This Week in History

A Bomb Blast Inspires a “Red Scare”: June 2, 1919

This text comes from our high school text, Lands of Hope and Promise: A History of North America. Please visit our webpage to peruse sample chapters of our book. For ordering information on Lands of Hope and Promise and our other texts, please click here.

A. Mitchell Palmer (right) with President Woodrow Wilson

Dread of the German “Hun” conquering the world gave way, after the World War, to fear of Russian Bolshevism and its stated aim to spark a worldwide proletarian revolution. Some, like A. Mitchell Palmer, whom Wilson appointed attorney general in June 1919, thought Bolshevism threatened the United States with unrest and revolution. In 1920, Palmer described the state of things as he saw them in 1919:

Like a prairie-fire, the blaze of revolution was sweeping over every American institution of law and order a year ago. It was eating its way into the homes of the American workmen, its sharp tongues of revolutionary heat were licking the altars of the churches, leaping into the belfry of the school bell, crawling into the sacred corners of American homes, seeking to replace marriage vows with libertine laws, burning up the foundations of society.

This account perhaps did not seem so exaggerated to men whose imaginations had been stirred up by war and war propaganda and who, in the summer of 1919, had experienced a good deal of social conflict. The movement of blacks from the South to the factories and cities of the North during the war had already caused a good deal of social unrest. White workers feared that black competition would affect their wages. A riot between blacks and whites in East St. Louis in 1917 left 47 dead and hundreds wounded. Another race riot in Washington, D.C. in July of 1919 was so violent that thousands of troops had to be called in to quell it. The same month, 36 died in a three-day riot in Chicago. The same year, racial tensions made themselves felt in New York, Omaha, and in the South. (more…)



This Week in History

A Pope Dies in Exile: May 23, 1085

This text comes from our book, Light to the Nations I: The History of Christian Civilization. To peruse sample chapters of our books, go hereFor ordering information on Light to the Nations I and our other texts, please click here.

A depiction of Pope Gregory VII, from an 11th century manuscript

Freed themselves from lay control, the popes now tried to free the rest of the Church from lay control. The Church’s champion in this struggle was Hildebrand, archdeacon of Rome and advocate of the Cluniac reforms. Hildebrand was elected pope in 1073 as Gregory VII.

To reform the rest of the Church, Gregory VII sent out legates, who encouraged local Church councils to attack abuses and appoint only men of virtue and learning as clergymen. Like the popes before him, Gregory also forbade the practice of simony.

Simony, however, was just what Emperor Henry IV, the son of Henry III, was practicing. Henry IV not only appointed bishops, but he sold the appointments. As kings and lords had been doing for two centuries,Henry invested new bishops-elect with the symbols of their office, the ring and crosier. Pope Gregory, however, declared that this practice of lay investiture must stop. Only the Church, said the pope, had the right to invest bishops because a bishop’s authority comes not from kings and emperors, but from God through the Church. (more…)



This Week in History

Coronation of the Dream Emperor:

May 21, 996

This text comes from our book, Light to the Nations I: The History of Christian Civilization. To peruse sample chapters of our books, go hereFor ordering information on Light to the Nations I and our other texts, please click here.

Emperor Otto III, from a manuscript called the “Gospels of Otto III”

When his mother, the Princess Theophano of Byzantium, died in 991, Otto III was only 12. Two churchmen, the bishops of Mainz and Hildesheim, took control of the young king’s education. Otto was educated in Roman history and literature and raised even less in the German way than his father had been.

Young Otto was deeply influenced by the Cluniac reform movement. He became enthusiastically religious, seeking out holy places and inspired hermits. The state of the Church during his time seemed to him to call for a champion and house cleaner. Further, from his mother’s teaching Otto had inherited the Byzantine ideas of the sacredness of the empire. The young king’s mind was filled with glowing images of a kingdom of God on earth, in which pope and emperor ruled in harmony over a world of peace and prosperity. His ideals were generous, noble, and unselfish, even if they were impractical for so troubled an age. (more…)



This Week in History

Frémont Turns Back: May 8, 1846

This text comes from our high school text, Lands of Hope and Promise: A History of North America. Please visit our webpage to peruse sample chapters of our book. For ordering information on Lands of Hope and Promise and our other texts, please click here.

John Charles Frémont

In the spring of 1845, a party of about 60 men led by Captain John Charles Frémont of the United States Army Corps of Topographical Engineers arrived at John Sutter’s fort on the Sacramento River. Frémont’s party included 12 Delaware Indians; the explorer and trapper, Kit Carson; and Jedediah Smith’s old companion, William Fitzgerald.

It was Frémont’s second journey into California. He had first come to California in 1843 through Nevada, westward over the Sierra Nevada, and through central and southern California. From California, he made his way home via Santa Fé in New Mexico. Frémont wrote a detailed report of his expedition that not only gave details of topography, flora, and fauna, but revealed the feeble hold Mexico had on California. The report won fame for Frémont as the “Pathfinder.”

Frémont’s father-in-law was the pro-expansionist senator from Missouri, Thomas Hart Benton; the former ambassador to Mexico, Joel Poinsett, was Frémont’s patron. After Frémont returned from his first expedition in 1844, Poinsett introduced him to both General Winfield Scott, who promoted Frémont to captain, and to President Polk. It was with the backing of such powerful men that Frémont undertook his second expedition into California. Ostensibly it was just another topographical expedition, like the first. (more…)



This Week in History

The Battle of Chancellorsville:

May 1-4, 1863

This text comes from our book, Lands of Hope and Promise: A History of North America. Please visit our webpage to peruse sample chapters of our book. For ordering information on Lands of Hope and Promise and our other texts, please click here.

Fredericksburg, Virginia, March 1863

The turn of the year 1863 found the Army of the Potomac mired in Virginia clay at Falmouth, on the left bank of the Rappahannock, opposite Fredericksburg. The morale of the men was low — they had not been paid in months, the camps were rife with sickness, the food was bad, and Burnside was still in command. At least a quarter of the men were absent without leave, and the rest, who stayed, waited sullenly for an end to the rain, snow — and mud.

The Army of Northern Virginia still stared defiance from the hills above Fredericksburg. Their case however was more desperate than the Federals’. In ragged clothes and without shoes, with even less food and pay than their Northern brothers, rebel soldiers were in a miserable state. Many (about 40 percent) were absent without leave, some answering desperate appeals from hungry family at home, others just sick of the blood, cold, and mud.

General Joseph Hooker

Prospects brightened for the Army of the Potomac in the spring when Lincoln replaced Burnside with General Joseph Hooker. Called “Fighting Joe,” Hooker boasted that his “plans” were “perfect.” “May God have mercy on General Lee, for I will have none,” he boasted. Hooker boosted his men’s morale, not only with fighting words but by cleaning up the camps and, more importantly, by supplying them with food and pay.

Hooker had a good plan to destroy the Army of Northern Virginia, once and for all. He would divide his enormous force — 185,000 men — and while a large contingent under General Sedgwick pretended to make a frontal attack on Lee at Fredericksburg, Hooker would secretly lead another, larger force northwest, cross the Rappahannock farther upstream, and attack Lee from the rear. In this way, Hooker thought he and Sedgwick, like a hammer and anvil, could between them crush the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia.

General Robert E. Lee, however, was not fooled. He had an uncanny ability to read the character of his opponent and guess what he might do. After Hooker began his march up the river on April 27, Lee did a daring act — he divided his small force of 60,000, leaving 10,000 to face Sedgwick at Fredericksburg, while he led the remainder west to face Hooker. Military strategists thought dividing a smaller force in the face of a larger one the height of foolishness, but Lee was not governed by textbook strategy. He was in a desperate situation that called for desperate measures. (more…)