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PatYoung
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My son Timmy says that the beleif that Paul Revere cried out the "the British are coming" is an urban legend. He says that since the colonists thought of themselves as British, Revere would not have used that phrase. He says Revere really said something along the lines of "the Regulars (soldiers) are coming". [Furious]

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Grumpy
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This account is slightly different from the more famous Longfellow version. According to this, your hunch is correct: "The Regulars are coming!"

--Grump "2FxC" y


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jf3
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I can't add anything to whether or not Paul mentioned British or Regulars, but I can debunk the supposed rationale as to why he would not say British.

True, in 1775 American colonist were technically and, with some significant limitations, legally British citizens. However both sides had long been differentiating each other through their speech and written words. As far back as the French and Indian Wars the English had begun refering to us with separate labels, as their derisive tune "Yankee Doodle" illustrates.

When General Howe was directed to the colonies to supress the rebellion, he initially refused due to his unwillingness to fight "Americans" (his words). Although he felt fondly for his "American Brethern" I can recall no instance in which he refered to them as anything but Americans - and never as Englishmen. The colonists were variously described in comtemporary English documents as "Subjects of the Crown", "American Brethren", rebels, and most often a fithly stinking mob. I can't recall, however, a single instance in which the English described the colonists as fellow Englishmen. Actually you see the term English used in contemporay writing far more often than British.

On the American side it was a bit more confusing as so many American Tories understandably tried to align themselves as firmly with the crown as possible. Hence they commonly called themselves Englishmen.

But among the Committees of Correspondence, which were the most politically influential institutions among the Liberty Movement, you will never see the terms English or British applied to American Colonists. They disdained the term as being tarnished with repression. Since 1774, at least, the cultural and political gap was already too wide to permit a common label between the sides. In their minds, the British/English were tyrants oppressing the Americans. They would never use the term British when refering to themselves.

Bottom line: Don't know what Paul actually called out - if anything - but by that time he and his fellow travellers in the Sons of Liberty certainly DID NOT consider themselves to be British or English anymore. That rationale just isn't accurate.


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jf3
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Regarding the assumption that Paul Revere would not have shouted "the British are coming" because at the time the Americans still considered themselves British, perhaps Paul Revere's own words provide the best insight.

This link takes you to Revere's written account of that ride.

http://www.historycarper.com/resources/articles/prevere.htm

As you can see, he never claims to have shouted anything in particular. He merely "alerted" houses and "told them [Hancock, Adams, et al] of my mission." But he DOES refer to the enemy as the British throughout his letter. Clearly he and his fellow travellers viewed themselves as something quite distinct from the British and was not reluctan to refer to them as such.

If Paul himself refers to them as "the British", one must wonder at the temerity of latter day revisionists who would have us believe otherwise.

I'm also a little astounded that a teacher would be focusing on the peripherial trivia of the man's precise, yet undocumented words. Seems to me there were far more important issues involved on April 19, 1775 than correct quotations. Like perhaps the concept of the Rights of Man, the democratic imperative and the derivation of authority of a government to rule. Is this what education has come to? Trivia Pursuit questions about impossible to verify quotes instead of focusing on the key philosophical and political developments? Hope not. Hope the entire Paul Revere question was nothing more than a sidebar to a serious discussion of history.


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Anthony
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While I believe it correct that Revere was yelling "Regulars" not "British," I think it is open to debate what he considered himself.

The term "American" as a description for those living in the British colonies of North America dates to around 1700. IIRC, it was even used in Swift's writing.

Yet, the Declaration of Independenceaccuses George II of:

quote:
abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province

and states that:

quote:
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren

In fact, it probably would have been difficult for Paul Revere to state what he was. It was still something of a non-national age, although the English had begun to develop an idea of patriotism. This carried over to the colonies (witness the reaction of the colonial legislatures to the British government's appeal for troops during the French and Indian War).

So, probably, they would have seen themselves as "free Englishmen" but also as men of their colonly, and, afterwards, as Americans.


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jf3
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Hmmm. Not sure I'd agree.

If Paul Revere's own letter refers to the enemy as "the British" and "the English", I'd say it was pretty clear he was differentiating himself from those categories and consdiered himself an American. Their literature of the day clearly refers to themselves as collective colonies, Americans or citizens of specific individual colonies. The only time they refer to an English relationship is when they discuss their ancestors' origins, or how they are lumped under the British crown along with the other non-English groups - Scots, Irish. [See Thomas Paine's Common Sense for an interesting discussion of this relationship.]

Bottom line is there is no reason he would NOT use the term "British" when refering to the enemy, since he, the other Sons of Liberty and the various Committees of Correspondence did routinely employ that term in these contexts. It perfectly fits his political views and written record.

As for the meaning of the reference to English Law, again, the patriot movement identified closely with specific elements of English Common Law, but it does not mean they considered themselves a part of the British/English body politic, ecomomy or culture. At best, they considered themselves just like the Scots and Irish: a separate people yoked under a common King, one whom they no longer thought legitimate.

Again, the assertion that Revere et al considered themselves British flies in the face of the writings these men penned at the time. I'm not sure why one would assume the patriots' own contemporary words are less insightful than a modern person's opinion 225 years removed?

As for what precisely he might have cried, who cares? He himself did not see fit record the words, so why should we try to place words into his mouth based on no apparent historical authority. "The British are coming" is a substantially accurate, concise summary of his message - and it strikes a chord in the American psyche. In lieu of any more precise record, the "British are coming" should be appreciated for what it is: a line from a poem which employed literary license to capture the spirit of the event.

If we wanted to be painfully precise, I guess we could say "he rode to the house in which Adams and Hamilton sheltered, whereat he consulted for upwards of a half hour about the looming crisis, then sped on the next town, whereat he again consulted on military contingencies with the local militia commander; en route having conveyed some as yet unverified oral warning to houses at the gallop, after which we was interdicted by enemy forces, and he attempted unsuccessfully to E&E . . ." Aw, the heck with it, we'll never get that to rhyme. If the "British are coming" offends historical purists, let's just agree to say that "he spread the alarm through every Middlesex county and farm, and leave it at that." Or does the word "every" offend someone because it denigrates the contribution of William Dawes?

You know, Sherman never actually said "war is hell" either, but it's a damned fine summation of his opinions.


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BeachLife
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quote:
While I believe it correct that Revere was yelling "Regulars" not "British," I think it is open to debate what he considered himself.

After reading his first hand account in which he refers to them as British several times, how could you possibly still come to this conclusion.

As for the Longfellow poem, I am sure it is as accurate poems generally are when depicting real life events. It is as true as he could keep while still making a great poem.

I think that teachers these days don't feel like they are doing their jobs unless they are constantly 'updating' the information, even when the veracity of the new information is still in question.

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jf3
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Just to drive a final stake through the heart of the assertion that Paul Revere considered himself British, we should note that his father was French and Paul himself was born in America. Paul had actively been opposing British rule for at least a decade before the April 18-19, 1775 ride. He was a founder of the Sons of Liberty, member of the Boston Committee of Correpsondence and the Council of Public Saftey, all of which were adamantly anti-British. He, of course, published the famous engraving of the Boston Massacre, the first widely effective American propaganda piece, which villified the British Army. He was also one of the organizers of the Boston Tea Party. All of the above took place over the course of the decade prior to his famous ride.

Can there really be serious contention that he considered himself British? Next we'll be hearing that William Wallace and Ghandi also considered themselves British.


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Ash Branch
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quote:
Originally posted by jf3:
Can there really be serious contention that he considered himself British? Next we'll be hearing that William Wallace and Ghandi also considered themselves British.

William Wallace was indeed British - in his day the term "British" referred to the Celtic inhabitants of Britain, in contradistinction to their English neighbours (though in point of fact he was more of a Norman, as were the rulers of England against whom he fought). Don't know about Ghandi - in his early days as an army officer in South Africa he may well have accepted the fact that he was a British subject.

I don't know much about Paul Revere, but the fact that his father was French might go some way to explaining why he became a traitor. Without the propaganda campaign organised by him and his fellow conspirators, no one in America would have bothered to take up arms against their sovereign.

Since this is a question about nomenclature, I wonder if the Confederade States of America, during their own war of independence, eschewed the label "American" and chose something else, equally arbitrary? Perhaps we'll never know, as that particular independence movement was crushed by the occupying power.


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Richard W
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quote:
Originally posted by Ash Branch:

William Wallace was indeed British - in his day the term "British" referred to the Celtic inhabitants of Britain, in contradistinction to their English neighbours (though in point of fact he was more of a Norman, as were the rulers of England against whom he fought).



Er... hmmm...

He was British in the modern sense, which wasn't used in his day; but the "Britons" lived in the Southern part of the island (the part occupied by the Romans - ie. pretty much what's now England), and the term was several hundred years out of date by Wallace's day.

I don't know how he'd have referred to himself (given that as you say, he could well have been speaking medieval French anyway), but he would certainly not have thought of himself as British. He'd probably have said he was a Scot fighting the English... Nobody thought of themselves as British in those days.


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BeachLife
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quote:
Originally posted by Ash Branch:

William Wallace was indeed British - in his day the term "British" referred to the Celtic inhabitants of Britain, in contradistinction to their English neighbours (though in point of fact he was more of a Norman, as were the rulers of England against whom he fought). Don't know about Ghandi - in his early days as an army officer in South Africa he may well have accepted the fact that he was a British subject.

I don't know much about Paul Revere, but the fact that his father was French might go some way to explaining why he became a traitor. Without the propaganda campaign organised by him and his fellow conspirators, no one in America would have bothered to take up arms against their sovereign.

Since this is a question about nomenclature, I wonder if the Confederade States of America, during their own war of independence, eschewed the label "American" and chose something else, equally arbitrary? Perhaps we'll never know, as that particular independence movement was crushed by the occupying power.


The tone of this post implys that you may be one of those fabled Brits who still seem to have retained animosity towards Americans some 225+ years since we sent your Army packing. Is this true?

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jf3
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quote:
Originally posted by Ash Branch:

I don't know much about Paul Revere, but the fact that his father was French might go some way to explaining why he became a traitor. Without the propaganda campaign organised by him and his fellow conspirators, no one in America would have bothered to take up arms against their sovereign.


Now, now Ash, let's not betray our imperialist tendencies! By "sovereign" I can only assume you mean the institution which suppressed the Rights of Man and replaced them with the Rights of Kings as it subjugated a sixth of the world's population. How can one become a traitor to any government which does not derive its authority to govern from the people? 'Droit Rex' my powder horn! "If this be treason, then let us all be counted among the traitors!"

And yes, I'm sure Ghandi did consider himself a British Subject, as in "subject to the whims and abuses of a colonial power."

Author's Note: None of the above should be construed as an endorsement of France, the French or anything French. Revere's French heritage is an embarassing aspect we normally do not advertise and I regret being forced to let this slip. I also deeply regret that my mother-in-law is French.


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Ursa Major
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quote:
Originally posted by Ash Branch:

Since this is a question about nomenclature, I wonder if the Confederade States of America, during their own war of independence, eschewed the label "American" and chose something else, equally arbitrary? Perhaps we'll never know, as that particular independence movement was crushed by the occupying power.

Like most US citizens before the war they would have identifyed with their state of birth or residence. Robert E. Lee considered himself a "Virginian". When he was fighting the Mexicans he might have considered himself an American*, but it would be in the same way that Eisenhower considered himself an Ally during WWII.

*Not that Mexicans have any less claim to that adjective than someone from the US.


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Richard W
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quote:
Originally posted by jf3:
Now, now Ash, let's not betray our imperialist tendencies! By "sovereign" I can only assume you mean the institution which suppressed the Rights of Man and replaced them with the Rights of Kings as it subjugated a sixth of the world's population.

Oi... you can't get away with revisionism from this direction either... "replaced" the Rights of Man with the Rights of Kings?

The "Rights of Kings" were a lot older, and at the time of the American Revolution (which I assume you're referring to given the rest of the thread), the British government was actually one of the more enlightened in Europe, and hence the world.

The "Rights of Man" is a far newer idea, and although it's definitely a better one, and was first properly expressed by the American revolutionaries, the fact that the American colonists had rebelled against far less extreme persecutions than those that were endured by other European citizens at the time did help to spur on other revolutions in Europe (eg the French).

And the British Empire wasn't founded on the "Right of Kings" either; rather an ideal to gain from the colonies whilst also trying to improve the world by "educating savages" to the standards of "civilization". (Which often in effect meant stomping on cultural differences and subjugating people for the Empire's own ends). This ideal doesn't seem too different from what the US is trying to do these days...

Whatever; I'm in an argumentative mood and should probably stop.


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Ash Branch
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quote:
Originally posted by Beach Life:

The tone of this post implys that you may be one of those fabled Brits who still seem to have retained animosity towards Americans some 225+ years since we sent your Army packing. Is this true?


No, I actually rather like the Americans. Not perfect, certainly, but who is?


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BeachLife
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quote:
Originally posted by Ash Branch:

No, I actually rather like the Americans. Not perfect, certainly, but who is?


Okay, that is why I was asking. Thinking that brits exist who still consider America a colony is a UL which sometimes shows up among less wordly Americans.

Beach...I only drink tea imported from the UK...Life!

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Mos
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quote:
Originally posted by Ash Branch:

Since this is a question about nomenclature, I wonder if the Confederade States of America, during their own war of independence, eschewed the label "American" and chose something else, equally arbitrary? Perhaps we'll never know, as that particular independence movement was crushed by the occupying power.

I believe they referred to themselves as "Confederates." I am not sure about this, and don't have any sources, but I know that writing most definatly still exists from the Civil War.


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Ash Branch
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quote:
Originally posted by Beach Life:

Thinking that brits exist who still consider America a colony is a UL which sometimes shows up among less wordly Americans.


I think that concept is sometimes used as a joke, more usually by Americans, I've noticed. At least twice I have heard Americans refer to themselves as "bloody colonials". In some parts of the world Americans have got a reputation for arrogance (a bit like the British in that respect) but in my experience nothing could be further from the truth. Every single American I have ever met has been friendly and helpful.


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jf3
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quote:
Originally posted by Richard W:

Whatever; I'm in an argumentative mood and should probably stop.


Easy my friend! That was meant as a tongue-in-cheek contribution! If you want a serious on-line fight, go find a Scot and take on devolution, or whatever they call their independence movement.

As far as I'm concerned, the American Revolutionary War ended over 225 years ago. Kind of a done deal by now, isn't it? That makes it fair game for sport, but hardly something to get riled about.

As for which came first, the Rights of Man or the Rigts of Kings, give "Common Sense" a read for a contemporary view of it. As I recall - and I'm getting old and feeble - the view popular at the time among many in the colonies was that old English (read Anglo-Saxon) law granted common men certain rights, and that much of this body of law/custom was overturned with the advent of William the Conqueror, a result of which a more absolute form of monarchy was instituted. King George was merely the then-current (1770s) leader of the institution which was repressing ancient English rights. A couple of Thomas Paine's quotes that come to mind on the subject:

"A French bastard landing with an armed banditti, and establishing himself king of England against the consent of the natives, is in plain terms a very paltry rascally original."

"When William the Conqueror subdued England, he gave them law at the point of the sword; and until we consent, that the seat of government, in America, be legally and authoritatively occupied, we shall be in danger of having it filled by some fortunate ruffian, who may treat us in the same manner, and then, where will be our freedom? Where our property?"

"Ere she could hear the news, the fatal business might be done; and ourselves suffering like the wretched Britons under the oppression of the Conqueror."

Here is another "revisionist" author/historian's view of the Conquest's impact on the rights of man: ". . . the tie between lord and man was primarily personal, so that a free man could go from one lord to another and transfer his land with him. The essence of Norman feudalism, on the other hand, was that the land remained under the lord, whatever the man might do." Since land ownership was at the very heart of individual rights, Norman feudalism was a major step toward the manorial system and a major step back for individual rights. You may recognize this "revisionist" historian. His name is Churchill, Winston S., and the quote comes from his "History of the English Speaking Peoples."

Obviously this interpretation of history is subject to debate - or, in the case of 1775, war -but I think you'll find it accurately represents the views of many revolutionary leaders, who believed they were attempting to reclaim ancient heritary rights of Englishmen, and that the only way they could do so was to severe political ties with the "foreign" monarchy (foreign in the sense both of its Norman origin and King George's German connection) which they viewed was repressing those ancient English rights.

I don't claim this view is correct in some absolute sense, or that it even follows a neat logical thread, but it is a good reflection of the thought in 1775, and therefore, I would suggest, it would be inappropriate to accuse me of revisionism. Anti-Frenchism, yes. But that's another matter.

BTW, condolences on the passing of Princess Margaret.


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jf3
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quote:
Originally posted by Beach Life:

Thinking that brits exist who still consider America a colony is a UL which sometimes shows up among less wordly Americans.

Beach...I only drink tea imported from the UK...Life!


I was in the US Army for 26 years and worked with the Brit Army on many occasions. Each and every time the Brits would sooner or later call us colonials. I even heard a Brit brigadier refers to us as such in a large meeting. We in turn would normally respond with our own pithy comments.

Can't ever remember any serious intent to insult or any hurt feelings as a result. It was usually a good way to note a common heritage and make light of past differences. Like dogs marking a fireplug - a reflexive ritual with no harm done.


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jf3
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quote:
Originally posted by Beach Life:

Thinking that brits exist who still consider America a colony is a UL which sometimes shows up among less wordly Americans.


I was in the US Army for 26 years and worked with the Brit Army on many occasions. Each and every time the Brits would sooner or later call us colonials. I even heard a Brit brigadier refers to us as such in a large meeting. We in turn would normally respond with our own pithy comments.

Can't ever remember any serious intent to insult or any hurt feelings as a result. It was usually a good way to note a common heritage and make light of past differences. Like dogs marking a fireplug - a reflexive ritual with no harm done.


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Goes-hmmm
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quote:
Originally posted by jf3:
...We in turn would normally respond with our own pithy comments...
Were you wearing your pith helmets?

[Edited to fix link]

Goes-"pith on you meanies"-hmmm


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jf3
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quote:
Originally posted by Goes-hmmm:
Were you wearing your pith helmets?

No, no. Pith as in "pithed off!"


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Richard W
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quote:
Originally posted by jf3:
Easy my friend!

Hmmm, you're right - revisionism was probably a bit harsh. By "argumentative" I actually meant "drunk"... I wouldn't claim that I actually know what I'm talking about here, beyond having read a book or two!

quote:

As I recall - and I'm getting old and feeble - the view popular at the time among many in the colonies was that old English (read Anglo-Saxon) law granted common men certain rights, and that much of this body of law/custom was overturned with the advent of William the Conqueror, a result of which a more absolute form of monarchy was instituted.

Talking of which, I'm reading a book at the moment about the Norman Conquest and its build-up, and although it's fiction (a novelization of events) and probably rather stretched in places, it does make exactly this point - that the general population were far happier and freer before the Conquest, and had far more rights.

Not quite sure how this relates to the American Revolution, though? If you meant the "institution of monarchy" had replaced the Rights of Man, then England was a monarchy under one ruler before the Norman Conquest; and people in the UK have freedom and human rights now despite still living in a monarchy! It was the Normans not the Anglo-Saxons who took them away...


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jf3
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Perhaps our Founding Fathers had a romanticized view of history? Not the first time a revolutionary movement over simplified the past to support their view. Just goes to show, if your torture history enough, it'll confess to anything.

BTW, what's the book?


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greenphan
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The largest problem with this ongoing debate here is that America wrote the definitive history of the Revolutionairy War. They were, after all, proud to be the victors in a battle with the best-trained, best-equipped, and fiercest army in the Western world. America, thanks to our arrogance, coats over the history we would rather not remember and certain historical facts are ignored, either from shame or from ignorance.

Where, for instance, was the Battle of Bunker Hill, the first major Revolutionairy War Battle fought? Why, on Breed's Hill of course, which rests next door to Bunker Hill. Why the change in history? No idea. Probably someone referred to the battle once as Bunker Hill and, like one of the many UL's here, spread.

The Pilgrams, also, did not land on Plymouth Rock. For starters, they didn't land in Plymouth; they landed a few miles north (forget the exact name of the place, but trust me on this). Second, the "real" Plymouth Rock on Plymouth, Mass today is a stone. Just a simple boulder that was hauled in from the beach. Why on Earth would the Pilgrims want to step on a boulder. Wouldn't they anchor a few hundred yards offshore and use rowboats to transport themselves to the beach?

It's all a matter of history, who tells it, and what they have to gain from their telling. Did Paul Revere say "The British are coming!" during his famous ride?
Let's examine this:
1. Did he consider himself a British subject, as it has been argued?
I would say No. His ride alerting people of the British presence was an act of treason. Even if he didn't actually attack the British, he is still aiding traitors to the crown. For that, he should be executed. He wasn't; we won the war.

2.Did Revere say "British" or "Regulars" during the ride?
The term Regulars as it applies to soldeirs implies that there are Irregulars, as the movie "Full Metal Jacket" points out. And, from the church bell tower's point of view (where the famed story places the lookout), would the lookout be able to tell if the soldiers were regulars, conscripts, mercenaries, etc.? Would he be able to distinguish the number of soldiers with the naked eye (assuming he didnt' have a spyglass)? He was on the lookout, remember, at night.
Did Revere simply assume that the troops were Regulars? (BTW, what does Regulars as it applies to this situation actually mean? Maybe I should make that distinction first). I think he would have said something along the lines of "the enemy is coming!" or "the troops are coming! get ready!" instead of "British". If not British, what would be wrong with English?
3. Does it actually matter in the long run, as someone pointed out?
Yes. This is our shared history, the commen ancestory of the American people. It would be nice to get the facts correct. Betsy Ross did not make an American flag, but we tell our children she did. Why? Because we need heroes. Longfellow need a hero for his poem and he choose Revere instead of the other two riders (Dawes was one, as someone pointed out, and the other was a female whose name escapes me). Why was Revere chosen and made into a national icon? Because of his prominence, not as a historical figure, but as a merchant. He was a printing and blacksmith as I recall. The famous image of the Boston Massacre reprinted in all the newspapers was his work. He was well-known amongst the elite Boston circle, so his name was carried the furthest as the hero who alerted the "Minutemen".
History should be fair. Otherwise it's not history; it's someone creative interpretation of the facts. It is our duty to present a fair record of the facts to subsequent generation.

4. As for the Confederates, I believe they refered to themselves as such. They did, after all, need a new name for their country; America was already taken.


Yeah for American history.

--Jeremy


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jf3
The Red and the Green Stamps


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quote:
Originally posted by greenphan:

Where, for instance, was the Battle of Bunker Hill, the first major Revolutionairy War Battle fought? Why, on Breed's Hill of course, which rests next door to Bunker Hill. Why the change in history? No idea. Probably someone referred to the battle once as Bunker Hill and, like one of the many UL's here, spread.

--Jeremy


Here's a good example of a little knowledge being a dangerous thing. Bunker Hill vs. Breed's Hill. The only people trying change history are those trying to re-name it The Battle of Breed's Hill.

First, the current agreement on the naming of the hills did not exist in 1775. In fact, the knob we now know as Breed's Hill had no fixed name at the time. Some referred to it as Bunker Hill, considering it indistinguishable from the larger hill mass. Some called it Charlestown Heights, as the hill rose up behind that town. Some called it Breed's Hill simply because a farmer named Breed grazed cattle there in 1775. British Lt de Berniere (14th Regt), a participant of the battle, produced the definitive British map of the engagement. His map labels the knob (what we now call Breed's Hull) Bunker Hill, and refers to the battle as "The Action on the Heights of Charlestown." Montresor, the British military engineer who surveyed the peninsula and mapped it (indeed, he built a redan at the neck some time before the battle in question) thought none of the hills were important enough to record their names. Quibbling over the name of something that didn't even have a fixed name back then is useless.

Second, the Committee of Safety directed on Jun 15, 1775 that Bunker Hill be fortified. The militia set out to fortify Bunker Hill. Whether by mistake or feeling the slightly more advanced knob (which we now call Breed's Hill) was a better site, the decision was made to entrench further forward than originally anticipated. Historians have endlessly debated whether this was deliberate or an error, and whether Prescott or Putnum made the decision. Bottom line is, it doesn't matter. The Committee wanted Bunker Hill defended. That was the key terrain. Thats why both forces found themselves there.

Third, in selecting a name for a battle, armies seldom choose the name of the precise spot of the fighting, rather the nearby key terrain. Hence, the Civil War battle of Washington DC took place outside Washington. The Battle of Atlanta took place outside Atlanta. The battle of Sharpsburg took place outside Sharpsburg. Etc., etc. Hell, opposing armies don't always even agree on a battle's name. That's why Manassas and Bull Run both refer to the same battles. So what in the blazes is wrong with calling it the Battle of Bunker Hill? Bunker Hill was the key terrain. So what if much (but certainly not all) of the actual fighting took place a couple hundred feet farther on atop an unnamed hillock? Geez. Get a life.

If you're going to be that petty, why not call it the Battle of Mystic River. After all, a major part of the fight didn't even take place on what we now call Breed's Hill. It took place on a cart track and field edging the south shore of the Mystic. That's where the British flank companies got decimated by Knowlton's and Stark's units. But then if you were aware of that, you'd also be aware of the fact that this engagement was actually on the eastern slopes of what we now call Bunker Hill proper. So even the nit-picking line of logic leads us back to Bunker Hill.

Finally, both Gen Ward (colonial forces) and Gen Gage (British forces) referred to the affair as the Battle of Charlestown in subsequent writings. What makes you think your decision to name it the Battle of Breed's Hill is wiser than the name used by the participants?

Nobody "changed history" in coming up with the name Bunker Hill. It was the key terrain. It fit the naming conventions of the day. It was commonly referred to as the Battle of Bunker Hill by a large proportion of the participants on both sides. If this is the kind of UL or "changed history" that upsets you, I suggest you spend more time reading history and save yourself an ulcer.

As to what term Paul Revere used when referring to the King's forces. I'm always amazed at the arrogance of those who dismiss the written words Revere himself used in recounting the event. What manner of ego leads one today to believe he knows better about what was said than the man who said it himself? Talk about changing history!


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greenphan
The Red and the Green Stamps


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Kudos on ripping apart my Bunker/Breed's Hill argument. Indeed, more reading is in order.

But as for looking at the writings of the participents for clues as to what was said: I will not believe anyone's account of some historical, brave, noble, etc. act if it is being told more than three hours after the fact. Revere did a great service to the Revolution by informing others of the British approach. This led to the first battle (I hope I'm not mistaken on that). When someone, anyone really, does something which begs to be retold over and over and over, there will be embellishment; that is only natural. The way I heard it, Plymouth Rock grew in significance because it was near the general area where the Pilgrims landed in Plymouth; people used it as a reference point and eventually, after retelling and saying "right there, where that rock is", Plymouth Rock became the actual point.
Look at Ronald Reagan, for example. He would tell reporters that WW2 had special meaning for him because he liberated a concentration camp (Buchenwald, I believe he said) but in actuality Reagan spent the entire war making training films in California. His story grew from the first Holocaust films sent back; they went through his office and he was one of the first ones to "liberate" the film from the canister, I guess, and watch it. He was one of the first couple of hundred of Americans to know about The Final Solution and, over the years, through embellishment and a dose of senility, his story grew into Reagan himself liberating the camp.
Why would Revere be any different? Embellishment is a key element to any story.
I would not take Revere's version as 100% fact; he undoubtedly embellished. The simple fact is, he probably shouted much more than the single line "The British are coming!" He probably gave instructions too: "get out of bed! Get yr gun! My horse needs water!" If he said only that "The British are coming", where would the colonists go to fight? Couldn't they be coming from anywhere? It would most likely be assumed Boston, but how are they coming from Boston? And if Revere only said "The British are coming", then the whole "one if by land, two if by sea" story is useless; why would it matter if they came by land or by sea if Revere never informed the public of such? He most likely did tell everyone, but no one knows what he said. HE could have said "They're coming by sea! The British are coming by sea. Get ready!" or something to that effect. But no one knows anything other the famous "The British are coming!" If Revere said anything besides that famous phrase that has not been recorded accurately or at all, I believe that sheds some doubt on whether the exact phrasing was "the british are coming."
If no one knows for sure what was said, why is it repeated that his famous words were "The british are coming"? People are putting words into his mouth out of convenience or ignorance. Even if Revere wrote that he said that phrase, should we believe it? I'm sure Hitler's account of WW2 would be different than the Russian account of the same event. Al Gore never said he invented the internet, but he is quoting as saying such. Why? In Gore's case, it paints him as a moron (how else could he have been on equal footing with Bush?). In Revere's case, Longfellow attached to something that rhymed which made sense and it became an American emblem; a symbol of an American's courage against the taxman.

jeremy


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Brad from Georgia
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I've done some research in the area of what the Confederates called themselves, and they did have a term.

They were "Southrons."

The word seems to have vanished, though it was widely used in newspapers during the Civil War--er, the War for Southern Independence.

I think it's just as well--the KKK picked up on it and used it. Me, I'd much rather be called an American (or, when I'm in England, even a Yank).

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jf3
The Red and the Green Stamps


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Greenphan:

Totally agree much of the "British are coming" legend is poetic license invented by our good literary friend.

The truth is (as mentioned above in this thread)none of the participants ever attempted to convey Revere's exact words. Not even Revere himself. He mentions stopping and consulting with Adams and Hancock, passing orders to militia leaders and giving the alarm to homes he passed en route. Which is pretty much what the other participants said as well. "The British are coming" is colorful, to the point and quite plausible. But those are Longfellow's words, not necessarily Revere's.

My reference to believing Revere's words, dealt with the original point of this thread - that he would not use the term "British" as he supposedly considered himself British. In his account of the ride he continually refers to the enemy forces as the British - clearly he thought of them as a faction/culture/whatever different from him and his. One can discount "the British are coming" as a literay invention, but one cannot discredit it on the false assertion that Revere considered himself British and would not, therefore, have referred to the enemy as simply "the British." In this respect, I see no reason not to believe Revere's account, unless you wish to ignore all contemporary accounts of history.


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Ursa Major
The Red and the Green Stamps


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As a Bostonian living in an occupied city for two years, I imagine Revere and the rest of the underground resistence had far more colorful (literally and pejoratively) terms for the troops than "the British" or "the regulars".

IMO, "The Redcoats are coming!" or "The Lobsters are coming!" are more likely than the other alternatives offered in this debate?


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