Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Dred Scott's Trial (Dred Scott, Wikipedia)

On September 17, 1858 Dred Scott died of tuberculosis in St Louis, Missouri.  In March 1857 Mr Scott had been the subject of the infamous Supreme Court decision in Dred Scott v Sandford, considered one of stepping stones to the American Civil War.  Less than three months after that decision, in which the Court affirmed that he remained a slave, Scott was freed by his owner, Charles Blow (there lies a very tangled tale behind the ownership of Scott and his wife Harriet).

But for an unlikely sequence of events Dred Scott would have won his freedom in a state court case a decade earlier and the case never would have added to the bonfire of sectional conflict.

THC's purpose is not to rehash the Supreme Court decision, which remains a source of scholarly and historical interest more than 150 years later with still-raging disputes about what the actual holding of the case is and what is mere dicta, a dispute complicated by the fact that all nine justices filed separate opinions.  Rather it is to focus more on the earlier litigation in the Missouri state courts because it illustrates the changing and hardening attitudes about slavery in the slave holding states in the decades prior to the Civil War.  The best account of the case and its historical setting remains the 1978 Pulitzer Prize winning book by Don E Fehrenbacher; The Dred Scott Case:  Its Significance in American Law and Politics from which much of the story is this post is taken.

Dred Scott was born around 1800 in Virginia.  Almost nothing is known of the man so we have virtually no insight into his personality.  He may have been no more than five feet tall.  Fehrenbacher cites an 1857 newspaper article in the St Louis Evening News which calls him "illiterate but not ignoble" and with a "strong common sense".  We do not know how much of the initiative of the eleven years of litigation was at his initiative.  There is still so much unknown regarding his character, his relationship with his original owners, the Blows, and what other people or groups played a role in setting the strategy and funding it for the years of litigation.

In 1833, Dred Scott was sold to Dr John Emerson of St Louis by the family of Peter Blow, his owners since his childhood or early adulthood.  The Blow family was later to become his chief supporters in his fight for freedom.  Dr Emerson had recently received an appointment as assistant surgeon in the U.S. Army and his first posting was in Illinois, a free state, to which he took Scott.   In 1836 Dr Emerson was transferred to Fort Snelling on the Mississippi River near present day St Paul, Minnesota again taking Scott with him.  Fort Snelling was in what was then the Wisconsin Territory and within the area where slavery was forbidden by the Missouri Compromise of 1820.  While at Snelling, Scott met and was allowed to marry Harriet Robinson, a marriage that lasted until his death.  Harriet and their two daughters joined Dred in his lawsuit.
In 1840, Dr Emerson was ordered to Florida.  Instead of taking the Scotts with him they accompanied his wife Eliza (Sanford) Emerson to their home in St Louis.  Emerson resigned from the Army in 1842 returning to St Louis and dying in Iowa the next year.

In 1846 Dred Scott tried to buy freedom for himself and his family but Mrs Sanford refused for reasons that are still unclear.  In April of that year, Dred and Harriet filed petitions in Missouri court seeking their freedom based on their residence on free soil.  Under then-existing Missouri law the petition by the Scott stood a good chance of success.  It may seem surprising but several slave holding states applied a relatively strong presumption of freedom in such cases. On numerous occasions the Missouri Supreme Court had ruled that a slave, taken by his master to reside in a state where slavery was prohibited, was thereby emancipated and had even ruled in favor of a slave held by a military officer at Fort Snelling (see Rachel v Walker (1836)).

At trial in June 1847 Scott's lawyers only needed to prove two facts to prevail; that Dred had been taken by his master to reside in a free state or territory and that Mrs Emerson currently owned him.  Nonetheless a verdict was returned in favor of Mrs Emerson because Scott's lawyers failed to prove that she was the owner of the Scotts leading to the bizarre result that the Scotts remained the slaves of Mrs Emerson because technically it had not been proved she owned them!  Apparently, Scott's lawyers planned to rely on the testimony of Samuel Russell who stated he'd hired the Scotts to perform some work for him from Mrs Emerson.  However, on cross-examination Russell admitted that his wife, who did not testify, had made all the arrangements and he only knew what his wife had told him.  The whole thing sounds very strange to THC.

The cases were refiled with additional defendants added and a new trial ordered.  The defendants appealed the order but the Missouri Supreme Court sided with the Scotts and directed the trial to proceed.  At the second time around in January 1850 the jury found in favor of Dred Scott (this would have been an all-white jury as blacks were not permitted to serve).  The defendants then appealed to the Missouri Supreme Court.  Although briefs were filed in March 1850, the Court did not render a decision until 1852.  If the Scotts had prevailed in the original 1847 trial they would have won their freedom but changes in the political atmosphere led to a different result five years later.

To understand what happened we need to go back a bit.  At the time of the Declaration of Independence (1776) and the Constitution Convention (1787) sectional differences over slavery could not be resolved but the common assumption, North and South, was that it would, and should, cease to exist at some point in the future.  As the United States expanded the issue of whether slavery was to be allowed in the territories was subject to a series of differing accommodations.  Slavery also became more economically and culturally embedded with the growth of the cotton economy. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, both of whom assumed slavery would fade away in time, grew more distressed at the intractability of the problem expressing their despair during the final years of their correspondence which ended with their deaths in 1826.

The 1830s saw the sectional conflict heat up with the start of the abolition movement in the North (particularly New England) which was seen as a great threat and incitement to slave rebellion by the South and in the South by the growing doctrine that slavery was a positive good for both master and slave.  It also saw the start of an explicit rejection of the Declaration's statement that "all men are created equal" a proposition which John C Calhoun, the intellectual godfather of Southern rejectionism, called a "hypothetical truism" and "the most false and dangerous of all political errors" (as quoted by Harry Jaffa in Dred Scott Revisited, Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy).,_March_1849-crop.jpg(John C Calhoun; ya gotta love the neckbeard!)
The situation reached a fever pitch during the Mexican War (1846-8) when Congress embarked on a series of fierce debates over whether to permit slavery in the territories acquired from Mexico and slavery for the first time became the dominant issue in a Presidential election (1848) all of which culminated in the Compromise of 1850 which left many in the South outraged because it did not open all the new territory to slavery and left many in the North angry that some of the territory would become slave-holding and that the North would be subject to the loathsome Fugitive Slave Act which subordinated state courts to federal enforcement in returning runaway slaves.

At the same time the legal framework for slavery was changing.  All slave states had Slave Codes setting forth how enslaved people were, or were not, to have access to courts, the relative rights of master and slave, and on what grounds they could be freed.  During the 18th and early 19th century some of these codes afforded slaves more legal rights than free white women.  That changed in the decades preceding the Civil War.  New restrictions were placed on the ability of slaves to travel on their own, pass systems were put into place, it became more difficult for masters to free slaves, many states required freed slaves to leave the state and several states forbid slaves being be taught to read and write.

It was in this context that Missouri law, which had been relatively liberal in providing access to courts and in presumptions regarding freedom was about to change.  In 1852, the Missouri Supreme Court effectively overruled Rachel v Walker and found against the Scotts by a vote of 2-1.

It is worth quoting at length (from Fehrenbacher's book) the majority opinion by Justice William Scott which well captures the changed tenor of the times:

Times are not now as they were when the former decisions on this subject were made.  Since then not only individuals but States have been possessed with a dark and fell spirit in relation to slavery, whose gratification is sought in the pursuit of measures, whose inevitable consequences must be the overthrow and destruction of our government  . . . Although we may, for our own sakes, regret that the avarice and hard-heartedness of the progenitors of those who are now so sensitive on the subject, ever introduced the institution among us, yet we will not go to them to learn law, morality or religion on the subject.

Justice Scott closed his opinion with these sentiments:

We are almost persuaded that the introduction of slavery amongst us was, in the providence of God, who makes the evil passions of men subservient to His own glory, a means of placing that unhappy race within the pale of civilized nations. 

On appeal to the Supreme Court, the Scotts again lost by a vote of 7-2.  As mentioned previously the debate over what the court decided, as a matter of law, has gone on for over a century but what is clear is that the Court, or at least Chief Justice Roger Taney, decided that rather than base its decision on narrow grounds as it could have, it would attempt, once and for all, to resolve the slavery issue for the nation, one of the greatest miscalculations in American history.,g_face,h_300,q_80,w_300/MTIwNjA4NjM0MjE1ODkyNDky.jpg(Chief Justice Taney, from
Most critically the Court, in Taney's decision, concluded:

(1) Negroes were not citizens of the United States and therefore unable to bring suit in a federal court [note: this applied to all Negroes slave or free]

(2) The Missouri Compromise provisions regarding slavery were unconstitutional since Congress had no power to forbid slavery in the territories.

For anyone who opposed slavery and the power of the South, not just abolitionists, the decision was their worst nightmare.

To reach his result, Justice Taney had to employ a type of perverted Originalism to rewrite the history of the Founding Era in order to conclude that it had never been the intent to provide Negroes any of "the rights and privileges which that instrument [the Constitution] provides for and secures to citizens of the United States".  Once again, remember that Justice Taney is making this statement as to all Negroes whether free or slave.  In the course of his opinion Taney ignores, distorts and rewrites the history of the late 18th century.  As an example, he completely rewrites the history of the Northwest Ordinance, which forbid slavery in the territories north of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi, was originally drafted by Thomas Jefferson and passed by the Continental Congress and then ratified by the first Congress under the new Constitution.

Justice Taney discovery of this "secret" history contravened the narrative of Southern leaders both before and after Dred Scott.  After all, if the Founders never intended to include Negroes with at least some degree of rights, why was John C Calhoun so intent on denouncing their "error" in this regard in the quote cited earlier?  And, as Jaffa points out in Dred Scott Revisited, if Taney was correct why did Alexander Stephens, Vice-President of the Confederacy feel compelled in his notorious Cornerstone speech of 1861 to express these sentiments?:

The prevailing ideas entertained by [Jefferson] and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old Constitution were, that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically.  It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the man of that day was that, somehow or other, in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away.

Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid; its corner-stone rests upon the great truth that the negro is not the equal to the white man.  That slavery - subordination to the superior race - is his natural and moral condition.

This, our new government, is the first in the history of the world based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.

[By the way, it turns out Stephens is a much more complex and interesting character than THC thought and will be the subject of a future post.]

The Dred Scott decision did not itself make the Civil War inevitable but it helped it along.  THC believes Civil War was very likely regardless of the Scott decision but if Dred's lawyers had been a little more prepared and astute in 1847 it is possible that this bit of tinder might never have been added to the fire.

And, if you are interested in reading more about slavery as the root cause of the Civil War take a look at Forever Free, Part 2.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

An Evening With Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Last night I attended a lecture at Yale sponsored by the William F Buckley Program (the goal of the program is "to promote intellectual diversity" at the school) and delivered by Ayaan Hirsi Ali, currently a fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard.  I’d been unaware of the scheduled lecture until reading about a controversy triggered by an open letter from Yale’s Muslim Student Association (MSA) which denounced the invitation to Hirsi Ali because of her alleged history of hate speech and intolerance as well as her lack of academic credentials to speak about the Islamic faith.  The letter backfired on the MSA when a number of the 35 other Yale student groups it claimed had endorsed the letter stated that they had done no such thing.

Since I'd read about Hirsi Ali over the years, though never read anything by her except maybe an op-ed here or there I decided to attend the event to hear her talk entitled "The Clash of Civilizations: Islam versus the West".  And also because I don't like being told what I should or should not listen to and remembered that last spring Brandeis University rescinded an offer to award her an honorary degree at commencement due to pressures from the same groups.

The evening consisted of a one hour talk by Hirsi Ali followed by 30 minutes of Q&A which was limited to questions submitted in writing by the audience.  There were no protests outside and the audience, which included students from the MSA, was polite and orderly.

Below is a summary of my notes which I have not tried to organize or to add my own interpretation except where clearly noted as "My Comment".

Before that, for those unfamiliar with her background; Hirsi Ali was born in Somalia in 1969.  Her father was a politician opposing the government who spent some time in exile.  Her family moved to Saudi Arabia in 1977 and shortly thereafter to Ethiopia and then Kenya.  She grew up in a Muslim household and as a girl underwent female genital mutilation, a practice she has decried as an adult.

In 1992, to avoid an arranged marriage she received political asylum in the Netherlands where she obtained a college degree and began learning several languages.  Horrified by the events of Sept 11, 2001 and increasingly dissatisfied with her religion she renounced Islam in 2002 becoming an atheist.  She became politically active and was elected to the Dutch Parliament in 2003.  In 2004 she worked with the Dutch director Theo van Gogh on Submission, a short film criticizing the Muslim treatment of women.  Later that year, van Gogh was shot, had his throat slit by an Islamist and was left lying dead in the street with a note pinned by a knife in his chest threatening Hirsi Ali with death.  Since that time she has lived with some level of security around her.

In 2005 a controversy erupted over whether her 1992 asylum application was accurate and she resigned from Parliament and a year later moved to the United States.  In 2005 Time Magazine named her as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the world and in 2006 her best selling autobiography Infidel was published.  In 2013 she became an American citizen.

The Lecture 

She complimented the President of Yale for his recent statements in support of free speech and contrasted it with Brandeis University’s decision to rescind heraward of an honorary degree last spring.

She spoke of the Brandeis incident and other commencement fiascoes at the same time and said they involved two phenomenon.  The first, which she called self inflicted, an excessive focus on any controversial or potentially offensive (to someone) speakers and second, in her case, the problem with Islam to listen to any criticism which she said takes advantage of the first concern.

Referring to the kidnapping of young girls by Boko Haram she said we (the West) show too much restraint in our response but praised the West’s use of diplomatic pressure to free the Sudanese woman who converted to Christianity.

She spoke about ISIS and said “I do not blame the President for showing restraint” and then said we need to finally figure out how we are fighting and what we are fighting.  Yes, we can militarily take out the ISIS leadership but what will we do about the next group, and there will be a next group.

It was significant that the United Arab Emirates ambassador to the US last week wrote in a Wall St Journal op-ed denouncing “Islamic extremism“, a term she said the Arab states had previously avoided.  She called it “a good step forward“.

We need to broaden the tools and methods to deal with this threat beyond just military action and surveillance. [MY COMMENT:  This was a theme she returned to several times].

She then moved to her broader themes.  First she took on those who attacked her for a lack of academics credentials and questioned why her experiences are relevant. [MY COMMENT:  You may find this unbelievable since the Left routinely elevates those with "authentic" experience as ones we simply must listen to, but when it is someone they don't like they are dismissed on those grounds].

In response she moved to what I thought the most powerful part of her talk:

She pointed out what happened to those well credentialed religious academics in Muslim societies who dissented in even minor ways from the historic teachings of Islam.  She ran through a list of 20th century Muslim academics who were exiled, forced to divorce their wives, recant and, in some cases, executed.

Hirsi Ali then spoke at length about her own experience growing up in East Africa.  Her family and community were Muslim but she described it as an Islam that “if you neglected some teachings you were left alone”.  There was not hostility between Sunni and Shiite and they got on well with their Christian neighbors, though she added they did hate the Jews, but they again, they never met any.  She said many Muslim, then and now, are “peaceful, loving people“.

This changed when she was 15 and a teacher (she referred to him as the Preacher Teacher) arrived in their community.  He had been trained somewhere in the Middle East, perhaps Saudi or Egypt and he preached intolerance and a language new to their ears.  He introduced the concepts of jihad and martyrdom, the subordinate role of women and the need to aspire to kill all Jews (not just those in Israel).

This, Ali emphasized, is the indoctrination process that it overlooked.  It must be addressed because this is “the cancer“.  These preachers are not just active in the Muslim world; they are here in the U.S. and U.K. [MY COMMENT:  She never said anything about how to address this other than the West needed to empower Islamic reformers and dissidents].

She then said that there is only one Islam but several different kinds of Muslims:

The first are the Preacher Teachers who focus on a core of Islam (submission to Allah) and preach hatred and intolerance along with their followers.
The second, whom she said are the majority of Muslims, are in cognitive dissonance.  They are horrified by and condemn the atrocities carried out by the first group in the name of Islam but they still believe in core Islamic beliefs.
The final group are the small minority of reformists and dissidents.  Ali places herself in the latter category.  She defined the dissidents as those who when confronted by a conflict between their conscience and the core creed of Islam choose their conscience.

She closed by addressing some questions to the Muslim students in the audience.  These included:
Why don’t you spend your time protesting the Preacher Teachers and their intolerance instead of protesting against people like me?
Why don’t Muslims protest against the image of the Koran sandwiched between two Kalashnikovs (the banner of Boko Haram)?
Why are Muslims silent about the murder of others by the intolerant ones (whether members of different Islamic sects or those of other faiths)?
She ended by saying that every day there is a headline that forces Muslims to chose between conscience and creed.


Q. Is there too much focus on Islamic extremism?  What about colonialism and the evils of the West?

A. Colonialism is not unique to the Muslim world.  The Vietnamese and most African states were colonized but they are not waging jihad in response.  She also reminded the audience that Islam itself once was a colonial empire.

In response to another question (don’t have details in my notes) she again mentioned that using military means may be a necessity but our tools need to be broadened.

In response to a question about the Israeli-Palestinian conflicted she mentioned she had come across Palestinians who sincerely want a state that will co-exist peacefully with Israel but a second group see this as a religious war regardless of how the boundaries might be drawn.  She said the first group was in the minority but she hopes that in light of the other regional threats that the Arab nations might empower this group to seek a real peace.

The last question was why should we consider the problems of extremism in Islam as an indictment of the entire religion?  In her response she makes it clear that any “unreformed” religion is potentially a threat and said that in the West this reform had happened (she mentioned that even the Vatican had to make reforms in recent decades).  She mentioned visiting the Salem Witch Museum and seeing the texts used to condemn people for sorcery.  She said that’s where unreformed religions belong, in the museum.  The problem with Islam is that it is still in the 7th century and that increasing numbers of Muslims view the Koran and hadiths as a driving manual.

The dissidents and reformers must be empowered and must push for doctrinal change in Islam.  She pointed out that the huge demonstrations in Egypt overthrowing the Muslim Brotherhood were opposing the imposition of Sharia law as were the 2009 demonstrators in Iran.

She made three final remarks:

Reminded us that her community had no interest in jihad until the arrival of the Preacher Teacher.
We should not be in bed with the Saudis who spread intolerance.
A world not led by America will be a really bad place to live in.”  

MY COMMENT:  Hirsi Ali said both that Islam is in the 7th century and that her community was fine practicing Islam until the arrival of the intolerant Preacher Teacher.  My sense is she would reconcile this by saying that Islam is a good faith "as long as you don't take it too seriously", a belief she would apply to all religions.  The universalist side of her message will make many uncomfortable.  For instance, along with opposing female genital mutilation she would also forbid the male circumcision practiced by Muslims and Jews.  She would also ban religious educational institutions.

I admire Hirsi Ali's courage and while I don't feel knowledgeable enough to comment on her religious critique of Islam it seems to me that her message about the instrumental role played by the fundamentalist preachers is correct.  However, while her message can be effective in the West, as a self described Islamic dissident and atheist it seems doubtful she will have any impact on the Muslim world and it is hard to see how a non-Islamic West can effectively empower Islamic reformers and dissidents.  This is a problem that makes taking on Communism look like child's play. 

Monday, September 15, 2014


Last night THC caught Supercop for the first time in several years.  It's the third film in the great Jackie Chan's Police Story trilogy and co-stars Michelle Yeoh (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon).  Michelle, playing a Chinese Police Inspector, holds her own with Jackie, as a Hong Kong cop, in the 1992 film.  They are both undercover seeking to break up a drug smuggling gang with action set in China, Hong Kong, Thailand and Malaysia.

The climactic action sequence is set in Malaysia's capitol of Kuala Lumpur and includes incredible stunts by both Jackie (the helicopter sequence) and Michelle (a motorcycle leap on to the top of a moving train).  No CGI or blue screen here and you can't say no one was hurt in the making of the film.

Below are the three key final sequences along with the outtakes showing what happens when the stunts don't go quite as planned.

In this first sequence it's Michelle with the headscarf and Jackie dressed in yellow.

Next up is the helicopter hang.

Michelle's cycle leap.

The outtakes including the botched cycle leap.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Enter Sandman Meets Bluegrass

Just what you've been waiting for - a bluegrass version of Metallica's lullaby Enter Sandman by the bluegrass band Iron Horse.  In its own way it's just as ominous as the original.  As a bonus feature you can actually understand the words!

The Iron Horse boys are from Killen, Alabama and this is their website.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Sherman's Letter To The Mayor of Atlanta (Atlanta from

On this date in 1864 General William Tecumseh Sherman sent a letter to James M Calhoun, Mayor of Atlanta, Georgia containing a passage well-known to Civil War aficionados and students of the general's career:

You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty and you cannot refine it, and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out. I know I had no hand in making this war, and I know I will make more sacrifices to-day than any of you to secure peace. But you cannot have peace and a division of our country. If the United States submits to a division now it will not stop, but will go on until we reap the fate of Mexico, which is eternal war.

What prompted Sherman to express these sentiments in a letter to the mayor of a city his army had occupied ten days earlier? 

In early May 1864, Sherman's army began a campaign from its base at Chattanooga, Tennessee with the capture of Atlanta, a key Confederate manufacturing center and rail hub, as its goal.  After four months of marching, maneuvering and fighting (though despite Sherman's bloodthirsty rhetoric he avoided committing his troops to battle more than most Civil War generals) against the Confederate forces commanded at first by Joseph E Johnston and then later by John Bell Hood, Atlanta fell to the Union forces on September 2.  As the Confederates withdrew they set fire to some buildings and an ammunition train which exploded causing extensive damage (it is this event that is the setting for Rhett Butler's dramatic rescue of Scarlett O'Hara and her sister in Gone With The Wind).

(Mill and train destroyed by Confederates)

Although Sherman now had possession of Atlanta, the Confederate army under General Hood still existed and was in a position to possibly cut his supply line which ran back to Chattanooga.  This led Sherman to decide that the civilian population of Atlanta must be evacuated as he could not reliably supply it and did not want to be burdened with the need to do so.  His evacuation order came on September 7, 1864 and triggered several rounds of correspondence between Generals Sherman and Hood as well as Mayor Calhoun over the ensuing days (the entire exchange can be found here).  These letters provide a good insight into Sherman's strategy and state of mind at the time. 

Sherman's letter of September 7 to Hood announces his intent to evacuate and proposes a truce to facilitate movement for those people who want to go in the direction of Hood's army:.  Of particular interest is his approach towards the handling of black "servants":

If you consent I will undertake to remove all families in Atlanta who prefer to go South to Rough and Ready [a station on the rail line outside Atlanta], with all their movable effects, viz, clothing, trunks, with their servants, white and black, with the proviso that no force shall be used toward the blacks one way or the other. If they want to go with their masters or mistresses they may do so, otherwise they will be sent away, unless they be men, when they may be employed by our quartermaster. Atlanta is no place for families or non-combatants, and I have no desire to send them North if you will assist in conveying them.
On the 9th Hood responded accepting Sherman's proposal but then at the end of his letter adding two sentences that clearly left Sherman irate:

And now, sir, permit me to say that the unprecedented measure you propose transcends, in studied and ingenious cruelty, all acts ever before brought to my attention in the dark history of war. In the name of God and humanity I protest, believing that you will find that you are expelling from their homes and firesides the wives and children of a brave people.  

Sherman's reply the following day addresses almost exclusively those closing sentences.  He points out that it is not "necessary to appeal to the dark history of war when recent and modern examples are so handy" citing the many instances in the recent campaign when Johnston and Hood forced the evacuation of civilians, destroyed their property and placed women and children in harm's way.  Sherman closes by calling Hood a hypocrite:

Talk thus to the marines, but not to me, who have seen these things, and who will this day make as much sacrifice for the peace and honor of the South as the best born Southerner among you. If we must be enemies, let us be men and fight it out, as we propose to do, and not deal in such hypocritical appeals to God and humanity. God will judge us in due time, and He will pronounce whether it be more humane to fight with a town full of women, and the families of "a brave people" at our back, or to remove them in time to places of safety among their own friends and people. 

The next day Mayor Calhoun along with two city councilmen injected themselves into the discussion requesting "most earnestly, but respectfully" that the General reconsider his evacuation order.  They write of the hardships being imposed by the order when "Many poor women are in advanced state of pregnancy; others now having young children, and whose husbands, for the greater part, are either in the army, prisoners, or dead." and laying out the practical difficulties once they reach a countryside already filled with refugees from the earlier phases of the campaign:

This being so, how is it possible for the people still here (mostly women and children) to find any shelter? And how can they live through the winter in the woods? No shelter or subsistence, in the midst of strangers who know them not, and without the power to assist them much, if they were willing to do so. This is but a feeble picture of the consequences of this measure. You know the woe, the horrors and the suffering cannot be described by words; imagination can only conceive of it, and we ask you to take these things into consideration. 
 The writers are almost apologetic about disturbing Sherman with their request:

We know your mind and time are constantly occupied with the duties of your command, which almost deters us from asking your attention to this matter, but thought it might be that you had not considered this subject in all of its awful consequences.

Given Sherman's personality it is unlikely in any circumstance he would have changed his mind but it is certain that after Hood's letter of September 9 he would never change it.  Thus, Sherman's letter of September 12 which is of interest for more than just its most famous passage.  The letter starts calmly:

I have read it carefully, and give full credit to your statements of the distress that will be occasioned by it, and yet shall not revoke my orders, simply because my orders are not designed to meet the humanities of the case, but to prepare for the future struggles in which millions of good people outside of Atlanta have a deep interest. We must have peace, not only at Atlanta but in all America. To secure this we must stop the war that now desolates our once happy and favored country. To stop war we must defeat the rebel armies that are arrayed against the laws and Constitution, which all must respect and obey. To defeat these armies we must prepare the way to reach them in their recesses provided with the arms and instruments which enable us to accomplish our purpose.
Sherman then lectures the Mayor about the responsibility of the citizens of Atlanta for the terrible war:

You might as well appeal against the thunder-storm as against these terrible hardships of war. They are inevitable, and the only way the people of Atlanta can hope once more to live in peace and quiet at home is to stop the war, which can alone be done by admitting that it began in error and is perpetuated in pride.

The first sentence of this passage strikes us as odd but comports with Sherman's views: he was a Union man, not an emancipationist:

We don't want your negroes or your horses or your houses or your lands or anything you have, but we do want, and will have, a just obedience to the laws of the United States. That we will have, and if it involves the destruction of your improvements we cannot help it.

Responding to their tales of woe, Sherman accuses them of not being troubled when the tables were turned:

I myself have seen in Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi hundreds and thousands of women and children fleeing from your armies and desperadoes, hungry and with bleeding feet. In Memphis, Vicksburg, and Mississippi we fed thousands upon thousands of the families of rebel soldiers left on our hands and whom we could not see starve. Now that war comes home to you, you feel very different. You deprecate its horrors, but did not feel them when you sent car-loads of soldiers and ammunition and molded shells and shot to carry war into Kentucky and Tennessee, and desolate the homes of hundreds and thousands of good people who only asked to live in peace at their old homes and under the Government of their inheritance.
He closes by bestowing a benediction:

But, my dear sirs, when that peace does come, you may call on me for anything. Then will I share with you the last cracker, and watch with you to shield your homes and families against danger from every quarter. Now you must go, and take with you the old and feeble, feed and nurse them and build for them in more quiet places proper habitations to shield them against the weather until the mad passions of men cool down and allow the Union and peace once more to settle over your old homes at Atlanta.

                                                                                                                  Yours in haste
                                                                                                                  WT Sherman

On November 15, 1864, after wrecking much of what remained in Atlanta, Sherman's army left the city on its March To The Sea reaching Savannah on December 21.    


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Pedro Fans 17

"We didn't get beat by the Red Sox.  We got beat by Pedro Martinez"
- Paul O'Neill, New York Yankees
Boston pulled to within five and a half games of the Yankees in the American League East, hoisted almost single-handedly by a pitcher with a sagging face, the body of an oversized jockey, and an arm and confidence of a comic book superhero.
New York Times, September 11, 1999

Fifteen years ago today on September 10, 1999 Pedro Martinez pitched a one-hitter, striking out 17 Yankees, a team that would go on to win its second consecutive World Series that year, in one of the most dominating pitching performances in recent decades.

THC listened to some of the game on the radio as he drove to the home of his friend RM where he watched the last couple of innings on TV.

The Yankee game was a capstone for a season that is in the argument for the best season by the pitcher in the past half century.  In 1999, Pedro won 23, losing only 4 while making only 29 starts plus two relief appearances.  Over 213 innings he gave up only 160 hits, walking only 37 while striking out 313 and having only 9 home runs hit off of him.  His ERA of 2.07 led the American League which had an overall ERA of 4.86 during that offense-crazed period of baseball. If not for one horrendous start against the Florida Marlins his ERA would have been 1.81.  And during the All-Star game that year, played in Fenway, Pedro struck out five of the six batters he faced.  Of course there are those who say his 2000 season was at least as good!

Coming into the Yankee game, Pedro had been on a hot streak even in the context of his '99 season.  In his prior three starts he'd given up 10 hits, one earned run and five walks in 22 innings while striking out 41 batters.

At Yankee Stadium that night in front of packed house of 55,239 all of Pedro's pitches (fastball, curve and change) were working.   He gave up a second inning home run to Chili Davis but no other Yankee reached base that night.  Every Yankee struck out at least once and the Red Sox won 3-1. You can watch each one of his strikeouts:

On September 12, Bob Ryan writing in the Boston Globe quoted Yankee David Cone (who pitched a perfect game two months earlier):

``It was the best-pitched game I’ve ever seen,’’ asserts the great Yankee hurler.

Cone really does believe Pedro’s masterpiece was a more dominant pitching display than his 27-up, 27-down dispatch of the Montreal Expos on July 18.

``I’ve never seen anything better,’’ reiterates Cone. ``He had three completely dominant pitches: a great fastball, a knee-buckling curve, and a parachute changeup. Other than that, what else do you need?’’

To Cone’s way of thinking, Pedro’s repertoire is nothing less than unfair.

``I saw [Orel] Hershiser’s great year in ‘88, and he basically did it with one pitch, a hard sinker,’’ says Cone. ``Nolan Ryan had a fastball and a curve. Mike Scott, when he was at his peak, had a fastball and a splitter. Dwight Gooden was another one with a fastball and a curve. Pedro has three great pitches.’’

In his last eight appearances in 1999 (seven starts, one relief) Pedro pitched 56 innings giving up only 28 hits, eight walks and five earned runs while striking out 97 and going 6-0.  If you add in his first 18 starts of 2000 you end up with one of the most marvelous sustained pitching streaks in baseball history:

26 appearances (25 starts), 193 IP, 110 H, 33 BB,  285 K, 1.21 ERA 18 W, 3 L

Pedro's ERA was about 25% of the league average during this period.  Given the offensive context no pitcher may have ever had a better stretch of this duration.