Tag Archives: American Civil War

150 Years Ago Today: A Victory for Modern Naval Warfare…

cropped-Carnage-140th-Spotsylvaniamontauk1pAs we continue to acknowledge the Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War…

On Saturday, February 28, 1863, 150 years ago today, a now-forgotten Civil War engagement pointed the way toward the future of naval warfare.

imagesOn this day, Federal Naval Commander, Captain John L. Worden (former captain of the original Union ironclad USS Monitor) was at the helm of the Union ironclad warship USS Montauk on the Ogeechee River south of Savannah, Georgia — when he saw the CSS Nashville, sold as a privateer and now named Rattlesnake, run aground, lying under the guns of Fort McAllister.

With the U.S. Navy gunboats Wissahickon, Seneca and Dawn providing supporting fire, Captain Worden trained The Montauk’s batteries upon the enemy ship and started firing.

h59286Minutes later, the Montauk’s cannonade hit the CSS Nashville, struck her gunpowder magazine — and the Confederate ship exploded with “terrific violence.”

Alas, after his brief, triumphant engagement with the Confederate privateer, Commander Worden’s own ship hit a submerged mine, and he had to beach the USS Montauk on a mud bar to make repairs.montauk1j

The Confederacy could hardly afford the loss of the Nashville. The CSA commissioned shipbuilders to build 50 warships — and 22 were built and sent into battle, including CSS Virginia, CSS Arkansas, CSS Tennessee, and CSS Nashville.

21862The fate of the Nashville on this day in 1863 is not very well known – but what happened one year earlier to the CSS Virginia — the first steam-powered ironclad warship in the Confederate States Navy – became an epochal moment in naval warfare.

Built as a Confederate ironclad from the hull and steam engines of the scuttled Union warship, USS Merrimack — the CSS Virginia was sunk by the Union ironclad USS Monitor in the Battle of Hampton Roads on March 9, 1862: the first battle between ironclad, armored warships.

h58899150 years ago today – on the banks of Georgia’s Ogeechee River — the American Civil war adds another explosive, revolutionary chapter to the history of modern warfare.

Five months from now, in July, we’ll note the 150th anniversary of The Battle of Gettysburg.

And there won’t be a boat, ironclad or otherwise, anywhere near the battlefield.gettysburg

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Vic & Paul & Obama & Mother Mary — Blog 2012: The Third Year In Review.

ClevelandObama bannerMom bannerDays after the year 2012 ended, I was delighted to join with my wife, daughters and Cleveland relations to celebrate the 80th birthday of my wonderful mother, Mary Barrosse. I knew I was tardy in posting my blog’s 2012 year-end review — but honoring my mom in the grand style she deserves came first.

img_04992012 was a very busy year on this blog — dominated by the “The Vic & Paul Show” Summer Tour and the momentous Presidential election. Vaudevillians Vic & Paul traveled to Chicago, Cleveland, Wisconsin, and Los Angeles — and President Obama covered even more ground than that (often in one day). We both emerged victorious — and when all was was said and done, Victoria and I might have come out slightly ahead because we don’t have to deal with John Boehner and Mitch McConnell.

2012 was also the third year for this blog. And it was a very good year.

Paul’s Voyage of Discovery & Etc. has attracted over 129,900 views in 2012 — nearly doubling the number of visitors that dropped by during this blog’s first two years. (There were 62,900 visits in 2012.) I’ve posted 255 articles since this blog began and you folks have contributed 1,231 comments. Politics and history remain among the most popular topics.

This is not the real subscription sign up box. The real one is further to the right. And up a little…

I continue to be honored that 118 subscribers have signed on to have my posts automatically delivered to them via e-mail. (And 31 more folks follow this blog on Twitter.) Are you a subscriber? If you’re not — then look to your right at the photo of the saluting Matey and follow the simple instructions to “Hop Aboard!”

Most of my posts focus on the main topics I established at the outset of this blog: history, adventure, politics, sailing and rock & roll — plus relentless promotion of The Practical Theatre, my band Riffmaster & The Rockme Foundation, and The Vic & Paul Show. But what posts were readers of this blog most attracted to this year?

What follows is a list of The Top Ten Most Popular Posts of 2012.

Just click on the title of each post to access the original article.

1. Victory at Pearl HarborPearl Harbor

Originally posted in 2010 on the anniversary of the “day that will live in infamy” – this post has become an annual event. A lot of military history fans visit this blog, but I think Pearl Harbor fascinates and resonates with Americans whether they have an interest in military history or not. The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks took more American lives – but Pearl Harbor was the shocking opening act in a drama that ultimately made the United States the world’s preeminent superpower. Can we say that we’re a better nation after 9-11?

2. Happy Birthday Bill of Rights!

On December 15, 2010 – the 215th birthday of our Bill of Rights – I wrote this basic primer on the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution. For some reason, it’s become one of the most-read post in the history of this blog. I guess that’s because Americans still give a damn about their rights and are keen to understand their Constitutional foundation.

3. The Occupy Wall Street Movement Doesn’t Need Black Bloc Buffooneryblackboc

The bold, brave and vital Occupy Wall Street movement has inspired a lot of posts on this blog since 2011 – but this post, written on November 2, 2011, has proven to be the most popular. Maybe that’s because people agree that we don’t need a bunch of cowardly anarchists screwing up a noble movement that ultimately helped to put Barrack Obama back in office. Without Occupy Wall Street, would Romney’s attack on the 47% have evoked such a profound and spirited response?

4. A Childhood Memory of Kent State, May 4. 1970Kent State

On the May 4, 2012 anniversary of this very dark day in America history, I posted this personal remembrance of a young Ohioan’s earliest memories of that terrible day.

5. Growing Up in the Space Age

The last American space shuttle launch inspired this July 14, 2011 remembrance of my personal connection to the Space Age. This popular post salutes my fellow Ohioan, John Glenn, who served as both the first man to orbit the Earth and as a Senator from my home state. I wish that my three daughters had grown up experiencing something half as exciting and inspirational as The Race to the Moon.

6. My Book Report: “The Battle of Midway”midway

What a great book! What an amazing chapter of world history! On January 23, 2012, I wrote this review of a book that captures all the incredible heroism, good luck, and turns of fate that made this epic World War Two naval battle an overwhelming victory that turned the tide of the war against Imperial Japan.

7. A New Presidential Biography Reminds Us Why We Should Like Ikeike

Even if Los Angeles Times editor Jim Newton weren’t my good friend, I still would have written this September 28, 2011 post extolling the virtues of his excellent biography of President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

8. The Top Ten Rock & Roll Singers of All Time

singerbanner1

There’s nothing like a Top 10 list to promote discussion on a blog – and this December 5, 2011 post did just that. Check it out – and then weigh in with your own opinion. Just realize that your opinion on rock & roll singing cannot possibly be as informed as my own.

9. 150 Years Ago Today150 years

Since the spring of 2011, we’ve been in the midst of the American Civil War sesquicentennial: the war’s 150th anniversary. Between now and April 2015, there’s an opportunity every day to write the kind of post that I wrote on March 13, 2012.

10. The Wrecking Crew

Glen Campbell, Hal Blaine, Carol Kay, Tommy Tedesco, Leon Russell, Earl Palmer: the cream of Los Angeles studio musicians in the late 50’s, 60’s and early 70’s became known as “The Wrecking Crew”. I’m thrilled that my March 21, 2011 blog article celebrating Tommy Tedesco’s son’s marvelous documentary film about these rock & roll legends has proven to be such a popular post. If you haven’t done it already, start a Google search on “The Wrecking Crew” now. Until then, your rock & roll education is not complete.

So, that’s the best of 2012. Stay connected. Subscribe. And please post those replies!

Here’s to another adventurous voyage in 2013!

And here are the All-Time Top 10 Blog Posts from January 2010 up to today:

1. Happy Birthday Bill of Rights!

2. Victory at Pearl Harbor

3. The Occupy Wall Street Movement Doesn’t Need Black Bloc Buffoonery

4. History & Honeymoon: Part Three

This post was also the #3 post in 2010. 23 years ago, my wife Victoria and I went to Gettysburg and other Civil War battlefields on our honeymoon! I needed no other assurance that I had married the perfect woman. On our 20th anniversary, we returned to Gettysburg. Now both students of the battle, we walked the battlefield on July 1, 2 and 3, 2010 on the 147th anniversary of that critical conflict. My four-part account of our battlefield tramping became one of the most popular items on the blog. (Originally posted July 20, 2010)

5. Aliens Among Us?

I’ve always wondered where singular, epochal, “out of this world” geniuses like William Shakespeare, Leonardo da Vinci and Bob Dylan came from. So, on January 26, 2011, I wrote this speculation on the possible alien origin of such monumental minds. Evidently, my curiosity (if not my Erich Van Daniken “ancient astronaut” fantasy) is still shared by a lot of people who read my blog in the past year.

6. Growing Up in the Space Age

7. Bazooka Joe, Jay Lynch & Me

One of the first posts I wrote for this blog back on January 9, 2010 celebrated my brief but soul-satisfying collaboration with the legendary underground comix artist, Jay Lynch, who gave Vic and I the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to write a series of Bazooka Joe comics. It was one of the great chapters in my creative career. The Practical Theatre Company, Saturday Night LiveBehind the Music, The Vic & Paul Show and Bazooka Joe. Can I retire now?

8. The Saints Come Marching In…

This was the #1 post in 2010 — and, like the Saints, has shown staying power. The New Orleans Saints got 2010 off to a great start by winning the Super Bowl. (What about that bounty scandal?) So, why does a man who was born in Cleveland, went to college and met his wife in Chicago, and moved to Los Angeles two decades ago care if the New Orleans Saints finally won a Super Bowl after years of epic gridiron failure? Simple: my daddy was New Orleans born and raised. Who dat say what about dem Saints? (Originally posted February 8, 2010)

9. History & Honeymoon: Part Four

2011 was the 150th anniversary of the commencement of the American Civil War – and that might be the reason that two of my “History & Honeymoon” posts are still among the most-read this past year, including this one, posted on July 26, 2010. This post covers everything from my wife Victoria and I battle tramping Pickett’s Charge on the third day of Gettysburg –to our visit to Philadelphia and the eccentric, visionary artwork of Isaiah Zagar.

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150 Years Ago Today…

It’s another interesting day in the Sesquicentennial of The American Civil War.

150 years ago today two little known events took place on Civil War battlefields in the Eastern and Western theatres of the conflict. And while few remember this day on the Civil War calendar, it was a pivotal one. On March 14, 1862 the South lost two key places on their map that they’d never regain: on the Atlantic coast of North Carolina — and on the western shore of the Mississippi River.

General Ambrose Burnside

Some have called March 14, 1862 “The Day Ambrose Burnside Drove Old Dixie Down” – and with apologies to Robbie Robertson and The Band – there’s some truth to that, because 150 years ago, General Burnside fought and won The Battle of New Bern (AKA The Battle of New Berne).

Commodore Stephen C. Rowan

Brigadier General Ambrose E. Burnside’s 12,000 Union troops, many of them battle-tested veterans, were backed by 13 gunboats commanded by Commodore Stephen C. Rowan of the Union Navy. This powerful, combined Union Army-Navy operation confronted a relatively untrained and ill-equipped Confederate force of 4,500 North Carolina soldiers and militia led by Brigadier General Lawrence O’Bryan Branch, a political general who represented North Carolina in the U.S. Congress before the war. (Branch was ultimately killed just six months after New Bern at the Battle of Antietam.)

Naval cannon bombarded the Confederate line in the early hours of March 14th. Outgunned and outmanned, the Confederates fought behind their breastworks for almost 4 hours until the attacking Federal troops penetrated a weak spot in the center of the Rebel line — causing the green, unsteady militiamen to waver and break, leading the whole Confederate force to retreat.

General Branch

General Branch could not stop the rout and New Bern came under Federal control for the duration of the war.

The Union army had gained a strategic toehold on the North Carolina coast. The Confederacy gave up a valuable port and railroad terminal it could not afford to lose.

The highlight of New Berne for the South was the courage and leadership displayed by North Carolina’s future wartime governor, Zebulon Vance of the 26th North Carolina Infantry.

Zebulon Vance

Vance and his handful of defenders held off a vastly superior Union force, preventing damage to New Bern and it’s populace by delaying the Federal onslaught. But New Bern fell, and by December 1862 a Federal army of well over 20,000 troops were stationed in the town once known as “The Athens of the South”.

It’s ironic to note that while Brig. Gen. Branch was getting killed in September 1862 — six months after New Bern – that same month Zebulon Vance won the North Carolina gubernatorial election.

Meanwhile that same day, on the Missouri shore of The Mississippi River, the guns had fallen silent after The Battle of New Madrid.

Before the Battle of New Madrid, that small Missouri town was best known as the epicenter of a series of epic earthquakes that shook the entire Midwest 50 years earlier, between December 16, 1811 and February 7, 1812. The last major temblor in the series was a magnitude 7.7 quake that destroyed New Madrid and changed the course of the Mississippi River.

General U.S. Grant

The unheralded Battle of New Madrid would help to change the course of the war.

In February of 1862, the unknown upstart General U.S. Grant began to break the South’s grip on the Mississippi River by his bold captures of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson, forcing the renowned Confederate commander in the west, General Albert Sidney Johnston, to fall back to a new defensive line blocking the Mississippi at New Madrid and Island No. 10. Grant was not the only Union general on the move in the area at the time.

General John Pope

General John Pope had orders to capture New Madrid and Island No. 10. Pope’s army numbered 18,547 “present for duty” when he began his siege of New Madrid on March 3, 1862. Nine days later, Pope reported that he was facing 9,000 Confederate defenders at New Madrid — the same day his siege guns arrived. The next day, on the morning of March 13, Pope opened his gunboat, mortar and cannon bombardment — beginning an artillery exchange that lasted most of the day.

Meanwhile, Pope’s infantrymen made use of their shovels, slowly advancing their trenches ever closer to the Confederate defensive lines. Realizing that defeat was imminent, the Confederates evacuated New Madrid and made their escape to the opposite bank of the Mississippi.

The following morning, on March 14th, Pope’s troops formed ranks, prepared for a final, bloody assault on the enemy line – when Rebel pickets appeared with a flag of truce. General Pope had captured a key Confederate position on the Mississippi River with remarkably few losses. In the Battle of New Madrid, Pope’s army lost just 8 dead, 21 wounded and 3 missing. But while this was the beginning of the end of the Confederate army in the west, much, much more blood would be shed before the South, like the defenders of New Madrid, bowed to the inevitable.

The Battles of New Bern and New Madrid: 150 years ago today in The American Civil War.

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The King & Abe…

While few Americans other than American Civil War buffs like me seem to be aware of it — we are in the midst of the sesquicentennial of The War Between the States. (Or as many southerners refer to it, The War of Northern Aggression.)

150 years ago today, our country had been at war with itself for nearly ten months — ever since rebellious hotheads in South Carolina fired the first cannonball at Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor on Friday, April 12, 1861.

Until the 150th anniversary of Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s surrender to Union General Ulysses S. Grant on April 9, 2015, this blog will celebrate the Civil War Sesquicentennial by periodically noting interesting and significant days in Civil War history.

We begin with Monday, February 3, 1862 — and an event that had no military impact, but is damn interesting nonetheless. In fact, as much as I’ve studied the Civil War, today’s 150th anniversary was news to me – and, as I discovered, a subject of debate among Civil War historians.

On this day President Abraham Lincoln wrote what some have called one of the most eloquent letters of his Presidential career. Lincoln had been given a letter from King Mongkut of Siam (originally written to Abe’s predecessor, President James Buchanan). The King of Siam (AKA King Rama IV) offered to send war elephants to America — but Lincoln’s tactful missive noted that he was unable to accept the King’s offer, as the United States were located at a latitude that did not “favor the multiplication of the elephant.”

The King of Siam’s curious letter arrived late in the Buchanan administration, but like other larger problems, Buchanan left it for Lincoln to deal with.

Though it’s a much more exciting story, contrary to popular myth, King Mongkut did not offer a herd of war elephants to President Lincoln for use against the South. Instead, he offered domesticated elephants to use as beasts of burden and a means of transportation. The royal letter was written before the Civil War started, and by the time it reached the White House, Buchanan was no longer in office.

In his reply on February 3, 1862, President Lincoln didn’t mention the Civil War. He declined the King of Siam’s proposal, politely pointing out that steam power had overtaken the need for heavy animal power of this kind.

This exchange between Lincoln and the King of Siam has inspired a great deal of fanciful conjecture. What if the Civil War armies had used war elephants? How would herds of huge, charging, armored pachyderms have changed the course of the critical battles at Fredericksburg, Shiloh and Gettysburg? Would Pickett’s Charge have fared better if Lee’s troops were mounted on elephants?

Here’s the text of Abe Lincoln’s letter to King Rama IV of Siam…

To the King of Siam
February 3, 1862
Abraham Lincoln
President of the United States of America

To His Majesty Somdetch Phra Paramendr Maha Mongut

King of Siam

Great and Good Friend:

I have received Your Majesty’s two letters of the date of February 14th, 1861.

I have also received in good condition the royal gifts which accompanied those letters, namely, a sword of costly materials and exquisite workmanship; a photographic likeness of Your Majesty and of Your Majesty’s beloved daughter; and also two elephants’ tusks of length and magnitude such as indicate that they could have belonged only to an animal which was a native of Siam.

Your Majesty’s letters show an understanding that our laws forbid the President from receiving these rich presents as personal treasures. They are therefore accepted in accordance with Your Majesty’s desire as tokens of your good will and friendship for the American People. Congress being now in session at this capital, I have had great pleasure in making known to them this manifestation of Your Majesty’s munificence and kind consideration.

Under their directions the gifts will be placed among the archives of the Government, where they will remain perpetually as tokens of mutual esteem and pacific dispositions more honorable to both nations than any trophies of conquest could be.

I appreciate most highly Your Majesty’s tender of good offices in forwarding to this Government a stock from which a supply of elephants might be raised on our own soil. This Government would not hesitate to avail itself of so generous an offer if the object were one which could be made practically useful in the present condition of the United States.

Our political jurisdiction, however, does not reach a latitude so low as to favor the multiplication of the elephant, and steam on land, as well as on water, has been our best and most efficient agent of transportation in internal commerce.

I shall have occasion at no distant day to transmit to Your Majesty some token of indication of the high sense which this Government entertains of Your Majesty’s friendship.

Meantime, wishing for Your Majesty a long and happy life, and for the generous and emulous People of Siam the highest possible prosperity, I commend both to the blessing of Almighty God.

Your Good Friend,
ABRAHAM LINCOLN
Washington, February 3, 1862.

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