Saturday, February 27, 2010

Cut Fainting Frank Some Slack

Poor old Franklin Pierce took a lot of flack for fainting in battle during the Mexican War. His detractors failed to mention that a painful injury preceded his loss of consciousness.

To dismiss Pierce as a coward is unfair, in my humble opinion. In his campaign biography of Pierce, Nathaniel Hawthorne excerpted the journal Pierce kept during the war. On July 21, 1847, General Pierce wrote:
Colonel Bonham's horse was shot near me, and I received an escopette ball through the rim of my hat, but without other damage than leaving my head, for a short time, without protection from the sun. The balls spattered like hailstones around us, at the moment the column advanced; and it seems truly wonderful that so few took effect. A large portion of them passed over our heads, and struck between the rear of Colonel Bonham's command and the main body of the brigade, two or three hundred yards behind, with the train; thus verifying what has so often been said by our gallant fellows, within the last forty days, that the nearer you get to these people in fight, the safer.
So we see that Pierce came perilously close to being shot in the head, but took it in stride without fainting or otherwise chickening out.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Happy Presidents' Day

Drawing of Franklin Pierce from the book Original Acrostics on all the States and Presidents of the United States, and Various Other Subjects, Religious, Political, and Personal
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.

Well, I guess somewhere along the line, after we stopped celebrating Lincoln and Washington's birthdays separately, the melded holiday became a celebration of all US Presidents, good, bad, and indifferent.

So, Pierce fans, we find several references to the 14th President today:
1. Though not dedicated exclusively to the tonsorial splendor of Franklin Pierce, his famous hair appears in the illustrated New York Times opinion piece, "Heads of State".

2. The editors of the web site rank Franklin Pierce #5 in their list of "The Top 43 Sexiest US Presidents", stating "There's not much to say about this obscure president, except that he's gorgeous. He's like Johnny Depp, but without as much to show for himself." (Thanks to colleague and sometime reader Ed Yang for alerting me to this reference to Handsome Frank).

3. The New Hampshire Historical Society is releasing audio and text versions of a collection of essays titled "Revealing Relationships: The Family and Friends of Franklin Pierce" which appeared in Historical New Hampshire, Volume 59, No. 1, Spring 2005. These are available for free download in pdf or mp3 format at the NHHS web site.

4. And of course, there is the obligatory survey of presidential historians, wherein Pierce is cited as one of the least productive presidents.
That's it. Go forth and enjoy the holiday!