Thursday, July 5, 2012

Foxy Man...I think I love you...

I like to watch the movie The Patriot every Fourth of July even though it is horribly inaccurate and Mel Gibson is crazier than a road lizard. The character he plays is called Benjamin Martin and is a larger than life almost savior like man. Rambo with a musket and bad ponytail. In all actuality the character is loosely based on a real man, a hero of the Revolutionary war, Frances Marion known as the “Swamp Fox.”

Marion is known as the one of fathers of guerilla warfare. During the war, Marion joined the troops of Major General Horatio Gates a little bit ahead of the Battle of Camden. Gates couldn’t stand Marion so he sent the man to take command of the Williamsburg Militia. Marion was to undertake the scouting of missions and try to slow the British down some after that battle. (The term lambs to a slaughter comes to mind) Marion ended up missing the battle because he was sent away. He did however manage to intercept and recapture about 150 Maryland prisoners, plus 20 British guards heading back to Charleston. The prisoners, now free, thought the war was already lost to the British so they deserted from the ranks of Marion.

Marion proved to be skilled at leading the irregular militiaman. Basically this means the guys who were a bit too rough and tumble for the Continental Army (Not the goody goody boys, but the down and dirty alpha men) served Marion will. Most did so without pay, supplied their own horses and arms, and often their own food.  Some may have felt the greater call for the cause of freedom from tyranny. Others probably just wanted to fight.

Marion rarely allowed his men to serve in the frontal attacks but preferred to fight from behind in sneak attacks, using the environment as a tool, and disregarding the rules of war as a means to fight his foes. Marion, as well as others in the Continental Army, understood that standing in a line facing each and firing weapons was not going to end up well for either party involved. Thus guerilla warfare was born for the American fighters.

The most fascinating fact about Marion, at least for me, is how he is viewed by the two sides of the fray. When the movie The Patriot came out, the news reported that the legend of Frances Marion and the Swamp Fox was revitalized for a new generation. Interest among Americans grew. People wanted to know about his exploits. However, on the other side of the pond the news media and prominent historians called him a terrorist and a rapist.

Marion never won any major battles, never led an army in a major battle, and never commanded a large army. Nevertheless, He is one of the Revolutionary War’s most intriguing and enduring characters. Because of Marion’s cunning and determination the cause of American independence was kept alive in the South.

In 1959 Disney produced a TV show called “The Swamp Fox” starring Leslie Nielson. (Yep, that Leslie Nielson. The one from Naked Gun and Police Squad – although my favorite Leslie Nielson vehicle is Forbidden Planet.) It was part of the Wonderful World of Disney. You can check out some of the episodes on YouTube if you’re so inclined. Just remember it is even more inaccurate then The Patriot. Disney referred to him as the Robin Hood of the Revolutionary War.

Keep stopping by during the week for all sorts of Revolutionary War fun and facts. Plus, one random commenter over the course of the week will receive an E-book copy of Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell or Drift by Rachel Maddow. It will be winner’s choice. Make sure you leave your email for me in the comments and which book you’d prefer if you win. Winner will be chosen on July 8th, the one year anniversary of History’s Mistress Blog. 

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Independence Day!

To celebrate here are a colelction of vidoes I trolled up at YouTube that are wickedly cool about American History.

                                                             Eat it, King George.


.


We hold these truths to be self evident...


On this day we declare....

Keep stopping by during the week for all sorts of Revolutionary War fun and facts. Plus, one random commenter over the course of the week will receive an E-book copy of Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell or Drift by Rachel Maddow. It will be winner’s choice. Make sure you leave your email for me in the comments and which book you’d prefer if you win. Winner will be chosen on July 8th, the one year anniversary of History’s Mistress Blog.  

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

On the Village Green


I’m sure many of you have heard the term “The Shot Heard ‘Round the World.” It has been used in sports, Hollywood movies, and news media. The phrase has even been associated historically with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the event that started World War I. However the phrase is an American one.
     
The Shot Heard ‘Round the World as a phrase is the opening line of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Concord Hymn” which was published around 1837. It refers to the standoff between British soldiers and local militia in Lexington.
So…we talked about Paul Revere’s wild ride in an earlier blog. The events of Lexington and Concord are connected to Mr. Revere and his jaunt across the village greens.
          
Here’s the deal. Britain’s General Gage had a secret plan (a stupid not well thought out one but a plan none the less). He wanted to capture Sam Adams and John Hancock thinking this would demoralize the feisty colonists who had been shouting about independence. After taking the two men, the red coated general wanted his men to then seize Concord. You see my dearies; Concord was home to a nice supply of gunpowder used by the militia. Friends and spies for the Americans cause leaked the word of the plan. So off went Paul and his compatriots, William Dawes and Dr. Samuel Prescott to warn everyone, especially Hancock (yep the big signature guy) and Adams (the beer guy). Don’t capture those guys, we need them.
           
Word quickly spread (well as quickly as you can, riding like a bat out of hell on the back of horse) between towns and the militias prepared to confront the British (Technically we were British too at this time, but moot point) and help their neighbors Lexington and Concord. The militias had been created by colonists to actually fight against the Natives and the French and were commonly called the Minutemen. This meant they could theoretically be ready to fight in a minutes notice. (I know what you’re thinking and get your minds out of the gutter. Not THAT kind of minutemen, you dirty birdies.)
           
So when the advance guard of General Gage’s army showed up, all 240 of them, they found about 70 minutemen formed on the Green. The men on both sides just kind of stood there and stared each other down, each hesitant to start stuff. Suddenly out of the blue, a bullet buzzed through the air.

It was “the shot heard ‘round the world"

The British managed to kill about 7 colonists on the Green and then marched off to Concord with new regiments who had joined in. The British had superior numbers hence the causalities on the American side. However things were not so easy for the “lobster tails” when they reached Concord. The militia men managed to thwart them.  The redcoats turned and ran, only to be intercepted by more militia. We fought guerilla style, shooting from behind fences and trees. The causality count for the Brits by the end of the skirmish was well over 125 and included several officers. The fight and gumption of the colonists surprised both sides honestly.

The battle of Lexington and the “shot heard ‘round the world” marked a turning point in American history. While it happened in 1775 prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the event fanned the fires for freedom seekers. The British had shed American blood on American soil.

After the battle, Lord Percy, who led the British back into Boston after the defeat at Concord, wrote to London…”Whoever looks upon them as an irregular mob will be much mistaken.” Translation – Watch out, the colonists are serious and they fight dirty.

So now you know the story of “the shot heard ‘round the world.” It was the unofficial day we said enough is Enough. No one knows who fired the shot or which side but it will continue to be one of the most important turning points in American History.

If you want to hear an amazing song that captures the feeling of the day check out "Mama, Look Sharp" from the Musical 1776.

Keep stopping by during the week for all sorts of Revolutionary War fun and facts. Plus, one random commenter over the course of the week will receive an E-book copy of Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell or Drift by Rachel Maddow. It will be winner’s choice. Make sure you leave your email for me in the comments and which book you’d prefer if you win. Winner will be chosen on July 8th, the one year anniversary of History’s Mistress Blog.  

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Fourth of July Fun Facts and Contest!

It’s Independence week here on History’s Mistress. So to get the festivities into full gear let’s play what I like to call Fourth of July Myths debunked. Come on, you know you want to play! I can tell.  

There are five major myths about the Fourth of July that most people have embraced over the years, decades, and centuries. I’ve rarely seen them corrected in history class or in casual conversation (of course who other than freaky History geeks like myself would bring this stuff up in casual conversation. Imagine sitting at the bar, fruity clich├ęd drink grasped firmly in your hand as you gaze at the hot tamale next you and say…”Hey, baby, let me tell you about John Adams and the Continental Congress.” The sheer sexiness in the statement would inflame their lust and you’d have to do it against a wall…It could happen)

Number 1, and possibly the biggest myth or misconception surrounding the Fourth of July is that Independence was declared on the Fourth of July. It wasn’t.  America actually declared independence from those tea drinking Nancy boys on July 2nd,  1776 (The first vote occurred today – July 1st)  In the Pennsylvania Evening Post, on the night of the second, was published a statement that read “This day the Continental Congress declared the United Colonies Free and Independent States.” Cool, huh? On July 3rd, John Adams – a major player in the fight for independence and our second president – sent a letter to his wife Abigail about the signing. “But the Day is past. The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America.” (If you’re so inclined the letters that passed between Abby and John can be found collected in any number of books. They make great reading for two reasons; you get a bird’s-eye view of the struggle for independence and a glimpse into an amazing love affair.)

On to myth number 2. The Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4th.  Nope, wrong again. The Declaration, which you can view when you travel to the National Archives in Washington D.C (which I did and when I saw it and the Constitution, I got a little misty eyed. Do not judge me or there will be no presents at the end of the week) was signed by August 2nd when a clean copy was finally produced by the assistant to the secretary of the congress, Timothy Matlack.  Most delegates signed it that day, some waited for months later to finally add their names. The names of the delegates who signed weren’t even released to the public until January 1777.

Number 3 and one of my personal favorites is that the Liberty Bell rang for American Independence. We’ve all seen the movies where the adorable moppet of a boy runs into Independence Hall and rings the bell for freedom, truth, justice and the American way…oh wait that last part was Superman. It’s a cute story and a great marketing ploy for Philly, but it likely never happened that way. The Bell may have been rung, but no one took note of it. In fact the Liberty Bell isn’t even named for the Revolutionary War. The name Liberty Bell didn’t even occur until around 1830 when abolitionists used the bell as a symbol of their cause. Personally, I think the Liberty Bell did in fact ring on July 2nd but it was most likely one of many. And the crack, not from ringing in freedom. No one really knows how the bell cracked but we do know that it happened somewhere between 1817 and 1846.

“Hey Oh Mistress of History, Betsy Ross sewed the first flag didn’t she?” I’m so glad you asked imaginary blog reader who lives in my head from time to time. No she didn’t and now we have myth number 4.  The story goes that General Washington came to Betsy and asked her to sew the very first symbol of our freedom, requesting six stars. Betsy told Wooden Teeth that five were easier to cut out and stitch. He relented. All bunk. Seriously there is no historical evidence to support any of this, but don’t tell the nice folks who work at the Betsy Ross House in Philly…you might get hurt. Just saying.  We don’t know who sewed the first flag but we do know who designed it. Frances Hopkinson. (Betcha never heard that name before. Google it…go ahead…I’ll give you a minute…done? Cool) Still makes a good story right?

Ok so this one is not a myth but it is still a cool piece of America trivia. Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson – the idea man and the writer – both died on July 4th, 1826. Story goes that Adams on his deathbed uttered the words "Jefferson survives" which would have been especially moving since Jefferson had died a few hours earlier. Most likely he never said this.

So there you have it, some fun misconceptions about the Fourth of July. Keep stopping by during the week for all sorts of Revolutionary War fun and facts. Plus, one random commenter over the course of the week will receive an E-book copy of Partly Cloudy Patriot by Sarah Vowell or Drift by Rachel Maddow. It will be winner’s choice. Make sure you leave your email for me in the comments and which book you’d prefer if you win. Winner will be chosen on July 8th, the one year anniversary of History’s Mistress Blog.