Saturday, August 30, 2014

Uncle Tom's Cabin and the Civil War

Stowe and Lincoln
Legend has it (as reported by her son some years later) that when Harriet Beecher Snow met Abraham Lincoln after he was president in 1862, he stated to her, "So you're the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war."  Whether true or not, this statement points to the influence this book had, especially in the North; but also as a mechanism of polarization with the South on the theme of slavery. 
The book was published as a book in 1852, and seen previously in magazines.  Stowe says one of her motivations for writing the book was the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. 
300,000 copies of the book were purchased in the North before the war.  In many parts of the South the book was illegal.  It was even more popular in England.  Even if England's political leaders had wanted to enter the war, the public opinion in England would have been very much against them, partly due to this book. 
Of course their were many causes for the war.  What this book did do was put a face on slavery.  Through the characters presented, people could see slavery.  Stowe especially talked about its effects on family groups.  It may very well be that we are seeing the effects of this disruption even today.  Another theme in Stowe's book is that through Christianity, you didn't have to give yourself to the hate which slavery could very well cause. 
Hardened abolitionist didn't think the book went far enough in crying for immediation abolition.  Other northerners saw it as a triumph for the human aspects it put on slavery.  Southerners thought it was for the most part outright lies. 
Stowe contended that even though the actual characters were fictional, they were based on  real life stories she had heard of. 
When Stowe wrote a defense of her book, "The Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin" she was even more staunch in her call for abolition.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Book Review: The Tet Offensive

The Tet Offensive: We the People by Mary Englar, Compass Point Books, Minneapolis, MN, 2009.
This book does more to tell this story than I had ever heard before.  I remember the Tet Offensive as I was growing up, was the first indication that the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese were a dangerous opponent and even had an opportunity to win the war.  I remember we all thought they were pretty much crushed and defeated, and the Tet Offensive changed all that in our minds.  However, the Tet Offensive ended in an American, South Vietnamese victory.  Their enemies were not able to maintain a single city (they attacked 100).  Except for two northern battles, most of the fighting was concluded within a day.  I guess the victory was in the fact that they did attack. 
Places attacked included the U.S. embassy, radio station and presidential palace in Saigon.  Two Marines were killed in the attack on the embassy.  100 cities throughout South Vietnam were attacked.  On city was completely destroyed and the people fled.  However counter attacks cleared out the attackers.  In the northern part of South Vietnam, the American base of Khe Sanh where the American Marines were cut off, and much of their ammunition destroyed in an artillery barrage.  However they would hold on, and eventually the siege would be broken, but not for over a month.  This was done by carpet bombing the North Vietnamese held positions.  The Viet Cong and North Vietnamese would lose over 50,000 troops as part of the Tet Offensive. 
The other trouble spot was a city close to this battle, Hue.  This had been the Imperial Capitol at one time, and there was a large citadel.  The North Vietnamese were able to get into this citadel, and held a strong defensive position.  They executed many people, including soldiers, but also teachers and government officials.  The Marines had to retake the city a block at a time with very tough fighting.
This book gave me more information about this even in history than I previously had.  One warning, it does have some graphic pictures of war dead, including the Marines killed defending the U.S. embassy. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Documentary Review: The Hunt for John Wilkes Booth (2007)

John Wilkes Booth shot President Abraham Lincoln April 14, 1965 as part of a plot to kill three prominent men, the President, The Secretary of State William H. Seward, and Vice-President Andrew Johnson.  In the case of Johnson, his attacker, George Atzerodt chickened out.  Lewis Powell was to kill Seward, and he invaded his home and, after his gun failed, made a vicious attempt by stabbing him repeatedly around the face and upper body.  Only a device he was wearing for a previously broken jaw prevented his jugular from being cut.  (Both these men would later be hung for their involvement.)  A third involved party (who was also later hung) was David Herold, who would travel with Booth in his escape, and assist Booth in his efforts.
Booth would not be caught for 12 days.  During this time he would keep a journal (although many pages are missing) as he avoided detection. 
Booth broke the fibula in his leg while when he jumped form the presidential booth to the stage after killing Lincoln.  He needed medical attention, and received this from Dr. Mudd.  They mostly stayed in the swamps, but had days of staying in houses.  Their goal was to cross the Potomac into Virginia.  Most of the search would take place in Booth's are of origin, Maryland, to the north. 
They tried to cross the river by night.  However they were disoriented, and ended up back on the Maryland side.  They were successful with the second crossing, and stayed with the the home of Richard H. Garrett, threatening him by gun point, and saying they were soldiers returning home.  The second night they were suspicious as they avoided the soldiers, so were asked to stay in the barn.  Garret's son locked them in, worrying they might steal their horses. 
Igt was here where the pursuers would find them early in the morning.  Herold would surrender, but Booth wanted to go out in a blaze of glory.  The federals set fire to the barn, and as Booth prepared to fire his weapon, he was shot in the neck by Sergeant Boston Corbett.  He was paralyzed, and would die about three hours later.
Booth had hoped to make himself a hero.  Instead he felt the wrath of the country as he followed the papers and heard form others.  He also learned of the surrender of Joseph E. Johnston, the last remaining Confederate force.  He was on the wrong side of the war.
The above mentioned people where hanged July 7, 1865 along with Mary Surratt, who provided a place at her boarding house for the men to plan their deed.  Others were convicted of conspiracy, including Dr. Mudd, and were sent to prison, but later pardoned by President Johnson in 1869.
Mysteries left of this event, did the get everyone involved?  They could not find evidence to charge President Jefferson Davis with conspiracy.  Did the missing pages of Booth's diary implicate others?

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Documentary Review: Sherman's March to the Sea

This is one of those events in the history of the war which is seen, much as the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan.  For those who were the victim, the action was one of cruelty and barbarity.  However, it is an action which brought about a quicker end of the war, and in so doing, saved many lived.
General William T. Sherman finally won a hard fought campaign for Atlanta.  At fist he fought against General Joseph E. Johnston, but his defensive, and fall back strategy frustrated President Jefferson Davis.  He finally replaced him with General John B. Hood, who was more rash.  He would pay for this rashness, as he used up his strength in attacked the Federal Soldiers south of Atlanta, and had no choice but to withdraw, leaving Atlanta to the Union.
Atlanta was an important rail hub and industrial center for the South.  When Sherman would vacate Atlanta, he would burn the industrial center, the warehouses and cotton.  The result would be a general destruction of the city.
While in Atlanta, Sherman had proposed to General Ulysses Grant that he take his 60,000 men, leave his supply lines, and march to the sea.
Sherman's strategy was to destroy anything which could be useful in helping the South carry out war.  His men also had to forage for food, as the had no supply line.  The men had been issued 20 days rations which they rolled up in their blankets.
Sherman divided his forces into two columns.  This is the part of the campaign which is so infamous.  They would often leave fires as they destroyed cotton and other items which could be used to conduct war.  They also confiscated food as they went.  Sherman responded to complaints about his tactic, "War is cruelty." 
Local militia at several points confront Sherman's forces, however with repeating rifles, and more men, and hardened soldiers, the Confederacy was not able to stop him. Joseph Wheeler commanded and cavalry brigade against Sherman's forces.  However they were to few to make a direct confrontation, except to attacking marauding groups.  The planted torpedoes (land mines) but Sherman countered this by making Confederate prisoners go in front of his men and remove the mines. 
Sherman's forces attracted many African Americans.  They followed his columns, while the men were recruited to help with making roads and bridges.  There is one scene in which one of Sherman's  columns is pressed by the Calvary.  They cross a river over a pontoon bridge.  As soon as they are across, the severe the bridge, leaving a large group of former slaves stranded.  Colonel Jefferson C. Davis (not the Confederate President) had ordered the bridge removed.  He was a known to have negative feelings towards the African Americans, but also the move made sense strategically.  Many tried to cross and were drowned, while only a few made it. 
As Sherman's forces made it closer to the ocean, their situation became more desperate.  There no longer was a sufficient supply of forage, and the men went hungry.  They had to meet supply ships on the coast as quickly as possible.  There were two choices, to go directly to Savannah which was well defended, or to follow the Ogeechee River to the ocean south of Savannah, which was defended by
Fort McCallister.  There had been a previous Union attempt to take the fort, which had failed.  however in this instance, the attack would come from the land side.  The fort had large cannon pointing towards the sea. 
However, there were few defenders, and the fort was overwhelmed in 15 minutes.  Sherman's campaign would be successful.  Rear Admiral John A. Dahlgren was waiting o meet them with supplies and came into the harbor as soon as the fort was captured.
From there, they would march north to meet up with General Lee.  They would really punish South Carolina, burning homes generally and being more aggressive in their foraging.  They would also burn Columbia.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Conspiracy? Lincoln Assassination

This is a presentation from the History Channel.  It has a warning preceding and after the presentation that the information is controversial, and not necessarily true but presented to give people an opportunity to respond. 
Did Lee Harvey Oswald act alone, or was he part of a broader conspiracy?  We know there was some coordination, because Oswald acted with others to decapitate the government.  There were other attacks the same night, against Secretary of State William H. Seward, and the Vice President Andrew Johnson (planned but not carried out). 
In addition to this, evidence of Oswald traveling to Canada, and there meeting members of the Confederate Secret Service, and after returning making a deposit of $1500 into his account, which money could be used to attract others to his plan.
One might say that the Confederacy would not be involved, that war was not made this way at that time.  However, after the Dahlgren affair, where a Union attempt to assassinate Jefferson was discovered, and after the Emancipation Proclamation, Lincoln was deemed as an open target.  
So the arguments are, Oswald acted alone, out of hatred for Lincoln and his own racial bigotry, or he was part of a plot, and some escaped prosecution.  That those working with Oswald were just a local group of near-do-wells.  And those were mopped up with the trials, which looked for further conspirators, including Jefferson Davis, but found no evidence.  The for executed and the other four prosecuted was all involved. 
The other argument is there is evidence pointing to a connection between Oswald and Confederate operatives in Canada who have a direct tie back to the Confederacy.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Documentary Review: Lincoln and the Flying Spying Machine

Lincoln and the Flying Spying Machine: Man, Moment, Machine, History Channel, 2006.
This documentary presents a part of the Civil War about which you don't very often get much detail.  Thaddeus Lowe approached President Lincoln, and introduced him to the idea of using balloons for observation during battle.  President Lincoln wrote him a letter of recommendation; he was looking for anything which might give the Union an advantage.  President Lincoln was inexperienced in matters of war, but he was Commander-In-Chief.  The generals weren't too keen on the idea.  In fact they weren't really put into use at the First Battle of Bull Run, and information about reinforcements may have made a difference in the outcome.
However, the balloons did go with General McClellan onto the Peninsula.  There were actually a series of balloons, and a balloon corp was established.  Lowe was commissioned to construct seven balloons.  The larger balloons could travel higher, and provide a better perspective.
The balloons were inflated with hydrogen and required a generator.  The had a basket below the balloon to carry the aeronaut.  They were tethered, and an electrical wire was run along the tether through which telegraph message could be sent. 
At the Battle of Fairview they played a pivotal role.  McClellan had drawn up just outside of Richmond.  When McClellan positioned three corps north of the Chickahominy River, and two Corps south, BS the river became swollen because of rainfall, General Joseph E. Johnston decided to make a move and attack, in an attempt to destroy the units south of the river.  The attack would have been a complete surprise without the intervention the the balloonist.  He was able to observe the Rebel preparations, and based on his view, the troops were prepared.  Also bridging the river was rushed, and reinforcements were able to arrive before the corps below the river could be destroyed.
The Confederates accomplished their objective of pushing the Union forces back, but they were not able to eliminate them.  In this battle General Johnston was wounded, and replaced by the man in charge of the defenses of Richmond, General Robert E. Lee.  
For what ever reason, balloons fell out of favor for the rest of the war, and were not used to a great degree, if at all after 1862.  The balloons were relatively safe.  They were hard to hit because of their altitude.  The bullets did not cause the balloons to explode, nor to deflate.  One time a cannon ball struck the basket, but Lowe was not injured.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Book Review: Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin’s Big Words: The Life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., by Doreen Rappaport, illustrated by Bryan Collier, Jump at the Sun, New York, 2001.
This is a children’s picture book.  This illustrator used collage and water colors and the pictures are very effective.  It also uses Martin Luther King’s words in telling the story of his life.  Of particular note, “Hate cannot drive out hat.  Only love can do that.”   “When the history books are written, someone will say there lived black people who had the courage to stand up for their rights.”  “Love is the key to the problems of the world.”  And “I have a dream that one day in Alabama little black boy and black girls will join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”
The book ends with telling the story of Martin Luther King’s death, but not before letting us know that King said even if he were taken down, the movement would go on. 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Book Review: Life of the California Coast Nations

Life of the California Coast Nations by Molly Aloian and Bobbie Kalman, Crabtree Publishing Company, New York, 2005.
This is a brief introduction to the coastal native American groups of California.  It included some very interesting illustrations of native homes.  This also included illustration of a ramada and a sweatlodge.  The It showed the construction of a tumol, ocean going canoe built by the Chumash and Gabrielino/Tongva people.  Other water vessels included crude rafts, and balsa boats make form tule reeds. 
I learned more about the process of leaching which was used to make acorns less bitter.  I have often wondered why you can’t just pick up an acorn to eat it.  However it has lots of tannin which needs to be leached out wo make it palatable. 
I also found the illustrations of musical instruments interesting.  There was a rattle, which was very distinctive and also a clapper stick.  Both instruments are rhythmic. 
It also showed some modern art work.  Native American basketry and artwork are superb.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Documentary Review: Lincoln: Man or Myth: Investigating History

This is a series produced by the History Channel: Investigating History.  In this episode the investigate Abraham Lincoln.  It shows several different aspects of Lincoln.  Lincoln was photographed over 120 times, which was a lot it that day.  They present two photos which also are suppose to be Lincoln, and follow the evidence which point to one (Hoffman portrait) definitely being Lincoln and the other (Kaplan photograph) likely. 
The documentary then looks at the argument of Lerone Bennett Jr. saying the Abraham Lincoln was not an emancipator, but rather a racist.  He first put forth his argument during the Civil Rights era, and then later wrote a book with the theme.  He makes his argument because the emancipation proclamation only freed slaves in the states under Confederate control.  The thirteenth amendment became law after Lincoln was dead.  A previous documentary blamed his assassination on a speech he gave a few days before, asking for the right to vote for all citizens, including African Americans.  I think Mr. Bennett has gotten this one wrong, most likely not trying to give credit where it is due to a Republican.  The issue here was one of politics.  Lincoln had to get elected to be able to make changes, and some of Lincoln's statements evolved, or were made of political necessity.
The Bixby letter is then reviewed.  Was it written by Lincoln, or his press secretary.  They don't answer this question.
One thin is for certain.  The log cabin on display where Lincoln was born, is not the log cabin that was there when he was born.  However it is a log cabin, and is on display at the place where Lincoln was born in a log cabin. 

Documentary Review: Crossing the Bridge: Selma, Alabama

This documentary tells the story of the Selma to Montgomery March which lead to the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  The story starts with Black citizens going to the court house to petition for the right to vote.  In Dallas County, of 15,000 Blacks, only 130 were registered to vote.  Intimidation, literacy tests and other tactics were used to not register people to vote.  The local sheriff did not allow them to register.  They decided to cross the bridge in Selma, and march to Montgomery, the State Capitol, to address their grievances to Governor George Wallace.  The marchers were attacked with billy clubs and tear gas and forced to turn around.  One marcher escaped to a diner, and while protecting his mother was shot dead by a police officer. 
Martin Luther King joined the effort, and encouraged them to maintain a non violent attitude.  They tried again, and this time there was no violence, but they were turned back.  However that night, three white ministers of the Unitarian Church were attacked by the Klu Klux Klan with clubs, and one of them was killed. 
President Lyndon Johnson entered the conflict.  Governor Wallace even came to Washington.  However in the end Wallace made it clear that the State of Alabama would not pay for the protection of the marchers.  President Johnson took control of the State National Guard and ordered them to defend the marchers.  The March finally took place March 17, 1965, ten days after the first march. 
President Johnson made sure that it was the actions in Alabama that lead him to call for legislation for voting rights.  President Johnson spoke before congress on Mrch 15, introducing the bill: 

Open your polling places to all your people.

Allow men and women to register and vote whatever the color of their skin.

Extend the rights of citizenship to every citizen of this land.

There is no constitutional issue here. The command of the Constitution is plain.

There is no moral issue. It is wrong—deadly wrong—to deny any of your fellow Americans the right to vote in this country.

There is no issue of States rights or national rights. There is only the struggle for human rights.

The Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Documentary Review: Mississippi State Secrets

Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission  CBS News Production: History Channel
In the height of the Civil Rights struggle, the state of Mississippi established a commission to protect the image of the state and support the idea of segregation.  This was a secret commission, with secret records about their activities.  The Commission was established in 1956 and lasted until 1978.  Their records were not released until 1998 following a court decision.  The state had planned to maintain the closure of the records for over 50 years. 
This commission spied on American citizens, African American and White.  87,000 names of citizens were in the records.  The commission wielded unusual power.  They woulf inform your employer, and many were fired from jobs, they provided information to the Klu Klux Klan, and people would end up dead. 
Two particular cases are the three civil rights workers who were killed in Philadelphia, Mississippi.  The commission had passed the license number to the local sheriff, who happened to have ties to the Klan. 
They had also intimidated juries, as was the case with the murderer of Medgar Evers.  They were also complicit in the case of a family whose home was burned, because the father wasted to vote, and helped others register to vote.
The release of the information allowed some of those involved in racial murders and crimes to be prosecuted, as it was evident juries had been tampered with, and people were subject to retrial in a different environment.

Documentary Review: Voices of Civil Rights

This is an important presentation from the History Channel.  It is a series of interviews with people we were not particularly famous, but lived through the Civil Rights period, some of whom were actually part of the movement. 
It starts with a section entitled "There Were Two Americas.  It has interviews on both sides of people who lived through segregation.  It was not pretty, because it always meant on group got less.
The Next section "We Took it to Court" tells the story of a family, who wanted to use the library.  The black library did not have a selection of children's books, so they went to the big public library.  The librarian refused to check out books to them.  So the father sued.  The courts ruled in his favor saying that if he paid taxes, then the library should be open to all citizens.  The judge gave them two choices, shut the library, or open it to all.
"School Integration" told the story of this slow but needed change.  Black schools were always farther away, and always had the hand-me-down books, equipment and supplies.  Governor George Wallace (a Democrat by the way) is heard saying integration would never happen.  The interviews of the children who were the first to attend the integrated schools was one of fear, guard you back, and relief when they finally graduated so they didn't have to go back.  It has taken time, but our country is better with integrated schools. 
The struggle of some to assert their basic rights was presented in "Register to Vote."  That people would put up obstacle after obstacle to thwart this right is appalling.  In one case, a group of teachers tried to register, and were delivered a test they would not pass, by a white man who had not made it pass the eighth grade.  In another instance the Klu Klux Klan burnedd out a family where the father was  trying to vote.  The father would succumb to his b urns, but the family lived through the ordeal.  The member of the Klan that testified for the prosecution indicated that he thought he was doing the right thing at the time, protecting the vote for themselves and keeping others from voting.  He had repented, and testified against others of the Klan, after being sentenced to five years.  He was later pardoned.
We start to see some of the actual protests, mostly peaceful in "Marches and Protests."  This included showing water hoses blowing over youth, and dogs viciously biting protestors.  These actions only fueled the fire rather than turning it out.  These people had to stand up for their freedom.

Documentary Review: Lincoln: His Life and Legacy

Volume One: "Lincoln: History in the Making"  This documentary is presented by History Channel.  As such they rely considerably on historical drama, and interview with Abraham Lincoln historians to tell the story. 
It starts with the presentation of a dream, supposedly a dream of President Lincoln of his own assassination, before he was killed.  From there, the tell a rather depressive story about Lincoln's life.
They talk about his very rough childhood, with multiple family deaths including his mother.  Harsh treatment by his father, who basically farmed him out and took his earnings; like many did with slaves.  He eventually escaped taking employment on a river boat.  His first love died from typhoid. 
At several points in the movie it mentions wild rumor and innuendo.  Of course many times it refutes this with other historians, but it still brings up the subject. 
Was Abraham Lincoln gay?  He lived with and slept with a man for five years, Joshua Fry Speed.  Lincoln had a close relationship with this man, as indicated by letter.  Of course, in this day sharing a bed was common and based on economic need rather than sexual orientation. He also shared beds with other men while on the lawyer circuit.
It focuses much on the relationship between he and his wife.  He was engaged to her before, but broke off the engagement and took a tailspin of depression.  However he did recover and they became man and wife.  The documentary contends that Mary Lincoln likely suffered from bipolar disorder.  She could become very angry.  They were both lonely in their marriage.
The movie also presented Lincoln as melancholy during his presidency.  He lost a son, he sent many sons to their deaths.  Never has an American President presided over so much death.  It assumes he must have been bothered.  There were times, when waiting for news of the war, he was subject to anxiety, not being able to sleep.  We see many pictures of Lincoln over the course of his life, and can see the drain the war placed on his person.
The movie also presents the Spiritualism of the first lady.  She also over spent, and at times messed in activity which would be considered illegal today, cooking books and giving contracts to friends. 
This is the first presentation of many in this four DVD set.  However, I am somewhat disappointed in this one as it tends to the macabre and shock.  The actual events I think were likely much different.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Eva Peron: Best Kept Secret: Lobotomy

Eva looks terrible here voting for Peron in November 1951
Lobotomy: The History of a Secret Operation: Complete Story from Telenoche: UNICO (March 2014)
This is a strange story presented almost 65 years after Eva's death.  I don't think the jury is completely out on this.  As we know, Eva Peron died of uteran cancer at age 33.  The contention of this story is that she had a lobotomy shortly before her death to help her deal with the pain from the cancer.  This involved the cutting of a nerve or nerves in her brain, in an attempt to turn off her emotional reaction to the pain.  Among other things, this procedure is credited with allowing her to ride with her husband Juan Peron for his second inauguration as president of Argentina.  I am thinking the procedure was done after Eva's famous speech where she declined to seek the vice presidency. 
The story goes that an American doctor, the doctor for the Kennedys, flew to Argentina to perform the procedure.  They did have testimony from nurse, but also read in journal that he had flown to Argentina to perform this procedure.  What they could not find was the x-rays of Eva's head which were taken after her death.  They argue this is because they were purposefully hidden to keep the secret.  Some ay Eva did not even know that she had received the procedure, or that an American doctor had operated on her; because of bad feelings towards Americans this would have not been allowed. 
I think they make a good case, although not airtight, for their premise.

Biographical Documentary: Sitting Bull

Sitting Bull: Chief of the Lakota Nation, Biography, (1995)
This biography started as more a history of the Sioux.  It especially follow Red Cloud, and the Red Cloud War who was upset that the Whites, and the military were moving in the Powder River area.  They were building forts without permission or treaty to do so.  For this he went to war, and actually won.  A treaty was negotiated, where the Sioux agreed to go to reservation, but the Powder River area was preserved for the Sioux. 
Sitting Bull became prominent after this, more as a spiritual leader.  Red Cloud became a reservation chief, but Sitting Bull felt this was silly, and criticized those on the reservation who stayed for the bacon given by the government. 
It wasn't for several years, when gold was discovered in the Black Hills.  This area was sacred to the Sioux, but whites coveted the area for the gold.  General George Armstrong Custer gave positive reports, and encouraged the white population to move in.  However he could not support this with military might.
The contribution of Sitting Bull was a vision he had about a month before Little Big Horn, where he saw soldiers falling into the Sioux City.  Custer lead his men into this city.  Crazy Horse was war chief that day, and lead his men to victory.  The battle only lasted 20 minutes.
Although they were victorious, thee Native Americans lost.  The repercussions of the American military were total against the Sioux, with a scorched earth campaign where villages were burned and crops destroyed, and whatever they might be able to eat was destroyed.  The Indians had to submit.  Crazy Horse agreed to live on the reservation.  Sitting Bull took those with him and fled to Canada.  However, after living in poverty for four years, he returned.  Sitting Bull returned to the reservation, but did not stay.  He joined the Buffalo Bill Cody Wild West Show. 
Later in life Sitting Bull had another dream, that he was killed by another Sioux. There was great excitement about the ghost dance among the Sioux.  Perhaps this would give them the power to throw up the control of the whites. other Sioux.  As the participated in the dance, dancing all night, the BIA agent ordered them to stop.  The continued.  He deputized 20 Sioux to go arrest Sitting Bull.  In the scuffle Sitting Bull was shot and killed.  This lead to the last battled, that of Sounded Knee where many Sioux were slaughtered.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Documentary Review: Eva Peron (1963)

This documentary was first produced for CBS.  It has later been played on A&E and the Biography Channel.  This documentary tells the life of Eva Peron.  The musical Evita could very well have been based on this documentary.  She has born illegitimate and was poor.  She escaped poverty by using a man, Augustin Magalda, a Tango singer who had visited her home.  She then uses other men, to get into advertising, and acting.  She was never a very good actress, and would order all her films be destroyed.  She went from Colonel to Colonel, until landing with Colonel Peron.  She met him in 1944 at a benefit in Luna Park for victims of an earthquake in Eva was good at politics.  She was successful to portray herself and Juan Peron as supporters of the people.  Peron quickly rose to power, and became vice president.  However  some felt he has headed to dictatorship, and had him arrested.  Eva Peron was able to rally the working class which resulted in riots and demonstration for Peron's release.  When he was released he was more powerful than ever. 
Peron followed this with winning the election for President.  The election had many shenanigans, including possible voter manipulation through threats, which included violence and gun shots towards his opponents.
After coming to power, Peron ruled with an iron fist, and Eva increased in power.  Peron used his power to force higher taxes and controls on business.  He used increased money for his own benefit, as well as paying back his "descamisados" with public works, many of which was never completed.
Evita used her power to get even with past enemies, forcing the exile of an fellow actress who had criticized her.  She also managed a charitable society.  This she would use to award others with items such as a house, or clothing.  Somehow she also was able to own $15 million in jewels and extravagant wardrobe.  
She toured Europe, and was heartily received in Spain.  However her receptions in Italy and France were not so enthusiastic.  She returned home disappointed. 
Eva's big political blunder was to pursue the vice presidency in Peron's reelection.  The military indicated that this was not acceptable.  They would not take orders form a woman.  She was forced to decline the vice presidency, saying it was due to her young age. 
After this her health turned.  She was diagnosed with cancer and passed away at age 33.  She was granted her last wish; that of a state funeral.

Biographical Book Review: Daniel Boone

Daniel Boone: On My Own Biography by Tom Streissguth, illustration by Loren Chantland, Carolrhoda Book, Minneapolis, MN 2002.
This book spans the life of Daniel Boone who was born in 1734 and passed away in 1820.  During that time he was responsible for paving the way for the settlement of the West, whether that is good or bad.  He had many clashes with native Americans, some good and some bad.  His son was killed in a raid when they were first moving to Kentucky.  However he also had many good relations and friends among the Native Americans.  They taught him many of their skills, how to hunt, how to track, how to live in the wilderness, and he formed many friendships with them. 
Daniel Boone met many trials in his exploits to live in the “wilderness.”  However, eventually after much trial his efforts were repaid.  He established the community of Boonesborough in Kentucky.  He help establish the Wilderness road from the east into Kentucky.  He became famous for his exploits and wilderness principles, his undying faith in his goals and his typifying the American drive to be free.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Book Review: Navajo History and Culture

The Navajo History and Culture: Native American Library, Helen Dwyer and D.L. Birchfield, Gareth Steven Publishing, 2012.
This is a good brief introduction to the Navajo People.  It starts with an introduction, and an attempt of explaining where they came from—which I don’t think anyone knows but people theorize the came over the Bering Strait. 
The Navajo Origins Story talks about the “Dene” coming through two previous worlds, which they had to leave when the balance was not right.  They are now in their third world.
In the area where the Navajo lie, are the ruins of the Anasazi.  However, it is generally accepted that they are the ancestors of the Hopi, and not the Navajo.  However the Navajo learned many things from this culture, including the weaving of blankets and farming. 
When the Navajo were under the control of the Spanish and the Mexican government, they were pretty much left alone.  They were too distant to be of much concern.  However, when the United States took over there was more effort on colonizing the area, which lead to conflict between the Navajo and the government.  There were several conflicts, and eventually Kit Carson was commanded to destroy the livelihood of the Navajo.  He did this by burning crops and warring with the Navajo.  The Navajo were forced to submit to the “Long Walk of Death.”  This was a forced march of the Navajo from their native lands to Bosque Redondo in New Mexico, 300 miles away.  However, after about four year, in 1868, the Navajo were able to negotiate a treaty allowing them to return home, where they were on the Navajo Reservation, just much smaller than their original territory. 
Over the years, this land gained wealth through the discovery of oil, as well as uranium  The discover of uranium which had deadly consequences for which they are still trying to clean up.  Other involvement of the Navajo Nation in U.S. history was the contribution of the Navajo code talkers in WWII. 
The Navajo Country is very rural, but very conducive to the raising of sheep.  Sheep are used to provide meet as well as wool.  The Navajo are great weavers and their blankets are much desired.  They are also artisans of silver and their turquoise silver jewelry is also greatly desired. 
However the largest employer in the Navajo Nation is the government, federal and The Navajo Nation.  The Navajo Nation was organized as a need to have someone who could sign off on oil leases in the 1920s. 
The native customs, language and culture are a large part of Navajo live.  Healing ceremonies still take place, and medical offices have facilities for native healers.  The songs and sand paintings can be very complicated, and it takes many years of study to become a healer.  The Navajo have a matriarchal society, the men marrying into the family of the mother-in-law. 
The influence to the Navajo nation extends beyond its own borders, with artists and scientists.  The Navajo nation have their own college and medical facilities, including a native healing school.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Book Review: Ancient Maya

Ancient Maya by Anita Ganeri, Compass Point Book, Minneapolis, MN, 2005.
This again is a children’s book, with lots of illustrations.  In fact the best part of the book is the illustrations.  The Maya people had their peak about 1700 years ago, and continued to exist until 500 years ago.  Their land was taken over by the Spanish, but their civilization had disappeared for the most part before this.  They had temples and pyramids, and made sacrifices to the gods, including human sacrifice.  They played an interesting game where they had to put a ball through a ring.  Because the ball was heavy, they wore pads for protection.  The Maya had developed a language, and still a few samples of their writing remain.  They had an agrarian society, but also had craftsmen and tradesmen.  One thing I didn’t know: “The Maya sometimes filed their front teeth down into point and other patterns.  The filled the gaps in their teeth with small pieces of jade.”  Sounds like a rough and stupid way to go—but this would have been the wealthy who had access to jade. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Documentary Review: Korea: The Forgotten War

Korea: The Forgotten War, Lou Reda Production 1987, rereleased The History Channel
Robert Stack provides the narration for this documentary which uses news releases and news footage, narration, pictures and maps to tell the story of the Korean War.  This war started when North Korea invaded South Korea. The North Korean forces almost conquered the entire country.  The United Nations authorized a police action to push North Korea back.    This was done with some great difficulty, and a flanking sea landing at Inchon which many felt could not be done because of the harbor being effected by tides.  However it was accomplished, and tides changes with the U.N. forces pushing the Koreans back until almost the entire peninsula was conquered.  Douglas MacArthur made a critical error in judgement, thinking the Chinese would not enter the war as was rumored; but entered they did, and the U.N. forces were driven back and many surrounded.  Only in an heroic march were they able to get out.  This included the onset of winter.  The 10th corp was evacuated by sea, and then moved to form a defensive line. 
After this the U.N. forces made some progress, but eventually both sides were stalled.  From 1951 to 1954 little progress was made either was.   An armistice treaty created a temporary peace which has lasted since the 1854.  It established a Demilitarized Zone along the 38th parallel.  This police action cost over 35,000 American lives, but total deaths were over one million.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Book Review: The Civil War: Early Battles

The Civil War: Early Battles, by Jim Ollhoff, ABDO Publishing, North Mankato, MN, 2012.
This is a children’s book take of the beginning of the Civil War. Most of the photographs are of reenactors.  It gives a good brief essay of Robert E. Lee, and the reason he fought with the Confederacy rather than the Union.  The battles it explores are First Bull Run, Shiloh and Antietam.  It also talks about the Anocanda plan, which was proposed by Winfield Scott, and was the basic plan of operation for the Union after it became obvious there would be no quick victory. 
After Antietam, Abraham Lincoln released the emancipation proclamation which he had previously written, and which went into effect January 1, 1863.  With this move the purpose of the war for the North went from “preserve the Union” to also include “freedom of the slaves.”

Monday, August 4, 2014

Book Review: The Price We Paid


The Price We Paid: The Extraordinary Story of the Willie and Martin Handcart Pioneers,  By Andrew D. Olsen, Deseret Book, SLC, Utah 2006.
 In my opinion, this is the best book dealing with the Martin and Willie Handcart Companies.  He avoids the problem of combining the two stories, by dedicating chapters to each company and telling the story of when is happening in the journey.  At the same time, some of those areas which have very similar stories, such as the conditions on the boat trip across the ocean, he tells in a single chapter.  He does a good job of telling the conditions on the ship, and on the handcart trail.  He also dedicates significant space to telling personal stories.
He doesn't get lost  by trying to combine the two stories.  He also has significant historical background and has obviously done a great deal of research.  
He does a very good job of describing the rescue, and the involvement of so many people from Utah, who came out to meet the struggling Saints. 
The author devotes a significant portion of the book to tell individual stories.  This is in two sections, the story of individual on the journey, as well as the afterward story; what become of people after they made it to Zion.  This includes the stories of many of the rescuers.

Movie Review: Native Peoples of the Woodlands

Native Peoples of the Woodlands: Exploring Our Past, 2007.  This movie is narrated by the native American singer Joanne Shenandoah.  The Native Peoples of the Woodlands are those who lived in the Northeast United States, extending up into Canada.  This included the Creek, Iroquois, Algonquian and Shawnee.  The lived in wigwams, rounded framed house with a bark exterior.  The also live in long houses.  The most impressive part of this movie was to see and actual long house.  These where large multifamily structures.  The were made in the same was, but were massive, sometimes 300 feet.