March 16, 1751, James Madison born

March 16, 2019

James Madison, by Walker Hancock, 1976. Statue from the James Madison Building of the Library of Congress. Architect of the Capitol photo.

James Madison’s birth on March 16, 1751, gets no attention as a federal or state holiday. Journalists usually mark the date with a week of festivities around the date, honoring Madison’s deep dedication to the principles of free press and open government, including his authoring and passing the First Amendment.

Madison’s chief notoriety comes from his work organizing the Philadelphia convention and working to ratify the U.S. Constitution — sometimes he’s called the Father of the Constitution. He also served as Secretary of State in Thomas Jefferson’s administration, and served two terms as President, including the War of 1812.

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June 1, 2016: Fly your flags today in Kentucky and Tennessee for Statehood Day

June 1, 2016

Our laws on respecting and flying Old Glory encourage citizens to fly U.S. flags on specific dates, and on the date of statehood of the state in which a citizen lives.

Kentucky joined the union on June 1, 1792, the 15th state.  Tennessee joined four years later, on June 1, 1796, becoming the 16th state.

Fly your flags today in Kentucky and Tennessee — or wherever Kentuckians or Tennesseeans may be — in honor of statehood.

U.S. and Tennessee flags flying together on one staff. Photo by J. Stephen Conn

U.S. and Tennessee flags flying together on one staff. Photo by J. Stephen Conn

Kentucky's state flag, by Gage Skidmore

Kentucky’s state flag features a Native American and European colonist standing together, and the state motto, “United We Stand, Divided We Fall.” Photo by Gage Skidmore

Kentucky’s admission to the union pushed the U.S. flag to 15 stars and 15 stripes.   President George Washington signed the law that authorized the U.S. flag be expanded to 15 stripes in early 1794.  I’ve not pinned down the history of what happened next.  So far as I know there was no law expanding the flag to 16 stripes, and in 1818, Congress said the flag would be 13 stripes, with stars equal to the number of states (the law specified no specific pattern for the stars).

A 15-striped Star-spangled Banner that flew over Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor in 1814 and inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem that is now the lyric to our national anthem.  President James Monroe signed the 13-stripe law four years later, in 1818.

What happened in between?  I suspect there are a lot of 15-stripe flags, but it wouldn’t surprise me to find a 16-stripe flag somewhere.  A variety of stars-and-stripes flags cropped up, which the 1818 law was intended to squelch.

Residents of the Bluegrass State and the Volunteer State should fly their flags today, in honor of their state’s having joined the union on June 1.

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Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience. And repetition.


June 1: Fly your flags today in Kentucky and Tennessee for Statehood Day

June 1, 2015

Our laws on flag flying encourage citizens to fly U.S. flags on specific dates, and on the date of statehood of the state in which a citizen lives.

Kentucky joined the union on June 1, 1792, the 15th state.  Tennessee joined four years later, on June 1, 1796, becoming the 16th state.

Fly your flags today in Kentucky and Tennessee — or wherever Kentuckians or Tennesseeans may be — in honor of statehood.

U.S. and Tennessee flags flying together on one staff.  Photo by J. Stephen Conn

U.S. and Tennessee flags flying together on one staff. Photo by J. Stephen Conn

Kentucky's state flag, by Gage Skidmore

Kentucky’s state flag features a Native American and European colonist standing together, and the state motto, “United We Stand, Divided We Fall.” Photo by Gage Skidmore

Kentucky’s admission to the union pushed the U.S. flag to 15 stars and 15 stripes.   President George Washington signed the law that authorized the U.S. flag be expanded to 15 stripes in early 1794.  I’ve not pinned down the history of what happened next.  So far as I know there was no law expanding the flag to 16 stripes, and in 1818, Congress said the flag would be 13 stripes, and stars equal to the number of states.

A 15-striped Star-spangled Banner that flew over Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor in 1814 and inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem that is now the lyric to our national anthem.  President James Monroe signed the 13-stripe law in 1818.

What happened in between?  I suspect there are a lot of 15-stripe flags, but it wouldn’t surprise me to find a 16-stripe flag somewhere.  A variety of stars-and-stripes flags cropped up, which the 1818 law was intended to squelch.

Residents of the Bluegrass State and the Volunteer State should fly their flags today, in honor of their state’s having joined the union on June 1.

More:

 

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience. And repetition.


Popular music as music history, or just plain history

February 20, 2015

Old Jules rambled on about Johnny Cash and Loudon Wainright III, and their differing versions, in different eras, of “The Man Who Couldn’t Cry.” Then discussion got into Johnny Horton.

Old Jules’s blog is always a good read.  Go see for yourself.

Cover of Jimmy Driftwood's

Cover of Jimmy Driftwood’s “Wilderness Road,” the first bluegrass and/or country album I owned; my father bought it from the remainder pile at a record distributor in the 1960s. He didn’t much like it, and it took a while to grow on me. Driftwood’s music is preserved by historians in Arkansas, now.

It got me thinking.  I posted in comments there:

Nice to find someone who remembers Johnny Horton.

My oldest brother went drinking with Horton in Twin Falls, Idaho, my brother claimed, after a performance. He was a great fan ever after.

I liked Horton’s performance on “Battle of New Orleans.” Wasn’t until the 21st century that I learned that song was written by Jimmy Driftwood, who taught 8th grade history before he turned to songwriting full time. Worse, Driftwood wrote it in the 1930s.

Thank God libraries keep old music around.

Ever hear Moby’s “Natural Blues?” Turns out he cribbed (“sampled”) the vocals from tracks Alan Lomax recorded somewhere in the South much earlier, “Trouble So Hard,” by Vera Hall.

Well, there you go.

Here’s the audio from which Moby sampled, Vera Hall singing “Trouble So Hard.”

And for the record, Jimmy Driftwood’s version of “The Battle of New Orleans.”  History teachers, do you find it accurate?  Do you use it in class?

Johnny Horton’s version, done for an 8th grade history class:


Don’t fall for the star-spangled voodoo history

September 14, 2014

Star-spangled Banner and the War of 1812 - The original Star-Spangled Banner, the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the song that would become our national anthem, is among the most treasured artifacts in the collections of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

Star-spangled Banner and the War of 1812 – The original Star-Spangled Banner, the flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the song that would become our national anthem, is among the most treasured artifacts in the collections of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

Every school kid learns the story of the “Star-Spangled Banner,” or should.

During the War of 1812, Georgetown lawyer Francis Scott Key, stood aboard a British ship in Baltimore Harbor to negotiate the release of his friend, Dr. William Beanes, who had been taken prisoner while the British stormed through Bladensburg, Maryland, after burning Washington, D.C.  Key witnessed the British shelling of Fort McHenry, the guardian of Baltimore’s harbor.  Inspired when he saw the U.S. flag still waving at dawn after a night of constant shelling, Key wrote a poem.

Key published the poem, suggested it might be put to the tune of “Anachreon in Heaven” (a tavern tune popular at the time) — and the popularity of the song grew until Congress designated it the national anthem in 1931.  In telling the story of the latest restoration of that garrison flag now housed at the Smithsonian Museum of American History, Smithsonian Magazine repeated the story in the July 2000 issue:  “Our Flag Was Still There.”

It’s a wonderful history with lots of splendid, interesting details (Dolley Madison fleeing the Executive Mansion clutching the Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington, the guy who had introduced Dolley to James Madison and then snubbed them after they were married; the British troops eating the White House dinner the Madisons left in their haste; the gigantic, 42 by 30 foot flag sewn by Mary Pickersgill, a Baltimore widow trying to support her family; the rag-tag Baltimore militia stopping cold “Wellington’s Invicibles;” the British massing of 50 boats and gunships; and much more).

It’s a grand and glorious history that stirs the patriotic embers of the most cynical Americans.

And it’s all true.

So it doesn’t deserve the voodoo history version, the bogus history created by some person preaching in a church (I gather from the “amens”) that is making the rounds of the internet, stripped of attribution so we can hunt down the fool who is at fault.

We got this in an e-mail yesterday; patriots save us, there must be a hundred repetitions that turn up on Google, not one correcting this horrible distortion of American history.

Horrible distortion of American history

(The full version is a mind-numbing 11 minutes plus.  Some people have put it on other sites. )

Why do I complain?

  1. It was the War of 1812, not the Revolutionary War — there were 15 states, not 13 colonies.
  2. There was no ultimatum to to Baltimore, nor to the U.S., as this fellow describes it.
  3. Key negotiated for the release of one man, Dr. Beanes.  There was no brig full of U.S. prisoners.
  4. It’s Fort McHenry, not “Henry.”  The fort was named after James McHenry, a physician who was one of the foreign-born signers of the Constitution, who had assisted Generals Washington and Lafayette during the American Revolution, and who had served as Secretary of War to Presidents Washington and Adams.
  5. Fort McHenry was a military institution, a fort defending Baltimore Harbor.  It was not a refuge for women and children.
  6. The nation would not have reverted to British rule had Fort McHenry fallen.
  7. There were 50 ships, not hundreds.  Most of them were rafts with guns on them.  Baltimore Harbor is an arm of Chesapeake Bay, more than 150 miles from the ocean; Fort McHenry is not on the ocean, but across the harbor from the Orioles’ Camden Yards ballpark.
  8. The battle started in daylight. Bombardment continued for 25 hours.
  9. Bogus quote:  George Washington never said “What sets the American Christian apart from all other people in this world is he will die on his feet before he will live on his knees.”  Tough words.  Spanish Civil War. Not George Washington.  I particularly hate it when people make up stuff to put in the mouths of great men.  Washington left his diaries and considerably more — we don’t have to make up inspiring stuff, and when we do, we get it wrong.
  10. The battle was not over the flag; the British were trying to take Baltimore, one of America’s great ports.  At this point, they rather needed to since the Baltimore militia had stunned and stopped the ground troops east of the city.  There’s enough American bravery and pluck in this part of the story to merit no exaggerations.
  11. To the best of our knowledge, the British did not specifically target the flag.
  12. There were about 25 American casualties.  Bodies of the dead were not used to hold up the flag pole — a 42 by 30 foot flag has to be on a well-anchored pole, not held up by a few dead bodies stacked around it.

You can probably find even more inaccuracies (please note them in comments if you do).

The entire enterprise is voodoo history.  The name of Francis Scott Key is right; the flag is right; almost everything else is wrong.

Please help:  Can you find who wrote this piece of crap?  Can you learn who the narrator is, and where it was recorded?

I keep finding troubling notes with this on the internet: ‘My school kids are going to see this to get the real story.’  ‘Why are the libs suppressing the truth?’  ‘I didn’t know this true story before, and now I wonder why my teachers wouldn’t tell it.’

It’s voodoo history, folks.  It’s a hoax.  The real story is much better.

If Peter Marshall and David Barton gave a gosh darn about American history, they would muster their mighty “ministries” to correct the inaccuracies in this piece.  But they are silent.

Clearly, it’s not the glorious history of this nation they love.

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This is an encore post.

Yes, this is an encore post. Defeating ignorance takes patience and perseverance.

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CBS’s short history of the flag at the Battle of Baltimore, Fort McHenry, and the new replica flag

September 16, 2013

Francis Scott Key beholding the still-flying Star-spangled Banner, after the Battle of Baltimore, 1814.  1912 painting by Edgar Percy Moran, Wikipedia image.

“By Dawn’s Early Light”: Francis Scott Key beholding the still-flying Star-spangled Banner, after the Battle of Baltimore, 1814. 1912 painting by Edgar Percy Moran, Wikipedia image.

Short videos often pack a heckuva punch for history classes.  Here’s one from today’s CBS “Sunday Morning,” with Charles Osgood reporting on the creation and flying at Fort McHenry of a replica of a flag that flew there 199 years ago on September 14 — the inspiration to Francis Scott Key for his poem, “The Star-spangled Banner.”

<iframe frameborder=”0″ width=”480″ height=”270″ src=”//www.dailymotion.com/embed/video/x15schq” allowfullscreen>
Star-Spangled Banner flies again at Fort McHenry by cbsnews

Star-Spangled Banner flies again at Fort McHenry by cbsnews

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-star-spangled-banner-yet-waves-anew/

Published on Sep 15, 2013

CBS News video: Star-Spangled Banner flies again at Fort McHenry – Applying the same techniques used nearly two hundred years ago, a team of quilters created an exact replica of the flag that flew over Baltimore Harbor during the War of 1812, the same flag that inspired Francis Scott Key to pen our national anthem. Charles Osgood reports.

This is history that most of my juniors didn’t know.  It’s not history we’re supposed to teach, but it’s history they are accountable for on Texas tests.  A short video like this one at a key spot can boost scores on the state tests — and, though I’ve not been victimized by them yet, the new end-of-course tests probably assume juniors know this stuff, too.

I hope CBS keeps this piece available for history teachers, especially through 2014 and the 200th anniversary of the battle, and Key’s writing of the poem.

[Text of CBS news story here, in case video stops working.]

More:

Fort McHenry today:

Aerial view of Fort McHenry, at the mouth of Baltimore Harbor, clearly show the star design that made it more defensible from ground attack. During the Battle of Baltimore, British troops were not able to land and get close to the fort.  Image from the office of the Governor of Maryland, via the National Park Service

Aerial view of Fort McHenry, at the mouth of Baltimore Harbor, clearly show the star design that made it more defensible from ground attack. During the Battle of Baltimore, British troops were not able to land and get close to the fort. Image from the office of the Governor of Maryland, via the National Park Service


June 1: Fly your flags today in Kentucky and Tennessee to celebrate their statehood

June 1, 2013

Law on flag flying encourages citizens to fly their U.S. flags on specific dates, and on the date of statehood of the state in which a citizen lives.

Kentucky joined the union on June 1, 1792, the 15th state.  Tennessee joined four years later, on June 1, 1796, becoming the 16th state.

U.S. and Tennessee flags flying together on one staff.  Photo by J. Stephen Conn

U.S. and Tennessee flags flying together on one staff. Photo by J. Stephen Conn

Kentucky's state flag, by Gage Skidmore

Kentucky’s state flag features a Native American and European colonist standing together, and the state motto, “United We Stand, Divided We Fall.” Photo by Gage Skidmore

Kentucky’s admission to the union pushed the U.S. flag to 15 stars and 15 stripes.   President George Washington signed the law that authorized the U.S. flag be expanded to 15 stripes in early 1794.  I’ve not pinned down the history of what happened next.  So far as I know there was no law expanding the flag to 16 stripes, and in 1818, Congress said the flag would be 13 stripes, and stars equal to the number of states.

A 15-striped Star-spangled Banner that flew over Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor in 1814 and inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem that is now the lyric to our national anthem.  President James Monroe signed the 13-stripe law in 1818.

What happened in between?  I suspect there are a lot of 15-stripe flags, but it wouldn’t surprise me to find a 16-stripe flag somewhere.  A variety of stars-and-stripes flags cropped up, which the 1818 law was intended to squelch.

Residents of the Bluegrass State and the Volunteer State should fly their flags today, in honor of their state’s having joined the union on June 1.


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