Historical Injustice

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History is unchangeable, as everyone knows. It is set in stone, stuck in place, and the story is the same every time. However, perspective can change Historical Lessons, for better or for worse. We must be careful not to cause Historical (and those we teach about History) Injustice.

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A Painting regarding the Signing of the Mayflower Compact

 

 

 

For instance, a 2013 movie called Free Birds was somehow approved for release, and though it was not taken very seriously by audiences, it brings up an interesting point about how the World perceives the religious men who left their homeland for America. The Puritans are viewed by some to have been bumbling, cruel members of a colony determined to wipe Native-Americans off the face of the Earth, with Governor William Bradford and Commander Myles Standish at the helm. This idea is subtly being associated with the Puritan’s quest for a free Christian colony, and attempts to point out flaws in the morals of Christianity in general. This may seem far-fetched to some, as an idea like that could never take root in America, right? Wrong, because of a growing population concerned immensely for Native-American rights, and biased against the Puritans for killing them, especially Myles Standish, the commander of Plymouth Colony’s forces. First of all, there was no systematic killing of Native-Americans. I wholeheartedly agree that taking the life of another human is a great sin, though self-defense may give one no choice. Standish and his militia hunted down Native-Americans every time they attacked and murdered colonists. Remember the fact that the colonists knew each other very well, so imagine someone killing off your friends in front of you and then scalping them. Understandably, the Puritans were angered by this disrespect and defended themselves, desperately trying to end the attacks. The second point is that the Puritans DID manage to end hostilities for a time despite all that, around the first Thanksgiving Dinner (a Holiday coming up). They learned from the Native-Americans useful ways to use their resources effectively, and therefore establish a permanent colony that helped in the foundation of the United States.

Another instance of dangerous bias is against the religion of the Founding Fathers. Recently, there have been many discussions and points against the Founding Father’s morals and Christian background. One must simply read the Historical Context to learn the truth. It is said that their belief in the separation of Church and State automatically makes then non-religious, or deists, the term used for many of them including Thomas Jefferson. However, throughout their lives they consistently reaffirmed their faith in God, and this Republic was created under the moral standards of the Bible. Once the Founding Fathers’ dedication is taken away by years of untrue history lessons, the purpose of their work becomes moot. On another note, History has been unkind to them in general for owning slaves and supporting slavery. This is not true, as many of the Founding Fathers opposed slavery vehemently. However, such were the times, and just because we know it is wrong now doesn’t mean that they knew it back then. Once again, all about perspective. Now that we are safe from the sin of slavery, we may tear into the values of those men (though we should not) who might have been us at that time, as many know now what is right only because the sin was proven wrong to them. There are many controversies today, with neither side being “proven” right thus far, as it is up to your personal opinion. It is much easier to look back on History than to predict the future, though learning the past definitely aids one’s knowledge about which roads can lead where.

Education is a time when most things are told as if they are indisputable fact, and this can be taken advantage of by those who are biased for one side over the other. My side is biased as well, but my point is that YOU are in charge of your own decisions, don’t let others tell you what is fact and what is fiction! Analyze it, study it, and come to your own educated conclusion. Don’t just listen to what you hear on a biased comment on historical context, listen to what you learn from what actually HAPPENED, and come to your own conclusion on the matter.

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Trick-or-Treat

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The Snickers Bar, a common Trick-or-treating gift.

Today is Halloween, the day of creepy celebration! One of the many traditions of Halloween is an iconic activity called Trick-or-treating.

 

Trick-or-treating became a popular North American custom in the late 1920’s, though Europe had this tradition since Medieval times. Children in costumes knock on the doors of their neighbor’s houses, saying “Trick-or-treat!” The “Trick” in Trick-or-treating is supposedly what happens if the children get no candy, whereas the unfortunate owner of the house has unwittingly given the children permission to “Trick”, and bring mischief across the property. The “Treat” is the candy that is received from going Trick-or-treating.

Fun Fact: One of the most common candies given out during Trick-or-treating in North America is the Snickers Bar, made by Mars, Incorporated. Snickers was originally named Marathon before the official name change in 1990. Snickers is a combination of milk chocolate, caramel, and peanuts. Although I am not a fan of peanuts, Snickers has capitalized on the peanut-cravings of others.

The White House

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One of the last places I got to see on my journey to Washington, D.C. earlier this year was the White House itself, the residence of the President of the United States of America!

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Me and my brother across from the White House (No, we did not see Donald Trump there)

 

Construction on the White House began in 1792, and every president has occupied the famous mansion except for George Washington himself. In November of 1800, Washington’s successor, John Adams, became the first president to occupy the White House, though would not be officially named so until Theodore Roosevelt occupied it; it was previously known as the Executive Mansion. In a letter to his wife Abigail, John Adams wrote a prayer for the house: “I pray Heaven to bestow the best of blessings to this house, and all that hereafter shall inhabit it. May none but honest and wise men ever rule under this roof.” The White House would be burned by British Soldiers in 1814 as part of the War of 1812, and had to be reconstructed. Decades of poor maintenance meant that the White House was unstable when Harry S Truman was president, hinted at when a piano leg fell through the floor. Thus, the historic house was again reconstructed, with Truman moving to the Blair House across the street for two years.

The White House also holds a Theater, Bowling Alley and Tennis Court, among other recreational activities.

The White House is a symbol of the Executive Branch of government and of the choices that America has made over it’s long history. The men who have occupied it (or will occupy it) forever have a legacy of dedication to the United States, and this will never be forgotten. There are many trials upon us now and these men are flawed, but we must trust them nonetheless to lead us through this struggle regardless of our political party, and to stand up for what we believe in.

The Pastry War

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Another unusual war caused by a relatively minor dispute was the Pastry War from 1838-1839 between the French and Mexican armies.

A French pastry chef named Remontel was the focus of the large-scale conflict. In 1828 during a military coup in Mexico, angry mobs destroyed large parts of Mexico City, and Remontel’s shop was ransacked by looters. After his complaints were rejected by Mexican officials, Remontel asked the French Government for 60,000 pesos (a hefty sum at the time) as compensation for the robbery. For a decade, his petition went unchecked, but when King of France Louis-Philippe saw the petition in 1838, he also saw an excuse to exact revenge on Mexico, and unexpectedly declared war using Remontel’s claim as the basis.

Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, former president and Mexico’s most prestigious war hero, came out of retirement to aid Mexico in military operations against the French. In the ensuing conflict, Anna lost his leg, and would later eloquently use the situation of his war wound to catapult himself back into power.

The so-called Pastry War ended in 1839, with Mexico agreeing to give France the 600,000 pesos now demanded by the French as compensation for Remontel and many other Frenchmen who were robbed. Mexico’s subsequent failure to pay the 600,000 pesos was one of the causes of the second French intervention into Mexico in 1861.

The Battle of Perryville

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One of the most important battles in the American Civil War occurred in Kentucky, a key border state for both the Union and the Confederacy at the time.

The Confederacy wanted Kentucky because of its many rivers and its key central position. It could also be used as a base to invade the Union and end the Civil War. Confederate general Braxton Bragg mustered 21,000 men to seize Kentucky by force. However, Union general Don Carolos Buell was waiting for the Confederates, and battle commenced on October 8, 1862.

Bragg’s army engaged a smaller contingent of the Union army first, as Buell did not send reinforcements until later in the day. However, Confederate successes were doused by the arrival of the rest of the Union army. Bragg and the Confederates won a tactical victory, forcing the Union position back a mile, but it was a strategic Union victory, as the Confederate position was deemed unfeasible and Bragg was ordered to retreat to Tennessee. Buell gave a half-hearted pursuit, resulting in his replacement by William S. Rosecrans.

History will forever remember the sacrifices made and the outcome of this famous battle. Kentucky would never be conquered by the Confederacy, and this battle would help change the course of the American Civil War.

The Capitol Building

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On my vacation to Washington, D.C. I visited the United States Capitol Building, the home of the legislative branch of the United States government.

Pierre Charles L’Enfant was charged with creating the basic plan for Washington D.C. and the Capitol Building. George Washington laid the cornerstone in of the Capitol Building 1793, though the House of Representatives wing was not completed until 1811. In the early days, the Capitol was also used as a Church, attended by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. The Capitol was burned by the British in 1814, and reconstruction proved a long and difficult process. The dome was finally reconstructed during the Civil War.

The Capitol Building features many historical paintings that most people have only seen in books, and I recommend visiting it sometime! The Capitol gives tours, and you may even see Congress in Session  (I saw the House of Representatives in Session, and saw Paul Ryan there).

Though the building may be magnificent all by itself, it is just a piece of an ever-growing nation now 241 years old.

Washington, D.C.

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After visiting Jamestown and Yorktown, I next saw Washington, D.C, the nation’s capital.

Washington, D.C. was approved  for construction in 1790 between Maryland and Virginia, and Congress and the President first presided there in 1800. Although George Washington was heavily involved in the construction of the nation’s capital, he remains the only president to have never entered the White House. In 1814 during the War of 1812, British soldiers burned important buildings (such as the White House and the Capital) in Washington, D.C. that were not rebuilt for years.

The Twenty-Third amendment to the U.S. Constitution allowed D.C. to vote in U.S. Presidential elections, giving the District three electoral votes, first exercised in 1964. D.C. is home to many historically important buildings, such as the Capital Building, White House, Washington Monument, and Lincoln Memorial, plus a few sports teams, like the Washington Nationals (baseball) and Washington Redskins (football).

The District of Columbia is one of the greatest cities in the world, created to show America’s commitment and perseverance through its many ages. It is the capital of an ever growing nation.

Siege of Yorktown

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Me at one of the redoubts in Yorktown

While in Virginia, I visited Yorktown and the site of its very famous siege, the one that ended the American Revolutionary War.

 

After mixed fortunes in the Southern colonies, the British decided to protect Yorktown and face the Continental Army. Lord Charles Cornwallis was the commander of about 7,500 experienced British soldiers, while American General George Washington led an army of over 18,000 Frenchmen and Continentals. On September 29, 1781, the siege began, and Cornwallis pulled back his troops from the outer defenses of Yorktown. Cornwallis was expecting British reinforcements from the sea, but the British were held back by the French fleet aiding the Americans. The Continentals built a trench and assaulted redoubts 9 and 10, along with their French allies (A redoubt is basically a ditch with a wall in front of it, built from the dirt from the ditch. They were helpful outposts used for increased protection). Interestingly, future Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, was the commander of the assault on redoubt 10. Through heavy fighting, both redoubts fell, and the British feared a general attack. Though it did not come, Cornwallis agreed to surrender.

The treaty of surrender was signed on October 19, 1781. The British were not given the traditional honors of war due to having deprived the Americans the same honor after the siege of Charleston. The Siege of Yorktown was destined to be the last major battle of the American Revolutionary War, and a peace treaty two years later would confirm American Independence. An upstart British colony had taken on the world’s largest and most feared empire, and had won.

Jamestown

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Woodson Rifle

Me and my brother admiring the Woodson Rifle at the Virginia Museum of History in Richmond

Two weeks ago, my family and I visited Virginia on our way to see the nation’s capital, Washington D.C. Our first historical visit was to the original Jamestown Settlement.

 

Jamestown, Virginia was first settled in May of 1607 by English colonists looking for treasure, comparable to Spain’s motivation to colonize the New World. Spain had successfully extracted tons of gold from the New World, and had fleets of treasure ships full of the valuable metal. The English settlers had failed to produce a permanent colony in Roanoke, all of the colonists there having mysteriously disappeared. Jamestown was chosen because there were no Native American tribes nearby, though at first the location seemed very bad. The majority of the colonists died in the next few years, though fortunes changed under the effective leadership of  John Smith, who had ironically been charged with mutiny and locked in the hold of his own ship throughout the voyage to America.

A prominent member of the Jamestown crew was my ancestor John Rolfe, who is most famous for his successful tobacco harvesting and his marriage to Pocahontas, the Native American daughter of Chief Powhatan. In 1619, the House of Burgesses was formed, although relations with the Native-Americans deteriorated under Chief Opchanacanough, Powhatan’s brother. In 1622 the Native Americans massacred over 300 colonists in a raid, and the colonists fought back under John Woodson (another ancestor of mine). In 1644, chief Opchanacanough came back in full force and killed Woodson. One of Woodson’s friends, Robert Ligon held off a Native-American attack on the Woodson home with the family’s rifle. The Woodson family rifle is currently on display at the Virginia Museum of History, which I visited. Opchanacanough was killed in 1646, and the Powhatan Confederacy declined while Jamestown grew.

In 1699, Virginia’s capital became Williamsburg, which replaced Jamestown. Although the original settlers of Jamestown (the first permanent colony in America) did not find any gold, they began something amazing, colonizing what would become the Eastern half of the United States of America. Jamestown will not be forgotten: it was a time when surviving wasn’t a game.

Bonnie and Clyde

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Me and my brother next to the original car that Bonnie and Clyde were killed in

One of the most infamous gangs in U.S. History, led by Bonnie and Clyde, oversaw at least twelve bank robberies and more murders.

Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker were two romantically involved cold-blooded killers. The truth is that, although always pictured together and given equal fame, it was Clyde who was the one killing officers and civilians and robbing banks and smaller stores, with Bonnie as his accomplice. Clyde was initially in prison in the 1920’s for more minor causes such as a rental car he failed to return on time. However, it was noticed that Clyde truly became a criminal while in prison, even having a fellow inmate cut off some of his toes with an axe simply because he detested labor.

Immediately after Clyde was released from prison, he formed a gang that included Bonnie, and began a killing spree in 1932. The duo were made infamous over the next few years for the murders and robberies associated with them. Clyde saw his actions as retaliation for how the Texas prison system had treated him during his time in jail. Texas officer Frank Hamer began tracking Bonnie and Clyde, and on May 23, 1934 Bonnie and Clyde were finally lured into a trap while driving In their automobile. The officers on scene shot over 130 rounds at the vehicle, emptying their automatic rifles, shotguns, and pistols. Bonnie and Clyde were killed instantly, having suffered over twenty distinct bullet wounds each.

Bonnie and Clyde may have met their ends in 1934 on that road, but their fame outlived them, and they are now symbols of infamy in the United States.