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WHY IS A COLONEL CALLED A “KERNAL”? The Origin of American Ranks and Insignia


“Short. Quick. Entertaining. A marvelously fun read!”

Raymond Oliver, then the Curator for the McClellan Aviation Museum (now the Aerospace Museum of California), was once asked by a colonel why her title was pronounced “kernal” and where her eagle insignia originated? That simple question began a quest to trace the development of various categories of rank. What began as a paper, however, soon developed into a booklet, which eventually wound up as this book.

Have you ever asked yourself questions like:

Why is Colonel pronounced “kernal”?
Why does a Lieutenant General outrank a Major General?
Why is Navy Captain a higher rank than Army-Air Force-Marine Captain?
Why do Sergeants wear chevrons?

If you are in the military, this book will give you a deeper appreciation for your rank and insignia—and you might find yourself wearing it with even more pride.

If you have not been in the service, or are a family member of one who is, this book might help to put an historical perspective on the often confusing layers of rank.

Either way: military, ex-military, soon-to-be military, friend or family... it’s a delight!
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Wellington’s Men


Wellington's Peninsula Campaign as told by
four soldiers who lived through it:
John Kincaid - Adventures in the Rifle Brigade
Benjamin Harris - Rifleman Harris
James Anton - Military Life
Cavalie Mercer - Waterloo

Wellington’s Men is perhaps best summarized by the words of the author in the opening sentence of the book.

“This volume is an attempt to rescue from undeserved oblivion a cluster of soldierly autobiographies; and to give to the general reader some pictures of famous battles, not as described by the historian or analysed by the philosopher, but as seen by the eyes of men who fought in them.”

Fitchett attempts that rescue with a brilliant rendering and analysis of parts of four biographies—written by two junior officers, a sergeant, and a private soldier. Each of these men were eye-witnesses to the major events of Wellington's Peninsula Campaign, and write about both what they saw, and what they thought about what they saw. They are the “...actual human documents, with the salt of truth, of sincerity, and of reality in every syllable.”

Each of these books are presented and discussed by one of the finest historians of his day: William Henry Fitchett.
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Washington’s Wolfpack: The Navy Before There Was A Navy


Historians tell us that the United States Navy was founded on October 13, 1775. But was it?

In the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, the government employed a total 70 warships, carrying 1,800 guns and swivels. In those same two wars there were 1,300 privateers operating with almost 16,000 guns and swivels So, which was the real U.S. Navy?

In both wars the British didn't strategically fear our warships; they feared our privateers—a swarming collection of privately-owned armed ships who were, in effect, legalized pirates.

Yet everyone knows about the USS Constitution, the Constellation and the United States. But how many have heard of the Argo, the Chasseur and the True Blooded Yankee?

We honor the courage and daring of naval officers such as Truxtun, Decatur, Barney, Preble, and so on. But how many know that each of them were also once privateers?

Do you know about the audacious American privateer who posted a notice in Lloyd's Coffee House in London stating that, because he was now in their waters, all of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland should consider themselves under blockade?

Based on Maclay's 1899 edition of A History of American Privateers, Washington's Wolfpack is an exhaustive yet entertaining treatment of this little known chapter in American History.
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Victoria: Portrait of a Queen

The woman who ruled a nation and framed an Era. Alexandrina Victoria was conceived in a race between two disreputable, aging princes to beget an heir to the throne of England. She was only eighteen when she inherited the crown, twenty when she married her German cousin, Prince Albert, and eighty-one when she died in 1901. Her reign lasted sixty-three years and seven months-longer than any other British monarch. Strachey describes, with his characteristic flair, the politicians and courtiers who swarmed around this queen, exerting influence and shaping history. These included Melbourne, Palmerston, Gladstone, and Disraeli. Center stage, however, is the queen herself-stubborn, energetic, unthinkingly fierce in her loyalties, and with a determination to do good that was constantly at war with her pride of place. Queen Victoria, the Widow of Windsor, Empress of India. Meet the woman whose name became synonymous with an Age. Winner of the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. Britain's Oldest Literary Award
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Under the Rising Sun: A Story of the Russo-Japanese War

Paul Swinburne, a young naval officer, is court martialed; but he refuses to testify on his own behalf. No one knows why. As a result, he is dismissed from the Royal Navy; and his hopes and dreams are shattered-or are they? The Japanese and the Russians are edging toward war, and the Japanese are sorely in need of trained naval officers. Swinburne is recruited and travels half-way around the world to fight for a country about which he knows little, and in a war about which he knows nothing. That, however, does not keep him from engaging in a series of breathtaking adventures and ultimately achieving great distinction. Making this book even more interesting is that it is one of the very few novels that is set during the 1904-1905 Russo-Japanese War. Yet it was this war that established Japan as a serious military power in Asia; and, in effect, sewed the seeds for WW-II. William Joseph Cosens Lancaster was the son of a Royal Navy captain and educated at the Naval College, Greenwhich. Even though he had been at sea since the age of 15, he had to abandon a career in the Royal Navy because of severe myopia which kept him from clearly seeing anything more than a few hundred yards away. If he couldn't serve aboard ships, he could certainly write about them-producing 23 nautically-related novels over a 27 year career under the pseudonym: Harry Collingwood.
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Under the Meteor Flag: Log of a Midshipman During the Napoleonic Wars

William Joseph Cosens Lancaster was the son of a Royal Navy captain and educated at the Naval College, Greenwhich. Even though he had been at sea since the age of 15, he had to abandon a career in the Royal Navy because of severe myopia which kept him from clearly seeing anything more than a few hundred yards away. Undaunted, he became a marine engineer specializing in harbor design. He also became one of the most prolific writers of nautical fiction of his day. Between 1886 and 1913 he wrote 23 nautically-related novels under the pseudonym of "Harry Collingwood"-a name he derived from his hero Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood, Nelson's second in command at Trafalgar. His most commercially successful book was The Pirate Island written in 1884; but Under the Meteor Flag, written the previous year, might be his most action-packed. It is the story of a young midshipman who, like many of Marryat's characters, is trying to make his way in the new and often incomprehensible world of the 18th Century Royal Navy. It is the story of the midshipman that Lancaster never was, but it is written by a man who literally spent his whole life dealing with the sea.
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Under Fire: The Story of a Squad

Under Fire: The Story of a Squad The most powerful, brutal, and vivid novel to come out of WW-I To the men of the French Sixth Battalion, war is not about bands playing and flags waving. It is about mud, lice, and death. It is about survival under the worst possible conditions, where a wound that put you in the hospital made you a lucky man. Under Fire was one of the first novels to come out of WW-I, being published even before the war was over. It's realism and intensity set the standard for the war novels to come, including Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms, and Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front. It's realism, however, is not manufactured. It was born out of the experiences of the author who began work on the novel literally while he was still in the trenches. The book has no plot in the traditional sense. It is a series of incidents woven together to present the reality of the war. It's power lies in the incredibly vivid pictures it presents. In 1916 it won the prestigious Goncourt Prize, given by the Académie Goncourt to the author of "the best and most imaginative prose work of the year" and is, even today, considered one of the great war novels of all time.
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TWO SQUARE MILES: The Heroes of a Small Town

Clawson, Michigan is a small town-only 2.4 square miles. Once little more than two sawmills and a few farms, it was eventually captured by the urban sprawl of Detroit. In the years following WW-II the town rapidly grew as large numbers of homes were built for the blue collar workers needed to fuel the auto and manufacturing plants of the post-war boom. There is, however, little remarkable in that. It's the story of thousands of small towns-places from which you would expect very little. But that would be a mistake. Those two square miles wound up producing an extraordinary number of truly remarkable and gifted people. In an area smaller than what would be needed for a few good sized urban shopping centers, it somehow managed to produce a host of professional athletes, innovative business people, writers, and major players in the arts and entertainment industries. This does not include the hundreds of doctors, lawyers and other professionals-nor the tens of thousands of simple, honest, hard-working people-who got their start there. Clawson got the job done the way most small towns do-in a simple, off-hand, no nonsense, blue-collar kind of way. It represents a value system and a way of life that seems to be evaporating in our modern high-tech world. Yet, despite it all, the city remains as a symbol of everything that is right with America.
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Two Square Miles II: More Heroes of a Small Town

A Symbol of Everything that is Right with America America is filled with small towns-places you've never heard of, and probably never will. Yet it is these towns that are the lifeblood of this country. They don't have the financial might of New York City, or the glamor of Los Angeles. They don't have professional sports teams, or major research hospitals, or massive universities. Yet these small towns are, nevertheless, the feeder system that makes all those things possible. Their chief export? Decent, hardworking, and extremely talented people. Clawson, Michigan is just such a town. Located north of Detroit, it is a bit over two-square miles in size, yet has produced an amazing number of truly remarkable and gifted people. The list ranges from professional and Olympic athletes, to major players in the arts and sciences, to military leaders. In our first book, Two Square Miles: The Heroes of a Small Town, we chronicled over 50 such people. In this one, we cover 50 more. Will there someday be a third book? Yes, most certainly. For the work of towns like Clawson, and thousands of others like it, is far from done.
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The Way of the Ship: Sailors, Shanties and Shantymen

"This book is a gold mine for anyone who wants to know how the sea shanty was authentically used and sung." They say that sea shanties-authentic sea shanties-are no more. They died with the sailing ship, and will never again be heard in their original form. Or... will they? Richard Runciman Terry was born in 1865 to a family that had been seafarers as far back as the family history could be traced. As a child, he grew up hearing shanties sung to him by his uncles and grand-uncles-all tall-ship sailors. As a boy, he was constantly found among ships, learning more shanties, songs, and sea lore. As an adult he became one of the premier musicians of his day, as a noted organist, choir director and musicologist; but he never forgot the songs that originally inspired his love of music. Just after the turn of the century, he decided to capture as much of that dying musical heritage as he could. He sought out his relatives, and their friends, and the friends of their friends-coaxing and cajoling them into singing their repertoire of shanties so he could write them down. What he wanted was to hear the way shanties were sung, by the men who had actually worked the tall ships, and for whom the shanty had been an integral part of their everyday lives. He wanted to record the songs exactly as those men sung them, so they would not be lost to future generations. In 1921, he published his archive in the first of two books, the second one coming in 1926. Both long out of print books, with his explanatory notes and annotations, are presented here. 65 Authentic Shanties from the Age of Sail
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