History Jokes: General Grant and a rebel's knapsack

Funny anecdotes and short stories are a great source of examples in public speeches. This website contains short funny stories, clean jokes and humorous legends of kings and queens, politicians, famous literary figures and artists from many books and sources. The styles of writers from different time periods was preserved - they often enhance the stories in an amusing way. Enjoy and have fun!

General Grant and a rebel's knapsack 
The day before General Grant attacked Fort Donelson, the troops had had a march of twenty miles, part of it during a bitter cold night. Grant called a council of war to consider whether they should attack the fort at once, or should give the troops a day or two of rest. The officers were in favor of resting. Grant said nothing until they had all given their opinion; then he said: "There is a deserter who came in this morning, let us see him and hear what he has to say." When he came in, Grant looked into his knapsack. "Where are you from ?" "Fort Donelson." "Six days' rations in your knapsack, have you not, my man?" "Yes, Sir." "When were they served out?" "Yesterday morning." "Were the same rations served out to all the troops ?" "Yes, Sir." "Gentlemen," said Grant, " troops do not have six days' rations served out to them in a fort if they mean to stay there. These men mean to retreat, not to fight: we will attack at once. His action was as good as his word, and the eagles of victory soon perched upon his glorious banners.

From The Pictorial Book of Anecdotes and Incidents of the War of the Rebellion
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Gonella, a jester of Borda, Duke of Ferrara 
Sunday, February 17, 2008, 10:03 PM - Jokes and anecdotes of famous people, Court Jesters, Medieval jokes and anecdotes
Posted by Court Jester
"For the love of the saints, give a poor blind man alms!"

"Pray pity the poor blind; and Heaven preserve your
precious eyesight!"

"Born blind, gracious signer; bestow your charity on
one who never saw light!"

Thus prayed three blind beggars, as Gonella passed by
them to Mass. "Poor fellows!" said the jester, "there is
a florin, divide it amongst you." He gave nothing at all;
and as those who stood near smiled, he put his finger on his
lips, to enjoin silence.

"May Heaven reward you in Paradise!" said the blind
men, in chorus;—and a moment after, " Let us share the
signor's charity." But as neither had any florin, and as no
one believed that he was not being robbed by his fellow?.
they fell to savage words, and from savage words to blows,
fiercely striking at each other with their crutches till heads
were broken and bleeding; and Gonella passed in to
prayers, with the complacent comment, " Blessed are the
peace-makers !"

From The history of court fools by John Doran
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Scogan - a Jester to Edward VI (Edward Tudor) 
Among the practical jokes of this court fool I recognize
many that really belong to a much earlier period, and
which must have been current as " stories" at the time
they are narrated as having been performed by Scogan
himself. The following, however, is said to be properly
assigned to him. He had borrowed a large sum of money of
tho King. Some stories say the Queen, and Flogel even
names Quern Elizabeth as the patroness of this jester ! The
sum is sot down at £500, which is extremely doubtful. Be
this as it may, a day for payment had been named; and
when that day had arrived, Scogan was not prepared to pay
the debt. After much thought upon the matter, he fell sick
and died, and requested his friends to bury him in such a
way that the Sovereign should encounter the funeral. They
entered into the joke with great alacrity, put on the trappings
of mitigated affliction, and in due time carried Scogan
forth on a comfortably-arranged bier, when they contrived, as
directed, to encounter Edward. When Louis XV. saw the
funeral of his old favourite, Madame de Pompadour, he had
the bad taste to cut a sorry joke. When Edward met the
funeral procession of Scogan, he regretted the loss of his
merry follower; and among other kind things to which he
gave utterance, remarked, that he freely forgave Scogan and
his representatives the sum for which the jester was indebted
to him. The buffoon, who had expected this act of
release, immediately jumped up, thanked his illustrious creditor,
and prudently called all present to bear witness to
the Royal act of grace : "It is so revivifying," said Scogan,
"that it has called me to life again." If this incident be
true, we may also believe, as we are requested to do, that
great mirth followed thereupon.

From The history of court fools by John Doran
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Mozart's memory 
Tuesday, February 12, 2008, 11:56 PM - Jokes and anecdotes of famous people, Funny Music History
Posted by Administrator
Part of the service used in the Pope's chapel at Rome
is sacredly guarded and kept with great care in the
archives of the chapel. Any singer found tampering
with this "Miserere" of Allegri, or giving a note of it to an
outsider, would be visited by excommunication. Only
three copies of this service have ever been sent out.
One was for the Emperor Leopold, another to the King
of Portugal, and the third to the celebrated musician,
Padre Martini.

But there was one copy that was made without the
Pope's orders, and not by a member of the choir either.
When Mozart was taken to Rome in his youth, by his
father, he went to the service at St. Peter's and heard
the service in all its impressiveness. Mozart, senior,
could hardly arouse the lad from his fascination with the
music, when the time came to leave the cathedral. That
night after they had retired and the father slept, the boy
stealthily arose and by the bright light of the Italian
moon, wrote out the whole of that sacredly guarded
"Miserere" The Pope's locks, bars, and excommunications
gave no safety against a memory like Mozart's.

From Anecdotes of Great Musicians by W. F. Gates
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Queen Elizabeth's Court Jester 
In 1583 Sir Francis Walsingham introduced the celebrated Dick Tarleton to the Queen, and he soon became one of the most popular comedians in London and was appointed to the "high and honourable" office of Court jester to her Highness. Several robes were purchased for him in Paris, to appear before the Queen at dinner, dressed as a buffoon or jester. His duty on those occasions was to make the Queen " merrie." Fuller styles him a master of his faculty who, " when Elizabeth was serious and out of good humour, could undumpish her at his pleasure." When persons about Court had "small compliments" to seek, Tarleton acted as their usher to pave the way, and lined his pockets with silver and gold by this means. Notwithstanding, however, the liberal gratification of his rapacity, Dick was ever needy and always in debt. Fuller relates that "laughing Dick Tarleton " told the Queen " more of her faults than most of her chaplains ; and cured her melancholy better than all her physicians." " If the Queen admired Dick," observes the author of " Court Fools," " the latter felt great reverence for his mistress. He could compare her, he said, to nothing more fitly than a sculler ; for, he added, neither the Queen nor the sculler hath a fellow." Disraeli states that Tarleton possessed considerable power of extemporising satirical rhymes on the events of the day. Lord Burleigh and other courtiers, who secretly hated Leicester, instructed Tarleton to allude to that nobleman's Court favour, when making his satirical sallies upon the Queen. She, however, took it in good part, although sometimes mortified at the pertness of his observations.

Once, when the Queen dined at Lord Burleigh's, in the Strand. Tarleton accompanied her, and, when the noble host besought her Highness to remain for the night, she positively refused. An application was then made to Tarleton, with the promise of a large reward if he could induce the Queen to remain. " Procure me," said Tarleton, " the parsonage of Sherd." They immediately caused the patent to be drawn up. He then put on a parson's cap and gown, and loudly repeated these words as the Queen descended the stairs: — "A parson or no parson? A parson or no parson?" When Elizabeth understood what he meant, she not only stayed all night, but remained a fortnight, and actually confirmed him in his possession of the benefice. "Never," says a writer upon those times, " was there a madder parson." He eventually turned the bell-metal, parsonage, and all into ready money.

On one occasion Lord Leicester met Tarleton at Greenwich Palace, upon which the former, with a vicious sneer, exclaimed:—" Good morrow, my merry fool and knave." Tarleton replied:—"Well, I can't bear both titles together. I will, however, take the first, and you are heartily welcome to the second." The anecdotes respecting Tarleton and the Queen are numerous ; but the majority are more traditional than authentic. Tarleton died in Shoreditch, of the plague, to the greatregret of the Queen and the citizens of London, who were wont to consider him as having stood for the world-renowned portrait of " Yorick." A genuine collection of Tarleton's jests were published in 1611, on which occasion the citizens of London proved that their old favourite was not forgotten, for they eagerly sought after the volume which contained his " merrie sayings."

From Domestic Life of Queen Elizabeth by S. Hubert

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