Monday, November 5, 2012

Episode 135 (11-5-12): "Hail to the Chief"--Virginia-born Presidents and Water

Please see below (after the transcript and show notes) for links to news and upcoming events.


From the Cumberland Gap to the Atlantic Ocean, this is Virginia Water Radio for the week of November 5, 2012.

This week, we feature famous music and a history mystery.  Have a listen for about 40 seconds, and see if you can guess how this well-known tune connects Virginia and water.


You’ve been listening to “Hail to the Chief,” played by the U.S. Army Band.  Since 1815 this tune has been used to honor U.S. presidents and announce their arrival.  Virginia is the birthplace of eight presidents, and bodies of water influenced the careers or administrations of each, as the following examples show.

George Washington made his home on the Potomac River and led famous Revolutionary War battles near the Hudson, Delaware, and York rivers;

Third president Thomas Jefferson used the young U.S. Navy to confront shipping challenges by Great Britain, France, and pirates.

Fourth president James Madison led the nation into war with Britain in 1812 over obstruction of shipping and capture of sailors.

Fifth president James Monroe stretched the country’s sphere of influence from the Atlantic to the Pacific by declaring in 1823 that the United States would tolerate no further European colonization in the Western Hemisphere.

Ninth president William Henry Harrison gained fame in the 1811 battle against Indian chieftain Tecumseh on the Tippecanoe River in the Indiana Territory.

Tenth president John Tyler’s administration negotiated the Webster-Ashburton treaty with Britain that established the international border through four of the Great Lakes and protected open navigation on those lakes;

Twelfth president Zachary Taylor’s administration negotiated the Clayton-Bulwer treaty with Britain that guaranteed access to for both countries to a contemplated canal across Central America between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans;

And 28th president Woodrow Wilson ordered several military and diplomatic actions in the Caribbean Sea, and he led the nation into its first war across the Atlantic Ocean, partially over actions by German submarines.

Like these Virginia presidents, whichever candidate is elected on November 6, 2012, will face serious challenges.  But they can be thankful they won’t be expected to match one famous Virginia president-and-water feat: George Washington’s legendary silver-dollar toss across the Rappahannock River!

For other water sounds and music, and for more Virginia water information, visit our Web site at, or call us at (540) 231-5463.  From the Virginia Water Resources Research Center in Blacksburg, I’m Alan Raflo, thanking you for listening, and wishing you health, wisdom, and good water.


Potomac River, as viewed from the grounds of Mt. Vernon, January 10, 2005.

Acknowledgments: The version of “Hail to the Chief” used in this episode was by the U.S. Army Band “Pershing’s Own,” accessed at their Web site at, 11/5/12. 

Sources: Information on “Hail to the Chief” is available from Library of Congress’ Performing Arts Encyclopedia’ s “Hail to the Chief” article, online at; C-Span’s 5/16/99 video, “Origin of ‘Hail to the Chief,’” online at; and the U.S. Marine Band’s “Hail to the Chief” article, online at

Information on water connections to presidents from Virginia was taken from the following (all accessed 11/5/12):
●Web site of The White House, at (Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and William Henry Harrison);
●Library of Congress’ Web site, “America’s Story from America’s Library,” at (James Monroe);
●Public Broadcasting System (PBS) WGBH/American Experience/Biography Web site, at (John Tyler);
●University of Virginia Miller Center’s “American Presidents: A Reference Resource,” online at (Zachary Taylor and Woodrow Wilson).

For a previous Virginia Water Radio episode focusing on the legend of George Washington throwing a silver dollar across the Rappahannock River, please see

Recent Virginia Water News
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Water Meetings and Other Events
            For events related to Virginia's water resources, please visit the Quick Guide to Virginia Water–related Conferences, Workshops, and Other Events, online at  The site includes a list of Virginia government policy and regulatory meetings occurring in the coming week.