Dinosaur Museums of the World

There are amazing dinosaur collections at many universities and museums; here are some of my favorite museums with dinosaurs we’ve visited.

In the early 20th century Roy Chapman Andrews led a series of expeditions into the Gobi Desert and Mongolia. He made important discoveries including the first-known fossil dinosaur eggs. He worked through the American Museum of Natural History and later became its director. Popular books of the 1950s about his life and discoveries influenced later generations of dinosaur hunters.

Explorations in China became more and more difficult, mostly for political reasons, only becoming accessible
again at the end of the 20th century. In his book, Dinosaurs of the Flaming Cliffs, Michael Novacek describes
expeditions to Ulaan Bataar, Dalan Dzadgad, Baishin Tsav, Hurrendoch,Saynshand, the Nemegt Basin, Ukhaa Tolgod, and the flaming mountains of Gurvain Saichan. The discoveries from these expeditions have shed new light on our understanding of the animals of that age. Perhaps the best specimen is the Oviraptor buried while on its nest. We saw some of the results of these expeditions along with other Chinese findings at the natural history museum in Wuhan

In Bozeman, Montana, the Museum of the Rockies is worth a journey, as the Michellin guides would say. Its dinosaur dig crew, led by paleontologist and curator Jack Horner,(who was also science advisor to the Jurassic Park films), excavate fossils which are prepared and studied at the Museum. Some of the most famous dinosaurs in the world such as Tyrannosaurus rex, Triceratops, and Deinonychus (very similar to Velociraptor) are on display.

In close contention as my favorite is the Royal Tyrrell Museum at Drumheller, Alberta, Canada. Many of its exhibits were found in nearby badlands and the museum organizes family oriented tours for would be dinosaur hunters.

Those on the east coast aren’t without options. The Smithsonian in Washington DC and the American Museum of Natural History in New York have famous collections of dinosaurs, with exhibits that have been updated to show modern understandings of these behemoths. The Smithsonian includes triceratops, camptosaurus (juvenileand adult, and an allosaurus.

The 2 Peabody museums at Harvard and Yale also invite visits.. In addition to the reconstructed skeleton of Apatosaurus the dinosaur formerly known as (“Brontosaurus”) and other dinosaurs discovered and named by the Museum’s founder, O.C. Mars, the highlight of the Yale Peabody is. Rudolph Zallinger’s The Age of Reptiles. This painting, done in the Renaissance fresco secco technique, runs length of the east wall of the Great Hall. It provides a panoramic view of the evolutionary history of the earth — from the Devonian Period 362 million years ago to Cretaceous Period, only 65 mya . Based on the best scientific knowledge available at the time, there are anachronisms due to later scientific advances. The chronology of the mural reads from right to left and spanning 300 million years. The large foreground trees mark the boundaries between the geologic periods. You’ve probably seen reproductions of this painting, but The Age of Reptiles may not be reproduced without the written permission of the Yale Peabody Museum.

 

 

Book – Gore Vidal – Inventing a Nation

American Revolution comes to life

The broadside was a common form of media during the American Revolutio.  Inventing a Nation is such a broadside – a compact melange of anecdotal history, contemporary commentary and unabashed partisan rhetoric — in other words, a great read! Vidal surveys the period from 1776 to 1800, concentrating on the personalities and writings of Hamilton, Adams, Washington, & Jefferson. Along the way, he contrasts 18th century politics and political philosophy with 21st century politics. Other times he’s satisfied with the quick jab, as when he quotes Adams’ view of the newly arrived French minister as a comparison with “our first unelected president”:

John Adams had known Genet’s family in France: he had also known the boy himself. Politely, he received the fiery minister and then wrapped him round with Adamsian analysis of the graveyard sort: “A youth totally destitute of all experience in popular government, popular assemblies, or conventions of any kind: very little accustomed to reflect upon his own or his fellow creatures’ hearts; wholly ignorant of the law of nature and nations . . . ” Adams did grant him “a declamatory style. . . a flitting, fluttering imagination, an ardor in his temper, and a civil deportment.” Thus two centuries ago the witty French had sent us an archetypal personality whose American avatar would one’ day be placed in Washington’s by now rickety chair.

But Vidal’s slyness is only a cover for his real subject — the creation of a government that could hold democracy at bay without the trappings of a monarchy. The book is not much longer than an old-style New Yorker series, and he summarizes major events like the constitutional convention to provide details of the men involved, as seen by themselves and their peers. Early on he shows the prescience of many of the founders:

At eighty-one Franklin was too feeble to address the convention on its handiwork, and so a friend read for him the following words: “I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such: because I think a General Government necessary for us, and there is no Form of Government but what may be a Blessing to the People if well-administred; and I believe farther that this is likely to be well administred for a Course of Years and can only end in Despotism as other Forms have done before it, when the People shall become so corrupted as to need Despotic Government, being incapable of any other. Now, two centuries and sixteen years later, Franklin’s blunt dark prophecy has come true: popular corruption has indeed given birth to that Despotic Government which he foresaw as inevitable at our birth. Unsurprisingly, a third edition of the admirable Benjamin Franklin: His Lift As He Wrote It, by Esmon Wright, is now on sale (Harvard University Press, 1996) with’ significantly-inevitably?, Franklin’s somber prediction cut out, thus silencing our only great ancestral voice to predict Enron et seq., not to mention November 2000, and, following that, des­potism whose traditional activity, war, now hedges us all around” No wonder that so many academic histories of our republic and its origins tend to gaze fixedly upon the sunny aspects of a history growing ever darker. No wonder they choose to disregard the wise, eerily prescient voice of the authentic Franklin in favor of the jolly fat ventriloquist of common lore, with his simple maxims for simple folk; to ignore his key to our earthly political invention in favor of that lesser key which he attached to a kite in order to attract heavenly fire.

In the afterword Vidal pushes the point home, starting from his discussion of the Alien & Sedition Acts, progenitors of the Patriot Act, he follows Jefferson’s careful defense of civil rights with his orchestration of the states counterattack that resulted in the Kentucky and Virginia Resolutions

In a sense Jefferson had made his case in the first Kentucky Resolution from which Breckinridge had eliminated the core
argument “where powers are assumed [by the Federal government] which have not been delegated [in the Constitution], a nullification of the act is the rightful remedy: that every State has a natural right in cases not within the compact. . . to nullify of their own authority all assumptions of powers by others within their own limits.” Thus Jefferson in 1798 had spoken in favor of the principle of nullification. But the first resolution asked for no more than a general sense of the States that the two Federalist Acts were unconstitutional.

Jefferson had to act cautiously, for, even as Vice President, his mere criticism of the acts of Adams & Hamilton could be a violation of the Sedition Act. [Not so different from today’s Bush supporters who declare any dissent being aid and comfort to the enemy.] In this case, the ultimate confrontation was avoided by Jefferson’s electoral defeat of Adams and immediate
suspension of the 2 acts. But nullification remained an inflammatory concept lurking within the Constitution; exploding in the Civil War 2 generations later. Today, Vidal sees it as perhaps the last defense of the states when the Federal Executive abrogates power.

I’ve only traced here one of several threads Vidal ties to contemporary issues. Others include Hamilton’s creation of the financial system, and Marshall’s bold construction of judicial review. Shortness doesn’t prevent Vidal from presenting many arguments that are vital to today’s national politics. Conservatives’ knee-jerk reactions in reviews are amusing since much of the discussion in the book is of ideas any true conservative should hold as core values!

  • Washington’s Crossing – a Review  An invading force gets bogged down while fighting an insurgency.
    While it could be ripped from today’s headlines, this is actually a book about the American Revolution. This is an impressive work on many levels.
  • History as a Work in Progress History is always a subjective process and the best we can hope is that historians tell us what their particular biases are
  • Best History Book Reviews
  • Download royalty free images of History
  • American Presidents Trivia Game From Zachary to Abe and back from Adams to Wilson, how much do you know about our American Presidents? US Presidents Trivia — challenging for any ability or knowledge level.

Civil War – Battles of Manassas / Bull Run

Manassas / Bull Run campaigns and battles

Download royalty free images of Manassas battlefield

1st Manassas
Battle Other name
Location
Date
USA CSA
Casualties
Results
Hoke’s Run Falling Waters, Hainesville Berkeley County, VA July 2, 1861 Maj. Gen. Robert Patterson Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Jackson US 23; CS 91
Blackburn’s Ford Bull Run Prince William County and Fairfax County, VA July 18, 1861 Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell Brig. Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard US 83; CS 68 Confederate victory
1st Manassas First Bull Run Prince William County and Fairfax County, VA July 21, 1861 Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell Brig. Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard & Brig. Gen. Joseph E. Johnston 4,700 total (US 2,950; CS 1,750) Confederate victory
2nd Manassas
Battle Other name
Location
Date
USA CSA
Casualties
Result
Cedar Mountain Slaughter’s Mountain, Cedar Run Culpeper County , VA August 9, 1862 Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Banks Maj. Gen. Thomas J. Jackson US 1,400; CS 1,307 Confederate victory
Rappahannock Station Waterloo Bridge, White Sulphur Springs, Lee Springs, Freeman’s Ford Culpeper County and Fauquier County, VA August 22-25, 1862 Maj. Gen. John Pope Maj. Gen. Thomas J. Jackson 225 total Inconclusive
Manassas Station Operations Bristoe Station, Kettle Run, Bull Run Bridge, Union Mills Prince William County , VA August 25-27,1862 Brig. Gen. G.W. Taylor Maj. Gen. Thomas J. Jackson 1100 total Confederate victory
Thoroughfare Gap Chapman’s Mill Fauquier County and Prince William County, VA August 28, 1862 Brig. Gen. James Ricketts Lt. Gen. James Longstreet 100 total Confederate victory
2nd Manassas Second Bull Run, Manassas Plains, Groveton, Gainesville, Brawner’s Farm Prince William County , VA August 28-30, 1862 Maj. Gen. John Pope Gen. Robert E. Lee and Maj. Gen. Thomas J. Jackson US 13,830; CS 8,350 Confederate victory
Chantilly Ox Hill Fairfax County, VA September 1, 1862 Maj. Gen. Philip Kearny and Maj. Gen. Isaac Stevens Maj. Gen. Thomas J. Jackson US 1,300; CS 800 Inconclusive (Confederate strategic victory.)

<table


Manassas Campaign


 [July 1861]



Hoke’s Run

  



Other Names:

Falling Waters, Hainesville


Location:

Berkeley County


Campaign:

Manassas Campaign (July 1861)


Date(s):

July 2, 1861


Principal
Commanders:
Maj.
Gen. Robert Patterson

[US];
Brig. Gen. Thomas J. Jackson [CS]


Forces
Engaged:

Brigades


Estimated
Casualties:
114
total (US 23; CS 91)


Description:

On July 2, regiments of Thomas J. Jackson’s brigade were slowly driven back by
Abercrombie’s and Thomas’s brigades.   Maj. Gen. Robert Patterson’s division
had crossed the Potomac River near Williamsport and pushed on towards to
Martinsburg. Near Hoke’s Run, when Jackson’s men were encountered. Since
Jackson’s orders were to delay the Federal advance he withdrew before
Patterson’s superior force. The following day, Patterson occupied Martinsburg
but then made no other aggressive moves for almost 2 weeks.  On July 15,
Patterson  declined to move forward but instead withdrew to Harpers Ferry.
Such retrograde movement took pressure off Confederate forces in the
Shenandoah Valley and thus allowed Johnston’s army to march in  support of
Brig. Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard who was at Manassas. Patterson’s inactivity
contributed to the Union defeat at First Manassas.




Blackburn’s Ford
  


Other Names:

Bull Run


Location:

Prince William County and Fairfax County


Campaign:

Manassas Campaign (July 1861)


Date(s):

July 18, 1861


Principal
Commanders:

Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell [US];
Brig. Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard [CS]


Forces
Engaged:

Brigades


Estimated
Casualties:

151 total (US 83; CS 68)


Description:

On 16 July, 1862, the untried Union army under Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell,
35,000 strong, marched out of the Washington defenses to give battle to the
Confederate army, which was concentrated around the vital railroad junction at
Manassas. The Confederate army, about 22,000 men, under the command of Brig.
Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard, guarded the fords of Bull Run. On July 18, McDowell
reached Centreville and pushed southwest, attempting to cross at Blackburn’s
Ford. He was repulsed. This action was a reconnaissance-in-force prior to the
main event at Manassas/Bull Run. Because of this action, Union commander
McDowell decided on the flanking maneuver he employed at First Manassas.


Result(s):

Confederate victory

 


Manassas, First  


Other
Names:

First Bull Run

Location: Fairfax County and
Prince William County

Campaign: Manassas Campaign
(July 1861)

Date(s): July 21, 1861

Principal
Commanders:

Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell [US]; Brig. Gen. Joseph E. Johnston and Brig. Gen.
P.G.T. Beauregard [CS]

Forces
Engaged:

60,680 total (US 28,450; CS 32,230)

Estimated
Casualties:

4,700 total (US 2,950; CS 1,750)

Description: This was the first
major land battle of the armies in Virginia.  On July 16, 1861, the
untried Union army under Brig. Gen. Irvin McDowell marched from Washington
against the Confederate army, which was drawn up behind Bull Run beyond
Centreville. On the 21st, McDowell crossed at Sudley Ford and attacked the
Confederate left flank on Matthews Hill. Fighting raged throughout the day as
Confederate forces were driven back to Henry Hill.  Late in the afternoon,
Confederate reinforcements (one brigade arriving by rail from the Shenandoah
Valley) extended and broke the Union right flank. The Federal retreat rapidly
deteriorated into a rout. Although victorious, Confederate forces were too
disorganized to pursue. Confederate Gen. Bee and Col. Bartow were killed. Thomas
J. Jackson earned the nom de guerre “Stonewall.” By July 22, the shattered
Union army reached the safety of Washington. This battle convinced the Lincoln
administration that the war would be a long and costly affair. McDowell was
relieved of command of the Union army and replaced by Maj. Gen. George B.
McClellan, who set about reorganizing and training the troops.

Result(s): Confederate
victory


Northern Virginia
Campaign


 [August 1862]



Cedar Mountain
  


Other Names:

Slaughter’s Mountain, Cedar Run


Location:

Culpeper County


Campaign:

Northern Virginia Campaign (June-September 1862)


Date(s):

August 9, 1862


Principal
Commanders:

Maj. Gen. Nathaniel Banks [US];
Maj. Gen. Thomas J. Jackson [CS]


Forces Engaged:

24,898 total (US 8,030; CS 16,868)


Estimated
Casualties:

2,707 total (US 1,400; CS 1,307)


Description:

Maj. Gen. John Pope was placed in command of the newly constituted Army of
Virginia on June 26. Gen. Robert E. Lee responded to Pope’s dispositions by
dispatching Maj. Gen. T.J. Jackson with 14,000 men to Gordonsville in July.
Jackson was later reinforced by A.P. Hill’s division. In early August, Pope
marched his forces south into Culpeper County with the objective of capturing
the rail junction at Gordonsville. On August 9, Jackson and Maj. Gen. Nathaniel
Banks’s corps tangled at Cedar Mountain with the Federals gaining an early
advantage. A Confederate counterattack led by A.P. Hill repulsed the Federals
and won the day. Confederate general William Winder was killed. This battle
shifted fighting in Virginia from the Peninsula to Northern Virginia, giving Lee
the initiative.


Result(s):

Confederate victory




Rappahannock Station
  


Other Names:

Waterloo Bridge, White Sulphur Springs, Lee Springs,
Freeman’s Ford


Location:

Culpeper County and Fauquier County


Campaign:

Northern Virginia Campaign (June-September 1862)


Date(s):

August 22-25, 1862


Principal
Commanders:

Maj. Gen. John Pope [US]; Maj.
Gen. Thomas J. Jackson [CS]


Forces Engaged:

Brigades


Estimated
Casualties:

225 total


Description:

Early August, Lee determined that McClellan’s army was being withdrawn from the
Peninsula to reinforce John Pope.  He sent Longstreet from Richmond to join
Jackson’s wing of the army near Gordonsville and arrived to take command himself
on August 15. August 20-21, Pope withdrew to the line of the Rappahannock River.
On August 23, Stuart’s cavalry made a daring raid on Pope’s headquarters at
Catlett Station, showing that the Union right flank was vulnerable to a turning
movement. Over the next several days, August 22-25, the two armies fought a
series of minor actions along the Rappahannock River, including Waterloo Bridge,
Lee Springs, Freeman’s Ford, and Sulphur Springs, resulting in a few hundred
casualties. Together, these skirmishes primed Pope’s army along the river, while
Jackson’s wing marched via Thoroughfare Gap to capture Bristoe Station and
destroy Federal supplies at Manassas Junction, far in the rear of Pope’s army.


Result(s):

Inconclusive




Manassas Station Operations
  


Other Names:

None


Battles
Associated with the Operations:

Bristoe Station, Kettle Run, Bull Run Bridge, Union Mills


Location:

Prince William County


Campaign:

Northern Virginia Campaign (June-September 1862)


Date(s):

August 25-27,1862


Principal
Commanders:

Brig. Gen. G.W. Taylor [US]; Maj.
Gen. Thomas J. Jackson [CS]


Forces Engaged:

Divisions


Estimated
Casualties:

1,100 total


Description:

On the evening of August 26, after passing around Pope’s right flank via
Thoroughfare Gap, Jackson’s wing of the army struck the Orange & Alexandria
Railroad at Bristoe Station and before daybreak August 27 marched to capture and
destroy the massive Union supply depot at Manassas Junction. This surprise
movement forced Pope into an abrupt retreat from his defensive line along the
Rappahannock River. On August 27, Jackson routed a Union brigade near Union
Mills (Bull Run Bridge), inflicting several hundred casualties and mortally
wounding Union Brig. Gen. G.W. Taylor. Ewell’s Division fought a brisk rearguard
action against Hooker’s division at Kettle Run, resulting in about 600
casualties. Ewell held back Union forces until dark. During the night of August
27-28, Jackson marched his divisions north to the First Manassas battlefield,
where he took position behind an unfinished railroad grade.


Result(s):

Confederate victory




Thoroughfare Gap
  


Other Names:

Chapman’s Mill


Location:

Fauquier County and Prince William County


Campaign:

Northern Virginia Campaign (June-September 1862)


Date(s):

August 28, 1862


Principal
Commanders:

Brig. Gen. James Ricketts [US];
Lt. Gen. James Longstreet [CS]


Forces Engaged:

Divisions


Estimated
Casualties:

100 total


Description:

After skirmishing near Chapman’s Mill in Thoroughfare Gap, Brig. Gen. James
Ricketts’s Union division was flanked by a Confederate column passing through
Hopewell Gap several miles to the north and by troops securing the high ground
at Thoroughfare Gap.  Ricketts retired, and Longstreet’s wing of the army
marched through the gap to join Jackson. This seemingly inconsequential action
virtually ensured Pope’s defeat during the battles of Aug. 29-30 because it
allowed the two wings of Lee’s army to unite on the Manassas battlefield.
Ricketts withdrew via Gainesville to Manassas Junction.


Result(s):

Confederate victory




Manassas, Second
  



Other Names:

Manassas, Second Bull Run, Manassas Plains, Groveton,
Gainesville, Brawner’s Farm


Location:

Prince William County


Campaign:

Northern Virginia Campaign (June-September 1862)


Date(s):

August 28-30, 1862


Principal
Commanders:

Maj. Gen. John Pope [US]; Gen. Robert E. Lee and Maj. Gen.
Thomas J. Jackson [CS]


Forces Engaged:

Armies


Estimated
Casualties:

22,180 total (US 13,830; CS 8,350)


Description:

In order to draw Pope’s army into battle, Jackson ordered an attack on a Federal
column that was passing across his front on the Warrenton Turnpike on August 28.
The fighting at Brawner Farm lasted several hours and resulted in a stalemate.
Pope became convinced that he had trapped Jackson and concentrated the bulk of
his army against him. On August 29, Pope launched a series of assaults against
Jackson’s position along an unfinished railroad grade. The attacks were repulsed
with heavy casualties on both sides. At noon, Longstreet arrived on the field
from Thoroughfare Gap and took position on Jackson’s right flank.  On August 30,
Pope renewed his attacks, seemingly unaware that Longstreet was on the field.
When massed Confederate artillery devastated a Union assault by Fitz John
Porter’s command, Longstreet’s wing of 28,000 men counterattacked in the
largest, simultaneous mass assault of the war. The Union left flank was crushed
and the army driven back to Bull Run. Only an effective Union rearguard action
prevented a replay of the First Manassas disaster. Pope’s retreat to Centreville
was precipitous, nonetheless.  The next day, Lee ordered his army in pursuit.
This was the decisive battle of the Northern Virginia Campaign.


Result(s):

Confederate victory




Chantilly
  


Other Names:

Ox Hill


Location:

Fairfax County


Campaign:

Northern Virginia Campaign (June-September 1862)


Date(s):

September 1, 1862


Principal
Commanders:

Maj. Gen. Philip Kearny and Maj. Gen. Isaac Stevens
[US]; Maj. Gen. Thomas J. Jackson [CS]


Forces Engaged:

Divisions


Estimated
Casualties:

2,100 total (US 1,300; CS 800)


Description:

Making a wide flank march, Jackson hoped to cut off the Union retreat from Bull
Run. On September 1, beyond Chantilly Plantation on the Little River Turnpike
near Ox Hill, Jackson sent his divisions against two Union divisions under
Kearny and Stevens. Confederate attacks were stopped by fierce fighting during a
severe thunderstorm. Union generals Stevens and Kearny were both killed.
Recognizing that his army was still in danger at Fairfax Courthouse, Maj. Gen.
Pope ordered the retreat to continue to Washington. With Pope no longer a
threat, Lee turned his army west and north to invade Maryland, initiating the
Maryland Campaign and the battles of South Mountain and Antietam. Maj. Gen.
George B. McClellan assumed command of Union forces around Washington.


Result(s):

Inconclusive (Confederate strategic victory.)

Source : National Park Service: Civil War Battle Summaries by Campaign

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Books – Democracy Through the Ages

Everyone speaks of democracy as if there’s a common understanding of what this word means, but it’s one of the harder of political labels to actually find in the world. With perhaps the exception of a few New England town meetings or other small groups, true democracy has never been in place for long, and in the US, it really was never considered and actually opposed by most of the Republican founders.  So, despite Bush’s arrogant claims to ‘bring democracy’ to Iraq, we really need to question and examine just what is being proposed.  Democracy is actually a fairly recent concept in terms of actually being used; flowering a few times in history, but only setting
solid roots in the 18th century, and the question is still open as to whether it will thrive.

There are many books to recommend, both fiction and non-fiction; history and polemic.  Historical fiction is often a superb way to show the actual workings of past societies

The earliest true attempt at democracy was in Athens in the 5th century BCE. and its lifespan was brief, emerging from resistance to tyrants and lasting only a few decades until oligarchies and tyrants regained control. The Peloponnesian War was in large part the struggle between  the Athenian Empire [ democratic, but including both slavery and subjugation of an extended collection of ‘allies’ for tribute  and resources] versus the Spartan league [ dominated by oligarchies with a feudal basis].  The final result of this long war was to weaken both antagonists and undermine their political systems.  Events in the war’s aftermath are described in,  The Trial of Socrates .   I.F. Stone places the writings of Plato in the context of  Plato’s and Socrates’ support for oligarchy rather than democracy.

The Roman Republic was a later experiment in the development of democracy, with an elaborate system of balances that worked for a time, but was again unable to respond and adapt to the needs of an expanding empire. Colleen McCullough’s Masters of Rome series of novels is the best re-creation of the politics of the last century of the Republic.  While relying on the noblesse oblige of an aristocracy, the Republic also had democratic elements.  Often, as in Athens, democracy was usurped by demagogues.

Venice was the next state to try forms of democracy, and by far the longest lasting, although once again, its constitution was more republican or oligarchical.  Various smaller experiments in city-state communes of medieval Europe followed, including the long struggles against Medici domination in Florence.  [Machiavelli – The Prince ]  The 17th century saw renewed democracy in philosophy and practice, especially in England and the new Dutch Republic.  But it was the 18th century that gave violent birth to the major democratic revolutions in America and France.

Revolutions always need to deal with the ideas of liberty and freedom, but sometimes, these ideas themselves are not mutually understood.  For example, the American revolutionaries from different parts of the colonies had very different concepts of liberty

In Radicalism of the American Revolution, like an earthquake that turns solid ground to jello,
Gordon Wood,  tosses out idea after idea that turn established concepts into shambles

More than two centuries later, the American experiment in democracy has degenerated into a plutocracy, in which wealth and power preempt democracy’s ideals of equality and freedom [cf Kevin Phillips’  Wealth & Democracy or Isaiah Berlin – Twisted Timber of Humanity].  While Phillips gives a depressing history of the decline, and its corruption thru the centuries,  Cadillac Desert focuses on perhaps the biggest corrupter of all – the sprawling water projects of the  American West, in which water is diverted at huge cost to grow crops no one needs, all to support giant corporations that threaten to wipe out the family farms that were the rationale for the projects in the first place.  Taken together, these books demonstrate that ideology or the party in power matters little – elections become a charade, masking the control of government by capital and its corporate controllers.  Kim Stanley Robinson examines these transnational corporations in his science fiction Mars Trilogy

From the left George Orwell‘s analysis of why socialism fails is apt today, especially in re the Tea Party movement

It was easy to laugh at Fascism when we imagined that it was based on hysterical nationalism….  For Socialism is the only real enemy that Fascism has to face. The capitalist-imperialist govern­ments, even though they themselves are about to be plundered, will not fight with any conviction against Fascism as such. Our rulers, those of them who under­stand the issue, would probably prefer to hand over every square inch of the British Empire to Italy, Germany and Japan than to see Socialism triumphant.

The job of the thinking person, therefore, is not to reject Socialism but to make up his mind to humanise it. Once Socialism is in a way to being established, those -who can see through the swindle of ” progress” will probably find themselves resisting. In fact, it is their ,special function to do so. In the machine-world they have got to be a sort of permanent opposition, which is not the same thing as being an obstructionist or a traitor. But in this I am speaking of the future. For the moment the only possible course for any decent person, however much of a Tory or an anarchist by temperament, is to work for the establishment of Socialism. Nothing else can save us from the misery of the present or the night­mare of the future. To oppose Socialism now, when twenty million Englishmen are underfed and Fascism has conquered half Europe, is suicidal. It is like starting a civil war when the Goths are crossing the frontier.

Socialists have a big job ahead of them here. They have got to demonstrate, beyond possibility of doubt, just where the line of cleavage between exploiter and exploited comes. Once again it is a question of sticking to essentials; and the essential point here is that all people with small, insecure incomes are “in the same boat and ought to be fighting on the same side. Probably we could do with a little less talk about” capitalist” and ” proletarian” and a little more about the robbers and the robbed. … and that Socialism means a fair deal for them as well as for the navvy and the factory-hand.

For more on this peculiar American Empire ….. after the American Century

 

Book – Newt Gingrich’s Gettysburg

 

What if Lee Won at Gettysburg?

Artillery firing, during Civil War battle reenactment Confederate soldiers advance, Civil War battle reenactment

A counterfactual history trilogy of the Civil War battle of Gettysburg and its aftermath consisting of:

  • Gettysburg
  • Grant Comes East
  • Never Call Retreat

The first volume covers the battle of Gettysburg, though with strategic maneuvers beyond anything contemplated by the actual participants. Like any successful counterfactual history, the authors are careful in their initial changes – in fact, most readers will not even be aware of the changes the authors introduce in the battle up to the end of the first day’s fighting. But by this point enough small changes have already occurred to allow Lee to produce a strategic masterstroke on a par with Jackson’s Chancellorsville march. From here the story rapidly diverges from what we know as history, but never beyond possibility, and it’s amusing to see various participants like Sykes, Sickles, Joshua Chamberlain and others perform in this parallel universe.
The battles scenes are excellent and provide a closeup look at the experience of individual soldiers. We witness how the opposing sides would arrange unofficial truces when the battles end. You’ll probably suspect that the climactic battle of the second book won’t resolve everything since there’s still that third volume! But that never subtracts from the tension & suspense of these books. Great
historical fiction – my only regret is that Gingrich didn’t start writing novels earlier, rather than spending so much time fighting other battles in Congress.
One small annoyance is the tendency of the authors to put anachronistic quotes in the mouths of their actors. The most prominent one was during a race between the armies towards the coast in which a general remarks “let the man on the farthest edge of the flanking troops touch the sea with his sleeve” – a statement actually made 50 years later in World War I by a German general during their flanking attack through Belgium. There are several more of these pillaged pedantries scattered thru the books, but their effect, fortunately, is minimal. One last quibble is why, (from laziness or publication schedule?) they chose to title the last book ‘Never Call Retreat’ – a title previously used by one of the masters of  Civil War history, Bruce Catton.

Even Lee can seem banal when words are put into his mouth:

“We turn this back into a battle of maneuver, gentlemen, the thing we have always done best, the thing that our opponents have never mastered. But let me say it before all of you quite clearly. I am not seeking a half victory. By abandoning this field, some will see that as an admission of defeat, something we have never yet done, completely abandon a field. In so doing we return to a war of maneuver. We cut their line of supply while at the same time continuing to secure our own line of supply by moving our wagon trains back down to Green­castle. The ultimate goal must be to force the Army of the Potomac into territory that we choose and then fight a battle to finish this once and for all”

He looked carefully at each one in turn. “That is what I will expect from you, what our country expects from all of us, and nothing less is acceptable.
We are here to win not just a battle.”

He paused for a moment.

“We are here to win a war.”

Gingrich is better in describing the details of Civil War close combat:

“… along that terrible, invisible line that seems to appear on a battlefront, a line that not even the brav­est will pass, knowing that to take but one more step forward is death.

Some were demoralized, clutching the ground; others, in shock, were cradling wounded, dying, and dead comrades. Most settled down to the grim task at hand. Raising rifles, taking aim up the slope, firing, grounding muskets, reloading and firing again.

In the coldest sense of military logic, this battered line was the shield, the soak off, having taken the first position and now stalling in front of the second. Their job was simply to absorb the blows, to die, to inflict some death upon those dug in until the second and third lines came up, still relatively unscathed, to push the attack closer in.

And so across the next ten minutes they gave everything they had, these volunteers turned professionals, the pride of the Army of the Potomac, the pride of the Republic. Thousands of acts of courage were committed, none to be recorded except in the memories of those who were there, the greatest courage of all simply to stand on the volley line, to fire, to reload, and all the time the litany chant in the background… “Pour it in to them. Close on the colors, boys. Pour it into them!”

Two hundred yards to the rear, the next assault wave reached the outh bank of the flood plain, their officers ordering a halt, letting the men catch their breath for a few minutes, to gulp down some water, while forward their comrades died.

Atop the crest the Confederate forces blazed away, some of the men, acknowledged sharpshooters, calling for others to load, to pass their guns up, making sure that every shot counted, though in the still air, now laced again by showers, the smoke quickly built to a hanging cloud of fog.

Men were falling in the trenches, though not near as many as down on the open slope. Rifle balls smacked into the loosely piled dirt, spraying the men; shots when they hit tended to strike arms raised while ramming or, far more deadly, in the chest or face.

A growing line of dead and wounded lay directly behind the trench, dragged out of the way so as to not be trampled under.

The Union artillery was again in full play, though aiming in most cases too high out of fear of striking their own battle line in the con­fusion. But enough shots were tearing in to do terrible damage…

 

 

Book – Washington’s Crossing

 

David Hackett Fischer
An invading force gets bogged down while fighting an insurgency. While it could be ripped from today’s headlines, this is actually a book about the American Revolution. This is an impressive work on many levels. It’s an excellent history of George Washington’s first year as commander of the Continental army. It also provides insights into the conduct of the war and the morale of the armies that provided the ultimate success. Along the way, Fischer shows that much of what we ‘know’ about this period is incorrect. It’s amazing at this point that there can be so much new information available [The diaries of Hessian Colonel Eward, e.g., only became available in English in 1979]

The early chapters are devoted to Washington’s challenge in bringing a true motley crew of independent regiments together as a continental army. He describes vastly different concepts of such basic values as liberty:

One backcountry company came from Culpeper County, in western Virginia on the east slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains. … and mustered three hundred men with bucktails in their hats and tomahawks or scalping knives in their belts…Part of their “savage-looking equipments” may have been their flag…. the dark image of a timber rattlesnake, coiled and ready to strike, and the words “Don’t Tread on Me.”

… This was an idea of liberty as reciprocal rights that belonged to all the people, a thought very different from the exclusive rights of New England towns, or the hierarchical rights of Virginia, or the individual autonomy of the backsettlers. … Their version of liberty was more radical in thought and act than any other unit’s in the army. But these men were devoted to the American cause and willing to fight in its defense.

A historiography at the back of the book is a standalone essay on the process of historical description and analysis, showing how over 200 years of study have processed historical fact to produce narrative with varying intentions.

A perhaps unintended effect is Fischer’s description of William Howe’s campaign to pacify the colonies, focusing on bringing New Jersey back into the British fold. His descriptions of the local insurgencies that opposed Howe are eerily familiar to today’s dispatches from Iraq.The actual offenses 2 centuries apart are different, but the refusal of officers to stop outrages, sparks an insurgency:

gathered by county justices and clergymen … They documented an epidemic of rape in New Jersey by British soldiers: “Three women were most horribly ravished by them, one of them an old woman nearly seventy years of age, ….” Others described gang rapes not only by private soldiers but by officers: “British officers, four or five, sometimes more, sometimes less in a gang, went about the town by night entering into houses and openly inquiring for women.”

Americans were shocked by the number of cases, by their scale, and by the involvement of British officers. The Pennsylvania Council of Safety reported another such an incident near Woodbridge, New Jersey: A “gentleman in that part of the country was alarmed by the cries and shrieks of a most lovely daughter; he found an officer, a British officer in the act of ravishing her, he instantly put him to death; two other officers rushed in with their fusees, and fired two balls into the father,” who was severely wounded.

Howe insisted that these reports were nothing but American propaganda…Junior officers in his army knew better. Captain John Peebles, commander of a grenadier company of the Royal Highland Regiment, wrote sadly in his diary on Christmas Eve 1776, “In orders a man condemned to suffer death for a Rape, but pardon’d at the intercession of the injured party; the second instance, tho’ there have been other shocking abuses of that nature that have not come to public notice. The story of the poor old man and his daughter in Long Island was very bad indeed, hard is the fate of many who suffer indiscriminately in a civil war. “

As always, the continuing occupation, with insufficient troops to complete its mission, then feeds further

Small bands of armed men ambushed mounted British couriers on the road. They killed a British officer and his servant, attacked foraging parties in the countryside, and shot at Hessian sentries. Captain Friedrich von Miinchausen wrote on December 14,1776, “It is now very unsafe for us to travel in Jersey. The rascal peasants meet our men alone or in small unarmed groups. They have their rifles hidden in the bushes, or ditches, and the like. When they believe they are sure of success and they see one or several men belonging to our army, they shoot them in the head, then quickly hide their rifles and pretend they
know nothing.”

The result was a spontaneous rising … Mott himself recruited men who were ready to take up arms against the British and Hessians. Other leaders did the same. Colonel David Chambers of the Hunterdon militia led a band in Amwell Township east of Coryell’s Ferry. These men did not go into the town of Trenton or attack its outposts, but when Hessian Jaegers or British dragoons or small foraging parties left the town and went up the Delaware Valley along the River Road, or northwest toward Flemington and Lambertville, or north toward Princeton, the Jerseymen attacked. Colonel RaIl began to lose men every day, and the strength of the militia increased. On December 16, Colonel Chambers sent prisoners across the river to George Washington: two Regulars, and one “Malitious Active Tory” who had “assembled and spirited the negroes against us.” On December 17, a patrol of British dragoons went upriver toward Pennington and McConkey’s Ferry. They were intercepted by the Hunterdon men, and one dragoon was” deadly wounded.” On December 18, another dragoon was killed on the road to Maidenhead by a party that was reported to be more than a hundred strong. On December 19, three grenadiers in the Lossberg regiment were captured while out forag­ing. On December 20, RaIl sent a patrol of Jagers and dragoons four miles upriver to Howell’s Ferry, where they met 150 Hunterdon men commanded by Captain John Anderson; the Americans came off second best and lost three or four men.

The Jerseymen forced RaIl to send dispatches to Princeton with an escort of a hundred men, which some British commanders thought absurd. But the growing scale of attacks by the Hunterdon militia supported his judgment. RaIl was rapidly losing control of the countryside, even to the outskirts of Trenton. He could not patrol up the river even to Howell’s Ferry, four miles upstream, without losing men. McConkey’s Ferry ten miles distant was beyond his reach. The Hessian commander could identify the American leaders by name, and he could defeat the Hunterdon militia in a stand­up fight, but he could not stop them from striking again and again, and vanishing into country that they knew so well. In all of this the Jersey men went far beyond instructions from Washington. This Hunterdon Rising was an autonomous event, by angry men against a hated oppressor.

… another American officer began to attack from a different direction. …Grenadier Reuber called the raiders with darkened faces “black Negroes and yellow dogs.” He added, “We had to watch out. . . . They crossed the Delaware to our side, set some houses on fire, and then retreated. Again everything was quiet. . . but we had to watch out. “

The American rebels kept up constant pressure on the isolated Hessian garrison. The description of the constant stress on the troops could be taken directly from reports of US Marines in Iraq and similar to Sebastian Junger’s reporting in War

“The Hessian garrison suffered few casualties in these repeated raids from the river, but they lost sleep and confidence and their morale was badly shaken. Rumors of impending attacks multiplied. On December 20 or 21, Reuber remembered that “the inhabitants of the town circulated a rumor that the rebels wanted to surprise us. We did not have any idea of such a thing, and thought the rebels were unable to do so.” But their colonel took no chances. Reuber wrote, “Early in the morning Commander Rall selected a strong force from his brigade, also a cannon, and we must march in two divisions, along the Delaware, to see about the Americans attempting to cross the Delaware for an aggression. There was no sign of it, and we marched to near Frankfort, which was situated on the other side of the Delaware.. There we could see Americans. Rall stopped us and we joined with the other divisions and returned to Trenton. All was quiet again.

“… He explained to Donop, “I have not made any redoubts or any kind of fortifications because I have the enemy in all directions.” For security the guns were kept in the center of town. Reuber wrote that every soldier was ordered to sleep “fully dressed like he was on watch. The officers and sergeants must enforce this order.”

Even the desperate but unanswered calls from commanders on the ground sound eerily like the pleas for more troops in Iraq that were ignored by Rumsfeld et al:

“Rall called for help. He sent many messages asking for assistance from Donop below Bordentown, General Leslie in Princeton, and Major General Grant at Brunswick. Rall reported that his Trenton garrison was exhausted, the town was indefensible, and attacks were increasing. Only one senior officer took Rall’s worries very seriously: In Princeton, Alexander Leslie, an excellent officer, moved quickly. As early as December 18 he wrote to Rall, “I’ve ordered the first Light Infantry to be at Trenton tomorrow at 10 o’clock and I take the 2d Light Infantry and 300 Men of the 2d brigade to Maidenhead to be in the way if needed. “31 Leslie also sent troops on December 21. Reuber recalled, “Saturday afternoon before Christmas came three English regiments from Princeton to Trenton for reinforcement and when they came to town and Major Rall settled them, they were ordered to turn around and march back to Princeton. ”

Fischer ably brings the narrative to a close:

In the winter campaign of 1776-77, Washington and the Continental army found a solution that had many elements. Part of it was flexibility and opportunism in high degree. Throughout the Revolution George Washington’s strategic purposes were constant: to win independence by maintaining American resolve to continue the war, by preserving an American army in being, and by raising the cost of the war to the enemy. Washington was always fixed on these strategic ends but flexible in operational means. …The diversity of operations in the winter campaign was the first clear example of a style that persisted through the war. He was quick to modify his plans with changing circumstances and adapted more easily than his opponents. Washington was a man of steadfast principle but also a military opportunist. Many American leaders would follow that example: Greene and Morgan, Lee and Jackson, Grant and Sherman, Eisenhower and Bradley, Nimitz and Patton, Schwarzkopf and Franks.

Another element in this American approach to war-fighting a new way of controlling initiative and tempo in war. After many defeats around New York, American leaders learned the urgent importance of seizing the initiative and holding it. George Washington and his lieutenants did more than merely surprise the Hessian garrison at Trenton on the morning after Christmas. They improvised a series of surprises through a period of twelve weeks. By that method they seized the initiative from their opponents and kept it … Washington made it a formal principle in the army, when he ordered his generals to drive the campaign and not “be drove.”

Initiative was largely about the control of time in campaigning. English historian George Otto Trevelyan wrote that George Washington succeeded at Trenton and Princeton because he “caught the occasion by the forelock.” In New Jersey, American leaders learned to make time itself into a weapon. They did it by controlling the tempo and rhythm of the campaign. Day after day through the winter campaign, the Americans called the tune and set the beat. By that method, they retained the initiative for many weeks and kept British commanders off balance. The material and moral impact was very great, especially when a small force was able to control the tempo of war against a stronger enemy. Events happened at a time and place of their choosing. From all this another American tradition developed. It appeared in the Civil War, in both theaters in World War II, and in discussions of tempo by Pentagon, planners in the twenty-first century.

The central figure was George Washington himself. In the winter campaign of 1776-77, he developed a system of intelligence that became part of his new way of war. Washington personally recruited secret agents, with orders to report to him alone, and employed Nathaniel Sackett, of the New York Committee for Detecting and Defeating Conspiracies, to construct an entire network in New York with agents male and female, of every rank and station. It is impossible to know the full extent of Washington’s intelligence operations, for he cloaked them in secrecy, but beyond doubt he was very active in this work.

Washington also asked Continental generals and militia commanders to gather their own intelligence, and even to run their own agents…lHis attitudes toward intelligence-gathering were different from those of leaders in closed societies, who sought to monopolize intelligence and prohibited efforts they did not con­trol. Washington was comfortable with an open system, in which others were not only permitted but actively encouraged to have a high degree of autonomy. This free and open system of information-gathering engaged the efforts of many people, produced multiple sources, and got better results than closed systems. It was another reason why free societies often have more effective intelligence systems than closed societies.

All of these elements came together in the winter campaign of 1776-77: boldness and prudence, flexibility and opportunism, initiative and tempo, speed and concentration, force multipliers, and intelligence. They defined a new way of war that would continue to appear through the Revolution and in many American
wars.

I’ve focused here on particular passages that highlight similarities with modern insurgencies and occupations, but the book is also an excellent military history of the Trenton campaign and its significance to the American Revolution. Of special interest are the over 40 pages of appendices with detailed orders of battle, weather records, and other information that will be of use to military modelers and gamers.

Finally, unlike so many histories, the maps are excellent – specifically designed to illuminate the text.

 

 

 

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