1811

Ozzie is back on the road again, this time driving cross country from the land of Oz to the Tar Heel state of North Carolina. Ozzie is on his way to the fall furniture show in High Point, North Carolina. Ozzie believe that stimulus plans to help the economy begin at home, not in Washington.

Ozzie is bringing several books with him on the trip. In the group is A History of the Nineteenth Century Year by Year (published 1901), by Edwin Emerson. Ozzie bought this book at Juliana Daniels Antiques where he buys a lot of great books.

Looking back 200 hundred years provides a certain perspective on world events. Does history repeat itself? Are we bound to repeat the same mistakes?

1811, like many years, was a violent one. On the European continent Napoleon still held the reigns of power, but events were beginning to overtake him. Napoleon’s favorite general, Marshal Ney, made a foray into Portugal, but there fierce resistance by the Portuguese and the British, under the command of Wellington, forced his army into a retreat back into Spain with a loss of 30,000 men.

Battles are always brutal. In the 1800’s, they had their own peculiar brutality.  Thousands of troops gathered on the field as if for a military parade. Lining up, standing tall, toe to toe, soldiers would take steady aim and shoot at each other with single shot muskets until one side or the other broke and ran. From the hills, canons would fire their deadly shot into the ranks wit devastating effect. The muskets were inaccurate, so that necessarily the troops need to be close enough to see the whites of the opponent’s eyes and have any hope of hitting an opponent. Charges and counter-charges left dead and wounded strewn about the field. One action took place near Coimbra in the Tagus Valley where Ozzie vacation this summer. When the French were finally driven from the field, Wellington observed 300 bodies heaped around one howitzer at the top of a hill. He reported, “This was one of the most glorious actions British troops were ever engaged in.”

Personally, Napoleon was in high spirits. In Paris 101 guns saluted  the birth of a son by his wife Marie Louise. Napoleon appointed the son, King of Rome. Meanwhile, King George III of England was indisposed; an inquiry was made into the question of his possible insanity.

With Spain under the control of Napoleon, South America was in the spirit of revolt. Simon Bolivar, the Liberator of South America, lead the charge throughout the continent. On July 4th, 1811, the revolution was in full force when Venezuela declared its liberty in words similar to the word of Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence.

To the north in the United States, President Madison was frustrated with the British as the British navy ruled the waves, often in a high handed manner. In the Northwest Territories, American settlers were pouring into the Ohio Valley where the Ohio and Wabash rivers conjoined. The number of settlers grew from 2500 in 1800 to 25,000 in 1811. The Indians were naturally alarmed by the growing numbers of settlers who settled on their lands. Under Tecumseh, they gathered together with the aim of creating a confederation and assuming joint ownership of  all Indian lands. Tecumseh gathered his forces on the Tippecanoe Creek on the Wabash. Governor William Henry Harrison would defeat Tecumseh at Tippecanoe and at the same time create a catch phrase,” Tippecanoe and Tyler too”, that years later would make its way into Harrison’s later successful run for president.

The year of 1811 was a precursor of more momentous events. In 1812, Napoleon would make his fateful march into Russia with a force of a half million and return the same winter with less than 40,000 men. The winds of war always blow cold and bitter. Napoleon defeat was the beginning of his end. South America would continue to find its own way. The United States and England would fight a purposeless war in 1812. Thereafter, they would settle their differences and remain friends. The United States would continue its western expansion and the Indians would continue their retreat westward until there was no where else to go.

 

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