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War would end if the dead could return.

- Stanley Baldwin



Memorial Day Flashback: Congress' Sole Member Who Died In Battle




Not far from Washington, D.C., just up the Potomac River, is the site of a little known Civil War engagement, the Battle of Ball's Bluff, Va.


Fought on Oct. 21, 1861, it's worth remembering on Memorial Day not just because it is the first and only time a sitting member of Congress was killed in battle but because of the characteristic Washington fingerpointing it inspired.


Sen. Edward Dickinson Baker, an Oregon Republican and dear friend of President Abraham Lincoln (who named a son for him), died in the battle that was among the early series of calamitous Union setbacks at the hands of Confederate forces that held dash northern hopes that the war would end quickly with a Union triumph.


At the start of the war, Baker helped raise a regiment of soldiers from Pennsylvania which he designated as a California unit because Dickinson, from the west and for political reasons, wanted California to be represented in the Union military effort. This was despite the fact that he himself represented Oregon. That was only one aspect of the strangeness surrounding Ball's Bluff.



Here's another. A Union unit that had preceded Baker across the Potomac from the Maryland to the Virginia side to conduct reconnaissance mistook some trees in the twilight for enemy tents. If they hadn't done that, they likely wouldn't have stayed around long enough to get into a skirmish the following morning with a Confederate unit.


Once the fighting started on Oct. 21, Baker ordered his unit of nearly 2,000 men across the Potomac to join in. He was more politician than warfighter, however, and made several mistakes that turned out to be fatal for himself and many of his men.


He didn't have anything close to enough boats or rafts to get his men to the fighting or away from it quickly if need be.


Once they crossed, he didn't get them far enough away from the steep bank and the river, violating a battlefield rule that went back to ancient times, a military unit should never have a river immediately to its rear.


And he arrayed his men in an open field, one row behind another so that many of his men didn't have a clear view of the enemy who, unfortunately for Baker and his men, had a clear view of them.


Baker was shot and killed early.


This is how the Senate website describes what happened:


Lightly schooled in military tactics, Baker gamely led his 1,700-member brigade across the Potomac River 40 miles north of the capital, up the steep ridge known as Ball's Bluff, and into the range of waiting enemy guns. He died quickly—too soon to witness the stampede of his troops back over the 70-foot cliffs to the rock-studded river below. Nearly 1,000 were killed, wounded, or captured. This disaster led directly to the creation of the toughest congressional investigating committee in history—the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War.


Eighty years later, during the early months of World War II, members of Congress began turning up in combat zones with their reserve units. Despite the appeal of having senators saluting generals, the War Department banned the active duty service of all members, preserving the dubious distinction of Senator Edward Dickinson Baker.


The CivilWar.org website of the Civil War Trust also has a thoroughly informative page on the Battle of Ball's Bluff.


Because there had been other battlefield disasters; one of its own had been killed, and bodies of Union soldiers killed in the engagement — some by enemy weapons, some by falling and some by drowning — kept floating down the river past Washington Congress, through its inquiry, sought someone to blame for Ball's Bluff.


That became Union Brig. Gen. Charles P. Stone, Baker's commander, who after becoming Congress' whipping boy for the defeat wound up a broken man.


Meanwhile, in 1995 the National Archives journal, Prologue, published an article that captured some of the small human pathos arising from the battle.


Titled "A Widow's Plea — And an Inventory," it reprints a letter from the widow of a union officer who died in the battle to the government in which she seeks the remainder of her husband's pay. as well as an inventory of the personal effects he left behind at camp. It speaks for itself of the many tragedies of war.

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Do you remember the men of the USS Liberty? If not, the UK Discovery Channel breaks the news gently - almost 45 years later.





On June 8, 2007, LCDR James Marquis Ennes, Jr., the author of the best selling book, "Assault on the Liberty," discussed the deliberate attack on the USS Liberty by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) forty years ago, in international waters, off the coast of the Sinai Peninsula. As a result of Israel's conduct, 34 brave Americans died and 174 others were seriously injured. I spoke with Lt. Ennes after a luncheon that followed the 40th Anniversary Ceremony for the USS Liberty, which was held at Arlington National Cemetery. He was on the bridge of the ship when the Israeli attack began and he was badly wounded. A cover-up of what really happened on June 8, 1967, continues today. The efforts of the men of the Liberty, and their supporters, to seek justice for their cause has been persistently blocked.


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To all my Military Brothers and Sisters,

I can't put in to words what I'm feeling,

it is a sense of pride,

knowing that not everyone has what it take to be in the military.

a body tingly sensation, an unease of something or someone missing,

the lose of a father brother mother sister sons daughters aunts uncles that truly gave everything,

it's Pride to know what TRUE Loyalty is.......................................

Loyalty To be there when you are needed the Most and willing to put it all on the line.

So the tear that I shed are for all my Brother and Sister That gave their lives to Defend THE UNITED STATS OF AMERICA "my home"









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