Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.

Posts tagged “American History

Wounded Knee Massacre – Mass grave for the dead Lakota after the conflict at Wounded Knee Creek; December 29th, 1890

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The Wounded Knee Massacre occurred on December 29, 1890, near Wounded Knee Creek (Lakota: Čhaŋkpé Ópi Wakpála) on the Lakota Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in the U.S. state of South Dakota. On the day before, a detachment of the U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment commanded by Major Samuel M. Whitsideintercepted Spotted Elk’s band of Miniconjou Lakota and 38 Hunkpapa Lakota near Porcupine Butte and escorted them five miles westward (8 km) to Wounded Knee Creek, where they made camp.

The remainder of the 7th Cavalry Regiment arrived, led by Colonel James W. Forsyth and surrounded the encampment supported by four Hotchkiss mountain guns.

On the morning of December 29, the troops went into the camp to disarm the Lakota. One version of events claims that during the process of disarming the Lakota, a deaf tribesman named Black Coyote was reluctant to give up his rifle, claiming he had paid a lot for it.A scuffle over Black Coyote’s rifle escalated and a shot was fired which resulted in the 7th Cavalry’s opening fire indiscriminately from all sides, killing men, women, and children, as well as some of their own fellow soldiers. The Lakota warriors who still had weapons began shooting back at the attacking soldiers, who quickly suppressed the Lakota fire. The surviving Lakota fled, but U.S. cavalrymen pursued and killed many who were unarmed.

By the time it was over, more than 200 men, women, and children of the Lakota had been killed and 51 were wounded (4 men, 47 women and children, some of whom died later); some estimates placed the number of dead at 300. Twenty-five soldiers also died, and 39 were wounded (6 of the wounded would later die).

(Source)


Motel manager pouring acid in the water when black people swam in his pool; ca. 1964.

uWSaBYu *According to multiple sources it was Hydrochloric acid.

This famous photograph by Horace Cort shows a group of white and black integrationists in the former Monson Motor Lodge swimming pool on June 18, 1964. The photo was connected to the St. Augustine Movement, named for the town in Florida where it took place.

The photo was taken right after anti-segregation protesters had jumped into the whites only pool and the manager thought this acid would drive the protesters out. It doesn’t matter that the acid didn’t harm them, his intent was to terrorize them. The protesters were arrested just a few minutes later. This photo made global news at the time and was a major embarrassment for the U.S.

(Source)


The rarely seen back of the Hoover Dam before it filled with water; ca. 1936.

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And here’s the view from the other side:

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There were 112 deaths associated with the construction of the dam. Included in that total was J. G. Tierney, a surveyor who drowned on December 20, 1922, while looking for an ideal spot for the dam. He is generally counted as the first man to die in the construction of Hoover Dam. His son, Patrick W. Tierney, was the last man to die working on the dam’s construction, 13 years to the day later.

*Here’s an actual aerial photo from 1950:

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Who won the War of 1812?

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Officially, the US went to war due to the British not respecting US citizenship when pressing sailors into service in the Royal Navy. The British claimed that any British subject was eligible for impressment (ie forced conscription) and that any man born a British subject continued to be a British subject. This included a sizable portion of the US population of the time, as many had been born before the peace treaty of 1782 and thus theoretically had been born as British subjects. Emigres were also subject to this treatment, and there were occasions where Royal Navy officers did not give a damn and just impressed American citizens who had never been British subjects.

Unofficially, the war hawks wanted to see an annexation of British North America (Canada). [The subject was openly debated in the US before the war. Jefferson claimed the conquest of Quebec was “a mere matter of marching” while Clay openly said that militiamen from Kentucky on their own could capture Upper Canada. Major General Brock certainly knew the war was coming, prepared accordingly and knew the US would invade Canada. In fact, his intelligence was so good that he got news of the war before the US troops across the border, something which he used for a surprise attack.]

The US invasions of Canada failed, the British hunted down or blockaded the US navy (a few frigates managed to slip out and the USS Constitution had some spectacular victories) and blockaded the US East Coast, preventing trade and causing widespread discontent, especially in the maritime-dependent New England states, who seriously started to discuss secession from the US.

The peace treaty at Ghent 1814 did not include any gains for the US – at least not officially. The treaty included no provision that the Royal Navy was to respect US citizenship, however, the end of the Napoleonic War had led the British to stop impressment from foreign vessels anyway, so the goal was achieved, king of.

British North America remained in British hands, and eventually became Canada, independent from the US.

The British war goals were to get the US to stop fighting them, without giving anything away, as they had bigger problems back home with Napoleon running rampant all over Europe, in which they succeeded.

The US war goals, to force the British to accept US citizenship as immunity to impressment was achieved, although not officially, while Canada remained unconquered.

While the US did not lose territory, I’d say they lost the war as they were unable to achieve the goals they went to war over. The British, while not gaining anything, did achieve their war goal.

So, it is either a draw (neither side lost anything) or a British victory (as they achieved their war goals and the US did not).


A policeman rips the American flag away from 5-year-old Anthony Quinn, having already confiscated his ‘No More Police Brutality’ sign. Jackson, Mississippi; ca. 1965

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The guy in the background looks justifiably shocked. And yet is doing nothing.

In the South during the civil rights movement, the American flag was a potent symbol of support for racial integration (and support for federal law). Southerners who believed in racial segregation displayed Confederate flags instead. People were pulled from their cars by policemen and beaten simply for displaying an American flag on their license plates. So the simple act of a small child carrying an American flag represented defiance of Mississippi law and custom.

Anthony and his mother were arrested and hauled off to jail, which was a cattle stockade at the county fairground, since the city jails were already full of protesters. The Quinn protest was organized by COFO (Council of Federated Organizations), an umbrella organization responsible for most civil rights activities in the state. Today Anthony lives in Florida. I believe he is a lawyer. His mother died recently, and when Patrolman Kohler died a number of years ago, his obituary in the Jackson Daily News referred to this photograph and mentioned how Kohler regretted that moment ‘for the rest of his life’.”


Hobby Lobby SCOTUS Ruling:

The Supreme Court ruling on BURWELL, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, ET AL. v. HOBBY LOBBY STORES, INC. has now opened up the precedent (ignoring how narrowly tailored the ruling was to only contraception) that under the RFRA, even if its a compelling government interest, the state cannot mandate any firm with sincere religious beliefs to carry out a requirement, so long as the government can pick up the slack? It seems like the least restrictive means will always be making the government do it instead and not restrict at all anyone’s religious beliefs.

On page 46 of the opinion, Alito writes: “Our decision should not be understood to hold that an insurance-coverage mandate must necessarily fall if it conflicts with an employer’s religious beliefs. Other coverage requirements, such as immunizations, may be supported by different interests (for example, the need to combat the spread of infectious diseases) and may involve different arguments about the least restrictive means of providing them.”

This certainly leaves open the possibility that the Court could rule differently on the “least restrictive means” issue in the future, but his language in section V-B, which discusses the “least restrictive means” test, seems to indicate that it is a difficult standard to pass. On page 41 of the opinion, he indicates that “the most straightforward way of [meeting the least restrictive means test] would be for the Government to assume the cost.” He also says that “HHS has not shown … that this is not a viable alternative.” This seems to indicate that if such a challenge were to come up regarding vaccination or blood transfusions, or whatever else, the burden would be on the Department of Health and Human Services to show that it would be impractical for the Government to cover the cost. That would be quite the burden for the Government to prove.

Ginsberg seems to agree with that reading in her dissent. On page 29 on the dissent, she writes, “And where is the stopping point to the ‘let the government pay’ alternative? Suppose an employer’s sincerely held religious belief is offended by health coverage of vaccines, or paying the minimum wage, … or according women equal pay for substantially similar work…? Does it rank as a less restrictive alternative to require the government to provide the money or benefit to which the employer has a religion-based objection?” In addition to indicating that the Court’s logic could prove problematic in the future, she asserts that it is flawed at present, saying, “In sum, in view of what Congress sought to accomplish, i.e., comprehensive preventive care for women furnished through employer-based health plans, none of the proffered alternatives would satisfactorily serve the compelling interests to which Congress responded.”

I agree with Justice Ginsberg on many points here, especially the last few pages of her dissent. Justice Alito attempts to narrow his ruling as much as possible, but leaves a lot of questions unanswered as to the basis for his narrow ruling. To me, the most compelling arguments come from sections III-4 and IV (pages 27-35) of Ginsberg’s dissent. She basically asserts that the Court’s ruling has much broader implications than it intends, and poses quite a few questions about the basis for the narrow ruling.

I am also inclined to agree with her reasoning that the Court should have no business in determining which religious views are legitimate and which are not, and that religious exemptions from generally applicable law should be reserved for groups that are organized “for a religious purpose” and/or “engaged primarily in carrying out that religious purpose”.

The Supreme Court ruling can be found here: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/13pdf/13-354_olp1.pdf

Justice Ginsburg’s dissent here: http://www.scribd.com/mobile/doc/231974154


Were Southern Generals better than Northern Generals in the US Civil War?


Right after the Civil War, there was something called the myth of the “Lost Cause.” It was pioneered by Edward A. Pollard, A Richmond journalist who wrote a history of the war in 1866, called (can you guess?) The Lost Cause. Basically, the book says that the Confederacy was a glorious agrarian state, and was defended by the best armies in American history. Pollard argues that the Armies of the Confederacy were more motivated, they fought better, they were led by better officers, and they were fighting for a noble and glorious cause (the defense of the antebellum south). Many historians, especially in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, repeated this myth and rebuilt it into its modern, “acceptable” form. Basically, they repeated it so often, and so loudly, that the “Lost Cause” became accepted as truth. Men like Douglas Southall Freeman, and even Ken Burns, have been influenced by the “Lost Cause” mythos. More recent historians have moved away from the “Lost Cause” myth, but the myth is still incredibly powerful, especially in conservative and southern circles, where the myth is undergoing yet another reinvention.

Were the South’s generals really better? Well that depends.

Robert E. Lee was repeatedly able to produce battlefield successes; hes called the American Napoleon for good reason! But he also failed strategically, by wasting the South’s precious manpower in offensive battles that cost the Confederacy more than it gained.

And on the other hand, Ulysses Grant maximized the Union’s advantage, especially in the Overland Campaign, by using multiple armies to attack the Confederacy all along its border. This strategy prevented the Confederates from reinforcing one area after another, as they had done in 1863, and it also stretched the CSA’s manpower to its very limits. So, there, you could say that Grant better adapted his strategy to the unique strengths and weaknesses of the resources at his disposal. In addition, he waged a spectacular series of campaigns, first in Mississippi against Vicksburg, then later against Lee in Northern Virginia, which achieved remarkable battlefield success.

What held Grant back, and what held both the Confederacy and the Union back throughout the war, was the state of professionalism in the wartime armies. Many of the Generals who fought in the American Civil War, on both sides, really weren’t generals at all. Lee was a Colonel before the war, Grant was a washed up Captain, Winfield Scott Hancock was a quartermaster, Sherman was a Colonel at First Bull Run, etc. Nobody really had the command experience required to maneuver large forces either strategically, or tactically. Unlike in Europe, where generals learnt how to be generals for decades before a war put their training to the test, in America, these men had to learn on the job. What that meant was that those with natural talent, like Lee, Grant, and Sherman, floated to the top, while everyone else made a mockery of warfighting. And when a commander would be wounded, or worse promoted, their subordinates would have to come up to fill the gap, regardless of skill or training. The Armies needed officers, and it was too late to shove a new batch through West-Point to make a general staff.

Thats why we often look at the Union Army, especially the Army of the Potomac under Hooker and Burnside, and snicker. They look so dumb, and these men were give command of an army. But really, I think if you look at what was going on in the Western theatre, and if you look at the Corps commanders of the Army of Northern Virginia, Grant and Lee were the exceptions, not the rule. They were the cream that rose to the top. Even men like Longstreet and “Stonewall” Jackson had major problems with commanding their forces in the field, Longstreet did poorly without Lee’s supervision, and Jackson did so with it.

So I think thats the real issue with Generalship in the Civil War. The South was fortunate to have found Lee so early on, while Grant was a gem that had to be dug out of the rough.


How did lobbying as we know it today get its start in the United States?

Lobbying had always existed in the United States, even before its independence, thriving in local governments. When crafting the constitution and the Federalist Papers, James Madison saw commerically motivated “factions” as threatening to the general will. He tried to neutralize that threat by making them compete against each other. Even though the First Amendment protects the right to petition, Madison hypothesized that special interest groups would often negate each others powers, thus preventing any possibility of tyranny. Since the federal government did not deal with many economic matters throughout most of the nineteenth century, lobbying occured only at a state level. However, the onset of the Gilded Age and increased federal intervention in fiscal matters also brought a heightened scale of lobbying as we know today.


Where did Jefferson find builders talented enough to build Monticello?

Most of the brick and stonework on Monticello was done by local white masons, with some of the finer woodwork done by joiners from the mid-Atlantic region. That said, several foreign-born artisans are known to have worked on Monticello. Carpenter David Watson was British and his successor James Dinsmore and Dinsmore’s assistant John Neilson were Irish. They used already-skilled slaves, including John Hemmings, as their assistants. Lucia Stanton, a respected Monticello scholar, also notes a stonemason from Scotland. The window glass and mahogany sashes were European imports, but the rest of the materials were local as well.

Very few of the elements would have been completely unfamiliar to American architects and builders, and the classical orders were not among them. Peter Harrison, a British-born and trained gentleman architect, used Doric order in the 1747-9 Redwood Library in Newport, Rhode Island. The library is an example of the Palladian style popular in the mid-eighteenth century, which Neo-Classicism had much in common with.

Slightly predating the Monticello we know today was the Woodlands in Philadelphia (1788-9). Besides the Doric columns on the porch, the house also had oval-shaped rooms. This is an example of the Federalist Style, the most popular architectural style in the Early Republic, again using many familiar classical elements.

William Thornton’s 1792 design for the US Capitol features a dome that was quite Monticello-esque. Charles Bulfinch was also building a dome on the Massachusetts State Capitol at roughly the same time (1795-7).

If I have been unclear, my point is that many of the individual features of Monticello were fairly common among other high-style American buildings. The admiration for Monticello comes from Jefferson’s fusing together of various elements in the new style, influenced by his time in France, and the seamless inclusion more subtle details like chamfered corners and the recessed wall behind the portico. There are also the interior contraptions such as the seven-day Great Clock (originally made by Peter Spruck of Philadelphia) which are small marvels of their own.


Geronimo in Council with General George Crook, March 27th, 1886.

 

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This picture was taken during a conference held March 25 and 27, 1886, at Cañon De Los Embudos (Cañon of the Funnels), 20 Miles SSE of San Bernardino Springs, Mexico, on the Sierra Madre Mountains, by a photographer named C.S.Fly.

 

This is the account of the meeting.