In this plague time when the world seems turned upside down, History provides us with a much needed tonic. Through the light of History we can reflect on those who have gone before us facing enormous existential challenges of their own. Surely the generation of Americans who experienced the American Revolution knew about death, sacrifice, and making difficult choices. We Americans were blessed with leaders of probity and wisdom who became the Founding Fathers of our nation. This quarantine that we are enduring provides us with the time to digest weighty and important books.
Rick Atkinson, a distinguished military historian and the author of the Liberation Trilogy about the American experience in WW2 in Europe, has now provided us with one of these. Atkinson has taken up the challenge of writing about the American Revolution. The first volume of his Revolution Trilogy is The British are Coming which was published in 2019 and has a paperback release in April 2020 (www.amzn.com/1250231329). Much more on this exciting project can be found at...www.revolutiontrilogy.com.
Tom Paine's words in American Crisis No 1 echo down and resonate anew in our own 2020 ears in with full force...
"These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country. But he that stand now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman (all health care professionals worldwide). Tyranny (or Coronavirus), like. hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have the consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph."
The American Revolution was a battle of the two Georges. George III is widely portrayed in popular culture as being a distant, dim witted and more than half mad. Queen Elizabeth II recently opened up a treasure trove of George II's personal correspondence and diaries for scholars. Atkinson took full advantage of this spending more than a month in the UK examining George III's private papers. Atkinson's portrait of George III shatters the cartoonish stereotype that many of us grew up with and is of a vibrant and engaged monarch who is deeply concerned and affected by the rebellion brewing in the colonies. George III was a conscientious albeit flawed monarch who arrived at the conclusion that "blows must decide" who would rule in America.
Boston Common, MA
The other George is, of course, George Washington. The father of our country was by no means a perfect leader. He was a slave owner and imperfect General who lost more battles than he won. He could be aloof and sometimes arrogant. But he was, nevertheless, the indispensable man of the American Revolution. His probity and unique stature among all Founding Fathers were the key to the creation of the American Republic. He provided inspiring leadership, he learned from his mistakes, and he spotted talent in individuals as Henry Knox, Nathaniel Greene and Alexander Hamilton. He grew as a commander and exploited British vulnerabilities to win critical engagements such as the First Battle of Trenton fought on Christmas 1776. George Washington, the planter from Virginia would ultimately triumph over the Hanoverian monarch.
Commander K and Marco K
COVID-19 would, therefore, need to claim the lives of over 3.3 million Americans to be as proportionately lethal as the American Revolution was in its day.
We are ever reminded that we live in contentious partisan times and that Americans are often an ornery people. Atkinson reminds us that we were, in fact, an ornery contentious people during the Revolution as well. Political division is nothing new.
Abigail Adams said that "Affliction is the good man's shining time." The American Revolution created the environment and conditions from which many outstanding leaders would rise to meet the perilous crisis of their day. So we can take comfort that new heroes are emerging today such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, Vice President Mike Pence and Governor Andrew Cuomo to deal with our current afflictions.
Atkinson's The British Are Coming is ultimately a reminder of the fact that Americans will not merely cope with adversity -- they will shine and triumph.
Tourist Notes: There are so many great places to discover the story of our nation's violent birth. Here are a select few.
1) MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION, Philadelphia, PA, https://www.amrevmuseum.org/. Wrote an earlier blog on this amazing new museum...https://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.com/2017/09/museum-of-american-revolution.html.
2) BRANDYWINE BATTLEFIELD PARK, Philadelphia, PA http://brandywinebattlefield.org/. Also wrote about this fascinating battle...https://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.com/2017/09/battle-of-brandywine.html.
3) FRAUNCES TAVERN, NY, NY, https://frauncestavern.com/. George Washington bade farewell to his officers at this Lower Manhattan watering hole at the close of the Revolution. Wrote this earlier blog...https://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.com/2014/02/fraunces-tavern-nyc.html.
4) SCHUYLER MANSION, Albany, NY, https://www.nps.gov/sara/planyourvisit/schuyler-house.htm. And another earlier blog...https://americanconservativeinlondon.blogspot.com/2016/09/general-schuyler-his-mansion.html.
1955 - 2020
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And my most recent interview...http://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2018/08/17/america-invaded-christopher-kelly