The History Thread (Greg's Trivia Thread)


Another short post but it’s the 181st anniversary of Andrew Jackson’s cheese party and everyone should know that.


UPDATE: So I went to a bar and figured since it’s Big Block of Cheese Day I should celebrate with an Old Hickory cocktail. It consists of one part sweet vermouth and one part dry vermouth. It is said to be what General Jackson drank when he was in New Orleans fighting the British. I’m not sure about the economics of alcohol in 1814 New Orleans but I think Andy could have saved some money and gotten the same flavor by buying wine that had gone bad.


That… That sounds just awful.

I hope he’s saved by some esoteric fact about how sweet and dry vermouth tasted different in those days.


I’m skeptical of the recipe. I couldn’t find primary or secondary sources verifying that Jackson drank the cocktail. It seems to just be urban myth around New Orleans. It may just be a vermouth peddler’s attempt to sell product that caught on and turned into part of the Jackson myth.


I’ve mixed 50/50 dry and sweet vermouth and found it ok (I’m not a huge fan of dry vermouth, really).

I’m pretty sure I got the idea from searching for “how do I use all this dry vermouth”.


Unrelated to alcohol or Andrew Jackson, today I learned the source of the great quote “Prussian monarchy is not a country which has an army, it is an army which has a country,” and it was an aide to Frederick the Great in the Seven Years War named Georg Heinrich Baron Horst.


Duke has a March Madness of Presidents going on. You can fill out a bracket and there’s still time to submit I think.

Here’s mine. The President at the bottom left of the bracket who got beat by Jimmy Carter is Thomas Jefferson. I think WHH, Carter, and Coolidge all got way further in my bracket than most people’s

Also, can we update the thread title?


I reuploaded my John Brown’s Body cover. Give it a listen for Confederate Heritage Month.


Can an admin please change the thread title back to The History Thread (Greg’s Trivia Thread)?


Done (fifteen stupid characters)


So during the Civil War a Confederate slave could make more than a black Union soldier. Here’s the details.

So I think I’ve talked about Robert Smalls before but if not here’s an overview of what’s relevant: Smalls was a South Carolinian slave during the Civil War who commandeered a Confederate steamer and delivered it to Union forces, securing his freedom by escaping to the North and a hefty paycheck for delivering the planter.

Now, weird part: The ship Smalls commandeered was the Planter, a steamer owned not by the Confederate navy but by a Scottish immigrant named John Ferguson and leased to the CSA naval forces. It was Ferguson who paid much of the crew and he hired Smalls as a “wheelman” (a term for pilot used exclusively for black people) paying him $16 a month. Smalls likely wouldn’t have supported the Confederacy for any amount of money if he had the choice, but he was a slave (something that’s easy to forget when discussing wages) and did what his owner, an apparent Confederate named Henry McKee, ordered him to.

Now, why is this weird? Because eight months after Smalls brought the Planter to the Union the Emancipation Proclamation would be signed allowing the Massachusetts 54th Regiment to be formed completely of black soldiers. An act of Congress capped they pay for these Union soldiers at $13 a month (War Secretary Edwin Stanton threatened to take the matter to the courts, where he had a great track record, but for once his threats were empty). A cheap district commander would lower this to 7 dollars when the Regiment reached South Carolina.

So, in short, Robert Smalls made more than twice as much when he was a slave in the Confederacy than he would have had he joined the Union army. By the time of the Emancipation Proclamation he had already secured a non-combatant job in the Union navy making $40 a month defusing mines in the Charleston Harbor, but the juxtaposition is strange and painful.


Here’s your Memorial Day reading. For July 4th 1845, on the eve of war with Mexico, state Senator Charles Sumner was invited to give a speech for the patriotic occasion. His speech lambasted the very notion that any human was superior to another because of nationality and laid waste to the premise of war and the military. Here’s an excerpt from page 17.

“War is utterly ineffectual to secure or advance the object at which it aims. The misery which it excites, contributes to no end, helps to establish to right, and therefore, in no respect determines justice between the contending nations”

This is also the speech where Sumner covers his ass about any possible failings he could have in his career (though at the time he couldn’t have known he’d be significant enough that I’d be obsessing over him in 2018) when he writes “It is often said, ‘let us not be wiser than our fathers.’ Rather let use try to excel our fathers in wisdom. Let us imitate what in them was good, but let us not bind ourselves as in the chains of Fate, by their imperfect example" (27). It’s reminiscent of George Washington’s Farewell Address, specifically the part that’s in Hamilton where he says "I am unconscious of intentional error, I am nevertheless too sensible of my defects not to think it probable that I may have committed many errors.” But while Washington merely admits he might’ve screwed up here and there, Sumner takes it one step further and encourages future generations to disregard his defects. Of course, unlike Washington, Sumner had an impeccable moral compass marred only by his dubious effectiveness as a statesman.

The full speech is available here. It’s 79 pages so I’m kind of astonished people sat through the whole thing but I guess there wasn’t much else to do in 1845.