I was chatting one day with a teenage boy who worked for me and somehow the conversation turned to the subject of studying history. Young Sam didn’t see the point of it.
“Why,” he reasoned, “should I care about things that happened before I was even born?” Now, I’ve heard it said that there’s no such thing as a dumb question, but..well, as I said Sam was young.
Personally, I love history. Especially American history. I believe that it is the most important academic subject we teach our children. That’s why my wife and I wrote our elementary (Providential) American history text books. That’s why I saw very little of Marilyn except the top of her head for a year and a half—it took eighteen months for her to write For You They Signed, a book of character studies from the lives of the great men who signed the Declaration of Independence. That’s why I spend so much time recording great old books for kids in my Uncle Rick audio book club. History matters far more than most people think. The only reason you were bored with in school is that it was poorly taught.
As I tried to explain to my friend Sam, certain things could not happen in the present if certain other things had not happened in the past. For instance, if Sam’s mother had never met Sam’s father in the past, there would be no Sam in the present. Just little things like that.
The events of the past made the world in which we live for the present. Today, things are happening that will determine what will happen tomorrow. “Now” is the meeting place of eternity past and eternity future and it is not possible to separate the three time periods. They are siblings; in fact, conjoined triplets.
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The Beauty of a Well-Told Story
Andrew Jackson and Charles Dickson had come to blows in the time-honored but foolish custom of dueling. Jackson had had a disagreement with Dickson’s father-in-law about a horse race. Dickson had taken offense and had said something about the character of Jackson’s wife. Others had chimed in on both sides and the disagreement escalated. Dickson published insults to Jackson in the newspaper. Jackson responded in kind and finally wrote to Dickson personally, requesting “satisfaction.” Continue reading Saturday Stories ~ Turn and Fire!
Stephen Decatur is said to have been the first national military hero after the War of Independence. Starting as a lowly midshipman in his late teens, he was promoted to the high rank of Commodore while still a young man.
Of the many adventures that advanced his career was an especially dangerous one that took him and his comrades right under the noses of enemy guns. It was in the midst of our conflict with the Barbary Pirates, a very early episode in our Continue reading Saturday Stories ~ The Exploding Ship
Wentworth Cheswell was a Patriot of mixed race. Although his appearance reflected that of his slave father, his mother was a free white woman. He grew up in New Hampshire prior to the War of Independence and is considered the first black American to hold public office.
Cheswell served his community and state in a number of ways and was well thought of in both church and community. One of his more exciting experiences was a midnight ride he took on the same night of Paul Revere’s famous trek, April 18, 1775.
Young Cheswell was a designated messenger for the local Committee of Correspondence in Exeter, New Hampshire. On the day of his adventure, word had come that the British intended to come around by sea and attack nearby Portsmouth. The town must be warned. Cheswell mounted his horse and took off.
It was a ride of several miles and several hours. Riding a galloping horse is dangerous in the dark and there was the added risk of running into a British patrol. But around dawn of the 19th, as the colonists faced the British at Lexington, Massachusetts the young messenger slid, exhausted from his horse in Portsmouth. Immediately the town was awake and frantically looking to her seaward defenses.
But the attack never came. In one of the dramatic twists of history, the British had settled on a plan to attack the colonists to the west rather than to the north of their headquarters in Boston.
Wentworth Cheswell was just one of several riders that night. As Paul Revere and William Dawes rode west from Boston to warn Lexington and Concord, others picked up the urgent message and galloped off in all directions. Responding to their message, hundreds of patriot minutemen picked up their muskets and hastened to Lexington to make it hot for the British as they retreated to Boston.
Paul Revere was the one made famous by a Longfellow poem (“Billy Dawes got on his hoss…” doesn’t have quite the right ring, I guess), but let us not forget the other heroes of that fateful night and following day. Some rode, some fought. One of them, Wentworth Cheswell went on to serve honorably in the war and then establish himself and his family as pillars of an early American community. You can read more about him and others in Profiles of Valor.