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At the Gates - Early Game

At the Gates - Early Game


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Microsoft founded

On April 4, 1975, at a time when most Americans used typewriters, childhood friends Bill Gates and Paul Allen found Microsoft, a company that makes computer software. Originally based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Microsoft relocated to Washington State in 1979 and eventually grew into a major multinational technology corporation. In 1987, the year after Microsoft went public, 31-year-old Gates became the world’s youngest billionaire.

Gates and Allen started Microsoft—originally called Micro-Soft, for microprocessors and software—in order to produce software for the Altair 8800, an early personal computer. Allen quit his job as a programmer in Boston and Gates left Harvard University, where he was a student, to focus on their new company, which was based in Albuquerque because the city was home to electronics firm MITS, maker of the Altair 8800. By the end of 1978, Microsoft’s sales topped more than $1 million and in 1979 the business moved its headquarters to Bellevue, Washington, a suburb of Seattle, where Gates and Allen grew up. The company went on to license its MS-DOS operating system to IBM for its first personal computer, which debuted in 1981. Afterward, other computer companies started licensing MS-DOS, which had no graphical interface and required users to type in commands in order to open a program. In 1983, Allen departed Microsoft after being diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma he was successfully treated for the disease and went on to pursue a variety of other business ventures.

In 1985, Microsoft released a new operating system, Windows, with a graphical user interface that included drop-down menus, scroll bars and other features. The following year, the company moved its headquarters to Redmond, Washington, and went public at $21 a share, raising $61 million. By the late 1980s, Microsoft had become the world’s biggest personal-computer software company, based on sales. In 1995, amidst skyrocketing purchases of personal computers for home and office use, Windows 95 made its debut. It included such innovations as the Start menu (TV commercials for Windows 95 featured the Rolling Stones singing “Start Me Up”) and 7 million copies of the new product were sold in the first five weeks. During the second half of the 1990s, Internet usage took off, and Microsoft introduced its web browser, Internet Explorer, in 1995.


Dawn of the Home Console

In 1967, developers at Sanders Associates, Inc., led by Ralph Baer, invented a prototype multiplayer, multi-program video game system that could be played on a television. It was known as “The Brown Box.”

Baer, who’s sometimes referred to as Father of Video Games, licensed his device to Magnavox, which sold the system to consumers as the Odyssey, the first video game home console, in 1972. Over the next few years, the primitive Odyssey console would commercially fizzle and die out.

Yet, one of the Odyssey’s 28 games was the inspiration for Atari’s Pong, the first arcade video game, which the company released in 1972. In 1975, Atari released a home version of Pong, which was as successful as its arcade counterpart.

Magnavox, along with Sanders Associates, would eventually sue Atari for copyright infringement. Atari settled and became an Odyssey licensee over the next 20 years, Magnavox went on to win more than $100 million in copyright lawsuits related to the Odyssey and its video game patents.

In 1977, Atari released the Atari 2600 (also known as the Video Computer System), a home console that featured joysticks and interchangeable game cartridges that played multi-colored games, effectively kicking off the second generation of the video game consoles.

The video game industry had a few notable milestones in the late 1970s and early 1980s, including:

  • The release of the Space Invaders arcade game in 1978
  • The launch of Activision, the first third-party game developer (which develops software without making consoles or arcade cabinets), in 1979
  • The introduction to the United States of Japan’s hugely popular Pac-Man
  • Nintendo’s creation of Donkey Kong, which introduced the world to the character Mario
  • Microsoft’s release of its first Flight Simulator game

The Roots Of Multiplayer Gaming As We Know It

During the late 1970s, a number of chain restaurants around the U.S. started to install video games to capitalize on the hot new craze. The nature of the games sparked competition among players, who could record their high scores with their initials and were determined to mark their space at the top of the list. At this point, multiplayer gaming was limited to players competing on the same screen.

The first example of players competing on separate screens came in 1973 with “Empire” — a strategic turn-based game for up to eight players — which was created for the PLATO network system. PLATO (Programmed Logic for Automatic Teaching Operation), was one of the first generalized computer-based teaching systems, originally built by the University of Illinois and later taken over by Control Data (CDC), who built the machines on which the system ran.

According to usage logs from the PLATO system, users spent about 300,000 hours playing Empire between 1978 and 1985. In 1973, Jim Bowery released Spasim for PLATO — a 32-player space shooter — which is regarded as the first example of a 3D multiplayer game. While access to PLATO was limited to large organizations such as universities — and Atari — who could afford the computers and connections necessary to join the network, PLATO represents one of the first steps on the technological road to the Internet, and online multiplayer gaming as we know it today.

At this point, gaming was popular with the younger generations, and was a shared activity in that people competed for high-scores in arcades. However, most people would not have considered four out of every five American households having a games system as a probable reality.


When Washington, D.C. Came Close to Being Conquered by the Confederacy

It may be altogether fitting and proper that the battlefield has come to this. A ragged half-block of grass surrounded by brick rowhouses, it lies between the main business district of Washington, D.C. and the suburb of Silver Spring, Maryland. I was greeted by a couple of hundred feet of eroding breastworks and concrete replicas of a half-dozen gun platforms.

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It is not hard to be reminded here of lost causes and wasted lives of how events often reel crazily away from the people who set them in motion, battering down winners and thrusting losers toward greatness. So what is left of Fort Stevens may be precisely the right memorial for the curious confrontation that occurred here, and for the weary men who led it.

To Lieut. Gen. Jubal Early of the Confederate States Army, at least for a little while that day, it must have seemed that the war was young again. In the noonday heat of July 11, 1864, the commander of the battle-hardened II Corps of Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia sat his horse on a rise of ground in Maryland and saw, shimmering in the heat waves just six miles to the south, the luminous dome of the United States Capitol. Immediately in front of him were the frowning works of Washington's formidable ring of defensive entrenchments. A glance told him, he wrote later, that they were "but feebly manned."

It was a year and a week after the fateful Confederate defeat at Gettysburg, four months after the advent of Ulysses S. Grant as the Federal General in Chief, and a month since Grant's armies had begun hammering at Petersburg, south of Richmond. For some time, in other words, there had been for the South precious little glory in this war and even less fun. The proud young men strutting to the music of the bands were no more now sad-eyed, leather-skinned, worn-out infantrymen stumbled barefoot through the heat and dust until they dropped. The caped and ostrich-feathered officers, happily risking all for home and country, were dead, replaced by bitter shells of men playing out a losing hand.
 
And yet, by God, here at midday on a Monday in July was the balding, foulmouthed, tobacco-chewing, prophet-bearded Jubal Early, at the gates of the Federal capital. He had taken command of the men who had earned immortality as Stonewall Jackson's "foot cavalry," had marched them far enough and fought them hard enough to rival the memory of their dead commander, and now he stood on the brink of legend himself. He was going to take Washington City—its Treasury, its arsenals, its Capitol building, maybe even its President.

Even better, he was going to lift some of the crushing burden from the shoulders of his chief, Robert E. Lee. Beleaguered, almost surrounded, his sources of food and reinforcement slowly being choked off, his great heart failing under the agonizing pressure, Lee had asked Jubal Early to attempt two things, each of them a tremendous challenge.

First, reclaim the Shenandoah Valley from the Federal army that had managed, for the first time in the war, to occupy the granary of the Confederacy.

Then, if he could, invade the North again, as Lee had done in the campaigns of Antietam and Gettysburg, and raise such an uproar that Grant would be forced to detach part of his army to protect Maryland, Pennsylvania and Washington City or attack Lee in his fortifications and risk suffering more of the slaughter that had stunned his army at Cold Harbor.

There were political as well as military benefits to be gained. The Union, heartily tired of war, would be electing its President in November. The likely Democratic candidate, George McClellan, was promising a negotiated peace while Abraham Lincoln was promising to finish the war no matter how long it took. If Early could embarrass Lincoln, deepen the war-weariness and brighten McClellan's prospects, he might assure the survival of the Confederacy.

Jubal Early (© Library of Congress) Fort Stevens after an attack led by Jubal Early (© Medford Historical Society Collection/Corbis ) Francis Preston Blair (seated in the center) photographed with his staff (© Medford Historical Society Collection/Corbis ) Union Soldiers at Fort Stevens (SA 3.0) Fort Stevens Park, a recreation built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1937 (SA 3.0) Fort Stevens Park, a recreation built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1937 (SA 3.0) Cannon at Monocacy River battlegrounds that was used by soldiers under command of Major General Lew Wallace (© Mark Reinstein/Corbis ) Plaque in remembrance of the night Abraham Lincoln was at Fort Stevens during an attack (SA 3.0) Battleground National Cemetery located on Georgia Avenue (Public Domain) Monument at Grace Episcopal Church in remembrance of the 17 Confederate soldiers that died attacking Washington, D.C. (SA 3.0)

The role of savior did not fit snugly on the tall form of the man they called "Old Jube." Thin and fierce, stooped by what he said was rheumatism, a confirmed bachelor at 48, he had a tongue that (when it was not caressing a plug of tobacco) rasped like a steel file on most sensibilities and a sense of humor that enraged as often as it amused. His adjutant general, Maj. Henry Kyd Douglas, admired Early's fighting abilities but saw him with clear eyes: "Arbitrary, cynical, with strong prejudices, he was personally disagreeable." It is remarkable. then, that before the war he had been a moderately successful politician and lawyer in his native Franklin County, in southwestern Virginia.

Professional soldiering seems not to have appealed to Jubal Early he resigned from the U.S. Army in 1838, just one year after graduation from West Point, and went back only briefly in 1846 to do his duty in the Mexican War. He had argued caustically against secession and for the Union until his state seceded, whereupon he became an equally caustic supporter of the Confederacy and a colonel in its army.

It soon became clear that he was that rare commodity, a forceful and courageous leader of men in battle. This had been so at First and Second Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. As his commands increased in size, however, his touch became less sure and his luck more spotty. Yet such was General Lee's confidence that in 1864 Early had been given command of one of the three corps in the Army of Northern Virginia.

And now here he was, on the brink of history, about to quench the boundless thirst for recognition that glittered ceaselessly from his black eyes. Pursuant to Lee's instruction, he had chased one Federal army away from Lynchburg, Virginia, and clear into the West Virginia mountains where it disappeared. He met another near Frederick, Maryland, on the Monocacy River, and swept it aside. On fire with the glory of it all, forgetting his limited objective, Early now rasped out his orders to Maj. Gen. Robert Rodes, commander of the leading division: throw out a skirmish line move forward into the enemy works attack the capital of the United States.

Abraham Lincoln himself visited the fort and watched the sinuous dust clouds raised by enemy columns approaching from the northwest. "In his long, yellowish linen coat and unbrushed high hat," an Ohio soldier who had seen him at the fort wrote, "he looked like a care worn farmer in time of peril from drouth and famine." Far away to the south, the relentless Grant had refused to be distracted from his slow strangulation of Lee's army. On the whole, Lincoln approved he had, after all, tried for three long years to find a general who would devote himself to destroying the enemy armies instead of striking attitudes and defending Washington. But it must have occurred to the President, that afternoon, that maybe Grant had gone too far.

A few months before, there had been 18,000 trained artillerymen manning the 900 guns and guarding the 37 miles of fortifications that ringed Washington. Grant had taken those men for harsher duty in the trenches in front of Petersburg, and now, on the threatened north side of the barrier Potomac, there were on the line no more than 4,000 frightened home guardsmen and militiamen.

Paroxysms of hysteria in the city

Reinforcements were on the way, to be sure. As soon as he realized what Early was up to, Grant dispatched two veteran VI Corps divisions󈟛,000 strong and diverted to Washington 6,000 men of XIX Corps. The transports were not far downstream from the city, Lincoln knew, but Jubal Early had arrived. His 4,000 cavalry and artillerymen were harassing the Federal line for miles in either direction he had 10,000 infantrymen and 40 cannon, and his skirmishers were already chasing the Federal pickets back into the fortifications.

Confronted by what they had so long feared—actual danger—the civilians of Washington went into paroxysms of hysteria, telling each other that a Confederate army "50,000 strong" was laying waste to Maryland and Pennsylvania. Military and political functionaries, meanwhile, went berserk.

Everyone took charge of everything. The military department was commanded by Maj. Gen. Christopher Augur but the Army Chief of Staff, Henry Halleck, ordered Maj. Gen. Quincy Gillmore to take charge in the emergency but the Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton, had called in Maj. Gen. Alexander McCook to handle the crisis but General in Chief Grant had sent Maj. Gen. E.O.C. Ord to save the situation.

When yet another general, who for some reason was relaxing in a New York City hotel, sent word that he would be available for duties commensurate with his rank, Chief of Staff Halleck blew up. "We have five times as many generals here as we want," he responded, "but are greatly in need of privates. Anyone volunteering in that capacity will be thankfully received."

Everyone thought of something. Halleck had the hospitals checked for potentially useful walking wounded, so they could be formed up and marched toward the fortifications. On the way they probably stumbled into a ragged formation of clerks from the offices of the Quartermaster General, Brig. Gen. Montgomery Meigs, who had decided that now was the time for them to exchange their pencils for rifles. Someone else made preparations for destroying the bridges over the Potomac River. A steamboat was fired up and held ready to get the President away.

A restless tattoo of musketry

But the President was singularly serene. "Let us be vigilant," he telegraphed to an overwrought Baltimore committee, "but keep cool. I hope neither Baltimore nor Washington will be sacked." Yet on that sultry afternoon, with the earth trembling to the bark of the big guns, with the acrid smell of black powder hanging in the stifling air and a restless tattoo of musketry sounding along the lines, keeping cool could not have been easy.

Both the Federal defenses and the Confederate threat looked stronger than they were. "Undoubtedly we could have marched into Washington," wrote one of Early's division commanders, Maj. Gen. John B. Gordon. "I myself rode to a point on those breastworks at which there was no force whatsoever. The unprotected space was broad enough for the easy passage of Early's army without resistance."

Just beyond this inviting gap lay the legislative and administrative heart of the enemy government. What is more, there was the Federal Navy yard, with its ships to burn the United States Treasury with its millions of dollars in bonds and currency, the seizure of which would have had catastrophic effects on the Northern economy warehouse after warehouse of medical supplies, food, military equipment, ammunition-all scarce and desperately needed in the Confederacy. In short, a rich city, virgin to war, awaiting plunder.

Not to mention the incalculable humiliation to the Union if such a rape of its capital occurred. Maj. Gen. Lew Wallace (later the author of Ben Hur) had been stiffened to make his desperate stand against Early on the Monocacy, he wrote afterward, by a vision of "President Lincoln, cloaked and hooded, stealing from the back door of the White House just as some gray-garbed Confederate brigadier burst in the front door."

But for the moment, at least, the enormous prize was out of reach. The problem was not a lack of will or courage or even firepower the problem was something that civilians and historians rarely think of as part of war-simple fatigue. Early's foot soldiers were just too tired to walk that far.

During the hottest and driest summer anyone could remember they had marched about 250 miles from Lynchburg in three weeks. They had fought hard at the Monocacy on July 9, then after burying their dead had marched again at dawn, struggling 30 miles in the searing heat to bivouac near Rockville, Maryland. The night of the 10th brought so little relief from the heat that the exhausted men were unable to sleep. On the l lth, with the sun burning more fiercely than ever, they had begun to give out.

General Early rode along the loosening formations, telling staggering, sweating, dust-begrimed men that he would take them into Washington that day. They tried to raise the old Rebel Yell to show him they were willing, but it came out cracked and thin. The mounted officers reluctantly slowed their pace, but before midday the road behind the army was littered with prostrate men who could go no farther.

Thus when Early ordered General Rodes to attack, both men—on horseback—were far ahead of the plodding columns. While Early fumed and spat tobacco juice, his officers struggled to get men and guns in position. They managed to mount a skirmish line to chase in the Federal pickets, but putting together a massed line of battle was beyond them. The afternoon wore on, and to Early every hour was the equivalent of a thousand casualties.

It was not the fault of his men. General Gordon later wrote of them that they possessed, “a spirit which nothing could break.”

Nor was it a failure of the officers Jubal Early had for subordinate commanders some of the best generals in the Confederacy. John Gordon and John Breckinridge were, like Early, lawyers and politicians who lacked his West Point training but had shown a remarkable ability to lead men in combat. Breckinridge was a former Vice President of the United States and a candidate for President in 1860, who came in second to Lincoln in the electoral vote now he was second in command of an army advancing on the US. capital. Stephen Dodson Ramseur, a major general at 27, possessed a ferocity in battle that usually got results.

No one embodied more of the paradoxes of this war than John Breckinridge. A passionate and lifelong champion of the Union and the Constitution, he had been convinced for years that slavery could not and should not survive but he also believed that it was unconstitutional for the national government to prohibit slave states from participating in the country’s booming Western expansion—the settlement of the territories.

For his constitutional arguments he was ostracized in the Senate and described as a traitor to the United States back in Kentucky he pleaded with his state to stay out of the spreading civil war. Union military authorities ordered his arrest. Thus John Breckinridge had been left with nowhere to go but into the armies marching against the Union, on behalf of slavery.

Such were the men who stood at Jubal Early’s side that afternoon. Before he could form his gasping troops and launch his attack, Early saw “a cloud of dust in the rear of the works toward Washington, and soon a column of the enemy filed into them on the right and left, and skirmishers were thrown out in front.” Artillery fire opened from a number of batteries.

The Confederates had managed to take a few prisoners, who freely admitted that their lines were being held by “counter jumpers, hospital rats and stragglers.” But the men just arriving were veterans, perhaps reinforcements from Grant. Jubal Early was bold, but he was not foolhardy however tempting the prize, he would not commit to battle without knowing what he was facing. As he wrote later, “It became necessary to reconnoiter.”

The Federal regiment that had impressed Early was from Grant’s Army of the Potomac, but it was alone. Meanwhile, however, Abraham Lincoln had spotted something really interesting in his spyglass, and driven eagerly south to the Sixth Street wharves.

Marching off in the wrong direction

He arrived in midafternoon, and stood quietly gnawing on a chunk of hardtack while Maj. Gen. Horatio Wright assembled the first 650 arrivals from VI Corps and marched them off—in the wrong direction—toward Georgetown. With great shouting and clatter, some staff officers got the men turned around and headed up 11th Street, toward the enemy.

A Vermonter named Aldace Walker marched with VI Corps that day. He thought it was still morning, and had his dates confused, but he remembered how the presence of the capable Old Sixth brought “intense relief to the constitutionally timid Washingtonians. . . .Citizens ran through the lines with buckets of ice-water, for the morning was sultry newspapers and eatables were handed into the column, and our welcome had a heartiness that showed how intense had been the fear.”

The official welcome was less clear-cut. To his disgust, Wright was ordered to hold his men in reserve, even though the raw troops at Fort Stevens were being severely pummeled by Early’s guns and skirmishers, and were already showing signs of caving in. In the end, the only thing the soldiers did that night (and this only because Wright insisted on it) was to move out in front of the fortifications to restore a picket line and push back enemy skirmishers. “The pseudo-soldiers who filled the trenches around the fort were astounded at the temerity displayed by these war-torn veterans in going out before the breastworks,” Walker remembered scornfully, "and benevolently volunteered most earnest words of caution.”

Apparently the Federal high command did little that night but further confuse each other. Charles Dana, an Assistant Secretary of War and an old friend of Grant’s, sent a despairing wire to the commanding general Tuesday morning: “General Halleck will not give orders except as he receives them the President will give none, and until you direct positively and explicitly what is to be done, everything will go on in the deplorable and fatal way in which it has gone on for the past week.”

On Monday night, Early and his division commanders gathered at their captured headquarters, “Silver Spring,” the imposing mansion of the prominent Washington publisher and politician Francis Preston Blair (and a former political patron of John Breckinridge). There the Confederate officers had dinner, a council of war and a party. Men were still straggling in from their hellish march, and it seemed a precious opportunity had been lost the previous afternoon. But the Federal works were still not manned in strength, and Early ordered an assault at first light.

A sound of revelry by night

His officers raided Francis Blair’s wine cellar and talked about what they would do next day. They joked about escorting John Breckinridge back to his former place as presiding officer of the Senate. Outside, soldiers speculated about how they would divide up the contents of the Treasury. According to General Gordon, one private was asked what they would do when they took the city, and said the situation reminded him of a family slave whose dog chased every train that came by. The old man wasn’t worried about losing his dog, said the soldier, he was worried about what the dog was going to do with a train when he caught one.

It was all good fun, but soon daylight was coming.

General Early was up before dawn, surveying the Federal fortifications with his field glasses. The trenches and the parapets teemed with blue uniforms—not the dark, new blue of fresh, untested cloth, but the faded sky-blue of well-used material. Everywhere he saw fluttering battle flags bearing the Greek Cross of VI Corps. The door to Jubal Early’s niche in history had just slammed shut.

“I had, therefore, reluctantly to give up all hopes of capturing Washington, after I had arrived in sight of the dome of the Capitol,” he wrote. But they could not give any sign of flinching with that many soldiers ready to pour after them. They would stay in place, look as dangerous as they knew how, and as soon as darkness covered them head back to Virginia. The Federals, meanwhile, made ready to fight a climactic battle for the city. They did it in the time-honored Washington way—with endless meetings, The day wore on, the baking heat returned, the sharpshooters let fly at anything that stirred, the cannon boomed from time to time—and nobody moved.

The citizens of Washington regained their courage. Ladies and gentlemen of society and rank declared a holiday and swarmed out to picnic and cheer the intrepid defenders. Some perhaps had been among the picnickers who, three years before, had gone to cheer the boys going into battle at Bull Run, but if they remembered the bloody stampede that had engulfed the tourists on that day, they gave no sign.

At midafternoon they were joined by the President and Mrs. Lincoln, who arrived at Fort Stevens in a carriage. General Wright went out to greet the Commander in Chief and casually asked if he would like to see the fight the various Chieftains had at last agreed to try a reconnaissance in force, to press the Confederates back and see just how strong they were. General Wright intended his question to be purely rhetorical, but as he wrote later, “A moment after, I would have given much to have recalled my words.”

Delighted at the prospect of seeing actual combat for the first time, Lincoln bounded up to the parapet and stood looking over the field, his familiar, top-hatted form an inviting target for Confederate sharpshooters. While Wright begged the President to take cover, a trooper in Lincoln’s cavalry escort saw bullets “sending little spurts and puffs of dust as they thudded into the embankment on which he stood.” Thus for the first and only time in history a President of the United States came under fire in combat.

Behind the breastworks, a busy young captain from Massachusetts named Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. glanced up, saw a tall, awkward civilian standing in the spray of bullets and snapped, “Get down, you damn fool, before you get shot.” Only then did the future Supreme Court justice realize that he was berating the President.

Meanwhile a VI Corps brigade, about 2,000 strong, was sneaking out of Fort Stevens and taking position in a wooded area 300 yards east of what is now Wisconsin Avenue, just behind the line of Federal skirmishers and out of sight of the enemy. Their orders were to make a surprise charge at the Confederate positions on the wooded ridge less than a mile from Fort Stevens.

Lincoln watched these maneuvers intently, standing fully exposed on top of the parapet, oblivious to the leaden hail. General Wright stood at the President’s side, along with C.C.V. Crawford, the surgeon of one of the attacking regiments. Suddenly, a round ricocheted off a nearby soldier’s rifle and into Crawford’s thigh. Gravely wounded, he was carried to the rear.

General Wright, beside himself, ordered everyone off the parapet, and when the President ignored him threatened to have a squad of soldiers forcibly remove Lincoln from danger. “The absurdity of the idea of sending off the President under guard seemed to amuse him,” Wright recalled, and more to put an end to the fuss than anything else, Lincoln finally agreed to sit behind the parapet and thus place most of his frame behind cover. But he kept leaping to his feet to see what was happening.

When the attacking regiments were in position, the guns of Fort Stevens opened a sustained fire on the enemy positions. The 36th shot, fired at about 6 p.m., was the signal for the picket line to plunge forward. Behind it, appearing as if from nowhere, surged thousands of howling Federals.

“I thought we were ‘gone up,’” one of Early’s staff officers remembered. But these were men familiar with death, and they opened a fire so hot that the Federals came to a halt and sent for reserves. The enemy, the Federal division commander reported, “was found to be much stronger than had been supposed.”

There was cheering from the spectators and joking in the rear echelons, but this was no game Aldace Walker remembered it as a “bitter little contest.” Every regimental commander in the leading Federal brigade was shot down a hundred Confederate dead were later found lying on the field between Fort Stevens and the Blair house. Heavy fighting continued until 10 P.M., even though General Wright ordered his men to hold their ground but not to storm the Confederate lines.

Major Douglas found Jubal Early in Francis Blair’s mansion after dark, getting ready to pull out. “He seemed in a droll humor, perhaps one of relief,” Douglas recalled, “for he said to me in his falsetto drawl, “Major, we haven’t taken Washington, but we’ve scared Abe Lincoln like hell!”’ And so with hollow laughs they began a long retreat, away from legend and glory, into Virginia, where Appomattox waited.

A half-mile north of the crumbling remains of Fort Stevens, the asphalt and concrete environs of Georgia Avenue are interrupted by another unremarkable, postage-stamp square of green. Hardly larger than a townhouse lot, it is a National Cemetery, wherein are buried a few of the men for whom this “bitter little contest” was the last. Some earnest monuments to the men of New York and Ohio are crowded together here, but the most imposing thing one sees on entering is a bronze plaque. It memorializes not the dead, but an 1875 order prohibiting picnicking on, and otherwise defacing, their graves. Forgetfulness came quickly.

This article was originally published in Smithsonian magazine in July, 1988. The National Park Service offers a number of upcoming activities in recognition of the 150th anniversary of Jubal Early's attack on Washington.

About Thomas A. Lewis

Thomas A. Lewis continues to write about lost causes from somewhere in West Virginia. He presides over the website The Daily Impact, where he chronicles the ongoing crash of the industrial age. His latest book, Tribulation A Novel of the Near Future, describes one way the crash might happen.


When Microsoft saved Apple: Steve Jobs and Bill Gates show eliminating competition isn't the only way to win

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates' rivalrous friendship is the stuff of tech lore. The most poignant moment of that fraught relationship happened 20 years ago. In August of 1997, Gates stepped in and saved Apple, which, at the time, was on the brink of bankruptcy.

"Bill, thank you. The world's a better place," Jobs told Gates after the Microsoft exec agreed to make a $150 million investment in Apple.

At the time, that quote was memorialized on the cover of Time Magazine and was recently resurfaced by Code Academy on the online coding school's Twitter feed.

The corporate olive branch shocked the tech and business communities. "Even in cyberspace, the moment can only be described as surreal," the New York Times opinion section wrote in the wake of the deal.

Ten years later, when the iconic tech leaders met on-stage at the D5 tech conference, interviewed by Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg, they reflected on their coming together.

"Apple was in very serious trouble," said Jobs. "And what was really clear was that if the game was a zero-sum game where for Apple to win, Microsoft had to lose, then Apple was going to lose.

"There were too many people at Apple and in the Apple ecosystem playing [that] game," he explained. "And it was clear that you didn't have to play that game, because Apple wasn't going to beat Microsoft.

"Apple didn't have to beat Microsoft. Apple had to remember who Apple was because theyɽ forgotten who Apple was."

To stay alive, Jobs had to step outside of the competitive mindset.

"To me, it was pretty essential to break that paradigm," says Jobs. "And it was also important that, you know, Microsoft was the biggest software developer outside of Apple developing for the Mac. So it was just crazy what was happening at that time. And Apple was very weak and so I called Bill up and we tried to patch things up."

The two founders did just that, though their partnership met with resistance. When Jobs announced the $150 million investment at the Macworld Boston conference in 1997, the audience booed Gates' appearance via satellite.

For Microsoft, the investment meant propping up one of its greatest competitors, but it was also a new business opportunity.

"That's worked out very well," says Gates at the 2007 conference. "In fact, every couple years or so, there's been something new that we've been able to do on the Mac and it's been a great business for us."

Also, as part of the deal, Apple agreed to drop a lawsuit accusing Microsoft of copying its operating system.

At the time that Microsoft saved Apple, Microsoft was by far and away the larger of the two companies. That standing has since flipped: Apple's market capitalization is $839 billion and Microsoft's is $560 billion.

The 1997 deal didn't end the competition between the two tech companies. Rather, they went on to, in lockstep, shaping the computing industry together.

"Today it's a little-known (and mythologized) story of tech that still shows that cooperation can work hand-in-hand with competition," writes Code Academy.

When Jobs died in 2011, Gates honored the Apple icon as both competitor and friend.

"Steve and I first met nearly 30 years ago, and have been colleagues, competitors and friends over the course of more than half our lives," Gates wrote. "The world rarely sees someone who has had the profound impact Steve has had, the effects of which will be felt for many generations to come. For those of us lucky enough to get to work with him, it's been an insanely great honor. I will miss Steve immensely."


Minute Maid Park Information Guide

The 19th Hole, presented by the Houston Open, located on the main concourse in Center Field, is your one-stop shop for all Houston Open Merchandise. While there, fans can grab a variety of beers and wines, fresh and healthy food options including salads, fruit cups and vegetable cups, and last-minute snacks and energy drinks.

ADDRESS

The physical address for the Houston Astros is Union Station, 501 Crawford Street, Houston, TX 77002.

Any correspondence can be mailed to the Houston Astros at
P.O. Box 288,
Houston, TX 77001-0288.

AISLE POLICY

As a courtesy to seated guests, fans returning from the main concourse are asked to wait until an at bat is complete before accessing the aisle. Team members on the main concourse will restrict access into the seating bowl while the game is in play.

ANIMALS

Animals, except for service animals assisting visitors with disabilities, are not permitted on Minute Maid Park property.

ANTHEM SINGERS

Any individual or small group (6 people or fewer) wishing to perform the National Anthem prior to an Astros game or God Bless America during the 7th Inning Stretch during Sunday home games must submit an .mp3 file or YouTube link of the singer(s) performing an a cappella version of the National Anthem or God Bless America to [email protected] . Pieces should be performed traditionally and be no more than 90 seconds.

ASTROS BUDDIES KIDS CLUB

The Astros Buddies Kids Club is the Houston Astros official fan club for kids 12 and under. For $25*, Buddies members receive an Astros Buddies backpack, cap and socks, and exclusive Buddies-only opportunities throughout the season with Astros players. More information and memberships are available at www.astros.com/buddies and at the Buddies Information Booths located near Section 131 and in the Atrium near Section 105 on game days, through the end of the 4th inning.

*Additional fees and taxes apply

ASTROS FOUNDATION

The Astros Foundation is the official 501(c)(3) team charity of the Houston Astros. We seek to harness the passion of our fans to support youth sports and education programs, the recognition/honor of our nation&aposs military, childhood cancer and domestic violence awareness and efforts to reduce homelessness. Our cornerstone initiatives include the Community Leaders program, the Astros Youth Academy and the Astros RBI program. For more information, please visit www.astros.com/foundation.

ASTROS RBI PROGRAM

Organized in 1989, RBI (Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities) is a MLB program that provides young athletes an opportunity to combine athletics and academics. The Astros RBI program utilizes the facilities and instructors at the Astros Youth Academy.

ASTROS TEAM STORE

501 Crawford Street
Houston, Texas 77002
(713) 259-8077
1-800-ASTROS4

Non-game days:

The Team Store will open to the public prior to weekday and Saturday games at the below times:

Game Time 1:10pm 3:10pm 6:10pm 7:10pm
Union Station N/A 9:00am-12:00pm 9:00am-3:00pm 9:00am-4:00pm
Home Plate N/A N/A 12:00pm-3:00pm 12:00pm-4:00pm

Please note, the Astros Team Store will not be open to the general public for 1:10pm games or on Sundays.

All Astros Team Stores will open to ticketed fans when gates open 2 hours prior to game time.

*All times are subject to change.

ASTROS YOUTH ACADEMY

A cornerstone of the Astros youth baseball and softball initiative is the Astros Youth Academy, which provides free baseball and softball instruction, life-skills training and academic support to young athletes in the Greater Houston Area. The Academy&aposs experienced staff members serve over 10,000 participants, year-round. The Academy is home to the Astros RBI program, baseball and softball summer camps and clinics. The Astros Youth Academy is located at 2801 Victory Drive, Houston TX 77088 and is run by the Astros Foundation.

ATMS AND REVERSE ATMS

Six automated teller machines (ATMs) operated by Amegy Bank are available throughout the ballpark for our fans&apos convenience. They are located at Sections 108, 112, 132, 218, 315 and near Center Field Gate.

Cash will not be accepted anywhere within the stadium. To account for this, reverse ATMs will be placed near the existing ATMs at Sections 108, 218, 315, and near Center Field Gate.

AUTOGRAPHS

For the safety of our fans and the players, autographs will not be allowed during the 2021 season.

BABIES/TODDLERS TICKETS

Fans age 2 and under may be admitted to Astros games without an admission ticket.

However, they must sit in the lap of an accompanying adult.

BABY CHANGING AREAS

Baby changing tables are available throughout the ballpark in nearly every restroom facility, men&aposs, women&aposs or family. Please ask an usher for the nearest one.

BALLPARK SEATS

Standing or stepping on ballpark seats may lead to serious bodily injury. The Houston Astros request, for your safety and other ballpark guests, that you do not step, stand or use seats in a manner other than intended at Minute Maid Park.

BANK OF AMERICA SUITE LEVEL

The Bank of America Suite Level underwent a complete transformation for the 2020 season. With a focus on delivering an enhanced premium experience throughout the entire level, the streamlined appearance of the impressive renovation is brighter and livelier creating an atmosphere that sets the tone for a true premium fan experience at every turn.

With the renovations, all fifty-five suites were transformed inside and out to present a new look of luxury, class, and style.

  • Displays: Six pairs of display cases along the concourse feature authentic pieces of Houston Astros history including artifacts from the Astrodome. The memorabilia, enhanced with reproduced graphics and images, will bring to life decades of baseball memories and transport fans to days of another era.
  • Season Suites: Season suites offer engaging opportunities for capturing Houston Astros memories all season long. Make a lasting impression with clients, family, friends, and employees while entertaining them during Minute Maid Park special events throughout the year. For Season Suite amenities, visit www.astros.com/seasonsuites.
  • Executive and Party Suites: The Executive and Party Suites are available for game-by-game use. The nightly suites hold an array of options that can be tailored to fit your needs. These areas can accommodate 14 to 125 guests. Catering options are endless with suite packages ranging from traditional ballpark fare to luxury dining with a customized menu just for you and your guests. For Executive and Party Suite amenities, visit www.astros.com/nightlysuites.
  • Gallagher Club: The Gallagher Club is the next phase of premium seating at Minute Maid Park. The all new club features exclusive membership and seating opportunities for fans seeking the very best Minute Maid Park has to offer, including first class food & beverage options and a game experience that is second to none. The Gallagher Club memberships can be paired with season tickets within the club or in other areas of the ballpark. For details on Gallagher Club memberships, season tickets, and amenities, visit www.astros.com/gallagherclub or reach out to your Season Ticket Representative.

BANNERS

The Astros welcome banners that support teams and their players, so long as they are baseball-related, in good taste, do not interfere with the game, other guests&apos enjoyment of the game, cover ballpark advertising or other signage, promote a commercial product or service, or contain language deemed inappropriate by the Houston Astros management. The Houston Astros do not permit signs, posters, or banners which are obscene, slanderous or in bad taste. Management reserves the right to remove any sign deemed inappropriate. Banners may not obstruct the view of other patrons or interfere with the game in any way. Banners may not be paraded through any part of the ballpark. Banners and/or signs may be displayed between innings only.

BATTING PRACTICE VIEWING

For information on how you can view batting practice, please email [email protected] or visit www.astros.com/tours.

BICYCLE PARKING

Bicycle parking is available in limited quantity near ballpark entrances on the east side and the west side of Minute Maid Park. Please note that the following gate locations are provided only as general landmark reference points for the bicycle parking racks.

  • Both the Left Field Gate and the Centerfield Gate along Crawford Street on the west side of Minute Maid Park have multiple racks for bicycle parking.
  • The Right Field Gate near Preston Street on the east side of the ballpark also features multiple bicycle racks for parking and storage.

Please note that bicycle rack parking is for non-motorized vehicles only. Any motorcycles, dirt bikes, mopeds, or other motorized vehicles are subject to being towed at the owner’s expense if found to be parked in these restricted areas.

For additional information or directions please contact the Houston Astros at 713-259-8000.

BIRTHDAY PARTIES

To schedule a birthday party or learn more, please email [email protected] or visit www.astros.com/tours.

BOX OFFICE

The Minute Maid Park Box Office is going digital. You will no longer be able to purchase hard copy tickets on site. Text 𠆋uy’ to 26099 to purchase your tickets or scan the QR code at the box office windows. You will be able to access your tickets through your smart phone on the MLB Ballpark app.

On game days beginning four (4) hours before first pitch, box office windows at each entrance will open for ticket resolutions.

The main Minute Maid Park Box Office is located on the southwest side of the ballpark, near the intersection of Texas Avenue and Avenida de las Americas. The address is 1701 Texas Avenue.

CAMERAS/VIDEO EQUIPMENT

Visitors are welcome to bring video and still cameras into the ballpark. Lenses must be no larger than 8". Tripods and monopods are not allowed in the ballpark.

CENTER FIELD

The center field area of Minute Maid Park offers a modern, communal gathering place for fans of all ages to enjoy before, during and after games all season long.

  • Astros Authentics: Located on the Mezzanine Level in center field, Astros Authentics is the fans' direct source to game-used merchandise. For more information, please contact [email protected] .
  • Batter's Eye Box: Situated directly above the Batter's Eye H-Star Logo, five tables of four serve as the only Season Ticket option in center field. Additionally, 14 barstools are sold as a group for a game day rental. These 34 seats are a premium location with all food and non-alcoholic beverages included in the cost of the ticket.
  • Budweiser Brew House: Located next to the Astros Bullpen and just above the Lexus Field Club, this premier destination features a bar-style atmosphere where fans can mix and mingle without missing any of the action.
  • Champions Pavilion: The center field renovation includes a redesigned Champions Pavilion for Group Sales with a game-day capacity of approximately 150. Guests will find improved video and audio options in this more intimate environment. Champions Pavilion is situated behind the escalator on the Silverado Mezzanine Level.
  • Elevator and escalator:*The center field area of Minute Maid Park features an elevator near the batter's eye. This elevator can access various levels including the Field Level Suite. The escalator transports guests from the Main Concourse near Shake Shack to the Silverado Mezzanine Level near the entrance to Champions Pavilion. The elevators at Section 156 are staffed to provide optimal service between the Main Concourse and the Silverado Mezzanine Level.
  • Lexus Field Club: Before, during, and after the game, this premium space provides a one-of-a-kind experience and is perfect for entertaining guests or rewarding employees. Besides a field-level view of the game, the Lexus Field Club features a variety of amenities, including food and non-alcoholic beverages, access to a premium cash bar and 100 tickets. Contact the Astros Premium Sales Team at 713-259-8350 or [email protected]
  • The 19th Hole: The 19th Hole, presented by the Houston Open, in center field is your one-stop shop for all Houston Open Merchandise. In addition, the 19th Holes offers a wide variety of fresh and packaged food and beverage items including a wide assortment of salads, fruit cups and vegetable cups. Fans can also pick up last-minute candy snacks and energy drinks.
  • Astros Retail: Astros Retail expanded its presence with a new installation in center field. The store is located under the low track near the centerfield escalators.
  • Shake Shack: With a reputation for fresh, high-quality food, Shake Shack in center field has grown to be a fan favorite on the Main Concourse. The ballpark menu includes a variety of Shack Burgers and SmokeShack favorites. Other options in the restaurant include the Shroom Burger, Chicken Sandwich, and Hot Dog. Fans can finish off the order with Shakes and Concretes.

CHARITY GROUP TICKETS PROGRAM

The Houston Astros provide complimentary tickets to local 501(c)(3) non-profit organizations through the Charity Group Tickets program. Groups interested in receiving tickets to selected games can submit an online application at www.astros.com/charitygrouptickets.

COMMUNITY LEADERS

Developed by Astros Owner and Chairman Jim Crane, the Community Leaders program seeks to provide the next generation of young athletes with the environment and resources they need to develop both physically and mentally. Baseball and softball teach young players the importance of teamwork, perseverance and commitment, principles that will serve them not only on the field, but throughout their lives. Through the help of its generous corporate partners, the program now impacts thousands of children and their youth baseball and softball leagues throughout the city, providing additional resources, instructional player and coaching clinics, infrastructure enhancements, uniforms and equipment at no cost. For its efforts, the Community Leaders program was awarded the 2017 Allan H. Selig Award for Philanthropic Excellence, Major League Baseball&aposs highest honor for the charitable efforts of its clubs. For more information, visit www.astros.com/communityleaders.

CONCESSIONS

ARAMARK&aposS goal is to offer the highest quality food and beverage experience to all fans visiting Minute Maid Park. A variety of food and beverage is available throughout the ballpark at concession stands and portable carts. Please click here for the complete list.

COSTUMES/COSTUME MASKS

Costumes/Costume masks are not allowed at Minute Maid Park. Houston Astros management reserves the right to refuse entry to or remove/eject any individual in a costumes/costume mask.

CREDIT CARD POLICY

VISA, American Express, Discover and MasterCard are accepted at the box offices, retail locations, and all concession stands. Beginning in 2021, Minute Maid Park will be cashless.

To account for this, four reverse ATMs will be placed near the existing ATMs on the main concourse (2), club level (1), and upper concourse (1).

DESIGNATED DRIVER BOOTH

Located near Union Station on the Main Concourse, the Designated Driver Booth is part of the ARAMARK Corporation&aposs "Serves You Right" program. Any person over the age of 21 who goes to the booth and identifies himself or herself as a designated driver will receive a coupon for a free small soda at any of the ARAMARK concession stands.

DROP-OFF/PICK-UP POINTS

Prior to games, fans may be dropped off along any street adjacent to Minute Maid Park, including a protected left lane along Texas Avenue on the south side of the ballpark. Following the game, the Houston Police Department will close Texas Avenue on Crawford Street around Minute Maid Park for approximately 20 minutes. This closure will allow for a safe pedestrian exit of the majority of fans at the game. Once HPD reopens those streets, fan pick-up is available along the south and west sides of the ballpark. Immediate post-game pick-up is permitted along Jackson Street on the south side of Minute Maid Park. However, all vehicles picking up at that location must be attended while drivers are waiting for their guest(s) to arrive. Fans who arrived at Minute Maid Park via charter or school buses will be picked up along Hamilton Street, between Preston and Texas, on the east side of Minute Maid Park.

ELEVATORS

Elevators for all fans are located in two areas inside Minute Maid Park: on the third base side of the ballpark near Section 109, and on the first base side of the ballpark near Section 128. Limited-access elevators to the Phillips66 Diamond Club, the Honda Club Level and Bank of America Suite Level can be found at the Clock Tower entrance. Additional elevators accessing the Mezzanine Level are located behind Section 156.

EMPLOYMENT OPPORTUNITIES

Want to be a part of the team? The Houston Astros are always looking for friendly, service-oriented people to help make our fan experience the best in sports. Many of our available roles are part-time and based on the game schedule. Interested parties should go online to www.astros.com/jobs.

EQUIPMENT REQUESTS

All Astros Major League equipment is recycled for use in Spring Training and for our minor league system. Non-profit groups may contact the Recycled Baseball Items Foundation, which is an independent non-team affiliated charity, at www.rbi-houston.org to request assistance in procuring used equipment for your team or league.

ESCALATORS

Escalators for general fan use to the Honda Club Level and the Upper Level seating are located at Section 109, near the Union Station entrance. Escalators near the Center Field Entrance provide access to the Silverado Mezzanine. Escalators providing access to only the Honda Club Level and the Bank of America Suite Level can be found at the Clock Tower entrance.

EXCHANGES

No refunds, cancellations or exchanges are given for Astros individual game tickets. Season ticket holders and 28-game plan holders are eligible for our Ticket Exchange Program. Call (713) 259-8300 or your personal ticket representative for details.

FAMILY RESTROOMS

Sixteen family restrooms are conveniently located throughout the ballpark. These single stalled, private bathrooms with baby changing tables are located near the following sections:

  • Main concourse: 106, 111, 127, 131, 154
  • Club level: 208, 214, 229, 233, 252
  • Suite level: 20
  • Upper concourse: 315, 317, 325, 329, 336

A private room for nursing mothers is located in the Fan Accommodations Booth at Section 323.

FAN ACCOMMODATIONS CENTERS

Fan Accommodations Centers are open during all Astros games. They are located on the Main Concourse at Section 112 and on the Upper Concourse at Section 323. Services include lost and found, seat relocation, storing of large items (strollers, wheelchairs, etc.) and providing general fan information (schedules, ballpark information, etc.). Fans can contact Astros customer service via twitter at @AstrosAssist for any in-game concerns.

FAN MAIL

Letters to Astros players should be addressed to the individual player at

P.O. Box 288,
Houston, TX 77001- 0288.

If you desire a response, please enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope. Please keep in mind that players receive a large quantity of mail, so a response may not always be possible. The volume of mail also prohibits the tracking of letters and packages. Additional contact information, including email addresses, will not be released.

FIRST AID

First Aid stations are located at Section 150 on the Main Concourse and Section 334 on the Upper Concourse to serve fans seeking medical assistance during all Astros games. In case of an emergency, immediately notify a Guest Services Representative who will then contact the appropriate emergency personnel.

FOOD & BEVERAGE POLICY

Guests can bring food and bottled water into Minute Maid Park for Houston Astros games. This policy is specific to Houston Astros game related events and does not apply to special events held at the ballpark (i.e. concerts, tours, corporate events, etc.). Items that do not meet these guidelines will not be held or secured by ballpark staff.

WATER

  • Guests may bring in a factory-sealed, clear plastic bottle of water, no larger than one liter.
  • One bottle per guest.
  • Guests may bring in food that is contained in a clear, plastic bag no larger than one gallon in size.
  • One bag per guest.

FOUL BALLS & HOME RUN BALLS

Fans are permitted to keep foul balls and home runs hit into occupied seating areas as souvenirs however, fans must not enter the playing area to retrieve balls or otherwise interfere with balls still in play. All fans, especially those sitting along the foul lines in the dugout and field box seats, are cautioned to stay alert for hard-hit foul balls or bats that might leave the field of play. Ticket holders assume all risks and danger incidental to the game of baseball, whether occurring prior to, during or subsequent to the actual playing of the game. The Houston Astros cannot be held responsible for the conduct of other guests when attempting to obtain a foul or home run ball.

GAME TIMES

For the most up to date game times, please reference the schedule. Please call 1-877-9ASTROS for the latest information and news or visit the Season Ticket Headquarters located behind home plate on the main concourse.

GATE OPENING TIMES

The gates of Minute Maid Park will open two hours prior to game time. Full ballpark access will be available when gates open. Gate times are subject to change.

GOD BLESS AMERICA SINGERS

Any individual or small group (6 people or fewer) wishing to perform God Bless America during the 7th Inning Stretch during Sunday home games must submit an .mp3 file or YouTube link of the singer(s) performing an a cappella version of God Bless America to [email protected] . God Bless America should be performed traditionally.

GIVEAWAY POLICY

Gate giveaways are for ticketed fans only while supplies last at guest&aposs point of entry. One promotional item per ticketed fan and ticket holder must be present in order to receive the promotion.

For giveaways for ALL FANS, the giveaway item will be distributed at the entry gates 2 hours prior to First Pitch until 1 hour and 30 minutes after First Pitch. Limited quantity giveaways will be available while supplies last at each point of entry beginning 2 hours prior to First Pitch for all games.

All guests must meet the age qualifications for age-sensitive items to be eligible to receive an item (e.g. kids 12 & under). In order to receive an age-sensitive item, the child must be in attendance and will only be eligible to receive one giveaway item. Children two (2) years of age or younger who do not have a valid ticket will be allowed to enter the stadium but will not be eligible to receive an item.

For jersey and t-shirt giveaways, sizes will be Adult XL, unless noted as a Kids Giveaway, in which case the size will be a Youth Large.

Please be sure to obtain your item upon entering the stadium and before leaving the distribution area. In fairness to all guests, any guest who approaches the distribution area or the distribution staff after he or she has left the area will be denied an item. The Astros are not responsible for lost or stolen items. Lost or stolen items will not be replaced.

Some items may have been damaged during shipping and handling. Please inspect your item upon receipt. If your item is damaged and/or broken, please email in a photo of the damage and your ticket information to [email protected] . Your claim will be reviewed and a replacement will be mailed to you. Please note all claims must be submitted within 72 hours of the start of the giveaway.

Astros retain the right to change this policy without notice.

GRASS

Prior to the 2020 season, the Houston Astros grounds crew renovated the entire playing surface and installed 2.3 acres of new sod at Minute Maid Park. The grass, named Platinum TE Paspalum, is a turf that over the years has proven a terrific fit for the Minute Maid Park conditions due to its lower sunlight requirements. Platinum TE Paspalum has delivered greener color, an improved wear tolerance, and an increased tolerance to the shade at Minute Maid Park. In 2009, the Houston Astros became the first professional team to select Platinum TE Paspalum for their playing surface. After seeing the excellent results in Houston, two other Major League teams have followed the Astros&apos lead and installed Platinum TE Paspalum in their baseball fields.

GUEST CONDUCT

Customer Safety & Service is the number one objective of the Houston Astros. The team strives to provide its guests with the most positive baseball experience in the Major Leagues while in a safe, comfortable environment. To help us achieve our goal of outstanding guest service, we ask for fan cooperation in the following areas*:

  • Dress appropriately for baseball.
  • Respect other guests' ability to enjoy the game. Obnoxious or offensive fans may be asked to leave the ballpark if their behavior is deemed to be offensive to guests around them.
  • Refrain from using foul/abusive language and/or making obscene or derogatory gestures.
  • Please do not bring balloons, beach balls, nets or laser pointers into Minute Maid Park. These items are not permitted at any time.
  • For the safety of all fans, do not interfere with the progress of the game or go onto the playing field. Any fan interfering with a ball in play or going onto the field will be removed from the park and could be subject to arrest.
  • Please sit in your assigned seat and be prepared to show your ticket to an usher or ballpark supervisor upon request.
  • Derogatory language, whether spoken or written, regarding any matter including but not limited to race, ethnicity, gender, religion, disability, age, sexual preference, or national origin is prohibited. Vulgar, profane, threatening, bullying, abusive, or offensive language is similarly prohibited.

The Houston Astros maintain a policy of zero tolerance regarding any violation of the Guest Code of Conduct. Any guest who violates the Code of Conduct will be subject to immediate ejection as well as possible arrest and prosecution.

To report a violation of the Code of Conduct, please contact Guest Services immediately.
Such reports may be made in person at our Guest Services locations, directly to Ballpark Security, by phone at 713-259-8928, or via Twitter using @astrosassist.

*Please see Prohibited Behavior, Prohibited Items, and Prohibited Language for additional information.

HEALTH AND SAFETY

The health and safety of our staff, players, and fans is of the utmost importance. To view a full list of the measures the Astros are taking or to see what you need to know before coming to a game at Minute Maid Park, visit www.astros.com/safety.

IN-KIND DONATIONS

The Astros are proud to support local nonprofits in their fundraising efforts through our in-kind donations program. All requests must be submitted online by visiting www.astros.com/community and must comply with all guidelines.

JIM BEAM BOURBON BAR

The Jim Beam Bourbon Bar at Section 206 provides a premium seating experience with an extraordinary view of the field. This exclusive area features two unique seating options that include food and non-alcoholic beverages in the price of the ticket. The front row of the bar has mesh swivel style seats while the second row has mesh bar stool seating that lend an added touch of relaxed luxury to your trip to the ballpark. With these two additional rows of seats, the Jim Beam Bourbon Bar becomes the newest hot spot on the Honda Club Level.

LOST AND FOUND

Any items lost or found within Minute Maid Park should be brought to the attention of any uniformed employee. If items are lost during the game, guests can check with Fan Accommodations in Section 112. Please note that items delivered to Lost and Found will be held no longer than 30 days with the exception of credit cards which will be shredded within 72 hours for customer protection. Guest Services may also be contacted at www.astros.com/lostandfound for inquiries or to arrange the pick-up of a lost item.

LOST GUESTS

Please notify the nearest uniformed ballpark employee of a lost guest. Lost individuals will be brought to the Fan Accommodation Centers at Sections 112 and 323.

LOST/STOLEN GAME TICKETS

Please remember that game tickets are like money and should be secured like cash. Stolen tickets will be replaced at no charge, so long as a police report has been filed and documentation has been presented to the Astros ticket office at least 24 hours prior to game time. Fans seeking to reprint tickets that have been lost or misplaced will be charged a fee of $5.00 per ticket at the sole and exclusive discretion of the Ticket Services Staff. All fans are encouraged to utilize the MLB Ballpark App to help secure tickets.

MASCOT

The Astros Mascot, Orbit, is a mainstay at every home game and loves to make fans laugh. In addition to entertaining the home crowd at each Astros home game, this loveable alien performs regularly in the community at birthday parties, corporate functions and special events. For more information on how to book Orbit, visit www.astros.com/orbit or call (832) 602-4015.

METAL DETECTORS

In accordance with Major League Baseball&aposs guidelines to ensure fan safety throughout the league, both handheld and walk through metal detectors will be used at all gates to facilitate and expedite entry to Minute Maid Park. Fan safety is a top priority for the Astros. The list of permitted and prohibited items for Astros games at Minute Maid Park can be found here.

MICHELOB ULTRA CLUB - HARRIS COUNTY HOUSTON SPORTS AUTHORITY

The Right Field corner of Minute Maid Park is the latest must-visit destination in the ballpark following a renovation that is nothing short of a game changer for Astros fans. The Upper Deck transformation features the Michelob Ultra Club and a vast public access area that includes a 360-degree full-service bar plus the newest Houston location for Killen’s Barbecue.

Stretching from the Silverado Mezzanine, an impressive and expansive staircase provides easy public access to the Michelob Ultra Club. The three ticketed Standing Room Tiers leading up to the Michelob Ultra Club will quickly become a highly sought-after ballpark location in part due to the incredible vantage point for watching the game and spectacular view of the downtown Houston skyline.

Both the full-service bar and the adjacent Killen’s Barbecue area offer additional seating that is available for all fans to enjoy.

Perched above the Michelob Ultra Club is the new home of the Harris County Houston Sports Authority suites. The exclusive area consists of three separate suites that crown the latest renovated area of Minute Maid Park.

MOBILE TICKETING

All fans must utilize the MLB Ballpark app or Mobile Account Manager on their mobile devices to access Minute Maid Park and any Astros Street Fests. PDFs, screenshots or any photos of tickets on a mobile device will NOT be accepted, and the Astros will not be able to print tickets on-site. Fans may be asked to "refresh" their ticket in order to prove that it is from the app. For more information, please contact the Ticket Office at 1-877-9ASTROS.

NURSING MOTHERS ACCOMMODATIONS

The Houston Astros have established private areas for nursing mothers in three locations of Minute Maid Park. Mamava pods are available on the Main Concourse at the Center Field Gate near the Center Field Team Store and on the Honda Club Level near Section 228. A Mothers Room is located within the Fan Accommodations office on the Upper Level of the ballpark at Section 323.

OFFICIAL GAME

A game is official after 4½ innings have been completed. To keep score at your seat, guests can purchase official scorecards at retail locations throughout the ballpark.

PARKING INFORMATION

With the combination of private lots and garages, approximately 25,000 parking spaces are available within a half-mile radius of Minute Maid Park, including many ADA spaces. Additionally, there are thousands of on-street parking spaces. As a reminder, all Astros owned parking lots are cashless. You can purchase full season parking packages by calling (713) 259-8700. Individual game parking passes are available in Lot C and can be purchased on Astros.com or by calling 1-877-9ASTROS. Charter and school buses should park on Bastrop Street, just three blocks east of US 59. View Parking Map

Animals, except for service animals assisting visitors with disabilities, are not permitted on Minute Maid Park property.

PHOTO SESSIONS

Would you like to have your engagement, graduation, bridal, birthday, family or company photos at the home of the Houston Astros? Bring your photographer and have your photo taken at various locations throughout the park, including the upper deck, dugout and behind home plate. The manual scoreboard also serves as a great way to "save the date" for a future event such as a wedding, graduation or Quincea༞ra. To schedule a one-hour photo session, email [email protected] or visit www.astros.com/tours.

PROHIBITED BEHAVIOR

The following actions and behavior are violations of the Guest Code of Conduct and are prohibited:

  • Acting in a manner that is unruly, disruptive, and/or illegal.
  • Displaying inconsiderate, vulgar, profane, threatening, bullying, abusive, offensive, or otherwise inappropriate behavior toward Team Members and/or other Guests.
  • Using foul/abusive language and/or making obscene or derogatory gestures.
  • Displaying obscene, indecent, and/or inappropriate clothing.
  • Displaying profane or inflammatory images or language.
  • Intentionally placing, dropping, tossing, or hurling any substance or object onto the playing field.
  • Interference with the progress of the game.
  • Going onto the playing field.
  • Interfering with a ball in play.
  • Intentionally making physical contact with a sports participant.
  • Fighting, taunting, or making threatening gestures.
  • Smoking, including the use of electronic cigarettes, or using smokeless tobacco.
  • Damaging or attempting to damage the Stadium and/or its contents or property.
  • Possessing or using illegal drugs or abusing prescription drugs.
  • Obstructing the view of other Guests with excessive standing.
  • Sitting or standing on seat backs, standing on seats, or stepping over/on seats.
  • Standing or sitting in the walkways, aisles, or ramps.
  • Placing cups or other items on walls or ledges.
  • Throwing or kicking objects.

PROHIBITED ITEMS

The following items will not be permitted inside Minute Maid Park:

  • Aerosol cans
  • Alcohol
  • Animals (except for service animals)
  • Bags larger than 16” x 16” x 8”
  • Backpacks (possible exceptions include diaper bags, Astros Buddies backpacks, single-compartment drawstring bags, and other bags used for medical reasons if they are within the MLB Bag Size requirements to not exceed 16” x 16” x 8”)
  • Baseball Bats and Ball retrievers
  • Banners or signs larger than 3' x 2'
  • Banners or signs must be baseball-related and support teams and players
  • Banners or signs which are obscene, slanderous or in bad taste, as determined by the Astros
  • Banners or signs may not obstruct the view of other patrons or interfere with the game in any way
  • Banners or sings may not be paraded through any part of the ballpark
  • Banners or signs may be displayed between innings only
  • No items are permitted to be affixed to signs
  • No signs may be affixed to the ballpark
  • Beverages & containers other than factory-sealed plastic water bottles 1 liter or less
  • Cameras with lenses larger than 8 inches
  • Clothing deemed obscene or indecent
  • Coolers including hard sided and Styrofoam coolers (Soft-sided coolers that do not exceed the MLB-Bag Size requirements of 16” x 16” x 8” will be allowed)
  • Costumes / Costume masks
  • Drones
  • Fireworks
  • Folding chairs
  • Food in a portion larger than a clear, one-gallon size bag
  • Hover boards and other personal recreational devices
  • Inflatables (i.e. beach balls, basketballs, balloons)
  • Illegal drugs
  • Laser pointers
  • Luggage
  • Noise makers (whistles, horns, bells, etc.)
  • Poles or sticks of any kind (i.e. flagpoles, broom handles, nets)
  • Skateboards, roller skates, roller shoes, bicycles, wagons for children
  • Tripods, bipods, or monopods
  • Weapons - including but not limited to firearms, knives, mace
  • Any item deemed to be inappropriate, hazardous, distasteful, or not supporting of the sport of baseball.

PROHIBITED LANGUAGE

Derogatory language, whether spoken or written, regarding race, ethnicity, gender, religion, disability, age, sexual preference, or national origin is prohibited. Such language, whether directed at fans, players, umpires, or other team members or personnel, is inexcusable, unacceptable, and inconsistent with the spirit of the game of baseball.

Vulgar, profane, threatening, bullying, abusive, or offensive language is similarly prohibited.

The Houston Astros maintain a policy of zero tolerance regarding any violation of the Guest Code of Conduct. Any guest who violates the Code of Conduct will be subject to immediate ejection as well as possible arrest and prosecution.

To report a violation of the Code of Conduct, please contact Guest Services immediately.
Such reports may be made in person at our Guest Services locations, directly to Ballpark Security, by phone at 713-259-8928, or via Twitter using @astrosassist.

PROPOSALS

Planning to get engaged? Make the special moment even more exciting with Minute Maid Park as your backdrop! For more information on Minute Maid Park proposals, email [email protected] , or visit www.astros.com/tours.

PUBLICATIONS

The Houston Astros produce several publications throughout the baseball season.

Media Guide: Nearly every detail of a current Astros player&aposs baseball career is chronicled in the annual Astros Media Guide. You will also find information on the club&aposs history, records, minor league affiliates and front office personnel. To purchase, contact the Communications office at (713) 259-8900.

Scorecards: For dedicated baseball fans, scorecards are for sale at any retail location.

Yearbook: The Astros Yearbook gives fans an inside look at Astros players, an Astros-themed kids section and much more. Available at stands throughout the ballpark or online at astros.com/magazine beginning in May. Pre-orders of the 2021 Houston Astros Yearbook can be purchased by contacting the Astros Communications office at (713) 259-8900.

RADIO

Houston&aposs KBME Radio, 790 AM, is the English language flagship, with Robert Ford and Steve Sparks calling the entire season. The Astros pregame show begins 35 minutes prior to game time on 790 KBME and the postgame show ends 15 minutes after the game.

Radio Station KTRH, 740 AM, will air the Houston Astros night games beginning at 7:00 p.m. This will significantly impact local coverage and improve the signal throughout the Houston Market including San Antonio and elsewhere.

Every Astros game is also broadcast live in Spanish on KLAT 1010AM, with Francisco Romero and Alex Treviño on the call. The Astros pregame show begins 10 minutes prior to game time and the postgame show ends 5 minutes after the game.

Please visit www.astros.com/radio for all 2021 Astros Radio Network information.

RECYCLING

The Houston Astros promote recycling in Minute Maid Park. Fans can assist in this effort by depositing all plastic and aluminum beverage containers in the 135 Waste Management recycle receptacles located throughout the ballpark.

RE-ENTRY INTO THE BALLPARK

As part of the Astros&apos ongoing commitment to the safety of all fans, there is no re-entry into the ballpark once fans are scanned in, a policy consistent with the Astros postseason game day protocol, as well as with other sports and entertainment venues around the country. All fans must either have their printed tickets in hand or utilize the MLB Ballpark App on their mobile devices to access Minute Maid Park and any Astros Street Fests. PDFs, screenshots or any photos of tickets on a mobile device will NOT be accepted, and the Astros will not be able to print tickets on-site.

RETAIL LOCATIONS

Merchandise may be purchased year-round at the Official Astros Team Store located in the lobby of the Union Station building (at the corner of Texas Avenue and Crawford Street). During Astros games, a second team store, located behind home plate on the Main Concourse is also open along with several smaller locations throughout the ballpark. For hours, please see Astros Team Store above.

For exact locations, search the Stadium Map and Menus section in the MLB Ballpark App, inquire at Fan Accommodations near sections 112 or 323, or call 713-259-8077 for all retail information requests.

RIDESHARE PICKUP AND DROPOFF

RideShare pickup and drop-off is located just outside the center field gate on Crawford Street between Preston Street and Congress Avenue. The RideShare pickup and drop-off point allows fans to have access to a safe, reliable ride to and from Minute Maid Park and gives fans easy access to the center field attractions.

The roof of the ballpark provides the best of both baseball worlds - open air and the great outdoors or the air-conditioned comfort of the indoors. Designed in three moving components, the roof spans more than 6 acres and retracts to reveal the largest open area of any retractable roofed baseball stadium built today. It is designed to open or close in 12 - 20 minutes and also withstands hurricane conditions.

SCALPING

The resale of Astros Game Tickets is strictly prohibited on Minute Maid Park property. Any persons caught doing so shall be brought to the attention of the proper authorities. To avoid problems with counterfeit, stolen, void, or inflated tickets, purchase them only at the Minute Maid Park Box Office, over the phone at 1-877-9ASTROS, or from an authorized outlet.

SCHEDULES

You can view, print and download the Astros schedule at astros.com/schedule.

SCOREBOARD GREETINGS

To make a special event even more memorable, fans may request a message on our Mezzanine ribbon board for a fee of $100 at www.astros.com/scoreboard. Messages are subject to Astros approval. Please note, proposals of any kind are not permitted for this feature.

SEASON TICKETS

The Houston Astros offer a variety of packages for fans interested in the benefits of being a season ticket holder. For more information, contact Ticket Office at 1-877-9ASTROS.

SEASON TICKET HQ

Members of the Astros Season Ticket Sales and Services team will be on-site for all Astros home games through the 5th inning. The Season Ticket HQ is located on the main concourse behind home plate near the Insperity Club.

SECURITY

Security officers and uniformed personnel are stationed throughout the ballpark during all events. In the case of a security incident, immediately notify a uniformed member of the Astros staff or an Andy Frain security officer. Uniformed police officers will be on hand before and after every Astros home game to assist in fan safety and traffic management.

SECURITY CHECK AND PROHIBITED ITEMS

In compliance with MLB and Astros security policies, all guests entering Minute Maid Park are subject to inspection by handheld and walk-through metal detectors as well as other protocols deemed by security staff members.

Bags exceeding 16” x 16” x 8” are prohibited. Backpacks are also prohibited (possible exceptions include diaper bags, Astros Buddies backpacks, single-compartment drawstring bags, and other bags used for medical reasons if they are within the MLB Bag Size requirements to not exceed 16” x 16” x 8”). All bags will be checked at all gates prior to entry.

Items not allowed into the ballpark cannot be held by security staff members or other ballpark personnel and no items surrendered to security will be stored or returned. To ensure fan safety, the Houston Astros reserve the right to refuse admittance of any item deemed hazardous, suspicious, or offensive.

Fans are reminded to leave all prohibited items at home. For the full list of prohibited items, click here.

SERVICES FOR GUESTS WITH DISABILITIES

Minute Maid Park meets and exceeds all service and structural requirements stipulated by the Americans with Disabilities Act. The following services are available to accommodate the needs of our fans with disabilities.

Assistive Listening Devices (ALD): These devices, which carry the Public Address System comments, are available for our fans with hearing impairments. The devices are available at our Fan Accommodation Centers at Section 112 on the Main Concourse and Section 323 on the Upper Concourse. Identification will be required to check out the devices.

Captioning Board: The Houston Astros are the first Major League ball club to install a captioning board for the benefit of our fans with hearing impairments. Located above the Mezzanine level in Right Field, the board will display the PA announcer&aposs comments, as well as other in-game information.

Telephone Display Devices (TDD): Fans with hearing or speech impairments are offered these text telephones for their use. Stations are available in the Fan Accommodation Centers in Sections 112 and 323.

Wheelchair Seating: Wheelchair seating for fans with mobility concerns is available throughout Minute Maid Park. Prices will vary depending on seating level. Please inform the ticket representative of your special seating needs at the time of purchase. Call (713) 259-8700 for details or visit the Minute Maid Park Box Office.

Courtesy Wheelchair Service: The Houston Astros provide courtesy wheelchair service at all home games. Once a guest arrives at the gate and requests this service, a wheelchair will be dispatched and an attendant will take the fan to his/her seating area. When the guest is ready to depart, the service is also available to take him/her to the exit.

Braille Signage: Braille and tactile signage is located throughout the ballpark.

SHOOTING STARS

The Coca-Cola Astros Shooting Stars are the spirit and energy of the Houston Astros! They are fan favorites during Astros home games at Minute Maid Park, where they can be found greeting fans, tossing souvenirs to fans and singing along during the 7th Inning Stretch. The Coca-Cola Astros Shooting Stars also appear throughout the Houston community, delivering spirit and passion on and off the field. With the perfect combination of Texas charm and boundless enthusiasm, the Coca-Cola Astros Shooting Stars are sure to make your next trip to Minute Maid Park a memorable one! For more information on the team, or how to book the Coca-Cola Astros Shooting Stars for your next event, visit www.astros.com/shootingstars or call (832) 602-4015.

SHUTTLE CREW

The Astros Shuttle Crew is the club&aposs official street team that can be found out in the Houston community bringing Astros-themed fun to a variety of events with their signature inflatable attractions and giveaway items. The Astros Shuttle Crew is also at all home games at Minute Maid Park, ready to set fans up with their very own Astros Buddies Kids Club memberships!

SMOKING

Smoking is strictly prohibited inside Minute Maid Park and within 25 feet of the ballpark entrances and exits. The no smoking policy includes the use of e-cigarettes and similar products including smokeless tobacco.

SPEAKERS BUREAU

Front office personnel represent the Astros at speaking engagements year-round. Requests must be submitted in writing at least six weeks prior to the event on the organization&aposs letterhead. The letter should provide as many details as possible and be sent to the Community Development department, Houston Astros, P.O. Box 288, Houston, TX 77001-0288.

SPECIAL EVENTS

With more than 15 diverse event spaces, Minute Maid Park offers a unique and unforgettable experience for all your guests. Whether planning a gala, holiday party, luncheon, conference, trade show, meeting or team building activity, Minute Maid Park is the perfect place to host an event that your guests will always remember. For more information, or to book your next event, call (713) 259-8800 or send an e-mail to [email protected] .

SPECIAL FEATURES

Hall of Fame Alley: Fans taking a stroll through what was previously known as Home Run Alley, located in left field, will come face to face with Astros history in Hall of Fame Alley presented by Houston Methodist.

Class of 2019: Inducted Saturday, August 3, 2019 – Bob Aspromonte, Jeff Bagwell, Craig Biggio, Jose Cruz, Larry Dierker, Gene Elston, Milo Hamilton, Joe Morgan, Joe Niekro, Shane Reynolds, J.R. Richard, Nolan Ryan, Mike Scott, Jim Umbricht, Don Wilson and Jimmy Wynn.

Class of 2020: Lance Berkman, César Cedeño, Roy Hofheinz, Roy Oswalt, Billy Wagner and Bob Watson.

Home Run Porch: Astros fans have a unique opportunity to keep a part of history at Minute Maid Park. Along the main concourse in left field, the Astros have created a home run porch which extends over the field of play. Also located on the porch is an old-fashioned Phillips 66 gas pump that keeps a running total of every Astros home run hit at Minute Maid Park. The Astros enter the 2021 season with over 2,000 homers.

The Train: As the Astros forge into a new era of Houston baseball, we remember this city&aposs great history and the integral role of railways in the development of Houston. With Minute Maid Park connected to Houston&aposs Union Station building, the past has been connected with the future. To keep the historical spirit alive, Minute Maid Park features a 1860s-replicated train locomotive that heralds the opening of ballpark gates and other special events.

SPRING TRAINING

The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches in West Palm Beach, Fl., is the Spring Training home of the Houston Astros. Visit www.astros.com/spring for more information.

STROLLERS

Strollers are allowed inside Minute Maid Park. However, strollers may not be stored in any seating area and may not be used to occupy handicap seating or SRO spaces. After entering the ballpark, fans should visit a Fan Accommodations window and ask an usher for assistance with storing a stroller in Fan Accommodations.


The Strange and Mysterious History of the Ouija Board

In February, 1891, the first few advertisements started appearing in papers: “Ouija, the Wonderful Talking Board,” boomed a Pittsburgh toy and novelty shop, describing a magical device that answered questions “about the past, present and future with marvelous accuracy” and promised “never-failing amusement and recreation for all the classes,” a link “between the known and unknown, the material and immaterial.” Another advertisement in a New York newspaper declared it “interesting and mysterious” and testified, “as sProven at Patent Office before it was allowed. Price, $1.50.”

Read & Watch

The History of Spiritualism

This mysterious talking board was basically what’s sold in board game aisles today: A flat board with the letters of the alphabet arrayed in two semi-circles above the numbers 0 through 9 the words “yes” and “no” in the uppermost corners, “goodbye” at the bottom accompanied by a “planchette,” a teardrop-shaped device, usually with a small window in the body, used to maneuver about the board. The idea was that two or more people would sit around the board, place their finger tips on the planchette, pose a question, and watch, dumbfounded, as the planchette moved from letter to letter, spelling out the answers seemingly of its own accord. The biggest difference is in the materials the board is now usually cardboard, rather than wood, and the planchette is plastic.

Though truth in advertising is hard to come by, especially in products from the 19th century, the Ouija board was “interesting and mysterious” it actually had been “proven” to work at the Patent Office before its patent was allowed to proceed and today, even psychologists believe that it may offer a link between the known and the unknown.

The real history of the Ouija board is just about as mysterious as how the “game” works. Ouija historian Robert Murch has been researching the story of the board since 1992 when he started his research, he says, no one really knew anything about its origins, which struck him as odd: “For such an iconic thing that strikes both fear and wonder in American culture, how can no one know where it came from?”

The Ouija board, in fact, came straight out of the American 19th century obsession with spiritualism, the belief that the dead are able to communicate with the living. Spiritualism, which had been around for years in Europe, hit America hard in 1848 with the sudden prominence of the Fox sisters of upstate New York the Foxes claimed to receive messages from spirits who rapped on the walls in answer to questions, recreating this feat of channeling in parlors across the state. Aided by the stories about the celebrity sisters and other spiritualists in the new national press, spiritualism reached millions of adherents at its peak in the second half of the 19th century. Spiritualism worked for Americans: it was compatible with Christian dogma, meaning one could hold a séance on Saturday night and have no qualms about going to church the next day. It was an acceptable, even wholesome activity to contact spirits at séances, through automatic writing, or table turning parties, in which participants would place their hands on a small table and watch it begin shake and rattle, while they all declared that they weren’t moving it. The movement also offered solace in an era when the average lifespan was less than 50: Women died in childbirth children died of disease and men died in war. Even Mary Todd Lincoln, wife of the venerable president, conducted séances in the White House after their 11-year-old son died of a fever in 1862 during the Civil War, spiritualism gained adherents in droves, people desperate to connect with loved ones who’d gone away to war and never come home.

The Ouija Board was marketed as both mystical oracle and as family entertainment, fun with an element of other-worldly excitement. (Bettmann/CORBIS) Elijah Bond, a Baltimore attorney, was one of the first to patent the Ouija Board. (Robert Murch) Charles Kennard of Baltimore, Maryland, pulled together a group of four other investors—including Elijah Bond—to start the Kennard Novelty Company to exclusively make and market the Ouija Board. (Robert Murch) By 1893, William Fuld, who’d gotten in on the ground floor of the Kennard Novelty Company as an employee and stockholder, was running the company. (Robert Murch) This patent file from the United States Patent Office shows that the office required the board to be tested before a patent would be granted. (Robert Murch) The makers of the first talking board asked the board what they should call it the name “Ouija” came through and, when they asked what that meant, the board replied, “Good luck.” (Robert Murch)

“Communicating with the dead was common, it wasn’t seen as bizarre or weird,” explains Murch. “It’s hard to imagine that now, we look at that and think, ‘Why are you opening the gates of hell?’”

But opening the gates of hell wasn’t on anyone’s mind when they started the Kennard Novelty Company, the first producers of the Ouija board in fact, they were mostly looking to open Americans’ wallets.

As spiritualism had grown in American culture, so too did frustration with how long it took to get any meaningful message out of the spirits, says Brandon Hodge, Spiritualism historian. Calling out the alphabet and waiting for a knock at the right letter, for example, was deeply boring. After all, rapid communication with breathing humans at far distances was a possibility—the telegraph had been around for decades—why shouldn’t spirits be as easy to reach? People were desperate for methods of communication that would be quicker—and while several entrepreneurs realized that, it was the Kennard Novelty Company that really nailed it.

In 1886, the fledgling Associated Press reported on a new phenomenon taking over the spiritualists’ camps in Ohio, the talking board it was, for all intents and purposes, a Ouija board, with letters, numbers and a planchette-like device to point to them. The article went far and wide, but it was Charles Kennard of Baltimore, Maryland who acted on it. In 1890, he pulled together a group of four other investors—including Elijah Bond, a local attorney, and Col. Washington Bowie, a surveyor—to start the Kennard Novelty Company to exclusively make and market these new talking boards. None of the men were spiritualists, really, but they were all of them keen businessmen and they’d identified a niche.

But they didn’t have the Ouija board yet—the Kennard talking board lacked a name. Contrary to popular belief, “Ouija” is not a combination of the French for “yes,” oui, and the German ja. Murch says, based on his research, it was Bond’s sister-in-law, Helen Peters (who was, Bond said, a “strong medium”), who supplied the now instantly recognizable handle. Sitting around the table, they asked the board what they should call it the name “Ouija” came through and, when they asked what that meant, the board replied, “Good luck.” Eerie and cryptic—but for the fact that Peters acknowledged that she was wearing a locket bearing the picture of a woman, the name “Ouija” above her head. That’s the story that emerged from the Ouija founders’ letters it’s very possible that the woman in the locket was famous author and popular women’s rights activist Ouida, whom Peters admired, and that “Ouija” was just a misreading of that.

According to Murch’s interviews with the descendants of the Ouija founders and the original Ouija patent file itself, which he’s seen, the story of the board’s patent request was true: Knowing that if they couldn’t prove that the board worked, they wouldn’t get their patent, Bond brought the indispensible Peters to the patent office in Washington with him when he filed his application. There, the chief patent officer demanded a demonstration—if the board could accurately spell out his name, which was supposed to be unknown to Bond and Peters, he’d allow the patent application to proceed. They all sat down, communed with the spirits, and the planchette faithfully spelled out the patent officer’s name. Whether or not it was mystical spirits or the fact that Bond, as a patent attorney, may have just known the man’s name, well, that’s unclear, Murch says. But on February 10, 1891, a white-faced and visibly shaken patent officer awarded Bond a patent for his new “toy or game.”

The first patent offers no explanation as to how the device works, just asserts that it does. That ambiguity and mystery was part of a more or less conscious marketing effort. “These were very shrewd businessmen,” notes Murch the less the Kennard company said about how the board worked, the more mysterious it seemed—and the more people wanted to buy it. “Ultimately, it was a money-maker. They didn’t care why people thought it worked.”

And it was a money-maker. By 1892, the Kennard Novelty Company went from one factory in Baltimore to two in Baltimore, two in New York, two in Chicago and one in London. And by 1893, Kennard and Bond were out, owing to some internal pressures and the old adage about money changing everything. By this time, William Fuld, who’d gotten in on the ground floor of the fledgling company as an employee and stockholder, was running the company. (Notably, Fuld is not and never claimed to be the inventor of the board, though even his obituary in The New York Times declared him to be also notably, Fuld died in 1927 after a freak fall from the roof of his new factory—a factory he said the Ouija board told him to build.) In 1898, with the blessing of Col. Bowie, the majority shareholder and one of only two remaining original investors, he licensed the exclusive rights to make the board. What followed were boom years for Fuld and frustration for some of the men who’d been in on the Ouija board from the beginning—public squabbling over who’d really invented it played out in the pages of the Baltimore Sun, while their rival boards launched and failed. In 1919, Bowie sold the remaining business interest in Ouija to Fuld, his protégé, for $1.

The board’s instant and now, more than 120 years later, prolonged success showed that it had tapped into a weird place in American culture. It was marketed as both mystical oracle and as family entertainment, fun with an element of other-worldly excitement. This meant that it wasn’t only spiritualists who bought the board in fact, the people who disliked the Ouija board the most tended to be spirit mediums, as they’d just found their job as spiritual middleman cut out. The Ouija board appealed to people from across a wide spectrum of ages, professions, and education—mostly, Murch claims, because the Ouija board offered a fun way for people to believe in something. “People want to believe. The need to believe that something else is out there is powerful,” he says. “This thing is one of those things that allows them to express that belief.”

It’s quite logical then the board would find its greatest popularity in uncertain times, when people hold fast to belief and look for answers from just about anywhere, especially cheap, DIY oracles. The 1910s and 󈧘s, with the devastations of World War I and the manic years of the Jazz Age and prohibition, witnessed a surge in Ouija popularity. It was so normal that in May 1920, Norman Rockwell, illustrator of blissful 20th century domesticity, depicted a man and a woman, Ouija board on their knees, communing with the beyond on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. During the Great Depression, the Fuld Company opened new factories to meet demand for the boards over five months in 1944, a single New York department store sold 50,000 of them. In 1967, the year after Parker Brothers bought the game from the Fuld Company, 2 million boards were sold, outselling Monopoly that same year saw more American troops in Vietnam, the counter-culture Summer of Love in San Francisco, and race riots in Newark, Detroit, Minneapolis and Milwaukee.

Strange Ouija tales also made frequent, titillating appearances in American newspapers. In 1920, national wire services reported that would-be crime solvers were turning to their Ouija boards for clues in the mysterious murder of a New York City gambler, Joseph Burton Elwell, much to the frustration of the police. In 1921, The New York Times reported that a Chicago woman being sent to a psychiatric hospital tried to explain to doctors that she wasn’t suffering from mania, but that Ouija spirits had told her to leave her mother’s dead body in the living room for 15 days before burying her in the backyard. In 1930, newspaper readers thrilled to accounts of two women in Buffalo, New York, who’d murdered another woman, supposedly on the encouragement of Ouija board messages. In 1941, a 23-year-old gas station attendant from New Jersey told The New York Times that he joined the Army because the Ouija board told him to. In 1958, a Connecticut court decided not to honor the “Ouija board will” of Mrs. Helen Dow Peck, who left only $1,000 to two former servants and an insane $152,000 to Mr. John Gale Forbes—a lucky, but bodiless spirit who’d contacted her via the Ouija board.

Ouija boards even offered literary inspiration: In 1916, Mrs. Pearl Curran made headlines when she began writing poems and stories that she claimed were dictated, via Ouija board, by the spirit of a 17th century Englishwoman called Patience Worth. The following year, Curran’s friend, Emily Grant Hutchings, claimed that her book, Jap Herron, was communicated via Ouija board by the late Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain. Curran earned significant success, Hutchings less, but neither of them achieved the heights that Pulitzer Prize-winning poet James Merrill did: In 1982, his epic Ouija-inspired and dictated poem, The Changing Light at Sandover, won the National Book Critics Circle Award. (Merrill, for his part, publicly implied that the Ouija board acted more as a magnifier for his own poetic thoughts, rather than as hotline to the spirits. In 1979, after he wrote Mirabelle: Books of Number, another Ouija creationhe told The New York Review of Books, “If the spirits aren’t external, how astonishing the mediums become!”)

Ouija existed on the periphery of American culture, perennially popular, mysterious, interesting and usually, barring the few cases of supposed Ouija-inspired murders, non-threatening. That is, until 1973.

In that year, The Exorcist scared the pants off people in theaters, with all that pea soup and head-spinning and supposedly based on a true story business and the implication that 12-year-old Regan was possessed by a demon after playing with a Ouija board by herself changed how people saw the board. “It’s kind of like Psycho—no one was afraid of showers until that scene… It’s a clear line,” says Murch, explaining that before The Exorcist, film and TV depictions of the Ouija board were usually jokey, hokey, and silly—“I Love Lucy,” for example, featured a 1951 episode in which Lucy and Ethel host a séance using the Ouija board. “But for at least 10 years afterwards, it’s no joke… [The Exorcist] actually changed the fabric of pop culture.”

Almost overnight, Ouija became a tool of the devil and, for that reason, a tool of horror writers and moviemakers—it began popping up in scary movies, usually opening the door to evil spirits hell-bent on ripping apart co-eds. Outside of the theatre, the following years saw the Ouija board denounced by religious groups as Satan’s preferred method of communication in 2001 in Alamogordo, New Mexico, it was being burned on bonfires along with copies of Harry Potter and Disney’s Snow White. Christian religious groups still remain wary of the board, citing scripture denouncing communication with spirits through mediums—Catholic.com calls the Ouija board “far from harmless” and as recently as 2011, 700 Club host Pat Robertson declared that demons can reach us through the board. Even within the paranormal community, Ouija boards enjoyed a dodgy reputation—Murch says that when he first began speaking at paranormal conventions, he was told to leave his antique boards at home because they scared people too much. Parker Brothers and later, Hasbro, after they acquired Parker Brothers in 1991, still sold hundreds of thousands of them, but the reasons why people were buying them had changed significantly: Ouija boards were spooky rather than spiritual, with a distinct frisson of danger.

In recent years, Ouija is popular yet again, driven in part by economic uncertainty and the board’s usefulness as a plot device. The hugely popular Paranormal Activity and 2 both featured a Ouija board it’s popped up in episodes of “Breaking Bad,” “Castle,” “Rizzoli & Isles” and multiple paranormal reality TV programs Hot Topic, mall favorite of Gothy teens, sells a set of Ouija board bra and underwear and for those wishing to commune with the beyond while on the go, there’s an app (or 20) for that. This year, Hasbro released a more “mystical” version of the game, replacing its old glow-in-the-dark version for purists, Hasbro also licensed the rights to make a “classic” version to another company. In 2012, rumors that Universal was in talks to make a film based on the game abounded, although Hasbro refused to comment on that or anything else for this story.

But the real question, the one everyone wants to know, is how do Ouija boards work?

Ouija boards are not, scientists say, powered by spirits or even demons. Disappointing but also potentially useful—because they’re powered by us, even when we protest that we’re not doing it, we swear. Ouija boards work on a principle known to those studying the mind for more than 160 years: the ideometer effect. In 1852, physician and physiologist William Benjamin Carpenter published a report for the Royal Institution of Great Britain, examining these automatic muscular movements that take place without the conscious will or volition of the individual (think crying in reaction to a sad film, for example). Almost immediately, other researchers saw applications of the ideometer effect in the popular spiritualist pastimes. In 1853, chemist and physicist Michael Faraday, intrigued by table-turning, conducted a series of experiments that proved to him (though not to most spiritualists) that the table’s motion was due to the ideomotor actions of the participants.

The effect is very convincing. As Dr. Chris French, professor of psychology and anomalistic psychology at Goldsmiths, University of London, explains, “It can generate a very strong impression that the movement is being caused by some outside agency, but it’s not.” Other devices, such as dowsing rods, or more recently, the fake bomb detection kits that deceived scores of international governments and armed services, work on the same principle of non-conscious movement. “The thing about all these mechanisms we’re talking about, dowsing rods, Oujia boards, pendulums, these small tables, they’re all devices whereby a quite a small muscular movement can cause quite a large effect,” he says. Planchettes, in particular, are well-suited for their task—many used to be constructed of a lightweight wooden board and fitted with small casters to help them move more smoothly and freely now, they’re usually plastic and have felt feet, which also help it slide over the board easily.

“And with Ouija boards you’ve got the whole social context. It’s usually a group of people, and everyone has a slight influence,” French notes. With Ouija, not only does the individual give up some conscious control to participate—so it can’t be me, people think—but also, in a group, no one person can take credit for the planchette’s movements, making it seem like the answers must be coming from an otherworldly source. Moreover, in most situations, there is an expectation or suggestion that the board is somehow mystical or magical. “Once the idea has been implanted there, there’s almost a readiness to happen.”

But if Ouija boards can’t give us answers from beyond the Veil, what can they tell us? Quite a lot, actually.

Researchers at the University of British Columbia’s Visual Cognition Lab think the board may be a good way to examine how the mind processes information on various levels. The idea that the mind has multiple levels of information processing is by no means a new one, although exactly what to call those levels remains up for debate: Conscious, unconscious, subconscious, pre-conscious, zombie mind are all terms that have been or are currently used, and all have their supporters and detractors. For the purposes of this discussion, we’ll refer to “conscious” as those thoughts you’re basically aware that you’re having (“I’m reading this fascinating article.”) and “non-conscious” as the automatic pilot-type thoughts (blink, blink).

Two years ago, Dr. Ron Rensink, professor of psychology and computer science, psychology postdoctoral researcher Hélène Gauchou, and Dr. Sidney Fels, professor of electrical and computer engineering, began looking at exactly what happens when people sit down to use a Ouija board. Fels says that they got the idea after he hosted a Halloween party with a fortune-telling theme and found himself explaining to several foreign students, who had never really seen it before, how the Ouija works.

“They kept asking where to put the batteries,” Fels laughed. After offering up a more Halloween-friendly, mystical explanation—leaving out the ideomotor effect—he left the students to play with the board on their own. When he came back, hours later, they were still at it, although by now much more freaked out. A few days post-hangover later, Fels said, he, Rensink, and a few others began talking about what is actually going on with the Ouija. The team thought the board could offer a really unique way to examine non-conscious knowledge, to determine whether ideomotor action could also express what the non-conscious knows.

“It was one of things that we thought it probably won’t work, but if it did work, it’d be really freaking cool,” said Rensink.

Their initial experiments involved a Ouija-playing robot: Participants were told that they were playing with a person in another room via teleconferencing the robot, they were told, mimicked the movements of the other person. In actuality, the robot’s movements simply amplified the participants’ motions and the person in the other room was just a ruse, a way to get the participant to think they weren’t in control. Participants were asked a series of yes or no, fact-based questions (“Is Buenos Aires the capital of Brazil? Were the 2000 Olympic Games held in Sydney?”) and expected to use the Ouija board to answer.

What the team found surprised them: When participants were asked, verbally, to guess the answers to the best of their ability, they were right only around 50 percent of the time, a typical result for guessing. But when they answered using the board, believing that the answers were coming from someplace else, they answered correctly upwards of 65 percent of the time. “It was so dramatic how much better they did on these questions than if they answered to the best of their ability that we were like, ‘This is just weird, how could they be that much better?’” recalled Fels. “It was so dramatic we couldn’t believe it.” The implication was, Fels explained, that one’s non-conscious was a lot smarter than anyone knew.

The robot, unfortunately, proved too delicate for further experiments, but the researchers were sufficiently intrigued to pursue further Ouija research. They divined another experiment: This time, rather than a robot, the participant actually played with a real human. At some point, the participant was blindfolded—and the other player, really a confederate, quietly took their hands off the planchette. This meant that the participant believed he or she wasn’t alone, enabling the kind of automatic pilot state the researchers were looking for, but still ensuring that the answers could only come from the participant.

It worked. Rensink says, “Some people were complaining about how the other person was moving the planchette around. That was a good sign that we really got this kind of condition that people were convinced that somebody else was there.” Their results replicated the findings of the experiment with the robot, that people knew more when they didn’t think they were controlling the answers (50 percent accuracy for vocal responses to 65 percent for Ouija responses). They reported their findings in February 2012 issue of Consciousness and Cognition.

“You do much better with the Ouija on questions that you really don’t think you know, but actually something inside you does know and the Ouija can help you answer above chance,” says Fels.

UBC’s experiments show that the Ouija could be a very useful tool in rigorously investigating non-conscious thought processes. “Now that we have some hypotheses in terms of what’s going on here, accessing knowledge and cognitive abilities that you don’t have conscious awareness of, [the Ouija board] would be an instrument to actually get at that,” Fels explains. “Now we can start using it to ask other types of questions.”

Those types of questions include how much and what the non-conscious mind knows, how fast it can learn, how it remembers, even how it amuses itself, if it does. This opens up even more avenues of exploration—for example, if there are two or more systems of information processes, which system is more impacted by neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s? If it impacted the non-conscious earlier, Rensink hypothesizes, indications of the illness could show up in Ouija manipulation, possibly even before being detected in conscious thought.

For the moment, the researchers are working on locking down their findings in a second study and firming up protocol around using the Ouija as a tool. However, they’re running up against a problem—funding. “The classic funding agencies don’t want to be associated with this, it seems a bit too out there,” said Rensink. All the work they’ve done to date has been volunteer, with Rensink himself paying for some of the experiment’s costs. To get around this issue, they’re looking to crowd-funding to make up the gap.

Even if they don’t succeed, the UBC team has managed to make good on one of the claims of the early Ouija advertisements: The board does offer a link between the known and the unknown. Just not the unknown that everyone wanted to believe it was. 


What can we learn from Bill Gates before Microsoft?

1. Learn when to bend the rules. Bill Gates might have snuck into college computer labs, but he did it for a good reason. Gates didn’t have access to the kinds of advanced computers at the UW. But Gates made connections to get what he wanted. As he explained , “The people there helped us learn a lot by loaning us manuals and by looking the other way when we took OS listings out of the garbage.”

2. Stay driven and keep exploring. Bill Gates didn’t give up when his first attempt at a company, Traf-o-data, fell apart. He didn’t give up after his arrest for a traffic violation in 1977. He kept working toward his goal of making computers accessible to millions—and he succeeded. Who was Bill Gates before Microsoft? A self-taught programmer who used his skills to achieve his goals.

How have you prioritized self-exploration? Let us know in the comments below!

Want to learn to program? Register for my free Self-Taught Coder Masterclass, where I cover how I went from a novice to a software engineer at eBay in less than one year.


The Polish Patriot Who Helped Americans Beat the British

Two months after Ben Franklin helped draft the Declaration of Independence, a surprise visitor walked into his Philadelphia shop. The young man’s curly brown hair cascaded down toward his shoulders, and his English was so broken he switched to French. Thaddeus Kosciuszko, a 30-year-old Pole just off the boat from Europe via the Caribbean, introduced himself and offered to enlist as an officer in the new American nation’s army.

Franklin, curious, quizzed Kosciuszko about his education: a military academy in Warsaw, studies in Paris in civil engineering, including fort building. Franklin asked him for letters of recommendation. Kosciuszko had none.

Instead, the petitioner asked to take a placement exam in engineering and military architecture. Franklin’s bemused answer revealed the inexperience of the Continental Army. “Who would proctor such an exam,” Franklin asked, “when there is no one here who is even familiar with those subjects?”

On August 30, 1776, armed with Franklin’s recommendation and high marks on a geometry exam, Kosciuszko walked into Independence Hall (then the Pennsylvania State House) and introduced himself to the Continental Congress.

In his native Poland, Kosciuszko is known for leading the Kosciuszko Uprising of 1794, a brave insurrection against foreign rule by Russia and Prussia. But that came before the liberty-loving Pole played a key but overlooked role in the American Revolution. Though not nearly as well known as the Marquis de Lafayette, America’s most celebrated foreign ally of the era, Kosciuszko (pronounced cuz-CHOOSE-co), was in many ways his equal. Both volunteered with an idealistic belief in democracy, both had a major impact on a climactic battle in the Revolution, both returned home to play prominent roles in their own country’s history, and both enjoyed the friendship and high esteem of American Founding Fathers. Kosciuszko did something more: he held his American friends to the highest ideals of equality on the issue of slavery.

Kosciuszko was born in 1746 and grew up in a manor house, where 31 peasant families worked for his father. His early education included the democratic ideals of John Locke and ancient Greeks. Trained at Warsaw’s School of Chivalry, he enrolled in Paris’ Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture, where his real goal was to learn civil engineering and the strategies of Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban, Europe’s authority on forts and sieges.

Back in Poland, Kosciuszko was hired to tutor Louise Sosnowska, a wealthy lord’s daughter, and fell in love with her. They tried to elope in the fall of 1775 after Lord Sosnowski refused Kosciuszko’s request to marry her and instead arranged a marriage with a prince. According to the story Kosciuszko told various friends, Sosnowski’s guards overtook their carriage on horseback, dragged it to a stop, knocked Kosciuszko unconscious, and took Louise home by force. Thwarted, heartbroken, nearly broke – and in some accounts, fearing vengeance from Sosnowski -- Kosciuszko embarked on his long years as an expatriate. Back in Paris, he heard that the American colonists needed engineers and set sail across the Atlantic in June 1776. Detoured when his ship wrecked off Martinique, he arrived in Philadelphia two months later.

His Paris studies, though incomplete, quickly made him useful to the Americans. John Hancock appointed him a colonel in the Continental Army in October, and Franklin hired him to design and build forts on the Delaware River to help defend Philadelphia from the British navy. Kosciuszko befriended General Horatio Gates, commander of the Continental Army’s northern division, and in May 1777, Gates sent him north to New York to evaluate Fort Ticonderoga’s defenses. There, Kosciuszko and others advised that a nearby hill needed to be fortified with cannons. Superiors ignored his advice, believing it impossible to move cannons up the steep slope. That July, the British, under the command of General John Burgoyne, arrived from Canada with 8,000 men and sent six cannons up the hill, firing into the fort and forcing the Americans to evacuate. A floating log bridge designed by Kosciuszko helped them escape. 

Kosciuszko’s greatest contribution to the American Revolution came later that year in the Battle of Saratoga, when the defenses along the Hudson River helped the Continental Army to victory. The British war plan called for troops from Canada and New York City to seize the Hudson Valley and divide the colonies in two. Kosciuszko identified Bemis Heights, a bluff overlooking a bend in the Hudson and near a thick wood, as the spot for Gates’ troops to build defensive barriers, parapets and trenches.

When Burgoyne’s troops arrived in September, they couldn’t penetrate Kosciuszko’s defenses. So they tried an end run through the woods, where Virginia riflemen picked them off and soldiers commanded by Benedict Arnold aggressively charged, killing and wounding 600 redcoats. Two weeks later, Burgoyne tried to attack even farther west, but the Americans surrounded and beat the British. Historians often describe Burgoyne’s surrender as the turning point of the war, since it convinced France’s King Louis XVI to negotiate to enter the war on the American side. Gates and Arnold got most of the credit, which Gates deflected to Kosciuszko. “The great tacticians of the campaign were hills and forests,” Gates wrote to Dr. Benjamin Rush of Philadelphia, “which a young Polish Engineer was skilful enough to select for my encampment.”

Kosciuszko spent the next three years improving the defense of the Hudson River, taking part in the design of Fort Clinton at West Point. Though he bickered about the fort’s design with Louis de la Radière, a French engineer also serving the Continental Army, the Americans valued his skills. George Washington often praised Kosciuszko in his correspondence and unsuccessfully asked Congress to promote him—despite spelling his name 11 different ways in his letters, including Kosiusko, Koshiosko, and Cosieski. During Benedict Arnold’s failed betrayal, he attempted to sell details about West Point’s defenses, designed by Kosciuszko, Radière, and others, to the British.

In 1780, Kosciuszko traveled south to serve as chief engineer of the Americans’ southern army in the Carolinas. There, he twice rescued American forces from British advances by directing the crossing of two rivers. His attempt to undermine the defenses of British fort in South Carolina with trench-digging failed, and in the ensuing battle, he was bayoneted in the buttocks. In 1782, the war’s waning days, Kosciuszko finally served as a field commander, spying, stealing cattle and skirmishing during the siege of Charleston. After the war, Washington honored Kosciuszko with gifts of two pistols and a sword.

After the war, Kosciuszko sailed back to Poland, hoping that the American Revolution could serve as a model for his own country to resist foreign domination and achieve democratic reforms. There, King Stanislaw II August Poniatowski was trying to rebuild the nation’s strength despite the menacing influence of Russian czarina Catherine the Great, his former lover and patron. Back home, Kosciuszko resumed his friendship with his love, Louise (now married to a prince), and joined the Polish army.

After Poland’s partition by Russia and Prussia in 1793, which overturned a more democratic 1791 constitution and chopped 115,000 square miles off Poland, Kosciuszko led an uprising against both foreign powers. Assuming the title of commander in chief of Poland, he led the rebels in a valiant seven months of battles in 1794. Catherine the Great put a price on his head and her Cossack troops defeated the rebellion that October, stabbing its leader with pikes during the battle. Kosciuszko spent two years in captivity in Russia, until Catherine’s death in 1796. A month later, her son, Paul, who disagreed with Catherine’s belligerent foreign policy, freed him. He returned to the United States in August 1797.

Kosciuszko lived in a boarding house in the capital, Philadelphia, collecting back pay for the war from Congress, and seeing old friends. By then, Americans had splintered into their first partisan conflict, between the Federalists, who admired the British system of government and feared the French Revolution, and the Republicans, who initially admired the French Revolution and feared a Federalist-led government would come to resemble the British monarchy. Kosciuszko took the side of the Francophile Republicans, resenting England’s support of Russia and seeing the Federalists as Anglophile elitists. So he avoided President John Adams, but developed a close friendship with Vice-President Thomas Jefferson.

“General Kosciuszko, I see him often,” Jefferson wrote Gates. “He is as pure a son of liberty as I have ever known, and of that liberty which is to go to all, and not to the few or rich alone.”

Kosciuszko took liberty so seriously that he was disappointed to see friends like Jefferson and Washington own slaves. During the American and Polish revolutions, Kosciuszko had employed black men as his aides-de-camp: Agrippa Hull in America, Jean Lapierre in Poland. When he returned to Europe in May 1798, hoping to organize another war to liberate Poland, Kosciuszko scribbled out a will. It left his American assets – $18,912 in back pay and 500 acres of land in Ohio, his reward for his war service -- for Jefferson to use to purchase the freedom and provide education for enslaved Africans. Jefferson, revising the draft into better legal English, also rewrote the will so that it would allow Jefferson to free some of his slaves with the bequest. The final draft, which Kosciuszko signed, called on “my friend Thomas Jefferson” to use Kosciuszko’s assets “in purchasing negroes from among his own as [well as] any others,” “giving them liberty in my name,” and “giving them an education in trades and otherwise.”

Though Kosciuszko returned to Paris, hoping to fight Russia and Prussia again, he never did. When Napoleon offered to help liberate Poland, Kosciuszko correctly sized him up, intuiting that his offer was disingenuous. (Later, many Poles in Napoleon’s service died in Haiti when they were ordered to put down Toussaint Louverture’s slave revolt.) Kosciuszko spent most of the remainder of his life in Paris, where he befriended Lafayette and celebrated American independence at Fourth of July parties with him.

One month before his 1817 death, Kosciuszko wrote Jefferson, reminding him of the terms of his will. But Jefferson, struggling with age, finances, inquiries about the estate from heirs in Europe, appeared in federal court in 1819 and asked a judge to appoint another executor of Kosciuszko’s affairs.

Kosciuszko’s will was never implemented. A year after Jefferson’s 1826 death, most of his slaves were sold at auction. A court-appointed executor squandered most of the estate, and in 1852, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the American will invalid, ruling that he had revoked it in an 1816 will. (Kosciuszko’s 1817 letter to Jefferson proves that was not his intent.)

Today, Kosciuszko is remembered with statues in Washington, Boston, Detroit and other cities, many of them the products of Polish-Americans’ efforts to assert their patriotism during the 1920s backlash against immigration. A 92-year-old foundation in his name awards $1 million annually in college scholarships and grants to Poles and Polish-Americans. There’s even a mustard named for him. Yet as Lafayette’s status as a foreign ally of the American Revolution continues to grow, Kosciuszko remains relatively obscure. Perhaps it’s because he mastered the subtle art of military fortifications war heroes are made by bold offensives, not fort-making.

“I would say his influence is even more significant than Lafayette,” says Alex Storozynski, author of The Peasant Prince, the definitive modern biography of Kosciuszko. Without Kosciuszko’s contributions to the Battle of Saratoga, Storozynski argues, the Americans might have lost, and France might never have entered the war on the American side.

Larrie Ferriero, whose new book Brothers at Arms examines France and Spain’s role in the Revolution, says that though Kosciuszko’s role in America’s founding is less decisive than Lafayette’s, the abolitionist sentiment behind his will makes him more important as an early voice of conscience.

“He was fighting next to people who believed they were fighting for independence, but not doing it for all,” Ferriero says. “Even before Americans themselves fully came to that understanding, he saw it.”


Watch the video: A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Austere Academy Audiobook (June 2022).


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