The Burning Kind in Baltimore

THE BOMBARDMENT OF FORT McHENRY  BY ALFRED JACOBS MILLER 1810-1874

THE BOMBARDMENT OF FORT McHENRY
BY ALFRED JACOBS MILLER 1810-1874

“Baltimore: the Monumental City—May the days of her safety be as prosperous and happy, as the days of her dangers have been trying and triumphant.”   President John Quincy Adams 1827

I, like so many other Americans, was disheartened by those images of the recent civil unrest and violence in the city of Baltimore. The glow of fires against a night sky evoked memories of the riot plagued streets of our urban communities during the 1960s. Now as then, I questioned the logic and motives of those who participated in the wanton and reckless destruction of private property.

Today, my mindset on such matters is much more introspective, and no longer prone to the range of emotions that often accompany the thought processes of someone trying to make sense of human behavior through the eyes of an adolescent. At this point in my life, I’ve come to the simple conclusion that whenever groups of human beings are in disagreement there is the distinct possibility that amongst them are individuals that would prefer to make their point with a gun, a rock, or some incendiary device. And within the chaotic cover of the crowd, or the perceived protection accorded them by a position or institution, these individuals achieve the anonymity needed to commit their crimes of convenience.

This predisposition towards aggression and criminality is not by any means more prevalent in one group than another. It is not a matter of race, ethnicity, religious creed, or financial status–it is sadly just about the nature of a small percent of humankind. But that relatively small percent tends to establish a foothold in almost every situation. And throughout human history they are the ones that set the stage for the confrontations and conflagrations that too often become the defining story.

On the evening of September 13, 1814, Francis Scott Key, while under temporary confinement on a truce ship anchored in the Patapsco River, watched the relentless bombardment by British Naval forces on Baltimore’s defenses at Fort McHenry. Throughout that long night, Key had to wonder if the city would eventually suffer the same fate that he had witnessed in Washington weeks earlier. Many of the same British troops that had looted, vandalized, and put the torch to our nation’s capital, partly in retribution for similar American atrocities against English settlements in Canada, were now on the threshold of taking this prize on the Chesapeake. But on the morning of the 14th, Key’s spirits would be bolstered by the realization that the heroic defenders of Baltimore had saved the city.

Ultimately, those wishes for prosperity and happiness uttered by John Quincy Adams in 1827 would be visited upon the city. Baltimore would become one of the nation’s leading industrial centers, a major rail transportation hub, and the second largest seaport in the Mid-Atlantic states. But along the way those days of danger would be many, and they would not necessarily always give way to triumph.

In August of 1835, rioting mobs took to the streets of Baltimore in response to the deceptive business practices that led to the collapse of the Bank of Maryland. Bystanders cheered as the disgruntled throngs fueled their public bonfires with the personal possessions taken from the ransacked homes of the city’s wealthier citizens.

Baltimore Riot 1861

Baltimore Riot 1861

On April 19, 1861, just a few days after Southern artillery had accomplished a  casualty-free,  gentlemanly  surrender of
Fort Sumter, sympathizers to the “Confederate Cause” living in Baltimore attacked Northern militia units as they
marched through the city en route to a train bound for Washington D. C. The resulting melee and riot left 4 soldiers and 12 civilians dead. Some historians contend that this bloody encounter put both the Union and the Confederacy in a position where neither would be dissuaded from engaging in a full-scale war.

Baltimore Rail Strike Riot 1877

Baltimore Rail Strike Riot 1877

On July 20, 1877, Maryland Governor John Lee Carroll ordered the state’s  National Guard to quell the spreading unrest among the striking workers of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad who had blocked rail service at Cumberland. As troops left their armories in Baltimore and headed toward the Camden station they were physically harassed by citizens who supported the strike. The guardsmen responded by opening fire on the attacking mob. It would take the further intervention of federal troops and marines over the next two days to restore order. By then 10 people were dead, scores of soldiers and civilians were wounded, several pieces of rolling stock were destroyed, and portions of the rail yard and station were burned.

After the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4,1968, the city was subjected to that same wave of emotional outrage and bloodshed that was sweeping through the streets of so many of America’s poorer neighborhoods. Even today, sections of Baltimore remain blighted and scarred by that weeklong period of rioting.

While I am not quite ready  to pen a new national anthem over recent events in Charm City, for it appears now that both the police and Baltimore’s criminal element might be taking advantage of the situation,  I am cautiously optimistic about the overall local response to the initial mayhem that occurred as a result of the death of Freddie Gray. In our nation’s past, all too often those voices that could have brought about calm remained quiet as the bullies and belligerents on either side of the issues ruled the day.

If we are to have a constructive conversation concerning America’s ongoing racial and economic divide, we must first silence the discord of those that would have us burn down the house in order to make a case for better furniture.

Click on the image below to read about one of our favorite public houses that has proudly weathered the tumult and turmoil of Baltimore’s stormy past.

The Wharf Rat

Posted by: Chris Poh for American Public House Review

Still Holding the High Ground

Cannons at Gettysburg

“I’ve always thought the Yankees had something to do with it.”   General George Pickett’s reply when asked some years after the war as to why his assault on Cemetery Ridge failed. 

Recently, I found myself once again patiently absorbing that all to familiar diatribe from one of my patrons about the imminent fall of America because of the current state of our politically divided house. As a bartender in fairly good standing with the profession, I am expected to patiently listen and not offer much in dissent, ascribing to that time-honored philosophy that states that the customer is always right. But as is usually the case, I opted to give up the high ground and take a step down onto my ever handy soapbox.

When confronted with the pessimistic view of the future of our republic, I normally counter with a quick history lesson that begins with those contentious compromises of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitutional Convention of 1787, and ends on the fields of Gettysburg in 1863. This year marks the 150th anniversary of that defining battle of our Civil War.

On the third and final day of the battle, July 3rd, General Robert E. Lee ordered Confederate forces under the command of  General James Longstreet to attack the Union center lodged on Cemetery Ridge. After an impressive, yet mostly unproductive exchange of artillery fire, Longstreet gave the reluctant nod. And under the blistering heat of the afternoon sun,  three divisions of Southern infantry led by  Maj. Gen. George Pickett, Brig. Gen. J. Johnston Pettigrew and Maj. Gen. Isaac R. Trimble began the ill-fated ascent toward death and destruction. Of the 12,500 men that followed their general’s lead on that day, over four thousand would be wounded by Union steel and fire, and another nearly twelve hundred sons of the South would soon join their other fallen comrades under the blood soaked soil of Pennsylvania farmland. 

On July 4th , Robert E. Lee remained readied on the battlefield assuming his Northern counterpart, General George Meade would attack–but the guns remained silent. While many historians cite Meade’s cautious nature when explaining his inclination not to press his advantage in the aftermath of Pickett’s Charge, I would like to believe that there may have been a more transcendent reason for the quieting of hostilities on that particular day, something akin to the Christmas truce of 1914. There are those sacred days that serve to remind us of the possibility of  achieving that greater potential for good as both men and nations.  And those days should always be honored as intended by those that have gone before us.

America still holds the high ground.  

Have a joyous 4th of July!!! 

Blue Tag    

Posted by: Chris Poh

 

Terms of Engagement

Cowboys at the Rusty Spur in Scottsdale, AZ

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been spending a bit of time with the latest book to make it to the top of my perpetual must read pile before my somewhat languid brain loses its ability to even process the written word. In this particular instance, I’ve actually given an author’s efforts something of an in-depth dabble as opposed to my usual cursory perusal. Certainly this amounts to the highest of praise for John Fabian Witt’s Lincoln’s Code. This excellent narrative examines America’s role in defining the rules of government sanctioned armed conflict, with an emphasis on Abraham Lincoln’s input on the matter of trying to bring  fair play, dignity, and perchance even a touch of charity to the bloodied fields of combat. While I do not discount the sincere intent of those who throughout history have endeavored to bring a modicum of humanity to the battlefield, there is that ever skeptical side of me that questions their underlying motives–whether it be the likes of Lincoln, Jefferson, Washington or any other supposedly enlightened and regarded individual. 

I’ve always suspected that the call for order and civility in the midst of organized carnage is as much about justice as it is about those that started the fight trying to avoid retribution and the hangman’s noose when the fog of war finally lifts. And then of course there is the political practicality of having something left above ground to exploit and govern after the fallen have been properly placed below ground. Perhaps the only thing that might appear to be somewhat more disingenuous or hypocritical than our attempts to codify the institution of war is our attempts to codify the institution of marriage. But at some point during the current session of the Supreme Court, those erudite legal minds seated in chambers across the street from the U.S. Capitol will consider doing just that.

While I understand the level of discomfort expressed by those who argue against gay marriage on moral and religious grounds, I have come to my own conclusions based on personal experience. During my time behind the bar, I have established close friendships with a number of long-term committed gay couples. In all instances, these loving people have fostered  positive changes in environments that normally would have been less than accepting of any homosexual individual prior to them quietly working their way toward establishing regular’s status. In fact, their  presence helped to bring about a greater degree of acceptance, patience, tolerance and kindness toward all clientele, no matter what their gender, political persuasion or sexual orientation might be.

In the text of his Second inaugural Address, Lincoln reminded us to act in accordance with the words of Matthew 7:1, “let us judge not that we be not judged.” It is time to award all who choose the bonds of steadfast love an equal place at the bar–in hopes that we all may be granted an equal place at that eternal table.

Posted by: Chris Poh

Blue Tag

Blood on the Potomac

location Shot from the film Gods and Generals - Photo by: Terry Tabb

On July 4th, 1861, Frederick Roeder, an anti-secessionist and a supporter of Mr. Lincoln’s cause, ventured out onto the banks of the Potomac with the hope of catching sight of the Stars and Stripes flying over the Maryland side of the river. Ironically, a single discharge from the gun of a Union soldier would make this German born immigrant the first citizen of Harpers Ferry to fall during the conflict. Soon after, his home and business holdings, including the White Hall Tavern, would be confiscated and utilized by Northern forces.

Bar at the White Hall Tavern in Harpers Ferry

Interior of White Hall tavern in Harpers FerryFourteen months later, rebel soldiers under the command of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson would be shouting their own victory toasts at the little pub on Potomac Street after the successful capture of the town.  That revelry though would soon be tempered  by the events of September 17th, 1862. On that savage summer’s day, Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia would clash with the forces of General George B. McClellan on Maryland ground near Antietam Creek. That single day of fighting would prove to be the bloodiest day in American history, with both sides suffering staggering losses.

As we take this time to remember and pay tribute to those who fought and perished on behalf of both the North and South at the Battle of Antietam, we invite our readers to once again experience the moving words of the late Jack Hardy as he chronicles the Civil War through the eyes of the young men from a Pennsylvania regiment. 

Click here to listen to  The 111th Pennsylvane.

Posted by: Chris Poh

Win Place and Show at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

While one could spend countless hours discussing and arguing the merits and shortcomings of the military strategy of both the North and South at the Battle of Gettysburg, the outcome of that historic clash on July 1-3, 1863 might just have been decided by the actions of three men on horseback.

Certainly the North was able to hold the high ground on the first day of fighting due to the delaying tactics carried out by Union cavalry under the command of Brigadier General John Buford. And while the South had initially  fielded superior numbers, Robert E. Lee failed to press that advantage because of  insufficient battlefield intelligence. His own cavalry commander, Maj. Gen. J.E.B. Stuart, who would have normally been charged with providing reconnaissance was too far away from the main body of the Confederate forces.

By the third day of battle though, Stuart was back in the fight. The plan was to attack the Federal rear and aid General Pickett as he marched against the Union’s center on Cemetery Ridge. That scheme would ultimately be thwarted by a brash and brazen young cavalry officer who personally led the charge of  the 7th Michigan, yelling “Come on, you wolverines!” Though he would have two horses shot out from underneath him on this July afternoon, it would be on another summer’s day in 1876 that George Armstrong Custer would meet his fate under a western sky.

As we continue to remember America’s Civil War, we pay tribute to those bold horse soldiers on both sides of the struggle with a piece of music from living historian and performer Rick Garland. Click here to recount the exploits of  the “Knight of the Golden Spurs,” James Ewell Brown Stuart. 

Posted by: Chris Poh

Remembering the Civil War

Today marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of our Civil War, the seminal event in American History.  Though it seems this important historical date has gone largely forgotten by the media, we here at Pub Talk would like to do our part in commemorating this event.

Gettysburg's Eternal Light Peace Memorial

This week, we will look back at some of the best Civil War influenced pubs and music featured on the American Public House Review.  We begin today with a pub in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania which happens to also be my personal favorite watering hole found in town, O’Rorkes Eatery and Spirits.

O'Rorke's Eatery and Spirts in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

O’Rorke’s may not be the centuries old, bullet-ridden place one may expect to find in a town like Gettysburg.  But don’t let that deter you one but.  Sit at the bar here, and you will find yourself immersed in the spirit of this haunting town.  Before long, you too will notice that you keep passing the other taverns by for a seat at the bar in O’Rorkes.

By Dave McBride

A Unique Strategy for Influencing the Midterm Elections

Considering the fact that the midterm elections are less than three months away, the atmosphere so far during this summer’s congressional recess is surprisingly calm. Perhaps this is because so many Democrats and moderate Republicans are considering limiting their public exposure to mostly “by invitation” events only–thus avoiding the terror of the town hall.

For those traveling Tea Party types that were hoping to influence the midterm elections by voicing their displeasure at local public meetings, might I suggest another strategy? Simply do what Robert E. Lee did when he wanted to help unseat a number of incumbents during the 1862 midterm elections–Invade Maryland.

In the current issue of American Public House Review we explore a bit of Civil War history while raising a few pints of Old Dominion at the Secret Six Tavern in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.  

Posted By: Chris Poh

Possibly the Best Civil War Ballad Ever Written

During the month of July American Public House Review has focused on locations and articles germane to colonial America and the struggle for independence. The entire staff, including our one citizen of the realm –Dunmore Throop, agree that a good revolution needs to be celebrated for more than just one day. So one might ask, “Why the Civil War Ballad?’

The Civil War is in many ways an extension of the American Revolution. Those compromises made at Philadelphia in 1776, over the issues of slavery and state’s rights, in order to gain a unanimous vote for sovereignty and self-rule planted the seeds for the inevitable civil crisis.

On July 4th, 1863 Vicksburg surrendered to Grant, and in the north the cannons at Gettysburg fell silent by midday. While armed conflict would continue for almost two more years, the war was essentially over. The union of states founded on the 4th of July 1776, would be saved on this particular anniversary of our nation’s independence.

Please take a few minutes to listen to The 111th Pennsylvane by Jack Hardy from the release Civil Wars. Our staff collectively believes that this may be one of the best historical ballads ever written. Enjoy!

Posted by: Chris Poh, Publisher

TAPS in Nevada

Sunrise Over the Washoe Mountains

The many blessings of my life have included a handful of sunrises over the Washoe Mountains. In a couple of weeks my assignment for American Public House Review will take me back to those foothills of the Sierras. 

View of the Sierras from the Washoe Mountains

It seems the team from The Atlantic Paranormal Society and myself appear to have similar tastes in taverns when it comes to looking for spirits – first at The Cashtown Inn and now we will cross paths once more at The Old Washoe Club in Virginia City, Nevada. The difference being their spirits are composed of orbs and ectoplasm and mine are made up of various grapes and grains. No matter which form of spirits I encounter at this grand old saloon, It will be an honor raising a glass at the same bar where Ulysses S. Grant, Phil Sheridan and Mark Twain were known to have hoisted a few.

From Virginia City we will head south to visit one of my personal favorite watering holes at Nevada’s oldest hostelry, The Gold Hill Hotel. And of course no trip to this piece of western expanse would be complete without a stopover at the much celebrated Genoa Bar

Genoa Sign  The Genoa Bar Exterior   

 The Genoa Bar Interior

I look forward to sharing this journey in the June Issue of

American Public House Review.

Posted by: Chris Poh, Publisher                                                 

TAPS at the Cashtown

No this posting is not about the beer selection at the Cashtown Inn; it is to remind the readers of American Public House Review that on Wednesday evening March 26th, the results of the investigation conducted by the team from The Atlantic Paranormal Society will be revealed on “Ghost Hunters.” The show airs on the Syfy Channel at 9:00 PM, and will be rebroadcast at 11:00 PM. 

The natural skeptic in me appreciates the no-nonsense scientific techniques employed by this particular group of paranormal detectives. The lack of theatrics coupled to their honest analysis and frank assessment of each individual case lends credibility to a profession that all too often has been the domain of hoaxers and charlatans.

Cashtown Inn

During a recent luncheon at the Cashtown Inn, which is purported to be one of the most haunted taverns in America, I was able to conduct my own inquiry into the otherworldly activities associated with this Civil War landmark. Unfortunately my own personal contact with the spirits was limited to the superb potables recommended by the owner, Jack Paladino. Regrettably, my sensitivity to the spirits seems to stop at my palate. So until my third eye becomes functional, I will have to rely on gaussmeters, EVPs, thermal imaging and the trusted judgement of the crew from TAPS.

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