I’m sure several of you are shaking your heads, wondering if I got the title wrong. But while American political figures officially declared their independence on July 4, 1776, winning it was another matter. And that came on a hot day in June, instead of a cold day in December.
There’s nothing wrong with your textbooks, of course. Emboldened by George Washington’s ability to maneuver the British out of Boston thanks to positioning his artillery at Dorchester Heights, America’s 2nd Continental Congress did declare their independence in Philadelphia. It’s all grandly captured in David McCullough’s book 1776 as well.
But what the texts often forget, but McCullough doesn’t, is what happened to the Americans after Independence Day. Washington suffered his worst defeat, at the Battle of Long Island. 1776 continues to be a year to forget, as Americans lose Ft. Washington and other key outposts. The army is in full retreat, and it looks bleak.
But while wins at Trenton (the famous attack on the Hessians after Christmas) and against a rear guard at Princeton give Americans a little hope, it’s dashed the following year at the Battles of Brandywine and Germantown. The British capture the American capital at Philadelphia in 1777. Many in politics want Washington replaced, by either Charles Lee or Horatio Gates.
While the British enjoy the homes and comforts of the City of Brotherly Love, Washington and his men suffer outside the town at Valley Forge. But they don’t just suffer. They train with Lafayette and Von Steuben in the snow, while the British take it easy, and the King’s officers party away. By contrast, the American officers share the miserable conditions with their men.
The next test takes place on June 28 of 1778 at Monmouth Court House (a battle reenacted every year), as the British march across New Jersey. Washington hits General Henry Clinton’s army in broad daylight, out in the open. This will be no holiday ambush, or hitting a small portion of a force. It means attacking British regulars at their full strength.
General Lee, who dislikes the plan, leads it poorly and produces a disorganized retreat. Washington relieves him of command on the spot, and organizes a rally. “Mad Anthony” Wayne, General Stirling, and Henry Knox’s artillery, the goats of Germantown, are ready to withstand an attack by General Charles Cornwallis.
The result is spectacular. Washington’s men stop Cornwallis’ attack cold, a combination of snipers and stiff resolve (and heroic stories like the legendary Molly Pitcher). While America’s cannon rake the enemy, the British guns are off on their timing. As temperatures climb to well over 100 degrees, Washington’s order for his men to leave their coats behind is brilliant. The “by-the-book British” keep the heavy items, and lose hundreds more than the Americans to heat stroke. And it’s clear who has been hard at work, practicing over the winter. Americans lose fewer soldiers in the pitched battle, and hold their ground, as the British leave the region for New York City.
But there’s a final piece that Monmouth battle archaeologists discovered, as seen on the History Channel’s Battlefield Detectives. They found, arguably for the first time, buttons issued with a simple pair of words: U.S. No longer would we see ourselves as New Yorkers first, or North Carolinians first, or Rhode Islanders first. We would be THE United States of America. And that’s a spirit the British could never beat. We’re still united, and can’t be divided.
By: John A. Tures, Professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga; The Blog, The Huffington Post, July 3, 2015
“All Rifles Welcome, Especially The Evil Black Ones”: Just A Small Reminder Of The Revolution To Come
While Adam Kokesh’s much-discussed July 4 march on Washington by gun-toting sons of liberty got called off (perhaps because of Kokesh’s frequent incarcerations), the spirit lives on in Colorado, as reported by TPM’s Tony Kludt:
A tea party group’s vow to march with guns in a Fourth of July parade has caused panic in a small Colorado town.
The Southern Colorado Patriots Club announced that its members would march with guns in the annual Independence Day parade in Westcliffe, Colo. to “make a statement that we still believe in our Constitution” to protest new gun control laws in the state, the Denver Post reported. A flier distributed by the group urged members to come to the parade with unarmed rifles.
“All rifles welcome especially the evil black ones,” the flier read.
The announcement prompted the Custer County Chamber of Commerce, the event’s sponsor, to cancel the parade as nervous citizens circulated a petition to stop the club. Donna Hood, president of the chamber, abstained from the vote to cancel the parade but told the Post that the matter has “polarized this community in a week.” The parade was ultimately saved when the Town of Westcliffe agreed to pick up the sponsorship tab.
And get this:
Although the group has marched with guns in the past, the passage of new statewide gun measures has heightened public sensitivity to the action. The state’s new 15-round limit on gun magazines is slated to take effect next week.
I’m guessing the “sensitivity” was mostly raised among second amendment absolutists, who want to remind their fellow citizens that if their “liberties” are further trifled with, they’ll feel free to respond with revolutionary violence, though they tend to call it “resistance to tyranny” or even “self-defense.”
At some point, it would be nice if regular old conservatives would denounce this sort of nonsense, not because it’s embarrassing, but because it reflects the “constitutional conservative” belief that the public policy preferences of self-styled right-wing “patriots” cannot be overridden by democratic majorities operating according to the rule of law. The thinly-disguised motive for these armed demonstrations is to remind the rest of us that we can have our Obamacare or our legalized abortion or our gun safety regulations only so long as the real Americans choose to let us by leaving the ammo at home.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Editor, Washington Monthly Political Animal, June 28, 2013