Archive for April, 2011

How To Shear A Sheep

- April 28th, 2011

SOMEWHERE NORTH OF HAMBURG — I would never be so presumptuous as to shear a sheep myself: It’s a full body shave so the process is, shall we say, intimate.

Feeding them and scratching them behind the ears where they can’t reach is about as intimate as I’ll ever admit to getting with sheep.

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But I do know people with the skills, experience and electric clippers to do the shearing job.

Volker raises sheep in a beautiful small village (ein schönes kleines Dorf, since I am using a computer keyboard with umlauts at the moment) in the once and future autonomous Duchy of Schleswig-Holstein.

Each spring, Volker shears the year’s growth of wool from his sheep, a service he also performs for the grateful flocks of a few friends and neighbours who are also into sheep.

The  sheared wool is once again being used for knitting and weaving, but only because corn and grain production for biofuels (we’ll talk about that piece of crazy business some other time) is so lucrative — only because of  government subsidies — that it’s supplanted a lot of the world’s cotton farming, thus raising worldwide cotton prices, thus collaterally raising demand for wool and worldwide wool prices, thus making wool once again a financially viable commodity in Europe. For many years, there was so little demand for wool, compared to cotton, that the wool sheared from these particular Schleswig-Holstein sheep was just used  as a natural insulation for houses (which is a nice, ecologically appealing concept, but really a waste of good wool from the farmer’s viewpoint).

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The shearing is a necessary process for the sheep. By late April they were already sweating profusely in their thick winter coats under the warm spring sun.

Local media a week ago carried the story of an Australian sheep which wandered away into the Outback five years ago. When found recently, the sheep was weighed down with 70 kilograms of wool, barely able to move after half a decade without shearing.

So Volker’s visit on Easter weekend, though a matter of some alarm for both adult sheep and their lambs (who are not sheared), freed them of a heavy, sweaty burden.

Here´s how Volker shears a sheep.

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He starts at the nape of the neck and works toward the tail, shaving down the sides of the sheep as he works his way backwards.

Then he goes back to the head and removes the remaining mane around the neck, not touching the face or lower legs.

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Once sheared, the sheep are mighty different — slimmer, lighter and trembling with post-traumatic excitement. Actually, they sort of look like a room full of little old men in a sauna. Sorry, sheep.

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Sometimes it takes a few minutes for  lambs to recognize their clean-shaven mothers. Unsheared sheep often act quite aggressively toward their de-fleeced sisters, and uppity young ram lambs, despite their actual inability to perform libidinous acts yet, are still driven by natural instinct to try to mount the newly nude ewes. (I guess it’s sort of a sheep MILF thing.)

The newly shaved sheep stay indoors for a while, partly to let the lambs get reacquainted with their unfamiliar mothers and partly to avoid sunburn from the strong afternoon sun. Really. Sheep can sunburn without their protective coats.

Then it’s back to the good life in the pasture.

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So, with a few more photos of Volker and the sheep, here´s looking at ewe, kid.

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My German Anti-Nuke Protest

- April 26th, 2011

SOMEWHERE NORTH OF HAMBURG — I took part in a German anti-nuclear protest yesterday.

Not that I was planning to, of course.

What I was planning to do was take a leisurely toodle on a sunny Easter Monday afternoon around the neighbouring countryside on the ancient, eccentric motor scooter which putt-putts me through Schleswig-Holstein when I am here.

I was stopped at what passes for the main road in this neck of the woods (if there were woods of any substance in this neck) when the flashing blue light of a police car (Polizeiwagen) hove into view — slowly.

It was followed by a procession of eight buses and a scattering of private cars sprouting a variety of yellow, red and black flags. At the end of the convoy, two other police cars with flashing lights nipped at the heels of the buses like sheep dogs.

At first I thought it might be an especially large horticultural club on tour, but that was unlikely since there wasn´t a garden gnome in sight and the passengers staring out the bus windows had on their best Very Serious Faces (VSFs) — something the  Germans do perhaps better than any other nationality in the world.

The purpose of the VSF is to indicate to observers that the body attached to the VSF is engaged in Very Important Business (VIB), which said observers are encouraged — nay, impelled — to expedidate/facilitate/assist/abet/admire. Usually the VIB can better be described as VSIB (Very Self-Important Business).

Ach so,  eight buses full of VSFs escorted by police sheep dogs. The clues were piling up, but the dead giveaway to the group´s identity was the banners waving from the cars with the buses. Most were a nitrous-oxide yellow  colour with a smiley red sun in the middle encircled by black words:

ATOMKRAFT? NEIN DANKE

(NUCLEAR POWER? NO THANKS)

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Ooooo, one of the German anti-nuke protests I had heard so much about.

So, as the rearguard Polizeiwagen trundled by, I decided to tag along. At best, I would see a Deutsche eco-political action in action or, at worst, I would be led on a jaunt into unexplored territory.

Somewhere in the middle of possibilities was the opportunity to find out where the nearest nuclear plant was. It had to be close or why else would the convoy of VSFs come through my rustic, off-the-beaten-track area.

(I´m sorry to say I had neglected to take a camera with me, so there´s no photo travelogue to go with these words, although I might try to add in some images from the Internet later.)

What followed was a 20-km serpentine journey through the flat, fertile moorlands of Schleswig-Holstein as the lead Polizeiwagen sought out every secondary farm road and one-lane cowpath in the district. I´m sure the official reason for the circuitous route was to keep the main arteries from being clogged up with similar congregating convoys of protesters, but I think there must also have been a bit of officious power-tripping involved too: “See what I can make you do? Now jump through this hoop and you will be allowed to express yourself.”

We had twisted and turned so often I had no idea where we were. I actually thought we were heading vaguely north when, in fact, we were headed south from my starting point.

Our parade crested a bridge over a bigger, busier road and we left the farmlands behind for a Gewerbegebiet (or something to that effect), an industrial zone of  recycling plants and the like.

At this point, my convoy of buses was swallowed up in a flock of other arriving buses and I lost track of my VSFs.

But there was plenty of other activity to follow. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people were walking down the road from their parked cars and other hundreds and thousands were swarming in on bicycles. (And, of course, there were the lazy ones who parked their cars and unhitched  bikes from their car racks to pedal in the last kilometre or two.)

And a fine gaggle of Germans it was too: Frosty-haired grandparents who were probably veterans of the early 1970s German anti-nuclear movement, middle-aged folks — some hippie-esque, others nip-tuck tidy and proper — who might have come on board in the aftermath of 1986´s Chornoblyl (or Chernobyl or Tschernobyl, take your pick) disaster, plenty of earnest 20-somethings with eco-consciences newly awakened by Fukushima, and large numbers of teens and children — the ones who seemed to be having the most fun on this beautiful sunny afternoon and who had not yet been fitted for their personal VSFs.

Many of the congregants carried flags and wore costumes. The flags were predominantly the standard ATOMKRAFT? NEIN DANKE standard and the principal costumes were variations of yellow helmets, facemasks and plastic jumpsuits supposed to put one in mind of nuclear decontamination outfits — a poor, sweaty choice of costume, to my mind, for a hot, sunny day when T-shirts, halter tops and shorts would have conveyed a more positive and realistic message.

But who am I to criticize? Really. I was here as a curious gawker — a Nosey Parker — not to express my personal outrage and opposition to nuclear power in general and the Brunsbüttel AKW (AtomKraftWerk — nuclear power plant) in particular.

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For the outskirts of Brunsbüttel was, indeed, where my bus convey had led me. I stopped to check a map and discovered I was down by the mouth of the Elbe River, the complete opposite direction from which I thought I had been travelling.

(A short aside on büttels: The world “büttel” essentially means the same thing as the English word “borough” — a medieval seat of local government. So Scarborough, for example, would be Scarbüttel — a rather fitting description in my jaundiced opinion. There are many büttels in northern Germany — Nienbüttel, Ottenbüttel, Westerbüttel, Oldenbüttel, Tensbüttel and so on, not to mention my favourite, Aasbüttel. Next door to Brunsbüttel there´s even a small town called simply Büttel — which is pretty much like naming a town “the Town of Town” or calling a cat “Cat” … showing either a serious lack of imagination or an excess of literal-mindedness.)

But Brunsbüttel was where we were, Germans in their hundreds and thousands parading down a tree-lined road toward a nuclear plant while I did my best to weave among them on my putt-putting, fume-spewing (but at least non-nuke-powered) mo-fa, as motor scooters and mo-peds are known here.

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North Germans have been congregating at AKW Brunsbüttel for decades, ever since it started operating in 1976, to protest against nuclear power. The fact that the Brunsbüttel operation was taken out of service 2007 has not seemed to dampen its attraction as a protest site.

Local authorities estimated the number of people at this protest as 6,000, but I wouldn´t know for sure: When I arrived at a polizei checkpoint that would not admit my mo-fa, I declined to carry my partcipation in the protest march/ride further. But I do think the number of protesters there was probably much higher than 6,000: I had counted about 300 people in my small bus convoy alone and there were many more bus convoys as well as the thousands upon thousands of people I had seen arriving by car and bicycle (and mo-fa).

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But I had decided to forego the ensuing speeches and other boring impedia of over-organized protest. I embarked on a demonstration of my own, a demonstration of the power and goodness of the sun, as best appreciated on a sheltered deck with a frothy cappucino at hand.

But I am remembering Chornobyl today, on the 25th anniversary of the start of that disaster, and wondering what we will think of Fukushima 25 years from now, a time when all nuclear power plants  are supposed to be gone from Germany. Gone but not forgotten, methinks.

The Strange Surrender Of Fort Sumter

- April 19th, 2011

The hero of this story — antihero, actually — is a belligerent, bellicose, besotted, bloody  bully and braggart.

And that´s just his finer qualities.

He was a stone-cold killer, probably a certifiable psychopath, certainly crazy as a coot.

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Louis T. Wigfall: Fire-Eater, slave owner, killer, bankrupt, separatist … and a hero? … nah.

But he was also a  wildly popular politician, a senator of both the United States and Confederate States of America, heir to a great  family fortune (for a time), a Civil War hero (for a time), friend and confidante of presidents and generals (again, for a time) and very much a product of his place and era — the slavocracy of the Deep South in the middle of the 19th Century.

Before we turn our attention to Louis Trezevant Wigfall and his strange intervention in history, however, let´s take a quick look at  the lead-up to the bombardment and surrender of Fort Sumter, the catalytic event which started the American Civil War 150 years ago.

If you want to cut to the chase and forget the backgrounder, just skip the part between the next two pictures.

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The formal start of the Civil War came at 4:30 a.m. on April 12, 1861, when shore batteries under the command of P.G.T. Beauregard, first brigadier-general of the Provisional Army of the Confederate States of America, opened fire on U.S. Army Fort Sumter in the middle of South Carolina´s Charleston Harbor.

But the civil war between South and North had actually started more than 80 years earlier when Britain´s 13 rebellious American colonies joined together as a nation called the United States of America.

At the end of the American Revolution in 1781, slavery had been abolished for almost a decade in England but was still practised in one form or another in every one of the 13 breakaway colonies. (The Republic of Vermont had banned slavery in its constitution of 1777, but Vermont was not one of the 13 colonies — it was a breakaway creation itself, its eventual territority being divided previously between the colonies of New York and New Hampshire when King George III still had the power to make that kind of decision.)

Slavery, while not mentioned by name (quaint phrases like “person held to service or labour” were used), was condoned in the U.S. Constitution of 1788, where it would fester and poison the American democratic process for decades.

By 1804, however, a line had been clearly drawn between Northern and Southern  states over the issue of slavery: The seven Northern states of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey had moved to abolish slavery by then while the six Southern (and middle) states of Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia were firmly committed to maintaining institutionalized slavery of millions of Americans (roughly 1 million at that time — 4 million by 1860).

I´m getting into too much detail here, but I think it´s really important to make the point that, of those seven abolitionist states, only one — Massachusetts — had banned ALL slavery by 1804. The other six supposedly enlightened states only freed newborn children of slaves immediately. If you were already a slave, you technically stayed a slave — in some cases for a designated period of time, in other cases until you died.  Those were pretty much the same rules that applied when Upper Canada “abolished” slavery in 1793. Un-freaking-believable, eh?)

Rather than getting bogged down, let´s just say that the fight between North and South over slavery became more intense, bitter and entrenched over the next half century.

North and South came close to blowing apart frequently throughout the 1850s and the stakes became higher as new states were admitted to the union, some as slave states and some as free states.

The overall process of expansion favoured the Northern view in the long run, however, with free states rapidly outpacing the slave states both economically and in population growth.

The division was clearcut in the national election of 1860 when abolitionist Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln won the presidency by sweeping 17 Northern states while three other candidates split 15 states in the South and middle (the 33rd state, New Jersey, was divided between Lincoln and Northern Democrat Stephen Douglas).

Lincoln was elected president on Nov. 6, 1860. By the time he took office four months later on March 4, 1861, seven Southern states had already voted to secede from the union. The exodus started on Dec. 20, 1860 with South Carolina — the state with the highest proportion of slaves (57% of the total population, although Virginia had more slaves in sheer numbers), followed in January 1861 by Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia and Louisiana.

Representatives of the first six secessionist states met in Montgomery, Alabama, in February 1861 to form the Confederate States of America — defined in its new constitution as a slave nation. (Texas voted to secede on Feb. 1 but did not join the Confederacy until March 2, after its founding convention and just days before Lincoln´s inauguration.)

The other slave states that had voted against Lincoln (principally Virginia) waited and watched, torn between factions that wanted to be part of a new slave nation and others that wanted to remain in the old union, either as a continuing slave state  or as a free state.

And while all this was going on politically, the U.S. military was also choosing sides.

The U.S. at that time had a fulltime army of only 16,000 men, most of whom were deployed in the Western territories to push American sovereignty into native lands and to keep pro- and anti-slavery frontier militia gangs from killing too many of each other´s settlers.

Many U.S. military installations in the six breakaway states were either seized by or voluntarily turned over to Confederate forces, most of which were led by former U.S. Army officers who had resigned their federal commissions and returned to their home states in January.

By March 1861, only two forts in the entire South remained in the hands of the U.S. Army — the island redoubts of Fort Sumter in Charleston, S.C., and Fort Pickens, in Pensacola, Fla. Both forts were woefully undermanned, with only about 100 combat soldiers each. (Pickens would remain in federal hands throughout the war, despite repeated Confederate attempts to capture it.)

Fort Sumter became a focus of intense political and military because it stood right in the heart of the Confederacy.

Sumter was still under construction at the time South Carolina formally seceded, but union commander Maj. Robert Anderson decided it was more defensible than Fort Moultrie, the federal army post on the mainland where his small contingent of 127 soldiers (13 of them musicians) was originally based.

So in the middle of the night on Dec. 26, 1860, Anderson did his best to disable the guns of Fort Moultrie and moved most of his small force (85 men) by rowboat over to Sumter.

Which caused all hell to break loose over the next few days — in Washington.

Because the lameduck government of President James Buchanan was still trying to make nice to the secessionist states in hopes that they would forget the whole crazy break-up-the-U.S.A. thing. Buchanan´s secretary of war, John Floyd, sent Anderson a stern telegram criticizing him for making an unauthorized move which South Carolina would see as provocation of the part of the federal government.

Anderson (a Southern with pro-slavery inclinations but nonetheless a loyal professional officer of the U.S. Army) replied that his small force would have been needlessly overrun at Fort Moultrie and he had no intention of giving up his command without a fight unless directly ordered to do so by the Secretary of War (who, fortunately, was turfed from office a couple of days later on accusations that he had approved corrupt military contracts and was secretly arming the secessionist South with heavy cannons. Floyd went on to become a Confederate general, not surprisingly).

Buchanan´s wishy-washy administration eventually came around to a less-conciliatory position a few weeks later. A ship, the merchantman Star of the West, was sent from New York to resupply and reinforce Anderson´s garrison with food, munitions and about 200 more troops but turned back at the mouth of Charleston Harbor when fired upon by cadets of The Citadel military academy on Jan. 9, 1861.

That schoolboy cannon fire should probably be considered the real first shots of the American Civil War, although lesser military confrontations between Union troops and Confederate militias elsewhere a few days and weeks earlier might also lay claim to the dubious title.

So that´s the way things remained — with Anderson´s poorly equipped troops surrounded and running out of food in Charleston Harbor while a delegation of Confederacy “ambassadors” tried to negotiate terms of separation (including the purchase of Forts Sumter and Pickens) in Washington  – until Abraham Lincoln´s inauguration as president on March 4, 1861.

The uneasy stalemate changed quickly when Lincoln took office.

The Lincoln cabinet cut off even backdoor consultations with the Confederate commissioners in Washington and C.S.A. President Jefferson Davis sent Brig.-Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard to take charge of the South Carolina militiamen surrounding Fort Sumter.

Fort Sumter was the focus of both North and South as the two sides edged closer to war, each looking for the other side to make the first move so propagandists could advance their partisan cases to the watching nations of Europe — especially Britain, which had strong commercial ties with both North and South —  that the other side had fired the first shot (although, as we´ve already noted, many “first shots” had already been fired at that point).

In early April 1861, Lincoln notified South Carolina Gov. Francis Pickens that a convoy of federal ships would resupply Fort Sumter within two weeks — with food, but not munitions of war or more troops.

In the propaganda war, Lincoln wanted it known that all he had done was “send bread to Anderson.” If the rebels fired on that food convoy, Lincoln reasoned that “they would not be able to convince the world that (he) had begun the civil war,” as one of Lincoln´s secretaries later wrote.

Pickens and the Confederate government essentially went for Lincoln´s bait, although the momentum toward war was so strong at that point that it didn´t take much of a nudge to start hostilities.

Under orders from the Confederate cabinet, Brig.-Gen. Beauregard on April 11 issued an ultimatum to Anderson to surrender Fort Sumter immediately or be fired upon.

Anderson stalled for time but did not offer the immediate surrender of the fort.

So at 4:30 a.m. on April 12, 1861 — just as the Union supply ships were nearing Charleston — Confederate batteries opened fire on Fort Sumter, starting the American Civil War.

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A COUPLE OF GOOD OL´ SOUTHERN BOYS: Brig.-Gen. Pierre Gustav Toutant Beauregard, above, was the scion of an aristocratic Creole slave-owning family in Louisiana, who commanded Confederate forces at Charleston, S.C., and ordered the bombardment of Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861. Maj. Robert Anderson, below, commanded the small U.S. Army garrison at Fort Sumter and refused Beauregard´s ultimatum to surrender the fort or be fired upon. Anderson, like Beauregard, was pro-slavery and had at one time been a slave owner in his native Kentucky. Although both men had had accomplished careers in the U.S. Army before the Civil War, they chose very different paths after secession. Beauregard, who had just been appointed superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., resigned his federal commission and returned to the South, where he became the first brigadier-general of the provisional army of the Confederate States of America while Robert E. Lee was still wearing the blue uniform of the U.S. Army . Anderson, by contrast, remained loyal to the union and, a few  days after the end of fighting in 1865 , returned to Fort Sumter to re-raise the same Stars and Stripes flag he had been forced to lower when he surrendered the fort four years earlier. Beauregard, as a U.S. Military Academy cadet in the mid-1830s, was a student of the older Anderson, who was an artillery and engineering instructor at West Point at the time. The U.S. Army officer corps was a very small world in the mid-1800s and most of the senior officers on both sides knew each other quite well, sometimes as rivals and sometimes as friends. Beauregard and Anderson showed great courtesy (too much, really, given the circumstances) and mutual respect in their communications to each other during the Battle of Fort Sumter. Anderson´s second-in-command at Fort Sumter, by the way, was Capt. Abner Doubleday, purported inventor of baseball. After the fall of Fort Sumter, Anderson would go on an extended war-hero recruiting drive before becoming military governor of his home state of Kentucky. Beauregard would lead the victorious Confederate Army at the First Battle of Bull Run before being superceded by other Confederate generals like Robert E. Lee. After the war, Beauregard became immensely wealthy as one of the founders of the Louisiana Lottery.

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And here — in April 1861 on the eve of battle —  is where the stupendously self-serving and self-absorbed Louis T. Wigfall entered the picture to seize his moment of personal glory — and flabbergast those around him who had to pick up the pieces afterwards.

Wigfall was born on his family´s slave plantation in South Carolina in 1816, although his father was not of the landed Southern aristocracy, but rather a merchant in Charleston before buying the plantation shortly before the birth of Louis, second of the family´s three sons.

Wigfall´s father died when he was two and his mother died when he 13, after which he was raised by a guardian, although the principal raising in his teen years seemed to be raising hell.

In 1835 Louis Wigfall entered the University of Virgina, from which he was expelled within months for drunkeness, whoring, gambling and fighting. It was during this time that Wigfall issued the first of his many duelling challenges.

The following year, Wigfall was admitted to the University of South Carolina, which seems to have had lower standards than UV or at least a higher tolerance for the destructive behaviour of spoiled rich kids.

Although he spent most of his time in taverns and debating clubs — and took three months off to fight in the Third Seminole War in Florida — Wigfall graduated from USC in 1837 and began what passed for his adult life.

By 1839, Wigfall had drunk, gambled and generally squandered away his inheritance. To support his ongoing debauchery, he borrowed heavily from friends and family, including second cousin Charlotte Maria Cross, to whom he would be wed in 1841. (Just how blind was this woman?)

Fortunately for Wigfall, his elder brother decided to die in a duel about this time, so Louis inherited control of the family plantation and his brother´s law practice (you basically had to own a set of law books in order to be a lawyer in those days).

Like his late, unlamented brother, Louis Wigfall (as we have already noted) had a penchant for duelling.

When not carousing, Wigfall was busy issuing duel challenges — at least five that we know of in the years 1839-41. In the one duel where blood was spilled,  he took a bullet through both thighs and wounded his opponent in the hip. It was called a draw.

Around the same time, Wigfall killed a neighbour, Thomas Bird, but not in a duel. Wigfall gunned Bird down in cold blood for removing a poster Wigfall had put up calling Bird´s uncle a coward. Wigfall was charged with homicide but, justice always taking a strange and mysterious course in South Carolina, was never prosecuted.

Wigfall gave up duelling as a concession to the responsibilities of marriage and fatherhood after 1841, but that didn´t stop him from squandering the rest of his family fortune and that of his wife in coming years.

By 1848, Wigfall´s South Carolina law practice had failed and the family estate had been swallowed up by debt, so he headed off to Texas to start a new life and law career.

Wigfall did find a new life in Texas and became a roaring success — as a firebrand politician.

The bombastic Wigfall had tried — and failed — previously to enter the political forum in South Carolina, but Texas was more his style. At least Texas seemed to like Wigfall´s style as a hell-raising, drink-buying, honour-demanding, ranting, roaring champion of slavery and secession.

Wigfall was prominent in Texas politics throughout the 1850s as one of the radical secessionist Fire-Eaters and became a political enemy of the legendary Sam Houston, hero of Texas independence in the 1830s, whom Wigfall accused of being a traitor to the South and cozying up to Northern abolitionists in hopes of becoming president someday.

In 1859, Wigfall was elected to the U.S. Senate in a byelection just in time to build up a good head of steam against his abolitionist opponents before Texas seceded from the union on Feb. 1, 1861. Wigfall stuck around in Congress for a few more weeks to curse everyone born north of the Mason-Dixon Line before launching one final tirade and marching out of the Senate chamber March 23, 1861, at the head of a parade of other secessionist Congressman.

Wigfall went first to Richmond, Virginia, and then to Charleston, S.C., where all the action was brewing.

Along the way, he spied on the U.S. Army around Washington, tried (with some limited success) to procure arms for the South, and recruited soldiers for the Confederacy in Maryland.

And here´s the lay of the land Wigfall found when he finally reached Charleston in early April:

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At this point you have to pity Confederate Brig.-Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard a little bit.

For starters, the Confederate States of America had been born out a revolt against a central government and a reclamation of power by the individual states that formed the new Confederacy. The Provisional Army of the Confederacy was brand new too and existed more on paper than in reality.

When Beauregard was assigned to take over command of Charleston, his “Confederate” forces amounted to three people – one staff officer, one artillery officer and himself. Everyone else was a member of the state militia — the South Carolina Army, as it was grandly known — or a freelance volunteer from another of the breakaway states.

As you can imagine, Beauregard had to walk a political tightrope as a result: He reported directly by telegraph to the Confederate cabinet in Montgomery, Alabama, but consulted daily — sometimes hourly – with demanding, war-minded South Carolina Governor Pickens, whose “Army” Beauregard had taken command of, while also dealing with Confederate politicians and influence-peddlers of every stripe who had homed in on Charleston like bees to honey.

Some of them, like Louis Wigfall, even had pretensions of military grandeur. Beauregard, a resourceful man, dealt with those pests by the expedient of making them his civilian “aides” (with honourary military titles). Some useful ones he kept close at hand and the useless ones (like Wigfall) he assigned to various “duties” that kept them as far away as possible from his headquarters and out from underfoot.

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Louis T. Wigfall: Zealot, warrior, civilian aide, pest

So when the first shots of the American Civil War were fired at 4:30 a.m. on April 12, 1861, Louis Wigfall was with General James Simons of the South Carolina Army at the Cummins (sometimes Cummings) Point Batteries (see map above), far, far away from Beauregard´s headquarters.

And there Wigfall remained as Confederate cannons and mortars pounded Fort Sumter for the next 34 hours, while the Union supply fleet, fearing Confederate shore batteries and the treacherous, boobytrapped entrance to Charleston Harbor, stood a safe distance offshore and did nothing to help Anderson´s besieged garrison at Fort Sumter.

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An estimated 3,000 cannonballs, artillery shells, firebombs and fragment explosives were  fired on Fort Sumter during that 34-hour bombardment. The wooden buildings inside the fort were ablaze, thick smoke choked the Union soldiers, the gate and walls were breached, the garrison was down to final rations of rancid pork, many cannons were disabled and only a few pounds of gunpowder and a few cannonballs remained — and yet, unbelievably, not a single Union soldier had died in the inferno.

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Sumter-1861 Parapet

Then, just after 1 p.m. on April 13, a Confederate shot knocked down the pole from which the U.S. flag had flown over Fort Sumter throughout the siege.

As Union soldiers scrambled through the smoke and burning buildings  to find a replacement flagpole, Confederate cannonfire slowed  — but did not cease entirely — as everyone tried to figure out what the situation was.

When informed that the Stars and Stripes were no longer flying over Sumter, Beauregard dispatched three members of his staff by boat under a white flag to ask Anderson what was going on, was he surrendering, did he need help controlling the fire, etc.

And that´s when the real fireworks started because … drumroll, please … Louis Trezavant Wigfall could restrain himself no longer and dived headfirst into history.

Without the slightest degree of authorization or any communication with Beauregard´s headquarters, the crazy, puffed-up Wigfall commandeered a skiff used to convey messages at the Cummins Point Batteries and headed across the harbour mouth to Fort Sumter.

With the occasional cannonball still flying through the air, Wigfall sat in the bow of his skiff, waving a white handerchief tied to the end of his sword (of course Louis Trezavant Wigfall had a sword — a great, long, flashy thing. What did you expect?), while a poor, sadsack South Carolina Army private named Gordon (Gourdin, according to Beauregard´s final report, but Beau — whose first language was French, not English – was mixing him up with another guy, a spy, named Robert Gourdin) Young pulled away at the oars, not really understanding what he had gotten himself in for by letting the crazy Wigfall take command of the boat.

So there was now a (unintentional and unknown) race on between two boats, one carrying an authorized delegation from Brig.-Gen. Beauregard and another carrying the self-appointed Hero of the South Louis Wigfall.

Well,  of course Wigfall won the race, the Cummins Point Batteries being much closer to Fort Sumter than Beauregard´s headquarters.

By this time the new flagpole had been raised and the U.S. flag was flying over Fort Sumter again.

When Wigfall´s skiff reached the fort, Wigfall (still carrying his raised sword and white handerchief of truce) was escorted through the burning, smoking, battered wreckage to confer with Maj. Anderson.

According to David Detzer´s book Allegiance, here´s what Wigfall had to say to Anderson:

“You have defended your flag nobly, Sir. You have done all that it is possible to do, and General Beauregard wants to stop this fight. On what terms, Major Anderson, will you evacuate this fort?”

 Poor old Anderson, to be confronted with a self-appointed nutbar like Wigfall at a time like this.

Of course Anderson took Wigfall at his word that he was an emissary of Beauregard — although not one that Beauregard had ever used before in countless missions to deliver messages to Fort Sumter — and Anderson was relieved that Wigfall had used the word “evacuate” not “surrender.”

Anderson specified that his terms of “evacuation” included withdrawal under arms for his troops and  the right to honour the U.S. flag with a 100-gun salute. 

We´ll let the Wikipedia entry for Battle of Fort Sumter carry the story for a bit:

“Fort Sumter raised Wigfall’s white handkerchief on its flagpole as Wigfall departed in his small boat back to Morris Island (where the Cummins Point Batteries were located), where he was hailed as a hero. The handkerchief was spotted in Charleston and a delegation of officers representing Beauregard … sailed to Sumter, unaware of Wigfall’s visit.

“Anderson was outraged when these officers disavowed Wigfall’s authority, telling him that the former senator had not spoken with Beauregard for two days, and he threatened to resume firing. Meanwhile, General Beauregard himself had finally seen the handkerchief and sent a second set of officers, offering essentially the same terms that Wigfall had presented, so the agreement was reinstated.”

Actually, the first official delegation was already on its way to the fort before the white flag was raised, but you can imagine the confusion — and anger — that reigned as the two sides tried to sort out what the hell had happened.

Fortunately, Beauregard´s second delegation — with the power to offer generous terms of surrender — arrived before hostilities were resumed.

Wigfall, meanwhile, was back on shore telling his tale of having accepted the surrender of Fort Sumter.

He left his post at the Cummins Point Batteries and returned to the city of Charleston to spread his version of the surrender and to harvest the accolades and honours he felt were justly his.

Beauregard, a mere honest soldier, was probably left dumbfounded by the crazed audacity and blatant self-promotion with which Wigfall claimed the coup of having seized Sumter single-handedly (forgetting, of course, to mention the role played by Private Gordon Young in getting him there).

With Wigfall the toast of Charleston and the South, Beauregard made the best of a bad situation by conveying the following, much-massaged version of events in his official report on the engagement two weeks later: 

“About 1.30 p.m. (April 13), it being reported to me that the flag was down (it afterwards appeared that the flag-staff had been shot away), and the conflagration from the large volume of smoke being apparently on the increase, I sent three of my aides with a message to Major Anderson to the effect that seeing his flag no longer flying, his quarters in flames, and supposing him to be in distress, I desired to offer him any assistance he might stand in need of.

“Before my aides reached the fort the United States flag was displayed on the parapet, but remained there only a short time, when it was hauled down and a white flag substituted in its place. When the United States flag first disappeared the firing from our batteries almost entirely ceased, but reopened with increased vigor when it reappeared on the parapet, and was continued until the white flag was raised, when it ceased entirely. Upon the arrival of my aides at Fort Sumter they delivered their message to Major Anderson, who replied that he thanked me for my offer, but desired no assistance.
 

“Just previous to their arrival Colonel Wigfall, one of my aides, who had been detached for special duty on Morris Island, had, by order of Brigadier-General Simons (NOTE: Blatantly untrue), crossed over to Fort Sumter from Cummings Point in an open boat, with private Gourdin Young, amidst a heavy fire of shot and shell, for the purpose of ascertaining from Major Anderson whether his intention was to surrender, his flag being down and his quarters in flames.

“On reaching the fort the colonel had an interview with Major Anderson, the result of which was that Major Anderson understood him as offering the same conditions on the part of General Beauregard as had been tendered him on the 11th instant, while Colonel Wigfall’s impression was that Major Anderson unconditionally surrendered, trusting to the generosity of General Beauregard to offer such terms as would be honorable and acceptable to both parties.

“Meanwhile, before these circumstances were reported to me, and in fact soon after the aides whom I had dispatched with the offer of assistance had set out on their mission, hearing that a white flag was flying over the fort, I sent Major Jones, the chief of my staff, and some other aides, with substantially the same propositions I had submitted to Major Anderson on the 11th instant, with the exception of the privilege of saluting his flag.

The Major (Anderson) replied, “it would be exceedingly gratifying to him, as well as to his command, to be permitted to salute their flag, having so gallantly defended the fort under such trying circumstances, and hoped that General Beauregard would not refuse it, as such a privilege was not unusual.” He further said he “would not urge the point, but would prefer to refer the matter again to me.” The point was, therefore, left open until the matter was submitted to me.”

And so ended the Battle of Fort Sumter — almost.

Anderson got his wish to honour the flag under which his command had fought with a 100-gun salute (more powder being supplied by his Confederate enemies for the occasion), starting about 2:30 p.m. the next day, April 14.

Unfortunately, as the 43rd shot was being fired, the gun blew up, killing Private Daniel Hough instantly and injuring several other members of the gun crew. This was the first death of the Battle of Fort Sumter.

Two of the badly injured Union soldiers were taken to hospital in Charleston, where one more later died, and the 100-gun salute was curtailed at 50.

Then Anderson, carrying the same flag, boarded a Confederate steamer with his troops and was ferried out the next day to the federal flotilla still waiting offshore.

Wigfall

And Louis T. Wigfall?

His adopted state of Texas was mighty proud of the hero of Fort Sumter, so proud that Wigfall was made (for a short time — everyone got tired of Wigfall eventually) commanding general of the newly formed Texas Brigade in the Confederate Army.

Wigfall stayed drunk and obnoxious most of the time the Brigade was encamped in Virginia over the winter of 1861-62 and he soon tired of playing soldier. Much to the relief of the Texas Brigade and the professional officers who served under him, Wigfall gave up his command when he was elected to represent Texas in the Senate of the Confederacy in February 1862.

And what did Brig.-Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard really think of his aide, Louis T. Wigfall?

We can only go by his official report, but Beauregard gave Wigfall the rank of “captain” and “colonel” variously in the report, certainly not an unintentional oversight on Beauregard´s part: As far as Beauregard was concerned, both ranks were honourifics and Wigfall was equally undeserving of both.

At the end of his report, Beauregard thanked 84 individuals and units for their contributions to the Battle of Fort Sumter: Wigfall was mentioned as an also-ran in 79th position with only five other civilian “aides” mentioned after him, although Beauregard did end his report with the words “Captain Wigfall being the first in Sumter to receive the surrender.”

After the South lost the war, Wigfall returned to Texas, then went into exile in England for a while.

He returned to the United States in 1870 and, with borrowed money, bought a mine in Colorado. The mine was a dud, of course.

He returned to Texas and, on Feb. 18, 1874, was (appropriately enough) “seized by a fit of apoplexy” in Galveston, dying in the street where he fell at age 57.

Exit, Louis Trezavant Wigfall. And don´t come back.

Abraham Lincoln’s Beard

- April 13th, 2011

With this week marking the 150th anniversary of the start of the American Civil War, I´m going to take a few excursions down that road in coming days because what we now think happened back then is not necessarily what really happened.

Just for starters, let´s take a look at Civil War President Abraham Lincoln´s beard.

Here´s the standard image we have of Lincoln, a portrait made by photographer Alexander Gardner in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 8, 1863.

456px-Abraham_Lincoln_head_on_shoulders_photo_portrait

Lincoln is showing the wear and worry of more than two years of civil war at this point, but this is the historic  Lincoln we know, chin whiskers and all.

But this is not the Abraham Lincoln that the upstart Republican Party nominated for president in May 1860 and that the American people (well, 40% of the ones who were able to vote) elected president in November 1860.

That Lincoln was a very different man. Here´s a picture of the guy who was elected president.

 Abraham-Lincoln-Helser-Portrait-1860

Quite a difference, eh?

As a friend of mine says, the clean-shaven Lincoln looks “fragile.” I think he looks quite handsome without the beard, in a gawky, stringbean sort of way.  And there´s a sensual quality to the face you don´t see with the chin whiskers.

Maybe this is the photo Marilyn Monroe was thinking of when she called Abe Lincoln “the sexiest man in American history.”

That particular portrait was made by Chicago photographer Alexander Hesler on June 3, 1860, at Lincoln´s home in Springfield, Illinois, shortly after Lincoln won the Republication presidential nomination over such frontrunners and party stalwarts as William Seward, Salmon P. Chase and Simon Cameron — all rivals that Lincoln would put in his first cabinet a few months later.

And here´s a slightly earlier photo, one that Lincoln himself said helped make him president.

lincoln_1861_portra_748814s

The photo was taken on Feb. 27, 1860, in New York City on the day that Lincoln made a speech that propelled him from regional Illinois politician to the front ranks of the national Republican Party and the anti-slavery movement in general.

It was a speech months in the planning and it was delivered to a crowd of about 1,500 politically influential New Yorkers at the Cooper Institute. Lincoln wowed the house with a brilliant, rivetting analysis of how the framers of the U.S. Constitution clearly intended that Congress should regulate — and eventually eliminate — slavery in the United States of America.

Lincoln, you see, was a “moderate” Republican not a “radical” (in 1850s terms), in that he was not calling for the immediate abolition of slavery where it already existed: What everyone was after — North and South, slavers and abolitionists, that is (the 4 million Americans held in slavery weren´t asked their opinions) – was control of the vast, sparsely settled (so far) territories west of the Mississippi that the U.S. had gained as prizes in the Mexican-American War of 1848.

The South wanted some, if not all, of the territories to enter the union as slave states. Northern abolitionists were determined that all the territories would gain statehood without the taint of slavery. In between, compromisers kept putting forward plans to allow a nibble of slavery here and a slice of freedom there.

Lincoln was determined that slavery would not be extended to any of the territories and that the central government had the right and responsibility to enforce that. He hoped to see the end of slavery in the whole country some day, but believed it would happen slowly, (relatively) peacably and by a process of attrition.

This was a position hotly disputed by the slave states and a bone of contention for more than a decade between the South and the North.  Throughout the 1850s, compromise after compromise had held the antagonists together, but both sides clearly felt the time for appeasement was over and a real solution had to be found. After the Cooper Institute speech — and its widespread coverage in the many New York daily newspapers of the time — Northern abolitionists felt they had in Lincoln  a true champion with guts, brains and public appeal.

As for the photo, Lincoln was then staying at the Astor House hotel on Broadway. On the afternoon before his evening speech, Lincoln had gone for a walk down Broadway with a couple of friends. At the corner of Broadway and Bleeker Street, Lincoln saw the studio of photographer Mathew Brady and — really on a whim — decided to stop in and have his picture taken.

That´s the photo you see above, one that was widely distributed during the following election.

Brady later admitted he did a little retouching of the photo, smoothing out Abe´s wayward hair and “subtly refin(ing) his features.”

But it did the trick, getting Lincoln´s image out there at a time when presidential candidates did virtually no public campaigning themselves and relied on local and regional allies to carry their message to the voters.

“Brady and the Cooper Institute made me president,” Lincoln was later quoted as saying.

Here´s another, rarely seen photo of Lincoln (possibly by Preston Butler) made in May 1860, just after Lincoln clinched the Republican nomination.  

Lincoln

So why, I ask you, why did a guy who had lived the entire 51 years (so far) of his life without a beard, who had won the nomination of the Republican Party without a beard, and who had won election as president of the United States of America without a beard, why did he suddenly decide to grow a beard in the couple of months between the election on Nov. 6, 1860, and his inaugration on March 4, 1861?

According to Lincoln himself, it was because of a little girl.

On Oct. 15, 1860, 11-year-old Grace Bedell of Westfield, N.Y. (about 100 km south of Buffalo on Lake Erie), wrote to Lincoln in Springfield:

“Dear Sir

My father has just (come) home from the fair and brought home your picture and Mr. Hamlin´s (Lincoln´s vice-presidential running mate). I am a little girl only 11 years old but want you should be President of the United States very much so I hope you wont (sic) think me very bold to write to such a great man as you are. Have you any little girls about as large as I am (sic) if so give them my love and tell her to write me if you cannot answer this letter. I have got 4 brothers and part of them will vote for you any way and if you let your whiskers grow I will try and get the rest of them to vote for you (sic) you would look a great deal better for your face is so thin. All the ladies like whiskers and they would tease their husbands to vote for you and then you would be President. My father is going to vote for you and if I was a man I would vote for you to (sic) but I will try to get every one to vote for you that I can (sic) I think that rail fence around your picture makes it look very pretty (sic) I have got a little baby sister she is nine weeks old and is  just as cunning as can be. When you direct your letter direct (it) to Grace Bedell Westfield Chautauque County New York.

I must not write any more answer this letter right off   Good bye.

Grace Bedell”

To which Lincoln responded on Oct. 19, 1860 (and don´t forget this is less than three weeks before the national election that could make him president of the United States):

“My dear little Miss

Your very agreeable letter of the 15th is received — I regret the necessity of saying I have no daughters — I have three sons — one seventeen, one nine, and one seven years of age — They, with their mother, constitute my whole family — As to the whiskers, having never worn any,  do you not think people would call it a piece of silly affectation if I were to begin it  now?

Your very sincere well wisher

A. Lincoln”

Friends and poltical supporters had  for years urged Lincoln to grow a beard to hide his long neck and prominent adam´s apple. In his reply to Grace Bedell, Lincoln seemed once again to be rejecting the notion of growing a beard.

But Grace´s appeal hit a nerve somehow and Lincoln began, soon after the election, growing his famous chin whiskers.

How do we know it was Grace that made the difference? Because Lincoln said so — in front of thousands of people.

Although Lincoln did not actively campaign in the runup to the Nov. 6, 1860 election, he made what was essentially a campaign tour in the weeks before his inauguration on March 4, 1861.

Lincoln left Springfield, Illinois, on Feb. 11 in a special train that carried him and a party of supporters east to Washington throughout the northern states that had elected him president.

At every stop for fuel and water, Lincoln was mobbed by wellwishers and gave a rousing speech in which he promised to hold the union together while stopping the spread of slavery. By this time South Carolina and six other states had seceded from the union since Lincoln had won the election — and they had seceded mainly because Lincoln´s victory was seen by many in the South as the last straw in the more-populous North´s attempt to dominate the South and force radical changes to its slave economy and culture.

As the train headed for Buffalo, N.Y. (where Lincoln was almost crushed to death when a crowd of 20,000 supporters went crazy and overwhelmed his small military escort), the president-elect made sure the train would stop at the small Lake Erie town of Westfield on Feb. 19, a week after leaving Springfield.

Here´s what the reporter for the New York World had to say in that evening´s newspaper:

“At Westfield an interesting incident occurred. Shortly after his nomination Mr. Lincoln had received from that place a letter from a little girl, who urged him, as a means of improving his personal appearance, to wear whiskers. Mr. Lincoln at the time replied, stating that although he was obliged by the suggestion, he feared his habits of life were too fixed to admit of even so slight a change as that which letting his beard grow involved. To-day, on reaching the place, he related the incident and said that if that young lady was in the crowd he should be glad to see her. There was a momentary commotion, in the midst of which an old man, struggling through the crowd, approached, leading his daughter, a girl of apparently twelve or thirteen years of age, whom he introduced to Mr. Lincoln as his Westfield correspondent. Mr. Lincoln stooped down and kissed the child, and talked with her for some minutes. Her advice had not been thrown away upon the rugged chieftain. A beard of several months´growth covers (perhaps adorns) the lower part of his face. The young girl´s peachy cheek must have been tickled with a stiff whisker, for the growth of which she was herself responsible.”

And that´s how Abe Lincoln got his Abe Lincoln beard.

The Story Behind “There’s A Sucker Born Every Minute”

- April 6th, 2011

“There’s a sucker born every minute” was the defining motto of 19th Century American showman and impresario P.T. Barnum.

Although the words are often attributed to Barnum, they were actually said about him by a jealous rival, not by the great  man himself (according to Barnum, anyway).

barnum_pt

Barnum was the most flamboyant, outrageous, daring — and successful — of the many entrepreneurs who dazzled and delighted North American audiences throughout the 19th Century with shows of natural and unnatural wonders — the bigger and more bizarre the better.

Barnum introduced awestruck Americans and Canadians to the 2-foot-5 dwarf performer General Tom Thumb (Barnum’s cousin), Nova Scotia giantess Anna Swan, the original “Siamese twins” Chang and Eng (from Siam — modern Thailand — of course), and a panoply of unusual humans  and exotic animals, including the original Jumbo elephant (who died in St. Thomas, Ont., after being struck by a circus train; Barnum had Jumbo’s skin stuffed and continued to exhibit it for years).

Barnum&Thumb

anna_swan

DeadJumbo

Barnum also put up a breathtaking $200,000 to bring the world’s first superstar, Swedish Nightingale Jenny Lind, to North America for a tour that lasted years in the 1850s, making them both fabulously wealthy in the process.

So P.T. Barnum was always looking to put on a show that would entice audiences to part with their hard-earned cash. But he never considered his customers to be “suckers” and he gave them full value for the price of admission — usually.

But in the case of the Cardiff Giant, Barnum gave the paying customers what they wanted — even if it wasn’t real.

In fact, Barnum’s Cardiff Giant was a fake copy of an original fake.

Let me explain.

It all started shortly after the end of the U.S. Civil War, when New York City tobacconist George Hull — a vocal atheist (not that uncommon for the time) — got into an argument with a fundamental creationist about whether or not the Bible could be believed when it said (Genesis 6:4) the Earth was once populated by a race of giants (sometimes interpreted as aliens).

Hull decided to stick it, so to speak, to the Biblical literalists by creating his own petrified Genesis giant; he spent a small fortune  and a good deal of time and effort doing so.

First he had a 12-foot-long block of gypsum cut for him in Iowa and shipped to Chicago, where he promised to pay German tombstone carver Edwin Burkhardt handsomely to carve out a giant human form and keep his mouth shut. (According to Burkhardt’s descendants, the stonecarver died soon after completing his work and all Burkhardt’s widow ever got from Hull was $10.)

Hull and the sculptor then went to work on the stone giant with stains and acids to give it the appearance of great age. They even managed to create what looked like pores in the “skin” of the statue. The result was what Hull hoped his gullible religious opponents would take to be the petrified remains of one of the giants that once supposedly roamed the world.

cardiff-giant

When finally satisfied with his handiwork in November 1868, Hull crated his monster and shipped it to the farm of his cousin, W.C. Newell, near Cardiff in upstate New York. The two men buried the stone statue deep in a field behind Newell’s barn and waited … and waited … and waited.

Finally, almost a year later, the dug-up earth had settled and grown over enough that it seemed undisturbed ground and Hull launched his endgame.

Farmer Newell — known as “Stub” to his friends and neighbours — hired two locals in October 1869 to dig a well behind his barn. Lo and behold, the two labourers made an incredible discovery — the petrified, preserved remains of an ancient human, soon to be known far and wide as the Cardiff Giant.

Cardiff_giant_exhumed_1869

And from far and wide gawkers soon came to witness this miraculous thing — and willingly paid 25 cents (50 cents within a few days — about $40 in today’s money) to Stubb Newell and George Hull for the privilege.

NewellFarmExhibitTent

Exhibit tent on Newell’s Farm, 1869

With greed overtaking his philosophical pranksterism, Hull sold his two-thirds ownership share of the Giant for the whopping sum of $36,000 to a showbiz syndicate headed by banker and horse trader David Hannum.

David Hannum - Banker and Horse trader

David Hannum, above, and the Cardiff Giant being shipped to Syracuse, below.

Giantshipment

Hannum moved the Cardiff Giant up the road to the bustling city of Syracuse, N.Y., where it continued to draw such crowds that P.T. Barnum soon became interested  in acquiring the Giant for his museum of oddities down in New York City.

Barnum offered $50,000 for the petrified man, but Hannum turned him down flat.

Barnum, being ingeniously resourceful and unscrupulous, then bribed Hannum’s night watchman to secretly admit a craftsman in Barnum’s employ to make a wax model of the “real” Cardiff Giant.

Back in New York City, Barnum had a plaster replica made of the wax model and put it on display, claiming that Hannum had sold him the “real” Giant and that the one Hannum was now showing in Syracuse was, in fact, a fake.

What amazing gall.

barnum_giant

P.T. Barnum’s “fake” fake

This is the point at which Hannum lashed out at Barnum and the gullible masses flocking to see P.T.’s New York City “fake.”

And it was a chortling Barnum who told the New York newspapers that it was Hannum who told him, “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

Hannum responded by suing Barnum for slander and loss of income for calling the Syracuse Giant a fake. Unfortunately for Hannum, the case was heard in a New York City court where Barnum was a generous contributor to the judge’s political campaigns.

It didn’t help that George Hull decided to pull the plug on his prank/fraud by admitting to a newspaper on Dec. 10, 1869, that he had faked the Cardiff Giant and set up the elaborate charade of its “discovery.”

When Hannum’s civil suit came to trial on Feb. 2, 1870, both Hull and his cousin, Stub Newell, testified that the Cardiff Giant was a total fake, inspired by Hull’s anti-religious fervour and turned into a huge money-making event by the public’s thirst for new and strange sensations.

The judge promptly ruled that there was no slander in calling a fake a fake — even if Barnum was unaware the “original” was indeed a fake — and threw out Hannum’s suit.

The court case actually increased the public’s interest in  the Cardiff Giant and both Barnum and Hannum continued to display their two fakes for years and continued to make money, minute by minute,  from new generations of suckers, er, paying customers.

Hannum’s “original” fake Cardiff Giant was even an attraction at the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, although it was overshadowed by things like the gaudy display of new-fangled electric lights powered from nearby Niagara Falls and by the assassination of President William McKinley at the expo site.

If you feel like paying the price of admission (sucker), you can still see both Hull/Hannum’s Cardiff Giant and P.T. Barnum’s replica. One’s at the Farmers’ Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y., and the other’s at Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum in Farmington Hills, Mich., near Detroit. I’m not telling you which is which.

(Postscript: George Hull decided he was onto such a good thing that he created another buried giant — this time made of clay, ground bones, meat and plaster — that was “discovered” in Beulah, Colorado, in 1877. Hull and partner William Conant made a tidy profit from this new petrified giant, dubbed The Solid Muldoon since it was hidden on Muldoon Hill and there was a music-hall song, then currently popular, called “Muldoon, the Solid Man.” And, yes, P.T. Barnum’s fingerprints are attached to the Solid Muldoon: It’s likely he financed Hull’s latest enterprise and he was sniffing around Beulah within days of the “discovery” — but he seems to have decided there just wasn’t enough public interest to bring the Muldoon to New York City. Or perhaps the meat was just rotting too much.  The Solid Muldoon disappeared from public awareness shortly thereafter, as did George Hull. As far as I can tell, Hull avoided having his photo taken during his hucksterhood.)

solidmuldoon

The Solid Muldoon, R.I.P.