US History

Home/US History

Henry M. Stanley, explorer and journalist

Henry M. Stanley, explorer and journalist

Stanley with a bearer carring his favourite shooting stick / literaturadeviajes.com

Stanley with a bearer carring his favourite shooting stick / literaturadeviajes.com

One is not too sure that modern schoolchildren are taught about persons like Henry Stanley, or for that matter Dr. Livingstone, with whom Stanley is inextricably connected. It is supposed that vast changes in syllabus are responsible for this, just as in the Classics, neither Latin or Greek are these days awarded much importance. At my school we were unfailingly taught that Henry Stanley was American; he was a naturalized American citizen for a period, but he was born British – Welsh in fact – son of a farmer from that region. He was also illegitimate, and was first called John Rowlands.

Stanley lived a life so adventurous it seemed to be fiction stemming from the Boys Own Paper. Born in 1841 he existed, somehow, in a poorhouse from 1847 to 1856, got away and managed to get himself on a ship sailing to the United States. Here he was luckily befriended by a merchant in cereals who adopted him. Young Henry also took the merchant’s name – Stanley, and after adoption automatically became an American citizen. (more…)

By | 2015-09-23T10:00:32+00:00 September 23rd, 2015|African History, British History, US History, World History|0 Comments

The reputation of Benedict Arnold

/ popscreen.com

/ popscreen.com

Even in 2015, some two hundred and fourteen years after his death, the name Benedict Arnold can inspìre in thinking Americans either an adverse or admiring reaction. “Traitor!’ “Outcast!” some will cry, curling the lip as if he were something disgusting: whereas some will say, “Brave man!” or “Good fellow!”. It seems to be automatic reaction, not necessarily based on fact.

Benedict Arnold was born in 1741; when the American Revolution(q.v.) broke out he chose to fight for the colonists against the British, and at the siege of Quebec distinguished himself for his courage and tenacity in battle. His reward was promotion to Brigadier-General – an essentially American army rank which means a field officer in command of a brigade. (more…)

By | 2015-08-17T09:53:00+00:00 August 17th, 2015|A History of North America, US History, World History|0 Comments

Further thoughts on the Ardennes Offensive

US soldiers fighting in typical Ardennes winer weather /warfarehistorynetwork.com

US soldiers fighting in typical Ardennes winter weather /warfarehistorynetwork.com

Shakespeare has generals dancing together in a suitably stately manner, on board ships in his play Antony and Cleopatra. The Battle of the Bulge, a nickname, properly called the Ardenne Offensive, was Hitler’s last and most surprising offenivfe in World War II. It was the greatest ptiched battle in American history, putting up more than 600,000 American soldiers, mostly young and inexperienced, against a mixture of battle-hardened German troops with a heavy admixture of the infamous Waffen-SS, some Hitler-Jugend regiments (boys from 16 – 19 years of age). Together they reached half a million ferocious fighting men who believed their battle must be won against the Allies because the massive and callous Red Army was closing in from the East. The battle between the opposing soldiery was one thing, while the consistent bickering, jealousies, and outright hatred between the US generals and the newly created Field Marshal Montgomery was another. These men were not dancing together, on board ship or knee deep in the snows of Belgium. (more…)

By | 2015-09-18T10:09:43+00:00 August 4th, 2015|German History, US History, World History|0 Comments

The importance of being Okinawa

Yamato goes to war! / tamiya.com

Yamato goes to war! / tamiya.com

In April, 1945, the 2nd World War was very far from over. A huge invasion of the French mainland was planned for June. Japan, however, was seen by the Americans as being equally important as Europe. Tokio must be vanquished too if the Allies were to succeed in the destruction of Axis Powers.

Okinawa is a Japanese island some sixty miles long and very narrow – at certain strategic points only two or three miles wide. But it could prove to be the springboard for a massive invasion of the enemy mainland. It is the largest island of the Ryukyu archipelago, and it was that there that the worst, hardest and bloodiest battles of the Pacific War took place between the beginning of April and 22 June, 1945. The Japanese had carefully built and preserved defence lines already built and manned, and had sworn to their Emperor that their resistance would be fanatical. The latest artillery was concealed behind camouflage, and munitions were ample. (more…)

The dry martini cocktail

The green olive properly speared / noilly prat.com

The green olive properly speared / noilly prat.com

The history of this cocktail is not without incident. It is a potentially lethal mixture of a raw spirit – gin – with a distillation of the vine, and you were always taught never to combine the two in one glass. The invention was American, perhaps taking place during the years of prohibition and after, again perhaps in New York City, where the Three Martini Lunch soon became fashionable, though it never really disturbed the good American tradition of hard work and commercial success. Manhattan spies tell me it first appeared in either the Algonquin hotel, or the St. Regis, both ultra fashionable with what used to be termed ‘The Upper Class’ US citizen, usually male.

There are many receipts for the making of this explosive sip. Ben Schott says it is Dry Vermouth one third, two-thirds Dry Gin, shaken, garnished and served on or off the rocks. Professional barmen will disagree with the words in italics. ‘Ginger’ Taylor, for half his life chief barman at the Connaught Hotel in Carlos Place, W.I. Had a different method: Half fill your cocktail shaker with fresh ice cubes; pour gently over the ice either Gordon’s or Beefeater’s best gin while you count four seconds out loud: then pour Dry Vermouth just as gently, also counting four seconds. Close the coctelera and shake vigorously as if you are playing the marracas; pour into a special martini-glass (see illustration) and add an unstoned green olive speared with a wood toothpick (or you may own your own pure silver implement). The ice cubes must be prevented from entering the glass by a special filter in the top of the shaker. Sip slowly and do not smoke while sipping, as the tobacco spoils the unique taste.

Shaker with detachable, filtered top / stepoffthecliff.com

Shaker with detachable, filtered top / stepoffthecliff.com

On the market there are many shapes and sizes of Martini glasses. Edith Sitwell had her own glass at her ladies only club in London. According to Gore Vidal, the glass was a small goldfish bowl, which meant that poetess and eccentric Edith would have to be helped a little later into her dining chair to enjoy her ‘Red Luncheon’ – lobster, strawberries and a bottle of red Burgundy.

Some restaurants cheat by employing those horrid bowl-like glasses into which champagne should never be poured. This wine must be served in tall, thin tulip glasses, or those wonderful bubbles escape and the taste is lost. As I was saying, some eating houses cannot be bothered with proper martini glasses. If so, you should withdraw your custom.

Should you feel a bit like James Bond, you will prefer the Vodka Martini, also shaken not stirred, and made with Smirnov vodka. In fact Smirnov is not Russian at all, it is made in America, to a recipe by a Russian. The cocktail is made in exactly the same way, though some like a Maraschino cherry in the glass instead of a green olive. On the subject of olives, do not use one stuffed with anchovy, for obvious reasons or taste and good manners.

One last word: actually they were the last words spoken by Humphrey Bogart the film actor, who was born into an upper-upper-class American family, and spent his working life playing growling bum gangsters. It is said on good authority that when ‘Bogey’ was dying, he whispered, “I knew I should not have changed from whisky to dry martinis”.

The father of Winston

Lord Randolph Churchill /lifedaily.com

Lord Randolph Churchill /lifedaily.com

Few people have any other mind’s eye image of Winston Churchill than that of a very old man, with a big cigar and perhaps an even bigger ego.

Young Winston / winston churchillfoundation.org

Young Winston / winston churchillfoundation.org

But Winston too had a father, and not an insignificant one either. He was Lord Randolph Henry Spencer, third son of the Duke of Marlborough, who lived in the great palace of Blenheim, given to the family ‘by a grateful nation’ of the first Duke, with grateful thanks for his outstanding military qualities, shown across Europe in battles at Donnauwórth, Blenheim, Ramillies, and Oudenarde. John Churchill won all these, after defeated the rebellious bastard son of Charles II – The Duke of Monmouth. He had a split personality too, which he demonstrated by betraying his one-time friend, the brother of King Charles II – James II. It was Marlborough and others who orchestrated the de-throning and voluntary banishment of James, who had pronounced Catholic tendencies disliked by Marborough and other magnates. (more…)

More thoughts on that Yalta Conference

The 'Big Three' from l. to r. 'Exhausted', 'Dying', and 'Exuberant' / spartacus.educational.com

The ‘Big Three’ from l. to r. ‘Exhausted’, ‘Dying’, and ‘Exuberant’ / spartacus.educational.com

In February, 1945, the second ‘Big Three’ conference took place at Yalta in the Crimea. The first had been in Teheran in Persia. What was agreed at Yalta changed the face of Europe, prepared the ground for the Cold War, and put millions of ordinary people into a condition of near-slavery. The three major protagonists were the respective leaders of the United States, Great Britain, and Russia – Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin. The first was dying slowly but certainly, the second was old and exhausted, and the third was younger, fitter, and unable to see any point of view that was not his. He was also a fully-qualified dictator. (more…)

The American Federation of Labor

Samuel Gompers / britannica.com

Samuel Gompers / britannica.com

‘Socialism’ or ‘Socialist’ are unclean words in the United States. This is why the other part of their two-party political system is called ‘The Democratic Party’ as opposed to ‘The American Labour (labor) Party’ or the ‘US Social Democratic Party’. Socialism has always been regarded by loyal Americans as ‘un-American’. And yet the divisive word ‘labor’ crept into mainstream language when the craft unions got together in 1881 to found the AFL, and then re-organized it in 1886. (more…)

Kashmir

This trouble spot is naturally one of the most beautiful places on earth / sticholidays.com

This trouble spot is naturally one of the most beautiful places on earth / sticholidays.com

1947/48 saw the biggest break-up in the disgraceful dismemberment of the British Empire, whose most important ‘colony’ was India. Lord Mountbatten (q.v.) was sent to supervise the partition of India. At this time Kashmir was mostly populated with Muslims, though ruled by Hindus – lunacy on a grand scale. In October there was a Muslim-orchestrated uprising in the west, naturally supported across the border by Pakistan. Kashmir howled for help from India, and got some; but Indian troops would only act in exchange for Kashmir becoming part of the Indian Union. (more…)

National Guards (France and USA)

Artist's impression of members of the French National Guard / eclatdebois.org

Artist’s impression of members of the French National Guard / eclatdebois.org

The National Guard in France was founded in July, 1789 to replace the royal soldiers who had been forbidden entry to Paris. Other cities and towns followed suit rapidly, and soon most municipalities had their own troops, under the mandate of the local authority. At first, members tended to be of the richer class, freer and able to be more active than the agricultural or urban working classes, but revolutionary leaders soon realised that the Guard was playing a leading part on the side of the royalists (not the idea at all), so it was suppressed in 1795, only to be reorganised again in 1815, when it became an integral part of the bourgeois monarchy of Louis Philippe (q.v.).

However, the Guard refused to defend the regime in 1848, a signal for the February Revolution to break out. It was broken up again during the Second Empire, but revived and transformed in 1870 in a useless attempt to defeat the Prussians, who were invading France at the time. Then in March, 1871 the Guard rebelled in support of the Paris Commune; many of its members were killed, but it was finally and permanently suppressed after the defeat of the Commune.

The US National Guard on duty in Texas, USA / rt.com

The US National Guard on duty in Texas, USA / rt.com

In the United States of America the National Guard holds great importance. It signifies the well-armed military reserve of each one of the States, and members are subject to federal or state call-up in an emergency. The Guard was created by Congress in 1915 to serve as an auxiliary to the regular army; its members were volunteers, and there has never been a lack of them, as it is a uniformed and salaried state militia. During any war the Guard is subject to federal (or the President’s) control and can be sent to any war zone, but for wholly political reasons it is rarely sent abroad. In the decades before conscription was suspended, many young people volunteered to enter the Guard’s ranks in order not to be conscripted for the Vietnam War. (more…)

Load More Posts