Did you know Martha Washington was one of the few female plantation owners? - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Did you know Martha Washington was one of the few female plantation owners?

Long before she ever served as our country’s original First Lady — the OG American leading lady — she lived a prosperous and successful life. She wasn’t “just” a homemaker or took a backseat to the political process. She was actually a prolific landowner, who was in charge of multiple plantation operations. It’s a role she came by through generations, as she herself was born on her own parents’ plantation. 

In 1731, she was born as Martha Dandridge to John and Frances Dandridge. Her father was an immigrant from England (her mother was born in America), and made his living by farming in the Virginia Colony. Growing up on a plantation, she learned the business (if even indirectly) and trained for her eventual role as a land owner herself.

Did you know Martha Washington was one of the few female plantation owners?
By John Folwell, drawn by W. Oliver Stone after the original by John Wollaston, painted in 1757 ((National Park Service, Morristown National Historical Park collection. Public Domain)

At just 18, she married another Virginia plantation owner, Daniel Parke Custis, who was 20 years older than she. The pair met when Martha was 16 and dealt with family disapproval through their courtship until they were wed two years later. Custis also came from a large plantation family, and as the sole heir, took over his family’s large estate — one of the wealthiest in Virginia at the time. 

But in 1757, when Martha was a young woman of 26 years old, her husband Daniel passed away, leaving her the entirety of their estate. Custis did not have a will — he presumably died from a heart attack and was 37 years old — which meant she was automatically willed the land. One-third was hers for her lifetime, with the other two-thirds left to their four children once reaching adulthood. During this time, Martha successfully ran the plantation. She was in charge of more than 17,000 acres, investments, and liquid cash. Her biographer wrote that Martha “capably ran five plantations” and that she bargained with London merchants to earn more for her tobacco crops. With the assets, she was also in charge of some 300 slaves, whom her second husband, George Washington, granted their freedom upon her death. (We condemn the practice of slavery by the Washingtons and throughout the Mount Vernon estate.)

At the time, Martha was left as the wealthiest widow in Virginia, and one of the wealthiest people in the colony altogether. It was rare — but not unheard of — for women to have such roles. For two years she successfully ran five plantations as the head of household. 

She then married the future First President, George Washington in 1759.

However, once she married George Washington, he took control over her inheritance under the law of seisin jure uxoris, meaning the man has a right to his wife’s possessions. (This was the culture of the time, and in fact, women in Great Britain were not legally allowed to own property until the 1880s.) Washington then became the plantation owner of the former Custis estate.

Washington remained the land and slave owner until he passed in 1799. At this time, Martha again inherited the land, until it was willed back to her son. However, Washington added a provision to his will that his own 124 slaves would be freed upon Martha’s death. Martha feared for her own safety, citing several fires that were started at Mount Vernon. Martha ended up releasing the slaves on her own accord a year before her passing in 1802. 

MIGHTY HISTORY

The incredible true story of how the heir to Walmart served in MACV-SOG in Vietnam

The next time you are browsing the aisles at Walmart, just think to yourself that the son of Sam Walton, the founder of the retail giant, was involved in special operations during the Vietnam War. Military Assistance Command Vietnam-Studies and Observation Group — or MACV-SOG — is a name so bland that it shielded the true nature of their top-secret work into deniable areas like Laos, Cambodia, and North Vietnam. How did the 11th richest man in the world intertwine his legacy into one of the most notorious special operations units in U.S. military history?

John Thomas Walton was born in Newport, Arkansas, the second of three sons, and excelled at athletics. He was a standout football star on their public high school football team and was more of a student of life than academics. His father, Sam, opened Walton’s 5&10 in Bentonville, a small business in a small town known for its variety of hunting seasons. Walton had a modest upbringing and after only two years of college he dropped out to enlist in the U.S. Army. “When I was at Wooster [The College of Wooster in Ohio], there were a lot of people talking about the war in the dorm rooms, but I didn’t think they understood it,” Walton said.


Walton enlisted in the Army and became a Green Beret (Army Special Forces). “I figured if you’re going to do something, you should do it the best you can,” he said during an interview with Andy Serwer for Fortune magazine. Assigned to MACV-SOG after the Tet Offensive in 1968, Walton was stationed at FOB 1 in Phu Bai where members of Strike Team Louisiana conducted deep penetration reconnaissance missions. John Stryker Meyer, a teammate and friend of Walton’s, wrote, “In August of ’68, on one such mission, Walton’s six-man recon team was surrounded and overrun by enemy soldiers.” The firefight became so intense that the team leader, William “Pete” Boggs, called an airstrike (napalm) directly on their own position to break contact.

Did you know Martha Washington was one of the few female plantation owners?

Extracted from page 119 of “On The Ground” by John Stryker Meyer and John E. Peters.

“That strike killed one team member, wounded the team leader and severed the right leg of the Green Beret radio operator Tom Cunningham Jr., of Durham, N.H. Another team member was wounded four times by AK-47 gunfire by an enemy soldier whom Walton killed,” Meyer wrote. As the team’s medic, Walton was responsible in setting up a triage point to tend to the casualties. He applied a tourniquet to Cunningham’s leg that had begun to hemorrhage. The tourniquet ultimately saved his life, but he later lost his leg. Facing hundreds of North Vietnamese soldiers (NVA) and completely surrounded, Walton called in two extraction helicopters.

The first helicopter, piloted by South Vietnamese Captain Thinh Dinh, touched down and picked up members of the team, some of whom Walton personally carried. The enemy soldiers were now sprinting to prevent their escape. Bullets clanged off the chopper and whizzed by their bodies. A second helicopter was needed to get them all out, but realizing how dire the situation had turned, the first helicopter sat back down and picked up the entire team. Their weight was too much, and they barely managed to climb over the treetops. Walton’s determination to get his teammates out of harm’s way earned him the Silver Star, the nation’s third highest award for valor.

During a poker game on the night they returned to base, one of his teammates noticed that the skin on Walton’s wrist was burnt. It was evidence of just how accurate the NVA gunfire was. Walton, Meyer, and his teammates enjoyed poker, Scrabble, and other games that require thought. They spoke about their goals and the dreams they hoped to accomplish when they returned home. Walton’s was a life of adventure.

Meyer shares how Walton had inspirations to travel domestically on a motorcycle and to Mexico, Central, and South America by plane. He earned his pilot’s license and started his own business crop-dusting cotton fields in Texas and Arizona. Crop-dusting provided Walton a new challenge that helped his transition after Vietnam. His aerial theatrics featured ingenuity, too — Walton co-founded the company Satloc in 1999, which pioneered the use of GPS applications in agricultural crop-dusting. He also served as a company pilot for his family business.

Did you know Martha Washington was one of the few female plantation owners?

John Walton, far right, is shown in uniform.

(Photo courtesy of John Stryker Meyer.)

It seemed Walton was always searching for his next greatest thrill. He briefly owned a sailing company called Marine Corsair in San Diego, and he regularly traveled to Durango, Colorado, for outdoor activities such as mountain biking, skiing, and skydiving. As Walmart’s success climbed, so too did Walton’s wealth. At one point, he was the 11th richest man in the world, with an estimated .2 billion net worth. However, despite the amount of money he made, he always stayed true to his modest roots. Meyer recalled a breakfast the pair had in Oceanside, California, and Walton arrived in a small Toyota hybrid.

Walton was also a strong proponent of education and school vouchers, helping establish the Children’s Scholarship Fund with the goal of sending low-income children to private schools. The Walton family as a whole has donated an estimated 0 million, largely due to John’s advocacy. The William E. Simon Prize for Philanthropic Leadership recognized his contributions in 2001.

John T. Walton died on June 27, 2005, when his custom-built CGS Aviation Hawk Arrow plane crashed in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. He was 58 years old. An investigation determined that loose flight control components were the cause of the fatal accident. Walton left behind a wife, Christy, and son, Lukas.

Though Walton’s name will always be immediately recognized as the heir to the Walmart empire, his legacy is also inextricably tied to MACV-SOG. Two years before his untimely death, Walton chartered his private jet to pick up the family of Thinh Dinh, the South Vietnamese pilot with whom he served decades prior. They reunited in Las Vegas, never forgetting the lasting bonds forged in war.

Embedded With Special Forces in Afghanistan | Part 2

www.youtube.com

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

TDY to Paradise: 11 fun facts about Hawaii

Usually, we imagine American history as, well, history. Surprisingly, Hawaii is probably younger than most grandmas; as a state, at least. Hawaii gained statehood on August 21st, 1959, as the 50th and final US state. Here on the mainland, most of us know Hawaii as the land of hula dancing, beautiful beaches and family vacations, but our 50th state has a rich cultural history that’s still alive and well today. Keep reading for 11 interesting facts about the Aloha state.


Hawaii has an impressive and diverse military presence.

The US Army has the largest presence there, with over 16,000 active duty members. Next comes the Navy with roughly 8,000, the Marine Corps with 7,000, and the Air Force with about 5,000. These forces operate from numerous military bases, which gives Hawaii the largest and most diverse concentration of our military within a metropolitan area.

Veterans love Hawaii. 

Because of the strong military presence on the islands, over 120,000 veterans live in Hawaii, making up about 11% of the population. As of late 2018, Hawaii has over 18,000 military retired personnel. Of those individuals, over 17,000 receive monthly pensions.

The attack on Pearl Harbor changed life in Hawaii. 

​When the Japanese Navy Air Service attacked Pearl Harbor, over 2000 Americans were killed, but the impact on Hawaii didn’t end there. Tourism and production industries on Oahu ground to a halt. Meanwhile, over 160,000 Japanese people were being held in Hawaii- a setup that the struggling islands could no longer support. If they were removed all at once, however, the economy would crumble.

Martial law was strictly enforced until the end of the war, leaving the US military in direct control of many aspects of life in Hawaii. Over time, the military transformed Hawaii’s culture. Sugar plantations were turned into housing and training sites, more roads were built, and some of the smaller islands were destroyed. At the end of the war, military personnel returned to the mainland, resulting in even more economic challenges for Hawaii. Fortunately, the people there have since worked together to rebuild a thriving, beautiful Oahu.

Hawaii was once a monarchy.

Until 1893, the islands were ruled by the Hawaiian Monarchy. Queen Liliuokalani was sin power at the time, when a group from her Committee of Public Safety conducted a military coup. After the Hawaiian Kingdom was overthrown, President Grover Cleveland believed the monarchy should be restored. When President McKinley took office, however, he saw Hawaii as a chess piece in the game of the Spanish-American War and annexed the region. As mentioned before, it took until 1959 for Hawaii to officially become a US state.

Hawaii still honors its historical royalty.

As a former monarchy, Hawaii has traditions dating back long before it became a state. Hawaiian royalty, or ali’i, is still celebrated today. Kamehameha Day is held on June 11 in honor of King Kamehameha the Great, and Prince Kuhio Day takes place on March 26. Both of these dates are official state holidays, celebrated with annual festivals, traditional foods, and colorful parades.

Hawaii is the only U.S. state with two official languages.

The rest of the states only recognize English as the official language, but Hawaii includes its original Hawaiian tongue. Hawaiian pidgin, a Creole language based on English, is also commonly spoken, but it’s not considered an official state language.

Learning the alphabet in Hawaii is easier.

To tourists, Hawaiian names can look intimidating, but they’re actually pretty simple once you learn how the Hawaiian alphabet works. There are only 12 letters plus two symbols that change pronunciation. Once you learn the basics, it’s actually easier to sound out than English!

There are actually 137 Hawaiian Islands.

Most people have heard of some of the largest Hawaiian islands, like Maui, Oahu, Kauai, and “the Big Island”. In addition to the eight major ones, there are over 100 more smaller islands, each with unique reefs. Across the many islands, the climate varies too, covering 10 of the world’s 14 climate zones! This natural variation is responsible for the vast diversity of flora and fauna in Hawaii, making it a place like none other on Earth.

Hawaii is home to the world’s largest dormant volcano.

Maui’s Mount Haleakala reaches a peak of 10,023 feet above sea level, with a 7.5 by 2.5 mile crater. That said, the bulk of the volcano is actually located under water. Measured from the sea floor, it’s nearly 30,000 feet; similar to the height of Mount Everest! This volcanic giant was responsible for creating the majority of the island of Maui, and it’s likely to grow again in the future. Mount Haleakala isn’t extinct, just dormant, so it may erupt again one day.

Surfing started here!

With white sand, warm water, and epic waves, it’s not shocking that surfing was invented in Hawaii. It originated over a century ago, and it’s believed that stand up paddle boarding began there as well. Surfers at Waikiki started the trend several decades ago, but it wasn’t until a more recent revival by big wave surfers that the sport began to increase in popularity.

There are no snakes in Hawaii.

If you’re scared of things that slither, Hawaii is your ideal destination. The state has a strict ban on snakes and other species that may disturb native species, including hamsters, gerbils, and squirrels. Anyone who does bring a snake in should be prepared for hefty fines and possible jail time! Hawaii also requires a quarantine period for other pets, which has prevented the transmission of rabies completely.

MIGHTY HISTORY

This Vietnam War POW used a propaganda film to blink ‘TORTURE’ in Morse Code

In July 1965, then-Commander Jeremiah Denton was shot down over North Vietnam while piloting a carrier-based A-6 Intruder. He and his bombardier/navigator, Lieutenant (junior grade) Bill Tschudy, spent the rest of the Vietnam War in captivity, housed in a number of different prison camps as a POW, including the infamous Hanoi Hilton.


Related video:

As the commander of his attack squadron based on the USS Independence, Denton was leading 28 planes on a bombing mission. He and Tschudy had to eject over Thanh Hoa, North Vietnam and were immediately captured by the North Vietnamese Army (NVA).

A few months into their captivity, Denton was forced to lead 49 other prisoners of war on what became known as the “Hanoi Parade.” The NVA marched the POWs through the streets of the North’s capital at Hanoi while North Vietnamese civilians brutally beat them as they moved.

Did you know Martha Washington was one of the few female plantation owners?
American Prisoners during the Hanoi Parade.

That same year, Denton was forced to be part of a North Vietnamese propaganda campaign. His captors made him do a public interview with a Japanese reporter. He would be remembered for the rest of his life for what he did next. During the interview, Denton dotted out a secret message while on camera. He spelled T-O-R-T-U-R-E in Morse Code by blinking his eyes. Pretty brave for a POW at his captor’s mercy.

The reporter then questioned his support for the war, to which Denton replied, “I don’t know what is happening, but whatever the position of my government is, I support it fully. Whatever the position of my government, I believe in it, yes sir. I am a member of that government, and it is my job to support it, and I will as long as I live.”

Denton’s secret message was the first time a POW was able to communicate with the outside world. It also confirmed for the first time that American prisoners in Hanoi were being tortured. Denton and the CIA both believed the NVA didn’t catch Denton’s message until 1974.

Did you know Martha Washington was one of the few female plantation owners?

He and many other American POWs were locked up in separate rooms in the same building. Denton’s group was notable not only for its rank (many officers were held together) but for the prisoners’ resistance to torture and to their captors. These prisoners were held in nine-foot by three foot, windowless concrete rooms for the duration of their captivity.

He was released in February 1973 as part of Operation Homecoming, when all American POWs in Vietnam were repatriated to the U.S. For seven years and seven months, Denton endured long stretches of solitary confinement and brutal mistreatment from his NVA captors. He spent at least four of those years in solitary. Once back in uniform and with Americans, now-Captain Denton spoke to the press shortly after leaving the plane:

“We are honored to have had the opportunity to serve our country under difficult circumstances. We are profoundly grateful to our Commander-in-Chief and to our nation for this day. God bless America.”

He would later write a book about his experience as a POW. Denton retired from the Navy in 1977 at the rank of Rear Admiral. In 1980, “The Admiral from Alabama” became the first Republican from Alabama elected to the U.S. Senate since Reconstruction.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Why Australian special forces spent 10 days in Vietnam without saying a word

Navy SEAL and Vietnam veteran Roger Hayden spent ten days with the Australian Special Air Service during a mission in Vietnam. Hayden, then with SEAL Team One, invited the Aussies to go out in their area of responsibility. They had a blast Hayden told fellow Navy SEAL vet Jocko Willink on his podcast.

But for the entire ten days, the Aussies didn’t say a word. They just used hand and arms signals.


Some people may not be aware just how far back SEAL history goes. SEALs were first birthed during World War II, so by the time of the War in Vietnam, the use of Naval Special Operations was a lot more perfected than it was in its earliest days. The United States wasn’t the only country to have special operators in Vietnam. Many are surprised to discover the Vietnam War was fought by a handful of countries who also believed Vietnam was the front line of the ideological war pitting capitalism versus communism. One of those countries was Australia, which sent (among others) its own special operators.

For Australia, it was the largest force contribution to a foreign war in its history and for the longest time, remained its longest war. It was also just as controversial for Australian civilians at home as the war was for American citizens at home.

Did you know Martha Washington was one of the few female plantation owners?

Australian soldiers from 7 RAR waiting to be picked up by U.S. Army helicopters.

(Vietnam Forces National Memorial, Canberra.)

For Vietnam-era Navy SEAL Roger Hayden, the Australian SAS were some of the best he’d ever seen. He went to Army Ranger School, Raider School, and others, but he says he learned more about reconnaissance in his ten days with the Australians than he did anywhere else in the world.

“In UDT (underwater demolition teams), you just didn’t have the fieldcraft to be out in the jungle looking for people,” Hayden said of the SEALs at the time. “Their [the Australians’] fieldcraft was so good… and you gotta have your sh*t together.”

According to Hayden, they lost a lot of SEALs because of their lack of fieldcraft preparation.

Hayden and his fellow SEALs took over from those they replaced the very same day they arrived in country, with little to no preparation or turnover. They had to start completely brand new, flying into a South Vietnamese base near the U Minh Forest, today called U Minh Thượng National Park. Hayden says they were doing dartboard ops – where they would throw a dart at the map, going to wherever it hits.

“We didn’t have intel, we didn’t have sh*t,” Hayden says. “We were pretty isolated out at a Vietnamese base camp in BF-Egypt, you know what I mean?”

His time with the Australians was a rare run in the jungle, as he and fellow SEALs normally conducted riverine inserts for ambushes, intel gathering, and enemy observation.

MIGHTY HISTORY

England’s strike plane that could have been

Several countries have planes that torture aviation aficionados — airframes that showed so much potential but never made it to the field due to complicated politics, technical failures, or other reasons unknown. For the United States, it’s the XB-70 Valkyrie, A-12 Avenger, or the YF-23 Black Widow. For Canada, it is the Avro Arrow interceptor.


Did you know Martha Washington was one of the few female plantation owners?
One plane that might have been: The A-12 Avenger. (U.S. Navy graphic)

The United Kingdom has one as well. It’s called the TSR.2, although it never got an official designation because this plane barely got off the drawing board and into prototype stage. Which is a shame, because the Royal Air Force was looking at a strike plane that would have made the Tornado seem second-rate.

Did you know Martha Washington was one of the few female plantation owners?
An XI(B) Sqn Tornado GR4 training for deployment to Afghanistan. Among its weapons load is a Brimstone missile on the lower left portion of the fuselage. (British Ministry of Defence photo)

The U.K. was developing the TSR.2 with aims to replace both a now-legendary plane, the English Electric Canberra, and their V-bombers (the Vulcan, Valiant, and Victor). One of the primary objectives of this project was to counter the rise of the surface-to-air missile, which took center-stage in the world’s consciousness when a SA-2 Guideline shot down a U-2 flown by Francis Gary Powers.

Did you know Martha Washington was one of the few female plantation owners?
A Romanian SA-2 Guideline is launched during an exercise in 2007. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Petrică Mihalache)

The plane that emerged from years of development was the TSR.2. According to MilitaryFactory.com, it had a two-man crew (a pilot and weapons officer), was designed to have a top speed of Mach 2.35 (it hit 835 miles per hour in test flights), could carry up to 10,000 pounds of bombs, and had a maximum range of 2,877 miles.

After a test flight, the plane was deemed ready for production, and the line had 23 airframes in various stages of completion before politics intervened. To be specific, the Labour Party won elections and quickly proceeded to cancel the TSR.2.

Did you know Martha Washington was one of the few female plantation owners?
The engines of the TSR.2. (Wikimedia Commons photo by Paul Simpson)

To learn more about this plane that could have been, watch the video below. Do you think the TSR.2 could have succeeded?

 

(Curious Droid | YouTube)
MIGHTY HISTORY

These are the 8 reincarnations of General Patton

One of World War II’s legendary figures, Gen. George S. Patton, loomed largely in the narrative of the war for many reasons.


While no one would accuse the great general of being humble or unassuming, his ego and pride are well-deserved — to the betterment of mankind and the Allied cause. Patton, with his ivory-handled revolvers and propensity to quote the Hindu scripture of “The Bhagavad Gita,” was as eccentric in life as he was effective in combat.

No example of this was more telling than his belief in reincarnation and his own numerous past lives.

As a child, Patton believed he fought Turkish armies. As he grew into an adult, he still had visions of his death in past lives, from viking funerals to the Battle of Tyre. In 1991, Karl F. Hollenbach compiled Patton’s account of his past lives in a book called Patton: Many Lives, Many Battles. Though the man himself never completely expressed the entirety of his beliefs in reincarnation, he did describe numerous events in detail.

Maybe there was something to the idea. Patton’s prowess on the battlefields made him the most feared Allied general among the Nazi leadership, according the the German POW Lt. COl. Freiherr Von Wagenheim. General Patton’s own intelligence officer remarked that his sixth sense was often way ahead of the intelligence coming in. Perhaps this truly is a skill set acquired across lifetimes of military experience.

1. With Alexander the Great at the Siege of Tyre.

In a poem called “Through a Glass, Darkly,” which Patton wrote while commanding the Third Army in Europe, he described being a Greek Hoplite fighting the Persians under Darius. He helped smash the Persian navy and then laid siege to Tyre. The walls fell after five months as Patton and his fellow Hoplites stormed the city.

Did you know Martha Washington was one of the few female plantation owners?
Pictured: Patton with Alexander? Maybe? #wargasm.

2. Fighting Parthians for Rome.

Patton next talks about slaying Parthians with his Gladius, a sword approximately 25-32 inches long. Since the battle was said to have taken place in the first century B.C., Patton would have been fighting for what was then still the Roman Republic in the Middle East under any number of legendary Roman names: Crassus, Cassius, and Marc Antony to name a few.

In his vision, Patton was wounded and then killed by a number of arrows in his neck.

Did you know Martha Washington was one of the few female plantation owners?
How do you sleep at night after seeing this in your past life??

The general also remembered being stationed in Langres, France — as a Roman legionnaire in Caesar’s X Legion.

3. A Viking on his way to Valhalla.

When Patton was a young adult, he was kicked by a horse, who broke his leg in three places. Close to death from his wounds, Patton had a vision of his death as a Viking raider — where a vision appeared to him on the battlefield, offering to take him to the Viking afterlife.

Did you know Martha Washington was one of the few female plantation owners?
Did you know Martha Washington was one of the few female plantation owners?
No room for cowards at Crecy.

As a child, Patton claimed to have fought alongside John the Blind of Bohemia, who also met his death at Crecy.

5. An Englishman at Agincourt

The afterlife knows no loyalty in the wars of men, apparently. Less than a century later, Patton was back in the Hundred Years’ War, this time on the side of the English. Patton claimed to have fought with King Henry V at Agincourt.

Did you know Martha Washington was one of the few female plantation owners?

6. A raiding sailor.

Three of Patton’s stanzas describe fighting on ships as he freed captured slaves or prisoners of war, fired into the enemy at point-blank range during a storm, or even was hanged as a pirate or privateer, describing feeling a rope around his neck as the red deck (presumably blood-stained) was set aflame.

Did you know Martha Washington was one of the few female plantation owners?
Better get that respawn ready.

7. Fighting for the House of Stuart

Again pitted against the English, though this time his loyalties were less to a nation than to the House of Stuart. Patton was a Scottish Highlander during the third English Civil War, supporting the Stuarts after the death of Charles I.

Did you know Martha Washington was one of the few female plantation owners?

8. An aide to a Napoleonic Marshal.

Patton describes “riding with Murat” in the poem. Joachim Murat was one of Napoleon’s marshals. Murat was one of the most capable cavalry officers and leaders in service to the French Emperor. He doesn’t specify his role with Murat, but the marshal was pivotal at battles like Jena and the invasion of Russia in 1812.

When the Allies left North Africa to invade Sicily, British General Sir Harold Alexander told Patton that if had been alive in the 19th Century, Napoleon would have made him a marshal — to which Patton replied: “But I did.”

Did you know Martha Washington was one of the few female plantation owners?

At the end of his epic poem, Patton wrote that he would “battle as of yore, dying to be a fighter, but to die again, once more.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

The stunning way Andrew Jackson prevented a mass desertion

Tennessee Militia Maj. Gen. Andrew “Old Hickory” Jackson had to face down potential mass desertions twice in just a short period during the War of 1812, and both times he put on stunning displays of bravery that would hint at his potential for future success in both war and politics.


Did you know Martha Washington was one of the few female plantation owners?

Portrait of Andrew Jackson

Jackson is a controversial figure for good reason. He was a military hero who earned accolades fighting the British, generally remembered as morally fine, and for fighting Native American tribes, something most of America would rather not talk about.

But he was, for better or worse, a product of his time, a general who marched where his state asked him to go and who shared the spirits and beliefs of his peers, even the deeply prejudiced ones. And he was dedicated to doing his own duty and in seeing every man around him do what he saw as their duty.

The Tennessean was beloved by his troops, partially thanks to an event in early 1813. The War Department had ordered many of his men dismissed from service at New Orleans with no provisions or plans to get them back to Nashville where they had enlisted. Jackson responded by personally leading the men north to safety before meeting up with his replacement troops.

Did you know Martha Washington was one of the few female plantation owners?

Jackson and his men find a missing supply train as well as, according to some reports, captured Creek warriors and Black men who attempted to flee slavery.

(John Frost, 1847)

He became a hero in the eyes of the Tennessee militiamen. But they would face hardships as well, fighting throughout 1813 against Creek Native Americans and then suffering severe supply shortages the following winter. When he learned in November 1813 that many were considering deserting, he begged them to stay.

Jackson offered a deal. If missing supply wagons did not arrive in two days, he would ride back with them. But if supplies arrived, they would stay.

The two days passed and a standoff ensued. After a bit of wrangling, Jackson agreed to ride north with a body of soldiers and look for the missing supplies. If they were found, he expected them to return to the fort. And so the men rode north and did actually find the train, filled with meat and flour. According to 1847 pictorial on Andrew Jackson’s life, they also found re-captured slaves and Creek prisoners.

They ate in place, and then Jackson ordered them back to the camp. No one was happy with the command, and an entire infantry company attempted to march away north, and Jackson intercepted them with cavalry. When they arrived back at the main camp, an entire brigade was getting ready to leave.

This time, he grabbed a musket and, since his left arm was badly injured from a personal fight earlier that year, he laid the weapon across his horse’s neck and aimed it with his right arm at the mutineers. This was one gun against a brigade. The deserters could have easily overpowered him, but someone would either have to take the first shot or be the first person to try and ride past Jackson and call his bluff.

No one tempted the anger in Jackson’s eyes. Instead, troops loyal to Jackson began forming up behind him until there was little chance the brigade could break free, so they turned and headed back south.

But the anger in camp was far from quenched, and the bulk of the men had signed one-year contracts that they believed would end Dec. 10, 1813. Jackson insisted that their contracts would end one year after he had called them forward into the field, an anniversary that wouldn’t come for months.

Did you know Martha Washington was one of the few female plantation owners?

“Let me just ride around in front of these.” – Andrew Jackson, 1813

(U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Gabrielle C. Quire)

On the night of December 9, just hours before the men’s contracts ended by their own estimates, Jackson ordered the men to parade outside the fort. He ordered an artillery company out as well.

Then he rode out in front of the men and promised that, if they attempted to leave, he would order the cannons fired with himself still in the middle. Yes, he would likely be the first killed, but dozens would follow him to a quick grave if they attempted to leave.

He ordered the gunners to light their matches and then watched the men in silence. Eventually, officers came forward and promised that they and their men would stay until reinforcements arrived.

It must have been quite the dramatic display, and it did save Jackson’s army for a few days.

But the hits would keep coming for Jackson. Reinforcements arrived, and so he released the men who had attempted to “desert.” Then it turned out the new men’s contracts were also due to end in December, and that another brigade’s contracts would end January 4, 1814.

Jackson protested, but the arguments over contracts had made it back to the larger world. Both the governor of Tennessee and the secretary of war agreed with the militiamen that their contracts ended one year after signature, not one year after being called to active service in the field.

The general did eventually receive his reinforcements, though. And he would go on to win battles against the Creeks that resulted in treaties favorable to the U.S. and would bolster Jackson’s eventual political career. He was accepted into the U.S. Army, as opposed to the Tennessee Militia, as a brigadier general and then major general.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The Coast Guard just officially turned 106, but it’s actually way older

The Coast Guard isn’t the most highly respected branches of the Armed Forces, to put it lightly. For all the flak it gets from other branches, the Coast Guard has solidly established its value to the US. In fact, it has one of the lengthiest histories of all. 

The Coast Guard is among the oldest federal organizations in the US

It was established back in 1790, just 14 years after America gained independence. For eight years, it reigned supreme as the US’s only sea-based service. At that point, the Navy was invented, but the CG was far from finished. 

On January 28th, 1915, the Revenue Cutter Service and the U.S. Life-Saving Service merged into one; the new, official Coast Guard. As described by Title 14 of the U.S. Code

“The Coast Guard as established January 28, 1915, shall be a military service and a branch of the armed forces of the United States at all times. The Coast Guard shall be a service in the Department of Homeland Security, except when operating as a service in the Navy.”

It has played a role in nearly every war since. 

Is it a military force or a law enforcement branch? Yes. 

Despite being over a century old, the Coast Guard is the most misunderstood branches. It’s actually a two for one deal. Most of the time, it functions as an arm of Homeland Security and a marine rescue agency. Members are also responsible for guarding marine wildlife, environmental protection, and enforcing the law all across the country’s coastline. 

During times of war, however, it becomes an extension of the Navy, to assist against foreign threats as directed by the President.

To be more specific, the Coast Guard…

  • Is responsible for enforcing the law across all U.S. ports and waterways
  • Protects over 100,000 miles of coastline
  • Mans a fleet of hundred of cutters and aircraft, plus over 1,600 boats 
  • Conducts around 45 search and rescues a day
  • Seizes thousands of pounds of illegal drugs each week
  • Screens over 350 merchant vessels before arrival in U.S. harbors
  • Investigates pollution incidents
  • Maintains buoys and other navigation aids
  • Investigates commercial vessel casualties
  • Makes the shipping of billions of dollars worth of goods possible

In short, the Coast Guard is pretty frickin’ cool.

Coast Guard performing a rescue
Thanks, Coast Guard! For apprehending drug traffickers and rescuing dumb*ss kayakers alike.

In addition to celebrating its 106th official birthday (and its 231st if you count its earliest years), the Coast Guard has churned out some awesome vets. Jeff Bridges, Arnold Palmer, and even Popeye were coasties! It also has a frat that used to be called the Ancient Order of Pterodactyl. It was renamed to the Coast Guard Aviation Association in 2007. Not quite as catchy, but still cool. 

More importantly, 10 lives every day are saved by members of the Coast Guard. Happy birthday, guys. You’re doing awesome.

MIGHTY HISTORY

It took 50 years to recognize this Vietnam War hero

In the fog of war, it’s not uncommon for outstanding pieces of heroism to go unrecognized — at least for a time. In the case of Joe Rochefort, a lack of recognition was one part needing to protect secrets and another part bureaucratic vengeance.

Other times, it simply takes a while for the necessary proof of heroism to be gathered. This was the case for Corporal Stephen Austin.


Austin served with the 27th Marine Regiment during the Vietnam War. According to a report by the Fresno Bee, it took two attempts and a number of years to gather the statements from Austin’s fellow Marines about what he did when his platoon was ambushed on June 8, 1968, during Operation Allen Brook.

Fellow Marine Grady Birdsong felt no bitterness about the length of time it took to recognize Austin’s valor.

“We were on the move all the time and, to be real honest with you, we weren’t concerned about awards. We were just concerned about staying alive and being able to come home,” he explained.

Birdsong, though, took up the cause after the death of Al Joyner, another Vietnam veteran who served alongside Austin.

Did you know Martha Washington was one of the few female plantation owners?

Dog tags once worn by Stephen Austin during his military service, when ended when he was killed in action.

(USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Marcos Alvarado)

The initial award was slated to be a Silver Star. However, after the statements were reviewed, the award was upgraded to the Navy Cross — a decoration for valor second only to the Medal of Honor. If you read the citation, it’s clear why it was upgraded.

“With complete disregard for his own safety,” the citation reads, Austin broke cover to attack an enemy machine gun nest with a hand grenade. He succeeded in hitting the position but was mortally wounded. Because of his actions, surviving members of his platoon were able to eliminate the enemy.

Did you know Martha Washington was one of the few female plantation owners?

General Robert Neller, Commandant of the Marine Corps, presented the Navy Cross to Austin’s daughter.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Olivia Ortiz)

The Navy Cross was personally presented by General Robert Neller, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, to Austin’s daughter, Neily Esposito, on July 21, 2018. The 27th Marine Regiment is currently inactive.

MIGHTY HISTORY

Watch an interview with the last surviving witness to the Lincoln Assassination

Samuel J. Seymour was away from his home for the first time at just five years old. He was with his father on a business trip to Washington, D.C., a city filled to the brim with soldiers and other men with guns. He was nervous and scared at the sight of so many firearms. To put him at ease, his nurse decided to take him to a play, and President Lincoln himself would be there.

It was an event he would never forget, as he recounted it to a TV audience and celebrity contestants Bill Cullen, Jayne Meadows, Henry Morgan, and Lucille Ball some 90-plus years later.


“It wasn’t a pleasant thing,” Seymour told Meadows when describing his night at Ford’s Theater on a 1956 episode of I’ve Got A Secret. “I was scared to death.”

When Lincoln arrived, he smiled and greeted the crowd from a flag-draped booth in the balcony. The President’s smile and the mood of the theater relaxed the young boy. Until a shot rang out. Strangely, the five-year-old Seymour was very concerned about the man who appeared to have fallen from the balcony of the theater in the middle of the performance. He had no idea someone had been shot, let alone that it was President Lincoln.

“Pandemonium” then swept through the theater, Seymour recalled, as his nurse hurried the boy out of the theater. He heard calls of “Lincoln’s shot! The President is dead!”

Did you know Martha Washington was one of the few female plantation owners?

Seymour died two months after his TV appearance.

The man, of course, was Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth. Booth waited until the play’s funniest line when the shot would be masked by the sound of laughter. Booth calmly walked into the President’s booth, barred the door, and fired a single shot into the President, who was laughing at the line. Union Army Maj. Henry Rathbone, who accompanied Lincoln that night with their wives, fought Booth for his single-shot derringer and was stabbed for his effort. His constant wrangling with Booth caused the assassin’s boot spur to get tangled in the flag as he jumped from the President’s box. This is why Booth landed awkwardly on his leg.

Many in the crowd were confused. Not everyone heard the shot, and many thought it was still part of the play. Little Samuel Seymour didn’t understand it either.

“I saw Lincoln slumped forward in his seat,” the old man said. “That night I was shot 50 times, at least, in my dreams – and I sometimes relive the horror of Lincoln’s assassination, dozing in my rocker as an old codger like me is bound to do.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

These 13 photos of US troops with enemy flags show some traditions never die

A military unit losing its colors is pretty humiliating — maybe even as bad as losing a battle. But it probably feels pretty good to be the one who captures those colors. And American troops have captured a lot of enemy flags over the years.


While the Geneva Convention demands all POWs be allowed to keep their personal belongings and protective gear, a “war trophy” like a captured flag doesn’t really apply.

But even if troops decide not keep trophies like an enemy flag, that doesn’t mean they can’t snap a quick photo – just as many have before and will likely do for many wars to come.

1. Civil War

Did you know Martha Washington was one of the few female plantation owners?

Union soldiers pose with Confederate flags that they captured in battle during the Civil War. Each was awarded a Medal of Honor for grabbing the enemy’s flag.

2. United States Expedition to Korea

Did you know Martha Washington was one of the few female plantation owners?
U.S. Marines with a captured Korean flag from the Korean conflict with the Joseon Dynasty of 1871.

 

3. Spanish-American War

Did you know Martha Washington was one of the few female plantation owners?
U.S. troops capturing Spanish guns at Malate Fort in Manila, Philippines. (U.S. Army photo)

 

4. Philippine-American War

Did you know Martha Washington was one of the few female plantation owners?
An American soldier with Filipino weapons and flag in Ocampo, the Philippines ca. 1901.

 

5. U.S. Intervention in Nicaragua

Did you know Martha Washington was one of the few female plantation owners?

U.S. Marines holding the Nicaraguan rebel leader Augusto César Sandino’s Flag in Nicaragua, 1932. (Marine Corps photo)

6. World War II

Did you know Martha Washington was one of the few female plantation owners?
U.S. soldiers with a surrendered Italian flag at Paestum, Italy. (U.S. Army photo)
Did you know Martha Washington was one of the few female plantation owners?
U.S. Marines on Iwo Jima with captured Japanese flags. (U.S. Army photo)
Did you know Martha Washington was one of the few female plantation owners?
American Paratroopers pose with a captured Nazi flag after landing in Normandy. (U.S. Army photo)

 

7. Korean War

Did you know Martha Washington was one of the few female plantation owners?
U.S. troops with a captured North Korean flag during the Korean War. (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

 

8. Vietnam War

Did you know Martha Washington was one of the few female plantation owners?

Sailors from SEAL Team One captured this flag during the Vietnam War, circa 1970. (NARA photo)

9. Invasion of Grenada

Did you know Martha Washington was one of the few female plantation owners?
1st Platoon, B Co, 1st Ranger Battalion with a flag from Cuban barracks captured during the invasion of Grenada, 1983. (photo by Bryan Staggs, who captured the flag and is standing in the front row, right)

 

10. Invasion of Panama

Did you know Martha Washington was one of the few female plantation owners?
U.S. troops during Operation Just Cause, the invasion of Panama, in December 1989. (photo by Ron Busch)

 

11. The Iraq War

Did you know Martha Washington was one of the few female plantation owners?

U.S. Army Lt. Col. Rod Coffey holds the flag of al-Qaeda in Iraq, the precursor to ISIS, in Diyala Province, Iraq, 2008. (photo from Rod Coffey)

There are, of course, many other photos of American troops with captured enemy flags that we can’t post here. There are photos depicting joint U.S.-Afghan forces taking down a Taliban flag. Photographer Scott Nelson also took a photo of U.S. troops with a captured Iraqi flag during the 2003 Invasion.

If you do decide take a battlefield souvenir, be sure to fill out your DD Form 603-1.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The history of Dr. Seuss’ Army career

Dr. Seuss is a story-writing legend in America. It’s hard to find anyone who hasn’t read “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” “The Cat in the Hat,” “The Lorax” or “Horton Hears A Who!”


Did you know Martha Washington was one of the few female plantation owners?

Army Master Sgt. Nekia Haywood reads to children at Hopkins Elementary School in Chesterfield, Va., March 2, 2018, in celebration of Dr. Seuss’ birthday.

(Photo by Fran Mitchell, Army)

But well before those iconic books were written, Dr. Seuss joined the World War II effort on the home front using his real name, Theodor Seuss Geisel.

At first, he drew posters for the Treasury Department and the War Production Board. But by 1943, Geisel wanted to do more, so he joined the U.S. Army. He was put in command of the animation department of the 1st Motion Picture Unit, which was created out of the Army Signal Corps. There, he wrote pamphlets and films and contributed to the famous Private Snafu cartoon series.

Did you know Martha Washington was one of the few female plantation owners?

Army Maj. Theodor Geisel.

(Army photo)

Private Snafu — which stood for situation normal, all fouled up — was a series of adult instructional cartoons meant to relate to the noncareer soldier. They were humorous and sometimes even raunchy. According to the National Archives’ Special Media Archives Services Division, Geisel and his team believed that the risque subject matter would help keep soldiers’ attention, and because the Snafu series was for Army personnel only, producers could avoid traditional censorship.

Geisel’s cartoons were often featured on Army-Navy Screen Magazine, a biweekly production of several short segments.

Did you know Martha Washington was one of the few female plantation owners?

Theodor “Dr. Seuss” Geisel at work on a drawing of the Grinch, the hero of his children’s book, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”

(Library of Congress photo)

One of Geisel’s most significant military works, however, wasn’t animated. It was called “Your Job in Germany” and was an orientation film for soldiers who would occupy Germany after the war was over. Geisel, who was German-American himself, was assigned to write it a year before the Germans surrendered.

According to Geisel’s biography, “Dr. Seuss and Mr. Geisel,” Geisel said he was sent to Europe during the war to screen the film in front of top generals for approval. He happened to be in Belgium in December 1944, when the Battle of the Bulge — Hitler’s last big counteroffensive in Belgium’s Ardennes forest — erupted. According to his biography, Geisel was trapped 10 miles behind enemy lines, and it took three days before he and his military police escort were rescued by British forces.

According to National Archives staff, it’s possible that the snafu cartoons influenced Geisel’s career as Dr. Seuss. Throughout Snafu, Geisel started using limited vocabulary and rhyme — something noticeable in his later works like “The Cat in the Hat,” which used only 236 words but is one of the best-selling books of all time.

Did you know Martha Washington was one of the few female plantation owners?

Air Force Gen. John Hyten, the commander of U.S. Strategic Command, shares a “The Cat in the Hat” reading hat before he reads to children at the child development center at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., April 26, 2018.

(Photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Julie R. Matyascik)

Geisel left the Army in January 1946, having attained the rank of lieutenant colonel. He stayed in the filmmaking industry for a few years, even working on documentaries and shorts that earned Academy Awards, but he eventually switched to using his pen name, Dr. Seuss, to start writing children’s books.

And the rest, as they say, is history!

This article originally appeared on Department of Defense.

Do Not Sell My Personal Information