We Are All Americans

By SJWNY, a Trail Mix Contributor

Appomattox Court House, April 9, 1865.

Lee had one bit of additional business he wanted to conclude with Grant. Explaining first that he had more than a thousand Federal prisoners whom he could not feed, he added glumly, “Indeed, I have nothing for my own men.” Without hesitation, Grant proposed sending rations for the 25,000 men across the lines. Was that enough? he asked. “Plenty,” Lee said. “An abundance, I assure you.”

 After the two men had signed preliminary papers, Grant proceeded to introduce Lee to his staff. As he shook hands with Grant’s military secretary, Ely Parker, a Seneca Indian, Lee stared for a moment at Parker’s dark features and finally said, “I am glad to see one real American here.” If this account is true, Parker responded to the general, “We are all Americans.”

…… By now, a crowd of anxious sightseers was clustered around the front porch to catch a glimpse of the Confederate general. His face flushed a deep crimson, Lee emerged onto the porch, carrying his hat and gloves. Here he paused, put on his hat, and slowly drew on his gloves, absentmindedly gazing out into the field beyond. Once, then twice, then a third time, he unconsciously balled his left hand and pumped the fist into the palm of his right. Still seemingly oblivious to his surroundings, he automatically returned the salute given to him by the Union officers crowding around the porch, then descended the stairs. Now, as if drawing himself back from a daze, he glanced deliberately in one direction and then the next. Not seeing his horse, he called out in a half-choked and more than half-tired voice, “Orderly! Orderly.” The horse was brought around. The general smoothed Traveller’s forelocks as the orderly fit the bridle, then with a slow, exhausted tug, pulled himself on the horse, letting out a long, deep sigh, almost a groan. By then, Grant had walked out on the porch, too, and as Lee rode past him, their eyes met. Each silently lifted his hat to the other. On the porch and in the yard, countless other Federals also returned the gesture.

 In no small measure, this one poignant moment captured the spirit of Appomattox more than words ever written about that day. But this didn’t stop participants from trying to give voice to the event, including Grant himself. “I felt sad and depressed,” Grant later explained of this moment, “at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought.”

Two of Grant’s aides put it thus: “This will live in history,” one wrote. Another commented, “Such a scene only happens once in centuries …”

From April 1865, The Month That Saved America by Jay Winik, pages 189-191, Harper Collins 2001

********************

Once in a while reality meets up with reason, providing a defining moment in history featuring a perfect cast of people born to court destiny.

More Posts by SJWNY

 

Defining Cool: A Celebration of Art, Artists, Artistry

Round like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel

Never ending or beginning on an ever spinning reel

Like a snowball down a mountain, or a carnival balloon

Like a carousel that’s turning running rings around the moon

Like a clock whose hands are sweeping past the minutes of its face

And the world is like an apple whirling silently in space

Like the circles that you find in the windmills of your mind.

*************

By SJWNY, a Trail Mix Contributor

The Thomas Crown Affair was filmed in ’68

Steve McQueen & Faye Dunaway were sexy, young & great

When cool was cool they defined it to the max

Robbery’s a crime but the heist’s a game, relax

When love intrudes on lust can law win out, you see

Man flies away & leaves lover in the cemetery

Bring the money & join him -or keep the car & weep.

*************

When you knew that it was over you were suddenly aware

That the autumn leaves were turning to the color of her hair

Like a circle in a spiral, like a wheel within a wheel

Never ending or beginning on an ever spinning reel

As the images unwind, like the circles that you find

In the windmills of your mind.

*************

Creativity & artwork enhance life. The Thomas Crown Affair (1968) is a sexy, creative, adult film. Celebrate the good, expand your horizons.

Thank You, Norman Jewison, Hal Ashby, Michel Legrand, Alan Bergman.

More Posts by SJWNY

A Force Of Nature

Roscoe Conkling looked out the window of his Wall Street Law Office & cursed the weather. His home was three miles away. The Great Blizzard of 1888 was enveloping New York City, with 40 inches of snow piling up. I will walk home, he thought. And out into the tempest he went. The date was March 12th.

By SJYWNY, a Trail Mix Contributor

This March 11th marks the 130th Anniversary of the start of the Great Blizzard of 1888. This was a horrible event that claimed over 400 lives in the Northeast, 200 in New York City alone. Drifts of snow were recorded over 30 feet high. The storm finally subsided on the 14th.

Trudge, trudge, thank goodness you kept yourself in shape, Mr. Conkling. 

Roscoe Conkling was a fascinatingly complex figure in our political history, being a kingpin in 1870’s – 1880’s government. He was a Stalwart Republican. Patronage was mother’s milk & he was fighting against the Half-Breed Republicans, who favored Civil Service reforms. Conkling et al supported Ulysses Grant for President. Stalwarts were a political machine.

This storm is very bad. I am having trouble moving forward. Was going out a mistake? Too late now – I must keep going. I do not give up.

Roscoe Conkling & Chester Arthur were very close. Conkling helped Arthur get plum positions in the government. The Election of 1880 saw Arthur being placed on the ticket with eventual Presidential winner James Garfield. After the President’s assassination Arthur assumed office & Conkling thought his old friend would help him out politically. However things had changed. Chester Arthur, a Stalwart, had evolved into a Half-Breed reformer. Their friendship ended – as eventually did the Stalwarts & Conkling’s influence.

Onlookers saw the distinguished man collapse in the snow at Union Square. Please take me home, the stricken man said. I live near Madison Square.

The decision to venture out into the Great Blizzard eventually cost Roscoe Conkling his life. He died of pneumonia on April 18,1888. As with most everything in his life he believed himself to be unstoppable. This time a more powerful force of nature won out.

His breathing labored on, growing slower. Ghosts of long dead friends & enemies visited his brain, James Blaine, Ulysses Grant, James Garfield, old Chet Arthur. Will I be remembered? Of course I will. I shaped those men, brought them great fame, glory, infamy. Power was mine.

Breathe in, breathe out. In …. out.

More Posts by SJWNY

Acting President

By SJWNY, a Trail Mix Contributor

Spring is in the air, thoughts of daffodils, robins & Hollywood Awards. Earlier this month I watched Wilson (1944) which really is longer than Woodrow was President. The featured actor, Alexander Knox, is as wooden as they come. I am no fan of the real Wilson but he got the fuzzy end of the lollipop in regards to cinematic biography.

This sorry waste of film made me think of the good portrayals of Presidents in movies & on TV. So for your consideration, my list of winners:

George Washington

Jeff Daniels, The Crossing (2000)

Yes I know this episode in Washington’s life predates his Presidency. Jeff Daniels’ performance of quiet strength & complexity is amazingly good. Why did a ragtag army of farmers & backwoodsmen follow Washington into seemingly unwinnable odds? If Daniels’ portrayal is close to the real man, you have a clue why.

This TV film was made by A & E back when the A actually meant art & the E equaled thoughtful enriching entertainment. It is sad how far that network has fallen.

John Adams

George Grizzard, The Adams Chronicles (1976)

William Daniels, 1776 (1972)

Grizzard captured the Adams Abigail wrote those Love Letters to & Daniels captured the hard headed visionary the rebelling Colonies needed.

Lyndon Baynes Johnson

Bryan Cranston, All The Way (2016)

Cranston set the bar so high in LBJ portrayals I pity the fool who tries to top this.

And the overall winner is …..

John Quincy Adams

William Daniels, The Adams Chronicles (1976)

Mr Daniels was born to portray JQA. It is in his dna. He is this President. I honestly cannot see a picture of the actual President & not think of William Daniels’ performance.

Wait … was the wrong winner announced?

Nah. Just tweaking you. But I do have a bonus winner.

The Absolute Best Portrayal of a First Lady

Joan Allen, Nixon (1995)

Anthony Hopkins did not impress in this film but Ms Allen blew everyone off the screen as Pat Nixon. She made this woman human. Watch it for her performance alone.

More Posts by SJWNY

Grounded By Love & Compassion

By SJWNY, a Trail Mix Contributor

Only two Presidents are said to have had no known pets: James K. Polk & the present occupant in the White House.

Only two.

Giving Polk a pass because no one alive today knew him, but we unfortunately know #45. The fact he has no known pets is not surprising, is it? Good pet care means caring & putting the needs of a life before your own. It means unconditional love, commitment.

Would you vote for anyone who never had a pet? This is meant as a serious question. I read a quote from Lincoln where he reportedly said that his cat was smarter than his Cabinet. It is also passed down that when the pressures of the Civil War & wife Mary got too much he would retreat outside & play with kittens, which were always in abundance around the White House. I get what he did & why he did it.

Come 2020 I offer that the first Meet ‘N Greet Debate include a question about pets. I’ll be listening. Says a lot about the person & how they are centered emotionally. This stuff matters. Just look at who we have today.

More Posts by SJWNY