It's Past Time!

Full of Surprises

It's past time we give a little attention to some of the “WHAT THE-- ??” (otherwise known as “Didn't See That Coming!” ) snippets of our past.

After the Fact (see link below) tells, in 14 chapters, how several people from various historical events fared after the event in which they are partly, or fully, famous. Very interesting book.

My favorite is the chapter about James Cook. It tells how Cook and four others “ended up.”

In the beginning, Cook and his crew were wined, dined, and partied hearty (in every sense) after being greeted by THOUSANDS of Hawaiian natives in canoes. The royal treatment times a squillion! And then suddenly the mood changed and they were bum's-rushed out to sea. And finding the seas very rough, they returned to make repairs. And met, a month after the Day of the Big Welcome, with a mega-chilly reception. Instead of gifts, libations, willing girls girls girls and lavish kindness, NOW it was frowning priests, sneaky thieving, and hard- bargain-striking.

You'd think they'd found out that the strangers had given them ugly diseases, which they surely had, but it was too soon to be sure of that.

So... arguments ensued, rocks were thrown, bullets flew, a melee broke out, Cook and four crewmen were killed, Cook was roasted and partially eaten, and the crew reacted: burned the natives' homes, and killed around a hundred.

The book explains the weird change of behavior. Cook's ARRIVAL coincided with a festival that honored the god of peace and fertility. PAR-TY!

The sudden bum's rush was because the festival time had closed. Cook's RETURN coincided with a festival of the god of WAR.



A huge slave rebellion had arisen on the island of St. Domingue. Some 20,000 additional French reinforcements were sent to supplement the surviving troops in late 1802, and French General Victor-Emmanuel LeClerc was replaced by General Rochambeau.

Toussaint L’Ouverture was the slaves' leader, and his aides came to him in a panic. How could they fight against so many?

Don't worry, we don't need to, he reassured them. We have the mosquito.

In 1802-1803, yellow fever at St. Domingue ravaged almost 50,000 French soldiers due to their lack of immunity. The slave armies HAD immunity.

By November, 1803, Rochambeau retreated to France with only 3,000 survivors.

Almost twice as many French troops were felled by yellow fever on the island of St. Dominique than were slain in the Battle of Waterloo years later.


Napoleon reacted decisively.. He abandoned all ideas about expanding his empire into the Louisiana Territory of the US, and offered it for sale to the Americans for $15 million.

We bought it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ On January 8, 1815, the British marched against General Andrew Jackson's lines of defense in New Orleans.

The British battle plan was for an attack against the 20-gun west bank battery, which would then both reduce the American artillery danger and enable those same guns to be turned on the American line.

The canal being dug by British sailors collapsed... and the dam, made to divert the flow of the river into the canal, failed, leaving the sailors to drag the boats of their west bank assault force through deep mud.

The main attack began under darkness and heavy fog, but as the British neared the main American line, the fog lifted, exposing them to withering artillery fire.

British Lt. Col. Thomas Mullins had forgotten the ladders and fascines ( a bundle of rods, sticks, or plastic pipes bound together, used in military operations for filling in marshy ground and for strengthening the sides of embankments, ditches, or trenches).

These were needed to cross the eight foot deep and fifteen foot wide canal.


Most of the British senior officers were killed or wounded.

British infantrymen ...flung themselves to the ground, huddled in the canal, or were mowed down by musket fire and grapeshot from the Americans.


4,732 Americans 14,450 British

Casualties and losses

Americans 55 killed 185 wounded 93 missing or captured Total: 333

British 386 killed 1,521 wounded 552 missing or captured Total: 2,459

The American reserve was used to cover the retreat of what was left of the British army in the field. Jackson and Commodore Patterson reported that the retreating forces had spiked their cannon, leaving no guns to turn on the Americans' main defense line, but Major Mitchell's diary makes it clear this was not so... he relates that the (British) retreated, taking a few American prisoners and cannon with them. ~~~~~~~~~~ I am, as always, looking out for your interests.

In case you should need it sometime... here's some information on spiking your own cannon: https://www.reddit.com/r/AskHistorians/comments/1towcv/ive_heard_of_soldiers_spiking_their_cannons_when/">https://www.reddit.com/r/AskHistorians/comments/1towcv/ive_heard_of_soldiers_spiking_their_cannons_when/

~~~~~~~~~~

The Nine Lives of Andrew Jackson, online, Mental Floss

After the Fact by Owen J. Hurd





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