History's Trainwrecks

History's Trainwrecks

This is the stuff they never taught us in history class. Ever wonder why famous historical figures like Aaron Burr, George McClellan, Douglas MacArthur, Cato the Younger, Julius Caesar, and many others fell from the great heights to which they had ascended to end up in death or disgrace? History's Trainwrecks explores the self-destructive tendencies of historical figures who lose everything even when the prize of a lifetime is in reach, often costing them a treasured place in history. History is full of trainwrecks, and we can’t look away. Support the show with a one-time gift! or Help keep Trainwrecks on the tracks with a paid membership! Subscribe to History's Trainwrecks Support this show http://supporter.acast.com/historys-trainwrecks. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information. Help keep trainwrecks on the tracks. Become a supporter at https://plus.acast.com/s/historys-trainwrecks

Episodes

June 24, 2022 15 min

England’s American colonists were a serious problem for the British Empire by 1774. Mad old King George was pretty…well…you know. 


Great Britain was the world’s foremost military power, which meant it had bills to pay. The American colonies were prosperous, what with all their self-starting go-getterism, so Parliament and the king decided they should bear some of the financial burden of being subjects of the world’s foremost militar...

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On this special episode, I join Presidencies of the United States Podcast host Jerry Landry for his Seat at the Table series. This series covers the known and unknown Cabinet officers of American presidential administrations.


No president can do it alone, and the early American Presidents alternately relied upon or avoided working with their Cabinet. In the early days of Federalists vs. Democratic Republicans, finding loyal Cabinet...

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Huey Long had won a seat in the United States Senate while still in office as Louisiana’s governor. His move to the national stage was a real threat to the re-election of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1936.


Huey amassed dictatorial control over Louisiana in a very short time. He survived impeachment, neutralized his remaining opponents, and won a Senate seat. He became a driver of hard bargains. “He is always trying to trade us a biscui...

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Julius Caesar's war against the Roman Republic, and his dictatorship, didn't go the way he planned. Cato the Younger's suicide made him a hero during the short years of Caesar's rule. The men who conspired to kill the tyrant held Cato up as their inspiration.


So did the Founding Fathers of the American Republic nearly two centuries later. Joseph Addison's play Cato was a huge hit in the colonies, inspiring, amon...

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Julius Caesar was finally ready to put an end to that pesky civil war.


His best legions had mutinied while he was away in Egypt consorting with Queen Cleopatra. He had left Rome in the hands of less-capable surrogates for about a year, which gave the remaining Republican resistance time and space to fortify the North African city of Utica, under the careful management of Cato the Younger.


Caesar had had enough. It was time to finish ...

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The Roman Republic was making its last stand, but first it had to figure out who was in charge.


Not that it didn’t have bigger problems. Pompey the Great, thinking the civil war was over, failed to capitalize on his victory at the Battle of Dyrrhachium, allowing Julius Caesar all the time he needed to regroup so they could meet again at the Battle of Pharsalus in August of 48 BC.


Pompey did not win the Battle of Pharsalus.


After his c...

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Someone needed to rally the troops, and Rome’s greatest living general was having a hard time doing it.


Pompey the Great had a—well…great reputation as a commander, which his recruits and veterans alike could see for themselves. He trained and drilled right alongside them, and could swing a sword like a man half his age. But this time his troops weren’t just Romans—desperate times—and a civil war--had caused him to recruit men from...

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“Not bad for a lawyer.”


Marcus Tullius Cicero, former Roman consul, famed orator, Senator, and jurist, had been sent to govern the province of Cilicia, near modern-day Turkey. He had vanquished some roving bands of thieves, sent a Parthian reconnaissance force scurrying back to their territory, and stormed a hilltop fortress.


He didn’t equate himself with the two great generals circling Rome like tigers about to pounce—Julius Caesar...

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It was every man for himself.


The First Triumvirate was collapsing. Julia, the beloved daughter of Julius Caesar and adored wife of Pompey the Great, died in childbirth in 54 BC. Her daughter lived only a few days. Pompey fell into deep mourning, which was unusual. This was a time when upper-class marriages were only means to an end—forging political alliances, in the case of Pompey and Caesar, populating the Republic with more eli...

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The dancing girls would take their clothes off, but not while Cato the Younger was in the audience.


It was 55 BC, and the Floral Games were in full…um…bloom. The Games were the culmination of a week-long festival celebrating fertility, with the usual accompanying shenanigans: outrageous dress, lots of drinking, prostitutes being treated like queens, and a troupe of dancing girls in an amphitheatre reminding the spectators of the ri...

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Cato the Younger’s exile from Rome began with a cross-dressing aristocrat who had a crush on Julius Caesar’s wife.


In 62 BC, Publius Clodius figured that the best way to get close to Pompeia—Mrs. Caesar—was to dress as a female lute player and worm his way into the Good Goddess ceremony. This religious rite was only attended by women and was being hosted by Caesar’s wife.


Clodius was found out when he spoke to a maid in a deep bari...

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It’s almost like Cato the Younger had no idea he was putting his head in the lion’s mouth.


In the space of two years he had managed to get on the wrong side of Julius Caesar, Rome’s up and coming populist leader, Pompey the Great, Rome’s greatest living general, Marcus Crassus, Rome’s richest man, and Marcus Tullius Cicero, who had been Rome’s most recent consul, and for a few minutes there, the man with near-absolute power over th...

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The battle for the fate of the Roman Republic was on.


On one side were the empire-builders: Julius Caesar and his right-hand man Marc Antony (and sickly little Octavian in the next tent), Pompey the Great, and Marcus Crassus, who wanted to be great himself but never quite got there.


On the other side were Marcus Tullius Cicero, Rome’s greatest orator, consul in 63 BC, dictator during the Catiline Conspiracy, and all-around clever g...

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The ancient Roman Republic was under threat from all sides. Catiline's insurgency was coming to a head. Cicero was dictator of Rome. Julius Caesar, Pompey Magnus, and Marcus Crassus waited to see how it all turned out. Rome stood on the brink of empire, and the only one trying to stop it was Cato the Younger. He had his work cut out for him.

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Theodore Roosevelt was kept out of World War I by Woodrow Wilson, so he sent his sons instead.


Their fate, his own poor health, and watching from the sidelines while the President of the United States covered himself in glory had him down in the dumps. But the election of 1920 promised a good chance of his returning to the White House.


If only he could make it.

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There was no way Woodrow Wilson was going to let former President Theodore Roosevelt anywhere near Europe during the First World War.


Teddy had made multiple requests to War Secretary Newton Baker, asking permission to raise a division of volunteers, with himself as a major general, "to put our flag on the firing line."


But what Wilson actually feared was that Teddy, upon his arrival in Europe, would be drafted into chairing ...

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December 26, 2021 19 min

In 1916, the world was on fire, and Theodore Roosevelt was down in the dumps.


The country, with either Woodrow Wilson or Charles Evans Hughes destined for the White House, was “in the hands of two aloof and cagey deliberators. Wilson and Hughes were men who waited for events to happen and then reacted.” Teddy saw things coming, and got ready.


But as happened in 1912, Teddy allowed his candidacy, and his potential third term, to be ...

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Rome’s greatest orator pointed his finger at Cato the Younger and said, “Do you not see a storm coming?”


Marcus Tullius Cicero was consul for the year 63 BC, and thanks to the aforementioned storm, was a virtual dictator. But he had a number of problems, and he was going to use Cato the Younger to try and solve them.


Here’s the thing: it wasn’t just one storm.


Cato ran for his first office in 67 BC—military tribune. This would put him...

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Lousiana governor Huey Long had learned a lot from his impeachment trial, and it was no more Mr. Nice Governor down in the bayou.


He wanted to expand a road-building program and build a new massive state capitol building as a lasting monument to his reign. The legislature (and Huey's own brother) opposed the plan, so Huey had to come up with a way to persuade them, and make sure he retained power.


His answer: he was going to run ...

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November 20, 2021 14 min

The Bay of Pigs invasion was, to coin a phrase, a train wreck.


Fidel Castro had come to power in Cuba in 1959, planting a Communist country right on America’s back porch. Having a Soviet satellite ninety miles away from American soil was, shall we say, troubling.


The Eisenhower Administration approved a CIA plan to train Cuban exiles and provide them with weapons and air support for an invasion of the island. The expectation was tha...

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