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Posts published in “Columnists – Airplanes & Alligators”

40 Acres and a Mule

“Undependable as a Government Mule”. “Worthless as a Government Mule”. We have always heard these phrases and it is interesting as to just how they, and many more divergent comments came about. Ironically, Major General William Tecumseh Sherman during his infamous and tyrannical march to the sea in the Civil War, issued Special Field Order No. 15 that, in part, granted all Freedmen (male slaves) Forty acres of land along with a mule with which they might work the land for crops.
That figure of forty acres apparently came from approximately four hundred freedmen somewhat collected along the route Sherman took on his way from Virginia to Atlanta and the port city of Savannah. Many of these freed slaves followed Sherman who, to them, was considered their liberator. But many problems were to develop concerning Sherman’s authority to live up to his promise. The congress of the Union made several unsuccessful attempts to reconcile the grant and see to it the slaves received awards they hoped for.
The land was to be confiscated from plantation owners who owned more than two hundred acres. That amount of land was made available to be four hundred thousand acres. Disbursement of mules used in the march was no longer needed by the army and could also be made available. Logistics became a big issue. Who would take care of the mules in the meantime? And who knows what and who would get the grants? On top of that, President Lincoln was assassinated. Then Vice President Andrew Johnson took over with a vowed claim to veto any such action by the Congress concerning the forty acres.

All the while the poor and confused slaves began to wonder who was going to take care of them. And, at least, where was that Government Mule? It didn’t happen. What did happen during that march was much destruction of life and property in the path taken by this march. Generals Sherman, Grant, Slocum and Howard carried out the mission showing little mercy. The freedmen faced hardships never before imagined.
One of the main objectives in the destructive advance by the Union forces was to obliterate all possibility of supplies coming northward toward Virginia and Lee’s army. Bridges were burned and rails from the rail roads were bent around trees and became known as Sherman’s bow ties.
Sherman handed down still another order that rang terror throughout his passage toward Savannah. He ordered the troops by order number IV as follows: “The army will forage liberally on the country during the march. ‘Gather corn, meat of any kind, vegetables, corn-meal, or whatever is needed by your command.”
Order V: “Commanders alone is entrusted the power to destroy mills, houses, cotton gins, etc.
Order VI: “As for horses, mules, wagons, etc., belonging to inhabitants, the cavalry and artillery units may appropriate freely and without limit.” Discriminating between rich and poor was considered unnecessary.
Sherman’s declaration of “40 Acres and a Mule” became a challenge introduced to the Congress by Thaddeus Stevens. This portion of the Freedmen’s Bureau Act was defeated by the Union Congress on February 5, l866 by a vote of l26 to 36. Lands which had been, or intended to be, distributed to freedmen were reclaimed and returned to the previous owner. Even in this action there was no mention of a mule to be furnished to the freedmen or any other type animal.
Finally, Congress overrode President Johnson’s veto. They voted to extend the life of Freedmen’s Bureau. However, there seemed to be no provision for granting land to the freedmen, other than to provide them access to the Southern Homestead Act as available to all.
From the tragic experience of this costly War Between the States both in property and lives, could there ever be a point of comic relief? Maybe so; and it came from an innocent joke being told at one of our Texas colleges of higher learning.
The professor in American History class was expounding on the horrors of Sherman’s march to the sea. He accounted in great detail of his march into Richmond and the burning of homes a properties. He further suggested that acts harmful to its many citizens caused much suffering for all.
At that point the nervous student could take no more. Alarm was seen on his face as he leaped to his feet and shouted, “Professor, I never heard that story about Richmond; and I have lived in Rosenberg all my life.”

Bob Jamison is a freelance writer. Contact him at

Hero’s body pickled in Brandy


It was quite an unceremonial sepulcher for one of the world’s best known and successful wartime admirals when he was returned to England, his home country, in a barrel of brandy. The highly decorated Admiral Lord Nelson was indeed, best known for his victory over the French and Spanish in the Battle of Trafalgar on the 2lst of October, l805. The last of his countless battles at sea, Nelson was given a hero’s funeral and his flagship Victory was returned to Portsmouth, England. It now rest in dry dock and receives 400 thousand visitors a year.
This wasn’t his first brush with Napoleon’s might. Nelson might have considered him equal to today’s Stalin or Osama bin Laden. It wasn’t without reason, however. Napoleon had massed 90,000 troops on the French coast of Brittany on the English Channel for the reason of invading England. However, the trump of the deck is that he couldn’t match Nelson’s naval power to protect his army in the crossing according to historian and nationally known writer Simon Worrall.
One of Nelson’s chief advisories was the French Admiral Pierre Villeneuve, commander of the combined fleet of French and Spanish. Knowing well of Nelson’s power at sea and Napoleon’s hesitation to confront a British naval engagement on crossing the English Channel, Villeneuve led Nelson away from England on a chase that brought him all the way to the Caribbean Sea and back. It was a close call several times for Villeneuve, but he made good his evasion until the Battle of Trafalgar. This was the place of the famous battle not far from the Rock of Gibraltar at the mouth of the Mediterranean Sea.
Historians describe the battle as the last great battle of the sailing ships. Out numbered and going against all odds for the forbidden maneuver against side armed frigates, Nelson ordered his ships to head straight to the great line of the enemy ships lying in side angles so as to fire their guns point blank at the head on enemy. Obviously this tactic was almost taboo in naval engagement in those days but the clever Nelson did it for a purpose. It was a great risk to break the line of ships as he did but it gave him the advantage of firing directly into the enemy ships as they tried to maneuver around. The wind certainly was not to their advantage to do so; and Nelson knew that.
The Spanish allies of the French apparently were not exactly an admiration society. They didn’t like Napoleon nor did they trust him. It seemed, in the battle of Trafalgar that they might lack some enthusiasm for their brothers to the north. 5000 men were killed and another 3000 wounded including Admiral Nelson.
Riflemen aboard a French vessel fired a musket ball into Nelson’s shoulder from a sniper’s position high on a mast. The bullet went down through his ribs and into his lung. He was taken below as his lungs were filled with blood.
The battle scars of honor worn by Nelson were nothing new. In a previous battle, a musket ball tore off his right elbow and his arm was amputated above the wound. He jokingly referred to it as his ‘fin’. He was also blinded in one eye in another battle.
“Mild mannered as any man I have known”, was a comment in a letter home by one of his leaders, Captain Collingwood. Nelson was known by his enemy by the word “annihilation” because that was his battle cry in fifty or more engagements. Yet, he otherwise was known as the most gentle of all human creatures and often lamented the cruel necessity of it, but it was a principle of duty which all men owed to their country in defense of her laws and liberty.
“Trafalgar saw the triumph of the Anglosphere,” writes Tim Clayton. “As a result of Trafalgar, English became the global language of maritime trade.” And it still is.
Bob Jamison is a freelance writer. His recent book AIRPLAN ES, ALLIGATORS AND HI-FIN BLUES is available at the Gazette or

Airplanes & Alligators: Are you alike others?

By J.R. Bob Jamison

Of course not. This would indeed be a funny looking world if we were all alike. Women have their personal pride in dressing and acting as they might like others to do and men do as well.
Take the younger generation. The very younger ones, that is. They certainly don’t want to look like us old codgers and, quite frankly, I don’t think many of us would care to duplicate their appearance. For instance, your preacher, lawyer, doctor, etc. They might look somewhat out of place with greasy vertical spiked hairdo with stove pipe trousers that drag the sidewalk behind their shoes or me with a flame pink toupee!

Conformity or simply belonging to a certain group might have something to do with it psychologist tell us. Many lawyers wear bow ties and suspenders. Others do too but it could be a matter of association. But their ties are never the same color and some swear that they should only appear in court always wearing a blue suit.
Pick up most any agriculture magazine and you will see successful farmers being interviewed while leaning against they farm equipment wearing statement baseball caps and blue jeans.
The movie icon, John Wayne, was invited to make a commercial for that internationally known conservation organization called Ducks Unlimited. The scene was near some California marshland which was a favorite for many waterfowl. Wayne drove up in a meaningful and impressive motor home and stepped out wearing a snap billed hat, Bermuda shorts and tennis shoes. That couldn’t be John Wayne! It will ruin the whole persona!
After viewing the setup and everything was ready for the take, Mr. Wayne went back into the motor home and came out looking like he just stepped off the set of True Grit. It was a great tribute to Ducks Unlimited and the thousands of volunteers that support it.
Uniforms in school or work signify your position for learning or identification purposes. That is important in cases where discrimination is based on the way the student is dressed as a statement of wealth or even the work person who shows up in inappropriate dress. To me, it is somewhat embarrassing to ask a stocker person in a grocery store where I might find an object only to be advised they don’t work for the store. A smart little vest signifying who’s who seems to be a good idea.
My good friend, Mrs. Bingham at the Bingham Feed and Seed store in Dayton has often told me when I walked into her store on weekends (when I worked) that she would win a lot of money with me at the next carnival. “How’s that”? I asked. “They will try to guess your profession. While you sit in that glassed in office at the bank and look spick and span and in the weekend you come in here looking like the rest of us. That’ll blow their minds.”
It all goes to show, you can’t really judge a book by its cover. Some might just surprise you. One of my customers (while working as a loan officer) told me he went by the BMW auto company after playing golf most of the day. He was wearing shorts and a T-shirt that had a hole in it. He took off his golf shoes and put on a pair of tennis shoes to walk into the dealer’s show room. However, he couldn’t find the other shoe so he chose one that didn’t exactly match the other.
The salesman invited him to look at their finest used cars. He did with great interest. Then he said, “could I possibly look at the one in the show room; the convertible red one?” “Yes sir and that little jewel will cost a medium five figures.” When they arrived at a price, he said, “I’ll take it. Here’s my check. Call the bank; they’ll tell you it’s good.” He did and they told him he could buy the dealership if he wanted it.
The Greatest Story Told is the person who knocked on several doors and asked to be taken in. The person in this case was Jesus.
Surely, many of us are guilty of the same face identification. In truth, most of you are certainly justified in being careful of who we might admit due to circumstances surrounding crime and opportunist of this day in time.
Is it conformity or individuality that makes us different and yet we want to be acceptably similar? Indeed, it would be a funny looking world if we were ALL exactly alike!

Bob Jamison is a freelance writer. His recent book, AIRPLANES, ALLIGATORS AND HI-FIN BLUES is available at the Gazette or