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“I am come to demand the author of the piece you printed”

Yesterday I described how the 18 Jan 1768 Boston Gazette published a critique of John Mein and John Fleeming’s Boston Chronicle that insinuated they were “Jacobite” traitors to the British Empire.As a Scotsman, Mein was sensitive toShow More Summary

New to the Civil War Memory Library, 01/18

Finished reading Gordon Wood’s new dual biography of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. Can’t say I learned anything new, but it is a fast and entertaining read by one of the leading historians of the period. Caroline Fraser, Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder (Metropolitan Books, 2017). Jacqueline Jones, Goddess of Anarchy: […]

“The most infamous and reproachful Invectives”

Talking about “The Liberty Song” and its parodies, all from the second half of 1768, gets us a little ahead of the Sestercentennial. Here’s what happened in Boston 250 years ago today. Back on 21 Dec 1767, John Mein and John Fleeming had launched the Boston Chronicle, the town’s first new newspaper in years. Show More Summary

The Parody, and the Parody Parodized

“The Liberty Song” by John Dickinson and Arthur Lee (to music by William Boyce) became so popular in Boston after July 1768 that by the end of September two parodies were circulating.That was already a busy summer. In June the Customs service seized John Hancock’s ship Liberty for alleged smuggling. Show More Summary

John Dickinson’s “Song, to the Tune of Heart of Oak”

On 4 July 1768, John Dickinson, already a delegate to the Stamp Act Congress and the author of Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, wrote to James Otis, Jr., from Philadelphia:I inclose you a song for American freedom. I have long since renounced poetry. Show More Summary

It Comes Down to What We Believe

I don’t think that any black person can speak of Malcolm and Martin without wishing that they were here. It is not possible for me to speak of them without […]

“Hearts of oak are we still”

In 1759 the British Empire enjoyed a string of military victories, including the Royal Navy’s triumph over the French in the Battle of Quiberon Bay.At the end of that year the theatrical star and empresario David Garrick celebrated those wins in a new show titled Harlequin’s Invasion: A Christmas Gambol. Show More Summary

Robert E. Lee Barred From Lee Chapel

Those of you who have followed the antics of the Virginia Flaggers over the years will get a good laugh out of this one. It appears that participants wearing Confederate […]

A Kitchen for James Hemings

Yet another story of a recent rediscovery comes from Monticello, where archeologists dug under a part of Thomas Jefferson’s estate where bathrooms had been built for visitors during the Bicentennial.Megan Gannon of Live Science reports...Show More Summary

Some Thoughts about Public History, Monuments, and Teaching

Last summer I took part in an NEH summer workshop at the Georgia Historical Society called “Recognizing an Imperfect Past: History, Memory, and the General Public.” In addition to delivering […]

Alexander Hamilton’s Love Letter Revealed!

Julie Miller of the Library of Congress recently wrote at Medium about the effort to read crossed-out lines in one of its Alexander Hamilton letters.This is a 6 Sept 1780 letter from Hamilton to his fiancée Elizabeth Schuyler (“Betsey” in real life, “Eliza” in the musical), two months before they married. Show More Summary

Saved by the Potato

Last year I got out of my comfort zone and looked into the Irish Potato Famine of the 1840s for a public-history project. So I was primed when I saw a mention of this paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research. It’s titled “The...Show More Summary

Bvt. Brig. Gen. George S. Acker

Here’s the next in my infrequent series of profiles of forgotten cavalrymen of the American Civil War. George S. Acker was born near Rochester, New York on December 25, 1835. In 1839, his family relocated to Kalamazoo, Michigan, where he lived the rest of his life. Show More Summary

“The Soldiers All Love McClellan”: Even Robert Gould Shaw

I am beginning to see the outlines of an argument. Our tendency to focus on the last six months of Col. Robert Gould Shaw’s military career in command of the […]

“I will come and help you a second time.”

Yesterday I shared a story that the Continental Army veteran Jacob Francis told about Gen. Israel Putnam helping to build a fortification on Lechmere’s Point during the siege of Boston.It’s a terrific story—compact, offering insight into Putnam’s character, and providing a neat little moral. Show More Summary

What’s In a Confederate Name

While much of the media has focused on the debate about Confederate monuments, communities across the country have quietly taken steps to change the names of buildings, streets, and other […]

Putnam and the Pretty Large Stone

In 1832, Jacob Francis told a story that’s been retold in many places since John C. Dann published Francis’s pension application in The Revolution Remembered.The story isn’t about Francis. It’s about Israel Putnam during the siege of...Show More Summary

Pvt. Jacob Gulick and Pvt. Jacob Francis

Jacob Francis (1754-1836) was a Continental Army soldier known almost entirely through his pension application, filed in 1832. In this document Francis testified that he was born in Hunterdon County, New Jersey, to a black woman. It’s not clear whether he was ever legally enslaved, but as a child he was definitely in some form of bondage. Show More Summary

A Book Aboard Blackbeard’s Flagship

Here’s my favorite new archeological discovery, as reported by National Geographic and the Salisbury (N.C.) Post. The flagship of the pirate Edward Thatch, best known as Blackbeard, ran aground off Beaufort, North Carolina, in 1718. Twelve years ago salvagers found that wreck, and state archeologists have been studying it ever since. Show More Summary

United Daughters of the Confederacy and Lost Cause Go Viral

Who says millennials aren’t interested in history? Back in September, during the height of the Confederate monument debate, I was contacted by Coleman Lowndes, who works on making short videos […]

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