Legendary

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On June 6, 1944 — D-Day — Allied forces stormed the beaches of Normandy, France as part of Operation Overlord, the long-anticipated invasion of Nazi-controlled Europe. Wave after wave of American and British troops attacked the entrenched Germans, and by nightfall the Allies had gained a foothold on the continent. In the ensuing weeks they pushed into the heart of Nazi territory, and within a year, Germany had surrendered. Consequently, D-Day is considered the beginning of the end of World War II in Europe. It is often forgotten, however, that a second pivotal invasion occurred days after Normandy. On June 15th U.S. infantry and Marines struck Saipan, part of the Mariana Islands in the Central Pacific, in the first part of their drive on Japan’s Home Islands. As on so many Pacific battlefields, American GIs opposed an enemy who fought to the death. After three weeks of brutal combat, the remaining Japanese launched the traditional “banzai” attack — choosing death rather than shame as prisoners. Not all Japanese died in battle, however. Due to the audacity of a private from Los Angeles, California, nearly one thousand enemy combatants surrendered. The private’s name was Guy Gabaldon. This is the story of how he distinguished himself, in legendary fashion no less, as the “Pied Piper of Saipan.”

Guy Gabaldon owed his success on Saipan to his years growing up in East L.A. He was born in the Southern Californian metropolis in late March 1926 to Mexican parents, and as a boy, he continually pressed boundaries, such as jumping from buildings and hopping from trains. His specialty, however, was street fighting, particularly after he joined the multi-ethnic “Moe Gang.” He once had his nose broken twice in the same day, and at another point was even kicked out of school. Still, he continued to defy authority, and it looked like he was on the road to ruin as a juvenile delinquent. All that changed when he turned twelve-years-old. Entering Hollenbeck Junior High School, he befriended Lane and Lyle Nakano, twin Japanese boys, who brought Guy into their tight-knit, loving family. He soon became an adopted member of the family, living with them off and on for several years. He attended Japanese language school with the boys and immersed himself in Japanese culture. He even developed a love for Japanese cuisine. Consequently, Guy felt as much at home in the Asian community as he did among Hispanics. Then in December 1941 his world turned upside-down with Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor and America’s entry into World War II.

Fearing Japanese-Americans would support their homeland, President Franklin Roosevelt decided to put these perceived enemies in internment camps across the U.S. The Nakanos were sent to Wyoming. Guy pleaded to go with them, but was refused. Distraught, and with nowhere to turn, the sixteen-year-old dropped out of school and travelled north to Alaska. He worked for a year at a fishing cannery, but as the months passed, he grew restless and yearned to join in the struggle against totalitarianism. Returning to California in 1943, he sought to enlist in the Navy but was rejected due to small stature — he only stood five feet, three inches — and a perforated eardrum. Undaunted, he turned to the Marines. On March 22nd — his seventeenth birthday — Guy Gabaldon entered military service as a private first class in the Marine Corps. He reported to Camp Pendleton, near San Diego, California, for basic training. When Guy’s superiors found he spoke Japanese, he was sent to the Enlisted Marine Japanese Language School at Camp Elliot, also in San Diego. Upon graduation, Gabaldon joined the Headquarters and Service Company of the 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division and was soon bound for combat in the Central Pacific.

After a brief stop in Hawaii, Gabaldon and the 2nd Marine Division sailed for the Mariana Islands, part of Japan’s defensive perimeter. Once in American hands, the islands could serve as a base from which B-29 Superfortresses could strike Japan. On June 15, 1944 Gabaldon and his fellow Marines stormed Saipan, the first critical island in the chain. Charging the rocky beaches, they met murderous artillery and machine gun fire from Japanese defenders. Comrades were soon falling all around Guy, but he continued to advance. No matter how fiercely the Marines pushed, however, the Japanese tenaciously held their ground. In desperation, Guy bombarded Japanese defenses with hand grenades, ultimately killing thirty-three combatants. After hours of combat, Gabaldon and his comrades drove Japanese warriors from the shoreline. Yet, Guy knew savage fighting still lay ahead. Enemy troops had resolved to kill seven Marines for every one of their own. Realizing such warfare could cost thousands of casualties, American and Japanese alike, Gabaldon determined to pursue a different tactic — and in so doing made history.

That night, displaying the same disregard for authority that marked his youth, he departed headquarters and embarked on a scouting trip across the island. Moments later, Guy encountered two Japanese soldiers and began conversing with them using backstreet Japanese. He convinced them of the futility of suicidal attacks against the Americans and urged them to accompany him to U.S. lines. They agreed. He expected congratulations but was instead threatened with court-martial for leaving his post. Despite the warning, Gabaldon undertook another mission the next night. This time, he made his way to a Japanese-occupied cave, one of hundreds that dotted the twenty-five mile length of Saipan. He killed the guards at the cave’s mouth and yelled down into the cave. Warning the underground enemy they were surrounded, the gutsy private promised fair treatment if they surrendered. As morning dawned, he marched fifty Japanese prisoners into camp. Amazed by such audacity, and impressed by the scope of his accomplishments, superiors allowed Gabaldon to continue his “lone-wolf” operations. In the ensuing days, he brought in other prisoners by providing gifts of candy and cigarettes as well as promising humane treatment while in captivity.

By July 6th, three weeks after landing on Saipan, Gabaldon and his comrades had pushed Japanese soldiers to the northern end of the island. One story from that night tells of how, on yet another trek, he overheard Japanese troops discussing a planned all-out attack in a last-ditch effort to stave off defeat. Guy immediately returned to headquarters and alerted his superiors of the coming assault. Due in part to his warning, the Marines soundly repulsed the charge. With victory in sight, American forces advanced to Banzai Cliffs. Reaching the site on July 8th, Guy watched in shocked horror as thousands of civilians leapt to their deaths. Believing Japanese propaganda that Americans would eat their children, the civilians rejected his pleas to stop and continued their mass suicide. Seeing one woman throw her baby onto the rocks, he could not stand by any longer. Running forward, Guy grabbed hold, and no matter how hard she fought, he refused to let go. He succeeded in pulling her away from the edge and guided her to an American camp. (Sadly, she lost her mind after realizing the Americans were not beasts — causing Guy to wish he had let her jump.) Moments later, he left the heartrending scene and walked along the cliffs. Meeting two Japanese soldiers, he told them further resistance was futile — flamethrowers and Naval vessels would destroy them if they took refuge inside caves. He then pointed to the cliff side and the dead bodies underneath and berated them for encouraging civilians to join them in death, which he said was not part of their bushido military code. Finally, one soldier agreed to find an officer and bring him to Gabaldon.

A short time later, a dozen Japanese exited a nearby cave, and for the first time, Guy felt a surge of trepidation. He realized he could not bluff them into surrendering, as he had on other occasions. Suddenly, inspiration struck him. He told them Marine General Holland “Howling Mad” Smith, whom he termed a Shogun, or commander-in-chief, greatly admired the Japanese’s bravery and had ordered safe haven be given to those survivors of the previous day’s banzai attack, which he said would go down in history. Guy then promised the troops would be sent to Hawaii to live out the war in comfortable surroundings. To his surprise, and delight, the Japanese commander in the cave, a lieutenant, warmly responded to this promise. He asked Gabaldon about medical treatment, and the private promised immediate attention. The lieutenant nodded his thanks and agreed to surrender. Leaving four of his men, he returned to his cave. An hour later fifty men came out and demanded water and medicine. Shrewdly, however, Gabaldon refused until all prisoners exited. The lieutenant agreed, and hundreds of Japanese, military and civilian, poured out. Guy was shocked at the seemingly endless line of marchers, but he quickly divided the groups and established a place for the wounded. As the crowd swelled, he realized he could not manage on his own and feared a possible revolt. Spotting a group of Marines on a nearby hillside, he ordered one of the prisoners to wave a white flag in their direction. Moments later, the group joined Gabaldon and helped him disarm the prisoners. When a full count was taken, Private Guy Gabaldon had single-handedly captured over eight hundred Japanese soldiers and civilians — almost eight times as many prisoners as that taken by Sergeant Alvin York, for which he received the Medal of Honor during World War I. When comrades learned of this astonishing feat, they labeled Guy Gabaldon the “Pied Piper of Saipan.”

Following his celebrated accomplishment, Private First Class Gabaldon joined the attack on Tinian, another island in the Mariana chain. There, as on Saipan, he engaged in “lone-wolf” operations and brought in hundreds of Japanese prisoners. He later returned to Saipan where he helped subdue Japanese guerrillas. In the course of this action, he was wounded by machine gun fire and sent home. By then, he had captured over fifteen hundred prisoners. For such heroism, he was awarded the Silver Star, the third highest medal for valor, which was later upgraded to a Navy Cross, the second highest award. Given an honorable discharge, Gabaldon returned home where he pursued various business ventures. Throughout his life though, he was tied to Saipan, living there for twenty years beginning in 1970. Nor was he shy about discussing his exploits, publishing a book on the Battle of Saipan in 1990. He also won numerous awards, including the prestigious 2005 Chesty Puller Award given by the World War II Veterans Committee. The greatest honor, however, came in 1960 when Hollywood released Hell to Eternity, which told Gabaldon’s story to the entire country. Fame and glory, including repeated efforts to see him awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, continued to follow the “Pied Piper of Saipan” for much of his remaining life. Guy Gabaldon died at the age of eighty in 2006, interred with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

Guy Gabaldon truly lived up to his nickname. Much like the character in the “Pied Piper of Hamelin,” who used his music to lure rats, and later children, out of town, this modern “Piper” used his linguistic skills and persuasive reasoning to entice Japanese soldiers into surrendering, thereby preventing catastrophic loss of life. Having been exposed to the Far East culture as a boy, he understood the Japanese mindset, yet he saw no need for the soldiers to needlessly sacrifice themselves. Rather than employing brute force, Guy used cunning, courage, and his God-given talents to execute a strategy that not only proved phenomenally successful but also remains today one of the greatest individual triumphs in American military history. With a nickname like the “Pied Piper of Saipan” and the incredible wartime story to go along with it, perhaps the “legend” of Guy Gabaldon will live as long as the Medieval Piper of old.

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A Warrior President

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During the late summer of 1863, the third year of the American Civil War, the tide began to shift in favor of the North. By then General George Meade had defeated Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania and Ulysses S. Grant had captured the Confederate bastion of Vicksburg, Mississippi. At the same time, General William Rosecrans advanced through Middle Tennessee intent on seizing the vital rail and manufacturing hub of Chattanooga. Rosecrans took the city, but the Confederates immediately launched a counterattack. On September 19th fighting erupted along Chickamauga Creek, Georgia. The next day Southerners struck with such ferocity that Northern troops fled in panic. As the army, including Rosecrans, dissolved, George Thomas stood defiant and held the rearguard — earning him the title of the “Rock of Chickamauga.” He was not the only Union hero, however. Another officer who displayed conspicuous bravery was an Ohio general who left the retreating Rosecrans and took a stand beside Thomas. Such actions were not new to this officer though, for he had served with distinction across the western theatre. His name was James Garfield. Though most only know his name for briefly holding the highest office in the land, this is the story of his valiant exploits at the Battle of Chickamauga.

When the Civil War began, James Garfield was one of Ohio’s foremost abolitionists. He was born in November 1831 in Orange Township into the Disciples of Christ denomination, and in accordance with the faith’s teachings, he avoided politics while studying at Geauga Seminary and the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute. After entering Massachusetts’ Williams College in 1854, however, he frequently attended lectures on slavery and became increasingly aware of the troubles tearing the country apart. Unable to stand idly by, Garfield joined the new Republican Party and dedicated himself to eradicating the South’s “peculiar institution.” Upon returning to Ohio, he embarked on a speaking tour across the state condemning slavery and its spread west. He proved so dynamic he was elected to the Ohio state Senate in October 1859 as representative of the 26th Senatorial District, which included Hudson, Ohio — the home of fiery abolitionist John Brown, who led a raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia) that same month.   After Brown’s hanging in December, Garfield committed himself even more thoroughly to the anti-slavery cause — writing in his diary servitium esto damnatum, or slavery be damned. He joined the Senate the following month and quickly attracted attention for staunchly opposing a proposed bill prohibiting expeditions like Brown’s from originating in Ohio. The measure was sent to committee, and soon forgotten. In the wake of his success, Garfield turned his energy to the 1860 presidential election and vigorously campaigned for Abraham Lincoln. He argued the country’s future was at stake. In November he watched with pride as Lincoln won the election, but events soon took an ominous turn. Throughout the winter of 1860-61 seven Southern states seceded from the Union and formed the Confederate States of America.

With war clouds on the horizon, James Garfield determined to take part in defending the Union and ending slavery. He urged his fellow legislators to build up the militia, and he himself began drilling and studying tactics. After war began in April 1861, Garfield petitioned Governor William Dennison for a command, and in July he was named lieutenant colonel of the 42nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry, with a promotion to full colonel in September. In December he moved south into Kentucky, one of the most contested Border States, and after taking command of a brigade, he advanced to the Big Sandy River in east Kentucky to combat Confederate General Humphrey Marshall. Despite inclement weather and nearly impassable roads, he reached Marshall’s camp at Paintsville on January 4, 1862, and the following day he pressed both Confederate flanks and the center, causing Marshall to fall back to defensive ground on Middle Creek. Garfield caught up on January 10th, and despite having no artillery, he launched a series of attacks all along the line, repeatedly forcing the enemy back. When Marshall refused to retreat, Garfield threw the entire brigade forward, and after an hour of brutal combat, he watched in grim satisfaction as the Confederates were forced to flee. However, his work was not done yet. Returning to Paintsville, he operated against marauding Confederates before moving on Marshall’s new position at Pound Gap, the gateway between Kentucky and Virginia. On March 16th he led his infantry and cavalry against the Confederates and finally pushed the enemy out of eastern Kentucky.

Having accomplished his mission, newly promoted Brigadier General Garfield departed Kentucky for Tennessee where he joined the Army of the Ohio, which was on the march to link up with Ulysses S. Grant’s army encamped around a log church called Shiloh on the Tennessee River. Before Garfield and his comrades arrived, however, Confederate troops struck Grant on April 6th and drove him to the riverbank. When Garfield reached the battlefield the next day he joined the Union counterattack and led his men against enemy artillery. The Confederates soon retreated, and Garfield, alongside his comrades, advanced on the rail hub of Corinth, Mississippi. The city fell following a brief siege, but soon after, Garfield became ill and returned to Ohio on sick leave. While recuperating, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, but though eager to serve, he determined to remain in uniform until Congress assembled in December 1863. Returning to duty in January 1863, he became chief of staff for William Rosecrans’ Army of the Cumberland. He threw himself into the job of administering the army, but he soon grew restless and yearned to strike the enemy. His desire was fulfilled on June 24th when Rosecrans ordered the army to move on the Confederate base at Tullahoma, Tennessee. In nine days Garfield and his comrades outmaneuvered the Rebels and so threatened the enemy supply line Confederate forces had to withdraw to Chattanooga, giving Union forces control of Middle Tennessee.

After seizing Tullahoma, Garfield and Rosecrans turned their attention on Chattanooga, and using a series of roads across Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia, they forced Rebel troops to abandon the city and retreat into northwest Georgia. Galvanized by the tactical victory, Garfield pursued the seemingly demoralized enemy, but on the afternoon of September 18th Union forces met a reenergized Confederate army along Chickamauga Creek. Word raced back to Rosecrans’ headquarters at the Gordon-Lee Mansion, and Garfield realized a monumental fight awaited him the next morning. As battle erupted on September 19th, Rosecrans determined to move closer to the scene of action, and along with Garfield, he moved to Widow Glenn’s home, which offered a panoramic view of Union lines. From the new location, Garfield issued orders strengthening the Union center and right in hopes of finding a weak spot in Confederate lines while simultaneously moving men north so as to maintain contact with George Thomas on the Union left flank. When fresh troops arrived, Garfield raced them onto the field to fend off the increasingly savage Rebel attacks, and when holes appeared in his lines, he hurriedly dispatched troops to fill them. Due in large part to these efforts, the Army of the Cumberland was still intact as night fell. But all that changed the next day.

On the morning of September 20th Rosecrans withdrew men from his center in order to fill a supposed hole in the line — opening a real gap in actuality. At that moment Confederate infantry attacked, and within minutes the army had taken flight. Rosecrans joined the exodus, even as Garfield heard musket fire coming from the Union left which told him George Thomas was holding his position. Rosecrans, however, refused to believe the day could be salvaged. Yet his fiery chief of staff determined to try. Upon reaching Rossville, six miles to the rear, with his commander, Garfield had gone far enough, and leaving Rosecrans, he turned and galloped back towards the battlefield. He thundered down the Lafayette Road, littered with debris discarded by fleeing troops, and through fields and woodlots, always looking ahead and following the roar of artillery and musketry. After two hours of hard riding, he passed Cloud Church, a short distance from Union lines. Suddenly, Rebel skirmishers appeared in front of him and opened fire. His horse suffered a flesh wound, but Garfield himself escaped harm. Following the near miss, he spurred on and soon saw Union troops doggedly holding the Rebels at bay. He “never forgot [his] amazement and admiration when I beheld Thomas holding his own with utter defeat on each side and wild confusion in the rear.”

Examining Thomas’ position, Garfield sent an immediate dispatch to Rosecrans reporting Thomas commanded a large portion of the army and that he still held most of the same ground he had that morning. Consequently, Garfield saw no need to retreat all the way to Chattanooga, and he urged Rosecrans to hold the remaining Union soldiers at Rossville. With the message off, the Ohioan took a place along Thomas’ defensive line, and in the hours to come, he fired upon wave after wave of charging Confederates. The afternoon saw fierce fighting as the Rebels repeatedly attacked Thomas’ front and flanks, but Garfield and his men ferociously repelled them. Through it all, Garfield stayed at his post and displayed such fortitude that officers and enlisted men alike praised his heroism. He remained in position until nightfall when, believing he and Thomas had bought enough time for the Army of the Cumberland to escape, he withdrew to Rossville where he remained the next day in anticipation of renewed attacks. When no attack came, he returned to Chattanooga — one of the few officers to emerge from the near disastrous battle covered in glory. He and Thomas had saved Union forces from a complete route.

Shortly after the battle, Garfield left the Army for Washington, D.C. where he reported to Secretary of War Edwin Stanton and won promotion to major general for his gallantry. He held the rank only two months, however, before resigning in order to take his congressional seat. As part of the House Military Affairs Committee, he vigorously supported drafting more men into the army and ending commutation, whereby recruits bought their way out of service. He also advocated punishment of all who supported the rebellion by confiscating property. His greatest triumph though came in January 1865 when he witnessed the permanent abolition of slavery with adoption of the 13th Amendment. After the war ended, Garfield vocally championed civil rights and fought for the 14th and 15th Amendments, giving African-Americans equal protection and the right to vote respectively. Throughout the 1870s he climbed the ranks as he called for free trade and for gold to back America’s monetary policy. Then in 1880 he won the party’s presidential nomination. During the campaign, his supporters lauded his ride to glory at Chickamauga, and largely thanks to the image, he defeated fellow war hero Winfield S. Hancock for the presidency. After his inauguration on March 4, 1881, Garfield labored to expand educational opportunities for African-Americans and to establish America’s place in the world, but his efforts were cut short on July 2nd when Charles Guiteau, a disgruntled office seeker, shot him in the back.   He suffered for two months before dying on September 19th — eighteen years to the day he was in the fight of his life.

James Garfield was a devout Unionist throughout his life. As a young man, he dedicated himself to perfecting America, and when his country faced peril, he willingly took up the sword to preserve it for future generations. He battled and defeated Confederates across Kentucky and Tennessee, but his greatest fight came on the banks of Chickamauga in September 1863. While thousands of Union soldiers, including his commander, raced for the rear, Garfield risked death charging in the opposite direction. Once on the field, he tenaciously fought to ensure the Army of the Cumberland lived to fight another day. The credit for saving the army frequently goes to George Thomas, the “Rock of Chickamauga,” but as his fellow combatants could testify, James Garfield stood like an immovable pillar that day.

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A Servant of the Cause

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No moment in American history was more fraught with peril than late summer and early fall 1776. Just as Americans across the continent were celebrating their independence, a massive British expeditionary force arrived off New York City to crush the rebellion. Led by General Sir William Howe, and his brother Admiral Lord Richard Howe, the command assembled on Staten Island before landing on Long Island where the Continental Army waited. Beginning in the last days of August and continuing throughout September, George Washington tried in vain to keep the British out of New York. In every battle, however, his men fled at the sight of the Redcoats and their Hessian mercenaries. At the September 15th Battle of Kip’s Bay on eastern Manhattan, the commander-in-chief was so frustrated he threw his hat on the ground and shouted, “Are these the men with which I am to defend America!” Surprisingly though, several Continental officers gave a good account of themselves. One was a Massachusetts farmer-turned-soldier who served the cause loyally from the Revolution’s very beginning. His name was William Heath. This is the story of his valiant actions during the last days of the New York campaign.

From an early age, William Heath’s fondest dream was to serve Massachusetts in some meaningful way. He was born in Roxbury, a Boston suburb, in March 1737 and grew up on the homestead owned by his family since their arrival in America a century earlier. Heath’s parents groomed him to be a farmer, but Heath wanted more. In 1761, therefore, he became Roxbury’s representative in the Massachusetts General Court. He also developed an abiding interest in military affairs and often visited Henry Knox’s Boston bookstore where he purchased military texts. His studies led to an expertise in tactics, most notably skirmishing. Not content to just read about military life, Heath joined Boston’s Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company and the county’s militia, ultimately rising to command both units. His martial prowess won him the trust and friendship of Royal Governor Francis Bernard, but as Britain adopted more oppressive policies, he enthusiastically embraced the patriot cause — sacrificing his relationships with Bernard and other officials rather than assist in subjugating his countrymen.

By the dawn of the 1770s, William Heath was fully committed to the cause of liberty. In the wake of the March 5, 1770 Boston Massacre, he concluded protesting British oppression was no longer an option. With fiery resolve, Heath penned several articles under the pseudonym of A Military Countryman, in which he argued armed resistance was the only way to preserve colonial rights. Accordingly, he devoted himself to training his militiamen. Simultaneously, he returned to the General Court and served in the legislature until its dissolution in 1774, which came as part of Britain’s harsh response to the 1773 Boston Tea Party. Refusing to submit to tyranny, Heath and his colleagues established the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, and almost immediately, he was appointed to the Committee of Safety, which exercised executive authority. During the winter of 1774-75, he supervised collection of military supplies and their disposition at Concord, Massachusetts, and in early February 1775 Congress appointed Heath one of five brigadier generals empowered to lead troops against British forces. Knowing hostilities were imminent, he readied himself for battle.

On the morning of April 19 Heath awoke to hear that a British column was marching on Concord intent on seizing the military supplies. Not wasting any time, he leapt on his horse and, accompanied by Dr. Joseph Warren, a key member of the Sons of Liberty, he raced to Lexington. Arriving on the scene, he saw local militiamen locked in battle with Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith’s Redcoats, just reinforced by a column led by Lord Percy. Taking immediate command, Heath rallied a regiment thrown into confusion by British artillery before ordering the militia to pursue the British as they resumed retreating to Boston. At Menotomy he directed a heavy fire on enemy soldiers and later watched in grim satisfaction as men from Roxbury, Brookline and Dorchester struck the British right flank, with hand-to-hand fighting raging at one point. The pursuit continued until dusk, at which point the British reached Charlestown. Having achieved victory, Heath marched to Cambridge and then to Roxbury, from where he besieged occupied-Boston. He was still there in July when George Washington arrived and assumed command of the Continental Army, passing along word to Heath he was now a Continental brigadier general. In his new capacity, Heath faithfully served Washington throughout the siege of Boston, building defenses at Lechmere’s Point and defending it from a British naval bombardment in December 1775. Then in March 1776 he erected defenses along Dorchester Heights for artillery, notably placing rows of barrels atop the hill which could be rolled down and kill or injure British soldiers. Seeing Dorchester’s strength, General William Howe finally decided to evacuate Boston, but Washington knew it was a matter of where, not if, British forces would strike. On March 20th, therefore, General Heath left Boston for New York City, the most obvious target of a British invasion.

Reaching the city on March 30th, Heath set about constructing defenses on Manhattan and neighboring Long Island in anticipation of the coming onslaught. British troops landed on Staten Island in early July, and by mid-August, their numbers had swelled to over thirty thousand. With an attack expected any day, Heath, newly promoted to major general, realized Manhattan’s upper end was vital to control of the city. He foresaw that by landing there British soldiers could easily trap the Americans — annihilating the Continental Army, and possibly eradicating all hopes for American independence. Taking Heath’s warnings to heart, Washington assigned him command of the region, including the forts built to deter a British attack. Consequently, Heath did not see action in the August 27th Battle of Long Island, but he was instrumental in Washington’s August 29th miraculous escape when he sent his boats to Brooklyn, which Washington used to ferry his men across the East River to Manhattan. Following defeat at Kip’s Bay, however, Washington abandoned New York and fell back towards Heath’s defensive line at Manhattan’s northern tip.

Knowing Howe would press on and seize control of all Manhattan, Washington increased Heath’s command to ten thousand troops and directed him to monitor enemy activity. Heath did so, and on September 22nd he learned of a garrison on Montresor’s Island. He decided to launch an immediate attack. The first wave struck with such ferocity the British were driven back, but, as Heath watched from the opposite bank, his stalwart men had to withdraw when the rest of the force refused to support them. Though disappointed, Heath refused to lose heart and returned to watching British movements. As September came to an end, Heath believed the enemy intended to strike at Frog’s Neck, a narrow spit of land separating the East River from Long Island Sound. Determined to contest the foray, Heath ordered Colonel Edward Hand and twenty-six soldiers to tear up the plank bridge across Westchester Creek and fortify the pass at the end of the causeway linking the neck with Manhattan. His decision proved wise, as the British began landing on the neck on October 12th.

Hearing the roar of battle, which indicated Hand had engaged the enemy, Heath quickly dispatched infantry and artillery support to the riflemen, and he watched in pride as his soldiers checked the British advance, forcing them to remain on the neck six days. Then on October 18th he heard the British were about to sortie, or attack. Without hesitation, Heath galloped to the men nearest the neck and personally took command, leading them straight into the fight. As he approached the causeway, he ordered one regiment to reinforce the troops at the pass while the rest loaded and primed their muskets. Suddenly, Washington himself appeared and shouted for Heath to form up his entire division and combat the British should more troops arrive. Saluting, Heath turned for his own lines. As he did, enemy troops crossed the water to Pell’s Neck where they engaged American forces dug in behind a stone fence. The Continentals fired on the Redcoats who were caught off guard, but the enemy regrouped and surged forward again, compelling the Americans to fall back. In the ensuing days, the British encroached on the American rear, and it became obvious the Continentals could not remain on Manhattan. Consequently, save for Forts Washington and Independence, the Americans withdrew to White Plains, in modern Westchester County. Heath arrived on October 22nd and deployed his men along the high ground north of the courthouse. Surveying his position, he observed a rise from which the British could enfilade his division, and seizing the initiative, he dispatched a New York regiment and battery of artillery to defend the hill.

On the afternoon of October 27th the British arrived at White Plains and attacked. Racing back from Washington’s headquarters, Heath found his men in line of battle, and taking his place beside them, he watched the British storm nearby Chatterton’s Hill. Moments later, his attention was diverted as he glimpsed movement towards the neighboring hillside. The British obviously recognized the hill’s importance, but they were equally ignorant of his men atop the promontory. Heath watched in satisfaction as the infantry and artillery delivered a terrific fire into the enemy ranks. The British were so stunned they fell back. A brief while afterwards, the general spotted them reforming, but they had no intention of striking again. Instead, they turned to Chatterton’s Hill, and despite the Continentals’ valiant efforts, the British took the ground, forcing the army to fall back to new defensive positions. Under covering fire, Heath evacuated those troops charged with defending the neighboring hillside and then marched to rejoin the army. He spent the next few days constructing redoubts and remaining vigilant for another British attack. On November 7th, however, the British retired to New York. In response, General Washington took most of his men into New Jersey while assigning Heath to Peekskill in the Hudson River Valley.

In the weeks that followed, he commanded the troops scattered throughout the Hudson Highlands, and briefly led an expedition into New Jersey in December which resulted in victory over British troops at Bergen. On January 5, 1777 Washington wrote Heath of the two American victories at Trenton and Princeton and ordered him to move on New York. Acting swiftly, Heath struck Fort Independence and successfully overran the outposts, which he communicated to Washington and which led to a belief the fort was about to fall. America’s jubilation was premature, however, as Heath was unable to capitalize on his early achievements and carry the position. He remained in the Highlands until mid-March when he returned to Boston to command the Eastern Department. In that capacity, he recruited troops and dispatched them to New York to combat British General John Burgoyne who was sweeping south from Canada. After Burgoyne surrendered at Saratoga in October, Heath’s assignment expanded to include service as commandant of prisoners, and in 1778 he worked extensively with the French Navy under Count D’Estaing. He rejoined the main army in June and assumed command of the forces on the Hudson’s east bank, gaining command of the entire Hudson that November. Heath remained in command until June 1780 when he left for Providence, Rhode Island to again serve as an intermediary between Continental and French forces. In September he learned of Benedict Arnold’s treacherous plot to hand West Point to the British, and at Washington’s request, he raced up the Hudson to command the fortifications. A year later, in August 1781, Washington gave Heath the honor of commanding the army in New York while he attacked British General Charles Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia. He saw out the rest of the war in New York and had the distinction of being the last American General of the Day, the officer in charge of security and inspecting camp, before hostilities formally ceased in 1783.

Returning to Massachusetts, William Heath continued to pursue a life of public service. He became a major general in the state militia and helped organize the Roxbury Artillery, which assisted in crushing Shay’s Rebellion, an uprising by Massachusetts farmers in 1786 which convinced many of the need for a strong central government. Like Washington, Heath ardently supported federalism and worked to see the Constitution approved, serving as a member of the Massachusetts ratifying convention. He served as a state senator from 1791-1792 and also as a probate court judge. In 1806 he was elected lieutenant governor, but he declined to serve. Even as his political career ended, however, he proudly remembered his wartime experiences, and set about writing his memoirs — one of the few Continental officers to record his career. William Heath died in January 1814, the last American major general of the Revolution to leave the field of honor.

General William Heath truly gave all for the “glorious cause.” Even before war began he devoted himself to preparing his countrymen for the coming struggle. When fighting erupted on April 19, 1775 he committed himself to America’s liberation, and he refused to back down in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. Nowhere was his resolve more evident than in the battles on Manhattan. At Frog’s Neck, and again at White Plains, Heath fought to save the Continental Army, and with it the best chance for independence. Without his tenacity and resourceful leadership, the dream of a free and united country may have died before it even began. William Heath’s heroic actions, indeed his entire life, serve as a shining example of the dedication and sacrifice required to attain and to preserve the freedom we, as Americans, enjoy today.

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The Good Fight

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In the span of only one hundred years, one of the fundamental dynamics of American life radically changed. Throughout the 1800s, most Americans held the same traditional values and beliefs as their fathers, but by the early twentieth century, a more humanistic approach gained a solid foothold. One of the first, and most popular, ideas to gain acceptance was British naturalist Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by way of natural selection — whereby plants and animals adapted physically and environmentally to survive. By the 1920s large numbers of U.S. schools taught evolution as part of the science curriculum. Many Americans however, particularly those outside academia, believed Darwin threatened their Christian heritage, notably God’s creation of the earth, and they pushed back against the new approach. To safeguard their beliefs, Tennessee lawmakers outlawed teaching of evolution in early 1925. Soon after, John Scopes of Dayton was arrested and tried for disobeying the act. Defending Scopes was Clarence Darrow, a well-known lawyer and self-proclaimed atheist. Prosecuting the case was America’s preeminent orator. He had long championed the common man and resolved to defend the values he, and they, held dear. His name was William Jennings Bryan. This is the story of his vigorous defense of Christianity against evolutionists, culminating in the famed 1925 Scopes “Monkey Trial.”

From the moment he stepped onto the national stage, William Jennings Bryan frequently tied political rhetoric to his evangelical beliefs. He was born in Salem, Illinois in March 1860 to a circuit court judge who instilled in his son staunch Christian convictions and a devotion to the Democratic Party. Bryan graduated from Illinois College in 1881, after which he attended Union Law School in Chicago. He moved to Lincoln, Nebraska in 1887 where he enjoyed a successful legal career and participated in Democratic Party affairs. As he crisscrossed Nebraska, he argued Christian ethics applied to society and government as much as to individuals. Practicing what he preached, he gained election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1890 where he championed social and economic reforms, especially replacing gold with silver or bimetallism as a foundation for American currency. His greatest defense of the policy came at the 1896 Democratic National Convention where he thundered, “You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.” The hall erupted in applause and chose the thirty-six-year-old as their presidential candidate. Defeated by William McKinley, he ran for the nation’s highest office in 1900 and in 1908 — losing each bid. Despite vowing to not seek the presidency again, Bryan remained active in both politics and on the lecture circuit where he maintained God and morality should guide reforms. He personally waged a campaign for such causes as prohibition of alcohol. More precious to him though was the end of all war.

As a devout Christian, William Jennings Bryan believed Christ’s peace carried with it the hope international disputes could be settled by negotiations rather than wars. Beginning in 1904, he frequently delivered a “Prince of Peace” address, which stressed accord. Following Woodrow Wilson’s election as president in 1912, Bryan had the chance to implement his ideas as Secretary of State. He negotiated a series of conciliation treaties and sought establishment of commissions to ease tensions between belligerent nations. His hopes for peace were dashed, however, as war engulfed Europe in late 1914. Watching from across the Atlantic, Bryan desperately fought for American neutrality through such efforts as keeping Americans off ships carrying war materiel. After German submarines sank Britain’s Lusitania in May 1915, killing nearly twelve hundred passengers, including 128 Americans, President Wilson resolved to send a message denouncing Germany. Bryan wanted similar action against Britain for endangering American lives. Wilson persisted against Germany, and began preparations for American involvement, causing Bryan to resign. Nevertheless, after America entered the war in April 1917, he urged Americans to plant victory gardens and to purchase Liberty Bonds. When war ended in November 1918, he ardently backed Woodrow Wilson’s call for the League of Nations as a means of achieving his hopes for lasting peace among all nations. His efforts for such a goal were ultimately unsuccessful, but he had little time for despair as his greatest battle still lay ahead.

As the 1920s dawned, Bryan found his way of life, particularly his cherished Christianity, under attack from modernist forces, and he dedicated himself to preserving traditional American values. After touring the country and reading letters from concerned citizens, he recognized the main threat was science’s replacement of religion in American schools. He watched young men and women deny God as a myth and reject the belief the Bible was infallible. Horrified, Bryan passionately declared the “greatest menace to the public school system today is its Godlessness.” The starkest example was Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. Bryan viewed claims mankind was descended from primitive beasts as ludicrous, saying more science existed in God’s creation of man as told in Genesis than in Darwinism. More importantly, he believed Darwinism put the “creative act so far away that reverence for the Creator is likely to be lost.” For Bryan, such loss corrupted Christianity’s foundations and impaired Americans’ spiritual lives. Resolved to “save the Christian church from those who are trying to destroy her faith,” Bryan energetically joined the fundamentalist crusade against evolution.

Seeking to eliminate Darwinism from society, he urged state legislatures to prohibit the subject in schools. Most states either banned textbooks or forced proponents to resign, though Florida did pass a measure prohibiting evolution classes. Then in late January 1925 Tennessee State Representative John Butler proposed legislation whereby Darwin’s theory was unlawful in any school supported by state funds. The bill was passed by both houses and signed into law by Governor Austin Peay. Bryan subsequently wrote Peay the “Christian parents of the state owe you a debt of gratitude for saving their children from the poisonous influence of an unproven hypothesis.” While he celebrated, however, the American Civil Liberties Union was preparing to challenge the law by offering to pay legal fees for anyone willing to violate the measure. The Union found its man in John T. Scopes, a Dayton, Tennessee science teacher. He was arrested in May after refusing to obey the act, saying he could not teach biology without evolution since the approved textbook included a reference to Darwin’s theory. Almost immediately though, the larger battle between evolution and fundamentalism overshadowed the limited nature of Scopes breaking state law. The struggle was most evident in the choices for legal representation. The World’s Christian Fundamentals Association, joined by local prosecutors, tapped Bryan to face off against prominent Chicago lawyer Clarence Darrow. Bryan enthusiastically accepted, as he believed “the contest between evolution and Christianity is a duel to the death. If evolution wins in Dayton, Christianity goes — not suddenly of course, but gradually — for the two cannot stand together.” When Bryan arrived in Dayton on July 7th, therefore, he was greeted by admirers who saw him as a “symbol of their simple religious faith,” according to a New York Times reporter. On July 10th he took his seat at the prosecution table.

As the trial began, Bryan largely kept silent as prosecutors examined four witnesses who testified Scopes used Darwin in his lessons. The prosecution then rested, and Darrow began his defense by expressing an intent to call scientists and clergymen to show no discrepancy between Biblical and scientific creation, starting with Dr. Maynard Metcalf, a zoologist at Johns Hopkins University. Seeing this as his moment, Bryan leapt up, grabbed George Hunter’s Civic Biology, the book used by Scopes, and delivered a scorching oration decrying the notion man was a mere mammal. Caustically, he asked if humanity should be “detached from the throne of God and be compelled to link our ancestors with the jungle” before shouting, “Did [Metcalf] tell you where life began? Did he tell you that back of all there was a God? Not a word about it.” Due in part to Bryan’s efforts, the judge rejected additional scientific testimony, though he did allow it read into the official record. This decision led many to believe the trial was over and all that was left were the closing arguments. However, the defense had one more surprise up its sleeve.

Following a weekend recess, Clarence Darrow called William Jennings Bryan himself to the stand. Fellow prosecutors urged him to refuse, but Bryan claimed Darrow was in Dayton to “try revealed religion. I am here to defend it.” He subsequently admitted to a literal acceptance of the Bible, which led to questions about how the sun stood still during Joshua’s battle with the Amorites and how a whale swallowed Jonah. Bryan argued God could perform any miracle, but as the examination continued, it became clear he did not think everything in the Bible was literal. He admitted Joshua’s account might mean the earth stopped revolving around the sun and the six “days” resulting in earth’s creation might not be actual twenty-four hour periods. To explain this inconsistency, Bryan said each account used language people of the time understood. Unspoken was his belief that the Bible’s ability to halt such a dangerous philosophy as evolution was more important than whether every natural event told in the Bible was literally true. Still, thinking he had discredited Bryan, Darrow ended his examination, and the trial. The next day he chose not to give a closing argument, thereby denying Bryan a chance to give a much-anticipated speech. After only eight minutes of deliberation, the jury issued a guilty verdict, leaving Bryan satisfied that the law had been upheld.

Determined to continue the fight, he spent two days typing his undelivered speech before travelling to Chattanooga where it was printed. In Bryan’s own words, the speech challenged all the evolutionist arguments, and he hoped it appeared across America. On Saturday, July 25th, he spoke in Winchester, Tennessee before returning to Dayton for Sunday church services. In what was to be his final public act, Bryan led the congregation in prayer. That afternoon, he laid down to rest and never woke up. Though buried in Arlington National Cemetery, his real resting place was in the hearts and minds of all who saw William Jennings Bryan as American Christianity’s greatest defender.

Today, William Jennings Bryan is seen as a symbol of the fight against progress, but such a belief is too narrow. Throughout the battle against evolution, indeed throughout his entire life, the thing Bryan actually fought for was humanity’s betterment, and his commitment fueled his passion to the very end. It lay behind virtually all his previous struggles, from his fight for silver-backed currency in the 1890s to his efforts to end all conflict in the years before and after World War I. In evolution and its modernist advocates, Bryan saw the complete destruction of Biblical principles that guided healthy Christian living. It was this he ardently opposed — not merely evolution itself. He furiously waged battle against those he considered enemies of the faith, and he never surrendered, ultimately giving his life for his beliefs. Perhaps no finer tribute could define William Jennings Bryan than the words of 2nd Timothy 4:7 — “I have fought the good fight…I have kept the faith.”

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Twice a Rebel

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From its earliest days, Texas has attracted men and women from across the United States desiring a fresh start in life. Migration first began in the 1820s when the newly created Mexican government permitted American empresarios, or land agents, most notably Stephen F. Austin, to bring settlers into the territory. Waves of immigrants poured in and made their mark on the land. However, during the early 1830s Mexican dictator Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna rose to power and asserted totalitarian authority over the province. Outraged at his actions, Texans launched a war of independence in October 1835. News of the revolution spread east like wildfire and fired the imaginations of young Americans keen to cross the Mississippi River and liberate the newly proclaimed Republic of Texas. Among those who joined the fight was a U.S. Army officer from Kentucky. He had already earned a reputation as a warrior on the U.S.’s northern frontier, and in the years following his arrival in Texas he defended his new home from similar perils. His name was Albert Sidney Johnston. This is the story of his gallant service on the Texas frontier.

Long before settling in Texas, Albert Sidney Johnston exhibited the same independent spirit which led others to make the Lone Star State their home. He was born in early February 1803 in Washington, Kentucky to a physician who hoped his son would pursue a future in law. As a boy, however, Johnston heard stirring accounts of the War of 1812 and dreamed of life in the U.S. Navy. In an effort to discourage him, his father sent him to live with his older brother, Josiah Stoddard Johnston, in Louisiana. Albert Sidney became a true gentleman under Josiah’s guidance, but he refused to abandon his military ambitions. He briefly attended Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky before entering the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York in 1822. At the Academy, Johnston poured himself into his studies, determined to master each subject rather than simply attain high grades. He excelled in mathematics and tactics and was so adept in martial discipline he became cadet adjutant. He stood eighth in the Class of 1826, and when the time came to pick a branch, Albert Sidney once again surprised everyone by turning down General Winfield Scott’s offer of aide-de-camp in favor of becoming a foot soldier — a second lieutenant in the Second Infantry.

Posted to the remote outpost of Sacket’s Harbor, New York on Lake Ontario, Lieutenant Johnston threw himself into drilling the garrison, but boredom soon set in. Relief came in April 1827 when he was ordered to join the Sixth Infantry stationed at Jefferson Barracks in St. Louis, Missouri. Only days after his arrival, he marched north against hostile Winnebago Indians who had attacked and killed settlers along the Wisconsin River. Together with his comrades, he compelled the Indians to negotiate boundaries on their tribal lands and to refrain from future attacks. Back in St. Louis, he spent the next five years on garrison duty, and despite falling in love, marrying, and fathering two children, he chafed at the inactivity. Then in 1832 word came of an Indian uprising led by Sauk and Fox war leader Black Hawk. Alongside General Henry Atkinson, Johnston advanced into Illinois and Wisconsin to subdue the threat. He vigorously pursued the Indians through the summer before catching up and defeating the renegade chief at the bloody August 2nd battle on the Bad Axe River. During the fighting, he showed himself to be a “cool, clear-headed man and an excellent officer,” according to one eyewitness. Soon after returning home, however, tragedy robbed him of all joy. Within three years, he lost his father, his beloved brother Josiah, an infant daughter, and finally his wife. Distraught, he retreated to Louisville, Kentucky where his wife’s family lived. As 1836 began, Johnston found himself without a profession — having resigned from the Army when his wife fell ill — and seeking a new path in life.

At this moment of despondency, Albert Sidney Johnston learned of the fighting in far-off Texas. On March 3, 1836, the day after delegates declared independence at Washington-on-the-Brazos, Texas Commissioner Stephen F. Austin arrived in Louisville with word of the revolution and a call for military assistance. Eager to join the noble crusade, Johnston resolved to offer his sword to this bold new republic. He rode south to Louisiana and crossed the Sabine River on July 13th — nearly three months after General Sam Houston routed Santa Anna at San Jacinto, near present-day Houston, Texas. On the 15th Johnston arrived in bustling Nacogdoches in east Texas where he met General Houston and presented him letters of recommendation from Henry Atkinson and other officers attesting to his bravery and skill. Seeing Johnston’s potential, Houston dispatched him to the Texas Army, now under the command of General Thomas Rusk. He joined the ranks as an enlisted man, but by August 5th his talents convinced Rusk to appoint Johnston his adjutant general. He proved so adept at instilling order and discipline among the soldiers that in October Secretary of War John Wharton promoted him to colonel and named him adjutant general of all Texan forces. He held that position only four months before winning promotion to the rank of senior brigadier general — giving him field command of the Texas Army.

In that position, General Johnston faced the daunting task of repelling potential Mexican invasions of the new nation. While Santa Anna had signed a treaty giving Texas independence a year earlier, Mexican authorities still refused to recognize Texas’ sovereignty. Soon after taking command, Johnston learned six thousand Mexican troops were massing at Matamoros on the Rio Grande. The general yearned to attack but was told by President Houston to make Mexico strike first. Though compliant, Johnston did not wholly surrender the initiative. He dispatched cavalry patrols to monitor Mexican movements and drilled his 1,700 men to ensure their readiness. His actions, along with political unrest in Mexico, discouraged the expected invasion. Still, Johnston remained vigilant. In late 1837 he led forty horsemen to the frontier where he reconnoitered the roads and river crossings leading into Texas and secured the southern border against raiders. He was still there in April 1838 when he heard rumors of a Mexican column advancing towards him. Marshaling 200 men, Johnston rode out to meet the enemy, only to discover Mexico’s war with France had disrupted the invaders’ northward march. Subsequent inactivity led him to leave the army, but his faithful service had endeared him to the people of Texas. When Mirabeau Lamar became second president of Texas later that same year, he appointed Albert Sidney Johnston Secretary of War.

Upon taking office, Secretary Johnston called for the creation of new infantry, cavalry and artillery regiments to safeguard the republic. He still perceived a threat from south of the border, but as Mexican officials focused on defeating France and quelling internal rebellions, an uneasy peace descended between the two nations. No longer facing threat of invasion, Johnston turned his attention to the hostile Indians roaming the frontier. Unlike President Houston, who sought conciliation with the tribes, both President Lamar and his Secretary of War considered Indians a menace to Texas’ security. This belief heightened in early 1839 when documents were found on a Mexican bandit showing Cherokee Chief Bowles and other eastern tribes were communicating with Mexican officials. In exchange for the Mexicans’ promise of permanent title to their lands, the tribes attacked Texans on Mexico’s behalf. Outraged, Lamar prepared for war just as Chief Bowles agreed to leave in return for compensation for the work he and his people did on the land. Dispatched as a commissioner, Johnston spent days in seemingly fruitless discussions with Bowles before negotiations finally broke down. On July 15th he ordered nine hundred troops against the village.

Marching alongside his men, the Secretary chased the Indians out of camp and along the Neches River. After advancing ten miles, he found Bowles’ warriors dug in along a hillside and immediately ordered an attack. The Texans surged forward as the Indians fired. Fighting raged for half an hour until darkness fell. Johnston intended to resume battle in the morning, but as the sun rose, he saw eighteen Indians were dead and the rest had taken flight. He pursued the enemy and caught up with them by noon. Once again, he launched an all-out attack, and charging ahead of the army, he slashed through the Indian ranks. Within moments, Chief Bowles was killed and the remaining natives were running for their lives. Johnston followed, killing those who resisted and burning their villages. Facing annihilation, the Cherokees retreated to Arkansas. Fearing a similar fate, those tribes allied with the Cherokee submitted to Secretary Johnston and President Lamar. Some agreed to life on a reservation while others sold their land and moved to the U.S.

Word of Johnston’s martial prowess garnered praise in both Texas and the United States, but the Secretary had little time to savor his triumph. Trouble on the western frontier soon claimed his attention. Marauding Comanches had been menacing settlers while he dealt with the Cherokee. He dispatched what soldiers he could to the garrisons at San Antonio and Gonzales and ordered expeditions against the hostile warriors. When the Cherokees were finally defeated, he moved the army to the frontier, forcing the Comanches to sue for peace. Tribal leaders agreed to give up all white captives and to accept limits on tribal land. As negotiations began in March 1840, Johnston sent three companies of infantrymen to San Antonio to protect the commissioners, but he also readied the army in case the Comanches proved duplicitous. His actions proved wise, for the Commanches only brought one white child with them and denied having more. According to Johnston’s orders, the infantry seized the chiefs as fighting erupted between the two sides. War raged throughout the summer and fall before Texas forces dealt the Comanches crippling blows in battles along the Colorado River. Though the victory belonged to him, Johnston was not on hand to see it — he resigned as Secretary of War in March, having grown tired of bureaucratic work.

Despite leaving public office, Albert Sidney Johnston considered Texas his home and his future tied to it. In January 1843 he bought China Grove Plantation, forty miles from Galveston. While anticipating life as a planter, Johnston still yearned to lead men against Mexico and permanently secure Texas’ independence — ending the threat of invasion once and for all. His chance came in 1846 in the wake of Texas’ annexation to the Union. Joining U.S. General Zachary Taylor on the Rio Grande, Johnston became colonel of the First Texas Infantry and joined the march on Monterrey in northern Mexico. During the September 21st battle, he withstood a charge by Mexican lancers and directed a withering fire that emptied saddles and sent the survivors fleeing. With the city’s fall, and his enlistment’s end, he returned home, but rejoined the Army in 1850 as paymaster for the frontier garrisons stretching from Austin to Fort Worth. After five years spent crossing vast prairies to visit each fort, U.S. Secretary of War Jefferson Davis appointed Johnston colonel of the 2nd U.S. Cavalry. At the end of March 1856, he also received command of the Department of Texas. In that capacity, Johnston waged offensive operations against the Comanches and other renegade tribes.

He was in the midst of pacifying the frontier when called upon to command an expedition against rebellious Mormons in the Utah Territory, earning promotion to brigadier general during the campaign. He occupied Utah until March 1860 when he took command of the Department of the Pacific, comprising California and Oregon. In San Francisco in April 1861, he learned Texas had seceded. Knowing he could not fight against his adopted homeland, Albert Sidney Johnston resigned from the U.S. Army and offered his services to the Confederacy. On September 10th he accepted command of Confederate Department Number Two, encompassing the entire western front. For seven months, he valiantly defended Kentucky and Tennessee from Union invasion before being driven back into northern Mississippi. On April 6, 1862 he launched a surprise attack on Union General Ulysses S. Grant’s army encamped at Shiloh. While leading an attack against the Union defensive line known as the Hornet’s Nest, a Minie ball severed the popliteal artery just below the right knee, causing Johnston to bleed to death in minutes. News of the loss staggered the nation, but nowhere was his loss felt more than in the state he had dedicated his life to protecting. Initially buried in New Orleans, all knew he “wanted a handful of Texas earth on [his] breast.” On February 2, 1867 he was reburied in Austin’s Texas State Cemetery, where he remains to this day.

By any definition, Albert Sidney Johnston was a true Texan. He dedicated his life to the Lone Star State and embodied the principles so many inhabitants held dear. He came to Texas as a young man seeking a fresh start, but he found so much more. He found purpose fending off the Republic’s enemies, Mexican and Indian alike, and he repeatedly demonstrated daring leadership and battlefield audacity. For his heroism, he received the love of his country and was elevated to the top echelon of Texas heroes. Given such acclaim, Johnston could not turn his back on Texas. When forced to choose between the Union and Texas, he said, “It seems like fate that Texas has made me a Rebel twice.” It was a moniker he proudly bore, regardless of the cost.

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The Count

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For eight long and brutal years, from 1775-1783, the Continental Army fought to liberate the United States from British oppression. During the conflict, fifty thousand Continental troops were killed, wounded, died of disease or perished as prisoners of war. Not all the casualties were native-born Americans, however. Numerous European officers crossed the Atlantic and pledged fidelity to the “glorious cause.” Most famous were France’s Marquis de Lafayette and Prussia’s Baron von Steuben, both of whom remained by George Washington’s side until the final victory was won. Both men displayed military prowess on battlefields across the country, and by war’s end, they were two of Washington’s most trusted subordinates. Other foreign patriots similarly fought tenaciously against the British, and several laid down their lives on the altar of freedom. Among them was a Polish nobleman who had championed, and fought for, liberty in his native land. Though forced to flee, his ardor still burned bright. His name was Casimir Pulaski. This is the story of his faithful service to the United States as a ferocious cavalry officer.

Having entered the world at a time when most of Europe’s monarchs ruled with an iron fist, Casimir Pulaski devoted his life to freedom’s crusade. He was born in Warsaw, Poland in March 1747 to a wealthy and respected magistrate and came of age during the rule of Stanislaw Augustus, lover and puppet of Russian Empress Catherine the Great. Like his father, Casimir vehemently opposed Russian interference in Polish affairs. In 1768 he, along with the rest of the revolutionary Confederation of Bar, took up arms to drive Russian forces out of Poland. Though only twenty-one, Pulaski quickly rose to prominence among the rebellion’s leaders, often leading four thousand men at a time into battle. As fighting raged from western Poland to the Carpathian Mountains on the southern border, the zealous young officer won renown for his daring military operations against the hated enemy. In addition to guerrilla attacks on Russian supply depots, he showed no hesitation in assaulting superior forces. At the fortress of Okope, for example, he led two hundred horsemen down a rocky precipice and, screaming like the proverbial Turks, charged the Russians below. On another occasion, he lured a body of Russian soldiers into a swamp and overwhelmed them. Even when Russia drove his rebels into Hungary, Pulaski refused to surrender. Rather, he marshaled his troops, and in late 1770 he marched back into Poland, intent on capturing Warsaw. In January 1771 he achieved a stunning victory at Czenstokow where his men repulsed waves of Russians using fireballs and rocks. In the battle’s aftermath, he resumed his guerrilla attacks on the enemy before supporting a plot to abduct King Stanislaw, who had assisted the Russian war effort. The attempt failed due to the incompetence of Polish troops, and, with the aid of Austria and Prussia, Russian forces quickly crushed the rebellion. Labeled a regicide and condemned to death, Pulaski had no choice but to flee Poland in disgrace.

With nowhere to go, Casimir escaped south to Turkey, then part of the Ottoman Empire, where he pressed the country’s rulers to declare war on Russia. When his petition was rejected, he headed west. By 1776 he was in France, and it was there he first heard of the fight for liberty raging across the Atlantic. Heartened to hear of another people resisting oppression, Pulaski saw a chance for redemption. In America, he could strike the blow for freedom that had been denied him in Poland. Determined to see America victorious, Count Pulaski, as he now styled himself, met with U.S. representative Benjamin Franklin and pledged his undying fidelity to the “glorious cause.” Franklin readily accepted Pulaski and penned a glowing endorsement, calling Pulaski an “officer famous throughout Europe for his bravery and conduct in defense of the liberties of his country.” Within days, Casimir boarded a ship bound for the United States and arrived in the nascent republic in late summer 1777.

Stepping foot on American soil, Pulaski immediately travelled to George Washington’s headquarters where he so impressed the commanding general that Washington encouraged the Continental Congress to commission the Count a Continental cavalry officer. Before Congress could act, however, British General William Howe appeared outside Philadelphia, then the U.S. capital. Though without a command, Pulaski still determined to fight the British. On September 11, 1777, he watched as Hessian General Wilhelm von Knyphausen stormed across Brandywine Creek. Almost simultaneously, gunfire was heard from further north where Howe and the main army had crossed the creek and struck the American right flank. American soldiers ran in terror. Seizing the initiative, Pulaski rode to the front of the thirty horsemen comprising Washington’s personal guard, and as the general himself watched, the gallant officer charged forward. As he had in Poland, Pulaski swept into the British ranks with such ferocity the enemy was caught by complete surprise. Slashing his saber first to the right, then the left, he engaged his adversaries in hand-to-hand combat. Taking advantage of the Pole’s daring assault, Washington evacuated the army to safety. As Pulaski prepared to follow, he observed British troops closing in on the road to Chester, Pennsylvania, the Continental Army’s main supply route. Wasting no time, he assumed command of nearby Continental troops and led them against the front and flank of the British column. Once again, he stopped the advance, not only saving the army but much-needed supplies as well.

In recognition of his courageous actions, the Continental Congress commissioned Pulaski a brigadier general and gave him command of the Continental Army’s 539-man cavalry division. He first led his new command into action at the October 4th Battle of Germantown when General Washington attacked British forces outside Philadelphia. After initially driving the British back, American troops were repulsed by an enemy counter attack. As the Continental Army fell back, Pulaski, once again, held the rear guard and was the last officer to leave the field. Soon after, he took up winter quarters at Trenton, New Jersey where he ensured the region was free of Loyalist raids. He also skirmished with British forces, such as at Chestnut Hill where he killed five men and took two prisoners. At another skirmish at Haddonfield, New Jersey, in late February 1778, Pulaski audaciously led fifty horsemen in striking a 2,000-man British column, which threatened American foraging parties. During the fighting, he had five horses shot out from under him, but he refused to quit the field. When not actively engaged, he lobbied Washington and Congress to consolidate the disparate cavalry units into a unified command and use it as a mobile strike force. When such hopes proved futile, he raised his own legion, comprising over three hundred cavalry and infantry. In October he led the command against British raiders at Little Egg Harbor, New Jersey and sent them fleeing. Four months later, in February 1779, he received orders to march to South Carolina where his legion was desperately needed.

Unable to achieve a decisive victory against American forces in the northern U.S., British forces had invaded the American South and quickly captured Savannah, Georgia. Dispatched to Charleston to join General Benjamin Lincoln, Pulaski reached the city on May 11th, the same day as British forces. Without stopping to rest, the general led his troopers along the road leading out of Charleston and met the advancing British in open battle. Twice, he charged British lines, and despite heavy casualties, he so overawed the British they halted their advance, allowing Lincoln time to bring in additional reinforcements and save the city. As the townspeople breathed a sigh of relief, they hailed Casimir Pulaski as a national hero. While he welcomed such acclaim, the Count recognized British forces still menaced Charleston from their base at Savannah. Along with General Lincoln, Pulaski determined the best way to keep Charleston safe was by driving into Georgia and recapturing the British bastion.

Along with General Lincoln, Pulaski advanced south and arrived outside Savannah in late September where they were joined by French Admiral Comte d’Estaing. The two armies quickly surrounded the five British redoubts protecting the city, and on October 9, 1779 the attack began. D’Estaing led four thousand French and American troops against the redoubt at Spring Hill. As the Allies pressed forward, British artillery opened fire. D’Estaing himself fell with wounds to the arm and leg. Seeing their commander struck down, the assault began to falter. It was at this critical moment that General Casimir Pulaski appeared on the scene. He galloped to the front of the charge and attempted to rally the retreating soldiers. Seeing the enemy defenses just a few yards ahead, he determined to push into the British works. Shouting for two hundred horsemen to follow him, he ploughed forward. Suddenly, a British artillery round struck him in the groin and upper right thigh. He was carried to the brig Wasp where surgeons worked diligently to save this remarkable warrior. Sadly, gangrene set in, and the man who opposed tyranny on two continents died of his wounds on October 11th. Accounts vary as to Pulaski’s final resting place, but it is known that upon the Wasp’s arrival in Charleston, South Carolina, the city held a grand procession commemorating all Casimir Pulaski had done for the cause of freedom.

Although not born in the United States, Casimir Pulaski embraced the highest ideals that Americans have always held dear. He sought to bring liberty and justice to his native Poland and risked death to defy tyrannical Russia. He enthusiastically battled freedom’s enemies, and even when he was driven out of his homeland, he refused to forsake the cause. Instead, he found a land that loved liberty as much as he did. To this new country, he gave what Abraham Lincoln later called the “last full measure of devotion.” America so valued his heroic service that in 2009 he was made an honorary citizen of the United States — only the seventh person ever to receive the honor. Today, America fondly refers to Lafayette as “the Marquis” and to von Steuben as “the Baron.” In the same spirit, Casimir Pulaski deserves remembrance as “the Count.”

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One of the Few, One of the Proud

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On December 8, 1941, the day after Imperial Japan launched a surprise attack on the U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Congress to declare war on the island nation during his celebrated “Day of Infamy” speech. Quickly mobilizing, the U.S. counterattacked in 1942, and by the fall of 1944 American forces were within two thousand miles of Japan. Vicious fights had raged from the beginning, but some of the fiercest battles still lay ahead. In mid-September U.S. troops landed on a six-mile coral and limestone landmass in the Palau Islands of the western Pacific known as Peleliu. Among those who fought their way ashore before pushing inland was a U.S. Marine officer from Massachusetts. He knew well the Japanese’s ferocity, for he had previously witnessed their determination to die rather than shame themselves, at least in their eyes, by surrendering. He soon found himself in the battle of his life. His name was Everett Pope. This is the story of how his gallant assault and then defense of Hill 154 won him the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Even before the United States entered World War II, Everett Pope embarked on a career in the U.S. military. He was born in July 1919 in Milton, Massachusetts but later moved to the Boston suburb of North Quincy. After high school, he attended Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, the alma mater of Gettysburg hero Joshua L. Chamberlain who won the Medal of Honor for his defense of Little Round Top. While there, Pope captained the championship tennis team and earned a degree in French. He graduated magna cum laude and a member of the prestigious Phi Beta Kappa honor society in 1941. Soon after, having been captivated by the presentation of a Marine recruiter he met on campus, Everett enlisted in the United States Marine Corps. During basic training, he demonstrated such natural leadership that his superiors recommended him for Officer Candidate School. On November 1st he was commissioned a second lieutenant and posted to Quantico, Virginia, and later the Marine base at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, for additional training. He was still there when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, hurtling the United States into World War II. With the outbreak of war, it was only a matter of time before Everett received orders to ship out for distant battlefields.

In June 1942 Lieutenant Everett Pope, leading a platoon in the 1st Marine Regiment’s 1st Battalion, boarded a troop ship bound for the Solomon Islands in the South Pacific as part of the U.S. invasion of Guadalcanal. The campaign was designed to protect Allied forces in Australia. On August 7th Pope and his “leathernecks” stormed the beach and surged inland to secure the island’s airfield, labeled Henderson Field in honor of Marine pilot Lofton Henderson who was killed in the June Battle of Midway. Within days, however, the new officer found himself face-to-face with an intransigent Japanese Army. Along with his fellow servicemen, Pope doggedly engaged enemy troops across the island. He proved so ferocious a fighter that he later won the Bronze Star for meritorious service. The platoon stayed on Guadalcanal until early 1943 when it was sent to Melbourne, Australia for much-needed rest and relaxation.

During this time of rejuvenation, Pope was promoted to captain and assumed command of Company C. That fall, he and his men prepared to attack a second Japanese bastion — Cape Gloucester in New Britain. American commanders sought to isolate Japanese forces on Rabaul and thereby safeguard the sea-lanes linking New Britain with New Guinea. Fighting raged from the last days of 1943 until April 1944. As the campaign ended, Pope was charged with sweeping through the wild countryside to ensure no pockets of enemy resistance remained. On one patrol across twelve miles of jungle trails, he and fourteen comrades killed twenty enemy combatants. More amazing, however, he successfully captured seven Japanese soldiers and marched them back to American lines for interrogation. With New Britain secure, Pope’s company boarded transports and embarked for the western Pacific to join other U.S. forces in launching the first stages of a drive on Japan itself.

By late 1944 U.S. forces had driven Japan out of the South and Central Pacific, and U.S. commanders began debating future military operations. Despite the Navy’s objections, General Douglas MacArthur pressed for and achieved permission for a long-awaited attack to reclaim the Philippines. In preparation for the invasion, MacArthur sought to stabilize his right flank with an assault on the Japanese-held island of Peleliu. The island would also serve as a base from which U.S. aircraft could launch air raids on the Japanese homeland. Once the strategy was approved, vessels carrying the 1st Marine Regiment, including Captain Pope and his 235-man Company C, anchored offshore. There, the troops waited for the moment when they would spill onto the coral beaches facing them. On September 15th Everett Pope charged ashore at the head of his Marines and doggedly fought inland, set on capturing the island’s strategic airfield. Once the airfield was secured, he faced an even more daunting and costly task — clearing the Umurbrogol ridges of Japanese troops. During the next four days, Company C suffered thirty percent casualties. The loss of so many skilled fighters forced Pope to employ cooks, bakers and clerks as riflemen. In addition, Japanese soldiers infiltrated American lines on the night of September 18th, preventing the captain and his men from getting even a little sleep. The next morning, Captain Everett Pope received the orders that would change his life forever.

As dawn broke on September 19th, the 1st Marine’s legendary commander, Colonel Lewis “Chesty” Puller, directed Pope to lead his remaining 90 men against a coral outcropping, labeled Hill 154, along the slope of what came to be called, for obvious reasons, Suicide Ridge. Despite the climate’s oppressive heat, which consistently rose above 100 degrees, and the lack of suitable drinking water, the company prepared to carry out its orders. Pope led the way through a swamp and then up the hill. Despite covering fire from American mortars and machine guns, Japanese mortars and field guns opened enfilading fire from adjacent heights along the ridge and inflicted heavy damage. Additionally, Japanese troops emerged from their caves dug into the hillside and fired on the Marines. As men fell around him, Pope knew he could not remain where he was and ordered his men to fall back. Still, he determined to achieve the objective, and after regrouping, he charged forward a second time. Again, the enemy met him with fierce opposition, but Pope refused to back down this time. Exhorting the Marines around him, he secured a foothold and began pushing the Japanese back. No matter how hard they tried, Japanese soldiers could not dislodge the stalwart Marines. As the sun sank towards the horizon, Captain Everett Pope and thirteen fellow Marines stood atop Hill 154. He had taken the hill at a huge cost, but even so he knew the battle was not over yet.

Surveying his position, Pope saw the hill was open to attack on three sides, and the barren terrain allowed Japanese troops to pour unobstructed fire on the Marines. Knowing he must hold out as long as possible, the captain deployed his men at vital positions across the hill and listened for the enemy’s approach. The first wave of attackers came just after darkness fell. In ones and twos, the Japanese stealthily climbed the hill wearing black uniforms and split-toed shoes with rubber soles. The defenders were ready though and opened fire using a handful of tommy guns, rifles, one light machine gun and several hand grenades. Pope watched as these small teams fell back, only to repeat the same strategy minutes later. Scattered fighting continued until midnight when the Japanese rejected such spoiling raids in favor of all-out assaults. Waves of twenty-five soldiers stormed the American position again and again, but each time Pope’s men fired on the enemy and repulsed the surges. During one attack, shrapnel struck Pope in the thigh; despite excruciating pain, however, Pope stayed in command and refused to abandon his men until the life or death contest was decided.

As the night progressed, Japanese soldiers proved so determined as to come within the Marines’ lines, resulting in hand-to-hand fighting on occasion. Still, the Americans held their ground, but by the early hours of September 20th, the troops were running low on ammunition. Worse, they could see Japanese officers had redoubled their efforts to recapture Hill 154. Flares erupted overhead in the darkness, allowing the Japanese to direct small-arms fire on the Marines. Pope’s men returned fire with their few precious grenades. As the Japanese lobbed their own grenades at the defenders, the Americans threw them back before they could detonate. Soon, however, the supply ran low. Refusing to give up, Pope ordered his men to throw rocks to keep the enemy off balance. Due to the darkness, the Japanese were unable to tell if the Marines were throwing rocks or the real thing — grenades. Still the enemy was undeterred, and under orders from their officers, they swarmed up the hill again.

As the Japanese closed in, Pope and his men fired off their last rounds of ammunition. In desperation, he ordered empty ammunition boxes hurled at the attackers, but in moments, enemy soldiers were amongst his own men. There was now only one course of action left. The injured Pope raised his fists and led his few able-bodied men in hand-to-hand combat. A bare-knuckled brawl erupted. Overwhelmed by the unexpected tenacity, the Japanese fell back. As they did so, dawn appeared on the horizon. As the morning sun dispelled the darkness, Japanese troops spied the crest of Hill 154 and gaped openly at the sight before them — only nine U.S. Marines stood atop the hill. Japanese commanders immediately rallied almost one hundred soldiers to attack en masse. Looking on, Pope knew he and his men would not survive what was coming. Suddenly, however, orders arrived for him to fall back. Not wasting any time, he led his troops down the hillside and back to American lines.

In the days after his heroic defense of Hill 154, Captain Everett Pope continued to battle the Japanese across Peleliu, returning to Hill 154 nearly two weeks after leaving to bury his dead. He remained in the Pacific theatre until November. Two months later, in January 1945, he was promoted to major and assigned to a Japanese language course at Yale University in anticipation of the U.S. invasion of Japan itself, scheduled for later that year. At the same time, word of his valiant actions on Peleliu had reached the highest corridors of power in Washington, D.C. On June 15, 1945 President Harry Truman presented Everett Pope with the nation’s highest award for bravery — the Congressional Medal of Honor — for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.” The war ended two months later with the Japanese surrender. Though placed on inactive duty in July 1946, he commanded the Marine Corps Reserve’s 2nd Infantry Battalion in Hingham, Massachusetts, and with the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, he briefly returned to active duty as executive officer of the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment stationed at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. He resigned from the Marine Corps in 1951 and spent twenty-five years as a Boston, Massachusetts bank president. He later served on Bowdoin College’s governing boards where he established a scholarship as well as an award honoring classmate and fellow Marine Captain Andrew Haldane, who had been killed on Peleliu. Major Everett Pope died in Bath, Maine on his 90th birthday in July 2009 and was laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery in recognition of his devoted service to the United States during World War II.

Throughout his military career, Everett Pope proved himself the quintessential combat officer willing to face any peril. On numerous islands across the Pacific, the gallant commander charged headlong into Japanese positions, but nowhere was his bravery more evident than on Peleliu on September 19-20, 1944. Despite seemingly impossible odds, Pope and just a handful of men first took Hill 154 and then proceeded to hold it against repeated Japanese onslaughts. Even in the face of annihilation, he refused to back down. Through his unflagging courage and devotion to duty, U.S. Marine Corps Captain Everett Pope not only became a national hero but also joined an elite band of warriors decorated for giving of themselves far above and beyond the call of their country. As such, his actions should live forever in the memories of his countrymen.

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Great Scott

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During the winter of 1864, the fourth year of the American Civil War, Union General William Tecumseh Sherman led 60,000 Northern soldiers on his famed March to the Sea from Atlanta, Georgia to Savannah. Along the way, his troops burned and plundered farms scattered across the state. Sherman fully condoned such tactics not only for strategic purposes but also to teach the Southern populace the true meaning of war — a concept now referred to as “total war.” The campaign transformed Sherman into a national hero. It is often forgotten, however, another U.S. commander conducted just as daunting a campaign nearly fifteen years earlier and was just as spectacularly successful. The expedition marked the climax of a long and illustrious career, and it cemented his reputation as America’s foremost soldier. His name was Winfield Scott. This is the story of his campaign from the gulf coast into the heart of Mexico City.

Winfield Scott first rose to national prominence during the War of 1812. He was born in June 1786 in Petersburg, Virginia to a former Continental Army officer and the granddaughter of a wealthy Virginia planter. After attending Virginia’s prestigious College of William and Mary, he briefly pursued a legal career, but mounting tensions over Britain’s impressment of American sailors into the Royal Navy persuaded young Winfield to trade the law for the U.S. military. In 1808 he was commissioned a light artillery captain and began a lifelong habit of wearing ornate uniforms — earning him the nickname “Old Fuss and Feathers.” By the time Congress declared war on Britain in June 1812, Scott was lieutenant colonel of the Second Artillery Regiment. On October 12th he crossed the Niagara River to Queenston, Canada as part of an American invasion force. There he heroically repulsed British attacks to drive the Americans back, at one point leading a counterattack in full-dress uniform. Nonetheless, overwhelming enemy superiority forced him to surrender, and during his five-week captivity, he resolved to never fight defensively again. He proved the value of the offensive in 1813 when he led an audacious attack that routed British troops from Newark, Canada. Hailed as a national hero, the twenty-seven-year-old colonel was promoted to brigadier general in March 1814, making him the youngest in the army. His star rose higher in July 1814 after he executed a masterful flank attack that drove the British from the field during the Battle of the Chippewa. Later that same month, Scott impetuously attacked a British-held ridge at the Battle of Lundy’s Lane and suffered heavy casualties. Nevertheless, the exploits earned Scott the country’s admiration, and he emerged from the war as one of the Army’s top officers.

After the war ended in 1815, Winfield Scott dedicated himself to creating a professional army. He headed a board of officers which adopted French tactics for the U.S. Army, and in 1821 he published a book outlining military regulations. He also championed the establishment of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and its mission to transform young men into effective leaders. Despite these efforts, Congress increasingly called for reducing the Army. Scott perceived such measures as a threat to America’s national security, as well as his own career. In response, he successfully lobbied for preservation of a corps of experienced officers as well as 5,500 soldiers. His actions proved wise. During the 1830s he was frequently called on to mobilize troops to quell various dissident groups opposed to the federal government — first when Indian Chief Black Hawk led an uprising in 1832 in Illinois and again in 1833 when South Carolina nullified a national tariff and threatened war. Three years later in 1836 he led an expedition against Florida’s Seminole Indians and Alabama’s Creeks that, while unsuccessful, imparted valuable lessons about campaigning in enemy territory, notably how to counter guerrilla warfare. The general also used a combination of military force and diplomacy to ease tensions with Britain resulting from disputes along the northern border. In 1841 he achieved his dream of becoming the Army’s commanding general. He was still in that position five years later when war erupted between the United States and Mexico.

By the mid-1840s, expansionist fever gripped the nation, beginning with the Republic of Texas’s admission to the Union. Following Texas’s annexation in December 1845, the U.S. and Mexico clashed over the international boundary — whether it should follow the Rio Grande (the U.S.’s claim) or the Nueces River (Mexico’s claim). President James Polk exacerbated the dispute with his wish to acquire Mexico’s western territory and his decision to send troops to the disputed territory. In May 1846 fighting erupted along the Rio Grande, and Winfield vowed to prosecute the war to the end. In late October General Scott proposed to President Polk and to Secretary of War William Marcy that he, despite his position as top general, lead an expedition into the field to capture the Mexican port of Veracruz and then march into the heartland to “compel [the Mexican] people to sue for peace.” With Polk’s approval, Scott arrived on the island of Lobos, the invasion’s staging point, in late February 1847 to find 9,000 men waiting for him. On March 2, 1847 he sailed south and sighted the “Gibraltar of Mexico” two days later. The invasion began on March 9th as surfboats carried troops to Collado Beach, two-and-a-half miles from the city. It was the largest U.S. amphibious landing until the November 1942 Allied invasion of North Africa during World War II. After securing the beachhead, Scott encircled Veracruz from the south, west, and north, and after observing the formidable defenses, he determined to bombard the Mexican forces into submission rather than lose scores of men in a futile frontal assault. He strategically stationed five batteries around the city, one of which was made up of Naval artillery, and on March 22nd he opened fire on the enemy. After five days, the Mexicans surrendered, and Winfield Scott prepared to embark for Mexico’s historic capital.

Departing Veracruz on April 8th, General Scott led his men along the National Road, the same route used by Spaniard Hernan Cortez and his conquistadores on the expedition against the Aztecs from 1519 to 1521. Three days later, the army’s vanguard encountered enemy troops led by General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna at Cerro Gordo Pass. The Mexican commander, most famous for his slaughter of Texas defenders at the 1836 Battle of the Alamo, had placed artillery along ridgelines covering the road as well as on a 600-foot rise known as El Telegrafo. He left a third hill, Atalaya, only lightly defended. When Scott arrived on April 14th, he rejected a frontal attack and dispatched Captain Robert E. Lee, later of Civil War fame, to find a route around the army. After Lee found a path around Atalaya, Scott ordered General Gideon Pillow to demonstrate (make a show of force) against Santa Anna’s front while David Twiggs’s division attacked the enemy’s left flank. The battle began on April 17th as Twiggs stormed Atalaya, driving the enemy before him. He proceeded up El Telegrafo but was beaten back. Scott was undaunted, however, and directed the assault to resume the next day. This time Twiggs succeeded in seizing the high ground and the National Road, capturing over 3,000 Mexican soldiers and forcing the rest to flee in terror.

Determined to capitalize on the victory, Scott pressed on to Jalapa and then Puebla where he halted to await reinforcements and replenish his supplies. All along the way, “Old Fuss and Feathers” exercised strict control over the troops so as to lessen the depredations committed on the Mexican populace. He imposed martial law and directed all criminals to be tried by military tribunal — whether Mexican or U.S. servicemen. In both Jalapa and Puebla, he also established friendly relations with inhabitants, particularly clergymen. This respect encouraged residents to respond in kind, such as selling much needed supplies to the army. By the time Scott left Puebla, his efforts had largely succeeded in ensuring his rear was free of guerrilla activity. Nevertheless, he perceived the danger of maintaining a communications and supply link with American forces on the coast. Knowing the coming battles with Santa Anna required him to be at full strength, he refused to dispatch troops to protect that line. In a maneuver later mimicked by General William T. Sherman, Scott made the momentous decision to sever all contact with the coast, his supply source. He then turned his back on Puebla and led his soldiers out of the rich farmland. He and his men ascended the mountains surrounding Mexico City, and after four days of marching, during which the troops climbed to an altitude of more than 10,600 feet, he looked down on the campaign’s prize — the Valley of Mexico, with Mexico City at its heart.

As he surveyed the valley, Scott saw that Santa Anna had fortified the city’s southern and eastern approaches to repel American attacks. Not willing to risk battle with a superior force, he bypassed both positions using a southern route thought to be impassable and then pushed through the villages of San Agustin and Contreras by way of a dried lava bed known as the Pedregal. On August 20th Scott launched a pincer attack against Mexican forces, which had moved to meet the threat. Gideon Pillow’s troops surged across the lava field into the camps while General William Worth’s command assaulted Mexican positions around nearby San Antonio. Terrified Mexicans abandoned the field and raced to Santa Anna’s headquarters at Churubusco. Determined to keep up the pressure, Scott pressed both commanders to continue the attack. American forces hurled themselves at the Mexican positions around the Churubusco monastery and the bridge over the Churubusco River. At the cost of only 1,000 casualties, American forces inflicted ten times as many casualties on the enemy and drove the rest back into Mexico City itself.

Following the resounding victory, Scott briefly engaged in peace negotiations in hopes the war would end without additional bloodshed. Such hopes dimmed after he learned Mexican leaders made unrealistic demands and Santa Anna had used the temporary cease-fire to bolster his defenses. Convinced that only a decisive American victory would bring peace, “Old Fuss and Feathers” readied his men to attack the bastions facing them. On September 8, 1847 he ordered William Worth to strike the stone structures of Molino del Rey and Casa Mata, rumored to house gunpowder and a foundry for casting cannon. As Worth commenced the attack, Scott likely felt a jolt of panic as Mexican forces inflicted carnage on the first wave, causing the Americans to fall back. To his vast relief, however, the troops charged back into the fray. Bloody fighting erupted among the combatants. U.S. forces lost a total of 791 men, but Worth finally routed the enemy. Scott now intended to use the captured positions to launch his attack on the castle of Chapultepec. His men could then enter the capital from the west, rather than the more heavily defended south. On the morning of September 13th, U.S. troops stormed the hillside, scaled the castle’s walls and jumped over the parapets. In less than an hour and a half, the American flag flew over this symbol of Mexican military might. But the battle was not over yet. Spurred on by the prospect of delivering a knockout punch, American troops surged up the causeways and into the western edge of the city. Though he had not ordered the pursuit, Scott congratulated his subordinates on a well-executed battle. He still expected Santa Anna to defend his capital street by street. As dawn rose on September 14th, however, he was stunned to find the Mexican army gone and the city’s gates opened for his grand entrance.

As he entered the plaza facing Mexico’s National Palace, Winfield Scott cemented his status as an American hero. In only six months, he advanced more than 250 miles, and at the cost of only 3,200 casualties, he inflicted almost five times that many on the enemy. Looking around, he must have swelled with pride at the realization that he had done all he set out to do. Following his triumph, he devoted himself to occupation duty. So judicious was his administration that several influential leaders approached Scott and asked him to be Mexico’s new president, but disputes with Generals Worth and Pillow, and with President Polk, led to his recall in early 1848. Upon his return, he sought to transform his battlefield glory into political success, and in 1852 he became the Whig Party’s presidential nominee. The campaign proved unsuccessful, and he returned his attention to military affairs. In February 1855 Congress honored his military accomplishments by awarding him the rank of lieutenant general. In that position, he directed a military expedition against Mormons in Utah Territory and helped settle a dispute with Great Britain over San Juan Island in Oregon. As the nation drifted towards civil war in early 1861, Scott strengthened federal installations in the new Confederacy, and he increased the troops protecting Washington, D.C. After Confederate forces fired on Fort Sumter in April, he devised a grandiose strategy to blockade Southern ports and send Union troops down the Mississippi River. The strategy, derisively labeled the Anaconda Plan by critics, convinced certain Union leaders Scott was too old to direct the war effort. After twenty years as general-in-chief, Winfield Scott left the U.S. Army on October 31, 1861 and retired to the Military Academy at West Point where he died in May 1866. Befitting his long service to the nation, he was buried in the Academy’s cemetery.

Throughout his life, Winfield Scott strove to advance the banner of the United States. He learned the art of warfare fighting the British along America’s northern border, and he carried the lessons with him as he built the U.S. Army into a professional force able to match any opponent. His greatest moment, however, occurred when he led 10,000 American troops into the heartland of Mexico and soundly defeated Santa Anna. The campaign earned him the undying admiration of his subordinates, many of whom adopted Scott’s tactics and aggressiveness when they fought each other during the American Civil War. While some of those officers and their campaigns, notably William Tecumseh Sherman’s 1864 March to the Sea, came to overshadow Scott’s accomplishment simply because of the enormous scale of that epic war, the 1847 Mexico City campaign and its grand architect still deserve all the praise and recognition so graciously bestowed in that day. When he learned of the American victory, no less than the Duke of Wellington, conqueror of Napoleon, placed on Winfield Scott a mantle few would ever attain — “the greatest living soldier.”

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The Man Behind the Signature

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Due in part to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s celebrated poem, Paul Revere’s midnight ride on April 18, 1775 is one of the American Revolution’s most iconic events. Leaving Boston, the daring patriot crossed the Charles River to Charlestown where he mounted his horse and tore off into the Massachusetts countryside. As he passed each house, he shouted for his countrymen to grab their muskets and prepare to resist the advancing Redcoats. Sounding the alarm was not his only mission, however. He was also desperate to reach Lexington and alert the colony’s two leading patriots of the imminent peril. Both men had long topped Britain’s most wanted list and were, therefore, coveted prizes for the expedition. First and foremost was the fiery Sam Adams who had passionately defended American liberty for ten years and led Boston’s Sons of Liberty against Parliament’s repressive policies. British leaders considered him a rabble-rouser, but his fellow patriot was just as dangerous. Unlike Adams, he came from a well-to-do background and had initially been more moderate in opposition. As Britain cracked down though, he assumed a larger role in the patriot cause. His name was John Hancock. This is the story of how British oppression transformed him from a loyal British subject into a revolutionary American patriot.

By the climactic spring of 1775, John Hancock had risen from humble origins to become one of Boston’s wealthiest inhabitants. He was born in January 1737 in Braintree (now Quincy), Massachusetts, outside of Boston, to a Congregational minister. He enjoyed an idyllic childhood traversing the fields alongside future President John Adams. At age seven, however, his father died, and he faced an uncertain future. Yet, it was at this bleak moment fortune smiled down on young John with the arrival of his Uncle Thomas, a successful merchant who operated Boston’s prestigious House of Hancock. With his mother’s agreement, he travelled to Thomas’s mansion on Beacon Hill and quickly adjusted to the trappings of wealth — riding in a gilt-laden carriage and wearing velvet breeches and a satin shirt with lace ruffles. He also mastered social etiquette and behaved as if he had been born into high society. In fall 1745 Hancock entered Boston’s Public Latin School where he perfected the sweeping handwriting that later made him famous. He then attended Harvard University and spent four years gaining valuable business and social skills. When he graduated in 1754, he was ready to join the House of Hancock.

Taking his place beside his uncle, Hancock devoted himself to becoming a worthy heir and partner. He spent hours pouring over account books and toiling in the firm’s stores, and at other times he traversed the city’s wharves visiting with ship captains or strolled Faneuil Hall’s market stalls conversing with fellow merchants. John gradually assumed greater responsibility, particularly as the French and Indian War raged throughout the 1750s and the House of Hancock served as a major military supplier. He gathered wagons and additional supplies for expeditions against the French, and with his uncle involved in crafting military strategy, his name appeared on supply orders with increasing regularity. His success persuaded Thomas Hancock John was ready to become his senior partner. In 1760, therefore, John visited London and met his uncle’s agents. He also cultivated relationships with British merchants. Returning to Boston in October 1761, he managed the House of Hancock’s daily operations while his uncle remained nominally in charge. That changed three years later, when on August 1, 1764, Thomas Hancock died of a stroke, leaving his nephew to carry on his legacy.

Now one of Boston’s most prominent citizens, John Hancock took to his position with all the dignity and grace expected of him. He forged tighter bonds with Boston’s business and royal elite, often hosting them at lavish dinner parties at the Beacon Hill mansion he inherited from his uncle. Despite enjoying an active social life, however, he also devoted himself to expanding his business empire by contracting with Nantucket whalers to dominate the whale oil industry. He filled his ships with the lucrative commodity and sent them to Britain in hopes of winning the highest bids. He also sent to London for merchandise to stock his stores in expectation of future sales. But it was not to be. The colonies already suffered an economic slump with the end of the French and Indian War, and that slump soon turned into a full-scale depression. There was little need for British goods, as shown by the low turnout at his annual Christmas sale. Adding to his troubles, faster ships carrying cheaper whale oil beat his to London and won the best bids. The House of Hancock was in dire straits, and John desperately sought to prevent bankruptcy, which had already occurred to many of his colleagues. He called in debts owed to his uncle, sold goods on credit and even did the unthinkable — canceled orders for spring and summer goods. It was at this critical moment that he learned of Britain’s intent to levy direct taxes on the colonies.

Even though colonists were suffering economic hardship, British officials determined to raise funds to provide for Redcoat garrisons across North America. Royal authorities also sought to crack down on trade violations. To accomplish these objectives, Parliament adopted the 1764 Sugar Act, which placed a three pence tax on British West Indian molasses while prohibiting the importation of foreign molasses. The act also required colonists to purchase foreign goods from British merchants at higher prices, and it strengthened customs officials’ authority by tightening ship inspections and registration procedures. When he learned of the new legislation, Hancock immediately saw the act as a threat to colonial trade. More personally, the higher prices and the enforcement of customs duties took their toll on his business, and by early 1765, he had only two thousand pounds sterling to cover fourteen thousand pounds of debt. He retained his personal wealth by keeping separate accounts, but he knew he could not last long under current circumstances. In desperation, Hancock warned his London agent of the devastation new laws like the Sugar Act could wreak on the colonies, and he begged for relief. Instead, Parliament passed even more repressive laws such as the Stamp Act, requiring all paper documents to bear a royal stamp, which carried with it an associated tax.

Caught up in the political firestorm engulfing the colonies, Hancock labeled all incoming stamps as the “most disagreeable commodity that were ever imported,” and he wrote how the act “will entirely stagnate trade here, for it is universally determined here never to submit to it.” To prove his opposition, he led 250 Boston merchants in boycotting British goods. When his ships arrived from London, he unloaded them but gave instructions for no more goods until the Stamp Act was repealed. His agents, like other British merchants, lost a tremendous amount of capital and pressured Parliament until the government relented and repealed the despised measure. Hancock himself announced the news when word reached Boston in May 1766. The twenty-nine-year-old merchant was as jubilant as anyone and anticipated carrying on his affairs without further interference. He increased exports to Britain, built more retail stores, and ordered eight thousand pounds worth of merchandise to stock the shelves. Despite his grand hopes, however, British leaders remained determined to assert royal authority over the colonies. Chancellor of the Exchequer Charles Townshend convinced Parliament to levy taxes on imported glass, lead, paint, paper and tea — the Townshend Acts.

Upon learning of the new taxes, Hancock bristled with outrage. No matter how fervently he and others protested, British officials seemed intent on nothing less than the subjugation of the colonies. He resolved to take action against the mother country and immediately persuaded Bostonians to declare commercial independence by adopting nonimportation and nonconsumption agreements. Due to this resistance, customs commissioners struggled to collect duties on taxable goods, and they increasingly saw Hancock as the source of their troubles. The animosity was mutual. He expressly denied officials permission to board his ships, and he even refused to speak or share the same room with such men. Then in April 1768 tensions reached a tipping point when one official boarded his brig Lydia to search for tea, paper and other such commodities. Hancock was waiting for him and asked to see the writ of assistance, or search warrant, allowing him to conduct the search. Told there was no writ, Hancock ordered the ship’s mate and boson to seize the official and dangle him over the water. The terrified commissioner said he had no interest in searching the ship and quickly returned ashore. Commissioners appealed to the attorney general, but he determined that Hancock had acted “within the bounds of the law.” In response, customs officials awaited the opportunity to strike back.

The chance came in June after British forces began arriving in Boston to quell the rising passions. With the backing of the world’s strongest military, customs commissioners declared Hancock had not provided a correct inventory for his ship Liberty and had offloaded valuable cargo at night — though no such signs were apparent when the ship had arrived a month earlier. They declared the Liberty government property and ordered Royal Marines to seize it. Though deeply distressed, Hancock accepted the financial loss and assumed the role of martyr for the patriot cause. His humiliation was not over yet, however. In November Royal Governor Francis Bernard charged Hancock with smuggling, along with encouraging assault and imprisonment of a British agent. (In reality, Bernard sought to bankrupt Hancock and by extension the patriot movement.) During the three-month trial, the public cheered the well-to-do Hancock as a champion for colonial resistance.

Although he still maintained a moderate outlook, it was clear Hancock was approaching a personal break with Britain. In 1772 he signed a series of resolutions denouncing King George III’s decision to pay colonial judges directly rather than through the legislatures. He also vilified Royal Governor Thomas Hutchinson for advocating an “abridgement of what are called English liberties.” Most important of all, however, was Parliament’s passage of the 1773 Tea Act, which allowed the East India Company to sell tea directly to colonial consumers — bypassing colonial merchants like Hancock. Adding insult to injury, Governor Hutchinson’s two sons and Richard Clarke, father-in-law to one son, were appointed distribution agents. Consequently, Hancock was convinced of a plot to drive him and his associates out of business and provide Hutchinson a trade monopoly. He enthusiastically joined in calling for the three men to resign and for the tea to remain unloaded when the ships arrived in late November. While he likely did not directly participate in the December 16th Boston Tea Party, he did send his own tea back to Britain in an open act of rebellion. He had made his choice, and on March 5, 1774, the fourth anniversary of the Boston Massacre, he severed all ties with Britain when he delivered a spellbinding oration. He viciously denounced British tyranny before calling on patriotic citizens to arm themselves and “be ready to take the field whenever danger calls.” He even suggested a union of the thirteen colonies into an independent nation.

Now committed to the “glorious cause,” John Hancock devoted himself to the struggle for freedom. In late 1774 he was chosen president of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, prompting British troops to threaten his life and property. In April 1775, therefore, he departed Boston for nearby Lexington. When Paul Revere warned of the advancing Redcoats on the morning of April 19th, Hancock desired to stand and fight, but Sam Adams persuaded him to travel on to Philadelphia and the Continental Congress. Elected president of that august body, he chaired congressional debates and corresponded with colonial leaders. Of course, his greatest accomplishment occurred on July 4, 1776 when he signed, with a stroke bold enough for even a king to see, the Declaration of Independence — in effect becoming president of the United States. Often overlooked is the fact that for almost a month, until August 2nd when the rest of Congress signed, Hancock’s was the only signature affixed to the openly seditious document. Though he briefly entertained the notion that he might be named commander of the new Continental Army, an honor that quickly went to George Washington, he remained head of Congress for another year, mediating state differences and ensuring passage of the Articles of Confederation. He left Congress in late 1777 due to overwork, but he still served his nation by strengthening social ties with French officers and commanding Massachusetts’ militia with the rank of major general. In 1780 he was elected governor and remained in office through the end of the Revolution in 1783, supporting George Washington to the end. Hancock retired from office in 1785, only to return in 1787 after an uprising by disgruntled farmers known as Shays’ Rebellion. Convinced the U.S. was in jeopardy, he supported the new Constitution and led the fight for ratification. Due to his efforts, Massachusetts was the eighth state to approve America’s new plan of government, and Hancock fervently supported the union until his death in October 1793. His funeral was the largest the country ever saw — befitting the man who had led its inhabitants from subjects of an empire to citizens of a new and sovereign country.

From the very beginning of the American Revolution, John Hancock played a vital role in leading his countrymen to freedom. He was one of the richest and most influential men in Boston, yet he willingly sacrificed his fortune and business interests in the name of the greater good. His countrymen understood this, and they followed him to freedom. By the time he signed the Declaration of Independence, he was more than just the president of Congress — he was the head of a republic. Sam Adams and others are remembered as Sons of Liberty, but it was John Hancock who was one of the true Fathers of the new nation.

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Seeing It Through

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Achieving the “impossible” has long been part of the American dream. For most of the recorded past, it seemed most of the attention was on men. But by the twentieth century, that began to change. American women too sought to break barriers. One of the most famous was Amelia Earhart. With dreams of soaring high, she took to the skies and became the first woman to fly across the continental United States before following Charles Lindbergh in soloing across the Atlantic in 1932. Her reputation increased even more in 1935 when she crossed the Pacific from Hawaii to California in 1935. Then two years later, she embarked on her last and greatest quest — her attempt to fly around the world. She remains one of America’s top aviators, but she was not the only one to achieve immortality by following her dreams. At the same time Earhart was sweeping through the clouds, a California woman was cementing her own reputation on the waves below. This woman came to be one of America’s preeminent swimmers, and she proved it by refusing to allow herself to be defeated. Her name was Florence Chadwick. This is the story of her fortitude and perseverance in overcoming a heartbreaking setback to swim over twenty treacherous miles between Catalina Island and the California coastline.

Florence Chadwick gained an abiding love for the water at an early age and dreamed of becoming a long-distance swimmer. She was born in San Diego, California in November 1918, and entered her first competition at age six — coming in last. Subsequently, she “made up [her] mind to become the best swimmer in California.” At age ten, she came in fourth in a two-and-a-half mile “rough water” swim, and a year later, she won a long-distance race across the mouth of San Diego Bay. Having found her calling, Chadwick began competing in rough water events all across Southern California. She was active all through high school and won every competition, but was most successful in the 2.5-mile race off La Jolla, California — ultimately winning ten times in eighteen years. Her career blossomed, and soon she entertained ambitions not just of being the best in California but of being a world champion.

To achieve her goal, Florence determined to follow the example of Gertrude Ederle, the first woman to swim the English Channel. In 1948 Chadwick moved to Saudi Arabia where she worked for the American oil company Aramco, earning money for the endeavor and training in the warm Persian Gulf twice a day. By 1950 she was ready and travelled to London to apply to the Daily Mail, which sponsored the race. To her shock, she was denied entry due to lack of a reputation. Undaunted, however, Florence paid for her own boat and navigator. Following an unsuccessful attempt in July, she prepared for another go on August 8th. That day she entered the chilly waters off Cape Gris-Nez, France and embarked for the opposite shore — almost twenty-one miles away. Despite the channel’s choppy waves, she kept up a steady pace, all the while fed sugar cubes by her father and encouraged by friends from Saudi Arabia. Finally, she saw the English coast, and a short time later, she stepped foot near Dover as two fishermen looked on — the only witnesses to her extraordinary feat. She made the crossing in thirteen hours and twenty minutes — beating Gertrude Ederle’s 1926 world record by one hour and eleven minutes. Asked how she felt, she replied she was ready to swim in the opposite direction. It was no idle boast. A year later she completed the more rigorous swim from England to France in sixteen hours and twenty-two minutes — becoming the first woman to swim the Channel both ways. Her greatest enterprise, however, was yet to come.

Upon returning home, Florence sought to become the first woman to swim the twenty-mile channel between Catalina Island and the California mainland, a cold and dangerous stretch of water. She spent the remainder of 1951 and the first part of 1952 preparing for the massive undertaking. On July 4th she stood on the island’s shore and gazed toward the distant coastline. Florence knew she had to swim against the frigid California Current, a part of the North Pacific Gyre which brings the cold waters of the North Pacific southward along the U.S.’s west coast. Seawater lapped against her feet, and she shivered from the intense cold. Most problematic of all, however, was the dense fog that covered the channel, another summer phenomenon caused by the cold waters. It was impossible to see more than a few feet in front of her. Still, Florence thought the fog would dissipate soon, so she decided to go ahead and set out for the hidden shore. She dove into the water and began kicking with all her might. Boats filled with support crew followed her, and at times, the crew fired rifles into the water to scare off nearby sharks as they began to circle the determined young woman. Thankful for these efforts, Florence continued to glide through the water, but as the hours passed, the strain began to take its toll. The fog refused to lift, and she began to feel discouraged. She had no way of knowing where she was or how much farther she had to go.

By the time she had been in the water for fifteen hours, she had nearly reached her limit. She called out to her mother and trainer in one of the boats and told them she did not think she could finish. Both women told her to keep going. They insisted she was near her objective, and it would not be long before she stood on the beach at Palos Verde, California. Florence took a deep breath and pushed ahead, but a few minutes later, she raised her head and felt nothing but a numbing exhaustion. Fog was everywhere, and suddenly, Florence Chadwick doubted herself. Admitting defeat, she asked for a nearby crew to help pull her out of the water, and a moment later, she stood on the deck of the boat heading towards shore. It was the first time she had given up and not completed a swim. Her disappointment was magnified minutes later when the boat docked and she realized she had been less than a mile from shore. Standing in front of reporters, she candidly said, “If I could have seen land I know I could have made it.”

For the next two months, Florence reminisced how she allowed the fog to keep her from achieving her dream. She was so close — if only she had been able to see her goal. She then determined it would not happen a second time. That distant shore would never leave her mind’s eye. In September she announced she would be swimming the channel again. Days later, she was back on the Catalina beach looking towards California. With steely resolve, she dove into the water and pushed with all her might. Again, fog descended over the ocean, but this time she was not discouraged. She knew somewhere ahead lay the coastline, and she kept that thought continuously before her. She steadily ploughed forward barely noticing the cold or the fatigue that wracked her body. Each stroke brought her closer to her goal. Minutes turned into hours and hours into a seeming eternity, but there was no quit in her this time. Finally, she felt rocks and sandy soil beneath her and realized she had made it across. Standing up, she felt a burst of pride surge through her. Pushing through all obstacles for thirteen hours and forty-seven minutes, Florence Chadwick became the first woman to swim the Catalina Channel — breaking the men’s record by over two hours. She had come back from an agonizing defeat and was now one of the greatest swimmers in history.

Following her amazing comeback and newfound confidence, Florence continued to prove her prowess in the water. In 1953 she returned to Great Britain and crossed the Channel from England to France in a new women’s record of fourteen hours and forty-two minutes. She also swam the Straits of Gibraltar, off the Spanish coast, in five hours and six minutes — setting a new record for men and women. Then, in the space of just a few weeks, she successfully crossed Turkey’s Bosporus Straits, which separates Europe and Asia, and the Dardanelles. In 1955 she made history one more time by swimming the English Channel in thirteen hours and fifty-five minutes. Though ultimately unsuccessful, Florence also attempted to cross the Irish Sea, which separates Ireland and Scotland, as well as Lake Ontario before retiring in 1960 at age forty-two. Long afterwards, however, she remained an ardent champion of long-distance swimming, and in 1970 she was proclaimed one of the greatest swimmers of all time with her induction into the International Swimming Hall of Fame. Florence Chadwick died in her hometown of San Diego in March 1995, and befitting her love of the ocean, her ashes were scattered over the Pacific off Point Loma.

Like her contemporary Amelia Earhart, Florence Chadwick was a great American woman who set out to achieve the “impossible.” She embodied those personal traits so many Americans admire — fortitude, resilience, determination and unyielding perseverance. Her example stands as a beacon for all to see and to follow. Her story reminds us to never lose sight of our goals, for as she said following that rare defeat off the California coast — if she could have seen the prize, she would have stayed the course. It was a lesson Florence Chadwick never forgot, nor should we.

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