July 25th, 2011
Last Thursday was the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Bull Run, also known as the Battle of Manassas. It was the first major engagement of the American Civil War with 28,000 soldiers on the Union side and 21,000 on the Confederate. The Union commander, General Irving McDowell, was hesitant to attack because of the inexperience of his troops, but since President Lincoln’s initial call for troops had been for a period of only 90 days, many of the enlistments were expiring and, as Lincoln told McDowell in ordering him to attack, “You may be green, but so is the other side.”
McDowell attacked at dawn and met some initial success. Historians claim the turning point of the battle occurred when a Confederate commander, seeking to reorganize fleeing troops, pointed to an unwavering brigade of Virginia militia under the command of Thomas J. Jackson, a former US Army officer and current instructor at Virginia Military Institute, and said, “Look there at Jackson; he stands like a stonewall.” Not only did that rally the fleeing troops, it gave birth to one of the best known nicknames of that or any other war.
But beyond the Stonewall Jackson anecdote, the key to the Confederate victory may have been the sudden arrival at the battlefield of reinforcements who had rapidly traveled from the Shenandoah Valley by train. This was particularly significant since the Civil War was the first war in history to make widespread use of rail for troop movements and logistical support of large armies. It was a development that revolutionized warfare. In fact, the reason Manassas was the Union objective that day was that it was a key rail junction that lay only about 20 miles west of Washington. (Rail intersections such as Manassas would become strategic targets throughout the war).
The fears that McDowell harbored about the reliability of his inexperienced troops were well founded. When the battle turned against them, their orderly retreat quickly turned into a chaotic rout with many of the troops fleeing all the way back to Washington. The battle was costly for both sides. Casualties were 2900 for the Union and 2000 for the Confederates. Much like the Battle of Bunker Hill at the start of the American Revolution, the scale of the casualties at Bull Run showed to all that this war would not end quickly or easily. The next day President Lincoln called for an additional 500,000 troops, but this time, it was for a term of 3 years. Unfortunately, those who survived that term of enlistment were asked to re-up, as the war continued on into 1865.
July 25th, 2011
You have to like Red Sox fans. Yesterday’s game against the Mariners was Maine Day at Fenway. New England state days are a ballpark tradition. The weather cleared as the game began. You have to like Red Sox fans. Team veteran Tim Wakefield got nicked for a couple of runs in the first inning, but soon settled down. The Sox piled up five runs in the bottom of the first, and it was looking like it would be a lot of fun at the game. In the top of the sixth inning, Wakefield struck out Mike Carp to end the inning. The scoreboard flashed the news that it was Wake’s 2,000th strikeout for the Red Sox. Only Roger Clemens has more K’s in Boston history. The crowd erupted and gave Wakefield a long standing ovation, calling him out of the dugout for a bow. Six innings. 11 to 3 in favor of the Sox. I figured the manager would give his starting pitcher the rest of the afternoon off. No. Old Tim came out to the mound for the seventh and got knocked around for a bunch of hits, including a grand slam homer that seemed to leave the park in slow-motion. Now it was time to go. Terry Francona walked to the mound to make the change. With his first step to the dugout, Wake set off another standing ovation, as if all the bottled up gratitude for his year-in, year-out work for the Red Sox got uncorked in that moment. You have to like Red Sox fans. Give up a granny—get a standing O. It helps when you are still up by three runs.
I hadn’t been to a Red Sox game in a while. In recent years I’ve seen the Spinners play in the Fenway Futures game and witnessed the Paul McCartney concerts, but it’s been several years since I’ve taken in a Sox game in the 99-year-old ballpark. My son and I had excellent seats that we picked up in a benefit auction at the American Textile History Museum last fall. We were in the red boxes, Sec. 17, Box 124, Row MM, between the batter’s box and on-deck circle. Fenway is a living museum. Jim Lonborg was in the house and saluted on the jumbo-screen. Looking down at third base, I could see the ghosts of Malzone, Foy, Petro, Lansford, Hobson, Mueller, Boggs, Lowell, even Wilton Veras who came up with the Spinners. I could see that miserable pop-up of Yaz’s in the playoff game against New York. I had a straight shot view of Fisk’s foul tower in left. I enjoyed the modern-day World Series banners. But it is largely the same shape and size as the place I visited as a kid. It’s a Boston time-machine.
You have to like Red Sox fans. In one of the middle innings, David Ortiz took a rip and his bat exploded. The barrel ended up in the boxes near the on-deck circle. Ushers rushed to the scene to be sure nobody was hurt, and tried to retrieve the shattered bat. On cue, the fans nearby started chanting, “Let her/Keep it, Let her/Keep it”—and the ushers gave in. You have to like Red Sox fans.
July 25th, 2011
The Andrea Doria Cover of Life Magazine – August 6, 1956
MassMoments reminds us today that on July 25, 1956 the ocean liner Stockholm rammed the ocean liner Andria Doria – the fastest and largest vessel in the Italian fleet known as the “Grand Dame of the Sea” – in the fog off the coast of Nantucket. The Andria Doria capsized and sank hours later. Miraculously, most passengers were rescued by life boats from the Stockholm herself and the French liner – Ile de France.
…in 1956, two ocean liners collided in thick fog, approximately 50 miles south of Nantucket. The Stockholm had just left New York City bound for Sweden. The Andrea Doria was due to arrive in New York at 9:00 o’clock the following morning. The three-year-old Italian liner was not only one of the most luxurious vessels afloat but was considered the safest. She had the latest radarscopes and was built with watertight compartments. Nevertheless, 11 hours after the Stockholm rammed her broadside, the Andrea Doria capsized and sank in 225 feet of water. Thanks to one of the most remarkable rescues ever conducted at sea, all of the 1,706 passengers and crew who survived the collision made it safely back to land.
I remember the 1956 collision of the Stockholm and the Andrea Doria well because just a few weeks earlier that summer before entering Notre Dame Academy, I spent a few days with family in the Hyannis area on the Cape. Also my aunts had sailed to Europe on one of these great ocean liners. It was long before Challenger, 9/11 and the crash over Lockerbie – an accident of this size and nature so close to home was a shock. Sadly, today’s Globe notes a death of a diver while exploring the wreck of the Andrea Doria which still lies in the waters off Nantucket. It is a popular place for diver excursions but only safe for the very experienced.
Read the account of the incident here at MassMoments.com.
Note: More on the SS Andrea Doria here at Wikipedia including photos, litigation, studies, book and movie references, diving incidents etc.