U.S. History Myths And Legends

Bob Jones
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Wednesday - July 27, 2011
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Teddy Roosevelt charged up the wrong hill. Library of Congress images from Bob Jones

Be very careful what you wish for. California has mandated that gay rights be taught in all public schools. Besides the horror of politicians rather than educators deciding what needs to be taught, how do you close the door if lawmakers should want creationism taught rather than evolution, or only Christian studies rather than all the world’s religions?

Our school board is considering cutting back social studies that’s history, geography, economics, culture and governance. Our governor’s appointees are worried about us falling behind in science, technology and engineering. I worry about us coming out ahead in faulty history beliefs. Boy, do we ever have myths and legends about ourselves!

I’ve been gathering material since I learned that Aaron Copland’s much loved composition Appalachian Spring wasn’t called that and wasn’t Appalachian music. It was called Ballet for Martha, but its first conductor didn’t like that title and changed it. Copland said he’d never been to the Appalachians and never heard its music.

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Did Paul Revere go to the old North Church tower and post a lantern to warn of Redcoats? No. Seems he was intercepted by British soldiers who confiscated his horse.

Teddy Roosevelt and his Roughriders never charged San Juan Hill during the Spanish American war. They went up Kettle Hill by mistake and were met by U.S. 9th and l0th Cavalry troops, who had conquered the hill hours before.

Barbara Fritchie actually displayed the rebel flag

Remember Barbara Fritchie, who is said to have waved a Union flag at Southern troops as they passed her window and shouted “shoot if you must this old grey head but spare your country’s flag”? Nope. Some historians now say she waved the Confederate flag and offered Stonewall Jackson’s troops cold well water at a penny a portion.

Michele Bachmann recently cited John Quincy Adams as a Founding Father who fought against slavery. Not. He was 9 years old in 1776.

American Indian myths are many. Only Plains Indians wore those feathered headdresses and none are known to have worn headbands as most of them do in our movies.

And the words “so help me God” are not in our Constitution’s oath of office for president. Chester Arthur ad libbed that when he was inaugurated in 1881. It stuck.


Only very recent presidents end talks to the nation with “God bless the United States of America.” James Fallows wrote this in The Atlantic:

“I hate, hate, hate the lazy modern presidential habit of ending all major addresses with the phrase ‘And God bless the United States of America.’ I agree wholeheartedly with the sentiment. But a little chunk is hacked away from the national brain each time a president gets out of a speech not with a thought or original phrase but with this mindless pablum. This has become the political equivalent of Have A Nice Day!”

 

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