The Homestead, Hot Springs, Virginia

by krm | Wednesday, July 27, 2016 - 7:00 AM

George Washington visited Hot Springs, Va. on horseback in 1755 on an inspection tour of forts as protection against Indian attacks. The Homestead spa and resort was founded in 1766, a decade before our country. That makes the hotel 250 years old in 2016. Thomas Jefferson wrote in his Memorandum Book that on August 13, 1818 he ate two meals at The Homestead and took the waters to the tune of $2.12 1/2. William Howard Taft was the keynote speaker there at the annual meeting of the Virginia Bar Association in August 1908. Woodrow Wilson and second wife, Edith, chose The Homestead for their Christmas honeymoon in 1915. Most every U.S. president since has visited the resort, where many indulge in the hotel’s most popular activity, golf. Hands down, The Homestead Hotel in Hot Springs, Virginia is one of the most prestigious locations in the country to hold a conference, treat the family to a vacation, bathe in the Jefferson pools, indulge in a dizzy array of spas, or . . . give a talk. It is located on U.S. 220 five miles south of Warm Springs in Bath County.

Hotel management conducted lively discussions on how to celebrate...Read More

Andrew Jackson as a Military Leader

by krm | Tuesday, July 26, 2016 - 7:00 AM

This post is part of our July “Unexpected America” blog series, focused on intriguing or surprising American history research from 1776 to today. Check back with us all month to see what new scholarship our authors have to share! ( Photo Credit Nicholas Raymond )

When I began work on my book on Andrew Jackson and the Battle of New Orleans, I knew he was a pretty good field commander. After all, he won the Creek War against the southern Indians and the Gulf Coast campaign against the British in the War of 1812. Jackson’s victory in the culminating battles in these campaigns—at Horseshoe Bend in present-day Alabama on March 27-28, 1814, and at New Orleans on January 8, 1815—were both decisive and one-sided.

At the time I attributed Jackson’s success to two factions: his indomitable determination to overcome all obstacles and the iron discipline that he imposed on his men, which made them fear him more than the enemy. Jackson suffered from dysentery throughout the war, and he was racked by pain from a festering gunshot wound sustained in a brawl in Nashville with the Benton brothers...Read More

Privateer Blown Sky High

by krm | Monday, July 25, 2016 - 7:30 AM

This post is part of our July “Unexpected America” blog series, focused on intriguing or surprising American history research from 1776 to today. Check back with us all month to see what new scholarship our authors have to share! ( Photo Credit Nicholas Raymond )

During the War of 1812, American entrepreneurs built, bought and outfitted more than 600 of their own vessels to attack British trade. Motivated by profit rather than patriotism, they carried government commissions that allowed them to capture enemy shipping from New England to New Orleans and the Caribbean, from the English Channel and the North Sea to Africa, South America and even China.

Unlike piracy, privateering was a legalized wartime activity with the potential for enormous profit. By signing on to share their prizes, privateers also agreed to share the risks, including storms, accidents, illness, injury, combat, capture and death. Moderately successful as a privateer, it was the Young Teazer ’s fiery end that earned her a place in privateering history.

In December 1812, a British frigate...Read More

The Amish: A Concise Introduction

by krm | Friday, July 22, 2016 - 7:30 AM

One of the things that continually fascinates me about the Amish is the diversity within this group that can, at first glance, seem entirely uniform. Today there are more than 300,000 Amish living in more than 500 communities across 31 U.S. states and three Canadian provinces. Local contexts and differing Amish traditions mean that each settlement has its own unique character.

This spring I spent time in two Amish settlements, separated by 400 miles – and a number of other factors.

The Nappanee community, in northern Indiana, has the sixth largest Amish population in the country, with some 5,800 Amish adults and children. Amish folks have been living around Nappanee – a small city whose residents are not Amish – since 1842. The Amish around Nappanee drive horse-and-buggy, dress in distinctive garb, and send their children to school only through the eighth grade. (About 80 percent of Nappanee Amish children attend one room Amish schools; the rest attend public schools but only through eighth grade.)

In other ways the Amish in this place are integrated into their local context. Their occupational profile matches that of their non-Amish neighbors and quite unlike that of almost all other Amish...Read More

Weapons of Democracy: 4-Minute Men

by krm | Thursday, July 21, 2016 - 7:30 AM

This post is part of our July “Unexpected America” blog series, focused on intriguing or surprising American history research from 1776 to today. Check back with us all month to see what new scholarship our authors have to share! ( Photo Credit Nicholas Raymond )

As we rapidly approach the centenary of the US entrance into World War One (April 1917), it’s worthwhile to revisit one of the most enduring legacies of our wartime participation that continues to have profound political consequences a century later: the management and shaping of public opinion at home and abroad, thanks to the creation of the largest and most effective deployment of propaganda the world had ever experienced. One week after the US declared war on Germany and Austria-Hungary, President Woodrow Wilson established The Committee on Public Information (CPI) under the direction of Progressive muckraker George Creel.

As a journalist experienced in advocacy, Creel shrewdly grasped how values and beliefs in favor of the war and Wilsonian democracy could just as easily be manufactured for citizens as by them via the mechanisms and rhetoric of mass publicity. A combination...Read More