Posted by: Dominic | October 21, 2013

“‘Poor’ effort in Latin”

From the John F. Kennedy Library, President Kennedy’s eighth grade report card from the Canterbury School in Connecticut:

John F. Kennedy's Eighth Grade Report Card, from

John F. Kennedy’s Eighth Grade Report Card, from

Kennedy received a 55, and a ‘poor’ mark, in Latin, where his class’ average was almost 85; now I don’t feel too bad about my own Latin grades! Turns out you can be bad at Latin and still become president. And perhaps his high marks in English portend his Pulitzer Prize 27 years later? (Probably not, but it’s fun to speculate).

Posted by: Dominic | August 30, 2013

History Jokes

Here are more history jokes from Including several Roman/Latin related ones! Warning: high pun content.

Posted by: Dominic | August 21, 2013

History Quote

Que ninguna [historia] es mala como sea verdadera.

And no history can be bad so long as it is true.

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha

Title Page to the First Edition of Don Quixote

Here is the second primary source on the 1805 Battle of Derna during the First Barbary War. It was written by William Eaton, commander of the American-led mercenary force against Yousef Karamanli, the Pasha of Ottoman Tripoli, modern Libya. I have taken an excerpt out of the letter, for there is much reporting on other matters that gets in the way of the narrative. The letter was addressed to Captain Samuel Barron, the overall naval commander of the Mediterranean squadron at the time. Eaton’s official title was U.S. Navy Agent for the Barbary Regencies.

William Eaton

William Eaton

Read More…

Posted by: Dominic | June 27, 2013

The Battle of Derna, 1805: Primary Sources

The Battle of Derna

The Battle of Derna

The Battle of Derna took place on 27th April 1805 between an American-led mercenary army under the command of William Eaton and the forces of Yousef Karamanli, pasha of the Ottoman Vilayet of Tripoli. It was a major land engagement in the First Barbary War (1801-1805), during which the United States attempted to quell the Tripoli’s pirate activity in the Mediterranean.

Eaton, formerly a consul to Tunis, concocted several plans to free the United States of the onerous annual tribute of $1 million, about 10% of annual revenues, which the U.S. paid to keep its merchant fleet safe in Mediterranean waters. In 1801, Thomas Jefferson sent a squadron of Navy ships to the Mediterranean to protect American interests and Pasha Yousef declared war on 10th May 1801 by cutting down the flagstaff in front of the U.S. Consulate. Eaton at first proposed to kidnap one of Yousef’s top-ranking admirals, which he hoped would entice Yousef into diplomatic talks with the U.S., and then the U.S. would proceed to kidnap Yousef during those talks. Which is a pretty crazy idea and probably wouldn’t have worked.

Eaton finally settled on overthrowing Yousef’s regime and placing his brother Hamet in power in order to get a pro-American government in Tripoli. Eaton went along with the Mediterranean squadron in 1804 and landed in Egypt to find Hamet. After finding Hamet, they enlisted a mercenary army of about 300 Arabs and Greeks, and were joined by Lt. Presley O’Bannon, U.S.M.C., and seven Marines from the USS Argus. They marched 500 miles west along the North African desert, all the while facing food shortages, threats of desertion (including from Hamet), the mercenaries’ demands for more money, and the fear of not being able to find adequate water in the parched terrain.

This rag-tag army finally made it to Derna on 25th April 1805 after a 52 day march. On the 27th they assaulted the town and took it. It marked the first time the American flag was raised in victory in the Old World. The story has been told and retold many times by historians in the two centuries since the battle, but all of them are based on two letters that report on the battle, both by American eyewitnesses and participants. One was written by Master Commandant (later Commodore) Isaac Hull to his boss, Captain Samuel Barron, on 28th April; Master Commandant Hull commanded the USS Argus, one of the ships that provided naval gunfire during the attack. The other is by William Eaton, also written to Capt. Barron, on the 29th. I always prefer to go to the primary sources rather than read about and event through an intermediary like an historian, so I thought I would let them tell the story of the Battle of Derna! It is important to note that there are no Ottoman sources for this battle.

Read More…

The second installment of my Marine Corps history posts has appeared on the Officer Candidates School blog. It discusses the Barbary Wars of the early 19th century in North Africa and the role of Presley O’Bannon at the Battle of Derna in 1805. Check it out here!

Lt. Presley O'Bannon, U.S.M.C.

Lt. Presley O’Bannon, U.S.M.C.

Posted by: Dominic | May 20, 2013

Once Again, Ahead of the Curve

I’m a daily BuzzFeed reader, and pleasantly surprised I was to come across the “Presidential Facial Hair Power Ranking” about a month ago!

But of course we (ha) here at Historias Apodeixis were on this idea almost two and a half years ago with a post on American facial hair. And our list included more than just presidents, we also covered writers and military.

BuzzFeed’s ranking runs:

10. Chester A. Arthur

9. James Garfield

8. John Quincy Adams

7. Franklin Pierce

6. Martin Van Buren

5. Theodore Roosevelt

4. Warren Harding

3. Rutherford B. Hayes

2. Abraham Lincoln

1. William Howard Taft

With honorable mention to James Polk.

Abraham Lincoln

Runner Up, BuzzFeed’s Presidential Facial Hair Rankings

Winner of BuzzFeed's Presidential Facial Hair Rankings

WINNER: BuzzFeed’s Reigning Champion of Presidential Whiskers!

Posted by: Dominic | February 1, 2013

New Partnership: Marine OCS Blog

I’m very excited to announce that I have partnered with the Marine O.C.S. Blog to bring readers articles on United States Marine Corps history!

My first article was published yesterday on the site. It covers the origins of the Marine Corps in the American Revolution, from its charter by the Second Continental Congress on the famous date of 10th November, 1775, to its very first officers and enlisted men. It can be found here.

The Marine OCS Blog is an awesome blog that has information, workouts, and does Q&A for those applying to or about to report to U.S.M.C. Officer Candidate School. It was hugely helpful when I prepared for my own journey through O.C.S. I am really grateful for the opportunity to work with the site, and I hope to be sending up more of these articles soon!

Posted by: Dominic | January 20, 2013

More on Washington’s Wine

In one of those wonderful rabbit holes that one may fall into when doing library research, I found this following letter while reading primary documents on the origins of the Marine Corps. It seemed a fortuitous find!

On 11 July 1780, the Chairman of the Continental Board of Admiralty, Francis Lewis, sent the following to Gen. Washington, who was at camp in Preakness (now Wayne), New Jersey.

 “May 6th the Board by direction of Congress, sent to your Excellency two pipes of Maderia Wine [sic] should be glad to know if they have been received.–On the 18th instant Congress directed the Board to deliver Colo. Blaine Commissary General of Purchases two pipes of Maderia with a quantity of french Wine for your Excellencys use, we have accordingly delivered One pip and two hhds Maderia, and Colo. Blaine has undertaken to procure the french Wine.

–I have the honor to be Your Excellencys Obedt Servant,

F LEWIS per Order”.

Seems like Washington really did like his Madeira wine! A pipe (also hilariously known as a “butt”) is 475-480 liters, so Washington was about to be swimming in 960 liters (254 gallons) of fortified wine. A hogshead–hhds in the letter–is essentially 1/2 of a pipe, so one pipe and two hhds is the same as two pipes. And as regards the French wine, it just so happens that as this letter was being written, a force of 6,000 French was landing at Newport, Rhode Island under the command of Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, Comte de Rochambeau.

The Colonel Blaine mentioned was an Irish immigrant and Pennsylvania citizen who had also been in charge of providing supplies to the Continental Army during their horrific winter at Valley Forge in 1777-1778. Lewis was born in Wales and was a signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Francis Lewis, Chairman of the Board of Admiralty, 1779-1780.

Source: Out-Letters of the Continental Marine Committee and Board of Admiralty, Vol. 2, pp. 227-8.

Posted by: Dominic | January 16, 2013

Drinking with the Presidents

Every election cycle in the United States, we talk about the most likeable Presidential candidate as the one “we’d like to have a beer with.” But what do presidents actually like to drink?

Forget the beer summit, President Obama is represented by the Blue Hawaiian in this version made from tequila, curacao, and lime juice.

Forget the beer summit, President Obama is represented by the Blue Hawaiian in this version made from tequila, curacao, and lime juice.

The Round Robin Bar at the Willard Hotel in Washington, D.C., aims to answer this question. Bartender Jim Hewes has concocted a list of the favorite drinks of all 44 presidents–including the non-alcoholic potables consumed by the teetotaling leaders of the free world–and is serving them this weekend during the run-up to the second inauguration of President Barack Obama.

Woodrow Wilson celebrated peace with a French 75: gin, champagne, lemon juice, and sugar.

Woodrow Wilson celebrated peace with a French 75: gin, champagne, lemon juice, and sugar.

Here are some of the more interesting ones:

George Washington enjoyed the fortified wine from the Portuguese island of Madeira.

Madeira, the favored thirst quencher of the Father of the Country.

Madeira, the favored thirst quencher of the Father of the Country.

Franklin Pierce picked up a taste for Oachatel while campaigning in Mexico. Now known as pulque, oachatel is a milky drink made from fermenting the sap of agave plants.

Franklin Pierce's favorite from his days in the Mexican-American War is made from the fermented sap of agave plants.

Franklin Pierce’s favorite from his days in the Mexican-American War is made from the fermented sap of agave plants.

Although Honest Abe apparently had a liking for corn whiskey as a young man, he favored apple cider as President.

One of the most infamous Presidential imbibers, Ulysses S. Grant had Roman Punch–champagne, rum, and fruit–at his inauguration, which apparently froze in the cold of March. (Grant also enjoyed going to the Willard’s lobby to enjoy a cigar and brandy).

Seal of Approval from U.S. Grant.

Roman Punch: Seal of Approval from U.S. Grant.

F.D.R. drank a Plymouth Gin Martini, while the Supreme Allied Commander Dwight D. Eisenhower developed a fondness for Johnnie Walker Black Label on the rocks during his time in Europe, and J.F.K. drank Beefeater Martinis (dirty) in Camelot.

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