Category Archive 'History'
20 Aug 2019

Vonolel, General Roberts’ Charger

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The best example of what was called a Nejdi horse that comes to my mind is ‘Vonolel’–the horse of General Roberts. Here is a letter that General Roberts has written to Homer Davenport in 1907 and a photograph showing Lord Roberts mounted on the Vonolel, c. 1881

“ENGLEMERE, ASCOT, BERKS,
4th March, 1907.
Dear Sir,—I have been a long time replying to your letter of the 22d of November, in which you asked for information about the Arab horse I had in my possession for many years. I have deferred doing so until I could send you a photograph of the horse; this I have been able to discover quite lately. I bought the horse in Bombay in 1877. He was a pure-bred Nedj Arab and was then five years old, and had quite recently been landed from Arabia. The following year I took him to Afghanistan, where he was with me for two years in extremes of heat and cold, and very often with difficulty about proper food for him, but while other horses fell off in condition from not getting forage, the little Arab maintained his throughout. I kept him all the time I was in India and in 1893 brought him to England. He attracted great attention at the late Queen’s jubilee in 1897; he died two years afterward, and is buried in the garden of the Royal Hospital, Dublin, in which I reside while commanding in Ireland. During the twenty-two years he was in my possession he travelled with me over fifty thousand miles and was never sick or sorry. He measured exactly 14 hands 2 inches.
Believe me,
Yours very truly,
ROBERTS, F. M.”

———————–

Kipling’s tribute to Lord Roberts: “Bobs” (an excerpt):

If you stood ’im on ’is head,
Father Bobs,
You could spill a quart of lead
Outer Bobs.
’E’s been at it thirty years,
An-amassin’ souveneers
In the way o’ slugs an’ spears—
Ain’t yer Bobs?

What ’e does not know o’ war,
Gen’ral Bobs,
You can arst the shop next door—
Can’t they, Bobs?
Oh, ’e’s little but he’s wise;
’E’s terror for ’is size,
An’—’e—does—not—advertize—
Do yer, Bobs?

Now they’ve made a bloomin’ Lord
Outer Bobs,
Which was but ’is fair reward—
Weren’t it, Bobs?
So ’e’ll wear a coronet
Where ’is ’elmet used to set;
But we know you won’t forget—
Will yer, Bobs?

———————–


The grave of Vonolel, the famous and bemedalled horse.

Many people walking the grounds of the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham will pass a small grave without noticing, and yet this grave is perhaps the most unusual grave in Dublin itself. In the grounds of the Hospital, one finds the final resting place of ‘Vonolel’, twenty-nine years old on passing, but a veteran of conflict.

In the parade celebrating Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, General Roberts led the colonial contingents in the procession on his grey ‘Vonolel’, the only horse to be awarded campaign medals for the Afghan Campaign and the March to Kandahar.

    “When the Queen awarded medals to her officers and men who has taken part in the Afghan campaign and in the expedition to Kandahar, she did not forget Vonolel. Lord Roberts hung round the animals neck the Kabul medal, with four clasps, and the bronze Kandahar star. The gallant horse wore these medals on that day in June when the nation celebrated the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee”

So read The Irish Times of October 21, 1899.

Much more information on the horse can be gathered from an earlier piece however, dating from January of the same year, when Vonolel was still living. In it, it was noted that Vonolel had come to England “having been practically all over the world with his master”. He was described as “..a type of the highest class of Arab charger” and it was noted that “he traces his descent from the best blood of the desert.”

13 Aug 2019

Thomas Hardy’s Tree in St. Pancras Churchyard

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Kuriositas has an interesting

In the churchyard of St Pancras Old Church in London, hundreds of old gravestones circle an ash tree. Of course, these were not how they were originally laid out. So, how did they get to this, their final resting place, as it were? And who was responsible?

Long before he became famous for novels like Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Far From the Madding Crowd and The Mayor of Casterbridge, Thomas Hardy (like any other aspiring writer) had to find employment with which to pay his way through the world. His chosen field was to be architecture.

However, it is unlikely that the would-be author could guess what one of his firm’s projects would demand of him. He probably didn’t sign up for architecture to then be sent to excavate a graveyard. Yet, like many a young man finding his path, sometimes you have to do what you have to do.

During his five years with the Covent Garden based architect Arthur Blomfield (1862-67) the railway system of the British Isles was undergoing a huge burst of growth. The lines in and around London were, in particular, demanding more room to carry people in and out of the capital.

It was during this time that an older part of St Pancras Churchyard was designated for almost total obliteration in order to make way for a new railway line. The Bishop of London gave the contract for this work to Blomfield who passed responsibility on to his young student, Hardy. Yet these objects in the way of progress could not be cleared like slums. Even progress occasionally must respect what came before and the removal and relocation of so many middle class graves would almost certainly have caused an uproar if it was not done properly..

The coffins were removed from the site with circumspection and care and were reburied elsewhere (the Victorian English had a horror of cremation). There was no need to move the headstones. Yet although the graves were old and unvisited it would not have been respectful to simply dump the headstones in to the Thames.

The process would have taken a great deal of time and young Hardy, who was 25 when he was given this commission would have spent the best part of a year overseeing the work. Perhaps his experiences in St Pancras church yard later informed some of the bleaker passages in his novels.

Some of the headstones were placed in a circular pattern around a young ash tree in the churchyard of St Pancras Old Church, far enough away from the site of the railway for them never to have to be disturbed again. Over the decades the tree has, inevitably grown and parts of the headstones nearest the tree have disappeared in to its growth.

RTWT

12 Aug 2019

Somebody Has to Do It

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29 Jul 2019

“Rich in Highly Individual Commanders”

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Admiral William Packenham

James Morris, in Pax Brittanica (1968), described some British Naval Officers of the late Victorian Era.

Nothing in Nelson’s life appealed more to the British than his loyal disregard of orders, and in the 1890s the Royal Navy was rich in highly individual commanders. Algernon Charles Fiesché Heneage, ‘Pombo’ to the Navy, habitually carried a stock of 20 dozen piqué shirts in his ship, was alleged to break two eggs every morning to dress his hair, and took off his uniform code when he said his prayers, because for a uniformed British officer to fall on his knees would be unthinkable. ‘Prothero the Bad’, Reginald Charles Prothero, was one of the most alarming persons ever to command to warship, with a black beard down to his waist, flaming eyes, huge shoulders, an enormous hook nose and a habit of addressing everyone as ‘boy’, even sometimes his eminent superiors. Arthur Wilson, ‘Old ‘Ard ‘Art’, when he commanded the Channel Squadron, used ride out of Portsmouth Dockyard on a ratty old bicycle, gravely saluted by the sentries, and on June 6, 1884, laconically entered in his diary: ‘Docked ship. Received the V.C.’ Gerard Noel, greeted with a cheery good morning on the bridge of his ship in the small hours, turned with a snarl and replied: ‘This is no time for frivolous complements.’ Robert Arbuthnot was so absolute a martinet not that when, soon after he handed over a ship to his successor, a seagull defecated with the plop upon the quarter-deck, the Chief Bosun’s ate remarked without a smile: ‘That could never ‘ave ‘appened in Sir Robert’s day.’ William Packenham instructed his Turkish interpreter, when sent ashore to quell a rising in Asia Minor, and surrounded on all sides by angry brigands, ‘tell these ugly bastards that I am not going to tolerate any more of their bestial habits’: when an elderly lady at a civic luncheon asked him if he was married, he replied courteously: ‘No, Madame, no. I keep a loose woman in Edinburgh.’

21 Jul 2019

Liberals and the Space Program

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The New York Times’ derisive response to the 50th Anniversary of America’s triumphant landing on the Moon made the blood of many people boil, but really wasn’t anything new.

The liberalism of the American Establishment moved significantly in the direction of the rancid radical Left in the six years between the death of JFK and the Apollo space crew’s moon landing. Even as far back in 1969, as Steven Hayward notes, the liberals were turning against the Space Program.

[W]e shouldn’t underestimate how dramatically liberals turned against the Apollo project at the moment of its triumph—a sign of the larger collapse of liberalism in the 1960s. The moon landing had been set out as a lofty goal by the liberals’ hero, John F. Kennedy, and the moon landing was an occasion of national pride and celebration for most Americans. Here, amidst the rubble and gloom of the 1960s, was something that had gone splendidly right. Many leading liberals, however, could only sniff that while the moon landing was undeniably impressive, the money for the moon landing would have been better spent on social problems on Earth. The popular cliché of the time went: “Any nation that can land a man on the moon can [fill in the blank].” (The total cost of the decade-long moon landing project was less than three months’ worth of federal spending for social programs in 1969.)

Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield said that “The needs of the people on earth, and especially in this country, should have priority. When we solve these problems, we can consider space efforts.” Even the brother of the man who issued the call to go to the moon, Sen. Ted Kennedy, expressed weariness with the space program: “I think after [the moon landing] the space program ought to fit into our other national priorities.”

This may have been the moment when liberalism certified that it had become a crabbed and negative force in American life. It has never recovered.

RTWT

21 Jul 2019

Comparison

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11 Jul 2019

More Reparations Needed

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Sahil Matani points out, tongue firmly in cheek, that, as it is now proposed to compensate hereditary victims of Slavery, it can easily be argued that the same principle ought to be applied even more broadly, going back in History even farther, and farther, and farther.

One glaring example is the great evil visited on the Anglo-Saxon population by the Normal Conquest of 1066. By any standard, the effect on indigenous English society was enduring devastation. Through war, invasion and genocide, the Anglo-Saxon ruling class was almost entirely replaced, control of the church and state surrendered to foreign adversaries, English replaced by Norman French as the language of government, and England’s entire political, social and cultural orientation shifted from Northern Europe to the continent for the next thousand years.

This matters because, just as the pain of colonialism continues to be endured by its descendants, the Conquest continues to have lasting effects. In his study of surnames and social mobility, economic historian Gregory Clark concluded that Norman surnames continue to be 25 per cent overrepresented at Oxbridge to this day relative to other indigenous English surnames. As Clark put it: ‘The fact that Norman surnames had not been completely average in their social distribution by 1300, by 1600, or even by 1900 implies astonishingly slow rates of social mobility during every epoch of English history.’ Not for nothing did Nonconformists and Whigs loudly oppose ‘the Norman yoke’ during the 17th and 18th centuries.

Cambridge University, which still drips with Norman money and influence, should now consider to what extent it needs to compensate its Anglo-Saxon victims. The Sutton Trust estimates that Oxbridge graduates earn £400,000 more during their lifetimes than graduates from other UK universities. These figures imply that descendants of the rapacious Norman invader class could be earning tens of thousands of pounds more than other graduates — an undeserved lifetime premium that has survived 31 generations. So, reparations must certainly be made. But who shall pay, and who shall receive?

It should be straightforward for a Royal Commission to trace the present-day descendants of Britain’s Norman usurpers through a combination of genealogical and administrative research as well as — inevitably — mandatory genetic testing. A small tax on the Lampards, Vardys and Gascoignes of the world, payable to the Bamfords, Bransons and Ecclestones, would be sufficient to catalyse healing for the open sores of the past.

What are the sums involved? By 1086, the Norman arrivistes had stolen almost a third of the 12.5 million acres of arable land in England, parcelling it into manorial estates. At a conservative estimate, that land is now worth £7,000 per acre — or £25 billion in total that the Normans owe Anglo-Saxons for the Conquest. France’s liability could, of course, be offset against our exit bill from the EU.

There will be inevitable quibbles, such as descendants of Normans claiming that they were not personally responsible. But this is feeble prattle. Countries typically honour treaties dating hundreds of years in the past, despite no one being alive who signed them. We pay debts accumulated by previous generations.

RTWT

03 Jul 2019

Pickett’s Charge

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Today is the 156th Anniversary of the Third Day of the decisive Battle of Gettysburg.


Crossing the Emmitsburg Road

——————————————————–


“Give them cold steel.” — Brigadier General Lewis Armistead (February 18, 1817–July 3, 1863)

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“Dr. Joseph Hold of the 11th Mississippi, Davis’ brigade, anticipated that the afternoon would be busy and set up his dressing station early in a shelter behind Seminary Ridge. . .When the cannonade opened and the Federals’ guns replied, stretcher bearers, crouching low, began bringing in the wounded. Among the first was an athletic young man with reddish golden hair, “a princely fellow,” the doctor called him, with a calm manner and a delightful smile, one of that gay, turbulent company that had left with the University Greys of Oxford to form Company A of the 11th Mississippi.

“The physician examined the left arm, cut off at the elbow, and offered encouragement.

“‘Why, doctor, that isn’t where I am hurt.’ The boy pulled back a blanket and showed where a shell had ripped deep across his abdomen, carrying away much that was vital. ‘I am in great agony,’ he said, still smiling. ‘Let me die easy, dear doctor.’

“But before the lad had drunk the cup containing the concentrated solution of opium, the doctor held up his right arm so he could write: ‘My dear mother. . .Remember that I am true to my country and my regret at dying is that she is not free. . .you must not regret that my body cannot be obtained. It is a mere matter of form anyhow. . .Send my dying release to Miss Mary. . .’ He signed, JERE S. GAGE, Co. A, 11 Miss. By that time, the letter was covered with blood.

“Then he raised his cup to a group of soldiers. ‘I do not invite you to drink with me,’ he remarked wryly, then with fervor, ‘but I drink a toast to you, the Southern Confederacy, and to victory’

* * *

“Then Pickett stood in front of his division and gave the final word ‘Charge the enemy and remember old Virginia.’ His voice was clear and strong as he spoke the order: ‘Forward! Guide center! March’ . . .

“‘I don’t want to make this charge,’ Longstreet declared emphatically. ‘I don’t believe it can succeed. I would stop Pickett now, but that General Lee has ordered it and expects it.’

“Further remarks showed he wanted some excuse for calling off the whole attack.

“But Longstreet and Alexander had lost control. As they talked, the turf trembled about them and the long line of grey infantry broke from the woods. First came Garnett’s Virginians, the general in front, his old blue overcoat buttoned tightly around his neck. Abreast was Kemper’s trim line marching majestically into the open fields, the fifes piping ‘Dixie,’ the ranks in nearly perfect alignment. Far to the left could be heard the drum rolls of the Carolina regiments – Pettigrew and Trimble were in motion. The hour of the generals had passed. The infantrymen from the Richmond offices and Pearisburg farmlands, the ‘greys’ from the halls of ‘Old Miss’ and the ‘flower of the Cape Fear section,’ had taken the Confederate cause into their hands.

* * *

“The assaulting column consisted of 41 regiments and one battalion. . .Nineteen of the regiments were from Virginia, 15 from North Carolina, 3 each from Tennessee and Mississippi, and one regiment and one battalion from Alabama.

* * *

“Garnett, with a big voice issuing from his frail body, road ahead of his line regulating the pace, admonishing his men not to move too rapidly. From the skirmish line, Captain Shotwell obtained one of the rare views of the Confederate advance: the ‘glittering forest of bright bayonets,’ the column coming down the slope ‘in superb alignment,’ the ‘murmur and jingle’ and ‘rustle of thousands of feet amid the stubble’ which stirred up a cloud of dust ‘like the dash of spray at the prow of a vessel.’

“In front of Pickett flew the blue banner of the Old Dominion with the motto, ‘Sic semper Tyrannis,” and the Stars and Bars of the Confederacy (the red battle flag with its blue cross not yet being in general use). The regimental flags flapped. A soft warm wind was blowing from the land they loved.”

–Glenn Tucker, “High Tide at Gettysburg.”

03 Jul 2019

Lee’s Gamble

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For every Southern boy fourteen years old, not once but whenever he wants it, there is the instant when it’s still not yet two o’clock on that July afternoon in 1863, the brigades are in position behind the rail fence, the guns are laid and ready in the woods and the furled flags are already loosened to break out and Pickett himself with his long oiled ringlets and his hat in one hand probably and his sword in the other looking up the hill waiting for Longstreet to give the word and it’s all in the balance, it hasn’t happened yet, it hasn’t even begun yet, it not only hasn’t begun yet but there is still time for it not to begin against that position and those circumstance which made more men than Garnett and Kemper and Armistead and Wilcox look grave yet it’s going to begin, we all know that, we have come too far with too much at stake and that moment doesn’t need even a fourteen-year-old boy to think This time. Maybe this time with all this much to lose than all this much to gain: Pennsylvania, Maryland, the world, the golden dome of Washington itself to crown with desperate and unbelievable victory the desperate gamble, the cast made two years ago.

—William Faulkner, Intruder in the Dust, 1948.

26 Jun 2019

Norman Stone, 8 March 1941 –19 June 2019

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Richard J. Evans, in The Guardian, really unloaded on the conservative historian Norman Stone in an obituary.

was character assassination. As a judge of the Fraenkel prize in contemporary history some years ago, he told the astonished members of the jury that they should not award the prize to a historian of Germany whose politics he disliked because she was an East German agent – an allegation that was enough to rule her out of contention even though it was absolutely baseless and undoubtedly defamatory.

Shortly after the death in 1982 of his patron and mentor in Cambridge, EH Carr, the author of a multivolume History of Soviet Russia and influential works on historiography and international relations, Stone published a lengthy assault on his reputation, which included lurid details of his three marriages. When a colleague criticised this “outrageous” diatribe to his face, telling him that Carr “always said you were amoral”, Stone responded: “And he always said you were a bore” (probably an invention, though one cannot know for sure).

At a time when malice and rudeness were highly prized by some rightwing Cambridge dons, Stone outdid them all in the abuse he hurled at anyone he disapproved of, including feminists (“rancid”), Oxford dons (“a dreadful collection of deadbeats, dead wood and has-beens”), students (“smelly and inattentive”), David Cameron and John Major (“transitional nobodies”), Edward Heath (“a flabby-faced coward”) and many more.

Stone was undoubtedly clever. He could write entertainingly and could summarise complex historical circumstances in a few pregnant sentences, gifts which brought him a flourishing career as a journalist and commentator. He was a talented linguist who read and spoke more than half a dozen languages, including Hungarian. Yet his career was also dogged by character flaws that prevented him from fulfilling his early promise as a historian. …
Read the rest of this entry »

20 Jun 2019

“The Lonely Valley”

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Birdseye view of early Girardville.

Nice article on the foundation of the mining industry and the founding of towns in the Valley of the Mahanoy Creek, Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania by Jake Wynn.

I grew up in Shenandoah. My father’s family had settled in Mahanoy City.

Out of wilderness came the wild towns of the Mahanoy Valley.

Ashland. Girardville. Mahanoy Plane. Gilberton. Shenandoah. Mahanoy City.

These communities and the patch towns that surrounded them suddenly appeared in the 1850s and 1860s out of pure wilderness. All built to mine black diamonds from the mountains surrounding the area in every direction. …

The Mahanoy Valley became home to a series of boom-towns in the 1860s and early 1870s. And with boom-towns come the inevitable problems of a population explosion. Lawlessness reigned in these years after the Civil War. These towns had major problems with violence and liquor in their early years. And they also became the seat of unrest directed toward the large mining interests that sought to absorb the patchwork of independent operators in the 1870s. Many of those hanged as Molly Maguires came from this narrow valley.

Developing the Mahanoy Valley came as a direct result of the Civil War and the sudden emergence of life in the wilds of the “Middle Field” created a situation as close to the “Wild West” as would ever be seen in the Keystone State.

Walter Winchell, back in the Prohibition Era, referred to Shenandoah as “the Only Western Town in the East.”

27 May 2019

Confederate Veteran Poses With Fighter Jet, 1955

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“Uncle Bill” Lundy claimed to be the last living Confederate Civil War veteran in Florida, and spent his 107th birthday at Eglin AFB, Florida in January 1955.

Rare Historical Photos:

It should be noted that Lundy’s actual age and military service have been heavily disputed over the years. William Lundy was allegedly born near Troy, in Pike County, Alabama, on January 18, 1848 (also reported at Coffee Springs, Coffee County). He is said to have enlisted in the last days of March 1864, at age 16; Company D (Brown’s), 4th Alabama Cavalry Regiment (Home Guard) at Elba; and to have been honorably discharged at Elba in May 1865, on account of the close of the war. He moved his family to Laurel Hill in 1890, where he and his wife, Mary Jane Lassiter, raised ten children. He was granted a Confederate soldier’s pension in Florida, no. 8948, of $600 per annum to be paid effective from June 12, 1941.

HT: Vanderleun.

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