Wisconsin & Armistice Day 2008

The Michigan-Ohio War 1835-1836 

AKA the Toledo War.

The states of Ohio and Michigan went to war in 1835 over what was known as the Toledo Strip, they both wanted and claimed the city/town whatever was there at the time as their own. So war was declared. It wasn’t much of a war, indeed there were no shots fired in anger, and to cut this story short it was settled by taking a great hunk of the Territory  (not State; Wisconsin didn’t get statehood til  May of 1848) of Wisconsin the upper peninsular and giving it to Michigan,

If you look at the map you’ll see who got the best part of that deal. The Territorians had no say in the matter as it was all settled by the government in Washington.

I’ve met many people from the State of Wisconsin and I always recall what  ‘Josh Lyman’ in the “West Wing” series said about ‘Donnatella Moss’ when she was suspected of some wrongdoing; “Not Donna, she’s from Wisconsin!” and this pretty well sums up  the honesty and integrity of the people from there, well it does of the many I’ve met and I’m about to tell you of a group I met on the 11th Novmber 2008.

On Tuesday the 11th November 08, I was on duty as a guide at the Australian National Maritime Museum, (I used to guide there every Tuesday and the occasional Thursday or if they were desperatly short of guides I’d sometimes pitch in at othertimes), I was first rostered that day on the ‘Meet & Greet’ slot, I loved this part the most, when the doors were opened to M&G the people would stream in, sometimes, and I’d be there big smile on the dial to greet them, and one of the first groups to arrive were seven people from Wisconsin, when looking back I sometimes think I must have this wrong and there must have been eight – four couples, but I can only recall the 7 perhaps there was an eighth who wandered off alone. 

USS Wisconsin. Did a lot more than Big Mo
USS Wisconsin. Did a lot more than Big Mo

And they were delightful, I naturally teased them about the war (of which they knew nothing) and suggested that I come back with them and lead the Wisconsin Army into battle to regain their stolen land and a jolly time was had by all, lovely people, open and friendly , not like the ‘Ugly Americans of the 50s 60s and early 70s. I so enjoyed chatting with them that I told them that at 10.30 I was scheduled to conduct a tour of the Museum proper and I’d like to take them around if they were interested, they asked the cost and when I told them ‘nothing’ they came aboard immediately, I told them to meet me at the same spot at 10.30 and we’d be off on the ‘Grand Tour’. 

Normally a tour was scheduled for around 50 minutes which really isn’t enough/much time to cover the Museum but on this day I was scheduled to have an half hour break at 11.30 so I was able to give these folks from Wisconsin the “Grand Tour” of an hour and a half, as I didn’t need a break.

It’s amazing the number of silly (stupid) questions one gets when doing a guided tour and often there is some smarty who knows the lot but with this group of 7 I had a party who when they did ask questions they were not frivolous they were intelligent and interesting, and it was an enjoyable tour, especially as I saved what for them was the best ’til last.

President Reagan made a gift of United States Taxpayer Dollars to Australia as a Bi-centennary Birthday present to this country to be used to establish an American Gallery at the Australian National Maritime Museum that was being built in Sydney. Somebody had told him that we had a long history together going back to Captain Cooks discovery of this land, which of course is true, (I did a few blogs about that some time ago) so he generously gave us some of your money.  


The US gallery was a favourite of mine too, and I always saved it for last, I won’t go into the details of this gallery needless to say it’s brilliant and my Wisconsin group were rapt, especially so having a guide who was extremely interested in the US connection, many of the guides there are somewhat ambivalent when it cames to the US of A and cut their tours short.

I didn’t meet up with my “Cheeseheads” until much later in the day. I normally finished my guiding onboard the Endeavour replica, (we liked to boast that it was an exact replica of Cooks ship but I have my doubts). Entrance to the ship closed at 8 bells in the afternoon watch, we actually do use the ships bell on the Endeavour and it can generally be heard in all the outside areas of the museum which is  quite delightful to hear in this day and age, I always got a kick when I manned the gangway welcoming the visitors aboard ths ship as it was my duty to ring the bell, a big kid at heart.  


They were the last visitors allowed on that day and it was my good fortune to receive them below decks after they’d done a quick tour of the fo’c’stle  and the mess deck, in what we call the midi-mates mess. I won’t go into the full history of this mess except that Americans generally get pretty excited, for want of a better word, when I point out the cabin that was occupied by one Lieutenant John Gore, a New Yorker serving in the Royal Navy. (There’s a post and picture somewhere on this site that I did on Lt. Gore a year ago during the NaMoBloMo).

As it was now getting late in the afternoon, nearing ship and museum closing time  I radioed the guides at the remaining two posts telling them I had the last visitors with me and I’d take them through the rest of the ship and they could knock off, one Russ,  decided he’d stay (we’d normally finish the day together and stop off for a breather) and wait for me on the wharf. My happy little band of Cheeseheads and I finished up right on closing time and they went ashore while I checked out with the ship keeper, letting him know the ship was clear and he could close up and headed for the wharf myself.

There was my happy little band standing under the awning that had been erected that morning for the Armistice Day service that was generally held there every 11/11 at 11, gazing upon a little boat tied up there in pride of place, and so it should be, always, but to my everlasting disgust is only brought to this prime spot once a year on the  11/11. The little boat is the “Krait” (pronounced Cry t)  the only vessel in the whole museums fleet that actually saw action, and what action. there is much written about the Krait and it’s exploits so I’m not going into much detail except to say that this little boat with a motley crew of one British and 13 Australians sailed this  boat from Australia to Singapore Harbour in 1943 where they sank a total of seven, yes seven, Japanese ships with no losses and got clean away an amazing feat.

MV Krait
MV Krait

In 2008 I know that there was still one survivor of that raid at the memorial service , a little old man in his 90s.

MV Krait Plaque
MV Krait Plaque

Anyway I told my Wiconsinites the story and then bade them fairwell, as I was walking away one of their number came up to me and whispered  quietly ‘ We’ve been trying to work out what you are” and with a triumphant grin told me “you are a retired Professor of History” I could but smile at the compliment and wished it were true but I did not tell him the truth, I didn’t want to spoil their day, they had a grand day out at the ANMM. they’d actually spent the whole day there from the minute it opened to the last ones out when we closed up for the night.

As we Russ and I were toddling off we looked back at a group waving and calling out “Bye Brian” and Russ said something about a nice crew and I replied ‘yes they’re from Wisconsin!’

They were a lovely group probably the best I’d ever had, I shall never forget them.

Now for anybody interested in an amazing true story here are some links which will take you on an interesting voyage: I highly recommend them. and once again where would I be without Google




USS Wisconsin Picture Courtesy “Uss wisconsin bb”. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons –

2 thoughts on “Wisconsin & Armistice Day 2008

  1. You know here in the US, it’s common knowledge Abe Lincoln never went to school. was self taught. He was in my opinion one of the smartest man to ever live. That’s how I think of you, with proper education (although i don’t feel like it would have taught you anymore then you taught yourself) you could have been anything you wanted. Including a history professor.
    Love ya


    1. Thank you Lisa I think I’d have liked that better than the Atchbishop of Canterbury. The silly peoplewhoever aWordPress were supposed to publish this at 11am today they did but shoved it ino 9th November in stead. I was going to write that as 9/11 thats how we do 9th November butto you Yankees and Redneck 😛 that means Sept 9


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