Monthly Archives: September 2012

On two occasions I have been asked, ‘Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine wrong figures, will the right answers come out?’ I am not able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas that could provoke such a question… Charles Babbage

Apparently Malcomson’s qualifications to write this book were that he was a sometimes journalist and had at one point in time worked for the United Nations. While it offers anecdotal evidence of the author’s perceptions it is very weak in both its history and its sociology and is finally more interesting for what it tells us about the author than about the subject. If you have the time and the interest to see how his mind works – and often doesn’t – the book is worthwhile and better than most of its genre. That should not be misconstrued as a recommendation for the book.

One drop of blood : the American misadventure of race    New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000 Scott L. Malcomson United States Race relations Hardcover 1st ed. viii, 584 p. ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. Clean, tight and strong binding. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

Why has our nation continually produced, through its concern about race, a divided and constrained populace? Scott Malcomson’s search for an answer took him across the country – to the Cherokee Nation, an all-black town, and a white supremacist enclave – back though the tangled red-white-and-black history of America from colonial times onward, and to his own childhood in  Oakland, California. By recounting of his perceptions of race in our history this book is an interesting and sometimes amusing memoir.

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The Alamo is military history at its best: a social, political, economic, strategic, and tactical examination of the Texas War for Independence, one of the most dramatic episodes of our colorful past.

The Alamo and the Texas War of Independence, September 30, 1835 to April 21, 1836 Conshohocken, PA : Combined Books, c 1992 Albert A. Nofi Texas History Revolution, 1835-1836, Alamo, San Antonio, Texas Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. 222 p. : ill., maps ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 209-212) and index. Filmography: p. 212-214. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG   

It was a small war—probably no more than 6,500 men were ever engaged in a single action, both sides taken together. It was a short war too, lasting only about seven months. And it was fought in what was, at the time, one of the most obscure corners of the earth. Yet the Texas War for Independence has become a heroic conflict of legendary proportions.

Very few balanced accounts of Texas’s epic struggle for independence have been written. Here historian Albert A. Nofi provides a splendid chronicle of the events and personalities of the war. He clearly explicates the battles of the Alamo and San Jacinto, carefully exploring the legends that have grown around them, and exposing the truth behind the myths.

The Alamo offers a strategic and tactical analysis of the war, technical information about the weapons used by both sides, strength and casualty data, orders of battles, information on the financing of Texas freedom, portraits of both Texan and Mexican personalities, and the story of a little-known war at sea.

Also included are maps of military movements, the most detailed tactical map of the Battle of San Jacinto available to date, and a number of fascinating illustrations.

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I am Fidel Castro and we have come to liberate Cuba… Fidel Castro

It is no coincidence that the rhetorical content and tone are so similar. Although the first is the better educated, and probably the more open of the two, they both spring from the same ideological poisoned well. If you want a vision of their future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever. Castro did not establish a dictatorship  to safeguard a revolution; he made a revolution in order to establish his dictatorship.

Both are  embittered atheists, the sort of atheist who does not so much disbelieve in God as personally dislike Him but they know that whoever controls the past controls the future and whoever controls the present controls the past. That is why Castro says, “The universities are available only to those who share my revolutionary beliefs,” while here we only turn them over to the liberals.  Power lovers without power  who can hold two contradictory beliefs in their mind simultaneously, and accept both of them.

Bohning has produced a record of an epic failure in American foreign policy that was the direct result of a policy of accommodation fostered by timidity that has allowed the intellectual plague of Marxism to finally wash up on our own shores just as surely as the yellow fever used to arrive from Cuba on ships. Unfortunately neither the author nor anyone in the American establishment seem to realize that the answer is never in half measures half heartedly carried out.

The Castro obsession : U.S. covert operations against Cuba, 1959-1965    Washington, D.C. : Potomac Books, 2005 Don Bohning Subversive activities Cuba History 20th century Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. xii, 307 p. : ill. ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 285-293) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

At the height of the Cold War, the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations made removing Fidel Castro’s regime one of their highest foreign policy priorities. The Castro Obsession provides new insight into the bold U.S. covert war against Cuba that lasted from 1959 until 1965. Eisenhower and Kennedy’s fervent desire to get rid of Castro led to the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, but the efforts to oust his regime did not end there. It became an obsession.

Primarily through the CIA and the military, the United States resorted to economic and political destabilization, propaganda, sabotage, hit-and-run raids, and assassination plots to try to topple the regime. This secret war was one of the most wide-ranging, sustained, expensive, and ultimately futile covert action campaigns in history.

Was this secret war wise, and did it ultimately promote U.S. interests? Don Bohning says no. Even if the details were murky, the extreme American pressure on Cuba was apparent to all, and this heavy-handedness severely damaged the U.S. image in Latin America and much of the Third World.

Instead of ridding the hemisphere of a dictator, these efforts increased his international political fame and provided him the excuse for more repression in Cuba. U.S. attempts to overthrow Castro also had dire unintended consequences, such as contributing to the Soviet decision to install nuclear missiles in Cuba, which produced the most dangerous crisis of the Cold War. Bohning sheds new light on this covert war, revealing that it was even more extensive, risky, and long-lived than previously thought.

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There are not enough Indians in the world to defeat the Seventh Cavalry… George Armstrong Custer

The Custer reader    Lincoln : University of Nebraska Press, c 1992   edited by Paul Andrew Hutton Generals United States Biography, Custer, George A. (George Armstrong), 1839-1876 Hardcover xiv, 585 p. : ill., maps ; 25 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. 561-574) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

For more than a century, Americans have been captivated by the legend of General George Armstrong Custer. But the various truths of Custer’s life and last stand prove elusive. Why are we so taken with the myth and the so-called mystery behind the man?

In a field teeming with highly partisan and wildly speculative treatments of Custer this entry is a volume acclaimed by both military and cultural historians as the most balanced account of his life and legend. Custer’s life spans two great eras of American history, and this work pushes beyond the existing literature to a comprehensive view of this controversial figure.

Albert Trorillo Siders Barnitz, Captain, United States Army

“Albert Barnitz. . .served with Custer’s famed Seventh Cavalry for four years, 1867-70. . . . In 1867 Albert and Jennie (Platt), both of Ohio, married and headed for the Kansas frontier. Four months later the growing perils of Indian clashes forced her to return east. . . . [Their] letters and diaries, dated from January 17, 1867, to February 10, 1869, are vivid and accurate. . . . [They] provide a keen picture of life in the Seventh Cavalry, both in garrison and field, immediately after the Civil War.”

Photo shows General Frederick Dent Grant, commanding officer on Governors Island, with his wife (Ida Marie Honorıe Grant), Mrs. U.S. Grant III (Edith Root), and Mrs. Francis Marion Gibson. Event is probably the annual lawn party sponsored by the Army Relief Society, which raised money for widows and orphans of officers and enlisted men of the regular army.

A wife’s premonition spared Lieutenant Francis M. Gibson from the fate that overtook General George A. Custer and the Seventh U. S. Cavalry. At her insistence, he declined a transfer that would have placed him in the Battle of the Little Bighorn, but he was on the scene immediately after it. Gibson’s letters detailing the devastation, together with his wife’s reports on the women at the army posts waiting for news, allow a fresh perspective on “Custer’s Last Stand.”

Mrs. Gibson describes a phase of army life during the 1870s and 1880s that has received scant attention–a gala wedding, a baby’s funeral, a sewing bee, a buffalo stampede, a smallpox epidemic. She provides candid glimpses of her good friends, the Custers. And every page brings the reader closer to the intimate events surrounding the most infamous battle in the history of the West.

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Discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak, and esteem to all… George Washington

 

The beginnings of an American style of war had its origins in Major Robert Rogers Rules of Ranging that are still in use today. Without Rogers techniques George Washington would have been only a colonial British colonel who lost a battle in the French and Indian War and not the victor at Saratoga which put the colonies on their way to independence. Beneath the portrait of this military genius we have included his rules – like Von Clausewitz he does not go out of style.

Print shows Robert Rogers, half-length portrait, wearing military uniform, standing, facing slightly left, with musket nestled in crook of left elbow, and native standing in the background… from the Library of Congress

I.All Rangers are to be subject to the rules and articles of war; to appear at roll-call every evening, on their own parade, equipped, each with a Firelock, sixty rounds of powder and ball, and a hatchet, at which time an officer from each company is to inspect the same, to see they are in order, so as to be ready on any emergency to march at a minute’s warning; and before they are dismissed, the necessary guards are to be draughted, and scouts for the next day appointed.

II. Whenever you are ordered out to the enemies forts or frontiers for discoveries, if your number be small, march in a single file, keeping at such a distance from each other as to prevent one shot from killing two men, sending one man, or more, forward, and the like on each side, at the distance of twenty yards from the main body, if the ground you march over will admit of it, to give the signal to the officer of the approach of an enemy, and of their number, &c.

III. If you march over marshes or soft ground, change your position, and march abreast of each other to prevent the enemy from tracking you (as they would do if you marched in a single file) till you get over such ground, and then resume your former order, and march till it is quite dark before you encamp, which do, if possible, on a piece of ground which that may afford your sentries the advantage of seeing or hearing the enemy some considerable distance, keeping one half of your whole party awake alternately through the night.

IV. Some time before you come to the place you would reconnoitre, make a stand, and send one or two men in whom you can confide, to look out the best ground for making your observations.

V. If you have the good fortune to take any prisoners, keep them separate, till they are examined, and in your return take a different route from that in which you went out, that you may the better discover any party in your rear, and have an opportunity, if their strength be superior to yours, to alter your course, or disperse, as circumstances may require.

VI. If you march in a large body of three or four hundred, with a design to attack the enemy, divide your party into three columns, each headed by a proper officer, and let those columns march in single files, the columns to the right and left keeping at twenty yards distance or more from that of the center, if the ground will admit, and let proper guards be kept in the front and rear, and suitable flanking parties at a due distance as before directed, with orders to halt on all eminences, to take a view of the surrounding ground, to prevent your being ambuscaded, and to notify the approach or retreat of the enemy, that proper dispositions may be made for attacking, defending, &c. And if the enemy approach in your front on level ground, form a front of your three columns or main body with the advanced guard, keeping out your flanking parties, as if you were marching under the command of trusty officers, to prevent the enemy from pressing hard on either of your wings, or surrounding you, which is the usual method of the savages, if their number will admit of it, and be careful likewise to support and strengthen your rear-guard.

VII. If you are obliged to receive the enemy’s fire, fall, or squat down, till it is over; then rise and discharge at them. If their main body is equal to yours, extend yourselves occasionally; but if superior, be careful to support and strengthen your flanking parties, to make them equal to theirs, that if possible you may repulse them to their main body, in which case push upon them with the greatest resolution with equal force in each flank and in the center, observing to keep at a due distance from each other, and advance from tree to tree, with one half of the party before the other ten or twelve yards. If the enemy push upon you, let your front fire and fall down, and then let your rear advance thro’ them and do the like, by which time those who before were in front will be ready to discharge again, and repeat the same alternately, as occasion shall require; by this means you will keep up such a constant fire, that the enemy will not be able easily to break your order, or gain your ground.

VIII. If you oblige the enemy to retreat, be careful, in your pursuit of them, to keep out your flanking parties, and prevent them from gaining eminences, or rising grounds, in which case they would perhaps be able to rally and repulse you in their turn.

IX. If you are obliged to retreat, let the front of your whole party fire and fall back, till the rear hath done the same, making for the best ground you can; by this means you will oblige the enemy to pursue you, if they do it at all, in the face of a constant fire.

X. If the enemy is so superior that you are in danger of being surrounded by them, let the whole body disperse, and every one take a different road to the place of rendezvous appointed for that evening, which must every morning be altered and fixed for the evening ensuing, in order to bring the whole party, or as many of them as possible, together, after any separation that may happen in the day; but if you should happen to be actually surrounded, form yourselves into a square, or if in the woods, a circle is best, and, if possible, make a stand till the darkness of the night favours your escape. 

XI. If your rear is attacked, the main body and flankers must face about to the right or left, as occasion shall require, and form themselves to oppose the enemy, as before directed; and the same method must be observed, if attacked in either of your flanks, by which means you will always make a rear of one of your flank-guards.

XII. If you determine to rally after a retreat, in order to make a fresh stand against the enemy, by all means endeavour to do it on the most rising ground you come at, which will give you greatly the advantage in point of situation, and enable you to repulse superior numbers.

XIII. In general, when pushed upon by the enemy, reserve your fire till they approach very near, which will then put them into the greatest surprise and consternation, and give you an opportunity of rushing upon them with your hatchets and cutlasses to the better advantage.

XIV. When you encamp at night, fix your sentries in such a manner as not to be relieved from the main body till morning, profound secrecy and silence being often of the last importance in these cases. Each sentry therefore should consist of six men, two of whom must be constantly alert, and when relieved by their fellows, it should be done without noise; and in case those on duty see or hear any thing, which alarms them, they are not to speak, but one of them is silently to retreat, and acquaint the commanding officer thereof, that proper dispositions may be made; and all occasional sentries should be fixed in like manner.

XV. At the first dawn of day, awake your whole detachment; that being the time when the savages the savages chuse to fall upon their enemies, you should by all means be in readiness to receive them.

XVI. If the enemy should be discovered by your detachments in the morning, and their numbers are superior to yours, and a victory doubtful, you should not attack them till the evening, as then they will not know your numbers, and if you are repulsed, your retreat will be favoured by the darkness of the night.

XVII. Before you leave your encampment, send out small parties to scout round it, to see if there be any appearance or track of an enemy that might have been near you during the night.

XVIII. When you stop for refreshment, chose some spring or rivulet if you can, and dispose your party so as not to be surprised, posting proper guards and sentries at a due distance, and let a small party waylay the path you came in, lest the enemy should be pursuing.

XIX. If, in your return, you have to cross rivers, avoid the usual fords as much as possible, lest the enemy should have discovered, and be there expecting you.

XX. If you have to pass by lakes, keep at some distance from the edge of the water, lest, in case of an ambuscade or an attack from the enemy, when in that situation, your retreat should be cut off.

XXI. If the enemy pursue your rear, take a circle till you come to your own tracks, and there form an ambush to receive them, and give them the first fire.

XXII. When you return from a scout, and come near our forts, avoid the usual roads, and avenues thereto, lest the enemy should have headed you, and lay in ambush to receive you, when almost exhausted with fatigues.

XXIII. When you pursue any party that has been near our forts or encampments, follow not directly in their tracks, lest they should be discovered by their rear guards, who, at such a time, would be most alert; but endeavour, by a different route, to head and meet them in some narrow pass, or lay in ambush to receive them when and where they least expect it.

XXIV. If you are to embark in canoes, battoes, or otherwise, by water, chose the evening for the time of your embarkation, as you will then have the whole night before you, to pass undiscovered by any parties of the enemy, on hills, or other places, which command a prospect of the lake or river you are upon.

XXV. In padding or rowing, give orders that the boat or canoe next the sternmost, wait for her, and the third for the second, and the fourth for the third, and so on, to prevent separation, and that you may be ready to assist each other on any emergency.

XXVI. Appoint one man in each boat to look out for fires, on the adjacent shores, from the numbers and size of which you may form some judgment of the number that kindled them, and whether you are able to attack them or not.

XXVII. If you find the enemy encamped near the banks of a river or lake, which you imagine they will attempt to cross for their security upon being attacked, leave a detachment of your party on the opposite shore to receive them, while, with the remainder, you surprise them, having them between you and the lake or river.

XXVIII. If you cannot satisfy yourself as to the enemy’s number and strength, from their fire, &c. conceal your boats at some distance, and ascertain their number by a reconnoitering party, when they embark, or march, in the morning, marking the course they steer, &c. when you may pursue, ambush, and attack them, or let them pass, as prudence shall direct you. In general, however, that you may not be discovered by the enemy upon the lakes and rivers at a great distance, it is safest to lay by, with your boats and party concealed all day, without noise or shew; and to pursue your intended route by night; and whether you go by land or water, give out parole and countersigns, in order to know one another in the dark, and likewise appoint a station every man to repair to, in case of any accident that may separate you.”

The French and Indian War : deciding the fate of North America    New York : HarperCollins Publishers, c 2006 Walter R. Borneman  History French and Indian War, 1755-1763 Influence Hardcover. 1st ed., later printing. xxiii, 360 p., [8] p. of plates : ill., maps ; 24 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [337]-344) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

In the summer of 1754, deep in the wilderness of western Pennsylvania, a very young George Washington suffered his first military defeat, and a centuries-old feud between Great Britain and France was rekindled. The war that followed, which one historian called truly the first world war, would decide the fate of the entire North American continent – not just between Great Britain and France, but for the Spanish and the Native Americans as well.

Fought across virgin wilderness, from Nova Scotia to the forks of the Ohio River, the French and Indian War is best remembered for dogged frontier campaigns and the momentous battle of Quebec on the Plains of Abraham – and the seeds of discord sown in its aftermath would give root to the American Revolution. We encounter George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, William Pitt, William Shirley, Edward Braddock, Wolfe and Montcalm, and Major Robert Rogers, a legend misunderstood.

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