Although writing can help decipher history, it’s our humanity which keeps all of us striving for an improved future.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

12 Historical Records You Won’t Believe

America fingerprinted German nuns during World War I? People in England used to go to prison to get married on the sly?
You betcha.
It’s all here in black and white.
Wild, Wild West
Mortality schedules listed deaths that took place in the year before a census. According to the 1850 mortality schedule for Calaveras, California, the three top causes of death were dysentery, shot, and stabbed. (Bonus: What was the number 2 occupation after miner?  Gambler.)
calaveras inset

Keeping Track of Germans During WWI
When the United States declared war on Germany in 1917, President Wilson authorized the registration of aliens living in the United States. This included all non-naturalized German males aged 14 and older, who were classified as enemy aliens. In April 1918, Austro-Hungarian nationals and women within the age and nationality requirements were added to the list, including American-born wives of non-naturalized Germans. (The registration requirement was rescinded in December that year.)
Not even nuns were exempt.
germ reg nun pg 1

germ reg nun pg 2

Not to Be Outdone…
The U.S. took the whole enemy alien paranoia even further during WWII, when President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 of February 1942 led to the relocation of 117,000 people of Japanese ancestry to internment camps. Two-thirds of these people were American-born citizens.

japan relocate

Taxes Hit Home
Maybe the budget isn’t balanced because we’ve stopped taxing chairs.

20121129 tax chair

Or teaspoons.
20121129 tax teaspoons

WWI—The Musical
New York has collected thousand of questionnaires from its veterans to document their military service. Some questions asked about battles, service history, and wounds. Others gave vets the chance to list jokes, popular songs, and their most inspiring or saddest memory.

WWII human interest

Hung in Effigy
All we can say is, it could have been worse.

haning in effigy

In fact, for this watch thief, it almost was.

hanging watch threat

Chinese Not Welcome
In 1882 the Chinese Exclusion Act went into effect, banning the entry of Chinese laborers into the U.S. for the next 10 years and allowing the deportation of laborers who entered illegally. It was followed by others, and Chinese already in the country faced a long grilling if they wanted to leave—and be let back in when they returned.

wong yee bong

Defective, Dependent, and Delinquent
Once upon a time (in 1880 to be exact), the United States Federal Census included a supplemental schedule for “Dependent, Defective, and Delinquent Classes.” At the time, these included the insane, blind, deaf, indigent, homeless, and prisoners.

DDD insane


Butter or margarine?
It’s been a question of health, on of taste, and even of jail time for men like John L. McMonigle, who went to prison for violating the Oleomargarine Act.
Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration
Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration

Charity Case
These forms from New York poorhouses included an opinion on your habits (judged “Intemperate” in this example), your parents’ habits, and the likelihood that you would “recover” from the cause of your dependence.


Going to the prison, and we’re going to get married…
Back in 17th- and 18th-century England, prisons like the Fleet and the King’s Bench Prison became popular destinations for couples interested in quick, no-questions-asked nuptials because of the number of clerics imprisoned for debt who had nothing to lose and welcomed the income.

fleet notice

fleet marriage

No Booze for You
Long before the days of picture IDs and facial recognition software, the Watch Committee of the City of Birmingham provided licensed liquor sellers with photos and descriptions of more than 80 tippling citizens who were not to be sold liquor.

richard flemming page

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Annie Chambers: notorious Kansas City madam

Annie’s life threw her some fast curve balls during the frontier days when women didn’t have a lot of choices in how to support themselves. Annie had other friends that had gone and plied their trade as prostitutes and so after reviewing her present situation and taken in review of her life; it is with determination she decided she would have “a short life, but a fast and merry one.”

Annie Chambers was born into the world as Leannah Loveall in Sullivan, Kentucky on June 6, 1843. Annie’s life was fraught with misfortune. Annie would be married as a young woman to William Chambers. The first child from this marriage, a son would die in the first year of his life. Annie was to go on carriage rides daily for health purposes where a second tragedy would occur.
On one of Annie’s daily buggy rides she would be thrown from the wagon and go into a coma for three days. Upon awakening from her coma she was to learn that her child was stillborn and her husband was dead. It was here that Annie relented into the idea that prostitution was the only way to care of herself.
Annie slowly made her way to Kansas City where she would open her own “resort.” Around 1872, she would open a two-story 25-room bordello located on the south west corner of 3rd and Wyandotte. Annie’s resort was a place of plush, feminine elegance.
Upon opening the door to Annie’s the guests would be treated to chandeliers, thick red carpeting, the finest silk drapes, luxurious furniture and artwork devoted to the sensuality of woman. One would also be greeted by beautiful, well-mannered and exquisitely dressed women.
In 1923 Annie’s “resort” would be turned into a legitimate boarding home. Amazingly Annie had run her business just two blocks east of the Kansas City Police Headquarters and city hall. But it was in the end that the community and police pressure forced her hand.
Annie often defended her business stating that he she took care of her girls who came to her sick and broken. I believe she saw herself as a surrogate mother to her girls who had nowhere else to turn. When her girls wanted to leave she would give them a helping hand in starting a new life.
Annie had turned to Christianity prior to her death and donated her home. Her home became a haven for the homeless as the Union City Mission. Annie would die on March 24, 1935. She is buried in the Elmwood Cemetery in Kansas City, Missouri as Leannah Kearns.
Annie’s home no longer stands but her legacy remains. Her life was filled with personal tragedy, sorrow and perseverance. She is to be admired simply because she did not allow despair to take her down into its dark depths but rather dug in her heels and continued on life’s paths.

Meet the Past

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

14 Fascinating Facts From Famous Death Records

From the king who ate himself to death to the comedian whose audience didn’t know his death wasn’t a joke, many high-profile people have left this world in unusual ways. Even many perfectly ordinary endings are fascinating because of coincidence, timing, or plain old bad luck. Here are some interesting facts about the deaths of famous people, or just famous deaths, that made news or made history.
1. “Death by digestion” claimed a royal life.
In 1771, King of Sweden Adolf Frederick died of digestive problems after eating a meal of lobster, caviar, sauerkraut, smoked herring, champagne, and 14 servings of dessert.
2. Jane Austen died of Addison’s Disease three decades before it was discovered.
Austen remains one of the most famous authors of the last 200 years. When she died in 1817, no one knew what strange disease had caused her to suffer for years. Now, many believe she succumbed to Addison’s disease, which, among other ills, causes darkening of the skin and extreme gastrointestinal irritation. The disease wasn’t even named until more than 30 years after her death. However, because she took such detailed notes of her symptoms, doctors in 1964 identified Addison’s as a likely cause of death according toExtraordinary Endings of Practically Everything & Everybody by Charles Panati.
3. Three of the Founding Fathers died on the Fourth of July.
John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both signed the Declaration of Independence, and they also died on the exact same day: July 4, 1826. Five years later, James Monroe died on Independence Day as well.
4. President James A. Garfield was shot by an assassin, but killed by his doctors.
Garfield served a mere 200 days as the 20th president of the United States before he died. In July 1881, he was shot by Charles Guiteau. One bullet grazed his arm, while another went into his back. However, the autopsy revealed it wasn’t the two gunshots that killed him — it was medical malpractice. Doctors poked unwashed fingers and unsterilized medical instruments into the wound trying to find the bullet lodged in his body. One doctor punctured Garfield’s liver while hunting for the slug. In the end, intervention by Garfield’s 16 doctors turned a relatively harmless, three-inch hole into a 20-inch infected passageway stretching from his ribs to his groin. According to Extraordinary Endings, the autopsy also revealed doctors were dead wrong about the bullet’s location to begin with, as it sat four inches to the right of the spinal cord in a bed of tissue. Garfield went from 210 pounds to 130 within a month, as doctors bickered for 80 days about the lost bullet’s location. He died in September of blood poisoning and widespread infection. At least the government refused to pay the doctors’ $85,000 bill.
5. A lot of famous people died of syphilis.
Syphilis is a deadly sexually transmitted disease. But after the discovery of penicillin in the 1940s, it was easily treated and no longer a fatal diagnosis. Before then, many famous people died of the disease, including gangster Al Capone; painters Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Paul Gaugin, and Edouard Manet ; writers Oscar Wilde and Guy de Maupassant ; and poet Charles Baudelaire.
6. Mark Twain was born when Halley’s Comet came and died when it returned.
Halley’s Comet only reaches Earth once every 75 years. So it’s remarkable that it was visible the day Twain was born in 1835 and again right after his death in 1910. Twain was quoted as saying he was born with the comet and “would go out with it, too.”
7. The jockey who died and then won the race.
Jockey Frank Hayes died of a massive heart attack during a race at Belmont, New York, in 1923. His horse finished first despite this, making Hayes the only jockey to win a race posthumously.
8. Novelist Sherwood Anderson was done in by the toothpick in a martini olive.
Anderson’s literary career was at its height in the 1920s thanks to celebrated books likeWinesburg, Ohio. Although, he is most remembered for his influence on the next generation of writers, including helping William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway their first works published. In 1941, he suffered from abdominal illness on a South American cruise and died in a Panamanian hospital. It wasn’t until the autopsy that the true cause of death was discovered: He had swallowed the toothpick that an olive was speared on, which damaged his internal organs and gave him the infection that killed him.
9. C. S. Lewis, Aldous Huxley, and John F. Kennedy all died on the same day.
Lewis is most famous for writing The Chronicles of Narnia, while Huxley is best known as the author of Brave New World. Both writers died the same day as the 35th President of the United States: November 22, 1963.
10. The only known space deaths all happened on the same mission.
In 1971, Soviet cosmonauts Georgi Dobrovolsky, Vladislav Volkov, and Viktor Patsayev all died when their Soyuz-11 spacecraft depressurized during re-entry. No other deaths outside the Earth’s atmosphere have been recorded.
11. Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Brian Jones, Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, and many other artists all died at 27.
Many have morbidly dubbed celebrities who die at 27 year old “The 27 Club” because so many well-known musicians and artists have died at that tender age. Sadly, many of the deaths have been drug related.
12. Marvin Gaye was killed the day before his birthday.
Tragically, the legendary singer was shot by his father and died hours shy of his 45th birthday.
13. John Lennon, Selena, and Rebecca Schaeffer were all murdered by obsessed fans.
Celebrity stalkers are not uncommon. However, for the famous Beatle, the Latin music sensation, and up-and-coming actress, fan obsession escalated to violence, and they were all gunned down by mentally unstable stalkers.
14. Comedian Dick Shawn died on stage and the audience thought it was part of the act.
Shawn was a stand-up comedian who was featured in popular films including The Producersand It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. In 1987, when he collapsed on stage due to a heart attack, the audience assumed it was part of the act because he had just joked, “If elected, I will not lay down on the job.”

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

8 Truly Weird Deaths in History

Though it may seem morbid, death fascinates us all. Whether it’s a dramatization of a murder case on television, or just a routine examination of newspaper obituaries, stories about how people died always inspire curiosity.

Grigory Rasputin, Dec. 16, 1916: The Russian mystic and confidante of the ruling Romanov family was perceived as a threat to a continued monarchy due to his uncanny ability to distract Czar Nicholas II and his wife, Empress Alexandra. There are very few confirmed facts about Rasputin’s death, but the legend around it says that a group from within the czar’s own circle took matters into their own hands. But the assassination did not go as planned. The plan was to use cyanide to poison Rasputin, but it was served in sugary petit fours, which deactivated the poison. Four gunshots later, Rasputin was still alive and the assassins finally had to drown him to achieve their goal.

Alexander Litvinenko, Nov. 23, 2006: Litvinenko was a relative unknown until his dramatic death by radiation poisoning. A former Russian secret service officer, Litvinenko fled to Britain with his family in 2000. It is thought that two former KGB agents with whom Litvinenko had met earlier on the day of his poisoning may have been responsible.

Isadora Duncan, Sept. 14, 1927: The famous American dancer met an untimely death at age 50 while riding in an open-top Amilcar model automobile in Nice, France. The flowing scarf she chose to wear that cool autumn evening became tangled in the car’s open-spoke wheels, throwing Duncan from the vehicle and snapping her neck.

Marie Curie, July 4, 1934: Nobel Laureate Madame Curie is one of the most well-known names in science, and she was killed by her own success. Curie is famous for having discovered polonium and radium and for isolating radioactive isotopes. Unfortunately, the experiments that led her to these discoveries were slowly killing her. Curie succumbed to aplastic anemia, a result of her many years of exposure to radiation, at age 67.

George Herbert, 5th Earl of Carnarvon, April 5, 1923: Lord Carnarvon, a former owner of Highclere Castle (the setting for the fictional BBC production Downton Abbey) died of a mosquito bite. This was no normal mosquito bite, however; urban legend has it that Carnarvon’s death was an instance of the so-called “Mummy’s Curse,” which would result in members of the expedition to open Egyptian tombs dying mysterious deaths. Carnarvon sustained the bite while in Egypt, and it became infected when he cut it while shaving. He died of blood poisoning at age 57.

Tennessee Williams, Feb. 25, 1983: The playwright famous for such masterworks as A Streetcar Named DesireCat on a Hot Tin Roof, and The Glass Menagerie met his end in a decidedly unpoetic way — the official medical examiner’s report says he he choked to death on a bottle cap after a night of heavy drinking and drug use (his friends later said that he actually died from intolerance to a barbiturate).

Molière, Feb. 17, 1673: The French playwright’s most dramatic moment was his last — while playing the title role in his play Le Malade imaginaire (The Hypochondriac), Moliere endured a prolonged coughing fit brought on by his lengthy struggle with tuberculosis. This led to convulsions and his death later the same night.

Ray Chapman, Aug. 17, 1920: Chapman played shortstop for the Cleveland Indians and paid the ultimate price for it at age 29 — he was killed when a spitball-style pitch from the Yankees’ Carl Mays struck his temple. Chapman remains the only professional baseball player to be killed by a pitch, though baseball helmets didn’t become mandatory until the 1970s.

—Melanie Linn Gutowski

Friday, August 8, 2014

An Irish Life. Nell McCafferty in interview

by  Tuesday, March 1st, 2005

In the kitchen of her lovely old redbrick house, Nell McCafferty apologises for the lack of biscuits. As I sit down at the table and she makes tea, I get the feeling that this is the kind of kitchen where visitors are regularly treated to home baking. The house, the kitchen, the invitation to tea send me certain messages. Homemaker. Breadbaker. It is an interesting backdrop for a woman who is known as a cantankerous feminist, barricade stormer and some-time IRA defender.
Feminism and republicanism are very much in the news at the moment. After the murder of their brother, Robert McCartney, by IRA members, The McCartney sisters have dominated news about Ireland. Their demands that the killers be brought to justice have thrown traditional support for the IRA in Catholic communities in the North into question. McCafferty, who describes in her book how she was shunned in the past because of her “refusal to condemn a neighbour’s child”, has her roots in that same community. What does she make of the events? “I think it has changed everything. It is obscene what happened to those men [a number of men were beaten in the attack]. The McCartney sisters are from a Republican background, and would have supported the IRA as defenders of the community. Now that has changed – what they see, what we are all seeing is that the IRA will kill you, kill their own. It is a terrible shock that members of the IRA could conduct themselves like a murderous gang”.
But was it not well known already, what the IRA was up to? Can it really be a surprise that an army kills? McCafferty vehemently rejects this. “This is different. I am not saying I am suddenly waking up and smelling the coffee. Sure, human rights were violated, we were under siege and there was a war on – but not like this. And now the war is over, has been over for 9 years. Sinn Féin wanted the IRA to stand down. OK, there were a few difficulties with certain people, but we thought the IRA wanted the IRA to stand down. Now I don’t know. Perhaps there will be a split, which would be terrible because it could bring back the guns”.
She is critical of media who she feels have not covered the story well enough – not spelling out exactly what happened on that night in Maginnis’s pub in Belfast. She believes people need to know what happened to understand why this is a real watershed. “The community is deliberately out on the streets applauding these women. This is the hand of the community in the back of the IRA saying, ‘Go now’. Once women sanction revolution, there’s no stopping it”.

Women and rebellion is something McCafferty knows a lot about. Having grown up in Derry, she was at the centre of Northern Ireland’s civil rights movement for equal votes, homes and jobs for Catholics. McCafferty was there on Bloody Sunday in 1972, when British soldiers shot dead 14 marchers in Derry. She also campaigned on behalf of republican women in jail. She moved to Dublin in 1970, and as a journalist opened many people’s eyes to what was happening to the most vulnerable in Irish society when she wrote about the children’s courts. She soon became part of a small but vociferous group of women who started the campaign for equality and women’s rights. She went on the famous contraceptive train – a group of Irish women went to Belfast, stocked up with condoms, pills (which, she reveals in her book, were actually aspirin, but customs never knew that) and other illegal articles and brought them back to Dublin. Here they were met by police and waiting media. Yes, it is true: 30 years ago, contraceptives were still illegal in the Republic. Pints were another thing women could not have – and so the same women went in to a famous pub in Dublin’s city centre, ordered 40 brandies, waited for them to served, then ordered a pint. The barman refused, and they in turn never paid for the brandies.
Nell McCafferty’s autobiography, Nell, published in November 2004, is full of great stories both from the civil rights, and women’s struggles. Despite dealing with deadly serious issues, McCafferty says feminism was fun. Her wit, compassion and sense of the ridiculous, used with such great effect in her journalism and campaigning, are much in evidence throughout the book.“We enjoyed the struggle, at least at the beginning. It was like shooting fish in a barrel, the obstacles to women were incredible, ludicrous, and stood out like a sore thumb. Ireland was full of men in suits who never had to deal with the likes of us before, and to see them challenged by someone as formidable as Mary Robinson – it was great. It is terrific if you are a revolutionary and you can achieve the revolution in a short time!“
Although not now actively involved with any organisation, McCafferty is still considered a prominent feminist, and regularly asked to “do gigs”. They day we met, she was due to speak later that evening on the subject “Has feminism gone too far”. She says the organisers have assumed she would be on the politically correct side, but “perhaps they should not be so sure”. She says she wonders if life has really become better for women as they deal with all the new pressures of juggling work and home, marriage breakdown, and running several families. “At first it was so simple, the obstacles so obvious. Now you are dealing with all the complicated stuff – three jobs, childcare, commuting, three children by three fathers. I do not have the answer, and I am glad I don’t have to deal with it. My excuse is always: don’t ask the prophet for a blueprint! I prophecised that we must work outside the home, but I never said how it would be done exactly. I just sketched the big picture, someone else deal with the details. I have forgiven myself for not providing the blueprint: that is not my job – someone has to look at the big picture first! I keep asking, and I really want to know, how are you going to make it work? Who is out there looking for a solution? I am bemused there is no great cry from women, and men; but I guess it is just a fallow period at the moment. Change will come. I think it takes 20 – 30 years for each generational change to really seep through. And jobs for women outside the home have only really happened in Ireland in the last ten years. But I do wonder, are you all happier now!? “
It is interesting that the role model for this feminist prophet was a traditional homemaker – her mother Lily. Central to McCafferty’s book is a fascinating and moving portrait of her mother, a truly remarkable woman who seems also to embody McCafferty’s statement about women sanctioning the revolution – as well as feeding the revolutionaries! Lily jumps off the pages and we see clearly how she inspired and supported Nell throughout her life. “My mother was one of the last of the full-time homemakers. We lived like royalty, she did everything for us. She never had her own job, and I know she would have liked to have her own money and not have to wait for my dad to hand it over. But she loved looking after us, and lots of other people too: she always had an open house where everyone was welcome. In 1968, when we were all reared, in a way she was redundant – but then civil rights happened, she became active in local politics and her house became a political salon and part-time refuge. Our house was always at the heart of the local community, and my mother was very much at the centre of it. All the neighbours came to my mother with their problems. There were a lot of things people could not talk about –but mammy would talk about it for them!”
However the one thing that could not be discussed was the fact that Nell was gay. Despite their terrific relationship, it remained a closed subject. Yet McCafferty opens her book with a declaration of her sexuality. She says she was “terrified” of her mother’s reaction. “Once the book was out there could be no ambiguity anymore.At the start, I was not sure if I could publish it while she was still alive. When I started the book, I decided to write everything down, and said to myself I could always take things out! But when it was done, – well, I felt this was the time, I had to be honest. So I took a deep breath and sent it off. I was terrified though, of how my mother and the neighbours, our street, would react. They have been through everything else – war, wife beating, rape, marriage breakdown –this was the last taboo."

Lily McCafferty died just before Christmas, soon after the book was published. McCafferty is very glad now that her mother got to see it. “Thank God I got the book out. It would have been a big ache in me if I had not got a chance to show it to her. She could not read it, she was blind at the end, but my sister Carmel read parts of it to her. She read the opening paragraph, which was enough… And mammy saw me on the Late Late Show telling parents watching with their secretly gay children to tell them they loved them.” She says Derry was the ‘acid test’ – what would the reaction be of old neighbours, her mother’s friends. The Saturday after she had been on TV, she was in Derry for her mother’s 94th birthday. And in they all came, ”with in one hand a gift for my mum and in the other my book, asking me to sign it. I knew then it was OK.”
Another interesting thing about Nell is that it is dedicated to two nuns. It was a surprise to me that someone who has been so critical of the Church has such admiration for “holy women”. “I was blessed by them; two nuns who listened to me, showed me compassion, made it possible for me to go on when I was discovering what it meant to be gay. When I confessed to a priest that I was in love with another girl, he refused me absolution. I walked away and never went back to the Church after that day. But the nuns were gentle with me and I am full of gratitude for that. I was very religious growing up. It was what kept us going: we were God’s children. Protestants might have everything else but they would not go to heaven. It was real opium for the masses – and we believed that one day we would be free! I envy people now who have faith. In the lead up to my mam’s death, I can see how it is a comfort to people. And there is a lot of good sense in the Ten Commandments: give us today our daily bread – that phrase is people demanding their right; to be free from hunger; it is a civil rights demand. The holy men have just got in the way of the message of social justice. But I still have faith in the holy women”
The book is also a very personal, very intimate portrait of its author. Several chapters describe McCafferty’s relationship with Nuala O’Faolain, who McCafferty describes as “the love of her life”. Why did she feel it important to record it in such detail – and was she not worried about being so open about something so deeply personal? Does it not make her vulnerable? “No, not at all. I think that is what you do when you tell a love story – and I could not tell the story of my life without including it. I am more worried about what I did not include – I think there was much more to say! I wish I had captured more of the joy, more about our travels, things we did together. I am surprised when people ask me this – do they not think I had a domestic life, that I just walked around carrying placards all day? My only worry about this is whether I was fair to Nuala. I am not worried about saying I love someone. To me it is one of life’s greatest achievements. “
The last few months have clearly been difficult for McCafferty. She says she has not been able to sleep at night since December 16th – the day her mother died. Having spent the last four years caring for her mother, and also writing her book, a very disciplined life has given way to what she describes as “living in the twilight zone”. “I am glad though that I can take the time to absorb it. I have not really had a chance to talk or think much about what next. Right now I have no vision, no ambition, no objective. I am a woman in waiting. I am not usually very good at metaphors, but a friend of mine, Margaret McCurtain, does not say how are you – she always says “how does your garden grow?”, What I am thinking now is, I forgot to plant bulbs, I was busy doing other things – but sure something will come up in spring. I like figuring out problems, there is an answer to everything. But right now I have not got the energy to identify the problem. But I am sure that will come, in time".

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

12 Stunning Civil War Facts

The Civil War was the bloodiest war in our country’s history. It is often called “the first modern war” because of efficient and deadly weapons that became available for the first time. Just how terrible was this war that pitted brother against brother? Consider these 12 jaw-dropping facts:
1. More soldiers died in the Civil War than any other American conflict — and two-thirds of them were killed by disease.
About 625,000 men died in the Civil War. That’s more Americans than died in both World Wars, Korea, and Vietnam combined. This amounted to 2 percent of the population at the time, which would be the equivalent to about 6 million Americans dying today. Battles weren’t as deadly as disease, however. Diarrhea, typhoid fever, lung inflammation, dysentery, and childhood diseases like chicken pox were the cause of 67 percent of the deaths. And if those numbers aren’t bad enough, new estimates suggest that the death total may be higher.
2. Gettysburg wasn’t the only unusually bloody battle.
More Americans were killed in two days at the Battle of Shiloh than in all previous American wars combined. The Battle of Antietam was only one day long but left 12,401 Union soldiers killed, missing, or wounded — which is higher than typical estimates of Allied casualties on D-Day. With 23,000 casualties overall, it was the bloodiest single day of the Civil War. At Cold Harbor, Virginia, 7,000 men fell in just 20 minutes.
3. Nearly 56,000 soldiers died in prison camps from starvation and disease — a quarter of those deaths happened at one camp.
No American prisoner of war camp had ever held more than 100 men at a time prior to 1861. During the Civil War, each camp held thousands. Although they weren’t intentionally killing prisoners, ignorance of proper sanitation, overcrowding, and a lack of resources led to an outrageous number of soldier deaths. Camp Sumter in Georgia was the largest of the 150 military prisons and also the deadliest. Nearly 40,000 soldiers were imprisoned there, and 13,000, or about one-third, of them died.
4. An estimated 40 percent of Civil War dead were never identified.
With advances in weaponry and the sheer number of men killed, many bodies were damaged beyond recognition or left to rot in piles at the battlefield.
5. Amputation was the treatment of choice for broken or severely wounded limbs.
There were so many wounded men that doctors found it impossible to do time-consuming procedures like removing part of a broken bone or some damaged flesh. More than half of leg amputations at the thigh or knee ended up being fatal. That number shot up to 83 percent if the amputation was done at the hip joint.
6. Surgery wasn’t sterile.
Doctors of the day didn’t understand sterilization and believed infection was caused by contaminated air, so cleaning surgical tools often meant wiping them on a dirty apron. There weren’t any antibiotics either. So if a doctor didn’t cut off a soldier’s limb, there was a good chance he’d lose it to infection or gangrene anyway.
7. There was no anesthesia on the battlefield.
Anesthesia wasn’t available, so patients were given chloroform, ether, or, failing that, a glass of whiskey and a bullet to bite down on.
8. African-Americans made up less than 1 percent of the North’s population but were 10 percent of the Union Army.
Black men weren’t allowed to join the army until 1863. About 180,000 black men, more than 85 percent of eligible African-Americans in the Northern states, fought. While white soldiers earned $13 a month, black soldiers earned only $10 — and then were charged a $3 clothing fee that lowered their monthly pay to $7. The highest paid black soldier made less than the lowest paid white one. After protesting by refusing to accept their wages and gaining support from abolitionist Congressmen, black soldiers finally received equal pay in 1864 — paid retroactively to their enlistment date.
9. About 20 percent of soldiers were under 18.
The Confederacy had no minimum enlistment age. Even though the Union Army technically required soldiers to be 18, many officers looked the other way when it came to underage soldiers. Some younger soldiers signed up as drummers or buglers. Musicians weren’t supposed to fight, but when the battles began, they often dropped their instruments and grabbed a weapon.
10. Women secretly fought in the war.
Both sides prohibited women from enlisting. However, that didn’t stop them from joining in disguise. Since they were incognito, exact numbers aren’t known. But some estimates say 400 women served in the war by pretending to be men. Many certainly did it out of a sense of loyalty to their cause, but historians say some women were just in it to make ends meet during desperate times.
11. The estimated cost of the war was $6.19 billion ($146 billion in today’s dollars).
While the cost in human lives was the most tragic, the Civil War also had a high financial toll. Before the war, the U.S. government spent roughly $1 million a week. By the end of the war, the federal government was spending $3.5 million a day. The South was the primary battlefield of the war and suffered greatly with $10 billion in property damage and two-fifths of its livestock destroyed.
12. As of 2014, the Department of Veterans Affairs is still paying a Civil War pension.
The last surviving child of a Union Veteran, Irene Triplett, still receives a small, monthly pension payment 149 years after the Civil War ended.

Friday, August 1, 2014

6 Things You Didn’t Know About Bonnie and Clyde

1. Although Barrow and Parker claimed to be married, Parker remained legally married to her first husband, Roy Thornton. On the day she died, she still wore his wedding ring and bore a tattoo on her knee with intertwined hearts and their names, Bonnie and Roy.
2. Bonnie and Clyde were both short. Parker was only 4’11″ and Barrow 5’4″ at a time when average heights for women and men were about 5’3″ and 5’8″. (Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, who played Bonnie and Clyde in the famous 1967 film stood 5’7″ and 6’2″ respectively.)
3. Parker was an honor student and a poet, and life as one of America’s most wanted didn’t stifle those interests. Shortly before her death, Parker wrote a poem called “The Story of Bonnie and Clyde,” which was published in several newspapers and immortalized their tale.
4. Parker and Barrow remained close to their families, even on the run. In fact, it was their predictable pattern of stopping to visit family that aided the team of Texas Rangers and deputies who ambushed and killed them.
5. The pair attained such notoriety that hordes of people flocked to the scene of their death and later to the coroner’s to retrieve “souvenirs.” Some attempted to cut off Barrow’s ear or finger; others took snippets of Parker’s blood-soaked dress or shattered window glass. One man offered Barrow’s father over $30,000 for Barrow’s body—the equivalent of over $600,000 today.
6. Eight decades later, the morbidly curious can see Bonnie and Clyde’s bullet-ridden death car on display at Whiskey Pete’s Casino in Primm, Nevada, outside of Las Vegas.
—Connie Ray

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Even though I am from Kansas, I enjoy venturing into other worlds from around the globe which is why my writing focuses on diversity. With fluid accessibility to modern media and traveling opportunities, my Midwestern world can expand and explore beyond my own backyard. In addition to studying cultures, I take pleasure in studying history. Submitting to a moment in time allows us to remember, or to muse even, over our society’s past. Although writing can educate as well as entertain, yet what makes art incredibly amazing, to that of paintings, photographs, and music, it transposes emotion into another form of humanity, and therefore, it is our humanity which keeps all of us striving for an improved future.

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