Lincoln and His Second Term

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One hundred and fifty years ago Lincoln was at the high point of his Presidency.  The Civil War was coming to a victorious conclusion.  His popularity would zoom to heights not reached by any President since Washington when on April 14, 1865 he foiled the assassination plot of John Wilkes Booth by wrestling him to the floor of the theater box at Ford’s Theater.  (One wonders if Booth would have succeeded if Lincoln had not been standing and stretching, his face to the door of the theater box, when Booth burst through the door.)  Less than four years later, he left Washington, widely reviled North and South.  Although revisionist histories appear occasionally defending Lincoln, the consensus of his contemporaries still stands:  that Lincoln made an adequate wartime President, but an abysmal peacetime President.  I think this verdict is overblown, but one cannot argue that his second term after the War was anything but a disaster.  Let us look at the factors that led to this.

 

1.  Former Confederate States-Lincoln’s theory was that the former Confederates States had never been out of the Union.  So soon as ten percent of the voters based on 1860 totals had taken an oath of allegiance to the Union and organized a state government that abolished slavery, the new state government would be recognized by the federal government and members elected to Congress seated.  This was far too lenient for Radical Republicans who feared that these new state governments would simply be replicas of the state governments that existed in 1860 with a de facto abolition of slavery while de jure blacks would be fifth class citizens.  Their fears were soon realized with new state governments recognized by the Lincoln administration adopting Black Codes, laws that severely restricted the freedom the newly freed slaves.  This remained a bone of contention between Lincoln and the Congress controlled by the Radical Republicans from the beginning until the end of his second term.

2.  Rights of Blacks-That Lincoln was sincerely committed to the civil rights of former slaves cannot be doubted in good faith by anyone.  The ringing words of his Fourth of July oration before the freedmen of Richmond should eliminate any doubt on that score.  Throughout his second term Lincoln used military force to enforce the rights of blacks that were routinely trampled upon by the new governments in the former Confederate states that he recognized.  He was instrumental in establishing the largely black states of Liberty, Emancipation and Freedom in the West that ensured black representation in Congress and a haven for blacks disenfranchised in the rest of the country.  However, the use of the military was met be a virtual guerilla warfare in the South led by the Ku Klux Klan and often receiving clandestine aid from the governments that Lincoln had helped install.  This was all very confusing for the war weary citizens of the North, and a common complaint of “What did we fight the War for?” became ever more common in the North as Lincoln’s second term went on.

3.  Mary Lincoln- The assassination attempt on Lincoln seemed to unhinge Mrs. Lincoln.  She would often shriek in public to strangers that she knew that they were out to murder her husband.  Lincoln perhaps had no choice in having her committed to an insane asylum, but that decision added to his unpopularity.

4.  Fissions in the Republican Party-With slavery ended, the Republican party fractured between radicals and conservatives, former Whigs and former Democrats, and a myriad of different state factions.  Much of Lincoln’s time was devoted to healing these fractures, with Lincoln often receiving strong criticism from all factions for his troubles as a would be peacemaker.

5.  Seward’s Folly- Throughout the second term Democrats often attacked Lincoln for having run up a huge national debt during the Civil War.  This charge received more ammunition when the US purchased Alaska for 7.2 million dollars, which Democrats painted as money wasted for a worthless icy wasteland.  When it got out that Lincoln was considering attempting to set up  more black states in Alaska, he was subject to laughter and ridicule often accompanied by a statement by a black that he did not want to go and freeze in Alaska.

6.  Man of the Past-Lincoln often seemed like a figure of the past by the end of his second term.  Secession and slavery, the two issues most associated with Lincoln, seemed like relics of the past to a nation, at least the white part of the nation, eager to turn the page.  Heroes who win often seem outdated as times rapidly change, and that fate befell Lincoln. Continue reading

April 1, 1865: Battle of Five Forks

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 On March 31, 1865 General Pickett, commander of the Confederate forces at Five Forks had launched an attack on Sheridan’s troopers driving them south to just north of Dinwiddie Court House.  However, his left flank being threatened by troops of the V Corps arriving to reinforce Sheridan, Pickett retreated to Five Forks.  Sheridan followed the retreating Pickett, and launched an attack on the Confederate breastworks at 1:00 PM on April 1, with two divisions of dismounted Union cavalry, armed with Sharps repeating rifles.  This intense fire pinned down the Confederates while the infantry of the V Corps massed to attack the Confederate left.  At 4:15 the attack went in , overcoming a stubborn Confederate defense.  Sheridan removed General Warren from command of the V Corps on the grounds of being dilatory in arranging the attack of the V Corps, a decision which was ruled unfounded by an Army court of inquiry in 1883.  Confederate casualties were almost 3,000 many of them prisoners, and Union casualties were 830.  The Confederate right had now been turned, and largely obliterated, and the   Southside Railroad lay exposed to the Union.  Richmond and Petersburg could no longer be held.

 

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Here is Sheridan’s report of the battle: Continue reading

Pat Archbold Fired From National Catholic Register

 

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Well this is no surprise.  Pat Archbold was repeatedly guilty of telling truth out of season which is apparently a mortal sin these days in the Catholic Church:

 

 

Yup, they fired me.

I am grateful for the five years I spent as a contributor to the Register, the online presence of which has grown immensely during my tenure and that of the other original group of contributors. There is a lot to be proud of there. I stuck with them in hard times even when they were completely broke and it looked like they would blink out of existence, only to be saved at the last minute. Alas and alack, our time together has come to an end.

There are many things I could say about why this happened and how and maybe one day I will say more. But for now, suffice it to say that my particular contributions have not been well received over the last year or so and that has lead to increasing tension. I suppose that is plain to anyone with eyes to see. I will note that upon my departure, among the top 10 posts for the last 3 weeks, you will find three of my contributions.

I am proud of my writing at the Register. I feel I have been consistent in my approach to writing and the topics I cover. I think I brought a viewpoint to the Register that is otherwise not well represented among their stable of good writers. The Church has been going through some tough times and as a consequence I have sometimes tried to tackle some tough issues. I have always tried to do so fairly and as a loyal son of the Church. I will leave it to others to decide whether the Register is better off without my writing or viewpoint.  Continue reading

Bingo

Ronald Reagan on Liberal Tolerance
Attorney David French over at National Review Online nails it in regard to the uproar over the Indiana Religious  Freedom Restoration Act:
Simply put, their concerns about systematic invidious discrimination are utter hogwash, and they either know it or should know it. Why? Because RFRAs aren’t new, the legal standard they protect is decades older than the RFRAs themselves, and these legal standards have not been used — nor can they be used — to create the dystopian future the Left claims to fear. After all, the current RFRA legal tests were the law of the land for all 50 states — constitutionally mandated — until the Supreme Court’s misguided decision in Employment Division v. Smith, where the Court allowed fear of drug use to overcome its constitutional good sense. And yet during the decades before Smith, non-discrimination statutes proliferated, and were successfully enforced to open public accommodations to people of all races, creeds, colors, and — yes — sexual orientations.

Continue reading

Screen Pilates: Keith Mitchell

Continuing our series on screen portrayals of Pilate that I began in 2011 during Holy Week.    The posts on portrayals of Pilate by Rod Steiger, Richard Boone, Barry Dennen, Hristov Shopov, Telly Savalas, Frank Thring, Stephen Russell, Greg Hicks, Cyril Richard, Stephen Moyer and Dennis King may be viewed  here, here, here, here  here , here, here, here, here , here and here.

CBS broadcast a film adaptation of Jim Bishop’s book The Day Christ Died in 1980.  Bishop hated the film adaptation, had his name removed from the credits and attempted unsuccessfully to change the name of the film.

Brian Mitchell, best known as King Henry VIII in The Six Wives of Henry VIII gives a powerful portrayal as Pilate.  Pilate is interpreted by Mitchell as a politician who, by his own admission, believes in nothing other than his career.  He is disturbed by his wife’s desire to spare Christ.  He is intrigued by Christ and views Him as a mysterious figure.  Ultimately he reluctantly decides to have Christ crucified when Caiaphas accuses him of disloyalty to Caesar, at least that is the public excuse for him literally washing his hands of the matter before the mob.  A glance by Pilate at the pitcher prior to him offering the choice between Barabbas and Christ indicates that he planned what he would do if the mob chose Barabbas.  A good portrayal of Pilate that catches what a tricky character he no doubt was, rather than the straight forward Pilate of most other retellings of the Passion.

50 Shades of Barack Obama

 

As in most abusive relationships between adults, the abuser is the chief villain while the abused shows a severe deficit of common sense.  That basically sums up American history since 2008.

March 31, 1865: Battle of White Oak Road

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Realizing that Grant was moving sufficient troops to flank his right, General Lee decided to launch an attack against the troops of the Union V Corps, holding a section of  the White Oak Road and preventing the linking of the Confederate right under Pickett with the rest of Lee’s army.  The Union left was in the air, separated by  three miles from Sheridan’s troopers at Dinwiddie Court House and Lee intended to take full advantage of this fact, massing four brigades to make the attack.

The Confederates routed two Union divisions, chasing them south of Gravelly Run.  At 2:30 PM the Union V Corps counterattacked across Gravelly Run, the attack spearheaded by the First Division of the V Corps.  The spearhead of the spearhead was Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain’s brigade, still led by Chamberlain although he had been seriously wounded at the battle of Lewis Farm on March 29, 1865.  The Union counterattack was successful,  recovering the lost ground and once again breaking the White Oak Road, separating the Confederate right at Five Forks from the rest of the Confederate army.  Union casualties were approximately 1407 to approximately 800 Confederate.

 

Here is the report of Brigadier General Charles Griffin who commanded the First Division of the V Corps: Continue reading

Various & Sundry, 3/30/2015

With Holy Week upon us, this will be the last V&S until after Easter.

– Gabriel Malor answers all your questions about the Indiana state RFRA. Considering that Malor often rankles the Ace of Spades commentariat with his writings on gay issues, particularly his support for gay marriage, it is significant that he is coming out against the anti-bill hysteria.

– A woman who killed an unborn child in Colorado will not be facing murder charges.

Why can’t prosecutors charge Lane with murder? Colorado is one of only 12 states that do not protect unborn children from murder. For that gap, Coloradans can thank Democrats who controlled the state legislature, and the abortion industry that controls Democrats … and themselves for buying their arguments when they had a chance to prevent this injustice

For the Democrats, it’s the abortion lobbey uber alles. That’s why this guy doesn’t have a chance in hell.

– Nicholas Frankovich defends Cardinal Burke from the smears of some intellectually dishonest critics, including one at the National Catholic Fishwrap.

Distinguishing between sinner and sin is usually easy: The sin doesn’t define the sinner, and neither does the sinner define the sin. The David who committed adultery with Bathsheba was still, after all, David the apple of God’s eye. But the adultery he committed was still adultery. Our ability to think both thoughts simultaneously may be waning, although some people only pretend that they don’t understand. Their aim is to dumb down the conversation to the point that thinking has no place in it anymore. If their opponent has won the debate intellectually, what can they do? Ignore his ideas, deplore ideas generally (oh, those “doctors of the law,” those “Pharisees”!), and push sentiments (cheap “mercy,” the Catholic version of cheap grace) that they hope will appeal to the soft-headed child in us all.

– So this Google thing might be getting a wee bit out of control.

The question for voters who are watching the ongoing regulation battles should come when you compare the two different stories above. You have a company which is clearly in bed with the Obama administration in particular and the Democrats in general. And you also have a track record which indicates that they’re not shy about manipulating their search results when it works to their favor. How much faith should you then have that they are delivering news results or political analysis about various candidates and issue oriented questions in a consistent, agnostic fashion?

Of course I read this story on a Droid, using a Chrome browser, and am typing this all up on a Chromebook. So yeah.

– And now idiots.

A selfie-obsessed tourist apologized Sunday for posting an online pic of herself grinning at the site of the deadly East Village inferno.

Modal TriggerAfter The Post exposed her with a front-page story headlined “Village Idiots,” Christina Freundlich said she was “deeply sorry for my careless and distasteful post.”

“It was inconsiderate to those hurt in the crash and to the city of New York,” she said in an email to The Des Moines Register.

– And tonight’s music video.

The rise of the neo-Lutherans: Will there be a schism?

 

Watching last fall’s Extraordinary Synod on the Family from the sidelines, what was surprising was the level of rancor (and perhaps even acrimony) manifesting itself in the debate concerning, among other matters, the Church’s prohibition of divorced/remarried Catholics receiving Holy Communion.

Media reports characterized the division this way:

  • The intelligent, sensitive, and pastoral “pro-Pope Francis” mercy faction (the theological liberals) were doing battle with the unintelligent, insensitive, and unpastoral “anti-Pope Francis” truth faction (the theological conservatives).
  • The leader of the former faction, Cardinal Walter Kasper of Germany, provided the theoretical “Call to Arms” identifying his faction’s much-desired, if not much-anticipated changes to Church teaching. If Cardinal Kasper’s faction prevails, there will be changes to Church teaching. Read: A very good outcome!
  • The leader of the latter faction, Cardinal Raymond Burke, published a chapter in the book, Remaining in the Truth of Christ, reiterating the significance of longstanding Church teaching for the world today. If Cardinal Burke’s faction prevails, there will be no change in Church teaching. Read: A very bad outcome!

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That oversimplistic, pro-Kasper bifurcation of what transpired at the Extraordinary Synod distracts attention from what may really be in the offing, namely, the rise of neo-Lutherans who may cause a schism in the Church. Armed with very clever exegetical and political skills, this faction has already artfully devised a way to contort Jesus’ unambiguous teaching against both divorce and remarriage—read Remaining in the Truth of Christ to learn how—into a teaching that would allow for both divorce and remarriage. And the media is delighted.

Using divorced and remarried Catholics—who cannot receive Holy Communion—as public relations props in a strategy to stiffen opposition to Church teaching, the neo-Lutherans are, in reality, forcing Pope Francis to choose up sides in a theological battle. The outcome of that battle could end in schism:

  • If the Pope sides with the neo-Lutherans, his important words about mercy will be translated into Church teaching, all will be well with the world, and the orthodox faction will have taken quite a drubbing. At least, that’s what the Kapserites would have everyone believe.
  • If the Pope sides with the orthodox Burkites, well…er…ummm…there will be Hell to pay, as the Pope’s words about mercy will end up not being quite as generous as people have been led to believe and they will turn against Rome and the orthodox faction, emptying the pews even more. Again, at least, that’s what the neo-Lutherans would have everyone believe.

Apparently, the neo-Lutherans are as serious and as stubborn as was the Augustinian friar, Martin Luther, when in 1517 he posted his 95 theses on the door of the Wittenburg Castle Church. To wit: Consider the words of the President of the German Bishops’ Conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx. Quoted in Die Tagespost (the original article having since been expunged from the website) stating:

We are not just a subsidiary of Rome. Each episcopal conference is responsible for the pastoral care in their culture and has to proclaim the Gospel in its own unique way. We cannot wait until a synod states something, as we have to carry out marriage and family ministry here.

Positioning himself squarely on the side of the mercy faction led by Cardinal Kasper, Cardinal Marx subsequently backtracked a bit, according to Vaticanista Andrea Gagliarducci.

Even so, the neo-Lutherans are on the march.

But, before concluding an investigation, the general rule is “Follow the money.”

Follow the money: It’s a well-known fact that church attendance in Germany (as in most Western, industrialized nations) is plummeting. What that means for the German bishops, in particular, is that income to their dioceses from the government—derived from a census of those who actually attend Mass—is way, way down.

What better way, then, to increase attendance at Mass in Germany? Extend mercy to the disaffected or alienated Catholics by changing Church teaching concerning divorce and remarriage. Then, all of those other disaffected and alienated Catholics can also be brought back to Mass by changing other Church teachings. However, that will take a bit of time. Right now, what’s imperative is to get one foot into the Porta Sancta at St. Peter’s Basilica, beginning with divorced and remarried Catholics.

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The rationale? It’s not selling indulgences and would provide a great opening move in the larger strategy of reforming the Church…once again…via Deutschland.

All or none of that may have entered into Cardinal Kasper’s thought process or the German bishops’ discussions over which Cardinal Marx has presided.

Who’s to know? Only those who are privvy to such knowledge.

Even so, if one is to understand better what the neo-Lutherans may be up to, the facts cannot be dismissed out of hand.

Follow the money: Those coffers need to be replenished if the bishops are to be good stewards of the critical infrastructure and all the other blings in their possession. As has recently been exposed:

  • The Archdiocese of Munich and Freising, led by Cardinal Reinhard Marx, has spent $150M on a new diocesan service center.
  • Cardinal Marx’s residence was renovated at a cost of $9M, paid for by the state of Bavaria. That’s not quite the 31m euros Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst of Limburg spent to renovate his official residence, but $9M can go a long way to make a humble hermitage feel a bit more comfortable.

Follow the moneyIn his National Catholic Register article, Edward Pentin carefully lays out the critics’ argument that the German Bishops’ Conference has become more of a temporal than spiritual power.

Yes, follow the money.

Isn’t that what Martin Luther did when he initiated a schism that eventuated a Reformation?

 

 

 

To read about Cardinal Marx’s statement (as the original Die Tagespost article is no longer available online), click on the following link:
http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/german-bishops-we-are-not-just-a-subsidiary-of-rome/

To read Andrea Gagliarducci’s assessment, click on the following link:
http://www.mondayvatican.com/vatican/pope-francis-will-his-revolution-be-effective

To read Edward Pentin’s articles, click on the following links:
http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/germanys-bling-bishop-gets-new-post-in-rome/
http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/german-bishops-conferences-dance-with-the-material-world/

To read The Motley Monk’s daily blog, Omnibus, click on the following link:
www.richard-jacobs-blog.com/omnibus.html

GenCon and the Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act

Religious Freedom Restoration Act

 

Recently Indiana passed and the Governor signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  By doing so Indiana joined a majority of states which have such protections for religious freedom. There is also a federal version of the act which was passed overwhelmingly by Congress in 1993 and signed into law by President Clinton.  Here are the operative sections of both the Federal and State Acts:

 

Government may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion only if it demonstrates that application of the burden to the person—

(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and

(2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

And here is the text of Indiana’s RFRA:

A governmental entity may substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion only if the governmental entity demonstrates that application of the burden to the person: (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

Go here for the complete text of the Act.  States enacted their own version of the statute because the Supreme Court in 1997 ruled rightfully that the federal act was not applicable to state laws or local ordinances.

What does this have to do with GenCon, the gaming convention held in Indianapolis that I and my bride have been attending since 1986?

Well, homosexual activists have been busily portraying this statute as a license to discriminate against gays, and the head of GenCon decided to get on this band wagon.  Go here to read the letter by Adrian Swartout.

The ignorance contained in the letter is simply stunning.   Swartout is apparently bone ignorant as to the federal version of the act and how many states have similar acts.  Swartout also is apparently  ignorant of the fact that the Act could only be used if a government seeks to discriminate against an individual or business on the basis of their religion.  The only possible applicability to homosexuals would be if a government sought to take action against a business that discriminated against gays.  The only businesses where such a contention would survive judicial analysis would be those where the owners could demonstrate that their religious beliefs forbid providing a service, such as baking a cake for a gay wedding.   The idea that this statute would have any impact on services provided to convention attendees in downtown Indie is simply farcial.  Of course all the hoopla about the Act has nothing to do with the law or facts, but everything to do with the flexing of political muscles by gay activists.  This tempest also demonstrates that religious freedom is simply not going to be tolerated by those who shriek loudest for tolerance.

March 30, 1865: Prelude to Five Forks

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By the 30th it became obvious to both sides that the Confederate right at Five Forks was in jeopardy.  Grant discusses this in his memoirs:

The next day, March 30th, we had made sufficient progress to the south-west to warrant me in starting Sheridan with his cavalry over by Dinwiddie with instructions to then come up by the road leading north-west to Five Forks, thus menacing the right of Lee’s line.  

This movement was made for the purpose of extending our lines to the west as far as practicable towards the enemy’s extreme right, or Five Forks. The column moving detached from the army still in the trenches was, excluding the cavalry, very small. The forces in the trenches were themselves extending to the left flank. Warren was on the extreme left when the extension began, but Humphreys was marched around later and thrown into line between him and Five Forks.    
My hope was that Sheridan would be able to carry Five Forks, get on the enemy’s right flank and rear, and force them to weaken their centre to protect their right so that an assault in the centre might be successfully made. General Wright’s corps had been designated to make this assault, which I intended to order as soon as information reached me of Sheridan’s success. He was to move under cover as close to the enemy as he could get.    
It is natural to suppose that Lee would understand my design to be to get up to the South Side and ultimately to the Danville Railroad, as soon as he had heard of the movement commenced on the 29th. These roads were so important to his very existence while he remained in Richmond and Petersburg, and of such vital importance to him even in case of retreat, that naturally he would make most strenuous efforts to defend them. He did on the 30th send Pickett with five brigades to reinforce Five Forks. He also sent around to the right of his army some two or three other divisions, besides directing that other troops be held in readiness on the north side of the James River to come over on call. He came over himself to superintend in person the defence of his right flank. Continue reading

Palm Sunday One Hundred and Fifty Years Ago

The chiefs and the captains meet,
Lee erect in his best dress uniform,
His dress-sword hung at his side and his eyes unaltered.
Chunky Grant in his mudsplashed private’s gear
With the battered stars on his shoulders.
                                         They talk a while
Of Mexico and old days.
                       Then the terms are stated.
Lee finds them generous, says so, makes a request.
His men will need their horses for the spring-ploughing.
Grant assents at once.
                      There is no parade of bright sword’s
Given or taken.  Grant saw that there should not be.
It is over, then. . . .
                       Lee walks from the little room.
His face is unchanged.  It will not change when he dies.
But as he steps on the porch and looks toward his lines
He strikes his hands together once with a sound. . . .

In the room he has left, the blue men stare at each other
For a space of heartbeats, silent.  The grey ride off.
They are gone–it is over. . . .

The room explodes like a bomb, they are laughing and shouting,
Yelling strange words, dragging chairs and tables outdoors,
Bearded generals waltzing with one another
For a brief, wild moment, punching each others’ ribs,
Everyone talking at once and nobody listening,
“It’s over–it’s done–it’s finished!”
                                      Then, order again.
The grey ghost-army falls in for the last time,
Marching to stack its arms.
                           As the ranks move forward
The blue guns go to “Present.”  Gordon sees the gesture.
He sweeps his sabre down in the full salute.

There are no cheers or words from blue lines or grey.
Only the sound of feet. . . .
It is over, now. . . .
                      The arms are stacked from the war.
A few bronzed, tattered grey men, weeping or silent,
Tear some riddled bits of cloth from the color-staffs
And try to hide them under their uniforms.

Stephen Vincent Benet, John Brown’s Body

 

 

 

 

I have always thought it appropriate that the national nightmare we call the Civil War ended during Holy Week 1865.  Two remarkably decent men, Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant, began the process of healing so desperately needed for America on Palm Sunday, April 9, 1865 at Appomattox.  We take their decency for granted, but it is the exception and not the rule for the aftermath of civil wars in history.  The usual course would have been unremitting vengeance by the victors, and sullen rage by the defeated, perhaps eventually breaking out in guerilla war.  The end of the Civil War could so very easily have been the beginning of a cycle of unending war between north and south.  Instead, both Grant and Lee acted to make certain as far as they could that the fratricidal war that had just concluded would not be repeated.  All Americans owe those two men a large debt for their actions at Appomattox. Continue reading

Triumph of the Cross

In Hoc Signo Vinces

 

(This is my regular post for Palm Sunday which I repost each year.  Have a happy and blessed Palm Sunday and Holy Week.)

9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Sion, shout for joy, O daughter of Jerusalem: BEHOLD THY KING will come to thee, the just and saviour: he is poor, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass. 10 And I will destroy the chariot out of Ephraim, and the horse out of Jerusalem, and the bow for war shall be broken: and he shall speak peace to the Gentiles, and his power shall be from sea to sea, and from the rivers even to the end of the earth.

 

Thus did the prophet Zechariah, writing half a millennium before, predict the entry of Christ into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.  How many such glorious entrances into cities have there been over the ages?  Every civilization I am aware of has such ceremonies, either parades in peace time or entrances of conquest or liberation in war time.  The Romans turned this into an art form with their triumphs, with the reminder of the slave to the imperator of  fleeting human mortality: “Respice post te, hominem memento te”.

Few such triumphs have turned into utter disaster as quickly as that of Jesus:  Jerusalem at His feet on Sunday, and Christ dead on a Roman Cross before the sun had set on Friday.  Small wonder that no contemporary historian or chronicler at the time took note.  However some sort of official report probably was filed after the crucifixion.  Writing circa 116 AD, and relying heavily on official records for his history, in regard to the great fire at Rome under Emperor Nero Tacitus states:

“15.44.2. But, despite kindly influence, despite the leader’s generous handouts, despite appeasing the gods, the scandal did not subside, rather the blaze came to be believed to be an official act. So, in order to quash the rumour, Nero blamed it on, and applied the cruelest punishments to, those sinners, whom ordinary people call Christians, hating them for their shameful behaviour. 15.44.3. The originator of this name, Christ, was sentenced to torture by Procurator Pontius Pilate, during the reign of Tiberius, but although checked for a moment, the deadly cult erupted again, not just in Judaea, the source of its evil, but even in Rome, where all the sins and scandals of the world gather and are glorified.”

Tacitus, clearly hostile to the Christians, points his finger at one of the great mysteries of history.  In human terms the Jesus movement was nipped in the bud at its inception.  Yet in less than three centuries the Roman emperor bowed before the cross.  The triumph of Palm Sunday led only to disaster, and the humiliation and death of the cross led to triumph in eternity and here on Earth.

For we Catholics, and for all other Christians, no explanation of this paradoxical outcome is needed.  However there is much here to ponder for non-believers and non-Christians.  In purely human terms the followers of Christ had no chance to accomplish anything:  no powerful supporters, no homeland embracing their faith, cultures, both Jewish and Gentile, which were hostile to the preaching of the Gospels, other religions which were well-established, the list of disadvantages could go on at considerable length.  We take the victory of Christianity for granted because it happened.  We forget how very improbable such a victory was. Even more improbable is that what began on Palm Sunday, the triumph of Jesus, has continued till today in spite of all challenges that two thousand years of human folly could cast up.  How very peculiar in mortal terms!

Let us give the last word to the patron saint of paradox G. K. Chesterton: Continue reading

March 29, 1865: Battle of Lewis Farm

General Chamberlain

Battle of Lewis Farm

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 The Appomattox Campaign began on March 29, 1865, with Grant moving the V and II corps to the west to outflank Lee’s lines, while Sheridan and his troopers were sent south to rip up the rail lines linking Petersburg and Richmond to what remained of the Confederacy.  Lee, with that preternatural sixth sense he seemed to often possess regarding the intentions of his enemies, had moved his cavalry, along with infantry under Major General George Pickett to the west to beat off Union attempts to outflank his army.

The first Union objective was to cut the Boydton Plank Road.  After crossing Gravelley Run stream, the leading brigade of the first division of the V corps ran into Confederate fortifications.  The brigade was led by Brigadier Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, the heroic officer who had commanded the 20th Maine during its stand on Little Round Top at Gettysburg. In a fierce action of several hours duration, Chamberlain held his position only falling back as Union reinforcements arrived.  The reinforcements caused the Confederates to retreat to their White Oak Line.  Union casualties were 381 to 371 Confederate.

Late in the afternoon Sheridan’s cavalry occupied Dinwiddie Court House without opposition.  The end of the day saw the vital, for the Confederates, Boydton Plank Road cut in two locations, and the Confederate right dangerously exposed.  Here is Chamberlain’s account of the fighting: Continue reading

The Peacemakers

The Peacemakers

 

A historic meeting occurred between Lincoln, Grant and Sherman on March 27-28, 1865 at City Point, Virginia.  Sherman had no idea that President Lincoln was going to be there, he having traveled by sea from North Carolina to coordinate with Grant the final campaign of the War.  This meeting was memorialized in the 1868 painting The Peacemakers, which was suggested by Sherman:

In Chicago about June or July of that year, when all the facts were fresh in my mind, I told them to George P. A. Healy, the artist, who was casting about for a subject for an historical painting, and he adopted this interview. Mr. Lincoln was then dead, but Healy had a portrait, which he himself had made at Springfield some five or six years before. With this portrait, some existing photographs, and the strong resemblance in form of [Leonard Swett], of Chicago, to Mr. Lincoln he made the picture of Mr. Lincoln seen in this group. For General Grant, Admiral Porter, and myself he had actual sittings, and I am satisfied the four portraits in this group of Healy’s are the best extant. The original picture, life-size, is, I believe, now in Chicago, the property of Mr. [Ezra B. McCagg]; but Healy afterwards, in Rome, painted ten smaller copies, about eighteen by twenty-four inches, one of which I now have, and it is now within view. I think the likeness of Mr. Lincoln by far the best of the many I have seen elsewhere, and those of General Grant, Admiral Porter, and myself equally good and faithful. I think Admiral Porter gave Healy a written description of our relative positions in that interview, also the dimensions, shape, and furniture of the cabin of the “Ocean Queen”; but the rainbow is Healy’s—typical, of course, of the coming peace. In this picture I seem to be talking, the others attentively listening. Whether Healy made this combination from Admiral Porter’s letter or not, I cannot say; but I thought that he caught the idea from what I told him had occurred when saying that “if Lee would only remain in Richmond till I could reach Burkesville, we would have him between our thumb and fingers,” suiting the action to the word. It matters little what Healy meant by his historic group, but it is certain that we four sat pretty much as represented, and were engaged in an important conversation during the forenoon of March 28, 1865, and that we parted never to meet again.

The original painting was destroyed in a fire, and what we have now is a copy found in 1922, lying forgotten in a family storehouse in Chicago.  Harry Truman, ironically a proud card carrying member of Sons of Confederate Veterans, purchased the copy of the painting for the White House in 1947.

Here is Sherman’s recollections of the meeting from his Memoirs:

 

The railroad was repaired to Goldsboro’ by the evening of March 25th, when, leaving General Schofield in chief command, with a couple of staff-officers I started for City Point, Virginia, in a locomotive, in company with Colonel Wright, the constructing engineer. We reached Newbern that evening, which was passed in the company of General Palmer and his accomplished lady, and early the next morning we continued on to Morehead City, where General Easton had provided for us the small captured steamer Russia, Captain Smith. We put to sea at once and steamed up the coast, reaching Fortress Monroe on the morning of the 27th, where I landed and telegraphed to my brother, Senator Sherman, at Washington, inviting him to come down and return with me to Goldsboro. We proceeded on up James River to City Point, which we reached the same afternoon. I found General Grant, with his family and staff, occupying a pretty group of huts on the bank of James River, overlooking the harbor, which was full of vessels of all classes, both war and merchant, with wharves and warehouses on an extensive scale. The general received me most heartily, and we talked over matters very fully. After I had been with him an hour or so, he remarked that the President, Mr. Lincoln, was then on board the steamer River Queen, lying at the wharf, and he proposed that we should call and see him. We walked down to the wharf, went on board, and found Mr. Lincoln alone, in the after-cabin. He remembered me perfectly, and at once engaged in a most interesting conversation. He was full of curiosity about the many incidents of our great march, which had reached him officially and through the newspapers, and seemed to enjoy very much the more ludicrous parts-about the “bummers,” and their devices to collect food and forage when the outside world supposed us to be starving; but at the same time he expressed a good deal of anxiety lest some accident might happen to the army in North Carolina during my absence. I explained to him that that army was snug and comfortable, in good camps, at Goldsboro'; that it would require some days to collect forage and food for another march; and that General Schofield was fully competent to command it in my absence. Having made a good, long, social visit, we took our leave and returned to General Grant’s quarters, where Mrs. Grant had provided tea. While at the table, Mrs. Grant inquired if we had seen Mrs. Lincoln. “No,” said the general, “I did not ask for her;” and I added that I did not even know that she was on board. Mrs. Grant then exclaimed, “Well, you are a pretty pair!” and added that our neglect was unpardonable; when the general said we would call again the next day, and make amends for the unintended slight.

Early the next day, March 28th, all the principal officers of the army and navy called to see me, Generals Meade, Ord, Ingalls, etc., and Admiral Porter. At this time the River Queen was at anchor out in the river, abreast of the wharf, and we again started to visit Mr. and Mrs. Lincoln. Admiral Porter accompanied us. We took a small, tug at the wharf, which conveyed us on board, where we were again received most courteously by the President, who conducted us to the after-cabin. After the general compliments, General Grant inquired after Mrs. Lincoln, when the President went to her stateroom, returned, and begged us to excuse her, as she was not well. We then again entered upon a general conversation, during which General Grant explained to the President that at that very instant of time General Sheridan was crossing James River from the north, by a pontoon-bridge below City Point; that he had a large, well-appointed force of cavalry, with which he proposed to strike the Southside and Danville Railroads, by which alone General Lee, in Richmond, supplied his army; and that, in his judgment, matters were drawing to a crisis, his only apprehension being that General Lee would not wait long enough. I also explained that my army at Goldsboro’ was strong enough to fight Lee’s army and Johnston’s combined, provided that General Grant could come up within a day or so; that if Lee would only remain in Richmond another fortnight, I could march up to Burkesville, when Lee would have to starve inside of his lines, or come out from his intrenchments and fight us on equal terms.

Both General Grant and myself supposed that one or the other of us would have to fight one more bloody battle, and that it would be the last. Mr. Lincoln exclaimed, more than once, that there had been blood enough shed, and asked us if another battle could not be avoided. I remember well to have said that we could not control that event; that this necessarily rested with our enemy; and I inferred that both Jeff. Davis and General Lee would be forced to fight one more desperate and bloody battle. I rather supposed it would fall on me, somewhere near Raleigh; and General Grant added that, if Lee would only wait a few more days, he would have his army so disposed that if the enemy should abandon Richmond, and attempt to make junction with General Jos. Johnston in North Carolina, he (General Grant) would be on his heels. Mr. Lincoln more than once expressed uneasiness that I was not with my army at Goldsboro’, when I again assured him that General Schofield was fully competent to command in my absence; that I was going to start back that very day, and that Admiral Porter had kindly provided for me the steamer Bat, which he said was much swifter than my own vessel, the Russia. During this interview I inquired of the President if he was all ready for the end of the war. What was to be done with the rebel armies when defeated? And what should be done with the political leaders, such as Jeff. Davis, etc.? Should we allow them to escape, etc.? He said he was all ready; all he wanted of us was to defeat the opposing armies, and to get the men composing the Confederate armies back to their homes, at work on their farms and in their shops. As to Jeff. Davis, he was hardly at liberty to speak his mind fully, but intimated that he ought to clear out, “escape the country,” only it would not do for him to say so openly. As usual, he illustrated his meaning by a story: Continue reading

PopeWatch: Liquefy

VATICAN-POPE-AUDIENCE

 

 

From the only reliable source of Catholic news on the net, Eye of the Tiber:

 

Just days after St. Gennaro’s blood liquefied after Pope Francis kissed the relic in Naples, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI told EOTT that he would be able to” liquefy the entire thing if really wanted to.”

In an exclusive interview with EOTT this morning, the former pope said that the same vial of hardened blood had not liquefied when he kissed it in 2007 simply because he hadn’t tried to liquefy it hard enough.

“If I had wanted it to liquefy, you better believe I would’ve liquefied the heck out of that thing,” Benedict said as he clenched his fists and bent his neck to the side to crack it. “You wanna know something? I think it started liquefying for Francis until it realized it wasn’t me kissing it, and so it stopped. I’m not saying that as fact…it’s just a theory going around.”

Benedict went on to say that not only would he be able to liquefy the entire vial of blood, but also the vial and reliquary as well. Continue reading

Hallelujah

 

Something for the weekend.  Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus performed as the Recessional Hymn at St. Francis Xavier Church in New York City on Easter Sunday March 31, 2013.  Although The Messiah has become identified with Christmas, the Hallelujah Chorus is clearly in the Easter section of The Messiah.  The conclusion of the film The Greatest Story Ever Told, got this right: Continue reading

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