Battlefield


Hulling cacao beans

Mortar and pestle grinding

Rolling out (further grinding)

Closer…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We started the morning (3/28/17) at Colonial Williamsburg to check out the chocolate making process. It is a long, time-consuming process. Because of this, at the time, most chocolate was purchased in the stores.  The chocolate was produced in chocolate factories in the North located in Boston, Newport, Philadelphia, and New York.  Those who were extremely wealthy (or had a love for chocolate worth the sacrifice) had their own chocolate stones and employed slaves to make their chocolate. There were 3 chocolate stones in Virginia–the Governor’s Palace, Thomas Jefferson’s, and Lee Hall. In the 1700’s, most cacao beans were bought from the Caribbean. Today, we mostly get it from Africa. Colonial Williamsburg gets theirs from Mars Company, which I think is cool!

Preparing the Massachusetts flag

From there, we headed to Yorktown where it was Massachusetts Day.  I expected the opening ceremonies to be bigger than they were.  They basically consisted of opening comments (welcome) and a member of the National Park’s staff putting Massacusetts’ puzzle piece into a joined snake from the Ben Franklin “Join or Die” image, symbolizing the unity of the colonists in joining the nation.  After that, we followed the members of the fife and drum corps as they led an army of middle school students to the artillery area for an opening ceremony.  After comments introducing the speakers and events for the afternoon, they raised the Massachusetts flag over the encampment.  It was a cool celebration, but not necessarily something I’d go early again to see.

We spent the afternoon listening to four talks.  While I will not try to cover four hours of lectures in a blog, I will merely point out a few of the fun facts I learned from each.

John Mascarene’s Custom’s papers

First up was Curtis White, who presented Customs enforcement in Salem, Massachusetts: Prelude to War 1760-1775.  Most of his talk focused on John Mascarene, who went from being a glass maker to a customs official.  Most customs officers received a minimal salary from the crown and made up their money from fees.  One of the most interesting discoveries Mr. White made was the rules for customs officers.  Interestingly enough, he found the John Mascarene’s own papers.

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Gage’s order for destruction of Colonial property

 

 

 

 

The second lecture was Leslie Obleschuk’s on The Battles of Lexington and Concord. One of the most fascinating facts here was that when Gage gave orders to march on Lexington and Concord, he gave orders how to destroy the property taken from the armory.  He’s very specific that the musket balls were to be disposed of by degrees–scattered in fields, etc.  Instead, they dumped the 500 pounds of ammunition they confiscated into the mill pond, where it was easily recovered later.  I’m sure this had to do with the British army’s speedy retreat out of town.

Ms. Obleschuk also explained the vital choice behind the shot heard round the world.  John Buttrick (father of 10 kids and Member of the Committee of Correspondence) was the commanding officer at the North Bridge. While positioned on the high ground outside of town, the men saw smoke coming from the center of town.  They assumed the worst–that the British had set the town on fire.  Buttrick has to make the choice between staying put and facing the British.  They decide to face off. The British are tearing planks off the bridge, and a shot rings out.  Buttrick orders his men to fire–even though firing on the King’s troops is treason.  Both sides have a “Now what?” monent.  The day has not gone the way either side had planned.  Finally, British soldiers who are exhausted (having left at 10 pm the night before) decided to leave.  Ms. Obleschuk believes Concord was the true “Shot heard round the world” for two reasons.  First, Emerson (who coined the phrase) had a grandfather who lived in a house directly by the North Bridge.  No doubt he gave Emerson an account of what happened that day.  Additionally, this was the first time an American commander gave a direct order to fire against British troops.  While this wasn’t a point from which they could not turn back, the reality is, they didn’t.

Howe’s plan of attack

The third and fourth talks were given by Garrett Cloer.  He began with Joseph Warren and the Battle of Bunker Hill.   While Joseph Warren is an amazing character and often overlooked, I was most fascinated by John Stark and the New Hampshire boys (whom I’m sure they’ll discuss on New Hampshire day).

Howe’s plans were to make a major attack, cutting off the colonists in the redoubt. He first orders the navy to burn Charlestown so colonists have nothing to hide behind–obviously learning a lesson from the British retreat from Lexington and Concord.  But when John Stark brings his regiment from New Hampshire to the redoubt and is allowed to position them as he sees fit, he immediately anticipates Howe’s flanking maneuver and orders his men to the gap.  There, they fortify a two rail fence, all that would have stood between Howe and the redoubt.  Stark also puts his men in 3 deep to be able to rotate the men firing.  When the British attack, 90 British soldiers are killed in the first volley.  They would never breach the fence.  In fact, many British commanders would lose between 3/4 and 9/10 of their men.

Outside Yorktown Victory Center

Cloer’s second talk was on Washington:  “The gentleman and the soldier looked agreeably blended in him.” He explained what an adjustment it was for Washington as a Virginian to enter Massachusetts society and lead.  It was indeed a clash of cultures.  It really gave some perspective on exactly what it took for such different colonies to work together–something that should give us hope today.

The final talk of the day was Jason Halin on The Revolutionary Partnership of John and Abigail Adams. One fascinating detail he pointed out was that the average age in Boston was 16.  So, you have a young, discontented population in the middle of economic depression, ruled by an authority they don’t agree with.  No wonder Franklin described it as a powder keg waiting to erupt!

Honoring Massachusetts

Another fascinating detail was Abigail Adams role in the revolution.  In addition to holding down the fort in Boston, caring for sick family members, running a farm, and making supplies for the army–John Quincy remembers her making her own musketballs–she also served as John Adams’ eyes and ears, passing vital information which he could share with congress.  Another fun fact about her is that she pushed her husband to ensure women’s rights in the new independence–something John Adams doesn’t push for in light of everything else they were fighting.  She truly is a remarkable woman.

Definitely incredible information to learn!

Entering the encampment

Today (3/26/17) after church, we decided to head into Yorktown  for about three hours to see the progress on the redoubt. We were unaware that they were doing their Grand Opening this week! This entails featuring one of the original thirteen colonies each day for thirteen days.

James Oglethorpe visits the DAR

For each state, their “day” will begin with a military parade and raising of the state’s flag.  Then, in addition to the normal daily activities, each of the grand opening celebrations features a variety of speakers covering key events and people from that state.  You can check out the schedule here:  http://www.historyisfun.org/grandopening/

Additionally, there are tables set up by the Sons and Daughters of the American Republic giving away gifts and literature on the events and people of the American Revolution in their state.   Today’s state was Georgia, and we had the opportunity to meet James Oglethorpe and hear about his role in the establishment of Georgia.  He shared some parallels to today’s political events with Oglethorpe’s business deals in other states that made him wildly successful.  Very fascinating.

Artillery presentation

When we went outside, we were truly blown away by the changes.  While the military encampment was fairly similar, there was the addition of leveled chair seating, which makes the presentations more comfortable.  Many houses had been added, and we took time to go through the kitchen where this week, they are making a dish from each colony on its day. (Peach pie today.)

and there are places set out for an orchard and the garden.  I can’t wait to see what it looks like when it is entirely complete!

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Georgia peach pie

Inside, there were also changes. Instead of the endearing movies from the 70’s, there are two brand new movies.  The first shares accounts of a variety of people who were involved in the American Revolution.  It had amazing quality, though I was bothered that they portray the first shot of the Boston Massacre as intentional, instead of the accident it was proven in the court case to be, but as this was the account given by a colonist, I’m sure that’s the version they would present (fake news back then as well).  The second movie was more about the Battle of Yorktown, complete with interactive features–smoke, rumbling seats, etc.   It was also very well done.  The thing I appreciated best about both films is their challenge to us today.  In the first film, there is a conversation (paraphrased):  “I wanted to see where the war ended.”  Response:  “Where it ended?  No.   This is where it all began.  The British fought their war with this (tosses musket ball). Now, we have to fight for the future we want.”  The point is that we are still building and fighting for the America we want.  A great reminder!

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Outdoor Buildings

On our way inside, we were invited to a lecture by Professor Robert Davis.  He gave two incredibly informative talks–one on Elijah Clarke and one on the Georgian signers of the Declaration of Independence.

I hadn’t known about Elijah Clarke, but when Professor Davis explained that he was a guerrilla leader in the same vein as the Swamp Fox (Think Benjamin Martin in The Patriot), I understood his importance to the war.  He helped win the Battle of Kettle Creek, and also took 400 refugees to safety in Tennessee.  He was pursued by the British, which will lead to them being in the area for King’s Mountain and later Cowpens..

Another example of Elijah Clarke’s helping others is his actions with Austin Dabney–an African American slave sent to serve in the Revolution in his master’s stead and assigned to Elijah Clarke.  Austin was shot in the thigh and crippled at the Battle of King’s Mountain.  After the war, Clarke helped to secure Dabney’s freedom.  The government would parole him, pay for his freedom, grant him land in honor of his service, and secure his pension.  He was the first African American to receive anything like this.

The second talk Davis gave focused on the signers of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution.  He covered the lives of Dr. Lyman Hall, Button Gwinnett, and George Walton who signed the Declaration, while Abraham Baldwin and William Few signed the Constitution. One thing I appreciated most was the explanation of Georgia’s conflict with the Spanish and the Native Americans.  While I knew we created Georgia as “a buffer state,” I had never thought of how that had been for them.  The constant fear and fighting–losing over 2,000 from Indian attacks alone, not to mention the four wars with Spanish Florida.   No wonder they wanted to join the Union!

img_6315After an incredibly fascinating afternoon, we stopped to pick up shells on the York River.  Beautiful!

For anyone who is in the area, the featured states at Yorktown are as follows:

Mar. 26 Monday: Connecticut
Mar. 27 Tuesday: Massachusetts
Mar. 28 Wednesday: Maryland
Mar. 29 Thursday: South Carolina
Mar. 30 Friday: New Hampshire
Mar. 31 Saturday: Virginia
Apr. 1 Sunday: New York
Apr. 2 Monday: North Carolina
3 Tuesday: Rhode Island

Adopting the uniform

We headed out to Yorktown this morning (7/12/16). Despite the construction underway, there are great things happening at Yorktown.  Right when we walked in, one of the interpreters noticed Corban’s tri-cornered hat and loaned him a jacket and musket for a photo. Even without your own tri-corner, any visitor can choose a side and a uniform and pose similarly, which is a lot of fun.

From there, we wandered out to the garden area.  One of the interpreters talked to Corban about doing chores.  She explained that in Colonial times, you didn’t feed your children unless chores were done. Otherwise, they felt you were feeding the devil in your child because you were encouraging sloth.  Wouldn’t that be interesting with today’s youth.

Interpreters of the future

As we walked further in, I noticed a group of students in blue shirts.  I was curious what kind of group they were, so I asked an adult on the fringe of the crowd.  She referenced the website on the back of their shirts where you can get more information.  (Feel free to check out
http://www.historyisfun.org.)  She explained that these students were part of a program called Boot Camp for grades 6-8.  It lasts a total of 4 days from 9:00-12:00.  These are students who think they might like to be interpreters when they grow up, so this is their opportunity to see how other interpreters interact with the public.  After Boot camp, these students are able to come and help out during special activities days.  Even out of town visitors can participate!  I think it sounds like an amazing program!

Fire!

While in the military camp, the interpreter explained a bit about firing a weapon that I had never considered.  He referred to Baron Von Steuben who trained by the discipleship method (train the officers who will train their men.)  A cool thing I learned was that when the officer shouts, “Make ready,” soldiers actually turn their bodies 45°. Because soldiers were fighting shoulder to shoulder, they needed room to load their weapons.  The 45° turn allowed them that space to load.  As he was explaining the loading process, he mentioned that soldiers didn’t sharpen the edges of their bayonets because otherwise they could cut them while they’re using the ramrod. Both of these tactics seem obvious in retrospect, but I’d never considered them.  One Hollywood inaccuracy he exposed was the idea that bayonet charges were random.  In actuality, soldiers were all in a line, not haphazard at all. The reason for this is that a haphazard charge results in separate soldiers being targeted.  When they all charge together, they’re an intimidating defense!

“Are you sure you’re 16?”

After the demonstration, would-be soldiers went over to enlist.  The gentleman there explained that to enlist in the army, you had to be 16 and 5’4″. For you weren’t, you’d often lie about your age.  If they were in need, they’d take you.  They would look at your teeth and hands to make sure you had no diseases–after all, you want someone who will actually make it through the war. The pay rate $6 and 2/3 a month ($6.66–a rather ominous total!) with the army providing a uniform, a pound of meat a bottle of rum rations (promised, anyway).  Soldiers who would sign up for three years or the duration of the war received a $20 signing bonus and 100 acres of land when the war is over.  Not too shabby if you could not die!  I loved that my 6 year old nephew (who incidentally wants to be a soldier when he grows up) literally got to sign on the dotted line with a feather and ink.  He was handed a land deed and colonial money and told to report for duty at 6:30 in the morning (a fact we had to convince him was not true, since he was all set to go to bed early and be there.)

Tools of the trade

At the doctor’s tent, we learned that more casualties were from disease than injuries.  He also explained that a lot of the things they tried genuinely worked, at least for a short time. Bloodletting actually worked to bring fever down–unfortunately, it made you weaker.  Washington himself was bled several times.  In fact, on Washington’s deathbed, a young doctor wanted to do new procedure called a tracheotomy.  Unfortunately for Washington, older doctors overruled him and Washington died.  Purging and flushing were also ways to heal.  Unfortunately, both of these caused dehydration, the cure to which was drinking the same water that probably got you sick in the first place. Another early remedy was Peruvian bark tea which was used to treat malaria, which literally means “bad air.”  While it wasn’t the air that caused the malaria, Peruvian bark contains quinine, which is still used today to treat malaria.

Make ready!

Finally, we went over to the artillery demonstrations.  They had a 4 1/2 inch mortar and 6 inch battalion gun. During a siege, both sides build up walls.  Mortars were good in these circumstances because they can fire at a 45 degree angle.  They fire a 10 or 14 inch mortar which could weigh up to 200 lbs!  Guns, on the other hand, are direct fire usually at 3-5 degrees.  Guns are categorized by the weight of cannonball.  The guns themselves weighed about 1400 pounds.  He explained that if you fired 6 pounders, it would take a long to do any damage. Usually, they used 24 pounders since the 6 pounder wouldn’t kill many troops–around 2-3 men, which isn’t a good use of resources.   A regular rifle has an accurate range of 100 yards.  Cannonballs, however, have about a mile range. These worked for intimidation and causing disarray by breaking up straight lines.  They could also fire case, canister,or grape shot.  As the name implies, this is a can full of musket balls fired from a cannon.  Essentially, it turns the cannon into a machine gun.  These work at 300 yards.  It is amazing to think what all our troops experienced.

Fire!

After he had explained the guns, the interpreter assembled a crew of audience members to simulate firing the gun before the actual staff fired it.  Corban was selected to fire the cannon, so he got to hold the long “match” which set the cannon off.  The positions of the gunners were explained, including the fact that you can’t stand behind the gun, since cannons also have a recoil, which can be about 8 feet.  The front members of the gun crew serve to mark the place for the cannon, since if your shot was one you’d like to repeat, you don’t want to have to figure out how to reposition it.  It was definitely a fun experience.

The Nelson House

As we were heading out, I overheard one of the managers explaining all the construction.  He explained that they are actually building a redoubt for the guns to lend to the authenticity.  Now, instead of the guns firing into the woods, it will actually appear to be firing on an enemy encampment, and they’ll actually have many more guns.  I have definitely been excited by the improvements at Yorktown with the visitor center, and I’m excited to see the changes they continue to make!

At last, after a picnic in the visitor center’s picnic area, we headed by the Nelson House in town (the one with a cannon ball still stuck in the building) and called it a day.  Definitely a place to recommend!

Writing letters at the Powell House

We started our day (7/9/16) at Colonial Williamsburg by visiting the Powell house. Mr. Powell held the office of Undertaker, which is not someone dealing with dead bodies, but rather someone who undertakes contracts. In the Powell house, there are a number of activities for kids.  We played dominoes, badminton, and rolled the hoop for games, but we were also able to write and seal letters home.

Explaining tempering

From the Powell house, we had intended to go to the military camp, but as they were doing a ticketed event for kids, a few of the places were closed, so the camp didn’t open until later. Instead, we decided to check out a few of the craftspeople in town.  Our first stop was the kitchen and the blacksmith. We had been told James Madison was in the garden next door and might need a letter delivered, so we went there.   He was indeed in the garden, but he was still coding a message to Washington, so there was nothing to deliver.  (One of the activities for kids is delivering letters for people around town.)  The kitchen was cooking a vegetable stew, which smelled amazing. In the blacksmith’s shop, the man explained the process of tempering metal. He explained that heating the metal allowed it to be softer and easy to work with.  Therefore, a metal that had lost its temper is hard and brittle.  I thought it was an excellent life lesson as well!

Musket firing demonstration

By this time the military camp was open, so we headed there.  They had done away with the simulated battle, which was disappointing, but maintained the drill and the musket demonstration.  We were instructed in the art of firing a weapon, then got to see a soldier fire his gun. We also got instructions on the fife and drum tunes.  One of the most interesting things to me was to learn that the same tune is used to signal a parlay in battle as to call men to church in camp.  Understanding that the gospel means bringing peace between God and man, I thought it was an interesting parallel!

Sharing tribal stories

In the Indian village, we heard the story of son who helped a village. He was sent to bring supplies for his own village, but he found another village where the people were sick and starving.  He made medicine for them and brought them food.  They had nothing to repay him when he left, and he arrived at his own village empty handed.  When he told his father, his father explained that he had been given the gift of generosity and compassion, which were priceless.  Soon after, a delegation of people from the village he’d helped came looking for him. Each family had sent a gift in return for his kindness, and that enabled the village to survive.

He then shared about how often Native American tribes were in Williamsburg.  Tribal groups met with the Virginia council to make treaties, trade goods, etc.   When a delegation came, the government provided tarps and posts for them, since there were too many to stay in a tavern.

Another thing we learned was a bit about the Cherokee people, since our guide was Cherokee.  He shared that today, kids attend a school that teaches Cherokee.  Students at the school learn Cherokee as a first language, and their encouraged to learn as well. Right now, there is a gap between kids who speak and the old who speak.  Those in the middle age groups still have to learn the language.  Another challenge undertaken by the Cherokee is developing  new modern words.  The Cherokee language is very descriptive. It tells what an item does or paints a picture of it.  For example, car in Cherokee is “fire eyes” because of the headlights, while phone is “talking box.”

The local people native to Williamsburg are the tidewater tribes.  A lot of them came under the control of Powhatan. Many small tribes used interaction with Europeans to get out from under Powhatan’s control.  It was definitely fascinating to dialogue and ask questions here!

Mixing clay for bricks

Our next stop was Brick yard.  We had never visited before, despite our many trips to Williamsburg, and we definitely missed out. This is a place to not only learn the process of baking bricks, but also it offers kids the chance to help. Realistically, children 10-12 were usually the  off bearer or the one who carried the molded bricks off to drying bed. There they would stay from May to September during brick making season. When it grew cold, the bricks were fired. Firing lasts for 5 days–a huge fire is built over the bricks which heats them to about 2000 degrees. In this process, they turn red because the iron in the clay oxidizes.

Chocolate with George Wythe

Our next stop was the coffee house. This is always my favorite because the chocolate is delicious.  There, we heard some of the local news from George Wythe.  He shared about the opposition to the stamp act, reminding us just how many items were printed on paper. Another interesting piece of news he shared was that one of the men who opposed the Stamp Act in Parliament was Charles Cornwallis, who predicted this act would hurt the relationship between the colonies and England.  Definitely ironic!

Interrogation of Amistead

Our last presentation dealt with the questioning of Amistead, a run away slave.  I loved this presentation because it managed to cover everything from the African American experience in slavery to their reasons for fighting in the American Revolution, to spies and double agents. An incredible presentation indeed!

Evening fifes and drums

We stopped in the Governor’s Palace to show Corban the guns, then made our way to the Courthouse to see the evening fife and drums.  I couldn’t help being disappointed with what the new administration has gotten rid of.  I miss RevQuest, Revolutionary City, and all the actors and actresses.  Also, while they’ve added additional programming, it’s all an additional $5-20, which I feel makes the pass less valuable.  They’ve even started  charging $1.00 for refills of the $12.00+ mug instead of it being free  There does seem to be a lot more people employed, but they’re mostly just standing around.  I’d prefer the smaller cast of actors who tell the story with you as a part to the immense crowd of “I can answer your question” people.  For me, the drama was what brought history to life, and I feel the loss of it deeply. Still, it is one if my favorite places.

Courtesy of HWMoore

Courtesy of HWMoore Quincy Adams Station

After being up late, we got up early Friday morning (8/8/14) to head into Boston with much fear and trepidation on the part of my mother. The main concern? We had no idea where we were going. We had planned to do the park and ride at Quincy Adams Station, but could not find an address anywhere. Google maps gives coordinates; even customer service didn’t know the address and gave us the address of a pediatrician 1 mile away–apparently, that was supposed to help us find it. Additionally, we didn’t know for sure how to work the subway cards, so that was another unknown. But, we set off anyway, determined to figure it out.

We made it to the pediatricians and kept going a bit to see if we could see anything, putting the Google coordinates in the GPS. What we saw was a kid jumping down from a 12+ foot fence. When we’d made the block without finding anything, we saw the same kid, so we asked for directions. He told us it was a pain in the butt to get to, but proceeded to tell us anyway. After we’d executed a series of twists and turns, we saw two construction guys sitting outside who directed us the rest of the way to the parking garage conveniently located right off Thomas E. Burgin Parkway. It’s also right next to a Home Depot, which would have made an easy GPS location. (Since returning, I used that to determine the REAL address. It is 450 Centre St. Quincy, MA 02169.)

Courtesy of Boston Tourism

Courtesy of Boston Tourism

With the first leg completed, we tackled buying a Charlie Card. We had determined that this would be the best, as it allowed us access for any subway, bus, or ferry for 24 hours. Not knowing what we’d tackle in Boston, we purchased this for $12 and set off. (We actually only ended up taking the subway there and back, so we’d have been better purchasing individual rides, but we were able to give our passes to a man and his son when we returned, so that was nice.) We boarded the red line, only to be delayed by another train with trouble. But, we eventually arrived in Boston.

We got off at the Park Street Station, which is right in the middle of the Boston Commons where we were to meet our Freedom Trail walking tour. The staff at the Visitor’s Center there was immensely kind and helpful, sending us to activate our trolley tickets, helping us get rid of additionally tickets, and in every way walking us through the process. Once we got our trolley tickets, we were ready for the Freedom Trail tour (Both were included with the Go Boston card.) Our tour guide was hilarious and gave a ton of great information.

Meeting the Tour

Meeting the Tour

We started the tour at Boston Common which, established in 1634, is the oldest park in America. William Blackstone (Blaxton) was the first European settler in Boston, where he moved to be alone. But, when the Puritans came in, he invited them to share his land. They did, then had problems with him because he was an Anglican minister and ordered his house burned down. With such neighbors, Blackstone decides to move to Rhode Island (pre-dating Roger Williams) and sells Boston to the Puritans for 50 pounds (about $100,000 today). To this day, it is legal to graze cows, do laundry, and settle duels in the Commons. Another fun fact is that the playground was originally the site of hanging tree (lost in 1847). It also served as the militia training ground. One thing I didn’t realize is that Boston today is quite different than it was on Apr. 18, 1775. What is now Charles Street was the Charles River. In fact, 70% of Boston is landfill, Boston previously being only one mile square.

Massachusetts State House

Massachusetts State House

From the Commons, we headed to the “New” statehouse. Built in 1775, it used to be John Hancock’s cow pasture. Apparently, he was quite the character. John Hancock was the second best smuggler of the day, naming his ship “The Liberty” to spite the British, and he was the richest man. He had inherited 50,000 pounds (about $5,000,000 in today’s economy.) He loved spending money, throwing parties, and being influential. This may be another reason for his large signature. He wanted to be commander and chief of army, but Congress wanted someone with war experience. When the war is over, he makes a bid for president. Congress refuses. Hancock was furious. Interestingly enough, when Washington goes to Faneuil Hall, John Hancock won’t come greet him. Since his son is named John George Washington Hancock, one would think he’d forgiven him, but apparently, his wife did it to spite him–she’d also made John wait 10 years to marry her in a day when the average lifespan was 42.
The dome of the statehouse was initially wood. It was later covered by copper, made by Paul Revere, who got the job because Sam Adams was in the government. Later, it was gold leaf, painted black during WWII to prevent it from being seen by invaders, then returned to gold leaf after the war.

Grave of Boston Massacre Victims

Grave of Boston Massacre Victims

From the Statehouse, we headed to Boston Cemetery. This also was part of John Hancock’s pastures. There are a number of bodies in the graves, but the stones don’t necessarily coordinate with who’s buried under them. In addition to the practice of burying members of a family together under one stone, they also didn’t have burial rules, so graves might be a foot and a half deep or ten feet deep. When the shallow graves started to show the bodies, the government ordered the cemetery cleaned up. So, they moved the stones into straight lines, but did not move the accompanying bodies.Every one of the 2,300 stones represents 6-10 people.

One of the most famous stones is the marker for the casualties in the Boston Massacre. Edward Garrick, a wig maker’s apprentice was walking home when he saw Captain John Goldfinch. He accused Goldfinch of not paying his bill and asked for money owed.

Boston Massacre site

Boston Massacre site

Private Hugh White came to the aid of Goldfinch, saying that his Captain was a gentleman and would pay his bill. Garrick responded, “There are no gentlemen in 29th regiment.” White hit Garrick in the face with the butt of gun. Other civilians pushed White against the wall where he called for aid. “Turn out Captain Preston!” (British soldiers aren’t allowed to fight without their officers–a reason the Americans would pick off officers first in the American Revolution.) Preston will first order his men to load their guns, then to fix bayonets, which his men will use to keep the crowd at bay. One citizen tells him, “I hope you don’t mean to fire.” Captain Preston responds, “No, my place is in front of my men. I’d be a fool to give that order, as I would be a sacrifice then.” Something is thrown, which strikes one of the officers who fires his gun. Preston turns to ask why he fired without orders and is struck with a bottle and knocked down, at which time the soldiers, hearing the cry of “Fire” from the angry crowd, assume it to be Preston and fire. Though only 5 will die, Sam Adams makes them famous. Henry Pelham will make the artwork which Paul Revere will engrave (apparently without Pelham’s permission, as Pelham will write him a scathing letter accusing him of highway robbery!) This early piece of propaganda will display a street scene. But, Preston is behind his men, the British soldiers are smiling while the blood runs, and there is a dog, the symbol of innocence. Definitely an agenda there.

Revere foot stone

Revere foot stone

Another famous grave is Paul Revere’s, which showcases the original footstone. On April 18, 1775, the British are going to Lexington to get both Samuel Adams and John Hancock. Paul Revere finds out the direction they’re heading (Courtesy of the lanterns) and goes to Reverend Jonas Clark’s house to warn them. On the way, he cries “The regulars are out.” He does not say, as Tennyson popularized, that “the British are coming,” since we were ALL British at that time, and the phrase would have had no meaning. The Regulars are the British army. On the way, however, Revere meets a patrol. One soldier shoots at Revere and misses. Samuel Prescott, who is with Revere, will complete the midnight ride as the only one to reach Concord. Revere is captured by six British officers. Major Mitchel put a pistol to his head and asked him a variety of questions. Revere tells him he’s already warned the cities of the British plans. Mitchel tells Revere to escort them back to Lexington. When they get close, they hear gun fire. Mitchel asks Paul what it is. They run off to see what is taking place, and Paul leaves, though they’d captured his horse. He’s able to see the whole thing, though.

The Old Statehouse

The Old Statehouse

From there, we went to the old statehouse. It is here that James Otis, called by John Adams the patriot’s Martin Luther, spoke against Writs of Assistance for 4 hours. Otis, who was both a lawyer and a speaker, is a volatile man. He railed against search and seizure. At this time, if you refused entry to a soldier looking for contraband, the militia can break down the door. He states that Americans are not second class citizens, so we deserve the same rights as Englishmen. He demands representation in parliament. In fact, James Otis will coin the phrase “Taxation without representation is tyranny.” He does have an interesting life story, though. On September 5, 1769, he gets in a fight with British officers in a British Coffee House. One will bash in his head. Dr. Joseph Warren fixes him up, but puts a lead plate in his head. Otis will go crazy either from the head wound or lead poisoning. He supposedly told his sister that he hoped God would take him in a flash of lightning. Ironically, he will die struck in the head by a bolt of lightning.

Faneuil Hall

Faneuil Hall

We concluded our tour at Faneuil Hall. Peter Faneuil wanted a marketplace, while the government asked for meeting house. The solution Peter offered was to do both at his own expense. So Faneuil Hall offers shopping on the lower level while the government meets on the upper level. Many speeches by many famous Americans were given here, yielding it the title the “Cradle of Liberty.” This concluded our Freedom Trail tour.

Since we were by the Statehouse, we decided to visit the museum there, which is an incredible treat. When you walk in, you are given a new identity as a Revolutionary character (Mine was Phillis Wheatley.) The card gives you your description, social connection, and additional information. As we walked through the display of artifacts and facsimiles from the time, one item caught my eye.

Melville's tea

Melville’s tea

We had learned at Arrowhead that Herman Melville’s grandfather had been part of the Boston Tea Party, and when he returned home, brushed the tea off his boots and put it in a vial, which he kept as a souvenir. Imagine my surprise when that very vial was on display in the statehouse museum! It has amazed me how often on this trip I have discovered something of one historical figure intertwined with information about other historical figures!

From here, we decided to catch the Trolley tour, which turned out to be a mistake. Not that it wasn’t interesting–we had a snarky tour guide whose stories mainly focused on being poor and going to bars instead of actual history. But, the problem was that we caught the tour at stop four, desiring to visit stops 1-3. Unfortunately, the trolley had 13 other stops to make before starting over at stop one. We should have walked the short distance from stop four to one.

Paul Revere and the Old North Church

Paul Revere and the Old North Church

Instead, we spent an hour and a half on a bumpy trolley, which put us behind in the sightseeing department.

When we got off, we headed to the Old North Church. This was one of the places I’d especially wanted to go to get my own pictures of the Paul Revere statue. The Old North Church is an incredible piece of architecture and gives a lot of good information on those who participated in the events prior to the battles of Lexington and Concord. One thing I especially admired is they have an array of dog tags in the courtyard representing each soldier who has fallen in Iraq and Afghanistan. Definitely an incredible tribute!

From there, we walked to the Paul Revere House. This amazing example of 17th Century architecture is a jewel, containing many originals examples of Paul Revere’s work. Though you cannot take pictures inside the building, it is well worth the minimal admission ($3.50–included the GO Boston Card)

Paul Revere House

Paul Revere House

One thing that fascinated me was the fact that Paul Revere had three descendants who fought in the Civil War. The museum shares their story as well. It’s hard to believe that Paul Revere had 16 children (8 by each wife), but apparently they didn’t all live in the house simultaneously.

When we finished the tour, it was about 4:00, and we knew the trolley stopped running at 4:30. We debated trying to get up to Bunker Hill and the U.S.S. Constitution, but didn’t want to have to make the long walk in either direction. So, we checked out the print shop and a chocolate store and finally opted to go home. In retrospect, I should have pushed myself because I discovered that the U.S.S. Constitution is leaving for a three year restoration process after this season, so we missed our chance to view “Old Ironsides.” But, at the time, our throbbing feet were the priority. And so, another amazing time comes to an end. Until next time, may all your adventures be breathtaking!

Plymouth Plantation

Plymouth Plantation

I was extremely excited to head out to Plymouth (Plimoth) this morning (8/7/14). Since I have been back teaching history. I love the opportunities I have to use my own pictures for power points. (Plus it’s easier to give copyright credit!) So, this leg of the trip visiting Plymouth today and Boston tomorrow offered a chance to get lots of good material. We had purchased the Go Boston card which can be purchased for between 1 and 7 days and offers a 55% discount on 47 locations. For those like my family who try to jam pack in everything you can, it’s a great deal. (They have them for a bunch of cities. Check it out at http://www.smartdestinations.com) It reminds me of the Firenze card we bought in Florence. One of the things I like best is that it encourages us to try things we might not otherwise do because “We already paid for it.”

Wampanoag structure

Wampanoag structure

We started off the day at Plymouth Plantation. This reminds me a great deal of Jamestown Settlement, one of our favorite Virginia locations. Our first stop was the Wampanoag Homesite. One thing that is different here is that the interpreters are not representing people from the past. All of them are of Native American descent–many from the Wampanoag tribe. So they speak about their heritage and culture as they have lived it and heard it from their ancestors. The first gentleman we spoke to had moved down from Canada because the current Canadian Prime Minister ran on a platform which ended funding to First Nation Schools. As a result, his school had to close. Now he works at Plymouth where he can share his heritage with those who want to learn. Another woman I spoke to decided to work at Plymouth because her whole family worked there. In another area, a man shared the difference between responsibility of Native peoples. For his tribe, you can marry when you are responsible for yourself and able to provide for an eventual family. For some, that was fifteen; others weren’t mature until thirty!

Miles Standish

Miles Standish

From the Wampanoag Homesite, we headed up to the 17th Century English Village. This is a breathtakingly scenic area with some of the best reenactors I’ve met–and I’ve met plenty! Costumed interpreters wander throughout the village, engaging visitors in conversation and asking questions. Unlike the Native Americans, they stay in the 1600’s, complete with dialect. We first ran into Miles Standish, but each interpreter represents a person who actually lived in Plymouth. We walked the length of the village, chatting with interpreters who discussed everything from how to mud and daub a house, to child care, recipes, clothing, government, and everything in between. It was truly fascinating because everyone had a different perspective to offer.

Jenny Mill

Jenny Mill

Since it was only 12:30ish, and I wanted to see the dancing at 3:00, we opted to drive into Plymouth and catch a walking tour (another courtesy of the Go Boston Card.) Of the three tours we could choose from, we took the “Discover Plymouth’s History” tour. Our tour guide, Leo, was one of the guides who assisted Kirk Cameron in the making of Monumental. Beyond that, he ran the Plymouth Mill for 17 years and now is in charge of the Museum there. Our first stop was the Jenny Mill. Leo explained how the pilgrims had landed on sand and utilized the river here in a number of ways.  In the days of Plymouth Plantation, they built 14 mills on the river. The Jenny Mill is the oldest mill in the US, dating back to 1736. It was a great location because the sand purified the water, the water provided power for the mills, and the fish provided fertilizer to supplement the sandy soil. (This past year 112,000 fish came up this river.) The river also served as a dividing line between the Indians and pilgrims.

Women in Plymouth

Women in Plymouth

When the Colonists set sail, there were 102 aboard. Initially, there were two ships, but leaving England, the Speedwell leaked, so they all took the Mayflower. 14 single women and 18 married came over, in addition to children. They came to build a society. Two children were born on the journey and two died along the way. (My ancestor was the second child to be born on board the Mayflower.) Of the men who died, one was a servant of the doctor who was told to administer lemons and limes to everyone in order to prevent scurvy, which he did with all diligence. He, however, did not like the taste of either, so he didn’t take them himself, and consequently died of scurvy. The next was a sailor who didn’t like the Pilgrims hymn singing. In a fit of temper, he told them he couldn’t wait for them to die so he could wrap their bodies and throw them in the ocean. He died the next week. No other sailors saw fit to comment…

At Work

At Work

When they finally arrived, the first arrangement was more communal–everyone got equal shares. During the first winter, however, 51 died (exactly half.) They had found a bit of corn upon arrival, but towards the end of winter, rations were 5 kernels of corn per person per day. Many women sacrificed their shares for their children and 14 of the 18 married women died. But their sacrifice paid off–10% of Americans are now Mayflower descendants.

The communal aspect wasn’t working because someone who did nothing or minimal labor got paid equally to one who worked hard, so there wasn’t much incentive for success. (Hence, the starving time). Therefore, in 1623 Bradford changed to individual land ownership. From then on, there wasn’t any more starving. Each member got a share of land equal to members of his family (including children.) Plymouth was unique in having been settled by families. A number of people think the Pilgrims had no education since there were no formal schools.  But they were educated at home.  To understand how educated they actually were, our guide explained that Bradford brought 400 books to the New World and could speak 5 languages. By comparison, when John Harvard (founder of Harvard) donated his personal library to start Harvard, he had fewer books than Bradford.

Plymouth Rock

Plymouth Rock

At this point in the tour, we were caught in a gale force rainstorm. We hurried for shelter around Plymouth Rock, which helped a little, but the blowing rain insured we were all pretty much soaked. While we were there, however, we learned about Plymouth Rock. Mom asked how it split. It actually split during American Revolution. Many Plymouth men didn’t want to go to war. So, they had the idea to bring Plymouth Rock to the  town square and have the men rally around it. So, they loaded it on to a wagon. While they were moving it in the wagon, no one was touching it, and it split. The driver said it was an omen to split from England. They named the small half England and left it on the beach. The big half (America) they took to the to square where they mustered and went to war.

Massasoit Statue

Massasoit Statue

Our next spot was the statue of Massasoit. Most know Massasoit as the one who helped the Pilgrims make it through the starving time. When they threw the first Thanksgiving out of thanks to God, the colonists chose to honor Massasoit and his immediate family by inviting them to participate. Unfortunately, “immediate” doesn’t translate well–he brought 99 guests with him. A few years later when Massasoit fell ill, Edward Winslow (who was the first to meet Massasoit and help negotiate the peace) nursed Massasoit back to health. In an ironic twist years later, the son of Winslow, the current governor, goes to meet with Massasoit’s son Metacom (Metacomet), the current chief. Metacom refuses to meet with him, saying he only meets with kings. He will thereafter be known as King Philip–leader of King Philip’s War against the son of the man who saved his father’s life. When Caleb Cook shot King Philip, Governor William Bradford had King Philip quartered and hung. He then placed his head on pole, where it remained for 25 years. He wanted to dissuade others from attacking. Bradford had done something similar when he first arrived. The Wampanoags made a treaty with the Pilgrims when they first landed. When questioning why they would make a treaty with 51 half starved people, the answer is they were weak themselves, having just survived an epidemic. Soon after the treaty was signed, the Wampanoag’s enemies, the Narragansett found out about the treaty.  They sent William Bradford arrows in rattlesnake skin–the message was clear: We’re coming for you. Bradford sent rattlesnake skin back–with bullets inside. The message was also clear: Bring it. The fort was never attacked. But the graves of William Bradford, Caleb Cook, and John Howland remain at the top of the burial hill–the fort’s original location.

Old Courthouse

Old Courthouse

Our last stop was by the oldest wooden courthouse in America. Here two very famous people hung out–John Adams in the government, and his friend Paul Revere, who will make the bell in the church. We also heard the story of John Howland. He was an indentured servant of a carver. He became freeman when the carver died and Howland inherited his property. John Howland has the significance of  being the Mayflower passenger with the largest number of descendants–at the last reunion, over 1500 attended.  His famous relatives include Bush, Roosevelt, and Churchill. He also holds the distinction of being the last pilgrim to die in Plymouth. But what I found fascinating is that John Howland almost didn’t make it to the new world. During a storm when the captain had declared for no unranking person to be on deck, he went up–perhaps to deliver a message–and was washed overboard.

The Mayflower II

The Mayflower II

Luckily, he grabbed onto a topsail and was able to be hauled up. Think of how much would be different if the man with the greatest number of descendants had perished before any of them came to be.

From the walking tour, we booked it back to see the dancing. This is an audience participation event and was great fun. (A shout out to Gabriel, my five year old dance partner!) We got to learn and dance two Colonial dances–one slower, one more lively. During the instruction, it started pouring rain again. So, since most people were stuck, our guides taught us two Colonial Songs, which we preformed in rounds. Beautiful!

Forefathers Monument

Forefathers Monument

Finally, the rain let up so we could check into our hotel and head down to the Mayflower. This also was great fun getting to learn about the voyage from reenactors. After dining on lobster bisque and clam strips at Woods (the recommendation of where the “locals” eat), we made our way up to the Monument to the Forefathers. To learn more about this amazing monument to faith in God, I’d recommend checking out the movie Monumental. Finally, we headed back to the Mayflower to get a few sunset pictures with the strains of an oldies (Swing) band in the background. While our feet feel about to fall off (I hope we’re recovered by tomorrow!), it was an incredible day!

Robert Frost Museum and Grounds

Robert Frost Museum and Grounds

We set out this morning (8/6/14) for Shaftsbury, Vermont, to visit the home of American poet Robert Frost. Last time we were in town, the museum was closed, so I was looking forward to seeing it. It definitely wasn’t up to my expectations. The Museum is, by admission of the curator, a “museum for adults.” I’d up the ante and say it’s a museum for scholars. Having grown up going to more museums than I can tally, I know the difference between a good museum and a bad one. This one is in definite need of a make-over.

Robert Frost quote in my classroom

Robert Frost quote in my classroom

Robert Frost is one of my favorite poets. His “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” was the first poem I ever learned, while his “Road Not Taken” graced my classroom wall for 10 years. The entire scope of the museum consists of 3 pieces of Frost Furniture and 7 Panels with minimal pictures and TONS of writing. We knew something was up when the couple leaving the museum at 10:10 (The museum opens at 10:00) failed to answer when we asked how it was–but maybe they didn’t hear the question. The Museum curator stated that they desire to “Let Frost speak for himself.” That’s all well and good–if you like reading. For my mom, who is dyslexic (though does take the time to read everything), or many of my students, who either don’t like reading or struggle with it, Frost is not going to GET to speak. He will be “lost in translation.” We offered a few suggestions: podcasts, audio tours, QRL’s…, but it seems this museum is committed to staying a museum, with all the connotations that implies. My fear is it will become as inaccessible as Frost’s “Stone Wall.”

The Stone Cottage

The Stone Cottage

The information is great, however, for those who will take the time to read it. There were hand written notes, letters about his family’s 17 day 225 mile hike on which his boots only allowed him to hike 125 miles (I can’t imagine!) I learned about Frost’s own tragedy–his first son died at four. It shares his fears that he would be nothing more than a name on a gravestone (That ongoing longing to be remembered that I discussed in Search for Significance.) There are many fascinating jewels amidst the wall panels. As one who loves to “Stand on the ground,” it was amazing to stand in the room in which Frost wrote “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening.”

His "name on a stone"

His “name on a stone”

(I also learned he wrote it in June after being up all night.) So there are many fun facts for those willing to take the time to glean answers. My favorite gem was an interview Frost did in which someone asked the question, “How long does it take to write a poem?” His response: “Not long to write them, but it takes a long time to live them.” This reminds me of one of my favorite things about poetry–that every poem is a felt idea. Each one recollects some experience or idea of the author that he or she hopes will resonate with others. In this way, Frost truly does continue to connect with readers. One cool thing the Museum offers is a series of lectures on a variety of Sundays in the summer. These are free to the public and offer additional insight into the life of Robert Frost.

Since the Museum and grounds didn’t take us long, we decided to explore the area. We headed first to Bennington Battle Monument. I’m ashamed to say I do not recall having ever learned anything about the Battle of Bennington, which was a “pre-turning point” to Saratoga in the American Revolution. At 306 feet, it is Vermont’s tallest structure. So what happened at Bennington to make it worthy of such a monument?

Bennington Battle Monument and sculpture of Captain Seth Warner

Bennington Battle Monument and sculpture of Captain Seth Warner

Bennington was the supply station for the military. General Burgoyne (British) knew this and made it a target on his way to Saratoga to try to accomplish the “Divide and Conquer” strategy the British had to win the war. American general Stark, who had resigned from the military due to being passed over for promotions, came back to the field to lead, as long as he could take orders from New Hampshire, not the Continental Congress (who’d refused his promotion.) The legendary Green Mountain Boys (finally, I’m making the connection that Vermont is the Green Mountain State…) also played a large role in the War, but in this battle, just their captain, Seth Warner, came. These forces were able to soundly defeat Burgoyne, who then had to continue to Saratoga without the supplies he sought in Bennington. His men were also psychologically affected by the loss, which may have set them up for another loss in Saratoga. Apparently, Vermont has a tradition of playing a large role in military engagements. During the Civil War, 10% of Vermont’s population served in the military in the Civil War–the largest per capita of any state. They also made the machines that produced the gun powder used in the war, as well as the ore for horseshoes. This little state packed a big punch!
Bennington Cemetery--Flags mark Revolutionary graves

Bennington Cemetery–Flags mark Revolutionary graves

From the Monument, we went to the Old Congregational Church in Bennington. This church has the grave of Robert Frost, but it offers many other cool historical connections. It was on this location that 109 delegates, one from each county, met to vote to ratify the Constitution of the United States–103 voted yes. Additionally, the cemetery has a huge collection of Revolutionary War soldiers’ graves. It’s an incredible place to poke explore. Though we had had relatives who fought in the American Revolution–one even with the Green Mountain Boys–I don’t believe we had any buried there. It would have been fun to hunt down the stories of the men buried here. But, for today, we went to visit Robert Frost and journeyed on.

Jarvis Rockwell's piece

Jarvis Rockwell’s piece

Our next stop was the Bennington Museum, which is not closed on Wednesdays in the summer, despite that information on the website. This museum houses a large collection of Grandma Moses art, in addition to a number of other works of art and artifacts. First, though Grandma Moses is an American icon, she’s never been one of my favorites–I prefer realism and impressionism. Her work is a little too “modern” for me–meaning the people and animals vaguely resemble themselves, but more like what a fifth grader might do. Apologies to any of her greatest fans, she’s just not my favorite. But, there are a number of other really cool pieces of furniture, sewing machines, lace works, and other items that were really neat. There’s even a large collection of weaponry and a display explaining the Battle of Bennington. They also have a great genealogical library, where we looked up a bit of information on our relatives. One interesting find was a picture and wall designed by Jarvis Rockwell, Norman’s artist son I had just learned about! I’m still not a fan of modern art, though.

Henry Bridge

Henry Bridge

We headed out of town to check out some of the famous Vermont covered bridges. My favorite was the Henry Bridge. It’s also the easiest to photograph, with the best pullout and even a picnic area. After taking a few pictures, we set off for the Apple Barn, one of my mom’s favorite places. This country store has a number of amazing products. We left with chocolate chocolate chip pancake mix, buy one get one free pumpkin butter, apple cider doughnuts, maple sugar, maple syrup, and peaches. As we were walking out, we noticed the blueberry patch behind the store. Mom went in and asked about picking some, and we were told we could pick some for free because of our purchase! So, we topped the day off with two buckets of blueberries!

Looking forward to heading to Plymouth tomorrow!

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