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June 8, 2011
Spirit of '11By Greyhawk
Not distant far from Taunton road
My Cot 'tho small, my mind's at ease,
The poet was an older man by '11 - one who'd left the city for an idyllic (but hard working) life in the 'burbs years before. He'd been living the American dream he'd done much to help make possible (he was a veteran of the big war) and he was now ready for (semi-) retirement.
In his description of the well-earned good life at twilight, the once-young warrior showed he hadn't forgotten...
Under an aged spreading Oak
When dinner's call'd, I feel prepar'd
The year was 1811 - the poet's name was Paul Revere.
To find Content, and Plenty by?
Fifty years later, long after he was gone, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow would write a poem about him, too. I'd humbly submit that Revere's own little-known American epic offers a more accurate glimpse of the man behind the legend.
Revere died in 1818 - before that legend was born. "An obituary in the Boston Intelligence commented, 'seldom has the tomb closed upon a life so honorable and useful'," this brief online biography concludes. That obituary "abundantly praised his private life and public service," writes David Hackett Fischer, "but made no mention of his midnight ride or any of his clandestine activities before the Revolution."
Most Bostonians would have likely known something of all that business, of course. In those earliest years of the nineteenth century Revere was one of many local living legends - though he hardly sought the spotlight, and because of that Americans elsewhere (including we of a much later generation) were almost denied his story. When asked at the end of the eighteenth century to write his version of the epic events of 18 and 19 April, 1775 for the Historical Society he'd complied - but requested his name be left off the published account. Fortunately for us it wasn't. In 1832 that account would form the centerpiece of the first published Revere biography - an article in The New-England Magazine.
The same issue contained an installment of an ongoing series of travel sketches titled The Schoolmaster. While its young author was anonymous, he no doubt had (and read) a copy of the magazine containing one of his earliest published works; his name was Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. (His grandfather had served in the Revolution with Revere.)
It's no stretch to believe that even three decades later Longfellow would have recalled the story of his obscure fellow New Englander. Once again - this time in the depths of national despair during 1861's secession winter just prior to the outset of the Civil War - Paul Revere would ride.
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beat of that steed,
And the midnight-message of Paul Revere.
Revere's own verses would remain unpublished until another century, and mostly unknown even in ours. Now, should we choose to gaze through the mist of over two hundred years of history, we can begin to see the man. I believe I'll read his words again - then tonight, when table's cleared, and dinner ends, with cheerful glass drink absent friends.
Posted by Greyhawk / June 8, 2011 5:22 PM | Permalink
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...)
The Mudville Gazette is the on-line voice of an American warrior and his wife who stands by him. They prefer to see peaceful change render force of arms unnecessary. Until that day they stand fast with those who struggle for freedom, strike for reason, and pray for a better tomorrow.
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