Reading Fultin Sheen’s Treasure in Clay offers the reader many great insights. One of the best comes in the following quote:
The curious would like me to open healed wounds; the media, in particular, would relish a chapter which would pass judgment on others, particularly because, as a French author expressed it: [n]ous vivons aux temps des assassins–“we live in days of assassins”–where evil is sought more than good in order to justify a world with a bad conscience. (310)
This idea is salient on the question of social justice vs. individual justice, over which Sheen claims Vatican II was debated. Moderns have in large part discarded individual for social justice. In doing so, they can see the collective guilt of societies, but not the guilt of their own souls. To them, righteousness is something gained by being on the right side, not through individual deeds.
Much has been written about U-Boat warfare in the Atlantic during WWII and the convoys of ships that kept Britain supplied, but The Mathews Men is the first book I’ve encountered that tells the story of the U.S. Merchant Mariners who sailed the ships that carried the supplies that kept the Allied war effort in Europe going and weathered the wrath of the German U-Boat force assigned to stop them.
The book focuses not on a seafaring family named Mathews, as the subtitle might be read to imply, but on the residents of Mathews County, Virginia, a small county with a long history of supplying sailors, mates, and captains to U.S. merchant ships. It sets the stage in Mathews County by introducing the reader to the Hodges family, the source of the seven brothers featured in the book’s subtitle, then goes on to tell the tales of the Mathews men who sailed during WWII and the women they left behind.
Recently, my reading has revolved somewhat around the topic of Word War II. All the Gallant Men is one of those books, and I’d recommend it to anybody interested in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Much has been written about Pearl Harbor, but All the Gallant Men stands out as an first-hand account from Donald Stratton, a sailor from the U.S.S. Arizona who survived the attack even though his ship did not.
Stratton seeks to provide some context to Pearl Harbor, to go beyond the statistics and give the reader a glimpse of the lives lost and the men who weathered the storm of Japanese bullets and bombs. He tells of his childhood growing up in small-town Nebraska during the Great Depression. He explains why he joined the Navy, reminisces about boot camp, and describes life aboard the Arizona, both at sea and at anchor. He talks about the ship’s band, well on its way to earning the distinction of being one of the best of all the bands from the ships moored in Pearl Harbor. He describes the night of December 6, 1941. And of course, December 7, 1941. He chronicles the chaos of the attack and memorializes the actions of a sailor on another ship, who disobeyed orders in order to save Stratton and a group of survivors from the Arizona.
Cuhullin Riding His Chariot into Battle Brian Kaller looks at the similarities and differences between the competing blockbusters Captain America: Civil War and Superman vs. Batman, and why Marvel movies are better than DC movies. Along the way, he reveals just what it is about superheroes that continues to fascinate us: As long as humans […]
via On Superheroes — M.C. Tuggle, Writer
Heros von Borcke holds little interest to students of the Civil War today, judging from the books being written, names dropped in conversation, and that I did not know of his existence until three years ago. Despite being practically ignored by most, this man was the favorite adjutant of General Jeb Stuart and received a special commendation from the Confederate States’ government after suffering his nearly fatal wound following the Confederate victory at Chancellorsville in 1863. He was also at General Stuart’s side when this great general perished from the revolver shot he received at the Battle of Yellow Tavern. His memoirs of the Civil War, Memoirs of the Southern War for Independence, make for great reading. He loved his service for the South so much that he would often fly the Confederate Battle Flag from his castle in Prussia. Would that not be a sight to see in Germany!
Many of our dear readers are likely astounded by the phrase “his castle in Prussia.” Von Borcke, who would eventually become known as “Von” to Stuart, “the giant in grey” to the general public, and “Major Armstrong” to the enlisted men, came from aristocratic stock. Around the beginning of 1862, he took leave of the 2nd Brandenburg Regiment of Dragoons and arrived in the South on a blockade runner in May, carrying with him an arsenal of a shotgun, four revolvers, and a broadsword boasting a 36 inch blade. (Now held in Richmond’s Museum of the Confederacy.) Jefferson Davis, when he saw the size of von Borcke’s sword and the size of von Borcke (Depending on who tells it, between 6′ 2″ and 6′ 4″ tall and between 240 and 300 lbs), said that with such a sword wielded by such a strong arm, he had nothing to worry about. Von Borcke would get to know Generals Jackson and Stuart quite well and give great service until his wound took him off the battlefield for the rest of the war. Complications from this wound would eventually cause his demise in 1895 at the age of 59.
Ordering my thoughts on Clarence Thomas’s masterful autobiography has taken me some time. One might expect a lawyer’s autobiography to be dull material, but Thomas’s life was a series of overcoming one struggle after another. This made for an almost thrilling read, and yours truly could barely put the book down. His writing style showed a clear and distinct voice, which made his struggles feel vivid. I can’t recommend the book enough.
The beginning of Thomas’s life consisted of one long fight against poverty. His mother felt unable to care for her two sons properly by a certain point after being abandoned by Thomas’s father. So, their care was given over to Thomas’s grandfather, who labored hard to eke out a living in the poor Savannah of the 50’s and 60’s. Thomas credits his grandfather for bestowing on him a great work ethic and for sending him to a Catholic school, where the nuns brought out Thomas’s academic potential. Indeed, his grandfather ardently hoped that Thomas might better himself by this means.
In the prior article on Captain Joseph Fry, I briefly laid out the details of his life. Now, I wish to write this second article about the details of his death. The Virginius Affair might be well-known to diligent students of American history. This was yet another event which fanned the flames of animosity between America and Spain, which would finally burst into an inferno twenty-five years later.
This tragic event has its beginning when Joseph Fry left Louisiana for New York City in order to find a position of command on an ocean steamer. His efforts led to him being introduced to General Manuel Quesada, a leader of the Cuban resistance, who convinced Fry to captain the steamer Virginius. The old vessel would be put to use by the Cuban freedom fighters as a blockade runner; even though the vessel suffered from not being well maintained. This would prove fatal later, but Fry, desperate to find a means of providing for his family, eagerly accepted the command. In the hope that the Stars and Stripes would provide some protection, they registered the vessel as an American ship.
One of the chief delights of reading volumes published during the 19th century about the American Civil comes in discovering the stories of heroes often overlooked by modern historians. If not for Jeanie Mort Walker’s The Life of Captain Joseph Fry the Cuban Martyr and his murder at the hands of the Spanish government in Cuba on November 7, 1873, this great man’s life would be totally lost to history. I hope by this short article to contribute to the memory of Captain Joseph Fry in order to help fulfill the wish of his biographer (whose work I heartily recommend), which she expresses in the following words: “If a pure life, rich in honor, kindness, gallantry, truth, and faithful services, both in peace and in war, deserves remembrance, Captain Joseph Fry will never be forgotten” (14). The chief purpose of history, as Herodotus tells us, is to relate noble deeds so that they shall never be forgotten. My dear readers will find Joseph Fry’s life replete with them.
This worthy man entered the world on June 14, 1826 in Tampa, Florida. In this place, he would spend a very mischievous youth, which would earn him the nickname “Joseph le Diable” from his Creole neighbors. However, even as a youth, he became remarkable for his good heart and selflessness. At the age of five, he attended the needs of a dying free black woman, who had been abandoned by all until his family discovered Fry’s whereabouts and took over the care of the woman. This was not the last poor woman grateful for Fry’s help. Those who know how stratified Southern society was at the time will appreciate this fact.
If any act of Fry’s life displayed a modicum of self-interest, it lay in Fry’s decision to enter the Naval Academy. Fry had graduated from schooling in the North and had returned home to work in his uncle’s hardware store, which did not suit his energetic temperament in the least. After his elders and their connections failed to obtain an appointment for Fry at the Academy, he himself set out for Washington D. C. at the age of seventeen in order to obtain an audience with President John Tyler! Many at Washington were taken with Fry’s learning, poise, and courage, which gained him the wanted audience. Tyler then invited Fry to a dinner with the cabinet members and their wives, in which Fry’s plight and his poise became the main focus of the conversation. Needless to say, Fry returned home having secured a place among the plebes.
I have mentioned Washington: the Indispensable Man by James Thomas Flexner in an article about the need to judge by deeds and character rather than by words and appearances. May my quibble with Flexner’s critique of the way Washington accepted command of the Continental army in no way have prejudiced people against this excellent biography! Washington: the Indispensable Man stands as an excellent condensation of Flexner’s four volume biography of Washington. His original hope had been to write a one volume biography of Washington, but compressing twenty-one years of public service into one volume proved impossible until after he wrote a four volume piece. Some parts of this work give the impression that much more was going on in Washington’s life than Flexner was able to divulge, especially the chapters covering the Revolutionary War. The only solution to obtaining a fuller picture of Washington’s struggles must lie in picking up a multi-volume biography such as the one Flexner wrote or perhaps Douglas Southall Freeman’s.
One of the strongest parts of the biography consists in his ability to delineate Washington as a sanguine individual rather than as the stoic man of principle whom textbooks and legend have given us. Of course, Washington was a man of high principle who tried to keep a calm and cool demeanor; yet, his principles had a great deal of fervor behind them, and he did not hide his emotions when the occasion called for joy. For example, Washington’s exuberant cheers at seeing the arrival of the French navy during the Yorktown campaign surprised the officers of the French navy such that they doubted at first that they saw Washington on the shore. A cold individual could not have been so beloved of his men. When the Continental army verged on mutiny due to the soldiers being denied anywhere from two to five years pay, Washington taking out reading glasses and saying “Gentlemen, you will permit me to put on my spectacles, for, I have grown not only gray, but almost blind in the service of my country” not only moved his men to cease threatening mutiny but even to weep like infants.
The two other parts of the work stand above the rest for their detail: the descriptions of Washington’s involvement in the French and Indian War and his career as president of the United States. Flexner makes it very clear that Washington was not a natural commander. During the French and Indian War, Washington often complained about the lack of support given to him by the Virginia House of Burgesses, had difficulty waging effective campaigns against the wily Indians, and made the terrible blunder of ambushing a French diplomatic mission, killing the ambassador before the French made clear the nature of their mission and firing ceased. However, Washington showed himself to be a very brave man. Never becoming wounded during the heat of battle earned him the legend of being invulnerable to gunfire. This legend was further bolstered by often personally leading men into the thickest part of battle in the Revolutionary War.
One becomes amazed by the animus Washington endured during his time as president of the United States. Most of it came from Americans who wished to aid France against Britain during the time following the French Revolution. Washington felt that the new nation could not undergo another war with Britain so soon after the revolution and needed to foster good economic relations with Britain. For these policies, Washington was particularly scorned by his fellow southerners, who mostly belonged to the Pro-French Republican party. (The modern-day Democratic party has its origins in this party, sometimes known as Democratic-Republican party or Jeffersonian Republicans.) Washington relied upon Hamilton more than any other member of his cabinet, and this man was more loyal to Washington during the storms of his presidency than any other.
And so, this work offers a great sketch of Washington’s character and wonderful detail on Washington’s presidency in particular. Flexner’s prose reads very easily. Perhaps, this book is one of the best introductions one can read concerning the Father of Our Country.