When I reread this, I focused on the Battle of Brooklyn. My manuscript has nothing to do with battles. It’s about our nation’s founding fathers, and one of them owned two houses in New York. One in Brooklyn. The other in New York City. His name – Philip Livingston.
He was a wealthy merchant who made his money the old-fashioned way – he earned it. Philip and his family fled both houses before the battle began, but he made his Brooklyn home available to General Washington, prebattle. Back then Brooklyn was a wilderness. After the British won the battle, his home became a hospital for the royal navy. Philip didn’t live to see the war end. He died in June of 1778.
The second thing that caught my attention was the effect the war had on colonial America. Suddenly families turned on each other. Some backed the King. Others thought of themselves as Patriots. In the story some soldiers passed a boarded-up farm. It was probably owned by patriots like Philip who’d fled the British invasion. Later when the redcoats left New York, it was the loyalists who fled the city.
Finally I was shocked by the number of American soldiers who died on prison ships docked around New York City. The number – 11,500. That’s a lot of prisoners, and they were treated horribly. Think of starving soldiers with little/no medical care. Many were captured during the Battle of Brooklyn or Battle of Long Island. Whichever name you use, it was still one of the biggest battles of the Revolution. The loss of life – Huge. It’s expected during a battle, but not afterwards.
I picked this book because I Survived is one of my favorite series. I also picked it because I’m researching this time period for a middle grade novel. It didn’t add anything new to my research, but it helped me picture a time period that’s so different from our own. I picked three things from Lauren’s back matter that caught my attention. I hope they catch yours too.
#1 – I didn’t realize America in 1776 was one of the wealthiest places in the world. I was also surprised that more people could read in the colonies than anywhere else, including England. I bet King George was surprised the colonies rebelled.
#2 – Without France the colonies would have lost the war. In 1778 France started sending the Americans money, troops, and weapons. Why? France and England were age-old enemies, and France hoped that losing the colonies, would make England weaker. But French help didn’t work right away. Nor did the British surrender at Yorktown in 1781. The war didn’t end until 1783. (If you scan down the page, you’ll find the painting Treaty of Paris. Only half of it’s there. Why? The British refused to be painted.)
#3 – I was happy to see Lauren write, “George Washington was even more interesting than I thought.” Lately founding fathers like George have been criticized because of slavery. It was a terrible thing. Unfortunately it’s a part of our history that can’t be changed. I’m glad it’s gone, and I’d like to think that if George and the other founding fathers came back today, that they would be too.
Here's Lauren’s list of George’s good traits: smart, brave, great husband, doting stepfather. A lot of people today would like George, but this is what Lauren admired . . . he knew how to fail. He made mistakes, but he learned from them. No one is mistake-proof, but we can all work to do better. George’s Battle of Brooklyn was one of his biggest mistakes. That’s what this book is about, that battle, and it’s worth reading!
Bestselling author Lauren Tarshis tackles the American Revolution in this latest installment of the groundbreaking, New York Times bestselling I Survived series. British soldiers were everywhere. There was no escape.
Nathaniel Fox never imagined he'd find himself in the middle of a blood-soaked battlefield, fighting for his life. He was only eleven years old! He'd barely paid attention to the troubles between America and England. How could he, while being worked to the bone by his cruel uncle, Uriah Storch?
But when his uncle's rage forces him to flee the only home he knows, Nate is suddenly propelled toward a thrilling and dangerous journey into the heart of the Revolutionary War. He finds himself in New York City on the brink of what will be the biggest battle yet.
If you like history, you’ll love this book! It takes you into real events, then uncovers the truth. For example, have you heard of Molly Pitcher? I had, but Kate Messner’s sources said she didn’t exist. That Molly’s story came from two real women, Mary Ludwig Hays and Margaret Corbin. They both fired cannons when their husbands couldn’t. The name Molly Pitcher – it probably came from the ladies who carried water to the troops.
This is just one story. Look below the Amazon description, and you’ll find three famous paintings, and the stories Kate told about where they went wrong.
Myths! Lies! Secrets! Uncover the hidden truth behind the Revolutionary War with beloved educator/author Kate Messner. The fun mix of sidebars, illustrations, photos, and graphic panels make this perfect for fans of I Survived! and Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales.
On April 18, 1775, Paul Revere rode through Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, shouting, "The British are coming!" to start the American Revolution.RIGHT?
WRONG! Paul Revere made it to Lexington, but before he could complete his mission, he was captured! The truth is, dozens of Patriots rode around warning people about the Redcoats' plans that night. It was actually a man named Samuel Prescott who succeeded, alerting townspeople in Lexington and then moving on to Concord. But the Revolutionary War didn't officially start for more than a year after Prescott's ride. No joke.
AND THOSE THREE PAINTINGS . . .
This painting is titled ‘Declaration of Independence,’ but it doesn’t show the real signing. That didn’t happen until August 2, 1776. This was two months earlier, June 28. That’s when the drafting committee presented the Declaration to the Continental Congress, but this painting still isn’t right.
John Trumbull wasn’t there to see the signing. He painted it years later. He did his research and talked to some of the signers. Thomas Jefferson even gave him a sketch of the room. If John had paid attention, he would have noticed the wall wasn’t in the background. That the flags and drum weren’t on the wall, and that the delegates had much simpler chairs, but John changed them to make his painting look better.
But there was a bigger problem ahead – John had to decide who should be in the painting. He didn’t know whether to include all the men from June, or if he should leave out the ones who voted against the Declaration. He finally decided to put in the signers. His next mistake – he left out fourteen. Why? He didn’t know what they looked like. Sometimes getting things just right, it’s impossible.
This is the Birth of Old Glory. It’s supposed to show Betsy Ross giving George Washington the first flag, but the BIG problem – there’s no evidence it ever happened.
Kate discovered that Congress approved a new flag in June of 1777, but there are no primary sources to prove that Betsy Ross made it. Washington didn’t write about it in his journal or in his notes, and there are no sales receipts.
So where did this tale come from? Betsy’s grandson retold her story of that first flag. It was an article for the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, but it was a hundred years too late for us to believe. Grandma Ross really sewed flags for the Pennsylvania navy, and she really was a seamstress in colonial Philadelphia. But the first flag, no one will ever really know who made it.
This is the Treaty of Paris. If you scan down to the next book, it’s about the Tower of London, and you’ll see this painting again. It shows the men who negotiated the treaty to end the Revolutionary War. Their names are in this caption, and in that one too.
Kate pointed out the right side of the painting. I didn’t notice it last time. Do you see that foggy section? It’s where the British negotiators would have been seated. The only problem – they refused to pose . . . so Benjamin West solved it by painting them into a cloud.
I didn’t read the whole book this time. Just one chapter, that I remembered from before. Why? It’s all about the only American ever held in the Tower of London. His name – Henry Laurens. Here are the details that caught my eye. That I thought I might be able to use in the middle grade I’m working on.
Henry owned slaves, but some of his actions surprised me. He had two partners in the slave trade . . . he left the business. Later during the Revolutionary War, Henry was put in charge of the defense of Charleston, and he suggested asking free blacks and slaves (to volunteer). Many slave owners opposed it, including George Washington. Henry did it anyway, and his troops kept the British out of Charleston. George Washington never forgave him, and he told his friends in Congress all about it too.
The Continental Congress
Henry joined the Continental Congress in January of 1777. In November he became its president, but he resigned a year later, in December of 1778. Politics! Henry kept his seat and focused on building an alliance with the Dutch. It took two years, but he got them to resume trade, and give the US a $10 million loan. Congress said OK, but do it yourself. Henry did, but he was captured as soon as his ship broke into the open sea. They found his briefcase and the treaty. He was taken into custody and later convicted of high treason. He couldn’t even be exchanged as a prisoner of war. And the Dutch – King George attacked them and destroyed their navy. There went Henry’s loan!
The Tower of London
Henry was taken to the Tower where he was expected to pay for his room, his guards, and for any necessities. He was finally exchanged for Lord Cornwallis himself. His surrender at Yorktown ended the Revolutionary War. But Henry didn’t go home – instead Benjamin Franklin asked him to come to France to help negotiate the peace. He didn’t even get to finish the treaty – Ben sent him back to England, as our first unofficial ambassador.
Henry returned to find his plantations destroyed and one of his sons dead. He died during the closing days of the war. Henry lived for another seven years, and he gained a new nickname – Tower Laurens. He left two endowments behind . . . to the wife of his Tower jailer. The other . . . to their daughter. Evidently she carried messages to his friends, until some guards noticed her unusual activity. Then it stopped. (Amazon's description is below.)
The brooding grey walls of the Tower of London circumscribe one of the most recognisable buildings on the planet. Over its thousand-year history the Tower stood as a symbol of the English monarchy and served as both a palace and a prison. It is a place where court intrigues, clandestine liaisons, unimaginable tortures and grisly executions took place with frightening regularity. Tales from the Tower is the factual history of the great building itself told through the true stories of the people, royal and common, good and bad, heroes and villains, who lived and died there. Including characters such as William the Conqueror, the Princes in the Tower, Jane Grey, Guy Fawkes, Colonel Blood and Rudolf Hess, the broad range of stories encompassed in Tales from the Tower present a microcosm of all human experience, from love and death to greed and betrayal, all played out against romantic period settings ranging from medieval knights in shining armour to the darkest days of World War II. Anyone who loves history and adventure will find Tales from the Tower a classic page turner.
Here are 3 stories that caught my eye this week. Two are about the men who signed the Declaration of Independence. The third, George Washington.
1, In April and May of 1780, the British had their eyes on Charleston, South Carolina. It fell on May 12, but the British got a bonus – three men who signed the Declaration –Thomas Heyward, Edward Rutledge, and Arthur Middleton. They were arrested and held in a dungeon inside the city. Their next stop – a British prison in St. Augustine, Florida. I was glad they weren’t hanged, but, they weren’t famous like John Hancock or Thomas Jefferson. Maybe that’s why they survived.
2. Richmond, Virginia was burned to the ground in January of 1781. The government escaped to Charlottesville, but the British found out, and now they’re riding hard to capture it. They stopped to rest at a tavern where Jack Jouett overheard them. He rides through the night to warn Thomas Jefferson. His face is scratched so badly that Jack will live with the scars for the rest of his life, but he makes it in time to warn Thomas. But the night isn’t over. Thomas sends him back out to warn the legislature. If Jouett hadn’t made that ride, the Brits would have captured the legislature, plus four signers – Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Nelson, Benjamin Harrison, and Richard Henry Lee. They all escaped, thanks to Jack’s ride.
3. Soldiers give up a lot for their country. George Washington left Mount Vernon in 1775, and he didn’t return until six years later. He finally stopped in on September 12, 1781, for one night. The army was on its way to Yorktown for a final matchup with General Cornwallis. George thought he could spare one night . . . to sleep in his own bed, to see his wife Martha, and to look out on the Potomac River from his porch. George couldn’t help himself . . . he stayed two nights. I would have too, after six years away from home.
It’s working! I’m a week into this book, on Chapter 19, and it’s helped me to imagine this time period, its heroes, and villains. Here are three big discoveries I’ve made so far. There are others, of course, but not everyone loves reading research 😊
1. I discovered where many of the founders went for a drink, or for a stay. John Adams said it was the “most genteel tavern in America.” This is key! I need its name to help you picture the setting in the first couple chapters of my book.
2. I found a HUGE mistake in my manuscript, in Chapter 2! I put Ben Franklin in Philadelphia in April of 1777. The problem – he sailed to France in November of 1776. OOPS! I’m glad I found it, and fixed it.
3. I can’t use this one yet, but I saw a passage in Wikipedia that said Thomas Jefferson blamed King George for slavery, and he put it in the Declaration of Independence, in one of the drafts. I didn’t believe it, but it’s true! I read his words, in a footnote in this book! Unfortunately, Georgia and South Carolina were slave-owning states, so they had the words pulled.
It’s sad. It might have changed things, like no Civil War, but can you imagine getting 13 people to agree on anything? Imagine getting 13 colonies and their 56 representatives to do that. Sometimes you have to negotiate to get part of what you want. You can never, ever, get everything.
I started reading today because I need to immerse myself in research. I found an idea last July, and it wouldn’t let me go. It took me until the end of 2022 to figure out where the story should go. I was searching for a ribbon, a main idea, to thread through the story, from the beginning until the very end.
Now that it’s 2023, I’m writing! My critique group looked at chapter 1, twice. This time their advice – add comments and keep moving. I’ll do that this week.
I’ll also revise chapter 2 and have my critique group look at it again. I’ll take notes, and keep going. Why? Because this is a BIG topic! The biggest I’ve ever written. I could end up with 50-60 chapters, total.
As I write, I’ll learn more about the historical figures at the heart of the American story. I’ll revise better if I know their story, and, it will be easier. I love two-fers!
I started the prologue today, and I’m at the beginning of the French and Indian War. I’m watching a young George Washington fight in the battle over Fort Duquesne and the Ohio Valley. I’m also listening to what Ben Franklin said, prebattle. He warned the British about the Indians and their kind of fighting, but they didn’t listen, and, they lost badly.
PS - If I find any fun facts along the way, I’ll share them with you.
PPS – Well written nonfiction is a joy to read. I love learning new details and points of view!
The Revolutionary War as never told before.
This breathtaking installment in Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard’s mega-bestselling Killing series transports readers to the most important era in our nation’s history: the Revolutionary War. Told through the eyes of George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Great Britain’s King George III, Killing England chronicles the path to independence in gripping detail, taking the reader from the battlefields of America to the royal courts of Europe.
What started as protest and unrest in the colonies soon escalated to a world war with devastating casualties. O’Reilly and Dugard recreate the war’s landmark battles, including Bunker Hill, Long Island, Saratoga, and Yorktown, revealing the savagery of hand-to-hand combat and the often brutal conditions under which these brave American soldiers lived and fought. Also here is the reckless treachery of Benedict Arnold and the daring guerrilla tactics of the “Swamp Fox” Frances Marion.
A must read, Killing England reminds one and all how the course of history can be changed through the courage and determination of those intent on doing the impossible.
When I write, I can only have one voice in my head, mine. A little noise is fine. But too much, or worse yet, WORDS, and I must change rooms or pull out headphones. Then I can write on!