The Lads……And The Lassies.

(This is a repeat of a July 4, 2014 post, but we have been giving a lot of thought to freedoms and those lads who secured freedoms for America many years ago. The lads were not the only ones who suffered and endured the Revolutionary War, and we should not forget the sacrifices of the wives and families whose lads left their homes to secure a higher ideal for themselves, and for others. We have updated this post to include some of the women – the common women – who did uncommon things in the name of American Freedom.)


Today we celebrate the 4th of July. Two hundred and forty three years ago, a bunch of sweaty men were signing the Declaration of Independence, declaring the thirteen colonies…

….. are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do.

So while we celebrate today as the day the United States was born, technically that is not true. The Declaration of Independence only established 13 new states from colonies and declared a break from Great Britain.

As we think about the 4th of July and what it means, we always remember the great Founding Fathers. People like George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, James Madison, John Adams, and many others. It should also be remembered that these men could not have been as successful without the support of their wives. (Well, maybe not Franklin, but that is another story.) But for people like Washington and Adams, the support, understanding and encouragement the women offered their husbands helped form the foundation of the country. It is a shame that Martha Washington burned the personnel letters between George and herself, but the love story between John and Abigail Adams is the stuff fairy tales are written about.

Without the women who stayed home, ran the farms, the businesses and took care of the homestead, America would not be here.

It wasn’t just the Founding Fathers who endured the separation from spouses. The common soldier and militiaman was also separated from his family and home leaving the wife to take care of things. What is more amazing is that as these men walked off to war. they were not professional soldiers. For the most part, they were hunters, farmers, fisherman and businessmen.

Yet somehow they walked away from their wives and loved ones to stand shoulder to shoulder with others who had done the same thing.

As these men stood on a field, they faced the best trained army in the world. Experts in maneuvers, tactics and arms (especially the bayonet,) the men and redcoats and in some cases kilts, were an overwhelming force to be reckoned force.

Standing along side the British were German soldiers. Collectively known as “Hessians,” the Germans were feared by their British allies.

Professional soldiers against the amateurs.

It was so bad that Washington could not view his men as men. Their inexperience led him to call them “lads.” The term “lad” means “a boy or youth,” and in the terms of military experience, the men facing the British, Scots and Hessians were “military lads.”

“The lads vs the pros.”

Maybe that is why we as Americans always go for the underdog.

There are going to be a lot of writings today that will talk about the lads against the professional soldiers. What will be missed in most cases is that these lads did not leave their livelihoods, homes and their loved ones for an entity known as “the United States of America” as the country was not officially founded until years later.

They left their homes and loved ones for an idea called “freedom.”

It is the freedom to exercise our God given / natural rights that these lads – the lads whom we think were not as educated as we are today – understood and sought to secure for themselves and their families and the generations to follow.

In some ways we do a disservice to those lads and their families in celebrating the 4th of July but not really knowing what we are celebrating. We eat hot dogs, drink cold beverages and watch fireworks on this day, but we too often forget the lads. We too often forget what they knew, fought and died for:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

There is an old saying that goes something like “behind every good man there is a better woman.” In the case of the American Revolution, that saying is true and many women supported their husbands and brothers by keeping farms and businesses running while the lads were away.

However, women also displayed the American spirit on the front lines, or took incredible risks.

Here are but a few of those women who we celebrate today:

Margaret Cochran Corbin was one of the wives who, during the Revolution, were tagged as “Camp Followers.” These women followed their husbands, cooking, washing laundry and doing whatever domestic chores needed to be done.

On November 16, 1776, while they were stationed in Fort Washington, the fort was attacked by British and Hessian troops. Margaret’s husband, John, was assisting a gunner who was ultimately killed during the battle. John then took over as gunner until he was killed. Margaret, known as Captain Molly, had no time to mourn and continued firing the cannon alone until she was wounded, severely injuring her shoulder and chest and mangling her jaw. She never fully recovered from the wounds and was left without the use of her left arm for the rest of her life.

“Captain Molly’s” story later became immortalized as she was known as “Molly Pitcher” as she was taking water to the men on the guns when the gunner and later her husband were killed.

In 1783, a young soldier named Robert Shurtlieff took ill, just another man sickened by the “brain fever” outbreak sweeping through the troops stationed in Philadelphia at that time. After a short struggle with the illness, Shurtlieff appeared near death. A doctor checked the man’s pulse, then rested a hand on his chest to see if he was still breathing.

He was—and the doctor was in for a surprise. Shurtlieff (sometimes listed as Shurtleff) wasn’t a man at all, but a woman who had bound her chest and disguised herself to become a soldier.

Robert Shurtlieff had been invented three years earlier by Deborah Samson (sometimes spelled Sampson), a 20-something girl recently freed from indenture on a farm. A dedicated patriot, she was determined to join the Continental Army, and enlisted in the Fourth Massachusetts Regiment.

Samson took well to Army life. So well, in fact, that her fellow soldiers teased her for being unable to grow a beard by calling her “Molly,” but apparently never suspected the truth behind the name. She was injured in battle several times, always refusing medical care for fear that her secret would be discovered.

On the evening April 26, 1777, Colonel Henry Ludington received bad news.

British forces led by Major General William Tryon had landed on the coast of Connecticut and marched to Danbury, where they destroyed Continental Army supplies. Colonel Ludington was being asked to gather his militia and march for Danbury, 25 miles away. However, Ludington also needed to stay at his farm to brief the men as they arrived and prepare for the march.

His eldest child, 16-year-old Sybil, volunteered to rouse the militia. She rode out at 9 p.m. on the start of a 40-mile circuit, knocking on farm doors and shouting that the British were in Danbury. Each of the men she woke gathered nearby militiamen and headed for the Ludington homestead, where the colonel was waiting.

Ludington rode through the night, waking dozens of her father’s men. She had to avoid bandits and British sympathizers on her route, but she returned home safely. Most of Colonel Ludington’s militia gathered and marched to Danbury. They were too late to save the town from British torches, but they did manage to harry the British soldiers all the way back to Long Island Sound.

Agent 355 is one of the most mysterious figures of the American Revolution. After more than 200 years, her identity is still unknown.

A member of the Culper spy ring, 355 reported to Abraham Woodhull, who went by the alias of Samuel Culper Sr. However, she may have been closer to his fictitious “son,” merchant Robert Townsend, a.k.a. Samuel Culper Jr. Agent 355 may have been a family member or maid in a well-regarded Loyalist family in New York City, which would have allowed her contact with high-ranking British officers.

It’s likely that she was someone particularly close to Major John Andre, who led the British intelligence efforts. The intelligence she passed to the Culper ring was detailed when Andre was in New York, and sparse when he was not.

Whoever she was, she helped to uncover American General Benedict Arnold’s plans to betray the Revolution, and Andre, his contact, was arrested by the colonists. The fort at West Point, which Arnold had schemed to turn over to the British, was saved. Andre was eventually hanged, but Arnold escaped capture and joined the British as planned.

And our favorite:

Nancy Hart

Here is a woman known to have a hot temper, fearless spirit and no hesitation to deliver revenge if she felt herself or any member of her family had been harmed.

The most well-known account of Nancy’s life begins when six British soldiers stopped at her cabin in search of a Whig leader, demanding information if he had stopped at her farm. Although the man they were tracking had been there, she denied seeing anyone.

Convinced that she was lying, one of the Tories shot and killed Hart’s prized gobbler, ordering her to cook the bird. Entering the cabin, they stacked their weapons in a corner and demanded something to drink. Hart obliged them by serving up wine. As the soldiers drank the wine, Hart sent her daughter to the spring for a bucket of water. She secretly instructed her daughter to blow a conch shell, kept in a nearby stump, to alert the neighbors that Tories were in the cabin.

As Hart served her unwelcome visitors and passed between them and their weapons, she began to pass the muskets through an opening in the cabin wall to her daughter, who had slipped outside to the rear of the house. When the soldiers noticed what was going on, they rushed to try and retrieve what weapons were left. She gave them one warning that she would shoot the next man that moved. Ignoring her warning, one man made the deadly mistake of approaching her. She held the rest off until her husband, Benjamin, and others arrived.

Benjamin Hart wanted to shoot the remaining hostages, but she insisted on hanging them.

In 1912 workmen grading a railroad near the site of the old Hart cabin unearthed a neat row of six skeletons that lay under nearly three feet of earth and were estimated to have been buried for at least a century.

Much of the contributions of women in the fight for independence has been lost to the fog of history. In some ways that is a shame. In other ways, it is a good thing because the unheralded actions of unknown women stand beside those of unknown men and their unheralded actions brought this country – this great country – into being.

So as you celebrate the 4th of July today, take a moment to think of the lads, the lassies, their families and their sacrifices.

Raise a glass to them and honor what they believed, what they fought for, what they risked, and the results.

The Declaration of Independence

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

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