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About Stephen Puleo
Photo Credit: Patricia Doyle, 2010.
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“Puleo has found a new way to tell the story with this well-researched and splendidly written chronicle of the Jamestown, its captain, and an Irish priest who ministered to the starving in Cork city…Puleo’s tale, despite the hardship to come, surely is a tribute to the better angels of America’s nature, and in that sense, it couldn’t be more timely.” —The Wall Street Journal
The remarkable story of the mission that inspired a nation to donate massive relief to Ireland during the potato famine and began America's tradition of providing humanitarian aid around the world
More than 5,000 ships left Ireland during the great potato famine in the late 1840s, transporting the starving and the destitute away from their stricken homeland. The first vessel to sail in the other direction, to help the millions unable to escape, was the USS Jamestown, a converted warship, which left Boston in March 1847 loaded with precious food for Ireland.
In an unprecedented move by Congress, the warship had been placed in civilian hands, stripped of its guns, and committed to the peaceful delivery of food, clothing, and supplies in a mission that would launch America’s first full-blown humanitarian relief effort.
Captain Robert Bennet Forbes and the crew of the USS Jamestown embarked on a voyage that began a massive eighteen-month demonstration of soaring goodwill against the backdrop of unfathomable despair—one nation’s struggle to survive, and another’s effort to provide a lifeline. The Jamestown mission captured hearts and minds on both sides of the Atlantic, of the wealthy and the hardscrabble poor, of poets and politicians. Forbes’ undertaking inspired a nationwide outpouring of relief that was unprecedented in size and scope, the first instance of an entire nation extending a hand to a foreign neighbor for purely humanitarian reasons. It showed the world that national generosity and brotherhood were not signs of weakness, but displays of quiet strength and moral certitude.
In Voyage of Mercy, Stephen Puleo tells the incredible story of the famine, the Jamestown voyage, and the commitment of thousands of ordinary Americans to offer relief to Ireland, a groundswell that provided the collaborative blueprint for future relief efforts, and established the United States as the leader in international aid. The USS Jamestown’s heroic voyage showed how the ramifications of a single decision can be measured not in days, but in decades.
A 50-foot-tall steel tank filled with 2.3 million gallons of molasses had just collapsed on Boston's waterfront, disgorging its contents as a 15-foot-high wave of molasses that at its outset traveled at 35 miles an hour. It demolished wooden homes, even the brick fire station. The number of dead wasn't known for days. It would be years before a landmark court battle determined who was responsible for the disaster.
Long before the frustrations of our modern era, in which the notion of accomplishing great things often appears overwhelming or even impossible, Boston distinguished itself in the last half of the nineteenth century by proving it could tackle and overcome the most arduous of challenges and obstacles with repeated-and often resounding-success, becoming a city of vision and daring.
In A City So Grand, Stephen Puleo chronicles this remarkable period in Boston's history, in his trademark page-turning style. Our journey begins with the ferocity of the abolitionist movement of the 1850s and ends with the glorious opening of America's first subway station, in 1897. In between we witness the thirty-five-year engineering and city-planning feat of the Back Bay project, Boston's explosion in size through immigration and annexation, the devastating Great Fire of 1872 and subsequent rebuilding of downtown, and Alexander Graham Bell's first telephone utterance in 1876 from his lab at Exeter Place.
These lively stories and many more paint an extraordinary portrait of a half century of progress, leadership, and influence that turned a New England town into a world-class city, giving us the Boston we know today.
On December 26, 1941, Secret Service Agent Harry E. Neal stood on a platform at Washington's Union Station, watching a train chug off into the dark and feeling at once relieved and inexorably anxious. These were dire times: as Hitler's armies plowed across Europe, seizing or destroying the Continent's historic artifacts at will, Japan bristled to the East. The Axis was rapidly closing in.
So FDR set about hiding the country's valuables. On the train speeding away from Neal sat four plain-wrapped cases containing the documentary history of American democracy: the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Gettysburg Address, and more, guarded by a battery of agents and bound for safekeeping in the nation's most impenetrable hiding place.
American Treasures charts the little-known journeys of these American crown jewels. From the risky and audacious adoption of the Declaration of Independence in 1776 to our modern Fourth of July celebrations, American Treasures shows how the ideas captured in these documents underscore the nation's strengths and hopes, and embody its fundamental values of liberty and equality. Stephen Puleo weaves in exciting stories of freedom under fire - from the Declaration and Constitution smuggled out of Washington days before the British burned the capital in 1814, to their covert relocation during WWII - crafting a sweeping history of a nation united to preserve its definition of democracy.
Author Stephen Puleo draws from extensive personal interviews with all the major players, including the three living survivors (and a fourth who emerged as the book went to press); a senior U.S. naval archivist who worked with German historians after the war to catalog U-boat movements; and the son of the man who commanded America's sub-tracking "Secret Room" during the war. Due to Enemy Action also describes the final chapter in the Battle of the Atlantic, tracing the epic struggle that began with shocking U-boat attacks against hundreds of defenseless merchant ships off American shores in 1942 and ended with the sinking of the Eagle 56, the last American warship sunk by a German U-boat.
Early in the afternoon of May 22, 1856, ardent pro-slavery Congressman Preston S. Brooks of South Carolina strode into the United States Senate Chamber in Washington, D.C., and began beating renowned anti-slavery Senator Charles Sumner with a gold-topped walking cane. Brooks struck again and again—more than thirty times across Sumner’s head, face, and shoulders—until his cane splintered into pieces and the helpless Massachusetts senator, having nearly wrenched his desk from its fixed base, lay unconscious and covered in blood. It was a retaliatory attack. Forty-eight hours earlier, Sumner had concluded a speech on the Senate floor that had spanned two days, during which he vilified Southern slaveowners for violence occurring in Kansas, called Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois a “noise-some, squat, and nameless animal,” and famously charged Brooks’s second cousin, South Carolina Senator Andrew Butler, as having “a mistress. . . who ugly to others, is always lovely to him. . . . I mean, the harlot, Slavery.” Brooks not only shattered his cane during the beating, but also destroyed any pretense of civility between North and South.
One of the most shocking and provocative events in American history, the caning convinced each side that the gulf between them was unbridgeable and that they could no longer discuss their vast differences of opinion regarding slavery on any reasonable level.The Caning: The Assault That Drove America to Civil War tells the incredible story of this transformative event. While Sumner eventually recovered after a lengthy convalescence, compromise had suffered a mortal blow. Moderate voices were drowned out completely; extremist views accelerated, became intractable, and locked both sides on a tragic collision course.
The caning had an enormous impact on the events that followed over the next four years: the meteoric rise of the Republican Party and Abraham Lincoln; the Dred Scott decision; the increasing militancy of abolitionists, notably John Brown’s actions; and the secession of the Southern states and the founding of the Confederacy. As a result of the caning, the country was pushed, inexorably and unstoppably, to war. Many factors conspired to cause the Civil War, but it was the caning that made conflict and disunion unavoidable five years later.