July 1, 2016

Five Years of Hands-On-Books and Happy July 4th!

By Brandon Marie Miller

[Activity: Make A General's Epaulets]

It is hard to believe 5 years have passed since Mary Kay Carson, Kerrie Hollihan and I began Hands-On-Books! We hope you've enjoyed our bits of history, science and activities. We've had some wonderful guest bloggers along the way, too. Thanks to everyone who has checked us out!

Since I've written books about several Founding Fathers, I've had the July blog a few times in honor of Independence Day. So here we go again.

1776: Washington has abandoned Boston and in mid-April marches his troops to New York, a town of about 20,000 people, but mostly an area of farmland and forest. He has too few men to occupy Brooklyn Heights, Harlem Heights, Long Island, Manhattan Island and Staten Island, and protect the Hudson and East Rivers. The Americans wait for sight of the British fleet.

Soldiers in New York hear the Declaration of
Independence read in this 1870 print from
Harper's Weekly. Library of Congress
On July 9, a few days after the first British forces landed on Staten Island, Washington gathers his "motely crew," as one British officer calls the American troops. The soldiers listen as an incredible document is read. Only days before in Philadelphia, Congress has approved a Declaration of Independence, severing ties between Great Britain and the free and independent states of America. This war, these men, will now fight-- not just to insure their rights as British citizens-- but for the birth of a new nation.

But Washington knows each man views his own state or region as his country. He needs a united single vision of what America can be. "The Honor and Succces of the army, and the safety of our bleeding Country, depends upon harmony and good agreement with each other," he urges his men. "Let all distinctions of Nations, Countries, and Provinces therefore be lost."

By August, 32,000 British soldiers camp on Staten Island and the masts of their vast fleet appear like a forest on the water. Washington has 19,000 men, but many of the militia soldiers will slip away as their enlistments end. The Continental Army suffers a series of failures in New York. At one point, as American soldiers dump their packs and guns and run, Washington gallops towards the British lines: "Are these the men with whom I am to defend America?" he cries. "Good God! Have I got such troops as these?" Aides rush forward, grab the reins of Washington's horse, and pull their general to safety.

Washington always needed more soldiers. A recruiting poster.
 Library of Congress.

Well, we know things turn out just fine. But in those dark summer days of 1776, nothing was sure and failure seemed very likely.

Activity: Make A General's Epaulets

1 comment:

  1. I love reading about Washington and his part in the birth of our nation. It wasn't an easy labor.