#OnThisDay: The Chesapeake-Leopard Affair off Virginia leads to War of 1812

Although the War of 1812 didn’t officially start until the United States declared war on Great Britain on June 18, 1812, a number of incidents over a nine-year period led up to America’s second war against her Mother Country.  Those incidents centered around Great Britain’s maritime violations against United States ships and their crews.

Today is the 213th anniversary of a skirmish between the USS Chesapeake and the HMS Leopard off the coast of Norfolk, Virginia on June 22, 1807. (Sorry, if you were hoping for another kind of affair.)

The War of 1812 wasn’t emphasized much when I was taking history in school. Or perhaps I just didn’t retain the details. I couldn’t have told you what led to the United States going to war with Great Britain again so soon after the American Revolutionary War.

In case you’re like me in that respect, in today’s blog I’ll give you some insight. I promise, today’s blog post won’t be as long as my previous two #OnThisDay posts. No one needs or wants to know that much about the War of 1812.


How all this started

There was trouble on the high seas between the American and British navies as early as 1803. Things escalated and resulted in The Chesapeake-Leopard Affair in 1807.

Jenkin Ratford and four other crewmen on a British vessel patrolling off the coast of Virginia decided to steal a boat and desert their ship. They came ashore at Norfolk and bragged about what they’d done. Ratford joined the crew of the USS Chesapeake, a frigate of the US Navy. Great Britain was embarrassed.

The Chesapeake sailed out of Norfolk in June of 1807, heading for the Mediterranean Sea. The HMS Leopard intercepted it and was set to take revenge for what Ratford had done. When the commander of the Leopard requested to go aboard the Chesapeake to search for deserters, James Barron, the American commodore refused to muster his crew.

The response from the Leopard was swift and decisive. Three Americans were killed and 18 were wounded as the frigate attacked the Chesapeake with a barrage from its artillery. The crew of the Leopard seized the opportunity, boarded the crippled vessel, and captured Jenkin Ratford and other British Navy deserters.

Americans were humiliated by the incident and called for war. This was something that people agreed on, in spite of their political differences. US President Thomas Jefferson’s navy had already largely been dispatched to the Mediterranean in an effort to quell the activity of the Barbary pirates. Furthermore, budget cuts had reduced the fighting power of the US Army. He could ill afford to call for a war with Great Britain.

Jefferson decided to take revenge against Great Britain economically. The Embargo Act was passed by Congress a few months later and signed into law in December of 1807.


The Embargo Act of 1807

The Embargo Act of 1807 forbade all international trade in or out of all US ports. The objective was to get Great Britain and France (who were at war at the time) to stop harassing US ships and to recognize the autonomy of the United States as a nation.

One can imagine how unhappy the US port cities were. They depended upon the international trade for their survival. The embargo failed due to loopholes in the law. For instance, Great Britain continued to export goods to the US via Canada. Goods were smuggled in from Canada and whaling ships. Enforcement was a problem.

In the end, Americans suffered far more than the British or the French. Sailors lost their jobs, farmers couldn’t sell their crops, and merchants went bankrupt.


The end results

Tensions continued. The US declared war against the United Kingdom and Ireland and all its territories on June 18, 1812. By then, James Madison was the US president. The war continued until it officially ended with the Treaty of Ghent on February 17, 1815.


What happened to James Barron and Jenkin Ratford?

James Barron was court-martialed and found guilty of “neglecting on the probability of an engagement, to clear his ship for action.” He was suspended, without pay, from the US Navy for five years.

Jenkin Ratford was court-martialed for mutiny and desertion. His punishment came on August 31, 1807, when he was hanged from the fore yardarm of the HMS Halifax, a ship on which he had previously served.


Until my next blog post

I apologize for not including any photographs in today’s blog post. I usually get my blog photos from unsplash.com; however, I was unable to download any images from that website to use today. One of the cardinal rules of blogging is to always include images, so I’m embarrassed to send today’s post out into the blogosphere without illustration.

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m blessed with more library books than I can possibly read before they’re due. I’m giving them my best effort, though. Too many books! What a wonderful dilemma to have!

If you’re a writer or other artist, I hope you have lots of creative time during this pandemic.

Be safe. Be well. Wear a mask in respect for other people.

Don’t be shy. Share my blog!

Janet

#OnThisDay: “Blog about the 12th Amendment,” they said. “It’ll be fun!” they said.

If not for the 12th Amendment to the US Constitution, Donald Trump could now be president and Hillary Clinton could now be vice president. Talk about an unworkable state of affairs!

The ratification of an amendment to the US Constitution deserves a blog post on its anniversary. Unfortunately, the 12th Amendment gets into the Electoral College – something that has always baffled me. I’m probably the last person who should be trying to explain the 12th Amendment to you, but I’m going to plow my way through it.

#Vote #PresdentialElection #12thAmendment
Photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

As soon as I started doing the necessary research so I could write today’s blog post, I ran into conflicting dates. I’m going with June 15, 1804 as the date the 12th Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified. I’ll address the conflicting date later in this post


What is the 12th Amendment about?

The 12th Amendment to the US Constitution determined how every US President and Vice President have been elected since 1804. It mandates that electors in the Electoral College vote for president on one ballot and for vice president on a separate ballot.


Presidential Elections Prior to the 12th Amendment

Under Article II, Section 1 of the US Constitution, each state was entitled to appoint a slate of electors equal to the number of US Senators and US House Representatives the state had. Each state had (and still has) two Senators. The number of Representatives a state has is based on population.

Every four years those electors, now known as the Electoral College, chose the president and vice president. Each of them could vote for two people; however, they couldn’t vote for someone from their state of residency.

The highest vote getter became president and the one with the second highest number of votes became vice president, as long as their total votes exceeded one-half the number of appointed electors. Therefore, the president and the vice president weren’t necessarily from the same political party.

If not for #12thAmendment, Trump could be president and #HillaryClinton could be VP! http://www.JanetsWritingBlog.com

If no one got a majority of votes, or if two candidates received the same number of votes, the House of Representatives chose the president and the person with the second highest number of votes became vice president.

#ElectoralCollge #USConstitution #12thAmendment
Photo by Luke Michael on Unsplash

Political Parties

In the 1790s, differences of opinion on domestic and foreign policies became pronounced enough that two political parties formed. The founders of the United States had not anticipated the formation of strong political organizations/parties. The two parties were known as the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans.

Yes, it’s very confusing to us in 2020 when there are two major political parties in the US:  Democrat and Republican.

The Federalists wanted a strong central government that was friendly to Great Britain. The Democratic-Republicans wanted strong local governments and were more in line with the French Revolution.


The Early US Presidents

Without opposition, George Washington was elected the first US president in 1788 and again in 1792. He announced he would not seek a third term. He became increasingly aligned with the Federalists, although he saw the dangers inherent in factionalism. John Adams was Washington’s vice president. He identified himself with the Federalists. Thomas Jefferson was Washington’s Secretary of State until 1793. Jefferson became the leader of the Democratic-Republicans.

The 1796 election was the first time candidates for president ran from two political parties. John Adams and Charles C. Pinckney were the foremost Federalists running against Thomas Jefferson. John Adams won a majority of votes, but Thomas Jefferson was elected vice president. Remember, they were from opposing political parties and ideologies. Such a situation is difficult for modern Americans to imagine.

Moving on the 1800 election, John Adams ran for reelection and Thomas Jefferson ran for president again. The political parties had gotten stronger and electors divided their votes between “only” five candidates. John Adams received 65 votes. In order to avoid a tie vote between Adams and Pinckney, one of the electors from Rhode Island voted for John Jay so Adams would have a one vote advantage over Pinckney.

But Democratic-Republicans Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr each received 73 votes. The Federalists thought they had an edge in the House of Representatives that would result in the election of the more conservative Aaron Burr, so they weren’t worried. They thought they could work better with a President Aaron Burr than a President Thomas Jefferson.

In order to be elected president, a candidate had to receive nine votes from the 16 states. Eight states favored Jefferson, six aligned with Burr, and two states were divided in how to cast their votes. Voting on the floor of the House of Representatives continued for six days and 35 ballots!

#ElectoralCollege #12thAmendment #USConstitution
Photo by visuals on Unsplash

Although he personally favored Burr, Delaware elector James A. Bayard let it be known that he would vote for Jefferson after Senator Samuel Smith assured him that Jefferson would not undo the accomplishments of the Washington and Adams administrations. In the end, 10 states voted for Jefferson, electing him the third US president.

The 1800 election proved to the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans that the electoral system was deeply flawed.

On December 9, 1803 Congress proposed a 12th Amendment to the Constitution.


What the 12th Amendment did

The 12th Amendment didn’t change the structure of the Electoral College but, in order to understand the purpose of the amendment, one needs to have some knowledge of the Electoral College.

Whereas the Constitution had required each elector to vote for two people for president (yes, you heard me right!), the 12th Amendment required each elector to cast one vote for president and one vote for vice president.

If no one receives a majority of votes for president, the House of Representatives will choose the president under the rules of the original procedure as set forth in the Constitution, except they will choose between no more than three candidates instead of five, as was stipulated in Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution.

In case no candidate receives a majority of votes for vice president in the Electoral College, the US Senate chooses the winner from the top two vote getters. However, if there is a tie between multiple candidates, the Senate will choose from all those in the tie.

Additionally, the 12th Amendment requires a two-thirds quorum for balloting procedures. It also provided for a remedy should a president not be chosen by March 4. That remedy was that the newly-elected vice president would act as president until the election of the president could be settled. (March 4 was the first day of a presidential term until the ratification of the 20th Amendment in 1933 which established January 20 as the first day of a presidential term.)

Under the 12th Amendment, if no president or vice president have been elected by January 20, Congress will appoint a president. We almost got into that situation in the 2000 election, but that’s a whole other story, #HangingChads.


The Pros and Cons of the Electoral College

I’ve read various reasons and speculations about why the framers of the US Constitution provided the Electoral College as a way to elect the president. I’ve read that it was to ensure that people who had wisdom (in other words, that knew about politics, had some education, and understood this new form of government) would have enough sense to elect a president.

I’ve read that they didn’t want people living in the population centers of the nation to have an advantage over the citizens in the backcountry because the people in the cities would be more likely to know the candidates. (They obviously didn’t foresee the advent of the radio or television.)

There is much confusion over the Electoral College. As a political science college student, I was more interested in the administration of government than its political aspect. I made a conscious decision not to take the senior-level Political Science course called “The Electoral Process.” Looking back, perhaps I should have taken that class.

#college #class
Photo by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

With practically every presidential election, pro-Electoral College and anti-Electoral College opinions rise to the surface. There are people who would prefer the candidate receiving the majority of the popular vote (the votes of all citizens) to be president, while people who like the idea of the popular vote in each state being sifted through the Electoral College electors of their state want us to keep the Electoral College.

I’m going to go out on a limb today and say that I would like to see the Electoral College ended. I think each American’s vote should count equally to every other American’s vote. The people in favor of the Electoral College typically fear a populous state such as California or New York could influence an election by the sheer number of voters who live there.

Americans stand in line to cast their votes for president on the first Tuesday in November every four years, and then the electors who make up the Electoral College meet in their states on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December and cast their votes.

Since we elect the president and vice president via the Electoral College, in 2016, Donald Trump became president even though Hillary Clinton had some three million more popular votes than Trump. There are other elections in which the top popular vote getter lost the election, but I think that one example suffices.

I think it’s time to rethink the electoral process, but I’m not impassioned enough about it to lead the campaign to amend the 12th Amendment.


Ratification of the 12th Amendment

#USConstitution #Preamble #ElectoralCollege
Photo by Anthony Garand on Unsplash

On June 15, 1804, 189 days after the 12th Amendment had been proposed by Congress, it was ratified by 14 or the 16 states. North Carolina was the first state to ratify it, doing so on December 21, 1803. By the end of February 1804, it had been ratified by nine states.

By mid-May 1804, Delaware, Massachusetts, and Connecticut had rejected the amendment. New Hampshire ratified the 12th Amendment on June 15, 1804, meeting the requirement that in order to be adopted, a US Constitutional amendment must be ratified by three-fourths of the states.


What about the conflicting dates I found?

Technically, when three-fourths of the states have ratified a US Constitutional amendment, it is officially ratified and becomes law. That’s what happened on June 15, 1804 with the 12th Amendment. That’s why I went with today being the anniversary of the amendment’s ratification.

Secretary of State James Madison sent a letter to the state governors on September 25, 1804, declaring the 12th Amendment as ratified. Some history books use September 25, 1804 as the date of ratification.


Since my last blog post

I opened my blog with some trepidation last Monday. I didn’t know how my blog post that morning would be received. I was very pleased with the response the post got. As of last night at 10:00 pm, last Monday’s post, “I can’t breathe!”, has had 147 visitors from 15 countries. That’s a record for my blog. It has received more comments than any of my other blog posts. My thanks to each reader!


Until my next blog post

If you still have questions about the 12th Amendment and the Electoral College, please research them. I’ve said all I know about the subject, and I’m still a bit confused. Perhaps I should have gone with the September 25 date. That date doesn’t fall on a Monday (the day I blog) until 2023. After more than a little frustration, I wish I’d postponed today’s post until then!

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading The Book of Lost Friends, by Lisa Wingate.

If you’re a writer or other artist, I hope you have lots of creative time.

Be safe. Be well. Wear a mask in respect for other people.

Don’t be shy. Share my blog!

#12thAmendmentRatification 216th anniversary. #ElectoralCollege http://www.JanetsWritingBlog.com

Janet

#OnThisDay: Plessy v Ferguson, 1896

I had originally considered writing about the 40th anniversary of the eruption of Mount Saint Helens today, but then I was reminded that it was on this day in 1896 that the United States Supreme Court handed down a decision that changed the course of American history. The case was Plessy v. Ferguson.

Plessy v. Ferguson was one of the cases we studied in the constitutional law class I took in college. The decision in this landmark case sanctioned segregation in the United States.

What happened after the American Civil War?

The Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the United State Constitution were intended to guarantee the civil rights of African Americans in the years after the Civil War and forevermore. Some states found ways around the intent of those amendments by instituting such things as a poll tax that many former slaves could not afford to pay and literacy tests that former slaves who had been denied an opportunity to learn to read or write couldn’t possibly pass.

The result of the poll taxes and literacy tests was the disenfranchisement of black men. (This just applied to men because women didn’t gain the right to vote until 1920.)

Racially-segregated public schools were the legal norm in some states in the post-Civil War years and into the 1960s. Narrow interpretation of the U.S. Constitution made these state laws possible.

The Louisiana Separate Car Act

The Separate Car Act took effect in Louisiana in 1890. It dictated that railway companies had to provide separate cars for blacks and whites and made it against the law for anyone of either race to enter a car designated for the other race.

Photo by Gemma Evans on Unsplash

Creole professionals in New Orleans organized the Citizens’ Committee to test the constitutionality of the Separate Car Act. They hired Albion Tourgée as legal counsel. Mr. Tourgée had a record as a reformer. They wanted to find a person of mixed race to serve as plaintiff in a test case. They maintained that the act could not be applied on a consistent basis because it did not define the “white” and “colored” races.

Who was Plessy in Plessy v Ferguson?

Homer Adolph Plessy was seven-eighths white and one-eighth African American. He bought a ticket to take the East Louisiana Railroad from New Orleans to Covington, Louisiana. He boarded a passenger car for whites. When he refused to move to a car for African Americans, he was arrested.

Mr. Plessy was found guilty and appealed the decision.

Who was Ferguson in Plessy v Ferguson?

John H. Ferguson was the judge when Mr. Plessy was tried in U.S. District Court.

Counsel for Mr. Plessy argued that the Louisiana Separate Car Act violated the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution – the amendment that prohibited slavery.

The Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states the following in section 1: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States… are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of laws; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

Counsel for Mr. Plessy argued that the Act violated this amendment because it did not provide African Americans “equal protection of the laws.” Judge Ferguson dismissed that claim, too.

The case was appealed to the Louisiana State Supreme Court where Judge Ferguson’s ruling was upheld.

Plessy v Ferguson

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to consider the case, which was titled Plessy v Ferguson and oral arguments were heard April 13, 1896. The court’s 7 to 1 decision with one associate justice not voting, was rendered 124 years ago today on May 18, 1896.

U.S. Supreme Court Building
Photo by Bill Mason on Unsplash

The majority opinion in the case

Associate Justice Henry Billings Brown wrote for the majority. He wrote that the Louisiana Separate Car Act didn’t violate the Thirteenth Amendment because it did not reestablish slavery or servitude. He wrote that the act wasn’t in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment because the amendment only addressed the legal equality of whites and blacks and did not address social equality. Justice Brown maintained that the law in question in Louisiana provided equal cars for the two races. He backed up his statement for the court’s majority by citing various states’ courts that allowed for racially-segregated public schools. He wrote: “If one race be inferior to the other socially, the Constitution of the United States cannot put them upon the same plane.” Furthermore, he wrote that the intention of the Louisiana law in question was to preserve “public peace and good order” and was “reasonable.”

The minority opinion in the case

Associate Justice John Marshall Harlan of Kentucky, as the only dissenter, wrote in the minority statement that the majority of the Supreme Court had ignored the purpose of the Separate Car Act. To Justice Harlan, it was obvious that the purpose of the act was “under the guise of giving equal accommodation for whites and blacks, to compel the latter to keep to themselves while traveling in railroad passenger coaches.” He argued that “Our Constitution is color-blind” and does not see or tolerate citizens being divided by class. He said the act affected the free movement of both races and, therefore, violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Stating his dissent to the decision in the strongest possible terms, Justice Harlan wrote, “in my opinion, the judgment this day rendered will, in time, prove to be quite as pernicious as the decision made by this tribunal in the Dred Scott Case.” (In the Dred Scott case in 1857, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney wrote that African Americans were not entitled to the rights guaranteed by U.S. citizenship.)

By the way, Associate Justice John Marshall Harlan came to be called “The Great Dissenter” because in the 34 years he sat on the U.S. Supreme Court (1877 until his death in 1911) he was often the dissenting voice, particularly in cases involving civil rights.

The separate but equal doctrine

Although the words, “separate but equal” do not appear in the majority or minority opinions in Plessy v Ferguson, that doctrine was a result of the case. The “separate but equal” doctrine made possible the continuation of racially-segregated public schools for decades.

The Brown v Board of Education of Topeka landmark U.S. Supreme Court case in 1954 ruled that separate but equal public schools were unconstitutional; however, in the county in which I lived in North Carolina, voluntary school integration was not instituted until 1965, and integration wasn’t mandatory until the following school year. Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka essentially overturned Plessy v Ferguson.


Since my last blog post

I’ve continued to work on a short story around the May 20, 1775 Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence.

Until my next blog post

Be safe. Be well. Be positive. Be creative and productive.

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m listening to Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett.

Let’s continue the conversation

I attended an all-white school until the seventh grade. That year, integration was optional. Only three black students attended the school of first through eighth grades. The year I was in the eighth grade, the public schools in our county were fully-integrated. Looking back on it now, I don’t know what all the fuss was about.

How about you? Did you attend a racially-segregated school? Please feel free to share your experience in the comments below and on my Facebook pages where I post my blog.

Thanks for dropping by!

Janet

#OnThisDay: Freedom of Information Day

Occasionally, I blog about an event associated with that particular day. Did you know that March 16 is Freedom of Information Day in the United States? Neither did I; however, I believe it should be a national holiday.

In light of the current political climate in America, I want to shout from the rooftops about freedom of information today!

Why March 16th?

James Madison was mentioned repeatedly during the recent presidential impeachment hearings held by the U.S. Senate. James Madison is revered as the “Father of the U.S. Constitution.” He advocated for openness in government. He insisted the government must have no secrets from the people. How radical was that? He drafted the U.S. Constitution and the U.S. Bill of Rights.

U.S. Freedom of Information Day
Photo by David Beale on Unsplash

James Madison was born on March 16, 1751. Hence, March 16 was chosen in 1966 to be celebrated as Freedom of Information Day. It’s unfortunate that the day itself gets no attention. We seldom hear anything about the Freedom of Information Act except when its implementation is being questioned by a news agency.

History of the Freedom of Information Act

The Freedom of Information Act was enacted on July 4, 1966 and went into effect a year later. This law declares that every person has the right to access all federal agency (Executive Branch) records not protected from disclosure by on of nine exemptions or exclusions. Those exemptions include things like national security, personnel records, trade secrets, and geological and geophysical information (including maps) related to wells. Although President Lyndon B. Johnson had misgivings about the Act, he signed it into law.

It is interesting to note that the original act was replaced just one month before it’s 1967 effective date. Also, it was amended in 1974. Those amendments strengthened an individual’s right to see federal records about himself and provided a path by which the individual can get their personal records corrected. Furthermore, the 1974 amendments give an individual the right to sue the government for violating the Freedom of Information Act.

Subsequent amendments

Amendments to the Government in the Sunshine Act in 1976 spelled out Freedom of Information Act exemptions in greater detail. President Ronald Reagan issued an Executive Order in 1982 that permitted broader interpretation of the exemption regarding national security.

Between 1995 and 1999, President Bill Clinton issued executive directives that allowed the release of classified national security records that are more than 25 years old.

The Electronic Freedom of Information Act amendments in 1996 made adjustments to the way in which electronic records are kept by the federal government.

The Freedom of Information Act has continued to be a political football in the 21st century. By an Executive Order issued by President George W. Bush, the records of former U.S. presidents were protected in 2002. The 2202 Order was revoked by President Barack Obama on the day after his inauguration in 2009.

The future of the Freedom of Information Act

And so it goes. The Freedom of Information Act continues to be amended through new Acts and Executive Orders. It will, no doubt, remain a fluid law that will be amended and re-interpreted for the remainder of the years the United States of America exists as a country. Its scope will continue to be challenged in U.S. Supreme Court cases and by lawmakers and presidents.

Since my last blog post

Since my blog last Monday, the corona virus COVID-19 has been declared a pandemic. Sadly, the United States has fallen far behind in preparing for and testing for the virus. This is due to the negligence of the Trump Administration, but now is not the time for finger pointing. Now is the time to start playing catch-up and learn from the current president’s mistakes.

My thoughts are with people around the world who have been infected by COVID-19 and their caregivers.

My fractured tibial plateau continues to heal, and I continue treatment for a pulmonary embolism.

Until my next blog post

Above all, try to stay well. Take reasonable precautions to guard yourself and those around you from the flu and COVID-19.

I hope you have a good book to read. I’ve suspended the requests for a dozen or more books from the public library to try to keep germs from other library patrons out of my house. This is when e-books can really be a blessing — and perhaps a lifesaver, so take advantage of those free e-books from your local public library system.

If you’re a writer or other artist, I hope you have productive creative time. My mind is a little scattered just now due to health concerns, but when I can concentrate I’m trying to work on future blog posts and historical short stories.

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog.

Let’s continue the conversation

Did you know there was a Freedom of Information Act in the United States? Have you had any personal experience with the Freedom of Information Act?

What about in your country? Does it have such an act to protect an individual’s information held by the government?

Janet

#OnThisDay: Camcorder? Not.

Martin Luther King Day is celebrated today in the United States. It is one of our movable holidays, meaning it doesn’t always fall on January 20. It is celebrated on the third Monday of January.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on January 15, 1929. This holiday in Dr. King’s memory and honor is a day on which Americans are encouraged to make a difference, just as Dr. King demonstrated through his life and example that one person can indeed make a difference.

Countless blog posts will be written today about Martin Luther King Day. Not being an expert on Dr. King, I chose to shine a light today on something well off the beaten path. I came to today’s topic in an unusual way.

Camcorders

I read that it was on January 20, 1982 that five corporations agreed to work together to develop the camcorder. When I planned my blog’s editorial calendar for 2020, I thought I might be able to work something out about that for today’s blog post; however, when it came time to expound on that, I found conflicting information. Since my main interest was the era of 8mm home movies and not the camcorder, it really didn’t matter.

Home Movies

Thinking about the advent of the camcorder brought back some warm and special memories of the days before that piece of photographic equipment arrived on the scene. I’d already committed to write about home movies in conjunction with the camcorder topic, so I’m going with that today.

When I was a child in the 1950s, my father had a movie camera that used 8mm film. The film came in round tin containers. It wasn’t cheap to buy the film and get it developed, so Daddy was extremely frugal in taking movies. It wasn’t unusual for him to start a roll of movie film with the January birthdays of my sister and myself and finish the roll on Christmas Day the following December.

By the time the roll of film was developed and we gathered round at night with all the lights off to watch this new “home movie” on the large and heavy projector which showed the movie on a grainy  screen affixed to a tripod, it was like taking a step back in history because a year had passed since the opening scenes of the movie had been taken. 

Occasionally, something would go awry with the film or the projector. The film would stop moving through its various sprockets and within a couple of seconds the heat of the projector’s light would burn a hole in the film if Daddy didn’t get it turned off fast enough.

Photo by Brandi Ibrao on Unsplash

Daddy isn’t in any of our home movies because he took all the movies. It’s a wonder the rest of us weren’t permanently blinded by the rack of lights he bought in order to make movies inside the house. Like with the flashbulbs on a still camera, we’d see spots for a fminutes after the movie camera lights were turned off.

That was life in the 1950s and 1960s. Technology gradually progressed so that a rack of four or five blinding lights was no longer necessary to take home movies.

In this day and time, when we can take videos on the spur of the moment with our cell phones, it seems like ancient history to recall the excitement cause by the old home movies and the invention of the camcorder

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I finished listening to The Devil in the White City:  Murder, Magic and Madness and the Fair that Changed America, by Erik Larson. It’s about the World’s Fair:  Columbian Exposition held in Chicago in 1893. I highly recommend the book to anyone who is interested in the progression of inventions and the engineering aspect of how things work.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

Thank you for reading my blog post. You have many things vying for your attention and your time, so I appreciated the fact that you took time to read my blog today.

Let’s continue the conversation

Did you grow up with the blinding lights of home movies? Don’t tell me I’m the only one!

Janet

#OnThisDay: The Battle of the Bulge began

Today is the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge in the Ardennes region of Belgium in the European Theatre of World War II.

In my short blog post I will not attempt to give an in-depth analysis of the Battle of the Bulge. That would be ridiculous, impossible, and well beyond my abilities. I will merely highlight a few facts and pay tribute to my Uncle Rozzelle, who participated as a member of the United States Army in that awful winter battle.

Also known as the Ardennes Counteroffensive, it was the last major offensive campaign by Germany on the Western Front during World War II. Great Britain Prime Minister Winston Churchill called it “the greatest American battle of the war.”

The Boston Globe reported last Wednesday https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2019/12/11/wwii-veterans-head-belgium-commemorate-anniversary-battle-bulge/LwtvSgw7iBx0jhTAWgJAbI/story.html that 17 World War II veterans from across the United States had flown out of Boston for France that day in order to participate in the 75th anniversary ceremonies. Their itinerary includes the dedication of a monument plate at the Bastogne War Museum in Belgium in memory of those who were killed in the Battle of the Bulge.

Battle of the Bulge Statistics

The Battle of the Bulge was fought along an 80-mile front from southern Belgium, through the Ardennes Forest to the middle of Luxembourg. Some 600,000 Germans, 500,000 American, and 55,000 British troops took part in the battle, which lasted until January 25, 1945.

Casualties were high in the battle. The Allies suffered 20,876 killed, 42, 893 wounded, and 23,554 captured or missing. German losses were equally high, with 15,652 killed, 41,600 wounded, and 27,582 captured or missing.

Environmental Conditions of the Battle

Photo by Viktor Omy on Unsplash

Casualty figures don’t provide the whole picture, though. Conditions on the battlefield were extreme and physically and mentally trying. There was an average of eight inches of snow on the ground and the average temperature was about 20 degrees Fahrenheit/-7 Celsius.

Bad weather grounded US planes at the beginning of the battle, giving Germany an early advantage in addition to the edge the Nazis had due to the surprise launch of the attack in the pre-dawn hours on December 16, 1944.

The Ardennes Forest is a mix of deciduous trees such as oak, poplar, willow, acacia, and birch.

Source of the Battle’s Name

The Germans pushed through the Allies’ defensive line, creating a wedge or “bulge” in the Allied position in the Ardennes forest area.

Most Famous Quote from the Battle

General Anthony Clement McAuliffe was the acting commander of the U.S. 101st Airborne Division troops that were defending the city of Bastogne, Belgium during the Battle of the Bulge. When the Germans asked if the Americans wanted to surrender, Gen. McAuliffe is quoted as responding, “Nuts!”

Outcome of the Battle

Germany lost men and materiel in numbers from which it was unable to recover.

Significance of the Battle of the Bulge

It is believed that the Battle of the Bulge brought an end to World War II in Europe faster than it would have happened otherwise. It was the last major Nazi offensive of World War II and Germany’s last attempt to push the Allies out of mainland Europe.

A few words about Uncle Rozzelle

After this somewhat sterile statistical description of the Battle of the Bulge, I’ll now attempt to put a human face on it.

I never heard my Uncle Rozzelle talk about his experiences in World War II. My mother recalled that the main thing he ever talked about was being so very cold in a wet foxhole during the Battle of the Bulge. He ended up in a hospital in France and was then transferred to a hospital in England.

When I think about the Battle of the Bulge, the image I have in my head is my 29-year-old Uncle Rozzelle almost freezing to death in a foxhole.

Janet

#OnThisDay: Time Zones, Mickey Mouse, Push-Button Phones, & Daguerrerotype?

Occasionally, I write about little-known facts in history. These sometimes fall on the anniversary of the event. Today’s blog post falls on the 136th anniversary of railroads adopting standard time zones in the United States. It’s Mickey Mouse’s 91st birthday, and it was 56 years ago today that the first push-button telephones went into service for the first time as an alternative to rotary-dial phones. This is the 230th anniversary of the birth of Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre.

Mickey Mouse

Walt Disney’s first animated cartoon talking picture, Steamboat Willie, debuted at the Colony Theatre in New York City on November 18, 1928. It was also Mickey Mouse’s debut. The rest, as they say, is history.

Push-Button Telephones

As stated above, push-button telephone service was introduced on November 18, 1963. There was a catch, though. That service was only available in Carnegie and Greensburg, Pennsylvania in the beginning. “Touch Tone” service was available for a fee.

It took a while for this new-fangled technology to reach rural North Carolina where I lived. In 1963, I think our family was on a 10- or 12-party line and we definitely still had a rotary phone.

Daguerreotype

Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre was born in France on November 18, 1789. He was a “Jack of all trades” or – perhaps more-accurately, a master of all trades. He was a physicist, a tax collector, a scene painter for theaters, and the inventor of the daguerrerotype photographic process.

Standard US Time Zones

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash.com

In an era when time can be measured in nanoseconds, jiffies, zeptoseconds, and yactoseconds, I think the advent of standard time zones deserves a few minutes of our time today. It was on November 18, 1883 that the railroads in the United States put into practice the four time zones of 15 degrees each that Charles Ferdinand Dowd had first proposed.

Can you imagine what it was like before time zones were standardized? Even after the railroads adopted standard time zones in 1883, localities were not required to follow suit. In fact, it wasn’t until 1918 that the Standard Time Act was passed, setting four standard time zones in the United States.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett and The Water Dancer, by Ta-Nehisi Coates.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have productive writing time.

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog.

Janet

#OnThisDay: Women’s Equality Day

“I don’t think a woman can handle this job.” That’s a direct quote from a job interview I had in a large city. It was an interview for a position in city government. At the time, I had a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in public administration.

My father had just died, I was 24 years old, single, and desperate for a job. It was 1977.

If that happened today

If that happened today, I would come back at the older white male interviewer with a hundred reasons why not only could a woman handle the job but that I was the best-qualified person of any gender for the job.

If it happened today, I’d not only file a lawsuit, I would tell the interviewer it was beneath me to work for a city government that had such low regard for women.

But that was 1977. It was against the law under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to discriminate in the workplace on the basis of sex, but it was just the way things were and I was too young and desperate for a job to make a fuss about it. I didn’t want to get labeled as a trouble maker before I even started my career in government.

Today is Women’s Equality Day

The 19th Amendment to United States Constitution was passed by Congress on August 26, 1920. It gave women full and equal voting rights.

Women’s Equality Day was first celebrated in 1971 by a joint resolution of the US Senate and US House of Representatives. The resolution was sponsored by US Representative Bella Abzug, a Democrat from New York.

How you can celebrate Women’s Equality Day

Use #EqualityCantWait, #WomensEqualityDay, or related hashtags on social media networks.

Register to vote, if you haven’t already done so.

If there are American children and young people in your life, take time today to seriously speak with them about Women’s Equality Day. Ninety-nine years sounds like a long time to a young person, but try to help them see that in the big scheme of things it really wasn’t so long ago.

The way I would try to explain it to another person is to tell them that my mother was almost eight years old when women won the right to vote. My two grandmothers were 43 and 44 years old when they were allowed to vote for the first time.

Take time to read about one or more of the suffragists who risked their lives in and prior to 1920 in an effort to get the US Government to allow women to vote. Susan B. Anthony is perhaps the most famous suffragist. Others include Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucy Stone.

We’ve come a long way, but…

We’ve come a long way since 1920 when the 19th Amendment was passed by Congress, and since 1971 when Women’s Equality Day was first celebrated, and since 1977 when a city’s human resource official said that he didn’t think a woman could handle being that city’s assistant community development director; however, women still have so far to go in the workplace.

Melinda Gates has been vocal recently about the pay gap between men and women in the United States. Some of the statistics she has brought to light are staggering and extremely discouraging.

The World Economic Forum projects that, at the current rate of progress, it will take the United States of America 208 years to reach gender equality. Let that sink in. That’s the year 2227. That’s as long into the future as it has been since the year 1811.

#EqualityCantWait

Melinda Gates posted an EqualityCantWait.net video on LinkedIn on August 6, 2019. Here’s a link to her post on LinkedIn. It includes the five-minute video:  https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/heres-why-equality-cant-wait-melinda-gates/. ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­

What about my great nieces?

I have four intelligent great-nieces. They all excel in school. One of them will graduate from college next spring. Another one is a freshman in college. The other two are just several years younger. Their interests are diverse and I can’t wait to see what career paths they take. They can’t wait until the year 2227 to make the same salary as a man.

I don’t want anyone to dare to say to any one of them, “I don’t think a woman can handle this job.”  And I don’t want them to work their entire lives and not be paid exactly what their male counterparts are paid. My great-nieces cannot wait 208 years for the United States to reach gender pay equity.

Since my last blog post

I’ve continued to edit and tweak my novel manuscript as I use C.S. Lakin’s Scene Outline Template. I’m about halfway through this stage of the process.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I’m reading Beneath the Tamarind Tree:  A Story of Courage, Family, and the Lost Girls of Boko Haram, by Isha Sesay.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time and your projects are moving right along.

Thank you for reading my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog.

Let’s continue the conversation

Do you take your right to vote for granted?

Regardless of the country you live in, regardless of your gender, regardless of the color of your skin, regardless of your religion, regardless of your economic status – don’t EVER take your right to vote for granted.

No matter which of those categories you find yourself in, know that people sacrificed and risked their lives to give you the right to right. Many gave their lives in the pursuit of voting rights.

There are thousands of people around the world who still risk their lives to cast their vote. There are millions of people who would be willing to risk their lives just for the opportunity to vote.

Let the children and young people in your life know how important it is for them to register and vote as soon as the law allows them that right and responsibility.

Janet

#OnThisDay: USS Indianapolis

I’m embarrassed to admit that I did not know anything about the USS Indianapolis until about a week ago. In an effort to try something new on my blog, I did a little research to find out what happened on this day in history. I learned that something noteworthy and gut-wrenching happened on this day in 1945. What a story I’ve pieced together for you today!

The incident I’m writing about today actually took place about five minutes after midnight, so the date is July 30, 1945; however, being so close to the midnight hour, the incident is often referred to as happening on July 29. By the time I discovered that detail, I was not about to let go of the story for my usual Monday blog post.

The greatest loss the US Navy has experienced at sea

The USS Indianapolis was a Portland-class heavy cruiser. It carried a crew of 1,196 men. After delivering crucial parts for the atomic bomb to Tinian Island, it was crossing the Philippine Sea en route to Okinawa. Plans were being made for the invasion of Japan by the United States and its Allies.

12:05 a.m., July 30, 1945

Generic photo of sharks. Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash.

At 12:05 a.m. on July 30, 1945, the ship was hit by two Japanese torpedoes. Some 350 crewmen died in the blast. It would be 84 grueling hours before the survivors were located from the air on August 2. By then there were only 318 remaining survivors. The other survivors of the initial attack had either drowned, died from drinking sea water, or been victim to the numerous sharks in the waters. I read that an estimated 50 sailors were killed by sharks every day until rescuers arrived.

What happened to the commanding officer?

In my research I found several follow-up stories about what happened to the commanding officer of the USS Indianapolis, Charles B. McVay. He was accused of putting the ship and crew in danger by not zig-zagging across the sea. He was threatened with a court-maritial, but in the end was given a reprimand. His conviction as being at fault in the attack continues to be fought against, as there are strong opinions that he was wrongly charged.

Annual survivor reunions

Every year since 1960, the survivors of the attack have held a reunion in Indianapolis, Indiana. This year was no exception. There are only 12 survivors alive today. Seven of them got together in Indianapolis last weekend to remember their World War II experiences and, no doubt, to count their blessings.

I found a wonderful account of this year’s reunion, including a video clip, on the website of the NBC affiliate in Indianapolis, WTHR:  https://www.wthr.com/article/uss-indianapolis-few-remaining-survivors-gather-reunion-indy. I hope you’ll take time to look at it.

As is indicated in that WTHR piece, the youngest living survivor is 92 years old, being just 17 at the time of the attack.

Wreckage located in 2017

The wreckage of the USS Indianapolis was found just two years ago in 18,000 feet of water. Andy J. Semotiuk wrote an article about that discovery in the August 21, 2017 edition of Forbes. Here’s a link to that article, https://www.forbes.com/sites/andyjsemotiuk/2017/08/21/the-story-of-the-uss-indianapolis-a-display-of-great-heroism-in-times-of-unimaginable-anguish/#1eea400a6f9e, which contains a link to a video of the discovery.

Additional sources of information about the USS Indianapolis

Another short video about the sinking of the USS Indianapolis can be found at https://www.smithsonianmag.com/videos/category/history/uss-indianapolis-crew-battled-sharks-and-hal/.

A 90-minute TV program aired here on PBS in January, but I missed it. Here’s a link to a source from which you can order the DVD:  https://www.pbs.org/video/uss-indianapolis-the-final-chapter-aabbsw/.

Additional sources of information about the USS Indianapolis include the following books:

 In Harm’s Way:  The Sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and the Extraordinary Story of Its Survivors, by Doug Stanton;

Abandon Ship!  by Richard F. Newcomb;

Out of the Depths:  An Unforgettable WWII Story of Survival, Courage, and the Sinking of the USS Indianapolis, by Edgar Harrell USMC, with David Harrell;

Fatal Voyage:  The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis, by Dan Kurzman; and

 Indianapolis:  The True Story of the Worst Sea Disaster in U.S. Naval History and the Fifty-Year Fight to Exonerate an Innocent Man, by Lynn Vincent and Sara Vladic.

I haven’t read any of them, but they sound like good reading for anyone who wants to know more about this horrific incident during World War II.

Since my last blog post

I’ve completed Karen Cioffi-Ventrice’s online course, “Building an Author/Writer’s Platform.” Part of it really taxed my brain, but I learned a lot. Some of it I won’t be able to put into practice until I’m a little closer to getting my novel published, but a great deal of it I’ve already started working on or doing.

In case you’re interested in taking the course or other courses offered by Karen Cioffi or others through Women on Writing, here’s a link: https://www.wow-womenonwriting.com/.

I learned a lot of SEO (search engine optimization) and I even learned what black hat SEO and white hat SEO are. If you recall, I mentioned black hat SEO in my blog post on April 29, 2019 (https://janetswritingblog.com/2019/04/29/what-triggered-last-mondays-rant/) when I didn’t have a clue what it was. White Hat SEO is doing search engine optimization the ethical way. Black hat SEO is doing it unethically.

Until my next blog post

I hope you have a good book to read. I just finished listening to The Spies of Shilling Lane, by Jennifer Ryan. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Tune in next Monday for my blog post about the books I read in July.

If you’re a writer, I hope you have quality writing time this week.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. You could have spent the last few minutes doing something else, but you chose to read my blog.

Let’s continue the conversation

Do you enjoy occasional looks back at what happened on a particular day? If I get good response, I’ll plan other blog posts like this one. A post like this once a month might work for you and me.

Janet

P.S.  A new USS Indianapolis will be commissioned this fall.