Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Past

(Source)
Over the long Easter weekend I once again had the urge to go to Barnes and Noble. Let me explain, it's an odd story, perhaps boring but I'll tell it anyway.

Good Friday coincided with my company's "every other Friday off" scheme. (Which I think I've explained before, we call it 9/80, 80 hours in 9 days, blah, blah, blah, so I'll not explain it again, at least not today.) So...

Friday off, The Missus Herself being in California, it was a day when I decided that some of those things she takes care of while I'm at work would needs be taken care of by Yours Truly. I waited but finally decided that those things weren't going to magically happen by themselves. One of the chores I needed to do was purchasing more comestibles for the feline staff. For those who don't know, the members of the species Felis catus can be rather finicky eaters. At least the house-bound variety seem to be. So not just any food would do.

Now some months back, our local grocery emporium decided, much to my dismay, that stocking the brand of cat food which my felines desired, would be discontinued. I was all aback but fortunately The Missus Herself was around and discovered that both Walmart and the commissary on base still stocked that brand. Long story short, Friday I resolved to head off to the base (one of the naval variety if you must know) and purchase cat food, and various and sundry other divers items for which I had a need.

After logging a successful mission to the commissary I decided that as I had just finished Nathaniel Philbrick's excellent The Last Stand (that very morning) and as Barnes and Noble was on the way home, why not stop by and see what other books by Mr. Philbrick might be on hand? I had two in mind, one on the Mayflower, for the local history that was in it, and the other on Benedict Arnold, for the general history that was in it.

Well, Valiant Ambition was available, but in hardcover. Mind you, I'm not averse to purchasing hardcover books, but Friday I was feeling a bit parsimonious so opted not to drop thirty Yankee dollars on that most excellent book (knowing that it would indeed, someday, be available in paperback at about half the price). Apologies Mr. Philbrick, Friday you were the victim of my cheapness. Blame it on my Scottish ancestry if you will, but there it is.

On the gripping hand, I did purchase his book The Mayflower and the Pilgrims' New World and commenced to reading it that very afternoon. (I picked up another couple of books as well, one historical, the other historical fiction, but they don't fall into the scope of today's tale so I'm not going to tell you which books they were. Suffice to say that one led to a TV series, and turning to the other, there are at least two movies based on the other author's work. And that of his Dad. Keen readers are welcome to guess in the comments which two works I allude to.)

So. The Mayflower. I think most of us of a certain age know the tale of that particular ship and the group of people deposited on these shores by that vessel. I wonder if they still teach that subject in school? I have my doubts as education seems to be a less than reputable field these days. Sad to say as I have a number of friends who are school teachers and let's just say, they don't pick the curriculum. Those "above" them do that. While I have no evidence to support my theory that politics is involved, I dare anyone to prove me wrong.

Anyhoo.

In reading this book I have learned many things, all of which track closely with my earlier studies in this area. One thing I did not know is that the area of New England which I currently inhabit was rather heavily populated prior to the Pilgrims ever landing and screwing things up for the natives. (If you believe that line of reasoning. I don't, not exactly, but we'll get there. I hope.)

While there were no European settlements this far north in the 1600s, fishermen from Europe were along these shores chasing the abundant fish species along the coast. (There's a reason it's called Cape Cod.) Now from time to time, sea travel being a very dangerous thing in those days (well, it still is but far more so back then), the fishermen would occasionally have to put ashore. To make repairs, to get water and perhaps food, in the form of game, and they would have occasion to make contact with the local inhabitants. Whom we used to know as "Indians" but now that's not politically correct, or so I'm told.

So yes, Europeans making contact with folks from another continent. What happens? Oh yes, diseases for which the natives have no natural antibodies will sometimes take hold and devastate a population. And so it was that when the Pilgrims landed, there were a lot fewer "indigenous  personnel" than had been previously the case. I mean, according to the book, thousands had died on account of what some historians figure was the bubonic plague. The Pilgrims found deserted villages, places where the dead still lay in situ because no one was left to bury them.

I did not know that.

One reason I bought the book was for the account of King Philip's War, a topic I was (oddly enough) familiar with from my school days. Seems that one of the main roads through my little bay-side town is named for the aforementioned King Philip, whose actual moniker was Metacomet. Said main drag being called Metacom Avenue (which apparently is another way of saying Metacomet, my guess is that we pale faces from Great Britain being generally horrid with language and spelling couldn't make up our minds what to call him, so he got stuck with King Philip, though I doubt he called himself that*.)

Anyhoo.

When we first moved here, I picked up a military history magazine primarily because it had an account of King Philip's War and it indicated that that nasty conflict took place right here in my backyard. So to speak. Mr. Philbrick also points out in the book that Metacomet was the son of Massasoit.

Who? Massasoit?

Yes, well he's the chap, according to some histories, that essentially saved the Pilgrims from starving to death. That whole "First Thanksgiving" thing if you recall the history you learned as a child. (For those of us of a certain age.) Now Mr. Philbrick does not trash that story, he simply tells it like it really happened. Based on his historical research and not relying on modern myths of that time. (It's also worth noting that both Virginia and Massachusetts claim the "honor" of the first Thanksgiving. Just thought I'd mention that. For the purposes of this post, and to remain somewhat accurate, we're talking of the first New England Thanksgiving, not the first American Thanksgiving. Me being a huge fan of both New England and Virginia.)

Did the natives save the Pilgrims at the end of their first year in Plymouth? Why yes, yes they did.

Oh, and Massasoit lived in the area which now forms the town directly north of my current domicile. I did not know that. (As Plymouth is a bit of a hike on foot from where Massasoit lived, well, read the book. It explains it well, but suffice to say, they walked. Not many horses in New England back in the day. In fact, none would be a reasonable estimate.)

While I'm only half way (or so) into the book, I have already learned a few things, as I mention above. But one theme that has struck me after reading The Last Stand and now The Mayflower, is just how devastating it is for a people when an advanced culture makes contact with them. When has that ever worked out to the credit of the allegedly more advanced culture? (I say allegedly because often it's the technology which is more advanced and perhaps not the underlying morals and mores of the "advanced" culture. Though those who portray the natives of this continent in terms of being at one with the land and living in peace, really need to dig into that topic a bit more. Warfare is endemic amongst all varieties of our species.)

So the Mayflower landing at Plymouth leads inevitably (in my estimation) to the Battle of the Little Big Horn. One group moves because of pressure from another group, which displaces the next group of people, which displaces the next, until eventually there's no place else to go. Battles are fought, less "advanced" cultures are wiped out or subsumed and we get history.

Yes, the victors get to write the histories, but sometimes someone will dig into things and present the viewpoint of the vanished culture. Not always, but it happens.

And if you look at it objectively, while it was called Custer's Last Stand, which it was on the personal level for Custer and his battalion of the 7th Cavalry, in reality it was the last stand of the culture of the Great Plains. While the Lakota, Northern Cheyenne, and Arapaho won the battle, they ultimately lost the war.

If you read The Mayflower, you can see how events in New England in the 1600s led, almost inevitably, to the Greasy Grass in 1876.

Everything is connected. You just need to find the threads. If you study the past, you just might learn something.



* Update: Actually Metacom did call himself Philip. He and his brother both took English names. His brother, who became sachem after Massasoit, took the name Alexander. After his death Philip (ex-Metacom) became sachem. Apparently one of the English referred to him as "King" Philip as Philip considered himself on a par with Charles II of England. So King Philip he became. (I should have read further into the book before making such gross assumptions. Live and learn.)

44 comments:

  1. An interesting thesis, Sarge. One I've mentally thought through a few times, but can't seem to get it into words. Well done in doing so. I think I'll be purchasing a book shortly.

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    1. Philbrick is an excellent writer and historian. He covers a lot of ground too! Whaling, Revolutionary War, Indian Wars, the Mayflower...

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  2. Sarge, we seem to resonate on the same frequency. I am in the middle of The Last Stand and am enjoying it so much that just yesterday I ordered Mayflower from Amazon. (I suspect that Mayflower will be held hostage by my bride who will be quick to point out that SHE is a member of the Mayflower Society, not I. But she can't play that card too often. While she was doing her research to prove her bona fides for that organization she got me started on Ancestry.com. I found that a fellow called William the Bastard, who was also known as William the Conqueror occupies one of the branches of my tree.) One of these days we will have to get together and compare libraries.

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    1. I think being related to William the Conqueror trumps having an ancestor on the Mayflower. That's pretty interesting.

      Yes, we should compare libraries, I think we have similar tasters.

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  3. Many a good story in the details of "why" something happened. And the point of view of the recorder of stories. Sometimes they even let you peer past their story.

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    1. Excellent point James. It's the only way to truly understand the past.

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  4. I read The Mayflower some time ago (before I created the reading list) and The Last Stand sometime since.
    (Only recently have I disposed of them in a proper manner... I may miss those books even more than the cat)
    It was only when MB was sorting them for display two weeks ago that I realized Philbrick wrote both.
    If you're really interested in looking at different perspectives see 1491 and 1493 by Charles C. Mann.

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    1. I am no longer surprised by the diversity of topics which Philbrick writes about, and does so very well.

      I'll take a gander at Mann. His curriculum vitae is interesting. Though the "journalist" bit does give me pause.

      ----------------------- Update to my earlier comment -----------------------

      I just read excerpts of both of those books. They are now on my "must read" list.

      Thanks Skip.

      I have to remember that not all journalists are bad. The good ones are worth their weight in gold, Mr. Mann appears to be most excellent.

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  5. Sarge, Have you tried James Donovan's "A Terrible Glory - Custer and the little Bighorn"? The notes in the back were gems of their own and the Reno Inquest was also an interesting offshoot.

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    1. Took a peek over on Amazon, looks like an excellent book. I'll have to check it out.

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    2. Sounds like another $50-$100 investment in your library coming soon. ;-)

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    3. Shh, Don't tell The Missus Herself.

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  6. Philbrick's "Bunker Hill" is excellent. I am always looking for telling of the lead up to and including the Battles at Lexington and Concord. The first 100 pages or so do that in excellent detail. The rest of the book is of course about Bunker Hill

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    1. That's the first of his books I read. Most excellent indeed!

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  7. I have an aunt who came over on the Mayflower. Thru Ancestry.com I've traced back to William the Conqueror as well. I don't think that's all that difficult, given the suppositons of how many children ole William fathered. Ha! That said, I'm prouder of the families in my lineage who came here during the Great Migration...multiple grandfathers and grandmothers are founders of towns in coastal Maine, NH and MA. Multiple services in the Revolutionary War, War of 1812 and Civil War. With much more to be discovered.

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    1. Pretty neat.

      Family legend has it that some of my ancestors (a very small number) watched as your ancestors got off the boat.

      The majority of my ancestors came over later.

      Another thing I learned from reading The Mayflower is that there was a difference between Pilgrims and Puritans. Roger Williams wasn't liked by either, which is how Little Rhody was founded.

      Kinda cool, getting thrown out of Massachusetts by the Pilgrims and Puritans. My kind of guy.

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  8. I would dearly love to read a well researched and factual account of the demise of the civilization(s) which fell to those who are today called native americans. Somebody gonna have to invent a time machine though.

    Great post.

    I wonder if it was really MacArthur who had Patton killed, or if it might have been...

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    1. Hey! I solved the mystery of the external stores on the B-17. You've got the MacArthur/Patton one!

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    2. Shaun - That would make interesting reading. (MacArthur had Patton killed? What?)

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    3. Juvat- Ya know, you may have to jump in on that one. Inquiring minds want to know.

      (Nice under-wing racks on that B-17 by the way.)

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    4. Sarge -- look back at my comment to Juvat's post yesterday. Turns out it was the OSS and the NKVD who killed Patton. But I think it's pretty clear MacArthur was pulling the strings as he feared Truman would give Japan to Patton. With good reason, too, as Truman, like Elizabeth Warren, was an indian princess and hated the MacArthur family who had made careers out of campaigning against the natives. See, it all makes sense!

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/3869117/General-George-S.-Patton-was-assassinated-to-silence-his-criticism-of-allied-war-leaders-claims-new-book.html

      http://www.rense.com/general88/patton.htm

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    5. I saw that comment.

      As to the rest?

      !!!!

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    6. I read that article too. It MUST be true. It was in a newspaper! Right????

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    7. Well, it did remind me that we were almost out of tin foil.

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  9. I am trying to like my "Fire" but the feel of the thing and the difficulty of underlining and turning pages down, has limited its popularity except for trashy stuff (which I read). Well not really trashy, but pretty formulaic - you know retire Navy seal saves the world, Air Force pilot then saves that Navy seal, etc.

    You said, wisely, "Everything is connected. You just need to find the threads. If you study the past, you just might learn something." If only today's folks could grasp that. Ever since Woodrow Wilson and the boys got together they have been laying down threads of progressive socialism that have created a web of concern. Nobody seems to see it - or care.

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    1. Some of us see it, and care, but not enough.

      I can read formulaic from time to time. Lately though I need my history fix. Can't get enough.

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  10. What subdued the Plains indigenous population was hard nosed Union Generals fighting a winter war.

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  11. My Grandma Olson had her family tree raced, and we are descended from Captain Christopher Jones, CO of the MAYFLOWER. ( Along with several hundred thousand others, by now, I should think. ) Others may think of the Pilgrims as gallant adventurers seeking a new life, in a New World. Nah, they were customers in the family business. Just think, I had an ancestor who WENT BACK, on the MAYFLOWER!

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    1. They were here seeking religious freedom. At the time the King of England (James I) was a Catholic and was coming down hard on the Protestants in general and the Pilgrims in particular. Which is why the Pilgrims first went to Holland. While there was nothing gallant about them, they weren't just customers in some family business. I'm not sure what you're referring to there.

      Those of the crew who survived the trip to America did go back on the Mayflower. It was their job.

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    2. That my how ever many times great is appropriate Grandfather was the Captain of the MAYFLOWER. Hauling them over was just another load to him. It's a joke.

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    3. I'll need sources on that. This flies in the face of a lot of documented history. Bear in mind, the Mayflower was hired, she was NOT owned by the Pilgrims. And yes, the Pilgrims did get financing, otherwise they would not have been able to make the journey.

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  12. Chris:

    About cats and food. With my cat. I told her "here is the food I'm giving you, if you don't like it, find your own". Of course, she was an indoor cat, so it was eat what I provided or starve. She didn't starve. My view is that cats are picky eaters only if someone enables them to be.
    Another quibble, the ancestors of the people who were living here when the Mayflower landed her passengers were ( at least ) the third wave of immigrants. They killed off the earlier migrants. Another case of " what goes around, comes around. "

    Paul L. Quandt

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    1. Something most people don't understand is that groups of people get moved around a lot. Not sure what you mean by the the 3rd wave.

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    2. Re third wave, there is some evidence that there were at least two waves of peoples who migrated into the western hemisphere.

      Paul

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    3. Quite possible, I'm not sure if either of those groups made it to New England and set up settlements. The Norsemen were well to the north.

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  13. I like the new ( ? ) picture of Lex. Is it possible to have it so it may be enlarged?

    Paul

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    1. I assume you mean the picture of Lex in the header. A larger version of that is here.

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    2. No, I was referring to the picture on the right side, the one taken a short time before we lost his guiding light.

      PLQ

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  14. Sarge,
    Back to Custer et. al.

    Browse http://astonisher.com/archives/museum/frederick_beneen_little_big_horn.html and all of the highlighted links. Original correspondence is interesting.

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    1. Interesting stuff, thanks for the link!

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  15. Back to the cat food: A friend of mine was in the situation where her local stores were not carrying the brand of cat litter her cat uses. She ordered 150lbs of the stuff from Wal-Mart. Seems if you order enough, dollar-wise, they will ship it direct to you. For free.

    So if Wal-Mart's web site has it, you can stock up there and the nice guys in the brown or white trucks will bring it to your door.

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    1. Good to know! Thanks Comrade Misfit!

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)