History via txt msg

One of the nifty things about being into history is the fact that people text interesting questions to your cell phone.  For example, on Saturday I got this one out of the blue, from a friend of mine named Amy: “Who was colonel joe cecil?”

I had no idea, but luckily I happened to be on the computer at the time and looked it up.  It turns out Col. Josephus Cecil was an East Tennessean who won the Medal of Honor while serving in the Philippines.  (I usually feel a little defeated when somebody asks me a question I can’t answer, but this one wasn’t the sort of thing that’s common knowledge in history circles.) 

Apparently Amy was on the road in Cecil’s native Monroe County and saw a bridge that was named for him.  Too bad she wasn’t on John Sevier Highway.  I could’ve given her all sorts of information about him.

Just a couple of days later another friend named Travis sent this one: “Who was the 11th and a half president of the us?”  I finally figured out that he was referring to David Rice Atchison, President pro tempore of the Senate for the Thirtieth Congress. 

Zachary Taylor refused to be sworn in on Sunday, March 4, 1849 and instead took the oath the following day.  In the absence of both a POTUS and a V.P., the office normally falls on the President pro tem, but Atchison no longer held that title on March 4.  His term expired along with the Thirtieth Congress on March 3. 

In fact, I don’t actually know who the heck was running the country on March 4, 1849, but it wasn’t David Rice Atchison.  My money’s on either Taylor or the outgoing James K. Polk.  Twenty-four hours is not too long for a presidential grace period.

The ironic thing about all this is that nobody has ever texted me a question that my academic training was of any help in answering.  Maybe someday my phone will go off and I’ll have a request for a 150-word summary of the Market Revolution’s impact on gender roles, but I’m not holding my breath.

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