Christmas Truce of 1914 is one of true yet hard to believe war stories. In the midst of heavy fighting during World War I, there was a brief time of “peace on earth and good will toward men”. This event happened on the battlefields of Flanders, where German Imperial Army faced its British and French […]Christmas Truce of 1914 — History and War
In the summer of 1777, the British launched what became known as the Saratoga campaign, an effort to gain control over the Hudson River valley. A large corps under General John Burgoyne moved south from Quebec toward Albany. Another body of troops led by Brigadier General Barry St. Leger was supposed to advance toward Albany from the west, from Lake Ontario.
St. Leger’s force was made up of 200 British regulars, a contingent of Provincials and Canadians, as many as 1,000 Native Americans, and around one hundred Hanau Jäger. The Jäger were commanded by Lieutenant Philipp Jakob Hildebrandt, a forty-three year old married father of three who had spent more than two decades in the service of Denmark, Hessen-Kassel, and Hessen-Homburg before joining the Hanau corps in 1777. The Jäger had been in Quebec for around two weeks when Hildebrandt and his company received orders in late June to join…
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Infiltrate the lion’s den
Mission of the most critical kind
Everything rides on my execution
Succeed and I’ve fulfilled my duty
Fail and I die
Nothing more, nothing less
I do this not for the noteriety
It does not exist here
The players are unnamed and the achievements unknown
It’s not for the selfish sense of adventure
For I am fraught with worry
Sleepless nights precede each mission
Enjoyment cannot be afforded
No, it’s because of the personal request of his excellency himself
Bowing out gracefully not an option
I’m a proud American
I’ll do whatever it takes
Even if it’s looking into the eye of the lion
George Washington has long been hailed the hero of the American Revolution, and with valid reason. His patience, perseverance, and ability to push past major disappointment and crushing defeats to see his undermanned army to the end provide the blueprint for all of us who face substantial obstacles in our daily lives. Washington, despite personal doubts of his own ability, never let his men see his insecurities.
In his novel, 1776, Pulitzer Prize winning author David McCullough takes us directly into the mind of Washington. We see his indecision and, at times, crippling lack of confidence, things that could have easily led to the demise of American independence. We begin to understand that heroes, including iconic figures such as Washington, are straddled with faults and warts just like the rest of us.
The reader learns of several trusted confidants in Washington’s inner circle that eventually, in one way or another, through incompetence or treason, let the general down. That said, the story makes superstars out of Henry Knox and Nathaniel Greene, who stuck by Washington from beginning to end. The mutual admiration and respect between these three men are as big a reason for the outcome of the war as any.
We find out about the British side, as well. We begin to correlate specific decisions made by British generals that allowed a ragtag outfit, the so-called, “Rabble in Arms,” to hang around when it could have been annihilated several times over. Despite boasting a plethora of seasoned generals and leaders, the fact that British leaders were rarely on the same page or could hardly work together somewhat levelled a playing field that was overwhelmingly stacked in favor of the redcoats.
Finally, it is worth noting that McCullough, for the most part, keeps the story within the specific parameters of its title. While the reader has the advantage of knowing how everything played out, it is important to understand how intimidating it must have seemed to be a soldier in the American army at that time. 1776 handed the Patriots several lopsided losses and subjected them to embarrassing retreats of supposed strongholds. Morale was extremely low, and people were deserting the army in droves. Washington’s leadership ability itself was very much in question, and despite a nice rally at the end of the year, especially the defeat of the Hessians at Trenton, he was hardly thought of as a hero. Seeing the situation as those in the army at that time allows the reader to better understand the how perilous things were.
It’s peaceful here; Nary a human voice hits my eardrums; Only the fabulous songbirds and the occasional chirping of a chipmunk; It’s okay, though; We can coexist up here
Gentle slopes and charming wood lots; Rolling hills and sun drenched meadows; A calm, quiescent brook babbles in the not too distant; I sit here often and soak it all in
It wasn’t always this way; Our descendants experienced here quite differently; Cracks of musket fire and roaring of cannons once drowned out the songbirds of the day; Large trees reduced to rubble; Craters filled the hillsides; Limbs blown off, lifelessness strewn across the meadow; The desperate shrieking of young boys dying in the background forever to haunt those who were just out of harm’s way; When the dust settled, those who were left had to grieve for their fallen comrades all the while carrying them piece by piece off the battlefield
I sit here often and soak it all in; How many took their last breath underneath the rock upon which I sit? How many souls are forever stuck here in their personal hell, a place I come to for peace and tranquillity? How ironic…..