Sunday, June 30, 2013

Returning to the Hellhole


This week marks the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. Often described as the turning point of the Civil War, it was there that Union forces halted the Confederate invasion of the North in 1863. The ferocious three-day fight produced the largest number of casualties of any battle in the war—over 46,000 men were killed, wounded, or missing.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Black Warrior


Launched in 1852, the steamship Black Warrior was christened after the legendary Indian chief Tuscaloosa whose name comprised two Choctaw words—tusca (warrior) and lusa (black). Two years later, during one of its routine trips between New Orleans, Havana and New York, the 225-foot ship was seized by Cuban customs officials claiming that its load of Alabama cotton should have been declared, even though it was not to be unloaded on the island. The incident caused a furor, effectively derailing President Franklin Pierce’s plan to buy Cuba. Instead, pro-slavery forces demanded war with Spain, seeing this as an opportunity to turn Cuba into a slave territory. As the United States grew increasingly bellicose, Spain backed down and paid compensation for having detained the vessel whose fate would presage the Civil War.