On This Day In History

While some know today as St. Valentine’s Day or just Valentine’s Day, it is also the 112th anniversary of the patenting of one of the most significant firearms in history. For it was on this day in 1911 that John Moses Browning was awarded Patent No. 984,519 for what became known as the Colt Model 1911.

The United States Army would adopt this pistol, with a few modifications, the next month on March 29th. The official designation was Automatic Pistol, Caliber .45, M1911. The Navy and Marine Corps would adopt it as their service pistol in 1913. The US military procured approximately 2.7 million of these pistols including in the M1911A1 version over its service life. I know my father was issued one when he served in South Vietnam as I have his issued equipment inventory.

In civilian life, the 1911, in its multitude of forms, would be used by law enforcement, competitors, and shooters of all ages and all sorts. It would come in different sizes from large to small. It would be chambered in everything from .45 ACP to 10mm to .22LR. Even today, new models are being released such as the recent offerings from Savage Arms.

I doubt that even such a forward thinker as Browning could have envisioned just how popular his invention would become. You can read the full patent application here. Unfortunately, it was too large to embed.

Lexington And Concord In 4 Minutes

Today marks the 247th anniversary of the “Shot Heard ‘Round the World”. Just like then, the government of the day is making moves against the possession of firearms. In this case, it is personally made firearms to which they have applied the pejorative term “ghost gun” (sic) in order to demonize them. Instead of red-coated British regulars marching on Lexington and Concord, I imagine it will be black-clad ATF special agents conducting dawn raids on the homes of hobbyists.

Enough about the modern-day lobsterbacks. It is time to celebrate the insurrectionists of April 19th. I came across this video which summarizes Lexington and Concord in 4 minutes.

In doing research for this post, I also discovered Paul Revere’s account of the night of April 18th and the events leading up to it. His account was written in 1798 at the request of Jeremy Belknap of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Bearing in mind that it was written 23 years after the fact, it is still an interesting account of both that night and the personalities involved in opposing the British.

You can find the original here and a post containing the transcription here. Thanks to the Conservative Treehouse for bringing this interesting bit of history to light.

Neal Knox – The Gun Rights War: Dispatches From The Front Lines 1966-2000

Philosopher and historian George Santayana wrote in 1905 that “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” In that spirit, I thought it would be useful to readers to revisit some of the history of the National Rifle Association starting with the Cincinnati Revolt and going up through the late 1990s. It was in the late 1990s that Wayne LaPierre cemented his role as Executive Vice President of the NRA and effectively stifled any future efforts to remove him.

This history is not unbiased as it comes from the writings of the late Neal Knox. He was one of the architects of the Cincinnati Revolt, served as head of NRA-ILA, was a NRA Board member, was its 1st Vice President, was the man who first hired Wayne LaPierre as a lobbyist, and later became his chief antagonist. Neal was also a gun writer and publisher. He was the founding editor of Gun Week (now The GunMag), was the editor of Wolfe Publishing’s Handloader and Rifle magazines, and later had a column in Shotgun News (now Firearm News). This archived post from Gun Week gives more of Neal’s life and work.

Neal’s son Chris compiled a number of his articles and other written work into a book entitled Neal Knox – The Gun Rights War: Dispatches from the Front Lines 1966-2000. The book was first published in 2009 and then re-released with some updates in a Kindle format in 2019. Chris edited the book and also provided some necessary annotations to put stuff in context.

Through the gracious permission of Chris and Jeff Knox, I will be reprinting selected chapters from the book as it relates to the NRA. I’ll be doing this on an occasional basis so as to spread it out.

It is my belief that knowing some of this history will allow readers to better understand the current NRA, its problems, and what has led to it being sued by New York Attorney General Letitia James. The problems that she points out in her lawsuit didn’t just happen and it is important to realize that.

The Midnight Ride Of Paul Revere

245 years ago tonight Paul Revere, William Dawes, and Dr. Samuel Prescott left on their journey to warn the Minutemen that British regulars were marching to seize the colony’s stores of arms, powder, and shot. The next morning, the American Revolution began.

Ironically enough, Gov. Charlie Baker (R-MA) is acting more like General Gage than the early patriots with his orders that firearm dealers remain closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. For his troubles, Baker is being sued in Federal court by a coalition of groups including Commonwealth Second Amendment, Gun Owners Action League, Second Amendment Foundation, and Firearms Policy Coalition in McCarthy v. Baker seeking to have stores reopened. The Pink Pistols have filed a motion to be allowed to file an amicus brief in the case.

While the real story of that midnight ride is here, most Americans know the more fictionalized account popularized by poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The poem below was meant to unify the North on the eve of the War Between the States and to remind that history favors the courageous.

Just like when Longfellow wrote Paul Revere’s Ride, we are facing a time of danger. The danger is not just from COVID-19. The more critical danger is that civil liberties are being trampled upon by public officials with their proclamations, emergency orders, etc. Whether it is police in Greenville, Mississippi interfering with a drive-in church, police in Raleigh saying people don’t have the right to assemble even if keeping their social distance, or Gov. Baker’s order on gun stores, the First and Second Amendments are being spit upon by small men with big egos and a misguided sense of their own importance.

It is time for that to stop.

Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five:
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

He said to his friend, “If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry-arch
Of the North-Church-tower, as a signal-light,—
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country-folk to be up and to arm.”

Then he said “Good night!” and with muffled oar
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
The Somerset, British man-of-war:
A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
Across the moon, like a prison-bar,
And a huge black hulk, that was magnified
By its own reflection in the tide.

Meanwhile, his friend, through alley and street
Wanders and watches with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door,
The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers
Marching down to their boats on the shore.

Then he climbed to the tower of the church,
Up the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry-chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the sombre rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade,—
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town,
And the moonlight flowing over all.

Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead,
In their night-encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel’s tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper, “All is well!”
A moment only he feels the spell
Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread
Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay,—
A line of black, that bends and floats
On the rising tide, like a bridge of boats.

Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride,
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he patted his horse’s side,
Now gazed on the landscape far and near,
Then impetuous stamped the earth,
And turned and tightened his saddle-girth;
But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry-tower of the old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and sombre and still.
And lo! as he looks, on the belfry’s height,
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns!

A hurry of hoofs in a village-street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed that flies fearless and fleet:
That was all! And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.

He has left the village and mounted the steep,
And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides;
And under the alders, that skirt its edge,
Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,
Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.

It was twelve by the village clock
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer’s dog,
And felt the damp of the river-fog,
That rises when the sun goes down.

It was one by the village clock,
When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock
Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
And the meeting-house windows, blank and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast
At the bloody work they would look upon.

It was two by the village clock,
When be came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning breeze
Blowing over the meadows brown.
And one was safe and asleep in his bed
Who at the bridge would be first to fall,
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by a British musket-ball.

You know the rest. In the books you have read,
How the British Regulars fired and fled,—
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
From behind each fence and farmyard-wall,
Chasing the red-coats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load.

So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm,—
A cry of defiance, and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo forevermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.

The Caning Of Charles Sumner

Sen. Charles Sumner of Massachusetts was an ardent abolitionist. On the floor of the Senate in 1856, he made a speech in which he castigated Sen. Andrew Butler of South Carolina over his support for slavery.

Butler was not present when Sumner made his speech but his cousin, Rep. Preston Brooks of South Carolina, got wind of it. As the Senate’s historian puts it:

Representative Preston Brooks was Butler’s South Carolina kinsman. If he had believed Sumner to be a gentleman, he might have challenged him to a duel. Instead, he chose a light cane of the type used to discipline unruly dogs. Shortly after the Senate had adjourned for the day, Brooks entered the old chamber, where he found Sumner busily attaching his postal frank to copies of his “Crime Against Kansas” speech.

Moving quickly, Brooks slammed his metal-topped cane onto the unsuspecting Sumner’s head. As Brooks struck again and again, Sumner rose and lurched blindly about the chamber, futilely attempting to protect himself. After a very long minute, it ended.

You can see a reenactment of this in the Drunk History video below.

It amused me that the odious Patton Oswalt aka Constable Bob in Justified played Sen. Sumner.

What got me to thinking about the caning of Sen. Sumner was the behavior of the Democrats in the Senate and Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Twice now the Senate Democrats have stopped passage of a coronavirus stimulus package. This came after they had worked out the details over the past week with the Republican majority.

Pelosi has larded up her so-called package with more agenda items and less stimulus items that will get people back to work and on their feet. As Majority Whip James Clyburn (D-SC) told House Democrats, “This is a tremendous opportunity to restructure things to fit our vision.”

Forgive me for thinking that we need to take a gutta-percha brass-headed cane a’la Preston Brooks to the heads of certain Democrat obstructionists. Of course, I mean this figuratively as voters and not literally. Losing power and the attendant perks would be the worst punishment for most of them.

The actual cane is now on display at the Old State House Museum in Boston.

The NRA’s Famous Whiskers

November marks the time of year when many normally clean shaven men grow out a winter beard and or mustache. Additionally, the Movember foundation who’s goal is to “change the face of men’s health has also successfully promoted the growing of a mustache in November to bring awareness to several men’s health issues including cancer and suicide prevention.    

So before the month of Movember comes to a close let us take a moment to recognize the first president of the National Rifle Association, the mustachioed civil war general, U.S. Senator and governor of Rhode Island Ambrose Burnside.  

As significant as his accomplishments were, he became most famous for his outstanding and uniquely styled mustache and side whiskers which became known as  “sideburns” an anagram of his name Burnside.  As a Union general who experienced his fair share of defeats, he was known to say of the Union troops, “Out of ten soldiers who are perfect in drill and the manual of arms, only one knows the purpose of the sights on his gun or can hit the broad side of a barn”.   This statement reflected the recognition of the need for more modern rifle training leading to the opening of the first modern rifle range in Queens NY.  

How very very much has changed in a 150 years!  

Happy Constitution Day!

What do a guy who tried to incite an Indian war, a guy who died in a duel, and a guy who, reversing the normal course of things, retired to New York City have in common?

William Blount, Richard Dobbs Spaight, and Hugh Williamson were the North Carolina signatories to the US Constitution on September 17, 1787. While not as famous as a Hamilton or a Madison or a Washington, you dance with who brought you. And these were the Tar Heels who brought us from the dysfunction of the Articles of Confederation to the enduring system we have today.

William Blount

Blount served in the Revolutionary War fighting in battles both in Pennsylvania and the South. After the war, he became active in North Carolina politics and was named a delegate to the Constitutional Convention. He also had the distinction of being the first US Senator expelled from his position. Blount County, Tennessee is named after him.

In 1790, George Washington appointed him to be Governor of the Territory South of the Ohio River. Having concluded the Treaty of Holston, Blount declared that the capital of territory would be moved to Knoxville. In Knoxville, Blount built a mansion in 1792, which was called Blount Mansion. In modern times, this building still stands as a museum.

During his time in the Senate, Blount began to experience financial difficulties. He incited the Cherokee Indians and Creek to aid the British in order to conquer the Spanish territory of West Florida. However, his plan was discovered by President John Adams when he intercepted a letter detailing his devious plans. As a result, on July 7th, he was impeached by the House of Representatives. Finally, he was expelled from the Senate. There were certain limitations surrounding action that could be taken against members of Congress, and so Blount’s political career did not end. In 1798, Blount was elected to Tennessee State Senate. Two years later, he died at Knoxville on March 21st, 1800. He left a son named William Grainger Blount.

Richard Dobbs Spaight

Spaight was born in New Bern, educated in Ireland, and was a graduate of the University of Glasgow. He served in the North Carolina General Assembly, served as governor of North Carolina, and was a member of the US House of Representatives as a Federalist. It was during his time as governor that both the sites of Raleigh for the capital and Chapel Hill for the University of North Carolina were selected.

His son, Richard Dobbs Spaight, Jr., was elected as governor in 1835 making them the first father-son pair to be governor in North Carolina history.

As to the duel:

Later in 1798, Dobbs elected for a term lasting for two years to the House of Representatives in the United State. He served until 1801 when he became a Federalist following his perception towards states rights. He was associated with Thomas Jefferson and his Democratic-Republican Party. He died on September 6th 1802 after sustaining injuries in a duel that involved a federalist congressman, John Stanly. He was buried in New Bern where his home was situated.

Somewhat ironically, Stanly has a county named after him in North Carolina but neither Spaight, father or son, have anything named after them.

Hugh Williamson

Williamson was born in Pennsylvania, educated at the College of Philadelphia (later called University of Pennsylvania), and served as a clergyman in Connecticut. Running into difficulties due to a controversy over religious doctrine, he returned to school and obtained a degree in mathematics and later was educated in medicine in the Netherlands.

Williamson was a witness to the Boston Tea Party while in the city on business. As a result, he was forced to travel to England to testify. The experience led him to the cause of the patriots. He served during the Revolution as North Carolina’s Surgeon General and as an army doctor for patriot forces.

After the Revolutionary War, he became involved in politics and served in the North Carolina General Assembly, the Continental Congress, and the US House of Representatives. Thomas Jefferson said of him and his service in the Constitutional Convention, “he was a useful member, of an acute mind, attentive to business, and of an high degree of erudition.”

Williamson retired to New York City after his second term in Congress. He died and was buried there in 1819. Williamson has a county in both Illinois and Tennessee named after him.

History Freebies

The African Bush Wars have always intrigued me. Whether it was in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Angola, Mozambique, or South West Africa (now Namibia), you had Communist-backed insurgencies, guerrilla warfare, and effective counter-insurgency campaigns. It was kind of like seeing the Vietnam War set in southern Africa but without the massive involvement of the United States.

Today I stumbled across a website that has a number of free e-books available for download. What makes it most interesting is that you have books from both sides. You have analyses of the impact of the Soviet and Cuban advisors, you have a book written by a Cuban about his perspective on the air war in Angola, you have many books from the South African perspective, and the list goes on.

The website also has one of the most extensive collections of books on the African Bush Wars for sale.

Bush War Books and the free downloads can be found here.

Really? On The Fourth Of July?

The Arlington, Massachusetts Police Department needs a refresher lesson in just what was the spark that set off the American Revolution. It was the attempt by the British under General Gage to seize the arms and powder of the local militia. A year and some months later we declared our independence from Great Britain.

Today, the APD demanded to inspect the premises of TJIC for firearms because he had applied for a Massachusetts LTC (license to carry). They had no warrant. They ended up seizing the legally owned firearms of his fiancee’ Jenn.  Tam has the story. Make sure to read the comments for follow-up information.

Weerd has more info on the required permits in Massachusetts to provide some context.

The saddest part of the whole incident is that the local cops think they are just doing “their job”. From TJIC’s comments at Tam’s blog:

At the end, some of the cops who ransacked the house tried to shake hands with me. “No hard feelings”.

I refused and said “Gentlemen, please think about what you’re doing. On the fourth of july, the day we celebrate freedom, you stole legally owned firearms from a women who is engaged to a guy who made a joke you don’t like. You are not the good guys. You are ‘just doing your jobs’. Look in the mirror. You’re the bad guys.”

Response: “I’m sorry you feel that way. Have a good Fourth.”

My lawyer says that there’s a decent chance I may yet be arrested.

And with that, I should probably go radio silent for a while.

As I said back in 2011 when the original incident occurred, I am TJIC.

I still am.

UPDATE: There is now a discussion going on about this on the NortheastShooters.com forum. Unfortunately, it doesn’t add any new information as of now.

Turning Back The Empire: An Illustrated History Of Guadacanal

I stumbled across “G.I. Joe Live – A World of Pretend Can Get Real” this afternoon. It uses G.I. Joe dolls (or action figures) to illustrate the history of important battles. Having had some of the earliest G.I. Joe’s as a kid, I found it really cool. Here is how they describe their website:

G.I. Joe Live
Welcome to G.I. Joe Live! Where, as the title says, a world of pretend can become real. In short, G.I. Joe Live is a mixture of historical real world events and present-day photography, using realistic plastic military action figures known worldwide as “G.I. Joe”.

 Their three-part series on the battle for Guadacanal is excellent. The history is accurate and the use of the action figures is well done.

Part I – Turning Back the Empire: The Allies First Pacific Land Victories

Part II: Guadacanal – Henderson Field to Tenaru River

Part III: Victory!