Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Book Review: Angel Island: Gateway to Gold Mountain

Angel Island: Gateway to Gold Mountain by Russell Freedman, Clarion Books, Boston, 2013.
This book starts with a historical preservation project.  Alexander Weiss, a California State Park Ranger was new to Treasure Island.  He happened upon the barracks of the immigration station on Angel Island.  This was not open to the public.  He was astonished by the number of Chinese calligraphy and poems left on the walls of this building.  In this calligraphy was a story, not always a very happy story.
The immigration station opened in 1910.  Before this, immigration issues were handled in San Francisco, but the need became to large.  Immigrants who were allowed ashore were accepted in San Francisco, while those who were not were ferried to Angel Island.  It was touted as a clean and modern facility, but quickly it was overcrowded.  Because of Chinese Exclusion laws which had been passed, immigrants were not allowed from China.  This eventually was deemed constitutional, and individuals were obligated to comply.  Those who could still come were family members of Chinese American Citizens. 
As a result, there was a considerable amount of interrogation and manipulation which took place as part of this review process.  This included a medical exam, of people who were not use to American medicine, and people dressed in white at funerals.   It also included a great deal of interrogation.  Eventually this was general for all people passing, but more for Asian people seeking to immigrate to the U.S.  The process could be lengthy, and sometimes people interred in what seemed like prison for weeks and months.  Often people were deported, but they could appeal.  The majority of those going through the station were eventually allowed to pass.
The station was active until 1940.  At that time, a fire took the main building and it was not rebuilt.  Immigration services were moved to Los Angeles. 
They buildings preserved, have now become a National Historical Site with museum.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Two-part Arrows

Two-part arrows were a weapon of war.  I read about these in some of the histories of Native Americans in California, but did not really understand what they were, until I saw this display at the Calaveras Big Trees Visitor Center.
The base arrow is hollowed out at the top, and the arrow with the point slides into this.   They are effective because if the man pulls the arrow out, the base remains in the flesh.  Or if an animal happens to scrape an arrow off, the base again remains in the flesh.  This makes the arrow more deadly.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Movie Review: Harry Potter Kids

Harry Potter Kids: Biography: Reveal the Magic Behind the Success of the Harry Potter Stars A&E  2008.
 
This is a good documentary to say where the Harry Potter Kids are from, but I was hoping for something about where they are now.  In this I was disappointed.  I guess I should have realized this from the elongated title; and also from the date the movie came out.  It predates the finish of the Harry Potter series.   However, only Daniel Radcliffe had previous movie acting experience.  He had portrayed the young David Copperfield in a movie made the year previous to harry Potter.  Emma Watson and Rupert Grint had stage experience, at school and community theater, but had never been in movies prior to Harry Potter.  It interviewed each of the three about getting the parts.  Looking back now, these three are the characters, harry Potter, Hermione and Ron Weasley.  So in the end, a good bit of data about how they were cast, and nothing of their life after Harry Potter.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Book Review: Chumash Tribe

Chumash Tribe: California Native American Tribes by Mary Null Boule, Merryant Publishers, Vashon, WA, 1992
 
This book is a bit of a misnomer.  I realized after I had been reading that the first 25 pages were written about all California native American Tribes, and then the last 20 pages were particular to the Chumash.
The Chumash were the native American people that built the most sophisticated boats.  These were boats made out of planks, and were used to navigate the oceans.  With these boats they were able to visit the Channel Islands, and these were off the coast where most of the Chumash lived.  The Chumash would have been considered a wealthy tribe.  They had plentiful food, and also natural resources with which they could make things.  The women were excellent basket weavers.  They made pots out of soap stone which were good for cooking.  The wealthiest were allowed to wear bear skins, and also owned boats. There was a boat makers type of guild.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Documentary Movie Review: The Hunt for Lincoln's Assassin

"The Hunt for Lincoln's Assassin" is a made-for-TV movie by National Geographic reenacted documentary for the hunt for John Wilkes Booth.  The methods used our interview with historians and authors, including one who wrote the biography of John Wilkes Booth.  It also employs a few pictures, but for the most part it employs historical reenactment with narration.  Booth was not captured until a couple of weeks after the assassination.  He likely would have gotten away, but his ability to travel quickly was hampered by his broken leg which he suffered when he jump from Lincoln's booth to the stage of Ford's theater. They escaped from Washington D.C. into Maryland, before authorities could seal off the city.  Booth's escape then took him to the home of Dr. Mudd, who determined his leg was broken and put it in a splint and also provided crutches.  He traveled with David Herald.
Secretary of War Edwin Stanton lead the search for Booth.  He offered 100,000 reward to those helping in his capture.  He also appointed detective Colonel to Lafayette Baker to the lead the pursuit.  Everton Conger lead a party of 25 men who headed the investigation and pursuit. 
This documentary points out the mood of the country as a result of the assassination was one of revenge against southerners.  Many were killed or persecuted in the pursuit, and as well as a result of a general feeling of animosity.
Booth was able to finally make it into Virginia.  This was on their second attempt.  The first attempt the became confused in the fog and ended up landing again in Maryland.
A report in error of Booth and Herald crossing the Potomac, but Conger and his men on the right track.  The report was actually a witness of someone other than Booth crossing the river, but even so, as Booth had in facgt crossed, it put them within three miles of Booth.
Booth and Herald were lead by returning Confederate soldiers to the Garrett farm.   They hid out there for several days, but when federal soldiers went by, and Booth hid in the forest the family determined something as not right.  They insisted they leave, but granted them one for night, insisting the sleep in the tobacco barn.  Conger heard of these soldiers, and was determined to interview on of them, Willie Jett.  Jett was able to guide them to the Garrett farm.  It was in this barn that Conger and his men found Booth.  Booth's traveling companion was allowed to come out and was captured.  Booth refused to leave the barn.  They set fire to his barn, and being able to see Booth in the flames, Sergeant Boston Corbett shot through the cracks between the barn plank, hitting Booth in the neck.  His spinal cord was severed, and he was paralyzed.  The soldiers brought him out of the barn, and he succumbed a couple hours later.  

Monday, July 21, 2014

Biographical Book Review: Heroine of the Titanic

Heroine of the Titanic: The Real Unsinkable Molly Brown, by Elaine Landau, Clarion Books, New York, 2001.

There are several myths or misnomers about Molly Brown that are corrected with this book.  The first is her name.  Molly is not her name.  Her name is Margaret, and she did go by Maggie.  They only place she was referred to as Molly was in the media. 
 
Her maiden name was Margaret Tobin.  She grew up in Hannibal, and was a bit of a Tom-boy.  When a young adult she moved to Leadville to live with her brother.  She determined to marry a wealthy man so she could help her father.  While in Leadville she met J.J. Brown who worked in the mining industry.  He was not a wealthy man, but finally she decided better to marry someone you love rather than a wealthy man you don’t love. 
 
J.J. Brown studied mining and applied himself.  He made an investment in the Little Jonny Mine.  After investing heavily in this silver mine, they changed it over to a gold mine, one of the richest in history, and J.J. was suddenly extremely wealthy. 
 
This lead to the family moving to Denver we the purchased a home close to the Capitol building.  They decorated this with lions on the outside.  They were not given entrance to the upper echelons of Denver society, but their social situation was not as bad as that depicted in the movie.  They gave parties that were well attended, but because the media were often invited, they never were part of the “Sacred 36.”  However it is not certain if she really wanted to be.  Margaret enjoyed travel, and spent considerable time in Europe.  On the other hand J.J. felt more at home in Leadville with his old friends.  They separated, but never considered divorce because of their religious convictions.  They would never reconcile.
 
Of course Margaret is most known for her exploits on board the Titanic, and adrift in the ocean.  Many of the sailors were young and ill prepared.  It was she who took charge of their life boat and returned to look for survivors.  She also was instrumental in helping get reparations and donations to many of the women who lost their husbands on the Titanic.  She felt the ocean liner owed something to these people.  She was active in politics, and ran for congress.  She was one who struggled for suffrage for women.
 
She spent and donated money freely during her life.  There was not much left by the time she passed away.  When her husband died there was a conflict between she and her two children as to who should manage the estate.  She did live her life in comfort, but died in the East rather than the West and is buried on Long Island, New York with her husband.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Slave Fugitives: Peter and Vina Still

The story of Peter and Vina Still is one of patience.  When Peter was a boy, 1804, his father bought himself out of slavery, and went north,  He advised his wife to follow.  This she did, with their four children, making their way to New Jersey to meet her husband.  However slave trackers tracked her down and she was returned to slavery.  She was determined to try again, and this time took only her two daughters, leaving her two sons.  She gained her freedom, but her boys would have to wait. 
Their owner quickly sold them to Kentucky, so their parents could not find them.  They went through several experiences with bad owners or overseers.  One time Peter was beaten by a man who had hired him out.  The owner was very angry and told the man he could not damage his property.  They went through several owners, and the brothers were separated for a time and later reunited.
Peter’s brother, Levin, decided to wed; but his owner did not like his choice.  He had chosen a woman from another plantation.  Babies went with the mother, and would be the slaves of the mother’s owner.  Levin’s master hoped to breed him with women from his own plantation.  Levin wed anyway, and was severely beaten—317 lashes on his bare back.  This beating destroyed his health.  He was an old man after this, and shortly passed away.
Peter decided to follow his own heart.  He did not get his master’s permission, but wed a girl off the plantation, Vina, while his master was away.  His master was angry when he heard the news, but did not beat Peter.  Peter constructed a little house for them.  However Peter was reminded of his status as a slave.  His wife was struck trying to beat off a rapist.  She was seriously injured but recovered.  One day his eight year old boy arrived late for work as he had a tooth ache.  The cure from the overseer was 100 lashes. 
Peter was hired out to work in a store.  The store owners paid him more than he had to pay his master.    He also did other extra jobs, and slowly accumulated money.  He approached the Friedmans (store owners) with the idea of their buying him, and then his buying his freedom from them.  They were agreeable, but Peter’s owner would not sell.  However, one day he wanted to buy a young slave, and needed money fast.  He was able to sell Peter for $500.  He then gave the $300 he had earned to the Friedmans, and continued working for them, keeping all the money he earned.  He earned his freedom in this way.  The Friedmans sold their store, one brother headed West to the gold rush.  The other brother, Isaac, went with Peter north.  They arrived in Cincinnati and Peter exclaimed, “I’m free! I’m free!.  This is free ground!  The water runs free!  The wind blows free!  I am a slave no more!”
Then began Peter’s search for his family.  He doubted his parents were still alive.  After his search was fruitless for two days, someone suggested he visit the Pennsylvania anti-slavery society in Philadelphia.  This he did. 
When he arrived he told his story to a young Black man.  Peter called himself Peter Friedman, taking the name of his last owner.  However when he finished his story, the man said, “Suppose I should tell you that I am your brother?”   His name was William Still, a brother that had been born to his parents after they escaped slavery.  He reunited with his two sisters.  He also reunited with many siblings he did not know he had; five brothers and three sisters in all.  His father had passed away.  However his mother was living on a farm in new jersey, 25 miles from Philadelphia. 
Upon seeing Peter she cried, “O Lord, how long have I prayed to see you!”  They both held each other crying in happiness.  William was part of the Under Ground Railroad.  However he had no advice for Peter in rescuing his wife.  He and his old friend had a plan. 
Peter returned to Tuscumbia, saying he was still Isaac’s slave.  He had returned to make money for Mr. Friedman.  He visited his wife, but could not free her.  He took her cape saying he would try to earn money for her freedom.  If a rescuer came, he would have her cape as proof he was for real. 
Seth Concklin had become a friend, and took the cape.  He hated slavery.  He agreed to take Vina and her children by pretending to be their master, if she could get away.  They made it away and were headed north, however storms forced them to stop in Indiana, where they were recaptured by slave hunters.  Concklin insisted on going with them, first peacefully, but then he was arrested and jailed for slave theft.  He was killed by drowning (probably knocked off the boat while chained for helping slaves) on the way back to the south. 
Peter was heartbroken.  The owner of the slaves said, I will sell them for $5000 ($100,000 today) or send them south where you will never find them. 
Peter went to the speaking tour, raising money as he went and talking against slavery.  Some rich people helped him.  He finally raised the money, and was able to purchase his wife.  They were reunited New Year’s Eve 1854.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Movie Review: Apocalypse: World War II: Inferno (2009)


This last in the series by Isabelle Clarke and Daniel Costelle, French filmmakers, using colorized original films.  In this last episode we are presented with the fall of Germany and Japan.  The title refers to the inferno of incendiary bombs dropped on Germany, and the atomic weapons unleashed on Japan.
This presentation starts with D-Day, and attack at Normandy where the sea wall was felt to be the most vulnerable.  The German’s defense was to push the attackers back into the sea.  However, of the beaches attacked, only Normandy had stiff defense.  The planes had not taken out the bunkers, and the Americans were pinned on the beach for some time, with over 1000 casualties.  However, the defenders were not able to push anyone back into the sea.  The Allies had air superiority.  And there was enough subterfuge that the attack was expected elsewhere.  It took some time before the commanders believed the reports of invasion.
With the success of the Allies, Rommel's position was poor with Hitler.  It was made even worse, when he agreed to take over the country should Hitler be assassinated.  The assassination plot on Hitler failed.  Rommel committed suicide.  Hitler executed 5000 of his top commanders.   High command of Nazi Germany went more and more to the SS, and the fighting was done more and more by children of the Nazi Youth Corp.
After establishing the front in France, a second front was made with landings in southern France.  This attack had less resistance.   The Russians were also attacking from the west.  In the end, a political decision was made not allow the Russians to take Berlin.  This decision angered General Patton, who had the might and the energy to enter Berlin before the Russians. 
Suicide was rampant in Germany the last days of the war and just after Allied occupation.  It was rumored that cyanide pills had been distributed by Hitler Youth at a concert, that Hitler gave his staff cyanide capsules, and many had hoarded suicide.  Hitler had said he preferred suicide to capture.  Also many were worried about the discovery of atrocities committed by the Nazis.  Adolf Hitler, and his new wife Eva Braun Hitler lead the way.  The publicity chairman and his wife committed suicide; but not before his wife gave cyanide to her six children while they slept, killing them.  There were 7000 reported suicides, and the number may have been under reported.
The was in Japan, and the invasion of Okinawa such increased usage of a Japanese strategy call Kamikaze.  This was Japan's last hope.  The sacrificed their pilots, in crashing their explosives laden planes into the American fleet, killing themselves, but also inflicting maximum damage.
It was estimated it would cost 1 million American casualties to invade japan.  However the atomic bombs forced the Japanese to sue for peace. 
WWII is the deadliest war in the history of the world, claiming 60 million, of whom over half were civilians.  However if you add deaths due to hunger and disease as a result of the war, the total deaths approaches 85 million.  This is about four percent of the population of the world.  Fourteen percent of the Russian population perished, and ten percent of the German population.  The United States lost .32 percent, 407,000 military deaths.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Biography2: Wovoka: Paiute Prophet

Wovoka:  The story of Wovoka in the book “Native American Prophecies” is much different than other stories I have read.  In this book he is made out to be a charlatan more than anything else.  His father, Tovibo was a holy man, and follower of the prophet Wodziwob, who was originator of the ghost dance. 
Wovoka grew up in the mason Valley in western Nevada.  Wovoka worked on the Wilson ranch when they came to the area in the 1860s.  He even took the name, Jack Wilson. 
Wovoka left the ranch at about age 17, and traveled among other native American populations, traveling through California, Oregon and Washington.  He returned after a few years, took a wife, and went back to work for the Wilsons.  He had made a decision while traveling.  He was determined to administer to the spirits of his people, as they were down trodden, poor, and poor of spirit. 
He established himself as a prophet by subterfuge.  He predicted there would be ice in the river, and there was; but a friend had dumped it in the river upstream.  He also predicted ice would fall from the sky—but he had also arranged this. 
When about 28 he became very ill.  He had a high fever, and was unconscious for some time.  He lay in a death trance for some days.  When he came out of it, he announced he had been to heaven and talked with god.  God gave him instruction that the people were to restore the Ghost Dance.  He said God told him to tell the people to love one another, to put away war.  That by doing this, and faithfully following the ghost dance, they would be restored with those who had passed on before. 
They started dong the ghost dance, or circle dance, every six weeks.  People came from other places to meet the prophet, who had marked his wrists and feet in such a way that he claimed to be the retuned Messiah.  The Shoshone, Ute and many other groups joined in the ghost dance.  They came from the Sioux nation to learn the way. 
Wovoka had lived among the Mormons, and at least been proselyted by their missionaries.  He took a page from their doctrine, and changed it slightly.  He introduced a ghost shirt.  His brother shot him with a shot gun, but the pellets did not penetrate his shirt.  This again was a manipulation as his brother shot a blank, and he had pellets in his hand. 
He proclaimed himself the messiah returned.  Among the Mormons, there were a few that felt this may be the culmination of a Joseph Smith prophesy wherein he said, if I live to be 100 then I will see Jesus.  The leadership of the church said this was not so, and discouraged those who were called Millennialists. 
Many tribal nations came to Nevada to learn of the ghost dance.  Over 16 different major tribes were represented.  Some would send representative to come back and repot, or teach their own peoples the ghost dance.  Some nations distorted the ghost dance to their own liking.  It was a religious dance, but many thought it was also a dance of redemption for the native Americans.  They would meet their dead ancestors, who then would help them wipe the white influence form the earth, and they would be able to return to the old ways.
In Sioux country, a young man had a vision that the ghost shirts would save them from their enemies, and they would repel bullets.  Many had ghost shirts. 
Sitting Bull was one of those who wanted to learn of the ghost dance.  The local authorities outlawed the dance thinking it was war like, rather than religious.  When Sitting Bull was confronted, a shot rang out, and he was killed in the ensuing scuffle.  Shortly after this, a group of native Americans was confronted, and this lead to Wounded Knee where many native Americans were killed.  The ghost shirts did not protect them. 
What happened among the Sioux, effected the prestige of Wovoka.  However, some people continued the ghost dance up into the 1950s. 

Movie Review: ESPN: 30 for 30: The Two Escobars

 This documentary made by ESPN 30 for 30 and directed by Jeff and Michael Zimbalist.  It tells one of the most tragic stories in sports history.  The own goal of Andres Escobar, and his murder less than a month later.  It also tells the story of Pablo Escobor, not a relation to Andres, but the head of the Medelin Drug Cartel. 
Pablo had started as a small time thief, stealing cars form the rich, but became rich in running producing and running drugs, especially cocaine.  Pablo Escobar, despite being a drug runner and murderer; also thought of himself as a Peter Pan.  He was a billionaire, and used his to help the poor.  He made lighted soccer fields in many communities.  In a slum he made everyone homes.  The community was called Pablo Escobar. 
The rise of the Colombian team was phenomenal.  They went from being  a team that never had any success, to being ranked fourth in the world.  The cause of this, to a great extent, was drug money.  Many cartels found soccer clubs to be a great way to launder money.  As the drug cartels put money into soccer, there was great rivalry between clubs, and also more money to pay players, and to form a nucleus of soccer players with great talent, who stayed at home to play.  One of these was Andres Escobar, who played defender for Atletico Nacional, the team owned by Pablo Escobar.  They won the Copa Libertador (South American Championship) in 1989.  After a controversial call in the Colombian finals, Pablo had ordered the death of a referree who was murdered. 
One of Pablo Escobar's main positions is that criminals should not be deported to other countries, especially the United States.  He ran for congress and won, getting the vote of the poor.  He had the goal of changing the deportation law, so he could not be deported.  However, as a member of congress he had diplomatic immunity.   However the congress kicked him out because of his past. 
Pablo Escobar began a war with the government.  He murdered politicians who favored the deportation.  He planted bombs to influence people against the government, proving they could not keep people safe.  He was responsible for the murder of assorted judges, politicians, over 500 policemen, at least one referee and thousands of rival cartel members who displeased him.  His men would ask politicians, do you want silver or lead, meaning take our bribes or we kill you.  Most would take the bribes.  In this way, Pablo had great influence.  He finally influenced enough so the constitution was changed, and no longer would criminals be deported.  He then gave himself up, and was imprisoned at Catedral Prison, a prison of his choice, and where he could continue running his organization.  Two rival drug runners were murdered in the prison after he arrived.
At the same time Colombia had become on of the most successful teams in the world, qualifying for the World Cup by defeating Argentina 5-0 in Buenos Aires.  Their 26 matches leading up to the World Cup, they had lost only two.  Pele had them as favorites.  They were ranked fourth in the world. 
Pablo Escobar insisted on visits by the team while he was in prison, and they were too scared not to go, including Andres.  However, their keeper, Rene Higuita, was too public in his visits, and got himself arrested.  The government said for his involvement in a kidnapping, but he said they only asked him about Pablo Escobar.
The government became embarrassed by the situation, and arranged for the U.S. to invade the prison and take Pablo Escobar to the U.S.  However he was forewarned, and the prison was empty when the got there, Pablo was free again.  However, while he was in prison, things had changed.  An organization, PEPEs (People persecuted by Pablo Escobar) with made of of rival cartels, and people from his own cartel who had been threatened to change, and government officials.  This organization threatened Pablo to turn himself in or his family would be killed.  Several members of his family were executed, and then Pablo himself.
The government had felt with Pablo killed, violence would decrease.  However, the opposite happened.  There was more violence.  Pablo had kept a lid off of some violence, disallowing kidnappings etc.
In this environment Colombia traveled to the U.S. in 1994 for the World Cup.  They keeper was in jail and he was replaced.  They lived constantly under threat of murder, or their families could be kidnapped.  They unexpectedly lost their first match to Romania 3-1.  Romania relied mostly on defense, and counter attacks. 
Their second match was against the U.S.  Colombia still played under threat of murder.  In fact the entire team was threatened by one of the drug cartels if a certain player played in midfield.  The rival cartel wanted their own players to be seen.  The coach relented and sat the player. 
Colombia  outplayed the Americans, but the ball never reached the net.  At one time the U.S. almost ceded an own goal, hitting their own goal post, but then making the save.  Later in the game John Harkes, U.S. midfielder controlled the ball up the left side, and then crossed to an American player in front of the net.  Andres Escobar intervened to kick the ball away, but he careened it into his own goal.  The U.S. won 1-0.  If Andres had not intercepted the ball, the American player would have had the ball in front of the net with only the keeper to beat, likely a goal anyway. 
The Colombia side won their next match with Switzerland, but were eliminated from the tournament.  Upon returning to Colombia, the entire squad was wary for their safety.  However, Andres decided he wanted to see his fans face to face.  He was bothered at a bar by someone saying, "nice goal."  Andres tried to smooth things over, but they had none of it so they decided to leave.  While in the car, he was approached from behind and six shots were fired.  He was pronounced dead at the hospital. 
The truck the murderers left in belonged to drug runners, but only their body guard was arrested.  Andres had been invited to write in the paper after the own goal.  This was published a couple days before his death 

"Life doesn't end here. We have to go on. Life cannot end here. No matter how difficult, we must stand back up. We only have two options: either allow anger to paralyse us and the violence continues, or we overcome and try our best to help others. It's our choice. Let us please maintain respect. My warmest regards to everyone. [A Great hug for all]  It's been a most amazing and rare experience. [It's been a great opportunity and phenomenally rare experience.]  We'll see each other again soon because life does not end here"

This movie is available on You Tube.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6EilV9vgaEY 

Slave Fugitive: Ann Maria Weems: Age Fifteen

Ann Maria Weems was fifteen when she ran from slavery.  She was the property of Mr. Price.  Mr. Price would rape his young female slaves, so as to breed them and make more slaves.  Ann Maria was worried of her fate.  An abolitionist lawyer had been able to purchase the freedom of Ann Maria’s mother and brother.  However he refused to sell Ann Maria.  Price had an inkling Ann Maria might attempt escape.  He made her sleep on the floor of his room.  However, she did get away, and made her way to Washington D.C. where her mother and brother were living.  A reward of $500 was offered, and slave hunters in the D.C. area were on the look-out for Ann Maria. 
The lawyer was still helping the family, and an intricate plan was devised for her to get out of the city.  J. Bigelow, the lawyer, as a doctor to help in the plan.  The Dr. was driven by coach to the White House.  Making it look like he had business.  Ann Maria, now disguised as Joe Wright, the coachman, took over at the coach, and then starting heading out of the city.  In this way they made their way to the home of an Under Ground Railroad member.  She was invited to eat, still disguised as Joe Wright.  When the manager came in, she still kept up her disguise until she went outside where the manager followed her.  She then revealed who she was, as she had been cautioned to tell no one who she was but the manager. 
She was assisted on her way to Dresden in Canada where she was met by her aunt and uncle who lived there.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Slave Fugitive: Fed aka John Brown

Fed lived with his family, and were the slave property of an elderly woman, Mrs Moore.  His father had been sold south long before, but he lived with his mother and five siblings and several cousins.  This lady divided her property between her descendants, and the family was split up.  Mrs. Moore's son-in-law was known as a cruel man, and Fed and most of the family went to him.  He lived up to his reputation.  He only fed the slaves corn, and treated the slaves cruelly.
Fed was sold to a slave dealer, and not allowed to tell his mother goodbye.  Fed was sold to a Mr. Stevens, who was always accusing Fed of not working fast enough.  At one point he beat Fed for being too slow, breaking five hickory sticks on hi, and going for another when company came.  This fostered the desire to flee.  Fed befriended John Glasgow, who has a free black from England but kidnapped into slavery.  He suggested to Fed that he get away to England.
Fed began making attempts to get his freedom.  But his attempts came up short.  He did not know the geography, nor where England was located.  His owner passed away, and he became the property of the son, who seemed afraid of Fed.  Fed would take days in hiding without a beating.  His next attempt he made it almost to Ohio, but the mountains got in his way and he was caught.  he escaped, but not knowing where to go, returned to his master, where he was beaten.  He attempted again, and was discovered while sleeping he was smashed in the head with a wooden club.  He then had to wear Bells on his head, a heavy devise which prevented comfortable sleeping.  His aster one day took off the bells so he could fill the corn crib.  As soon as the master was out of sight, he took off.  He made a raft and flowed down the Tennessee River, making it to Paducah, across from Illinois.  However, in his efforts to get to England he took a steam boat back to New Orleans.  There he realized was not a good location, and to avoid having to go back to his owner, he had someone sell him at auction.  He hoped to be bought by someone along the Mississippi, and managed to do this.  While in the negro pen he learned more about geography.  He made another escape attempt, and made it to Illinois and kept heading north.  He met a Quaker family, and was surprised to be treated like a human by white people. He took a new name, John Brown.   He worked in Michigan for a time as a carpenter, then in Canada.  He eventually made his way to England

Slave Fugitives: Ellen and William Craft

Ellen and William Craft 

The escape from slavery of Ellen and William Craft is a remarkable story.  They were husband and wife.  When they fled when they were both 22 years old.  Ellen was very light skinned.  She was the daughter of her master.  Her master’s wife always resented her, and when her daughter married, gave her as a wedding gift, who was moving to Macon, Georgia. 
William cut off Ellen’s hair.  She was going to pose as a Southern master, accompanied by her slave.  To hide her lack of facial hair, she was going to cover her face with a toothache handkerchief.  To hide her inability to write she would wear a sling.  With trousers, boots, necktie and jacket she almost looked the part.  She had William also buy green shaded glasses to hide her pretty eyes. 
Her husband wore his normal work clothes, and added a fancy beaver skin hat.
Their escape attempt was from the deep South, Macon Georgia.  It was difficult to escape from so far south so they had devised a bold plan.  This plan would require them to make several changes of transportation modes, and buy several different tickets. 
They traveled just before Christmas 1848.  Both had passes.  Ellen’s half-sister wrote her a pass, and William got one from the cabinetmaker who employed him.  They had to travel in separate cars—William in the slave car and Ellen in the regular car.  Their biggest chance of being caught was the first leg, where they may be recognized.  Ellen recognized someone in the train station, but they did not recognize her.  He tried to make conversation, but she refused to say anything feeling he would recognize her voice.  The cabinet maker became suspicious and came to the train station.  He was about to check the Negro car when the train departed. 
The train took them to Savannah.  There they took a steamboat to South Carolina.  There was a berth for her, “Mr. Johnson” but none for her husband.  There was no room for black passengers to sleep. 
The next morning Ellen brought her husband to the breakfast table, insisting she needed help because of her arm.  She allowed her slave to eat the scraps.  Several of the passengers were disappointed in her treatment of her slave, feeling he would be spoiled. 
They had other close escapes along the way.  They had to sign for transportation in Charleston, which was difficult as “Mr. Johnson” did not write.  He referred to his arm, and was told to use the other arm.  Fortunately the passenger who was telling “Mr. Johnson” to treat his slave more roughly vouched for him, as the line was backing up. 
Other passengers complained of the good treatment of “Mr. Johnson’s” slave.  One passenger tried to pick a fight, “You are spoiling your nigger by letting him wear such a devilish fine hat.”
They finally made it to Baltimore.  There was one last test.  It was required that Mr. Johnson prove that the slave was his, as there were reports of whites transporting fugitive slaves.  However the train was about to depart.  They had purchased tickets in Charleston through to Philadelphia.  Because “Mr. Johnson” was not well, they let him pass with just enough time to board the train. 
They traveled and settled in Boston, where they were hailed as heroes.  They went on the talk circuit.  However, with the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, they did not feel safe, and continued on to England.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Slave Fugitive: Mary Price

Mary Price was not an American Slave.  She was part of the British Empire, her family living in Bermuda.  She was the play mate of her master's daughter.  She was too young to understand her condition as a slave, but the master's daughter would call her "my little nigger."  At twelve, the family was short of money, and Mary  and two of her sisters were to be sole.  Her mother said, "See, I am shrouding my poor children." Mary and her sisters were sold like cattle.
She now belonged to Captain and Mrs. I.  She received 100 lashes for breaking a jar.  She befriended another slave, who milked the cow.  The cow got loss and the friend was beaten to death.  Then it fell to Mary to milk the cow.  This lead to several more beatings.  She was hipped and badly injured, so she ran away home to her mother.  Her father took her back a few days later, asking that they not beat her.  This only changed their behavior for a few days.
She was sold after five years to Mr. D. who took her to Turks Islands, where she worked in salt ponds.  This was terrible labor.  The salt caused great boils.  If they did not work fast enough, he would hang them by the wrists for a beating.  This finished with salt water being splashed on the wounds which caused greater pain.  "Oh--the horrors of slavery" she said of this time.  Mr. D's son served as overseer, and was crueler than her father. 
Mr. D returned to Bermuda with Mr. D.  She was able to see her mother (her father had passed away).  However Mr. D. now began using her for sex, raping her as he wanted.
She eventually convinced Mr. D. to sell her.  She was moved to Antigua, the home of Mr. and Mrs. Wood.  She was over worked.  She suffered from arthritis due to past miss treatment, but was still expected to do her work.  She developed a skin infection, and couldn't walk.  She was kicked out of the home to the shed, to live or die.  A neighbor heard her moans and procured medical attention for her.
She married a free man, and her owners were disappointed they had not been asked for permission.  Her husband lived in the shed.  She asked about purchasing her freedom, and was laughed at. 
Her owners too her to England, perhaps to end her marriage.  She was still invalid but required to work.  Three times the family mocked her, if you don't like it, leave.  On the fourth invitation, she shocked them by leaving. 
She found help from religious groups as well as from anti-slavery groups.  The idea of emancipation was being debated in England at the time.  Mary was helped to publish her history, and this history was  read by many in Parliament.  In 1833 a law abolishing slavery the next year was passed.  Mary had a part in this.

Slave Fugitive: Eliza Harris of Uncle Tom's Cabin

Yes, there was a real Eliza.  The story in "Uncle Tom's Cabin" written by Harriet Beecher Stowe is based on that of a slave woman, mother of a two-year-old child.  She learned that her slave owner was going to sell some of his slaves, including her baby.  Fortunately she lived close to the Ohio River, the line between slave and free states.
She took her baby in her arms and walked all night.  Some winters the river would freeze, and she hoped this would be one of them.  However when she arrived at the river early in the morning she discovered that it was only partially frozen.  There were ice chunks floating in the river.  Crossing on the ice would be impossible.
She knocked on the door of a home near the river, and was invited in.  She thought her baby may freeze to death if she stayed outside.  She hoped to recruit herself and try to get across the river the next day. 
However, her pursuers did not give her the opportunity.  As the approached the property where she was staying, she fled to the river.  She jumped onto the closest ice flow, using it like an iceberg.  SHe had to carefully pick her way from ice chunk to ice chunk.  Often they would sink after she had been on them a time.  A couple times she had to throw her baby to the next ice, and then jump as far as she could into the water, and climb onto the next ice flow.  Her pursuers thought for sure she would drown.  However, she made it across.  She sought refuge and was quickly taken to the home of John Rankin, a local minister and prominent member of the Under-ground Railroad in Ripley, Ohio.  From there she was sent to the home of Levi and Katie Coffin, referred to as the presidents of the UGRR.  This was in Indiana.
Eliza and her baby headed north, protected and transported by the UGRR.  Likely she traveled by wagon with a false bottom.  The story of her daring escape was published in the Harriet Beecher Stow novel in 1851.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Slave Fugitives: Margaret and Robert Garner; Murderer?

The Ohio River froze over the winter of 1855-56.  Margaret and her family, husband and four children and Robert's parents took advantage, and even though the river was carefully patrolled, they managed to escape into the Cincinnati area.  However they were seen as the crossed the river.
They went to the home of free blacks, the Kites, family of Margaret.  However they were worried they may be tracked to the home, so Elijah Kite went to visit Levi Coffin, prominent Under-ground Railroad supervisor.  Coffin advised him to move the family to a black neighborhood as quickly as possible while he made plans to get them north.
However these actions were too late.  By the time Kite returned home the home was being surrounded by their owners, the law and proslavery men.  The Fugitive Slave Act put all the power in the hands of the owners.  Margaret and her husband decided to fight rather than return to slavery.  "Mother, before my children shall be taken back to Kentucky, I will kill every one of them!" Margaret announced to her mother-in-law.  Robert shot the first deputy that entered the home, wounding him.  However others followed and overcame Robert.  Margaret grabbed a knife and killed her two and a half year old girl; she tried to kill the other children and herself but was overpowered.
This case then became a legal struggle.  Ohio wanted to prosecute the murder case, so in court the horrors of slavery could be exposed.  Kentucky wanted the return of property, and the slave owner would determine what to do.
The court ruled in favor of the owners, and their owner quickly old the family to others.  However, in being transported to their new home, they were traveling by boat.   Margaret grabbed the baby and flung herself into the water in a suicide attempt.  She was dragged from the water, but her baby was not. 

Slave Fugitive: Henry "Box" Brown

The story of Henry “Box” Brown is one that really pulls at your heart.  As a young man, he fell in love, and after getting commitments from both their owners that they would not be sold, they married, and had three children.  His wife, Nancy, earned a few dollars taking in laundry.  With this they rented a place.  However Nancy’s owner sold her, but to another family in Richmond.  The new owner indicated he planned to sell her as a field slave, unless he could get a stipend for her.  Henry paid the initial $50 and then $50 a year.  However, that didn’t keep her and the children from being sold. 
Henry has gone to work at the tobacco factory, but when he returned his family was gone.  When he came home for lunch they were gone.  Hey had been sold to a plantation owner in North Carolina, and kept in jail until then to prevent Henry from trying to run off with them.  Henry waited by the side of the road the next day to bid his wife and children goodbye.  He saw his children in wagons, and then his wife in the chain gang.  He approached and held her hand, and followed along for some distance, but could nothing to save her.
From that moment, Henry was determined to escape to the North.  He burnt his finger with acid, to the bone, and was granted time off from the tobacco factory.  He later said that God told him, “Go and get a box and put yourself in it.”  He observed the shipping company.  He then had a friend build him a box.  He was helped by a white man who lived in the South and participated in the Under Ground Rail Road.  Brown took his box to one of these people who had promised to help him, Samuel A. Smith.  In March 1849 Henry climbed in the box with some biscuits and some water.  Smith nailed down the lid.  The box had THIS SIDE UP WITH CARE printed on it.  Then he was shipped to Philadelphia. 
He was taken to the train, and was on his way.  Henry became faint.  The three holes he had made did not allow much air.  He was moved to a steamboat, but the box was placed upside down.  Henry that his head would explode, when a worker noticed the error and corrected the box.  In Washington D.C. another change was made.  He heard someone say, “There is no room for this box.”  Then another voice, “You will have to make room for it.” 
There was confusion about the arrival of the box.  The intended recipient could not find it.  He sent someone else the next morning to avoid suspicion, but did not tell them a person was inside.  The box was finally delivered.  The prearranged signal, “Is all right within?”  Henry responded, “All right, sir!”
Henry later wrote a book of his ordeal.  He was the most famous person to travel by box, but not the only.  He asked about purchasing his family, but was never able to do so.  When slave catchers tried to kidnap him he determined to relocate to England.

Book Review: Native American Prophecies

Native American Prophecies: Examining the History, Wisdom and Starling Predictions of Visionary Native Americans by Scott Peterson, Paragon House, New York, 1990.
The author of this book has an agenda, and at lease he admits this agenda upfront in the preface.  “I have also been keenly aware that many important trends that have been building for generations appear to be coming to a head during my lifetime.  None of these are so critical to our future than what we human beings are doing to the earth.”  The author is hoping to write about environmentalism, and put that inside a book of Native American Prophecies.  He further writes in the chapter about the Mayans, “The most compelling evidence of Mayan influence, however, is the shared belief among all Native Americans of the sacredness of creation itself.  NO other culture that ever existed on earth has surpassed the native American reverence for nature.”  Some pretty bold statements.  First the influence of the Mayan may not  be so prevalent, and the common beliefs could come from some other party; perhaps predating the Mayan.  And then to say no other culture.  I am sure he is not familiar with every culture that has ever lived. 
The book leads eventually to his talking about Sun Bear, and environmental Native American prophet who has established a group of like minded individuals, Native Americans and others, and fostered in it a religion to “save the earth.”  The author quotes one critic, Professor Ward Churchill (wasn’t he cheering on the terrorists on 9-11) who said of Sun Bear, “selling of ersatz sweat lodge and medicine wheel ceremonies to anyone who wants to play Indian for a day and can afford the price of admission.”
In the end, my thoughts, are that this issue of environmentalism may be over blown.  I consider myself a conservationist.  We must do our best to conserve the planet, while also making way for people to live and prosper.  The author makes sure people’s opinions about President Reagan and George Bush (1st) are known, in terms of environmental issues.  Al Gore and his mold have taken over this movement with the purpose of making money off of the sacrifice of others.  I am for clean-up days and dong our best to making our planet habitable for all, while at the same time making decisions to prosper us all as well.  I think we have gone a bit over the top at times.

Slave Fugitive: John Anderson: Murderer?

John Anderson, The case of John Anderson almost lead to war between Canada and the United States; and also caused poor feelings between Canada and its protectorate Great Britain. 
When Anderson escaped in 1853, he kissed his wife and children goodbye with the intent of returning for them.  He left with the attitude, nobody would take him alive.  Seneca DIgges discovered Anderson, and was intent on holding him for authorities to receive award.  Digges ordered his slaves to help capture Anderson.  John warned, “If you come near me I will kill you.”  In the struggle, Anderson stabbed Digges and took off.  Digges died a couple weeks later.
Anderson made good his escape.  He also followed through with his plans to free his wife.  However, his wife and children had been sent farther south, whereabouts unknown.  He was almost tricked into returning for her when the plan to capture him was found out.  He fled to Canada. 
However even in Canada, the long arms of the law finally caught up with him.  The United States insisted on his extradition to stand trial for murder.  At the same time, Canada did not have slavery at the time, and would not have returned him to slave hunters.  In fact a slave hunter who had come to Canada was threatened and chased off.  But this case was a conundrum because of agreements between the United States and Canada.  The lower court ruled that he must be returned to Canada.  The English government was appalled, and insisting on the case going to England.  However a higher court in Canada overturned the decision, as the request for extradition asked that he be returned for killing someone, and did not mention an actual crime such as murder. 
In the meantime this was 1860.  The administration changed from that of President Buchanan to President Lincoln.  Many of the states had already seceded.  Lincoln was not so much interest in appeasing the South, and the case was never pursued.
There is no evidence Anderson was ever reunited with his family.  He boarded a ship in 1862 bound for Liberia.  However whether he arrived in Liberia or went elsewhere is not known.

Kidnapped Slave: Solomon Northup

Solomon Northup is the subject of a recent feature movie based on his book “Twelve Years a Slave.”  This information is from the book "Bound for the North Star by Dennis Brindell Fradin.  Northup was born a free man, however he was lured south with the prospects of employment.  He played the violin, and two men asked him to join the circus.  However there was no circus.  They put drugs in his drink, knocking him out.  When he woke he was chained with a group of other African American men.  He became part of those kidnapped persons sole into slavery.  James Birch was a slave dealer of ill repute, and his friends had sold him to them.  He insisted he was free.  However the slave dealer gave him a new name, Platt, and beat him mercilessly because he insisted he was a free man.  He peat him first with a paddle, and then with a whip. 
He was sold into slavery and boarded on a ship for parts self.  He thought about escape the opportunity didn’t come.  He was sold to a plantation owner named Ford, but also became partly owned by Tibaut to whom Ford owed a debt.  Tibaut was not kind.  He would often pick a fight.  One time he went to whip Solomon, but Solomon took the whip away and pushed Tibaut down.  He returned with two men with the goal of hanging the Solomon.  However Ford came upon the scene, and Rescued Solomon and his investment. 
He was later sold to a man Epps, where he worked for ten years.  He tried to send a letter home, but as he could not send it directly asked someone else, and was betrayed.  A man, Samuel Bass came to work on the plantation.  Bass was not fond of slavery.  Solomon tried to take another chance, and confided in Bass that he was not a slave.  Through this, Bass was able to get word to his family after verifying the story.  A lawyer came to rescue Soloman from his horrendous twelve years. 
After he was rescued, those who contributed to his time in slavery were arrested, but none of them were ever convicted.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Biography: Harriet Tubman: Slave Fugitive, UGRR Conductor, Union Spy

Harriett Tubman,  this information is gleaned from the chapter in “Bound for the North Star.  It gives additional information I was not aware of.  For example she went through life with a dent in her head and suffering from some sort of narcolepsy.  This was from an incident when another slave was running away while they were in the grocery store.  The owner picked up a can to throw at the fugitive, missed and hit Harriet Tubman.  She had periods throughout her life when she would suddenly lose consciousness and nod off asleep, and then after a time would wake up without knowing she had been asleep.  She would also wear a bandana to cover the dent in her head because it made her easily identifiable. 
Tubman would use song to communicate with people.  In the songs would be hidden messages.  The promised land was the “North”.  She escaped slavery in 1849 but following the north star.  Her husband refused to go with her.  However she could not totally enjoy her freedom without her family.  She became familiar with people on the Underground Railroad, and with this knowledge returned to the South to help her family.  She first helped her sister Mary Ann and her children, and then made more trips for other family members, and others not from her family.  As she made rescue after rescue, the slaves began to call her Moses.  She would usually leave with slaves Saturday evenings, when they were less well guarded.  She would often borrow the buggy and horses of slave owners.  This way she earned the knick name “Old Chariot”. 
If a runaway would become fearful, and want to return, this would jeopardize the entire party.  Tubman would pull a loaded pistol she kept in her pocket and threaten the fugitive, “You go on or die!”   This way she helped many who would have gone back to slavery.  “Go Down Moses” was her fighting song.  If she were to sing it several times, it would let fugitives she might be picking up know that the coast was clear.  If she sang just once and then stopped, there was trouble afoot and people would stay hidden.  For someone observing they would just see a little old lady (one of her favorite disguises). 
She was so successful she was able to help over 300 men women and children escape slavery.  Some of the last were her own elderly parents.  There was a reward of $40,000 placed on her (about $800,000 in today’s money).  Harriet took no thought of this, feeling God would protect her, and if it was her time to go then so be it. 
Harriet’s exploits did not end with helping people reach freedom.  She was also active in the Civil War, spying for the North.  She scouted, and then directed the raid up the Combahee River in South Carolina.  This raid freed more than 700 slaves.  This has been called the only military in U.S. history planned by a woman. 
Her post Civil war days were lived in poverty.  She remarried, and nursed her husband who suffered from tuberculosis for 20 years.  She was always poor, because she was always giving to others.  She had a final dream, a home for elderly.  She accomplished this, and this is where she died in 1913.

Slave Fugitive: John Price and the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue

John Price
The Oberlin-Wellington Rescue of John Price is one of the shining examples of people stepping out against the Fugitive Slave Act, even at their own peril.  John Price was a fugitive slave, who had settled in Oberlin.  Oberlin was a community where most citizens were sympathetic to fugitive slaves, and many were active participants in the Under Ground Rail Road.  Oberlin College fostered this sense of what was right with regards to the slave issues.  They enrolled female and black students at Oberlin College.  John Mercer Langston, Black Oberlin Graduate was elected as township clerk, the first black man elected to office in the United States. 
Oberlin was so defiant of the Fugitive Slave law that President Buchanan and others in the government wanted to make an example of them. 
John Price had lived in Oberlin for two years after his escape.  Anderson Jennings, slave hunter, decided to visit Oberlin with the goal of retaking John and John’s  cousin who had escaped with him.  He employed a lad, whose father was a slavery sympathizer, to go and entice the fugitives with employment.  John couldn’t accept as he was nursing his cousin, but went with the lad to introduce him to someone else.  He was captures on the way.  The rushed him to the nearby town of Wellington, where they were waiting for the 5:13 train.  While in route, John was able to get the attention of a young man walking on the road, Amasa Lyman, student of Oberlin College.  Lyman was able to spread the alarm, and hundreds of people from Oberlin were headed to Wellington.  Those who could not get a carriage walked and ran the distance of nine miles. 
Jennings and his part had holed up in an attic floor of a hotel.  Looking down they could see the building was surrounded and they were greatly outnumbered.  There were men, both black and white in the crowd.  They could not make the train, but the issue was at a stalemate.  The crowd clamored for the release of Price, and they refused to release him.  The crowd became inpatient when it was rumored that federal troops were on their way to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act.  Near sunset, two small groups decided to effect a rescue.  One group approached through the front door.  The other group of five or six through the back door.  As they converged on the slave catchers, one of the rescuers threatened, “The first man who keeps us from going upstairs I will shoot.”  There was a shot fired, but at the last minute the gun was knocked upward and bullet went into the ceiling.  During the melee three young men from the college got Price out and effected the rescue.  He was taken all the way to Canada for his own safety.
The federal government, in making an example of the case, arrested 25 people from Oberlin and 12 from Wellington in violating the Fugitive Slave Act.  Many of them felt it a privilege to  have defied what they called an unjust law.  While in prison they were visited by 4000 people, paying them honor.  This included school children from Oberlin.  For Oberlin’s part, they arrested the slave catchers with charges of kidnapping.  Although the charges couldn’t stick, they made their point. 
The government realized that the arrest of the people had to opposite effect to what they desired.  It fostered more anti-slave sentiment rather than quelling it.  The men were released after three months.

Slave Fugitive: William Wells Brown

William Wells Brown from the book "Bound for the North Star by Dennis Brindell Fradin
William’s mother had seven children by seven different men.  His master, Dr. John Young, would loan his slaves to his brothers so they could rape them and breed them.  Because he was the nephew of the doctor he was a house slave, while his mother had to be in the fields at 4:30 every morning.  One morning his mother was late to work by ten minutes, and received a beating from the overseer.  Brown described how helpless he felt as his mother was tortured.  He was called William, but then the family adopted another nephew named William and insisted he change his name.  His refusal lead to many beatings.
The family moved to St. Louis.  Slowly the members of the family were sold, as the doctor had financial problems.  When his sister was sold he went to see her in jail.  Jail said he should take his mother and run away.  Mother had previously been sold to a tinsmith but still lived in St. Louis.  She was hesitant to go, but he finally convinced her.  He knew where a boat was kept, and they snuck out to the boat, and he used a board as an oar to get across the river to Illinois.  From there they headed north.  He did not think slave catchers would be after them, but he was wrong.  They were caught and returned to St. Louis.
His mother was sold South.  He was able to see her at the barge as she was leaving.  Her final word to him was “Now try to get your liberty.”  At first he was too depressed as a result of being separated from his mother.  However he was sold to a River Boat operator.  He was obedient for many months, but when they visited Cincinnati he took his chance.  Grabbing a trunk, he headed down the gang blank looking like he was doing a chore.  He just kept going, hiding in a swamp, and from there headed north.  He got caught in winter weather with no food.  He knew he must get help or die.  He tried to approach someone, but his mouth was too frozen for him to talk.  Shortly, another gentleman, a Quaker, came and took him into their house where they nursed him back to health.  He had a high fever and frozen feet.  He took the name of this gentleman. 
Later William Wells learned to write.  He was the first African American to publish a novel in the United States.  He was also the first African American to publish a play in the United States as well.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Biography: Wovoka: Paiute Prophet

Wovoka was a Paiute from Nevada.  He had a dream in 1889 in which he died and went to heaven, and was sent back with a message from God.  This message was that if they would perform the “Ghost Dance” the days of prosperity and happiness of the native Americans would return.  Their invaders would be forever destroyed. 
The “Ghost Dance was not original to Wovoka.  Tavibo, another Paiute visionary had spearheaded the religious movement when Wovoka was a boy. 
This sounded good to Native Americans who had steady lost power over the preceding years.  The first Ghost Dance was performed at walker Lake Reservation.  The dance spread as did Wovoka’s influence. 
The Sioux accepted the Ghost Dance with the most fervor.  Under Sitting Bull the Ghost Dances took on a war like flavor.  Sitting Bull’s arrest was ordered.  There was a scuffle with shooting, and Sitting Bull was killed. 
Wounded Knee was also a direct result of the Ghost Dance.  “Ghost Shirts” were to protect them from the federal bullets.  However when the Calvary came upon a group of Ghost Dancers in their shirts the opened fire.  When they opened fire almost 150 Indian lay dead, and 25 Cavalrymen.    In the snow at Wounded Knee, the vision of Wovoka came to an end.  He died in 1931 believing he was the “Messiah.”

Biography: Cotton Mather: Salem Witch Trials

Cotton Mather was a religious man, who was blamed for the Salem witch trials.  However that result was not what he wanted.  He had a vision in 1686 the “the whole Plat of the Devil against New England in every branch of it…”  He concluded that witchcraft and devil followers were common place in New England.  This included enchantments and possessions.  This evil had to be rooted out. 
However Mather was interested in reform and repentance.  The witch trials resulted in people being executed.  In Salem over 20 were killed.  Many of those killed were good community members.  However, Mather did not intend for people to be executed.
As a result of his vision and publication, “Memorable Providence Relating to Witchcraft and Possession” the witch trials were started.  However the author of the book stood firmly against the death penalty, urging prayer and fasting instead.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Movie Review: Apocalypse: The Second World War: The Noose

Russia stalled again in their attacks of Russia.  This time the were unable to capture Leningrad nor Stalingrad, and Moscow was still just a dream.  The Nazis continued to make progress in Stalingrad.  The crept slowly, inch by inch through they city.  They tried to get the Russians with flame throwers.  While the Germans were struggling the Russians were planning to take the offensive.  With stepped up manufacturing, recruitment of a million man, and supplies getting through the German submarines by use of American convoys, Russia was prepared.
While the Germans fought towards Stalingrad, their flanks were covered by third parties.  To the North they were covered by Italians.  To the south by soldiers from captured countries Romania and Bulgaria.  The Russians planned to attack  both flanks, and envelope the Germans.  That is what they did.  Hitler ordered the Germans to stay and fight at all costs, no not retreat.  He did not want to admit that Germany was not the right thing to do.  However his troops were in a hopeless situation, and more were killed.  It was said a soldier died every seven seconds during this time. 
At the same time, Montgomery was finally able to stop Rommel's advance in Egypt at El ALamein.  This was the fist victory the British has in the war against the Germans.  It also marke  change in the war, as Germany went from the offensive to the defensive. 
The Americans, and French invaded French Morocco.  They were fighting the French Vichy troops.  It took a coupe of days for General De Gaulle to convince the French government in Morocco to change sides.  The Allies had a strong hold in Africa from which to launch attacks against Algeria and Libya.
This lead to the German army taking the last remaining territory in southern France which they had not conquered. This was an area where many Jews had fled, and now they were at the mercy of the Germans.  Many were hid by French families.
Hitler hoped to capture the French fleet.  However, most of the boats were scuttled.  The French did not know if they should give them to the Allies or the Germans, so in the end destroyed their own fleet.
The Germans thought they had a chance for counterattack in Russia.  The Russians had pushed too far forward in Kursk.  Even though the Russians had more tanks, the Germans had the Tiger tank with better armor and a bigger gun.  This is the largest armored battle in history to that time.  However the Russians had an advantage the Germans weren't aware of.  The British had cracked the German codes, and the attack and plans where known to the Russians.  This allowed for the implementation of defense, which proved the deciding factor of he battle.  The Germans did not achieve their objectives. 
The Allies also started a new front in Italy, in Cicily.  The Italian people ousted Mussolini, and decided to change sides in the war.  However, Germany rescued Mussolini from his imprisonment, and then conquered Italy, to restore Mussolini to his dictatorship.  The German hopes now lay on their defending the European coast from invasion.  They had to repel any invasion back into the sea within 24 hours.  Coastal defenses were placed form Norway to Spain.

Biography: Joshua Abraham Norton: Emperor of the United States

Joshua Abraham Norton was a different type of man, but for a while he was a mainstay of San Francisco.  He had made considerable money off of the gold rush as a merchant.  He saw that rice was in short supply, and the price steadily climbed.  He bought up all the available rice he could find, and was set to make a tidy fortune.  However the bottom fell out when new supplies of rice came from South America. 
He lost his fortune, and became a recluse.  However three years after his financial demise he emerged from his seclusion, and announced that he was now Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico.  Everyone seemed to humor him; at least in San Francisco.  He sent letters to President Buchanan insisting congress be abolished, as they were all corrupt anyway.  His request went unheeded.  He wor old military uniforms, and the citizenry of San Francisco would take collections when his uniforms became old so he could buy new ones.  He was allowed on the trolleys without charge.  He suggested that the nations form a leag to resolve differences peacefully.  He sided with Lincoln during the Civil War. 
Norton I died in 1888, after 40 years of rule.  The San Francisco Bulletin wrote: “The Emperor Norton killed nobody, robbed nobody and deprived nobody of his country—which is more than can be said for most fellow in his trade.”

Book Review: Bound for the North Star

Bound for the North Star: True Stories of Fugitive Slaves by Dennis Brindell Fradin, Clarion Books, New York, 2000.

This book moved me to tears on several occasions.  The stories of those who escaped slavery, and some who did not, are so compelling.  It makes me wonder how anyone could keep another human being in captivity; and treat them in such a way.  This book grabbed me from the Author’s notes at the beginning to the end.  I am going to share some of the chapters, stories of individuals in different posts, because they deserve individual attention.
The author starts in his quoting Harriet Tubman (which is the last story in the book.) “Slavery is the next thing to hell.”  The author then shows that in face it is, by providing a pictures of negroes in a slave ship.  There was no room to stand, no room to move, as every space was filled with bodies.  It makes me sick and claustrophobic just to look at the picture.
The author provides a brief history of slavery.  Slavery was bad.  When free blacks were offered the opportunity to return to slavery, none did.  50,000 slaves escaped to the North and other destinations.  Hundreds of thousands attempted to escape.  The author presents the summary of several histories which were written by former slaves.
When the author actually goes into the stories, it breaks my heart.  Stories included are Mary Prince, Harriet Tubman, Fed or John Brown, Eliza Harris (from Uncle Tom’s Cabin), Peter and Vina Still, Henry “Box” Brown, Ellen and William Cragt, William Wells Brown, John Price, John Anderson, Ann Maria Weems and Solomon Northup (Twelve Years a Slave). 
The stories are so compelling.  I often find myself hoping for some revenge.  Solomon Northrup predicted there would come a reckoning.  I guess that reckoning was the Civil War.  There was a very large price to pay to rid our county of slavery, but also in retribution for slavery.

Biography: Harry Houdini

From The Good the Bad and the Mad, E. Randall Floyd

Harry Houdini.  This is a man we have all heard of—a performer, magician, but most importantly an escape artist.  Houdini vowed that his biggest act would be to come back from the dead.  But at the same time he proclaimed spiritualism to be a sham.  This was after he spent a fortune trying to contact his mother after she died. 
Born Ehrich Weiss, he was driven and studied magic.  He particularly like the “The Memoirs of Robert Houdin” and took his name, adding the “I” which means like, “like Houdin.”  After he became wealthy he performed for the art.  His most popular act was to hang suspended from tall buildings, bound, locked, strait jacketed he would gracefully slip free.  Houdini would boast that “no power on earth” could restrain him. 
He started working through a booking agent, who insisted Houdini focus on escape stunts.  His work schedule took a toll.  He was hit in the ribs, and went to the doctor who suggested rest.  He worked in spite of pain, and finally had to go to the hospital.  He had ruptured his appendix.  Toxins form the ruptured organ seeped through his body and killed him.  He still has not returned.

Book Review: The Good, The Bad and the Mad

Book Review: The Good the Bad and the Mad: Weird People in American History by E. Randall Floyd, Harbor House, Augusta, GA, 1999.
This is an interesting read, although the title in 2014 is objectionable, it would have been a cute title in 1999.  People are sensitive about the word “mad” or weird which is in the subtitle.  That said, this book presents many interesting stories.  The author dwells considerable on spiritual and religious issues which don’t appeal much, but even so the book is interesting.  It has voo-doo, murderers, Native Americans, Civil War heroes and goats, rich tycoons who were greedy, poor street people who were not, scantily clothed dancers, people flying the wrong way, preachers.  In the pages of this book is a story that would appeal to everyone, but not every story has universal appeal.
I have used chapters from the book to highlight some of the people who interested me.  These include Sarah Winchester from san Jose, James McGready form San Francisco, Civil War generals Stonewall Jackson, George Armstrong Custer and Gideon Pillow, Harry Houdini, presidential assassin Charles Guiteau, Jane Addams founder of social work and Wovoka, Native American Prophet.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Biography: Stonewall Jackson

Stonewall Jackson
 
This is based on the book, “The Good the Bad and the Mad” by E. Floyd Randall.  As such it does not give a very good biography of Stonewall Jackson, but mostly focuses on his eccentricities.  He would always suck lemons, to ease discomfort form an supposed ulcer.  He also believed he was out of balance, and he would try to hold his body in an upright position, preferring to stand than to sit.  He would often hold one arm up to restore his balance.  He used raspberries, milk, plain bread and his lemons to help with his stomach ailments.  Many believed Jackson to by a hypochondriac. 
However, Jackson did have something which allowed him to not fear danger, and to lead men.  His men achieved fame in the Shenandoah Valley where his infantry were called marching Calvary because they could travel so fast.  Jackson was a shy man, a quiet man.  His personal life he kept to himself and his family.  At Chancellorsville Jackson was wounded, shot by his own men while doing reconnaissance.  He was healing from his wounds; his arm was amputated.  However he contracted pneumonia and died.  Possibly contributing to his pneumonia was a practice of Jackson to put cold towels on his stomach to help with his pains.  This had been done without knowledge of his doctor. 

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Biography: Gideon J. Pillow: Fall of Fort Donelson

Gideon J. Pillow from “The Good, the Bad and the Mad” by E. Floyd Randall.
This is one of your worse generals in the Civil War.  He was a Confederate General and assigned to the defense of Fort Donelson.  In this he failed miserable.  Not only did he fail, he allowed his men to be captured. 
They successfully defended against the invasion via the Cumberland River.  Several Union gunboats were left adrift.  However, it was Ulysses Grant who hemmed them in from the land side. 
Gideon has been blamed for the loss, and thus setting the tide for the defeat of the Confederacy in the West.  General John B. Floyd advised that the fort could not be defended, and got himself out.  Simon Bolivar Buckner also thought the fort was a trap.  Finally Pillow accepted their advise, and their troops smashed their way out of the fort.  The road was clear for their escape.  Nathan Bedford Forrest’s Calvary was instrumental in slicing their way through the Federals and their superior forces.  Then Floyd had second thoughts, and order his men back to the fort.  He then made his own escape, leaving Buckner in command.  Nathan Forrest said he had not come to surrender, and lead his Calvary out of the fort, and they were able to escape easily. 
The next day Grant’s forces closed in fast, and to avoid a blood bath Buckner asked for terms.  From this event Grant would get a nick name; “Unconditional and immediate surrender.”
Pillow was eventually relieved of command and tried for treason.  He was found not guilty of treason, but was found to have been grossly incompetent.  He then served over conscription and later over prisons.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Book Review: The Anasazi

The Anasazi: Lost Civilizations, by William W. Lace, Lucent Books, Detroit, MI, 2005
I must admit, this book was a bit boring, with too much something that kept putting me to sleep.  However, the Anasazi people are intriguing, and people still wonder why they abandoned everything.  The total abandonment, to never return, took place in a period of about 50 years. 
In this book I learned about the Chaco Canyon area.  This community was much larger than the cliff dwellings of Mesa Verde, but I had not heard of it.  In fact, they had constructed an intricate network of roads.  However the book points out the roads may not have been necessary through flat desert regions where they had no horses or wheels.  The reason for the roads is not clearly understood.
This book provides a good description of daily life, as limited by the passage of time.  It is believed the Hopi descend from the Anasazi and sometimes current customs of the Hopi are used to explain the Anasazi customs and religion. 
As for the quick abandonment, many theories are presented, and the truth is likely a combination.   Drought conditions in the area were frequent, there could have been warfare from without, there could have been internal struggles, are lastly, there could have been a pull to other areas—as they traveled, they encountered other places that seemed more hospitable and then did not return.  In the case of Chaco, which was felt to be a religious center, when the priests were not able to stop the droughts, they lost their religious influence, and consequently their resources and power as people no longer looked to them for guidance.   The Anasazi are believed to have mixed with the Pueblo Indians, of which there are 20 different tribes.

We are ageless; we are the blessed children of the Spirits.
We thought we always have been and always will be.
Yet, today the Spirits have forgotten Their promises.
The corn we plant, grow, and bless in Their names
Withers and dies in the fields tended by our people.
We have angered the Sun who stares at us from up high.
The Rain has abandoned us for our evil transgressions.
The Wind has sent others to steal food from our children.
The Elders have quested and dreamed with no answers.
We prayed in all the old ways and still we have no sign.
Our children cry in the night, yet we know not our crime.
The Sun, Wind and Rain Spirits have always protected us.
The Animal Spirits have always guided us to right path.
Was it not the Sun that pointed the way to our sky-home?
And the Wind that called us to the cliff-face we called home?
And the Rain that showed us where to plant our maize?
And the Lizard that taught us to walk to our sky-home?
And the Bird that taught us how to build with earth and straw?
They have left Their children alone, here in our sky-home.
We have prayed to the Spirits, but They do not answer.
We have dreamed with the Spirits, but we are ignored.
We have walked with the Spirits, but They show us no path.
The Spirits have abandoned us, here on the sky-path.
The Spirits have abandoned us, here in the sky-city.
The Spirits have abandoned us, here in our maize fields.
It is time to wander again the plains and the mountains...
It is time to wander again the desert and the forest...
It is time to take our children back to the Beginning...
Back to the lonely path that our ancestors called home...
Until the Spirits find us again, or we all join the Spirits.
We do this not for ourselves, but for our children's children.
We are ageless, we are Anasazi, and we are alone again.

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