The Christmas Truce of World War I

This is a story that I’ve heard retold a couple times, and it is worth sharing with those who have never had opportunity to hear it:

The Christmas Truce of World War I:
Never forget the Christmas Truce of World War I, when troops refused to be pawns of empire for one blessed day.


WWI was a horrible event in history for multiple reasons. One, it was, at least on the surface, partly a family feud between the European royalty. It also was the first war to introduce some of the horrific (for the time) mechanization of modern warfare: tanks, planes, and mustard gas. It was supposed to be “the war to end war“, but unfortunately, this was not to be.

Another player in the conflict was the media, for good or ill, that was able to report the war at a pace that was hitherto impossible. But it is because of the presence of the media on the battlefield that we have record of the Christmas Truce.

War of 1812 Showed Importance of Maintaining Military Strength

Another view of the War of 1812, from the Heritage Foundation:

War of 1812 Showed Importance of Maintaining Military Strength: This week 200 years ago, Congress passed and President James Madison signed a declaration of war against Great Britain, then the world’s most powerful nation. Our young country had already fought three wars since adopting the Constitution in 1788, yet this marked Congress’s first such declaration, and the highly controversial act passed without a single vote from a member of the Federalist party. The War of 1812—mostly forgotten today—helped shape the national character and greatly refined…

Click the title to read the full post.

Who opposed the War of 1812?

I sadly must admit that my knowledge of many of the wars the United States have engaged in is limited, but I am proud to share this article from the Oxford University Press on the War of 1812:

Who opposed the War of 1812?:
By Troy Bickham
As North America begins to mark the bicentennial of the War of 1812, it is worth taking a brief moment to reflect on those who opposed the war altogether. Reasons for opposing the war were as diverse as justifications for it. Ideology, religious belief, opportunism, apathy, and pragmatism all played roles. Unlike Europeans caught up in the Napoleonic Wars ravaging that continent, the vast majority of free males in North America had — whether by right of law or the by the fact that military service was easy to avoid — choice of whether or not to participate. And, interestingly, most of them chose not to participate.

Like all wars, the War of 1812 is shrouded in myths and legends. One is the myth of American perseverance and bravery celebrated in the US national anthem (based on Francis Scott Key’s poem in the wake of the British naval bombardment of Fort McHenry at Baltimore in 1814). The reality is that the Americans lost most of their battles, and far more often than not they retreated or surrendered after suffering light casualties. At the start of the war, William Hull led a US invasion force into Canada. After meeting moderate resistance, which his force outnumbered, he quickly retreated back to a well-supplied fort at Detroit and then promptly surrendered it, the Michigan Territory, and all American troops and militia in the territory in a matter of days. A furious Thomas Jefferson remarked to President James Madison that “Hull will of course be shot for cowardice and treachery.”

Bombardment of Fort M’Henry. From An illuminated history of North America, from the earliest period to the present time by John Frost, 1856. Source: NYPL.

Another myth is that ordinary Canadians rallied around the British standard to heroically thwart a series of invasions from the US and gave birth to Canadian nationalism in the process. While the invasions were stifled, military historians have long credited this to the poor quality of the US forces and to the superior organization of the small force of British troops defending Canada. While there are numerous recorded actions of Canadian heroism, the truth is that the vast majority of eligible men avoided their legal obligation to serve in the militia. In fact, the Francophone population rioted when the militia was called up in Quebec. The largest turnout of the militia of Upper Canada (now largely Ontario) in the war came following the US capture of what is now Toronto. But they didn’t show up to fight. Instead, they appeared after the brief battle to accept the US Army’s offer of a parole to any militiaman who surrendered. A parole was a legally recognized document by which a combatant was released on his promise not to fight in the war (effectively a pass to sit out the remainder of the war).

The truth is that the War of 1812 was a conflict that few wanted. Not a single member of the Federalist party in Congress voted for a declaration of war. Governors and legislatures of New England states, where the Federalists were strong and anti-war sentiment even stronger, announced statewide days of fasting and prayer in mourning. In a public address sent to Congress in the response to the declaration of war, the Massachusetts House of Representatives declared that: “An offensive war against Great Britain, under the present circumstances of this country, would be in the highest degree, impolitic, unnecessary, and ruinous.” New England clergymen used their pulpits to rail against the war and discourage young men from service, with such ministers as Nathan Beman of Portland describing the army camps as “the head quarters of Satan.”

United States army and navy uniforms in the War of 1812 by Henry Alexander Ogden, 1897. Source NYPL.

Even amongst members of Madison’s own Republican party, sentiment regarding the war was lukewarm. Owing to the compromises which proved necessary to secure enough votes in Congress for a war declaration, Madison and the war hawks were unable to pass adequate financing bills to raise, equip, and train a decent army. The result, as historian John Latimer recently summarized, was that “defeat was practically guaranteed from the moment Madison and Congress stepped onto the warpath.” DeWitt Clinton, the popular Republican mayor of New York City and later state governor, ran against Madison in the presidential election that year on a largely anti-war platform. And while the South was predominately Republican, plenty of newspaper editors and politicians spoke out against the war.

Few suffered more than the group that defended Alexander Contee Hanson’s right to publish the flamboyantly anti-war Federal Republican paper in Baltimore in June 1812. A heavily-armed group defended the publishing house against a riotous Baltimore crowd that boasted an artillery piece manned by none other than the editor of the rival Sun newspaper. When the affair ended, one of the defenders was dead and eleven more were physically broken following hours of physical torture. These were hardly anti-American radicals. Among the severely wounded was Henry “Light-Horse Harry” Lee: Revolutionary War hero, former governor of Virginia, and father to the Confederate army general, Robert E. Lee. The dead man was James Lingan, another Revolutionary War veteran and former senior officer of the Maryland State Militia. George Washington’s adopted son, George Washington Parke Custis, gave the funeral oration.

While the war was less divisive amongst the political elites of the British Empire, a number of politicians spoke out against the war. In open debate in the House of Commons, one member called the war “a great evil,” while another lamented that Britain’s mean-spirited “detestation of liberty” and jealousy of post-revolutionary America’s success drove Britain into an unjust war. In Upper Canada, the provincial assembly initially refused to grant the commanding British general emergency powers for fear, at least according to the general, that resisting an American invasion would only agitate the invaders. Some Canadian legislators actually joined the US forces, and then raised and led Canadian troops on the side of the US.

Most North Americans on either side of the Canadian border were far less vocal in their opposition to the war. They simply refused to participate. Despite adding tens of thousands of troops to its paper army each year, the US never met its pre-war recruitment goal of 30,000 men. Desertion was rife in the British Army, which ran short on supplies throughout the hard Canadian winter, just as it was in the US Army, particularly when the bankrupt US government could no longer afford to pay or feed its soldiers in the last year of the war. Often backed by their governors, state militia regularly refused to cross borders, particularly when it meant fighting the enemy on the other side. A furious Madison tried but failed to place them under federal authority. The militia in Canada was not substantially different. Most men refused calls into service and those who did typically deserted by the autumn harvest. In order to persuade the militia in his command to march on the invading Americans in the summer of 1812, the British commander of Upper Canada had to trick the men into thinking they were simply going on an exercise.

George Cruikshank, “State Physicians Bleeding John Bull to Death!!” In one of innumerable public complaints about high taxes in Britain, this image shows John Bull, the personification of the British people, is being bled, or taxed, to death in order to support the massive military establishment that surrounds him. The British taxpayer proved to be one of the most influential opponents of the war. Fed up with decades of unprecedented levels of taxation, they demanded that Britain’s war machine be dismantled. Fearing a backlash of angry taxpayers if it continued the war, the British government signed a quick status quo antebellum treaty with the US in late 1814 — despite that the fact that Britain had tens of thousands of veteran troops massing in Canada, complete control of the seas, and the US government was bankrupt and unable to pay its dwindling army.

So as guns fire, re-enactors march, and replica ships set sail, remember that what we are recollecting is an important but ultimately just a small slice of the story of the War of 1812. A better representation might be the inhabitants of Nantucket. After public deliberation, a delegation from the island approached the British in the summer of 1814 and signed their own separate peace agreement, whereby the islanders would no longer pay federal taxes or fight in the war and Britain would release any of the island’s men being held prisoner and no longer molest its ships.

Troy Bickham is an Associate Professor of History and a Ray A. Rothrock Fellow in the College of Liberal Arts at Texas A&M University. He is the author of The Weight of Vengeance: The United States, the British Empire, and the War of 1812, Making Headlines: The American Revolution as Seen Through the British Press, and Savages within the Empire: Representations of American Indians in Eighteenth-Century Britain.

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The Weapons of Our Warfare

This article from Truth Magazine may be old, but the wisdom it is based on is timeless:

The Weapons of Our Warfare:
By Leslie Diestelkamp

Paul wrote, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh (for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal . . .”). (2 Cor. 10:3, 4). Today it may be possible that some of us are putting too much trust in a physical weapon to help us win a spiritual victory. To allow ourselves to be thus misguided would be like trying to win a Navy victory with trucks and tanks, or like trying to win a football game with tennis balls. By use of a gun or a club a woman would seldom win the love of a man, for the weapons of her warfare in the battles of love are not those that involve violence. Just as surely as God “Dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshiped with men’s hands” (Ac. 17:24, 25), likewise His people cannot fight His battles with those things that are material in their nature. just as certainly as the mountains of Samaria and the temple at Jerusalem would both be unimportant for true worship to God, for true worship must be “in spirit and in truth” (Jn. 4:21-24, likewise today acceptableness to Him and fruitfulness in His service is determined by our use of those things that are spiritual and not carnal.

Are We Really Soldiers?
It often may be wise for us to be reminded that we are indeed engaged in a very real warfare. Every Christian is a soldier in the Lord’s army. We are all volunteers for the Lord does not conscript us. Yet, though we be altogether willing soldiers, we are, nevertheless real warriors, and we must accept the weapons God has given, train ourselves in their proper use, and wield them with vigor and courage.

Our enemy is Satan and his soldiers are those people who are subjects of sin and victims of deception and false doctrine. Satan’s soldiers need no special qualifications, and  transgression, ignorance and wilfulness are perhaps the three most potent snares he has to gain and to keep his soldiers. John wrote that sin is transgression (I Jn. 3:4). God said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee” (Hos. 4:6). In 2 Peter 3:5 the Holy Spirit teaches us about those who are willingly ignorant of God’s ways and God’s word, and how that such brings destruction. Satan’s army is full of men and women who have all transgressed God’s word and who go on in transgressions, either ignorantly or deliberately. These are the soldiers against whom God’s army is arrayed. The task of God’s people is to eliminate ignorance and to try to provoke the willful ones to surrender to the Lord.

Throughout all the centuries past the faithful have been engaged in a warfare, and indeed “truth is stranger than fiction” and the stories of the battles fought in behalf of truth and righteousness are the greatest stories ever told. Because he walked so closely with God and pleased Him so completely Enoch was spared the ordeal of death and was thus given a very significant “decoration” for his victory over Satan. Abraham’s battles were fought by faith and it (the faith) was counted unto him for righteousness (Rom. 4:3). Elijah overpowered the prophet of Baal through his faith in God. John the baptizer lost his head to a wicked woman but even in death portrayed victory in righteousness. Jesus the Christ emerged as the greatest warrior of all time, for he not only demonstrated power over the winds of the sea, over the afflictions of the flesh and over the forces of gravity, but most significantly he exhibited himself to be master of sin and of death and of Satan. For us today, the example of Jesus is truly convincing, for he did his warfare entirely with the spiritual weapon, the word of God which it has also pleased Him to give to us for our use in the same kind of warfare.

Perhaps we should each ask ourself if we really qualify as a good soldier in the army of the Lord? Are we really trying to win a victory in the hearts of men and women for our Saviour and theirs? Let us remember that it is not enough for us to just volunteer, but we must fight! We are indeed added to the Lord’s army when we obey the gospel of Christ (Ac. 2:47), but such does not constitute us as truly good soldiers unless we go on from that beginning to engage ourselves in battle against sin, Satan and error.

Choosing Our Weapons
When Paul tells us that the weapons of our warfare ire not carnal, he was surely stressing the truly spiritual nature of the Kingdom of Christ. He was suggesting that the ordinary means used by men to gain their objectives in this life are not to be used in opposing Satan and in defending truth. I take it that he not only meant to forbid the use of unscrupulous ways and means but that he would also have us know that material things, even those that are honest and good in themselves, could not win spiritual victories. We need so badly
to learn this lesson today. Let us notice some ways in which we may be inclined to forget Paul’s words and lean too heavily upon fleshly, human means:

  1. The power of the old-fashioned gospel, unadulterated with the fancy phrases of modern theology, is still God’s only way to bring sinners to salvation. Paul himself said that he was sent to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of non effect – I Cor. 1 :17, and that his speech and his preaching was “not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (2 Cor. 2:4). And so today there is an evident need for the truth that will make men free, and for preaching that possesses no theological ambiguity. The cultured words of man’s wisdom may fill the church houses of our day, but only the unvarnished truth of God’s word will concert the sinner from the error of his way. The fancy technology learned in the speech classes, the illustrations and quotations from the newest and best of men’s literature and the “good mixer” qualities learned in the psychology classes (and from Dale Carnegie’s book) may all combine to make us successful “church builders,” but only the sharp, two edged sword of the Spirit separates sinners from sin and brings them to the Lamb of God to be washed in the blood He shed.
  2. Under the guise of a means to a worthy end we build great and expensive church buildings today, spending huge sums of the Lord’s money, adding much that is entirely of vanity and human pride instead of building only that which is a necessity for proper assembly. Strangely and sadly we note that so many Christians today hardly recognize the existence of the church in any community until a church building is erected. At least many do equate the presence of a church building with the existence of a church. And after the building is erected still more and more funds are poured into the “physical plant” in the form of additions and improvements. In most places any sum suggested can easily be had to pay for these physical things. But out in the destitute fields of the world the people in sin and ignorance are starving for the bread of life and the preachers of the word are often sacrificing significantly while their pleas for help fall upon deaf ears. Ask many churches for a thousand dollars for a carpet for the aisles and the rostrum and it will be forthcoming immediately, but ask the same church for one hundred dollars for support for a preacher in a new field and the appeal is not only rejected but often ignored.

    We need to remember that not one soul was ever won to Christ by a church building, either fancy or ordinary. Let us not forget that pews and carpets, air-conditioners and nurseries and all other such material things appeal only to the fleshly and not to the spiritual. When plain, commodious church buildings are filled with godly, consecrated men and women and when the Lord’s money is expended freely and abundantly for more and more spiritual food and when less and less is used for physical advantages, we will then be more closely imitating Paul and his companions of the first century.

  3. Slides, films and projectors may certainly have their place in the teaching activities of God’s people today, but such mechanical things will never replace consecrated Christians and devoted students of the word. The problem here is not so much regarding the item used but in the attitude toward it. When people must “see a show” in order to study the word of God their attitude is wrong and any action they take will likely be from a wrong concept or motivation, also. (Let this not he construed as a criticism of visual aids is such, but only as an effort to point out abuses. The same is true of former paragraphs regarding education and church buildings).

Truth Magazine, III:10, pp. 10-11
July 1959