Thursday, February 16, 2017

Alexandra Zapruder and don Dellio





On page 489 of Twenty-Six Seconds (2016) Alexandra Zapruder writes:

“In October 1997, acclaimed author Don DeLillo published Underworld. Across two short scenes in the novel, his characters….visit an art installation in 1974 in which bootleg copies of the Zapruder film are playing in a continuous loops at different speeds on hundreds of TV screens in a New York City apartment. These pages remain as provocative and haunting as anything I’ve read about the film. Unlike the alterationists, who were busy bogging down an understanding of the Zapruder filmi, DeLillo conjured up a scene that suggests the film’s meaning not only in the context of 1974 but in the enduring present.”

“The Kennedy assassination has figured largely in DeLillo’s work, and the film has been an object of fascination for him for decades. He explored the idea of conspiracy and its unexpected, pervasive influences in his novel of the JFK assassination, Libra. He told me that it was while he was working on an article for Rolling Stone about the assassination that he was able to acquire a bootleg copy of the film…

In an interview in the Paris Review in 1993, Adam Begley asked DeLillo to speak about what the film meant to him. Among many other things, he said, “There’s something inevitable about the Zapruder film. It had to happen this way. The moment belongs to the twentieth century, which means it had to be captured on film.”

I didn’t entirely understand what he meant until we talked. He described the twentieth century as the age of film, just as today is the age of the Internet – by the 1960s, cameras had become commonplace and everyone was filming everything. He is right after all, there were twenty-one other photographers on Dealey Plaza that day alone. But I understand that he was talking about something more than just the odds that someone would record the murder. There is kind of a poetic logic, if such a phrase exists, in capturing such a defining moment of the twentieth century on film, which remains the technology most associated with that time. In this, film is distinctly different from videotape or, most relevant today, digital media with its clarity, permanence, perfection, ability to be manipulated and replicated ad infinitum. In contrast 8mm film is tangible and fragile, its images grainy and saturated, paradoxically preserving memory and degrading over time. Everything about it offers tantalizing, nostalgic glimpses of a time that has slipped away.

In Underworld,….as the scene begins, everyone is slightly edgy, anticipating what they will see.
DeLillo writes:

The footage started rolling in one room but not the others and it was filled with slurs and jostles, it was totally jostled footage, a movie shot with Super 8, and the limousine came down the street, muddied by sunlint, and thee head dipped out of the frame and reappeared and then the force of the shot that killed him, unexpectedly, the headshot, and people in the room went ohh, and then the next ohh, and five seconds later, the room at the back went ohh, the same release of breath every time, like blurts of disbelief, and a women seated on the floor spun away and covered her face because it was completely new, you see, suppressed all these years, this was the famous headshot and they had to contend with the impact – aside from the fact that this was the President being shot, past the outer limits of this fact they had to content with the impact that any high-velocity bullet of a certain lethal engineering will make on any human head, and the sheering of tissue and braincase was a terrible revelation.

In our conversation, DeLillo elaborated on how he thought about that scene when he was writing it.
“Of course, the key to the whole thing is that I think the people went to look at it expecting to see some sort of art that they hadn’t seen before,” he said, “and then to see this terrible drama of violence was terrifically shocking, even for highly sophisticated people.” 

By the time we reach the climactic end of the scene, the film has played endlessly, looped constantly, in slow motion, close-up at different speeds, to the people coming and going, running inside the different frames of hundreds of television sets. Finally…the story of the film and its meaning transcending any particular time and place, understanding instead of how it preys on our deepest fears of death and enacts our nightmares.

DeLillo: The progress of the car down Elm Street, the movement of the film through the camera body, some sharable darkness – this was a death that seemed to rise from the steamy debris of the deep mind, it came from some night of the mind, there was some trick of film emulsion that showed the ghost of consciousness….the sort of death plot that runs in the mind, because it seemed so familiar, the footage did – it seemed a thing we might see, not see but know, a model of the nights when we are intimate with our own dying.



Joe Smith on Linebarger

Joseph B. Smith in “Portrait of a Cold Warrior” (Ballantine 1976, p. 75) writes:

….In the early winter of 1952…I got the chance to attend Paul Linebarger’s seminar in psychological warfare. Linebarger had served as an Army psychological warfare officer in Chungking during the war. He had written a textbook on the subject in 1948. In 1951 he was serving as the Far East Division’s chief consultant. He also served as the Defense Department in the same capacity, giving advice on U.S. psychwar operations in Korea, and he was a professor of Asian politics at the School for Advanced International Studies of the John Hopkins University. His book by this time had gone through three American editions, two Argentine editions, and a Japanese edition.

He was far from a textbook warrior, however. He best described himself when he wrote in the introduction to his book, “Psychological warfare involves exciting wit-sharpening work. It tends to attract quick-minded people – men full of ideas.” His wits scarcely needed sharpening, and he was never at a loss for an idea.

The seminars were held for eight weeks, every Friday night at his home. Going to Paul Linebarger’s house on Friday evenings was not only an educational experience for those who attended the seminar, it was also an exercise in clandestinity. Learning covert operational conduct was considered part of the course. Each seminar was limited to no more than eight students. They were told to pose as students from the School of Advanced International Studies, to go to Paul’s house via different routes, and to say they were attending a seminar in Asian politics.....The School of Advanced International Studies had its campus in Washington, but over in Baltimore at the main campus of the John Hopkins University, Owen Lattimore, the expert on Asian geography, held sway…..

It would be difficult to say whether it was the political atmosphere in general, the office routine of the day just closed, or the drawn drapes in Linebarger’s living room, but students at the seminar met in an appropriately conspiratorial mood that raised the level of their appreciation of their subject.

The mood was fitting if not essential to an understanding of the material. The first point that Linebarger made was the purpose of all psychological warfare is the manipulation of people so that they are not able to detect they are being manipulated.

Wartime psychwar had been a matter of undermining the enemy civilian and military will to continue to fight. The audience, in brief, was very clearly defined. Determining just who it was they wanted to manipulate and for what ends was also pretty clear to the OPC personnel. Their targets were the Communists and their allies. Having this firmly in mind, any methods of manipulation could be used, especially “black propaganda.”

Black propaganda operations, by definition, are operations in which the source of the propaganda is disguised or misrepresented in one way or another so as not to be attributable to the people who really put it out. This distinguishes black from white propaganda, such as news bulletins and similar statements issued by one side in a conflict extolling its successes, of course, or other material just as clearly designed to serve the purposes of its identifiable authors….the United States was faced everywhere with an enemy that was using an untold array of black propaganda operations to undermine the nations of the world in order to present us with a fait accompli one fine morning when we would wake up to find all these countries under Communist control. Hence, it was vital to understand all about such operations from a defense standpoint if nothing else.
There was, however, something else. This was an attitude produced by the mixture of ancient wisdom that a good offense is the best defense, and the spirit of the times that made the existence of conspiracy seem so real. It was good to feel that we were learning how to beat the Communists at their own game.

Paul Linebarger’s was a seminar in black propaganda only. He loved black propaganda operations probably because they involved the wit-sharpening he loved to talk about. Also, he was so good at them that his was one of the inventive minds that refined the entire black operations field into shades of blackness. Linebarger and his disciples decided that propaganda that was merely not attributable to the United States was not really black, only gray. To be called black it had to be something more…This left the term black propaganda for a very special kind of propaganda activity. Black propaganda operations were operations done to look like, and carefully labeled to be, acts of the Communist enemy.

Not only was the attribution given the source of the propaganda activity used as a criterion for defining what kind of propaganda it was, but equally important was the kind of message used…Black propaganda operations, being attributed to the enemy, naturally did not (support US policies). In fact, black propaganda, to be believable, supported the enemy’s positions and openly opposed those of the United States….

Linebarger was always careful to point out that to have any chance of success, these black operations must be based on good solid information about how the Communist Party we proposed to imitate actually conducted its business. He also stressed we needed an equally solid basis of knowledge about the target audience and what it would really find offensive and objectionable if the Communists were to say or do it. This, he liked to emphasize, was why such operations belonged in an intelligence organization where sufficient expertise and specific knowledge of the kind required was most likely to be found. Intelligence information, especially the kind that is clandestinely collected, should serve more than as bits and pieces of the jigsaw puzzle known as enemy intentions. It should be used directly against the enemy while it is fresh. Otherwise, the distinction between intelligence reporting and historical writing tends to blur….

Linebarger undertook a kind of group therapy approach to try to show us that tricking someone into believing black is white comes naturally to everyone and is something that is practiced from childhood.

“Look,” he began, “can’t you remember how you fooled your brothers and sisters and your father and mother? Try to remember how old you were when you first tricked one of them.”

“I want you all to go out and get a copy of David Maurer’s classic on the confidence man. It’s called ‘The Big Con,’ and its available now in a paperback edition,” Paul continued. “That little book will teach you more about the art of covert operations than anything else I know.”

“Your job and the confidence man’s are almost identical…Of course, your motives and those of the confidence men are different. He wants to fleece his mark out of his money. You want to convince a Chinese, Filipino,…a Thai, that what you want him to believe or do for the good of the U.S. government is what he thinks he himself really believes and wants to do.”

“Maurer’s book will give you a lot of ideas on how to recruit agents, how to handle them and how to get rid of them peacefully when they’re no use to you any longer. Believe me, that last one is the toughest job of all.”

We were all soon reading “The Big Con.” The tales it told did, indeed, contain a lot of hints on how to do our jobs. For me one sentence seemed to sum it all up beautifully, “The big-time confidence games,” wrote Maurer, “are in reality only carefully rehearsed plays in which every member of the cast EXCEPT THE MARK knows his part perfectly.” 

He had two leading operational heroes whose activities formed the basis for lessons he wished us to learn and whose examples he thought we should follow. One was Lt. Col. Edward G. Lansdale, the OPC station chief in Manila, and the other was E. Howard Hunt, the OPC station chief in Mexico City. Both of them had what is called “black minds,” and the daring to defy bureaucratic restraints in thinking up and executing operations. He had a number of stories to tell about the exploits of both….

 A note of caution that Linebarger added to these discussions of black operations sounds like a bell down the years. He would explain, after someone had come up with an especially clever plan for getting the Communists completely incriminated in an exceedingly offensive act, that there should be limits to black activities.

“I hate to think what would ever happen,” he once said with a prophet’s voice, “if any of you ever got out of this business and got involved in U.S. politics. These kinds of dirty tricks must never be used in internal U.S. politics. The whole system would come apart.” 

The French on Valkyrie

From Farewell America: 

Today, professional soldiers and guerrilla warriors have taken up where the nihilists left off. They are just as courageous, but often less successful. In Germany, in 12 years of Nazism and 5 years of war, despite the Kreisau Circle and the numerous groups that claimed in 1946 to have belonged to the underground, despite the work of the Allied intelligence services and the plots hatched by several high-ranking officers of the Wehrmacht and the OKW, Hitler was never assassinated. Two officers, however, tried.
The first planted a bomb on one of Hitler's aides, claiming it was a bottle of cognac. The bomb was due to go off in the plane carrying the Fuhrer to the eastern front, but it failed to explode. The assassination attempt was never discovered. It was publicized later by its author, who meanwhile had recovered his "bottle of cognac."

The second, more serious attempt was the work of Colonel Klaus Yon Stauffenberg. His failure dealt a deathblow to the plot of July 20, 1944. Stauffenberg either didn't dare or didn't care to shoot Hitler. Instead, he placed his briefcase, containing the equivalent of a pound of TNT under the conference table where Hitler was sitting and left the room, claming he had to make a phone call. The TNT was set off by a detonator a few minutes later.

But Colonel Yon Stauffenberg, while a brilliant cavalryman, was a poor saboteur. His bomb would have killed Hitler, and probably most of the other officers present, if the conference had been held, as was usually the case at Rastenburg, in the casemate of a cement blockhouse. The closed quarters would have magnified the compression, and the explosion would have proved fatal. On that hot July day, however, the conference was held instead in a wooden barracks with the windows open. Hitler was only knocked to the floor and slightly wounded by the explosion.


Colonel Von Stauffenberg was mistaken in his choice of an explosive. TNT is excellent for blowing up railroad lines and bridges, but for this type of operation Von Stauffenberg should have used a defensive grenade of the type used by the German Army, along with a phosphorous grenade and, as an additional precaution, a bottle containing about a pint of gasoline. The explosive power of the blasting agent would have been amplified by bits of flying steel and the heat from the phosphorus and the gasoline. Regardless of where the meeting was held, the explosion would have done its work. Those officers who weren't killed immediately would have been burned alive. But despite their small chance of survival, it would nevertheless have been wise to verify the success of the operation before giving the signal for a revolt that resulted in hundreds of executions, including that of Von Stauffenberg, about whom any biographer is forced to conclude that he was a total failure as an assassin. His technical incompetence caused the collapse of the German resistance and probably cost the Allies several more months of war.

Another Colonel, the Frenchman Bastien Thiry, attempted in 1962 to avenge the honor of the French Army by assassinating General De Gaulle. He set up an ambush using submachine guns at an intersection in the suburbs of Paris one evening when the General's car was due to pass on the way to the airport. The car, an ordinary Citroen, was going about 40 miles an hour. On a signal from the Colonel (a brandished newspaper), the gunmen fired more than 100 rounds, but neither the General nor his wife nor the driver nor the security agent accompanying them was hit. The tires were shot out, but the driver accelerated immediately, and the General disappeared over the horizon.

Colonel Thiry was a graduate of the foremost scientific school in France, the Ecole Poly technique, the students of which are renowned for their reasoning power. Moreover, he was a leading aeronautical specialist and, like Von Stauffenberg, a disinterested patriot. But, as far as assassinations were concerned, he too was a failure.

Like Von Stauffenberg, he was executed, and from a technical point of view his failure is understandable. He was an amateur, and assassinations are not for amateurs. His plan was of interest to the men at Dallas because its target was a moving vehicle. An attack on a moving target presents special problems which we shall examine later. In any case, these are problems that can only be solved by a specialist.

The Committee needed professionals who were accustomed to planning clandestine and risky operations, and who had the proper mentality -- in other words, professionals who had not lost their amateur standing. The men best qualified for this type of job are undoubtedly the specialists of the intelligence services like the Soviet KGB and the CIA, which have a special section for assassinations. It is safe to assume that nothing is impossible or surprising in the world of espionage, in the widest sense of the term. Obstacles that would hamper organized criminals or conscientious conspirators can be overcome or avoided more easily by those who are known as "spies."


The Sting at DP II

And what happened at Dealey Plaza was not just a magic trick with disappearing props, but a very particular magic trick – The Big Con – the confidence trick used in the popular movie The Sting.

Considering the idea that if not the work of a deranged lone gunman, if what happened at Dealey Plaza was in fact a covert intelligence operation that utilized standard covert action techniques, including disinformation, disguises and black propaganda to cover them, then they are using very sophisticated psychological warfare weapons that only a few professional specialists - “artists in their own right,” who could have planned, been the mastermind and pulled off whatever happened at Dealey Plaza.

Allen Dulles, Ed Lansdale, James Jesus Angleton, E. Howard Hunt, David Atlee Phillips – what do they all have in common?

One thing they all have in common is their psych war professor who taught them what they call “the Black Arts,” meet Professor Paul Linebarger, author of the text book “Psychological Warfare.”

 Joseph B. Smith in “Portrait of a Cold Warrior” (Ballantine 1976, p. 75) writes:

….In the early winter of 1952…I got the chance to attend Paul Linebarger’s seminar in psychological warfare. Linebarger had served as an Army psychological warfare officer in Chungking during the war. He had written a textbook on the subject in 1948. In 1951 he was serving as the Far East Division’s chief consultant. He also served as the Defense Department in the same capacity, giving advice on U.S. psychwar operations in Korea, and he was a professor of Asian politics at the School for Advanced International Studies of the John Hopkins University. His book by this time had gone through three American editions, two Argentine editions, and a Japanese edition.

He was far from a textbook warrior, however. He best described himself when he wrote in the introduction to his book, “Psychological warfare involves exciting wit-sharpening work. It tends to attract quick-minded people – men full of ideas.” His wits scarcely needed sharpening, and he was never at a loss for an idea.

The seminars were held for eight weeks, every Friday night at his home. Going to Paul Linebarger’s house on Friday evenings was not only an educational experience for those who attended the seminar, it was also an exercise in clandestinity. Learning covert operational conduct was considered part of the course. Each seminar was limited to no more than eight students. They were told to pose as students from the School of Advanced International Studies, to go to Paul’s house via different routes, and to say they were attending a seminar in Asian politics.....The School of Advanced International Studies had its campus in Washington, but over in Baltimore at the main campus of the John Hopkins University, Owen Lattimore, the expert on Asian geography, held sway…..

It would be difficult to say whether it was the political atmosphere in general, the office routine of the day just closed, or the drawn drapes in Linebarger’s living room, but students at the seminar met in an appropriately conspiratorial mood that raised the level of their appreciation of their subject.

The mood was fitting if not essential to an understanding of the material. The first point that Linebarger made was the purpose of all psychological warfare is the manipulation of people so that they are not able to detect they are being manipulated.

Wartime psychwar had been a matter of undermining the enemy civilian and military will to continue to fight. The audience, in brief, was very clearly defined. Determining just who it was they wanted to manipulate and for what ends was also pretty clear to the OPC personnel. Their targets were the Communists and their allies. Having this firmly in mind, any methods of manipulation could be used, especially “black propaganda.”

Black propaganda operations, by definition, are operations in which the source of the propaganda is disguised or misrepresented in one way or another so as not to be attributable to the people who really put it out. This distinguishes black from white propaganda, such as news bulletins and similar statements issued by one side in a conflict extolling its successes, of course, or other material just as clearly designed to serve the purposes of its identifiable authors….the United States was faced everywhere with an enemy that was using an untold array of black propaganda operations to undermine the nations of the world in order to present us with a fait accompli one fine morning when we would wake up to find all these countries under Communist control. Hence, it was vital to understand all about such operations from a defense standpoint if nothing else.
There was, however, something else. This was an attitude produced by the mixture of ancient wisdom that a good offense is the best defense, and the spirit of the times that made the existence of conspiracy seem so real. It was good to feel that we were learning how to beat the Communists at their own game.

Paul Linebarger’s was a seminar in black propaganda only. He loved black propaganda operations probably because they involved the wit-sharpening he loved to talk about. Also, he was so good at them that his was one of the inventive minds that refined the entire black operations field into shades of blackness. Linebarger and his disciples decided that propaganda that was merely not attributable to the United States was not really black, only gray. To be called black it had to be something more…This left the term black propaganda for a very special kind of propaganda activity. Black propaganda operations were operations done to look like, and carefully labeled to be, acts of the Communist enemy.

Not only was the attribution given the source of the propaganda activity used as a criterion for defining what kind of propaganda it was, but equally important was the kind of message used…Black propaganda operations, being attributed to the enemy, naturally did not (support US policies). In fact, black propaganda, to be believable, supported the enemy’s positions and openly opposed those of the United States….

Linebarger was always careful to point out that to have any chance of success, these black operations must be based on good solid information about how the Communist Party we proposed to imitate actually conducted its business. He also stressed we needed an equally solid basis of knowledge about the target audience and what it would really find offensive and objectionable if the Communists were to say or do it. This, he liked to emphasize, was why such operations belonged in an intelligence organization where sufficient expertise and specific knowledge of the kind required was most likely to be found. Intelligence information, especially the kind that is clandestinely collected, should serve more than as bits and pieces of the jigsaw puzzle known as enemy intentions. It should be used directly against the enemy while it is fresh. Otherwise, the distinction between intelligence reporting and historical writing tends to blur….

Linebarger undertook a kind of group therapy approach to try to show us that tricking someone into believing black is white comes naturally to everyone and is something that is practiced from childhood.

“Look,” he began, “can’t you remember how you fooled your brothers and sisters and your father and mother? Try to remember how old you were when you first tricked one of them.”

“I want you all to go out and get a copy of David Maurer’s classic on the confidence man. It’s called ‘The Big Con,’ and its available now in a paperback edition,” Paul continued. “That little book will teach you more about the art of covert operations than anything else I know.”

“Your job and the confidence man’s are almost identical…Of course, your motives and those of the confidence men are different. He wants to fleece his mark out of his money. You want to convince a Chinese, Filipino,…a Thai, that what you want him to believe or do for the good of the U.S. government is what he thinks he himself really believes and wants to do.”

“Maurer’s book will give you a lot of ideas on how to recruit agents, how to handle them and how to get rid of them peacefully when they’re no use to you any longer. Believe me, that last one is the toughest job of all.”

We were all soon reading “The Big Con.” The tales it told did, indeed, contain a lot of hints on how to do our jobs. For me one sentence seemed to sum it all up beautifully, “The big-time confidence games,” wrote Maurer, “are in reality only carefully rehearsed plays in which every member of the cast EXCEPT THE MARK knows his part perfectly.” 






He had two leading operational heroes whose activities formed the basis for lessons he wished us to learn and whose examples he thought we should follow. One was Lt. Col. Edward G. Lansdale, the OPC station chief in Manila, and the other was E. Howard Hunt, the OPC station chief in Mexico City. Both of them had what is called “black minds,” and the daring to defy bureaucratic restraints in thinking up and executing operations. He had a number of stories to tell about the exploits of both….
 A note of caution that Linebarger added to these discussions of black operations sounds like a bell down the years. He would explain, after someone had come up with an especially clever plan for getting the Communists completely incriminated in an exceedingly offensive act, that there should be limits to black activities.

“I hate to think what would ever happen,” he once said with a prophet’s voice, “if any of you ever got out of this business and got involved in U.S. politics. These kinds of dirty tricks must never be used in internal U.S. politics. The whole system would come apart.” 
David W. Maurer was a professor of linguistics at the University of Louisville Kentucky where he was devoted to a study of street slang, which allowed him to meet an assortment of pick pockets, card sharks, street gangsters and whores working his way up the criminal chain until he got to the confidence men who ran The Big Con, cataloging their unique vocabulary along the way.

The Big Con, as opposed to the short con, utilized elaborate props and actors who took their victims for hundreds of thousands of dollars. And when it was over they didn't even know how it was done.

When I first read an early edition of The American Confidence Man in the early 1990s I called Professor Maurer at his school but he had passed away. His assistant professor however confirmed what Luc Santi says in later paperback editions of The Big Con that the movie The Sting was based on Maurer's book.

But that's not the whole story. When Maurer saw The Sting when it first came out he too recognized his story was used in the screenplay without credit or attribution, and he felt stung.

The Hollywood screenwriters who stole his story denied ever reading Maurer's book -,a non-fictional work, but they couldn't account for using the name Gondorf as a main character as played by Paul Newman.Gondorf was a real person and his name does not appear in print anywhere but in Maurer's book, so Maurer won the judgement.

 In applying the Big Con to what happened at Dealey Plaza a few things stand out:

1) The local cops are on the take - it's only a matter of identifying, paying off and working with the right ones - what the Con Artists call the Right Cop - while unbribable cop was the Wrong Coper -

2) The Mark or victim must be from out of town - no locals involved - and must be successful - with money, and greedy and a player on the make for something.

3) Getting rid of the mark and other players, as Linebarger and Maurer allude to is a problem, as David Atlee Phillips discovered with his long time agent and operative Antonio Veciana, who desperately wanted to get back into covert ops against Cuba.

The most significant thing we learn from Maurer isn't how the Big Con works - like a magic trick secret - but that in order to apply it to Dealey Plaza you have to learn the lingo - the nomenclature that's used in the course of conducting covert intelligence operations.

Just as scientists, musicians and con artists all have their own stylized vocabulary, so do the covert intelligence officers who pulled off the Dealey Plaza caper, and some are the same terms as the con artists.

For instance in “The Big Con” the whole operation is run by the “inside man,” who runs the storefront and is the key to the action, while the “roper,” or “outside man” works the street and brings in the mark. 


The top officers at Task Force W - the Cuban desk in the CIA HQ basement ran their operations in the same way, as Zenith Technological Services was the fake business front for JMWAVE station in Miami, where the “inside man” was Ted Shackley, who never met the Cubans, who were run by case officers or “outside men” like David Atlee Phillips. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Washington at Brandywine - the Sniper that Didn't Shoot


Image result for Washington at Brandywine

Washington and Patrick Ferguson at Kings Mountain 


Lee Harvey Oswald, the accused assassin of President Kennedy, stayed the night before the assassination at the Irving, Texas home of Michael Paine, where his wife and family were living. Michael Paine's mother, Ruth Forbes Paine Young lived with her husband Arthur Young in suburban Philadelphia in an ancient brick farmhouse with barn situated adjacent to the Brandywine Creek, where I visited them. 

During the American revolution General George Washington lost the Battle of Brandywine, but retreated and lived to fight again. 

During that battle, it was later revealed, a British rifleman had General Washington in his sights, and was about to kill him when he hesitated, and recognizing the nobleness of the man, let him live, much like the Deer Hunter who finally gets the big one in his sights, but doesn't fire and lets it live. 

While Washington's brush with death is a well known tale to trained U.S. military and British snipers, it was the subject of legend and song during the revolution, as this little ditty confirms. 


WASHINGTON at BRANDYWINE
September 11, 1777

AT BRANDYWINE, - a cleared and open space;
Yonder, on guard, a British sentinel
Whose eye, alert to see if all be well,
Is fixed upon a form of manly grace,
A tall and stately form, a noble face.
Issuing from the copse by younder dell,
That form stands forth – a presence, as they tell,
Peerless for power; but see the stranger trace
With eagle glance the British lines and make
All things in sight! A sentinel should not sleep
Upon his post – up flies the sentry’s gun –
No better marksman; he could wing a lark:
But now – he cannot shoot: strange tremors creep
Into his heart and save our Washington.

p. 51 Book II – 1777-1778 Ballads of New Jersey in the Revolution

By Charles d. Platt (Kennikat Press, 1896/1972


Patrick Ferguson: The British Officer Who Refused To Shoot George Washington


"I could have lodged half a dozen balls in or about him, before he was out of my reach, but it was not pleasant to fire at the back of an unoffending individual, who was acquitting himself very coolly of his duty - so I let him alone. I am not sorry that I did not know at the time who it was."  - Ferguson 


The story about the battle that took place at Kings Mountain on the afternoon of Saturday, October 7, 1780, is perhaps one of the most interesting of the entire American Revolutionary War largely because it was fought on the slopes and top of a large hill surrounded by woods rather than rolling hills and open fields as with most 18th century battles.  

The battlefield is located near the town of Blacksburg in Cherokee County, just a few miles south of the North Carolina border. This place is not to be confused with a nearby town by a similar name a few miles north on SC 161 in North Carolina. Today there is an outstanding National Military Park on the site where the battle was fought and an adjacent South Carolina State Parklocated respectively on nearby land. The battlefield itself - unique among other Revolutionary War battlefields - is well preserved by the National Park Service. 

Of all the monuments at the Kings Mountain National Military Park and it's mile and a half long scenic walking trail, perhaps the most popular spot sits about halfway down the large knobby hill near the end of the trail where a cairn - a mound of stones and rocks - rest behind a six foot granite marker honoring the final resting place of Patrick Ferguson, the British commander of the American Loyalist forces in South Carolina during the Southern Campaign of the American Revolutionary War (1780-1781). 

This British officer, buried thousands of miles from his home country, is perhaps one of the most interesting individuals in the Southern Campaign of the war. While he is best known for his actions leading up to the tide turning battle that cost him his life, he is also well remembered by some historians for another act that could well have turned the tide of the war for the British three years before. 

Soldier And Inventor 

On September 11, 1777, an invading army of 12,500 British and Hessian soldiers under the command of General William Howe engaged the Continental Army of General George Washington along Brandywine Creek, near modern-day Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania in what was the longest single day battle of the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783). The battle would last almost eleven hours and end in a major defeat for the Continental Army, and open the American capital of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to invasion and occupation by British forces. 

Covering the wooded flank of the British Army along Brandywine Creek were a special detachment of green-clad marksman commanded by then thirty-three year old captain Patrick Ferguson. 



A native of Aberdeen, Scotland, Ferguson was the second son and fourth child of judge advocate James Ferguson of Pitfour and Anne Murray, a sister of the literary patron Patrick Murray, 5th Lord Elibank - a son of the Scottish Enlightenment. 

Ferguson began his military career at the age of fourteen when his father bought a commission for him as a cornet (junior lieutenant) in the Royal North British Dragoons (Royal Scots Greys). He proved himself in battle in Flanders and Germany during the Seven Years' War (1754-1763), and sustained an leg ailment that suspended his military career for nearly six years, where he served garrison duty with his regiment. 

In 1768 he returned to military service after purchasing a command as a captain in the 70th Regiment of Foot and served with them putting down slave uprisings in the British West Indies. It was here that Ferguson would come to understand small-unit warfare and militia tactics. Again his lame leg would trouble him and shorten his active service.

In the early 1770s, Ferguson was sent to the garrison of Halifax, Nova Scotia, a quiet duty that soon bored him. He returned to Britain in 1772 as the disputes between the American colonies and the mother country heightened and took part in light infantrytraining. During this time, he invented and patented the Ferguson Rifle, a breech-loading flinklock weapon based on an earlier 1720 system designed by Isaac de la Chaumette - the first practical breech-loading rifle in the history of warfare. 

The Ferguson Rifle, which had a rifled barrel and weighed two-thirds that of the standard smooth-bore British Brown Bess flintlock muskets issued to British infantry soldiers, could shoot straighter with more accuracy. Unlike the Brown Bess musket, which required a ramrod to push a powder and musket ball charge down the length of the barrel in a standing, or kneeling position; the Ferguson Rifle could be loaded faster with a screw-type breech lock that operated by simply rotating the trigger guard. 


Ferguson devoted himself to producing his rifle and presenting it as a weapon that would enable the British troops to match the vaunted marksmanship of the American rebels. In June 1776, Ferguson demonstrated his rifle to a party of generals and lords at the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, across the Thames from London. Already renowned as "the best shot in the British army" Ferguson fired a series of rounds at different distances, sometimes averaging six aimed shots a minute (the Brown Bess could in theory average four shots a minute, but the musket was designed to be a mass-firing weapon and its accuracy past 25 yards was virtually non-existent). He managed to impress several high ranking British officers, including General William Howe, the man who would soon be tasked to command the British expeditionary force that would sail to America to reclaim the colonies from colonial rebels who would shortly declare the independence of their newly declared sovereign states from the British Empire. 

The Ferguson Rifle met with a combination of conservative army bureaucracy that was skeptical of any improvement on traditional arms that might require new thinking and more money. Also in the 1700s, there was no practical way to mass produce a new weapon. The Ferguson Rifle could not be made in sufficient quantities at the high cost it would take to equip even a full regiment of soldiers in the time they would be needed to put down the American rebels. The weapon also had some design flaws with the breech mechanism that made it more fragile than the standard Brown Bess musket. 

Regardless, when Ferguson joined Howe's army in America in the summer of 1777, he was given command of a single company of 100 recruited marksmen from different regiments, all of whom he rigorously trained to become experts with his rifle. The test of their abilities combat would be at the Battle of Brandywine Creek. 

It would also prove to be a moment that could well have changed American history.

Ferguson And Washington 

Leading his detachment of green-coated sharpshooters through the woods along Brandywine Creek covering the flank of Howe's British Expeditionary Forces, Ferguson kept his keen marksman's eyes open for any sign of Continental forces trying to pick their way through the dense woods. 

Suddenly a cavalry officer dressed in a flamboyant European uniform rode into view, followed by a senior American officer wearing a high cocked hat and riding a bay horse. 

Ferguson whispered to three of his best riflemen to move forward and pick off the unsuspecting officers. But before the men were in place, he ordered them not to fire, feeling a sense of disgust at the idea of ambushing the men. He shouted to the American officer, who turned and looked his way for a moment before calmly turning and riding on. Ferguson called again, this time raising his rifle to his shoulder and taking aim. The officer glanced back before slowly moving away. 


Though he was considered the best marksman in the British army and his Ferguson Rifle could easily have hit the American officer and shot him off his horse, Ferguson paused a moment, then lowered his rifle. His sense of personal honor rebelled against the idea of shooting a man in the back - particularly a brave officer who conducted himself so calmly under threat. 

It is also important to note that in eighteenth century warfare, the practice of targeting officers in battle was against the accepted rules of combat in Europe. Ferguson strictly followed this code of chivalry. 

Ferguson recalled the event later on in his own words: "I could have lodged half a dozen balls in or about him, before he was out of my reach, but it was not pleasant to fire at the back of an unoffending individual, who was acquitting himself very coolly of his duty - so I let him alone." 

A day later, Ferguson would be seriously wounded in action, having been shot in right arm through the elbow joint, a would that would end up crippling him in that arm and sadly end his career as a marksman. It would also end up losing him his special detachment of sharpshooters - the men returned to their former regiments - and put his excellent rifle into storage. 

A surgeon at the field hospital who had been attending wounded American officers informed him that captured rebel prisoners reported that General George Washington had been seen in the area with light troops, escorted only by an officer in hussar dress and wearing the exact same uniform Ferguson had seen. The American officer he let ride off was most likely the commanding general of the Continental Army.  

The revelation promoted Ferguson to consider his actions. His own sense of honor and duty warred with one another. This is reflected when he wrote of the incident later: "I am not sorry that I did not know at the time who it was." 

Still, if Ferguson had taken aim and fired at the American general who turned his back to him, the final outcome of the American Revolutionary War would almost certainly have turned out quite differently. 

Washington would lose the Battle of Brandywine Creek and the then American capitol of Philadelphia, but live on to win the American War For Independence.  
 
From Brandywine To Kings Mountain

For several months after Brandywine, and his encounter with George Washington, Ferguson managed to save his arm from amputation, though the arm itself would remain crippled for the rest of his short life. Ferguson worked to teach himself to wield a sword, pistol and write with his left hand. 

Patrick Ferguson was capable of both chivalry and ferocity in battle. 

Ferguson returned to duty in May of 1778 under Howe's replacement, General Henry Clinton. One of his first duties in October of that year would be to lead a British raid of 400 men (300 British Regulars and 100 New Jersey Loyalists) against an American privateer hideout at Little Egg Harbor on the New Jersey coast. There on October 6, 1778 (nearly two years till his fateful day with destiny at Kings Mountain) destroyed a total of 10 privateer vessels, wrecked warehouses and shipyards, and burned the homes of known patriots in what became known as the Battle of Chestnut Neck.

In an ironic twist of fate General Washington dispatched a force of Continentals under the command of Count Casimir Pulaski - the same European officer believed to have been riding with Washington the day Ferguson uncounted him at Brandywine - to stop Ferguson from advancing and destroying any more privateer yards. Ferguson would learn from an American deserter where Pulaski's Legion was and that the security of his camp was virtually nonexistent. Ferguson, along with 250 men, would attack Pulaski's forces with the bayonet on the night of October 15, 1778. The one-sided results of the affair at Little Egg Harbor were later called a "massacre" by the Continentals: Pulaski's forces would lose 50 men killed and five captured while Ferguson lost only three men killed and another three wounded. 

By late 1779, Ferguson was promoted to major of the distinguished 71st Regiment Highlanders. 

In May of 1780, General Clinton mounted his all-out offensive to crush resistance to the British Crown in the rebellious American South, and hoping to end the bloody stalemate with Washington in the north by catching him between two British forces. 

Ferguson was given command of an independent force of rangers who would strike inland and cut off American lines of supply. Those efforts helped end the Siege of Charleston with the surrender of Continental forces under General Benjamin Lincoln on May 12, 1780. 

Now under the command of General Charles Cornwallis, Ferguson was appointed Inspector of Militia in South Carolina. He was tasked with recruiting British Loyalists that were key to the Southern Campaign strategy. 

Ferguson had a talent when it came to recruiting. He would go to the homes of Loyalists and men known to be neutral in the South Carolina backcountry and reason with them on the merits of staying loyal to the Crown. By August of 1780, Ferguson commanded a force of over a thousand Loyalist militia. 

However, in the summer of 1780, the South Carolina backcountry was embroiled in an ugly civil war marked by bitterness, violence and malevolence committed by men on both sides under the guise of patriotism to their respective causes. As word of his Loyalists plundering and brutality spread, local and state militia leaders raised regiments of partisans to face off against him. The most notable of these would be the "over-mountain men" from beyond the Blue Ridge. These partisans would deal Ferguson and his Loyalist forces a serious defeat on August 18, 1780 at the  Battle of Musgrove Mill in modern-day Laurens County, South Carolina where 200 Patriots defeated 500 of Ferguson's men, resulting in 63 Loyalists killed and another 50 captured.  

When reasoning with local Patriots did not work, Ferguson again showed the same ruthlessness towards backcountry Patriot militia that he displayed at Little Egg Harbor two years before, this time using fire, the sword, and sometimes the hangman's noose. This time the results would be vastly different resulting in another "massacre" on top of Kings Mountain on October 7, 1780 where the 36 year old Scottish-born aristocrat and a large number of his Loyalist militia would meet his end at the hands of vengeful Scots-Irish Patriot militiamen.

Honoring The Grave 

Every year on the anniversary of the Battle of Kings Mountain, members of the South Carolina Society Sons of the American Revolution (SCSSAR), the North Carolina Society Sons of the American Revolution (NCSSAR), the South Carolina Society Daughters of the American Revolution (SCDAR) and the Overmountain Victory Trail Association (OVTA) gather to lay wreaths on the large obelisk at the top of the mountain to honor the Patriot forces who defeated Ferguson's British Loyalists.  

There are no societies in South Carolina or North Carolina that honor the memories of British Loyalists. 

One year when this blogger attended the Kings Mountain commemoration and asked if the Loyalist men mentioned on the large obelisk that honored the men on both sides would get a wreath in their memory, I got a look as if I'd just profaned the Virgin Mary herself in a Catholic Church. I pointed out that both the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the Sons of Union Veterans Civil War put flags on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers respectively at their memorial events; and argued that the civil war in the South Carolina backcountry in 1780 was as much a brother against brother affair as the later War Between The States. 


I got the strong sense the representative of the SAR believed I was being deliberately difficult with him - in spite of the fact I did not raise my voice once during the "discussion" although the other guy got a bit red-faced himself. One DAR lady did mention smiling that a couple of the two dozen lain wreaths honored both sides.  

Regardless of this, I did notice that the grave of Patrick Ferguson, buried a little ways down the hill from where he was shot from his horse, was honored by several of the living history reenactors passing back down the mountain trail by placing new stones on his cairn, a sign of respect in Celtic customs. A miniature Kings Colors sat near the base of the cairn, fluttering in the October breeze. 

When I inquired about this, one of the reenactors - a member of the Overmountain Victory Trail Association that marched to Kings Mountain from eastern Tennessee - told me the story about Ferguson and Washington. Many of those people knew this story and out of respect for his act of honor that fateful day in Pennsylvania honored the man their own ancestors defeated over 235 years before in their own small way.

I make it a point to place a stone on the cairn every time I visit Kings Mountain National Military Park, out of respect for an old foe who could have changed the course of history, save for a single act of chivalry.






Patriot Militia Reenactor placing a stone on the cairn of Major Patrick Ferguson - The British officer who refused to shoot George Washington. 

It should be noted that the monument reads: "Colonel Patrick Ferguson" because he was promoted by General Cornwallis about the time the Battle of Kings Mountain took place, although Ferguson himself was killed in the battle before the official word of his promotion got to him.




CAPA Sunshine Week Event - March 16

                    CAPA
                                          Citizens Against Political Assassinations

Washington, DC

Leaders in the JFK research community will convene at the National Press Club during “Sunshine Week” in March to underscore the historical importance of the scheduled release next October by the National Archives of the final batch of declassified documents about the 1963 assassination of President Kennedy.  

CAPA has reserved a room from noon to 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 16, with the flexibility to adjust according to schedules of the VIP participants.

The projected panels below can be adjusted, including to create stand-alone keynotes. Sunshine Week extends from March 13 to March 17, 2017 nationally and in Washington, DC.  Sunshine Week was created by the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP) to foster open government. 

Keynote Dialog: NARA Progress In Releasing Final JFK Assassination Papers By October, 2017 Deadline

·         Keynote: The Hon. John R. Tunheim, J.D., Chief U.S. District Judge, Minnesota, and former chairman, Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB)

·         Discussants:

·         David S. Ferriero, Ph.D., Archivist of the United States, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) or Martha W. Murphy, FOIA Public Liaison, Executive Branch, NARA (invited)

·         John M. Newman, Ph.D., author of “Oswald and the CIA”  and other books, former Army intelligence officer and assistant to the National Security Agency director, and former University of Maryland professor

·         Cyril H. Wecht, J.D., M.D., forensic pathologist, medical school professor, leader or former leader multiple professional societies, author or co-author of nearly 50 books, CAPA chairman and former Allegheny County coroner for 20 years

What Might We Find In 3,600 New Documents Based On Recent Revelations?

·         James H. Lesar, J.D., FOIA expert and president, Assassination Archives & Research Center (AARC)

·         Nate Jones, M.A., Director of the Freedom of Information Act Project, National Security Archive, George Washington University

·         David Talbot, “The Devil’s Chessboard” and “Brothers” author, San Francisco Chronicle columnist, CAPA advisory board member and Salon founder and former editor-in-chief

·         Jefferson Morley, author of “Our Man In Mexico City” and other books, AlterNet Washington correspondent,  JFKFacts.org editor litigating JFK FOIA cases and former Washington Post reporter
·        
 Russ Baker, WhoWhatWhy founder and editor, media  commentator, and author of best-selling “Family of Secrets” and a forthcoming JFK book
·       
  Adam A. Marshall, J.D., Knight Foundation Litigation Attorney, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press (RCFP)
·       
  Andrew Kreig, J.D., M.S.L., Justice Integrity Project director, author, and Citizens Against Political Assassination Board (CAPA) board , ASNE, SPJ and National Press Club member, moderator
Next Steps In Fact Finding
·       
  Lawrence Schnapf, J.D., attorney and Citizens Against Political Assassination Board (CAPA) board member, moderator

Meet the Authors - Attendees can meet the prominent authors /speakers and buy books for signing. 

Also, a special tutorial session will be held on “How To Study the Kennedy Assassination.”  

Finally, CAPA will hold a reception at the close of the program for speakers and CAPA members.

CAPA, a non-partisan research organization (www.capa-hq.com), is taking the lead in organizing this event to assemble a broad coalition of media and research groups to co-sponsor and thereby underscore the importance of the forthcoming disclosures. C-SPAN and other wide news coverage is planned.  # # #