82: Best Mini Episodes and Cold Opens of 2020
“Gentlemen, what is the cause of this violence?”
This is the story HTDS's 2020.
Most people wouldn’t call last year a good one. Doesn’t mean we didn’t have some fun mini episodes and cold opens here on HTDS. Join Greg for a look at some favorites from both of those camps.
81: Epilogue to Volume 6: Reconstruction and The Indian Wars
“The older I get the more I’m convinced that it’s the purpose of politicians and journalists to say the world is very simple, whereas it’s the purpose of historians to say, ‘No! It’s very complicated’.” — David Cannadine (British historian at Princeton)
It’s epilogue time. Join Greg and Cielle as they talk broad strokes on one of the darkest periods of American history: Reconstruction and the (post-Civil War) Indian Wars. In the process, we’ll revisit a few fascinating figures who seem to reject fitting into simple boxes, like Confederate-turned-Radical-Republican James “Old Pete” Longstreet and Union-war-hero-turned-Indian fighter, Phil Sheridan.
Finally, we’ll say goodbye to another HTDS friend. First it was Josh. Now, it’s Cielle. Thanks a lot, 2020.
80: “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus:” A History
“Church bristled and pooh-poohed at the subject when I suggested that he write a reply to Virginia O’Hanlon.”
This is the story of America’s most famous editorial.
Virginia O’Hanlon is an inquisitive eight-year-old. She’s debated with her friends and studied out the matter, but she still can’t decide: is there a Santa Claus? At her father’s suggestion, she writes to New York’s great arbiter of truth: The Sun. Her letter is handed to an editorial writer by the name of Francis “Frank” Pharcellus Church.
But Frank doesn’t want to answer the letter. Emotionally scarred by what he witnessed reporting on during the Civil War, Frank is a cynic. Further, as a man without a wife, children, or faith, a religious or faith-filled holiday focused on children really isn’t his thing. What exactly can he say to this little girl? The result is the most famous editorial in the history of American newspapers.
79: The Indian Wars (Part 3): Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce & Standing Bear’s Fight for Civil Rights
“Does this court think an Indian is a competent witness?”
This is the story of the start of indigenous civil rights.
Since the arrival of Lewis and Clark, the Nez Perce have lived peacefully beside US citizens. The Pacific Northwest indigenous group is proud of the fact that not one of them has ever killed a white person. But things are changing. New settlers are flocking, and the US government wants the Nez Perce to cede more land. In 1863, the upper Nez Perce sign a treaty that cedes Lower Nez Perce lands without their consent. Meanwhile, settlers who wrong the Nez Perce (even murdering some), aren’t being charged with crimes. Amid these crimes and forced removal, peace can’t hold. Nez Perce leaders like Chief Joseph soon find themselves fighting a war they don’t want.
But can the US government forcibly remove indigenous people to reservations, and further force them to stay there? Or do they have civil rights? Ponca Chief Standing Bear is raising that very question by suing for a writ of habeas corpus in Omaha, Nebraska. The legal precedent-setting decision rests with Judge Elmer Dundy.
78: The Indian Wars Part 2: The Battle of the Little Bighorn (the Greasy Grass)
“There’s a good fight coming over the hill. That’s where the big fight is going to be. We’ll not miss that one.”
This is the story of the Battle of the Little Bighorn (or the Greasy Grass).
In 1868, representatives of the US government meet leaders from a few indigenous nations at Fort Laramie to sign a treaty. The agreement creates the boundaries for a Great Sioux Reservation and “unceded” Sioux territory. But the treaty soon falters: With the discovery of gold in the Lakota’s sacred Black Hills, miners and settlers flock to the reservation’s mountain range. Meanwhile, thousands of Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho “non-treaty Indians” refuse to move to the reservation. The US government responds by designating them as “hostile.”
In 1876, three US armies move out to force the now thousands-strong non-treaty village to the reservation. Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer’s 7th Cavalry finds them first. Will he succeed in forcing them to the reservation? Or will Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse’s village defeat the cavalry and maintain its liberty? It will all come down to a battle on the hills just above the eastern bank of the Little Bighorn River.
77: The Indian Wars Part 1: The U.S.-Dakota War
“To be hanged by the neck until he is dead.”
This is the story of the US-Dakota War. The most eastern of the three major Sioux peoples, the Dakota are indigenous to Minnesota. They’ve lived beside trappers, fur traders, and the like, for quite a while (salut, les Canadiens-français). But now, more white settlers are showing and setting up farms, and American officials are buying lands in exchange for long-term payments.
But what happens when those payments are late? Shorted? Meanwhile, traditional hunting grounds are gone. Amid these tensions, four hungry Dakota men on a failed hunt kill two settler families. Other settlers only see a seemingly random act of murder; The Dakota see men pushed beyond their limits. A war ensues. The settlers win quickly, but suffer hundreds of deaths in the process.
Now questions arise: Are warriors guilty of murder? Are some guilty of massacring? Many Minnesotans say yes to both, and over 300 Dakota men are sentenced to death. Settlers are crying for blood as the final decision to approve or deny these sentences go all the way to the top. It’s your call, President Abraham Lincoln.
76: Reconstruction Part 4: The Battle of Liberty Place and the Mississippi Plan
“Hang Kellogg! We’ll fight!”
This is the story of the end of Reconstruction.
Voter fraud and intimidation has made Louisiana’s 1872 Gubernatorial election a mess. So, when a Federal judge and Republican President Ulysses S. Grant uphold the Republican candidate, the stage is set for more partisan and racial violence in the Bayou state. The outcome is Reconstruction’s worst episode of violence and murder (the Colfax Massacre), and a full on street battle in New Orleans between the paramilitary White League and the racially integrated state and municipal police (the Battle of Liberty Place).
Meanwhile, Democrats have grown sick of what they see as Federal overreach imposing Republican policies rule over them. Starting in Mississippi, they come up with a new plan to disenfranchise Republicans in order to reestablish “home rule.”
But will the federal government allow this to happen? With Ulyss leaving the White House, the 1876 presidential election’s voter fraud and backroom dealings create a compromise that ensures Republicans retain the presidency, while Democrats regain control of the South. Reconstruction is over. Welcome to the era of Jim Crow.
75: Reconstruction (Part 3): The Rise of the KKK and the First Black Men in Government
“Boys, let us get up a club or society of some description.”
This is the story Reconstruction peaking and its opponents organizing to fight back.
With Radical Republicans at the helm of Reconstruction, the former Confederate states are forced to make new state constitutions that include black men in the process. The outcome is nothing short of revolutionary. Black men not only come away with the vote, but the ability to run for office! Black Americans like PBS Pinchback, Robert Smalls, and Robert Elliott are soon filling the highest offices in the land—even Congress.
But this change is far too radical for some ex-Confederates. When six Tennessean men form a social club, it quickly takes a paramilitary turn. Its former rebel members realize that the only way to restore the ante bellum world they long for is through violence and murder ... and they aren’t above restorting to such measures.
Bonus Episode: Game Changers: Precedent-Setting Presidential Elections
Game Changers: Precedent-Setting Presidential Elections takes a look at some of the earliest and most influential presidential elections in US history. Join Greg and Cielle as they highlight the backstory of key players in four early presidential elections. Then, listen and learn as they engage in lively discussions about the precedents set in each of these elections and how those still play out in our system today.
In Episode 1: The Election of 1800: A Changing of the Guards Part 1, you’ll hear the story of John Adams and the Boston Massacre trial. Then, we discuss the first American political parties. Both sides fear tyranny, but from different sources. And that fear will influence the outcome of this election and lead to the first precedent it sets.
To listen to all episodes of Game Changers, go to himalaya.com/historical and enter promo code HISTORICAL at checkout for your first 14 days free.
74: Reconstruction Part 2: The Scandals of President Ulysses S. Grant
"The office has come to me unsought; I commence its duties untrammeled. I bring to it a conscious desire and determination to fill it to the best of my ability to the satisfaction of the people. "
This is the story of scandal.
Ulysses S. Grant has just been elected as the youngest US President to date. He has great hopes to usher in a new era of civil and political rights for African-Americans and American Indians, as evidenced by the new 15th amendment. But can the honest Civil War hero do so when his Vice President and trusted former officers are busy making corrupt, illegal deals that inflate the value of gold, cost of railroads, and dodge taxes?
Welcome to the Grant Administration.
73: Reconstruction Part 1: The Impeachment of Andrew Johnson
“You are placed in a position where you have the power to save or destroy us; to bless or blast us--I mean our whole race.”
This is the story of the first US Presidency to end in impeachment. This is the story of Andrew Johnson.
The post-Civil War government of the United States faces difficult decisions. Should it be lenient to former Confederate states? Or should it take a hard hand? Should the Federal government play a role in reconstructing state governments (Reconstruction)? Or should it leave the states to their own devices? Slavery’s over, but does that mean black Americans are equal citizens with white Americans? Or can states enact laws, called “Black Codes,” that only apply to its black residents? Can states deny them the vote?
These are the questions facing VP-turned-President Andrew Johnson, and he doesn’t seem to agree with Congress on much. Can Congress impeach and convict him for firing War Secretary Edwin Stanton? Or will the case fall apart? We’ll find out.
72: The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln
“Sic semper tyrannis!”
This is the story of deception. Conspiracy. Assassination.
The handsome, 26-year-old successful actor John Wilkes Booth has sympathized with the Confederacy since the war began. So when Abraham Lincoln wins reelection as President of the United States amid several crucial late-1864 victories, John becomes enraged. He decides to kidnap President Lincoln.
But as John’s attempts at kidnapping fail, things go worse for the CSA. By April 1865, it’s over for the Confederacy. Then Lincoln says something in a speech that throws John completely over the edge: the gangly president suggests that the United States enact limited, black male suffrage.
John’s ready to go far further than kidnapping. And so, on the night April 14, the famous actor will take on the biggest, most consequential role of his life … at Washington City’s Ford Theater.
71: Revisiting the Hamilton/Burr Duel: An Affair of Honor
"Adieu best of wives and best of women."
We’re interrupting our usual chronological walk through US history today to bring you a remastered, new sound design take on Episode 22, “An Affair of Honor: Alexander Hamilton & Aaron Burr.” In these last few months, cellist Buffi Jacobs and violinist Austin Burket, both of whom usually perform with the Hamilton musical’s “Philip” Tour, contributed their talents to the new music you’ve been hearing since Airship took on our sound design. Given that connection, we thought it would be a fun homage to these new partnerships to let Airship redo the sound design on the most Hamilton of HTDS episodes.
70: Epilogue: The Civil War Comes to a Close
After nearly a full year of covering only four years of US history, we are done with the Civil War. It’s time for an epilogue! Greg and Cielle talk big picture, and bring in some intriguing stories that just didn’t quite make the cut for regular episodes (including the Civil War origins of Coca-Cola, and the tale of Confederates who immigrate to Brazil, where slavery is still legal).
Ready to hash decompress and gear up for Reconstruction? Here we go.
69: Surrender at Appomattox: The Last Days of the Civil War
“I feel that it is … my duty to shift from myself the responsibility of any further effusion of blood, by asking you to surrender … the army of Northern Virginia. Very respectfully, U. S. Grant.”
This is the story of one army surrendering to another. Of foes becoming brothers once more. This is the Surrender at Appomattox.
68: Sherman's March to the Sea and the Thirteenth Amendment
“I can make the march, and make Georgia howl!”
This is the story of the March to the Sea and the 13th Amendment.
William Tecumseh “Cump” Sherman describes war as two things: “cruel.” And “war.” Acting under this philosophy, he takes 60,000 of his toughest, most battle-hardened men, and marches from Atlanta to the Peach State’s coast in a show of force meant to break the Confederacy of its will to fight. Cump’s effective--but does he go too far? Americans North and South will debate whether he’s a hero or a villain for generations to come.
Meanwhile, President Abraham Lincoln has grown tired of the fact that the Constitution legally protects the institution of slavery. But the Constitution hasn’t been amended in 60 years; not since Thomas Jefferson was president! Can the Illinois Railsplitter really push through a 13th amendment? We’ll find out.
67: Ending 1864: The Battles of the Crater, Mobile Bay, Centralia, and Franklin
“Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!”
This is the story of the Civil War in late-1864. Battles of significance are happening all across the country, and many of them are quite odd or unique: Pennsylvania miners are secretly digging under Confederates to blow them up from below; Admiral David Farragut is fighting in the torpedo-filled waters of Alabama’s Gulf Coast; Bushwacker “Bloody Bill” Anderson is fighting the war as a brutal gun-slinger; and one-legged Confederate General John Bell Hood is making a Hail Mary play and taking Tennessee. It’s a quick paced tour around the country as we inch toward the final culmination of the Civil War.
66: The Election of 1864: Lincoln's Bid for Reelection
“Johnson is either drunk or crazy,”
This is the story of the fight for the presidency in 1864.
No US President since Andrew Jackson has seen a second term. Few are even nominated by their party for a second term. Will the Republicans choose Abraham Lincoln again? More to the point--will war-weary Americans voters, including moderates who disapprove of Lincoln making the abolition of slavery a war aim, choose Lincoln again?
The Democrats have a strong candidate: General George B. “Little Mac” McClellan. He might be out of the war, but he’s certainly ready to fight the man who fired him. Welcome to a presidential election amid an actual Civil War.
65: Sherman’s Atlanta Campaign & The Free State of Jones
“War is war, and not popularity-seeking.”
This is the story of the fall of Atlanta. William Tecumseh “Cump” Sherman is leading three armies in an attack against this vital city in the Peach State. His forces are formidable, but so are his opponents: Confederate master of defense, Joseph E. “Joe” Johnston; and the far more aggressive Confederate General John B. Hood. The loss of life will be staggering and include prominent figures on both sides.
There’s also rebelling brewing within the rebellion. Care to meet secessionists who’ve seceded from the secession? Welcome to Mississippi’s “Free State of Jones.”
Bonus: A New Sound for HTDS (Farewell to Josh, Hello to Lindsay Graham & Airship)
After more than two years of putting his blood, sweat, and tears into HTDS, Sound Designer Josh Beatty is moving on. We'll miss him! But we're also excited to have history podcasting legend Lindsay Graham and his audio production company Airship (https://airship.fm/) stepping in.
Why is Josh leaving? In what ways will this change the sound of HTDS? Join Greg, Josh, Cielle, and Lindsay as they discuss those dynamics, reflect on Josh's time at HTDS, and explain how the four of them met through Podcast Movement.
64: Grant's Overland Campaign: The Battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, & Petersburg
“I propose to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer.”
This is the story of hard fights and harder losses.
It’s early 1864, and battle-proven, newly promoted Ulysses S. Grant is now over the whole army, and he’s launching an ambitious plan: the Overland Campaign. He’ll wage several battles in Virginia as other generals strike other parts of the Confederacy. The losses are staggering. Not only will tens of thousands of men lose life or limb, but one particularly influential and beloved Confederate leader won’t make it out alive.
Bonus: A Chat about Southern Accents w/ Jeremy Collins from "Podcasts We Listen To"
History can touch on present-day issues, and rather than duck away from such discomforts, Greg has always been stupid enough to try to hit them straight on. Indulging that stupidity today, Greg sat down with born-and-bred Southerner Jeremy Collins from the podcast, "Podcasts We Listen To," to discuss the South; particularly, Southern accents. Whether you've never been south of the Mason-Dixon Line or are as Southern as Jeremy, we hope you learn from and enjoy this honest, candid, and jovial chat.
63: Wounded and Dying: Nurses, Doctors, and Disease in the Civil War
“I had never severed the nerves and fibers of human flesh.”
This is the story of Civil War medicine. At the start of the war, the wounded sometimes lay on the field of battle for days hoping for help. Some die slowly and painfully from exposure and thirst. Others are robbed as their life expires. The divided nation has new, deadlier guns, but medical treatment has changed. It’s a deadly combination.
Both sides step up. The Union’s new “Ambulance Corps” sets a new standard for battlefield first aid as the newly created US Sanitary Commission improves policy. The CSA’s “Infirmary Corps” and regional organizations make similar improvements. North and South, women save countless soldiers as they enter a new medical profession: “nursing.”
But most surgeons don’t believe “refied ladies” should be working in this professional role. Some intentionally make life downright miserable for these female patriots. Luckily for the wounded, these women don’t break easily.
62: The War in Tennessee: Chickamauga and Chattanooga
“Gloom and unspoken despondency hang like a pall everywhere.”
This is the story of personalities.
Union General William “Old Rosy” Rosecrans takes on Confederate General Braxton Bragg out in Tennessee. Their clash at the battle of Chickamauga is among the deadliest of the whole war.
The aftermath is anything but straightforward. Short-tempered as ever, Braxton Bragg is clashing with his generals, particularly Nathan Bedford Forest and James “Old Pete” Longstreet. CSA President Jefferson Davis even pays them a visit in the field to try and keep the peace! Meanwhile, US President Abraham Lincoln and War Secretary Edwin “Mars” Stanton aren’t seeing eye to eye on what to do in the Volunteer State and as Ulysses S. Grant is inheriting command at the besieged city of Chattanooga. Can he turn things around? Or will Confederate infighting win the day for him at the last major battle of 1863? We’ll find out.
61: The Louisiana Native Guard, the 54th Massachusetts & On: Black Soldiers in the Civil War
“It is hard to believe that Southern soldiers—and Texans at that—have been whipped by a mongrel crew of white and black Yankees … there must be some mistake.”
This is the story of Black Soldiers in the Civil War.
Black patriots are ready to fight from day one. The Lincoln Administration and Congress, however, are not ready to have them. They fear losing the support of the border states and the Democrats. But as the war drags on, they change their tune. Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation, and black regiments are incorporated in the US army in early 1863. Eventually, as many as 200,000 black soldiers will fight in hundreds of engagements across every theater of the Civil War.
But trailblazers often cut hard paths. As a skeptical nation wonders, “will they fight?” the black creoles of the Louisiana Native Guard and the black troops of the 54th Massachusetts answer that question in the most forceful way possible: with their own blood and lives.
“I shall lead my division forward, sir.”
This is the story of Gettysburg.
It’s summer, 1863, and Robert E. Lee is making a bold move; he’s leading his Army of Northern Virginia into Union territory. He hopes a victory up north might be the decisive blow he needs to demoralize the US. Meanwhile, Union leadership is getting shaken up (yet again) as the Army of the Potomac’s command passes from “Fightin’ Joe” Hooker to George Meade. But the two armies won’t clash on either commander’s terms. They’ll collide somewhat unintentionally at the southeastern Pennsylvania town of Gettysburg.
The battle rages for three days under the hot July sun. It’ll prove the deadliest battle of the entire war. It’s impact will long be remembered—as will President Abraham Lincoln’s speech dedicating the final resting place of the battle’s thousands of dead that November.
Crossover w/ A Teacher's History of the United States - Christopher Caldwell
59: Stone’s River, Suspending Habeas Corpus, Vicksburg, & Stonewall’s Death at Chancellorsville
“Grant is my man and I am his the rest of the war.”
This is the story of hard fighting—on the battlefield and in the courts.
President Abraham Lincoln is making the controversial decision to suspend the writ of habeas corpus. While the Constitution does permit this to be done “in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion” that threaten “the public Safety,” is the executive branch the one to do it? Is it prudent?
Meanwhile, battles rage across the nation. Stone’s River claims a higher percentage of combattants than any other battle has or will. Ulysses S. Grant is laying siege to the Vicksburg, which is the last Confederate stronghold on the Mississippi River. Can he do it, effectively cutting the CSA in two? Finally, friendly fire is laying low one of the Confederacy’s most talented generals at Chancellorsville. The war will never be the same.
58: Conscription & Riots (“A Rich Man’s War, But a Poor Man’s Fight”)
“Here’s a damned abolitionist! … He’s a Tribune man! Hang the son of a b****!”
This is the story of Civil War conscription and riots.
Conscription is completely foreign to Americans. They’ve never relied on force to fill the military’s ranks. But the Civil War is changing that. Left with the choice to either give up or draft men in the army, the Confederacy, then the United States, both turn to conscription. When it appears that the burden of fighting will fall disproportionately on the shoulders of New York’s mostly Irish-Catholic working class, it unleashes racial, economic, and religious angst, and causes one of the worst (if not the worst) riots in American history.
Meanwhile, Southern women are starving. Their husbands and sons are fighting, but the Confederacy and its states are doing nothing to check a rampant rise in the cost of food. Stuck with choosing between letting their children starve or rioting, it’s a no brainer. They’re choosing the latter.
57: Recap of The Civil War's First Half (1861-63)
"Keep the details! We love the stories!"
After 11 episodes covering the first half of the Civil War, it’s time to digest a bit. Greg, Josh, and Cielle attend to the usual roundtable business (pronunciation corrections and talking cotton production in Arizona!), then talk through the “who’s who” of our massive cast of characters. Enjoy one last chat before we dive into the final harsh years of the war.
56: The Battle of Fredericksburg and the First Campaign of Vicksburg
“If the world had been searched by Burnside for a location in which his army could be best defeated ... he should have selected this very spot.”
This is the story of leadership turnover in the Union and total war on the field. US President Abraham Lincoln has had his fill of George B. “Little Mac” McClellan. Little Mac is getting fired. He’s being replaced by the general with the best facial-hair game in the army: Ambrose Burnsides.
But Ambrose doesn’t want command. He doesn’t think he’s the man for the job. Still, he’s going to try to be the aggressive general he knows the President wants. Ambrose plans to charge at the Confederate capital with his 120,000-strong Army of the Potomac. But he’ll have to deal with Robert E. Lee first. They’re coming to blow up the little Virginia town George Washington’s mother once called home: Fredericksburg.
Meanwhile, Ulysses S. Grant is facing challenges out west in the Mississippi Valley. Can he out navigate a politicking general and take the crucial rivertown of Vicksburg, Mississippi? We’ll find out.
55: The Road to The Emancipation Proclamation
“The Proclamation is the drawing of a sword that can never be sheathed again.”
This is the story of the Emancipation Proclamation.
Anti-slavery, moderate-Republican President Abraham Lincoln has never liked slavery. He wants to prevent it from expanding to new US territories. But he also never intended to go on the offensive against the “peculiar institution” within those states where it already exists. The Illinois Rail-Splitter knows the law; he’s aware that the constitution protects slavery at the state level.
Then the Civil War came. As the South breaks away from the Union, the North breaks philosphically on slavery. The abolitionists say ending slavery must be a war aim. The Democrats and border-states say this war is only about preserving the Union. Moderate Republicans and still others are mixed. Meanwhile, enslaved Americans within the Confederacy are seeking refuge in Federal army camps. How should Union Generals respond? Can they give sanctuary without upsetting the border-states that may still join the Confederacy? And do seceded states still have constitutional rights? Or does war mean the president can use his constitutional war powers to end slavery among rebelling states by proclamation? And if he does … what will that outcome be?
The questions are boundless. The answers are unknowable without taking the plunge. Your move, President Lincoln.
54: The Best Opening Scenes in HTDS History
“Our top spot goes to …”
This is the story of stories (yeah, super “meta”). You know regular HTDS episodes always start with a cold open. You probably have a favorite. So do we.
Today, Greg and Cielle count down their top seven favorite openings, from George Washington’s loss at Fort Necessity to our current point in the Civil War. It’s a peak into the minds behind HTDS, a bit of nostalgia for long-time listeners, and the perfect HTDS introduction for the new initiated. Enjoy, and Happy New Year!
53: A Civil War Christmas with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
“Our dispatches state that Lieut. Longfellow of First Mass. Cavalry was severely wounded.”
This is the story of a son nearly lost and a poet in a dark place.
Young, idealistic Charley Longfellow loves his country and is ready to fight and die for it. His father—the former Harvard College Professor of English and Literature, celebrated author, and grieving widower, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow—fears losing his son in the Civil War and doesn’t want him to enlist. But Charley does. A bullet rips through the youth soon thereafter.
1863 has truly been a terrible year for Henry. Mourning the loss of his wife, praying for his son’s recovery, and anxious about the war-torn nation’s future, Christmas feels hollow as he listens to bells ring that day. But he believes better days are to come. He expresses his pain and hope for a future peace by penning a poem future generations of Americans will cherish as the Christmas Carol, “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”
52: From Second Bull Run, or Second Manassas to Antietam, or Sharpsburg
“Come on God damn you.”
This is the story of the Second Bull Run/Manassas Campaign and the Battle of Antietam.
Robert “Bobby” E. Lee isn’t content to run George “Little Mac” McClellan down to the James River. With the help of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson, James Longstreet, J.E.B. Stuart, and others, Bobby’s ready to use his aggressive, divide and conquer tactics on the Union’s new Army of Virginia. The question is: can the bickering Union generals put their pettiness aside and work together? Or will the Confederates make short work of them at the Manassas railroad junction?
Bobby Lee has another bold plan as well: time to take the fight to US soil. The Virginian Commander invades the US slave-state of Maryland, where he hopes to enlist Confederate sympathizers, demoralize Americans going to vote, and draw international recognition for the CSA. It’s an ambitious goal. And it means fighting the most deadly, violent battle in American history near Antietam Creek, right by Sharpsburg, Maryland.
51: A Change in Command: Seven Days Battles to the Battle of Cedar Mountain
“[Malvern Hill] was not war--it was murder.”
This is the story of a Confederate comeback.
Union General George “Little Mac” McClellan has an army of 100,000 within a few mere miles of the Confederate Capital: Richmond, Virginia. The city’s defending force is significantly smaller. It’s his for the taking. But where “Little Mac” is cautious, the new Confederate Commander of the Army of Northern Virginia Robert E. “Bobby” Lee is ready to fight to the death. They’ll duke it out in the Seven Days Battles.
Meanwhile, US President Abraham Lincoln has a new General-in-Chief: Henry “Old Brains” Halleck. Can he get Generals “Little Mac” and John Pope to play nice and work together? We’ll find out.
50: Mississippi Valley 1862: The Battles of New Orleans, Corinth, Memphis, and Vicksburg
This is the story of the Mississippi Valley in 1862. Navy Secretary Gideon “Father Neptune” Welles is moving forward with an audacious plan. He’s sending a fleet to sack the Confederacy’s largest city, New Orleans, via the Mississippi River. Can this fleet—commanded by a Southerner loyal to the Union—really take out two forts—commanded by a Northerner throwing in with the CSA—and claim the Big Easy? Meanwhile, Union generals are in disagreement as they move on a railroad junction called Corinth. But then Corinth’s Confederate General GT Beauregard is in the midst of his own dispute with CSA President Jefferson Davis. Will the bickering disrupt the front lines as the fight moves from Corinth to Vicksburg? Time will tell.
49: From Little Mac McClellan to Stonewall Jackson: The Peninsula and Shenandoah Valley Campaigns
“In my opinion, Cadet Jackson of Virginia is a complete jackass.” This is the story of daring. On both sides. President Lincoln is tired of waiting for General-in-Chief George “Little Mac” McClellan to act. So he’ll act instead. The President goes the front on the Old Dominion’s coast, walks on Confederate soil, and oversees the taking of Norfolk, Virginia. But things aren’t going as well for the Union as he’d hope. Little Mac continues to dawdle while the eccentric-yet-brilliant “Stonewall” Jackson outwits, outruns, and outguns Union forces several times larger than his own in the Shenandoah Valley. Following Stonewall’s incredible Shenandoah Valley Campaign, Confederate General Joe Johnston takes a bullet at the Battle of Seven Pines. Someone else is going to have to lead his army; welcome to the role of commander, Robert E. Lee.
48: The Battle of Shiloh: “Now boys, pitch in!”
“Here boys, is as good a place as any on this battlefield to meet death!” This is the story of the Civil War kicking into a higher gear as two massive armies converge at Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee. Jealous Union generals are letting false rumors of Ulyssess drinking on the job fly as they hope to benefit from his demise. But Ulys has some good people backing him up: Lincoln’s newest War Secretary Edwin Stanton and his good friend William Temcuseh “Cump” Sherman. But intrigue is the least of Ulyssess “Unconditional Surrender” Grant’s concerns. He and Cump are facing down a massive Confederate force led by two highly capable generals: Albert Sidney Johnston and GT Beauregard. Torrential rain turns the ground to mud as nearly 100,000 men battle for the field. Ulys ends up on crutches, another general dies, while still others meet their end in the legendary “hornets’ nest” or elsewhere on the field. This lone battle will cause more American casualties than all American wars to date combined. Welcome to the Battle of Shiloh.
A Final Two-Year Anniversary of HTDS Bonus: The Death of Elmer Ellsworth
This is the story of the death of a soldier and friend of Abraham Lincoln: Elmer Ellsworth. This is the second and last bonus episode of our two-year anniversary celebration and Patreon drive. Greg, Cielle, and Josh take just a few minutes to reflect on the past two years, talk future plans and Patreon, then give you a taste of the mini-episodes $10/month patrons get every off week. Enjoy!
Crossover w/ 1865 - Lindsay Graham and Steve Walters
Lindsay Graham and Steve Walters of the highly acclaimed audio drama and historical fiction podcast 1865 join Greg for a robust discussion on events surrounding Lincoln's assassination and the aftermath. We are honored to have them and excited to bring this to you as part of our 2-year anniversary celebration Patreon drive. Hope you enjoy!
47: Bull Run, Trent Affair, the Merrimack, & Fort Donelson: The Early Days of the Civil War
“There is Jackson standing like a stone wall! Rally behind the Virginians!” This is the story of violence on land and sea. Of violence unlike anything America has ever known. Tens of thousands of Union and Confederate forces clash near Virginia’s Bull Run River and Manassass railroad junction. Naive, young soldiers quickly learn their romantic notions of war are a farce, Thomas Jackson defends “like a stone wall,” and Yankees hear a horrific sound: “the rebel yell.” Things are calmer on the sea. Lincoln wants a blockade to hem in Confederate ships. The result is one international, diplomatic nightmare (the Trent Affair), and the most devastating attack in US naval history. The carnage and destruction wrought on the US Navy by the CSS Virginia (the Merrimack) won’t be matched or exceeded until 1941. Lincoln’s despondent. He has setbacks, on the field, turnover from General-in-Chief Winfield Scott to George B. McClellan, and a dying son. It seems nothing can go right. There is one exception though. Welcome back to the story young Ulysses S. Grant.
46: The Civil War Begins: Fort Sumter, Secession, & Raising Armies
“I hope to have God on my side, but I must have Kentucky.” This is the story of the last, bare thread holding the Union together snapping. This is the start of the Civil War. US President Lincoln is giving Confederate President Jefferson Davis a difficult choice: let a peaceful, unarmed boat deliver supplies to Fort Sumter (and be seen as weak); or attack the unarmed boat (and be seen as the aggressor). Jeff chooses the latter. More states secede. Regiments form by the thousands on both sides. Blood flows in Missouri and Baltimore. And amid all of this, US Colonel Robert E. Lee faces the most important and difficult decision of his life: does he raise his sword against his nation? Or his home state and family? The Civil War has begun.
Volume IV Epilogue
"They are beautiful words, they are beautiful ideals... and there is beauty in seeing others as they make those words shift and close the gap towards reality" Today, we wrap up Volume IV: “Prelude to the Civil War.” Greg acknowledges some more pronunciation failures, the HTDS team mentions two fun emails, then gets to analysis. Particularly, we’re discussing how the Union tried over and over again to compromise on slavery, but came to its breaking point in 1860. Listen to Greg, Josh, and Cielle connect past episodes as they explain why that was the case.
44: Abraham Lincoln Becomes President of the Divided States of America
“Mary, Mary, we are elected!” This is the story of the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States … which means it’s also the story of secession. The presidential election of 1860 is split between four men: southerners John C. Breckinridge and John Bell, and northerners Stephen Douglas and Abraham Lincoln. Incredibly, Lincoln pulls off enough electoral college votes to win the presidency outright! He does so without a single electoral vote from the south. The election of this anti-slavery Republican is the final straw for the South. Citing the “increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery,” South Carolina secedes. Six others follow before Lincoln even takes the oath of office! They band together to create the Confederate States of America. Some think this secession talk will pass. Others think it can be undone peacefully. That theory will get tested fast as US troops at South Carolina’s Fort Sumter continue to stand their ground.
43: Honest Abe, the Lincoln-Douglas Debates, & John Brown’s Raid on Harpers Ferry
“Any man who took Lincoln for a simple-minded man would wind up with his back in a ditch.” This is the story of America on the eve of the Civil War. Kentucky born farmboy Abraham Lincoln has an interest early life. Between losing his mom as a child, suffering from chronic depression, and receiving little formal education, you might not think he’d become one of the youngest state legislators in Illinois, a successful lawyer and a US Congressman. But that’s Lincoln. He’s a man who beats the odds, and he’s hoping to continue that streak as he challenges Stephen Douglas for his US Senate seat. Can he take down the “Little Giant?” It’s a political throw down that produces one of the most famous debates in US history as the two go head-to-head in over 20 hours of back-and-forth over the future of slavery. Speaking of slavery--John Brown’s looking to start a slave rebellion across the state of Virginia and not afraid to take over a US armory to do it! It’s a full on battle and the body count’s adding up fast … especially if we include the executions.
42: Solomon Northup’s 12 Years a Slave
“Master Bass, if justice had been done, I never would have been here.” This is the story of betrayal. Restoration. Human trafficking. Daring selflessness. Oppressive inhumanity. Hope. And Forgiveness. A talented carpenter, driver, and violinist, Solomon Northup lives a happy life with his wife and three kids in upstate New York. The unassuming, kind-hearted man doesn’t think twice when offered good money to fiddle along with a circus act in Washington, DC. If only he’d known this was all a set up to kidnap him--a free-black American--then sell him under a false identity as a slave in New Orleans. Thanks to his own ingenuity and daring--and that of an anti-slavery Canadian and a dear friend and politician back home in New York--Solomon does make it back to the North and live to tell the tale. But his path back home isn’t short or easy. It will take 12 long years.
41: Kansas! (Bleeding Kansas, the Kansas-Nebraska Act, & Caning of Charles Sumner)
“We can send five thousand--enough to kill every God-damned abolitionist in the Territory.” This is the story of the Civil War’s warm up. The States are increasingly dividing along northern and southern (anti-slavery and pro-slavery) lines, and this that tention is coming out in spades in Kansas. Northerners want to see it become a free state; Southerners want it to be a slave state. The 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act is meant to produce a meaningful compromise, but it seems to only make things worse! Terrible violence is breaking out: Missourian “Border Ruffians” are illegally voting in Kansas and ruffing up Free state supporters; southern Congressman Preston Brooks beats northern US Senator Charles Sumner nearly to death in the Senate chambers; and abolitionist John Brown is hacking men to death with a broadsword! Meanwhile, Dred Scott’s suing for his freedom. It isn’t going to go well, and this is only more fuel for America’s raging fire. Peace--or what’s left of it--can’t last.
40: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention & the Explosion of Social Reform
“In the history of the world, the doctrine of Reform had never such scope as at the present hour.” “Resolved, That woman is man’s equal.” This is the story of social reform. Europe is swept up in calls for reform and greater democracy. France is having another revolution! Those same thoughts are sweeping through the United States, leading to calls for better treatment in prisons, public education, and temperance (cutting back on the alcohol). In this atmosphere of reform, one woman has a particularly radical idea: women's suffrage. Even her colleagues--other women--are hesitant to support her; they fear being mocked! But that won’t stop Elizabeth Cady Stanton from pushing her bold idea at a convention she’s organized in Seneca Falls, New York.
39: The California Gold Rush and the Compromise of 1850
“The Union is doomed to dissolution. … I fix its probable occurrence within twelve years or three presidential terms.” This is the story of statehood and compromise. California is booming. The gold rush is in full swing with Americans and immigrants from all over the world hoping to make their fortune. But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Nature and the miners show their violent sides. With such a flood of Americans in California, it also means statehood is needed. But will it be a slave state? Or a free state? Congress and the nation are up in arms as slavers and freedom fighters each push to get their way. Their fighting threatens the very existence of the Union. Will it die? Or can they compromise?
38: The (Early) Life and Times of Frederick Douglass
“I am your fellow man, but not your slave, Frederick Douglass.” This is the story of self-education, self-emancipation, overcoming adversity, bad and good luck, and the abolitionist cause. Born into slavery in Maryland, Frederick is ripped from his mother, never knows his father, but quickly realizes the power of literacy. Against the odds, the Baltimore-living youth teaches himself to read and write behind his master’s back. But despite his evident naturally intelligence, he’s soon sent back to the plantations of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, where Frederick endures the worst of slave life as he’s beaten weekly by “slave-breaker” Edward Covey. This only comes to an end when Frederick daringly stands up for himself, incredibly breaking the slave-breaker. The audacious young man goes to the plantation of the much kinder William Freeland, but is nonetheless determined to have his freedom, damn the consequences. And those consequences can be great. Caught runaways are often sold to even greater miseries farther south. Godspeed, Frederick--we’re rooting for you.
37: La Amistad Slave Rebellion and the Rise of Abolitionism
“Give us free! Give us free!” This is the story of a daring slave rebellion at sea and the long road to freedom. This is the story of La Amistad. It’s 1839, and the international slave trade is illegal, but that doesn’t mean it’s over. Hundreds of kidnapped and stolen souls are forcefully taken from Africa to Cuba aboard the Teçora. Upon their arrival on the Spanish isle, Pépé Ruiz and Pedro Montez buy 54 and take them on another ship, La Amistad. But what this Cuban duo doesn't realize is that they’ve just bought warriors. With Cinqué leading the way, the Amistad Africans break their chains, kill the captain, overthrow the ship, and change course, ending up in the United States. But does that mean freedom? It’s a debate that will go all the way to the Supreme Court while leaving an indelible impression on an increasingly divided United States.
Volume III Epilogue
No, no, no, no--Cortes would’ve gotten his butt whooped if he had not gained lots of indigenous help.” -Josh It’s time to end Volume III: “The Age of Jackson!” We have more corrections on Greg’s pronunciation (and on fracking!), an Antarctic email (no joke), other updates, and--of course--historical analysis to tie together the whole volume. We’re talking Andrew Jackson’s presidency, the extension of American democracy, western settlement, and the Mexican-American War. Finally, we’ll end with a little hint on where Volume IV is going.
36: Mexican-American War (Part 4): Los Niños Héroes, St. Patrick’s Battalion, & the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo
This is the story of the Mexican-American War’s end and the making of Mexican heros. Winfield Scott is closing in on Mexico City. Battles rage as Mexican troops defend, but General Scott can’t be stopped. American troops even snag one of Santa Anna’s spare prosthetic legs! But sometimes loss can be the breeding ground of heros, and that’s just what happens as US forces close in on Mexico’s capital. Six teenage Mexican cadets--one of whom is only 13-years-old--fight to the death. Meanwhile, Catholic US troops who’ve defected to the Mexican side in response to American anti-Catholicism are caught by the US army and mostly hung to death. Los Niños Héroes and the San Patricios might not make it out of this war alive, but they’ll live forever in the memory of Mexico. And what does the war’s end mean? Should the US annex the parts of Mexico it claimed belonged to Texas, or should it take more? Perhaps all of Mexico? As this is being debated in the US, particularly in the Senate, the question of what it means to be “American” rests at the heart of what will and won’t be taken. As President Polk leans toward “all of Mexico,” an upstart Congressman named Abe Lincoln questions the premise of the war, and Nicholas Trist negotiates a treaty in defiance of the President--this won’t be pretty.
35: Mexican-American War (Part 3): Nuevo México and the Final Push from Vera Cruz
“By God, that does looked forked!” This is the story of further American advancements through Northern Mexico and the start of its final invasion from the Gulf Coast. General Stephen Kearney’s descending upon New Mexico. He’ll take the territory without firing a shot, but that doesn’t mean violence isn’t coming. The Taos Revolt will lead to a beheaded American Governor and the execution of New Mexicans by an American regime of questionable legal authority. Meanwhile, Alexander Doniphan’s marching south. He’s going to have some serious throwdowns, like the Battle of Sacramento. It’ll even interrupt his card game. At roughly the same time, Old Zack’s meager army of 5,000 is outnumbered 3 to 1 by Santa Anna at Buena Vista! Can Old Rough and Ready prevail? And finally, we have a new American commander on the scene: Winfield “Old Fuss and Feathers” Scott. He’s landing with a massive army at Mexico’s walled, artillery-laiden, castle protected, coastal city of Vera Cruz. So begins the last leg of the Mexican-American War.
34: Mexican-American War (Part 2): The Pathfinder, the Bear Flag Revolt, y Los Californios
“Who the devil is Governor of California?’” This is the story of covert ops, secret orders, fake identities, rebellion, and conquest; this is the story of California’s annexation. John C. “the Pathfinder” Frémont is out on another surveying expedition. But something’s off ... why’s he making trouble with the Californio government? And why is an undercover messenger traveling from DC to Oregon Country to deliver an unwritten, memorized message directly from the President to this simple cartographer? And as John “surveys,” rumors are flying that Britain, France, and the United States all want to annex California. Can Mexico retain it? What about the will of California’s indigenous peoples, or its Spanish-speaking inhabitants, los Californios, who aren’t sure if they still want to be a part of Mexico, but also don’t want to be conquered? Meanwhile American settlers, called “los Osos” (the Bears), are revolting and battles are raging as the Mexican-American war comes to the Pacific coast! Looks like it’ll be nothing short of a full on melee for control of the future Golden State.
33: Mexican-American War (Part 1): From the Nueces River to the Rio Grande
“Hostilities may now be considered as commenced.” This is the story of the Mexican-American War’s beginnings. President James Polk is annexing Texas (much to Mexico’s chagrin). But does Texas end at the Nueces River? Or the Rio Grande? Whatever your view, this won’t be settled with words. Welcome to the story, General Mariano Arista and General Zachary “Old Rough and Ready” Taylor.
32: Mormonism and the Mormon Trail
“Nits will make lice, and if he had lived he would have become a Mormon.” This is the story of our last major pioneer migration out west; it’s also the story of America’s largest homegrown faith: Mormonism. Growing up in the “burned-over district” of America’s Second Great Awakening, it’s not too surprising that upstate-New-York farmer Joseph Smith has his mind on God. But with a new book of scripture (The Book of Mormon), a restorationist gospel, the power of the Mormon vote, and polygamy, members of the church founded by Joseph--The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or “Mormons”--find themselves at odds with their fellow nineteenth-century Americans in several different states. In these peak years of American vigilantism, this means vandalism. Violence. Murder. And massacre at a Missouri mill. Mormons become religious refugees as they head west by the thousands along the newly dubbed “Mormon Trail.” But all is not well far away in the west. The US army is coming. War hysteria now peaks as an unsuspecting California-bound wagon train makes its way through southern Utah.
31: The California Trail: From the Donner Party to the Gold Rush
“Never take no shortcuts.” This is the story of one of the larger Oregon Trail’s most important branches: California Trail. The Mexican province of Alta California has some beautiful land, so it’s not hard to see why west-bound Americans might want to make their home there. We’ll hear about newly independent Mexico’s struggles to support Alta California; why American Commodore “Tac” Jones mistakenly seizes (then leaves) Monterey; and of course, how the California Trail gets blazed by brave explorers and settlers. But then, it’s time for tragedy. Have you heard of the Donner Party? If not, I have two words for you: Winter. Cannibalism. On a lighter note, “there’s gold in them thar hills.” We’ll end with the discovery of gold. So grab your pickaxe (or earbuds). We’re heading to the not-yet-but-soon-to-be Golden State.
30: The Oregon Trail (“You Have Died of Dysentery”)
“You damn Yankees will do anything you like.” This is the story of the Oregon Trail, including the reasons pioneers crossed it and the trail’s development. As President Andrew Jackson leave us and we fly through presidents in rapid succession (RIP President William Harrison), the US is going through the worst economic slump it’ll see until the Great Depression. A mixture of financial urgency and a sense of destiny--Manifest Destiny--now convinces tens of thousands of Americans to trek over 2,000 miles from Missouri’s western edge to Oregon Country. But how can families cross the desert? Or the Rocky Mountains?! Or descend the deadly Columbia River?!! And what about the British HBC’s hold on Oregon Country? We’ll hear all about the fur traders, missionaries, explorers, and early wagon trains that dared to blaze this trail before it’s heyday of the 1840s-1860s. It’s a dangerous trek. Are you ready to die of dysentery? Good. Because it’s about to get as real as a 1990s middle school computer lab. Let’s hit the Oregon Trail.
Christmas Special II: A Jackson White House Christmas
“Now let’s see how Santa Claus will treat you, Mr. Uncle Jackson, President of all these United States!” This is the story of Christmas at the Jackson White House in 1835. Andrew’s going (as he often does) to visit a local Washington DC orphanage. He’s giving out gifts like the skinniest Santa you’ve ever seen. Then it’s back to the White House, where: six young Jackson/Donelson children are hoping Santa will come; VP Martin Van Buren is gladly embarrassing himself playing with the children; and the White House is seeing its first Children’s Christmas party! Oh, sorry, “frolic.” You’ll never see a softer side of Old Hickory. You’re welcome, and Merry Christmas!
29: The Bank War, Whigs, & Revolution in Texas
"Come and take it!” This is the story of Andrew Jackson’s ongoing Administration and the Texas Revolution. Old Hickory is up for reelection, and his opponent, Henry Clay, bets the bank--the Bank of The United States--on his ability to beat Andrew. It’s not going to end well for him, but it will help those who dislike Andrew and his Democrats to form a party of their own: the Whigs. Welcome back to a fully partisan America. Meanwhile, trouble’s brewin’ in Tejas Mexicana. Mexican federalism is falling apart as authoritarian Presidente Santa Anna attempts to bend the country to his will. In Mexico’s mostly American immigrant populated region of Tejas, this means revolution! But that’s not the view of Mexican leaders. They’re convinced this is part of an American conspiracy to steal it! So who’s right? We’ll walk you through it all--the 1824 Mexican Constitution, the establishment of Anglo colonies, centralization, slavery, the Alamo, the Goliad Massacre, San Jacinto, and more--and hope to leave you with a nuanced understanding of how the Lone Star Republic came to be.
28: Ushering in the Age of Jackson
“May God Almighty forgive her murderers as I know she forgave them. I never can.” This is the story of a democratizing America. John Quincy Adams barely has his presidency off the ground and Andrew Jackson’s “common man” crew is already starting his presidential campaign. This election gets ugly fast as each side tells lies so vicious it’s possible they cause or contribute to Rachel Jackson’s death! After Andrew’s rambunctious inauguration, the now widower president stands up for the honor of Mrs. Margaret “Peggy” Eaton in the “Petticoat Affair,” and let’s South Carolinian's sounding off about states’ rights over some tariffs know that “disunion ... is treason.” Too bad Old Hickory can’t completely quell that secession spirit … Finally, we end on a hard note as the Jackson Administration’s support of Indian removal results in the “trail of tears.” We’ll get the full story, but for a short description, I can’t do better than historian Jon Meacham. I’ll let him say it: “Not all great presidents were always good.”
Epilogue to Volume 2
"There were no Canadians hurt in the making of this last volume." This is not a story. This is our second epilogue! Greg, Josh, and Cielle, hash about the great birthing pains of launching the new podcast, "Office Hours," the HTDS podcast in general, and what they consider to be the big takeaways from volume II (episodes 16-27). Enjoy!
27: The Last of the Founding Fathers
“Thomas Jefferson survives.” This is the story of reconciliation--and death. With peace abroad and the collapse of the Federalist party, the United States seems to be out of crisis mode. Reconciled even. President James Madison’s got so much consensus, one newspaper’s calling this the “era of good feelings.” But there’s still important developments and conflicts. Supreme Court’s setting new precedents. 1819 marks the start of a serious “panic” (recession). And when James finishes his second term, Andrew Jackson feels screwed over by the House of Representatives, which is putting John Quincy Adams in the White House instead of him! Then, sadly, the last of the Revolutionary generation passes away. But thankfully, the two old partisan rivals--John Adams and Thomas Jefferson--will reconcile their friendship before doing so. They’ll die within hours of each other on the 4th of July! Coincidence? Or act of God? Either way, rest your souls, gents. Today we bid farewell to the last of the Founding Fathers.
26: Peace in Ghent, War in New Orleans
“I could have walked on the dead bodies of the British for one quarter of a mile without stepping on the ground.” This is the story of peace and war; of self-destruction and political birth. American and British negotiators are hashing out a peace treaty in Ghent, Belgium. The War of 1812 is over! But funny things can happen when word of the treaty’s signing hasn’t made it back to the US. Some out-of-power Federalists are going to make a few ill-timed demands in Washington, D.C., inadvertently killing their own party. Meanwhile, American and British troops are still fighting in New Orleans. The Treaty of Ghent might exist now, but they don’t know about it, and it isn’t ratified, so the Battle of New Orleans rages. It’s violent. Bloody. Deadly. And unnecessary. But the British fight against a motley mix of Free Black, French-, Spanish-, and Anglo-Americans--as well as pirates!--a new and unlikely political star is born; Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the future 7th President of the United States: General Andrew Jackson.
25: From Lake Champlain to the “Defense of Fort M’Henry”
“Does that star-spangled banner yet wave?” This is the story of the worst of the War of 1812 for America--the year 1814. As the threat of Napoleon’s crumbling empire subsides, the British military has more ships and thousands of men available to fight against the United States. This means Canada’s getting reinforced and the British blockade on America’s east coast is extending. But the worst of it is in the Chesapeake Bay. Washington DC is burning! As the White House goes up in flames, we’ll hear about one American who really steps up to the plate: Dolley Madison. After this attack, the British fleet attacks yet another major Chesapeake city: Baltimore. British soldiers are eager to burn and pillage this Anglophobic city. Even with 15,000 militia in the city, only Fort McHenry can keep it safe. But will the crumbling Fort withstand the 25-hour bombardment? Do the Stars and Stripes still fly over it? Or is it the Union Jack? Francis Scott Key waits with bated breath for the answer.
24: From Granny to Old Ironsides: The Campaigns of 1812 and 1813.
“Don’t give up the ship!” This is the story of the first two years of the War of 1812, and it seems quite backwards. Despite expectations, the Americans are trying and failing (miserably) to invade Canada. The only thing more confusing is that the US Navy is holding its own against the British on the high seas ... well, at first, that is. Several major events happen in these two years: Indian coalition leader Tecumseh makes his last stand; the USS Constitution earns an enduring nickname; and the US Navy acquires a new saying that will stick with it through the centuries: “don’t give up the ship!” In short: welcome to the War of 1812.
23: Prelude to America's Forgotten War
“We’ll root out the damn’d tories. We’ll drink their blood. We’ll eat their hearts!” This is the story of the path to war--the War of 1812. The United States is stuck between a rock and a hard place: Britain and Napoleonic France. The two empires are seizing American ships amid a large scale throw down. Britain’s going one step further; it’s impressing thousands and thousands of American sailors into His Majesty’s Royal Navy. Meanwhile, two Shawnee brothers, Tecumseh and The Prophet, are forming an Indian coalition in Indiana to stand against US expansion. Things are about to go down, and Americans blame … the British. Americans are convinced Britain is reasserting its rule over them and it’s time to “declare” independence again. Welcome to the War of 1812.
22: An Affair of Honor: Alexander Hamilton & Aaron Burr
"Adieu best of wives and best of Women. Embrace all my darling Children for me." This is the story of the most influential duel in American History: Vice President Burr versus General Hamilton. Aaron is down on his luck. He's an outgoing, lame-duck Vice President who's just lost the New York gubernatorial election... and word is Alex's been talking smack. Alex is down on his luck. He's an out-of-the-game General who's hoping to get back in ... and Aaron's calling him out. Aaron's itchin' for a fight; Alex doesn't scare easy. There's only one way to settle this affair of honor: with pistols at Weehawken.
21: Thomas Jefferson Presents: Lewis & Clark’s Excellent Expedition
“Damn sugar, damn coffee, damn colonies!” This is the story of Thomas Jefferson building an “empire of liberty.” As the new US President, Tommy’s lowering taxes while cutting the deficit, trimming the government, fighting off Federalist judges, and an increasingly Republican America is loving it. Oh, the Sage of Monticello is also fighting off pirates; brilliantly purchasing the Louisiana Territory from a very serious potential enemy (Napoleon Bonaparte); as well as sending William Clark and Meriwether Lewis to explore the west. Seriously, what can’t the Virginian philosopher do? Well, it’s not all smooth sailing. Can Tom’s former newspaper attack dog, James Callender, take the President down with a vindictive article about him and Sally Hemings? Meanwhile, will William (Bill) and Meriwether survive a rugged wilderness and disease--even with Sacagawea's help? Tom’s doubling the size of the United States and seeing to its exploration. Welcome to a larger American Republic--to the start of an “empire of liberty.”
20: "A Wolf by the Ears": Gabriel Rebels and Cotton Becomes King
“I have nothing more to offer than what General Washington would have had to offer, had he been taken by the British and put to trial by them. I have adventured my life in endeavoring to obtain the liberty of my countrymen, and am a willing sacrifice in their cause.” This is the story of Gabriel’s fight for freedom. An intelligent, literate, and enslaved blacksmith, Gabriel is raising a slave army to seize Virginia’s capital of Richmond and set up a new society where all people, regardless of their color, are free. But the world is changing around him. Chesapeake tobacco plantations, the international slave trade, and northern slavery are dying. Meanwhile, Eli Whitney’s new invention--the cotton gin--is taking southern slavery and the interstate slave trade to a whole new level. This rebellion’s a risky move. Gabriel and his lieutenants are taking their lives in their hands, and they know it. But such risk should sound familiar; after all, there’s nothing more American than a willingness to live by Patrick Henry’s immortal phrase: “give me liberty, or give me death!”
19: The Traitor and The Thieving Spy: The Start of American Industrialization
“He invited me to see the loom operate. I well recollect the state of admiration and satisfaction with which we sat by the hour, watching the beautiful movement of this new and wonderful machine.” This is the story of audacity. A young Samuel Slater risks it all by immigrating to America in order to open his own industrial textile factory. This isn’t just a risky entrepreneurial move; it’s illegal. His industrial know-how is about to give America a huge leg up, and Britain will consider him a traitor. Meanwhile, Francis “Frank” Lowell is a successful New Englander who’s bent on bringing the best of British industrial tech to America. It’s nothing a little espionage can’t make happen, and Frank’s up for it--even if the British navy is going to pursue him. These audacious, risk-taking, bold men will change America forever. Rebelling against parliament. Spying. It’s just how America does revolution. Welcome to America’s industrial revolution.
18: Affairs! Foreign and ..."Domestic"
“The intercourse with Mrs. Reynolds, in the meantime, continued.” This is the story of seduction and failing relationships. New England’s favorite curmudgeon, John Adams, is now leading America as its second president, and the French Revolution is making life no easier for him than it did for George. The new French government’s agents, “X,” Y,” and “Z,” are trying to extort bribes and it’s ripping the the Franco-American friendship apart--it seems France is losing its charm. But back at home, Alexander Hamilton has too much charm; Welcome to America’s first sex scandal! Meanwhile, the Republicans and Federalists are still bickering; Federalist infighting is starting to kill the party; and a fistfight breaks out in Congress! And the cherry on top? John ceases to be on speaking terms with his once good friend, Vice President Thomas Jefferson, about 24 hours into their four-year term. The election of 1800 is going to be rough ...
Historians (of The) Roundtable: I
“The American Revolution is really different from most revolutions around the world. Sometimes Americans get a false sense of how revolutions work because we look at ours and think, ‘Oh right, revolutions! That’s where things get more awesome!’ No.” This is the story … of our stories (I know, super “meta,” right?). In Historians (of the) Roundtable, Greg chats it up with the HTDS Team (Josh and Cielle) “roundtable” style as they analyze the last two episodes … or otherwise tangent on awesome historical things. This is unscripted, so it goes where it goes! This is HTDS’s first roundtable chat, and while HTDS will ALWAYS be free (thanks for listening!!) these roundtables will be a new monthly feature uniquely for those subscribed through patreon at $10/month and higher. But this month, we’re releasing the first go to the public as an episode so you can see what on earth this is (and yeah, I won’t be coy, we hope you think it’s awesome and say to yourself: “dammit, I need that in my life, where do I subscribe?!”). Oh, you do that here: patreon.com/historythatdoesntsuck.
17: Death of a Nation's Father
“I die hard, but I am not afraid to go.” This is the story of death and (another) revolution. The French Revolution means the end for King Louis XVI’s life. As his royal blood stains a Parisian square, the fallout of revolution in France is hitting George Washington hard; France is going to war against Britain! America is in no condition for war, but should George stand by his French allies? And with its regime change, is France still an ally? Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson couldn’t disagree more on the matter as a troublesome French diplomat, Citizen Genêt, exacerbates the feud between their respective political factions But Louis XVI isn’t the only head of state leaving us in this episode. After explaining his views on slavery and their lifelong evolution, it’s time to say goodbye to George. This won’t be easy. Tissue is advisable.
16: The Founding Fractures: Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson
“I always knew Colonel Hamilton to be a man of superior talents, but never supposed that he had any knowledge of finance.” This is the story of conflict. Infighting. Intrigue. Dissension. This is the story of George Washington’s first term as President of the United States. The new government is making important strides: it’s creating the Bill of Rights and new departments: War, State, and Finance. But Alexander Hamilton’s ambitious plan for the American economy is completely contradictory to Thomas Jefferson’s vision for the country. These two Founding Fathers could not be more different; each also could not be more determined to win at the other’s expense. It’s Alex’s Northern bank-supported commerce versus Tom’s Southern agrarianism. Buckle up. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.
Epilogue To The Revolution; Or The Big Stuff You Should’ve Caught
“Oh, what, you want it in a single sentence? Fine, here you go.” The epilogue to the Revolution. After enjoying the stories of Revolutionary America (1763-1789), it’s time to make sure you didn’t lose the big picture before we dive into the Early Republic. So today, we’ll cover: (1) the main causes of the Revolution; (2) the highlights of the war; (3) the bare essentials of the peace process and making the US Constitution; and (4) who won and who lost (beyond the obvious). College students who blew off the first few weeks of class and are now cramming for that midterm on the American Revolution: you’re welcome.
Q&A with The HTDS Team
"I'd say you know more than 90 percent of the American population about the American Revolution at this point." This is the story... of your questions! Rather than telling you a story this week, Greg sits down with the rest of the History That Doesn't Suck team (Joshua Beatty and Cielle Salazar) and talks through questions submitted by you, the listeners!
15: “We the People:” Constitution Making in Philly
“What even is the Virginia Plan but democracy checked by democracy, or pork with a little change of the sauce?” This is the story of 55 men from 12 of the 13 sovereign states gathered at the Pennsylvania State House during the miserably hot Philadelphian summer of 1787. They are here to discuss the failing Articles of Confederation. Foreign debts are past due. Rebellions are rising. The states are fighting. Can they fix all of this? Or will the disagreeing, arguing, threatening, theorizing, brainstorming, (mostly) sober-speech making, and compromising all be for naught?
14: Peace in Paris; Turmoil in New York
“I have not only grown gray but almost blind in service to my country.” This is the story (or tale) of two cities. In Paris, Ben Franklin, John Adams, John Jay and (briefly) Henry Laurens negotiate the terms of American independence. They’ll out maneuver the greatest powers on earth and defy Congress as they negotiate the greatest achievement in American diplomatic history. Meanwhile, officers in the Continental army are done with Congress’s broken promises. They’re even considering violence … could a military coup end the American experiment before the peace treaty is even signed? Help us George Washington. You’re our only hope.
13: The World Turns Upside Down at Yorktown
“The British officers in general behaved like boys who had been whipped at school.” This is the story of the beginning of the Revolution’s end. Lord Cornwallis swears the British need to take the fight to Virginia. He’s got Thomas Jefferson and Lafayette on the run. But at the same time, French General Rochambeau and Admiral de Grasse are ready to give George Washington some serious support ... enough support that the Americans just might turn the world upside down.
12: An American Judas Betrays & Nathanael Greene Saves!
“Arnold has betrayed us! Whom can we trust now?” This isn’t a story of betrayal; this is the story of betrayal. After half a decade of giving his all for the Patriot cause, Benedict Arnold becomes America’s Judas Iscariot. He betrays his brothers in arms for a commission in the British army and cold hard cash (even more than 30 pieces of silver). Meanwhile, Lord Cornwallis has Georgia and South Carolina well in hand. Now his sights are set on North Carolina and maybe even Virginia! Can anyone stop him? When all else fails … send the Quaker. Welcome to the South, Nathanael Greene.
11: Southern Discomfort: Savannah & Charleston Captured, Slavery, Massacres, & 1779’s Sundries
“I reject your proposals … and shall defend myself to the last extremity.” This is the story of the Revolution's new hot spot: the South. Down here, British leaders hope to score some quick victories with the help of enslaved Americans and Loyalists. This new "Southern Strategy" enjoys a strong start. It will cause the greatest losses of the whole war for the Americans. But other important events are happening all over the globe in 1779, too. The Continental dollar's inflation is getting out of hand. Spain is entering the war. Battles are being fought all over the globe. Massacres of all sorts are happening. But we'll keep the focus on the South ... and on that guy whose body gets flung against the steeple of a church.
10: Dueling, Life Sucks at Valley Forge, von Steuben's Cool & the Battle of Monmouth
“Stand fast, my boys, and receive your enemy!” This is the story of a miserable winter and the summer of 1778. It's full of conniving, vengeance, honor, and starvation. George's political enemies learn the hard way not to mess with him. We'll have two duels in this episode alone. Most of this goes down during a grim winter at Valley Forge, where one fourth of the Continental Army will die from exposure and starvation. But it's not all bad news in this deadly winter's camp; von Steuben's teaching the Americans how to fight like pros. They're going to need those new skills. It's getting real at the Battle of Monmouth.
9: (Almost) Everything Important in 1777--Saratoga, Lafayette & George Returns Gen. Howe’s Dog
“If old England is not by this lesson taught humility, then she is an obstinate old slut, bent upon her ruin.” This is the story of 1777. Playboy and playwright "Gentleman Johnny" is leading a Canadian-based invasion of upstate New York (seriously, why are those Canadians so militaristic?). It's a tale of egos. From Gentleman Johnny to the American side, a lot of dudes are looking out for "number one." The outcome of Gentleman Johnny's invasion helps Ben Franklin score a full-on military alliance avec la France. Meanwhile, George Washington throws down with General Howe in PA. George loses battles; Howe loses his dog. George is also about to throw down with haters in military leadership and Congress. He'll do so while facing the harsh cold at Valley Forge.
Christmas Special: George Wishes Some Hessians a Merry F’ing Christmas
"These are the times that try men's souls." This is the story of the Battle of Trenton. George crosses another ice-filled river, this time on Christmas Day. Plenty will go wrong, but at the end of it... he's about to get off the naughty list.
8: From Independence to NY(meeting A. Ham, Nathan Hale & Charles Lee is a Sneaky Bastard)
“I wish there was a war.” This is the story of independence and crushed hope. Congress is finally declaring independence and it’s not a straight forward process. We’ll listen to different delegates argue passionately for and against it. Then we follow the war to New York where we’ll meet Alexander Hamilton and get the backstory of his rough childhood in the Caribbean and how he ended up in the Big Apple. After hanging out with Alex, we’ll hook up with George Washington who’s just come to New York, too. He’s going to have a harder go in NYC than he did in Boston. Much harder …
7: An Olive Branch Rejected, Tom's a Royal Pain(e), & the Siege of Boston
“Remember it is the fifth of March, and avenge the death of your brethren!” This is the story of the expiration of hope for reconciliation between the American colonies and the "Mother Country." Bunker Hill's a blood bath. Congress sends King George III their "Olive Branch Petition;" it's D.O.A. Things only devolve further as Thomas Paine rips the King a new one in his #colonialviral pamphlet, Common Sense. Meanwhile, Captain Aaron Burr witnesses the death of General Montgomery in Quebec and Henry Knox moves cannons over 300 miles to General Washington in Cambridge. The Virginian digs his new toys. Time to move on Boston.
6: "The Shot Heard Round the World"
“Fire, for God’s sake, fire!” This is the story of the first battle of the American Revolution on April 19, 1775. We're in Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts. Between Lexington's Green, Concord's North Bridge, and Colonel Smith's troops returning to Boston, 49 Americans and 73 Redcoats die. The battle and ongoing friction will also cause the Second Continental Congress to create an army. But who can lead it? Welcome back to the story, George Washington.
5: "Delenda est Bostonia:" a Congress, Paul Rides, & the First Shot at Lexington
"Lay down your arms, you damned rebels, or you are all dead men." This is the story of the First Continental Congress and the build up to the Battle of Lexington and Concord. Delegates from 12 of the 13 colonies air their grievances against Parliament, and it doesn't go well. Paul Revere goes for a ride. Rather than making it to Concord, he gets to listen to soldiers threaten to "blow his brains out." The next morning, shots are fired at Lexington. War is here. British America will never be the same.
4: "Boston Harbor A Tea-Pot This Night:" The Boston Tea Party
"We have only been making a little salt-water tea." This is the story of the Boston Tea Party. The East India Company and the needs of the global British Empire are intertwined, and Parliament wants the American colonies to help foot the bill by drinking the company's tea. The East India Company sends its tea to America on seven ships. Four head to Boston. Three will make it. To be clear: the ships make it. The tea won't.
3: "Clean My Sh*t House!" The Boston Massacre
"Damn you, fire, be the consequences what it will!" This is the story of the Boston Massacre. In the aftermath of a second botched attempt to tax the Americans and stop them from smuggling, John Hancock's accused of smuggling and Boston gets occupied by a British army. Then, one cold night, things get out of hand, and five Bostonians are shot dead by the King's soldiers. The story has two sides. There's the Patriot version, where murderous soldiers terrorize, then fire into a crowd of 40 "lads" throwing snowballs. Then there's the Loyalist version, where 100 armed Bostonians assault the King's soldiers, forcing them to fire at the mob to save their own lives. Here, both are told in detail.
2: Patrick Henry and Boston Get Pissed about Taxes
"Treason!" This is the story of Virginia's Patrick Henry. He is a dangerous combination: young, idealistic, and persuasive. Patrick has a silver tongue that's going to light up some serious American furry against the Stamp Act. Boston's going to light up with these ideas, too ... but also ... with fire. Actual, real, fire.
1: That One Time When George Washington Sort of Triggered an International War
"[He] washed his hands with the brains." This is the story of a 22 year-old George Washington as commander of a 400-man army fighting the French. We'll also hear about his childhood, the deaths, backcountry experience, and finagling, that bring George--who's untrained, inexperienced, too young, and completely Outgunned--to this moment. He fails. Miserably. But not without triggering a war between France and Britain that will change the American colonies' relationship to the British Crown forever.
I the Professor, in order to give you a more perfect podcast, establish my goals, insure you know who I am, provide for your common entertainment, promote a generally historical education, and do ordain and establish this little five-minute intro episode for History that Doesn't Suck.