While most think of Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House as the end of the Civil War, the final group of Confederates to surrender was not until November 6, 1865.
The Confederate flag was surrendered after the CSS Shenandoah discovered that the Civil War was over. However, it was in England, not America, that they surrendered. They discovered the news from a British vessel and realized that they could be considered pirates now that the Confederacy no longer existed.
Captain Waddell stowed all weapons below deck and even had the hull repainted. The CSS Shenandoah then fled halfway across the globe to Liverpool, England, the same place the Confederacy secretly purchased the vessel in 1864. The CSS Shenandoah had recorded capturing or destroying 38 ships, seizing more than 1,000 captives, and inflicting $1.6 million in damages. It did most of its damage in the Pacific Ocean against Union whaling ships. Some historians debate if the ship’s captain knew the war was over and continued attacking ships, but no conclusive evidence has yet been uncovered.
After surrendering to the British, the sailors were eventually released, and the ship was returned to the US government. The ship was later sold to the sultan of Zanzibar and sank in 1872.
Written by Josh Yohe
As Americans moved from the rural areas to cities during the mid-1800s, many cities began to grow. Chicago, which was built right along Lake Michigan, often found itself flooded and sewage was often filling the streets. As the town grew, this problem amplified until 1855, when the city began the process of raising the city. Because the city was only a few feet above Lake Michigan sewage wouldn’t properly drain, and the Chicago Board of Sewerage Commissioners determined the best way to end the problem was to raise the city by 4ft.-14ft. based on the location.
During the two decades that the city took to raise itself, city drainage pipes were installed, and dirt and new foundations were placed under buildings. Many businesses and hotels were raised inch by inch, while still being open to visitors and guests, and once part of a block, weighing roughly 35,000 tons, was even raised using 6,000 jackscrews and hundreds of men. One man even recorded that he saw a building being raised every day by this strenuous work. This process was possible because modern skyscrapers and building materials like iron weren’t commonly used and most buildings were heavy and well built.
George Pullman was one of the masterminds behind the project and would later make his fortune in building sleeping cars. Today such a feat would be nearly impossible, yet in the late 1800s, Chicago raised its city higher to be able to continue to grow spurring the town to new growth during the turn of the century.
Written by Josh Yohe
General Robert Lee’s estate Arlington was an 1,100-acre estate that his wife had inherited from her father, George Washington Parke Custis, upon his death in 1857. Custis was the grandson of Martha Washington and had been adopted by George Washington when Custis' father died in 1781.
After Virginia seceded, the federal government took over Arlington so that the Confederate army couldn’t use the estate's strategic location to attack Washington D.C. Prior to Mary Lee's leaving, she boxed the family silver, crated George Washington's and G.W.P. Custis' papers and secured General Lee's files. As the federal soldiers arrived they set up camp and began to loot Lee’s house and estate. They also built forts to provide protection in case of an attack.
As slaves became free, the Union army used the land for a Freedmen's Village. Some 1,500 freed slaves lived on the estate, complete with new frame houses, schools, churches and farmlands on which the former slaves grew food for the Union war effort. Even after the war, some of the freedmen remained and continued to farm parcels of land.
In 1862, Congress passed a law requiring taxes to be paid in person if their land was a part of an insurrectionist district. They required Mary Lee to pay $92.07 on her estate, but due to her health she couldn’t go in person to pay, and the representative she sent was denied. The property was sold at auction to the government, well below its assessed value.
As the war lingered, Union officials sought a place to bury the growing number of dead soldiers. They chose Arlington, and the first soldier laid to rest there was Pvt. William Christman, 21, of the 67th Pennsylvania Infantry. Arlington became a national military cemetery in 1864, and soon saw many more men interred during the war.
After the war, the Lees continued to try to get their property back. Lee wrote to his wife that "The prospect does not look promising.” The question of Arlington's ownership was still unresolved when Lee died, age 63, in Lexington on October 12, 1870. Both Mary Lee and her son, known as Custis, brought the issue before Congress but Congress never acted in their favor.
Custis Lee took the matter before the court and worked it up to the Supreme Court, which ruled the tax sale unconstitutional and awarded Arlington back to the Lee family. The government could either remove their fort, oust the residents of Freedmen's Village, disinter almost 20,000 graves and vacate the property, or the government could choose to buy the estate from Custis Lee.
Lee agreed to sell the property back to the government for $150,000 and the government agent that accepted the property title was Robert Lincoln. Today, thousands visit the cemetery that honors the brave men and women who served the United States in some capacity.
Written by Josh Yohe
Have you ever heard a person speak in a British accent and wonder when Americans lost their accent? You might be left thinking for a while, because Americans didn’t lose their accent; the British accent evolved from ours. In an oversimplification, there are two regional accents: American and British, and while several locations have their own style or accents, these are the easiest and most common major categories. Places like Boston, the Appalachian region, certain British islands, etc. may disagree, but like most things, there are always exceptions.
Most people assume that the British have always talked with their accent and the American colonists eventually started speaking differently. When Americans speak, they use a rhotic pronunciation when pronouncing the “r” in words like: car, park, your, and yard. The rhotic pronunciation is the original pronunciation in both countries and is seen through multiple historical reasons.
First, before recording devices the way to understand how a person spoke was by reading their writing, especially in personal letters. Until about 1775, most of these letters used this rhotic writing style. Around the time of the Industrial Revolution in England, the new emerging class of British social elites wanted to distinguish themselves from others. Books and writings began to show this non-rhotic style and officially became called the “Received Pronunciation” (north England, Scotland, and Ireland have traditionally kept their rhotic speech).
Changes in language tend to happen faster in urban areas, whereas rural areas tend to change slower or not at all. England, through their Industrial Revolution, became more urbanized, while America, who didn't industrialize on a major scale for several more decades, kept its accent mainly intact, with some subtle differences.
SO DID SHAKESPEARE SPEAK WITH AN ENGLISH ACCENT? Yes; however, it wasn’t with the English accent you would think of, but instead it would sound closer to the American accent used today. So the next time you hear a British accent, remember that it was the British accent, not America’s, that changed.
This is a major oversimplification as any linguist would tell you, but it briefly tries to explain why both people groups speak differently.
Written by Josh Yohe
Many of the war crimes committed during World War II in Nazi concentration camps are well known. However, the war crimes committed by the Japanese are less known, and some would argue that they are more brutal.
One of these locations of grotesque human experimentations was Unit 731, or the “Epidemic Prevention and Water Purification Department,” which operated from 1938-1945. Located in Japanese-occupied China, many of the victims were Chinese, but there are indications that some of the victims were Korean, Russian, Mongolian, and possibly a few American POWs. These victims, none of whom survived, were referred to as “logs,” as the lab was located near a logging center. Estimates of those killed at Unit 731 range between 3,000 and 12,000, a widely varying number since most of the documents written here were destroyed
It was believed that anesthesia or bodily decay would alter the results done in experimentation; thus, live humans were necessary. Victims were exposed to freezing temperatures in order to determine the best way to fight frostbite, and after this, the limb(s) would be amputated and reattached to a different area of the body. Some were cut open, with no anesthesia, to remove their stomach and have their esophagus attached to their intestines. Others were put in pressure chambers to see how long until they’re eyes would pop out. Many were exposed to anthrax and bubonic plague to see how quickly it affected human tissue.
As a result of the experimentation done at Unit 731, many biological weapons were used by the Japanese against the Chinese, which resulted in the death of 200,000 Chinese during the war, and some 30,000 after the war when many of the infected lab rats were released into the local area. Several of these biological weapons were planned to be used against the United States. It is often speculated that the balloons that the Japanese sent over to the Pacific Northwest were a test for sending balloons carrying biological weapons. A Japanese submarine had been ordered to launch biological weapons on the US forces on Saipan, but the submarine was sunk before this could happen. Another attempt was Operation Cherry Blossoms at Night, which planned to send airplanes filled with plague-infested fleas, into San Diego via kamikaze pilots. It was scheduled for September 22, 1945, but the Japanese surrendered on September 2, 1945.
Despite the horrific deeds done by the scientists at Unit 731, the scientists were granted immunity by the United States as part of Operation Paperclip, in exchange for the results of their experimentation. Some of the scientists who did their work at Unit 731 went on to become the governor of Tokyo, the President of the Japan Medical Association, the president of the Green Cross Corp., and the heads of multiple Japanese schools, such as Kyoto University and Kinki University. The Japanese only acknowledged the existence of Unit 731 in the 1990s. No formal statement has been made regarding these war crimes.
Written by Drew Stapleton
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