BackStory is a public radio show and podcast hosted by Peter Onuf, Ed Ayers, and Brian Balogh. We take a topic and try to find the most interesting stories to help give that topic context through three centuries of American history.

The show is broadcast weekly. Check us out on iTunes, Facebook, or at backstoryradio.org.
That’s the inscription on a plaque in the village of Louâtre, France - one of thousands of monuments, large and small, to American soldiers who fought in the First World War scattered across France. Writer Richard Rubin visits many of them in a great piece up on the New York Times website today.
The monuments in France include personal memorials like the one for Sergeant Tucker, as well as a huge memorial plaza built by the state of Pennsylvania, and Meuse-Argonne, the largest American cemetery in Europe. There’s plenty of memorials to those who served in WWI in the U.S., as well. In fact, historian Mark Levitch estimates that there may be up to 10,000 of them - far more than WWII memorials. But they’re often in out of the way places, neglected and battered. Our producer Andrew Parsons recently went with Levitch to explore some forgotten WWI memorials in Maryland. Learn more about what they found on our website, or listen to the full story here.

And if you know of a WWI memorial in your hometown, Mark Levitch would like to hear about it. Drop him a line over at the World War I Memorial Inventory Project.

That’s the inscription on a plaque in the village of Louâtre, France - one of thousands of monuments, large and small, to American soldiers who fought in the First World War scattered across France. Writer Richard Rubin visits many of them in a great piece up on the New York Times website today.

The monuments in France include personal memorials like the one for Sergeant Tucker, as well as a huge memorial plaza built by the state of Pennsylvania, and Meuse-Argonne, the largest American cemetery in Europe. There’s plenty of memorials to those who served in WWI in the U.S., as well. In fact, historian Mark Levitch estimates that there may be up to 10,000 of them - far more than WWII memorials. But they’re often in out of the way places, neglected and battered. Our producer Andrew Parsons recently went with Levitch to explore some forgotten WWI memorials in Maryland. Learn more about what they found on our website, or listen to the full story here.

And if you know of a WWI memorial in your hometown, Mark Levitch would like to hear about it. Drop him a line over at the World War I Memorial Inventory Project.

"General Andrew Jackson, Protector & Defender of Beauty & Booty."
How did Andrew Jackson come by this most excellent title? The legend of the phrase can be traced back to a fellow named George Poindexter (no, we’re not making that one up), a volunteer soldier at the Battle of New Orleans, fighting under Andrew Jackson. On the day of the Battle of New Orleans, though, Poindexter’s volunteering spirit seems to have deserted him. Instead of joining his comrades on the battlefield, he spent the day inside his quarters, nursing a bruise on his arm, which he claimed left him too injured to fight.
As you can imagine,  after the American victory at New Orleans, Poindexter caught a lot of guff for sitting out the fight. Perhaps looking for a way to change the subject, he started spreading the rumor that the British had been using a rather salacious “watchword and countersign:” Beauty and Booty. That is to say, if a British solider approached a sentry, they would exchange a phrase – “Beauty and Booty ” – that confirmed they were both Brits. The implication was, of course, that these were the things nearest and dearest to British hearts, and they would have sought them eagerly while pillaging New Orleans, if they hadn’t been defeated.
It seems like a silly, groundless accusation, but it soon spread. As our guest Nicole Eustace, a professor of history at NYU, put it:
“The idea that the British were fighting for ‘beauty and booty’ helped to cement in the public mind the idea that the romantic love that Americans fought from was a virtuous kind of romantic love, whereas the English were motivated by evil, sinful, lustful varieties of passion, which was quite distinct from American virtuous love.”Even Andrew Jackson, a national hero after his success at New Orleans (no thanks to Poindexter), took up the mantra. At victory celebrations after the treaty had been signed, he toasted his troops for having protected American beauty and booty.
It was then that the British decided that they needed to do something to convince the American public that the entire thing had been made up. Surviving British officers swore an affidavit that “Beauty and Booty”  had never been their watchword, but by then it was too late.
True or not, the idea refused to die in part because it was so politically useful. The U.S. was still a young country, with a military that relied heavily on volunteers called up for specific conflicts. The nation needed to get its young men excited about fighting for the country. And what better way was there to get young men to defend the nation than to make them think about their country the way they thought about their women?
Poems, novels, and songs abounded during and right after the War of 1812 romanticizing war and patriotism, and even suggesting that romantic men made better soldiers. Here’s a popular example from the time, a poem called The Love of Country.


A soldier is a gentleman.
His honor is his life.
And he that won’t stand to his post
Will ne’er stand by his wife
Since love and honor are the same
Or are so near allied
That neither can exist alone
But flourish side by side.
Farewell ye sweethearts for a while,
Ye pretty girls adieu!
And when we’ve drove the British dogs
We’ll kiss it out with you.

Want more? Listen to Strange Bedfellows, our segment exploring the romantic love of country that arose out of the War of 1812:

"General Andrew Jackson, Protector & Defender of Beauty & Booty."

How did Andrew Jackson come by this most excellent title? 
The legend of the phrase can be traced back to a fellow named George Poindexter (no, we’re not making that one up), a volunteer soldier at the Battle of New Orleans, fighting under Andrew Jackson. On the day of the Battle of New Orleans, though, Poindexter’s volunteering spirit seems to have deserted him. Instead of joining his comrades on the battlefield, he spent the day inside his quarters, nursing a bruise on his arm, which he claimed left him too injured to fight.

As you can imagine,  after the American victory at New Orleans, Poindexter caught a lot of guff for sitting out the fight. Perhaps looking for a way to change the subject, he started spreading the rumor that the British had been using a rather salacious “watchword and countersign:” Beauty and Booty. That is to say, if a British solider approached a sentry, they would exchange a phrase – “Beauty and Booty ” – that confirmed they were both Brits. The implication was, of course, that these were the things nearest and dearest to British hearts, and they would have sought them eagerly while pillaging New Orleans, if they hadn’t been defeated.

It seems like a silly, groundless accusation, but it soon spread. As our guest Nicole Eustace, a professor of history at NYU, put it:

“The idea that the British were fighting for ‘beauty and booty’ helped to cement in the public mind the idea that the romantic love that Americans fought from was a virtuous kind of romantic love, whereas the English were motivated by evil, sinful, lustful varieties of passion, which was quite distinct from American virtuous love.”

Even Andrew Jackson, a national hero after his success at New Orleans (no thanks to Poindexter), took up the mantra. At victory celebrations after the treaty had been signed, he toasted his troops for having protected American beauty and booty.

It was then that the British decided that they needed to do something to convince the American public that the entire thing had been made up. Surviving British officers swore an affidavit that “Beauty and Booty”  had never been their watchword, but by then it was too late.

True or not, the idea refused to die in part because it was so politically useful. The U.S. was still a young country, with a military that relied heavily on volunteers called up for specific conflicts. The nation needed to get its young men excited about fighting for the country. And what better way was there to get young men to defend the nation than to make them think about their country the way they thought about their women?

Poems, novels, and songs abounded during and right after the War of 1812 romanticizing war and patriotism, and even suggesting that romantic men made better soldiers. Here’s a popular example from the time, a poem called The Love of Country.

A soldier is a gentleman.

His honor is his life.

And he that won’t stand to his post

Will ne’er stand by his wife

Since love and honor are the same

Or are so near allied

That neither can exist alone

But flourish side by side.

Farewell ye sweethearts for a while,

Ye pretty girls adieu!

And when we’ve drove the British dogs

We’ll kiss it out with you.

Want more? Listen to Strange Bedfellows, our segment exploring the romantic love of country that arose out of the War of 1812:

When the very first European explorers landed in New England, they found an environment shaped by human intervention - trees pushed back to plant “many leagues” of farm fields, and forests that a man could gallop a horse through - thanks to annual controlled burns started by native tribes to clear the undergrowth. But by the time European settlers came in numbers, diseases introduced by those early explorers had killed off so many of the people who had originally lived there that many settlers came to believe that they had settled in an untamed wilderness. 
Our guest Charles C, Mann, author of 1491 and 1493, takes us through the transformation of the New England on our latest. Listen here. 

When the very first European explorers landed in New England, they found an environment shaped by human intervention - trees pushed back to plant “many leagues” of farm fields, and forests that a man could gallop a horse through - thanks to annual controlled burns started by native tribes to clear the undergrowth. But by the time European settlers came in numbers, diseases introduced by those early explorers had killed off so many of the people who had originally lived there that many settlers came to believe that they had settled in an untamed wilderness. 

Our guest Charles C, Mann, author of 1491 and 1493, takes us through the transformation of the New England on our latest. Listen here

Reblogged from latimes  207 notes
latimespast:

This weekend marks the 200th anniversary of “The Star-Spangled Banner” — the poem written in 1814 that in 1931 became the United States’ official national anthem. 
On March 3, 1931, Congress sent its bill to make the song the official anthem to President Hoover. See The Times’ coverage of that here: National Hymn Bill Approved. Alas, The Times was not around to cover the War of 1812.
Above, that banner yet waves over Griffith Park in 1934.
And for more history about “The Star-Spangled Banner,” read staff writer Michael Muskal: 'Star-Spangled Banner': Anthem was once a song of drinking and sex
— Matt Ballinger
Photo: Dr. Frederick C. Leonard speaks at the dedication ceremony for the Astronomers Monument at Griffith Park, Los Angeles, 1934. Credit: Los Angeles Times / UCLA Library

latimespast:

This weekend marks the 200th anniversary of “The Star-Spangled Banner” — the poem written in 1814 that in 1931 became the United States’ official national anthem. 

On March 3, 1931, Congress sent its bill to make the song the official anthem to President Hoover. See The Times’ coverage of that here: National Hymn Bill Approved. Alas, The Times was not around to cover the War of 1812.

Above, that banner yet waves over Griffith Park in 1934.

And for more history about “The Star-Spangled Banner,” read staff writer Michael Muskal: 'Star-Spangled Banner': Anthem was once a song of drinking and sex

Matt Ballinger

Photo: Dr. Frederick C. Leonard speaks at the dedication ceremony for the Astronomers Monument at Griffith Park, Los Angeles, 1934. Credit: Los Angeles Times / UCLA Library

In honor of the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, BackStory heads into the wild, exploring Americans’ fascination with, and fear of, wild places – and the ways in which humans have impacted even the most remote corners of the country. From early English colonists who saw wilderness in an already settled land, to 19th and 20th century Americans who sought to flee cities and find peace in nature, we’re taking a look at how our physical and mental landscapes have changed over time.