On Free Speech

The current administration continues to assail the press and critics utilizing their free speech rights… The President’s minions disingenuously claim that he is merely “fighting back.

Only those who approve

Trump does not believe in civil discourse…. If he does not agree with something, or it challenges his actions, he feels it is illegitimate and should not exist.  This is tyranny.

Remember

George Washington warned his fellow citizens about the dangers of losing free speech…

“If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.”

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Making the Most of a Bad Situation

“Speaking generally, no penance is like having one’s picture done. You must sit in a constrained and unnatural position, which is a trial to the temper. But I should like to sit to Stuart from the first of January to the last of December, for he lets me do just what I please, and keeps me constantly amused by his conversation.”  John Adams on sitting for Gilbert Stuart’s portrait sessions. 

Only for the conversation

Only for the conversation

 

Gilbert Stuart always claimed his depiction of Washington most authentic… speaking about the famous Lansdowne Portrait- famously rescued by Dolley Madison(or her servants) in 1814.   Stuart cited his authenticity-

“When I painted him [Washington], he had just had a set of false teeth inserted, which accounts for the constrained expression so noticeable about the mouth and lower part of the face…”   Gilbert Stuart

Rejecting a third term

Rejecting a third term

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JFK at Antietam

Emerging Civil War

One of the things I love about revisiting a battlefield is to see what jumps out at me this time. Each visit has the opportunity to bring something new if I remain open to it. Such was the case during a recent trip to Antietam.

The museum in the downstairs of the visitor center has some cool stuff on display, but of particular note to me this time was a large photograph of President John F. Kennedy taken during a visit to the park on April 7, 1963. Historian Robert Lagemann is standing with JFK on Burnside’s Bridge. The image itself was cool to see, especially so large, but what really made an impression on me was the quote, reproduced in large letters, that accompanied the photo. 

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Review of “Master of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnson (Vol 3)” by Robert Caro

My Journey Through the Best Presidential Biographies

Master of the Senate: The Years of Lyndon Johnson” is the Pulitzer Prize-winning third volume in Robert Caro’s series covering the life of Lyndon B. Johnson. Caro is a former investigative reporter and the author of another Pulitzer Prize-winning biography: “The Power Broker” reviewing the life of Robert Moses. He is currently working on the fifth (and presumably final) volume in his LBJ series.

Published in 2002, “Master of the Senate” covers Johnson’s life from 1949 through 1960 – the dozen years he spent in the U.S. Senate. With 1,040 pages, this is the longest of the four volumes which have been published to date. And while books in this series are designed to stand on their own (for anyone interested in just one part of LBJ’s life) this volume is most compelling for readers tackling the entire series.

Fans of Caro’s series will quickly recognize…

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Julia Tyler’s Premonition

Presidential History Blog

Julia Gardiner Tyler spent only seven months as First Lady; then she went to live in Virginia.

JGT: The Young Wife

One of the earliest photographs of Julia Gardiner Tyler.

Julia Gardiner (1820-1889) was only 24 when she married sitting President John Tyler, a recent widower.  At 54, Tyler was still considered a fine figure of a man; tall, lean, an excellent horseman, graceful dancer (of mild dances), splendid orator, and a Southern charmer of the first order.

In middle age, President John Tyler was still a fine figure of a man.

The former Miss Gardiner, known to some as “The Rose of Long Island,” came from a wealthy New York family, had been educated at a fine finishing school, and had spent two years in Europe. She was also good looking. The thirty years that separated the “Rose” from the President, along with the seven children Tyler had with…

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Misreading the Same History

Cold Warriors

Cold Warriors

Kennedy wanted to end the Vietnam war.   Conspiracy theorists on both sides point to National Security Memo #263 as the smoking gun in Kennedy’s secret plan to get our troops out of Vietnam; and, also Memo #273 as proof the warmonger Johnson wanted to escalate the war.  Both accounts are demonstrably false.  Memo #263 simply states that Kennedy wanted to follow the recommendations of Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and General Maxwell Taylor following their visit to South Vietnam(withdrawal was not one of them.)   The second memo was drafted November 21, 1963 and is clearly a Kennedy document approved by Johnson.  In an interview given on the Huntley-Brinkley Report Kennedy reaffirmed our commitment to South Vietnam and his belief in the “domino theory.”  Kennedy did not want to end the war in South Vietnam and Johnson did not personally choose to escalate it. 

 

September 9, 1963: "I think we should stay. We should use our influence in as effective a way as we can, but we should not withdraw."

September 9, 1963: “I think we should stay. We should use our influence in as effective a way as we can, but we should not withdraw.”

Far too many amateurs historians have duped… suspicious  Americans for academic credibility and financial gain.  Oliver Stone lends his tarnished credibility to the misreading of a complicated series of policy decisions.  Stone does not deal in complexities- as a film maker, he prefers stories with heroes, villains, and tidy plots.  For reasons unknown, Stone and his acolytes refuse to accept Jack Kennedy for what he was- a Conservative Democrat committed to the policy of containment as laid down by his Democratic predecessor, Harry Truman.  Vietnam was a national tragedy and a painful scar on our history- trying to make John Kennedy the martyr of it is a fraudulent endeavor.

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Book Review

Baumgartner, Richard, Blue Lightning; Wilder’s Mounted Infantry Brigade in the Battle of Chickamauga, Huntington, West Virginia, Blue Acorn

     Press, 2007, ISBN- 978-1-885033-35-2

“If the government would expend the large sums now used to induce men to enlist, in arming the men now in the field with this kind of weapon, the rebellion would be…speedily crushed.”  Richard Baumgartner begins his study of Wilder’s brigade at Chickamauga by discussing how and why the unit was equipped.  Colonel John Wilder was one of the few officers willing to take a chance on advances in weapons technology by equipping his men with the Spencer repeating rifle in 1863.  He also saw that his brigade was mounted, making it a unique part of the Union army in Tennessee.  Baumgartner’s book focuses on the pivotal campaign for Chattanooga and the important role Wilder’s brigade had in it.

Baumgartner’s study is richly detailed, well researched, and painstakingly documented.  The pages are filled with informative tables and rare photographs, giving the reader valuable insight into the more complex facets of Civil War era logistics.  Baumgartner, a former journalist, weaves together an efficient narrative, especially describing Wilder’s troops in complex combat scenarios.  The result is an effective book, but a book clearly intended for Civil War buffs.  Casual readers may find the subject matter too specialized and the scope too limited to invest the requisite time.

The author chooses not to put Wilder’s troops into the larger context of changing military weapons and tactics.  Focusing on the specifics of the Chattanooga campaign (Chickamauga was its decisive battle) Baumgartner relies heavily on his primary sources to expand the narrative.  At times quoting entire sections of diaries and letters, the book never leaves the Southeastern Tennessee countryside.  Serious students of the Civil War will applaud the painstaking research, but the scope may not attract the less avid reader.  Baumgartner could have broadened the appeal by using Wilder’s brigade as an example of how the Civil War was rapidly changing military doctrine.

Richard Baumgartner’s book will be a delight to Civil War and military history buffs.  The depth of the research and exciting battle narratives make it one of the better campaign studies in recent years.  Casual history readers may not be ready to invest the required time is such a narrow study.

Gordon Sheaffer

James Madison Preparatory School

2012

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