I debated about what story to tell you today. While I think most Americans are thankful for the revolutionaries, I think they also hardly grasp what sacrifices they made in their desire for freedom. So shall I tell you of Nathan Hale, John Paul Jones, or Peter Francisco’s gallant victories, or shall I tell you of the prison ships of the Wallabout–their torturous holds of death and the sugar houses of New York. I could tell you a hundred stories and never fully grasp what the revolutionaries have done for us, yet today in their honor I will give you a few of my favorite stories and quotes. May it remind you of how blessed our nation is this July 4th, but may you also learn the type of patriotism they had, realizing that freedom was sacrificially won at a great price for you.
“It is yet to be decided whether the Revolution must ultimately be considered as a blessing or a curse: a blessing or a curse, not to the present age alone, for with our fate will the destiny of unborn millions be involved.”–George Washington
Early on in the Revolution Boston was taken by the British. Each side fortified themselves, and it seemed impossible for the city to be taken back without destroying it. Henry Knox was sent to Fort Ticonderoga to drag back cannons for such an ambition. When Washington received the firepower, he placed them on Dorchester Heights overnight. Washington was known as a gentleman by both sides, so he sent a letter to the British in Boston warning them and asking for surrender of the city. Although the British contemplated charging Dorchester Heights, in the end they surrendered. Washington must have been thankful, because his ruse had worked. He had hardly anything to load the cannons with, yet had taken Boston back for the Americans.
“I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country”–Nathan Hale
“Yonder are the Hessians. They were bought for seven pounds and tenpence a man. Are you worth more? Prove it. Tonight the American flag floats from yonder hill or Molly Stark sleeps a widow!”–John Stark
July 4th 1782–Prisoners on theHMS Jersey in Wallabout Bay were brought above for morning exercises. With them they carried 13 tiny flags to celebrate their independence. The flags were taken away and stomped on by the guards, but the prisoners began singing patriotic songs anyway. British guards quickly raised their bayonets and sent the prisoners back down to the hull below, yet the American prisoners continued singing. Around 9 o’clock the guards, sick of the singing, opened the hull and charged down below swinging their bayonets. After the bloody affair was over, the guards returned to the top of the ship, leaving the wounded and dying below. Twenty-four hours later the guards opened the hull to find 10 dead prisoners and many more badly wounded. The prison ships in Wallabout Bay were known for horrors such as this. One man recalled rowing up to the ships side, in order to board and hearing a prisoner whisper out to him from below deck that entering the ship would be the death of him. Yet despite all of this, prisoners were given the choice to pledge an allegiance to the British or remain, and most stayed true to their country.
“We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall hang separately”–Benjamin Franklin
The sugar house prisons in New York were not much better. Americans paid for food to be taken to the patriots inside, who were regularly starved and dying of disease. More Americans died in prisons during the Revolution then died in the War. Many of their bodies were thrown into the sea or in unmarked graves.
“If Historiographers should be hardy enough to fill the page of History with the advantages that have been gained with unequal numbers, on the part of America, in the course of this contest, and attempt to relate the distressing circumstances under which they have been obtained it is more than probable that Posterity will bestow on their labors the epithet and marks of fiction; for it will not be believed that such a force as Great Britain has employed for eight years in this Country could be baffled in their plan of Subjugating it by numbers infinitely less, composed of Men oftentimes half starved; always in Rags, without pay, and experiencing, at times, every species of distress which human nature is capable of undergoing.” –George Washington
The men and women that fought in the Revolution knew the requirements of their duties. They realized that to lose would be ruinous to their reputations and not only that, but they were willing to risk being tried for treason, a crime punishable by death. Some patriots were killed by quartering–tying their limbs to four different horses and galloping them in opposite directions to tear the body limb from limb. Others were hung or shot. The costs were high, but they paid them anyway.
“Three millions of people, armed in the holy cause of liberty, and in such a country as that which we possess, are invincible by any force which our enemy can send against us. Beside, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of Nations, and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us.”–Patrick Henry
“Without arrogance or the smallest deviation from truth it may be said that no history now extant can furnish an instance of an army’s suffering such uncommon hardships as ours has done, and bearing them with the same patience and fortitude. To see men, without clothes to cover their nakedness, without blankets to lie on, without shoes, by which their marches might be traced by blood from their feet, and almost as often without provisions as with them, marching through the frost and snow, and at Christmas taking up their winter-quarters within a day’s march of the enemy, without a house or hut to cover them, till they could be built, and submitting to it without a murmur, is a proof of patience and obedience, which in my opinion can scarce be paralleled.”–George Washington
“My ardent desire is, and my aim has been… to comply strictly with all our engagements foreign and domestic; but to keep the United States free from political connections with every other Country. To see that they may be independent of all, and under the influence of none. In a word, I want an American character, that the powers of Europe may be convinced we act for ourselves and not for others; this, in my judgment, is the only way to be respected abroad and happy at home.”–George Washington