Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Cotton Mather, You Dog

‘Towards three a Clock in the Night, as it grew towards Morning of this Day, some unknown Hands, threw a fired Granado into the Chamber where my Kinsman lay . . . the Fuse was violently shaken out upon the Floor, without firing the Granado. When the Granado was taken up, there was found a Paper so tied with String about the Fuse, that it might out-Live the breaking of the Shell, which had these words in it; Cotton Mather, You Dog, Dam you: I’ll inoculate you with this, with a Pox to you.’ This is taken from the diary of the Puritan minister Cotton Mather who died 290 years ago today. He was a prolific and influential writer - his diary details exhaustive daily devotions as well as fearful instruction of his children - who was both a believer in old customs (such as witchcraft) and the application of scientific knowledge (for example, inoculation against diseases such as smallpox).

Mather was born in Boston in 1663 into a prominent family of Puritan ministers. He entered Harvard aged only 12, having sufficient knowledge already of Latin and Greek, and received his M.A.(from the hands of his father, who was president of the college) aged 18. He was formally ordained in 1685, becoming a colleague of his father at North Church, Boston. There he served as pastor in his father’s absences and after his father’s death in 1723. He was a prolific writer, and was well known for his books, such as Magnalia Christi Americana (1702) a miscellany of materials on the ecclesiastical history of New England. Mather became a highly influential religious leader, and he set Puritan standards for several generations to come. He was a friend of some of the judges charged with hearing the Salem witch trials. Moreover, he was an ambassador for the colony’s interests at the courts of James II and William III when its original charter was being renegotiated. He also had some influence in science, having conducted experiments with plant hybridisation and supported smallpox inoculation, and was elected a member of the Royal Society in London. He married thrice and fathered at least 15 children, although only two survived him. He died on 13 February 1728. Further information can be found at Wikipedia, The Mather Project or Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Mather kept a diary all his adult life, but only parts of it survived through to the 20th century when it was published, for the first time, by the Massachusetts Historical Society (in two volumes) with a preface by Worthington Chauncey Ford. Both volumes are freely available at Internet Archive: one (1681-1708) and two (1709 - 1724). According to Ford, Mather’s diary is of value as ‘the record of a man of peculiar attainments, as a bibliography of a very prolific compiler and publisher, and, most of all as an important contribution to the history of the Congregational Church in Massachusetts.’ In his preface, Ford provides some details on the diary itself.

‘So far as it has been preserved, this Diary is now printed for the first time. It is far from complete, and the record for some of the most important years of the diarist’s life has been lost or destroyed. It is an account edited by himself, and comprises therefore only what he wished to have preserved for the benefit of his children. Such care also precludes the idea that Mather was not preparing a calendar of events and a record of feelings for posterity, and therefore for publication. Enough of the Diary, perhaps more than enough, remains to develop and illustrate his career, and to enable the reader to measure the man in his intentions and in his actions. While describing these he has prepared, not consciously, the material for a better comprehension of the position of church affairs in Massachusetts during his ministrations.’

The bulk of the diary is taken up by a record of the writer’s devotions and religious affairs, but in between these it does also contain many personal and social details as well. Here are several extracts, mostly from the first volume, but with the last two taken from the second volume.

11 October 1696
‘A Great Storm seem’d breeding in the Weather; but being in Distress about my Journey, I wholly left it with my Lord Jesus Christ. So I undertook my Journey to Salem, and the storm strangely held off, till my Return, which was above a week after.’

12 February 1697
‘Friday. Being this Day thirty four Years old, I sett apart this Day, for a Thanksgiving, to bee offered unto God, in my Retirements; from a sense of the great Obligations unto Thankfulness which my Life, hath now, for thirty four Years together, been filled withal.

In the former Part of the Day, tho’ I mett with much Interruption, by Company that visited mee, I did several Things, to express my Praises unto God in my Lord Jesus Christ.

I paraphrased, improved and applied, the whole Hundred and Third Psalms, on my Knees before the Lord.

I deliberately read over a Catalogue of the Divine Dispensations towards mee from the Beginning; particularly Blessing of God, on each Article.

I distinctly perused, what I have recorded, in the Year past; with grateful Reflections on each Paragraph.

And I sang such Things as were suitable.’

7 November 1697
‘Lords-Day. I took my little Daughter, Katy, into my Study; and there I told my Child, that I am to dy shortly, and shee must, when I am Dead, Remember every Thing, that I said unto her.

I sett before her, the sinful and woful Condition of her Nature, and I charg’d her, to pray in secret Places, every Day, without ceasing, that God for the Sake of Jesus Christ would give her a New Heart, and pardon Her Sins, and make her a Servant of His.

I gave her to understand, that when I am taken from her, shee must look to meet with more humbling Afflictions than shee does, now shee has a careful and a tender Father to provide for her; but, if shee would pray constantly, God in the Lord Jesus Christ, would bee a Father to her, and make all Afflictions work together for her Good.

I signified unto her, That the People of God, would much observe how shee carried herself, and that I had written a Book, about, Ungodly Children, in the Conclusion whereof I say, that this Book will bee a terrible Witness against my own Children, if any of them should not bee Godly.

At length, with many Tears, both on my Part, and hers, I told my Child, that God had from Heaven assured mee, and the good Angels of God had satisfied mee, that shee shall bee brought Home unto the Lord Jesus Christ, and bee one of His forever. I bid her use this, as an Encouragement unto her Supplications unto the Lord, for His Grace. But I therewithal told her, that if shee did not now, in her Childhood seek the Lord, and give herself up unto Him, some dreadful Afflictions must befal her, that so her Father’s Faith, may come at its Accomplishments.

I thereupon made the Child kneel down by mee; and I poured out my Cries unto the Lord, that Hee would lay His Hands upon her, and bless her and save her, and make her a Temple of His Glory. It will bee so; It will be so!

I write this, the more particularly, that the Child may hereafter have the Benefit of reading it.’

3 May 1698
This Day, my little Daughter Hannah, was taken very dangerously sick of a Feavour, with Convulsions, to such a Degree, that there was little Hope of her Life. My Lecture, with other Fatigues, coming this Week upon mee, I could not Fast and Pray y as I would have done. Yett I pray’d, and cry’d unto Heaven, for the Child, and openly and publickly, as well as privately, made this an Opportunity, to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ, by the cheerful Resignation thereof unto Him. Now, behold, the Event! Resigned Enjoyments, will bee still enjoy’d. While I was Joyfully, and yett mournfully giving up the Infant unto the Lord, the Lord raised my Heart at last, unto something of a particular Faith, for its being restored unto mee. And, unto my Amazement, it came to pass accordingly.

Moreover, having written, with exceeding Pains, an Idea and History, of the Reformation, especially in the English Nation, and of the Obstructions which it has mett withal, all still asserted with Passages quoted from the Writings of conformable Divines in the Church of England; whereto, I have added, some Conjectures, of a Reformation and Revolution at hand, exceeding that in the former Century: I now sent the Manuscript, (Anonymous) by the Hand of my Brother-in-Law, to a Bookseller in London; and, if it bee published, I have a secret Hope, that it will much affect the Affayrs of the Church, in the Changes that are approaching. In this Treatise, because I distinguish the Friends of the Reformation, by the Name of Eleutherians, (while I call its Foes, Idumaeans,) for the Causes there assigned, I therefore entitled the Book, Eleutheria. Lord! Accept and prosper this my poor Endeavour to serve Thee!’

30 October 1702
‘Yesterday, I first saw my Church-History, since the Publication of it. A Gentleman arrived here, from New Castle in England, that had bought it there. Wherefore, I sett apart this Day, for solemn THANKSGIVING unto God, for His watchful and gracious Providence over that Work, and for the Harvest of so many Prayers, and Cares, and Tears, and Resignations, as I had employ’d upon it.

My religious Friend, Mr. Bromfield, who had been singularly helpful to the Publication of that great Book, (of twenty shillings price, at London,) came to me at the Close of the Day, to join with me, in some of my Praises to God.

On this Day, my little Daughter Nibby, began to fall sick of the Small-pox. The dreadful Disease, which is raging in the Neighbourhood, is now gott into my poor Family. God prepare me, God prepare me, for what is coming upon me!

The Child, was favourably visited, in comparison of what many are.

It becomes impossible for me to record much in these Memorials; the vast Numbers of the Sick among my Neighbours and the Duties which I owe to the sick in my own Family, engrossing my Time exceedingly.

It being impossible for me, to visit the many Scores of sick Families in my Neighbourhood, and yett it being my desire to visit them as far as tis possible, I composed a Sheet which I entituled, Wholesome Words, or, A Visit of Advice to Families visited with Sickness. I putt myself to the small Expence of printing it; and then dividing my Flock into three Parts, I singled out three honest Men, unto whom I committed the care of lodging a Sheet in every Family, as fast as they should hear of any falling sick in it. The Lord makes this my poor Essay, exceeding acceptable and serviceable.

The Month of November coming on, I had on my Mind, a strong Impression, to look out some agreeable Paragraph of Scripture, to be handled in my public Ministry, while the two dreadful and mortal Sicknesses, of the Small Pox, and the Scarlet Feavour, should be raging among us. After earnest Supplications to the Lord, for His Direction, I used an Action, which I would not encourage, ever to be used in any divinatory Way. I thought, I would observe, whether the first Place that occurr’d at my opening of my Bible, would prove suitable or no; or such as might carry any Intimation of angelical Direction in it. Unto my Amazement, it proved, the History of our Lords curing the sick Son of the Nobleman, in the fourth Chapter of John. I saw, that the whole Bible afforded not a more agreeable or profitable Paragraph. So, I began a course of Sermons upon it.’

14 November 1721
‘What an Occasion, what an Incentive, to have PIETY, more than ever quicken’d and shining in my Family, have I this morning been entertained withal!

My Kinsman, the Minister of Roxbury, being Entertained at my House, that he might there undergo the Small-Pox Inoculated, and so Return to the Service of his Flock, which have the Contagion begun among them;

Towards three a Clock in the Night, as it grew towards Morning of this Day, some unknown Hands, threw a fired Granado into the Chamber where my Kinsman lay, and which uses to be my Lodging-Room. The Weight of the Iron Ball alone, had it fallen upon his Head, would have been enough to have done Part of the Business designed. But the Granado was charged, the upper part with dried Powder, the lower Part with a Mixture of Oil of Turpentine and Powder and what else I know not, in such a Manner, that upon its going off, it must have splitt, and have probably killed the Persons in the Room, and certainly fired the Chamber, and speedily laid the House in Ashes. But, this Night there stood by me the Angel of the GOD, whose I am and whom I serve; and the merciful Providence of GOD my SAVIOUR, so ordered it, that the Granado passing thro’ the Window, had by the Iron in the Middle of the Casement, such a Turn given to it, that in falling on the Floor, the fired Wild-fire in the Fuse was violently shaken out upon the Floor, without firing the Granado. When the Granado was taken up, there was found a Paper so tied with String about the Fuse, that it might out-Live the breaking of the Shell, which had these words in it; Cotton Mather, You Dog, Dam you: I’ll inoculate you with this, with a Pox to you.’

12 December 1721
‘My Son Increase, by a violent and passionate Resentment of an Indignity, which a wicked Fellow offered unto me, has exposed himself to much Danger, and me also to no little Trouble. I must employ this Occasion as much to his Advantage, especially in regard of Piety, as I can.

God graciously gives a good Issue to it.’

The Diary Junction

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Neptune’s Civil War

Gideon Welles, Secretary to the Navy during the Civil War under Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson, died 130 years ago today. His detailed and interesting cabinet diaries have been edited three times, and remain an important primary source of information about the war, and especially about Abraham Lincoln who gave Welles the nickname Father Neptune.

Welles was born in 1802 in Glastonbury, Connecticut, the son of a shipping merchant. He was schooled at the Episcopal Academy, Cheshire, and at the American Literary, Scientific, and Military Academy at Norwich, Vermont. He started out as a lawyer, but soon turned to journalism becoming a founder and editor of the Hartford Times in 1826. He participated in the Connecticut House of Representatives as a Democrat from 1827 to 1835, and was then appointed State Controller of Public Accounts. That same year he married Mary Jane Hale, and they went on to have six children - three of whom died young. The following year President Andrew Jackson made him Connecticut’s postmaster (a position he retained until 1941); and from 1846 to 1849 he was President James Polk’s appointed chief of provisions and clothing for the navy.

Welles fell out with the Democrat Party over its stance on slavery, and helped found the northern-based Republican Party in 1856, and then launching the Hartford Evening Press to promote it. When Abraham Lincoln took office as President in 1861, Welles was given the cabinet post of Secretary of the Navy. He inherited a run-down and demoralised naval department with less than half its vessels serviceable. Moreover, on the outbreak of the civil war, more than 200 officers defected to the South. Nevertheless, Welles’ quiet and strong leadership led to a rapid modernisation and expansion of the service - and to Lincoln giving him the nickname Father Neptune. In particular, Welles oversaw the creation of ironclad ships, the use of improved steam technology, and the effective blockades of Confederate ports. He was also responsible for the enlistment of African-American naval officers who had escaped slavery.

Although not always agreeing with each other, Welles and Lincoln were close, as were their wives; Welles was with Lincoln after he was shot. He remained Secretary of the Navy through Andrew Jackson’s Presidency, and, after the war, administered a scaling down of the navy. He supported Johnson through his impeachment trial, and left office with Johnson in March 1869 (when Ulysses S. Grant took over as President). Welles then returned to Connecticut, writing several books - including a biography, Lincoln and Seward - before his death on 11 February 1878. Further information is readily available online at Wikipedia, Connecticut History, Mr Lincoln’s White House, or the Civil War Trust.

Welles kept a diary all his life, however it is only the diaries he kept while Secretary of the Navy (1861 to 1869) that have been published - three times. The first time was in 1911, a three volume edition edited by his son Edgar: Diary of Gideon Welles Secretary of the Navy under Lincoln and Johnson (Houghton Mifflin). Edgar’s preface reads as follows. ‘When in Washington, it was his habit in the evening, after the family had retired, to devote his time to writing in the diary. His public duties at that period gave him no time to devote to the miscellaneous writings to which he had been accustomed. But in the diary are expressed his views on public men and measures, not only of the day but also those gathered throughout his public life. It was a relaxation to him to write; in fact, being thoroughly accustomed to it, it was a pleasure.

The question of the publication of this diary has caused me much serious reflection. It is an unreserved expression of what was from day to day in the mind of the writer. He probably thought that it would be useful as a record of the events of the time. Certainly he did not think it would be wholly unheeded. But his expressions were not shaped by the consideration that it would be given to the world or would not be; the decision of that question he left to me. Accordingly, I have taken the advice of those in whom I know my father would have the most implicit confidence, submitting the material for consideration and review. Without exception, I believe, the decision has been that duty requires of me the publication, and the truth of history demands that under no circumstances must I fail to make this record public.’ All three volumes can be read online at Internet Archive (one, two and three).

The diaries were edited again in 1960 by Howard K. Beale (Norton), and most recently in 2014 (in an ‘original manuscript edition’) by William E. Gienapp and Erica L. Gienapp (University of Illinois Press) - though this latter confines itself to the Lincoln Presidency (see Googlebooks). A review of the modern edition by John Beeler can be read in the Journal of the Abraham Lincoln Association (summer 2016). Beeler gives a good summary of the history of the diary manuscript and why this third edition is likely to be definitive. Here’s part of that summary:

‘The diary entries, made with remarkable diligence until Gideon Welles left office at the end of Johnson’s presidency, were recorded in fifteen leather-bound manuscript volumes now in the Library of Congress. During the remaining nine years of his life, however, Welles “tinkered,” to use the Gienapps’ term, with many of the original entries, “polishing the prose to make it read more smoothly and rewriting sentences to reflect his changing opinions about people and events”(xviii). Edgar Welles, in turn, not only used the revised version as the basis for a typescript but also added his own revisions, spelling “corrections,” and punctuation, as well as excising or amending - sanitizing might be a more apt descriptor - some passages. Moreover, his edition, based on that typescript, contains material of uncertain provenance, neither from the original diary nor from his father’s revisions. In sum, not all of the three-volume 1911 Houghton Mifflin edition was drawn from the diary entries; those portions that were had already been revised by Gideon Welles and then his son; and some of the original text did not appear at all.’

Beemer concludes: ‘The new edition will be the first choice for most researchers or readers interested in Welles’s account of Lincoln’s administration. Aside from its user-friendliness, it is handsomely produced, sumptuously annotated, well indexed, and, value-priced at forty-five dollars.’

Here, though, are several extracts from the first and second volumes of the original edition.

30 September 1862
‘Little of importance at the Cabinet-meeting. The President laid before us the address of the loyal Governors who lately met at Altoona. Its publication has been delayed in expectation that Governor Bradford of Maryland would sign it, but nothing has been heard from him. His wife was here yesterday to get a pass to visit her son, who is a Rebel officer and cannot come to her. She therefore desires to go to him. Seward kindly procured the document for her. I am for exercising the gentle virtues when it can consistently and properly be done, but favor no social visitations like this. Let the Rebel perish away from the parents whom he has abandoned by deserting his country and fighting against his government.

The President informed us of his interview with Key, one of Halleck’s staff, who said it was not the game of the army to capture the Rebels at Antietam, for that would give the North advantage and end slavery; it was the policy of the army officers to exhaust both sides and then enforce a compromise which would save slavery.’

17 April 1865
‘On Monday, the 17th, I was actively engaged in bringing forward business which had been interrupted and suspended, issuing orders, and in arranging for the funeral solemnities of President Lincoln. Secretary Seward and his son continue in a low condition, and Mr. Fred Seward’s life is precarious.’

10 July 1865
‘A rainy day. We were to have had an excursion to the Pawnee, the flag-ship of Admiral Dahlgren, but the weather has prevented.

I read to the President two letters from Senator Sumner of the 4th and 5th of July, on the subject of negro suffrage in the Rebel States. Sumner is for imposing this upon those States regardless of all constitutional limitations and restriction. It is evident he is organizing and drilling for that purpose, and intends to make war upon the Administration policy and the Administration itself. The President is not unaware of the scheming that is on foot, but I know not if he comprehends to its full extent this movement, which is intended to control him and his Administration.

Seward sent to see me. Had dispatches from the Spanish government that the Stonewall should be given up. Is to send me copies, but the yellow fever is prevalent in Havana and it would be well to leave the Stonewall there until fall.’

17 July 1865
‘Last Tuesday, when on board the Pawnee with the President and Cabinet, Stanton took me aside and desired to know if the Navy could not spare a gunboat to convey some prisoners to Tortugas. I told him a vessel could be detailed for that purpose if necessary, but I inquired why he did not send them by one of his own transports. He then told me he wanted to send the persons connected with the assassination of President Lincoln to Tortugas, instead of a Northern prison, that he had mentioned the subject to the President, and it was best to get them into a part of the country where old Nelson or any other judge would not try to make difficulty by habeas corpus. Said he would make further inquiries and see me, but wished strict secrecy. On Friday he said he should want a boat and I told him we had none here, but the Florida might be sent to Hampton Roads, and he could send his men and prisoners thither on one of the army boats in the Potomac. I accordingly sent orders for the Florida. Yesterday General Townsend called on me twice on the subject, and informed me in the evening that General Hancock would leave in a boat at midnight to meet the Florida. I suggested that General H. had better wait; we had no information yet that the Florida had arrived, and she would be announced to us by telegraph as soon as she did arrive. To-day I learn the prisoners and a guard went down last night, and I accordingly sent orders by telegraph, by request of Secretary of War, to receive and convey the guard and prisoners to Tortugas.’

4 August 1866
‘The Philadelphia movement is gaining strength, but at the same time encountering tremendous and violent opposition from the Radicals. I trust and think it will be successful, but the convention will be composed of various elements, some of them antagonistic heretofore, and the error is in not having distinctive principles on which these prevailing opposing elements can centre. The time has arrived when our countrymen must sacrifice personal and mere organized party hostility for the general welfare. Either the Radicals or the Government are to be overthrown. The two are in conflict.

I have confidence that all will come out right, for I rely on an overruling Providence and the good sense and intelligence of the people. Hatred, deadly animosity towards the whole South, a determination to deny them their Constitutional rights, and to oppress and govern them, not allow them to govern themselves, are the features of Radicalism. It is an unsavory, intolerant, and persecuting spirit, disgraceful to the country and age. Defeat in the elections will temper and subdue its ferocity, while success at the polls will kindle it to flames, which will consume every sentiment of tolerance, justice, and Constitutional freedom.’

12 December 1866
‘Negro suffrage in the District is the Radical hobby of the moment and is the great object of some of the leaders throughout the Union. At the last session the Senate did not act upon the bill for fear of the popular verdict at the fall elections. Having dodged the issue then, they now come here under Sumner’s lead and say that the people have declared for it.

There is not a Senator who votes for this bill who does not know that it is an abuse and wrong. Most of the negroes of this District are wholly unfit to be electors. With some exceptions they are ignorant, vicious, and degraded, without patriotic or intelligent ideas or moral instincts. There are among them worthy, intelligent, industrious men, capable of voting understandingly and who would not discredit the trust, but they are exceptional cases. As a community they are too debased and ignorant. Yet fanatics and demagogues will crowd a bill through Congress to give them suffrage, and probably by a vote which the veto could not overcome. Nevertheless, I am confident the President will do his duty in that regard. It is pitiable to see how little sense of right, real independence, and what limited comprehension are possessed by our legislators. They are the tame victims and participators of villainous conspirators.’

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Killed and scalped

‘The whole company of rangers went out this morning to scour the country towards Bay Verde: they returned in the afternoon, and brought with them a sleigh which our unhappy sufferers had taken out with them, and on it were laid the bodies of four of our men, and one ranger, who were killed and scalped.’ This is from the diary of a Captain John Knox, an Irish born soldier in the British army, who died 230 years ago today. He may have well have been completely forgotten had it not been for the diary he kept (and later self-published) while on service in North America during the so-called Seven Years War. Some 150 years later, the little-known diary had fallen into obscurity, but it was re-published by the recently-formed Champlain Society, and is now considered one of the most important first hand sources for the period.

Knox was born in Sligo, though very little is known about his early life - not even the year of his birth. He joined the British army, and served in the War of the Austrian Succession, and distinguished himself at the Battle of Lauffeld in 1747. He was promoted to an ensigncy in the 43rd Regiment of Foot by the Duke of Cumberland. In 1751, he married a relatively well off Irish woman, Jane Carre; and, in 1754, he purchased a lieutenancy in the 43rd. Three years later, he left Ireland with the regiment for Halifax, Nova Scotia. However, the regiment then spent two years stationed at Fort Cumberland, playing no part in either the planned Louisbourg Expedition or Jeffery Amherst’s subsequent and successful siege of Louisberg. Knox’s regiment did, though, engage in the Battle of Quebec in the winter of 1759-1760 under General James Murray; and it was also with Murray at the fall of Montreal in 1760.

By the following winter, Knox is thought to have been back in England. He was appointed captain of a newly formed independent company of soldiers, but this was soon amalgamated into the 99th Foot, which, following the the Treaty of Paris in 1763, was itself disbanded. Knox, by then living in Gloucester, was placed on half pay. His attempts to obtain military preferment came to naught, and he remained on half pay until 1775 when he was appointed to command one of three independent companies of invalids stationed at Berwick-upon-Tweed. He died on 8 February 1778. A little further information can be found at Wikipedia or The Dictionary of Canadian Biography.

Knox is remembered today only because he kept a diary during his North American service. On returning to England, he went to the trouble of editing it and having it printed in two volumes: An Historical Journal Of The Campaigns in North-America, For The Years 1757, 1758, 1759 and 1760. The volumes, published in 1769, were sold in two London shops: W. Johnston in Ludgate Street and J. Dodsley in Pall-Mall. They were subtitled, The Most Remarkable Occurrences of that Period particularly The Two Sieges of Quebec etc. etc. Orders of the Admirals and General Officers; Description of the Countries where the Author has served, with their forts and Garrisons their climates, soil, produce; and A Regular Diary of the Weather. Both volumes (one and two) are freely available online at Internet Archive (although the text was printed using the old-fashioned form of s). Nearly 150 years later Knox’s diary was reprinted
 (1914-1916), in a three volume version, by The Champlain Society (formed a decade earlier to advance knowledge of Canadian history through the publication of scholarly books). The three volumes were edited by Arthur G. Doughty, with the third volume being a series of appendices, i.e. other diaries, letters, historical summaries. Volumes one, two and three are all freely available at Internet Archive.

Today Knox’s diary is highly rated. The Dictionary of Canadian Biography says:’Though notably uncritical, it is an important source for the history of the Seven Years War in North America.’ Doughty goes further. He says, in his introduction, that Knox’s narrative ‘is regarded as the most valuable record of those eventful times’. And Doughty goes on to provide a more thorough assessment of the diary. ‘Knox’s English, it must be admitted, is often slipshod, but his style, though sober, is terse and not dull. If some of the incidents appear now of comparatively little interest, it must be remembered that Knox wrote for his contemporaries, and chiefly, we may believe, for those who had taken part in the events with which he was dealing. For these even the minor details which he records would have value as supplementing their own recollections and impressions. The Journal keeps the reader wonderfully in touch with the general course of events and with the principal actors in the drama. [. . .] He seems to have been a genuine soldier at heart, and, in spite of the painful scenes which he describes, he gives us a favourable idea of the military profession. We are made to feel that war is not, as some would have it, mere murder, but that in practice it binds even more than it severs, that its friendships are more lasting than its enmities. In point of accuracy the Journal must, on the whole, be commended. Errors of fact are to be found here and there, but they are few and not of great moment. Honesty seems to greet us from the face of the narrative.’

The following extracts are taken from the first of the three volumes.

21 September 1757
‘Last night we were alarmed in our camp, by two shots fired on the swamps to the left of our ground; the guards and pickets turned out, and we stood to our arms until it was clear day-light in the morning; this was occasioned by some of our rangers, who took the advantage of a moon-light night to lie in waiting for wild ducks, which, with most other kinds of wild fowl, are in great plenty here, though not to be got at without risk; the weather to-day is clear, and comfortably warm. The reinforcements of Highlanders, mentioned before to have arrived lately at Halifax, consisted of two new-raised regiments; an unlucky accident lately happened to one of their private men, of which the following are the particulars; a soldier of another regiment, who was a centinel detached from an advanced guard, seeing a man coming out of the wood, with his hair hanging loose, and wrapped up in a dark-coloured plaid, he challenged him repeatedly, and receiving no answer (the weather being hazy) he fired at him and killed him; the guard being alarmed, the Serjeant ran out to know the cause, and the unhappy centinel, strongly prepossessed that it was an Indian, with a blanket about him, who came skulking to take a prisoner, or a scalp, cried out, I have killed an Indian, I have killed an Indian, there he lies, etc. but, upon being undeceived by the Serjeant, who went to take a view of the dead man, and being told he was one of our own men, and a Highlander, he was so oppressed with grief and fright, that he fell ill, and was despaired of for some days. In consequence of this accident, most of these young soldiers, being raw and unexperienced, and very few of them conversant in, or able to talk English (which was particularly his case who was killed) these regiments were ordered to do no more duty for some time; at length some of the inhabitants having crossed over to Dartmouth to cut fire-wood, they were attacked by a party of the enemy, and several were killed and scalped: whereupon a large detachment of these Highlanders were immediately sent to take post, and remain there; which will effectually secure the town on that quarter, and inable the settlers to provide fuel during the approaching winter, without any farther apprehensions. Changeable weather for several days past, though mostly fair.’

22 September 1757
‘Two men of the 28th regiment deserted this morning, and took their course towards Baye Verde, where meeting with some of the enemy (savages as we are informed) one of them made his escape, and returned to the fort; in consideration whereof, and his good character, he was pardoned. A violent rain came on this afternoon, which obliged us to quit our work.’

4 August 1758
‘The heat of the dog-days in this country is excessive, with close, suffocating airs; this evening we had the most violent thunder and lightning that ever I saw and heard; even the inhabitants express much surprise at it; and the flashes had the greatest variety of awful beauties, and choice of colours, that the most lively imagination can conceive; this was succeeded by five hours constant, heavy rain, with remarkable large drops.’

21 January 1759
‘The whole company of rangers went out this morning to scour the country towards Bay Verde: they returned in the afternoon, and brought with them a sleigh which our unhappy sufferers had taken out with them, and on it were laid the bodies of four of our men, and one ranger, who were killed and scalped; the rest are still missing: at the place where these unfortunate people were way-laid, there was a regular ambush, and designed probably against the rangers, who have been out, for some weeks, cutting and cording wood for the garrison, and seldom missed a day, except the weather was uncommonly severe, which was the case yesterday; and their not going was providential, for they are generally too remiss upon service, and so little did they suspect any danger, that the half of them went out without arms, and they who carried any were not loaded. The victims were fired at from the right side of the road, being shot through the right breast; all were wounded in the same place, except one who had not a gun-shot wound about him, but was killed by a hatchet or tomahock a-cross the neck, under the hinder part of his scull; never was greater or more wanton barbarity perpetrated, as appears by these poor creatures, who, it is evident, have been all scalped alive; for their hands, respectively, were clasped together under their polls, and their limbs were horridly distorted, truly expressive of the agonies in which they died: in this manner they froze, not unlike figures, or statues, which are variously displayed on pedestals in the gardens of the curious. The ranger was stripped naked, as he came into the world; the soldiers were not, except two, who had their new cloathing on them; these (that is the coats only) were taken: I am told this is a distinction always made between regulars and others; the head of the man who escaped the fire; was flayed before he received his coup mortel, which is evident from this circumstance, that, after the intire cap was taken off, the hinder part of the scull was wantonly broken into small pieces; the ranger’s body was all marked with a stick, and some blood in hieroglyphic characters, which shewed that great deliberation was used in this barbarous dirty work. The bloodhounds came on snow-shoes, or rackets, the country being now so deep with snow, as to render it impossible to march without them; they returned towards Gaspereau, and we imagine they came from Mirrimichie, there being no settlement of them (as we suppose) nearer to us on that side of the country.

Our men were buried this afternoon, and, as we could not break or stretch their limbs, the sleigh was covered intirely with boards, and a large pit was made in the snow, to the depth of several feet, where they are to remain for some time; for the earth is so impenetrably bound up with frost, that it is impracticable to break ground, even with pickaxes or crow-irons; their funeral was very decent, and all the Officers attended them to the burying-place. Our men appear greatly irritated at the inhuman lot of their friends, and express the greatest concern lest we should not permit them to make reprisals, whenever a favourable opportunity may offer. In these northern countries, any people that happen to die after the winter sets-in are only left under the snow until the beginning of summer, for spring I cannot call it, there being no such season in this part of the world. With respect to fresh provisions of any kind, it is also customary to kill them about the middle of November, and leave them in an airy out-house, or other place where the frost will soon affect them; so that there is nothing more common than to eat beef, mutton, or poultry, in March or April, that were dead five months before: hares and fowl, as soon as killed, are hung up in their skins and feathers, and without being drawn, until they are wanted; at which time, by steeping them (or any butcher’s meat) for a time in cold water, and not merely immerging, as some writers and travellers aver, they become pliable, and fit for any purpose that the cook may require.’

10 July 1759
‘Being on a working-party this morning at our batteries, I had a most agreeable prospect of the city of Quebec, for the first time; it is a very fair object for our artillery, particularly the lower town, whose buildings are closer, and more compact than the upper. Some time after we were settled at work, a soldier of the 48th regiment, who had an intention to desert, went to an adjoining wood, where an Officer and a number of men were detached to make fascines; he told the Officer he was sent to desire that he and his party would return to the redoubt where we were employed, and in their absence he took an old canoe that he found on the shore, and crossed the river in our view; a boat put off from the enemy, and took him safe to land. Our batteries are in great forwardness; the two first are to mount six guns and five mortars, and will, in a few days, be in readiness to open. About six o’clock the garrison began to cannonade and bombard us, and continued their fire, almost without intermission, until one o’clock in the afternoon, at which time the working-parties were relieved. Our soldiers told me they numbered one hundred and twenty-two shot and twenty-seven shells, yet we had not a man killed or wounded. Before we reached our camp, we had a violent thunder-storm attended with hail and rain, which laid our incampment under water: the hail-stones were uncommonly large; on this occasion the men were served with rum, pursuant to the General’s regulations.

Dalling’s light infantry are ordered on duty this night at the batteries, and the redoubt adjoining to them. The enemy have brought down a mortar or two to the left of their intrenchments, from which they discharged several shells at our ships, though without any effect.’

The Diary Junction

Sunday, February 4, 2018

An ambassador’s war diary

‘Sir John Pilter came to see me. He is the head of the British Colony here. He is very disturbed on the subject of the permits for English people. He is just one of those men who are most tiresome to deal with although there is something to be said on his side. He claims all the rights of a British Citizen and yet when it comes to anything that he does not like he wants to be treated as a Frenchman. They all seem to think that a war is not on and as far as going backwards and forwards into the Army Zone is concerned they ought to be allowed to go as they like. At the same time there are grievances which I hope to get right.’ This is the 17th Earl of Derby - who died 70 years ago today - writing in a diary he kept while saving as the UK’s ambassador in the final months of the Great War. Before being packed off to Paris, he was Britain’s secretary of state for war and a staunch support of Douglas Haig, but he was at odds with the prime minister, Lloyd George, who mistrusted Haig (see previous article).

Edward George Villiers Stanley, later Earl of Derby, was born in London in 1865 into a distinguished aristocratic family of politicians: his father, Frederick Stanley, was the sixth Governor General of Canada, and his grandfather, Edward Smith-Stanley, was UK prime minister three times in the 1850s and 1860s. Edward was educated at Wellington College, Berkshire, before starting out on an army career, first with the 3rd Battalion, King’s Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment) and then as a subaltern with the Grenadier Guards (1885-1895) which included an introduction to court, and public duties as aide-de-camp to his father in Canada. In 1889, he married Lady Alice Maude Olivia Montagu (who bore him three children); in 1893, on his father’s succession to the earldom, he became known as Lord Stanley.

Stanley entered Parliament for West Houghton (Lancashire) in 1892, and served as a Lord of the Treasury (1895-1900). On the outbreak of the South African War in 1899, he became chief press censor in Cape Town and was private secretary to Lord Roberts, commander-in-chief, who twice mentioned him in dispatches. On returning to Britain, he was appointed Financial Secretary to the War Office (1901-1903) and Postmaster General (a cabinet position) from 1903 to 1906 (when he lost his seat at the general election). In 1908, on the death of his father, he succeeded to the peerage (17th Earl of Derby), inheriting much land and the family estate at Knowsley, as well as a place in the House of Lords. He was always very active in Liverpool politics, becoming the city’s lord mayor in 1911, and, 
among other senior positions, presiding over its chamber of commerce for decades.

On the outbreak of war, Stanley played a major role in recruiting soldiers for Kitchener’s New Army, and he himself organised five battalions of the King’s (Liverpool) regiment, training them in the grounds at Knowsley. In 1916, prime minister Herbert Asquith brought him back to government as  Under-Secretary of State for War, but months later he was promoted to Secretary of State for War by the new prime minister David Lloyd George. As such, he became a strong supporter of Douglas Haig (in opposition to Lloyd George who mistrusted Haig, see previous Diary Review article - Haig’s ‘unique’ WWI diaries). From April 1918 to 1920, Stanley served as Ambassador to France (having finally been edged out of government by Lloyd George), but was again Secretary of State for War under prime ministers Bonar Law and Stanley Baldwin from 1922 to 1924. On withdrawing from national politics, he continued to weigh heavily in regional affairs, distributing his patronage lavishly, and becoming a popular figure in Lancashire. He was also a very committed horse breeder and racer, his stable won many top events over the years - not least the Epsom Derby three times, a race named after the 12th Earl of Derby. He died on 4 February 1948. Further information can be found at Wikipedia, The Peerage, or the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (log-in required).

Lord Derby was no author, and published no books in his lifetime, though he was an artful letter writer. For a brief period, while in Paris, he kept a diary. On a weekly basis, he would dispatch his diary entries home to be locked away (although, after a while, he sent copies to some friends, notably Arthur Balfour). These texts remained unpublished for more than 50 years, and it was only on the initiative of  Edward Stanley, 19th Earl of Derby, that the history academic David Dutton was given access to the diaries at Knowsley library. Dutton’s edited version of the diaries was published by Liverpool University Press in 2001 as Paris 1918: The War Diary of the British Ambassador, the 17th Earl of Derby (although oddly the title is abbreviated on the front cover). Some pages of this can be read online at Googlebooks.

According to the publisher: ‘The diary of the 17th Earl of Derby, once thought to have been lost, provides a detailed and important account of the last months of the First World War as seen through the eyes of the British Ambassador in Paris. Derby was in many ways an unlikely choice as ambassador. He was not a diplomat and could not, on his arrival, speak French. His appointment owed much to Lloyd George’s determination to remove him from his previous post as Secretary of State for War. But, after a somewhat uncertain start, he proved to be a very successful ambassador upon whom successive Foreign Secretaries, Arthur Balfour and Lord Curzon, relied heavily for their appreciation of the situation on the other side of the Channel. Derby took up his appointment at a crucial period of the war when military victory still seemed some way off. He became an assiduous collector of information which he dictated into his diary on a daily basis. Derby’s embassy became renowned for its lavish hospitality. But this was far from being self-indulgence, for he firmly believed that entertaining was the best way to win the confidence of his French associates and therefore to obtain information that would be of use in London. Derby’s diary provides important insights into the state of the war, the often strained relationship between Britain and France and the intrigues of French domestic politics.’

Here are a few extracts from Paris 1918: The War Diary of the British Ambassador.

5 June 1918
‘Usual meeting of the Board at 12 o’c. Nothing much to discuss except the question as to what would happen if we had to leave Paris. Difficult subject to deal with as we do not know where we should go to and we cannot ask for fear of giving rise to rumours. We put the whole thing in the hands of General Thornton who has promised to make all arrangements to get people away. I am endeavouring to get the members of the Missions who have their wives out here to send them home but it is a little difficult to do without giving rise to a suspicion.

After luncheon Furse came in. Afternoon. Nothing of importance and in the evening we three with Lady Rodney dined at the Ambassadeur.’

12 June 1918
‘Sir John Pilter came to see me. He is the head of the British Colony here. He is very disturbed on the subject of the permits for English people. He is just one of those men who are most tiresome to deal with although there is something to be said on his side. He claims all the rights of a British Citizen and yet when it comes to anything that he does not like he wants to be treated as a Frenchman. They all seem to think that a war is not on and as far as going backwards and forwards into the Army Zone is concerned they ought to be allowed to go as they like. At the same time there are grievances which I hope to get right.

Usual meeting of Missions at 12 o’c.

Left in the afternoon at 2.45 for G.H.Q. with Oliver. Took us just 5 hours, good going considering that we had 3 punctures on the way. Nobody staying at G.H.Q. Winston and Marlborough having been got rid of with difficulty in the morning. Winston cannot have much to do in his office as he has now been away for 10 days and as far as I can see joyriding. He asked for a House to be taken for him in the Army Zone. When this was done he was very angry about it because naturally he has been told he must pay for it himself. He has no official standing out here whatsoever.

Bacon dined in the evening. He is now the American Officer on Haig’s staff, a most charming fellow who was Ambassador here about 5 years ago and very popular. Haig had been to see an American Brigade and told me they were some of the most splendid men he had ever seen and very well drilled. They were National Guard Troops and therefore correspond to our old Militia. They find the Americans pick up the work very quick and are able to go into the line much sooner than was anticipated which is a good thing.

Heard how poor Lumsden, V.C. had been killed. It appears it was entirely his own fault. He was warned that there was a sniper about yet would not go down the communication trench and was shot dead. He is a great loss although like so many other gallant fellows they lose half their value when they get a Brigade and therefore get out of contact with the actual fighting line.’

17 June 1918
‘Routine work. Saw Mrs. Henshaw, Canadian Red Cross lady who is doing good work in helping to evacuate French people from the shelled areas. She comes from Victoria B.C. and knows Annie and Victor well.

Luncheon. Pichon and wife. Dumesnil and wife, both very nice people. He is the Minister for Aviation. Paul Reinach, the Greek Minister, also nice, and Grahame. Very amusing discussion after. Poor Reinach of course likes to hear himself do all the talking and tries to do it but met more than a match in Madame Pichon who is [a] most amusing old thing and chaffed him unmercifully. Really a very pleasant luncheon.

After luncheon saw Horodyski who is I think a sort of secret agent with the Poles. I thought him one of the most villainous fellows I had ever come across. Could not look you straight in the face and I should be very much surprised if he is straight. He is the nephew of the General of the Jesuits and for that reason I think is backed up by Eric Drummond who is a Catholic. Personally I cannot help thinking this Catholic clique will get us into trouble because all that is done goes straight to the Pope and we all know he is in direct contact with the Austrians.

Charlie and I went to tea at the Tiraux Pigeons with Mme de Montescieu. Lot of nice people there but these sort of teas are abominable institutions. I believe they are extremely popular here but I mean to avoid them for the future. Charlie and I dine alone together. News from Italy seems quite good.’

Monday, January 29, 2018

Haig’s ‘unique’ WWI diaries

‘I spoke to Admiral Bacon regarding preparations for landing on Belgian coast. In view of the successes obtained by the ‘Tanks’, I suggested that he should carry out experiments with special flat bottomed boats for running ashore and landing a line of Tanks on the beach with object of breaking through wire and capturing Enemy’s defences.’ This is from the diary of Douglas Haig, the British army commander during the Battle of the Somme, days after tanks were used for the very first time. Haig, who died 90 years ago today, was a controversial figure in his time, and no less so in historical terms, but what is not in doubt is the value of his diaries, recognised internationally as ‘unique’ and as ‘the most detailed and extensive account kept by any senior commander during the war’.

Haig was born in Edinburgh in 1861, the son of a wealthy whisky distiller, and educated at Clifton School, Bristol. His parents died when he was still in his teens. After a tour of the US with his brother, he studied at Brasenose College, Oxford. He was an accomplished horseman, and excelled at polo (a sport he would remain involved in all his life). He went on to train as an officer in the Royal Military College at Sandhurst, and was commissioned as a lieutenant into the 7th (Queen’s Own) Hussars in 1885. He was sent to India, where he impressed others with his discipline, paperwork, and analysis of training exercises. In 1892, he returned to Britain hoping to be awarded a place at the Staff College, Camberley, but just missed out. He was appointed aide-de-camp to Sir Keith Fraser, Inspector General of Cavalry, who helped him be nominated for Camberley. Before taking his place in 1894, he visited Germany, where he served as staff officer to Colonel John French, and from where he reported on cavalry manoeuvres.

After completing the course at Camberley, Haig was picked as a cavalry officer for the Sudan, serving with Lord Kitchener’s Anglo-Egyptian army. He distinguished himself, in particular, at the Battle of Nukheila. Thereafter, he received various promotions, and further distinguished himself in South Africa serving under French during the Boer War, eventually being given command of the 17th Lancers cavalry regiment. In late 1900, he was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath, and six months later was promoted to lieutenant colonel. He served as Inspector-General of Cavalry in India, and then aide-de-camp to King Edward VII in 1902-1903. By 1904, he was a major-general, the youngest in the British Army at the time. The following year, he married Dorothy Maud Vivian, with whom he had four children.

In 1906, Haig was appointed to a senior post at the War Office where he spent several years enacting reforms in the British Army, and setting up the Imperial General Staff. He served as Chief of General Staff in India for a couple of years, and then as General Officer Commanding Aldershot Command. At the outbreak of the First World War, Haig was Commander of the First Army Corps of the British Expeditionary Force, and shortly after, in 1915, he was promoted to its Commander-in-Chief. Although greatly admired among his fellow officers, he was mistrusted by the Prime Minister, Lloyd George, who considered he was wasting soldiers’ lives without any prospect of victory. During 1919, he took over as Commander-in-Chief Home Forces in Great Britain.

Haig was created an earl in 1919, and retired in 1920, thereafter devoting much energy to improving the welfare of ex-servicemen. He died on 29 January 1928. His role during the war remains controversial to this day, with some claiming he was a butcher, a class-based incompetent commander, unable to grasp modern tactics and technologies, and others maintaining that his role was crucial in defeating the German army through a war of attrition. Further biographical information is readily available online, including at Wikipedia, Historic UK, Spartacus, History Net, the BBC, or Biography Online.

Haig kept a detailed, daily diary during the First World War, of which there are two versions extant - the handwritten manuscript and a version typed up after the war with additions and alterations. Both of these are held by the National Library of Scotland, and have been publicly available since 1961. In 2015, the international importance of Haig’s handwritten diaries (1914-1919) were acknowledged when the resource was inscribed into UNESCO’s International Memory of World Register - one of only 14 UK inscriptions (others including the Hereford Mappa Mundi, the 1215 Magna Carta, a register of British Caribbean slaves, and the Churchill papers) - see Haig and Wordsworth for more on this.

UNESCO says of the diary: ‘The First World War shaped the world throughout the 20th century, and profoundly affected the combatant nations in an unprecedented way. Field Marshal Douglas Haig commanded the largest British Army ever assembled. His diary provides insight into how and why decisions were made, and of the interplay between Haig and other Allied generals. As undoubtedly the most detailed and extensive account kept by any senior commander during the war, the diary is unique. Written in these circumstances, it offers an immediacy that few documentary sources can in the day-to-day record of this cataclysm.’

The diary was first edited by Robert Blake and published in 1952 by Eyre & Spottiswoode as The Private Papers of Douglas Haig 1914-1919. This is freely available online at Internet Archive. It would be more than 50 years before the diaries re-appeared in a new edition: Douglas Haig: War Diaries and Letters 1914-1918 (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2005, edited by Gary Sheffield and John Bourne). Parts of this can be read online at Googlebooks. Sheffield and Bourne say, in their preface, that their book differs from Blake’s in ‘two significant respects’. Firstly, they say, their book is based on the manuscript version of the diaries (Blake’s used the typescript); and, secondly, they have sought to emphasise Haig’s military role (while Blake’s emphasis was more on the politics of the war).

Sheffield and Bourne also discuss why Haig kept a diary. They suggest part of the reason might have been habit - he’d kept diaries since his student days (his pre and post war diaries, also held by the National Library of Scotland, are described as ‘very summary’). Lady Haig, they say, thought he kept them for her (she received carbon copies of his daily entries by post). The
 editors believe, however, that he knew he was living through historic times, was a major actor in them, and wanted to leave a systematic record. 

In addition, the editors take a close look at the differences between the manuscript and typescript versions. In particular, they dispel this claim by Denis Winter in his Haig’s Command: A Reassessment (Viking, 1991)‘[Haig] systematically falsified the record of his military career, underpinning the most important years with a diary written for circulation in his own cause during the war and re-written in his own favour after it.’ Sheffield and Bourne find that the changes made after the war by Haig were ‘generally mundane’ with only two exceptions, and that the diary’s ‘overall authenticity’ is ‘not in doubt’.

Here are several extracts from Haig’s diaries as edited by Sheffield and Bourne.

4 September 1915
‘The CGS (Robertson) arrived . . . He came to let me know at once, very secretly, that the operations had been postponed by the French for another ten days. The reason given is that Castelnau’s Army is not ready. This extra delay may well jeopardise the success of what I am undertaking, because at present we know that the Enemy’s troops have no further protection against gas - only small ‘respirators’. They may hear of our getting up the gas cylinders and issue effective ‘gas helmets’. On the other hand it would be foolish for a portion of the Allies to attack until the whole are ready for a combined effort.

General Gough came to see me about the amount of gas available. I told him to arrange to provide the whole of his front south of the Canal with sufficient gas for 40 minutes’ attack before giving any cylinders to the Givenchy section; and that his Corps, and IV Corps, would attack simultaneously along the whole front from the ‘Double Crassier’ on Rawlinson’s right, up to the Canal on the left.

Later in the morning General Rawlinson arrived and asked me regarding the front on which the 1st Division is to attack. After discussion I agreed that one brigade should move east with its left on the Vermelles-Hulluch road. All the Enemy’s communication trenches run in that direction, so that the troops would, whether they were ordered or not, move against Hulluch! That another brigade of the 1st Division should advance against Puits No. 14 and the north end of Loos, so as to maintain communication between the attacks against Hulluch and Loos . . .

I motored to La Buissiere (HQ of IV Corps) as I had arranged for Lieutenant Colonel Foulkes (gas expert) to meet me there. The gas cylinders had not yet been off-loaded at Bethune Station, so I was able to send them back to Boulogne at once. The ‘gas companies’ also went back to St Omer without having mixed with our troops, so I hope the fact that we are able to use gas will remain a secret from the Enemy . . .

We arranged for several officers of the Cavalry Corps to go forward to our lines and reconnoitre the country with a view to advancing.’

18 September 1916
‘I spoke to Admiral Bacon regarding preparations for landing on Belgian coast. In view of the successes obtained by the ‘Tanks’, I suggested that he should carry out experiments with special flat bottomed boats for running ashore and landing a line of Tanks on the beach with object of breaking through wire and capturing Enemy’s defences. This is to be done in cooperation with troops from Lombartzyde, attacking eastwards.

The Admiral was delighted with the idea, and is to go to Admiralty with a view to having special boats made.

I asked him also to urge the loan of personnel from Navy for manning 100 ‘Tanks’ . . .

Trenchard reported on work of Flying Corps . . . By taking the offensive and carrying the war in the air beyond the Enemy’s lines, our artillery airoplanes are free to carry on their important duties of observation and photography unmolested. Our communications too on which so much depends are undisturbed.’

19 June 1917
‘I saw the CIGS at 10.45 am and then walked to Lord Curzon’s Office (Privy Council) for a meeting of the War Cabinet at 11 am . . .

We discussed the military situation till 1 o’clock when the Prime Minister left to marry his daughter. The members of the War Cabinet asked me numerous questions all tending to show that each of them was more pessimistic than the other! The PM seemed to believe the decisive moment of the war would be 1918. Until then we ought to husband our forces and do little or nothing, except support Italy with guns and gunners (300 batteries were indicated). I strongly asserted that Germany was nearer her end than they seemed to think, that now was the favourable moment, [for pressing her] and that everything possible should be done to take advantage of it by concentrating on the Western Front all available resources. I stated that Germany was within 6 months of the total exhaustion of her available manpower, if the fighting continues at its present intensity. [To do this, more men and guns are necessary.]’

19 November 1917
‘Charteris reported that all reports indicated that Enemy is in absolute ignorance of our preparations for tomorrow’s attack. No airoplane activity: no wireless: no listening telephone work: no artillery fire! All seems favourable!! So far prisoners taken by Enemy have apparently told them nothing about the attack for tomorrow.

At 9.45 am I saw Sir H. Rawlinson Commanding Second Army. He told me of his views to extend the front northwards of Passchendaele. He does not wish to take Westroosebeke. I suggested attack by small units by night, because up to the present nothing of this nature has been attempted by us at the Ypres battle front. I directed Rawlinson to work out his plans, but not to give effect to them until the result of tomorrow’s attack is known, and I can decide on our future plans.

[Haig visited Horne at HQ First Army.] His Army is weak in numbers of infantry and in guns. The Canadian Corps is back with him. General Currie (Commanding Canadians) was relieved on battle front yesterday. I explained to Home my proposed operations and pointed out that by crossing the Sensee River east of Arleux, I turned all the Enemy’s defences facing First Army and the Drocourt-Quéant line. I could not expect the First Army, owing to weakness in guns and numbers, to do more than reconnoitre until our advance from Cambrai direction caused Enemy to withdraw from his front. Then he must do his best to follow up and press the Enemy.’ [The Battle of Cambrai began on 20 November at 6.20 am.]

27 January 1918
‘After dinner I received a copy of a paper compiled by War Council at Versailles in which certain offensive projects were recommended to the Allied Government. All their proposals are based on theory and hard facts are ignored. I had a long talk with Lawrence on the personnel situation which seems to me likely to be very serious in the autumn owing to lack of men. Auckland Geddes only asks for 100,000 men for the Army. We must therefore look forward to having to reduce 16 to 18 divisions; against this we may put 7 or 8 American Divisions at the most. The French if attacked must reduce some 50 divisions, and at most can put only a dozen American Divisions in their place. Yet with these facts before us, the Versailles War Council writes a volume advising an offensive to annihilate the Turks in Palestine, as well as a great combined Franco-British one on the Western Front.

Repington has certainly stated the true case in his articles in the Morning Post, yet few seem to believe him.

The problem seems to me to be how to bring home to our Prime Minister’s mind the seriousness of our position and to cause him to call up more men while there is yet time to train them.’

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Diary briefs

John Lennon diaries recovered - BBC

Diaries of an Indian ruler - Hindustan Times

Diary solves Glen Miller puzzle - The Mirror, Devon Live

Diaries of Thatcher diplomat - Biteback Publishing, Mail Online

Kiwi captain’s England tour - The Cricket Publishing Company, Stuff

The Diary of Friedrich Kellner - Cambridge University PressThe GuardianTimes of Israel

Politician’s wife demands return of diaries - Mexico Daily News

Life After Care based on diaries - Trigger Press, Chronicle Live

Tryggve Gran diaries acquired - Canterbury Museum

The Turpin torture diaries - Desert Sun, People.com

Diary evidence in Oxford rape case - The Sun, The Guardian

Monday, January 15, 2018

Secretary to the Navy

‘Pres. spoke to Congress. . . W W looked serious, confident, compelling. He had given much thought to his message - read it deliberately & calmly, letting its logic and strength make all the impression. It was received with marked approval & evoked enthusiasm.’ Josephus Daniels, 41st US Secretary to the Navy during the First World War, died 70 years ago today. While in office, he kept diaries - of cabinet meetings and decisions - which were not published until the 1960s, but are now considered a primary source for information about Wilson Woodrow’s Presidency.

Daniels was born in 1862 in Washington, North Carolina, during the civil war. When his father was killed by a Confederate sharpshooter, his mother moved her family 60 miles west to Wilson, also in North Carolina. There, Jospehus was educated at Wilson Collegiate Institute and at Trinity College (later Duke University). He became editor of a local newspaper, the Wilson Advance, and went on to purchase it in 1882. Joint ownership of other publications followed. He also studied law at the University of North Carolina, being admitted to the bar in 1885, though he never practised. In 1888, he married Addie Worth Bagley, and they had four sons. In 1892, he launched the North Carolinian, before subsequently buying more newspapers, and merging some.

Daniels was an active member of the Democratic Party, in favour of prohibition and women’s suffrage, but he was also a supporter of the Ku Klux Klan believing in white supremacy. He used his newspapers to promote Democratic candidates, and, in 1912, was part of the Democratic Executive Committee supporting Woodrow Wilson’s presidential campaign. On Woodrow’s election, Daniels was appointed Secretary of the Navy in 1913, a position he held until 1921. Franklin D. Roosevelt, later president himself, served as his assistant. Daniels oversaw a modest expansion of the navy (in spite of his own pacifist tendencies), various administrative reforms, and a clean-up of personnel behaviour (banning alcohol on navy ships, clearing prostitution from a five mile radius of naval installations, and prohibiting work on the Sabbath). After the war, he published The Navy and the Nation (1919) and Our Navy at War (1922); and, in 1921, he returned to his newspaper businesses.

During the 1930s, Daniels became a trustee at the University of North Carolina, but in 1933, President Roosevelt made him ambassador to Mexico. He remained in Mexico City for eight years, only returning to edit his newspaper News & Observer, in 1941, by which time one of his sons had gone to work for Roosevelt. He published several autobiographical works, and died on 15 January 1948. Further information can be found at Wikipedia, International Encyclopedia of the First World War, NCpedia, and the North Carolina History Project.

In 1963, E. David Cronon, professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, published The Cabinet Diaries of Josephus Daniels, 1913-1921 (University of Nebraska Press). The book is long since out of print, but second hand copies can be found online for under £10. A review in The Journal of Modern History at the time concluded: ‘All told [the diaries] constitute the fullest and most intimate view of the cabinet and one of the best sources for a biographer of Wilson now in print.’ A score of extracts from the diaries can be found online at the website of Naval History and Heritage Command, complete with notes and references. Here are a few of those extracts as found (but without their footnotes).

30 April 1917
‘Admiral Gleaves complained that destroyers were taken from him & given to Sims. Then Mayo plead for him & wished him made a Vice Admiral. Never.

Council of National Defense. Houstons resolution to give President power to fix prices and make prohibition. . . . Denman wished U.S. to build ships instead of England so after the war we would have them. Opposed Schwab’s plan of building for England.

12.40: Went to see President. Talked about sending our ships to England & France & decided to send 36 & try to secure other small craft- Must act now- He did not like Com named by L & W - all of them had fought shipping bill.’

6 May 1917
‘President called at Navy Dept. to talk over arming ships & danger of sub-marines in American waters & about bringing the fleet North - He thought, in addition to arming, we ought to have 3 motor boats on each ship to be lowered in Smooth seas & hunt submarines - When in England he saw the annual occasion where a shepherd would stand in a circle & by calls & whistles herd three sheep distant from him in a pen - It wasnt hard to manage 2, but very difficult with 3. They would expect a boat on each side of ship but the third boat would confuse them.’

7 July 1917
‘Talked to Baruch about price of raw materials & getting steel &c for Great Britain. No conclusion

Swanson came to talk about the article of encounter with submarines- Showed him the telegrams.

Baker had a talk with the President and will call a meeting of the steel committee on Tuesday to tell them he must Know the cost of production before the price is fixed. If they cannot give right price, he will take over mills and run them and fix reasonable prices. Denman is also to be there-

Saw Denman about the ships we need to use as transports. He wanted more conversation - Baker said “D__ is impossible,” but he is honest- That’s the main thing

Mayo returned to fleet-

Rodman felt sure the submarine had been sighted off Hampton Roads.

Josephus came home, with cold, Gave him calomel

President turned over 12 German ships to Navy to be used to carry troops to France’

19 July 1917
‘W l Saunders - lunched - the unsinkable boat. He had a plan which he thinks would let a boat float even if torpedoed. It would reduce cargo carrying space 20-30 per cent

Attended funeral of Bo Sweeney – Cremated. He had been with me in oil fight and he & Lane were not on good terms. He refused to sign certain papers without written instructions

Dined with Winterhalter-Mayo, Usher and others_W5_said he was dined by V.P.of China, & champagne flowed. When W entertained him, he said “it is against navy regulations.” The Chinese VP said “that is very interesting to me - I would like to put it in effect in our navy.”

Usher told of Russians in N.Y. Navy Yard. After revolution, enlisted men did not salute officers & they became so lazy Usher said they let their ships get dirty & he had to tell them they must salute while they remained under American control.

Went to see Senator James & talked about the Penrose resolution. He still following his partisanship

Long conference will Tillman & Swanson Will write letter to Tillman about the conference statement of attack of the boats given out by me on July 3rd

Ordered 20 new destroyers’

24 July 1917
‘Went to Naval Hospital just before operation on Admiral Earle. He is the salt of the earth.

Talked to Capt. Bryan of Charleston. Negro women had registered to work in clothing factory & no white women could be appointed. Arranged to have segregation & 2 buildings, one for each race. Necessary as could not do work necessary.

Talked to Benson & Mayo about seeking co-operation in naval warfare with England and France. Mayo thought he ought to go & I later talked to the President who rather thought it wise. Sims had written to the President who gave me the letter unsealed to read and tell him whether anything new. No propositions from England for conference to determine upon joint program - we are asked to send & send, but not a conference where we have equal voice

Cabinet. Shall we recommend increased salaries? No. Redfield said he had experts (24) who would resign & they could not live on $2,400. Wilson said they could live very well, but might not be able to keep up with the Joneses.

Berry - Palmer - Both boats  The President did not like it’

19 October 1917
‘. . . Transport submarined on return trip near French coast. Our first transport lost.

Went over with Mayo to see President. Mayo told him of message from the King. He told of what he had seen. The President said the English thought we were were Anglo-Saxons and like themselves. We are very different. He had said one of our troubles was we could understand the English & when they said things against us, we knew it while if F[rance] or G[ermany] did the same we knew nothing about it. He listened to M[ayo] & hoped some real offensive would come. He was disgusted with the idea of sinking 100 ships to shut up river beyond Heligoland when dynamite could clear the channel.

Dined at English Ambassador’s to meet Lord and Lady Redding. I talked with a lady about the undefinable thing called charmed. Who is the most charming person you ever met? asked lady. “I will not answer as to ladies, but make it men. You write down the two most charming & I will.[”] I wrote Lloyd George & Balfour & she wrote Balfour & Lloyd George. When a boy Lord R---- said he had been a boy before the mast on a ship

He went to school in Germany & had many friends & yet 13 years ago he decided never to go there again. The people were offensive & made an Englishman feel they were a decadent nation (& in some ways we are) & I would not go again.’

2 November 1917
‘Sperry said he and another man had a plan by which ships in convoy could communicate with other ships without danger of detection, very important now that wireless cannot be used by our ships going into danger zone and therefore can have no communication at night. This discovery would be of highest value –

Alfred Lucking same about Eidsel Ford, who had applied for exemption which had been denied by local board. I saw Baker who said it showed he passed on on its merits by this board organized for that purpose. Mr. Ford says he is greatly needed to carry on big work of factory.

Cabinet- WW criticism is that this is rich man’s war, & it was reported that sons of rich men were being given places in W[ashington] & others away from firing line and this ought to be prevented. Mostly in new organizations[.] Lane said he thought this mistake & that rich men’s sons were going quicker than others. Cannot be too careful said W.W.

Asked Baker to commandeer guns & hundred million rounds of ammunition belonging to Scandanavian country & then send to Italy. He said he could belonging to Scandanavian country & then send to Italy. He said he could not approve Ordnance recomm to let explosives go by express.

Council of National Defense. Too many organizations asking money to help soldiers – Some pay big salaries & there ought to be some way to prevent any except those approved to appeal &c’

8 November 1917
‘Victor Blue at my request called and went over the report of investigation. Thoughts Gleaves & Marbury Johnson wished to pile up specifications so as to get him. He wished US court martial –

Finland man came up with idea about air ships that could go across the ocean in 60 hours. Wished this government to build ships –

. . .Creel and O’Higgins here to dinner. The latter to write an article about me and my service as Secretary of the navy. Talked of the criticism and the policies I had tried to carry out . . .’

4 December 1917
‘Pres. spoke to Congress. No tickets for wives of cabinet officers. Sinnot sent one to my wife & Ethel took her place. She was in Savannah speaking on Y.W.C.A.

W W looked serious, confident, compelling. He had given much thought to his message - read it deliberately & calmly, letting its logic and strength make all the impression. It was received with marked approval & evoked enthusiasm. After delivery we discussed it at cabinet meeting - all gave warm commendation. W W seemed relieved & was plainly pleased at its reception.

Because of Roberts College & such institutions he hoped we would not have to declare war upon Turkey, but must be prepared for any eventualities. He wished a plebiscite on Alsace & Lorrain[e], Suggested that many who had owned & still owned land should be entitled to vote. Not certain all wish to go to France. Children still speak German. Wished to let world know we stand for no such treaties as would call for land or money beyond repairing Belgium and Northern France.

More rooms needed by Departments.

Spent evening reading spotted record of E. D. Ryan whom Vance McCormick and Mitchell wished made Admiral I had almost promised to do it, but could not after reading

Represt-of Chili [Chile] here to buy RR engines & cars. Can we trade & get ships from Chili.’

Sunday, January 14, 2018

I love a sunburnt country

‘Lay and read Ailsa Paige and thought of ideas for plays . . . Norman Pilcher came to supper I don’t know if we are getting into deep water or not, but I rather suspect it. He stayed very late.’ This is from the diary of Dorothy Mackellar, an Australian poet who died half a century ago today. She was famous among Australians for a poem published just before WWI - My Country - which appealed strongly to a sense of national patriotism. She kept a private diary for much of her life, which was only published in 1990 once the editor had deciphered many passages that Mackellar had written in a secret code - the deciphered passages being then presented in bold font.

Mackellar was born in 1885 at Point Piper, Sydney to a doctor and his wife. She was the third of four children, and the only daughter. Although privately educated at home, the family travelled widely, and she was able to learn several foreign languages. She also attended some lectures at Sydney university, and took to writing poetry. In 1908, she had a first poem Core of My Heart (later called My Country) published in the Spectator, a British magazine. Within weeks, it had been reprinted in an Australian nationalist publication, and it was then included in her first book of poems The Closed Door, and Other Verses (1911). During the years of WWI, My Country resonated strongly with nationalist and patriotic feelings among Australians, and was included in various anthologies.

Mackellar published several more volumes of poetry, a novel set in Argentina, and two other novels written with Ruth Bedford, a childhood friend. Although she formed attachments and was engaged twice, she never married. She became responsible for looking after her parents; and, after her father died in 1926, she seems to have stopped writing. She was honorary treasurer of the Bush Book Club of New South Wales and helped launch the Sydney P.E.N. Club in 1931. Her mother died in 1933, and thereafter she herself was often unwell, spending many years in a nursing home. She was appointed O.B.E. for her contribution to Australian literature just before she died on 14 January 1968. A little further information can be found at Wikipedia, the official Dorothea Mackellar website, the the Australian Dictionary of Biography, and My Poetic Side.

Mackellar kept private diaries for much of her life. These were discovered by Jyoti Brunsdon when, in 1987, she began researching Mackellar’s life at the Mitchell Library part of the State Library of New South Wales (the oldest library in Australia). Her research was sparked by a commission to write a libretto for Alan Holley’s operate about Mackellar, but she was also being encouraged to consider a biography. However, on discovering the diaries, she realised that they would make a better book than any she could hope to write. The diaries she found covered much of the period from 1910 to 1920, 1927 and 1930-1955. Some of the entries in the diaries were written in code, Brunsdon soon found, but, in time, she was able to decipher them. On reading the coded passages it became obvious they were of a more intimate and private nature. Australian publisher, Angus & Robertson published the diaries as edited by Brunsdon in 1990 under the title I Love a Sunburnt Country (one of the lines from My Country) with the decoded passages highlighted in bold font.

4 January 1910
‘Worked a little (“Vespers” - it won't come straight) . . . Cooked with the chafing dish - only salted almonds, but they are very successful. Tailor and dressmaker. Very hot . . . Rested in the Domain . . .’

17 February 1910
‘Bathed, had another lesson. I think I’m getting the hang of it. Wrote to D.O. (It’s uphill work nowadays) . . . It was a hot night, but I’m not feeling it at all. It makes one seem rather heartless when others do so much.’

25 February 1910
‘Went with Ruth to bathe at Bondi and couldn’t till 12.30 - the surf was so glorious too! So we paddled, and R. was nearly swept away and drenched from top to toe. We dried ourselves on a hot flat rock and we acted the Prevost Play! I think it was so courageous in cold blood on a salt morning. Really rather successful . . . Afternoon: Shopping, and I discovered my Boggabri story going the rounds of the American magazines, and they had illustrated it with a black bushman attired in leaves! - lovely. Evening: Wrote “The Lie”.’

28 February 1910
‘Ruth came and we acted. I have never been fuller of electricity. We did her Barbara and my Japanese girl - on the roof. It was good.’

16 March 1910
‘. . . Shopping. Saw nice three-cornered hat, black with a gold quill, and wanted it very much. Evening: Theatre with the girls and Mr Bean. It was great fun and two rats made a diversion in the gallery. I love Oscar Asche - N.B. The marriage customs of the Greeks are: each man has only one wife and this is called Monotony.’

17 March 1910
‘Lili, I’m sorry to say, went away by the morning train. I wrastled with the Customs, quite successfully, and then had a fitting. The English dress is a pretty dull green and dull silver thing, with Ninon paniers, very soft, and a silver rose.
I love it. . . Evening: Yarned and read and yarned. Read some of Moratin’s comedies. They are awfully good. He must have been considered such a daring modernist in what he says about women.’

18 March 1910
‘. . . Ruth and I went out to Diamond Bay, picnicking. It was a heavenly day and there were heaps of mauve and white violets. I told her about Pearl and Charlie, then we acted Kid Prevost’s saga for hours. The landscape did fit in! It was too good for words. The feeling is on me still, I can’t think myself free of the play. It went awfully well. Oh that sun-soaked cañon! She loved it too. Evening: Sleepy and happy. Early bed.’

5 October 1910
‘Mother got the Doctor worry out of me . . . Doctor Skirving came in the afternoon and poked me and said I was altogether run-down, but not organically wrong, and I needed more clay, and R.S.D. came, very worried, and we all talked. He came to my room and said the bed should be moved, so he and Mac moved it and I felt limp and fairly calm. Evening: Just reading. Read books of sonnets that he brought and The Story of the Guides (Younghusband) and A Comer of Spain and Wilde’s Ideal Husband.’

7 October 1910
‘Dr Skirving came and said I was better (which was true), but would not let me get up, and Babs - and R.S.D. - arrived. She looked so sweet. After lunch she and Mother went out for a drive and Bertha came, and they stayed, and we had a good talk, and he went away to Queensland and I miss him so and Babs and I yarned. He has frightened her so that she will not let me exert myself at all - it’s funny . . .’

26 March 1911
‘Lay and read Ailsa Paige and thought of ideas for plays . . . Norman Pilcher came to supper I don’t know if we are getting into deep water or not, but I rather suspect it. He stayed very late.’

27 March 1911
‘. . . R. came and we had a short but very successful spurt of acting the Remington play. I have been either Remington or Rags ever since - the former very angry and troubled, the latter in a passion of fear and shame. Most uncomfortable! Afternoon: Lots of shopping, got 2 nice hats. One, a darling - black straw with yellowy brown roses . . . Evening: Wrote L.B.D. Slept badly. Remington!’

11 August 1911
‘Got up earlier than usual. .. Felt quite reasonably well. Evening: Mrs Arthur Feez’s and Mrs W. Collins’ dance. A very nice one, and I loved it - what I had of it. Broke down at the 12th dance. Rather a stirring night. He was upset because I love him and it upset me, and I nearly kissed him, which would have startled things a good deal. I never felt like that before - rather desperate - and yet not miserable. Only he wouldn’t believe me when I told him so.’

14 August 1911
Stayed in bed with hot bottles and talked to Robin, which was strange and made me feel shy. In the evening Mr Dods came home to his two invalids, and as Mrs Dods could eat nothing, he had dinner in my room, at her suggestion - and to the scandalization of Florence. Read heaps of poetry, heaps and he-eaps.’

29 January 1912
‘. . . Stewards’ concert at night. “Our motto is Comicality without Vulgarity.” Help! They didn’t leave much to the imagination . . . The Bishop got Nina, Edith Anderson and me to the front row, where I sat with my legs coiled up. and my head in Nina’s lap at the startling bits. At the end it came on to rain- soaking, pouring rain . . .

The Rajah follows me round with his soft, black eyes and his soft oily voice -  but no doubt he is very nice.’

8 July 1912
‘Exeter - Plymouth. Got up late and crawled around the Cathedral. . . Then we went to Plymouth. Another wet cold day, else it would have been a prettier journey. But I always
love motoring, even in the rain. On arriving I promptly went to bed. We none of us were to sleep much that night, for the rooms were light as day and the town unbelievably noisy. . .’