"No, You Were Not."
Now largely forgotten, Lewis Cass (1782-1866) was one of the most prominent Americans of the first half of the nineteenth century. In his long career he served variously as Secretary of War, territorial Governor of and later Senator from Michigan, Minister to France, and Secretary of State, and even ran for President, losing to Zachary Taylor in 1848.
Cass had also been a soldier, serving in the War of 1812. On the outbreak of the war he helped raise the 3rd Ohio Volunteers, and with served with distinction, though being captured by the British when the inept Brig. Gen. William Hull surrendered Fort Detroit on August 16, 1812. Exchanged, in February of 1813 Cass was named to command the 27th Infantry, a newly formed Regular Army regiment. Just a few weeks later, Cass was promoted brigadier general. Nevertheless, he was at the head of his old regiment when it became the first American unit to land in Ontario. Cass was almost immediately promoted to brigadier general, and took part in the Battle of the Thames (October 5, 1813).
Now many years after the war, Cass was traveling in Michigan when his carriage was stopped by a man who told the general, “I can't let you pass without speaking to you. You don't
know me, general?”
Cass replied in the negative.
“Well, sir," said the man, “I was the first man in your regiment to jump out of the boat on the Canadian shore.”
“No, you were not,” replied Cass, “I was the first man myself on shore.”
“True," said the old soldier, “I jumped out first into the river to get ahead of you, but you held me back and got on shore ahead of me.”
Afterwards: A “free soiler,” Cass upheld the principles of Union and democracy for his entire career. His final service to the nation came on December 14, 1860, when he resigned as Secretary of State to protest the weak response of President James Buchanan to the looming secession of South Carolina. During the Civil War he was a staunch Unionist. For a biography, see Cass Canfield’s General Lewis Cass.
The Promotion of Cornet Kij
Like many other tsars, Paul (r. 1796-1801), though generally regarded as mad, was a great patron of the Russian Army.
One day he was reading some official reports. By chance, in one report, the word “porchtchikij – cornets” was too long to fit comfortably on the last line of the page, and so was split. But the writer neglected to insert a hyphen, so that one page ended with “porchtchi” and the next began with “kij.” Not realizing the error, the Tsar assumed the document referred to a “Cornet Kij.” Based on what he had read, Paul ordered that "Cornet Kij" should be promoted to
The members of Paul’s staff realized the error, but since this would mean telling the Tsar he had made a mistake, were unwilling to say anything. Nevertheless, their expressions and body language suggested to Paul that they disapproved of his action. Thinking there was some hostility toward Cornet Kij, the next day Paul ordered him promoted to captain, and requested that he be brought to meet his Tsar at once.
Of course this caused considerable consternation. A great bureaucratic to-do followed, as staff officers rifled though files and endless papers in their efforts to locate an officer named “Kij.” Finally, a junior officer was found who had a name quite similar to Kij, serving in a regiment posted on the Don, far from St. Petersburg. This officer was promptly sent for, a matter that would require many weeks by courier and coach.
Naturally, the Tsar kept asking about Captain Kij. And just as naturally, he kept receiving the same reply, that the man had been sent for.
Finally, someone came up with a bright idea, and informed Paul that the young man had died of a sudden illness.
Hearing this, the Tsar expressed his regrets, saying "he was a good soldier."
In 1933 a film was made in the Soviet Union about Lieutenant Kij, with music by Sergei Prokofiev.