Terje Sørgjerd is an amazing photographer. He spent a week up in the Kirkenes and Pas National Park in Norway capturing a spectacular aurora borealis. Sørgjerd then put together his photos in a time lapse film that may be viewed HERE.
Congratulations to Roger (aka RTD), winner of yesterday's Person-of-Mystery contest! And our first four time winner!
Imagine if you were President for a day? What would you do? My guess is that you probably wouldn't sleep the entire day, but that's exactly what David Rice Atchison did when he got the chance.
It all came about when James K. Polk's term expired at noon, March 4, 1849. However, this was a Sunday, and President Elect Zachary Taylor, for religious reasons, refused to be sworn in until the next day. So who was president? No one really. Times were different back then. A little slower.
Technically, the presidential succession rules at the time had the President pro tempore of the United States Senate second in line after the Vice President (today this office is third in line). David Rice Atchison was the former President pro tempore, so some people jokingly refer to him as President for the day of March 4, 1849, even though Atchison never considered himself President.
In September of 1882, "The Lever," a Plattsburg, Missouri newspaper ran an interview with Atchison about his famous day. Atchison explained, "It was in this way: Polk went out of office on the 3d of March 1849, on Saturday at 12 noon. The next day, the 4th, occurring on Sunday, Gen. Taylor was not inaugurated. He was not inaugurated till Monday, the 5th, at 12 noon. It was then canvassed among Senators whether there was an interregnum (a time during which a country lacks a government). It was plain that there was either an interregnum or I was the President of the United States being chairman of the Senate, having succeeded Judge Magnum of North Carolina. The judge waked me up at 3 o'clock in the morning and said jocularly that as I was President of the United States he wanted me to appoint him as secretary of state. I made no pretense to the office, but if I was entitled in it I had one boast to make, that not a woman or a child shed a tear on account of my removing any one from office during my incumbency of the place. A great many such questions are liable to arise under our form of government".
Atchison later told another reporter, that here had been no President that day and described his day, "I went to bed. There had been two or three busy nights finishing up the work of the Senate, and I slept most of that Sunday."
Atchison died in 1886 and is buried in Plattsburg, Missouri. His grave marker reads, "President of the United States for One Day."
The moon is shining so beautifully upon the peaceful Mediterranean tonight. From my hotel window I can see far across the waters. The ships are slumbering so quietly in the docks. The moon, water, beautiful breeze is almost bliss.
It is said that at Appomattox, when Robert E. Lee was asked to name the greatest soldier under his command, he replied, "A man I have never seen, sir. His name is Forrest." To be sure, Nathan Bedford Forrest was one of the most interesting figures on either side of the American Civil War. He enlisted as a Private in 1861 and ended the war as a Lieutenant General. During the conflict, Forrest had a total of 30 horses shot out from under him and was frequently seen in the thick of fighting, battling man-to-man with his saber. Those who have added up contemporary accounts of Forrest in action, have credited him with no less than 33 Yankees killed by his own hands in combat.
One popular misquote attributed to Forrest has him summing up his military strategy as "git thar fustest with the mostest." While Forrest may not have said this, much of his calvary work amounted to quick maneuver, surprise, and constant harassment of the enemy. At least on one occasion however, he was able to pull off a victory by arriving later and with numbers inferior to the task.
In September of 1864, nearly all the Confederate armed forces were staging tactical retreats, but not Nathan Bedford Forrest. He was leading his forces north from Alabama towards Nashville, Tennessee. Standing between him and Nashville was the fortified Union stronghold at Athens, Alabama. Although the position contained only 600 men, they were well stocked with food and weapons and their batteries were completely protected. Forrest arrived and surrounded the garrison on September 23 and demanded its surrender. His request was promptly denied and Forrest knew he had to act quickly. A relief column of 700 Yankees was marching south and would be there within hours.
After an initial attack revealed the fort was too heavily defended to be taken with haste, Forrest called for a parley with the Federal commander, Colonel Wallace Campbell. When the two met, Forrest told him that resistance was hopeless and offered to allow the Colonel to inspect the Confederate forces. The two then made a loop around the fort, allowing the Union officer to count Forrest's men and artillery. Unbeknownst to Campbell, Forrest had prearranged for his men and their artillery to reposition themselves to another place around the fort as soon as the two had ridden past.
By the time Campbell had finished, he had counted an estimated 8,000 to 10,000 Rebel soldiers with ample artillery to demolish his position. Campbell thanked Forrest for his humanitarian gesture, returned to his men and said, "The jig is up; pull down the flag."
The relief column which had been battling courageously towards Campbell's men, arrived just in time to witness the surrender, and despairing of hope, they too gave up. This second surrender brought Forrest's one-day total to slightly more than 1,300 prisoners taken, not including horses and weapons. What Campbell did not know at the time was that Forrest had only 4,500 men under his command, approximately 2,000 of which had been present at the fort (the remainder being sent to do battle with the relief column). Campbell had counted each of Forrest's men and their cannon several several times during his tour, greatly exaggerating their numbers.
By the time the campaign was over, Forrest's band of 4,500 had killed about 1,000 Yanks and had captured 2,360 men, while losing only 47 killed and 293 wounded. Unfortunately for the South, Forrest's victories came too late to disrupt the Union advance. Atlanta had fallen a couple months earlier and Sherman was well on his way towards resupply at Savannah.
Congratulation to RTD, "aka Roger," winner of yesterday's Person-of-Mystery contest.
Charles Gridley is best known as the Captain of the USS Olympia, made famous at the Battle of Manila Bay, during the Spanish-American War. Admiral George Dewey had chosen the Olympia as his flagship, and gave the famous order, "You may fire when you are ready, Gridley." Of course, younger readers may be more familiar with this line from the many Looney Tunes cartoons where this line was regularly used by Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck.
Gridley would certainly have become a national hero like Dewey, but he was unwell (even during the battle) and took leave of the squadron after the capture of Manila and died June 5, 1898, at Kobe, Japan, while en route back to the States.
Interestingly enough, if you are in Philadelphia, you can still tour the Olympia, but not for long. The ship needs costly repairs to halt a rusting hull and there is much talk about scraping the vessel soon.
(Gridley, far left, with other officers of the Olympia)
Although even more interesting is Charles Vernon Gridley's nickname, "Steve." He acquired the name when attending Annapolis. I'm sure there's has to be some story behind it, but I've never read how it came about.
The news from Japan seems so tragic, it's hard to imagine how horrible the damage is. My friend, David Kim, sent me a link to some heart-wrenching aerial shots of the devastation on the ABC Australia site. You can roll your cursor over the screen and see how the topography was changed.
If you've been watching the news lately, I'm sure you've caught a glimpse of yesterday's Person-of-Mystery, Robert M. La Follette, Sr.
Still unsure that you've seen him? If you've seen any of the recent protests at the Wisconsin State Capitol, you've probably seen a bust of him prominently displayed.
Here in our home, we've been watching the Wisconsin protests with interest. Not because of the politics, but because my wife is from Madison and it's fun for her to see pictures from Wisconsin. We were well familiar with La Follette as she even attended La Follette High School. Go Lancers!
(La Follette in 1884)
"Fighting Bob" La Follette certainly lived up to his name. First elected to the US House of Representatives (as a Republican from Wisconsin) in 1884, he served three terms. While in the House, he championed causes for Blacks and American Indians. He also fought railroad interests and other big business.
La Follette went on to serve Governor of Wisconsin from 1901 to 1906, where he rose to national prominence through the reporting work of muckraking journalists.
In 1905, while still serving as Governor, he nominated himself to the United States Senate and was confirmed by the Wisconsin State Senate (this was before the direct election of Senators). He continued to serve as Governor for the better part of a year, with a vacant Senate seat in Washington to continue to enact his Wisconsin agenda. Finally in 1906, he took his appointed seat. While in the Senate he was known as a superb orator and is frequently ranked among the most influential Senators of all time. He pushed child labor laws, suffrage for women, and was the foremost opponent of America's entry into World War I.
(Anti-German La Follette Political Cartoon)
Like all good fighters, he gained plenty of enemies, but like all good fighting Senators, the filibuster was one of his weapons. For those outside the US, a filibuster is a strange rule in the US Senate, where Senators can attempt to prevent a vote or stall legislation. The only rules are that they must continue to speak about something and you cannot leave the Senate floor.
On May 29, 1908, La Follette decided to attempt a filibuster of the Aldrich-Vreeland Bill. He began speaking at 12:20 in the afternoon and continued talking for hour upon hour. As evening came around he requested mixtures of milk and raw eggs from the Senate dining room be brought to him to keep up his strength. Between the hours of 10 and 11 pm, he took a sip from another of these mixtures. Suddenly his eyes widened and he started to gag. He set the glass down and he felt sick. Someone had poisoned his drink. His symptoms quickly worsened. He had shooting pain and his stomach churned. His bowels were unsettled and he doubled over in pain, but he refused to leave the floor and he continued speaking until 7:03 am the next day. Later, a chemical analysis showed that someone had put enough ptomaine in his drink to kill most men.
La Follette even ran for President in 1924 under the Progressive Party ticket. He lost, but captured Wisconsin and won 17% of the vote nationally. He continued in the Senate until his death the next year.
I may not like all of his politics, but you gotta love a fighter!
I know I recently posted a bit on what I still believe is a ridiculous commercial in praise of television, but I thought I'd pass along a recommendation for a good series. My wife and I are always game for a good detective show and so we were delightfully surprised when we discovered a British drama about a police detective in World War II Britain.
The show is called Foyle's War and still being produced by ITV in the UK. They're now in series seven, with 22 episodes so far. My wife likes the murder mystery aspect. I enjoy the historical drama. All good fun. We're almost to the end of series one, so don't anyone spoil it if you've seen them. The wonderful thing about discovering a series late is that the public library has a good number of these on DVD.
Postmarked Piercy, California, June 25, 1959, 1 PM
Mrs. W. E. Benton
216 Cliff Drive
I haven't seen any fish as big as the one on the post card yet. The ones dad caught were about four inches long. So far he has only caught five. We have a nice little cabin up here in the redwoods. A river runs right below our cabin and Cheryl and I have been floating down it on rafts. Yesterday dad fell in the river when fishing. Will see you Monday.
There were a great number of post cards in the collection of my great-grandmother Jessie Burrows Benton and I was thumbing through them when I came across a much more recent one. The one I will post today comes from 1959. It's addressed from my Uncle Jim to his grandmother Jessie. I found it a little touching as my uncle died this past Saturday. So this morning I'd like to share a little window to happy times past when my Uncle Jim was a boy of 14. Cheryl, who he mentions in the card, is my mother.