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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

American History 101: The Battle of Monmouth Courthouse, June 28, 1778

On June 18, 1778, the British and Continental armies clashed in what is present day Freehold, New Jersey in the Battle of Monmouth, or Monmouth Courthouse.  The build up for this battle began at Valley Forge where General George Washington felt that the British army would be vulnerable as it traveled across New Jersey with its baggage train.  The heat was blistering, and General Charles Lee felt that the circumstances were not optimal for an offensive.  However, Washington insisted on attacking but could not decide on when and where to do so, so he convened a council of war.


The council of war was the group of generals, which consisted of Washington, Lee, Wayne, Greene and Knox.  Lee and Wayne urged Washington to attack in small numbers, being more of a harassing force and not an attacking force.  Washington disagreed and decided on his own to attack the rear flank of the British troops as they departed Monmouth Courthouse, and sent 4,000 troops on June 26th to meet the British.

The battle could have been an impressive victory for the Americans if the offensive was handled properly.  General Charles Lee met with his subordinates and gave them incomplete and unclear orders.  This lead to an offensive that was both disorganized and poorly timed.   Before Lee could react and reinforce in the right spots, General Cornwallis and his army retaliated and seized control of the battle.  Cornwallis kept the pressure on, and had General Lee's forces in full retreat.  With General Cornwallis in pursuit, General Washington and his army reinforced General Lee's army to stop the retreat.  Washington coming in from the rear flank held the British at bay and turned the tide in the battle.  After Washington confronted Lee on his enormous blunder, he took control of the armies and the American forces positioned behind Monmouth Courthouse Freehold Meetinghouse Road.  When the British came at the Americans, the Americans were well positioned and fought hard.  The British came from the left flank, and the Americans retaliated with an attack on the right flank successfully driving the British forces back and holding their ground.  The battle continued on like this until nightfall forced an end to hostilities, with the British attacking, and the Americans pushing them back. 


During the night, General Clinton moved his army out to continue its march to New York.  The next day General Cornwallis and Washington continued the battle to a stalemate.  The Battle of Monmouth Courthouse was significant because it was the first time that Washington had stood toe-to-toe with the British and his army held its own.  It wasn't because of a sneak attack or an significant advantage, it was simply two armies fighting each other on even terms to an even end.  The significance of this was that it illustrated the growing skill and effectiveness of the Continental Army.  The Battle of Monmouth represented a boost in moral and reputation for the Continental Army, and General Washington in particular. 

This battle was also significant because of the heat that pushed upwards of one hundred degrees at times, and while the American forces lost around 400 soldiers to the British losses of around 300, it is thought that many died of heat stroke.  The Battle of Monmouth was one of the battles in which the Molly Pitcher origin story is thought to come from.  There were stories that the wife of an American soldier, Mary Hays, was seen bringing water out to the battlefield to quench the thirst of the Continental Army. 

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Bruce has worked in educational technology for over 18 years and has implemented several 1:1/BYOD programs.  He also has served as a classroom teacher in Computer Science, History and English classes.  Bruce is the author of five books: Sands of TimeTowering Pines Volume One:Room 509The Star of ChristmasPhiladelphia Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel and The Insider's Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel.  Follow Bruce's Novel releases by subscribing to his FREE newsletter!

Be sure to check out Bruce's Allentown Education Examiner Page, his Twitter and his Facebook!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

American History 101: When a Slave Captured a Confederate Ship

There is much discussion in Civil War historical circles about how much slaves participated in the war on both sides, and what the total impact of slave participation really was in the war.  In spite of laws preventing it, many were forcibly enlisted to serve as cooks, slaves, manservants and infantry for the Confederacy.  The Union army legally allowed blacks to enlist and serve after July 17, 1862.  This would include blacks that fled the south to gain freedom, and then fight for freedom for the Union Army.  There was also the practice of slave reclamation by southern soldiers when blacks were taken as prisoners.  Both sides were equally guilty of sending blacks instead of whites. out on the front lines to die in particularly dangerous situations.


But on May 12, 1862 a slave took action unlike any other had taken before to strike a blow for the Union -- and freedom for slaves on both sides.  On May 12, 1862 the Planter, a Confederate Sidewheeler, was in Beaufort harbor in South Carolina.  The Planter was a Confederate supply ship transporting munitions and supplies for Fort Sumter and Fort Riley.  That night, when the white officers went ashore for the evening, Robert Smalls took action.  Smalls, a 23 year old pilot of the boat, and seven other black men pulled up the anchor and sailed the Planter out of Beaufort harbor.

As the Planter sailed past Fort Sumter, Smalls sounded the Confederate whistle leaving the fort none-the-wiser to what was happening.  As the Planter approached the Union blockade inside St. Helena Sound, Smalls and his crew dropped the Confederate flag and hoisted the American flag.  He then surrendered the Planter to the Union Navy, an act that quickly made him a national hero.  The Confederates offered a $4,000 reward for the capture of Smalls. 

Smalls went on to fight for the Union and, after the passage of the 14th and 15th amendments, he was elected to the South Carolina state legislature from 1868 to 1874.  Then in 1875 he was elected to Congress where he served 5 terms, and then was appointed customs collector for the Port of Beaufort by President Harrison.



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Bruce has worked in educational technology for over 18 years and has implemented several 1:1/BYOD programs.  He also has served as a classroom teacher in Computer Science, History and English classes.  Bruce is the author of five books: Sands of TimeTowering Pines Volume One:Room 509The Star of ChristmasPhiladelphia Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel and The Insider's Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel.  Follow Bruce's Novel releases by subscribing to his FREE newsletter!

Be sure to check out Bruce's Allentown Education Examiner Page, his Twitter and his Facebook!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Neeah: The Simplest Way to UNkeep Notes

How often do you bookmark a webpage while surfing around the internet? If you are like many of us, that function on your browser goes relatively untouched. With apps such as Evernote, and social bookmarking sites like Pinterest and Diigo, there are plenty of resources out there to help you keep track of pages that you may want to access later.

But what if you forget to save the page?

What happens when you’re browsing the internet, clicking from one page to the next as so many of us do, but you don’t record any of the site information? Later on if you want to go back and find a particular page you really only have a few options. You can try a search engine to relocate it, but those rabbit trails often end up with you riffling through page after page of distractions and click-bait, and by the end of the search you are no closer than you were to start with. The other option is trying to look up the site on your browser history, but that list is difficult to wade through when the information is only a few hours old, let alone if you want to find something you saw last week.




Neeah.com, a new web archiving service, has got you covered. Neeah is a plugin that works automatically, recording your browsing history and organizing previously viewed content categorically to make the recovery of visited pages a painless activity. The program organizes your history into blocks that are easy to navigate, making your previous pages just a few quick clicks away. Neeah gives you control over your web archive, allowing you to keep your content private or to share it with anyone you choose. Additionally, the program can be deactivated when not in use, or just leave it running and never lose a page again. There are other bookmarking services and online research tools currently available, both on private and social platforms, but Neeah is the only one that is completely free to the user. Not only that, but Neeah gives you control over your history. Use Neeah to keep yourself organized, share research with a friend or colleague, or just to make sure you never lose a website again.


So be productive while online. Visit as many sites as you wish. Stop worrying that you’re hoarding web addresses you will never again use. With Neeah.com, you can forget worrying about your browsing history and focus on why you were online in the first place.

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Bruce has worked in educational technology for over 18 years and has implemented several 1:1/BYOD programs.  He also has served as a classroom teacher in Computer Science, History and English classes.  Bruce is the author of five books: Sands of TimeTowering Pines Volume One:Room 509The Star of ChristmasPhiladelphia Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel and The Insider's Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel.  Follow Bruce's Novel releases by subscribing to his FREE newsletter!

Be sure to check out Bruce's Allentown Education Examiner Page, his Twitter and his Facebook!

Friday, February 20, 2015

American History 101: The Election of 1824 and the House of Representatives

It is a common thought that we have a democracy in the United States.  This is not entirely true.  Some people will refer to it as a Representative Republic or a Constitutional Democracy.  Both of these things are very different than a true democracy.  You often here the analogy that a democracy is five wolves and one sheep deciding what's for dinner -- and that is pretty much dead on.  What we have here is a system by which the population tell our representatives at different levels what we want, and they are supposed to then decide what most of their constituents want and act accordingly.  We can debate all day as to whether the practice of our government actually reflects this, but this is what we have.  Today's post is about just this: how the popular opinion is or is not carried out, and where the feeling began that our representatives do not always carry out the wishes of the people.

Throughout American history, only four Presidents have been elected without winning the popular vote.  They are John Quincy Adams in 1824, Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876, Benjamin Harrison in 1888 and George W. Bush in 2000.  The way the founders designed our Presidential voting system was that the Electoral College is supposed to vote based on the way their constituents have voted -- but many states do not require this.  Essentially, in many states the Electoral College members can vote however they want.  But this post isn't about our archaic Electoral College system... that would be for another day.  The point is that in the case of three of these elections, it was decided based on who won the most populated states and that did not reflect the popular vote.  




The one time in history that the Electoral College vote could not be used was in 1824 when John Quincy Adams (son of John Adams) ran against Andrew Jackson.  It is notable for several reasons.  The first of which is that it remains the only election since the passage of the 12th Amendment of the Constitution to be decided by the House of Representatives.  Interested in why the 12th Amendment is and why it is important?  Click here to learn about the election of 1800!  The second reason is why the House of Representatives decided the election, and how they decided the election.

In the election of 1824 there were four candidates who received a decent percentage of the vote.  Andrew Jackson received 41%, John Quincy Adams received 30%, Henry Clay received 13% and William Crawford received 11% of the popular vote.  Looking at these numbers, it is clear that Andrew Jackson should have won, right?  Not so fast... At the time, the President needed 131 Electoral College votes to win.  Andrew Jackson was only able to garner 99 votes because in 1824 only approximately 28% of all registered voters voted and there were 4 candidates.  The Electoral College had to spread its votes amongst these 4 candidates, and because there weren't enough actual voters to increase the margin -- a President was not elected by the people.  And in the case where a President is not elected by the people, the House of Representatives has the duty to elect the President and in essence, the popular vote is thrown out the window.  In this case, the Speaker of the House was none other than failed Presidential candidate and Representative from Kentucky, Henry Clay.  Why is it important?  Because in the Spanish American War, General Andrew Jackson made a public spectacle of berating the soldiers from Kentucky saying that they were lazy and cowards.  Henry Clay took offense to this, and did not care for Jackson after the statements were made.  Once the vote was kicked to the House, Clay threw his support behind John Quincy Adams and it was said that he might have unduly influenced the votes of man of the members of the House to elect Adams.  In the vote by the House, Adams received 41% of the vote while Jackson only 33%.

Andrew Jackson was outraged, and the public followed him.  There were protests and many outcries by the public claiming that their will was not being done by their elected officials -- claiming that the American government was no better than the British government that the country had fought to be free from.  It certainly was not a government by the people and for the people.  Because of this, John Quincy Adams had a Presidency that is looked upon as one where the country stood still in many ways.  His policies were fought at every turn, and he accomplished very little.  And in 1828 when Jackson ran against him again, Jackson trounced Adams and won easily.


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Bruce has worked in educational technology for over 18 years and has implemented several 1:1/BYOD programs.  He also has served as a classroom teacher in Computer Science, History and English classes.  Bruce is the author of five books: Sands of TimeTowering Pines Volume One:Room 509The Star of ChristmasPhiladelphia Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel and The Insider's Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel.  Follow Bruce's Novel releases by subscribing to his FREE newsletter!

Be sure to check out Bruce's Allentown Education Examiner Page, his Twitter and his Facebook!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Today in American History: Thomas Jefferson Officially Elected President 02/17/1801

Today in American History Thomas Jefferson was officially elected the 3rd President of the United States.  The House of Representatives broke the stalemate between Jefferson and Aaron Burr (yes, that Aaron Burr).  



Why is this historical?  For several reasons.  First, this represented the first time in American history that there was a change in ideological power.  George Washington and John Adams had been considered Federalists, while Thomas Jefferson represented the Democratic-Republican ideal.  At this time in history, they did not formally call them political parties, that had not happened yet.  However, with the dissension and hub-bub caused by the 1800 election, parties were well on their way to being formed and creating a divisive influence in American politics.

Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, this election is significant because it actually triggered a Constitutional change in how elections were counted by the Electoral College.  The founders initially created a system whereby candidates ran individually, and the electors would vote for top two candidates based on the popular vote in their state.  This would be very useful in a situation where most states were of a similar, yet not exacting mind.  This seemed like a swimming way to do it, figuring that this would elect the two most popular candidates out of a pool of four, five or more candidates.  However, this did not work as political parties began to rear their ugly heads.  With two distinct "parties" running in the election, this did not leave any room for different people being voted for.  What actually happened in 1800 was the electors would vote for both Jefferson and Burr -- thus causing a stalemate since both votes counted the same.  It took 36 calls to vote in the House of Representatives for Thomas Jefferson to be elected President on February 17, 1801 ushering in a new era in America.  

This obvious flaw in the voting system was then rectified with a change to the 12th Amendment to the Constitution.  This change morphed the vote from the "vote for two guys" approach to a vote for one President and one Vice President, and clarified the will of the electoral college.

As a side note... the election of 1800 was a bitterly fought election in which both sides campaigned on a negative plane, accusing the other of side of representing the sure ruin of the young American nation.  Thomas Jefferson was seen as a radical departure from the recently enjoyed American Industrial Revolution with his significant pro-agrarian and separatist attitudes.  Jefferson felt that the country needed to expand, but that the way to do that was on the backs of the farmers of America.  He trusted their dedication, hard work and commitment to the American ideal much more than he did the money-hungry industrialists that were only interested in making money for themselves.  Jefferson was responsible for brokering the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, increasing the United States landmass by 828,000 miles or 529,920,000 acres for a mere 50 million Francs, the equivalent of $11,250,000 USD.  This equates to approximately $0.42 per acre in today's US dollars, or a total of $236,000,000 today.  This is the single largest expansion of American land mass in history.

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Bruce has worked in educational technology for over 18 years and has implemented several 1:1/BYOD programs.  He also has served as a classroom teacher in Computer Science, History and English classes.  Bruce is the author of five books: Sands of TimeTowering Pines Volume One:Room 509The Star of ChristmasPhiladelphia Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel and The Insider's Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel.  Follow Bruce's Novel releases by subscribing to his FREE newsletter!

Be sure to check out Bruce's Allentown Education Examiner Page, his Twitter and his Facebook!

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Today in American History: The First Congressional Brawl 02/15/1798

On this day in American History, February 15th, 1798, the first fist fight on the floor of the House of Representatives took place.  When Federalist Representative Roger Griswold (Connecticut) took a hickory stick and began assaulting the Representative Matthew Lyon (Kentucky) of the Democratic-Republican party.  Lyon was able to scrabble to the fireplace and pick up fire tongs and began to return the blows.  Griswold tripped Lyons, and Lyons fell to the ground where Griswold beat him with his stick repeatedly before being separated.  The two were peaceful for a couple of minutes, but Griswold had not had enough -- and reignited the brawl before being stopped for one final time.



The two certainly had a past history of conflict.  On January 30th, 1798 Griswold had accused Lyon of being a coward during a debate.  In the debate, Lyon described himself as a "champion of the common man."  Griswold scoffed and asked if he defended the common man with his "wooden sword", openly mocking Lyon and referring to his cowardly service during the American Revolutionary War.  The previous incident ended with Lyon spitting tobacco in Griswold's face and consequently having charges filed against him with the ethics committee.  But, when Lyon escaped the charges with no vote in the house, Griswold became enraged and this scuffle is attributed to this event.

After the incident, both men were subject to a vote to be expelled that failed 73-21.  Even after this incident was passed, the tensions in the Philadelphia-based house continued.  There was increasing dissension in the political body, which had not yet drawn definitive party lines, over President Adams public opposition towards France.  Previous to this, France had been a staunch ally to the United States, sending troops and resources during the Revolutionary War.  In what can be considered one of the first major divisive political issues in the young republic's history, most of the Federalists stood behind the President while the Democratic-Republicans were more lenient towards the pro-agrarian, isolationist views of Jefferson and the quickly forming Democratic-Republicans.

It is worth noting that later in 1803, with Jefferson as President, the Federalists in New England put forth the nations first motion to secede from the union because of the Louisiana Purchase which they saw as a move to weaken the influence of the northern states.

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Bruce has worked in educational technology for over 18 years and has implemented several 1:1/BYOD programs.  He also has served as a classroom teacher in Computer Science, History and English classes.  Bruce is the author of five books: Sands of TimeTowering Pines Volume One:Room 509The Star of ChristmasPhiladelphia Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel and The Insider's Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel.  Follow Bruce's Novel releases by subscribing to his FREE newsletter!

Be sure to check out Bruce's Allentown Education Examiner Page, his Twitter and his Facebook!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Today in American History: Alan Shepard Plays Golf on the Moon 02/06/1971

Today in American History, United States Astronaut Captain Alan B. Shepard played golf on the moon.  The historic round of golf was played during the Apollo 14 mission that lasted from January 31, 1971 through February 9, 1971 and stands as the first time any sport was played in space.  Captain Shepard was 47 at the time of the landing, the oldest astronaut in history.  Captain Shepard was promoted in Admiral in August of 1971.


Shepard's Historic Moon Shot

The Apollo 14 mission was the third moon landing.  Captain Shepard piloted the Antares lunar lander to the most accurate landing on the moon's surface ever.  During this mission, not only was the golf shot a historic first but it was also the first time that a full color broadcast from space was accomplished using vidicon tube camera.  It is worth noting that on Apollo 12 there were a few brief moments of color broadcast, however when the crew inadvertently pointed the camera at the sun it was no long operable.  Shepard's "shot heard from out of this world" was taken with a Wilson brand six iron, which was taken with one hand because of the bulky space suit.  Shepard swung at two golf balls, hitting the second one that went for "miles and miles" according to Shepard.

Rear Admiral Alan B. Shepard flew only two space missions during his military career.  His thirty year military career (1944-1974) saw him not only be the first American in space, but as noted above, the first man to play golf on the moon.  The two seem terribly appropriate.  Born on November 18th, 1923, Shepard's military roots began early on while a teenager where he attended and graduated from Admiral Farragut Academy in Pine Beach, NJ in 1940 just before America's entry into World War II.  He earned an appointment to the United States Naval Academy and graduated in 1944 earning a commission as an Ensign in the Navy, serving on the naval destroyer USS Cogswell in the Pacific theater in World War II.  In 1947, Shepard earned his Naval Aviator wings and was stationed on the Flighter Squadron 42 (VF-42) in NAS Norfolk in Virginia and NAS Jacksonville in Florida.  He served several tours of duty in the Mediterranean throughout his career.

Admiral Farragut Academy Paying Homage to Shepard After His Passing

With the ramping up of the American space program, Shepard was selected among 110 military pilots as candidates for the newly formed National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).  After a grueling series of tests, Shepard was selected as one of seven Mercury astronauts.  And on May 5th, 1961, less than a month after Yuri Gagarin's historical orbit of Earth, Alan B. Shepard became the first American in space piloting the Freedom 7 on to 116 statute miles above the Earth.  Before the flight, Shepard was heard to say, "Don't fuck up, Shepard."  Shepard was known for his candor, when asked after the flight by the press what he was thinking just before launch, he replied, "that every part of this ship was built by the lowest bidder."  

Shepard was awarded the Command Pilot position of the Gemini Project mission in 1964.  However, his subsequent diagnosis of Menieres disease, a condition in which fluid builds up in the inner ear, saw him moved off of flight status to Chief of the Astronaut office.  Shepard was restored to full flight status in 1969 following a newly developed corrective surgery for his condition, setting him up for the historic 1971 golf shot.

Rear Admiral Alan B. Shepard passed away on July 21, 1998 from leukemia, but not before authoring two books about his life.  One was the critically acclaimed Moon Shot: The Inside Story of America's Race to the Moon with fellow Mercury astronaut Deke Slayton.



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Bruce has worked in educational technology for over 18 years and has implemented several 1:1/BYOD programs.  He also has served as a classroom teacher in Computer Science, History and English classes.  Bruce is the author of five books: Sands of TimeTowering Pines Volume One:Room 509The Star of ChristmasPhiladelphia Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel and The Insider's Story: A Lance Carter Detective Novel.  Follow Bruce's Novel releases by subscribing to his FREE newsletter!

Be sure to check out Bruce's Allentown Education Examiner Page, his Twitter and his Facebook!