road – also called “Boone’s Trace.”  Yet, when one realizes that Boone did not discover the Cumberland Gap, was not the first white man to travel the Wilderness Road, and was convinced by others (John Finley) to explore Kentucky , one may wonder just how he became so famous.  The answer is simple, Boone wrote and published his adventures, which in turn made him a household name and folk legend.  In 1784, The Adventures of Colonel Daniel Boon, Formerly a Hunter; Containing a Narrative of the Wars of Kentucky , was published by John Filson to commemorate Boone’s 50th birthday.  It opens with the following words, “Curiosity is natural to the soul of man and interesting objects have a powerful influence on our affections…thus we behold Kentucky .”  However, the fact that Boone published such a narrative does not diminish either his courage or his frontier skills.  The publication may have made him famous beyond Kentucky , but within the deep woods of the “Dark and Bloody Ground” he was already a hero.  It is, of course, that fame that truly counts.

“I have never been lost, but I will admit to being confused for several weeks.” Daniel Boone 



Page 4


This website may not be reproduced in part or in whole without the written permission of the North American Frontiersmen. All Rights Reserved, Copyrighted 2005-2015.