Fate has a way of picking unlikely material,
Greasy-haired second lieutenants of French artillery,
And bald-headed, dubious, Roman rake-politicians.
Her stiff hands were busy now with an odd piece of wood,
Sometime Westpointer, by accident more than choice,
Sometime brevet-captain in the old Fourth Infantry,
Mentioned in Mexican orders for gallant service
And, six years later, forced to resign from the Army
Without enough money to pay for a stateroom home.
Turned farmer on Hardscrabble Farm, turned bill-collector,
Turned clerk in the country-store that his brothers ran,
The eldest-born of the lot, but the family-failure,
Unloading frozen hides from a farmer’s sleigh
With stoop-shouldered strength, whittling beside the stove,
And now and then turning to whiskey to take the sting
From winter and certain memories.
It didn’t take much.
A glass or two would thicken the dogged tongue
And flush the fair skin beneath the ragged brown beard.
Poor and shabby–old “Cap” Grant of Galena,
Who should have amounted to something but hadn’t so far
Though he worked hard and was honest.
A middle-aged clerk,
A stumpy, mute man in a faded army overcoat,
Who wrote the War Department after Fort Sumter,
Offering them such service as he could give
And saying he thought that he was fit to command
As much as a regiment, but getting no answer.
So many letters come to a War Department,
One can hardly bother the clerks to answer them all–
Then a Volunteer colonel, drilling recruits with a stick,
A red bandanna instead of an officer’s sash;
A brigadier-general, one of thirty-seven,
Snubbed by Halleck and slighted by fussy Frémont;
And then the frozen February gale
Over Fort Henry and Fort Donelson,
The gunboats on the cold river–the brief siege–
“Unconditional surrender”–and the newspapers.
Major-General Grant, with his new twin-stars,
Who, oddly, cared so little for reading newspapers,
Though Jesse Grant wrote dozens of letters to them
Pointing out all the wonders his son had done
And wringing one dogged letter from that same son
That should have squelched anybody but Jesse Grant.
It did not squelch him. He was a business man,
And now Ulysses had astonished Galena
By turning out to be somebody after all;
Ulysses’ old father was going to see him respected
And, incidentally, try to wangle a contract
For army-harness and boom the family tannery.
It was a great surprise when Ulysses refused,
The boy was so stubborn about it.
Stephen Vincent Benet, John Brown’s Body
I am glad to announce that Dale Price is back to regular blogging at Dyspeptic Mutterings. I am glad to announce that because I have ever
stolen borrowed blogging ideas from him. Here is his review of H.W. Brand’s bio of Grant:
The Man Who Saved the Union: Ulysses Grant in War and Peace is an excellent biography of one of America’s most consistently-underrated historical figures.
University of Texas history Professor H.W. Brands does a fine job of illuminating Grant’s early life and struggles, not only with the bottle but with his failings as a provider–both despite his best efforts. As he does so, Brands presents the determined character that enabled Grant to overcome these failures and rise to become the most beloved general since Washington, and the most popular President of the 19th Century (at least in terms of electoral success).
The description of Grant’s military tenure during the Civil War is very solid, demonstrating that he was the best strategic thinker on either side, and no slouch as a tactician. Brands points out–correctly–that Grant’s casualty rates were lower as a proportion of men in combat than Lee’s despite being on the offensive much more often. That said, I still think Lee was slightly better as a tactician, especially considering that the quality of leadership in the Army of Northern Virginia declined drastically over time, and that of the Army of the Potomac increased with the rise of men like Sheridan and Ord.
None of that was a particular surprise to me, given my other reading. The real eye-opener for me was Brands’ revisionist (and I use that term advisedly) assessment of Grant’s two terms as President. Far from the failure “everyone knows” it to be, Grant’s Presidency had a remarkable number of achievements: the Fifteenth Amendment, the squelching of the attempt to corner the gold market, the settling of claims against England stemming from the giving of commerce raiders to the Confederacy and, most crucially, Grant’s dedication to civil rights for freedmen. In enforcing the Ku Klux Klan Act and related civil rights legislation and appointing determined attorneys general like Amos Akerman (who had been a Colonel for the Confederacy!), Grant was the President most devoted to civil rights and racial equality until the arrival of Lyndon Johnson. Furthermore, Grant presented the most humane policy toward the Indian tribes by an American president up to his time.
Where this reassessment (slightly) fails is in providing a thorough explanation of *why* Grant’s reputation as President went to and remains mostly in the dustbin at this late date. To be sure, Brands’ treatment of 1872-1880 is not all praise–Grant is rapped for his too-restrictive handling of the Panic of 1873, America’s first industrial depression, which cast a shadow over much of his tenure. Though, in Grant’s defense, his restrictive approach to increasing the money supply was well-within the mainstream of 1870s economic thought.
Interestingly enough, the economic doldrums did not damage his personal popularity much (as opposed to damaging the GOP)–he came close to winning a nomination for a third term in 1880, and almost certainly would have won that election, too.
All in all, the coverage of Grant’s presidency is an eye-opener which should act as a welcome rebuttal to the Good General/Bad President canard that unjustly haunts him.
Finally, Brands deftly handles Grant’s last battle–a race against time to finish his memoirs as he was dying of throat cancer. As he did through his military career, Grant won this battle through dogged determination, dying a few days after he finished them, ensuring that his wife and family would be well-provided for. The Mutt-and-Jeff friendship that arose between Grant and Mark Twain is also well-drawn. Brands also includes a hilarious anecdote of Twain’s one “battle” on behalf of the Confederacy in 1861 that left me–and my wife–laughing out loud. I am morally certain Twain would approved. Continue reading
“All the world will be your enemy, Prince with a Thousand Enemies, and whenever they catch you, they will kill you. But first they must catch you, digger, listener, runner, prince with the swift warning. Be cunning and full of tricks and your people shall never be destroyed.”
Lord Frith, Watership Down
A picture of Dale and Mrs. Price enjoying some paintballing. Now, whatever could have inspired that!
Dale Price gives us words to live by at his blog Dyspeptic Mutterings:
Never go full ostrich, son.
Precisely. If you’re a solid progressive, you get high-profile invites to significant Church events even if you’re a coddler of abusive priests. [Read more about the dreadful Danneels in the reliably rad-trad Tablet.] Sadly, it appears that mercy is only for those of confirmed progressive bona fides. Whereas demotions, removals and defenestrations of entire orders are reserved only for those with the odor of Tradition.
- First: B.J. Cupich is the man the post-Burke shake-up in the Congregation of Bishops came up with. *This* is the man the Pope wanted to run one of the top three sees on the continent.
Nothing is so unworthy of a civilised nation as allowing itself to be governed without opposition by an irresponsible clique that has yielded to base instinct.
From a White Rose resistance pamphlet (1942)
I am happy that Dale Price is back to blogging on a fairly regular basis since it gives me a renewed opportunity to
steal borrow blogging ideas from him. He turns his attention at his blog Dyspeptic Mutterings to the insane purge going on within science fiction fandom of anyone who has political beliefs that do not coincide with the politically correct bromides du jour:
Orwellian group-think comes to real-world science fiction writing.
One hundred years since a hurricane struck the Great Lakes in November 1913. Dale Price at Dyspeptic Mutterings gives us the details:
Dale Price at Dyspeptic Mutterings, continues on with his observations regarding the reactions to Pope Francis. I was struck by this section of his latest post:
I’ve come to the conclusion that, regardless of the actual temporal length (and may God grant Pope Francis many healthy years), this is going to be a loooooong papacy.
1. The first problem is what my crisis buddy Elliot colorfully describes as “soft ultramontanism.” To which I will add “by reflex.”
This manifests itself in instant circle-the-wagons mentality against any criticism. Sorry, Mark, but this is emblematic. The fact that Scalfari didn’t take notes is majoring in minors. No less an authority than the Vatican itself offers the interview for perusal on the official website.
That strikes me as a sotto voce endorsement of its accuracy. Not very sotto, in fact. More like a megaphone admission.
Also, it seems to me that criticism from such respectable non-fringe figures as Fr. Germain Grisez, fellow Jesuit James Schall and the very level-headed Carl Olson deserve a hearing. Ditto Robert Royal, who was clearly thrown by the first interview.
In other words, those who “get Francis” need to try to understand those of us who don’t. And, yeah, I don’t.
Frankly, the most evident fruit of the papacy thus far seems to be the willingness of orthodox Catholics to break out the cutlery and start stabbing whenever someone expresses unease over the Pope’s actions and words.
2. The substantive criticisms are worthy of consideration.
Arguments like “the Pope is acting just like Jesus” or “you’re just like the elder brother in the Prodigal Son!” aren’t really arguments: they’re declarations of the speaker’s moral superiority, QEDs that are supposed to batter the benighted sinner on the other side into repentance. Quite simply, they won’t do. Continue reading
My friend Dale Price at his blog Dyspeptic Mutterings has often supplied me with blogging ideas that I have
stolen borrowed. Unfortunately he hasn’t been blogging much lately. That was broken with a post on Pope Francis which sums up many of the reactions I have been having:
In which I exile myself from polite company and retreat to the margins of Catholic society.
This is basically how I feel. Like the person Sutherland is pointing at the end of Invasion. Essentially, the Catholic world I know has been seized by body snatchers and is about to notice that I am not lining up to board the F1 to the Promised Land.
Yes, this is about the interview. Quick summary of my reaction: some very good parts, some easily-soundbitten ammo I can expect to see all over the place, but is still explicable in terms of preaching the Gospel, and a disastrous, giant ticking nuke about to blow us back to the Church of the 1970s.
The Interview Was Candy Mountain Awesome, Charlie! Everyone agrees–it was full of candy, and joy, and joyness! You don’t believe that?
Yeah, well, I can live with that. Hier stehe ich. Ich kann nicht anders.
[Just to make the inevitable scream of “That’s unclean Protestant talk!” a little easier.]
As I see it, there are three serious problems, two of which are related to how it’s being received and processed, and the third is the nuke.
Problem 1: We Are All Ultramontaines Now.
Including–nay, especially!–people who have spent a generation ignoring, deriding or spinning away every encyclical, apostolic letter and motu proprio that flowed forth from the pens of John Paul II and Benedict XVI.
As an aside, it’s good to see the Jesuits at America released from the dungeons after the long night of Benedict the Destroyer. The shackle chafe marks being no doubt hidden under the long sleeves. Some advice: sunlight and a vitamin regimen will banish the sallow complexions.
What the right’s deal is, I don’t know. The Pope Says We Must Re-Balance, So We Must Re-Balance. It smacks too much of a new CEO coming in, and everyone having to get with the program. At a minimum, it’s a feverish celebration that has no parallels with how it received Benedict, which was more defensive and apologetic, and less effusive in its praise.
The fact both are united in swoonery suggests that one or the other is missing something. And someone is, as we shall see in Problem 3. Continue reading
My friend Dale Price writes insightful posts at his blog Dyspeptic Mutterings. I stop by there regularly to
steal borrow blog ideas. Dale is always very good, but when he lets himself go he is magnificent. Herewith is his post on the scape goating anti-NRA hysteria that some on Saint Blogs have been participating in:
Being marginalized in the culture war.
You see, I’m an NRA member. I do not own a Bushmaster, or any other semi-automatic weapon. As is my wife. I–and Heather–collectively own several firearms. Including–as will be set forth below–a completely-legal, bona-fide military weapon currently used by our military right now. Unlike what [damnatio memoriae] used at Newtown.
I am happy to see that Dale Price has resumed blogging regularly at his Dyspeptic Mutterings. I stop by every day to read some of the wittiest blog writing on the internet. Here is a recent sample:
I am building a giant cybernetic war badger in my basement.
I love the music of Marty Haugen.
I am receiving locutions from Krishna.
I think Obama is the only permissible electoral choice for Catholics in 2012.
I don’t think women should ever wear pants or breastfeed in public.
OK–they can do the latter if they’re wearing only pants.
Janeway is way better than Kirk and Picard combined.
The Dallas Cowboys are going to win the next three Super Bowls.
Or the Washington Redskins–whichever you hate more.
Yes, that outfit makes your ass look fat.
The best Stooge was Shemp.
Only Anglican orders are valid.
–I mean, seriously–is this thing on? Traffic is allegedly going up, but I’m feeling like a performance artist here. Continue reading
Dale Price over at Dyspeptic Mutterings is being brilliant again:
Fr. Thomas Massaro would like you all to calm down.
I’m not going to fisk this, because it’s an admirable sentiment, as far as it goes. Which means it stagged a step or two before dropping in a messy heap.
Yes, it would be nice if things in the world were more civil and respectful. That’s fine.
But the problem with his call for civility is that he sees the white-hot anger as the problem rather than the symptom. It’s not–the real problem goes far, far deeper than that, and has been savaging the Body of Christ for decades now.
The HHS mandate is just the catalyst causing it to explode to the surface.
The real problem is that the Church in America has fractured into at least two churches. If it hadn’t been this issue, it would have been a dispute over the language of the liturgy, or the latest pronouncement from the Vatican, some university conferring honors on someone who is an open enemy of Catholic teaching or even the renovation of the local cathedral church. The struggle–more bluntly, low-grade civil war–between the churches has been going on since the last bit of incense dispersed at Vatican II. We don’t agree on how to worship, what our schools should teach, what laws should be enacted/opposed, what canons apply and when or even what our parish church should look like. In fact, we can’t even agree on whether or not Jesus actually rose from the dead.
And for forty five years, our shepherds have been trying to keep it together by careful tacking, including soothing rhetoric, trying to give everyone half a loaf or so (depending on the year, bishop and constituency) and generally trying not to see the coal pile in the ballroom. Continue reading
My friend Dale Price is posting again regularly at his blog Dyspeptic Mutterings after something of a hiatus. Go here to have a gander at his blog. Dale has long written some of the sharpest commentary on Saint Blog’s. I stop in every day looking for blogging topics to
steal borrow, and I rejoice that he is writing frequently again.
For years I have read daily Ten Reasons, a blog run by Rich Leonardi. Orthodox and well written, Ten Reasons was always illuminating and well worth reading. Now Rich has shut down his blog. The reason why he did so has me so angry that I am afraid that I cannot do a post on the subject using only language fit for a family blog. Instead, here is what the ever eloquent Dale Price had to say about this at Dyspeptic Mutterings:
Gutless wonders, petty tyrants and chancery dwellers.
But I repeat myself. Yes, I know there are good folks laboring in the bureaucratic halls of the Church–this isn’t directed at you. As for the rest of you…
The rector of the Cincinnati seminary managed to successfully retaliate against Rich Leonardi, long-time Catholic blogger extraordinaire and pointed, but usually civil, critic of the manifold problems of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
Rich was booted off the Son Rise Morning Show in retaliation for his criticism.
Here’s the message he sent me in response to a query on Facebook:
To net it out, the seminary rector reached out to the head of the Son Rise Morning Show to have me thrown off the program. I called him out on it, and a pissing contest ensued. I shut down my site and intend to withdraw from public Catholic life.
In the meantime, Ken Overberg will continue to deny the Atonement from the pulpit, and Paul Knitter will air his doubts about the salvific significance of Christ and the historicity of the Resurrection, both undisturbed in the sanctuary of Xavier University. Because doing something about *them* would take a set of clockweights, the willingness to endure media hostility and the turning of a deaf ear to the squalling of local progressives.
Squashing a layman who criticizes the local leadership? You can do that in a snap and still have plenty of time to enjoy a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon with lunch. To applause from “the right people,” to boot.