Thursday, December 04, 2014

"Air Raid Pearl Harbor, this is no drill!"

"Air Raid Pearl Harbor, this is no drill!"

The radio message flashed out in the clear from Pearl Harbor

Seventy-three years ago this December 7th Sunday, Japanese aircraft slashed through the morning skies over Pearl Harbor Naval Station, Ford Island Naval Air Station, Hickam Field Army Air Corps Station, and Wheeler Field and the Schofield Barracks Army Station on the northwest side of Oahu.

Alerted by the thump of bombs falling from high above, and from the rattle of machine gun fire from low flying Japanese A6M-2 Zero-Sen Fighters on strafing runs, the ships of the United States Pacific Fleet were slow to react. Slowly, battle stations were manned, and ammunition broken out from magazines was finding its way to US Navy gunners. It was far too little and far too late. Japanese Val dive bombers and Kate torpedo planes began streaking in on their runs, delivering telling blows to the big ships.

In human lives, the attack on Pearl Harbor was horrific. 2,403 were dead, and 1,178 wounded.

188 planes were destroyed, the vast majority on the ground, as only a few Army Air Corps fighters managed to get airborne. A further 159 aircraft were significantly damaged, leaving only 43 planes operational at attack’s end.

It was the toll in ships that was staggering, however.

· Arizona blown up with a loss of 1,177 men.
· Oklahoma capsized with a small part of her hull above water.
· California “sank gradually for about three or four days: and came to rest rather solidly on a mud bottom, with her mainmasts and the upper parts of her main batteries above water. “The quarterdeck [was] under about twelve feet of water...”
· Nevada, which got under way, beached in the narrow channel opposite Hospital Point in a wrecked condition.
· West Virginia sunk at her berth.
· Maryland moderately damaged but not needing to go into drydock.
· Tennessee, seriously damaged aft in the officers’ quarters from fire and otherwise moderately damaged.
· Pennsylvania, in drydock, with considerable damage, “but not of vital nature.”
· Utah, then used as a target ship, capsized, having been at the Saratoga’s regular berth.
Light Cruisers
· Raleigh, Helena, and Honolulu moderately damaged.
· Cassin and Downes, in Drydock No. 1, severely damaged.
· Shaw’s bow blown off while in floating drydock, severely damaged.
· Vestal (repair ship) was along side the Arizona when the raid commenced and was beached at Aeia to prevent further sinkage.
· Curtiss (seaplane tender) was badly damaged by a crashing plane and one 500-lb. bomb.
· Oglala (minelayer) capsized.”*

For the Japanese, the cost was minimal.

“Twenty-nine planes did not return: fifteen dive bombers and high-level bombers, five torpedo planes, and nine fighter escorts. The midget submarines inflicted no damage, and none returned to their mother ships; four were sunk, and one was wrecked on a reef, its captain captured. One I-class submarine was also sunk.”*

[*Dull, Paul S., A Battle History of the Imperial Japanese Navy (1941-1945). United States Naval Institute Press, Annapolis, 1978.]

In spite of the overwhelming destruction inflicted on the US Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, the Japanese were foiled by a number of things that did not go according to plan, or were missed by the planners. The attack called for strikes particularly on the US Aircraft Carriers, however, they were at sea at the time of the attack and were missed. Additionally, millions of barrels of oil were stored in large tank farms behind the US Submarine base at Pearl Harbor, and also between there and another tank farm near Hickam Field. The Japanese left them totally unscathed. They also failed to attack the submarine section of the sprawling naval base. With the exception of a number of Cruisers and Destroyers based elsewhere throughout the Pacific, the surface fighting arm of the Pacific Fleet was on the bottom at Pearl Harbor, but the Aircraft Carriers, their pilots and planes were intact, as were the submarines, and their facilities at Pearl Harbor. The remains of the Pacific Fleet would not suffer for the want of oil to patrol the waters of the Pacific either.

The Japanese sneak attack catapulted the isolationist American nation to a Declaration of War, made by Congress the following day, at the request of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in his stirring “Day of Infamy” speech.

The rest of the story…Arizona was the ship that suffered the most damage. Devastated when a bomb ripped through the main deck and exploded in the forward magazine. Arizona has come to symbolize the events of December 7th at Pearl Harbor. Some of her dead lie still entombed within her, the rest buried in the cemetery at the “Punch Bowl”. The USS Arizona remains in commission as a U.S. Navy ship.

The former battleship Utah was converted to an auxiliary vessel in 1931 and used as a radio controlled target ship. Later, she was converted back to a gunnery training ship. Moored on the opposite side of Ford Island from Battleship Row on December 7th the Utah was in the spot where the aircraft carrier Saratoga usually was to be found. Utah received the attention of dozens of Japanese planes; struck repeatedly by bombs and torpedoes, she rolled over and sank. Later the hulk was raised and moved closer to Ford Island where she remains today.

Horribly mangled by bombs and torpedoes, the Nevada, the only battleship to get under way, was intentionally beached to prevent her sinking. Repaired and returned to service by 1943, she took part in a raid on the Aleutian Islands and eventually made her way to the Atlantic where she provided shore bombardment at Normandy on D-Day in 1944.

Capsized, the Oklahoma was eventually partially raised but never repaired. A frantic rescue effort went on for days after the attack trying desperately to free men trapped inside the overturned hull.

Flagship of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, Pennsylvania was in drydock at the time of the attack, sharing the drydock with the destroyers Cassin and Downes. Pennsylvania’s damage was minimal, thanks in no small part to the sturdiness of the drydock caissons. Japanese aircraft tried repeatedly to torpedo the Pennsylvania, but the drydock walls absorbed the hits. Not so lucky were the two destroyers in with the Pennsylvania, USS Cassin DD 372 and USS Downes DD 375. The Downes and Cassin were both salvaged with much equipment taken off their ruined hulls and installed on new hulls in the U.S. Re-launched, these “new” vessels went on to fight in many of the western Pacific Campaigns from 1943 on. The Pennsylvania was quickly repaired and returned to service. In 1944 she participated in the bombardment of Guam prior to the invasion there, and later saw action at the Battle of Surigao Strait.

The Tennessee was moored inboard of the USS West Virginia, and was thus protected from torpedo attack. She was scorched by the flaming oil from the Arizona, and received two bomb hits on her main gun turrets. After a period of repair and modernization in California, the Tennessee resumed duty, participating in all the major offensives of the Western Pacific from early 1943 on. Tennessee took part in the Battle of Surigao Strait and later had a hand in the sinking of the IJN super battleship Yamato.

Severely damaged by torpedoes and bombs, and sunk at her berth, California was a major salvage undertaking and was not completed until January of 1944. She took part in the major Pacific campaigns of 1944 and 1945, and fought in the surface action against Japanese Battleships at the Battle of Surigao Strait.

Perhaps the least damaged of all the battleships at Pearl Harbor, Maryland turned out to be the unluckiest. After a brief overhaul stateside in 1942, Maryland returned to combat status. While supporting Marine amphibious operations at Saipan in 1944 she was torpedoed by a Japanese plane. After another repair period, Maryland returned to the firing line at the Palau Islands, and operated with the fleet during the Leyte invasion in October 1944, including the Battle of Surigao Strait. A month later she was struck in Leyte Gulf by a Japanese Kamikaze aircraft, requiring still another overhaul. She returned to the line just in time for the end of the war in the Pacific.

Next to the Arizona, the West Virginia took the worst beating at Pearl Harbor. Several bomb hits and at least seven torpedo hits all on one side. Excellent damage control kept her from rolling over, and thus allowed many of her crew to escape. She was re-floated and repaired, and back in action by July of 1944, in time to participate in the closing months of the war in the Pacific.

USS Helena CL 50. Helena was a brand new light cruiser. At Pearl Harbor she was struck in an engine room by a single torpedo, and was repaired to fight in the southwest Pacific campaigns of 1942 by July of that year.

USS Raleigh CL 7. Unlike the Helena, Raleigh was a much older vessel, built in 1924. Like the Helena, she was lightly damaged at Pearl Harbor, receiving one torpedo hit and a near miss by a bomb. She was repaired and back in the fight by summer of 1942.

USS Honolulu CL 48. Another relatively new cruiser, the Honolulu received only moderate damage to its hull and by mid January was repaired and escorting a convoy to San Francisco.

USS Shaw DD 373. The destroyer Shaw was in a floating drydock and received serious damage from a bomb. Her bow section was completely blown off. Repaired and restored for duty, Shaw went back in action in the summer of 1942.

USS Helm DD 388. The Helm, a relatively new destroyer, was slightly damaged by two near-miss bombs. She remained in service.

USS Curtiss AV 4. The Curtiss was brand new seaplane tender. A bomb hit her and a Japanese plane crashed into her upper works. She was repaired on the west coast of the United States and back at Pearl Harbor by February, 1942.

USS Vestal AR 4. The Vestal, a repair ship, was moored alongside the USS Arizona on December 7th. Struck by two bombs and further damaged by the explosion in the forward magazine of the Arizona, Vestal was moved to another part of the harbor where she was grounded to avoid sinking. Vestal was repaired and by August of 1942 she was busy repairing ships involved in the Guadalcanal campaign.

USS Oglala CM 4. Oglala was the fleet minelayer for the Pacific Fleet. An old ship, she was damaged during the attack by nearby torpedo and bomb explosions. She rolled onto her side and sank. Raised and repaired, she was returned to action as a repair ship for internal combustion engines in 1944.

Amazingly, of the twenty ships mentioned above, which indeed are the ones that received any damage of a nature greater than superficial, only Arizona, Utah, and Oklahoma were not raised, repaired and returned to wartime service. And Utah was little more than a hulk to begin with. Ultimately, one of the real stories about Pearl Harbor is this superb salvage effort to get the ships repaired well enough for a voyage to a West Coast shipyard, where they were repaired and in many cases overhauled and modernized, often returning to service in much finer condition than prior to the attack. The men and women who performed these tasks at Pearl Harbor are as big a set of heroes as any crew who sailed their ships against the Japanese in the Pacific.

All the ships served with distinction later in the war, and it was a fitting event at the Battle of Surigao Strait when Admiral Jesse Oldendorf led six U.S. Battleships, among them Pearl Harbor veterans California, West Virginia, Maryland, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania in column in a classic “Crossing the T” maneuver, just as Japanese Admiral Togo had done to the Russian fleet at Tsushima Strait in 1905, and sank most of Vice Admiral Nishimura’s striking force of battleships and cruisers.  Oldendorf’s victory at Surigao Strait is a testament to that magnificent salvage effort.

The salvage work done at Pearl Harbor in the aftermath of the December 7th attack was finely managed and heroically carried out. Icing to the cake was added barely six months after the Japanese attack when the Naval Shipyard located at Pearl completed what would normally have taken several months to repair: the battle damage to the USS Yorktown from the Battle of the Coral Sea, in 48 hours, allowing her and her aircrews to participate in the first major naval victory against the Japanese at the Battle of Midway. Aircraft from the three US aircraft carriers, the Hornet, Enterprise, and Yorktown, the ones that were missed at Pearl, sank four of the Japanese aircraft carriers that participated in the December 7th attack on Pearl Harbor, the Hiryu, Soryu, Kaga and Akagi.  

Remember Pearl Harbor…73 years ago December 7th.

Novus Livy

”Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history."-- Abraham Lincoln

Now in our 10th Year!

Copyright © 2005-2014: Novus Livy and The History of the World Blog; All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgiving: Sarah Hale and Abraham Lincoln

In 1621 the settlers of the Plymouth Colony in what is now Massachusetts, gathered to celebrate a harvest of food they had no cause to even dream of when they landed. Thanks to the local Native Americans, the Wampanoag Tribe, who taught the colonists how to fish and gave them seeds to plant, the 102 colonists not only had sufficient food for the winter, they had enough to have a celebration of their bounty. [Claims for the first Thanksgiving rest in two other places, one a half-century earlier in 1565 at the Spanish Colony of St. Augustine, Florida, and the other in Virginia at the Jamestown Colony in 1607. The 1619 charter that founded the Charles City County village of Berkley Hundred included in its code an annual day of Thanksgiving.] Nevertheless, it remains Plymouth that we celebrate, in large part because of the symbolic rescue from death by starvation carried out by the generosity of the Wampanoag people.

Sarah Josepha Buell Hale spent 91 years on this earth, from 1788 to 1879. And during those 91 years she produced an incredible record into the history of this nation. And she goes pretty much unrecognized today. Sarah Buell was born, raised and married in Newport, New Hampshire. She married David Hale, a local attorney in 1813 and bore him five children. Sarah became a widow in 1822 and remained in mourning the rest of her life. Nothing out of the ordinary at this point for those times. But Sarah was different. Very intelligent, much of her education was self attained, and she wrote poetry. She published a collection of her poetry in 1823, followed soon after by a novel, Northwood: Life North and South. Northwood carried a message that slavery was not only bad for the slave it was bad for the masters, too, dehumanizing both.

In 1828 Sarah accepted a position in Boston as ‘editress’ of Reverend John Blake’s Ladies’ Magazine. In 1830 she published her second collection of poetry, Poems for Children, which included the now famous Mary’s Lamb, which we know as ”Mary Had A Little Lamb”. In 1837 she began editing the widely popular Godey’s Ladies Book, after Philadelphian Louis Godey bought the Ladies Magazine. There Sarah remained working for the next forty years.

Sarah was a thinker, and a powerful one. She went beyond many of the social thinkers of the day and did so with a quiet logic. In her capacity as editress of Godey’s, she was a major influence on women authors of the nineteenth century and on some men as well: Hawthorne, Holmes, Irving to name a few.

The year she retired, Thomas Edison spoke the first words to be recorded, on a device he invented. Those words were the first lines of Mary’s Lamb.]

For a span of forty years during her life, she wrote to Congress asking for a national Thanksgiving Holiday. Her prayers were answered, but not by Congress.

Abraham Lincoln is well known for many of his speeches and historic documents: his two Inaugural Addresses, his Cooper Union Speech, his Gettysburg Address, the Emancipation Proclamation, among others. Here is one he seldom gets much credit for making.

By the President of the United States of America.

A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.

In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.

By the President: Abraham Lincoln

William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

And so, Sarah Hale’s forty year effort to have Thanksgiving made into a national Holiday came to an end in 1863 at the hands of President Abraham Lincoln. 

Sarah and her daughter Sarah repose in a grove at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia.

Times have been rough of late. The twenty-first century has offered little to further the cause of mankind. There is more conflict throughout the world than the world has seen for seventy years. Yet, every day, the sun rises and sets, crops grow and are harvested. We think too much and too often of what we do not have, and we forget what we do have. Thanksgiving is a reminder that we should do this, for “…They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Novus Livy

”Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history."
--Abraham Lincoln

Copyright © 2005-2014: Novus Livy and The History of the World Blog; All Rights Reserved.

Monday, February 17, 2014

A Little Help, If You Please


The historian in us has been stymied by a dilemma. Someone sent an email to us with a quotation attributed to George Washington. Here is the quotation:

"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceived veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by our nation." -- President George Washington

We have been unable to verify that this is indeed from our first president. We have the works of George Washington in our library, and have been browsing through it several times over looking for it. Supposedly it was said by Washington in 1789. We have been through that section of his complete works several times over, and have not been able to find the source of the quote.

Can anyone help with this dilemma and provide a link to a verifying source?

Novus Livy

”Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history."-- Abraham Lincoln

Copyright © 2005-2014: Novus Livy and The History of the World Blog; All Rights Reserved.

Monday, May 13, 2013

New Blog just on Battle of Gettysburg

There is a new blog  up and running over at Three Days at Gettysburg.  It is all about the Battle, including most recently, a review of the newly released [as of May 14, 2013] book by Professor Allen C. Guelzo of Gettysburg College titled 'Gettysburg, the Last Invasion.'

Some new ground is being broken in the interpretation of the Battle of Gettysburg on this blog.  Give it a try, and if you like it, subscribe. It is a scholarly look at the Battle and the application of technology, like Google Earth imagery, and some plain old common sense. 

Three Days at Gettysburg

Novus Livy

”Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history."-- Abraham Lincoln

Copyright © 2005-2013: Novus Livy and The History of the World Blog; All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

The Fight for Houck's Ridge

[Reprinted with permission from GettysBLOG]

Late in the afternoon of July 2, 1863, the members of Brigadier General J. H. Hobart Ward’s Brigade of 6 regiments from Maine, Indiana, New York, and Pennsylvania, plus elements of the 1st and 2nd United States Sharpshooters, prepared to receive the assault of Confederate General John Bell Hood. Perched atop the south end of Houck’s Ridge, the southern terminus of which is Devil’s Den, Ward placed his men in a line stretching generally north, almost to the Wheatfield. Behind him lay Plum Run Valley, soon to become known as the Valley of Death, and several hundred yards farther east lay the two Round Tops, “Big” on the south, “Little” to the north. There was slender Union presence in between Ward and Little Round Top.

Facing Ward were two Brigades of Hood’s shock troops, under Brigadier General Jerome Bonaparte Robertson [Texas and Arkansas], and Brigadier General Henry L. Benning [Georgia], on Robertson’s left. The terrain was difficult for the Confederates, but what Benning’s men had to go over was so impassable that his men split Robertson’s Brigade with the 1st Texas and 3rd Arkansas moving to the left of Benning’s men, while the 4th and 5th Texas got mixed in with Brigadier General Evander Law’s Alabama brigade assaulting Little Round Top.

Anchoring the left end of Ward’s line [at the south end of Houck’s Ridge, with the worst of the Devil’s Den Boulders at his back] was Smith’s 4th New York Light Battery, with Captain James Smith commanding the six 10 pounder Parrot guns. Union artillery batteries were comprised of 6 guns, divided into three sections of two guns each. Smith had posted one section of his guns to his right rear about two hundred yards, on the floor of Plum Run Valley. They were pointed south, across the stream at a tree line at the base of Big Round Top. The area was littered with large and small boulders. When the Alabama troops emerged from the tree line, Smith’s two guns roared into action, firing explosive shells over the rocks, which in many cases added rock splinters to the shrapnel from the exploding shells. As the Confederates withdrew back into the tree line, Smith’s two guns elevated their muzzles and opened fire on the treetops of the wood line. This created hundreds of wood splinters raining down on the Alabamians sheltering there. The area became known as The Slaughter Pen. Below is a photo of the two gun section of Smith’s Battery which has been missing for some time due to repair and restoration of the guns. Its location is on the west side of today’s Crawford Avenue at the spot where Smith had posted them.  Houck's Ridge is in the background.

In the meantime, Smith’s other two sections [four guns] were on top of the south end of Houck’s Ridge covering the left flank of Ward’s brigade line. To Smith’s right was the 4th Maine and 99th Pennsylvania Infantry [both moved there during the battle], and on their right, the 124th New York. Farther to the right was the 20th Indiana in the edge of the Rose Woods. Other regiments from Ward’s brigade were posted down on the floor of Plum Run Valley, facing the elements of Evander Law’s Alabamians coming up through the boulders of Plum Run Gorge.

As Benning’s Brigade approached Ward’s position, they found the 1st Texas Infantry and the 4th Arkansas Infantry in front of them, entering a triangular shaped field on the western slope of Houck’s Ridge. At the top, along the base of the triangle, was a stone wall, behind which were Colonel VanHorn Ellis’s 124th New York Infantry, his “Orange Blossoms” from Orange County, New York. As the Texans began their assault up the ridge, the Orange Blossoms poured a deadly fire into them, causing them to fall back. Ellis’s men, encouraged by this, and led by the Colonel who jumped his horse over the wall, began to march in line abreast down the Triangular Field toward the Texans. While withdrawing down the hill, the Texans reloaded, and at the bottom, on a small knoll, they turned and fired a volley into the approaching New Yorkers. The regiment was decimated. Major Cromwell, the second in command was down, and many others were dead or wounded. The New Yorkers began to withdraw. In the ensuing fight, the Orange Blossoms drove off the Texans, but not without a great price. Cromwell and Ellis were both dead, and many of their compatriots were as well. It was a sad day for Orange County, New York.

Benning continued to press forward, and the fight became hand to hand, lasting for almost an hour, before the 99th Pennsylvania, fighting from a circle of large boulders, was forced to withdraw. The rest of Ward’s Brigade had already done so, heading to a spot north of Little Round Top.

Below is a photograph of the Artillerist statue, which marks the spot of Smith’s 4th New York Light Artillery Batter [2 sections] on the south end of Houck’s Ridge. Anyone who has ever driven or walked up from Devil’s Den will recognize the four cannons of Smith’s Battery represented atop Houck’s Ridge. Several years ago, the Artillerist’s statue was pulled down and decapitated, with the head stolen, during a pre-dawn attack of vandalism on the Battlefield. [Two other monuments were damaged along Emmitsburg Road]. The statue has been repaired and restored as you can see.  Little Round Top is in the background.

Of Smith's guns on Houck’s Ridge during the battle, all four were captured, one of which was damaged or spiked, and three were carried off by the Confederates.

Novus Livy

”Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history."-- Abraham Lincoln

Copyright © 2005-2012: Novus Livy and The History of the World Blog; All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Battle for Little Round Top

 [Reprinted with permission from GettysBLOG]

On July 2nd, 1863, General Gouveneur Kemble Warren stood on the rocks of Little Round Top and gazed upon a disaster about to befall his army. As the Chief Topographical Engineer for the Army of the Potomac, it was his job to look at terrain, decide what could be attacked, what could be defended and how best to arrange troops in order to do either one - or both.

This day had been quiet so far, but by late morning a dangerous gap in the lines had been discovered. Major General Daniel Sickles, a politically appointed General who commanded the Third Corps of the Army of the Potomac, had dislodged his men and guns from the knoll just to the north of Little Round Top, moving them forward and up the elevation to the Emmitsburg Road, over a half mile forward. Sickles placed one brigade in the Peach Orchard next to the Sherfy House, and then sent a whole division to stretch up along the road almost to the Codori farm. Sickles had also left a Brigade behind and to the south along a ridge that ended in a jumble of enormous boulders. When the commander of the Army of the Potomac, Major General George Gordon Meade, was alerted to Sickles’ move, the two rode out to look at Sickles lines. Meade explained the problems with being so far in front of the Union lines, and that enormous gap left in his own lines between the men in the Peach Orchard and the men on that rocky ridge a half mile to the southwest. Sickles offered to return his men to the assigned position just as the Confederate artillery opened up on his troops. Meade remarked that he didn’t think ‘they’, the Rebel guns, would give him the time to do so. Meade turned his horse and rode back to the Union lines to try to fill the gaps that Sickles had left.

The result was troops from two other Union Corps engaging the approaching Confederates in the bloody battles of the Wheatfield. Nearly seven thousand men lay as casualties, dead and wounded, when the afternoon’s fighting ended there.

What Warren was seeing was the line of men, a half mile wide, of Confederate General John Bell Hood, approaching toward Sickles men on the ridge. And Hood's line extended even farther to the left than that. Some of them were starting up the southern face of Big Round Top, the highest elevation in the vicinity, just several hundred yards to Warren’s left. He sent a messenger to the Commander of the Union Fifth Corps asking for a brigade of men to take up a line on the south face of Little Round Top to stop the end of Hood’s line. If they flanked the Union position on Little Round Top, well, it was possible that the Union Army’s strong position at Gettysburg would be so threatened as to cause it to withdraw southward into Maryland.

On the lane below Little Round Top, Colonel Strong Vincent, a Harvard educated lawyer from Erie, Pennsylvania, stopped his small brigade and stopped the messenger, asking for his message. When told he was sent for troops to defend the hill, Vincent told him that on his own responsibility, he would take his brigade to the crest of the hill and place them at General Warren’s disposal. Vincent ordered the men to the top of the hill and proceeded to move ahead of them to scout the terrain. After a brief consult with Warren, who merely had to point to the advancing Confederate troops, Vincent set off to look at the south flank of Little Round Top.

The two Round Tops [not known by those names until after the battle] were physically separated by a small saddle of ground through which a lane ran, coming up from Plum Run Valley to the West and running out between farms on the east side of the two hills, to the Taneytown Road. A spur of ground jutted from Little Round Top into this saddle of ground from north to south. It came to a point and descended perhaps 15-20 feet very sharply to the saddle. The ground was strewn with boulders large and small. After perhaps ten minutes, Vincent’s men started to arrive.

Historians for years have written that Vincent arrayed his troops along the military crest [A lower crest than the top, on which men could stand and fight and not be silhouetted to attackers from below.] with the 16th Michigan Infantry at the southwest corner of the crest, and on their left, the 44th New York, then the 83rd Pennsylvania, and finally, on what would eventually become known as Vincent’s Spur, the 20th Maine. However, recent work clearing the south slope of Little Round Top has resulted in the [re-]discovery of the flank markers [stone markers which marked the left and right ends – flanks – of a regiment, placed there by the Veterans of the battle] of the 83rd Pennsylvania. And they are not in line with the rest of the Brigade. Instead of a line of defense, Vincent, who once commanded the 83rd Pennsylvania, placed his men in a very sophisticated defense in depth. He placed the 83rd Pennsylvania about fifty yards in front of the 44th New York, facing south. They were also twenty-five feet lower than the 44th New York. To the right rear of the 83rd Pennsylvania was what is essentially a 25 foot cliff leading up to the position of the 16th Michigan. To the left is a gap between the 83rd and the 20th Maine, arrayed on an angle leading away from the 83rd, and ending at the end of Vincent’s Spur. The gap was an invitation to the attacking troops to enter and become a killing ground as the Maine troops opened on them from behind the rocks on the spur.

It was innovative, sophisticated, and deadly to the enemy. Sadly, Strong Vincent did not survive the Battle of Little Round Top. The fight made a Medal of Honor recipient of Lt. Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, commanding the 20th Maine. Chamberlain was not only the left flank of Vincent’s Brigade, but of the Army of the Potomac. He wound up facing one regiment of Alabama Troops in the killing ground and in front of the 83rd Pennsylvania, and then another Regiment appeared in his rear. After fending off repeated assaults, including one that reached inside his lines, Chamberlain’s men were out of ammunition. Thinking the enemy was forming for another assault, he seized the initiative, and ordered his men to fix bayonets, and charge the enemy. They drove the enemy regiment off, capturing many prisoners.

Below is a recent picture of the 83rd Pennsylvania’s position on the south flank of Little Round Top.

The view is looking west. The crest of Little Round Top is to the right, and Warren Avenue [visible to the left] which comes up from Plum Run Valley and runs out to Taneytown Road over the saddle of ground that separates Little Round Top from Big Round Top. The monument is that of the 83rd Pennsylvania, and the statue on top is that of Strong Vincent. Unlike most regiments, the regimental marker for the 83rd Pennsylvania is not in the center of its line, but rather about twenty yards behind, and closer to its left flank than its right. The right flank marker of the 83rd Pennsylvania is under the pine tree in the center of the photo. The left flank marker is not visible in this photo, but another marker near it is visible to the left in a completely bare ground spot to the left of middle of the fallen tree [see detail photo below]. The line of the 83rd runs parallel to Warren Avenue about 20 yards in, and follows a line of boulders, which no doubt was used for cover.

Next time you are out on the Battlefield, go explore this for yourself!

Novus Livy

"Fellow Citizens, we cannot escape history." -- Abraham Lincoln

Copyright © 2005-2012: Novus Livy and The History of the World Blog;; All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Welcome back, gunner!

The Artillerist on the 4th New York Independent Battery monument [Captain James E. Smith] located on the south end of Houck’s Ridge [behind Devil’s Den] has been restored and is now standing as a silent sentinel over the Gettysburg Battlefield area once again. For those who drive through Devils Den area, and then up and around to where Benning’s Brigade of Georgians assaulted the left of Ward’s Third Corps Brigade, the cannon and the Artillerist are well remembered figures that greet you when you reach the top of the ridge.

Damaged several years ago in an ugly attack of vandalism early one morning, the statue was pulled off its pedestal and the head was removed and carried off. Two other monuments, both along Emmitsburg Road, were also damaged. The 114th Pennsylvania Infantry monument [Collis’s Zouaves], was also toppled, but was restored fairly quickly. The 16th Massachusetts Infantry monument also had damage when the ball on top was pulled free and smashed on the ground.

All were members of the Third Corps [Dan Sickles], and were involved in the fighting on the second day, when Sickles, without orders to do so, ordered his corps out of a defensive position just north of Little Round Top, and forward to the Emmitsburg Road. He left Ward’s Brigade and Smith’s Battery to cover his left by stationing them on the south end of Houck’s Ridge. Sickles covered some of the gap between Ward and Graham’s Brigade, stationed in the Peach Orchard a half mile, away by aligning some artillery on the Wheatfield Lane facing south. Sickles move remains a bone of contention to this day, and his actions then, and for the rest of his life, seriously damaged the career and reputation of General George Meade.

The fight of Ward’s Brigade and Smith’s Battery against several assaults by brigades and regiments from the Confederate Army division under General John Bell Hood is legendary. Smith, in particular, fought his battery well, splitting off one section of two guns onto the floor of the “Valley of Death” where they stopped advancing Alabama troops by firing into the boulder field of the “Slaughter Pen”. The other four guns remained on top of Houck’s ridge where they supported Ward’s infantry brigade aligned on the right of the battery.

Park restoration specialists had to travel out west to cast the head for the Artillerist from another copy of the statue.

Welcome back, gunner!

Novus Livy

”Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history."-- Abraham Lincoln

Copyright © 2005-2012: Novus Livy and The History of the World Blog; All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Ride of Paul Revere

On the night of April 18-19, 1775, Boston silversmith Paul Revere and fellow Sons of Liberty member William Dawes were sent to the villages of Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts to warn the leaders of the Sons, John Hancock and Samuel Adams of the advance of British Infantry troops out of Boston toward those villages. After warning Lexington, and joined by Dr. Samuel Prescott, the three men were detained briefly by British troops at a roadblock while on their way to Concord, but Dawes and Prescott escaped. Revere was escorted under guard toward Lexington until the British troops escorting him heard the firing of the battle from there. They took his horse, riding on toward Lexington. Revere made his way back toward Concord, finally meeting up with Hancock and Adams.

An inspiring story.

More thrilling is the same tale related in the stirring poem, The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.
He said to his friend, "If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,--
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm."

Then he said "Good-night!" and with muffled oar
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
The Somerset, British man-of-war;
A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
Across the moon like a prison bar,
And a huge black hulk, that was magnified
By its own reflection in the tide.

Meanwhile, his friend through alley and street
Wanders and watches, with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door,
The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers,
Marching down to their boats on the shore.

Then he climbed the tower of the Old North Church,
By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the sombre rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade,--
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town
And the moonlight flowing over all.

Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead,
In their night encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel's tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper, "All is well!"
A moment only he feels the spell
Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread
Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay,--
A line of black that bends and floats
On the rising tide like a bridge of boats.

Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he patted his horse's side,
Now he gazed at the landscape far and near,
Then, impetuous, stamped the earth,
And turned and tightened his saddle girth;
But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry tower of the Old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and sombre and still.
And lo! as he looks, on the belfry's height
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns.

A hurry of hoofs in a village street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet;
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.
He has left the village and mounted the steep,
And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides;
And under the alders that skirt its edge,
Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,
Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.

It was twelve by the village clock
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer's dog,
And felt the damp of the river fog,
That rises after the sun goes down.

It was one by the village clock,
When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock
Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
And the meeting-house windows, black and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast
At the bloody work they would look upon.

It was two by the village clock,
When he came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning breeze
Blowing over the meadow brown.
And one was safe and asleep in his bed
Who at the bridge would be first to fall,
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by a British musket ball.

You know the rest. In the books you have read
How the British Regulars fired and fled,---
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
>From behind each fence and farmyard wall,
Chasing the redcoats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load.

So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm,---
A cry of defiance, and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo for evermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.
And in Revere's own words:

"...The Saturday Night preceding the 19th of April, about 12 oClock at Night, the Boats belonging to the Transports were all launched, and carried under the Sterns of the Men of War. (They had been previously hauld up and repaired). We likewise found that the Grenadiers and light Infantry were all taken off duty.

From these movements, we expected something serious was [to] be transacted. On Tuesday evening, the 18th, it was observed, that a number of Soldiers were marching towards the bottom of the Common. About 10 o'Clock, Dr. Warren Sent in great haste for me, and beged that I would imediately Set off for Lexington, where Messrs. Hancock and Adams were, and acquaint them of the Movement, and that it was thought they were the objets. When I got to Dr. Warren's house, I found he had sent an express by land to Lexington—a Mr. Wm. Daws..."

--From a
letter written by Paul Revere
Revere remains today one of the most famous heroes of the American Revolution. Revere went on to establish a gunpowder mill to support the Revolution, and then became an officer in the Army.

He serves as an example of the individual heroism of all who risked all in defying what had become the tyannical authority of the British King, George III.

Novus Livy

”Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history."-- Abraham Lincoln

Copyright © 2005-2009: Novus Livy and The History of the World Blog; All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Your Help Urgently Needed [repost]

Fellow vets. As you all know, the Gold Star Mothers is an organization of women who have lost a son or daughter in combat. Renowned artist Andrew Chernak has been commissioned to design and sculpt the National Gold Star Mothers Monument in Washington, D.C. Chernak, of suburban Philadelphia, recently unveiled the original Gold Star Mother’s monument in Putnam, New York. Below is a photo of the Putnam monument, dedicated in early July of this year.
A US Army Vietnam vet, Chernak needs help locating photographs of deceased Navy and Air Force veterans and their Gold Star Mothers. The plan is to etch and carve the photographs into the granite base. He has arranged for Army, Coast Guard and Marine Corp photos, but needs the Navy and Air Force Gold Star Mothers and their sons or daughters.

Preferred are full face photos of both the Gold Star Mothers, and of their sons or daughters in Uniform.

Anyone in contact with a Gold Star Mother who would be willing to submit a photograph of herself and another of her son or daughter should please put them in contact with Mr. Chernak at the following email address:

Thanks, Veterans, for all you have done. We must also never forget to thank the Mothers of the sons and daughters who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their nation. The sacrifice of the Gold Star Moms must be counted, remembered and honored as well.

Thank you in advance for all your help on this matter, and thank you again for all you've done.

Novus Livy

“Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history.” – Abraham Lincoln

Copyright © 2006: Novus Livy and The History of the World Blog. All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

A Plea for Help

Fellow vets. As you all know, the Gold Star Mothers is an organization of women who have lost a son or daughter in combat. Renowned artist Andrew Chernak has been commissioned to design and sculpt the National Gold Star Mothers Monument in Washington, D.C. Chernak, of suburban Philadelphia, recently unveiled the original Gold Star Mother’s monument in Putnam, New York. Below is a photo of the Putnam monument, dedicated in early July of this year.
A US Army Vietnam vet, Chernak needs help locating photographs of deceased Navy and Air Force veterans and their Gold Star Mothers. The plan is to etch and carve the photographs into the granite base. He has arranged for Army, Coast Guard and Marine Corp photos, but needs the Navy and Air Force Gold Star Mothers and their sons or daughters.

Preferred are full face photos of both the Gold Star Mothers, and of their sons or daughters in Uniform.

Anyone in contact with a Gold Star Mother who would be willing to submit a photograph of herself and another of her son or daughter should please put them in contact with Mr. Chernak at the following email address:

Thanks, Veterans, for all you have done. We must also never forget to thank the Mothers of the sons and daughters who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their nation. The sacrifice of the Gold Star Moms must be counted, remembered and honored as well.

Thank you in advance for all your help on this matter, and thank you again for all you've done.

Novus Livy

“Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history.” – Abraham Lincoln

Copyright © 2006: Novus Livy and The History of the World Blog. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Index to Battle of Gettysburg Series

Hello History fans! Here is an index to the recent series on the Battle of Gettysburg.

The 8 posts are listed in order and numbered as such. Each post contains links at the bottom taking you to the next in the series, the previous in the series, or home to the History of the World Blog’s main page.

Enjoy! And thank you for reading!
Novus Livy

“Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history.” – Abraham Lincoln

Copyright © 2006: Novus Livy and The History of the World Blog. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006


We will be moving this blog to a dedicated server sometime next month. It is highly recommended that those of you who receive email notifications from us every time an essay is posted, please subscribe to the blogs through the subscription window at the top left of the page. This will result in your receipt of notification of new posts every morning from Feedblitz. If no new post has been made, you will not get any notification. The Feedblitz notification carries the first 250 words of the post, and links to the post.

After we move, we will send one announcement out by email and post on the blogs another message that we have moved. This emailing and the post announcing the move will include the link to the blogs, which you may save if you wish.

That will be the last email notification we send out. If you do not wish to register with Feedblitz, then we suggest you save the link to the blogs in your Favorites or Bookmarks, and remember to visit us often. And don’t forget to tell others – friends and family- where to find us!

We regret that Google’s Blogger has become more of a hindrance than a help in posting blogs. However, Things Change (one of our favorite movies) and so we will be moving. Not going away, just going someplace different, and we hope, better.

We appreciate your loyalty as members of our readership, and hope that you will accompany us on our move.

Thank you!
Novus Livy

“Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history.” – Abraham Lincoln

Copyright © 2006: Novus Livy and The History of the World Blog. All Rights Reserved.