Sunday, December 31, 2023

And That's a Wrap ...

OAFS Photo
Or perhaps it was the Postmaster General (Wilfred Brimley) from an old Seinfeld episode who was seen wandering about the West Wing on the evening of the 27th of December in the year of our Lord Two Thousand and Twenty Three.

At any rate, two things: Yes, I have grown a mustache (at the behest of grandson Roberto) and yes, I was afforded the opportunity to visit the Eisenhower Executive Office Building and the West Wing of the White House. Pretty nice Christmas gift from The Nuke to her humble parental units.

As to the first thing ...

What is that on your face, Grandpa?
That's Finnegan, by the way.
OAFS Photo
Back at Thanksgiving, The Nuke's oldest (Roberto) had learned a new word, "moustache." In jest I asked him if he'd like to see Grandpa with one of those things, to which he answered, "Yes."

So I began that project in early December, arriving in Maryland on the 22nd of December with that growth issuing from below my nose. At first Roberto found it somewhat off-putting, but gradually he learned to like it. I asked him if I should shave it off, he said, "No, I like it."

So for the time being, I shall be sporting that Bismarck/Wilford Brimley thing on my face. For the record, Finnegan, The Nuke's youngest, is still not used to it. He pulled away from me, closed his eyes and shook his head "No" when he first encountered it. Now he seems to like pulling on it, though his facial expressions do express some misgivings about his grandfather looking like he belongs in an 1860s daguerreotype.

Speaking of Otto von Bismarck ...

Who wore it better? (I like my hat better ...)

As to the second thing, as The Nuke's new job puts her in the EEOB, she was able to show us the building where she works and the building she occasionally gets to perform duties in, yup, the West Wing.

Okay, I'm kinda smiling in this photo.
OAFS Photo

Apparently, I've just been asked to field a really dumb question from the White House Press Corps.
OAFS Photo

Wow, I'm actually smiling.
(Though my hair, or what's left of it, is a fright - 'twas a wet windy night in DC on the 27th.)
OAFS Photo
It was interesting to walk in a place where history is made every day. Got to see the Oval  Office and the Cabinet meeting room. (On an earlier tour Roberto was told by his Mom that he couldn't go inside the office. So he promptly slid one foot under the barrier and grinned. That's my boy.)

Seeing the old offices of the Secretary of War in the EEOB was also interesting. The EEOB is a pretty cool example of French Second Empire architecture, though y'all know I prefer the First Empire ...

DC was very quiet on the 27th, the wind and rain kept most of the whack jobs off the streets, for which I was grateful.

Walking the places where history was made, it's my thing.

Well, 2023 is nearly in the books. Speaking personally it was a mix of mostly good things and a cuppla "rather wish that had gone differently" things, but all in all it was a good year. After all, Finnegan came into the world in January and he is a charmer, he's also, as we say in New England, wicked smaaht¹. No doubt we'll be heading down Maryland-way again for his first birthday.

The staff in the Situation Room.
(Actually The Nuke's living room - 
L to R, Kodi, Finnegan, Roberto, and Bear.)
OAFS Photo
Best wishes for a Happy, Prosperous, and Peaceful New Year.

And here's a little something from our own John Blackshoe ...

A message to all:

A U.S. Navy recruiting poster used circa 1966-1974

¹ Phonetic spelling, obviously.

Saturday, December 30, 2023

HI Day + 2 - No, not a military post, well...

 So it's two days after Holy Innocents' Day (thus the HI Day + 2) and it brings to mind one of my favorite carols, that being the Coventry Carol.  Done in a minor key, it laments the day Herod the King sent his troops to Bethlehem to kill all male children 2 and under.  

What?  You expect happiness and sweetness over all 12 Days of Christmas? Over one of the happiest story arcs in The Bible? Hah.

The original Gospels aren't all light and sweetness.  Men forced to travel to their birth towns for a grand census, a very pregnant lady forced to travel on an ass' back, no room in the inn, few paying attention to what was really going on, and then a year later a couple and a child being forced to run away at night to a foreign country in order to avoid the wholesale slaughter of male children.  

See?  Not all sweetness and light.

So we get the Coventry Carol, a Medieval carol from Coventry England (15th Century) as part of Christmas pageants put on by some guilds.  What sets it apart from many carols is, well, the subject, that being as I said above the wholesale slaughter of male children under two.  And the viewpoint of the song, which is the lullaby mothers were singing to their children while Herod's thugs came down the street.

Can you imagine, trapped in a town, knowing that your son is going to die and then trying to make his last moments somewhat happy before he's rudely jerked from your grasp and dashed or stabbed or stomped to death in front of you?

Well, yeah.  Not so happy Christmas, no?

And then it's from Coventry, the city that was sacrificed to the Nazis in order to keep secrets.

Doom upon doom...

So here's Libera, a boy's choir, singing the Coventry Carol.  

Libera and Sting, can't go wrong with that.

So I went shopping for Christmas dinner, and was unhappily surprised that the normal store brand turkey breasts were all gone, basically not available after Thanksgiving weekend.  The only choices left were a national brand of salt-lick turkey that is overly brined and salted, and... organic turkey breasts.  Free range non-gmo non-hormone antibiotic-free all-natural organic turkey breasts.  

Seeing as I had real science back in the day, to me 'organic' means anything involving organic molecules.  Like what makes our food.  Or benzene.  So I loudly blather in the store about good inorganic foods, especially ones made with lithium, lead, cobalt and uranium.  Tasty tasty cobalt...  In other words I despise the whole 'organic' movement.

I ended up with two 'organic' breasts.  Grudgingly.  Really grudgingly.

Then I got sick Christmas Eve, and the old nose went sideways.  I could still smell, just everything was tainted with the smell of sinus infection.  Bleh.

Christmas Day I pop the organic breasts in the oven and at the prescribed time I removed them from the oven (yes, I set the heat correctly so they were actually cooked) and didn't think that I didn't smell the wonderful smell of roasted turkey.  Which should have been a portent of what was to come.

After letting the breasts rest, I got to cutting one up for to serve with dinner and noticed that the texture of the breasts was decidely more spongy and jello-y than the breasts (regular inorganic somewhat brined fed gmo and pumped with hormones and antibiotics) we had at Thanksgiving.  Forebrain being slightly addled, hindbrain started screaming, middlebrain didn't connect the dots...

Flavorless.  Mushy.  Spongy.  Like hospital food, but with less flavor.  And this is after using my secret rub (black pepper and pountry seasoning.)  Even the drippings were this weird snotty wet mess, not brown juicy fatty tasty drippings.

But I persevered (or was sick stupid) and kept eating Christmas Dinner, which was overall very flavorful except for the organic spongy turkey.  I made turkey sandwiches, where the lettuce had more flavor than the turkey.  Made more for Tuesday's dinner (we love Turkey Dinner for several days afterwards because normally tasty.)

And then Mrs. Andrew got intestinally sick.  And Kegan the wonderdog (who licks our plates clean after eating) got intestinally sick.  Me who normally is somewhat loose got bound-up tight.

What did I learn from this?  Organic food is expensive and sucks donkey droppings.  Bleh.  Next year I'm buying all the breasts at Thanksgiving and keeping Christmas turkey in the freezer.

I would have done better going to McDonalds (for the meat portion only) and that's saying a lot.

So much so that I threw the meat away, in the storage containers, along with a container of the drippings and vow never to purposely eat 'organic' food ever again. 

You can pry my non-GMO, hormone fed, antibiotic treated, forced grown, torture meat from my cold dead hands.  You globalist rat-bastids.

Otherwise, Merry Christmas, and hope your favorite team wins their bowl games, and your New Year's Day is bright.

Friday, December 29, 2023

Music and a meal

Beans's Christmas music post inspired me to write a little bit the other day, to provide a little commentary on the subject, and also as a little create outlet for me since I'm taking some time off over the holidays.

Now in my house, Christmas just started a few days ago, and will go through epiphany of course.  The Christmas music will continue just as the decorations remain up.  As Beans shared, Josh Groban did a fine job with O Holy Night.

There are some wonderful Christmas songs out there, ones I never grow tired of listening to, and yet there are some that are just awful.  It's almost as if these artists are phoning it in, writing or performing a song just to rake in some bucks around the holidays.  These are songs that are purely pop drivel, as the artist may add a couple topical lyrics and a jingle bell or two to an uninspiring pop song in a weak attempt to capture the theme of the season.

Speaking of which, Taylor Swift is getting all sorts of pop-culture press this year, partially because her Eras Tour has raked in nearly a billion dollars, but also since she's dating some football player on an overrated team.  But the other day I heard her version of a Christmas standard and it was lousy.  I'm no Taylor Swift fan, but nor am I a hater.  Some people love her and that's fine, but her music does nothing for me.  And it does even less so when she attempts to sing Eartha Kitt's Santa Baby, with a version that is weak and vapid at best.  

That led me to thinking about some of those Christmas songs that are iconic by one particular artist. Sure, there are plenty of Christmas albums out there and plenty of artists put their mark on various songs, but some just can't recreate the magic that is made when certain artists practically own the song.

Dean Martin's Let It Snow is one of those perfect tracks for me, and nobody does that one better. I would put Bing Crosby's White Christmas against any one else's version. It may not be the absolute best, since I can't say I've heard them all, but it also brings back fond memories of me as the kid and my dad playing the album. I've already expressed my love of Nat King Cole's "The Christmas Song." It's my favorite song of the season and also evokes the same strong memories.

I would also put Vince Guaraldi's Christmas Time is Here in that memorable song category. No idea if anybody else has a version, but that one is iconic if a bit melancholy. The whole Charlie Brown Christmas album is wonderful and I listen to it on repeat. There are versions on YouTube that play it over and over, with several hours of his jazzy take on the standards.

Judy Garland did it well but I have to say I really like Michael Buble's version of "Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas."  His "It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas" is also excellent and gives Bing Crosby a run for his money. They're both great crooners though so I suppose that's understandable.  

This one gets me in the feels:

I don't necessarily have a favorite but I do enjoy Stevie Nicks's version of Silent Night. Apparently it is the most covered Christmas song, with 3,700 interpretations out there.  From that same album as the dusty Fleetwood Mac singer, the Eurythmics cover of Winter Wonderland is pretty good. And Brenda Lee with her rocking around the Christmas tree is pretty much unmatched. Here are more:

Have a Holly Jolly Christmas by Burl Ives
Christmas Baby (Please come home) by Darlene Love
Andy Williams - It's the most wonderful time of the year.

And not necessarily iconic but I really like:

Amy Grant- (a two-fer) Grown up Christmas List and Breath of Heaven
Coldplay's Christmas Lights
Faith Hill's A Baby Changes Everything

And finally my new favorite of the season:

Stella Cole, who croons like a cross between Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand

Anyway, lots of music above, most of which you've heard before, so if you need to pick a couple, I recommend Charlie Brown and Stella Cole.  Enjoy!

And for my second act:

No, that's not chocolate cake, but a piece of beef.  Ok, it wasn't that bad, but close to it.  Source

Christmas dinner was good enough, but I almost ruined a $70 chunk of prime rib. I did plenty of research on different ways to make it last year:  Super high temp, then you turn it off and let it rest, or slow roast at a low temperature for a few hours.  I used the high/rest option last year, so I opted to change it up this year and went for the slow roast.  Somehow I put it in to slow cook at 350 instead of 250, and so by the time I got home from a movie (somewhat a tradition of ours), the internal temperature was already 165, when it should have never gotten above 118. So instead of nice pinkish-red rare roast beef we had medium well to well.  It wasn't a big hit for the family so we had leftovers and my wife made it all better in a delicious beef stew.  I won't make that mistake again, but I feel like I need to go to confession.  Last year's turned out excellent so I'm not sure why I tried to fix what wasn't broken.  Fortunately, we also had some lobster tails I found at the commissary, and lava cake for dessert which took the sting off a little bit.

It was an easy post-Christmas week around the Tuna household. I worked Wednesday and Thursday, but was home early as there was little to no work to be done since the Sailors and Officers were only showing up to muster*, then back out on liberty.  However, I'm all square on the annual training requirements.  I'm well educated on how to not sexually harass anyone, and avoid sex traffickers, so I've got that going for me.  Drove the San Diego Port Commissioner in the Holiday Bowl Parade on Wednesday morning for a quick 30 minute route, which was nice.  I had no interest whatsoever in the bowl game (USC vs Louisville) so I declined the free tickets.  That night we went out to dinner with my wife's cousin who was in town to visit her new granddaughter whose daddy is a Navy Seal.  Someone to add to my prayers.

Hope you all had a great Christmas, and that it continues for you too.

*Commanders can give a max of 96 hours special liberty so Weds/Fri morning musters keep them within regs.  We have no junior sailors that need more supervision.

Thursday, December 28, 2023

John Blackshoe Sends: Serendipity History - Motivation matters - The Battle of Trenton 26 December 1776 - A bold, desperate Christmas gamble that changed history (Part 2 of 2)

Last time we discussed events leading up to General Washington’s decision to take his shrinking, tired and battle weary army across the Delaware River into New Jersey to attack the Hessian forces settle in for a long winter’s nap in Trenton. Let’s row!

A German immigrant, Emmanuel Leutze, painted this artistic masterpiece in 1851. He actually painted three nearly identical versions. The first went to a museum in Bremen, German, where allied bombings destroyed it in 1942. This is the second, now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The third was slightly smaller and hung in the White House 1979-2014, and is now in the Minnesota Marine Art Museum in Winona, MN. (Which looks like a very nice museum!)
It is great art, but lousy history. The river here is less than 300 yards wide. Washington’s army crossed at night, not daylight, the “Betsy Ross flag” was not adopted until a year later, the boat is too small and vastly different from the “Durham boats” used, and too crowded, and the weather is far too nice. But, the symbolism is wonderful. Again, great art, lousy history and too many people learn their history from movies or pretty pictures, not facts.

A more accurate depiction is probably this one by Mort Kunstler, an excellent modern military artist, depicting the flat ferry boats used to transport mostly artillery and horses, but not the Durham boats used by most troops.

Okay, so they crossed an icy river on a bunch of boats, in rain and snow and wind, so then what?

Pennsylvania artist Harrington Fitzgerald (1847-1930) painted this version Washington’s crossing about 100 years after the Revolutionary War. Instead of showing the actual crossing, Fitzgerald shows the Continental Army on the New Jersey side of the river regrouping and preparing to march on Trenton. Fitzgerald spent much of his life working for a family-owned newspaper, but studied painting under several notable American artists, including Thomas Eakins and John Singer Sargent. Fitzgerald is best known for his works depicting the landscape of Valley Forge.
Now, this is starting to look COLD, wet, windy. Even an unopposed landing is complex, especially getting units formed up from different boats. Dang, the weather sucks.

Trenton was about 10 miles from the crossing site, in the cold, wet, freezing weather. The troops had been up all night waiting to cross. Thanks to Murphy’s usual contributions, they were running several hours late. Time to move out! 

Washington’s army marches to Trenton.
Don Troiani is one of the best contemporary American military artists (my other favorite is COL Donna J. Neary, USMCR, (Ret)) with superb attention to detail, and thoroughly researched arms, equipment, uniforms, and the geography and tactical situations depicted.

(The landing and march paintings above are both from the Museum of the American Revolution, which is truly outstanding if you ever visit Philadelphia. Troiani is also a serious collector of military antiques, enhancing his painting details. He discusses his collecting, paintings and work with the museum in this 62 minute video.)

As Washington’s men hurried towards Trenton, the chill wind was at their backs. The artillery unit in the foreground had been lucky enough to get some new clothing issues from Philadelphia, so are better dressed than many. Captain Alexander Hamilton (age 19 at the time) leaning back in the saddle at left, commanded 30 New Yorkers with their two gleaming bronze six pounder howitzers which were among the 18 artillery pieces brought across the river to play a key role in the battle.

Hessian commander, Colonel Johan Rall [sometimes Rahl] was competent, experienced, and senior, but his Hessian superiors and peers hated him for those factors and also his not being of their higher social status, so cooperation was nil. Pennsylvania and New Jersey militia had been pestering the Hessians with nightly harassing fire, so the Hessians were already tired and jumpy, and used to their outposts being attacked. Thus the first shots on 26 December were not considered significant until they realized it was a major assault. The 2,400 Continental soldiers were split to surround the town on both sides while the main body moved through Trenton. This became a running battle as the 1,500 Hessians tried to form up under direct artillery fire with shot and canister from multiple directions, directed by Henry Knox, along with infantry support. Colonel Rall was mortally wounded, living barely long enough to surrender his force to Washington, with a plea that they be treated humanely. (They were. It’s usually the American way.) Hessian losses were 22 dead, 86 wounded and nearly 900 captured (some of whom later escaped). American losses were miraculously only FIVE WOUNDED, and zero dead. One of the wounded was future president, James Monroe in the final attack to seize the Hessian artillery.

Don Troiani’s rendition of Colonel Rall being hit while trying to form up his troops.
American military historian and artist H. Charles McBarron (1902-1992) provided his interpretation of the battle, depicting the attack on Hessian artillery in which James Monroe was wounded.

The results were decisive. The victory was significant not only for the immediate morale boost, but for the fact that 1,200 muskets, six cannons, and large supplies of uniforms and food were captured when the Colonials needed all they could get.

I very much like artist Don Troiani’s comment:

“And for the Holiday Season we have the most important American history Christmas of them all, the Battle of Trenton in 1776 which certainly could be described at the battle that saved American Independence. Here is depicted the death of Colonel Rall commanding the Hessian Brigade defending the town. Following the this up with another victory at Princeton , the crumbling rebellion was given new hope and General Washington's bold move assured his place as one of the greatest Americans of all time.”

The victories at Trenton and a week later at Princeton were unbelievably bold, and fortunately for our freedom today, they were successful. Perhaps today we can smugly make memes about the Battle of Trenton, but at the time it was a deadly serious opportunity upon which our ultimate victory rested.

Thomas Paine’s contribution to the focus on independence, and his motivational words right before the Trenton campaign were major contributions, but he did much more. Paine went on to write a total of 13 installments of “The American Crisis” by 1780; worked with Congress to execute the war; continued his (then considered radical) advocacy leading to the Northwest Ordinance; writing on “The Rights of Man,” and “The Age of Reason.” He became involved with the French Revolution, narrowly escaped the guillotine, and was finally released from French prison with help from James Monroe, one of the victors at Trenton, who perhaps recalled the effects of Paine’s writing which made that possible.

“At the time of his death, most American newspapers reprinted the obituary notice from the New York Evening Post that was in turn quoting from The American Citizen, which read in part: ‘He had lived long, did some good, and much harm.’ Only six mourners came to his funeral, two of whom were black, most likely freedmen.” (Source)

I’d show a photo of his grave, but he was denied burial in a Quaker cemetery near his home, so buried instead on his farm. Ten years later, an admiring radical exhumed the skeletal remains and took them to England for “a heroic reburial on his native soil.” But after 15 years that had not taken place, and eventually the remains were lost, although there were unconfirmed claims by some that they possessed his skull or right hand. (Source)

For a much better account of the entire Revolution up through Trenton and Princeton, I MOST STRONGLY recommend Rick Atkinson’s superbly researched and incredibly well written “The British Are Coming!” (Available via for under $10.00 - Best money you will spend this month!)

For a U.S. Army professional analysis of the Trenton operation go here.

NOTE: As an American I see this as a huge win for the good guys. However, the losers sometimes have very different view on these events. For those wishing to see what the Brits think check out their analysis at here. That site is excellent for virtually every significant battle in British history.

Merry Christmas, 1776, indeed!

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

John Blackshoe Sends: Serendipity History – Motivation matters – The Battle of Trenton 26 December 1776 – A bold, desperate Christmas gamble that changed history (Part 1 of 2)

We’ve all chuckled at the smug memes boasting like this one. But there is a lot more to the story.

Christmas day in 1776 passed with no deaths, but it was a miserable day for the insurrectionist Continental forces under George Washington. The next day, December 26, 1776 was the eventful day that paid off. But, how were men motivated to do what they did?
English born Thomas Paine(1737-1809) could be called “the father of the American Revolution,” and perhaps deserves credit for victory at the Battle of Trenton. He was a fascinating guy, a “staymaker” (corset maker) by trade but occasional privateer, grocer, customs tax collector, school teacher, designer of iron bridges, and political activist with rebellious, radical political philosophies. He fled England to avoid debtor’s prison, after meeting Benjamin Franklin who connected him with Philadelphia associates. Paine arrived in Philadelphia in November 1774, sick with typhoid, but eventually recovered and became editor of the new Pennsylvania Magazine, the first commercially successful magazine in the colonies. As “…a publication [which] should become a ‘nursery of genius’ for a nation that had ‘now outgrown the state of infancy,’ exercising and educating American minds, and shaping American morality” it touched on many political topics. An early issue even had an article on the abolition of slavery. Thomas Paine’s popular essays clearly shaped public opinion, or at least fueled the debates, and stoked the desire for liberty. (Source and further information on Paine)

Open rebellion in the American colonies actually began on April 19, 1775 by forcibly repulsing the King’s Army attempts to seize arms and ammunition. The rebellious colonials had certainly not defeated the most powerful military and naval forces in the world at that time, but did far better than either side expected. Remarkably, they had avoided utter defeat, and continued to at least partially win some engagements such as Bunker [Breed’s] Hill, and successfully besieged Boston.

Insurrectionist Redoubt on Bunker Hill, waiting for the British attack, by Don Troiani, 2000.
This was done by people who showed up, mainly as volunteer militia forces. People who “make things happen” as opposed to the other people who “watch things happen,” or the least involved who merely “wonder what happened.”
Bunker Hill was a taste of what Patriot forces could do: bravely stand up to regulars under repeated waves with good small unit leadership. But in the end, logistics were the determining factor as they exhausted their ammunition and were forced to retreat from their position, made worse by the lack of skilled commanders to coordinate reinforcements or replacement troops to hold their hasty fortifications . Repeated attacks had cost the British attackers a shocking 268 dead and over 800 wounded, before they drove the locals from the field. Despite this success, the Brits lacked the will and fresh forces to occupy the field and returned to Boston. The total patriot losses were only about 500, mostly wounded. Hostilities were serious, and people on both sides were dedicated to their causes.

The remainder of 1775 saw Boston besieged by the colonials, while acts of revolution took place as far away as Ninety-Six, SC and Great Bridge, VA. Colonial forces advanced on Montreal and Quebec, Canada but discovered that colonists in the Great White North showed no interest in fighting for independence. A Navy and a Marine Corps were established on paper and slowly grew.

In January, 1776 Thomas Paine published (anonymously) a 47 page pamphlet “Common Sense” which became an instant “influencer” and topic of discussions across the colonies, advocating for Independence from British rule, setting the agenda for that year. This was immensely popular, selling unprecedented numbers, and causing spirited discussions in taverns and elsewhere, building support for self rule.

Since 1775, “My A** Rides In Navy Equipment.” Marines landing in Nassau, Bahamas.
The Bahamas in March are a nice place to go for a boat ride. Pennsylvania in December, not so much.
Militarily, in 1776 naval forces engaged the Brits in the Bahamas, and the Brits departed from Boston. Fighting continued in the Carolinas, and elsewhere. Independence was declared on July 4, 1776. New York was the major city in the colonies, and Washington attempted to fortify it with an army that was too small, too untrained, and too ill-equipped. The British forces from Boston and the home islands concentrated against New York in a massive fleet, dispersed on the numerous waterways, and slowly forced Washington’s forces from Long Island, Brooklyn, Manhattan and White Plains to fortifications at Fort Washington on the NY side of the Hudson River and Fort Lee on the New Jersey side, and then out of those strong points. Control of Lake Champlain was ceded to the British after a valiant battle at Valcour Bay. In almost every case, the Colonial forces could not defeat the British, but slowed British advanced and inflicted casualties, before retreating to fight again another day in another place. But, “winning by not losing” takes a toll on morale, strength and supplies.

While British Imperial reinforcements steadily poured in, struggling militias straggled in and out of the Continental lines for short terms around Boston or New York. Many were farmers, and untended crops would result in starvation or ruin for them, their families and neighbors. Likewise merchants and tradesmen could ill afford endless duty away from home. A marvelous soldier’s record “Private Yankee Doodle” by Joseph Plumb Martin really gives a feel for life in the ranks.

Worse, the militias, and the small number of more or less “Regular” Continental soldiers with longer enlistments were exceedingly poorly supported by their fractious and feeble new Congressional government. Congress had little ability to raise funds, less to procure essential supplies and almost no means to distribute supplies to where they were needed. Arms were mostly what men brought with them, or captured, or were occasionally delivered from European agents or supporters. Cannon were desperately scarce and almost unique in their ammunition needs. Powder mills were few and small. Communications moved at the speed of horseback, or slower by sail. Grand strategy was impossible, and even tactical success was difficult under the conditions.

Military success was as much by luck as skill, with few officers having more than a smattering of military knowledge, sometimes self-taught from reading. The obese 25 year old Boston book seller, Henry Knox was an outstanding example, who had ventured to the wilds of Fort Ticonderoga and returned, to everyone’s amazement, with a huge supply of cannon and ammunition, just in time for the Siege of Boston. He earned the position as Washington’s Chief of Artillery, and continuously worked minor miracles “adding dignity to what would otherwise be a vulgar brawl” for the duration of the war.

But the year 1776, despite the bold Declaration, had been one of repeated setbacks as Washington’s troops retreated from one place to the next, the mice hunted by the British cat. For most of military history, the “fighting season” ends in late fall to resume in the spring, with armies settling in to “winter quarters” trying to survive and maybe become better prepared for the next year. As winter began in late 1776, the British set up several winter outposts across New Jersey to protect their new headquarters in New York. 

Washington’s battered and demoralized force had retreated across New Jersey to Pennsylvania as winter began to set in, with many enlistments due to expire in January. As Christmas approached, Washington decided it was essential for his tired troops to attack the Hessian mercenary troops already in winter quarters in Trenton. A victory might rally his demoralized forces and keep the war alive. But, a defeat would extinguish the American Revolution, and its leaders would be hung as traitors. 

He planned a three prong attack using his army as the main force, with smaller militia commands crossing a several miles to the south. They would cross after dark on Christmas night (25 December) march the 10 miles to Trenton and attack at dawn. In the end, the two militia prongs were unable to make the crossing, so it was all on Washington’s forces. 

Washington’s Plan, with Ewing’s Crossing (Red) and Cadwalader’s Crossing (Blue)
south of Washington’s Crossing (Green). Library of Congress

It would take more than a snarky meme to motivate his men to fight again. 

Only six months earlier, “lives, fortunes and scared honor” had been earnestly pledged by men of standing, privilege, and wealth, no longer willing to submit to oppression by a government too far removed geographically and too disinterested in the problems in the daily lives of those who bore the burden of government demands, taxes and policies. Thomas Paine’s writing had helped motivate them.

Now, Thomas Paine delivered a broadside which saved the day. No, not a naval broadside of cannon fire, but the paper type, a large sheet printed on one side dated December 19th or December 23rd 1776. Barely two years after arriving in America, his broadside “The American Crisis” (noted as “By the Author of COMMON SENSE”) fervently laid out the challenges and rewards of continuing the fight for freedom. Washington got copies and ordered it read aloud to his entire army, prior to embarking on the Trenton attack. This inspiring piece boosted morale and commitment to the Revolutionary cause among citizens and soldiers. Here is the memorable opening -

These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine
patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that
stands it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like
hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder
the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we
esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven
knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if
so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated. Britain, with an
army to enforce her tyranny, has declared that she has the right (not only to TAX)
but “to BIND us in ALL CASES WHATSOEVER,” and if being bound in that manner is
not slavery, then is there not such a thing as slavery upon earth. Even the
expression is impious; for so unlimited a power can belong only to God.
(Source and full text- PDF)

Stirring words, but were they enough!

To be continued in Part Two where we go over the river the through the woods to the Hessian’s houses.

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Christmas Music!!! Post

So, well, times have been weird here at the Beans household, so I would have had this out earlier than the day after Christmas, but, well, oops.

As some may know, I'm kind of picky about my music, especially Christmas music, being far more fond of Hymns and Religious Carols than of normal ordinary Christmas Songs. Why? Because Christmas is a religious thing, dontcha know.

One day earlier this season I was driving around, and had the radio on. What to choose from? Talk Radio (currently on a commercial and news break) or more rerun Oldie Rock or bad NPR (currently playing neo-classical ) or... the Christian channel. Joy FM. Let's try them.

And came across this beautiful tune. Sung beautifully. "Be Born in Me" by Franchesca Battisteli. Seriously beautiful song, very religious for being not hymn nor carol, and, well, just give it a listen.  From the movie/tv show "The Story."

The 'official' music video

"Be Born In Me" by Bernie Herms and Nicole Nordeman

Everything inside me cries for order
Everything inside me wants to hide
Is this shadow an angel or a warrior?
If God is pleased with me, why am I so terrified?
Someone tell me I am only dreaming
Somehow help me see with Heaven's eyes
And before my head agrees, my heart is on its knees
Holy is He; blessed am I

Be born in me, be born in me
Trembling heart, somehow I believe that You chose me
I'll hold You in the beginning, You will hold me in the end
Every moment in the middle, make my heart Your Bethlehem
Be born in me

All this time we've waited for the promise
All this time You've waited for my arms
Did You wrap yourself inside the unexpected
So we might know that Love would go that far?

Be born in me, be born in me
Trembling heart, somehow I believe that You chose me
I'll hold You in the beginning, You will hold me in the end
Every moment in the middle, make my heart Your Bethlehem
Be born in me

I am not brave
I'll never be
The only thing my heart can offer is a vacancy
I'm just a girl
Nothing more
But I am willing, I am Yours

Be born in me, be born in me
I'll hold You in the beginning, You will hold me in the end
Every moment in the middle, make my heart Your Bethlehem
Be born in me

Okay, I had to admit, this teared me up. "I'll hold You in the beginning, You will hold me in the end."  And the 'I am so not ready for this' feeling imparted in the story, the doubt, the acceptance and the resolve.  Oh, yeah, crying like I just watched a good romance movie (yes, I am a weeper.  I can kick your buttocks but sappy gets me tearing.  I also tear hearing the National Anthem, so get over it.)

I had to take a picture of the radio (one of those new-fangled ones that can 'read' the song info being broadcasted and show it on the faceplate, I know, so 2000's) and went home and told Mrs. Andrew about my discovery, crowing like Tom Hanks in "Castaway" when he made fire, and... she already had it. Just not on a playlist that we were listening to.

Again, brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it or READ THE LYRICS (wipes eyes, blows nose, Mrs. Andrew looks at me strangely, I explain, she calls me a wuss, I say "I'm your wuss" and we laugh.

And then, on the new playlist, Mrs. Andrew had... Dan Fogelberg's Christmas Album. Dan Fogelberg? DAN FOGELBERG? Well, surprisingly, it is a very loving album full of very good versions of very good Carols and Hymns.

And contains... "In the Bleak Midwinter." A song made from a poem by Christina Rossetti, written at the behest of the editor of Scribner’s Monthly for the January edition of the publication in 1872. It was eventually to become one of the most loved English Christmas carols.

And so, well, here's The Fogelberg singing "In the Bleak Midwinter."

The DF Christmas album was recorded at his house.
Amazing album.
Dan changed it to a ballad format and it works so well.
Dangit.  Tears to my eyes again.

In the Bleak Midwinter

In the bleak midwinter, frost wind made moan
Earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow
In the bleak midwinter, long ago
Our God, heaven cannot hold him, nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away when he comes to reign
In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed
The Lord God almighty, Jesus Christ
Angels and archangels may have gathered there
Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air;
But His Mother only, in Her maiden bliss
Worshiped the Beloved with a kiss
What can I give Him, poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb;
If I were a wise man, I would do my part;
Yet what I can I give Him: give my heart

If you guess I'm weeping, well, duh.

And anyone who's paid attention to my rantings/postings about Christmas Carols/Hymns know my absolute favorite by far is "Oh Holy Night." Done properly, the line "Fall to your knees, O hear the Angels voices." And I do mean done properly, as I have heard butchered versions that make me want to go postal to the radio station playing such abominations.

Originally the poem was written in France by Placide Cappeau in 1843 to celebrate the renovation of his town's pipe organ.  It was put to music in 1847 by Adolphe Adam, and became something of a revolutionary song in the 1860s in France.

English version was written and modified by John Sullivan Dwight, a Unitarian minister, in 1855.

Josh Groban does it correctly.

He actually puts feeling and emotion into this song, which brings tears to my eyes and stops me from moving when I hear it.
That's the power of good music. And, yeah, crying.


O Holy night! The stars ar brightly shining
It is the night of our dear Savior's birth
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
'Til He appears and the soul felt its worth
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn
Fall on your knees; O hear the Angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born
O night, O Holy night, O night divine!

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming
Here come the Wise Men from Orient land
The King of kings lay thus in lowly manger
In all our trials born to be our friend
He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger
Behold your King; before Him lowly bend
Behold your King; before Him lowly bend

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His Gospel is Peace
Chains shall He break, for the slave is our brother
And in His name, all oppression shall cease
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we
Let all within us Praise His Holy name
Christ is the Lord; O praise His name forever!
His power and glory evermore proclaim
His power and glory evermore proclaim

Yep.  Crying.  And totally amazed.  Can you imagine the moment He was born, how that must have been?  Every bell in heaven rang, which must have been one heck of a sound.  So powerful that, well, it made men fall to their knees.  I am sure evil people felt a hand on the back of their necks, and actual demons and devils (of which I do believe exist, having met at least 3 people who were meat skins for said evil creatures, long story, not going to tell it.)  I mean, what a changing event that was, which ties into all three of the above songs.

Other than that, I hope you and yours have all had a wonderful Christmas. Stay warm and safe.