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March 10, 2011
Honor the BraveBy Greyhawk
He was more than just a model mayor - he was the model for every aspiring Democrat politician who followed him: "In 1849, at the age of thirty-seven, Wood retired from active business and entered a profession. Or to be precise, he created a profession, the science of politics." Others have refined it since, but few have done anything he didn't do first.
He rode to power on the votes of a "permanent underclass" Tammany Hall had created in the newly-established slums of New York (aided by the gangs within them), then portrayed himself as their champion - and to others as the only thing standing between Wall Street and their pitchforks. He declared the city had grown so much as to be ungovernable, but when he had his own biography published months after he took office it proclaimed that he'd already greatly improved its image in the eyes of the world. (On the plus side, he should be rightly credited with many civic improvements, some of which probably didn't put money directly in his own pocket.)
In the end, "a greater schemer opposed him. This was Tweed" - the man who drove him from the mayor's office* ("...an act which would cover a multitude of Tweed's sins were it not that his motive was chiefly his predilection for plunder..."), but not before he'd watched and learned from Wood's successes and failures. Tweed eclipsed him in every way; when history was taught in American schools his name, synonymous with government corruption, was widely known. Now that his first successful student is all but forgotten (and thousands of others are unrecognizable as his heirs), the life of the teacher seems trivial at best. But in this new style of Democratic politics, Tweed was Augustus, Wood Julius Caesar.
Yet there is no statue of Fernando Wood in New York. In fact it's not likely many New Yorkers would even recognize the name. (Then again, probably few could tell you who's buried in Grant's Tomb**...) But once upon a time there was at least a monument with his name on it. Here's the story.
Both of William Jenkins Worth's parents were Quakers, "but he rejected the pacifism of their faith," says his Wikipedia bio. He jined the army when the War of 1812 began. His distinguished military career included that conflict, Seminole wars in Florida, and the War with Mexico.
Through it all he remained just a humble soldier, as this post-battle letter to his son in law makes clear:
After the Mexican war he was given command of the Army's Department of Texas, where...
In January 1849 Worth proposed a line of ten forts to mark the Western Texas frontier from Eagle Pass to the confluence of the West Fork and Clear Fork of the Trinity River. One month later Worth died from cholera. General William S. Harney assumed command of the Department of Texas and ordered Major Ripley A. Arnold to find a new fort site near the West Fork and Clear Fork. On June 6, 1849, Arnold established a camp on the bank of the Trinity River and named the post Camp Worth in honor of the late General Worth.
Better known as Fort Worth, actually. And a little Texas town grew up around it that still thrives today. More: "The cities of Fort Worth, Texas and Lake Worth, Texas, the village of Worth, Illinois, Worth County, Georgia and the Lake Worth Lagoon in Florida, and consequently, the city of Lake Worth, Florida on its shores, are named in his honor."
But if you think New York City wouldn't honor someone who'd killed damn near as many Mexicans and Indians as Andy Jackson or Zach Taylor then you don't know New York. Not only is there a street named after him, he even got a corner of Madison Square...
Ceremonies of Dedication of the Worth Monument
November 25, 1857
An 1857 entry from the Reminiscences of Charles Haynes Haswell:
November 23, the remains of Major-General Worth were removed from Greenwood Cemetery to the City Hall, where they lay in state until the 25th, when they were taken under military escort to the place of the monument now standing at Twenty-fifth Street, between Broadway and Fifth Avenue, and there deposited, the monument being dedicated.
The New York Times coverage of the day - including the text of a lengthy speech from Mayor Wood and a recap of the various horse accidents (several slipped and fell on the wet pavement of Broadway) associated with the parade - is archived here.
All well and good and appropriate. But turning now to one of the periodic histories Tammany Hall produced extolling its many virtues through the years - this example from 1901 (when only the city's elderly would actually remember Mayor Wood):
On Madison Square, in New York, there stands a monument to General Worth, of the United States Army. It was erected under the Mayoralty of Fernando Wood, and therefore, very properly, his name was inscribed on one side of it. When Mayor Wood fell into disfavor, a subsequent Common Council had the puerile idea of erasing his name from this memorial stone, and actually did so, substituting, in its place, the rather trite phrase, "Honor the Brave."
Why, "Mr Wood was not lacking in bravery himself," the author concludes, "as his defiance of State authorities proved."
*Out of the mayor's office, but back into the U.S. House of Representatives, where he was a leader in the fight against reconstruction and civil rights for the remainder of his life.
Next: A Night at the Opera
Posted by Greyhawk / March 10, 2011 12:17 PM | Permalink
March 4, 1861 was a windy day in Washington; the wind provided the only sound as the crowd gathered before the still under-construction capitol building quieted, straining to hear the words of the man they'd come to see inaugurated as president, Abrah... Read More
So there I was, writing about the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War (though the story of Fernando Wood has obvious parallels to our modern world...), when all of a sudden we got involved in the Libyan Civil War, and captured Osama bin Laden.... Read More
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
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Original content copyright © 2003 - 2011 by Greyhawk. Fair, not-for-profit use of said material by others is encouraged, as long as acknowledgement and credit is given, to include the url of the original source post. Other arrangements can be made as needed.
Contact: greyhawk at mudvillegazette dot com