Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Greatest Example of Christmas Spirit...EVER!!!

Nowadays, people are so focused on buying that perfect gift, that it isn't until the last minute that people get swept up in the Christmas Spirit. But what is the Christmas Spirit? Is it about being selfless? Being more friendly? Perhaps being kinder? Being a nicer person? Well it is all of that and you know, "peace on earth and good will to men." Now when we look at these examples of the Christmas Spirit the last thing we could ever relate them to is war. But wait, there is one example and if you don't believe in miracles, peace, the Christmas Spirit or what have you, I'd like you to sit tight, grab a cup of eggnog and get ready to feel the Christmas Spirit rush through you: The Christmas Truce of 1914 may be the greatest example of Christmas Spirit and good will to men...ever.

The image above is what most people recognize from World War I. The image of trench warfare and the horrors of "no mans land" are what we learn and are left with. The idea of a peaceful day is not even imaginable when discussing WWI, but there is one instance when it happened during the most wonderful time of the year. Now, without going into the details, causes and effects of WWI, I will just be retelling a story worth retelling every Christmas season to all the Grinches out there. The Christmas Truce was unplanned and unexpected. By Christmas of 1914, the war had been raging for about five months, and the men in the trenches were longing for home but more importantly peace. After the Germans failed attempt to take Paris in the fall of 1914, it seemed both sides were ready to take a long winters nap. And that's exactly what they did, the war almost came to a stand still. There was no fighting but only the building of defenses, so much building the trenches ran from the North Sea to the Swiss boarder. By this time both sides were exhausted and hunkered down for the winter and holiday season.

So, how does one exactly pause the "war to end all wars?" Well it's that guy with the tree but we'll get to him later. As Christmas Day came closer there were several attempts for a cease fire during the holidays, none of which were made by the German, Austrian, Italian, French or British governments. Yet, on the battlefield there was a sense of an unofficial cease fire. So how did this infamous truce begin? Well on Christmas Eve, the German soldiers began decorating the trenches, as odd as that sounds. How does one decorate a trench? In the same way we decorate our house today. The Germans placed candles along the trenches, put up Christmas Trees and even lined their bunkers with holly and wreaths made of evergreens. During this time of peace, another type of war was stirring and that was battle of the Christmas carols. As the Germans struck first with "Oh Tannenbaum" (That's "Oh Christmas Tree" for you none German speaking folks.) The Brits fired right back with "Silent Night" (Or "Stille Nacht" for my German speaking readers.) The war then got uglier as the two sides yelled Christmas wishes and greetings to each other. Talk about the horrors of war! Then one brave German soldier rose and lifted a Christmas Tree decorated with candles above his head and ventured out into "no mans land." This would then officially begin the Christmas Truce of 1914.

After the British realized this wasn't some crazy sneak attack plan by Jerry, they too made their way out of the trenches. It was at this point that the two sides meet for the first time, in a peaceful manor, since the wars start. In Christmas tradition the soldiers exchanged gifts with each other: food, tobacco, candies, newspapers and the thing that makes the holidays great...alcohol. The troops even traded helmets, buttons, hats, guns, and other military goods as souvenirs. There was even a football (soccer) match between the two sides and the Germans won, 3-2. The celebration lasted until January 6th on some parts of the line. The time allowed men to escape the realities of the war, unwind, regain a sense of normalcy and allowed for them to bury their brothers in arms. Both sides gathered to bury the dead, enemies now morning the loss of  men fallen in battle. Yet the truce was very much seen as a bad thing by the British and German leaderships. Orders were sent out prohibiting these meetings, but they were ignored. The Christmas Truce of 1914 was something special, it happened during one of the worlds most darkest moments, and it was a glimmer of hope. One could say it was the overwhelming power of the Christmas Spirit that rest in all of us, even in the worst of times.

The Truce received some media coverage as well. In England, reports of the Truce hit the papers a week after and expressed the joy and worry soldiers had during it. The German paper criticized those troops who took part in the Truce. However, in France there was almost no reports of it. But the story of the Truce spread through each military and there was several attempts to make the Truce an annual event. However, that would never come to be. The British and German military leaders planned artillery barrages and attacks on Christmas Eve and Day for the remainder of the war. Yet, recent research has shown that one more Truce may have happened in 1916. This time German and Canadian troops revived the practice of Christmas on the battlefield. Unfortunately for historians the only record of this comes from a soldier who was killed several days after the Truce ended. So the war would then continue on as planned and the Christmas Truce would become somehow forgotten amongst battles, casualties and legends of World War I.

Now what is it we are supposed to take away from this? Well I think there is a lot we can learn here. First, I think the Christmas Truce is a reminder to us that there are much more important things in life then ourselves and our own agendas. Second, the Christmas season is not about that perfect gift or the most expensive gift. It is about the time we get to spend with loved ones. Which brings me to my third point! Christmas should be regarded as a time for family and friends, a time in which we gather in good company and spirits. We can discuss the Truce all day, but it's Christmas, you shouldn't be reading this (but thank you). The important thing to take away is that the Spirit of Christmas is something that obviously can't be stopped. Every year we all have it hit us like a 18 wheeler barreling down the highway, but it hits us all at different times and for some, it hits us too late and we miss out on the joy of the holidays. So let's try not to let it pass by, as these men who tried to hold onto it with everything they could. They faced the something worse then any of us could ever imagine, yet still kept Christmas alive in their hearts. I feel in today's world we place so much value on the materialistic that we forget what is truly important. So go enjoy Christmas, spend time with friends and family, laugh, converse, drink some eggnog, go sing some Christmas carols, light the yule log, grab someone under the mistletoe, hell do all the cliche things that make Christmas great and just remember how much those men wanted the same feeling we are enjoying today. I'd like to wish you all a Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and may all your Christmas dreams come true.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree: A Brief History of the Christmas Tree.

It's the focal point of nearly everyone's Christmas celebration. It's the one item people spend the most time trying to perfect. It's the primary monument that the family gathers around to really celebrate Christmas: the Christmas Tree. But where does it come from? What made people bring a tree into their homes and decorate it? Well the Christmas Tree has a very long history and it doesn't start in Rockefeller Center. Instead, we finds its origins in 15th century Europe, and once it's popularity caught on there was no stopping these decorative trees.

Ok, so the picture above isn't the original tree but the very first tree was set up many Christmases ago in 1441. The tree in the picture sits in the same town that the very first Christmas Tree was used. The use of the tree comes from a very oddly named group, The Brotherhood of Blackheads. The Brotherhood was a collection of bachelors living and working in Latvia. Now why would a group of single guys do this? Well, the Brotherhood first set up and decorated the tree at the Brotherhood's super secret hideout for their holiday celebration. It was on Christmas Eve that the tree was then moved to the Town Hall Square. During this party, the Brotherhood "danced around the tree in celebration." It wasn't until their Christmas celebration of 1584, that the tree was truly noticed. A local pastor claimed that "the young men went with a flock of maidens and women, first sang and danced and then set the tree aflame." Basically, the Brotherhood established the use of a Christmas tree as a way to pick up chicks. Not only do we owe them thanks for the Christmas Tree but they might be the forefathers of mistletoe as well. So this was the birth of a tradition that lives worldwide today, but how did it spread from the Baltic area to the world? Well sit tight, grab some eggnog and get ready to find out how the Christmas Tree came to decorate homes all over the globe.

So who could be crafty enough to popularize the Christmas Tree? Well its the same group of people that modernize everything else they get their hands on: the Germans. The trees made their way from the Baltic area via church practices. Churches in Germany would call them "Paradise Trees". This influenced other parishioners who took the idea and put these trees everywhere else. The first, recorded personal use of a Christmas Tree comes from a Bremen Union Hall. It was decorated with "apples, nuts, pretzels and paper flowers," and it was set up for the workers children who would pick off the decorations as their presents. Imagine that today's version would have a tree decorated in Ipods, PS3s, jewelry and gift cards, it would be a chaotic free-for-all. The tradition then spread to the wealthy and upper class of German society, especially in the Protestant communities. As the 18th century rolled around the tree was then decorated with candles and garland. Eventually, the German Army used the trees in barracks and hospitals so it is no surprise that by the 19th century, the Christmas Tree was in every home in Germany. That simple tree from Latvia grew into a major Christmas practice in Germany and was about to take off like a V2 Rocket as it spread out from Das Vaterland.

So as the Christmas Tree went on a sleigh ride through German culture, the first Christmas Tree to be used outside of Germany and Latvia was in Canada in 1781. However, it wasn't set up by Canadians but by Brunswick troops stationed in Quebec. But it was from these small beginnings that the tradition reached the ruling classes. The first to set up a tree outside of Germany and German culture was by the Countess Wilhemine of Holsteinborg (it's in Denmark) in 1808. This was immortalized by Hans Christian Anderson in his 1844 piece, The Fir-Tree. In Vienna the first Christmas Tree was set up by Princess Henrietta of Nassau Weilberg in 1816. By 1840 the tradition began to branch out to France when the Duchesse D'Orleans first used one to celebrate the holidays. It wouldn't be until the Christmas Tree hit jolly ole England that it would spread world wide. Now how did it spread across the Chanel? Well by the holy matrimony of King George the III and his fraulein Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. The first documentation of Christmas at Buckingham Palace came during 1832 when then Princess Victoria wrote in her diary, "Dear diary, it's Christmas and I am so bloody excited!" Well, that isn't really a direct quote but you get the idea. It wouldn't be until Victoria married Prince Albert, a German, that the tradition of the Christmas Tree spread world wide.

After the marriage, the tradition of the Christmas Tree spread throughout the British Isles faster then anywhere else. Now how could it? Well that perfect picture of Christmas above that's how. There was an image of the Royal Family published in Illustrated London News' December of 1848 edition, which is pictured above. This image was even released in an American publication in 1850, Godey's Lady Book, however Queen Victoria's crown was edited out to portray the ideal American Christmas. The issue was so popular, Godey's republished it for the next 20 years. It is from that image of the Royal Family that the idea of centerpiece for the American Christmas tradition of not only having a tree but decorating the crap out of it. But the Christmas Tree seems to have a more hidden history in America as there are several claims to be the first Christmas Tree prior to the images published by Godey's. The first claim was in 1777 during the Revolutionary War. Windsor Lock, Conn. was home to British and Hessian POW's and the Germans being held are reported to have set up a Christmas Tree while imprisoned. There are many other claims from Easton, Pa in 1816, Lancaster, Pa in 1821, Williamsburg, Va. in 1842 and  Wooster, Ohio in 1847. Oddly enough all these claims are tied to German immigrants spending their first Christmas in America... Coincidence? I think not. However, it is Wooster, Ohio's August Imgard who is credited for establishing the Christmas Tree in America. He was reported to place a tree in his home, decorate his tree with candy canes and paper decorations and top it with a tin star. So from its humble beginnings in Ohio it became the main centerpiece for the American family Christmas. Today it is almost impossible to travel through the major cities and small towns of America and not see a Christmas Tree during the month of December.

The mother of all Christmas Trees is the Rockefeller Center Tree, but no one ever stops to wonder why we even use a tree. In every major city and small town across the globe there is some tree lighting ceremony to kick off the Holiday season. It is an amazing feat to see a tradition transcend so many generations but it is also important we remember the history of it. From modern times and the use of a tree on Christmas morning with the family gathered around. The Royal Family gathered and celebrating a new tradition. German workers gathered at their holiday parties with their families celebrating the season. And all the way back to the Brotherhood of Blackheads using the Christmas Tree to pick up chicks. We all use it and we all love being around it. The Christmas Tree is one of the great holiday traditions which should never be forgotten. It brings family's together from the minute it enters the home. It truly embodies the spirit of Christmas and has as long a history as Christmas itself. So now here it is, the week of Christmas, finish up your shopping and last minute preparations for December 25, but before the big day sit down by the tree, take in the sights of it, take a deep breath and relax, for the Christmas Tree represents all that is good and perfect during Christmas season. I'd like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Bet You Don't Know The Most Important Civil War Battle

Step aside Gettysburg you are no longer the most important battle of the Civil War. That's right, Abe Lincoln is rolling over in his grave right now, but Gettysburg has to take the backseat from now on. Now I bet your think what can top Gettysburg, it was the definitive moment that lead to the Union becoming victorious...right? Well your wrong, so prepare yourself to have your mind blown and your knowledge of the Civil War turned upside down. The battle which turned the tide of the Civil War in favor of the Union happened on a hot Maryland July day, The Battle of Monocacy.

So why and how can this little known battle be the most important battle of the Civil War? Well it is the the turning point for the Union and was the beginning of the end for the Confederates. As the Rebels were pushing North during the Valley Campaign, the Union was on their heels. The Confederates pushed closer to Washington D.C. every day and the Union lines were being spread too thin. The worst part about this for the Union was that those damn Rebels knew all about it. So they sent Lieutenant General Jubal Early of Virginia, in command of some 15,000 Rebel soldiers up to Fredrick County, Maryland. Ulysses S. Grant, hollowed be thy name, would send what he could to try to slow down the Confederate advancement, some 4,000 Union troops under the command of Brigadier General  James Ricketts. The only thing to hold back Early until the arrive of Ricketts was a few thousand "Hundred Dayers," under the command of Major General Lew Wallace or best comparable to today's weekend warrior reservists. And that is the build up to what would become the Union's key to victory, The Battle of Monocacy was about to be underway.


 Now how important is the Battle of Monocacy? Well when the dust cleared and the bullets stopped flying, the battle would be called The Battle that Saved Washington. Now why would it be called that? Well Frederick County, MD is only about an hour from the the door of the White House. The battle was preceded by several smaller skirmishes, as the Confederates tried to find the weakest points in the Union lines. But by July 9, Wallace was meet by Ricketts and his men, making a total of about 6,000 men to stop the 14,000 strong Rebel advancements. But numbers were not the only way tow in a battle and the Union leaders knew that. They had Union troops set up on higher elevated grounds, dug trenches, used fences and built breastworks, all done to give them an advantage in battle. It was at this point that the Confederates struck and they threw everything they could at the Union troops.

So the goal of the Union troops was not to win the battle and push the Rebels back to the south. However, the goal was to slow them down and allow for Ulysses S. Grant and his reinforcements to arrive and protect Washington D.C. So, knowing they were outnumbered the Union troops held their ground and stopped every Confederate advancement. They withstood artillery barrages, cavalry charges, flanking attempts, none stop waves of Rebel troops pushing forward. It was until the end of the day the Union lines began to break. At this time the signal was given to retreat back to Baltimore, the last Union stronghold before D.C. Now this battle would be the Confederates most northern victory but when reviewing it, it is truly a win for the Union. The goal was to slow the Rebel advancements, which it did, retreat successfully, which it did and protect Washington D.C., which it did. So overall the Battle of Monocacy goes in the W column for the Union both for tactical and strategical achievements.

As the next few days unwound, the Rebels sat outside D.C. but that is all they could do.  Lt. Gen. Early occupied Fort Stevens and took in the view of Washington D.C. while Grant and his Army secured the city. It was too late, Early had missed his chance. This was all in thanks to those men at Monocacy, that one day delay single handedly saved Washington D.C. and perhaps the Union. It was that 24 hour time span that allowed for D.C. to be secured and for the Rebels to see that victory was impossible. It is after the events surrounding Monocacy that signaled the end for the Confederacy. Early would lead a retreat back to Virginia which would be his biggest tactical mistake. Grant and the Union forces would push after them and force the war back into the south were it would remain until it's end.

The battle was now over and the Union pushed into the south so Monocacy was forgotten with every Union victory.  The best way to explain Monocacy would be in the words of the men who had everything to lose of gain from the battle. General Early wrote:

 "Some of the Northern papers stated that, between Saturday and Monday, I could have entered the city; but on Saturday I was fighting at Monocacy, thirty-five miles from Washington, a force which I could not leave in my rear; and after disposing of that force and moving as rapidly as it was possible for me to move, I did not arrive in front of the fortifications until after noon on Monday, and then my troops were exhausted ..."

 Notice how he conveniently left out the fact that he did not continue onto D.C. because of Grant. But wait, I also have Grants view on what happened. General Grant writes:

"If Early had been but one day earlier, he might have entered the capital before the arrival of the reinforcements I had sent .... General Wallace contributed on this occasion by the defeat of the troops under him, a greater benefit to the cause than often falls to the lot of a commander of an equal force to render by means of a victory."

So the value of Monocacy was seen by both sides yet we forget it.It was been eclipsed by Gettysburg, the Emancipation Proclamation, Vicksburg and so many other events that lead to the Union's victory. But it seems that Monocacy is too important to forget, it is the reason the tide turned on the Rebels and the reason the Union was able to win. It is important that Monocacy be remembered, for it faces the same fate as many other Civil War battlefields, and that is simply being forgotten. The events that happened on that field are too important to be lost to history, as for it was on that field that the Union was saved but more importantly ensured the survival of the United States of America.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Frank Luke: The Most Bad Ass Medal of Honor Recipient

The Medal of Honor has a long history of being awarded to great heroes. In fact the award has been given to some 3,400 men who served the United States, but there is one that I'd like to especially highlight, Frank Luke. Now why Frank Luke? I mean there are some 3,400 other brave souls that I could choose from, but Luke stands out above the rest for two reasons. First, he has been overshadowed and two he might be the biggest bad ass of World War I. As we will see Luke deserves more then just to be a Medal of Honor recipient, but a national hero and be honored for his actions.

From the very beginning Luke was destined to be a bad ass. His family immigrated from Germany to Arizona in the 1870s. Seriously, Arizona in the 1870s? It was like a baron waste land in the 1870s. Either way that is where the Luke family established their home. As Luke grew up he working in a copper mine, again, seriously a kid working in a cooper mine? Luke was also quite the athlete and was well known in the area for his bare knuckle boxing matches. These feats were all achieved before the young Luke reached the age of 18. Then in 1917 when America entered World War I there was only one  thing Luke could do and that was go over to Europe and beat back the Huns. So, Luke joined the U.S. Signal Corps and was placed in the 27th Aero Squadron. It wouldn't be long before Luke was flying high and shooting down those want to be Red Barons.

As Luke completed his training he grew a reputation for being a tough guy. During training, Luke was well known for his reckless flying and disobeying of orders. He also tended to fly alone without any support, just another sign of his arrogance and bad assness. When Luke hit Germany his squad was given the goal of taking down enemy observation balloons. These missions were seen as suicide mission by other pilots but Luke and his longtime friend Joe Wehner volunteered for every mission. In the first 2 weeks Luke was in Germany he took down 14 balloons. In his first dogfight, he shot down two German fighters. That's right, Luke fights two people at a time and still wins. By September 29, 1918 Luke had claimed 18 confirmed kills on top of the 20 some odd balloons which he had destroyed. Yet on September 29, Luke's luck would change and he would face every fighter pilots nightmare, being shot down behind enemy lines.

The day started like any other for Luke, he woke up ready to rain hell on the Jerrys and he did it in typical Luke fashion. He took off that morning unauthorized and was threatened with being arrested for going AWOL. He was on his way to continue balloon hunting and he made his way six miles behind Firtz's line... untouched. It was then when Luke was hit and forced to land in Murvaux, France but not until he took out a few German ground troops. Now this is where Luke really earns his strips as one bad ass American. Beginning hit he tried to make his way to cover, but the Germans were onto him. So being one tough s.o.b. Luke drew his Colt Model 1911 and opened fire. He was found the next day with an empty gun in his hand, surrounded by empty shells and dead from a single wound which he received during his flight. Along with his body and gun was several Heinies. That's right Luke took out targets until the second he died, why does this man not have a holiday yet? The following day Luke was buried by the Germans. After his death and confirmation of his giant balls of steel he was awarded the Medal of Honor which was presented to his father. Luke's legacy was summed up by fellow pilot Eddie Rickenbacker,

"He was the most daring aviator and greatest fighter pilot of the entire war. His life is one of the brightest glories of our Air Service. He went on a rampage and shot down fourteen enemy aircraft, including ten balloons, in eight days. No other ace, even the dreaded Richthofen (The Red Baron), had ever come close to that."

Now oddly enough the reason Luke is overlooked is because of his friend Eddie Rickenbacker. How? Well Rickenbacker took down almost 30 German planes in 4 months. He returned home a hero and wouldn't be surpassed as the greatest American pilot until Charles Lindbergh made his flight across the Atlantic. But that's the way things work for war heroes, the living get all the glory. But Luke deserves better then that. And he kind of has though, he has his Medal of Honor and two Distinguished Service Cross, however these were all issued after his heroic death. Luke does have several other honors, there is Luke Air Force Base in Phoenix, AZ, a statue at the Arizona State Capital Building, there is Lukeville, AZ and he was named Class Exemplar of the 2010 Air Force Academy's graduating class but that's it. Those are great honors, but they are localized in his home state and within the Air Force. Luke needs to be honored on a nation wide scale, perhaps a made for TV movie, or at least be brought to the national spot light for his heroics. In the end the efforts of Luke are being forgotten to time. I hope I could somehow do him some justice by shedding some light on his life, personality, achievements, death and his heroic service during a time that seemed to almost push the world to it's breaking point.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Bonus Army: The Original Occupy Wall Street

By now we have all seen or heard about Occupy Wall Street, but I am willing to bet most people don't know the OWS movement is following in someones footsteps. Let me introduce you to the Bonus Army, a movement very similar to OWS, but more importantly has left a blueprint that OWS should be following. The Bonus Army's issues are parallel to OWS, they are rooted in years of economic imbalances and political red tape that slows down what is due to the American people. Ultimately after reviewing the Bonus Army and their cause we can see that OWS is doing things all wrong. So without further delay let me present you to you, the Bonus Army.

The Bonus Army finds its origins in World War I. Men returning home from the trenches and horrors that were the WWI battlefield they were promised a bonus on top of  their guaranteed military pay. So as you can probably guess there was no bonuses paid to any of the returning veterans. Five years after the war and with all the troops home, a terrible decision was made from the White House (surprise, surprise). President Calvin Coolidge aka "Cool Cal" vetoed the bonus bill saying "patriotism... bought and paid for is not patriotism" in other words Cal didn't want to want to shell out a couple of extra bucks for the G.I.'s that just fought the "war to end all wars." However, the true red, white and blue Congress vetoed Coolidge and set up the World War Adjusted Compensation Act which created a payout system for service time. Some 3.5 million claims were filed and it would add up to 3.6 billion dollars...American. The idea was to establish a a trust fund and by 1945 the amount would have gained enough interest to pay the bonuses. Yet there was an event looming that was unforeseeable and would devastate the fund but more importantly the American economy.

"Black Tuesday" pretty much forced the United States economy into a complete stand still and collapse, and opened a new chapter in American History, the Great Depression. The Depression was brought on by the amount of money being spread around and speculation that didn't exactly pan out. The Roaring Twenties 1% basically did exactly what the 1% are doing today and this was visible to people in the 1930s as it is as visible to us today. So this economic collapse due to gambles made by those in places of power would completely fuel the fire that was behind the Bonus Army. After the crash the Army grew, it was no longer just angry veterans being stiffed out of their bonuses but they were now joined by the American public, which was now jobless and penniless in most cases. The time for action was now, and the Bonus Army led the way, but they did not sit on Wall Street and point the finger at big business, as they knew big business wouldn't care so they took the fight right to those in charge, those who called the shots in Washington D.C.

In the summer of 1932, the Bonus Army had officially started a war on Washington D.C. The Bonus Army marched into D.C. with some 17,000 pissed off veterans who were joined by another 45,000 unemployed Americans. The Army even set up a camp in Anacostia Flats better known as Hooverville, named after President Herbert Hoover for his part in let America continue to slip into the Depression. Even though Hooverville was a "shanty town" it was extremely well organized. The veterans established a grid like street system, public safety operations, a sanitation department, registration center and held parades and daily demonstrations in front of the White House and U.S. Capitol Building. However, Hoover didn't want the Army to gain anymore support so by the end of July he ordered that the Army be removed from D.C. Now this is were things got ugly and would result  in the beginning of the end for the Bonus Army.

So like any good protest the authorities are called in to break it up. At first it was up to the Washington D.C. Police Department under the orders of Attorney General William Mitchell. As the police began to clear the Army camps the veterans rushed the officers. During the altercation two veterans were killed, William Hushka and Eric Carlson. After the failed operation by the DCPD, Hoover ordered the U.S. Army to clear out the camp. He left this mission up to one of the most bad ass generals in American History, General Douglas MacArthur. MacArthur rolled into the camp with an all star line up of military leaders, Major George S. Patton commanded the tank division under MacArthur and Major Dwight D. Eisenhower as an aide to MacArthur. The U.S. Army charged into the Bonus Army camps with fixed bayonets and used an tear gas to help in clearing the camp. The Bonus Army retreated but MacArthur pushed after them fearing that they were a red commie movement. In the end about 60 veterans were injured in the attack and about 140 were arrested. Amazingly there were only one casualty, Bernard Myers was 12 week old when he died from the effects of tear gas. After this the Bonus Army's fight was over, yet their cause would lead to change.

So how could any good come from the Bonus Army after being attacked by the U.S. Army? Two words, public opinion. First and most effected was Hoover, his image went from bad to to worse. His actions in dealing with the Bonus Army and the American economy cemented him as a one-term President. Also the film Gabriel Over the White House was released. It was set in an alternate America were the Bonus Army was praised and used to rebuild America by the President, thus helping American crawl out of the Depression. Yet perhaps the most important change caused by the Bonus Army was the election of President Franklin Roosevelt and a Democrat controlled House and Senate. During his campaign Roosevelt supported the Bonus Army's second attempt by offering a campsite, meals and assistance to those in need. His wife, Eleanor, would visit the camps and promote FDR and his plans for when he became President. It was in these camps that the Civilian Conservation Corps was founded and promoted. Once FDR was in office he passed an order enrolling 25,000 veterans into the CCC, passed the Adjusted Compensation Act of 1936 and was on his way to rebuilding America through his New Deal. It can be seen that due to the protest of the Bonus Army change was possible, but when looking at them we see who and where the change has to come from.

So it is pretty clear that OWS needs to regroup and examine the Bonus Army's tactics. OWS, like the Bonus Army did, face an economic depression, unemployment and a faulted government. Soon OWS may be able to add the large amount of veterans that fueled the protest of 1932. But what OWS needs to do is not go back to Wall Street or the financial centers of America, but to Washington D.C. and local political centers. Now why? Well because big business didn't care in 1932 and they don't care now. It is quite obvious that there is a culture of greed on Wall Street which will never go away. The Bonus Army knew this and knew change would only come from pressuring the government. The same tactics were used by those in the 1960s Civil Rights Movements and again in the Anti-Vietnam War protests. OWS needs to realize this and move their protests to the capital, pressure our law makers, force the system to change. We are after all "a government for the people, by the people," and it is time that Washington is reminded of that. It is time for America to take itself back and free itself from the grips of big business, corporate greed and payed politicians. I commend OWS for their work and ideas, but set your sights on the people who can make the change, as we saw with the Bonus Army, the fight may fail but in the end things will change because of your efforts.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Ding DongThe King Is Dead: Evacuation Day, America's Greatest Holiday.

Now that Thanksgiving is over and you finished all digesting all that turkey, it is time to focus on the greatest holiday in American History. No, I am not talking about the Black Friday, I am talking about, Evacuation Day. Evacuation Day, the day The United States would officially become a sovereign nation and those damn Redcoats were finally sent packing. But why would we let such an event slip into the cracks of history? Why do we celebrate the Fourth of July instead of Evacuation Day? More importantly why should we start celebrating Evacuation Day over July Fourth. So lets jump in, take a look at this forgotten holiday and figure out how we can revive it.

Let the celebration begin! Washington reenters The Big Apple to the cheers of every American in the city on November 25, 1783. Now why is that such a big deal? Well aside from the war being officially over, it was the first time the Continental Army had been in New York City since summer of '76. After the British had failed to hold onto the city of Boston in 1776, those Tommys came back with a vengeance and took aim right at New York City. Now, why New York City? Well it was still the major hub of the Loyalists and Tory bastards. So the British knew they had already won the hearts and minds of most of New York City, especially since at this point during the war the Continental Army was a rag tag bunch and generally out of control when their commanding officers weren't around. Now how could the British have taken New York, I mean Washington just tore them a new one in Boston, how could them come back from that?

The British Invasion begins, and just as these four chaps invaded New York in 1964, The British invaded New York in 1776 with a force of 22,000 limey Redcoats and 9,000 sour Kraut Hessians. Washington and his men had no idea what they were in for, the Brits hit hard, fast and out witted the Continental Army. In early August the British setup camp on the eastern end of Long Island and waited for the rest of the British Navy to arrive for support. Upon their arrival the Battle of Long Island began and the Americans were forced to retreat to Brooklyn Heights. It was then through Divine Providence that Washington, his Army and the American Cause was saved. A dense fog set in over the East River and Washington the opportunist that he was, saw his chance to save his men and America. So he waited until the middle of the night and under the cover of the fog, he, his men and all their supplies were evacuated to New York City. However, the Brits were not impressed with Washington and continued to push after them. Eventually the Redcoats would force the Americans, to retreat to Fort Washington and then across the Hudson to New Jersey. This would then start Washington's "Retreat to Victory," which in other words is, Washington high tailing it out of New York to regroup, re-plan and refocus on how he and the Army would take back the city.

Cue the triumphant music, signal the cannon fire and hold on to you tricorn caps because Washington is about to unleash hell on those evil Redcoats sons of bitches. After Washington retreated across New Jersey, he and the Continental Army regrouped in the safety of Philadelphia. However, that winter Washington was on the attack. We all know about the crossing of the Delaware River and the "Ten Crucial Days" that saved America. In short, for those who don't know, the Americans attacked the Brits and their sneaky Hessian allies on Christmas Day of 1776, yea that's right George Washington shows no mercy. With a victory at the Battle of Trenton, the Americans pushed the British north and again attacked them at the Battle of Princeton and chalked up another W for America. During the rest of New Jersey Campaign the American's continued to harass and go after the Brits. They continued to win several key battles,Millstone (1777), Bound Brook (1777), Short Hills (1777), Monmouth (1778), Paulus Hook (1779), Connecticut Farms (1780) and Springfield (1780), which forced the British to retreat to New York. Now with the Continental Army pressuring them from both New Jersey and the New England region the British were forced to hunker down, batten down the hatches and sit tight in New York. It was this though that would prove devastating for them and thus be a leading factor in the failure to suppress the Revolution.

Hit the road jack and don't you come back no more, no more. Yes, finally after everything the colonies had been through the war was finally over and British rule was dead in America. The Continental Army had defeated the British and America was born. After eight years of fighting the Redcoats they were finally gone and celebrating rang out across the new United States of America. But this new Freedom did not come without a cost. Aside from all the heroics we honor and learn about, Washington's Generals, the Continental Congress, the bravery of the Minute Men, the winter at Valley Forge, the betrayal of Benedict Arnold and the legends that were born during the battles, it is easy for us to forget the costs. It is estimated that a minimum of 50,000 Americans died during the war, and some estimates have it somewhere around 60,000.Which brings us back to Evacuation Day and it's importance to American History. It is easy for us to except casualties during warfare, but during the British occupation of New York, Americans within the city suffered the greatest. Parts of the city were burnt to the ground by those chaps...twice. Those who didn't support the Crown were treated as second class citizens and received no aid from the British. The worst action of the British came to those Americans captured during war or taken into custody because of their support of Independence. They were placed on prison ships in the Wallabout Bay and left to die, but not just any death, but a death resulting in from starvation, disease and in some cases drowning in the lower parts of the ship. Historians number about 12,000 prisoners killed by the British on these floating hellholes. So for everything America went through during these eight years, I ask you is it right that we have forgotten the day of triumph?

Now why do we place more importance on the Fourth of July? Yes, I know the Declaration of Independence was released and we officially broke ties with England. But that was in 1776 and the war continued to rage on for eight more years, with times that seemed like the cause was a loss. So why celebrate an event that was so early in the war and not the day that marked the end? In the past we have honor D-Day yet celebrate V-E Day, so whats the difference? Well, as Sarah Vowell pointed out on November 17ths Daily Show (By the way thanks for stealing my story Sarah) we have only President Abraham Lincoln to blame. No why blame honest Abe? Well we can't really but we will. The Bearded One needed to create a sense of Patriotism during the Civil War so he proclaimed that the National Holiday of Thanksgiving be celebrated on the final Thursday of November, thanks Abe. So Thanksgiving gets the bump and the celebration of America's victory over the Dark Side goes forgotten. Now because of this, we celebrate the Fourth of July, the start of the war and not the end, the official beginning of America.

So here we are in the year 2011, 228 years later and the Holiday of Evacuation Day is on the verge of being forgotten. But I say we can revive it, we can bring it back. Sure we are all chummy with those Brits now, but there is no reason we can't still go into a pub, order a fine domestic beer and bask in the glory of being part of a great nation, a nation that came from humble beginnings and an idea that went on to defeat the greatest empire since Rome. But we need to remember, we need to visit the Prison Ship Martyrs' Monument and pay tribute to those killed by the hands of the British. We need to head to down Broadway in the footsteps of Washington and the Continental Army as victoriously did. Let's relight the signal fires along the Hudson River they Patriots lite to guide the British out of New York. Then raise the stars and stripes in Battery Park as the Americans did then as the British ships sailed off into the sunset and back to that fog cover island they call home. We need to remember this great American Holiday as it is the reason we can call ourselves Americans. So after we stuff ourselves full of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and whatever else we can fit in our stomachs, lets not go wait on line at Best Buy at 2 am, lets go to sleep, wake up on November the 25th proud to be Americans, able to celebrate and remember the great sacrifices made to ensure that there would be liberty and justice for all.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Less John Adams More Thomas Paine

There is no doubt that John Adams played a major role in the forming of America. The work Adams provided all sizzled out though by the time he became President.  Yet Adams is still revered and honored while a man who may have single handedly saved the cause for Independence goes almost forgotten. The reason he is forgotten lays in the hands of Adams and his Presidency. Thomas Paine maybe the main reason there is an America but more importantly the work Paine did would echo throughout history, while Adams would not be so lucky. It can be seen that there is a reason for this, aside from Adams criticism of Paine, Adams was very conservative and Paine until this day is seen as too radical. This is just another example of the difference between the two men that would lead them in different directions both in life and in legacy.


I am willing to bet every American has seen this picture at one point or another in their life, and I'm also willing to bet they can name all the gentlemen standing around the Declaration of Independence. Yet sadly I will have to admit that everything most people know about them relates to the Revolutionary War and not their later works. This is way Adams is still held in a high regards, as a Founding Father and a great American. Adams is remembered for his opposition of the Stamp Act (1765), his work done during the meetings of Continental Congress, for being the first ambassador of the United States, his work on the Declaration of Independence, his refusal to surrender to the British (see my entry, Party Like It's 9/11) and everything else that HBO showed about his work in the founding America. But what is not known is much about his Presidency. Most people know Adams as the second President but that's it nothing more. It is here that should be looked at to knock Adams down a peg or two and promote the great defender of liberty and equality, Thomas Paine.


So why go after Adams? Well he was kind of a jerk. As Adams was elected in 1797 he was on a path to dooming America. In the first days of his Presidency he delivered a very middle of the road State of the Union. The French were hijacking American ships and Adams knew it, Congress pushed for him to do something to those frog eating Frenchies, yet he did nothing. He could have ordered an increase in the American Navy, issued munitions to American ships, sought help from the British (I know crazy but that's what they are there for)  I mean he could have done anything and it would have been better then the nothing he did. So strike one is Adams lack of balls in facing the French. Strike two is the infamous XYZ Affair (1798), in which the French tried to set up a shady deal in order to lay off the American ships around the world. The deal included a public apology from Adams, loans to France and a bride to the French government. Even after this Adams did pretty much nothing, instead Congress called back George Washington to come up with a plan on what to do. This then lead to the Quasi-War (1798-1800) which Adams played a minimal role in. The war was mainly fought at sea so many people did not hear of the results until after the war, however even though the old stars and stripes claimed a victory it wouldn't help Adams win a second term. And if that wasn't enough in the middle of the war there was the Fries Rebellion (1799). The Quasi-War cost money, so Adams created a tax on land and slaves. Now if any would know how Americans feel about taxes, it should have been Adams. So of course there was some opposition to these taxes and the Fries Rebellion took of and spread through Pennsylvania. The rebellion was put down but the damage was done and so was Adams. So for some reason Adams got four strikes and he still wasn't out, yet his disaster tour wasn't over yet and the icing on the cake was right around the corner and Adams was going to squarely take the blame.


So there it is the crowning jewel in Adams terrible Presidency, The Alien and Sedation Acts. These Acts were a way for Adams and the Federalists to really stick it to the Democratic-Republicans. However, that issue is something way to long for this article and could best be described as two little kids fighting with each other, or the current Congress we have. First we have the Naturalization Act, required all immigrants to become American citizens. Second, the Alien Act, gave the President power to deport "peoples dangerous to the peace and safety of America." Third, the Alien Enemies Act which has no "sunset provision" which in short means that the Act could never expire. Finally, Sedition Act, which pretty much trampled all over the First Amendment outlawing "false, scandalous and malicious writing against the government." This act totally violated Americans first Amendment right to free speech. This really would spell the end for Adams, no second term and a Presidency that really should eclipse all the work he did in the founding of America.


Now why am I picking on poor little Johnny? Well a few reasons. First he was a terrible President. Second, there is this movement to get a monument dedicated to Adams. Both Washington and Jefferson have monuments that are in view from the White House's Truman Balcony, but not Adams. There has been in recent years push for the monument, the first was by the great Historian David McCullough in his book John Adams. After that there have been a few others that pushed for the monument and are wrong for doing so, that's right I am talking to you Peter Roff, (U.S. News) and Alexander Heffner (Washington Post). Now why are they wrong? Well because Adams was the first flip-flopper President. He was so in his domestic and foreign policies and he was so in his relationship with the man who single handedly saved the American Revolution...twice.


There is he is, Thomas Paine the man who saved the America Revolution. Author of Common Sense and the American Crisis, both pamphlets that kept the spirit of Revolution alive and kicking amongst the colonists. Yet we forget him and his works and remember people like John Adams. But the real question is why. The answer does not fall on Paine or anything he had done in his life, although he was technically the 18th centuries proverbial bad boy. However, it wasn't that but it was John Adams, he single handedly destroyed Paine's reputation during his Presidency as if Paine was just lone left wing hippie full of radical ideas that didn't apply to the founding of America. We will see though that it is Paine that should be given a monument before Adams ever does in our nations capital.

Common Sense (1776) a book almost ever American has read about in their high school American History class. Common Sense in short, is the argument given to American colonist that explained the reasons for separation from England. The importance of the pamphlet is that the idea of Independence was still being questioned by Americans. And Paine was no dummy, he knew the writing the pamphlet was an uphill battle so he used American ideals in the writing. He used Protestant beliefs to reach the moral side of Americans, including people like John Adams. He connected the personal identity of the colonist with the ideals that were forming America. Because of this the American colonialist rallied behind the cause of Independence and the numbers of supporters grew but more importantly began to turn the tide when it seemed the cause would never get off the ground. Now Adams was all for independence but he hated the idea that Paine appealed to the people and promoted a Democracy for the people by the people over a Republic which Adams loved so dearly. In plain English what this meant was Paine wrote Common Sense for the everyday colonist and invited them into the world of politics, a world which Adams and the elitist class of colonist felt was theirs to own. Now this wouldn't be the last time Paine saved the Revolution, and probably piss of Adams.


Paine's next big hit was The American Crisis (1776-1783). It was several essays written during the course of Paine's service as an aid to General Washington, another reason Adams could be jealous of Paine. But the essay is most famously know for it's opening line, "These are the times that try men's souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman" but more importantly it should be known as the document that saved the cause of Independence. And guess what it did, it was read aloud to the Continental Army before the Battle of Trenton and guess what, it was at the Battle of Trenton that started George Washington and his armies Redcoat Ass Kicking Tour across New Jersey and would trap the British in New York City. In this pamphlet, again, Paine uses strong patriotic tones and expresses his Deist beliefs, for which Adams would later attack him, by expressing that King George was trying to take power away from God and use it for is own use. Yet he says, God is on the American's side for it is the Americans that created the idea of Independence, through the wisdom which God has give us a tool to use. Now Adams must have been throwing a temper tantrum at this point. Adams was quite the ideal and practicing man of faith and to hear Paine's ideas of God not directly being involved, well he must have been pulling his hair out. It is the difference in their religious views that Adams would use against Paine, hey John ever hear of the religious equality ideas that America was founded on? Or perhaps the separation of Church and State? He should have because he was there when both those ideas for formed. Either way it can be seen that Paine in two simple documents played a larger role in the American Revolution that Adams did, and to top it off Paine would continue to spread the ideas of Democracy well after the Revolution. It would be due to this and Adam's jealousy that Paine would be pushed out of the American conscience.


There it is evidence of Paine's contribution to the forming of America, and with good reason we can see why Adams should be and is jealous of the work of Paine. It wasn't until after the Revolution that Adams became vocal of his disdain for Paine. During Adams Presidency, the French Revolution was taking place and Paine the lover of Democracy was right in the middle of it. During that time Paine was right in the thick of it, and of course in support of the cause of French Independence. So as he did in America, he did the same in France and picked up his pen and fueled another Revolution. However, this time when revisiting the works of Paine, these two works were much different then his works in America. With Common Sense and The American Crisis, they were aimed directly at the American cause, but with The Rights of Man (1791) and Agrarian Justice (1797) it is almost as Paine was writing not just for the French during their revolution, but the rest of human existence as a beacon for the ideas of Democracy. Yet ironically it is these two pamphlets that would be the reason the Adams would really attack Paine and have America turn it's back on him.


So what could Adams find wrong with two the works of Paine when they speak of Independence and equality, the two ideas that Adams was supportive for during the founding of America? Well it's just that Independence and equality, the next works of Paine was speaking of a world wide liberation. In The Rights of Man, Paine argues that natural rights can not be dictated by a ruling class. It is the peoples natural right to stand up for themselves when their rights and persons are unprotected and when the government's interest does not reflect the needs of the People. Again in Agrarian Justice, Paine sets up a taxing system which would ultimately be established to support the working class, young and elderly. The common belief was that the classes were divinely chosen, Paine on the other hand knew that the division was a man made. The main idea was land owners were to pay a property tax in support of the needs of the middle and poor classes. He suggested that every person upon reaching the age of fifty receive a yearly payment in order for them to "enable them to live in Old Age without Wretchedness and, do decently out of the World." While at the same time Paine wanted a sum given to those upon reaching the age of twenty one as to "enable HIM or HER to begin the World!" So what do we have, Paine restating the American cause of Independence, equality, justice and everything good in the world. He goes one step more by trying to establish a fair system to enable a more economically balanced world as well. So of course the wealthy and ruling classes would be upset, but it would be Adams that would knock Paine from the American mindset and thus removing him from our history.


Let the 18th century main event begin. These two trade verbal blows back and forth for the start of the Revolution. Paine was truly for the people, by the people. While Adams was for himself, supported by the people. At the end of the War Adams said, "Without the pen of the author of 'Common Sense,'(Paine signed the pamphlet as, The Englishman) the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain.” Now that is a pretty big compliment, but Adams would quickly change his view and thus begin erasing Paine from the American landscape. The real split came when Paine publish The Age of Reason, in this pamphlet Paine expressed his Deist beliefs and applied them to the world and how governments us religious beliefs against it's people. Paine was not shy about his beliefs and was very well known for them. Yet Adams was quite the proverbial choir boy and well known for being a practicing Christian. Adams blasted the document claiming it was a betrayal to the Age of Enlightenment, and Paine's attempt to start the Age of Paine. By 1820 and the work of Adams to shut Paine out of political importance, The Age of Reason was completely forgotten by the world. So Adams succeeded, he demonized Paine as a "black liquor" which he spreads through his works. But Paine didn't not take this lying down, he was quoted once saying, “Some people talk of impeaching John Adams, but I am for softer measures. I would keep him to make fun of.” And that was pure Thomas Paine, a man who would defend the rights of others and thumb his nose to his critics as if he knew they were jealous of his cause.


So the real question behind all of this is, who deserves to be immortalized forever in the landscape of Washington DC. Is it Adams, a Founding Father who would later almost doom America to being over run by the French? A President who reacted late to everything that was presented to him? To the man who would demonize another man who sought only true justice and equality for the world? Or for Thomas Paine, a man who dedicated his life to the revolution of mind and body. To a man of humble means and only the ideas of freedom and equality? To the man who felt justice was a natural right and life should not be dictated down to the people? I have a feeling we will lean towards Paine. The works of Paine have remained relevant throughout American History, he has been quoted and an inspiration to President Abraham Lincoln, inventor Thomas Edison and Historian Mike Maring (sorry it was a shameless plug). So those, like Adams, that did not "get" Paine, it is time for you to take a look at him again. His works transcend time, for as long as there is inequality Paine's work will remain a driving force behind any cause of Independence, freedom, liberty, equality, justice, etc. It is time to let Adams' legacy drift off into the sunset and time for Paine's to be resurrected, for Thomas Paine once said of Adams, "John was not born for immortality.”

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Up, Up and Away: The Birth of the United States Air Force

When thinking about the Civil War and the United States Air Force the two never cross paths, right? Well they do believe it or not. Let me introduce you to the Union Army Balloon Corps or as they should be known, the United States Air Force. Today, when we look back at the Civil War we think about the Union and the Confederacy, the issues of slavery ans state's rights, Lincoln and Davis, the Battle of Gettysburg but never about the use of an air force. But the Union Army Balloon Corps was the brainchild of one man, Mr Thaddeus S.C. Lowe. Without him and his vision the use of aeronautics the Union may have not gained an upper hand over the Confederacy and the benefits of air superiority may have never been realized, well realized as soon.


Thaddeus Lowe was born in August of 1832 in the Jefferson Mills, New Hampshire. The Lowe family has a history of partaking in America's wars, his grandfather Levi, fought in the American Revolution and he father, Clovis was a drummer boy during the War of 1812. Now with the Civil War at had it was Thaddeus turn to serve his country. Lowe used his knowledge of science and experiences with the use of hot air balloons to play his part in the Union Army. Now how does one become "experienced" in flying a hot air balloon in the mid 19th century? Well by just being a straight up dare devil. Lowe studied wind patterns and how to use them to move through the sky. His first flight was in 1857, flying around Hoboken, New Jersey. He continued to improve his balloons and he first major advancement came in the Enterprise. After that Lowe set his aims at a transatlantic flight. His goal was to open a commercial service to ferry people from America to Europe and back. He created the City of New York (later to be known as the Great Western) and planned on setting of for Europe, however, due to a strong windstorm it never happened. In 1861 he tried to fly from Cincinnati to New York City, but was blown of course and wound up in the newly seceded state of Virginia where he was immediately arrested as a spy. After his release and return home a letter from Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase called for Lowe to report to Washington D.C. This would be Lowe's chance to partake in the Civil War but more importantly give birth to the Air Force


So an invite to the White House is one thing, but having to show off the technology which you are personally responsible for developing is a different story. Lowe took off from the White House front lawn and sent a telegraph to President Lincoln, not just any telegraph but the first one sent from an "aerial station." Lincoln was impressed and Lincoln wanted to see the value of his work in practice. So Lowe manned the first mission which happened to be the first battle of the Civil War, Bull Run. At the battle Lowe sailed up into the sky, about 500 feet, and reported Rebel movements back to the ground. However, the mission was successful but Lowe landed behind enemy lines. The search and rescue party sent for him was his wife, which arrived with a covered wagon in order to save the Enterprise and return it and Lowe back to D.C.  After this Lincoln said and I quote "Holy Moly!" ok maybe not but either way Lincoln gave Lowe the authority to create and command the Union Army Balloon Corps.


With the Corps established and Lowe as Chief Aeronaut the Union Army contracted reconnaissance to them. The first job for the Corp was the Peninsula Campaign. During this campaign Lowe used the balloons, Constitution, Washington and Intrepid. Lowe had recruited several other balloonist who he found fit for duty. He employed he father Clovis, Captain Dickinson (a steamboat captain), the Allen brothers (some of Lowe's competitors), and balloonists Eben Seaver, J.B. Strakweather, William Paullin, John Steiner and Ebenezer Mason. Together these men were the first fly boys of the U.S. Air Force. Oh yea and they were paid a whopping $3 a day. But now that the Corps had members it was time to strategically place the balloons. Lowe sent his balloons to several Union stations: Fort Monroe (Washington D.C.), Camp Lowe (Harper's Ferry), Yorktown (Virginia) and the Virginia Peninsula. Upon request Lowe sent one of his smaller balloons, the Eagle, to the Union forces heading towards the Mississippi River. Lowe had tried to sent up his Corps in places the Union Army would most need their assistance. It will be seen that their reconnaissance will  be key to the success of the Union Army.


Lowe's first taste of military life came on May 18, 1863 when the first Union Army Balloon Corps camp was set up at Gaines' Farm outside of  Richmond. It was here that Lowe and his team reported on movements of Rebel forces going and coming from the Confederate capital. The first battle the UABC reported on was the Battle of Seven Pines, where they informed the Union leadership about Rebel troop build up, the forming of battle formations, when the Confederate bases were unoccupied, where Union reinforcements should go and where repairs should be made to Union defenses. However, Lowe's reports were not listened to and Union troops went elsewhere. Later, Lowe ordered that the Intrepid be put into action. As the same reports continued during the battle, the Union leadership listened to the reports and sent reinforcements to scatter the remaining Rebels and repair damaged areas of the Union camps and defenses. Actually the Union leaders saw that Lowe was 100% right and a witness said of Lowe, "You, sir, have saved the day!" The value of the UABC was so visible that the Confederates tried to establish a similar group. Unfortunately for them, they lack both the necessary equipment and skilled aeronauts. But the UABC was to be short lived and for unseen reasons. But during the beginning of the Civil War their work and reports were of great importance not just to the Union but to the developing of an Air Force.


During the Pennsylvania Campaign Lowe, like many others, fell victim to malaria. It was this sickness that ended the UABC. With the absence of Lowe the UABC was put on the back burner. Well it was that and that the Rebels had gained a little momentum and was forcing the Army of the Potomac to retreat back behind Union lines. With that retreat the UABC's materials were split up amongst different division and the rest put into storage. Upon Lowe's return he saw nothing left of his UABC and was forced into joining the Army. Lowe never saw any military action at either battle he was activated for. As for the UABC, Lowe never gave up on it and it's value. He tried on several occasions to revive the program but the Union military leaderships never really understood it's important to military strategy. It was regarded by the Union troops as a sideshow, not meant for military service and a suicide mission.  The only people, aside from Lowe, that saw any value in the UABC was the Union generals for the simple fact that the reports from the air gave them an advantage over the Rebels. The UABC would eventually be put under the control of the Army Corps of Engineers, which pushed Lowe and his team out. The original aeronauts were replace with rank and file men who took direction better then Lowe. As of August 1, 1863 the UABC was officially disbanded.  It wouldn't be till after the Civil War that the UABC would have any value placed on it, and it would be the source for innovation of air technology in military actions.


America is well know for it's innovative spirit, so from the use of a hot air balloon in the middle of the Civil War the only direction for air technology was to go up (no pun intended). After the war the idea of airships in the military lay dormant until the 1890s when the United States Army Signal Corp was created. Airships got a kick in the pants with the creation of motorized propulsion and mechanical steering. This would eliminate the problems Lowe had of always landing behind enemy lines and would allow for more control and better reconnaissance. The first test for the USASC was during the Spanish American War where it showed much promise for the military, as did Lowe's UABC. The biggest influence the UABC had was not on an American but on another pioneer of aeronautics, Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin. Yes, that's right Zeppelin as in the Hindenburg Zeppelin. It was from Lowe that Zeppelin saw the future and potential of aeronautics and then grew the field from his Zeppelin Airship Company. So we can see that one man's invention leads to another mans dream, which then becomes a reality. Without Lowe, there would be no Zeppelin and with out Zeppelin there would be no Hugo Eckener and so on and so forth up until today with the men and women working on creating the next generation of military air crafts.


As you can see, we have come a long way from a hot air balloon. But it was those hot air balloons that Lowe used during the Civil War which pushed aeronautics into the military field. Lowe however would never receive the credit he is due. Lowe would retire from after his services to the Union and build the Pasadena & Mount Wilson Railroad, operate his on water and gas company, found a bank and run several ice houses. After all this Lowe kind of faded into history. However, Lowe was inducted in the Military Intelligence Hall of Fame but I feel he needs a little more credit given to his name. Most people would credit the Wright brothers with creating the idea of aeronautics and military since they did invent the air plane. Yet it is Lowe that bridged the gap between the two. With his ingenuity and vision of using the hot air balloon during battles the idea of using aeronautics in military operations would have been delayed until the early 20th century. Lowe deserves to be credited not just for his advances in aeronautics but for being the United States first fly boy. The United States Air Force is said to have been activated in 1947 but I think it is Lowe that started it, one hundred years prior and should be considered the first great pilot, for he was the first one to "Cross into the Blue."