Written In Blood History

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There are exactly three musicals that I actually like. The Phantom of the Opera is one of them. As my wife is very used to by now, when Autumn rolls around, I start playing the Phantoms ominous music. Its sort of a childhood tradition. For some reason during the days leading up to Halloween, my mom used to blast the 1986 version on the living room speakers. So, I suppose its learned behavior.It’s as much a part of Halloween for me as Dracula. And frankly, I think the Phantom is creepier.I was fortunate enough to see The Phantom of the Opera live in Toronto when I was ten years old – and I’ll never forget it because it scared the crap out of me. As soon as the lifeless body of the murdered stagehand came swinging down from the rafters in a noose, I knew this was a different kind of show.So for this Halloween season, my favorite season of the year, I wondered if perhaps I could do an Almost Episode of the inspiration behind the novel. I’ve always heard that the author claimed it was based on a true story, but I had never actually looked into it. I was pleasantly surprised with what I found. Hopefully you will be too. So close your eyes, start a journey to a strange new world, as we discover the real story behind the music of the night, in this Almost Episode: Finding the Phantom.
Welcome everyone to season 2 of Written in Blood History, now part of the Evergreen Podcast Network. I am truly grateful and honored to have you as a listener. Your continued listenership gives me the motivation to keep this little hobby of mine up, one which I thoroughly enjoy.Today’s subject is one that I had on the docket for season one but kept getting postponing. Whenever I pick a biographical subject to do a show on, I need to be able to relate to them on some level. Otherwise the passion just isn’t there for me. Other history podcasters can do any subject any time, anywhere, and that’s great. But it’s just not how I work.Our subject today was a slave of the American South before and during the civil war. And so, what could I, a white guy of 100% western-European origin relate to with a chattel slave of the south? How could I possibly do justice to his story? I take this very seriously because, even though this is just a simple little history podcast, these people were real people. Its out of respect for the dead that I try to present them in a way I think they would have liked to be presented, while staying factual and reasonable at the same time.Put simply, I was intimidated by the thought of doing a bio on someone that I just had no way of relating to, and without a solid cross section of experience, I was quite sure my attempt would fall short.But it turns out this slave and I do have something in common. And it’s something that was right in front of my face throughout the entire research phase. I simply failed to recognize it.And so, without further filibustering from me, I present to you the first subject of season 2, and he is an awesome one, Robert Smalls: Born a Man.
I’ll keep this short since this isn’t really a history episode, but more of a transition from season one to season two. I went into this thing with very little idea of how long I would be doing it, or even exactly who I would be covering. It began with my interest in genealogy, which is why many of my early episodes have somewhat of a pedigree connection to me. And I still have more of those episodes planned actually.But since the first episode was well received, and since I enjoyed doing a history podcast so much, I decided to expand into other historical figures, whose stories, I felt deserved to be told in a way that I wanted to hear them.Then I hit up my sister who happens to be a graphic artist and she started producing the kickass cover art that runs with each episode. Soon I began including the Almost Episodes as a way of publishing something of value on a more frequent basis, plus I just had so many stories that I wanted to tell that either didn’t have enough meat for a full episode, or weren’t specifically biographies.
If this is your first time listening, you may want to go back and start with Part I of Patton, which bring you up to speed into the peace time era between world wars where Part II picks up.Oh, and by the way, the subject of this episode was blunt and at times vulgar and insensitive person by today’s standards. Because I will be quoting him, it should be expected that there will be some rough language. So, this is an official language warning. While I try to avoid being gratuitous, I don’t want to present a false image of the subject either. If this type of language is a problem for you, then now is the time to tune out.For everyone else, I’m not going to spend much time here with an intro, other than a reminder to turn your volume up for Dario’s expertly crafted versions of The Overture of 1812, it’s a piece of music as epic as the man we are learning about. That man is Patton: The Force Multiplier. Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/writteninbloodhistory)
I cannot believe I have gotten to this point in the podcast, but this is my 12th full length monthly episode. This episode completes an entire year of Written in Blood History. I am not going to get all sappy on you in this intro. That will all come later. Right now, I need to introduce my final subject of season 1.Oh, and by the way, the subject of this episode was blunt and at times vulgar and insensitive person by today’s standards. Because I will be quoting him, it should be expected that there will be some rough language. So, this is an official language warning. While I try to avoid being gratuitous, I don’t want to present a false image of the subject either. If this type of language is a problem for you, then now is the time to tune out.Imagine if you had someone as prolific in battle as Alexander the Great or Julius Caesar, who lived in the twentieth century – with all the information that would be available on their life, there’s simply no way you could contain it all in a roughly 1 hour podcast. That the problem with doing an episode on Patton. He served in not one but two world wars, not to mention many other escapades. With the overwhelming amount of information on this guy, it decided that it need to be split into two parts. Don’t worry, you’re not going to have to wait a whole month to hear the second part, I only delay part two by about a week. Besides being my first two parter, another really awesome part of these episode is the orchestra music that my music guy Dario worked out. He took Tchaikovsky’s Overture of 1812 and abridged it into a few smaller versions for me to use as bumper music. He killed it.The 1812 overture was a piece I listened to over and over again while writing this episode. And so I couldn’t be more thrilled thar I get to use it to book end the life of Patton.And so, enough of my rambling. Turn your volume up as get thrown into the life experiences of Patton: The Master of the Sword.Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/writteninbloodhistory)
Imagine for a moment you’re at funeral of a beloved uncle, one of those guys who knew a ton of people, resulting in a massive who’s who of attendees. Then imagine yourself amongst all your other cousin’s and uncles, and other not so distant relatives. Usually something of a cathartic experience amid sadness, right?But now introduce some family drama into the mix. Let’s say there’s some history between you and a few other members. Makes this gathering a bit more uncomfortable, right? But I’m not done. How about your all unimaginable rich and each have enormous standing armies with hundreds of thousands of men. On top of that, all of you know that someone in the near future is going to start a war – but no one know who. Though there are some prime suspects. So much for the funeral – this quaint little family gathering has turned into something far more consequential. Something far more explosive. The event I’m trying to relate is exactly what this Almost Episode is about. Or better, its about the men who posed for perhaps the most ominous photo ever taken in human history. These men are The Nine. Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/writteninbloodhistory)
Before I dive into the prologue here I want to ask you for a favor. If you have been listening to this little podcast and have enjoyed its content, and feel it has been worth a dollar a month, would you be so kind as to become a patron of the show? I am fairly certain that I will never, ever have formal adds on the show. I think the content discussed here is just too serious. But alas, it isn’t free to produce. There are audio hosting fees, website fees, production costs, plus I have to purchase at least one book per episode typically. This is a passion-hobby for me, so I’ll probably keep this up no matter what, as long as people seem to be interested. But it would be nice if I could at lease get to about cost neutral territory. To be completely transparent – that number is roughly $100 a month.To become a patron, you can find the link on my website at writteninbloodhistory.com, or go to patreon.com/writteninbloodhistory. As a bonus to your patronage you get a shout out that the next episode I record, as well as sneak peeks at what I’m working on and early access to episode. For those of you who are already patrons, Courtney, Kara, Joni & Mike, Peter, and Erin… I can’t thank you enough.OK, that’s my sale pitch… on with the show. Most people, I think, know that Tolkien fought in World War I at the Somme. But I think way less of us can speak with any intelligence about the battle of the Somme itself. So many of the World War I battles resemble each other, bearing all the hallmarks of trench warfare. Ever since Dan Carlin’s Blueprint for Armageddon (which is amazing and if you haven’t listened to it you haven’t truly lived), ever since then, I’ve possessed a morbid fascination with World War I. And I’ve always wanted to do an episode on Tolkien. And so, the Somme provides me with both opportunities.What is it about the world given to us by Tolkien? Its fantasy fiction, but that term doesn’t seem to define it well enough. Tolkien, if I may be so bold, would say that his works, like other great mythology is truth – truth insofar as his tales transmit truth. And, on another level, his stories are something of a biography of the author, and therefore true in another way as well.And so, as I always try my damndest to do in this little history show – I’m going to attempt to relate to you the fabric of the man: who he was, what he believed, what he wanted, what he loved and hated, and how all of his experiences were distilled into a body of work that exists in a class of its own. I present to you, Tolkien: Myth-maker in the Somme.Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/writteninbloodhistory)
Before I dive into this Almost Episode, I need to give a shout out to my excellent brother-in-law, Walter. Walter has very generously become my newest patron for the show. And so, as a patron, he gets this shout out, as well as early access to episodes and behind the scenes research I am diving into.For just a buck a month, you too can be like Walter and help me offset the production values of this show such as hosting fees and the cost to obtain research material. To become a patron, you can go to patreon.com/writteninbloodhistory.The following story is one of those freak, and yet totally avoidable disasters. With perhaps just a little but more attention to engineering limitations, a better man in charge, a tad municipal oversight, and a bit more concern for the lives of the poor in Boston, this would never have become one of the most bizarre disaster stories in history. But, like a toddler touching a hot stove, sometimes mankind must burn itself before it learns a lesson. And even then, we don’t always learn our lesson. If any of you have ever seen the movie Jumanji, you might remember when one of the characters turns to Robin Williams and says, a little water never hurt anybody. To which Robin Williams says, yeah but a lot could kill you. The same, as you will soon find out, applies to molasses, in the Boston Molassacre. Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/writteninbloodhistory)
The American War for Independence was my first historical love. When diving into the details of the war, it doesn’t take long to discover all the near misses, and all the opportunities for alternative history. Washington’s coat riddled with bullet holes, Benedict Arnold’s nearly successful plan to sink the entire war effort, the battle of Trenton New Jersey, the arrival of the Baron Von Steuben at Valley Forge, the fog that saved the army escaping New York, the Capture of General Charles Lee, the death of Doctor Warren, the French entering the war. All these things: had a bullet been one inch to the left, or had the wind picked up, or had any one the pivotal men or women not been in a certain place at a certain time – who knows how things would have played out. I have at least one ancestor who fought at Lexington and Concord, John Bosworth – who would have been about 24 at the time. He like so many at the time was a member of the Massachusetts militia and answered the alarm that the British were marching to seize their weapons.A little more than a decade ago whilst doing research on my ancestor I came across the writings of a British officer who not only was in the battle but wrote vivid accounts of what it was like. His letters do a wonderful thing… they give us a very human side of the enemy combatant in a battle that has taken on mythological proportions due to the poems and paintings depicting hard-nosed patriot farmers standing up for their rights against a tyrant king hell-bent on subduing them. They’re not exactly wrong, its just not the complete picture.And so, with this episode, to the extent that a non-historian and amateur podcaster can, I’m going to attempt to paint a more or less complete picture of the battle through the eyes of a British officer, Hugh Percy: Kicking the Hornet’s Nest.Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/writteninbloodhistory)
Before I get going here I need to give a shout out to Erin from Northwest Indiana. She recently signed up to be a patron of the show, and so not only will she be listening to this episode a few days earlier than its official release, she is also owed this particular shout out. Erin, thank you so much – I continue to be amazed that people find my voice tolerable. To learn more about the shows patreon page visit patreon.com/writteninbloodhistory.I am in fact recording this episode exactly 40 years to the day after the events I’m about to describe. I have, for as long as I can remember been somewhat obsessed with tornadoes, and so likewise have long been familiar with what happened in Grand Island, Nebraska. When I began to research if there was enough material to use for the show, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the 40th anniversary was nigh. And so, it was officially added to the lineup.Despite my aforementioned obsession, I likewise acknowledge that tornadoes are probably the most terrifying force of nature in existence. They can upend people’s lives in just a few seconds. And so, I think its important that I curb my fascination with a recognition of their terrible reality that was experienced to the fullest by the people of Grand Island. And so, I’d like to dedicate this episode to the people of Grand Island, especially those were there on that horrible night, to the heroes and first responder, as well as the ordinary citizen who risked their lives for their neighbors, all who, mere hours after the last tornado lifted, immediately began the sorrowful process of rebuilding. All of you how have within you a bravery that I cannot fathom, and it’s my hope that I have done justice to your deeds, and kept the memory of that night alive, in this almost episode called Supercell Over Grand Island.
I go into these stories with a great deal of ignorance. What I thought would be a biography of a man became a biography of a city. When I first heard of Orban, he seemed like an endlessly fascinating and unbelievably consequential biographical subject. However, except for his brief yet significant appearance on the world stage, almost nothing is known about him.And so, since I have no points to make, no arguments to win, and no over arching narrative to weave with this little history show, I simply let the subjects take me where they will. In researching Orban, he took me on a journey of learning about one of the most cataclysmic events in the history of mankind. Many may know the story of the fall of Constantinople, others may simply know only that it fell to the Ottomans at some point in history – count me in the latter category. But I think few people have had the opportunity to view the street view mode of its fall, and what it looked like for the individuals involved. Author and historian Roger Crowley grants us a magnificent glimpse of these events. A history podcaster could not ask for a finer source.And so, let’s learn a little about the greatest city ever built, and the man who brought not only brought about its demise, but changed the world forever, Orban: Taker of the City.Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/writteninbloodhistory)
I need to start off by saying thank you to my very cool brother in law, Peter for becoming a show patron. By being a patron he get’s exclusive access to what I’m working on in the background, research material and the like. And Peter’s dollar a month helps me pay the bills for the podcast as well as purchase more research material for me to consume, digest and turn into more episodes.So, Peter, thank you.I need to give another thank you to Ben at the Thugs and Miracles podcast, he gave me a most excellent and thoughtful shoutout in his last episode. As I was going through my rolodex of potential “Almost Episode” candidates, I was struggling to find something a little bit lighter that might bring a smile to all our faces. Judging by my line up, I seem to be naturally drawn to the macabre: slavery, genocide, rebellion, cannibalism are all reoccurring themes. But I found one that I think will work. It has a humorous element to it and since it’s about a Roman emperor, it pairs nicely with my biography on Arminius which was released earlier this month. In a way it also transitions into the subject of next month’s episode too, but stay tuned for more on that.So now, for the latest Almost Episode: The Emperor Plays Chicken.Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/writteninbloodhistory)
The following story is one that was forgotten, and then rediscovered. When the writings of Roman historian Tacitus were found in the 15th century – this “David VS Goliath” tale was among them.The principle sources are a few different Roman historians, some contemporary, some a few decades to a few centuries later. None were present for these events. So, while I’ll recount the events in what is the generally accepted narrative, keep in mind we’re dealing with non-primary sources here. Nonetheless, the Roman historians have another, more recent source that seems to back up their stories quite well.Archaeology.My principle source is the archaeologist Peter S. Wells. The ongoing discoveries buried beneath 2000 years of soil are with out a doubt the most comprehensive and affirmative evidence that tells us what in the hell happened to the 20,000 Roman legions in the dark forests of Germany.As I said, it’s a “David and Goliath” story, and our Goliath is the Roman Empire, fresh off the victorious conquest of Gall, and shrewdly run by Caesar Augustus. But when this perfect military machine comes face to face with an act of perfect betrayal, the subject of our story will show the world that even Rome can bleed.Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/writteninbloodhistory)
I want to be careful in explaining the reason for this episode at this time. This subject of this episode is the master storyteller Orson Welles – but more specifically, it’s about something he did that made him both famous, and infamous. He convinced a fair number of people that the world was ending. And he did it with a fake news broadcast. In our present situation with the Covid-19 virus bringing earthly activity to a halt, and almost everyone glued to social media and cable news for the latest scraps of information, I think it might be a good time to start taking stock about what we put in our own heads. There are so many information competitions right now and our environment being as tense as it is – it’s easy to get frothed up in things that may or may not be true.To be clear, as of the recording of this episode I do not believe that the corona virus is fake news, overblown, or some sort of conspiracy. I believe self-quarantining is an acceptable method (albeit eerie existence) of slowing down infection rates.Nonetheless it’s not hard to find hysterical theories or predictions, or blatant and extreme political bias – we are living through a moment in history were where keeping one’s cool is of paramount importance, and so we need to take care to keep these things from entering our psyche.So, in the spirit of learning from the past to inform the future, and keeping calm in the face of terrifying news, I present to you The Livestream That Ended the World.
The episode you’re about to hear has a lot of quoted oratory in it, which not only makes my job a little easier, but it is also probably more pleasing to your ear since the subject was infinitely better with words than I could ever pretend to be. It’s actually quite fun to have a great orator as a biography subject… I get to relish in the speeches. My subject in this episode was a man born for a different time. And when you listen to his speeches, you get the sense that he knew this about himself. Nonetheless, he knew his mission, or vocation in life almost from the day he was born and was singularly focused on it until the day he died.So dedicated to the cause of his country he was that there’s no evidence that this otherwise, young, hansom, educated, eloquent and very eligible bachelor ever had a romantic interest, which have led to speculations about his sexuality that I think are inappropriate to entertain since there’s just no information about this personal part of his life.Others have wondered if he was on the autism spectrum. Again, speculation, and I’m not sure it’s important anyway.What I found was a man who had a vocational love of his countrymen with such passion that he happily gave his life for them. It appears by his own words he knew this would be his fate, even from a young age. His mastery of words, eloquence of speech, and unabashed passion for his people’s heritage in the face of the British Empire, culminated in a showdown with that great power. That showdown is the snowball that spurred the avalanche of Irish Independence, and it all started with The Deeds of Easter Week.
I’m pretty excited about this episode. I had never heard this story until I relocated to South Bend about five years ago. It’s been on my list of potential episodes since I started this podcast and I think March is an appropriate month to finally do, one because it’s about the fighting Irish and will be released right around St. Patrick’s day, and two because my next full episode, The Deeds of Easter Week takes place in Dublin just a few years prior to this event. Both events lend themselves to the stereotype of the fighting Irish. So there’s a nice tie in here between my Almost Episode and my coming April full length episode.But enough of my rambling. Let’s get straight to it with Almost Episode 2, The Fighting Irish Beat-down of the Klan.
I should probably begin with an apology. This episode is by far the most audacious one for me so far, at least in terms of scope. Over the next hour, I’m going to traverse 50 years and 4 countries, and many characters with interweaving plots, interests, marriages; but through my podcasters distillation process I was forced to skim over and in some cases totally remove elements that though important in their own right, didn’t really fit into the narrative. So, for what is not included, I apologize. It’s a story that, to bookend properly needs to be told on a large scale because the relationship of Wales, France, Scotland, and England looks one way at the beginning… and another at its end. In fact, the very concept of power wielded by the King of England changes dramatically in the course of this 50-year drama.It’s a story that I think gives Game of Thrones a run for its money; not only because it’s true, but because it’s got everything a good drama needs – war, kings, queens, knights, castles, murder, vengeance, forbidden love, conquest, torture, rebellion – it’s the total package.There’s one main character who will sort of be our guide on this tale – he’s actually an ancestor of my wife’s, his name is Guy Beauchamp, though he receives the nickname as the Black dog of Arden. We know a good deal of technical information about him, such as, he was here and did this thing in this year – but there’s not a lot of intimate knowledge. But following his life’s timeline we get to be witnesses to this historical drama – maybe the greatest drama to ever unfold in the English monarchy. But by the end of his life, he suddenly inserts himself into the tale a vigilante of the nobility you might say, and does something that becomes can be viewed as a catalyst for an entire turning point in the history of all the countries that are now the United Kingdom.The famous movie Braveheart depicts a few of these events that I’ll be detailing but while Braveheart is an awesome movie, it gets almost all of its characters all wrong. As many of us history aficionados already know, history is usually never as simple as good guys vs bad guys. It’s just full of people and their faults. Personally, I love the grit of the real stories. Give me the real person with all their faults and nuance.So, without further delay from me, we’ll go back to right around end of the 13th century near the close of a conflict between Wales and England. And look at some historical event’s you think you might be familiar with, and our guide will be the Black Dog of Arden.Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/writteninbloodhistory)
So, this is the first in a series called ‘Almost Episodes’. And the idea is for them to be quick one-off episodes that I can deliver in a shorter amount of time, and thus, publish in between my monthly biography series. But they serve another purpose as well. In a way, they’ll keep the people I come to love through research, from being left behind.When I begin research for a potential subject, my first sources are the easy ones… internet articles, blogs, and yes, even Wikipedia. Be still my heart.Once I have that raw outline of something, it’s then time for me to ‘remove everything that’s not David’ so to speak. I then go on the hunt for an authoritative source, usually a published book by some historian who actually uses primary sources. But sometimes there just isn’t enough meat on the bones of the subject to take it to that next step. And sometimes there just aren’t any authoritative sources. Sometimes all we have is just legend. Whichever reason causes me to abandon these subjects, the point is they end up getting left on the cutting room floor, if you will.This series, hopefully, if it appeals to an audience will be my little way of resurrecting those abandoned subjects. And so, off we go with episode one...Last year my wife and I were on the hunt for our second home. And we looked at a house just over the Michigan border in a little township called White Pigeon. We ended up not buying the house, but that’s another story. As we drove around White Pigeon, we were trying to get a sense of the place. We wanted to make sure this was a town we would enjoy living in.As we did this, I became curious about the name of the little town. White Pigeon is a strange name. I did a quick google search and immediately came across the Indian chief namesake. Chief White Pigeon. Or in the native tongue, Chief Wahbememe. My apologies for the likely butchering of the pronunciation. White Pigeon’s story blew me away. But like so many ‘wilderness meets civilization stories’, It’s a blend of legend and fact, so I’ll start with setting up the scene with what we know, and then I’ll end with the legend.The area that became known as White Pigeon, as well as the greater northern Indiana and southern Michigan area began to be settled by white merchants and missionaries around the late 18th century. If you’re not familiar with this area, the St. Joseph river winds it’s way through much of this land and must have served as an attractive potential trade highway.After the American’s victory over the British in the War for Independence, you began to see an early version of manifest destiny take hold as the Americans were quite determined to push further west.To resist this push, the Indian tribes formed a loose alliance called the Northwest Indian Confederation. It was led by a chief named Little Turtle and made up of Shawnee, Delaware, Ottawa, Ojibwa, Miami, and Potawatomi. The last group, the Potawatomi, they were the dominant tribe in this northern Indiana and southern Michigan area. Today, people who live here are very familiar with the Potawatomi, they’re still very much a presence.Our subject, Chief White Pigeon was a chief of a group of Potawatami in an area that, I believe was called Oak Openings. One source said this group kept the weeds and grass clear so that Oak Openings could serve as a stopover on a trail that stretched from what is modern day Detroit, to what is modern day Chicago.  Basically, US Highway 12, a trek that I make weekly via rental car. Now, Little Turtle and his alliance in theory had the support of the British Empire behind him. But as the British got deeper into a war with the French, they became less interested in deviating resources to the aid the Indians. And the last thing the empire needed right now was to get drawn into another war with the Americans. It ju
Prologue:This story begins with a chair. During my childhood in my grandparents’ home there was a chair that no one was allowed to sit in.  It was made of simple dark stained wood, with a square frame and ladder back… it was conspicuously placed outside of the natural seating arrangement in the room, up against a wall. When visitors would see the lone and peculiar chair, they would ask my grandmother, “What’s with the chair?”. She would enthusiastically reply simply, “Oh, that’s George Washington’s chair.”The legend of the chair the was always vaguely described. The story was that it belonged to an ancestor named Tjerck Beekman who had fought in the American Revolution, and that this chair sat in his house. And apparently George Washington would occasionally visit and sit in this chair. And then through the generations this heirloom passed eventually to my grandmother.As a kid, I always remember thinking “Tjerck Beekman… that’s a weird name, and the chair belonged to a man named Tjerck… Ok. And he fought in the American Revolution… well that’s pretty cool.”After my grandmother died, I began to expand on the genealogy groundwork she’d laid. And I was surprised to find the story behind the ladderback chair was not only probably true, but also part of a larger story of one of the greatest tribulations of loss and disaster during the war for independence.The chair itself was insignificant but considering the destruction that was wrought around this piece of furniture, it’s damn near a miracle that it still exists today.And woven in an out of this disaster is a published account of a romance between a young girl on her birthday and a soldier in the continental army. This lofty romance, together with a 19th century historians’ due diligence, and surviving contemporaneous letters, we can find ourselves present for a story of humanity amid wonton destruction… it’s one of those stories that reminds me at least that despite losing every worldly treasure we might possess… if we still have our loved ones, we still have everything. This is Romance and Revolution.Body:Quote:“One hundred and seven years ago, on the sixteenth of October, a perfect day of Indian-summer, a small village nestling under the Catskill mountains, was startled early in the morning by the cry: The British soldiers are coming!"The Brave Little Maid of the Revolution, by Mary Westbrook, 1884The cry that the British are coming belongs to more people than just Paul Revere. In the fall of 1777, Kingston, New York was a special target for the Royal Army trying to snuff out the American Revolution.Kingston was founded by the Dutch in the early colonial days on the banks of the Hudson river in the shadow of the Catskill mountains. It lays about 90 miles north of New York City. Kingston’s founders bought much of the land from the Esopus Indians… which gave way to a tradition of the city often being called Esopus.During the War for Independence, as New York city was well occupied by the British, Kingston was chosen as the first capital of the fledgling independent State of New York. Besides it being the state’s capital, Kingston was relatively inconsequential to the British war effort. There were no generals or soldiers stationed there, no barracks, no weapon cache. With all the soldiers off to war, it was mostly inhabited by wives, mothers, daughter, elderly, slaves and servants… all holding down the home front. All preparing to reap the fall harvest.So why Kingston? Well… first, it did have a certain symbolic nature to it as the capital of the rebel state. Once New York City was finally abandoned to the British, the State legislature convened in the Kingston Courthouse. There they ratified the State’ first constitution and elected its first GovernorSupport the show (https://www.patreon.com/writteninbloodhistory)
The land of the rising sun, Japan, is actually over six and a half thousand islands. And in the 16th century, it was a land of contradiction. Though technically ruled by an emperor, and Zen Buddhism long held as the official religion, the island was thrashing and convulsing from end to end at the bloody hands of the daimyo… the territorial warlords vying for power, always clawing for greater dominion, and all coveting a unified Japan under their banner.This period came to be known by historians as the “warring states period”. The drama and romance of feudal brawling had been going on now for well over 100 years, but fate was about to throw Japan a deus ex machina.Strange men in black robes had come ashore. They bore powerful weapons and professed a potent religion. They were the members of the Society of Jesus… they were the Jesuits.The Jesuits were a new breed of Catholic missionaries. They were founded not even 10 years prior by St. Ignatius of Loyola. And they possessed a vigorous combination of an intellectual’s theological acumen, and a front-line soldier’s brute force. They’ve come to be known through the centuries as God’s soldiers, God’s marines, or simply as “the company”. The Jesuits would go anywhere and baptize anyone one, danger and death be damned.They had already turned back a tide of Protestantism in Poland and were now establishing new communities in India. But in Japan, with its organized, yet fractured political structure, its intellectual spiritual devotions, and a ubiquitous respect for honor, the Jesuits saw fertile ground for a zealous Catholic faith. But Japan is unlike any other place in the world.St. Francis Xavier, cofounder of the Jesuit order and one of the first Europeans to set foot in Japan recognized their uniqueness immediately, quote:“They prize and honor all that has to do with war, and all such things, and there is nothing of which they are so proud as of weapons adorned with gold and silver. They always wear swords and daggers both in and out of the house, and when they go to sleep, they hang them at the bed's head. In short, they value arms more than any people I have ever seen. They are excellent archers, and usually fight on foot, though there is no lack of horses in the country. They are very polite to each other, but not to foreigners, whom they utterly despise. They spend their means on arms, bodily adornment, and on a number of attendants, and do not in the least care to save money. They are, in short, a very warlike people, and engaged in continual wars among themselves; the most powerful in arms bearing the most extensive sway. They have all one sovereign, although for one hundred and fifty years past the princes have ceased to obey him, and this is the cause of their perpetual feuds.”Christianity’s toughest missionaries were here to convert Buddhism’s toughest warriors.In July of 1579, a ship was pulling into a harbor at Kuchinotsu. The Jesuits had been in Japan for 30 years by this time, and thus far only enjoyed meager successes. But this new ship carried with it a new leader of the Jesuits in Asia, appointed by the Pope himself. His name was Father Allessandro Valignano.Valignano’s official title was “Visitor to the Indies”, which meant he was something of a papal inspector of Africa, Japan, and everything in-between. There were only two men superior to this Jesuit… the Superior General of the order, and the Pope. Not bad status for a man 34 years of age. Born in Naples, Italy, though then Naples was controlled by the Monarchy of Spain, Allessandro studied Christian Theology at the University of Padua, and was quickly recognized as an intellectual asset to the Church in its struggle against Protestantism. One of the Church’s strategies was to beat the protestants at missionary work. He was ordained into the Jesuits at the age of 30.Valignano was tall, stoic, took chances, and was a br
Prologue:This is episode three of Thicker Than Blood History, our subject is like no other. In the immortal words of actor Sam Elliot… sometimes there’s a man... Late in the 1930’s there was a man. A 50 year old man who, like so many others, walked the streets of New York City on various errands of business. But this man in particular stood out for a few notable reasons. For starters, he was around 7 feet tall and weighed about 300 pounds. He sported a grizzly red beard and walked with a slight limp, because concealed by his trousers, was a wooden leg. But perhaps what stood out the most about this man was that in the midst of the inexorable New York city blizzards… this man wore no coat, no hat, and yet seemed quite comfortable in the frigged temperatures. One woman whom he met told him what a wonderful beard he had. He’s said, in a thick Danish accent, “Oh you like it?” And promptly cut off a piece of it and gave it to her as a keepsake.Sometimes there’s a man… this man’s name was Peter Freuchen… and he is epic.History is full of stories about people who encounter the worst situations, starvation, war, disease, genocide… the literal four horsemen of the apocalypse… right? And most people caught in these moments are often like lemmings in an old game of slave and slave-master. Some die, some live… some just barely. But sometimes there’s a man who dies hard. Like something out of a movie, we occasionally get these people in history who, in the face of outrageous odds live to make the sequel.Some people just have it… whatever it is. They seem invincible, immovable… imposing. I’m reminded of General George Washington. There are first-hand accounts of Washington standing atop a rampart with musket balls whizzing by… some grazing his coat, and yet there he stands… undaunted, leaving his men awestruck. Whatever you want to call that quality… Peter Freuchen’s got it.He’s something of a cross between Indiana Jones and Yukon Cornelius. Like a true Hollywood-esq hero, his countless near-death experiences will keep us on the edge of our seats. But deep down, we all know that somehow, he’ll survive. Somehow he’ll escape… he’ll outsmart the Nazi’s, get the girl, and live to make the sequel.If you google “Peter Fruechen” you’ll come across dozens of short articles, quick bullet points of his accomplishments, and without a doubt the amazing photograph of him donning a polar bear coat with a beautiful woman sitting at his side. It’s that image that first captured my attention.He’s proclaimed as “the greatest badass in history”, or “the man who saved his life with a poop chisel”, or a “hunter of Nazi’s”, or a “tower of testosterone”, and “The real most interesting man in the world”. You’ll see accomplishments such as, Oscar winner, polar bear and wolf killer, greatest friend of the Eskimo, a chivalric Viking who saved a damsel from crocodiles, a heroic explorer who saved a damsel from a sinking ship, a friend of kings, and presidents… an enemy of tyrants. While all those things are true, they have created something of a myth more than a man. For this podcast episode I use much of Peter’s own written word, and by his words, I think you’ll find a most profound human beneath the cheap layers of internet fame. Today, you’ll learn the true story of the Vagrant Viking.Body:Lorenz Peter Elfred Freuchen was born the son to a Danish-Jewish businessman on February 2nd, 1886 in the Danish town of Nykøbing Falster. I’m sure I butchered that pronunciation, but that’s probably going to happen a few more times, so I won’t dwell on it. My apologies to any Danes who might be listening.As a child he often skipped school to spend time seaside listening to the tales and lore of the sailors. Freuchen himself recounted his childhood habit later in his book Arctic Adventures, quote:As a child my inclinations were to follow the sea. My&
Script:I’ve felt lately as if mankind’s space exploration is at a watershed moment. At least in terms of who’s doing the exploring. NASA may have broken the ice, but now… enter capitalism, stage left. If we play this out, say another, I don’t know… call it 100 years… and just to make things interesting, I’ll toss in a few variables. Let’s say our planet’s cities are feeling a bit overcrowded… putting stress on national governments, leaving them somewhat unstable. The power of various political groups ebbs and flows… leaving many people feeling persecuted, depending on who’s in power.Those born into the bottom of the socioeconomic structures are stuck there in perpetuity.But during all this… some of the massive corporate enterprises… let’s call them, Amazon, Google, and Apple… have discovered Mars is rich in natural resources. And they’re willing to finance expedition groups of brave souls who would be willing to take the 3-month voyage through space, establish colonies… and export resources. The hazards would be a major turn off for most people, I think. It’s uncharted territory for one, and people are always afraid of the unknown. The climate is harsh. Oh yeah… and there’s a strange native species that the wanders the Martian wilderness that on a good day will teach you to survive… but on a bad day… might slaughter your entire colony. For most people this deal is a hard pass. What sort of person would sign up? Maybe someone who has nothing to lose? Someone who’s desperate… desperate maybe to start a new life… start fresh without any baggage from the old world. Maybe someone might see it as a way to break out of their social class, for them and their family. It may be a chance to escape persecution for your beliefs. It may be a chance to get rich. Or maybe it’s a chance for some to build a new world – a paradise… that is… if you survive. In the early 17th century, the chance for a new beginning wasn’t another planet… but it may as well have been. The decision for colonists during this time period to leave the old world and settle in the new seems so illogical, considering the odds, that I’ve never been able to completely wrap my mind around the decision-making process. So, putting it in the context of a near future… helps me grasp it a bit. The subject of this podcast not only has the distinction of being one of these marginalized adventurers but was twice and traveler to the new world… and helped found two of the most famous colonies in history. He even inspired one of Shakespeare’s plays. In 1606, The London Company was formed and granted permission by King James I to establish trading colonies in New England. The company was financed by businessmen who believed the new world to be rich in gold and silver… And after about a year they recruited roughly 100 men who were either brave, crazy, or desperate enough… or some mix of all three… to set sail and establish a colony that would be called Jamestown.It’s location in the Chesapeake bay was decided on for two reasons… it was in an easily defensible position, and it was unoccupied by any native Americans – primarily because it was so swampy and sandy, the water was brackish, and it was hopelessly infested with mosquitoes.It didn’t help that the adventurers brought little in the way of practical tools and provisions. Mostly, they were concerned with finding gold, and thus this equipment was given a priority. They were not the sort that took easily to physical labor either, their plan was to trade with the Indians for whatever provisions they lacked… like food.So now… this is one of those moments that you and I can sit back and shake our heads at their stupidity. Just bad decisions all around, right?Fair enough. But history has a way of compounding bad decisions. It’s a reoccurring theme really.As fate would have it, these ill-equipped exp
What do you need to believe a story? Especially if the story is, well… unbelievable.I think I’m the type of person who wants to see evidence. Show me the facts and I’ll consider all sides. But what if there isn’t any tangible evidence… what if all you have are witnesses… 5 people, or 10 people all telling the same story… telling you the same thing… people you know and trust. They all swear they saw the same incredible event with their own eyes… something that defies logic? What then?But even with these facts and evidence put everything in front of us trying to see the bigger picture how do we know we’re not seeing the facts and the evidence of connecting the dots see prejudices are guiding us and how The subject of this podcast was, by contemporaneous accounts… murdered. But the evidence of his murder isn’t physical, it couldn’t be submitted in a little ziplock bag. There was a time when other forms of evidence could be admissible in a court of law. A type of evidence called spectral… spectral evidence, corroborated by witness testimony. Basically, spectral evidence meant visions, dreams, feelings, out of body experiences… intangible, unprovable… and yet, in 17th century puritan courts, this type of evidence was critical in witch trials. A defendant’s very life usually hung (pun intended) on this type of evidence. My ancestor, Philip Smith of Hadley, Massachusetts was an alleged victim of one of these witches. The Reverend Cotton Mather… who we’ll come back to later… wrote of his death in his Magnalia Christi Americana, he said quote:Mr. Philip Smith, aged about fifty years, a son of eminently virtuous parents, a deacon of a church in Hadley, a member of the General Court, a justice in the county Court, a select man for the affairs of the town, a lieutenant of the troop, and which crowns all, a man for devotion, sanctity, gravity, and all that was honest, exceeding exemplary. Such a man was in the winter of the year 1684, murdered with an hideous witchcraft, that filled all those parts of New England, with astonishment. Cotton Mather leaves no doubt in his mind about the existence of witchcraft. But our modern minds aren’t so easily swayed, right? We’re all aware of wicca and other pagan style spiritualists… but the idea that anyone can turn into a black cat and attack you in your sleep is given serious thought by most people. So we need to understand the context of Hadley… we need to have a sense for the mood of the time, and the superstitions of the Puritans. Hadley was founded by a group of puritan settlers who had some sort of doctrinal falling out with the puritan churches in Hartford and Wethersfield, Connecticut. And even though witch trials in Europe had largely subsided by this time, American puritans, notoriously, still believed, with fervor, that there were witches, and that they did actively commune with the devil, and that they afflicted pious members of the community. One thing I find fascinating with these beliefs is their seamless integration with the legal apparatus. An accused witch, in theory, had to be charged and found guilty by a jury or judge. And the critical crime wasn’t simply the act of practicing witchcraft… it was the crime of maleficium – which is the act of performing witchcraft to cause harm. But spectral evidence could be brought to prove this… it’s a bazar blend the paranormal and legal. Surprisingly, for me at least… is that less than half of those charged were actually found guilty.In the book Witch-Hunting in Seventeenth-Century New England, by David D. Hall, he describes to how showing malficium could be brought about through spectral evidence…In folk tradition, witches were old women, often widowed, often ugly. They were sharp-tongued and  difficult to get along with, though some hid their malice&
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Podcast Details

Created by
Stephen Lynch DiJulius
Podcast Status
Oct 12th, 2019
Latest Episode
Oct 1st, 2020
Release Period
2 per month
Avg. Episode Length
40 minutes

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