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Continental Congress calls upon the Black Regiment

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The debating was over, and the Declaration of Independence had been approved by the Continental Congress meeting in Philadelphia on a hot July day. Questions abounded still and anxiety as to the future was on the minds of men who had now affixed their signatures to a piece of paper destined to be the greatest and most historic document in the history of the world.

At the bottom of the original Declaration of Independence, the Continental Congress had ordered that when printed and ready for distribution on July 4th the documents would be sent to parish clergy and ministers. The importance of this is that the instructions did not direct this circulation to town clerks or newspapers, but to preachers of the Gospel, men known as the “Black Regiment” thus named for the black robes they wore.

The pulpit had already played and would play a more important role in American freedom. The black-robed ministers would encourage activism and many would personally join in the fighting and serve as soldiers and chaplains. As many as one hundred would leave the pulpit of the church for the “pulpit of the camp and battlefield.”

The Declaration when it arrived in the hands of the clergy was “required to read the same to their respective congregation, as soon as divine service ended, in the afternoon, on the first Lord’s Day after they have received it.”

Church members would find it hard to have services without their ministers now gone to war and with attendance dropping off for lack of clergy personnel on the home front. However, the war and home front would be the same… every place where the British chose to camp and sought to destroy George Washington’s “rag tag” army in the north and Nathanael Greene’s in the South.

Tempers flared in all corners of the land and debates were held between Loyalists and patriot members of congregations. In Loudoun County, Virginia, at Ketoctin Baptist Church, a debate between Tory John Osborn and Preacher John Marks was arranged. Heated tempers caused the debate to be called off and John Marks joined General Washington’s Army as a Chaplain. John Osborn would not give up his support of the King’s cause and in defiance would name a new son Tarleton after one of General Cornwallis’ most cruel officers, Colonel Banastre Tarleton. Tarleton is portrayed in Mel Gibson’s movie The Patriot as merciless and inhumane.

The Rev. Jonathan Boucher, Anglican Priest, would carry not just his sermon into the pulpit but also a loaded pistol. His congregation was split and the danger of personal attacks was ever present.

The Rev. Peter Muhlenberg of Woodstock, Virginia, preached regularly for the cause of freedom for the American colonists. He had a surprise for his congregation on the day of his final service in his Woodstock church to drive home his point that the American Revolution must succeed. Following the final hymn, he threw off his black robe as he recited Ecclesiastes 3:1 to reveal his uniform of a militia colonel. He then recruited men of his congregation to join the fight for independence and they became known as the “German Regiment.” He had been licensed as an Anglican priest and ministered to the German settlers of the Shenandoah Valley. He served with honor as a Revolutionary War officer and rose to the rank of major general. There is a statue of this black robed priest in the yard of the old courthouse in Woodstock honoring the Rev. Major General John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg, Priest, Patriot, Soldier and Hero.

The majority of Baptists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Puritans, Methodists, and most of the denominations in the Colonies excepting the Quakers would join in preaching the insurrection. Anglican priests were split because of their vows of allegiance to the King but still many would heed the call of Independence. The torch of Independence was lit early with Anglican George Whitefield’s arrival in the Colonies in 1740. He was known as the greatest preacher in the Colonies. He preached salvation through Jesus Christ and gave warning to the people about the oppression of the King in his revivals and launched the “Great Awakening.” He traveled from New England to Georgia setting attendance records and started “field preaching” which Anglican John Wesley also used. The difference in the political points of view of Whitefield and Wesley were commonly known. Wesley taught “obedience” to the Crown and Whitefield spoke of “man’s right of freedom” from oppression, including the slaves.

We cannot avoid, ignore, or abandon our responsibilities in striving to preserve the heritage secured by our Founders. Laity and the clergy must be vigilant and ever ready to fight for our Republic to ensure it is not weakened by interlopers and left for scavengers who come to suckle from the breast of Liberty bought with the blood of patriots. We must speak out against the mocking of our form of government and the eschewing of our Constitution to satisfy alien purposes while abandoning individual freedoms we treasurer. Our Founders knew and voiced the reality that moral values of Christianity are the “bedrock” foundation of our Republic and it will crumble without them.

I invite all true Americans from the mountains to the plains, from sea to shining sea, from Alaska to the Keys, and from Virginia to Hawaii to light the fires of that “old time religion” and preserve the freedoms won on the frozen tundra of Valley Forge, in the icy Delaware River, on the dusty field at Guilford Courthouse, in the snake filled swamps of South Carolina, and finally, on the sandy beaches at Yorktown.

Arise if you heart is filled with concern for the future of our Country.

Larry Wilson Johnson
Front Royal, Virginia

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Divided Parties

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historically speaking

Just when you thought our political leaders could not divide us any further, they have now turned on themselves. Right now, both parties are dealing with internal conflicts. The Democrats are struggling between the so called “progressives” (I still believe they are not using that term correctly) and the “moderates.” One recent difference is between how to respond to problems in Israel. As for the Republicans, they seem to have the bigger conflict right now, as seen by the removal of Liz Chaney from Republican leadership over her beliefs about Trump. Historically speaking, this is not new. During the Republicans’ most dominant period in history, they twice splintered into competing factions and both times allowed the Democrats to crack their control of the White House.

There have been two great runs in political history, one by each party, but the Republicans had the larger of the two. Between Abraham Lincoln who won in 1860 and FDR who won in 1932 and ended the Republican’s run, there were only two Democratic presidents. In other words, for a 72-year span, Republicans controlled 64 years and Democrats only eight. Yet instead of being satisfied with their dominance, the Republicans split into factions.

During the Gilded Age (1870s-early 1900s), three Republican factions emerged, two revolving around prominent figures. The first group were the Mugwumps. In a time of political corruption, mostly from the spoils system or rewarding political supporters, the Mugwumps were calling for reform. They wanted to see civil service exams so government jobs could be based on merit instead of patronage.  The Mugwumps were the weakest of the divisions.

Then there were the Stalwarts, led by the very powerful New York Senator Roscoe Conklin. These were the most traditionalist who wanted to keep the spoils system intact. It was this group that supported a third term for President Grant because they were profiting from the corruption in his administration. Finally, there were the Half-Breeds, led by the most powerful of them all, the Senator from Maine James Blaine. They took a page from the Mugwumps and called for reform, but in reality, they were no different than the Stalwarts, except they wanted Blaine as president.

The Republican party was able to stay together in 1880 when it compromised with Garfield, a Half-Breed presidential nominee who was not Blaine and Chester Arthur, a Stalwart for V.P. The partnership did not last long as Garfield was assassinated by what many thought was a Stalwart plot. However, before Garfield died, he pushed for some civil service reforms. When Arthur took over, he went against his own faction and pushed through the Pendleton Civil Service Act. Pendleton was a good start but not enough for the Mugwumps.

In the 1884 election, one of the more interesting that I have discussed many times, the Half-Breeds were tired of messing around. They dumped Arthur and succeeded in running Blaine for president. The Democrats took advantage of Blaine’s ties to corruption and cover-ups by courting the Mugwump vote when they ran a true reformer in Grover Cleveland. The move gave the Democrats just enough votes for the rare victory.

The next couple of elections danced around some as the Republicans took back the White House in 1888, only to lose again to Cleveland in 1892. Starting in 1896 the Republicans regained their control with McKinley, Teddy Roosevelt, then Taft. However, even though the old three-way split in the party had dissolved some time earlier, a new division had grown by the 1912 election. Teddy Roosevelt left office after a term-and-a-half, and he handpicked his successor to follow through with his progressive reforms. (These were the real progressives, who wanted reform but slow moderate changes.)

By this point, both parties were divided between progressive and moderate wings. Complicating matters was that there were more internal conflicts than external between groups. The problem was TR’s replacement, who, though a good progressive, was willing to compromise too much with the moderates for TR’s liking. In 1912, Roosevelt decided to retake his party and ran for the presidency. Yet when Taft was re-nominated instead, TR stole away the progressive wing of his party and formed a third party, the Progressive Party, which became better known by the best party name in history, the Bull Moose Party. Of course, with the Republicans divided, the Democrats ran their own progressive, Woodrow Wilson, and won.

We will have to watch over the next few years to see if history will repeat itself. Will the divide between the progressives and moderates in the Democratic Party sink the party’s chances for reelection? If Trump runs again, will he cause a third-party split from the Republican party led by Republicans like Chaney and Romney. Time will tell, but, historically speaking, this could be a bumpy couple of years ahead for both parties.


Dr. James Finck is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in Chickasha. He is Chair of the Oklahoma Civil War Symposium. Follow Historically Speaking at Historicallyspeaking.blog.

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The day (June 6, 1944) in World War II

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The greatest mobilization of military forces in the history of the world. 10,000 casualties… 4,414 dead that day.

Let us remember the Soldiers, Airmen, Marines, Sailors, Coast Guardsmen, Boatmen, Chaplains, Medics, Corpsmen, Nurses, Doctors, Cooks…. all that served!

And the wives, children, mothers, dads, loved ones back home with blue stars in windows…many of which would turn to Gold amid a tidal wave of tears…weeping mothers, dads, children, brothers, and sisters…relatives…aunts, and uncles…sweethearts. They gave that we might be Free. God bless their ever-lasting Souls. And God help US TO REMEMBER!!

In Jesus, we pray to be worthy of their sacrifice, AMEN

I was a small boy and saw the tears and heard the crying. Our next-door family lost their dad. His children were my playmates. My dad and uncles served. Thankfully they came home.

In my uniform before my dad was drafted. 

 

With my family saluting in my uniform.

 

The Rt. Rev. Larry W. Johnson
Front Royal, VA

On June 6, 1944, more than 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of the heavily fortified French coastline, to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy, France. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower called the operation a crusade in which, “we will accept nothing less than full victory.” More than 5,000 Ships and 13,000 aircraft supported the D-Day invasion, and by day’s end, the Allies gained a foothold in Continental Europe. The cost in lives on D-Day was high. More than 9,000 Allied Soldiers were killed or wounded, but their sacrifice allowed more than 100,000 soldiers to begin the slow, hard slog across Europe, to defeat Adolf Hitler’s crack troops.

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Let us honor and remember the brave men and women who laid down their lives to preserve our freedom

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Dear Friends,

This Memorial Day, we pause with solemn gratitude to honor and remember the brave men and women who laid down their lives to preserve our freedom, and we pray for lasting peace throughout our Commonwealth, our nation, and the world so that future generations may enjoy the blessings of liberty.

Since the founding of our great Commonwealth, Virginians have proudly answered the call to duty and given their lives in heroic service to our nation. These patriots were bound by their love of country and united in their quest to uphold our founding ideals. Their selfless acts of courage and patriotism embody the very best of our Commonwealth and our nation, and it is our responsibility to ensure that their sacrifices were not in vain. We must come together as they did, to continue their work and to build a brighter and better future for everyone.

Today, and every day, we honor the extraordinary service members who paid the ultimate sacrifice in service to our nation. Let us pray for the fallen and for the loved ones they left behind. Let us continue our enduring mission of building a Commonwealth and a nation worthy of the patriots we honor today.

Glenn Youngkin

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Memorial Day – May 31, 2021: Remembering the service of the fallen

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On Memorial Day, we take time to honor the ultimate sacrifice made by those who fought for our country.

Many of those who died in the service of our country are known to us personally. They were our sons, our fathers, our uncles, aunts, or cousins, or they were our friends.

The heroes of wars long past are not forgotten. Veterans group walk the old graveyards to place flags on the tombstones of those who died in battles long past but still remembered. Their great sacrifices and honorable service helped our country become the nation it is today. We can never forget.

Many of their names are on tombstones in our own country and in cemeteries across the globe.

Some cannot be named specifically, and they are honored in a special way: at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

It is guarded by faithful sentinels night and day.

The importance of this duty is expressed in the “Sentinel’s Creed”:

My dedication to this sacred duty is total and wholehearted. In the responsibility bestowed on me, never will I falter. And with dignity and perseverance, my standard will remain perfection.

Through the years of diligence and praise and the discomfort of the elements, I will walk my tour in humble reverence to the best of my ability.


It is he who commands the respect I protect, his bravery that made us so proud.


Surrounded by well-meaning crowds by day, alone in the thoughtful peace of night, this soldier will in honored Glory rest under my eternal vigilance.

— Sentinel’s Creed of the Guard of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

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Crime and Policing Patterns

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historically speaking

One key job of historians is to find patterns.  Most things in history are circular and come and go throughout time.  The majority of what I do with this column is to try to show that current events have happened before and that nothing is new.  Knowing this can help us make better decisions in the future.  One such circular event is crime and policing.

Crime and policing in some way are as old as time itself, yet there have been periods in American history where crime was more common or at least thought to be.  The first period that comes to mind is the so-called “Wild West.”  Whether the cow towns were actually violent is debated, but Hollywood has engrained in our collective minds the wildness of towns like Dodge City, Tombstone, and Deadwood. What brought order to these towns were men as tough as iron.  These sheriffs were quick with a gun but sometimes were accused of being as violent as the men they arrested. To make the west safe, they had to enforce tough laws with a strong hand.  Hollywood has capitalized on men like Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, and Bill Hickock.

Another period known for lawlessness was the 1920s.  Prohibition was the law of the land but that only opened the door to criminals who saw easy money in bootlegging.  Gangsters became household names like Al Capone, “Baby Face” Nelson, and John Dillinger.  There were also men like “Lucky” Luciano who helped organize the Five Families in New York.  Then there were crimes that are not as famous today but were know at the time like the Osage Murders in Oklahoma. The crimes of the 1920s helped turn the new and undermanned Bureau of Investigation into the modern trained and efficient Federal Bureau of Investigation.  The man responsible for the turnaround was the ruthless J. Edgar Hoover.  Before the 1920s, the public feared a national police force that could turn into secret police. However, the crime wave in the ’20s  and the inability or unwillingness of the local police to confront it, resulted in a public demand for help, even if some of the police tactics reminded some of a police state.

The Osage murders are a good example.  As shown in David Grann’s book Killers of the Flower Moon, which is currently being turned into a movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Osage Indians were being murdered in 1921.  The local police were unable or possibly unwilling to find the murderers.  In one of their first big high-profile cases, the FBI solved the crime.  I don’t want to give away more, but it’s a book worth reading.

Hollywood has always taken advantage of these times to make a bit of cash and that is no different than with the next major crime wave.  In 1971 America was introduced to a new character and catch phrase, when Dirty Harry first asked the bad guy, “Do you feel lucky?” The movie about a crime-ridden city and an ineffective police force resonated with the public.  It took an old school cop, one not afraid to use violence, to finally catch a sniper terrorizing the city.  However, the sniper was released because Harry had not followed all the rules.  Harry eventually catches him again, this time killing him, then throwing his badge into the river in protest to how crime was being handled.

Dirty Harry was not finished, however. His style of policing became so popular that he made four more movies and inspired several other similar movies.  Another standout was 1974’s “Death Wish.”  In this film, Charles Bronson’s character was a happy family man until thugs broke into his home and killed his wife and left his daughter barely alive.  After the police could not help, Bronson began walking the streets at night in Central Park hoping to get mugged so he could bring his own form of vigilante justice to the city.

Movies like “Dirty Harry” and “Death Wish” reverberated with people who were themselves afraid to walk in places like Central Park.  Crime rates had been on the rise since the 1960s but then started to fall in the 1990s.  The reasons for the decline in crime are still being debated today, but many give credit to men like New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who started controversial but effective policies to reduce crime. (Yes, he had a career before Trump.) One thing he did was to greatly increase the number of cops on the street.  Giuliani was attacked as a racist and his policies as Gestapo tactics, but people were able to walk the streets at night.  What we have seen in all these cases is that the population tolerated more policing for safety.  Yet over time, people became less tolerant, forcing less policing, and the cycle continued.

We are watching this cycle currently play out again.  Not only are we seeing calls to defund the police, but in cities like New York, police officers retiring is up more than 400% from the previous year.  Most are citing anti-police attitudes for the cause.  It has become so bad that NYC now restricts the number of officers who can retire each month.  Look at some of the movies that started coming out in the 2000s –”Training Day” in 2001, “Crash “in 2004, “The Departed” in 2006. All these depict police as corrupt and violent.  Yet at the same time, starting in 2020, we have seen an increase in crime.

Time will have to tell if crime on the rise is a matter of COVID or new attitudes towards policing.  Historically speaking, the attitudes towards policing and lower numbers of law enforcement will be followed by continuing higher crime rates until they get high enough that the next version of “Dirty Harry” will be required to clean up the streets.  Who knows how long that will take, but until then the only question to ask yourself is, “Do you feel lucky?”


Dr. James Finck is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma in Chickasha. He is Chair of the Oklahoma Civil War Symposium. Follow Historically Speaking at www.Historicallyspeaking.blog.

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A ‘Rush to Judgement’ of Lord Fairfax in community college renaming effort?

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After 50 years of orogenic calm, suddenly the directors of Lord Fairfax Community College (LFCC) are trying to change the college name, and the school’s public relations cadre has been in full-blown smackdown and smearing of the deceased namesake, Lord Fairfax the 6th.

We know Mr. Fairfax was a slave owner, but let’s look at the other things they have been saying about him.

The former college president said he was a “very minor historical figure”. Yet, Mr. Fairfax was responsible for the settling of over 5 million acres locally! Like it or not, he was the face of local colonial rule, and he helped-along George Washington, who grew-up to protest the colonial slave trade and lead the army which ended that rule.

They said Fairfax was an out-of-touch, stingy aristocrat, and “never had to work”. However, he donated land and performed civic duties, serving as a Frederick County Justice of the Peace and County Lieutenant. Historian Bishop Meade wrote, “It deserves to be mentioned of Lord Fairfax, that, titled as he was, and rich, he never failed to perform his duty as a citizen and neighbor”.

While, yes, through the colonial system, he came unto his land holdings, he did not sit in a recliner playing Xbox. That land had to be surveyed, appropriated and governed, by foot and horseback. Fairfax eschewed English castle life and settled in something visually similar to a horse barn, in the then-wilderness of White Post, Virginia.

Regarding privilege, it is only fair to note that the annual salary for the head of the Virginia Community College system is an aristocratic $481,045!

Moreover, LFCC’s website states: “There are historical records indicating he also engaged in long-term sexual abuse of enslaved women”. One member of the re-naming board said he “partook in a pay-for-rape scenario”. Where is the proof for these outrageous statements?

Similar claims are circulating on the Internet and likely derive from Stewart Brown’s biography on Lord Fairfax, published in 1965, a book referenced by the Board’s re-naming committee. Let’s take a closer look at it.

In the appendix, Brown said he had in-hand a receipt written by Fairfax’s clerk, to wit: “February 27, 1777: Received of Curtis Corley ten shillings on the Lord’s ship account, for bring a negro wench to bed. Cary Balengar”. Let’s assume that is an exact quote from receipt, because accuracy matters here.

Elsewhere in his book, Brown altered the included phrase into, “bedding down a negro wench”, and remarked that this meant Fairfax was paying for sex. He further speculated that this was evidence on a rumor that Fairfax had children by numerous slave women, and that at the age of 83, was thus “sufficiently virile” not to be near death. However, Brown gave no foundation for the rumor or his opinion.

Yet, the Collins Dictionary says “to be brought to bed” is an archaic British English expression meaning “childbirth”. Given that, does it make better sense that this was simply a receipt for delivering a baby, as others have already suggested?

Before we neuter and vandalize Fairfax’s name, let’s do OUR homework.

John Thomson
Rockland, Warren County, Virginia

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