Little Bits of History

April 27

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 27, 2017

1578: The Duel of the Mignons takes place. During the French Wars of Religion, a group of men living in Paris and favorites of Henry III of France were derided by the press and the citizenry. Les Mignons is French for “the darlings” or “the dainty ones” and the men referred to were frivolous, fashionable young men who may or may not have been homosexual but were decidedly not  considered to be manly enough. According to writers at the time, they made themselves “exceedingly odious, as much by their foolish and haughty demeanor, as by their effeminate and immodest dress, but above all by the immense gifts the king made to them.”

The Malcontents were a group of men in the Fifth French War of Religion who opposed Henry of Valois, duc d’Anjou’s assumption to the throne as Henry III and allied with the Huguenots. They instead backed the old King’s brother, Francis, Duke of Anjou. They were unhappy (malcontent) with the way the King treated the old French nobility. Francis was the presumed heir to the throne as long as Henry III remained childless and it was he who seems to have stirred up a lot of the discontent within Paris over the Mignons and their misbehavior. There were fourteen young men who were singled out for popular disdain with special attention to Anne de Joyeuse who the young King had travelled with and now made Duke and Jean Louis de Nogaret de La Valette, another traveler who was also made a Duke.

Henry III and Henry, Duke of Guise decided to reenact the battle of the Horatii and the Curiatii, an ancient Roman legend where instead of two armies fighting, neighboring kingdoms would decide a winner based on a fight between the Horatii and the Curiatii – two sets of triplet fighters. The fight was to the death. On this day, Jacques de Caylus, Louis de Maugiron and Jean d’Arcès (representing the party of the King) engaged in a mock battle with Charles de Balzac, Ribérac, and Georges de Schomberg (representing the party of the Guises). Like the Roman battle, only one survived the day. Maugiron and Schomberg were killed in the mock battle. Ribérac died the following day. Caylus had as many as 19 wounds and took 33 agonizing days to die. D’Arcès received a head wound and was hospitalized for six weeks. Balzac suffered only a small scratch on his arm.

The meaningless loss of life enraged the public. The press of the day impugned the fighters, their leaders, and the entire idea behind the farce. The outcry continued and was seen as part and parcel of the abhorrent state of the Court and the spread of what the French considered to be the deplorable Italian and Gascon manners of Henry’s effeminate court. It also made the estrangement between the two noble Henrys much worse.

“Culture” is a finite segment of the meaningless infinity of the world process, a segment on which human beings confer meaning and significance. – Max Weber

So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they’re busy doing things they think are important. This is because they’re chasing the wrong things. – Morrie Schwartz

I would rather die a meaningful death than to live a meaningless life. – Corazon Aquino

Death gives meaning to our lives. It gives importance and value to time. Time would become meaningless if there were too much of it. – Ray Kurzweil

Zambian Soccer

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 27, 2015
Lusaka Heroes Acre - memorial

Lusaka Heroes Acre – memorial

April 27, 1993: A DHC-5D plane crashes into the Atlantic Ocean. The plane was heading out of Libreville, the capital city of Gabon – a sub-Saharan county on the west coast of Africa. The flight carried the Zambian national football team on their way to Dakar, Senegal to play a 1994 FIFA World Cup qualifying match against Senegal. The Zambian Air Force had specially arranged to fly the team and had three refueling stops scheduled. The first was at Brazzaville, Congo and the second was here at Libreville. The de Havilland Canada DHC-5D Buffalo had taken off from Lusaka, Zambia and made the first refueling stop without incident. At the stop, there was an issue with one of the engines but the flight continued on without delay.

A few minutes after takeoff from the second refueling stop in Gabon, the left engine caught fire and failed. The pilot shut down the right engine which caused the plane to lose all power. The plane had still been in its climb and without power, fell into the water about 550 yards offshore. An investigation report issued ten years later attributed the accident to instrument error, pilot error and pilot fatigue. The same pilot had flown the team from a match in Mauritius the previous day. There had been 25 passengers and five crew aboard and all of them were killed in the crash. The team, Chipolopolo, had been doing well and they were hoping to win the 1993 Africa Cup of Nations and make their first World Cup appearance.

The plane had been in service since 1975 but out of service for five months from late 1992 until April 21, 1993. Test flights were done on April 22 and 26. Before takeoff in Zambia, a number of defects in the engines along with carbon particles in the oil filters, disconnected cables, and trace of heating were found. The plane was used for the football team’s transport anyway. There were 18 players, the national team coach, and support staff aboard the plane. The captain of the Chipolopolo team, Kalusha Bwalya, was not aboard as he had been playing in the Netherlands for PSV and had made separate arrangements to get to Senegal. Bennett Mulwanda Simfukwe was supposed to have been on the fatal flight, but was removed from the list of travelers by his employers.

It took a decade for the official report to be released by the Gabonese government. Relatives of the victims continue to lobby the Zambian government to find out how the faulty plane was ever permitted to leave Zambia in the first place. The members of the national team killed in the crash were buried at what is now called Heroes’ Acre near the Independence Stadium in Lusaka. A new team was quickly put together in 1993 and Bwalya was faced with bringing them together to face off in the African Nations Cup, just a few months away. They made it to the finals, but were unable to defeat Nigeria in the last game. The team won the Africa Cup of Nations in 2012 in Libreville, only a short distance from where the plane had crashed nearly two decades earlier.

Soccer is simple, but it is difficult to play simple. – Johan Cruyff

For me soccer provides so many emotions, a different feeling every day. I’ve had the good fortune to take part in major competitions like the Olympics, and winning the World Cup was also unforgettable. – Ronaldinho

The first World Cup I remember was in the 1950 when I was 9 or 10 years old. My father was a soccer player, and there was a big party, and when Brazil lost to Uruguay, I saw my father crying. – Pele

I need a life outside of soccer. So I very much welcome, you know, new love interests and dating and friends and family. – Hope Solo

Also on this day: Sultana – In 1865, the steamship Sultana has a boiler explode.
John Milton – In 1667, Paradise Lost was purchased for £5.
Appendectomy – In 1887, the first successful appendectomy was performed.
Expo 67 – In 1967, the Expo held official opening ceremonies.
Operation Moolah – In 1953, an unusual offer was made by the US.

* “Lusaka Heroes Acre – memorial” by Francis Alisheke / – Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons –

Operation Moolah

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 27, 2014
Operation Moolah

Operation Moolah

April 27, 1953: US General Mark W Clark makes an unusual offer. The hope behind Operation Moolah was to have a fully functional Soviet MiG-15 jet fighter brought over by a defecting pilot. The new plane had been introduced to Korea on November 1, 1950. US Air Force pilots had declared the new plane was superior to all United Nations planes, including the USAF’s newest plane, the F-86 Sabre. The plan was to offer a financial incentive for a pilot to bring a plane to South Korea for examination by US engineers. The MiG-15 could outperform at initial acceleration and outdistance the US plane in a dive. It was also more maneuverable at high altitudes.

The appearance of the plane over North Korea was not just about the plane, but also was a concern as to whether or not the USSR was helping North Korea’s war effort. Some United Nations prisoners of war had reported talking to Soviet pilots while in captivity and this along with other intelligence led those in power to believe Soviets were covertly supplying pilots to train North Korean forces. This was corroborated after the war was over by a defector. It was felt that if the US or the UN could get their hands on one of these planes, it would help immeasurably. So Operation Moolah was produced out of the office of the Army’s Psychological Warfare Branch in Washington, D.C.  If a disgruntled pilot could be induced to bring over a plane, he would receive $100,000 and political asylum.

The plan was approved on March 30 but the reward was dropped to $50,000 for any undamaged planes. The first to bring one over would receive a bonus of an extra $50,000. On April 26, armistice negotiations between Communist forces and the UN began. Operation Little Switch was due to be undertaken the next day and so Gen. Clark included Operation Moolah, as well. The first operation was to exchange sick and wounded POWs between the two sides and Clark hoped to persuade some Communists to stay and defect. On the night of April 26, two B-29 Superfortress bombers dropped 1.2 million leaflets over Communist bases. These were written in Russian, Chinese, and Korean and made the same offer as that broadcast the next day.

The sales pitch offered via shortwave radio transmission was sent out in Korean, Mandarin, Cantonese, and Russian. It was broadcast by fourteen radio stations situated in Japan, South Korea, North Korea, and China. The message that went out said, “. . . To all brave pilots who wish to free themselves from the Communist yoke and start a new, better life with proper honor . . . you are guaranteed refuge, protection, humane care and attention. If pilots so desire, their names will be kept secret forever . . .” This ploy was unsuccessful as no Communist pilot brought over a plane prior to the armistice signed on July 27, 1953. However, later that year, North Korean pilot No Kum-Suk landed his MiG-15 at Kimpo Air Base in South Korea – unaware of Operation Moolah. He received the cash anyway.

Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works. If it works big, others quickly copy it. Then you do something else. The trick is the doing something else. – Leonardo da Vinci

Nothing more completely baffles one who is full of trick and duplicity, than straightforward and simple integrity in another. – Charles Caleb Colton

Men are so simple and yield so readily to the desires of the moment that he who will trick will always find another who will suffer to be tricked. – Niccolo Machiavelli

Human intelligence may not be the best trick nature has to offer. – Bryant H. McGill

Also on this day: Sultana – In 1865, the steamship Sultana has a boiler explode.
John Milton – In 1667, Paradise Lost was purchased for £5.
Appendectomy – In 1887, the first successful appendectomy was performed.
Expo 67 – In 1967, the Expo held official opening ceremonies.

John Milton

Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 27, 2013
John Milton and Paradise Lost

John Milton and Paradise Lost

April 27, 1667: John Milton enters into a publishing agreement with Samuel Simmons for the epic poem, Paradise Lost. It is said to be “the most noticed, most read, most criticized, and finally the most exalted Poem in the English Tongue.” Milton was paid £5 up front and three printings were to follow with 1,500 impressions per printing, the maximum at the time. Milton would be paid £5 after each new print run. The poem was not written in a conventional manner and was difficult to understand. Simmons suggested Milton add explanatory text in simple language so the meaning could be grasped. Milton originally composed the epic as 10 books and was encouraged to split books VII and X into two, creating 12 books.

Milton was born in 1608 and was radical in his politics and heretical in his theology. Milton’s life is best understood against the historical background of Stuart Britain. He was well-educated and well-traveled, although his European tour was cut short by civil war at home. Milton put aside poetry composition in favor of penning political tracts. Milton’s political ideals came to fruition and then collapsed. Even so, he hung on to his beliefs.

Milton’s personal life was in disarray. He married in 1642 at age 34. His wife was half his age. A few weeks after the wedding, she went to visit family and didn’t come back. Milton campaigned for divorce laws to permit dissolution of a marriage because of incompatibility at a time when adultery was the only cause for action. He was vehemently censured. The couple eventually reconciled. His sight began to deteriorate in 1644 and by 1651 he was completely blind. He had to dictate later works to a series of amanuenses.

Paradise Lost is the story of the Fall of Man with Adam and Eve being driven from Paradise. The work shows Satan after the demon enters a war with God. Issues dealing with free will and self-determination show us Lucifer’s side of the story. Eve, and through her, Adam, are deceived and both must be punished. The Son of God intercedes on behalf of the ruined couple and God forgives them but still expels them from Paradise. The poem was met with mixed reviews. Samuel Johnson praised it but with the caveat, “None ever wished it longer than it is.”

“He who reigns within himself and rules his passions, desires, and fears is more than a king.”

“The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.”

“He who kills a man kills a reasonable creature, but he who destroys a good book kills reason itself.”

“Truth never comes into the world but like a bastard, to the ignominy of him that brought her birth.” – all from John Milton

This article first appeared at in 2010. Editor’s update: Paradise Lost has a total of over ten thousand lines of verse. The writing style is blank verse meaning it is written in unrhymed iambic pentameter. This means there are five pairs of syllables with the first unstressed and the second stressed. Because Virgil’s Aeneid was such a revered work, Paradise Lost was changed to twelve books to emulate it. However, unlike the Latin poet, Milton’s work has books of varying length. The longest is Book IX with 1,189 lines. The shortest is Book VII which only has 640 lines. The Arguments at the beginning of each book were the parts added later to help with the understanding of the work. Satan is the first major character introduced in the book and he is followed by Adam, Eve, the Son of God, God the Father, Raphael, and Michael.

Also on this day: Sultana – In 1865 the steamship Sultana has a boiler explode.
Appendectomy – In 1887, the first successful appendectomy was performed.
Expo 67 – In 1967, the Expo held official opening ceremonies.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 27, 2011

Appendix before and after

April 27, 1887: George Thomas Morton performs the first successful appendectomy in the United States. He saved the life of a 26-year-old man stricken with an inflamed appendix or appendicitis. George was the son of Dr. Morton who introduced anesthesia to the US in 1846 (see March 30).

The appendix is usually about the size and shape of one’s little finger, although it can be longer. The longest on record was measured as 9.2 inches and found during surgery on a Pakistani man in 2003. The appendix is located at the cecum, part of the colon. It serves no known function. It is a vestigial structure, meaning that it is a holdover from our historic past.

The appendix can become inflamed for a variety of reasons and the infection can spread to the wall of the organ. If the appendix bursts or ruptures, the infection can spread to the entire abdominal cavity and cause serious illness or even death. There is no definitive test for appendicitis, but “rebound tenderness” which is pain caused when pressure is released from the right, lower quadrant of the abdomen is indicative of the problem. Surgery to remove the appendix can be via a McBurney incision or more recently via a laparoscopic procedure. In the latter, several puncture wounds are made and a camera and light are used to put images on a TV screen while instruments are used to excise the organ via other portals.

Dr. Morton, following in his father’s footsteps, became a doctor in 1856 and took up the field of surgery. He was active in the Civil War both as a surgeon and as a gifted administrator. After the war, he founded many hospitals in Pennsylvania. He was also on the boards of many worthwhile organizations such as the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children and the Pennsylvanian Society for the Restriction of Vivisection. He was a prolific writer on many topics that included the proper methodology for blood transfusions. He continued with many other interests and even today there are people with a foot neuralgia that are diagnosed as having a Morton’s neuroma, named for the doctor.

“In nothing do men more nearly approach the gods than in giving health to men.” – Cicero

“Restore a man to his health, his purse lies open to thee.” – Robert Burton

“I learned a long time ago that minor surgery is when they do the operation on someone else, not you.” – Bill Walton

“Surgeons must be very careful
When they take the knife!
Underneath their fine incisions
Stirs the Culprit – Life!” – Emily Dickinson

Also on this day:
Sultana – In 1865 the steamship Sultana has a boiler explode.
John Milton – In 1667, Paradise Lost was purchased for £5.


Posted in History by patriciahysell on April 27, 2010

Depiction of the crowded Sultana exploding

April 27, 1865: The steamboat Sultana‘s boiler explodes while carrying Union soldiers home after the end of the Civil War. Many of the soldiers had been held in Andersonville, the worst POW camp of the war. About one-third of prisoners held at Andersonville died of exposure, malnutrition, or disease. Henry Wirz, the commander of the camp, is the only Confederate officer to be tried and found guilty of war crimes.

Sailing was delayed until the Mississippi River was past flood stage after the winter melt runoff swelled the mighty river. The ship’s trip started in New Orleans on April 21 with between 75 and 100 passengers and livestock on the way to St. Louis. The boiler was known to be in poor repair, but the trip was made regardless. The Sultana stopped in Vicksburg, Mississippi for some repairs to the faulty boilers and to take on more passengers. The repair to the boiler removed a section of bulging material and replaced it by welding on a new section of lesser thickness than the rest of the boiler, creating a weak point. A new boiler replacement would have delayed the trip by three days. Captain J.C. Mason did not want to lose the time making adequate repairs.

Most of the passengers on this ship were still in poor health from the POW camp. They were crammed onto the Sultana and headed up the river. The legal capacity of the boat was 376, but on this trip about 2,400 were on board. More than two thousand soldiers, eager to return home, were crammed into every available nook and cranny of the ship at Vicksburg. The US government had contracted with the Sultana to return newly released prisoners of war to their homes.

Just north of Memphis, Tennessee, at about 3:00 AM, the boiler exploded. The shockwave sent many of the men crowded on deck into the water. Hot coals rained down on top of them and many were trapped onboard the ship as it burnt. Some had the choice of staying on the ship or jumping into the overflowing freezing river. Many men died of either hypothermia or by drowning. About 500 men were pulled from the river, about 200 of them subsequently died. No exact death toll is possible, but it is assumed that about 1,700 to 1,800 died in the disaster.

“The United States lost more men from battle wounds and disease in the Civil War than in any other war of its history, including the Second World War. The battle front stretched from Pennsylvania to New Mexico, and included also the seven seas.” – Richard Weaver

“We have met the enemy and they are us!” – Walt Kelly

“You are sad because they abandon you and you have not fallen.” – Antonio

“All say, ‘How hard it is that we have to die’ – a strange complaint to come from the mouths of people who have had to live.” – Mark Twain

Also on this day, in 1667 John Milton got a publisher for Paradise Lost.

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