If you’re a United States citizen then chances are you’ll be spending the day eating hot dogs, hamburgers or some other outdoor picnic food, then look up at the night’s sky to watch the fireworks many shoot off in celebration of our country’s freedom. But before you run off for your day’s activities, I thought I’d pass along some facts about our country, its declaration of independence and other 4th of July related tidbits.
- In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue, but it wasn’t until 1407 that the first “town” of Colonists were able to create and sustain a life and town here in what is today known as Jamestown, Virginia.
- When the Colonists arrived in Jamestown, they actually spelled it Jamestowne and some residents still insist on spelling it this way.
- In Jamestowne, the early settlers struggled for the most basic need: water. In what has now been marked off as a national historical site, several original and thought-to-be contaminated wells still remain that were dug by the early settlers who dug in vain to find good drinking water before turning to the salty and therefore deadly waters of the Atlantic Ocean to drink.
- While many died from the hardship and cold, many more died from drinking the salty water. It wasn’t until someone thought to boil the water that it became suitable.
- What happened to the abandoned well-sites they’d dug? They become the Fort’s landfill! Fact: instead of filling all the holes dug to find drinking water with dirt, the colonists left the brick top (the part of the well that comes out above the ground) and just dumped their trash and other unneeded items into the holes to help fill them back up. Hey, where else did they have to put that stuff?
- Because they were vasty outnumbered by Powhatan Indians, the early settlers of Jamestowne built a large wall or fence around their fort as a way to guard themselves from the Indians. They’d also bury their dead within the walls of the fort so the Indians wouldn’t know just how many were dying and how small their numbers really were. They did this to give off the illusion they were strong and had many able-bodied men inside the fort who could protect them when in truth they were all dying of starvation, disease or for some other reason.
- Just so not to tip the Indians off to what they were doing, they did bury one man outside the walls of their fort.
- Because starvation was such a problem, many resorted to eating just about anything they could find made of leather, most notably boots and belts; and of course all the horses they’d brought with them from England.
- Most of the early settlers who came in 1607 were men. Most of which were gentlemen, to be exact. Third and fourth sons of peerage, mainly. These men knew they had no title to inherit, their older brothers (second and third sons) had opted for lives in military or church, so they thought they needed to carve out a life for themselves and their offspring and to have an adventure in the process. What they didn’t count on was actually having to work. The majority of the men listed on most of the early ships’ rosters consisted of “gentlemen” and a few who’d brought along their valets. Little did they realize when they got here everyone would have to do his share or he wouldn’t survive.
- Fifty-six men signed the Declaration of Independence. None of which actually signed it on July fourth. The Declaration was ratified on July 4th, however, it wasn’t until August 2nd the signing actually began and well into November before the last man signed.
- Three most notable men who signed the Declaration were John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and John Hancock. Adams and Jefferson went on to become the second and third presidents, and John Hancock, while acting as president of congress at the time signed his name front and center became an icon for his large signature and still today Americans will use his name in place of ‘signature’ when asking people to sign something.
- Another notable Declaration man, Benjamin Franklin. He wrote and signed the Declaration.
- April 19, 1775 in Lexington armed British forces and local militia had a stand-off, the first shot fired would forever be remembered as “the shot heard ’round the world”, the Revolutionary war had officially begun.
- During the Revolutionary war, as many as one in seven of General George Washington’s troops were black.
- A woman named Mary Ludwig Hays, known to many as Molly Pitcher, actually took over cannon fire at the Battle of Monmouth in her wounded husband’s stead.
- In 1783, Revolutionary War ended, Britain granted United States their freedom and King George III actually considered abdicating his throne over the loss.
- On July 8, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was read for the first time in public at Philadelphia’s Independence Square while a band played music and citizens rang bells. The following year on July 4, a crowed gathered again to commiserate the day with bonfires, music and fireworks. Thus the tradition started and spread.
- While many stories circulate about the song “Yankee Doodle” it is often accepted it was originally sung by the English as a taunt to the Yankee Doodles, or fools, who lived in the land of savages and didn’t know a thing about fashion or military action. This came about when American colonists needed aid from the British soldiers during the Seven Years War. When the American Militia showed up to work, they were mocked by the British for their lack of uniform and military understanding.
ORIGINAL LINES READ:Yankee Doodle went to town,
Riding on a pony;
He stuck a feather in his hat,
And called it macaroni
Brother Ephraim sold his Cow
And bought him a Commission;
And then he went to Canada
To fight for the Nation;
But when Ephraim he came home
He proved an arrant Coward,
He wouldn’t fight the Frenchmen there
For fear of being devour’d.
- Though original sung as a taunt, the song was later modified by American Soldiers to sing about the bravery and skill of Gen. George Washington.
And there was Cap’n Washington,
And gentle folks about him;
They say he’s grown so ‘tarnal proud
He will not ride without em’.
He got him on his meeting clothes,
Upon a slapping stallion;
He sat the world along in rows,
In hundreds and in millions.
The flaming ribbons in his hat,
They looked so tearing fine, ah,
I wanted dreadfully to get
To give to my Jemima.
(Please note, this is a very condensed version, many, many more verses can be found that tell the story of America’s road to independence.)
- This song, or just the chorus anyway, proudly stayed with the citizens of Connecticut and today remains their state song.
- I included mention of this ridiculous but fun song in my second book for two reasons. First, I couldn’t think of another fun, catchy tune that would have been around back then that both Liberty (an American) and Paul (an Englishman) would have known. Second, after years, and I do mean years of music lessons, “Yankee Doodle” is the only song I can play on the piano. I’m dead serious. Sad, isn’t it?
Today while you grill your burgers, roast your wieners, eat your rocket pop and/or light off your fireworks, be sure to remember why it is we get to do those things in celebration having freedom from external rule. Enjoy your day, everyone and do NOT pick up that “dud”!