I was home working today. I was writing about the creation of the New York State Republican Party, which formed in Saratoga Springs in August 1854 as a response to the Kansas-Nebraska Act. Young Chester Arthur was one of the delegates. In September 1904 during the heat of the presidential race between Theodore Roosevelt and Alton B. Parker–two New Yorkers–the Republicans held a 50th reunion in Saratoga Springs. TR’s running mate, Charles W. Fairbanks, was one of the speakers in Saratoga at that 50th celebration. Members of John C. Frémont’s family were on hand as well, including his son Major Francis P. Fremont who five years later would be court-martialed for a third time in the waning months of the Roosevelt administration.
What caught my eye when reading the 50th anniversary Proceedings was this photograph of the aging Frederick W. Seward. Frederick was of course the son of William H. Seward. He graduated from Union College a year after Chester Arthur and he too would be at the Saratoga Convention in August 1854. Frederick later worked as Assistant Secretary of State for his father in the Lincoln and Johnson Administrations and served in the same capacity for William Evarts for a time during the Hayes’s years, eventually succeeded by John Hay. Seward thwarted the Booth conspirator who tried to assassinate his father and a half a century later was still around to tell the tale. He helped run the Hudson-Fulton Celebration in 1909, a forgotten event today but which among other things involved Wilbur Wright flying from Governors Island, around the Statue of Liberty, and back.Even more incredibly an article in the Smithsonian Air & Space Magazine informs us that passengers aboard the Lusitania witnessed that feat.
Seward died in April 1915, fifty years after the Civil War’s end and two years prior to American involvement in the First World War.
I hope everyone had a good Easter Sunday. I was walking back from Prospect Park earlier when I came upon this sign in a front yard. I naturally stopped to read it when I noticed that sure enough they had a cannon in their front yard. Note how professional the wayward marker is. In terms of quality and appearance, the battle map looks like something one sees on the Civil War Trust website. My favorite part is the wooden pail, presumably there to imitate a sponge bucket. Color me impressed.
It’s early Sunday morning. I am sitting here for a spell before going in to work to teach a class. The week is going to be a bit of a push but next weekend I’ll be getting a longer weekend taking off Good Friday. If our early spring continues I may go to the New York Botanical Garden. I wrote about 2000 words this week on the Civil War New York book. The goal is to finish the draft in mid-summer. I spent the day with friends yesterday and then came home last night and wrote about 220 words. It’s amazing how when you just sit down and begin the process takes over. I took the above photo around 10:00 last night as I was wrapping up.
A few weeks back I linked to an article I wrote for Roads to the Great War about the resignation of Secretary of War Lindley Garrison. For most of February into March 1916 President Wilson was without a civilian leader of the U.S. Armed Forces. Filling in as interim Secretary of War was the Chief of Staff, Major General Hugh L. Scott. General Scott was the archetype of a U.S. military officer who came of age in the aftermath of the Civil War. He graduated from West Point in 1876, within weeks of Custer’s defeat at Little Big Horn. It was also America’s Centennial. As a young officer Scott went on to serve in the Indian Wars, in Cuba, and the Philippines. In 1911 he was planning to come to Governors Island for social reasons when he was suddenly sent off to Arizona to settle a dispute with the Hopi Indians, one of the last campaigns between the Army and the Native Americans. It is not surprising the powers-that-be sent Scott. He had long ago acquired a reputation for solving problems through mediation, even becoming an honorary member of several Native American tribes. Scott came of age as a military officer in the age of Secretary of War Elihu Root’s reforms at the turn of the century. Theodore Roosevelt admired him greatly and appointed him Superintendent of West Point in 1906.
Scott was born in Kentucky but grew up in Princeton, New Jersey. That is probably where he came to the attention of Woodrow Wilson, another Southerner who came to make his home in the Garden State. General Scott had replaced William Wallace Wotherspoon as Chief of Staff in November 1914. (Wotherspoon seems to have been an interim choice as Army Chief of Staff while the Wilson Administration decided what to do in the aftermath of Leonard Wood leaving that position seven months earlier and returning to the Department of the East. Scott and Wood got along well.) When Lindley Garrison resigned in February 1916 Hugh Scott filled the breach for several weeks. Wilson liked Scott a great deal but the general’s best attribute at that moment was that he would do what the president wanted. How could he not as a military man serving his commander-in-chief. Still, Scott pushed for better preparedness and made clear that the Army was unprepared for involvement overseas.
When Newton Baker came in as the Secretary of War the second week of March 1916, Scott was left to focus on his military duties. In 1917 he reached mandatory retirement age and was replaced by Tasker Bliss. Still the Army had a place General Scott. He took command at Fort Dix in New Jersey and helped train men to go to France. After the war he accompanied Elihu Root to Russia to inspect conditions during the civil war there.
(image/The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library. “Maj.-Gen. Hugh L. Scott, 1853-.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1860 – 1920. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47db-11cf-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99)
That is what former Kansas Congressman Victor Murdock said one hundred years ago today when he stepped off the Nieuw Amsterdam in Manhattan after returning from Europe. That was a bold, curious statement to make with the Battle of Verdun now raging in France. At least a quarter of a million German men were involved in that butcherous campaign, with their French enemies vowing determinedly that “They shall not pass.”
It is easy to scoff but Murdock was no lightweight. He was a respected Midwestern politician and newspaperman. Six months earlier his daughter had married Harvey Delano, a cousin of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Murdock was also a Bull Moose Progressive, and good friend and political ally of Theodore Roosevelt as well. Indeed he was the National Chairman of the Progressive Party. With the Roosevelts Murdock campaigned for Preparedness ever since the war had begun in 1914. When Theodore Roosevelt declined to run for the White House in 1916 Murdock supported Wilson over Charles Evans Hughes. Thankfully for Murdock the world did not remember his February 24, 1916 statement about peace in our time coming before the end of the year. For his efforts Wilson appointed Murdock a Federal Trade Commissioner.
(image/Library of Congress)
I’m sorry about the lack of posts this week. It was a hectic one with the start of classes, a meeting in the city toward mid-week, and the wrapping up of a blog post to appear elsewhere later this coming week at another site. I’ll post that when the time comes. The Learning Places class I am co-teaching is off to a good start. We had our first field trip to Cadman Plaza this past week. Before venturing out I spoke to the students about the Reverend S. Parkes Cadman, about whom I knew little before starting my prep for the class. I was making a comparison with Cadman to such figures as Babe Ruth, Jack Dempsey and Knute Rockne’s Four Horsemen, the point being that they all became public figures in the 1920s via the mass communication of radio. Twenty years earlier none of these individuals could have reached the masses in quite the same way that they did. Cadman’s sermons were broadcast nationally from his Central Congregational Church in Brooklyn every Sunday. It is strange that he so forgotten today.
I did not know until starting this thing that he served with the 23rd Infantry Regiment on the Mexican border during the Punitive Expedition. His papers are at the Brooklyn Historical Society and I am hoping 1-2 students pick up the baton and dig a little into why he may not have served a year later in the Great War. We shall see. He later became an outspoken opponent of Hitler and Mussolini. In some ways Cadman was the anti-Father Coughlin. Cadman died in July 1936 and so did not live to see the Second World War.
(image/Brooklyn Daily Eagle via Brooklyn Public Library, courtesy newspapers.com)
An interesting thing has been taking place in France this week: Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast has been making its way up the best-seller list in the wake of last week’s ISIS attacks. Hemingway’s widow published AMF in 1964 three years after the writer’s death. It is a collection of vignettes Hemingway wrote in notebook form while living in Paris in the 1920s as a member of the Lost Generation. He tinkered with the manuscript in the 1950s and prepared what was essentially the final draft before his suicide. Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Ford Madox Ford and Ezra Pound are just a few of Hemingway’s protagonists. Though I’m sure it was coincidence the book was published fifty after the onset of the First World War, which was fitting being that the events of 1914-18 were what set the stage for the anxieties and opportunities of 1920s Paris.
Hemingway in many respects was a stereotypical artist. The multiple divorces, the alcoholism, the posing and sheer blowhardedness, the chaotic personal life and, eventually, the suicide. It was all so messy; yet when it was time to put pen to paper he could bring it like nobody’s business, and all in such a straightforward, no bullshit style. It is no wonder people are tuning to Hemingway and his Paris memoir again at this anxious time, 50+ years after its original release.
(image/Ernest Hemingway Collection. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston)
Yesterday a friend and I ventured out to Caldwell, New Jersey to visit the Grover Cleveland Birthplace. We were spurred on by a recent New York Times article extolling the virtues of seeing the presidential sites of our more forgotten leaders. It proved surprisingly easy to do; the trip entailed little more than an hour’s bus ride from the Port Authority. As I wrote about a few months back, Grover Cleveland was a good friend of James Roosevelt, FDR’s father. The 22nd and 24th president was born in Caldwell in 1837 and lived there for four years until the family relocated to the Empire State in the early 1840s. Cleveland’s father was a minister and served in numerous churches in Upstate New York, which was expanding in these years just after the completion of the Erie Canal.
Cleveland married the 21-year-old Frances Clara Folsom in the White House on July 2, 1886. The couple went on to have five kids. The media was not yet as intense as it would be during the Theodore Roosevelt Administration but the Cleveland kids, especially little Baby Ruth, captured the country’s imagination. Cleveland died in 1908 and the home in Caldwell opened as a historic site in 1913. That same year Frances–still just in her mid-40s–remarried. She and her husband were living in London when the Great War broke out a year later. The newlyweds returned to the United States. Frances was active in the Allied cause throughout the Great War, and indeed was involved in most of the issues of the period. She worked with Theodore Roosevelt on a Liberty Bond drive and became active in the Needlework Guild. Frances also opposed the vote for women, to the extent that she became president of the Princeton branch of the New Jersey Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage. She was vice-president of the state organization as well.
In February 1918 she signed her name to a petition urging the Wilson Administration to ban the production of beer and malt liquor. This initiative had the back of some 6,000,000 signatures. Their main argument was that cutting production of beers and malts would save precious grain for the war effort. There was merit to the argument. That same week representatives from the baking industry were meeting with the Federal Food Board. Herbert Hoover had recently authorized the twelve-ounce loaf, as opposed to the standard sixteen-ounce loaf, in response to the shortage of foodstuffs. The grain petition, as everyone knew, was also part of the wider strategy of the Temperance Movement. Indeed the initiative had the support of the WCTU, with whom Frances had a complicated relationship over the decades.
We tend to think of this stuff as ancient history and yet Frances Cleveland Preston lived until 1947. As my friend and I noted when talking to our tour guide yesterday, Frances and Grover Cleveland’s youngest child, died on 8 November 1995, twenty years ago today.
(bottom image/Library of Congress, permalink: http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/ggb2005011955/)