December 13, 1636: Birthday of the National Guard

 

On December 13, 1636, to fight the Pequot War, the Massachusetts Bay Colony established three militia regiments:  the North, the South and the East.  All males between 16 and 60 were considered to be members.  This date is now considered to be the birth of the National Guard.  The Pequot War, 1636-1638, engulfing the newly settled coastal New England, was the first great war in American history and began the American process of modifying European modes of war to American conditions.  The colonists won an overwhelming victory, celebrated by the contemporary New England accounts.  Modern historians of course condemn the colonists, and use such popular cant phrases as calling the contemporary documents “hegemonic, valorizing Puritans and demonizing Indians. ”  The War tends to be seen through popular racial prejudices, both those of the seventeenth century and those of our day.

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Published in: on December 13, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on December 13, 1636: Birthday of the National Guard  
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Of Pilgrims

A not bad, albeit simplified, look at how the most unlikely and ill-prepared pilgrims, the Pilgrims, in American history succeeded against the odds in planting a permanent colony.

 

 

Published in: on November 24, 2017 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Of Pilgrims  
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May 25, 1738: Ending of the Conojocular War

300px-Cresapwarmap

 

Boundary disputes were quite common between the colonies, but few got as violent as the boundary line war between Pennsylvania and Maryland from 1730-1738.  Pennsylvania’s charter (1681) provided for its southern boundary as follows:  “on the South by a Circle drawne at twelve miles’ distance from New Castle Northward and Westward unto the beginning of the fortieth degree of Northern Latitude, and then by a streight Line Westward”.  Subsequent surveys established that Dover was a full twenty-five miles south of the 40th Parallel.  Maryland insisted on the 40th Parallel which would have made Philadelphia a Maryland town.  Pennsylvania pushed for a boundary at 39 degrees, 36 minutes which would have taken a strip out of what is northern Maryland.  The dispute simmered for decades breaking out into open conflict in the 1730s with the settlement of the Conejohela Valley west of the  Susquehanna River.  Maryland and Pennsylvania settlers in the disputed territory quickly came into conflict with raids and counter raids by the militias of the two colonies.  The leader of the Maryland settlers was Thomas Cresap, a tough and fearless man as the French would later have reason to attest during the French and Indian War.  Cresap was captured by the Pennsylvanians.  Upon being paraded through the streets of Philadelphia prior to being imprisoned, Cresap remarked:   “Damn it, this is one of the prettiest towns in Maryland!”. (more…)

Published in: on May 25, 2016 at 3:25 am  Comments Off on May 25, 1738: Ending of the Conojocular War  
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Justice Hathorne

He pointed his finger once more, and a tall man, soberly clad in Puritan garb, with the burning gaze of the fanatic, stalked into the room and took his judge’s place.

“Justice Hathorne is a jurist of experience,” said the stranger. “He presided at certain witch trials once held in Salem. There were others who repented of the business later, but not he.”

“Repent of such notable wonders and undertakings?” said the stern old justice. “Nay, hang them–hang them all!” And he muttered to himself in a way that struck ice into the soul of Jabez Stone.

Stephen Vincent Benet, The Devil and Daniel Webster

In his short story The Devil and Daniel Webster, Benet has Satan conjure up the damned souls of 12 villains from American history to serve as a jury in the case of Satan v. Jabez Stone. Only seven of these entities are named, and we have examined the lives of each of them including the “life” I made up for the fictional the Reverend John Smeet.

The judge who presided over the case was Justice John Hathorne.  Born in August of 1641, Hathorne was a merchant of Salem, Massachusetts.  Hathorne prospered as a merchant with trading ventures to England and the West Indies.  He owned land around Salem and in Maine.  With economic power he combined political power, being Justice of the Peace in Essex County, and a member of the legislative upper chamber which combined the roles of legislature and high court.  In 1692 Hathorne was one of the men who questioned the accusers and accused and was in favor of bringing the accused to trial.  He was appointed by the Governor of Massachusetts as one of the judges of the Special Court of Oyer and Terminer that heard the trials.  Hathorne always voted to convict.

Subsequent to the trials he saw service in the militia in King William’s War, taking part in 1696 in the siege of Fort Nashawaak in what became New Brunswick in Canada and rising to the rank of Colonel.  He was eventually appointed to the Superior Court.  He died on May 10, 1717.

Following the Salem witch trials, there was a wave of revulsion at the verdicts.  Few doubted at that time that witches did exist, but many attacked the fairness of the trials, especially the concept of “spectral evidence” which allowed the accusers to testify as to what demons purportedly told them about the accused.  Many people found this admission of supernatural hearsay to be not only fundamentally unfair but preposterous and feared that the accusers had been simply settling old family feuds with the accused.  (more…)

Governor Dale

and cruel Governor Dale, who broke men on the wheel

Stephen Vincent Benet, The Devil and Daniel Webster

In his short story The Devil and Daniel Webster, Benet has Satan conjure up the damned souls of 12 villains from American history to serve as a jury in the case of Satan v. Jabez Stone. Only seven of these entities are named. This is the sixth in a series giving brief biographies of these men. Go here to read the biography of Simon Girty, here to read the “biography” of the Reverend John Smeet,  here to read the biography of Major Walter Butler, here to read the biography of Thomas Morton and here to read the biography of King Philip.  Today we look at Governor Thomas Dale.

The Virginia colony was close to collapse.  Too many useless “gentlemen” of leisure who had come to the New World thinking they could pick gold off the ground and quickly return to England rich.  They had not bargained for a hard pioneer life and many seemed to prefer starvation rather than forsaking their lazy habits.  Into this fiasco in the making came Thomas Dale in 1611.  A Surrey man, Dale had served both as a soldier in the Netherlands and in the Navy.  He was a military man to his marrow and something of a martinet.  The Virginia Company, realizing that strong leadership was needed if the new colony was not to dissolve into anarchy appointed Dale as Deputy Governor and as “Marshall of Virginia”.

When he got to Jamestown Dale was alarmed at the dilapidated condition of the buildings and immediately convened a meeting of the council to appoint crews to begin rebuilding Jamestown.  Dale would serve as acting Governor for the colony for three and a half months in 1611 and in 1614-1616.  In the interim Dale served as “Marshall”.  Whatever his title, while he was in the colony it was clear to all that he was in charge.

He introduced the first code of laws to the colony, popularly known as Dale’s code, which is quite severe.  However, coming into a literally lawless community I can see why Dale would have erred on the side of sternness. (more…)

Morton of Merry Mount

There was Morton of Merry Mount, who so vexed the Plymouth Colony, with his flushed, loose, handsome face and his hate of the godly.

Stephen Vincent Benet, The Devil and Daniel Webster

In his short story The Devil and Daniel Webster, Benet has Satan conjure up the damned souls of 12 villains from American history to serve as a jury in the case of Satan v. Jabez Stone. Only seven of these entities are named. This is the fourth in a series giving brief biographies of these men. Go here to read the biography of Simon Girty, here to read the “biography” of the Reverend John Smeet and here to read the biography of Major Walter Butler.  In this post we direct our attention to Thomas Morton of Merry Mount.

A Devonshire man born in circa 1578, Morton was an attorney and a lover of plays and classical learning.  In 1624 he became involved in a trading venture to the Algonquian Indians in what is now Massachusetts.  In 1626 he founded the settlement of Merry Mount.  Morton ran a free and easy settlement, with the English settlers mixing freely with the Indians and quite a good time apparently being had by all.  On May 1, 1627 Morton erected a Maypole with much frolicking going on around it.

The pilgrims were shocked.  Governor William Bradford of Plymouth wrote: (more…)

King Philip’s War Begins

The great war of Seventeenth Century New England, King Philip’s War raged from 1675-1678 with the New England colonists, now numbering about 80,000, and their Mohican and Pequot allies confronting the  Wampanoag, Nipmuck, Podunk, Narragansett and Nashaway tribes.  The war was savage on both sides, with quarter rarely given.

The conflict began due to the suspicions of the New England colonists that Metacomet, named by them King Philip, Grand Sachem of the Wampanoag Confederacy, was attempting to rally the Indian tribes of New England into a great alliance for war against the whites.  John Sassamon, a Christian Indian, graduate of Harvard and an advisor to Metacomet, informed the Governor of Plymouth colony of this plan.  Metacomet was brought to trial in Plymouth.  Lacking evidence the court merely warned him that further rumors of plots by him could lead to severe consequences for the Wampanoag.  (more…)

Published in: on March 30, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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The First Thanksgiving

On Thursday, we will be giving thanks to an unspecified being for our enormous good fortune, much as the early Pilgrims did in Plymouth some four hundred years ago when they gave thanks for their bountiful harvest and celebrated with the Native Americans.  Only, that’s not the real story behind the first Thanksgiving.  My co-blogger Gipper Clone emailed me this article by Richard Mayburyin which he explains why our traditional understanding of the original day of Thanksgiving is faulty.  Further, it masks the real story of Thanksgiving: our forebears only succeeded once they ditched the socialist utopia that was killing them off in droves.

The problem with this official story is that the harvest of 1621 was not bountiful, nor were the colonists hardworking or tenacious. 1621 was a famine year and many of the colonists were lazy thieves.

In his ‘History of Plymouth Plantation,’ the governor of the colony, William Bradford, reported that the colonists went hungry for years, because they refused to work in the fields. They preferred instead to steal food. He says the colony was riddled with “corruption,” and with “confusion and discontent.” The crops were small because “much was stolen both by night and day, before it became scarce eatable.”

. . .To rectify this situation, in 1623 Bradford abolished socialism. He gave each household a parcel of land and told them they could keep what they produced, or trade it away as they saw fit. In other words, he replaced socialism with a free market, and that was the end of famines.

So the true story of the first Thanksgiving is that the colonists were giving thanks to . .  capitalism!

Except that’s not the truth behind the first Thanksgiving.  In fact, it was a small holiday celebrated in Virginia on Berkeley Plantation.

Each first Sunday in November a Thanksgiving Festival is held at the Berkeley Plantation in accordance with documentation from 1619. The event fulfills instructions given to the 38 settlers who arrived on the banks of the James River at Berkeley Hundred as documented in the proclamation:

    Wee ordaine that the day of our ships arrival at the place assigned for plantacon in the land of Virginia shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God.

Very interesting.  Except that’s not the real story behind the first Thanksgiving.  As Jay Anderson explains, there is another account of the first Thanksgiving.

If you want to know about the real first Thanksgiving on American soil, travel 1,200 miles south and more than 50 years earlier to a grassy spot on the Matanzas River in North Florida.

This is where Spanish Adm. Pedro Menendez de Aviles came ashore on Sept. 8, 1565. This is where he, 500 soldiers, 200 sailors, 100 civilian families and artisans, and the Timucuan Indians who occupied the village of Seloy gathered at a makeshift altar and said the first Christian Mass. And afterward, this is where they held the first Thanksgiving feast.

Jay notes that there were several other “first” Thanksgivings, including the first official US proclamation issued by President Washington.  And as we all know, Thanksgiving did not become an official holiday until 1863, when it was instituted by President Lincoln.

So, what’s the real story?

Does it matter?

Whatever the real story of the first Thanksgiving is, let us all just take a moment to give thanks to God for all that he has bestowed upon us that live in this greatest Nation in the world.

 

Published in: on November 24, 2009 at 3:37 pm  Comments (1)  
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