"God and Our Navy . . . . "
Following the annual fleet exercises in the Spring of 1925, a major portion of the U.S. Fleet undertook a 17,000 mile, three month voyage from Hawaii to Australia and New Zealand, and thence back to southern California.
The fleet was lavishly entertained in the Antipodes. Parades and public ceremonies were held, the officers and men were invited to all sorts of entertainments, including horse races and splendid parties, where the alcohol – barred to Americans at home or afloat due to Prohibition – flowed freely. At one point, local religious leaders asked if they could arrange for the sailors to be invited to Sunday dinner with citizens willing to open their homes to their coreligionists from across the ocean.
In order to comply with this request, the fleet held an impromptu census of the religious affiliations of its officers and men. Although not everyone responded – indeed only about 20-percent did so – the results were interesting.
|Religious Affiliations of American Sailors, 1925|
The distribution of expressed preferences may seem somewhat surprising – after all, Episcopalians certainly didn’t amount to over 10-percent of the population, nor Roman Catholics to over a third. But these seeming anomalies are readily explainable. Although Catholics numbered only about a quarter of the population, as they still do, they have always been over-represented in the ranks, as, indeed, have been Baptists; even today, these two groups together account for more than half of Uncle Sam’s Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, and Airmen. The over representation of Episcopalians was probably due at least partially to the fact that in those days officers were very heavily drawn from that community. And while the absence of Pentecostals is understandable, the Pentecostal movement not having gained a substantial following until after World War II, the absence of Lutherans is puzzling..
By the way, although the fleet’s visit was a smashing success, cementing in the world view of citizens and politicians in the Antipodes that the U.S. Navy was far more important to their defense than the Royal Navy, it was never repeated. The trip provoked a storm of protest from Japan, where nationalist leaders branded it a “provocative act,” that the fleet never again ventured beyond the International Date Line, even canceling a similar trip to Japan scheduled for 1928. Never, that is, until 1942, when Japanese protests were mute.
A Busy Afternoon at Miss Shead's School for Young Ladies
For many years during the mid-nineteenth century Miss Carrie Shead ran a school for young ladies in the family home on the Chambersburg Pike, just west of the sleepy little town of Gettysburg in southern central Pennsylvania. Then, on the afternoon of July 1, 1863, the Battle of Gettysburg engulfed her home, as Union forces began to fall back from Seminary Ridge, just to the west. As the tired troops retreated on Gettysburg, some of them took shelter in the Shead house. One such was Col. Charles Wheelock of the 97th New York.
Wheelock ran into the house, closely followed by several Confederate soldiers intent on taking him prisoner. He fled down the basement, but the Rebels – and Miss Shead – followed him. Cornering the good colonel, a Confederate sergeant demanded that Wheelock give up his sword. The latter refused. Before the sergeant could take it, a second group of Rebels came thundering down the stairs, herding some Yankee prisoners before them. After a moment's confusion the sergeant renewed his demand for Wheelock's sword. But it was gone, taken, Wheelock said, by one of the other Confederate soldiers. The sergeant went off angrily, deprived of his precious souvenir. Wheelock was later herded out of the house with the other prisoners. Soon after, Wheelock managed to escape. Several days later he returned to the Shead house to pay his compliments to Carrie and recover his sword, which she had hidden under her skirt.
The Shead house was crowded that day in July. Pvt. Asa S. Hardman of the 3rd Indiana Cavalry had fought all morning along Seminary Ridge. As was the case with many another soldier that afternoon, the Shead house provided him with temporary shelter. He too was taken prisoner, but unlike Wheelock, was unable to elude his captors. Eventually exchanged, Hardman also paid a return visit to the Sheads, so that he could marry Carrie's sister Louisa.