Sons of Liberty – Midnight Ride

As promised, I tell you now my thoughts on HISTORY Channel’s Sons of Liberty.  As I said in the earlier post, this 3-episode series made me cry.  The question “Why?” just kept ringing in my head.  Why had the producers made the choices they made?  The likely answer is ratings, I suppose. 

Though, it would seem that a venue titled HISTORY Channel might give more thought to the actual history than, say, HBO.  And this brings up the elephant in the room:  if we know that the portrayal of April 19, 1775 was so “fabricated” for the viewing public, that it cannot be trusted as History, then is anything we see on this so-called “HISTORY” Channel any more reliable? 

But I digress.

For this post, I’ll mutter a bit about the Sons of Liberty portrayal of the night of April 18th and the early parts of April 19th – up through the “Battle” of Lexington Green. 

 

Dr. Joseph Warren – philanderer?

 
First of all, let me mention that I don’t believe for a minute that Margaret Gage was sleeping with Dr. Joseph Warren.  Now, I suppose it’s possible but I imagine this was just a let’s-throw-some-sex-in-here decision by the writers/producers.  (Much like we see in the series Turn.) Though, of course, there was bound to be illicit sex in Colonial America, let’s face it; these people, for the most part were pretty religious.  Sam Adams and John Hancock, for that matter were very religious men – just read their writings. 

Dr. Warren was the head of the Sons of Liberty in Boston.  He was dedicated to a cause.  Besides that, he’d lost his wife in 1772 (leaving behind four children) and sources say that he was desperately sad – to the point of being self-destructive.  Does that mean that he didn’t have a dalliance with the Royal Governor’s wife?  No.  But I do doubt it.

Revere and Dawes – on the road again . . .

Then there’s Paul Revere and William Dawes.  I give SoL credit that they included Dawes in the ride to alert the countryside.  But there were a few problems that I picked out on this issue.  (Let me say, though, that these are really very minor issues and I might be silly to even bring them up.)  It is doubtful that Dawes and Revere had conversations in the days before the ride.  The whole Sons of Liberty/spying thing was pretty secretive.  They likely hadn’t met until they were both at the Clarke House in Lexington.

Revere didn’t ride out of Boston.  He was rowed across Back Bay, in the shadow of the HMS Somerset, to Charleston, where he was met by Patriots who loaned him a horse.  It was Deacon Larkin’s father’s horse – said to be the fastest horse in the region.  And the good Deacon wouldn’t get his dad’s horse back.

Revere gets his fight on . . .

In the series, there’s a fight scene between Revere and a Redcoat patrol that tries to stop him from alerting the countryside. Revere did run into a patrol on the road to Lexington but he was able to evade them with Brown Beauty’s speed.  But I did like this scene – which could have been inserted later and been more accurate.  When Revere is asked who he is, he answers "I’m a colonial scout for an armed resistance against the tyranny of General Gage and the British Crown."    The Redcoat says "Really" – totally unconvinced.  But it was a great line and made me smile.  And, frankly, I really liked their version of Revere.  He was a real fighter.  I like that in a Revolutionary War Hero.  More about the "Paul Revere Show" in another post.

Revere arrived in Lexington at around midnight – not in the full light of day as in the series.  In the show, he busts into a small house where Adams and Hancock are staying and warns them that they need to flee to safety.  Sam Adams wants to stay and fight – this part is true.  But the bit with Revere causing a diversion so Adams and Hancock could get away was purely made up. 

Hancock and Adams at the preachers house – and a fiancee?

Hancock and Adams were staying at the home of the Reverend Jonas Clarke – Lexington’s firebrand preacher. Jonas Clarke succeeded the Reverend John Hancock (our John Hancock’s grandfather) as preacher in Lexington. Our John Hancock spent a lot of time there as a child and young man so he was a very familiar face in Lexington.  Also staying at the Clarke home was Dolly Quincy, Hancock’s fiancee.  It was only after Revere’s capture, his release and his walk back to Lexington that he was able to convince Adams and Hancock to load up the carriage and get to safety.  Of course, John took Dolly along as well. 

Point of fact – Revere didn’t make it. . .

And finally, here’s the most important HISTORY that the HISTORY channel screwed up.  Paul Revere never made it to Concord.  He and Dawes left the Clarke home about 1am, headed to warn Concord.  Along the road they met Samuel Prescott, the young doctor from Concord and also a High Son of Liberty. The three of them rode together, but were captured by a Redcoat patrol in Lincoln.  Dawes and Prescott got away.  Dawes was unhorsed in the escape and walked back to Lexington.  Prescott got clean away and was the one that warned Concord.

Revere was let go about two hours later – and there’s a great story there which I’ll have to tell another time.  The Redcoats kept Brown Beauty and legend has it that they rode her to death.   But this brings up the point that I often make:  April 18th and 19th, 1775 were so filled with TRUE drama that a self-respecting HISTORY Channel would not have to make stories up. 

Well, I certainly didn’t mean this post to be this long.  And I thought I could get through the HISTORY Channels portrayal of events on Lexington Green.  Alas, no.  That will have to wait till next time. 

History Channel: Sons of Liberty – My Take

For several weeks, I’ve been posting reviews for the History Channel’s Sons of Liberty series on my Facebook page.  It quickly became obvious that the history was going to be sacrificed on the altar of entertainment.  In his article, Tom Verenna dissected the series in a powerful way.  But, Buck Sexton made a great point that, if the show isn’t entertaining, then it doesn’t matter if the history is right, no one will watch it. 

Okay.  Makes sense.  And a few friends were watching it and enjoying it despite it’s historical blasphemy.  So, we watched it this weekend.  It’s three episodes, each about two hours long.

And?  What was my review?  A full discussion of the April 19th, 1775 segments will follow in a series of posts.  But for now, let’s just say this:  I cried through most of the second episode and half of the third.

Tears of Joy?  Because I was seeing the settings and people I have come to love and respect and. . . Love on the screen before me, period settings and clothes on display?  Because I was so very entertained?

Well, no.  Though I did enjoy the period clothes and settings.  Anything that makes 1775 come alive before us is good, I suppose.  And, as long as I could watch it with my movie watching hat on, I was entertained.  But that became harder and harder to do after the first episode.

Tears of what then?

I think grief. Sadness. My husband posted today on his Facebook page that “the sheer distortion of the people and events that she has come to love ripped right through her.”  He’s right. 

The drama of April 19th, 1775 was the stuff legends are made of.  Most Americans have never even heard of the heroes and heroines of that day. And if they have, Paul Revere comes to mind, what they know is mixed with myth and fabrications.  A three part series could be made of that day, sticking moment by moment to the truth of that day and it would be just as entertaining as this series, if not more so.  It was the day America became America.  It was the true birthday of our nation. 

And while I don’t really want to take apart this series bit by bit – some will see it as being just so very negative – I want my readers to know the truth.  I think the truth is even better than the Sam and Paul’s Excellent Adventure that the History Channel brought us.  And, where I can, I’ll give kudos.  There are a few kudos to be had. 

So, go watch the series with the History Channel app before mid month, while it’s free.  And watch for my coming posts. 

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.

Robert Munroe – Part 2

From: Proceedings of Lexington Historical Society and papers relating to the history of the town

ROBERT MUNROE.

Read by G. W. Sampson, Oct. 12, 1857.

April 19, 1775, was the last day on earth of Robert Munroe. When aroused from his bed by the message of Paul Revere, it would have been pardonable in a man of sixty-four, who had twice seen service, to have acted on the principle of "old men for counsel and young men for war." He might well have decided that his family was fully represented on the field by his two sons and sons-in-law. But it requires a more vivid imagination than I possess, to think of Robert Munroe as hesitating for one instant.

In the band of minute-men, Munroe and his family played an important part. Lieutenant Tidd was next in rank to Captain Parker; Daniel Harrington was clerk of the Company; Munroe himself was ensign, and next in rank to lieutenant; while his two sons were privates.

Thus the father and his sons and sons-in-law all stood in line on the Common. At the first volley, the old hero was struck down. Much as I dislike a man who holds himself aloof from his fellow-men on account of the superiority of his forefathers, I believe that a proper feeling of pride in one’s ancestry is fitting and right. When I think of that brave old man, and scores like him, I say Lexington people have as good blood in their ancestry as any people of the Commonwealth.

"What the fathers won the sons defended." I was reminded of this sentiment last Memorial Day, when the grave of one of our soldiers was being decorated. Over the spot where he rested stood the color-bearer and Commander of the Post, all three — the living and the dead — direct descendants of Robert Munroe.

Two other descendants of his enlisted from a neighboring city during the Rebellion, and there were probably others who followed their example. Some have predicted that this country will degenerate through a lack of interest in her welfare; but I believe that we shall always have men in time of need of the spirit of Robert Munroe, who will spring to the front, and bravely defend what the fathers won.

Robert Munroe – Part 1

From: Proceedings of Lexington Historical Society and papers relating to the history of the town

ROBERT MUNROE.

Read by G. W. Sampson, Oct. 12, 1857.

Lexington GreenAmong old Lexington families, the Munroes stand second to none. In civil life or in time of war, they were always found at or near the front. Perhaps the three most distinguished in the Revolutionary period were Robert, Edmund, and William. I am here to speak for Robert, not because he was superior in any way to the others, but because he was my ancestor. Robert Munroe was born in Lexington, May 4, 1712.

The old stock of Munroes first settled, as I am told, in that part of Lexington which takes its name, "Scotland," from their nationality. They can be traced as far back as the time of Bruce in Scotland. We read of them at Bannockburn, Berwick, Edinburgh, in the Protestant war in Germany, in Sweden, and even in India, fighting sturdily and steadily on every occasion. Up to 165 1 the Munroes could boast of three generals, eight colonels, five lieutenant-colonels, eleven majors, more than thirty captains, and a large number of subalterns. We find the Munroes again in command of large forces in the Irish Rebellion, at Fontenoy, at Falkirk and elsewhere; everywhere, indeed, but in the rear, when there was fighting at the front.

It is an old saying that "blood will tell." When a military spirit becomes infused through generations, it only needs a spark of war to ignite the latent energy in a man and develop a first-class soldier. It follows with almost as much certainty as if he were a chemical compound, the occasion for the display of warlike attributes being the missing link in the component parts. We read with no feeling of surprise, therefore, the name of Robert Munroe as ensign of the Lexington quota in the French and Indian War. In the expedition against Louisburg, in 1758, he was color-bearer in that memorable attack, reflecting honor upon Massachusetts and upon Lexington. In 1762, he was one of a company from this town sent to watch the Indians, and prevent the reopening of hostilities before peace had been declared.

In regard to his private life and characteristics, I can give no information. Those who knew him at all, passed away more than a generation before my time; and those who knew him intimately, more than two generations.

He seems to have been a typical New Englander of that period, firm, upright, of staunch integrity, but of considerable bigotry, superstition, and prejudice; a grand old Puritan, who abhorred idleness, dishonesty, and all things superficial, who constantly attended church, trained in the militia, kept a sharp eye on public affairs, tilled his farm, and cheered his sorrow with good New England rum, after the custom of that time.

He had four children: Anna, wife of Daniel Harrington; Ruth, wife of William Tidd; and Ebenezer and John. Daniel Harrington, my ancestor, was clerk of Captain Parker’s Company at the time of the battle; and William Tidd was lieutenant. Both were afterwards prominent in town affairs, and lived to a ripe old age. From some of the elder members of my family I have heard many anecdotes of "Grandfather Harrington" and his blacksmith shop, and of "Uncle Bill Tidd," as they were familiarly called. Ebenezer and John Munroe, like most of the young men of the town, were in the events of the 19th of April, Ebenezer also seeing service in the Jersey campaign of 1776.

Sons of Liberty Flag

     We’ve all heard of the Sons of Liberty.  They were the secret group of Patriots who organized the Boston Tea Party.  But they were so much more.
     They kept track of British troop movements, rode in secret missions to warn when General Gage was sending troops to confiscate arms and powder, and they organized help for Boston when the Intolerable Acts closed Boston Harbor.
     Their flag was made up of nine vertical strips which represented the Loyal Nine.
      These nine men were the founders of the Sons of Liberty in 1765.  The Loyal Nine were even more secret than the Sons of Liberty.  It is only now that we know who they were.  Their names will likely not even ring a bell with you.  They didn’t with me.
J     ohn Avery, Henry Bass, a cousin of Samuel Adams, Thomas Chase,  Stephen Cleverly, Thomas Crafts, Benjamin Edes, Joseph Field, John Smith, George Trott.
     These men went on to be very active in the Sons of Liberty.  At least four of them participated in the Boston Tea Party. 
     The flag became knows as the “Rebellious Stripes.”  It was outlawed by the Crown.  The Colonists merely switched the strips to horizontal and kept using it.  Eventually, they added more strips to equal 13 strips.
     As you’ll see in future posts, this 13 stripe Sons of Liberty flag was used in many of the famous Revolutionary War era flags.  I can’t wait to tell you about my favorite flag.  No hints – be patient.