Tuesday, May 27, 2014

April 19, 1861 – Baltimore Riots Lead to Maryland’s Secession

With four men taken seriously on the ballots of the 1860 election, Abraham Lincoln’s victory sent all those who had voted solidly for Southern Democrat John C. Breckenridge calling for secession. The matter escalated, and Washington sat unsure of what to do in a legally ambiguous situation. When the new Confederate state of South Carolina opened fire on the Union Fort Sumter sitting in their capital’s harbor, civil war officially began. Lincoln now had legal standing to fight on grounds of returning captured Federal property, and he called for 75,000 volunteers to serve. The call was answered widely in the North; Ohio itself produced enough to fill the national quota.

Getting these troops to the front was a serious logistical issue. Foremost in the military’s mind was protecting Washington, D.C., just across the river from Virginia, seceded as of April 17. All around the federal city, Marylanders wondered what would become of their state. The electors had voted for Breckenridge, and folks shared the spirit of the South. They were also seafarers and traders linked to the North, creating a delicate balance that troubled many in what would become known as the Border States. Most of the Western Marylanders had voted for John Bell of the Constitutional Union party, who wanted to keep the nation together under clear terms, but his carried state of Virginia had already given up such a dream. With no way to be certain on how the vote would go, Maryland officials such as Governor Thomas Hicks were hesitant to call for a formal vote.

The military, meanwhile, acted. Union troops were brought down from the North to the rail hub in Baltimore. There, they had to march across town, through streets lined with Confederate sympathizers, to board southwest-bound trains for Washington. On April 19, the 6th Massachusetts began the transition to find the path blocked by protestors. The protestors became violent, throwing stones and shouting at the Northerners to get out of their city. Troops opened fire out of panic, and the protesters charged them. Police began to swarm the area, but even they could not stop the fighting. Somewhere in the crowd, a series of protestors produced guns and returned fire.

The regiment’s commander Colonel Edward F. Jones determined that retreat was no longer an option. He had warned his troops the night before to “pay no attention to the mob.” The civilians had created themselves combatants, so he rallied his troops into formation to return fire. Baltimoreans were leveled, and the mob scrambled to escape. Jones directed the men in fixing bayonets and marching out firmly to their waiting transport to Washington.

With dead scattered in the streets, Marylanders rose up. After the raid on Harper’s Ferry by John Brown, many in the state had formed militias as a precaution against a violent slave revolt. The call went out, and that night the militia seized the railroad bridges leading into the city. Whether they had official authority from Hicks and Balitmore’s Mayor George Brown was kept vague, but they were effective in turning around a trainload of troops. Major General Robert Patterson, commander of the Department of Washington, ordered Brigadier General Benjamin Franklin Butler to secure the state. Militia countered with guerilla warfare, but the Union’s superior arms enabled them to seize the major cities and declare martial law.

During their retreat to Virginia, the politicians who escaped arrest in Maryland voted for secession. Brown was captured and held in Baltimore while Hicks hurried to Washington to plead for peace that proved impossible, as Lincoln would explain that “Union soldiers were neither birds to fly over Maryland, nor moles to burrow under it.” Secession was politically significant, but largely moot as the military filled the void of elected government. Chaos with torn up railroads and cut telegraphs ruled in the countryside while strict regulations kept the cities from turning back into riots.

The Southern cry was to liberate the Marylanders. Virginian Generals Beauregard and Johnston were able to fend off a Union invasion at Bull Run, while Union troops held off two Confederate assaults late that summer. Eventually the stalemate around the Potomac swayed toward the Confederate side as they managed to float an army into southern Maryland. Many in Congress called for the evacuation of Washington, but Lincoln refused to budge, knowing what a political calamity it would be. The city was turned into a fortress and besieged time and again, but its defenses were unable to be cracked. Union General McClellan gained great aplomb for his efforts in drawing Confederate attention away in his Peninsular Campaign.

After years of brutal warfare that depopulated much of Maryland, victories in the West enabled the North to actualize the Anaconda Plan formulated by retiring General Winfield Scott that would choke out Confederate resources. Measures to placate Maryland tested the most effective strategies for occupying the South for Reconstruction as the war came to a close. The use of militias prompted a clear legal definition of “peaceable assembly,” which caused Federal crackdown on fraternities such as the Klan as they grew up. National loyalty was rewarded, and subversion resulted in public humiliation rather than execution to prompt vengeance. Troublemakers found themselves as forced exiles on the Canadian borders. A strong military system invaded the American populace with a continuance of the draft that used young men in civil service. Blurry “American” ideals spawned wide-spread government corruption, but it would be generations before Americans would be willing to speak out against it.


In reality, the rioters limited themselves to cobblestones and bricks for ammunition. The brawl claimed sixteen lives: four soldiers and sixteen Baltimoreans. Maryland did, in fact, vote on secession April 29, and the legislature opposed it 53 to 13. Nonetheless, for the security of the nation, General Butler declared martial law, suspending habeas corpus and ensuring no further votes could be held. In commemoration of the riot, James Ryder Randall, Marylander living in Louisiana, wrote “Maryland, My Maryland,” which would later become the state song despite somewhat shocking lyrics. Union troops also secured the border states of Delaware and Missouri, the latter with more violence.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

April 18, 1942 – Doolittle Raid Wrecked by Japanese Death Ray

The Japanese strike on Pearl Harbor had thrown many Americans into panic. The war effort came underway as the feeling of invincibility disappeared from the American spirit, eliminating all but a few stalwart isolationists. Meanwhile, the populace of the home islands of Japan were assured that they were invulnerable and that the war would soon be over with an American surrender.

 To restore American morale and weaken Japanese resolve, the US determined to launch a raid on the empire's capital of Tokyo and other targets around the home islands. After it was suggested by Navy personnel that a bomber could take off from an aircraft carrier, the operation was handed to famed aviator Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle of the Army Air Force to customize B-25B bombers to make a one-way long-distance run. He stripped out the lower gun turret, radio equipment, and the upper armor, installed anti-icing agents and collapsible extra fuel tanks, and famously created fake rear turrets from broomsticks. Attempts were made for safe landing in the USSR, but the Soviet's non-aggression treaty with Japan made such an option impossible. Instead, the bombers were to touch down with ragtag allies in worn-torn China.

Despite these best-laid plans, the raid seemed star-crossed from the beginning. Shortly after seven in the morning of the proposed attack on April 18, crew aboard the USS Enterprise spotted Japanese picket ship No. 23 Nittō Maru, which spotted them as well. The Americans destroyed the smaller ship, and, realizing their position had been radioed back to Japanese command, launched the aircraft ahead of schedule. Everyone was breathless as the first bomber, piloted by Doolittle himself, plunged from the deck and managed to climb into the air despite the naysayers' fears of a splashdown.

The bombers swooped toward Japan with 10 aircraft heading directly for Tokyo. Other planes headed to targets in Yokohama, Nagoya, and Kobe, where they successfully dropped their bombs, tangled with fighters, and escaped to China. As the sun set, weather deteriorated, and the crews were forced to crash-land in temporary airfields. There was no sign of Doolittle or the other raiders. American newspapers published heavily censored stories, impressing the public while many in the know about the secret operation searched for information about the lost attackers of Tokyo. Japanese newspapers told that the capital had been successfully defended by the Ku-Go death ray.

Death rays had been popular in the pulp fiction writing of the time, but the fantasy came with certain scientific grounds of focused electromagnetic radiation. British inventor Harry Grindell Matthews, who successfully claimed a £25,000 prize for an unmanned remote-controlled vehicle in 1914, touted his own beam weapon in 1924. Nikola Tesla himself had claimed in a 1934 Times editorial to have designed one. While the science seemed plausible, the law of inverse-squares meant that an anti-aircraft microwave beam would require immense amounts of power to have any suitable range. Japanese researchers successfully lobbied for military resources to be directed into energy-technology, and the Ku-Go was granted an enormous new power station in 1940 as part of city air-defense.

In May of 1943, the bomber crew under Captain Edward York appeared at a British consulate in Iran with a harried tale. Low on fuel, their bomber separated from the others. York described seeing the bombers begin to fly erratically as the pilots slowly lost control under the gradual bombardment of microwaves. Eventually, their addled engines gave out, and the planes fell. York managed to escape the wide beam and flew to nearby USSR before they ran out of fuel. They were arrested and the bomber confiscated. Requests to be returned to America were refused due to the Japanese-Soviet treaty. Eventually Russian secret police orchestrated an escape by placing the Americans in Ashgabat and putting them in touch with a smuggler who would help them across the boarder. The details of the American causalities due to the death ray confirmed suspicions and caused fear of a “science gap.” Money had already begun pouring into the atomic Manhattan Project, and still more was invested in beam research. Spanish immigrant and welding-researcher Alberto Longoria, who was mysteriously zapping pigeons at the same time the elderly Tesla drew diagrams in 1934, was suddenly hired into government service.

The Japanese, too, began giving more attention to their scientific warfare. Weather balloon technology enabled the creation of Fu-Go, fire bombs that were planned to set the American West aflame. After successful tests of biological warfare from experiments of the secret Unit 731 and Unit 100, the Fu-Go were adapted to carry anthrax, which devastated several American ranches but did not ultimately create the plague they hoped. Americans countered when they unleashed atomic bombs, dropped from near-sonic high-altitude planes capable of gliding far above the Ku-Go's effective reach and running cold so that infrared-seeking Ke-Go drones launched by To-Go electric cannons were unable to hone in on them.

When the war finally came to its conclusion, with plagues still ravishing China, radiation depopulating several Japanese cities, and chemical weapons obfuscating Soviet advance in Korea, new treaties drew up strict rules for scientific research. The United Nations created oversight committees and banned any research without clear civilian applications. Secret projects did continue, such as nuclear programs, but countries were forced to experiment in the open and mask the development of warheads in power plants. Marketing teams created applications for technology such as the microwave oven and public communications satellites.


In reality, the Ku-go death ray did not begin development until 1943 after magnetron improvements in 1939. At the end of the war, the weapon was capable of killing test-rabbits 1,000 yards away after five minutes of bombardment. While the Doolittle Raid did little damage militarily, it was successful in raising American morale. Doolittle himself feared a declaration of his failure due to all of the planes were lost to crashes or by ditching into the sea, but he was instead promoted to Brigadier General and given the Congressional Medal of Honor. The Japanese sought revenge with the Zhejiang-Jiangxi Campaign, punishing any Chinese believed to have aided the Americans in their escape. Over a quarter of a million Chinese were killed during the campaign, many used in experiments in unethical research.

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