by Doyle Ranstrom on Jun 27, 2019
On July 4th, we celebrate the day our country, The United States of America, declared its independence from Great Britain. We as a country celebrate in a number of different manners, parades, family picnics, fireworks to name a few. This is good, we should celebrate because of the birth of the US is an amazing event and unprecedented in human history up until this point and time. The freedoms and benefits we as citizens of the US enjoy today started on July the 4th 1776.
As part of this celebration, I believe it is important to take time for physical activity and reflection.
Many celebrate the 4th with burgers or brats accompanied by adult beverages. Understandable, but I would suggest it is important to do some strenuous activity on or around the 4th. The reason is the Revolutionary War was not won by adults eating brats and drinking beer. It was, in part, won by great physical exertion. Common soldiers of that time period got around by walking. Historians estimate the range in one day was ten to fifty miles. Keep in mind, there was no REI to buy great outdoors clothes and a march from one battle to another could take place in all kinds of weather. The following are two examples.
- In 1781 French soldiers under the command of Count Rochambeau marched 200 miles to join up with General George Washington's troops in Newport, RI and then the two armies marched together about 500 miles to Yorktown, VA where they defeated British troops under Lord Cornwallis which led to peace talks and the end of the Revolutionary War.
- Beginning in 1778 ending in 1779, George Rodgers Clark, in his mid-20's lead a small group of men starting in Virginia and with victories during the journey ended with the capture of Fort Sackville in Vincennes [IN] in February 1779 which was commanded by the British leader Harry Hamilton. This "Wilderness Campaign" was a significant factor in the winning of the Revolutionary War as it led to the control of the West Frontier by the Colonists. it was accomplished by brave men traveling hundreds of miles in brutal conditions through the wilderness. There are many books written about this Campaign and I would suggest enjoying one.
So, enjoy a beer and brat, but also go on a long hike or bike ride.
I find many people today believe most adults living in the Colonies supported the fight for Independence. Nothing could be further from the truth. Though no one knows the exact numbers, it is estimated of the total population, the Colonial Patriots or Rebels ranged from 10-30%, Loyalists or supporters of the British ranged from 10-20% and the rest, the majority, had no strong opinion or had yet to choose a side. When I meet or listen to someone, I often wonder if this individual would have been a Patriot, Loyalist or no opinion at the beginning or during the Revolutionary War. In wondering about this, I consider the following:
- According to an article in January 2010 Smithsonian Magazine, Washington’s army 1775-76 was represented by a cross section of the free male population. But by 1777, the average soldier was "young, single, propertyless, poor and in many cases an outright pauper. In some states, such as Pennsylvania, up to one in four soldiers was an impoverished recent immigrant." Though many middle-class Colonialists at the time served in Militia's, very few served in the Continental Army for most of the war.
- The same article notes that beginning in 1778 in the New England states and eventually all Northern states, the Army included enlisted African-Americans which was initially prohibited. It is estimated about 5,000 African Americans or about approximately 5 percent of the total number of men who served in the Continental Army. These soldiers were an important factor in winning the war.
- Though often ignored by history, women's contributions to the winning of the War are irrefutable. Contributions which included traveling with men in the Army suffering the same hardships providing support, tending to the wounded and sick, and often fighting in battle.
The Declaration of Independence was the beginning of a new type of freedom in the world, But this freedom was and continues to be a work in progress and continually challenged by those who wish to hold power for themselves. Keep in mind, the initial Congress granted voting rights to the states who often limited voting to property-owning or tax paying white males. This was about 6% of the population at the time. By 1856, in all states, all white men were given the right to vote. In subsequent years, through personal commitment and sacrifice by millions, the Bill of Rights was eventually amended giving both African-Americans and women the right to vote. The Civil Rights movement in the 1960s was in part to eliminate discrimination laws in some states making it difficult for African-Americans to vote. Today there are still those who wish to suppress the right to vote.
I suspect among today's Loyalists would be those in favor of a concentration of wealth at the very top of our society. Also, I suspect today's Loyalists are those who wish to restrict or make voting more difficult, support unlimited campaign contributions enabling the very wealthy to control who is elected, and/or support laws making gerrymandering possible.
The Declaration of Independence states: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." We now understand the term "men" means all of us, male, female, all ethnic groups and sexual persuasions. There is no doubt in my mind that democracy and capitalism will continue to thrive as long as we agree we are all created equal. However, neither can flourish if one group believes another is not entitled to the same "Rights".
Enjoy the 4th, but take some time to do a physical activity, reflect on how we got here and how we can continue to grow and thrive.