Monday, August 27, 2012

Neil Armstrong, Scottish Astronaut

Neil Armstrong is dead at 82. He was born on August 5, 1930 in Wapakoneta, Ohio and was of Scottish descent. When he was two, his father took him to the Cleveland Air Races and at six, he had his first ride in a Ford tri-motor often called the “Tin Goose.” At the age of 15 Armstrong had earned his flight certificate. He was an Eagle Scout and when he was on his way to the moon he sent greetings to all his fellow Scouts.

His naval career started on January 26, 1949, when he reported to the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida for flight training. Two weeks after his 20th birthday he was a fully qualified naval aviator. Armstrong attended Purdue University with a GPA that rose and fell. He was awarded a bachelor of science degree in aeronautical engineering in 1965 and in 1970 a Master of Science degree in aerospace engineering.

He first saw action in the Korean War. While making a low level bombing run at 350 mph, Armstrong collided with something at a height of about 20 feet which tore off parts of the right wing on his Panther aircraft. He flew the plane back to South Korea but the only option was to eject from the aircraft. He flew 78 missions over Korea and received the Air Metal for the first 20 combat missions. After 20 more missions he received a gold star and the Korean Service Metal. He left the Navy at the age of 22 and became an officer in the United States Naval Reserve. He also returned to Purdue where finished his education and also wrote and directed a musical.

At Purdue he met Janet Elizabeth Sheron and they were married at the Congregational Church in Wilmette, Illinois. (She was a graduate of New Trier High School.) The couple had three children. One daughter, Karen, died on January 28, 1962.

Armstrong next became a test pilot which led to several adventures that could have taken his life. He flew the X15 to a height of 207,000 feet and a top speed of 4,000 mph. During his career as a test pilot he flew more than 200 different models of aircraft.

He will always be remembered for his voyage to the moon in Apollo 11. The object of Apollo was to land safely on a particular spot. When Armstrong saw that they were in danger of missing their landing area he took manual control of the module and found a safe spot for landing. Many of us remember the landing on July 20, 1969 and the first words to Mission Control, “Houston, the Eagle has landed.” When his left boot touched the surface of the moon Armstrong said, “That’s one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

In 1972 Armstrong visited the town of Langholm, Scotland, which is the seat of Clan Armstrong. He declared the town to be his home. The Justice of the Peace read an unrepealed law which required him to hang any Armstrong found in the town. The law was 400 years old.

 “My pleasure is not only that this is the land of Johnnie Armstrong, rather that my pleasure is knowing that this is my hometown and in the genuine feeling that I have among the hills, these people” (Four hundred years earlier in the days of Johnnie Armstrong, the clan could put 3,000 men on the battlefield, each with the name of Armstrong.)

The astronaut came to Chicago on August 13, 1969 for a giant parade down Michigan Ave. More than a million people lined the streets and 100,000 jammed Civic Center Plaza for the official welcome. There have been numerous stories that he carried a swatch of Armstrong tartan with him on the Apollo 11 mission but this has never been confirmed and is probably not true.

American has lost another quiet, unassuming hero.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus

P.S. Armstrong was invited to become a member of the Scottish American Hall of Fame but he respectfully declined.

The next meeting of the History Club will be September 8, beginning at 10 a.m. The program will be presented by the Eastland Society. Admission is free. Reservations are helpful. 708-447-5092.

Friday, August 17, 2012

The General Who Might Have Been President, Part II

Please see the previous post for Part I. These letters were written by General William Tecumseh Sherman before and after the death of General James Birdseye McPherson to his fiancee Emily Hoffman.

Military Division of the Mississippi
Acworth, Ga.

June 9, 1864

My Dear Young Lady,

I hardly feel that I should apologize for intrusion, for I can claim an old acquaintance with your brother and sister in California, and feel almost that I know you through them, and others of your honored family. It has come to my knowledge that you are affianced to another close friend and associate of mine Maj General McPherson, and I fear that weighing mighty matters of State but lightly in the Realm of Love, you feel that he gives too much of his time to his Country and too little to you.

His rise in his profession has been rapid, steady and well earned. Not a link unbroken. Not a thing omitted. Each step in his progress however has imposed on him fresh duties that as a man and a soldier, and still more as a Patriot, he could not avoid.

I did hope as he returned from Meridian, when his Corps the 17th was entitled to go home on furlough, that he too could steal a month to obey the promptings of his heart, to hasten to Baltimore and I so instructed, but by the changes incident to General Grant's elevation, McPherson succeeded to the Command of a separate Army and Department, and could not leave.

There is no rest for us in this war till you and all can look about you and feel there is Reason and Safety in the Land. God purifies the atmosphere with tempests and storms which fall alike upon the just and unjust, and in like manner he appeases the jarring elements of political discord by wars and famine. Heretofore as a nation we have escaped his wrath, but now with the vehemence of a hundred years accumulation we are in the storm, and would you have us shrink?

But I will not discuss so plain a point with one who bears the honored name of Hoffman, rather tell you of him whose every action I know fills your waking and sleeping thoughts, him so young but so prominent, whose cause is among the gallant and brave, who fight not for oppression and wrong but that the Government bequeathed to us by your ancestors shall not perish in ignominy and insult: but which shall survive in honor and glory, with a power to protect the weak and shelter the helpless from the terrible disasters of a fratricidal war.

I know McPherson well, as a young man, handsome and noble soldier, activated by motives as pure as those of Washington, and I know that in making my testimony to his high and noble character, I will not offend the girl he loves.

Be patient and I know that when the happy day comes for him to stand by your side as one being identical in heart and human existence you will regard him with a high respect and honor that will convert simple love into something sublime and beautiful.

Yours with respect
W. T. Sherman

This letter was written by General Sherman less than 6 weeks later after the death of James Birdseye McPherson on July 22, 1864.

HEADQUARTERS, Military Division of the Mississippi
In the Field, near Atlanta Geo.

August 5, 1864

My Dear Young Lady,

A letter from your Mother to General Barry on my Staff reminds me that I owe you heartfelt sympathy and a sacred duty of recording the fame of one of our Country's brightest and most glorious Characters. I yield to none on Earth but yourself the right to excel me in lamentations for our Dead Hero. Why should death's darts reach the young and brilliant instead of older men who could better have been spared?

Nothing that I can record will elevate him in your mind's memory, but I could tell you many things that would form a bright halo about his image. We were more closely associated than any men in this life. I knew him before you did; when he was a Lieutenant of Engineers in New York, we occupied rooms in the same house.

Again we met at St. Louis, almost at the outset of this unnatural war, and from that day to this we have been closely associated. I see him now, so handsome, so smiling, on his fine black horse, booted and spurred, with his easy seat, the impersonation of the Gallant Knight.

We were at Shiloh together, at Corinth, at Oxford, at Jackson, at Vicksburg, at Meridian, and on this campaign. He had left me but a few minutes to place some of his troops approaching their position, and went through the wood by the same road he had come, and must have encountered the skirmish line of the Rebel Hardee's Corps, which had made a Circuit around the flank of Blair's troops.

Though always active and attending in person amidst dangers to his appropriate duties, on this occasion he was not exposing himself. He rode over ground he had twice passed that same day, over which hundreds had also passed, by a narrow wood road to the Rear of his Established Line. He had not been gone from me half an hour before Col. Clark of his Staff rode up to me and reported that McPherson was dead or a prisoner in the hands of the Enemy.

He described that he had entered this road but a short distance in the wood some sixty yards ahead of his Staff and orderlies when a loud volley of muskets was heard, and in an instant after, his fine black horse came out with two wounds, riderless. Very shortly thereafter, other members of his staff came to me with his body in an ambulance. We carried it into a house, and laid it on a large table and examined the body. A simple bullet wound high up in the Right breast was all that disfigured his person. All else was as he left me, save his watch and purse were gone.

At this time the Battle was raging hot and fierce quite near us, and lest it should become necessary to burn the house in which we were, I directed his personal staff to convey the body to Marietta and thence North to his family. I think he could not have lived three minutes after the fatal shot, and fell from his horse within ten yards of the path or road along which he was riding. I think others will give you more detailed accounts of the attending circumstances. I enclose you a copy of my official letter announcing his death.

With affection and respect,
W. T. Sherman

Maj. General Oliver Howard, wrote in his report, "We were all made sad yesterday by the death of General McPherson - so young, so noble, so promising, already commanding a department! His death occasioned a profound sense of loss, a feeling that his place can never be completely filled. How valuable, how precious the country to us all, who have paid for its preservation such a price."

Wayne Rethford, Past President
Illinois St. Andrew’s Society
Scottish American History Club

Don’t forget the History Club meets September 8. The program will be presented by the Eastland Historical Society. Reservations are helpful. Call 630-447-5092.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The General Who Might Have Been President

This blog is about General James Birdseye McPherson who was the second highest ranking Union officer killed during the Civil War. I could find little information about the family except that his father, William, was born in Scotland. His Mother was Cynthia Russell McPherson and I assume she was also born in Scotland. I did find one source which said his father was an unsuccessful blacksmith and became ”mentally unstable.” We also know there were four children in the family and James B. was the oldest.

Because his father was unable to support the family, it was necessary that James find a job and help his mother. His employer, Robert Smith, took an interest in the young man and helped him spend two years at the Norwalk Academy. In 1849, again with the aid of Robert Smith, he entered West Point. He was now twenty years old. A gifted student, he graduated in 1853 first in his class. Included in his class were men who fought on both sides of in the Civil War including Philip H. Sheridan and John Bell Hood. Eleven years later it would be Hood’s battle order at Atlanta which would result in the death of Gen. McPherson.

After West Point, McPherson was commissioned a lieutenant in the Corps of Engineers and at the outbreak of the Civil War he was in San Francisco supervising the fortification of Alcatraz Island. It is said that no Union officer “had a more meteoric rise than McPherson.” In August 1861, he was a first lieut. and by October 8, 1862, he was a major general and in command of a division in the XIII Corps. He participated in the battles of Fort Henry and Fort Donelson as did many men from Illinois. He was also at Shiloh.

One of his finest moments as an officer came during the siege of Vicksburg. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant cited him for “conspicuous skill and personal bravery” and promoted him to Brig. General. On March 26, 1864, he assumed command of the Army of Tennessee which he led in the campaign of North Georgia.

After a meeting with Gen. Sherman on July 22, 1864, McPherson and one orderly were riding back to a battle which had just started. They entered a grove of woods and had traveled only about 100 yards where a cry of “halt” rang out. He stopped for a moment and saw a line of gray skirmishers. He raised his hand as if to tip his hat and made a quick turn to the right. The skirmishers let go with a volley. Gen. McPherson staggered in his saddle for a short distance and then fell to the ground. Only one bullet had found the General but several found his horse which was probably put down.

His troops soon recovered his body, tore a door from its hinges and improvised a bier. Gen. Sherman came to see his friend and it was reported that “tears rolled through his beard and down on the floor.” There are those who believe that his death was one of the heaviest individual losses suffered by Union forces during the war. Many believed that had he lived, he would have been elected President of the United States. Gen. Grant said “the nation had more to expect from him than from almost anyone living.” James Birdseye McPherson was only 35 years of age when he died. Among his friends were: Rutherford B. Hayes, James Garfield and Ulysses S, Grant. His body was taken back to Clyde, Ohio for burial.

 McPherson was engaged to be married to Emily Hoffman of Baltimore. While serving at Vicksburg, he was given leave to be married but before he reached Baltimore, he was returned to active duty. After his death, Emily mourned for a year and it is said she never left her room. She remained a spinster for the rest of her life. But, in 1876, she made an attempt to have her soldier buried in Washington, D.C.  A group of strangers arrived in Clyde, Ohio to remove the body but were met with fierce resistance that included the use of firearms. No one was going to take their hero from his home in Ohio.

Miss Hoffman, unable to have the body of her hero soldier began working to have a statue erected in his honor. She called on two of his closest friends for aid, President Ulysses S. Grant and General William T. Sherman. Her brother-in-law, one of the founders of Wells Fargo offered to pay for the statue. Congress provided the location and the granite base. McPherson Square and the Metro rail station in Washington are named in his honor. At the center of the square is the statue of McPherson on horseback. Thousands of people pass the statue every day, yet I wonder how many know the story?

In Chicago, the James B. McPherson Elementary School located in the Ravenswood area was named in his honor. The school has a website but nothing is written about its history. I wonder if the students know the story?

Here are just a few other honors for this outstanding SOLDIER

  • Fort McPherson near Atlanta, Georgia named in his honor.
  • McPherson, Kansas named in his honor. There is also a statue of him in the park across from the McPherson County Courthouse
  • McPherson County, South Dakota, named in his honor
  • McPherson Road in Ayer, Massachusetts was named in his honor.
  • In Clyde, Ohio, there is a school, a cemetery, and State Route 20 are all named for the General

There is more to the story but this is all the space left. I will publish tomorrow and the next day, two letters from General Sherman to Emily Hoffman. One letter was written before his death and another written after his death. They add a great deal more information to this story.

Wayne Rethford, Past President
Illinois St. Andrew’s Society
Scottish American History Club

Don’t forget the History Club meets September 8. The program will be presented by the Eastland Historical Society. Reservations are helpful. Call 630-447-5092.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Dr. Moses Scott

Moses Scott, a Remarkable Man and a Great American

(The following article was written by Margaret Teiwes who is a member of our History Club.  She, and her husband, Harry, live in Wheaton, IL. and almost always attend the history tours.  She shared with me her family history and I said if she would summarize the information we would publish it as a blog.  Moses Scott has earned the right to be remembered and we are happy to place his story on the Internet.)
Moses Scott (1738-1821) was a remarkable man. He was a leader of men, soldier, physician, judge, patriot, church elder and trustee, friend, husband and father of eight. He was born in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and was the eighth of nine children born to Scottish parents John and Jane Mitchell Scott.
John Scott, a weaver by trade, emigrated from Scotland to Ireland and then in 1722 sailed for the Pennsylvania colony. In his new country he was a farmer but continued the weaver's trade and trained his eldest son, Robert, to work the loom. Little is known of his wife, Jane Mitchell, except that she was the mother of his nine children.
The Scott family attended the Neshaminy Presbyterian Church in Warwick, Pennsylvania which was founded by the Rev. William Tennent, a Scotch-Irish clergyman. Rev. Tennent also established the Log College which is considered to be the forerunner of Princeton University. He invited Rev. George Whitefield, the great English preacher and evangelist, to preach at his church at least twice during the time the Scott family attended. Surely, Whitefield's preaching had a spiritual impact upon the Scott family. Moses was instructed in the doctrines of the Presbyterian Church and was a faithful Christian to the day he died.
He was about twelve or thirteen when his father died leaving him and his younger brother, Matthew, orphans. It's assumed his older, adult siblings cared for them after their father's death in 1749. When Moses was seventeen years old he left home and joined the military. This was during the time of the French and Indian War.
He was among the Pennsylvania Provincials who joined the army of General Edward Braddock. The General had as his personal aide, Colonel George Washington. The army set out to attack the French held Fort Duquesne in southwest Pennsylvania and to drive the French out of the Ohio Valley. Unfortunately, Braddock's army was ambushed by the enemy and many were slaughtered, including General Braddock. A few years later another attempt was made to capture the fort. This time the Pennsylvania Provincials joined the British army under the command of General John Forbes. They took the fort, rebuilt and renamed it Fort Pitt- Pittsburgh.
Scott, who by now was an officer, resigned from Provincial Service in order to study medicine. The only "medical school" at that time was the Pennsylvania Hospital which was founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1751. However, the primary manner for training doctors was through an apprenticeship with another doctor. Young men would reside in their mentor's homes and were expected to do menial tasks apart from their medical studies. Most likely, this is how Moses Scott received his medical training.
He married Anna Johnson in 1765 which was the same year he commenced his medical practice in the Brandywine area of southeast Pennsylvania. Their first five children, all girls, were born during their ten year stay in Brandywine. Eventually, they had eight children - seven daughters and one son. Shortly before the start of the Revolutionary War, the family relocated to New Brunswick, New Jersey where they remained the rest of their lives. The family attended the New Brunswick Presbyterian Church where Scott served as Elder, Trustee, and Treasurer. In 1815 the church organized its first Sunday School and their daughter, Hannah, was its first Superintendent.
At the outset of the war, Scott joined the 2nd Regiment Middlesex Militia as a surgeon. A few months later, July 2, 1776, he was commissioned by the Continental Congress to be Physician-General of Military Hospitals. His rank was Surgeon, and in 1777 he was appointed Surgeon of the Hospital and Assistant Director-General. He was in charge of General Hospitals in Morristown and New Brunswick. Scott was present at the battles of Brandywine, Germantown, Trenton and Princeton.
Surgeon Scott had his war stories too and here is one among several. During the winter of 1776, the British General Howe made a surprise attack on New Brunswick. Dr. Scott was at home and about to sit down to dinner when he was warned that British soldiers were about to storm his home. They wanted to seize the rebel doctor. He narrowly escaped, but instead they seized his dinner, plundered his home and confiscated all his medical supplies and equipment for their own use. A Tory neighbor warned the soldiers the doctor may have poisoned the medicine in order to kill the enemy. All the medicine was taken outside and dumped into the street in front of his house.
Once more he resigned from the army and returned to civilian life and to private practice. He continued to be active in the medical profession and earned accolades and appointments: He was President and Treasurer of the Medical Society of New Jersey (the first in America), Fellow of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of New York City, founding member of Somerset District Medical Society, Judge of the Inferior Court of Common Pleas, Somerset County; Justice of the Peace, Middlesex County; Elder, Trustee, Treasurer of New Brunswick Presbyterian Church.
During the Howe's winter stay in New Brunswick, the church was used by British soldiers as a barracks and stable. It is said the church was desecrated and torched when the troops left and could not be used as a house of worship again. The congregation was scattered and did not meet for several years. In 1784 Scott was part of a group of men who helped to reestablish and reorganize the church. Eventually, a new and larger building was erected on a different site. The New Brunswick Presbyterian Church still exists, but again, in a different building. When the church celebrated its 225 anniversary in 1951, Moses Scott and Hannah Scott were among the few early members who were especially honored.
Moses Scott died December 28, 1821 and was buried in the church cemetery. One hundred years later his and Anna's remains were removed and interred in Van Liew Cemetery in New Brunswick.
Moses Scott was, indeed, a remarkable and industrious man who contributed much to his country and to those who knew him. He needs to be remembered. 

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus

Illinois St. Andrew's Society

The next meeting of the Scottish American History Club will occur on September 8 in Heritage Hall at the Scottish Home, North Riverside, IL.  The program will be given by the Eastland Disaster Historical Society.  The Eastland, a passenger ship, rolled over while docked in tfhe Chicago River.  A total of 844 people lost their lives that day and it is the largest loss of life from a single disaster on the Great Lakes.  Members of the Eastland Society will have stories, films, and personal testimonies about the disaster.  Reservations are requested, please call lthe Scottish Home 708-447-5092.

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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

I Shall Do Something For Your Race

In 1826, a young man was traveling through the wilderness of Tennessee in a wagon loaded with salt. We are not sure where he found the salt but we can be quite sure he was going to Indiana. The wagon was probably pulled by oxen and the roads were treacherous. It was night and the wagon slipped off the road. He was in serious trouble and only 16 years old. Nearby was a house.

The house was occupied by an African-American family who were freed slaves. We know neither their names nor how they became free. It must have been difficult to answer the door that night. Freed slaves lived in constant fear that they would be kidnaped again and sold back into slavery. However, this family rose above their fears and not only opened the door but invited him in and provided food. He was also invited to spend the night in their humble home.

The next morning the family helped get the wagon free so that Samuel Meharry could resume his long journey. “I have no money,” he said, “but when I can, I shall do something for your race.” Goodbyes were said and it would be 50 years before this American-Scot would fulfill the promise.

My oldest daughter, Elaine, did a search on Ancestry and found him in the 1850 census living in Tippecanoe County, Indiana. He was married to Rebecca who was 37 while he was 39. Samuel Meharry had a personal estate of $5,500. There were no children but five other people were living in the house ranging in age from 7 to 36. Three had been born in Germany.

The 1860 census has the family living in the same area but now he owns real estate valued at $51,610 and personal property of $3,000. He has done well in the last ten years. There are six other people livening on the property, ranging in age from 12 to 26. Two were born in Germany, one in Prussia and two in Ohio. In the 1880 census there are two adopted children perhaps the two from Ohio.

Samuel Meharry was basically a farmer but on his tombstone is the word “Reverend.” It may be that he was a circuit rider on Sunday but a farmer on Monday. Here the facts get a little unclear but this is what we presently know.

In 1876, the United Methodist Church and its Freedmen’s Aid Society were seeking aid to establish a medical program to train freed slaves and their children. At that time no medical school in the Southern states would admit African-Americans and most in the North were closed as well. Samuel Meharry was approached and remembered his pledge: “I have no money, but when I can, I shall do something for your race.” The first gift of $500 came from Samuel Meharry. In time, he and his four brothers would contribute $30,000 in cash and property to establish what would became today’s Meharry Medical College. It was first a department of Central Tennessee College.

The college was chartered in 1915 as a separate school and “is the largest private historically black institution in the United States solely dedicated to educating healthcare professionals and scientists.”

Today, the college is located in Nashville, Tennessee and is affiliated with the United Methodist Church. It is in partnership with nearby Vanderbilt University and Nashville General Hospital. It is also close to Fisk University and Tennessee State. Meharry has approximately 218 full-time faculty members with an enrollment of around 1,000. Read more.

“I have no money," he said, "but when I can, I shall do something for your race.”

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois St. Andrew’s Society

This coming Saturday, August 4, is an important date on the calendar. It is the annual Scottish Home Picnic now almost 100 years old. The Museum will be open from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Everyone is urged to attend. Visit us at the Scottish Home, 28th and Des Plaines Avenue, North Riverside, IL. Join us for piping, Highland dancing, games for adults and children, a huge jumble sale, great food and, of course, a trip to the museum in Heritage Hall.

Google Analytics tracks visits to the History Club website and they report that since January 1, 2012, slightly more than 6,000 people have visited and have viewed 10,398 pages. Most of the visits have been to Elaine’s name list. Click here