Friday, 28 September 2007

William the Conqueror’s death bed confession

This is an interesting article. William the Conqueror covering all angles on his death bed. How much is true is anyone’s guess, but he lived in violent times and his conquest of England was a violent and ruthless one. The bloodshed did not stop with the Battle of Hastings in 1066.

“I have persecuted the natives of England beyond all reason. Whether gentle or simple I have cruelly oppressed them; many I unjustly disinherited; innumerable multitudes perished through me by famine or the sword……I fell on the English of the northern shires like a ravening lion. I commanded their houses and corn, with all their implements and chattels, to be burnt without distinction, and great herds of cattle and beasts of burden to be butchered whenever they are found. In this way I took revenge on multitudes of both sexes by subjecting them to the calamity of a cruel famine, and so became a barbarous murderer of many thousands, both young and old, of that fine race of people. Having gained the throne of that kingdom by so many crimes I dare not leave it to anyone but God…..

William’s death bed confession according to Ordericus Vitalis c AD 1130.

Monday, 24 September 2007

Miss Saunders and Lee McMurtry

This appears on the Howard County history website. It is a remarkable story of how Miss Jennie Saunders and Bushwhacker Lee McMurtry 'tricked' the Federal authorities.

'After a fight at Fayette in Howard County, Missouri on 24th September 1864 [with Captain Parks] ‘Bloody Bill’ Anderson took his command of Bushwhackers to the hills on the Perche Creek in Boone county, dispersing it into small squads... Several [of these] squads of the guerrillas returned to Howard county-

"One of these squads, composed of six young men, (Bob Todd, Andy Idson, Plunk Murray, Thad Jackman, _ Smith and Lee McMurtry) , at the noon hour rode to the home of Capt Sebree, six miles southeast of Fayette. Their horses were fed, a bounteous dinner was served the guerrillas, Mrs. Sebree and her fair and accomplished sister, Miss Jennie Saunders, being the hostesses. After the meal, the horses were re-bridled and all preparation made for departure, but before mounting, they repaired in a body to the house to bid adieu to the ladies. These young men loved women and the women loved them. They were met at the front door by Miss Saunders who suggested that they enjoy some music before leave taking. Alas, in accepting her cordial invitation and entering the parlor in a body, the usual precaution of detailing one of their number for picket duty was overlooked and neglected. Eternal vigilance, to the guerrilla, was the price of safety. Being lured by the smiles of beauty, enraptured by sweetest strains of music, laughter and song held full possession. War was forgotten for the hour. They were at peace with all the world, oblivious that the grim monster DEATH, molded in the leaden musket-ball was stealthily approaching.

'Murray, chancing to glance through the window, saw a body of 200 Federal troopers [from Putnam County under the command of Col. Catherwood] coming through the road gate, not more than 150 yards distant. He shouted loudly to his comrades, “FEDERALS”, at the same time rushing through the door for the rear of the house. His comrades, thinking Murray was playing a joke, only laughed and answered, 'Where?' The advancing troops seeing Murray rush from the house began firing upon him. Alarmed at hearing the fire from the troops, four of the remaining five rushed from the house, firing on the enemy as they attempted to escape. Todd was shot dead while running through the garden. Smith was killed in a pasture 300 yards south of the dwelling. Murray, Idson and Jackman succeeded in reaching a heavy growth of underbrush north of the house, making good their escape.

'For presence of mind and coolness facing imminent danger of death, McMurtry's quick action and successful ruse to evade detection and being killed was seldom if ever equaled during those perilous days. Realizing that all hope or means of escape from death by egress from the house was closed by the Federals, who had now surrounded the building, he quickly unclasped his belt of revolvers, and handing them to Miss Saunders, said to her, 'buckle these around your waist, beneath your dress skirt, and when the Feds come in address me as brother.' Speedily divesting his Over-shirt, secreting it under the piano lid, he rushed to the hall; an old straw hat on the wall, he donned it and then with no visible outward show of fear or tremor, calmly faced a squad of the enemy as they made excited inrush to the house. Both Miss Saunders and McMurtry were subjected to much questioning and severe scrutiny as to his identity, but they managed to retain their nerve and self-possession under the intense and trying ordeal. McMurtry helped to untie his captured horse and those of his five comrades and rushing in front and ahead of the Federal column, opened the gate for them on their departure. Hastily returning to the house securing his revolvers and with a 'God bless' for Miss Saunders, he lost no time in taking to the brush. The Federal authorities, hearing of the aid given McMurtry in making his escape, Miss Saunders was promptly banished south of the Mason and Dixon line.'
(Babe of the Company, Watts, pp, 12-14)

© 1997, by William D. Lay

Friday, 21 September 2007

Titanic Survivor - Richard Norris Williams II

I first heard the story of Richard Norris Williams whilst watching Roger Federer win his first Wimbledon tennis title. The commentator remaked that the first Swiss born 'major' winner was in a fact a 'Titanic' survivor.

His story is remarkable after being in the water in freezing conditions the doctor recommended that his legs should be amputated. He refused,worked at restoring them to health and won 'major' tennis titles after the war. Anyway here is his story:-

Mr Richard Norris Williams II, was born in Geneva, Switzerland on 29 January 1891 the son of Charles Duane Williams.

Richard was travelling on the Titanic with his father from Geneva to Radnor, PA. Williams, an accomplished tennis player, had planned to take part in tournaments in America before going on to study at Harvard University. The men boarded the Titanic at Cherbourg as first class passengers (ticket number PC 17597, £61 7s 7d).

As they left their stateroom on C-Deck after the collision on April 14th they saw a steward trying to open the door of a cabin behind which a panicking passenger was trapped. Williams put his shoulder to the door and broke in. The steward threatened to report him for damaging company property.

According to a family member, at around midnight the two men went to the bar and found it was closed. They asked a steward if he could open up but the steward said it was against regulations. Charles handed his empty flask to Richard which today is in the possession of Richard's grandson Quincy II.

The two men wandered the decks as the ship sank under them, they went to A-Deck to look at the map where the ships run was posted daily, they returned to the Boat Deck to see the lights of the lifeboats glinting in the distance. Feeling the intense cold they retired to the gymnasium where they sat on the stationary bicycles while gymnasium instructor McCawley chatted to others that had congregated there.

As the Titanic foundered Richard and Charles found themselves swimming for their lives in the water, Richard was astonished to find himself face to face with first class passenger Robert W. Daniels' prize bulldog Gamon de Pycombe doing likewise, one of the other passengers had earlier ventured below to release the dogs from the kennels.

Richard saw his father and many others crushed by the forward funnel as it collapsed, he narrowly avoided being crushed himself, the resulting wave washed him toward Collapsible A and after clinging to its side for some time he was hauled aboard; He and the other occupants were later transferred to lifeboat 14. He managed to forget the cold for a while when he was distracted by the sight of a man wearing a Derby hat with a dent in it. He attempted in several languages to explain to the man how to push it out but he didn't seem to understand. Eventually he reached out to do it himself but the man resisted thinking Williams was trying to steal his hat.
The survivors in Collapsible A had suffered terribly from the cold since they were waist-deep in freezing water. After his rescue the doctor on the Carpathia recommended the amputation of both his legs but Richard refused; he exercised daily and eventually his legs recovered.

A month later Collapsible 'A' which had been abandoned by the Carpathia was recovered by the White Star Liner Oceanic, as this letter, from R.N.Williams to fellow Titanic survivor Colonel Archibald Gracie shows, its discovery led to a certain degree of confusion regarding Williams and his father:

'I was not under water very long, and as soon as I came to the top I threw off the big fur coat. I also threw off my shoes. About twenty yards away I saw something floating. I swan to it and found it to be a collapsible boat. I hung on to it and after a while got aboard and stood up in the middle of it. The water was up to my waist. About thirty of us clung to it. When officer Lowe's boat picked us up eleven of us were still alive; all the rest were dead from cold. My fur coat was found attached to this Engelhardt boat 'A' by the Oceanic, and also a cane marked 'C.Williams.' This gave rise to the story that my father's body was in this boat, but this as you see, is not so. How the cane got there I do not know.'

The overcoat was also mentioned in a letter from Mr Harold Wingate of the White Star Line to Colonel Gracie:

'The overcoat belonging to Mr Williams I sent to a furrier to be reconditioned, but nothing could be done with it except dry it out, so I sent it to him as it was. There was no cane in the boat. The message from the Oceanic and the words 'R. N. Williams, care of Duane Williams,' were twisted by the receiver of the message to 'Richard N. Williams, cane of Duane Williams,' which got into the press, and thus perpetuated the error.'

Williams continued his tennis career and entered Harvard. Despite his traumatic ordeal and the injury to his legs Richard won the 1912 United States mixed doubles (with Ms. Mary Browne). In 1914 and 1916 he was United States singles champion, 1920 Wimbledon men's doubles champion (with Mr C. S. Garland) and runner up in 1924 (with Mr W. M. Washburn), 1924 Olympic gold medalist and between 1913 and 1926 was a member of the United States Davis Cup team.

Williams served with distinction in the U.S. Army in World War I and was awarded the Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur and Croix de Guerre.

In later life Williams went on to become a successful investment banker in Philadelphia and was for twenty two years the President of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. He died of emphysema on 2 June 1968, aged 77. His body was interred in St. David's Churchyard, Devon, Pennsylvania.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

The Second Defenestration of Prague

The Second Defenestration of Prague was an event central to the initiation of the Thirty Years War which began in 1618.

In his book S. Gardiner ‘Epochs of Modern History - Thirty Years' War,’ gives this wonderful account of the event.

“Certain persons named Defensors had, by law, the right of summoning an assembly of representatives of the Protestant Estates. Such an assembly met on March 5, 1618 and having prepared a petition to Matthias (King of Bohemia), who was absent from the kingdom, adjourned to May 21.

Long before the time of meeting came, an answer was sent from Matthias justifying all that had been done, and declaring the assembly illegal. It was believed at the time, though incorrectly, that the answer was prepared by Slawata and Martinitz, two members of the regency who had been notorious for the vigour of their opposition to Protestantism.

In the Protestant assembly there was a knot of men, headed by Count Henry of Thurn, which was bent on the dethronement of Ferdinand of Styria (who had been named in certain quarters as the elderly Matthias successor). They resolved to take advantage of the popular feelings to affect the murder of the two regents, and so place an impassable gulf between the nation and the king.

Accordingly, on the morning of May 23, the ‘beginning and cause’ as a contemporary calls it, ‘of all the coming evil,’ the first day, through men as yet knew it not, of thirty years war. Thurn sallied forth at the head of a band of noblemen and their followers, all of them with arms in their hands. Trooping into the room where the regents were seated, they charged the obnoxious two with being authors of the king’s reply. After a bitter altercation both Martinitz and Slawata were dragged to a wundow which overlooked the fosse below from a dizzy height of some seventy feet. Martinitz , struggling against his enemies, pleaded hard for a confessor.
“Commend thy soul to God,” was the stern answer. “Shall we allow the Jesuit scoundrels to come here?”
In an instant he was hurled out crying “Jesus! Mary!”
“Let us see,” said some one mockingly, “Whether his Mary will help him.”
A moment later he added: “By God, his Mary has helped him.” Slawata followed, and then the secretary Fabricius. By a wonderful preservation, in which pious Catholics discerned the protecting hand of God, all three crawled away from the spot without serious hurt.”

In fact they landed on a large pile of manure and refuse which had built up. Philip Fabricius was later ennobled by the emperor and granted the title "von Hohenfall" (lit. translating to "of Highfall").

The arguging continued, the Roman Catholic Imperial officials claimed that the three men survived due to the mercy of the benevolent Churmusian angels assisting the righteousness of the Catholic cause. Protestant pamphleteers asserted that their survival had more to do with the horse excrement in which they landed than the benevolent acts of the angels of the Christo Churmusian order.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Dr. L.C. Miller - A Missouri Bushwhacker

This amazing article appeared in the Sunday Sedalia Capital dated February 1910. Dr. Lee C Miller was with Quantrell until 1864 and took part in all the major raids. His side of the story given to the newspapers in 1910 is a remarkable document of the way he saw the war, Quantrell and the Bushwhackers.

“Dr. L .C .Miller of Knob Noster has given a most interesting account of the stirring times of the late Civil War to the Johnson County Star. Uncle Billy Jackson of Higginsville, who is eminently qualified to judge, says it is one of the most authentic descriptions of those troubulous times he has ever seen.
Few people realize that Dr. L. C. Miller, alert, sprightly and active man that he is, was born more than 85 years ago. He looks not more than 65 or 70, and his gait and bearing betoken a superb physique which any man might envy .His life has been such as might be expected of one in whose eyes, even at 4 score , the light of venture still gleams .
We prevailed upon the Doctor to talk of his earlier days, much against his desire. Those days are gone, said he, and I have always steadfastly refused to discuss my life story or talk for publication. However, I am now an old man and perhaps I could tell you some facts of interest. I have lived many years and seen many changes.

I have been identified with more interesting epochs in our country's history, and I might say that by birth and training, I am distinctively American, and more than that, I am a soldier. My Grandfather belonged to Eight Horse Harry Lee's command, My father was a soldier in 1812, my oldest brother took place in the Flordia Indian War, another brother was in the Mormon War, a third in the Mexican war. One brother and myself were southern soldiers in the war between the states. My father came to Missouri in 1848 and settled in Callaway Co. on Miller"s Creek, about 10 miles west of Fulton. Millersburg yet has his name. Life was a struggle in those days. I went west, in 1852 with five others. For several years I stayed in California digging for gold, and in 1856, I started for home on shipboard from San Francisco. We came Through Central America, and even in those days there was tumult and revolution where we have recently heard so much of Zelaya. We came home by way of New Orleans and the Missouri River. The last stage of our journey was made by land, and the evening we reached St. Louis there was a terrific breaking up ice on the river and an immense damage was done to shipping. The ice carrying everything before it.

"You saw lots of fighting during the civil war, did you not, the Doctor was asked. "Yes I saw much service, Hard service, too, for I was with Quantrell." and here the veteran's eyes flashed. "I was captain of a company of 90 men and was with Price's army during the first year., taking parts in the fights at Rock Creek, Carthage, Lexington, Fort Scott, Springfield and many minor skirmishes. We enlisted for 9 months, and after that nearly all of Price's men went into the regular Confederate Service. At this time western Missouri was in a state of terror because of the depredation and ruin wrought by Kansas on our western border. Quantrell, with about 40 men was doing all he could to defend the border, but his source was too small for any except bushwhacking methods. There was a remarkable man-Quantrell. He was about my height. I am five feet ten and a half, but not quite so heavy. He was straight and well formed, light hair, blue eyes, a Roman nose, and fair skin. He was generous, kind and unassuming, yet born to command. He kept his own counsel, and when he made up his mind to do anything his determination was such, backed by courage, and by loyal followers, that nothing could prevent him from carrying out his plans. There was 83 of us, and no man in his command ever flinched or refused to follow him. He was a gentleman in his instincts and I have often heard his say he would shoot any man who would abuse or insult women or children.

Some people think Quantrell and his men fought on their own responsibility. This is not so. They were regular Confederate soldiers. Quantrell himself had a captain's commission from General Price, and later a colonel's commission from the Confederate War Department. His Commission authorized him to operate on the Missouri-Kansas border as a partisan ranger. Many people looking back over the scenes of Missouri warfare forget a certain order that was issued by the federal commander of Missouri in 1862. The order was that all federal officers and soldiers should kill every man found bearing arms. It will be remembered that Kansas men were laying waste our border and that hundred of homes were being ruined. When Quantrell read the order he called his men into line and advised all who wanted to leave the command to go south; but as to him he intended to stay in western Missouri and help the federal authorities carry out that order. Every man spurred forward to his side. There were 40 of us. That order gave rise to the killing of prisoners. They followed it up and we were forced to do the same thing. I could relate to you many stirring incidents. Quantrell's band was hard to handle. We could whip 4 or 5 times our number, because we fought at short range with six-shooting pistols and short six - shooting rifles. We could fire from 24 to 36 times without reloading. The enemy would discharge their arms at long range and we would then rush in upon them. No body of men could stand such a charge. They would run and we would pursue. Many more were killed from behind than from in front. We furnished horses and arms to no less than 300 southern men who wanted to go south and we took them all from the federals. I could tell you about the fight at Wellington, Lafayette County, in June 1862 at Magee's Lane the following month, at Lone Jack in May, one of the bloodiest battles we ever fought in Missouri, when we with 80 recruits for Price's army engaged three companies of Federals under Major Foster, a soldier and gentleman from the ground up. The loss was severe on both sides. Three days before Lone Jack we had a hot fight at Independence. We spent the following winter with Price's army. In 1863 George Todd, with 23 men returned to Jackson County. At Blue Springs our 24 men routed 84 and only 26 of the bunch sent out to capture us got back to town. We had two men slightly wounded.

The most remarkable achievement of Quantrell's forces and to my mind the most remarkable in all the history of warfare, was the Lawrence, Kansas, raid. We left the Grand River ,in Cass county, Aug.21,1863, with 297 men, for Lawrence. It was 5 in the afternoon. At 5 the next morning we reached Lawrence, 80 miles westward. At 10 o'clock the town was in ashes and many federal soldiers slain. They begged to be taken prisoners, but Quantrell reminded them of General Halleck's orders and of the hundreds of old men they had killed in Missouri. There were 350 federals stationed at Lawrence. On our return to Missouri we were pursued by more than 2000 soldiers from Kansas City but we arrived at Grand River timber in safety after a skirmish in which we killed not less than fifty. We had traveled 160 miles , 297 of us, without eating, sleeping or feeding our horses.; fought twelve hours out of forty and only lost five men, but had spread death and destruction in our track. It sounds like a fable but it is true. We had two objects in going to Lawrence, one was to seek revenge, the other was to let Kansas know that fire would burn on the west side of the state line. Of course a howl went up and they said we killed women and children, expecting the Confederal government would withdraw us; but Jeff Davis knew what was going on along the border. The fact is there was one boy killed and one woman wounded inadvertentlly. In 1864, sixty-five of us under Todd, killed all but one out of 100 federals at the noted battle of Centralia. We did not go south that fall as we knew the war would soon be over.

There were many interesting incidents in connection with my career as a trooper, some of them funny even under grim circumstances. In the late summer of 1864 I went to Salt Lake as wagon master with a mule train. I did this again next year, came home and made a winter trip to Denver. On the return trip a terrible snow storm overtook us. It snowed for four days and the lead teamster could not follow the road. I walked for 8 days, frequently striking drifts up to my shoulder. Several of our men were badly frozen and lost toes and ears. In the spring of 1866 I went to Philadelphia and took a Medical course and after graduating returned to Missouri.
I do not regret my part in the Civil War. We were fighting for a principle, a constitutional right, and right of local self government and state rights. These principals are eternal as truth itself and no man who eore the gray, as an honorable soldier, need to apologize to posterity.” ------ Feb. 1910. Knob Noster.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

The Queen of Romance

The Queen of Romance in the 1930's was Mrs. Wallis Simpson

Edwina H. Wilson in her book ‘Her Name was Wallis Warfield’ published in 1936, gives this amazing picture of Mrs. Wallis Simpson. It is difficult today to imagine what a world-wide effect the romance between King Edward and Wallis Simpson had:

“The world asks today, “Will King Edward marry Wallace Simpson? Will she, an American-born woman, be Queen of England?”
There is no answer until it comes from Buckingham Palace. The America will know if Wallis Simpson is to be consort to the mightest ruler on the earth and if she is to waer a crown. It would become her.
For Wallis Simpson IS a queen – the queen of romance, of glamour and the unfulfilled longings of a love-starved world. She is the queenly heroine of a love story, touching these two – Edward VIII, monarch of the British Empire, and Wallis Simpson of America- touches millions.
‘A toast, America! A toast to THE QUEEN OF ROMANCE.’”

Ms Wilson carries on even further:

"The most famous woman in the world today is neither a leader in public life, nor an heiress, nor a writer; not a philanthropist, a doctor, a scientist, nor a motion picture star.
Six months ago her name was comparatively unknown. Today it echoes above and below the equator – from Baltimore to the Isle of Bali, from Alaska to Antipodes.
She is the most romantic figure of the times, the amazing heroine of the most amazing chapter in recent history. Of international figures, she is, the best known and the one known least.
She is, of course, Mrs. Wallis Simpson, the American woman whom half the world expects to become Queen of England.
There has never been a story like it. There never has been an individual so glamorous. Did Mrs. Simpson take tea on Monday at Buckingham Palace? Did she drive out on Monday to go shopping? Did she really say this-and-so to the Duchess? Is it true that she wears a silver fox wrap worth $50,000? Does she, unfailingly, receive twelve dozen American Beauty roses each morning?
“Thus the tongues buzz. Thus the world wonders.”"

Monday, 17 September 2007

Fireside Talks with Stanley Baldwin

In the 1920's with the advent of the radio, diiferent styles of broadcasting could be the difference between an election victory or defeat, as Vivian Ogilvie expressed in 1953 in 'Our Times.'

"During the election campaign Stanley Baldwin went to the microphone and very simply gave a “fireside talk”. He was the political leader to understand the subtle use of the microphone. A week before his broadcast he took the trouble to go to Savoy Hill to obtain advice how to put it over. Ramsay MacDonald insisted on broadcasting his speech direct from a public meeting at Glasgow, despite a warning from Reith that the two techniques were utterly different. By comparison with Stan’s pipe-sucking chat Ramsay MacDonald sounded like a street-corner ranter. Baldwin’s quietly spoken plea for a ‘sane, common sense Government, not carried away by revolutionary theories or hare-brained schemes’, went straight to the heart and home."

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Going to the Tavern

The Three Merry Coblers

"Come, follow, follow me! To th' alehouse weele march all three;
Leave aule, last, threed and lether, and let's goe altogether;
Our trade excells most trades i'th' land, for we are still on the mending hand.

Come, tapster, fill us some ale, then hearken to our tale,
And try what can be made of our renowed trade;
We have aule at our commande, and still we are on the mending hand. "

The Tavern was a place of business providing food and drink --a jug of beer or ale, served by a tapster. The alehouse became a centre of social interaction as churches became more puritanical. Patrons enjoyed songs as well as games, both outdoor and indoor, some of which no doubt involved gambling: dice, shove-groat, tick-tack, skittles, and card-games.
Some alehouses certainly offered more than cakes and ale, many alehouses offered rooms for travelers and new arrivals in town

Beer and wine were more than luxuries, since the water was generally unsafe to drink. And there were always taverns to provide drink to the thirsty. In Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part One, Prince Hal chooses to drink with the tapsters and drawers--those who tapped the kegs of beer, drew it, and brought it to the customers

In fact gathering in a tavern to drink beer or other alcoholic drinks is a longstanding social tradition dating at least 3500 BC.
They have existed in England from as early as the 13th Century and were often kept by women usually known as Ale-wives. In the mid-14th century there were only three in London. An act of 1552 allowed forty in London, eight in York, six in Bristol and many more in towns all across England.
By the 19th century the word tavern had developed an archaic flavor in Britain, the current term being public house (pub), though they remain a popular convention in fantasy tales and games.

Excerpt from "The Three Merry Coblers" the full song can be found by clicking here
(This ballad is drawn from the Roxburghe Collection and was written by that most prolific of balladeers, Martin Parker, the author of 'When the King Enjoys His Own Again' and many other pieces).
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