Volume 14, Issue 26 ~ June 29 - July 5, 2006

Burton on the Bay

By Bill Burton

Lest We Forget

The heroics of our true patriots

Don’t one of you fire until you see

the whites of their eyes

—William Prescott: 1726-1795

When you’re sitting in a wheelchair impatient for a broken hip to mend, there’s time to mull over a few things that have long fermented within the mind. As Independence Day approaches, my theme has centered on the waning appreciation and knowledge of our original patriots.

This Fourth of July let’s go back to where and when it all started: the three foremost hotbeds of a thirst for liberty, Boston, Richmond and Philadelphia, two and a quarter centuries ago. Let’s go back now, before we forget.

Burton’s Revolutionary War Quiz

1. Patrick Henry shocked many colonials 10 years before he spoke on March 23, 1775, at the Virginia Convention in Richmond:

I know not what course others may take, but as for me, give me liberty or give me death.

What nine words did he speak on May 29, 1765, to plant the seed for the Revolution?

2. What were the last words of Connecticut Yankee Nathan Hale?

3. An unnamed woman offered part of her petticoat to muffle oars to help a dentist spread the word that almost turned the tide of victory in a famous battle. Who was that dentist who earned everlasting fame?

4. What five words did James Mugford speak that have since become the byword of skippers of all navy vessels everywhere?

5. On what occasion did Ethan Allen declare “In the name of the great Jehovah and the Continental Congress?”

6. John Stark rallied his troops with a rallying cry that epitomized the spirit of the colonists prior to a battle that played a significant role in the outcome of the Revolution. What were his famed words?

7. Prescott gave those whites-of-their-eyes orders prior to what battle?

If you’re of my generation, you’d know the answers; they were the folklore in history books of the era.

Stirring Moments

The stirring and colorful events and people who made this nation what it is were role models. They set challenges for us to follow, they contributed to pride in our country, emphasized that freedom is not free. For many, they instilled the creed what can I do for my country, not what can my country do for me?

In my generation, history books brought color to our heritage, instilled pride in our country’s past while also making history interesting enough that many a student who would otherwise be napping, or making spitballs listened, possibly even read.

Are we a country today that will not be reminded of the heroics of our true patriots?

Are future generations never to learn how Roosevelt stirred a dazed nation with his speech: “Yesterday, December 7, 1941, a date that will live in infamy?”

Or how Lincoln, upon hearing of long-awaited Union victories and that Ulysses S. Grant smoked cigars, asked his brand and sent him a shipment of the stogies?

What about Gen. Anthony McAuliffe’s one word answer — “Nuts” — to the Germans who demanded surrender in the World War II’s Battle of the Bulge? Or Gen. Bernard Elliott Bee, at the first Battle of Bull Run shouting “There stands Jackson like a stone wall”?

What about McArthur’s “I shall return?” And Congressional Medal of Honor recipient and sniper Sgt. Alvin York’s legendary picking off German after German who stuck their heads up when he gobbled like a turkey during World War I?


1: “If this be treason, make the most of it.” Virginia House of Burgesses speech on the Stamp Act. May 29, 1765.

2: “I only regret that I have but one life to give for my country.” Nathan Hale’s last words before being hanged by the British.

3: Paul Revere, a multi-tasker (dentist and silversmith) whose midnight ride warned of the British army’s advance to Lexington and Concord. April 18, 1775.

4: “Don’t give up the ship.” The last words of Mugford, who in broad daylight sailed the captured British vessel Hope, loaded with military supplies badly needed by colonials, under the noses of the British, but ran aground in Boston Harbor. May 19, 1776.

5: Ethan Allen of the Green Mountain Boys upon capturing Fort Ticonderoga in upstate New York without a shot, when asked by the British upon whose authority was he acting. May 10, 1775.

6: At the Battle of Bennington, Vt., Stark shouted “Tonight, the American flag floats from yonder hill, or Molly Stark sleeps a widow.”

Both happened. The battle prevented urgently needed British supplies from reaching Saratoga and was the turning point of the Revolution. Aug. 16, 1777.

7: The Battle of Bunker Hill, June 17, 1775, and probably heard by my ancestor, Minuteman Nathanael Chaney, who died there that day — as my brother John of Salt Lake City discovered in his ongoing search of family history.

Revolutionary Burtons

John turned up some other interesting historical facts, to the Burtons at least. There was Caleb Turrell, who under General Wolfe, helped the British capture Quebec in the French and Indian Wars, then later under Revolutionary General Montgomery fought the losing battle to win it for the colonists.

Also turned up in the family tree was New Englander John Dickinson, who fought in King Phillip’s Indian War (1675-’77), and who also happens to be an ancestor of poet Emily Dickinson (1830-’86), which I guess makes me a kin of her.

The Fourth of July marks the 159th wedding anniversary of my great grandmother Amanda Stone to great grandfather Mervin Barber, who served with the New York 154th Volunteers on Sherman’s march to the sea and the burning of Atlanta.

New York Abstained

Seeing the original Fourth celebration dates back to the Revolution, perhaps it’s appropriate to sign off on a sidelight of that war:

When push came to shove and the final vote was taken to affirm the Declaration of Independence, the count was 12–zip.

Ah, but there were 13 original colonies you say. True, but New York abstained.

Will kids studying history be denied this tidbit because it would set off fireworks? If history is not taught with interesting sidelights, future generations are the losers.

Happy Fourth. Enough said.

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