Sunday, April 26, 2015
Re-Run Sunday: "Boston Corbett, America's Greatest Eunuch!"
I’m delighted a Re-Run Sunday coincided with one of my favorite historical days of the entire calendar. It’s Boston Corbett Day!
He’s the eunuch who killed John Wilkes Booth. It happened 150 years ago today.
This is my third most popular post ever and continues to enjoy robust readership.
You won’t see it anywhere in the news today. There will be no stirring memorials. Congress won’t pause to honor the actions of the man who should be acclaimed as America’s greatest eunuch by unanimous consent.
All hail, Boston Corbett, the man who killed the man who killed President Lincoln! It happened 145 years ago this very morning.
Really, can you even name a single other great American eunuch?
I guess we’re all stumped.
And so are the eunuchs, but in a much more literal way.
A eunuch is a man who undergoes deliberate removal of his testicles for any number of offbeat cultural reasons. Throughout history, eunuchs have served royals as courtiers, harem servants and trusted guardians of virginal princesses
Some have even willingly become eunuchs so they could serenade a discerning king with a treble voice of unmatched loveliness.
It sounds extreme, but I’m surprised no one’s tried it yet on American Idol. I guess in these days of instant fame, making a real sacrifice for the sake of art is no longer fashionable.
Of course, Corbett makes each of those motivations seem like pikers by comparison.
Born Thomas P. Corbett in London in 1832, he eventually moved to Boston, where he picked up a nickname with slightly more dash than if he’d have moved to say, Passadumkeag, Maine.
In 1858, at the age of 26, is when things got interesting. Fired with the religious passions, he grew his hair long in an attempt to imitate Jesus.
Then he did Jesus one better. Two better, to be precise.
The history books say he was so consumed with lust for Boston prostitutes he resorted to dire remedies. So one night he took a pair of rusty scissors, dropped his trousers and -- snip! snip! -- cut off his troublesome testicles.
That’s taking safe sex practices to a whole other realm.
The he sat down and had a nice dinner and attended a Methodist prayer meeting before finally staggering off for medical attention.
Amazing. For literary purposes it would be great fun to discover that the entree was meatballs, but the menu is lost to history.
The man is testament to the fact that it doesn’t take real balls to be a real man.
In April 1861, he enlisted as a private in the New York Militia, was honorably discharged after his three-month commitment, then re-enlisted to fight again. He was taken prisoner in 1863 and was captive for five months in the notorious Andersonville prison before being freed in a common prisoner exchange. He would later testify for the prosecution in the death penalty trial of doomed prison commandant Capt. Henry Wirz.
After again re-enlisting, it was Corbett on this day in 1865 at the Garrett tobacco barn near Port Royal, Virginia, who against orders shot the bullet that struck John Wilkes Booth in the back of neck, about one inch from where the dastardly Booth slew Lincoln on April 14.
“Providence directed me,” he said when asked why he’d disobeyed orders.
Then, like today, you can get away with a lot if you can convince believers that God whispered in your ear, “Pssst, hey, buddy . . .”
Corbett’s post-war life became increasingly erratic, perhaps, because of exposure to mercury when he worked as a hatter in New York and Boston. Because of his fame, he was appointed doorkeeper of the Kansas House of Representatives, where he pulled a pistol on some men who he’d caught yawning about the morning prayer.
He was sent to an insane asylum, escaped and lived for a while in a hole that www.allaboutbikes.com today lists as the No. 1 scenic attraction in Kansas.
It may be a big state, but I’ll drive hundreds of miles out of the way if I can avoid a state where the most scenic site is Corbett’s hole.
He is believed to have died along with more than 400 others in the Great Hinkley Fire that consumed hundreds of acres of Minnesota forest where he’d built a cabin and was living when the fire spread on September 1, 1894.
His story is the reason I never fail to engage airplane seat mates about their lives.
I’m sure he shared many stagecoach rides with men and women too engaged in their 19th century iPad equivalents to hear the stories of this fascinating eunuch who killed the man who killed the president.
So, to honor America’s greatest eunuch, I suggest we all cut the work day short.
Please don’t feel the drastic need to cut off anything more significant.
And just to be safe, let's all steer clear of the prostitutes in Boston at least for today.
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