Christmas during wartime, just as in life, shines with a different glow than that in more peaceful years. Luxuries are often non-existent and even basics are scarce but soldiers and civilians find ways to celebrate. This week on History with Mark Bielski, I look at the holidays in difficult times from the crowning of William the Conqueror in 1066 to USO Shows for American soldiers.
Confederate President, Jefferson Davis, died in New Orleans in December 1889. Mark talks with Mrs. Gladys LeBreton, whose grandfather was a friend of Davis’. As a child, Mrs. LeBreton’s mother lived in the home where Davis stayed and was there when he passed away. Mrs. LeBreton relates the story of his final days.
Feature photo: Jefferson Davis funeral procession in New Orleans in 1889.
Mark’s guest is Robert J. Laplander who wrote the book, Finding the Lost Battalion: Beyond the Rumors, Myths and Legends of America’s Famous WWI Epic. They discuss the deep research Laplander did in order to tell the story of the soldiers and their commander, Charles Whittlesey and their grueling ordeal by fire in the Argonne Forest. This definitive work follows these men of the 77th Division and chronicles their lives and sacrifices in battle during September and October 1918.
Image: Statue of Sacajawea in Portland, OR
We reprise the story of the Lewis and Clark Expedition with Historian Hal Stearns. Recorded at Fort Clatsop near Astoria, Oregon, it gives a detailed narrative overview of that incredible explorative journey. But first Mark responds to a comment from a listener about General George B. McClellan; then as an added attraction, we close with a short history quiz and prize for the first with correct answers.
We review some significant November events in history from WWI to the American Revolution as well as the American Civil War and WWII. We include the First Battle of Ypres in 1914 and the 1918 Armistice that ended the bloodshed of WWI as well as the last action of the Civil War with the surrender of the CSS Shenandoah and a brief glimpse at one of the Confederate government’s most interesting characters. For WWII we have the scuttling of the French fleet in 1942 while the Germans watched their potential prize of warships sink to the bottom of the sea.
Photo: Marshall Ferdinand Foch, Supreme Allied Commander during World War One.
Professor Gary Sheffield, one of Britain’s foremost experts on WWI, returns to offer insightful analysis of the end of WWI. Mark and Professor Sheffield discuss America’s participation in the Great War, the conclusion of hostilities, the Armistice of 11 November 1918 and the Versailles Treaty. Mark draws from Professor Sheffield’s new release of “The First World War,” published in association with the Imperial War Museum, as well as his earlier work, “Forgotten Victory.”
Mark goes back to Good Friday April 1865 and President Abraham Lincoln’s assassination at Ford’s Theatre in Washington with Dorothea Barstow, the curator of the Dr. Samuel Mudd House and Museum. Later that night, assassin John Wilkes Booth, on the run and in desperate need of medical attention for his broken leg, stopped at the home of Dr. Samuel A. Mudd in Southern Maryland. Mark visits the home and grounds, now a museum, with Barstow to learn about the conspiracy, Booth and Dr. Mudd.
Photo: Dr. Samuel A. Mudd House Historical Marker
Dr. Samuel Mudd
Professor Gary Sheffield, one of Britain’s foremost experts on WWI, discusses his new edition book The First World War, published in association with the Imperial War Museum. Mark and Professor Sheffield review the War up until the end and American involvement in 1918. They cover the major events in the great cataclysm as well as some lesser known, yet important and intriguing aspects of the war.
Photo: Marshal Joseph Joffre, French Commander-in-Chief
On this week’s podcast, I take a look at some events that happened in autumn during WWII and the Civil War, as well as WWI and the American Revolution. I discuss the 1918 Meuse-Argonne offensive by the America Expeditionary Forces and the French army. Launched against the Germans on the Western Front, this final campaign led to the Armistice. I also look at the momentous events that took place at Yorktown, Virginia in 1781. Again, with the aid of the French, this battle proved to be the final military blow for the British in the American war for independence.
Photo: By John Singleton Copley – First Foot Guards, Public Domain
Mark revisits his episode from last October with historian Kevin Hymel, who returns for the second of a two-part discussion of General George S. Patton. They cover his post-war governance in Germany and the actual story of his fatal accident and death. This is Part II of a two-part episode.