Thursday, August 17, 2017

200 Years Later, the Erie Canal-- Part 1 Used More for Pleasure Craft Now

From the July 23, 2017, Chicago Tribune "200 years later" by John Borden.

Last week, I wrote about the man who took the Erie Canal out to the Great Lakes in 1836.

The Erie Canal altered the face of commerce in the United States, but now traffics in tourists.

The Donnelly family of Annapolis sold or stored everything they owned and bought a 36-foot catamaran and intend to take it through the Erie Canal to the Great Lakes, down the Mississippi, along the Gulf Coast and up the Eastern Seaboard back home.  Quite a trip.  The Donnellys, like many people, are using the Erie Canal for pleasure, not business , which is a big change from when the canal opened and business was its aim.

The Erie Canal connected the Hudson River with the Great Lakes.  Construction of it began 200 years ago this month.

It has since been surpassed by railroads and the New York State Thruway, both of which follow along the canal's path.  Barges still haul freight too large to be shipped by air or land, however, but by far, it is used primarily by pleasure craft that glide through the stunning countryside.

--Cooter


Marines Came of Age in WW I-- Part 6: A National WW I Memorial in D.C.!!

While Marines can proudly sing of the halls of Montezuma and the shores of Tripoli, in many ways, the Marine Corps became the fighting force it is today because of the grueling combat they experienced at Belleau Wood.

The World War I Centennial Commission was created by Congress to preserve and promote such stories.  The commission was also authorized to create the new National World War I Memorial in Washington, D.C., to commemorate those who served during that global war, a tribute long overdue.

I am sure glad to find out that there is going to be a National World War I Memorial in D.C..  But I wish they had done it while we had the last veteran of that war alive, Frank Buckles.

--DaCoot

Marines Came of Age in WW I-- Part 5: "The Deadliest Weapon In the World Is ....

The human cost of the Battle of Belleau Wood was horrifying.  There were 1,811 Americans killed and 7,966 wounded, but their action stopped the German advance.  They killed and wounded thousands of Germans and captured more than 1,500.

In the eyes of the world, the Marines who fought at Belleau Wood proved that the "Teufel Hinden" (Devil Dogs) could stand toe-to-toe against the most experienced combat troops in the world and win.  General Pershing was so amazed by their tenacity that it brought about a famous quote from him:  "The deadliest weapon in the world is a United States Marine and his rifle."

The fortitude, discipline, courage instilled into the Marines of the 5th and 6th regiments can greatly be attributed to their noncommissioned officers.  Heavily relied upon as the "backbone of the Marine Corps," the NCO's long-standing profession as small unit leaders stands form today through every rank and file.

--Cooter

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Marine's Came of Age in World War I-- Part 4: Marines Met Every Challenge in Belleau Wood

Belleau Wood would be among the first large-scale battles involving American troops, and the enemy knew it would set the tone for how the Americans would see themselves.  They attacked hard.

What happened at Belleau Wood was nothing short of ferocious -- a close-range pitched battle, through dense woods, where troops from both sides were desperate to advance the line and succeed the mission.  Machine gun fire, poison gas, mortars, grenades and bayonet counterattaxcks were all inflicted with hellish delivery.

The Marines met every challenge, mounting major frontal attacks on the enemy six different times for nearly a month.


That Answers Whether the Americans Came to Fight Or Not.  --Cooter

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Today's Marine Corps Came of Age in WW I-- Part 3: Rushed Into Battle

It was then that the Marine Corps would undergo a radical transformation to do what it was asked to do.  Following boot camp (for the enlisted men) and Officer Candidate School (for officers), Marines would take a more advanced garrison and field training both stateside and following their arrival in France.

Before this Marines were primarily attached to ships and used in smaller operations.  (I attended Officer Candidate School in 1971 in Quantico, Virginia.)

However, the German Spring Offensive of 1918 altered that training, causing an immediate movement of undertrained troops to the outskirts of Paris.  The Marine mission was to stop the German Army breach into the Chateau-Thierry, the front line at a place known as Belleau Wood.

--Cooter

Today's Marine Corps Came of Age in WW I-- Part 2: Increase in Fighting Force

Despite the limited experience in the Philippines and along the Mexican border, it was going to be very different on the battlefields in France "where machine guns, artillery and chemical warfare were capable of killing 10,000 men in a day."

The Marines, which at the time had less than 15,000 men, had seen combat action in China and Nicaragua, but even that experience wasn't enough to prepare them for what they were about to face.

Army General John "Blackjack" Pershing was appointed by President Woodrow Wilson to command the American Expeditionary Force.  He determined to keep the American units fighting as separate units rather than being supplied piecemeal to British and French forces as replacements.

America was now at war and the Marines would be called upon.  Congress approved an additional 31,000 Marines to increase their fighting strength.  General George Barnett, commandant of the Marine Corps, successfully orchestrated a nationwide recruiting campaign to enlist and commission the best of America's volunteers.

--DaCoot


One Man's Travels By Water in 1836-- Part 6: Texas Vagabonds "Drinking Bad Whiskey" and the Alligator Incident

In Galveston, Texas, David Crandall observed a sandbar with "tents and a few shanties and the population consisted of Mexican prisoners taken at the Battle of San Jacinto" overseen by "vagabonds in Texas uniform ... who divided their time between drinking bad whiskey, playing poker and tormenting their Mexican prisoners."  (Well, at least the Mexican prisoners were still alive, which was not an option for the Texan defenders of the Alamo earlier in the year.)

Across from an old Spanish village at the head of Galveston Bay, Crandall saw a wide sandy beach "literally covered with water fowl."  He borrowed a a dugout canoe to go on a "shooting excursion" but didn't have much luck.

Intending to crawl under a nearby log to "get one fair shot," he approached slowly to avoid alarming the game.  However, "the log became alarmed and while I was yet thirty steps away, it started for the water at top speed.  ... What I had supposed to be a log proved to be a huge alligator."

--Cootgator

Monday, August 14, 2017

Today's Marine Corps Came of Age in WW I-- Part 1: Just How Well Would They Perform?

From April 24, 2017 Army Times.com  by Sgt. Maj. Bryan B. Battaglia (ret).

BELLEAU WOOD SHOWCASED GRIT, GUILE THAT STILL DEFINES THE SERVICE.

(Sgt. Major Brysan B. Battaglia served 36 years in the Marine Corps including as the senior enlisted adviser to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (2011-1016).  Quite a record for him.

America's initial entry into World War I, which came three years after the war began, was more promise than power for the Allies.  Military experts on both sides of the Atlantic knew that  the Americans had the numbers, but their was little experience as far as combat troops.

The Army had been deployed to the Philippines to fight insurgents and units (and National Guard) had served along the Mexican border during the Pancho Villa times during the Mexican Revolution.

But this service was to be different from what they had faces.

--Cooter


Friday, August 11, 2017

One Man's Travels By Water in 1836-- Part 4: The Horse Race

In Louisville, Kentucky, "a match horse race came off between the states of Kentucky and Tennessee.  The chivalry of Kentucky staked their bottom dollar on the (bay gelding) Randolph, while the sporting men of Tennessee bet their last nickel on the brown filly Angora."

Randolph won "and the Tennesseeans were stripped to their shoestrings.  Large numbers of them were unable to pay their hotel bills and many were reduced from an easy competence to abject poverty."

After a stop in Cairo, Illinois, "which consisted of one building -- a tavern,"  David Crandall took the Madison, another steamer, to New Orleans, where he had his first glimpse of slavery:  "I found much food for reflection among a people who made slavery in its most brutal aspects the corner stone of their civilization and the chief element of their commercial prosperity."

He Wasn't Much Impressed With Slavery.  --Cooter

Thursday, August 10, 2017

One Man's Travels On the Erie Canal (and Beyond) in 1836-- Part 3: Ohio's Canals and Two Presidents

David Sprague Crandall next crossed Lake Erie by steamer, landing in Cleveland.

Ohio's recent work on their canal system allowed him to travel several more days to the Ohio River, where he traveled again by steamer which he described as, "a little squeaking stern-wheeler which was aground half the time and the passengers kept running back and forth across the boat to rock it through through the sand bars."  I take it he was not overly impressed.

It was in Cincinnati that he saw President Jackson as well as William Henry Harrison, two War of 1812 heroes.  Of course, Harrison would himself be elected to the presidency four years later.

--Cooter

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

One Man's Travels on the Erie Canal in 1836-- Part 2: A Baby Squall?

The canal boat David Sprague Crandall boarded was bound for Buffalo, at the western end of the canal.

"Just as we made the light of S. Pendleton Clark's grocery the ever rolling banks of Townawanda Creek bearing sou'west by south half south & a little southerly we were struck abaft of the main hatch by a squall from the cook's baby.

"The captain was equal to the emergency and immediately gave orders to club-haul the boat, take a double reef in the overboard and pray for daylight.  The squall was short, sharp and uneventful, so that we made with cheerful alacrity," Crandall recorded in his journal.

Not sure what sort of storm they encountered here.

--Cooter

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

One Man's Travels on the Erie Canal in 1836-- Part 1: A Journal

From the July 23, 2017, Chicago Tribune by Stephanie Reynolds.

As we mark the 200th anniversary of the beginning of construction on the famous Erie Canal, connecting the Hudson River with the Great Lakes, a huge step in American transportation and quite an undertaking without the equipment we have today, here is a look back.

It was 1836, the same year as the Battle of the Alamo in Texas, David Sprague Crandall left his hometown in Lockport, N.Y., to travel on the Erie Canal and the Ohio and Mississippi rivers all the way to Galveston, , Texas.

He took paddle-wheel steamers  and slow-poke line boats pulled by mules on a tow path.  Along the way, he encountered an alligator, a horse race that pitted Tennessee against Kentucky and President Andrew Jackson.

Fortunately for us, he kept a journal of his trip for his 9-year-old grandson, George Lee Thurston II.

Crandall was a journalist and eventually became the owner of the Lockport Courier.  But, on August 8, 1836, he boarded a "shovel-nosed line boat" that was propelled by two mules and a ragged boy."  He was in poor health and going west to seek a change of climate.

he was heading west to Buffalo, NY, at the western end of the canal, at a speed somewhat slower than a person walking.

But, at least he wasn't doing the walking.

--DaCoot

My Experiences in the Vietnam War in My Down Da Road I Go Blog

Even though I did not go to Vietnam and fight, I sure enough came close to being there.

I have been writing about my experiences in my Down da Road I Go Blog.  You can go to it by looking at the Blogs I Follow section to the right of this entry and clicking on the blog.

To me it was The War That Would Never End.  Then there was that draft lottery thing and college.

Give It a Look.  --CooterAlmostThere.

Monday, August 7, 2017

World War I Australian "Diggers" Get Photographed in Front of the Great Pyramidin Front of the Great Pyramid

From the July 25, 2014 Yahoo! 7: The West Australian "The story of the Cheops pyramid picture" by Malcolm Quekett.

Just weeks before many of them died at Gallipoli, Diggers (what Australian soldiers in WWI were often called) of the 11th Battalion, 703 Australians, camped out in Egypt and receiving final training were ordered to a nearby landmark for a group picture.  It was likely the last picture ever taken of some of them as many died at Gallipoli.

The 11th Battalion was raised primarily in the state of West Australia, Australia.

Captain Charles Barnes wrote:  "After Church this morning, the whole Battalion was marched up to the Pyramid (Old Cheops) and we had a photo took or at least several of them."

The officers were in the front and the men on the steps of the pyramid.

Legend has it that one of the men in the photo was actually a dead body, dressed in uniform and propped up.

So far, 154 in the photo have been identified.  They want Australian families to help with identification.

At Gallipoli, on the first day, April 25, 1915, the 11th Battalion was among the first Australian units to land and they lost 57 men of the 620 Australians killed that day.

A very interesting picture.  Look it up.

--Cooter

Saturday, August 5, 2017

GAR Veterans Do a Flag-Raising in 1917

From the July 5, 2017, MidWeek  "Looking Back."

1917, 100 Years Ago

Even though 1917 was 52 years after the Civil War ended, former Union soldiers participated in a patriotic flag-raising in Waterman, Illinois, for World War I.

"Yesterday was an important one in the history of Waterman when several thousand people gathered there for the flag raising ceremony which has been previously announced.

"The members of the Grand Army of the Republic had the ceremony in charge and four of the old soldiers held the large banner, while one pulled it to the top of the staff.  As the flag was being raised to the top of the staff, Company A fired 21 rounds in salute while the bugler blew the colors."

The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was an organization made up of former members of the the Union Army, Navy and Marines from the Civil War.

And now, these old men were about to witness another American War.

--Cooter

Friday, August 4, 2017

The 21st U.S. Infantry: 1905 to World War I

Yesterday I wrote about the 21st U.S. Infantry at the Plattsburgh Barracks in Plattsburgh, New York.

From 1905-1906, the regiment was on garrison duty in the Philippines.  From 1909 to 1912 they were back in the Philippines.  Then they were based at Vancouver Barracks. From March 1916, they were on the Arizona-California border protecting citizens from Villista raids.

In December 1916, the 21st participated in the Panama-California Exposition defending against a simulated attack by U.S. Navy cruisers Frederick and San Diego and several aircraft.

With U.S. entry into World War I, in April 1917, they were transferred to Camp Kearney and were subordinated to the 16th Division's 31st Infantry.  Not quite sure what subordinated means.  Perhaps it has something to do with training soldiers.  They trained troops for fighting in France with the American Expeditionary Force.

In March, they returned to the Vancouver Barracks.

--DaCoot

Plattsburgh Barracks-- Part 2: Prewar and World War I

During World War I and the years leading up to it, the Plattsburgh Barracks were a part of the Civilian Military Training Camp of Plattsburgh.

It was the brainchild of Army General Leonard Wood and the forerunner of today's ROTC.

--CooterPlatt

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Plattsburgh Barracks-- Part 1: The War of 1812 and "The President's Own"

From Wikipedia "The Old Stone Barracks"

I have been writing about these barracks for the past week in my War of 1812 blog "Not So Forgotten."

These barracks were constructed at Plattsburgh, New York in 1838 to replace barracks that had been in use since the War of 1812.  The famous Battle of Lake Champlain/Battle of Plattsburgh took place here.

In the 1890s, the Barracks were the home of the 21st U.S. Infantry, known as "The President's Own."

President William McKinley gave them that nickname because he frequently summered at the nearby Hotel Champlain and would often visit the post to review the troops.

The 21st Infantry left here to participate in the Spanish-American War where on 22 June 1898, they fought at the Battle of Santiago and on July 1, they were in on the attack on San Juan Hill.  They were then withdrawn from Cuba in August because of disease.

--Cooter

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

August 2 in History: Declaration, Census, Bad Day for Wild Bill, Black Sox and Gulf of Tonkin

From the Chicago Tribune.

**  1776   Members of the Continental Congress began signing the Declaration of Independence.  (And most people think it was signed on July 4, 1776.)

**  1790   The enumeration of the first U.S. census began.  When it was over, the final total was 3,929,214.

**  1876   "Wild Bill" Hickok was fatally shot from behind while playing poker in a saloon in Deadwood, Dakota Territory.  He was holding two aces and two eights, a combination that became known as the "Deadman's Hand."

**  1921   After two hours of deliberation, the jury in the "Black Sox" trial of eight White Sox players returned a verdict of not guilty in the plot to fix the 1919 World Series.  (However, Baseball Commissioner Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis banned them from baseball for life.)

A real sad day for us Sox fans as we might have had that successful reign that the Yankees had after that.

1964   The Pentagon reported the first of two attacks on U.S. destroyers by North Vietnamese torpedo boats in the Gulf of Tonkin.  This was a major step for the U.S. escalation in the Vietnam War.

--  SadSoxCoot

Those "Wild West Shows"-- Part 6: His Death in 1917

Details about his personal life are sparse.  He was apparently married, but his wife's name is unknown.  He had two daughters, at least one of them, Neva, was brought back to Antioch and cared for by friends when Wild Jim was on tour.

In his later years, in ill health with bladder cancer, he moved to the home of his daughter Neva in Copiaque, New York, where he died on February 13, 1917.  A funeral service was held at her home and his remains transported back to Antioch, Illinois, where he was buried at Hillside Cemetery.

His daughter, Neva French Imig, was born in Chicago in 1891 and spent her childhood in Antioch where she married Arthur Imig.  She died at age 35 of stomach cancer and was also returned to Antioch for burial

This information came from Ainsley Wonderling of the Lakes Region Historical Society in Antioch.  She has discovered that she is distantly related to the French family.

--DaCoot

Those "Wild West Shows"-- Part 5: Wild Jim's Shooting Exhibition

A reporter from the St. Paul Daily Globe wrote about Wild Bill French's shooting exhibition on board the steamboat Bald Eagle which was accompanied by her sister ship, the Minneapolis.

"First he took shots at 30 glass balls tossed into the air and broke 28 of the 30 with his shot.  Then with the rifle pointed backwards over his shoulder, broke the two balls reflected in a mirror held in front of him."

He followed this up by hitting each of four apples thrown with force directly at him.  In spite of the motion of the boat shaking on the wave he was able to maintain accurate shots.

Wild Jim wrote and published his own ten cent novels exploiting his many talents.  These novels spread his fame and encouraged people to come and see him when he was in town.  He distributed fliers as well.  Cost to attend his shows were 25 cents for men, half price for boys and women were admitted for free.

--CootShot

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Those "Wild West Shows"-- Part 4: Antioch's Wild Bill French

While his show could not compete with Buffalo Bill's show in size or variety, he did have a successful run exhibiting his unique shooting skills.  He was the primary attraction and known for his daring feats in the saddle.

His riding and handling of firearms won him fame and distinction.

Known as Wild Jim or Captain J.C. French, he was said to have been a hunter on the plains of the West since he was age 12.  (Not true.)

One of his exhibitions took place on the Bald Eagle ship making its way from Dubuque to Minneapolis.  As reported in the St. Paul Daily Globe, "Captain French gave a fine exhibit to other passengers of the Bald Eagle and sister ship Minneapolis."

What He Did, Next.  --DaCootShot


Those "Wild West Shows"-- Part 3: Wild Jim French's Wild West Show

During the peak of the Wild West Shows, other people had similar presentations, like the one by Wild Jim French, who had an Antioch, Illinois, connection.

He was born in August 1851 in Saugerfield, Oneida County, New York and had nine siblings.  Like other eastern families, the French family moved west, with the hopes of starting a better life.  There was a lot of land available in northern Illinois and the family settled in the area now known as Antioch.

Jim French grew up in Antioch, but eventually sought his fortune elsewhere and found it in Texas.  He adopted the name Wild Bill French and was an avid horseman and skilled shot.  With the popularity of the Wild West Shows, he established his own show.

--DaCootShot



Those "Wild West Shows"-- Part 2: Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show

In 1893, Buffalo Bill's (William Frederick Cody) Wild West Slow performed at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago and reportedly drew 18,000 spectators.

Along with acts, Buffalo Bill had re-enactments of the Pony Express, an Indian Attack on a wagon train and stagecoach robberies.  It was said that he closed with an re-enactment of Custer's Last Stand with Cody playing the role of Custer.  But most often it ended with an Indian attack on a settler's cabin with Cody leading a group of cowboys to save them.

Unfortunately, in the late 1800s, the country's economy reached a low and people did not have the money to purchase tickets.

Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show closed in 1913.

--Cooter