Saturday, May 10, 2014

Abraham Lincoln - The Fourteenth of April

(Thought I would share the introduction to my new novel. Would love to get your feedback on it. What do you think of the concept? Does it work for you?

Let me know what you think.)

Editor’s Note

The extraordinary document you are about to read was purportedly written by Abraham Lincoln in the last month of his life.

How, I came by it, is now well known in most circles, but for those of you unacquainted with the details, I will give you a brief run down.

I have been fortunate enough to procure several rare documents on eBay over the years. Among them an 1822 paper detailing the autopsy of Napoleon Bonaparte written by his physician; a letter from George Washington, written during the darkest days at Valley Forge, suggesting to Congress that they should surrender the cause; a 1789 printing of the Declaration of Independence, printed side by side with Jefferson’s original notes, and beside it, an actual autograph by Thomas Jefferson.

But, this is by far, my most amazing discovery.

The bidding on eBay was fast and furious for this collection of Civil War memoirs. What caught my eye was the seller’s opening line,

…hand written manuscript, dated April 15th, 1865. First paragraph reads as follows, “Made a speech outside of the White House today (April 11). With the war over, Lee having surrendered just two days ago, I could finally speak my peace on the blacks. I expressed my opinion that we should embrace ‘the elective franchise for the colored man.’ That night, Mary told me she saw the actor, J. Wilkes Booth watching my talk.”

Note: Inscription on inside cover dated – March 15, 1865. A.L.

The letters, A. L. got my juices flowing. Lincoln signed most of his correspondence A. L.

Ever since the assassination there have been rumors of a Lincoln autobiography, but to my knowledge no one has ever laid eyes upon it.

My own knowledge of it was vague. Years ago, I’d read bits about it in the letters of John Hay, the President’s personal secretary. Several times he said he’d entered the President’s office, and each time, “Lincoln shuffled papers around, hiding something he was working on. At first, I thought it was a letter from Robert [Lincoln’s oldest son]; General Grant had given him leave from the battlefield to visit. But several more times I caught him hiding papers when I entered his office. Nicolay said the same thing had happened to him. He said he’d caught a few glimpses of it, and it looked like Abe was writing the story of the war.”

Nothing else was said.

 After acquiring the document, I showed it to several Lincoln experts. Like all experts, they were divided on its authenticity. Three of them said there was no doubt, that it was real. Three more, said the facts were incorrect in several places and the writing although very much like Mr. Lincoln’s, it could not be proven conclusively.

The date on the inscription was April 15th, the Great Man’s last day upon this earth. That, coupled with Mary Lincoln taking note of Booth in the audience, listening to Lincoln’s last speech is amazing enough. As I read on, Lincoln shared in great detail three separate attempts upon his life. His descriptions of his contemporaries are scathing; his faith in Grant, unshakeable; the details on some of the battlefields he visited – graphic and gory.

More startling, are his accounts of meetings with J. Wilkes Booth, at several White House receptions, early in his administration.

If only half of the information in this manuscript is accurate, it could cause a rewrite of the Civil War as we know it.

Lest I spill any more secrets, read on, and discover the details for yourself…

Lincoln Caricature: Abraham Lincoln in Scotch Cap and Kilt

This illustration is one of several depicting Abraham Lincoln, and the Baltimore Plot (the supposed attempt to assassinate him before being inaugurated in 1861). Rumors ran across the country that Lincoln snuck into the capitol city under cover of darkness, disguised in a Scotch cap and cloak.

According to Lincoln's friend and bodyguard, Ward H. Lamon,

“Mr. Lincoln soon learned to regret the midnight ride. His friends reproached him, his enemies taunted him…He was convinced that he had committed a grave mistake in yielding to the solicitations of a professional spy [Pinkerton] and of friends to easily alarmed. He saw that he had fled from a danger that was purely imaginary.”

The cartoon pictured in this article was originally published in the March 9, 1861 issue of Vanity Fair.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Elihu Root Secretary of War

By L. A. Coolidge

Elihu Root
In July, 1899, President McKinley faced a serious problem. The war with Spain had been fought and won. Within the short period of a year the United States had accepted the responsibility for the present control and future development of Cuba, Porto Rico and the Philippines. The regular army of the United States under emergency legislation was more than double in size what it had been a few months before. In­stead of being located at a few coast forti­fications and a few frontier posts, it was scattered in active service over half the globe. The War Department had suddenly de­veloped into the most important of all gov­ernment departments, with tasks before it far transcending any questions of mere mili­tary administration. Almost unconsciously and as a matter of administrative convenience, the War Department had become re­sponsible for the government of the islands which had formed the colonial dependencies of Spain—islands inhabited by millions of people of different races, religions, laws and traditions. It had become responsible for the proper inauguration of a new stage of national development—a task demanding great foresight great executive genius and extraordi­nary politi­cal wisdom. At that mo­ment the Secretary of War re­signed, and President McKinley found him­self confronted with the necessi­ty of choos­ing a suc­cessor.

The selec­tion was one which could not be light­ly made. The Presi­dent recognized that no ordinary man could meet all the requirements of the position. It may be doubted whether he really ex­pected to find a man who would be fully equal to the many exactions that would be made upon a new war secretary.

The best he could hope, after determining which of the functions of the department would be of greatest immediate importance, was to secure one who could be trusted to meet that pressing requirement. The most urgent question was that of the administra­tion of the new possessions, involving as it did the preservation of order and the substi­tution of an American system of government for the mediaeval systems which had pre­vailed for centuries under the rule of Spain. For this task he concluded that he needed first of all a lawyer of preeminent ability. He selected Elihu Root.

Wu Ting-fang

By L. A. Coolidge

 His Excellency Wu Ting-Fang and Madame Wu
Secretary of State,
    I have the honor to inform you that Mr. Wu Ting-fang has been appointed Chinese Minister to the United States, and will probably reach his post in April next. He was admitted to the bar in London, practiced law in Hongkong, and for several years has been serving the ex-Viceroy, Li Hung-Chang, at Tientsin. He speaks English perfectly.
Lo Feng-lu has been appointed Minister to England, Italy and Belgium. This gentleman was interpreter to Li Hung-Chang for many years and accompanied him on his recent tour.
    Yang-yu, present Chinese Minister to the United States, has been appointed Minister to Russia.
    Hwang Tsun-hsien has been appointed Minister to Germany.
    I have the honor to be, Sir,
Your obedient servant,

Thus simply and formally was Wu Ting-fang, the present representative of the Chinese Government in Washington, in­troduced to the Government of the United States. There had been Chinese ministers before—all of them men of good ability; all of them men of high standing at home; and all of them so little in touch with the affairs of the country to which they were accredit­ed, that they were regarded popularly as objects of curiosity - it is to be feared sometimes as objects of derision by the unthinking.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish, New York Society Leader

By Charles Stokes Wayne

Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish
Mrs. Stuyvesant Fish, as the acknowledged leader of the spectacular element of New York society, occupies a uniquely conspicuous position. The little realm over which she rules is but a small part of the great social world; but it is set upon a hill. She and her subjects, engaged apparently in a continuous performance, are ever in the public eye. Their comings and goings, their routes and fetes, their loves and their aversions, their marriages and their divorces, the clothes they wear, the wines they drink, the pranks they play, the jests they utter, all are chronicled in the newspapers. The conservative old Knickerbocker and some of the new, but staid people, sneer at Mrs. Fish's followers, who, in return, only laugh and set about some new device of entertainment to excite the envy, even if contemptuous, of  their detractors.

By force of her aggressive independence rather than by tact has Mrs. Fish attained to the sovereignty that is hers. Family and money have been efficacious aids in the process of elevation, but there are women of more distinguished ancestry and possessing greater income—women, too, of far superior diplomatic equipment – who have struggled in vain for the eminence that Mrs. Fish has reached without seeming effort; reached, in fact, while flying in the face of all precedent, in that she truckled to none, spoke her mind freely on all occasions, put no check on her incisive wit, was a law unto herself, dinner and made enemies faster than she made friends.

Tall, dark and florid, with a figure calculated to display to advantage the sumptuous adornment with which she provides it, Mrs. is distinguee rather than beautiful. Mrs. Fish's jewels are among the handsomest in New York. She does not affect a tiara, but wears in her hair a magnificent diamond spray. About her neck circles a collar of pearls three inches deep. Suspended from it in front, by a thread of diamonds four inches long, is a diamond cluster that, viewed across the horseshoe at the Metropol­itan Opera House, looks like an enormous single stone. Extending diagonally down her corsage she wears a row of buttons of diamonds set around sapphires, each sapphire as large as one's finger nail. A festoon of diamonds from the left shoulder to the front of the corsage completes the display.

Naturalist John Muir

John Muir
By Adeline Knapp

A King of Outdoors: I know no other phrase that so aptly designates John Muir, naturalist, explorer and writer; nor do I know any man to whom the phrase is so applicable.

He has been styled "the Californian Thoreau," and Emerson, who knew and liked him, once went so far as to call him "a more wonderful man than Thoreau." It is doubtful, however, whether Emerson him­self knew exactly what he meant by that rather impossible expression. The two men are wholly different in essentials of thought, so that it would be hard to institute any real comparison be­tween them.

For twenty-five years John Muir has made out of doors his realm. For more than half this time he lived and wandered alone over the high Sierras, through the Yosemite Valley, and among the glaciers of California and Alaska, studying, sketching, and climbing. At night he sometimes rested luxuriously, wrapped in a half-blanket be­side a camp fire; sometimes, when fuel was wanting, and the way too arduous to admit of carrying his piece of blanket, he hollowed for himself a snug nest in the snow. He is no longer a young man, but when last I saw him he was making plans to go again to the North, to explore the four new glaciers dis­covered last summer by the Harriman Expedition.

"What do you come here for?" two Alaskan Indians once asked him, when they had accompanied him as far, through peril­ous ways, as he could hire or coax them to go.

"To get knowledge," was his reply.

The Indians grunted; they had no words to express their opinion of this extraordi­nary lunatic. They turned back and left him to venture alone across the great glacier which now bears his name. So trifling a matter as their desertion could not deter him from his purpose. He built a cabin at the edge of the glacier and there settled to work, and to live for two long years. He made daily trips over that icy region of deep gorges, rugged descents and vast moraines, taking notes and making sketches, until he had obtained the knowledge, and the understanding of knowledge, that he was after. Muir Gla­cier is the largest glacier discharging in­to the wonderful Gla­cier Bay on the Alas­kan coast. Being the most accessible one in that region, tourists are allowed to go ashore to climb upon its sheer, icy cliffs, and watch the many icebergs that go tum­bling down from it. This is a thrilling ex­perience to the globe trotter, but to dwell there beside the gla­cier, to study the phenomena, encounter perils, alone and un­aided, is an experience that few besides John Muir would court.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Admiral George Dewey at the Battle of Manila Bay

Admiral Dewey on deck of Olympia at
Battle of Manila Bay
by Nick Vulich.

Other than Theodore Roosevelt, Admiral George Dewey was the biggest hero to come out of the Spanish American War.

His victory at the Battle of Manila completely took the world by surprise.  All eyes were focused on the fighting in Cuba, when Dewey sailed into Manila Bay and virtually destroyed the Spanish fleet.

At 5:35 on the morning of May 1, 1898, Dewey let out those famous words, "You may fire when you are ready, Gridley!" The U.S. Asiatic Squadron commenced fire.  The squadron first fired their starboard guns, then their port guns, while circling around the Spanish fleet.

Within six hours the entire Spanish Fleet under the command of Admiral Montojo was destroyed or captured.  Dewey's losses were one dead, six injured.  Spanish losses were 161 dead, 210 injured.

After the battle Dewey controlled all of the waters around Manila, but he did not have enough troops to engage the Spanish in a battle on land.  Dewey soon received assistance from Filipino insurgent Emilio Aguinaldo and was able to hold off the Spanish until more American troops were sent to help.