Originally posted on My Journey Through the Best Presidential Biographies:
“Grant” is Jean Edward Smith’s 2001 biography of the eighteenth U.S. president. It was the 2002 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Biography. Smith taught at the University of Toronto for 35 years before joining the faculty of Marshall University where he is Professor of Political Science. The most recent of his dozen books are FDR and Eisenhower in War and Peace.
Smith’s biography is the most widely read of all the Ulysses S. Grant biographies and with good reason. Among the eighty-four presidential biographies I’ve read so far, Smith’s narrative has perhaps the best combinations of effortless fluidity, vivid detail, historical context and insight that I’ve encountered.
Weighing in at over 600 pages (not counting notes or bibliography) this biography feels surprisingly light while remaining appropriately erudite and serious. The half-dozen or so pages in Smith’s preface are among the most potent and thoughtful introductory pages…
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Originally posted on Emerging Civil War:
On September 14, 2014, the nation will pass a milestone anniversary. 200 years prior, Francis Scott Key penned “The Star-Spangled Banner” as a poem, which later, when adapted to music, would be come the United States of America’s national anthem.
The action that Key witnessed was the British bombardment of Fort McHenry, a star-shaped fort that guarded the water approaches to Baltimore, Maryland, named after a Maryland signer of the Constitution and the third Secretary of War, James McHenry.
Throughout the night of September 13, 1814, the fort and its defenders withstood constant shelling from the British fleet, and when dawn broke on September 14th, the flag still fluttered above the ramparts. Coupled with a setback at the battle of North Point in which British General Robert Ross was killed, the Americans, aided by Maryland militia, safely defended the city and harbor.
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Toll, Ian, Six Frigates: The Epic History of the Founding of the US Navy, Norton Publishing, New York, 2007- ISBN 978-0-393-05847-5
Ian Toll has written that rare book… that provides a fresh look at a little studied historical period, while remaining true to research pioneers in the field. Other studies, like Teddy Roosevelt’s Naval War of 1812, have examined the history of the fledgling US Navy, but Toll’s work fills the obvious gaps in historiography. Writers such as Roosevelt, Christopher McKee, Henry Adams, and even CS Forester have all studied the characters, battles, and politics of the Age of Sail, Toll’s book serves as an authoritative compendium to the previous histories.
“Joshua Humphreys proposed, in short, to build exceptionally large, heavily armed, fast-sailing frigates…” Toll is at his best when describing the intrigue surrounding the formation and construction of our first fleet. The same radicalism that had separated us from European monarchy and aristocracy was driving our chief shipwright to challenge ship building norms. America’s first warships were going to be exceptional- Humphreys is Toll’s unlikely hero. Just as America was designed to be unconventional, so would our Navy. Politics proved ruinous from the start, and Toll does the research required to show how second-guessing and patronage nearly ruined Humphreys’ exceptional fleet. On far too many occasions, the young US government allowed partisanship to risk our national security interests- Toll’s analysis fits into debate over current events as well.
Toll’s ability to focus his writing… on the original six frigates shows commendable restraint and prevents this study from deteriorating into muddled mass of dates, places, and names. Utilizing prior studies, Toll’s historical recounting of the Golden Age of Sail is both gripping and realistic. The narrative effortlessly guides the reader from the Quasi-War in the Caribbean to the Barbary Wars in the Mediterranean. Stephen Decatur and John Rodgers figure prominently in Toll’s story, but so do oft overlooked figures like Edward Preble, William Bainbridge, and Jesse Eliot. The founding of the American Navy was a difficult and sometimes bloody affair- Toll astutely points out how dueling nearly brought the officer corps of the Navy to it’s knees by the mid-19th century. And this is the essence of Ian Toll’s study– more than just battles and larger than life heroes– founding the US Navy was about blood, sweat, and good strong oak.
Originally posted on nebraskaenergyobserver:
Ultima Cumaei venit iam carminis ætas;
Magnus ab integro sæclorum nascitur ordo.
iam redit et Virgo, redeunt Saturnia regna,
iam nova progenies cælo demittitur alto.
From the Eclogue of Virgil:
An American flag flies over the rubble of the World Trade Center in New York on Sept. 13, 2001
And so for the thirteenth time, we remember that day, that day of infamy, in New York, in Pennsylvania, and at the Pentagon, when we realized that while we may not be interested in war, war is interested in us. Once again, last night, we heard an American president vow retribution on those who would kill Americans. His words were not my words, nor is my background his background, but perhaps we are united in this. I think there is no more important duty than this
There is a sense of frustration in the very air of America these days. Many…
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Thirteen years have passed… and our remembrance of 9/11 has evolved into a personal experience. In years past, we sought to remember collectively, leaning on each other during the difficult times. Time heals imperfectly and 9/11 should now be honored and remembered on an individual level.
Personal remembrances are the next step… toward healing, but we cannot forget the victims. Foolish conspiracy theories and fraudulent academics have done much damage to the American spirit. A national call to marginalize those who choose to ignore the victims and their loved ones should be our next goal. The selfless actions of the first responders represent what is truly good about our people. On this 9/11, take a minute to remember the victims and first responders…..and forget those who embarrass themselves claiming to seek truth.
Click on this link to see a deeply moving tribute to First Responders
Light winds on September 10, 1813… turned the battle of Lake Erie into a slug fest. Neither commander could gain any true advantage in weather gauge- the two squadrons lay opposite one another, blasting away. American Oliver Hazard Perry’s flagship, Lawrence was taking the brunt of British fire as the rest of his command struggled to follow his aggressive example. Two British brigs pounded Perry’s ship until every gun was disabled and four-fifths of the crew was dead- Perry fled on a dingy, rowing a half-mile to the brig Niagara. Novelist and historian CS Forester wryly noted, “…it was as fortunate for the Americans that the Lawrence still possessed a boat that would float, as it was that Perry was not hit.”
Never give up the ship
Perry brought the rest of the American squadron… into line and drove the Niagara directly through the British formation. Perry’s aggressiveness overwhelmed the slower British ships- nearly every man aboard the two largest was killed. The surrender took place at approximately 3:00pm, just three hours after the first shot was fired. Perry accepted the surrender aboard the recaptured Lawrence, so the British officers could see the carnage his command endured. Perry cabled his counterpart on land, General William Henry Harrison;
We have met the enemy and they are ours. Two ships, two brigs, one schooner and one sloop.
Yours with great respect and esteem,
Filed under Ephemera, News