Category Archives: Profiles

Biographies and commentary on famous people – of note – and maybe not so.

It’s Jesse ~ but NOT James…

His mother was 40 years old when Jesse was born. Jesse grew up in a very rough home in Morgantown, West Virginia. Jesse’s father, who was mentally ill, was a violent man and was abusive to Jesse. At 13, his father died leaving his mother to take care of him and his brothers. At the time, things weren’t easy for Jesse and he didn’t think life held much hope for him.

While Jesse had his struggles, he had dreams too. He wanted to be a ventriloquist and he found books on ventriloquism. He practiced with sock puppets and saved his money until he could get a real ventriloquist dummy. When he was old enough, he joined the military. Continue reading

Slavery and Abolitionism as Viewed by a Georgia Slave

In 1861 an educated Georgia slave named Harrison Berry wrote a book explaining why he and his fellow slaves preferred their life in the South to the “so-called” freedom in the North. It was a scathing critique of the hypocrisy of Northern abolitionism, and explains why the vast majority of slaves remained loyal to the South.

The following excerpt examines from this fascinating primary source. Here is presented a paragraph explaining why there was a close bond between master and slave in spite of the “peculiar institution.” Here he lambasts the “radicals” for their attempts to destroy that bond and as a result made things worse for the slave… Continue reading

The Federal Reluctance to bother John Surratt

The Lincoln Assassination saga continues…

Body of Abraham Lincoln lying in state

There are several anomalies regarding the Lincoln assassination and its aftermath that have not been resolved even to this day. For those folks who like to see all situations all neatly tied up with a nice big red bow, the Lincoln assassination and its environs is not your cup of tea. Too many unresolved situations and unanswered questions, which leads one to believe that not all is as it seems or as it should be… Continue reading

How Ulysses S. Grant Came to Be Seen as a Failure

Grant ‘won‘ the Civil War and the presidency, but ultimately lost the game of history

Caricature of Ulysses S. Grant inebriated. (Library of Congress

Victor in the bloodiest conflict in American history. Twice elected President, where he crushed the Ku Klux Klan. Author of one of the most celebrated works ever produced by this nation. This is the resume of Ulysses S. Grant. Yet you may think of him as a drunken butcher who went on to become an incompetent commander-in-chief. Even his champions often wind up dwelling on his perceived flaws, as when President Trump saluted Grant’s military acumen but noted contemporaries generally saw him as a man with a “drinking problem,” an “alcoholic.” Continue reading

So Who IS Buried In John Wilkes Booth’s Grave?

I watched an interesting segment on the Infowars.com site on April 29th dealing with some history I had written about somewhere in the distant past. It was narrated by David Knight. I have always enjoyed watching David Knight’s commentary. He is a Christian man who is not ashamed of his faith and he lets you know that in a quiet, humble way.

His commentary on April 29th dealt, in part, with the fact that it does seem that we have been lied to for the past 150 years about whether Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth was really killed at Garrett’s Farm in Virginia and buried in the grave that, supposedly, contains his remains. Continue reading

Benson: Sheridan the War Criminal

Clifford Dowdey, in his book The History of the Confederacy 1832-1865, he had some commentary about the subject of this article, Philip H. Sheridan and it was not particularly complementary. Mr. Dowdey noted of Sheridan that he “…was an undersized man (five feet three) with an oversized head, in all ways…But Grant perceived in the man a quality he wanted in his all-out, no-holds-barred war of total conquest. The Sheridans, Milroys, and Hunters had a different kind of arrogance from the neo-princelings of the Cotton South. They had the arrogance of unrestrained might. Without regard for rights–of belligerants or fellow citizens or even of the so-called ‘human rights,’ let alone of the Union–these bully boys had a lust for physical violence and wanton destruction.” Continue reading

Sybil Ludington

This month in U.S. history, we remember that famous ride that would warn the colonies that the British were coming.

The Colonel needed someone he could trust, someone brave enough, someone who could ride a long distance, through the darkness, from 9 p.m. to dawn, someone who could fight off enemy combatants, to alert the Colonial militia to the approach of British forces.

So, the Colonel chose the “best man for the job.”

Sybil Ludington was born on this day, April 5, 1761. Continue reading

Cesar Chavez Holiday: Honoring An American Hero

I am convinced that the truest act of courage, the strongest act of manliness, is to sacrifice for others in a totally nonviolent struggle for justice. To be a man is to suffer for others. God help us to be men! ~ Cesar Chavez

Cesar Chavez

March 31 is an official State holiday in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas, and is observed in several other States, in honor of the birth on March 31, 1937, of an extraordinary American — Cesar Estrada Chavez, the late co-founder and president of the United Farm Workers of America who became a legend in his own time in the civil rights era.

In his honor, his headquarters for the UFW, which he named “La Paz” (“The Peace”), in the Tehachapi Mountains in Keene, CA, on Highway 58 between Bakersfield and Tehachapi, is now officially the U.S. Cesar Chavez National Monument, established by the federal government. Continue reading

John Letcher, Governor of Virginia

“I received your telegram of the 15th, the genuineness of which I doubted. Since that time I have received your communication, mailed the same day, in which I am requested to detach from the militia of the State of Virginia ‘the quota designated in the table’ which you append, ‘to serve as infantry or riflemen for the period of three months, unless sooner discharged.’

In reply to this communication I have only to say that the militia of Virginia will not be furnished to the powers at Washington for any such use or purpose as they have in view. Your object is to subjugate the Southern States, and a requisition made upon me for such an object – an object, in my judgement, not within the purview of the Constitution or the act of 1795 – will not be complied with. You have chosen to inaugurate civil war, and having done so, we will meet it in a spirit as determined as the Administration has exhibited toward the South.”

John Letcher, Governor of Virginia, to Cameron, 16 April 1861

Remembering Gov. Letcher on his birthday, born March 29, 1818.

Forgotten Virtue: The Baseball Hero Nobody Knows

NOTE: The following post has nothing to do with ‘Education’ per se – other than that of a life-lesson. The subject and message of the article is well worth a place in ‘Profiles.’ ~ Ed.

Gil Meche

His career stats indicate that he was a mediocre baseball pitcher – perhaps the epitome of mediocrity: 84 wins; 83 losses; a 4.49 Earned Run Average; a Walks-plus-Hits-to-Innings-Pitched ratio of 1.42. Yet Gil Meche, who played for the Seattle Mariners and Kansas City Royals, was responsible for one of the most astounding, yet almost unnoticed, acts of virtue ever committed by a sports figure.

In the winter of 2011, Mr. Meche, then with the Royals, voluntarily retired from the game, foregoing the final $12 million on his multi-year contract. Mr. Meche was injured and would have sat out the 2012 season while receiving paychecks. Continue reading

Dr. Mildred F. Jefferson

March is recognized by the U.S. Government as “Women’s History Month.” According to womenshistorymonth.gov, we “join in paying tribute to the generations of women whose commitment to nature and the planet have proved invaluable to society”. There are countless women who have dedicated themselves to making the world a better place and to ushering in a turning point in history, so it’s fitting that we should honor and celebrate them this month.

Surgeon, right-to-life activist, and noted speaker, Mildred Fay Jefferson was the first African American woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School in 1951. Continue reading

She was a maid at 9, wrote a hit song at 11 –  and won a Grammy at 93

Elizabeth Cotten was never famous, and almost slipped into total obscurity

Domestic, 71, Sings Songs of Own Composition in ‘Village,’” ran a New York Times headline in November of 1965. The piece, about a woman with “five grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren, a guitar, a banjo and about 20 old-time folk songs,” heralded the return of then-unknown folk songstress Elizabeth Cotten, who was poised to play the Gaslight Cafe, on Macdougal Street in a Greenwich Village still quaintly set off by single quotation marks. Continue reading

Andrew Jackson Unconquered

Whatever his sins, Andrew Jackson was a man. He did not cringe before power or curry favor with oligarchs. He admired independence.

Andrew Jackson (1824) by Thomas Sully (1783-1872)

Andrew Jackson’s reputation is drifting down, down, down, like a sere autumn leaf. Whereas in 1948, the first year of Arthur Schlesinger Sr.’s poll of historians, Old Hickory ranked sixth among the presidents, in recent surveys by a variety of sponsors he has dropped into the midteens. It seems only a matter of time before Jackson is banished to the reputational basement with Warren Harding, Franklin Pierce, and James Buchanan, presidents who never dragged their country into war, which is the yellow brick road to greatness. Continue reading

Robert E. Lee Reconsidered

Clearly, Robert E. Lee’s reputation has plummeted from the lofty height it once occupied. It is time to clear a path through the rubble of toppled statues and discarded plaques to examine the qualities of the authentic Lee, as well as the turn of mind that would relegate him to historical ignominy…

I.

“What excellence is there in a nature which merely rejoices in its own well-being and does nothing, never has done anything and never will do anything?” ~ Cicero, The Nature of the Gods, Book I

The greatest human heroes, from the beginning of recorded history and lore, all share a common trait: a flaw in character that often proves to be their undoing, and perhaps even leads to their death. There are many examples from antiquity: the fatal arrogance of Achilles; Odysseus’ disastrous taunting of Polyphemus; King David’s lust for Bathsheba; the unquenchable thirst for conquest of Alexander the Great; and the pride of Oedipus and Agamemnon. Taken together, they remind us of an eternal verity: man—especially the man who wears the laurels—is imperfect. In his short biography of Napoleon, Paul Johnson hammers home this point:

We have to learn again the central lesson of history: that all forms of greatness, military and administrative, nation and empire building, are as nothing—indeed they are perilous in the extreme—without a humble and contrite heart.

He added that the integral part of this lesson comes from stripping away the myth surrounding the man so that his reality can be revealed. Continue reading

Dickens: Great Expectations…

…for my friend, Charles Dickens

Lost portrait of Charles Dickens

Portrait of a thirty-something Charles Dickens as he looked when he wrote A Christmas Carol was found caked in mould at a South African market 150 years after it vanished

A youthful portrait of British writer Charles Dickens that went missing for 150 years went on display in London in late November, 2018 after being found covered in mould next to a metal lobster at a market in South Africa.

The miniature watercolour and gouache portrait by Margaret Gillies, valued at £220,000 pounds was painted in 1843 as the young Dickens, then in his early 30s, was writing ‘A Christmas Carol’.

The painting shows the Victorian writer clean shaven, with long, wavy hair, looking over his left shoulder, a contrast to the more common image of an ageing Dickens, with long bushy beard and messy, balding hair. Continue reading

Thomas Paine Blasts Fake Money

The paper money that funded the American Revolution led to post-war grievances, the most well-known of which was Shays’s Rebellion in back-country Massachusetts. For years after the war the Boston legislature imposed taxes, falling mainly on those least able to pay, for the full payment in specie of the highly-depreciated notes issued during the war and held mostly by well-to-do legislators and bankers. As a further aggravation, the war was fought mostly by those on whom the taxes fell, while the elites stayed home. (See the Nobel-worthy Shays’s Rebellion: The American Revolution’s Final Battle by Leonard L. Richards)

Petitions for redress having been ignored by the legislature for several years, town leaders in western Massachusetts organized marches, beginning in August 1786, to shut down the courts, demanding that the state constitution be revised. Eventually, through force of arms, the government put a halt to the uprising while mischaracterizing it as a refusal of the poor to pay their just taxes. Continue reading

Lysander Spooner: The Anarchist Who Single-Handedly Took on the US Post Office

The story of a man who showed the world how a peaceful, non-governmental system can flourish.

Lysander Spooner

This is a story about a philosopher, entrepreneur, lawyer, economist, abolitionist, anarchist—the list goes on. As his obituary summarizes, “To destroy tyranny, root and branch, was the great object of his life.” Although he is rarely included in mainstream history, Lysander Spooner was an anarchist who didn’t merely preach about his ideas: He lived them. No example illustrates this better than Spooner’s legal battle against the US postal monopoly.

Born in 1808 in Athol, Massachusetts, Lysander Spooner was raised on his parent’s farm and later moved to Worcester to practice law. Eventually, he found himself in New York City, where business was booming—but not for the Post Office. Continue reading