Earth Day 2012: An Economic Suicide Pact?

It’s difficult . . .

to put things in perspective at times. A little over 150 years ago we fought a great Civil War. Armies of foot soldiers walked, and teams of horses hauled the supplies. Oil had not yet been discovered near Titusville, PA, and Thomas Edison and NikolaTesla were not yet exploring the wonders of AC and DC electrical current. Tiny Wabash, Indiana became the first electrically lighted city in the world a mere 132 years ago.

Such wonders of advancement, dare I say progress,  that we have witnessed in such a short time since then. America has been blessed with huge supplies of coal, oil, and natural gas, which allowed us to harness energy beyond the simple mill-dam crushing wheat seed into flour. Coal was easily mined, which heated our houses and buildings much more efficiently than using wood as our predecessors did, and with the discovery of electricity, coal could be used to make steam to efficiently drive electrical turbines and distribute power wherever a power-line could reach.

We owe our current modern way of life to these early and unencumbered scientists and pioneers.

Why are some in our society doing their best to convince us to enter into a suicide pact? Here is what I would do if I wanted America to fail. What would Henry Ford say if he were alive today?

Plentiful, cheap energy is what has allowed and driven our nation to be great. 

April 7, 1862

April 7 & 8, 1862. (the second and follow up day at the Battle of Shiloh)

“If the enemy comes on us in the morning, we’ll be whipped like hell”.

– Col. Nathan Bedford Forrest (Yes, Forrest Gump was named after this man)

The best estimates of casualties on the first day are the south lost 8,500 men to death and injury and an equal number to desertion. The effective force was about 28,000. The north had about 10,000 killed and wounded with few desertions (better discipline and training) leaving them with a significant advantage. About 50,000 fighting men, which prompted the quote from Confederate Col. Nathan Bedford Forrest whose advice General Beauregard ignored.

The Confederates had withdrawn into the old Union camps to get away from the naval bombardment, to search for food and ammunition. There was complete disarray, no lines of battle, no defensive positions.

At dawn Grant attacked with full force on his right driving the confederates out of their poorly defended positions with Lew Wallace’s “Lost Division”. The remainder of Sherman’s, McClernand’s and Tuttle’s (Tuttle replaced the surrendered Prentiss) divisions down the center with the Army of the Ohio on the right next to the river. The Confederate defenders were so badly commingled that little unit cohesion existed. It required more than two hours to locate Gen. Polk and bring up his division from its position before 10 a.m., Beauregard had realigned his front with his commanders from west to east: Bragg, Polk, Breckinridge, and Hardee.

Fighting was intensified now that the confederates had some cohesiveness. In a thicket near the Hamburg-Purdy Road, the fighting was so intense that Sherman described in his report of the battle “the severest musketry fire I ever heard.”

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April 6, 1862

April 6, 1862 (First day at the Battle of Shiloh)

In times of War and not Before,

God and Soldiers Men Adore.

But in Times of Peace

with all Things Righted,

God is Forgotten

and the Soldier Slighted.

 – Rudyard Kipling

After the losses of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson to General Grant in February of 1862, Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston withdrew his forces into western Tennessee, northern Mississippi, and Alabama to reorganize.  During this time Union Maj. Gen. Henry W. Halleck removed Grant from his command for insubordination (lack of communications) quickly proven to be false.

Restored to full command Grant was ordered to move his six divisions known as the Army of the Tennessee (Union Army’s were named after rivers) to Pittsburg Landing in Tennessee.  At the same time General Don Carlos Buell was ordered to join Grant with his Army of the Ohio.  Halleck intended to take the field in person and lead both armies in an advance south to seize the Memphis & Charleston Railroad, a vital supply line between the Mississippi River Valley, Memphis, and Richmond at the junction in Corinth, Mississippi.

Grant’s army of 49k men consisted of six divisions, led by Maj. Gens. McClernand and Lew Wallace, and Brig. Gens. W. H. L. Wallace, Hurlbut, Sherman, and Prentiss. By early April, all six of the divisions were encamped on the western side of the Tennessee River, Lew Wallace’s at Crump’s Landing and the rest farther south at Pittsburg Landing.

General Johnston was fully aware of the positions of all Union troops in Tennesee as the loyal local population kept him well informed.  His Army of Mississippi (Confederate Army’s were named after states) had 55k just south of Corinth.  On April the 3rd 45K of these men marched to Pittsburg Landing hoping to hit Grant before he could join forces with Buell.

Maj. Gen. Polk, with two divisions under Brig. Gen. Clark and Maj. Gen. Cheatham, Maj. Gen. Braxton Bragg, with two divisions under Brig. Gens. Ruggles and Withers Maj. Gen. Hardee, with three brigades under Brig. Gens. Hindman, Cleburne, and Wood, Brig. Gen. Breckinridge, in reserve, with three brigades under Cols. Trabue and Statham, and Brig. Bowen, and attached cavalry.

Against the advice of his second in command General Beauregard who thought the test firing of weapons had given away their position, Johnston stated that he would “attack them if they were a million”.  On the early morning of April 6, 1862 The Army of Mississippi launched the attack straddling the Corinth road hoping to force Grant’s left flank into abandoning Pittsburg Landing and seek refuge in the swamps where it could be destroyed piecemeal.  They achieved a virtual tactical surprise and many union soldiers were bayoneted in their tents.  Because of the surprise, Johnston’s poorly trained troops quickly fell into disarray (out pacing the supply wagons and stopping to plunder) and the original plan fell apart.  Instead of separating the Union from the river they forced them towards it where Grant had a large reserve of Naval Weaponry (the BIG guns and mortars) at his command.  The Confederate force became intermingled and command structure was lost.  Confederate artillery became ineffective because the troops ran too far forward and would be hit by their own fire.  Despite all these tactical blunders the Confederate attack was gaining ground at an alarming rate.

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The Early Life of Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln was born in what is now known as Hodgenville, Kentucky in 1809, at that time there was no town just a rural county.  He was named after his grandfather who was killed by indians in 1786 while clearing a field.  He lived in Kentucky until his father was forced off his land by a legal dispute.  They moved to Spencer County, Indiana in 1816 partly due to slavery and their legal issues in Kentucky.  In 1818 at age 9, his mother (Nancy Hanks Lincoln) died of “Milk Sickness” at age 34.  Milk Sickness was common and those who ate meat, milk or other dairy products from a cow that fed on “White Snakeroot,” which contains tremetol, a poison.  His father soon married Sarah Bush Johnston who raised the Lincoln children as her own.  In comparing Lincoln to her own son, she said, “Both were good boys, but I must say — both now being dead that Abe was the best boy I ever saw or ever expect to see.”  His sister died in 1828 during childbirth.  Abe loved and respected her calling her his Angel Mother.

His formal education lasted only a year and a half.  He was self-educated, studying every book he could find.  He often walked many miles just to borrow a book.  The Bible, Shakespere, anything of history or poetry was quickly mastered.  Many thought him to be a loafer because he did not like to hunt, or fish, and dreaded farming.  But he was a skilled axeman and an excellent wrestler.  Standing 6’4″ he was a giant in his day and was proud of his stature.  His friends said of him “He read so much – was so studious – took so little physical exercise – was so laborious in his studies, and that he became so thin and were afraid that he would craze himself.” – Henry McHenry

In 1830 after more land title battles in Indiana, his father moved the family to Macon County, Illinois (just west of Decatur) and after a brutal winter that almost claimed their lives they moved south to Coles County, Illinois (my birthplace).  In 1831 and ready to strike out on his own Lincoln and two life long friends met in Springfield to take a load of goods down to New Orleans starting on the Sangamon River.  While in New Orleans Lincoln saw his first slave auction that left a life long impression on him to his final day.

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The Election of 1860

If you wished, you could devote the rest of your life writing about Abraham Lincoln.  His election was the most significant of all time.  Many believed that his election would plunge the country into an inevitable civil war, yet they voted for him anyway.  The furor on both side was enormous and the chances of compromise was gone.  In 1860 the dominant party of the time was the Democratic Party, they met in Charleston, South Carolina to select a presidential candidate. The Southern delegates insisted that the party endorse a platform that guaranteed the rights of slaveholders in the territories. When the convention rejected the proposal, delegates from the deep South walked out. The remaining delegates reassembled six weeks later and selected Stephen Douglas as their candidate. Southern Democrats formed their own party and proceeded to choose John C. Breckinridge as their presidential nominee.

In May of 1860, the Constitutional Union Party, which consisted of conservative former Whigs, Know Nothings, and pro-Union Democrats nominated John Bell of Tennessee for President. This party platform denounced sectionalism and attempted to rally support for the Constitution and the Union. Meanwhile, the new Republican Party met in Chicago that May and recognized that the Democrat’s turmoil actually gave them a chance to take the election. They needed to select a candidate who could carry the North and win a majority of the Electoral College. To do that, the Republicans needed someone who could carry New Jersey, Illinois, Indiana and Pennsylvania — four important states that remained uncertain. There were plenty of potential candidates, but in the end Abraham Lincoln had emerged as the best choice. Lincoln had become the symbol of the frontier, hard work, the self-made man. His debates with Douglas had made him a national figure and the publication of those debates in early 1860 made him even better known. After the third ballot, he had the nomination for President.

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Compromises and Acts that led to The Civil War

This installment will cover the events and compromises that led to armed conflict and the secession of the southern states.

This country was founded upon the Articles of Confederation which were  designed to bring the states together and repel any threat of invasion by foreign powers.  If your state was threatened then all would join in the effort to repel the invaders.  The Revolutionary War was fought under this authority.  When our Founding Fathers gathered in 1787 to write the Constitution the most divisive issue was slavery.  The first compromise came when the Northwest Ordinance was adopted.  The future states of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Michigan were the northwest territory at that time.  The agreement was that this area would be slave free, and in the southern states, slavery would remain legal.  The Mission Statement of the Constitution was to “form a more perfect Union” however, the Constitution failed to address the 17% of the population who were slaves and would remain less than equal by law.

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