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Road Building becomes Cheaper, Quicker, and Better

While attempting to straighten up the course of a road, a Scottish engineer, John McAdam, notices that the old roadbed is a lot thinner than normal building practices would recommend, yet, the road has held up for years and has not turned to muddy ruts. The Roman method of road building calls for deep layers of large stones and gravel pounded in layers. It is a arduous and expensive method, but McAdams has determined that if the roadbed is raised above the general level of the land, and slightly crowned so that water is allowed to run off, a thinner layer of gravel and rock dust can be used. The gravel must be smaller than the width of the wagon wheels. This will allow the wheels to crush the gravel and lock it in place for a unified roadbed to protect the soil from becoming muddy underneath. These roads will soon be called macadam roads. [1] [2]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
As a young man I was a soils inspector for earthwork construction. Probably the two biggest mistakes I have seen in road construction are... One: The moisture level for the soil and gravel was too wet or too dry for proper compaction when the roller went over it. That led to cracks or ruts in heavy traffic areas. And Two: The compaction roller did not work the edges of the roadbed well enough when there were existing curbs and gutters. Naturally, the guy running the roller doesn't get too close to the edge because he doesn't want to damage the curb, but if the city places a bus stop there, the wheels of a heavy bus will finish the compaction job. An indentation is created near the curb line where water collects. The water soaks down creating mud under the surface. The next bus rolls over the mud and turns an indentation into a pothole. Then the city lays a quick patch of asphalt over the pothole, sealing in the mud, and the process begins again. This is why a bus stop sometimes requires extra roadwork because the roadbed was never properly prepared at the edges. [3]

Napoleon's Waterloo

"Napoleon has humbugged me, by God... so I must fight him there" -- Wellington pointing to the map position of Waterloo. [4] [5]

Last year Napoleon was exiled to Elba, but his supporters still have faith in him, so he raises an army and deposes King Louis the 18th of France. Thus begins Napoleon's Hundred Days. (Actually it will be 111 days but who is counting?) Currently, the Congress of Vienna has been meeting to clean up Napoleon's previous mess, so it is easy to agree to a 7th Coalition to fight Napoleon. Napoleon must strike before the Coalition can gather an effective force. The battleground is Waterloo in modern day Belgium. Wellington receives word while he is attending the famous Duchess of Richmond's ball. Everyone who is anyone is there... instead of on the battlefield. Wellington's forces get there in time to reinforce the Prussians who are in retreat. Napoleon thinks the Prussians are defeated. (Big mistake.) He chases Wellington to Waterloo where Wellington has placed most of his army behind a low ridge. Rumors that the Prussians have already reorganized are dismissed. The battle begins late because of the muddy ground. By 4 PM the battle is still raging. The French cavalry charges, but it is too soon. Wellington's formations devastate them. Then the Prussians arrive to save the day. Napoleon is forced to retreat. It is June 18th. By the 24th he will abdicate and by July he will surrender and be exiled to Saint Helena until his death in 1821 from natural causes. DEFINITELY NATURAL. His supporters who encouraged him to return will die from unnatural causes. [6] [7]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
I've greatly simplified a complex battle. Historians are divided on whether the Prussians won the battle for Wellington, but all agree that without the unexpected (by Napoleon) Prussian attack, Wellington could not have won. The significance of the Battle of Waterloo was to underscore the need to stop the constant fighting in Europe. They were sick and tired of it. The Congress of Vienna split up the European powers so that no one country could become strong enough to dominate the others... like... oh... I don't know... FRANCE? Four decades of peace followed. [8]

The Bloody Battle of New Orleans and the Federalists' Waterloo

It is nearing the end of the War of 1812. Andrew Jackson is a major general in his state's militia. His men call him "Old Hickory" because he is tough like hickory. When the Indians go on a murder spree, holding children by the legs and beating their heads in, Jackson brings justice to them, harsh and swift. Like most Americans, he believes that the Spanish and the British are arming the Indians, so he threatens the Spanish forces at Pensacola and takes their fort. He moves on to New Orleans. The British land a force there, but wait for reinforcements. On December 23rd, 1814, Jackson's forces attack. Although the British beat them back, it forces them to rethink their strategy. They delay. That Christmas Eve, the Treaty of Ghent is signed. The War of 1812 is over, but out on the frontier, neither side realizes it. January 1st, 1815, the British attack. Jackson's eastern line fails, but the British have run out of ammunition so they retreat. During the night of January 7th, 780 British troops cross the Mississippi to create a diversion the next morning, but they get bogged down in the mud. The main British force makes a frontal assault under the cover of darkness and a heavy fog. As the sun rises, the fog lifts and they are exposed. It is a slaughter. It is embarrassing to say, but the British commander has forgotten to bring the ladders needed to scale the earthworks. Inside of 25 minutes, 700 British troops are killed, 1,400 are wounded and 500 are taken prisoner. Only 13 Americans are killed. The British bugle boy who played throughout the battle, actually lives. For the next several days the British navy bombards the fort at New Orleans and then departs. The Battle of New Orleans is over, but it never had to be fought. [9] [10] [11] [12] [13]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
Once again, when telegraph lines are finally laid, unnecessary battles will not be fought. It seems like a side note, but the Federalists met at the same time in Hartford, Connecticut. They were discussing their on-going complaints. Treason is probably too strong a word, but it was perceived as such by the public. With Jackson's win, the Federalists all looked like fools. They were done. Please note that Andrew Jackson had many admirable qualities, but one can legitimately criticize him severely on many points. He was a volatile man. For example, suggesting that the government should put his picture on a Federal note would earn that person a bullet to the head. I don't think I am exaggerating here. And one more thing... I had the Battle of New Orleans on the list of things to talk about, but all suggestions are welcome. I am weak on the 19th century and I can use all the help I can get. You won't hurt my feelings. I promise. [14]

In Other News

  • UK corn laws increase the price of corn. Economist and philosopher Thomas Malthus suggests that high corn prices will increase the buying power of elitist landowners that will somehow allow factory owners to hire more workers. The key to this idiotic scheme is to make plundering, elitist landowners rich. What other virtue it has is lost on me. [15] [16] [17] [7]
  • The Great September Gale hits New England. This is a 3.0 hurricane with an 11 foot storm surge. It is the worst hurricane to hit New England in 180 years. From this hurricane, a Harvard scientist will determine that a hurricane is actually a moving vortex. (Yes, it is.) [18]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1815, Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. Macadam - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 24 June 2016. “Single-sized crushed stone layers of small angular stones are placed in shallow lifts and compacted thoroughly. A binding layer of stone dust, crushed stone from the original material may form; it may also, after rolling, be covered with a binder of fines and small crushed rock.”
  2. John Loudon McAdam - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 24 June 2016. “In two treatises written in 1816 and 1819 (Remarks on the Present System of Road-Making and Practical Essay on the Scientific Repair and Preservation of Roads) he argued that roads needed to be raised above the surrounding ground and constructed from layered rocks and gravel in a systematic manner.”
  3. Road roller - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 24 June 2016. “A road roller (sometimes called a roller-compactor, or just roller) is a compactor type engineering vehicle used to compact soil, gravel, concrete, or asphalt in the construction of roads and foundations, similar rollers are used also at landfills or in agriculture.”
  4. Humbugged - definition of humbugged (2016). Retrieved on 23 June 2016. “Something intended to deceive; a hoax or fraud.”
  5. Duchess of Richmond's ball - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 23 June 2016. “Wellington shut the door and said, 'Napoleon has humbugged me, by God; he has gained twenty-four hours' march on me. … I have ordered the army to concentrate at Quatre Bras; but we shall not stop him there, and if so I must fight him there' (passing his thumb-nail over the position of Waterloo).”
  6. Hundred Days - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 21 April 2016. “Napoleon returned while the Congress of Vienna was sitting. On 13 March, seven days before Napoleon reached Paris, the powers at the Congress of Vienna declared him an outlaw, and on 25 March Austria, Prussia, Russia and the United Kingdom, members of the Seventh Coalition, bound themselves to put 150,000 men each into the field to end his rule. This set the stage for the last conflict in the Napoleonic Wars, the defeat of Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo, the restoration of the French monarchy for the second time and the permanent exile of Napoleon to the distant island of Saint Helena, where he died in May 1821.”
  7. 7.0 7.1 Grun, Bernard. The Timetables of History: A Horizontal Linkage of People and Events. Simon and Schuster, 386-387. 
  8. Congress of Vienna - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 23 June 2016. “The objective of the Congress was to provide a long-term peace plan for Europe by settling critical issues arising from the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. The goal was not simply to restore old boundaries but to resize the main powers so they could balance each other off and remain at peace. The leaders were conservatives with little use for republicanism or revolution, both of which threatened to upset the status quo in Europe. France lost all its recent conquests, while Prussia, Austria and Russia made major territorial gains. Prussia added smaller German states in the west, Swedish Pomerania and 40% of the Kingdom of Saxony; Austria gained Venice and much of northern Italy. Russia gained parts of Poland. The new Kingdom of the Netherlands had been created just months before, and included formerly Austrian territory that in 1830 became Belgium.”
  9. Meacham, Jon. American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House. Random House Publishing Group. ISBN 9781400063253. “The glow of his victory over the British at New Orleans in 1815--as mythic a battle as Lexington and Concord--transformed him into a fabled figure. Popular songs were written about him; the anniversary of the victory, January 8, was a national occasion for Jackson banquets and Jackson parades. There were darker moments, too. He had massacred Indians in combat, fought duels, and imposed martial law on New Orleans, imprisoning those who defied him.” 
  10. Battle of New Orleans - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 23 June 2016. “American combatants,[8] commanded by Major General Andrew Jackson, prevented the British Army, Royal Marines and a large Royal Navy fleet, commanded by Admiral Alexander Cochrane and General Edward Pakenham, from seizing New Orleans as a strategic tool to end the war.”
  11. Hartford Convention - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 23 June 2016. “The Federalists also discussed their grievances with the Louisiana Purchase and the Embargo of 1807. However, weeks after the convention's end, news of Major General Andrew Jackson's overwhelming victory in New Orleans swept over the Northeast, discrediting and disgracing the Federalists, resulting in their elimination as a major national political force.”
  12. Treaty of Ghent - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 23 June 2016. “The Treaty was approved by the UK parliament and signed into law by the Prince Regent (the future King George IV) on December 30, 1814. It took a month for news of the peace treaty to reach the United States, and in the meantime American forces under Andrew Jackson won the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815.”
  13. Hartford Convention - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 24 June 2016. “However, weeks after the convention's end, news of Major General Andrew Jackson's overwhelming victory in New Orleans swept over the Northeast, discrediting and disgracing the Federalists, resulting in their elimination as a major national political force.”
  14. John Steele Gordon. Empire of Wealth: The Epic History of American Economic Power, An. HarperCollins. ISBN 0060093625. 
  15. Corn Laws - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 24 June 2016. “The Corn Laws imposed steep import duties, making it too expensive to import grain from abroad, even when food supplies were short. The laws were supported by Conservative landowners and opposed by Whig industrialists and workers.”
  16. Thomas Robert Malthus - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  17. Malthusian catastrophe - Wikipedia, 2014 [last update]
  18. 1815 New England hurricane - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 23 June 2016. “The Great September Gale of 1815 (the word 'hurricane' was not yet current in American English at the time) is one of five 'major hurricanes' (Category 3 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale) to strike New England since 1635. At the time it struck, the Great September Gale was the first hurricane to strike New England in 180 years.”

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