Troubling Times

May 1, 2022
   Damn, things seem really frustrating, disheartening, confusing, and downright scary these days. On the international news front, we’re witnessing terrible, heart-wrenching examples of death, suffering, and carnage being wrought by Vladimir Putin’s vicious, bloody, unwarranted invasion of Ukraine.  On the domestic side here in the United States, bitter divisions in politics and society have gotten so bad that it often seems virtually impossible to get anything done. Despite it being the 21st century, we’re seeing far too much intolerance, prejudice, ignorance, and hate throughout the nation, and what’s even more disturbing is how many social conservatives are pushing for policies that actually worsen these problems.
   Think about it. In numerous states, there are social conservatives trying to pass laws that knowingly hurt the LGBTQ (Queer) Community, a community that was already suffering. A 2021 survey conducted by the Trevor Project of nearly 35,000 LGBTQ youth (ages 13 to 24) found that 42% had seriously considered suicide during the previous 12 months. That number rose to 52% for Transgender youth. Only one in three indicated that they lived in an LGBTQ affirming home. Yet despite evidence such as this, numerous Republicans are working hard to pass laws that would clearly hurt Queer kids instead of helping them. And what’s worse is that these laws will almost certainly increase LGBTQ suicide rates.
   There’s also been a move by many conservative Republicans to make a big deal about critical race theory and wanting to ban it from being discussed in schools. Well for one thing, it’s clear most of these individuals don’t even know (or don’t care) what critical race theory actually is because it’s a theory that is dealt with at the post graduate education level and not K through 12. But it seems that many Republicans are using the attack on this term to go after general discussions about race relations in American history classes. This effort by conservatives is extremely dangerous because in order to learn from past mistakes, people need to look at American history honestly (warts and all), and that clearly has to include race relations. There’s a lot of truth to the old adage: those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. The brutal reality is that racism and other forms of prejudice (like that which is aimed at the LGBTQ Community) are still widely prevalent today, and as a result, it’s that much more important to include honest, frank discussions about such issues in school.
   So the thing is: we need to speak up and educate others about what is going on and what we can do to try to make things better. People should stand up for open-mindedness, tolerance, and be honest about America’s history and current situation, not stick their heads in sand ignoring the problems. We should all strive to make things better.

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 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

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/

John Quincy Adams, The Skinny Dipping President

  

   Yes, you heard me right! But first, let’s start at the beginning.
   John Quincy Adams was born in Braintree (now Quincy), Massachusetts in 1767. He was the eldest son of John and Abigail Adams, who were both very important figures in the early United States. His father was a member of the Continental Congress during the American Revolution, served as a diplomat in Europe, and became the 2nd American President. As a result, young John Quincy grew up among numerous movers and shakers including some in European countries. He was very intelligent, learning multiple languages and was an avid reader. Apparently, he had hoped to pursue a career in writing; though, his future lay in politics.
   John Quincy Adams had a long career as a civil servant and politician. He served as a diplomat overseas, was a member of the United States Senate, became Secretary of State, and was the 6th President of the United States after which he had a long career as a member of the House of Representatives. As a matter of fact, he is the only person to serve in the House after being President.
   In many ways, he was ahead of his time. He despised the institution of slavery and was more sympathetic to the rights of Native Americans than many of his contemporaries. As much as he hated slavery and fought against it, John Quincy Adams predicted that the only way the terrible institution would come to an end would be if the Southern states ended it voluntarily or if there was a civil war. He also predicted that if there was a civil war, the president of the time would use war powers to end slavery. This is quite close to what actually happened since Abraham Lincoln used the Emancipation Proclamation to end slavery in the Confederate states.
   In 1797 London, Adams married Louisa Johnson, the daughter of the US consul to Britain. They had 3 sons and 1 daughter together. Tragically, two died as young men after battles with alcoholism. One possibly from suicide. John Quincy likely suffered from depression and had a serious disposition much of the time. In politics, he became well known for his oratory, giving powerful impassioned speeches. In fact, when his end finally came in 1848, he was giving a fiery speech in Congress when he collapsed from a stroke. He died two days later in the US Capitol Building.
   Obviously, John Quincy Adams spent many years living in Washington DC. He had a habit of getting up early in the predawn hours to walk around the city getting exercise when it was quiet and other people were still asleep. If the weather was good, he was known to swim in the Potomac River. In those days, when men swam in the river, they would remove their clothes and take a dip. Although in 1821 when the British Ambassador George Canning spotted then Secretary of State Adams in the water, he wasn’t entirely naked. Canning later wrote, “The Secretary of State was seen one morning at an early hour floating down the Potomac, with a black cap on his head and a pair of green goggles on his eyes.”
   So yes, John Quincy Adams, 6th President of the United States, would remove his clothes and skinny dip in the Potomac River! Not something you’d catch any modern president doing!
   So when you have a few minutes, perhaps learn about and remember the skinny dipping President of the United States, John Quincy Adams.

https://www.britannica.com/biography/John-Quincy-Adams

https://shannonselin.com/2017/07/john-quincy-adams-swimming/

Republican Party Has Gotten Off Track

Gotta say…If the Republicans don’t allow witnesses and new documents into the Senate Impeachment Trial, it will truly be a sickening farce and further example of how so off track the Republican Party has gotten.

It’s scary how they won’t stand up to Trump when they clearly should.

Members of Congress should be more loyal to the United States Constitution and the American people than a particular party or political figure. They should stand for the Constitution and nation first.

But it appears many Republicans are not doing this. They seem to be putting Trump first. That is scarily wrong and misguided. The United States is a Democracy, not a dictatorship. The Constitution is more important than the President! And no one is above the law!

The Republican Party seems to have gone totally off track.

History is going to teach the current batch of Republicans harshly.

And they will deserve it!