In a previous article, I extolled the virtues of Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader. One of my favorite sections is entitled Myth America, which describes the history we never quite learned right. Here are some favorites, taken from pages 28-29, 67.
1. Myth: Indians invented scalping as a method to terrorize settlers.
In fact, this was an ancient European tradition, used by early settlers. Only later did the “Indians” copy the action. Americans have somehow forgotten where the idea came from.
2. Myth: Paul Revere single-handedly warned the minute-men of the coming British.
There were actually two men who rode with a warning. The other—William Dawes—was the one who warned the colonists, whereas the British stopped Revere.
On an unpatriotic note, Revere was actually charged with “unsoldierly behavior tending toward cowardice” though not convicted. Further, he did not ride as a volunteer, but charged the government over 10 pounds for the cost of the ride.
3. Myth: Pocahontas and John Smith were an item.
Although it is true that they knew each other, Smith most likely made up the story in which Pocahontas risked her own life to save him from beheading. At least Disney was following a legend for that part of the movie.
Interestingly, Pocahontas was known for entertaining “colonists by performing cartwheels in the nude.”
General Custer was the bravest of the Indian fighters.
He technically was not a general, though he had a brief time as one during the Civil War before being demoted.
He was last in his class at West Point and was court-martialed by the Army and kicked out for a year.
His heroic (or stupid, depending on your point of view) attack was supposed to be part of a larger attack. But in his impatience to wait for General Terry, he led 266 men to their deaths.
Personally, I thought it interesting how one of the Samurai on “The Last Samurai” admired him because of his willingness to fight in an impossible situation.
(This last one is the most debatable–I post this because it is interesting, not because it is the best, fullest understanding of the man.)