revolutionary war

Most of us think of everything changing instantly when the Declaration of Independence was signed, and officially it did, but there was more to it than that. After years of oppression under the rulership of the British, the citizens of the 13 colonies had had enough. They formed the Continental Congress. The term “Continental Congress” most specifically refers to the First and Second Congresses of 1774–1781 and, at the time, was also used to refer to the Congress of the Confederation of 1781–1789, which operated as the first national government of the United States until being replaced under the Constitution of the United States. The 56 delegates to the Second Continental Congress represented the 13 colonies, 12 of which voted to approve the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776…our accepted day of Independence. The signing of the United States Declaration of Independence actually occurred on August 2, 1776, at the Pennsylvania State House in Philadelphia, which later to become known as Independence Hall. I suppose that a purist might insist that August 2nd should be our Independence Day, but the 56 delegates to the Second Continental Congress felt like once it was agreed upon, it was done. The signing was merely a technicality.

For the British government, neither of those days was acceptable, nor was the day they found out about the plan of the 13 colonies to gain their independence. In fact, that day…August 10, 1776, was the least acceptable day of all, because the British had no intention of giving the Colonies their independence…not without a fight anyway. When the news reached London, the British saw the conflict, centered in Massachusetts, as a local uprising within the British empire. Some Americans saw it that way too, but the reality is that the Declaration of Independence transformed the 13 British colonies into American states. King George III saw it as a colonial rebellion, but the Americans saw it as a struggle for their rights as British citizens. However, when Parliament continued to oppose any reform and remained unwilling to negotiate with the American rebels and instead hired Hessians, German mercenaries, to help the British army crush the rebellion, the Continental Congress began to pass measures abolishing British authority in the colonies. It was a brave move that would cost many of the 56 signers more than they could ever have imagined.

Following the signing of the Declaration of Independence, five of the signers were captured by the British and labeled as traitors. They were tortured before they died. Twelve of them had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons, who served in the Revolutionary War. Another two had sons captured, and nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War. These men knew the risks they were taking. They knew that signing the Declaration of Independence very likely would cost them their lives. Nevertheless, they also knew that they couldn’t let the tyranny continue any longer. They had come to America to escape the tyrannical British government, and they could not allow the British government to make them slaves again. They signed, knowing they would likely die, but they saw no other way. These men weren’t soldiers…so, who were they. Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists. Eleven were merchants. Nine were farmers and plantation owners. All of them were men of means and well-educated, but they signed the Declaration of Independence, knowing that the penalty would be death if they were captured. These men had their livelihood threatened and destroyed, their homes confiscated and sold, and some were threatened so badly that they had to constantly move their families from place to place. Still, not one of them saw this as one option of many. When it came to taking their country back, they saw it as the only option.

This year, mostly because of the year of the Covid-19 lockdowns, Americans are so ready to get out there. Whether we choose to wear a mask or not, we are done with staying home, small groups, missed holidays, and mostly…Covid-19!! Bob and I were blessed in that we were able to travel to the Black Hills for the Independence Day holiday last year, but many states didn’t allow it. Now…suddenly, many states are open. Of course, there are those who want us to keep things to small groups, or better yet, just stay home and don’t celebrate at all. Our answer to that, “No!! We are done with giving up our freedom!!” This nation, “One Nation Under God,” was founded on the principles of “liberty and justice for all” and “let freedom ring.” Our soldiers died to make sure that we continued to have that freedom. And we are not giving it up now!!

The Covid-19 lockdowns were never designed to make us healthier, but rather to take our freedoms, and we aren’t going to take it anymore. They still want us to stay home, but everyone I know of has opted to go out and celebrate or have people in to celebrate. We all agree that our forefathers never intended for the people of this nation to give up their rights to “kowtow” to the government!! Especially when the disease has a 97% survival rate!! And believe me when I say that no one is saying that it didn’t kill people, but that many of the people in lockdown would not have become sick, much less died. The Lockdown did nothing but hurt our economy, and rob us if our freedom.

This year is a “new year” for this nation. We are ready to take back our country and our freedom. We know who stole it, and we know who didn’t. We are excited about getting back out there and celebrating our nation’s birthday again!! This is a great nation, and we will not allow it to be stolen from us. We are ready to fight for our freedom again, and we refuse to be pushed back.

From the brave men and women who fought for the freedom of this nation in the Revolutionary War, to the brave men and women who will fight for it again, I honor you!! You are the epitome of greatness!! You don’t give up. This is our nation and this is our Independence Day!! I pray that each of you has a wonderful holiday with family and friends. Let’s get out there and be independent again!! God bless you all and God bless America!!

No country can truly be secure without an army, and the Thirteen Colonies (now the United States) was no different. After the beginning of the Revolutionary War, John Adams began to see the value of an army, so on June 10, 1775, he proposed to Congress, at a meeting in Philadelphia, that the men laying siege to Boston should be considered a Continental Army led by a general. The men who were mostly from New England, had armed themselves and rushed to surround British forces in Boston following the Battle of Lexington and Concord. Adams, who was representing Massachusetts, realized that the military effort would only succeed if the British thought the colonies were united. To achieve his united feel, Adams suggested than they appoint George Washington of Virginia, to command the Continental forces, despite the fact that New Englanders were used to fighting in local militias under officers elected from among their own ranks.

Five days later, on June 15th, Adams formally nominated George Washington as commander in chief of the Continental Army. Washington accepted the post on June 16th, and on June 17th, with no rest for the troops, the newly named army fought the Battle of Bunker Hill. John Adam’s wife, Abigail, and son, John Quincy Adams, watched the battle from their hometown of Braintree.

Just as the British had discovered the difficulties of waging war with rowdy and uncontrollable Yankees for soldiers during the Seven Years’ War, Washington was equally unimpressed when he met his supposed army. Just as the British had, he saw “stupidity” among the enlisted men, who were used to the easy familiarity of being commanded by neighbors. Upon arrival outside Boston, General George Washington organized this body of more than 22,000 men, known as the Main Army, into three divisions of two brigades each, promptly insisting that the officers behave with decorum and the enlisted men with respect. Washington had some success with this first Continental Army, but when the New Englanders went home to their farms at the end of 1775, General Washington had to start fresh with new recruits in 1776. In retrospect, I’m sure Washington had better control over the second Continental Army, because they didn’t know any other leadership style. George Washington remained the commander of the Continental Army until the end of the Revolutionary War.

Pirates, as we know them, are criminals who hijack ships to rob them of anything of value on board. Sometimes however, a “pirate” can actually be working for the government, or at least on behalf of the government. Such was the case on April 10, 1778, when Commander John Paul Jones and his crew of 140 men aboard the USS Ranger set sail from the naval port at Brest, France. They headed toward the Irish Sea. Their mission was to begin raids on British warships. This was the first mission of its kind during the Revolutionary War. These missions weren’t called piracy, but when we compare the two acts, they pretty much were piracy. They just weren’t for personal gain, but rather for the good of the country and the war effort. No one was safe, not passengers and certainly not the crew.

Commander John Paul Jones, will always be remembered as one of the most daring and successful naval commanders of the American Revolution. John Paul Jones was born under the simple birth name of John Paul on July 6, 1747, in a small cottage in Arbigland, Scotland, to John Paul Sr and Margaret Paul. His dad was a gardener, but Jones found his calling not in gardening, but at sea. He earned an apprenticeship with the British Merchant Marine at the age of 13. His seafaring adventures would eventually take him to America and, like many other sailors before him, Jones got involved in the slave trade. However, the realities of human trafficking repulsed him, and he returned to shipping cargo duties.

1773 found Jones in a very difficult situation. He murdered a mutinous sailor on the island of Tobago in self-defense…which is not really murder, but maybe in those days things were different. Whatever the case may be, Jones believed he wouldn’t receive a fair trial, so he fled to America. It was there he added the last name “Jones” to conceal his identity. Jones needn’t have worried, because the American colonies were too busy stoking the flames of war with the British to have noticed his past. When the American Revolution broke out in 1775, Jones who remembered Britain’s cruel treatment of the Scots, decided that he would side with the colonists. He joined the new Continental Navy.

Jones began skillfully attacking British ships off the American coastline and expanded his operations from there. He first captained the USS Providence, set sail to Nova Scotia, and started capturing British vessels. Next, he took command of Ranger and set course to France, where his vessel was saluted by the French Admiral La Motte Piquet. It was the first American vessel ever to be recognized by a foreign power…pretty good for a new country. In 1779 Jones made history as one of the greatest naval commanders of the Revolutionary War. His shining moment came when, while En route to raid British shipping, Jones’ warship, Bon Homme Richard, came head to head with the more powerful English warship HMS Serapis off the North Sea. The battle went on for three hours between the two vessels. At one point, Jones slammed Bon Homme into Serapis, strategically tying them together. As the story goes, when the British asked if Jones was ready to surrender, he famously responded, “I have not yet begun to fight!” Inspired by Jones’ bravado, one of his naval officers tossed a grenade onto Serapis. The severe damage caused the British to surrender in the end. Jones’ became an international hero. After the war ended, the Continental Navy dissolved due to lack of funds. Jones was dubbed the father of the United States Navy.

Jones retired to Paris, but his health took a turn for the worse. On July 18, 1792, he was found dead in his apartment at the age of 45. He was laid to rest in a French cemetery, but the plot of land was later sold and forgotten. Over one hundred years would pass before the United States was able to recover Jones’ remains with the help of French officials. After much research, his body was located and exhumed, and to the surprise of French pathologists, Jones’ body was excellently preserved. His initial autopsy concluded that the cause of his death was kidney failure, with later clinical studies believing his condition was exacerbated by a heart arrhythmia. The United States received Jones’ remains and buried them in a tomb inside the chapel of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

I am sometimes amazed at the ability of humans to be heinously cruel to other human beings. From murders, to slave owners, to prisons or prisoner of war camps, man has the ability to act out evil in its purest form. Still, one would not have expected such evil in the American Revolutionary War era. Well, one would be wrong. We all know that war is a horrific event, but worse than losing life and limb in battle, seems to be the fate faced by those who are captured by the enemy forces, only to be tortured and even killed.

During the Revolutionary War, being captured by the British often meant being sent to a prison ship, the worse of which was the HMS Jersey. Over the years of the war, approximately 11,000 prisoners of war perished on the HMS Jersey. The number of American field casualties during that war was approximately 4,500. That is a stunning difference. The HMS Jersey often held thousands of prisoners at one time, in quarters that were so close, that it could be likened to being packed in like sardines in a tin. There was no light, no medical care, barely any oxygen, and very little in the way of food and clean water. The guards on the prison ships were not concerned with keeping their prisoners alive, and HMS Jersey was the worst of them all.

The little food the prisoners were given was moldy, putrefied, and worm infested. The prisoners had to choose daily to eat the horrible food, or starve. One prisoner Ebenezer Fox, who survived said, “The bread was mostly mouldy, and filled with worms. It required considerable rapping upon the deck, before these worms could be dislodged from their lurking places in a biscuit. As for the pork, we were cheated out of it more than half the time, and when it was obtained one would have judged from its motley hues, exhibiting the consistence and appearance of variegated soap, that it was the flesh of the porpoise or sea hog, and had been an inhabitant of the ocean, rather than a sty. The provisions were generally damaged, and from the imperfect manner in which they were cooked were about as indigestible as grape shot.” That pretty much says it all, I would say. The British soldiers were seemingly unaffected by the image of prisoners banging their biscuits against the deck to remove worms, because this treatment continued throughout the conflict.

Because the prisoners were kept at sea, the smell of a piece of dirt from the shoes of a soldier back from shore leave became one of the prisoners’ greatest delights. I guess that one can always find some good, even in the worst situations, if one looks for it. Captain Dring, a survivor who wrote prolifically about his experiences on the Jersey, recalled one particularly strange consolation. When someone died on the ship, their remains were usually thrown overboard, but occasionally they were allowed to be taken ashore and laid to rest. Dring was part of a group that was tasked with digging graves on land. The men chosen for this duty were ecstatic to be on land again. Dring even took off his boots simply to feel the earth underneath his feet. However, when the crew came across a piece of broken-up turf, they did something extraordinary: “We went by a small patch of turf, some pieces of which we tore up from the earth, and obtained permission to carry them on board for our comrades to smell them. Circumstances like these may appear trifling to the careless reader; but let him be assured that they were far from being trifles to men situated as we had been. Sadly did we approach and reenter our foul and disgusting place of confinement. The pieces of turf which we carried on board were sought for by our fellow prisoners, with the greatest avidity, every fragment being passed by them from hand to hand, and its smell inhaled as if it had been a fragrant rose.”

The known fate of the men on board the prison ships, and especially HMS Jersey was a slow and painful death. Most knew better than to expect to survive their ordeal. They had seen too many of their comrades die right before their eyes, to have much hope that they could make it out. To make mattes worse, the majority of the prisoners aboard the Jersey were young, inexperienced farmhands, not hardened soldiers with survival experience. Only a few of Washington’s army were soldiers with any experience. The rest were provincial people, and many had never traveled beyond the limits of the small county where they lived. Imagine the horror of war, and then the conditions on HMS Jersey to the young, innocent men. The constant punishment, meager rations, lack of light, and lack of privacy could be tolerated, but the inactivity and helplessness most likely added depression and despair to their suffering. Times were different then, and there were things that were not available, but many of the things the prisoners suffered could have been avoided, especially the overcrowding and unsanitary conditions, but apparently they just didn’t care.

For many years, my husband, Bob Schulenberg and I have gone to the Black Hills to celebrate Independence Day. It has been our tradition for about 30 years. This year, things got changed up a bit. Our daughter, Amy Royce and her husband Travis invited us to come to Washington to spend the holiday with them. We will be watching the fireworks display at Semiahmoo Bay on the 4th. Bob and I went there a couple of years ago when we spent Thanksgiving with Amy’s family. The bay is beautiful, and I’m sure it will be even more fun in the summertime warmth…although it wasn’t very cold in November. We have never seen fireworks set off over water, so that will definitely be something new, and something about which we are very excited.

Celebrating our nation’s independence has always been a favorite holiday for Bob and me. We love everything about it. The fireworks take my thoughts back to history lessons, of the Revolutionary War. The rockets shot at ships, and the fighting that took place because we were a nation ready to be our own country. The fighting was sometimes brutal, but it was necessary. The patriots willingly gave their lives for the cause of independence. The fighting took place on land and water, and yet we have never seen fireworks over the water…until now. In my mind, I can see the ships from the Revolutionary War out in the bay. I can imagine the fireworks are the rockets, and the war is real. Nevertheless, I am glad that it isn’t really real, because I would not want our soldiers to have to relive that, but I can feel like a mouse in the corner, watching as history unfolds in front of my eyes…at least I can imagine it.

Of course, the fireworks aren’t the real thing, but rather just reminder of what our nation and the soldiers who fought for our independence, went through. My imagination of happened is just that…a figment of my imagination, because those events are long in the past. Still, I don’t believe that we should ever forget the lessons of war. There is always a reason we go to war…a wrong that must be made right, tyranny that must be stopped, killing that must be squashed, and slaves who must be made free. Good nations don’t go to war for evil purposes. I believe that the most important lesson to be taken away from any war, is that we must never trust our enemies, and even more importantly, we must never allow the enemy to infiltrate our nation and our government. Happy Independence Day to our great nation…the United States of America. Forever may our flag fly and forever may our nation stand.

You have probably heard of the famous “Shot Heard Round the World?” It is a phrase referring to several historical incidents, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in 1914, and particularly the beginning of the American Revolutionary War in 1775. Tensions had been mounting because colonists were frustrated as Britain forced them to pay taxes. The big problem was that they did not give them any representation in the British Parliament. The colonists were fair minded people and this flew in the face of that fairness. They rallied behind the phrase, “no taxation without representation.” The first shots rang out on the morning of April 19, 1775 in Lexington, Massachusetts.

At the Battle of Bunker Hill, colonial officer William Prescott ordered, “Do not fire until you see the whites of their eyes!” His troops had the courage and discipline to hold their fire until the enemy was near, an early sign that the rag-tag American army had a chance at defeating the well-trained, well-armed British troops. Congress chose George Washington as commander and chief of America’s armed forces. The Battle of Saratoga was the first great American victory of the war and is widely believed to have been the turning point that led America to triumph over Britain. The Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783, and at last, Great Britain acknowledged America’s independence. The treaty established a northern boundary with Canada and set the Mississippi River as the western boundary. In all 217,000 men took part in the war, and 4,435 lost their lives. Most people know all or at least most of this…or at least have read about it.

However, you might not know that the Revolutionary War almost started early thanks to Sarah Tarrant, a nurse with a fiery temper who lived in Salem, Massachusetts in 1775, hurled insults at the retreating redcoats aimed his musket at her, and she dared him, “Fire, if you have the courage, but I doubt it.” No shots were fired, and the British, having found no weapons, left the town. Had he shot her, the war would have started earlier than it did.

The American Revolution was a serious embarrassment to Britain, and especially to King George III. The king had to admit that things weren’t going well in the colonies…at least not where Britain was concerned. By now, the colonists had signed the Declaration of Independence that summer, and they were not going to be moved from achieving their goal to be a sovereign nation.

On this day, October 31, 1776, the king give a speech to the British Parliament, telling them about the signing of the United States Declaration of Independence and the revolutionary leaders who signed it, saying, “for daring and desperate is the spirit of those leaders, whose object has always been dominion and power, that they have now openly renounced all allegiance to the crown, and all political connection with this country.” I’m sure he felt that the colonists were rebels, who were not worth wasting time on by now, and he hoped he could walk away from them without losing face any more than he already had. The British never intended for the United States to be anything more than the colones. The king went on to inform Parliament of the successful British victory over General George Washington and the Continental Army at the Battle of Long Island on August 27, 1776, but warned them that, “notwithstanding the fair prospect, it was necessary to prepare for another campaign.” Somehow, the king had the idea that there was still hope to keep the colonies.

Despite George III’s harsh words, General William Howe and his brother, Admiral Richard Howe, still hoped to convince the Americans to rejoin the British empire in the wake of the colonists’ humiliating defeat at the Battle of Long Island. They hoped to do thing peacefully, but that was just not to be. The British could easily have prevented Washington’s retreat from Long Island and captured most of the Patriot officer corps, including the commander in chief. However, instead of forcing the former colonies into submission by executing Washington and his officers as traitors, the Howe brothers let them go with the hope of swaying Patriot opinion towards a return to the mother country. The Howe brothers’ attempts at negotiation failed, and the War for Independence dragged on for another four years, until the formal surrender of the British to the Americans on October 19, 1781, after the Battle of Yorktown. The freedom of the United States was not going to be taken from them…and that was a serious embarrassment to Britain.

When we think of our nation’s early wars, and really, up until the Persian Gulf War, soldiers were officially men only. Prior to the Persian Gulf War, any women who were in combat were disguised as men, or they were in non-combat roles, such as support staff and nurses. Few women were recognized for their service, much less honored for it, but on March 12, 1776, in Baltimore, Maryland, someone decided to change the way we looked at the effort made by women in wars. And when I say effort know that I include much sacrifice.

That day, a public notice appeared in local papers recognizing the sacrifice of women to the cause of the revolution. The notice urged others to recognize women’s contributions as well, and announced, “The necessity of taking all imaginable care of those who may happen to be wounded in the country’s cause, urges us to address our humane ladies, to lend us their kind assistance in furnishing us with linen rags and old sheeting, for bandages.” On and off the battlefield, women were known to support the revolutionary cause by providing nursing assistance. But donating bandages and sometimes applying them was only one form of aid provided by the women of the new United States. From the earliest protests against British taxation, women’s assent and labor was critical to the success of the cause. The boycotts that united the colonies against British taxation required female participation far more than male participation, in fact, the men designing the non-importation agreements chose to boycott products used mostly by women…how thoughtful of them!!

Tea and cloth are perhaps the best examples of these boycotted products. While most schoolchildren have read of the men who dressed as Mohawk Indians and dumped large volumes of tea into Boston Harbor at the Boston Tea Party, as a form of opposition to the hated Tea Act, few realize that women…not men…drank most of the tea in colonial America. Samuel Adams and his friends may have dumped the tea in the harbor, but they were far more likely to drink rum than tea when they returned to their homes. Conveniently, their actions actually deprived their wives, mothers, sisters and daughters, and not themselves. The colonists only resorted to an attempted boycott of rum in 1774, after Britain had closed the port of Boston. I guess it was time for drastic measures.

Similarly, when John Adams and other men in power thought it best to stop importing fine British fabrics with which to make their clothing during the protests of the late 1760s, it had little impact on their daily lives. Wearing homespun cloth may not have been as comfortable nor look as refined as their regular clothing, but it was Abigail and other colonial wives and homemakers, not John and his fellow men, who were forced to spend hours spinning clothes to create their families’ wardrobes. Thus, in 1776, when Abigail begged John to remember the ladies while drafting the U.S. Constitution, she was not begging a favor, but demanding payment of an enduring debt. And her husband, in good conscience could not deny her right, or her important request.

Most people think that English came from England, and of course, it did, however, in England prior to the 19th century, the English language was not spoken by the aristocracy, but rather only by “commoners.” Back then, English used to belong to the people, and I suppose that might explain some of the “incorrect” uses of the language which have been so severely attacked by contemporary English speakers. Prior to the 19th century, the aristocracy in English courts spoke French. This was due to the Norman Invasion of 1066 and caused years of division between the “gentlemen” who had adopted the Anglo-Norman French and those who only spoke English. Even the famed King Richard the Lionheart was actually primarily referred to in French, as Richard “Coeur de Lion.”

In my opinion, this dual language society would have caused numerous problems. The indication I get is that neither side could speak the language of the other, but I don’t know how a monarchy could rule, if the “commoners” could not understand the language and therefore the orders of the monarchy. French was spoken and learned by anyone in the upper classes. However, it became less useful as English lost its control of various places in France, where the peasants spoke French, too. After that…about, 1450…English was simply more useful for talking to anybody. It is still true that British royals and many nobles are fluent in French, but they only use it to talk to French people, just like everybody else.

To further confuse your preconceptions about the English language, the “British accent” was, in reality, created after the Revolutionary War, meaning contemporary Americans sound more like the colonists and British soldiers of the 18th century than contemporary Brits. Many people have made a point of how much they love the British accent, but I think very few people know the real story behind the British accent. In the 18th century and before, the British “accent” was the way we speak herein America. Of course, accents vary greatly by region, as we have seen with the accents of the south and east in the United States, but the “BBC English” or public school English accent…which sounds like the James Bond movies…didn’t come about until the 19th century and was originally adopted by people who wanted to sound fancier. I suppose it was like the aristocracy and the commoners, in that one group didn’t want to be mistaken for the other. After being handily defeated by the American colonists, I’m sure that the British were looking for a way to seem superior, even in defeat. The change in the accent of the English language was sufficient to make that distinction. Maybe it was their way of saying that they were better than the American guerilla-type soldiers who beat them in combat…basically they might have lost, but they were superior…even if it was only in how they sounded.

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