Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe.

American History

Civil War Veteran Jacob Miller was shot in the forehead on Sept.19th 1863 at Brock Field at Chickamauga. He lived with an open bullet wound for many years, with the last pieces of lead dropping out 31 years after he was first shot; ca. 1911

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Jacob Miller’s account taken from the Daily News Joliet Ill. Wed. June 14, 1911:

Braidwood is sending to the state G.A.R. encampment today one of the most remarkable hero survivors of the Civil War. His name is Jacob Miller and since Sept. 19, 1863, he has lived with an open bullet wound in his forehead. For a number of years the bullet remained in his head but piece by piece it fell out till now. It is thought none of it remains in the wound. During the time it was in the head it at times would produce a stupor, which sometimes would last two weeks, it being usually when he caught cold and produced more of a pressure on the brain. At other times delirium would seize him and he would imagine himself again on picket duty and would tramp back and forth on his beat, a stick on his shoulder for a musket, a pitiful object of the sacrifice for freedom. As these pieces of lead gradually loosened and fell out he regained his usual health and is now at the age of 78 years, one of the most, if not the most, remarkable survivor of the Civil war.

The harrowing experience undergone by Mr. Miller is so vividly felt by him even at this late day that it is seldom he can be persuaded to talk of it.

But it is my privilege to record from his own hand writing written for his family the story of his miraculous escape from death at that memorable time under his signature.

Jacob Miller, formerly a private in company K 9th Indiana Vol. Inf. Was wounded in the head near Brock Field at the battle of Chickamagua, Georgia on the morning of Sept. 19, 1863. I was left for dead when my company when my company fell back from that position. When I came to my senses some time after I found I was in the rear of the confederate line. So not to become a prisoner I made up my mind to make an effort to get around their line and back on my own side. I got up with the help of my gun as a staff, then went back some distance, then started parallel with the line of battle. I suppose I was so covered with blood that those that I met, did not notice that I was a Yank, ( at least our Major, my former captain did not recognize me when I met him after passing to our own side).

At last I got to the end of the confederate line and went to our own side while a brigade of confederates came up to their line behind me. There were none of the Union forces found on that part of the field when I passed along. I struck an old by-road and followed it the best I could, as by this time my head was swelled so bad it shut my eyes and I could see to get along only by raising the lid of my right eye and look ahead then go on till I ran afoul of something, then would look again and so on till I came to the Lafayette Pike near the Kelly house and started towards the field Hospital at the springs. I at length got so badly exhausted I had to lie down by the side of the road. At last some bearers came along and put me on their stretcher and carried me to the hospital and laid me on the ground in a tent. A hospital nurse came and put a wet bandage over my wound and around my head and gave me a canteen of water. I don’t know what time of day they examined my wound and decided to put me on the operating table till after dark some time. The surgeons examined my wound and decided it was best not to operate on me and give me more pain as they said I couldn’t live very long, so the nurse took me back into the tent. I slept some during the night . The next morning (Sunday), the doctors came around to make a list of the wounded and of their company and regiments and said to send all the wounded to Chattanooga that the ambulances would carry and told me I was wounded too bad to be moved, and if the army fell back those that were left there could afterwards be exchanged.

As stated before I made up my mind as long as I could drag one foot after another I would not allow myself to be taken prisoner. I got a nurse to fill my canteen with water so I could make an effort in getting near safety as possible. I got out of the tent without being noticed and got behind some wagons that stood near the road till I was safely away (having to open my eye with my finger to take my bearings on the road) I went away from the boom of cannon and the rattle of musketry. I worked my way along the road as best I could. At one time I got off to the side of the road and bumped my head against a low hanging limb. The shock toppled me over, I got up and took my bearings again and went on as long as I could drag a foot then lay down beside the road, to see if I could not rest so I could move. I hadn’t lain long till the ambulance train began to pass, the drivers as they passed me asked me if I was still alive, then passing on. At last one of the drivers asked if I was alive and said he would take me in, as one of his men had died back awes, and he had taken him out. Then it was all a blank to me, (Monday the 21st I came to myself and found I was in a long building in Chattanooga Tenn., lying with hundreds of other wounded on the floor almost as thick as hogs in a stock car. Some were talking , some were groaning. I raised myself to a sitting position got my canteen and wet my head. While doing it I heard a couple of soldiers who were from my company. They could not believe it was me as they said I was left for dead on the field at the left of Brock Cabin. They came over to where I was and we visited together till then came an order for all the wounded that could walk to start across the river on a pontoon bridge to a hospital, to be treated ready to be taken to Nashville. I told the boys if they could lead me, I could walk that distance. I started but owing to our army retreating the night before, and was then in and around the city wagon trains. Troops and artillery were crossing the river on the single pontoon bridge. We could not get across until almost sundown. When we arrived across and up on the bank we luckily ran across our company teamster, who we stopped with that night He got us something to eat After we ate some (the first I had tasted before daylight Saturday morning the 19th), we lay down on a pile of blankets, each fixed under the wagon and rested pretty well as the teamsters stayed awake till nearly morning to keep our wounds moist with cool water from a nearby spring.

Tuesday morning the 22nd we awoke to the crackling of the camp fire that a comrade built to get us a cup of coffee and a bite to eat of hard tack and fat meat. While eating, an orderly rode up and asked if we were wounded. If so we were to go back along the road to get our wounds dressed, so we bid the teamsters good-bye and went to get our wounds attended to. We had to wait till near noon before we were attended to. That was the first time I had my wound washed and dressed by a surgeon. After we were fixed up we drew a few crackers, some sugar coffee, salt and a cake of soap and were ordered to get into an army wagon with four army mules, ( God Bless the army mule, the soldiers friend.) We got in and started to go over Raccoon or Sand Mountain to Bridgeport, Ala. To take the train to Nashville, Tenn. After riding in the wagon awhile I found the jolting hurt my head so badly I could not stand it so had to get out. My comrades got out with me and we went on foot. I was told it was 60 miles that route to Bridgport, at least it took us four days to get there. Wednesday morning when I woke up I found I could open my right eye and see to get around. We arrived at Bridgeport the fourth day out from Chattanooga at noon, just as a train of box cars were ready to pull out. I got in a car and lay down. I had gained my point so far–and how. As the soldiers term it with lots of sand, but the sand had run out with me for the time being.

The next thing I remember I was stripped and in a bath tub of warm water in a hospital at Nashville. I do not know what date it was; in fact I didn’t pay much attention to the dates from the Friday at noon when I got in the box car at Bridgeport to start to Nashville.

After, some length of time I was transferred to Louisville , Ky. From there to New Albany, Ind.. In all the hospitals I was in I begged the surgeons to operate on my head but they all refused.

I suffered for nine months then I got a furlough home to Logansport and got Drs. Fitch and Colman to operate on my wound. They took out the musket ball. After the operation a few days, I returned to the hospital at Madison and stayed there till the expiration of my enlistment, Sept. 17, 1864. Seventeen years after I was wounded a buck shot dropped out of my wound and thirty one years after two pieces of lead came out.

Some ask how it is I can describe so minutely my getting wounded and getting off the battle field after so many years. My answer is I have an everyday reminder of it in my wound and constant pain in the head, never free of it while not asleep. The whole scene is imprinted on my brain as with a steel engraving.

I haven’t written this to complain of any one being in fault for my misfortune and suffering all these years, the government is good to me and gives me $40.00 per month pension.

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Teddy Roosevelt on an expedition in Brazil – exploring the newly discovered River of Doubt; ca. 1914

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Teddy and his son Kermit took the dangerous expedition together after his presidency. During the trip, a man was murdered, his escaped murderer was deliberately left in the jungle to die, and a third man drowned in the river rapids. Roosevelt himself nearly died of an infected wound and almost every person on the expedition was sick. There were not enough supplies and the boats were not adequate for the type of water they were traveling.


On her last day as First Lady, Betty Ford jumped on the Cabinet Room table in the White House and started dancing; ca. 1977

This was when she was still on drugs. Afterwards ... BOR ... ING !

An ashtray at every seat. You sure won’t see that anymore.


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Men building the San Francisco Bay Bridge; ca. 1935

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Native American smoke curing a human corpse, Pacific Northwest Coast; ca. 1910

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Among the Kwakwaka’wakw of the Pacific Northwest, the Hamatsa were a society of tribal elite. Young men who hoped to become Hamatsa went through a lengthy period of isolation. Shortly before the end of his exile, each initiate was brought a mummy that had been soaked in salt water, cleaned and split open. The initiate was expected to smoke-cure the bound corpse for the final ritual. During the ritual the aspirant and the senior members of the brotherhood allegedly devoured portions of the corpse.


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The only authenticated image of Abraham Lincoln at the Gettysburg Address; November 19, 1863

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Crater from the “Sedan” underground nuclear test as part of Operation Plowshare in Nevada. The 104 kiloton blast displaced 12 million tons of earth and created a crater 320 feet deep and 1,280 feet wide; ca. 1962

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There’s an urban legend that says that this blast is responsible for John Wayne’s death (and most of the film crew) due to cancer:

Of the 220 persons who worked on The Conqueror on location in Utah in 1955, 91 had contracted cancer as of the early 1980s and 46 died of it, including stars John Wayne, Susan Hayward, and Agnes Moorehead, and director Dick Powell. Experts say under ordinary circumstances only 30 people out of a group of that size should have gotten cancer. The cause? No one can say for sure, but many attribute the cancers to radioactive fallout from U.S. atom bomb tests in nearby Nevada.

The Conqueror, a putative love story involving Genghis Khan’s lust for the beautiful princess Bortai (Hayward), was a classic Hollywood big budget fiasco, one of many financed by would-be movie mogul Howard Hughes. Originally director Powell wanted to get Marlon Brando for the lead, but John Wayne, then at the height of his popularity, happened to see the script one day and decided he and Genghis were meant for each other. Unfortunately, the script was written in a cornball style that was made even more ludicrous by the Duke’s wooden line readings. In the following sample, Wayne/Genghis has just been urged by his sidekick Jamuga not to attack the caravan carrying Princess Bortai: “There are moments fer wisdom, Juh-mooga, then I listen to you–and there are moments fer action — then I listen to my blood. I feel this Tartar wuh-man is fer me, and my blood says, ‘TAKE HER!'” In the words of one writer, it was the world’s “most improbable piece of casting unless Mickey Rooney were to play Jesus in The King of Kings.”

The movie was shot in the canyonlands around the Utah town of St. George. Filming was chaotic. The actors suffered in 120 degree heat, a black panther attempted to take a bite out of Susan Hayward, and a flash flood at one point just missed wiping out everybody. But the worst didn’t become apparent until long afterward. In 1953, the military had tested 11 atomic bombs at Yucca Flats, Nevada, which resulted in immense clouds of fallout floating downwind. Much of the deadly dust funneled into Snow Canyon, Utah, where a lot of The Conqueror was shot. The actors and crew were exposed to the stuff for 13 weeks, no doubt inhaling a fair amount of it in the process, and Hughes later shipped 60 tons of hot dirt back to Hollywood to use on a set for retakes, thus making things even worse.

Many people involved in the production knew about the radiation (there’s a picture of Wayne himself operating a Geiger counter during the filming), but no one took the threat seriously at the time. Thirty years later, however, half the residents of St. George had contracted cancer, and veterans of the production began to realize they were in trouble. Actor Pedro Armendariz developed cancer of the kidney only four years after the movie was completed, and later shot himself when he learned his condition was terminal.

Howard Hughes was said to have felt “guilty as hell” about the whole affair, although as far as I can tell it never occurred to anyone to sue him. For various reasons he withdrew The Conqueror from circulation, and for years thereafter the only person who saw it was Hughes himself, who screened it night after night during his paranoid last years.

(Source)


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Skulls left lying on the battlefield after the Battle of the Wilderness – American Civil War; ca. 1864

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Hindenburg disaster that occurred on May 6, 1937, New Jersey, United States – (Colorized Photo)

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Most of the people onboard survived the Hindenburg disaster.

Hydrogen rises, burning hydrogen rises even faster. While it made one hell of a fireball, the people actually below the gas bags were in (relatively) little danger.

Also interestingly, the most deadly airship accident was the the loss of the helium using USS Akron four years earlier.

(Which raises the question of why does everyone know about the Hindenburg, but few know about the Akron? The Hindenburg disaster is not historic because of the disaster itself, what made it historic was that it is the beginning of the rise of news media ubiquity. It’s the first major disaster that was recorded as it happened and shown in both video and live(recorded for radio) commentary to the world.

Were it not for the film and commentary, it would just be another footnote in the question of why nobody uses zeppelins.)


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People sliding down an icy snow-covered mound at the base of the American Falls in Niagara Falls, New York; ca. 1883.

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