Friday, April 22, 2016

The Three Sisters

Our earliest forefathers came to this land knowing nothing about how to survive here and bringing little with them. But they learned. Much of what they learned about food they learned from the natives. There were many new and strange plants here that the natives had been eating and cultivating for generations.

Corn was a staple for many tribes, as were beans and pumpkins. In fact, these three crops were grown together and called "The Three Sisters." They compliment each other on more than just the dinner table. 

Corn is a grass that grows on a sturdy frame and needs plenty of nitrogen to prosper. Beans are a legume, taking nitrogen from the air and depositing it into the soil. But beans need something to support them as they grow. Both corn and beans thrive best when their roots are kept modestly moist and partially shaded. Pumpkins have broad, prickly leaves that provide shade and also help repel certain pests, like raccoons, who do not like to walk over them. 

Learning how to work with nature to provide for their survival is what kept the early settlers alive. But it also change the world. Foods found native here, like The Three Sisters, were carried back across the ocean and cultivated there as well. And while many people think of potatoes belonging to the Irish, in fact, they were taken back to Ireland from our own Colonial shores.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Remembering Patriot's Day

By Elaine Marie Cooper

Since I grew up near Boston, Massachusetts, I can never think about the week of April 19th without pausing to reflect on its meaning for our country. It was the day in 1775 when the first battles took place at the onset of the American Revolution.

As children, we all loved Patriot's Day. Parades were held in the city and the suburbs commemorating the event. A rider dressed like Paul Revere would carry the news that "The Regulars are coming!" Of course, we weren't too concerned in the 20th century about British soldiers coming down Mass Ave. If they did, we'd have likely cheered them on instead of fleeing. :)

But it was both a celebration and a memorial to the brave men—simple farmers—who made a stand against the greatest army in the world of that time. The outcome shocked the world and birthed the great country of the United States of America.

When I was young, it didn't occur to me that the very road down which the bands played and the floats sailed upon, was the very route that the British Army actually trod. It was a journey that began an eight year war.

                                                        *     *     *     *     *

Beginning in Boston the night of April 18, 1775, over 1,000 British soldiers marched their way to Concord where supplies of Colonial gunpowder were hidden. On the way, they were confronted by the brave men of Lexington. The first shots were fired and the first fatalities occurred.

Buckman Tavern, Gathering Place of the Lexington Militia
The soldiers continued their march to Concord and were surprised by the increasing numbers of Colonial militia who were bent on stopping the King's Army. Two British soldiers were killed and then buried near Concord Bridge.
The aggressive Minute Men intimidated the British forces the entire way back to Boston. Fighting Indian-style, the American militia hid behind stone walls and trees and killed numerous enemy soldiers along the way. The King's Army became more enraged by the moment. By the time they reached Menotomy Village (now Arlington, MA), reinforcements for the Brits had arrived. The worst Battle of the day occurred at the home of farmer Jason Russell.
Jason Russell House, Arlington, MA

More deaths occurred at this site than any other battlefield that day, April 19, 1775.

                                                           *     *     *     *     *

When I was a child celebrating Patriot's Day every year, I never knew that the house on the corner just one block away from my home, held the story of the worst battle that occurred that first day of the Revolution.

I often thought about that house after I grew up and decided to discover the secrets that lay within its walls. The story that I uncovered was an amazing and heartbreaking tale of love, loyalty and demise. It was an incident hidden from the history books, just waiting to be revealed. I decided to be the storyteller of the Russell family and the community that took a stand for freedom from tyranny.

And thus was birthed Fields of the Fatherless, Winner of the the 2014 Selah Award for YA Fiction; Winner of the 2014 Next Generation Book Award, Religious Fiction; and Winner of the 2014 Moonbeam Children's Book Award, Best YA Religious Fiction.

To celebrate Patriot's Day, I am giving away two gifts—a signed copy of Fields of the Fatherless and a box of eight cards of the Doolittle prints that depict the battles of April 19, 1775—to a reader who leaves a comment on this blog. I will do a drawing for those who leave their email address and announce the winner on Friday, April 22.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Georgia #RevWar Heroines Trilogy: Mammy Kate

1 - Mammy Kate

Stephen Heard
Around 1759, Virginian Stephen Heard moved his family to St. Paul’s Parish, Georgia, comprised mostly of Wilkes County. His French and Indian War service under General Washington granted him 150 acres 14 miles from the mouth of the Little River. In this area not yet secure against Creek and Cherokee Indians, Heard and his brother Barnard build a stockade enclosing a cluster of cabins, the early origin of the town of Washington.

Heard cast his lot with the colonists in the war against Britain, which cost him dearly. Tories turned his wife and young adopted daughter out into the snow, causing them to die of exposure. After taking part in the Battle of Kettle Creek, Heard was captured and sentenced to death.

In steps the patriot leader’s six-foot mammy, Kate, regarded by an 1820 letter writer to be the “biggest and tallest” black woman he had ever seen. Of pure African descent, Mammy Kate claimed descent from a great king. Kate and her husband, known as Daddy Jack, mounted two of Heard’s Arabians, Lightfoot and Silverheels, and rode fifty miles to Augusta. 

Mammy Kate
To ingratiate herself with the Tories, Kate offered to wash their clothes over a period of a couple months. Close to time for Heard’s scheduled hanging, she appealed to the British officer to extend this service to her master as well, so he would not die in dirty clothing. When she received permission, Kate entered Heard’s cell with a large, covered basket. She left carrying Heard, a handsome man of small stature, in that basket - on her head - right past the guard!

Lightfoot, Silverheels and Daddy Jack waited on the outskirts of town. Heard told Mammy Kate for her act of service he would set her free. She replied that he might do that, but she would never set him free. Thanks to Kate, Heard served a brief stint as governor of Georgia. He gave his loyal servants freedom, a tract of land and a four-room house, but Kate continued to serve the family until her death.

In 2013, the Georgia Sons of the American Revolution made Mammy Kate the first black woman below the Mason-Dixon to receive a bronze medallion for her patriotic service. Daddy Jack was awarded as well, the medals placed on their graves.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Paul Revere and His Riders

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

Thanks to the poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow called The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere, every American knows that Paul Revere made a midnight ride warning the colonists that the British are coming. Here is one stanza of the poem.

Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

One thing the poem leaves out is there were many riders who rode to warn patriots of British invasion. Here's a brief sketch of all five riders who were well known.

Sybil Ludington: Sybil was the only woman rider. Her ride took place later than the other riders, April 26, 1777, but her service to the American cause was invaluable. She was the daughter of Colonel Henry Ludington. She rode 40 miles, double the miles Revere rode, to warn the colonists at Danbury, Connecticut of the approach of the British. She was later commended by George Washington for her heroism, and a statue of her was erected along her route in Carmel, New York.

William Dawes: During the war, in 1776, William Dawes was commissioned as a second major of the Boston militia regiment. A year earlier, on the night of April 18, 1775, Doctor Joseph Warren sent William Dawes, along with Revere, to ride from Boston, Massachusetts north to Lexington to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock of their impending arrest, and to alert the colonial minutemen that the British were coming. Dawes arrived in Lexington half an hour after Revere because he took the longer route by land through the Boston Neck and his horse wasn't as fast. After warning Adams and Hancock, Dawes and Revere set out to warn Concord in case that was the British target.

British officers waited on the road between Lexington and Concord and ordered Dawes, Revere, and Prescott, another rider, to halt. The three men rode off in different directions hoping at one of them would escape. Dawes later told his children that after he rode into the yard of a house shouting that he had lured two officers there. Fearing an ambush, the officers stopped chasing him. But Dawes's horse bucked him off and ran away. He had to walk back to Lexington. Dawes and the other riders' warnings were successful. The town militas were ready for the British and won their first colonial victory. The British never found the weapons they planned to destroy and had to retreat to Boston.

In 1896, Helen F. Moore wrote this verse about the ride of Dawes.

Tis all very well for the children to hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere;
But why should my name be quite forgot,
Who rode as boldly and well, God wot?
Why should I ask? The reason is clear-
My name was Dawes and his Revere.

Samuel Prescott: Paul Revere arranged for Samuel Prescott to meet him and Dawes on the road from Lexington to Concord the night of April 18, 1775. Prescott was a native of Concord, Massachusetts and knew the territory. He was to be a guide for the other two men.
When Prescott met Revere and Dawes on the road to Concord, British officers forced them to split up. Prescott would be the only man to eventually reach Concord safely and warn the Patriots there. Prescott then continued west to warn Acton, Massachusetts while his brother Abel Prescott rode south to warn Sudbury and Framingham. By this time, many riders were also dispatched from other towns to spread the warning. Bells were rung, and cannons were fired to warn of the danger at hand.

Prescott witnessed the Battle of Concord, then rode back to Lexington where he stayed to volunteer as a surgeon for two weeks. Later he became a surgeon for the Continental Army.

Israel Bissell: Israel Bissell made the longest ride in mid April 1775, starting around the 13th of that month. According to legend, Bissell was a professional post rider for the American colonists who rode 345 miles in four days and six hours along the Old Post Road covering a total of 345 miles. He shouted along the way "To arms, to arms, the war has begun." Bissell began his journey in Watertown, Massachusetts and drove his first horse so hard that it died just outside of Worcester, Massachusetts. He continued down to Philadelphia warning the militias along the way. Bissell carried a message from General Joseph Palmer where he was supposed to pass it to another courier. The newspapers of the day printed the warning and Bissell's name as the only rider. Some believe he is a composite of all the riders who carried the warning. Even if Bissell only rode from Watertown to Hartford, he rode the furthest of the five riders, and should be remembered for this service to the American colonists. Later Bissell enlisted in the Connecticut regiment and would eventually become a sergeant under Colonel Erastus Wolcott, signer of the Declaration of Independence.

The American poet and historian, Clay Perry, wrote an ode to Bissell with these opening lines:

Listen, my children, to my epistle
Of the long, long ride of Israel Bissell,
Who outrode Paul by miles and time
But didn't rate a poet's rhyme.

Paul Revere: Paul Revere, the most famous of riders, was trained to be a silversmith. When the Stamp Act of 1765 caused financial difficulties for his business, he joined the Sons of Liberty, the group of men responsible for organizing early revolution efforts. This is how he become aquanted with Joseph Warren, the leader who sent the riders out with their warning. Between 1773 and 1775, Revere made 18 rides as a courier for the Boston Committee of Public Safety reporting unrest. One April 7, 1775, Joseph Warren sent Revere to Concord to warn the Massachusetts Provincial Congress about British troop movements. Concord citizens moved the munitions and hid them.

Before the famous ride, Revere had instructed Robert Newman, the sexton of the North Church, to send a signal by lantern to alert colonists in Charlestown about to the movements of the troops. The code was "one if by land, two if by sea", one lantern would signal the army chose the land route while two lanterns would signal the route "by water" across the Charles River. There were two lanterns hung on April 18.

On the night of April 18, 1775, Warren sent Revere to send the signal to Charlestown that the British troops were on the move. Revere rode through northern Boston warning the American patriots about the enemy's movement. He never shouted the phrase "the British are coming." He rode swiftly and in secrecy northward. His journey ended in Lexington where he met other Sons of Liberty John Hancock and Samuel Adams. After meeting up with William Dawes and Samuel Prescott, Revere was captured and questioned by the British, so he never completed his ride to Concord. After he was released the same night, he helped Hancock escape Lexington.

During the war, Revere served in the Continental Army and afterwards returned to his profession as a silversmith.

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Loyalist Dilemma

For the eighteenth-century Christian, it was no light thing to contemplate overthrowing the government as one knew it. Consider with me these verses from Romans 13:
Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God.
Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation.
For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same:
For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil.
Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake.
For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.
Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour. (KJV)
Read that first line again. Serious stuff, there, for those who had to choose between loyalty to the Crown and the cause of freedom.

British Legion Dragoon, 1780 (Don Troiani)
I’ve said elsewhere that much is made in American history of the righteous patriot, the heathen British, and the cowardly Tory. We can certainly find enough examples in those three groups to stereotype ... except that to begin with, many perfectly God-fearing people chose loyalty to the Crown (thus the terms “Loyalist” and “royalist”) out of Christian conviction.

Many also held a very valid fear that if the colonies overthrew the rule of Britain, chaos and anarchy would ensue. For several years after the Revolution ended, this certainly seemed to be a possible outcome.

And cowardice? In an age when neighbor turned against neighbor and brother against brother, and tarring and feathering was the punishment of choice, either side could be perilous. Even when people tried to hold their convictions in silence, out of mere self-preservation, they could be misunderstood and targeted.

American Provincial Corps
There's no typical profile of who chose loyalty and who didn’t. In addition to religious reasons, one article suggests that sides were chosen because of social status, although there were as many poor Tories as rich. Some chose loyalty because they recognized the colonies’ debt to Great Britain—after all, a colonist paid a fraction in taxes as the average Englishman, and Britain had spent thousands in defense of the colonies against the French. (Who ironically threw their lot in with the colonies during the American Revolution.)

A hard one to figure out was the loyalty of former Jacobites. These Scots folk had fought the Crown on behalf of their “rightful king” James and later, his son Charles. They felt King George, of Germanic descent from Hanover and not really English at all, was the usurper. Why on earth would they choose loyalty to him, with the opportunity for freedom within reach? For many, it was a matter of personal honor. After Culloden, when the last Jacobite uprising was put down and the Scots warriors and their families deported to the colonies, many were required to sign an oath of support to the Crown. Many were afraid of breaking said oath when the cause of American freedom rolled around. (And naturally, because these kinds of contradictions fascinate me, I had to work it into a story ...)

Native Americans tended to side with the Crown, as well, which had enacted laws in an attempt to contain European settlement across the Appalachian Mountains (thus why the Overmountain conflict, which led to Kings Mountain, was also such a contradiction). Also, because the British offered freedom to slaves of African descent, many blacks chose loyalty. One could argue that the Crown was motivated more by a desire to undermine the local economy than any kind of moral conviction, however, and many of the colonists who sided with “rebellion” weren’t very supportive of slavery as a whole, either, but that's another discussion for another time.

I found a handful of links with some interesting summary and commentary that pretty well lines up with what I’ve found over several years of research on the subject:

The On-Line Institute for Advanced Loyalist Studies is a great site for anyone wanting hard stats, from history to military info to geneaology and reenacting.

US History--the Loyalists and Loyalist (American Revolution):  both shortish overviews of the subject. Lots of interesting information.

There’s also one person’s take on the current refugee crisis, in light of history, specifically from the viewpoint of Canada. Did you know that much of Canada’s English-speaking population descended from America’s displaced Loyalists? Tens of thousands of emigrants fled at the close of the Revolution, many from New York and many from the Carolinas and Georgia. Some went to the West Indies, some to England, but many found homes in the region of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, including Tarleton’s Green Dragoons. A community of former African slaves later resettled in Sierra Leone.

And lastly, don’t read this one if you’re easily upset. :-) It's a fascinating overview of early American history from the British viewpoint, and hilarious depending upon your sense of humor, but definitely over-the-top.

Rather reminds me of much political discussion today. :-)