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Did You Know That ...?
"Revised and Expanded" Edition: Surprising-But-True Facts About History, Science, Inventions, Geography, Origins, Art, Music, and More
By Marko Perko
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2014 Marko Perko
All rights reserved.
History and People
* George Washington started a war and then surrendered.
The illustrious Father of His Country, George Washington (1732–99), was inexperienced as a soldier but eager to prove his mettle in 1754. Along with a Virginia regiment of soldiers and several Iroquois Indian braves as guides, twenty-two-year-old Lieutenant Colonel George Washington was dispatched by Virginia Governor Robert Dinwiddie to the Pennsylvania wilderness to evict the French from Fort Duquesne, which they inhabited, and to inform them that they were encroaching on Virginia's territory. Washington surprised thirty Frenchmen at their encampment in the Great Meadows, Pennsylvania region. The battle lasted about fifteen minutes and resulted in ten French casualties, one of whom was their commander, Coulon de Jumonville, and the imprisonment of much of the remaining French contingent.
Shortly thereafter, Washington and his men hastily erected minimal fortifications in the area, appropriately naming the redoubt Fort Necessity. In spite of his success, things would soon go against Washington and his militia regulars, for ironically, Washington was to learn from his prisoners that they were only a group of plenipotentiaries and not the French soldiers as he had thought.
On July 3, 1754, while still basking in the glory of a dubious victory and not having established a more secure place to bed down his men for the night, the French soldiers attacked during a rainstorm. Thirty Americans were lost, including one of Washington's slaves, and an additional seventy were injured. With only one option open to him other than imminent death, Washington, in the early hours of July 4, 1754, surrendered to the French. Then, in a moment of unexplained benevolence, he was released to return to Williamsburg, Virginia.
Although Washington had unknowingly started the French and Indian War (1754–63), he was nevertheless applauded as a hero for confronting the bitter enemies of the English crown. The war itself was the prelude to and chief reason for the larger Seven Years' War (1756–63), and the Europeans referred to it as such.
It must also be noted that the war was not fought between the French and Indians, but rather between the French and English. The Treaty of Paris, signed on February 8, 1763, ending the global conflicts between the French and English, established England as the undisputed power in colonial America.
* The father of history was Greek.
The recording of events of the past was not new, for men had been doing it for centuries, but prior to the Greek historian Herodotus (c. 485–430 B.C.), no individual had ever attempted to write down a logical account of events, comprising a beginning, a middle, and an end.
It was the Greek victory over the Persians in 490–480 B.C. that precipitated the eventual "invention" of history. The Greek triumph proved to be the most wonderful and inspiring occasion in Greek life up to that point. The Greeks were insistent upon trying to understand their good fortune over the Persians. Moreover, they were armed with the belief, taught them by Thales and others, that since nature itself is governed by underlying principles that make it understandable, then the actions of men must have discernible underlying principles that would help in understanding why men did what they did, and thus, possibly predict their future actions.
Herodotus, a Greek with an insatiable appetite for discovery, traveled much of Persia, Egypt, the Fertile Crescent, and most of Greece itself. He assiduously chronicled his every move, noting what he saw and what he heard. He would spend much of his life in pursuit of understanding what happened and why. Moreover, he would be remembered for his narrative The History of the Greco-Persian Wars, though he called it his "Researches": the oldest existing major Greek prose and the first history of the western world.
Because of Herodotus's The History, an organic work, he is justifiably called the "Father of History."
* The Declaration of Independence was not on July 4, 1776.
One of America's most historic and cherished documents is dated July 4, 1776, and any real American knows that the Second Continental Congress first adopted the resolution and unanimously signed it on July 4, 1776. Not true. July 4 merely represents the day the last draft was voted on and not all delegates approved it. In addition, there were no signers on that day.
The legitimate story is that on June 7, 1776, Richard Henry of the Virginia delegation introduced a motion for an unequivocal declaration of independence from England. Five men were appointed to form a committee to produce the document. One of them was the brilliant anti-Federalist, Thomas Jefferson, then just thirty-three years old. He did the actual writing, and with few changes, the Declaration of Independence is primarily a product of his genius.
On July 2, the Second Continental Congress adopted a resolution of independence. That was the day, not July 4, when the action was taken and the declaration itself was concise — total independence was achieved. On July 3, several newspapers published the declaration, and on the next day, July 4, a Thursday, Congress voted on the declaration. Then, on July 8 the document was read aloud from the balcony of Independence Hall in Philadelphia, and then again on July 9 in New York to George Washington and his troops.
The committee's original document is a much more complete statement illuminating the reasons for the Declaration of Independence. The final draft was not approved unanimously by July 4, considering the State of New York did not even vote on the declaration until July 9. The document was officially called "The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America." Nowhere in the title does the word independence appear.
The signing of one of America's most famous documents was an even more laborious process. It is deceptive to think there were fifty-six "original" signers of the Declaration of Independence. By August 2, the majority had indeed signed the document, but at least six signatures were affixed to the document sometime later.
One signer, Thomas McKean, signing as Tho. M:Kean, did not sign it until 1781! Some signers were not present in Congress when the Declaration was agreed upon, and some who voted for it in Congress never signed it: Robert R. Livingston, a member of the celebrated committee of five, aided in drafting it and voted for it, but never signed it.
* Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation did not free the slaves.
It is common belief that President Abraham Lincoln's celebrated Emancipation Proclamation, issued January 1, 1863, freed the slaves. The truth is, the proclamation had no legal power and it did not free a single slave. As it was, it only applied to slaves in areas under Confederate control. It excluded the slave-holding states, of which there were four — Kentucky, Maryland, Delaware, and Missouri — all of which elected to remain in the Union. Even certain areas under Union command in Confederate territories were not subject to the emancipation.
The Emancipation Proclamation held no currency in the Southern states and as such the Confederacy simply rejected it without reservation. Even the antiwar Democrats of the time opposed any effort to free slaves and called for a retraction of the emancipation.
The proclamation did curry favor with abolitionists and at the same time it allowed the Union forces to conscript secessionists' slaves. More than 500,000 blacks sought freedom in the North by the war's end, with some 200,000 contributing to the war effort as soldiers, sailors, and laborers. These forces contributed greatly to the ultimate victory of the Union.
So, although Lincoln abhorred slavery, his Emancipation Proclamation freed not one slave, but it did lead to the Thirteenth Amendment, which on December 18, 1865, abolished slavery throughout the United States.
* Plymouth was not the first English settlement in New England.
Although the settlement of Plymouth, in southeast Massachusetts, was established in 1620 and thought to be the first, that distinction goes to a group of colonists who settled in Virginia, in 1607 — or does it?
Supporters of George Popham believe his settlement was the very first English settlement in New England. On August 18, 1607, George Popham and 120 brave souls founded a settlement on the western side of the mouth of the Kennebec River in Maine. In fact, Maine historians claim that the first Thanksgiving was celebrated by the Popham colonists in appreciation of their safe voyage and subsequent landing. Nevertheless, their stay was short, for the harsh winter and the loss of two major supporters resulted in the settlers vacating their settlement the next year.
However, on May 14, 1607, the same month that the Popham colonists set sail from England for America, 105 colonists disembarked from three ships to establish a settlement in Virginia that was to be called Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement.
* Lincoln did not write his famous address on the back of an envelope on the train to Gettysburg.
Lincoln did not write the address while on a train en route to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. To think that such an auspicious hour would have been dealt with so flippantly is absurd. The speech was given at the dedication of a cemetery for the thousands who died at the Battle of Gettysburg, the greatest battle ever fought on American soil.
Although the Gettysburg dedication was given on November 19, 1863, Lincoln began the first draft on November 8, nearly two weeks before. It took five drafts before the speech was complete, although it is entirely feasible that Lincoln may have made a revision on the train. In addition, he wrote the speech on regular White House stationery.
As for the address itself, it was less than enthusiastically received, for Lincoln had to follow the last of the illustrious orators, Edward Everett. Many people did not even know that Lincoln was speaking. The address was little more than two minutes in length and was delivered slowly and with deliberation. There was little if any applause: the famous Gettysburg Address was less man an unqualified success at the time of its delivery, but in time it became a true classic. Lincoln had said what had to be said with power and grace.
The story that the address was written on the back of an envelope was told in a letter by Lincoln's son, Robert. Robert assumed that the address was fashioned in such a manner, though he had no definite knowledge of its derivation.
* A cow did not start the infamous Chicago Fire.
The Chicago summer of 1871 was hot and dry — very dry. Between July and October of that year, the city experienced only one-fourth of its normal rainfall, leaving the countless wooden buildings prey to the slightest hint of fire. On October 8 the worst happened, a fire started on the Southwest side of the city, leaving in its wake, some two days later, mass destruction. Hundreds of people were killed and thousands were left homeless, with property damage around $200 million.
Mrs. Catherine O'Leary's cow has been blamed for the conflagration known as the Great Chicago Fire, but the fact remains: Mrs. O'Leary was fast asleep when the fire broke out, having milked her cow sometime earlier in the day. There is no proof that a cow was the cause, and sometime later, a reporter named Michael Ahern confessed to having concocted the story in an effort to embellish his description of the fire.
* The Rough Riders should be called the Rough Walkers.
Rough Riders is the celebrated sobriquet given to the First Regiment of U.S. Cavalry Volunteers in the Spanish-American War of 1898. It is commonly believed that Teddy Roosevelt (1858–1919) was their commander and led this regiment up hill and down dale in various flourishes of bravado against the enemy.
As Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Roosevelt did acquire Congressional approval to recruit a volunteer regiment of cavalry. He personally selected several hundred men, mostly Harvard blue bloods, horsemen, cowboys, and famous athletes. In effect, Roosevelt did organize the Rough Riders, but command of them fell to Colonel Leonard Wood, who had legitimate military credentials and was also a physician.
Lieutenant Colonel Teddy Roosevelt did not lead the charge up San Juan Hill, but he did lead the charge up nearby Kettle Hill on his horse, Texas. His success helped the Americans win the battle of San Juan Hill, and therein lies the confusion. Roosevelt's ride became mistakenly associated with the San Juan Hill assault. He was second in command to Wood, whose Rough Riders soon called themselves "Wood's Weary Walkers," because they fought much of the war entirely on foot.
What happened to the horses? They had to be left in Florida because the ships that were transporting the cavalry soldiers to Cuba had no room for the horses the soldiers were supposed to have ridden.
* There was never a battle fought at Waterloo.
The famous battle at Waterloo, in Belgium, on June 18, 1815, between Napoleon Bonaparte (Napoleon I, 1769–1821) and General Wellington (Arthur Wellesley, Duke of Wellington, 1769–1852) never occurred at Waterloo. The actual battle, the last of the Napoleonic Wars, was fought approximately four miles south at a site somewhere between the two villages of Plancenoit and Mont-Saint-Jean. The addition of the Prussian troops, some 45,000 strong — the principal fighting force under General Gebhard von Blücher's command — proved the turning point in the battle. Their support helped General Wellington, with his Allied forces of 68,000, hand the brilliant Napoleon, with about 72,000 troops, his final defeat and brought about the conclusion of the Great War.
It seems that the victorious Wellington was quartered at Waterloo before and after the battle, hence the association. Waterloo is, in fact, a suburb about nine miles south of Brussels and north of the actual battlefield.
* The U.S. fired the first shot at Pearl Harbor.
President Roosevelt so emphatically asserted, "This day shall live in infamy," in response to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, but the fact remains that the U.S. actually fired the first shot.
Just before sunrise on that fateful day in December 1941, the U.S. World War I destroyer Ward was plying the waters off Pearl Harbor when it was notified by the minesweeper Condor that an unknown submarine had been sighted making its way toward Pearl Harbor. A small, two-man midget submarine then was located by the crew of the Ward and the captain, Lieutenant. W. W. Outerbridge, exhorted his men to stand ready and then to fire upon the enemy submarine. The submarine was hit in the conning tower and subsequently sank at 6:45 in the morning. The Ward followed up the attack by sending four depth charges down to eliminate any possibility of the submarine surviving the assault. So the U.S. fired the first shot at Pearl Harbor and the Japanese shed the first blood of World War II in the Pacific.
In a strange twist of fate, precisely three years later to the day, on December 7, 1944, the Ward was attacked by kamikaze pilots, and it sank off the Philippine coast.
* There was no gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
The famous gunfight, or more accurately murder, did not occur on October 26, 1881, at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona.
To begin with, there were two opposing factions.
The first consisted of the three famous Earp brothers, Wyatt, Virgil, and Morgan, and their partner in crime, the consumptive John H. "Doc" Holliday, a now-and-again frontier dentist. Some historians argue that Wyatt Earp was nothing more than an outlaw with a badge, a larger- than-life folk hero, undeserving of his reputation as a peacekeeper.
The other faction consisted of the scandalous outlaws, Ike and Billy Clanton, and their neighbors, Tom and Frank McLaury.
The two sides were always at each other's throats, just like many young miscreants of today.
Although conflicting testimony regarding the fight still clouds the true facts of what happened, what is known is that the actual gunfight occurred in a vacant lot between Camillus Fly's Rooming House and Photographic Studio and lumber dealer W. A. Harwood's private home, and not in the O.K. Corral, which was nearly one hundred feet east of the vacant lot.
About thirty shots were fired in nearly as many seconds. Witnesses to the fight said that the Earps and Holliday fired without just cause, and Billy Clanton and both McLaurys were killed, while Ike Clanton escaped. Virgil and Morgan Earp and Doc Holliday were wounded; Wyatt was unharmed. Despite damaging testimony against the Earp bunch, the Earps and Doc Holliday were exonerated of all charges.
Why, then, is it called the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral? It was author Stuart Lake who, in his 1931 biography Wyatt Earp: Frontier Marshal, erroneously placed the gunfight at the O.K. Corral.
Excerpted from Did You Know That ...? by Marko Perko. Copyright © 2014 Marko Perko. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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Table of Contents
CHAPTER ONE: History and People,
CHAPTER TWO: Language and Literature,
CHAPTER THREE: Inventions and Discoveries,
CHAPTER FOUR: Science and Technology,
CHAPTER FIVE: Origins and Firsts,
CHAPTER SIX: Laws and Traditions,
CHAPTER SEVEN: Geography and Places,
CHAPTER EIGHT: Art and Music,
CHAPTER NINE: Plants and Animals,
CHAPTER TEN: The Grab Bag,