Monday, April 30, 2018

Celebrating Patriot's Day 2018: Adventures From Past to Present

In the doorway of the Plympton House,
built in the early part of the 18th century.
I hear there have been shots fired between
the King's army and the Citizens of the
American Colonies!

(photo by Loretta Tester)
Even though it's not an official holiday in Michigan, I still make it a point to celebrate Patriot's Day every year, and have for the past five years. I usually do so on the Saturday (or Sunday) closest to the date of April 19, which is a holiday that is, unfortunately, only celebrated in three states: Massachusetts, Maine, and Wisconsin. And to a lesser extent, Florida.
You do know of the events that occurred on that date in the year 1775, right?
Well, just in case you do not, I'll give a very quick summary:
It began on the evening of April 18th, when a number of riders, including Paul Revere, galloped out into the cool moonlit
night air to warn the townsfolk of Lexington and Concord (and Samuel Adams & John Hancock) that the British Regular Army (The Regulars) was on the march to gather the stored munitions in Concord to "end all hope of conflict"- to prevent a possible colonial uprising against the Crown. In an attempt to insure that the powder, cannon, and musket balls of Concord were secure from the Redcoats, the men of Lexington heeded the warnings from Revere (and William Dawes) and armed themselves by forming a sort of blockade in hopes of preventing the military from doing such a thing to their neighboring town. Well, on the early morning of April 19th, as the Regulars made the attempt to march through, such a skirmish did occurr between the farmers & townsfolk of Lexington and the King's army - shots were fired, causing death and serious wounds - followed by an even larger encounter as the Regulars made their way to and from Concord. This became known as the Battle of Lexington and Concord, and it was the beginning of the American Revolution, and America's fight for liberty & Independence from Britain's rule commenced.
(See the bottom of this posting for a link to give a larger account of this first battle) - - - 
Now, without the events of April 18th and 19th, we might not have an Independence Day. Or a Constitution. Or the Bill of Rights. Or George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Adams, (et al,) to guide our country's early development. All extremely important people and documents to our nation, wouldn't you say?
And yet, outside of the four states mentioned, our country, for the most part, does not celebrate Patriots Day.
Heck! Most people don't even realize what occurred on these dates!
Why is that?
Heaven knows, but I certainly am doing my best to spread the word!
And the way for this Michiganian to celebrate such an important date is by donning my period colonial clothing and visiting historic Greenfield Village in Dearborn, just outside of Detroit, where I can spend a fine time enjoying conversations with the historical presenters, and taking some pretty cool pictures in and around authentic 18th century homes. Lucky for me, I usually have friends come along for the celebration.
For one who lives in southeastern lower Michigan, it doesn't get any better than Greenfield Village, and you shall see why momentarily.

But before we get into my Patriot's Day celebration, I must tell you of my that I will call The Strange Reenacting Adventures of Ken:
So on the morning of Saturday, April 21, as I drove to Greenfield Village while wearing my colonial clothing, the temperature gauge on my van went deep into the red, meaning my motor was about to overheat. I was on I-94 near the I-75 exit (exit 216) right in the heart of Downtown Detroit. Traffic was creeping along at a snail's pace, for there was an accident in the left lane, and the right lane was closed for construction, leaving only the center lane to accommodate thousands of autos in this major metropolis. Luckily, I was able to drive my van over to the side - the people let me through from the center lane. I got out and opened the hood - it seemed to me that my thermostat may need replacing.

Anyhow, seeing that traffic on 94 was at a crawl, and so many saw me dressed as, shall we say, Paul Revere, many honked and waved, and a truck driver yelled out, "Is everything alright?"
There I am, near the tow
truck. And there's my van.
The tow-truck driver took
the picture after we dropped
off the van.
Then the tow truck driver
wanted a picture with me,
so I put my tricorn hat on
him, and, as you can see,
he loved it!
I yelled back, "My horses got loose and took off from my carriage and now I'm stuck!"
He really laughed pretty hard, gave a thumbs up, waved, and crept along on his way.
When the tow-truck driver saw me, he just smiled and said, "I love my job!" and gave me this big ol' hug and then said, "You made my day!"
After getting my van to the repair shop near where I live, the tow truck driver took a picture of me, and then he had us take a selfie together...with him wearing my tricorn hat.
He commented about how he couldn't wait to show the other drivers at the garage.

And, lucky for me, I was able to get a copy of the two pictures he took.
The moral of my story? When lemons are sent your way, lemonade isn't far away.
My friend Larissa commented  (on my Facebook page):  Do you know how many people drove by, called someone and said, “You’ll never believe what I just saw on the side of the road!”
So much for my trip to Greenfield Village on that Saturday, but at least I got to have a little fun, in spite of the situation.
But, fear not!
For I was able to celebrate Patriot's Day the very next day, Sunday April 22 (which is also Earth Day), and the following will show just how fine of a time I had - - -

Meeting up with an 18th century
presenter at the covered bridge
As often as I go to the historic open-air museum of Greenfield Village, which is usually upwards of 30 times-plus a year, I only dress period for maybe around a half dozen times, and only for certain visits (which does not include the Civil War Remembrance Weekend that I participate in over Memorial Day). Mind you, at each of these 'special non-event visits' I almost always wear my colonial clothing rather than my Civil War era clothing, for the 1770s fashion of knee breeches, buckle shoes, and cocked hat are my favorite period garments to wear. And I try to make the most out of the historic surroundings by lingering around the "colonial" section of the Village, where original houses from mainly 18th century New England have been transplanted and situated together in one general area. No, I do not pester the presenters in these historic houses, for they have a job to do and I do not want to interfere with them or the guests, though if I am quick enough I can make it down to that section before the visitors do, which allows for a bit of conversation with presenters as well as photo opportunities. 
Nor do I ever present myself as an employee to the paying visitors, for, well, I'm not, and if I am asked if I do work there, I always let them know that I don't, that I am one of those crazy history nerds who tries to get the most out of my visits, and this is the way I do it. Yeah, I do realize that what I do for a hobby is difficult for most to understand; I suppose one would have to be a die-hard living historian (like me) to really understand, for the wearing of period clothing outside a reenactment is not always explainable.
Anyhow, let's head to Greenfield Village, back in time to the 1770s, and see how my day there went: 
The bridge!
Always start with the bridge - - -
This is my time-tunnel...
And look! I have a traveling friend!
Actually, it's Rebecca, and she works at the Village, so we shall see more of her momentarily.

Here is another shot of the Ackley Bridge.
See that little figure at the opening?
Yep - - that is yours truly - - - 

So, I have my horse and my carriage.
Are you ready to go back?

(I need to put a disclaimer here, for I do not want anyone to get into trouble. I am not sitting alone in this carriage. My wife, who took the photo, lined it up perfectly to where the woman beside me cannot be seen.
By the way, this is an actual antique carriage - not sure of its age - one does not see very often inside the Village, 
so it was quite a treat for me to be able to sit inside for a few shots)

As Rebecca and I made our way to the Daggett House, we made a quick stop at the Giddings House. Unfortunately, Giddings, on this day, was mostly plexi-glassed off, so we did not stay very long.

This house was originally built by John Giddings around 1750 in the town of Exeter, New Hampshire. Giddings, one of the most active and trusted supporters of the patriotic cause in the Legislature, commanded a company of men who marched from Exeter to Portsmouth to support, if necessary, the party of General Sullivan and Laughdon in the raid upon Fort William and Mary in Portsmouth Harbor in December 1774.

Yes, this house is one of a few in the Village with Revolutionary War connections of some sort. What an honor for me to be dressed as a patriot and be photographed in front of this majestic house.

My next stop was my very favorite home inside of Greenfield Village, the house that once belonged to Samuel Daggett and his wife Anna, which was built right around the same time as the Giddings home. But, as you can see, Daggett's is a bit more on the rural side, and because of it's shape it is known as a saltbox house (or, in its own time, it was called a 'break-back' house).

Upon entering, I was greeted by the lovely Anna Daggett. 
She was preparing a meal known as fricondillas 
(Okay, she really wasn't, but play along with me here, okay? And more on Fricondillas shortly).
She had told me that Mr. Daggett had stepped out but should return shortly.

As I awaited Samuel, I took the opportunity to speak a while with Anna and Asenath, the eldest Daggett daughter. With spring finally arriving, temperatures rising, and the sun shining bright, Mrs. Daggett mentioned that, "This is likely a drying day; the wind and sun will draw the dampness from the earth. 
'Twill be a good day for the kitchen garden preparation as well, for our winter activities are being replaced by those that will require longer days and warmer temperatures to complete."

Mr. Daggett soon returned, and he and I had a fine conversation about his many jobs in the area. In fact, just this morn he visited  Nathan House to collect payment for a pair of cartwheels he had made. He also mended a cartwheel for another, and even “drew two teeth” of still another neighbor, for not only was Samuel Daggett a housewright and woodworker, but a dentist as well (at least as near a dentist as the 18th century 
could have, anyway!).
Mr. Daggett truly is a busy jack-of-all-trades
Mr. Daggett is also a patriot, and his family has helped the war effort by sending clothing and whatever supplies they could afford. He mentioned to me that, due to the work around the farm to keep it running, he paid for someone named Jacob Fox to take his son Isaiah's place in military duty so that the young 17-year-old could stay home and help with the work, for there was much to be done.

I learned that the nearby town of Coventry sent 116 men to Lexington at the start of the war. The idea of war was not a fond one, but the idea of being an independent nation was very appealing.

Mr. Daggett and I didn't just speak on the War, but also about the upcoming planting season and how he had planned to prepare the kitchen garden since the weather had improved much.
Though I was not dressed properly for this sort of labor, I did tell him I would be glad to help in getting it started

With a rake and a hoe, Samuel and I began to prepare each raised bed that is part of the kitchen garden. Besides the varieties of squash, beans, lettuce and other vegetables used to help sustain the family, Anna Daggett would have also grown plants for medical purposes as well, including wormwood, which was a purgative for stomach issues or worms, tansy was used to stop bleeding and bruising, and chamomile, which was used, same as it is today, to make a calming tea.

As you can see, there were many raised beds that needed to be prepared for planting.
As we continued on, Samuel said:

One seed for the mouse, 
one for the crow, 
one to rot, 
and one to grow.

Samuel spoke of the upcoming work that needed to be done aside from planting, such as fence and tool mending. It seems he is so busy working for others, he scarce has time for his own duties.

We then spoke of all the work that has already commenced in the far field beyond, as well as what chores were to come beginning on the morrow, as long as the weather remains favorable, including manuring, plowing, harrowing, planting, then harvesting and hauling, and other necessities that needed to be done.
On spring-plowed fields it was heavy traveling for the man who carried grain and sowed by hand. Of course, it was heavy work, even traveling over fall-plowed ground, with the grain hung over the shoulders, and the steady swing of the right arm throwing the grain as the right foot advanced, and dipping the hand into the bag for another cast of grain as the left foot advanced.   

Wheat and corn. Flax and hemp. The apple orchard for cider. Caring for the hogs, cows, oxen, sheep, horses, chickens...
...the life of a colonial farmer. 
And here we see what's left of this rick of wood pile. Colonials used quite a bit of wood in a twelve month period. According to THIS source, they would have needed at least 40 cords of wood for heating and cooking over the course of a year. A cord of wood is roughly 4 feet wide, 4 feet high, and 8 feet long.
Early Americans would have chopped the trees down by hand with an axe and then split the wood with a wedge. Most farms had a wood lot, which was an area of land dedicated solely to growing trees. A typical wood lot would be approximately 20 acres. Depending on the tree sizes, one acre of wood lot could provide enough wood for one year. With a 20 acre wood lot, the newly harvested acre would then be replanted with new trees that would then have twenty years to grow into mature trees. Colonial farmers could also clear woodland for firewood and then grow crops. Clearing land was extremely hard work and would usually require help from neighbors to get trees cut down, stumps removed, and the ground plowed.
With only the two daughters and one son that Samuel and Anna have, I can see why it was so important for him to keep Isiah home instead of allowing him to go off and fight the war; there was simply too much to do to keep the homestead running.

After our morning work, a grateful Samuel bid me to stay for dinner.
Anna was making Fricandillas, which is quite a hearty meal.

Of course, in reality I did not eat this period meal at the Daggett house (as you can probably tell by the dinner ware) but it is available to eat at one of the Greenfield Village restaurants called "A Taste of History," where patrons can taste the past with recipes taken directly from cookbooks from days gone by.

(Asparagus and potatoes this fresh in April? Shhh! We won't tell!)
If you are interested in making this 18th century meal for yourself, here is the original recipe from the mid-1700s taken from a replica of the original book The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy by Mrs. Glasse:
Take two pounds of lean veal, and half a pound of kidney suet chopped small, the crumb of a four-penny French roll, soaked in hot milk, and squeeze the milk out, put it to the veal, season it pretty high with pepper and salt, and grated nutmeg, make it into balls as big as a tea cup, with the yolks of eggs over it, and fry them in butter till they are of a fine light brown, have a quart of veal broth in a stew-pan, stew them gently three quarters of an hour, thicken it with butter rolled in flour and add the juice of half a lemon, put it in a dish with the sauce over, and garnish with notched lemon and beet-root.
It is a delicious dish, I can tell you that first-hand!

As I strolled through the Village on this beautiful spring day, one of the houses I wanted to revisit was the Plympton House. Over the winter, while Greenfield Village was closed for the season, I spent some time over at the Benson Ford Research Center, where all of the information about each structure on the more than 80 acres of The Henry Ford complex is held. And visitors are welcome to research to their heart's content, which I often do. This particular winter I dug deep into the past of the Plympton house and generations of the family that lived there.
I wrote a blog post about it (click HERE), for in my research I found out some great Revolutionary War connections to this house, which, as you may know, is a main interest of mine.
The little red Plympton House from the early part of the 18th century.
The white building to the right is the Susquehanna Plantation from the 1840s.
(Photo taken by Loretta Tester)

"An express came from Concord to Thomas Plympton Esq., who was then a member of the Provincial Congress, in that the British were on their way to Concord - between 4 and 5 o'clock in the morning. The sexton was immediately called on the bell ringing and the discharge of Musket which was to give the alarm. By sunrise the greatest part of the inhabitants were notified. The morning was remarkably fine and the inhabitants of Sudbury never can make such an important appearance probably again."

As you can see, this Plympton House sitting inside Greenfield Village is another that has direct connections to not only the Revolutionary War itself, but to the very beginnings of it: the Battle of Lexington & Concord, and it seems that Thomas Plympton received his information very early in the morning of April 19th from one of the many riders who rode out the previous night (along with Paul Revere), and all signs point to him receiving this information while he was right here in this house!

There is so much American history within these four walls. One can just 
imagine the conversations that took place inside!
Oh, those walls are a-talking!

Thomas’s son, Ebenezer Plympton, was also involved in the Revolutionary War. In fact, he is listed on the muster role as a private in Captain Aaron Haynes' Company of Militia (North Militia 1775) which was part of an Alarm Company that marched to Cambridge by Concord during the Lexington Alarm on the 19th of April, 1775 as a direct result of the early morning news. 
He was also part of Captain Asahel Wheeler's company in 1777.
To re-visit this house after learning so much more about its past gave me such a historical thrill - an amazingly incomprehensible feeling that the past truly does live on.
(And let's accent that sensation by wearing period-correct clothing!)

Taking a breather at the Susquehanna Plantation House. 
Though it was originally built in the 1840s, when first brought to Greenfield Village Henry Ford was under the impression it was much older, possibly from the early colonial era. After continued research, it was found to be the later vintage of the 19th century and, thus, is now presented as such. But it does have the features of an earlier era to it, don't you think?

Luther Burbank, famed 19th century horticulturalist, was born in this circa 1800 house, which was originally located in Lancaster, Massachusetts. He was the son of a farmer and maker of brick and pottery.
Even though is was built in 1800, it, like Susquehanna, still has the look and feel of homes from times before. What we see in this picture is the back of the house.

In the eighteenth century, log cabins began to rise throughout the American back-country, and that's where my next stop inside Greenfield Village took place
In the children’s book, “The Cabin Faced West” by Jean Fritz, the author dramatized an actual historic event that occurred at one of these frontier log cabins – when George Washington visited the Hamilton family at their cabin in western Pennsylvania. Throughout the story, Anne Hamilton wanted nothing more than to be back in Gettysburg in eastern Pennsylvania, not in a log cabin out in the middle of nowhere. That is, until General Washington showed up. Ms. Fritz wrote a dramatization of how the event may have played out on that September 1784 day: (It was when) George Washington and his party were preparing to leave that he said what Ann would treasure forever afterward. He stood at the doorway, looking toward the west, his eyes resting on Hamilton Hill, yet somehow going beyond.
“The future is travelling west with people like you,” he said to Miss Hamilton. “Here is the rising world – to be kept or lost in the same way a battlefield is kept or lost.”
George Washington turned to Ann and put his hand gently on her shoulder. “Through the courage of young girls as much as anyone’s. Some day you will live to see this whole country a rolling farmland, bright with houses and barns and churches. I envy you, Miss Hamilton.”
Ann felt her heart turning over within her. She looked out on Hamilton Hill. It seemed to her she had never seen it so beautiful - the trees more stately, the sky closer...
(To read more about Jean Fritz and this wonderful book - the book that plowed me head-first into my initial love of American history - click HERE)
Is this the Hamilton cabin?
was originally built in western fact, in the same general area as the Hamiltons!

As you know, I enjoy researching the many homes inside Greenfield Village, and I have found numerous structures to have some connection to the Revolutionary War. Though it is doubtful that this cabin, built around 1780, has any links to our War for Independence, just by itself being a frontier log cabin of the 18th century gives it the important link to America's past (aside from it being the birth place of William Holmes McGuffey, the famed author of the McGuffey Reader school books so popular in the 19th century)
Yes...lovin' America's fine history...

Continuing on with the western theme, I made my way further the western side of Greenfield Village...where I came upon a couple of buildings that were both built in the early 19th century but, once again, have a very 18th century feel about them.
Of course, aside from a church/meeting house, a gristmill was one of the first buildings erected in a new community.
From colonial times and into the first half of the nineteenth century, gristmills flourished in America by meeting an important local need in agricultural communities: grinding the farmers' grain into flour with large, circular stones.
This particular mill you see behind me (with a wooden over-shot wheel) was originally constructed near Monroe, Michigan, in 1832 by Edward Loranger, a brick mason from Quebec, who originally came down to help erect a church. Loranger stayed on in the new country, feeling the new settlement needed a grist and saw mill. He himself hewed oak timbers for beams, cut with a broad axe the whitewood siding of the building, and cut logs for a dam in the river to impound the water for power to turn the wheels.

The dark gray building behind the gristmill you see in the picture below, as it is situated inside Greenfield Village, holds a large collection of historic textile arts equipment such as weaving looms and spinning wheels, and many times there will be someone doing demonstrations.  
This building, built in 1840 and originally from the Richmond Hill plantation in Bryan County, Georgia, once housed cotton gins used for separating the seeds from the cotton.
Like some of the other early 19th century structures noted here, this weaving shop can easily be confused as one that was built in the 1700s. It sort of seems to fit in with something that could have maybe been built along side of the Wayside Inn.
At least, to me it does.

Well, before I knew it, I found myself back where I began this journey to the past.
Of course, I had such a fine time visiting the folks from 240 years ago and being able to help out when I was able.
No, unfortunately I was not sitting by myself in this carriage. There was actually a Greenfield Village employee sitting next to me, but for my ability to use Paint Shop Pro, I was able to doctor this picture up to make it look like I was the sole driver.

With my day done, my carriage was passed onto another driver who shall take it to the livery until next time.

But we're not done just yet...
Maybe a quick bite to eat before I take my leave.
I did not eat at the Eagle Tavern on this day, however. Instead, I went over to the building on the other side of the tavern, A Taste of History, where I dined on the wonderful fricondillas I spoke of earlier in this post. I will save my Eagle Tavern dining for when there will be a few of us dressed period instead of me being the lone wolf.

Alas, unfortunately, it truly was time for me to go...
My time-tunnel bridge...
There is something to be said about white picket fences...especially near a 
covered bridge. It just seems to be the epitome of Americana.

To my mind, 'Historians' dig up the bones, 'Buffs' study the bones, 
'Living Historians' put flesh and clothing on those bones, and the 'Public' have the privilege of simply admiring and learning from the results.
Or a better analogy is the relationship between farmers, cooks, and diners, all of whom, ultimately, need each other. 

My beautiful wife and I in front of
the Plympton House
Even though I was a loner in period clothing on this day, I still had a fine time indeed, for my wonderful wife came along with me and, well, she did not dress period for this excursion, which was okay by me. I was just glad she came along! Plus she took the majority of the photos you see here.
She did a great job, if you ask me!
And next time plan to see her!
Oh! One other thing before we get to the next bit:
as this was close to the opening season for Greenfield Village, many of the long-time presenters were very happy to see us after the long cold winter, and one presenter in particular made the comment, "It's so good to see all of you regulars again!"
I responded with, "I am not a regular - - I am a Patriot!"
Okay...that's my sense of sort of goes along with how I dealt with the valiant attempt to visit Greenfield Village on Saturday and my modern motorized vehicle having other plans. The thing is, on the day of the breakdown, I was supposed to meet up with my friend, Jennifer, one of our newer members of Citizens of the American Colonies, who is also a fellow Civil War reenactor. Since I was stranded on the freeway, she was stuck going solo in her Greenfield Village visit.
We were really looking forward to this, for this was her "coming out" - her first time ever wearing authentic colonial clothing.
Fortunately, a mutual friend was there, Loretta Tester, and she was able to capture images and kindly provided me with the few you see below for this post.
Jennifer also shared her thoughts as a first-time colonial lady:

"I arrived early morning at Greenfield Village, and it was so quiet - I felt like I was all alone in the Historic Village.  It was just like being back in time."  
"My first time wearing colonial clothing was such a great experience!"
That is the front of the ca1800 Burbank House that I wrote of earlier that you see here in the background.

"Walking into the Daggett House while wearing historically accurate clothing was such a special feeling. It made me think of my ancestors and how they felt." 

"Being in a building that was built in the 1750s and feeling the warmth of the crackling fire is definitely my happy place!"

"Some may be surprised, but wearing colonial-era clothing is quite comfortable." 
Thank you for sharing your experience with us Jennifer, and I look forward to having you join me and other members of Citizens of the American Colonies for some of the upcoming reenactments - there are some great ones that I know you will enjoy!

Like those who live near Colonial WilliamsburgOld Sturbridge Village, or Connor Prairie, we in southeastern Michigan are blessed to have such a historic place as Greenfield Village to visit nearly anytime we like and enjoy an abundance of America's great history.
Yes, I take advantage whenever time permits, whether in period dress or modern.
I'm lovin' it.

~   ~   ~

One more thing before we go: 
I would like to speak with you about an interesting DVD made available through the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation called "A Day in the Life."
This is the kind of video that I just eat right up - it's almost like it was made just for me!
As is written on the DVD package itself:
The DVD cover
"A Day in the Life" presents eight stories of Williamsburg residents on one day in May 1774. These stories, drawn from historic examples and years of research, help (us) to understand what daily life was like for American colonists in the years preceding the Revolutionary War.
While "A Day in the Life" takes place in Williamsburg, Virginia, the routines that are portrayed would have been familiar to people living in other British colonies in North America. These stories give (us) the opportunity to experience 18th century life from the perspective of working-class young men, women, gentlemen, merchants, enslaved and free African Americans, and more.
This series (guides the viewer) to colonial American history, explores 18th century daily life in Great Britain's North American colonies, and examines the roles of individuals in colonial communities. "A Day in the Life" immerses (us) in the colonial period and explores the 'Becoming American' story---how the diverse people who settled in the colonies evolved into a society that valued liberty, equality, and the responsibilities of citizenship."
This set just might be the most unusual depiction of the past that I own or have even seen. Through a series of eight twenty minute short stories, a much larger picture of the past is told, for each segment is interconnected, sometimes in minute ways, to the previous or following segment. And after viewing the entire set, almost three hours total, we get a very interesting idea of a typical day from sunrise to sunset for a variety of people of all classes, from slave to middling to the gentry, and how their lives all intertwine on one particular day in May 1774. 
Hence the name "A Day in the Life."
If you are looking for Hollywood movie-style thrills or talk show-type drama, you won't find it here.  Nor will you find big-name actors (though a few here aren't bad, I must say). In fact, unless you are a true history nerd who enjoys learning about mundane daily life of those from the past, you might not enjoy this very much. For it is about daily life, and it works very well, even without Hollywood theatrics. 
The background sets, by the way, are extraordinary, for it was filmed entirely at Colonial Williamsburg!
Now, if you are like me and thrive on the common, ordinary things from the past, then I can recommend it to you. Though not the quality of "A Midwife's Tale"-type docu-drama from PBS some years back, I would still put it in that type of a category of witnessing everyday life in a sort a peering-into-the-past way.
Yes, I enjoyed it and have watched it twice since purchasing it just a couple months earlier.
Just so you know, if you purchase it through The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, you are going to spend big bucks to own this set - upwards of a hundred dollars. I found it brand new on Ebay for only $20 - a much more reasonable price.
And if it is everyday life in the colonial past you seek, this just may be the video for you.
It is for me.

Until next time, see you in time.

If you liked today's posting, here are a few others I wrote that you might enjoy:
The actual account of Paul Revere's Ride, click HERE
April 19, 1775 As Seen Through the Eyes of Those Who Were There, click HERE
To learn more about the Daggett House, click HERE
For the Giddings House, click HERE
For the Plympton House, click HERE
For everyday life in the colonial times, click HERE
An excellent docu-drama of everyday life in the 18th century, "A Midwife's Tale, click HERE

~   ~   ~

Monday, April 23, 2018

Sybil Ludington: The Extraordinary Story of a Young Patriot

Sybil Ludington
I guess I just don't understand.
The comparisons between Paul Revere and his so-called female counter-part,  Sybil Ludington, that is.
When both stories are read side by side,  one finds that,  though there are similarities,  there is little to compare,  for each accomplishment was of a differing situation;  both took on an important and dangerous job,  and both completed their intended mission.
So,  as you will see here,  Sybil Ludington's accomplishment can stand on its own merit without any comparison to any other,  including Mr. Revere,  for Ludington and Revere were not in competition.
But both were patriots.  And,  in my opinion,  heroes.
Even her own father wrote:  "There is no extravagance in comparing her ride with that of Paul Revere and its midnight message."
So,  now,  with that out of the way,  let's talk about this young sixteen year old girl who went beyond extraordinary,  for it's her story you are about to read in today's posting.
Some say the ride of Sybil Ludington is a myth,  that it didn't happen,  for there is no proof.  Even the Daughters of the American Revolution said the evidence was not strong enough to support their criteria for a heroine,  and removed a book about her from their bookstore.
Well,  I feel there is more fact than fiction here.  I mean,  statues have been erected in her honor,  a postage stamp commemorating her ride was sold by the US Postal Service in 1975,  and you can even follow the path she took on that night nearly 250 years ago.
Yeah...there is little doubt to this young lady's accomplishment.
Now let's look at her story...
The late night ride of Sybil Ludington - - -

Henry Ludington
circa 1776
Colonel Henry Ludington was a farmer, miller, lawman,  and a lifelong militiaman who owned a substantial parcel of land in New York State.  He founded Ludingtonville,  which later became the town of Kent,  New York. 
Colonel Ludington fought in the Seven Years War  (aka French & Indian War)  and,  as captain,  commanded a volunteer regiment at the Battle of Ridgefield during the American Revolutionary War.  Ludington was promoted to Colonel and,  from what I've read in numerous sources,  became an aide-de-camp to General George Washington in providing spies for espionage.
Ludington's descendants have continued his legacy in several states besides New York,  including Michigan and Wisconsin.  Some became leaders in their own right and others were involved in developing towns  (Ludington,  Michigan was named for James Ludington,  nephew of Sybil,  though he never lived there).
From what I have been told,  this is a
miniature of Sybil Ludington.
Sybil Ludington  was born on April 5th,  1761 in Patterson,  New York.  She was the daughter of the aforementioned Henry Ludington and his wife Abigail Knowles Ludington.  Not long after her birth,  her family settled onto 229 acres of wilderness in Duchess County,  New York  (now part of Putnam County),  near the Connecticut border and Atlantic Ocean at Long Beach Sound.  Sybil was the oldest of Henry and Abigail’s 12 children,  and she helped raise her siblings along with her mother.  During the colonial period,  young girls such as Sybil Ludington were taught the basics of living as her era dictated,  and Sybil,  though free from many of the hardships other girls of her time may have had,  would still learn to keep a kitchen garden,  cook,  sew,  mend,  and learn to care for children.  Her parents were far from poor,  and her father had great influence in the county.  However,  as the oldest of 12 children,  she bore many burdens on her young shoulders,  such as having a prominent role in raising her siblings. 
Her fathers’  involvement in the early years of the war made him a threat to the British,  and a price was put on his head.  One night his bounty was almost collected,  if not for the quick thinking of his dedicated daughter Sybil and her younger sister Rebecca.  A British loyalist named Ichabod Prosser,  along with his men,  surrounded the Ludington’s house and were prepared to attack it.  Louis S. Patrick  (Sybil’s great-nephew)  described the events of the evening in his 1907 article for the Connecticut Magazine,  “Secret Service of the American Revolution”:
“This leader,  while on his way to New York with a large band of his followers to join the British forces,  marching in the night time,  surrounded Colonel Ludington’s house and but for their timely discovery by his daughters,  [Sybil]  and Rebecca,  would have captured him.  These fearless girls,  with guns in their hands,  were acting as sentinels,  pacing the piazza to and fro in true military style and spirit to guard their father against surprise and to give him warning of any approaching danger.  They discovered Prosser and his men and gave the alarm.  In a flash,  candles were lighted in every room of the house,  and then the few occupants marched and counter-marched before the windows and from this simple and clever ruse Prosser was led to believe that the house was strongly guarded and not dare to make an attack.”
But it was on April 25,  1777,  when the real story of our heroine begins,  for it was on this date that a 2000-man British force commanded by General William Tryon,  the governor of the Province of New York,  landed at Fairfield with twenty transports and six warships.  The next day the force moved north into Danbury,  Connecticut,  where they began to search for stores of Continental Army supplies.  The British soldiers also began leaving chalk marks on the properties of British loyalists and informers.  Properties without chalk marks were to be destroyed.
Lord Tryon burned Danbury and Fairfield,
Connecticut in late April 1777
By 4:00 pm,  several Continental Army storehouses and three private homes were in flames.  For security reasons,  the Continental Army had recently transferred its supplies from Peekskill to Danbury,  where they were thought to be safe,  and were consequently poorly guarded.  The stores included foodstuffs such as flour,  beef,  pork,  sugar,  molasses,  coffee,  rice,  wheat,  corn,  and several hundred cases of wine and rum. 
The British soldiers found the rum and decided to consume it rather than destroy it.  More fires were started by drunken soldiers as military discipline broke down.  Messengers were dispatched in all directions to announce the British arrival and news of the fires.
An exhausted messenger was dispatched from Danbury with the news of the attack,  and he reached the Ludington home at approximately 9:00 pm.  on the 26th of April.  Colonel Ludington began to organize the militia,  but his men had returned to their homes for spring planting and were scattered throughout the region.  The messenger was exhausted and not familiar with the area.
However,  daughter Sybil was very familiar with the land and surroundings.  
It is unclear whether she volunteered for the task or whether she was asked to do it by her father,  who may have  "bade her to take a horse, ride for the men,  and tell them to be at his house by daybreak.”  Either way,  it was shortly after 9:00 pm when she and her horse,  Star,  left to sound the alarm of the approach of enemy troops. 
Sybil and Star,  riding all night in the cold New England April rain,  to announce
for her father's militia to meet at the Ludington house by daybreak.
She used a stick to prod her horse and knock on doors.  “The British are burning Danbury.  Muster at Ludington’s at daybreak!”  she shouted at the farmhouses,  as she rode through the dark rainy night,  traveling some 40 miles from her home in what is now the town of Kent.  Other towns included Mahopac,  Stormville,  Carmel,  and from there to Farmers Mills then back home,  all the while avoiding British soldiers in the area,  British loyalists,  and even  "Skinners,"  who were outlaws with no allegiance to either side in the War.  Some accounts indicate that a church bell was rung in Carmel after she gave the alarm,  and that a man offered to accompany her on the rest of her ride.  These accounts claim that she declined his offer,  but instead dispatched him eastward to sound the alarm in Brewster. 
When she returned about dawn the next morning,  soaked from the rain and exhausted from riding more than forty miles,  most of the 400 soldiers were ready to march.
Ridgefield was a battle in the streets as depicted in 
this image.  The illustration shows the barricades 
made by the American troops.
Though Colonel Ludington's troops arrived too late to assist at Danbury and Ridgefield,  the militia caught up with the retreating British and was part of the force that harassed them and beat them back on their return to the beach.  Yes,  they were too late to stop the attack,  but not too late to make the opposition pay dearly.
Now,  aside from the family stories,  that's where Sybil's ride was left. 
Fortunately,  the details of her ride were told later in 1907 in Willis Fletcher Johnson’s Colonel Henry Ludington: A Memoir,  a book-length family tribute to Colonel Ludington.  It states in part:
"One who even now rides from Carmel to Cold Spring will find rugged and dangerous roads,  with lonely stretches.  Imagination only can picture what it was a century and a quarter ago,  on a dark night,  with reckless bands of  "Cowboys"  and  "Skinners"  abroad in the land.  But the child performed her task,  clinging to a man's saddle,  and guiding her steed with only a hempen halter,  as she rode through the night,  bearing the news of the sack of Danbury.  There is no extravagance in comparing her ride with that of Paul Revere and its midnight message.  Nor was her errand less efficient than his.  By daybreak,  thanks to her daring, nearly the whole regiment was mustered before her father's house at Fredericksburgh."
Alexander Hamilton wrote Col. Ludington soon after:  "I congratulate you on the Danbury expedition.  The stores destroyed have been purchased at a pretty high price to the enemy."
And it's said that Sybil received personal thanks from both General Washington and General Rochambeau,  the French commander fighting with the Americans.
Here are a couple of other accolades in tribute to young Sybil Ludington:
From Wikipedia: “In 1935 New York State erected a number of markers along her route.  A statue of Sybil,  sculpted by Anna Hyatt Huntington,  was erected near Carmel,  New York,  in 1961 to commemorate her ride.  Smaller versions of the statue exist on the grounds of the Daughters of the American Revolution Headquarters in Washington,  D.C.,  on the grounds of the public library in Danbury,  Connecticut;  and in the Elliot and Rosemary Offner museum at Brookgreen Gardens in South Carolina."

In 1975,  Sybil Ludington was honored with a postage stamp in the
“Contributors to the Cause”  for the 'United States Bicentennial series.'

And now tourists can follow the path Sybil took on that rainy April night.
Sybil Ludington & Paul Revere
at your service
Sybil's is quite a fascinating story that history seemed to have over-looked,  but there are many of us who are trying to bring it back to life.  In fact,  as you may know,  I am a historical interpreter as Paul Revere,  and I also have a partner,  Larissa,  who interprets as Miss Ludington,  and we tell the adventures of both patriots to kids in school,  to historical societies,  to libraries,  at reenactments,  and wherever else we are asked.
Both Larissa and I have had very positive results and feedback in the way that we present our Nation's history,  of which I am proud,  and that we can direct our presentation toward any age group,  whether they are school age children or senior citizens or all the age groups in between. 
But given that we are getting out the names and,  as best we can,  the truth about these two American patriots is what we are attempting to accomplish,  and it seems to be working out very well.

The grave of Sybil  (or Sibbell)  Ludington
So---what happened to Sybil after the War had ended?
After the war,  in 1784,  when she was 23 years old,  Sybil Ludington married Edmond Ogden.  They had one child together,  named Henry.  Edmond was a farmer and innkeeper,  according to various reports.  In 1792,  she settled with her husband and son in Catskill,  where they lived until her death on February 26,  1839,  at the age of 77.  She was buried near her father in the Patterson Presbyterian Cemetery in Patterson,  New York.  Her tombstone shows a different spelling of her first name.  There are several variations in the spelling of the name  “Sybil,”  all of which are correct.
Now you know.
I also would like to leave you with this final though about Sybil Ludington:
"In their return to ordinary lives and familiar gender roles,  these  (mostly nameless)  women share a bond with the thousands of American soldiers who became,  once again,  farmers and farm laborers,  planters and merchants,  dock workers and shopkeepers when the war was over."
In other words, out of all of the heroics performed during the Revolutionary War,  only very few get the accolades deserved.

Until next time,  see you in time.

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Here is a wonderful book with information about the women during the Revolutionary War:
Revolutionary Mothers by Carol Berkin

Besides the aforementioned book on Revolutionary War women,  my information for this post also came directly from the following sites:
History of American Women

Henry Ludington

Encyclopedia Britannica

American Revolutionary War

Big Trivia

And from Lost Pine

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