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Deep Dive in History: The Life and Times of John Brown

Tuesday, Dec 6 2022 by

The Civil War was the darkest time in US history, but the war that nearly tore the country apart was preceded by years of turmoil and tension that increased until war broke out in 1861.

One of the events that further divided the country was the actions led by revolutionary abolitionist John Brown at Harper’s Ferry, and his execution on December 2, 1859.

Let’s take a look at the life and times of John Brown, and see his influence on the Civil War and freeing of enslaved people in the United States.

John Brown was raised in a religious family that believed slavery was abhorrent and should be actively opposed. As an adult, he supported a violent overthrow of slavery, as he felt peaceful opposition was ineffective. History lessons barely talk about Brown, but he was famous in his time. He even worked with famed abolitionists such as Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman!

Farm at Lake Placid, New York

In 1850, Brown and his family moved to the Lake Placid area of New York, to start a farm where he could teach freed people how to farm. They also built an area to hide people traveling on the Underground Railroad.

Brown intended for the farm to be a safe haven for his wife and children while he left them to fight against slavery in Kansas and other places.

It was here on the farm that his body was buried after he was put to death on December 2, 1859. The farm is now a National Historic Landmark, and is open to visitors year-round, even during the long, harsh winter months.

John Brown Farm State Historic Site (Birds Eye)
John Brown Farm State Historic Site

Battle of Black Jack, Kansas

In the 1850s, the US Congress passed a law that said the new states could decide whether they would be “slave” or “free” states, and Kansas became a hotbed of struggle between the two sides.

Brown moved to Kansas to fight slavery in 1855, and became famous for his role in a three-month period of raids and massacres as pro-slavery and abolitionist forces fought.

The Battle of Black Jack was fought on June 2, 1856, and the “Free State” fighters won. The battle helped give the territory the nickname “Bleeding Kansas” and Brown a reputation as a radical leader in the abolitionist movement.

The area has several signs commemorating the battle, as documented by one of its survivors.

Black Jack Battlefield (Google Maps)
Black Jack Battlefield

Historic Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

Rather than find satisfaction with his actions in Kansas, Brown was fueled to commit even more significant, and violent, actions against slavery. He raised funds from noted abolitionists including Harriet Tubman in his efforts. The plan was to raid the armory at Harper’s Ferry with a large group, and move south, starting an uprising along the way.

Harper’s Ferry, a small town in then-Virginia was selected because it provided convenient access to the south, and would draw attention from people all over the United States. But mostly, the armory had thousands of weapons he would need for his revolution.

These days, Harper’s Ferry is most notable for Brown’s raid, and is a nice summer getaway from nearby Washington, D.C.

Historic Harpers Ferry (Birds Eye)
Historic Harpers Ferry

John Brown’s Fort, Harpers Ferry, West Virginia

On October 16, 1859, Brown and his army of 21 men (a far cry from the thousands he had hoped to recruit) raided the town’s armory, and temporarily halted a train. Eventually the train was allowed to pass, and the train’s conductor alerted others of the raid. Police quickly showed up and began a standoff with the revolutionaries.

After initial fighting at the armory, Brown and his men holed up at the fire engine house, which was later renamed “John Brown’s Fort”. They fought from that position until October 18, when a group of US Marines, overseen by Robert E. Lee, charged the building and quickly ended the uprising. Brown was wounded, and two of his three sons there that day were killed.

John Brown's Fort at Harper's Ferry (Google Maps)
John Brown's Fort at Harper's Ferry

Jefferson County Courthouse, Charles Town, West Virginia

Brown was captured and put in prison in the nearby county seat of Charles Town, West Virginia. He was put on trial on October 27, and the prosecution lasted a week. A jury deliberated for 45 minutes on the charges of murder. He was found guilty, and sentenced to death.

After the requisite one month waiting period, Brown was executed in a field near the courthouse on December 2, 1859. Many famous people spoke out in his defense, including Victor Hugo.

Jefferson County Courthouse (StreetView)
Jefferson County Courthouse

John Brown’s Bell, Marlborough, Massachusetts

The Marines that broke up the raid took memorabilia, including weapons, books, and the arsenal bell, which was put on display in Massachusetts, and remains to this day.

John Brown's Bell (StreetView)
John Brown's Bell

While Brown awaited his death sentence, he spent days talking with reporters and others about the diabolical institution of slavery. He felt that his time in jail made his sacrifices all the more valuable, because he was able to draw attention and sympathy to the cause for an entire month.

His trial gathered more attention than even he could imagine, and his execution by hanging did indeed go a long way to ending slavery in the United States.

We remember Brown for his courage, and hopeless efforts to free the slaves, and recognize him for bravery and dedication, even if his methods were controversial. And, he did indeed move events forward to their inevitable conclusion in the Civil War.

Here are the last words he spoke before he was beheaded:

I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood. I had, as I now think, vainly flattered myself that without very much bloodshed it might be done.

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Deep Dive into History: The Gettysburg Address

Saturday, Nov 19 2022 by

There are some ideas that have been spoken and written by American leaders that have become woven into the very core of the American identity. The words spoken by President Abraham Lincoln on November 19, 1863, are some of the most powerful.

Let’s dive in and learn more about the Gettysburg Address, and what led Lincoln to declare that America is a nation “conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania

Gettysburg is a small town in Pennsylvania, on the border with Maryland. On July 1, 1863, it blasted into history as the site of the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, and a turning point in the fight.

In the days leading up to the battle, Confederate soldiers occupied the town of about 2,500. The battle crossed right through the city, with little regard for the civilians who lived there. Remarkably, only one civilian death was recorded: a woman killed by a stray bullet.

News of the battle quickly traveled across the country. To this day, the small borough is one of the most famous places in the United States.

Gettysburg (Google Maps)
Gettysburg

Cyclorama at the Visitor’s Center

The battle at Gettysburg lasted three miserable days and involved nearly 200,000 men. A French artist Paul Philippoteaux created a cyclorama, a circular work of art, depicting Pickett’s Charge, the last push of the battle before the Confederates retreated. It is a stunning and educational work that can be viewed in the recently-upgraded visitor’s center.

The visitor’s center is a great place to stop and learn about the battle, get a feel for the size and scope of the events, and get a map before beginning a driving tour of the actual battle, which covers about 10 square miles.

'Cyclorama Center' by Richard Neutra (Birds Eye)
'Cyclorama Center' by Richard Neutra

The battle started early in the morning on July 1, 1863 when Confederate soldiers moving through the area encountered advancing Union soldiers, and the fighting began. After an entire day, nothing much was determined and the soldiers hunkered down for the night.

Devil’s Den

Some of the worst, and bloodiest, fighting of the entire Civil War took place on July 2. Solders from both sides attacked and defended territory all around Gettysburg. If the Confederates could gain a foothold at Gettysburg, they could invade further into the North.

Efforts to flank (go around) the Union Army led to struggles at places such as Devil’s Den, where fighting broke out across rocky, uneven ground. Of the 5,525 Confederate troops in that struggle, 1,814 soldiers were killed, wounded, or missing. Of the Union’s 2,423 soldiers, 821 were killed, wounded, or missing.

There were dozens of other sites on the battlefield that left as many wounded and dead: Peach Orchard, Wheatfields, and Culp’s Hill are a few sites famous for their bloody battles.

The Devil's Den (Birds Eye)
The Devil's Den

Little Round Top

The Union side was losing the struggle at Devil’s Den. From the vantage point on a small hill later known as Little Round Top, it was clear that Confederate troops were about to cut through the Union line and more soldiers were needed. A small group of soldiers from Maine, about 385, were told to “Hold the line at all costs” until others arrived. This meant they were expected to fight to the very last man.

After significant fighting, Union Colonel Chamberlain knew his men could not hold out much longer, so he ordered a brave and daring attack with bayonets. Amazingly, and with some help from other groups, the charge succeeded and the Union army was not encircled.

Now, Little Round Top is known as the site of one of the fiercest and bravest struggles in the entire war.

Little Round Top (Birds Eye)
Little Round Top

Pickett’s Charge

And yet, after two days of brutal fighting, no clear victor had emerged. Early on the morning of July 3, General Lee ordered one last charge against the Union line. First with cannon, then with soldiers, he ordered his generals, including Major General Pickett, to attack by running nearly a mile through an open field.

The soldiers suffered terrible casualties, with nearly half of the 12,000 soldiers killed or wounded. This charge, brave and bloody and useless, was the peak of the Confederacy, though it would take another two years for the war to end.

Pickett's Charge - Battle of Gettysburg (Google Maps)
Pickett's Charge - Battle of Gettysburg

Gettysburg National Cemetery

After the battle, the town was left to clean up the mess of war. They were responsible for removing the abandoned equipment and burying the dead soldiers and animals.

The town residents, along with Pennsylvania state leaders, quickly decided to create a state-funded cemetery for the dead Union soldiers, aptly named “Soldiers Cemetery”. In it were buried 3,512 Union soldiers, including 979 unknown.

Later the cemetery, on the battlefield itself, became part of the national historical site, and was renamed “Gettysburg National Cemetery”. Soldiers from other wars have been buried here in more recent times.

Gettysburg (Google Maps)
Gettysburg

Speech Site

On November 19, 1863, Abraham Lincoln traveled to Gettysburg for the cemetery’s consecration.  It’s unclear exactly where the president stood, but historians have settled on this place as the most likely for the gathering.

Lincoln was not the main speaker that day, and his two-minute speech was far short of the hours-long orations given by others. But when the words were printed in newspapers around the country, their true value was recognized.

Speaking about the battle, the war,  and the struggle for freedom, Lincoln said “We here resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Probable actual spot where Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address (Google Maps)
Probable actual spot where Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address

May we too pledge that we will “never forget” the work advanced by these men, and the countless men and women who have fought for freedom elsewhere. And by our actions, ensure that freedom shall not perish from the earth.

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Happy Birthday, Jimmy!

Sunday, Nov 13 2022 by

Jimmy Kimmel, the long-standing late night television talk show host, is turning 55 today, so let’s take a look at the life and friends of this amazing comedian.

Main House in Los Angeles, CA

Jimmy, his wife Molly, and his two younger kids live in a gorgeous mansion in a celeb-filled neighborhood. The 5,500 square foot house has four bedrooms and 4.5 bathrooms, a gorgeous open interior, and a pool. It also has a guest house that Jimmy uses for all sorts of work purposes. Jimmy bought the house back in 2008 for around $6 million, which was NBD to the entertainer worth $45 million or more.

This neighborhood is full of celebrities. Kendall Jenner, Dakota Johnson, Johnny Galeki, and others live nearby. Kimmel and his former neighbor, John Kransinski, used to play all sorts of pranks on each other; one year Kimmel had the entire Kransiski house wrapped in gift wrap!

Jimmy Kimmel's House (Google Maps)
Jimmy Kimmel's House

Home in Hermosa Beach, CA

Jimmy owns two homes (or more, it’s hard to tell) in trendy Hermosa Beach. This beauty is only a block from the beach. Kimmel bought this house in 2004, shortly after he took on his late-night TV hosting gig. He paid around $2 million for the 2,200 square foot home. Homes in this neighborhood are all home, no yard, because of their high property value, and their proximity to the one really important feature: The beach.

Jimmy owns another home in the area, but it seems his sister-in-law lives there.

Jimmy Kimmel's House (Birds Eye)
Jimmy Kimmel's House

Sarah Silverman’s House, Los Angeles, CA

Before marrying Molly, Jimmy dated actress and comedian Sarah Silverman for several years. She appeared often on Jimmy’s show, and played a role in the long-running gag he has with Matt Damon.

Sarah now lives in a gorgeous, modern mansion in LA. She paid $3.5 million for the Los Feliz home, with four bedrooms, each with its own bathroom, that was built in 2020. She probably had the home custom designed, as it was never on the market and never officially for sale. Even though the lot is relatively small, there’s plenty of room for a pool!

Sarah Silverman's House (Google Maps)
Sarah Silverman's House

Martha Stewart’s Home, Bedford, NY

Jimmy appeared on the PBS television show Finding Your Roots and was told on-air that he is related to hosting maven Martha Stewart. Surprised, he joked that he would be coming to her house for the holidays.

Martha lives on a gorgeous working farm in Bedford, New York. While it’s only about an hour outside of Manhattan, it feels like an entirely different world. Her 150-acre farm is the perfect residence for the homemaker supreme, with gardens, greenhouses, barns, horses, chickens, and other animals, and more. The main residence dates back to 1925, and there are multiple other structures, including tenant homes and guest houses.

She paid about $15 million for the property in 2000, and has continually worked on it to make it perfect for her needs and desires. Maybe one day she’ll host Jimmy for Christmas dinner!

Martha Stewart's House (Google Maps)
Martha Stewart's House

El Capitan Entertainment Center, Los Angeles, CA

Jimmy Kimmel got his his start in show business on radio. Then he got a gig with Comedy Central. Eventually, he got his own late-night show on ABC, and has been there for twenty years!

The show has been filmed in Los Angeles, at the historic El Capitan Entertainment Center (formerly the Hollywood Masonic Temple). The venue is used for movie premiers and entertainment events in addition to being the home of Jimmy Kimmel Live! for the past 20 years.

Hollywood Masonic Temple (Google Maps)
Hollywood Masonic Temple

SoFi Stadium

Oddly enough, Jimmy Kimmel actually has a college football bowl game named after him. The Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl, as it will be called for the next few years according to the contract, will be played at the SoFi Stadium, the home of the NFL Rams and Chargers.

The stadium opened in September 2020, and is one of just a few stadiums that is shared by multiple sports teams.

Kimmel hosted the first LA Bowl in 2021, which is part of college football’s efforts to expand the post-season bowl series to involve more teams. He literally hosts the game, much like a celebrity hosts a parade or event, making it an entertaining and funny sports event.

SoFi Stadium under construction (StreetView)
SoFi Stadium under construction

Jimmy has it all, and turning 55 has to be exciting for the continually successful entertainer. From a wonderful, loving family, to a successful long-running television show, to a college football bowl game, and even new cousin Martha Stewart, this guy seems to have it all.

Happy Birthday, Jimmy! Maybe if your birthday wish is for Matt Damon to come on the show, it’ll finally happen this year!

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Thursday, December 08, 2022

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Aeródromo de Óbidos
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Wednesday, December 07, 2022

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Tuesday, December 06, 2022

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Monday, December 05, 2022

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Sunday, December 04, 2022

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