Thomas Jonathan Becomes “Stonewall” Jackson, 1861

2019-07-15T19:33:54+00:00July 15, 2019|HH 2019|

“Now Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him, and he said, ‘Whatever they build, if even a fox goes up on it, he will break down their stone wall.’” —Nehemiah 4:3

“So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.” —Nehemiah 4:6

Thomas Jonathan Becomes “Stonewall” Jackson,
July 21, 1861

In 1861, eleven Southern states seceded from the United States. Virginia, one of the last to leave the Union, had been sharply divided. They even rejected secession initially, till President Lincoln demanded that the state supply troops for an invasion to coerce the separated states to return. Emotions ran high at the Virginia Military Institute, where one professor, Thomas Jonathan Jackson, offered his sword to defend the state. He was known for his strong Christian faith and moral rectitude. Within a month, Jackson, a Mexican War veteran and expert in the use of artillery, was awarded the command of a brigade of Virginia infantry. Although Major Jackson was respected as a war hero, the students teased him behind his back as the worst teacher at the Institute; some called him “Tom Fool.” A few wondered if his stiff manners and pedagogical incompetence would translate to the battlefield. They need not have worried.

Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson (1824-1863)

Jackson drilled his men — the 2nd, 4th, 5th, 27th, and 33rd Infantry — most of them from the Shenandoah Valley, at Harper’s Ferry. On July 16, 1861, the Union army of more than 28,000 men commanded by Irvin McDowell, left their camps near Washington, D.C. and crossed the Potomac River into Virginia. Facing them were Confederate forces of some 22,000 infantry, who, like their opponents, were untried volunteers led by amateurs and a few “old army” veterans. The Confederate forces were led by General Pierre Gustav Toutant Beauregard of Louisiana. Skirmishing began on the 17th along Bull Run Creek near Manassas. Four days later the two armies swung into serious action across the rolling fields and streams of the countryside.

Thomas Jackson in 1855 during his tenure at the Virginia Military Institute

First Battle of Bull Run, by Kurz & Allison

Another Union army of 18,000 men under Patterson were in the northern part of the Shenandoah Valley poised to attack General Joseph Johnston’s Confederates, under whom Jackson’s brigade served, near Winchester. When the Union plans for attacking along Bull Run were discerned, Johnston gave Patterson the slip and marched his approximately 10,000 men east and on to the Piedmont Rail Road to join Beauregard, before the larger numbers of the Yankee army could overwhelm the Confederates at Manassas. Jackson’s Brigade arrived near the battlefield on July 20 and were posted behind the main Confederate lines so they could move forward to the battle as needed.

Lt. General Winfield Scott (1786-1866), veteran of the War of 1812 and the Mexican-American War, advised Lincoln on his strategy to subdue the Confederates at the battle of First Battle of Bull Run/ Manassas

General Pierre Gustave Toutant-Beauregard (1818-1893) who served with distinction in the Mexican-American War as an engineer (under Winfield Scott), led the Confederate forces to victory in July 1861

On the morning of the 21st, McDowell sent 20,000 Union troops who converged against the weak left flank of the Confederate lines. Hastily gathered Confederate regiments tried to stop the onslaught, making several counterattacks that only slowed the blue tide. The brigades of Confederate Generals Bee, Bartow, and Evans broke up and streamed back toward the Henry House Hill with the generals and their staffs trying to stem the retreat. Thomas Jackson’s Virginia Brigade assembled just behind the crest of the hill around noon as their fleeing comrades ran past or rallied in small groups. Confederate artillery posted on the hill began firing with telling effect.

Union Major General Irvin McDowell (1818-1885)

It was later reported that South Carolina General Bernard Bee informed Jackson that his men were being driven and Jackson replied, “We will give them the bayonet.” The Virginians rose up and joined the battle as Bee shouted to his men, “There stands Jackson like a stone wall, let us determine to die here, rally behind the Virginians!” The battle seesawed back and forth, with the Virginians capturing Union artillery. General Bee was killed and his command taken over by Col. States Rights Gist. Jackson was wounded in the hand but in the Providence of the day, the Union forces fell back and fled on the choked roads back to Washington, D.C.

Confederate Brig. Barnard Elliott Bee (1824-1861), inspired the nickname for General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson

General Jackson at Winchester, Virginia, one year before his death in 1863

During this battle, which became known as First Bull Run or First Manassas, Thomas Jonathan Jackson became “Stonewall.” Forever. His brigade was henceforth known as the “Stonewall Brigade,” which distinguished itself on many a battlefield, to its very destruction before war’s end.

The Battle of Britain Begins, 1940

2019-07-08T17:40:50+00:00July 8, 2019|HH 2019|

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” —Psalm 20:7

The Battle of Britain Begins, July 10, 1940

In that immortal address to Parliament in June of 1940, Winston Churchill defined the stakes of a battle, one of the few in history named a month before it began:

“What General Weygand called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the battle of Britain is about to begin. Upon this battle depends the survival of Christian civilization. Upon it depends our own British life and the long continuity of our institutions and our Empire. The whole fury and might of the enemy must very soon be turned on us. Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of a perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour.’”

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill (1874-1965) in 1941

Adolph Hitler, the leader of the German “Third Reich” had hoped the British would make a separate peace, so the Germans could get on with an invasion of Russia, Hitler’s fellow Socialist ally, but ultimately his greatest target of conquest. Churchill steeled the nerve of the British Empire to fight to the last round. The previously undefeated and unstoppable German army poised on the shores of France for the leap across the channel to the United Kingdom. But Germany did not possess the naval capability to invade England, and devised a strategy to bomb the nation into negotiation or submission.

Adolf Hitler (1889-1945) with General Walther von Brauchitsch in Warsaw, Poland, October, 1939

The British consider July 10 the beginning of the Battle of Britain; it would be the first major battle in history fought exclusively between air forces — The German Luftwaffe vs. Britain’s Royal Air Force (RAF). To destroy the RAF was the first order of business for the German air offensive. On paper, the odds favored the Luftwaffe. They had more than 1,400 experienced fighter pilots, already blooded in the Spanish Civil War and the fighting across Poland and France. The RAF fighter pilots were less trained and most of the 3,000 pilots in operational squadrons served in the bombers attacking Germany. About six hundred RAF pilots were from Commonwealth countries, South Africa, Rhodesia, Canada, and Australia for instance, as well as survivors from the Polish and Czech air forces. The German high command estimated it would take four weeks to destroy Fighter Command and bomb the airfields, roads and airplane factories to the point of total air superiority. Hitler forbade terror bombing of civilian populations except as a last resort.

Hermann Göring (1893-1946), Supreme Commander of the Luftwaffe

German Heinkel He 111 bombers over the English Channel, 1940

Heinkel He 111 bomber over South London and Wapping, September, 1940

The young men of the RAF went into the skies every day and night to shoot down bombers and fighters, losing a large percentage of their own forces in the process. They fought over the channel, the cities, the airfields, and the radar installations. The “Blitz” campaign against the cities began in earnest on August 1 and lasted till the end. The inspiring story of the Battle of Britain should not be forgotten, though it may seem the Christian civilization that seemed to be teetering at that time, remains in jeopardy in different ways today.

An Observer Corps spotter scans the skies of London

The Battle of Britain lasted until October 31, 1940, the people having witnessed huge air casualties on both sides, and the resort to terror bombing which killed or injured about 35,000 civilians. Churchill’s adamant refusal to give up heartened the people, unifying the defiance of the nation against Hitler’s Germany. And they did it alone, buying time and heartening the Allies to bring victory in 1945. Early battles and losses can be deceptive in regard to significance when put against a fighting spirit and will to win out. By God’s providence, Britain did just that.

View along the Thames River in London as smoke rises from the London docks after an air raid during the Blitz, September 7, 1940

Patriarchs and Pope Part Company, 1054

2019-07-01T16:17:06+00:00July 1, 2019|HH 2019|

“There is one body and one Spirit — just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call — one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” —Ephesians 4:4-6

Patriarchs and Pope Part Company, July 6, 1054

In the 11th Century, the Christian Church recognized five ecclesiastical jurisdictions, or “Sees” within Christendom — Rome (Latins), Constantinople, Alexandria, Jerusalem, and Antioch. This “Pentarchy” was formally recognized by the Council of Ephesus in 431 AD. The four in the Mideast were led by “Patriarchs”, Church Bishops who claimed their succession from one of the original twelve apostles of Christ. They practiced what became known as the Byzantine Rite in worship — the use of the Greek language, particular prayers, blessings and liturgies, as well as icons, specific liturgical music, architecture, and vestments. They claimed the closest connections with the apostolic church, and the influence of their “Eastern Orthodoxy” spread as far as the Celtic Church.

Map of the Pentarchy c. A.D. 1000. White = conquered by the Islamic Caliphates. White outlined = temporarily occupied by the Islamic Caliphates or Emirates. Arrows = expansion.

Council of Ephesus in 431, as depicted in the Basilica of Fourvière, Lyon, France

The Bishop of Rome, known as the Pope, claimed absolute jurisdiction over the Western Church, and ecclesiastical powers as the Vicar of Christ, through a claim that his authority descended from the Apostle Peter. The Latin language was the basis of all liturgical structures in the Western Church and their rites, though similar in many ways, diverged at several points from their eastern brethren. Both halves of the Church held doctrinally to the Apostle’s Creed, the Nicene Creed, and several others which had defined Christian doctrine through Church Councils over the previous ten centuries.

Nonetheless, theological and practical differences between the Eastern and Western Churches persisted until the rifts came to a head in 1054. The previous year, Orthodox Churches in southern Italy were given the choice by the Pope to conform to Latin practices or close their doors, thus offending the Eastern patriarchal Church. In retaliation, the Patriarch of Constantinople closed the Latin Churches in his jurisdiction. When Norman raiders attacked the Italian peninsula, Pope Leo IX sent a papal Legate to Asia seeking military help from the Byzantine Emperor and to assert Rome’s authority over the Patriarchate of Michael I Cerularius, who was calling himself the “Ecumenical Patriarch”. The papal delegate also responded to Cerularius’s condemnation of the Latin Church’s use of unleavened bread in the sacrament, one of the points of earlier theological disagreement.

Pope Leo IX (A.D. 1002-1054)

The papal delegate Cardinal Humbert, excommunicated the Patriarch of Constantinople, who in turn, excommunicated Cardinal Humbert. In the meanwhile Leo died. Over the next hundred years, a number of contentious issues combined with the previous doctrinal differences to keep Western and Eastern Christendom apart. For instance, the Eastern Church pastors married and considered celibacy of the priesthood a heretical and unbiblical invention. When “Christian” armies were sent from Europe to fight the Muslim armies who had captured cities and territory of the Christian provinces across the Middle East, the Crusaders also sacked Constantinople, massacring thousands of fellow Christians. The division of the Church into two independent, non-communicating parts — The Great Schism — remains to this day. The Byzantine Church was eventually shattered by Islam, but by that time, had expanded into Greece, the Balkans, and Russia, establishing separate ethnic “Eastern” Orthodox Churches. The Latin Church was destined to be divided by Reformation preachers and theologians seeking a more pure, New Testament-like Church. They in turn, fragmented into many denominations and sects.

The enthronement of Michael Cerularius (c. A.D. 1000-1059), Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople

The Entry of the Crusaders into Constantinople, Eugène Delacroix

The One Church, indivisible, still exists in the hearts of those whom God has truly called by Grace alone and Faith alone, through the preaching of the Scriptures alone, regardless of theological labels. It appears that divisions will nonetheless exist until God unites his Church triumphant in perfection at the end of time.

Custer’s Last Stand, 1876

2019-06-25T16:07:07+00:00June 25, 2019|HH 2019|

“And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” —Isaiah 2:4

Custer’s Last Stand, June 25, 1876

The Battle of the Little Bighorn on June 25, 1876 produced more shock to the American people and more interest and writing than any other battle between “Native” Americans and government soldiers in American history. Neither interest in the battle, nor the re-telling, have abated over the past 143 years. How much more information can be gleaned that a hundred books have not already recorded? What more can the Custer battlefield tell us about what happened there? Like the annual publishing of new books on RMS Titanic and the Battle of Gettysburg, there is an unending fascination with the story, with new insights and new information. When an event grabs the imagination of an entire nation and keeps its power through a kind of multi-generational historical DNA, we will never put it to rest. Such is “Custer’s Last Stand”.

The Custer Fight, by Charles Marion Russell

The Civil War had ended eleven years earlier. The “Reconstruction” of the South would come to an end after the elections in November of that Centennial year. Most of the career soldiers who wished to remain in the greatly reduced Union armies had to accept lesser rank and could look forward to either boring garrison duty or action against the Indian tribes of the plains. Hard men like William T. Sherman, Philip Sheridan, and George Crook were sent west to implement the “Indian policies”, and herded the plains tribes onto government set-aside reservations; they often killed the ones who resisted.

1876 Army Campaign against the Sioux

Independent-minded Lakota Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapahos and Dakotas decided that reservation life was not for them, and buffalo hunting season was upon them, so they made a run for it. They followed their spiritual leader Sitting Bull and warrior-chiefs like Crazy Horse, Gall, and Lame White Man into Montana, across the Little Bighorn River into an area popularly known as the “greasy grass”. The warriors, women and children hauled their teepees and camps across the plains, perhaps eight thousand people in a thousand lodges.

Brevet Major General George Armstrong Custer (1839-1876)

Impetuous and vain, Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer, a Union Civil War hero and former general at age twenty-three, longed for action against the “hostiles”. He held command of most of twelve companies of the 7th Cavalry, which had been formed after the Civil War. They had left Fort Abraham Lincoln on May 17, part of a massive three-pronged offensive against the wayward tribes. Custer quickly outstripped his substantial supply train and Gatling guns, led by his allied Crow tribal scouts, in order to move swiftly to find the hostiles first. He succeeded.

Rather than wait for the other army column that was moving in his direction, Custer decided to attack the enormous encampment by himself. He divided his command into three segments, the other two commanded by Captain Frederick Benteen, with 3/12 companies and Major Marcus Reno, with 5 companies. Custer’s estimate of the number of warriors he faced was well out of date. The combined forces of the several tribes totaled more than 1,500 — perhaps the largest Indian army ever assembled.

Battle of the Little Bighorn movements of the 7th Cavalry
A: Custer B: Reno C: Benteen D: Yates E: Weir

Custer, leading five companies, rode to attack the village, possibly to secure non-combatant hostages; the warriors raised the alarm and rode to protect their families. Major Reno’s troopers made first contact. They dismounted and began firing into the village, allegedly killing a few women and children. The Indians did not run as expected. Reno’s force was assailed on flank and front by about five hundred warriors, causing the Major and as many as could to flee to the bluffs across the river, taking casualties all the way. Benteen reinforced Reno, and their hastily prepared defenses held out to the end of the fight.

Lakota depiction of casualties at The Battle of Little Bighorn

Custer, on the other hand, with his roughly 210 men fought to the death, and had no survivors. The “yellow hair” as he was known by the Sioux, along with two of his brothers, a nephew and brother-in-law were killed along with about 260 other 7th Cavalry troopers. Congressional investigations, newspaper articles, and recriminations followed the fight. The battle was called a massacre in the press, exaggerating the nature of frontier combat, to put the worst light on the tribes. Most of the Indians returned to their reservations over the next couple months as the army assembled a force of more than 2,000 troops to track down any who did not comply. The Battle of the Little Bighorn was the last major action of the Sioux Wars, but did not put an end to bloodshed on the rapidly disappearing frontier.

Monuments to those who fell at the Battle of the Little Bighorn

The uneasy relations between the American government and the inhabitants of the western prairies rarely brought peace to the natives and certainly not satisfaction. As the victims of “manifest destiny”, the tribes of the plains could never reconcile their history and worldview with the beliefs and culture of the newly empowered centralized state, following a rapidly secularizing, evolutionary American territorial expansion. Both sides committed atrocities and broke treaties. The Little Bighorn solved nothing, but demonstrated that arrogance and battle-lust on the part of a technologically superior commander and his forces could not overcome primitive men, accustomed to hardship and defending their families, at least on June 25, a hundred years after the creation of the American Republic.

Sir Christopher Wren Tasked with Rebuilding St. Paul’s Cathedral, 1666

2019-06-17T23:27:40+00:00June 17, 2019|HH 2019|

“The house which I am about to build will be great, for greater is our God than all the gods.” —II Chronicles 2:5

Sir Christopher Wren
Tasked with Rebuilding St. Paul’s Cathedral,
June 21, 1666

At the end of his life, Sir Christopher Wren could look back on his previous ninety years, and reflect on a world of both great troubles and brilliant accomplishments. Born in the reign of King Charles I, Wren lived through the English Civil Wars, Restoration of Charles II, the burning of London, the construction and reconstruction of London’s great buildings, the Glorious Revolution, the new century of “enlightenment” and finally the monarchy of King George I. The sickly son of a Church of England clergyman, Christopher outlived all of his contemporaries and outstripped most of them in mathematics, astronomy, science, and, especially, architecture, that made his name a byword in English history.

Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723) in 1711,
the year the rebuilding of St. Paul’s Cathedral was completed

Christopher Wren’s father received an appointment as dean of Windsor, so his son grew up among the intellectuals of the court of Charles I. Already possessing a keen interest in mathematics, Wren began experimenting in astronomy as a student at Westminster and under the tutelage of his uncle, William Holden. After inventing certain astrological devices, he turned his attention to physiology in 1647 after meeting anatomist Charles Scarburgh. His handwriting and drawing skills were extraordinary; he learned best by drawing diagrams and models. The precocious scholar attended Oxford at a time when men of royalist sympathies were ousted by Parliament and replaced with men of less conservative ideas. Their penchant for experimental philosophy appealed to Wren, whose lively mind and broad interests led to the founding of the Royal Society under the Restoration regime of Charles II.

Entrance to Dean’s Yard at Westminster School

With royal patronage, Christopher Wren, at the age of thirty, was elected to the chair of astronomy and appointed “surveyor of works” to King Charles. In 1662, Wren turned his interests to architecture, a field with few theoreticians or skilled practitioners in England. It was “a field he could dominate—a field in which the intuition of the physicist and the art of a model maker would join to design works of formidable size and intricate construction.”1 Wren visited France and studied the end construction of the Louvre and remodeling of Versailles by great sculptors and architects. He examined the structure of famous churches for ideas for the remodeling of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Later that year, the “Great Fire of London” burned down about two-thirds of the city.

King Charles II of England (1630-1685)

The Great Fire of London—September 4, 1666—depicted from the vantage point of the Thames River. London Bridge is seen on the left. while the Tower of London is on the right. St. Paul’s Cathedral is also visible near the center, engulfed in flames.

Providence had positioned Christopher Wren for the great work of his life. Although he submitted a comprehensive plan to the King for rebuilding the city, the funds were not available for anything that extensive. He designed and rebuilt St. Paul’s Cathedral, his greatest work. The rebuilding of fifty-two other churches fell under his purview and he helped design—and in some cases steward—the work. He had to at least approve the design of them all. He was knighted in 1673. It took thirty-five years to build St. Paul’s Cathedral, finished June 24, 1711. Wren was seventy-nine.

Christopher Wren’s plan for rebuilding London after Great Fire of 1666

Concurrent with the St. Paul’s project, Wren designed and built Trinity College Library, the Royal Hospital at Chelsea, the new chapel for James II at Whitehall, and a number of important buildings commissioned by William and Mary, the most ambitious builders of his career. Wren’s trademark style was Gothic but he was innovative in many respects; many of his plans and drawings have survived till today. Tradition says that the “Wren Building” at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia was designed by Wren himself. He is buried at St. Paul’s, his greatest architectural achievement.

Wren’s masterpiece, St. Paul’s Cathedral in London, designed in the English Baroque style, was completed in 1711 after 35 years of construction

Many Puritans saw the Great Fire of London as God’s judgement on the debauchery of the King, and the eighty-seven churches that burned a sign of His displeasure at the theological compromise that characterized the monarchy of Charles II. Nonetheless, a pastor’s son, gifted beyond his contemporaries, was put in the position of restoring houses of worship, many of which stand today.

The tomb of Christopher Wren, located in the south-east corner of the crypt of St Paul’s. At the tomb, a plain stone plaque reads:

“Here in its foundations lies the architect of this church and city, Christopher Wren, who lived beyond ninety years, not for his own profit but for the public good. Reader, if you seek his monument — look around you.”