Monday, July 04, 2005

One terrorist is another mans patriot

If we recall the battle of Bunker Hill, the British commander (Gen. Howe) lost over 1,000 redcoats and he was appalled at our “dishonorable” fighting techniques. The minutemen refused to wear brightly-colored coats and line-up in formation for easy picking-off. Instead, we hid in trees and behind natural cover, killing redcoats from as far-away as 200 yards, using the latest rifled muskets (that’s quite a shot, even by today’s standards, if you consider the distance to the pin of a 200-yard golf hole). This sums-up how the Brits felt about us Revolutionary scallywags:

"Gage blamed the extremists for recent incidents of vandalism directed against internal revenue offices. The governor, who described the group's organizers as "criminals," issued an executive order authorizing the summary arrest of any individual who has interfered with the government's efforts to secure law and order."

American Terrorist Cells

Patriots like “John the Painter” conducted arson against British ships, and we ruthlessly hid-out and bombed the Brits from a safe distance, killing and destroying with free abandon.

It’s no wonder that King George sent 23,000 troops to quash these terrorists when they invaded New York City, a beach assault so large that it held the world-record until the Normandy invasion, 169 years later. It stunned Geo. Washington, who was forced to retreat to New Jersey, where he watched 2,000 of his men get captured at Harlem Hill, standing right at the current location of the toll booths on the Jersey side of the George Washington bridge (really, I study this stuff).

BTW, NYC is loaded with Revolutionary War battle sites, such as the intersection of Canal and Mott in Chinatown where Alexander Hamilton fought bravely. Today it’s honored by a historical marker, right next to Wan’s fish market and the phony Rolex dealers.

No mercy for those who give aid and comfort to the enemy

As you might expect, the British were appalled at our horrendous manners and refusal on honor the “code of warfare”. In an excellent article titled “Sons of Liberty – Patriots or Terrorists?” we see that our Revolutionary ancestors were indeed considered terrorists, and treated accordingly.
Just like today, the military rationalized extreme measures against the terrorist colonists, killing the wives and children of known terrorists, and suspending the rules of traditional warfare. Remember the heartbreaking scene in the Mel Gibson movie “The Patriot” where the British soldiers burn a church full of women and children? Scholars suggest that this scene was taken from 1944 the real-life massacre at Oradour sur Glane in France where the retreating Nazi’s forced all the French women and kids into a church and burned it to the ground.

Dehumaniizing the Terrorists

Our ancestors were considered to be terrorists by the loyalists, plain and simple, and every Revolutionary War soldier who signed his enlistment papers put his families’ lives on-the-line (there were eight Burleson’s who served in the American Revolution).

Just like Americans de-humanize Al Qaeda today, some folks use the label of “terrorist” to justify all sorts of offensive bigotry. Interestingly, the British leveraged on the “de-humanization” of those that they repressed, as noted in the shocking book “Paddy’s Lament”, a very provacative book.

In my travels to Ireland I discovered that many Irish believe that Queen Victoria permitted a holocaust (the great potatoe famine) that dwarfed the evil of Hitler, and they consider her to be one of the most reviled monsters of the 19th century. British cartoons of the day depicted the Irish as Chimp-like and sub-human: My older copy of Paddy’s Lament shows a British cartoon of the monkey-like Irishman, but it’s been removed from the cover by the publisher, because it was too offensive.

"Those unfamiliar with the history may be surprised to discover that the English for a long time (til today?) described and depicted the Irish in much the same ways in which they described and depicted Black Africans and West Indians: as strong, stupid, ruled by passions, and resembling chimpanzees."

The price paid by American terrorists

It’s been over 200 years since the American Revolution, but many people need to be reminded about the price that the patriots paid at the hands of the British. The signers of the Declaration of Independence pledged it all:

"For the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of the Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor."

So, how did these rebellous American terrorists fare?

  • Five signers were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died.
  • Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons in the Revolutionary Army, another had two sons captured. Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or the hardships of the Revolutionary War.
  • Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the British navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts, and died in rags.
  • Thomas McKeam was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in the Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him, and poverty was his reward.
  • At the Battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson Jr., noted that the British General Cornwallis, had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters. The owner quietly urged General George Washington to open fire, which was done. The home was destroyed, and Nelson died bankrupt.
  • Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The enemy jailed his wife, and she died within a few months.
  • John Hart was driven from his wife's bedside as she was dying. Their 13 children fled for their lives. His fields and his grist mill were laid waste. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves, returning home after the war to find his wife dead, his children vanished. A few weeks later he died from exhaustion and a broken heart.

Honoring the Revolutionary soldiers

The 4th of July is special to any D.A.R or S.A.R. member, and we get a chance to honor our valliant ancestors. As I noted, there were eight Burleson’s who fought in the American Revolution (many with Puritan names like Fearnot Burleson), and my direct ancestor Aaron Burleson. Genealogist Thurmon Burleson spent years finding Aaron’s grave, hidden in the woods of North Carolina. My dedicated cousins J.D. Burleson and P.K. Burleson have greatly honored our family and he helped arrange a proper military headstone for our brave patriot:

Let’s remember why we celebrate the 4th of July and celebrate our freedom and the brave patriots who pledged their sacred honor to defend liberty.