The Lost Battalion Dispatch #19 for the Week of November 6, 2022

A Curated Weekly Review of Interesting Historical Occurrences

 

The Lost Battalion Dispatch #19
for the Week of November 6, 2022

This Week in History

A Controversial Election, a Night of Broken Glass, and Armistice Day

Abraham Lincoln painted by George Peter Alexander Healy

On November 6, 1860, Abraham Lincoln won the United States Presidential election with less than 40% of the popular vote. The Republican candidate won the electoral votes of 16 Northern states plus those of California and Oregon to give him the victory. Had Democratic votes in Indiana, Illinois, and California not been split between the Northern Democrat candidate, Stephen Douglas, and the Southern Democrat candidate, John Breckenridge, Lincoln would likely have lost those states, denying him an electoral college majority.

The Democrat party was split over Douglas’ support for “popular sovereignty” which would have allowed individual states to choose whether slavery was legal within their borders. The 1860 Democrat convention in Charleston, SC adjourned without selecting a nominee after which the rival factions held separate conventions in Baltimore, MD, nominating Douglas and Breckenridge. The election was further confused by the Constitutional Union party’s nomination of John Bell, who outpolled Democrats in Kentucky, Virginia, and his home state, Tennessee, only because of the split ticket. If Douglas had won all votes cast for Democrats nationwide, he would have become the 16th president.

In reaction to Lincoln’s election, seven Southern states, all of which voted for Breckenridge, announced their secession from the Union. Determination to preserve the Union of States was the focus of Lincoln’s inaugural address wherein he restated that he did not purpose to interfere with the institution of slavery in the states where it existed and expressed his hope that “mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”

After his inauguration, Lincoln mobilized troops to seize federal property in the secessionist states, prompting four more states to secede in solidarity. This miscalculation of pro-union sentiment within the South was the proximate trigger for a civil war which might have been inevitable anyway.

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The Cruiser Aurora in St. Petersburg Harbor

The October Revolution began on November 7, 1917, when Bolshevik Red Guard forces seized control of government buildings in Saint Petersburg (then called Petrograd). The revolution and the term Red October, take their names from the fact that the Julian calendar was still observed in Russia at the time, making the date October 25 there.

The Bolsheviks were unhappy with the progress of reforms coming from the liberal Russian Provisional Government led by the Socialist Revolutionary Party that had come to power by the proclamation of Grand Duke Michael after the abdication of Tsar Nicolas II. Their armed insurrection plunged Russia into a civil war that would last until 1923.

The Petrograd Soviet (the word “soviet” means “council”), led by Leon Trotsky, had voted to foment a military uprising two weeks earlier and spent the intervening time methodically organizing the event and sealing off traffic to and from the city. They made little effort to conceal their activity. Certain details were even leaked to the press. The plan was already well underway when a flotilla of pro-Bolshevik ships arrived in the harbor and the cruiser Aurora fired a warning shot at the Winter Palace where representatives of the Provision Government had taken refuge. Many of the military cadets and Cossacks defending the building abandoned their posts and the Red Guards stormed in virtually unopposed to arrest the hapless officials.

The Battle of Elaia–Kalamas ended on November 8, 1940. Outnumber Greek forces held the defensive line for which the battle is named for six days against determined attacks by Italian forces invading from neighboring Albania. After another Italian thrust into the Pindus mountains failed a few days later, the Greeks pushed the Italians back into Albania and continued to slowly gain ground until German troops invaded in April of 1941.

A Greek soldier sits atop a captured
Italian tankette after the victory at Elaia-Kalamas

Siegen Synagogue burns during Kristallnacht

November 9, 1938 was Kristallnacht. Homes, businesses, schools, hospitals, and synagogues of Jewish citizens in German and Austria were systematically destroyed by paramilitary groups affiliated with the National Socialist German Worker’s party during the night. The ostensible cause of the violence was the death of a Nazi diplomat in Paris.

Herschel Grynszpan, a Polish Jewish teenager shot Ernst vom Rath on November 7th, to protest the expulsion of Polish Jews from Germany in late October. The deportation came without warning, leaving thousand, including Grynszpan’s parents, penniless and living in squalid camps on the Polish border while waiting for admission into Poland. The teenager was living with his uncle in Paris and had recently received a postcard from his family asking if he could send money.

The Nazi government retaliated for the shooting the next day by stripping all rights from Jewish citizens. When news of vom Rath’s death was announced on the 9th, Nazi Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels delivered a speech declaring, “demonstrations should not be prepared or organized by the party, but insofar as they erupt spontaneously, they are not to be hampered.” This was a proverbial “dog whistle” for Nazi party leaders to organize riots.

President Eisenhower at the Iwo Jima Memorial Dedication

President Dwight Eisenhower dedicated the United States’ Marine Corps War Memorial on November 10, 1954. The memorial depicts the iconic raising of the American flag atop Mount Suribachi during the Battle of Iwo Jima. It bears two inscriptions: “In honor and memory of the men of the United States Marine Corps who have given their lives to their country since 10 November 1775”; and “Uncommon Valor Was a Common Virtue.”

In 1961, President John Kennedy issued an executive order declaring that the flag of the United States of America must fly over the site 24 hours a day, making it one of the few locations where this is officially required.

On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918, an armistice was declared that ended the hostilities of the First World War. The armistice extended for 36 days and had to be renewed several times before a peace treaty was finally signed on June 28, 1919.

About nine million soldiers died in the war. Five million civilians were killed by military action, starvation, and disease brought on as a result of the conflict.

The first Armistice Day celebrations were organized on the grounds of Buckingham Palace in 1919. In subsequent years, most of the Allied nations declared the date a holiday. It remains “Armistice Day” in France but after World War II Commonwealth nations began to celebrate it as Remembrance Day and it became Veteran’s Day in the United States to honor veterans of both wars.

An American sailor, a Red Cross nurse, and two British soldiers celebrate the signing of the armistice in Paris on November 11, 1918

Lev Davidovich Bronstein, better known as Leon Trotsky, was expelled from the Soviet Communist Party on November 12, 1927. This left his former comrade and current rival, Josef Stalin, in complete control of the Soviet Union.

Trotsky had been the great organizer behind the Bolshevik revolution. In Trotsky and the Russian Revolution, historian Geoffry Swain states: “The Bolsheviks triumphed in the Civil War because of Trotsky’s ability to work with military specialists, because of the style of work he introduced where widescale consultation was followed through by swift and determined action.” His political skills were not up-to-par with his managerial acumen, leading Vladimir Lenin to state that Trotsky “did not have a clue” when it came to politics. After Lenin’s death, Trotsky was outmaneuvered politically by the troika of Stalin, Zinoviev, and Kamenev.

Trotsky was deported to Turkey and stripped of his Soviet citizenship after his expulsion from the Party. Although he was initially offered asylum in France, he was thrown out of the country after the French signed a mutual assistance agreement with Stalin in 1935. He obtained permission to enter Norway but was forbidden to write about current political matters while living there and was eventually placed under house arrest. While in Norway he wrote The Revolution Betrayed, arguing that the Soviet Union had become degenerate, was controlled by an undemocratic bureaucracy, and would eventually be overthrown by a proper workers’ revolution or would decay into a corrupt capitalist state. This prophecy was not fulfilled until long after his death.

In 1937 he fled to Mexico where he survived several attempted assassinations before being murdered by a Soviet Secret Police agent on August 20, 1940.

Leon Trotsky

Free Historical Fiction from Ian S. McCaskie

The third episode of God’s Horsemen is now available. Find out what comes next for Alex and Roland after their misadventure at the Battle of Manzikert. Check it out for free by clicking here: God’s Horsemen

About the Lost Battalion Dispatch

This weekly newsletter is brought to you by Cher Ami, the homing pigeon whose heroic flight helped bring relief from a barrage of friendly fire to the First Battalion, 308th Infantry of 77th New York Infantry Division and alerted high command that over 500 American troops were holding out against all odds while surrounded in the Argonne Forest during World War One.

At Lost Battalion Publishing we take inspiration from the historical Lost Battalion that never gave up, never lost hope, and persevered despite a series of devastating setbacks.

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