Tag Archives: American History

HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY 2020!

American flagBalladeer’s Blog wishes a happy birthday to the USA! What happened in early July of 1776 certainly needs no rehashing so in keeping with my blog’s theme of addressing more out of the way subjects this post will examine various events that took place on other July 4ths throughout American history.

JULY 4TH, 1778 – George Rogers Clark led his rebel forces in taking the British stronghold of Kaskaskia, near the confluence of the Mississippi and Kaskaskia Rivers. Clark and his Rangers were on a mission for then-Virginia Governor Patrick Henry.

JULY 4TH, 1783 – The Massachusetts Supreme Court is finalizing its written decision holding that slavery has been illegal in the state since adoption of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights in 1780. Continue reading

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CONCLUSION: AMERICA’S QUASI-NAVAL WAR WITH FRANCE (1798-1801)

It’s Memorial Day Weekend! Continuing this holiday weekend’s dose of seasonal posts is this concluding part of Balladeer’s Blog’s look at America’s undeclared naval war with France from 1798 to 1801. FOR PART ONE CLICK HERE  . 

Enterprise

MAY ?, 1800: (Some sources place this action in late April) The USS Boston, commanded by “the American Horatio Nelson” himself, Captain George Little, was in the Bight of Leogane, where it fought and sank a force of six French-allied ships in the navy of Hyacinth Rigaud. (Rigaud’s infamy was covered in Part One)

MAY ??, 1800: The Adams recaptured an unidentified vessel which had previously been taken by the French and converted for its navy’s use.

MAY ??, 1800: The Insurgent and the Adams teamed up to liberate an unidentified British privateer ship from the French craft which had captured it.

MAY ??, 1800: The Adams recaptured the Nancy (one of many vessels with that name), a ship previously seized by the French for their own navy.

Mascot sword and pistolMAY ??, 1800: The Adams defeated and captured the French ship Grinder

MAY ??, 1800: A very busy month for the Adams came to an end as the feisty vessel overcame three to one odds to defeat and capture the French ships the Dove, the Renommee and a third ship whose name has not come down to us.   

MAY 31st, 1800: The John Adams (separate vessel from the Adams) recaptured the American brig Olive from the French.  

JUNE 6th, 1800: The Merrimack battled the French vessel L’Hazard in order to free the French ship’s latest capture – the American Ceres.  The Merrimack succeeded in liberating the Ceres. Continue reading

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AMERICA’S QUASI- NAVAL WAR WITH FRANCE: 1798-1801

USS ConstellationMemorial Day Weekend is fast upon us with this topical post from Balladeer’s Blog. This one covers some naval actions from America’s undeclared, neither fish nor fowl, quasi-Naval War with France. Often called Stoddert’s War in reference to Benjamin Stoddert, America’s first Secretary of the Navy, this conflict was waged largely in the West Indies.

John Adams

John Adams

President John Adams wanted the infant United States Navy to protect American shipping in the West Indies from French vessels seizing our ships and sailors. The French Revolutionary government had adopted this policy to (in their view) “punish” the U.S. for not declaring war on France’s side in the Wars of the French Revolution.

Thus far America had remained neutral due to divided public opinion on the matter. Some voters felt the U.S. should join the war on the side of France but others felt that the current French Revolutionary government had overthrown, imprisoned and slain virtually all of the French figures who had aided America during our war against England, therefore negating any obligation on our part. (The paranoid French government had even jailed Thomas Paine when he visited the country.)

President John Adams later took great pride in keeping America out of an all-out land war. (Sentiment against France grew so strong that 80,000 men volunteered to serve against her. And don’t forget the rallying cry of “Millions for defense but not one cent for tribute!” following the X, Y and Z Affair.) Adams chose instead to act largely on defense by protecting our coastline, safeguarding U.S. shipping and expanding our Navy from three whole vessels (WOW!) to FIFTEEN.

Here are a few of the battles from this virtually unclassifiable conflict:

Stephen Decatur

U.S. Naval hero Stephen Decatur

JULY 7th, 1798: Off the New Jersey Coast, Captain Stephen Decatur, Sr led his 20-cannon Delaware against the 10-cannon French privateer craft La Croyable. The French vessel had just plundered the American merchant ship Alexander Hamilton. After a long chase and running fight La Croyable was seized by the Delaware. The French ship was renamed Retaliation and joined the growing U.S. Navy.

NOVEMBER 20th, 1798: Off Guadeloupe, the Retaliation (commanded now by William Bainbridge) ran afoul of two French vessels: the 40-cannon L’Insurgente and the 44-cannon Volontaire. The French opened fire and soon captured Retaliation, then imprisoned the crew in the hellish Basseterre Prison on St Kitts.   

FEBRUARY 9th, 1799: Nearly fifteen miles off the coast of the island of Nevis, American Captain Thomas “Terrible Tom” Truxton took his kickass nickname and his 36-cannon ship the Constellation into battle with the 40-cannon French vessel L’Insurgente. The battle began shortly after Noon and roughly two and a half hours later the French surrendered.     Continue reading

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THREE FORMER PRESIDENTS WHO RETURNED TO FEDERAL SERVICE

As Presidents Day Weekend draws to a close here’s one last seasonal post from Balladeer’s Blog. This item looks at the three former presidents who occupied other United States federal government positions after their years in the White House.

William Howard TaftWILLIAM HOWARD TAFT

Gang Affiliation: Republican

Post-Presidency Office: Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court

Comment: In July of 1921, President Warren G Harding took time out from letting his criminal cronies run the country to appoint former President Taft as the new Chief Justice.

Among the Associate Justices serving on the Court when Taft took the position were three of the legends of the Court – Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr, Louis Brandeis and Willis Van Devanter (insert your own “Whatchoo talkin’ ’bout, Willis?” joke here). Continue reading

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AMERICAN PRESIDENTS: EISENHOWER TO TRUMP

It’s Presidents Day Weekend! Here are some of Balladeer’s Blog’s takes on the more recent presidents.  

EisenhowerDWIGHT EISENHOWER

Character Type: Well-meaning but befuddled sitcom grandfather.

Military Service: World War One and World War Two

Motto: “FOOORE!” (Remember,  the traditional cry as you’re teeing off in golf? Oh, never mind!)

Nickname: Uncle Milty

Pro: Knew enough to distrust Richard Nixon long before it became the national pasttime. 

Con: Was the first president to pronounce nuclear as “nucular”. Continue reading

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VICE PRESIDENTS – JOKES ABOUT THESE ULTIMATE SECOND BANANAS

John Adams

John Adams

Since it’s Presidents Day Weekend here’s another seasonal post.

John Adams called the Vice Presidency “the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived.” A very old joke went “Once there were two brothers. One ran away to sea and the other became Vice President. Neither was ever heard from again.”

In George S Kaufman’s and Morrie Ryskind’s classic stage work Of Thee I Sing one of the characters turns down an offer to be Vice President because he’s ashamed to have his mother know. He’s persuaded to accept the office when it’s pointed out that if he doesn’t tell her about it she’ll never find out.

The office has featured eminently forgettable figures as well as comic relief buffoons like Dan “The Global Village Idiot” Quayle and Joe “Koo Koo For Cocoa Puffs” Biden. In the light-hearted style of Balladeer’s Blog’s look at U.S. Presidents here’s a look at the men who got to hang around and see if the country’s Chief Executive wound up six feet under. I’m omitting VP’s who went on to actually become President, so no John Adams or Thomas Jefferson, etc. 

aaron-burrAARON BURR

Served Under: Jefferson 

Noted for: Shooting dead more Treasury Secretaries and hatching more plots to start his own country than any other Vice President. (So far, anyway.)

Best Burr Quote: “I’m still searching for the real killers of Alexander Hamilton.” 

GEORGE CLINTON

Served Under: Jefferson and Madison

Noted for: P-Funk and Funkadelic Leading American Rebel forces against the British troops of his loyalist cousin Sir Henry Clinton during the Revolutionary War. Continue reading

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REJECTED SUPREME COURT NOMINEES

Grampa JoeFor assorted reasons the potential of a new Supreme Court vacancy has been much discussed in recent months. Balladeer’s Blog takes a look at the various Supreme Court nominees who were REJECTED by the Senate. I’m omitting John Rutledge since – because he was a recess appointment – he actually served as Chief Justice for one of the Court’s terms before the official Senate vote rejecting his nomination by President Washington.

Alexander WolcottALEXANDER WOLCOTT

Gang Affiliation: Democratic-Republican Party

Senate Vote: On February 13th, 1811, the Senate rejected Wolcott’s nomination by President James Madison by a vote of 24 nays and 9 yeas.

Ostensible Reasons For The Rejection: The Federalist Party Senators and the Federalist Party media outlets clobbered Wolcott over his enforcement of the controversial Embargo and Non-Intercourse Acts while serving as Customs Inspector in Connecticut.

              Second – and most importantly – his limited legal experience was cited as a definite hindrance to serving on the highest court in the land. (Ya think?)  

John C SpencerJOHN C SPENCER

Gang Affiliation: Whig Party

Senate Vote: On January 31st, 1844, the Senate rejected Spencer’s nomination by President John Tyler by a tight vote of 26 nays and 21 yeas.

Ostensible Reasons For the Rejection: Spencer had accepted the position of Secretary of War and later Secretary of the Treasury under President Tyler, alienating fellow Whigs who saw him as a traitor for not showing solidarity with them against Tyler. This rejection was part of a virtual war between the Executive and Legislative Branches following John Tyler’s succession to the presidency following the death in office of Whig President William Henry Harrison. Continue reading

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APOLLO 11 ANNIVERSARY PLUS THE 6 OTHER MOON LANDINGS

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY! America’s Apollo 11 moon landing gets all the attention, so in keeping with Balladeer’s Blog’s overall theme here’s a look at the six missions that followed that very first manned moon landing. 

Apollo 12 patchAPOLLO 12 – Overall Commander: Charles “Pete” Conrad (not to be confused with Peter “Chuck” Conrad)

Command Module Yankee Clipper Pilot: Richard F Gordon, Jr

Lunar Module Intrepid Pilot: Alan L Bean 

Less than four full months after Apollo 11’s successful mission the Apollo 12 crew provided a SECOND fulfillment of President John F Kennedy’s goal of landing men on the moon and returning them safely to the Earth. 

The Lunar Module Intrepid touched down on the moon’s surface on November 19th, 1969 at 1:54am EST and lifted off to rendezvous with the orbiting Command Module Yankee Clipper on November 20th at 9:25am. Splashdown in the Pacific Ocean was on November 24th at 3:58pm.

The Mission: The Yankee Clipper was struck by lightning during its ascent from the Earth, knocking out all power but the back-up systems successfully restored all operations to normal. Apollo 12 made a perfect touchdown at its predesignated landing area, already improving on the previous mission, which had been very slightly off-course.

After landing at the Ocean of Storms Astronauts Conrad and Bean had to contend with a much more powdery surface than the Apollo 11 crew had encountered. The lunar dust and powder clung to the Astronauts’ suits and nearly clogged vital portions of the high-tech outfits. Continue reading

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1776: FOURTH OF JULY MUSICAL

1776-musical-movieIt may be my fondness for mythology that makes me love to watch particular movies around particular holidays.  I say that because many of the well- known myths were recited on ancient holidays when their subject matter was relevant to those holidays. The stories helped accentuate the meaning of the special events and that’s the way I use various movies.

At Christmas I watch countless variations of A Christmas Carol, around Labor Day I watch Eight Men Out, at Halloween The Evil Dead and the original Nightmare On Elm Street, Thanksgiving Eve I do Oliver! and for Frontierado (which is just a month away now) I do Silverado.

Since the actual 4th of July is loaded with activity I always show 1776 on the night before. It’s a great way to get in the mood for Independence Day. It’s a musical but with brilliant dialogue portions and the story involves the political maneuvering  surrounding the Original Thirteen Colonies at last announcing their independence from Great Britain, more than a year after  the shots fired at Lexington and Concord started the war.

The story is excellently conveyed and is moving, comical, invigorating and poignant all at once. As long as you know which parts of the tale are depicted accurately and which are complete b.s. it’s a terrific way to spend each 3rd of July. Continue reading

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FIVE MOST UNQUALIFIED U.S. PRESIDENTS

mascot new look donkey and elephant headsHAPPY PRESIDENTS DAY! What better way to poke through the undeserved air of reverence that often clouds this holiday than by taking a look at the Five Most UN-qualified people who rose to the presidency. And remember, this list is not a reflection of their subsequent performance as president, just on their qualifications prior to taking the office. 

Ulysses S GrantNUMBER 5: ULYSSES S GRANT

Gang Affiliation: Republican

Became President Despite Their Poor Qualifications Because: He was treated too gently by the media as the victorious General from the Civil War and had tried not to take sides in the bitter fighting between Congress and President Andrew Johnson leading up to the election of 1868. 

Comment: Grant started out promisingly enough, graduating from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point. After 15 years in the Army (and service in the Mexican War) Grant went on to a series of failures in civilian life. When the Civil War broke out he returned to military service and rose to lead the Union Army to victory.

I’m not looking down on military service but when it’s your core experience and only area of success punctuated by repeated failures in other endeavors you might think Secretary of War would be Grant’s eventual position in the cabinet of a more qualified president. Continue reading

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