Dolley Madison Sends A Telegram

The venerable Dolley Madison, the most popular woman in Washington, if not the entire country, in the 1840s.

As “The Widow Dolley”, Mrs. Madison was the most famous woman in the country.

Mrs. Madison: Dowager Washingtonian

When James Madison died at 85, Dolley was 68, and still in good health. Montpelier, their Virginia plantation was failing however, due to Madison’s declining years and ability to oversee, to the vagaries of farming in general, and mostly to the huge debts run up by Payne Todd, Dolley’s son from her first marriage. The Widow Madison was in sorry financial straits.

Since it was obviously far more than she could handle, she sold the plantation and moved back to Washington, a place she hadn’t seen for two decades. It had changed enormously. Nevertheless, her reputation as the leader of society was still intact, with dozens of old friends who were thrilled at her arrival. It is said that when she moved into her small rented house, there were more than 100 calling cards waiting for her.

Despite the fact that her finances were meager and she could only entertain once a month, she was invited everywhere – and she went. Washingtonians said no party was “official” unless Mrs. Madison was in attendance. That included the White House, where she was happy to serve as de facto social advisor to the Van Buren, Tyler and Polk administrations.

Bottom line: Dolley Madison was a national treasure, dearly loved by all.

The Multi-Talented Samuel F.B. Morse

Samuel Finley Breeze Morse (1791-1872) was a very talented man born in Massachusetts, and Phi Beta Kappa from Yale University. By the 1840s he had made a solid name for himself as a portrait artist, and could claim a growing A-list of clients. Today, his works hang in fine museums, and are considered worthy.

Samuel F.B. Morse in his older years: portrait painter and inventor.

In the competition between science and art, it is usually science that becomes the profession and art the hobby. But occasionally, like other multi-talented men such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and even Theodore Roosevelt, Morse had made a hobby of scientific pursuit.

His inventive mind imagined transmitting sound over vast distances. The means of human voice-sound was not available in the early years of the 19th century, but sound does not need to be human voice. Morse’s “avocational” experiments led him to devise a means of carrying sound through metal wire. The tap-tap-tap could actually be received at a fair distance.

Inventive minds usually keep inventing. Morse determined (after several years of experiments) that actual messages could be sent over those same wires if the tap-tapping could be arranged in a way that was easily understood, thus the Morse Code. He devised an alphabet of short and long taps that equated to letters of the alphabet. With a little practice, real messages not only could be sent, but received and “read.”

The Morse Code caught on like wildfire. Kids loved it!

It was nothing short of revolutionary. The telegraph and the Morse Code would become one of the greatest inventions of the 19th century, would change history, make Morse’s fortune, and spawn scores of other inventions. A young Thomas Edison eagerly learned Morse Code as a stepping stone to his own fame and fortune.

Unveiling the Revolution

Morse usually gets credit for “inventing” the electro-magnetic telegraph, but in reality, the actual product was a combination of several designs by several inventors. Patrick Feaster, one of the better historians seriously dedicated to the telegraph offers some fascinating details! The code, however, was Morse’s alone.

With help from other scientists and inventors, his first two-mile transmission of sound-via-wire occurred in New Jersey in 1838. Determined to expand this promising accomplishment to longer distances, Morse went to Washington to solicit assistance (financial and otherwise) from Congress. As expected, they dithered and dallied. Morse then went to Europe, where he learned to his dismay, that other scientific “competitors” had beaten him to the general punch.

Samuel Finley Breeze Morse – one of the great inventors of the nineteenth century.

Returning to the US in late 1842, he gained Congressional sponsorship by stringing wire between two committee rooms, and sent messages back and forth. Congress was impressed, to the tune of $30,000 to string wire between Washington and Baltimore, nearly forty miles away.

By May, 1844, the wire had been strung and tested, and the grand “unveiling” was scheduled.

“What hath God wrought,” was a Biblical quote sent over the wire from the Capitol Building to a Baltimore railroad station and into history. The telegraph, and just as important, its method of transmitting messages, was a huge success. It was clocked that 30 characters (dots and dashes) could be sent per minute. By the following year, New York City had telegraph wire strung to Philadelphia, Boston, Buffalo and parts westward. By 1850, more than 12,000 miles of telegraph wire had been strung between large cities.

The Dolley Connection

Even though the public “unveiling” of this experiment in 1844 was considered important in Washington, only a modest number of witnesses actually attended the transmission – or its receipt at the other end. But when (and this gets fuzzy) a “personal” message was to be sent via telegraph, opening the way to making it a means of public/personal communication, the venerable Mrs. Madison, was summoned for the honor. Some had suggested that President John Tyler have the distinction, but he was very unpopular – and Dolley was beloved. Nobody could object.

Legends abound of course, and zealous historians can nitpick a delightful story into a bland and coma-inducing footnote. Only the intrepid truly care about exactly which date Dolley’s personal message – sending her love to Mrs. John Weathered in Baltimore was sent. It may have been the same day, the following day or even a week later. But it was sent, and Dolley sent it, by personal invitation. Further, it was sent (and received) within a few days of “What hath God wrought.”

Thus one could claim Dolley Madison, as the first to be onboard with “social media.”


Anthony, Carl Sferrazza – First Ladies: The Saga of the Presidents’ Wives and Their Power 1789-1961, 1990, William Morrow

Allgor, Catherine, – Parlor Politics: In Which the Ladies of Washington Help Build a City and a Government, 2000, University of Virginia Press



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Lincoln and Sherman: Plugging the Hole

When Abraham Lincoln became President, he knew very little about the military. He learned quickly.

The Bull Run Debacle

The first Battle of Bull Run was a disaster for the Union Army.

The Battle of Bull Run on July 21, 1861, was an eye-opener on many levels. The Union forces, mostly short term volunteers, had little training or experience, perhaps too much hoo-rahing, and a belief that one big brouhaha would be fought, the Rebs whipped, and the so-called “war” would be over, to be resolved peacefully.

It was a bigger brouhaha than any believed possible, with casualties numbering in the thousands. It was a total humiliation for the Union, as the “green” soldiers were routed in disarray – while the cream of Washington society, with binoculars and picnic baskets, were there to witness what they thought would be an easy victory. Now it was scorned as “the great skedaddle.”

The Hole in the Dike

Only a few days after the Bull Run fiasco, Colonel William T. Sherman was greeted by a Captain on his staff, who came to “say goodbye,” adding that he was going to New York. Sherman was puzzled, since he did not recall signing a pass for him.

Taken when Colonel Sherman was a General.

The Captain said he was “going home,” and that he had enlisted for 90-days, which, by the way had expired several days earlier. He was leaving. Permanently.

Colonel Sherman, West Point trained, with experience in running a military academy, immediately recognized the tip of an iceberg: There were perhaps 75,000 volunteers who had signed on for 90-days. If one up and left, a dangerous precedent would be set, and the entire Army could collapse.

Without batting an eye, he told the wayward Captain that if he left, Sherman would send soldiers to bring him back – and would have him shot for desertion the next day. End of subject.

The Colonel Meets the President – Again

Ohio Senator John Sherman. The resemblance is strong.

William T. Sherman had met Abraham Lincoln shortly after the firing on Fort Sumter, courtesy of his brother, Ohio Republican Senator John Sherman. The meeting was brief. At Sherman’s request, he was reinstated into the Union Army, and also by his specific request, as second-in-command.

A few hours after his skirmish with the New York Captain, Colonel Sherman was riding far out around his lines and noticed an approaching carriage. He rode closer, and saw that its passengers were none other than President Lincoln and Secretary of State Seward. Sherman rode up and asked if he could be of service. Lincoln recognized him and asked for directions, remarking that he thought “the boys” could use a few words from their Commander-in-Chief to boost their morale.

The Colonel offered to guide them into camp, adding that the soldiers would indeed like hearing a few words from the President. But, he added, they’ve already had enough of the huzzahs, and it got them nowhere. What the soldiers needed to hear, was some firm encouragement toward hard training and obedience to military order.

Lincoln’s Remarks to the Soldiers

President Lincoln visited soldiers in the field many times during the Civil War.

Abraham Lincoln was a well-practiced speaker, but seldom liked to speak off-the-cuff. But a few words to the soldiers was a different matter. They did not expect a long-winded oration, or deep philosophical thought.

In the memoirs he wrote several years later, Sherman said that Lincoln’s “speech” was exactly right. He began by commiserating with their disappointment at Bull Run. Then he exhorted them to be mindful of their purpose: to preserve the Union and to renew their efforts and commitment.

Then he continued, perhaps remembering Sherman’s wise counsel, stressing the need for the volunteer soldiers to devote themselves to their new trade: soldiering – and how it involved discipline, training and obedience to military order.

Then he ended with encouragement, believing that “better days” were sure to come. All in all, according to Sherman, it was a dandy of a morale booster. The men were happy.

Lincoln Plugs the Hole in the Dike

After he finished his brief remarks, Lincoln went on to say, that as President he was also responsible for the soldiers’ welfare and to see that they were treated fairly. In that regard, he continued, if any soldier had a grievance, he would be glad to hear him out.

Seeing a perfect opportunity, the Captain from New York came forward with his grievance. He told Lincoln that just that morning, Colonel Sherman threatened to shoot him. The President looked at Sherman, who nodded in acknowledgement.

The next – and last time Sherman saw President Lincoln. It occurred only a few weeks before the assassination.

Military discipline is essential if order and respect is to be maintained. Sometimes harsh examples must be enforced. Even a non-soldier and kind-hearted man like Lincoln knew that. And he likely knew that if Sherman threatened to have the Captain shot, there was a good reason.

In his inimitable way of seeing both sides of a thorny situation and finding that ray of light that diffuses it, Lincoln took a breath, and in a confidential-sounding stage whisper – loud enough to be heard several feet away, he said to the Captain, “Well, if Colonel Sherman threatened to shoot you, I would not trust him.” Then he paused, adding, “for I do believe he will do it.”

The soldiers roared with laughter. The President had grasped the crux of the matter, and the warmth of his humor turned a nasty precedent into a light but effective warning.

Four years later, General Sherman – would meet Lincoln once more, only a few weeks before his assassination, just when the Civil War was coming to its end. He would later write of the sixteenth President, that Lincoln was “a great and a good man,” and perhaps the best he ever met.


Botkin, B.A. (editor) – A Civil War Treasury of Tales, Legends & Folklore – Promontory Press, 2006

Davis, William, Lincoln’s Men: How President Lincoln Became Father to an Army and a Nation, (Free Press, 1999).

Sherman, General William Tecumseh – Memoirs of General William Tecumseh Sherman – Penguin Classics (reprint), 2000


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Martha Johnson Patterson: First Daughter

Martha Johnson Patterson served for nearly four years as de facto First Lady to an unpopular president.

Martha Johnson Patterson, elder daughter of Andrew and Eliza Johnson.

The Johnson Family of Greeneville

Andrew Johnson (1808-75) was seventeen years old when he pushed a cart across the North Carolina border into Greeneville, TN. It is said that the day he came to town, sixteen-year-old Eliza McCardle (1810-76) saw him and remarked to a friend, “that is the boy I am going to marry.” Whether or not Eliza actually said it is immaterial; within months they did get married. At 18 and 16 respectively, Andrew and Eliza Johnson were the youngest-married First Couple.

Andrew Johnson’s two-room cabin.

Eliza, a shoemaker’s daughter whose father had recently died, needed a provider. Andy, a dirt-poor uneducated tailor-apprentice needed someone to manage a household. They moved into a tiny two-room cabin. One room was their bedroom, the other their living room-dining room and Johnson’s tailoring shop.

Soon enough, babies came along – four born within the first seven years. Martha, Charles, Mary and Robert. A fifth, Andrew Jr. (always called Frank in the family) was a surprise – born when Eliza was past forty.

Eliza could read and write and do basic sums. In the evening, while Andy sewed, she read to him and rocked a cradle. Johnson had no formal education. He could write his name, and knew some of his letters, but not much more. It was Eliza who taught him to read and write more fluently. It is also said that she helped him develop oratory skills.

The Family Prospers

The tailor shop prospered. Andrew Johnson was considered a valuable asset to the town. He began to attend town meetings, and by twenty-five, was active in local Democratic politics, becoming alderman and then mayor.

Johnson became successful and bought a bigger house.

When their first child (Martha) was still a toddler, the Johnson purchased a six-room house in town, with whatever niceties were considered essential for an up-and-coming family. Johnson was soon elected to the Tennessee legislature, and finally, in 1843, to the House of Representatives. Considered a quiet, serious girl, it was Martha who helped tend to the younger children and the house.

Moving to Washington, at least part time, Martha Johnson and her siblings received a fine education in Georgetown. One brother became a doctor, the other, a lawyer.

When Martha Johnson was twenty-seven, she married attorney David Patterson, and had two children. Her sister Mary, four years her junior, married Daniel Stover when she was twenty, and had three children.

The 1850s was a notoriously turbulent decade, and Tennessee was in the middle of the ruckus. Many of the Tennesseans were slave owners, and had been for decades. Many of them were strongly opposed to slavery, and had been for decades. The Johnsons, however, were ambivalent about slavery per se, but they were strongly in favor of the UNION. Now-Senator Andrew Johnson was making a name for himself in the Democratic Party (and not necessarily a good name). His manner and demeanor had always been, and always would be, pugnacious.

One of the very few images of Eliza Johnson.

Meanwhile, Eliza Johnson, a grandmother, now had a change-of-life baby herself and began having her own pile of troubles. She developed tuberculosis that drained her energy for a quarter century. Having Martha Patterson and Mary Stover nearby, raising babies of their own, was a godsend.

Johnson, His Women and the War

Next to Virginia, Tennessee suffered the most, with towns and cities ravaged, a populace violently divided, and dozens of battles and skirmishes fought.

The pugnacious Andrew Johnson.

Andrew Johnson was the only southern Senator who did not resign when his state seceded in June, 1861. Lincoln assigned him substantive duties to restore and/or maintain law and order in his troubled state. The Johnson women, wife and daughters and in-laws remained steadfast.

Nothing was kind to the Johnson daughters. In addition to a severe decline in their mother’s health, they lost their property, were shuttled from place to place, exchanging rudimentary shelter for the Governor’s Mansion, and back again.

Andrew Johnson was a cautionary tale and an odd choice as a running mate with Lincoln. Lincoln was not universally popular with his co-Republicans; Andy Johnson was a lifelong Democrat. A similar problem in 1840 between Whig William Henry Harrison and Democrat John Tyler might have raised a flag, but in 1860, other factors were in play. The Lincoln-Johnson ticket was a “Union” party ticket: neither Republican nor Democrat. As in 1840, it proved politically disastrous.

Within the space of six weeks, new-VP Andrew Johnson managed to embarrass himself badly at the inauguration, Lincoln was assassinated and died, and Andrew Johnson became president.

Mrs. Patterson, First Daughter-Lady

Martha Patterson was plain in dress and demeanor.

Now confined to her chair, the invalid Eliza Johnson was unable to participate in active First Lady duties. Placing the widowed Mary Stover in charge of the six small children who were now White House residents, Martha Patterson assumed the housekeeping and hostess management, along with being the wife of now-Senator David Patterson, elected to Johnson’s old seat.

Mary Stover, the younger Johnson daughter, was also plain in style.

The House itself was in poor condition. During the six weeks following the assassination, thousands of people marched through with little security. Rugs and furniture were trampled, curtains and draperies shredded by souvenir hunters, and the mansion that the Johnsons inherited was in sore need of repair and refurbishing. Both Martha and her sister (it is said) donned aprons and kerchiefs and worked along side the hired staff to clean and polish. “They were plain folks,” according to Martha, accustomed to hard work, which included milking the cows.  Her clothing was always simple and classic, and she wore little or no jewelry.

During the next four years, more than $100,000 would be periodically appropriated and spent to repaint, repaper, recarpet, repair and replace damaged walls, floors and furnishings. Mrs. Patterson spent wisely, and focused on the public rooms, keeping within her budget. That included collecting and hanging portraits of previous Presidents.

Despite the bitter animosity between the President and Congress, including impeachment proceedings, entertaining at the White House was done tastefully and appropriately. The last Johnson reception in 1869 is said to have attracted more than 5000 attendees.

In “retirement,” Martha Patterson returned to Tennessee and cared for her aging parents during their last years. Generally reclusive, she died in 1901, at the age of 73.


Anthony, Carl Sferrazza –First Ladies 1789-1961, William Morrow,1990

Caroli, Betty Boyd – First Ladies: An Intimate Look at How 38 Women Handled what may be the most Demanding, Unpaid, Unelected Job in America – Oxford University Press, 1995


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The Hoovers Rescue Americans: 1914

Lou and Herbert Hoover. They spent half their lives as Humanitarians.

When World War I began in August, 1914, Herbert and Lou Hoover were living in London’s posh Mayfair section.

The Hoovers.

Young Herbert Hoover. He was a millionaire a few times over by the time he was thirty.

Herbert Hoover was a 40-year old mining engineer and consultant in 1914. He had offices in six countries and was a millionaire several times over.  It was a far cry from his poor-Iowa-farm-orphan upbringing.

By his own talents, diligence and innate leadership, he parlayed a tuition-free Stanford University education into a series of positions, usually far above what his youth and inexperience would demand. He did not disappoint.

His wife of fifteen years, Stanford educated Lou Henry Hoover had a busy life for herself in London. In addition to raising two sons, she had become active in various social and civic outlets.

Bottom line: The Hoovers had a happy and substantial social life.  While they did not travel in “royal” circles, they entertained frequently and counted as friends several high-level business and government officials.

The European Money Crisis 1914.

Lou Henry Hoover was a degreed geologist from Stanford University in her own right.

Bert Hoover had no idea that his life as he knew it, was coming to an abrupt end. Europe had been a tinderbox for more than a decade, and in midsummer, 1914, it ignited with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of the Austrian-Hungarian empire. The flames spread rapidly, consuming the continent.

There were more than 100,000 Americans in Europe that summer. Some had lived there for years, some were on business, some on vacation – and many with families. When the great armies mobilized, their one thought was to get home as quickly as possible. England was a key terminus for ships bound for America.

The huge problem was money, or more precisely, the availability of spendable money. Most of them had American dollars in their pockets; some had substantial letters of credit from well-known banks. But each belligerent country only accepted its own currency. In those pre-euro days, that meant that France only accepted francs; Germany the deutschmark, Italy the lire, etc.  That also included the British pound.

Lou Henry Hoover and their two sons, John and Herbert Jr., about the time World War I erupted in Europe.

As thousands of Americans poured into the London train stations, they could not get so much as a cup of coffee or a place to stay for the night while they were trying to make travel arrangements.  They did not have (and could not get) pounds and shillings.

One of the British officials assigned to manage this “surprise” crisis was a friend of the Hoovers. He called Bert and asked if he might come and help sort out the sprawling mess. Hoover did not hesitate.

The Quick Fix

It did not take Herbert Hoover very long to determine what his fellow Americans needed: a small “loan” to get them food and lodging until they could settle their passage reservations. It was considered a “temporary” problem, but an immediate one that needed to be resolved.

Within the hour he telephoned his wife to bring all the money they had in the house – 500 pounds (the equivalent of about $2500).

Then, with nothing more than pen and paper, he began lending Americans two or three or five pounds – enough to bridge the gap. All he required was a hand-signed note to secure the “loan.” The following day, he went to the bank and withdrew several thousand pounds, and continued his home-made remedy.

Years later, Hoover wrote that he personally “lent” around $300,000 of his own money in dribs-and-drabs. He added that perhaps only $300 went unpaid, and suggested that some people may have died in the interim.

Meanwhile Mrs. Hoover…

Having been made aware of the huge influx of Americans descending upon the London train stations, Lou Henry Hoover determine upon her own “quick fix.” She called several of her woman friends to help relieve some of the most pressing problems.

They contacted various restaurants and hotels to send sandwiches and coffee and milk for the children – to be distributed free of charge to the stranded travelers.

Then they arranged to have a section of the station cordoned off for a make-shift day-care area. Cribs and cookies, tables and chairs, and games and toys were quickly collected, plus dozens of volunteers to be “nannies-for-an-hour.” This way infants, toddlers and restless youngsters were supervised and occupied for a little while so their parents could stand in line to make travel arrangements.

Both Hoovers adored children, and they would mentor them for the rest of their lives.

The Hoovers Change Careers

Within the first months of World War 1, neutral (!) Belgium was overrun by the German army, and millions were left homeless.

The American cash crisis was resolved fairly quickly, but no sooner than that crunch was over, a new crisis began. Belgium – a neutral nation – was overrun by German soldiers who trampled through and practically destroyed the country. Thousands of Belgians were made homeless; even more were starving, and winter was coming on.

The opportunity to be of service ignited the imaginations and consciences of both Herbert and Lou Hoover.

He would never again work as a mining consultant, and within the year, arranged for his business interests to be divested.

From that time on, he became a Humanitarian with a “capital H”, channeling all his energies and immense organizational talents into philanthropy on a grand scale.

And he never took a dime of public money in compensation for any of his services.



Mayer, Dale M. – Lou Henry Hoover, A Prototype for First Ladies – Nova History Publications, 2004

Smith, Richard Norton – An Uncommon Man: The Triumph of Herbert Hoover – Simon and Schuster, 1984

Pryor, Dr. Helen B. – Lou Henry Hoover: Gallant First Lady – Dodd Mead, 1969



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BARBRA STREISAND: On the Couch: A Book Review

In the introductory remarks, author Alma Bond noted that of the twenty-some books she has written during her long career, Barbra Streisand: On the Couch is her favorite. This is easy to understand. Dr. Bond, psychoanalyst with scores of years’ experience, is as natural as pie, with an unerring ear for style, cadences and voices.  It is an enjoyable and easy read!

As with her other “On the Couch” series of books, Dr. Bond, aka Darcy Dale, invents a thin ruse to bring the subject to her office for analysis. In the case of Barbra Streisand, the ploy is gossamer-thin: that she has spent a gazillion years and dollars in analysis and nobody has “helped her.” Helped her what? The truth is, of course, that Barbra Streisand needs “help” about as much as a corpse needs a transfusion. But hey, no ploy, no plot.

So in comes La Babs, a genuine star of the first magnitude, in the public eye for six decades mind you, with phenomenal talents on many fronts. So what is the overwhelming “problem” that brings her to Darcy Dale’s couch? We have no idea, other than the fact she likes to talk about herself. (This is generally indigenous to the high egos of stars of the first magnitude.)

Her Jewish childhood in Brooklyn was one step above miserable:  A distracted and distant mother, the usual poverty and the-kids-don’t-like-me, and a nasty and humiliating step-father (for a while).  Then there is her relentless focus on the natural father who had the temerity to die when she was a toddler. It has consumed her. Of course she know this; she is not stupid.

She is also not lacking in courage or insight. It takes huge insight (as well as musical gifts) to craft the phrasing for the songs she sings so well. She makes you believe every word of them. She also has near perfect-pitch in selecting the songs she sings.  Like Sinatra, she has had very few “oops” choices (and she likely knew it as she was choosing it).  This is no small accomplishment.  And the perfectionism with which she sweeps in and rules everything in her life is practically guaranteed to keep the kids from still not liking her.  More common to women than men, as we know.

Barbra Streisand soared to stardom by the time she was twenty, and never loosened her hold on the diva-role. Her hold on personal relationships is a different matter, and has never appeared to cause her internal angst or anything more than a temporary whine.

Her first marriage to fellow New Yorker Elliott Gould was an up-and-down love-hate story for a decade, and, as Barbra suspects (on the couch), under other circumstances, they might still be together. They are/were cut from the same New York-Jewish-kinda-tough cloth. They understand each other. Her current husband, James Brolin is also of that cloth. Their marriage in now into their second decade.

But between Elliott and Jim, The Divine Miss S. has had a string of fly-by-guys, boy-toys and assorted pals for a time. Few (scratch that to none) have been her equal in terms of talent, whether singing or acting or directorial or production. Or money. Their ability to maintain the relationship was more whether they could put up with her initials.

Her only absolute relationship (other than her work and fixating on the long-deceased father-with-a-halo) is her son Jason Gould. She seems obviously proud and delighted that he is gay and promiscuous, worrying only slightly because he is HIV positive and who knows what else. His father Elliott seems to have had little to do with his upbringing.

Then there is the political Barbra, outspoken and passionate about those issues she cares about. And, in her behalf, she is willing to put her money where her mouth is. Whether anyone really cares what she thinks (other than a candidate in need of cash) is open to conjecture. She is, of course, entitled to her various opinions. Listeners are, of course, entitled to tune out if desired.

The one thing Dr. Darcy Dale does not tackle, nor does Barbra herself, is dealing with her public confession of stage fright, which has kept her body of work (i.e. concerts, live theater and appearances) extremely small, considering nearly 60-years of fame and sincere talent. Unlike Judy Garland, another star of the first magnitude who thrived on live performances, Barbra shuns the stage or the arena.  She is a bona fide control freak by her own admission. She has an exacting and usually on-target sense of perfection. She obviously doesn’t wish to lose control for a moment, and you can’t reshoot a live performance. And she does not need the money.

If she wants to keep looking for the father she never had and imbuing him with sainthood according to Rabbi Barbra, she is also entitled. But it does get tiresome. One could picture Barbra and Pops meeting up by the Pearly Gates, where she is crushed to see that he has no halo, no harp and does not walk on water.

Barbra Streisand needs no shrink. She is the 600-pound gorilla. She can do what she wants. And Alma Bond, with her string of credits behind her, obviously knows this.

But Dr. Bond is a nifty and gifted writer, and long may she continue to find willing subjects for her always-delightful couch!


Barbra Streisand: On the Couch

Dr. Alma H. Bond

Bancroft Press, October 2017

ISBN-10: 1610882113

$25.92, Hardcover

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Ulysses S. Grant: The Appomattox Parole Perks

April 9, 1865 was arguably among the most important days in U.S. history.

U.S. Grant: The Surrender


General Lee surrenders to General Grant. It was over in an hour.

The Civil War had dragged on for four long years, and the casualty count was in the hundreds of thousands and would go higher. It had lasted far longer than anyone ever expected with casualties far more than anyone ever imagined.

Soldiers and civilians, North and South, were exhausted, but Union soldiers outnumbered the dwindling Confederates, both in manpower and supplies. That included food; it was rumored that their army was literally starving.

Lincoln met with his Generals only weeks before Lee surrendered. He outlined his policy for the surrender.

The war had gone beyond the point of diminishing returns. Thus it was with a heavy heart that Confederate General Robert E. Lee agreed to meet with Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, and finally end the horrible business.

The terms, according to the expressed policy of President Abraham Lincoln, were generous. Only a few weeks earlier, Lincoln had counseled his top generals to “let ’em up easy.”

Grant’s terms were simple: put down your arms, go home and fight no more. They would not be assailed. Ex-rebel soldiers would be paroled on law abiding behavior. General Lee asked and was granted another request: those who owned horses and mules could keep their personal property. Grant conceded the request; they would need their animals for spring planting. Lee said the terms would have a happy effect on his men.

It was all over in an hour.

The Paroles

All military is predicated on order, and even in surrender, order needed to be maintained and detailed records assiduously kept.

A parole for Channing M. Smith, courtesy of Chief Ernie Price at the Appomattox C.H. National Park.

Northern soldiers cranked out thousands of hastily printed parole slips on common, blue-lined notebook paper. They were simply worded, but required name, rank and signatures. Once completed and duly recorded, the now ex-rebels could make their way home.

Some of them lived close by. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia had been created from a large portion of native Virginians, although attrition and recruitment had added soldiers from the entire South over the years, even as far away as Texas.

Nevertheless, happy effect or not, some diehard Confederates refused to sign the paroles, and merely “slipped away,” or, as they claimed, “escaped from Appomattox.”

Grant’s Order #73

At the time of the surrender, it was common knowledge that the remnants of the Confederate Army was in dire straits. Food had been scarce for weeks. Expected supplies had been undelivered. Grant arranged rations to be sent to Lee’s encampments.

Union soldiers line up outside the McLean house in Appomattox Court House.

According to Ernie Price, Chief of Education and Visitor Services at Appomattox Court House NPS, one of the little known facts, are the terms of General Grant’s Order #73, which entitled the bearer of the parole to free transportation – a railroad ticket or steamship passage.

“All officers and men of the Confederate service paroled at Appomattox Court House, Va., who, to reach their homes, are compelled to pass through the lines of the Union armies, will be allowed to do so, and to pass free on all Government transports and military railroads.”

Mostly, they walked. They had become “professional walkers” over the course of the War, able to go twenty miles or more on foot – every day.

President Abraham Lincoln espoused “let ’em up easy” terms of surrender.

Splitting from their units, the former soldiers evolved into small groups of two or three or four, all going in the same direction, at least for a while.  Scores of them made their way to Danville, not far from Appomattox. Danville was a railroad hub, generally undamaged by fighting. Trains were still running South – and West. A few ran North to Baltimore where ships were available to go to Charleston or New Orleans or ports in between. A signed parole was all that was needed for free passage.

The Parole: Other Perks

The reverse side of a parole, indicating that additional items had been given to the parolee. Courtesy of Ernie Price at the Appomattox C.H. National Park.

Chief Price, an expert on the paroles, acknowledges that the existing physical papers are few and far between. Given the flimsy paper quality, the tucking away in pockets or haversacks, the sad remembrances and simply the passage of more than 150 years, they have become a rarity.

But he also acknowledged that in addition to transportation benefits, ex-Confederates could, if need be, apply at any Union-held commissary and receive food or clothing or shoes. The Chief explained that the ex-Rebel merely had to present the parole slip and a Union officer would sign the reverse indicating what had been provided. One such rarity noted that a bolt of denim cloth had been issued. (The soldier could then take the cloth to a local tailor and have a pair of pants made.)

He also noted that while food might be provided, ex-Confederates preferred to stop at farmhouses along the way. They were on their own home soil; many of the farms were still reasonably prosperous. Most families were generous; too many had lost sons or husbands or brothers. If they could spare the meal and provide a warm and dry place to spend the night, they were happy to open their homes and hearts.

Abraham Lincoln sincerely wanted the Union to be reunited as easily and gently and with as little hardship as possible. One could conjecture that had he lived, “reconstruction” might have been very different. Maybe.


Ernie Price, Chief of Education and Visitor Services at Appomattox Court House NPS

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George Washington and the Miracle at Newburgh

There are several versions of this story, but the essence is always the same.

The Yorktown Surrender

Most people think the American Revolution ended in 1781 when Cornwallis surrendered his Redcoat army to Washington in Yorktown. That is not exactly true.

George Washington accepting Lord Cornwallis’ sword. An symbolic-historic painting. Photography was decades in the future.

In October, 1781, after nearly seven years of fighting a motley bunch of American militiamen, Lord Charles Cornwallis found his British Army in an untenable situation: surrounded on three sides with his back to the Chesapeake Bay, now patrolled by the French Navy. There was no way out.

If effectively brought the British and Americans to the negotiating table, but it took nearly another two years before the war actually ended.

Since it also took weeks and months for the British to disband their armies and arrange for transportation home, the American army was still obliged to maintain its vigilance. Congress, still assembled in Philadelphia, was all but impotent, but had the good fortune in sending some of its finest (Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams) to Europe to represent what the new country could become. But Congress accomplished little else.

GW: General of a Nation

George Washington as General of the Colonial Army. The Revolutionary War would age him considerably.

Despite his ever-regretted lack of a classical education, George Washington (1732-1799) was an astute businessman of uncommon intelligence. His original espousal of American independence – back in the late 176os – was predicated on financial issues and trade. As one of the delegates to the First Continental Congress in 1774, he was notably the only delegate with actual military experience, albeit twenty years earlier.

Named Commander-in-Chief of the Colonial Army, Washington was another fortuitous choice on many fronts. Militarily, he was constantly outnumbered, outclassed and usually outperformed by the British redcoats. Occasionally he could outsmart them – but it was rare, and more likely just a good tactical retreat.

In a business and administrative sense however, he was second to none. His organization, his reporting, his attention to detail and his good judgment in selecting subordinate staff was superb. His management of his officers was excellent. He could also “out-politick”  a few grumblers determined to undermine.

Few understood better than General Washington how imperative it was to maintain sufficient forces during that interim when the formal papers were being discussed. He intuitively know that a weak and uncohesive group of thirteen ex-colonies could be easy picking for England (again) or even France in the foreseeable future.

Maintaining the Army and maintaining his command was essential. Much as he truly longed to be Cincinnatus, and much as he ached to return to Mount Vernon, he knew his physical presence was possibly the only thing holding the country together.

Poor Congress

Most historians concede that the representatives to Congress during the late years of the Revolutionary War could be considered the “second string” team. The thirteen separate colonies, now separate states, behaved exactly the way earlier leaders feared: separately. Not surprisingly, most of the problems focused on money and taxation. Washington had faced that problem at the outset, i.e. if the battle was fought in Massachusetts, Massachusetts was expected to pay for it. The concept of providing monies (taxes) to support other states was unacceptable.

Congress understood the problem, and its representatives duly voted for proportionate taxes – but the individual state governments did not oblige. General Washington spent huge amounts of his time trying to coerce wealthy and influential citizens to support the soldiers, who were always in need of food, clothing, weapons and forage for horses.


George Washington’s Headquarters in Newburgh, NY.

By 1782-3, the fragile United States were even more dis-united. George Washington once again cancelled his plan to return to Mount Vernon for a holiday in order to remain with the Army, now headquartered in Newburgh, NY, along the Hudson River.

Some of Washington’s officers.

The soldiers had not been paid for months. The paper money Congress had previously issued was worthless – “not worth a continental.” There were rumors that their promised pensions would be cancelled. The officers, the very backbone of the army, were disgruntled to a point of mutinous. Some of them called a meeting to plan a march to Philadelphia demanding payment by Congress. Washington was not “invited” to the meeting. He had always enjoyed the trust and respect of his officers; this was a serious matter: his ability to command was at stake.

There are many versions to the story, but the crux is always the same. George Washington spent much of the day carefully drafting his best arguments to persuade the officers of his genuine support and his continued influence to see they received justice, entreating them to be patient a little longer, and to trust their elected officials.  He also noted that all they had gained for their country could be irrevocably lost by behaving rashly.

John Adams’ eyeglasses from a decade later. Washington’s glasses were likely similar.

At the appointed hour of the ad hoc meeting, Washington, looking ever inch the General, strode unannounced into the front of the room. He was past fifty by then, having spend nearly 20% of his lifetime with the Army. He spoke briefly and to the point, and indicated that he had received a letter from Congress that he wished to read.

Then he fumbled in his waistcoat, doing something his officers had never seen him do before: he took out a pair of spectacles. Washington apologized, saying that he had “not only grown gray, but nearly blind in the service of his country.”

It is said that the officers were moved to tears at this singular personal confession from their marble-man General.

He had averted a mutiny.

He had provided a different kind of leadership.

He had become the indispensable man.

It may have been his finest moment.


Flexner, James T. – George Washington in the American Revolution 1775-1783 – Little Brown, 1968

Lengel, Edward G. – General George Washington: A Military Life – Random House, 2005


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