Sunday, June 30, 2013

Day 155, June 30

We frequently think of revolution as belonging to the young.  The fact was, many of the patriots of the Revolutionary War, especially those who gathered to sign the Declaration of Independence, were older, the average age being 44.  This is particularly significant as at that time, a man in his 40s was considered old and a man in his fifties, ancient.  The youngest signer was Edward Rutledge, at 26 years old; the oldest was Benjamin Frankln, at 70. 

Another misconception about the Revolution was that it was instigated by the poor.  On the contrary, most of the 56 signers of the Declaration were wealthy and highly successful citizens.  Most had money; all had stature in their communities.  They did not belong to a minority; they did not protest because they lacked material goods.  They wanted freedom because it was right.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Day 154, June 29

After signing the Declaration of Independence, Ben Franklin turned to the others gathered and said, "Gentlemen, we must all hang together--or surely we will all hang separately."

A fellow signer, Benjamin Harrison, had a robust sense of humor to match his robust size (Harrison weighed in at over 300 pounds).  He, like Franklin, was astute enough to realize that if the revolution failed, he and his colleagues would be hanged for treason. 

When he signed his name to the Declaration of Independence, he turned to another signer, Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts who weighed less than 100 pounds.

"If we hang, with my weight at the end of the rope it will be over in less than a minute," Harrison said.   "But with you, Elbridge, because you are so light, you'll be dancing on air an hour after I'm gone."

Friday, June 28, 2013

Day 153, June 28

The man who had lost to an upstart nation went on to become one of England's finiest military and government leaders.  He was named
Governor General of India and did much to bring reform to that country and make it, for many years, a shining jewel in the British Empire's crown.

After his years as Indian Governor General, Cornwallis was promoted to the rank of Marquess.  He was named Viceroy of Ireland, which was, at the time, in a state of rebellion.  While in Ireland, Cornwallis quieted things down and won the respect of many Irish leaders in addition to squelching an invasion attempt of Ireland by the French.

He then went to France, where he helped negotiate peace between England and France.  The age of 66, he was sent back to India, which was once more in chaos.  He died while struggling to untangle the turmoil there. 

The man who is best remembered for a crushing public defeat proved that there can still be personal victory.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Day 152, June 27

Despite his personal feelings, Cornwallis fought against the colonists, honoring his British heritage.  He won some victories, but, because of the erratic orders from England, his command was doomed.  The high command in England could not make up its mind as to how to fight the "War in the Colonies."

Surrounded by the superior forces of Washington, Cornwallis was forced to surrender.  He did so with both honor and dignity. He returned to England in defeat and believed his career to be over.

It wasn't.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Day 151, June 26

General Charles Cornwallis was blamed by the British for losing the Revolutionary War.  Cornwallis was the commanding general of the British Army in America who handed over his sword in surrender to General George Washington in Yorktown in 1781.

I had always thought of Cornwallis as the ultimate villain, the man who stood between the Colonies and freedom.  In fact, he was on the side of the colonists.

A member of English nobility, Cornwallis took his seat in Parliament at the age of 22.  Two years later, he was elevated to the House of Lords in upon his father's death.

While serving in Parliament, he upheld the American cause and opposed the increased taxation which brought on the revolution.  He made many stirring speeches in Parliament extolling the rights of the American colonists.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Day 150, June 25

Martha Washington was not only the first First Lady; she is also the only American woman who has ever been honored on United States currency.

A picture of Martha Washington was on the face of the 1886-1891 US Dollar Silver Certificate.  She is also pictured on the back of the 1896 series dollar Silver Certificate, along with that of George Washington.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Day 149, June 24

President James Monroe was the first president inaugurated outdoors.  It started with an upset about seats between members of the Senate and the House of Representatives. 

To calm the opposing factions, the ceremonies were moved outside.  There was also another reason for the change of location:  there was fear that the floor of the House of Representatives, where the ceremony was to be held, wasn't strong enough to hold all of the guests.

James Madison was the first president inaugurated in a suit of clothes made entirely in the United States of America.  It was a woolen suit fashioned from cloth made from native American sheep.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Day 148, June 23

Presidential inagurations have changed much in the last 200 plus years.  George Washington was scheduded to be inaugurated into office in the middle of March of 1799, but he wasn't officially notified at his home in Mount Vernon, Virginia that he had been elected as President of the United States until April 13 of that year.

After two days of preparation, George Washington and his party started the journey to New York City, the then capital of the nation.
The journey took more than two weeks to travel through Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.  At each stop, there was a gala parade for the newly elected president.  Thousands of veterans who had served with the President during the Revolutionary War greeted him.

President Washington made his triumphant entrace into New York City on a barge from the New Jersey shore.  With great ceremony, he was inaugurated and sworn in by Robert Livingston, Chancellor of the State of New York.  Washington was the only US President not sworn into office by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Day 147, June 22

King George III ruled England at the time of the Revoluionary War.  History books painted him as a villain, a tyrant.  The fact was, King George wasn't particularly villanious.  What he was was not very bright. 

Tutors said that he was eleven years old before he could read a word.  He never learned grammar or how to spell.  In between suffering periodic fits of insanity, he was reported to chase young ladies around the palace.  A German, he married a German princess, making the ruling monarchy 100% German.

George wasn't revered or even particularly liked by his people.  When traveling the streets of London in his carriage, he was stoned.  A barber's daughter once tried to stab him with a pair of scissors.  George might have been stupid, but he wasn't unkind.  He pardoned the young woman.

He took very little interest in national and foreign affairs.  He tended to listen to advisors who were shortsighted and used their palace influence for their own ends, rather than in strengthening the country.  Hence, the uprising in the Colonies receievd little attention from the Crown.

Eventually George III became totally insane and went blind.  He spent his last days roaming the halls of the castle playing his harpsichord. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Day 146, June 21

Legend gives credit to Betsy Ross for fashioning the first American flag.  However, facts support the creator of the first flag as Francis Hopkinson, a professional artist and signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Hopkinson submitted a formal bill to Congress requesting payment of $7,200 for his work in designing the official flag.  The bill was never paid.

The Betsy Ross legend maintains that on a June afternoon in 1776, three men came to her shop where she worked as a seamstress.  One of the men was George Washington.  They explained they wanted an American Flag to replace the state banners carried by the Revolutionary soldiers.

General Washington is said to have shown Betsy Ross a rough sketch, a square banner with 13 stripes of wed and white, and 13 starts acattered across a blue field.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Day 145, June 20

Betsy looked at the sketch and suggested the flag be made rectangular rather than square and that the stars be five-pointed instead of containing six points.  Legend then goes on to say that Betsy Ross made such a flag and presented it to Congress, where it was officially adopted as the American flag.

A Quaker, Betsy was married three times.  At the age of 17, she married John Ross, son of an Episcopalian minister, against her family's wishes.  Her parents disowned her for marrying outside of her faith.  John Ross enlisted in the Revolutionary War and was killed in 1776  in a gunpowder explosion.

The young widow supported herself as a seamstres and upholsterer.  She then married Joseph Ashburn, a sea captain.  Captured by the British, Joseph died in an English prison, leaving Betsy with two small daughters.

Betsy also outlived her third husband, John Claypoole.  She and Claypoole had five daughters togher.  Though she went blind in her later years, she continued her sewing until her death.  She died in Phialdelphia in 1836, at the age of 34.

Though there remain doubts that she sewed the first American flag, there are authentic records to prove she made many of the flags.  A voucher, dated May 29, 1777, is still on the record for the amount of 14 pounds, for American flags made for the United States Navy.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Day 144, June 19

When George Washington was only 14, he was a British subject and was proud of the fact.  His family had been loyal English subjects for more than 600 years.  Duirng the summer of his 14th year, an English man-of-war (ship) was anchored in the Potomac near the Washington plantation, Mount Vernon, in Virginia.

The giant war vessel, flying the famous Union Jack, stirred the advernturous spirit of the young boy.  He decided to join the British Navy and fight for England.

He had packed his sea chest, was ready to go, when his plans were derailed by a determined woman--his mother.  She hurried aborad the ship and took George by the collar.  She ordered him to get his sea chest and get back home, where he belonged.

An obedient son, he did as she commanded. 

The course of history could well have been changed if Mother Washington had not acted when she did.  (Takeaway here:  mothers know best.)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Day 143, June 18

Handling gifts has always presented problems when one is serving as President of the United States.  As the chief executive of the world's most powerful country, the president must be both diplomatic and wise in receiving--and declining--gifts. 

Even two hundred years ago, when the nation was far from the earth's most powerful nation, the president had to be careful in accepting gifts from foreign governments.  Thomas Jefferson had occasion to tip-toe through the minefield of gift-receiving when the government of Tunisia presented him with a fine white stallion.

President Jefferson felt he couldn't refuse the gift.  It would have insulted the Tunisian government.  So he placed the stallion in the Presidential stables and made him available for stud.  The stud fees for the stallion were then donated to the government.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Day 142, June 17

During Lafayette's exile from France, his wife was imprisoneed in the La Petite Force Prison and sentenced to death.

At this time, James Monroe served as the American minister to France.  Upon learning that Madame Lafayette was being held prisoner, his wife, Eliza Monroe, took action.  A beautiful and well-educated woman, Mrs. Monroe spoke flawless French.  Dressed in her finest clothes, she ordered her carriage to the front door of the prison.  Guards rushed to halt the carriage's progress.

In a regal manner, Mrs.Monroe ordered the guards to take her to Madame Lafayette at once.  Seeing the US Amabassador's crest on the carriage, the guards quickly complied.  Bowing and scraping, the guards led her to Madame Lafayette's cell. 

Mrs. Monroe demanded the instant release of the American Revoluntionary War hero's wife.  The startled prison commandant dared not refuse, and Madame Lafayette was released. 

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Day 141 June 16

During Lafayette's visit to  Nashville, Tennessee, a pickpocket stole his watch.  Lafayette nearly broke down.  This was the watch George Washington had presented to Lafayette as a reward for his military services during the War.

Government officials apologized, but they couldn't find the stolen watch.  Fifty years later, in 1874, the watch was discovered in a Louisville, Kentucky pawnshop.  It was redeemed with $300 appropriated by Congress and sent to Lafayette's grandson.

Lafayette died in 1834.  He was buried in Paris.  A mound of dirt from Bunker Hill was placed over the grave.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Day 140, June 15

Lafayette did not receive a warm welcome in Franche.  He lost much of his popularity and most of his fortune.  Eventually he fled to Austria where he was imprisoned.  Napoleon resuced him and gave him his freedom.

When Lafayette returned to France, he served for many years in the Chamber of Deputies.  He was always a controversial figure and inspired as many enemies as he did friends.

In 1824, the United States' government invited Lfayette to visit as a special guest.  He stayed at the White House and made a tour of the nation, where he was greeted as a hero.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Day 139, June 14

The French had sympathy for the American Revolution.  One Frenchman in particular showed his support by joining the Revolution.  His real name was Marie Joseph Paul Yves Dilbert du Motier, but he became known in America as the Marquis de Lafayette.

A nobleman, Lafayette bought a ship and sailed from France in 1777 to America where he offered his services to General George Washington.  He was given the rank of a major general and joined Washington's military staff.  (This he did without pay.)

An above average soldier, Lafayette brought tactics to the War that helped secure American victory.  He returned home with honor and participated in the French Revolution.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Day 138, June 13

I think of cocktail parties as a fairly modern phenomenon.  However, John Hancock, one of the signers of the Declaration oof Independence, is famous for hosting one of the greatest cocktail parties of history.

In 1792, years after the Americans defeated the British in the Revolutionary War, Hancock decided to throw a cocktail party for members of the Bston Fusiliers.  The Fusiliers was a military organization composed mostly of veterans of the War.

Old records reveal that eighty Fusiliers attended the party.  During the evening, they consumed 138 bowls of spiked punch, 21 bottles of sherry, and 28 small barrels of brandy and hard cider.

Host Hancock picked up the entire tab.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Day 137, June 12

In Saratoga National Historic Park in New York is an unusual monument dedicated to the memory of America's first traitor--Benedict Arnold.  To this day, he remains perhaps the country's best known traitor. 

The monument bears no name, and has only a left military boot and the epaulets of a US Army general. 

General Benedict Arnold was wounded in the left foot during the Battle of Saratoga in October of 1777, the first major victory of the Colonists over the British.  In 1779, Arnold defected to the British. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Day 136, June 11

While in the French prison for ten months, Paine wrote another pamphlet, "The Age of Reason."

For some reason, his writings there tagged him as an atheist.  It was never clear as to why people viewed "The Age of Reason" as preaching atheism.  The pamphlet starts "I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life."

People called him "Godless" and he spent the rest of his life scorned and taunted by others.

President Thomas Jefferson secured Paine's release from The Bastille and he arrived back in the United States.  He spent the remainder of his life in poverty and poor health.  He was buried without fanfare or glory on a small farm near New Rochelle, New York.

Ten years later, his body was exhumed and sent to England.  Strangely enough, it rests in a hero's grave.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Day 135, June 10

"These are the times that try men's souls."  "Tryanny, like hell, is not easily conquered."

Thomas Paine's words, captured in a series of pamphlets that he published, were so impassioned that George Washington ordered them to be read to the troops at Valley Forge.  Paine, not content to simply write about revolution, served as a foot soldier in the War.

After America won victory over the British, Paine tried farming and failed.  When the French Revolution broke out, he sailed to France and was made an honoray citizen there.  However, he couldn't stomach the tactics of the Revolutionists, who believed in chopping off the heads of the aristocracy.  He preached kindness and tolerance.  The French Revolutionists threw him in to The Bastille.

Paine was scheduled for the guillotine himself, but one of the prison guards chalked the wrong side of the prison door.  When the door closed, the mark of death was not visible.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Day 134, June 9

George Washington loaned the war effort great sums of money from his own pocket.  He served as commander-in-chief at no pay and received no salary as President during his two terms.  Yet he was accused of using the presidency to line his own pockets

He faced a civil war among his own countrymen, with riots in the streets over the newly levied whisky tax.  Congress wouldn't even give him an army to enforce the law.

Newspaper articles challenged him to "resign immediately."  "You are uterrly incapable to steer the political ship into the harbor of safey," one writer said.

When a Congressional committee met to draft a reply to Washington's farewell address, many members of Congress refuse to vote their thanks.  He was denounced at meetings, citizens mocked him on the streets.

However, after Washington left office, his enemies calmed down.  In practically no time, George Washington began to attain the stature he holds today as "the Father of our country."

At his death, citizens all over the new nation gathered to express their regret and sadness  Condolences were received from leaders of other countries.

Washington's last words were "I die hard."

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Day 133, June 8

President Washington's personal life did not escape criticism either.  One member of Congress said he didn't like the way Washington bowed at parties.

Washington answered:  "I bow as good as I know how.  If my bows are not the right kind, blame my boyhood dancing teacher."

At that time, the nation's capitol was located in Philadelphia.  The social elite of the city gave a birthday party for the president shortly after he took office.  Bedlam broke loose.  The papers accused him of being a "royal snob" ... "a man who dreamed of becoming king." 

Washington could not escape the unrelenting criticism even when he took to the road.  If he reached a small town or hamlet and refused to make a speech, his enemies (and there were many) said he was acting like a king.  If he did make a speech, he was said to be "playing politics."

Newspapers called him "a crocodile," "a hyena," and, the worst of all insults, "pro British." 

Friday, June 7, 2013

Day 132, June 7

Did you know that George Washington, one of our Founding Fathers, was not loved, or even liked by everyone?  While he was in office, Washington was one of the most unpopular presidents ever to serve. 

He was criticized, defiled in public print, a leading newspaper editor calling him an embezzler, a tryant.  Another editor accused him of murder.  Patriots, who'd served with him, demanded that he resign,  calling him power mad.  His secretary of state, Thomas Jefferson, resigned in disagreement over his foreign policies. 

Jefferson went so far as to form a political party to fight Washington.  Another Cabinet member, Alexander Hamilton, did the same.  The fledgling nation was split in two parts by the French Revolution.  One element wanted to come to the aid of the French, as the French had helped secure America's independence.  Washington opposed becoming involved in foreign affairs.

One of his steadfast friends of the Revoluntionary War, Thomas Paine, wrote of Washington:  "You are treacherous in private friendship and a hyppocrite in public life ... the world will be puzzled to decide whether you have abandoned good principles, or whether you ever had any."

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Day 131, June 6

Did you know that many important events of the Revolutionary War took place in taverns?  I didn't.

Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence while sitting in the Queen's Tavern in Philadelphia.  George Washington centered his headquarters in a tavern while he was in New York.  John Adams managed his own tavern from 1783 to 1789.  The first official recruiting office of the United States Marine Corps was held in Tun Tavern in Philadelphia.  It was in a New York tavern where George Washington bid his troops farewell.

Paul Revere recorded this in his diary:

"In the fall of 1774, I was one of upwards of 30 men who formed ourselves into a committee for the watching of movements of British soldiers and the Tories in our midst.  We met at the Green Dragon Tavern in Boston."

Tavern keeping was a respectable business in those days, the tavern keeper an important man in town.  He was in many cases the political leader of the community.  He was also the town banker, the town gosspi.  His wife was, in many cases, the community's social and cultural leader.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Day 130, June 5

The soldiers at Valley Forge lived in 900 small huts  ashioned from logs and clay.  A dozen soldiers jammed into each 14 by 16 foot hut.

Because of lack of blankets and warm clothing, many soldiers were forced to sit up all night by the fires.  There was a near-famine in the camp.  Weeks went by with the men having no meat and little else to eat.

A few men deserted; however, most of them remained at their posts, despite the horrible conditions.  Washington maintained discipline, insisting his men conduct themselves like soldiers.  Eventually supplies began to trickle through.  Raiding parties captured supplies from the British and supplemented their meager food and clothing.

By the time spring arrived, those who survived knew the worst was over.  In June, the American troops marched from Valley Forge and defeated the British at Monmouth, New Jersey, taking them by surprise. 

It was a turning point in the war, emotionally and strategically.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Day 129, June 4

Until I did some research, I had believed a battle to be fought at Valley Forge.  And perhaps there was one, though it was not between the Americans and the British.  It was a battle against cold, hunger, and despair.  The defeated American army, under General George Washington, retreated to the plains of Valley Forge, Pennsylvannia. 

The Continental Army had just lost two important battles to the British.  the enemy now occupied Philadelphia, forcing the Americans to the frigid plains.  It (1777)  was one of the worst winters in history.  Winds blew in hurrrican force gales across the plains.  The temperature dropped below zero.  The ill-equipped American Army was without shoes, winter clothing, and food.

More than 3000 American soldiers died that winter in Valley Forge.  They lay in unmarked graves. On December 23, 1777, Washington wrote, "There are 2,898 men in camp unfit for duty because they are barefooted and otherwise naked ..."

Monday, June 3, 2013

Day 128, June 3

What happened to Dawses, Prescott, and Revere?

William Dawes enlisted in the Continental Army and fought through the Revolutionary War.  He ended up owning a grocery store in Boston.

Dr. Prescott served at Ticonderoga, where he was taken prisoner by the British, and died in a Halifax prison.

As for Paul Revere, he started manufacturing gunpowder for the Continental Army and helped cast bronze cannons.  He was given the rank of Colonel in the Army and commanded the garrison at Castle William in Boston Harbor.  After the war, Revere returned to his work as a silversmith in Boston.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Day 127, June 2

Another man figures prominently in the ride to warn Americans of the British invasion.  The day after Revere's aborted ride, 23 year old Israel Bisell was tasked with warning the citizens that the English soldiers had landed at Cambridge and were marching toward Lexington. 

Bisell rode so hard on his first day that his horse dropped dead beneath him.  He took another horse and raced across Massachusetts, into Connecticut, and on into New York.  He rode for four days without rest, covering more than 300 miles before arriving in Philadelphia.

Why did Longfellow immortalize Revere in his epic poem rather than Bisell or Dawes?  It is speculated by some that the poet couldn't think anything to rhyme with Bisell or Dawes!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Day 126, June 1

Longfellow's poem "Midnight Ride of Paul Revere" is well known and often quoted.  However, Revere didn't finish the famous ride.

Paul Revere was captured by the British halfway to the village of Concord to warn the citizens that the British were coming.  The ride was finished by Dr. Samuel Prescott, who just happened to be along. 

On the night of April 18,1775, William Dawes was dispatched from Boston to warn the countryside of the British invasion.  Paul Revere followed along as a second.  Along the way, they picked up another man, Dr. Prescott, who was coming home from a date with the young lady he was courting.

A British patrol ambushed the three men.  Revere was captured.  Dawes turned around and rode for home.  Prescott jumped his horse over a fence and continued on his way to alert the Minutemen.