Grits and Tamales

Life in the Deep South, by Gabriel Aguilera

Monthly Archives: September 2016

Meet General Philip H. Sheridan: “I intend to make the cavalry an arm of the services.”

Philip H. Sheridan is one of my favorite Union generals during the war. Perhaps only Sherman was more colorful. Perhaps only Forrest was tougher.

What follows is from Volume 3 of Foote’s The Civil War: A Narrative (pages 135-136):


In conference with Lincoln and Halleck, soon after his return from Tennessee and before he established headquarters in the field, he [Grant] had expressed his dissatisfaction with cavalry operations in the eastern theater. What was needed, he said, was “a thorough leader.”… Halleck came up with the answer. “How would Sheridan do?” he asked. This was Major General Philip H. Sheridan, then in command of an infantry under Thomas near Chattanooga. His only experience with cavalry had been a five-week term as colonel of a Michigan regiment after Shiloh, nearly two years ago, and he had not only never served in Virginia, he had never even been over the ground in peacetime, so great was his dislike of all things southern. But Grant said that he would do just fine in command of the eastern army’s three divisions of 13,000 troopers. “The very man I want,” he said, and Sheridan was sent for. He arrived in early April, checked into Willard’s, and went at once to the White House, much as Grant had done the month before. The interview was marred, however, when [Lincoln] brought up the familiar jest: “Who ever saw a dead cavalryman?” Sheridan was not amused. If he had his way, there were going to be a great many dead cavalrymen lying around, Union as well as Confederate. Back at Willard’s with friends, he said as much and more. “I’m going to take the cavalry away from the bobtailed brigadier generals,” he vowed. “They must do without their escorts. I intend to make the cavalry an arm of the services.”

Sheridan was different, and he brought something different and hard into the army he now joined. “Smash ’em up, smash ’em up!” he would say as he toured the camps, smacking the palm with his fist for emphasis, and then ride off on his big galloping horse, a bullet-headed little man with close-cropped hair and a black mustache and imperial, bandy-legged, long in the arms, all Irish but with a Mongol look to his face and form, as if something had gone strangely wrong somewhere down the line in Ireland. Just turned thirty-three, he was five feet five inches tall and he weighed 115 pounds with his spurs on; “one of those long-armed fellows with short legs,” Lincoln remarked of him, “that can scratch his shins without having to stoop over.” Mounted, he looked about as tall and burly as the next man, so that when he got down from his horse his slightness came as a shock.” The officer you brought on from the West is a rather little fellow to handle your cavalry,” someone observed at headquarters, soon after Sheridan reported for duty. Grant took a pull from his cigar, perhaps remembering Missionary Ridge. “You’ll find him big enough for the purpose before we get through with him,” he said. And in point of fact, the under-sized, Ohio-raised West Pointer held much the same views on the war as his chief, who was Ohio born and had finished West Point ten years earlier, also standing about two thirds of the way down in his class. Those views, complementing Sheridan’s even more succinct “Smash ’em up, smash ’em up!” could be stated quite briefly, a staff physician found out about this time. They were sitting around idle after a hard day’s work and the doctor asked the general-in-chief for a definition of the art of war. Grant turned the matter over in his mind — no doubt preparing to quote Jomini or some other highly regarded authority, his listeners thought — and then replied, as if in confirmation of what his friend Longstreet was telling Lee’s staff about now, across the way: “Find out where your enemy is. Get at him as soon as you can, and strike him as hard as you can. And keep moving on.”

That was to be the method…





A Worthy Adaptation of Macbeth

The other day I noted to my friends on Facebook that I did not wish to live in a world where loving Marion Cotillard could be construed as morally wrong in any way or under any circumstances. I did, however, neglect to recommend the latest Macbeth that she starred in.

Really, it’s best construed as an adaptation, a very daring one that in my view lowers the volume on Shakespeare, to balance his near-perfect cadences with visual poetry and narrative.

Maybe I’m growing soft in my old age, or maybe I love Marion Cotillard a little too well, but I thought it very good if not excellent.

But you must see this on a big high def TV to get the full effect.

Asheville, North Carolina Sept 2016

I spent last weekend up in Asheville…

On the way home I discovered Lakemont, Georgia, which, as it turns out, is a forested cycling paradise with excellent country roads, big rollers, lakes, etc. Maybe it is to this town that I will retire one day. Downtown has a country store, three art galleries, a yoga studio (gasp!), and a bike studio. Asheville, NC is 2 hours north. Athens, GA is an hour-and-a-half south.

Thank You Vin Scully

“You tricked us into thinking you were just a sports announcer, when really you were a poet…when we were lost for words, you were Norman Rockwell.” -Kevin Costner

Costner delivered a fine speech tonight that old Dodger fans will never forget, one that will forever remind us that we were blessed to have our lives inspired by the best poet sportscaster who ever lived, one who painted portraits in our mind with cadenced sentences of joyous prose.

I  sometimes listened to games lying on a linoleum floor with the stereo speakers low so my brothers could watch our small black and white TV.

My Boyle Heights summers were filled with baseball and the Dodgers, with him calling games and pitching Farmer John.

In the third grade my teacher had a shelf of baseball books for kids, books about Mathewson, Ruth, Cobb and more — I read these all and fell in love.

I first picked up the LA Times to read of baseball; of Garvey, Lopes and Penguin Cey.

These last few days I’ve been falling asleep sad-hearted to the games, still called by him as they marched towards the pennant, this in his last year.

Baseball will go on and so will I, his music, though, will neither cease nor die inside my mind.

For the rest of my life it will not be hard for me to close my eyes and hear his music as I always did, from boyhood until my 49th year.

Scorsese Shares a Movie List

Check out the full story here:

Here is Mr. Scorsese’s list for aspiring film-makers:

  • Ace in the Hole
  • All that Heaven Allows
  • America, America
  • An American in Paris
  • Apocalypse Now
  • Arsenic and Old Lace
  • The Bad and the Beautiful
  • The Band Wagon
  • Born on the Fourth of July
  • Cape Fear
  • Cat People
  • Caught
  • Citizen Kane
  • The Conversation
  • Dial M for Murder
  • Do the Right Thing
  • Duel in the Sun
  • The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
  • Europa ’51
  • Faces
  • The Fall of the Roman Empire
  • The Flowers of St. Francis
  • Force of Evil
  • Forty Guns
  • Germany Year Zero
  • Gilda
  • The Godfather
  • Gun Crazy
  • Health
  • Heaven’s Gate
  • House of Wax
  • How Green Was My Valley
  • The Hustler
  • I Walk Alone
  • The Infernal Cakewalk
  • It Happened One Nght
  • Jason and the Argonauts
  • Journey to Italy
  • Julius Caesar
  • Kansas City
  • Kiss Me Deadly
  • Klute
  • La Terra Trema
  • The Lady From Shanghai
  • The Leopard
  • Macbeth
  • The Magic Box
  • M*A*S*H
  • A Matter of Life and Death
  • McCabe & Mrs. Miller
  • The Messiah
  • Midnight Cowboy
  • Mishima
  • Deeds Goes to Town
  • Smith Goes to Washington
  • Nashville
  • Night and the City
  • One, Two, Three
  • Othello
  • Paisa
  • Peeping Tom
  • Pickup on South Street
  • The Player
  • The Power and the Glory
  • Stagecoach
  • Raw Deal
  • The Red Shoes
  • The Rise of Louis XIV
  • The Roaring Twenties
  • Rocco and his Brothers
  • Rome, Open City
  • Secrets of the Soul
  • Senso
  • Shadows
  • Shock Corridor
  • Some Came Running
  • Stromboli
  • Sullivan’s Travels
  • Sweet Smell of Success
  • Tales of Hoffman
  • The Third Man
  • T-Men
  • Touch of Evil
  • The Trial
  • Two Weeks in Another Town

Will and Ariel Durant, “The Renaissance”

One of the books I enjoy rereading is “The Renaissance” by Will and Ariel Durant. I do so because of the humor, wit, and beautiful sonorous writing. It’s filled with funny and delightful well constructed sentences, like this:

“John’s successor was a man of gentler mold. Benedict XII, the son of a baker, tried to be a Christian as well as a pope; he resisted the temptation to distribute offices among his relatives; he earned an honorable hostility by bestowing benefices of merits, not for fees; he repressed bribery and corruption in all branches of Church administration; he alienated the mendicant orders by commanding them to reform; he was never known to be cruel or to shed blood in war. All the forces of corruption rejoiced at his early death (1342).”


Will Durant on Don Quixote

“Virtue ennobles the blood…Every man,” he tells Sancho, “is the son of his own works.”

America, by Walt Whitman


Centre of equal daughters, equal sons,

All, all alike endear’d, grown, ungrown, young or old,

Strong, ample, fair, enduring, capable, rich,

Perennial with the Earth, with Freedom, Law and Love,

A grand, sane, towering, seated Mother,

Chair’d in the adamant of Time.

Nobility of Character: Look Elsewhere

I’m always bemused by smart and worldly people who look for nobility of character in their politicians.

Divided Italy

Said of Italy, before it became a nation of the Earth, that perhaps applies to our divided days: “The timid weakness of individuals, the insecurity of groups, and the delusion of superiority generated perpetual fear, suspicion, dislike, and contempt of the different, the alien, and the strange.” -Durant, The Renaissance

%d bloggers like this: