Grant and Lincoln at City Point

Presidential History Blog

In 1864-5, City Point, VA briefly became the tenth largest city in the United States.

Grant in the East

On February 29, 1864, President Lincoln promoted General Ulysses S. Grant as General of the Army – outranking everyone. Since Grant had never been to Washington, his good friend General Sherman advised him to avoid the capital at all costs, and make his headquarters “in the West” where he believed the war would be won.

Grant and Lincoln: an illustration

Within a few days of his promotion, Grant decided to take Sherman’s advice – partially. He declined to make his HQ in Washington, a morass of political and social distractions, but he realized that the war in the east required his presence, for many reasons. His HQ would primarily be in the saddle, attached to the Army of the Potomac, still commanded by General George Meade. The two generals (who…

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Little Mac Says Goodbye

George McClellan said goodbye to his beloved… Army of the Potomac on November 11, 1862.  He cared deeply for their well being(much too deeply it turned out) and they repaid him with unwavering affection.  Lincoln had to make the decision- The “Young Napoleon” was fighting like the war could go on for decades.  But to his troops, he would forever be “Little Mac.”  He left them with this thought….

“In parting from you I cannot express the love and gratitude I bear to you. As an army you have grown up under my care. In you I have never found doubt or coldness. The battles you have fought under my command will proudly live in our nation’s history. The glory you have achieved, our mutual perils and fatigues, the graves of our comrades fallen in battle and by disease, the broken forms of those whom wounds and sickness have disabled—the strongest associations which can exist among men—unite us still by an indissoluble tie. We shall ever be comrades in supporting the Constitution of our country and the nationality of its people.”

Playing cards made history

Pacific Paratrooper

Playing cards to pass the time

War can be hell… and war can be absolute boredom.  There are few better ways to pass the time than by playing cards.  They’re easy to carry: small and lightweight, they fit into a rucksack, duffel bag or Alice pack without having to sacrifice any piece of essential gear.

Plus – they’re cheap!

Wartime decks have been used to help soldiers in the field learn about their enemies and allies, to identify aircraft and even teach American history.  In the 2003 invasion of Iraq, American forces used playing cards to identify the most wanted members of Saddam Hussein’s regime.

The U.S. Army and the United States Playing Card Company cooperation goes way back.  But it was their brand Bicycle that took it to a whole new level.

During WWII, Allied Intelligence officers contacted the card company to produce the most clandestine deck of cards…

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Burying James Monroe – Again

Presidential History Blog

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A quarter century after James Monroe died, he was buried. Again.

James Monroe, Virginian

Like his close friends and Revolutionary companions Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, James Monroe (1758-1831) had strong ties to Virginia. Monroe could arguably considered the one with the tightest tie to the Old Dominion, having served in its state government in numerous positions, from legislator to state senator, and its Governor. Twice.

Then, of course, he was the fifth President of the United States, and part of what was termed the Virginia Triumvirate: Jefferson, Madison and Monroe, serving consecutively for two terms each, covering more than two decades of US leadership.

James Monroe, Virginian

When he retired from the Presidency in 1825 he was 66, and still in generally good health. His wife, ten years his junior, was becoming frail. Nevertheless, they returned to Oak Hill, their home about 35 miles from Washington. As might…

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Infamy in Tombstone

Wyatt Earp fired the most important shot…during the gunfight at the OK Corral.  Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday enjoyed the name recognition, but the most dangerous man on the streets of Tombstone that day was Frank McLaury.  McLaury was known throughout the Arizona territory as a dangerous gunman; but, he was also a notorious cattle thief.  On October 26, 1881, his brand of criminality threatened the Earp clan’s plans to exploit the saloons of Tombstone. 

Deadliest man in the territory

At the pivotal moment when Billy Clanton and Frank McLaury reached for their Colt revolvers, Wyatt Earp described his move,  “Billy Clanton leveled his pistol at me, but I did not aim at him. I knew that Frank McLaury had the reputation of being a good shot and a dangerous man, and I aimed at Frank McLaury.”  Earp hit McLaury squarely in the stomach, badly wounding him.  Billy Clanton began firing wildly drawing the attention of the other Earp gunman, but Frank McLaury continued firing as he tried to exit the Corral to Fremont Street. 

Waiting for the Earps

  • His first shot hit Virgil Earp in the right calf
  • As he reached the mouth of the lot, his second shot, across his body, hit Morgan Earp in the shoulder
  • During the final confrontation with Doc Holliday in the middle of Fremont Street, his last shot hit Holliday in the hip, knocking him down
  • Wyatt Earp’s duster had two bullet holes in the right sleeve, possibly from McLaury’s gun The fight then became general….
Earp party leader

Frank McLaury likely hit every member of the Earp party… during the gunfight….with a bullet in his stomach.  Wyatt Earp’s first shot likely saved all their lives that day.  Had he missed, McLaury might have killed them all.

Texas and Secession

Far from being a stronghold of secession in 1860, Texas gave substantial support to Constitutional Union Party candidate John C. Bell.

The Unionist spirit in Texas sprang from its First Citizen, the venerable Sam Houston.

Sam Houston…. had some emphatic words for the lunatics who took his proud state out of the Federal Union he fought so hard to join.   Houston’s words are forgotten now as like-minded simpletons again push Texas into the realm of irrelevance. 

“I beseech those whose piety will permit them reverently to petition, that they will pray for this union, and ask that He who buildeth up and pulleth down nations will, the mercy preserve and unite us. For a Nation divided against itself cannot stand.  I wish, if this Union must be dissolved, that its ruins may be the monument of my grave…”  Sam Houston 1860

Slippery Slope is Real- Jefferson

In 2017, when Donald Trump predicted the removal of Confederate monuments would lead to attacks on George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, he was roundly ridiculed in the media. This blog was not particularly enamored with the 45th President, but look where we are today. Everyone from rioters in the streets to US Senators are calling for monuments to our Founders to be removed.

It was never just about Confederate monuments. We can all agree that memorials to the Confederacy have no place on public grounds. Rather, this was always about a radical revision of American history. The demand that all historical figures be measured by our modern sensibilities. Those who do not meet the current politically correct standard must be removed.

Questioning the “woke” mob will only expose you to social media harassment and ridicule. Rather than debate, there is pandering to these newly designated cultural assessors. A descendant of Thomas Jefferson called for his memorial to be removed in the New York Times(he called himself a direct descendant, but Jefferson has none, but I digress.)

Thomas Jefferson was a man of many contradictions, and like everyone, he had flaws. But he is absolutely essential in telling the American story. He gave us our creed; crafted words that changed not only our history, but the history of the world. He was the first to admit that the sentiments were not his alone, but he was able to mold the many liberal ideals of the enlightenment into a statement that could transcend mere politics. The foolishly convenient calls for his removal from our national story, even by members of his extended family, are grounded in a fallacy. The erroneous belief that we possess all the answers, that our interpretations are just and final. History does not belong to the self-righteous few. Jefferson belongs to us all.

October 13, 1863: Vallandigham Loses Bid for Governor

Almost Chosen People


I have always thought that the Copperhead Movement in the North, those Northerners who believed that war to preserve the Union was wicked and/or futile, had a great deal of potential strength and it is something of a puzzle as to why it did not have a greater impact on the War.  One reason is that the Copperhead political leadership tended to be second raters at best.  A case in point is Clement Vallandigham, a Congressman of Ohio, and most definitely the most famous Copperhead.

Ironically a personal friend of Edwin Stanton before the War, Vallandigham served for one term in the Ohio legislature before being elected to the House of Representatives in 1858, after a disputed election loss in 1856.  Re-elected to the House in 1860, he became famous throughout the nation for his fiery speeches opposing the war policies of the Lincoln administration and condemned what he viewed as the administration’s infringement on civil liberties.  Vallandigham lost…

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M.A. Kleen

Boeing B-29 Superfortress “Bockscar” at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio. This was the B-29 that dropped the atomic bomb, nicknamed “Fat Man”, on Nagasaki on August 9, 1945. Bockscar was commanded by Maj. Charles W. Sweeney. Its single atom bomb destroyed approximately 44% of Nagasaki, killing 35,000 people and injuring 60,000.

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Jefferson on Love

A periodic look into the mind of Jefferson


Jefferson loved two women in his life… both brought him periods of blissful happiness and profound sadness.  Through all the sadness, Jefferson’s optimism could always be felt-  He told his second love, Maria Cosway in 1786:

Heaven has submitted our being to some unkind laws.  When those charming moments were present which I passed with you, they were clouded with the prospect that I was soon to lose you… I am determined when you come next not to admit the idea that we are ever to part again… May your days be many and filled with sunshine, may your heart glow with warm affections… Write to me often- write affectionately and freely as I do to you.  Say many kind things and say them without reserve.  They will be food for my soul…


Dear Friend