If you have read almost any book on the American Revolution or seen any documentary the odds are you will have run into quotes by Joseph Plumb Martin. Martin fought in the Revolution from 1776 through 1783, pretty much the entire time and was involved with almost every major event in the Norther Colonies during that time. His memories, of which this book above is one of the many editions, was first published in 1830 and has served as a touchstone for scholars ever since.
Through Martin’s eyes we see the history of the American Revolution literally from the trenches. We experience the horrid conditions and depredations, the fear and joy, the hunger and cold. Through his eyes we are taken to the camp and battlefield of the struggle for independence. With a no-nonsense view of the war, and the aftermath you feel the emotions served up with a little side of humor as he makes little asides to his audience.
Like many memoirs though there are some bad along with the good. Martin wrote his memories later in life and because most of the stories he tells are based on his own recollections, rather than something like a journal that was kept at the time, there are some cases of exaggeration and missing details, and incorrect ones. That happens in cases like this and for the most part can be corrected with cross referencing. None of that takes away from the narrative though.
All said this is a good book to have, a decent read and great reference. Also it can usually be found for a very decent price (especially if you click on the book cover above). Joseph Plumb Martin is not as well-known as Washington, Jefferson, and Adams, but without men like him you probably would not know a lot about those other guys. His story is the bedrock of the foundation of this country and sometimes these stories are the one that should be focused on.
On March 5, 1770 the streets in Boston were boiling. For a number of years British soldiers had been occupying the city to enforce the Parliamentary taxes that tweaked just about every citizen in the colonies. On this night a group of young men took to taunting a British soldier standing guard in front of the Custom house on King Street. The crowd grew with other British soldiers standing in line with their comrade. Eventually verbal assaults turned to rocks and ice and other projectiles being hurled at the soldiers, the crowd yelling for the men to fire their muskets the entire time. Suddenly the soldiers did with no orders actually being given. Immediately three colonists were dead, several wounded and the events of what would eventually be called The Boston Massacre gave succor to the nascent rebellion against Great Britain.
One of the colonists killed outright was Crispus Attucks. Attucks was mixed race, African and Native American and may have been either a runaway slave or a freedman, that question has support on all sides. He was a sailor who apparently was in port after his ship had arrived from the Bahamas. Little is known about him and some of what is known has been changed and mutated over time. He holds a special place in the story of the American Revolution being one of the first colonial casualties of the conflict. History remembers him for being the first African-American (his father was from Africa, his mother a Native American, Crispus himself was born in Massachusetts) as well as the first Native American to give their life to the cause.
The teapot in the picture belonged to Crispus Attucks. A small personal item that should hopefully serve to show that no matter what history tells you about the man he was just that, a man. Albeit a man who ended up on the wrong side of a musket and helped advance the cause. The cause of the American Revolution.
This the monumental 100th post on this blog. That means we have reached almost a year of telling stories and sharing some of the military of this great nation. Thank you all for your support.
Flags have been in the news a lot lately, and oddly enough if you look back through you will see that we have been talking about flags before it became fashionable. See, flags have meaning, they are symbols. The problem is that sometimes the symbols don’t mean the same thing to everyone.
The flag in this photo above should be very familiar to you. Take a close look though and you will that it is a little different.
Did you see it?
There are 48 stars. See this flag is from the WWII era and for the most part during that time if you saw this flag it meant one of two things.
To our friends it was a symbol of hope, it was a symbol that the big dog had entered the fight and we were going to be doing everything possible to win the war. For ourselves, for our friends and for the sake of the world. Many Americans and our allies died for that flag and many more since have for the very same reasons.
To our enemies it was a symbol of dread. They say the flag and knew that the fight was on. We would not quit, we would not stop until they were defeated. Early in the war our enemies underestimated us and that was to their detriment. Many enemies died in the shadow of that flag, and they still do today.
So same flag different meanings. Weird how that happens, eh?
Thanks for the first 100. Stay tuned for the next 100.
Nothing like a monument to victory.
This one stands at Yorktown were the last major battle of the American Revolution was fought. The French fleet paved the way by running of the British Navy from the Chesapeake Capes and preventing them from either supplying, reinforcing or evacuating the British forces under General Cornwallis that were cornered in Yorktown.
With the British Navy unable to render assistance the combined forces of the French and American armies surrounded the British army and placed them under siege. After several weeks, on October 19, 1781 General Cornwallis had no choice but to surrender. With the loss of another army to the rebels and facing continued conflict with the French and Spanish as well as declining public sentiment at home, peach negotiations were started in earnest. The war would continue for several more years, but for the most part the major fighting would be elsewhere.
The monument above commemorates not only that victory but also the alliance with the French. The monument was designed by Richard Morris Hunt, a New York architect, and was installed in 1884. On the top perched a sculpture of Victory, designed and sculpted by John Quincy Adams Ward.
In 1942 the monument was struck by lightning, destroying the figure of Victory. In 1957 the figure was replaced by a sculpture of Liberty designed by Oskar J. W. Hansen.
The day that this picture was taken was overcast, rain and wind made for a long day, but the walk from the visitor center to the monument was worth it once you crested the ridge and saw the monument standing guard over the battlefield and the memories of that day in October in 1781 when all fear and wonder of doubt of whether or not we could win the war was removed for good.
In some of the posts were we have looked at the Vietnam War, it has been mostly through photos taken by a man who was engaged in that war. That is him above. Not the most flattering photo, but one of the few where he is not behind the camera. His name is William (Bill) Hatfield, and he is my father. These pictures that I share on this site are his and a part of our family legacy and I Thought it was time to share a little about the man.
Bill was a US Navy corpsmen during the war. He graduated High School and found himself in the Navy very soon after. After graduating boot camp he was assigned to submarines, with a decent sized land war going it seemed like the safest place for a young man to do his time. It did not take him long to decide that being shot at was a much better option than being in an actual submarine so he switched specialties. The Navy was short of Corpsmen so the encouraged it. He underwent six weeks of Corps school before being sent to Vietnam.
Why were they short of Corpsmen? It’s the navy, they stay on ships and do out to sea things. Right? Not those guys. See the Corpsmen server as the medics for the Marines, they go where the Marines go. So Bill spent a lot of times with the Marines in country. Medics and Corpsmen are usually called Doc, and for the longest time I really believed that was his name.
He survived the war and spent almost twenty-five years in the Navy before calling it a career. He never really talked much about the war. It weighed on him and had an effect on him, it is easy to see that now. Talking to family and his friends that knew him before and after, they all saw it.
These pictures, that he took and converted to slides (which are why some are reversed if you look close) were somewhat of a family legend. Every couple of years he would find them in a closet break out the project and screen (which I have now also) and take us for a tour, He remembered names and places, had stories for everything. He was not afraid to talk about it, just never saw much point. As he got older and we grew older the shows became fewer and fewer. When they did happen the names did not come so easily and the places all melded together. Just a few years ago we decided we were going to scan in all the slides, and he would go through and write down everything he remembered about them. We never got the chance to finish the project. So most of the stories are second-hand, the names lost to time.
When I see pictures like the one above I have a hard time imagining myself doing what he did at that age. He did it though, he survived and he never let the war tear him down. Now all I can do is my best to keep that young man above alive, even if just as words on the page.
A People’s Army by Fred Anderson is an examination of New England soldiers during the Seven Years war. What sets this book apart is that the story of the war takes a backseat to the lives and communities of those who fought in it. Instead of a strict military history, the author provides a rich social history that exposes not only how the war was fought, but why and by who.
The narrative of the war itself, while far from a straight repetition of known facts, is punctuated with the experiences of the young, and sometimes not so young men that fought. The author is able to make use of a plethora of primary sources. Many New England soldiers kept journals of their military experiences. From these, Anderson is able to weave their personal stories around the solid hard data that he uncovers in the historical record. At one point Anderson goes so far as show how a number of individuals viewed one particular battle, from the mosaic of their remembrances, a full and human picture of the events can be formed.
In his study of the society, Anderson sets the stage with discussions of how the local economies worked in the absence of hard currency, and how the different working classes stood in comparison to each other. For many young men, serving in the militia was expected to be the path to financial freedom that without the war, may not have ever come to them. In this reflective look at the society these soldiers came from we see how every aspect of their life played out on the battlefield. From the decision of who would fight in the war to the religious beliefs that guided their actions, every detail followed the men into battle. Ever present was the belief that they were fighting for a better life. Far from a veritable mélange of charts and tables that have come to permeate social histories, the author manages to transpose a face onto the numbers and that face is the face of New England.
What sets this book apart is how the author details the differences between the regular British Army and the colonial military establishment. In this conflict you see how the roots of the mutual dislike and distrust that permeated relations between the colonies and the home country taking solid root, played out in the rivalry between the two different military organizations. This is where the author shines, comparing and contrasting the difference between the volunteer military establishment of New England and the professional British army and in effect calling out the societal differences between the two groups and delving into the degradation of their relations. It was these poor relations that set the stage for the coming Revolution. Even with what we know is coming down the road the author manages to press home that the colonists were proud British subjects who saw themselves as equal and deserving members of the Empire.
The book itself has garnered acclamation, including the 1982 Jamestown Prize in Early American History and the 1986 Distinguished Book Award from the Society of Colonial Wars. The author received his B.A. from Colorado State University in 1971 and his Ph.D. from Harvard in 1981. He has written a total of five books on the subject.