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January 9, 2014

This Week In The Civil War

By The Associated Press

This Week in The Civil War, for week of Sunday, January 12: Northern war strategy.

In wintertime 150 years ago in the Civil War, speculation arose in the North about the road ahead to the long conflict. The New York Times, in a dispatch Jan. 13, 1864, noted that the North would need to ``bisect’’ the Confederacy if the Union were to prevail. ``But there is much to do—indeed, there is much being done—which is all-important and highly essential to future operations.’’ The paper noted that the spring warm-up comes first to the South and a key to the Union war strategy would be laying down new supply and communications lines by rail and other means to eastern Tennessee.

The paper noted that the Union’s recent victories in eastern Tennessee would make that one base for launching further strikes into the Deep South. And the paper exhorted Lincoln’s government to supply Grant with sufficient troops for the fight ahead. ``Let the Government not fail to see to it that Gen. Grant has an army in numbers sufficient for his work ... the last fatal blow to the rebellion is to be struck by Gen. Grant.’’

Originals Of The Star-Spangled Banner & Flag To Be Displayed

By Jessica Gresko

Associated Press

Washington (AP) The original, handwritten manuscript of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and the flag that inspired the song’s lyrics will be displayed together at the Smithsonian in Washington, the first time the historic pieces are believed to have been shown side by side.

The manuscript is normally on display at the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore and the flag has been at the Smithsonian since the early 1900s. They will be displayed together from Flag Day, June 14, through July 6. The three-week display is the start of celebrations marking 200 years since the song was written on Sept. 14, 1814.

Bonnie Lilienfeld, a Smithsonian curator who is working on the manuscript’s display in Washington, said she hopes the exhibit will help people think more about where the song’s words came from. Having the two objects together provides an “aha moment,” said Jennifer Jones, the curator who oversees the flag.

“It’s meant to be emotional. It’s meant to be reflective,” she said.

Francis Scott Key was a 35-year-old lawyer and amateur poet when he wrote the song’s words during the War of 1812. Key watched as the British bombarded Baltimore’s Fort McHenry for more than 24 hours. When he saw the fort’s flag flying on the morning after the bombardment, a signal that U.S. troops had withstood the enemy, he was inspired to write a poem originally called “Defense of Fort McHenry.” The poem, set to music and later renamed, became the country’s national anthem in 1931.

Conservation work on the flag, circa 1998

Key’s original manuscript, written with quill and ink, has two surprises for viewers who know the song. First, Key’s poem is actually four stanzas, though the first stanza is the only one that’s traditionally sung. And, second, Key wrote, “Oh say can you see through the dawn’s early light,” but crossed out “through” and wrote “by.”

Americans may be more familiar with the flag, which gets millions of visitors a year at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. The flag has been at Smithsonian for more than a century after being given to the institution by the family of Maj. George Armistead. Armistead was the commander of Fort McHenry and the man who commissioned the banner with 15 stripes and 15 stars, representing the number of states in the Union at the time.

Except for a period during World War II, when it was housed in Virginia for safekeeping, the flag hasn’t traveled outside of Washington since coming to the Smithsonian.

Key’s manuscript has traveled only slightly more often since being purchased for the historical society in the 1950s. In 2011 it was taken by armored vehicle, with a police escort, to the state’s capital in Annapolis and to Fort McHenry. And in 2013, the museum brought the manuscript to Mount Olivet Cemetery in Frederick, Md., where Key is buried.

Burt Kummerow, the president of the Maryland Historical Society, said he hopes this summer’s exhibit will be a chance for people to study the song’s words. He compared the song to a church hymn, something that has become so familiar that what Key was trying to say can get lost. And he called putting the manuscript and flag together a “very, very special moment.”

“It isn’t going to happen again anytime soon,” he said.

Online: Maryland Historical Society: www.mdhs.org

Smithsonian: www.amhistory.si.edu/starspangledbanner/visit.aspx

Our Universe At Its Infancy: Images From Hubble Telescope

By Seth Borensten

AP Science Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Hubble Space Telescope has peered back to a chaotic time 13. 2 billion years ago when never-before-seen galaxies were tiny, bright blue and full of stars bursting to life all over the place.

Thanks to some complex physics tricks, NASA’s aging telescope is just starting to see the universe at its infancy in living color and detail.

Images released by NASA on Tuesday show galaxies that are 20 times fainter than those pictured before. They are from a new campaign to have the 23-year-old Hubble gaze much earlier and farther away than it was designed to see.
“I like to call it cosmic dawn,” Hubble astronomer Jennifer Lotz said at the American Astronomical Society convention in Washington. “It’s when the lights are coming on.”

It was a time when star formation was ramping up, and it was far more hectic than now.

“Imagine if you went back 500 million years after the Big Bang and looked around in the sky,” astronomer Garth Illingworth of the University of California Santa Cruz said. “Galaxies are closer. They’re smaller. They’re bright blue and they’re everywhere...They are probably blobby, small, nothing like our Milky Way.”

Field Abell 2744, some of the youngest galaxies ever viewed

There were probably no metals at this time, no Earths, said Illingworth, who was on the scientific team using Hubble.

“Things look clumpy and kind of weird,” Lotz said.

Most of the galaxies then were close to 1,000 times smaller than our Milky Way, but astronomers said they were surprised to discover a few brighter, bigger galaxies sparkling out there.

These first pictures showed nearly 3,000 galaxies. Astronomers are still trying to figure out which of those galaxies are ancient and which are more recent.

Because light travels nearly 6 trillion miles a year, as telescopes look farther from Earth they see earlier into the past.

While Hubble and other telescopes using different light wavelengths have seen this far back, this is the first complete set of photos in the visible light spectrum that the human eye sees.

To do this, Hubble is using one of Albert Einstein’s concepts that massive clusters of galaxies have such super gravity that they magnify and stretch light, Lotz said. By focusing on clusters, astronomers use them as natural binoculars to see what’s behind them.

The release of the images is significant and important, said Christopher Conselice, a professor at the University of Nottingham in England. Conselice was not part of the Hubble team.

“It’ll tell us about how the universe is forming and evolving,” Conselice said after the astronomers’ presentation. “I think they understated it. It could be a fundamental thing.”

Online: Hubble: http://hubblesite.org

100 Years Later, The British Still Debate WWI’s Legacy

By JILL LAWLESS

Associated Press

London (AP) Around the world, the 2014 centenary of the start of World War I is an occasion for commemoration.

Yet in Britain, where the trenches of Flanders remain an ideological battlefield, it has also sparked an argument—about patriotism, historical responsibility and the place of humor in teaching history.

Only in Britain, perhaps, would the spat pit the Conservative-led government’s education minister against a comic actor, Tony Robinson, who played the dim-witted soldier Baldrick in ``Blackadder Goes Forth,’’ a much-loved television sitcom about the war.
In an article for the right-of-center Daily Mail newspaper, Education Secretary Michael Gove said ``Blackadder’’ and other satires had created a public impression of the four-year war, in which more than 8 million troops and millions of civilians died, as ``a misbegotten shambles, a series of catastrophic mistakes perpetrated by an out-of-touch elite.’’

In four seasons of ``Blackadder,’’ comic actor Rowan Atkinson, now world-famous as Mr. Bean, played a world-weary nobleman in different eras of British history, suffering the never-ending idiocy of each period’s ruling elites.

In the final season, ``Blackadder Goes Forth,’’ he and dim servant Baldrick, played by Robinson, are soldiers in the trenches of World War I under the command of a clueless general (Stephen Fry) in what is depicted as a futile conflict.

Captain Darling : Tim McInnerny, Captain Blackadder :
Rowan Atkinson, General Melchett : Stephe Fry, Private
Baldrick : Tony Robinson, and Lieutenant George St. Barleigh :Hugh Laurie in Blackadder Goes Forth

``Millions have died, but our troops have advanced no further than an asthmatic ant with some heavy shopping,’’ Blackadder says.
First broadcast in 1989, it’s regarded by many as a classic, partly because of the poignant final scene, in which the jokes stop and the main characters charge into battle and to their likely deaths.

Yet Gove, the minister, is not among its fans. In his article, he cited the show as a contributor to ``misrepresentations which reflect ... an unhappy compulsion on the part of some to denigrate virtues such as patriotism, honor and courage.’’

He said for Britain, World War I was ``plainly a `just’ war’’ and one country was to blame for starting it—Germany, with its ``aggressively expansionist war aims and ... scorn for the international order.’’

Gove’s remarks were criticized by Robinson, a well-known activist for the opposition Labour Party.

``I think Mr. Gove has just made a very silly mistake,’’ Robinson told Sky News, in saying that ``Blackadder’’ formed children’s views of the war.

He said teachers used the show simply as ``another teaching tool’’ alongside visits to battlefields and reading war poetry.

Labour’s education spokesman, Tristram Hunt, accused Gove of a ``crass’’ attempt to hijack ``what should be a moment for national reflection and respectful debate.’’

The furor is evidence of how large World War I, in which a million British soldiers died, still looms in the country’s imagination.

Generations of British schoolchildren have studied the wrenching front-line poems of Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon, and the conflict has inspired countless books, plays and movies.

Britain plans major commemorations of the war this year, from ceremonies and stage productions to the restoration of war memorials and a soccer tournament to commemorate the Christmas 1914 truce between German and British troops at the front.

Historians remain divided about who should bear the burden of responsibility for the war. It was triggered by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austrian throne, which sparked a series of events that drove two powerful blocs into conflict: Britain, France and Russia on one side; Germany and Austria-Hungary on the other. The first global war drew in more countries, including Britain’s colonies around the world and, in 1917, the United States.

British historian Max Hastings, whose recent book ``Catastrophe’’ recounts the opening months of the war, told The Associated Press by email Tuesday that Gove was right to claim that Germany was chiefly to blame. He said Britain ``had no choice but to fight ... because German hegemony on the continent would have been an intolerable outcome for freedom and democracy.’’

But Cambridge University history professor Richard J. Evans disagreed, saying ``it wasn’t that simple.’’

He accused Gove and other conservative politicians of using the war’s anniversary for modern political ends, to advance ``a kind of Euroskeptic agenda, the idea that bashing the Hun is a good thing to do.’’

``You have to be a bit more nuanced after 100 years and not just parrot British propaganda about the war,’’ Evans said. ``It’s possible to say that extremely brave men were fighting courageously for a cause that in the end turned out to be a futile one.’’

He added that politicians should recognize ``there are many different views of the First World War and there are many different ways you can commemorate it.’’

 

 

 


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