This Day in History

August 16th

1812 Fort Detroit captured. The Americans in the fort surrendered to a much smaller combined British and Indian force. Through subterfuge, Tecumseh, chief of the Shawnee, made the Americans believe his force was much larger than it was. The commander of the fort was charged with cowardice and sentenced to be executed. President James Madison later commuted the sentence.

Wonder what our National Anthem would be if Francis Scott Key had been at Fort Detroit instead of McHenry?

 1869 – Battle of Acosta Ñu. A battle between Paraguay and the Triple Alliance of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay. Militarily defeated, Paraguay refused to surrender. In a last ditch effort they sent young boys into battle wearing fake beards, hoping it would frighten the enemy. Thousands of children were slaughtered in the battle.

Hard to say who had a more ignoble military reputation, the commander of Ft. Detroit or the commander of the Paraguayan army.

1987 – Harmonic Convergence.

From “The Harmonic Convergence is the name given to one of the world’s first globally synchronized meditation events, which occurred on August 16–17, 1987. This event also closely coincided with an exceptional alignment of planets in the Solar System. The selected date marked the end of twenty-two cycles of 52 years each, or 1,144 years in all. The twenty-two cycles were divided into thirteen heaven cycles, which began in AD 843 and ended in 1519, when the nine hell cycles began, ending 468 years later in 1987. The very beginning of the nine hell cycles was precisely the day that Cortes landed in Mexico, April 22, 1519 (coinciding with “1 Reed” on the Aztec/Mayan calendar, the day sacred to Mesoamerican cultural hero Quetzalcoatl). The 9 hell cycles of 52 years each ended precisely on August 16–17, 1987. The timing of the Harmonic Convergence was allegedly significant in the Maya calendar, with some consideration also given to European and Asian astrological traditions. The chosen dates have the distinction of allegedly marking a planetary alignment with the Sun, Moon and six out of eight planets being part of the grand trine.

So, you got all that? Me neither. I remember the day well, if not the significance of it. I was working at the New Riverside Café, a workers’ owned vegetarian café. “No meat, no bosses” was its motto. Some referred to is as “The Communist Café.” Given that my last column was about being at Haight-Ashbury, I guess it was an appropriate place for me to land. The staff at the New Riv was an eclectic and wonderful collection of activists, anarchists, socialists, communists, old hippies, a couple of guys on the run, and a coven of lesbian witches. We also had several café lizards in the basement. The belief being they would help control pests without having to resort to chemicals. No workday there was ever the same, or boring. As would be expected, the Harmonic Convergence was viewed with a great deal of anticipation. I don’t know what I was expecting, some kind of world transformation? I remember being disappointed, feeling the whole thing was a bit of a dud. Maybe I just wasn’t properly indoctrinated.


1888 – T.E Lawrence. Or better known as Lawrence of Arabia. A British subject, Lawrence, as a young man lived and traveled in Syria, Palestine and Turkey, studying archeological sites. He both learned the language and adopted the Arabic wardrobe. During WWI he led Arab forces against the Ottoman Empire who had sided with Germany. His raids were very disruptive to the Turks and he even successfully captured Damascus. Lawrence promised Arab leaders that once the war was victoriously ended they would have their independence from European control. At the Paris Peace Conference after the war, ignoring Lawrence’s advice, the powers-that-be reneged on those promises. Shattered at being unable to keep his word Lawrence withdrew from public life. He wrote a book “Seven Pillars of Wisdom”, enlisted in the RAF under an assumed name, and at age 46 died in a motorcycle accident.

Perhaps if Lawrence’s advice had been heeded, the unrest, war and terrorism that plague the region and the world might have been averted. A very good book, “Lawrence in Arabia” covers his involvement and the political intrigues of the period quite well. It should be no surprise that money and oil prevailed over any promises.

 1894 – George Meany. Powerful labor leader and first president of the AFL-CIO. He fought corruption and communism in unions. While he was president of the American Federation of Labor, it was accused of being too conservative and racist. Meany openly fought with other labor leaders such as John L. Lewis and Jimmy Hoffa. He also supported America’s war effort in Vietnam.

From “Meany viewed the labor movement as more than a “special interest” it was rather the only organization in American life that spoke for the common citizen. He termed it the “people’s lobby.” He believed strongly that free trade unions were an essential part of a democratic society.”

Although generally conservative in his policies, based on the views stated above, Meany in today’s world would probably be regarded as a raging liberal demagogue.

 1940 – Bruce Beresford. Australian born film director. Among his more popular films are “Breaker Morant,” “Tender Mercies,” and “Driving Miss Daisy.”

“Breaker Morant” makes my personal list for all time great movies. The story line for the movie is credited to a book called “Scapegoats of the Empire.” I tried to find the book which has long been out of print. The cheapest copy I found in an Internet search has been $2,500. I guess I won’t be reading it.




Summer of Love

50th Year Anniversary

“If you’re going to San Francisco

Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair”

We had a 1950 Oldsmobile, blue and white. We cut out the back seat, stuffed a mattress into the space and created our version of a camper. Scott McKenzie and the haunting lyrics of his song accompanied during the long, empty drive across North Dakota and eastern Montana. Three of us, Darrold, Rick and myself, took turns driving. The same trio that had lit out for Europe two years earlier. This time our adventuresome spirit was leading us north. Our goal was Alaska, to work in the fishing industry, where good money could be made. Somewhere around Cut Bank, Montana reality grabbed hold. We had learned in the drive from Minnesota that our car harbored certain peculiarities in addition to not handling adversity all that well. Adversity being anything that involved a steep incline and the peculiarities a gas gauge that registered fictional readings, a propensity to gulp oil almost as quickly as gas, and a Dyna-flow automatic transmission that went through multiple shifting’s before settling on a final gear. With 2,500 miles of rugged gravel road facing us, we began to re-think our summer plans. And there was that song that kept beckoning to us.

“If you’re going to San Francisco

You’re gonna meet some gentle people there”

Darrold had to be in Los Angeles anyway at the end of the summer to be in a wedding, so with Scott’s urging we decided to check out the scene in San Francisco. New challenges immediately arose. Money and mountains. Too little of one and too much of the other. The Oldsmobile’s aging transmission was overmatched by the mountain passes until on one particularly steep incline all forward motion ceased. Then Darrold hit upon the brilliant idea of reverse. The Olds had enough power to back over the mountains. Granted, we were a bit of a strange sight and we did hold up traffic until we could find a place to pull over and let lines of cars and campers, their occupants either amused or peeved, pass.

We slept wherever we could. No campgrounds, never any place official, we’d just pull off the road and try find something secluded. On the open road we would unroll our sleeping bags in a pasture, woods or mountain meadow. In cities or bad weather we slept in our cramped camper on a rotating basis. One guy in the front seat and the other two on the mattress extending into the trunk. Necessity without comfort.

“For those who come to San Francisco

Summertime will be a love-in there

In the streets of San Francisco

Gentle people with flowers in their hair”

By this time the staid inhibitions of the 1950’s were fading in the rear view mirror. Nowhere was that more evident than in Haight-Ashbury. Upon arriving we were overwhelmed by an explosion of color, motion, friendly young people, and weirdness. Sights, sounds, smells assailed us from every direction. Flowing, brightly colored clothes and costumes, long hair, sandals, beads, headbands, and just a general openness, was awash on the streets. Wildly colorful posters hung in store windows and there were head shops with the scent of incense wafting out of them. Darrold occasionally smoked at the time, rolling his own from a pouch of tobacco. As we leaned against the Olds and observed the street scene, Darrold casually rolled a cigarette. A passing hippie smiled and said, “Far out, man.” We realized he though Darrold was rolling something else.

Darrold was much more pragmatic than Rick or I. The both of us tended to drift toward more idealistic dreaming so we immediately embraced the scene. He was also more impulsive and had lost much of his bankroll during our brief passage through Reno, Nevada. So a decision was made. We would drive to L.A. where Darrold had family and he could find work, and Rick and I would come back to San Francisco. After he was done with the wedding we would return for him.

On the way back Rick and I spent several days along that magnificently beautiful part of the coast known as Big Sur. Then back to Haight-Ashbury where we became part of the scene. Our hair was shaggy at best, not long, although I did have a beard. We wondered what length of time some of the guys had been growing theirs, to have it so long. The Olds was parked on a side street and that’s where we slept. We lived on the streets and spent an inordinate amount of time in Golden Gate Park.

“All across the nation

Such a strange vibration

People in motion”

At the park there would be music, large groups of young people dancing, group meditation sessions and general gatherings of peace and happiness. There was a small, natural amphitheater at the entrance to the park where a man named Ashleigh Brilliant lectured daily. Brilliant offered humor, philosophy and advice about life in the Haight. One day he announced that the pull-off tabs from beer and soda cans fit perfectly into parking meters and operated the same as a quarter. He was right, they did. The park also hosted the Diggers who set up a kitchen to dispense free food. While partaking of that once or twice, Rick and I mostly subsisted on mustard sandwiches. A loaf of bread and a small jar of mustard were barely within our budget.

The scene wasn’t all love and flowers. Even in this youthful, idealistic so-called paradise there was ugliness. Overdoses and runaway kids too young to fend for themselves. One early evening two young men ran recklessly past me, obviously running from something. Then up the block I saw an elderly man, 80 years old maybe, staggering with blood running down his face. A teenage girl had witnessed what happened. “Those boys hit him and took his money.” I saw a knife fight between a black guy and a white guy. The Hell’s Angels roared in one night and definitely did not have peace and love on their minds.

At night in the Olds we covered up the windows so nobody could see inside. The cops would have rousted us if they saw us sleeping there. One night I woke up to the car shaking. Being in California I thought earthquake. I sat up, pulled away the bag blocking the back window, and found myself looking at two guys with a crowbar trying to shimmy open our trunk. Their surprise at seeing me surpassed mine at seeing them. They turned and fled into the night.

There was a dope scene of course, one that Rick and I didn’t entered into. Our finances rather than our morals dictated that decision. A number of times we were offered a lid for five dollars. That would have busted our budget. Neither did we completely drop out. There was fall quarter to attend and Rick had a girlfriend at home so we needed enough money to get back. For myself I was more an observer than part of the scene. At 23 years of age, with the military as part of my history, I wasn’t sure I belonged. That doesn’t mean I didn’t appreciate where I was however. Or that I wasn’t affected by it. Established thought patterns were being challenged and new avenues opened. I watched, and absorbed.

“There’s a whole generation

With a new explanation

People in motion

People in motion”

One enduring memory is of a kid selling dope pipes. Thin, long scraggly blonde hair, headband, he was the epitome of a hippie. He sat on a colorful blanket spread out on the sidewalk, surrounded by his handcrafted dope pipes of all sizes. Trying to sell his wares he called out to passersby, more of a chant than a carnival bark. “Dope pipes, dope pipes, weird, weird, dope pipes.” He repeated it over and over He sometimes punctuated the chant with a little laugh. That laugh seemed to capture the wonderful absurdity of where he was at, what he was doing, and acknowledge all the strange people surrounding him. There sometimes was a different inflection on the “weird weird” part, a philosophical recognition that we had all stepped away from the normal, into this weird, strange wonderland.

Despite the negative moments the scene still vibrated with peace and friendliness. A generation willing to look at the world in a different way had gathered that summer. I’ve read articles and books disparaging what happened that summer in San Francisco, focusing on the negative. Critical articles even scornful of the participants. Why? I guess for believing war, greed, materialism, discrimination had no place in their world, and peace, love and harmony did. It doesn’t matter that the attempt eventually proved to be too quixotic to be sustainable. For a moment of history magic existed. And I was there.

“If you’re going to San Francisco

Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair”






Scott McKenzie

This Day in History

August 3rd

1492 – The Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria left the port of Palos, Spain. Christopher Columbus was in search for a new route to the Far East. Instead he ran into what would be called the “New World.” Columbus died in 1506 without realizing what he had all started.

Those who believed the earth was flat, the global warming deniers of their era, were certain he was sailing to his doom. Columbus’s voyage helped toward the unraveling of that theory. But scientific evidence be damned, there is still an active Flat Earth Society.

1907 – Standard Oil fined 29 million. Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis levied the fine for violating federal laws prohibiting rebates. This decision labeled him as a judge determined to curtail the influence and power of corporations. The decision was later reversed upon appeal. Regarding this reversal, William Shire wrote in his autobiography, Twentieth Century Journey, “This would become a familiar pattern. The power of the giant corporations to defy the supposedly more powerful federal government and, when that occasionally failed, to side-step the application of its laws. The tricks of highly paid corporate lawyers-honorable men mostly, no doubt, but, like their employers, carried away by their greed for monopolistic profits in this land of milk and honey-usually won out.”

Besides Standard Oil, Kenesaw Mountain Landis (great name) was involved in other controversies including the Black Sox scandal, harshly dealing with WWI draft resisters, and purportedly hindering the racial integration of baseball. Regarding the Standard Oil decision, I agree with him. Our founding fathers were skeptical of corporations and limited their power. Since then it seems there has been a reversal of power, from federal law governing corporations to corporate law dictating the will of the government. The good people of the U.S. lament the professional politician. While not embracing that oily species, I look at Washington DC and more lament the infusion of corporate insiders onto the current Cabinet and other governmental position of power. Instead of the swamp being drained, the Mussolini quote used in the June 1st post again comes to mind. “Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.”

 1914 – Germany declares war on France. Having declared war on Russia two days earlier, Germany realized that with France and Russia being allies, they would be fighting a two front war anyway. This signaled the beginning of The Great War, later known as World War I. 41 million casualties later everybody finally came to their senses and peace broke out on November 11th, 1918.

Because of its horrific nature it was called “The War to End All Wars,” and yet nothing was learned from it.


1808 – Hamilton Fish. Supporter of Abraham Lincoln for President, Governor of New York, U.S. Senator and Secretary of State under President Grant. Grant wanted to annex the island state of Santo Domingo, now known as the Dominican Republic, with the eventual goal of statehood. Part of Grant’s rationale was that it would help alleviate the racism of the South. Although he opposed the idea Fish worked on the annexation. The plan failed to pass in the Senate.

Adding a state with mostly non-white people, I wonder why?

 1900 – Ernie Pyle. Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, he is best known as a war correspondent during WWII. Pyle wrote about the ordinary soldiers doing the fighting, and he included their names and hometowns. His personal style endeared him to the G.I.’s in the foxholes. Pyle’s columns have been reprinted in four books: “Ernie Pyle In England,” “Here Is Your War,” “Brave Men” and “Last Chapter.” President Harry Truman said of him: “No man in this war has so well told the story of the American fighting man as American fighting men wanted it told. He deserves the gratitude of all his countrymen.” Pyle endured a troubled marriage with an alcoholic wife and suffered from self-described war neurosis. He covered the war in North Africa, Italy and France. He needed a break and against his wishes was convinced to go to the Pacific Theater. There, on April 18th, 1944, at the fighting on Okinawa, he was killed by a sniper bullet.

I regard Ernie Pyle as the best war correspondent ever. He landed at Omaha Beach the day after the invasion. Yet his description of the carnage that took place there is still the most vivid of any I’ve ever read of what took place on that heroic day.

 1941 – Beverly Lee. Member of the 1960’s singing group, The Shirelles. The group had a number of hit singles including “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” “Dedicated to the One I Love,” and “Soldier Boy.”

I was stationed at the Naval Training Center, Bainbridge, Maryland. One Saturday, off duty, three of us decided to visit a nearby army base, Aberdeen Proving Grounds. I don’t know what inspired this decision but I think beer was somehow involved. So there we were, three sailors in our dress whites, in a canteen full of soldiers. Some grumbling began about our presence. I believe that was beer inspired also. About the time a confrontation seemed inevitable I walked to the jukebox, deposited some coins, and selected “Soldier Boy” by the Shirelles. There were nods of approval, handshakes exchanged, and an inter-service battle averted. Although we’ve never met, thank you Beverly Lee.

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Twentieth Century Journey

This Day in History

July 30th

1619 – First meeting of the House of Burgesses. Meeting in a church in Jamestown, it was the first gathering in America with the goal being self-rule. It became the legislative body of Virginia from 1619 to 1776. Six representatives were appointed by the Governor and another fifteen were elected.

It was also the first recorded incident of voter restriction in North America in that only men were allowed to vote.

 1825 – Malden Island discovered. The HMS Blonde happened across the uninhabited island in the South Pacific. The island, however, had at one time been occupied. By whom remains a mystery, other than it being some megalithic culture. There was a paved volcanic rock highway system and the ruins of some temples in addition to a number of small, 20-60 feet in height, pyramids. Speculation was that some Polynesian culture existed there centuries ago. When or why they left is unknown. In 1957 Britain tested its first H-bomb at the site.

One culture built temples to their gods, another tested ways to destroy the world. I’d have liked to witness one of them. A fantasy of mine has always been to enter a time tunnel and travel back to observe history. A paved highway, some of it leading into the ocean. What inspired those islanders, how did they do it, and for what purpose? A guy can only wonder and dream. As far as the H-bomb, I’ll pass on that.

 1866 – Massacre in New Orleans. Hundreds died in race riot. The dead included approximately 200 black veterans of the Civil War and 40 delegates to the Louisiana Constitutional Convention. The mayor, a Democrat and former supporter of the Confederacy, was upset because the Republican convention was going to be integrated with both black and white delegates. He led the city police force and a mob of white supremacists to confront the delegates who were marching to the convention hall behind the American flag. Many of the unarmed delegates were shot and those who tried to flee were beaten and killed as the rioting spread beyond the area of the convention.

Repercussions of the riot included the mayor being removed from office and the Republican Party, supported by outraged Northerners, gaining control of the U.S. House and Senate. Congress then passed the Reconstruction Act of 1867 that allowed U.S. Army occupation of many cities throughout the South and other harsh restrictions of the Reconstruction Era.

Republicans were the party of inclusion and Democrats resistant to change. My, how things have evolved.


Because of the significance of the man I’m going to focus on only one person today.

1881 – Major General Smedley Butler. Recipient of many military awards including the Medal of Honor twice. Although he did try return the first one, received for action at Vera Cruz, Mexico, believing he did not deserve it. Butler served in the Spanish-American War, Philippine-American War, Boxer Rebellion (see the July 13th column, Battle of Tientsin) Banana Wars, Vera Cruz, Mexico, Haiti where he received his 2nd Medal of Honor and WWI.

Butler eventually became disillusioned by his military service and wrote a book entitled “War is a Racket”. He believed the military was being used for corporate interests and imperialism. The Banana Wars, for example, were conducted to solidify United Fruit’s holding in Central America. After he retired from the military he conducted lecture tours in which he railed against war profiteering. He unsuccessfully ran for the Senate and he supported the War Bonus March on Washington, DC by WWI vets.

In 1933 a group of American businessmen supposedly came to Butler to get him to lead a coup to overthrow newly elected President Franklin Roosevelt. Butler instead exposed the plot. He was subsequently ridiculed in the media and dismissed as a crackpot. However a Congressional committee did confirm some of his allegations although no prosecutions were ever brought forth.

Butler’s views on the military were best expressed in the November 1935 issue of the socialist magazine Common Sense. “I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of a half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903.”

The most decorated man in Marine Corps history at the time making statements like that? In the sacred interest of patriotism, and more importantly, money (with one promoting the other) of course he has to be branded a crackpot.


This Day in History

July 23rd

1572 – William, Prince of Orange occupies city or Roermond. Religious upheaval and resentment grew over Spanish rule in Holland. William of Orange became leader of a rebel army that fought against Spain. They aligned themselves with French Huguenots, a movement that grew out of the Reformation and then embraced Calvinism. The rebellion turned into an 80-year religious war. William lost control of his troops in Roermond where they went on a rampage killing priests and nuns and made him an outlaw to the Catholic Church. William, also known as William the Silent, or William the Taciturn, was assassinated in 1584.

Modern day leader’s are more likely to be labeled ______ the Verbose. Fill in politician of choice.

1922 – Belgian Firmin Lambot wins 16th Tour de France. He was behind by as much as an hour at one point. The leader had mechanical difficulties and switched bikes, which was against the rules at the time. He was penalized an hour in time which gave the victory to Lambot. (In today’s Tour a minute is a near insurmountable lead.) There were no team cars following back then and riders had to do their own repairs, sometimes carrying their bikes for miles to reach a town and tools.

I’m a bicyclist and I enjoy watching the Tour de France. Some unusual things happen but here’s one I’ve never seen during the race. One day I was pedaling happily along when a squirrel darted onto the path, and froze. He was maybe ten yards in front of me. I swerved to the right at the same instant he moved in the same direction. My front wheel barely missed him but somehow I scooped him up with my right foot and pedal. I did two more rotations with a very alarmed squirrel clinging desperately to my shoe. Truth be told, I was more than a little alarmed myself. It belatedly occurred to me that perhaps I should stop pedaling and brake. The squirrel hopped off and ran to the base of a tree where it stopped and looked back at me, more than a little reproachfully. I thought he was being unfairly judgmental for I didn’t see that the incident was entirely my fault.

 1948 – Henry Wallace nominated by the Progressive Party to run for President. He had been FDR’s Vice President from 1940-44 before being replaced by Harry Truman. Ridiculed as a hayseed and a mystic, he received only 2.4% of the vote. Nevertheless he had some interesting ideas and things to say. From “Wallace envisioned a postwar era governed by an international peacekeeping force and an international court, rather than through balance-of-power politics. His plan also called for an end to European imperialism in Asia and Africa. In an address to the Free World Association on May 8, 1942, Wallace outlined his “Century of the Common Man,” in which he endorsed federal support for education and collective health care for workers. More than the New Deal inspired Henry Wallace. Christian morality and the social gospel formed the fundamental inspiration behind his speeches. As a product of Protestant liberalism, he adhered to the principles of the Sermon on the Mount and saw himself as bound to accomplish the work of the Lord.” (1) He championed both health care and God, don’t know where that would land him in today’s political climate.

Wallace once stated: “The dangerous American fascist is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way. The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power.” (2)

Anything here sound familiar?


1865 – Max Heindel. Born in Denmark, raised in impoverish nobility, educated as an engineer in Glasgow, Scotland, worked on the Cunard passenger line, settled in America and became a Christian occultist, astrologer, and mystic. (Pretty much the usual path through life.) Heindel developed the Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception, which metaphysically tried to answer three questions. Whence have we come? Why are we here? Whither are we going?

From Heinkel’s writings:

“No man loves God who hates his kind,
Who tramples on his brother’s heart and soul;
Who seeks to shackle, cloud, or fog the mind
By fears of hell has not perceived our goal.”

I can go with that.

 1892 – Haile Selassie. 225th, and last, emperor of Ethiopia. While in power he fought against the invading Fascist Italian army of Mussolini, and later built schools, tried to establish an equitable tax system, and with limited success fought the existing feudalism. He ruled from 1930 until 1974 when a Marxist coup ousted him from power. Under arrest, he died in 1975, probably not from natural causes. Selassie was also the messiah of the Rastafari movement, some called him the Black Christ. Ras Tafari was Selassie’s birth name and in Jamaica his followers, Bob Marley among them, believed he would lead them out of poverty into a world of peace and prosperity.

Bob Marley and Haile Selassie, that’s quite a pairing.

 1936 – Anthony Kennedy. Nominated by Ronald Reagan, Justice Kennedy is often the swing vote on the Supreme Court.

Maybe if there were more like him I’d be less cynical about the court. I see it as just another politically biased branch of our government. I’m sure a legal precedent can always be found to support one’s political beliefs. And the way one political party ignored the Constitution after the last vacancy makes it even more of a joke.





This Day in History

July 17th

1863 – Battle of Honey Springs. A Civil War battle for control of what was known as Indian Territory. The battle, which took place in modern day Oklahoma, was notable in that most of the participants were not white. Many of the tribes in the region sided with the Confederacy while the Creek were pro-Union. In addition, some Cherokee switched sides to the Union. The Union forces also included many black troops. The Rebel’s gunpowder had become wet during a rainstorm, their guns didn’t fire, and the Union won the day. The Union was in control of the Indian Territory thereafter.

A great irony here. A fledgling nation, fighting to preserve slavery and domination over the black race, while believing the white man to be superior, incorporates the help of another minority. Less ironic was the Indian tribes siding with the Confederacy. After all the broken treaties with the U.S. government, why not take a chance with somebody else.

1936 – Spanish general’s coup. A cadre of Spain’s generals, headed by General Francisco Franco, led a coup to overthrow the democratically elected government. Having control of the army they expected a quick takeover. Instead much of the civilian population rose up against them. Anarchists, communists, socialist and the trade unions broke into police stations and army barracks, acquired weapons and the Spanish Civil War began. The forces of Fascism against the forces of democracy. People from all over the world, perhaps as many as 50,000, flocked to Spain to join the Spanish people in the fight for democracy. An International Brigade was formed and within it were battalions from fifty different countries. 2,800 volunteers from the United States fought in the Abraham Lincoln Battalion. Hitler and Mussolini aided Franco and used Spain as a training ground for their militaries. The war in Spain was a prelude to WWII. The U.S., England, and France all signed a non-intervention pact and the Republic was doomed. Franco finally prevailed and Spain was a Fascist state for decades afterwards. Some call the fight “The Last Great Lost Cause” and it still remains one of the more stirring stories in history.

I was at a Bed and Breakfast in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1965. The proprietor was a Spaniard. I asked him how he had ended up in Scotland. He told me he had to get out of Spain otherwise Franco would have had him executed. He had been a translator and fought with the Scottish Battalion in the International Brigade. All I knew about the war was Robert Capa’s famous photograph. I had living history in front of me and was too uninformed to ask any intelligent questions. At the time I vowed to myself to learn more about the war and it has since become a passion of mine. So in future columns you will be reading more about the Spanish Civil War.

 1938 – “Wrong Way” Corrigan leaves Brooklyn. With a registered flight plan to fly from New York to California, Corrigan took off in a single engine plane. Twenty-eight hours later he arrived in Ireland. Upon landing he said, “I got lost in the clouds, where am I?” He previously had been denied permission to fly the Atlantic with his rickety plane because officials thought it a suicide mission. Corrigan stuck to his story and became a national hero. Late in life he admitted his mistake was intentional.

Gotta love him.


1487 – Ismail I – Shah of Persia. While ruling over Iran, and parts of Iraq and Turkey, he converted the national religion from Sunni to Shia. It brought him into conflict with the Sunni ruled Ottoman Empire and there were a series of wars.

And it hasn’t been settled yet.

 1744 – Elbridge Gerry. One of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, he served as 5th Vice President of the United States. His party, in Massachusetts, once passed a redistricting map to ensure election victory and his opponents, noting its salamander-like shape, derisively called it “Gerrymandering” and the term was born.

We are supposed to be a democracy yet those in power, through Jim Crow laws, voter restriction, and gerrymandering, do everything in their power to keep it from being so.

 1899 – James Cagney. Hollywood actor best known for his tough-guy gangster roles, including the one in “The Public Enemy” where he pushed a grapefruit into Mae Clarke’s face. They both said the scene was contrived as a joke to entertain the crew and the director liked it so much he included it in the film. Cagney won an Academy Award for his role in “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”

Cagney was also in one of my favorite movies, “Mister Roberts”. It was about a crew stuck on a supply ship engaged in boring, desultory duty in the Pacific. I saw it as a kid and little did I know that it would more resemble my own navy experience than any of the more heroic films about that branch of the service.




This Day in History

July 13th

1787 – Northwest Ordinance passed. This established the Northwest Territory. The states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota were eventually added to the Union because of this ordinance. It documented the process for admitting new states and guaranteed they have the same rights as the original thirteen. “The ordinance provided for civil liberties and public education within the new territories, but did not allow slavery. Pro-slavery Southerners were willing to go along with this because they hoped that the new states would be populated by white settlers from the South. They believed that although these Southerners would have no slaves of their own, they would not join the growing abolition movement of the North.” (1)

Miscalculation by the pro-slavery advocates assuming people from a warmer climate would want to settle in the harsher environment of the north. Maybe our nation would look different now if global warming had begun earlier.

 1832 – Source of Mississippi River discovered. Minnesota state history was taught in 6th grade when I was a kid and we all dutifully learned that Henry Rowe Schoolcraft discovered the source of the great river as Lake Itasca.

Crossing the headwaters of the Mississippi was a popular tourist activity at Itasca State Park. Below is a picture of me (circa 1955) going to the rescue of my sister, Mary, as she encountered difficulty navigating the rocks.

Scan 23 1.jpeg

1900 – Battle of Tienstin. This battle took place during what is known at the Boxer Rebellion. In small villages throughout China a populist movement grew that was called The Society of Righteous Harmony. Their symbol was a clenched fist and they practiced martial arts and thus became known to westerners as the Boxers. The Boxers resented western influence in China, especially the influx of Christian missionaries. The Chinese government felt the same but was forced to submit to the various foreign powers occupying Peking.

The rebellion began in rural areas with the Boxers killing missionaries. Westerners and missionaries fled to Peking where they took refuge. The Chinese government, seeing its chance, deployed its army to join the Boxers. Peking was held under siege.

A multi-nation relief force of 7,000 soldiers from Russia, Japan, the U.S., Britain, France, Germany and Austria marched toward Peking. They met the combined Boxer/Army forces at Tienstin and expected an easy victory. Instead Chinese resistance was fierce and the foreign soldiers suffered heavy casualties before winning the battle. American casualties were 25 killed and 98 wounded. One of those trapped within the Tienstin city walls was future President Herbert Hoover. A mining engineer, he assisted the U.S. Marines during the attack.

The Boxers melted back into the countryside, the Chinese army was defeated, Peking was relieved, and colonialism continued.

25 American dead. Brave Americans who died protecting Christian missionaries. To state they were advancing the cause of imperialism might be sound too callous, albeit accurate.


1793 – John Clare. English poet. From Jonathan Bates, his biographer. “Clare was the greatest labouring-class poet that England has ever produced. No one has ever written more powerfully of nature, of a rural childhood, and of the alienated and unstable self.” Born in poverty, a farm laborer, he nevertheless educated himself.

“He enlisted in the militia, tried camp life with Gypies and worked as a lime burner in 1817. In the following year he was obliged to accept parish relief. Malnutrition stemming from childhood may be the main culprit behind his 5-foot stature and may have contributed to his poor physical health in later life.” (2)

Clare married, had seven children, and struggled with poverty and alcoholism. He was also torn between his dual love of nature and the literary circles of London. He suffered from delusions, believing he had two wives, was a prize fighter, and also claimed to be Lord Byron. He finally committed himself to an asylum for treatment. His doctor wrote about him: “It is most singular that ever since he came… the moment he gets pen or pencil in hand he begins to write most poetical effusions. Yet he has never been able to obtain in conversation, nor even in writing prose, the appearance of sanity for two minutes or two lines together, and yet there is no indication of insanity in any of his poetry.” (3)

Another new name to add to my reading list.

 1864 – John Jacob Astor IV. Astor built the Astoria hotel, next to the Waldorf, which was owned by his cousin, William Waldorf Astor. (So that’s where the Waldorf-Astoria name comes from) Astor had other real estate holdings in New York City. In 1911 he divorced his first wife and at age 47, married a young woman who at 18 was a year younger than his son. They traveled abroad to escape the gossip. They bought first class tickets aboard the Titanic to return to America. After the collision with the iceberg they lounged in the gym at first, not unduly alarmed. Later his wife entered a lifeboat but Astor was prevented from joining her by a crewmember. His body was recovered at sea a week later.

It was sad, it was sad, when that great ship went down
Husbands and their wives, little children lost their lives
It was sad when that great ship went down

 1942 – Roger McGuinn. Rock and roll musician. Co-founder, lead singer and lead guitarist of The Byrds.

I was 21 years old and sitting at a bus stop bench in downtown Los Angeles. I had 500 dollars and a passport in my pockets. My friend Darrold was picking me up and our goal was to drive cross-continent to Montreal, picking up another friend, Rick, on the way. Once there we hoped to sign aboard a freighter and work our way across the Atlantic to Europe. I was having some sudden misgivings, wondering if this whole thing was a bad idea.

A teenage kid sat at the other end of the bench with a transistor radio. A song was playing that caught my attention.

Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow.

Bob Dylan

All my anxiety disappeared upon hearing that song, replaced with a confident sense of adventure. Thank you Roger, thank you Bob, thank you Mr. Tambourine Man, for launching me into the most memorable summer of my life.






This Day in History

July 9th

1917 – KKK in Minnesota. In what may have been the first incident of Ku Klux Klan activity in Minnesota took place in my hometown, Lester Prairie. The target was the Klatt family, owners of the Klatts Hotel. “That the Klatt family kept the best country hotel at Lester Prairie to be found in any town of this size in the state is a fact known to the traveling public. That fact alone, it would seem, should have spared them the mob violence visited upon them by the citizens of Lester Prairie one night last July. The Klatts have done the right thing in employing a detective and rounding up the toughs in the gang that assaulted them,” reported the Hutchinson Leader, Nov. 2, 1917.

There was patriotic zeal at this time over America’s entry into WWI against Germany. The Klatts, two brothers and two sisters, were German immigrants. There were rumors that the Klatts had never taken out citizenship papers, did not buy liberty war bonds, did not contribute to the Red Cross for the war effort, and refused to sign an loyalty oath.

Around 11PM on a warm July evening all the electric streets lights in the village mysteriously went out. One of the Klatt brothers came outside to investigate and was set upon by a dozen men wearing white hoods over their heads. They began to beat him viciously and his brother, hearing his cries, came to his aid. He also was assaulted. The two sisters next come outside. They were pelted with rotten eggs and then stones were thrown, breaking windows in the hotel. No law enforcement came to their aid. One man saw the beginning of the attack and fled the scene. The next day the local policeman told him he better keep quiet about what he saw.

The press articles at the time sided with the attackers. The area newspapers listed the grievances against the Klatts, as if justifying the attack, or insinuating they deserved it because they were German immigrants.

There was no official investigation but the Klatts refused to let the matter drop. They hired a detective who found out the identities of the attackers. Charges against the men, who became known as the Lester Prairie 12, were brought in November of that year.

I had never heard about this incident until a few years ago. From my father I had heard of the good reputation of the Klatts Hotel. A nursing home for the elderly when I was a kid, it was located a block from the train depot. Salesmen would take the train out from the Twin Cities, rent a horse and buggy from a local livery stable, and trot out of town to sell their wares to the area farmers. My father sold newspapers as a kid and he said the Klatts Hotel was a good place to go because if the salesmen had a good day, they would leave him a tip. Dad was only four at the time of the attack so would have had no knowledge of it.

The KKK in Minnesota was mostly Scandinavians and being there were few minorities to discriminate against, they became anti-Catholic. When WWI started they turned their ire on German immigrants. At the time there were efforts by German-Americans to prove they were good Americans. A neighboring town is named New Germany. During the war they changed it to Motordale. And sauerkraut became liberty cabbage, which is possibly even sillier than freedom fries.

Nowhere in the newspaper accounts did it list the names of the Lester Prairie 12. It was as if they were being protected. I was anxious to find out if I had a relative, like a grandfather, in that group. I had to dig up McLeod County court documents where I found the list of indictments before I saw the names of the men involved. Most of the surnames were familiar and I had a family connection to three of the men. The leader of the pack, the town’s veterinarian, was married to my maternal grandmother’s sister. Another, married to my maternal grandfather’s sister, turned state’s evidence. I remember him from when I was young. A raconteur, drink ever present in hand, he held center stage at family gatherings. I doubt any of his stories involved the KKK.

The third family member was my maternal grandmother’s cousin. He had recently emigrated from Germany and was living on my grandparent’s farm while getting settled in America. I suspect he was trying to prove he fit in, was a good American, and got caught up in a bad idea. He later joined the American Army and fought in France. His brother, still in the home country, was in the German army. Both survived and the other brother also eventually came to America.

Until recently Lester Prairie was always about 98% German. When I was a kid the Lutheran church I attended had services in both English and German. There has always been a heavy German influence in the town. People who had lived there for many decades still talked like they had just stepped off the boat. So an anti-German incident in a town almost totally German is more than a little ironic.

My investigative trail ended at the indictments. Searches through old newspapers turned up no articles about a trial. I suspect everybody just wanted it to go away, and to protect the guilty, so no more mention was made. I’m guessing there were fines leveed but no jail time. If they had been found innocent that would have made the news. Some cold winter day I’ll have to hit the Historical Society again and try dig up some more old records.


“Ku Klux Klan in Minnesota” by Elizabeth Dorsey Hatle.

Hutchinson Leader

Lester Prairie News

Emmert Jenneke

This Day in History

July 3rd

1754 – George Washington surrenders Fort Necessity. The French were contesting England for control of parts of the Colonies. The governor of Virginia appointed the 22-year-old Washington head of a force of several hundred men and sent them to confront the French. Washington’s men captured a group of 35 French troops. The leader of that force, a nobleman, was brutally slain and scalped. Evidence suggests this happened after he had surrendered.

A Canadian force of 600 men, including 100 Indians was sent to avenge this act. Washington hastily erected Fort Necessity for defense purposes. The battle ensued in a torrential downpour on July 3rd and there were heavy casualties on both sides. Outnumbered, Washington negotiated favorable surrender terms. The French, falsely believing a large army was coming to aid Washington, agreed. Washington and his men were allowed to march away safely. Some said it was the first evidence of “Washington’s luck” which held throughout the Revolutionary War.

When word of this encounter, and the scalping of the nobleman, reached France, passions were aroused. This was one of the incidents that led to the French and Indian War. Another result was that it pointed Washington in the direction of a military career. “Even though his first significant mission as commander of troops was unsuccessful, George Washington had found his calling in life, “I heard Bullets whistle and believe me there was something charming in the sound.” (1)

Bullets charming? I guess that’s what it takes to be a great general.

 1844 – Last pair of Great Auks killed. This took place on an island off Iceland. The Great Auk was a flightless bird that inhabited the coastlines of Canada, Iceland, Greenland and northern Europe. The bird’s population was decimated because its down was highly prized for pillows. “The last pair, found incubating an egg, was killed there on 3 July 1844, on request from a merchant who wanted specimens, with Jón Brandsson and Sigurður Ísleifsson strangling the adults and Ketill Ketilsson smashing the egg with his boot.” (2)

Man destroying nature through greed, callousness, ignorance. And the beat goes on.

 1913 – Survivors reenact Pickett’s Charge. Confederate General George Pickett led 15,000 men in a charge up Cemetery Ridge at Gettysburg. He lost over half his division and the Union emerged victorious. Fifty years later survivors of both armies gathered at the old battlefield. This time when the Rebels came up the hill the former Union soldiers greeted them with cheers and handshakes.

I’m not sure that goodwill created through excessive bloodshed, death, and pain is all that noble.


1567 – Samuel de Champlain. French explorer and founder of the city of Quebec. Oddly enough, the date given for the founding of the city is July 3rd, 1608, de Champlain’s 41st birthday.

I’ve been there once, charming city. Quebec has an old world, European feel for a North American city.

 1913 – Raymond Spruance. Commander of the American fleet at the Battle of Midway. Spruance was a last minute fill-in when Admiral Halsey was hospitalized with an illness. Although close friends, they were polar opposites. Halsey was flamboyant, aggressive, Spruance quiet and reserved. Spruance, despite his successes, never received the acclaim other military leaders did during WWII. His modest personality suggested he preferred it that way.

Armed with the intelligence that the Japanese were going to attack Midway Island, the American fleet sailed from Hawaii to meet them. The Americans were outnumbered and battered from the Battle of Coral Sea. Spruance performed brilliantly and when the battle was over the Japanese had lost four aircraft carries and the Americans one, the Yorktown. The victory was the turning point for the war in the Pacific.

Amateur historian that I am, I rank it one of the three most important military victories in U.S. history. They are: The Battle of Bunker Hill, for obvious reasons. A British victory there and the Revolution would never have gained strength. The Battle of Gettysburg. A Southern victory and we might be two nations now. If the Japanese had been victorious at Midway what would the outcome have been? Perhaps occupation of the Hawaiian Islands and a launching point for strikes against the West Coast of America. It certainly would have prolonged the war and re-directed resources away from the European theater. Germany was working toward producing an atomic weapon; perhaps the extra time would have allowed them to do so. The Battle of Midway changed everything.

 1951 – Jean-Claude Duvalier. Dictator, or President for Life of Haiti, he was also known as “Baby Doc.” His father, President before him, was called “Papa Doc.” Both were known for running a brutal regime over an impoverished country while enjoying a lavish lifestyle. “Baby Doc” was deposed in a 1986 coup and with the help of the U.S. fled to exile in France. He returned in 2011 and was facing charges of embezzlement when he died of a heart attack in 2014.

He was anti-Communist so despite Haiti’s history of human rights abuses, the U.S. propped him up and offered support. Hint to all would be despots out there, make sure you are anti-Communist.





This Day in History

June 29th

1659 – Battle of Konotop. This took place in what is now Ukraine. It is a confusing historical event and the cast of characters all have long, unpronounceable names mostly void of vowels. No one seems certain what happened there, a great victory for Ukraine, or an insignificant one as Russia claims. It pitted Russian and Cossacks cavalry forces on one side against Ukrainian, Cossacks, Crimean Tartars and Polish on the other. Historians in the Ukraine seem to multiply the number of Russian casualties with each passing century, while in Russia, using today’s language, it is thought of as fake history.

If history is indeed written by the winner, than I don’t think of it as fake history, but favorable history. When I look at what I was taught in grade and high school, and what I’ve learned since with more in-depth reading, it seems history can be manipulated by societal and governmental needs. History can be burdensome when all the facts are included, keeping it simple by just presenting favorable ones make it easier to digest. So I doubt I’ll ever reach an easy conclusion about the Battle of Konotop.

 1767 – Townsend Revenue Act. The act, imposing tax on paper, paint, lead, glass, and tea imported into the American colonies, received royal assent on June 29th. Proposed by Charles Townsend, Chancellor of the Exchequer, the taxes were designed to help alleviate war debt in England. Britain dismissed American protest of taxation without representation by saying they had “virtual representation.”

Oh Charles, little did you know what a can of worms you opened. Although if it could be sold, “virtual representation” is a masterstroke. Maybe that’s what we have now.

 1954 – J. Robert Oppenheimer security clearance not reinstated. Subjected to Congressional hearings Oppenheimer had lost his governmental security clearance and his appeal was rejected on June 29th. Head of the Manhattan Project and known as the “Father of the Atom Bomb”, Oppenheimer was hailed as a hero at the end of WWII. His past became suspect during the McCarthy hearing because of prior Communist affiliations. He was also opposed to the development of the hydrogen bomb and argued for international arms control. Incidentally, his wife’s first husband was killed in the Spanish Civil War as a member of the Lincoln Battalion. This was all enough to justify the revoking of his clearance despite him having the backing of the scientific community.

Somehow scientists progressed from hero status after WWII to being considered threats. There is still evidence of that today. Oppenheimer saw the hydrogen bomb as a threat to mankind. In response the government saw him as a threat to them.   Then, as now, political persuasion carried more weight than scientific evidence.


1803 – John Newton Brown. Brown was a Baptist minister in New England and later Virginia who published “New Hampshire Baptist Confession of Faith”, which was a more moderate version of Calvinistic beliefs. He was also a poet. One of his poems:

“Hints To A Young Preacher“:

“Your air is too dogmatic;

Your tones are too emphatic;

Your style has too much splendor;

Your voice has nothing tender;

Your gestures are too frequent far,

And quite ungraceful many area.”

Not bad.

1960 – Sergey Kopylov. Russian bicyclist who competed in the Olympics and was an amateur champion.

1963 – George Hincapie. American professional bicyclist. He was part of the Lance Armstrong team when they (and their drugs) were dominating the Tour de France.

Although a long ways from the professional ranks, I’m an avid cyclist myself. And I have my own competitive streak. I was biking on the Elroy-Sparta trail in Wisconsin with my friend Tump. The Elroy-Sparta trail has some long, dark railroad tunnels and it is recommended to bring a flashlight. But it is much more disorienting, and fun, if you don’t have one.

We had ridden a long portion of the trail and were on our way back when a young couple came riding up behind us. They had superior bikes, all the appropriate attire, and twenty years on us.

As they passed, they both called out, one after the other, “On your left.” Maybe I should have looked on it as them just being considerate, but there was something about their tone, their smugness, their attitude, that annoyed us both. Tump and I looked at each other, and with no words exchanged, took up the chase.

Being that we were on our way back we knew that section of the trail, and we knew there was a long hill not too far ahead. Pumping furiously we closed the gap as we approached the hill. They had slowed their pace and were talking. We blew by them at the base of the hill. Both of us called out an attitude-tinged “On your left.”

Momentum was on our side as we hit the hill with a full head of steam. It was hard for them to gather speed going uphill so we quickly increased the gap between us. I glanced back to see they had taken up the chase. They were younger, better bikers, and in better shape. Our performance-enhancing drug of choice was Leinenkugels and while it is good for energetic bursts, endurance suffers. So with the outcome of this race predictable, when we crested the hill and were for a moment out of their sight, I said, “Tump, there, stop!”

His thoughts were along the same line and understood immediately. We braked to a stop, hopped off our bikes and pushed them into the bushes alongside the trail. We were no sooner hidden when our pursuers came into view. Hands dropped low on the bars, backs bent, jaws clenched, neck muscles taut, they pedaled past at a determined pace.

We biked back to the closest town and had a cold beer. I sometimes wonder how far they chased us. They either figured it out or thought those two old guys could really bring it.