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Posts Tagged ‘myths’

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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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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 ...

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Painting the Legend (Boston 1775)

An interesting history-related post from Boston 1775:

The Skinner auction house reports that that watercolor I’ve been discussing sold for $39,975, above the estimate. I hope its new owner is pleased with the painting and the little historical mystery it brings.

Thinking about what makes an artifact interesting reminded me of a story I noted back in 2006, right after I started this blog. As reported by National Public Radio and the New Yorker, the story started in 1975 when Alexander McBurney, a doctor in Rhode Island, bought the painting shown here.

A picture of a Revolutionary-era black mariner in uniform is extremely ...

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Seeing “Whites of Their Eyes” Everywhere and Nowhere (Boston 1775)

An interesting history-related post from Boston 1775:

After Liz Covart tweeted about my post tracing a variation of “Don’t fire till you see the whites of their eyes” to Israel Putnam, I had an interesting chat about the quotation on Twitter with Alexander Rose, author of Washington’s Spies.

We agree that it’s unlikely Putnam coined the phrase in 1775, that probably many officers in the British Empire had said such words to many infantrymen and sailors. That seems even more likely given yesterday’s quotation credited to Adm. Richard Howe in 1794, which hints that the phrase had already become linked (at least in Englishmen’s ...

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How Long Did Slavery Linger in Vermont? (Boston 1775)

An interesting history-related post from Boston 1775:

Last month the Seven Days alternative newsweekly in Burlington reported on Harvey Amani Whitfield’s research on remnants of slavery in Vermont, which we New Englanders usually consider to be the foundation of our anti-slavery tradition:
Whitfield’s research explodes the myth that the abolitionist provision in the Republic of Vermont’s 1777 constitution ended slavery in the territory. The ban on holding black adults as slaves was indeed the first of its kind in the New World and launched Vermont’s progressive tradition, Whitfield acknowledges. But, he adds, an unknown but significant number of black Vermonters remained in bondage several years after ...

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“Undoubted intelligence of hostilities being begun at Boston” (Boston 1775)

An interesting history-related post from Boston 1775:

The 28 Apr 1775 Pennsylvania Mercury newspaper contained several letters about the fighting in Massachusetts nine days before. One that had just arrived in Philadelphia the previous evening began:
Hartford, April 23, 1775.

Dear Sir,

These are to inform you, that we have undoubted intelligence of hostilities being begun at Boston by the regular troops; the truth of which we are assured divers ways, and especially by Mr. Adams the post [rider]; the particulars of which, as nigh as I can recollect, are as follow:

General [Thomas] Gage, last Tuesday night, draughted out about 1000 or 1200 ...

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This Article on Samuel Adams Will Change Your Life (Boston 1775)

An interesting history-related post from Boston 1775:

This morning’s article at the online Journal of the American Revolution bears the reprehensible clickbait title “You Won’t Believe How Samuel Adams Recruited Sons of Liberty.” And I wrote it.

In fact, thinking of that title, at first as a joke, helped me figure out how to pull together some Boston 1775 postings and comments from 2006 into a new article. I did a lot of rewriting, but I decided to stick with the opening that had gotten me started.

Todd Andrlik at the J.A.R. keeps track of what articles get the most clicks, out of curiosity and wanting to ...

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The Memory of Samuel Ely (Boston 1775)

An interesting history-related post from Boston 1775:

For the last two days I’ve quoted advertisements from Connecticut newspapers spelling out a dispute between militia colonel William Williams of Wilmington, Vermont and the former minister Samuel Ely. That wasn’t the last dispute that Ely got into.

In April 1782, while living in Conway, Massachusetts, Ely led a crowd that kept the Hampshire County court closed, just as similar crowds had done in 1774 and throughout the war. Though Massachusetts had a new constitution, Ely and the scores of men who supported him didn’t think the system was fair to poor farmers. Ely is described as picking ...

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“Most People Don’t Know That” (Boston 1775)

An interesting history-related post from Boston 1775:

Politifact rarely ventures into the politics of the eighteenth century, but its editor couldn’t resist one story last week:
Fox News co-host Andrea Tantaros…and other The Five panelists were talking about a new report from the conservative Heritage Foundation, which ranked America only 12th in terms of economic freedom. Tantaros said countries ahead of the United States, like Estonia, are more economically free because they “actually know their history, and they study their history, and they study ours and what we’re doing here.”

Americans, on the other hand, have gotten lazy and complacent, she suggested.

“If you ask ...

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The Deborah Champion Story Today (Boston 1775)

An interesting history-related post from Boston 1775:

Yesterday’s posting brought the tale of the Deborah Champion letter up to the present, with versions of the text appearing on websites as well as books as an authentic historical source about a young Connecticut woman early in the Revolutionary War. It’s linked to authoritative institutions like the Library of Congress and the University of Connecticut. And now that it’s appearing online, the Deborah Champion story can reach more people more quickly than ever.

Yet, as I laid out before, the letter’s historical details, language, and narrative style strongly suggest that it’s a fiction created around 1900. No one ...

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A Critical Mass of Deborah Champion Retellings? (Boston 1775)

An interesting history-related post from Boston 1775:

In recent years, an increasing number of books have referred to Deborah Champion’s experience carrying dispatches. Usually those are brief mentions, such as her name dropped in Liberty’s Daughters (1980), by Mary Beth Norton, a landmark in American women’s history. Holly A. Mayer describes Champion’s trip in a footnote of Belonging to the Army: Camp Followers and Community During the American Revolution (1996), citing the Library of Congress typescript.

The most prominent recent description seems to be two pages of Carol Berkin’s Revolutionary Mothers: Women in the Struggle for America’s Independence (2007). It appears in a chapter on ...

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A Second Look at Deborah Champion and “Uncle Aristarchus” (Boston 1775)

An interesting history-related post from Boston 1775:

Yesterday I brought the story of the Deborah Champion letter into the 1970s, when the Bicentennial and the search for female heroes in American history brought her back into print. The rise of women’s history not only brought more attention to the experiences of women in the American Revolution, but also new rigor to the study of that history.

Apparently around that time—we don’t know exactly when—another version of the letter arrived at the Library of Congress. That document offered a more plausible October 1775 date and cut some of the more dubious details about the siege of Boston ...

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The First and Second Wave of Deborah Champion (Boston 1775)

An interesting history-related post from Boston 1775:

The dubious Deborah Champion letter I’ve been discussing for more than a week appears to be a product of the Colonial Revival and the first wave of American feminism. It was first noted in 1902 and read at meetings of the Daughters of the American Revolution and the New Haven Colony Historical Society. Two similar versions of the text were printed in The Pioneer Mothers of America (1912) and the Jefferson County Journal (1926).

Mary Ritter Beard, the progressive historian, quoted an undated version from the Adams, New York, chapter of the D.A.R. in America Through Women’s Eyes ...

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Deborah Champion, Cloaked Crusader (Boston 1775)

An interesting history-related post from Boston 1775:

Last week’s postings showed how descendants of Henry Champion, particularly women who had joined the Daughters of the American Revolution, promulgated the dubious Deborah Champion letter in the early 1900s. They told the story at meetings, sent copies to other chapters, and probably shared a copy to the authors of The Pioneer Mothers of America.

This week’s postings have shown how the text of that letter changed over time, how its details don’t conform to facts about the siege of Boston, how it reads like historical fiction. Most of the Champion relatives could have been ...

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Other Dubious Documents about Revolutionary Women (Boston 1775)

An interesting history-related post from Boston 1775:

Over the past several days, I’ve been sharing the judgment of a group of researchers about the letter attributed to Deborah Champion of Connecticut in 1775 or 1776. We concluded, as others have less loudly before us, that this text was composed and revised in the late 1800s or early 1900s. The letter was probably inspired by the Champion family’s tradition about Deborah undertaking rides for her father, first published in 1891. That might have been an accurate memory, but there’s no reliable evidence to back it up.

Did author of the letter intend for people to take it ...

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The Deborah Champion Letter as Historical Fiction (Boston 1775)

An interesting history-related post from Boston 1775:

One quality of the Deborah Champion letter, in either version, that struck everyone on the team of researchers that Joseph Warren biographer Sam Forman assembled is its novelistic detail. In short, it reads like fiction. What’s more, Tamesin Eustis wrote, “Not only is it an extraordinarily well-organized ‘narrative’ that doesn’t read true for most letter-writing, it has the tone, style, and language of something written in a later era.”

Derek Beck said:
The letter is written to someone she is close to, but there seems to be language in the letter that is really meant as exposition to us ...

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