Friday, May 23, 2008

(The photo is Tun Tavern, birthplace of the Marine Corps.)
a. The United States Marine Corps is a direct descendent of the British Royal Marines, who were founded in 1664. Many Americans served in the ranks of the British Royal Marines before the American Revolution. In 1741 King George II ordered the formation of several British Marine Regiments; four of those regiment were formed from men of the colonies. They were commanded by the governor of Virginia, William Gooch. For this reason, they were known as "Gooch's Marines." They fought against pirates and in Britain's was with Spain. These Marines were also often used to settle territorial disputes. Although Royal Marines and American Marines were to meet in opposition on the field of battle, close ties remain as we often serve together throughout the world.

b. Before the formation of the Union, individual states maintained their own navies, whose ships were augmented with early colonial Marines. As England's rule became more oppressive, the colonies banded together and war became inevitable.

c. When the second Continental Congress drew plans for a Navy, it also established a Continental Marine Corps. On 10 November 1775, Congress resolved that, "two battalions of Marines be raised... and that care be taken, that no persons appointed to that office, or enlisted into said battalions, but such are good seaman, or so acquainted with maritime affairs as to be able to serve to advantage by sea when required." All members of the Continental Marines had to have extensive prior service in the Merchant Marines or aboard a ship to qualify for enlistment.

d. Thereby, on 10 November 1775 the Continental Marine Corps was established and that is the birth date of the United States Marine Corps.

e. Samuel Nicholas, a Philadelphia merchant, was commissioned a Captain and ordered to raise the required number of Marines to form the battalions. He was the senior officer of the Continental Marines. Today he is known as the first Commandant of the Marine Corps.

a. Tun Tavern is considered the birthplace of the Marine Corps. Located in Philadelphia, it was established as the recruiting headquarters of the newly formed Marine Corps. As these new recruits were to form the Corps, each man had to bring his own rifle with him in order to enlist.

b. Robert Mullen, who was the owner of Tun Tavern, was such a successful recruiter that he too was commissioned a Captain. Captain Robert Mullen, is known as the first Marine Recruiter in the history of the Marine Corps.

c. For the next several months Captain Nicholas and Mullen worked to recruit and train enough men to fill the ranks of the two Marine battalions. In February 1776, the call to arms was given and Captain Nicholas and his Marines to be the first to bring the war for independence to British soil. The Marines became the "First to Fight" for the freedom of our Nation.

d. The attack on New Providence was the first engagement the Continental Marines would be committed to and also the first amphibious landing in the history of the Corps. The need for ammunition and supplies to support General Washington's new army was critical. General Washington did not have the minimum amounts of ammunition needed to mount an attach on Trenton against the British.

e. Eight vessels under the command of Commodore Esek Hopkins set out with a battalion of Marines commanded by Captain Samuel Nicholas for the British Island of New Providence, Bahamas.

f. The forts located on New Providence were to know to have a larger quantity of badly needed gun powder. That gun powder, of course, belonged to the British.

g. On 3 March 1776, the Marines made their first amphibious assault at New Providence. Bahamas, taking the British defenders completely by surprise. The British withdrew from Fort Montague and the Marines captured the fort without firing a shot. Unfortunately, the British had moved the majority of gun powder to their main fort at Nassau.

h. The Marines spent the night at Fort Montague, confident that the next morning would bring a great victory. During the night, the British governor evacuated most of Fort Nassau's gun powder by ship to avoid capture by the Marines.

i. The morning of the fourth, after setting sail and arriving at Ft. Nassau, Nicholas demanded and received from the governor of New Providence, the surrender of the fort. The fortress yielded only twenty-four barrels of gun powder, which was a disappointment to the victorious Marines. However, the Marines stripped the island of cannon and ordnance supplies before departing. On their way back they were engaged by a British ship. After some fire exchange, contact was broken and each went on its own way.

j. At New Providence the Marines set the pattern for the future of the Corps. With the first amphibious assault, the Marines accomplished their mission with confidence and discipline. These traits would follow the Marine Corps throughout history.

k. During the Revolutionary War Marines fought mostly on ships, however, they did take part in land engagements even this early in their history.

l. When the victorious Marines returned home the recently promoted Major Nicholas worked on acquiring additional Marines for the battalions. As the Marines were recruited and trained, they were sent to ship's detachments and to Marine companies that protected different Naval installations.

m. A battalion of Marines was present for the decisive victory at the second battle of Trenton. Marines were also present to defend Fort Mifflin (below Philadelphia) from the onslaught of Admiral Howe. FOr 24 days the Marines held out against a numerically superior force, until the fort was completely leveled and undefendable.

n. Marines participated in several more naval engagements and amphibious landings before peace and independence was secured for the colonies. As the war ended the new nation could no longer afford a Navy or Marine Corps. Major Nicholas returned to his business in 1785 but the need for Marines was ever present, and the Marines born in battle would soon respond again to the call of war.

a. The Quatrefoil (the cross-shaped braid atop officers frame type "barracks" caps) have been worn ever since 1859. The design of French origin, is a distinguishing part of the Marine officer's uniform. Popular belief tells us that in the mid 1800's, cross pieces of rope were sewn to the top of the officers covers so that sharpshooters in the ship's riggings could easily identify them.

b. The Marines long-standing nickname "Leatherneck", goes back to the leather stock, or neckpiece, which was worn to protect the neck from enemy sword blades and was part of the Marine uniform from 1775-1875. The leather bands around their throat were intended to ensure that Marines kept their heads erect. Descended from the leather stock is the standing collar, hallmark of the Marines blues, whites and evening dress. Like its leather ancestor, the standing collar regulates stance and posture, and thus proclaims the wearer as a modern "Leatherneck."

c. The Marine Corps is selected to provide a Band that plays exclusively for the President of the United States, it became known as "The President's Own." In 1798, Congress re-enacted the Marine Corps as a separate military service. In 1801, war began with the Barbary Pirates from Tripoli.

a. In 1801, the rules of Libya located on the northern coast of Africa, declared war on the United States because of our refusal to pay restitution money in the sum of approximately $10,000.00 a year for the protection of the United States' shipping in the Mediterranean Sea. The U.S. felt that enough protection was provided for their ships by the presence of Marines. The fighting waged for four years with little gained by either side.

b. In 1805 Lieutenant Presley O'Bannon, with a force of seven Marines, joined the rightful rule of Libya, Prince Hamet, in Egypt and planned the attack on Derna, Libya. The Marines, with 400 of Prince Hamet's men, crossed the 600 mile Libyan Desert and attacked the city. This aggressive action caused the defenses of the city to fall, and for the first time the "Stars and Stripes" were raised over a captured fortress in the Old World.

c. As a token of gratitude, Prince Hamet presented his Mameluke sword to Lieutenant O'Bannon. A replica of that sword was adopted for use and is carried by all Marine Officers today. Furthermore, the following would be inscribed into the Marine Corps Colors, "TO THE SHORES OF TRIPOLI." (MCCS.02.03a)

5. WAR OF 1812
a. During the War of 1812, the Marine Corps' primary mission was fighting aboard naval ships. Once again, the Marines utilized their sharp shooting ability to clear the decks of British frigates during many sea engagements. Probably the most important land engagements the Marine Corps participated in, were the battles of Bladensburg in the defense of our capital, Washington, D.C., and the battle of New Orleans.

b. It was near the town of Bladensburg, just 6 miles from our nation's capital, that 114 Marines and sailors completely halted the advance of 4,000 seasoned British troops. This small American force repelled the British attach three times. Eventually by sheer weight of numbers, the British overran the Marines and sailors position. The Commanding Officer of the British reported, "They have given us our only real fight."

c. As the British burned the capital and White House in Washington, D.C., the Commandant's house was left untouched. The reason is unclear; however, many believe it was the British admiration for the Marines courageous stand at Bladensburg.

d. The Marines again met the British troops on land during the battle of New Orleans. This battle took place after the war was over however, neither side at New Orleans knew it was over because word had not gotten to them yet. Over 2,000 British would become casualties compared to less than 100 Marine casualties. The Marines were again commended for their bravery and fighting spirit.

a. On October 17, 1820, the fifth Commandant of the Marine Corps was appointed to office. He would pass away at the age of 76 on January 6, 1859, after serving as commandant for 38 years, the longest period of time in our history, earning him the title "The Grand Old Man of the Marine Corps." His name was Archibald Henderson. On October 16, 1823, Commandant Henderson, age 40, found time to court a lovely lady by the name of Anne Marie Casenove, only 19 years old. Together they had nine children. Four of those children would later become Marine officers and would eventually, during the civil war, resign their commission and fight for the confederate states.

b. Colonel Henderson first demonstrated that the Marine Corps was truly a "Force in Readiness" by volunteering two battalions of Marines to fight in the Creek and Seminole Indian War.

c. The Creek and Seminole Indians were on the war path, resisting deportation from their homelands in Florida to a reservation beyond the Mississippi. The Commandant quickly volunteered his Marines to take charge of the matter. Colonel Henderson tacked a note to his office door when he left to lead Marines in battle with the Indians. The note read, "Gone to fight the Indians, be back when the war is over."

d. By the end of the summer, the Marines had pacified the Creek Indians.

a. Colonel Henderson was still Commandant in 1846 when the United States again found itself at war, this time with Mexico. Throughout the war, Marines served with naval squadrons in the Gulf of Mexico and along the coast of California. They were the first American force to engage the Mexicans in California. In the second year of the war, they joined forces with the Army and landed at Verz Cruz enroute to Mexico City. On top a high plateau was a fortress which dominated the area. The name of this fortress was Chapultepec. The Mexicans had heavily reinforced this fortress, knowing that it was their last line of resistance before Mexico City.

b. The Marines participated in a bloody battle to secure this fortress and were selected to assault the fortress from its most difficult approach, acting mainly as a decoy for the U. S. Army. As the assault began they were met with a murderous hail of cannon and small arms fire. It was mainly through the brave leadership and determination of the officers and NCO's leading the assault that this battle was finally won. Thirteen of the twenty-three Marine officers participating in this battle were decorated for bravery. The red stripe or "blood stripe", is worn today on the dress blue trousers by all officers and noncommissioned officers to commemorate the casualties at the battle of Chapultepec. As the first unit to reach Mexico City, the Marines raised the "Stars and Stripes" over the Mexican National Palace, also known as "The Halls of Montezuma." When General Winfield Scott marched into the National Palace he found that the surrounding streets were guarded by United States Marines.

c. The was with Mexico had settled the dispute over the boundary of Texas and provided the addition of a great state to the nation. According to the best information available, it also provided the Marine Corps with the opening words to the Marines' Hymn. The first verse of the Marines' Hymn was written shortly after the occupation of Mexico City, however, history failed to note the identity of the author. Prior to the war with Mexico the Marine Corps colors bore the inscription, "To the Shores of Tripoli", as a result of Lieutenant O'Bannon's action during the war with the Barbary States. With the capture of Mexico City and the National Palace, known as the "Halls of Montezuma," the inscription was changed to read, "From the Tripoli to the Halls of Montezuma." To this day the Marine actions in the wars with Tripoli and Mexico are commemorated in the opening lines of the Marines' Hymn "From the Halls of Montezuma, To the shores of Tripoli."

a. The year 1861 found an entirely different situation in this country. The United States was at war with itself. At the beginning of the Civil War approximately 30% of the Marine Corps Officers resigned their commission to fight for the south. This was not true of the enlisted men since the majority were from the northeastern part of the United States. These were dark days, not only for the nation, but also for the Marine Corps, which was pitted against itself in bitter combat.

b. On May 15, 1862 John F. Mackie was awarded the first Medal of Honor given to a Marine for his services aboard the USS Galena.

c. Marines participated only a few land engagement since their main duties were still at sea. They participated in a number of amphibious landings against confederate forts along the southern ports. The blockade contributed greatly to the defeat of the South. Prior to the Civil War, Marine Officers exchanged the Mameluke sword for a heavier sword. After the Civil War, Marine officers reverted back to the popular Mameluke sword. In 1875 Marines NCOs were authorized to carry the sword used by officers during the Civil War. The sword is known today as the NCO sword. It was a distinct symbol of their authority. Noncommissioned Officers of the Marine Corps are the only NCO's in any branch of the regular Armed Forces who still have the privilege of carrying swords. In addition they have the unique position of being the only NCO's that carry what is basically a commissioned officer's weapon. The sword is the personification of military tradition and has been entrusted to those most responsible for maintaining it. The Marine NCO sword rates as the oldest U.S. weapon still in use. While it's use is limited by regulation to "When in charge of troops on ceremonial occasions," the sword is part of that intangible "Esprit de Corps."

a. After the Civil War, in 1868, the Marine Corps emblem was adopted by the 7th Commandant Brigadier General Jacob Zeilin. The emblem consisted of an eagle with spread wings sitting on top of a globe of the western hemisphere with an anchor in the background. The eagle is the symbol of the nation. The globe stands for worldwide service and the anchor stands for our naval traditions. The Marine Corps emblem has changed it's look many times since 1868, however the emblem we wear today was developed in 1950. It consists of an eagle with spread wings on top of a globe of the western hemisphere with a fouled anchor in the background.

a. In 1883, the 8th Commandant, Colonel Charles C. McCawley officially adopted the Marine Corps motto, "Semper Fidelis", a Latin term which means "Always Faithful." The Marines were to uphold this motto in 1898 when they spearheaded the United States forces against another foe. This time it was the Spanish in Cuba and in the Philippines.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Memorial Day May 26
Memorial Day began as a memorial for Civil War veterans. It has become both, a National Decoration Day of family graves, and the holiday that opens the summer season. It is celebrated with backyard barbecues, outdoor picnics, and parades. This holiday is also attactive to gays and lesbians to my home turf. The biggest gay events in the southeast is Memorial Day weekend in Pensacola Beach, Florida.

Each year tens of thousands of gays and lesbians come to Pensacola Beach to party in the sun and enjoy the beautiful white sand and emarald water. Though this is normally a conservative town, for one week each year it becomes party central for gays and lesbians from throughout the southeast.

There are parties and events both at the beach and in city of Pensacola starting the Thursday before the weekend. Souvenir shops lining this sugary white Panhandle beach display Confederate flag beach towels, window decals and T-shirts. Hooters and other bars fly POW-MIA, Marine and Navy flags and cater to the sailors and Marines from the nearby base.

Vacationing Southern families usually fill the hotels and condominiums in this slice of paradise long nicknamed “The Redneck Riviera.” But every Memorial Day they mostly stay away as this town

Waterloo, New York was recognized by President Lyndon Johnson and both houses of Congress, as the birthplace of Memorial Day because the town decorated the graves of Civil War veterans as early as May 5, 1866. The claim is contested by Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, which claims to have begun the practice of decorating soldier's graves two years earlier than Waterloo. Another source claims that two years after the Civil War, it was southern women in Columbus, Mississippi who decorated the braves of both Confederate and Union men. Nevertheless, sources agree that it was General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic who designated May 30, 1868," as a day for strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, or hamlet churchyard in the land...It is the purpose of the commander-in-chief to inaugurate this observance with the hope that it will be kept from year to year while a survivor of the war remains to honor the memory of the departed."

No survivor of that war remains, but the memories of it grow longer. As do our memories of the parades with floats; civic organizations and drum majorettes twirling their batons; lines and lines of young veterans from The Gulf War and shorter lines of older men who saw service in the Second World War. As long as there are wars, there will be veterans and casualties. We will still decorate the graves of those men whose bodies came home and remember those who don't.

The custom of placing flowers upon graves is an old one, and exists in many countries. The Greeks had rites called zoai, which were performed over each new grave. If the flowers took root and blossomed on the graves, it meant the souls were sending back the message that they had found happiness. The Roman festival, called Parentalia, or Day of the Fathers, lasted for eight days in February--violets and roses were the special flowers. Whatever the flower, wherever the grave, this placing of flowers upon graves has always seemed the natural thing to do.

Today, most states officially recognize the May Memorial Day as a legal holiday, but it is not celebrated on May 30th in every state. Over time the holiday has expanded to encompass our other national wars. Although Veteran's Day is celebrated as well, Memorial Day has become the most important day of recognition of our armed forces.

During the ongoing Iraq War, more than 4,000 Americans have been killed and more than 30,000 wounded.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Beginning of the United States of America

The United States Flag
In 1775, the American colonies were flying the British Flag called "The Union Jack" and decided that they needed to fly their own flag. Benjamin Franklin was the "New Flag" Committee chairman.He didn't want to totally shut off their connection to England, so he felt the flag should have a smaller Union Jack in one corner, with 6 white stripes alternating with 7 red stripes. This flag was hoisted on New Years Day (January 1) in 1776 on Prospect Hill near Cambridge, Massachusetts. It became known as the Grand Union Flag and was the first American flag.
But...once the Declaration of Independence was signed this flag became literally history and as they say today, 'not politically correct.' What to do? Well it took an act of Congress on 6-14-1777 to pass an official Flag Resolution stating the design of the flag with the red and white strips and the 13 stars in a blue.Now they had problems with just how many points on a star. Some had 5 some had more. And some of the stars were in rows, some in circles and some were haphazard. Then they had to argue over which came first...a red stripe or a white stripe? After a while it became obvious that the flag could be seen from a longer distance better if it had a red stripe first and not a white one.
There is no proof that Betsy Ross actually sewed the first flag. Several men approached her for a flag design, but that doesn't mean she sewed it. Betsy suggested a 5 pointed star because she demonstrated how easy they were to make when you fold cloth a certain way and cut. An actual bill for the design of the flag was presented to Congress by Francis Hopkinson (who also is one of the signer's of the Declaration of Independence) asking for payment for designing this flag. Congress denied his request saying he wasn't the sole designer. Some historians feel the flag was designed by a committee.
As America changed, so did the flag. Every time we got a new state, we also got a new star. Well, the stars were no problem, but after a while, we were getting over-striped. Imagine today if we had 50 stripes and stars? So, on January 13, 1794, Congress passed a second flag resolution stating "the flag shall have 15 stripes, alternate red and white with a union of 15 stars, white on blue field." It was the 15 striped flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the "Star Spangled Banner."
But, by 1817 the flag was getting bigger and bigger and had 20 stars and stripes. So once again Congress did a Flag Act in 1818 and decided that the flag should have no more than 13 red and white stripes (for the 13 original colonies), and only a NEW STAR would be added every time we got a state, but no more stripes of any color.
And then came the Civil War! Many angry Northerners wanted to remove the stars of the states that had succeeded from the union. But President Lincoln disagreed and was determined to hold the Union together. From 1861-1865 Union troops marched under a flag with all the stars and stripes. And in 1863, when West Virginia became a state during the Civil War, they even added it's star. Well, we all know how the war ended, and eventually both the North and the South were flying the same flag with the same number of stars and stripes.
On June 14, 1923 men from 68 patriotic groups met in Washington, DC to draw up a set of rules on how to handle the flag. In 1942, Congress put them all into the official Flag Code. The flag code is updated when necessary, most recently being 1976.
Flag Terms
Canton - The top inner quarter of the flag or the blue area where the stars are.
Field - The main body of the flag.
Fly - The bottom or length of the flag
Halyard - The rope or cord used to raise and lower the flag.
Hoist - The flag's side or width.

he Eagle
It took 6 years of arguing by our forefathers to come up with a national emblem. We all know how Benjamin Franklin wanted the turkey, because the turkey was a domestic, useful and tasty. But the turkey wasn't impressive enough for most of our forefathers. On the other hand, many other nations were using eagles also. But Benjamin Franklin pointed out, "the eagle is a bird of bad moral character" because he was a scavenger that stole food from other birds.
So a compromised was reached in 1782 and Congress chose the BALD EAGLE, rather than the Golden Eagle (most commonly used by other countries) because the Bald Eagle was unique to North America and not used by other countries, while still having impressive nobility. Due to land mismanagement and other factors, the Bald Eagle population was almost extinct. In 1940 Congress passed a law forbidding the capture or killing of bald eagles. Since that time, with the banning of DDT in 1973 and other conservation acts, the Bald Eagle has made a comeback in America.
The Great Seal
The Great Seal of the United States is a round piece of metal cast on both sides. It was first commissioned by Congress after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The final design was approved on June 20, 1782.
The Secretary of State keeps it for use on official documents (but only if the President order it.) The front of the seal is the Bald Eagle, wings spread, with a shield of the US on his chest. The shield has 13 red and white stripes for the 13 original colonies. The shield stands on the eagle's chest with no support to represent that the US relies on itself, it's own virtue, for right and justice. The top of the shield is a horizontal blue stripe that represents Congress. And in one of the eagle's talons he holds an olive branch for peace. In the other it clutches arrows for war. In the beak is a ribbon with the inscription, "E pluribus unum" meaning "From many, one." This was to mean, from many states come one nation. Above the eagle's head is a circular cloud filled with 13 5-pointed stars to mean "a glory" or breaking through a cloud.
The back of the seal has a 13 layer pyramid, once again to represent the 13 original colonies. The stone of the pyramid is to represent lasting strength. And on the bottom is MDCCLXXVI for 1776 (The date of the Declaration of Independence.) So what does that big eye on the pyramid mean? It is to represent the all-seeing eye of Divine Providence. Above the pyramid are the latin words "Annuit coeptis --" He [God] has favored our undertaking." And at the bottom of the pyramid are the words "Novus ordo seclorum - A new order of the ages [is created]."
The Liberty Bell
1751 the Pennsylvania Assembly bought a big bell for the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the colonies. So, 9 months later the bell was unloaded in the State House yard. There was tons of excitement and people came to hear the majestic ring. And then the clapper struck and....gasp! Rather than hearing a wonderful tone they heard a CLANK!And saw a huge wide crack on the bell. John Pass and John Stow said they could fix it. So they broke the bell into pieces, melted it down and recast it (adding some more copper for more strength). In March 1753 the new and improved bell was ready! Once again the crowds gathered, the people hushed and waited anxiously to hear their wonderful bell tone. But what they heard didn't bong, it well clunked. So Pass and Stow went back to the fixing the bell, only this time after melting it down they added more tin to help the ton. It was recast again (sigh) and on June 7, 1753 the crowd gathered, etc. and this time the tone was better but well it didn't meet the people's expectations. It was rung from the State House and petitions from those that didn't like the sound were ignored.
The inscription on the Liberty Bell reads "Proclaim Liberty Throughout All The Land unto ALl the Inhabitants Thereof. Leviticus XXV:X". This gained significant meaning during the Revolutionary War when the new Declaration of Independence was ratified at the Pennsylvania State House the bell rung on July 8, 1776.
The Bell was also hidden during the Revolutionary War under a floor in a church in a nearby town to protect it from British troops who would destroy it or melt it down for ammunition. When the British left, the bell was returned and rung every July 4 (and on special occasions).
When the Capitol of the U.S. moved to Washington, D.C. the bell stayed in Philadelphia. On July 8, 1835, when it was rung in remembrance of the death of Supreme Court Justice John Marshall, it cracked again! People were upset. The Philadelphia City Council was ready to toss this bell in the garbage and order a new one. The reason it did not happen is because of money...not for a new bell. But it was more expensive to haul the old one away. So the bell sort of hung around for years without being rung, until...
1846 when a newspaperman remembered this bell and said it should be rung to celebrate George Washington's birthday. The bell got famous again - crack and all. People now called it "The Liberty Bell" and the crack was drilled and widened to keep the edges from vibrating. On February 22, 1846 [George Washington's birthday] it began to ring again.
But this bell is just meant to be cracked. By that afternoon the crack widened more. It was now totally useless as a bell to ring. So the clapper was removed.By this time the United States was nearing it's 100th Anniversary and people sentimental about anything connected with our nation's history. The Pennsylvania State House was now being called Independence Hall. And the Liberty Bell was placed there on display.
On January, 1976 as part of our nations Bi-centennial celebration, the bell was moved to it's own glass pavilion across from the Hall. Does the bell still ring?
Indeedy! For special occasions and The 4th of July it is gently tapped with a mallot and freedom rings in America in a subtle but serious way still today.
The Star Spangled Banner
This is most commonly known as the song 99% of Americans don't have the quality of voice to sing. And many often wonder why we choose , as our National Anthem, a tune in which most of us end up screeching our heads of to sing! Who came up with this and why?
First of all this wasn't written during the Revolutionary War which most people think. It was written during the War of 1812 - a different conflict between the US and British.
On September 13, 1814, Fort McHenry's (Maryland) flag was whipping around in the breeze while it was being attacked by the British (16 ships I hear tell). On the deck of the H.M.S. Tonnant in the Chesapeake Bay stood Francis Scott Key, an American lawyer.He had come aboard with Colonel J.S. Skinner to get the release of Dr. William Beanes, an old doctor the British were holding captive. They managed to get Dr. Beanes released by proving he medically took care of both British and American soldiers. And while they were on this ship, they happened to overhear chit chat about British plans to invade Baltimore. So, all three of them suddenly were detained (but not really imprisoned) on this ship until the end of the battle so they could not go back and tell of what they heard.
The first shot towards Fort McHenry was fired on September 13 at 6:00 am (dawns early light?) It was non-stop. All day long Key and his companions watched this battle. At night, Key paced the decks as he watched bad ammunition explode in mid-air before it reached their targets (causing brief moments of light in which Key could see that the American flag was still flying!). Then it began to rain and Key couldn't see anything. They all sat and waited and felt that as long as it was noisy, the battle wasn't over. The Americans were still fighting back! So guess what happened in the morning when suddenly it was quiet? FOG! So who won? When the fog finally cleared and the sun rose in the sky, the 3 men looked out and saw the American flag still flying over Fort McHenry. The British were running!!
Inspired with joy, Francis Scott Key took out an envelope (from a letter he had started and never finished) and put down his feelings in a poem. He worked on it during his boat ride back to shore, and in his hotel room that night. The next day he brought a copy of the poem (all 4 verses) to his brother-in-law, Judge Joseph H. Nicholson, who immediately sent it to a printer and asked that copies be distributed throughout the city. The poem was titled "Defense of Fort McHenry" with a hint that if you wanted to sing it, it would go to the tune of "To Anacreon in Heaven" a popular song of the time. (OK, if that tune is the hottest hit of 1814, imagine what the rest of the music waslike back then?) On September 20, 1814 the poem was in the Baltimore newspaper. The song caught on and everyone was singing it...probably badly but it's the spirit that counts.
In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson ordered that "The Star-Spangled Banner" (as it had come to be know by then but I don't know how) would be played at all state occasions. I am not sure how it became a tradition prior to all ball games? But in 1931 Congress declared it our National Anthem. And what about that flag that Key kept seeing? Where is it? It is in the Smithsonian Museum.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Mother's Day May 11
Our mothers deserves to be Queen for a day. It would be right to make her Queen every day of the year. As Abraham Lincoln once said, "All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother." Those who are fortunate to still have mothers living know what would please her on Sunday, May 11. She might like flowers and I am sure she would like to be treated to dinner at the best restaurant in town.

Celebrating motherhood is a historical tradition dating back almost as far as mothers themselves. A number of ancient cultures paid tribute to mothers as goddesses, including the ancient Greeks, who celebrated Rhea, the mother of all gods. The ancient Romans also honored their mother goddess, Cybele, in a notoriously rowdy springtime celebration and the Celtic Pagans marked the coming of spring with a fertility celebration linking their goddess Brigid together with the first milk of the ewes.

During the 17th century, those living on the British isles initiated a religious celebration of motherhood, called Mothering Sunday, which was held on the forth Sunday during the Lenten season. This holiday featured the reunification of mothers and their children, separated when working class families had to send off their young children to be employed as house servants. On Mothering Sunday, the child servants were allowed to return home for the day to visit with their parents. The holiday's popularity faded in the 19th century, only to be reincarnated during World War II when U.S. servicemen reintroduced the sentimental (and commercial) aspects of the celebration American counterpart.

In the United States, Mother's Day experienced a series of false starts before eventually transitioning into the "Hallmark" holiday that we celebrate today. In 1858, Anna Reeves Jarvis was the first woman to hold an official celebration of mothers, when in her home state of West Virginia, she instituted Mothers' Work Day to raise awareness about local sanitation issues. During the Civil War, she expanded the scope of Mothers' Work Day to include sanitary conditions on both sides of the battlefield.

Meanwhile Julia Ward Howe, author of the "Battle Hymn of the Republic," attempted to institute a national celebration of mothers that honored women's inclinations toward peace (rather than cleanliness). In 1872, she initiated and promoted a Mother's Day for Peace, to be held on June 2, which was celebrated the following year by women in 18 cities across America. The holiday continued to be honored by Bostonian women for another decade, but eventually phased out after Howe stopped underwriting the cost of the celebrations.

Then in 1905, Anna Reeves Javis passed away and her daughter, Anna Javis, took up her mother's torch. Anna swore on her mother's gravesite that she would realize her lifelong dream of creating a national day to honor mothers. In 1907, Anna launched her campaign by handing out white carnations to congregants at her mother's church in Grafton, West Virginia. In 1908, her mother's church acquiesced to Anna's request to hold a special Sunday service in honor of mothers - a tradition that spread the very next year to churches in 46 states. In 1909, Anna left her job and dedicated herself to a full-time letter-writing campaign, imploring politicians, clergymen and civic leaders to institute a national day for mothers.

In 1912, Jarvis' efforts met with success: Her home state of West Virginia adopted an official Mother's Day; two years later, the U.S. Congress passed a Joint Resolution, signed by President Wilson, establishing a national Mother's Day emphasizing the role of women in their families - and not, like Julia Ward Howe's campaign, in the public arena. Ever since, Mother's Day has been celebrated by Americans on the second Sunday in May.

Perhaps the country's greatest proponent of motherhood, Anna Jarvis ironically never had children of her own. Yet that didn't stop her from making the celebration of Mother's Day her lifelong mission. In fact, as the holiday took on a life of its own, Jarvis expressed frequent dismay over its growing commercialization. "I wanted it to be a day of sentiment, not profit," she is quoted as saying.