Friday, 5 April 2013

Murder in the Red Barn

The barn is coming along nicely...

A combination of Easter Holidays, and finding a copy of Monopoly in a charity shop for £1.50 has slowed progress somewhat... playing Monopoly with a bright five year old is a rather vicious affair... I had a proper dad moment of nearly making him cry, when after I tight game I laughed manically as I took the last of his money, and he has marked the calendar to celebrate his first victory.

I have almost finished the Hugh Bicheno, Redcoats and Rebels book. It is an excellent read and I find his scathing assessment of people and events both refreshing, and at times a little shocking.

On a related subject I noticed this post on Cracked, 5 Myths about the Revolution.

Before discussing a comment on this blog post that intrigued me, I wanted to mention something about the 'myth' of Molly Pitcher, which is relevant to this discussion.

According to the Book of Knowledge, Wikipedia....
"As her husband was carried off the battlefield, Mary Hays took his place at the cannon. For the rest of the day, in the heat of battle, Mary continued to "swab and load" the cannon using her husband's ramrod. At one point, a British musket ball or cannon ball flew between her legs and tore off the bottom of her skirt. Mary supposedly said, "Well, that could have been worse," and went back to loading the cannon."

The Hugh Bicheno book quotes Pvt Joseph Martin...
"A cannon shot from the enemy passed directly between her legs without doing any other damage than carrying away all the lower part of her petticoat - looking at it with apparent unconcern, she observed that it was lucky it did not pass a little higher, for in that case it would have carried away something else, and ended her and her occupation."

A culture that speaks of the light meat and dark meat for fear of inflaming 'passions', is unlikely to want to dwell on the occupation of a heroine - Thaddeus Russell's book A Renegade History of the United States will perhaps offer an insight.


The response to the Cracked piece which interested me - amid the torrent of prudish American pragmatic historical philosophy - was this by someone called Farsider...

"The distinction between a civil war and a revolution can be iffy. Let me give three examples:

The English Civil War of the 1640s was a struggle between the Royalists and Parliamentarians that resulted in the the ascendance of Oliver Cromwell to supreme power in England. As such, it was a civil war that resulted in a revolution.

The American Revolution started as a petition which turned into a secessionist movement when the mercantile class didn't get what it wanted. Many citizens of the 13 colonies wanted to stay in the Kingdom of Great Britain, just with greater rights than they had as colonists. They sided with the British against the secessionists, which makes the War for Independence partially a civil war. On top of this, it was yet another battlefield in the century-long war between European colonialists over control of over overseas territories. It was not, however, an actual revolution, since there was no attempt to remove King George III from the British throne.

The War of the States was a secessionist movement by southern slaveowners, plain and clear. Whether or not it was also civil war depends on whether you classify a secessionist movement as a type of civil war. I do, and as such I see the American Revolution as a Second English Civil War. Many of the colonists obviously thought of themselves as "British," based on their previous petitions to the king, and used "American" as a geographic term, not a national one.

A civil war is not a fight over who controls the central government. It is a fight between factions within the same country. And just because a region declares independence, does not make it a separate country

The American War of Independence/Revolution and the English Civil War are very closely related conflicts - they stem from dis-satisfaction of the mercantile classes at taxation (without representation), progress through the civil war stage (including the tendency of historians to gloss over the criminality involved in intimidating populations in rebellious regions) until outside intervention changes the course of the war - in the case of the ECW, the Scots, in the case of the AWI the French and Spanish, and result in the redistribution of wealth among the ruling class.

One can quibble with Farside's historical perspective - for instance the claim that there was no attempt to remove King George III from the throne, as this was clearly the implication of the planned Franco-Spanish invasion of Britain that formed part of the wider naval war. But it is interesting that they pick up on the theme's of the conflict that relate to the rights of 'Englishmen' stemming from the Civil War, and later restated in the Bill of Rights following the Glorious Revolution that are so often ignored in the nationalist narrative of the war - or the attempts to link the American 'revolution' to the French Revolution.

Whether this amounts to the 'Second English Civil War' is equally debatable. As it ignores the Second Civil War, the Glorious Revolution, and the Jacobite Rebellion. But that is understandable given the nationalist narrative that treats the Colonial period (and apparently all events and historical themes/trends of that period) as being something yonder - an amorphous period of time that begins with Pilgrim Fathers, sort of includes the Salem Witch trials, and emerges from prehistory into the modern era with the French Indian Wars - that have importance because they allow the heroes of the myth machine - Washington, Morgan, etc - to develop.


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