This year marks the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and the hundred and fiftieth anniversary of his ground-breaking book, “On the Origin of Species.” Kathryn Lasky’s new illustrated biography, “One Beetle Too Many,” makes an appealing introduction for nine- to twelve-year-olds to the man and his “idea that scared the world.”
The Tudor Family
Elizabeth's father was King Henry VIII of England--a big, red-haired man who liked to joust and feast. He also liked the ladies. For many years, he was mostly content with his marriage to Catherine of Aragon, a Spanish princess. They had a daughter, Mary, but no other children lived to maturity. Henry very much wanted a strong son to carry on his name and keep the kingdom safe.
If you saw a man walking by your house barefoot, wearing old clothes and with a tin pot on his head, you'd likely wonder where on earth he came from. But if you lived in Indiana or Ohio in the early part of the 1800s, you just might recognize your wandering neighbor, Johnny Appleseed.
In 1821, Mexico finally won its independence from Spain after a long war. It was a lot like the American Revolution against Britain; heroic generals led an army of poor, brave farmers against the Spanish army and by sheer guts wore the Spanish down. The constitution written in 1824 even called the new nation the United States of Mexico. It was larger than the United States, covering all of modern Mexico plus the western third of the modern United States.
Francis Brooke, later of St. Julien in Spotsylvania County, was only sixteen when he became an officer in General Harrison's artillery regiment. This short memoir of his military service and his days afterward as an eminent jurist is peppered with the names of famous Virginians, many of whom were his friends and family members.
What a date, My Dear Heart, and what a country from which to write in the month of January! It is in a camp in the middle of woods; it is fifteen hundred leagues from you that I find myself buried in midwinter. Not too long ago, we were separated from the enemy by a small river; now we are seven leagues away from them and it is here that the American army will spend the winter in small barracks hardly more cheerful than a jail. I do not know if the general … will decide to visit our new abode; should he, we would show him around. The bearer of this letter will describe to you the pleasant place which I seem to prefer to being with you, with all my friends and amidst all possible pleasures.
2007 marks the 250th anniversary of General Lafayette's birth. Born into wealth and privilege, Lafayette nevertheless was an enthusiastic supporter of both the American and French revolutions. As one of the drafters of France's Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen (La Déclaration des droits de l'Homme et du citoyen), he asked his good friend, Thomas Jefferson, to look over the wording, as the U.S. ambassador to France had experience writing documents for posterity. Having served faithfully in our American revolution, Lafayette was and is highly regarded as a friend to America. Just this year, Congress passed a measure that granted Lafayette honorary American citizenship.
Whatever may be any ones opinion in regard to the justice of the cause he advocated, the man who headed for four years the greatest revolt of modern times, can not but be deemed one of the formost figures of American history. Whatever crime against his country some think he has commited (and it may be state here that the writer is not one who holds any such belief) he has drained his full cup of suffering. As he stated not long ago, he did not seek the position in which he was placed, but obeyed a command which he, with Lee and thousands of other good & true men regarded as imperative, the voice of his native state calling him in her defense.
Emma Edmonds kept a wartime journal which she later expanded into a book, available today as Nurse and Spy in the Union Army. In this selection, "Frank Thompson" volunteers to substitute for General Hancock's aide-de-camp. Here she tells of a wild ride, an unexpected death, and a wounded officer.
Battle-field, Fredericksburg, VA.,
December 13, 1862
I rode three miles with General H. to General Franklin's headquarters, the second night we were at Fredericksburg, and all the night that I can recall to mind that was the darkest. On our way we had numerous ditches to leap, various ravines to cross, and mountains to climb, which can be better imagined than described. It was not only once or twice that horse and rider went tumbling into chasms head first, but frequently.
James Monroe expressed his thoughts on how foreign policy should be conducted at his seventh annual message to Congress on December 2, 1823. His words are considered an essential part of America's political history and became known as "the Monroe Doctrine."