Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Chapter Review: Was Rachel Jackson a Bigamist?

Unsolved Mysteries of American History by Paul Aron, Barnes and Noble Books, New York, 1997.
This chapter concludes that this is a true statement to a degree.  This was an accusation made while Jackson was running for president.  In the day when Andrew Jackson and Rachel Jackson became husband and wife laws were different.  Rachel was married previous, and to get a divorce took and act of Congress, at least state house.  Rachel's first husband was abusive, but there was not a way for her to get out.  Andrew Jackson took up as her defender.  And it appears they had become intimate long before any divorce could be granted, which reportedly the Jacksons thought had happened but hadn't.  At any rate, the friends of the Jackson, and the country folk where they lived had no problem with it.  The relationship between Rachel and Andrew was considered legitimate.  
Andrew won the election, but Rachel never served as first lady as she passed away before Andrew Jackson took over as president.  

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Chapter Review: How Did Cortez Conquer the Aztecs?

Unsolved Mysteries of American History by Paul Aron, Barnes and Noble Books, New York, 1997.
This chapter gives a pretty concise of the two-year struggle in which the Aztecs were defeated.  Hernan Cortez took his men on a non-sanctioned mission to Mexico to take the Aztec treasure.  On the way to the Aztec capitol city, Tenochtitlan, a city built in the middle of a lake, the gather allies from amongst those native indigenous people who were controlled by the Aztec, but historically were enemies.  Sometimes this involved small skirmishes, but by the time the Spanish force of 600 men arrived, they had numerous allies supporting them.  Add to this the confusion Montezuma had over the appearance of White forces.  The were confused because they had a legend about a White god returning to take his place as ruler.  This was enough to give Cortez a break, and the took Montezuma captive.  Controlling the ruler, the Spanish controlled the Aztecs, until the Aztecs became disillusioned with Montezuma.  They confronted him, and Montezuma attempted to calm him.  Instead the Aztecs started firing at him, and whether Montezuma was killed by the Aztecs, or the Spanish is not known, but he was of no further use to the Aztecs.  However without some kind of control, the Spanish were forced out of the city, suffering heavy casualties.  Many of the Spanish drowned with their pockets heavy with gold.  As they retreated they were met with another convoy of Spanish, sent by the Cuban governor to capture Cortez.  However Cortez and his men were able to kill the leader and instantly had many new recruits to continue their battle against the Aztecs.  They returned, and with their allies were able to take the city again, fighting house to house.  
This chapter does not mention the story about burning the boats presented by Andy Andrews.  In other study it appears this story is basically true.  However their are mixed ideas with regards to motive.  Cortez did spend considerable time with his men on the beach motivating them.  However some of the men were determine to return to Cuba as the new the mission was illegitimate.  It is not necessary that the boats were burned, but they were destroyed.  


Friday, March 24, 2017

Chapter Review: Where Did Columbus Land?

Unsolved Mysteries of American History by Paul Aron, Barnes and Noble Books, New York, 1997.
Some people, with their made up history, have accused Columbus as the culprit of everything bad thing that has happened over the past 500+ years, which is just nonsense.  Columbus was a man who embarked on a quest for a different route to India, and was willing to risk his reputation and life on that quest.   However, a more important question that where he landed, is what he thought about what he had found.  There are several islands that claim to be the spot of the first landing.  They are all in the Bahamas, and the historical record is so old, it is open to interpretation today.  Columbus never returned to the original landing site.  However a more interesting question is at what point did Columbus realize he had found something other than a route to India?  The debate here ranges from, Columbus always though he had found islands off the coast of India, v. his intention all along was to discover a new world.  What is certain is that two cultures collided, which collision caused terrible hardship for the Native Americans.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Chapter Review: Why Did Benedict Arnold Turn Traitor?

Unsolved Mysteries of American History by Paul Aron, Barnes and Noble Books, New York, 1997.
In the case of Benedict Arnold the primary motivation was greed.  Arnold had other grievances.  In fact he had been court marshaled, but cleared on most counts, however he had begun communicating with the British before this.  He also felt slighted in many instances.  He had directed several American military successes before joining the British.  However his major reason for turning was money.  He had a new wife he needed to support, and offered to surrender West Point to the British for money.   However the British officer with whom he was communicating was found out, and in turn so was Arnold.  The officer was hung, but Arnold escaped, leading troops for the British and eventually returning to England.  George Washington had given orders that Arnold was to be hung if caught.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Tales of the Wild West: Campfire Stories

Tales of the Wild West Vol. 12: Campfire Stories, by Rick Steber, illustrations by Don Gray, Bonanza Publishing, Prineville, Oregon, 1994.
This is just that, very short stories, for telling around the campfire.  Each story is one page only.  I am sure a lot of these stories are nothing more than imagination, however this little book also includes a half dozen Indian legends, and some of the stories are based on fact, giving different experiences that happened to people as they settled the West.  It is weighted to the Northwest, which is where the book was published.  It tells how man got fire, with coyote tricking Skookum (evil spirits) to get it from them.  It explains why the coyote has white on its tail, shy the squirrel's tail is crooked, and the frog has no tail.  Later it talks about Skookum lake, which later became Devil's lake when renamed.  There are also stories about the Oregon trail, and hardships on the way, as well as hardships faced by early settlers.  There is a military story, of a man who was thought dead in crossing the Isthmus of Panama, but a young lady saw he was alive and his life was saved just short of burial.  Another story where it appears that someone wasn't quite saved, and was buried alive.  (that kind of story just gives me the creeps; I can't stand the thought of being enclosed in such a way.)
I enjoy short stories, and these are pretty good, and they keep moving.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Chapter Review: Why did the Anasazi Abandon their Cities?

Unsolved Mysteries of American History by Paul Aron, Barnes and Noble, New York, 1997.
The Anasazi are the ancient people who were responsible for the building of the sites in Chaco Canyon, as well as Mesa Verde where they constructed cliff dwellings.  Pueblo Bonito was the largest apartment building in North America until the late 1800s.  It was five stories high.  However durable these buildings, the people abandoned these sites, Chaco Canyon by 1200, and the Mesa Verde sites by 1300.  So where did the people go?  You may thin they were conquered by another nation, but there is no evidence of a great battle or warfare. Weather conditions may have been a contributing factor.  Tree ring studies does show evidence of a drought.  However the answer may lie in a combination of factors.   Sometimes we think of the Anasazi as a distinct people that disappeared.  In fact they merged with other peoples.  The Anasazi live on in the Pueblo peoples of Arizona and New Mexico.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Chapter Review: Did Leif Ericsson Discover America?

Unsolved Mysteries of American History by Paul Aron, Barnes and Noble, New York, 1997.
I think we all pretty much accept that the Vikings visited North America in their travels.   Eric the Red had discovered Greenland, giving it a hopeful name in order to attract people to settle.  However Biarni Heriulfson first made it to North America, but was very unimpressed.  He did mention his find to Leif Ericsson, who was impressed with his story.  He went to establish the first non Native American settlement there and called in Vinland.  It wasn't until 1964 that evidence of an actual village was discovered.   This discovery included domestic items, which indicated their must have been women in the settlement.  However it didn't last long.  The natives were too inhospitable.  The mystery remains however that the site discovered is too far north for grapes to grow, thus belying the name of the city.  It could have been a rouse to encourage settlement, or the climate may have been more conducive to grapes at a past period, or there could be another site farther south.