Tag Archives: U.S. Grant

Home Sweet Swing State.

“And again I say unto you: It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a Republican to win the Presidency without carrying the great state of Ohio.”

With apologies to Matthew 19:24

Ohio and the American Presidency have a very close relationship. In fact, there have been seven U.S. presidents who were born in the Buckeye State. Topping the list is my personal hero Ulysses S. Grant, followed by Rutherford Hayes, James Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, William Howard Taft and Warren Harding.

In the period after the Civil War, from 1869 to 1923, seven out of the eleven men who won The White House were Ohioans — including three presidents in a row: Grant, Hayes and Garfield, Civil War veterans all.

And one of the four presidents who weren’t from Ohio was named Cleveland!

Of course, presidential politics are fraught with contention on all levels – and that extends to the claim I heard as a Cleveland schoolboy that Ohio was the “Mother of Presidents”.

That rankles Virginians who point out, correctly, that eight Commanders in Chief were born in the Old Dominion. Ohioans counter by claiming an eighth president of their own, William Henry Harrison, who settled in Ohio and lived there until his death. Virginians counter that Harrison didn’t move to Ohio until after his marriage in 1795, when he was about 23 years old. Yielding to Virginia, Ohio now calls itself the “Mother of Modern Presidents”.

Would that all presidential disputes could be solved by the deft insertion of an adjective.

There’s another oft-stated reason for Ohio to claim the title of Mother of Modern Presidents. No Republican presidential nominee has won the White House without carrying Ohio — and no president has been elected without winning in the Buckeye State since Democrat John F. Kennedy in 1960.

Truly, my beloved home state is the mother of all Oval Office bellwethers.

In this election, Ohio is back at the epicenter of presidential politics.

As it was in the 2004 contest, Ohio is shaping up as the lynchpin among the remaining battleground states – where victory in the Electoral College will ultimately be decided.

The 2004 election was a low point for the practice of democracy in Ohio. Aided by a Republican Secretary of State who did all he could to thwart the desire of urban, minority and college voters to cast their ballots – President Bush defeated John Kerry by just 118,775 out of 5,598,679 total votes. A mere 2.1 % margin of victory gave Ohio’s 20 electoral votes to Bush – and with them, a second god-awful term in the White House for Dubya.

I hope that the election in Ohio is not that close on November 6th.

It certainly shouldn’t be.

Given President Obama’s steadfast support for middle class and working people – as exemplified by his courageous decision on the auto bailout – sensible, pragmatic and hard working Ohioans should give Obama their support.

Given President Obama’s support for women’s rights, freedom of choice and equal pay – Ohio women (and the men who love and respect their wives and daughters) should support the man who has been their champion.

I expect that a proud, blue collar state that has seen unemployment rates drop and manufacturing jobs rebound as President Obama pulled our economy out of the deep, dark ditch into which it was plunged by discredited Republican “top-down” economics won’t be fooled again by Romney’s magical plans, false promises, evasions and outright lies.

Please listen, my fellow Ohioans.

Under Romney, the nation’s deficit will no doubt rise — as the rich get richer, the middle class get squeezed, and the poor and disadvantaged among us get thrown under the bus. It’s been that way with GOP presidents since Ronald Reagan blew up the deficit and began the redistribution of America’s wealth to the fat cats at the very top of the economic food chain.

Don’t be fooled, Ohio.

Ohioans love the red, white and blue, and we salute our soldiers with pride and profound gratitude – but Romney never deals with our war veterans unless he’s using them for a photo op.

Romney said that he didn’t mention our warriors in Iraq and Afghanistan – or our returning vets – in his acceptance speech at the GOP convention because, When you give a speech you don’t go through a laundry list, you talk about the things that you think are important and I described in my speech, my commitment to a strong military unlike the president’s decision to cut our military. And I didn’t use the word “troops”, I used the word military. I think they refer to the same thing.”

Did you hear that, Ohio?

Mitt Romney doesn’t see the vital difference between the flesh and blood men and women who serve our nation heroically on the battlefield — and the corporate war profiteers who make billions building planes, tanks, ships and expensive weapons systems.

That’s why Romney wants to take our hard-earned tax dollars to plow another two trillion into military spending that the Pentagon hasn’t even asked for. Someone’s going to get rich off Mitt’s extra two trillion – and it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that many of those guys are the same military-industrial complex billionaires secretly bankrolling Mitt’s Super-Pacs.

My fellow Buckeyes, Mitt Romney says he should get your vote because he’s a businessman. But why is that? What does being a businessman have to do with running the government?

Is it cost effective for the post office to pick up your Grandma’s mail at the end of a long rural road in the Appalachian mountains of southeastern Ohio? A bottom-line businessman like Romney would conclude that it’s not profitable – but our government is devoted to providing every citizen with postal service, regardless of where they live. That’s the American way.

I could go on and on about this “government should be run like a business” canard. It’s a fallacy. And Ohioans should know better than to listen to such garbage. The job of government is not to turn a profit — but to keep us safe, provide needed services, and promote the general welfare. Mitt Romney has no clue how do get THAT job done. It doesn’t interest him.

Business CEO Romney made his money as a “vulture capitalist”. I didn’t coin that term – Mitt’s Republican competitors did. Mitt and his Bain Capital cronies bought American companies, loaded them up with debt, and “harvested” them by selling off their assets and shipping the jobs overseas.

That’s a formula that made Mitt millions. But it’s not a formula made for Ohio workers.

C’mon, Ohio! Vote for your own interests on November 6th. Vote for your jobs, your homes, your communities, our veterans, your wife, your daughter, your children’s education – and so much more.

Vote for Barack Obama.

And then, we can claim Obama as one of our own. Along with William Henry Harrison, President Obama would be the 9th president from Ohio. We could drop the “Modern” and truly call our state the Mother of Presidents.

Go, Buckeyes! Vote!


Filed under History, Politics

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.


Filed under History