Many of you know that I like to travel for history. Early next year, Sandy and I will be taking our first trip through the Panama Canal. As I do prior to every trip, I research the country, historical events, and certain historical time frames.
I picked up David McCullough’s book entitled, The Path Between the Seas. It covers the entire story of the canal beginning in the early 1800s, to the failed French attempt around 1870 (I never knew the French began the project until I read this book), the American efforts to approve this gargantuan project, and finally, the actual building of the canal.
At the time, the major conflict was where to build the canal: through the Isthmus of Panama or through Nicaragua. After decades of debate, the Americans decided it would be Panama. The only problem was that Panama was owned by Columbia.
After the collapse of the French efforts by the late 1800s, the Americans (spearheaded by Teddy Roosevelt) structured a deal with Columbia to buy the Isthmus. The government in Bogotá didn’t like the deal and Teddy saw their reaction as, well let’s say, un-American. So one of his alternatives was to implicitly sanction a revolution by the Panamanians.
There was a lot of bluffing going on between the governments, state departments, senators, and influential persons at the time. A fellow named Dr. Manuel Amador Guerrero perpetrated one of the biggest bluffs. The word got out in Panama that the Columbian military was sending soldiers and this would effectively squash the revolutionary conspiracy. This had the effect whereby many of the conspirators got cold feet and backed out on their commitments. On the eve of the conspiracy turning into a revolution, Amador sent word to his contact in the United States that a naval vessel should be sent to guarantee the success of the revolution.
It just so happened that a large gunboat was docked at Kingston, Jamaica and ordered to steam to Colón, Panama. On Monday, November 2, 1903, the USS Nashville could be seen on the horizon. After seeing the naval vessel, the conspirators banded together once more and as they say, history was made—a bloodless revolution took place and the country of Panama was created and Columbia was cut out of the deal.
The first complete passage of the Panama Canal was made on December 10, 1913 when an old crane boat, the Alexandre La Valley, made the voyage. I thought it was ironic that it was a French vessel that became the first boat to make the entire trip. You’ll find it ironic too but only if you read the book.
Believe it or not, a long line of vessels named Nashville has contributed to many great events since the Civil War.
Good luck, good networking, and remember, write those blog posts with meaningful content.