Tag Archives: Olympics

Searching for Charles Gerhardt

5 Nov

A while back, I was appointed Historian for the City of Lebanon. In that role, I have attempted to learn as much as I can about the town. There are stories that I have heard all of my life, and I am steeped in the lore of the area. However, there are gaps in my knowledge.

Learning about the city requires research. I have gone through documents at the city museum and have spent some time in our county archives. I also get on the computer at home to see what can be found on the Internet.

It was an Internet search that led me to an online copy of Tennessee County History Series: Wilson County by Frank Burns, the man who knew more about the history of this area than anyone else I have known. Through a gradual reading, I made my way to the 1940s and World War II, where I found a passage that drew my interest. It reads:

Charles Gerhardt was the only Wilson County soldier to hold
the rank of major general in World War II. June 6 was more than
D-Day to Charles Hunter Gerhardt. It was his 49th birthday.

He went ashore with his troops, inched up the cliffs and the
high bluff with them, and spent the night of D-Day in a rock quarry
just 300 yards from the beach. It was the luck of the 29th to draw
the sector where the German army had concentrated its heaviest
defenses. One company lost all of its officers but one before its
assault boats ever landed on the beach. Within minutes after an-
other company touched the beach, it was out of action, every man
killed or wounded, huddled weaponless against the base of the
cliff. But it was not to be a day of defeat. Slowly the men edged off
Omaha Beach. By the end of the day the 29th was a mile inland.
Omaha Beach was followed by Isigny. There General Gerhardt
moved among his troops as they advanced on the outskirts of the
town, disregarding land mines, rifle bullets, and machine gun fire.

It caught my eye because I have never heard of Charles Gerhardt and never heard of a Major General from Lebanon leading his troops at the D-Day Invasion. This is an interesting part of our history that has apparently been forgotten, and I was determined to find out more. This led to the search for Charles Gerhardt.Gerhardt

A Google search brought up several links, but Wikipedia was the first stop. I know Wikipedia has issues, but I am not writing a scholarly paper. It is only a blog post. Anyway, I learned that Charles Gerhardt played baseball, polo and football at West Point. In 1916, he quarterbacked the football team to a victory of Notre Dame, which was coached by Knute Rockne and led by George Gipp. Some may remember that Gipp was immortalized on film by Ronald Reagan.

The Wikipedia page continues with Gerhardt’s other accomplishments. He served in World War I and was an equestrian judge at the 1932 Olympics. While Frank Burns praises him, this page says that he was a controversial figure who oversaw high casualty rates and opened a brothel for his men after the invasion.

Wikipedia says a lot about Gerhardt, but it does not say where he was born. For that information, I had to click more links. The next stop was the website for Arlington National Cemetery. It contains some of the same information and provides additions to his military record. However, it does not say where he was born.

This is when I began thinking that Frank Burns was wrong. There is no way this man could be from Lebanon. I know of no one who has heard of him, and his birthplace is omitted from every website. That is when I noticed a link to his father, who was also named Charles Gerhardt. The older Gerhardt was also a military man and reached the rank of Brigadier General.

While searching his life, I discovered that “he was detailed to Cumberland University at Lebanon, Tennessee, 1894-1897.” While here, he became Secretary of the Military Wheelmen. Have you ever heard of that? Neither have I. It was an organization that designed bicycles for military use. He also designed a uniform to make them less visible. Yep, he was on the cutting edge of camouflage.

All of that was great to find out. Charles Gerhardt was in Lebanon when his son was born in 1895. However, why was a career military man “detailed to Cumberland University?” It has never been a military school.

To find that, I had to return to the writings of Frank Burns. It turns out that the elder Gerhardt taught military science and tactics at the university.

Through all of that, I learned something new about the history of Lebanon, Tennessee. Major General Charles Gerhardt, who led his men onto the beaches of France, was born here. He also went on the defeat the Gipper and found a whorehouse. Overall, he led an interesting life, and it all started here.

The Sixth of April

6 Apr

That is what the date stamp at the left of this post says. What it does not say is that it is also my dad’s birthday. To celebrate, my brother, my nephew, our friend Larry and I spent yesterday with him at the University of Tennessee. We watched football practice and got a  behind-the-scenes tour of the football facilities. That may not seem like fun to a lot of people, but, for crazy fans like us, it was a great day.

To celebrate on this blog, I thought it would be interesting to see what historic events have happened on April 6.April

In 1862, the Battle of Shiloh began.

In 1970, Sam Sheppard passed away. For those who do not know, his story became the fictional story of The Fugitive.

In 1917, the United States officially entered World War I.

In 1841, John Tyler was sworn in as president. It is hard to believe that he has grandchildren who are still living.

In 1808, John Jacob Astor created the American Fur Company. Eventually, he would become America’s first millionaire.

In 1896, the first modern Olympic Games began in Athens, Greece.

In 1929, the Louisiana House of Representatives impeached Governor Huey P. Long.

In 1973, the designated hitter was introduced into the American League.

In 1938, my dad was born.

 

 

Let’s Go Peay!

3 Sep

College football season has begun, and it was a rousing start for the University of Tennessee. With a 45-0 victory over Austin Peay State University, they got an easy but much-needed win. Instead of boring you with the details of the game, I have decided to share some information about the opposing school.

Austin Peay State University is in Clarksville, Tennessee, which is not too far from Nashville. Clarksville is known for a few things other than the university. It is the largest city around Fort Campbell, a major military installation and home of the 101st Airborne. Legend states that it is the Clarksville mentioned in “The Last Train to Clarksville” by The Monkees. In another musical connection, Jimi Hendrix was stationed at Fort Campbell when he was in the army.

Wilma Rudolph is probably Clarksville’s most famous native. During the 1960 Olympics, she was the first woman to win three gold medals in track and field.Wilma Rudolph

Rudolph did not compete for Austin Peay. Instead, she took her talents to Tennessee State University and its famous track and field team.

Athletically, Austin Peay State University is known more for a chant by the fans than by what happens on the field. To spur their teams to victory, the fans yell, “Let’s Go Peay!” Obviously, that has a double meaning and gets laughs from other fans. However, it was better in the 1970s when Fly Williams played basketball for APSU. A New York City playground legend, Williams managed to find his way to Clarksville.Fly Williams

When Williams was on the court, the fans chanted, “The Fly is Open! Let’s Go Peay!” It could be the greatest chant in college fandom history.

You may be wondering how a school can get a name like Austin Peay that leads to such chants. Austin Peay was the governor of Tennessee in the 1920s, when the university received its charter. Austin Peay

He signed into law the Butler Act, which outlawed the teaching of evolution in Tennessee Schools. This led to the Scopes Monkey Trial, one of the most famous trials in the history of the United States. Ironically, Peay stated that the law should never be put into effect. While it has been stricken from the books, the debate over the theory of evolution and creation continues well into the 21st Century.

I wonder if the evolution folks chanted “Let’s Go Peay!” when he signed the law.

Brought to You By the Number 1,000

12 Mar

Over the weekend, the “Surrounded by Imbeciles” world hit another historic milestone – 1,000 page views. It took a while, but four figures was finally hit. As has been done with past milestones, I will mark the occasion with a celebration of the number 1,000. To assist in this endeavor, I will bring in my old friend, Count von Count.

Me: Count, make the introduction.

Count: Without further adieu, I present to you the number 1,000 HA HA HA HA!

1,000 Meters – the length of the course for women’s Olympic rowing events. For us non-metric Americans, this equals .6 miles.

1,000 AD – Hungary was established as a Christian state; Leif Ericson became the first European to land in North America; the Aztec migrate to Tenochtitlan, which will become one of the world’s largest cities; Oslo, Norway is supposedly founded; gunpowder is invented in China; and Abu Rayhan al-Biruni publishes The Book of Healing.

$1,000 Bill – With Grover Cleveland depicted on the front, this bill, along with other large denominations, was taken out of circulation in 1969. It is estimated that 165,372 remain in private hands. One of the largest collections can be seen at the Birdcage Theater in Tombstone, Arizona (the same Tombstone that saw the Gunfight at the OK Corral).

1,000 Meere – Performed by Tokio Hotel, this song is about long distance love and the struggles that come along with it.

1,00o Places to See Before You Die – The travelogue with the cool title has become a popular phenomenon. I haven’t read the book, but I have skimmed the Table of Contents to see how many of the places I have been. I have a long way to go with the world version but have taken a good chunk out of the American one.

Land of a Thousand Dances – Written and first recorded by Chris Kenner, the song busted out when it was recorded by Wilson Pickett. Despite the title, the original version mentions sixteen dances, including the Pony, the Chicken, the Tango and the Popeye.

Thousand Island Dressing – I have to admit that this is my favorite. I can eat this stuff on anything. Stories of its creation vary, but most believe it is named for the number of islands between the United States and Canada in the St. Lawrence River. It can include a lot of ingredients but always has mayonnaise.

A Thousand Faces – Ok, this is a little publicity for a cool store in Nashville. Located in Hillsboro Village, one of my favorite areas, it is filled with different kinds of art and, as the website says, “a plethora of neat stuff”.

1,000 BC – The world’s population is estimated to be 50,000,000; the Assyrians began an era of expansion; ancient Iranians first enter Persia; and Priene, in western Turkey, is founded.

So goes my ode to the number 1,000. I am sure there are more interesting facts out there, but I must admit that finding them was tougher than I first imagined. Next time, I am going to have to put Count von Count to better use.