Sunday, February 19, 2012

Coffee and Courage

A review in today's New York Times of Honor in the Dust, a history of what Americans then called the Philippine Insurrection, says in passing that
[President] McKinley, who had been commended for his bravery during the battle of Antietam, wanted to be re-­elected, but he wanted nothing to do with [Spanish-American] war.
McKinley served with distinction in the Civil War, enlisting as a private and mustering out as a major. At Antietam, though, he was commissary sergeant: a monument on the battlefield marks the place where he served hot coffee and warm food to the men of his regiment while under fire. It is my impression that there is some notice of this on South Mountain also, where the 23rd Ohio had fought a few days before, but I could be wrong.

William McKinley saw plenty of battles after that, as a company officer during the campaigns of 1863 and 1864. Having seen the battlefields of Antietam and the Shenandoah Valley, he could not regard war with the rather abstract enthusiasm of Roosevelt and Lodge. But he could not restrain the Congress.

Pennsylvania State University has developed an iPhone "app" to help coffee drinkers determine optimal times for drinking coffee. I was not at all surprised to notice that the research was funded through the Office of Naval Research, for coffee has long been a staple and staff of life on US Navy ships.

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