History

Henry L. Benning Civil War Materials are now Available Online

The Digital Library of Georgia (DLG) announced the availability of the Henry L. Benning Civil War materials collection at http://dlg.galileo.usg.edu/CollectionsA-Z/ghlb_search.html.

Brigadiere General Henry L. Benning, CSA

Henry L. Benning was born in Columbia County, Georgia in 1814. After finishing first in his class at the University of Georgia in 1834, he moved to Columbus in 1835. There, he was admitted to the bar, married Mary Howard in 1839, and entered his father-in-law’s firm. In 1840, Benning lost a race for the General Assembly, but was later elected to the state Supreme Court in 1853. After Lincoln’s election, Benning became one of Georgia’s most vocal supporters for secession. During the war, he served as Colonel of the 17th Georgia Infantry in twenty-one engagements including Antietam, Gettysburg, and Chickamauga. By the beginning of 1863, Benning rose to the rank of brigadier general. His regiment was the first part of the Army of Northern Virginia under Robert E. Lee and later under Braxton Bragg in the Army of Tennessee. After the war, Benning returned to Columbus and resumed the practice of law, dying on his way to the court in 1875.

What Do Scotsmen Wear Under Their Kilts?

Here is the answer to the question you undoubtedly have often asked: What do Scotsmen wear under their kilts?

In a bit of investigative reporting, Ken Jennings has researched the topic and provided answers in his The Debunker column at: http://bit.ly/2CondTW.

I’ll leave the racier bits for you to find in Ken Jennings’ column. But I will say that I was interested to learn that “… the traditional Scottish kilt is a lot less traditional than you probably think. The original Highland plaid was the ‘great kilt,’ a belted piece of tartan worn as a cloak from the shoulders. The modern kilt only dates back to the turn of the 18th century, and sources from that era actually credit it to Thomas Rawlinson, an English industrialist!”

You can learn more about “going regimental” at: http://bit.ly/2CondTW.

Update: Was the Westford Knight also on Oak Island?

About a week ago, I published Was the Westford Knight also on Oak Island? at http://bit.ly/2Eq2c11. The article, and an earlier article from several years ago, describe what was then a future television program that introduced the topic of possible visits by medieval Knights Templar to North America in the 1300s, possibly even earlier. I also gave information about the date and time the program was to be broadcast.

This episode of The Curse of Oak Island has now been broadcast. However, if you missed it and if you would like to view the program, you can view it free of charge on The History Channel’s web site at: https://www.history.com/shows/the-curse-of-oak-island/season-5/episode-14. However, you will be asked to log in by using your user name and password used to access your cable provider’s web site. If you do not have such a user name and password, you will not be able to view the video.

Who Was Saint Valentine?

saint-valentineValentine’s Day is the second most popular holiday to send a card. The Greeting Card Association claims that an estimated one billion cards are sent each year. Yet, most of the people who send the cards have no idea who Saint Valentine was. Even historians cannot agree.

According to some authorities, there were two Valentines. One was a priest and doctor who was martyred in the year 269, and the other was the bishop of Terni, who was brought to Rome to be tortured and executed in 273. Others say it was the same person. Both men (or the same man) have legends attributed to them concerning love and matrimony, legends that may or may not be true.

They Considered Themselves White, but DNA Tests Told a More Complex Story

How well do you know your ancestry? As more Americans take advantage of genetic testing to pinpoint the makeup of their DNA, the technology is coming head to head with the country’s deep-rooted obsession with race and racial myths. This is perhaps no more true than for the growing number of self-identified European Americans who learn they are actually part African.

An article by Tara Bahrampour in the Washington Post points out that many Americans are unaware of their own racial heritage. The article states, “…a 2014 study of 23andMe customers found that around 5,200, or roughly 3.5 percent, of 148,789 self-identified European Americans had 1 percent or more African ancestry, meaning they had a probable black ancestor going back about six generations or less.”

Beauty Secrets of Our Ancestors

This is an advertisement from the 1902 Sears Roebuck catalog. The ad promises that Dr. Rose’s French Arsenic Complexion Wafers “possesses the ‘Wizard’s Touch’ in producing, preserving and enhancing beauty of form and person in male and female by surely developing a transparency and pellucid clearness of complexion, shapely contour of form, brilliant eyes, soft and smooth skin, where by nature, the reverse exists.”

Note: I had to look up the word “pellucid.” It means:

translucently clear.
mountains reflected in the pellucid waters”
synonyms: translucent, transparent, clear, crystal clear, crystalline, glassy, limpid, unclouded, gin-clear
“the pellucid waters”

Very white skin was all the rage at the time, mostly amongst women. Prospective buyers of Dr. Rose’s French Arsenic Complexion Wafers were led to believe that regular use of the wafers would make even the ugliest person beautiful by clearing up any facial “disfigurements” and even softening angular features. And of course, the buyer was repeatedly assured that this particular dose of arsenic was completely safe.

In fact, the wafers apparently worked well but had one serious side effect: they often killed people.

A Digital Project is Underway to Recreate Ireland’s Public Record Office Destroyed by Fire in 1922

A project is under way to digitally recreate the building and contents of the Public Record Office of Ireland, which were destroyed by an explosion and fire at Dublin’s Four Courts in 1922. The six-story Victorian building went up in flames on 30 June 1922 during the Civil War. Seven centuries of Ireland’s historical and genealogical records were lost, seemingly forever.

However, thanks to new technology, historical research and careful archival practise, Trinity College Dublin says these losses “are not irrecoverable”. The “Beyond 2022: Ireland’s Virtual Record Treasury” project will see the creation of a virtual reality reconstruction of the Public Record Office.

Was the Westford Knight also on Oak Island?

Subtitle: Was the Westford Knight also on Oak Island, Nova Scotia, with other Knights Templar in the Year 1398? Watch the History Channel to Learn More.

Are you aware that a number of Europeans were in North American many years before Christopher Columbus’ voyage in 1492? You might want to set your video recorder to the History Channel next Tuesday evening, February 13, 2018, at 9pm Eastern Time, 8pm Central, to learn about a fascinating story concerning some early travelers to North America. You can check your local listings for The History Channel to see broadcast times in your area.

“The Curse of Oak Island” is an ongoing television series that has been broadcast on the History Channel for several years now. It shows the multi-year efforts to find a mysterious buried treasure on a rather small island on the south shore of Nova Scotia, Canada. There have been various legends passed down throughout the years concerning Oak Island. I vaguely remember reading about this mystery in a magazine article back when I was about 12 years old although my memory of it is rather fuzzy. In those days, I was a big fan of stories about buried pirate treasures. I guess I never grew up; I still am interested in pirates and buried treasure and similar topics. I think I have seen every episode of “The Curse of Oak Island.” My cable TV recorder is set to record every episode in case I am not home. I find it to be a fascinating story.

“The Curse of Oak Island” has described many theories about the possibility of treasure on the island. To quote the History Channel’s description:

The Food of Our Ancestors: Surströmming

Feeling hungry? Want to eat something that your ancestors enjoyed? How about Surströmming?

According to Wikipedia, Surströmming has been part of northern Swedish cuisine since at least the 16th century. However, it wasn’t confined to only Sweden. Also known as the Baltic herring, Surströmming was eaten by many people in the Baltic countries. Fermented fish is an old staple in European cuisines. The oldest archeological findings of fish fermentation are 9,200 years old and from the south of today’s Sweden.

In short, Surströmming is preserved herring. The Baltic herring is a bit smaller than the normal Atlantic herring found in the North Sea. Traditionally, the definition of strömming is “herring fished in the brackish waters of the Baltic north of the Kalmar Strait.” The herring used for surströmming are caught just prior to spawning.

A New Fad Sweeps the Country in the 1870s

We all know about popular fads: the hula hoops of the fifties, the pet rocks of the sixties, and body-piercing jewelry of the present time. The young people generally embrace fads with open arms while older generations wring their hands and wonder what the younger generation is coming to. However, we generally do not think about fads in the times of our ancestors. A quick bit of historical study shows that our ancestors were just as enthusiastic about new ideas and fashions as are any of their descendants. Some of these fads had far-reaching effects on future generations. In fact, some of us might not be here today had it not been for one of these fads.

One item that we take for granted today is the bicycle. Yet this two-wheeled device was all the rage when first introduced in the late 1870s. To be sure, two-wheel conveyances had been invented much earlier but were rarely seen. In 1790, Frenchman Chevalier de Sivrac conceived the idea of a crude form of a bicycle, consisting of a wooden beam with wheels attached below each end. It had no pedals; the rider pushed along the ground with his feet. It had no steering capability. Even worse, it had no seat. The rider simply sat on the beam. Apparently de Sivrac built only one of these, and it was soon relegated to a storage shed. Later models improved on the earlier design with a cushioned seat of some sort. In 1813, Baron Charles de Drais of Saurbrun, Germany, introduced a bicycle that was similar to Sivrac’s model but with a swivel head to aid steering.

MyHeritage CEO Gilad Japhet Tells the Stories of His Ancestors Who Were Victims of the Holocaust

In honor of International Holocaust Memorial Day, commemorated on Saturday, MyHeritage’s CEO and Founder, Gilad Japhet, wrote a very personal blog post in dedication of his family and others who perished in the Holocaust. He wrote the article in memory of his ancestors who were victims of one of the most tragic human experiences this world has ever witnessed.

Japhet writes, “My passion to learn more about my Chwojnik ancestors was key to my personal interest in genealogy, which began when I was 13 years old.”

Almost all genealogists attempt to learn of the difficulties and successes of their relatives. Those of us with families who were not affected by the Holocaust have difficulty understanding the horrors that other families endured. Gilad Japhet’s blog post helps provide some understanding of those terrible years. You can read his words in the MyHeritage Blog at: http://bit.ly/2rLjgbB.

Why the British Decided to Send Convicts to Australia in 1788

I am sure all the Australians know this story already, but The Telegraph has published an article for the rest of us.

January 26 is celebrated as Australia Day because on that day in 1788 British settlers arrived on Australian shores for the first time. The anniversary has become an annual opportunity for the country to show its national pride.

The First Fleet of convicts departs Portsmouth, England, bound for Australia

Irish Revolution Archives to go Online

The letters, official documents, secret military orders, and other papers from figures in Ireland’s political and military revolution are to be made available online.

A project to digitise some of the most important manuscript collections held in the National Library of Ireland (NLI) will mean the documents are easily accessible to researchers and others interested in the history of the period that led to Irish independence.

Vintage Photographs and Letters, and Other Documents from Rockford, Illinois are now Available Online

Rockford’s Midway Village Museum often is asked for photos to help history buffs for family trees, business research, and school projects. Previously, you would have needed an appointment. Now, 1,700 of the most popular historic images and documents are being digitized and uploaded by the museum’s staff for your viewing.

The online collection includes photos captured on rare glass-plate negatives, early 20th century postcards of Rockford, as well as digital images of numerous documents and letters. The items include: Civil War letters sent by local soldiers, transcripts from interviews done in 2007 with immigrants to Rockford and their children, and images related to the Rockford Peaches.

Early Delaware Burials Discovered in Archaeological Dig

An archaeological study years in the making has revealed a wealth of new information about some of Delaware’s earliest colonial settlers and shed new light on what life would have been like in the region three centuries ago.

The discovery of numerous artifacts as well as 11 well-preserved burial sites dating to the late 1600s fills in gaps in Delaware’s early history, telling the story of the colonists’ physical health, diet, family life, and how they made their living. Three of the burials, one a young child, were determined to be of African descent, constituting the earliest known discovery of remains of enslaved people in Delaware.

Did the Norse Visit Maine centuries before Columbus’ Voyages?

We already know the Vikings visited and settled for a while at L’Anse aux Meadows, in Newfoundland. Is it possible they also travelled further south along the coast, visiting what is now a part of the United States?

An article by Sarah Laskow in the Atlas Obscura web site describes the discovery in 1956 of a Norse penny, made in medieval Scandinavia. But 60 years after the discovery, archaeologists and numismatic experts are still asking how in the world this small, worn coin got to Maine. Was it carried by Vikings around the year 1100? Or did it arrive centuries later?

Abbot-Downing’s Concord Coaches

I have long had an interest in Abbot-Downing Concord Coaches, probably the most popular brand of stagecoach ever produced in the United Sates. Judging by the e-mail that I have received from a short mention in a previous article, it looks like many people are interested in these old stagecoaches. I thought I would write a bit about these important transportation methods in American history.

If you ever see one, you should realize that you are looking at history.

In the 1800s and very early 1900s, the Abbot-Downing Company of Concord, New Hampshire, built more than 3,000 of these stagecoaches and then sold them all over the United States. Properly called Abbot-Downing Coaches, a few were even shipped to New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa.

“A Date Which Will Live in Infamy”

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on December 7, 1941, stunned virtually everyone in the United States. Pearl Harbor was totally unprepared. 353 Japanese planes mounted a surprise assault on American naval forces stationed in Hawaii. The attack killed 2,403 United States personnel, injured 1,178, drew the United States into World War II, and altered the course of history forever.

President Franklin Roosevelt quickly addressed Congress to ask for a declaration of war. This action was soon followed by declaration of war with Germany and, soon after, with Italy.

Today is the appropriate time to pause and reflect on the events of 76 years ago today. Let us vow to never again allow any nation ever catch us unprepared.

100 Years Ago Today the Halifax Explosion nearly destroyed Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

On the morning of 6 December 1917, the SS Mont-Blanc, a French cargo ship laden with high explosives left the dock in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and headed for Bordeaux, France. The explosives were destined to be used by the French military in World War I. At 8:45 AM, the SS Mont-Blanc collided with the Norwegian vessel SS Imo in the Narrows, a strait connecting the upper Halifax Harbour to Bedford Basin. A fire broke out on the French cargo ship. 20 minutes after the collision, at 9:04:35 am, the SS Mont-Blanc exploded.

The blast destroyed both ships along with most of the Richmond district of Halifax. Approximately 2,000 people were killed, about 500 of them children, by the blast or by flying debris, fires or collapsed buildings. An estimated 9,000 others were injured.

The Halifax Explosion was one of the worst disasters in North American history. It was the largest man-made explosion prior to the development of nuclear weapons, releasing the equivalent energy of roughly 2.9 kilotons of TNT.

The Truth You’ve Never Heard About Plimoth Colony and the First Thanksgiving

The Thanksgiving story you know probably goes a bit like this: English Pilgrims, seeking religious freedom, landed in Plymouth, Massachusetts, where they found a rich land full of animals and were greeted by a friendly Indian named Squanto, who taught them how to plant corn.

The true story is more complicated. Once you learn about the real Squanto — also known as Tisquantum — you’ll have a great yarn to tell your family over the Thanksgiving table.

How is it that Squanto knew how to speak perfect English when the Pilgrims arrived?