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History Myths Buzzkilled

Battle of New Orleans

“In 1814 we took a little trip, along with Colonel Jackson down the mighty Mississipp. We took a little bacon and we took a little beans. And we fought the bloody British in the town of New Orleans.” It’s a stirring folk song, perfect to stoke the patriotic fires of a young nation back in 1814, and stir the patriotic heart of a young Buzzkiller like yours truly back in the early 1960s. But did the Battle of New Orleans really take place after the War of 1812 was technically over, as the legend has it? Keep your powder [...]

Lincoln’s Civil War Letter to Mrs. Bixby

Abraham Lincoln was undeniably one of the most important presidents in American history, and I’m here to tell you about one of the most touching, yet one of the most mythologized, stories about Lincoln and the Civil War. Specifically, we’re going to examine the story of Lydia Bixby, the recipient of a very famous letter from President Lincoln, written during the height of the conflict. You probably know the text of this letter from a scene in the 1998 Steven Spielberg film, Saving Private Ryan. The great actor, Harve Presnell, playing General George Marshall, was listening to a dispute [...]

Ben Franklin’s Turkey

Try to picture in your imaginations, Buzzkillers, the Great Seal of the United States of America. Can you see it? If you can’t, pull out a one-dollar bill and have a look. There is a bald eagle in the center, clutching arrows in one of its talons, and a laurel leaf in the other. First displayed publicly in 1782, and printed on the reverse side of every US dollar bill since 1935, the Great Seal is supposed to represent the dignity and fortitude of the nation. And the bald eagle has been one of the most frequently-displayed symbols of [...]

American Thanksgiving

The response to our episode about Thanksgiving last year was great, and many of you asked for a repeat this year. Rather than just run an encore presentation of that episode, I thought I’d expand on some of those myths and misconceptions about American Thanksgiving. Generally speaking, Thanksgiving is like almost all other holidays. The way it’s celebrated and the “history” that everyone “knows about it” is half fact and half myth. Let’s start at the beginnings. When and where was the first American Thanksgiving observance and feast held? And who was there? The traditional story is that Pilgrims [...]

Washington’s Vision at Valley Forge

Valley Forge, Winter 1777. George Washington and his Continental Army were encamped and dug in against a British attack. They waited out the winter, but it was a brutal experience. The weather was very bad, and soldiers tried to endure disease, malnutrition, and exposure. Many deserted, and more than 2,500 soldiers had died by March 1, 1778. But the war news in general was also bad. The Continental army had suffered several extensive defeats in 1777, the British army was only 18 miles away, in relatively comfortable Philadelphia, preparing to wipe out the remaining Continentals as soon as the [...]

The Black Death

Was the Black Death really the most deadly disease in human history? And did it really come from outer space? From the time of the first plague outbreak all the way until now, the Black Death has ignited imaginations. Some cite it as the first example of biological warfare, while others say that the death toll estimates you learned about in school are actually too low. Professor John Giebfried join us to examine the real history of the Black Death, and separate truth from fiction! Buzzkill Bookshelf

1965 Blackout Increased Births

At 5:16 pm on Tuesday, the 9th of November, the lights went out in large parts of the north-eastern United States, and in the Canadian province of Ontario. A protective relay in the system that covered those areas was set too low, and when there was a surge in current demand, that relay tripped and cut off the electricity to much of that whole area. The megalopolises of New York, Boston, and Toronto were plunged into darkness by 5:30 pm as the power went out. Only some hospitals and other institutions that had their own power generators were spared [...]

Nixon’s 1960 Presidential Election “Concession”

One of the losers in the 2016 presidential election has been careful historical analysis. Easy and quick comparisons and conclusions drawn by media commentators have trampled on the subtleties and complications of previous presidential election results, especially the relatively recent ones. Donald Trump has said (in various ways) that the 2016 election is already rigged and that he will not automatically concede if Hillary Clinton wins. Many journalists have jumped on the idea that Trump is being unprecedentedly petulant even before election day, and that no presidential candidate from a respectable party in history has refused to concede an [...]

Sore Losers in the 1860 Election

Professor Perry Blatz joins us to explain why democracy didn’t work well enough in the US election of 1860, and why it led to the Civil War. The Democratic party split over the issue of slavery, the Republicans were fraught over the issue, and a whole new party, the Constitutional Union party for formed. The country ended up with four political parties running candidates for president! This election makes the complicated 2016 election seem like amateur-hour! Buzzkill Bookshelf

Buzzkill Bookshelf

The Battle of New Orleans: Andrew Jackson and America’s First Military Victory

The Battle of New Orleans: Andrew Jackson and America's First Military Victory is a comprehensive, authoritative, and myth-shattering study of the Battle of New Orleans

Three letters from Lincoln: the letter to Horace Greeley, the letter to J.C. Conkling, the letter to Mrs. Bixby

Go to the original source, Buzzkillers! These are three of Lincoln’s most famous letters. Three letters from Lincoln: the letter to Horace Greeley, the letter to J.C. Conkling, the letter to Mrs. Bixby

Benjamin Franklin: An American Life

In Benjamin Franklin: An American Life, Isaacson shows Franklin as a founding father who prized pragmatism over moralism, religious tolerance over fundamentalist rigidity, and social mobility over class privilege. And not as a turkey worshipper!

Buzzkill Book Shelf

Buzzkillers! Here are the books that we have featured on certain episodes. We highly recommend them!

American History, British History, and World History Myths Busted by Professor Buzzkill

Don’t forget to check-in every week for new history myths being busted.

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