05 July 2012

How's This for a Fourth of July Celebration?

In honor of our nation's birthday, the family and I decided to watch History Channel's "The Revolution".   We actually wanted to know about the Declaration of Independence, but upon finding this episodic documentary on Netflix streaming.

And well, I know there's two sides of every documentary, but this one presented some new, interesting information that I recall reading in no history textbook.

The Boston Massacre of 1770?  Not really a massacre, per se.  A group of rowdy Bostonians were heckling and harassing a couple of British sentry guards, and chaos broke out when rocks were chucked by the mob...which then led to a willy-nilly firing of British muskets.  Eventually, five colonists were killed.  However, if you Google Images "Boston Massacre", you'll see the famous Paul Revere engraving of a line of disciplined Redcoats firing, at exactly the same moment, into a bedraggled crowd, who seem to be in the process of retreat.  It doesn't take long to research and find contradicting testimonies of what exactly happened that night.

But, it goes to show that even then, the media spin machine was at work.  Patriots in Boston took this event (referred to by British as the "Incident on King Street") and spun it in a way so that it appears that the British were looking for any reason to oppress and open fire on rebel colonials.  A means to an end, as it were. 

Washington’s complex character?  Through excerpts from letters written by the newly appointed Commander in Chief of the Continental Army, we learned Washington often questioned his appointment and ability to fulfill it.  That might come off as humble...a noble quality.  But, he also then declares in an Order written in November 1775, that for his army, "neither Negroes, boys unable to bear arms, and old men unfit to endure the fatigues of the campaign are to be enlisted [in the army].  That's...not so noble.  On the other hand, he acts with tremendous poise and grace after unwittingly discovering his junior officers are plotting against him after his military defeats of 1776.  Will the real George Washington stand up please?  And not in the head boat that crossed the Delaware River (because, really, that didn't happen).

British reasoning?  As it turns out, the British have spent a terrible amount of money on defending us from French raids and Indian attacks.  To recover some of that lost fundage, the tax its colony, America.  Not a terrible thing or reason to want it, really.  But that's a side of the story I don't remember hearing in high school.

Often throughout the documentary, the British are referred to as the best army in the world.  That an untrained, ragtag group of colonists managed to unseat that army's power in this country....well, that's just freaking amazing.  And especially since there were a lot of close calls too.

Ultimately, maybe the truth doesn't matter.  Maybe what really happened is somewhere in between what the history books say and what the TV shows says.  Those really were the times that tried men's souls.


  1. Did the documentary mention French assistance to the colonists? How about the Hessians who were German mercenary soldiers fighting for the British? Just curious because those are bits I recall from my American history of long ago.

    1. Mr. O: Yes - both of those bits were mentioned. I do recall learning about the French assistance, but the Hessians were new to me.

  2. You mean the British don't have the best Army?
    Funny. I have a british friend and told him Mel Giobson's the Patriot explained it perfectly to me. The British were bad! Haa haa!

    1. WP: Might have to put "The Patriot" on my list of movies to watch next!