Thursday, November 21, 2013

5 Ways to Keep Your Alumni Base Lively

Great advice for folks who control alumni groups!!

Via: iContact

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep....An Old Spin

This past February Mr. Elementaryhistoryteacher and I ran off for a quick weekend in Charleston. It was rainy and cold most of the time, so we didn't get a chance to walk around very much, but we did take a turn through the visitor's center and then headed across the street to The Charleston Museum.

The museum was founded in 1773 and is commonly referred to as America's first museum.

While I found all of the exhibits informative and well done, one of the smaller ones simply astonished me.

I love learning new things, and these types of cemetery markers were TOTALLY new to me.

Yes, that's a four poster bed headboard and for some people in the 18th century this served as their grave marker.

I came home from Charleston and began digging a little deeper. I found an article from The Milwaukee Journal dated June 17, 1927 titled, "Four Poster Bed Headboard Marks Grave 189 Years".

From the article: Still intact after serving 189 years [in Charleston, South Carolina] as a tombstone in St. Michael's Cemetery here a four poster headboard of an old wooden bed has been uncovered by a cleanup crew working in a cemetery.

The unusual marker was part of the bed used by Mary Ann Luyten during her lifetime. Some years before her death she decided that its enduring tidewater cypress wood should make a particularly satisfying tombstone. In writing her will she directed that this be done and ordered the inscription which was to be carved on the bed.

The words were plainly visible when workmen removed leaves and moss which had partially covered Mrs. Luyten's grave marker.

They read, "Mary Ann Luyten, wife of William Luyten Died September 9, 1770 in the twenty seventh year of her age"

...and here it is in the cemetery:

Apparently, this practice was repeated by others. In a more recent newspaper article from April, 1982 published in The News and Courier advised that for years the St. Michael's grave rails such as Luyten's were thought to be the only ones remaining in North America, but now there is a third "bedstead" shaped wooden grave rail that has been stashed away at St. James Santee Episcopal church for many years...It resembled the headboard of a bed and was designed to be set in the ground over the grave.

I find the markers to be very interesting....a whole new spin on "Now I lay me down to sleep." 

Saturday, September 07, 2013

The Artist Explorer

The Age of Exploration.

What do you immediately think of as you read those four words?

More than likely, you would throw out some of the more famous explorer's names and where their expeditions took place.

Some of you might tell me about their goals such as claiming land for the monarch who financed the expedition and how in the case of some bringing Christianity to the natives was in most cases a guise to seize lands and riches.

You most certainly wouldn't be wrong, but as many expeditions to the New World continued more people arrived who weren't just fortune hunters, soldiers and religious men wanting to save souls.

Sometimes the monarchs themselves would order certain people to go along,  and in the case of explorers Jean Ribault an Rene Laudonnere, the French monarch ordered an artist to go along and capture not riches or natives but capture images of the things he saw in the New World.

The artist was Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues who lived between 1533 and 1588.

Le Moyne went along on Ribault's expedition in 1566 to what we would consider to be north Florida near the St. John River. Ribault hoped to establish a colony near present day Jacksonville, and he ended up building Fort Caroline.

Le Moyne not only served as an artist but was very useful as a cartographer.

The expedition erected a stone marker near the mouth of the St. John River which happened to be a standard French marker used in the New World. It was a hexagonal column of white stone engraved with the royal standard. Eventually, Le Moyne writes that the Timuca, a Native American tribe in the area, began to venerate the marker as if it was an idol.

Eventually, relations with the natives soured, some members of the expedition grew weary of the leaders and led mini revolts, and rival expeditions from other nations caused problems.

In 1565, a group of Spaniards led by Pedro Menendez de Aviles attacked the men at Fort Caroline.

Le Moyne made his escape with a few others, but only one of his drawings survived. What we do have are engravings which are recreations based on Le Moyne's memory. They are important because they happen to be the earliest images from the New World. Engravings of his work exist today as only one of his New World drawings was saved.  I've posted one of the engravings at the beginning of this post. Le Moyne also penned an account of the voyage titled Brevis Narration Eorum Quae in Florida Americai Provincial Gallis Acciderunt in 1591.

Le Moyne never returned to the New World. He devoted the last years of his life creating botanical art.

You can see more engravings based on Le Moyne's drawings here.

Another great source you could explore is The New World.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Using Memoirs to Strengthen Curriculum

In my opinion the least taught war in United States classrooms has to be the Korean War.

The U.S never declared war on North Korea because we weren’t there on our own. Our involvement was a result of the United Nations aiding South Korea with the United States supplying 88% of the forces. The People’s Republic of China entered the war helping North Korea. Officially the Soviet Union provided material aid as well for the North Koreans, but talk to anyone involved, and they firmly believe the Soviet involvement included men on the ground and in the air.

I feel that events in Korea during the 1950s have a real place in the classroom, but ignorance keeps it from being fully explored in the curriculum.
We don’t take the time to fully explore all the possibilities the content of the Korean War could have in our classrooms. Take any history textbook and thumb through pages and you see that very little is given about the Korean War. Most of the time it’s treated as a “breather” of sorts between the end of World War II and the startup of the Vietnam War. It was done that way when I was in school, and in most classrooms it’s still treated that way. 

I don’t blame teachers for not diving deep into the war. Our teaching standards barely touch on it, but aren’t we cheating students regarding an important chunk of American History? 
Aren’t we throwing the service of the men who served during the Korean War away by not covering the war as best we can?

The Korean War is just another example why teachers cannot rely on the textbook as a complete tool to help them frame standards into a viable curriculum. You have to go outside of the textbook for content and a complete picture of the events in Korea.
My favorite source happens to be memoirs – first-hand accounts of the events from those who were there. In the case of Korea I had a memoir fall into my lap through my local history project regarding Douglas County and Douglasville, Georgia where I live. 

One of our former editors for our local paper has written a memoir which covers many of his life experiences, but mainly his exploits in the U.S. Navy aboard the USS Sicily during the Korean Conflict. The book is called Excitement!! In War and Peace by W. Harris Dalton. It can be purchased on Amazon by clicking on the title or through Yawn’s Books in Canton, Georgia. The cover of the book features a picture of the author (extreme left standing) with some of his buddies.

While there are numerous snippets of information in Mr. Dalton’s book that could be extracted and infused into a teacher’s Korean War curriculum here are five things I found extremely interesting: 

1. Mr. Dalton spent three years aboard the USS Sicily described in Collier’s magazine as “the phantom ship” due to the fact it was always on the move and the enemy didn’t know where they would be next.  Mr. Dalton states, “To her credit ‘the Queen’ was victorious in two of the bloodiest battles – Pusan and Hungnam – in American history. She was also there providing close air support for the marine’s historic landing on Inchon that turned the tide of the battle on the peninsula and forced the fight for the Yalu River."

I don’t know about you, but just from that snippet from Mr. Dalton’s book I want to Google a few key words for more information.

2. The Black Sheep Squadron was re-commissioned during the Korean War and flew Corsairs off the Sicily.  As Dalton states, “Navy and Marine Corsair pilots were available and they made perfect sense for the Korean conflict against North Korea which had no air force and navy.”  

I know what you are thinking, and's the same Black Sheep Squadron that gained a reputation during World War II. The picture below shows some of their planes on the deck of the Sicily. 

3. Mr. Dalton gives great insight to a Black Sheep Squadron mission on Christmas Eve, 1950 where they had been sent out to check on what was reported to be a group of guerillas heading towards American troops.  The Black Sheep Squadron planes found the suspected guerillas and completed a fly-over. They found the group contained a large concentration of women and children. As they flew over the women held their babies up in what was interpreted as a friendly gesture. The group seemed like friendly refugees.

There was no danger, right?  

Later these same friendly refugees wiped out a whole Marine group. Members of the squadron were sent out immediately on a search and destroy mission.

One of the squadron members told to Mr. Dalton, “I circled around, and when I was directly over them, I dropped a napalm bomb right in the center of the marauders. We then circled the scene until we had established there were no survivors. I knew they had killed my fellow marines, and it wouldn’t have been so bad if it hadn’t been Christmas Eve.”
4. The book discusses operations involving Chinese and Russian forces stating, “What had begun as a mission to drive North Korea out of South Korea escalated into an overt fight against North Korean and Chinese forces when we moved up the Yalu River and the surreptitious aggression by the Soviet Union, the bully in the neighborhood.”

Mr. Dalton tells of an incident that was wiped from the books regarding a supposed Russian submarine that was headed towards U.S. forces and wouldn’t identify itself. For two hours Mr. Dalton, as radar man, personally filled three pages of his log book regarding messages concerning the location and actions of the sub which culminated in sightings of an oil slick.

Later when he checked the pages of the logbook, they had been removed with the explanation that the action HAD NEVER TAKEN PLACE. The event never made the news, of course.

5. During a portion of the time Mr. Dalton was assigned to the Sicily his captain was John S. “Jimmy” Thach, made famous for his World War II flying exploits, and for his invention of the "Thach Weave", a tactic that enabled U.S. fliers to hold their own against the Japanese Zeroes. He is also given credit regarding another tactic referred to as the "big blue blanket".

In the picture above Thach is on the right.
So, before you head off to Google all the key words I’ve thrown at you regarding the Korean War, check out Mr. Dalton’s book for even more first-hand war experiences aboard the USS Sicily.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Wordless: The Countess

If you hang around here any length of time you realize that my Wordless entries are never entirely wordless......just more brief than normal.

This is Countess Virginia Oldoini....more than likely the very first fashion/photography model.  She was also the mistress of Emperor Napoleon III and held the ear of many powerful people.

I posted another picture of her earlier this week on my Facebook page. Like it today!

The Wordless Wednesday hub can be found here.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Ten Billionaires Who Let Their Education Work for Them

Ever wonder how those billionaires reach their goals? Education figures in there somewhere.... Put yours to work for you!

Via: Grown Up Me

Thursday, June 13, 2013

13 Things About the Washington Monument Stones

Last week I shared some information about the Washington Monument and the Pope's stone which was destroyed by the political party known as the Know Nothings.

During my research I took a little side tour and found some interesting things about the panels that decorate the interior walls of the monument.

As I advised in my earlier posts:

In 1849, funds had begun to dwindle. The Society began the commemorative stone program where states could donate engraved stones that would go on the interior of the monument. The program got a little out of hand as more folks got involved. Stones began arriving from territories, groups, organizations and even a few individuals.

The purpose of the program was to help all Americans feel a part of the memorial and more importantly to the society the stone donation program would cut the cost regarding the number of stones to be purchased.

So, I thought I would post some of the bits of information I found on 13 of the stones since it is Thursday, and it's been forever since I posted a Thursday 13.

1. The "Alaska" Stone was the last to be installed. It's made from jade and is said to be worth three million dollars.

2. The "Citizens of Stockton, California" stone is made from granite. The gold leaf on the letters dates back from the 1850s Gold Rush.

3. The "Michigan" stone is solid copper with a sterling coat of arms and lettering that costs around $1,000 in 1852.

4. The "Nashville" stone was carved by William Strickland, the architect of the state capitol in Tennessee and who is actually buried within the walls of that building. I'm glad he didn't make the same request for the Washington Monument.
5. The "Arizona" stone is actually fashioned from three different petrified tree trunks. Why?  Well, Arizona is home to the Petrified Forest National Park.
6. The "South Carolina" stone was damaged during the Civil War when it was removed following Fort Sumter. A hatchet was used to remove the stone, and then it was buried on the monument grounds. During the war hundreds of Northern soldiers camped on it and farm animals lived over it.

7. The "Turkey" stone represents one from several countries who wanted to take part in honoring George Washington. Turkey was one of the first nations to establish trade with the United States.
8. The "Association of Journeymen Stonecutters" stone is fashioned from Pennsylvania marble. It was designed by Stephen G. Cartlidge who was 17 at the time.
9. There are two stones from "Georgia". I find it a little ironic that one says "The Union as it was - The Constitution as it is" considering the Civil War was just a few short years away.
10. It should be noted that future generations might not know who you are if you aren't very clear.  Seriously, who are the S. of T. R. I.?   This stone was donated by the Sons of Temperance of Rhode Island.
11. One of the few stones given by Native American groups was the "Anacostia" stone.
12. I don't know about you, but there's just something about the "Kansas" stone I like.
13. And last, but not least is this stone...the "Peter Force" stone. It was accepted by the Society before November 27, 1849....after that date they no longer accepted stones from individuals.

You can look through all of the stones here.

You can visit the Thursday 13 blog hub here.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Gliding Through D-Day....Part II

A few years ago I paid homage to my Uncle Buck for his service to our country during the very early morning hours of June 6, 1944 by writing Gliding Into D-Day.  Feel free to obtain a little background if you wish by clicking through and reading it first.

My uncle….Flight Officer Cyrus S. Carson…. was a glider pilot.

Gliders were actually the first stealth aircraft used by the military. The Gibson Refrigerator Co. received contracts from the U.S. Army Air Force for the production of CG-4A troop carrying gliders, and was one of 15 companies to do so. Each glider was made up of 70,000 individual parts.  Gibson built over 1,000 of the nearly 14,000 CG-4A gliders constructed during the war.
On the morning of June 6, 1944, Cyrus S. Carson was flying as pilot in command and John Winkler was flying co-pilot in a WACO CG-4A glider similar to the one I’ve posted below. Both men had graduated as second lieutenants from advanced flight training in 1943 from Lubbock, Texas.

A WACO CG-4A glider is pictured below.
The mission that my uncle and Winkler flew was serial 2B code name “Detroit” which was a pre-dawn glider borne combat assault in the American airborne landings in Normandy, made by elements of the U.S. 82nd Airborne Division. It was part of Operation Neptune, the assault port of the Allied Invasion of France, Operation Overlord.
Originally slated to be the main assault for the 82nd Airborne, the glider operation instead became the first reinforcement missing after the main parachute combat assault, Mission Boston. The landing zone for Mission Detroit was near Sante-Mere-Eglise, to the west of Utah beach.

The 434th Troop Carrier Group as well as the 437th participated at the same time.
My uncle and Winkler, pictured below, were flying the 82nd Airborne as the other group flew the 101st Airborne. Each group consisted of 52 gliders, making a total of 104 gliders to cross the peninsula of Normandy.

On D-Day my uncle and Winkler were flying glider number 6. Their mission was to carry field artillery and hook up with glider number 5 which had a jeep. Their tow plane was the C-45. The WACO CG-4A was 48 feet long with an 84 foot wingspan and weighed 3,790 pounds empty, 7,500 pounds normal load, and 9,000 pounds overloaded; made of plywood, canvas and steel tubing. There were no flaps, although spoilers above the wing were used to steep the glide.

From my uncle’s own account of the mission he writes, “Every odd numbered glider transported a jeep and five men counting the pilot and co-pilot. Every even numbered glider transported an anti-tank gun, five men and a stack of ammo.
….Our men took a map of the Normandy peninsula and located the beach that the troops would be using to land ashore. Straight across the peninsula on the south shore were [the two Channel] islands named Guernsey and Jersey. The navigator decided that if we positioned a ship about 40 miles straight south, with a spot light point straight up, we could head from England into the direction of Spain and pick up that spot light and go north [and get us in the position regarding where we wanted to land our gliders].

What we didn’t know …was that these two islands were the heaviest fortified places in all of Europe.”
Around 1:00 am in the morning my uncle and Winkler along with three soldiers from the 82nd Airborne took off from Ramsbury, England. The weather was so bad the mission should have been cancelled, but that had already happened once before.

My uncle remembers, “We assembled over England and when we reached the Channel, we dropped down to 100 feet over the water and flew until we found our spotlight, then headed north. As we crossed between the two islands, we could see thousands of shells going up just in front of every tow plane and glider. The only thing that saved us was the eight Air Force P-47s, P-51s, B-25s, and B-26s that flew at speeds between 250 and 275 mph.  We came along at 140 mph and the guns on the ground couldn’t adjust their lead.  Not a single C-47 or glider was shot down.”
They could not see the tow plane, although they could tell if they were high or low depending on which way the tow rope pointed looking out from the cockpit. There is no engine noise, although the glider does make a whistle noise from the various protruding rigging that is exposed to the slip stream.

My uncle continued, “At 2,000 feet over land we were flying in a cloud, solely on instruments. A glider’s instruments consist of keeping the three to four feet of tow rope pointing in the same direction. We were supposed to drop down to an altitude of 700 feet for glider release. We were approximately six to eight minutes from the release point when the C-47 pulling me made an 85 degree diving turn to the left. This caused the rope on my glider to break.”
My uncle’s co-pilot, Wilkerson recollects that something must have spooked the pilot in the tow plane as he ran into a thick cover of clouds.

My uncle states, “I made a driving turn to the right. If I had remained on course, and slowed down to 70 mph, there was a real good possibility that the C-47 behind me, would have collided with the rear of my glider.
I reduced my speed to 70 mph and at about 100 feet I broke out from under the clouds. This gave me a very short amount of time to find a suitable place to land my glider. I selected an open field to my right. This field had one large tree about one foot in diameter.

I positioned my glider so that the tree would contact the center of my right wing, causing the right wing to be shred off and causing the glider to drop about five feet to the ground with enough force to break off the right landing gear. The left side of the glider came down slower and the left wheel remained on the glider. This caused one terrific ground loop. Nobody was injured and the equipment was not damaged.
Glider number 5, carrying a jeep was supposed to join up with us. This would have given us a 10 man anti-tank crew.”

Co-pilot Wilkerson reported that all five crew members were covered with dirt from the glider plowing up the field with the landing gear.
My uncle continues, “With hopes that the crew with the jeep would find us, we hid on a wooden knoll about 900 feet away from where we landed where we had a clear view of the glider. The first thing that came by was a truck load of about 20 German troops.”

Sadly two hours after John and Cyrus landed and while they were waiting next to their glider hoping to meet up with the crew from glider number 5, deputy commander of the 101st Airborne, Brigadier-GeneralDonald F. Pratt landed about 0400. His glider was over-loaded with a command jeep, radio set, and jerry cans of gasoline. In order to avoid stalling the glider, the pilot, Lieutenant-Colonel Michael C. Murphy, came in over the hedgerow at about 90 mph and skidded on the damp grass and crashed head-on into a tree in the middle of the hedge. Murphy survived the crash with two broken legs, although Pratt died in the seat of his jeep with a broken neck.
Pratt was the highest ranking officer killed on D-Day.

At a family reunion a few years before my uncle died he told me about the glider crash that killed Pratt with tears streaming down his face.  He wrote “They overshot the landing field. The Jeep shifted when the glider hit a hedgerow causing it to move forward, severing the pilot, Tom Seward’s right shoulder.  He died instantly. The co-pilot received a broken back. They were surrounded by Germans fairly quickly. The co-pilot was taken to a German field hospital.  All they could do for him was roll up a blanket and put it under his back while lying face up.
Thankfully, the American front line overtook the hospital four weeks later.”

The glider crash that killed Pratt was fictionalized in the movie Saving Private Ryan.
My uncle and his crew waited as long as they could, but the area was full of Germans. I’ve posted a picture below of one of the gliders being inspected by the Germans soon after it landed below. 
At this point my uncle’s crew decided getting back to friendly territory was their prime objective. Unknown to them at the time, there was a total of 8 gliders that landed off course in the same area within about a 2 mile radius of them and there were also two German divisions there at La Chevalerie near Saint Germaine-le-Gaillard.

The men decided to split up with my uncle taking two of the soldiers with him and his co-pilot took the rest.
Immediately upon splitting up Germans were within eyesight.  My uncle explains, “The three of us were in a wheat field close to hedgerow when a truck of Germans entered the same field in a lower corner. I told them that everything takes time, if we jumped up, it would take time for them to recognize us as Americans, it would take time for each one to decide which one of us to shoot and it would take time to aim and fire. In my theory, before they could fire the first shot, we could be over the hedgerow and be gone.

Agreeing with me I told them we would count to three, at the word three, we would go over the hedgerow. On the word three I sprung up, hit my head and right shoulder on the top of the hedgerow, and pole vaulted to the other side.
Going over I saw three rifles come up, but no shot was fired.

I hit the ground running.
In 500 feet was another hedgerow.  I cleared it the same way. 

Then I stopped to let the other two catch up. 
I was surprised to find I was alone.

This meant that the other two didn’t have a second chance.”
My uncle never knew what happened to the two men.  He checked with headquarters as late as September, 1947 and there was no word as to their whereabouts.

Once alone he heads towards Cherbourg.  He spots another glider crew who has set fire to their glider, but they are hesitant to leave because a member of their crew was injured.  After 15 minutes or so my uncle sets off again alone moving slowly as the area is thick with German surveillance.
French resistance fighter, Valentin Lebatard picks him up on the afternoon of June 9th and drops him off with a small group of American soldiers. After 48 hours my uncle sets off alone again

He explains, “Two days later I thought I was three or four hedgerows from the American front line, when a German medic found me. The American medics go into battle with a first-aid kit and a stretcher; the German medics went into battle with a first aid kit and a rifle. I was taken to German headquarters which was about three blocks away where I was interrogated giving name, rank and serial number only.  Apparently the Germans had never heard of the rank “Flight Officer” before.”
While being held at the German headquarters my uncle met up with Second Lieutenant James Bowley.  Per Uncle Buck Bowley had “come ashore on the third day of the invasion at Utah Beach, and had been injured in the right hip by a German hand grenade.   He was just coming to when the Germans searched him finding his pockets full of German insignias that he had taken from dead German soldiers.  

Three hours later they were on a truck….three feet deep with ammo and about 8 German soldiers. The truck was pulling an 88 mm anti-aircraft gun.”
Basically, they were riding in a half-track which is a cross between a tractor and a tank. The ammo the Germans were carrying was shells about 5 feet across and about eighteen inches in length. They could bring down a B-17 bomber at 30,000 feet as the flak from these shells brought down hundreds of bombers during the war.

My uncle and Lt. Bowley knew exactly where they were headed. When the Germans captured Allied soldiers they would march them or transport them to Paris where they would be loaded on box cars for the trip to Berlin and on to a concentration camp deep inside Germany. 
The Germans had their prisoners ride on top of the ammunition. At one section of the road which led to Paris, there was an area that was barren of any hedgerows and trees and was vulnerable since the American Air Corp had orders to not let anything go in or out of this area. When they would see any German vehicle it would be fair game.

By this time, a couple of P-47s were patrolling the road looking for German transports.  One of the fighters made a low pass and came around for the bomb run.
My uncle states, “On his last pass the pilot decided to drop a 500 pound bomb.  The bomb hit the pavement in front of me, dug through the pavement about one foot, rose back into the air clearing the gun and the truck and going about 200 feet into the living room of a French house. The bomb did not explode. We had about 20 minutes of fireworks as all the ammo in the truck exploded.”

Since the bomb did not detonate, the wing-man for the other P-47 was going to finish off the job with a strafing pass. As the fighter made its pass, the half-track was hit with 50 caliber machine gun rounds and it exploded in flames.
The Germans along with their prisoners took shelter at a farmhouse. The location was identified as “La Detrousse” in the town of Saint-Nicolas-de-Pierreport near La-Haye-du-Puits. At some point the German Lieutenant leaves the prisoners with a guard while he and the other men go in search of other transport.

While they were alone the Americans were able to talk more directly with the German soldier and even shared pictures of their families. My uncle and Bowley attempted to persuade the German soldier that they were all just pawns in the war.
Later, when the German Lieutenant returns he orders the prisoners to dig their graves.  The prisoners had become a liability and had to go.  The officer left with the other men and ordered the guard to kill the solders and catch up to them.

The guard took my uncle and Bowley to a bedroom and showed them how the mattresses were stuffed with straw.  He indicated the men should hide in the mattresses and not come out.  
A few minutes later they heard gun fire.  A couple of shots sounded a few seconds apart.

Then quiet descended on the place.
The German guard had left to rejoin his group now that the American prisoners had been “killed.”

My uncle and Bowley hid out on the farm for almost a month with the farmer providing them food and wine.  Around the first of July two French women arrived at the farm accompanied by a B-17 pilot who had been shot down in the area named Kenneth N. Haugard.  By this time my uncle was suffering from a high fever and Bowley’s hip injury was getting worse.
Thankfully within a few days the Americans were in control of the area and the men were had reached their goal – friendly territory.

Once in friendly territory my uncle learned that his co-pilot Wilkerson had also been captured by the Germans, but managed to escape through the hedgerows when a passing American plane distracted their captors.  His group was able to reach friendly territory by July 8th.
This story had had a happy ending because both my uncle and Wilkerson made it back to England in one piece. More than one-third of all glider troops were killed or wounded during the time between June 6th, 1944 and May, 1945.

Both men never flew another mission, although my uncle stayed on as a glider instruction in England as the glider was used in a few more missions including the Battle of the Bulge, the liberation of Holland and the crossing of the Rhine into German. The Army Air Corp glider program was phased out in 1947, although one of the keys to the success of D-Day was the use of the glider.
Both men went on to have successful professions after the war.
My uncle, Cyrus S. Carson had a career with Lockheed Martin and one of his jobs was in the photography department. Cyrus retired after 30 years in 1982. An interesting note is that both Cyrus and John built a dark room together in England, and Cyrus used it to make a career profession.

On October 8, 2005 Uncle Buck finally managed to have a reunion with Wilkerson and talk over their experiences.
Both men provided interviews with the Palm Springs Air Museum in association with the Veterans History Project of the Library of Congress and their glider experiences during D-Day were included in the book Forgotten Wings by Phillippe Esvelin.


Wednesday, June 05, 2013

The Know Nothings and the Washington Monument

I've tried to get back into the groove of active posting by sharing old pictures on my Facebook page for "History Is Elementary" in the evening over the last several days.

What?  You don't "like" me on Facebook?

Well, what are you waiting for?

Look on the right sidebar and scroll down to find the Facebook "like" box and click that sucker pronto!

There...don't you feel better, now?

So, anyway, Tuesday night I posted this picture of the Washington Monument.

Yes, I know.  It doesn't look right, does it?  At the point this picture was taken the construction had been suspended. In fact, the monument sat for 25 years with no action whatsoever.
Of course, knowing that the above picture was taken in 1860 it would be very easy to surmise construction stopped because of the Civil War...and to a point, you would be right, but the war isn't the only reason why construction stopped. Work was suspended around 1854, six years prior to the first shot fired at Fort Sumter, so....there had to be another reason for the suspension.
It had something to do with those durned Know Nothings. I've written about them before way back in 2006 when I told my students Millard Fillmore was a Know Nothing.
Back then I advised Fillmore accepted the 1856 presidential nomination for the Know Nothing or American Party. They were a Nativist group that feared Catholics would gain too much control of state and local governments and opposed their immigration. Know Nothings wanted to use the government to push their agenda regarding a Protestant Anglo-Saxon society. They called for limits on immigration, wanted to limit political office to native-born Americans only, and called for a twenty-one year wait for immigrants to become citizens. Other extreme desires of the Know Nothings were a limit on the sale of liquor, and to have their version of the Bible read in American classrooms.
The name Know Nothing derives from the fact that when party members were asked about the group's activities, they were supposed to reply, "I know nothing."
When the first idea was hatched concerning the Washington Monument a society was formed as early as 1832 to oversee the design and construction named The Washington National Monument Society.
A design contest was held which Robert Mills won. The image below was his original design.
Yes, the original design was altered along the way.
In 1849, funds had begun to dwindle. The Society began the commemorative stone program where states could donate engraved stones that would be installed in the interior of the monument. The program got a little out of the hand as more folks got involved.
The purpose of the program was to help all Americans feel a part of the memorial and more importantly to the society the stone donation program would cut the cost regarding the number of stones that had to be purchased.
Stone began arriving from states as well as other territories, foreign nations, fraternal organizations, societies, businesses and even a couple of American Indian tribes. While a few stones were delivered with a donation towards the construction, many did not.
Some of the stones came with inscriptions that didn't have anything to do with President Washington. The Templars of Honor and Temperance sent a stone that said, "We will not buy, sell, or use as a beverage any spirituous or malt liquors, wine, cider, or any other alcoholic liquor."
The Know Nothings gained control of the Society in 1855 and kept things in turmoil.  Basically, they took control of the records and started their own organization, of sorts. Work slowed down to a crawl with only four feet being added to the monument over the next three years. Eventually, the work stopped.
The Know Nothings also objected severely to one of the donated commemorative stones. Pope Pius IX donated a stone taken from the Temple of Concord in Rome and had it inscribed "Rome to America". Of course, the Know Nothings weren't happy about the stone due to their anti-Catholic feelings.
Supposedly, a group of Know Nothings stole the stone, smashed it to bits and threw the pieces into the Potomac River.
You can read more about it here from a 1970s article in the Milwaukee Journal.
The Washington Sentinel from March 8, 1854 advised the block was mutilated beyond recognition before being thrown into the river. In the days that followed souvenir hunters fanned out across the banks of the river looking for fragments.
In 1858, the Know Nothings gave up their control of the Society, and finally in 1876, President Ulysses S. Grant signed an act that gave control of the Washington Monument to the U.S government. The Society would still solicit funds and provide advice regarding construction. Once government funding was in place the monument was finished with a few modifications to the original design.
So, is the Pope's stone still at the bottom of the Potomac River?
A Washington Post article from June, 1892 advises a large stone....sharply cut and beautifully polished was found near the southwest corner of the abutment for the Long Bridge over the Potomac River during a period of construction. The stone had marks on it that might have come from a hammer and an inscription on one side had been partially knocked off in several places. Just enough remained, however, to make out "RO - MERICA" cut deep in Gothic letters.
In fact, the Smithsonian boasts a piece of the Pope's stone they received as a donation in 1972. The woman who donated it claimed she had held onto the stone for over 60 years. Her brother gave her the stone via one of the supposed original thieves.
As far as I can tell the rowdy members of the Know Nothings responsible for the theft were never found. The Know Nothing Party was eventually absorbed into the Republican Party.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

More About the Hunley

This article begins….”For nearly 150 years, the story of the Hunley’s attack on the USS Housatonic has been Civil War legend. And it has been wrong.”


Well, correcting myths, legends and poor history has been habit around here, so let’s dive in.

In this case it isn’t so much intentionally reporting incorrect history or revising history to make it more interesting –it’s just that we didn’t have all the pieces of the puzzle.  As new pieces are scrutinized from the wreckage we have to adjust the story.... even if it’s been part of the story for over a hundred years.

In this case eyewitness accounts at the time of the attack have been debunked because a piece of the Confederate submarine’s torpedo was found to be attached to its spar. This means the Hunley was much closer to the blast –within 20 feet.

 You can read the whole thing here.

 So far, the part of the romantic part of the story regarding Queenie’s coin has NOT been debunked, and for that I’m very glad.  

You can read THAT party of the Hunley story here, which I wrote in 2009.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Let's Hear It for Local History

Over the last couple of years I’ve immersed myself into a personal local history project involving researching and writing about the history of my home…..Douglas County, Georgia. 

What started as a weekly column here at Douglasville Patch morphed into a blog called Every Now and Then located here. 
I’ve learned several interesting things along the way, met some great people, and kept myself rather busy meeting a self-imposed Monday deadline each and every week……something I’m trying to get back to doing around here at History Is Elementary as well.

One of the things I’ve tried to do in many of my postings is to connect local history to the larger picture of what was happening in Georgia  and in the United States at the same time.
For example, recently I wrote about a couple who moved to Douglasville, Georgia in 1887.  Now in and of itself that’s NOT so remarkable, but the fact that the couple was from Chicago, Illinois caught my interest. Later as I began to get more involved in the research I saw how far reaching the story of C.C. and Helen Wilmans Post happened to be.

Both were journalists.  He could be termed a muckraker actively writing during the reform movement of the late 1800s. I had mentioned him in a post here at History Is Elementary a few months ago.  
His wife, however, got caught up as the self-described founder of “mental science” hawking her “lessons” and books discussing how upon receipt of a fee she could cure patients of various ailments.....a process she described as an "absent cure."

While his wife was busy receiving thousands of dollars a year for her “services”, C.C. Post had become not only heavily involved with local politics in Douglasville, Georgia he also became very involved with third party politics in Georgia via the Farmers Alliance which grew into the Populist Party.  He was known not only on the local stage, but on the state and national stage as well.
The Posts are an interesting study regarding the time period and how folks reacted to them. 

You can access  their story at the following links
Part One…..A Little Background on Mr. and Mrs. Post

Part Three….Mr. Post and Third Party Politics

My local blog has its very own Facebook page where readers can stay advised regarding updates.  You are more than welcome to “like” the page here.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Pursuing Goals

Pursuing one’s goals…..a worthy pursuit, right?
Hard work and determination….giving each and every move careful consideration…..making a plan……following the steps….changing course when necessary……

Yes, all of these are strategies to pursue one’s goals, but all too often we get tired of the time it takes to reach our goals. 
That’s when short-cuts come into play.

Take the following words. They represent a short cut……
“The most direct path would be to leave the Oregon route, about two hundred miles east of Fort Hall; thence bearing west south-west, to the Salt Lake; and thence continuing down to the bay of San Francisco.”

It was with those few words the George Donner party made the fateful decision to take a short-cut they found highlighted in the book The Emigrants’ Guide to Oregon and California. 
The book was written by Lansford Hastings and even though he never met any member of the Donner party, and even though Hastings didn’t exactly promote the short-cut he is forever linked to the disastrous end the Donner party faced.  Some sources state Hastings who had explored the West extensively had never even traveled on the trail.  Other sources mention he had gone down the trail with no incident a few weeks ahead of the Donner party.

Lansford Hastings had written his book in 1844 to entice settlers to California which at that time was held by Mexico. Hastings’ goal was to set up an independent republic and as a result be able to take some sort of office in governance.
Yes, that was Lansford Hastings’ goal to hold a high public office……

The Republic of California or the Bear Republic did exist for a time in 1846, but just for a few days before U.S. soldiers arrived and the annexation process began. 
Yes, that’s why the state flag of California has a bear on it even to this day.

Lansford Hastings still had to meet his goal, however….hence the Hastings Plot.
Ever hear of it?

During the Civil War Lansford Hastings sided with the Confederacy.  Even though he had been living in Arizona for some time he traveled to Richmond late in the war and met with President Jefferson Davis.  He tried to convince President Davis to allow him….on behalf of the Confederate States of America to wrestle California away from the Union and make it part of the Confederacy. The war was over in a year so the plot never amounted to much.
Still……..Lansford Hastings continued to be a man in search of a kingdom……..republic of his own.

It does seem like he had a plan and just kept working those same steps over and over. Doesn’t it? 
In the years following the war Hastings became involved with a group of ex-Confederates who wanted to move to Brazil.  Lansford Hastings traveled to South America, and met with the government there to set up arrangements for the Americans to settle.  He also wrote a guide for those wishing to move there.

Lansford Hastings died while traveling to Brazil accompanying a group of settlers in 1870, and while he never did achieve his goal of a high governmental office Hastings did achieve one thing….
Over 10,000 Confederados. as they are known in Brazil remain there and are descended from the ex-Confederates. Every year they have festivals complete with Confederate flags, Confederate uniforms, hoop skirts, food of the American South infused with that of Brazil.  They also have dances and music their ancestors brought with them….styles from the antebellum period.

Former First Lady Rosalyn Carter’s great uncle was one of the first Confederados in Brazil.  The Carters traveled to Brazil in 1972.

Getting back to Lansford Hastings...He finally got that kingdom, of sorts. He just didn't get to govern over it.