Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Brains of the Army - Lesley J. McNair (July 25, 1944)

On August 6, 1940 Lesley J. McNair became Chief of Staff to Gen. George C. Marshall. Their staggering task was to prepare the standing army of the United States, about 240,000 men organized in 12 divisions, to fight the Axis powers. By that time, Hitler’s forces had already conquered Poland, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Holland and France. Japan was running wild in the Pacific. All that stood between the triumph of Nazism and the last island of freedom was the RAF, and the outcome looked uncertain and bleak. By July 25, 1944, when he was killed in the most famous “friendly fire” incident in our history, McNair had played his part in one of the greatest military expansions in world history, organizing, equipping, and training more than 7 million men.

Before the war was over, America had fielded 83 ground force divisions (Infantry, Armored, and Paratroops) as well as countless independent brigades, regiments, and other fighting units that span the range of modern land warfare. All of it - the men, facilities, buildings, schools, and infrastructure that made up the land component (Army Ground Forces) was McNair’s responsibility. He had a singular insistence on “realistic” combat training which inspired the “infiltration” course, complete with live bullets zipping overhead. Most of all, he believed that the key to success on the battlefield was finding and promoting the natural leaders. One of the major benefits of the large-scale maneuvers held before the war (Louisiana, Tennessee, etc.) was the emergence of those leaders. While he received almost no public recognition or praise during the war years, he could very well be described as the architect of the modern American army.” George Marshall, not a man prone to excesses of speech, referred to his deputy as “the brains of the army.”

After graduating from West Point in 1904, McNair - known as “Whitey” because of his shock of blond hair - began his career in the field artillery. He served in Funston’s march on Vera Cruz in 1914, as well as Pershing’s Mexican Border Expedition in 1915-16. During the Great War he was at American Expeditionary Force (AEF) Headquarters as an artillery expert in the Training Section. The French were particularly impressed with the young officer, whose language skills had been honed during his assignment in 1913 as an observer of French units. McNair also attracted Pershing’s attention and favor and he became the youngest brigadier general in the AEF. It was impressive career advancement, even during wartime. Pershing awarded him the Distinguished Service Medal and the French Legion of Honor – and kiss – were bestowed by the great hero, Henri Petain. At the end of the war McNair was reduced in rank to major. It would take nearly 20 years to get that star back.

            After the war began McNair went to the fighting fronts to see first hand the result of his efforts. Once should have been enough. The very day he arrived in Tunisia April 23, 1943, he was hit by German shell fragments that ripped through his helmet and body, seriously wounding him. It was a close call. In connection with the Normandy invasion, McNair was sent to England and assigned the job of “commanding” the phantom First US Army Group, a major element in the extensive Operation FORTITUDE plan to deceive the Germans about our real intentions. Once again, McNair went forward to take a look. This time he picked an observation post near St. Lo just several hundreds of yards behind the line of departure for Operation COBRA. The previous day the massive air armada of 1,500 B-17’s, used for the first time in tactical support, had been recalled, but not before dropping some bombs on Americans. This time, everybody thought, they would get it right. By the end of the day, in spite of early disappointment in the ground advance, “Lightning Joe” Collins’ VII Corps was on the verge of a great breakout into France and Lesley McNair was dead.

            There is an apocryphal story – started by a GI, probably – that all they found of McNair was a bloody finger with a West Point ring. Not true. The coffin carried by the most senior generals in France – friends of Leslie McNair – was empty. His widow collected two posthumous oak leaf clusters to his DSM – his only tangible career reward – and Congress got around to making him and Lt. General Simon Bolivar Buckner, Jr. CG of the Tenth Army, killed on Okinawa – full generals in 1954. The beautiful Army War College campus, where McNair and his small staff built the ground army is now called Fort McNair, in honor of the highest-ranking US Army general ever killed in combat and the highest ranking officer killed during the twentieth century. In a grim stroke of evil fortune, his only son, Col. Douglas McNair - also an artillery officer and Chief of Staff of the 77th Infantry Division - was killed by a Japanese sniper on August 6, 1944. He was the highest- ranking casualty of that campaign.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Some Men Have to Fly - Robert F. Worley USAF (July 23, 1968)

Some pilots, no matter how high they rise, retain the heart of a squadron commander and have to fly. In fact, scholarship suggests that those who rise the highest in the Air Force (pun intended) never get far away from that perspective and ethos. Long after the time when it is prudent or operationally sound, they continue to fly combat missions. Major General Robert F. Worley died on the most routine mission imaginable – a high-speed low-level reconnaissance flight over North Vietnam – one that any newly-minted lieutenant could have flown. It cost his life and made him the first of two US Air Force generals lost in action (note: Colonel Edward Burdett, died of wounds November 18, 1967, was promoted posthumously to brig. general in 1974).

Bob Worley was already a P-40 pilot in the Army Air Corps when Pearl Harbor was attacked. His first command was the 314th Fighter Squadron (324th Fighter Group) based in North Africa and part of the Mediterranean-based Ninth Air Force. After some advanced training, on March 13, 1943 Captain Worley led several 314th pilots in the squadron’s first combat mission. The new arrivals and their commander got a rough welcome from the experienced and deadly Luftwaffe. Worley and three others were shot down. He bellied-in but evaded capture and made it back on foot. Morale sank, but Worley took control of himself and the squadron and led it with great honor. It won two Presidential Unit Citations and Worley wore numerous awards for courage and valor on his uniform.

Major Worley’s final WW II assignment was organizing and leading the 1st Fighter Squadron, a special P-47N “Thunderbolt” outfit in the Pacific. While only engaged a few months, the unit specialized in long-range ground support missions against the Japanese home islands. By war’s end, Worley had flown 120 missions, spending more than 215 hours in combat but he was just one of thousands of very experienced, squadron commanders.

Although Worley had never flown the hottest planes, he now got the airman’s dream job. He was put in charge of the jet transitional school at Williams Field, Arizona. After that, his career path was firmly set on an operations track. He moved up the ladder in regional, staff, headquarters, and school assignments, all preparing him for eventual joint command responsibility. By July 23, 1968, he was deputy commander of the Seventh Air Force, then heavily engaged in Vietnam. He was scheduled to leave shortly to become the head of Operations for the Pacific Air Force, a three-star job.

There was just one more thing to do. He only needed one more “out of country” mission for another cluster on his Air Medal. An out of country mission got double credit and he really wanted that medal (he already had eight!). In spite of the obvious risks of exposing himself – not to mention a general officer - to death or capture, he took the pilot’s seat in “Strobe Zero One”, a RF-4C Phantom (the USAF photo recon version) of 450th Reconnaissance Wing whose job was flying low and fast over the North. He never made it back. His body was found in the wreckage of his plane which crashed on the beach in Quang Tri province. His backseater ejected safely and was recovered.

Bob Worley was the genuine article – a real, honest-to-goodness, fighter pilot – but many others will also understand why he flew that last mission. He was the third flag officer killed in action in Vietnam and remains the highest ranking Air Force officer to fall.


Monday, July 22, 2013

Sherman’s Sword is Sheathed - James B. McPherson (July 22, 1864)

          The spectacular rise of James Birdseye McPherson (1828-1864) was the result of both talent and sponsorship. Few generals in our history started out from such lowly or depressing origins or rose as high as quickly. Forgotten now, his spectacular rise to fame eclipsed even that of the ascent of cavalry hero George Armstrong Custer. The son of a mentally unstable and violent blacksmith, the young McPherson was forced to work when still a child. Fortune intervened in the form of a local shopkeeper who, taking a personal interest in his welfare employed and educated the boy. Providing both emotional and material support, this first sponsor arranged for an appointment to West Point in 1849. That confidence was well founded. Graduating first in a class that included many future prominent generals, McPherson was commissioned into the prestigious Engineer Corps, the career path for West Point’s top graduates.

            After service constructing harbor defenses in New York and at Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay, at the outbreak of war, another sponsor noticed the young officer. Western theater commander General Henry Wagner Halleck also an engineer and destined to be the Union’s general-in-chief, appointed McPherson as aide and soon after Ulysses Grant named made him chief engineer of his army. In that position, the brilliant officer played an important part in the early Western campaigns, including the battles for Forts Henry and Donaldson along the Tennessee River, Shiloh, and the siege of Corinth, Miss. Both Halleck and Grant, who agreed on little else, recommended McPherson’s advancement. He successively commanded a brigade, division, corps – which he led brilliantly during the Vicksburg Campaign – and his rise in rank from staff captain to Brigadier General in the Regular Army was unmatched by any other Union officer. By March 1864, the 35 years old had succeeded Sherman in command of the Army of the Tennessee and was marching towards Atlanta.

            During the height of the campaign, McPherson, who had become engaged to a Baltimore woman, requested a leave so he could marry. Sherman refused, claiming that McPherson was too important to spare, even for a few days. On July 22 the young commander was trying to get back to his headquarters when he rode into a clearing occupied by Confederate skirmishers from William Hardee’s Corps. They fired and McPherson toppled from his saddle dead. Sherman had lost one of his best field commanders, but the loss was personal as well. Regretting his decision to refuse the furlough, and feeling the loss as a personal blow, Sherman reportedly commented that had he lived McPherson would have surely risen to command the nation’s forces.

            Meanwhile, back in Baltimore, Emily Hoffman remained ignorant of the fate of her fianc√© until her mother asked her to read the latest news reports. Gasping in shock and pain as she read the terrible news, Emily feinted and then retreated to her room where she remained for a year, completely shattered.

            James McPherson was the highest-ranking Union officer killed during the Civil War.


Friday, July 19, 2013

The Fighting McCooks A Father Buries a Son and His Sons Bury Him Daniel Sr July 19 and Charles July 21

          Exploding shells, rapid-fire musketry, and the screams of wounded men added to the growing confusion in the makeshift hospital. Daniel McCook (1798-1863), a 63-year-old volunteer nurse from Ohio, tried to concentrate on his job, but he was pre-occupied with his own worries. On the battlefield near Manassas Junction that day - July 21, 1861 - two of his sons, as well as a nephew, were fighting for their country and their lives.
          Exhausted and emotionally drained by the unrelieved suffering, McCook needed a break and walked outside. What he saw both thrilled and terrified him. Amidst a group of soldiers covering the retreat of the obviously shattered Union army, stood his second youngest son, Charles Morris (1843-1861). He had not seen the boy since the lad left Kenyon College before the end of his freshman year to volunteer at the outbreak of war. Declining a commission arranged by family friend Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, the 17-year-old had instead enlisted as a private in the 2nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment. Now, he suddenly found himself face-to-face with his father. After the shock of the unexpected encounter subsided, they warmly embraced. Charles then briefly took leave of his comrades to lend a hand with the wounded.
As the young private turned back to rejoin his regiment, troopers from the already renowned Confederate “Black Horse” cavalry intercepted Charles and his comrades and called on them to surrender. Aiming his musket at an officer, Charles shot him from his horse and held off the others for several minutes with his bayonet. Watching with growing trepidation and recognizing the hopelessness of the situation, his father called on his son to yield, to which Charles calmly replied, "Father, I will never surrender to a rebel." Moments later the boy was cut down. His father, shattered by what he had seen, rushed to his son and cradled him in his arms; the boy died moments later. His remains were removed from the field and were buried in the family gravesite at Spring Grove Cemetery. [i]

Called the “Fighting McCooks of Ohio,” no less than sixteen members of the family served the Union cause during the Civil War[ii]. The McCooks were a Scotch-Irish family that originally settled in Pennsylvania during the late 18th Century. George and Mary (nee McCormack) McCook had three sons, George (1795-1873), Daniel and John (1806-1865). After being educated at Jefferson College in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, all three made their homes in Ohio, establishing very deep personal, professional, and political ties within their adopted state. The political connections, in particular, would lead to many important relationships that would help their sons before, during, and after the war.[iii] The two younger brothers raised large families, siring fourteen sons between them, giving their names to the two major branches of the family, “the Tribe of Dan,” and, “the Tribe of John.”[iv]

Daniel and his wife Martha (nee Latimer) eventually settled in Carrollton, Ohio where he was a successful real estate investor and owner of a brick-making plant. Described by a local historian as “a man of commanding presence, an ardent patriot, and an earnest Christian, he possessed a most gentle and amiable disposition, combined with the highest personal courage, untiring energy, and great force of character.[v]” He was also active in civic affairs and served as first clerk of the Court of Common Pleas when Carrollton became a county seat. Later, he became one of the leaders of the Democratic Party in eastern Ohio.

After the death of his son Charles, Daniel McCook successfully pressed for a commission in the Ohio Home Guard, in spite of his age. A year later his son Robert was murdered by Confederate partisans. Stationed at Cincinnati during BG John Hunt Morgan’s third raid into Ohio, Major Daniel McCook, then 65 years old, rode with the pursuing troops and led an advance party trying to block Morgan at Buffington Island in southern Ohio. In the skirmish that followed on July 19, 1863, the patriarch of the “Tribe of Dan” was mortally wounded and died two days later on July 21, 1863, exactly two years after Charles’ death at First Bull Run. His funeral attracted senior officers and national press; Those of his sons able to leave the field came to bury their father, but the agony was not over.

Altogether, the family produced two major generals, five brigadier generals, one colonel, two majors, three lieutenants (including a chaplain and naval officer), a volunteer surgeon, and one very heroic private.[vi] In nearly every major Western campaign, at least one “Fighting McCook” was on the battlefield, often serving with bravery and distinction in the thick of the action. Four members of the family – all from the “Tribe of Dan” - were killed in action and many of the others suffered wounds and illness.  It would be difficult – perhaps impossible - to find another American family that made such a dramatic contribution – and offered so great a sacrifice.

[i] Henry Howe, LL.D., Historical Collections of Ohio - An Encyclopedia of the State, v.1, Columbus: State of Ohio, 1890, pp. 365-370.
[ii] There is confusion over the number of the “Fighting McCooks.” The Encyclopedia of the American Civil War  (pg. 1279) as well as Who’s Who in the Civil War  (pg. 410) cites 17, as does Boater’s The Civil War Dictionary, (pg. 526), which includes three unnamed (and undocumented) sons of Daniel in the total. Generals in Blue, (pg. 294) as well as Webster’s American Military Biography (pg. 259) puts the number at 14 and Harper’s Encyclopedia of Military Biography (pg. 466) states of Alexander McCook , “no fewer than 14 of whom (his father, all seven brothers, and five cousins in addition to Alexander) served in the Union army”. One source of confusion likely stems from the fact that there is no record that John, patriarch of the “Tribe of John,” ever served in a military unit, although he did volunteer as a surgeon. Another is that John James (of the “Tribe of Dan”) is counted, although he died 20 years before the Civil War.
[iii] Howe, Historical Collections of Ohio, pp. 365-370
[iv] Includes a boy who died in infancy and John James who died in Brazil in 1842, while serving as a Midshipman in the US Navy. There were also a number of daughters, whose husbands also served in the Union Army.
[v] Howe, Historical Collections of Ohio, pp. 365-370
[vi] Includes brevets made at the end of the Civil War

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Fighting McCooks of Ohio No Family Gave More - Daniel McCook (July 17, 1864)

Called the “Fighting McCooks of Ohio,” no less than sixteen members of this family served the Union cause during the Civil War. A Scotch-Irish clan that originally settled in Pennsylvania during the late 18th Century, the two branches produced two major generals, five brigadier generals, one colonel, two majors, three lieutenants (including a chaplain and naval officer), a volunteer surgeon, and one very heroic private. In nearly every major Western campaign, at least one “Fighting McCook” was on the battlefield, often serving with bravery and distinction in the thick of the action. Four members of the family – all from the “Tribe of Dan” - were killed in action and many of the others suffered wounds and illness. It would be difficult – perhaps impossible - to find another American family that made such a dramatic contribution – and offered so great a sacrifice – in time of war.

Daniel McCook, Jr. (1834-1864) was a lawyer before the war and partner of William Tecumseh Sherman and Thomas Ewing all of whom became generals in the Union Army. Daniel joined the 1st Kansas Volunteer Infantry as a Captain, serving with distinction at Wilson's Creek, Kentucky and after assignment as chief of staff of the First Division, Army of the Ohio, he was appointed Colonel of the 52nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry in the summer of 1862.

In October of 1863, just a year after hearing of his brother Colonel Robert L. McCook's assassination by Confederate partisans, Dan’s regiment was operating near Huntsville, Alabama close to scene of his brother’s terrible encounter. Vengeance was at hand. Dan McCook personally sought out trigger-man Frank Gurley’s home and like an avenging angel, he tore it apart, and “left not one stone upon another,” making of it, “a place of desolation.” Shortly after that episode, he was given a brigade in General Phil Sheridan's division in the Army of the Cumberland.

On June 27, 1864, in what many consider a terrible blunder, his friend General Sherman launched a frontal attack against the fixed Confederate positions on Kennesaw Mountain, Georgia. McCook was selected to lead the charge, which everyone viewed as a suicidal mission. In one of the great dramatic and emotional moments of the war, the doomed commander gathered his men around him for what everyone realized was a farewell. The words Dan McCook spoke were from Horatius at the Bridge, Thomas Macaulay’s epic poem of hopeless heroism and self-sacrifice and were a fitting epitaph.

To every man upon this earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds

Taking a position in the front rank of his beloved 52nd Ohio, he led his brigade into the maelstrom, clutching the colors in one hand and swinging his saber in the other, and leading a small band of men to the very edge of the enemy’s earthworks. One soldier yelled, “Colonel Dan, for God’s sake get down, they’ll shoot you!” Answering the man with a curse, he pressed on, until he fell, riddled by Mini√© balls and mortally wounded. Transported to his brother George’s home, he died there on July 17, 1864, one day after he was promoted to Brigadier General of Volunteers. Curiously, the date of death on his grave is July 21, 1864, the same day his father and brother fell. He was the last of the McCooks to fall.

The McCooks were one of the most remarkable families in our history and their fame – though now mostly forgotten - lasted for many years. Celebrated by the media, one vignette reported in the New York Times of March 27, 1878 offers an especially poignant example of how powerful the emotional appeal of the “Fighting McCooks” remained, and how broad their impact truly was, even more than a decade after the war had ended. Four strangers were waiting in a Dayton, Ohio restaurant for their train, when they began to chat about the war.

“One of the veterans was a member of the First Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Col. A.D. McCook; another of the Second Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Col. Anson G. McCook; another of the Ninth Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Col. Robert McCook, and the fourth man of the Fifty-Second Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Col. Daniel McCook. The conversation between the veterans was becoming interesting and animated when the sound of the locomotive bell called them to separate, but it was with a hearty ‘shake’ and goodbye” They soon realized that remarkably each had served in a regiment commanded by a McCook."

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Explorer Soldier Conspirator Author - Zebulon M. Pike (1813)


         Famed explorer, mapmaker, accused spy, acquitted conspirator, best-selling author, and distinguished soldier, Zebulon Pike (1779-1813) gave his name to a towering mountain and helped chart the vast western territories forming the geographic heart of America. After joining his father’s regiment as a 15-year old cadet, Pike served in the army of General “Mad Anthony” Wayne during the closing stages of the Old Northwest Indian War (1790-1794). For the next decade, he served on the western frontier, taking time to educate himself in Spanish, mathematics, and the natural sciences.

       While stationed in the Illinois territory, he attracted the attention of his commanding officer, General James Wilkinson, certainly the most scandalous, amoral, traitorous, incompetent, and thoroughly repugnant soldier ever to wear the uniform of our country, and a commander of whom it was said, he “never won a battle or lost a courts martial.” Wilkinson also had a diverse political career and served as governor of the new Louisiana Territory - acquired from Napoleon in 1803 – and was anxious to explore and personally exploit it, as well as consolidate the American hold over the vast new domain against its enemies.

       In August 1805, Wilkinson selected Pike to explore the headwaters of the Mississippi River and to forcibly assert the claims of the United States primarily against the British, as well as establish contact with the Native American inhabitants. Departing from St. Louis at the head of a party of 20 men, Pike spent eight months exploring the Mississippi, mistakenly claiming Leech Lake in Minnesota as the source of the great river.
        One year later, Wilkinson – who was in fact a paid agent of Spain - again dispatched the young lieutenant from St. Louis, this time southwest in search of the headwaters of the Arkansas and Red Rivers and to reconnoiter the Spanish settlements in New Mexico. While passing through Colorado, he unsuccessfully tried to scale a large mountain he called Grand Peak, later renamed ‘Pike’s Peak’ in his honor. Continuing his journey, he was arrested by the Spanish, who took his maps and charts and transported him and his party to Santa Fe, where he was charged with espionage. Eventually released, he returned to the US, where new troubles awaited.

       A loyal federalist who resisted Jefferson’s “democratic” reforms of the army, Pike was suspected of complicity in the Aaron Burr conspiracy, although no firm evidence ever surfaced to support those charges. Pike then returned to the Army and a year later, he published An Account of Expeditions to the Sources of the Mississippi and through the Western Parts of Louisiana. It was the first popular account of exploring the vast Louisiana Territory and appeared four years before the journals of Lewis and Clark were published. His writing is lyrical and the earliest descriptions in English of the lands he explored, as this extract from his journal from January 28th, 1807, "After marching some miles, we discovered ... at the foot of the White Mountains [today’s Sangre de Cristos] which we were then descending, sandy hills…When we encamped, I ascended one of the largest hills of sand, and with my glass could discover a large river [the Rio Grande] …The sand-hills extended up and down the foot of the White Mountains about 15 miles, and appeared to be about 5 miles in width. Their appearance was exactly that of the sea in a storm, except as to color, not the least sign of vegetation existing thereon."
      By the beginning of the War of 1812, Pike had reached the rank Colonel of the 15th Infantry Regiment (one of the most famous in the US Army) and soon after was named a brigadier general under MG Henry Dearborn in the invasion of Canada. During the storming of York, (now Toronto), Canada, on April 27, 1813, the city’s powder magazine exploded with great force, slamming a large rock into Pike’s back, crushing his ribs and spine. He was carried to a ship anchored on Lake Eire, where he died that same day. Zebulon Pike was the first general in the United States Army to die on foreign soil.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

A Motto & Silver Bowl Link Regiment and Commander Forever - Emerson Hamilton Liscum (July 13, 1900)

Emerson Hamilton Liscum’s life ran parallel to nearly forty years of U.S. Army history. Born in Vermont in 1842, on the outbreak of the Civil War, he enlisted in the regular 12th U.S. Infantry Regiment as a private and saw considerable action before being commissioned a 2nd Lt. in mid February 1863. By that time, he had already been wounded and cited for courage at Cedar Mountain (August 1862).Wounded a second time at Gettysburg, he was brevetted Captain for gallantry at the Battle of Bethesda Church and during the campaign in front of Richmond.

Like Henry Lawton and many other promising officers, he spent a post-war year as a civilian before rejoining the army as a captain. For three decades, he served mostly on the western frontier fighting Indians, and in garrison. He commanded the African-American “Buffalo Soldiers” of the 24th Infantry Regiment under Teddy Roosevelt at San Juan Hill on July 1, 1898, where he was wounded a third time seriously enough to be evacuated. For his heroism and service, he was promoted to Brigadier General of Volunteers days after the battle and following further convalescence, he was sent to the Philippines in April 1899 where he took command of the 9th Infantry Regiment in continuing operations against the insurgents.

In early July 1900 the 9th Infantry, already ear-marked as a “quick reaction force” for trouble spots in the Pacific – the first in our history - shipped out to China to join the multinational force gathering to free Peking from the Boxers. Before that could be done, the city of Tien Tsin had to be taken. The assault began early in the morning of 13 July 1900. The 9th was on the extreme right of the allied line drawn up along the Pei-ho River. At 9:00 AM, the regiment was hit by a murderous crossfire from the walls of the city and from junks on the river. Regimental Color Sergeant Edward Gorman was cut down. Colonel Liscum was hit in the shoulder, but he took the colors from the fallen bearer, courageously holding the flag in view of his men as a rallying point, while continuing to direct the assault on the city walls. Directing those near him to "Keep up the fire men," moments later the colonel was hit again, this time, mortally wounded. His last words instantly became the motto of the regiment. Under fire all day, the 9th was ordered to retreat by British General Dorward, the allied commander. The next day the Japanese broke through the gates and the city fell to the multinational force.
From that point forward the fame of the Regiment and its fallen commander have remained linked by tradition and a precious relic of battle. A few days after Liscum’s death the regiment discovered a storehouse of silver bars which were put under guard and quickly returned to the Chinese.  Later, during the relief of Peking, the 9th Regiment was the first unit to break into the “forbidden city” and a sentry from the regiment remained on guard at the entrance until withdrawal. As a token of their appreciation, the restored government gave the 9th Regiment a portion of the silver, which was used to fabricate the “Liscum Bowl” named in honor of their fallen commander. As a result of their performance during the Boxer Rebellion, the unit was awarded the honorary title of "Manchus.” The Title, the Motto and the Bowl keep the story of the man alive, and heap honor on the men and women of the Regiment.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Revolutionary Firebrand, Citizen General & Ordinary Soldier at Bunker Hill - Joseph Warren (1775)

            Successful physician, committed revolutionary, and colonial militia officer, Boston-born Joseph Warren (1741-1775) gave up the practice of medicine soon after his graduation from Harvard University to pursue politics. Outraged by the Stamp Act of 1765, he joined Sam Adams and other prominent Whigs in forming the Boston Committee of Public Safety, one of the most important of the political “clubs” that fueled the growing movement for separation and eventual independence from the English crown.

            A prolific pamphleteer and frequent contributor to the regular press, Warren was a skilled orator who argued publicly – and at considerable personal risk - for an end to the oppressive measures passed by Parliament and the depredations endured by his fellow citizens. After the Boston Tea Party, Warren helped draft the “Suffolk Resolves” (September 9, 1774), a forerunner of the Declaration of Independence that called for armed resistance and economic retaliation for the excesses already suffered. Carried by Paul Revere to Philadelphia, the “Resolves” were endorsed by the Second Continental Congress shortly after it convened.

            Continuing his service to Massachusetts as a legislator, he played a major role in helping organize the defenses in and around Boston. He personally dispatched Revere and William Dawes to Lexington on April 18, 1775 to warn Sam Adams and John Hancock of the immanent arrival of British troops. After the initial battles there and at Concord bridge, Warren was given a commission as a Major General of the Massachusetts militia and named second in command.


            On June 14, 1775, as the colonial forces gathered on the hills to the north of the city, Warren refused command of the troops defending Bunker Hill, volunteering instead to defend the ramparts as an ordinary soldier. It was there that he fell three days later, before receiving his written commission, and immortalized in a painting that bore little in common with actual events. The British dumped his body in an unmarked ditch and when later recovered it was identified by the artificial silver teeth crafted by his close friend and renowned silversmith Paul Revere. It was probably the first example of the wartime use of dental identification of remains in our history.

            Dr. Joseph Warren was the first American general to fall during the Revolution. In an act of humility and true citizenship, he gave up command to one who was better able to wield it, and fought as a citizen soldier, shoulder-to-shoulder with his friends and family, defending his country, in sight of his birthplace and home. If one must fall in battle, what better way, what better place?

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Peasant by Birth, Soldier by Choice, and American by Destiny - Baron de Kalb (1780)

            Jean de Kalb (1721-1780) is the embodiment of what America promises to immigrants of every station, but especially the low born; a place where talent, demonstrated performance, perseverance, and force of will determine a man’s fate and character is the measure of one’s nobility. 
         A child of Bavarian peasants, de Kalb began his military career at age 16 in the harsh service of a Bavarian regiment, a French hireling. Serving with distinction in the War of Austrian Succession and Seven Year’s War, in just over a decade he rose to the rank of Major, in spite of birth and lack of formal education. Even in the old world, talent was grudgingly recognized when it appeared on the battlefield.

             Over six feet tall, handsome, with an intelligent face “that showed an expression of good nature mixed with shrewdness,” the successful soldier soon attracted the attention of the prominent de Broglie family while serving under Marshal Saxe. Affecting airs of nobility at an early age, he called himself “Jean de Kalb”, and soon was soon known as “Baron de Kalb.” Apparently, the deceit worked and in 1764 he married an heiress and retired to a life of leisure.
          Soon bored and craving excitement, he accepted an assignment from French Foreign Minister Choiseul as a secret agent. Kalb journeyed to America in 1768 to report on the Colonists’ attitudes toward England. Forced to return when his dispatches were intercepted, he was greatly impressed by what he saw, and in 1776 Kalb successfully negotiated a commission from American envoy Silas Deane  as a Major General in the Continental Army. 
          Traveling to America with the Marquis de Lafayette, the two men spent the terrible winter of 1777-8 at Valley Forge. Frustrated in his desire for an independent command, Kalb was picked to serve under his younger companion in another abortive invasion of Canada in 1778 and when the operation was cancelled, he remained with the northern army in idleness. Then, in April 1780 his moment of opportunity came, or so he thought.

          Ordered by Washington to take a brigade of Continental regulars to relieve Charlestown, S.C., he was abruptly assigned as deputy to newly appointed Southern Department commander General Horatio Gates, a man whose confidence in his own gifts was not matched by any objective evidence of their existence. Ignoring de Kalb’s sound professional advice, Gates decided to attack the British outpost at Camden, S.C. where General Sir Charles Cornwallis, who understood Gates well, was waiting.
          On August 16, de Kalb commanding the Continental infantry on the right wing, fought gallantly even after the militia broke and ran, with Gates, the Hero of Saratoga, fleeing as fast as any of his soldiers. Finally unhorsed and sustaining 11 wounds - including bayonet thrusts and a saber slash to the head – de Kalb refused to surrender and was captured while leading a last, desperate and hopeless charge. The remnants of his force were annihilated. Carried to Camden by the enemy, he succumbed three days later.

         A ‘soldier of fortune’ and spy when he first came to the colonies, he transformed into a sincere, selfless patriot. A man who started with nothing, he died in glory mourned by his adopted country as a great hero, an immortal symbol of freedom, often invoked as the quintessential lover of freedom who laid down his life for America. He was the only man in our history to fall in battle who held the rank of general in two armies – the Continental and French.

Friday, July 5, 2013

"We Will Barricade Gettysburg" - John Reynolds (July 1, 1863)

One of the most highly esteemed of all Union commanders, John F. Reynolds (1820-1863) fell on the soil of his native state after a series of actions that helped save his country. The Pennsylvanian West Pointer was serious, studious, quiet and a talented artillery officer who first won distinction for bravery and leadership in the Mexican War. During the interwar period, he served as both instructor and commandant of cadets at his alma mater, earning praise also as a scholar and administrator. Officers of such experience were rare, and he rose quickly through the ranks, commanding a Pennsylvania reserve brigade during the Peninsula Campaign of 1862. After one engagement, he was captured – some say he had literally been asleep. Exchanged soon after, he returned to command, still enjoying great respect among the senior officer corps.

At the Union calamity at Fredericksburg in Dec, 1962, Reynold’s made the only breach in the enemy’s line although he was soon repulsed. After Chancellorsville in May 1863, the army’s senior generals were in revolt against Joseph Hooker and Lincoln knew a change in command was imperative. Reynolds heard talk that he would be given command of the Army of the Potomac. He rushed to Washington, and in a meeting told the president that he would not accept the post unless he could exercise complete authority. Lincoln, whose faith in generals was at rock bottom with good reason, could not accept that. The more co-operative George G. Meade took command of the army which was already marching north to counter Lee’s second invasion of the North. The two sides met at the small Pennsylvania crossroads town of Gettysburg early on July 1, 1963.

        Soon after the first contact, Reynolds arrived on horseback with his advance guard. Conferring quickly with cavalry commander General John Buford, Reynolds quickly grasped the seriousness of the situation. Ordering his men to hold the high ground at all costs, he dashed off a dispatch to Meade describing the situation and promising that if necessary “we will barricade the streets of Gettysburg.” He ordered riders to hurry along his I Corps veterans, and led the vanguard to the field. Just as the “black hats” of the Iron Brigade arrived, a sniper shot Reynolds in the head, killing him instantly. As much as any one man, he had assured the final victory, and history has given him great credit for his early action. Nevertheless, there was a tragic, personal, and untold element to the story. Around his neck was a ring, a symbol of his conversion to Catholicism – not common in those days - and his engagement to a young woman who, at that moment, was less than 30 miles away. His closest friends and family knew nothing about this his spiritual journey or his passionate love affair. Reynolds, whom all regarded as reserved, thoughtful, emotionally distant, even detached, had more than one secret.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The First American “General” to Fall in Battle - Opechancanough (1646)

            Opechancanough, war chief of the Pamunkey tribal confederation, was commander of the unsuccessful half-century effort to expel the English colonists around Jamestown, Virginia. A talented strategist whose campaigns were marked by the inspired use of tactical surprise, especially furious surprise opening assaults, he was ultimately defeated by the superior weaponry of the invaders. Still, it was a remarkably close run struggle, marked by moments of high drama and touching the lives of people whose names are still remembered in elementary schools all over America.

            One such moment came in 1607. After a series of minor skirmishes, Opechancanough captured Captain John Smith who was freed following the entreaties of Pocahantas, the war chief’s niece. Several years later, in a symmetrical reversal of fortune, the Englishman returned the favor, freeing Opechancanough after taking his one-time captor hostage. Instead of calming the situation, these prisoner exchanges and other political gestures failed to prevent the first Anglo-Powhatan War. Waged from 1609-1614, the war concluded in a distinctly traditional way, with a “royal” wedding of Pocahantas to colonist leader John Rolfe. But deep resentments and affronts by both sides persisted, nor could Opechancanough forget his humiliating treatment at the hands of the English invaders.

            Warfare commenced anew on March 22, 1622 with a murderous surprise attack led by Opechancanough, already in his late sixties. More than 500 settlers – nearly one quarter of the entire colony population – were slaughtered in a single day. A low-level guerilla war, punctuated by several set piece battles and marked by savagery on both sides, then raged for almost fifteen years. Steady immigration from England offset the terrible losses of the settlers as the Native-Americans grew weaker. Eventually exhausted, Opechancanough sued for peace in 1635 and an uneasy truce followed for nearly a decade.

            On April 18, 1644, the old chief, now nearly 90 and carried into battle on a litter, mounted one final onslaught on the settlers. Although once again achieving tactical surprise and killing more than 300 settlers – another tremendous psychological blow to the English enemy - the Powhatan Confederation was not strong enough to consolidate its victory and by the end of the month the English captured the old man. In a spectacle reminiscent of the Roman treatment of enemy commanders, he was paraded through the streets of Jamestown and denounced as a “Bloody Monster” to the screams of those whose families had been killed in the war.

            Opechancanough, who had been a thorn in the side of the settlers for more than forty years, was imprisoned and in a still unexplained incident, murdered by one of his guards, the first “American” general to die as a prisoner of war. The strength of the Confederation was totally broken and the pattern was fixed for two and a half centuries of European expansion and displacement of the indigenous peoples in America by force of arms.

            A consummate practitioner of irregular warfare and skilled in the arts of guile, deception, and diplomacy, Opechancanough disappeared centuries ago from the annals of great American commanders. A battlefield leader who earned the loyalty of his warriors by sharing their hardships and risks, even in old age, and a careful planner, he was defeated by an insurmountable qualitative enemy advantage in weaponry and numbers. In spite of that, however, he came incredibly close to ending the English colonial penetration of Virginia very near its beginning and possibly changing the course of history on this continent.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The 10 Fallen Generals of Gettysburg (July 1 - 3, 1863)

15 Union & Confederate Generals Killed in Action or Died of Wounds

A few monuments on the battlefield ...

Maj. General John F. Reynolds, Corps 
Brig.-General Stephen W. Weed, Brigade

 Brevet Brig.-General A. Van Horn Ellis, Brigade
Brevet Brig.-General George H. Ward, Regiment

Brig. General Samuel K. Zook, Brigade

Brig. General Elon J. Farnsworth, Brigade

 Brig. General William Barksdale (CSA), Brigade

Brig. General Richard B. Garnet, (CSA), Brigade

Brevet Brig.-General Paul Joseph Revere, Regiment
Brig. General Strong Vincent, Brigade
Brig. General Lewis Armistead (CSA), Brigade

Brig. General Paul Semmes (CSA), Brigade

Brevet Brig.-General Louis R. Francine, Regiment

Brig. General J. Johnston Pettigrew (CSA), Brigade

Maj. General Dorsey Pender (CSA), Division