A tale of two horses.

LeeGrant

It is a fancy of mine that these two famous horses stood flank to flank, hitched to a post outside the McLean House in the village of Appomattox Courthouse on this day in history,  April 9th  1865.

The Civil war began with the Battle of First Bull Run in 1861 on the McLean farm so Wilmer McLean said that the Civil War started in his backyard in 1861 and ended in his parlor in 1865.  In the photo on the left is Ulysses S. Grant with Cincinnati, his most famous mount of the Civil War, a giant at 17 hands.  On the right is Robery E. Lee mounted on Traveller, his most famous mount of the war.  These were the horses ridden by the two Generals on that fateful day.

By the etiquette of the time Lee should have presented his sword and horse to the victor and walked back to his soldiers following the surrender of his Army of Northern Virginia.  Instead Grant began the long slow process of reconciliation by allowing Lee to retire with full honours.  Lee rode back to his troops on Traveller, armed with his sword.  He also rode back with the good news that the Union army were arranging to deliver food to his starving troops.  Food exchanged for rifle muskets.

Traveller (originally named Greenbriar), a grey colt of 16 hands, was purchased by Major Thomas L. Broun, who sold him to Lee.  Greenbriar “was greatly admired in camp for his rapid, springy walk, his high spirit, bold carriage, and muscular strength. He needed neither whip nor spur, and would walk his five or six miles an hour over the rough mountain roads of Western Virginia with his rider sitting firmly in the saddle and holding him in check by a tight rein, such vim and eagerness did he manifest to go right ahead so soon as he was mounted.”

Their sleepless, bloodshot eyes were turned to me.
Their flags hung black against the pelting sky.
Their jests and curses echoed whisperingly,
as though from long-lost years of sorrow – Why,
You’re weeping! What, then? What more did you see?
A gray man on a gray horse rode by.

Passage from Traveller, a novel by Richard Adams

 

From Frederick Dent Grant’s notes on his fathers horses:

After the battle of Chattanooga, General Grant went to St. Louis, where I was at the time, critically ill with dysentery contracted during the siege of Vicksburg. During the time of his visit to the city he received a letter from a gentleman who signed his name “S. S. Grant,” the initials being the same as those of a brother of my father’s, who had died in the summer of 1861.  S. S. Grant wrote to the effect that he was very desirous of seeing General Grant but that he was ill and confined to his room at the Lindell Hotel and begged him to call, as he had something important to say which my father might be gratified to hear.

The name excited my father’s curiosity and he called at the hotel to meet the gentleman who told him that he had, he thought, the finest horse in the world, and knowing General Grant’s great liking for horses he had concluded, inasmuch as he would never be able to ride again, that he would like to give his horse to him; that he desired that the horse should have a good home and tender care and that the only condition that he would make in parting with him would be that the person receiving him would see that he was never ill-treated, and should never fall into the hands of a person that would ill-treat him. The promise was given and General Grant accepted the horse and called him Cincinnati.

 

 

 

 

Talking Turkey

turkey-cock-walking-farm-31935806

Since today is USA Thanksgiving it is a good time to talk about Turkeys, their origin, their names and their use in language.

The Turkey had a strange introduction to the English language.   The Mexican turkey was domesticated by the Aztecs.  When the Spanish Conquistadors arrived in the New World they found a new type of domestic fowl.

To them it looked something like a peacock, so they gave it the Spanish word for the same:  Pavo.  The Peacock is now called the Pavo Real in Spanish, or the Royal Fowl.

When the Spanish brought the Turkey back from Mexico it spread rapidly across North Africa to the Ottoman Empire.  The Turks named the bird a “Hindi” or an Indian Fowl, because they then believed the New World was part of the Indian sub-continent. Hence we call the islands of the Caribbean the West Indies.

The French who purchased the bird from the Turks adapted the name “Hindi” to French.  They called it Volaille d’Inde (The Indian Fowl) which was shortened over time to Dindon.

The English called traders with the Ottoman Empire “Turkey Traders”.  When this new bird arrived they called it the Cock or Hen of Turkey.  So we get the name Turkey as a bird.

When English colonists set off to Virginia Colony and New England they included domesticated Turkeys in their compliment of farm birds.  When they arrived in the New World they were surprised to see a wild bird species remarkably similar to the fowl they believed came from Turkey.

The North American wild turkey ( Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) has not been domesticated, and is a different sub-species to the Aztec domestic turkey.

To ‘Talk Turkey’ is a synonym for talking real business.  It appears to originate in a joke where a white man suggests to a red indian that they share the spoils of their hunting as follows: ‘I can take the Turkey and you can take the crow, or you can take the crow and I can take the Turkey’ to which the Indian replies ‘you no talk turkey to me”.

To go “Cold Turkey” means to give up a habit or an addiction completely.  The phrase comes from the fact that drug or alcohol addicts to completely cease using can get cold clammy sweats and goosebumps on their skin, so their flesh looks like refrigerated Turkey.

A Turkey Shoot is a situation where a person or group has an unfair advantage over others.  In business it is a situation where unexpected demand creates an environment for supernormal profits and frequently arises in disaster situations or in times of war.  If you have the product the consumers will pay through the nose for it.  In military situations a classic case of a turkey shoot was the Battle of the Crater in Petersburg, when union soldiers ran into the crater created by the detonation of a huge mine.  The sides were too steep for them to exit the hole and the Confederate troops were able to shoot down on them with ease from the rim of the crater.

The origin of the term ‘turkey shoot’ is uncertain.  Many rifle clubs in the USA hold pre-thanksgiving turkey shoots where the prizes are frozen turkeys.  What characterizes these competitions is that skill is replaced by luck.  Most of them involve blasting a target at short range with a shotgun.  Older versions involved shooting rifles at staked live turkeys, requiring slightly more, but not a huge amount of skill.

The Old Ship Inn

The-Old-Ship-by-Humphrey-Bolton

Brighouse in Yorkshire is about as far from the Sea as you can get in Northern England.  It is a town lying on the spine between Yorkshire and Lancashire.  So if you ever travel there you may be amused to find a pub called the Old Ship Inn, far far from the sea.

The history of the Pub will surprise you even more, and will take you round the world and to the US Civil War.

The Old Ship Inn is so called because in 1926, named the Prince of Wales,  it was renovated from the timbers of the broken up Royal Navy 101 Gun HMS Donegal.  In 2007 the Prince of Wales was renamed the Old Ship inn.

HMS Donegal herself was a first rate ship when launched in 1858.  She was a screw driven sail rigged battleship at the very end of the age of sail.  She, along with every other wooden battleship, became obsolete on the day the CSS Virginia and the USS Monitor clashed in the US Civil War in the 1862 Battle of Hampton Roads, the first clash of ironclads.

It was the US Civil War that made the HMS Donegal famous.  Six months after the capitulation of the South the last combatants of the war arrived in Liverpool.  The CSS Shenandoah was raiding Union Commerce Shipping in the Pacific when she learned of the surrender.  Rather than return to the USA and risk imprisonment the crew sailed to Britain.

Shenandoah was the only Confederate Ship to circumnavigate the globe.  In her one year campaign the CSS Shenandoah captured or sank 38 ships.  Her crew were the last combatants of the war.   In Liverpool the captain of the Shenandoah surrendered his flag to the HMS Donegal.  6th November, 1865, on this day.

Gettysburg

Littlesorrell

On this day in 1863 the Battle of Gettysburg began.  For a brief time it looked like the Confederacy  could break out of Virginia and bring the war to Northern soil.  After Gettysburg the South was on a permanent retreat.  The Battle represented the high water mark for the Confederate States, and for Robert E Lee.

Shortly before Gettysburg at Chancellorsville, Stonewall Jackson lost his life to friendly fire.  Robert E Lee lost his right arm, his best General and leader of his cavalry.  It was the lack of intelligence from the replacement, Jebb Stewart, which led to the accidental meeting of North and South at Gettysburg.

Four and a half months after the battle a dedication was held to consecrate the Soldiers National Cemetery.  Abraham Lincoln came along and made a short speech, which has gone down in history as one of the finest orations ever made.  It serves as a model for all politicians since.  Ten sentences.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war.

We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.

It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Make Ireland Gr8at Again

the8

I want to save this iconic photo for my own memories.  This is how Ireland prepared to receive the Haka from New Zealand in Soldiers Field, Chicago on Nov 5th 2016.  In a tribute to Anthony Foley the Ireland and Munster stalwart who died on Oct 16th 2016, the Irish squad lined out to form the Number of Foley’s jersey.

Ireland broke a 111 year old duck to win the game 40 to 29.

Tomorrow we play the All Blacks again in Dublin.  A second win would be legend!

 

 

 

The Greek crisis exposes how the European Union has taken a wrong direction.

OXI

The European Union was founded on principles of social democracy.  Rooted in the Christian principles of “Rerum Novarum” the European experiment used to sit comfortably between the extreme worlds of US Capitalism and Russian Communism.  It offered a particular type of bargain, with protections for those at the bottom of society, and controls on rampant exploitation of people and workers.

In any politically led economic system we find politicians struggling to make sense of the complex interplay of economic factors.  A populist politician is unlikely to have a PhD in economics.  When politicians run into a capability gap they rely on specialist advisers.

Ideally these advisers should be free of vested interests, and should give dispassionate counsel.  At the most senior levels of the EU, and the respective national governments, we are seeing a different dynamic at play.

In the USA the nickname for the Treasury Dept in the Whitehouse is Government Sachs or the “Goldman Sachs” dept, referring to the large number of treasury secretaries from that investment house.  If you recruit stockbrokers to run government they create policies that favour the interests of big finance.  They push for lower corporate taxes, they cut welfare, government spending and reduce government regulation of industry.

These are exactly the forces we are seeing now in the European Union.  The post 2007 austerity programme was a philosophy designed by bankers for bankers.  For the average European the austerity programme has been a failure.   For bankers it has been an unqualified success.  The banking sector has recovered from near collapse, and the recovery has been paid for by ordinary citizens.

At last the Greeks have called time on the troika of the IMF, ECB and the European Commission.  Syriza was elected into power in Greece on an anti-austerity ticket.  That should have been a warning signal to the troika.  Instead of heeding the warning they blithely drove forward with their programme to steamroll the Greeks into paying banks back for bad loans.

The troika have tried and tried again to bully Tsipiras and his party into submission.  In response the Greek premier pulled out the most potent weapon in his arsenal “Democracy”.  He is resorting to the will of the people to gauge their support for his non-cooperation with the austerity agenda.

This does not sit at all well with the “Goldman Sachs” style banking & stockbroking mandarins who currently drive EU economic policy.  They are not accustomed to having their policies questioned even by politicians.  The concept of populist support is anathema to them.  They have no time for debt forgiveness or for wishy-washy neo-Keynesian economic policies.

The democratic prerogative should be no stranger to the politicians in the European Commission, the Council of Europe and the European Parliament. These are the people we have elected and appointed to guard the interests of the ordinary people of Europe.  These are the people who are failing.  They have given over too much power to the vested interests.

A thin understanding of economics is no excuse for the abrogation of responsibility that we see in the politicians in Europe.  The Greeks will speak on Sunday.  I expect them to come back with a resounding no, OXI!

Then we need to understand how we can help the economy at the bottom of our EU society.  This is Europe, not the USA.  This is about unification and inclusion, not about punishment and exclusion.

It is time to fix the EU model.

If you fancy an addition good read on this subject check out this link:  The Austerity Delusion

The Haka

all-blacks-haka

Poetry appears in the funniest places.  Today the All Blacks (the New Zealand Rugby Union International Team) played, and beat Scotland in Murrayfield.  Before each game the All Blacks perform a Maori ritual battle challenge commonly called the ‘Haka’.

There are many Hakas and the one performed by the All Blacks is more properly called the ‘Ka Mate’.  In the sporting world there is no more frightening display of aggression, physicality and sheer danger.  The Haka is intended to make the enemy quail in fright and run before battle even begins.  It works.  Many teams have psychologically lost the game before the first ball is kicked.  For every team in the world the All Blacks are the team to beat.  Scotland have never beaten them, nor have Ireland, although the province of Munster can proudly boast of a win against the giants of Rugby.

The words of the Ka Mate sound less threatening in translation, but on the pitch you don’t hear the translation.  You get the full Maori version, complete with thigh slapping, chest banging and tongue sticking.  The form of the Haka has varied over time, and each All Black captain has the option to put his own mark on the display.

Here is a very special version, with a Munster team fielding four All Blacks who gave as good as they got from the team.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=13fGHSqHTwA

The text of the Ka Mate celebrates the survival of one Maori chief who was hidden in a pit by a friendly neighboring chief during a tribal war, and rose again to see off his enemies. Here is the original Maori text of the poem, and a translation.

Ka mate, ka mate
Ka ora’ Ka ora
Ka mate, ka mate
Ka ora Ka ora
Tēnei te tangata pūhuruhuru
Nāna i tiki mai whakawhiti te rā
A Upane! Ka Upane
A Upane Kaupane
Whiti te rā

I die, I die,
I live, I live
I die, I die,
I live, I live
This is the hairy man
Who caused the sun to shine again for me
Up the ladder, Up the ladder
Up to the top
The sun shines
Rise