Happy Independence Day 2015!

4th of July Fireworks

Wishing you a happy, beautiful, and safe celebration in the Land of the Free and Home of the Brave!

And…because this is a history blog, here’s some celebration advice from one of America’s Founding Fathers:

“It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shows, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.” ~John Adams (1776)

Happy Fourth!

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

“The Missing Man” (A Poem For Memorial Day)

Missing Man Formation - Washington D.C. May 8, 2015 (photo from http://pics.mcclatchyinteractive.com/news/nation-world/national/n9po5y/picture20516787/ALTERNATES/FREE_960/World%20War%20II%20Flyover%20(11).JPG)

Missing Man Formation – Washington D.C. May 8, 2015 (photo from http://pics.mcclatchyinteractive.com)

The missing man formation from the VE Day commemoration made me cry. It was haunting. It was beautiful. It stabbed into those hidden emotions. Later that day – May 8, 2015 – I was working, but I couldn’t forget that plane climbing away from the others. Grabbing a pencil and my little notepad, I wrote carefully and wiped away tears again.

If you’ve never seen the missing man formation performed, let me explain. A formation of vintage planes (usually four) flies into the flight area and about halfway through their route one of the planes climbs steeply upward and away from the others. It symbolizes a shot-down aircraft and a pilot who paid the ultimate price for freedom.

Today – Memorial Day – as I was considering what to share as we remember our fallen heroes, it seemed to be the time to share this short poem.

It’s a tribute to all our missing men and women who have defended the freedoms we cherish. We miss you. We see that you’re not there in the formation. We honor your sacrifice.

The Missing Man

I didn’t want to leave you,

But something higher called me

To touch the sky so blue

To let others freedom see.

And so I went and learned,

Became a team with the other men,

Fighting to free the oppressed and spurned.

Side by side – friend and friend.

Formation so close, seemed it couldn’t break.

Wing to wing, we conquered all.

I’ll fight for his and others’ sake.

Nothing it seemed could make these eagles fall.

Then something happened that day –

I had to go,

Leaving you in a fight, I went away –

Shot by a foe.

I didn’t want to go,

But Someone higher called me

Beyond the sky so blue,

The face of God to see.

Called upward by Divine plan…

I am the formation’s missing man.


750px-Four_F-15_Eagle_aircraft_execute_a_Missing_Man_formation_as_they_fly_over_the_Pentagon_during_Memorial_Day_services_DF-SC-82-03512Never forget the sacrifices. Never take your freedom for granted. Remember and honor those who have paid the ultimate price for liberty.

Have a Memorial Day filled with honor and gratitude.

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

Thomas J. Jackson’s Values

Recently, I heard someone talking about “values”…but I was frustrated because he did not define what his values were. He was speaking in broad, generalized terms which may be interpreted as one chooses.

It is true that each person has a set of beliefs (values) by which they will judge and interpret the world around them. Those values will influence the person’s words, actions, and reactions.

Throughout history we can find examples of value sets influencing actions and outcomes. Positive and negative examples. I suppose I could “preach a sermon” on the lack of strong moral values leading to the downfall of nations, but I’d rather think positively today.

After all, it’s the anniversary of Thomas J. Jackson’s birthday. (If he was alive, he’d be 191 years old!) Umm…who’s Thomas J. Jackson? Well, maybe one of his military nicknames will give you a clue: STONEWALL. (“There stands Jackson like a stonewall. Rally behind the Virginians!”)

General Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, 1863  (Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, 1863
(Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons)

Ready for the 1 paragraph biography of “Stonewall” Jackson? Here goes. Thomas J. Jackson was a hard-working individual who survived a difficult childhood, attended West Point, served gallantly in the Mexican-American war, and became a professor at Virginia Military Institute. He was a devout Christian and was respected in his community. With the outbreak of the American Civil War, Jackson sided with his state of Virginia and became a Southern hero for his defense of the Shenandoah Valley in 1862. His military victories continued to advance the cause of the South, until his death from wounds and pneumonia on May 10, 1863.

Whew – I did it! (Read James I. Robertson’s “Stonewall Jackson: The Man, The Soldier, The Legend” for the full story.)

In honor of Jackson’s birthday and in remembrance of his decisive and upright values, I thought I’d share a few quotes. Enjoy!

“You can be whatever you resolve to be.”

“Sacrifice your life rather than your word.”

“The subject of becoming a herald of the cross has often seriously engaged my attention, and I regard it as the most noble of all professions. It was the profession of our divine Redeemer and I should not be surprised were I to die upon a foreign field, clad in ministerial armor, fighting under the banner of Jesus. What could be more glorious? But my conviction is that I am doing good here, and that for the present I am where God would have me be.” (1851)

“If you desire to be more heavenly minded, think more of the things of Heaven and less of the things of Earth.” (1854)

“Nothing justifies profanity.” (1861)

“Captain, my religious belief teaches me to feel as safe in battle as in bed. God has fixed the time for my death. I do not concern myself about that, but to be always ready, no matter when it may overtake me. Captain, that is the way all men should live, and then all would be equally brave.” (1861)

“War means fighting. The business of the soldier is to fight. Armies are not called out to dig trenches, to throw up breastworks, to live in camps, but to find the enemy and strike him; to invade his country, and do him all possible damage in the shortest possible time. This will involve great destruction of life and property while it lasts; but such a war will of necessity be of brief continuance, and so would be an economy of life and property in the end. To move swiftly, strike vigorously, and secure all the fruits of victory is the secret of successful war.”

“However dark the night, I am cheered with an anticipated glorious and luminous morrow…. No earthly calamity can shake my hope in the future so long as God is my friend.” (1851)

Happy Birthday, General Jackson!

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

P.S. What did “Stonewall” Jackson believe was important? What are your values? Share your thoughts below in a comment.

Don’t Forget – Christmas 1944

Friday after Christmas. Yawn. What shall we discuss? I suppose we could be self-centered and list what we got for Christmas, but I think not. You see, when we’re self-focused we forget to serve others.

Serving others. Honor. Duty. Country. Today, I’m remembering what happened on Christmas Day 70 years ago. From December 16, 1944 to January 25, 1945 the Battle of the Bulge was fought in the snowy woods of France. In World War II, this was Germany’s last major offensive attack. At the beginning, German units hurled into unsuspecting Allied lines, beginning a long series of battles. Stormy weather grounded air forces and the fight was mostly between the ground forces.

US troops, Battle of the Bulge (Public Domain)

US troops, Battle of the Bulge
(Public Domain)

Approximately 610,000 American troops fought in the battle; 89,000 casualties. Battle of the Bulge was one of the largest and bloodiest battles fought by the United States in World War II. In the end it was an Allied Victory

So on Christmas Day 1944 American boys were far from their safe homes, fighting to end the horrors of Nazism. They didn’t get materialistic gifts; they gave. They gave of themselves: their safety, their comfort, and their lives. Why? To defend innocent people, to protect future generations.

I usually write thank-you notes on December 26th. Today I’m writing an open thank-you note to our American troops, past, present, and future.

Dear Service Member, Thank you for defending America. Thank you keeping us and our American dreams safe. I hope you had a Merry Christmas, and even if you couldn’t have a big celebration, I hope you will not forget that we are praying for you. Thank you for your service. Sincerely, Miss Sarah

Don’t forget. Don’t get overwhelmed by materialism and forget to serve or thank others for their sacrifices.

“May your days be merry and bright…and may all your Christmases be white.” (Irving Berlin, 1941)

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah


Crossing the Delaware

It t’was the night of Christmas…and General George Washington was crossing the Delaware with his Continental Army ready to give the Hessian soldiers (mercenaries of the British) a belated Christmas surprise.

"Washington Cross the Delaware" (1851 painting) As unauthentic as possible, yet this painting is iconic in American culture.

“Washington Cross the Delaware” (1851 painting)
As unauthentic as possible, yet this painting is iconic in American culture.

Welcome to Part 3 of Historical Happenings on Christmas Day. (Last two parts were Merry Birthday and Christmas Emperor).

Now we leave the Middle Ages far behind and return to American shores to find George Washington and army crossing the Delaware River on the night of December 25, 1776. Here’s the story…

New York was lost, the region and the city. The victorious British left the Hessian mercenaries in the New Jersey area while most of the British army and officers stayed in the New York region, blissfully looking forward to a delightful holiday season. The Hessians (German soldiers hired by the British army to help with the fighting) were also busy planning their Christmas parties – events involving a lot of song and…um…drinking.

“Meanwhile on the opposite shore” (apologies to H.W. Longfellow there) Washington’s army was dwindling. Morale was low. Other generals couldn’t (or won’t) join the commander because of bad weather. However, between December 20 and 24 some reinforcements and supplies did arrive, and the general prepared a “little Christmas surprise” for his “dear” friends across the river.

On Christmas Day the American troops were called out and told to prepare for a secret mission. The day was bitterly cold and the wind grew stronger as the hours progressed. In the dusky twilight the troops climbed on flat, barge-like boats and prepared to pole across the ice filled river. In an operation almost amounting to a logistical miracle (especially considering there were no radios) 6 generals (including Washington and Greene), 2,400 troops, 18 cannons, baggage, about 50-75 horses got across the Delaware River.

An 1819 Painting of the Crossing; Washington is on the central white horse.

An 1819 Painting of the Crossing; Washington is on the central white horse.

Once across the river, Washington directed his troops to control the roads and guarantee that no spies got through with the news. At about 8 a.m. on December 26, the town of Trenton, New Jersey, was surround and Washington launched an attack.

Sleepy Hessians soldiers stumbled from their sleeping quarters. Everything had been jolly the night before, but now they were under attack. (And that grog they’d enjoyed so much wasn’t helping the situation now).

In summary, George Washington and the Continental Army won a belated Christmas victory on December 26, 1776 at the Battle of Trenton, because they dared to cross an icy river on Christmas Day.

I think it would be unfair to tell this story without sharing the real Christmas gift the American army received on December 19, 1776. It was from the writer Thomas Paine, and it was reason to keep fighting. I hope these words are still encouraging to you, exactly 238 years after they were officially read to the American army. (This blog post was published on December 19, 2014).

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 his 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. (From The American Crisis by Thomas Paine)

Merry Christmas Patriots!

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

P.S. I’m going to share a couple of historical Christmas video clips in the next couple days – just a little gift from Gazette665. I hope you have a blessed holiday and I’d appreciate a comment if you’ve enjoyed our December posts.


Remember. Honor. Teach.

Last Saturday (December 13, 2014) I helped place fresh evergreen wreaths on the graves of veterans and fallen soldiers in Miramar National Cemetery. It was a thought-provoking event. At a certain moment thousands of people in that cemetery (and in cemeteries across America) laid a wreath on a grave and said the hero’s name aloud. Our defenders are not forgotten.

The organization, Wreaths Across America, seeks to “Remember, Honor, Teach” by working with communities to provide wreaths for the graves in national cemeteries. Local and national organizations can donate to help pay for this service. It was special to see so many local organizations coming together to donate and help place the wreaths: Civil Air Patrol, Young Marines, Sea Cadets, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Daughters of the American Revolution, Sons of Confederate Veterans, Active Military, Military Wives’ Clubs, and ordinary citizens.

I was honored to place a wreath on the grave of a neighbor and dear friend. Later, I placed wreaths on the graves of people I didn’t know. It was a moving experience to trace the chiseled name and say it clearly in the still air before laying the wreath on the white marble.

In the hustle of the Christmas season it was appropriate to take a moment to remember our fallen defenders, to pray for their families, and thank God for our service members serving today.

Remember. Honor. Teach.

Your Historian,

Miss Sarah

Here are some photos from the event. (Click on one photo to view all as a gallery).