Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Napoleon was not short, at least relatively for his time. At 5′-6″ he was above average for the late 1700s and early 1800s.

 

Vikings helmets never had horns. Those were created later, by a 19th century costume designer for a Wagner opera.

 

 

False.

Also false.

When Blackbeard captured the ship that would become Queen Anne’s Revenge, there were 455 African slaves aboard. Many of the Africans chose to become pirates rather than become slaves. At the time of Blackbeard’s death, 1/3 of his crew were former slaves.

 

Months before the United States dropped an Atomic Bomb called “Little Boy” on Hiroshima, Japan, they knew they had a weapon that was more powerful than the world could possibly comprehend. Having an idea of how destructive the bomb would be, the US military dropped leaflets over the city 5-days prior to the bombing as a warning of sorts.  Here’s what a citizen of Hiroshima would have read if he’d bent over to pick up one of these flyers, or perhaps grabbed it as it fluttered from the sky. It was printed in Japanese:

Civilians! Evacuate at once! These leaflets are being dropped to notify you that your city has been listed for destruction by our powerful air force. The bombing will begin within 72-hours. This advance notice will give your military authorities ample time to take necessary defensive measures to protect you from our inevitable attack. Watch and see how powerless they are to protect you. Systematic destruction of city after city will continue as long as you continue to blindly follow your military leaders whose blunders have placed you on the very brink of oblivion. It is your responsibility to overthrow the military government NOW and save what is left of your beautiful country. In the meanwhile, we encourage all civilians to evacuate at once.

Knowing what we know now, a pretty clear warning. Definitely some subtle hints there. “Systematic destruction” and “brink of oblivion” sort of lays it out there. Still, the Japanese had no real way of knowing what type of hell would soon rain down on them.

In addition, one week prior to these leaflets being dropped, President Harry Truman had issued a simple but chilling warning that if Japan did not surrender immediately, it would face “prompt and utter destruction.”

He wasn’t bluffing.

On August 6th, 1945, that’s exactly what happened. Little Boy exploded above Hiroshima, sending out a white flash of light 10-times brighter than the sun. The surrounding air ignited and the sky erupted into a fireball 300-yards wide. The heat on the ground directly below the explosion (it detonated nearly 2,000-feet above ground) reached 6,000 degrees.

Thousands of men, women and children within a 1/2 mile radius were instantly reduced to lumps of charcoal. Then came a shockwave as the blast rolled outward with the force of 16,000 tons of TNT at a speed of 2-miles per second, followed by a cloud rising 50,000 feet into the air, sucking up with it the vaporized remains of possibly 70,000 people.

Nearly every human and building within a 1-mile radius of the explosion simply vanished. Beyond this, burns maimed and disfigured thousands, many who lived miles away.

Not to mention the radiation that would kill people for months and years to come.

So yeah, bad. Nightmarishly bad. Those who stayed simply didn’t heed the warning, for whatever reason. Nobody, outside of a select few, really knew how powerful this new weapon would be, nor could they have possibly imagined. But they were warned, even if they couldn’t comprehend the warning.

Historians still debate whether the use of the bomb was the correct decision, although most agree that it was. Most presidents since then have supported the act and have agreed that tens of thousands of American servicemen’s lives were saved because of it. The bombing of Hiroshima, and a few days later Nagasaki, prevented an invasion of Japan that would have been long and deadly.

Still, over 70-years later, the effects linger and the results of the weapon are still difficult to comprehend. And remember this – today’s bombs are thousands of times more powerful than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

Here’s a pretty good re-enactment of the dropping of the bomb:

 

 

Junius Booth preached that all life was sacred, even that of a housefly, and once held a funeral for pigeons. Junius died 13-years before his son John Wilkes assassinated President Abraham Lincoln.

 

 

 

 

The fax machine was invented the same year as the Oregon trail migration. It was invented in 1843 by a Scottish mechanic named Alexander Bain. This early model used a combination of synchronized pendulums, electric probes and electrochemically sensitive paper to scan documents, and then send the information over a series of wires to be reproduced. At this same time, the “Great Migration” on the Oregon trail began, when a wagon train of about 1,000 migrants began to travel west.

 

Perhaps some of you know of Colonel Robert Gould Shaw, who fought for the Union Army during the Civil War. Shaw was born into a prominent abolitionist family, and because of his beliefs he accepted command of the first all-black Union regiment, the 54th Massachusetts. He actually encouraged his men to refuse their pay until it was equal to the white troops’ wage. Sadly, at the Second Battle of Fort Wagner, a beachhead near Charleston, South Carolina, Shaw was killed while leading his men to the parapet of the enemy fort. Although they were overwhelmed and driven back, Shaw’s leadership, as well as the performance of his men, passed into legend and inspired tens of thousands of African-Americans to enlist for the Union and contribute to ultimate victory for the North. Incredibly, before this battle near Charleston most people had serious doubts regarding how blacks would perform under fire.

Anyway, I just finished a book about the Civil War, it told Colonel Shaw’s story in detail, and one part really stood out to me. It seems that after Colonel Shaw’s death, Confederate commander Johnson Hagood not only refused to return Shaw’s body to the North, he ordered it thrown into a mass grave. Hagood’s statement?

We have buried him with the n—–s.

That racist statement actually became a rallying cry for Union troops, and rather than be offended, Shaw’s parents said the following:

“We would not have his body removed from where it lies surrounded by his brave and devoted soldiers. We can imagine no holier place than that in which he lies, among his brave and devoted followers, nor wish for him better company. What a bodyguard he has!”

Awesome.

Note: On a related note, you may have learned about Colonel Shaw in the movie Glory, starring Matthew Broderick. Great movie, but it doesn’t mention Colonel Shaw’s burial or his family’s reaction to it.

The 1969 moon landing was accomplished with computers less powerful than the laptop I am currently typing on.

In a mere 66-years, America went from having no flight technology to landing a man on the moon 239,000 miles away.

 

Being the history freak that I am, I’m constantly scouring the interweb for stuff I’ve never seen before. Recently, during one of my late-night forays into the dark recesses of the internet, I came across a couple gems. Both are related to the events of 9/11/2001.

The first is called “September 11th As It Happened: The Definitive Live News Montage” and it basically garners all the news footage from that morning and splices it together as the events unfolded. The second video is from the Howard Stern Show and follows Howard and the members of his show as they follow the events as they sit in Manhattan.

It’s interesting, as least to me, to listen to the people as they first think they’re seeing a random accident, then realizing they’re watching a terrorist attack. It’s also fascinating to watch as the first tower falls and the news people sort of go into denial as to what they’re actually seeing. As for the Stern show, they start by laughing about the first plane, then sobering up as the grim realization hits them.

Anyway, the videos aren’t for everyone, but I find them riveting and I know some of you will too.

September 11th As It Happened: The Definitive Live News Montage

RADIO HISTORY: Howard Stern On-Air As 9/11 Happens

 

The modern day battery was invented 1-year after George Washington died.

 

No, Michael Jackson did not invent the Moonwalk. Did he improve upon it? Oh yes he did. But invent it? Oh no he din’t. When Michael unveiled his “Moonwalk” back in the early 80’s on that Motown Special it sort of startled the living hell out of everyone, including me. Here’s a clip. Wait for the 3:40 mark, when the audience actually shrieks at this seemingly impossible move. On a related note, if you don’t see the talent of MJ in this video you are blind, ignorant, and unfit to live in a civilized society.

But as I said, although MJ may have improved upon it, he didn’t come up with it. Here’s a cool cat named Bill Bailey who moonwalked right off the stage back in ’55. Wait. Nobody walked on the moon until ’69. Perhaps it was called something else? Research required. Anywho, here he is . . .

Next up we have my man Ronnie Hawkins. The Hawk sort of got lost in the whole Elvis/Carl Perkins/Jerry Lee Lewis and others madness, but damn was he good. He did something called The Cosmic Glide or Front Glide, pretty close to a moonwalk fo sho. The Hawk was cool.

And here’s a dude from back in the day named Dick Van Dyke. He was an actor on the creatively named Dick Van Dyke Show. Trust me kids, it was pretty funny. Anyway, this isn’t technically a dance, but it has all the elements of a moonwalk nonetheless. Behold . . .

Finally, here’s a video showing Sammy Davis Jr., Bill Bailey and others busting MJ-like moves long before that Motown Special. Pretty cool.

Cleopatra lived closer in time to the moon landing than the construction of the pyramids.

 

France was still using the guillotine when the first Star Wars came out.
And here’s the lucky guy . . .

At the time the pyramids were built, woolly mammoths were still walking the earth. The last of the wooly mammoth died out around 1700 B.C. on Russia’s Wrangel Island. In Egypt, the Pyramids of Giza were built around 4,000 years ago, although there have been claims that they’re even older. This also means that Cleopatra’s time on Earth is actually closer to us in history than to the construction of the pyramids. Mind? Blown.

 

Same.

The Battle of Gettysburg was the costliest battle of the Civil War, with 51,112 casualties. By comparison, there were 58,220 American deaths during the entire Vietnam War.

 

Ted Landsmark was a young attorney in Boston back in 1976 when he came upon a group of young white protesters from South Boston. The group had just been riled up by an anti-busing speech by City Councilor Louise Day Hicks, who was opposed to court ordered busing that would require blacks and whites to attend school together. The result is an attempted stabbing with the symbol of freedom, the American flag.

During the Civil War, Robert E. Lee’s horse Traveller became so famous that his mane and tail became thin from people plucking the hair as souvenirs.

 

Man, it was difficult to narrow this list down. There were a thousand musicians who stepped up and made statements musically during the Civil Rights Movement. These just happen to be my favorite moments. Let us proceed. Oh, and click on the title to hear a song if it applies.

PETULA CLARK AND HARRY BELAFONTE TOUCH ON NATIONAL TV

Yes, I said “touched.” Petula Clark was one of the most popular recording artists of the 1960s. She sang songs like “Downtown”, “Don’t Sleep in the Subway”, and “I know a Place”, good tunes all.

In early 1968, Clark was given the chance to host her own special on NBC. She had, as a guest star on the program, the popular singer and noted civil rights activist, Harry Belafonte.

Incredible as it may seem now, the show made waves when, during the performance of an anti-war song written by Clark, “On the Path of Glory”, Clark locked arms with Belafonte.

The program was sponsored by Chrysler, and a vice-president of the company, Doyle Lott, was present at the taping in early March of 1968. He took issue with the “interracial touching,” and asked them to use a different take of the song (they had filmed a number of different takes). Clark and her husband (co-producer of the special), Claude Wolff, objected.

To make sure that they could not be overruled, Wolff told the producer of the special, Steve Binder, to actually destroy all other takes of the song. Binder checked with NBC, who said that they’d defer to whatever he decided to do. He agreed with Wolff. Binder later recalled telling the editor to erase the other takes and the editor actually made him sign a document attesting that Binder was taking full responsibility for the erasure of the other takes.

The whole situation made major public waves, and attracted a lot of publicity for the show. Bottom line, good for everyone who fought the good fight that day.

The show aired on April 8th, 1968.

CHUCK BERRY’S DUCKWALK INTEGRATES SOUTHERN DANCE HALLS

Rock n’ Roll played an immeasurable part in getting blacks and whites together in the 1950s. Rock music itself was the result of a blending of the blues and country, sounds that had been pretty seperate the previous couple of decades. The early face of this wild new genre was Chuck Berry, and his risqué lyrics and signature moves sent teenagers of all colors into a frenzy. A few years before Elvis’s pelvic thrusts would define a generation, Berry’s “Duckwalk” guitar solo created such demand from black and white audiences that clubs would hold integrated parties with velvet ropes running down the middle of the dance floor to keep the races separated. Soon, the velvet ropes would disappear. Rock can’t see color, kids.

JAMES BROWN SAVES BOSTON FROM RIOTS

The spring of 1968 was darkened by the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the subsequent rioting that took place in cities across the country. Boston, Massachusetts, wasn’t spared, and on the night the news broke, kids took to the streets in Roxbury, Dorchester and the South End to express their rage. James Brown was scheduled to perform there the next day, and the city decided to broadcast the show on local TV to keep folks in their homes and off the block. During the concert, attendees ran on stage and the police began to swarm, but Brown halted them and addressed the kids directly. “Now I ask the police to step back, because I think I can get some respect from my own people.” The crowd obliged, and the concert went on without incident. The next day, he walked through the hoods of the Bean and personally asked the people not to riot, promising, “there’s another way.”

BILLIE HOLIDAY RECORDS “STRANGE FRUIT”

“Strange Fruit” was first performed by Billie Holiday in 1939, and it paints a portrait familiar to southerners in the first half of the 21st century. The song describes “a strange and bitter crop” with “bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,” an illustration of a then all-too-common sight – a lynching. The song is weird because it sounds sort of romantic and sensual. Only when you really listen to the lyrics does the real, more sinister meaning of the song become clear. Just a chilling song, really.

RAY CHARLES REFUSES TO PLAY AUGUSTA

After Bell Auditorium announced that Ray Charles was going to do a show there in 1961, students told Charles the dance floor would be for whites only and the upper balcony would be sectioned off for blacks. Ray immediately took a stand and cancelled his appearance. The venue fined him for breach of contract, expecting him to back down. Instead, in one of civil rights history’s greatest boss moves, he paid the fine and didn’t play another show in Augusta, Georgia until it was desegregated. Ray, man.

MARVIN GAYE RELEASES “WHAT’S GOIN’ ON”

Marvin Gaye needs no introduction: his name has become synonymous with the rich legacy of Motown and the soulful R&B that came to define Black music for decades to come. It should come as no surprise that the man released his (arguably) best single eleven albums into his career. “What’s Going On” is all at once a gripping protest song, a syrupy love song and a giddy party starter. When the track dropped in 1971, Gaye was struggling through the sudden loss of his frequent collaborator and close friend Tammi Terrell, a brother that had been shipped off to war, and a country that was still mired in the dregs of violence and racism. Although inspired by an act of police brutality, “What’s Going On” led to some of Gaye’s most bright-eyed work on the landmark album of the same name, and gave the movement one of its defining anthems.

BOB DYLAN RELEASES “THE TIMES THEY ARE A CHANGIN'”

I’ve always thought of this classic song by Dylan as more anti-Vietnam than pro-Civil Rights, but the lyrics can apply to both. “This was definitely a song with a purpose,” Dylan would later say. “The civil rights movement and the folk music movement were pretty close for a while and allied together at that time.” That same year saw the arrival of the Civil Rights Act, putting an end to racial segregation in the US. Songs like this one were the soundtrack to the movement.

SAM COOKE RECORDS “A CHANGE IS GONNA COME”

After hearing Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind,” Cooke wanted to write a song about race that had the same impact. He’d encountered racial turbulence in the year prior when he and his tourmates tried to book a “whites only” hotel and were arrested for disturbing the peace. That incident was the inspiration for “Change,” and the song became a massive success in the black community after its release in 1963.

JOHN COLTRANE RECORDS “ALABAMA”

In the early morning hours of September 15, 1963, four members of the Ku Klux Klan planted a box of dynamite under the steps of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. The bomb was detonated a few hours later, murdering Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Denise McNair, all under the age of 14. The incident became a lightning rod for the Civil Rights Movement, which was exactly what the KKK didn’t want. Another unintended consequence – it inspired jazz legend John Coltrane to write and record the stunning song “Alabama”. The song, without lyrics, is a mournful tribute and was patterned after Martin Luther King’s “Eulogy for the Martyred Children,” the speech he gave at the funeral for the four girls. That same year, Coltrane performed the song live on television’s Jazz Casual in front of a stunned, spellbound national audience.

PHIL OCHS RECORDS “HERE’S TO THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI”

Phil Ochs was never one to mince words, and this song was no exception. After visiting Mississippi and being outraged at what he saw, he wrote this blistering tune where he lays it all on the line. Here’s a sample of the lyrics:

Here’s to the State of Mississippi,
For underneath her borders, the devil draws no lines,
If you drag her muddy rivers, nameless bodies you will find.
Oh the fat trees of the forest have hid a thousand crimes,
The calender is lyin’ when it reads the present time.
Whoa here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of,
Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of!

Yikes.

Like I said up top, I know there are many other songs and incidents that I could have listed, but these are the ones that stand out to me. If you have any suggestions feel free to comment.*

*See what I did there? Feel free? Civil Rights Movement? Never mind. 

 

 

The night George Washington crossed the Delaware and defeated the Hessians, Hessian Commander Johann Gottlieb Rall had been warned of the attack through a note sent by a local loyalist. He never read it. It was found in his pocket after his death that night.

 

Great site. Love everything about it. It teaches history with humor, something I an definitely relate to. This is just a sample. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Ever notice how our President’s age during their time in office? You can see it on President Trump already. Hair goes gray and they seem to age abnormally quickly. It’s the pressure, man. It’s more pressure than any human on earth faces. I mean, basically the fate of the entire world hinges on the decisions you make. That said, a few presidents have admitted their greatest presidential regrets. Read on to find out what they are . . .

George W. Bush – The War in Iraq

When asked in a 2008 interview about his biggest regret as president, George W. Bush surprisingly listed the Iraq War. While he did not regret everything that occurred in Iraq, the president seemed distraught over intelligence failures. He claimed this was the biggest regret of his presidency, stating, “I wish the intelligence had been different, and better, I guess.”

Bush denied accusations that his administration had intentionally misled Congress. He noted members of Congress read all the same reports his staff did and still decided to go forward with the invasion. He was disappointed things in Iraq did not go as planned, and that they didn’t find any “weapons of mass destruction.”

John Quincy Adams –  His Treatment Of Native Americans

When John Quincy Adams took office, the Indian Springs Treaty was waiting on his desk. The treaty forced the Creek Nation, living in what is now Georgia, to give up their land and move west. As Congress had already voted in favor of the treaty, Adams signed it as soon as he took office. It was an act he regretted almost immediately.

Leaders of the Creek Nation met with Adams, changing his views on the nation’s treatment of its Native American populations. Adams tried to annul the treaty, but his attempts were blocked by Congress and the state of Georgia threatened military action. While a new treaty was eventually drafted, the Creek Nation still had to cede two-thirds of their land to Georgia. A third treaty, passed a year later, forced the Creek Nation to give up all remaining land.

Adams both regretted the Indian Springs Treaty and the nation’s treatment of Native Americans overall. He would go on to write about this in his personal diary. “We have talked of benevolence and humanity, and preached them into civilization, but none of this benevolence is felt where the right of the Indian comes in collision with the interest of the white man.” Sadly, his time in the White House would forever be judged by his poor treatment of Native Americans.

George H.W. Bush – Not Taking Out Saddam Hussein

Had George H.W. Bush succeeded in getting Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein out of power, perhaps the Second Iraq War could have been avoided. Bush regretted not continuing with action in Iraq until Hussein surrendered. He believed, had the Gulf War gone on longer, Hussein could have been removed from power.

Apparently an FBI agent told Bush that he was certain Hussein would have eventually surrendered had military action continued. While Bush still considers the ending of the Gulf War a military success, he regrets it did not have a better, more final conclusion. He feels that had he forced Hussein into surrendering, the later troubles his son faced in Iraq could have been avoided.

Barack Obama – His Handling Of Libya
In 2011, Obama helped remove Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi from power. While he knew intervening was the right decision, he regrets his lack of a follow-up plan. Libya was thrown into turmoil after Gaddafi’s removal, and the country is still recovering today.

Obama said in an interview that his failure to plan for the day after the intervention was his worst mistake as president.

Bill Clinton – Not Bringing Peace To The Middle East

Nope, the Monica Lewinsky scandal and subsequent impeachment threat was not Bill Clinton’s biggest regret as president. Clinton was actually more concerned with his handling of conflict in the Middle East. When asked about his biggest regret as president, he said he wished he had done more to smooth over tensions between Israel and Palestine.

My number one regret is that I was not able to persuade Yasser Arafat to accept the peace plan I offered at the end of my presidency,” Clinton said. Clinton believes, had Arafat accepted the terms of the agreement, he could have spent the coming years making progress towards peace in Israel.

Dwight Eisenhower – His Own Supreme Court Pick

When Dwight D. Eisenhower originally appointed Earl Warren as a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, he was confident in his decision. He stated Warren had the kind of political, economic, and social thinking the country needed. However, after Warren led the court in a series of liberal decisions, the conservative Eisenhower’s feelings towards him soured. Eisenhower would go on to call the appointment the “biggest damned-fool mistake I ever made.

Jimmy Carter – His Handling Of The Iran Hostage Crisis

No shocker here. Most historians feel that, had Carter handled the Iran Hostage Crisis in a more timely fashion, he would have been elected for a second term. Carter apparently agrees. In an interview in 2015, Carter admitted he wished he had sent more helicopters in sooner to remove the 52 American diplomats and citizens that were held hostage in Iran for 444 days starting in November of 1979.

Carter said, “I wish I had one more helicopter to get the hostages, and had we rescued them I’d have been re-elected.”

Richard Nixon – Delaying The Vietnam Bombings
Watergate seems like it would be the biggest regret for Richard Nixon, but he apparently felt the scandal that cost him the presidency was not his worst fumble. In a Meet The Press interview, Nixon claimed that delaying the bombing of North Vietnam was his biggest regret as president. Nixon hit Vietnam with bombs in 1972, but wishes he had taken action as early as 1969.

“I talked to Henry Kissinger about it,” Nixon says, “But we were stuck with the bombing halt that we had inherited from the Johnson administration.

Nixon believes had the bombings occurred sooner, the Vietnam War would have wrapped up in 1969 rather than 1972. When asked about the Watergate Scandal, Nixon felt the matter was small in comparison to his mishandling of Vietnam.

George Washington – Owning Slaves

George Washington became a slave owner at the age of 11 and remained that way throughout the course of his presidency. During his era, many felt slavery was simply a way of life. As Washington aged, however, his view of slavery changed. Late in his life, he claimed slavery was “the only avoidable subject of regret” during the course of his lifetime.

So there ya go. Presidential regrets. Bet ya never thought you’d know this information when you woke up this morning, huh? Shoe: Untied is here for ya, kids.

So I ran across this nugget in a book I was reading the other day and found it quite fascinating. It seems that about 2,500 years ago some dude named Hanno the Navigator (cool name, man) became one of the first Europeans to see a band of gorillas. He had been sent off to explore Africa and had gotten used to bumping into strange and exotic tribes. Weird looking folks if you will.

So, when he found an island full of gorillas he figured that they were simply the weirdest, funniest-looking group of people yet. Hanno wrote that he’d found “savage people, whose bodies were hairy, and whom our interpreters called Gorillae.”

He and his men actually tried to introduce themselves to the gorillas, but the gorillas weren’t too communicative. That had to be an awesome attempt at conversation to witness though, amirite? Instead, the apes just threw rocks at the humans and ran away. Incredibly, Hanno’s men caught three of the gorillas and tried to talk them into going back to Carthage with them. Shockingly, it didn’t work. Hanno said the gorillas “could not be prevailed upon to accompany us.”

Eventually and unsurprisingly, when the gorillas got violent Hanno and his men do what humans do and killed them. Then Hanno went a little batshit crazy: “We flayed them,” he wrote, talking about what he thought were human beings, “and brought their skins with us to Carthage.

People were savage back in the old-timey days, man. Just brutal. Anyway, thought I’d share.

Actually, the term “New World” is a misnomer if there ever was one. It certainly wasn’t new, and how can you discover something that was inhabited by a lot of people? You can’t.

Anyway, when Columbus landed in the “New World” down in the Caribbean and what is now Central America back in 1492 it was inhabited by 500,000 people or more. A mere 50-years later, that number was zero.

Zero.

Here are the numbers and how they dwindled:

  • 1492 – 500,000 (at least)
  • 1508 – 60,000
  • 1510 – 33, 523
  • 1514 – 26,334
  • 1518 – 18,000
  • 1519 – 1.000
  • 1542 – 0

The old history books liked to claim that the Spanish wiped out the Native Americans due to the Europeans and their use of guns, horses, and superior fighting skills. All that of course played a part, but by far the biggest reason was this – disease.

The problem was, the Native Americans had no resistance to the diseases Columbus and his boys brought over. While a pretty large percentage of Europeans could withstand diseases like typhus, dysentery, measles, mumps, yellow fever, malaria, chicken pox, typhoid, diphtheria, tuberculosis, whooping cough, and even the flu, the Indians could not.

While all those diseases took their toll, the worst by far was smallpox, which had a 90-95% death rate. It was also brutal. Check out this 1500’s description of the disease:

In the century before it was finally eradicated in the 1970’s, smallpox killed more than half a billion people. It usually starts like the flu, with headache, fever, and body aches, and then it breaks out as a sore throat and spreads into a body rash. As the disease develops over the next week, the victim usually experiences horrific hallucinatory dreams and is racked by a mysterious sensation of existential horror. The rash turns into spots that swell into papules, and then fluid-filled pustules that cover the entire body, including the soles of the feet. These pustules often merge, and the outer layer of skin becomes detached from the body. In the most deadly variety of smallpox the skin turns a deep purple, takes on a charred look, and comes off in sheets. The victim then bleeds out, blood pouring from every orifice in the body. The disease is extremely contagious, and can survive for months or even years outside the body in clothing, blankets, and hospital rooms.

Good times, huh? Thanks Europeans!

Another problem was the fact that because the Europeans were to a certain point immune, the Native Americans thought the diseases were sent by God to punish them exclusively. Just a bad deal all-around.

So, long story short? It wasn’t horses, guns, fighting skills, or especially God’s Will.

It was disease.