Heroes From History: Davy Crockett

Davy Crockett was an American solider, politician, and famous frontiersman. He was born on August 17, 1786 in Greene County, Tennessee. His parents were pioneers who moved around a lot and had a big family. Davy Crockett was one of nine children and received very little formal education beyond 100 days of tutoring. Most of what he knew, Crockett learned from spending time out on the frontier, and those skills served him well throughout much of his life.

Early Life

Davy Crockett learned how to use a rifle at the age of 8 years old from his father and accompanied his older brothers on hunting trips. This allowed him to learn the skills he would need to survive just a few years later. At the age of 13, his father insisted he attend formal education. However, Crockett got into a fight with a bully and was scared to go back afterward for fear of reprisal and punishment. He was also afraid to go home, so he ran away and lived on his own in the wilderness for the next 2 years.

During this time, Davy Crockett honed his skills as a survivalist and outdoorsman. When he was about to turn 16 years old, he decided to leave his life of solitude return to his family before his sixteenth birthday. He found his family was in debt and helped them work it off. When Crockett was nearing the age of 20, he married Mary Finely and started building a family of his own. Davy and Mary had three children before Mary passed away. Crockett then married Elizabeth Patton and had two more children with her.

Davy Crockett was an accomplished outdoorsman, spending his early teenage years living on his own in the wilderness.
Military Service

Davy Crockett joined the Tennessee state militia in 1813, following the outbreak of the War of 1812. With his extensive outdoors experience, he excelled as a scout under the command of Major John Gibson. During his time stationed in Winchester, Crockett took part in the Battle of Tallushatchee during part of the Creek War. The British had been using the Native Americans to fight a proxy war against the United States, arming them with weapons and promoting anti-American propaganda. The Red Stick Creek was a Native American tribe which had recently attacked the American Fort Mims in Alabama. The Creek warriors were found to be gathered in the village of Tallushatchee.

Under the command of General John Coffee, approximately 2,500 were assembled to attack the Red Stick Creek. Davy Crockett was with them. They encircled the village and sent a small detachment into to try and draw out the native warriors. The trap worked, and the Americans routed the enemy with minimal effort due to the numerical and logistical disparity between the two forces. The Red Stick Creek were heavily outnumbered and were short on gunpowder. The Americans killed approximately 180 Creek warriors while suffering 5 dead and 41 wounded. The Creek War occurred concurrently with the War of 1812, as both conflicts coinciding with Britain’s goal of trying to destabilize and regain control of their former colonies.

Davy Crockett
Davy Crockett briefly served his country as a public servant in Congress.
Political Career

Davy Crockett served as a politician in a number of different offices after he returned home from his militia service in 1815. He was a member of the Tennessee State House of Representatives from 1821-1823. Later, he ran for a seat in the U.S. Congress in 1825, but lost his election. Nevertheless, he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1826. His reputation as an experienced frontiersman was noted as being crucial to his success. He stayed in the U.S. Congress for some time, winning and losing multiple elections. After he lost a bid for re-election in 1835, he decided to leave politics and join the Texas Revolution where he felt his skillset would be better utilized.

Crockett’s Final Stand and Legacy

Davy Crockett arrived in Nacogdoches, Texas during January of 1836 during the midst of the Texas War of Independence. He was sworn into service by the Provisional Government of Texas and sent off to be stationed at the Alamo. He arrived at the Alamo in February, just in time to take part in the infamous last stand. On February 23, Santa Anna led an estimated force of 1,800-6,000 Mexican troops to attack the Alamo. Davy Crockett and few hundred defenders held the fortress for 13 days before finally falling on March 6. Their sacrifice emboldened many others to join the Texian Army and deliver a crippling blow to the Mexican Army at the Battle of San Jacinto a month later, ending the war in victory.

It is believed Crockett died during the battle, but there is some debate that he may have been captured and executed afterwards. Regardless, Davy Crockett was an extraordinary man and a hero who has inspired legends and folktales for generations after his death. From his early days, living on his own in the wilderness as a teenager; to his time building a large family legacy; to his days serving his country on the frontlines and later in the halls of Congress; and all the way to his valiant last stand against an unstoppable foe, the life Davy Crockett lived is an incredible inspiration to us all to be the best versions of ourselves and to never believe there is any obstacle we cannot endure.

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Righteous Fire: A Haiku Series

Recently, I have been interested in learning more about the life and career of Ronald Reagan. He was a political outsider who came into office as the United States was reeling from the consequences of bad policy under Jimmy Carter. As I was reading through some of his famous speeches and quotes, one line in particular struck me with a chord of inspiration.

“When you can’t make them see the light, make them feel the heat.” – Ronald Reagan

This haiku series starts with a contemplation on the exponential impact we can have on the world by being a positive influence on a even a single person, as that single person will then go out to have a positive impact on several others in their life, and so on and so forth. Then, the series transitions into the futility of trying to reach those lost souls who do not want to be found and have fully embraced the darkness in their hearts. Fighting them directly may be exactly what the want and lead one to fall into their trap. For the sake of our descendants and the world they will inherit, we must be strong enough to withstand the attacks of the wicked until they are weakened from their own fatigue. At that moment, when they have made themselves vulnerable, we strike with speed and precision to end the strife once and for all, restoring peace to our lives.

Righteous Fire
He who saves one life
Saves a thousand hopeless souls
And changes the world
Yet not all will come
They who choose not to be saved
Loathing those who do
Clawing at our backs
Craven souls whose hearts set still
Gnawing at our souls
We must be a shield
Too strong for malice to break
Wearing down their ire
Protecting the light
Standing firm against shadow
Never giving in
And when our time comes
We cease the moment of truth
Stirking out with flame
When they see not light
Darkness fills their empty eyes
Let them feel the heat
Righteous fire burns hot
And blinds the creature of night
Dawning a new day

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Historic Events: The Battle of Iwo Jima

The Battle of Iwo Jima was a major engagement between the United States of America and the Empire of Japan during the Pacific War of World War II. Major combat operations lasted from February 19 – March 16, 1945 with some Japanese forces maintaining resistance on the island all the way into 1949. The battle stands out in history as an extraordinary example of the bravery, tenacity, cunning, and determination of both American and Japanese warriors. The Battle of Iwo Jima holds a particularly special place in the culture and history of the United States Marine Corps.

Prelude to the Landing

General Kuribayashi Tadamichi was in charge of the island’s defense and instructed his forces to change their strategy after studying reports from previous engagements with the Americans and taking stock of his limited resources. The Japanese had lost a significant amount of their air power and could not rely upon close air support for their ground forces. Kuribayashi also did not see the utility of banzai charges and felt his forces would be better off digging into fortified positions and waiting for the Americans to advance under heavy fire, although some banzai charges did still occur. Artillery positions were camouflaged and hidden from U.S. aerial reconnaissance and bombardment. Japanese infantry also dug deep into foxholes, building underground tunnels with stockpiles of ammunition and food for a protracted engagement. The also used the natural tunnel networks of caves in the mountains to establish a dense net of heavily fortified, heavily fortified, and virtually invisible positions with which to rain fire down upon the invaders.

Tadamichi Kuribayashi
General Tadamichi Kuribayashi of the Imperial Japanese Army.

Army General Douglas MacArthur and Admiral Charles Nimitz disagreed about the strategy to be used in the Pacific War. MacArthur emphasized the importance of regaining control over the Philippines and expelling the Japanese occupation there, while Nimitz felt it would be more important to launch an island-hopping campaign to root out Japan’s small island fortifications in the Pacific. Ultimately, it was decided both plans would be necessary to put the U.S. within striking distance of the Japanese mainland.

The U.S. Fifth Fleet was dispatched to Iwo Jima under the command of Admiral Raymond A. Spruance to facilitate the amphibious landing, air support, and logistics for the invasion. The Fifth Fleet carried with it the V Amphibious Corps led by Major General Harry Schmidt; an expeditionary task force led by General Holland M. Smith; the U.S. Army’s 147th infantry regiment; as well as the 3rd, 4th, and 5th Marine Divisions. In total, approximately 60,000 U.S. servicemen were brought to the battle against 21,000 Japanese troops.

Raymond A. Spruance
Admiral Raymond A. Spruance of the U.S. Navy.

Iwo Jima was subjected to an extensive bombing campaign for months leading up to the invasion. B-24 bombers from the 7th Air Force launched raids against the island, along with a final 3-day naval bombardment just before the landing which was intended to last 10 days, but was cut short due to ammo and weather concerns. Bombardment of the island – intended to soften up the Japanese fortifications prior to the landing – was started all the way back in June of the previous year. However, due to the use of camouflage and the natural cover of the mountains, this bombardment had very little effect the Japanese defenders. Most of the fighting on the island would ultimately be decided by the Marines on the ground launching frontal assaults on fortified positions under artillery fire.

Troops Begin to Land

When the Americans began landing, they were impeded by the soft, volcanic stand on the shores of Iwo Jima. The Japanese forces waited to open fire until the Americans came in closer and began to experience difficulties moving in the sand. Vehicles and men alike got stuck, with pile-ups forming on the beach. The Americans had assumed their bombardment was effective at first, facing little to no resistance as they struggled with the sand. However, this was a trap. The battle began in earnest when the Japanese defenders opened fire.

USS New York
The USS New York bombarding the island of Iwo Jima.

The Americans suffered heavy casualties securing the beaches during the initial landing due to the inability of their armored vehicles to get into the action and the need for infantry forces to charge headfirst into Japanese positions and root out heavily defended foxholes one by one. Given the terrain and the well-hidden positions of the Japanese forces, close fire support was ineffective, despite the Americans having established air superiority in the theater. The Americans and Japanese both battled tooth and nail against one another in a harsh battle of attrition, but the Americans had the advantage of blockading the island with over 450 ships supporting their ground forces, as well as the use of flamethrowers burning out the entrenched positions of the Japanese defenders.

General Kuribayashi knew it was only a matter of time before the island fell and there was no way to effectively dispel the invading American forces. As such, he focused his strategy on delaying the Americans as long as possible while inflicting maximum casualties. The Japanese dug in line after line of heavily armed and fortified positions which needed to be fought head-on one after the other. Even after securing the Japanese strongholds at the Quarry and Mount Suribachi on the first day of the battle, there was still a substantial amount of work to be done. The battle waged on for almost a month, with each day being a ravenous ordeal for both sides.

U.S. Marine with flamethrower
Flamethrowers were critical to the success of the U.S. Marines at the Battle of Iwo Jima.

The Americans and Japanese both fought to no end, against immense pressures, pushing each other to the limits of human bravery. The Japanese refused to give up even an inch of land, making the Americans pay for every step with relentless resistance. In turn, the Americans charged position after position under heavy fire, never turning back in the face of certain death. Neither force allowed themselves to give into the futility of their situation. The Japanese warriors knew there was no escape and no hope of victory. The American warriors knew there was no easy or clever way around the meat grinder they needed to clear. The brave souls who stood against certain death on both sides in the Battle of Iwo Jima embodied the human spirit of bravery, courage, honor, and commitment.

Aftermath and Legacy

By the end of the battle, an estimated 17,000 Japanese warriors had perished of the original 21,000 defenders. General Kuribayashi took his own life near the end of the battle, preferring death to capture. The rest were either taken prisoner or went into hiding. Those who evaded capture never gave in and continued to resist the Americans for years after the island fell. Their determination in the face of certain defeat and an overwhelming enemy force provides inspiration to us all on the importance of keeping heart and never wavering in the face of an invading force.

Captured Japanese Position
U.S. Marines fought through mountain caves, underground tunnels, and through all manners of difficult terrain to capture the island of Iwo Jima.

The Americans suffered 27,000 casualties among the 110,000 brave souls sent into the fray. There were 22 Medals of Honor awarded to U.S. Marines and five to U.S. Navy sailors after the battle. The brave American men who stormed into the face of certain death with an unflinching sense of bravery and honor rings across the halls of history. Their legend lives on for eternity and speaks to the importance of maintaining courage, certainty, and our force of will during the hardest of times. They remind us to never give up and never give in. Not until our task is done.

As Admiral Nimitz said of their historic deeds: “Among the Americans who served on Iwo Island, uncommon valor was a common virtue.” The image of U.S. Marines raising the American Flag atop Mount Suribachi became an icon of endurance and unending bravery. Both sides in the conflict fought valiantly and with tremendous honor. The Battle of Iwo Jima serves as an example of careful planning, strategy, cunning, bravery, honor, determination, and many more values. It is one of the finest moments in the history of both American and Japanese warriors.

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Iconic Weapons: Greek Fire

Greek Fire – also referred to as “Roman Fire,” “Liquid Fire,” and “Byzantine Fire” – was an incendiary weapon used by the Byzantine Empire in the 7th Century. It was a flammable compound made from of unknown mixture of materials which is still not verified to this day and perhaps never will be. The recipe for Greek Fire was a closely guarded secret, which was both part of the key to its success, as well as the reason for its eventual loss from historical record.

Greek Fire was invented by Callinicus Of Heliopolis sometime after he fled to Constantinople to escape the Muslim conquest of Syria. As a Jew, Callinicus knew he would be killed under Arab rule and that the Byzantine capital he fled to would eventually fall if he did not act. So, he invented the Greek Fire to help defend against future invasions, and to that end, he was highly successful.

Greek Fire gun
This mechanism was most commonly used to spray Greek Fire during ship-to-ship naval combat.
Mysterious Composition

Greek Fire is theorized to have been a mixture of petroleum or naphtha, as well as potentially quicklime, sulphur, resin, and/or potassium nitrate. The Greek Fire was either launched from a bronze, syringe-like device known as a “siphon” which propelled the liquid under pressure – a form of ancient flame thrower – or was filled into a clay grenade and thrown or catapulted. The liquid would spontaneously combust and could not be extinguished with water. It is said a mixture of sand and aged urine was needed to extinguish the Greek Fire. This made it incredibly effective against ships in naval warfare and on land against invaders or defenders when was from or against fortifications.

The protection of the secret formula to create and extinguish Greek Fire made it incredibly effective in battle. None who encountered it had any idea how to defend against it. Many attempts were made to counter Greek Fire, such as covering ships in water-soaked hides. However, as mentioned, water did not extinguish Greek Fire, much to the confusion of all those unfortunate to encounter it. Also, the syringe-like mechanisms were also reportedly difficult to operate, as even when Greek Fire armaments were captured in a usable state, no forces without the training to operate them were ever able to understand how to turn the Greek Fire against the Byzantines.

Greek Fire grenades
Greek Fire could also be thrown or launched in the form of a grenade using clay pots.

Greek Fire was also an effective psychological weapon due not only to its incredible lethality and ability to override all attempted defenses, but also due to the loud noise and large blooms of smoke it is said to have generated. The sound and sight of Greek Fire was said to evoke the presence of a dragon. It also destroyed anything it touched due to the presence formula needed to create a counter-mixture which could douse the flames. Any ship, fortress, or person caught in Greek Fire could not be saved. Death and total destruction were a certainty.

A Secret Weapon

The legendary Greek Fire was used to great effect in many battles. During the First and Second Arab Sieges of Constantinople in the years 674 and 717, respectively, the Greek Fire allowed the Byzantines to withstand overwhelming odds and push back the Muslim fleet time and time again. Despite being heavily outnumbered, the Greek Fire was a game-changer while the Byzantines possessed it. It was terrifyingly effective and psychologically intimidating. Some historians credit Greek Fire with inflicting such heavy casualties on the Muslim invaders that it was the single-most important factor which prevented a larger invasion of Europe.

Greek Fire Instructional Diagram
Greek Fire was originally used only in naval combat, but was later adapted for land warfare.

However, Greek Fire was such a closely-guarded secret that eventually the Byzantines seem to have forgotten how to use it. What some may consider to have been the greatest strength of Greek Fire – how secretive its creation process was – eventually became its downfall. In ancient times, before the age of the printing press and Internet archives, choosing not to proliferate the creation process of the mixture eventually meant that everyone who knew how to create it was dead and they did not pass on the knowledge in any form.

Divine Intervention

Constantinople would fall, but the sacrifice the city’s defenders who fought so valiantly to protect it would not be in vein. Due to the massive casualties inflicted by the Byzantines with their neigh-unstoppable and nightmare-inducing Greek Fire, a greater darkness which threatened to consume the world was staved off and pushed back. Greek Fire was pivotal in Constantinople becoming known as “God’s protected city” before its eventual fall, and the casualties inflicted taking it ensured the rest of Christendom was spared oblivion. Greek Fire might just as well be known as Angel Fire, coming into the hands of the people who needed it most at the time and place where it could do the most good.

And then, due to the highly destructive nature of the weapon, after it had served its purpose on Earth, the mythical weapon was lost to history.

Significance and Legacy

Greek Fire is an interesting piece of history with many lessons derived from its story. Callinicus was an architect rather than an alchemist, yet used his knowledge of mixing materials to create a weapon unlike any the world had ever seen. This invention was so powerful, it was instrumental in exhausting the dark forces assailed against the Earth to the point where the spread of wickedness was abated and peace restored. The story also speaks to the importance of sacrifice, for even though Constantinople eventually fell, the efforts of its people were not in vein. The novelty of Greek Fire also speaks to the importance of keeping our greatest boons protected from the hands of our enemies, and its loss serves as a cautionary tale of the dangers of too much secrecy and the importance of passing knowledge on before it is lost.

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The Cycle of Civilization: A Haiku Series

Demons rise and spread
Chaos reigns and grace does fall
Hard times breed strong men
Strong men face the tide
Evil devours our children
Darkness rolling in
Sharpened by hardship
The brave cut through endless strife
Strong men make good times
Good times bring bounty
Light spreads to banish the dark
Hope fills us once more
Progress follows strength
Yet progress dulls tradition
Good times breed weak men
Weak men love comfort
Clinging to their soft cradles
Averse to challenge
The cycle renews
Our moral compass broken
Weak men make hard times
Hard times show us truth
The weak unready to hear
The strong rise again

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Friends Forged In Fire: A Haiku Series

In 1853, Matthew Perry led four ships into Tokyo Bay to establish formal ties between the United States and Japan for the first time. Others had tried before, but none were successful. Perry’s mission was to secure safe harbor for shipwrecked Americans and gain permission for U.S. ships to refuel and resupply at Japanese ports. Japan had an isolationist policy to kill any foreigners on Japanese soil at the time, but Perry came with enough security to ensure he gained an audience and was not attacked on sight. Perry requested a letter be delivered to the Tokugawa Shogunate, along with several other gifts. His gesture worked, and when he returned on March 31, 1854, the Treaty of Kanagawa was signed. A few years later, a commerce treaty was also signed, accelerating Japan’s technological capabilities with the cultural exchange.

Matthew Perry
Commodore Matthew Perry was the first American to successfully negotiate safe harbor of American vessels and sailors in Japanese ports.

Since then, the U.S.-Japan relationship has been an interesting and varied one, to say the least. Japan and the U.S. both grew in influence and in their frequency of contact in the Pacific. Embassies were opened, trade commenced, and immigration began. During the late 1800s and early 1900s, tensions started to flare between the two countries as the U.S. and Japan both tried to increasingly control and influence each other’s holdings. The U.S. tried to exert control over Japan through treaties favorable to American interests., and Japan tried to annex U.S. territory through emigration and displacement of American workers and land-owners. By 1907, many around the world believed war between the U.S. and Japan was imminent, and they were not wrong to think as such.

The two nations stood on the same side of events in WWI, and Japan took control of German holdings after the war. Despite this alliance, tensions continued to grow between as both sought influence in the Pacific. The U.S. tried to use political and diplomatic maneuvering to maintain access to Chinese markets whereas Japan sought to turn China into a puppet state. This eventually culminated in the Japanese ambition of conquering all of Asia and using the continent to control the rest of the globe. Japan ceased parts of China through military force in 1937 and entered a formal military agreement with Germany and Italy with the signing of the Tripartite Pact in 1940. This put the two great nations on a tense path, as the U.S. was aligned with the Allies of WWII and Japan with the Axis.

First Diplomatic Mission to the United States
Japan’s first diplomatic mission to the United States occurred in 1860, and the delegation was pictured in numerous photographs.

The two were major trading partners, and Japan sourced much of its oil from the United States. Japan was determined to conquer China and all of Asia, and there was widespread resentment to this in the United States. Japan sent diplomats to Washington, D.C. in an attempt to prevent war, but there was a split between the civilian and military leadership in Japan. Eventually, the civil government fell, and the Japanese military largely took control of its own operations. With the military mostly in charge and with the resolve to conquer all of Asia, the decision was made to attack American military bases across the Pacific and hopefully knockout the ability of the U.S. to respond to any conflict in Asia.

This precipitated open war between the U.S. and Japan during WWII. The bloody and arduous conflict resulted in the demilitarization of Japan after their surrender in 1945. For the first time in its history, Japan was occupied by a foreign power. A new constitution was written and major reforms were instituted in Japan. It was a dark and dismal time. The occupation lasted until 1952. Even though the war between the U.S. and Japan was officially over, the path to peace was long and bleak, leaving both sides with new scars which may be difficult to appreciate for those who did not live through that era. Yet, it was during this period the stage would be set for the Americans and Japanese to band together and face the greatest threat in either of their histories.

Bombing of Nagasaki
The events of World War II brought the U.S. and Japan into conflict, beginning with the attack on U.S. military bases around the globe – most notably at Pearl Harbor – and ending with the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In San Francisco, on September 8, 1951, the U.S. and Japan signed the Security Treaty as part of the formal end to the occupation and the restoration of Japan as a sovereign territory. This was the beginning of the long-lasting alliance between the U.S. and Japan and was an agreement centuries in the making. During the latter part of the 20th Century, there was continued struggle between the two great nations. The Security Treaty was revised to better represent Japan, and both countries worked together to push back against Communism during the height of the Cold War. After the Fall of China in 1949, there was a purge of communist groups from Japan as a precautionary measure. Ties were rocky between the U.S. and Japan throughout the 1950s and 1960s with many protests and reforms, but a positive relationship was born out of those trials which set the stage for the two countries to push back against communism in the 20th Century and beyond.

In recent times, the U.S. and Japan have sought to expand their alliance with the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue to include India and Australia. This comes amidst the rising threat of the Chinese Communist Party after failed attempts to reform the genocidal regime over the past 30 years. With the People’s Liberation Army of the CCP modernizing and forming new alliances, as well as tacitly, and sometimes openly, threatening to strike Japan, Australia, and the U.S. with nuclear weapons, the American and Japanese peoples both now stand at the precipice of their greatest challenge yet. It remains to be seen how the unlikely alliance and friendship forged in blood and fire will fare against the renewed specter of communism, and the world watches with anticipation to see if these two great nations can rise to answer their calling.

American-Japanese Combined Fleet
A combined fleet of American and Japanese warships sails in formation through the Sea of Japan, over 70 years after the end of the Pacific War between the U.S. and Japan.

This haiku series was written in honor of the history of the relationship between the United States and Japan, as well as in honor of the Japanese samurai’s invention of haiku as a unique form of poetry well-suited for warriors on the eve of battle.

Friends From Foes
Unknown faces come
Foreigners from distant lands
Strangers we know not
One eager to meet
The other wary of them
Both respecting strength
New ties bring new wealth
And worlds apart grow closer
Slow as it may be
But peace is fragile
It takes much heart to maintain
And little to break
Ambition strains us
And pushes us into war
Where blood and tears flow
Through fire and strife
We fumble into madness
Chaos seeping in
All our hope is lost
We forget how to forgive
And blinds us with hate
We push to Hell's gate
To the limits of our souls
Only there we stop
We question ourselves
We wonder what we have done
How far we did fall
But time never stops
And the world keeps on spinning
So we carry on
Our darkness within
We find a way to tame it
And remake our peace
Peace for a future
A new dawn for our children
Where we both may grow
Friendship forged in fire
Tempered in the storms of war
Unlikely allies
New darkness rises
Threatening our world once more
A familiar foe
Peace comes and it goes
And duty calls us again
To stand and to fight
Side by side again
With darkness at our doorstep
Threatening us both
Together we stand
Faced with our greatest challenge
Unsure what comes next
The specter looms large
Will fear overtake our hearts?
Or will courage reign?
The world calls for us
Our nations must be strong
Or all will be lost
Divided we fall
Together we may stand strong
As the world watches
May God bless us all
And those standing by our side
For both we shall need
Bless us on this path
Bless the U.S. and Japan
In this final fight

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Heroes From History: David Humphreys

David Humphreys was an American officer, diplomat, and poet during the revolutionary period. He was born in Derby, Connecticut on July 10, 1752. Before the war of 1776, Humphreys went to Yale College and was one of the founders of a literary society known as the Connecticut Wits along with Joel Barlow, whom Humphreys would work with later in life as a diplomat in Europe. Humphreys briefly entertained the prospect of a teaching career in Connecticut and then moved to a tutoring position in New York at the Philipse Manor. It was here that Humphreys diverted from his life as an educator to take up arms for his fellow countrymen.

Joining the Fight

In the summer of 1776, David Humphreys left his position as a tutor to join the Continental Army. He was attached to the 2nd Connecticut Regiment stationed in New York as a militia adjutant. Humphreys reportedly saw combat in the Battle of Ridgefield (1777) and during the Meigs Raid on Sag Harbor (1777). As a writer, Humphreys reported on the two actions and rose to the rank of captain, before eventually being promoted to Major. During his military service, Humphreys most notably served as the aide to Generals Samuel Parsons, Israel Putnam, Nathanael Greene, and eventually George Washington. Humphreys finally attained the position of “aide-de-camp” to General Washington in 1780.

Israel Putnam by David Humphreys
David Humphrey was a lifelong writer and often wrote about his personal experiences, such as when he served under General Putnam.

From this point on, David Humphreys accompanied George Washington everywhere, writing hundreds of communications for the general. Humphreys made his home at Mount Vernon with the Washington family due to the intensity of his work. He transcribed all the letters dictated by Washington, and it was around this time Humphreys began to write more poetry. The first of his most notable works was Address to the Armies of the United States of America, published in 1779. It was a long piece of poetry commenting on the many battles of the Revolutionary War, the sacrifices made for the country, and the joys of peace rewarded unto the new nation for their victory against tyranny.

To bolder deeds, and vict'ry's fierce delights,
Your country calls, and heav'n itself invites.
Charm'd by their potent voice, let virtue's flame,
The sense of honour, and the fear of shame,
The thirst of praise, and freedom's envied cause,
The smiles of heroes, and the world's applause,
Impel each breast, in glory's dread career,
Firm as your rock-rais'd hills, to persevere.
- excerpt from Address to the Armies of the United States of America (1779) by David Humphreys

After the British surrender at the Battle of Yorktown in 1781, Humphreys was entrusted to deliver the British colors to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. The war ended, and Humphreys was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-colonel. He remained an attaché to George Washington and accompanied the general when Washington went before Congress to issue his resignation following the end of the war. In the years that followed, Humphreys entered into a new line of service to his country as a diplomat. He joined John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin as part of the Secretaryship to the Commission for Negotiating Treaties of Commerce with Foreign Powers.

General George Washington Resigning His Commission
General George Washington Resigning His Commission by John Trumbull with David Humphreys shown standing immediately behind Washington.
Diplomatic Service

Humphrey’s years as a diplomat brought him all across Europe. He served as a representative to the United States in France, England, Spain, and Portugal. During this time, he wrote another of his famous works, The Glory of America (1783). In 1786, he would be recalled to the States and was presented with an ornamental sword for his valiant service during the Revolutionary War. Humphreys returned to Mount Vernon to serve as Washington’s secretary when the latter was elected president, and he was also made the head of the Connecticut state militia and helped safeguard the newfound nation’s territory from native incursion, as the British and other European forces continued to support the natives in a proxy war against the United States. Humphreys nearly saw action again when he marched his troops into Massachusetts to help suppress Shay’s Rebellion, but the situation was resolved before they arrived. Humphrey then wrote his next notable work, The Anarchiad (1787), which commented on the dangers of democracy.

Lo, THE COURT FALLS; th' affrighted judges run,
Clerks, Lawyers, Sheriffs, every mother's son.
The stocks, the gallows lose th' expected prize,
See the jails open, and the thieves arise.
- excerpt from The Anarchiad (1787) by David Humphreys

David Humphrey returned to Europe in 1790 as a diplomat and spy for the United States. War was brewing between Spain and England. Humphreys gathered crucial information about the situation and relayed it back to the United States. He also took part in negotiations to free American prisoners held by the Algerines, along with help from Joel Barlow. This success earned Humphreys prominence in Spain and Portugal, allowing him to become the minister of the United States to Spain and a member of the Royal Society of London. During this time, Humphreys also learned about the breeding of merino sheep in Spain and brought this knowledge back with him to the United States when he was recalled from his post.

Life of General Washington by David Humphreys
David Humphreys continued to write and publish works throughout his life, even while serving his country during war and relative peace.
Transition to Civilian Life

Now late in his life, Humphreys focused on the importation of merino sheep to the United States. He became a successful merchant and boosted the wool production of the U.S. with his new methods. As he often wrote poetry commenting on his life, he began to write poems about the raising of sheep and connected the experience to his values of patriotism, conservativism, and federalism. He took in boys off the street from New York City, training them and educating them personally, turning them into a small military outfit, teaching them to read, and helping them find jobs. Humphreys ran a farm which became quite successful and helped found the Agriculture Society of Connecticut. His wool mill produced coats of “golden fleece” which were worn by several subsequent presidents. Though he never again saw military action, David Humphreys was commissioned as a brigadier general during the War of 1812.

After living a long and prosperous life, General David Humphreys passed away on peacefully February 21, 1818.

A Patriot’s Legacy

David Humphrey was a prime example of a warrior poet from the Age of Revolution. He began his career as a teacher, wrote a wealth of poetry and prose, rose through the ranks to become a general, and settled down for the quiet life of a sheep farmer near the end of his days. He lived a life full of service to his country from his earliest days to the very end, and commanded both the use of both the pen and sword. His words inspired others to stand against darkness unending, both on paper and from his tongue as he stood beside others against the fires of battle. Yet, when his country called for him to serve in a more subtle and deft capacity, he served just as admirably.

David Humphrey was an accomplished writer, poet, author, warrior, leader, diplomat, and spy. He was also a prosperous teacher, farmer, and entrepreneur who left behind more in his one life than one could hardly dream. While he is perhaps not as well known as some other prominent figures throughout history, his story is as inspiring as any other, if not more so.

Many men have been great scholars, writers, and teachers, guiding others to greatness through their finesse with words. Many men have been great warriors, soldiers, and leaders, storming the gates of Hell and facing fears which would take the hearts of most. Just as well, many men have been great farmers, producers, and entrepreneurs, giving back to their communities by building, producing, and showing others new ways of living. Yet, few men have lived such a life to embody all these things, and that is exactly the sort of man David Humphreys was.

We do not know when or to what occasion we shall be called to arise and serve our God and our country. Nevertheless, it is our duty as human beings, as men and women, to walk surely and briskly through the flames of shadow wherever they may burn. In so doing, the light of our courage may serve as a beacon to others fumbling in the dark. Such was the way of warrior poets like David Humphreys who found himself born into times of great strife, and yet, who strove toward excellence in all he did and always found a way to thrive. The rest of us can only hope to be so brave.

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Narrow Is the Way

This is an ABAB poem I wrote in rumination on the meaning of Matthew 7:13-14. The passage speaks of the importance of taking the more difficult road in life, for the easy path is the one many take, and it leads them to into ruin. It reminded me of how we must stress our bodies and our minds to keep our wits sharp and hands quick, for a dull blade cuts not when it is needed. So too, it must be said, a dull mind and a weak body fail in times of strife. As such, through hardship we gain strength, and through strength, we do gain victory.

Narrow is the way to set one free
Through fire and shadow it passes
Few make their way and fewer shall see
The path to soft green grasses
Enter we must, through the narrow gate
To find our road to love and life
For love is sly and eludes hearts most faint
And the circle of life is one full of strife
Enter we must, through the narrow gate
Lest we become of the horde in passing
For wide is the way to an untimely fate
And many are ensnared by its dazzling
Many will enter the path most wide
And cast themselves into the void
How easy it is to give way to one's pride
So easy is beauty destroyed
Slim we must be to pass through the gate
Discarding our false truths and idols
For narrow paths do so dictate
Passage shall not be made by vandals
Righteous we must be in all our ways
To walk the path most true
And live to the fullest of our days
Doing that which we ought to do
Our duty it is to do what is right
So our kin may learn as we do
To find their own path, narrow and tight
And muster the strength to pass through

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Keepers of the Flame

“Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.”

― Gustav Mahler

A poem inspired by these words, the tides of history, and the importance of conserving our traditions to the maintenance of civilization.

Traditions pass from ear to ear
A fateful guide to the lost soul
An eternal binding we find most dear
A tie between that keeps us whole
One may wonder why it feels so fond
To be reminded of days long ago
That which shapes our nostalgic bonds
And beckons us to preserve what we know
To preserve the fire, we must teach those who will inherit it to keep it as we do.
An inborn feeling deep inside
Driving us to protect our roots
A love for our past is a trusty guide
Steering our people to bear great fruit
Our traditions bind us in unity and strength
For one fights fierce for what they love
We prepare to go to any length
To preserve our future, we rise above
Learning takes time, which is why we those with a head start gain the largest lead.
Our history is our closest bedfellow
Showing who we are and why we are here
From whence we came points where to go
For with our past our future is made clear
When we fail to recall from whence we came
So too do we fail to conserve
The spirit of giants who lit up our flame
And who built our pastures of our reserve
What this little one lacks in trigger discipline, she makes up for in spirit!
And when tradition fails, so too shall we
For tradition is the preservation of fire
And when fire fades darkness is set free
Then may our situation become most dire
And so we must raise keepers of the flame
To carry on our history and ways
To ensure we need not fight to reclaim
What was built, but lost in a daze
Passing the torch to the next generation is not only our duty, but is our chance to bond and grow together.
When we tend to the flames of our founding
We not only care for bodies and our souls
We tend to the fabrics of our worlds binding
And put our children in reach of their goals
Give heed to that fire of Humanity's being
Keep it fed and alive as one keeps their own
Keep it safe and guarded from all freezing
Do this and you'll find you are never alone
The torch must always be passed if the flame is to persist, for we are only its bearer for but a brief time.
Blessed are those who keep to the flame
The flame of our souls which guides the way
Blessed are those who know His name
For never shall they find themselves astray
And though trouble may come in one's day
From those who see flame with fear
The keepers shall wash the wicked away
And once again light the path most clear

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And So Comes A New Year

And so passes another year on this journey of ours we call life. We carry on, hoping to be better moving forward than we were in the past. For many, that is the goal, and so it should be. Without that drive to continually improve ourselves, we lay stagnant and decay. Atrophy sets in and obliterates any chance of progress and growth, if we allow it. Yet allow it, we must not. We must push forth and push right, never straying with willing steps onto the path of dismay.

Ice Age humans
The darkest time in human history was arguably the last “Ice Age” over 10,000 years ago, when nomadic hunter-gatherer humans survived on Earth during a time when the planet was a barren wasteland.

Many have struggled with times passing by, and will struggle with times yet to come. Such is our lot in life as human beings. We, the chosen ones who have weathered so many storms through which so many more have perished. Ice ages, supervolcanos, plagues, famine, and wars that shook the foundations of the world. Humanity stands apart from so many other forms of life on Earth that would have been whisked away by the winds of change so very long ago. To endure is thus our lot in life as the inheritors of the Earth standing above the rest.

Fall of Rome
Political instability, supervolcanos blocking the sun, plagues, famine, and constant war saw the apex of Roman civilization during a time of great strife for Humanity, and yet humans rose from this era of tragedy to achieve even greater heights.

Many have questioned since time began why suffering, strife, and hardship may be permitted to persist across time and space. If benevolent forces rule the world, why does the world seem a perpetual haven for the sinister and the depraved. For me, I have long understood that without suffering to challenge us, we become weak. Without strife to threaten us, we become slow. Without hardship to sharpen us, we become dull. The darkness in the hearts of our fallen brethren keeps us growing stronger to continually save the world from being consumed. And by keeping strong out of need to keep the dark at bay, we remain with the strength we need to withstand the trials of nature and disasters born not of our hands, which would wipe away any weak-willed people with not the resolve to live through hell.

French Revolution
The Age of Revolutions saw mass chaos and bloodshed grip the Earth as discontent arose with the monarchical systems of governance which prevailed for a time, and yet humans came together when the dust settled and found peace once again in spite of all the madness.

Sure as it is the sun will rise the next day, so it is sure the days ahead will be filled with as much strife or more as those we have thus far endured. And while many have endured so much in recent times they may feel they do not know how much they can bear, I know in my heart of hearts the will of the people to endure and overcome has not yet been pushed close to the brink of defeat, and there is so much more those people can do. As darkness rises once again for the great challenge of this century, we are each of us being trained to darker times ahead by the shadows we face today.

D-Day solider
Prior to the invention of the atomic bomb and the advent of nuclear deterrence of invasions, political instability once again led Humanity into a series of conflicts which culminated with the Second World War that shook the peoples of Earth like never before, and yet still Humanity rose up once again and continued moving onward.

Looking back at the darkness Humanity has endured in ages past and in the times at hand, I cannot help but anticipate what we might be preparing for. I see all hardship endured as training for conflict and crisis yet to come. With such tremendous shadow abound, I imagine the free peoples of Earth must either be on the verge of achieving great victory over tyranny once again, or perhaps we are being prepared for new battles with evil yet to come. Whatever the case may be, we must face those times with courage and conviction, never waning in our dedication to liberty, truth, and justice in the face of oblivion. There is no greater honor than to face the evils which may threaten our children and push them out with the light at our side, sparing our progeny from the troubles of our day.

Fall of Kabul
Political instability led to the Fall of Kabul when the Pentagon prematurely pulled air support and logistics prior to evacuating civilians during the withdraw from Afghanistan, leaving many trapped with little hope of escape from the Taliban and the influence of their communist allies in Beijing, prompting private citizens and non-profit groups to mobilize privately chartered planes to insert into the hostile zone and extract civilians in an impressive display of human ingenuity to overcome adversity in the face of extreme challenge.

Happy New Year to all the free peoples of Earth fighting battles both big and small, within themselves and with the world around them. May all the warriors of light find victory and strength this new year as liberty and tyranny continue their never ending clash across the ages. Stay brave. Stay strong. Stay true. Happy New Year.

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