A Confrontation in Paris

How an effort to shut down a newspaper in Edgar County, Illinois led to one of the Civil War’s most violent home front riots.

In February 1864, the raging gunfire of the American Civil War echoed far from Edgar County, Illinois, yet the conflict seemed fearfully close to home. In the small east-central Illinois town of Paris, elements of the 12th and 66th Illinois Volunteer Regiments were on leave, visiting friends and relatives. “In a social way everything had been done to make their visit a pleasant one,” wrote the local Daily Beacon News, but not everyone welcomed the presence of the soldiers.[1]

Democrats opposed to the war and to the policies of the Lincoln Administration, known as copperheads by their critics, were afraid furloughed volunteers would force them to take loyalty oaths or attempt to shut down the newspaper office of the Paris Times, a Democratic periodical.

Earlier that month, Union soldiers had paid a visit to Amos Green, editor of the Times (and a “Jeff Davis patriot” according to some), after locals in the nearby town of Kansas had reported that between 100 and 150 armed “butternuts” were converging on Paris on his orders.[2] Under the watchful eyes of the soldiers, Green swore an oath and pledged a sum of money to prove his loyalty.

In the middle of February, a soldier named Milton York, scion of a local family known for its abolitionism and its support for the Republican Party, shot and seriously wounded an outspoken copperhead named Cooper. According to one account, the sheriff of Edgar County, William S. O’Hair, attempted to arrest the soldier, but one of York’s compatriots prevented him at the barrel of a rifle from doing so. According to the Mattoon Independent Gazette, York was eventually arrested, but the court released him on a technicality and he rejoined his regiment.[3]

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Mattis Scolds America

Jim Mattis’ restrained criticism of President Trump, and American politics generally, is more devastating than a hundred MSNBC polemics.

President Donald Trump has had a rough week. The top story this weekend was the departure of his longtime executive assistant, Madeleine Westerhout, after she revealed personal details about the President’s family to the press. Then there was his spat with FOX News, which employs Trump allies like Sean Hannity and reports from a center-right perspective but also doesn’t shy away from criticism.

Neil Cavuto excoriated him, saying, “First of all, Mr. President, we don’t work for you. I don’t work for you. My job is to cover you, not fawn over you or rip you, just report on you. Call balls and strikes on you. My job, Mr. President, our job here, is to keep the scores, not settle scores.”

But for me, the most devastating criticism Trump faced was from his former Secretary of Defense James “Mad Dog” Mattis. Mattis resigned in December 2018 over a disagreement about troop withdrawals from Syria. He’s also releasing a new book, Call Sign Chaos: Learning to Lead, which while critical of Trump’s foreign policy and leadership style, apparently isn’t openly critical enough for the left.

One Vanity Fair headline even read “Mattis Says He Loves America Too Much to Call Trump a Moron”. Sorry, Vanity Fair, not everyone is a partisan hack who views everything as a political litmus test.

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Fact-Checking POLITIFACT

The political fact-checking website can’t help giving a boost to Bernie Sanders

I often read websites like POLITIFACT, Snopes, and FactCheck.org to help sort through the news and lend a more critical eye to what I read on the Internet. After all, every news site is loaded with bias and misrepresentation these days. So I was surprised when I read this article at POLITIFACT rating a recent statement by 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders as “Mostly True”. The POLITIFACT writers couldn’t help doing their own editorializing to give a boost to the candidate.

Sanders’ statement concerned the gap in average life expectancy in McDowell County, West Virginia vs Fairfax County, Virginia, implying the disparity in wealth was to blame for the disparity in health. In a speech at George Washington University on June 12, he said:

“In 2014, for example, in McDowell County, W.Va., one of the poorest counties in the nation, life expectancy for men was 64 years. In Fairfax County, Va., a wealthy county, just 350 miles away, life expectancy was nearly 82 years, an 18-year differential. The life expectancy gap for women in the two counties was 12 years.”

Bernie Sanders at George Washington University

POLITIFACT pointed out that the two counties were on opposite ends of the spectrum when it came to income. McDowell County has a median household income of $25,595 and Fairfax County has a median household income of $117,515. The median household income is the point at which half of households earn less than that amount and half earn more.

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The Equal Rights Amendment is Dead, Stop Pretending it Isn’t

Media activists continue pushing the myth that passage of the Equal Rights Amendment is right around the corner. The deadline expired in 1982.

Last year, Illinois symbolically voted to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), what would have been the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution if it hadn’t expired without the required support of 38 states. Sunday, on his show Last Week Tonight, comedian [?] John Oliver begged his audience in thirteen states where ratification failed to reverse their states’ decisions.

“Any of these 13 states has a huge chance to change how history views them forever,” he said.

In 1972, Congress passed the ERA and sent it to the states for ratification with an initial deadline of March 22, 1979. Constitutional amendments require ratification by three-fourths of the states. When the deadline approached without the required number of states, Congress extended it to 1982.

Supporters of the ERA argue that only one more state is needed to ratify the amendment and enshrine it into the U.S. Constitution, but this is wishful thinking and not supported by facts. Five states that initially voted to ratify the ERA later rescinded their ratification prior to the deadline, which expired on June 30, 1982–nearly 37 years ago.

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EIU Memories: Antiwar Protests

Click ‘play’ to hear me read this article with actual audio from the 2002 protest!

As 2002 came to a close, I was getting ready to go on Christmas break and start a new year at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois. The hot issue of the day was the impending war with Iraq. Everyone knew it was coming, but no one knew when. UN weapons inspectors had been combing Iraq for several weeks, with no results. That December, a group of protestors would meet at Old Main on Lincoln Avenue to lend their voices to peace.

Having followed events in Iraq for quite some time, I was skeptical of the threat it posed or the utility of overthrowing Saddam Hussein. Despite Bush Administration horror stories about weapons of mass destruction, I always suspected something worse might replace Saddam, and that starting another war in the Middle East wouldn’t help stamp out Islamic extremism. In 2002, however, the antiwar crowd seemed to be in the minority. A January 2003 CBS poll found 64% of Americans approved of military action against Iraq after all diplomatic options had been exhausted.

Screen still from my antiwar protest video, shot outside Old Main on Lincoln Ave in Charleston, IL.

On the sixty-first anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 2002, a number of small campus groups, including the Green Party, junior art major Ryan McClure, and Newman Center director Roy Lanham, organized an antiwar protest to coincide with similar marches around the country. I showed up with my video camera to document the event and interview the participants.

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EIU Memories: Carl Estabrook’s Congressional Campaign

When I returned to Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois for the fall 2002 semester, the potential invasion of Iraq was heating up. The looming war dominated news coverage, and we all believed this could be our generation’s Vietnam. Protests were held across the country, as well as on the campus of our small Midwestern university.

The 2002 midterm elections presented me with my first real opportunity to participate in politics. I was 20 years old and had never voted before. As a member of the campus Green Party, I had a front row seat for Carl Estabrook’s campaign for 15th Congressional District. I’d always considered myself more libertarian, but I was young and eager to get involved, and most of my close friends were on the left.

It was an uphill battle. Illinois’ 15th Congressional District consisted of east central Illinois, including Champaign-Urbana, Danville, Mattoon, and Charleston, and a narrow strip running south along the border with Indiana (the 15th has since been redistricted). Aside from the liberal outpost of Champaign-Urbana (home to the University of Illinois), this was deeply Republican territory. The incumbent, Timothy V. Johnson, won in 2000 with 53.2% of the vote (he would be re-elected five times).

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Does President Trump Want to Build Steam-Powered Aircraft Carriers?

Business Insider publishes wildly biased and misleading news story about Trump’s recent visit to Japan.

An unusual-sounding headline popped up in my news feed today. “Trump tells troops that future US supercarriers are ‘going to use steam’ in a weird rant about an obsession he can’t seem to shake.” Written by Ryan Pickrell for Business Insider, this alleged news story and its misleading headline is rife with opinionated and obviously biased descriptors and characterizations.

When I read this headline, it conjured an image of President Trump advocating a return to late 19th Century steam-powered ships. After all, that would be a “weird rant” about future US supercarriers using steam. You have to read past the headline to find out what actually happened.

In an address to sailors and Marines on the USS Wasp in Japan earlier today, President Trump mentioned he might issue an order for the Navy’s new Ford-class supercarriers to use steam-powered launchers to catapult aircraft off the flight deck, rather than the planned Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System. “The US Navy’s Nimitz-class aircraft carriers have used steam launchers for decades,” the article explains.

Trump is concerned the Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System is much more expensive without any added benefit. It also appears the majority of Naval personnel support continued use of the simpler steam launchers. So Trump is bringing up an issue to win favor with the troops, hardly something “weird” or controversial.

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