Sunday, July 28, 2013

This Day in History: July 28th

This Day in History: The 14th Amendment to the Constitution is passed by the Senate, giving blacks citizenship and equal treatment under the law, one of the three Amendments which resulted directly from the ending of the Civil War, 1868; Wo...rld War I begins as Austria-Hungray declares war on Serbia, to catastrophe to lead to over 40 million casualties around the world, 1914; the Senate approves the U.N. Charter, 1945; "Animal House" is relased, the film depicting college students in a mythical Midwest town who are members of a fraternity and try to disrupt the staid, conservative campus, the movie catapulting a young John Belushi to stardom, 1978

Thursday, July 25, 2013

This Day in History: July 25th

This Day in History: A young Jack London gets on a steamship to sail for the Klondike gold rush in Alaska, a trip which will set the stage for him to write one of his most famous novels- 'The Call of the Wild', 1897; Bob Dylan shocks his music fans by getting up onstage and playing electric guitar at the Newport Folk Festival in Rhode Island, a move many have called transformational as it heralded in the folk-rock era, with bands like The Byrds later playing his songs and other folk ballads with a new sound, changing the face of popular music, 1965; Louise Joy Brown is born as the world's first "test tube" baby via in vitro fertilization, starting a trend for infertile mothers to try a new approach to giving birth, 1978

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

This Day in History: July 24th

This Day in History: The future city of Detroit is founded as an outpost by a French fur trader, 1701; the ancient city of Machu Picchu in Peru- the lost city of the Incas- is discovered by British archeologist Hiram Bingham, the enclave on... a montainside high in the clouds abandoned for 400 years, its strikingly accurate stone buildings so well designed that the hundred-ton blocks fit together perfectly without any mortar, becoming a marvel to modern observers, 1911; Vice President Nixon and Premier Krushchev engage in a "kitchen debate", 1959; President Kennedy's dream of safely landing a man on the Moon is completed as the Apollo XI astronauts splash down in the Atlantic, 1969

Monday, July 22, 2013

This Day in History: July 22nd

This Day in History: The English settlement of Roanoke is established, with the small village later vanishing, being called the Lost Colony of Roanoke, a mystery never explained, 1587; Scottish explorer and fur trader Alexander Mackenzie be...comes the first European to cross North America above Mexico and reach the Pacific Ocean, a feat which President Thomas Jefferson would note in later sending Le...wis and Clark with their Corps of Discovery to do the same, 1793; President Lincoln tells his Cabinet about his plans to release an Emancipation Proclamation freeing the slaves in rebel territories which would become a brilliant strategy to help end the Civil War, 1862; General William Tecumseh Sherman fights the rebels in the Battle of Atlanta, 1864; Wiley Post becomes the first man to fly solo around the world, 1933; post-punk rocker Elvis Costello quits his day job and releases "My Aim Is True", a punchy, upbeat, energetic collection of songs which will help catapult him to the top of the pop charts, 1977; Army soldier Jessica Lynch is released and returns home to a hero's welcome in the United States after having been held hostage, her rescue from a hospital in Iraq catching worldwide attention, 2003

Friday, July 19, 2013

This Day in History: July 19th

This Day in History: French soldiers from Napoleon's Army find the Rosetta Stone in Egypt, a British researcher later breaking the code which was written in heiroglyphics that opened up the doors to the ancient culture, 1799; women's rights... take a major step forward as Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton hold their first suffragette convention in Seneca Fall, New York, 1848; Prime Minister Winston Churchill gives his now famous "V for Victory" sign as England fights the Nazi war machine during World War II, 1941; U.S. planes bomb the eternal city- Rome- hoping to force Italian citizens to turn against the dictator Mussolini during the Second World War, 1943;Eisenhower's Secretary of State- John Foster Dulles- makes a U-turn and withdraws the U.S. pledge of aid to Egypt for building the Aswan Dam, a move which was criticized by Britain and other countries and some feel led the country toward a closer relationship with Communist Russia... for a while... 1956See More

Thursday, July 18, 2013

This Day in History: July 18th

This Day in History: Naval hero John Paul Jones dies in Paris, the commander famous for fighting HMS Serapis on the USS Bonhomme Richard, named in honor of Benjamin Franklin when his ship was struck by cannon fire and taking on water, the B...ritish captain asked if he was ready to surrender, yet he bravely continued the fight and defeated the British, 1792; Robert Gould Shaw dies with hundreds of his U.S. Colored Troops (USCT) of the 54th Massachusetts in the assault on Battery Wagner, well portrayed in the movie "Glory", 1863; Britain introduces the secret ballot for elections, 1872; FDR is nominated for an unprecedented 3rd term, 1940; Senator Ted Kennedy leaves a cocktail party with young Mary Jo Kpechne and drives off Chappaquiddick Bridge into the water below, leaving the car and Mary Jo to die, for which he was never punished, an event that essentailly ended his chances of ever becoming President, 1969See More

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

This Day in History: July 17th

This Day in History: "Wrong Way" Corrigan pulls off an amazing stunt, being denied safe passage in his fragile plane by starting off in California, then turning around and 28 hours later ending up in Dublin, Ireland, saying "Where am I?" when he landed, 1938; Yankee slugger Joe DiMaggio ends his 56-game hitting streak, later confiding to a teammate that he could have gotten an extra $10,000 from the Heinze Company if he'd hit his 57th to match their logo on the ketchup bottle, 1941; President Harry Truman meets Soviet leader Joseph Stalin at the Potsdam Conference, 1945; Disneyland opens in Anaheim, California on a sour note with many problems, then later becomes the fantasyland all children grew to love, 1955

Sunday, July 7, 2013

This Day in History: July 7th

This Day in History: Due to her direct involvement in the assassination plot against President Lincoln, Mary Surratt is the first woman executed by the Federal government, 1865; after growing calls for recognition as a sovereign entity and the urging of large local business interests like the Dole Food company, President McKinley announces the annexation of Hawaii, 1898; in the early days of the Great Depression, President Hoover puts thousands of unemployed people to work building one of the greatest man-made structures in the world- Hoover Dam, which would go on to supply large portions of the southwest with electricity for decades, 1930; Frances Cabrini becomes the first U.S. citizen declared a saint by the Catholic Church, 1946; for the first time, female cadets are enrolled at West Point, 1976; President Reagan keeps a campaign promise and nominates Sandra Day O'Connor to become the very first female Supreme Court Justice, despite the calls from feminists who opposed nearly everything he stood for, in this case that she was too conservative to really "count" as a true representative for women, 1981

Saturday, July 6, 2013

This Day in History: July 6th

This Day in History: Samuel Langhorn Clemens begins his first real writing job as a reporter for the 'Territorial Enterprise', a frontier mining town rag in Virginia City, Nevada, the young author taking the pen name 'Mark Twain', which was a term he'd heard commonly used apprenticing as a riverboat pilot on the Mississippi, 1862; French scientist Louis Pasteur successful uses his vaccine against rabies, curing a young girl afflicted with the disease, 1885; a young John Lennon meets an even younger Paul McCartney after the elder boys' first set playing at the Woolton Parish Church Garden party, Paul later astonishing him with his guitar and songwriting skills which would get him invited into the band, their collaboration the most successful song writing team the world would ever see, 1957; 'Satchmo'- Louis Armstrong dies after a long and illustrious career, rising from poor, orphaned waif in New Orleans to the most successful jazz trumpet player in the world, 1971

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Walking Back In Time 150 Years to Pickett's Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg


There is something mystical about a battlefield- especially one where thousands of soldiers fought, dedicated to a cause for which they gave "the last full measure of devotion". Yesterday July 3rd, 2013 I drove out to Gettysburg which I've visited many times over the years... but this time it was a different place. It was the 150th Anniversary of Pickett's Charge, the final tumultuous assault which ended in disaster for Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia... and the spirits of those who fought there were all around me...

The Battle of Gettysburg and the Civil War in general has generated tens of thousands of books and dozens of movies. This devastating conflict nearly destroyed our nation; the 620,000 casualties is more than all other U.S. wars combined. Yet, as a people we are fascinated with this event- or series of events which tore apart the fabric of our country, spurring brother to fight brother, laying waste to billions of dollars of property, changing people's lives forever. Why is it that our nation continues to be fixated with a war which almost ended the idea we call... America? One answer lies in the hallowed grounds of Gettysburg.

Walking the battlefield at Gettysburg- up to the lookout point on Little Round Top, to the Wheat Field where thousands of soldiers fought in a brutal exchange which lasted for many hours and over to the "High Water Mark" of the Confederacy- the "copse of trees" enshrined now inside iron bars which protect the objects of the rebel advance- I felt a presence and could almost hear the voices of the men who fought there, yelling to "Charge!!"... and those of the wounded, their groans fading to a murmur as comrades left the field of battle. This is sacred ground- all of it- from Culp's Hill in the north to the Eternal Light Peace Memorial and the woods near McPherson's Ridge where Union General John Reynolds was killed early in the action, down to the Peach Orchard, Devil's Den and Big Round Top, standing guard over its smaller brother nearby. As I stopped and walked at each location, tears began to form in my eyes as I could sense the enormous struggle fought for the soil I was walking on, but then they stopped- as I gazed at the sculptures standing tall, stoic in their continuing fight to protect this ground, to "hold the line" at all costs...

I learned much more than I ever knew as I walked the battlefield at Gettysburg yesterday and I know that much of that understanding comes from the souls of the men who fought and died there... 150 years ago... on that day, their spirits still present within every inch of ground they fought to protect. I know that brave men like Joshua Chamberlain- depicted so well in the film "Gettysburg"- and others were there with me. Chamberlain's words reverberated inside me, as I recalled the scene in the movie where he is talking with the company of men from Maine who deserted and didn't want to fight. "This is a different kind of war... We are an Army out to set other men free... Gentlemen, I believe if we lose this fight, we lose the war..." His words re-charged the men from Maine, nearly all of whom agreed to pick up their rifles and fight for the Union again.

Chamberlain's voice from his visit back to the battlefield in 1889 were also resounding yesterday along the hills surrounding the bloody fields where thousands fell. He was there 124 years ago for the dedication of the new memorial to the 20th Maine regiment which defended Little Round Top on the second day of the battle. I stood yesterday at the exact same spot where Chamberlain stood... and could feel his presence... and even the fateful words he uttered when- looking down at the continuing rebel advance, he said: "Fix bayonets!!". Chamberlain's efforts were not limited to the Battle of Gettysburg; he was wounded several times and rose to the rank of Brigadier General. Later he was awarded the nation's highest accolade: the Congressional Medal of Honor. Chamberlain was given the solemn responsibility by General Ulysses S. Grant of accepting the Confederate troops surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1865. His was a soul filled with devotion to a higher cause, one which knew the intrinsic value of each human being. An ardent opponent of slavery, he understood that the abominable practice must end- and he put his life on the line in that effort. It is because of the devotion of thousands of men like Chamberlain that we now have a more just society, one which comes closer to living up to the ideals spelled out in the Constitution. At the dedication ceremony in 1889, he said: "In great deeds, something abides. On great fields, something stays. Forms change and pass, bodies disappear, but spirits linger to consecrate the ground for the vision-place of souls..." His spirit was there yesterday as I stood at the peak of Little Round Top. It was everywhere I walked, everything I touched... the rock lying on the ground at the High Water Mark... the fragment of a tree limb I held at the spot where Reynolds was killed... the grass beneath my feet at the Wheat Field... and I know it will be there for generations to come.

This Day in History: July 4th

This Day in History: Robert E. Lee begins a steady retreat after the disastrous Battle of Gettysburg which destroyed over a third of his Army of Northern Virginia, the epic conflict coming to a crescendo the day before with Pickett's Charge- a focused assault on the center of the Union line which was executed with a two-hour cannonade that failed- partly because Lee's artillery commander didn't realize that most of his shots were going over and beyond the Union positions, leaving them largely intact and ready to decimate the rebel troops who later marched to their deaths thinking they'd be victorious, the survivors saddened as their leader rode away saying "It is all my fault...", 1863

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

This Day in History: July 2nd

This Day in History: The Continental Congress assembled in Philadelphia votes to approve Thomas Jefferson's document outlining independence from Great Britain, although the official vote tally is not done until two days later, 1776; President James Garfield is shot by a crazed assassin, but lives for two months before succumbing to his wounds, 1881; aviator Amelia Earhart disappears over the South Pacific on her flight around the world, never to be seen again, 1937; President Lyndon Johnson signs landmark civil rights legislation giving more freedoms to blacks, even though many members of the Democratic Party were strongly against it, LBJ having to rely on Republicans in Congress who cast the deciding vote to approve it despite Democratic objections, 1964; the one millionth Corvette rolls off the assembly line, giving hope to all those 'over- 40' men hoping to rekindle a bit of their youth, 1992

Monday, July 1, 2013

This Day in History: July 1st

This Day in History: The Battle of Gettysburg begins, a total of 160,000 soldiers assembled for a three-day battle which would see the "High Tide of the Confederacy" and General Robert E. Lee's dream of forcing President Lincoln to the bargaining table fade away as he realizes his cause is doomed, 1863; Teddy Roosevelt storms San Juan Hill in Puerto Rico with the Rough Riders during the Spanish-American War, 1898; General Rommel's chances of victory dwindle to nothing as his forces are defeated at El Alamein in North Africa during Wolrd War II, 1942; "Mr. X" (a.k.a. State Department official George Kennan) writes an article in the quarterly journal 'Foreign Affairs' warning about the rise of Soviet expansionism which will help guide U.S. policy toward Russia in the post-war years, 1947; the very last Ford Thunderbird rolls off the assembly line, the sleek, stylish car a favorite of both men and women who wanted a sporty, yet refined-looking automobile, 2005