Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Patriot's Day Commemorations 2019 (part 1)

History as taught in the public school system and many colleges  "falls woefully short in details"  (a quote from 'Early American Life magazine).  And article such as THIS shows this to be true.
In my opinion, learning history should be an experience - not merely a grade.  In science class we teach students by doing hands-on experiments.  In writing classes, students read the classics and then aspire to write in a similar vein.  In Physical Education (aka "gym class"), students actually take part in the physical activities.  And with these direct experiences, students understand the subject matter to a much larger degree than only by reading books, looking at pictures, or listening to a droning lecture.
It is the same with history.  Oftentimes when I am at Greenfield Village,  I see the excitement in youngster's faces upon watching a horse with a plow, a Model T drive by, an ancient printing press print out typeset copies as was done over a century ago, sheep shearing, and the spinning of wool into yarn.  I also see the wonderment in their eyes as they are bearing witness to the old-time activities;  the questions they may have of the different objects that might look strange to their modern sensibilities, and the whys & wherefores of the chores of a long ago time before modern technology took over. 
It's these children and others like them that we must pull into the world of the past in an engulfing way, for I believe with all my heart that to have a better future, we must know the past...and not just think of it as a passing grade in class, but to understand that it was filled with real people with real feelings of happiness, sadness, love, anxiety, and even pride and loyalty.
And that is one of the main reasons why I do what I do the way I do: to teach, and to teach as historically accurate as I can.
Also, admittedly, there is some self-gratification as well.  For it's in this way I, too, can continue to learn, and, thus, teach that much better.
Let's take Patriot's Day, for example.
Larissa took this shot of me holding
my new flag - the Liberty and Union
Taunton Flag of 1774/75.
Every year I celebrate this relatively unknown holiday: the remembrance of the date of the beginning of the Revolutionary War, April 19th, as well as the evening of April 18th, for this was when Paul Revere and dozens of others took their most famous of rides to warn the Massachusetts countryside that the Regular Army (the British Redcoats) were on the march to Concord by way of Lexington to confiscate the gunpowder stored there.
So my own personal way to commemorate the events of Patriot's Day is to dress in period clothing and walk among the few houses in the colonial section of historic Greenfield Village, just feeling the presence of the past.  You see, I have to admit, it does give me a very special feeling knowing that I am in and around a home that was already standing at the time of Paul Revere's famous midnight ride, the Boston Massacre, the Boston Tea Party, during the Intolerable, Townshend, and Stamp Acts, and even the French & Indian War.  And also to think that these houses of which I speak - Daggett, Giddings, and Plympton - were in existence during the time of George Washington, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson, the American Revolution, and of the time of the Declaration of Independence;  this does something to me that simply cannot be explained.  I mean, I have little doubt that discussions involving the topics of the day had taken place inside these walls by those who lived there at the time.
Thus, whether rain or shine, by myself or with others, I do try to do my own personal remembrance of our country's founding and of the Founders.  And the three New England homes mentioned above that have been relocated to Michigan's Greenfield Village all have a Revolutionary War connection.
But more on that shortly...

This year it seems my Patriot's Day celebrations have been extended to more than a single day.  You might recall that my friend, Larissa, and I formed a partnership we call  Our Own Snug Fireside,  and under that moniker we travel throughout metro-Detroit and Michigan giving historic presentations, mostly on Colonial and Victorian farm life.  But, especially during this spring time of year we frequently get asked to do our Patriots program.  This is where folks get to meet and hear the stories of Paul Revere and Sybil Ludington.
And Benjamin Franklin.
Yes, when we  'become'  part of the Founders, a third presenter, Bob Stark, joins us.
The best part is, Bob actually looks like who he is portraying.  No one actually knows what Sybil Ludington looked like.  As for Paul Revere, well, he looked strikingly like Jack Black, but most people do not know that, so I am fairly safe in that end of my representation.
So it was on that historic date of April 18 that the three of us took turns in telling our story.  Since I work at the building in which we were presenting,  Warren Woods Tower High School,  all of the kids knew me very well, so I had a bit of a tougher time convincing them I was no longer  "Mr. Ken,"  but, rather, I was now the most well-known of the midnight riders, Paul Revere.
Okay kids, today is April 18th, 1775.
Do you realize the importance of what happened 244 years ago 
this very night?
Yes, I made certain that the kids knew just how important this date in history was, and mentioned to them that before they went to bed on this night I expected them to remember what occurred all those years ago.
And then I gave a very brief overview of the causes of the Revolutionary War, going back to the French & Indian War leading up to the Stamp Act and the other "acts" for the following eight years, then to the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party up to the night of April 18 of  '75, when the moonlight shone bright as dozens of us went out a-riding to warn the towns and villages throughout Massachusetts and beyond of the Regular Army being on the march to Lexington and then to Concord.
Of course, I concentrated on "my" most famous of warning rides, though I did include Williams Dawes, Samuel Prescott, and others who were out that night.  "And it worked!"  I exclaimed.  "The web of couriers alerted  thousands of men who came to the aid of their patriot brethren and pushed the Redcoats back to Boston...and then some."
I concluded my talk with a summary of the next day's events - April 19th - and what happened on Lexington Green and in nearby Concord.
But I like to take history a step further:
The flag that I am holding in the picture below is known as the Taunton Flag  (of Taunton, Massachusetts) - also known as the Liberty and Union Flag.  It came one year after the Boston Tea Party in 1773 and the collective punishment from the British as a result.  And let's not forget about the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia as they voiced united opposition to the British Crown and Parliament.
A plan was proposed for a symbol of defiance against British rule.  After the Sons of Liberty had forced out American Loyalists from Taunton, they  commemorated the event on Friday, October 21, 1774, when the Patriots of Taunton erected a liberty pole, which was 112 feet high, outside of the Taunton Courthouse and the house of Tory Loyalist lawyer Daniel Leonard, of whom was attacked and run out of town.
On this Liberty Pole, they raised a red ensign with the words  
"Liberty and Union"  sewn onto it.
It is thought that the Liberty and Union flag flying high on Taunton Green was the first documented flag that was raised in the colonies in defiance to British rule - it definitely was one of the first rebel flags used within British North America to express dissension against the British government and The Crown.  It also initially symbolized underlying loyalty to the Crown as the Union Jack was viewed as the King's Colours.  The popularity of the flag to the Patriots grew due to the Boston Evening Post publishing it in a story on the following Monday, October 24:
"We have just received the following intelligence from Taunton... A liberty pole as raised.  Attached to it was a Union flag with the words Liberty and Union sewed on."
The news spread quickly in Boston newspapers about the Taunton citizens’ act of defiance.  The wife of William McKinstry, the only Loyalist permitted to remain in Taunton, expressed her disdain for the flag, and in response female Patriots dragged her from her house and forced her to march in front of the liberty pole where it was flying.
The sympathy for the emotion that the flag showed could have been very dangerous for the citizens.  But Taunton showed that it was its own hub of rebellion, and prominent resident, Robert Treat Paine, went on to sign the Declaration of Independence.
Learning about the flags is a history lesson in itself, and the kids seem to enjoy hearing about this one.

There were heroes throughout the colonies in these tumultuous times, including a brave 16 year old girl who actually made a ride in a similar vein as Paul Revere, rallying Patriot soldiers nearly two years to the date of Revere's.
Please meet Sybil Ludington of Putnam County, New York.
Larissa always does a wonderful job in the telling of Sybil's adventures as a midnight rider on April 26, 1777, for it was on that night that her father, Colonel Ludington, received word from a rider that the nearby town of Danbury was under attack by British troops and needed help.  At the time, Ludington’s regiment had disbanded for planting season, and his men were miles apart at their respective farms.  With the rider too tired to continue and Colonel Ludington focused on preparing for battle, young Sybil rose to the cause.  Some accounts say she volunteered;  others that her father asked for her service, but either way, she rode through the night alerting the Colonel’s men of the danger and urging them to return to the fight.
She rode all night through dark woods and in the rain,
covering anywhere from 20 to 40 miles  (estimates vary).  
By the time she returned home, hundreds of soldiers were gathering to fight the British.  Ludington’s troops arrived too late to win the battle, though they did fight with departing British soldiers.
Some say the ride of Sybil Ludington is a myth, that it didn't happen, for there is no proof.
In my opinion I feel there is more fact than fiction here to her story. However, statues have been erected in her honor, a postage stamp commemorating her ride was sold by the US Postal Service in 1975  (at the beginning of the Bicentennial), and you can even follow the path she took on the night she rode nearly 250 years ago.
Yeah...I believe there is little doubt to this young lady's accomplishment.

And for our third Patriot presenter we have none other than Dr. Benjamin Franklin himself!
Now, Ben Franklin is a pretty recognizable fellow;  his face is on the $100 dollar bill and was once on the half-dollar coin.  His likeness is in virtually every American history book, portraits of him hang in public libraries, in schools, and have been emblazoned in the minds of billions throughout the world.
By sight, he is arguably the most famous American in the world.
My friend, Bob, has been blessed - blessed, I tell you! - to have strong similar facial features of this true American Patriot.  I mean to say that we cannot go anywhere without someone recognizing him as his historic counterpart.
At Warren Woods Tower, Dr. Franklin spoke a bit about
his early life as a candle and soap maker for his father
and as a printer's apprentice (and eventual indentured servant) 

with his brother, James.
Dr. Franklin told stories of his youth, especially when he worked for his brother as a printer.  In 1721, three years after Benjamin Franklin began his apprenticeship, James Franklin published the first issue of The New England Courant.  This was the third newspaper in the history of Boston.  After helping with the grueling and laborious process of typesetting the newspaper, Benjamin would then have to become a newsboy, and sell the paper in the streets.  One story our high school students enjoyed hearing was how Franklin fooled everyone with letters supposedly written by a widow woman named 'Silence Dogood' that were printed in his brother's paper.  No one knew this 'woman' was actually fictitious and was made up by the 16-year-old Ben who, between April and October of 1722, penned 14 letters bearing Silence's name.  At night he would leave these letters, in disguised handwriting, under the printshop's door.
James Franklin and his friends never caught on.  They could not figure out who was writing the Dogood letters!
Dr. Franklin also told of his experiments with his kite and key.
But perhaps my favorite personal story was of how he became a Patriot.  Franklin initially saw America's future as more equal part of the British Empire.  He spent 15 years in England before the revolution as a lobbyist and considered himself a loyal Englishman as well as a loyal citizen of Philadelphia.  This was generally true of the colonists.  People would often refer to going to England as "going home."  The Stamp Act was the beginning of a change of mind for Franklin.  He attempted to explain to Parliament why the colonists were so resistant to the tax, and in fact the Stamp Act was repealed.  Due to a series of circumstances that I shall not go into here (for it is quite extensive),  Franklin became a passionate patriot.  By 1774 he was committed, for he had been humiliated in a session of the privy council in England and branded a traitor.  His loyalty was now to America and he went home - and this time for him,  "going home"  meant Philadelphia.

Meet the Patriots:
The three of us - Benjamin Franklin, Sybil Ludington, and Paul Revere - were well received by the students of Warren Woods Tower High School.  
This is something we enjoy doing very much - I only wish more schools would take advantage of our presentation.
I am very proud of  our presentation group, Our Own Snug Fireside,  and the way we bring  "boring old history"  to life for kids who might otherwise not give a care.  And part of our, ahem,  master plan  is to help to show American heroes and revive Patriotism and help to give a little pride in our nation's past, which, sadly, seems to be lacking greatly these days.
Well, I can tell you first-hand that the kids here have pride and patriotism...and a much clearer understanding of how we became a nation.
And for that I am thankful.

Now, earlier I mentioned how I told the kids to remember what occurred that very evening of our presentation:  April 18, 1775.
Well, I certainly remembered, and made my own small commemoration in my own home:
Around ten o'clock on the evening of April 18,
I lit two lanterns in honor of the two that "shewn"
in the Old North Church tower 244 years earlier.
Say what you will about me. I don't care. Paying homage to our founders and those who played a role in our becoming the independent United States is something I have always felt the need to do.
And so I do...

Now, it was on the very next day, April 19th, that I continued my commemoration of Patriot's Day, for that was when the Battle of Lexington & Concord occurred, and so I made the trek to historic Greenfield Village to take a Revolutionary War home tour...right here in Dearborn, Michigan.
Yes, in my period clothing.
Please remember, however, I am not, nor have I ever been, an employee of Greenfield Village.  I am just a guy who enjoys immersing myself in the past, and there is no better way than the wearing of my mid-to-late 18th century clothing while being in and around homes of the period.
Of course, upon entering Greenfield Village I went directly to the colonial section, where the Plympton House, the Giddings House, and the Daggett House are located.  Each of the long past inhabitants of these historic 18th century houses played a role of some sort in the Revolutionary War.  I am not fully sure if this was known when each home was brought here from the east coast, but I did find the information in this posting from the on-site Benson Ford Research Center.
I modified the background and the walkway from the original, but the buildings are as they sit inside Greenfield Village.  On the left you see the Daggett Farm House, the center is the Cape Cod Farris Windmill, and on the right is the Plympton House - all from America's colonial period.
My first visitation on this April 19th was at the little red Plympton House due to its direct connection to the late-night warning riders of April 18th, and the Battle of Lexington & Concord.
Samuel Prescott was one of three riders to head to Concord on that fateful night, the other two being Paul Revere and William Dawes.  In fact, he was the only one of the three to make it to that town, for Redcoat scouts prevented Revere & Dawes from completing their desired course.  As the scouts captured Revere and chased Dawes, Prescott circled about and headed quickly to Concord, carrying Revere's warning to his townsmen.  He entered Concord at approximately 1:30 AM and alarmed Colonel Barrett and the Concord militia.  Afterwards, he rode on to Acton and then possibly to Stow.  While in Concord he triggered his brother, Abel Prescott, who rode to Sudbury and went directly to the home of Thomas Plympton, the leading Whig in Sudbury, and the town's alarm bell began to ring about 3:30 or 4:00 o'clock in the morning.  Warning guns were fired to summon militia companies on the west side of the Sudbury River and also in East Sudbury  (now Wayland).  Within thirty-five minutes the entire town of Sudbury had been awakened.
I moved up to the door - the door - that Abel Prescott himself may have pounded upon, awakening the sleeping Thomas Plympton and have him alarm the town of Sudbury that the Regulars were on the march to Concord.

As I opened the door,  there I saw...the Plymptons...  
at least, I think  I saw the Plymptons....
Hmmm....Maybe it's best that I leave.

 For me personally, it is an honor each and every time I pass 
through the doors of this house knowing what occurred back in 1775.  

The next stop on my Revolutionary tour on this Patriot's Day is the home of Samuel and Anna Daggett.  I can imagine this would be the type of house I would have lived in had I been from this era.
This break-back home, more commonly referred to as a salt-box house in our modern day, is a must visit for me each and every time.
An interesting fact about Samuel Daggett that I discovered while researching this house and his family is that he helped to defend the Colony of Connecticut during the Revolutionary War!
Mr. Daggett was also apparently stationed in the State House in New London.  In 1774, during a town meeting in Coventry, citizens agreed to a non- importation agreement, which was a formal collective decision made by the local merchants and traders not to import or export items to Britain.
Samuel Daggett also paid for someone named Jacob Fox to take his son Isaiah's place in military duty.  This was so 17-year-old Isaiah could stay home and help tend the farm, not an unheard of practice at the time.
The town of Coventry, in which this house originally sat, sent 116 men to Lexington at the start of the war. The community also sent clothing and supplies to aid the war effort.
Another connection to our country's founding!
I must say that I always enjoy standing inside the Daggett house, taking it all in, especially in period clothing, for there is no feeling like it for me.  No, not as a presenter (who are amazing, by the way), but simply of the period I am representing.
The spirits are still within the walls here
in the Daggett House.  No, not ghosts,
necessarily.  Just the past itself.

I spent a bit of time out back inspecting the trellis where the hops 
for beer-making have been planted. 

Now, this next picture was taken a year ago, for I was not able to stay at the Village as long as I would have liked to on this Patriot's Day, and since the Giddings House, like the Plympton House, is usually is plexi-glassed off for much of the year, I didn't get pictures of my visit this time around.
But I have visited this historic home on this special date of April 19th in years past, such as when this photo was taken.
Here is another picture from the previous year showing me inside the front door of Giddings with two Greenfield Village presenters.  I like to think that Gigi, with the firewood in hand, is a servant helping the mistress of the house.
However, Gigi was actually working at Daggett on the day this photo was taken.  It is wonderful to see the differences between the two homes.  There was a time when both Giddings and Daggett would each have period dressed presenters to play off the differences of urban and rural 18th century life.  I wish they would bring that back.
When there are no visitors about, I greatly enjoy interacting with the wonderful presenters of Greenfield Village. 
The Giddings House also has Revolutionary War history as well:
John Giddings, one of the most active and trusted supporters of the patriotic cause in the Legislature, commanded a company of those 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.  In 1775, Giddings was nominated for the important appointment of delegate to the Continental Congress, but modestly withdrew his name.
In the book  "Rolls and Documents Relating to Soldiers of the Revolutionary War,"  I found a Captain John Giddings under the  "Exeter Account."   The documentation at the Benson Ford Research Center confirmed that this was the one and the same John Giddings who built and lived in the house now situated inside Greenfield Village.
There were four other members of the Giddings Family, along with Joseph Pearson (who married a Giddings daughter), who served in the Revolutionary War. 
Yes, my third venture into a Revolutionary War home.
This has been such a fine April 19th!  I simply cannot think of a better way to spend this day but to be inside homes whose inhabitants played a role in our War for Independence!
Again, it is such an honor.

Now the fourth and final American colonial-era home I visited has, as far as I know, no connection to the War.
The 1780 log cabin was the birthplace of William Holmes McGuffey, who would, beginning in 1836, publish the most popular school text books of the 19th century, The McGuffey Eclectic Reader.
Even though the McGuffey Cabin has no connections to the Revolutionary War, I still felt the want to stop in for a visit, due to the fact that it was built during that time.
Another picture taken the previous year that gives off a nice 
impression of a later 18th century frontier cabin.

However, I did take this picture on April 19th of this year.
Although I could not stay quite as long as I had hoped to, I still had a wonderful time visiting Greenfield Village on Patriot's Day.
I also had quite the time on the day before during our school presentation.
There is so much more to history than what the textbooks tell us.  Visiting the past and digging deeper to find the untold stories is what helps the world of long ago come to life for me.  And then I can share those stories...

Now, just so you are aware, I am still not quite done commemorating Patriot's Day.  As I wrote HERE, my Citizens of the American Colonies is hosting, for the first time, a Patriot's Day event at Historic Mill Race Village in Northville, Michigan.
I believe you'll be reading how that turned out in my next posting.
Stay tuned...

Until next time, see you in time.

To learn more about the Plympton House, please click HERE
To learn more about the Daggett House, please click HERE
To learn more about the Giddings House, please click HERE
To learn more about Paul Revere's ride, please click HERE
To learn more about Sybil Ludington's ride, please click HERE
To learn more about William Dawes' ride, please click HERE
To learn about Samuel Prescott and other Midnight Riders, please click HERE
To learn more about the events of April 18th & 19th in 1775, please click HERE
For my post entitled With Liberty & Justice For All, please click HERE
To see an overview of everyday life in the colonies, please click HERE
To visit a year on a colonial farm, please click HERE

~   ~   ~

Sunday, April 14, 2019

April 14th: A Date in Infamy - Abraham Lincoln and the Titanic

It was on April 14,  2012 - exactly 100 years ago to the day that the ill-fated ocean liner,  Titanic,  struck an iceburg - that my family and I made our way to The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn,  Michigan,  and viewed with awe the wonderful exhibit dedicated to the ship.
While we waited to  'board'  the Titanic,  I thought I'd take the opportunity to give a quickie tour of the Henry Ford Museum to my then future daughter-in-law.  I pointed out just some of the amazing collection of historical items this place has,  such as the camping equipment once belonging to George Washington and a writing desk once owned by Thomas Jefferson. 
The rocker President Lincoln was 
sitting in when he was shot on 
April 14, 1865.
Just imagine...
But the piece of American history that I felt was most significant to see on this particular date - April 14 - was originally owned by Henry  (Harry)  Ford  (no relation to the auto-magnet).  Harry happened to work at the Ford Theater in Washington as the treasurer.  When he had heard that President Lincoln was coming to catch the performance of the play  "Our American Cousin"  he brought in a rocking chair that was originally part his bedroom furnishings;   he felt it was suitable for such an important man. 
I don't believe I need to go into the details of what occurred next - hopefully,  those of you reading this know what happened on that fateful April 14 in 1865 in Washington City  (Washington D.C.)...the evening the President Lincoln was shot...but I did explain it in some detail to my future daughter-in-law who,  though she was aware of Lincoln's assassination,  was not aware of many of the details pertaining to it. 
Other visitors near us,  by the way,  heard me speaking about the Lincoln events of this night and gathered around the display to eye the chair with a bit more reverence.
I must admit that being there,  147 years to the day,  staring at what is perhaps the most famous chair in American history,  still sends chills down my spine.  
But it actually didn't necessarily end there,  for three years later,  on the actual 150th anniversary of this tragic event,  the curators of  The Henry Ford Museum brought the chair out of its permanent temperature-controlled glassed-in exhibit  (see above left),  which is part of the  'With Liberty and Justice For All'  exhibit,  and into the open for the public to see up-close and personal,  something that,  to my knowledge,  hasn't occurred in decades.
Of course,  I was there taking all kinds of pictures,  for who knows when such an occurrence might happen again.
Roped off and guarded by Civil War reenacting soldiers, 
here we see the infamous Lincoln Rocker up close and personal.
So how did automobile magnate Henry Ford acquire such a historical object as the Lincoln Rocker?
When Ford began collecting all things American back in the early days of the 20th century,  folks from all over were very happy to help him out by sending him all of their  "junk"  they had stored in their basements and garages.  Items of little use,  including old-time farm implements,  cooking and heating stoves,  yarn winders,  eating utensils,  furniture,  watches & clocks,  spinning wheels,  guns,  tools,  toys...the list goes on and on.
Little did they know that what they were giving away  (and in some cases,  selling)  would one day become museum pieces - objects that told the story of the average  (and not-so-average)  American of the 18th and 19th centuries.  Other museums at the time held paintings of the great artists,  furniture of kings and queens,  and items that people of great wealth once owned.  But that wasn't what Mr. Ford was interested in.  He wanted to show the things that made America great.  He wanted the light to shine on folks like you and me - everyday people.
As the collection grew to an enormous measure,  Ford realized he needed a place to store all of his treasures and decided to build a museum,  originally called the Edison Institute,  after his hero Thomas Edison.
Over time,  the things that Ford obtained grew beyond the everyday items that he'd been finding:  George Washington’s camp bed and trunk from the late 1700’s,  more classic automobiles than you can imagine,  trains and more trains,  buggies and carriages,  pre-WWII airplanes,  an original 1940’s diner,  the car that Kennedy was killed in,  a writing desk belonging to Mark Twain,  and another belonging to Edgar Allen Poe,  and still another that belonged to Thomas Jefferson,  a teapot and other items made by Paul Revere,  Henry Ford’s very first car known as the Quadricycle,  an original MacDonald’s sign from the 1950’s,  lighting apparatuses through the years,  19th century quilts,  spinning wheels…
The collection of Americana here is mind-boggling.
 But,  of everything in the collection inside the Henry Ford Museum,  there is nothing as unique a piece of American History that goes beyond the scope of what other museums have,  including the Smithsonian has:  the Lincoln Rocker.
From another angle.

And a clear look at of the back of the chair.

Going back to our April 14,  2012 visit to The Henry Ford Museum:  as I mentioned,  on this particular date and time the museum also had an amazing exhibit about the Titanic.  And given the fact that it was the 100th anniversary to the date made it all the more haunting.
The Titanic exhibit wall
  We then got in line to  “board”  the Titanic;  the outside exhibit wall where we waited was painted to look like the great ship.  As we entered we were handed boarding passes - each one having a name and short biography of actual Titanic passengers;  at the end of the exhibit you could find your name to see if you lived or died.  (Surprisingly,  all in our group were on the survivor list.)
Inside,  the exhibit was laid out very well.  There were many original artifacts brought up from the wreckage site at the bottom of the ocean including cups,  bowls,  and plates,  some articles of clothing including a work shirt and a bowler hat,  eyeglasses,  a tape measure,  toothpaste bowl,  shaving kit,  bottles of perfume with some of the  'smellum'  still inside,  cooking oil with some oil still inside as well,  cooking pots,  sheet music,  a boat whistle,  jewelry,  and just so much more.  
(all items pictured in this next group of photos are original Titanic artifacts found on the ocean floor unless otherwise noted as  'replicas')
Razor and case

Nickel Pot
Bowler Hat

A wool work shirt
Perfume vials with stoppers

Toothpaste bowl lid

Replica of 3rd class plate

Replica of 1st class plate
Replica of 2nd class plate

To think that these items survived after sitting at the bottom of the ocean from 1912 to 1985 and after,   and now we could view them!

 As we moved along we suddenly found ourselves staring down a very authentic reproduction of the 1st class hallway – my gosh!  I must’ve stood in that part for over five minutes just taking it all in.  It truly felt like you were there,  if only for split second intervals.  Then,  turning the corner we came upon – this was awesome – the Grand Staircase.  Yes! - - - there it was,  in all its opulent glory!  Just as I'd seen in old photographs and in the movies!
This was another one of those you are there  moments  (I suppose it takes a deep love and passion for history to get these moments).  As a family,  we had our photograph taken as we stood upon the steps of this magnificent reproduction.  For some reason,  the RMS Titanic corporation does not allow photography inside their exhibit,  but they did have their own photographer there offering to take pictures...for a price.  Yes,  I fell for it - it was just too amazing to not have a souvenir like this. 
Yes,  here is my family  (including my son's then girlfriend)  standing on an exact replica of the Grand Staircase.  This picture was taken on April 14,  2012
 Another interesting reproduction was of the lower level steerage corridor,  including the constant sound of the great ship's motor rumbling in the background,  which those in steerage heard. 
They had also reproduced a 1st class and a 3rd class cabin side by side so one can see easily the class difference.  The rich expected such elegance,  but for the poor,  the third class accommodations were,  in many cases,  much better than what they were used to.
There are some who feel that nothing should have been brought up from the wreckage,  that it should have all remained two and a half miles down below the ocean in complete darkness as a memorial. 
I respectfully disagree. 
I cannot think of a better way to remember than to have these items displayed in such a way and to see them with one's own eyes.  It's in this way the legacy can be carried on for generations.  That’s why I have no problem with them bringing up the artifacts for this purpose – and only for this purpose of display and remembrance,  not for private ownership.
The Titanic exhibit is magnificent,  and I plan to visit at least once or twice more before it ends in September.
But our day still wasn't over,  by the way...
We drove back to our house and had a few friends join us to watch the James Cameron version of the Titanic movie.  Now,  I know there will be those who will chide me in my choice of the three or four major Titanic movies available,  but I chose the Cameron version based on a number of reasons: 
~ it's the most historically accurate portrayal of the ship itself,  taking the viewer in nearly all areas of Titanic  (except for the 2nd class - that area is noticeably missing)  including into the boiler rooms.  The attention to detail is astounding.
~ the picture and sound quality of the movie draws the viewer right in.  Modern technology can help bring the past to life,  can't it?
~ it shows the ship breaking apart - no other actual movie that I know of,  aside from documentaries,  shows this
~ and finally,  I just really like this version.
'nuff said.
The "movie" Titanic

Watching the movie directly after seeing the exhibit was,  simply put,  an engulfing experience.  And knowing that this day was the 100th  anniversary of the Titanic hitting the ice burg,  I felt it was a fine way to pay tribute – not all tributes and memorials need to be sullen.  Just respectful.

This day for my family and I  - and our friends that joined us - will be long remembered...

 - - - - - - - - - - 

A week after I took my then 82 year old mother to Greenfield Village and then to the Titanic exhibit.  She loved both!
Mom warmed herself next to the Firestone Farm fireplace

Me and my mother on the Titanic's Grand Staircase.
Unfortunately,  my mother passed away in 2017.

Experiencing history is my solace.  Many co-workers and friends of mine look at me sideways at my love for history,  especially of the American variety.  And to research the story behind the objects can make all the difference in the world,  especially in an attempt to gain interest from others,  especially kids.
I hope for April 14th,  and even April 15th  (for that's the date when Lincoln actually died from his wounds, and the date when Titanic actually sank),  you will give a small commemoration,  whether by reading some of the  many books on both subjects,  or even watching a quality movie,  such as  "Lincoln"  starring Daniel Day-Lewis or the infamous  "Titanic"  movie from the 1990s.
Maybe even simply reading this blog post.
The Logan County Courthouse where Abraham Lincoln once practiced law.
It is decorated in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of his death in 2015.
The courthouse is always open for visitors during regular hours at Greenfield Village.
Stepping into history...

Until next time,  see you in time.

To read more about the early life of Lincoln, please click HERE

~   ~   ~

Thursday, April 11, 2019

The Midnight Riders of April 18, 1775: Prescott, Cheswell, and Dozens of Others

But I'm not gonna let 'em catch me,  no ...
Not gonna let 'em catch
the midnight rider~

"A major event happened that night in a way that was profoundly different from the popular image of solitary hero-figures..."  David Hackett Fischer
Just who were these  "dozens of other riders,"  and how did the plan to get the word out to the people in this pre-mass communication age work?
Never fear,  for there was Paul Revere,  and his role on how it all played out on that April night almost 250 years ago shows he is worthy of the praise he has since received,  as you shall see.

A midnight rider...
I have already written a posting on Paul Revere HERE,  and another posting on Revere's partner,  William Dawes.  And I have written about Sybil Ludington,  the so-called female Paul Revere,  who,  we are told,  experienced a pretty harrowing ride of her own,  though it occurred two years after,  almost to the day of Revere's most famous of rides,  on April 25,  1777.
And so,  now it's time to get a few more names of  riders who helped the Patriots to win what is widely considered to be the first real battle of the American Revolution.


Paul Revere's Ride
(Painting by N. C. Wyeth)
By now you hopefully know that on the evening of April 18,  1775,  Paul Revere and William Dawes were dispatched by Joseph Warren to warn the countryside that the Regular Army were coming to capture guns and gunpowder kept in Concord.  Revere & Dawes were also to warn Samuel Adams and John Hancock of a possible impending arrest.  But these two men were not the only couriers to make a warning ride on that eventful night.  In fact,  as mentioned,  Revere was one of dozens who rode the countryside under the darkness of night to alert the folks of an imminent  "invasion"  of the King's Army,  for he had previously enlisted the help of over thirty additional riders to be on the alert.  He placed them across the river in Charlestown and ordered the militia leaders to look to the steeple of Christ Church  (known today as the Old North Church)  every night for signal lanterns,  the number of which indicating when the British army was leaving Boston and by which route.  So on this April 18th night,  as Paul Revere arrived in Charlestown nearly an hour after he was informed of the signal,  he was told that the two lights that  "shewn"  in the steeple window had been seen by his  'enlistments,'  and that the men were already riding.  He borrowed a horse and began his own ride from there.
But there's more to this story than the signals beaming a soft glow from Christ Church towers,  and it's in today's posting that I hope to show the other ways how these numerous informers were notified so they could also make their warning ride.  I also hope to maybe identify at least a few of them,  if not in name then in an acknowledgement of their brave deed,  for each contributed to the eventual independence of our nation.  In fact,  as I was researching and writing this out,  the more amazed I became,  for this was quite a feat of magnificent proportion,  and truly a substantial 18th century system of communication!
As is written in the book,  "Paul Revere's Ride"  by David Hackett Fischer:
"Many other riders helped Paul Revere to carry the alarm.  Their participation did not in any way diminish  (Revere's)  role,  but actually enlarged it.  The more we learn about these messengers,  the more interesting  (his)  part becomes---not merely as a solitary courier,  but as an organizer and promoter of a common effort in the cause of freedom."
The riders were spread out far and wide,  and this was due to a sort of tag-team,  as you shall see,  for   "(t)he astonishing speed of this communication did not occur by accident.  It was the result of careful preparation,  and something else as well.  Paul Revere and the other messengers did not spread the alarm merely by knocking on individual's doors.  They also awakened the institutions of New England.  The midnight riders went systematically about the task of engaging town leaders and military commanders of their region.  They enlisted its churches and ministers,  its physicians and lawyers,  its family networks and voluntary associations."
Paul Revere himself said that he had  "alarmed almost every house,  till I got to Lexington."
Author Fischer explains,  "From some of those houses men rode north and northwest to the precincts above Cambridge and Menotomy.  All along his route, town leaders and militia commanders were systematically engaged---a fact of vital importance for the events that followed.
Many of these towns and villages were summoned to join in the fight due to the many riders sent out by the alarm system in place.
"Along Paul Revere's northern route,  the town leaders and company captains instantly triggered the alarm system.  Church bells began to roll and the heavy beat of drums could be heard for many miles in the night air.  Some towns responded to these warnings before a courier reached them.
While the alarm was spreading rapidly to the north,  Paul Revere and his fellow Whigs started yet another courier in a different direction---east of Medford to the town of Malden.  From Malden,  the alarm was carried east to Chelsea on the Atlantic coast.
Another rider heading northeast
(And)  "from Medford,  Revere's friends started yet another express rider galloping to the northeast.  He was Dr.  Martin Herrick,  a young Harvard graduate and a  "high-toned son of liberty."  In fact,  several of the riders that night were Whig doctors,  for it was common practice at that time for doctors to make house calls,  frequently at night,  so they knew the trails well.  Within a few hours,  Dr.  Merrick awakened a large area on the North Shore of Massachusetts Bay,  and he also set other riders in motion,  including one from the town of Lynn and another from Reading.   A third from North Shore rode to Andover,  where a resident wrote in his diary:  We had alarum that the Reegelers were gon to Conkord we gathered at the meting hous & then started for Concord."

Now,  Samuel Prescott,  who was only 24 years old at the time and also a doctor,  was a Massachusetts Patriot and happened to be in Lexington,  we hear,  to visit with his fiancĂ©e,  Lydia Mulliken.  I also had read that Prescott was there to report on Concord's readiness,  its status in hiding supplies and munitions from the British,  and its success in moving cannon to Groton lest it fall into British hands.
When Prescott left Lexington,  it was about an hour past midnight on April 19.  On his way back to Concord he met Paul Revere and William Dawes,  who had just left Lexington shortly before him and were also on their way to Concord,  to warn the town that the Redcoats were on the march.
When the three continued on to Hartwell's Tavern in the lower bounds of Lincoln,  they were cut off by four British horsemen who were part of a larger scouting party sent out a number of hours earlier.  It was here that Paul Revere was captured but both Samuel Prescott and William Dawes succeeded in making a run for it.  Prescott did so with a show of artful horsemanship and knowledge of the forest.  (You can read more about William Dawes adventure HERE)
The home of Thomas Plympton,
the leading Whig in Sudbury
Finally losing his pursuers,  Prescott circled about and headed quickly to Concord,  carrying Revere's warning to his townsmen.  He entered Concord at approximately 1:30 AM and alarmed Colonel Barrett and the Concord militia.  Afterwards,  he rode on to Acton and then possibly to Stow.  While in Concord he triggered his brother,  Abel Prescott,  who rode to Sudbury.  Abel went directly to the home of Thomas Plympton,  the leading Whig in Sudbury,  and the town's alarm bell began to ring about 3:30 or 4:00 o'clock in the morning.  Warning guns were fired to summon militia companies on the west side of the Sudbury River and also in East Sudbury,  now Wayland.  Within thirty-five minutes the entire town of Sudbury had been awakened.
As Author David Fischer wrote:  "From Sudbury,  Abel Prescott and other messengers continued south to Framingham and Natick,  where the militia began to muster between 5 and 6 o'clock.  And then again from there to Dover Farms and Needham by another express,  who was not known in those towns but would be long remembered as the  "bare-headed alarm rider."  He brought the news to Bullard's Tavern  (in Needham)  where  "Ephram Bullard fired three musket shots from the hill behind his house,  giving the agreed upon signal to arouse the town."  Distant parts of Needham were awakened by the trumpet of African slave,  Abel Benson.
From Needham the alarm spread to Newton,  and from Dover Farms it raced south into what what is now Norfolk County,  circling back toward Boston,  whence it all began."
In Acton,  Samuel Prescott probably triggered the midnight rider Bancroft.  Bancroft alarmed Littleton,  Groton,  Pepperell,  Townshend,  and Ashby.  Both Abel Prescott and Bancroft triggered other riders in the alarm system,  and by the time the British reached Lexington they could hear alarms going off and the galloping of horses.  It was clear that the men of Massachusetts were aware of the  'secret'  British march.

By this time, countless riders were also dispatched from other towns to spread the warning—all the while bells and cannon were rung or fired to punctuate the danger at hand.
Because of the  "midnight"  rides of  Paul Revere,  William Dawes,  Samuel Prescott,  and many of the other expresses, minutemen and militia everywhere were on the ready,  many marching to Concord to effectively engage the British Army at the first major confrontation.  Prescott was there to witness the Battle of Concord,  then helped to beat the British back to Lexington.  In this way he could also ensure Lydia Mulliken and her family were okay and also to help with the wounded.  He remained at Lexington as a volunteer surgeon for about two weeks,  then seems to have disappeared into the war.
Caring for the wounded...
There is evidence that Prescott went on to serve as a surgeon in the Continental Army,  a tradition that he joined the crew of a New England privateer,  and a report that he was in prison in Halifax,  Nova Scotia,  where he may have died between November 23, 1776 and December 26  (1777?).
Samuel Prescott's ride is re-enacted every Patriots' Day eve  (observed)  in the Town of Acton.  The re-enactment begins in East Acton, continues through Acton Center,  and ends at Liberty Tree Farm,  where once was the home of a minuteman named Simon Hunt.  The distance is approximately five miles.

There is another very important rider who has become one of the great American forgotten patriots that we shall acknowledge today:  Wentworth Cheswell of Newmarket,  New Hampshire. 
Cheswell was born on April 11,  1746,  to a biracial father and white mother.  In Newmarket he was the town messenger for the Committee of Safety,  organized by Samuel Adams and the Sons of Liberty,  which meant he was to carry news to and from Exeter,  New Hampshire.   On Dec. 13,  1774,  he rode with Paul Revere to warn Portsmouth citizens of the approach of two British warships.  The British intended to retake gunpowder and weapons stolen by the colonists from Fort William and Mary.
The home of John Giddings
An interesting side note here is that John Giddings,  one of the most active and trusted supporters of the patriotic cause in the Exeter Legislature,  commanded a company of  men to march from Exeter to Portsmouth to support,  if necessary,  the party of General Sullivan and Langdon in the raid upon Fort William and Mary in Portsmouth Harbor in December 1774.  Undoubtedly,  this was due to the warning ride of Cheswell and Revere.  The connection for me is that the original homes of John Giddings and Thomas Plympton  (who was mentioned earlier)  have now been relocated and restored inside Dearborn,  Michigan's historic Greenfield Village,  and sit directly across the street from one another!
Wentworth Cheswell
A few months after the Portsmouth Harbor affair,  Cheswell Wentworth,  like so many others,  also played a major part in the hours before Lexington and Concord. 
I had read that he just happened to be in Boston visiting Revere the night of the famous ride,  and when word came out of the Regular's movements,  Cheswell eagerly participated and took the northern route to New Hampshire to warn the American patriots that hostilities were about to begin and to secure their gunpowder and be ready.  His ride had a similar affect as Revere's and the other riders,  and countless minutemen and volunteers mustered and arrived in the Boston area shortly after Lexington and Concord.  I've read that up to one third of the Militia fighters who took on the retreating Redcoat Army were men alerted by Wentworth Cheswell.  They also assisted with the other volunteers from all the other New England states in surrounding Boston and keeping the British army and navy of over ten-thousand men bottlenecked and trapped in that city.
When the American Revolution broke out in earnest,  Wentworth Cheswell enlisted in Col.  John Langdon’s Company of Light Horse Volunteers and fought at the Battle of Saratoga.  When he finished his military service he returned to Newmarket,  where he ran a store next to his schoolhouse.  He also did fieldwork and wrote reports on the town’s artifacts.  For that he is considered New Hampshire’s first archaeologist.
Cheswell died at age 70 of typhus on March 8,  1817,  an American Revolutionary War veteran.  He and his descendants were buried on his farm.

Another hero that helped to get the news out:
Israel Bissell
Israel Bissell
Like those just read about,  Israel Bissell was a patriot post rider in Massachusetts.  Bissell helped to bring the news to other American colonists of the British attack on Lexington and Concord.  He reportedly rode for four days and six hours,  covering the 345 miles from Watertown,  Massachusetts to Philadelphia along the Old Post Road,  shouting,  "To arms,  to arms,  the war has begun,"  and carrying a message from General Joseph Palmer,  which was copied at each of his stops and redistributed.
After completing his ride,  Bissell returned to Connecticut,  where he joined the army alongside his brother,  Justis.  After the war,  he moved to Middlefield,  Massachusetts,  where he married Lucy Hancock and became a sheep farmer.  In the 1790 and 1800 United States Census he is listed in Middlefield,  and in the 1820 Census he is listed in Hinsdale.
Bissell died on October 24,  1823 and was buried in the Maple Street Cemetery in Hinsdale, Massachusetts.


I suppose now would be a good time to inform you that you should really consider purchasing David Hackett Fischer's  'Paul Revere's Ride'  book to get a greater telling on how the word of the Regulars marching into Lexington and Concord was spread rather than just what I have here.  But I would like to conclude with what Fischer wrote toward the end of that chapter:
"To study in detail the spread of the alarm,  and to observe the towns from which the militia marched to Lexington and Concord,  is to understand another layer of significance in Paul Revere's ride.  In the flow of information one may discover the importance of the preparations he had made,  the impact of his decisions along the way,  and the role of his associations with other Whig leaders.  Many of the links in that chain  (Revere)  forged in advance.  Others were improvised by  (he)  and his friends who prudently prepared for the worst case.
Riders were out as the sun rose that morning in April of 1775
A major event happened that night in a way that was profoundly different from the popular image of solitary hero-figures,  and also from the naive determinism of academic scholarship in  (our modern times)."

~   ~   ~

And to end this week's posting,  how about some fine bluegrass music by the Steep Canyon Rangers featuring Steve Martin.  Not only is the music great,  but this is a pretty accurate telling of what occurred that night of April 18,  1775...directly from the horse's mouth.  Seriously - - this is the story of Paul Revere's Ride as told from Brown Beauty,  the borrowed horse Revere rode that fateful night
(um,  if Brown Beauty could talk!).

~The lyrics I've printed below the video~

Me and Paul Revere

Late at night in the silver light,  in the stables eating hay
In came a man,  an artisan,  and we both rode away
He whispered in my upturned ear,  “it’s time to get an’ go”
“ 'til this job’s done,  we breath as one,  head for the outbound road”

Me and Paul Revere,  oh,  me and Paul Revere
I’m the horse he chose of course,  me and Paul Revere

He told me that a thousand troops,  were out to do their worst
“They want Sam Adams and Hancock,  we’ve gotta get there first”
Along the way to Lexington,  the Regulars drew guns
They gave chase and we set pace,  those boys they were outrun

Me and Paul Revere,  oh,  me and Paul Revere
On the run to Lexington,  me and Paul Revere

We turned North through Cambridge Town,  along the mystic road
Nostrils flared and gallop strong,  my legs on fire below
We got up to where they slept,  woke Adams and Hancock
And they said  “who’s that?”,  “…that’s Larkin’s horse,  she’s steady as a rock”

Brown Beauty is my name,  Brown Beauty is my name
Revere and I one and the same,  Brown Beauty is my Name

The Grenadiers are on the move,  let’s fill the powder horns
How much more has that horse got,  Concorde must be warned
Paul Revere gave me the heel,  we charged the Concorde road
But we were taken prisoner,  by ten men on patrol

Me and Paul Revere,  oh, me and Paul Revere
I’m the horse he chose of course,  me and Paul Revere

He told them that a hundred men,  had spread the good alarm
“You better head away from here,  for Lexington is armed”
Revere stood tall and fooled them all, …told ‘em what to do
And they let him go but sadly so,  they took me with them too

I never saw Revere again,  I know he thinks of me
And wonders where I ended up,  the night we set men free
I’m just the horse that no one knows,  I’m famous though inside
Standing proudly in a field,  I was Revere’s ride

From the inside cover of the Esther Forbes Paul Revere biography.

Until next time,  see you in time.

~ Please click the links below for more of my blog posts about the beginnings of the Revolutionary War:
Modern historians like to relegate Paul Revere as more fable than fact,  no thanks to Longfellow's poem.  But this man deserves his place in our history,  and rightfully so,  for his ride was as important as nearly any other occurrence of his time.
I have searched multiple sources to find the true story of Paul Revere's Midnight Ride,  and put it all here.
I think you just might be surprised at what Revere actually did.

William Dawes' Story
Supposedly,  this man was relegated to the footnotes of history due to his name being Dawes.   But he,  too,  has a story to tell of his ride as a partner messenger with Paul Revere.

Diaries,  journals,  letters,  newspapers/broadsides,  remembrances...this is what I used to garner these very personal stories from those who were there - actual witnesses,  men & women,  of the Battle of Lexington & Concord.
Their tales will draw you into their world.

The Extraordinary Story of Sybil Ludington
Some say her story is not true,  though history tends to side with our young female patriot.  Check out what I wrote in this posting and then decide for yourself if her own daring ride is true or just a fable.

Sarah and Rachel: The Wives of Paul Revere
Paul Revere was married twice and,  between his two wives,  he fathered 16 children.
What I attempted to do in this post was to find virtually everything available about these two Mrs.  Revere's.  I think I succeeded - -

With Liberty and Justice For All: The Fight for Independence at the Henry Ford Museum
An amazing collection of original Revolutionary War artifacts on display for all the world to see,  telling the story of America's fight for Independence.  An original Stamp Act notification.  A letter written by Benedict Arnold.  George Washington's camp bed,  a coffee pot made by Paul Revere,  a writing desk that once belonged to Thomas Jefferson...yeah...this is some great stuff here!

Unsung Patriots: The Printing of the Declaration of Independence
There is so much more to this most important American document,  from the idea to composing to printing - who is going to print this? - to delivery...oh yeah,  there is a lot more history to our Declaration than I ever realized!

Declaring Independence:  The Spirits of  '76
Something very special happened almost 250 years ago,  but is that story being promoted?
Come on a time-travel visit to colonial America during that hot summer of 1776 and learn,  first hand,  of the accounts on how we were making a new and independent nation.

Travel and Taverns
The long air-conditioned  (or heated)  car ride.  Motels without a pool!  Can we stop at McDonalds? I'm hungry!
Ahhhh....modern travelers never had it so good.
I've always had a fascination of travel back in the day,  and I decided to find out as much as I could about them.
I wasn't disappointed - - - I dug through my books,  went to a historic research library,  'surfed the net'  (does anyone say that anymore?),  and asked docents who work at historic taverns questions,  looking for the tiniest bits of information to help me to understand what it was like to travel and stay at a tavern in the colonial times.
This post is the culmination of all of that research.
Our country's founding relied greatly on the tavern.

Cooking on the Hearth
No stoves or fast food restaurants.  Everything made from scratch.
What was it like for our colonial ancestors to prepare,  cook,  and eat their meals,  and what kinds of food were available to them?  How did they keep their foodstuffs from spoiling and rotting?
If you have questions such as this,  I believe you will enjoy this post.

In the Good Old Colony Days
A concise pictorial to everyday life in America's colonies.  And I do mean  "pictorial,"  for there are over 80 photos included,  covering nearly every aspect of colonial life.
I try to touch on most major topics of the period with links to read more detailed accounts.
This just may be my very favorite of all my postings.  If it isn't,  it's in the top 2!

Living By Candle Light: The Light at its Brightest
Could you survive living in the era before electric lights or even before the 19th century style oil lamps?
Do you know how many candles you would need for a year?
Do you know what it was like to make candles right from scratch,  or what it was like to visit your local chandler?
That's what this posting is about!

To read greater detail about the Raid on Fort William and Mary, click HERE

My sources for today's post came from - -
Paul Revere's Ride by David Hackett Fischer

Some of the information about the December 1774 cannon and gun powder raid came from HERE, and information of John Gidding's role came from the Benson Ford Research Center in Dearborn,  Michigan

Besides Fischer's book mentioned throughout this posting, some of the information for Samuel Prescott, as well as Israel Bissell, also came from HERE 

Information on Wentworth Cheswell came from HERE  HERE  and  HERE

~   ~   ~