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Subject: ‘America’

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General Robert E. Lee became a national hero after his surrender

Posted in America, Heroes and Heroines, Historical articles, History, War on Wednesday, 19 March 2014

This edited article about the American Civil War first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 599 published on 7 July 1973.

General Lee and his horse 'Traveller' surrenders to General Grant.
General Lee astride his horse 'Traveller' surrenders to General Grant by James E McConnell

The spring sunshine beat down on the long lines of ragged men. Suddenly a bugle blared and guns fired in salute, while into sight rode a tall, handsome, bearded man, in grey full-dress uniform. At once, a great yell, the immortal, unforgettable Rebel yelled of the Confederate Army, burst from thousands of throats.

The soldier on the horse, General Robert E. Lee, took off his hat to his men and the ear-splitting yell rang out again.

“Does it not make the General proud to see how these men love him?” asked an onlooker, who was standing by one of Lee’s staff.

“Not proud,” replied the officer. “It awes him.”

It was 1864 and the Confederacy, the group of Southern States which had broken away from the U.S.A. in 1861, had just a year more to live. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia were the key to Southern survival.

Lee was a Virginian. Born in 1807, he was the son of a hero of the War of Independence against Britain, and the Army seemed his destiny from childhood. He did well from the moment he entered it, in war and in peace, until the fatal year of 1861 found him, along with countless other Americans, in two minds as to which side to support.

As the finest officer in the Army, both sides wanted him to lead their forces! At this tragic hour, he had therefore to choose between State and Union. It was an easy choice for some, but not for him. He believed in the Union; and unlike many Southerners, he was passionately opposed to slavery, which was a part of the Southern way of life because the slaves picked the all-important cotton, and which was a cause of the war.

The other cause was the Southerners’ belief that a State had the right to decide what it did (like allow slavery) whatever the Government in Washington said. It was this that finally decided Lee. First and foremost he was a Virginian. He would side with Virginia.

The Confederates had to win fast before the sheer size of the North and its colossal industrial power swamped them. Lee’s men were born fighters and his officers were the pick of the old United States Army. His second-in-command was the granite-like “Stonewall” Jackson, so called because the sight of him and his brigade standing like a stone wall at the First Battle of Bull Run (July, 1861) had rallied the rest of the army. The two men made a matchless team.

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Lincoln’s assassin may have escaped the Yankee soldier’s bullet

Posted in America, Famous crimes, Famous news stories, Historical articles, History on Wednesday, 19 March 2014

This edited article about Abraham Lincoln first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 597 published on 23 June 1973.

The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln,  picture, image, illustration
The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln

The crackling upsurge of flame as the back of the tobacco shed was set on fire, the sharp crack of the rifle shot, the piercing cry of the man as he was hit, had taken, in all, no more than 15 seconds.

The secret service men stood gazing down at their victim as he lay sprawled and dying on the mud floor. The face was greying, already gaunt with pain, and the onlookers could not be absolutely sure that this was John Wilkes Booth, the most hated man in America.

Paradoxically, Booth, a member of a renowned acting family, was also the most lauded and admired.

It could hardly have been otherwise in a country just emerged from a terrible civil war that had scarred with hate the hearts of the losers, the Confederates of the American South.

From their point of view, it was justice, not murder, when Booth crept into President Lincoln’s box at Ford’s Theatre, Washington, on 14th April, 1865, and shot him in the back of the head.

Abraham Lincoln was the President who had just harried the South to defeat, and many southerners silently echoed Booth’s theatrical cry of “Sic semper tyrannis!” “Thus all tyrants! The South is avenged!” as he leapt from the box on to the stage, brandishing a huge knife.

The gesture was spoiled, though. Booth caught his foot in the flags draping the President’s box and fell, breaking a bone in his left leg. Somehow, in all the screaming and confusion that followed the killing, he managed to scramble through the stage door and out into the street, where his horse was waiting.

Booth made his way in the only logical direction, towards the South.

On April 22nd, eight days after killing Lincoln, he crossed the Potomac River into Virginia. Virginia had been one of the most prominent of the eleven states comprising the former “Confederacy” of the South, and it was here that Booth met three Confederate soldiers who agreed to help him.

They hid him in a tobacco shed on a lonely farm near the town of Bowling Green. However, it seems that Booth got no further. Trapped inside the shed by his pursuers on April 26th he was shot in the head and died three hours later.

That, at least, is what most people believed until 1910, when a writer called F. L. Bates suggested that a certain David George, who killed himself in Oklahoma in 1902, was in reality Lincoln’s murderer.

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‘The Lost Dutchman’ was an elusive goldmine in Arizona

Posted in America, Geology, Historical articles, History on Wednesday, 19 March 2014

This edited article about treasure hunters first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 597 published on 23 June 1973.

Arizona Afterglow,  picture, image, illustration
Arizona Afterglow by Fernand Lungren

The boy who had stumbled into Simon Novinger’s ranch was something of a curiosity, even in the Arizona of the 1860s. He was a white Indian. Orphaned as a baby when redskins attacked his parents’ wagon train, he had been brought up by a number of tribes, who had each taken turns at raising the boy. Then, when it had been decided that he had reached the age of 14, he had been turned out to fend for himself.

Novinger fed the pathetic misfit, unwanted by Indians and yet totally ignorant of the ways of his own people. He gave him clothing and odd jobs around the ranch. Then one day a neighbour called to collect payment on a deal completed some time before, and as was usual in those parts. Novinger brought out a deerskin pouch and from it paid his debt in nuggets of raw gold. The white Indian watched the transaction with interest, and when they were alone he asked his benefactor a question in the Apache tongue.

“Yellow metal good for trade?”

“The very best,” Novinger assured him in the same language. “White men will trade horses, food, guns, for it. Anything.”

The boy considered the information for a while. Then he gestured towards the distant Superstition Mountains, “I know where a man may pick up as much yellow metal as he wants. Before today I did not know it was of value. Now I go to become a rich man.”

Amused, Novinger watched him go, never to return. It was not until later that a thought struck him. What a fool he had been! The boy had lived with Apaches. And who else but an Apache was reputed to know the secret of the lost Peralta mine?

Whether the Indian-raised boy knew the secret or not, the rancher never found out. Years later he was to look in vain for the mine himself, as were scores of men after him. But he was correct in thinking that the Apache Indians knew more than most about the strange, lost fabulously rich load of gold. For it was their braves who had found it in the first place.

No one knows quite when they found it, but find it they undoubtedly did, high up in the bleak, boulder strewn hills east of a point where the town of Phoenix stands today. They certainly knew that the ore was there by the time pioneer priests entered the region in the 16th century.

To the tribesmen the gold was valueless, no more than a soft, pretty looking metal with which to make ornaments. They showed the place to a Mexican priest. And two hundred years later another priest passed on the secret to Don Miguel de Peralta de Cordoba, when this fortunate nobleman was granted all the land in that area by King Ferdinand VI of Spain.

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The Cuban Missile Crisis was about not losing and saving face

Posted in America, Communism, Famous news stories, Historical articles, History, Politics, War, Weapons on Tuesday, 18 March 2014

This edited article about the Cold War first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 595 published on 9 June 1973.

Russian nuclear missile,  picture, image, illustration
Russian nuclear missile on a military parade in Red Square

On Sunday, 14th October 1962, a warm autumn day, an American U-2 plane returned from a reconnaissance flight over western Cuba. Rolls of negatives from its camera were rushed to processing laboratories and then to an interpretation centre where specialists peered at the blown-up photographs frame by frame.

By the next day, they had identified a launching pad, a series of buildings for ballistic missiles and a missile itself on the ground. At breakfast on Tuesday, John Kennedy, the American president saw the photographs They supported the reports of his intelligence agents, in Cuba and confirmed his worst fears. The Russians were installing nuclear weapons in Cuba.

How had the missiles come to be there? Since the revolution in Cuba which had brought Fidel Castro to power, Cuba’s links with the East had grown stronger, while Castro himself had said of America: “Understanding is impossible.” But why should the Russians, who had never before placed nuclear missiles in another country, install them on an island many thousands of miles away from Russia, lying next to their main adversary, and governed by an avowed enemy of the United States?

It had been done as a trial of strength. For some time, a group of Russian leaders had been convinced that the Americans had become too rich, too soft and too liberal to fight; and that the Soviet Union could safely use its utmost nuclear force against them. Krushchev, the Soviet leader, did not agree with this view but he had to put it to the test. That was why he decided to install over sixty missiles with a range of up to 2,000 miles, right under the Americans’ noses.

This would double the Soviet potential striking force against America, and if America took no action in return, she would lose face throughout the world, particularly in other places, such as Berlin, where there was open confrontation between East and West.

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Some Americans welcomed the assassination of Huey Long

Posted in America, Famous crimes, Historical articles, History on Tuesday, 18 March 2014

This edited article about Huey Long first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 595 published on 9 June 1973.

The calm of the corridors in Louisiana’s State Capitol at Baton Rouge was shattered when the assassin’s shot rang out. It took Senator Huey Long two days to die from his wounds, but his assailant perished at once. The Senator’s bodyguard saw to that, pumping 57 bullets into him.

So perished a man who has been described as a monster, a hero, a villain, a fascist, a communist, a democrat, a dictator and a saviour of his people. How could one man attract such different opinions, and where does the truth about him lie? Americans have been arguing about his scandalous, yet in some ways glorious, career ever since he died in September, 1935, just when it looked as if he might become President of the United States!

To his friends – who included most of the poor people of Louisiana – hillbillies, cotton pickers, swamp dwellers and the rest – he was the man who built a network of roads with no toll gates, who built bridges and hospitals, who issued free textbooks to children of all races. He was a man who stood up to the big bosses of the oil companies, the powerful and rich old families of New Orleans and the cotton plantations, who had governed the state like something out of the Middle Ages, and he had beaten them.

They all knew how he had left school early and become a salesman, then passed his law exams in a single year, broken into politics, and become first Governor of Louisiana, then a Senator up in Washington, the capital, telling folks there how to run things. And didn’t he invent an idea called “Share Our Wealth,” which was aimed at stopping the rich getting richer and at making them put back some money into the pockets of plain “folks”? They called him the Kingfish after a favourite cartoon character of the day and they loved him. He was one of them.

True, they heard that he lined his own pockets in the process, but wasn’t that what others had done before?

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An American traitor and a British spy met very different ends

Posted in America, Espionage, Famous Last Words, Historical articles, History, Revolution, War on Tuesday, 18 March 2014

This edited article about the American Revolution first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 594 published on 2 June 1973.

 Death of Major Andre,  picture, image, illustration
The Unfortunate Death of Major Andre

Visitors to the battlefield of Saratoga in New York State, U.S.A., can see one monument so strange that it seems to make no sense.

The battle, fought in 1777 between the British under General Burgoyne and American regulars and militiamen, was a turning point in the American Revolution, for the defeat of the British helped bring France in on the side of the one-year-old United States and make their final victory certain.

The strange monument commemorates the soldier who did more than anyone else to bring about the American victory, but it does not name him! The inscription relates that he was the most brilliant American soldier and that he became a major-general after the battle. It has a cannon carved on it, also a wreath, a badge and a boot, and that is all.

Elsewhere in the state, on a hill overlooking the Hudson River, is a granite memorial erected by Americans to honour a man who could have lost the war for them, a British officer they hanged as a spy in front of a vast crowd who mourned for him. His name, John André, is engraved in the stone of his memorial.

The two monuments are linked, for the first commemorates the achievements of the most famous of all American traitors. Benedict Arnold, before he betrayed his country, and the second, the man who was his link with the British High Command. Treachery and scandal bind the two forever in history, one of whom died unlamented and disliked in London in 1801, the other on that hill overlooking the Hudson. More than half a century later, John Andre’s body found a final resting place in Westminster Abbey.

The American Revolution began in 1775 after relations between Britain and her 13 American colonies had reached breaking point over many issues especially the fact that the colonists were taxed without their being represented in the British Parliament. From the beginning, many of them stayed loyal to the Crown, so it was as much a civil war as a struggle for independence.

But one person whose loyalty to the American cause was certain was Benedict Arnold, or so everyone believed.

His exploits early in the war were fabulous. He was 34 when it broke out and soon became the most dashing of all American commanders, more so even than a far greater man, the American Commander-in-Chief, George Washington.

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Prince Madoc may have taken the Welsh language to America

Posted in America, Discoveries, Historical articles, History on Tuesday, 18 March 2014

This edited article about Madoc of Wales first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 594 published on 2 June 1973.

Mobile Alabama,  picture, image, illustration
Mobile, Alabama, where Madoc is said to have landed three centuries before Columbus

Lieutenant Joseph Roberts felt intensely irritated. A thoughtless Welsh servant boy had put warm water in his brandy instead of cold. The boy cringed as Roberts scowled at him.

“I’ll give you a good beating if you do that again,” Roberts promised rather fiercely. The servant boy understood only too well, for Roberts had spoken in Welsh. He hurried away across the smoking room of the American hotel to put the mistake right.

Suddenly, an Indian chieftain who had overheard what Roberts had said, left his seat and hurried across the room. Roberts was rather startled to see a very excited Indian standing in front of him, resplendent in ostrich feathers and arm bracelets, and with a long plait of hair hanging from the crown of his shaven head.

“Is that your language?” the Indian asked the lieutenant.

Roberts had barely managed to nod before the Indian began speaking rapidly, the words tumbling out like a verbal-waterfall.

The language he was using was Welsh. For generations, it seemed, Welsh had been the native language of his tribe, the Asguaw.

Fantastic as this might seem today, it probably came as no surprise to Roberts, for in 1801, when this encounter occurred, stories about Indians of Welsh ancestry had been circulating in America for some time.

The origin of these stories lay with the theory that, more than three centuries before Columbus, America was discovered by a Welsh prince called Madoc, who landed in 1170 at the spot where Mobile, Alabama, now stands.

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Pony Express riders carried the U.S. Mail across a continent

Posted in America, Animals, Communications, Historical articles, History on Tuesday, 18 March 2014

This edited article about America first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 593 published on 26 May 1973.

Pony Express,  picture, image, illustration
Pony Express

“Wanted – young, skinny, wiry fellows not over 18. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred. Wages 25 dollars a week. . . .”

This advertisement appeared in a San Francisco newspaper in 1860 and it saw the start of one of the most adventurous episodes in postal history anywhere in the world. The Pony Express was born because it provided the only way of achieving a quick postal service to the half a million Americans who lived west of the Rocky Mountains. In its short and spectacular life it provided more than this, however. Its riders, like Bob Haslam or Buffalo Bill Cody were real-life heroes; its 2,000 mile trip through mountains, plains and deserts showed the way in which the West could be opened up. Finally, what started as an adventurous business eventually became a symbol of service which others have since tried to copy.

There was no doubt in the minds of most Americans that something needed to be done about their postal system. Like its British counterpart it had developed piecemeal from private letter carriers and small companies who operated only in a restricted area. Later on the United States Post Office organised the country-wide services but in such a vast continent there were difficulties that were never dreamt of in Britain.

In the days of the 1840 Gold Rush in California, mail from the East Coast could cross the continent by land but it was a slow and uncertain business. It often waited for a wagon-train of emigrants and with hostile Indians, snow-covered mountain passes and scorching deserts all taking their toll much of the mail never got through at all. The alternative, by ocean and across Panama took at least six weeks and was very expensive, and since the steamship line rarely kept to its schedules no one could be sure just when any letter or packets would arrive.

But the United States Post Office was running at a heavy loss and although Americans cast envious eyes on Britain’s newly started Penny Post there was no chance of a similar scheme spreading across the Atlantic. Actually getting the mail through at all had first to be regularly achieved.

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The first colonists in Virginia simply vanished into history

Posted in America, Historical articles, History on Monday, 17 March 2014

This edited article about America first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 591 published on 12 May 1973.

John White in Virginia,  picture, image, illustration
John White returned to Roanoke to find the colony empty and five chests of books, pictures and maps half-buried by C L Doughty

When the blare of the trumpets died away, and the raucous sound of sailors’ voices yelling out English ballads had faded, the colony of Roanoke lay very quiet and still.

John White strained his ears and peered hard into the darkness, but there was no stir of response, only the sibilant whisper of a light August breeze rustling the trees, and rippling a cloud of loose sand across the empty beach.

Before nightfall, White had seen smoke drifting up into the sky, and what looked like the light of a fire glinting in the forest. These seemed to be signs of life, yet the trumpets and songs, the sailors’ noisy signal, met only with silence.

Next day, as he scrambled up the beach, White knew what he would find.

The colony was deserted. The houses stood half-dismantled, overgrown with grass, and everything movable, household belongings, and the lighter cannon and shot, had gone.

Five chests full of books, pictures and maps lay half-buried in the earth, their contents spilling out in disorder as if they had been dug up and thoroughly rifled.

Three of them were White’s own, and contained the ruined remnants of the goods he had left behind when he so reluctantly left Roanoke to return to England four years before, in August 1857.

But at least, White found one vital and welcome clue: the word CROATOAN had been carved on a tree and on another, someone had scrawled the letters C-R-O.

The colonists had kept the promise they made to White before he left for England; if they abandoned Roanoke, they would leave a message to say where they were going, and if in trouble, they would carve a cross above the name of their destination.

To White’s intense relief, there was no cross.

Worried as he was about the colonists, his anxiety was eased by the fact that only a few weeks after their arrival in July 1557, there had already been talk of leaving Roanoke for better country 50 miles away.

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Martin Luther King died for a dream of freedom and equality

Posted in America, Famous crimes, Famous news stories, Historical articles, History on Wednesday, 12 March 2014

This edited article about Martin Luther King  first appeared in Look and Learn issue number 587 published on 14 April 1973.

Martin Luther King, picture, image, illustration

Martin Luther King

They bombed his house, they beat up his followers, they beat him up. Once they nearly stabbed him to death. Finally, they shot him in a hotel in the centre of Memphis, Tennessee. Doctor Martin Luther King, the most respected and loved figure in the movement for, civil rights for Blacks had paid the penalty of his success and his greatness.

“They” were the enemies of his race, who resented efforts by Blacks and Whites alike to improve the lot of the African American. A sniper killed him on April 4, 1968, almost five years after another sniper had killed President John F. Kennedy, and not long before the President’s brother, Robert Kennedy, was also murdered. No great nation has ever suffered three such devastating blows at the hands of assassins in such a very short time.

Martin Luther King, 39 when he died, had summed up his mission in front of the Abraham Lincoln Monument in Washington one day in 1963 before 200,000 Blacks and Whites, just a century after Lincoln had freed the slaves in the middle of the Civil War. In his noble voice with its Southern lilt King said: “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal. . . ‘ I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character. . . . We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.” His dream may still come true.

Many of the men who signed the original Declaration of Independence from Britain in 1776 with its words, “all men are created equal,” had slaves of their own, so that clearly some were more equal than others! Today, almost 200 years after that Declaration, and despite official Government policy, and laws to help Blacks in the North and South, they have a long way to go before they can feel themselves the equal of Whites, whatever the laws say in their favour.

King was born in 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia, his father being a Baptist preacher. Times were grim for Blacks in the South, though at least Southerners were honest in their determination to keep “uppity” Blacks down. The North boasted about its better race relations, but, in fact, had little to boast about either.

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