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June 6, 2011
Paul Revere lied!! (British soldiers died!!)By Greyhawk
The Boston Herald: "Experts back Sarah Palin's historical account" - some more grudgingly than others.
I'm inclined to believe her remarks reflect something she picked up from a tour guide or a pamphlet rather than scholarship or luck. But right she was, and like the folks at the Herald I've no problem with that.
But what of those folks who didn't have the benefit of knowledge, scholarship, luck or a tour guide? (And no time to Google?)
Actually, the point was that Revere warned the British - specific troop levels weren't the point at all. But for the record, Revere told them (his words follow) "I should have 500 men their soon."
Let's acknowledge up front that he was wrong. That number might have been an accurate guess as to how many were already moving at that point in time and within a very few miles of the place where he said it - but to fully appreciate his response we must first examine what Revere was doing on the road in the first place:
The ride of Revere, Dawes, and Prescott triggered a flexible system of "alarm and muster" that had been carefully developed months before... In addition to other express riders delivering messages, bells, drums, alarm guns, bonfires and a trumpet were used for rapid communication from town to town, notifying the rebels in dozens of eastern Massachusetts villages that they should muster their militias.... This system was so effective that people in towns 25 miles (40 km) from Boston were aware of the army's movements while they were still unloading boats in Cambridge.
Of course the British weren't privy to all that. So, Revere's "500 men" claim could be from his reasonable expectation of how many would be roused at that point, an estimate based on months of preparation. Certainly Revere nor anyone else could have had sure knowledge based on personal observation of widely dispersed troops moving to congregate through as broad an area as is involved here. That last point would be obvious to a military professional, but how the British interpreted that intel is open to modern interpretation - at least beyond their known actions. Word was sent back to Boston, and waiting reserves were dispatched - but the main body didn't wait for them and instead pressed on to Concord (via Lexington). Obviously Revere only knew with certainty how many men he could see at any given moment; at that moment in history he was in between Lexington and Concord surrounded by a handful of armed British troops.
Regardless, unless you provide your own definition of "soon" his estimate was a bit off. Forbes says he was lying - other folks who'd likewise been revealed as not quite as bright as Sarah Palin on this issue are eagerly (and pointlessly) embracing that theme. This comes as no surprise; having been demonstrably wrong on an historical fact they've simply re-written the history of this modern debate into an argument over something about which we can only have opinions, and declared that to have been the point all along.
But even here they've failed to do a smidgen of research. Back to the latest Forbes version of history:
What is true is that Revere was briefly captured... Revere was forced to answer the questions put to him. He answered by lying to his British captors, misleading them by overstating the number of armed colonists awaiting the arrival of the Regulars in an effort to give the enemy pause and confuse their mission.And here's the Think Progress version:
At one point in the night, Revere was temporarily detained and interrogated by British soldiers at a roadblock. He intentionally provided them a falsely inflated description of the colonial militia's strength, though only in the most strained metaphorical reading could this be considered a "warning."
Forbes says "at no time did Revere warn his captors of anything..."
I believe - to be polite about it - they're getting into some very shaky ground on the definition of "warn" here. (Along with the definitions of "true" and "not true," for that matter.) But we all agree Revere was incorrect in his "500" number - because that's not open to opinion; we can examine those numbers. So by how much did he "falsely inflate" when "overstating the number of armed colonists awaiting the arrival of the Regulars"? Did he exaggerate just a little or by a lot?
Here's how many Americans had actually responded to those ringin' bells and firin' guns and were gathering to confront the British that day:
There's an abundance of amazing information on this topic available online for those who'd take a moment to find it. (Didja know: Revere's testimony - oft cited since Palin's comment - was actually suppressed by the rebels at the time. Being a man of truth he couldn't say the British fired the first shot as he had only heard it, not seen it. He also revealed more than the rebels wanted known about their level of preparation...) Twenty thousand may have been marching, but other reliable sources indicate somewhere in the neighborhood of 14,000 colonists were actually in the neighborhood of Boston by the end of the day that dawned with Revere responding to British questions. Perhaps math isn't taught in schools any more either - for the record, five hundred is actually less than that.
But I can't help but think that if ol' Paul had crossed paths with his former captors somewhere along their bloody way home during that long afternoon, he might have responded to any complaints they had about his wrong number with a hearty "well gentlemen, don't say I didn't warn you." (Delivered, of course, in his folksy nasal twang.)
By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
The foe long since in silence slept;
On this green bank, by this soft stream,
Spirit, that made those spirits dare,
- Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Concord Hymn"
Postscript: Heh - the He-Man Palin Haterz Klub strikes back - ABC TV has found an expert, too.
Posted by Greyhawk / June 6, 2011 2:32 PM | Permalink
What began with Paul Revere's warning:...about 4,000 Massachusetts militia and minute men took up arms and arrived in time to fight on April 19, 1775. "By day's end, about 20,000 were on the march and maintained an encampment in Cambridge to force the... Read More
Whether they'll admit it or not, Americans now know a little-known fact about Paul Revere: he warned the British, too. In fairness to the British1 (considering they didn't respond appropriately to that warning) we should acknowledge that the number of... Read More
November 26, 2010
I think anyone who's ever pondered the "comment" option - once only available on blogs and bulletin boards, now ubiquitous on almost any web site - will appreciate this:
The so-called faculty of writing is not so much a faculty of writing as it is a faculty of thinking. When a man says, "I have an idea but I can't express it"; that man hasn't an idea but merely a vague feeling. If a man has a feeling of that kind, and will sit down for a half an hour and persistently try to put into writing what he feels, the probabilities are at least 90 percent that he will either be able to record it, or else realize that he has no idea at all. In either case, he will do himself a benefit.
That's wisdom from the past, captured for posterity at the US Naval Institute, shared via the web on the institute's 137th anniversary.
From their about page:
"The Naval Institute has three core activities," among them, History and Preservation:
The Naval Institute also has recently introduced Americans at War, a living history of Americans at war in their own words and from their own experiences. These 90-second vignettes convey powerful stories of inspiration, pride, and patriotism.
Take a look at the collection, and you'll see it's not limited to accounts from those who served on ships at sea, members of the other branches are well-represented.
I'm fortunate to have met USNI's Mary Ripley, she's responsible for the institute's oral history program (and she's the daughter of the late John Ripley, whose story is told here). She also deserves much credit for their blog. ("We're not the Navy nor any government agency. Blog and comment freely.") We met at a milblog conference - Mary knew (and I would come to realize) that milbloggers are the 21st-century version of exactly what the US Naval Institute is all about. Once that light bulb came on in my head, I mentioned a vague idea for a project to her - milblogs as the 21st century oral history that they are.
"Put that in writing," she said (of course - see first paragraph above!) - and here's part of the result.
Shortly after the first tent was pitched by the American military in Iraq a wire was connected to a computer therein, and the internet was available to a generation of Americans at war - many of whom had grown up online. From that point on, at any given moment, somewhere in Iraq a Soldier, Sailor, Airman or Marine was at a keyboard sharing the events of his or her day with the folks back home. While most would simply fire off an email, others took advantage of the (then) relatively new online blogging platforms to post their thoughts and experiences for the entire world to see. The milblog was born - and from that moment to this stories detailing everything from the most mundane aspects of camp life to intense combat action (often described within hours of the event) have been available on the web...
And et cetera - but since you're reading this on a milblog, you probably knew that. And you know that milblogs aren't just blogs written by troops at war, that many friends, family members, and supporters likewise documented their story of America at war online in near-real time, as those stories developed.
The diversity in membership of that group is broad, the one thing we all have in common is the impulse to make sense of the seemingly senseless, and communicate the tale - for each of us that impulse was strong enough to overcome whatever barriers prevent the vast majority of people from doing the same. Everyone at some point has some vague idea they believe should be shared - we were the people who, from some combination of internal and external urging, found and spent those many half hours persistently trying to write it down.
But where will all that be in another 137 years? Or five or ten, for that matter. That's something I've asked myself since at least 2004 - when I wrote this:
Membership in the ghost battalion has grown in the years since, and an ever growing majority of those abandoned-but-still-standing sites are vanishing. Have you checked out Lt Smash's site lately? How about Sgt Hook's? If you're a long-time milblog reader you know the first widely-read milblog from Operation Iraq Freedom and the first widely-read milblog from Afghanistan are both gone from the web. If you're a relative newcomer to this world you may never even have heard of them - or the dozens upon dozens of others who carried forth the standard they set down.
If you have a vague notion that something should be done about that, (a notion I've heard expressed more than once...) then you and I and the good folks at the US Naval Institute are in agreement. Preserving the history documented by the milbloggers is just one of the goals of the milblog project, the once-vague idea that we're now making real.
And it's a big idea, if I say so myself - too big to explain in one simple blog post, so stand by for more. Likewise, it's too big a task to be accomplished by just one person. So if you're a milblogger (and exactly what is a milblogger? is a topic for much further discussion on its own) I'm asking for your help. All I'll really need is just a little bit (maybe just one or two of those half hours...) of your time, and your willingness to tell the tale.
We've already made history, it's time to save it.
(More to follow...)
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