Author Archives: sheafferhistorian

About sheafferhistorian

Some of my many hats include: Historian, teacher, writer, curator, archivist, reenactor, sailor, banjo player, and coach; PITT alumnus living out-of-state in a desert, of all places. History Instructor at the James Madison Preparatory School, Tempe, AZ.

Facts in Five

Daniel Webster edition

  • Webster is one of two men to serve as United States Secretary of State under three Presidents: Harrison, Tyler, and Fillmore.
  • Webster represented New Hampshire in the House of Representatives and Massachusetts in the Senate.
  • The leading Constitutional scholar of his day, Webster argued 223 cases in front of the Supreme Court.
  • Support for Clay’s Compromise of 1850 led to his resignation from the Senate that same year. 
  • Webster sought the Whig Party nomination for President three times… he never secured it. 
"I wish to speak today not as a Massachusetts man, nor as a Northern man but as an American..."

“I wish to speak today not as a Massachusetts man, nor as a Northern man but as an American…”


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Lady Lex


Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen announced something this week that amazed many of us. He found the USS Lexington (CV2), the legendary Lady Lex, which the Navy was forced to scuttle after the battle of the Coral Sea, a few weeks before Midway. This was the battle that blunted to forward thrust of Japan, that would end forever just a few weeks later as the Japanese lost four fleet carriers at Midway, some of the Lex’s aircrew were there.

This was the second US carrier, the first was the USS Langley called the covered wagon because it had no island, and while the Langley had been converted from a collier, the Lex was converted during construction from a Treaty Battlecruiser.

The ship (and some of the planes lost with it) appear to be in remarkable shape, all thing considered. and one of the pictures woke a lot of us up.

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Review of “Richard Nixon and His America” by Herbert Parmet

My Journey Through the Best Presidential Biographies

Herbert Parmet’s “Richard Nixon and His America” was published in 1990 – four years before Nixon’s death – and is one of the earliest serious studies of Nixon. Parmet authored eight presidential biographies and was a Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History at the City University of New York. His most recent book “Richard M. Nixon: An American Enigma” was published in 2007. Parmet died in 2017 at the age of 87.

Never intended to serve as a conventional biography, this book is focused on Nixon’s political ascent (but not his fall) and on the attributes which made him a commanding American political figure. Six years of research, interviews with Nixon himself and access to many of his private papers underpin this 650-page book which, for all its detailed coverage, leaves significant parts of Nixon’s life unobserved.

The book begins during President Nixon’s early-morning visit with student…

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Robert Lincoln’s Second Father

Presidential History Blog

Robert Lincoln was twenty-one when he became man of the family.

Young Mr. Lincoln

Young Robert Todd Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln died intestate: he had not made a will. Thus, by law, his estate would be divided into thirds: a third to his widow, and a third to each of his two remaining sons.

Robert Todd Lincoln (1843-1926) was a Harvard graduate and had begun some law studies when he joined the Union Army toward the end of the Civil War. With his father’s approval, he planned to return to Harvard once he was discharged.

Abraham Lincoln’s assassination changed everything. The Army expedited his discharge so he could attend to his numerous family concerns. His mother, overwhelmed with shock and grief, was little help. His young brother Tad was twelve. He was no help. And Robert knew he needed help.

He asked (presumably with his mother’s agreement) Judge David Davis, one…

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Facts in Five

Don’t call him “Teddy” edition

  • No one called him “Teddy” to his face; the nickname he preferred was  TR.
  • TR claimed he decided to be a Republican after watching Lincoln’s funeral parade from his grandfather’s Manhattan townhouse.
  • Frightened of his activism, the Republican party decided to “hide” Roosevelt on McKinley’s ticket in 1900
  • Roosevelt’s Progressive politics can be traced to the time he spent representing a poor, predominately immigrant district in the New York legislature
  • It was TR that ordered Commodore George Dewey’s squadron to the Philippines in anticipation of war with Spain
Always be ready to use the Big Stick

Always be ready to use the Big Stick


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Book Review- A new look at Grant

Frank P. Varney, General Grant and the Rewriting of History, California, Savas and Beatty, 2013

A critical examination of Grant’s memoirs and their effects on the historical record. 


Professor Frank Varney’s first book is a bold effort to right historical wrongs…. and the wrongs were perpetrated by none other than US Grant.   Varney proposes a three volume examination of the inconsistencies, mistakes, and outright lies found in Grant’s widely utilized memoirs.  Volume one takes Grant (and his historical defenders) to task for ruining the reputation of Major General William S. Rosecrans.  Varney carefully dissects both the historical record and the secondary sources which were deeply influenced by Grant’s account.

“The well of data about Rosecrans has been so tainted that many historians… are simply not motivated to look beyond the traditionally relied-upon sources- the writings of Grant prominent among them.”   Varney sums up how Grant’s memoirs have affected Civil War historiography.  Researchers simply assume Grant was right- they fail to verify with lesser known primary sources; what source could be more valuable than the man credited as the Union victor?  Varney’s research is extensive and provides key insights to the Grant/Rosecrans feud.  At the Battles of Iuka and Corinth, Grant was miles from the fighting- his battle reports change over time- and his memoir bears little resemblance to the Official Records.  Historians like Steven Woodworth and T. Harry Williams  have been complicit in propagating Grant’s distorted account and Varney cites key examples of his peers failing to carry-out the most basic research methodology.

Far from a redemptive piece about Rosecrans… Varney acknowledges the flaws in the man.  But, the evidence of tampering and distortion are too extensive to be ignored by the historical community.  Rosecrans had his flaws, but Grant’s accounts of the war have forever tarnished a General with widely accepted military skill.  Grant didn’t care for his subordinate and Varney skillfully shows how he took credit for victories, exaggerated his own actions, and distorted (even lied) about the performance of others.  Rosecrans was the victim of a concerted effort led by Grant- and historians have failed to give a balanced account of this chapter in Civil War history.  Hopefully, Professor Varney’s future volumes will be as detailed and insightful as this first edition.

The recent Grant renaissance should be reconsidered. 



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Current News – Bataan Mile Markers

Pacific Paratrooper

CLARK AIR BASE, Philippines – Jungle moss and roadwork are threatening historical markers along the Bataan Death March trail in the Philippines, says an American who’s waging a lonely battle to preserve them.

Bob Hudson’s father, Tech. Sgt. Richard Hudson, was among tens of thousands of troops forced to march nearly 70 miles from the Bataan Peninsula to Japanese prisoner-of-war camps after the surrender of U.S. and Filipino forces on April 9, 1942. Thousands perished during the trek, which included intense heat and harsh treatment from the guards.

The government of former Philippines president Ferdinand Marcos installed the first markers — made of metal — along the path in the 1960s, Hudson told a group of veterans last month in Angeles City, Philippines. In 2000, the Filipino-American Memorial Endowment, or FAME — an organization seeking to preserve the nation’s war memorials — replaced them with 139 white concrete markers.


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