Friday, 13 September 2013

Brandywine Springs Tour -- September 21

Alright, I hope this isn't too last-minute of a notice, but I think we've come to a consensus. Although I did say I'd do a tour with just a few people, it seems that there are several people who can't make it this week, but can make it next week. Since this isn't anything where there's a reservation or set plans involved, I've decided to wait the extra week in order to allow more people to attend. I hope this isn't a problem for those who said they could come this week. And for what it's worth, the Weather Channel's long-term forecast has it in the 70's with a 0% chance of rain on the 21st. All in all, this seems like the best thing to do.

We can nail down a time that's best for everyone, but since a few seemed to indicate that early afternoon was good, I'm suggesting 1:00 for now. The tour should take somewhere between an hour and an hour and a half, depending on how much I ramble on. As I mentioned before, we'll walk through the park, stopping and talking about the various rides, attractions, and structures present a century ago. There are some signs in the park with pictures (installed over the years by the Friends of Brandywine Springs (FOBS)), and I'll have some additional pictures with me as well. If you don't know much about the park, I think you'll be amazed at what it was like.

In the mean time, there a a few resources available to "bone up" a bit on the history of the amusement park. You can start with my post of a few years ago (good Lord, three years ago), which gives a brief overview of the park. Additionally, FOBS has a website that contains a good history and some pictures. FOBS does now also have an excellent Facebook page, containing LOTS of pictures and features. The page is accessible to everyone -- you don't have to be on Facebook to view it. If you really want to be thorough, you can check out the two posts about the original hotel, too.

Now we've got another week to work out any issues, but if anyone has any questions, concerns, or suggestions, feel free to speak up. Hope to see you there!!

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

The 1844 MCH Election Flag

This is another item from the cache given to me by Fran Casarino, descendant of the Banks and Chambers families. (The Jabez Banks items from a previous post came from her, as well.) I don't really have a whole lot to say about it, but I thought it was certainly interesting enough to share with everyone. It's a newspaper article from 1959 that mentions an item I had seen referenced once before. One that would have been quite familiar to Mill Creek Hundred residents a century and a half ago.

As seen in the photo on the right, the item in question is a flag, purchased by a group of MCH residents in 1844. The accompanying article, shown below, gives the rest of the story. (Reminder: click on the image to view a larger, easier to read version.) Way back (in this blog's very first post, as a matter of fact), it had been noted that the Mermaid Tavern on Limestone Road (just north of the Pike Creek Shopping Center) was for many years the polling place for the hundred. One of the reasons I chose the Mermaid for the inaugural post was that it was the closest thing MCH had to a town hall or central public location. If this was the de facto town hall, then this banner was the town flag, albeit one displayed only on specific days.



Although the article does a pretty good job of telling the story of the flag, there are a few things in particular that I wanted to point out. The first has to do with the family names mentioned as subscribers in the purchasing of the flag. The article says they are "old famly names still familiar". This should certainly be true for readers of this blog. A quick search of the site (using the search bar on the right) should come up with plenty of hits for names like Klair, Peach, Derickson, Ball, Dixon, Justis, Springer, Whiteman, and most if not all of the others. The Robert Walker mentioned as being at the top of the list was prominently featured in a post, and the Walkers who owned the Mermaid at the time of the flag's purchase were detailed in their own post. Emma Walker Pennington's father, James Henry Walker (Robert's son), bought the tavern in 1895. Descendants of the family still own it today.

Now a few comments about the flag itself. First of all, it's a pretty good size -- 8 feet by 15 feet. If it was flown from a decent-sized flagpole, it should have been visible from a ways away. And due to its size and material (silk), it wasn't cheap -- $83.50. A quick check of an internet inflation calculator shows that it would cost a little more than $2000 today. There was one thing I noticed about the design of the flag, too. If you count them, there are 26 stars in the field. 25 in the star-shaped pattern and one in the middle. On a hunch I consulted a table of state admission dates, and sure enough, there were 26 states in the Union in 1844. Florida, the 27th, was admitted in early 1845. I can only assume that the large star in the middle represents Delaware.

One final thing I found interesting was the intentional non-partisan nature of the purchase. As the article notes, the purchasers refered to themselves as "Democratic Republicans". There had been a Democratic-Republican Party, but it disbanded in the 1820's, most of its members forming the Democratic Party. Some, however, broke off to form the Whig Party, which was the other major party in existance in 1844. Less than 15 years later, the Whig Party would fall apart and the Republican Party would rise in its place. In case you were wondering, by the way, Democrat James K. Polk defeated Whig Henry Clay in the '44 presidential election.

The article states that the list of subscribers contained both staunch Democrats and staunch Republicans (although they would have been Whigs at the time). This isn't surprising, as the area was politically divided and politically active (as the Battle of the Mermaid would prove a couple of decades later). And if you think sharp, heated partisan divides are a recent phenomenon, go back and read about the politics of the 19th Century. It was at least as bad as anything today. But in this endeavor, though, even though it was politically related, these MCH residents chose to act as a unified community, and not as partisans. With all the contention today around the country regarding voting and elections, perhaps we could learn something from these 120 square feet of silk*, and the way they came about.


* -- To the best of my knowledge, the flag (which was in fact donated to the Historical Society of Delaware) is still in the HSD's collection. I'd love to be able to see it some day.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Welcome, Elena Greene!



FLY WITH A ROGUE
by Elena Greene


Having fallen on hard times, Emma Westfield provides for herself and her young brother by teaching at the school in their village. Life has taught her to hide her passionate nature, but her resolution wavers when a handsome aeronaut crashes his balloon nearby and is brought to her cottage.

Estranged from his family, Captain Gilbert Manning has spent most of his life in the British army, campaigning from India to Waterloo. Now that the war is over, he supports himself and veterans of his company by giving balloon exhibitions.

Emma learns that the outwardly devil-may-care rogue recovering on her sofa bears inner scars as grim as those on his body. Gil knows he’s not an eligible suitor, but he longs to teach Emma to embrace life despite all its tragedies. Although they struggle against it, their passion sweeps them along, taking them on a scandalous flight across the English countryside.

They must marry, but can they make a life together?


I fully admit that I'm filled with glee and envy that Elena has written a book with a balloonist hero.  I've had an opening scene for just such a book stuck in my head for years now, but have yet to find the book it belongs to. Elena has generously agreed to give away a copy of FLY WITH A ROGUE today, so please remember to leave your email in the comments so we can contact you!
 

Fly with a Rogue  is set in 1817. Is there a particular reason you chose that year?

I wanted it to be about two years after Waterloo, time for my hero to recover from his wounds and start his new endeavor, giving balloon ascensions.

How did you become interested in this time period? What you love about it?

My mother loved Georgette Heyer’s novels and traditional Regency romances. They were all over the house and, as a child, I devoured them. In third grade, I got in trouble with a nun at school for having Venetia in my bookbag. I don’t think she realized how much vocabulary I learned from Heyer’s books and that’s why I won all the spelling contests! Later, in my teens, I learned to appreciate Jane Austen and I also started reading Regency-set historical romances by favorite authors including Jo Beverley and Mary Jo Putney. Now that I’m writing in the period, I particularly love reading Regency era letters, diaries and memoirs. What do I love about the Regency? The visual beauty of clothes, architecture, and the landscape. The history: the Napoleonic Wars, the changes going on in society, how these things affected people as individuals.

What do you like least about this period? Anything that constrained you or that you had to plot carefully around?

There are things I wouldn’t like to live with: limitations on women’s opportunities for education and public life, for instance. But these constraints in the period can contribute to story conflict, so I don’t plot around them. I strive to write heroines who are strong, or who come into their strength in the course of the story, despite the challenges posed by their position in society. That’s a tension that’s still relevant now.

Anything you flat-out altered or “fudged”? If so, why?

To set up my hero’s backstory, I changed what happened in one part of the Battle of Waterloo, replacing two real captains of the Rifle Brigade with my hero and another character. It’s at the level of detail many people wouldn’t notice, but Sharpe fans might. I included an Author’s Note because of that, also because I like to keep the record straight when real people were involved.

Any gaffs or mea culpas you want to fess up to before readers get their hands on the book? I know I always seem to find one after the book has gone to press. *sigh*

None that I know of at this point, but I always worry! It’s the things you think you know that bite you.

Tell us a little about your hero. Something fun, like his favorite childhood pet, or his first kiss. 

Not only does Gil know how to pilot a hydrogen balloon, he also juggles. Though not as well as he pilots the balloon, or he and my heroine, Emma, wouldn’t have had a happy ending.

What sparked this book? Was it a character? An historical event? A scene you just couldn’t get out of your head?

I’ve had the idea of a balloonist hero since I started going to the local Balloon Rally and Spiediefest (in upstate New York we have a festival to celebrate grilled meat on a stick). At first I pictured a hero who was very fun,  the right sort of man to shake up a heroine who takes things too seriously. By the time I got to work on the story, years later, Gil had taken on more depth, but there’s still a lot that’s fun about this story.

Did you have to do any major research for this book? Did you stumble across anything really interesting that you didn’t already know?

This is the most research-intensive book I’ve written so far, between the military backstory and the ballooning. The stories of the early aeronauts were sometimes amusing, sometimes tragic.  People who’ve read about the first crossing of the English Channel by balloon may know that the two aeronauts, Blanchard and Jeffries, had to strip off most of their clothing to avoid landing in the water. I didn’t know until I’d delved further that they also relieved themselves over the side to lighten the load. Sadder was the story of Madame Blanchard, who gave balloon ascensions after her husband’s death but tragically died after setting off fireworks from her balloon.

What are you planning to work on next?

I’m still thinking about it. One idea is to do stories about the four foundlings in an earlier release,  Lady Dearing’s Masquerade. As adults, they would face interesting challenges, since society held a stigma against foundlings.

Thanks for this opportunity, Hoydens!






Friday, 6 September 2013

Brandywine Springs Tour and/or Next Gathering

OK, time for me to 'fess up (and for those of you of a certain age, no, this has nothing to do with Davey Crockett). Back when we all met up in February (where has the year gone?), we seemed to decide that we'd like to do some sort of gathering again sometime. A meeting at Brandywine Springs park in the spring was suggested, an idea I liked. Unfortunately, by the time I got around to seeing if I could reserve a pavilion they were all booked for the entire summer. With the demographic range we'd be likely to have present, I felt a reserved pavilion was necessary to ensure that everyone had a comfortable, shaded place to sit. Once the spring sprinted by me, I figured that trying to get a reasonable quorum together during the summer would be tricky. And considering the weather, probably also sticky.

Now that the summer of '13 has been laid to rest (again, wasn't it February like a few weeks ago?), I thought it was a good time to start thinking about group activities again. When the idea of a Brandywine Springs meeting was bandied about, there was a suggestion of walking down the hill and taking a tour of the old amusement park site. I was wondering if anyone was still interested in that? I've given tours of the site before (in conjunction with the Wilmington & Western RR), and it takes about an hour or so. It's all on trails, but there is a decent hill on the way down and back up. The other caveat is that it, of course, would be dependant upon the weather. (I.E., I ain't walkin' around no park in no rain.)


So, would anyone be interested in taking a tour of the park? My (very) preliminary thought would be to shoot for sometime Saturday afternoon, September 14. Probably around 2:00, depending on what you all say. If the weather gods don't cooperate, we could try to reschedule for Sunday or the following weekend. If you think you might be interested and able to make it, let me know in the comments. I might also put a poll up to the right, depending on whether or not I can remember how to do that again.

I will say that my lower threshold for doing this is lower than it would be for an all-out gathering. We don't necessarily need 15 or 20 people to have a tour. If even only a few people are interested, I'd be more than happy to spend part of an afternoon walking through the park, talking history. I'll point out where all the major (and many minor) attractions were in the amusement park, and probably tell a few stories to go along with them. I'll also give you an idea of what archaeological work the Friends of Brandywine Springs have done over the past two decades. All in all, it should be a fun, enlightening, pleasant walk through the park.

On the other hand, anyone who doesn't want to take the tour is welcome to come out, too. I won't have a pavilion reserved, but if one is unoccupied we could still use it. If not, there are a fair number of picnic tables around. I wouldn't be surprised if we ended up hanging around and talking for a bit after the tour was done.

Now, tour aside, I also want to start thinking about having another general (indoor) gathering. If anyone is interested in that, and/or has any suggestions for date or location, feel free to chime in. I was thinking that sometime late September or early October might be good. Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Moore House - 1366 Bagley


1366 Bagley Street, Detroit.
Photo courtesy of Blake Almstead and Joshua Clark.

This quintessential mid-19th century worker's cottage has stood at the corner of Bagley and Eighth Street for at least 139 years. Addressed as 70 Baker Street early in its history, it has been home to more than a dozen working class families in its life.


When was it built?


It's not certain when 70 Baker Street (now 1366 Bagley) was constructed. One potential source of information could be a map drawn by New York cartographer Henry Hart in 1853, indicating the location of every existent building in Detroit.


Detail from Henry Hart's 1853 map of Detroit.

There is only one problem. This house was literally a few feet outside of the city limits when that map was drawn. The Baker farm had been annexed by the city in 1849, but this house stands just within the former Woodbridge farm, which wasn't annexed until 1857. Below is a comparison of this block as it appears on the 1853 Hart map and an 1885 real estate atlas. Due to the blurriness of the 1853 image, I've outlined the structures and property borders to make them more visible.


The block containing 70 Baker St. as shown on the 1853 Hart map and an 1885 atlas.

It appears that the house to the right of 70 Baker Street is indicated on the 1853 map. These two houses are very similar in appearance, being almost mirror images of each other. It seems reasonable to believe that they were built at the same time. However, the earliest known city directory listing for 70 Baker appears in 1874. I combed through the 1870 census for this area and checked those names and addresses against the city directories, but I could not find any indication that this house existed at the time.

Although the property wasn't formally platted until 1858, this doesn't necessarily preclude the possibility of the house existing before then. Joseph Kingston, for example, was listed on Baker Street on the Woodbridge farm one year prior to platting.

The strongest indication that the house could predate 1874 is that the property was sold in 1865 for $450, and again in 1871 for $1700. Was this 375% increase due to the construction of a house on the lot, or was there simply an increase in demand for property in a rapidly growing city?


Owners--1850 to 1950


The lot beneath this house was part of the William and Juliana Woodbridge farm, which became part of the City of Detroit on February 12, 1857. Mr. and Mrs. Woodbridge submitted a plat plan of their land to Wayne County on September 14, 1858. They had both passed away by 1861, leaving many unsold lots to their children.


Detail of 1858 plat of Woodbridge farm. 1366 Bagley/70 Baker stands on block 58, lot 6.

After platting:

  • July 22, 1865--Samuel Sullivan purchased the lot from Juliana Trumbull Woodbridge Backus, daughter of William and Juliana Woodbridge, for $450.
  • July 29, 1871--Following the death of Samuel Sullivan in 1870, John Sullivan sold the lot to William Moore for $1,700.
  • June 16, 1904--William Moore died, leaving the property to his wife, Margaret.
  • February 7, 1922--After Margaret Moore's death in 1920, her heirs agreed that her son John W. Moore would own this lot, and he agreed to pay them $600 for the property.
  • May 6, 1952--John W. Moore died in 1946, followed by his last surviving sibling Katherine in 1950. The relatives who inherited the property subsequently sold it on a land contract to Nora Kelly.

Because the Moore family owned the property for 81 years (longer than anyone else), and because they may have been the ones to build the house, I suggest calling it the Moore house. William Moore was born in February of 1818, and his wife, Margaret Sullivan Moore, in March of 1830--both in Ireland. They married there on March 8, 1848, and very soon afterward immigrated to Canada. They remained there until about 1870, when they came to Detroit. William Moore's occupation was always listed simply as "laborer". When he died in 1904 at the age of 86, his death certificate indicated that he was the father of seven children, five of whom were living. Margaret Moore survived her husband by sixteen years, finally passing away on February 12, 1920 at the age of 89. The son who inherited the property on Baker Street was John W. Moore, born March 1, 1868 in Essex County, Ontario. He never married or had children.

None of the owners of the home before Nora Kelly used it as their own residence. Had it first been owner-occupied, the city directories might have been used to help determine a more precise date of construction.


Renters--1874 to 1951


1874-1877 -- William and Anna Dick

William Dick, a chair maker, was born in Prussia in 1850. His family immigrated to the United States when he was still an infant. His wife, Anna Pip, was born in Michigan to Prussian parents. They had two children while living in this house--Agnes in 1874 and Caspar in 1877.

1878 -- Edward H. Day

Day was born in Elyria, Ohio in 1853. He was a sales agent and a bachelor at the time he lived on Baker. In July of the following year, he married Mary L. Little, a native of Oswego, New York.

1879-1880 -- Robert E. and Ellen Cuppage

The directories list Robert Cuppage, a telegraph operator for Western Union, as the occupant of this home. The census, however, only lists his sister Ellen Cuppage and a boarder named Julia Rouen. Ellen and Robert were born in Canada in 1857 and 1858, respectively.


70 Baker Street in the 1884 Sanborn map of Detroit.

1881-1887 -- Gore A. Stacey and Family

Gore A. Stacey was born around 1833 in Ireland and worked as a baggage handler for the rail road. By the time he and his wife Anne moved to 70 Baker Street, they had at least six children: John (b. 1857), twins Gore Jr. and Anne (b. 1861), William E. (b. 1866) and Joseph H. (b. 1868). Gore Stacey died at home on March 14, 1885. A notice was published in the Detroit Free Press two days later, but his name was misspelled as "Tracy".


The Stacey family lived at this house through 1887.

1888-1893 -- Squire and Catherine Emick

Squire Henry Emick and his wife Catherine, originally from Indiana, came to Detroit around 1886 with three sons, Charles, Morris and Emery. Squire worked as an express messenger. At 70 Baker Street, Catherine gave birth to a daughter, Edith.

On June 14, 1893, the Emicks' eldest son, Charles, drowned in the Rouge River at the age of 14:


By the following year, the Emick family had moved to another home in the neighborhood.

1894-1898 -- Thomas and Theresa Sage

On June 22, 1893, Thomas J. Sage, a bartender, married Theresa A. Manning--both were first-generation Americans born to Irish immigrants. The year after their marriage, they moved into 70 Baker Street, where they had two daughters, Marie and Mildred.

1899-1912 -- Charles and Helen Johnston

In 1899, Helen "Nellie" Horn was listed at this address in the city directory. On June 28 of that year, she married electrician Charles James Johnston, who moved in with her immediately afterward. They were both 24 years old at the time, and both originally from Michigan. The 1900 census shows two borders living with them--Joseph Leahy, a printer; and John Leahy, a student.

At 70 Baker Street, the Johnstons had two children--Madeline (born circa 1901) and Edgar (born July 10, 1902).


Charles and Helen Johnston, with their children Edgar and Madeline.
Image courtesy of Blake Almstead and Joshua Clark.



Edgar Johnston in front of 70 Baker Street, circa 1910.
Image courtesy of Blake Almstead and Joshua Clark.


1913-1915 -- James Fox, clerk


1916 -- William Ditmus, printer


1917 -- Ernest and Caroline Noyes

Ernest Noyes, a laborer, was born in New York in 1869. After his first wife died in 1912, he married Caroline McKenzie, who had been married twice before. She brought into the family two surviving sons from her first marriage, Leo and Ralph Gilbert, born in 1899 and 1901, respectively. The photograph below was printed in the Detroit Free Press about the birth father of these two boys attempting to kidnap them in 1907. The boys did live with their mother when she resided at 70 Baker Street.


Caroline Noyes died of sepsis at Harper Hospital on July 23, 1917 at the age of 40. The following year, on May 12, Erneset Noyes died at the Wayne County Poor House from locomotor ataxia at the age of 49.

1918-1920 -- Foster Curtis Lenderbeck

Foster Lenderbeck was the second husband of Caroline McKenzie (see above). He was born in Canada in 1865 and immigrated to the U.S. in 1894. He worked as a teamster for a storage company. The 1920 census indicates that he lived with May Irwin (a servant) and Frank and Lucinda Reid. Mr. Reid was also a teamster.

On October 23, 1920, Foster Lenderbeck died at 70 Baker Street from lobar pneumonia. He was 55 years old.

1921 -- Hercules (Ercole) and Harriet Barbara

Hercules Barbara, a mechanic, was born in 1874 in Sfax, Tunisia to a French father and Maltese mother. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1915. In 1920, his wife Harriet and two children--all born in Malta--joined him in Detroit.

1922 -- (Vacant)


1923-1928 -- James and Donnie Hogue

Miss Donnie Stone married James Hogue, a street car conductor, in Detroit in 1920. Both were originally from Kentucky. Mr. Hogue passed away May 13, 1925 at the age of 41, and Mrs. Hogue stayed in the house for another four years.

1929-1951? -- Joseph and Mary Sultana

Joseph and Mary Sultana were both born in Malta--Joseph in 1895, and Mary in 1899. Joseph came to the United States in 1921, followed by his wife four years later. By the 1940 census, they had had at least seven children.

The Sultanas are listed at this address in the city directories through 1941, but the availability of city directories after that year is sporadic. They may have lived there until the home was sold in 1951.


1366 Bagley is on the far left in this 1954 photo, partly cropped out.




Owners 1952-Present


Nora Kelly

This home and two adjacent houses were sold collectively to Mrs. Nora Kelly and other investors on May 6, 1952. After the contract was paid in full, the properties were divided and Mrs. Kelly became the sole owner of 1366 Bagley on September 19, 1961.

Nora Ellen (Daly) Kelly was born in Detroit to Jeremiah and Ellen Daly on February 16, 1896. Her father was an Irish immigrant, and her mother was born in England. On October 22, 1918, she married Michael J. Kelly, who had immigrated from Ireland a few years before. Michael Kelly passed away on April 5, 1945 at the age of 52.


1366 Bagley in 1976. Image from Michigan State Historic Preservation Office.

Nora Kelly lived at 1366 Bagley at least through 1973, when she is listed at that address in the city directory for that year. She owned the home until her death on May 24, 1981. If she lived in this home until her death, then she occupied it for 29 years, longer than any other resident.


1366 Bagley in 1979 following a renovation funded
by the Holy Trinity Nonprofit Housing Corp.
Photo courtesy of Blake Almstead and Joshua Clark.


Daniel & Kathleen O'Neill

On September 14, 1982, the estate of Nora Kelly sold the house to Daniel M. & Kathleen A. O'Neill for $4,500. They only appear to have lived in the house for a brief time.


Frances (Lubben) Elkins

The O'Neills sold the house to Frances Lubben for $8,000 on October 25, 1985. She does not appear to have lived in the home.


James R. and Duane Shore

Frances Lubben, who by this time was Mrs. Frances Elkins, sold the home to James R. and Duane Shore on June 17, 1998. James Shore presumably purchased the home on a land contract, as he was involved in renovating the home as early as 1988.


This photo of James Shore in front of 1366 Bagley appeared in an
article about Corktown in the
Detroit Free Press on May 5, 1988.


1366 Bagley in 1990. Photo courtesy of Blake Almstead and Joshua Clark.


Carol Brown

On June 17, 2000, Duane Shore quit-claimed his interest in the house to James Shore, who on June 30 of that year sold it to Carol Brown for $60,000.


Blake Almstead & Joshua Clark

Josh and Blake moved into the Moore house in August of 2011 and are currently working to preserve it.


Photo courtesy of Blake Almstead and Joshua Clark.






* * * * *

Miscellaneous notes about previous research on this house.

A previous researcher named this home the Bushy House after James Bushy, who supposedly purchased the property in 1845. However, the land owned by Bushy was actually an adjacent lot on the Baker farm. Bushy never owned the land beneath this house. It has also been claimed that this house appears in an 1853 atlas, but as you have seen, this is not the case.

A photograph of 1366 Bagley that appears in the Michigan State Historic Preservation Office's files refers to it as the "Kelley-Porritt" house. Kelley might refer to Nora Kelly, and Porritt to Elizabeth Porritt. However, Mrs. Porritt lived at 64 Baker Street, not 70 Baker. Interestingly, Elizabeth Porritt was attempting to divorce her husband Joseph at the time on the grounds that he was a habitual drunkard. The divorce was appealed all the way up to the Michigan Supreme court, which denied her a divorce on the grounds that she knew her husband was a drunkard when she married him. In any case, there is no evidence that Mrs. Porritt lived in this house.

Finally, if any researchers wish to help confirm that the Moore house was built prior to 1874, be advised that the address numbering system in Corktown was changed between 1868 and 1869. If the Moore house stood prior to 1869, it would have had a number lower than 70 Baker before that point. There was a "70 Baker prior" to 1869, but the address number was changed to 92 afterward.

Friday, 30 August 2013

From Bush to Obama

Since July 4, 2010, I have been suggesting here that George W. Bush, not Barack Obama, was the key President of our third great national crisis, and that he set us on a course which we are fated to keep for some time.  That course involved lower taxes and a permanent deficit that made a drastic government response to economic crisis impossible at home.  Abroad it included a new definition of America's role in the world: essentially, it asserted a unilateral right to remove any regime that either supported terrorism or developed or used "weapons of mass destruction," broadly defined, that we believed should not have them. That doctrine repudiated more than a century of American adherence to international law, as well as the charter of the United Nations.  Sadly in Syria the Obama Administration has adopted a modified version of that doctrine. The United States reserves a unilateral right to take any military action it finds appropriate against a regime that seems to have used chemical weapons against its own people.

Barack Obama is not a starry-eyed idealist like George Bush, but some of his foreign policy team fit that description, and he is at heart a compromiser. He has long resisted calls to get directly involved in the Syrian civil war, although he foolishly stated that it should end with the removal of Bashar Assad.  That was foolish not only because there do not seem to be any "good guys" in the Syrian civil war and because the fall of Assad's regime will mean a bloodbath and millions of new Shi'ite refugees, but because the Syrian government, which on a per capita basis commands one of the half-dozen largest armies in the world (along with Israel and the two Koreas), is clearly winning the conflict.  Somehow, however, Obama was persuaded some months ago to declare a "red line" regarding the Syrian government's potential use of chemical weapons.  This echoed the Bush doctrine: the United States government, it seems, still reserves the right to decide what weapons other governments should use, and what weapons they should have.  (The President has repeatedly taken the latter position regarding Iran.)  Now, some one has used chemical weapons in Iran, and we are rushing to judgment.  The Administration claims to have a radio intercept definitely implicating the Syrian government.  The Johnson Administration claimed the same thing about Hanoi and the "incident" in the Tonkin Gulf in 1964, and not for decades did we definitely learn that the intercept referred to an authorized attack that had taken place some time previously.  I hope the Administration has real proof.

I spent 22 years of my life, from 1990 until 2012, teaching policy and strategy to American and foreign military officers.  Military action, we taught, should serve a clearly defined political objective, and strategy should make sure that it actually reaches that objective.  The Obama Administration, like the Bush Administration in Iraq, is failing that test.  Leaks imply that our cruise missile strikes will once again target elements of the regime, including military headquarters and the security forces.  The leaks insure that they will probably be empty when the missiles hit.  Based upon the Administration's statements, the best case scenario now would be for Assad to win the civil war without further resort to chemical weapons--assuming that he has resorted to them.  Will this leave us in a stronger position if he does?  About ten weeks ago, on June 14, I suggested what a truly statesmanlike approach to the Syrian civil war and the broader Sunni-Shi'ite conflict that threatens to tear the Middle East apart might look like.  Obama has done nothing remotely similar.  He has set himself up, it seems to me, as the world's parent, doling out praise and spankings as he feels it to be appropriate without approval from Congress or the UN Security Council and with only the smallest coalition of the willing.  Even David Cameron could not get a majority for action in the House of Commons.  Once again, as Andrew Bacevich might put it, we have a President evidently convinced that American military power is the only possible response to any serious military problem. I do not see how it will help this one.

Hello, Dolley!


My editor’s notes for revisions to the 464-page manuscript of my next nonfiction release, INGLORIOUS ROYAL MARRIAGES: A Demillennium of Unholy Mismatrimony (NAL/November 2014), just arrived in my inbox yesterday, so this will be a brief post, as I need to buckle down ASAP.

I think this is my first History Hoydens Post since moving down to our nation’s capital. I’ve been so busy that I haven’t taken advantage of the myriad opportunities to explore the cool things about the city, steeped as it is in history; but last Sunday my husband decided that I needed to get out a bit more.

So we went on a two-hour walking tour of "Georgetown during the War of 1812." The irony is that the war didn’t really touch Georgetown proper—except that we DID begin the tour at the federal-era Dumbarton House, now the HQ of the Colonial Dames of America, known as the place where Dolley Madison (my favorite First Lady) stopped for tea on August 24, 1814, the day she fled the White House with, among other things, Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of George Washington, just hours before the British torched the place.
 
 

Who knew there would be snacks! What a great way to start the tour. The lovely people at Dumbarton House had baked up Dolley’s favorite dessert, a slightly sweet, dense cake with a hard caramel drizzle nicknamed “Dolley cakes,” in personal cupcake/muffin-sizes. Thanks to Martha Stewart, we can all reproduce the recipe. http://www.marthastewart.com/330232/dolley-madison-layer-cake





We also associate Dolley with her passion for ice cream. Evidently her favorite flavor was, even then, an acquired taste, and as such, the Colonial Dames decided not to offer their guests a taste.  Dolley Madison was a big fan of oyster ice cream.  And nowadays we think savory ice creams are innovative!

I was rather tickled because the owner of Dumbarton House, which was then called Belle Vue -- the man who offered his hospitality and sanctuary to the fleeing FLOTUS was a man named Charles Carroll! [Full disclosure: no relation--but it was fun to pretend.]

Writing of the parlous event to her sister Lucy Payne Washington Todd, Dolley told her:

"Our kind friend, Mr. Carroll, has come to hasten my departure, and is in a very bad humour with me because I insist on waiting until the large picture of General Washington is secured, and it requires to be unscrewed from the wall. This process was found too tedious for these perilous moments; I have ordered the frame to be broken, and the canvas taken out. It is done! and the precious portrait placed in the hands of two gentlemen from New York, for safekeeping. And now, dear sister, I must leave this house, or the retreating army will make me a prisoner in it by filling up the road I am directed to take. When I shall again write to you, or where I shall be tomorrow, I cannot tell!"


It was rather marvelous to hear about a story that has entered the lexicon of American myths and legends and to learn how much of it was really true. A historical novelist's dream come true!


Are you a Dolley Madison fan?