Archives for August 2014

TA-DA: My favorite flag – The Grand Union Flag

As promised – my favorite flag – the Grand Union Flag

In an earlier article, I mentioned that the Union Flag (Union between England and Scotland) was one of the most hated flags by the Insurgents in America.  It was a constant reminder that the Crown was not a friend to the Colonies, that the King and Parliament were taking away their rights as British citizens. 

Another flag I featured was the "Rebellious Stripes" flag of the Sons of Liberty. 

Well, today, let me introduce you to the Grand Union Flag – the "you-got-peanut-butter-in-my-chocolate" of Revolutionary Era flags.

As you can see, this flag is a hybrid of the Union flag and the Sons of Liberty flag.

It was first flown over George Washington’s headquarters at Cambridge on January 1, 1776. 

Here’s why I love this flag:  It was totally "in your face, oh, King!"  The British Union Flag was a ROYAL ensign and could only be used with Royal permission by official government organizations and His Majesty’s military.  Any other use was against the law. 

As the Colonial Army was being formed and made official, a royal decree came down from on high rejecting the Colonist’s "protestations of loyalty." 

This flag was our answer – a clear message of defiance.  They didn’t have the King’s permission.  And they just didn’t care.

Good on ya, boys!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Classic New England “Democracy” in Concord

Punkatasset HillIt’s early morning in Concord, April 19th, 1775. Young Dr. Samuel Prescott rode through, alerting the town to the oncoming Redcoats. By morning three groups of men gathered in the center of town.

The Minutemen – these were the young bucks. They had to be ready to go at a moment’s notice.

The Militia – these were the “middle aged” group – late-20’s into their 40’s.

The Alarm Listers – these were the “old guys” – the over 50’s group – veterans of the French and Indian war – much too old to fight.

In classic New England style, they discussed the situation. Everyone had a chance to voice his opinion.

The Minutemen were gung-ho. They wanted to rush out and meet the oncoming Redcoats – to take the fight right to the enemy.

The Militia didn’t like that idea. They wanted to stay put and protect their town.

The Alarm Listers – remember, these are the guys who’ve got the most combat experience – they wanted to wait until the numbers were more even.

“Town is no place to fight a war, boys.”

Their suggestion was to go to their training field – on Punkatasset Hill – wait for reinforcements there. From that Hill, they can see down into town and see the roads. It was a good, strategic spot.

So, after much discussion, in classic New England style, they did all three things.

The Minutemen marched out with their own fifer and drummer. They didn’t have to go far. When they realized what eight-hundred Redcoats looked like, they decided to turn around. They didn’t turn and run though. They neatly turned around, and marched back into town.

The towns people said it was a rather comical sight. Their Minutemen leading the Redcoats into town.

When they got to town, they discovered that the Militia was no longer in town. They had seen the wisdom of the “old men” and waited on the training field. So, the Minutemen just kept marching until they joined their own forces and the gathering forces from the surrounding area.

And, by the time the men on Punkatasset Hill were engaged in the battle, the old Indian fighters had what they wanted. . . A fair fight.

And now for something a little different. . .

 

I’m a day late, here.  Had some issues getting this thing put together and online.  I hope it was worth the wait.

Last week, I was privileged to tell the overview of April 19th, 1775 to the local Kiwanis Club.  Now, mind you, I can tell this story in about an hour and a half.  We had 30 minutes and had a few other stories to tell.  The gauntlet thrown down, I picked up the challenge and here is a "short" version of this inspiring story.  Enjoy. 

 

Colonel James Barrett – Concord

 

James Barrett, Colonel of the Concord Militia. He left his home early on the morning of April 19th, 1775 to join his troops first in town, then on Punkatasset Hill.

The Concord forces had been warned earlier in the week by Paul Revere that something was up – the Sons of Liberty in Boston didn’t know quite what. But they urged the Concord folks to make sure their arms and ammunition were hidden.

And, they pretty much were.

Now, Concord was not Lexington. In Lexington, they say, there were no Tories (folks loyal to the Crown) but that wasn’t true in Concord. And the Tories had been taking note of who the “Insurgents” were and passing that information on to General Gage in Boston. So, when the troops arrived that morning, they had specific places to search. And Barrett’s farm was one of those places.

Once in Concord, Colonel Smith, heading up the Redcoat column, split his men up. Some searched the town. Some went across the North Bridge to Barrett’s. And a third group was in charge of holding the North Bridge so the troops who went to Barrett’s wouldn’t be cut off.

When they got to Barrett’s, they searched but found nothing. Mrs. Barrett was there but the Colonel was with his troops. I can only imagine how scared Mrs. Barrett was. The Redcoats, while not being overly vicious, must have been completely intimidating. They forced Mrs. Barrett to make them breakfast.

Then, they offered to pay her. She told them to keep their blood money.

They began their march back to town. On their way, they saw boys up on the hills plowing. The boys waved. The Redcoats waved back.

What they didn’t know was that the boys were planting muskets in the furrows as they dug them.

And Colonel Barrett on Punkatasset Hill? Well, the Concord boys saw smoke coming from town and decided to march to town to stop the Redcoats from burning the town (that’s a whole other story for another time.) They began marching toward the North Bridge and the Redcoats opened fire on them. The Militias returned fire, killing almost half of the officers at the bridge and wounding many more. And the Pride of the British Army turned tail and ran for town.

Barrett held the bridge and, when the other detachment that had been at their house came back, the militia let them pass unmolested.

Remember the orders of the day were: Do not fire unless fired upon. To do so was a hanging offense.

But the Concord Militia and the other Militias that had joined them by now followed the Redcoat column out of Concord as they headed back to Boston. They’d have their chance soon enough.

Diguised as Indians?

Boston Tea PartyPreviously, I expounded (wow, that’s a fancy word) on the reasons for dumping the tea in the harbor.) 

Boston, 1773.  The Sons of Liberty dress as Indians to board merchant boats to dump English Tea in the harbor.  

Why were they dressed as Indians?

We’re told that they dressed as Indians as a disguise.  But, like so much we’re told in school and even in the history books we read as adults, it’s not true.

Everyone knew who was on those ships. They knew who the organizers were.  They knew them from the taverns where they got the crowd fired up before the march to the wharf. 

George Hewes, one of the “Indians” gave this report:

“It was now evening, and I immediately dressed myself in the costume of an Indian, equipped with a small hatchet, which I and my associates denominated the tomahawk, with which, and a club, after having painted my face and hands with coal dust in the shop of a blacksmith, I repaired to Griffin’s wharf, where the ships lay that contained the tea. When I first appeared in the street after being thus disguised, I fell in with many who were dressed, equipped and painted as I was, and who fell in with me and marched in order to the place of our destination.”

The Americans dressed like Indians not to disguise themselves, but to make a point.  It was a two-fold statement.  First, it was a complete identification as Americans, no longer British.  Second, the Indians were thought the most free men on earth.  In many of the political cartoons of the day, the Americans were represented as an Indian maiden. 

The Patriots were thumbing their nose at the British.  “Free men are throwing your tea in the bay.  Free men are protecting our economy.  Free men are not paying your taxes.” 

Why dump that tea?

I never quite understood the reason why Sam Adams and the Boston Patriots felt they had to dump that tea in the harbor.  I have a hunch I’m not alone. 

Here’s the deal. . .

The Townshend Acts of 1767 – a series of taxes placed on the Colonies by Parliament.

These taxes really riled up the Colonials. Their charters stated that there would be no taxes except by their own consent. They didn’t mind taxes, per se. They minded not having any voice in Parliament. So these Acts were very unpopular and boycotts ensued.

So, in 1773, Parliament came up with a sinister plan. They dropped the majority of these taxes but kept the tax on tea. Meanwhile, the East India Company, because they squawked at their downturn in business because of the boycotts and such, sucked up to the King and Parliament (lobbied) and they granted the EIC a monopoly on tea in America. Then, the British government lowered the taxes on tea, thinking that the Americans would not give up their beloved tea for the paltry taxes left on the tea.

Whoops, big misjudgment.

Here’s the resolve of the Town of Lexington regarding those East India ships carrying the tea.

"And further, we are more especially alarmed, as by these crafty measures, the revenue Act is to be established, and the rights and
liberties of Americans forever sapped and destroyed. These appear to us to be sacrifices we must make; and these are the costly pledges that must be given into the hands of the oppressor. The moment we receive this detested article (the tea on the East India ships),
the tribute will be established upon us. For nothing short of this will ever fill the mouth of the oppressor, or gorge the insatiate appetite of lust and ambition.

Once admit this subtle, wicked ministerial plan to take place — once permit this tea, thus imposed upon us by the East India Company, to be landed, received and vended, by their consignees, factors, etc., the badge of our slavery is fixed, the foundation of ruin is surely laid, and unless a wise and powerful God, by some unforeseen revolution in Providence, shall prevent, we shall soon be obliged to bid farewell to the once flourishing trade of America, and an everlasting adieu to those glorious rights and liberties, for which our worthy ancestors so earnestly prayed, so bravely fought, so freely bled!"

So, why did they dump the tea into the harbor? Because they knew that this was just the camel’s nose under the tent. They were pretty smart.

Next week we’ll answer the question: Why did they dress as Indians? It’s not what you’ve been told.

Context and Culloden

One of the many complaints I have about the way history is taught in schools is how disconnected it is. I was visiting yesterday with a former history teacher that said she remembered one test she had to give that had a number of famous generals that the kids had to identify by first, middle and last name. If the student missed any part of that the answer was wrong.

What is that about? Does that kind of “history” light a fire in students that will lead them to finding out who they are? I’m not thinking so.

History is STORY. It’s real people set in real circumstances who have their own context.

Here’s an example: General Thomas Gage.

In his book, Paul Revere’s Ride, David Hackett Fischer puts General Gage into context.

In 1775, Gage was a man trying hard to avoid war. Gage had been a soldier for over thirty years. And he was a good commander, a good soldier. But he had learned to detest war.

In 1745, he’d been present at Fontonoy, one of the bloodiest battles in the 18th Century, where 30,000 men fell on Flander’s Field.


One year later, he watched the defeat of the Highland Clans on Drumossie Moor. The slaughter at Culloden broke the Highlanders, leaving that field knee-deep in blood and tartan.

Gage then was sent to America, where he commanded the vanguard of General Braddock’s expedition against the French. That mission turned to disaster as the British troops were ambushed by the French and Indians. General Braddock was killed. Gage, though wounded, kept the way open for George Washington and his men to escape. Ironic.

By April 19th, 1775, Gage was a man who wanted peace. But he was stuck between those pesky Insurrectionists and King George. The King had ordered Gage to put this rebellion down. After the Powder Alarm of September ‘74, Gage realized that his troops were sorely outnumbered and asking the Parliament for 20,000 more men. Parliament said no.

Gage’s only option, at that point, was to use the troops he had to disarm the American Patriots.

I guess the point is: Context. Without context, how can history mean anything? What was Thomas Gage’s middle name, anyway?