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Thread: Casimir Pulaski documentary: "The General Was Female?"

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    2 out of 2 members found this post helpful.

    Casimir Pulaski documentary: "The General Was Female?"



    The recent Smithsonian Channel documentary, "The General Was Female?", piqued my interest for a few reasons. It attempted to solve a historical mystery using ancient DNA, and involved identifying the remains of Casimir Pulaski, a Polish cavalryman who served not only in Poland, but also in America during the American Revolution, during which an ancestor of mine served under him. The results, as you may have already guessed by the documentary's title, caught the attention of several news outlets (NYT, NBC, etc.). To get an idea of the findings, check those news reports, or better yet, this page from Georgia Southern, the university that has been working on it with help from the Smithsonian Channel.

    So, I checked out the documentary, and overall, I'd recommend it. The results are surprisingly convincing at this point. The short summary of the results so far is that an mtDNA match confirms that the remains at Pulaski's memorial are maternally related to a grand-niece of his, and that is particularly amazing because the skeleton has a feminine pelvis. There are also some other aspects of the skeleton consistent with it being Pulaski (approximately the same age, scars from horseback riding, no evidence of birthing). The documentary also does a pretty good job of explaining why this isn't a 100% certainly at this point, like, what if it's someone who coincidentally matches mtDNA? They even discuss complications with contamination of ancient DNA. I doubt that the study of the remains are going to stop with this, but the documentary is worth checking out for anyone interested in these early results.

    There are a few concerns that I have with the documentary. On the genetics side, the filmmakers are obviously less versed in DNA studies than the scientists, with some obvious errors like displaying a map of Y-DNA haplogroups when they're talking about mtDNA. I also wish they had spent more time with the scientist when he was discussing the resolution of the mtDNA match, because it was left fairly unclear, with him alluding to how much of "the population" has the markers that matched (world population? population of Georgia? were there any mismatches?). I also don't think they mentioned the haplogroup specifically. But the filmmakers probably figured that most people watching wouldn't care about the specifics.

    The filmmakers also didn't seem to understand Pulaski's historical legacy very well. They really went out of their way to try to paint him as some sort of great general, but that wasn't really his legacy at all. He was actually kind of a terrible general, with his real contribution being visionary in nature, offering many suggestions to modernize the young American cavalry, which was put to great use by more capable commanders like Armand. In their attempt to find a great victory commanded by Pulaski, they actually used Prevost's advance on Charleston as an example, summarizing it like: "Pulaski led a cavalry charge against a superior British force, and later, the British retreated!" But that skips over the part where Pulaski had bungled the ambush that was supposed to follow the charge, he did nothing to stop the British, and Gen. Moultrie had to pick up the slack (source).

    The filmmakers also thought it was a good idea for some reason to get a modern intersex person who looks nothing like Pulaski to play dress up as Pulaski. Feel free to fast forward through those parts.

    But all that aside, I think I'm too excited that people are taking an interest in fascinating things like ancient DNA and Revolutionary War history for me to get too bogged down in the problems with the documentary. Recommended anyway.

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    How are you sparkey, long time no see. It would be something if true and story to tell for generations. Most likely he/she was a hermaphrodite of some sort.
    Be wary of people who tend to glorify the past, underestimate the present, and demonize the future.

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    Quote Originally Posted by LeBrok View Post
    How are you sparkey, long time no see.
    What have I missed? :)

    Quote Originally Posted by LeBrok View Post
    It would be something if true and story to tell for generations. Most likely he/she was a hermaphrodite of some sort.
    I think "he" makes more sense to use regardless of the genetics or medical condition. Unfortunately they got no nuclear DNA, so there's no proof that he carried XX other than the bone shape.

    I've been a bit disappointed with a common reaction a lot of people have given to this news in the US, which has largely been along the lines of, "Too much information, why are we even studying this?" When in fact it's fascinating information, and absolutely vital knowledge in order to identify the remains of one of the most interesting figures in the American Revolution.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sparkey View Post
    What have I missed? :)
    Trump became the president, you know. ;)



    I think "he" makes more sense to use regardless of the genetics or medical condition. Unfortunately they got no nuclear DNA, so there's no proof that he carried XX other than the bone shape.

    I've been a bit disappointed with a common reaction a lot of people have given to this news in the US, which has largely been along the lines of, "Too much information, why are we even studying this?" When in fact it's fascinating information, and absolutely vital knowledge in order to identify the remains of one of the most interesting figures in the American Revolution.
    As usualy more people will be disgusted that we want to change the past and "demean" their hero. Or misconstrued as an attack of progressives on good old world and its values. Though, truly it is a great example for human spirit winning against the odds, and making history more humane, more real, more ture and more interesting.

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    Bernie Sanders is a Millionaire. LOL

    Ironically he has benefited enormously under President Trump economy. Bernie Sanders will Vote for Trump! LOL

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    0 out of 1 members found this post helpful.
    I'm sure he/she isn't the only one who "changed" genders in the past, maybe with the connivance of parents. I would surmise that it was probably done based either on which secondary sexual characteristics "showed" to the outer world, or perhaps based on the needs of the parents, i.e they needed an "heir", etc.

    After all, while rare, it happens and has happened.

    Back in the day when I worked for a magazine and used to hire models there was a lot of talk about how some of the models were hermaphrodites of one type or another.

    I doubt the reaction is some sort of right wing attack on the left. Most people probably don't know who he was or what he did, and they don't care. Hell, I've seen those sidewalk quizzes where people don't know that it was Britain we were fighting. Plus, there's some feeling that for goodness' sakes, let the dead keep their secrets.

    Sometimes, some of these "exposes" do, however, smack of trying to make a political "point", at least where there's no "actual" evidence, as there is in this case. A youtube video just crossed my feed about whether Cary Grant was gay. The evidence? He lived with another actor for some years when he first came to Hollywood. O.K. A paper I saw a few years ago said Abraham Lincoln was gay because he had a lot of close male friends, and when on the lawyer circuit the lawyers often slept three or four to a bed in the inns. Really? Give me a break.


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