BOOK REVIEW: Crusader King by Susan Peek

Faithfull Films, etc.

51oNMQBgpiLI thoroughly enjoyed Crusader King and I’m sure I will read it again, which always says a lot about a book. Peek draws her characters very well, making them memorable and distinct whilst still credibly historical. It’s the main character who really steals the show, though: Baldwin IV of Jerusalem. I knew almost nothing about him before reading the book, but he’s such a lovely character, and so holy – in such an appealing way – that I spent much of the book wondering why he was never canonised.

Having finished the book, I remained fixated on this question for some time, coming to two possible explanations:

Explanation 1) Since Peek is writing for young people, she may justifiably have down-played any negative aspects of Baldwin’s character and emphasised all the positive ones. As a friend of mine once put it – historical fiction remains fiction, if you want pure history…

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Little Things Can Change the World

We return to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for a very important stop! On the last stage of our virtual tour we remembered the pivotal battle at Trenton, New Jersey. We contemplated the inspiring words of George Washington as he motivated his exhausted, cold, and hungry troops. In addition to the strength of Washington and the courage of his men, there are other elements that made that victory possible. Today we will think of the little actions of a young widow that played a very important part.

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Thomas Bond House B & B, picture from their website.

We are staying at the Thomas Bond House Bed and Breakfast.

Today, the carefully restored town house warmly welcomes its guests, with an ambiance of colonial charm. Stay in rooms carefully restored to the18th Century Federal Period. The Charming parlor invites guests to come in and relax and enjoy the ambiance and the company of other guests. ~quote from Thomas Bond House website

In addition to the sites we visited on our last stop in Philadelphia, we find that we are within walking distance of fine restaurants, theaters, museums, world-class shopping and the internationally acclaimed Academy of Music and Philadelphia Orchestra.

But we have come here for the Betsy Ross house and our hotel is only a few blocks away. You can take an awesome virtual tour from home.

Picture courtesy of ushistory.org

Picture courtesy of ushistory.org

We’ve all heard the story about Betsy Ross sewing the first American flag.

“Sitting sewing in her shop one day with her girls around her, several gentlemen entered. She recognized one of these as the uncle of her deceased husband, Col. George Ross, a delegate from Pennsylvania to Congress. She also knew the handsome form and features of the dignified, yet graceful and polite Commander in Chief, who, while he was yet Colonel Washington had visited her shop both professionally and socially many times, (a friendship caused by her connection with the Ross family) they announced themselves as a committee of congress, and stated that they had been appointed to prepare a flag, and asked her if she thought she could make one, to which she replied, with her usual modesty and self-reliance, that “she did not know but she could try; she had never made one but if the pattern were shown to her she had not doubt of her ability to do it.”

This story is based on the testimony of Betsy’s grandson. He also said that Ross suggested they change the star to a five-pointed star. The committee members thought it looked too difficult but she said:

 “Nothing easier” was her prompt reply and folding a piece of paper in the proper manner, with one clip of her ready scissors she quickly displayed to their astonished vision the five pointed star; which accordingly took its place in the national standard.

Try it and see what you think. Here are instructions for making the five-pointed star.

Let’s take a look at Betsy Ross…

Born in 1752, she was the eighth of seventeen children. No, that’s not a typo. Only nine of the children survived childhood, so you can imagine the grief this family lived with. She grew up under the strict discipline of the Society of Friends (Quakers) and learned to sew at an early age.

After attending public school, her father apprenticed her to an upholsterer. She fell in love with fellow apprentice John Ross (nephew of George Ross Jr. who signed the Declaration of Independence). In 1773, they eloped. John was an Anglican, so her family expelled her from the Quaker congregation. The young couple started their own upholstery business. Two years later, the American Revolutionary War broke out and John, a member of the Pennsylvania Provincial Militia, was killed by a gunpowder explosion.

Twenty-four-year-old Betsy did not give in to grief or give up on her goals. She continued running the upholstery business. And she did something even more courageous. She worked secretly doing little things, helping American soldiers by repairing uniforms, making tents and blankest, and stuffing paper tube cartridges with musket balls. Can you imagine if a British soldier caught her doing all this?

The contribution of women during the Revolutionary war was significant, although often overlooked. Because men assumed they could not grasp the complexities of wary, they often spoke freely around them. This made women great spies! They also supported the cause by nursing injured soldiers, providing supplies and–like Betsy Ross–creating much needed ammunition.

"Carl Aemil Ulrich von Donop (1732-1777)" by ANKAWÜ

“Carl Aemil Ulrich von Donop (1732-1777)” by ANKAWÜ on Wikimedia Commons

Some have speculated that Betsy Ross had another important role to play in our country’s battle for independence. While George Washington was rousing his men to cross the icy Delaware River and conquer the Hessians in Trenton, New Jersey, a beautiful young widow was detaining Hessian Colonel Carl von Donup in Mount Holly. Colonel Donup chose to remain in the company of this young widow for three days instead of traveling to Bordentown, with all his soldiers, as his officers wanted him to do. If he had taken the advice of his officers, the outcome of the Battle of Trenton would be much different. George Washington and his men would’ve been greatly outnumbered and may not have claimed the victory.

Distracting the Hessian Colonel was just a little thing. But we owe some credit to this young widow who kept Donup out of the game!  

Women in the early years of our country did many great and many little things that changed the course of history. Women today have the opportunity to do little things that can influence the direction of families, our country, even the world.

9832715We stop at the City Tavern for dinner and I consider my own contributions, the contributions of my mother and my female friends. Women make great representatives in government, teachers, doctors, nurses, engineers, or company presidents…whatever a person is called to. But I believe the most awesome vocation is motherhood. Sometimes the impression is given that this is an inferior vocation because it revolves around endless days of hard work and little things.

I am a stay-at-home, home-schooling mom. I don’t do anything big that will be recorded in history. But I do something important to the future by caring for my family and raising my boys the best I can. Love, sacrifices, hard work, encouragement, and counsel.

Little things can change the world!

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Battle of Trenton: Finding the Strength to Go On

Our virtual tour of early America goes to Trenton, New Jersey. Even after Americans declared independence, they had a long, hard struggle to defeat the British. The Patriots would need a healthy dose of perseverance and courage.

Battle of Trenton

Battle of Trenton

To really get a feel for the land, we have decided to go camping! We camp here, at Washington Crossing State Park. This park is located along the Delaware River, eight miles north of Trenton. It was right here that George Washington and the Continental Army landed after that historical crossing on Christmas night in 1776. This park has 13 miles of trails for us to hike, a Revolutionary War Museum, Nature Center, Open Air Theater, and historical buildings.

So we set up our tent and settle in for a nice long weekend!

washington crossing camping washington crossing

During the Revolutionary War, even after Americans declared their independence, the British did not consider George Washington much of a challenge. They thought they could easily beat him. And for a while, this seemed true.

The British defeated Washington at the Battle of Long Island. The stats:

  • Washington’s losses: 300 troops killed, 700 wounded, and nearly 1000 captured.
  • The British losses: 64 killed, 31 missing, and 293 wounded.

Badly beaten, Washington retreated from New York City. British General Howe drove him farther and farther into retreat, chasing Washington across New Jersey and into Pennsylvania. Fort Washington was lost, along with much artillery. Washington’s army was dwindling. Fearing the British would come to Philadelphia, Congress fled! And then General Charles Lee was captured by the British.

Everything seemed lost.

We’ve all been there. I’ve had times in my life where all my efforts fail, the world seems against me, and I’m tempted to give up. My Christian faith and American spirit give me 5 things that keep me going.

I believe these same things kept the Patriots going in the War for Independence.

  1. Steadfastness – we don’t have to have all the answers. It’s okay to make mistakes. George Washington made many. But he never gave up!
  2. Strive for Integrity – Washington kept his army together, despite severe obstacles, because his men trusted him. He was a man of virtue.
  3. Take your goal seriously – one reason the British lost is that many of their generals, especially General Howe, did not seem to take the war seriously. Maybe they underestimated the Americans. Or maybe they just didn’t care. They certainly didn’t have the personal investment that the Patriots had.
  4. Ask for help – if a goal is worthy enough, and you can’t do it alone, don’t be afraid to ask for help. The Americans could not have won without the help of the French.
  5. Courage – discernment helps us choose our battles, and choose our side on the battle. But courage is what makes us stand up and fight. Otherwise known as fortitude: “The virtue of fortitude enables one to conquer fear, even fear of death, and to face trials and persecutions.” ~Catechism of the Catholic Church, Para. 1808

Life is not easy. And the pursuit of any worthy goal can be a trial.

Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine, who was traveling with the army, encouraged the soldiers to endure by writing this:

“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 stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”

On Christmas eve, 1776 the tide turned for the Americans.

George Washington saw an opportunity to end the year with victory and bolster his soldiers’ resolve.

With an army of 2,400 men, during a severe winter storm, he crossed the Delaware River near Trenton, New Jersey. Two other forces crossed at different points.

I can only imagine the sacrifice made by these soldiers. Suffering the pangs of hunger, many went barefooted or with rags wrapped around their bloody, frozen feet. Ice chunks floated all around them in a river with a dangerously rapid current. A few men died from exposure.

Courage kept the Patriots going, trudging along though the night.

Battle of Trenton, Surprise of the Hessians

Battle of Trenton, Surprise of the Hessians

Early the next morning, the Hessians, hired by the British, awoke to a surprise. They had not expected an attack on a blustery day like this. They had relaxed their guard. The Hessians suffered 100 casualties, 900 surrendered, and 500 escaped.

Four Americans were wounded, but not one was killed in the action.

Glad for the victory but exhausted by the war, many soldiers longed to return home. But Washington needed soldiers to keep the momentum going. He needed them for the Battle of Princeton. So he asked men to stay on.

No one stepped forward.

Undaunted and believing in the patriotism of these soldiers, Washington, astride his big horse, made this appeal:

General Washington

General Washington

“My brave fellows, you have done all I asked you to do, and more than could be reasonably expected, but your country is at stake, your wives, your houses, and all that you hold dear. You have worn yourselves out with fatigues and hardships, but we know not how to spare you. If you will consent to stay one month longer, you will render that service to the cause of liberty, and to your country, which you can probably never do under any other circumstance.”

The men began to step forward, one by one, giving Washington an army of almost 7,000 soldiers who marched on to Princeton and claimed the victory. Together these victories reversed the staggering defeats up to this point and showed American courage and resolve.

Let us not give up in the face of hardships and fatigue. Let us render ourselves, as the early patriots did, to the cause of liberty and to our country and to whatever goal is worthy of pursuit.

What keeps you going when failure meets you at every turn? Please let me know, by sharing in the comments.

Thanks for checking out my blog! If you like what you see, leave a comment, share with a friend, check out my books, or sign up for my author newsletter!

Attributions:

Battle of Trenton and General Washington: Ellis, Edward S. and Charles F. Horne. The Story of the Greatest Nations. New York: Francis Niglutsch, 1906

Washington Crossing State park photos: http://www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/parks/washcros.html#camp

Thomas Paine, copy by Auguste Millière, after an engraving by William Sharp, after George Romney, circa 1876 (1792)

Battle of Trenton, Surprise of the Hessians: Scott, David B. A School History of the United States. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1883.

Freedom is not Free

Bryant, William Cullen and Sydney Howard Gay. A Popular History of the United States. New York: Charles Scribners' Sons, 1881.

Bryant, William Cullen and Sydney Howard Gay. A Popular History of the United States. New York: Charles Scribners’ Sons, 1881.

I can’t believe June is almost over. This summer is flying way too fast.

Since we are getting so close to the Fourth of July, the next stop on our virtual tour needs to be Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the Declaration of Independence and our Constitution!

And because it’s a virtual tour, money is no object, so we are staying at the beautiful Omni Hotel at Independence Park!

Picture from their website.

Pictures from their website.

A classic combination of Old-World elegance and New-World charm, Omni Hotel at Independence Park offers the best in luxurious accommodations to business and leisure travelers alike. Footsteps away from American history in the heart of downtown Philadelphia, Omni Hotel at Independence Park is the perfect retreat during your stay in one of America’s most storied cities.       ~quote from Omni’s website

And now we are off to Independence Hall!

McCabe, James D. The Pictorial History of the United States. Philadelphia: The National Publishing Company, 1877.

This is where it all happened. I can almost see all the men in their waistcoats and breeches, sitting and standing in this place. One or two with a white powdered wig–how ever did that become a custom?

Anyway. Once the American colonies were “all in” for the war with Great Britain, it was time for Congress to consider independence.

June 7, 1776, Virginia delegate Richard Henry Lee stood up and offered the resolution “that these United Colonies are and of right ought to be free and independent States.”

A heated debate ensued, with delegates on both sides of the issue. Several wanted to wait to hear the “voice of the people.” Others thought “the people wait for us to lead the way.”

Meanwhile, a committee of five men sat down to draft a declaration of independence: John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Robert Livingston, Roger Sherman, and, of course, Thomas Jefferson, the one who penned the document.

declaration desk

morguefile.com kconnors

So Jefferson took out his pen and began to write…

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

Inside Independence Hall, morguefile.com Kconnors

July 1, 1776, the document was submitted to Congress. Again, a heated, nine-hour discussion broke out. The document was revised and revised again. The final document declared that the rights of all come from “nature and nature’s God,” not from government. It further proclaimed the universal principles that we now hold dear….

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.

The document also said that the people had the right to overthrow a government that no longer protected these natural rights.

–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. … But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

The list of grievances the early Americans had against the king followed.

Finally, the declaration ends with the stirring line:

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Once the declaration was accepted, it was formally read to the American soldiers and the public. They greeted this declaration with enthusiasm, with bonfires and the tolling of bells, with thirteen toasts and the firing of thirteen cannons, with processions around Liberty Poles and cheers.

liberty bell

morguefile.com kconnors

We pause to look at the Liberty Bell which bears a timeless message: “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants thereof.”

The foundation for the American republic had been built. Several difficult years of fighting would follow. But America was destined to gain their independence.

Happy Fourth of July to you and yours! Let us continue to rely on the protection of Divine Providence. And also thank all those who have prayed, worked and fought for our independence and for those who continue to pray, work and fight to protect it. Freedom comes at a cost.

freedom not free

morguefile.com jdurham

The Shot Heard Round the World

I am excited for this next stage of our virtual tour because we are going to a place and learning about a battle that I researched when writing Testing Liberty. You may wonder what an event from the past has to do with a book set in the future. Everything!

Sneak peek of Testing Liberty. This scene takes place in the virtual reality of a 3D game. Note: this book has not been through editing yet so this scene may change.

I am a firm believer that we can find answers for today’s problems by looking into our past. What can a person do to make a difference in their country? When it seems like forces are at work to re-make America, what can a person do to help steer their country back on course?

Early Americans–a scruffy bunch of unorganized farmers and ordinary people, spread out over the entire East coast–contended with the most formidable power in the world! How did they do it?


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North Bridge Inn Bed and Breakfast, pictures from their website, used with permission.

We check in, virtually, to the North Bridge Inn, a bed and breakfast that is between our two points of interest: Concord and Lexington!

“We had a wonderfully peaceful stay here at the North Bridge Inn.
The towns of Concord and Lexington are quaint and friendly.
The Inn is a lovely retreat in a beautiful, historic town.” – Anna & Ross, Los Angeles, CA

Built in 1885 and renovated in 1998, this inn is one of the most popular Bed and Breakfasts Inns in Concord, MA. Our room, the Alcott Suite, is so inviting that we want to stay and relax, but we have some exploring to do!

alcott-Aalcott-C

The Lexington Historical Society offers us a suggested itinerary, which we like but have to customize to fit our family’s needs.

We visit a museum and several buildings actually built in the 18th century: the Hancock-Clarke House, Buckman Tavern, and Munroe Tavern. The Old Belfry is an exact replica of the original which a gale destroyed in 1909.

After shuffling through one building after another, watching informative videos, and listening to our guides, we’ve learned a lot. But the boys are ready to stretch their legs, so we head for the Lexington Green.

battle-of-lexington-3

Pratt, Mara L. American’s Story for America’s Children: The Early Colonies. Boston: D.C. Heath & Company, 1901.

The first battle of the American Revolution took place here, April 19, 1775. A guide in colonial-period costume gives us a tour of the historical markers and monuments and shares history:

Tired of the taxes and unjust treatment by Britain, the Patriots began to act as a unit, rather than as 13 individual colonies. They gathered military supplies and hid them at Concord. Then they secretly trained and organized companies of men into local militia.

These were the Minute Men – soldiers ready to fight at a minute’s notice.

paul-revere-2

Butterworth (2), Hezekia. The Story of America. New York: The Werner Company, 1898

When the British learned of these measures, they sent soldiers from Boston to Concord to capture their supplies. But the Americans had been watching . . .

Paul Revere, in particular had been watching. He was a messenger who kept a close eye on British activity in Boston. Noticing suspicious activity, he set off to warn the residents of Concord. “The British are coming!”

While the residents hid their stores of weapons, Paul Revere returned to Boston and met with Patriot leaders. Our guide reminds us of the signal of the lantern in the belfry tower of the old North Church. This signal gave the Patriots a heads-up.

He said to his friend, “If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,–
One if by land, and two if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm.”

Minute Men hurried to their secret meeting places and readied themselves. As the sun crested the horizon in Lexington, 250 Redcoats approached, their armor glistening in the morning light. 77 Patriots, determined to fight for their country, stood ready for battle.

“If they mean to have war,” Captain John Parker said to his Minute Men, “let it begin here.”

No one knows which side fired the first shot, “the shot heard round the world,” but the fight for freedom had begun. This battle ended quickly, leaving eight Patriots dead and ten wounded, the British suffering no losses. Unless you count Pitcairn’s horse.

Feeling triumphant, the British regulars proceeded on to Concord to search for supplies. Four hundred Minute Men guarded the bridge to Concord. Every farmer, every man and boy who could use a rifle, had come out to do his part. Surprised at the Americans’ resistance, the British fled. My favorite stanza of the poem follows:

You know the rest. In the books you have read
How the British Regulars fired and fled,—
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
From behind each fence and farmyard wall,
Chasing the redcoats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load.

The Americans had badly beaten the British at Concord, giving hope to Patriots everywhere. Patriots came from all over Connecticut and Massachusetts. The Green Mountain Boys came from Vermont. These ragtag colonists, farmers and family men, came out to defend their country. They “committed themselves to war with the world’s most formidable empire.” ~America’s Beginnings by Tony Williams, pg. 99

“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-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.”

~ the stanzas are all from “Paul Revere’s Ride” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

mainstreet

picture taken from their website

We’re feeling proud to be Americans, but we’re also wondering if we are again at an hour of darkness and need in our country. And we’re also hungry. So we stop at the Main Streets Cafe, where I get the Tavern Gumbo and Bill gets Seared Salmon and Super Greens Salad. The kids want pizza. Of course. I hope to find something gluten-free on the menu for my oldest.

“Life is good! Main Streets is an old-world meeting place with brick walls and wood floors that will transport you back in time.  It is a “Cheers” sort of atmosphere for the townspeople and a great find for all others.”

After a satisfying meal, we still have a few places we want to visit in this beautiful area of Massachusetts: the North Bridge, Minute Man National Historical Park, and Walden Pond.

Henry David Thoreau, the author, poet, philosopher, abolitionist, naturalist, tax resister, surveyor and historian, once settled down in a little cabin off Walden Pond. He wanted a place where he could concentrate and devote himself to writing. More than that, he said he “wished to live deliberately.”

We end this stage of our journey with a quote from Thoreau:

Henry David Thoreau's Walden Pond, image from www.morguefile.com

Henry David Thoreau’s Walden Pond, image from http://www.morguefile.com

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole and genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience, and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.”

— Henry David Thoreau, Walden, “Where I Lived, and What I Lived For

Virtual Tour Goes to North Carolina: Freedom and Slaves

Okay, a bit of reality here. As I sat writing this blog, I heard the sound of raindrops pitter-pattering in our half bath, followed by the sound of buckets of water splashing to the floor. I jumped up to find everything wet: walls, floor, sink, toilet. Everything. Bolting upstairs, I found the bathroom directly over the half bath flooded. One of my boys informed me that it’s raining in the basement, too. Great. I am soooo ready for a vacation!

So, after cleaning up the mess and making a frantic phone call to the hubby, we’re back on track!

AIRMKT-Classic-Macadamia-530896-F2B-FLATTENED

Even has a full kitchen!

Can't wait to collapse on that couch!

Can’t wait to collapse on that couch!

Since we will be doing a bit of virtual traveling across the state, we decide to rent a recreational vehicle. We settle for an Airstream. The saying on their website speaks to me. “See more. Do more. Live more.”

We have selected the Classic Airstream. 

“Designed and equipped for long-term adventures, the Classic epitomizes the traditional craftsmanship, innovation and durability that’s made Airstream an icon of the American highway.” ~from their website.

Okay, we’re ready to roll! As Bill drives and the boys talk and giggle in the back, I close my eyes and take a deep breath. The ocean on one side of the state, forests on the other, and orange dirt . . . I love North Carolina! In my younger years, I enjoyed one wonderful summer there, staying with friends. We camped in the woods, hiked winding trails, went rock collecting, got sunburned on the beach, and spent lazy afternoons relaxing with lemonade and listening to the loudest bugs I ever heard.

Before long we reach our first stop, the colonial river port town of Historic Halifax.

Founded in 1760, Halifax soon grew into a social and political hub. It was here, on April 12, 1776, that delegates to the Fourth Provincial Congress, risked their fortunes, reputations, and their very lives by adopting the Halifax Resolves. This made North Carolina the first colony to officially call for independence from Great Britain. Way to go North Carolina!

underground-railroad-map-5

Map of Underground Railroad: Hart, Albert Bushnell. Slavery and Abolition, 1831 – 1841. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1906.

Halifax is also important because, years later, it emerged as a hub of Underground Railroad activity where escaping slaves could blend into the country’s large slave and free African American community.

After some time at the museum, we take a guided walking tour through several authentically-restored buildings, including a 1760 home of a merchant. Then we pile back into our Airstream, and we’re on the road again!

An hour long drive under a clear sky, past farms and fields and wooded areas, brings us to our next destination: Historic Stagville.

We learn that this plantation was started in 1787 and by 1860 the 30,000 acres were worked by over 900 slaves. We are amazed to see such old houses, the Bennehan-Cameron House (circa 1787, 1799), four surviving slave houses (circa 1850), and the Great Barn (circa 1860). While most slave quarters were one-room, one-story structures, these are two-story, four-room timber-frame houses.

american-slavery-4

Bright, Marshall H. True Stories of American History for Our Young People.1898

As we stroll through the grounds, the remains of one of the largest plantations of the pre-Civil War South, I can’t help but wonder how this was a part of our history. How did a person ever feel justified in treating another person like property? Slaves had no rights, not even to their own lives. Certainly not the rights to liberty or the pursuit of happiness.

In 1619, privateers brought the first Africans to our soil. Thus, in Virginia, twenty slaves were bartered for provisions. The Virginians, in the very early years, treated the Africans like white indentured servants. For many years, white servants far outnumbered black slaves. The white indentured servant included children sold from London to America and Irish men, women and children who were prisoners of war. Servant and slave were treated alike. They worked, slept and ate together. After a period of time, they were released.

At this time, the English settlers accepted free Africans as equals. Africans intermingled socially and owned land. They shared the settlers’ appreciation of ownership, liberty and individualism. Wealthy Africans even purchased their own indentures and slaves to work their land, having in mind granting them freedom after a period of time.

Sadly, as the need for labor in the fields increased, especially in the South, the rights of the Africans eroded. The number of slaves in our country grew decade by decade, according to Wikipedia, totaling 597,000 from 1620 to 1865. The Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database has the number at 305,326. The African slave trade took most slaves to work in South America and the Caribbean, bringing about 5% of the slaves to colonial America.

Slavery was not unique to America though. It has existed in every culture from the beginning of mankind. The American Indians even had slaves long before Columbus arrived. The United States of America did, however, have a unique reaction to slavery.

Unlike any other civilization that has depended upon slavery, the United States abolished slavery on her land. For the first time in history, over two million people fought and over 300,000 died to gain freedom for those who could not gain it for themselves.

This is why I love my country. Evils go on every day, but we don’t accept them for long. We move to make ourselves, our country, and the world a better place. It may not happen as quickly as I’d like, but over time, we take a stand for those who cannot help themselves. Many even give of their own lives.

Our last stop is the Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum in Gibsonville, North Carolina. We go on a guided walking tour and a tour of Dr. Brown’s residence. The visitor center exhibits tell the story of this remarkable woman. Through hard work, creativity, and perseverance African Americans have pursued the own American dream for themselves and others. Dr. Brown worked tirelessly to better the lives and education of black people, teaching and founding schools.

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Charlotte Hawkins Brown in wedding dress, 1912

From 1902 to 1961, “Dr. Charlotte Hawkins Brown played a key role in the development of African American education, interracial cooperation, and women’s rights in North Carolina and in the nation.”

“Charlotte Hawkins Brown was a woman proud of herself and her people. She deeply believed in the American principles of freedom and justice for all human beings and expressed herself eloquently. She succeeded in showing for all the world to see what one young African American woman could do.”  ~quote taken from NC Historic Sites website

We’re tired from a long day so we climb back into the Airstream and collapse on the couch, chairs, and even the floor. We’ve learned so much and have gained a deeper appreciation of our country. After a hearty meal of sandwiches, fruit and chips –hey, I didn’t need a full kitchen after all–we get back on the road and head for our campground. We plan to spend the rest of our time in North Carolina enjoying Hanging Rock State Park.

“. . . there’s another North Carolina to be discovered, sheer cliffs and peaks of bare rock, quiet forests and cascading waterfalls, views of the piedmont plateau that stretch for miles. Hike the trails of Hanging Rock State Park and let nature put life’s hectic pace in perspective.” ~from their website

Yes, we are so ready to put life’s hectic pace in perspective!

See you on our next stop. God bless America!

Rhode Island and Native Americans

For the next stage of our tour, we head to Rhode Island. Okay, wait a minute . . .

I get out my map. If the state is connected to the rest of the continent, why is it called an island? My map gives me no answers, so I ask Google and find this:

The official name of the state of Rhode Island is actually “The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.” While the whole state is not an island, the official Rhode Island is the island commonly referred to today as Aquidneck Island. So Rhode Island refers to Aquidneck Island, while Providence Plantations refers to the mainland portion of the state. ~www.answers.com

Okay, that makes sense. Let’s move on to a few fun facts:

  • Rhode Island is the smallest of the 50 states
  • It is the second most densely populated state, behind New Jersey.
  • It was the fourth colony founded.
  • It was the first of the original colonies to declare independence from British rule.
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Edgewood Manor B & B

hotel dining roomsavannah1

We drop our luggage at the Edgewood Manor Bed and Breakfast in Providence, Rhode Island. It is “One of the most elegant inns in America” according to Arrington Journal 2003. Check out the virtual tour of this place!

The Providence River is on one side of the manor, and the Roger Williams Park and Zoo, and the Botanical Center are on the other. We also find that there are several walking tours. Check out this Flickr presentation of Historic Providence.

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Butterworth (2), Hezekia. The Story of America. New York: The Werner Company, 1898.

We learn that the Sononoce Pawtuxet tribe, part of the Narragansett Indian nation, originally occupied this area. In 1636, Roger Williams fled Massachusetts because of religious persecution. Chief Massasoit, a friend of Williams, gave him refuge and land to settle. Soon joined by others, they named the settlement Providence, and the colony of Rhode Island was born.

The history of Rhode Island makes me contemplate the relationship between colonists and Native Americans here and throughout our country in the early years. There are parts of American history I wish we could go back and change. I don’t want to ignore those parts in this tour, so I’ll try to see them in perspective.

Many colonists worked hard to build friendships and live in peace with Native Americans. And many Native Americans, recognizing them as immigrants, welcomed and tried to help their new friends survive. Yet over the years, frictions and misunderstandings grew, resulting in several conflicts and wars.

Today, Native Americans seem to have received the short end of the stick. The land they once enjoyed now belongs to others. Some even claim that the white men came as foreign invaders rather than settlers, that they systematically killed the Native Americans and stole their land.

 Wood, Norman B. The Lives of Famous Indian Chiefs. Aurora: American Indian Historical Publishing Company, 1906.

Wood, Norman B. The Lives of Famous Indian Chiefs. Aurora: American Indian Historical Publishing Company, 1906.

Historically, throughout the world, stronger countries, tribes or groups of people went about as conquers, invading weaker groups and taking the land. Perhaps that was the way of the world from the beginning.

Conquest, however, was not in the minds of the colonists. These people left all behind in England and staked their lives on the new world, coming as immigrants. They came as settlers, not invaders.

The Native Americans also once came here as immigrants, anthropologists have discovered, from Eurasia across the Bering Strait. They developed into different tribes with unique languages and cultures. Many lived as conquerors, much like civilizations throughout the world, the stronger tribes defeating the weaker ones and taking their land.

When the settlers came, they brought different ideas: rationalism, Christian brotherhood, equality and human rights, property rights and self-government. Through hard work, self-sacrifice and ingenuity, they did not just live on the land but built a new civilization. Most wanted to integrate the natives into American life, sharing the benefits of this life. Unfortunately, many natives sided with the British during the Revolutionary War, “unfriending” the Americans. And for many years thereafter, settlers lived in fear of Indian massacres.

Sadly, we know that Americans also treated the natives unjustly, breaking treaties and displacing them. Who can read about the Trail of Tears without feeling remorse, without wishing we could go back into time and change things?

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Humfreville, J. Lee. Twenty Years Among Our Savage Indians. Hartford: The Hartford Publishing Company, 1897.

While I doubt that many Native Americans would want to return to the hunter-gatherer or other primitive ways of their ancestors, I do not doubt that they cherish their traditions. I admire them, too. When I think of Native Americans, I think of bravery, honor, strong families, and stewards of creation. Today they also hold and benefit from Western ideas such as individual rights, personal gain from hard work, and property ownership. I have mixed feelings about the restitution the government has attempted to make to compensate for the offenses of the past. While I believe something should have been done, I can’t help but think the handouts from the government have actually robbed many Native Americans of the desire to find the American dream through hard work and innovation.

We end our time in Rhode Island with a picnic at the Indian Monument on the corner of Route 1A and Strathmore Street in Narragansett. The story of this sculpture by Peter Wolf Toth his interesting. His own words: “I will make one sculpture of an Indian in each of the fifty states to honor them!”

Mistakes have been made in our history, and the conquest mentality is still prevalent in the world, but it is not the American way. The American way is this: through brotherhood, hard work, determination, and entrepreneurship–rather than from taking from others–a person can live secure and improve life for himself and his family. You and I . . . we can make our lives the way we want them to be!

Maryland: The Birthplace of Religious Freedom in America

The blue sky and warm breezes today make me wish that we were really touring our great country. But since we can’t make this a reality at this time of our lives, on with the virtual tour!

cathedral

We begin our day in the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in Baltimore, Maryland. I kneel alone in a pew in the back, apart from the others so I can collect my thoughts. A haunting melody plays on a pipe organ and reverberates through the cathedral, right to the core of my being. Tall columns and high arches elevate my soul, urging it to rise above my petty concerns. Will we find a restaurant that serves both gluten-free and vegan food? Will the boys stop arguing over who has to sit in the middle of the back seat? Will we survive the long drive to historical St. Mary’s City, Maryland?

There are hundreds of sculptures and panels of stained glass in the nave, each telling a story. Check out the tour. While this is not an old, historical cathedral, it is a good place to begin this stage of our tour.

Have you ever wondered where the state of Maryland got its name? Back in the days of its founding, 1634, a person might have told you it was named in honor of the English Queen Henrietta Maria. But Catholics would’ve believed that Calvert chose the name to honor the Blessed Mother.mary

At this time in history, a person had no freedom of religion in England. Parliament passed laws to ensure that everyone attended Anglican services or else faced prison. These laws, aimed at Catholics and Separatists, were the reason many people headed for the New World. Unfortunately, every Christian did not face a warm welcome when they arrived. The Puritans in Massachusetts disliked the Separatists, imprisoned Quakers and Baptists, and despised Catholics, making the freedom to practice one’s religion a challenge in the New World, too.

Christians gained a bit of hope when George Calvert, English gentleman and secretary to King James I, converted to the Catholic faith. He was forced to resign, but the king liked him and gave him the royal title Lord Baltimore. Baltimore received territory in the New World, and his son Cecil Calvert, the second Lord Baltimore, established a colony where Catholics and Protestants could live in harmony.

Excited to explore this land of harmony, we leave the cathedral and grab a light lunch at The Land of Kush, a nearby restaurant with excellent reviews that serves vegetarian cuisine. Stomachs full and satisfied, we pile back into the car for a two-hour drive to our destination: St. Mary’s City.

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“Maryland Dove” by Acroterion – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org

St. Mary’s City is the historical site of the founding of the Maryland Colony. It is considered the birthplace of religious freedom in America. This eight-hundred-acre outdoor history museum includes St. Mary’s Old State House, several museums and a re-creation of the original settlers’ village. Actors dressed in period costumes recreate history theatrically. We enjoy viewing a replica of The Dove sailing ship on St. Mary’s River, one of the two original settlers’ ships.

Maryland prospered from the beginning. Indentured servants received full rights of citizenship and land. Boundaries were established to prevent encroachment onto the Native American’s land. The charter allowed people of all faiths to settle here, where other charters forbid Catholics. In 1649, the Toleration Act granted freedom of worship to all Christians.

Unfortunately, this freedom ended in 1654 after the Puritans in England executed Charles I and had Maryland invaded. Dark days followed. In 1692 the Act of Religion made the Mass illegal, placed fines on parents who taught their children the faith, and made the making of converts punishable by death. Catholics had to practice their faith secretly.

But that’s not the end of the story. We are Americans. We have made mistakes, big mistakes (think of the treatment of the Native Americans and of slavery), but we get on the right track eventually, putting an end to and attempting to make retribution for things not in keeping with human dignity.

Almost eighty years later, at a time when anti-Catholic laws were still enforced, Charles Carroll, a Catholic, was selected by the Maryland convention to join the delegates in Congress. He was the only Catholic to sign the Declaration. Fifty years later he said, “that as a Roman Catholic, he struck a blow not only for our independence of England, but for the toleration of all sects professing the Christian religion and communicating to them equal rights.”

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“St Marys City Historic District Catholic Church, Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

We wrap up our day at the reconstructed 1667 Catholic Church which is built on site of the original Jesuit mission church. As we kneel as a family in the tiny church, I imagine what life must’ve been like for these Christians. I thank God for the freedoms we enjoy today, but then I wonder . . . If we do not protect religious freedom in our country, could we lose it?