June 28, 1914… Yes.. 1914: The Great War’s spark

Though the focus of this blog is on the Civil War, I would be remiss at not mentioning the 100th anniversary of the Assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand and his wife Sophie.  That, as you know well from high-school history classes, lead directly to World War I and a lot of things further down the road, historically speaking.

If you were around in 1914, living in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, you might have received news of this event on the following day’s edition of The Patriot:

HarrisburgPatriotJune29_1914Consider all the headlines of the day.   Note the second column announced the death of Brigadier-General J.P. Taylor, a Civil War cavalry brigade commander.  The Civil War was not that far distant.

Other headlines mention some local news. A murder had the right side column.  A steamer ran aground.  Church leaders called for enforcement of “Blue Laws.” And … someone found a tablet with record of Noah and the Ark.  Somewhat the same news one might find in a newspaper 50 years later… 100 years later (well on a news website, who reads newspapers anymore?)… or for that matter, maybe fifty years earlier during the Civil War.

Another column header offers news of a US gunboat in action the Dominican Republic.  The news of that affair came from the captain of the USS South Carolina, one of the US Navy’s new battleships … err Dreadnaughts….  Speaking of South Carolina, if you were in Columbia, this was your first page, on The State:


Yes, there’s the gunboat story, down on the third column.  Other news competing that day included some domestic political issues – some sparring over bills in Congress and news of mid-term elections.  Some trouble brewing down in Mexico. But again, right up front the top news of the day was the assassination.  And “See Conspiracy in Assassination” – we think OUR cable news outlets are bad.  The Archduke isn’t even cold yet, and the newspapers in far away South Carolina carry stories about conspiracies.  Other newspapers of the day mentioned warnings and predictions passed along in the previous weeks.

Point here to consider – history happens in the context of the everyday.  Nobody could look at those papers and conclude within four years the United States would be involved with a great, bloody war.  And if they were so bold to make a prediction, where?  Mexico?  Dominican Republic?  or Europe?

I’d like to think that here in the US the 100th anniversaries associated with the First World War will receive some of the same attention given to the Civil War.  My sense is that “our” ties to that war won’t be felt for several years and even then still distant.  From corresponding and talking to friends living in Europe, the appreciation for the events is much stronger.  And that does make sense.  They are observing events that happened in some cases only a few generations removed in memory.

Unless something changes my plans in the next four years, I won’t be anywhere near a World War I battlefield.  I’d like to dive into the swirl of social media which is focusing on the events.  But, for now I’m focused on the 1860s and not the 1910s.  From the US perspective, I do hope there some surge in attention paid to the war, even if that does not translate to waves of us tourists visiting the battlefields.  The “Great War” is a vast unknown to many Americans.  And one which should rate in importance to the Civil War, in my opinion.

Likewise, I would hope the Europeans might take a look at what we’ve done through the sesquicentennial of the Civil War.  If nothing else for ideas about ways to observe and recall similar events (not saying we’ve done a perfect job at that, just saying there are lessons good and bad).  Wars are horrific and tend to overshadow, in comparison, all other human activity.  We’d best learn how to learn about them.  We could do with less 100ths in the centuries to come.


One thought on “June 28, 1914… Yes.. 1914: The Great War’s spark

  1. Craig, I read your blog daily. I have been a civil war buff since the late 50’s and am a LBG at Gettysburg, but I really appreciate today’s post. My grandfather and the uncle I was named for were veterans of the Great War. I mentioned the significance of the 28th of June to a friend of mine and he didn’t have a clue as to what I was talking about. Kind of like the War of 1812

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