Visit to President Benjamin Harrison Home

 

Indianapolis, IN- December 27, 2014.

Yesterday, I visited the Indianapolis home of the 23rd President of the United States, Benjamin Harrison.

The Home

The home was built in the 1870’s out of red brick. It has three stories and sixteen rooms. The house is built in an Italianate architectural style, so popular at the end of the 19th Century.

The interior feature has oak trimmed doors, butternut woodwork and a walnut staircase that cuts the house in half. The bottom floor has large, expansive bay windows to allow in plenty of sunshine. The structure of the home reflects the life of its owner- large, intelligent, expressive, and sturdy.

Benjimin Harrison Home
Home of President Benjamin Harrison

Benjamin Harrison the Man

Harrison was a born into a family of American political involvement. He was the great-grandson of a signer of the Declaration of Independence, his grandfather was the ninth President of the United States and his father was a congressman.

Harrison was born on August 20, 1833 in North Bend, Ohio. He married his college sweetheart at 20, studied law and moved to Indianapolis, Indiana. He practiced law from 1854 to 1860.

His law practice flourished and he entered politics.

He campaigned for an unknown Republican Presidential Candidate named Abraham Lincoln. By 1862, the Civil War was heating up.

The Civil War

The Civil War was dragging on, in 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issued a call for 300,000 more men to serve in the Union Army. In 1862, Harrison joined the 70th Indiana Regiment.

The Civil War soldier’s home away from home was his regiment. Regiments were often composed of men who had lived in the same neighborhoods. Almost of all had known each other before the war. Many groups of friends from the same city would join a regiment.

Regiments were not as organized at the beginning of the war. In the enthusiastic rush to volunteer for service in 1861, individuals would travel through their communities to raise regiments on their own. Once raised, they were presented to the army.

These volunteer regiments would select their own commanders. Sometimes, they provide their own uniforms and weapons.

In some cases, regiments had a distinctive regional or ethnic character—Irish, German, Italian, Jewish, Indian, or black, among others. In some cases, such as the Zouaves, regiments were distinguished by their vivid uniforms.

The 70th Regiment Indiana Infantry

Harrison wanted to enlist, but worried about how to support his young family. While visiting the Governor of Indiana Harrison found him distressed at the shortage of men. Harrison told the governor, “If I can be of any service, I will go”.

Harrison recruited throughout northern Indiana to raise a regiment. The 70th Indiana Infantry was organized in Indianapolis, Indiana July 22 through August 8, 1862,

The newly formed 70th Indiana mustered into Federal service on August 12, 1862. Once mustered, the regiment left Indiana to join the Union Army in Louisville, Kentucky.

For the next two years the regiment begins the ever-necessary railroad guard duty along the line of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad.

Indiana Infantry Regiment
Indiana Infantry Regiment

The Western Theater

The Western Theater of the Civil War was originally represented by the area east of the Mississippi River and west of the Appalachian Mountains. Defined both geographically and by campaign sequence. Many decisive were fought here including Shiloh, Chickamauga, Vicksburg and Nashville.

It was the theater where Grant, Sherman and Sheridan learned how to fight and win wars. The capture of the Mississippi River was a turning point for the Union. With a few notable exceptions, the Western Theater was a string of almost continuous defeats for the Confederacy.

The area expanded in 1864, when Major General William T. Sherman armies moved southeast from Chattanooga, Tennessee into Georgia and the Carolinas. In May 1864, Harrison and his regiment joined William T. Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign as part of the 20th Corps in the Army of the Cumberland, and moved to the front lines.

Battle of Resaca

On May 14th, 1864, Sherman’s forces attacked General Joseph E. Johnston’s Confederates at Resaca, Georgia. The fighting was intense, but inconclusive. Continuous Union assaults on the entrenched Confederates were beaten back.

The next day, most Federal attacks were again stopped, but one was successful. A four gun Confederate battery was placed in a forward position in one sector of the line. Brigadier General William T. Ward’s brigade, which included the 70th Indiana, was ordered to carry the artillery position.

Harrison led his regiment in the charge against the artillery battery. Many of the Union soldiers were shot down in the assault. Others, including Harrison made it to the earthen parapet surrounding the battery. They went over it and into the battery enclosure.

Fighting was hand-to-hand, but the Federals took the position and captured the artillery position. The success was short lived, as Confederate fire from the flanks and rear drove the Union attackers out and back over the parapet walls on the opposite side.

The Federals stayed on the outside of the parapet, and after dark dug a hole in its walls, retrieved the artillery, and dragged the guns back to Union lines. While the fighting of the 15th was going on, Sherman sent a division around to the Rebel left flank. With the left threatened, Johnston withdrew from Resaca that night.

Harrison and his men had fought well in the 70th’s first large battle. The regiment lost 26 men killed and 130 wounded, and these 156 casualties were the most of any Union regiment at the Battle of Resaca. Ward was wounded in the fighting, and Harrison took over brigade command.

Brigade Command

Harrison was promoted to command the 1st Brigade of the 1st Division of the XX Corps. He commanded the brigade at the Battles of Cassville, New Hope Church, Lost Mountain, Kennesaw Mountain, Marietta, Peachtree Creek and Atlanta.

Serving under Major General William T. Sherman in the Atlanta campaign, Harrison was among the first of the Union forces to march into the city upon its surrender. According to Sherman, Harrison served with “foresight, discipline and a fighting spirit. . .”

When Sherman’s main force began its March to the Sea, Harrison’s brigade was transferred to the District of Etowah and participated in the Battle of Nashville.

On January 23, 1865, President Lincoln nominated Harrison to the grade of brevet brigadier general of volunteers, with rank from that date. The U.S. Senate confirmed the nomination on February 14, 1865. He rode in the Grand Review in Washington, D.C. before mustering out on June 8, 1865.

Brigadier General Benjimin Harrison
Brigadier General Benjamin Harrison

Unlike many veterans, Harrison did not remember his Civil War years with much fondness. He rose quickly from lieutenant to become a brigadier general by the time he retired from service in June 1865.

But even with such achievements and praise, in his mind, war was a dirty business that no decent man would find pleasurable.

Harrison’s Legacy

By all accounts, Harrison was a popular commander who cared about his men. He led by example, showing much personal bravery both at Resaca and in later battles.

After the war, Harrison served as a U.S. Senator from Indiana in the 1880′s, and was elected, the 23rd President of the United States in 1888, serving one term before being defeated for reelection in 1892.

Harrison is best remembered as a moral man who had a conscientious devotion to duty. He carried out everything he did with the legacy of his family, and the interests of his nation in mind.

In his public persona he was known for being aloof and distant, perhaps due to shyness. But those that knew him personally saw him in an opposite light: unpretentious, generous and kind-hearted.

Under his Presidency six states were added to the Union, the size of the Navy was increased from 20th in the world to 5th, and he set aside more than 13 million acres of land for National Forest Reserve.

Assessment

Harrison was a “big thinker” who was a risk taker and decision maker. With his keen sense of fairness, he clearly defined ethics guided by honesty. He saw the definition of public service as having high principles.

He had the ability both as a combat commander and President to see things in a larger perspective and for the long haul. He was not afraid to make important, big decisions His strong belief system allowed him to meet tough challenges.

In his time as a public servant, both as a soldier and politician, he had the resolve to make changes during a time of progress. His strong convictions allowed him to endure when others had lost it and have to have faith when others gave up.

President Benjimin Harrison, 23rd President of the United States
President Benjamin Harrison, 23rd President of the United States

Master Steve Bruhn- The Influence of a Teacher

The Influence of a Teacher

The influence of a great teacher is immeasurable.  His students are able to go out into the world with the fire kindled from the altar of a master.  An exceptional teacher affects eternity and can never tell where his efforts stopped.

The ones you really remember are the ones who teach from the heart and not from a book or lesson plan.

You look back on their effects on your life with gratitude because you know they made a difference in how you think and live.  When I was a boy I met such a teacher. He changed my outlook on life by his constant positive attitude and values but mostly from the example he set in his martial arts school.

He assumed greatness in my life by emphasizing that failures and frustrations are a part of a life. He would go to inject the seed of inspiration into my heart to be better than I thought I could ever be. In the end he was more than my mentor and teacher, he became my friend.

His name is Steve Bruhn. There is no greater legacy a teacher can have than to be the inspiration for the man the student would want to become.

Meeting Mr. Bruhn

On the last day of my eighth grade year my dad told me a new martial arts school had just opened around the corner from my house. He encouraged me to check it out.  I went to the strip mall located down the road from my house.

On one there was a Denny’s and on the other was a large hand painted sign in the window advertising “Tae Kwon Do.” Not knowing what to expect I entered the school and Mr. Bruhn came out of his office.

He had brown hair and an ever present mustache that always reminded me of the journalist Geraldo Rivera.  Very obviously not the Asian Grand Master, I was expecting he greeted me politely. I told him I was interested in learning karate.

He explained that in his school, he taught a Korean Martial Art called Tae Kwon Do.  I learned he was only 25 years old and he had just opened his school. I was 14 years old, had a wild mane of curly, brown hair (hard to imagine Oto with a full head of hair) and weighed 165 pounds. I was a lonely, isolated teenager in every sense of the word and badly needed a male influence in my life.

My parents got divorced when I was 10 and I choose to live with my dad. My father was a good man but had trouble relating to a son who preferred to spend his time in a book or watching a movie, then being outside pursuing sports, what he did as a young man.

Over the next four years Mr. Bruhn and his school would not only provide a home away from home, but the encouragement and inspiration for me to grow into a man.

Mr. Bruhn the Teacher

Mr. Bruhn was a traditional martial arts teacher. In his “Dojang”- Korean for school- he was the teacher in a similar manner a “Professor” is at a college. His teaching style was never heard nor was it was too easy.

Even at the young age of 25 he struck the perfect chord with showing you something by example and then providing encouragement as he watched you execute the move.  Mr. Bruhn would quietly walk around the class, making small corrections to techniques as we practiced.

He always had a focused, contained intensity, a “presence” that gave him an air of authority.  You also knew when he was showing you something he was giving you his full attention and respect. When you spoke to him, he always would listen to you, not like most people who simply wait for their turn to talk. Something I learned from Mr. Bruhn was that respect and courtesy is a two way street and you get back what you put out.

The Lessons

In the beginning I was one of four students in his class. After the first month I was tired of just learning the basics of punching and kicking and I was going to quit going to the school.

My dad stopped by one afternoon to watch a class and spoke privately with Mr. Bruhn for a minute.  After I got home that night my dad did ask to speak to me.

Not a man to waste words he told me how lucky I was to have Mr. Bruhn as my teacher and that he was “a man of honor.” If I wanted to quit the decision was up to me be but it would be a mistake.

How he knew I was planning to do this I will never know. This had an impact on me and I returned the next day vowing not to quit.  Still now, more than 25 years later, I think it was the best decision I ever made.

Over that first summer practicing Tae Kwon Do, I lost 35 pounds and showed up for my freshman year of high school with a new attitude and confidence I had never had before.

As I progressed through training and got more and more self-assured in my kicks and punches I urged Mr. Bruhn to show me more advance techniques.  He constantly emphasized the study of martial arts is a lifelong pursuit that went beyond being able to defend yourself.

He once said, “Dom, I don’t care how well you punch or kick, what I care about is what kind of human being you become outside this school.” He stressed the learning of a martial art was about mastery of our physical selves and the disciplining of our spirits.

He taught me that being a warrior doesn’t mean winning or even succeeding in every endeavor you undertake.  It means putting your life on the line for something you believe in. A deeper meaning is that is that the life of a warrior is defined by risking and sometimes failing and trying again.

That’s the real challenge is the inner journey of the soul to go inside ourselves and find out who we really are is one of our greatest challenges. Mr. Bruhn taught the two aspects of the warrior ideal, a life of action and a life of the spirit.

That by studying Tae Kwon Do, I was learning more to than to simply defend myself, I was learning how to separate the life of my body from the life of my spirit.  The challenges that came from a life I would meet and overcome in the Dojang physically as defined by kicks, forms was really something much more and had a deeper meaning.

The courtesy I showed to Mr. Bruhn as my teacher and the respect I showed his school and the other students actually worked to strengthen my spirit. The kicking and punching was just the medium; the real destination was the person you strived to become.

That character was the central concept and along with the physical discipline you struggled to improve yourself.  The art of Tae Kwon Do is for self-defense, but the highest expression of the art was being a better person.

Mr. Bruhn best demonstrated this in the person he was. He never yelled at students. He always displayed politeness to his students and encouraged them. In all the years (over 25 now) I have never heard him complain, never heard him say something negative to a student unless their conduct demanded it.

He constantly emphasized the code of martial arts: courage, courtesy, bravery and loyalty. A seemingly paradoxical of boldness and gentleness that leads ultimately to harmony learned through respect of oneself and his opponent.

Mr. Bruhn once said, “The real spirit of Tae Kwon Do would be lost without courtesy. The highest compliment you can ever give someone is simply to be polite.” He loved the art as he taught it.

Becoming a Warrior

Over the next four years my favorite time wouldn’t be spent in the school practicing Tae Kwon Do but in his office among his endless collection of books on everything from Asian Philosophy to Christian books.

He would give me a book and I when I was finished with it we would discuss it. In these conversations I learned that the warrior ideal is a state at which the individual is connected to an inner core of spiritual experience, while at the same time engaged in the outer world.  Many martial arts speak of this ancient yearning.

In one book Mr. Bruhn gave me called “The Sources of Japanese Tradition” Tsunoda Ryusaku describes the ethic of the Samurai:

“Outwardly, he stands in physical readiness for any call to service, and inwardly, he strives to fulfill the Way. Within his heart he keeps to the ways of peace, but without, he keeps his weapons ready for use.”

I always saw Mr. Bruhn as a modern day Samurai. In place of his sword that he offered his school and time, this met a lot to his students, especially to a lonely and lost teenage boy.

Mr. Bruhn always treated me as an equal and showed me the utmost respect.  In the course of those afternoons he became more than my teacher, he became my friend and mentor and his school became my second home from the acceptance I found there.

My Dad

After I left high school and joined the army I always made it a point to call or stop by the school when I was home to see him. Two years after I graduated high school my father was diagnosed with leukemia category four (inoperable).

Over the next three months I watched him fade away. My father and I had not always gotten along. More alike than different we had argued as a teenage son does with a powerful and loving father.

In the two years since I had left, we had mended our relationship and just as we were at our best I was watching him die. Mr. Bruhn showed his greatest strength in my time of greatest time of need.

He would just listen to me rail away at the injustice of my father dying. Being 20 years old and losing a father, I only recently came to realize how deeply I loved him, it was a hard thing, maybe the hardest lesson I would ever learn.

Over the years Mr. Bruhn quietly talked to me about God. I always resisted the idea of a higher power and thought it was weak to rely on something other than yourself.

As my dad got sicker, his spirit seemed to grow stronger and his lack of fear in at his impending death scared me more than his illness.

Throughout it all Mr. Bruhn was there. I came to believe in God because of Mr. Bruhn’s unshakable faith and the way my dad seemed so at peace when he finally died because of his belief in God and where he was headed after he left this world.

Mr. Bruhn and my father both radiated their faith in the Lord. The Mr. Bruhn’s greatest lesson was in his display of faith and conviction in God. He truly is the most exceptional teacher and friend I have ever had.

Mr. Bruhn

The Mighty Gurkas of Nepal

Guys,

I have met some interesting people in my travels. Here is a story about some of the bravest.

In the Army I met four soldiers here who were ethnically from Nepal. They come from a race of people who many historians consider the greatest soldiers in the world.

Nepal       

Nepal is a country in South Asia that is bordered to the north by China and to the south, east and west by the Republic of India. The mountainous north of Nepal has eight of the world’s ten highest mountains, including the highest, Sagarmatha, known in English as Mount Everest. It contains over 240 peaks more than 20,000 feet above sea level.

It is a poverty stricken country made famous by severe earthquakes and high mountain peaks.

Nepal is a country of highly diverse geography, culture and religions. The British failed to annex Nepal as part of the Empire in a war in 1814 but Army officers were impressed by the tenacity of the Gurkha soldiers and encouraged them to volunteer for service in the British Army.

They have served the British, and later, the Indian Army with distinction and bravery for almost 200 years. They have fought in every war the British have been in and earned more awards for valor than any other group of soldiers in England’s long military history.

Bugles and a Tiger

One of my heroes is a British Army Officer named John Masters. Masters was the fifth generation of his family, and also the last, to serve in India. His military career was notably colorful, but his lasting achievement was to preserve for history in a succession of books which became an elegy for Britain’s colonial experience in the subcontinent, and for the old Indian army- that was commanded by British Officers.

At the heart of his experience was his service with soldiers from Nepal whom he came to love and admire for their toughness as well as bravery.

Masters was born in Calcutta, India and joined the British Army as a 20 year old subaltern (cadet officer) in 1935, served on and off in the North-West Frontier (modern day Pakistan) until 1939, and commanded a brigade in the Chindit Operation against the Japanese in Burma (same operation as Merrill’s Marauders) all before he was 30.

His dark skin and love for his indigenous soldiers that served with him, gave rise to gossip among his enemies that he was not British at all but an Anglo-Indian and possessed of all the social embarrassments of the period, “a touch of the tar brush,” (Hastings, 2007).

Although his forefathers and Masters had served through some of British’s toughest times this was too much for a man of his proud attitude to bear.  At 35, he moved to the United States and took up writing.  His most last memorial is his loving, exuberant memoir of service with the Gurkha Rifles, “Bugles and a Tiger,”- 1955- which ranks among one of the finest of all warrior narratives.  He wrote about them:

“As I write these last words, my thoughts return to you who were my comrades, the stubborn and indomitable peasants of Nepal. Once more I hear the laughter with which you greeted every hardship. Once more I see you in your bivouacs or about your fires, on forced march or in the trenches, now shivering with wet and cold, now scorched by a pitiless and burning sun. Uncomplaining you endure hunger and thirst and wounds; and at the last your unwavering lines disappear into the smoke and wrath of battle. Bravest of the brave, most generous of the generous, never had country more faithful friends than you,” (Masters, 1956).

Lieutenant Colonel Ashish Upadhyay

My own experience with the remarkable soldiers of Nepal was personified in LTC (then Captain) Ashish Upadhyay of the Nepalese Army. Ashish was in the Infantry Captain’s Career Course with me in 2002-2003.  I started, as his sponsor in the course, became his friend and in the end, gained a brother.

Standing 5’9 he had a lanky, wiry frame with the mocha skin of South Asia and a smile that seemed to take up his whole face when he laughed.  Ashish introduced himself to me in the first few days our class started.

I immediately noticed the up and down sing song, Hindi accent combined with his fondness for long words he was a joy to be around. Over the next five months I would take him with me all over the southeastern United States.

We partied in Atlanta, went to clubs in South Beach, did the tourist thing at Disney World and made it to Mardi Gras in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

During these long drives and weekends hanging out we talked about where we came from and our life experiences. Ashish looked and talked like an Indian but he was so much more. He was a Hindu of the Brahmin Class or caste in the Indian continent, generally considered to be the highest or priestly caste of the Varna Shastra or classification of the Hindu Society.

By becoming a soldier, he had broken a long standing family history of teachers and priests. He was a veteran of the savage civil war that had engulfed his country since the late 1990’s. He was chosen over 300 other officers to attend the Infantry Captain’s Career Course as an International Exchange Student at Fort Benning. He truly was the best his country had to offer in a culture and region famed for brave warriors.

Ashish worked as a peacekeeper when he was deployed in 2002 to southern Lebanon, where he worked as an operations officer with armies from Poland, Ghana, Nepal, Ireland and Fiji on a traditional peacekeeping mission which, as a predominately military operation, had little involvement with UN civilians or police. At the time, a ceasefire had recently been negotiated in one of the many clashes between armed groups in Lebanon and Israel.

In 2005, he commanded a contingent of Nepalese Army Special Forces on a mission in Africa for six months.

In 2003 we would talk about everything from girls, to religion to what made men follow a leader.  In one conversation he said, “Dominic, when do you feel best about yourself?”  I looked at him knowing it was a loaded question.

But as was our custom by now it would take us down a great road of discovery of ideas and thought. I quickly answered, “That’s easy bro.  When someone you love tells you they love and cherish you.”  He smiled and said, “That is a good answer.  But what about when you do something for someone and you have nothing to gain but that person’s happiness?”  I was blown away by the simplicity of his answer but also how much depth it had.

I replied, “That is pretty good amigo.”  He smiled and said, “That my friend is God.”  Such a great but to the point answer about the human condition were Ashish’s trademark.  He made such an impact on me that when the course ended I cried as I took him to the airport.

Even now, 13 years later we still keep in-touch and his influence on  me always brings to mind a saying he taught me in Nepali,  “Jai Mahakali, Ayo Gorkhali” which literally translates to “Glory be to the Goddess of War, here come the Gurkhas!”

Robie, Razoo, and Kunal

Four years ago I was in the library at Camp Vance, Afghanistan and I ran into a young Soldier named Robie.  He asked me if some he and his buddies could run with me in the morning.  After the first session we got to talking to and I found out Robie’s dad was a retired Major in the 7th Duke of Edinburgh’s Own Gurkha Rifles.

We were joined by Razoo and Kunal two more Nepalese-American Soldiers whose fathers were retired Officers in the British Army. Over the last three months we hung out together we literally did hundreds of miles of running and rucking together, I got to know quite a lot about them.

Like Ashish, they are men of few words, preferring their actions to do their talking.  When do they speak is usually to something profound or to ask me to speed up when we run together (this happens a lot).  Both Robie and Razoo are Ranger and Special Forces Qualified today.

More than being great training partners they remind me of all the reasons I joined the army in the first place. Like Ashish with his quiet dignity and focused intensity I can see why John Masters held them in such high regard because they are “… the bravest of the brave, most generous of the generous,” Never has a man had more faithful friends.

Below is a picture of Ashish today:

Ashish

Bibliography

Hastings, M. (2007). Warriors: Portraits from the Battle Field. New York : Vintage Publishing .

Masters, J. (1956). Bugles and a Tiger. New York City: Viking Press.