Wednesday, January 15, 2020

GRACE LU

April 3, 2019

Dear Mr. Fitzhugh,

Hello! I just wanted to let you know that as of last week, I have been accepted into Harvard, Yale, UPenn Wharton, Stanford, University of Southern California (on a full tuition scholarship), and University of Virginia (as an Echols Scholar). I am still deciding on which institution I will attend next year, but the one thing thing that I know for a fact is that all of these options would not have been made possible to me if it were not for The Concord Review.

I just wanted to thank you for creating The Concord Review as an opportunity and encouragement for high schoolers like myself to delve into the world of research and history. The UPenn admissions officer who reviewed my application specifically complimented my caliber of writing and research in The Concord Review—something that I could have not accomplished if it were not for not only the summer program, [TCR History Camp], but also something that would not have been possible without the existence of TCR. Thanks again for everything, and hope to speak soon.

Best,
Grace

[Grace Lu, Class of 2019, Douglas S. Freeman High School,
Henrico, Virginia. Ralph Waldo Emerson Prize 2018.
Her paper on The Great Leap Forward was published in
the Summer 2018 issue of The Concord Review.]
[She chose Stanford—Class of 2023]

Monday, January 6, 2020

HENRY KNOX

Good news, very good news, reached Washington’s headquarters on Thursday, January 18, [1776] when a bulky, bowlegged man with brilliant gray eyes rode into Cambridge after a two-month absence. Only twenty-five, he habitually wrapped his left hand in a silk handkerchief to conceal the stumps of two fingers amputated after the barrel of his fowling piece exploded in a hunting mishap on Noddle’s Island two years earlier. Even as a boy working in a Boston book bindery, he had impressed John Adams with “his pleasing manners and inquisitive turn of mind.” He was, the writer Washington Irving would observe, “one of those providential characters which spring up in emergencies as if formed by and for the occasion.”

This surely was an emergency, and here was young Henry Knox to announce that against stiff odds he had transported, in midwinter by boat and by sled, fifty-eight fine guns from Fort Ticonderoga and Crown Point—cannons and mortars, brass and iron. Those guns, momentarily parked twenty miles to the west on a muddy roadside in Framingham, were now his, and he was ready and eager to blow the British out of his hometown. But first he had to have a uniform tailored—no simple task for a man who eventually weighed almost three hundred pounds—since he had just learned of his new commission as a colonel in command of all Continental artillery.

In an era of improbable ascents, Henry Knox’s rise was among the least likely. At age nine, he had been forced to drop out of Boston Latin Grammar School when his father abandoned the family for the West Indies after his shipbuilding business collapsed. The boy went to work, both in the bindery and as an autodidact, teaching himself passable French and studying Plutarch’s Lives and Caesar’s Commentaries. At eighteen he joined a militia artillery company, training on brass 3-pounders under British tutelage and firing salutes for the king’s birthday. As a witness to the Boston Massacre, he testified at the subsequent trials and soon after opened his London Book-Store, peddling Bibles, law books, and almanacs in an effort, as he advertised, “to exterminate ignorance and darkness.” Knox himself was an attraction. “He was affable without familiarity, dignified without parade, imposing without arrogance,” one admirer wrote.

Within three years the shop had become “a fashionable morning lounge” for browsing British officers and well-heeled Bostonians alike, an emporium offering stationery, wallpaper, quills, flutes, Keyser’s pills, telescopes, “cordial cephalic snuff,” reading glasses, and Hill’s “never-failing cure for the bite of a mad dog.” And books: twenty volumes of Voltaire, ecclesiastical histories, the eleven-volume Complete History of England, treatises on shoeing horses and how to treat venereal disease with mercury, Tom Jones, Tristram Shandy, and various pirated Irish editions, which were cheaper than books published in England. A few weeks before the British marched to Lexington, Knox offered a shilling pamphlet on “the dispute between Great Britain and the colonies” by a precocious New York college student named Alexander Hamilton….

…Knox had covered more than seven hundred miles since leaving Cambridge, nearly half of it lugging 120,000 pounds of dead metal. The return trip from Ticonderoga had taken forty days, rather than the fifteen he’d anticipated. The journey was a feat of endurance and pluck comparable to Arnold’s anabasis through Maine, and his was a hero’s welcome at Vassall House. As he prepared for a uniform fitting and to take command of the six hundred gunners in his regiment, he tallied his expedition expenses in an account book: £521, 15 shillings, and a few pence. One day Washington would say of Harry Knox: there was “no one whom I have loved more sincerely.”

Rick Atkinson, The British Are Coming (234-237). Henry Holt and Co.. [2019] Kindle Edition.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

WINTER SURPRISE

Winter always seemed to catch the U.S. Army by surprise. The Americans had been unprepared for winter campaigning in the Atlas Mountains of Tunisia in 1942 and in the Apennines of Italy in 1943, and they were just as unready in 1944. Even before OVERLORD, War Department queries about cold-weather preparations had been mostly dismissed with a resentful scowl by Eisenhower’s provisioners. Arctic clothing tested at Anzio was offered to SHAEF but rejected as unnecessary. The Army’s quartermaster general in mid-August had predicted that “the war would not go into another winter,” and Major General Robert M. Littlejohn, the chief quartermaster in Europe, agreed that “the serious fighting cannot long continue.” In mid-September, Hodges assured his uneasy medical officers, “Don’t you know that this war is going to be over in a few weeks?” A late requisition for winter clothing was submitted to the War Department “as a precautionary measure,” but it included only enough to outfit one army of 350,000 soldiers at a time when four American armies were fighting in western Europe.

The alarming German resilience of late October had inspired Littlejohn to urge Bradley to expedite shipments of cold-weather kit to the battlefront. “General, the weather is getting cold. Soon you will need some winter clothing,” the quartermaster told him in Luxembourg City. Bradley waved off the warning, saying, in Littlejohn’s recollection, “The men are tough and can take it.” Supply-line sclerosis and delays in opening Antwerp aggravated matters, as did the severe wear on all uniforms and equipment: even as theater commanders in late September belatedly requested 850,000 heavy overcoats—double the number contemplated just a month earlier—plus five million sets of wool undershirts and drawers, quartermasters faced a need to reclothe a million ragged U.S. soldiers, as well as 100,000 French troops and throngs of German prisoners. “We can’t fight a winter war in the same clothes that we use in the summer,” Captain Jack Golden wrote his family. “We should have learned a little last winter in Italy.”

Instead, as the Army official history conceded, “front-line troops fought through a large part of the winter inadequately clothed.” Far less than half of the requested underwear reached the theater, despite Littlejohn’s contention that “wool is essential to combat, as much as ammunition.” Shortages of wool socks in medium sizes forced Army laundries to try shrinking size 12 pairs, even as unintended shrinkage remained a galling problem, with a “high failure rate in all woolens.” Three field launderings were typically enough to ruin a pair of socks, so the Army had to buy seven million new pairs a month.
 

Rick Atkinson, (2013-10-22). The Liberation Trilogy (Kindle Locations 41076-41096). Henry Holt and Co...2013 Kindle Edition.