Today in History: The Civil War Begins at Fort Sumter

Wikimedia Commons.

Wikimedia Commons.

I had the privilege of visiting Fort Sumter a few summers ago. It was a beautiful day in a beautiful city full of history stretching back before the Revolution. Located in the harbor of Charleston South Carolina there are a series of small islands that back in the day were used as check points as entrances to the harbor. From Fort Sumter--on one side of the bay you have Charleston and on the opposite side of the bay was the entrance point for slave trading ships. Today it is the sight of huge beautiful houses but back in the day it was a place of sad business actions. It was there that the slaves were brought in and prepped for sale--they were then brought across the bay to Charleston to a building to be sold that is still visible on the skyline of Charleston. Someday i will do a post about the history of slavery in Charleston...

But 155 years ago today the Civil War began at the mouth of the Charleston Bay. Construction on the fort was started in 1829 but was only being finished in phases due to military cuts made the changing administrations. When the battle started on April 12th the fort had half of the cannons it was designed to employ. 

On December 20th 1860 South Carolina seceded from the Union, and by Abraham Lincolns inauguration in March of 1861 six more states had joined them.

Fort Sumter was unique in the 19th century because it is an ideal example of fortification defenses that had evolved over the United States short history. In Charleston harbor there where 3 major forts and a number of smaller islands set up as small defensive outposts. In the harbor there was Fort Sumter, Fort Moultrie (the site of the famous early battle of the Revolutionary War that prevented the British from getting a strong hold early on in the South), and Fort Johnson.  

By December 26th, the U.S. Army Major in charge of Fort Sumter at the time, Major Robert Anderson, ordered the abandoning of Fort Moultrie, another small fort in the bay to concentrate their defensive forces in Fort Sumter that could discourage the South Carolina Militia from attacking. On his way out of Fort Moultire he ordered the destruction of any weapons, ammunition, and food that they could not sneak out of the fort into Fort Sumter. All 127 men joined those already at Fort Sumter where they prepared for an attack by the south. They turned their cannons and guns on the city and waited as bureaucracy tried to delay a ticking time bomb.

The South Carolina Governor, Francis Wilkinson Pickens (the grandson of General Andrew Pickens who fought in the revolutionary war and served in the House of Representatives) demand that President Abraham Lincoln abandon Fort Sumter as it was apart of the state of South Carolina and therefore should be left to the confederacy as part of its property. Lincoln refused but the conversation remained for 5 months leading to the build up of tensions in early April 1861 (5 months later). Meanwhile, the South Carolina militia were starting to stockpile Fort Johnson another fort in the bay for an impending attack of Fort Sumter.

Letter from Wililam H. Seward to President Lincoln on the difficulties resupplying Fort Sumter. Wikimedia Commons.

Letter from Wililam H. Seward to President Lincoln on the difficulties resupplying Fort Sumter. Wikimedia Commons.

Lincoln and his administration determined that the Fort Sumter would run out of food by April 15th and so a small fleet was secretly assembled to get the fort the supplies that it needed. But word got to the Confederacy that a supply fleet was coming; so on the night of April 11th, Confederate Brigadier General Beauregard sent three aides to negotiate with Major Anderson, Anderson stalled for hours deliberating and trying to figure a way out of the situation without surrendering but when his conditions were proposed they were declined and the aides returned to Fort Johnson to open fire on Fort Sumter.

So starting at 4:30 a.m. on the morning of April 12th the confederates bombarded the small island fort with 34 straight hours of munitions.

Fort Sumter did not return fire until 7 am due to the fact that it did not have much ammunition to fire with, and the ammunition they did have was missing the fuses for the exploding shells and so the shells that were fired did not explode, just simply an iron ball crashing on to Fort Johnson.

After 34 hours of bombardment on April 13th Fort Sumnter surrendered.

The destruction inside Fort Sumter. Wikimedia Commons.

The destruction inside Fort Sumter. Wikimedia Commons.

Upon surrendering the Confederacy allowed for the honorable 100 gun salute of the Union soldier out of respect--it was on the 47th shot of the 100 gun salute that the first Union death of the Civil war happened. During the battle one confederate soldier died from a misfiring cannon. The fact that only two died in this conflict is incredible as Fort Sumter is on an island and there is not many places to go when it is being shelled for 34 straight hours.

Fort Sumter under Confederate control, 1861. Wikimedia Commons.

Fort Sumter under Confederate control, 1861. Wikimedia Commons.

The attack and destruction of the Fort in just a mere day and a half would be the beginning of a long realization that the use of forts was no longer an advantage as the technology in guns had gotten so good that having a permanent structure would no longer be in your best interest. Military leaders would be learning this for the rest of the 19th century and even as late as WWI when it took Germany only 11 days to destroy 12 state of the art Belgian forts along the Belgium/German boarder in the opening days of the war.


Fort Sumner flag, Anderson was allowed to keep the flag that was taken down to be replaced with a confederate flag. The flag became a national relic upon its arrival in New York days after the fort fell. Wikimedia Commons.

Fort Sumner flag, Anderson was allowed to keep the flag that was taken down to be replaced with a confederate flag. The flag became a national relic upon its arrival in New York days after the fort fell. Wikimedia Commons.

The Days After Pearl Harbor

I was thinking about Pearl Harbor the other day and so I wanted to do a small follow up post about what happened in the days after Pearl Harbor throughout the rest of the world. The magnitude of the grip that the Japanese had over Asia and its waters does not get talked about enough.

When the United States entered the war the Second World War truly became a world war as the battle zone throughout the world truly did stretch across the globe. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor only to send the United States in to total war (maximum war production, maximum food production, maximum recruitment for the military, maximum innovation in everything from weapons, to rubber, to medicine) And they had been working on their grip in China for almost 10 years but in the days following Pearl Harbor it was crucial for them to secure a majority of the South Pacific. In only 6 months from Pearl Harbor Japan would have control of the South Pacific and control 1/6 of the glob. (Roberts, 201)

The Japanese had a three part plan to domination over the United States and the Asian Pacific. 

The first stage consisted of a successful attack on the American Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. At the same time the Japanese would attack and take key territory in Malaya, the Dutch East Indies, and the Philippines to establish a perimeter in the southern pacific protecting the Japanese. 

Next Japan would establish a string of bases up the eastern coast of the asian countries up from the southern Pacific up to the Siberia. This would include: 

  • the Kurile Island (Russia, Siberia)

  • Wake (American territory)

  • Guam

  • The Marshall Islands

  • The Gilberts (British territory)

  • The Bismarcks (Australian territory)

  • Northern New Guinea (Australian territory)

  • The Dutch East Indies

  • British Malaya

(Keegan, 252)

Below is a map from John Keegan's book The Second World War showing the perimeter of the Japanese forces around Japan. (Keegan, 296)


With intense fervor they took over the Pacific and 6 of the aircraft carriers that had participated in Pearl Harbor would cover 1/3 the globe being used in 4 other attacks on Islands in the south Pacific. (Roberts, 201)

The third stage was to keep the establishment of the perimeter in the South Pacific and destroy any allied forces that came with in the defensive perimeter making it impenratable. Within this perimeter they could also get any natural recourses they might need to sustain the empire. Their strategy would be to "wear down the American will to fight" and eventually take Burma, the Indian Ocean and India from British control. The perimeter would also take away any territory that the allies could launch any counter attacks. (Keegan, 252)

At the beginning of the war Japans Navy fleet was equal to that of the United States in battleships and stronger than the United States in aircracft carriers. In comparison their forces in just China outnumbered the United States army by a long shot. (Keegan, 251)

Churchill sent out a message to the officers in Singapore, "There must at this stage be no thought of saving the troops or sparing the population. The battle must be fought to the bitter end at all costs...Commanders and senior officers should die with their troops. The honour of the British Empire and the British Army is at stake. I rely on you to show no weakness of mercy in any form. With the Russians reputation of our country and our race is involved." (Hastings, 209)

One big difference in the war between the Allies and the Axis powers was their belief and thinking of death. Here Churchill is ordering his army to display what German, Japanese and Russian soldiers displayed regularly. "But the concept of self-immolation was beyond the bounds of Western democratic culture." (Hastings, 209) This does not mean that the Allies performed any less bravely for there was continuous bravery proven by thousands of soldiers daily on the Eastern and Pascific Fronts. But hightlights the deep division between the two sides culuturally.



 Keegan, John. The Second World War. New York: Viking, 1990. 251-252 & 296. 

 Hastings, Max. Inferno: The World at War, 1939-1945. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2011. 209. 

 Roberts, Andrew. The Storm of War: A New History of the Second World War. New York: Harper, 2011. 201. 


Jazz Music

Even before jazz, for most New Orleanians, music was not a luxury as it often [was] elsewhere—it was a necessity.
— New Orleans Jazz, National Park Service


Black history month is full of fascinating brave people who rose  above the limitations of their time to make progress for humanity through equality. They continuously are faced with challenges throughout their entire history, exceeding exceptions, proving their worth and capability to a world that tried to limit them.

But certain aspects of Black history do not get celebrated enough in this case an entire genera of music.


This fall my best friends & I had the extreme pleasure of going to New Orleans. The whole city has a history and culture like none I have ever visited before. The art, music, food, coffee, sights, smells, architecture, history and people were spectacular. In the French Quarter jazz music is on every corner & on every corner the jazz music is phenomenal. The skills, passion and sound of each musician is unique with expertise.

We waited an hour in monsoon like rains for tickets to Preservation Hall, a famous tiny musical venue that puts on 3 shows a night crammed wall to wall with people. Preservation Hall has been around since 1961 and consists of an ensemble of more than 100 musicians (may of the being related to the original members from 1961). It was a great introduction to the world of jazz right in the French Quarter for someone like me with little experience. We also went to a local show that was recommended to us by one of the locals, the Rebirth Brass Band at the Maple Leaf Bar. Located in the East Carrollton neighborhood, just a short taxi ride from the French Quarter, they play every Tuesday night to a packkkkeddd house! & WOW! Loud & incredible!

This trip got me really interested in New Orleans history and specifically the history of the hometown of jazz legends Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton, and Sidney Bechet and jazz music itself.

By the early 1900's New Orleans had became the hot-spot of the south for culture and celebration. "Opera, military marching bands, folk music, the blues, different types of church music, ragtime, echoes of traditional African drumming, and all of the dance styles that went with this music could be heard throughout the city," said Wynton Marsailis. The blending of all of these cultural influences gave birth to jazz.

The unique blending of cultures that is deeply rooted in New Orleans, created a culture different from another in the world. Deep history of Spanish and French occupation with the blending of different African cultures & Caribbean culture of drums with the migration of Irish, Americans after the United States bought the Louisiana Purchase from Napoleon in 1803 helped create a city unlike any other.

The earliest version of Jazz is credited to Buddy Bolden who is remembered for his charisma and his ability to get everyone dancing in the late 1890's. His arrangement of brass and woodwinds created a dancing experience that exited the young people of the day who where used to waltzed, polkas and "polite dancing." (NPS) This demand for excitement lead to the development of ragtime, blues and jazz that differed greatly from all other music. The genera was constantly pushing tradition aside avoiding permanent arrangements and playing by ear wherever the sound led them as a band.

This blending of cultures and community life within New Orleans incorporated music into everyday life with "brass band funerals, music for picnics in parks or ballgames, Saturday night fish fries...Red beans and rice banquettes on Monday's, and nightly dances at neighborhood halls all over town." (NPS) Walking around the French Quarter you get a sense of the neighborhood & can truly understand how all these events would be possible; a community experience that is hard to imagine in modern cities today. The French Quarter is small but at the same time big; and with the addition of the Garden District (where all the Americans moved after the Louisianan Purchase in 1803) and outlying neighborhoods there would be a great deal of community to be apart of at the beginning of the 20th century.

Famous jazz musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Al “Jumbo” Hirt, Antoine “Fats” Domino, Pete Fountain, Chris Owens, Ronnie Kole, Louis Prima, Allen Toussaint, & Irma Thomas would constantly push the conventions of the style making it a continuously evolving genera.

Jazz as we know it today was developed and made popular by Louis Armstrong, before Armstrong Dixieland was the popular genera that had all of the musicians soloing at once. Armstrong attempted to put a bit of structure in the music having the musicians solo either one at a time or a few at a time during the breaks of the collective music. Basically, very similar to the music of today as you can imagine. 

& Eventually Jazz would make its way up to the north during the Great Migration, a time when many left the south in search for jobs in the new industrial north where it would make further developments leading to many genera like swing, big band, blues, and eventually rock and roll. 


Statues of the famous Al “Jumbo” Hirt, Antoine “Fats” Domino, Pete Fountain & Ronnie Kole at Café Beignet, Bourbon Street New Orleans.

Statues of the famous Al “Jumbo” Hirt, Antoine “Fats” Domino, Pete Fountain & Ronnie Kole at Café Beignet, Bourbon Street New Orleans.

Café Beignet, Bourbon Street New Orleans

Café Beignet, Bourbon Street New Orleans

My feet on Dublin Street waiting for Rebirth Brass Band to start.

My feet on Dublin Street waiting for Rebirth Brass Band to start.

Jesse Owens

Jesse Owens is recognizable to a lot of people. The story of his life is worth retelling over and over again. His passion, his work ethic, his resilience and endurance both on the track and off is a story for everyone to know. He became so important for his entire generation of America. He represented the struggle and victory over oppression. Both abroad in Europe at the time, and later with the civil rights movement that would follow in the years to come.

His economic and racial restraints are obvious but one can only fully understand him through putting yourself in his shoes, seeing through his eyes his challenges, obstacles, and victories. For Owens, and many others, racing was a way out of these limitations that were placed on him. They would define him and influence his decisions and his ability to navigate through an unfair time in history. (Baker, xi)

His accomplishments would include setting the national high school records in the 100-yd, 200-yd dash, and long jump; Attending Ohio State University; breaking 3 world records at the Big Ten Conference in 1935 in the long jump, 220-yd dash and 220-yd hurdles all within 45 min; Winning all 42 events he competed in his jr. year at Ohio State; at the Olympics in Berlin 1936 he became the first American to win 4 gold medals in a single Olympics, he won the 100 meter dash, long jump, 200 mether dash, and 400 meter relay. (Forbes)

Jesse Owens competing at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-R96374 / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Jesse Owens competing at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Bundesarchiv, Bild 183-R96374 / CC-BY-SA 3.0

Beyond the track Jesse would be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Gerald R. Ford and the Congressional Gold Medal by President George H.W. Bush. (About, Jesse Owens)

His name would be synonymous with athletic perfection. A body made for breaking records at 5'10" and 165 pounds. But what he embodied and proved to the world was that individual excellence takes you above any race or national origin. (Baker, 1)

He is most remembered for how he did this in the 1936 Berlin Olympics at the height of Adolf Hitlers Nazi Germany. Hitler would dazzle the world with its olympic facilities, prestige and grandness as an effort to show the world the superiority of the master Arian race. Who non other than Jesse Owens to blow this idea out of the water on their own turf. 

Jesse was born in Oakville Alabama in 1913, the youngest of 10 kids and a surprise child of his parents Henry and Emma. He was born into a complicated northern Alabama, rasisim and the unfair accusations of black men as the committers of numerous crimes were convicted and sentences often with little or no evidence and with no legal assistance. (Baker, 7)

Their life in the sharecropping business was further complicated by whites who where just as poor pushing them to severe racism in order to compensate an upper hand over the black community. It was their only means of differentiating between themselves and the black community. (Baker, 8)

When Jesse was a child they moved north to Cleveland Ohio in search of better work and to escape the relentless segregation of the south. This move north was not unheard of for black families of the south. The "Great Migration" was in full effect of 4.5 million southerners making the move northwards for the job opportunities and racial equality. The racial equality in the north at the time was not perfect but it was leaps above that of the south. Out of the great migration you get great developments in culture. Blacks from the south brought jazz music to the north that would morph from ragtime, to Dixieland, to Big Band and then to rock and roll.

(The history of music in the United States is fascinating if you ever get the chance to check it out!)

Anyways, back on topic...It is in Ohio that Jesse the legend started to grow. At Fairmount Junior High School, Jesse's track coach Charles Riley influenced Owens love for running greatly. Riley would be an encouragement for the rest of Owens life through all of his success. By high school Owens was breaking state records and tying national records in the 100-yd dash and the long jump.

By college at Ohio State he was breaking world records and setting pace for the Olympics.

Following the 1936 Olympics Owens life had its ups and downs. He had small stints as an athletic broadcaster, entertainer, gas station attendant, and owner of a small basket ball team. Throughout his life he worked hard, never gave up, and refused to be pushed around because of his race.


 Rose, L. The Single Greatest Athletic Achievement. Retrieved February 20, 2016, from

 Baker, W. J. (1986). Jesse Owens: An American life. New York: Free Press. 

Jesse Owens. About. Retrieved February 20, 2016, from

Julian Francis Abele

In honor of Black History Month I want to introduce you guys to some of my favorite champions in history. Their accomplishments are great for any person regardless of their color...but lets celebrate that pioneers well ahead of their time, working hard to show the world that race does not determine your intellect, color does not determine your future, and that chains are made to be broken.

One of my favorite people in history to study is Julian Frances Abele. Last summer I visited The Philadelphia Museum of Art and was blown away by its beauty, bigness, and gilded age charm.

While there I learned a lot about its architect, Julian Frances Abele--a champion of an architecture and the chief architect on a number of impressive projects through out the United States that I also hope to visit some day. He was known among the "cadre of Gilded Age architects who favored not originality, but the interpretation of historic precedence." (Wilson, 3)

Julian F. Abele was discovered by the famous Philadelphia architect Horace Trumbauer of Horace Trumbauer & Associates in 1903. Trumbauer was known for discovering young talent on their way out of school, employing them and rewarding them greatly for their accomplishments and team work. Trumbauer was known for saying "I hire my brains," showing an attitude of tolerance within the business world decades beyond his time. (Duke Online Archives) Trumbauer didn't care about color, he cared about brains, business, and the making of a firm that would be remembered for its landmarks within the community and not the men who designed them. 

Abele graduated from the University of Pennsylvania as the first black architect student and was discovered by Trumbauer when some of his school work came across Trumbauers desk. Trumbauer soon sent Abele to Paris to study further at the Ecole Des Beaux Arts School (1903) in Paris. There is no record of Abele in the class lists in Paris but many speculate that he just attended the classes and then headed home in 1906. Upon his return he started at Trumbauer's firm as an assistant to the chief designer, Frank Seeburger, who he replaced in 1909 when the chief designer left to start his owns firm. (Tifft, "Out of the Shadows")

As chief designer, Abele designed many incredible buildings; his most famous being The Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Free Library & Philadelphia Stock Exchange in Philadelphia Pennsylvania; the Duke Chapel in Durham North Carolina, Widener Memorial Library in Cambridge Mass.; and mansions such as Shadow Lawn in West Long Branch New Jersey, & the James B. Duke mansion in New York City. (Wilson, 3-4)

Born April 30, 1881 to a prominent family in Philadelphia, Abele excelled in math at the Institute for Colored Youth. The youngest of 8 children Julian was not the only won to achieve great things for his time; his older brother was a doctor and two other siblings were successful sign makers. His lineage can also be linked to Absalom Jones--one of the founders of the Free African American Society (1787) in Philadelphia. (Tifft, "Out of the Shadows")



 Tifft, Susan W. "Out of the Shadows." Smithsonian. February 2005. Accessed February 13, 2016. 

 "Julian Abele (1881-1950)." Julian Abele (1881-1950). Accessed February 13, 2016. 

 Wilson, Dreck Spurlock. African American Architects: A Biographical Dictionary, 1865-1945. New York: Routledge, 2004. 


WWI: The beginning complete

WWI was now in full swing.

Many of the leaders truly believed that the ware would be short and everyone would be home to their families by Christmas or Spring at the latest. Many of the previous wars throughout Europe had been this way. But what none of them seemed to realize was that the way in which war was raged was changing, and when exercised on a large scale (as the Americas Civil War had shown) they would not be short, but long and bloody.

The United States would not enter until April 6, of 1917. But this would end its isolationist tendencies for the rest of its history.

The history of WWI is one that gets overlooked but its importance in history is huge as it marks the end of the end of empires and a new level of global cooperation that was being made necessary by the shrinking of the globe due to technology.

By the end of the war...

An entire generation of men would be gone.

Changed boarders and new countries would be the result of the bloodiest conflict known to man. 

New ideologies would gain popularity and success in the Russian Revolution with socialism and Italian fascism.

And Germany would be harshly punished for the outbreak of the war.

WWI: Great Britain Enters

The beginning of August was tense and stressful for the major European powers.

You may have noticed we haven't talked a lot about Great Britain entering the war yet. With Russia and France gearing up to go to war against Germany and Austria-Hungary, what was Great Britain thinking? They were not a part of France and Russia's initial alliance, so how did they get involved at all?

By the night of Sunday August 2nd 1914:

  • Russia, France, Germany & Austria-Hungary had all mobilized

    • Russia and Germany had declared war on each other

    • Austria Hungary had declared war on Serbia

  • Russian troops had crossed the German border

  • German troops sweep through neutral Luxembourg with intentions to go through Belgium and down into France in an effort to surround the French army.

That same day, the German ambassador in Brussels delivered the Belgian Foreign Minister an ultimatum presenting false intelligence that the French were planning on violating Belgian neutrality to pass through and attack Germany.  Therefore, Germany would need free passage into France for "self protection" purposes and demanded an answer within 12 hours. (Secretly, Belgium had been in constant contact with France so they were able to identify this as false)

The Prime Minister, Baron Charles de Broqueville and King Albert I, along with all other governmental ministers involved, voted unanimously to reject the ultimatum. not only that but to put up as much of a fight as possible against any incoming German forces. In response to the news, a German diplomat was heard saying:

"Oh, the poor fools! Why don't they just get out of the way of the steamroller." (MacMillan, 623)

It is the act of respecting Belgium's neutrality that was of grave concern to Great Britain. There were many in the government that were against war and against siding with France. But a quick turn of evens within 48 hours changed many of the governments' minds, coming to the conclusion that defense of Belgium's neutrality and preservation of its independence was a necessary task.

"Geography meant that, down through the centuries, Britain could never stand by unconcerned while another power took over the low countries with their crucial waterways by which goods and often armies funneled back and fourth from the continent to Britain." (MacMillan, 621)

Therefore, the aggression of Germany to take not only neutral Belgium and Luxembourg but France as well as British interests entering mainland Europe from all of these countries was reason enough and essential to keep them defended and open for business. And by Sunday night a "majority was starting to for....of those for whom a German violation of Belgian neutrality would be cause for war." (MacMillan, 621)

A British cartoon by F.H. Townsend from Punch in 1914 depicting "young" Belgium barring "elderly" Germany's path. Wikimedia commons.

A British cartoon by F.H. Townsend from Punch in 1914 depicting "young" Belgium barring "elderly" Germany's path. Wikimedia commons.

Belgium was a very proud country that cherished their independence and their freedom. They understood that as a small country in a developing modern Europe, their independence was something to be valued and meticulously protected against the great powers of Europe. For this reason they had nor pursued any military alliances that would make them dependent on one country or another. This prevented them from being used as leverage in negotiations between any of the great powers in Europe.

As a culture, they were dominated with French traditions but much of the government was pro-German conservatives all with catholic ties. (MacMillan, 622)

Located between French and German borders, they detected hostility between the two countries well before the assassination of the Archduke increasing their military spending in early 1913. They had a decently developed defense with military outposts on all of their boarders. While they were equally worried about the intentions of France and Germany on its boarders, they also really resented Great Britain for "leading the international crackdown on their King, Leopold II in the Congo" for his horrific treatment, extortion, and cover-up of the local population. (MacMillan, 622)

By the next morning, word of the Belgian government denying the ultimatum had spread throughout the country and the Belgian flags were flying everywhere in the streets and countryside. That day in parliament "all the measures proposed by the government including war credits passed unanimously." (MacMillan, 623) And King Albert and the Queen were cheered through a crowd leaving the parliament building. Later that day King Albert let King George V know of the ultimatum, asking for help. 

Le Soir French newspaper headline, August 4, 1914--Germany violates Belgian neutrality. Wikimedia Commons.

Le Soir French newspaper headline, August 4, 1914--Germany violates Belgian neutrality. Wikimedia Commons.

The next  morning, Tuesday August 4th, Great Britain sent an ultimatum to Germany demanding a guarantee that Belgian neutrality would be respected. If their neutrality were to be violated that would force Great Britain to declare war on Germany. They had until 11 p.m. that night to agree to the ultimatum. When Big Ben struck 11 p.m. there was no response and Great Britain declared war on Germany.

Great Britain WWI Recruiting Poster. Wikimedia Commons.

Great Britain WWI Recruiting Poster. Wikimedia Commons.

WWI: July 1914

On June 28, 1914, the assasination of Franz Ferdinand started a swirl of events that would lead to the outbreak of WWI.

Shortly after the assassination, Princip and his conspirators were all captured. The cyanide pills that they had been provided with their weapons for the job did not work and simply made them sick. Princip confessed everything and revealed their assassination details to the Austro-Hungarian investigators (so much for that oath...)

But the problem was that Princip claimed to have been provided with the weapons from members of the Black Hand that were Serbian intelligence officers. Most of the Black Hand leaders were just that, but they were not sanctioned any authority through the Black Hand to represent Serbia in any way. So was Serbia responsible? Many of Serbia's ambassadors to other countries started claiming that they did not order the assassination but were instructed to warn the Archduke of the impending threat that had been detected before his arrival in Bosnia on June 26th. Later it was determined that the Serbian ambassador in Vienna had failed to "correctly" relay the information of the threat (whatever that means...).

For Austria-Hungary, losing one's heir is about as big of a crisis as a monarch can have, and when an heir gets assassinated someone needs to pay for it. This was the perfect opportunity for Austria-Hungary to flex their muscles and assert their dominance in the Balkans and the Slavic population in their country (MacMillan, 554). Many of the advisers on Franz Joseph's staff both military and diplomatic urged immediate mobilization of troops, even if it was just for diplomatic purposes.

Adding to the weight of the decision of how Austria-Hungary would react, was the impact of how Germany insisted Austria-Hungary respond. Both of them were joined in alliance and Germany, in the years leading up to this, had established itself as a strong country and player in Europe. The German ambassador, Heinrich von Tschirschky, was telling the stressed officials that "If Austria-Hungary showed itself to be weak yet...Germany might have to look elsewhere for allies." By July 5th, Emperor Wilhelm II had promised Germany's full support. (MacMillan, 555 & 557)

But during the investigation of what happened in regards to the assassination, it became clear to Austro-Hungarian authorities that it would be impossible to determine if Serbia was truly behind it without going into Serbia. So Austria-Hungary put together an ultimatum with a list of demands that had to be accepted as a collective whole. On July 23rd, the ultimatum was delivered to the Serbian government with the understanding that they had until July 25th at 6pm to accept. In the next 48 hours, the Serbian government worked tirelessly to weed through and respond to each demand in the ultimatum. They came to the conclusion of accepting the entire demand except the two that gave Austria-Hungary the right to interfere in Serbia's internal affairs (i.e. the right to investigate the assassination within Serbia) (MacMillan, 571).

This is an understandable move on Serbia's part because what independent country would allow their sovereignty be violated in order to keep their neighbor happy? They did not want war, and frankly, Serbia was in no condition to wage war. It was an independent country and it wanted to stay that way. Serbia also had a slightly solid promise from Tsar Nicholas and Russia that they would come to their aid if war was inevitable. "Russia cannot allow Austria to crush Serbia." (MacMillan, 587)

There had been lots of trouble in the Balkans for years, so when news of trouble there reached the public no one was surprised or worried about a world war. But when Serbia refused to accept the ultimatum given by Austria-Hungary this started to key the public in that serious trouble was brewing in the East. The refusal to accept the ultimatum meant that many countries would be pulled into the depth of anticipation of who would attack who first.

If German/Austro-Hungarian forces invaded Serbia, Russia would step in to protect its Serbian allies. But because Russia was also allies to France and Great Britain, they too would be forced into the conflict to defend Serbian sovereignty.

Austria declared war on Serbia on July 28th, but no one moved.

Tensions were mounting as Russia started partial mobilization of its troops. Germany then warned Russia to stop mobilizing or they would be forced to mobilize their troops. A total of 10 telegrams would be exchanged between Wilhelm and Nicholas before August 1st; the two cousins were in competition with Germany being slightly more trigger happy than Russia. All of Germany was given the orders to mobilize for total war on July 31st (MacMillan, 611) 

What had started as business between Austria-Hungary and Serbia was now the chatter in the background as the stronger members of the alliances took charge to ensure a short war ended with victory. This war would not be short and victory would come at a staggering price.


MacMillan, Margaret. The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914. New York: Random House, 2013. 

WWI: Franz Ferdinand Assasinated

It is now June of 1914 and by this time Europe had long been in a tizzy from the revolutionary movements going on in Russia. Many radical parties were being formed and testing the political waters in France and Germany. And the Balkans, Croats, Slovenes, and Muslims were itching for freedom from the Astro-Hungarian rule of Emperor Franz Joseph and his unwillingness to change with the political culture. 

Secret societies started popping up in the major cities of civil unrest and political change including Sarajevo Bosnia. A group that called itself Young Bosnia with over 5,000 members was pressuring the Austro-Hungarian empire to release annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina. There had been decent support for the Black Hand within Serbia itself and the government had been facilitating and encouraging the organization of conspiratorial/military organizations within the boarders of its enemies (i.e. Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire) (MacMillan, 547) 

They called for action refraining from violence as the Serbian government renounced their cause at the use of force. So they declared Young Bosnia a "cultural society" and encouraged a break off group, the Black Hand, to do their dirty work. The nationalist movement and group itself was feeling particularly strong at the time because to two major victories in the Balkan wars of 1912 & 1913 that gained huge territories and Serbian independence; making fighting for the remaining southern Slavs still apart of Bosnia and Herzegovina a legitimate achievement. (MacMillan, 547)

Gavrilo Princip was one of the Black Hand members that was determined to make a difference for his cause with violence, the only means that he saw appropriate and effective.

The Black Hand members each swore this oath: 

"I ..., by entering into the organisation "Unification or Death", do hereby swear by the Sun
which shineth upon me, by the Earth which feedeth me, by God, by the
blood of my forefathers, by my honour and by my life, that from this
moment onward and until my death, I shall faithfully serve the task of
this organisation and that I shall at all times be prepared to bear for
it any sacrifice. I further swear by God, by my honour and by my life,
that I shall unconditionally carry into effect all its orders and
commands. I further swear by my God, by my honour and by my life, that I
shall keep within myself all the secrets of this organisation and carry
them with me into my grave. May God and my comrades in this organisation
be my judges if at any time I should wittingly fail or break this oath!"

The symbol of oppression for Princip and the Black Hand was the heir the to Austro-Hungarian throne Archduke Franz Ferdinand, making him the perfect target for assassination. It was announced in the local newspapers that the Archduke would be in Sarajevo to dedicate the opening of a new museum on June 28th. **It is highly disputed if the men were recruited for the mission or simply requested weapons from the organization to carry out their plan.

He started by recruiting help realizing that to pull off a successful assassination of the Archduke he would need more than one gun in the crowd. Weeding through his radical bars, coffee houses, childhood friends, and "cell" of the Black Hand he found five enthusiastic participants that were dedicated to acts of terror against important targets. (MacMillan, 547) (all but one including himself were teenagers) -- The leader of the Black Hand and Serbian intelligence officers provided Princip with four guns (non of the six teenagers had ever shot a gun) & six bombs -- Pre-determined shooting spots along the four and a half mile motorcade  provided them with enough chance for success and a margin for error were anything to go wrong. 

Each man was given a bomb and the oldest four carried the guns under their heavy baggy clothing that looked suspicious in the late June weather. As the Archdukes car starts its four and a half miles back to the train through crowds of cheering people everything goes wrong. First, the motorcade goes past the -- first conspirator he got cold feet and did not set off his bomb --the second conspirator set off his bomb but it missed the Archdukes car by mere inches and injured some of his security detail -- the motorcade stopped in front of Prinicp to make sure everyone was okay from the bomb but the crowd had become so thick and Princip was so short that he could not get a glimpse of the Archduke or a field of fire to shoot him -- once the motorcade was on its way again it went past the last conspirator so fast that he had no time to react. 

Princip had thought that he had missed his chance but the driver of the motorcade had taken a wrong turn leading the Archduke straight to a disappointed Princip. 5 feet from the Archduke Princp took his shots, shooting Ferdinand in the throat and his wife Sophie in the stomach. Both were dead within minutes. 

 MacMillan, Margaret. The War That Ended Peace: The Road to 1914. New York: Random House, 2013. Pg. 547. 

Pozzi, Henri. Black Hand over Europe. Zagreb: Croatian Information Centre, 1994. 

WWI: Meanwhile on the other side of Europe

The Franz Ferdinand was a very interesting guy. He was born in Graz, Austria in 1865 and never expected to inherit the throne of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. His Uncle was Franz Joseph the very involved and strong Emperor who would rule for almost 70 years and had a son/heir, the Crown Prince Rudolf.

Franz Ferdinand's uncle Franz Joseph, Austrian-Hungarian Emperor. Wikimedia Commons.

Franz Ferdinand's uncle Franz Joseph, Austrian-Hungarian Emperor. Wikimedia Commons.

In 1889 Franz Ferdinand's cousin and the heir to the throne, the Crown Prince Rudolf, committed suicide at his hunting lodge at just 30 years old. His father, Franz Joseph was devastated. Their father/son relationship had been a struggle mixed with some sweet moments. Rudolf had held conflicting liberal views to those of his fathers and while preparing Rudolf for taking over the empire. He had made many political enemies in his fiery youth and Franz Joseph tried to strip him of the influence of liberal views and expose him to the realities of running their vast empire.

General Beck of the Austrian army wrote in his journal of his serious concern that there would be trouble with the young heir:

"The young, over-excited mind of the Crown Prince, the immaturity of his way of thinking, the extravagance of his undoubtedly high intelligence, make me worry that he will assimilate ideas and tendencies which would not be compatible with the conservative character of a future monarch." (Palmer, 215)
Crown Prince Rudolph and his wife. Wikimedia Commons.

Crown Prince Rudolph and his wife. Wikimedia Commons.

But a number of years later with some experience under his belt his father and the general had begun to trust Rudolf's judgment and character which was much more like his mothers. It was a true shock to Franz Joseph when he learned of the Crown Prince's suicide. 

Rudolf was Franz Joseph's only son so the line of succession then went to Franz Joseph's younger brother who was in poor health; so Franz Joseph started to prepare his nephew Franz Ferdinand as the new heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne.

Training in the heir was to be a big deal as Franz Joseph had spent his entire reign keeping the Empire together as it was plagued by waves and waves of nationalism uprising's in Vienna, Italy, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and tough defeats in the Crimean War, the second Italian War of Independence, Austro-Prussian War, and the establishment of the dual monarchy known as Austro-Hungary.

But like his cousin Franz Ferdinand had more liberal views towards running the empire. He advocated for greater representation of ethnic groups, specifically the Czechs and the Slavic people in Croatia and Bosnia. He butted heads with many of the other leaders within the government convinced that their policies would be the ruin of the Austria-Hungarian Empire.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Wikimedia Commons.

Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Wikimedia Commons.

Ironically, it was Franz Ferdinand that promoted and stressed a careful approach towards Serbia claiming that treating them unfairly and harshly would end in war with Russia, resulting in disaster for both empires that were barely holding on. In reality he promoted a three-pronged monarchy with Austrians, Hungarians, and Serbs giving the Serbs equal rights as those of Austria and Hungary. But having Franz Ferdinand on your side in the empire was not what they wanted. The Serbians feared that it would lead to them being ruled by foreigners for even longer and the dream for a true united Serbia would never happen.

This simply would not due. Their fear of being ruled by foreigners and never having a united Serbia fueled fear and resistance to the Empire. They had been ruled by the Ottoman Turks since 1389 and continuously fought for their independence from the Ottomans until they finally gained some success in the early 1800's by winning their independence, creating the country of Serbia and establishing their own monarchy.

But more than a half a million Serbs remained under rule of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in Bosnia and Herzegovina. When the Ottoman Empire collapsed the Austro-Hungarian's simply just annexed the countries. The Slavic people throughout the world were outraged claiming that the Austro-Hungarian Empire had stolen their independence that that they had no right too.

This my friends, is a recipe for disaster. The Austro-Hungarian Empire became the symbol of oppression. Revolutionary resistance started popping up everywhere within the Slavic countries creating many different secret societies with cultural and violent goals. 

**So just a quick review, Serbia at this time is a country, gaining their their independence from the Ottoman Turks. But Bosnia and Herzegovina, home to a half a million more Slavs, was annexed by Austria-Hungary, destroying their dream of independence as Serbia had achieved.

The late 19th century and early 20th century was a scary time to be a leader of any country. The popular way to try and bring change about throughout the world was through assassinations. And not necessarily behind-closed-doors-lets-poison-them assassinations...but very public and bloody ones.

It was a time where 4 kings, 3 American presidents, the Empress of Austria, 2 monarchical well as dukes, barons, governors, legislators, and political figures had been gunned down or stabbed to death by 1911. Regardless whether or not these assassinations brought about swift change they remained very popular means of getting points across.

A young Gavrilo Princip would begin his plot to assassinate the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne long before his plan was carried out.



 Palmer, Alan. Twilight of the Habsburgs: The Life and times of Emperor Francis Joseph. New York, NY: Grove Press, 1995. 

WWI: Everyone is Related

Hello everyone! Sorry it has been so long 1) Christmas Break 2) Something was wrong with the site and publishing features so the things I was publishing were not showing up. BUT they are fixed and I will be republishing in them in the weeks to come!

But first.

I love WWI. A lot. So in the next week or two will be posting a lot about how it started and interesting details of the war! A lot of history teachers only have time to play World War I off as the war that led to World War II and that the war was mainly a basic war of attrition; firing at each other and killing each other in trenches until the enemy had been overcome. While that assumption is at its core the truth, it is also far from the truth leaving out some insane details that make it one of my favorite events in history to study.

When describing the outbreak of WWI many start with the assassination of the Archduke of Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austrio-Hungarian throne, which is a great place to start but I want to give you guys some background that I find super interesting on the intricate web of relations that tied much Europe together.

When you think of Europe pre-WWI you need to picture early Downton Abbey (if you haven't seen Downton Abbey, get on it, all six seasons) A very hierarchical society entrenched in rules, tradition, and duty. Children of the aristocracy were often pared before they were even born to ensure a suitable match for each family in retaining the prestige of their family blood lines. Many of the heirs to the thrones of the major players had grown up with each other, had siblings that had married into royal families all over Europe, and often toured Europe visiting and catching up the close relations in just about every country.

So by 1914 going into WWI the leaders of Europe had been intricately webbed (this can get kind of confusing so just hang with me).

First, the players:

King George V of England : When George was born he was 3rd in line for the British throne so there was little expectation that he would ever be king. The plan was for him to make a career in the British Navy; but after his older brother, Albert Victor, died of pneumonia George became next inline after his father.

Kaiser Wilhelm II, German Emperor/King of Prussia was born second in line for the throne of the newly formed German Empire.

Tsar Nicholas II, Tsar of the Russian Empire his reign was plagued by issue after issue when he toke the throne at just 26 years old.


Now, how they are all related:

King George V of England / was the son of King Edward VII and Alexandra of Denmark.

Kaiser Wilhelm II of Germany / was the son of Frederick III and Victoria of England / who was the sister of King Edward VII within the British Royal Family / making both George and Wilhelm first cousins and grandchildren of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

Tsar Nicholas II of Russia / was the son of Tsar Alexander III and Dagmar of Denmark / who was the sister of Alexandra of Denmark, King George V’s mother, making King George V and Tsar Nicholas first cousins within the Danish Royal Family.

So all were cousins, Wilhelm and George were first cousins, George and Nicholas were first cousins and Wilhelm and Nicholas were third cousins. (Dews)

They also were equal decedents of King George II of England making the three of them fifth cousins. (Dews)

There, got it? lol. 

(Image by Marcia Underwood from Margaret McMillan's essay "The Rhyme of History" )

(Image by Marcia Underwood from Margaret McMillan's essay "The Rhyme of History" )

I found the family tree chart on the Brookings Institute website in on of their essay series. The Brookings Institute is a non profit research think tank that covers everything from public policy, foreign affairs, history and basically anything else that would have to do with materials needed for putting together reliable policies. 

I highly recommend taking a look at Margaret McMillan's essay "The Rhyme of History: Lessons of the Great War." McMillan explores the similarities of the world on the brink of war in 1914 and today, super interesting!



Today in History: Attack on Pearl Harbor

One thing about Pearl Harbor that is not often talked about often is, why Pearl Harbor and how did we not see it coming? 

Like many historical events, it’s a long story. But like many historical events, the seeds of Pearl Harbor were planted way before December of 1941. Things with Japan had been shaky since as far back as April of 1941. In September 1931, Japan had invaded China and would be in the process of controlling it with insanely vicious warfare- that is a huge topic of discussion that we will save for another time. The taking of China and the Far East was a major concern to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. If Japan thought she could take China (the biggest Asian country), what was to stop her from taking other Eastern countries that the United States had a presence in, such as the Philippians, the famous Midway and Guam?  By September of 1940, the Japanese forces had begun to move south towards French occupied Indo-China and finally, by July 1941, the United States and Britain had had enoughIn protest to Japan's continuous aggression, they froze the Japanese's assets. By doing this, they assumed that they would think about the situation in a rational way and pull itself back into line. (Roberts, 186)

But the Japanese military-dominated nationalistic government was highly sensitive, extremely proud and "far from logical...they ignored them." (Roberts, 186) 

Just days later, still looking for some type of acknowledgment, the United States revoked all US export licenses for oil. At this time, Japan got just over 75% of its oil from the United States. The Japanese had to import every recourse they needed because of the limited natural resources of the islands and the United States had complete freedom to sell or not sell its natural resources to a country that was using them for "imperialist oppression." Still refusing to bow to the United States, Japan opted to find its needed oil elsewhere in both Burma and the East Indies. (Roberts, 186)

In the coming months, Roosevelt publicly declared that the United States would take the needed actions to protect its assets and interests in the region if the Japanese continued to harass them; while behind closed doors the United States Secretary of State, Cordell Hull and Ambassador Kichisaburo Nomura negotiated for more than a hundred hours to find middle ground.

Meanwhile, the Pacific Fleet originally stationed in California was moved to Pearl Harbor in Hawaii to add weight to the United States’ warnings. This cut the distance to Japan for the US navy by over 2,500 miles, leaving it only a total of 3,500 miles from mainland Japan. Also, 35 B-17 bombers were transferred to the Philippines where they could easily reach mainland Japan. (Roberts, 187)

But instead of scaring Japan out of a fight it only offended them into taking the first punch. The pride of Japan and its forces at its disposal were not taken seriously by policy makers in Washington DC. 

It did not help that many senior politicians and soldiers genuinely believed that the slanted eyes of Japanese pilots meant that they could not undertake long flights; as one historian has put it, 'American leaders, harboring all sorts of racist stereotypes about the Japanese, did not think that they were capable of such a feat' as the bombing of Pearl Harbor..." (Roberts, 187)

Also, it was believed by many in Washington for many years that radio made surprise impossible and that any surmountable force approaching for an attack would be intercepted over the radio. The American policy-makers also assumed wrongly that Japan would never attack before issuing a declaration of war.

In October of 1941, leadership in Tokyo changed as General Hideki Tojo came to power. Tojo and his military Chiefs of Staff got right to work on a blowout of the Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor. At the same time they finalized plans to invade the Philippines, Malaya, the Dutch East Indies, Thailand, and Burma, creating the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. The invasions would depend upon a Blitzkrieg-style victory, using surprise and fast, violent, and hard attacks. (Roberts, 188)

On November 27th, Washington notified all Pacific stations: "This dispatch is to be considered a war warning. An aggressive move by Japan is expected within the next few days...Execute appropriate defensive deployment." (Hastings, 192) The leadership failed to acknowledge the significance of this obviously very serious notification all of the bases close to Japan, not just Hawaii, should have been on full precautionary alert. Admiral Kimmel at Pearl Harbor made one right decision that ended up being a crucial move. He ordered 4 carriers west with fighter planes on board to help Midway and the Wake Islands if things with Japan did go south. (Roberts, 189)


74 years ago today, at 6:45 in the morning, a very long day started for those stationed at the Pearl Harbor military bases on Oahu. Lieutenant William Outerbridge, aboard the USS Ward, eyed the small scope of a small submarine moving at about 8 knots in to the harbor. The USS Ward quickly shot its 4-inch guns and dropped a series of depth charges (underwater bombs) sinking the submarine. They radioed the incident to headquarters with the news that would have resulted in the base being on full alert. But nothing happened.

Not long after this incident Privates Joseph Lockhard and George Elliott detected a large number of aircraft on their radar unit at their station on the northern tip of Oahu. Their Lieutenant said "Don't worry about it," assuming them to be a squadron of B-17 Flying Fortress bombers due in from California later that morning." (Roberts, 184) This large “bloop” on their screen was in fact 43 Japanese bombers, 40 torpedo-bombers, 51 dive-bombers, and 43 fighters; 183 in all. 

There were no American air crafts in the air, no anti-aircraft fire to avoid as they let loose on the Harbor. Radio silence by the Japanese air crafts was broken to send the victory signal "Tora! Tora! Tora!" (Tiger! Tiger! Tiger) (Roberts, 186)

After it was all over, more than 2,400 casualties and "the core reality was that [the] attack sufficed to shock, maul and enrage the Americans, but not to decisively cripple their war-fighting capability." Overnight, the United States became completely committed to total war. (Hastings, 194)


Andrew Jackson: Presidency

Part 2: The Bank Wars

Jackson was from the frontier, a common man that had ascended to the most powerful elected office in the country. He thought that the office of the President was, should be, and shall remain the most powerful office in the United States government. That, to defend the union and preserve its wholeness, a President should be willing to do whatever it takes to hold the team together. Along with this attitude came his fierce desire to fight for every issue the people came to him with; he believed that most presidents had just tried to appeal to the general masses aiming for goals that were achievable and, for the most part, what people wanted. Jackson believed that "he was in the White House to fight the people's battles as the best he could." (Meacham, 121) and if left to the elites they would only fight for the wellbeing of the elites while the common man was left out of the loop. He believed in a strong presidential office, but that did not mean that he believed in a strong central government; two things many people often loop together. He believed in the mandate of the people and the powers that they permitted both him and congress to have was directly responsible for the wellbeing of the people. 

The Bank War of 1832 was no less of a fight for Jackson. Although it started as a simple political rivalry, he truly wanted to do the best thing for the country in regards to its economic future and stability. 

Henry Clay, the speaker of the House and Jackson’s longtime political opponent, had passed a bill through the House and Senate, renewing the Bank of the United States charter before its first charter even expired. Jackson realized that Clay and the (arrogant) President of the Bank, Nicholas Biddle, were buddies and were making a move for Clay to win the presidency in the 1932 election. Jackson didn't necessarily have a problem with the Bank until he realized who within the bank was best friends, then the Bank was a monster that needed to be killed. He also did not like its potential as a power rival to the presidency, a fact that Biddle did not hide. Jackson would personify the Bank as his own personal enemy, as well as a direct threat and enemy to the people’s liberties claiming that no government institution should have that much control over a country’s economy, favoring certain people over others for economic gain.

The people were also okay with the Bank having an indifferent attitude towards it. It was only when the two leaders made the subject a polarizing issue that they took up opinions. (Howe, 377)

Both Clay and Biddle believed that they could force Jackson to sign the bill when it came across is desk on July 4th but Jackson eloquently defied them and vetoed the bill sending a note with it back to the floor starting with this explanation:

The bill " to modify and continue " the act entitled "An act to incorporate the subscribers to the Bank of the United States " was presented to me on the 4th July instant. Having considered it with that solemn regard to the principles of the Constitution which the day was calculated to inspire, and come to the conclusion that it ought not to become a law, I herewith return it to the Senate, in which it originated, with my objections. 
(Andrew Jackson, The Avalon Project, Yale Law Library)

Jackson's enemies called Jackson an “authoritarian scoundrel” that was out for the demise of the people’s liberties. The cartoon below shows the kind of attacks that were common in the newspapers during the time. Jackson is depicted as the "King Andrew the First," with the constitution under on foot and the Central Bank Charter under the other, who can do as he pleases with the power of the Presidency.

Wikimedia Commons.

Wikimedia Commons.

The cartoon below shows Andrew Jackson and Nicholas Biddle boxing for the prize of the future of the central bank. 

Wikimedia Commons

Wikimedia Commons

The people backed their president and his actions the next November in the 1832 elections by electing Jackson for a second term, crushing Henry Clay. Jackson took his re-election as a sign that he had the permission from the people to once and for all crush the bank. 

In May of 1833, Jackson went in for the kill and ordered his Secretary of Treasury, Louis McLane, to withdraw all federal money and deposit them evenly in to state banks leaving the national bank in a state of despair and with no choice but to close. McLane refused warning Jackson that it would cause a serious economic "catastrophe" if the bank were to go down that way; a central bank was an easy way to provide an effective source of credit creating a necessary condition for the economic development of the country as well as performing other "essential financial services, mobilizing capital, providing information to prospective investors about risks and rewards, and facilitating financial transactions." (Howe, 493) For all of that to disappear would create a struggling market down the road. McLane also reminded Jackson that to move any deposited according to the charter he needed the permission of congress. But with Congress not in session he claimed he did not need their authority to move the money.

McLane was conveniently moved to Secretary of State to make room for a more willing Secretary of Treasury, William J. Duane. On Duane's first day in his new post was informed that he would need to withdraw all of the federal money to be deposited into the state banks for the sole purpose of destroying the national bank. He was fine with doing this as long as he had Congress' permission. Again, something Jackson did not have time for. Duane refused to resign and was fired by Jackson that September.

With the congressional session closing in, Jackson needed a Secretary of Treasury that would do what he wanted, no questions asked, and the third time he got what he wanted. Jackson appointed General Roger B. Taney, who did as he was told straight away upon taking up his post. The money was withdrawn from the central bank and deposited into the state banks.

One interesting ally for the destruction of the bank that Jackson did have in his administration was James Alexander Hamilton, who ironically is the son of Alexander Hamilton who fought venomously within George Washington's administration for the establishment central bank.

When Congress did finally go into session the money had been moved and as Congress mobilize for a response to Jackson's actions he pointed to Biddle's economic warfare as the very reason why a central bank was dangerous for America. Regardless, Congress was furious and Jackson was officially censured for violating the constitution and abusing his allotted powers as President.

As time went on, many people admitted that they were more worried about what a guy like Biddle could do with that kind of economic power than what Jackson was doing to the bank ensuring that the bank would stay dead. So in February of 1836, the Bank became a private bank in Pennsylvania. 

This whole ordeal, however, would cause the Panic of 1837 (exactly what Jackson's first Secretary of Treasury McLane had warned him about). With Jackson's second term coming to an end, Martin Van Buren would unfairly be the face of blame for the Panic.


Howe, Daniel Walker. What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. 
Jackson, Andrew. President Jackson's Veto Message Regarding the Bank of the United States; July 10, 1832. Avalon Project. Yale Law School, Lillian Goldman Law Library. 
Meacham, Jon. American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House. New York: Random House, 2008. 

Today in History: The USSR Invades Finland

I am taking a small break on the series about Andrew Jackson to talk about one of my favorite events to study in WWII. On this day 76 years ago, in 1939, Russia and its Red Army began its invasion of Finland.

The story of the Axis powers taking Finland is a fascinating one that does not get talked about enough. The Finnish people were brave, courageous, clever, and refused to give up their country without a fight despite the overwhelming odds.

In 1932, the Russians and the Finns had signed a Non-aggression Act promising peace to the neighbors. But on November 30, 1939 at 9:20 am, the treaty was violated when the Russians bombed Helsinki and invaded with 1.2 million. Along with them they brought 1,500 tanks and nearly 3,000 aircraft to overwhelm the sparsely populated under-equipped and outdated Finnish forces. The Russians assumed this would go quickly and smoothly, and the need for extra provisions and extensive winter clothing would not be needed. They started off in good spirits as they achieved all of the initial invasion goals in ten days. But the securing of the rest of the country would prove deadly and difficult, lasting another 105 days. (Roberts, 30)


The Finnish army was made up of 10 divisions containing just 36 varying artillery pieced that all dated pre-WWI.

Their leader organizing the defense was Field Marshal Baron Carl von Mannerheim. Mannerheim had been an officer in the Tsarists army during WWI and was assumed by the Russians to be a friendly. To their shock he had organized a defense line called the "Mannherheim Line" that would haunt the unsuspecting soldiers and bring life to his nickname as the "Defender of Finland". The Red Army had been told that they would be welcomed and celebrated but they ended up fighting for their lives. Mannerheim had an intense and electric way of inspiring those around him to defend Finland. (Roberts, 31)

The Finns lacked weapons, comparable aircraft, and had no tanks or any means of anti-tank weapons; but they quickly learned how to hijack them using the Russians own "molotov cocktail'.

Using his knowledge of Russian war tactics, Mannherheim successfully predicted all of the Red Army's moves making it seem like the Finns were everywhere. Lacking a lot of equipment, one thing they were well equipped with was white camouflage uniforms; something that the Russians did not think they would need with the timeline they had anticipated with the invasion. The camouflage was one of the Finns most useful weapons of the defense, the Red Army nicknamed them Bielaja Smert (White Death). 

The cold would also be Finland's friend as temperatures fell to -58 F. Many soldiers froze to death or got wounded and then the wound froze bringing on gangrene. One of the main strategies of the Finns were to keep the Red Army soldiers from sleeping. The constant roar of engines, frightened horses and the fear of the Finnish trackers and hunters hidden in the trees terrified many of them from sleeping well--if at all. The Finnish trackers and hunters would hide way up in the tall trees of the forest and wait for dark and while the Red Army solders were huddled around their camp fires--they would pick them off one by one by the shadows from the fire. 

They were also able to pick up the Red Army's radio signals which were not sent in code but plain language. This revealed just how weak their forces were with inadequate hot food and winter clothing.

The Finns seemed to be everywhere and the world watched in awe as they successfully kept the Russians at bay. They had filled the wilderness with mines and traps, gun emplacements, "dragons teeth" and pillboxes (makeshift anti-tank weapons), as well as the excellent sharpshooters hidden in the trees. But the Mannerheim Line could only be maintained for so long. When a Finn soldier fell there was no one to replace him, they had already called up everyone ages 15 and up for its defense. But when a Russian soldier fell they had two more ready to take his spot. (Roberts, 31)

One solder expressed his frustrations saying that there were "more Russians than [they] had bullets." Another Finnish officer wrote to his family, "One thing is clear: we have not fled. We were prepared to fight to the last man. We carry our heads high because we have fought with all our might for three and a half months." (Hastings, 38)

The Finns had also passed a scorched earth policy, requiring each citizen to destroy anything that could be of use to the Red Army including food, livestock, buildings, tools, skis, and vehicles upon evacuating their villages. (Hastings, 32)

After the loss of 25,000 Finns and 200,000 Russians, the two governments signed the Treaty of Moscow on March 13th ending the 4 month courageous defense of Finland. Despite Russia's victory it had been an embarrassing campaign that Hitler would view as a true measure of the Red Army skill for the rest of the war. (Roberts, 34)


 Roberts, A. (2011). The Storm of War: A new history of the Second World War (p. 32-34). New York: Harper. 
 Hastings, M. (2011). Inferno: The world at war, 1939-1945 (p. 30-38). New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 

Thanksgiving Day Parade

I have grown up watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade my whole life.

Except for this year, my sister convinced me to run the Turkey Day 5K...

But I am catching the last end of it right now.

Just like a lot of things this parade has a fascinating history.

In the 1920s a lot of people that worked in the department stores of the day were European immigrants. Excited about their new home, they wanted to find a way to celebrate America and its unique holiday celebrating thankfulness. Many cities around the country started having parades in a similar manner that their parents had celebrated within their cultures.

New York's Parade as we know it today began in 1924 by Louis Bamburger of Bamburger's Department store, which was later bought out by Macy's. The employees were dressed in magnificent costumes, alongside decked out floats, professional bands, and animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo. And from the very first year the parade ended with Santa exciting the 250,000 people who came to watch. With such a great turnout for the very first year Macy's decided to make it a yearly event. 

In 1928 the first balloon of Felix the Cat was used to replace the live animals but each year more and more balloons were added including Mickey Mouse in 1934, Donald Duck, Uncle Sam, Spiderman, Pinocchio, the Tin Man, and a Dragon.


By the 1930's there was an annual crowd of over 1 million people lined up along the route. 

The Parade took a break from 1942-1945 for WWII all of the extra rubber, silk, and fuel was needed on the war front. But as soon as the war ended the parade resumed and has become a staple to many peoples Thanksgiving mornings. 

Have a blessed and wonderful Thanksgiving!




Andrew Jackson: Presidency

Part 1: Election and the Eaton Scandal

Andrew Jackson won the 1828 election by sweeping 56% of the popular vote and dominating the electoral college by winning 178 votes to John Quincy Adams' 83 electoral votes. 

This election had been long and grueling and just as brutal as the 1824 election. The stories that were spread about Jackson were largely true while the stories about Adams' were for the most part false. But Martin Van Buren, the mastermind behind Jackson's campaign and a future president himself, worked on spinning the campaign to examine personalities. This benefited Jackson greatly over Adams, with phrases like "Between J.Q. Adams, who can write/And Andy Jackson, who can fight." The Jackson campaign needed to emphasis the severe difference between the two men running. (Howe, 279)

Adams had been an intellectual his entire life. He had practically grown up in Europe while accompanying his father, John Adams, on special business for the the Continental Congress during the Revolutionary War. There he was sent to great schools, learned languages, and proved himself just as smart if not smarter than his founding father (pun intended). He also served as the Czar of Russia's secretary helping him tend to business and foreign affairs for the Russian government. He didn't have to prove he was smart, everyone knew that he was smart, the problem was he was so dull and so mundane and so boring to be around that even reporters from newspapers around the country dreaded going to interview him. His normal day vocabulary was way over most people head and had no personality to find in a conversation. Jackson on the other hand was fiery, dominant, extremely loyal, and loved to dance. The average person felt drawn to him in conversation and gave the loyalty that his demeanor demanded. He was known for being tough but also for fighting for what was right no matter the cost or the means by which he got there.

It was in this election that Martin Van Buren shifted political parties and their operations to something very similar to what we have today. Before this shift politics was centered around non-partisanship with a fear of permanent parties, fearing that they would cause conflict and distance between those in power and if one party were to get too powerful, that take over of the entire system. But things were not getting done and sides were being taken anyway even though they all claimed to be in the Democratic-Republican Party. But Van Buren saw the inevitability of political parties and encouraged Jackson and his followers not only to openly embrace them but to define their platform. (similar to party platforms today) He believed in the great debate and the fair winning of a side, and he believed that if a two party system were not solidified it would lead to the country being "sectionalized" even more than it already was. He didn't want the conflict to be state against state, but party against party. One big issue where this was obvious and a scary problem was with the issue of slavery. (Howe, 280)

Anyway, back to Jackson. He had won fair and square, finally.!

But the stress of the campaign and its vicious nature had devastated his wife Rachel. At the age of 61 on December 17th 1828, just 15 days after Jackson was elected for president, Rachel died of a heart attack. Jackson was devastated. As his supporters were celebrating a sweeping victory, he was in mourning. (Howe, 328)

Moving in to the White House that year Jackson brought with him his nephew Andrew Jackson Donaldson and his wife Emily to surround him and help with the daily running of the White House. While in Washington Emily would serve as the official First Lady planning parties, events, hosting tea, dinners and visitors coming to call on the President. Andrew Jackson Donaldson would work closely with Jackson helping him in his political world and his home life. 

During Jackson's 8 years in the White House a number of things would make their mark on American history. Going to Washington and winning the White House was about cleaning up corruption, excess, and the un-needed within the government.

But his first term he struggled to keep control over his administration as the "Eaton Affair," or Petticoat Affair as it is often called, would haunt his first two years in office and all of Washington. John Eaton was appointed as Jackson's Secretary of War, just before taking office he married his suspected mistress Peggy Eaton. News had gotten around town of their marriage and the wives of the town refused to socialize with Peggy because of past relationships, rumors, and questionable upbringing.

Led by powerful women such as Dolley Madison & Margaret Bayard Smilth who had spent years "shape[ing] the young city into a capital worthy of a great nation" and the new comer wives like Floride Calhoun, the Vice Presidents wife, did the same avoiding her and refusing to acknowledge her in any unavoidable situations. Peggy did not make a strong case for herself with her rude abrupt talk and observations like this:

"None of them had beauty, accomplishments or graces in society of any kind, and for these reasons--I say it without egotism--they were very jealous of me."
(Meacham, 79)

Even Jackson's beloved niece Emily supported the exclusion of Ms. Eaton as she found her rude and ridiculous (Emily soon found herself sent back to Nashville to think about where her loyalties lie with Jackson--he had expected her support). 

Jackson would not have it, his wife had been judged and smeared all over the newspapers with similar insults and as long as he was in charge he would not allow it. He believed in her innocence and was convinced that she was a victim of malicious rumors. Jackson approached the members of his cabinet and demanded that the wives include Ms. Eaton. This affair took up most of Jackson's first year in office, Jackson assumed that he should be able to control his cabinet and in turn they would control their wives, but it didn't work. Gossip was fluttering all around Washington thrilled with scandal. Rumors were being spread by wildfires in parlors and at dinner tables and then in letters back home to inform wives, husbands, and sisters. (Meacham, 80)

Cartoon of Jackson and his cabinet and the judgment of Mrs. Peggy Eaton. Wikimedia Commons.

Cartoon of Jackson and his cabinet and the judgment of Mrs. Peggy Eaton. Wikimedia Commons.

Finally, Martin Van Buren came to the Presidents aide as they tried to figure out how to get past this whole ordeal. It was agreed upon that John Eaton would have to go for it to blow over, but it was Van Buren that came up with the idea for all the cabinet members to resign in order to keep in sync with Jackson's loyalty expectations. Van Buren would lead the way in of April 1831 being followed reluctantly by the rest all resigning by June. (Howe, 337 & 339)


Howe, Daniel Walker. What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. 208-210.
Meacham, Jon. American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House. New York: Random House, 2008. 

Andrew Jackson: The Rise of the Jacksonian Era

“To understand him and his time helps us to understand America’s perennially competing impulses. Jackson’s life and work—and the nation he protected and preserved—were shaped by the stubble between grace and rage, generosity and violence, justice and cruelty.”
— Jon Meacham, American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House

Jackson saw the results of the 1828 election as a striking of a deal between a founding fathers son (John Quincy Adams) and the swing of support from a Speaker of the House (Henry Clay) to secure the White House. Regardless of what it was Jackson was able to secure the White house in the next election.

When Jackson took the White House the country had changed dramatically by the 1830's

  • The railroads had more than 3,200 miles of track

  • Cotton/textile production had tripled from 1820-1840

  • Iron wage workers had grown 5 times

  • Immigration rose from 27,000 in 1828 to 80,000 in 1837

  • 1833 Oberlin College in Ohio opened being the first American college to be open to blacks, whites, men and women.

(Meacham, 46)

By the time Jackson arrived in the white house the days of the Federalists against the Democrat-Republicans was long gone. As the countries first political party the Federalists had followed the philosophy of Alexander Hamilton favoring a strong central government with a strong president. They would be opposed by the Democrat-Republicans who had been the followers of Thomas Jefferson favoring strong states rights and a federal government dominated by Congress.

This is a simplified version of the intricate issues between the two of the first political parties, but it is important to note that just because Thomas Jefferson had an entire Jeffersonian ideology of government named after them does not mean that he would live by it ideal for ideal when practicing it in real life. Yes, Jefferson was for state rights over a strong central government, but he had no problem excising his powers as president to purchase the Louisiana Purchase. No where in the Constitution did it give him permission to do so, he just did it and it remained a constitutional act by precedence. Both of his Jeffersonian proteges, James Madison and James Monroe, found it impossible to stick to the pure ideology of small government during their times in office. 

Andrew Jackson would take after Jefferson in this manner, and would stretch the power of the office of the president even further.

"He saw that liberty required security, that freedom required order, that the well-being of the parts of the Union required that the whole remain intact. If he felt a temporary resort to autocracy was necessary to preserve democracy, Jackson would not hesitate. He would do what had to be done In this he set an example on which other presidents would draw in times of national struggle." More specifically Abraham Lincoln.

"Before Jackson, power tended toward the elites, whether political or financial. After Jackson, power was more diffuse, and government, far better and for worse, was more attuned to the popular will. He may not have consciously set out to leave such a legacy, but he made the case for democratic innovation and popular engagement in politics at a time when many in Washington would have preferred that the people play the role they were assigned at Philadelphia in the summer of 1787: as voters who cast their ballots and then allowed intermediary institutions--from the state legislatures that elected U.S. Senators to the Electoral College, which chose presidents--to make the real decisions. Jackson wanted to give the people a more dramatic part to play, and he rewrote the script of public life to give them one." 

And so gave way to the Age of Jackson.

(Meacham, 46, xx, & xxi)

Meacham, Jon. American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House. New York: Random House, 2008. 

1824 Election

The 1824 election was one for the books and a real chance for the constitution be put into to the test.

Going into the election the country had only one organized party, the Democratic-Republican Party. This created the a vacuum within the party for control in the white house resulting in a divided party behind four different candidates.  John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, William H. Crawford, and Henry Clay.

Top Left to Right: John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson Bottom Left to Right: William H. Crawford, and Henry Clay. Wikimedia Commons.

Top Left to Right: John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson Bottom Left to Right: William H. Crawford, and Henry Clay. Wikimedia Commons.

To understand this election is is helpful to understand the evolution of how the process to which we elected presidents has changed. The 1824 election fell into the transition from one system of electing to another.

During the first days of the Constitution the elector votes in each state were voted on and decided by state legislators; who in turn send their electoral votes to the nations capital to be counted with all the other states; but the people of america were buzzing with the idea of having the electoral votes in each state be chosen by the people. By 1824 18 of the 24 states had adopted this system.

Also, before this time Presidents did not step forward as candidates but waited for colleagues to put their name forward as a candidate. But this practice was becoming old fashioned as the game in Washington DC was changing.

No candidate had ever connected with the people as effectively as Andrew Jackson. Jackson chose to stay with tradition in not promoting himself as a candidate, but he remained very popular with the public as he shared in their history of humble beginnings, frontier survival and leadership, as well as military experience and success. His very intense and direct demeanor made him a natural leader of ordinary men, gaining their trust and respect all in one swoop.

He was the common man who was ascending into greatness, and building this new idea of the American Dream proving that any man no matter your beginnings can achieve what they put their mind to in America. (We will get more into this idea later)

But this election was not without its brutal personal attacks and is to this day known as one of the most intense. One of the main attacks against Andrew Jackson was the accusation that he and his wife, Rachel, were adulterers because Rachel was not divorced from her first husband, Lewis Robards, before marrying Andrew. (Another topic for another time) But this accusation was very hard on Jackson and especially Rachel.

With divisions running high the election results came in:

Andrew Jackson led the way with 99 Electoral votes and the most votes in the popular vote but failed to reach the majority required 131 electoral votes. According to the 12th amendment of the constitution if no candidate gets the majority the decision is left to the House of Representatives. They could choose from the choice of the top three candidates of which were Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, and William H. Crawford. With Henry Clay dropping out of the race he was able to swing Kentucky, Ohio, and Missouri behind John Quincy Adams. With these three states behind the ten Adams already had, Adams was able to walk away with a victory despite the popular vote belonging Jackson.

Many political leaders of the day were shocked at Clay's backing of Adams but it made more sense then people realized. The only connection Clay had to Jackson was the fact that they were both from the west but Adams and Clay shared similar ideologies such as nationalism and promoting economic development. But more importantly Clay thought Adams in the White House was a lot more tolerable than a "military hero with a record of defying civilian authority [who was a] dangerously inappropriate choice for president."

Following this election Jackson would have to wait 4 more years to try again.



Howe, Daniel Walker. What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. 208-210. 

Andrew Jackson: General

Andrew Jackson first joined the Patriots in the Revolutionary war at the age of 13.

In between the conclusion of the Revolutionary War and the start of the War of 1812:

  • Jackson grew up

  • Apprenticed to be a lawyer

  • Gotten married

  • Moved to the new frontier of Tennessee

  • Served in the state constitutional convention as Tennessee got ready to become a state  (1796)

  • Appointed as colonel in the Tennessee militia (1801)

  • Served in the Tennessee state House of Representatives and Senate

With the outbreak of the War of 1812 Jackson was called to join the cause as a major General of the Tennessee militia and moved all throughout the south with several thousand Tennessee volunteers that included both Davy Crockett and Sam Houston.

During the fall and winter of 1813-1814 his mobile forces were moved throughout the south to fight small skirmishes against the Indian nations of the south and the British.

It was around this time that his army started falling apart but Jackson being a disciplinarian like none other knew how to shape them up. He believed that "no army can exist "where order & Subordination are wholly disregarded." Twice he pointed his gun at two men attempting to desert and put a man to death for refusing to obey a court marshal, which was the first ever execution since the Revolutionary War. Shaped up and ready to follow Jackson his men got ready to fight at Horseshoe Bend.

The Battle of Horseshoe Bend was the battle that finished the Creek nation and solidified the United States annexation of Florida. With over 800 warriors killed the Creek could never recover and gave into Jackson's demand of signing a treaty. The treaty though, was not what Washington DC had in mind. Jackson's treaty took over 22 million acres from the Creek nation, pushing them to the corners of their chiseled land. 

As the war went on James Madison was busy in Washington putting together a commission to negotiate peace with Great Britain. He chose John Quincy Adams, Albert Gallatin and James A Bayard; later adding Henry Clay and Jonathan Russell. These were some of the greatest minds in politics at the time sent to meet with a second-rate commission from Great Britain in the neutral country of Belgium. This allowed the Americans to hold out on issues and negotiate a treaty that would be on their terms. This was a strategy to help flex the independence muscle in front of the British to make them understand we were not a territory that would be pushed around. As a treaty was signed on Christmas Eve of 1814, news of the treaty would not reach Washington DC and particularity New Orleans, where Jackson and his army was, until mid-February.

Meanwhile, on January 8th Jackson and 4,700 men beat the 7,800 British soldiers in an incredible victory that would cost the British 2,000 soldiers and their General, General Sir Edward Pakenham. Jackson lost a mere 70 men.

This was the Battle of New Orleans. This battle solidified a number of things for both Jackson and America.

America thought that the battle resulted in the beating of Great Britain when the terms of the peace treaty and the American victory had already been agreed upon and signed. But people believe what they want to believe. And for Jackson, the Battle of New Orleans gained him national recognition and a spot light for any future ambitions.

The Battle of New Orleans provided him access to the larger stage of influence in Washington.

Andrew Jackson loved his military days, his accomplishments and memories. He would prefer to be called General Jackson for the remainder of his life following the War of 1812, even during his time as president. 

New Orleans is still filled with remnants of Jackson's influence with the main square of the French Quarter bearing his name and a large statue commemorating his victory in that city 200 years ago.

   A military officer's uniform jacket on display at Jackson's home in Nashville Tennessee, The Hermitage.

   A military officer's uniform jacket on display at Jackson's home in Nashville Tennessee, The Hermitage.

Andrew Jackson: Early Life--Troublemaker

There is no pleasure in having nothing to do; the fun is having lots to do and not doing it.
— Andrew Jackson

I can't believe that my first post in this new space is going to be about one of my least favorite historical characters ever.

But just because he is my least favorite does not mean that his life and accomplishments are not worth studying. He was an fascinating man who achieved a lot and embodied the development of America and the new direction it was heading in the early 19th centery.

As a historian you either love him or you hate him, I have yet to meet someone in between. We will get into that later.

In October I went to visit my best friend and her husband in Nashville and we visited Andrew Jackson's plantation, The Hermitage

And it truly is an extraordinary interactive place that brings history and Jackson himself to life. This is the first of many post's about Andrew Jackson's life and the place he called home, the Hermitage.

First we are going to start with his childhood.

Born into humble beginnings with tragedy hitting every couple of years Jackson spent his childhood as an orphan. His father died a mere two weeks before his birth in Camden, South Carolina. His widowed mother left with Jackson and his two older brothers to go live with her family, Scots-Irish immigrant farmers, who had high hopes for Jackson becoming a Presbyterian minister. 

But as Jackson's rascal like demeanor quickly became obvious he became most known for his pranks, mischief, and fighting (crushing the Presbyterian minister dreams of his family). 

By Jackson's 8th birthday the Revolutionary War was in full swing, with Continental Congress declaring independence on July 4, 1776 in Philadelphia, and would forever have profound effects on the rest of his life. 

At age 13 he joined the Patriot army with his two brothers Hugh and Robert.

Jackson's oldest brother Hugh joined the Patriot regulars and died of heat stroke following the Battle of Stono Ferry in 1779.  Both Andrew and Robert, being to young to join the regulars, joined the irregulars fighting in the Carolina back country where ambushes and sharp skirmishes were the regular exposing Jackson to the realities, required toughness, and the harshness of war.

In 1781 Jackson and his brother Robert were captured by the British and held as prisoners of war. There is a famous story that Andrew Jackson was slashed with a sword by a British officer when he defied his captor by refusing to polish the officers boots. His brother was next asked to do the same thing and refused.

Jackson's mother was in the process of getting her two young boys released from prison. They started the 45 miles back to their home in Waxhaw, North Carolina. Jackson walked beside two horses, one carrying his mother and the other his brother Robert who had been strikes on the head by an office. While on the long journey home a massive storm hit at the same time Small pox struck leaving Jackson very ill. For Robert these would be his last two days as he "had suffered greatly; the wound on his head...having never been dressed, was followed by an inflammation of the brain, which in a few days after his liberation, brought him to his grave." 

Jacksons mother finished nursing him back to health from small pox and then left to go care for her two nephews who had fallen ill in Charleston but caught cholera and died on November 2 of 1781 leaving Andrew Jackson an orphan at just 14 years old.

Shortly after being taken in by his mothers remaining family, he would fall into a pattern of lashing out and troublemaking. His mother's family did little to comfort their orphan who had just lost his two brothers and his mother. After starting a fight with a house guest his relatives sent him to another relative in Charleston as "having the unstable orphan around presented too many problems." Once in Charleston he was introduced go drinking, gambling, horse racing, and duels that were the daily agenda for the young, tough, and lost Jackson; and the way his life was going you could categorize him as a common trouble maker not to make a mark in the history books. But it is quiet the opposite.

After spending his entire inheritance that he received from his grandfather's timly death in Ireland, Andrew Jackson got to work. Very few people understood the ambition and drive that the young redheaded kid from the Carolina's had. He was 17 in 1784 and decided to become a lawyer. He moved to Salisbury North Carolina for a three year apprenticeship shadowing prominent lawyers of the area. As soon as he received his license to practice law he began building a reputation for himself as a charismatic and ambitious man. He was known for his temper but also his confidence and decision making and cool headedness to get done what needed to be done.

This rough and unfortunate childhood would help the American people rally behind the man that had started out so similar to them; bringing rise to the era of the common man.


The picture below is an illustration from newspapers of Andrew Jackson as a "brave child standing up to the British officer."
Wikimedia Commons.

Wikimedia Commons.

Meacham, Jon. American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House. New York: Random House, 2008.