The True Story Of A Brave Dog In The Civil War, Sallie Ann Jarrett

   I’m going to tell you a story…
   A true story about a dog named Sallie Ann Jarrett.
   But we have to go back in time. The year is 1861. A Union regiment, the 11th Pennsylvania, had recently been organized and was training for the American Civil War.
   Being early in the conflict, local civilians would come out to watch the new soldiers march, drill, and train. Once such individual was an attractive, young woman named Sallie Ann. As you can imagine, the soldiers liked it when Sallie Ann stopped by.
   Well, one day, someone arrived with a basket. Inside the basket was a little, female pit bull puppy who was presented to the regiment as a gift.
   The soldiers named her Sallie Ann Jarrett after the popular young woman they liked and their original commanding officer, Colonel Phaon Jarrett.
   Little Sallie Ann was quite popular with the troops with her playful exuberance. Early on she would wind her way through the soldiers as they marched, but then she learned to join the commanding officer at the head of the column.
   In 1862, the regiment, under the command of Colonel Richard Coulter, headed south to join the war for real.
   And Sallie Ann went with them.
   The 11th Pennsylvania saw its first action at Cedar Mountain. As the muskets fired and bullets flew, Sallie Ann stayed at the front with her soldiers, for the 11th was her family. She apparently tried to bite Confederate bullets when they struck the ground.
   She saw more fighting. At the Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest single day of the war, the soldiers tried to get her to stay behind, but Sallie Ann refused and remained with her regiment.
   She gave birth to puppies, who were sent north to families, but Sallie Ann continued on with the 11th.
   When the Army of the Potomac marched before President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, Sallie Ann was in her place at the head of her unit.
   In July of that year, large Union and Confederate armies ran into each other at Gettysburg, resulting in a brutal three day battle. The 11th Pennsylvania saw action on the first day, during which they suffered a number of killed and wounded. When Union forces retreated back through town to regroup on Cemetery Ridge, Sallie Ann got separated from the regiment. As the bloody battle raged for 2 more days, no one knew what had happened to her. Considering there were 51,000 casualties, many probably feared the worst.
   After the fighting ended, Union soldiers explored the devastated battlefield. When they arrived at the site where the 11th had fought on the first day, they found Sallie Ann.
   After getting separated, she had returned and stayed vigil over the dead and wounded members of her family, soldiers of the 11th Pennsylvania.
   In 1864, Sallie Ann was shot at the Battle of Spotsylvania Courthouse; though, she fortunately recovered.
   Then in February of 1865, Sallie Ann was sadly killed in action. Reportedly, several mourning soldiers buried her while the battle still raged. Finally, later that year, the terrible Civil War came to an end.
   Years passed by.
   In 1890, a monument was erected at Gettysburg honoring the 11th Pennsylvania. Veterans had demanded that Sallie Ann Jarrett be honored too.
   They got their wish.
   The monument consists of a Union soldier standing on top of a pedestal. On the front of the pedestal near the base, is the statue of a curled up dog, Sallie Ann Jarrett.
   In 1910, there was a reunion of surviving members of the regiment. They had their photograph taken with the monument behind them. If you look at the picture closely, you’ll notice 3 veterans are standing off to the right creating a gap. They did this so that Sallie Ann would be in the photo too, for if you zoom in, you can see the profile of her statue on the monument in the gap.
   So if you visit the Gettysburg Battlefield, stop by the monument and honor the brave little dog, Sallie Ann Jarrett.

1910 Reunion courtesy of emergingcivilwar.com
Memorial to the 11th Pennsylvania at Gettysburg
Photo of Sallie Ann Jarrett courtesy of emergingcivilwar.com
Someone left dog biscuits for Sallie Ann.

The Soldier of Ancient Herculaneum: Was He a Hero?

   Let’s go back in time.
   It’s August 24th, 79 CE, and the place is an Ancient Roman town called Herculaneum which along with Oplontis, Stabiae, Boscoreale, and Pompeii sat below the large, powerful Mount Vesuvius. Thing is, there was a secret that the Ancient Romans likely had no idea of: Mount Vesuvius was a volcano. It had been dormant for centuries, so the inhabitants of the region wouldn’t have realized the potential danger that the mountain posed.
   Early that morning, people of the town would have gotten up and gone about their lives working, preparing food, going to the market, and so on. Though some may have been a little nervous about things because multiple earthquake tremors had shaken the area over the previous several days, and considering how there was still damage from a large earthquake that had struck in 62 CE, some concern wouldn’t have been a surprise. Still, they would not have realized the catastrophic horror that was a just hours away.
   It appears that a cloud of gas and ash began coming out of the mountain sometime during the morning. Around midday to early afternoon, the eruption got really violent as it explosively spewed large amounts ash and pumice miles into the sky.
   Shock and fear must have gripped everyone, for none of them had ever seen such a thing. Ash and pumice started falling to the ground southeast, east, and south of the volcano due to wind direction. While Oplontis, Pompeii, Boscoreale, and Stabiae were being hit by the ash and pumice due to their locations, Herculaneum was likely spared much of that since it was to the west of the mountain. But seeing the gigantic cloud of ash being spewed miles into the sky, the inhabitants of the town seemed to have done what they could to flee. Since it was a community on the water, most probably made their way to waterfront to try to get on a boat to make their escape.
   For years, archaeologists wondered if everyone from Herculaneum had possibly escaped because they weren’t finding any skeletons (whereas quite a few were being found in Pompeii). But in the 1980s, that changed. Around 300 to 350 skeletons were discovered at the site of Herculaneum’s ancient waterfront. The vast majority were inside boat sheds where they had been huddling for shelter, but a few were in front of the sheds on what would have been the ancient beach.
   The question arose: who were these people, and why had they been left behind?
   As research into the skeletons went on, something was being noticed, and this was that the vast had few to no possessions. The reason for this is that in all likelihood, most were slaves and the very poor. The Ancient Roman world was a pretty class conscious society so that it would not be a surprise that those considered to be the bottom of society (slaves and the extremely poor) would have been the last to be evacuated, and since there was probably not enough room on the boats to get everyone out, they would have been the ones most likely to be left behind.
   While the significant majority of skeletons were likely of slaves and the very poor, there were a few exceptions like one of a woman wearing jewelry. But the most notable stand out was the skeleton of a Roman soldier.
   Who was this individual, and why was he there?
   Examination of the skeleton and artifacts found with it have revealed quite a lot considering it’s been over 1900 years. First, the skeleton is that of someone who was physically male, around 40-45 years of age, and was found face down on what would have been the ancient beach in front of the boat sheds of Herculaneum’s waterfront. There is evidence of arthritis in a number of his joints, and many of his lower teeth were missing. At least some of the teeth in question had probably been knocked at some point in the past since the bone there had healed. He had on a leather belt, a military sword, a dagger, a pouch of coins, and a bag of tools. The military equipment (like the scabbards and belt) had decorations which look to have been quite elaborate and included some silver and gold.
   So the question arises: who was this man and how did he end up left behind on the waterfront? There are multiple theories.
   Herculaneum was not known to have had a large military presence or bases as far as experts understand. The town had a population of probably around 4000 to 5000. Being on the water, there would have people who made their living fishing in addition to others working in various jobs such as running thermopolia (fast food type places), bath houses, brothels, and so on. It was also likely a resort town for the rich who had villas there so that in addition to fishing and merchant boats being present on the waterfront, there would have been pleasure craft as well. Knowing this, one wonders about why the soldier was there.
   Just because there wasn’t a military base present, doesn’t mean there weren’t some soldiers stationed in the coastal town for one reason or another. Since he had a bag of tools, perhaps he was there helping rebuild damage from the 62 CE earthquake. Or considering how it was a resort town, the soldier may have been there delivering a message to an important official or something similar. Also remember that his military equipment was very well decorated, and as a result, we can’t rule out the possibility that perhaps he was there for pleasure.
   Another question is what kind of soldier was he? Considering that his military equipment appears to have been cutting edge for the time, he was likely an active member of either the Army or Navy, and since it was well decorated, he may have been an officer or member of an elite unit. One of the decorative designs on his sword’s scabbard seems to show an oval shield. This has made some researchers wonder if he could have been a member of the Praetorian Guard (the elite unit designated to protect the Roman Emperor) because they had oval shields at the time. Also, the amount of money he had on him seems to correspond with 1 month’s pay for a Praetorian Guard. While being a member of this elite unit is a possibility, the design in question and money amount he had don’t automatically mean that he was. Another theory speculates that he might have part of the Roman Navy (having a bag of tools would go along with this idea too).
   Across the Bay was a Roman naval base at Misenum. The commander there, Pliny the Elder, was curious about what was going on when he saw the cloud above the mountain. He was going to take a galley out to investigate but then received a message from a friend begging for help. He quickly took action and ordered naval ships to go across the Bay on a rescue mission. According to 2 letters written by his 17 year old nephew, Pliny the Younger, they went to Stabiae, and while there, Pliny the Elder died. It should be noted that in Pliny the Younger’s account, nothing is said about naval ships or personnel going to Herculaneum or Pompeii. But seeing that we are relying on just 2 letters written by a young man who was in Misenum the entire time, it is possible that a contingent of Roman naval ships did head to Herculaneum. Another option would be if the Roman soldier (or sailor) made his way from Stabiae to Herculaneum by land. The problem with this idea is that such a land journey would have been extremely difficult and dangerous considering how ash and pumice was falling and accumulating on the ground for a significant part of the route.
   Whether he was a member of the Roman Army or Navy, I’m going to continue referring to him as a soldier. He found himself at the waterfront during this terrible disaster. Seeing that he was a soldier (and considering his fine military equipment, probably an officer), people would have looked to him for guidance and leadership. So unless he arrived after all the boats were gone, he probably helped in trying to evacuate the population, and since there’s a good chance that he was an officer, he likely had a leadership role in the endeavor.
   So why did he die on the beach?
   While we can’t say with total certainty, there is a good chance he was helping organize the evacuation using any available boats and ships. But considering the size of the population, there almost certainly was not enough room for everyone. Seeing that the Ancient Roman world was often class conscious, it’s no surprise that slaves and the very poor would have been the last to get a spot if available.  When the final boat set off, 300-350 people (most likely being slaves and the very poor) were left behind. So unless the soldier arrived too late, he either decided to stay behind with them voluntarily, accidentally got stuck there in the confusion, or was ordered to stay put.
   It’s safe to say we’ll never know for sure why he was on the beach when the end came, but if he did decide to stay behind voluntarily, that would speak well of him considering that most of those with him were very likely people who would have been considered the bottom of Roman society.
   Late that night (probably around Midnight to 1 am), a deadly pyroclastic flow of super hot gas and volcanic debris surged down the mountain at rapid speed and engulfed the entire town. When it struct the waterfront, everyone present would have died very quickly. Mount Vesuvius continued its eruption into the next day (August 25th) with several more pyroclastic flows occurring. When things finally ended, Herculaneum, Pompeii, and the other nearby communities had been buried.
   And as to our Roman soldier, we’ll never be able to say with total certainty the exact circumstances that led him to be on the that beach when the end came. Did he accidentally get stuck on the beach in all the confusion, or was he ordered to stay behind due to a lack of space on the boats? Perhaps. But I can’t help but hope instead that at the end, he was a decent person who rose to the occasion, and when the last space in the last boat was needed to be filled, that he decided to put someone else on board opting to stay behind himself with the others even though the majority of them were slaves and the poor.

Some of the boat sheds at Herculaneum’s ancient waterfront. Courtesy of Photo 242056221 / Herculaneum Skeletons © pedro pereira | Dreamstime.com
Some of the skeletons in one of the boat sheds. Courtesy of Unsplash.
Some of the boat sheds of Herculaneum’s waterfront
Some of the boat sheds of Herculaneum’s waterfront

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/vesuvius-victim-identified-elite-soldier-attempting-rescue-mission-180977734/

https://www.britannica.com/place/Herculaneum

https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/vesuvius-erupts

https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/2-000-year-old-skeleton-identified-senior-roman-soldier-vesuvius-n1267056

https://www.livescience.com/soldier-skeleton-mount-vesuvius-rescue-mission.html

https://www.history.co.uk/article/the-eruption-of-mount-vesuvius-in-79-ad-and-the-destruction-of-pompeii

https://www.britannica.com/place/Pompeii

African American Hero From The American Civil War

   William Carney was born a slave in Norfolk, Virginia in 1840. His father, William Sr, escaped North via the Underground Railroad and after working hard, was able to buy freedom for the rest of his family. They settled in Massachusetts where young William learned to read and write, planning on becoming a minister.
   However, in 1863, 23 year old William Carney joined the 54th Massachusetts Black Regiment instead. He was now a soldier in the American Civil War.
   In July of that year, the 54th and other Union forces were gathered outside Charleston, South Carolina preparing to take part in the assault on Fort Wagner, one of the installations guarding Charleston Harbor.
   On the 18th, the 54th was taking cover behind sand dunes about 1000 yards from the fort. When nightfall arrived, the order was given.
   Advance.
   The 54th was leading the attack on Fort Wagner.
   After dressing their lines, the regiment moved across open ground under withering cannon and musket fire. Seeing the color bearer start to fall, Carney quickly dropped his gun and grabbed the flag moving to the front of the line. He and the 54th continued forward through a storm of bullets, cannonballs, and canister. Soldiers fell all around with terrible bloody wounds, but the regiment kept going with Carney at the front holding the American flag aloft.
   He crossed a ditch and clambered up the fort’s earthen wall. When Carney arrived at the top and looked around, he found himself surrounded by dead and wounded members of his battered, bloodied regiment.        
   At that moment, William Carney realized that in his area, he was the only one still standing.  
   Seeing Confederate forces advancing towards him, Carney worked his way back down the wall through the carnage and made it to the ditch that was now waist deep in water. Pausing there, he thought about his next course of action. As he rose up to get a better look around, William Carney was shot. A second bullet struck him shortly after. While Carney was painfully pushing his way towards friendly lines, he came upon a soldier from the 100th New York who asked if he was wounded. As Carney responded, a third bullet grazed his arm. The soldier came over to help him, offering to take the flag, but Carney wouldn’t let it go. Together the two men, one black and one white, struggled towards Union lines during which a fourth bullet grazed Carney’s head.
   When they made it back, he refused to give up the flag to anyone except another member of his regiment. Once they reached other survivors of the 54th, Carney said, “Boys, the old flag never touched the ground.”
   In 1900, William Carney was finally awarded The Medal of Honor.

The Fascinating Story Of How Washington DC’s Cherry Blossoms Came Into Being

   Ever wonder how the celebration of Washington DC’s cherry blossoms came into being? It’s a fascinating story whose origins go back centuries. Yes, I said centuries. To discover what happened,we have to go back in time.
   Japan has been celebrating the blooming of cherry tree flowers (known as sakura) for many, many years. Probably over a thousand. The tradition of viewing blooming flowers (also known as hanami) was likely more about plum blossoms early on but then morphed into cherry flowers, particularly during the Heian Period (794-1185). Through the years, references to flowering cherry trees became quite common in Japanese literature and art, for their appearance is seen by many as a time of celebration, renewal, and a new start.
   Now we must travel to the 1800s. Eliza Ruhamah Scidmore was born in 1856 in Madison, Wisconsin and attended Oberlin College (Ohio) in 1873-1874. She moved to Washington DC and got involved in writing, travel, and photography. She became a member of the National Geographic Society where she served in a number of positions through the years and traveled quite extensively. She wrote articles and books about her travels but also delved into other subjects such as politics and manners. In 1885, after returning from a trip to Japan (where she would spend a significant amount of time through the years), she proposed to the U.S. Army Superintendent of the Office of Public Buildings and Grounds that Japanese cherry trees be brought over and planted along sections of the Potomac waterfront. To her disappointment, there was little to no interest. So, over the following 24 years, she approached every new Superintendent with her idea.
   In 1906, Dr David Fairchild, an official with the Department of Agriculture, obtained some Japanese cherry trees that he planted on his own property as an experiment to see if they would thrive in DC’s climate. It was a success, after which he began advocating them as a good option to plant along DC avenues. In 1908, he gave children saplings to be planted at every DC school in honor of Arbor Day. At a speech on that day, he promoted the idea of transforming the Speedway (which no longer exists) into a “field of cherries.” This probably gave Eliza Scidmore, who was in attendance, hope and encouragement in her quest of importing cherry trees to Washington.
   In 1909, Eliza Scidmore worked to raise money for her idea and wrote a letter to First Lady Helen Herron Taft regarding her proposal. The First Lady had spent time in Japan and liked the idea. Dr. Jokichi Takamine, a chemist who was in Washington around this time with Mr Midzuno (the Japanese Consul to New York), heard about what was going on and asked Mrs Taft if she would accept a donation of 2000 cherry trees from Japan. Mr Midzuno thought this was an excellent idea and suggested it be done in the name of Tokyo. He talked to city’s mayor who in turn agreed. It was set. First Lady Helen Herron Taft would accept 2000 Japanese cherry trees as a gift from the City of Tokyo. On January 6, 1910, the cherry trees arrived in Washington DC to be planted along the Potomac.
   But then disaster struck. You didn’t think it would be easy did you lol?
   It was discovered that the trees were infested with insects and nematodes and as a result would have to be burned. Yes burned, which they were. Although according to one article, a dozen or so were preserved for study. The piece further says that they were “planted out in the experimental plot of the bureau, and there will be an expert entomologist with a dark lantern, and a butterfly net, cyanide bottle and other lethal weapons placed on guard over the trees, to see what sort of bugs develop.”
   After this, Tokyo Mayor Yukio Ozaki and others decided to try this again. So after more work, on March 26, 1912, 3020 Japanese cherry trees arrived in Washington DC. The next day, Helen Herron Taft and the Viscountess Chinda, wife of the Japanese Ambassador, planted the first two trees along the Tidal Basin.
  And yes, you guessed it: the rest is history!

The Hans Island Whiskey War

11-16-21
   Have you ever heard of the Hans Island Whiskey War?
   No?
   Well, let me tell you about it.
   First, you’re probably wondering where the hell Hans Island is. It’s a 1.3 square kilometer, uninhabited island with no known reserves of oil, natural gas, valuable minerals, or the like. There are no trees and very little loose soil. It’s located in the cold waters of the north between Ellesmere Island of Canada and Denmark’s autonomous territory of Greenland in the middle of a waterway called the Nares Strait. The strait is 22 miles wide here, and since Hans Island is in the middle, it technically lies within 12 mile territorial waters of both Canada and Greenland.
   Thus the conflict because neither side has been able figure out which country actually owns it!
   In 1880, it appears that Hans Island got overlooked when Britain turned over it’s North American possessions to Canada. The use of outdated maps probably contributed to this, and some years went by before the mistake was recognized. In 1933, an international court awarded Hans Island to Greenland, but after the court was dissolved, many considered the ruling invalid. In 1973, an agreement was reached between Canada and Denmark regarding the maritime borders of their lands in that part of the world, but they were not able just settle the Hans Island dispute. They decided that it would have to be resolved later on.
   There may be some question on the details of how the Hans Island Whiskey War itself actually started. But as one version of the story goes, in 1984, a group of Canadian soldiers arrived on the small island and erected a flagpole upon which their nation’s colors was raised. The story goes on to say that on a lark, the soldiers also left behind a bottle of Canadian whiskey as an entertaining in your face to their Danish rivals.
   Well, Danish authorities could not let that stand! So a contingent of Danes was dispatched to the island in response, whereupon they raised the Danish flag to fly over the island. They also left behind a bottle of Danish schnapps and a letter aimed at the Canadians saying “Welcome to the Danish Island.”
   This rather comical war of flags and liquor continued for some years as each side would periodically show up on the island to raise their flag and apparently leave behind a bottle of their nation’s distilled spirits. There are reports that in 2005, the governments of Canada and Denmark decided to cease this phase of the conflict and stop raising their corresponding flags on the island. They were supposed to conduct serious negotiations in order to finally settle the issue of Hans Island once and for all.
   But as of 2021, it has not been settled. So in some form or fashion, the rather polite conflict over Hans Island continues.

The True Story Of The 19th “Ghost Ship” Mary Celeste

   Have you ever heard the eerie tale of the Mary Celeste?
   Hmm?
   It’s a fascinating story which is quite true.
   Let’s start at the beginning. In 1861, a 282 ton brigantine sailing vessel named the Amazon was constructed at Spencer’s Island, Nova Scotia, Canada. It’s purpose was to transport cargo to and fro across the ocean. In 1868, it was sold to American Richard W Haines and was renamed the Mary Celeste. Over the next several years, it underwent structural changes and eventually came to be owned by a group of investors which included Captain Benjamin Spooner Briggs.
   On November 7th, 1872, the Mary Celeste set sail from New York City harbor with the final destination being Genoa, Italy. On board, were Captain Briggs, his wife Sarah, their 2 year old daughter Sophia, seven other members of the crew, a cargo of 1,701 barrels of industrial alcohol, and enough food and water for 6 months.
   On December 5th, the sailing ship Dei Gratia, under the command of Captain David Morehouse, was moving through choppy seas when something unusual was spotted. It was the Mary Celeste. The strange thing was that the crew of the Dei Gratia would not have seen anyone on the top deck. Suspecting something was wrong, a group from the Dei Gratia boarded the Mary Celeste in order to investigate. They found the cargo hold full of barrels of alcohol, charts strewn about below deck, belongings of the crew still in their quarters, and plenty of food and water. They discovered that one of the ship’s two water pumps had been disassembled, and they found the Mary Celeste’s sounding rod, a device used to measure any water in the cargo hold, on the top deck.
   But what they did not find were any humans. They were gone and would be never seen again.
   The lifeboat was missing too, but otherwise, the ship was in remarkably good condition. The Mary Celeste’s logs were still present, the last entry being at 5:00 a.m. on November 25th. Captain Briggs noted that he was about 6 miles from and within sight of Santa Maria Island of the Azores. Some of Dei Gratia’s crew were assigned to take over the Mary Celeste and sail it to Gibraltar where a British vice admiralty court conducted an inquiry led by the local attorney general Frederick Solly-Flood. The purpose of the proceedings was to decide if the Dei Gratia crew would receive salvage rights since they found the Mary Celeste.
   So this leaves us with the enduring question: what happened to the crew?
   A number of theories have been proposed over the years. Some are very plausible while others are outrageously ridiculous. For example, we can safely rule out the idea of attacking sea monsters.
   Apparently, Frederick Solly-Flood may have been at least a little bit suspicious of the Dei Gratia crew’s actions and thus seemed to conduct a more thorough investigation than usual. A potential scenario would be the Dei Gratia sailors boarding the Mary Celeste and murdering its crew in an attempt to fraudulently claim salvage rights of the ship and its cargo. But the inquiry found no evidence of this and after more than 3 months, ruled in favor of giving salvage rights to the Dei Gratia crew. Although it should be noted that they ended up receiving only 1/6th of the estimated $46,000 value of the ship and cargo.
   Another theory that has been considered is the idea that members of the crew might have mutinied and murdered everyone else after which they would have fled the scene in the lifeboat. Two German Brothers, Volkert and Boye Lorenzen, have been proposed by some as potential suspects because their personal belongings were not found on board the Mary Celeste, whereas the rest of the crew’s possessions were. Descendants of the crew don’t believe they would have done this, and it does not appear that the boarding party found any evidence of murder. No blood was reported. As to why the two brothers had no belongings on board, one of their descendants has explained this by saying that earlier in the year, their possessions had been lost when the ship they had been aboard wrecked.
   Another scenario that has been proposed over the years is the idea that perhaps alcohol vapors from the cargo had escaped and expanded in the tropical heat. The theory is that the crew detected this and quickly abandoned ship for fear of an impending explosion. Of the 1,701 barrels of alcohol, nine were found to be empty. Apparently these nine were made from red oak which is more porous and probably led to the barrels leaking. But according to reports, these were the only ones found empty. It should also be noted that the Dei Gratia boarding party said the cargo hatch was secured and did not report the smell of any alcohol fumes. If the Mary Celeste crew had detected alcohol vapors in the hold, you would think they would have opened the hatch to let the fumes vent out.
   The last theory I’ll discuss is probably the most likely one, although it’s pretty safe to say that we will never know for sure. When it was discovered, the Mary Celeste had about three and a half feet of water sloshing around in the cargo hold, and the sounding rod was on the top deck which could indicate its recent use. Also remember that one of the two water pumps was apparently not working since it had been found disassembled. We should also consider that because the cargo hold was so full, Captain Briggs may have had a difficult time getting measurements, and as a result, he could have believed more water was present than really was. According to the logs, they had gone through some bad weather. Briggs had also recently ordered the ship to alter course in order to head north of Santa Maria Island, possibly seeking safety. The thinking is that perhaps the captain believed the Mary Celeste was in the process of sinking because of the water in the hold. Remember that the last log entry on November 25th stated that Santa Maria Island of the Azores was in sight. After the Azores, the ship would have been in open water for hundreds of miles before reaching land again. And since vessels in those days had no radios or wireless communication, abandoning ship in the open ocean was about the last thing you wanted to do because the odds of surviving would be extremely slim. So it would make sense that if Captain Briggs believed the ship was sinking, he would have abandoned ship while in sight of land in order to increase their chances of survival. Another potential factor which could have played an added role is that some researchers believe that during the last five days of the voyage, Captain Briggs may have been having navigation problems, perhaps from a faulty chronometer. An oceanographer from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution of Massachusetts examined the evidence and has said that the Mary Celeste may have been as much as 120 miles to the west of where Briggs thought he was. The result would have been that the ship may have arrived at Santa Maria Island days later than the captain expected. If this is true, it could have been a factor that created added concern to the situation. Either way, the idea is that Captain Briggs may have believed there was too much water in the hold, and with at least one of the pumps out of action, he might have thought they were about to sink. This would explain their abandoning ship into the lifeboat. When the Mary Celeste didn’t sink, it would have been moving too fast for them to catch up, being in the small lifeboat. After that, something must have happened, whether the lifeboat overturned, sank, or was unable to reach land.
   While this last scenario is likely the closest to what may have happened, we will in all probability never know for sure. And you know what? That’s okay.
   Because most people enjoy a enduring eerie mystery.

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/abandoned-ship-the-mary-celeste-174488104/

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Mary-Celeste

June 6th, 1944 Is A Day That Should Be Remembered

   June 6th, 1944.
   This is a monumentally important date in history, for on this day, forces of the Western Allies under the command of General Dwight D Eisenhower stormed beaches in Normandy, France.
   The liberation of Western Europe from Nazi occupation had begun.
   It was a massive operation that had been in the works for months. It took time for troops to be gathered in Britain and then properly trained for the attack. Another big problem was that the Germans knew an invasion of some kind was coming, but the German High Command didn’t know for sure exactly when or where it was going to strike. So the Allies conducted massive deception operations to try to the confuse the Germans. These included creating a phantom army with fake tanks and aircraft, fraudulent radio transmissions, and the use of double agents. The purpose of all this was to hopefully fool the Germans into thinking that the main attack was going to occur at Pas de Calais, which is the narrowest point between Britain and France. The deception operations also tried to mislead the Germans into thinking there were other possible targets such as Norway.
   Another issue facing the Allies was about when atmospheric conditions would be optimal for an invasion. Planners had a set of criteria that they wanted met for an attack to take place.  One example was going in under a full moon. You must remember that in those days, they didn’t have modern night vision goggles like today, so a full moon was important for the pilots, airborne/glider troops, and navy personnel who would be operating the night before soldiers would be storming the beaches. They also wanted the landings to occur at or just before dawn between low and high tides with the tide going in. Part of this was so that attacking forces could see some of the obstacles that the Germans had set up, but at the same time they didn’t want soldiers to be too far out since they would have to run across the open beaches under fire. Hitting at dawn also allowed the ships to get closer, hopefully undetected by the Germans. The result of all this was that there were only a few days each month that would work for the invasion. And the more postponements that occurred, the greater the chances that the Germans would see through the deception operations that were going on and realize the attack was going to be at Normandy. If that had happened, it would have been a disaster because German forces could have focused on the Normandy beaches and then badly outnumbered Allied troops trying to come ashore.
   General Eisenhower and the High Command were initially going to invade June 5th, but it was postponed because meteorologists were predicting really bad weather that day. As a matter of fact, when word came of the postponement, some ships had already set sail so that they had to turn around and return. On the 5th, meteorologists predicted that there would be a window of better weather for June 6th, but as we all know, meteorology is not an exact science and there was always a chance they would be wrong. Trying to land troops in stormy seas would likely have been disastrous, but the longer the Allies waited, the greater the chances the Germans would see through the ongoing deception operations. So the decision of go or no go on June 6th must have been agonizing. But General Eisenhower and the High Command made it.
   June 6th was set for D-Day.
   Just after midnight, approximately 23,000 British and American airborne and glider troops began landing behind German lines. Their job was to sabotage targets like bridges and railway lines, seize important points, and create general confusion.
   An armada of over 5000 landing craft and other ships had crossed the English Channel and at or around 6:30 a.m. begin landing troops on five different beaches. British and Canadian forces attacked three that had been codenamed Gold, Sword, and Juno while American forces attacked Utah and Omaha. Soldiers landed on the beaches, which held various obstacles designed to damage landing craft or tanks that got in too close, barbed wire, and mines (many of these were attached to the obstacles). Allied troops had to get through this in the open while under bullet, grenade, and artillery fire from German troops who were fighting from entrenched and fortified positions.
   On that first day, progress had gone fairly well at Gold, Sword, Juno, and Utah beaches, but Omaha was another matter. The American forces who hit Omaha took heavy casualties. Germans had strong entrenchments and fortifications on the bluffs above and rained terrible fire upon the soldiers who were trying to cross the open beach below. Another complication for the Americans at Omaha was that of the 29 specially designed amphibious tanks, 27 sank in the choppy waters and never made it to the beach. And of the other tanks that had been taken to the beach on landing craft, many were knocked out. So it was pretty much up to infantry. They had to work their way across the open beach with little or no cover and deal with barbed wire while under withering fire and then battle their way up the bluffs to take out German soldiers who were fighting from entrenchments, bunkers, and pill boxes.
   By the end of the day, Allied forces had established beachheads at all five sectors and had landed over 156,000 troops in France. But it came at a price. Allied casualties are estimated to have been over 10,000 on that day. Of those, 4400 were killed in action.
   The liberation of Western Europe had begun.

Continue reading “June 6th, 1944 Is A Day That Should Be Remembered”

Washington DC Is One Of The Most Beautiful Cities In The Entire Country

   Washington DC.
   For many people these days, when they hear those words, they conjure up images of the vicious partisan politics which has been plaguing this country of late. They think of Republicans and Democrats in Congress at loggerheads against each other to such a severe degree that it often seems like little gets done.
   But what a great number overlook or forget is that Washington DC is one of the most beautiful cities in the entire country.
   Really, it is.
   Why, do you ask? I think it’s a combination of its distinctive layout, beautiful architecture, extensive monuments, and lovely parks.
   First, the layout. While Washington DC has the traditional north south and east west grid system of roads, it is also crisscrossed with impressive avenues that run diagonally through the city. This distinctive layout of streets creates unique intersections, such as traffic circles the centers of which often contain impressive monuments.  There are also numerous parks, big and small, scattered throughout the city which frequently contain statues and other monuments.
   Then you have the impressive architecture of the city which includes a variety of styles such as Classical, Neoclassical, Greek Revival, Palladian, Second Empire, Modern, and Postmodern. Another vitally important facet of the characteristic look of Washington DC is the fact that homes and buildings are not allowed to exceed a certain height. There are no skyscrapers within the city limits. The reason for this is so that the US Capitol Building and other monuments can impressively stand out instead of being overshadowed.
   And of course, one can’t forget the heart and soul of Washington DC: the National Mall. This beautiful park runs from the US Capitol Building to the Lincoln Memorial between which stands the towering Washington Monument. Lining each side are impressive national museums, including the National Gallery of Art as well as multiple branches of the Smithsonian Institution.
   The result is one of the most beautiful cities in the entire country. And if you don’t believe me, check out these photos. I think they’ll prove my point
   Enjoy.

US Capitol Building in Spring
DC row houses on East Capitol Street NE
Row houses on East Capitol Street NE
Home on East Capitol Street NE
Historic DC home
Sumner School Building. 1872. One of the earliest schools for African Americans in DC.
Georgetown University
United States Supreme Court
Washington Monument during the Cherry Blossoms
Smithsonian
Smithsonian Castle on the National Mall
Park between Union Station and the US Capitol Building
Statue in DC
View of the Potomac River with the Kennedy Center and Watergate in the background.
Washington Monument in the Fall.
A neighborhood park during the Cherry Blossoms.
The Tidal Basin at sunset.
Korean War Memorial on the National Mall.
Jefferson Memorial at dusk.
Typical DC row houses. There are blocks and blocks of these throughout the city.
An intersection in a typical DC neighborhood of row houses.
DC residential neighborhood
Washington DC neighborhood
FDR Memorial in Fall
FDR Memorial in Fall
FDR Memorial in Fall
FDR Memorial in Fall

DC’s Federal Triangle Neighborhood Was Night And Day Different In The 19th Century

    Washington DC. It’s a beautiful city full of powerful government buildings,  majestic monuments, blocks of lovely old townhouses, amazing museums, and wonderful restaurants.
   Just east/southeast of the White House between Pennsylvania Avenue, Constitution Avenue, and 15th Street NW are the impressive, neoclassical buildings that make up the formidably large Federal Triangle complex. These grand structures are full of offices where people work throughout the week keeping the bureaucracy of government churning along. Next to the office buildings is the stunning columned National Archives.
   But it wasn’t always this way.
   Nope.
   The structures there now were built in the 20th Century. Before this, the neighborhood was quite different. Like night and day different.
   Put it this way, during the latter half of the 1800s, this neighborhood had several names including Hooker’s Division and Murder Bay.
   Back then, the area was often pretty rough and consisted of smaller buildings and houses, many of which contained saloons and bordellos. Gambling and prostitution were prevalent as was theft, fighting, and the occasional murder.
   During the Civil War, Union troops were frequently encamped in and around the city.  In their off hours, the soldiers would often seek out places to drink, gamble, and have sex. As a result, prostitution in the neighborhood became very common. Apparently, for a while, Union General Joseph Hooker ordered all the city’s prostitutes to congregate in this neighborhood, thus the nickname Hooker’s Division. Though, it should be noted that referring to prostitutes as hookers probably predates this time.
   Immediately after the war, it seems to have been a working class neighborhood that became much rougher as the years went by. Gambling, drinking, prostitution, and theft were extensive and murders were not uncommon. Many would say don’t go south of Pennsylvania Avenue after dark, and supposedly, many police agreed and stayed away at night themselves. There are reports that as a result, volunteer firefighters may have taken on the role of peacekeepers at times. This is considerably ironic since they were often a tough, rowdy bunch and likely started quite a few drunken brawls themselves.
   In 1914, Washington DC began to seriously crackdown on prostitution which led to the closure of the bordellos. The Federal Government acquired the area and eventually tore down the old buildings and replaced them with the structures you see today.

Same area today

https://slate.com/human-interest/2014/05/map-of-murder-bay-vice-map-of-washington-dc-in-the-1890s.amp

https://boundarystones.weta.org/2015/06/03/oldest-profession-washington

https://ghostsofdc.org/2012/03/29/washingtons-rough-and-tumble-lost-neighborhood-of-murder-bay/

Fast Food In The Ancient Roman World

12-27-20
   A fast food place (known as a thermopolium) uncovered at Pompeii, Italy gives us a glimpse of everyday life in the Ancient Roman world.
   Thermopolia were quite common in Roman towns and cities. There are over 80 in the ruins of Pompeii alone. They were places where people could stop by to get hot food and drink. While some thermopolia had a room in back for people to dine in, many did not. So it appears that these places were often used as take out.
   This particular thermopolium has the typical counter whose top contains a row of sizable holes. These holes are the tops of embedded jars called dolia. Since the dolia were built in, they probably held dried foods such as nuts because cleaning them out would have been clearly problematic otherwise.
   Thermopolia served a variety of things such as wine, meats, cheeses, fish, lentils, and nuts. A sauce made of fish guts called garum would have often been involved since it was commonly used back then, similar to how something like ketchup is today.
   While the wealthy may have gone to Thermopolia on occasion, it was probably ordinary people on the lower end of the financial spectrum who frequented these establishments the most because the majority of lower or middle class Romans who were in towns and cities lived in apartment buildings called insulae. The apartments (especially those for the poor) were often small, cramped, and without a private kitchen. As a result, the lower classes would often frequent thermopolia for prepared meals.
   Decorations in thermopolia varied. For some, they would have been quite simple while others more elaborate. This particular thermopolium has multiple frescoes whose subjects include one with two mallard ducks, one of a rooster, and another of a mythological figure. A fresco of a dog was discovered which is unique in that a person(s) of the time had scratched some graffiti along its edge insulting someone, possibly the proprietor of the establishment.
   While there are certainly major differences between our time and the ancient Roman world, there are similarities too. They were human beings trying to live their lives.
   Check out the links below for more information and photos, including about the thermopolium discussed in this piece.

A thermopolium at Herculeaneum. On the right, you can see how dolia were built in to the counters.

http://pompeiisites.org/en/comunicati/the-ancient-snack-bar-of-regio-v-resurfaces-in-its-entirety-with-scenes-of-still-life-food-residues-animal-bones-and-victims-of-the-eruption/

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/romans-loved-fast-food-much-we-do-180971845/