History Highlight—Week of June 18

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result . . .” —Genesis 50:20

Henry Laurens Is Captured by the British,
June 20, 1779

“At a time when liberty is under attack, decency is under assault, the family is under siege, and life itself is threatened, the good will arise in truth; they will arise with the very essence and substance of their lives; they will arise in truth though they face opposition by fierce subverters; they will arise in truth never shying from the standard of truth, never shirking from the Author of truth.” —Henry Laurens (1724-1792)

Those words — almost prophetic in their contemporary relevance — were written by the only American in the War for Independence, held as prisoner in the Tower of London.

Portrait of Henry Laurens (1724-1792) painted in 1781 during his time in the Tower

View from the River Thames of the Tower of London, built in stages starting in 1078

When the Huguenots of France lost their protection with the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, many thousands of the cream of French society immigrated, always enriching the new host country by use of their skills, work ethic, and Christian fortitude. Among that migrating Calvinist population, the Laurens family immigrated to America. After a short while in New York, they settled among the large Huguenot diaspora in Charleston, South Carolina. Henry entered history in the third generation of the Laurens of America and carried on the hard-working business-minded tradition bequeathed to him by his forebearers. Most of his thirteen children died in their early years, but he managed to raise three sons to maturity, and one, John, served on George Washington’s staff and made a significant contribution to the War for Independence before being killed in an insignificant skirmish at the very end of the war.

18th-century French Huguenots escape persecutions in France

Henry Laurens exuded confidence in his abilities. His brilliant mind turned to business, making him one of the wealthiest South Carolinians, as a trader in African slaves. His desire for public service found outlets in two wars prior to the War for Independence and service as a member of the colonial legislature for more than fifteen years. He at first sought reconciliation with the Mother Country but became a committed patriot by 1775, chosen to lead the Committee of Public Safety and Vice President of the newly independent state. As a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1777, his colleagues made him President as soon as he arrived.

Reverend Jacob Duche offers the first prayer for the Continental Congress, September 7, 1774, in Philadelphia

In 1779 the ambitious and irascible delegate was sent as ambassador to the Netherlands to seek further financial assistance for the War against Britain. Off the banks of Newfoundland, the ship carrying Laurens was waylaid on June 20th by the British frigate Vestal, and he and his incriminating papers were captured. The documents revealed that the Dutch were aiding the Americans. At the time, England was looking for an excuse to go to war with the Netherlands (“the Fourth Dutch War”) and they used this opportunity. Henry Laurens was sent to the Tower of London where he remained a prisoner until exchanged for Lord Cornwallis who was captured at Yorktown in October of 1781.

The forces of Lord Cornwallis surrender at Yorktown, October 19, 1781

While imprisoned in the Tower, the long days of boredom and soul-searching commenced. “Although he had been a lifelong churchman, he was not known for his piety,” but the experience caused much personal reflection. Laurens wrote that he resolved his faith into a “God-fearing, Bible-reading, hymn-singing, passion for permanent things.” Though just as committed to the cause, and an opponent of tyranny, he “became far more pensive, far more judicious, and far more principled.”1

His estate burned by the British, Laurens was forced to live in a shed while he recouped his losses after the War (3.5 million dollars by today’s standards). He died in 1792, lionized as one of the founders of the new nation. But we now know too, that he found a real faith that could sustain him.

1 George Grant, Christian Almanac

Image Credits:Henry Laurens (Wikipedia.org); 2 Henry Laurens (Wikipedia.org); 3 Tower of London (Wikipedia.org); 4 Continental Congress (Wikipedia.org); 5 Surrender at Yorktown (Wikipedia.org);

2017-06-20T14:46:47+00:00 June 20th, 2017|History Highlights|

History Highlight—Week of June 11

“When you go out to war against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and an army larger than your own, you shall not be afraid of them, for the LORD your God is with you.” —Deuteronomy 20:1

Battle of Bunker Hill, June 17, 1775

The Breed’s Hill battlefield memorial today covers about four acres and is surrounded by upscale four-story apartments and condos, the building of which were part of the fund-raising efforts to finance the construction of the monument. The hill is crowned by a commemorative obelisk 221 feet high, with 294 steps to the top, and is designated a “national monument,” under the management of the National Park Service. It was completed in 1843 and renovated in 2007. In 1775, when American troops occupied the heights, they initially invested Bunker Hill, but realized Breed’s Hill could be better defended so they moved there. The name confusion has persisted to this day. But there is no confusion over what happened there.

The 2016 Tour assembled on the Lexington Green under the Minute Man Monument

In April of 1775, the War for American Independence began at Lexington and Concord, not far from Boston. Few people realized at that time that the revolt in Massachusetts would spread to all thirteen colonies, independence would be declared more than a year later, and an eight-year war commence. The battle of Bunker Hill would prove to be the decisive point of no return.

Following the April battles between the provincial farmers and townsmen, at their peak about 15,000 men occupied positions around the city to keep their enemies hemmed in. The English garrison of about 6,000 under General Thomas Gage planned to drive off the upstart American army as soon as reinforcements arrived. The Charlestown peninsula jutted out into the Mystic and Charles Rivers just a thousand yards from Boston proper, a dangerous strategic point that both sides prepared to seize. On June 16 Colonel William Prescott led 1,500 men across Charlestown neck, around Bunker Hill to fortify the 62-foot-high Breed’s Hill, just above the town.

Map of Charlestown peninsula flanked by the Mystic and Charles Rivers

Prescott’s men constructed a redoubt six feet high with a wooden firing step, and then flanking entrenchments down the sides of the hill for resisting flanking attacks. The British fleet tried to stop the work with artillery fire, to no avail. British Generals Howe and Pigot determined to lead their men across the river to the plains above the town and attack the fortifications. Both sides called for reinforcements when they saw the size of the opposing forces and no action took place till Prescott was augmented by men from Connecticut and New Hampshire as well as the great patriot leader Joseph Warren. With the addition of the 47th Foot (later known as the Lancashires) and the 1st Marines, the Redcoats formed for the assault.

The attacks began at 3 p.m. and the first two British attacks were halted with heavy losses. A number of men in the American lines were confused and milling about, most were fighting for their lives. The third British attack carried the works and the fighting became hand-to-hand with the redcoats having the advantage with their expertise with the bayonet. General Warren was killed on the American side and Major Pitcairn, who had begun the war at Lexington, fell on the British side. The Americans fell back in a relatively orderly fashion, having inflicted more than a thousand casualties on one of the best armies on the planet, the most that England would suffer in one battle in the war.

The Battle of Bunker Hill, by Percy Moran

The battle would prove to be a propaganda bonanza for the American cause and a stern warning to the King that the rude American rustics would stand against a professional army when well led.

You can visit the battle site and see the marvelous diorama at the visitor’s center, as well as hear historian Bill Potter deliver a detailed narrative of the battle on the very spot where it happened, during our Boston History Tour in November.

Learn More and Register

2017-06-13T13:26:51+00:00 June 12th, 2017|History Highlights|

History Highlight—Week of June 4

“A man’s heart plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.” —Proverbs 16:9

General Eisenhower addresses American paratroopers on the evening of June 5

Operation Overlord, June 6, 1944

It was the mightiest amphibious military operation in the history of mankind. With literally millions of moving parts, the D-Day landings along the Normandy Coast marked the return of the Allied forces to France, and the beginning of the defeat of Hitler’s “Thousand-Year” Third Reich in France, Belgium, Holland and Western Germany. The assault pitted Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower against the elite of German high command, Erwin Rommel, and the meddling genius of Winston Churchill against the paranoid micro-manager Adolf Hitler.

Dwight Eisenhower (1890-1969)

Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

Adolf Hitler (1889-1945)

Erwin Rommel (1891-1944)

Plans for the Allied army’s return to France began at least two years earlier. United States forces would be required to make the dream a reality, however, and their green troops and leadership remained untried and unblooded until Operation Torch went into effect in North Africa in November of 1942. The subsequent campaign drove the Germans to Sicily. From July 9 to August 17, 1943, the British and American forces defeated the Germans in Sicily, forcing them into the mainland of Italy, resulting in fighting that lasted until the end of the war. In late 1943, planning was well underway for a landing in France in the spring of ‘44. Dwight Eisenhower was chosen to assemble the forces and plan “The Mighty Endeavor.”

Map depicting Allied invasion plans and German positions in Normandy

Wading through water and Nazi gunfire, US troops disembark at Omaha Beach

The Allies constructed an intelligence disinformation campaign of unprecedented cleverness and multi-faceted execution to bamboozle the Germans. French espionage agents planted false information where it could be found by the Abwehr, German intelligence. Phony military props attached to a non-existent army were placed near bogus airfields for German flyover planes to photograph and observe. Electronic communications indicating an army commanded by (the disgraced and currently unemployed) General Patton concocted over a wide region for the Germans to intercept and be led astray. In the meantime, several divisions of airborne troops prepared for landings in the rear of the German coastal defenses and multiple infantry divisions secretly trained to cross the Channel and land on the Normandy beaches. The French underground were tasked with disrupting internal communications and infrastructure.

An inflatable dummy tank, modeled after the M4 Sherman

A dummy aircraft, modelled after the Douglas A-20 Havoc

General Eisenhower faced a number of obstacles and command difficulties during the preparation phase. German gunboats got in among landing practice transports at Slapton Sands and that tragedy, combined with losses by friendly fire, killed about 750 American soldiers and sailors, losses that were rolled into D-Day casualties and kept secret from the public. Ike also faced the difficulties of dealing with prickly personalities like British General Bernard Montgomery, who thought he should have supreme command and was always proposing alternate plans, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who wanted to land on D-Day with the troops, and George Patton, temporarily out of command but zealous to be in on the charge. As the time neared for the great invasion, bad weather rolled in, resulting in a short postponement before Ike made the judgement call to go, hoping for a window of decent seas and unclouded skies.

Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery

General George S. Patton

Tank landing ships, with barrage balloons afloat, unloading supplies on Omaha for the break-out from Normandy.

On June 6, 1944, the tide carried in more than 5,000 landing and assault craft carrying about 136,000 Allied troops to land on five major beaches and another 20,000 dropped from the air to seize road junctions and bridges, hoping to open the way for the landed infantry to move inland. The Germans were spread too thin in most places, with reserves held out of the fight by puzzled Generals and Hitler himself, who was convinced the landings would be farther north at Calais. Providentially the weather had held long enough to effect the landings and drops. The message from General Eisenhower exuded confidence. However, he had prepared two possible messages to send to President Roosevelt — one detailing a tragic and costly failed attempt to land the armies in France, for which he took full responsibility. He did not have to send it.

Eisenhower’s letter to the Allied Forces exudes confidence.
View larger version here

In a letter that was never sent, Eisenhower claims full responsibility for the failure to “gain a satisfactory foothold” in Normandy.
View larger version here

Join us June 6 in New Orleans at the nation’s premier WWII Museum as we honor the valiant men who fought in the War, and remember the Providential Victory of the Normandy landings in 1944.


2017-06-13T14:03:27+00:00 June 5th, 2017|History Highlights|

History Highlight—Week of May 28

“Ah, land of whirring wings that is beyond the rivers of Cush, which sends ambassadors by the sea, in vessels of papyrus on the waters! Go, you swift messengers, to a nation, tall and smooth, to a people feared near and far, a nation mighty and conquering, whose land the rivers divide.” —Isaiah 18:1-2

David Livingstone Leaves for Africa, June 1, 1841

In his book The Man Who Presumed, Byron Farwell records that former Confederate soldier turned journalist-explorer, Henry Morton Stanley, upon meeting David Livingstone in Ujiji, “along the shimmering blue waters of Lake Tanganyika”, presented his hand and asked, “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?” “Yes . . . I feel thankful that I am here to welcome you,” the famous missionary-explorer responded. And so began a meeting of which few in the English-speaking world would not hear of, and marvel at the amazing story of the Scottish missionary. His story has no modern parallels.

David Livingstone (1813-1873)

Henry Morton Stanley (1841-1904)

Born in the mill-town of Blantyre, Scotland, along the River Clyde, David Livingstone heard the Gospel from his earliest years from his parents and church. His father, Neil, faithfully conducted family worship, passed out Gospel tracts as he travelled for his work and taught Sunday school. David was given a New Testament for reciting Psalm 119 from memory. The study of science and the creation captured young David’s mind, an interest that one day would contribute greatly to his African exploration after God had captured his heart.

While studying in medical school, Livingstone determined to leave for the mission field in the Far East, but political circumstances and his meeting missionary Robert Moffat, steered him toward Africa where he could see “the campfires of a thousand villages where the Gospel had never been heard.” He left for Africa at age 28, where he would serve for most of the next 32 years. Livingstone spent about three years with one tribe but quarreled with a fellow missionary and saw no fruits of his preaching, moved to another tribe and saw no conversions and left after two years for another with the same result. It seemed that God’s kingdom would not be expanded through the Scottish missionary’s witness.

Illustration of the famous meeting between David Livingstone and
Henry Morton Stanley in Ujiji, November 1871

Livingstone moved into the interior of Africa following the Zambezi River, mapping the course of the river and the terrain as well as keeping record of the flora and fauna of the continent. He met with chiefs and negotiated peaceful passage through their lands. He still preached, with no results, but also traded, learned languages, studied the cultures, and wrote down everything he observed. Convinced that he was mapping a way into the interior for future missionaries, he successfully convinced other British missionaries to follow in his paths. A number who took him up on the idea, perished in the wilderness from the many fatal diseases that awaited white men in the jungle. He himself suffered often from malaria and other maladies.

He visited England and published a book of his travels, making him one of the best known explorers of the century. He was feted by the scientific community and given a roving commission by Queen Victoria’s government. His expeditions took him to places never before seen by Europeans and his maps and journals paved the way for many who followed. Livingstone took his family with him in the early days, but his wife died at the age of 27 in Africa and most of his children died young there. They rarely saw him. One son died fighting for the Union in the American Civil War.

Map of the famous expeditions of David Livingstone within the
interior of Africa between 1851 and 1873

Livingstone fought slavery through his writings and sometimes on the ground in Africa. He worked hard to prevent abortion and infanticide among tribal people. His years of devotion to preaching, exploring, mapping, and recording, resulted in his heart being buried in Africa by the Africans and his body interred at Westminster Cathedral. What David Livingstone had proposed to found churches, God had disposed to map the way for the spread of the Gospel after his death.

2017-06-13T13:56:04+00:00 May 29th, 2017|History Highlights|

History Highlight—Week of May 21

“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord; and the people he hath chosen for his own inheritance.” —Psalm 33:12

“Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; take warning, O judges of the earth. Worship the LORD with reverence and rejoice with trembling. Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him.” —Psalm 2:10-12

The Constitutional Convention, May 25, 1787

Asecret cabal of rich white men — mostly slave-drivers — met secretly behind locked doors in Philadelphia to overthrow the new American government, and create a new document designed to protect their own economic interests and give themselves supreme power over the people… or so goes the current view of the Constitutional Convention from both the radical neo-Marxists and the conspiracy-theory revisionists of the right. Their constitutional convention was a coup d’état. One might find it difficult to credit their theories when the document and government they produced, although not perfect, were products of several thousand years of English common law, Christian republicanism, states’ rights and experience — not to mention the enshrinement of liberty, order and justice.

Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States,
by Howard Chandler Christy (1873-1952)

Representatives of seven states met to amend the document that had guided the United States since its coming into force in 1783, The Articles of Confederation; it had exhibited weaknesses they feared were fatal to the survival of the Republic. Before the conclave finished their work, twelve states were represented—some of the most patriotic, brilliant and able men ever assembled in one place in America—and they had created a new instrument to guide the thirteen states, and those which would be added, for generations to come. The result has been the wonder and admiration of the entire world.

The Assembly Room Inside Independence Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Detail of the Signatures Section on Page 4 of the United States Constitution

The Constitution resulted from a bundle of compromises that kept the smaller states happy with equal representation, the larger ones with proportional representation based on population, the states in general kept happy by possessing all the rights not mentioned as exclusive to the central government, as well as the power to select the Senate—a federal system. The founders built in checks and balances so one branch of government could not tyrannize over another.

Independence Hall in Philadelphia, by Ferdinand Richardt, c. 1858-63

Men such as Patrick Henry of Virginia, who opposed ratification, foresaw the possibility of liberty so dearly won in eight years of war, being taken away by a unitary state. The Bill of Rights was added to guarantee those liberties, prohibiting the new central government from establishing a state church or restricting the people from gun ownership, or preventing fair and swift trials etc. The founders established a government of laws, not of men, so a tyrannical mob, “the majority,” could not force their will on the minority, a glorious Republic and not a democracy.

Through the amending process, through the Court granting itself extraordinary power over the states, and the Congress forfeiting its responsibilities to the President as well as the President acting without consent of the governed, the Constitution of the Fathers has been ignored, battered, and overpowered at various times in American history, but the foresight of the founders, and the original intentions of their wisdom, have enabled the Republic to survive till now. The nation as it was created was designed for “a virtuous people” and the purpose of the Constitution still stands, though at times feebly so—to establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for a common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to posterity.

Learn more about the signing of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, as well as other key events in America’s struggle for liberty in the Cradle of Liberty Tour (MP3 Album), just $9.99 for over 5 hours of tour audio in the Landmark Events download store!

Watch for our Philadelphia Tour coming in 2018!

2017-06-13T14:05:53+00:00 May 22nd, 2017|History Highlights|

History Highlight—Week of May 14

“There the ships move along, and Leviathan, which You have formed to sport in it.“ —Psalm 104:26

“Those who go down to the sea in ships, who do business on great waters…” —Psalm 127:3

The Death of St. Brendan, May 16, 587

As the patron saint of sailors and travelers, superstitious people have appealed to Saint Brendan for help and safety for more than 16 centuries. Known as “Brendan the Bold” or “Brendan the Navigator,” his epic voyages and the mythology that goes with them have inspired songs, stories, and adoration in Ireland, Scotland, and America. How much of Brendan’s life can be substantiated by original documents from his day remains nil; the first references to his life came about two hundred years after he lived and the first references to his voyages, two hundred years after that. Lack of evidence from his own time, however, does not preclude the reality of his existence or some of his basic story. Oral tradition is often based on facts and in a closed community such as a monastery, where there may have been scribes, and which may have suffered barbarian attack and subsequent destruction of material evidence, the written story could be lost but the oral account still passed down.

“St. Brendan of the Gael” in Fenit, County Kerry, Ireland

Brendan was born near Tralee in County Kerry, Ireland in the 5th century. “St. Erc” trained him at Clonfert and ordained him as a priest in A.D. 512. As one of the “twelve apostles of Ireland” Brendan founded monasteries at Ardfert and Shanakeel, training other monks to preach the Gospel and live ascetic lives devoted to God’s service. The Celtic Church was known for its evangelical zeal, not just in the Emerald Isle and surrounding islands, but Scotland and Britain as well. According to later tales, copied and retold many times, Brendan’s travelogue exceeded all the other missionaries. Although there is no hard proof, centuries of tradition assert that he embarked on a seven-year voyage with fellow adventurers searching for “Terra Repromissionis” or Paradise Island — a land of lush vegetation. He allegedly set sail aboard a Curragh, a boat of wood frame covered by hides. He and his mariners visited many islands including a fake one that turned out to be a sea monster! Eventually he found the Island of Paradise and made it home to Ireland again.

St. Brendan’s Voyage

Ardfert Cathedral, Ardfert, County Kerry, Ireland

Mythology aside, it is reasonable that Brendan may have landed in the Azores and other small islands in the Atlantic. Celtic runes and biblical passages from the early centuries have been found in various places in North America, indicating the presence of Celtic Christians long before the coming of the Spanish in the 15th century. It is possible that missionaries arrived on the American shores bringing the Gospel to the native tribes, the history of which is entirely lost and now only hinted at in mountain carvings of ancient origin. Legends are often given birth by real-life events.

There are traces of Brendan’s visits to Wales and Iona and it is believed he founded a few more monasteries in Ireland before he died in the mid-sixth century. Whether he braved the oceans and found his fair isle or not does not detract from the impact Brendan probably had in a day of daring missionary expeditions.

Listen to the Mick Moloney & Eugene O’Donnell Rendition of
“St. Brendan’s Fair Isle“, by Jimmy Driftwood

You are invited to tour the Emerald Isle with a small group of fellow Christians exploring the vibrant scenery and tumultuous history of this unique land. We will be traversing a wide range of history from the Stone Age to the early 20th century and you’ll be encouraged and amazed as we reveal the remarkable ways God has used these fiery-spirited people to change the world.

2017-06-13T14:06:41+00:00 May 16th, 2017|History Highlights|

History Highlight—Week of May 7

“There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers.” —Proverbs 6:16-19, ESV

The Sinking of the RMS Lusitania, May 7, 1915

The headlines were as lurid as any in the 20th Century, and the tragedy rivaled only by the sinking of RMS Titanic three years earlier:


The United States had declined to enter the world war raging in the trenches of Europe and now the dirty Hun had torpedoed an innocent passenger ship, with many Americans aboard. Many in the press and the numerous Anglophiles of the United States began baying for war against Germany.

Until this tragic incident, Americans had remained sharply divided on who were the good guys and who the bad in the madness that was World War I. The millions of Americans of German or English ancestry, (very often a combination of both) believed America should remain neutral and the Wilson administration agreed. The following year, in fact, Wilson would stump for reelection on the slogan “He kept us out of war.” At least until after the election.

Postcard c. 1910 of RMS Lusitania at Chelsea Piers, New York

RMS Lusitania Arrives in New York
on Her Maiden Voyage

The war on the high seas had gone badly for the Germans. England still ruled the oceans of the world, upon which her empire was dependent. Germany had geared up for war on the high seas, but her surface raiders had been swept from the oceans and the fleet was bottled up in harbor. They would venture out for a test of strength with Britain in 1916 but the Battle of Jutland that resulted proved inconclusive, and they returned to sulk out the rest of the war. The use of submarines against allied merchants assumed first place importance for the blue water navy.

As a declared neutral, the United States — according to international law and precedent — was not permitted to supply war materials to any of the belligerents. Nonetheless, the Americans were sending a steady supply of armaments to England, and the Germans were made well aware of it from their spies in the U.S. and Britain. Germany issued stern warnings to the Wilson administration and were given assurances that the country would comply with the international rules of neutrality. Frustrated at non-compliance, Germany declared unlimited submarine warfare in the waters around the United Kingdom. Violators would suffer the consequences.

William Thomas Turner (1856-1933)
Captain of the RSM Lusitania

The Sinking of the RMS Lusitania
May 7, 1915

RMS Lusitania of the Cunard Line had been launched in 1906 and competed in the trans-Atlantic passenger trade with the German companies and with the White Star Line of Britain, of which the RMS Titanic was the Queen for the briefest of time. When the war began in 1914, Lusitania had secret compartments constructed to carry munitions as a merchantman but remained in service as a passenger liner. In the first year of the war, the German submarines complied with the old “Cruiser Rules” which included warnings before attack, and neutral ships would be left alone. In 1915, all merchants of the allied nations became fair game in the waters around the U.K.

Two Divers Prepare to Explore the Wreckage of the Lusitania, 1935

Lusitania left New York on her 102nd trans-Atlantic voyage on the first of May. Although the United States and Britain denied her having any war materials, the Germans claimed she was loaded with munitions and took out ads in newspapers across the United States warning people not to sail on Lusitania. Eleven miles off the south coast of Ireland, U-20 struck her with one torpedo and then a secondary explosion inside the ship occurred. The ship’s bow struck the ocean floor 18 minutes later. Almost 1,200 people were lost, including 128 Americans. The outrage in America and Britain drowned out all discussion of the cargo, which both nations claimed was passengers only. In 2008, divers found 4 million U.S. manufactured Remington rounds of .303 ammunition still in the hold designated for the killing of German soldiers on the western front. In 1917, Congress declared war on the Central Powers, citing in speeches but not the actual declaration, the unprovoked sinking of the passenger liner Lusitania as one of the reasons.

Journey with Landmark Events to Cobh, Ireland to see the Lusitania Memorial and learn how the people of the town rose to the huge challenge of rescue, comforting the shocked and injured survivors, and identifying, repatriating and burying the dead.

2017-06-13T14:01:37+00:00 May 8th, 2017|History Highlights|

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|