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How Alexander Hamilton's Men Surprised the Enemy at the Battle of Yorktown

November 14, 2018 in History

By Lesley Kennedy

Hamilton’s leadership in the war’s last major land battle would deliver the future Secretary of the Treasury his long-sought glory.

Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury, known for his famous, fatal duel with Aaron Burr—and his ability to draw sold-out crowds to a hit musical examining his life—played a key role in a battle that brought an end to the American Revolutionary War. And in fighting the key battle, Hamilton and his men employed what might seem like a risky strategy—unloading their weapons before their advance.

Appointed by George Washington in 1781 to command a light infantry battalion in Marquis de Lafayette’s Division, Hamilton helped lead the attack at the Battle of Yorktown in Yorktown, Virginia, which would become the war’s last major land battle. The siege lasted from September 28 to October 19, 1781, with the French attacking the British fort at Redoubt 9 and Hamilton attacking Redoubt 10 simultaneously. The double-pronged advance led British General Charles Cornwallis to surrender.

Alexander Hamilton.

“In Hamilton’s day, showing courage on the field of battle was one of just a few ways for an unknown person to win fame,” says historian Michael E. Newton, author of Alexander Hamilton: The Formative Years. “Hamilton had a genius and was hard-working but did not come from an illustrious family like most of the Founding Fathers. He knew that winning glory in battle would make him famous and help him further his career.”

Brendan McConville, professor of history at Boston University, adds that Hamilton had always been sensitive about his humble roots so it was important to him to prove himself during the war. “He had been with Washington as a key aide throughout most of the war, but wanted glory on the battlefield,” he says. Hamilton “saw victory on the battlefield as a way to win reputation.”

Initially, according to Newton, command of the assault on Redoubt 10 was given to someone else. Hamilton objected, claiming it was his turn and that he had seniority. “When Washington overturned the previous decision and gave Hamilton the command, Hamilton rushed to his friend and second in command, Nicholas Fish, and exclaimed ‘We have it! We have it!’ ”


Washington preparing his troops for the final battle of the Revolutionary War in Yorktown. Alexander Hamilton is the rider on the right.

The Patriot strategy in the attack was to …read more

Source: HISTORY

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How Stan Lee's X-Men Were Inspired by Real-Life Civil Rights Heroes

November 13, 2018 in History

By Dante A. Ciampaglia


Marvel Comics Publisher, Stan Lee, with a book of ‘Spider Man’ comics which he created along with comics of the Hulk, X-Men and the Black Panther.

It’s impossible to imagine American pop culture without Spider-Man. Or the Hulk. Or, thanks to a decade’s worth of mega-blockbuster films, Iron Man, Thor, Dr. Strange, and Ant-Man. These stories—all co-creations of Marvel Comics impresario Stan Lee, who died on November 12, 2018 at 95—were swashbuckling adventures with a human bent. The characters weren’t all powerful; they felt pain, anguish, regret; they won, but also lost. And many of them were informed by the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960s.

Through stories of characters who were demonized by the public as the terrifying Other, Lee drove home messages of tolerance and acceptance while rejecting demonization and bullying. “Those stories have room for everyone, regardless of their race, gender, religion, or color of their skin,” Lee said 2017 video published by Marvel. “The only things we don’t have room for are hatred, intolerance, and bigotry.”

The greatest manifestation of that idea was the X-Men. Introduced in September 1963, the X-Men were a team of teenage mutants, led by their teacher and mentor Professor Charles Xavier, who fought super-criminals and other mutants, led by Magneto, bent on the destruction of humanity. But rather than be a black-and-white battle between good and evil, the X-Men had a wrinkle: mutants were hated by the “normal” humans they defended.

“I loved that idea,” Lee told the Guardian in 2000, as the first X-Men movie hit theaters. ”It not only made them different, but it was a good metaphor for what was happening with the Civil Rights Movement in the country at that time.”

The Long Battle Towards the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (TV-14; 2:57)

That metaphor extended to the characters themselves, with Professor X and his vision of harmonious human-mutant coexistence standing in for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., while Magneto’s rigid attitude toward the defense of mutantkind reflected the philosophy of Malcolm X. The Sentinels, a brand of massive mutant-hunting robot, were introduced two years later as readers watched on TV as black Americans were beaten and abused by white police officers.

“There’s kind of an undeniable set of allegories that are going on there,” says Sean Howe, author of Marvel Comics: The Untold Story. “The X-Men was probably the most explicitly political of the …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Inside Jonestown: How Jim Jones Trapped Followers and Forced 'Suicides'

November 13, 2018 in History

By Lesley Kennedy

The 913 deaths in Guyana under cult leader Jim Jones were more mass murder than suicide.

In 1975, Rev. Jim Jones, the religious cult leader and civil rights activist, hinted at things to come. “I love socialism, and I’m willing to die to bring it about, but if I did, I’d take a thousand with me,” he said during a sermon at his Peoples Temple church in San Francisco. Just two years later, on Nov. 18, 1978, those words became reality when 913 people, one-third of them children, died during what would be known as the Jonestown Massacre, one of the worst mass killings in American history.

In 1977, Jones, the self-proclaimed “messiah” of his evangelical flock, led his followers to a remote jungle in Guyana to live in in the days after the massacre. He told the newspaper some drank the poisonous potion willingly, while it was forced upon others. “It just got all out of order,” he told the Post, adding that it took about five minutes for the cyanide to prove fatal. “Babies were screaming, children were screaming and there was mass confusion.”

All the while, Rhodes said, Jones was telling them they would “meet in another place” and chanted, “mother, mother, mother”—”an apparent reference to his wife who lay dead not far from the altar,” according to the Post. Jones died of a gunshot wound to the head.

Scheeres says a tape recording from the last night, “the so-called death tape,” had been edited dozens of times. “It is my belief that Jones was pausing and stopping the tape any time there was any disruption, any interruption or any time anyone was protesting what was happening,” she says. “He wanted the world to think this was some uniform decision, that they willingly killed themselves for socialism, to protest the inhumanity of capitalism—he gave various reasons for the mass death.

“It’s heartbreaking—you can hear him instructing parents, don’t tell your children they’re dying. It’s scaring them. You can hear the children at the beginning of the tape—murmuring, making kid noises in the background—and then you can hear kids screaming. You can hear them saying no. It’s a horrific scene. Which is why the whole ‘drinking the Kool-Aid’ saying is so odious and so completely wrong. A third of the people who died that night were minors …read more

Source: HISTORY

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First Wrecked Slave Ship Discovery Yields Brutal Details

November 13, 2018 in History

By Becky Little

The small, 340-ton São José-Paquete de Africa set out from Mozambique in December 1794. Even though the ship was no more than no more than 130 feet long (and probably closer to 100), the crew had packed 543 captive people aboard. The crew shackled them in place to prevent them from taking over the ship before it landed in Brazil, where they planned to sell them in the Portuguese colony’s thriving slave trade.

The crew “knew a certain number of people are probably going to die on the voyage, and to make it profitable they need as many people as possible,” says Jaco Boshoff, a maritime archeologist at the Iziko Museum in Cape Town and co-founder of the Slave Wrecks Project.

“People would literally have been squeezed up against one another,” he says. “The British eventually started chasing slave ships in the 19th century; and they mentioned that you could smell them a couple of miles away, from the stench of these poor people being squashed up together.”

But the ship never made it to Brazil. On December 27, the São José became stuck between two reefs in Cape Town’s Camps Bay. There, the ship broke to pieces, killing 212 of the captive people who’d spent the last three-and-a-half weeks in chains. That left 331 survivors, whom the crew sold to white farmers in South Africa, which was then under Dutch rule. After that, the ship remained lost at the bottom of the ocean until the 2015, when researchers with the Slave Wrecks Project announced they’d identified it.

READ MORE: The Last Slave Ship Survivor Gave an Interview in the 1930s. It Just Surfaced

The São José is likely the first discovered slave ship wreck that went down with captive people aboard, preserving pieces of shackles and barrels, and possibly biological clues about the people who died and where they came from. And the work’s not over yet. Researchers with the Slave Wrecks Project are still analyzing its remains to glean new information about the Portuguese ship, whose story holds historical importance for Europe, Africa and the Americas and highlights a shift in the Atlantic slave trade.

The São José set sail at the end of a century that had seen an explosion in the slave trade. Up until that point, most European and American slave ships <a target=_blank …read more

Source: HISTORY

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California Wildfires Have Been Fought by Prisoners Since World War II

November 13, 2018 in History

By Volker Janssen

The war had turned forestry work into a form of civil defense, and prisoners a new army on the home front.

When it comes to California’s natural disasters—fires, earthquakes, floods—a surprising cohort of first responders have served on the front lines since World War II: prison inmates.

While the idea of using prisoners for back-breaking, low-cost labor on road crews harks back to the late 19th century, the state of California first tapped inmates to fight brush and forest fires in 1942. After military conscription and war industries rapidly emptied the state’s forestry camps of able-bodied men serving in the New Deal’s Civilian Conservation Corps, the state forestry found itself in a manpower crunch. Worse, fire marshals predicted that bombing and ‘sabotage’ by Japanese Americans increased the risk of fires and could threaten crucial watersheds and food production in the area of various Army installations and ship-building plants.

Read here about how the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps, a New Deal program helped shape America’s national parks.

Opened in 1941 as the first minimum-security prison for men in the state, Chino prison, located 50 miles east of Los Angeles, stepped into the void. Together with the state forestry service, it established 14 forest camps over the course of the war. The first one opened on a 10-acre plot at Palomar Mountain in the Cleveland National Forest early in 1942. As of 2014, there were nearly 40 camps statewide, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection reports, with prisoners performing more than 3 million hours or more of emergency-response work annually. As the Golden State’s record wildfires increase, those numbers will likely rise.

Both black and white prisoners in California’s camp-conservation program would turn from public safety risks into first responders who saved not just fellow convicts, but civilians, guards and forestry personnel. Courtesy of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation

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The role has been a unique one. Participating inmate volunteers, who are pre-screened (no violent offenders or arsonists allowed) and trained, have worked mostly as laborers maintaining public lands. But they also have served increasingly as emergency responders to fires, floods, earthquakes and in search-and-rescue operations. In addition to pittance wages, inmates receive sentence reductions, work furloughs and a slightly greater sense of personal freedom, since shackles and armed guards are largely absent from the …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Kitten Mummies Found in Pyramid Were Likely Strangled by Priests

November 12, 2018 in History

By Becky Little

Archaeologists in Egypt have discovered dozens of mummified cats along with 100 wooden gilded statues of felines and a bronze statue of a cat goddess named Bastet. These artifacts were found inside the King Userkaf pyramid complex in the Saqqara necropolis, a famous burial ground for the ancient Egyptian capital of Memphis, the country’s Ministry of Antiquities announced.

Egyptians mummified millions of cats in the Late Period from 664 to 332 B.C.E. When British explorers pillaged Egypt in the 1890s, they shipped many of them home to use as fertilizer, even transporting 180,000 cat mummies on one ship. The recently discovered cat mummies were found in a tomb dating to the Fifth Dynasty of the Old Kingdom; apparently an instance of Egyptians reusing an old burial chamber, says Kara Cooney, a professor of Egyptian art and architecture at the University of California, L.A., who isn’t involved in the discovery.

Archaeologists in Egypt have discovered dozens of mummified cats along with 100 wooden gilded statues of felines and a bronze statue of a cat goddess named Bastet.

View the 4 images of this gallery on the original article

“Animal mummies are a really interesting Late Period phenomenon,” she says. “It’s something that shows up when temples in Egypt are forced to privatize.”

After the government pulled temples’ funding, these temples supported themselves through a system similar to the indulgences the Catholic church would establish centuries later. The temples told people they could get their messages or prayers to the gods if they bought physical effigies of the gods from them, imbued their messages in the effigies, and then gave them back to the temples to pass along their messages to the gods.

Many gods like Bastet had a feline form or features, and this led worshipers to buy, essentially, a lot of dead cats. Salima Ikram, a professor of Egyptology at the American University in Cairo, has demonstrated that many cat mummies died by strangulation.

“We don’t know all of the details of how this cult activity worked, but I would assume that the priests are the ones who are killing those cats,” Cooney says. “A lot of them are young kittens. So they’re breeding them in the temples, it seems, and then strangling them.”

In addition to the cat mummies and statues, archaeologists found statues and painted wooden sarcophagi depicting other animals: a lion, a cow, a falcon, cobras …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Thanksgiving History Facts and Trivia

November 12, 2018 in History

By Dave Roos

What did they eat at the first Thanksgiving? Which president made Thanksgiving a national holiday? Get Thanksgiving trivia to share around the table.


In Plymouth, Massachusetts, colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast in 1621 that is widely acknowledged to be one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations. But some historians argue that Florida, not Massachusetts, may have been the true site of the first Thanksgiving in North America. In 1565, nearly 60 years before Plymouth, a Spanish fleet came ashore and planted a cross in the sandy beach to christen the new settlement of St. Augustine. To celebrate the arrival, the 800 Spanish settlers shared a festive meal with the native Timucuan people.

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Thanksgiving may be America’s most beloved national holiday, but its history is all over the place. Even the details of the famous feast between the Plymouth Colony settlers and the Wampanoag Indians in November of 1621 are sketchy. The best account we have is a letter from English settler Edward Winslow that never mentions the word “Thanksgiving,” but tells of a weeklong harvest celebration that included a three-day celebration with King Massasoit and 90 Wampanoag men “so we might after a more special manner rejoice together.”

Over the centuries, that briefly-mentioned feast week has taken on a life of its own, with each generation adding its own take on the fall tradition. We’ve pulled together some little-known trivia so you have something to talk about (other than politics) around the Thanksgiving dinner table this November.

Where was the first Thanksgiving?

In Plymouth, Massachusetts, colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast in 1621 that is widely acknowledged as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations. But some historians argue that Florida, not Massachusetts, may have been the true site of the first Thanksgiving in North America. In 1565, nearly 60 years before Plymouth, a Spanish fleet came ashore and planted a cross in the sandy beach to christen the new settlement of St. Augustine. To celebrate the arrival and give thanks for God’s providence, the 800 Spanish settlers shared a festive meal with the native Timucuan people. Read more.

What did they eat at the first Thanksgiving?

The Thanksgiving meal in Plymouth probably had little in common with today’s traditional holiday spread. Although turkeys were indigenous, there’s no record of …read more

Source: HISTORY

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World War II Ends: 22 Photos of Giddy Celebrations After Allied Victory

November 9, 2018 in History

By Madison Horne

Soldiers and civilians let out a collective sigh of relief—and then celebrated—after Germany’s and then Japan’s surrender.


World War II was more destructive than any war before it. An estimated 45-60 million people lost their lives and millions more were injured. Here, Private Sam Macchia from New York City returns home, wounded in both legs, to his elated family.

View the 22 images of this gallery on the original article

World War II was more destructive than any war before it. During the six-year conflict, millions of people were injured, landmarks were destroyed and an estimated 45-60 million people lost their lives. Adolf Hitler‘s rise to power had spelled disaster for Germany and threatened anyone outside of his National Socialist Nazi party. Under Hitler’s sadistic rule, six millions Jews and millions of others had been murdered in the Holocaust.

When the war came to an end in 1945, it seemed the world released a sigh of relief to be rid of the pain and horrors. The beginning of the end started in the spring when German troops throughout Europe laid down their arms. On May 8, both Great Britain and the United States celebrated Victory in Europe Day, or V-E Day. Cities across the allied nations rejoiced in the defeat of Hitler and the Nazis with mass parades and celebrations.

Months later in the summer, the war would conclude with another Allied victory. President Harry Truman decided to take drastic measures to ensure the defeat of the Axis power that had originally drawn the United States into war with its attacks on Pearl Harbor. In early August 1945, the United States unleashed the devastating destruction of atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

By August 14, 1945, Japan had surrendered unconditionally to the Allies. This day became known as “Victory Over Japan Day,” or V-J Day. The term has also been used for September 2, 1945, when General Douglas MacArthur accepted Japan’s formal surrender aboard the U.S.S. Missouri, while anchored in Tokyo Bay.

While victory was in hand, many soldiers still had to wait to head home. It had taken four years to get the estimated 7.6 million troops overseas and it would take more than four months to get them back. But once troops set off to finally go home, …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Americans Were Shocked by Kristallnacht—But Their Outrage Soon Faded

November 9, 2018 in History

By Erin Blakemore

Brick-throwing mobs. Mass arrests. Torched synagogues. Broken glass. Between November 9 and 10, 1938, the pogrom now known as Kristallnacht resulted in the destruction of over 7,500 Jewish businesses, 1,000 synagogues, and any sense of security Jewish people in Germany and its territories felt in the face of Nazi rule and a growing tide of anti-Semitism.

Today, Kristallnacht is seen as the first act of what would eventually become the Holocaust. But did the world see the writing on the wall in 1938?

If you’d read an American newspaper in the days and weeks after the pogrom, you might have thought so. As news of the pogroms made its way to the United States, newspapers filled, first with descriptions of the violence, then with reactions that ranged from terrified to furious. “MOBS WRECK JEWISH STORES IN BERLIN,” shouted a typical headline from the Chicago Daily Tribune. “Nazi Mobs Riot in Wild Orgy,” reported the Los Angeles Times.

During Kristallnacht, a wave of pogroms that unfolded between November 9 and 10, 1938, anti-Semitic rioters terrorized Jews throughout Germany and its territories. Fire consumes this synagogue in Landau, Germany on the night of the attacks.

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Immediately, commentators and national leaders began to speak out against the violence—often with a call to common humanity. “The people outside Germany who still value tolerance, understanding and humanity can no more keep silent in the face of what has just taken place then they could in the face of any other barbarity,” wrote the Hartford Courant. “Not to express themselves would be a denial of their deepest instincts as civilized human beings.”

The New York Times agreed. The pogroms produced “scenes which no man can look upon without shame for the degradation of his species,” the newspaper wrote in an editorial. Meanwhile, religious leaders around the country spoke out against intolerance. They called attention to the anti-Semitism that had driven the attacks and called on their congregations to pray and support Jews in both Germany and the U.S.

But not everyone condemned the violence—or blamed it on anti-Semitism. The New York Daily News had a theory for why Germans were so eager to participate in the pillage: economic insecurity. “We think…Hitler can no longer control his people,” the newspaper wrote in an editorial, “he is losing his grip …read more

Source: HISTORY

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Why Did the Clovis People Mysteriously Vanish?

November 9, 2018 in History

By Becky Little

Ancient people of North America’s Clovis culture migrated to South America roughly 11,000 years ago, then mysteriously vanished, researchers have discovered.

In a new study, researchers analyzed DNA from 49 people living over a span of 10,000 years in Belize, Brazil, the Central Andes and southern South America. They found some of these people were genetically linked to people of the Clovis culture, one of the earliest archaeological cultures to extend throughout North America. Although archaeologists , in a Cell press release. “But it seems the expansion of the Clovis-associated lineage extended to parts of Central and South America.”

The researchers discovered that all 49 people in the study were descended from the migrants who crossed the Bering Strait into North America more than 15,000 years ago. Genetic distinctions between the people showed they’d traveled south in at least three different migration groups, one of which was the previously undocumented Clovis group.

In addition to discovering Clovis people in South America, researchers also found that these people disappeared from the continent about 9,000 years ago, and were replaced by people with different genetic ancestry. We don’t yet know why this happened, but the insight means archaeologists can start investigating.

“The large-scale population replacement is a process that was not widely expected by archaeologists,” said David Reich, a geneticist at Harvard Medical School and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute who co-authored the study, in the Cell press release. “This is an exciting example of how ancient DNA studies can reveal events in the past that were not confirmed and thus can stimulate new work in archaeology.”

Cell published the study the same week that Science published two other major studies about early people in the Americas. One of these identified the origins of Nevada’s 10,600-year-old “Spirit Cave Mummy.”

…read more

Source: HISTORY