Monthly Archives: January 2011

Father John B. Bannon: Confederate Chaplain and Diplomat

 

There were a great many brave men during the Civil War, but I think it is a safe wager that none were braver than Father John B. Bannon.  Born on January 29, 1829 in Dublin, Ireland, after he was ordained a priest he was sent in 1853 to Missouri to minister to the large Irish population in Saint Louis.  In 1858 he was appointed pastor of St. John’s parish on the west side of the city.  Always energetic and determined, he was instrumental in the construction Saint John the Apostle and Evangelist church.  Out of his hectic schedule he somehow found time to become a chaplain in the Missouri Volunteer Militia and became friends with many soldiers who, unbeknownst to them all, would soon be called on for something other than peaceful militia drills.  In November 1860 he marched with the Washington Blues under the command of Captain Joseph Kelly to defend the state from Jayhawkers from “Bleeding Kansas”.

With the outbreak of the Civil War, most of the Saint Louis Irish were strongly Confederate in their sympathies and Father Bannon was of their number.  The Irish viewed the conflict in light of their experiences in Ireland with the English invaders, with the Southerners in the role of the Irish and the Northerners as the English.   Confederate militia gathered at Camp Jackson after the firing on Fort Sumter, and Father Bannon went there as chaplain of the Washington Blues.  Camp Jackson eventually surrendered to Union forces, and Father Bannon was held in Union custody until May 11, 1861.  He resumed his parish duties, although he made no secret from the pulpit where his personal sympathies lay.  Targeted for arrest by the Union military in Saint Louis, on December 15, 1861, he slipped out of the back door of his rectory, in disguise and wearing a fake beard,  as Union troops entered the front door. 

He made his way to Springfield, Missouri where Confederate forces were gathering, and enlisted in the Patriot Army of Missouri under the colorful General Sterling Price, who would say after the War that Father Bannon was the greatest soldier he ever met.

He became a chaplain in the First Missouri Confederate Brigade, and would serve in that capacity until the unit surrendered at Vicksburg on July 4, 1863.  He quickly became a legend not only in his brigade, but in the entire army to which it was attached and an inspiration to the soldiers, Catholic and Protestant alike.  At the three day battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas, March 6-8, 1862, he disobeyed orders for chaplains to remain in the rear and joined the soldiers on the firing line, giving human assistance to the wounded, and divine assistance for those beyond human aid.  For Catholic soldiers he would give them the Last Rites, and Protestant soldiers, if they wished, he would baptize. Continue reading

Lincoln and the Blood Libel of 1860

 

 

This has been going around the internet.  I am regretful that I did not recall this section first of Lincoln’s famous Cooper Union Address on February 27, 1860:

I would say to them:–You consider yourselves a reasonable and a just people; and I consider that in the general qualities of reason and justice you are not inferior to any other people. Still, when you speak of us Republicans, you do so only to denounce us as reptiles, or, at the best, as no better than outlaws. You will grant a hearing to pirates or murderers, but nothing like it to “Black Republicans.” In all your contentions with one another, each of you deems an unconditional condemnation of “Black Republicanism” as the first thing to be attended to. Indeed, such condemnation of us seems to be an indispensable prerequisite–license, so to speak–among you to be admitted or permitted to speak at all. Now, can you, or not, be prevailed upon to pause and to consider whether this is quite just to us, or even to yourselves? Bring forward your charges and specifications, and then be patient long enough to hear us deny or justify. Continue reading

Yeah, Truth Is Definitely Stranger Than Fiction

One of the Giffords shooting victims, James Eric Fuller, joined in with the attempt of the Left to blame the Giffords shooting on conservatives:  “It looks like Palin, Beck, Sharron Angle and the rest got their first target,” Eric Fuller, a former campaigner for Ariz. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, told Democracy Now. “Their wish for Second Amendment activism has been fulfilled.”

Today Mr. Fuller was arrested for making a death threat: 

Toward the end of the town hall meeting Saturday morning, one of the shooting victims, J. Eric Fuller, took exception to comments by two of the speakers: Ariz. state Rep. Terri Proud, a Dist. 26 Republican, and Tucson Tea Party spokesman Trent Humphries.

According to sheriff’s deputies at the scene, Fuller took a photo of Humphries and said, “You’re Dead.”

Deputies immediately escorted Fuller from the room.

Pima County Sheriff’s spokesman Jason Ogan said later Saturday that Fuller has been charged with threats and intimidation and he also will be charged with disorderly conduct.

Among the dignitaries at the town hall taping were Mayor Bob Walkup, U.S. Rep. Raul Grijalva and former Congressman Jim Kolbe.

All this is somewhat explicable when one reads up a bit more about Mr. Fuller.  Go here to do so. Continue reading

The Vacant Chair

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Something for the weekend.  The incomparable Kathy Mattea singing the Civil War song The Vacant Chair.  Originally written in 1862 to commemorate Second Lieutenant John William Grout, 15th Massachusetts, who was killed at age eighteen at Ball’s Bluff, one of the early battles of the War, it proved immensely popular North and South as the nation eventually mourned approximately 620,000 vacant chairs. Continue reading

Buying A Car To Save Money

Cars that get over 40 miles per gallon in fuel efficiency are, reportedly, becoming all the rage, with more models from American and foreign car makers being introduced at the latest Detroit Auto Show.

So I got curious, having just started a 18-mile-each-way commute, what exactly are the savings one can achieve by buying a more fuel efficient car? I assumed a situation faily like mine: My car is paid for and costs me only minimal maintenance to keep up (a 14-year-old Toyota Camry) and a 20 mile each way commute.

Say you’re considering buying a new car which gets 40mpg for $20,000. That seems moderately standard for these cars. Assume a 40 mile daily round trip commute, and an additional 40 miles of weekend or additional driving. Assuming a current care actual efficiency of 20mpg. Assume the price of gas goes up to $4/gal. How long would it take for you to make up the cost of that new car in fuel savings?
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A Matter of Perspective

So what right-wing columnist said this:

All this fuss about civility . . . is an attempt to bully critics into unilaterally disarming – into being demure and respectful to the president.

Actually, it was Paul Krugman, quoted in a Stephen Miller article titled “Anger Mismanagement,” published in the Wall Street Journal on March 19, 2004.

Hey, at least this can be one time where I totally agree with Paul Krugman.  Oddly enough, apparently I am in fuller accord with Paul Krugman than . . . Paul Krugman.

Life Imitates Art

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Orwell’s two minute hate from 1984 is brought to film in the above video.  Below is a video montage of tweets calling for the death of Sarah Palin which went out after the Giffords shootings.  (Strong content advisory:  many of the tweets are very vulgar and obscene and all of them are examples of congealed hate.) Continue reading

Some Thoughts On Violence, Insanity & Politics

Now that tempers are cooling a bit, and the slanderous narrative promulgated by far-left media sources in the wake of the Giffords shooting has largely been rejected by the American public, perhaps we should reflect upon the role of violence in our history, culture, and political disputes.

Among the many perfectly reasonable points made by Sarah Palin when she addressed the blood libel manufactured against her by the media was that there is no time in history we can compare the present one to in the vain hope of finding  a more peaceful, less violent political tone. Andrew Jackson fought in 13 duels and even killed a man in one of them. He was far from the only US politician to engage in them.

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The President’s Speech

I did not watch President Obama’s speech last night, nor any of the memorial service turned pep rally, but I have read the transcript.  After reading through it I have to concur with the majority sentiment that this was a very good if not excellent speech. In fact this is perhaps the best one the President has given, granted that is a pretty low bar.  President Obama’s speeches can most charitably be described as vague, but this one contained a very clear message and was very appropriate for the occasion.  I was struck in particular by this passage:

You see, when a tragedy like this strikes, it is part of our nature to demand explanations, to try to impose some order on the chaos, and make sense out of that which seems senseless.  Already we’ve seen a national conversation commence, not only about the motivations behind these killings, but about everything from the merits of gun safety laws to the adequacy of our mental health systems. And much of this process, of debating what might be done to prevent such tragedies in the future, is an essential ingredient in our exercise of self-government.

But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized  at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who happen to think differently than we do  it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we’re talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.

Scripture tells us that there is evil in the world, and that terrible things happen for reasons that defy human understanding. In the words of Job, ‘when I looked for light, then came darkness.’ Bad things happen, and we have to guard against simple explanations in the aftermath.

For the truth is that none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack. None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped these shots from being fired, or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man’s mind.

Naturally there’s been some blowback by some conservatives horrified at the notion that anything President Obama has done or said could ever garner praise by fellow conservatives.  For example, just read the comments to any number of blog postings on the Corner last night.  Almost all of the NRO contributors praised the speech, drawing the ire of a large band of followers (though not all, certainly).  I’m not really sure what more the President could have said.  If there’s any criticism due this speech it is that it does seem a bit over-long.  It’s almost like one of those homilies where it feels like the Priest is vamping in order to hit some pre-conceived notion of how long the talk should be.  But it is foolish to have  expected the President to have delivered a full-blown attack on leftists who engaged in any “blood libel.”  The tenor of his remarks were certainly appropriate for the occasion.

I don’t think that President Obama’s political career is suddenly going to be rejuvenated because some right-wing pundits like one speech that he gave.  If this wasn’t your cup of tea, fine.  I’ve found myself disliking many an Obama oration that others have drooled over, so opinions may vary.  But to me this was a speech well worth the praise it has received.

Giant Crabs: Just What the Economy Needs!

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From the only reliable source of news on the net, the Onion.  Personally, I am waiting for trained flying monkey servants to do the jobs homo sapiens do not want to do.  It is only a rumor that Governor Quinn of Illinois is attempting to land a contract for the construction of a Giant Crab hatchery on the lake shore of Chicago.

The Wages of Sin Is… Higher Taxes?

A few months ago I wrote this reflection on the idea that bad leadership can be seen as a punishment or consequence of sin, and how the ethical and fiscal train wreck that is Illinois state government might serve as an example of this concept.

Now we are seeing further evidence of this concept. In the waning hours of their own lame-duck session, the Illinois General Assembly early this morning passed one of the most drastic tax hikes in state history.

The measure raises the individual income tax rate from 3 to 5 percent (thereby increasing each individual’s total tax liability by 66 percent) and the corporate tax rate from 4.8 to 7 percent. Gov. Pat Quinn has promised to sign the tax hike into law as soon as possible.

The corporate income tax, combined with an existing 2.5 percent tax that replaced an old personal property tax, means corporations in Illinois will be taxed at a total basic rate (not accounting for any exemptions or deductions) of 9.5 percent, the fourth highest rate in the nation. Although the tax hikes are supposed to be in effect only for the next four years, most residents expect all or part of the increases to end up being permanent.

The reason for this action is the state’s cataclysmic $15 billion-and-mounting budget shortfall. The growing deficit threatened to lower Illinois’ bond rating to junk status, possibly within days. In response, lame duck legislators in the last 12 hours of their term voted to approve the tax hike. A loose spending cap was approved along with the tax hike, but no specific or significant budget cuts accompanied this legislation.

Needless to say, the impending tax hike has many residents angry and feeling betrayed yet again by their elected officials.  Gov. Quinn, elected to a full term by a very narrow margin, had said prior to the election that he would not approve of raising the income tax for individuals beyond 4 percent. However,  this measure goes a full percentage point higher. Many predict a significant loss of jobs and residents as a result.

But what does this have to do with the “wages of sin” spoken of by St. Paul?

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