Tag archives: War of 1812

Wahoo, Terps!

by Robert Morrison

September 10, 2014

I just got back from an annual trek to Charlottesville to visit my dear old alma mater, University of Virginia, when O Say Can You See? It’s not the U.Va. football team, the “Wahoos,” who are the center of attention this weekend; it’s the University of Maryland’s Terps. Fear the Turtle!

I have to take my Cavalier hat off and cheer for Maryland for this wonderful way to celebrate the 200th anniversary of  “The Defence of Fort McHenry.” (Yes, they still spelled it the British way back then.) Francis Scott Key’s great poem was written to commemorate America’s victory in a “key” battle of the War of 1812. Key’s poem became better known as “The Star Spangled Banner” and in time, it became our national anthem.

Two hundred years ago this Saturday, September 13, 1814, the British had just come north from burning Washington, D.C. Admiral George Cockburn and Gen. Robert Ross had put the White House, the Capitol, and the Library of Congress to the torch. They were acting in reprisal for the American burning of Canada’s provincial capital of York earlier in the war.

British Gen. Robert Ross was especially zealous in his desire to crush the Yankees. Baltimore was then thought to be the real target of the invaders because it was a major port. The nation’s capital was still a small town. After demanding breakfast from an American farmer, the general was asked where he and his army were headed. “I will have supper in Baltimore, or in hell,” he said defiantly.  Shortly afterward, the General was shot and killed by an American militaman. File under: Pride goeth.

I especially like the fact that the Terrapins’ uniforms will feature an outline of Fort McHenry on the helmets and words from The Star-Spangled Banner on their helmets, jerseys, and pants. Wow!

I cannot help pointing out that you would learn more of your country’s history, more of patriotism, and more about the meaning of this Home of the Brave and Land of the Free by going to a Maryland football game than by taking an Advanced Placement U.S. History Course (APUSH). The producers of that mess of pottage seem to think that they are really serious scholars if they are able to tear down this country and the people who pay their salaries.

We are shocked at the idea of several hundred Unamericans said to be fighting for ISIS or other jihadists abroad. One of those, Douglas McAuthur McCain joins other misguided young men serving their country’s enemies.

Who were this young man’s high school teachers? What did they teach him? When and where do young people learn what it means to be an American?

Are they taught to read the U.S. Constitution?

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.

Art. III, Sec. 3.

The Framers of our Constitution set a high standard of proof for treason. We have not had to prosecute many Americans in the past two hundred years for treason. But that does not mean it doesn’t occur. Fighting for ISIS is a pretty obvious case of treason.

Douglas McCain won’t have to worry about Eric Holder reading him his Miranda rights or having a pro bono lawyer take up his case. Young McCain was killed on the battlefield.

One of the lines on the uniform pants of the Terps says “Conquer we Must.” Well, I hope they win. The line is solely about football games, we will be assured.

But Francis Scott Key’s words were not about sport:

Then conquer we must

When our cause it is just

And this be our motto

In God is our Trust

With Bibles being banned at Walter Reed Hospital and burned at our military bases in Afghanistan, with Penn State University removing Bibles from housing, is it any wonder that some young people are hopelessly confused?

We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors among us,” wrote C.S. Lewis half a century ago.

I especially like the fact that the University of Maryland uniforms feature cursive writing for some of the lines from The Star-Spangled Banner. With the onset of Common Core, there is a push (APUSH?) to get rid of cursive handwriting. That’s reason enough to oppose this unnecessary and intrusive effort to have government control what is taught and what is thought.

I prefer Ronald Reagan’s idea: Ours is the only Constitution in the world that begins with three powerful words: We the People.

As long as we have the kind of enthusiasm and patriotism represented by the University of Maryland’s new football uniforms, and their fanatical fans, we will continue to be a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Go Terps!

We Have Met the Enemy and He is Ours” — The Battle of Lake Erie, September 10, 1813

by Robert Morrison

September 10, 2013

Back in the days before President Obama subcontracted our foreign policy to the Russians and before the Saudis lined up as paymaster for our troops, we prized our Independence so highly we were willing to go to war with the greatest sea power in the world to defend our sovereignty.

The origins of the War of 1812 seem misty and vague to us now. But they were anything but unclear to Americans in the first decades of the nineteenth century. Great Britain was then at war with the French under the Emperor Napoleon. The young republic, the United States, had wisely declared its neutrality, avoiding “entanglement” in Europe’s interminable struggles.

We were prepared, however, to defend our rights as neutrals. Britain’s Royal Navy made it a practice to seize seamen from American merchant ships, and even naval vessels, if they could claim the sailors were deserters from their naval service. The standard way for “recruiting” sailors for the Royal Navy in those days was to send out a press gang to grab healthy young men who were unfortunate enough to be caught drunk, or drugged, or were otherwise unable to escape the gang leaders. Ireland was under England’s heavy boot then and thousands of Irishmen did emigrate to America. Some of them, having been virtually kidnaped by the King’s press gangs, did jump ship at the first opportunity to make their way to America, the land of the free.

Impressment of American seamen was thus a long-festering irritant. The British refused to recognize naturalization as citizens of Americans who had left England, Ireland or Scotland for the U.S.

To us, this was a gross insult. It denied our “separate but equal” standing as a nation among the nations. The British also refused to evacuate the forts they had built along the Western frontier of America. This was one of the key provisions of the Treaty of Paris of 1783 that Britain had signed, ending the War of Independence. The British claimed that we had failed to honor those provisions for restoring the seized property of Loyalists (Tories). One of the best Hollywood treatments of this episode in our history can be seen in the film, “Billy Budd,” a fairly faithful rendering of the classic Herman Melville novel.

The British presence on the frontier was a constant threat to American settlers. Congressmen from Western New York, Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Tennessee denounced the British for inciting Indian raids against frontier communities. These Congressmen, especially those elected in 1810, became known as “War Hawks” because they wanted America to fight the British in Canada and to eliminate the royal presence from this continent.

Today is the Bicentennial of one of the most significant battles of the War of 1812. American naval hero Oliver Hazard Perry had assembled a fleet to fight the British on the Great Lakes.

We had had numerous defeats in our efforts to conquer British Canada. And we were now in danger of invasion from the North. But Oliver Hazard Perry met the British threat on Lake Erie and turned it back on this day in 1813. His message to General William Henry Harrison announcing his victory was a most welcome break in the drumbeat of defeat and depressing news that had accompanied American failures on land:

We have met the enemy and they are ours — two ships, two brigs, one schooner and one sloop.”

Perry also carried aloft another famous phrase. The dying words of his good friend, Captain James Lawrence of the U.S.S. Chesapeake were “Don’t Give Up the Ship” Perry had had those words stitched in white onto a plain blue banner and flew it from the foremast. It became the inspiration for his little fleet.

Today, there is a huge mural of Oliver Hazard Perry’s victory in the Capitol Dome in Washington. It commemorates the scene where Perry had to leave his sinking vessel, the U.S.S. Lawrence and transfer to the U.S.S. Niagara. Despite the destruction, he had fought his way through to a successful conclusion, and had defended his country from a serious threat.

The British were not finished with the Yankees in what was called our “Second War of Independence.” They would try again — twice — to conquer the Americans. In 1814, they invaded the Chesapeake and successfully seized and burned Washington, D.C. Only with their defeat at Fort McHenry, guarding the approaches to Baltimore, did the British withdraw. And in early 1815, they invaded America again. This time, at New Orleans. An American general, Andrew Jackson, awaited them there.

But today deserves to be remembered as a time when, two hundred years ago, we were ready to fight for our independence — and to avoid foreign entanglements. President Obama recently quoted Ronald Reagan, favorably: “Trust but verify.” That much was welcome. Perhaps we should also remember President Reagan’s warning in his Farewell Address: “If we forget what we did, we will forget who we are.”

Today is a day to remember who we are.

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