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05-13-2022, 17:06
In the spring of 1862, 23-year-old Robert Smalls was working as a pilot in Charleston harbor aboard a Confederate steamer called ?the Planter.? The ship?s three officers were white. The other seven crewmen, including Smalls, were slaves.

Despite Confederate orders requiring officers to always remain aboard their vessels, the officers on the Planter often went ashore at night to spend the night with their families, leaving only the enslaved crew on the ship. Whether they did so because they trusted Smalls, or doubted his courage and ability, either way they made a big mistake. Smalls recognized the opportunity their negligence presented, and he resolved to act on it.

First he had to convince the other crew members. Escaping out of the heavily guarded harbor would be risky and dangerous. But Smalls? charisma, confidence, and the prospect of liberty overcame whatever fears or doubts they may have had. Smalls set his plan in motion.

Next he had to convince his wife Hannah. What will happen if we are caught? she asked him. ?I shall be shot,? Smalls replied, adding that Hannah and the children would possibly be punished and separated. Without hesitation Hannah answered, ?I will go. For where you die, I will die.?

In the predawn hours of May 13, Smalls hoisted the Confederate and South Carolina flags and the Planter got underway, with Smalls standing on the deck, impersonating the captain by wearing his hat. He steamed the vessel past sentries who had no reason to doubt the ship was acting under orders. Had they been detected they would have been easily blown out of the water.

Smalls guided the ship to a wharf where Hannah was hiding and waiting, along with their four-year-old daughter and infant son, together with six other enslaved family members of the crew. Once the women and children were on board and safely below deck, Smalls turned the ship toward the mouth of the harbor, which was guarded by Fort Sumter.

As the Planter approached the fort, Smalls pulled the cord on the ship?s whistle, giving two long blows followed by a short one?the signal to pass. While everyone else was below deck on their knees praying, Smalls boldly steered the ship past the fort?s guns. ?Blow the damned Yankees to hell!? a Confederate sentry shouted as he steamed by.

Once past the fort, Smalls turned his ship toward the U.S.S. Onward, the closest of the federal blockade ships. As they drew near, the crew ran down the rebel flags and hoisted a white bedsheet. Suspicious, an officer aboard the Onward shouted out ?Stop, or I will blow you out of the water!? Smalls slowly drew alongside the federal ship and yelled out to it, ?Good morning, sir! I have brought you some of the old United States guns taken from Fort Sumter!?

The daring escape made Smalls an instant hero in the north. He went on to serve in the United States Navy, bought his old master?s home at a tax sale after the war, served in the South Carolina legislature, and was elected to one term in the U.S. House of Representatives. He died in South Carolina in February 1915, at age 75.

Robert Smalls and his crew commandeered the Confederate steamship Planter and delivered it to the U.S. Navy on May 13, 1862, one hundred sixty years ago today.


05-13-2022, 21:25
Interesting piece of history. Thanks for starting the thread.

05-13-2022, 22:39
I would be curious hear Mr. Smalls' opinion on the current state of the Black community in the United States.

05-14-2022, 10:33
Jerry Denton attended at least 13 different schools growing up in the South, his family being forced frequently to move because his father's gambling and heavy-drinking made it difficult for him to hold a job. But Jerry was ambitious, hardworking, and determined and he accomplished his boyhood goal of getting an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy, from which he graduated in 1946. Over the next twenty years, Denton earned three graduate degrees, was promoted to commander, and was credited with important innovations in naval aviation tactics and strategy.
In 1965 Denton was commanding a squadron of A-6 Intruders on a bombing mission over North Vietnam when his plane went down. He was quickly captured?the beginning of a nearly eight-year ordeal he would later describe as ?when Hell was in session.?
During his captivity, Denton was repeatedly beaten, tortured, and starved. For approximately four years he was kept in solitary confinement, often in a cramped pitch-black cell infested with rats and roaches, and rank with sewage. In an effort to compel him to confess to war crimes and reveal confidential information, he was brutally beaten and tortured for days on end, often in a device his captors had created that was designed to keep maximize pain without causing a loss of consciousness.
Despite the torture and horrific conditions, Denton helped organize a system of communication among the other prisoners (who usually could not see each other), using coughs, throat-clearing, spitting, and other sounds, each of which was keyed to a letter in the alphabet. When he and another prisoner were caught communicating by tapping on their cell walls, both were beaten and tortured for several days. To end the pain, Jerry Denton prayed that he would die.
In May 1966 a Japanese television reporter had requested permission to interview an American POW on camera. His North Vietnamese captors believed Jerry Denton has been broken sufficiently to use him for propaganda purposes, so they allowed the interview.
?I get adequate food, and adequate clothing, and medical care when I require it? Denton haltingly told the reporter. As he spoke, Denton made it appear that the bright lights were causing him to blink. When asked about alleged American atrocities, Denton answered ?Well, I don?t know what is happening, but whatever the position of my government is, I support it fully. Whatever the position of my government is, I believe in it -- yes, sir. I am a member of that government and it is my job to support it, and I will as long as I live.? For that answer, that night Denton was beaten savagely.
When the interview was broadcast, American intelligence authorities noticed Denton?s odd way of blinking while talking. Soon they figured it out. Denton?s blinking pattern was Morse Code. He was blinking out the letters ?T-O-R-T-U-R-E.? It was the first confirmation that American POWs were being tortured by the North Vietnamese.
In February 1973, Jerry Denton was among the first group of U.S. prisoners of war released during Operation Homecoming. After stepping off a plane at Clark Airfield in the Philippines he said to waiting reporters, ?We are honored to have had the opportunity to serve our country under difficult circumstances. We are profoundly grateful to our commander in chief and to our nation for this day. God bless America.?
Denton retired from the Navy in 1977, with the rank of rear admiral. He wrote a book about his experience as a POW titled ?When Hell Was in Session,? and he served one term as a United States Senator from Alabama. The father of seven children, Jeremiah Andrew ?Jerry? Denton, Jr. died in March 2014 at age 89. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Jerry Denton?s television interview, in which he cleverly and at great risk informed the world that American POWs were being tortured, occurred on May 2, 1966 fifty six years ago this month


05-14-2022, 13:18
On This Day - May 14, 1804, the Lewis and Clark expedition departed St. Louis, Missouri to explore the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase. Meriwether Lewis, President Thomas Jefferson?s private secretary, and William Clark, an Army Captain, had been chosen by the President to travel west from the Mississippi with a group of 45 men in the hopes of finding a water route to the Pacific Ocean. On the way they were to gather all the information they could on the new land. On May 14, Lewis and Clark, along with their ?Corps of Discovery,? began the journey west by traveling up the Missouri River in boats almost fifty feet in length.

Along the way, as they got deeper into the American interior, they were joined by a French-Canadian fur trader and his wife, a Native-American named Sacagawea, who served as the expedition?s interpreter. Together, the group wintered and built a fort in present day North Dakota before continuing on to Montana, where they discovered the source of the Missouri River and laid eyes on the Rocky Mountains. It was only with the help of Sacagawea that Lewis and Clark were able to get through these mountains. She convinced her former tribe, the Shoshone, to sell the expedition horses, with which the Corps of Discovery was able to get down out of the mountains before wintertime.

After passing through the dangerous rapids of the Snake River, Lewis and Clark and the expedition sailed down the Columbia River to its mouth at the Pacific. They were the first white explorers to reach the Pacific from an overland route. The Corps of Discovery spent the winter on the Pacific coast before setting off on a return journey east. On September 23, 1806, two and a half years after they set off, Lewis and Clark returned to St. Louis, bringing with them a vast amount of information about America?s new land.

Also on this day in history:

On This Day - May 14, 1607 ? Just over 100 men and boys filed ashore from the small sailing ships Susan Constant, Godspeed, and Discovery, onto what English adventurers came to call Jamestown Island in Virginia. 104 Englishmen arrived. The Jamestown settlement in the Colony of Virginia was the first permanent English settlement in the Americas. Established by the Virginia Company of London as ?James Fort? on 14 May, 1607 and considered permanent after brief abandonment in 1610, it followed several earlier failed attempts, including the Lost Colony of Roanoke.

Jamestown served as the capital of the colony for 83 years, from 1616 until 1699. The settlement was located within the country of Tsenacommacah, which was administered by the Powhatan Confederacy, and specifically in that of the Paspahegh tribe. The natives initially welcomed and provided crucial provisions and support for the colonists, who were not agriculturally inclined. Relations with the newcomers soured fairly early on, leading to the total annihilation of the Paspahegh in warfare within 3 years.

05-18-2022, 08:30
On this day in 1860 dark-horse candidate Abraham Lincoln received the Republican nomination for president. He then promptly set out on a barnstorming tour across America, giving stirring campaign speeches to enthusiastic audiences.

Actually, he did not do that. Between the day he was nominated and the day he was elected, Lincoln did not give a single speech and he never even left his hometown of Springfield, Illinois. Lincoln?s refusal to campaign was partly because his party wanted him to stay quiet and not risk giving any ammunition to his opponents, who were desperately trying to portray him as a dangerous extremist. But the main reason he stayed home during that critical election campaign was that at the time it was considered unseemly and undignified for a candidate to actively seek the office of president.

The model presidential candidate, according to the popular opinion of the time, had been George Washington, who did not campaign or show any sign of seeking the office. As James K. Polk would later remark, ?The office of president of the United States should neither be sought nor declined.? According to Henry Clay, presidential candidates should not campaign because the voters should be ?wholly unbiased by the conduct of a candidate himself.? ?I meddle not with elections,? Andrew Jackson declared, ?I leave the people to make their own President.? The sentiment is reflected in the terminology of the time, when candidates were said to ?stand for office,? rather than ?run for office.?

Breaking with tradition, candidate Winfield Scott went on a five-week speaking tour during the 1852 presidential campaign, although he carefully avoided any reference to political issues during his speeches. Nevertheless, many observers (both Whigs and Democrats) blamed his defeat on his having ?begged for votes,? unlike his silent opponent Franklin Pierce.
During the 1860 campaign, Lincoln?s Democratic opponent Stephen Douglas broke with precedent, but his vigorous campaigning ended in a loss, of course. Likewise, Horatio Seymour took to the stump in 1868, as did Horace Greeley in 1872, and both lost their elections. Greeley acknowledged that it is ?the unwritten law of our country that a candidate for President may not make speeches,? but being a talented speaker, he refused to not use his gift. For doing so he was denounced as ?the great American office beggar.?

In 1876 candidate Rutherford B. Hayes refused even to vote in the election, believing casting a vote for himself would be undignified and inappropriate.
In the campaigns of 1888 and 1892, the signs of change were showing. In those elections the challengers toured the country and gave stump speeches, but even then, the incumbent presidents did not. The thought of a sitting president campaigning, the New York Times declared, ?disgusts the people.?

The traditional reluctance to appear undignified by ?vote begging? would be gone forever after the 1896 election. In that campaign, the electrifying William Jennings Bryan stormed across 27 states giving over 600 speeches to a combined audience of over 5 million people. His opponent William McKinley never left home, but from his front porch gave over 300 speeches, reaching an estimated 750,000 people.

The last vestige of the old order (the notion that sitting presidents shouldn?t campaign) was swept away in the 1936 election, when the incumbent Franklin Roosevelt mounted a vigorous and historic barnstorming campaign that defeated challenger Alf Landon.

Nowadays, of course, campaigning for the presidency is seemingly nonstop and no one expects candidates to stay quietly at home until the election is over.


05-18-2022, 15:19
42 years ago today, Mt St Helens erupted, killing 57 people. Sorry no great story but I do remember wiping ash off my truck here in Boulder.

Minor aside, the wreck of the SS Winfield Scott is a popular dive off Anacapa Island near Ventura CA. She was a big side-wheel paddle steamer that went down in 1853.

05-18-2022, 20:39
Sure would be easier to read without all the damned ??? Question marks.....

05-19-2022, 09:08
Liking this thread

05-20-2022, 14:49
149 years ago today Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis received a patent for reinforcing work pants with rivets...the first blue jeans.

And 95 years ago, Charles Lindbergh took off from Long Island in the Spirit of St Louis to cross the Atlantic in a blazing fast 33.5 hours.

05-23-2022, 08:05
Among American men during the Civil War era, grandiose facial hair was the fashion.
In contrast to the time of the Revolution, when nearly all men were clean-shaven, during the Civil War nearly every notable leader was bearded and/or mustachioed, often creatively.
One of the most famous displays of facial hair was that worn by Federal General Ambrose Burnside.
Men began calling his outrageous muttonchops sideburns, a word that remains in our vocabulary to this day.
General Burnside was not the only Federal commanding general to inspire a new word in the English language.
His successor Joseph Hooker also contributed a word to our vocabulary.
His was in honor of the enterprising women who followed his army around, and who came to be known as hookers.
Today is the birthday of Ambrose Burnside, born on May 23, 1824.


05-23-2022, 18:55
On this day in 1934, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were ambushed and killed in Bienville Parish, Louisiana.

05-27-2022, 17:05
Cornelius Vanderbilt had no education, could barely spell, and was reputed to know no math beyond the most basic arithmetic.
But what he lacked in education he made up with business acumen.
A ruthless competitor, he acquired a huge fortune in the railroad and shipping business, becoming one of the wealthiest men in American history.
His net worth in todays dollars would be over $215 billion.
In 1872 Vanderbilt donated $1 million, a massive sum at the time, to the newly founded Central University of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, in Nashville.
At the time it was made, it was the largest charitable gift in American history.
In appreciation the school renamed itself Vanderbilt University.
During his life Vanderbilt was referred to as the Commodore, which explains the origin of the schools mascot and sports-team nickname the Commodores.
Vanderbilt well encapsulated his philosophy when he said, The public good consists in every individual pursuing his own interest as aggressively as possible.
Cornelius Vanderbilt was born on Staten Island, New York on May 27, 1794, two hundred twenty-eight years ago today.


06-24-2022, 16:09
During the time of the French Revolution, the revolutionaries tried to erase all public evidence of France's monarchical past.
All across France, hundreds of statues and monuments of kings and royalty were removed or destroyed.
In one particularly absurd episode, in October 1793 a Paris mob tied ropes around the 500-year-old statues of the biblical kings of Israel on the facade of the Notre Dame Cathedral, pulled them down, and beheaded them.
In Paris alone over 1400 street names were changed (all that had been named for kings or saints).
People who shared a name with a monarch or saint changed their name.
They changed their children's names.
They changed the names of the chess pieces, to eliminate kings, queens, and bishops.
They changed the names of playing cards--no more kings and queens.
They even changed the name of the queen bee to the "laying bee."
Of course these zealots look ridiculous to us today, but in their zeal they had come to believe that allowing a statue of a historical figure to remain standing was somehow to endorse monarchy or injustice.
But each purge would eventually leave the revolutionaries unsatisfied and, like addicts needing ever stronger doses of a drug, they would ratchet up their radicalism.
Eventually they turned on their own, attacking those deemed insufficiently radical.
Finally, the people of France became disgusted with it all, and there was a reactionary backlash.
In due course they ended up with Napoleon.
In many French churches and cathedrals today there are empty pedestals in the chapels, where statues that were destroyed during the Revolution or during the iconoclastic frenzy of the Reformation once stood.
Fortunately some of them have been restored or replaced.
In 1977 workers on a construction project in Paris discovered the heads of the biblical kings toppled from Notre Dame nearly two hundred years earlier.
After the mob left a priest had gathered them up and buried them to protect them from further violence.
Today they are on display at the Cluny Museum in Paris.


09-26-2022, 16:13
In 1842, at age 33, Abraham Lincoln sent two letters to the local Springfield newspaper, criticizing a political opponent. Calling the man, among other things, a fool and a liar, he signed the letters ?Rebecca.? Lincoln was courting young Mary Todd at the time, and she was aware of Lincoln?s letters. Thinking such a thing to be great fun, Mary began sending her own ?Rebecca? letters to the paper, poking fun at the man mercilessly and ridiculing him for being unmarried. In due course the man felt things had gone too far and he stormed into the newspaper office demanding to know if Abraham Lincoln was the author of the letters. When told that the letters had indeed come from Lincoln, the man challenged Lincoln to a duel.
The man Lincoln had been prodding was not a man to be trifled with. James Shields was a fiery-tempered Irishman, who was serving as the Illinois state auditor. He would go on to serve as a general in the Mexican American War (where he was twice wounded) and is the only man in American history to have been elected to the U.S. Senate from three different states. His challenge put Lincoln in a bind. He couldn?t admit to writing the letters Mary Todd had sent, but to pass the blame to a young woman would make him appear to be a coward. So, he reluctantly accepted Shields? challenge.
As the challenged party, Lincoln got to choose the weapons and set the rules for the duel. Duels were normally fought with pistols, but Lincoln knew that he would likely be killed if he fought Shields with pistols. So instead, he chose broadswords as the weapons, and he set rules that assured he would win the fight. Under Lincoln?s rules, he and Shields were to stand on opposite sides of a board, ten feet from each other. If either man stepped closer than that, the penalty was death. Being seven inches taller than Shields, Lincoln?s rules assured that he would be able to reach Shields with his sword, but that Shields would be unable to touch Lincoln. While Lincoln?s conditions were unsporting, he was within his rights to set them.
Shields saw of course that Lincoln had set conditions designed to make it impossible for Lincoln to lose the fight. But Shields was no coward and on the morning of the duel he arrived ready to go forward, whatever the consequences.
As was the norm in such affairs, the men the combatants had chosen as ?seconds? tried to negotiate an honorable resolution before the duel began. Exactly why Shields relented is unclear. By some accounts, while the seconds were negotiating Lincoln reached up and lopped off a large branch of a tree in a single swipe, convincing Shields that he ought to compromise. By other accounts, Lincoln?s second intimated to Shields?s man that Lincoln had been forced into the duel to protect the honor of a young lady, causing Shields to be satisfied with a toned-down apology. Whatever the reason, Lincoln agreed to admit writing the first letter, adding that he never intended to harm Shields?s character, a sort-of apology that Shields accepted. The duel was called off before Lincoln?s long arms had to go into action.
Lincoln later told a confidant that he felt confident he could have disarmed Shields, and that he no intention of killing him. He found the whole episode profoundly embarrassing and for the rest of his life refused to discuss it. When asked by an army officer years later if the rumor that he had once nearly dueled James Shields was true, Lincoln replied that he would not deny it, but that if the officer wished to remain his friend, he would never speak of it again.
Lincoln and Shields patched up their differences and had a cordial relationship afterwards. During the Civil War, Shields was a general in the Federal army and his commander in chief was the man he once nearly fought with broadswords on an island in the Mississippi.
Abraham Lincoln and James Shields met on Bloody Island, Missouri on the morning of September 22, 1842, one hundred eighty years ago today, to fight a duel, which fortunately was averted.


09-26-2022, 16:22
n December 1942, President Roosevelt ordered nationwide rationing of gasoline, after calls for voluntary decreases in consumption had been perceived to be ineffective. Although the rationing was motivated partially by the need to conserve gasoline, the primary motivation was the need to conserve rubber.
At the outbreak of World War II, the U.S. rubber supply came entirely from the Dutch East Indies, which had been quickly invaded and seized by Japan in the weeks following the attack on Pearl Harbor. The government hoped that by rationing gasoline it would not only conserve gasoline, but also reduce driving and therefore extend the life of tires.
As part of the effort to save tires and reduce gas consumption, in May 1942 and continuing to the end of the war, the government established a ?Victory Speed,? a nationwide maximum speed limit of 35 miles per hour.
The images are of World War II gasoline rationing stamps and a 1942 cartoon by Dr. Suess, depicting a "U.S. Joyrider" "giving a lift to the Axis."