March 17th, 2020


Potus Geeks St. Patrick's Day Edition

Happy St. Patrick's Day to all of you who have some Irish ancestry. Apparently there were 22 Presidents who had some Irish ancestry, some of whom will surprise you. For three of these (Taft, Harding and Truman), I have been unable to locate which ancestor of theirs lived in Ireland. Here is the list:


1. Andrew Jackson: He was born in the predominantly Ulster-Scots Waxhaws area of South Carolina two years after his parents left Boneybefore, near Carrickfergus in County Antrim. A heritage centre in the village pays tribute to the legacy of 'Old Hickory', the People's President.

2. James K. Polk: His ancestors were among the first Ulster-Scots settlers, emigrating from Coleraine in 1680 to become a powerful political family in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina.

3. James Buchanan: Born in Cove Gap, Pennsylvania, Buchanan once said "My Ulster blood is a priceless heritage". The Buchanans were originally from Deroran, near Omagh in County Tyrone where the ancestral home still stands.

4. Andrew Johnson: His grandfather left Mounthill, near Larne in County Antrim around 1750 and settled in North Carolina.

5. Ulysses S. Grant: The home of his maternal great-grandfather, John Simpson, at Dergenagh, County Tyrone, is the location for an exhibition on the eventful life of the victorious Civil War commander who served two terms as President. Grant visited his ancestral homeland in 1878.

6. Chester Alan Arthur: His becoming president was the start of a quarter-century in which the White House was occupied by men of Ulster-Scots origins. His family left Dreen, near Cullybackey, County Antrim, in 1815. There is now an interpretive centre, alongside the Arthur Ancestral Home, devoted to his life and times.

7. Grover Cleveland: Born in New Jersey, he was the maternal grandson of merchant Abner Neal, who emigrated from County Antrim in the 1790s.

8. Benjamin Harrison: His mother, Elizabeth Irwin, had Ulster-Scots roots through her two great-grandfathers, James Irwin and William McDowell.

9. William McKinley: Born in Ohio, the descendant of a farmer from Conagher, near Ballymoney, County Antrim, he was proud of his ancestry and addressed one of the national Scotch-Irish Irish congresses held in the late 19th century.

10. Theodore Roosevelt: His mother, Mittie Bulloch, had Ulster Scots ancestors who emigrated from Glenoe, County Antrim, in May 1729. Roosevelt praised "Irish Presbyterians" as "a bold and hardy race." But he is also the man who said: "But a hyphenated American is not an American at all. This is just as true of the man who puts "native" before the hyphen as of the man who puts German or Irish or English or French before the hyphen."

11. William Howard Taft: Taft is included in many lists of Presidents of Irish heritage, though I have been unable to find precisely which ancestor lived in Ireland.

12. Woodrow Wilson: Of Ulster-Scot descent on both sides of the family, his roots were very strong and dear to him. He was grandson of a printer from Dergalt, near Strabane, County Tyrone, whose former home is open to visitors.

13. Warren G. Harding: Like Taft, Harding is included in many lists of Presidents of Irish heritage, though I have been unable to find precisely which ancestor lived in Ireland.

14. Harry S. Truman: Like Taft and Harding, Truman is also included in many lists of Presidents of Irish heritage, though I have been unable to find precisely which ancestor lived in Ireland.

15. John F. Kennedy: All four of his grandparents were the children of immigrants from Ireland. His paternal grandparents came from County Wexford, and he visited his ancestral home for four days in June of 1963.

16. Richard Nixon: The Nixon ancestors left Ulster in the mid-18th century; the Quaker Milhous family ties were with County Antrim and County Kildare.

17. Jimmy Carter: Carter has Scots-Irish and English ancestry. One of his paternal ancestors arrived in the American Colonies in 1635. His Irish ancestors came from County Antrim.

18. Ronald Reagan: He was the great-grandson, on his father's side, of Irish migrants from Ballyporeen, County Tipperary who came to United States via Canada and England in the 1940s. His mother was of Scottish and English ancestry. Once on a visit to Canada, he and Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney sang a duet of "When Irish Eyes Are Smiling".

19. George H. W. Bush: County Wexford His ancestry has been traced to, Richard de Clare, Earl of Pembroke (known as Strongbow) and to Dermot MacMurrough, the Gaelic king of Leinster.

20. Bill Clinton: President Clinton claims Irish ancestry despite there being no documentation of any of his ancestors coming from Ireland, but I'm sure he would never lie about something like that.

21. George W. Bush: One of his five times great-grandfathers, William Holliday, was born in Rathfriland, County Down, about 1755, and died in Kentucky about 1811-12. One of the President's seven times great-grandfathers, William Shannon, was born somewhere in County Cork about 1730, and died in Pennsylvania in 1784.

22. Barack Obama: Surprised? His mother's ancestry was predominantly English, but a few of his maternal ancestors hailed from Moneygall, County Offaly.

Happy St. Patrick's Day from potus_geeks.

Past Campaigns: Leonard Wood's 1920 Presidential Campaign

I had never heard of Leonard Wood until I watched a miniseries about Theodore Roosevelt and the Roughriders. Wood was an army doctor who rose to the position of Chief of Staff of the United States Army, thanks to his good friend Theodore Roosevelt. Wood must have had leadership skills because he was able to serve as Roosevelt's commander when the two served together in the Roughriders, the volunteer unit that Roosevelt put together to fight in the Spanish-American War in Cuba. Years later, when Roosevelt's death prevented his seeking the presidency yet again in 1920, it was Wood who became the Republican Party's presumptive nominee for President.

Wood was born on October 9, 1869 in Winchester, New Hampshire. He attended Pierce Academy in Middleborough, Massachusetts and Harvard Medical School, where he received his M.D. in 1884. He served as an intern at Boston City Hospital before taking a position as an Army surgeon in January of 1886. Wood was stationed with the 4th Cavalry at Fort Huachuca, Arizona and he participated in the last campaign against the famous Apache chief Geronimo in 1886. During that campaign, Wood earned the Medal of Honor for carrying dispatches 100 miles through hostile territory and for commanding a detachment of the 8th Infantry in hand-to-hand combat against the Apache after the officers of that unit had been lost. He attained the rank of captain in 1891.

In 1893 Wood was stationed at Fort McPherson in Atlanta, where he attended graduate school at Georgia Tech, then known as the Georgia School of Technology. He organized the school's football team in 1893, serving as the team's coach, and also as the left guard on the offensive line. The team finished with a 2–1–1 record, including a 28–6 victory over the University of Georgia.

Wood served as the personal physician to Presidents Grover Cleveland and William McKinley and it was during the first McKinley administration that he he developed a friendship with Theodore Roosevelt, who was then Assistant Secretary of the Navy. When the Spanish–American War broke out, Wood and Roosevelt decided to organize the 1st Volunteer Cavalry regiment, which became known as the Rough Riders. Wood commanded the regiment, with the rank of Colonel. Following the Battle of Las Guasimas, the brigade commander, Samuel B. M. Young, became ill, and Wood received a field promotion to brigadier general of volunteers. He was given command of the 2nd Brigade, Cavalry Division, Fifth Army Corps, which included the Rough Riders. Wood led the brigade to a famous victory at Kettle Hill and San Juan Heights, where Roosevelt also made a name for himself.

After San Juan, Wood commanded the 2nd Cavalry Brigade for the rest of the war. He remained in Cuba after the war and was appointed the Military Governor of Santiago in 1898, and later, Military Governor of Cuba from 1899 to 1902. In that position, he instituted improvements to the medical and sanitary conditions in Cuba. Wood was promoted to brigadier general of regulars shortly before moving to his next assignment.

In 1902, he was sent to the Philippines, where he commanded the Philippines Division and later became commander of the Department of the East. He was promoted to major general in 1903 and served as governor of Moro province. Wood was criticism in the media by a number of journalists, including Mark Twain, for his handling of the battle at First Battle of Bud Dajo where hundreds of women and children were killed. Wood insisted that many of the women were dressed as male soldiers, and that children were used by the rebels as human shields, and that these casualties were suffered because of the savage tactics of his enemies, in spite of his best efforts to avoid them. Twain and other journalists did not see it that way.

Wood was named Army Chief of Staff in 1910 by President William Howard Taft, with the full support of his good friend Theodore Roosevelt. Wood also knew Taft, who he had met while both men were in the Philippines. Wood became the first, and thus far the only medical officer to ever hold that position. As Chief of Staff, Wood implemented several programs, including what became the forerunner of the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) program. He also implemented the Preparedness Movement, a campaign for universal military training and wartime conscription. He also developed what became known as the Mobile Army, a strategy used subsequently by American forces, successfully, in World War I.

In 1914, Wood was replaced as Chief of Staff by William Wotherspoon. His ties to Republicans such as Roosevelt and Taft alienated him from President Wilson. When the U.S. entered into World War I in April 1917, Wood was recommended by Republicans, to be the U.S. field commander. But Wood was too closely identified with the Republican Party and Wilson appointed John J. Pershing, a less partisan choice, instead. During the war, Wood was assigned minor, non-combat roles, training the 10th and 89th Divisions at Camp Funston.

As the 1920 election approached, it was anticipated that Theodore Roosevelt would make another run for the Presidency, and many considered Roosevelt to the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party. But Roosevelt died in January of 1919, creating a vacancy for this role. Wood was urged into running by the family and supporters of Theodore Roosevelt. At the start of the Republican convention in Chicago on June 8, Wood was considered the front runner. Illinois Governor Frank Lowden and California Senator Hiram Johnson were his strongest competition. Ohio Senator Warren G. Harding was also a candidate, but was not considered to be as strong of one as the other three men.

Wood got off to a good start in the primaries in 1920, scoring strong victories in his home state of New Hampshire on March 9th (with 53%) and South Dakota on March 23rd (where Wood finished first in a close three way race with 36.5%, compared to 31.5% for Illinois Governor Frank Lowden and 30.7% for Johnson.) Johnson won a strong victory in North Dakota on March 16 (with 96%). He would go on to win six other primaries: Michigan on April 5 (38.4%), Nebraska on April 20 (46.2%), Montana on April 23 (52.4%), his home state of California on May 4 (63.9%), Oregon on May 21 (38.4%) and North Carolina on June 5 (73.3%).

Besides his first two early victories, Wood also won primaries in Wisconsin on April 6 (where he was able to finish first amide a crowded field with just 15%), New Jersey on April 27 (with 50.2%), Maryland on May 3 (with 66.4%), Indiana on May 4 (with 37.9%), Vermont on May 18 (with 66.1%) and West Virginia on May 18 (with 44.6%). Lowden won his home state of Illinois on April 13 with 51.1%. Favorite son Edward Wood of Pennsylvania won that state's primary on May 18 (with 92.3%) while Harding won his home state of Ohio on April 27 (with 47.6%). No winner was declared in New York (April 6) or Massachusetts (April 27).

The Republican convention was held in Chicago, Illinois, at the Chicago Coliseum from June 8 to June 12, 1920, with 940 voting delegates. Under convention rules, a majority plus one, or at least 471 of the 940 delegates, was necessary for a nomination. At the start of the convention, none of the three main candidates had a commanding lead, Wood, Lowden and Johnson all possible nominees. Harding was considered a longshot. Because none of the three candidates looked like he could garner a majority of delegates, some people predicted that a dark horse candidate would be chosen. Possibilities for this role included Pennsylvania Governor William Cameron Sproul, Pennsylvania Senator Philander C. Knox, Kansas Governor Henry Justin Allen, Massachusetts Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, or even the 1916 nominee Charles Evans Hughes. Sproul was acceptable to the conservative wing of the party, which had been supporting Lowden.

Party leaders worked to find a candidate acceptable to both the progressive and conservative wings of the party. This division in the party had badly injured it in the 1912 election (when conservatives backed Taft and progressives backed Roosevelt, clearing the way for a Wilson victory). Party bosses were anxious not to repeat this mistake. Conservatives were strongly opposed to Wood, because of his ties to the progressive Roosevelt, while Lowden was opposed by the progressive wing of the party. When party bosses met in a "smoke-filled room", Harding emerged as a moderately conservative candidate acceptable to the progressive wing of the party and as a strong compromise candidate. After the eighth ballot, the convention recessed, During the recess, Harding's managers lobbied Lowden's supporters and others to support Harding. Harding was helped by the fact that the Democrats had nominated James M. Cox of Ohio, and Republicans did not want to give the Democrats a home state advantage in the important swing state of Ohio.

Harding took the lead on the ninth ballot, and clinched the nomination on the tenth ballot. Many Republicans rejected Wood not only for his progressive leanings, but also because of his political inexperience, and because of the strong support he gave to what was known as "the Red Scare," i.e. Democratic Party Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer's campaign against communists and anarchists.

Wood retired from the U.S. Army in 1921. Harding appointed him as Governor General of the Philippines later that year. In this office, Wood did not work well with Filipino officials. In his first year, Wood vetoed 16 measures passed by the Philippine Legislature, an act viewed by his critics as an unprecedented misuse of his veto power. Tensions heightened in 1923, following Wood's interference in the case of Ray Conley, a Manila Police detective who was accused of immorality and misconduct in office. Interior Secretary Jose P. Laurel tried to fire Conley, but Wood ordered Laurel to reinstate Conley to the police force. In protest, Laurel tendered his resignation. The Filipino members of the Wood's cabinet all tendered their resignations in protest of Wood's decision. Wood's actions strained relations between the U.S. colonial government and the Filipino leaders.

In 1927 Wood was treated for a recurring brain tumor in Boston. He died in hospital there on August 7 after undergoing surgery for the tumor. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. His brain was removed and is held at the Yale University School of Medicine.