AP History Notes

The world's best AP history notes
Posts Tagged ‘myths’

Midshipman Preble Chases a Sea Serpent (Boston 1775)

An interesting history-related post from Boston 1775:

Yesterday I quoted the memories of George and Luther Little of the day in May 1780 when their Massachusetts frigate chased a sea serpent off the coast of Maine. But did anyone besides the Little lieutenants leave a record of that giant fish that got away?

One of the youngest officers aboard that ship, the Protector, was Midshipman Edward Preble (1761-1807), later a celebrated U.S. Navy captain. James Fenimore Cooper’s profile of Preble for Graham’s Illustrated Magazine in 1845, republished in Naval Biographies, included his version of the chase:
Preble related the affair substantially as follows: The ...

Read the original post.

A Different Point of View on the “Bunker Hill” Song (Boston 1775)

An interesting history-related post from Boston 1775:

As I discussed yesterday, in post-Revolutionary Boston young veterans of the war preserved and passed around the words to a song about the Battle of Bunker Hill written from the British point of view.

They had different things to say, however, about who had written that song:
  • The first surviving broadside says it was “Composed by the British Soldiers,” and an 1811 reprint says it was “Composed by the British.”
  • A handwritten copy of the verses kept by the merchant John Marston credited “one of the British army.”
  • The historian Samuel Swett apparently had a broadside headlined “Composed ...

Read the original post.

Reports of Lt. Col. James Abercrombie’s Death (Boston 1775)

An interesting history-related post from Boston 1775:

The highest-ranking British officer to be killed at the Battle of Bunker Hill was Lt. Col. James Abercrombie, commander of a special battalion of grenadiers. Sometimes Salem Poor is credited with shooting Abercrombie rather than the most popular target among the British officers, Maj. John Pitcairn (who never scaled the wall of the redoubt as stories claimed).

A contemporary source suggests instead that Abercrombie was a victim of friendly fire. This passage is from the Scots Magazine, August 1775:
A private letter mentions the following particulars of the death of Lt-Col. Abercromby. This gallant officer, who on a ...

Read the original post.

Joseph Snelling’s Delivery at Bunker Hill (Boston 1775)

An interesting history-related post from Boston 1775:

Here’s another notable story of the Battle of Bunker Hill, told by the Rev. Joseph Snelling in his 1847 autobiography. It concerned his father, also named Joseph Snelling (1741-1816).

The elder Snelling was a bookbinder in Boston. He married Rachel Mayer in 1763 and evidently had a small shop of his own at the start of the war.

Snelling’s older brother Jonathan (1734-1782) was a merchant and officer in the Cadets. He dined with the Sons of Liberty as the Liberty Tree Tavern in Dorchester in 1769. But he signed the laudatory addresses to the royal governors in ...

Read the original post.

Capt. Bancroft’s “severe struggle to escape out of the fort” (Boston 1775)

An interesting history-related post from Boston 1775:

I’ve been quoting the account of the Bunker Hill battle set down by a grandson of Capt. Ebenezer Bancroft reportedly around 1826. When we last left the captain and his Dunstable men, the British had made their third advance on the Breed’s Hill redoubt and had flanked it on the west side, overwhelming the provincial defenses.

Capt. Bancroft is quoted as saying:
As I was loading my gun the last time, and just withdrawing the ramrod, an officer sprang over the breastwork in front of me and presented his piece. I threw away the rammer which was in my hand, ...

Read the original post.

The Jersey Prison Ship Records on Ebenezer Fox (Boston 1775)

An interesting history-related post from Boston 1775:

As I wrote yesterday, on 5 May 1781 two Royal Navy ships captured the pride of the Massachusetts navy, the Protector, and its crew, including young Ebenezer Fox of Roxbury. (The picture here shows him over fifty years later.)

The National Archives in London holds three volumes of bound muster rolls from the Jersey prison ship, then in New York harbor, and those confirm that men from the Protector began arriving on that hulk on 8 May. Even more were listed on 9 May. Those prisoners were credited to the two vessels that had captured the ...

Read the original post.

“‘Illuminati Morse’ as he is now called” (Boston 1775)

An interesting history-related post from Boston 1775:

New England Federalists were happy to link Jeffersonians with the democratic, anti-religious, and French Illuminati (no matter that the order was actually Bavarian). At the end of his article on the birth of the Illuminati myth, Mike Jay writes:
In an overheated political milieu where accusations of treason were hurled from both sides, [John Robison’s] Proofs of a Conspiracy was seized on eagerly by the Federalists as evidence of the hidden agenda that lurked behind fine-sounding slogans such as democracy, the abolition of slavery and the rights of man. Robison’s words were repeated endlessly in New England pulpits ...

Read the original post.

George Washington Encounters the Illuminati (Boston 1775)

An interesting history-related post from Boston 1775:

Yesterday I quoted from Mike Jay’s article on the birth of the Illuminati conspiracy in an overheated jeremiad by the Scottish professor John Robison. His 1797 book Proofs of a Conspiracy against all the Religions and Governments of Europe also found readers in the young U.S. of A., with local editions published the following year.

On 22 Aug 1798, a German-born minister in Maryland named George William Snyder (sometimes spelled Schneyder or Schneider) sent a copy of Robison’s book to retired President George Washington. Snyder, who himself had just published The Age of Reason Unreasonable to counter Thomas ...

Read the original post.

Illuminating the Illuminati Myth (Boston 1775)

An interesting history-related post from Boston 1775:

I quite enjoyed Mike Jay’s recent article at Public Domain Review on the birth of our understanding of the Illuminati. The crucial text was the subtly titled Proofs of a Conspiracy against all the Religions and Governments of Europe, published in 1797 by Prof. John Robison of Edinburgh (shown here).

Jay, also author of A Visionary Madness: The Case of James Tilly Matthews and the Influencing Machine, writes:
Robison’s vast conspiracy needed an imposing figurehead, a role for which Adam Weishaupt, the founder of the Bavarian Order of the Illuminati, seemed on the surface to be an unpromising ...

Read the original post.

Washington “discovered to be of the Female Sex” (Boston 1775)

An interesting history-related post from Boston 1775:

On 25 Jan 1783 both the London Daily Advertiser and the Whitehall Evening Post printed an item they said had come from the 11 November Pennsylvania Gazette by way of the Dublin Register. It told readers:
A Discovery has lately been made on this Continent that will astonish the whole World. Our great and excellent General Washington is actually discovered to be of the Female Sex. This important secret was revealed by the Lady who lived with the General as a Wife these 30 years, and died the 6th instant at the General’s seat in Virginia, to the Clergyman ...

Read the original post.

The Myth of “Students today depend on paper too much” (Boston 1775)

An interesting history-related post from Boston 1775:

Last week I retweeted an image from an educational publication presenting this historic complaint:
Students today depend on paper too much. They don’t know how to write on a slate without getting chalk dust all over themselves. They can’t clean a slate properly. What will they do when they run out of paper?
That passage was said to have appeared in a “principal’s publication” in 1815.

I liked how that passage hinted at the change in American pedagogy over the years. Many of us have an image of past education based on literature and art from the mid-1800s, with slates, ...

Read the original post.

Where Did Jonathan Harrington, Jr., Die? (Boston 1775)

An interesting history-related post from Boston 1775:

In 1775 this house facing Lexington common, shown courtesy of the Along the King’s Highway blog, was the home of Jonathan Harrington. There were three Jonathan Harringtons among the Lexington militiamen who turned out on 19 Apr 1775, and this is the one who was shot dead.

The plaque on the right side of the house façade explains the standard story of Harrington’s death: “Wounded on the common April 19 1775 [he] dragged himself to the door and died at his wife’s feet.” That story played a role in the discussion over preserving the house, as James M. Lindgren’s ...

Read the original post.

Sgt. Monroe on Capt. Parker (Boston 1775)

An interesting history-related post from Boston 1775:

Yesterday I quoted the Rev. Theodore Parker telling the story of his grandfather John Parker’s words to his Lexington militia company on 19 Apr 1775: “If they want [or mean] to have a war, let it begin here.”

In 1858 Parker told the historian George Bancroft his sources for that quotation:
They were kept as the family tradition of the day, and when the battle was re-enacted in 1820 (or thereabout), his orderly sergeant took the Captain’s place, and repeated the words, adding, “For them is the very words Captain Parker said.”
We know from other sources that the ...

Read the original post.

Sgt. Monroe on Capt. Parker (Boston 1775)

An interesting history-related post from Boston 1775:

Yesterday I quoted the Rev. Theodore Parker telling the story of his grandfather John Parker’s words to his Lexington militia company on 19 Apr 1775: “If they want [or mean] to have a war, let it begin here.”

In 1858 Parker told the historian George Bancroft his sources for that quotation:
They were kept as the family tradition of the day, and when the battle was re-enacted in 1820 (or thereabout), his orderly sergeant took the Captain’s place, and repeated the words, adding, “For them is the very words Captain Parker said.”
We know from other sources that the ...

Read the original post.

The “No King But Jesus” Myth (Boston 1775)

An interesting history-related post from Boston 1775:

Here’s a myth about the fighting at Lexington in April 1775 that’s become popular on the American far right over the last thirty years.

What might be the earliest telling comes from Charles A. Jennings, a Christian Identity speaker who operated the ironically named “Truth in History” website and wrote:
On April 18, 1775 John Adams and John Hancock were at the home of Rev. Jonas Clarke, a Lexington pastor and militia leader. That same night Paul Revere arrived to warn them of the approaching Redcoats. The next morning British Major Pitcairn shouted to an assembled regiment ...

Read the original post.

Dating the Forster Flag (Boston 1775)

An interesting history-related post from Boston 1775:

Today Doyle New York auctions the Forster Flag, an unusual banner said to date from the Revolutionary War (shown here before its recent conservation).

As I discussed yesterday, the family that owned the flag in the nineteenth and most of the twentieth century passed down lore that it had been captured from British troops on 19 Apr 1775, but that doesn’t seem plausible.

A rival, contradictory claim is Lt. Samuel Forster and his Manchester militia company marched under this flag on that day. That means it would have had to be remade with its thirteen stripes  in 1774 or early ...

Read the original post.

Legends of the Forster Flag (Boston 1775)

An interesting history-related post from Boston 1775:

Tomorrow the Doyle New York auction house will offer the Forster Flag, a banner that family tradition dates to the Revolutionary War. The estimated price is $1-3,000,000.

As Barbara Owens of Spicer Art Conservation explains in an interesting technical analysis, this silk banner shows signs of having been refashioned with a new canton on its red field.

The original canton probably displayed either the British Union Ensign or the English St. George’s cross. The remade canton has thirteen short white stripes, six on one side and seven on the other. Some of those stripes are pieced together from ...

Read the original post.

Reviewing Every Twist and Turn (Boston 1775)

An interesting history-related post from Boston 1775:

Last night saw the launch of A.M.C.’s new spy drama Turn, followed closely by the launch of my review of that show at Den of Geek. I don’t type that fast; I got an advance look at the first episode. So did Michael Schellhammer, and his review at the Journal of the American Revolution went up last week.

Turn was inspired by Alexander Rose’s Washington’s Spies, a history of the Culper Ring operating in British-occupied New York City and Long Island from 1778 to the end of the war. And by “inspired” I mean the creators took ...

Read the original post.

Arrrrr (Boston 1775)

An interesting history-related post from Boston 1775:

In 2007, the British author Colin Woodard published The Republic of Pirates: Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and the Man who Brought Them Down.

I therefore suspect that it was with mixed feelings that Woodard greeted the news in the very next year that researchers were uncovering important new sources on Caribbean piracy in the early 1700s. Trent University historian Arne Bialuschewski found several eyewitness reports from former captives in Jamaican archives. Mike Daniel of the Maritime Research Institute in Florida discovered an eyewitness report of how Blackbeard captured a French ship named the ...

Read the original post.

Molly Stark, Medford, and Myths (Boston 1775)

An interesting history-related post from Boston 1775:

Gen. John Stark’s wife Elizabeth, nicknamed Molly, became a very popular historical figure during the Colonial Revival of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

She served New Hampshire and (given the Battle of Bennington, though it was actually fought inside New York) Vermont as a local heroine. Anecdotes managed to portray her both as a gentle hostess and nurse and as a brave, hardy frontier woman.

Among those anecdotes was her own tale of watching Col. Stark climb Copp’s Hill at the end of the siege of Boston to be sure that the British had ...

Read the original post.

Mrs. Stark’s Story of the Evacuation (Boston 1775)

An interesting history-related post from Boston 1775:

A Facebook discussion with folks at the Royall House and Slave Quarters in Medford led me to this page from the Memoir and Official Correspondence of Gen. John Stark (1860), preserving a story that Elizabeth (Molly) Stark (1737-1814) told her descendants about the end of the siege of Boston.

The anecdote starts with Gen. George Washington and the American forces getting impatient at the British military’s slow departure from Boston in March 1776 and ordering an assault on the town.
He ordered a strong force to enter the town by way of Roxbury neck, while at the same time ...

Read the original post.

The South Boston Parade’s Legend of John Henry Knox (Boston 1775)

An interesting history-related post from Boston 1775:

Today the St. Patrick’s Day Parade is scheduled in South Boston, sponsored by the local Allied War Veteran’s Council under the leadership of John “Wacko” Hurley.

A while back, a nice person from one of greater Boston’s history museums contacted me, aghast at the parade’s “History” webpage. That page declares:
The History and the Defined Truth of the South Boston, St. Patrick's Day Parade

General John Henry Knox brought the 55 cannons captured at Fort Ticonderoga. In March, the troops positioned the cannons on
Dorchester Heights.

They had cut down trees to cannon size, hollow them out and blacken ...

Read the original post.

Samuel Adams and the Massacre Victims’ Grave (Boston 1775)

An interesting history-related post from Boston 1775:

Here’s another myth about the Boston Massacre that seems to have arisen recently.

Did Samuel Adams have the Massacre victims’ bodies placed in his family tomb?

The monuments in the Granary Burying-Ground to Samuel Adams and to the victims of the Boston Massacre (and Christopher Seider) are near each other. That seems to have given rise to the idea that they mark the same tomb. The Encyclopedia of the Veteran in America (2009) says that “the five victims of the Boston Massacre are buried (in a circle around Adams).” Boston’s Freedom Trail (2011), by Cindi D. Pietrzyk, states that ...

Read the original post.

New Myths of the Boston Massacre (Boston 1775)

An interesting history-related post from Boston 1775:

The Boston Massacre occurred 244 years ago today. From the start that was a controversial event with different participants seeing it quite differently. It’s been mythologized in many ways, and myths and misconceptions continue to crop up. Here are some that I’ve seen repeated recently.

Did Crispus Attucks work at Gray’s ropewalk?

Boston’s official report on the shooting, titled A Short Narrative of the Horrid Massacre…, gave a lot of attention to a brawl between soldiers and workers at John Gray’s rope-manufacturing facility on 2 March. That fight involved two soldiers, Mathew Kilroy and William Warren, and ...

Read the original post.