Friday, January 22, 2016

January 19, 1809 - Birth of Famed Military Man Edgar Allan Poe



The lifelong military career of General Edgar Allan Poe began during his troubled youth, trying to find a place in the world. Poe, who had been born as the second son of actor David Poe and actress Eliza Hopkins Poe, did not know his parents. His father abandoned the family in 1810, and his mother died of tuberculosis in 1811. His siblings were scattered; Poe was sent to live with a foster family, the Allans. They moved from Richmond, Virginia, to London, and young Poe was juggled between boarding schools, never in one place long.

Returning to America in 1820, Poe continued his education, spending a year at the University of Virginia before dropping out. He had quickly burned through his allowance, and requests for more money were turned down as Poe’s debts seemed to increase just as the flow of money did. His relationship with his foster father became very strained, prompting Poe to set off on his own, working a variety of small jobs before enlisting in the Army in 1827 under a pseudonym and lying about his age.

The Army proved to give Poe enough stability to publish his first book, Tamerlane and Other Poems. His writing is likely to have been inspired by his older brother Henry, who had traveled the world with another family and written in the Romantic style of Lord Byron. The two mailed poems to one another, and Edgar’s “The Happiest Day, The Happiest Hour” was mistaken for Henry’s upon publication. Although Poe’s book showed his talent, it was met with little recognition. Few of the 50 copies printed sold.

While his writing career struggled, Poe did well in the Army. He was promoted within months of enlistment into the artillery, which doubled his pay. In two years, he was Sergeant Major for Artillery, but Poe had reached the highest rank he could as a noncommissioned officer. With his future in the military frozen, he consulted his commanding officer. Declaring that he had come to the Army under a false name due to his struggles with his foster father, he requested an early discharge so that he could attend West Point and become an officer.

Lieutenant Howard considered using the situation as an opportunity to force Poe to restore his relationship with his foster father, but ultimately Howard decided that the affairs of home would only trouble his bright young soldier. Howard approved Poe’s request and said famously, “The Army is your family, son.” These words would follow Poe for the rest of his life.

En route to West Point, Poe visited his biological family in Baltimore. He stayed with his aunt, young cousin Virginia, and brother Henry, who worked in a law office and was as famous for his drinking as he was for his romance. Henry had given up publishing his work, although he encouraged Edgar while falling ill with tuberculosis. There were rumors of Poe’s foster mother dying and his foster father remarrying, but Poe distanced himself from the troubles and instead focused on his career.

Poe began his studies at West Point in 1831, graduating four years later alongside many classmates who immediately resigned to be engineers and lawyers rather than go fight in the Second Seminole War. Poe stayed on, cheered on in his writing by his fellow soldiers. Publishing was largely a business of piracy with printers stealing the works of authors across the Atlantic so that they did not have to pay royalties, yet Poe found a ready audience for his tales of mystery, macabre, and adventure among the military. He found a good deal of time to write while he waited for deliveries working in ordinance. He was routinely punished for dereliction of duty due to heavy drinking and later sent to “dry out” on the frontier.

Out in the lonely forts of the West, Poe found himself with even more time to write and, in 1838, published the complete The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, telling the tale of a stowaway having adventures at sea. The novel had been published in installments, and the military mail wagon was packed with letters from readers eager for more. As he included special codes with hints toward the answers to his cliffhangers, the mail only increased. Inspired, Poe began writing ongoing adventures of Pym, producing an average of one per year through the next two decades in addition to his collections of short stories and poems. Poe’s work was interrupted by the Mexican-American War, although the experiences gave him fuel for a wealth of new stories and a collection of non-fiction stories about his fellow soldiers.

By the time of the Civil War, Poe had been promoted to Colonel. He continued working in supply, although his expertise in cryptology soon gave him a new position in code-breaking. Poe’s finest hour is claimed to be at Chancellorsville, when he cracked the Confederate code stating that they themselves had cracked the Union code. While General Hooker prepared to call back his forces to a defended position in the trees, duplicating Lee’s tactic that had devastated the Union at Fredericksburg, other officers suggested they maintain their forward position on the hilltops. Poe wrote an intelligence report that painted the image of victory so eloquently that Hooker’s mind was changed. When Stonewall Jackson attempted his infamous flanking maneuver, he found himself too far behind the Union lines and surrounded. Jackson was killed, and his famous brigade was captured, leaving Lee to a humbled retreat to Virginia, where he would surrender in late 1864.

Poe stayed with the Army following the war, overseeing military publications as he continued the Stars and Stripes newspaper founded by Illinois soldiers in Missouri. He died in 1869, leaving behind several chests of notes and unfinished stories, along with an entire manuscript written in a code that has never been solved.


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In reality, Poe became reacquainted with his foster father, which later led to a series of arguments about Allan’s care for his illegitimate children. Poe decided to leave West Point and was drummed out for neglect of duty. Henry Poe died just months later, possibly while Poe was visiting him. Poe’s cousin-and-wife Virginia Clemm, whom Edgar married when he was 26 and she 13, also died young of tuberculosis. Poe himself died under mysterious circumstances, but not before writing immortal literature such as “The Raven” and “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” which founded the detective genre.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

What if John the Baptist Survived?



This article is an expansion from David Atwell and the editor at Today in Alternate History. It may be found here.

Just as the soldiers of Heroditas approached the cell of John the Baptist in the prison beneath the Machaerus fortified palace, a terrible earthquake struck. John escaped, swimming across the nearby Dead Sea, leaving the princess Salome shrieking with rage as her father could not fulfill his promise of John’s head on a silver plate.

It was another turn in the literally epic life of John. Born to an elderly mother by miracle, John was heralded by the angel Gabriel, just as his relative Jesus of Nazareth would be the next year. As he grew, John spent two years of penitence eating locusts and wild honey while dressing in camel hair in the wilderness before becoming an itinerant preacher. He fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah (and others) as a new Elijah, a messenger to prepare the way for the messiah. The arrival was confirmed when John baptized Jesus, and a dove and a voice came from Heaven.

Although Jesus told John, “You bring me great joy,” and their preaching included the criticism of religious leaders, the two’s disciples bickered. John focused on baptizing and purifying the nation of Israel, while Jesus sent his own disciples to baptize and reached out to Samaritans and Gentiles. John initially had a much larger following, so large, in fact, that Herod had him arrested. Languishing in prison for two years, John’s faith is shaken, and he sends a disciple with a message to Jesus, “Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?” Jesus replied, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” Yet, Jesus told the crowd, “Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

After the earthquake, John was protected in Judea by faithful followers and any pursuit amid the throngs swarming Jerusalem for the Passover became impossible as Herod’s soldiers were unwelcome in Roman territory without Pilate’s agreement. John baptized quietly, notably attending Jesus’s triumphant entry the following Passover but famously absent from the Last Supper, although it is said he witnessed the Crucifixion.

The Baptist re-emerged on the scene after Jesus’s death, preaching his Johannine variant of the Word. Aside from the fundamental differences of interpretation, his surviving disciples (some of whom had become followers of Jesus and now returned to his own fold) received an unpleasant reminder of the greater patience of their late master. The Romano-Jewish historian Flavius Josephus would record that in his second ministry John continued to practice his rituals corresponding strongly with baptism but on a vastly increased scale. This culminated with the mass baptism in the Sea of Galilee that would change the world forever.

Christendom would soon face a great schism over the question of Gentiles as former Pharisee Saul of Tarsus became the man to be known as Saint Paul and campaigned for universal missionary work. Initially, Simon-called-Peter served as a neutral leader between the factions, but John eventually broke away. While Paul’s ideals brought the Roman world into Christianity in the west, John turned eastward. Generations of his followers settled in in the marshes of lower Mesopotamia, forming up their own belief structure as Mandaeans with a focus on dualism: light and dark, clean and unclean, purity and sin.

Jerusalem was an infamous meeting ground for the two sects and religious riots often broke out over the question of sprinkling and submersion. Upon the arrival of Islam, there was sudden common ground, and an alliance of the Byzantines and the Mandaeans prevented conquest of the city by the Arab Caliphate in 638 AD. Since that day, Jerusalem has served as a tense neutral ground, often seized by one side who is soon then pushed out by a brief alliance of the others.

Author's Note from Today in Alternate History: in reality John began to doubt Jesus and he was not spared by God. His shrine was desecrated and many Churches, as recently as 2010, lay claim to parts of his remains. The descriptions of John vary in the Gospels and there are further differences in the Catholic Faith with some even believing that he never sinned at all.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

June 16, 1906 – Sequoyah Enabling Act



In a surprising turn, the delegation from the Sequoyah Constitutional Convention to Washington was greeted by sudden support by President Theodore Roosevelt and won their chance to be named the 46th US state.

The land between Texas and what would become Kansas had been designated as “Indian Territory” since the days of removal under President Andrew Jackson. Following the Civil War, Reconstruction of the tribes who had made agreements with the rebelling Confederate States resulted in an eastward compression of land designated for Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Seminole, and Chickasaw. The western lands of “Oklahoma Territory” served as reservations for other tribes such as the Kiowa, Cheyenne-Arapaho, and Pawnee. The remaining Unassigned Lands were empty for years until opened up for general settlement in the Land Run of 1889. More land runs and lotteries quickly populated the west with burgeoning cities and farms where there had once been rolling prairie.

The Twin Territories soon turned to the idea of statehood, with Indian Territory hosting conventions in 1902, 1903, and 1905. They outlined a proposed state called “Sequoyah” after the famous Cherokee linguist. When the proposal came to Washington, however, politicians there were skeptical, especially since Oklahoma Territory was preparing its own convention to be held in the capital, Guthrie, the next year. Western states had proven to be something of a wildcard, such as the 22 electoral votes going to James Weaver of the short-lived Populist Party, potentially costing Benjamin Harrison the win over Grover Cleveland. The more formal Eastern political leaders determined unifying the two territories into one more predictable state would be the solution.

However, as men in the Republican Party’s back room attempted to predict how this state would actually act, they came upon curious numbers from the US Census Bureau. Indian Territory was overwhelmingly Democratic, including the delegation’s own representatives like Charles Haskell from the Creek and William Murray from the Chickasaw. Oklahoma Territory, which had been populated largely from the Midwest, was much more Republican. The territories had nearly identical populations near 400,000, but the overall Democratic population could form a majority in the state. They recommended separate states to maximize Republican seats in the House of Representatives, where the Republicans were losing ground.

The political gamble paid off. In 1908, after welcoming in Sequoyah and Oklahoma the year before, the Republicans maintained a majority in the Senate while stymieing losses in the House. The Oklahomans proved to continue their loyalty in 1912, granting a handful more electoral votes to Taft, although it was hardly enough to overcome Wilson’s majority. Throughout the years, the former Twin Territories could be counted upon for predictable votes.

Yet ultimately the “investment” proved a bad one for the GOP when, in 2000, Democrat former vice-president Al Gore was elected by a single vote despite Republican George W. Bush’s secure hold on Florida.

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In reality, the Enabling Act mandated that the territories would be entered into the Union as a single state. Although widely Democratic for its first years, Oklahoma is now solidly a red state.

Monday, November 9, 2015

“Twilight of the Tudors” – An English Theocracy

This piece appeared as a thread on Today in Alternate History. Here we've woven it together with speculation of the timeline.

November, 1534 – Act of Supremacy names English Pope

Henry Tudor, who finally settled generations of civil war in England as the unquestioned Henry VII, strove to create a lasting dynasty through his oldest son, Arthur. To add international political clout and a great deal of military might to this, he arranged Arthur’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon. The plan went awry, however, upon Arthur’s untimely death of an unknown ailment just six years after the two teens were wed.

One year after Arthur's death, Henry VII renewed his efforts of sealing a marital alliance with Spain by arranging for Catherine to marry Arthur's brother Henry, the new Prince of Wales. Catherine claimed that there had been no consummation of her previous marriage, so Pope Julius II annulled it. The younger Henry was opposed to the marriage, but in 1509 soon after ascending the throne, he determined to go forward with it. Catherine and Henry soon began having children of their own including several boys, but they all died young. Only their daughter Mary survived.

Henry was notably tortured by the passage from Leviticus 20:21, “If a man shall take his brother's wife it is an unclean thing ... they shall be childless.” With a potential male heir on the way from his girlfriend Anne Boleyn and Catherine growing old, Henry requested an annulment from the pope as Catherine had once gotten. Although Henry had been proclaimed “Defender of the Faith” by Leo X for his rebuttal of Martin Luther’s attempts at Reformation, Pope Clement VII refused. Henry’s arguments were feeble, and moreover Clement was virtual prisoner in the Vatican, that is, of his political master Charles V of Spain who controlled the Papacy for his own purposes.

To obtain the divorce Henry created an Anglican Church with its own pope that might grant him the annulment and thus (he hoped) save the royal line. Although he chose to rid England of Catholic Popery, indeed might even have done so for political reasons anyway, he was reluctant to assume Spiritual Leadership of an Anglican Church himself. He reasoned that no King or Emperor had ever expressed the slightest interest in actually being Pope, and, furthermore, there might arise questions of celibacy for spiritual purity, although that would be settled later by acts allowing priests to marry. In searching for a solution he prized upon the Avignon Papacy, a similar situation which had arisen from the conflict between the Papacy and the French crown. So, Henry saw it as being in his interest not to displace the Pope, but to make the Roman Pope irrelevant, at least temporarily.


The Act of Supremacy was the last of a string of acts by the “Reformation Parliament” that severed England from Rome and installed a new church based in Canterbury headed by the tame Pope-let Thomas Cramner. As the Anglican Church grew, so did Henry’s family by a daughter Elizabeth (by Anne Boleyn, who would soon be executed for treason), and later a son Edward (by Jane Seymour). Edward VI ascended upon his father’s death, but the teenager’s power was largely overshadowed by Pope Thomas, who instilled reforms such as the Common Book of Prayer.

Upon young Edward’s dead after only six years of rule, Catherine’s daughter Mary assumed the throne. She attempted to revive Catholicism in the country and return its attention to Rome, but this proved impossible due to the separation with the Crown, in fact it would have been far better for Mary if Henry VIII had made himself Spiritual Leader of a Church of England. Despite her marriage to Prince Philip of Spain, her military power could not circumvent the spiritual law set in place. Pope Thomas worked in his final years to pass over Mary’s anticipated pope Reginald Pole whose Catholic loyalty might restore Catholic authority and hold an election in 1556 to name England’s second pope, Matthew Parker. The political struggle ended with the death of Mary and the crowning of Elizabeth, who largely distanced herself from spiritual turmoil.


Not exactly known for having a low opinion of his own importance in the scheme of things, even Henry VIII could not imagine the succession crisis that followed his demise. If Edward VI had perhaps lived longer to come into his own and step beyond Cranmer’s power, history may have been different, but the crisis in fact affirmed the English pope’s position. During this period known as the "Twilight of the Tudors" a powerful theocracy rose and the crown for a century would be under the thumb of the Anglican Church, leading to bloody civil war in the mid-1600s and recurring revolts in Calvinist Scotland.

In the long-run, the enactment would encourage France to revive its own pope at Avignon, and even the Hapsburgs in Austria to name a pope in Vienna while Spain controlled the Vatican to take similar actions themselves for achieving greater monarchical rule. The Italian Peninsula would be torn apart for centuries as the Catholic heads of Europe attempted to seize Rome, despite ground lost to the north to Protestantism.



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Author's Note: in reality Henry instituted a number of statutes that dealt with the relationship between king and pope and hence the structure of the nascent Church of England. Supreme Head of the Church of England was a title held by Kings Henry VIII and Edward VI of England, signifying their leadership, although Elizabeth I revised the Oath of Supremacy changing Supreme Governor of the church rather than Supreme Head, a move designed to be more inclusive of Catholics.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Guest Post: Pearl Harbor What-Ifs

What if the US's aircraft carriers had been wiped out at Pearl Harbor in 1941? What if the Nevada had been sunk to block Pearl's entry? What if a third wave had been launched? This post from Francisco Meza at Hoku Tours explores what could have been.

Did the Japanese Navy Cripple US Navy Fleet During Pearl Harbor Bombing?



No! An emphatic No!

Fortunately for the Americans, the US Navy’s aircraft carriers weren’t touched in the Japanese surprise attack. Otherwise, the Pacific Fleet’s capability to conduct offensive missions would’ve been crippled for over a year (assuming no diversions were made from the Atlantic Fleet). The complete destruction of some battleships at Pearl Harbor and the partial damage of some more was a blessing for the Americans. Just six months after Pearl Harbor, the Pacific Fleet had to rely solely on its submarines and aircraft carriers in the most decisive naval battle of WWII, the Battle of Midway Islands. The Americans sunk 4 Japanese aircraft carriers. The US Navy not only halted the Japanese advance but also dealt the Imperial Japanese Navy a stunning defeat  from which the Japanese never recovered.

Even before Pearl Harbor, it was evident that the real queens of naval warfare were the aircraft carriers. A single aircraft carrier was capable of sinking half a dozen battleships and winning a naval battle without firing its guns.

The Pearl Harbor Attack

On December 7, 1941, around 8 am, over 350 Japanese fighter planes mounted a surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, a US Naval base. Although the barrage lasted under two hours, it was devastating. The Japanese carrier-based planes destroyed almost 20 vessels, including 8 prized battleships and around 200 aircraft. Over 2,400 US sailors and soldiers died in the attack. One thousand more personnel were injured.

Japan Forces US to Enter WWII Arena

The next day, the US President declared war on Japan. The US had deliberately stayed out of this messy war for over two years. But Imperial Japan’s ambitious ventures in the Pacific region resulted in this foolhardy attack on the world’s number one naval power. Three days later, Germany and Italy, the allies of Japan in WWII declared war on the US. So, the US finally joined WWII in the Atlantic as well as Pacific coasts.

Imperial Japan Inflicts Massive Damage

The Japanese had damaged and or destroyed 18 US warships and almost 200 aircraft. For the US Navy, the most important loss was, of course, over 2,400 personnel who lost their lives and another 1,000 personnel who were wounded.

What if the Japanese planes had been successful in sinking the USS Nevada at Pearl Harbor's entry point?

Fires were raging when the USS Nevada received orders at 0810 to get underway. The USS Arizona had just exploded near her and the spilled oil was burning in the adjacent waters. So this provided the urgency for Nevada to get moving. She got underway at 0840. And Nevada was the sole battleship to get underway!

The Japanese aviators were alerted about any warship attempting to escape from the harbor. They had been specifically instructed to sink any ship attempting to escape in the harbor entrance so that other warships would be effectively bottled. So, when they saw the USS Nevada’s swift sortie, they followed orders. Nevada was targeted.

However, the Japanese target selection was questionable. Even if they had managed to sink the USS Nevada bang in the center of the harbor entrance, there would be sufficient room for another warship to exit the harbor. Eventually, the sinking USS Nevada ran aground deliberately to avoid blocking the channel.

Tactically, the target selection was wrong because even 14–18 dive bombers targeting her would be futile. It’d be almost impossible to sink a massive battleship with just 250 kg bombs. More importantly, the channel’s width of 1,200 feet would make it impossible to bottle up the harbor.

US Warships Bear the Brunt of the Japanese Surprise Attack

Bombs rained onto the warships moored in the harbor. A large bomb that landed on the deck of USS Arizona caused the most devastating damage. The forward ammunition magazine located below the deck caught fire, and the ship exploded. Over 1,100 personnel were trapped inside when the ship sank. This number was almost half the casualty at Pearl Harbor that day.

USS Oklahoma suffered the second-most devastating damage that day. Torpedoes penetrated the shell of this battleship, and she sank with over 400 personnel aboard. Sixty-four personnel were killed when USS Utah was hit by a torpedo and sank. Four personnel aboard USS Maryland died, and the warship was damaged extensively. But the anti-aircraft guns on this ship brought down several Japanese aircraft. USS Maryland returned to WWII action within 6 months.

USS Nevada Draws Many Japanese Planes Away from Pearl Harbor

USS Nevada suffered extensive damage and 60 casualties but downed at least a dozen Japanese aircraft. As USS Nevada attempted to exit Pearl Harbor, the Japanese aircraft tried to sink her at the entry point. They were not successful. The Japanese target selection was faulty as they could not sink USS Nevada despite making a desperate attempt. 

USS California was damaged extensively and lost over a hundred men. USS West Virginia suffered extensive damage and lost 66 sailors. USS Pennsylvania was damaged severely and lost 14 personnel. Although USS Tennessee escaped with minor damage, she lost her Commanding Officer and three other personnel. (All the battleships except USS Arizona and USS Utah were subsequently salvaged, repaired and refitted.)

The Japanese Think-Tank

Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto conceived this surprise attack. A strike force of 353 aircraft under Commander Mitsuo Fuchida was used. The attacking planes were launched from 6 heavy aircraft carriers that were accompanied by 24 supporting vessels. Another group of submarines was standing by to sink US warships that escaped the Japanese carrier force. This mission aimed at crippling the US Navy’s might in the Pacific so that the Japanese could seize control of the region. 

Imperial Japan’s Intelligence Failure

Imperial Japan’s Navy failed to cripple US Navy’s Pacific Fleet. The number one reason for this is that by the 1940s, battleships played a secondary role at best. They weren’t any longer the most crucial naval vessels. Aircraft carriers were the most important naval vessels. And in Pearl Harbor, none of the aircraft carriers belonging to the Pacific Fleet of the US Navy was damaged because none of them were in the vicinity. On December 7, all the carriers were away from their base. The Japanese should have known this and waited for the return of the carriers before launching their surprise attack. This error was a major Japanese intelligence failure.

The Consequences of Japanese Misadventure

Although initial appearances suggested otherwise, the Pearl Harbor attack was a total strategic failure. The Japanese Navy attacked a fleet in port. It’s extremely difficult to cause the permanent loss of a capital warship because repair facilities are available nearby. The Japanese attacked slower, almost obsolete warships. In doing so, the US Navy was alerted beforehand to rely on aircraft carriers in WWII rather than on battleships. The Japanese Navy launched the Pearl Harbor attack without any assurance that the most prized US warships—the aircraft carriers—would be present. All the three US carriers were safe elsewhere. Six months later, at Midway, these same US carriers sank 4 Japanese carriers. The Japanese Navy hurtled downward rapidly after this devastating loss.

Japanese Aircraft Leave Out Vital Targets

Although Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto had over 350 warplanes at his disposal, critical base installations including the power station, torpedo storage facilities, shipyard, maintenance facilities, fuel storage facilities and submarine piers were not attacked. The Pacific Fleet’s headquarters building that housed the intelligence section was left untouched as well. These huge blunders permitted the US Navy to rebound quickly from the Pearl Harbor attack.

The Japanese launched only two waves of attack. If they had launched a third wave of attack, they could have inflicted serious damage. The Japanese didn’t launch a third wave fearing a strong backlash from a determined enemy. Consequently, the Japanese Navy was not able to cripple the US Navy Fleet during the Pearl Harbor bombing.

The Pearl Harbor attack only resulted in the US Navy embarking on an Emergency War Building Program. Immediately on entering WWII, the US Navy ordered 16 large aircraft carriers. Also, 15 new battleships and 9 small aircraft carriers were ordered. The US Navy built anti-submarine vessels, escort carriers, and destroyers to counter Japanese submarines in the Pacific. In the next 4 years, around 50,000 combat aircraft were pressed into service. Naval aviation personnel strength increased from 10,923 to 437,524. Barely 6 months after the Pearl Harbor attack, the US Navy managed to sink 4 of the 6 aircraft carriers that participated in the attack at Midway Island.

Monday, October 26, 2015

October 16, 1909 - Double Tragedy in El Paso

A piece co-written with Today in Alternate History, combining stories here.

What was meant to be a historic first meeting between a U.S. president and a Mexican president (and also the first time an American president had crossed the border into Mexico) ended in a horrible double tragedy with the assassination of both William Howard Taft and Porfirio Díaz at a disputed neutral border territory.

The ill-fated summit was held without flags and considerable security forces including Texas Rangers, four thousand U.S. and Mexican troops, U.S. Secret Service agents, FBI agents and U.S. marshals. Both presidents were bilingual, and, with no need for translators, held a closed meeting to discuss matters of state. During their negotiations they readily agreed a number of bold initiatives that included the Elephant Butte dam project and also a treaty of arbitration for Chamizal a strip of land connecting El Paso to Ciudad Juárez (both of which Theodore Roosevelt would try to take credit for during his historic third-term).

With the formal business of diplomacy undertaken, the presidents set out to conduct a walking tour and greet the crowd. However, along the procession route at the El Paso Chamber stood an assassin with a concealed palm pistol. As had been seen only years before in the assassination of U.S. President William McKinley at the World’s Fair in New York, the assassin sprang from the crowd and delivered two murderous blows. Secret Service agents, who had misguidedly elbowed out other security forces, were immediately upon the killer. It was already too late.

James S. Sherman stepped up to his unexpected presidency, but calamitous reactions in Washington along with panic at the border consumed his first days as a drama of long cabinet deliberations. Sherman was already not in good health, and the strain aggravated his worsening kidney condition. Before the end of Taft's unexpired term, Sherman himself would be succeeded in the Oval Office by his Secretary of State Philander C. Knox. By 1912, the Republican Party National Convention was running out of candidates, which convinced party bosses to seek a return to better times by supporting Theodore Roosevelt in his run for a historic third term.

Roosevelt returned to the White House amid turmoil in the south. The grisly murder only foreshadowed the violence of the Mexican Revolution, which was accompanied by widespread anti-American rioting. The Tampico Affair of 1914 led to the American seizure of Veracruz as diplomatic relations collapsed. Ultimately the United States erected a series of forts, known colloquially as “the Border Fence,” for protection from the chaos, even though American forces routinely moved into Mexican territory on various military actions seeking justice for raids.

The tragedy in El Paso would also have profound unforeseen consequences for America's relations far beyond Mexico. The strong-armed American presence would also cast a long shadow to the tragedy in Sarajevo five years later. Internationally, Roosevelt argued that it set an unfortunate precedent for the Habsburg justification for sending detectives across the border into Serbia to investigate the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. By the beginning of the Great War, Roosevelt was clamoring to support the Central Powers. Their pursuit of justice was seen as fit as American incursions in pursuit of Pancho Villa, and America should defend Austrian right as their own.

The rest of America was not so certain. TR quarreled with Speaker Champ Clark as he pressed Congress for a declaration of war, which they refused to grant. In his campaign, Roosevelt alienated enough Americans already sick of violence at the border, which cost him the 1916 election to his nemesis, Clark. Adding insult to injury, a new amendment (among others for Prohibition and Women’s Suffrage) set a term limit so that Roosevelt would never return to office. The true cost of this decision would become apparent only later when Roosevelt’s Democratic cousin Franklin was precluded from running in 1940.

The Great War dragged on without American involvement as Clark focused his administration on North America: settling the turmoil in Mexico and reviving hopes of annexing Canada. The international economic boom as Europe rebuilt lured Americans out of isolationism along the Monroe Doctrine, but the global financial collapse of the Great Depression drove them back to local interest. The United States was dragged back into the world theater after the attack on Pearl Harbor, just a few months after turmoil in the Democratic Party between former vice-presidents “Cactus Jack” Garner and Henry Wallace handed the 1940 election to Republican Wendell Willkie. Conspiracy theorists hold to this day that internationalist Willkie was given advanced knowledge of the Japanese attack in the Pacific but didn’t act so that the United States would be provoked into joining the war.


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Author’s Note: In reality two men, the celebrated scout Frederick Russell Burnham and Private C.R. Moore, a Texas Ranger, discovered, captured and disarmed the would be assassin within only a few feet of Taft and Díaz.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Guest Post: September 27, 1987 - Monument-builder Found Dead

Elberton, GA - the dead body of a man in his mid-sixties was discovered in Elberton, northeast Georgia, the city of that claims the title "granite capital of the world" and was founded by Samuel Elbert, a very famous historical Freemason.

Police investigations soon determined that he was R.C. (or Robert) Christian, the shadowy figure that had hired the Elberton Granite Finishing Company to build the structure of the "American Stonehenge," a monument with the "ten commandments of the new age" (or alternatively believed to be the "ten commandments of the Antichrist") that now stood at the highest point in Elbert County. The owner of the company was a thirty-second degree masoner and shriner called Joe Fendley, Sr.

This transaction was discreetly handled by Wyatt C. Martin the President of the Granite City Bank, Elberton, back in 1979. Throughout this period Martin had served as sole contact on the honest-to-goodness understanding that Christian was the pseudonym for a WW2 veteran who represented a small group of peaceful, faith-based Americans that wanted to enshrine a set of ten guidelines or principles, an "an edifice to transmit a message to mankind." It was conjectured that future generations of Americans could apply these lessons to establish an age of reason, presumably a new world order in the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust ("Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court").  

Cynics suggested that the group was conspiratorial rather than benevolent in nature seeking to overthrow the Federal Government in the present day and replace it with a ruling super-elite with a global de-population agenda known as the "Great Culling." Towns folk concluded that the whole matter was a hoax concocted by Martin and Fendley and R.C. Christian wasn't a real person at all (despite Martin insistence that he knew his true identity) a get-rich quick scam to make money from visitors.

However the monument stirred controversy because of the sinister Malthusian de-population logic of its messaging ("Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature"). Of course if the Guidestone messages were crafted for a post-apocalyptic society then it was perfectly possible that the global population would be below that threshold at that future time. Nevertheless at the unveiling of the monument in March 1980, a local minister proclaimed that he believed the monument was "for sun worshipers, for cult worship and for devil worship". Others had suggested that the stones were commissioned by secret societies such as the Rosicrucians (the founder had a similar name of Christian Rosenkreuz) or even Luciferians and that maybe R.C. Christian was even an ascendant master. This particular theory gained further credence when R.C. Christian published a follow-up book called "Common Sense Renewed" some six years later making a strong case for eugenics.

Somewhat more mysteriously the engravings on the Explanatory tablet had been left incomplete ("Time Capsule Placed six feet below this spot On To Be Opened on"). Because it was conjectured that the purpose of R.C. Christian's final visit to Elberton was to engrave these dates the time capsule was disinterred. It was found to contain a series of detailed predictions for near-future events in the major cities of the continental United States including both terrorist attacks and also natural disasters. Because of this evil association the Guidestones were broken up and the material used for local construction projects by the Elberton Granite Finishing Company.

Author's Note: in reality there is no evidence of a time capsule and contact with Martin ceased around the time of 9/11, when Christian, already in his eighties, may well have passed away. Chris Pinto, founder of Adullam Films claims to have identified the real R.C. Christian in his documentary "Dark Clouds over Elberton." Whereas computer analyst William C. Van Smith had said the monument's dimensions predicted the height of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world which opened in Dubai over thirty years after the Georgia Guidestones were designed. Smith said the builders of the Guidestones were likely aware of the Burj Khalifa project which he compared to the biblical Tower of Babel.

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