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  • Civil war or just uncivil society?

    Posted by Margaret on 8th February 2018 (All posts by )

    It seems that at least once a week I read an article predicting that the extreme political divisions in our country will lead to an actual civil war. “The country hasn’t been this divided since 1860!” is a common refrain.

    Divided, yes. But leading to war? I don’t think so.

    Those who actually know all about our Civil War may wish to correct me; I admit that discussion of this topic in my Georgia high school was so frequent and so prolonged that I did my best to sink into a coma whenever the subject came up. Even so, I think I grasped a few general points about that war which differentiate it from the present situation.

    (1) The war was driven by one major moral/economic dispute, even if the two sides described it differently. (North: “Slavery is wrong.” South: “Our economy depends on slavery. Besides, states’ rights.”)
    (2) The opposing sides were (mostly) geographically divided.
    (3) There were, on both sides, people who were willing to actually fight with something more lethal than a sarcastic Tweet.

    Now look at the current mess.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, History, Leftism | 83 Comments »

    The attempted coup d’etat going on now.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 4th March 2017 (All posts by )

    The fact that Obama has set up an opposition movement in the District of Columbia is a worrisome bit of news.

    Obama’s goal, according to a close family friend, is to oust Trump from the presidency either by forcing his resignation or through his impeachment.
    And Obama is being aided in his political crusade by his longtime consigliere, Valerie Jarrett, who has moved into the 8,200-square-foot, $5.3-million Kaloroma mansion with the former president and Michelle Obama, long time best friends.
    Jarrett played a vital – if at times low-key – role in the Obama presidency. She lived in the White House, dined with the Obamas, and help shape his domestic and foreign policies.

    She was also born in Iran and speaks Farsi. I wonder at her role in the Iran deal.

    Now, we find more bad news.

    Obama used the US intelligence apparatus to spy on Trump’s presidential campaign.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Elections, National Security, Obama, Politics, Trump | 36 Comments »

    History Friday: The Southern Belle Spy

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 5th September 2014 (All posts by )

    (An archive post for Friday – I wrote this for the Unusual Historicals website last year.)

    She was the very last person in the world whom anyone in Richmond, Virginia, would have suspected of being a spy … well, almost the last person, as her abolitionist sympathies were not a secret. But she was a genteel lady of certain years – and a very Southern sense of gentlemanly chivalry ensured that her activities went unsuspected and unhampered all during the Civil War. Elizabeth van Lew, if not a classical Southern belle in the Scarlett O’Hara mode was pious, eccentrically addicted to doing good works, and from a wealthy and well-established old Richmond family. Of course she couldn’t possibly be up to anything more than visiting the captive Union officers held as prisoners of war in a comfortless converted tobacco warehouse, bearing genteel gifts of food, books, clothing and writing materials, or being a regular Lady Bountiful towards the families of Richmond’s freed slaves. Everyone knew of her families’ eccentricities – her mother was a Quaker from Philadelphia, don’t-cha-know.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Diversions, History | 16 Comments »

    History Friday: Two Brothers and the Twin Sisters

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 23rd May 2014 (All posts by )

    The two brothers were the McCulloch brothers, Ben and Henry – and the twin sisters were a pair of six-pound cannon, which were sent by the citizens of Cincinnati to Texas at the start of the Texas War for Independence. The good citizens of Cincinnati were persuaded to support the rebellious Texans, and so raised the funds to have a pair of cannon manufactured at a local foundry and shipped down the Mississippi to New Orleans, and from thence by coastal schooner to Galveston, where they were presented to the representatives of the harried and scattered government of the Republic of Texas sometime around early April, 1836. A resolutely determined settler in Texas, Dr. Charles Rice had arrived on the same schooner, accompanied by his family – including a pair of twin daughters. This was too charming a coincidence to pass unnoticed – that the schooner had arrived with two pairs of twins, and so the pair of Cincinnati-cast and paid-for 6-pounders were christened ‘The Twin Sisters.’ By the time that they caught up to Sam Houston’s expeditiously-retreating army, temporarily camped at Groce’s Landing on the Brazos, they would be the only cannon possessed by said army. (All other artillery pieces had been captured at the Alamo or after the defeat of the Goliad garrison at Coleto creek, or dumped in the Guadalupe at Gonzales to lighten the retreat).
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Diversions, History, Military Affairs, War and Peace | 2 Comments »

    A Fairly Well-Organized Enterprise

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 9th May 2014 (All posts by )

    The year of 1862 was a perilous one for those residents of Texas who had opposed the institution of chattel slavery, opposed secession, and finally opposed being forcibly drafted into defending the Confederacy with military service. It was especially perilous for those who were leaders in the various German communities in San Antonio, and in the tidy, well-organized hamlets in the Texas Hill country, those men who had not thought it necessary to guard their tongues when it came to discussing matters political and social. After all, many of them had come from the various German duchies and kingdoms during the two decades previous, deliberately shaking off the dust of the old country and embracing the new one with with passionate enthusiasm. They assumed they had left behind repression, censorship, authoritarian rule, required military service and economic stagnation. They had gained political freedom, good farmland, every kind of economic opportunity … even just the freedom to be left alone, to amuse themselves with harmless cultural pursuits such as competitive choral singing, nine-pin bowling, and community theater.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Civil Society, Germany, History, USA | 7 Comments »

    History Friday – Becoming the Other, Part 2

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 7th February 2014 (All posts by )

    Part one is here – a meditation on how suddenly a group of citizens became the ‘other’ during the Civil War.

    In the wake of a military crackdown on a region perceived to be in rebellion – philosophically and perhaps politically – against the State of Texas and the Confederacy, a series of military trials of an assortment of civilians and local militia volunteers was held in San Antonio in the late summer and early autumn of 1862. Storekeeper Julius Schlickum was the first convicted, although no one testifying at his trial could say anything worse of him than his enthusiasm for the Confederacy was markedly restrained. The second prisoner convicted in the commission hearings had considerably more meat and justification to the charges laid against him; Philip Braubach, formerly elected sheriff of Gillespie County. Braubach was an outspoken Unionist, an associate of Jacob Keuchler – another Unionist, a farmer and surveyor who had trained as a forester in Germany.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Germany, History, Politics, War and Peace | 3 Comments »

    To Become the ‘Other’

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 3rd February 2014 (All posts by )

    I suppose that my thoughts were running this week on the theory and practice of ‘otherizing’ because my work in the Tiny Bidness has brought me full-face with a prime example of how upright good citizens, patriotic as they saw it, were brought by a turn of the political wheel into being accused criminals, brought before a military commission and charged with crimes which – if found guilty of by the tribunal – could have drawn a capital sentence. That the several found guilty of disloyalty to the régime and sentenced to death, imprisonment, exile or a heavy fine did in most cases, escape the worst of it and return to lives of post-war prosperity and respect must have been of cold comfort at the time.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, History, Human Behavior, Law Enforcement | 8 Comments »

    Radical Islamic Terrorism in Context, pt II

    Posted by T. Greer on 1st November 2013 (All posts by )

    How to make sense of radical Islamic terrorism? This violence is barbaric – but it is not senseless. When you understand the society from which savagery has sprung, the cold logic behind these attacks becomes all too apparent. Part II of a series originally posted at the Scholar’s Stage; Part I is here.   


    How do you save a civilization from implosion?

    Modernization has never been pretty. It destroyed Christendom before the growth revolution picked up steam and left the European subcontinent in disorder for two centuries more. The collapse of the Chinese imperial order and the traditional family that supported it was a cataclysmic string of tragedies that left tens of millions dead. Now it is the Ummah‘s turn to walk through the threshing ground of modernity.

    Traditional Islamic civilization does not need to fear spectacular cultural or political collapse. These are the after shocks of a more mundane type of destruction. Explains social anthropologist extraordinaire Emmanuel Todd:

    SPIEGEL: Monsieur Todd, in the middle of the Cold War, in the days of Leonid Brezhnev, you predicted the collapse of the Soviet system. In 2002, you described the economic and imperial erosion of the United States, a global superpower. And, four years ago, you and your colleague Youssef Courbage predicted the unavoidable revolution in the Arab world. Are you clairvoyant?

    Todd: The academic as fortune-teller — a tempting idea. But Courbage and I merely analyzed the reasons for a possible — or let’s say likely — revolution in the Arab world, an inexorable change, which could also have unfolded as a gradual evolution. Our work was like that of geologists who compile the signs of an imminent earthquake or volcanic eruption. But when exactly the eruption takes place, and its form and severity — these things cannot be predicted in an exact way.

    SPIEGEL: On what indicators do you base your probability calculation?

    Source: “Rising Literacy and a Shrinking Birth Rate:
    A Look at the Root Causes of the Arab Revolution
    .”

    Der Spiegel English. 20 May 2011.

    Todd: Mainly on three factors: the rapid increase in literacy, particularly among women, a falling birthrate and a significant decline in the widespread custom of endogamy, or marriage between first cousins. This shows that the Arab societies were on a path toward cultural and mental modernization, in the course of which the individual becomes much more important as an autonomous entity.

    SPIEGEL: And what is the consequence?

    Todd: That this development ends with the transformation of the political system, a spreading wave of democratization and the conversion of subjects into citizens. Although this follows a global trend, it can take some time. (emphasis added). [11]

     Monsieur Todd explains the fall of the old order from the heights of the ivory tower. He can collect data dispassionately and pronounce revolutions from afar. Those closer to the upheaval are not granted such liberties. For them the death of civilization is an intensely personal affair. To understand their view–and how it can lead to radical terrorism–we must see the disintegration of their society as they do. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in War and Peace | 4 Comments »

    From Ancient Grudge

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 30th June 2013 (All posts by )

    (On the occasion of the upcoming 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg and a number of news stories of the Civil War reenactment events going on all this week – an essay on the Civil War from my own archives.)

    “From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.”

    When I was deep in the midst of researching and writing the Adelsverein Trilogy, of course I wound up reading a great towering pile of books about the Civil War. I had to do that – even though my trilogy isn’t really about the Civil War, per se. It’s about the German settlements in mid-19th century Texas. But for the final volume, I had to put myself into the mind of a character who has come home from it all; weary, maimed and heartsick – to find upon arriving (on foot and with no fanfare) that everything has changed. His mother and stepfather are dead, his brothers and many friends have all fallen on various battlefields and his sister-in-law is a bitter last-stand Confederate. He isn’t fit enough to get work as a laborer, and being attainted as an ex-rebel soldier can’t do the work he was schooled for before the war began. This was all in the service of advancing my story of how great cattle baronies came to be established in Texas and in the West, after the war and before the spread of barbed wire, rail transport to practically every little town and several years of atrociously bad winters. So are legends born, but to me a close look at the real basis for the legends is totally fascinating and much more nuanced – the Civil War and the cattle ranching empires, both.

    Nuance; now that’s a forty-dollar word, usually used to imply a reaction that is a great deal more complex than one might think at first glance. At first glance the Civil War has only two sides, North and South, blue and grey, slavery and freedom, sectional agrarian interests against sectional industrial interests, rebels and… well, not. A closer look at it reveals as many sides as those dodecahedrons that they roll to determine Dungeons and Dragons outcomes. It was a long time brewing, and as far as historical pivot-points go, it’s about the most single significant one of the American 19th century. For it was a war which had a thousand faces, battlefronts and aspects.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, History, USA | 13 Comments »

    History Friday: The Great Siege of Elm Creek

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 10th May 2013 (All posts by )

    As the Civil War raged in the east, the western frontier went up in flames, along the Sierra Nevada, and from Minnesota to Texas. With the attention of both the Union and Confederate militaries focused on eastern battlefields, there was nothing much to restrain the Indians, except the volunteers of various western communities. Late in 1864, as the Confederacy stumbled through it’s final agony, a massive Indian raid flashed through Young County, Texas. An ambitious young Comanche chief, Little Buffalo hungered for the plunder and prestige accrued to him by a successful raid into the white-settled country at the headwaters of the Brazos River. Who would stop them? The Federal soldiers were long-gone from Fort Belknap, leaving only a few companies recruited for frontier defence – and Little Buffalo planned to avoid them. All during the fall of 1864, he talked up the possibilities to his fellows and their close allies, the Kiowa. By mid-October, he had gathered a raiding party of seven hundred or so, and they poured south, into the scattered holdings along the Brazos and Elm Creek where about a dozen families had settled. Many of them – the Fitzpatricks and the Braggs had taken the precaution of barricading their houses with a palisade of logs. The commander in charge of frontier defense had seen that another palisade with blockhouses at the corners protected settlers living there. A second fortified place was called Camp Murrah. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in History | 5 Comments »

    History Friday: Houston and Lincoln

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 8th March 2013 (All posts by )

    It’s an old-fashioned study in contrasts, to look at the two of them, Abraham Lincoln and Sam Houston; both political giants, both of them a linchpin around which a certain point of American history turned, both of them men of the frontier. The similarities continue from that point: both of them almost entirely self-educated, as lawyers among other things, and from reading accounts by their contemporaries, it is clear that each possessed an enormous amount of personal charm. In their own time, though, each of them also acquired equally enormous numbers of bitter enemies. In fact, for a hero-founder of Texas, Houston attracted a considerable degree of vitriol from his contemporaries, and a level of published vilification which was not bettered until Lincoln appeared on the national scene as the presidential candidate favored by the north in the 1860 election. And both of them had ups and downs in their political and personal lives, although it’s hard to argue that Lincoln’s personal story arc was anything as eventful as Houston’s – the ADHD child of Jacksonian-era politics.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in America 3.0, Biography, History | 5 Comments »

    History Friday: Five Thousand Miles for a Camel

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 1st February 2013 (All posts by )

    In the annals of the US Army, are recorded many strange and eccentric schemes and scathingly brilliant notions, but none of them quite equals the notion of a Camel Corps for sheer daft logic. It was the sort of idea which a clever “think outside the box” young officer would come up with, contemplating the millions of square miles of desolation occasionally interrupted by lonely outposts of settlements, stage stations and fortified trading posts which the United States had acquired following on the Mexican War in the mid 1840s. The country was dry, harsh, desolate… logically, what better animal to use than one which had already been used for thousands of years in just such conditions elsewhere?
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, History | 16 Comments »

    History Friday – From Ancient Grudge

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 12th October 2012 (All posts by )

    “From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.”

    When I was deep in the midst of researching and writing the Adelsverein Trilogy, of course I wound up reading a great towering pile of books about the Civil War. I had to do that – even though my trilogy isn’t really about the Civil War, per se. It’s about the German settlements in mid-19th century Texas. But for the final volume, I had to put myself into the mind of a character who has come home from it all; weary, maimed and heartsick – to find upon arriving (on foot and with no fanfare) that everything has changed. His mother and stepfather are dead, his brothers have all fallen on various battlefields and his sister-in-law is a bitter last-stand Confederate. He isn’t fit enough to get work as a laborer, and being attainted as an ex-rebel soldier, can’t do the work he was schooled for, before the war began. This was all in the service of advancing my story, of how great cattle baronies came to be established in Texas and in the West, after the war and before the spread of barbed wire, rail transport to practically every little town and several years of atrociously bad winters. So are legends born, but to me a close look at the real basis for the legends was totally fascinating and much more nuanced – the Civil War and the cattle ranching empires, both.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Civil Society, History, North America, Uncategorized, USA, War and Peace | 3 Comments »

    In Perfect Comfort

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 17th August 2012 (All posts by )

    We were in Comfort this last Saturday … no, that doesn’t mean we were comfortable, exactly – just that we were in Comfort, Texas – a nice little town about an hour’s drive north from San Antonio, a lovely little Hill Country town situated where the Guadalupe River is crossed by the IH-10. In the larger world, Comfort is known for being the final burial place of a number of German Unionists, who either died in a vicious fire-fight on the Nueces River in August of 1862 or were murdered shortly afterwards. I was there because … well, this is the community in which a number of my books are set, and the ‘middle’ book of the Trilogy covers this tragic period. So, when another writer and enthusiastic local historian told me at the Meusebach Birthday celebration that I really ought to get in with this one … and we swapped copies of our books … well, I really must do things like this, meet people, talk to fans, and sell some books. It’s not a chore to actually be there and do that, but setting it up is sometimes a bit of a job and full marks to Blondie for taking the bull by the horns.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Civil Society, Germany, History, North America | Comments Off on In Perfect Comfort

    The Nueces Fight – Conclusion

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 3rd August 2012 (All posts by )

    Late in the fall of 1862, under the mistaken assumption that they had been offered a thirty-day amnesty by the Governor of Texas and allowed to depart Texas unmolested rather than take the loyalty oath, a party of Unionists gathered together at Turtle Creek in Kerr County. They elected a settler from Comfort named Fritz Tegener as their leader, and Henry Schwethelm as second. Their number included Phillip Braubach, who had served as the sheriff of Gillespie County, and Captain John Sansom, a Texas Ranger before and after the war, and also the sheriff of Kendall County, two sons of Edwin Degener, a prominent free-thinker from Sisterdale, Heinrich Steves, whose large family had helped establish Comfort, and the Boerner brothers, one of whom had married a Steves daughter. Heinrich Stieler was also one of them; he was Henry Schwethelm’s brother-in-law and son of Gottlieb Stieler, an early settler whose family later established a ranch between Comfort and Fredericksburg which still exists today.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, History, Military Affairs, USA, War and Peace | 5 Comments »

    A Little Bit of History – The Nueces Fight

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 2nd August 2012 (All posts by )

    As I am going up to Comfort, Texas on the 11th of August, to take part in the 150th anniversary observences of the Nueces Fight, and since this Civil War event is very little known outside of Texas — herewith some background. It’s longish, so in two parts, the second part posted tomorrow.)
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, History, War and Peace | 7 Comments »

    Such a Disagreeable Man

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 11th May 2012 (All posts by )

    I’m sure I’m no ascetic; I’m as pleasant as can be;
    You’ll always find me ready with a crushing repartee,
    I’ve an irritating chuckle, I’ve a celebrated sneer, I’ve an entertaining snigger, I’ve a fascinating leer.
    To ev’rybody’s prejudice I know a thing or two;
    I can tell a woman’s age in half a minute — and I do. But although I try to make myself as pleasant as I can,
    Yet ev’rybody says I’m such a disagreeable man!
    And I can’t think why! –

    From Gilbert & Sullivan’s Princess Ida

    I suppose that one of the most enjoyable things about romping in the halls of historical research is getting to know people, some of whom are famous and others notorious, all of them interesting and they tickle my interest to the point where I would have very much liked to have met some of them personally. Sam Houston is one of them in Texas history that I’d have loved to meet, Jack Hays another, Angelina Eberly a third. I would have loved to have met Queen Elizabeth I of England – three of the four are complicated people, as nearly as I can judge from reading accounts of them. I just would have liked to have had the chance to form my own, independently-arrived at opinion, you see. About the only way that I can indulge this curiosity is to work them up as characters for various books – walk-on parts, usually. Assemble the various views, take a look at some known writing of theirs, consult the grave and sober historians and come up with something that I hope will be revealing, true to the historical facts, and at least a jolly good read … but now and again, in the pages of history, I encounter those that I don’t like very much at all. Some of them are so immediately disagreeable, dislikeable and all-unpleasant that I marvel they lived long enough to make a mark in history at all.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, History, Miscellaneous | 10 Comments »