This week we will be discussing chapters 7-9 of the book Blood of Tyrants. Please join the conversation in the comments and let me know what you think of the book. Just remember to please keep your comments confined to the first 9 chapters. You can read the previous post on Blood of Tyrants here: Intro, Chap 1-3, and Chap 4-6. Spoilers below…
Chapter 7: The Currents of War
So, just before this chapter starts there is a one-page blurb about a “woman of the evening” who is also a Loyalist spy. She is captured and they ask her nicely what she knows. She doesn’t say anything. Its unclear from the passage if they believed she was holding back or not. This is a great opening to a new topic in the book,
“how far are we willing to go in order to save American lives?” (p.50).
I think this is probably a question that leaders in the military and at home have asked themselves time and time again. Its probably the line of thought that some of them have used to justify going to far. The story concludes with a very mysterious, “Through undisclosed means, ‘at length she was brought to a confession” (p.50). So, great! Now I want to know more about this woman and really the whole story, but thats it it does not going into details. Then chapter 7 starts.
The beinginng of the chapter takes us through the basics again: The taxes on tea, throwing it into the ocean, etc. But then, we read the story of Abner Beebe on page 53. Be was a loyalist and they came to his home and tar and feathered (we they didn’t use feathers, they were more “creative”) in front of his family. This is a very terrible story and it pains me that this happened even way back in the day, but it does illustrate the attitudes of early Americans. Most interestingly, we learn another tidbit of information, “The practice of “tarring and feathering” had originated in 1189 with Richard the Lionheart during the crusades…” (p.53). I love it when authors thrown in tidbits like that. Makes of an “oh really” moment.
The chapter rounds out with reference to the infamous “shot heard round the world”, but adds the authors own tone to it, “all hell broke loose.”(p.56). Nice touch! And the final word is a nice warp-up: ”The war for America had begun not with an eloquent speech or a noble declaration but with one unauthorized shot from a lone sniper.” (p.56).
Chapter 8: Exitus Acta Probat
Which means “the outcome justifies the deed” and was Washington’s personal motto. At the beginning of this chapter we get more descriptive information about George Washington, “two-hundred-pound frame” and we see Washington describe himself as “a Man full 6 feet high & proportionably made; if anything, rather slender than thick for a person of that highth with pretty long Arms and thighs.” (p.57). Then this on his hair, “…his hair, which was powdered white and tied in the back with a satin bow. Such a style was considered very masculine and militaristic…” (p.57). Today if a person ties their hair back and puts it in a satin bow, they are most likely a small girl going to cheerleading practice.
After that description, we get to some more Washington bashing. Which is a very big change from most history books. We read that Washington had “…done poorly by most standards. He had never commanded anything larger than a regiment…”(p.58). And, “Despite his lackluster record, Washington still had more military experience than most Americans in 1775” and “the Virginian was unanimously appointed as America’s first commander in chief.” (p.58).
As the new leader of America’s forces, Washington set his sights on Boston, with about 14,000 British troops there the population of the civilian’s plummeted to around 60% of its original population to a mere 6,753. Before things got too bad Congress did attempt to negotiate peace in the summer of 1775. “They presented the British with an ‘Olive Branch Petition’” (p.60), but the King George the III would have none of it. George the third we find out, may have been nuts from the hair products he used, “…the arsenic used in the hair products of the time may have contributed to his bouts of insanity.” (p.61). Another nice, “Oh Really” moment there.
In Washington’s fight with Boston he came up against General Thomas Gage. Before dealing with Gage Washington had told his troops to take care of their prisoners, but when he found out that Gage was not doing the same he became enraged, “To Washington, this conduct was a terrible offense, and it was very personal. Both honor and pragmatism demanded retribution.” (p.61-62).
Washington would go on to make his own rules, which would guide leaders for decades to come “informing Congress of his actions only after the fact.”(p.64). I like your style George!
Chapter 9: American Fortitude
Continuing on the same overall idea in this chapter we hear the short story of the capture of the HMS Hope and one of her crew Major Christopher French, who quickly started complaining that he was being ill treated while he was a prisoner of war. He wrote several letters to Washington and Washington replied. Soon thereafter French escaped. I would have like to hear the story of how French escaped, but much like the story of the lady of the night spy in chapter seven this is kept from us.
But we are treated to the story of Ethan Allen. Nope, not the furniture the Colonel. Who we learn was a drunken leader of a band of men known as the Green Mountain Boys. I wrote about Ethan Allen earlier this month.
Ethan Allen was one of the guys who would tar and feather you if you didn’t agree with his views. And the Green Mountain Boys would help him get it done. He “had outstanding arrest warrants in New York for beating anyone who challenged their claims.” (p.67). He was a six foot tall long faced man with a big nose and bushy brown hair. He often “…took the law into his own hands.”(p.67).
Ethan Allen is known for taking Fort Ticonderoga. But this turns out to be just lucky as the only sentry on duty that night was asleep. So taking the the fort was easy for Allen and his drunken crew. After taking the fort Allen was full of himself and during the next battle he took his Green Mountain Boys in early ahead of the rest of the American forces. They were outnumbered 2 to 1 and quickly captured. Allen was imprisoned by British Brigadier Prescott and tightly chained in the dark hull of a prion ship. He pestered the enemy troops that passed his way and in exchange for his taunts they beat him. He said, “I have suffered ever thing short of death.” (p.69). But as you may know from reading the article on historyonair.com, Allen survived and went on to be forever confused with expensive furniture.
Let me know what you thought of the book in the comments below and I’ll post about chapters 10-12 next week. Thanks for reading.