George Washington

12 Facts About the American Revolution My Dog Wants You to Know.

Patriot dog Zoe wanted to talk to you about American history today. She says All you have to do is listen to presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann talk about American history to see how people get it wrong. It’s not Bachmann’s fault entirely, (although Zoe thinks if she paid more attention, or got a bit more schooling she might have got the facts right.)

In American schools we are all taught the basics of American history and how this nation was formed. Interestingly enough, there are many facts that are left out of our basic education, and many things that simply aren’t true. Things Like Betsy Ross designed the first flag for the United States. Sorry, not true. And then there are things our teacher simply forgot, or didn’t know to teach us.

The list below contains 12 items, compiled by historian Thomas Fleming, that you probably didn’t know about the American Revolution. Happy 4th of July everyone.

1 The Americans of 1776 had the highest standard of living and the lowest taxes in the Western World!

Farmers, lawyers and business owners in the Colonies were thriving, with some plantation owners and merchants making the equivalent of $500,000 a year. Times were good for many others too. The British wanted a slice of the cash flow and tried to tax the Colonists. They resisted violently, convinced that their prosperity and their liberty were at stake. Virginia’s Patrick Henry summed up their stance with his cry: “Give me liberty or give me death!”

2 There were two Boston tea parties!

Everyone knows how 50 or 60 “Sons of Liberty,” disguised as Mohawks, protested the 3 cents per pound British tax on tea by dumping chests of the popular drink into Boston Harbor on December 16, 1773. Fewer know that the improper Bostonians repeated the performance on March 7, 1774. The two tea parties cost the British around $3 million in modern money.

3 Benjamin Franklin wrote the first Declaration of Independence!

In 1775, Franklin, disgusted with the arrogance of the British and appalled by the bloodshed at Lexington and Concord, wrote a Declaration of Independence. Thomas Jefferson was enthusiastic. But, he noted, many other delegates to the Continental Congress were “revolted at it.” It would take another year of bitter conflict to persuade the Congress to vote for the Declaration of Independence written by Jefferson — with some astute editorial suggestions by Franklin.

4 John Adams defended the British Soldiers after the Boston Massacre!

Captain Thomas Preston led some British Soldiers to aid another British Soldier who was having things thrown at him and was also hit several times with a board. After their arrival, the people continued to pelt the soldiers and finally shots were fired and the infamous “Boston Massacre” was over. Captain Thomas Preston and eight soldiers were charged with murder. Future President John Adams took up the defense of the soldiers. He, along with Joshua Quincy, was able to get all but two acquitted by a local jury. Those two were found guilty of manslaughter, but claimed benefit of clergy. This means that they were allowed to make penance instead of being executed. To insure that they never could use benefit of clergy again they were both branded on the thumbs.

5 History’s first submarine attack took place in New York Harbor in 1776!

The Connecticut inventor David Bushnell called his submarine the Turtle because it resembled two large tortoise shells of equal size joined together. The watertight hull was made of 6-inch-thick oak timbers coated with tar. On September 6, 1776, the Turtle targeted the HMS Eagle, flagship of the British fleet. The submarine was supposed to secure a cask of gunpowder to the hull of the Eagle and sneak away before it exploded. Unfortunately, the Turtle got entangled with the Eagle’s rudder bar, lost ballast and surfaced before the gunpowder could be planted.

6 Benedict Arnold was the best general in the Continental Army!

“Without Benedict Arnold in the first three years of the war,” says the historian George Neumann, “we would probably have lost the Revolution.” In 1775, the future traitor came within a whisker of conquering Canada. In 1776, he built a fleet and fought a bigger British fleet to a standstill on Lake Champlain. At Saratoga in 1777, his brilliant battlefield leadership forced the British army to surrender. The victory persuaded the French to join the war on the American side. Ironically, Arnold switched sides in 1780 partly because he disapproved of the French alliance.

7 By 1779, as many as one in seven Americans in Washington’s army was black!

At first Washington was hesitant about enlisting blacks. But when he heard they had fought well at Bunker Hill, he changed his mind. The all-black First Rhode Island Regiment — composed of 33 freedmen and 92 slaves who were promised freedom if they served until the end of the war — distinguished itself in the Battle of Newport. Later, they were all but wiped out in a British attack.

8 There were women in the Continental Army, even a few who saw combat!

Probably the best known is Mary Ludwig Hays, nicknamed “Molly Pitcher.” She replaced her wounded husband at his cannon during the Battle of Monmouth in 1778. Another wife of an artilleryman, Margaret Corbin, was badly wounded serving in her husband’s gun crew at the Battle of Harlem Heights in 1776. Thousands of other women served in Washington’s army as cooks and nurses.

9 George Washington was the best spymaster in American History!

He ran dozens of espionage rings in British-held New York and Philadelphia, and the man who supposedly could not tell a lie was a genius at disinformation. He constantly befuddled the British by leaking, through double agents, inflated reports on the strength of his army.

10 By 1779, there were more Americans fighting with the British than with Washington!

There were no less than 21 regiments (estimated to total 6,500 to 8,000 men) of loyalists in the British army. Washington reported a field army of 3,468. About a third of Americans opposed the Revolution.

11 At Yorktown, the victory that won the war, Frenchman outnumbered Americans almost three to one!

Washington had 11,000 men engaged in the battle, while the French had at least 29,000 soldiers and sailors. The 37 French ships-of-the-line played a crucial role in trapping the 8,700 strong British army and winning the engagement.

12 King George almost abdicated the throne when the British lost!

After Yorktown, George III vowed to keep fighting. When parliament demurred, the King wrote a letter of abdication — then withdrew it. He tried to console himself with the thought that Washington would become a dictator and make the Americans long for royal rule. When he was told that Washington planned to resign his commission, the monarch gasped: “If he does that, sir, he will be the greatest man in the world.”

It’s Flag Day.

Today is flag day here in the good old USA, and because it is, I have decided to post a little bit about the stars and stripes. First of, and please don’t hate me… The first flag with 13 stars on it was not designed by Betsy Ross. It’s true Betsy Ross, was a seamstress who took over her husband’s upholstery business after he died fighting in the Revolutionary War, but there is no real proof that she sewed the flag based on a pencil sketch from George Washington himself. Seriously, there is no real evidence has ever been found to back up this Ross family story. Like many things that surround the origins of the United States, this is probably folklore that is so etched into our collective history that we take it for granted as fact.

In fact, most historians think the flag was either based on the British East India Company’s flag or designed by Francis Hopkinson, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence and early member of Congress. Regardless of who designed it, the Continental Congress officially adopted the Stars and Stripes on June 14, 1777. While the flag has changed from its original design to what we see  today, the truth about Betsy Ross’ involvement with the design followed her to her grave.

The man credited with designing the current American flag is Robert Heft. Heft earned his place in history in 1958 while living with his grandparents in Napoleon Ohio. Heft’s updated 50-star flag began as a high school class project and was later adopted by presidential proclamation after adding Alaska as the 49th state and before adding Hawaii in 1959.

As a 17-year-old high school junior, Heft found himself in need of a class project. Heft proposed his flag idea and was turned down by the teacher. Working on his own Heft went ahead and finished his project, and received a B minus for his work. As a compromise on the grade Heft’s teacher raise it, if he could get the U.S. Congress to accept his flag as the new standard.  Needless to say he eventually got an A. Heft’s stars-and-stripes flag has been the second longest-serving design since the nation’s founding.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today marks the annual Thanksgiving holiday here in America, and as I sit here in front of my computer, in my warm home, with a hot cup of coffee, I am truly grateful and thankful for everything I have. There are so many people in the world that aren’t as fortunate as I am, and I have been blessed with so much.

Last night I got to thinking about the history of Thanksgiving. For most people the history of Thanksgiving is the story of the pilgrims and the native Americans sitting down to a huge feast at Plymouth Rock after almost starving to death in the first year of living in the colonies. Part of that is true, but the history of Thanksgiving is actually much more.

As we all know, the Pilgrims first arrived in the American colonies on December 11, 1620. The Pilgrims were not prepared for the New England winter they were to face. A winter that claimed 46 lives of the 102 pilgrims in the first few months. After surviving the winter, they were able to take advantage of the good soil, and abundant wildlife and that fall they had an excellent harvest, much of which can be attributed to what the native Americans taught them.

The Pilgrims had a traditional English Harvest Feast, giving thanks to god for surviving and for the blessings of the harvest that would help them survive the second winter in the colonies. In contrast to Thanksgiving today, the Pilgrims actually had more meat than vegetables. The menu for the Harvest Feast included venison, fish, wild fowl, which probably had very little wild turkey in it. ( The chief of the native American tribe that attended the feast brought 5 freshly killed deer to the party as a gift to the pilgrims. Another act that probably helped them to survive a second winter. ) The Pilgrims probably had very little in the way of desserts since baking items like flour and sugar would have been in short supply. They did however have an abundance of corn and fruit, instead of pumpkin pie, the probably had roasted pumpkin. The Harvest Feast lasted for three days true to its origins in England.

Thanksgiving as we know it today, was not an annual event in America for many years following the first Thanksgiving in 1621. In 1623 there had been a severe drought that had placed additional hardships on the pilgrims. In October of that year, the Pilgrims held a prayer service, praying for rain, and an end to the drought. When their prayers were answered they held another Thanksgiving celebration inviting the Native Americans to join them again. The reality is though, times in the first American colonies were hard, and being able to celebrate every year was not a reality.

On June 20th, 1676 the city of Charlestown, Massachusetts celebrated a day of Thanksgiving. It was in many respects the first official Thanksgiving celebration. This celebration however was quite different from the first Thanksgiving held by the Pilgrims in 1621. This celebration was to honor the military victory over the Native Americans which had been taking place for a number of years. This celebration would not take place again until 1789 when the city celebrated the victory of the United States over the English in the Revolutionary War. The new President George Washington established the first national Thanksgiving holiday in 1789, even though he met resistance from other founding fathers like Thomas Jefferson.

Thanksgiving as we know it today, didn’t arrive until 1863. Sarah Josepha Hale decided to promote Thanksgiving in her magazine, Boston Ladies’ Magazine and in Godey’s Lady’s Book. She also wrote letters to different governors and presidents. Abraham Lincoln finally established Thanksgiving as the last Thursday in November. The date was changed a few times (to the third Thursday), but in 1941 was finally established on its current date, the fourth Thursday in November.

Since 1863 the focus has drifted away from a day set aside to truly be thankful for all that we have. It has become a day to eat copious amounts of food, watch football on TV, nap on the couch, and as of late hit the stores for deep discounts on consumer goods. And while there is nothing wrong with any of that, the thing I am trying to remember is that this is a day to be thankful for all I have. I am truly blessed, and have a great life. I need to be thankful and extend a helping hand this holiday season to those less fortunate. I encourage everyone else to do the same.