Flashing Right

John McCain lost the 2008 election for three basic reasons.  He ran an incompetent campaign, the global banking market crashed on the Republican’s watch, and no one knew who the heck Barack Obama was. These three facts conspired to drive many center and center-left independents toward the Democrat nominee.  Obama’s call for hope and change was exactly what many war weary folks wanted to hear, and he rolled over the McCain camp like an Abrams tank on cruise control.  Put bluntly, it was ugly.

During his campaign, Obama used a lofty rhetoric that inspired even his most devout adversaries at times.  People voted for him in droves because he was different, an unknown quantity, and everyone was pretty much burned out with who they knew.

This anonymity was arguably Barack Obama’s greatest asset.  Folks did not know what his politics would end up being, but they liked him.  Sure he seemed a bit left, but all candidates campaign for their their core constituents and then move to the center once elected.  How bad could this guy be after all?  With that, our nation made a calculated hard left turn. The destination was a mystery, but everyone hoped for a smoother ride.

The bad news for Barack is that the anonymity that he had enjoyed in 2008, is no longer his ally.  Left leaning voters that put him in office are now looking back at the change that was promised, and wondering what happened. Unemployment is still 9.1% officially, but in reality it is much higher.  In fact, many US cities are still well over 10%. African-American voters, who pulled the lever for Obama 96% of the time, have actually seen modest increases in unemployment numbers since his election and are also starting to ponder their decision. Pacifists have also been let down.  Three years after his election, Guantanamo Bay is still open for business and the US is still involved in military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

As wide as the chasms are getting between factions on the left, they are even wider between Obama’s camp and the right.  Unlike the 2008 election where Obama was able to steal McCain’s platform and make it his own; in 2012 he has set himself apart as a hard core liberal in bed with environmentalists, big labor, and big government ideologues.

Three years after Obama’s election, we can look at Republican presidential hopefuls like (this blog’s favorite) Herman Cain, and see clear cut differences in vision and direction for our nation. We see a new focus on individual responsibility and liberty vice government nanny-ism. Republicans are offering new and innovative “free market” friendly solutions like Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 Plan for Prosperity, and the polls show folks are taking notice.

The 2012 presidential election is shaping up to be a potential landslide for conservative values.  Contrary to the opinion of many currently camping out on Wall Street, this is not because “greedy corporations” are controlling our minds with chemicals in our Big Mac patties, but rather because Americans are no longer buying all the big government Utopian BS.  Like 2008, our nation is at a fork in the road.  Utopia at the left and the real world to the right.  Americans are tired of the left’s empty promises and class warfare laden hyperbole, and just want to go to work and pay their mortgages…like in the old days. They are tired of not being able to do so, while at the same time being asked to pay the freight of others. Make no mistake about it dear friends (and others) the fork is approaching fast and, to the chagrin of the current administration, the nation’s blinker is flashing right.

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The Example (Part I)

Carl could not help but chuckle to himself as he poured his cold coffee into the dirt. Just a few months ago, the idea of a second American civil war would have been inconceivable.  Now, not only did it seem imminent, it also appeared that the first battle would take place at his gas station. He shook his cup out and looked up toward the sun.  It wasn’t just hot…it was Texas hot. Carl wiped the sweat from his brow with an orange rag and walked back to the comfort of his store. He laid his rifle on the counter and poured himself another cup. From the way things were going, it was going to be a hot day indeed.

Carl Lamonte had lived in San Antonio his entire life.  His father had been a wildcatter in Abilene and his grandfather a rancher.  Carl had started out on the drill rigs, but soon realized that 100 degree summers on the Texas prairie were simply not his cup o’ tea.  So, right after high school he started pumping gas and doing odd jobs at Phil’s Fuel Stop on the edge of town.  Phil was a nice ole’ fellah by everyone’s description, and had been in business selling gas to tourists, truckers, and travelers of every make and model for over thirty years. Phil was immediately impressed by Carl’s eagerness to learn, and within just a few months was teaching him everything he knew about the business.

Carl loved working at the station, and turned out to be a natural entrepreneur. He was constantly approaching Phil with new ideas for attracting customers and increasing sales.  One day Carl showed up to work with an old battered soda machine that he had purchased for 10 dollars.  Over the course of a week, Carl had it cleaned up, running, and full of ice cold RC Colas. Soon new “gadgets” were turning up everywhere.  After a few months, Phil’s Fuel was strewn with newspaper boxes, candy machines, and beef jerky racks.  Once Carl had even talked a nearby farmer into bringing a pony to the station to give kids rides for 50 cents a pop.  Everything was going fine until a tank truck pulled up and the pony took off across the prairie with a disgruntled 10 year old boy flopping around on top. Phil was a gas man and understood none of this, but he admired Carl’s drive and humored most of his “hair brained” ideas.  The facts were undeniable though.  Ranchers that Phil had watched drive by for years, were now stopping in every once in a while to get an ice cold RC and some jerky.

As the years passed and cars became  more reliable, and more complex, Phil’s garage work dropped to nearly nothing.  Once again Carl saw an opportunity, and talked Phil into leasing him the three garage bays that now stood empty next to the station’s office.  Phil agreed, and gave Carl a five year lease for next to nothing.  Carl sold his family home and property to a local rancher and used every last cent to convert the garages into a convenience store and coffee shop.  Carl did most of the work himself,  and had the store open for business 6 months later.  For the next year he worked tirelessly running the register, flipping pancakes, doing the dishes, stocking the shelves, and handing out fliers.  Without a penny to his name, he slept in the stockroom at night, and ate whatever wasn’t selling.

Over time, word got out that you could get a pretty good breakfast at Carl’s, and people started dropping in.  Carl used what little money he was making to rent a billboard on the nearby Interstate advertising  5 egg omelets and a “free” thermos of coffee for truckers.  As business picked up, he discovered that he could actually lose money on the food because, as soon as the truckers finished eating, they would walk into the convenience store and stock their trucks with overpriced snacks, drinks, and cigarettes.  Before he knew it, he had such a stream of business that he was having trouble keeping the shelves stocked with beef jerky and sunflower seeds.  Phil’s fuel sales went through the roof as well.  As the truckers poured in for supplies they also topped off their tanks and, in less than a year, Phil was building a new island of diesel pumps to accommodate all of the trucks.  Carl even came up with a catch phrase for the station:

“Fill ’em and Fuel ’em at Phil’s”

Business continued to grow for about 8 years, and life was good for the fill ’em and fuel ’em team.  Carl was finally starting to realize some return on his years of hard work. He bought himself a small ranch a few miles from the station, found himself a gently used F-350, and decided to hire a couple of employees to help run the place.  Then, just as things had really started rolling, tragedy struck. One scorching hot August afternoon Phil drove home, kissed his wife Elna, sat down in his chair to read the mail, and died.  The doctor said that he had passed from a massive brain hemorrhage and had not suffered.  Carl was thankful for that. Phil had provided well for his wife, and she wanted nothing to do with the gas station. So, Carl bought Phil’s share and went it alone. It was hard at first, because Phil had always managed the fuels.  Almost immediately Carl realized that it wasn’t nearly as easy as flipping pancakes.

Buying and selling fuel was a real hit or miss type thing. As an independent dealer, Carl had to negotiate with a number of local suppliers.  You had to buy in bulk loads as cheaply as you could, and then sell it at a price that you thought would cover the next shipment.  If you were lucky and hit the numbers just right, you could make a nice profit.  If you missed the mark however, you could lose a lot.  After 40 years in the business, Phil had been a master at this.  Carl, on the other hand, had a lot to learn.  He missed Phil terribly.

Despite Carl’s early misfires in the fuel business, the station continued to grow. It was now a popular stop for truckers on the Interstate, and he had a steady stream of long-haul regulars.  His personal life took a turn for the better as well when he met his wife Katie.  He had always wanted a family of his own, and a year after their wedding he got his wish when their twin boys Cade and Cody were born. Wanting to spend more time with his family, he hired a manager for the Fill and Fuel and started focusing on being a dad.

One day while he was in his office doing payroll, a couple of men in suits walked into the store.  They were from a larger truck stop franchise and were interested in talking to Carl about buying his place.  He had a perfect location near the Interstate, and apparently he was outselling all the the other establishments in his area.  Almost out of the blue, one of the men tossed a number on the table that made Carl nearly fall out of his chair.  If he took the deal, his family would be taken care of, and he would never have to work another day in his life.  After thinking about it for a few days however, he decided to pass.  There was still a lot he wanted to do to the place, and wasn’t ready to give up his life’s work.  Besides, if it was worth that much now, he could only imagine what it would be worth when he was through with it.  He was happy, healthy, successful, and a father.  What more could he ask for?  Unfortunately, a thousand miles away in Washington, “change” was in the air.

The first blow came in 2011 when Congress let the Bush tax cuts expire. Carl had never incorporated and, as a sole proprietor, his tax rate increased by 15% overnight.  It was a devastating blow.  The recession of 2009 had already cut his sales by 30%, and the new taxes just made things worse.  The larger chains looked at the tax hike as an opportunity to drive some of the independents out of business, so they ate the tax increase  for a while to keep their prices artificially low. Carl could not afford to do this, and was forced to price his  fuel a full nickel per gallon higher than some of his competitors.  Business slowed even more, but stayed steady thanks to many loyal customers. For the first time in over 20 years however, Fill and Fuel was losing money.  In order to keep the tanks full, Carl had to let 4 of his long-time employees go. Next to Phil’s death, handing out their pink slips was the most painful experience of his life.  Carl was not alone however,  thousands of companies across the state were having to make similar decisions, and soon unemployment numbers began to climb well above 12 percent.  The people of Texas were furious at the tax hikes,  and tea parties around the state began to cry for secession.  At first they were dismissed by the mainstream as far right loons but, as time went on,  the protests got larger and louder.

In 2012 the second blow came in the form of Cap and Trade. Congress rammed it through against a massive grass roots protest with the help of three or four turncoat Republicans.  Overnight, fuel prices skyrocketed to 6 dollars a gallon on sheer speculation.  Again, as an independent dealer, Carl did not have the purchasing power that his larger competitors enjoyed, and started losing more and more money on every gallon of fuel he sold.  He mortgaged his home and took out an equity loan on the station to keep the cash flowing, but eventually had to lay off 3 more employees including his two shift managers.  Once again, Carl found himself putting in 18 hour days just to keep the place in business. Cap and Trade had all but devastated the national trucking industry as well – especially the little guys.  The smaller truck lines and independent owner-operators did not have the capital to buy the carbon offsets necessary to keep their rigs on the road, so they simply started shutting down.  Within three months of the law’s implementation, Carl’s truck business dropped to almost zero. He was still getting a steady stream of car business, but the simple fact was that he could not fill Kia gas tanks fast enough to pay the bills.

Texans were infuriated by the administration’s eagerness to sign Cap and Trade into law, and had challenged it in the Supreme Court with 15 other states. The newly liberal court however,  shot down the lawsuit on the grounds that Cap and Trade was constitutional under Interstate Commerce.  On the day that the decision was announced, cries rang out across Texas once again for secession.  Texas flags flew from every window across the state, and several federal offices in Dallas and Austin were vandalized by angry mobs. Trucks in the hundreds parked themselves around the state capitol building blocking traffic for weeks,  practically bringing the city to a standstill.  The Governor held an emergency meeting with the Legislature and, along with 4 other states, sent a letter to the federal government stating their concern for the nation’s welfare and reaffirming their commitment to protecting the welfare of their citizens.

Then, as if to poke the nation in its collective eye, late in 2013 Congress passed an 8% national Value Added Tax (VAT) to cover the wildly out of control national debt and help pay for escalating health care costs.  The VAT had been an add-on buried in a new economic stimulus bill.  The 4,000 page bill was signed into law by Obama only a week after it had been introduced, and the language authorizing the tax had been cleverly hidden in a paragraph on page 3,015. Neither the press nor the Republicans had caught it in time.  Once again fuel prices skyrocketed on speculation, and within a matter of days topped 8 dollars a gallon.  Business at Carl’s place dried up to nothing.  The once busy Interstate now looked like a back country farm road. One San Antonio reporter noted that, on some stretches of highway, one could sit on the centerline and eat lunch without fear of being run over.  Again, cries arose for secession across the state.  Businesses were closing by the hundreds due skyrocketing overhead costs and poor demand.  Carl could no longer pay the mortgage on his home, and was forced into foreclosure.  He moved his family into his in-law’s ranch, laid off the rest of his employees, and closed the diner.  Once again, he found himself penniless and struggling to survive a day at a time.  Things were not much better anywhere else.  With an unemployment rate of over 17%, the state of Texas found itself in the middle of an economic crisis that it had not created.  Violence began to break out in some of the larger cities, and people out of work began to line the streets of Austin demanding that Texas reclaim its status as an independent sovereign nation.

The Governor had no choice but to call a special session of the Legislature together to discuss their next move. After two weeks of heated debate, they sent a second letter to the White House.  In it they notified the President that the Republic of Texas would no longer recognize the new VAT, and would not compel any of its citizens to pay it.  The letter also announced that federal Cap and Trade regulations would not apply to businesses operating within state borders. It closed with a stern warning that any attempt by the federal government to hold any Texas citizen liable for these taxes would result in Texas’ immediate secession from the Union.

The national press was abuzz. Pundits on the major networks took sides and started arguing the constitutionality of Texas’ bold move.  Many were critical saying that the Civil War had clearly established that secession was illegal, and that the entire Texas Legislature should be arrested on federal charges.  Others however, pointed out that nowhere in the Constitution did it state that the Union was permanent, and that many states did in fact have clauses in their constitutions reaffirming their right to secede.  As the debate raged on,  the White House was eerily silent on the matter.  Press secretary Robert Gibbs refused comment when queried, and Obama all but dropped out of sight completely. Weeks, then months, went by without any federal response – and the silence was deafening.

Because Carl had always purchased his fuel from local Texas suppliers, he found that he had a slight advantage over the competition now.  With the unilateral repeal of Cap and Trade and the VAT, Carl was able to lower his prices and undercut the out-of-state suppliers. Small in-state trucking companies started to venture back out on the road and, in a show of solidarity, many pledged to only patronize Texas-based businesses. Soon, business picked up enough for Carl to reopen the diner for breakfast.  After a couple of months, rumors started to circulate that Texas had called the fed’s bluff, and that Obama’s oppressive taxes were destined to be repealed across the country.  After a while, even Carl began to believe that the crisis would soon be over.  That is when he got the letter…

Carl received it from a special courier one afternoon as he was preparing to leave for home.  He signed for it, and tore the envelope open.  The letter was neatly typed on Internal Revenue Service stationary and read simply:

“Dear Mr. Lamonte,

This letter is to inform you that you have failed to pay lawful federal taxes, and that you are in violation of federal law.  You have 30 days from the date of this letter to pay accrued taxes and fines totaling 35,300 dollars, or your property will be seized by federal authorities as payment in kind. We recommend that you make this payment promptly to avoid further action.”

Carl felt his face flush. His heart begin to race in his chest. “They can’t do that can they?” he asked under his breath.  All of a sudden, he felt a surge of pure rage.  He and Phil had built this truck stop with their money and their sweat!    He had slaved and starved for years to make something for himself, and he was not about to let any damn Washington bureaucrat come in and take it.  How dare they!

Early the next morning, Carl called the Governor’s office and told them about what he had received. Apparently thousands of businesses across the state had received similar letters on the very same day, and the Governor’s office had been inundated with calls all morning from frantic Texans.

“Yeah, they are pretty much giving everyone their 60 day notice,” the staffer on the other end of the line noted.  “Everyone here in Austin is scrambling to figure out what to do next.”

Carl hesitated and looked down at his letter.

“Did you say 60 day notice?”

“Yep, they all say 60,” the staffer confirmed. “What are they going to do, send down an army to repossess the entire state?”

Carl looked at his letter again.  “My letter only gives me 30 days.”

There was a pause on the phone. “Are you sure sir?

“That’s right. I am looking at it as we speak.”

There was another pause.  “Sir, could you please hold on, while I inform the Governor?”

“The Governor?”

“Yes sir, we were scared that something like this might happen.”

“Like this?” Carl queried trying not to sound as confused as he felt.

“Yes sir, we were worried that they would try to make an example out of someone, and it sounds like you may be it.”

Carl let the phone down from his ear.  It was now perfectly clear to him what was happening.  The feds were going to come into town, seize his property, and haul him off to jail on national television.  They were going to use him to show the rest of the state what was coming if they did not get back in line.  Once again Carl felt a tide of rage rising in his chest.  He put the phone back to his ear.

“You tell the Governor, that if they want my business they will have to step over my dead body to take it!” he yelled at the shocked staffer.

“You tell the Governor that!”

Carl slammed the phone down so hard that the handset cracked.  “If an example is what they want,” he growled, “an example is sure as hell what they are going to get.”

<<To Be Continued in Part II next week>>

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The Man Who Saved Washington

The war was not going especially well for Lewis “Lew” Wallace.  Early on, he had established himself as a competent commander while serving under Ulysses S. Grant, and was widely regarded as a “rising star” in the Union Army.  As a Brigadier General, he performed superbly at the battle for Ft Henry, but it was at the siege of Ft Donelson that he really began to break out of the pack.  On 15 February 1862, the Confederates at Ft Donelson staged a surprise attack on the surrounding Union Army, sending it into disarray.   Seeing that  Brig Gen John McClemand’s forces were taking a beating by the Confederates,  Lewis took the initiative and moved his brigade up to reinforce the center of the Union line, eventually repelling the attack.  Lew’s battlefield savvy was the talk of the Army that evening, and soon afterward Grant promoted him to Major General.  He was clearly on track for greatness…until Shiloh.

Having been overrun by the Confederate Army, Grant called for Wallace’s  Division to come up and reinforce the front.  Receiving the order, Lew moved his forces immediately.  Grant had not been specific about the route to take however, and Wallace had a choice of two roads.  The first road was worn and  rutted while the other was relatively smooth.  Wallace choose the nicer of the two roads thinking it would get him to the right position.  Unfortunately, he was wrong.   By the time his division had made it to the front, the Union had been beaten back so badly that he actually found himself in the rear of the attacking Confederate troops.  Rather than seize the opportunity and attack from the rear, Lew decided to march his division back to where they had started and take the correct road. When he  finally joined up with Grant it was nearly 7pm and the fighting was all but over for the day. Grant was furious.  The next day, Wallace fought bravely and ultimately helped the Union win the battle, but the damage to his reputation was done.  When people began to hear of the horrible casualties at Shiloh, Grant needed a scapegoat and Wallace’s blunder was still fresh in his mind.   Grant laid the blame squarely in Wallace’s lap, removed him from command, and reassigned him,  in disgrace, to first defend Cincinnati and then to run the garrison at Baltimore.  The Union Army’s brightest star had fallen from the sky almost as quickly as he had risen. He had disgraced his name, his family, and his country.  Major General Lew Wallace was finished; a casualty of wartime politics.

As bad as things were going for Wallace in the summer of 1864, they were going much worse for Robert E. Lee.  His once unstoppable army was now in tatters, and besieged by Union forces in Petersburg, VA.   Grant had adopted a much different strategy than his predecessors, and had pursued Lee relentlessly giving his army little time to rest or resupply.   They were now pinned down in Petersburg incapable of going toe to toe with Grant’s vastly superior numbers.  Lee was desperate for relief.  He needed time to rest, resupply, and relocate his army.  Lee  knew that if he did not take action soon, the war would be lost.  So, he came up with a daring plan to do the only thing he knew how to do – attack.

Lee’s plan was to send Lt General Jubal Early up through the Shenandoah Valley with a Corps of 15,000 men.  He would cross into Maryland near Fredrick, and make his way down the Georgetown Pike to Washington.  In order to pursue Lee’s army, Grant had called just about every available unit from Washington leaving the capital practically undefended.  If  Jubal could maintain the element of surprise, he would be able to take Washington and force Grant to withdraw his forces from Virgina.  Perhaps, Lincoln could even be persuaded to accept a negotiated peace as ransom.   It was a brilliant plan, but Lee understood the risks well.  On one occasion he confided to  his generals:

“If we are successful, we have everything to fight for. If we fail, there will be nothing left to fight for.”

So Jubal Early headed north through the Shenandoah Valley with his infantry, for one last glorious battle.  He was Lee’s most capable general and he did not plan on failing. The road was wide open all the way to Washington City, and victory seemed within reach.  If anyone could pull it off, “Ole’ Jube” could.

LT Gen Jubal Early (CSA)

The secret did not last long however. As Jubal’s Corps neared Maryland, workers for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad spotted them and got word to B&O President John W. Garrett.   Concerned that the Confederates were going to destroy his rail line, Garrett found Major General Wallace in Baltimore and pleaded with him to defend the railroad.   Unsure of whether Jubal was headed for Baltimore or Washington, Wallace decided to move as many men as he could to a small bridge and rail junction near the Monocacy River just south of Fredrick.  If the Confederates were going to come down the Georgetown Pike, they would have to pass this point regardless of their final destination, and it was there at the Monocacy Bridge that Wallace would make his stand.  He sent word of his intentions to Grant and then moved out without delay.

Wallace rounded up approximately 2,500 men, most with no battle experience whatsoever, and headed from Baltimore to the rail junction at Monocasy.   Lew knew that he would be facing over 15,000 battle hardened Confederates, and that the odds were horribly stacked against his ragtag force. He also knew that they were the only thing between Jubal Early and Washington.  If he could just give Grant enough time to bring reinforcements up the Chesapeake to Washington, then the city might be saved.  Wallace was not fighting for a victory at Monocacy; he was fighting for time.

Lew’s plan was pretty simple.  He would station his troops on the south side of the Monocacy River by the bridge and the railroad crossing, and fight like hell to keep the Confederates from crossing over.  With only six cannon and one 24 pound Howitzer he knew that Jubal would have him significantly out-gunned,  so to slow them down further he would send a line of skirmishers north of the river to engage Jubal’s men as far forward as possible.  On the morning of 9 July, 1864 he arrayed his artillery and troops around the bridges the best that he could and waited for the southern juggernaut to arrive.   In a bit of lucky timing, an additional 3,000 battle hardened men arrived that morning with the compliments of General Grant.  The odds were better, but Jubal would still have nearly a three to one superiority.  Wallace was ready for a fight however, and perhaps a bit of redemption in the process.

Later that morning Lew and his commanders watched quietly as Jubal’s Corps filed south toward the railroad junction and the Monocacy Bridge.  When the Confederates were in range of his skirmishers they open fired, and Lew’s battle for time had begun.  Lt General Early pushed forward toward the bridge with 4 Regiments.  They marched in a massive formation across the freshly hewn fields of the Best Farm toward the Monocacy Bridge. Early also set up a number of artillery batteries on the farm’s front lawn sending a fierce barrage toward Lew’s lines.  The map below shows a rough layout of the battle.

The Battle of Monocacy July 9, 1864

Confederate Cannons Point South On The Best Farm Lawn

The battle was intense and men on both sides started to fall.  Thanks to the fearless efforts of men like Lt George Davis, who received a Congressional Medal of Honor for his bravery, the thin Union line held.  So fierce was their resistance, that Jubal met with his generals and determined that a direct attack on the bridges was too risky.  Instead, he sent two of his generals and 3,000 infantry west to find a good place to cross the river and attack the left flank of Wallace’s line.   Soon, they found a suitable crossing a couple of miles downstream at a place called Worthington Farm. Once across, they formed up for a simultaneous attack with the main force.

The Old Worthington Farm Where Jubal’s Generals Crossed

Wallace had read Jubal’s plan however, and shifted his most battle hardened troops west to meet the Confederates head on.  They lined up along a fence separating Worthington Farm from Thomas Farm and waited for the Confederates to come.  At 1030, they appeared directly in front of Wallace’s troops, unaware of their presence.   Wallace’s men open fired inflicting horrendous casualties on the Confederates, eventually forcing them to withdraw and regroup.   Things were quiet until about 2:30 in the afternoon when the Confederates came again. This time, they circled around the Thomas Farm fence line and focused their attack on the Thomas House itself.  The fighting was fierce and often hand to hand with rifle butts and bayonets.   Over the next hour and a half, the Thomas Farm changed hands several times.  Wallace’s troops held their line however, driving the attacking Confederate Regiments back time after time.   While the fighting was raging to the west, Wallace ordered the Monocacy bridge burned so that the Confederate forces would not be able to storm it.  Lt Davis and his skirmishers were inadvertently left on the other side of the river, and had to withdraw across the B&O railroad tressel while under heavy fire.

The Thomas Farm On Wallace’s Left Flank

The Field Between Thomas And Worthington Farms Where the Monocacy Battle Raged

A Modern Bridge Now Crosses The Monocacy Where The Old One Once Stood

The B&O Rail Tressel Saved By Wallace Still Operates Today

Wallace’s troops fought valiantly for the entire day, successfully holding a vastly superior force at bay.  At 4:00 in the afternoon however, low on ammunition, and having lost over 20% of their force they could hold their ground no longer.   As the Confederates swarmed their flank a third time, Wallace ordered his men to withdraw to the east and start heading for Baltimore.   They had lost over 1,200 men but had inflicted about 900 casualties on Jubal’s forces, severely reducing their combat effectiveness.  They had also tired out the Confederates so badly that Jubal had no choice but to make camp at Monocacy for the evening before proceeding to Washington City.  Though Major General Wallace had technically lost the battle, he had bought General Grant an extra day to get reinforcements up the Chesapeake to Washington.

When Jubal arrived at Ft Stevens on the outskirts of Washington City two days later, he found two fresh Union Divisions ready for a fight.   Early attacked Ft Stevens on the afternoon of 11 July but the Union reinforcements held firm, making it impossible for him to enter the city.  Jubal realized that his opportunity to take the Union Capital had passed.  He had literally arrived a day late because of the battle at Monocacy.  The battle in which Major General Lewis “Lew” Wallace stood his ground and saved Washington.

The importance of Wallace’s stand at Monocacy was not lost on General Grant.  In his memoirs he noted that Wallace’s defeat contributed:

“…a greater benefit to the cause than often falls to the lot of a commander of equal force to render by means of a victory.”

Lew Wallace had been disgraced at Shiloh, removed from his command, and shoved to the side by his nation.  He had been ridiculed by his seniors, and criticized by politicians.  His once bright military career had been shattered into a thousand shards of glass, and he was destined to be nothing more than a footnote to failure in the history books.  Instead of drowning in his own bitterness, however, Major General Lew Wallace chose to stand up and answer the call of his countrymen.  Once again, he risked everything to save what he held dear.  Had he failed, and Jubal reached Washington a day early,  they would have beaten Grant’s reinforcements and taken the city.  Lincoln himself would have been held hostage until a negotiated peace to the war was achieved.  The consequences of Wallace’s actions are simply incalculable.  Against all odds, he rallied his forces and gave the Union the additional day that they so desperately needed.   A day that ultimately resulted in the final defeat of the Confederacy, and an end to the bloodiest war in American History.

Final thoughts:

I am not providing you this, rather lengthy, history lesson in order to draw some loose analogy to our present-day political struggles.  To do so would trivialize the importance of what happened at Monocacy River that day. My point for telling this fantastic story, is to remind us all that America is great because Americans are great.  History shows us time and again that, when others would declare defeat, we stand up and renew the fight.  Lew Wallace reminds us of this fact.  Had he not fearlessly stood his ground that day at Monocacy River, our nation’s history may have been profoundly different.  At the very least, the war could have lasted years longer, costing both sides thousands of more lives. Lew stood his ground and, in doing so, gave us all an example of what it means to be an American.

In this modern age of relative prosperity and comfort it is easy to overlook the roots of greatness that make this country strong. We are those roots.  Just like Lew, each of us has the power to stand up and be counted.  Monocacy is a reminder to each of us that the fate of our nation is firmly in our hands, and that our heritage of courage is all that stands between us and tyranny.   Lew knew this to be true, and that is why he responded so valiantly when his nation called on him.  If history is any measure of the future, we can be sure that there will be many more Monocacy moments.  Perhaps it will be your turn to stand up and be counted. How will you respond?

Editor’s Note:  After the war, Lew Wallace became famous for one more great contribution to the world.  In 1880 he wrote “Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ.”  It became the top selling book of the 19th Century and has never been taken out of print.

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A Tale of Two Cities

At 4 AM on  25 June 1950 North Korea launched a fierce surprise attack on her neighbor to the south. Rolling across the hotly contested 38th parallel with Soviet made T-34 tanks and thousands of foot soldiers, the “People’s Army” overwhelmed South Korean forces who had little more than light weapons and hand grenades to fight with.  Seoul, South Korea’s capital city and commerce hub, stood directly in North Korea’s path, and despite valiant attempts by the south to defend her, in just a few short days she fell. The destruction was immense, and over the next three years of fighting almost 90 percent of this great city was reduced to rubble. seoul2

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Most of its citizens had fled as the northern armies flooded south in wave after wave of artillery laced fury.  Soon the city was all but empty with the exception of the dead and those who remained to fight to the death.  Over the next three years, Seoul would change hands between the North Koreans,  Communist Chinese, and UN forces  five times as the contest to seize and hold it raged.  At the end of hostilities the city was dead, broken by a civil war that would divide a great people for decades to come.  After the armistice was signed, the rebuilding of Seoul started slowly due to the lack of materials and skilled leadership.  With  hard work and American support however,  determined South Koreans slowly but surely began to bring her back to life.

Today Seoul South Korea is a vibrant city of just over 14 million people, with another 7 million or so in the surrounding areas.  It is the home of giant conglomerates such as Samsung, LG, and Hyundai and boasts  more IP addresses per capita than any other city on Earth.  Seoul is, by all accounts, nothing short of a miracle and a testament to the dedication and drive of the South Korean people.  In the 56 years since hostilities between the north and the south ceased, it has literally risen from almost total destruction to being listed 9th  on the Global Cities Index.  It has a standard of living comparable to France and has been ranked above both Paris and Los Angeles as the 6th most powerful economic city in the world.  The people who live there are becoming prosperous as well with an average annual personal income of  about $32,000 US Dollars.  On a clear day you can stand on the crest of Mount Namsan, near Seoul’s center, and literally become lost in an ocean of banks, five star hotels, apartment towers, and businesses.  The city stretches out from horizon to horizon, its seemingly endless fingers of light twisting their way between mountains and across rivers. It appears to breath with energy, its arteries pulsing with cars, trucks, taxi cabs, and video billboards.  It hums a steady tune of a thousand different sounds, each of them harmonizing perfectly in a metropolitan symphony.  Seoul is, in many ways, a testament to the power of the human spirit.

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Seoul, Republic of Korea

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Seoul Nightlife

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The Endless City

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Seoul Rush Hour

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Incheon International Airport Outside of Seoul

Now let’s take a look at her sister city Pyongyang, North Korea.  Like Seoul, it is also an ancient city with direct evidence of Chinese habitation as far back as 105 BC.  Relics have also been found there that predate history.  Unfortunately, this is pretty much where the similarity ends however.   Unlike its freedom loving  democratic sister to the south,  North Korea is a total dictatorship with a large portion of its wealth coming from illicit activities such as drugs,  human trafficking, and weapons smuggling.  Its citizenry is completely subjugated by a corrupt leadership, and concepts of individual freedom and human dignity do not exist.  It is in essence a plantation where about 200 families own the farm and the rest are field slaves. In Pyongyang the average annual income is between $580 and $1,500 US Dollars.  Poor government planning and a foolishly conceived “self-reliance” philosophy have resulted in massive food shortages responsible for starving to death almost 3 million North Korean men, women, and children.  Today the average North Korean lives on about 600 –  800 calories a day,  almost 2/3 below the daily recommended intake.   Pyongyang, like the rest of North Korea, is almost entirely dependent upon  food imports and humanitarian assistance from China, the US, and Europe, to feed its people. It is a country that would rather spend 25% of its meager GDP on second rate military hardware than on rice and milk for its children.  There are no small businesses, no crowded malls, and no busy highways.  There is only the anguish of an oppressed people.   Let the pictures speak for themselves:

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The Decayed City of Pyongyang

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North Korean Children Waiting on Dinner…and Waiting

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Busy Intersection in Pyongyang

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Two Starving North Korean Children

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Downtown Pyongyang at Rush Hour

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Pyongyang International Airport

Notice that the Pyongyang rush hour does not exist.  Without commerce, enterprise, or business of any kind, it is little more than a ghost town built upon the greed of its criminal elite.  A few years ago while at Panmunjom, I looked across to the North Korean side and noticed that they had constructed a sign which read, “North Korea is a worker’s paradise.”  In an ironic twist, facing this sign on the southern side of the border was a big billboard which read, “Everyone in Seoul drives a Hyundai.”  Though these two countries share a history, a culture, and thousands of years of civilization they could not be more different and their two capital cities, Seoul and Pyongyang, tell the story perfectly.  In fact, one picture tells it better than any other I have seen:

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To the south – Seoul – a city of light.  A place where people can hope to prosper and achieve.  A place where human dignity and freedom are cherished and defended.  To the north – Pyongyang – only darkness.  Though this post is entitled “A Tale of Two Cities,”  it is really a story about two sisters.  One is strong and determined while the other is diseased and dying.  For the strong sister time marches on, while for the weaker sibling  it stands still. The weak girl hates her strong sister, not for what she does, but for what she is.  She lashes out at her, spits at her, and even tries to kill her. Despite these desperate acts however, the stronger sister still stands by her side, braces her up, and waits for the day when they will once again become one family.  This is the tale that Seoul and Pyongyang tell.

twosistersUnification Clock at the Korean War Memorial in Seoul Korea

Head Muscle would like to thank all its good friends in Seoul for their warm hospitality last week.  As usual you have taught me a lesson in graciousness.

감사합니다

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