November 30, 1861: “The Picket-Guard” appears in Harper’s Weekly

“All quiet along the Potomac,” they say,
“Except now and then a stray picket
Is shot, as he walks on his beat, to and fro, picket guard
By a rifleman hid in the thicket.
‘T is nothing—a private or two, now and then,
Will not count in the news of the battle;
Not an officer lost—only one of the men,
Moaning out, all alone, the death rattle.”

All quiet along the Potomac to-night,
Where the soldiers lie peacefully dreaming;
Their tents in the rays of the clear autumn moon,
Or the light of the watch-fires, are gleaming.
A tremulous sigh, as the gentle night wind
Through the forest leaves softly is creeping;
While stars up above, with their glittering eyes,
Keep guard—for the army is sleeping.

There’s only the sound of the lone sentry’s tread
As he tramps from the rock to the fountain,
And he thinks of the two in the low trundle-bed,
Far away in the cot on the mountain.
His musket falls slack; his face, dark and grim,
Grows gentle with memories tender,
As he mutters a prayer for the children asleep,
For their mother,—may Heaven defend her!

The moon seems to shine just as brightly as then,
That night when the love yet unspoken
Leaped up to his lips—when low, murmured vows
Were pledged to be ever unbroken;
Then drawing his sleeve roughly over his eyes,
He dashes off tears that are welling,
And gathers his gun closer up to its place,
As if to keep down the heart-swelling.

He passes the fountain, the blasted pine tree,—
The footstep is lagging and weary;
Yet onward he goes, through the broad belt of light,
Toward the shade of the forest so dreary.

Hark! was it the night wind that rustled the leaves?
Was it moonlight so wondrously flashing?
It looked like a rifle—”Ha! Mary, good-by!”
And the life-blood is ebbing and plashing.

All quiet along the Potomac to-night,—
No sound save the rush of the river;
While soft falls the dew on the face of the dead,—
The picket’s off duty forever.

– Ethel Lynn Beers

November 27, 1962 – Martin Luther King shares his Dream with Booker T. Washington High School, Rocky Mount, North Carolina

“So my friends of Rocky Mount, I have a dream tonight. It is a dream rooted deep in the American Dream.MLK Rockymount

I have a dream that one day down in Sasser County Georgia, where they burned two churches down a few weeks ago because Negroes wanted to register and vote, one day, right down there little black boys and little black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and little white girls and walk the streets as brothers and sisters.

I have a dream that one day right here in Rocky Mount North Carolina that sons of former slaves and sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down at the table of brotherhood, knowing that of one blood God made all men to dwell upon the face of the Earth.

I have a dream.
That one day men all over this nation will recognize that all men were created equal, and endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights.

I have a dream tonight.
One day the words of Amos will become real: let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I have a dream tonight.
One day, every valley shall be exulted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low.
Crooked places will be made straight, the rough places will be made strange, the glory of the Lord will be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.

I have a dream tonight.
One day, men will do unto others as they would have done unto them.

I have a dream tonight.
One day, my little daughters and my two sons will grow up in a world not conscious of the color of their skin but only conscious of the fact that they are members of the human race.

I have a dream tonight.”


Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favorThanksgiving

– and Whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be
– That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks
– for his kind care and protection of the People of this country previous to their becoming a Nation
– for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his providence, which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war
–for the great degree of tranquillity, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed
– for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions
– to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually
– to render our national government a blessing to all the People, by constantly being a government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed
– to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord
– To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and Us
– and generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.


November 25, 1870: The Frost is on the Punkin

When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock,
And you hear the kyouck and gobble of the struttin’ turkey-cock,
And the clackin’ of the guineys, and the cluckin’ of the hens, pumpkin
And the rooster’s hallylooyer as he tiptoes on the fence;
O, it’s then’s the times a feller is a-feelin’ at his best,
With the risin’ sun to greet him from a night of peaceful rest,
As he leaves the house, bareheaded, and goes out to feed the stock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

They’s something kindo’ harty-like about the atmusfere
When the heat of summer’s over and the coolin’ fall is here—
Of course we miss the flowers, and the blossums on the trees,
And the mumble of the hummin’-birds and buzzin’ of the bees;
But the air’s so appetizin’; and the landscape through the haze
Of a crisp and sunny morning of the airly autumn days
Is a pictur’ that no painter has the colorin’ to mock—
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock.

The husky, rusty russel of the tossels of the corn,
And the raspin’ of the tangled leaves, as golden as the morn;
The stubble in the furries—kindo’ lonesome-like, but still
A-preachin’ sermuns to us of the barns they growed to fill;
The strawstack in the medder, and the reaper in the shed;
The hosses in theyr stalls below—the clover over-head!—
O, it sets my hart a-clickin’ like the tickin’ of a clock,
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock!

Then your apples all is gethered, and the ones a feller keeps
Is poured around the celler-floor in red and yeller heaps;
And your cider-makin’ ’s over, and your wimmern-folks is through
With their mince and apple-butter, and theyr souse and saussage, too! …
I don’t know how to tell it—but ef sich a thing could be
As the Angels wantin’ boardin’, and they’d call around on me—
I’d want to ’commodate ’em—all the whole-indurin’ flock—
When the frost is on the punkin and the fodder’s in the shock!

–  James Whitcomb Riley

November 24, 1860: Henry David Thoreau smells Snow

The first spitting of snow—a flurry or squall—from out a gray or slate-colored cloud that came up from the west. This consisted almost entirely of pellets an eighth of an inch or less in diameter. These drove along almost horizontally, or curving upward like the outline of a breaker, before the strong and chilling wind. The plowed fields were for a short thoreautime whitened with them. The green moss about the bases of trees was very prettily spotted white with them, and also the large beds of cladonia in the pastures. They come to contrast with the red cockspur lichens on the stumps, which you had not noticed before. Striking against the trunks of the trees on the west side they fell and accumulated in a white line at the base. Though a slight touch, this was the first wintry scene of the season. The air was so filled with these snow pellets that we could not see a hill half a mile off for an hour. The hands seek the warmth of the pockets, and fingers are so benumbed that you cannot open your jack-knife. The rabbits in the swamps enjoy it, as well as you. Methinks the winter gives them more liberty, like a night.

November 23, 1895: John Muir reports on his Summer Vacation

This last summer I wanted to go to Alaska to explore some fine busy glaciers that are working on the flanks of Mt. St. Elias and the mountains about Cook’s Inlet and Prince William’s Sound. But I could not get away early enough for such extended explorations as would be required there; and so I just rambled off for an easy six weeks’ saunter in the Sierra Muirabove Yosemite, and about the head-waters of the Tuolumne, and down the Grand Cañon of the Tuolumne to Hetch Hetchy and the sugar pine woods of the main forest belt.

On this ramble I was careful to note the results of the four years of protection the region had enjoyed as a park under the care of the Federal Government, and I found them altogether delightful and encouraging.

When I had last seen the Yosemite National Park region, the face of the landscape in general was broken and wasted, like a beautiful countenance destroyed by some dreadful disease. Now it is blooming again as one general garden, in which beauty for ashes has been granted in fine wild measure. The flowers and grasses are back again in their places as if they had never been away, and every tree in the park is waving its arms for joy. Only the few spots held as cattle ranches under private ownership continue to look frowzy and wasted; but the condition of even these has been greatly improved under protection from the sheep scourge. Lilies now swing and ring their bells around the margins of the forest meadows and along the banks of the streams throughout the lower and middle portions of the park. the broad tangles and beds of chaparral have put forth new shoots and leaves, and are now blooming again in all their shaggy beauty and fragrance, the open spaces on the slopes are covered with beds of gilias of many species and purple spraquea, monardella, etc.; while on the steeper slopes the driest friable soil, that was most deeply raked and dibbled by the hoofs of the sheep, has been replanted, mostly by a delicate species of gymnophytum, whose winged seeds were the first to reach those desolate places. soon, however, they will be followed by other plants to enrich the bloom; for in the work of beauty Nature never stops.

In the highlands of the park the tough sod of the glacier meadows was never wholly destroyed, but their delicate grasses were not allowed to bloom beneath the feet of the trampling sheep, and all the bright flowers that so charmingly enameled the close, smooth sod – gentians, daisies, ivesias, orthocarpus, bryanthus, etc. – vanished as if not a root or seed had been spared.

This year, I am happy to saw, I found these blessed flowers blooming again in their places in all the fineness of wildness – three species of gentians, in patches acres in extent, blue as the sky, blending their celestial color with the purple panicles of the grasses, and the daisies and bossy, rosy spikes of the varied species of orthocarpus and bryanthus – nearly every trace of the sad sheep years of repression and destruction having vanished.

Blessings on Uncle Sam’s blue-coats! In what we may call homeopathic doses, the quiet, orderly soldiers have done this fine job, without any apparent friction or weak noise, in the still calm way that the United States troops do their duty. Uncle Sam has only to say: “There is your duty,” and it is done.

November 20, 1925: Birth of Bobby Kennedy

Bobby Kennedy’s mother, Rose, wrote at the time of his birth: “Even the most enthusiastic parent must feel less excitement about ‘another baby’”. Bobby was the seventh child born to Joe and Rose Kennedy. He was a gentle and generous child – “I don’t know where he got that,” remarked his father.bobby2_0011

His elementary school teachers remembered him as “a nice freckle-faced kid… he needed no special handling.” At summer camp, his councilor noted “his progress has been fair. He shines in swimming and sailing. He is a boy who needs plenty of encouragement.” Another noted “Bob is erratic. At times he is as good as any boy in the tent, but at other times he is quite diffident.”
He was always having an accident – running into a glass door and gashing his head, or having hot tar thrown in his eye by another boy.

“What I remember most vividly about growing up was going to a lot of different schools, always having to make new friends, and that I was very awkward. I dropped things and fell down all the time. I had to go to the hospital a few times for stitches in my head and my leg. And I was pretty quiet most of the time. And I didn’t mind being alone. – I was the seventh of nine children and when you come from that far down you have to struggle to survive”.

His father was away for most of his boyhood, in Washington and then in London. As a teenager, Bobby got shipped off to St. Paul’s School in Concord NH, but that lasted only a month or so. His Mother then moved him to a good Catholic prep school, Portsmouth Priory, near Newport, Rhode Island.

“I just got out of about 3 hours of praying in chapel, and so feel like a saint. Our retreat starts Thursday so I’m certainly going to be doing a lot of praying this week.” Math was his best subject; History and Christian Doctrine were his worst. The headmaster wrote his father, “Bob’s habit of not being neat is receiving considerable attention from all his masters.”

He tried out for the football team and the hockey team. “I don’t play hockey very well but I’ve gotten much better since I started this year.” He became manager of the hockey team, and vice-commodore of the school yacht club. His mother wanted him to go to dancing school in Providence. Bobby wasn’t so keen -“I don’t think it would be worth going way up to Providence for dancing as it is quite far away and I wouldn’t be able to play hockey.”

Bobby had just turned sixteen when Pearl Harbor was attacked. He travelled to Palm Beach for Christmas.

The next year he transferred to Milton Academy, his 6th school in 10 years. On his last day of school his math teacher made a small speech to the class. “Two great things” had just happened. “Rommel was surrounded in Egypt and Kennedy has passed a math test.”

His older brothers, Joe and John were stars. But Bobby “was neither a natural athlete nor a natural student nor a natural success with girls and had no natural gift for popularity. Nothing came easily for him. What he had was a set of handicaps and a fantastic determination to overcome them.”

Source: Robert Kennedy and His Times by Arthur M. Schlesinger

November 19 1903: Carrie Nation visits Washington DC

Mrs. Carrie Nation appeared in the principal role in a sensational scene at the White House today. Her request to see the president being refused, she became violent and had to be taken from the executive offices by two police officers. As she was being: escorted from the building she shouted at the top of her voice, gesticulating violently: “I am going to Carrey Nationpray for a prohibition president and we will have one—one who will represent the people and not the distillers and brewers. You may put me out of the building, but if a brewer of liquor were here he would have been admitted at once.”

Accompanied by a young newspaper man, Mrs. Nation called at the executive offices and asked to see President Roosevelt. She was attired in a worn black silk dress and wore a closely fitting black velvet bonnet. She gave her card to the venerable door keeper, who, recognizing the name, immediately proffered her an autograph album, in which she inscribed the following: “Carrie A. Nation, your loving home defender. “Vote for prohibition of the liquor cause.”

While awaiting an answer to her request, Mrs. Nation said she wanted to see the president about several matters. “I understand he carried a dive full of liquors on his western trip; that he smoked cigarettes on the steps of the capitol at Topeka; that his flag has on it a coat of arms. Are these things so?” Assured she had been misinformed, she replied: “Oh, well, I want to see him anyway and have a talk with him.”

Presently she was informed that the president could not see her. “Well, that is funny,” she cried out, remarking on the number of United States senators and representatives who were passing in and out of the president’s office. “I see a lot of men going in and out of his office. I should like to know why they can see the president and we mothers and sisters of the country can’t get near him. I want an explanation of that, and I’m going to have it.”

Mrs. Nation went direct to the capitol after leaving the White House, and appeared in the senate gallery a few minutes before the senate was called to order at noon. She was soon discovered and surrounded by page and messenger boys, and until prohibited by the senate officials did a thriving business in selling her cards with a tiny hatchet attached. She took a seat well to the front in the ladies’ public gallery. She announced her intention to make a speech to the senate but when told that she would not be allowed to do so she acquiesced readily and took her departure.

She went to the Marble room and talked with Senator Cockrell. Mrs. Nation complained sharply of her expulsion from the White House and said she did not know why she had been so treated. “I did nothing to deserve to be put out,” she said, “for I want it understood that I am a lawabiding woman.” She had been absent from the gallery about ten minutes when she reappeared at one of the doors of the ladles’ gallery and, raising her right hand far above her head, she shouted In a loud and clear tone: “Saloons are anarchy: saloons are treason and conspiracy.”

She swung her arm around her head and again shouted: “Saloons are anarchy!” She was preparing to go on, when a doorkeeper caught her and pushed her out of the door.

November 18, 1861: Julia Ward Howe visits the Front

At the start of the Civil War, President Lincoln appointed Samuel Gridley Howe, Director of the Perkins School for the Blind, to the Sanitary Commission, which had been created to care for sick and wounded soldiers, and so Howe, along with his wife Julia Ward Howe, and their pastor, James Freeman Clarke, travelled to Washington in November of 1861.flag 1860

The capital was filled with soldiers and ambulances, and they were quickly immersed in the reality of the war – Julia was appalled by “the ghastly advertisement of an agency for embalming and forwarding the bodies of those who had fallen in the fight or who had perished by fever.”

On November 18, Julia and her companions traveled to a see a review of the troops of the Army of the Potomac.

“While we were engaged in watching the manoeuvres a sudden movement of the enemy necessitated immediate action. The review was discontinued and we saw a detachment of soldiers gallop to the assistance of a small body of our men who were in imminent danger of being surrounded and cut off from retreat. The regiments remaining on the field were ordered to march to their cantonments. We returned to the city very slowly of necessity for the troops nearly filled the road.”

Julia was very discouraged – America was at war with herself, many of her friends had husbands and sons fighting in the “great battle,” and their carriage was caught in traffic jam of retreating soldiers.

Julia and her friends began to sing popular war songs, and the soldiers joined in:

John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave,
 John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave,
 John Brown’s body lies a-mouldering in the grave,
 But his soul goes marching on.
 Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!
 Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!
 Glory, Glory, Hallelujah!
 His soul goes marching on.

Julia thought she had nothing more to give, but one of the people in the carriage, her pastor, Rev. James Freeman Clarke, told her:
Mrs. Howe, why do you not write some good words for that stirring tune?

That night Julia awoke, in the early morning in her room at the Willard Hotel.

“I went to bed that night as usual, and slept, according to my wont, quite soundly. I awoke in the gray of the morning twilight; and as I lay waiting for the dawn, the long lines of the desired poem began to twine themselves in my mind:

“Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord;
 He is trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath are stored;
 He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword:
 His truth is marching on…”

November 17, 1800: The Senate Convenes in Washington

A late fall storm snarled travel up and down the east coast, so Senators trying to reach the District of Columbia from their homes in time for the new session experienced frustrating delays. Heavy snow even forced cancellation of the welcoming parade, but on November 17, 1800, following a ten-year stay in Philadelphia, the Senate of the Sixth Congress met for the first time in the new Capitol Building.Capitol 1800

Work on the Capitol had begun seven years previously, but construction proved to be so expensive that by 1796 the building’s commissioners decided to first construct only the Senate wing.
When the Senate convened in the ground-floor room (now restored as the old Supreme Court chamber), only fifteen of the necessary seventeen members answered the quorum call. Some third-floor rooms remained incomplete, and there was no heat, but the new building was ready to receive the Senate, the House, the Supreme Court, and the Library of Congress.

Four days later, the Senate achieved a quorum and, with the House, notified President Adams that Congress awaited any communication he might wish to make. The following day John Adams arrived in the cold, crowded, leaky (but elegant) Senate chamber, and congratulated the Congress on their new seat of government and “on the prospect of a residence not to be changed.”

He added, optimistically, “Although there is some cause to apprehend that accommodations are not now so complete as might be wished, yet there is great reason to believe that this inconvenience will cease with the present session.”

As President Adams continued with his address the chilled congressmen had ample time to contemplate the unfinished Capitol and its rustic surroundings. Many fondly recalled Philadelphia’s “convenient and elegant accommodations,” while a New York senator volunteered that the city was not so bad.

To make Washington perfect, it needed only “houses, cellars, kitchens, well informed men, amiable women, and other little trifles of this kind.”

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