History Highlight—Week of April 30

“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” —1 Corinthians 10:31

Stonewall Jackson’s Mortal Wounding, May 2, 1863

In the recent book The Smoothbore Volley That Doomed the Confederacy, by historian Robert Krick, we see, from a human perspective, an event that many historians, and Southerners in particular, believed changed history in such a way that subsequent events were just running out the clock after the All-American player had been removed from the team. Whether Stonewall Jackson’s death after the Battle of Chancellorsville “doomed” the nation or not, his removal from history secured his reputation and importance in Civil War historiography and American culture until recent times.


Jackson’s Mill, Jackson’s Boyhood Home


“Stonewall” Jackson as a Young Man

Thomas Jonathan Jackson was one of an untold number of young men born of Scots-Irish parents in the mountains of the Alleghenies in the 19th century. His grandparents had been transported by the English for alleged crimes in the old country and had settled in the mountains of western Virginia, raised a family in the desperate times of Indian attacks, war against Britain, and extremely high infant mortality rates. Both of Jackson’s parents died when he was young and he was raised by his Uncle Cummins, a somewhat roguish but tough parent for Thomas. Although indifferently schooled, Jackson acquired an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point. Awkward and unschooled, but possessing an iron will and unrelenting perseverance, Jackson had astonished his classmates in moving from last place to graduating 17th of 59 in his graduating class of 1846.


General Jackson and His Officers


Jackson with His Horse, Sorrel

From the Point, to fearless heroic performance in the Mexican War, to the classroom as a professor at the Virginia Military Institute, Jackson probably would likely have been only a footnote in history had not the Civil War plucked him from obscurity to high command in the Confederate Army. Thomas became “Stonewall” as a result of his brigade’s stand at 1st Manassas in 1861. Independent command followed and with it the “Valley Campaign.” Still studied in military history courses around the world, Stonewall Jackson with far inferior numbers of troops, bamboozled three Union armies, froze another in place, and drove the Yankees from the Shenandoah Valley in the spring of 1862.

Learn more about “Stonewall” Jackson in Living All of Life for the Glory of God: The Testimony of General Stonewall Jackson, by historian Bill Potter. Just $1.99 in the Landmark Events download store!

General Jackson was no ordinary soldier. As a devout Christian, he gave all praise to God for his successes and organized his entire life around service to Christ in all things. From his exemplary marriage to Mary Anna, to his “colored Sunday School,” to his service as deacon in his church, Jackson lived a consistent Christian life. In the army, he supported Gospel preaching by encouraging his chaplains, writing the denomination to send more preachers, and by attendance at worship services with his men. He trusted in the providence of God for the results of all his endeavors, personal and military.


Jackson Encouraged Gospel Preaching Amongst the Army

At the Battle of Chancellorsville, Jackson, under orders of his superior, Robert E. Lee, made a forced march around a far superior Union army and attacked on their flank, wrecking all the plans of the enemy and driving his right wing from the field. In the process, Jackson received a mortal wound in the dead of night when he made an ill-advised reconnaissance of the lines. Men of his own command carrying smoothbore muskets, mistook him for enemy cavalry and fired a volley. In a week’s time, after amputation of his arm, Jackson died of sepsis, confident in his faith. His last words were “let us cross over the river and rest under the shade of the trees.”


Robert E. Lee at Jackson’s Grave


General Lee’s “Right Hand”

His ability to maneuver his Corps under the able instructions of General Lee had helped transform the Southern Army into an almost unbeatable military force on the brink of winning independence. With Jackson’s death, the dynamics of command changed and his successors never really measured up to the standard he had set. Although he was a humble Christian just doing his duty and giving God the credit, Stonewall Jackson had nonetheless earned the respect and adulation of the world, including his enemies.

Join Us This Month in Virginia!

Learn more about Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson on our Shenandoah Valley Tour! Stops include many important places in Jackson’s life including his house, church, grave, Virginia Military Institute and Port Republic Battlefield.

Learn More and Register for the Shenandoah Valley Tour

2017-06-13T14:10:29+00:00 April 30th, 2017|History Highlights|

History Highlight—Week of April 23

“For affliction does not come from the dust, nor does trouble spring from the ground; yet man is born to trouble, as the sparks fly upward.” —Job 5:6,7

The Easter Rising, April 24-29, 1916

Until Henry VIII, England was virtually powerless in most of Ireland. By the end of his reign, the Tudor King and his successors would possess undisputed rule of the whole island. And so it would remain, though disputed from time to time, often violently, until 1922. After Henry though, the “viceroy” would be English. After the fall of the Fitzgeralds in 1541, the Irish Parliament declared Henry VIII the King of all Ireland.


Irish Citizen Army group outside
Liberty Hall, Dublin 1914


Dublin in the aftermath of the
Easter Rising, 1916

Resistance by the Catholic lords of Ireland continued over the next forty years, however, and suffered final defeat with O’Niell’s submission in 1603. The 17th Century would be a witch’s brew of complexity and rival interests, as well as more warfare; the Irish, the old English, the new English, the royalists, the parliamentarians, and the Scots would all vie for survival or power, depending on the circumstances in England at the time. The Restoration of Charles II did not settle the disagreements, for he tried to please everyone and pleased no one. William III smashed the Catholic rebellion at the Battle of the Boyne.

This unquiet history continued till the 20th Century, always with secret Roman Catholic factions and discontented people, some of whom fought a guerrilla war with the English as opportunity afforded. Some of the men who longed for independence from Britain never gave up hope of a peaceful, parliamentary solution. Others believed they must seize independence by force of arms. With Britain embroiled in the First World War, the Irish Republican Brotherhood decided to make a violent bid to throw off English rule.


Thomas Clarke (1858-1916)
Executed at age 58 at Kilmainham Gaol


Sean MacDermott (1883-1916)
Executed at age 33 at Kilmainham Gaol

Legislation promoting self-rule for Ireland had been proposed in Parliament on a number of occasions in the previous thirty years but for one reason or another had been defeated or shelved, the latest as a result of going to war in 1914. The independence movement in Ireland was plagued with the same historic problems that had thwarted such attempts through the centuries: factionalism, private rivalry, sympathy for the union, apathy, and, ultimately, the failure to agree on timing, tactics and leadership.

A headquarters staff was chosen with Tom Clarke and Sean MacDermott in charge of planning. Roger Casement met with the German ambassador to the United States and even travelled to Germany to try and cement an alliance. The Germans promised arms and ammunition. The director of military organization Patrick Pearse called for a secret mobilization during the funeral of an old Fenian leader from America. The Irish Volunteers were called out for parades and maneuvers on Easter Sunday, 1916. A German arms shipment of 20,000 rifles and ammunition sailed for County Kerry.


Michael Collins (1890-1922) present during the Easter Rising, later became a leading figure in the struggle for Irish independence


Members of the Irish Army march past in the Easter Rising Centenary Parade, 2016

The Royal Navy, having been tipped off about the shipment waylaid the boat, which was promptly scuttled by the captain, and the crew captured. The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in Dublin — the nerve center of British control of Ireland — was put on alert, but before measures could be taken for defense, the rising began on Easter Monday. Twelve hundred armed Irish volunteers assembled in Dublin and began sealing off streets and seizing strategic locations near the town center. Soldiers and police were gunned down when they tried to respond, and the city of Dublin became a war zone. The rebels failed to capture the castle or the ports, probably for lack of men, but held the post office as headquarters till it caught fire from canon shells and burned down, leaving only the façade. The fighting was street-to-street and house-to-house. Smaller risings across Ireland were also attempted but with very little success. British reinforcements overwhelmed the rebels and a truce was struck six days after the fighting began.

About 485 people died in the rising, more than half of them civilians. About 2,600 were wounded. The reprisals were deadly. Secret trials condemned ninety to death, the British authorities carried out fifteen executions, including most of the leaders of the Irish Brotherhood, and several others, without previous judicial warrant. The executions engendered much sympathy from Ireland, Britain and America. Irish independence organizations resorted to arms again in 1921, with many more casualties and horrors visited on Ireland by both sides. Britain created the Irish Free State in 1922. For all practical purposes, Henry VIII and his successors were history, at least in the counties below Ulster.

Just a Few Seats Remaining!

Our Ireland Tour in June includes the General Post Office, Kilmainham Gaol, and many other sites of the Easter Rising. We will explain the religious differences that undergird much of the disagreement and mayhem of history and seek to evaluate the past with Christian eyes.

2017-06-13T14:13:25+00:00 April 24th, 2017|History Highlights|

History Highlight—Week of April 16

Lexington and Concord, April 19, 1775

The Lexington Green stands silent today, surrounded by stately homes, a church, visitors’ center and Buckman tavern. At the entrance to the green, facing traffic, stands the minuteman statue, an armed man in the clothes of a farmer or townsman, grim, holding a rifle like it is a tool he normally carries to work. A marker in the center of the commons lists the names of the men who gathered to defend their homes, including the names of those who died in battle on that ground. Just up the street on a hill overlooking the town stands the reconstructed tower whose bell summoned the men to arms. While many New England villages still have a commons and a similar look to Lexington — they did not hear the “shot heard round the world.”


Minuteman Statue at Lexington Green


Getting into the Spirit of the 1770s

Boston had been a hotbed of discontent ever since the British chose that city to host the Post-French and Indian War garrison, sent to “protect” the colonists and administer the new land gained from France. Along with the soldiers came new taxes, created by Parliament, restrictions on migration westward, issuance of general search warrants, and enforcement of the long dormant Navigation Acts. Violations of the Colonial Charter, subversion of rights that dated from the Magna Carta, and the normal contentions created by the red-coated English teenagers loosed in Boston, spawned the creation of a resistance movement that took several forms. Committees of Correspondence and Sons of Liberty operated clandestinely to keep other colonies informed, debated the issues in taverns, raised liberty poles, and wrote tracts and broadsides opposing British actions. The people were encouraged to boycott imported goods and evade taxes, and protests sometimes turned into riots, intimidation, and violence at one time or another from 1763-1775.


Paul Revere (1735-1818)


Samuel Adams (1722-1803)

Leadership of the resistance included men like James Otis, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Paul Revere, Joseph Warren and others. The two “most wanted” by the British authorities were Adams and Hancock, both of whom had left Boston for the countryside and had a price on their head. In April, 1775, General Howe decided to track them down, rumored to be at Lexington, and to capture gunpowder stored in the town of Concord.

About 700 of the 3,000-man British Garrison left Boston for Lexington in the early morning hours of April 19. The task force contained companies from every infantry regiment plus Marines. The countryside was brought to “alarm” by riders from Boston, especially Paul Revere and William Dawes, and the two Patriot leaders in Lexington left before the Redcoats arrived. The local militia did not leave. They assembled on the Commons to await events.


Old North Concord Bridge


The British Advance Across the Bridge

Six light infantry companies under Major Pitcairn arrived in Lexington in the early morning to find about eighty militia drawn up to oppose them, led by Captain John Parker. When ordered to disperse, some of the Americans left, most remained. It was later alleged by a participant that Parker said “Stand your ground, don’t fire unless fired upon, if they mean to have a war, let it begin here.” To this day, no one knows who fired the first shot of the War for Independence — “the shot heard round the world” — but someone did fire a shot. The resulting skirmish killed a few of the defenders; none of the invaders were struck. Later in the day another battle began at Concord and before the sun set, almost 300 British soldiers were casualties and about a hundred Americans. There was no turning back from war now.

Landmark Events visits Lexington Green and Concord Bridge as part of our Plymouth/Boston Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims Tour November 13-17. We don’t just stand there, but charge and countercharge in our own little reenactment, and we remember the men and boys who stood their ground, and the wives and mothers who buried their men and supported those who still fought on for their liberty for the next eight years. Join us this November.

2017-06-13T14:14:38+00:00 April 17th, 2017|History Highlights|

History Highlight—Week of April 9

“If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” —Psalm 11:3

Noah Webster Publishes the American Dictionary of the English Language, April 14, 1828

If words are mere social constructs with no objective meaning, men and women bent on destroying Christian civilization and replacing it with subjective nonsense, myths and perversity will make great strides toward their goal. When words are defined by the social ethos of the moment, documents like the U.S. Constitution become nothing but historical curiosities, and biblical truth becomes irrelevant or evil by the lights of the humanistic cognoscenti. The ones who define the terms, win the argument. English, that most pliable and eclectic of all languages, reached its apogee of objective meaning with the publication of Noah Webster’s 1828 Dictionary.


Noah Webster (1758-1843)


Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

The English-speaking world of the late 18th and early 19th Centuries relied almost exclusively on Samuel Johnson’s A Dictionary of the English Language. A product of nine years (1746-55) of painstaking collecting of common and uncommon English words, their etymological derivations, and use in written documents of the past, the dictionary reflected Johnson’s brilliant wit and humor as well as singular scholarship. It became the standard of definition, including the words used in the United States Constitution and the generation that founded the American Republic. In the new American context, however, the English language expanded exponentially with the use of native words, and the “language of liberty and independence.”

 


“Noah Webster, The Schoolmaster of the Republic,” print by Root & Tinker

One of the American founders, Noah Webster, set out to improve on Johnson’s work in the new American context, and in 1828 published American Dictionary of the English Language. Although he relied heavily on Johnson’s tome, Webster simplified arcane spellings and defined the words that reflected the New World realities. Webster avoided slang and vulgar wit, but relied heavily on the Bible, an unassailable source of objective truth, and the first thing “in which all children, under a free government, ought to be instructed.” Few books in history have so deeply established a standard of reference that undergird an entire civilization.

Connecticut-born Noah Webster descended from the first and one of the greatest of New England founders, Governor William Bradford. He graduated from Yale during the War for Independence and became one of the core defenders of the Federalist vision for America. His passion for educating American young people in the virtues and responsibilities of citizenship motivated him to write textbooks, including the best-selling blue-backed speller and others. Although just a peripatetic book-seller, he hob-knobbed with the writers of the Constitution in Philadelphia at the City Tavern, involving himself in the debates and discussions.

 


City Tavern in Philadelphia, est. 1773 and visited by the likes of George Washington, Paul Revere and others

As the father of American education, Webster pointed out that self-government and family government preceded any other type of government, and that the institution of the family needed to lay the foundation of the law and the gospel. For him the “Christian religion must be the basis of any government intended to secure the rights and privileges of a free people.” As one scholar has rightly asserted, “Noah Webster as a Christian scholar laid the foundation of etymology upon the Scriptures and his research into the origin of language stems from this premise.” His was a Christian philosophy of life, devoid of vulgarity and slang, but applicable to all Americans as they fulfilled the demands of a virtuous Republic with words that had specific meanings and did not change with the winds of fashion.

Image Credits:Noah Webster (Wikipedia.org); 2 Samuel Johnson (Wikipedia.org); 3 City Tavern (Wikipedia.org); 4 Schoolmaster (Wikipedia.org)

2017-06-13T14:16:52+00:00 April 10th, 2017|History Highlights|

History Highlight—Week of April 2

The Marriage of
Pocahontas and John Rolfe, 1614

The 17th century Powhatan Princess Matoaka — today better known as Pocahontas — has become an iconic romantic figure to the current generation of young girls, thanks to Walt Disney studios’ cartoon epic, or she serves as the prototype feminist who took charge of her life, defied convention, and overcame the patriarchal tyrants of her day. Regardless of modern revisionist caricatures of the life of Pocahontas, she has always held a privileged place in the Jamestown story, whether she really did save John Smith from execution — as he asserted — or not. That she learned enough English to serve as a liaison for her father and tribe, helped John Smith, was held captive by the settlers, married tobacco businessman John Rolfe and met the King of England, seem beyond debate. Her marriage on the 5th of April, 1614, only seven years after the Jamestown settlers arrived, marked both an affirmation of ancient biblical precedent and the symbolic beginning of a new, though short-lived, period of peace and harmony in Virginia.


The Marriage of John Rolfe and Pocahontas

The English settlers landed in 1607 in a marshy area along the river they named after the King. Running through their stores too quickly, lack of knowledge how to fish, contention with the native tribes, and the presence of disease and starvation almost put an end to the gentlemen adventurers. Seeking to establish good relations with the natives and setting up effective trade arrangements taxed the settlers who did survive that first year. Pocahontas came into the picture, according to John Smith, when he was seized and threatened with execution, and she intervened to rescue him. In 1609 she was captured by the settlers and held in the fort during the first “Anglo-Powhatan” War.


Recreation of Jamestown Settlement


The Rescue of John Smith by Pocahontas

John Rolfe came to Jamestown on the third relief ship in 1609 with tobacco seeds for planting in the New World. If successful, Spain’s dominance of the tobacco trade could be challenged, and the profits looked for by the London Company might be recouped. The first four barrels of Virginia tobacco left the wharf of Varina Plantation, Rolfe’s home, in 1614. Wanting to marry the chief’s daughter, Pocahontas, threw Rolfe into a quandary. As a Christian man determined to follow biblical law, he knew he could not marry a pagan — unequal yoking. The Indian princess was willing to undergo teaching by the Rev. Alexander Whitaker, the local pastor, and thus heard the Gospel, learned the Catechism, and made a profession of her faith in Christ. Thus the major obstacle to their union disappeared and the first inter-cultural Christian marriage of the English colony ensued. The resulting peace between the natives and the English enabled the colony to expand and prosper.


The Baptism of Pocahontas


Portrait of Lady Rebecca Rolfe

The event is memorialized on the wall of the United States Capitol in a magnificent painting. How few realize the importance and solemnity of that Christian marriage, without “interracial” barriers. The King of England is said to have been displeased because Rolfe had married above his social station! Pocahontas took on the Christian name of Lady Rebecca, an action that horrifies modern pagan sensibilities. They had a son Thomas who has many descendants today. Pocahontas died in England at Gravesend and is buried there. Rolfe was murdered in the Powhatan uprising in 1622 in Virginia.

John Rolfe’s letter to Governor Sir Thomas Dale expressed his desire to follow God’s prescriptions for marriage.

Image Credits:Marriage of John Rolfe and Pocahontas (Wikipedia.org); 2 Jamestown Settlement (Wikipedia.org); 3 Pocahontas Rescuing John Rolfe (Wikipedia.org); 4 Lady Rebecca Rolfe (Wikipedia.org);

2017-06-13T14:18:04+00:00 April 3rd, 2017|History Highlights|