Hannibal, Fabius & Scipio in Missouri

Don Antonio Soulard, the Spanish surveyor general of what much later became Missouri, seems to be my kind of man.

I would never have heard of him but for Jim Markovitch, a reader of The Hannibal Blog who gets this week’s fist bump for some ad hoc investigative work while driving around Missouri.

As Jim discovered here and here, Don Antonio journeyed up the Mississippi some time around 1800 and, like so many classically educated types in those days, admired the people who also happen to be the main characters in my book:

Hannibal (above left),
Fabius (above right) and
Scipio (left).

So Don Antonio named bodies of water after his heroes:

– the Hannibal Creek (now called Bear Creek), site of the eponymous future hometown of Mark Twain;

– the Scipio River (Bay de Charles); and

– the Fabius River (still named that).

And there is of course Carthage, MO, reachable in 5 hours, 34 minutes from Hannibal, according to Jim’s iPhone screen directions. Had Hannibal only had an iPhone when he crossed the Alps!

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20 thoughts on “Hannibal, Fabius & Scipio in Missouri

  1. Well, had Hannibal had an iPhone, and had he used it – as you write – to get back to Chartage (instead of heading towards Rome), he’d spared the Romans, and himself especially, A LOT of trouble 😉

    Interesting post.

  2. I’d known that Mark Twain was from Hannibal and I’d heard of Carthage Mo but never related them–thanks for connecting the dots.

    Also, Hannibal, Mo is just a couple of hundred miles south of Rome, Iowa!

    • I am disappointed that some whimsical civil war reenactment enthusiast has not yet capitalized on the possibilities here. Who wouldn’t want to ride an elephant around the Midwest in appropriate period garb over a long weekend? A concept worthy of Mark Twain, I think.

    • One of Mark Twain’s most hilarious short stories concerns an elephant. The Stolen White Elephant is the title.

    • Cheri, thanks. I had not read it. Good fun. How deliciously Twain that the elephant eats bibles and men! Thanks, again.

    • Clearly, that should be how I will market my book next year: I’ll slip into a tunic and breast plate and mount an elephant, then drive it across Iowa.

  3. Five hours to get to Carthage? We can do so much better.

    From Hannibal, MO, it’s just a hop over Ole Man River, then a skip and jump (one hour, tops!) and you’re smack dab in the middle of downtown Carthage, ILLINOIS.

    Perhaps Don Antonio wandered around both sides of the Mississippi.

    • Btw, I heard once that when debating the American constitution or something, a proposal to make ancient Greek the official language the the new country didn’t pass for just a few votes. Is it true or is it a wives’ tale?

    • I believe the tale was about making German an official language alongside English (for a while in early American history German immigrants outnumbered English and Scotch-Irish). But that, too, seems to have been apocryphal.

    • Dennis Barron, professor of English and Linguistics at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, gives the following account of the origin the “German Missed By One Vote” myth (a.k.a. “The Muhlenberg Vote”):

      The events whose misinterpretation gave rise to the legend of the German vote occurred in 1795, though the date is frequently changed to the more patriotically crucial year of 1776. As is characteristic of such stories, what actually occurred is not entirely clear. What is clear is that Congress never considered replacing English with any other language or giving any other tongue equal status with English. In the 18th century there were rumors that a few Brit-bashing superpatriots campaigned to have the new nation drop English in favor of Hebrew, French, or Greek, considered in the late 18th century to be the languages of God, rationality, and democracy, respectively. But the desire to found a New Eden rather than a New Babel assured that the United States would be united both legally and socially under a single language, and that language would be English. 

      On January 13, 1795, Congress considered a proposal, not to give German any official status, but merely to print the federal laws in German as well as English. 

      A vote to adjourn and sit again on the recommendation failed, 42 to 41, but there is no reason to believe from this close vote that more than token support existed for publishing the laws in German.


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