Past Postings

Previous William Thomas Sherman Info Page postings, quotes, observations, etc.


That fellow may be a poor fellow, but that dog has a whole lot more sense than not a few I know.


Pictures can penetrate deeply and soar high; but words much deeper and much higher; while music, sometimes at least, goes deeper and higher even than that.


Emmylou Harris, and whom I first learned of seeing Martin Scorsese's "The Last Waltz" (1978), I have to think is one of the strangest, or at any rate oddest, artists/singers I ever knew about. Naturally, she's as dainty as a daisy, yet in her devotion to her country music roots, she's as staid and solemn as a Puritan. And while most people tend to fall apart as they get older -- she gets more beautiful with age.

This said, and as I have mention before, country music, like jazz, normally is a hard sell to me; so that although Ms. Harris is a wonderful performer, and no less with a voice angelic, the songs she usually sings just aren't my ordinary cup of tea. Nonetheless, I found two with her on YouTube, including one with Dire Straits' Mark Knopfler, that I think you, like me, will like.


A Sea Fight to Remember

The son of a Philadelphia banker, Captain Nicholas Biddle has been described as one the finest sea captains the fledgling U.S. Navy produced: perhaps matched only by John Paul Jones for both wits and extreme daring. Prior to the Revolutionary War, he actually served in the Royal Navy as a midshipman alongside Horatio Nelson. When troubles began brewing to a heated pitch with the Mother country, however, Biddle resigned his commission, and later went on to officer ships of first the Pennsylvania, and then Continental Navy.
On the moonlit night of March 7, 1778, his 36 gun frigate the U.S.S. Randolph (armed mostly with 18 pounders; plus a flotilla of four smaller S.C. Navy ships not engaged) encountered the H.M.S. Yarmouth of 64 guns (mostly 32 and some 42 pounders) east off Barbadoes. Writes James Fenimore Cooper in his History of the Navy of the United States of America (1839) that despite the marked superiority of his British foe: "we find it difficult, under the circumstances, to suppose that this gallant seaman [Biddle] did not actually contemplate carrying his powerful antagonist, most probably by boarding" (pp. 66-67, 1856 ed.)

Captain William Hall of the South Carolina sloop Notre Dame, 16 guns, who was a witness reported that the Randolph beat up on the Yarmouth "so roughly for 12 or 15 minutes [out of some 20 minutes in all after contact] that the British ship must shortly have struck, having lost her bowsprit and topmasts and being otherwise greatly shattered, while the Randolph had suffered very little; but in this moment of glory, as the Randolph was wearing to get on her quarter, she unfortunately blew up."
~ Independent Chronicle, August 13, 1778.

Yet the most full account of what occurred comes from the letter of Captain Nicholas Vincent, of the Yarmouth, to his superior Admiral Young, written on March 17th:
"On the 7th instant at half past five P.M. discovered six sail in the S.W. quarter, on a wind standing to the northward; two of them ships, three brigs and a schooner. We were then 50 leagues due east of this island. We immediately bore down upon them and about nine got close to the weather quarter of the largest and headmost ship. They had no colours hoisted and as ours were then up, I hailed her to hoist hers or I would fire into her; on which she hoisted American and immediately gave us her broadside, which we returned, and in about a quarter of an hour she blew up.
"It was fortunate for us that we were to windward of her; as it was, our ship was in a manner covered with parts of her. A great piece of a top timber, six feet long, fell on our poop; another large piece of timber stuck in our fore top-gallant sail, then upon the cap. An American ensign, rolled up, blown in upon the forecastle, not so much as singed.
"Immediately on her blowing up, the other four dispersed different ways. We chased a little while two that stood to the southward and afterwards another that bore away right before the wind, but they were soon out of sight, our sails being torn all to pieces in a most surprising manner. We had five men killed and twelve wounded.
"But what I am now going to mention is something very remarkable. The 12th following, being then in chase of a ship steering west, we discovered a piece of wreck with four men on it waving; we hauled up to it, got a boat out, and brought them on board. They proved to be four men who had been in the ship which blew up and who had nothing to subsist on from that time but by sucking the rain water that fell on a piece of blanket which they luckily had picked up."
~ London Chronicle, May 26,1778; Almon's Remembrancer, vi, 143; Brit. Adm. Rec., Captains' Logs, No. 1091 (log of the Yarmouth); Port Folio, October, 1809.

What must have been the thoughts, one wonders, of the four survivors (out of a 315 man crew) after going through such an event; and which was the greatest loss of life in a single U.S. Navy ship up until Pearl Harbor.

With respect to the general subject of instances where defeat was snatched from the jaws of victory -- arguably due to a bizarre and unlikely "act of god" -- there is, in again the annals of the Navy, the case of the U.S.S. frigate Essex versus the H.M.S. frigate Phoebe and the brig H.M.S. Cherub that took place Mar. 28, 1814; in the Pacific Ocean just off Valparaiso, Chile. There Capt. David Porter, commanding the Essex, lost the main topmast owing to a sudden squall just when he was clear to make his escape from the two British vessels which had been sent in those far off waters to go after him, and which unforeseeable accident effectively caused the Essex to lie a "sitting duck" dead in the water. For a quick Wikipedia summary, see here; or for something more at length, see Cooper.

The story of that most dramatic engagement (and unusual circumstances leading up to) is the basis of the Patrick O'Brien's The Far Side of the World (later made into the film "Master and Commander" [2003]), and which, telling the story from the British viewpoint, has the Essex as a French ship. Porter's own frequently gripping narrative of his otherwise successful voyage that culminated in that defeat (and which account also includes the Phoebe/Cherub action itself) is recounted in his Journal of a Cruise made to the Pacific Ocean by Captain David Porter, in the United States Frigate Essex, in the Years 1812, 1813, and 1814. It was originally slotted as one of my since discontinued "Recommendations of the Week;" for which reason, I thought I would at least use this occasion to make passing note of that "worth reading" book here; that, although history, reads in many parts not unlike one of Nordoff and Hall's nautical adventure novels.


Folly and Madness That's Beyond Belief continued...

First let me say my criticism here has nothing to do with Sarah Brightman, and who (of herself) looks and sounds beautiful as usual here; in this Panasonic sponsored song, "Shall Be Done," that was showcased at the recent Vancouver Winter Olympics. No, what is ridiculous is the suggestion, very Spielberg/Harry Potter-esque in tone and outlook, that new ideas and hopes of a new tomorrow will come from the witch of the wood. What does the witch of the wood have to do with world peace, new ideas, or innovation (ala Panasonic?) Nothing, of course, except that many of those in with the very big money these days are witchcraft people; and who would have you believe spirit people offer encouragement and progress; not humanities education, rationality, literacy, or honest science; the investment into which, by the monolithic media giants, is negligible compared to the vast fortunes poured into the promotion and celebration of fantasy, magic, sorcery, and the occult. (In the Middle Ages, you may recollect, they called it the Children's Crusade -- and what a riot the magician ended up having back then too you can just imagine.)

"I have seen
New times have come, to feel in touch
With what is real
The mission's calling each one of us
One blue sky
For us to share
For us to fly

"Ideas for a world to come
Shall be Done, done, done, done
ideas for a world to come
Shall be Done, done, done, done
Done, done, done

"You're a Star
You are the future that travels far
Touch and Bring
Millions of hearts to share and sing
Hopes are high
A new Beginning
For you and I

"And on and on we will go on
Until we master our desire
To make this world
A better place."