This week on history blog and podcast we are reading chapters 10-12 of the book Blood of Tyrants. You can read the previous post on Blood of Tyrants here: Intro, Chap 1-3, Chap 4-6, and Chap 7-9. Here is what I thought, post your comments below. Spoilers….
Chapter 10: Necessary Evil
In this chapter we are introduced to British General William Howe who took over for Thomas Gage as the commanding British general when Gage was recalled by Parliament. He was :forty-seven years old…a brawny six feet tall, with a broad nose and black eyes…”(p.71). This is what I found very interesting,
…he took up arms against the colonists only because he ‘was ordered, and could not refuse’.”(p.72).
Jefferson description on page 75 is much better. “With his freckles, sandy hair, long gangly limbs, and soft-spoken demeanor, Jefferson appeared to his fellow congressmen as more of a nerdy youth than a powerful politician.” But he was a powerful politician, and with his help in writing the declaration of independence, congress finally voted in favor of breaking from the British Empire on July 2, 1776. That should be the day we celebrate really, as one delegate said, “The second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America…It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bell, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward more.” (p.76). But instead, the delegates made some changes at the last minute. So they didn’t adopt the new declaration until 2 days later.
So, “even though July 2 marked the day of the official vote for independence, July 4 stuck in the national consciousness as the United States birthday.” (p.76).
And then there is much talk of what can be done to prisoners of war (POW).
Chapter 11: Fully Justifiable
This chapter starts out with a short story as to Washington’s competition for leader of America’s Army. Seems there was another man up for the job, but he was a womanizer to the point that he was actually literally caught with his pants down by the British, he was Major General Charles Lee. He was however deemed to be a strategic generous and had more experience than Washington, but since he wasn’t a happily married pillar of Virginian society he was passed over. However it probably had more to do with the fact that while he demanded pay of his position, Washington had offered to do the job for free.
Then the chapter shows how Howe and Washington went back and forth writing to each other about how bad the other was treating their prisoners. Each threatened to do worse to their POWs if the other would not be nicer to the ones they had captured. We also learn that Congress would pretty much go along with whatever Washington wanted to do. And thats pretty much the whole chapter.
Chapter 12: To Defend the Nation
This is a cool story.So there is this psycho Colonel, David Henley, who has a reputation for mistreating POWs. At one point he is even put on trial for killing POWs, but the trial is a “sham” and he is released. So Washington appoints “Henley as his intelligence officer and commander of prisoners” (p.92). Seems like a bad move to me but thats the story. You get the point though, POWs were being mistreated by both sides.
Captain Joseph Huddy was a patriot on the American side. He was captured while defending a town from the British. The people of loved him! The British “…grabbed their defenseless prisoner and ‘on a gallows made of mere rails he was cruelly treated and then hanged’”. (p.93). This lead to a huge outcry and Washington was forced to retaliate. So, 13 prisoners were forced to choose pieces of paper out of a hat. All were blank but one. that one said “unfortunate.” And the man who picked it was Captain Charles Asgill. His unfortunate destiny was to be hung. His parents were big shots back in England though and they pulled strings until the King told his soldiers to remit Huddy’s killer to the Americans. However, the redcoats disobeyed. Its not clear if this was willful or a lack of communication. It took months of negotiations and “even a direct appeal from Queen Marie Antoinette..” before Asgill was released. (p.95-96). That takes us to part three of the book.
Join me for chapters 13 – 16 next week!