Costing arms and legs

“The rebel wounded (sixty-eight) were carried to a house near by, all surgical operations necessary were performed by our surgeons, and then these wounded men were left in care of an officer and four men of the rebel prisoners, with a scanty supply of food, which was the best we could do for them.  In person I visited this house while the surgeons were at work, with arms and legs lying around loose, in the yard and on the porch; and in a room on a bed lay a pale, handsome young fellow, whose left arm had just been cut off near the shoulder.  Some one used my name, when he asked, in a feeble voice, if I were General Sherman.  He then announced himself as Captain Macbeth, whose battery had just been captured; and said that he remembered me when I used to visit his father’s house, in Charleston.  I inquired about his family, and enabled him to write a note to his mother, which was sent her afterward from Goldsboro’.” – William Tecumseh Sherman, Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman

Taxation without representation the old-fashioned way

“A.D. 1137. This year went the King Stephen over sea to Normandy, and there was received; for that they concluded that he should be all such as the uncle was; and because he had got his treasure: but he dealed it out, and scattered it foolishly. Much had King Henry gathered, gold and silver, but no good did men for his soul thereof. When the King Stephen came to England, he held his council at Oxford; where he seized the Bishop Roger of Sarum, and Alexander, Bishop of Lincoln, and the chancellor Roger, his nephew; and threw all into prison till they gave up their castles. When the traitors understood that he was a mild man, and soft, and good, and no justice executed, then did they all wonder. They had done him homage, and sworn oaths, but they no truth maintained. They were all forsworn, and forgetful of their troth; for every rich man built his castles, which they held against him: and they filled the land full of castles. They cruelly oppressed the wretched men of the land with castle-works; and when the castles were made, they filled them with devils and evil men. Then took they those whom they supposed to have any goods, both by night and by day, labouring men and women, and threw them into prison for their gold and silver, and inflicted on them unutterable tortures; for never were any martyrs so tortured as they were. Some they hanged up by the feet, and smoked them with foul smoke; and some by the thumbs, or by the head, and hung coats of mail on their feet. They tied knotted strings about their heads, and twisted them till the pain went to the brains. They put them into dungeons, wherein were adders, and snakes, and toads; and so destroyed them. Some they placed in a crucet-house; that is, in a chest that was short and narrow, and not deep; wherein they put sharp stones, and so thrust the man therein, that they broke all the limbs. In many of the castles were things loathsome and grim, called ‘Sachenteges’, of which two or three men had enough to bear one. It was thus made: that is, fastened to a beam; and they placed a sharp iron [collar] about the man’s throat and neck, so that he could in no direction either sit, or lie, or sleep, but bear all that iron. Many thousands they wore out with hunger. I neither can, nor may I tell all the wounds and all the pains which they inflicted on wretched men in this land. This lasted the nineteen winters while Stephen was king; and it grew continually worse and worse. They constantly laid guilds on the towns, and called it “tenserie”; and when the wretched men had no more to give, then they plundered and burned all the towns; that well thou mightest go a whole day’s journey and never shouldest thou find a man sitting in a town, nor the land tilled. Then was corn dear, and flesh, and cheese, and butter; for none was there in the land. Wretched men starved of hunger. Some had recourse to alms, who were for a while rich men, and some fled out of the land. Never yet was there more wretchedness in the land; nor ever did heathen men worse than they did: for, after a time, they spared neither church nor churchyard, but took all the goods that were therein, and then burned the church and all together. Neither did they spare a bishop’s land, or an abbot’s, or a priest’s, but plundered both monks and clerks; and every man robbed another who could. If two men, or three, came riding to a town, all the township fled for them, concluding them to be robbers. The bishops and learned men cursed them continually, but the effect thereof was nothing to them; for they were all accursed, and forsworn, and abandoned. To till the ground was to plough the sea: the earth bare no corn, for the land was all laid waste by such deeds; and they said openly, that Christ slept, and his saints. Such things, and more than we can say, suffered we nineteen winters for our sins.” – Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (trans. Ingram & Giles)

The deconstructing mob

“The natural temptation in the nervous atmosphere of America is to listen to the voice of the mob and to proceed at once to lynch Euclid and every one who stands for that for which the ‘Elements’ has stood these two thousand years.  This is what some who wish to be considered as educators tend to do; in the language of the mob, to ‘smash things’; to call reactionary that which does not conform to their ephemeral views.  It is so easy to be an iconoclast, to think that cui bono is a conclusive argument, to say so glibly that Raphael was not a great painter,—to do anything but construct.  A few years ago every one must take up with the heuristic method developed in Germany half a century back and containing much that was commendable.  A little later one who did not believe that the Culture Epoch Theory was vital in education was looked upon with pity by a considerable number of serious educators.  A little later the man who did not think that the principle of Concentration in education was a regula aurea was thought to be hopeless.  A little later it may have been that Correlation was the saving factor, to be looked upon in geometry teaching as a guiding beacon, even as the fusion of all mathematics is the temporary view of a few enthusiasts to-day.” – David Eugene Smith, The Teaching of Geometry (1911)

Dream come true

“After supper I sat on a chair astride, with my back to a good fire, musing, and became conscious that an old negro, with a tallow-candle in his hand, was scanning my face closely.  I inquired, ‘What do you want, old man?’  He answered, ‘Dey say you is Massa Sherman.’  I answered that such was the case, and inquired what he wanted.  He only wanted to look at me, and kept muttering, ‘Dis nigger can’t sleep dis night.’  I asked him why he trembled so, and he said that he wanted to be sure that we were in fact ‘Yankees,’ for on a former occasion some rebel cavalry had put on light-blue overcoats, personating Yankee troops, and many of the negroes were deceived thereby, himself among the number—had shown them sympathy, and had in consequence been unmercifully beaten therefor.  This time he wanted to be certain before committing himself; so I told him to go out on the porch, from which he could see the whole horizon lit up with camp-fires, and he could then judge whether he had ever seen any thing like it before.  The old man became convinced that the ‘Yankees’ had come at last, about whom he had been dreaming all his life.” – William Tecumseh Sherman, Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman

Bummers and dudes

“The skill and success of our men in collecting forage was one of the features of this march.  Each brigade commander had authority to detail a company of foragers, usually about fifty men, with one or two commissioned officers selected for their boldness and enterprise.  This party would be dispatched before daylight with a knowledge of the intended day’s march and camp; would proceed on foot five or six miles from the route traveled by their brigade, and then visit every plantation and farm within range.  They would usually procure a wagon or family carriage, load it with bacon, corn-meal, turkeys, chickens, ducks, and every thing that could be used as food or forage, and would then regain the main road, usually in advance of their train.  When this came up, they would deliver to the brigade commissary the supplies thus gathered by the way.  Often I would pass these foraging-parties at the roadside, waiting for their wagons to come up, and was amused at their strange collections—mules, horses, even cattle, packed with old saddles and loaded with hams, bacon, bags of corn-meal, and poultry of every character and description.  Although this foraging was attended with great danger and hard work, there seemed to be a charm about it that attracted the soldiers, and it was a privilege to be detailed on such a party.  Daily they returned mounted on all sorts of beasts, which were at once taken from them and appropriated to the general use; but the next day they would start out again on foot, only to repeat the experience of the day before.  No doubt, many acts of pillage, robbery, and violence, were committed by these parties of foragers, usually called ‘bummers;’ for I have since heard of jewelry taken from women, and the plunder of articles that never reached the commissary; but these acts were exceptional and incidental.  I never heard of any cases of murder or rape; and no army could have carried along sufficient food and forage for a march of three hundred miles; so that foraging in some shape was necessary.  The country was sparsely settled, with no magistrates or civil authorities who could respond to requisitions, as is done in all the wars of Europe; so that this system of foraging was simply indispensable to our success.  By it our men were well supplied with all the essentials of life and health, while the wagons retained enough in case of unexpected delay, and our animals were well fed.  Indeed, when we reached Savannah, the trains were pronounced by experts to be the finest in flesh and appearance ever seen with any army.” – William Tecumseh Sherman, Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman

A difference of opinion

“HEADQUARTERS ARMY OF TENNESSEE, IN THE FIELD, October 12, 1864 – To the Officer commanding the United States forces at Resaca, Georgia.  SIR: I demand the immediate and unconditional surrender of the post and garrison under your command, and, should this be acceded to, all white officers and soldiers will be parolled in a few days.  If the place is carried by assault, no prisoners will be taken.  Most respectfully, your obedient servant, J. B. HOOD, General.

“HEADQUARTERS SECOND BRIGADE, THIRD DIVISION, FIFTEENTH CORPS, RESACA, GEORGIA, October 12, 1864.  To General J. B. HOOD: Your communication of this date just received.  In reply, I have to state that I am somewhat surprised at the concluding paragraph, to the effect that, if the place is carried by assault, no prisoners will be taken.  In my opinion I can hold this post.  If you want it, come and take it.  I am, general, very respectfully, your most obedient servant, CLARK R. WEAVER, Commanding Officer.”

– from Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman

The shortest distance between two points of conflict

“AROUND ALLATOONA, October 5, 1864. – Commanding Officer, United States Forces, Allatoona: I have placed the forces under my command in such positions that you are surrounded, and to avoid a needless effusion of blood I call on you to surrender your forces at once, and unconditionally.  Five minutes will be allowed you to decide.  Should you accede to this, you will be treated in the most honorable manner as prisoners of war.  I have the honor to be, very respectfully yours, S. G. FRENCH, Major-General commanding forces Confederate States.

“HEADQUARTERS FOURTH DIVISION, FIFTEENTH CORPS, ALLATOONA, GEORGIA, 8:30 A.M., October 5, 1864. – Major-General S. G. French, Confederate States, etc.: Your communication demanding surrender of my command I acknowledge receipt of, and respectfully reply that we are prepared for ‘the needless effusion of blood’ whenever it is agreeable to you.  I am, very respectfully, your obedient servant, JOHN M. CORSE, Brigadier-General commanding forces United States.”

– from Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman

Noble-heads-on-pikes time

“The king and the head men loved much, and overmuch, covetousness in gold and in silver; and recked not how sinfully it was got, provided it came to them. The king let his land at as high a rate as he possibly could; then came some other person, and bade more than the former one gave, and the king let it to the men that bade him more. Then came the third, and bade yet more; and the king let it to hand to the men that bade him most of all: and he recked not how very sinfully the stewards got it of wretched men, nor how many unlawful deeds they did; but the more men spake about right law, the more unlawfully they acted. They erected unjust tolls, and many other unjust things they did.” — From the entry for A.D. 1087, Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (trans. Ingram & Giles)

Never to be voted most popular

“I peremptorily required that all the citizens and families resident in Atlanta should go away, giving to each the option to go south or north, as their interests or feelings dictated.  I was resolved to make Atlanta a pure military garrison or depot, with no civil population to influence military measures.  I had seen Memphis, Vicksburg, Natchez, and New Orleans, all captured from the enemy, and each at once was garrisoned by a full division of troops, if not more; so that success was actually crippling our armies in the field by detachments to guard and protect the interests of a hostile population.

“I gave notice of this purpose, as early as the 4th of September, to General Halleck, in a letter concluding with these words: ‘If the people raise a howl against my barbarity and cruelty, I will answer that war is war, and not popularity-seeking.  If they want peace, they and their relatives must stop the war.’

“I knew, of course, that such a measure would be strongly criticized, but made up my mind to do it with the absolute certainty of its justness, and that time would sanction its wisdom.  I knew that the people of the South would read in this measure two important conclusions: one, that we were in earnest; and the other, if they were sincere in their common and popular clamor ‘to die in the last ditch,’ that the opportunity would soon come.” – William Tecumseh Sherman, Memoirs of General W. T. Sherman

Don’t look now, it ain’t you or me

“In a certain technoutopian view of the future, we are headed toward a post-property world. The shift from ownership to access is supposed to liberate us, enable greater sharing of resources, fuel human creativity, create more prosperity, and lead to greater equality. What we so often forget to ask, however, is who controls access? Who builds the highways?” – Whitney Erin Boesel, “Spotevangelism”

Descartes’s Dreams: First Dream

In the late 1990s I produced a series of experimental sound recordings in Studio C at KUNM radio in Albuquerque.  I called this series Descartes’s Dreams, from the title of the vocal portion of its longest track.

These recordings were stashed away in a plastic bag for over a dozen years before I decided to convert them to mp3 format and post them here.  They’ll appear one per day on the sidebar to the left, and also here in the new posts.

Here’s the first, “Puttin’ on the Ritz.”

dd01Puttin’ on the Ritz

Are we there yet?

“When the time comes that knowledge will not be sought for its own sake, and men will not press forward simply in a desire of achievement, without hope of gain, to extend the limits of human knowledge and information, then, indeed, will the race enter upon its decadence.” — Charles Evans Hughes (quoted by David Eugene Smith in The Teaching of Geometry)

Elementary, my dear Sir Arthur

“In the present utilitarian age one frequently hears the question asked, ‘What is the use of it all?’ as if every noble deed was not its own justification.  As if every action which makes for self-denial, for hardihood, and for endurance was not in itself a most precious lesson to mankind.  That people can be found to ask such a question shows how far materialism has gone, and how needful it is that we insist upon the value of all that is nobler and higher in life.” — Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (quoted by David Eugene Smith in The Teaching of Geometry)

Multiple rebendable

“One of the essential properties of intelligence is flexibility.  What does it mean to be an expert at something?  What makes someone an expert is her ability to respond to a completely novel situation—to solve original problems, for example.  Expertise does not only involve having command of a huge amount of factual knowledge—it does not mean being a human data bank.  It involves the capacity for flexible response.  It is a form of creativity.  This description applies equally to the notion of ‘understanding.’  Understanding is a kind of expertise.  A true measure of intelligence is this capacity for flexible and original response.” – William Byers, How Mathematicians Think

Look at that windmill, Sancho

“I see people who do not read: they are so limited in their lives, even in the good things. They do not see beyond their immediate surroundings; they are incapable of changing anything because they neither know what there is to change, nor how to go about it. They don’t understand other people, not even their own loved ones, because they do not have the habit of reflecting on the yearnings, motives, and passions of human beings. And whatever thing they experience makes much less sense than it does for someone who reads. Besides, what would a man see in the fields of La Mancha who does not know who Don Quixote is? Dusty roads, nothing more.” – Agustin Cadena, “Why I Read” (trans. Mayo)

Illuminating the flashlight

“Gödel’s incompleteness theorem is one of the great intellectual accomplishments of the twentieth century.  Its implications are so far reaching that it is difficult to overestimate them.  Gödel’s result puts intrinsic limitations on the reach of deductive systems; that is, it shows that given any (sufficiently complex) deductive system, there are results that are beyond the reach of the system—results that are true but cannot be proved or disproved on the basis of the initial set of axioms.  The new result might be proved by adding new axioms to the system (for example, the result itself) but the new strengthened system will itself have unprovable results.” – William Byers, How Mathematicians Think