Robert the Bruce Crowned King of Scotland, 1306

2023-03-30T18:29:16-05:00March 30, 2023|HH 2023|

“The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.” —Proverbs 21:1

Robert the Bruce Crowned King of Scotland,
March 25, 1306

For more than two hundred years, the House of Canmore, eight kings in succession, had ruled Scotland. In 1285, King Alexander III wed a young French princess, Yolande of Dreux, his second wife, after ten years of widowerhood. The children of his first marriage had all died, his sons without issue; Alexander had no living siblings. The robust but careless Alexander left a night of carousing during a powerful thunderstorm, and rode off a cliff into the North Sea, bringing his thirty-six-year reign to a crashing halt. Margaret, the seven-year-old granddaughter of Alexander, was the last legitimate heir to this throne of the line of “William the Lion.” She died on the way to Scotland from her home in Norway. Thirteen nobles claimed the throne. One of those claimants was the seventh generation named Robert Bruce.

Alexander III of Scotland (1241-1286)

Margaret, Maid of Norway (1283-1290)

The oldest of ten children, Robert de Brus, of old Norman stock, was likely born at Turnberry Castle in Ayrshire, Scotland in 1274. His father, Robert de Brus, 6th Lord of Annandale and his mother, Marjorie, Countess of Carrick, put young Robert in the royal line as the fourth great-grandson of King David I. The Bruce family counted themselves among the wealthiest and most privileged of Scottish nobility, owning significant amounts of land in England, Scotland, and Ireland. Robert’s grandfather had almost become king after Alexander II. They had developed a reputation as warriors, and as a scion of a knighted family, Robert learned horseback riding, swordsmanship, jousting and the code of chivalry. His father and grandfather had embarked on a crusade to the Holy Land, and Robert VII became more proficient at arms than all of them. Robert learned in a multi-lingual family both Gaelic and Anglo-Norman, as well as Latin. He likely spoke Scots as well, since he lived in a Celtic area that was developing that language at that time. Young Robert the Bruce possessed all the skills and pedigree to become king of Scotland. His ancient grandfather of the same name would first make another play for the throne.

The ruins of Turnberry Castle and Ailsa Craig in Ayshire, Scotland, birthplace of Robert the Bruce

Bust of Robert the Bruce (1274-1329) at the Wallace Monument in Stirling, Scotland

Alexander III’s brother-in-law, Edward I of England—seven feet tall in his armor, a fearless warrior king, survivor of the 9th Crusade, chaste and religious in private life, a law-giver and castle-builder—determined otherwise. Master of political intrigue, Edward (nicknamed Longshanks for obvious reasons) would become known as “the Hammer of the Scots.” Robert the Bruce could have been known as the anvil. Edward had arranged with the Pope for the marriage of his own son, who would become Edward II, to be married to the Maid of Norway, thus eventually uniting the crowns of Scotland and England. When young Margaret died, a new secret plan had to be put into effect by the English monarch. None of the thirteen claimants was singly strong enough to take the throne himself. Seven earls asked Edward to arbitrate between the two strongest competitors—Robert Bruce (“the contender”) and John Balliol. In 1292, Edward chose Balliol, but claimed ultimate sovereign authority for himself. The youngest Robert Bruce was eighteen and striving for knighthood.

Edward I of England (1239-1307)

John Balliol (1249-1314)

When Edward called for the Scottish army to assist him in conquering France, Balliol refused and formed an alliance with France. The Bruces sided with Edward. Thus began the war between England and Scotland. England quickly defeated King John (Balliol) and threw him in the Tower of London. English troops were garrisoned across Scotland and young Robert Bruce, now twenty-two, joined the rebel cause against Edward. Led by lesser nobles William Wallace and Andrew Moray, and supported by several Scottish bishops, a Scottish force defeated King Edward’s forces at Stirling, after which Wallace was knighted and became a Guardian of Scotland, since King John was still in exile. Edward took to the field himself and in turn defeated the Scots at Falkirk. No written records place Robert Bruce at either battle.

Stirling Bridge today with the William Wallace monument in the background, Stirling, Scotland

Robert Bruce and John Comyn replaced Wallace as Guardians of Scotland and carried on the war with England. After six offensives against Scotland, in 1302 Edward called for a truce of nine months, in which time Robert the Bruce submitted to Edward as King. With the whole country under submission to Edward—except William Wallace—by 1304. The following year Wallace was captured, hanged, drawn and quartered. Edward suspected that Bruce still had pretension for the throne of Scotland, but Robert slipped out of London and made his way secretly back to Scotland. While meeting with his chief rival John Comyn at Greyfriars Monastery in Dumfries, Bruce and two compatriots killed his rival, asserted his claim of the throne of Scotland and continued the campaign for independence from England. On March 25, 1306, Bishop Wishart crowned Robert Bruce as King of Scotland at the traditional place at Scone.

Assassination of John Comyn at the hands of Robert the Bruce and Roger de Kirkpatrick at Greyfriars Church in Dumfries, February 10, 1306

Bruce being crowned King of Scotland a second time on March 26 by Isabella MacDuff, Countess of Buchan (having arrived a day late for his initial coronation on March 25) in keeping with the tradition that the crown was placed by a member of Clan MacDuff, which Bruce agreed to to avoid his coronation being viewed as illegitimate by the people

Edward’s next campaign resulted in the capture of several Bruce castles and the defeat of his troops, as well as the execution of three of Bruce’s brothers and several nobles sympathetic to his cause, and the seizure and incarceration of his wife and daughters. Bruce disappeared for a year, no one knows where, and returned to carry on the war for independence in 1307. With the death of Edward I in 1307, the war continued under his son Edward II. Throughout 1308 Robert de Bruce captured and destroyed all the castles loyal to the Comyns, thoroughly eliminating all opposition to his rule. Over an eight year period, Bruce defeated most English garrisons and castles, without the use of siege weapons, in a guerilla campaign which included raids into England, successes difficult to explain even today.

Stirling Castle on the hilltop overlooking the town of Stirling, Scotland

In June of 1314, Robert’s brother Edward Bruce laid siege to Stirling Castle, which finally drew Edward II and the English army into Scotland. Although outnumbered, Robert the Bruce maneuvered his enemies into a major battle at Bannockburn near Stirling, destroying the English army and nearly capturing the English king. King Robert I ruled until his death in 1329 and was buried at Dunfermline Abbey, having won Scotland’s independence. It is no wonder that Robert the Bruce has gone down in Scottish history as one of the greatest kings: his leadership, perseverance, combat skills, and confidence in God and his cause uniquely combined with a protective providence to win independence and fulfill the hopes of his ancestors.

Final resting place of Robert the Bruce at Dunfermline Abbey, Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland

Dunfermline Abbey, Dunfermline, Fife, Scotland

Scotland Tour Filling Fast!

Our nation has more ties to Scotland than any nation in the world. For two weeks Bill Potter, Colin Gunn and a host of local Scottish churchmen and historians will lead 35 adventurous souls on an unforgettable providential history tour of the land of the ancient Celts and fiery Covenanters in Scotland. We will follow in the footsteps of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce to the battlefields, castles and memorials of their bygone era. Learn More >

Resources for Further Study

  • Robert the Bruce, King of Scots, by Ronald McNair Scott, NY, 1982

The Birth of Georg Philipp Telemann, 1681

2023-03-15T19:57:02-05:00March 15, 2023|HH 2023|

“Praise the Lord! Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens! Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness! Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe! Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath, Praise the Lord.” —Psalm 150:1-6a

The Birth of Georg Philipp Telemann,
March 14, 1681

The Protestant Reformation produced two different approaches to worship among those who left the Roman Church. The “Calvinistic” Reformation sought a return to apostolic Christianity, developing the idea of the “regulative principle” of worship—only worship God in the way He specified regarding particulars—preaching the Gospel, singing, two sacraments, etc. As part of the reform of the Church, the “Calvinistic” reformers prohibited musical instruments from formal worship, believing that Christ had fulfilled or completed what the Levitical musicians of the Old Testament had been but a shadow, now unnecessary and absent in the Apostolic and post-apostolic Church until after the sixth Century, when the papacy introduced organs to assist in the singing. Reformed Protestants a thousand years later removed instrumentation as a papal innovation and violation of the regulative principle.

The title page to the First Lutheran Hymnal, published in Wittenberg, 1523/24

The other Protestant branch, following Martin Luther, were not interested in jettisoning the use of musical instruments, even though their deployment and development within the Roman Church had reached a complex combination of musical instrumentation through the Middle Ages, especially the use of organs. While both Protestant groups believed whole-heartedly in congregational singing in worship, especially the Psalms, Lutherans were quite willing to keep instrumentation as a help. They believed that if not specifically prohibited in the Bible, extra-biblical worship practices were (technically) allowed. Both traditions developed theological arguments supporting their beliefs regarding music in worship.

A 1913 postcard of Wittenberg, showing Wittenberg Market with town hall in the center left and the Stadtkirche Wittenberg (Luther’s preaching church) towering on the right. Two memorials can also be seen in the square, one to Luther and one to Melanchthon.

Martin Luther had been somewhat of a musician himself, playing several instruments, singing, and writing hymns. He saw music, sung in the vernacular, as a sanctifying means God used in praise and spreading the Gospel. “There are, without doubts, in the human heart many seed-grains of precious virtue which are stirred up by music.“* Both singing by the laity and the use of instrumental music in Lutheran worship became well-established in the centuries following the Reformer’s ministry. Because of Luther’s “intense interest in music and because of his philosophy concerning its nature, import, and purposes . . . a host of [professional musicians] have been encouraged and impelled to write some of the world’s greatest music.”(ibid.) One of the greatest of his musical “descendants,” Georg Philipp Telemann, was born March 14, 1681.

A copy of Luther’s “Vater unser im Himmelreich” (The Lord’s Prayer)
in Luther’s handwriting

Georg Philipp Telemann (1681-1767)

Telemann was the son of a Lutheran minister, receiving a good general education, but not including any musical lessons. He nonetheless expressed serious musical gifts as a young man and had to overcome family resistance to his becoming a professional musician—a calling with little or no compensation for most practitioners. He enrolled in the University of Leipzig to study law, but his musical talents compelled him to pursue those interests the rest of his life. The municipal authorities of the city recognized Telemann’s “energy, diligence, and talent for organization” as well as his extraordinary musical talents, and commissioned him to assist the organist of the Thomaskirche in composing church contatas for alternate Sundays.** He was soon awarded the position of chapel organist for the university.

Leipzig University’s main building as it was in 1917; it was demolished by the socialist administration in 1968

Telemann reorganized the student musical society into an excellent amateur orchestra and presented public concerts, a novel innovation that enhanced his rising reputation. He began writing music for the Leipzig Opera and was appointed director, no doubt the youngest on record. The self-taught musical genius came to the attention of two princely courts, both of whom hired him to become Kapellmeister (conductor) of their court orchestras. He served as 1st violin and concertmaster in Eisenach for four years (age 27-31). Playing, conducting, and composing gave him the practical knowledge that vaulted him to the very peak of musical excellence in the German states, resulting in his musical directorship of major churches and the music of the city orchestras and operas in Frankfurt am Main and Hamburg, one of the most prestigious of the German cities. His compositions and skills carried his name abroad as he became one of the premier Protestant composers of the 18th Century. He supplied music to multiple civil jurisdictions and his compositions travelled abroad.

A sketch of the Leipzig Opera House as it would have appeared in Telemann’s day

Thomaskirche, Leipzig

Nikolaikirche, Leipzig

Telemann wrote with ease and fluency in the three major styles of his time—German, Italian and French—and with equal facility for churches, operas, and concert orchestras. He married twice, fathered eleven children and wrote two autobiographies. But for one brief trip to France, Telemann never left Germany. He was a friend of Bach and Handel, and godfather to Bach’s son Carl Philipp Emanuel, who succeeded him as musical director of Hamburg. He died at the almost unheard-of age of 86 in 1767, still composing and publishing at the end of his life.

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714-1788)

Telemann’s contemporaries considered him the greatest living composer of the 18th Century; the dreaded critic Johann Mattheson wrote of him that “Telemann is above all praise.” Through his public concerts, Telemann “introduced to the general public music previously reserved for the court, the aristocracy, or a limited number of burghers. His enormous output of publications provided instrumental and vocal material for Protestant churches throughout Germany.” He was, in fact, most admired for his church compositions—representing the flowering of Martin Luther’s musical seeds more than two hundred years after the Reformer. He composed music for soloists and for smaller congregations who could not afford the larger musical pieces.

A textbook for Telemann’s Germanicus opera

While Bach and Handel eclipsed Telemann in esteem and performance in the 19th Century, he was rediscovered in the 20th Century and restored to his rightful place among the greatest of Lutheran composers. You will not last a week listening to your local classical music station without becoming acquainted with Georg Telemann, whom God gifted to bring beautiful music to the Western World.

Memorial to Telemann in his birthplace of Magdeburg, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany

*“Luther on Music”, The Musical Quarterly, Vol. 32, no. 1, 1946.
**Britannica online

The “Spanish Flu” Outbreak Declared, 1918

2023-03-15T19:27:45-05:00March 15, 2023|HH 2023|

“Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” —James 4:14

The “Spanish Flu” Outbreak Declared, March 11, 1918

When discussing the providence of God in history, one must take into account natural phenomena as well as the lives of people. Great men and intellectual or ideological movements may steer the direction of the “narrative” story of the past, but those elements of yesterday over which men have no control sometimes overwhelm all other factors. John Piper in his wonderful book entitled Providence, cites three reasons we need to look closely at the “extensiveness and detailed attentiveness of God’s providence in every part of nature.” First, because the natural world threatens to harm us more constantly than any danger from human accident, assault or war, including fatal diseases, perilous natural disasters and countless possibilities of “freak accidents.” Secondly, we need to develop a “deep and unshakable, life-stabilizing conviction about God’s providence over the natural world . . . both micro and macro rule.” Third, “if we don’t see the close attentiveness of His governance of the natural world in Scripture, we will not see His purposes in that governance. Our confidence in the purposes of His providence in nature can be total.”

Emergency hospital during influenza epidemic, Camp Funston, Kansas, 1918

On March 4, 1918, the first recorded case of the “Spanish flu” appeared in the United States army Camp Funston, Kansas. By the 11th, the medical director recorded the flu as an outbreak when hundreds of troops fell ill with sore throats, fevers, and headaches. From there it spread across the United States and Europe and then to the whole world. Before the pandemic had run its course over the next two years, about five hundred million people had contracted the disease and 50-100 million had died from the sickness, worldwide. Approximately seventeen million people died in the First World War in the previous four years. The first wave of the sickness prostrated several million soldiers in the war but was mild compared to the second wave, which began in August, and quickly became “the greatest tidal wave of death since the black death, perhaps in the whole of human history” (Spinney, p. 4*) yet has largely been forgotten in the shadow of the Great War. The influenza outbreak has become just a footnote of the era. Since the flu pandemic began during the war, and Great Britain, France, and America controlled all press and information, especially something that might have a deleterious effect on the war propaganda, they chose to name the disease after a neutral nation that had no censorship: Spain.

Rows of sick soldiers at a Naval Training Station in San Francisco, 1918

A collage of sensational headlines in Chicago during the influenza pandemic of 1918

The historical origins of influenza and other so-called “crowd diseases” are murky at best. It wasn’t even called influenza in English until the Italian word for “Influence”—influenza di catarro meaning to flow into; thought to be caused by stars—caught on in relation to an outbreak of an epidemic in 18th century England. Pandemic flu associated with fever and acute viral infection of the respiratory tract seems to have occurred periodically in the western world prior to the 20th century, perhaps for thousands of years. Certainly conquistadors, explorers, and fishermen unwittingly brought diseases such as smallpox and influenza to the New World in the 16th and 17th centuries, the viruses sometimes playing a key role in the conquest of places like Mexico, Peru, North America and the Caribbean, by killing off virgin populations of native tribes who had no natural resistance or immunity. Europeans often considered such die-offs as providential events and opportunities. Christians often saw death-causing diseases as one of God’s means of judgement on themselves or others.

A fully masked family—cat included—in 1918

U.S. Military Cemetery, Camp Du Valdahon, Doubs, France, 1919—many of the graves are of those who succumbed not to war, but influenza

Wars often brought epidemics in their wake, especially in the 18th and 19th centuries, when more men died of disease than in battle, in every war. Two viral flu pandemics struck in the 19th century, in 1830 (Europe) and 1889 (Russia). Many cases developed into pneumonia and killed off people of every age demographic. With the discovery of the germ theory of disease and other advances, the medical profession and people in general anticipated the possible elimination of diseases early in the 20th century. The knowledge of the existence of viruses, unseen and unseeable, remained hidden in dark corners of medical science. In 1914, “despite the inroads made by germ theory, human populations were far less healthy than they are now . . . the main cause of ill-health was still overwhelmingly infectious diseases.” (Spinney, p.30) Life expectancy in Europe and America was around fifty and in India and Persia, about 30 years, so “middle-aged” had a different meaning a hundred years ago. Generalized medical training had just begun and health insurance was virtually unheard of. In 1918 the flu arrived. It might as well have been the 1400s.

A sign in a Navy Yard in 1918 warns against the dangers of spitting as a cause for the spread of influenza

People wait in line to buy masks in 1918 San Francisco

That great influenza tidal wave of August, 1918—the second and more virulent return of the flu—morphed into a more sinister disease, bringing with it a secondary “bacterial pneumonia,” which worked quickly to swell the lungs, turn face and hands dark purple, and drown the victim in his own blood. It spread through the air from coughing—teeth fell out, hair fell out, bleeding and delirium were common. Some people never got around to the multitude of possible effects and just dropped dead on the spot. It seemed to hit younger people and pregnant women extremely hard. Every possible mitigating strategy was attempted: masks, quarantine, vaccines, disinfections, closing ports, schools, churches, and public gatherings. About 90% of those who were infected by that H1N1 flu virus experienced the normal course of yearly flu, but no desperate measures seemed able to save those 10% who suffered terribly and died.

A poster issued by Alberta, Canada’s Provincial Board of Health alerting the public to the 1918 influenza epidemic, including instructions on how to make a mask

Soldiers wait in line for a “preventative spray” booth at Love Field in Texas, 1918

The influenza pandemic in areas hardest hit changed the course of history, and whole sections of cemeteries with 1918 or 1919 death dates on the markers attest to the inability of “medical science,” homeopathic nostrums, or government control of people’s lives, to stem the mortal tide of the disease. Providentially, most people survived it, but just as providentially, multiple millions were cut off in a short time, ready or not to meet their Maker.

A memorial to the 1,128 men, women and children of Auckland, New Zealand who fell to the influenza pandemic of 1918-1920, out of the total 8,573 New Zealanders who succumbed

*Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How it Changed the World by Laura Spinney (New York, 2017).

Resources for Further Study

  • For further study of the doctrine, purposes, and confidence in God’s personal control of all history, I recommend John Piper’s study entitled Providence (Crossway, 2020).

The Birth of Alexander Graham Bell, 1847

2023-02-27T17:40:51-06:00February 27, 2023|HH 2023|

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them and God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”
—Genesis 1: 27, 28

The Birth of Alexander Graham Bell, March 3, 1847

At the beginning of the 21st Century, American historian Arthur Herman published a book entitled How the Scots Invented the Modern World: The True Story of How Western Europe’s Poorest Nation Created Our World & Everything in It. As lofty titles go, this is hard to surpass. He gives more than passing respect to the “great man theory” of history, citing the lives and ideas of men whose works during the “Scottish Enlightenment” and beyond made the modern world. Not all of them remained in Scotland to accomplish their ends. Alexander Graham Bell’s genius was unleashed on the world from America.

Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922)

A stone inscription on South Charlotte Street in Edinburgh, Scotland marks the birthplace of Alexander Bell. Although his parents neglected to give him a middle name, he badgered them for one until they relented on his 11th birthday, March 3, 1858. He chose Graham in honor of a friend from Canada. Alexander and his two older brothers attended Edinburgh high school and the Presbyterian Church until their deaths from tuberculosis at the ages of 19 and 25. Alexander went on to study at the University of Edinburgh. His father developed a “visible speech system” he hoped would prove a universal speech prototype for a phonetic alphabet. Speech pathology was never far from Aleck’s mind since his mother lost her hearing and his future wife also became deaf.

Alexander Melville Bell (1819-1905) and David Charles Bell (1817-1902), Alexander Graham Bell’s father and uncle, respectively, who were both elocution and speech scholars, teachers, and authors

A chart of “Visible Speech” for English phonetics, a system developed by
Alexander Melville Bell

After leaving school at fifteen, Alexander lived with his grandfather in London, learning to speak clearly and distinctly; elocution became both his father’s and grandfather’s passion. His father published several books on elocution, one of which sold more than a half million copies in the United States alone. Young Aleck taught himself to play the piano with remarkable skill, conducted various kinds of scientific experiments with his best friend, and learned to use his voice in unique ways, including a kind of ventriloquism with which he entertained family guests. Eventually young Bell could decipher “visible speech” in Latin, Gaelic, and Sanskrit, and pronounce passages without prior knowledge of the pronounced language.

The Bell Homestead National Historic Site, Brantford, Ontario, Canada also showing a monument dedicated by Queen Elizabeth II in 1997

In 1865 the Bells moved to London for continuation of their elocution demonstrations, and for Aleck to attend university, where he continued experiments with electricity and voice. London was the epicenter of the industrial revolution and the air was filled with coal dust smoke, dampness, and severe overcrowding. The two eldest Bell brothers contracted TB and other family members fell ill, including Aleck. The brothers died and the surviving Bells moved to Ontario, Canada, hoping a more salubrious climate would bring better health. In their new home, Aleck’s health improved, he learned the Mohawk language, and transcribed it into “visible speech symbols,” for which he was made an honorary chief. Bell also continued his experiments transmitting sound along a wire by modifying a melodeon.

The carriage house on the Bell homestead used by Bell in his early experiments

A portion of the Bell Homestead’s parlor, restored to the Victorian era style maintained by the Bells, using many of their original furnishings and artifacts, including their melodeon, seen in front of the window at center

Alexander Graham Bell moved to Boston to train the teachers of the Boston School for the Deaf using the Visible Speech System invented by his father, to be used to help “connect the deaf and hard of hearing to the hearing world.” Within a year he established a private practice in Boston, attracting students from all over New England. He encouraged speech therapy and lip reading over sign language, thus furthering the ongoing battle with the convinced sign language advocates for teaching the deaf. One of his earliest students was Helen Keller. Along with teaching, the brilliant Scotsman continued his experiments with the “harmonic telegraph.”

Bell, top right, provided pedagogical instruction to teachers at the Boston School for Deaf Mutes, 1871; throughout his life, he referred to himself as “a teacher of the deaf”

In 1874 he told his father in their house in Ontario that “if I could make a current of electricity vary in intensity precisely as the air varies in intensity during the production of sound, I should be able to transmit speech telegraphically.” Other scientists were working on similar concepts but “as usual . . . with Scottish scientists and engineers, it was his ability to organize and systematize the ideas of others, and beat them to the punch, that ultimately paid off.” He and his friend Thomas Watson devised a telephone which transmitted sounds over a wire, and filed for a patent on St. Valentine’s Day of 1876. His leading competitor was two hours behind in filing! On March 10, Alexander Graham Bell spoke to his friend Watson for the first time, in a different room over a wire. Within two years President Rutherford B. Hayes installed the first telephone in the White House.

Thomas Watson (1854-1934) was an assistant to Alexander Graham Bell, notably in the invention of the telephone in 1876

Bell’s patent for the telephone

The telephone “permitted direct, personal, long-distance communication, not just station–to-station [like the telegraph], but person-to-person.” Aleck set up the National Bell Telephone Company in 1877 to manufacture his invention. He had to contend with six hundred lawsuits from the numerous competitors (including Western Union and their resident genius, Thomas Edison) who were late to the patent office or claimed precedent of ideas. Within seven years Alexander Graham Bell had earned more than a million dollars, moved to Washington D.C., built a magnificent home, and continued spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on new research for his work with the deaf, and improving the telephone. Bell Telephone and AT&T helped launch the 20th Century. The rest is history.

Alexander Graham Bell making the first long-distance telephone call from New York to Chicago in 1892

The Bells lived increasingly at their estate in Beinn Bhreagh—meaning “Beautiful Mountain” in Scottish Gaelic—Victoria County, Nova Scotia from about 1888 until his death in 1922, initially only in the summer and then later often year-round. Its landscape, climate, and Scottish traditions and culture were reminiscent of his birthplace in Edinburgh, Scotland.

While Bell was not in the wealth category of fellow Scot Andrew Carnegie or the other industrial giants like Henry Flagler, John Rockefeller, and J. P. Morgan, he had successfully joined the club of brilliant entrepreneurs of the Industrial Age, improved the lives of millions with telephone technology, and invested heavily in improving the lives and abilities of the deaf. Another Scot had taken seriously the biblical injunction to have dominion over the creation, and became an analog creator himself.

*Quotes taken from How the Scots Invented the Modern World by Arthur Herman.

Alexander Graham Bell, his wife Mabel, and their daughters Elsie May Bell (1878–1964) and Marian “Daisy” Hubbard Bell (1880–1962) circa 1885

Battle of Buena Vista, February 1847

2023-02-20T15:06:23-06:00February 20, 2023|HH 2023|

“From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.” —James 4:1-3

Battle of Buena Vista, February 22-23, 1847

Following the successful fight for Texan independence from Mexico, certain U.S. congressmen and senators began lobbying for adding the Republic of Texas to the United States. A number of states opposed the annexation of Texas, believing it would come into the Union as a slave state, and they were determined not to allow the creation of another Southern State. Nevertheless, after ten years of bitter debate, the Republic of Texas became the 28th state of the Union on December 29, 1845.

Sam Houston’s December 12, 1835 recruitment proclamation as Commander-in-Chief of
the new, paid Army of the Republic of Texas

Mexico had never really accepted Texas independence, and rejected that territory becoming a part of the United States. The Mexicans considered the Nueces River the southern boundary of their Texas province; Texas claimed the Rio Grande as the southern boundary. The enemy claimants to the land between those rivers clashed several times before American President James K. Polk ordered troops to retaliate against Mexican forces. The clashes resulted in a declaration of war by both parties and the Mexican/American War exploded along the no-man’s land between the rivers.

Seal of the Republic of Texas, 1839-1845

An 1838 map of the Republic of Texas showing the Rio Grande as the southern boundary, as recognized by the Republic of Texas…

…Versus a map of the same time and by the same cartographer showing the Nueces River as the southern boundary, as recognized by Mexico

General Zachary Taylor and about 4,700 American infantry and cavalry were ordered by the President and the overall American commanding General Winfield Scott to remain near Monterrey, close to the Rio Grande border. Taylor instead moved south to a more strategic blocking position. At the same time, the commanding General of the Mexican Army, Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana, led his forces within five miles of Taylor’s command, capturing a hundred American troopers.

The Mexican army outnumbered Taylor about 20,000 to 5,000. The disparity in numbers was offset somewhat by the Mexicans’ lack of weapons for all the soldiers, many of whom were green troops, never having fired a gun anyway. Santa Ana’s force included about 5,000 women. Attrition by the cold weather, sickness, and desertions cost the Mexican General several thousand of his army. Near the Hacienda de San Juan de Buena Vista, Santa Ana struck the drawn up American army.

The Battle of Buena Vista took place near the village of Buena Vista in the state of Coahuila, about 7.5 miles south of Saltillo, Mexico

General Taylor’s second in command, General John Wool, made the disposition of regiments from Indiana, Kentucky, Arkansas, and Texas, as well as his artillery batteries. Santa Ana chose to attack on George Washington’s birthday, an auspicious boost to American morale. Some of the enemy soldiers assumed, like the generality of Americans today would also likely believe, that President Washington was in command, though having died some 47 years earlier.

Zachary Taylor (1784-1850), commander of the American troops

Antonio de Padua María Severino López de Santa Anna y Pérez de Lebrón (1794-1876), usually known as Santa Anna, commander of the Mexican troops

The Mexican commander sent a demand for Taylor to surrender before the battle began, outnumbering the Americans 4-1. Taylor’s reply, given by his aide William Wallace Bliss, curtly rejected Santa Ana with these words: “I beg leave to say that I decline acceding to your request.” At half past three in the afternoon, the Mexican skirmishers struck the left flank of the American battle line, without much loss on either side. Nightfall ended the introductory phase of the battle. The following morning 7,000 Mexican soldados struck the left flank in force, while an attack force feinted toward the right flank to hold those regiments in place, driving the Indiana brigade from the field, and forcing the Illinoians into a fighting withdrawal. With the rout of the American cavalry, Colonel Archibald Yell—former congressman and governor of Arkansas, but inexperienced and inept general—was killed. Yell County and the Yell Rifle were named after him and three of his subordinates and his son all became Confederate generals in the next war.

Archibald Yell (1797-1847) was killed in action at the Battle of Buena Vista

Jefferson Davis (1808-1889)

Gen. Braxton Bragg (1817-1876)

Colonel Jefferson Davis and his Mississippi riflemen moved up to defend the hacienda, routing the attackers at that point of the battlefield. Davis was wounded. General Francisco Perez resumed the battle on the American left flank with infantry and artillery. At a crucial point in the battle, Captain Braxton Bragg arrived with his artillery and ordered to double shot his guns with canister to repel the infantry attack. As has been often said, Taylor rode that order to Bragg right into the White House.

A contemporary illustration depicting Gen. Zachary Taylor ordering Capt. Braxton Bragg to double-load the cannons at the Battle of Buena Vista

With the close of the second day of battle, Santa Ana held a council of war with his generals and decided to break off the engagement, though some of his generals thought that one more day of battle would bring the victory. In any case, both sides claimed victory and had fought bravely and ferociously, and had the casualties to prove it. The Mexican Army, in this first major battle, had captured cannons, flags, and rifles, now on display in Mexican museums, suffered more than 3,000 casualties, and caused the Americans around 600. Zachary Taylor had been left in command of the battlefield and became the first great hero of the War with Mexico. It took about two months for the news to spread and the result was “an outpouring of praise in poetry and prose, music, and art.” There are at least nine U.S. towns in nine states named Buena Vista.

Winfield Scott’s battery is set up overlooking the port city of Vera Cruz, Mexico during the Siege of Vera Cruz, March 9–29, 1847

At the same time of the battle, General Winfield Scott (known as “old fuss and feathers”) successfully landed another American army at Vera Cruz and began the campaign against Mexico City. Vera Cruz was a “walkover” since the main Mexican army was in the north fighting Taylor. Although both Scott and Taylor associated with the Whig Party opposed to President Polk, Taylor was kept on the shelf as much as possible to allow the weaker political prospect, Scott, to prosecute the war and garner further accolades. As Providence ordered things, Taylor was elected President anyway, and the William and Mary graduate Scott remained as the highest-ranking American general since George Washington, and was still in the saddle (metaphorically, since he was 6’5” and grew to over 300 pounds), when the Civil War began. Many of the Generals on both sides of that war fought in Mexico with one of the two Army Commanders. Colonel Jefferson Davis married his commanding officer’s daughter, Sarah Knox Taylor.

General Winfield Scott (1786-1866) in 1862

Learn Texas History Where it Happened!

Join us on a three-day car tour across the Lone Star State as we offer a gripping overview of some of the state’s defining moments. We will visit the iconic Alamo where Davy Crocket, Jim Bowie, William Travis and other freedom lovers made their gallant stand against Santa Anna and the Mexican Army. You will see the cannon that inspired the patriots of Gonzales in their “Come and Take It!” response to a tyrannical order. We will walk the San Jacinto Battlefield where Texas Independence was won, and much more. All along the way Mr. Potter will be noting God’s providence in the affairs of men. Learn More >

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