In writing the Vic Challenger adventures I do quite a bit of historical research. Most is related to 1920’s and years just prior. Often though, that research leads me down a fascinating rabbit hole to other times. I constantly find interesting and surprising facts about everything. So here I would like to share a few engaging bits of trivia about things which are far from trivial, all about the Revolutionary War. It was the “big one”, where the United State of America began. As you might expect, considering Vic Challenger is a woman, I have included several items honoring the women who contributed.
First, let me share what started my thinking about the Revolutionary War. It was the photo below. I first saw it (I think) on Twitter with the caption: Grocery shopping 1895. It sounds cute, but it’s true. Getting groceries and everything else was once much more difficult than now. Sure, they had stores. That’s where you went for flour and salt and matches and bullets. You shot and cured your meat and grew and canned your veggies. I did a little math and realized, those brave souls who began this country did it 120 years before the huntress in that photo and life certainly had to be even more harsh, but they did it and set a high standard for everyone who came after.
1. Camp followers are generally civilians who follow troops for gain. One type was known back then as a sutler. That was a merchant who followed troops and sold them goods from his wagon. Prostitutes were another type of camp follower. These two types have persisted. Back then another group of camp followers were wives and families of soldiers. Sometimes the families wanted to stay together, some families had nowhere to live if the husband went away. Those women often served meals to soldiers, repaired torn clothing did laundry and other domestic chores and acted as nurses.
2. From the way back machine I recall reading about Molly Pitcher in elementary school. (Strange what sticks in your mind, isn’t it?) Her name was Mary but she was called Molly. She was a camp follower and got the nickname Molly Pitcher from carrying pitchers of water to soldiers on the battlefield. Many other women did the same. Molly’s celebrity came from the Battle of Monmouth in 1778. Her husband was member of a cannon crew and collapsed from heat exhaustion during the battle. Molly took his place and kept the cannon firing for the battle and General Washington made her a non-commissioned officer to reward her bravery. One of the links below will take you to a more detailed 3 page story of Molly (pdf).
|Molly Pitcher was just one of the brave women who helped win the Revolutionary War. Many traveled behind the troops and helped with chores like laundry and cooking.|
3. Margaret Cochran Corbin had a similar story to Molly, though sadder. Her husband was also on a cannon crew. When he was killed in battle Margaret took over. Her story didn’t end as well. She received wounds which mangled her jaw and left her without use of her left arm.
4. I’m sure you remember Paul Revere. I remember memorizing the poem (Listen my children and you shall hear of the midnight ride of Paul Revere). There was a woman who did a similar act. Sybil Ludington traveled forty miles on horseback through Putnam and Dutchess Counties to warn the militia that the British were burning Danbury, Connecticut. Sybil was only sixteen.
5. The Revolutionary War lasted 8 years, 4 months and 15 days: April 19, 1775 to September 3, 1783.
6. Probably no more than 7,000 patriots died due to battle but at least 17,000 died from disease.
7. Smallpox was the big killer. If it kept killing soldiers who knows how things might have turned out. However, early on Washington ordered all recruits receive a procedure called variolation before going into battle. It was a simple procedure which might sound disgusting to us but it worked. Step one, make a cut in the arm of a healthy soldier. Step two, wipe pus from a sore on a soldier with smallpox and smear it on the cut. It worked. It caused a lighter case of the disease and gave immunity.
8. Do you remember that famous painting of Washington standing in a boat in a ice-clogged river? Remember which river it was? It was the Delaware River on Christmas eve night, 1776. His men routed the German Hessians in Trenton, New Jersey. Troops who were expected to meet them didn’t show so they didn’t hold Trenton. However, they had been losing battles and morale was low and the action and win at Trenton re-invigorated the effort.
9. That painting of Washington was painted by German American artist Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze in 1851. He painted three versions and the original was destroyed in a bombing raid on Bremen, Germany in 1942.
10. Motivational fact for you: George Washington lost more battles than he won. Yet he became a hero and we won the war. Remember the tortoise and the hare?
11. Congress declared July 4th as an official holiday in 1870. Christmas also became an officially recognized holiday that year.
12. The oldest continuous Independence Day celebration in the United States is the 4th of July Parade in Bristol, Rhode Island; it began in 1785.
13. The White House held its first 4th of July party in 1801.
14. Three presidents have died on July 4 – James Monroe in 1831; John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both in 1826.
Don’t forget those country boys - mostly farmers and shopkeepers - who took on the most powerful nation in the world and won. Life was already harsh and they chose to make it more difficult so the future would be better for them and posterity (that's us). Ever wonder what our posterity will think of us?
Here are some links to sites where I gathered the info for this post.
http://www.theoutdoorwire.com/features/228076 where I found the photo of the huntress
Thanks for reading.
PS: If you are not on the blog at Blogger and want to make a comment but see no place below, click the title. It will take you to this post on blogger and you can comment. I'm not super tech and can't figure out how to make it show in feeds to other sites and support hasn't responded.
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