19 Disclosed US History Myths

19 Disclosed US History Myths

Larry Holzwarth - August 12, 2018

What Americans don’t know about their own history is surprising, but at least they’re not alone. Polls have shown that many Britons believe the legendary King Arthur to have been real. Frenchmen regard Napoleon as one of France’s greatest leaders and warriors, though the Emperor was in a fact a Corsican, not a native of France. So ignorance of real history is not unique to America, though it is widespread there, often for political reasons. It is easier to believe what one wants to believe than it is to face a truth which challenges established opinions.

Much of what some Americans accept as their history is as mythological as Paul Bunyan’s giant blue ox. But they accept it as genuine. For example, the Pledge of Allegiance as originally written did not contain the words, “under God” when it was adopted by Congress in 1942. They were added twelve years later, during the height of the red scare. The truth is easily discernible in the Congressional Record and elsewhere, but those who find the truth inconvenient resolve to deny it, despite its being undeniable. Wrong information, no matter how obstinately defended, remains wrong and is passed to succeeding generations, leading to a false record of America’s history, and a false impression of its present.

19 Disclosed US History Myths
American schoolchildren recite the Pledge of Allegiance using the prescribed Bellamy Salute in 1915. Wikimedia

Here are eighteen things many Americans don’t know or won’t accept about their history.

19 Disclosed US History Myths
John Smith first wrote of Pocahontas saving his life in 1616, and changed the story several times. Wikimedia

1. Myth: Pocahontas and John Smith Were Part of a Tragic Love Story

Fact: Pocahontas Was Only 10 Years Old when John Smith Arrived in Virginia…

One of America’s oldest and most enduring legends is that of Captain John Smith, Pocahontas, and John Rolfe. When Smith and the English arrived in Virginia in 1607, Pocahontas was about ten years old. John Smith left Virginia in 1609, never to return to the colony. Nor did he mention Pocahontas in his early writings other than in passing, though he did describe a lengthy feast and discussion with Powhatan, during which the native chieftain attempted to woo the English settlement into his confederacy. Smith did not describe Pocahontas as having saved him until 1616 when he told of the event in a letter to Queen Anne.

Smith wrote of the event in anticipation of Pocahontas and her husband, John Rolfe, visiting England. In 1624, Smith published his General History of Virginia, which recounted events in the colony of which he had no first-hand knowledge, and included a greatly expanded version of the threat to his life at the hands of the natives and Pocahontas, whom by then had been dead several years, intervening to save him. The romantic tale became the subject of poems and junk history, and Smith’s largely self-serving version, in which the young native Princess prefers English morality and courage over her own father’s beliefs, is most likely entirely fiction. Smith told a similar tale in which he was saved by a native woman which occurred during his adventures in Turkey.

19 Disclosed US History Myths
The sale of Manhattan to the Dutch was alleged to have taken place beneath this tulip tree, photographed in 1913. Wikimedia

2. Myth: The Dutch Bought Manhattan for Only $24 Worth of Beads and Trinkets from the Manahatta people

Fact: The land the Manahatta people “sold” to the Dutch was not a part of their territory. They made out like bandits and watched the Dutch enter conflict with another tribe who DID own the land.

The Dutch settlement on Manhattan Island had been a fur trading post for several years previously before becoming a formal colony in 1624. At that time, the leader of the Dutch settlers, Peter Minuit, negotiated a treaty with a Manahatta tribe of the Lenape natives. The natives had been actively trading beaver pelts with the Dutch – highly valued in Europe for their use in making hats – for several years. The Manahatta accepted 60 guilders, around $1,100 in current value, for approximately half of the island of Manhattan. Dutch leader Peter Minuit referred to the transaction in his diary, but the deed prepared to record the exchange formally has been long lost to history. The transaction was negotiated to protect sawmills and gristmills already erected by the enterprising Dutch.

In fact, it was the natives rather than the Dutch who got the best of the other party in the deal. Manhattan Island was not the recognized territory of the Manahatta in Lenape tradition. The island was the territory of another band of natives known as the Wappinger, who also controlled large portions of Long Island and Connecticut. The Wappinger opposed the Dutch settlements in New Amsterdam and in Connecticut, and it took an alliance between the Dutch and the Mohawks, strong trading partners, to defeat the Wappinger in the middle of the seventeenth century. The Manhattan purchase may have been the equivalent of a modern-day swindle, but it was the natives who sold what they did not own to unwary newcomers.

19 Disclosed US History Myths
The Salem Witch Trials were the result of mass hysteria, superstition, and religious fervor. Wikimedia

3. Myth: Ergot Poisoning from Rye Grain Led to the Salem Witch Trials

Fact: Religious bigotry was more poisonous for this time period than rye grain.

The theory that the behavior which caused some in Salem to be accused of witchcraft was caused by ergot-tainted rye grain was promoted in the 1970s, immediately refuted by experts, yet remains a belief by many. Since all members of a family ate the same bread and not all members suffered from the effects of ergot poisoning, which includes hallucinations, the theory is obviously incorrect. Ergot poisoning also causes gangrene, but nobody suffering from gangrene was reported at the time of the witch trials, at least nobody on trial for practicing witchcraft. Blaming the mass hysteria which led to the witchcraft trials and subsequent executions on bad grain is satisfying for some as an explanation of the behavior of the victims, but not their accusers.

There were several factors which accounted for the witchcraft trials, including political rivalries, local property disputes, and simple animus. But the one overriding factor was simple religious bigotry, based on superstition and ignorance. The Bible was used to justify the executions, as well as to describe some of the behavior of witches. It was also the authority under which the accused were tortured into offering “confessions” of their crimes. The civil law of the Massachusetts Bay Colony was based on biblical law and the religious conflicts which had marked the English Civil War were reflected in the English American colonies, with similar tortures and executions for heresy and witchcraft.

19 Disclosed US History Myths
First known portrait of Benjamin Franklin, from 1746. Harvard Art Museum

4. Myth: Benjamin Franklin Proposed the Turkey as the National Symbol

Fact: Franklin thought the turkey was “vain and silly”, but did describe it more favorably than the proposed bald eagle in his diaries.

In fact, Benjamin Franklin did propose a symbol for the national seal, a scene between Moses and Pharaoh. He did not propose the humble turkey appear on the national seal, nor as the national bird. He did describe the turkey in more favorable terms than the bald eagle, after observing that the image of the latter bird resembled a turkey more than the bird it was supposed to represent. This led him to muse that perhaps the turkey was a more fitting symbol for the young nation, since the bald eagle was a scavenger (“bad moral character”) though the turkey, in Franklin’s estimation, was a “little vain and silly” in appearance.

The myth that Franklin proposed the turkey serve as the national symbol arose because he wrote his random musings down, though not in an official proposal. He jotted them down in a letter addressed to his daughter, which was found in his papers much later, and led to its publication, garnished with the story that he wanted the turkey to be the symbol of the republic. The myth has persisted ever since. Franklin’s proposal of a symbol representing Moses and Pharaoh was not given serious consideration either, as the nation’s founders took steps to ensure that national symbols remained devoid of religious imagery, instead of adopting masonic symbols for the most part.

19 Disclosed US History Myths
Children of the Hampton Normal and Agricultural Institute render the Pledge of Allegiance and the Bellamy salute in Hampton, Virginia. Wikimedia

5. The Pledge of Allegiance Did Not Originally Contain the Phrase “Under God”

Fact: This religious tidbit was not officially adopted until 1942.

The Pledge of Allegiance was written by Baptist minister Francis Bellamy in 1892, in part because he was not happy with a contemporary pledge written by George Balch which read: “We give our heads and hearts to God and our country; one country, one language, one flag”. Bellamy’s pledge, as originally written read, “I pledge allegiance to my flag and the republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all”. Gradually “my flag” was changed to “the flag of the United States of America” in response to increased immigration and its impact in classrooms, a change which Bellamy found distasteful.

Thus when Congress officially adopted the Pledge of Allegiance in 1942, the words “under God” were not part of the recitation. Gradually various religious groups added the two words when reciting the pledge at their functions, including the Knights of Columbus beginning in 1951. In 1954 Congress debated adding the words “under God”, a suggestion enthusiastically endorsed by President Eisenhower, and the recently converted Presbyterian signed the amendment of the Pledge of Allegiance to include the words “under God” on Flag Day, June 14, 1954. The addition of the two words have been the source of controversy ever since.

19 Disclosed US History Myths
George, Prince of Wales, in powdered wig, a fashion which remained in vogue in his colonies when he became George III. Wikimedia

6. Myth: Most Men in the American Colonies Wore Wigs to Subdue Lice

Fact: Only the most influential and wealthy Americans wore wigs – but mostly in the course of their duties and special occasions.

Paintings and portrayals of the colonists in early America, especially in the cities and towns show that most men wore wigs. While wigs were considered fashionable at the time, they were also extremely expensive and were worn mainly by officials in the course of their duties, especially judges and lawyers, officers of the government, tax collectors, and constables. The myth that they were worn to subdue lice and other pests is just that, a myth. The same is true of the fashion of powdering hair, it was done as a matter of style, especially for formal gatherings such as levees and dinners. Both men and women wore wigs if they could afford them.

Powdering hair was a messy task, performed by a valet or a hairdresser, and required the person having their hair powdered to breathe through a mask as the powder was applied. Flour was often used, in colonial days flour was not the pure bleached white that it is today. It was blended with refined starches, and often it was colored with dyes. Hair powder was expensive, often contained chalk, or finely ground dried white clay. Although the practice of wearing powdered hair on a daily basis was largely gone by the time of Washington’s first administration, it remained a practice when conducting diplomatic affairs for another generation.

19 Disclosed US History Myths
Soldiers of the Continental Army in prescribed uniforms, which after intervention by the French became readily available. Library of Congress

7. Myth: Soldiers of the Continental Army Were Always Under-equipped and Poor

Fact: Washington had to send guards to depots containing supplies because they had more equipment than they knew what to do with.

The soldiers of George Washington’s army are usually depicted as nearly starving, ill-clad, and poorly equipped in comparison to their British adversaries. While this was true in the case of several units of the army in the early years of the war, by 1779 the Continental Army was so well equipped with warm clothing and weapons from France that Washington was forced to detail troops to guard storage depots where supplies were cached for future use. The distribution of supplies remained a problem for the Americans until Washington wisely appointed the highly capable Nathaniel Greene as Quartermaster General of the American army.

Despite the improvements implemented by Greene, disbursement of supplies and clothing continued to be plagued by incompetent junior officers and by congressional interference. Even before the establishment of the United States Congress under the Constitution, the governing body developed the habit of creating committees to discuss issues and otherwise do nothing, a practice which they retained into the twenty-first century. The Continental Army was denied the supplies (and pay) to which it was entitled not because they did not exist, but because the political leadership and bureaucracy of the fledgling nation were often utterly incompetent.

19 Disclosed US History Myths
Paul Revere, painted by Gilbert Stuart in 1813, when Revere was 78. Wikimedia

8. Myth: Paul Revere’s Ride Made Him Famous in His Lifetime

Fact: Even when he died, nobody mentioned the fact that he was one of several riders that fateful night. But he did die a successful businessman and silversmith!

When Paul Revere died in 1818, there was no mention of his now famous ride in his obituary, nor is there any mention of it on his tombstone in Boston’s Granary Burial Ground on Tremont Street. The ride to warn John Hancock and Samuel Adams that the British were marching to arrest them were not considered a major event in his lifetime, partly because Revere was just one of several riders on the roads of Massachusetts that night in 1775. Revere was remembered as a successful businessman and silversmith, the founder of the Revere Copper and Brass Company, and a major figure in the growth of the city of Boston.

It wasn’t until Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem Paul Revere’s Ride, published in 1861, that Revere’s ride became known outside of Boston and outlying communities. The popularity of the poem led to Revere’s ride entering history books and school curricula, though most of the details as described in the poem and retained in American minds are wrong. For example, the famous “one if by land, two if by sea” was a signal to Charlestown sent by Revere, not a signal to him sent by others. Many other myths surround the ride of Paul Revere, and not generally known is that it ended with Revere’s horse in British hands and Revere himself walking to Lexington, having never made it to Concord.

19 Disclosed US History Myths
A Gustave Dore illustration for Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven. Wikimedia

9. Myth: Edgar Allan Poe Just Stuck to Poetry and Tales of Macabre Origin

Fact: Poe was actually the biggest inspiration for modern-day mystery novels.

Edgar Allan Poe is known for his horror stories and the poem The Raven, as well as other works of poetry and tales of the macabre. He is also widely associated with Baltimore, where he died and was buried, though he lived most of his life in other cities, including New York and Richmond, Virginia. What is less well known is that the modern detective story as a genre of fiction arose from his fertile creative mind. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, credited Poe for creating detective fiction, as well as noting the American writer’s significant contributions to the genre of science fiction. “Where was the detective story until Poe breathed the breath of life into it?” wrote Doyle.

Poe created the character, C. Auguste Dupin, in his story The Murders in the Rue Morgue in 1841, before the word detective was coined. The character appears in two other works, The Purloined Letter and The Mystery of Marie Roget. The character uses deductive reasoning and creative imagination to solve the mysteries put before him, traits reflected in Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, Sam Spade, and a myriad of fictional detectives which followed. Poe wrote of his character “…he makes in silence a host of observations and inferences,” an observation which describes most of the fictional detectives which followed in his wake.

19 Disclosed US History Myths
A rare daguerreotype of Virginia troops near Saltillo during the Mexican War. Yale University

10. Myth: The United States has Never Fought to Conquer Other Lands

Fact: The seizure of land from Mexico was as large as any land conquest in history.

The myth that America has never fought a war for the purpose of conquest is incompatible with the truth of manifest destiny. Without regarding the seizure of lands claimed by the Native Americans, the conquest of more than half of Mexico, formalized by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, was as massive a land grab as any in history. The Mexican War was fought with the intent to seize California and the lands between that region and Texas. It was a stated goal of President James Knox Polk in his campaign for President. The war with Mexico was deliberately provoked by the United States, as noted by one of its participants and later President, Ulysses S. Grant.

Had the United States not seized the lands which included California and its gold, Nevada and its silver, Colorado and its copper, coal, oil, and other wealth, as well as Utah, New Mexico, Wyoming and parts of other states, the wealth of the land would have gone to Mexico, making a very different world than that which ensued. The conquest of the lands from Mexico was one of the pivotal points of American history, yet remains one of the least studied and taught in primary and high schools. When it is taught it is as a war against Mexican tyranny and an oppressive dictator, in order to dress up a war President Grant called “one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation.”

19 Disclosed US History Myths
Although he served in America’s Continental Navy, the United States Navy was founded by an act of Congress two years after his death. Wikimedia

11. Myth: John Paul Jones Was the Father of the United States Navy

Fact: He never even served in what we consider the United States Navy today… but he did serve in the Russian Navy.

John Paul Jones is revered as the Father of the United States Navy, a service in which he was never commissioned. Jones, whose real name was John Paul, was an officer in the Continental Navy of the American Revolutionary War, which was disbanded following the Treaty of Paris. Unemployed, Jones accepted a commission in the Russian Navy of Catherine the Great. In the Russian service, he was handicapped by palace intrigues and the personal enmity he developed with several British officers who also sought employment by the Russians.

Jones died in Paris in 1792, under a cloud besmirching his personal reputation, regarding his relationship with a 12-year-old girl some years before. Officially he remained an admiral of the Russian Navy at the time of his death. The United States Navy was created by an act of Congress in 1794, two years after Jones died in Paris. Thus he never held a commission in the United States Navy. In the 1970s the Chief of Naval Operations, Elmo Zumwalt, authorized the US Navy to celebrate its birthday on October 13, reflecting the date in 1775 when the Continental Navy was founded by act of the Second Continental Congress, even before the move to independence, creating the United States, was under consideration.

19 Disclosed US History Myths
The boy who “could not tell a lie” grew into a master of deception and intrigue. Wikimedia

12. Myth: George Washington Could Never Tell A Lie

Fact: He was a founding father of deception.

George Washington was said to be incapable of lying, according to Parson Weems, from a very young age, but the fact of the matter is that as commander of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War Washington had no peer at creating deceptions. He was the master of several spy rings, some of which are not fully revealed nearly two and a half centuries later. Washington as a military commander came to use the tactic which became known much later as disinformation, using his spies and double agents to provide false information to the British regarding his strength and intentions.

Many of the “deserters” who left the ranks of the Continentals and went over to the British were actually sent by Washington to provide the enemy with information the American commander wanted them to have. At the same time, Washington and the British commanders regularly exchanged letters on subjects including prisoner exchanges, the treatment of civilians, and the treatment of personal property. While it is highly doubtful that Washington would be deceitful in such correspondence, chivalry and the code of a gentleman prevailing, if any advantage could be gained he tried. In one such letter, he offered to trade Major John Andre, a prisoner, for Benedict Arnold.

19 Disclosed US History Myths
Grover Cleveland had the look of a man who enjoyed several pints of beer a day. Wikimedia

13. Myth: Most American Presidents Steered Clear of Alcohol

Fact: Many were actually daily drinkers and bordered on alcoholism.

Beginning with John Adams, who started each day with a glass of hard cider, many American presidents hit the sauce on a regular basis. Jefferson spent a fortune he did not have on French and Italian wines and brandies. Blue Whiskey Van was a nickname for Martin Van Buren. Franklin Pierce left the presidency noting that there was nothing left for him to do, “but to get drunk”. He died of cirrhosis of the liver in 1869. Grover Cleveland reportedly did not like hard liquor, but he drank beer, often up to eight pints of it per day. Warren Harding served liquor to his poker cronies in the White House despite Prohibition being the law of the land.

Harry Truman opened his day with a shot of bourbon and had another or two at the close of the workday for most of his life. He was in the Capitol having an end-of-the-day drink when he received the call to come to the White House immediately in April 1945, where he learned that he had become President after FDR died. As time elapsed, the personal habits and supposed vices of the President became more under public scrutiny, and many have striven to keep their public image clear of supposed vices such as consumption of alcohol, though the image of the President serving beer to guests on the White House lawn appeared in the twenty-first century.

19 Disclosed US History Myths
US Secretary of State John Hay, who had been Lincoln’s personal secretary, signs the 1899 Treaty of Paris in the office which is now known as the Lincoln Bedroom. Wikimedia

14. Myth: The Lincoln Bedroom was Abraham Lincoln’s Private Quarters

Fact: It didn’t become known as the Lincoln bedroom until 1961. So how did it get this name?

Americans believe that the room in the White House known as the Lincoln Bedroom earned that sobriquet because it was where Abraham Lincoln slept while in office. It isn’t. Lincoln used the room which was located in the area occupied by the Lincoln Bedroom, which is part of a suite of three rooms, as an office. He chose the room as an office in order to escape the horde of patronage seekers which crowded the downstairs corridors during his tenure. Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in the room, and often convened meetings of his cabinet there. His successor, Andrew Johnson, also used the room as an office, as did several other presidents.

It didn’t become known as the Lincoln Bedroom until the renovation of the White House under the supervision of Jacqueline Kennedy in 1961. By then it was no longer the room where Lincoln had worked, the entire interior of the White House had been gutted in 1949, and the mansion was rebuilt, leaving only the exterior shell as part of the original structure, which itself had been rebuilt following the British burning of the mansion in 1814. During Lincoln’s day, the walls of the room were covered with maps of war campaigns, rather than the expensive wallpapers which cover them today.

19 Disclosed US History Myths
USS Reuben James was sunk by a German U-boat attack more than a month before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. US Navy

15. Myth: Americans Entered World War II After Pearl Harbor

Fact: By 1941, American ships had already engaged with German submarines multiple times.

The United States Navy was drawn into war in the Atlantic before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, an event which led Adolf Hitler to declare war on the United States. The gradual increase in American involvement in the Atlantic was a result of the need to convoy Lend-Lease materials to both Great Britain and the Soviet Union. American support began with aerial observation, helping to vector British escort ships to German U-boats, and by the summer of 1941 had expanded to US warships actively shadowing German submarines and surface raiders. By 1941, American ships had engaged German submarines, and American casualties had been suffered.

In October 1941, USS Reuben James was part of the American neutrality patrol squadron operating out of Iceland when it was torpedoed and sunk by a German U-boat, with 100 American officers and sailors killed in the attack. Other US ships had been attacked prior to the loss of Reuben James, prompting the US Navy to issue a shoot on sight order in the late summer of 1941, well before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Following the shoot, on sight order, the US Navy was effectively at war in the Atlantic, and the news was presented to the American people by FDR in one of his fireside chats. After the shock of Pearl Harbor, the German attacks in the Atlantic were largely forgotten.

19 Disclosed US History Myths
Governor Island near Aquia, Virginia, provided the sandstone used in the White House and Capitol building in Washington. US Capitol

16. Myth: Only Slaves Built the White House and the Capitol

Fact: There are records proving construction payroll for the services contracted by the US government.

When the District of Columbia was created by the cession of land by Virginia and Maryland, the skilled labor required to build the new Capital City was recruited in the United States and overseas. Response to the recruiting was poor. Collen Williamson, a stonemason, leased slaves using government funds and trained them to quarry stone at Aquia Virginia, which was shipped to the District of Columbia, where it was prepared by skilled stonemasons from Scotland and placed in the exterior walls of the buildings. Other slaves were leased, with payment made to their masters, to make bricks, saw wood, and perform rough labor.

It is often erroneously reported that only slave labor was used in building the White House and other of Washington’s public buildings, but slave labor certainly contributed, as the payroll records of the construction attest. The first occupants of the White House, the Adams’ family, did not own slaves, but Jefferson did and brought several to the White House to staff it while in residence. Slave labor also contributed to the rebuilding of the White House after the British burned Washington. So while it is inaccurate to say that the White House was built by slaves, it is correct that slave labor was used along with free blacks and skilled artisans from several countries, under the supervision of James Hoban, himself a slave owner.

19 Disclosed US History Myths
Dutch painting of Santa Maria, which bore the commissioned name of La Gallicia. Santa Maria was a sailor’s nickname for the ship. Wikimedia

17. Myth: Queen Isabella Pawned her Jewels to Fund the Voyage of Christopher Columbus

Fact: The names of the ships used in the expedition were not actually named the Pinta, Nina, and Santa Maria

The longstanding myth of Queen Isabella pawning her jewelry in order to provide Columbus the financial backing for his voyage to the New World has been bandied about for decades but is probably untrue. The Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella held control of a wealthy treasury and financed the voyage through the collection of debts. Very little of the Spanish treasury was used to finance the voyage, which Columbus thought was to be to China and the Indies, unaware of the New World which stood in the way. Isabella not only did not pawn her jewels to pay for the voyage, she turned Columbus down, on the advice of her confessor.

A despondent Columbus, who had already been turned away by the Portuguese and the French, was preparing to leave when the intervention of Ferdinand brought him back to the Royal presence. The Spanish town of Palos, in disfavor with Ferdinand, was ordered to build and supply the ships of the expedition as payment for a longstanding debt. The town complied and Columbus recruited crews for his expedition. His flagship, named La Gallicia, was nicknamed Santa Maria by its crew. The smallest of the three ships was nicknamed Nina, though its real name was Santa Clara. The real name of the ship known as Pinta, another nickname, is lost to history.

19 Disclosed US History Myths
An American soldier and a Russian peddler in Archangelsk, Russia. Library of Congress

18. Myth: The American Expeditionary Force to Siberia Was Sent to Just Protect Interests and Property.

Fact: American troops fought in Russia after World War I… and stayed for a while.

In the late summer of 1918, two separate American forces were sent to Russia by Woodrow Wilson, allegedly to protect American interests and property which had been sent to the Russians during World War I. The American Expeditionary Force to Siberia consisted of nearly 8,000 men and the second detachment of troops was about 5,000 men of the Polar Bear Expedition. Both forces engaged with troops of the Red Army during Russia’s Civil War and both were sent in response to requests for support from Great Britain and France, who supplied troops of their own. American troops were dispatched to Vladivostok and Archangelsk.

The fighting in the Russian Civil War continued into 1919, following the end of the First World War, and during the Spanish Flu epidemic which followed. Protests over the American presence in Russia and the reports of several acts of defiance and even outright mutiny prompted Wilson to order the Americans to withdraw. In the summer of 1919, the Polar Bear expedition was withdrawn, after suffering over 200 dead. The American Expeditionary Force lost 189 men to combat and illness on their mission. The last of the AEF left Russia in the spring of 1920. The two expeditions did much to increase hostility by the Soviets towards the United States, and President Harding later called the missions a mistake.

19 Disclosed US History Myths
James Madison presented the first twelve suggested amendments to the Constitution as the Bill of Rights. Wikimedia

19. Myth: The “Right to Bear Arms” Amendment was always the Second Amendment.

Fact: The Second Amendment was actually proposed as the Fourth Amendment – Congress had something else in mind for the Second Amendment.

When James Madison took the floor of the House of Representatives and presented a list of amendments to the recently ratified Constitution, he presented a list of twelve amendments which he referred to as the Bill of Rights. Though Congress passed all of the amendments proposed, the first two were not ratified by the states, although the second, which dealt with Congress granting themselves a raise, finally was ratified in 1992, having waited 202 years, seven months, and ten days to reach the requisite number of states. It was ratified as the 27th amendment, though it had been submitted as the second. The other, the first submitted, dealt with apportionment.

So the amendment which is considered sacrosanct by some, and which remains in constant debate over Madison’s intent when he wrote it, went from being the fourth amendment to the second. It was originally written as “Article the fourth…A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed. If the founders’ thoughts on the Bill of Rights are to be considered literally and accepted, the Bill of Rights should include the twenty-seventh amendment, since Madison placed it second in his original document, making it clear that he intended it should be part of the Bill of Rights.


Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“The American Dream of Captain John Smith”, by J. A. Leo Lemay, 1991

“The $24 Swindle: The Indians who sold Manhattan were bilked all right but they didn’t mind – the land wasn’t theirs anyway”, by Nathaniel Benchley, American Heritage Magazine, December 1959

“Five myths about the Salem Witch Trials”, by Stacy Schiff, The Washington Post, October 28, 2016

“The Man Who Wrote the Pledge of Allegiance”, by Jeffrey Owen Jones, Smithsonian Magazine, December 2003

“Did George Washington Wear a Wig”, FAQs, The Papers of George Washington, The University of Virginia Archives, online

“Supplying Washington’s Army”, by Erna Risch, United States Army Center of Military History, 1981, online

“Paul Revere’s Ride”, by David Hackett Fischer, 1994

“Edgar Allan Poe: His Life and Legacy”, by Jeffrey Meyers, 1992

“Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant”, by Ulysses S. Grant, 2003

“Home is the Sailor”, by Adam Goodheart, Smithsonian Magazine, April 2006

“George Washington, Spymaster”, by George Washington’s Mount Vernon, online

“A Complete List of Every President’s Favorite Drink”, by Mark Will-Weber, The New York Post, October 18, 2014

“Designing Camelot: The Kennedy White House Restoration”, by James A. Abbott and Elaine M. Rice, 1997

“Why Did People Wear Powdered Wigs?” BY LUCAS REILLY, Mental Floss, JUNE 29, 2012

“The Real Story of Paul Revere’s Ride”, by PATRICK M. LEEHEY, Biography, APR 16, 2015

“The White House Was, in Fact, Built by Enslaved Labor” by Danny Lewis, Smithsonian Magazine, July 26, 2016

“Sinking the USS Reuben James”, WarFare History Network.

“Slavery and the White House”, by the White House Historical Association, online

“Scholars Run Columbus Myths Aground”, by Charles Downey, The Los Angeles Times, October 12, 1987

“The Unknown War With Russia: Wilson’s Siberian Intervention”, by Robert James Maddox, 1977

“First Twelve Articles of Amendment”, by James Madison, US Constitution.net, 1789, online