Author Archives: Tom Shanahan

Tom Shanahan

About Tom Shanahan

An accomplished writer and researcher, Tom Shanahan has authored articles on public policy and political history, which have been published in venues across New York. With special interest in the early federal era, he was an invited presenter at the Researching New York 2007 history conference, presenting a paper entitled "Lobbying: The Exercise of Power and Politics in New York," and as part of the New York State Library's Public Program lecture series. He is currently a lecturer in the New York Council for the Humanities’ speaker’s series, speaking on the topic – 1812 – Uncle Sam’s First War.He is also Executive Producer of the Web documentary: "1812 – Uncle Sam’s First War".A former Congressional press secretary and campaign staffer, he holds a BA in Political Science from SUNY Geneseo.

Battle of Plattsburgh: A Pivotal Naval Battle

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Saratoga (left) and Eagle (right) engaging Confiance at Battle of PlattsburghThey were headed this way. British troops had done that before, without success, but these were not just any British troops. They were 11,000 troops fresh from their victory over Napoleon.

By that third summer of the War of 1812, British shore raiding parties were taking a great toll in the Chesapeake Bay. Supported by a fleet of more than 30 warships, they would put troops ashore near a town, and either burn it, or demand ransom from the inhabitants. Continue reading

Yes, The NYS History Community Should Lobby

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CapitolIn one of those gentle ironies of life, Peter Feinman’s recent NY History Blog column, “Should the History Community Lobby?”, was positioned on the page next to a sidebar of recent history-related news stories which included the headline: “More than $200 million spent on NYS lobbying, report finds.”

As a professional lobbyist, and amateur historian, my response to Mr. Feinman’s question is a decided “Yes!” But that’s pretty much the kind of answer one would expect from someone in my profession. It’s the juxtaposition of his column with another story, confirming the magnitude of the role lobbying plays in New York, which is so telling.

But saying we should be lobbying is a lot like proclaiming “We should have more prosperity.” It’s a great idea, but it’s not quite as simple as that. Continue reading

All Hands: The Battle of Lake Erie Bicentennial

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Battle of Lake ErieAs the second summer of the War of 1812 was drawing to a close, the sea war with Britain that had enjoyed such notable success in its early months, had shifted from the open ocean to the Great Lakes.  There were two reasons for this. Stunning victories by USS Constitution over HMS Guerriere, the United States over the Macedonian and Constitution against Java had shocked the British.

The Admiralty’s response to the American frigate victories was to use overwhelming numbers to control the seas. Orders were issued forbidding any more single ship engagements, and the British established blockade squadrons off the coast all the way to New Orleans. The British blockade on America had tightened, with 100 ships on station off the coast.

And, while it was possible for an American ship to run the blockade, especially during foul weather, naval supplies were being diverted to a different theater of war – the Great Lakes. Continue reading

200 Years Ago: ‘Don’t Give Up The Ship’

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USS ChesapeakeIt’s a phrase most of us use, without knowing much more than it connotes an air of struggle.

A desperate struggle is exactly what was taking place when Captain James Lawrence of the USS Chesapeake made those words his final order – 200 years ago today.

The United States had been at war with Britain for nearly a year when Lawrence sailed his frigate out of Boston. Waiting for him outside the harbor was HMS Shannon, whose Captain was disobeying orders by preparing to engage an American ship one on one. Continue reading

Tom Shanahan: Daniel Tompkins, Not So Trival

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“Who was the Vice President under John Quincy Adams? — Daniel D. Tompkins. And I’ll bet your Mr. Sawyer doesn’t know that!”

It’s a line from that classic Christmas movie, “Miracle On Thirty Fourth Street.” In that scene the protagonist, Kris Kringle, tries to demonstrate that not only isn’t he delusional, but is so in touch with reality he can recall trivial facts most people couldn’t possibly remember. Continue reading