As with any war, there are opinions that are polar opposites from each other. After all, if they all agreed, there would be no need for war. The Revolutionary War was no different. Yes, the British wanted to keep the United States as colonies belonging to the crown, but the people of the United States would have none of it…well, most of the people anyway. It seems shocking to us now, to think that there would be people in the United States who would want us to remain under Britain’s rule, but in fact, there were. They were known as the Loyalists, and they set about doing whatever they could to cause the United States to lose the Revolutionary War.
Patriot, Lieutenant Colonel Francis “The Swamp Fox” Marion was fresh from a victory at Nelson’s Ferry on the Santee River in South Carolina on August 20, 1780. Marion, who was just five feet tall, won fame and the “Swamp Fox” nickname for his ability to strike and then quickly retreat into the South Carolina swamps without a trace. Marion used irregular methods of warfare and is considered one of the fathers of modern guerrilla warfare and maneuver warfare, and is credited in the lineage of the United States Army Rangers. After the victory at Nelson’s Ferry, Marion and 52 of his militiamen rode east in order to escape the pursuing British Loyalists. They were successful, but during their escape, a second and much larger, force of Loyalists led by Major Micajah Ganey, attacked the militia from the northeast. Marion’s advance guard, led by Major John James, defeated Ganey’s advance guard and Marion ambushed the rest, causing Ganey’s main body of 200 Loyalists to flee in panic. The success of Marion’s militia broke the Loyalist stronghold on South Carolina east of the PeeDee River and attracted another 60 volunteers to the Patriot cause.
Marion rarely committed his men to frontal warfare, which was much more risky, but repeatedly surprised larger bodies of Loyalists or British regulars with quick surprise attacks and equally quick withdrawal from the field. He was considered almost a ghost. Marion had previously earned fame as the only senior Continental officer in the area to escape the British following the fall of Charleston on May 12, 1780. His military strategy, while odd for the time, was really advanced for the time, and similar to some of today’s strategies. Marion took over the South Carolina militia force, first assembled by Thomas Sumter in 1780. Sumter returned home to bring Carolina Loyalists’ style terror tactics on the Loyalists who burned his plantation. After being wounded, Sumter withdrew from active fighting. Marion replaced him and teamed up with Major General Nathaniel Greene, who arrived in the Carolinas to lead the Continental forces in October 1780. Together, they are credited with pulling a Patriot victory from the jaws of defeat in the southern states.
Few people think about the American Revolutionary War any more, because it was so long ago, and we have been an independent nation for so long now, that is almost seems unimportant, but nothing could be further from the truth. The strategies used then, were among the most amazing ever, when you consider the times, and the weapons available to these armies. Just moving the cannon from one place to another was a huge undertaking. Each one weighed upwards of 4500 pounds. The cannon was a major weapon, and was truly necessary if the army was to have a chance of winning a battle. Guns didn’t shoot far enough to have much safety from enemy fire. Getting close enough to successfully fight the enemy meant putting the troops at great risk, during a time when medical assistance was not readily available.
For the English, fighting on American soil was hazardous anyway. They had the disadvantage of not knowing the terrain well, so hiding places were much more well known to the Americans. The British were at a serious disadvantage. Then, on January 28, 1777, John Burgoyne, a poet, playwright, and British general, submitted a plan to isolate New England from the other colonies, which took in modern day New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut. That area might not have been a really big area, as territories go, but it was a big undertaking for any army. Nevertheless, it was the plan that the British decided to use. Burgoyne’s plan called for 8,000 British troops from Canada to move southward through New York by way of Lake Champlain and the Mohawk River. He planned to take the Americans by surprise. General Burgoyne thought he and his troops could take control of the Hudson River and isolate New England from the other colonies.
In his plan, the isolation of New England was designed to free British General William Howe to attack Philadelphia. Unfortunately, while the plan seemed to be working, Burgoyne miscalculated the part distance would play on his plan. His supply line was stretched in a long, narrow strip from the northern tip of Lake Champlain south to the northern curve of the Hudson River at Fort Edward, New York. As Burgoyne’s army marched south, the Patriot militia was circling north. They cut off the British supply line. What had begun as a major victory, ended up as a defeat in Bennington, Vermont, and bloody draws at Bemis Heights, New York. On October 17, 1777, a frustrated Burgoyne was forced to retreat 10 miles and finally surrendered his remaining 6,000 British forces to the Patriots at Saratoga. France, upon hearing of the Patriot victory, agreed to recognize the independence of the United States. With France’s support, the Patriots took the ultimate victory. Following the defeat at Saratoga General Burgoyne returned home in shame and defeat. He was severely criticized and soon retired from active service.
In this day of the internet, cell phones, television, and radio, a new form of patriotism has emerged. The rights our American soldiers fought for are in peril. In a year in which many Americans were offended by literally everything, and the internet, specifically Facebook, has become one of the greatest sounding boards there is, everyone has stepped up to the plate to state their views and yes, even to hear the views of others. Of course, hearing the views of other people, is not always something that is well received. Sometimes, people lose sight of the fact that since we each own our own Facebook page, we also have the right to say what we want to say. Others may not agree, but that doesn’t matter, because this is our page…our right to free speech.
Of course, people with differing views have the right to challenge our views…to state their own case, as it were, but they don’t have the right to challenge our right to speak our own opinion on our own page. If we are offended by the views of another person, we need to move past the post. Never is this more evident than when the opinions of one person in a family offends another, and they decided to take things to the next level…unfriending. I won’t do that, because while I will state my opinion, and I will respect the rights of my friends to post what they choose, and to debate my opinion, the family connection is far too important to me to argue in such a way.
In history, patriots had to go to the place they were going to protest. And of course, by the time they could get there, it was probably too late to protest. I suppose maybe our politicians were more honest back then, or maybe we just didn’t know all that was going on. It has been said that some presidents would never have been elected if we could have seen them. That is so true, and sometimes I think maybe that should be how it is today. If race, gender, and maybe even party affiliation weren’t able to be seen, who would we elect? That might be something to think about. Maybe we need to stop giving a pass because of race or gender, and make the politicians do what’s right.
For as long as I can remember, my Uncle Bill Spencer was a gun dealer. He went to gun shows, had every kind of gun imaginable, and every accessory for them. Uncle Bill is a patriot, and he hated anything that remotely resembled an infringement on our Constitutional rights…especially the 2nd Amendment. Not only did he sell guns, but he talked to people about the importance of fighting for our Constitutional rights. That’s not surprising really, my dad, aunts, and uncles on both sides of my family, grew up in a time when America was strong and people understood what it took to keep it that way. Of course, there are still patriots today, but there are also far too many Americans who have forgotten the reason behind our freedoms. And that government should not be allowed to infringe upon those rights.
My Uncle Bill, and my dad, Allen Spencer, who was two years younger than his brother, were around guns and dynamite most of their lives. The dynamite shocked me when I first heard about it, but after they finished their story, it all made sense. For anyone who has ever tried to get rid of a tree stump, dynamite makes sense at some point. However, these boys were just a little bit crazy with their dynamite antics, from sinking the gate post while their mom was in town and then fixing it before she got home, to blowing up dynamite to celebrate the fourth of July, I don’t think their mom ever knew what to expect from them. Nevertheless, they were both safety conscious too…even as kids. They knew what could happen if you weren’t safe.
One time my dad heard that Uncle Bill was going to be in Rapid City for a gun show. Dad had been growing a beard for a centennial, and so didn’t look exactly like himself. We showed up at the gun show without telling him we were coming. Mom and Dad sent us girls ahead to just look around Uncle Bill’s table. Dad’s plan worked. When Uncle Bill finally realized who we were, he was both pleased and stunned. It was such a great prank to pull on him, and he was totally fooled. Then we had a wonderful visit with him afterward. Uncle Bill has always been so special to me, and I missed him a lot. I think we had a lot in common. Our interests run along the same lines, and that made our visits special, and our partings tough. I’m thankful that we still have Uncle Bill in our lives, but I wish we could see him more often. Today is Uncle Bill’s 94th birthday. Happy birthday Uncle Bill!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
During World War II, while my dad was serving in the Army Air Force at Great Ashfield, Suffolk, England, my Uncle Bill, who was passed over for military service due to his flat feet, worked at the Globe Shipbuilding Co in Superior, Wisconsin. My family was made up of patriots from way back. My aunts, Laura and Ruth worked in the shipyards as well, as riveters on the ships. Times were tough, and the war was expensive, but necessary. They all worked hard, sometimes seven days a week, twelve hours a day, and they were glad to do it. They were doing their part, it was something they were all very proud of…as were many people in those days. It was a time, when people put others first and themselves last. They saw what needed to be done and they did it. They didn’t sit back and expect others to take care of them. The got out there and they worked hard.
Still, as with any occupation, especially one that is grueling physical labor, you have to have some down time is order to rejuvenate yourself for the future tasks that you will encounter. With the gas rationing that was normal for that time in history, they couldn’t travel very far for their rest and relaxation, so the members of my dad’s family who were “holding down the fort” at home, took to the local parks and recreation areas for a little bit of picnic fun.
Places like Pattison Park and a friend’s cabin at Lake Minnesuing became places of refuge. They provided the war weary workers a place to get away from all the worry and fear for those in harm’s way…a little bit of a distraction from all that was going on in a world that had gone crazy. Gas rationing limited the plaes they could go, so they had to stay close to home, and they had to limit the outings. We don’t understand gas rationig in this day and age. We know about rising gas prices, but not rationing, where you only get so much a week or a month…where you learn to walk places or ride a bicycle places, but they did. It was a way of life during World War II. Sacrifices had to be made to ensure that evil did not take over this world, and the people of that time, military and civilian did what they had to do to see to it that evil did not take over. They were real patriots, the kind who would never gave up until the war was won. There are still a few of those people today, but I have to wonder if they are a dying breed.