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Showing posts from June, 2014

Social Faux Pas of History- Tsarevich Alexei Petrovich

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     Alexei Petrovich was the oldest son of Peter the Great and presumed heir to the Romanov throne of the Russian Empire. It was no strange fact that Alexei and his father the Tsar had a very strained relationship so it was no surprise that in 1709 while abroad in Europe finishing his education that he did not agree with the arranged marriage his father had set up with the German Princess Charlotte of Brunswick-Wolfenb├╝ttel. The Tsar saw it as a good match as the prospective bride was well connected in the ruling families of Europe. Charlotte's sister was married to the current Holy Roman Emperor which controlled much of central Europe(modern day Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Germany). The Czar was interested in using the marriage to start diplomatic relations with the Emperor and hopefully gain an ally against the powerful Ottoman Turks, an enemy both rulers shared. Upon arriving to meet his future bride Alexei was not shy about commenting on how he despised his future wife

History of Hysteria Series- The Man With a Spring in His Step

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     There have been many times when a story takes on a life of its own. Once it enters the public sphere it it can and often does evolve through hysteria, paranoia, and speculation when there are few facts to anchor it in reality. One of these stories begins in 1837 London, that of Spring Heeled Jack. There had been other tales of urban ghosts that would descend upon and attack pedestrians. These seemed to lose steam by the 1820's as society progressed, but many argue the tradition just went dormant in the collective psyche of the public and set the stage for Spring Heeled Jack. The first sighting came in 1837 just as Britain was changing monarchs...it was literally the dawn of the Victorian age when in October a servant named Mary Stevens was returning home from work when she was accosted in an alley by an attacker that basically reverse bear hugged her, kissed her roughly, and took off in a very peculiar fashion according to reports. People that were nearby heard Ms. Stevens s

Shock and Awe- The War of the Currents and Capital Punishment

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The 40 years after the Civil War was truly an amazing era in the United States. Invention and industry transformed a nation in just a few short decades. The Bessemer process made steel a viable and plentiful material and cities began to grow upwards as well as outwards. Railroads connected a nation allowing goods and people to travel with ease from coast to coast, oil exploration and refinement brought cheap fuel into the homes of many, and we took to the skies for the first time. During all of this, Thomas Edison successfully invented and patented(we can argue over the invented part, but he did win the patent wars) the electric lightbulb. Along with this he placed patents on the generation and distribution of power using a direct current or DC as it is more commonly called. But during the 1880's a rival system came of age, that of alternating current or AC. And the ensuing "current wars" brought out the much darker side to one of America's most celebrated industriali

The Plan for World War 3- Operation Unthinkable

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The year was 1945 and most of Europe was in rubble. For six long years the continent had seen armies  battle and march across the land leaving death, devastation, and misery in the wake of the violence. By May 7th of that year Hitler was dead and the Nazi war machine, now in shambles, had formally surrendered to the Western Allies and the Soviet Union. However, there was an uneasy peace in the air. Many people felt that they had traded one evil dictator for another in the guise of Joseph Stalin. Rumors of Soviet atrocities going back to 1939 began to surface and it appeared that "Papa Joe" had his eyes on marching west to take control of more of the European continent. This could put the British Isles in a precarious situation of being the last bastion of resistance just as it had been when facing Hitler from 1940-1944. The big difference was the Soviet Union possessed many times more men and materials to aim at the U.K. than Hitler could muster. Churchill was confident he wa

Better Living Through Chemistry- Ulysses S Grant

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This is a short blog entry about one of the most iconic figures in American military history and politics in the 19th century. Ulysses S Grant was the man who won the war for Lincoln in the Civil War. His idea of creating a total war and a war of attrition against the Confederacy and General Lee decimated the south. The sheer industrial might and manpower of the North was used on every front to overwhelm the arguably better but under equipped southern commanders like Lee. Grant would also become president in 1868 and help put the nation on a path of modernization and at least attempted to reintegrate the south after the disaster that was the presidency of Andrew Johnson. But, all of these things almost did not happen.  You see in 1854 Grant actually resigned his commission in the U.S. Army after a nearly 15 year career that while it was rocky had shown promise. He had not excelled at West Point, but he had shown some promise in the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848. But after the war

Medieval Mystery- The Lost Kingdom of Prester John

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 Looking at my post on the Angels of Mons, I decided to write a post on a much older legend that endured for centuries from the early medieval period up through the end of the Renaissance. The legend of the great lost Christian kingdom of the east, ruled over by the mysterious and strong leader named Prester John became engrained in the minds of Europeans at a time when the west was deadlocked in religious warfare with the Islamic and "Barbarian" east.  Where exactly the legend began is unsure. There was a Prester John in the very early years of the Christian church in the area of Syria, but little is known of this shadowy figure and he was by no means a king or great priest. I feel, as do many that the legend really took hold because there was a desire for the Christian west to not feel so isolated in its fight against first the Islamic Turks and Arabs and then later against the Mongols (mix of pagan, Buddhist, and later Muslim). The New Testament contains several stories

A Historical Kind of Week- Honoring Brave Men

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   I wrote this last year on my other blog, but I cannot really think I could do it any better today. I have adjusted it a bit to fit 2014.      This week will see the anniversaries of two significant events of the 20th century. Today is the 25th anniversary of the crushing of the western democratic movement in red China and tomorrow is the 70th anniversary of Operation Overlord, also known as D-Day in the Second World War. This is a week when we need to remember when brave men, young and old, stood together and fought for their nations. In Tienanmen Square, it was a peaceful fight against the long horrors of Maoism and the disastrous Cultural Revolution of the preceding years. On the gloomy dawn of June 6th, 1944, it was the men, many of them young flowers of their generation who bled, fought, and died to ensure that peace would again grace the planet that had been tearing itself apart for five years.      Perhaps the most iconic photo and video of the Tienanmen Square

Desert Fox Origins- Erwin Rommel

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 Since this week marks the 70th Anniversary of D-Day, I thought I would maybe look at a few commanders that were part of that momentous battle. Of course this year also marks the 100th anniversary of the First World War as well, and as you know I am on a WW1 kick so I thought I would talk about the origins of the great commanders of WW2 by looking at their service in the First World War. Looking at the German side one and only one name comes to mind...other than Hitler...and that is Erwin Rommel. The feared "Desert Fox", Rommel was often able to overcome huge disadvantages in men and material to defeat British forces time and time again in the Second World War. He was the one German General that famed U.S. commander George Patton respected and feared on the battlefield, and just like Patton,  Rommel cut his teeth in the meat grinder that was trench warfare in the previous global conflict. And like Patton, he was already a well respected and honored soldier at the close of the