Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Just the Facts, Ma'am

Battle of Long Island

The Delaware Regiment at the Battle of Long Island, 27 August 1776. Domenick D'Andrea for the U.S. National Guard (public domain).

Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, fresh from his triumphs in the GOP primary in Florida and the Nevada caucus, leaving former House speaker Newt Gingrich in the dust on both occasions, said the following yesterday:

"We are the only people on the Earth that put our hand over our heart during the playing of the national anthem. It was FDR who asked us to do that, in honor of the blood that was being shed by our sons and daughters in far-off places."

A short piece in today's Washington Post finds fault with this statement on several bases.

First of all, the writer, Glenn Kessler, expresses amazement that Romney, who ran the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics, doesn't remember seeing athletes of other countries besides those of the United States putting their hands over their hearts during the playing of their national anthems. Maybe he has a short memory!

Second, there is no evidence that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt himself said that Americans should put their hands on their hearts during the playing or singing of the national anthem. True, the U.S. Flag Code does call for citizens to place their hand over their hearts both during the Pledge of Allegiance and the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner." But that comes from a directive at the time of World War II in 1942 when the United States was at war with Nazi Germany.  It was felt that the old salute looked too much like the Nazi salute! Get those hands down.

According to Kessler, who had an email communication with Richard J. Ellis, a professor at Williamette College, and author of To the Flag: The Unlikely History of the Pledge of Allegiance, there is no evidence whatsoever that FDR himself asked that Americans put their hands over their hearts during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner or the Pledge of Allegiance. So those are the facts, my friends. For more go to http://www.washingtonpost.com/fact-checker.

I was reading yesterday on the Maryland State Archives website about the origin of the term "The Maryland Line" for the Maryland troops of the American Revolution.  Here we come across more myth and misinformation.  Read on. . . .

The legend is that the first U.S. president, General George Washington, conferred the name "The Maryland Line" because of his gratitude for the bravery of the 400 Maryland soldiers who protected the rear of his army at the time of the Battle of Brooklyn (aka Battle of Long Island) in August 1776, when they saved the American army by themselves taking grievous losses while his troops withdrew across the Gowanus Creek ahead of a massive army of Redcoats, saving General Washington's bacon and likely that of the nascent United States as well.

In fact, according to Ryan Polk, Research Archivist at the Maryland State Archives in a 2005 article, "Holding the Line: The Origin of 'the Old Line State'", while it does seem as if the name "Maryland Line" was indeed a name conferred on the Maryland Troops for their bravery and does date first from the time of the Battle of Brooklyn, there is no evidence in anything that Washington wrote to prove that he came up with the name. I had suspected that the name might also have some relationship to the a nickname for Maryland as "The Old Line State" which I had thought had to do with the Mason-Dixon Line, which of course is the dividing line between Maryland and Pennsylvania and also the technical divide between the rebel "South" and the "North" in the Civil War.

However, Mr. Polk writes: "Though the first use of the name remains elusive, the history of the name does not support a relationship to the Mason-Dixon line. Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon finished surveying their boundary line by 1768. No hint of the name appeared before the Maryland Line fought in the Battle of Long Island on 27 August 1776."

So there you have it my friends, Just the Facts, Ma'am!

Your App Doesn't Love You

I stepped out of the cab into a river
of cold storm water this morning;
now at lunchtime, sun, brisk breeze,
the yellow blossoms of daffodils nod.

I walk up the hill toward the hotel,
see cops with dogs, reminder of
the Jihad-fearing times we live in--

over the trees, the white dome
of Thomas Jefferson's memorial;
the Post prints his hand-written
list of slaves he owned; beyond--

the monument to Martin Luther King
lies hidden across the Tidal Basin.

Christopher T. George

* This poem was written at the end of January.
A couple of hours later around 3:15 pm, I
received an email to say that the Secret Service
were closing off 12th Street and that we better
leave. Don't know what it was about... maybe a
visiting dignitary or Biden going to meet someone?

War of 1812 Talk by Christopher T. George

BRITISH REAR ADMIRAL GEORGE COCKBURN ATTACKS HAVRE DE GRACE – MAY 3, 1813 – NEW FINDINGS, Wednesday, February 8, 2012, 7:30 P.M. Historical Society of Harford County Headquarters, 143 North Main Street (at the corner of Main and Gordon Streets), Bel Air, Maryland. Sponsored by the Archeological Society of Northern Chesapeake (ASNC). No Charge. http://www.harfordhistory.net/.  Note: Archeological Society meeting starts at 6:30 P.M.

Also see a new blog I have started at http://chrisgeorgewarof1812.blogspot.com/

And a new entry on my Jack the Ripper blog at http://blog.casebook.org/chrisgeorge/ -- I am on TV tonight in Canada.  Check the blog out!

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