Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Civil War trivia of the day

With the election near, and so much criticism during the Iraq/Afghanistan fighting targeting politicians who (critics claim) would send other people's children off to die, but not their own, I figure it's time for a little bit of patriotic "Did You Know?"

Did you know:

Sen. Edward Dickinson Baker of Oregon, a close personal friend of Abraham Lincoln, is the only sitting U.S. Senator to be killed in combat?

Indeed, Baker, for whom Lincoln's second son was named, was a colonel - and soon-to-be general - in the Union army during the Civil War. He had the decided misfortune to preside over the disaster at Ball's Bluff, when several Union regiments found themselves atop a cliff, with the Potomac River at their backs.

Needless to say, it was an awkward retreat: More or less, the Confederates atop the bluff, shooting ducks, or rather blue-jackets, in a pond.

Baker didn't live to see it. He was killed atop the bluff rallying his men against a flanking maneuver.

I'm in the midst of a fine book on the subject, Ironclad Publishing's "A Little Short of Boats,"which is part of that publisher's fine "Discovering Civil War America" series.

"ALSOB" is the second book in the series, following "Protecting the Flanks,"about some little-known cavalry fighting at Gettysburg, and preceding
"No Such Army Since the Days of Julius Caesar,"about Sherman in the Carolinas, and the upcoming "The Battle Between the Farm Lanes,"which is also about a portion of the Gettysburg fight.

So if you're out there today, voting on the war (as many people are, according to polls), remember that once upon a time, at least one politician really did put his money where his mouth was.

Of course, the Rebels put eight bullets where his mouth was, but that's not really the message I'm trying to get across here.

Baker, if you're curious, was, like his friend Lincoln, a Republican. Back when the Republicans were the liberal ones and the Democrats the conservatives, what with Lincoln freeing the slaves and all.

So, depending on your point of view, you could say that even back then, it was the Republicans who knew how to fight - or, given Baker's abject failure to get his men off of Ball's Bluff, that even back then, the Republicans had no wartime exit strategy.

Don't forget to vote!