Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Ancient Egypt Facts Six

During the New Kingdom period (1570 to 1085 BC) the advantages of having a standing army were realized and two types of service were established. National service was when an adult joined for a year or two as they trained and served with the possibility of being called back into service later. The other was a military career where a child was signed up as young as five years old and taken from their families to live in camps where they trained. The army fought in the wars, patrolled the borders, organized the workers in the quarries and supervised the transportation of the stone blocks to the construction sites. Soldiers also traveled to distant lands in search of gold, ebony and ivory. The elite soldiers guarded the palace.

Ancient Egypt page

Monday, December 30, 2013

Pirate Fact Six

Pirates pierced their ears because they believed it improved their eye sight. The jewelry was often silver or gold.

pirate page

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Natural Disaster Facts Five

The worst drought in the United States was 1930 to 1936 in the prairie states while it lasted in some areas until 1940. Another hard drought hit the United States 1950 to 1957 that hit from Texas to the Central Plains.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Ancient Seven Wonders of the World Fact Five

The list of the ancient seven wonders was Greek-centric and they were in four modern countries: Greece, Turkey, Egypt and Iraq.

Ancient Seven Wonders page

Friday, December 27, 2013

Knights Templar Fact Five

The Seneschal was the second in command in the Templar order and sometimes called the Grand Commander. He was the deputy to the Grand Master and had his own staff. His duties involved over seeing all the lands belonging to the order during peace time and in war handled all details from where to place the army to food procurement.

Knights Templar page

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Viking Fact Five

The helmets worn by Vikings were made of either metal or leather but they did not contain horns.

Viking page

American Civil War Fact Five

A casualty was any soldier that entered battle and afterward was not fit to continue to take part in the next battle. That meant it covered any soldier who died or couldn't continue due to injury or sickness or even if they were captured or went missing in action. Of all the casualties 5.7 percent or about 85,200 were inflicted by cannon. 

American Civil War page

Ancient Egypt Fact Five

Cats were considered a sacred animal and most households kept one as a pet for good luck.

Ancient Egypt page

Monday, December 23, 2013

Pirate Fact Five

There is no evidence that pirates actually walked the plank as punishment. Those that violated the code of conduct established by the captain were whipped, keel-hauled or marooned on an island. When someone was keel-hauled he was tied to a rope and thrown over board and dragged by the ship. 

pirate page

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Natural Disaster Facts Four

Since 1950 there have been 59 tornadoes rated F5 on the Fujita Scale or EF5 on the Enhanced Fujita Scale. The F5 has winds over 261 mph or 420 km\h while EF5 accounted for damage caused by winds over 200 mph or 320 km\h. 2011 was an especially active year with with five on April 27 alone that hit in Alabama and Mississippi.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Ancient Seven Wonders of the World Fact Four

There is evidence that the Lighthouse of Alexandria was powered by carbon arc lights and battery jars.

Ancient Seven Wonders page

Friday, December 20, 2013

Knights Templar Fact Four

St Bernard of Clairvaux formulated the Rules of the Knights Templar Order in 1130 after they had been given Papal approval the previous year. One point was the establishment of two classes of knighthood: the knights and the sergeants. The sergeants or serving brothers wore black or brown to signify their lower status. 

Knights Templar page

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Viking Fact Four

Vikings saw blond as the ideal and if they weren't the men would often bleach their hair with a soup made with lye.

Viking page

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

American Civil War Fact Four

The Civil War saw the first use of the draft or conscription in the United States. It was used by both the Union and Confederacy and both allowed the draftees to pay for substitutes to replace them. The Union army was primarily volunteer with about two percent of the 2,100,000 total being draftees.

American Civil War page

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Ancient Egypt Fact Four

The primary three blocks of time in Ancient Egypt were The Old Kingdom (2700 BC-2200 BC), The Middle Kingdom (2100 BC-1800 BC) and The New Kingdom (1500 BC-1000 BC).

Ancient Egypt page

Pirate Fact Four

Pirates sometimes adopted the animals they could not sell such as parrots and monkeys. They also had cats and dogs on board to hunt the rats that were a problem on every ship.

pirate page

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Natural Disaster Facts Three

There have been 35 hurricanes that have reached Category 5 in the Atlantic on the Saffir-Simpson hurricane and wind scale with sustained wins of greater than 157 mph\252 kmh\136 knots. Only six times have there been more than one category five in a single season: 1932 (Bahamas, Cuba), 1933 (Cuba-Brownsville, Tampico), 1960 (Donna, Ethel), 1961 (Carla, Hattie), 2005 (Emily, Katrina, Rita, Wilma) and 2007 (Dean, Felix).

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Ancient Seven Wonders of the World Fact Three

German archaeologist Robert Koldeway unearthed the possible location of the Hanging Gardens of Babylon in 1899. The Gardens had long been considered a fable but he discovered what would have been the cellar to the structure and the location of the chain pumps which raised the water to the roof to irrigate the garden.

Ancient Seven Wonders page

Friday, December 13, 2013

Knights Templar Fact Three

One reason Friday the 13th is considered an unlucky day is due to its tie to Friday October 13, 1307 which was the day the Grand Master of the Knights Templar Jacques De Molay was arrested. Several other French Templars were also arrested and it was the beginning of the end for the Templars before they were dissolved in 1312.

Knights Templar page

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Viking Fact Three

Dublin in Ireland and Kiev in Ukraine are two cities that were originally founded as Viking trading posts.

Viking page

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

American Civil War Fact Three

The last man killed in the Civil War was Private John J Williams of the 34th Indiana Volunteer Infanty. He was the last of four killed in the Battle of Palmito Ranch in Texas on May 13, 1865.

American Civil War page

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Ancient Egypt Fact Three

Makeup was worn by both Egyptian women and men. It provided protection from the sun and they believed makeup had magical healing powers. Most often they wore eye paint that was either green made from copper or black made from lead.

Ancient Egypt page

Monday, December 9, 2013

Pirate Fact Three

Pieces of eight referred to the Spanish dollar coins that were worth eight reales. The coin could actually be cut into eight pieces or bits to make change. The coins were minted in the Americas from the 15th century through the 19th century and were deemed a reliable currency in the Americas and Asia because an assayer marked each coin to guarantee its weight in silver.

pirate page

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Natural Disaster Facts two

The 109 natural disaster events recorded through June 30, 2013 was the highest mid-year total ever recorded in the United States.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Ancient Seven Wonders of the World Fact Two

The chronological order the seven wonders were constructed: Great Pyramid of Giza (2560 BC), Hanging Gardens of Babylon (600 BC), Temple of Artemis at Ephesus (550 BC), Statue of Zeus at Olympia (435 BC), Mausoleum at Halicarnassus (351 BC), Colossus of Rhodes (292 BC) and Lighthouse of Alexandria (280 BC).

Ancient Seven Wonders page

Friday, December 6, 2013

Knights Templar Fact Two

The Knights Hospitaller was another monastic military order founded at the same place and time as the Knights Templar: 1119 AD in Jerusalem. While it was the initial stated purpose of the Knights Templar to protect the traveling pilgrims it was the Knights Hospitaller that actually served this role in the early years as the Knights Templar explored the Temple Mount.

Knights Templar page

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Viking Fact Two

The most feared of the Vikings were the berzerker warriors who wore bear and wolf skins, used mind altering herbs and mushrooms to work into a frenzy before battle and often howled while on the attack.

Viking page

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

American Civil War Fact Two

The American Civil War was known by many names at the time of the conflict. Those in the north call it the War of the Rebellion, the War of the Southern Rebellion, the War to Preserve the Union and the War to to Make Men Free. Those in the south referred to it as the War Between the States, the War Against Northern Aggression and the War of Northern Aggression. Some other terms used were the Brothers' War, the Lost Cause, the Late Unpleasantness, the War of Attempted Secession, the War Against the States and Mr Lincoln's War.

American Civil War page

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Ancient Egypt Fact Two

One of the earliest known peace treaties was signed between Egypt and the Hittite Empire in 1259 BC. The agreement reached between Ramses II of Egypt and Hittite King Hatusili III ended over two centuries of conflict between the two powers and decreed if one of the two kingdoms was invaded by a third party the other would come to their aid.

Ancient Egypt page

Monday, December 2, 2013

Pirate Fact Two

Julius Caesar was kidnapped by Cilician pirates in 75 BC as he traveled on the Aegean Sea on the way to Rhodes. They initially asked 20 talents ransom and he suggested they ask for 50 instead. A talent was 75 pounds so depending on the price of gold in modern times it would be over $50 million U.S. Once they had their payment the pirates released Caesar never realizing who he was. Caesar soon returned with the Roman fleet and quickly captured the pirates. They were first imprisoned and then all were crucified.

pirate page

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Natural Disaster Facts One

The deadliest Hurricane in the United States hit Galveston, Texas on September 8, 1900 with 145 mph winds which would classify it as a category 4 and it killed approximately 8000 people.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Ancient Seven Wonders of the World Fact One

The first of the Ancient Seven Wonders to be completely destroyed was the Colossus of Rhodes in 226 BC by earthquakes.

Ancient Seven Wonders page

Knights Templar Fact One

They originally went under the name Poor Fellow-Soldiers of Christ.

Knights Templar page

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Viking Fact One

The initial shields used by the Vikings in the 790's were round with a button or spike in the center but they graduated to longer kite shaped shields around 1000 which offered more protection for their legs.

Viking page

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

American Civil War Fact One

The official span of the American Civil War was from April 12, 1861 with the attack on Fort Sumter to one of three accepted dates: April 9, 1865 when General Robert E Lee surrendered his army of Northern Virginia in the village of Appomattox Court House, Virginia, May 10, 1865 when Confederate President Jefferson Davis was captured in Georgia and November 6, 1865 when Lieutenant James Waddell finally surrendered his ship the C.S.S. Shenandoah to British authorities in Liverpool, England months after he had fired the last shot of the Civil War on June 22, 1865.

American Civil War page

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Ancient Egypt Fact One

The Pschent was the Double Crown worn by the pharoah's that combined the crowns of Lower Egypt and Upper Egypt to show the pharoah had power over the united Egypt.

Ancient Egypt page

Pirate Fact One

The earliest known mention of pirates was around 1350 BC in the documents of Pharoah Echnaton with mentions of attacks in the Mediterranean around North Africa.

pirate page

site note 112613

The blog will be taking a temporary change of direction the next several weeks in an attempt to maintain a daily schedule. During this time a single factoid will be presented on the theme of the day. In the future I will return to the more in depth entries I enjoy working on.

The daily themes are as follows:

Monday: Pirates
Tuesday: Ancient Egypt
Wednesday: American Civil War
Thursday: Vikings
Friday: Templar Knights
Saturday: Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
Sunday: Natural Disasters

To get things back on track I will be making two entries today. One covering pirates for yesterday and one today on ancient Egypt.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

1931 China Floods

The deadliest natural disaster in history occurred in the summer of 1931 when the Yellow River, the Yangtze River and the Huai River all flooded past their banks in central China resulting in the deaths of millions directly or indirectly. China had suffered through an extended drought 1928 to 1930 which was followed by an extreme winter of heavy snowstorms and blizzards starting in late 1930. Intense rains that were far above average started in the spring of 1931 and increased into the summer as the Yangtze River experienced 24 inches in July alone. Adding to the turmoil were nine cyclones hitting the region over those months when two was the average in a year. The combination of the snow thawing and the heavy rains contributed to the devastating flooding.

The Yangtze River officially peaked on August 18. The next day the city of Hankou recorded water levels passing 53 feet or 16 meters above normal. The Yellow and Huai were also breaking their banks at the same time. The Yangtze and Huai Rivers were connected by the Grand Canal and the flood waters rushed into the canal and on August 25 the dikes on Gaoyou Lake were washed away and over 200,000 people drowned in their sleep.

Once the Huai River broke its banks the flood waters raced toward Nanjing which was 230 miles or 370 km away. Nanjing was the capital of China at the time. The floods drowned between several hundred thousand to over one million. Millions more died in the aftermath due to famine and disease.

The flooding from the three rivers had destroyed the rice fields. That led to famine causing many people to starve to death. There were reports that some people had resorted to cannibalism. The polluted rivers also contributed to many others dying from cholera, dysentery and typhoid. The death toll from all factors was between 3.5 million to 4 million.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Temple of Artemis

The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus was constructed around 550 BC about 50 km or 31 miles south of the ancient city of Smyrna. In modern Turkey it would have been about 75 km or 47 miles south of Izmir. It was also known as the Artemesium, Temple of Artemision and the Temple of Diana. It was a place of worship devoted to the Greek goddess Artemis who was the daughter of Zeus and Leto and also the twin sister of Apollo. She was the goddess of hunting, night, the moon, fertility, childbirth, virginity and wild animals. Her counterpart in Roman mythology was Diana.

There had been a temple on the site that was destroyed by a flood. King Croesus of Lydia sponsored the new temple and brought in Cherisiphron, an architect from Crete, to design and build it along with his son Metagenes. They chose to build it on flat, marshy ground in hopes to protect it from earthquakes.

The foundation of the temple measured 115  by 46 meters or 377 by 151 feet. It had 121 columns 13 meters or 40 feet high than were spread across the platform. The majority of the structure was made of marble except for a wood roof covered with marble tiles. 

The temple was damaged in 356 BC when an arsonist named Herostratus set the roof on fire in an attempt to seek fame. By coincidence the burning of the temple was also the day Alexander the Great was born on July 20. Roman historian Plutarch concluded that the goddess was too busy over seeing Alexander's birth to be concerned with her temple. Alexander later offered to rebuild the temple but the Ephesians refused. 

After Alexander's death they rebuilt the temple and made it even grander. The bigger temple was 137 by 69 meters or 450 by 225 feet and had 127 columns that were 18 meters or 60 feet high. It was adorned with painting and sculptures while the columns were decorated with gold and silver. There were many images of Amazons which legend states were the founders of Ephesus. It was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world and Greek poet Antipater of Sidon considered it the most impressive of all of them when he wrote in 140 BC.

The temple was destroyed by raiding Goths in 262 AD. The Ephesians vowed to rebuild but in the following years many converted to Christianity and the temple lost most of its appeal. The Archbishop of Constantinople had the remaining structure tore down in 401 AD. The Archbishop was Saint John Chrysostom. 

Ancient Seven Wonders page

Friday, November 8, 2013

Templar Cross

The red cross that became representative of the Templar Knights was given to them as a symbol for their order by Pope Eugenius III in 1147. The type was a cross pattée and was a variation on the "Mark of Cain" minus the circle. The red cross itself was a symbol of martyrdom. Yet it was an imposing visual first seen in battle in the second crusades and continued in the two that followed.

Years earlier Jesus first encountered the "Mark of Cain" in his extensive travels when the Celtic Druids of Glastonbury showed him their Celtic Cross. Later Jesus would introduce followers or early Christians to the Sign of the Cross. A person would simulate the cross by touching their forehead, chest and both shoulders. He taught about balancing the mental and emotional energies and touching the head activated the mental energy, touching the chest where your heart is activates the emotional energy and touching both shoulders signals the full activation of both energies. 

Templar Knights page

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Viking Beginning

The first Vikings were Scandinavian fishermen and farmers who spent most of the year at home then ventured across the sea in the summer. A local leader would summon them each summer to go on raids starting around 700 AD. They would also seek out new people to trade with and be on the look out for new lands they could settle.

One explanation for the term viking is that it referred to "a seaman who came from the Vik district of Oslo fjord". The Old Norse had the term vikingr which could mean a freebooter, sea-rover, pirate or viking. That led the term to be synonymous with Scandinavian pirate. When they were going off on a pirate raid that meant they were "going viking".  That was in line with the Old English term wicing that meant "a Scandinavian sea raider". During their raids the Vikings set up temporary camps and wic was a term for village or camp. It was also related to the Latin vicus which meant village. 

Their foundation was also intertwined with their mythology and legends. First there was the Völsunga saga around 436 which had the hero Sigmund who was followed by his son Sigurd the dragon slayer. The epic poem about the Viking hero Beowulf was penned around 520. King Hadding and King Hrólfr Kraki were two legendary kings of Denmark whose stories both contain many supernatural references.

Viking page

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Civil War Battles by State

The lists below show the number of Civil War battles in each state and the order the battles took place.

Alabama (7) Minnesota (2) South Carolina (11) Virginia (122)
Day's Gap  Fort Ridgely Fort Sumter I Sewell's Point
Athens Wood Lake  Secessionville  Aquia Creek 
Mobile Bay Simmon's Bluff  Big Bethel 
Decatur Mississippi (16) Charleston Harbor I Blackburn's Ford
Spanish Fort Iuka Fort Wagner  Manassas I 
Fort Blakely Corinth I Grimball's Landing Ball's Bluff 
Selma Chickasaw Bayou Fort Wagner, Morris Is  Dranesville
Grand Gulf Fort Sumter II Hampton Roads 
Arkansas (17) Snyder's Bluff  Charleston Harbor II Yorktown
Pea Ridge Port Gibson Honey Hill  Williamsburg
Saint Charles Raymond Rivers' Bridge  Eltham's Landing 
Hill's Plantation Jackson  Drewry's Bluff 
Cane Hill Champion Hill Tennessee (38) Hanover Courthouse 
Prairie Grove Big Black River Bridge  Fort Henry Seven Pines 
Arkansas Post Vicksburg  Fort Donelson Oak Grove 
Chalk Bluff Meridian  Shiloh Beaver Dam Creek 
Helena Okolona  Memphis I Gaines' Mill
Devil's Backbone Brice's Cross Roads  Chattanooga I Garnett's & Golding's Farm
Bayou Fourche Tupelo  Murfreesborough I Savage's Station 
Pine Bluff Corinth II Hatchie's Bridge Glendale/White Oak Swamp 
Elkin's Ferry  Hartsville Malvern Hill 
Prairie D'Ane Missouri (29) Jackson Cedar Mountain
Poison Spring Booneville  Stones River Rappahannock Station I
Marks' Mills Carthage  Parker's Cross Roads  Manassas Station 
Jenkins' Ferry Liberty Dover Thoroughfare Gap
Old River Lake Wilson's Creek Thompson's Station  Manassas II
Dry Wood Creek  Vaught's Hill Chantilly 
Colorado (1) Lexington I Brentwood  Fredericksburg
Sand Creek Fredericktown  Franklin I Kelly's Ford
Springfield I Hoover's Gap  Suffolk /Norfleet House
District of Columbia (1) Belmont Chattanooga II Suffolk / Hill's Point
 Fort Stevens Mt. Zion Church Blountsville  Chancellorsville
Roan's Tan Yard  Blue Springs  Salem Church 
Florida (6) New Madrid/Island 10  Wauhatchie  Fredericksburg II 
Santa Rosa Island Kirksville  Collierville  Brandy Station 
Tampa  Independence I Campbell's Station  Aldie 
Saint John's Bluff Lone Jack  Chattanooga III Middleburg 
Fort Brooke Newtonia I Fort Sanders  Upperville 
Olustee Clark's Mill Bean's Station  Auburn I
Natural Bridge Springfield II Mossy Creek  Bristoe Station 
Hartville  Dandridge  Auburn II
Georgia (27) Cape Girardeau  Fair Garden Buckland Mills 
Fort Pulaski Fort Davidson Fort Pillow  Rappahannock Station II
Fort McAllister I Glasgow  Memphis II Mine Run 
Davis' Cross-Roads Lexington II Johnsonville  Morton's Ford 
Chickamauga Little Blue River Bull's Gap  Wilderness 
Ringgold Gap  Independence II Columbia  Port Walthall Junction 
Dalton I  Byram's Ford  Spring Hill  Spotsylvania Court House
Rocky Face Ridge Westport  Franklin II Cloyd's Mountain 
Resaca Marmiton River Murfreesborough II Swift Creek 
Adairsville  Newtonia II Nashville  Chester Station 
New Hope Church Yellow Tavern 
Dallas  New Mexico (2) Texas (5) Proctor's Creek
Pickett's Mill Valverde  Sabine Pass I Ware Bottom Church
Marietta  Glorieta Pass Galveston I North Anna 
Kolb's Farm Galveston II Wilson's Wharf 
Kennesaw Mountain  North Carolina (20) Palmeto Ranch  Totopotomy Ck/Bethesda 
Peachtree Creek Hatteras Inlet Batteries  Sabine Pass II  Haw's Shop 
Atlanta  Roanoke Island Old Church 
Ezra Church New Berne  Cold Harbor 
Utoy Creek Fort Macon  Petersburg I
Dalton II  South Mills Lynchburg 
Lovejoy's Station  Tranter's Creek  Jerusalem Plank Road
Jonesborough  Kinston Saint Mary's Church
Allatoona  White Hall Sappony Church 
Griswoldville  Goldsborough Bridge  Ream's Station I
Buck Head Creek  Fort Anderson Deep Bottom I 
Waynesborough Washington Crater 
Fort McAllister II Plymouth  Deep Bottom II 
Albemarle Sound  Globe Tavern 
Idaho (1) Fort Fisher I Ream's Station II
Bear River Fort Fisher II Peebles' Farm 
Wilmington  Chaffin's Farm/New Market Heights
Indiana (1) Wyse Fork  Saltville I
Corydon Monroe's Cross Roads Darbytown and New Market 
Averasborough  Darbytown Road 
Kansas (4) Bentonville  Boydton Plank Road
Lawrence Fair Oaks & Darbytown Road
Baxter Springs Lexington II Marion
Mine Creek  Little Blue River Saltville II
Marais des Cygnes Independence II Hatcher's Run 
Byram's Ford  Fort Stedman
Kentucky (11) Westport  Lewis's Farm
Barbourville Marmiton River Dinwiddie Court House 
Camp Wild Cat  Newtonia II White Oak Road 
Ivy Mountain Five Forks 
Rowlett's Station  New Mexico (2) Petersburg III
Middle Creek Valverde  Sutherland's Station 
Mill Springs  Glorieta Pass Amelia Springs
Richmond Rice's Station 
Munfordville North Carolina (20) Sailor's Creek
Perryville Hatteras Inlet Batteries  Cumberland Church 
Paducah  Roanoke Island High Bridge 
Cynthiana  New Berne  Appomattox Station 
Fort Macon  Appomattox Courthouse
Louisiana (23) South Mills Petersburg III
Forts Jackson & St. Phillip Tranter's Creek  Trevilian Station
New Orleans  Kinston Cockpit Point 
Baton Rouge  White Hall Kernstown I 
Donaldsonville I Goldsborough Bridge  McDowell 
Georgia Landing Fort Anderson Front Royal 
Fort Bisland  Washington Winchester I 
Irish Bend  Plymouth  Cross Keys 
Vermillion Bayou Albemarle Sound  Port Republic 
Plains Store  Fort Fisher I Winchester II 
Port Hudson  Fort Fisher II Manassas Gap 
Milliken's Bend  Wilmington  Cove Mountain 
LaFourche Crossing  Wyse Fork  New Market
Donaldsonville II Monroe's Cross Roads Piedmont 
Goodrich's Landing Averasborough  Staunton River Bridge 
Kock's Plantation Bentonville  Cool Spring
Stirling's Plantation Rutherford's Farm 
Fort De Russy North Dakota (5) Kernstown II 
Mansfield  Big Mound Guard Hill 
Pleasant Hill  Dead Buffalo Lake Berryville
Blair's Landing  Stony Lake Opequon 
Monett's Ferry  Whitestone Hill Fisher's Hill 
Mansura  Killdeer Mountain Tom's Brook 
Yellow Bayou Cedar Creek 
Ohio (2) Waynesboro 
Maryland (7) Buffington Island Namozine Church 
Hancock Salineville  Walkerton
South Mountain
Antietam Oklahoma (7) West Virginia (15)
Williamsport  Round Mountain Philippi 
Boonsboro  Chusto-Talasah Hoke's Run 
Monocacy Chustenahlah Rich Mountain 
Folck's Mill  Old Fort Wayne Kessler's Cross Lanes 
Middle Boggy Depot  Cheat Mountain 
Cabin Creek Carnifex Ferry 
Honey Springs Greenbrier River
Camp Alleghany
Pennsylvania (2) Princeton Courthouse
Hanover  Harpers Ferry 
Gettysburg Droop Mountain
Summit Point 
Smithfield Crossing 
American Civil War page Shepherdstown

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Queen Sobekneferu of Egypt

Queen Sobekneferu was the last ruler of the 12th dynasty of Egypt from about 1785 to 1781 BC. Alternate spellings of her name have appeared as Neferusobek, Nefrusobek, Nefrusobk, Sobeknofru and Sobekkara. The name means "The beauties of Sobek". Sobek was the crocodile god and the rulers of the 12th dynasty had established a religious center in the Fayoum Oasis where crocodiles were nurtured and worshiped. 

There is limited physical evidence of her short reign. Her name does appear in the Kamak, the Turin Canon, the Turin kings list, the Sakkara kings list and the writings of Egyptian historian Manetho. Three headless statues of her were found in the Fayoum and five more statues were found at the temple of Amenemhat III at Hawara. While her tomb has not been officially located, the ruins of a pyramid near Dahshur are believed to have been hers.

Her father Amenemhat III ruled for about 47 years and appointed his son Amenemhat IV co-ruler before his death. It is thought Amenemhat III originally planned on his daughter Nefruptah to be his heir but she died at an early age. Amenemhat IV may have been an infant when he took power so his sister Sobekneferu served as regent during his reign of about 12 years before his death. She then became the last Egyptian king of the Middle Kingdom. Both male and female titles were used in reference to her reign. She was also the third female pharaoh. When she died she did not have any heirs.

Ancient Egypt page

Monday, November 4, 2013

Jolly Roger

Jolly Roger became the generic term when referring to a pirate flag. The term likely came out of twisting the French joli rouge which meant pretty red. The early buccaneers flew red banners and flags to strike fear in the others they encountered. 

English pirate Henry Every also known as John Avery may have been one of the first to transition to the iconic pirate flag with the skull and cross bones. His years of piracy spanned 1694 to 1696 and he is reported to have flown two different flags. He originally flew a traditional red flag with chevrons but later switched to a black flag with a skull in profile above cross bones. Whether he actually switched to the second flag is still up for debate.

French pirate Emanuel Wynne is given confirmed credit as the first to use the skull and cross bones. Captain John Cranby of the British naval ship HMS Poole entered into official record in 1700 an encounter with Wynne and his ship which flew a black flag with a skull that appeared to rest on cross bones as an hourglass was below it. The hourglass was a common pirate symbol which told they opposition they should surrender in a timely manner. 

English pirate Richard Worley simplified his flag to just the skull resting on the crossbones on a black flag. His piracy career only lasted September 1718 to February 1719. His short career ended after his capture and execution.

Irish pirate Edward England who was born as Edward Seeger created what is considered the classic pirate flag with the skull above the cross bones on a black flag. His piracy career spanned from 1717 to 1720. The character Long John Silver was patterned after England by Robert Louis Stevenson.

pirate page

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Shaanxi Earthquake in 1556

The earthquake near Shaanxi, China on the morning of January 23, 1556 was the deadliest earthquake on record and the third deadliest natural disaster ever. An estimated 830,000 people were killed as the earthquake destroyed an 840 km or 520 mile wide area. More than 97 counties in the provinces of Shaanxi, Anhui, Gansu, Hebei, Henan, Hunan, Jiangsu and Shanxi with some counties losing up to sixty percent of their population. 

The epicenter was in the Wei River Valley in the Shaanxi province near the cities of Huaxian, Huayan and Weinan. Huaxian was hit hardest with every single building and home destroyed killing more than half its residents which lead to some references of the disaster as the Great Huaxian Earthquake. It is also referred to as the Jiajing Great Earthquake because it occurred during the reign Jiajing Emperor of the Ming Dynasty.

The Wei River Valley Basin is a major fault line where four tectonic systems intersect. The Cathaysian, Latitudinal direction, Longxi and Qilu-Qin-ling systems all meet making the area vulnerable for a major earhtquake. The magnitude of the 1556 earthquake is estimated between 7.9 and 8.6 on the Richter scale. Areas as far away as 500 km or 310 miles from the epicenter were affected. Crevices as deep as 20 meters or 66 feet were opened in ground by the quake.

One contributing factor to the high death tolls was millions of people living in man-made Loess caves. Much of the population in the Gansu, Shaanxi and Shanxi provinces lived in earth shelters called yaodongs in artificial caves made in the high cliffs of the Loess Plateau. The earthquake caused many of the caves to collapse and landslides destroyed many more.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Hanging Gardens of Babylon

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon were listed by Greek historian Herodotus as one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. At the time he reported two different creation stories that existed at the time. The first is the more popular story that King Nebachadezzar II of Babylonia built it around 600 BC to comfort his homesick wife Amyitis. Others believe that it was created during the reign of Queen Shammuramat of Assyria around 810 BC.

While the creator is up for debate the actual location has also been questioned. Most early references put the garden in Babylon but some speculate that the actual location may have been 350 miles to the north in the city of Ninevah. King Sennacherib of Assyria had gardens built in Ninevah around 700 BC and there may have been some confusion between the two. 

Following the most accepted Nebachadezzar version the Hanging Gardens of Babylon were built on along the east bank of the Euphrates River. Babylon was about 80 km or 50 miles southwest of modern Baghdad in Iraq. The gardens grew on many levels of terraces made mostly of mud bricks on an area 122 meters by 122 meters or 400 feet by 400 feet and were 22 to 24 meters or 72 to 80 feet high. The vaulted terraces were one above another as they rested on cube shaped pillars. An irrigation system which utilized the Euphrates watered the extensive garden continuously. The Gardens were believed to have been destroyed by an earthquake in the second century BC and the mud bricks disappeared by erosion.

Ancient Seven Wonders page

Friday, November 1, 2013

Bornholm and the Knights Templar

Bornholm is a Danish island in the Baltic Sea that is 135 km or 83 miles east of Denmark, 37 km or 22 miles south of Sweden, 90 km or 55 miles north of Poland and about 90 km or 55 miles northeast of Germany. That advantageous location has made it appealing to many over the years including the Templars. The Templars built four churches on the island at Nyker, Nylars, Olsker and Østerlars. 

The Danish Archbishop Eskil had stayed at the monastary Clairvaux from 1161 to 1167. The monastary was founded by Bernard of Clairvaux who was the nephew of one of the founding Knights Templar Andre de Montbard. Eskil and Templar Grand Master Bertrand de Blanchfort made a plan about 1164 to build storage stores on Bornholm to house supplies for the fleets carrying out the Crusades in the Baltics. The church at Østerlars was the first constructed and all four had the distinctive Templar architecture design and are referred to as round churches. The distance between the Østerlars and Nylars churches was the exact same distance as that between Østerlars and another church in Rutsker, That distance is 14,336 meters or 47,034 feet. There is some speculation that the Templars had hidden treasure from the Crusades at the churches. 

Knights Templar page

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

H H Holmes American Monster

Born as Herman Webster Mudgett in 1861 be would grow up to be one of the first known serial killers in the United States under the alias of Dr. Henry Howard Holmes. The exact number of victims is unknown but is thought to be in the hundreds. There were also ties to murders on another continent. 

It is unknown when he took his first victim but still as Mudgett he enrolled in the University of Michigan Medical School with the intent on making himself a more efficient killer. He graduated in 1884. While still in school he mastered the scheme of stealing bodies from the university laboratory and collected money from insurance policies he had taken out on them. Collecting insurance on his future victims became a steady source of income. 

He moved to Chicago to to take advantage of his medical knowledge by pursuing a career in pharmaceuticals. He adopted his alias commonly referred to as H. H. Holmes and entered into ventures both legal and not. He made his money in real estate, business and murder. He started to work at a drugstore in Chicago and eventually became sole proprietor after the owner disappeared. Murder turned profitable as he started to sell the skeletons and organs of his victims to universities around the country.

He amassed great wealth and used it to purchase the property across the street from the drugstore and he started building a massive three story, block long hotel. There was an evil plan at unfolding. Holmes knew that Chicago would host the 1893 World's Fair just blocks from his location and he would have it completed by then. Each week he had a different construction crew so no one knew the true lay out of the hotel. The neighbors called it a castle but it would later be adjusted to the "Murder Castle". He put the finishing touch on the outside by naming it World's Fair Hotel.

There were gas lines running to each bedroom where he could asphyxiate them at whim. He also had a sound proof vault next to an office he had on premises where he could suffocate other victims. A hidden chute went from many of the rooms directly to the basement. There was a torture room in the basement complete with a stretching rack. The basement also had two giant furnaces and pits of acid. 

The 1893 World's Fair offered him many victims with people from out of town looking for a place to stay. He continued his insurance scheme by having people sign life insurance policies as they checked in. Holmes collected insurance policies and sold the skeletons and organs of some victims. 

A glass bending factory on the other side of town was also owned by Holmes although it was never used for that purpose. While not close to his hotel it was near an apartment he had rented for a mistress Minnie Williams whose personal belongings were found in the factory. Mudgett\Holmes had been married three times but never officially divorced any of them. Police also discovered that Holmes had owned and operated a Fruit and Grocery Store near there under the alias of Frank Wilde.

There is also evidence that Holmes may also have been the infamous Jack the Ripper. He was in London at the time trying to sell a skeleton to the local universities. He possessed the medical knowledge that the Ripper would have had. His handwriting was a near perfect match to the letters that the Ripper sent to the police.

It was his murder and insurance claim pattern that did him in. Holmes had come up with a plan where his longtime associate Benjamin Pitezel would fake his own death and  Pitezel and his wife would collect the insurance and split it with Holmes. Holmes ended up killing Pitezel and collected the money himself. Later Holmes killed three of Pitezel's children and when he went to claim the money he was arrested. It was at that time that Chicago Police went to the Murder Castle in July 1895 and discovered the horrors there. The building burned to the ground on August 19, 1895. He was put to death by hanging on May 7, 1896.

Bloodless 34 Hour Battle at Fort Sumter

South Carolina seceded from the Union on December 20, 1860. United States Major Robert Anderson and his 85 soldiers suddenly found themselves behind enemy lines in a foreign land. Fearing for the safety of his men he moved them Fort Moultrie to Fort Sumter. Fort Moultrie was in a more vulnerable position at the mouth of Charleston Harbor while Fort Sumter was in the middle of the harbor.

By inauguration day March 4, 1861 Anderson reported that they only had a six week supply of food left. A previous attempt to send a to send supplies on January 9, 1861 by order of President James Buchanan on the merchant ship Star of the West was thwarted when the ship was fired upon. There was an initial warning shot across the bow before three shots hit the ship. The damage was not major but the ship's captain John McGowan deemed it too dangerous to continue and abandoned the mission.

The Confederates were also making it known that his force was not welcome. Several other Federal forts in seceded states had already been seized by respective state troops. All other federal federal properties had already been seized within South Carolina except Fort Sumner.

President Abraham Lincoln made another attempt to supply Fort Sumter. He notified South Carolina Governor Francis W Pickens on April 6 that supply ships were being sent. The notification was made directly to the Governor rather than the Confederate government because he did not recognize it. A fleet of ships under the command of Gustavus V. Fox. The ships included the USS Pawnee, the USS Powhatan, the USS Pocahontas, the cutter Harriet Lane, the steamer Baltic which was transporting 200 troops and three tug boats. The supply ship would carry the supplies to the fort while the warships remained outside the harbor. President Lincoln figured if his ship was fired upon first the Confederacy would be the aggressor and he could rally support from the other states.

In reaction the Confederates knew they had to act before the ships arrived and General P.G.T. Beauregard who was the Confederate commander at Charleston was ordered to demand evacuation of Fort Sumter or to force its evacuation. The request to surrender the Fort was made on April 11 but refused. The Harriet Lane arrived the evening of April 11.

The first mortar round was fired by the Confederacy on Fort Sumter at 4:30am on April 12. It was the start of 34 continuous hours of bombardment. Major Anderson held return fire because their supplies were low and at 7am allowed his second in command Captain Abner Doubleday the honor of firing the first shot in defense of the Fort. To conserve ammunition the return of fire was sporadic. Shells were bursting all around the Fort and some walls crashed down. But Anderson had chosen not to utilize some of the mounted guns so not to put his men in harm's way. 

Fox arrived on the April 12 on the Baltic but most of the rest of the fleet did not arrive until hours later. Landing craft were sent toward the Fort but had to turn back due to artillery fire. The next day the choppy waves in the sea made it too difficult to load the small boats for another attempt and Fox postponed with the hope Anderson could hold the Fort until dark on the 13th. 

At 1pm on April 13 Confederate Colonel Louis Wigfall, a former U.S Senator approached the Fort and asked Anderson if they were ready to evacuate. Nearly out of ammunition and food with his men hungry and exhausted Anderson agreed to a truce at 2pm. The Fort had endured over 3000 shells and Anderson had no casualties or wounded. The confederacy made the same claim. 

The terms of the surrender allowed Anderson to make a 100 gun salute to the U.S. flag before he and his men would evacuate. However they were only half way through before an accident caused an explosion killing one man immediately, mortally wounding another and left four others seriously wounded. Anderson and his men marched out of the Fort and boarded a Confederate steamer that took them out to the Baltic where Fox awaited. Anderson took the Fort Sumter flag with him on the trip north.

American Civil War page