Sunday, December 28, 2008

The Great State of Franklin

As a form of review I often throw a couple dozen vocabulary words up on the board and ask students to write the words down in column one and in column two identify the word by the historical era it best belongs to. Students need to be able to explain to me, to the class, or to a partner why they wrote down the particular historical unit as their answer. Depending on the capabilities of the group or the needs of certain students I might also list all of the unit names we had discussed up to that point as a memory jogger.
For example, if I wrote the word Constitution on the board I would expect my students to correctly identify the historical unit as “Building a New Nation” while the vocabulary word potlatch would match up with “Native Americans.”

Let’s see how well you do…..the units are Native Americans, Exploration, Colonization, French and Indian War, American Revolution, and Forming a New Nation. The vocabulary words are circumnavigate, liberty, artisan, origin story, Ohio River Valley, and James Madison.

Commence to matching them up.

So, how did you match them up?

Here’s the best way….Native Americans/origin story, Exploration/circumnavigate, Colonization/artisan, French and Indian War/Ohio River Valley, American Revolution/liberty, James Madison/Forming a New Nation.

What about the word secession?

Which unit of history would it best go with?

The Civil War…right?

What if I changed the direction for the activity from which is the best unit to match the word up with to which historical period or unit is the earliest time period the word could fit?

If “that” was my direction then the Civil War would NOT be correct.

Nope….in fact the time period right after the American Revolution would be the correct historical time period.


Ever hear of the state of Franklin? Yep, it existed.

In April, 1784 the state of North Carolina gave the new United States government control of 29 million acres between the Mississippi River and the Allegheny Mountains (Appalachian) due to the extreme amount of debt the new nation found itself under.

This action, however, did not please many of the inhabitants of the area who did not want to suddenly find themselves as Spanish or French colonists should the Confederation government of the U.S. decide to sell the territory for debt relief. Apparently the legislature of North Carolina also became a bit wary as to what the national government would do with the land, so they took their offer off the table.

By August, 1784 the people living in this area had had it with the uncertainty of their fate. Were they citizens of North Carolina? Were they citizens of a new colony? The people declared they were free from North Carolina, and on May 16, 1785, a delegation asked the U.S. Congress for statehood. Their proposed name was Frankland.

Under the Articles of Confederation that governed this nation at the time a two-thirds majority of states had to vote in favor of statehood….they fell short with just seven states voting in favor.
Frankland’s leaders even opted to change the name to Franklin, after Benjamin Franklin, in hopes that members of the confederation congress would go for that, and the fact that the U.S. government did not officially declare them a state did not deter them.

A constitution was adopted, a government was seated at Greeneville, and John Sevier was elected governor. The “state”, however, could never support itself and since it was not officially recognized by the U.S. government, and because it ignored the fact that North Carolina controlled the territory, Franklin could not benefit from any military assistance.

North Carolina troops finally moved in when Franklin’s “government” refused to accept North Carolina’s offer to waive back taxes. One battle ensued at Colonel Tipton's farm in present day Johnson City, Tennessee.

After failing to garner a loan from Spain (which is ironic since so many citizens had not wanted to be beholden to the French or the Spanish), John Sevier finally turned himself into North Carolina authorities in February, 1788. His only punishment was to declare an oath of allegiance to North Carolina.

All differences between the state of North Carolina and the want-to-be state of Franklin were forgotten by the citizens of the territory when Native Americans began to heavily attack the white Franklin settlements in March, 1788. The citizens of Franklin were more than ready to declare they were in fact North Carolinians.

By 1790, the territory that had once claimed to be the state of Franklin was ceded by the government of North Carolina once more to the national government where it would become part of the Southwest Territory…..and would later become part of Tennessee where it remains today.

It’s not unusual for citizens to suddenly change the name of a proposed state or county to something that might be more favorable to those voting….see another article I wrote here.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas, 2008!

From my home to yours....Merry Christmas and Seasons Greetings.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Bulge Begins....

Today is an important date in World War II history….The website maintained by the
World War II Veterans of the Battle of the Bulge states:

The Battle of the Bulge which lasted from December 16, 1944 to January 25, 1945 was the largest land battle of World War II in which the United States participated. More than a million men fought in this battle including some 600,000 Germans, 500,000 Americans, and 55,000 British. The German military force consisted of two Armies with ten corps (equal to 29 divisions). While the American military force consisted of a total of three armies with six corps (equal to 31 divisions). At the conclusion of the battle the casualties were as follows: 81,000 U.S. with 19,000 killed, 1400 British with 200 killed, and 100,000 Germans killed, wounded or captured.

You can find more of my World War II postings here.

Other bloggers are participating in Wordless Wednesday today….you can find them here.

A Christmas Fire at the White House

The White House has endured a few fires over the years, but one particular fire occurred during the Christmas season, and the Oval Office received some major damage.

See my most recent post…Up on the Rooftop...Hoover Watched over at American Presidents Blog.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

13 Things Concerning Isaias Hellman

I recently finished reading Towers of Gold: How One Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California by Frances Dinkelspiel, and I have to say I’m a bit jealous. Isaias Hellman is the great-great grandfather of Ms. Dinkelspiel. It’s not just anyone who can claim ancestory to a man who almost single-handedly birthed the state of California. While I’ll admit that it took many, many people to birth the great state of California….Isaias Hellman’s contributions cannot be denied.

The book is well written. It kept my interest with stagecoach robberies, an assassination attempt, bank runs, the 1906 earthquake, and is the final product of eight years of research during which Ms. Dinkelspiel poured over more than 50,000 archival documents.

Isaias Hellman isn’t just an American who should be taught about in a course including California history, but he should be included in courses that include early immigration, growth of the west, growth of early cities and towns, Jewish contributions to the making of America, and 19th century financial American History.

So, just who was Isaias Hellman? Well, you really need to read the book for a clear picture, but here are a few facts:

1. Isaias Hellman was a Jewish immigrant from Reckendorf, Bavaria. He immigrated to Los Angeles in 1859, a few years after California being admitted to the Union.

2. In fact, at the time Hellman reached California the U.S. territory was still heavily entrenched in Mexican culture…..Pueblo type buildings and the rules of Spanish society were the norm.

3. Today, Hellman is thought to be one of the greatest Pacific Coast financiers during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Library Journal advises [Hellman] is attributed with stabilizing the financial panic of 1893 in Los Angeles by stacking $500,000 worth of gold coins on the counter of the Farmers and Merchants Bank in plain public view, hence the title of [Ms. Dinkelspiel’s] book.

4. He founded one of the territory’s first banks which later became the Farmer’s and Merchant’s Bank. Ms. Dinkelspiel advises at the height of his power in the early 20th century, he controlled more than $100 million in capital and served as president of 14 other banks.
5. Because of his financial backing Hellman was instrumental in developing at least seven other industries that shaped California: transportation, oil, electricity, land development, water, wine, and education.
6. He controlled the California wine industry for almost twenty years, and helped develop the famous Pacific Electric red cars that crisscrossed the Los Angeles region. Hellman was also involved in agriculture raising oranges, walnuts, and lemons at Rosemeade…the Hellman Ranch.

7. Hellman was the president of the first synogogue in Los Angeles.

8. He was very involved in the founding of the University of Southern California by donating land the college sits on today, and he served as Regent for many years for the University of California.

9. Following a move to San Francisco, Hellman opened Union Trust Company, the first trust company in California. He also was involved with the Nevada Bank which later became Wells Fargo Bank.

10. During tough times it was Hellman that kept Californians moving ahead. Following the 1906 earthquake Hellman ran the Wells Fargo Bank out of home when the building that housed the bank was damaged.

11. Sugar Pine Point State Park at Lake Tahoe was originally a Hellman home before it was donated to the state.

12. San Francisco Magazine states visionary financier Isaias Hellman was the Warren Buffet and Alan Greenspan of early California rolled into one. He arrived in Los Angeles as a practically penniless, 16-year-old German Jew when there were only 300 other Europeans in town. Three decades later, he controlled much of the booming city’s capital, land, and public works….Hellman starred in so many aspects of the state’s phoenixlike rise between the Civil War and the Depression that he became our Zelig, only with a really thick portfolio.
13. The San Francisco Gate states the book is a carefully researched and superbly written memoir…Dinkelspiel’s biography not only brings to life the transformation of California into the state with the strongest economy in the nation, and the outside personalities that forged it, but rescues from the proverbial dustbin of history the remarkable life and achievements of a man whose energy, creativity, resourcefulness and love for his adopted country had been all but forgotten.
If you are looking for a great biography to read then I suggest you give Towers of Gold a try.

Other bloggers are posting their 13 lists today as well. You can locate them here.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Fleet Problem 13: Pearl Harbor Foreshadowed

You cannot research Pearl Harbor… cannot teach Pearl Harbor….you cannot “know” Pearl Harbor without having read Pearl Harbor: The Story of the Secret War by George Morgenstern published in 1947. James J. Martin in the Journal of Historical Review calls Morgenstern’s book the best, despite a formidable volume of subsequent writing by many others on the subject…and is probably the most widely commented upon book every produced by the World War Two Revisionist impulse in this country…Mr. Martin further states everyone writing on the subject of Pearl Harbor has either consciously or unconciously followed the “scenario” first laid down by George Morgenstern.

So, if Mr. Martin doesn’t convince you to read this definitive work on Pearl Harbor perhaps I can. First of all by bringing up Morgenstern’s work you can introduce yourself or your students to the concept of revisionist history. Just by the very moniker itself it sounds as if someone is changing history….and I’m always suspect in that. Change it if the facts bear out, but otherwise leave out your propaganda and “what if” theories. By definition historical revisionism is the reinterpretation of orthodox views on motives or process surrounding an historical event. The assumption of the revisionist is that the interpretation of a historical event or period as it is accepted by the majority of scholars needs a significant change.

Another reason why I would use Morgenstern’s work to round out my coverage of Pearl Harbor in my classroom has something to do with this young man:

Isn't he fine? This very capable young man is my husband….yes, Mr.Elementaryhistoryteacher, as he appeared in 1978 at the age of 19. You can find out more about his service to our country here. By bringing up a personal connection I have to the event I’m teaching, I can draw some students into the content mix. Instantly there is a flurry of “me, toos!” as students want to tell me about family members who have served or are serving in the armed forces.

If you clicked through you saw the picture of the ship I have below….a picture of the Harry E. Yarnell. For six years the good old Harry E. Yarnell was my husband’s home away from home as he sailed the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean. I can’t tell you how many times I addressed an envelope to “Mr. EHT” aboard CG-17…Harry E. Yarnell….I can still recite the entire address though many years have flown by. I wish I still had all those letters….sometimes I wrote one everyday during my high school years from 10th grade on….what a diary I would have if “Mr. EHT” had held on to those letters, but alas he did not. I have his though….a good number of them.

Ok….back to the subject matter at hand—Pearl Harbor—as the attack on Pearl Harbor was remembered this past Sunday. Mr. Morgenstern’s book tells of an important event that has a connection to my husband and the ship he sailed on. You see, the Harry E. Yarnell that my husband’s ship was named for had a Pearl Harbor connection. Admiral Harry E. Yarnell served in the U.S. Navy for fifty-one years, Commander of the U.S. Asiatic Fleet (1936-1939) and perhaps the inspiration for the Japanese attack of December 7, 1941 on Oahu.

Yes, you read that right…..the inspiration for a day that has lived in infamy….yet, I would bet most Americans have never heard of Admiral Harry E. Yarnell.

Martin says of Morgenstern’s book:

Pearl Harbor was not just a disaster, he [Morgenstern] declared; it was what got the U.S.A. into the Second World War. And it was not satisfactory or sufficient to explain it away as a result of Japanese perfidy," which has dominated all discussion of it since Dec. 7, 1941. It has permitted the Roosevelt administration to "manage national policy as if it were a private show," from that time on. As a war correspondent in a strategic spot [Morgenstern] knew that Wartime censors closed in even more tightly about the field of public policy," and FDR's Decisions" were announced to the people after the event" routinely from entry into the war ever after. And, Morgenstern pointed out, increasing secrecy led to the invention of a new category of hush-hush information which could only be described in the phrase Top Secret.'" "The conclusions stated in Pearl Harbor are those to which the author was led by the record."

Morgenstern insisted, going on to say:

"Those who object to historical skepticism may complain that my book is no contribution to the political canonization of its central figure. That is no concern of mine. As to the purpose my book is intended to serve, some observations from the minority report of the Joint Congressional Committee which investigated the Pearl Harbor attack are pertinent: 'In the future the people and their Congress must know how close American diplomacy is moving to war so that they may check in advance if imprudent and support its position if sound ... How to avoid war and how to turn war -- if it finally comes -- to serve the cause of human progress is the challenge to diplomacy today as yesterday.'"

Let’s go back in time a bit before Pearl Harbor to February, 1932.

From this source...

Rear Admiral Harry E. Yarnell pioneered carrier tactics in an exercise that later came to be discussed as Fleet Problem 13. [Yarnell] commanded the carriers Lexington and Saratoga in an effort to demonstrate that Hawaii was vulnerable to naval air power.

At a time when air warfare waged from ships was radical thought Admiral Yarnell fully supported the idea.

The expectation was that Yarnell would attack with battleships, but instead he left his battleships behind and proceeded only with his carriers to the north of Hawaii where it was less likely he would be detected. With a storm as cover, at dawn on a Sunday, February 7, Yarnell’s 152 (some sources state 153) planes attacked the harbor from the northeast, just as the Japanese would ten years later. The army airfields were first put out of comission after which battleship row was attacked—with multiple hits on Navy ships. No defending aircraft were able to launch. The Navy’s war-game umpires declared the attack a total success, prompting Yarnell to strenuously warn of the Japanese threat.

The Navy exercise became known as Fleet Problem 13 and the results were largely ignored by Navy brass while the Japanese….the revisionists declared... paid close attention.

Following Pearl Harbor [Yarnell was] repelled and gravely angered by the Administration’s tactic …of scapegoating the military and especially the naval commander for it all, [and] denounced this action as “a blot on our national history.” Writing of Morgenstern’s book in Far Eastern Survey, he forthrightly declared, “Mr. Morgenstern is to be congratulated on marshaling the available facts of this tragedy in such manner as to make it clear to every reader where lies the responsibility.”

…and this brings me to third reason to explore Morgenstern’s book and Fleet Problem 13 for students. The event would make a great mystery type activity for students where they are given a designed framework to research and discover on their own. Their results could then be debated with the class with some students using Fleet Problem 13 as the inspiration for the attack on Pearl Harbor and others using more popular causes for the event.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

White House Christmas Card, 2008

This year’s White House Christmas card has been sent. This is an image of the inside of the card which includes Scripture from Matthew 5:16….Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify you father which is in heaven.

If you want to see the beautiful cover image on the card you’ll have to check out my post over at American Presidents Blog….found here. I have some other links there to my past postings regarding the White House Christmas card.

Many thanks go to Michael Swartz of Monoblogue for alerting me that the greeting for this year had been sent. The image seen here is used with Michael’s permission.

Today is Wordless Wednesday. You can find other participating bloggers here.