Monday, November 25, 2019

Col. Tom Vossler, former commander of 4/41st Infantry

Racism is cancer for the United States


Racism has been interwoven into the American experience since there was a United States and well before. In reality, this is not news for anyone of any color in this nation. Black and brown peoples are fed up with this status quo, and I have to say I do not blame them. Meanwhile, whites are always talking about 'more time' for acceptance. Well, it's been 250 years, and that is long enough for anything to be done.

  But, it isn't.

  Usually I write about military affairs, generally speaking, but racism is as much a military challenge as the most important project of any service. Of course, in my opinion, the U.S. Armed Forces have been better, by and large, at changing attitudes than most any other institution in the United States.

  Here is the problem, though. Young men and women enter the service. Every soldier, sailor, airmen or marine has rights, responsibilities and priviledges. Rights are those things that cannot be taken away; responsibilities are those things that must be done; and priviledges are things people earm but can be taken away. In my opinion, the military way of life is a better one than offered outside of it. Then, people exit the military, at some point.

  In many places in this country, attitudes about race have brought peoples to the brink of violence, mayhem and disorder. And, there have been many cases of actual violence. Some Americans are consumed by the groups of people they hate and are more than willing to act on it. Regarding this, quite frankly, it is the whites who have mroe guns, more priviledge and the least amount of governmental oversight. This is despite the fact that there have been more incidents of white violence against minorities than the other way around.
  Here it is, here is the point: If the United States cannot get over its racial problems, if it cannot heal then the nation, our republic, will not stand forever. If someone wants "...make America great..." they can positively contribute to this ongoing public discussion in positive ways. Americans cannot make America great agains...because racism has been the single issue that has kept this country and people divided.

  There have always been voices of division, of hate. They most often appear in politics, the religious pulpit, in manifestos and propoganda, even from those in high office. It is not only ignorant, uneducated men and women who spread hate, though they are its foot soldiers. Yet it is those who use their office to spread hate that are truly the cancers of the nation. There is no end in sight about these people, though.

  A man or woman should be judged by the content of their character and not the color of their skin. As simple as that sounds, America still cannot get that right. It's incredible, really. A blind man could see this is a fact, but this is a fact that is struggled about.

  The military and other institutions have done better than most. It's still not enough, because the disease of racism is running through the life's blood of the United States. 'Think globally, act locally' is a wonderful saying. There are so many people who love to spout wonderful sayings. It's living up to those sayings that takes some character.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Joe Azzolina Tribute

A dear friend. The late NJ Sen. and USNR Capt. Joe Azzolina, in a tribute that is far too brief. He was a good politician for people of both parties, though he was Republican. Mr. Azzolina served as both a State Senator and as an Assemblyman, respectively. He was an entrepreneur who employed many people in Central New Jersey. And, he served his country in World War II, in the North Atlantic with the U.S. Navy and for many years after in the Reserves. He was a great family man and a wonderful mentor. He really made a mark in this world, and left the world better than he found it. That is the best anyone can do, in my opinion.

The Battle Of Saint Lo: WW2

I am a bit biased in presenting this battle. My father, James J. Purcell, Sr. fought in this fight. And, thank God, he came out the other end. For my late Pops, thanks for your service, Sir.

The Purcell Chonicles Advances on 175K Views


The Purcell Chronicles were established in September, 2013 by myself. It is an outlet for my writing and for the news that I find important in the area of the military, be that current military advances or military history. I also post some general news here, as well as some things about the arts and education. Since that time, The Purcell Chronicles have garnered more than 173,000 views and it's homing in on 175,000.

Who ever thinks that a site like this will draw regular readership? I didn't when it started. Yet, I have tried to post works that had meaning, whether they were my own works or those of quality contributors to YouTube. This site has been, and will always be, 'family friendly,' which means you will not find nudity or foul language here.

As always, this site is not paid, it earns no money. It never will. This site is my hobby and that is all. Still, I take a great deal of pride in being a regular stop for so many people around the globe. Thank you for coming, it is very appreciated. Please keep on doing so.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

World War II and its Sacrifices Echo Through History


I have been warching Ken Burns' World War II documentary.

   It reminds me of dynamics in my parent's home during my upbringing. My Dad, James Sr., was born in 1919. My Dad's brother, David, was born in 1921. When World War II happened, my Dad was already in the NJ Army National Guard, so he was federalized in 1939. Meanwhile, my uncle waited until 1942 to jon the United States Navy.

   Along the way, relatives my Dad's age joined other branches of the service: my Uncle Johnny joined the 8th Air Force as a ball turrett gunner; my Uncle Bill joined the Marines and was destined to become a mud marine in the Pacific and my Uncle Harry joined the Tank Killers in North Africa.

   God was good to my family, largely. Everyone came home, with the exception of my Uncle David, who perished in the waters off Anzio, ferrying soldiers back and forth from Navy warships off the coast.

   Meanwhile, my Dad experienced D-Day, June 6, 1944 and the war to take Berlin. Uncle Johnny survived 19 missions to become a decorated veteran of the air campaign in Western Europe. Wounded, Unle Harry came home after being wounded in North Africa. And, Uncle Bill left a big chunck of hmself at Iwo Jima, where he received the iron plate in his head. But...David never came home.

   Though my family was close when I was young, I do not think anyone ever got over the fact that my Uncle David, youngest of the bunch who went to war, did not come back. As such, the 35 years after were more like a wake than a meeting of family on holidays. And, I understood it and still do.

   But, all families gave some...some gave all. And, Americans dealt with it because we would either win that war or lose our country.

   In the years after, the country remains entangled in wars around the globe. Yet, America does not seemed interested in winning these wars. In fact, most Americans seem to want them perpetuated with no end in sight.

   As for me, I find this unjust to all those who have fallen in the Amerian wars after 2001. And, I find myself more and more wishing that the late President Franklin Roosevelt as the commander-in-chief, as opposed to the office holders e have today.

Drill Instructor School

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Thoughts About The Military and Institutionalization

All of the branches of the military, the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard, are institutions with traditions and sets of expectations for any of their members. It does not matter if someone is the lowest private or a five-star general, the military have expectations for everyone in their uniforms.

   If someone cannot adapt to the military and its tons of rules, this usually happens in early training for recruits, then those recruits are undoubtedly separated from the military on the grounds of "failure to adapt." And, I do not see a stigma associated with this kind of exit from military service. Being a soldier, sailor, airman or marine is just not for everyone. Not everyone can fit in under the conditions the military presents. Unfortunately for both the service involved and the recruit, it is impossible to know who can or cannot adapt to military life without being immersed in a military environment.

   Some people rise to the challenge and find something about the military and its regimentation that they like. Meanwhile, others will find they are uncomfortable in uniform and, for whatever reason, they balk at being able to serve or rendering satisfactory service.

   Well, I've discussed something about those who fail to adapt to military life, but then there are those people who do adapt. For someone to adapt to military life, in any service, they must accept that other people, with more rank and seniority to them, will control their lives a great deal (basically 24 hours per day), and any direct statement or failure to obey an order (be it spoken or written) is punishable in some way or other. So, to be a well-adjusted member of the military, there is the fundamental understanding by individuals that they might be able to request certain things but, ultimately, their lives and most of the decisions in their lives are being made by other people. The only choice the service member has is either to A. Obey their orders and do the 'right thing,' or B. Buck the system and do things their own way.

   Of course, bucking the system leads to a series of bad things that no reasonable person would want to experience, because disobeying orders or breaking civil or military laws while a service member can carry extremely long prison sentences (and there is no parole in the Federal system). So, everyone who successfully adapts to the military exclude, for the most part, bucking the system and doing things their own way.
At a certain point, service members get on-board with
their respective services' rules and regulations.

   I can speak to life in the Army, which I served in during the early 1980s to early 1990s. To begin with, basic enlistments for recruits, in my day, were two, three or four years. The state of communications technology had not reached the level of cell phones and computer chats yet. Thus, whenever a soldier was in the field or doing some other chore away from their family, they had to rely on the telephone and/or writing letters. It seems rather prehistoric today, but the world still managed to turn without 24/7 access to everyone in one's life. This means a certain amount of sacrifice was going to be experienced by everyone in the Army (who happened to do what I did for a living in the service). The choice, again, was either do it or do not.

   So, there is this series of events, every single day, where someone either chose to go along with their service or did not. After successfully adjusting to the service, the notion that someone actually has a choice fades away from the individual. And, by this time, the soldier is 'adapted' to the service.

   What does that even mean...'adapted'?

   I can speak to my experience. As an example, a private in an infantry unit has a team leader who is responsible for him or her. They certainly have a squad leader who is very prominent in their lives, and they are responsible for not only that private but all the privates and team leaders in their squad. A team leader can be a corporal or a sergeant, while a squad leader is generally a sergeant or staff sergeant. The squad leader will ensure that everyone is where they are supposed to be, when they are supposed to be there, and prepared for whatever it is that the unit is doing.

   Aside from their strictly military duties, team leaders and squad leaders are responsible for the general welfare of everyone under their command. I am using team leaders and squad leaders, but really every link in a soldier's chain of command is responsible for the military performance and general welfare of every single person under their command. The squad level is a good way to illustrate this, in my opinion.

   When the private eats in the morning, they are called from sleep and expected to be in a physical training uniform formation. They will be led through exercises, then they will be dismissed to attend to hygiene and such. Then, they will be told where they can go eat and when. The private will then do whatever he or she is told to do until lunch, when they are told when and where to eat again. This process will repeat itself again for dinner. The release of the private from a day's duty is not guaranteed....if they have to perform some duty stipulated by their leadership then they do that, and subordinate whatever they want for whatever is needed.

   At no point here am I making a value judgement. Leading organized lives can generally be a very good thing.

   The squad leader has a right to make sure those under his or her command are keeping their rooms as expected by the service, that they perform to certain levels needed for military training, they are even responsible for the state of a soldier's dress and their hygiene, as well as their general welfare. If a soldier has a legal problem, then he or she is referred to Army lawyers, if they are sick they report to Army medical personnel, if they have a problem with their pay then they are referred to finance specialists. There is a different expert on hand to take care of any need a service member has. All they have to do is what is expected of them in that infantry team.

   Getting used to this reality means someone has become comfortable in that institution, and by 'comfortable' I mean they are institutionalized. What are the 'up' sides and 'down' sides of this institutionalization? Well, that becomes a political conversation filled with speculation. I go so far as to say every single service member who fulfilled even one enlistment in a branch of the military service was, indeed, institutionalized.

-- Jim Purcell

Friday, June 21, 2019

Old Grudges Are Like Clothes That Don't Fit Anymore

I was on Facebook and happened to notice that a mutual friend was 'friends' with an old master sergeant I used to work for when I was in the Army. Well, this guy I used to work for gave me a pretty hard time, for one reason or another. I thought he was a pretty terrible NCO actually, which was a shame given he retired as a Sergeant Major. 

   Well, I took a look at his old, wizened mug and found I didn't really feel that old grudge anymore. That was remarkable, really, given that for a good 10 years after my service I would not have minded at all if I saw him slip and fall on a banana peel and take a header onto a good, hard concrete sidewalk. 

   With time comes patience, though, and perspective. All the good and all the bad happens to people for a reason, I think. All kinds of experiences make us the people we are. And, each experience gives us a chance to grow, if we want to do it. 

   No one knows what tomorrow brings. The future is unwritten, and brings new opportunities with it. As I see it, there isn't nearly enough time to live in the present and the past at the same time. So, I have chosen to live in the present, with all the promise it brings. 

   I suppose that living with old grudges is a lot like keeping clothes around your house that do not fit anymore. They serve no purpose, take up room you can use for something else and no one ever regrets getting rid of them. 

-- Jim Purcell

Thursday, June 20, 2019

The Question of History, Politics and National Unity


I am not going to lecture Democrats, Independents and Republicans out there. There has been quite enough of that for long years. Instead, I am going to talk about American history.

   How will America piece itself back together from the many sociological, religious and political fractures that have formed in recent years? Is it even possible?

   It better be, because the lack of cohesion our nation is experiencing today is nothing short of a road to ruin for our nation and its people.

   Anything great America has achieved has been when its people were unified, sans the Civil War, of course.

   Yet, in all of the great wars America has fought and won, especially World War II, it was not Democrats or Republicans who won victory. It was Americans of every race, creed and color. And, it will not be any one race of men and women who will chart a course to success for the nation.

   When American industry was the greatest in the world, and when the American worker established the highest standard of living on the planet, it was not because businesses turned their back on their nation and headed for places where slave labor thrived.

   Today, in this post-modern world of ours, Americans cannot even agree on what is or is not news of the day. The phrase "fake news" has been introduced into our lexicon of language. And, this idea has been caustic.

   I spent almost 20 years in the news business. Of course, back then, 'news' was mostly reported in newspapers. It was a craft, one that took someone years to learn. And, it was not entirely taught in colleges. Mostly, this craft was taught in newsrooms, where would-be reporters started by being assistants in the Editorial Department. They were given more responsibility, based on their performance, and eventually they might -- might -- be allowed to start writing something.

   It is not that way anymore. News is reported by anyone with a computer and a smart phone. It is no longer a craft, but a hobby for political advocates. Yes, there are still some major, credible news outlets. But the science behind news, and the ethical concerns so present during my years, is no longer anchored to news anywhere. Is it the Internet's fault? Well, that would be like blaming the sky for airplane accidents.

   The point is that Americans have ceased to have a set of facts in common about their politics, taxes, wars and laws. This is because if the news can no longer be believed, then people will believe what they want instead. And, this does nothing to help national unity.

   I will say, though, that 'traditional American values' should not be so interpretive as they are being spouted today. America has traditionally spurned foreign interventions. Americans have been at odds with Russian Bolsheviks and Chinese Communists since their inception. Yes, during World War II, common enemies turned these countries and America into temporary allies. But, these nation's leaders are not our 'friends' and association between American leaders and foreign nationals should be scrutinized with a critical eye at all times.

   It is not 'collusion' to be too deeply in the pockets and debt of foreigners. It is un-American, and possibly treason. The word 'treason' has been modified from its original meaning also. Where once treason was disloyalty to our nation, today this word is being applied to Americans who happen to not agree with certain political parties. I would under-score that disagreeing with those in power is far from treason or the Women's Suffrage and Civil Rights movements, in their times, would have been treasonous institutions...and they were not and are not.

   Founding brothers John Adams and Thomas Jefferson coined foul play between political parties. Inter-party rivalry and resorting to lies and innuendo is not new under the American sun. Yet, while politicians have always vied for power and fractured trust during election seasons, they have never before left the people fragmented after our elected representatives have been sworn in. This is a critique today, because the American people are as divided as any time they have ever been.

   Today, America faces multi-front wars from Africa to Southwestern Asia, and has been at war with some of these rivals for 20 years or more. America now finds it acceptable to fight 'never-ending wars.' How can this be a good idea? How does this solve the issue of having a strategic reserve on hand -- in case our rivals Russia and/or China ever decide to test American will. Our nation is too engaged in many minor wars to be able to effectively halt the Red Bear or the Chinese Colossus.

   Men and women of every race, creed and color serve this country in its uniforms, and place their lives in the hands of our nation's decision-makers ever single day. It does not take a well-trained eye to notice that, militarily, this nation is a ship adrift. And, it has been for a long time. I will say it simply, America cannot be strong and be fighting a never-ending war. War is where strength is weakened, not where it grows. It is not just the lack of funds that weakens the military, it is regular use in war that has no end.

   It is the 21st century and, rather than facing new challenges associated with our progress, Americans have decided to renew the domestic battles of old regarding equal justice, women's rights, immigration and governmental corruption. The world's technology has out-paced the growth of our national unity. And, this is a dangerous thing.

   Is it because Americans believe in nothing anymore? They believe in no institution, no leader, no rules of God? Or, have Americans projected their wants and desires onto these things in the hopes that they might be at peace? I don't know. But, I know if our nation does not stop measuring itself by labels and false platitudes then we will suffer for it and find our times of great achievement only in history books.



Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Veteran Suicides Explained

The creator of this video did a great job with numbers. However, he had some subjective political comments here that were, I think, not necessary. With that said, I believe he outlines the problems with veteran suicides very well. And, there is good information here and there is opinion. I suggest viewers take what they want from this and leave the rest.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

OP/ED: It's Time to Take a Hard Look in the Mirror


Usually, I stick to writing history. It is popular and, largely speaking, non-controversial. But, I have not found an interest, as of late, in writing about what has happened and, in this post, would rather speak about what is going on right now.

   Slaves were technically freed during the Civil War (1861-1865). Yet, thanks to Jim Crow laws in the Deep South for a generation, that freedom was not a freedom in fact; it was freedom in theory. Thanks to presients John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, during the 1960s, significant advancements in bridging divides were made on paper. And, for many decades afterward, though far from equal, American Blacks came closer to equality than ever before.
   Yet, that is not the case today. Large steps have been taken backward in the fight for equality. Of course, the same could be said of the acceptance of immigrants from Latin America.

   Illegal iimmigrants are being looked at as something less than human. They are being killed indiscriminately, their children are being forever separated from them at the behest of this nation and even the Government admits it is unlikely those separated families will ever be reunited. And, there are the abuses reported about immigrant children under Government protection. Yet, some of those childen have died, some have been sexually assaulted and all of them have been traumatized.

   Even if these people are illegal, they are after all still human. And, in practice, the United States is giving a whole new generation of people a pretty good reason to hate America and, one day, perhaps strike out at us all. If there was some good reason to so oppress these people, if indeed there is a reason to oppress any peoples, then there might be some valie to it. But, these people are being abused just so politicians can look good for the cameras and say 'I'm doing something.' This conduct is so against everything that the United States stand for that it is almost uncomprehensible.

   White Nationalism is on the rise because there is a deluded white minority that believes people of color will accept being stripped of their actual citizenships based on race or creed, religion or country of origin. This is nonsense. Either America will learn to accept the many colors of its national mosaic or there will be ever-increasing division.

   America cannot be a 'Christian Nation' if it refuses to behave governmentally as a Christian people. Creating false stratas of people is also well under way, which means that the poor are looked down upon, the aged are losing their Social Security benefits sowly but surely and the most vulnerable populations of our country are being abandoned, or arbitrarily jailed. Folks, this is no way to run a nation, especially one that claims to hold the high ground on just about anything.

   There is no chance that people of color will be put back in their place. This notion offends not only people of color, but the majority of whites as well. There has been more than enough historical drama over skin color. If anything it needs to end entirely and not be carried on for future generations.

   Meanwhile, declaring war on the poor, the aged and the vulnerable will not stand, cannot stand. Yes, we are a nation of laws...but those laws should not be made by bigots and fringe radicals in the society.

   God made people to share this world. He/She did not appoint a better race or a better people. I think it is time to put a little more 'Christ' in 'Christian.' Because whatever we are collectively doing right now isn't working very well at all, and above all it lacks reason or sense.

Friday, April 19, 2019

TENACITY: Women in Jamestown and Early Virginia

TENACITY: Women in Jamestown and Early Virginia - History Is Fun: Jamestown Settlement Women’s roles in the events of early Virginia history were rarely recorded. History gives us only fragments of their lives – a name here, a date of arrival there, a court case, a marriage or a death. Some of their stories have never been told.  “TENACITY: Women in Jamestown and Early Virginia,” a special …

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

Goose the Cat in 'Captain Marvel': To Flerken or Not to Flerken?


For Ms. Marvel fans, Carol Danvers' beloved sidekick was formerly known as "Chewie," a "Star Wars" reference that was the monicker for a Flerken from Earth 58163. But can a cat become a Flerken? Nope. It's the other way around. A Flerken is a highly intelligent creature with fangs and tentacles that takes the form of a housecat. 

   Big differences between Flerkens and cats? Aside from the whole tentacles and enormous fangs thing, cats do not lay eggs to reproduce and they are not incredibly rare. So, where do Flerkens keep their fangs, tentacles, etc. when they are not using them? Pocket dimensions, of course...Marvel fans have long ago learn to expect the unexpected.

   "Chewie" first graced the pages of Marvel alongside her galactic hero bestie in 2006, in "Giant Size Ms. Marvel #1." Perhaps because of the upcoming sequel to the 1980s box office smash "Top Gun," titled "Top Gun: Maverick" due out in June, 2020,  Chewie received a name-change in favor of Top Gun's ill-fated, albeit beloved co-pilot LTJG Nick "Goose" Bradshaw.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Iron Man’s Female Successor Could Be Ironheart


Everyone knows and loves Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man. He's been a reliable draw and box office breaker for the MCU for nine movies now: "Iron Man," his cameo in "The Incredible Hulk," "Iron Man 2," "The Avengers: Age of Ultron," "Captain America: Civil War," "Spider-Man: Homecoming" and, of course, "Avengers: Infinity War."

   Downey has one more film on his contract, which is "Avengers: Endgame." And, that's all he's signed for. Downey has been playing the iron Avenger since 2008, 11 years ago and gosh only knows how many billions of dollars later for the franchise.

   Something that most people forget about Downey is that, born in 1965, he is 53 years old. That means he has been eligible to join AARP for the past three years. While age has not been a problem so far, it would no doubt start becoming an issue not too long from now. So, it isn't really a gamble for either Downey or the studio to part ways after a mega-successful relationship that has garnered acclaim for both actor and studio.

   But, what next?

   Regardless of who comes and goes, the fixture that is Iron Man is going to need to stay. There are all kinds of theories out there. Here is mine.

   Ironheart, a.k.a. Riri Williams, was born on the pages of Marvel in May 2016 within "Invincible Iron Man" Vol. 2, No. 7. Williams went on to become a full-fledged character a few issues later, in "Invincible Iron Man" Vol. 2, No. 9. But, what's the big deal about Wiliams?

   Forget about the fact that Williams is a black woman, which can bring new fans to the MCU. She is introduced as a 15-year-old engineering student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who lives with her mother and aunt. She ends up building her own design of Iron Man's suit with items she aquired at school.

   So, instead of another 'traditional' brilliant guy (e.g. Hank Pym, Tony Stark and Bruce Banner), the reality of life comes closer to the surface that, in Avengers world or any other, brilliance comes from all backgrounds. On top of that, Williams could bring a younger demographic to the Iron Man franchise, along with more diversity.

   On top of that, being 15 years old, age issues going into the future go away entirely. There are plenty of incredible actresses out there that could turn the next phase of Iron Man into a Golden Age as Williams.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Wonder Woman: A '70s TV Success and a 2017 Big Screen Smash


When I was a kid, the two shows I would never miss during the week were "Charlie's Angels" and "Wonder Woman" (1975-1979). But, between the two of them, "Wonder Woman" and Linda Carter were more important than anything else. Today, the role has been inherited by Gal Gadot and the franchise is killing at the box office, deservedly so.

   With the trainwreck that was the "Justice League" in 2017, which only earned $229,024,295 domestically during November, I suppose it mens that Wonder Woman is going to have to go it alone for at least awhile until someone saves the JL universe with a new idea.

   Meanwhile, "Wonder Woman" knotted $412,563,408, released during June 2017, and garnered an additional $409,293,603 overseas. With a production budget of $149 million, it's safe to say that "Wonder Woman" won the DCU match-race.

   The next "Wonder Woman," which isn't being termed a "sequel" by the production company, will be set in 1984. The movie will reunite Gal Gadot and Chris Pine with director Patty Jenkins.

   According to USA Today, "Wonder Woman 2" (the non-sequel sequel) will be released on June 5, 2020. However, this is the third release date that has been given by the studio. Previously, "Wonder Woman 2" had been announced to release on Nov. 1, 2019 and, even later, on Dec. 13, 2019. So, count on the next Wonder Woman in June...for now.

   My question is what time travel scenario is going to allow Pine to portray "Steve Trevor" again, 70 years after his World War I heroics? Meanwhile, what happened that was so important during the 1980s? I was there and it was a lot of fun but it wasn't near as interesting as the '40s, '50s or '60s. Basically, the decade focused on cool music and big hair. But, I guess the Wonder Woman team has its finger on the pulse following its recent smash.

   I think what made "Wonder Woman" a hit on the small screen during the '70s and a hit on the big screen recently has some things in common. During the '70s, television execs read the mood in the country and gave them an authentic hero who had clear storylines and healthy heapings of action. The same can be said of the current "Wonder Woman," though her character development is more indepth and the action is both more believable and more frequent.

   So, in the battle of the Wonder Women who did it better? Well, Linda Carter was a woman of her time and fit the bill 50 years ago and perhaps the only actress who could have stunned at the role now was Gadot.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

'Middletown Mike' Columnist Mike Morris

Columnist Mike Morris introduces himself to the Internet -- several years ago. Mike, you have had a great run, all the best.

Sunday, February 24, 2019



The Confederate States of America's chances of winning the Civil War diminished substantially after July 3, 1863. It was then that the Army of Northern Virginia, commanded by Gen. Robert E. Lee, retreated southward after a devastating loss at the hands of Major General George G. Meade's Army of the Potomac at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. 
Camp Sumter, a.k.a. Andersonville Prison

   By the time that the camp was liberated, in May 1865, it had earned a reputation as a notoriously dangerous place for Union prisoners.

   The distinct possibility that their cause might be lost did not deter the CSA's leadership from opening up an enemy prisoner of war camp, near Andersonville, Georgia, named Camp Sumter, also known as the infanous Andersonville Prison, in February 1864.

   During the war, Camp Sumter held 45,000 Union Army prisoners of war. At the time of its liberation, prisoner deaths totaled 13,000. This occurred, in large part, due to unsanitary living conditions, scurvy, diarrhea, dysentery and starvation. Some prisoners were chained, starved, beaten, clubbed or outright shot.

   The one and only commanding officer of the camp was Capt. Henry Wirz, who was executed for war crimes at the conclusion of the war.

   The prison camp originally spanned 16.5 acres, enclosed by a 15-foot high fence. In June of 1864, the camp was expanded to 26.5 acres.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

The U.S. Military Has Always Been Most-Trusted Arm of Government


No one believes in Government 100 percent anymore. Some people used to. Most don't believe in the Church anymore. There is a lack of confidence in the Executive, Legislative...even the Judicial branches. They lack credibility in the minds of many. Credibility is the ability to believe what someone says, and maybe the last thing...the very last thing that Americans believe in is the uniformed, military services.

   The Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard, and their Reserve and National Guard components, still have the confidence of many, many Americans. Myself among them. And, that credibility the military enjoys is built upon the granite foundation that those services, including their leaders at all levels, are devoid of political partisanship, graft, deceit or poor judgement. Thank God for this, because there is something people can believe in, after all.

   A Coast Guard lieutenant was arrested recently on charges of being a domestic terrorist, who espoused white nationalism. Thank God he didn't kill anyone. There was an incident years back when another captain, a Muslim health care professional in the Army, murdered several military members for the sake of "Jihad," the Arab version of 'Holy War.' These things shake the confidence of people, especially given the fact that both of the instances I brough up involved commissioned officers.

   I was a soldier for many years (Active and Reserve). I was a non-commissioned officer (a sergeant) and during my tenure I served in the Infantry and Intelligence branches, respectively.  My Dad and uncles were in World War II. My cousins served in Vietnam. So, i know something of what I am talking about.

U.S. Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast 
Guardsmen Aren't Supposed to Express Political Opinions

   Service in the military is a job and a public expression of belief in one's government. The military defends the rights of people to have the liberties they enjoy in the United States. However, the military does not participate in those liberties fully -- and they do this voluntarily by signing a contract with the respective services. In that contract, it is made clear that they will execute the orers of those appointed over them. In fact, every member of the military not only signs a contract about this but they also swear an oath to that effect.

   The military does not operate as a democracy. It is a constitutional oligarchy, elites (officers and senior NCOs) run it based on rank. Its administration and healthcare is an example of functional communism. There are people who do not like those words, but that doesn't change facts. The military serves at the behest of the civilian government, and anything else would make our military a part of the problem.

   Yet, inasmuch as the military serves the civilian government, it cannot be a part of the partisan dickerings that surround the civilian government. Why? Well, Republicans and Democrats may get elected to office and high office, but they are not above corruption, the failure of logic or pettiness. And, if the military becomes any of those things then we all lose this country. We lose it all.

   Since this republic, our Great Experiment in democracy, began we have had good executive leaders (presidents) and we have had bad ones. Yet, the republic goes on because the most powerful elected person in this country cannot be a dictator -- cannot become a king. Why? Because the Founders of this nation created a government with a series of formal checks and balances. The military has no place in government, other than to fulfill its narrow, necessary duties. If any of that ever changed, the United States would be no better than the Third World tyrannies that litter this world like so much refuse.

Why is All This Important?

   A lot of good people haave died since 1775 to make sure that neither conservatives or liberals or whomever else ran this country as they exclusively saw fit. The media was created in the United States to be another, more informal means of check-and-balance against governmental corruption and abuse. So, once the media is taken out of the picture -- well -- the picture isn't that clear from the outside now, is it?

   If the three branches of Government cannot be trusted, if the Church cannot be trusted by many, if the media cannot be trusted...then the military is the only clean thing left in this country. And, soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen are the only ones who can keep it that way, by doing nothing more than fulfilling their oathes, written and spoken, and being a part of the solution and not adding to the problems in this nation.

 (Jim Purcell is a former weekly newspaper publisher in New Jersey. He previously served in the U.S. Army and received his graduate degree from the New York Theological Seminary, in New York. He is retired and currently resides in Western North Carolina with his wife.)

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Civil War General Killed His Superior Officer


Anyone who has ever served in uniform, during any era or age, can remember that one superior that they would have loved to have seen knocked off. But, they did not do it for a lot of reasons, chief among them it is wrong and that's it. However, Union Brevet Major General Jeffferson Columbus Davis didn't seem to get that memo in 1862, when he murdered General William "Bull" Nelson after an altercation at a hotel in Louisville, Kentucky. 
Major General Jefferson C. Davis

   At the outset of the Civil War, Jefferson C. Davis (March 2, 1828 - November 30, 1879) was already a seasoned soldier who had distinguished himself during the War in Mexico (1846-1848). He had signed up as a private and, through distinguished service, he received the rank of sergeant. Before the end of the Mexican Campaign, he had obtained a battlefield commission to the rank of second lieutenant.

The Civil War
   When the Civil War (1861-1865) broke out, Davis was a first lieutenant in the garrison at Fort Sumter. He was actually present for the Confederate bombing of the installation. The following month, he was promoted to the rank of captain. At Sumter, Davis' duties were largely administrative and logistical. However, with the war just beginning, Davis was given command of the 22nd Indiana Regiment, and promoted to the rank of full colonel.

   By August, Davis replaced then-Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant as commander of Union forces in northwest Missouri. He took over the 3rd Division in the Army of the Southwest and attacked Confederate forces in southern Missouri and drove them back into Arkansas after his victory at Pea Ridge, and was rewarded with being promoted to brevet brigadier general for his efforts.

   Following his success with the 3rd Division, he was given command of the 4th Division and oversaw the month-long siege of Corinth, Mississippi, in May 1862.

Gen. Nelson's murder made headlines

Taking Leave 
   By the end of August, 1862, Davis was exhausted and had become ill from lack of sleep, stress and a poor diet. Accordingly, the battle-hardened general was given two weeks leave from the Army of the Mississippi.

   Davis intended to return to his native Indiana for some rest and relaxation. However, he could never have expected the Confederate Army would make a new push, with Major General Edmund Smith and General Braxton Bragg, each commanding an army, sweeping Union forces out of Kentucky by attacking into both Kentucky and Tennessee.

Where the Trouble Began
   In order to respond to the new threats offered by Smith and Bragg, Union Brigadier General Don Carolos Buell was forced to split his force. Buell took half of his Army of the Ohio into Tennessee, where he would attack Chattanooga. Meanwhile, thee hundred miles of rail lines lay between Chattanooga and Louisville, Kentucky. And, Confederate forces were busy tearing up those tracks at a fast pace. Accordingly, Buell sent a large slice of his command, under the command of General William "Bull" Nelson (September 27, 1824 - September 29, 1862) to stop the rebel advances and preserve the rail line.

   After a string of Confederate victories, not the least of which being the rebel win at Richmond, Virginia on August 29-30, Davis was aware of the precarious situation the Union Army was in. So, he traveled from his home to Cincinnati, Ohio, where he reported to Major General Horatio Wright. In turn, Wright dispatched Davis to Louisville, where his mission was to arm the town's citizenry and prepare its defense. In addition, he was ordered to report to Nelson.
Gen. Wm. Nelson

   Two days after he had reported to Nelson, Davis was summoned to the Galt House by Nelson. The burly Nelson was dissatisfied with the contribution Davis made to preparing Lousiville's defenses. Meanwhile, Davis was incensed that Nelson was not treating him as his rank demanded. So, Nelson relieved Davis of his command and sent the veteran commander back to Cincinnati, where he reported to Wright again.

The Day of the Killing
   Two days after the altercation between Nelson and Davis, Davis returned to Louisville, where he demanded an apology from Nelson. To this demand Nelson said, "Go away you damned puppy, I don't want anything to do with you." Then, Davis reached for a piece of paper, crumpled it up and threw it at Nelson. In return, the much-larger Nelson stepped forward and struck Davis with the back of his hand.

   Angry and indignant about the disrespect Nelson had shown him, Davis left the hotel and borrowed a pistol from a friend. He then returned and shot Nelson in the chest, striking his heart. Nelson struggled for some moments, but ultimately fell dead. Davis shot Nelson at 8 a.m. and by 8:30 a.m. he was dead.

A Word About Nelson
   Nelson was not, by training, a soldier. In fact, up until the Civil War, Nelson had served as a career naval officer. Nelson was enrolled at Norwich University, in Vermont, at the age of 13. Two years after that, he was made a midshipman and was assigned aboard the USS Delaware. For the next five years, Nelson served as a junior officer at sea.
MG Horatio Wright saved Gen. Davis

   In 1845, Nelson went on to attend the first-ever class at the United States Naval Academy, in Annapolis, Maryland. He graduated from Annapolis in 1846, and earned the rank of passed midshipman. At the time the Civil War broke out, Nelson was an ordnance officer, holding the rank of lieutenant commander at the Washington Navy Yard.

   Two days after the onset of the war, though, Nelson presented himself to President Abraham Lincoln, with a proposal to arm Kentucky Unionists. And, that is how a U.S. Navy officer became a general in the Union Army.

Davis Faces the Music
   After Davis shot Nelson to death, he did not run or hide, protest or shift responsibility. He was taken into custoday and placed under arrest at an upstairs room of the Galt House. He was not bound or a guard used to keep him in custody.

   Upon questioning, Davis admitted that he wanted to publicly confront Nelson for the indignity of their prior conversation. However, he did not expect the slap that he received from his superior. Consequently, Davis did not attempt to use any legal afeguards, as was his right as a general officer.

   Buell wanted Davis to be executed on the spot. But, it was Wright who came to the assistance of Davis. Indeed, Davis was notified he was no longer under arrest on Oct. 13, 1862. As it turned out, the Union was in dire need of competent combat commanders, of which Davis was one.

   During those days in the Army, a soldier had 45 days to be charged following an alleged criminal incident. In short, 45 days came and went and there was no warrant for the arrest of Davis

   Davis went on to a very successful military career during and after the Civil War. As one of Lieutenant General William T. Sherman's favorite division commanders, he played a pivotal role in later campaigns, especially the Battle of Atlanta. After the war, Davis rose to become commander of the Department of Alaska and later the Department of Vancouver, respectively.
MG Don Carlos Buell wanted Davis executed

   However, Nelson never had justice done for his murder. The Union was on the brink of destruction during 1862 and every experienced fighting general, particularly the ones who were successul against the Confederate onslaught, were too valuable of a commodity to execute or imprison. While this is not an excuse for the actions of Davis, it is a reason to keep him in the war.

   Despite his long service in the U.S. Navy, Nelson was a relative outsider in the Army. Between West Point graduates and veterans of the Mexican-American War, the Army's officer corps was a tight-knit group. Though Davis was not a West Pointer, he had certainly 'earned his spurs' in combat and had managed an incredible career in uniform, impressing a host of superior officers along the way. It would, no doubt, have been a different matter entirely if Davis had shot Grant, Sherman or one of the other luminaries in uniform. He had not, though. He killed a naval leader-turned Army officer.

   There are several ways to see the Army's decision not to prosecute  Davis. First, it was an absolute travesty of justice for Nelson and his family. On the other hand, Davis played a major role in defeating Confederate forces. I am not going to second-guess a decision made more than 150 years ago. It does go to show that what is 'justice' can sometimes depend on the circumstances.

   Davis had a talent for winning against an enemy that was powerful, determined and crafty, which is something many Union generals struggled with during the first years of the war. With those abiities being needed in that moment in history, a judgement call was made...for the right or wrong of it.

(Jim Purcell is a retired print journalist. He resides in Western North Carolina with his wife, Lita.)


Friday, January 25, 2019

A Civil War General and His Strategic Tantrum

The Battle of Atlanta was a strategic victory for the Union during the Civil War


"There is nothing so close to God in Heaven as a general on the battlefield." 
-- Major General Joshua L. Chamberlain, United States Army (1863)

How much ego is too much ego, even by a general on a battlefield? I suppose that any soldier, of any rank, would draw the line at the point where ego costs lives. Those same solders might offer, afterward, that the purpose of soldiers and armies is to save lives by ending armed conflicts and restoring peace where it is vitally needed. 
Major General John Palmer

   Then there is the case of the commander of the XIV U.S. Corps during the Civil War, at the critical juncture of the close of the Battle of Atlanta. How petty can senior officers be, even with an enemy directly in front of them?

The Case of MG J. Palmer and His Date of Rank
   On August 6, 1864, Union Major General John M. Palmer (1817-1900) resigned as commander of the XIV Corps during the Battle of Atlanta, then being led overall by MG William T. Sherman. Why did he do it? Because Sherman had placed Palmer's corps under the operational control of Major General John M. Schofield for one maneuver in the closing battles within the campaign.

   According to Sherman, during August, 1864, when the capture of Atlanta seemed likely for Union forces, Schofield's corps was on the extreme right of the forward edge of the battle area. Schofield's forces were operating neat East Point, Georgia. Major General George H. Thomas and elements of his Army of the Cumberland held the center of the FEBA, with Major General Oliver O. Howard's XI Corps on the right.
J. Palmer after the war

   Sherman went on to say that, after reports from his cavalry, he came to believe that only a substantial element, like Schofield's corps, reinforced by more units, could successfully take and hold the railroad just below Atlanta. Schofield had his own corps, the XXIII, comprised of 11,075 infantry soldiers and 885 artillery soldiers. Schofield was also reinforced with 1,700 cavalry soldiers, and Sherman placed Palmer's XIV Corps under Schofield's operational control. Palmer's corps, at that time, numbered about 17,300 soldiers.

   On the eve of this massive maneuver by Sherman, though, a definite wrinkle happened when Palmer, a politician by trade before and after the war, insisted that he outranked Schofield, a career soldier and West Point graduate, by date of rank. In Army lingo that means, because Palmer was given his two stars before Schofield, he technically outranked him. While this is certainly a conversation to have in a garrison environment, having this debate in the middle of a major battle isn't appreciated by anyone, except the enemy (in this case, Atlanta defender Major General John B. Hood).

LTG William T. Sherman
   Consequently, Palmer denied that Schofield had any right to command him, and his troops, during this maneuver. As soon as Palmer's dissent was reported to Sherman, the overall commander of the battle decided that Schofield, in fact, out-ranked Palmer. On August 4th, in a letter to Palmer, Sherman wrote:

   "From the statements made by yourself and Gen. Schofield today, my decision is that he outranks you as a major general, being of the same date as present commission, by reason of his previous superior rank as brigadier general. The movements of tomorrow are so important that the orders of the superior on that flank must be regarded as military orders, and not in the nature of cooperation. I did hope there would be no necessity for my making that decision; but it is better for all parties interested that no question of rank should occur in actual battle. The Sandtown Road, and the railroad if possible, must be gained tomorrow, if it costs half your command. I regard the loss of time this afternoon as equal to the loss of 2,000 men."

   After this tantrum by Palmer was about fizzled out, Palmer showed up at Sherman's location and offered his resignation. Sherman said that he advised Palmer to give up his 'argument' with Schofield and to return to command his troops. Sherman noted that, if it came out later, Palmer's motives might be misconstrued and impact his civil career after the war. Palmer was determined, though. Finally, Sherman told Palmer that if he wished to resign he would need to do so through Schofield. So, Palmer got atop his horse again and rode to Schofield's headquarters, where he offered his resignation.
MG John Schofield

   On Aug. 6th, Schofield forwarded Palmer's resignation to Sherman, and suggested it be accepted. It was and Palmer was immediately replaced by Brig. Gen. Richard Johnson, a senior division commander within the XIV Corps. Meanwhile, in the wake of his resignation, Palmer was sent back to his home state of Illinois to await orders from the Army.

After His Resignation
   John M. Palmer was nothing if not a politician. After taking a break in Ilinois for some months, Palmer was next assigned as the military governor of the state of Kentucky. Once there, he reasserted Federal control of the region and helped to eliminate Confederate geurillas that still operated beyond the peace of April 9, 1865.

   In 1866, Palmer resigned from the Army entirely and, two years later, won the governship of Illinois. Later, Palmer would serve in the U.S. Senate and made a failed run for president of the United States in 1896.

   John M. Palmer finally died of a heart attack on September 25, 1900 in Springfield, Illinois.

The Historical Take-Away
   There was no chance that the regular officers, non-commissioned officers and enlisted men of the XIV Cops knew that their commanding officer was delaying a military action against the forces of the Confederate Army located outside Atlanta, or that he was having a strategic hissy fit over his time in grade over that of a career soldier. They knew what was right in front of them, because if they had known what was going on it would have impacted the ability of the corps to fight. Morale is a key element to any unit, in any army, anywhere.
The standard for the XIV Corps

   Leaders need to demonstrate solidarity. Actually, solidarity needs to happen, ideally, from the lowest private to the commander of an army, any army of any era or time or conflict. It is taken for granted that, as terrible as it is, people will die during war, combatants and, even more sadly, non-combatants. It is such a serious business that the trivial cannot, nor should not, ever take center stage within an army in the field.

   If MG Palmer had been an NCO on a U.S. Navy ship at war, and had pulled what he did, he would no doubt be charged with mutiny and nothing good would happen from there. But, because he was a general, and basically a politician even while he was in uniform, he got a pass and went on to great things, even touting his Civil War combat record.

   There is an old saying which states: 'Stuff rolls downs hill.' Apparently, though, given a privileged situation in life, that is not always the case -- even when soldiers' lives hang in the balance.

Sources Used:

"Memoirs of Gen. William T. Sherman, Volume 2," by Wm. T. Sherman and W. Fletcher Johnson, published by D. Appleton & Co., New York, NY (1891), ppgs 96-101

(Jim Purcell is a historian and retired print journalist. During his time in the U.S. military, among other posts, he was assigned as the NCOIC of the S-2, 4th Battalion, 41st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Armored Division (Forward). He currently resides in Western North Carolina with his wife, Lita.)

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Everything Changes by Staind

This is a friend of mine, Richie Toth. He is a U.S. Army veteran, who is 100 percent VA disabled as well as an Iraq War veteran. He is a good guy, who has gone through a lot and I hope people tune into his channel on YouTube. He's very talented as well.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Patriotism in Times of Political Unrest in America


There is no need to tell anyone that politics is dividing the United States right now. Republicans, Conservatives, Independents, Democrats, Progressives and dozens of other, different factions are practically yelling at the top of their lungs for attention,  for action of some kind.
It's a time to build bridges and not blow them up

   The Great Experiment of the United States began in 1776, the creation of some of the brightest minds in history. There was bitter feuding between what amounts to the Jefferson faction and the Hamilton faction. Thomas Jefferson envisioned the broadest application of democracy (for white men only), while it can be said that Hamilton favored a more stratified social and economic system, which shut out the interests of more white men. Roughly speaking, Adams lined up with the Hamilton faction, while men like James Madison followed Jefferson. We are all fortunate that George Washington, weary of long service, stayed on to usher in the fledgling republic for two terms as its president. 

   I do not believe that it was Jefferson, Hamilton, Adams, Madison or any of the other 'Founding Brothers' who were the most important during this time: it was Washington. Amid the passionate outbursts of all camps, he remained the calm eye in the storm. Washington chose the best ideas of both sides to incorporate into the United States. So, America did not become the agrarian collective that Jefferson might find ideal, nor did it become a de facto monarchy, which Hamilton might have felt comfortable with. 

   In 1783, Washington had to put an end to the Newburgh Conspiracy where, in Newburgh, New York, Hamilton and several hundred of his best friends were forwarding the proposition that the United States should be a monarchy, reigned over by Washington. The old general laid down the law to his veterans and that was the end of it. There would be no king.

Not what freedom looks like

   George Washington was not a Whig, a Democratic Republican, or any other 'party loyalist.' He was a loyalist to the United States and its bedrock principles, many of which he helped codify ith the new Congress. Washington was the check and safeguard against fanatacism and he served long enough to ensure that limitations were placed on any one individual, or any one group, to re-write the history of the United States themselves.

   There is a revolution in the United States with every electoral season. On social media, I am starting to hear about groups of people "...going out in to the streets armed..." to prove something or other. The loose talk is about a descent into madness. I do not trust any politician, group or collective of people to alter the future that has been given us by the Founders. And, anyone who does has the wrong idea about what America is. 

   The voting place has been called into question, and it should be: Voting has been suppressed in some places, fabricated in others, edited in still more. Yet, it is the vote that secures a peaceful future for the nation. If a vote is not sacred, then all of us are in very deep trouble. 

   If I were a politician or party who attained power through fraudulent or biased means, power is not a gift. Unwelcome leadership in the national government, or the governments organized under those governments will lead to chaos. One's every decision would be called into play and, not content to be lead in such a way, investigation after investigation would pile one upon the other. 
Definitely not what freedom looks like

   Love the country. Love what it stands for. America isn't about cutting people out, it is about welcoming groups of people into the mosaic that is America. Yes, we need the Rule of Law. We need strong national security. we also need to ensure that every citizen is enfranchised as an American, regardless of their sex, religion, national origin, creed or color. This is the American Way, and the only way for this nation.

   At this point, I think the smartest people in this nation are the ones that are not yelling and screaming, but trying to re-establish some consensus among a great number of people who currently believe they are at etreme odds with their fellow countrymen. The nature of American Government requires the consensus of the greatest number of people, and it is in that way our civilization goes on.