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July 4 Parade

Old 07-04-19, 02:11 PM
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berner
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July 4 Parade

Just got back from Bristol's 234th parade with the first one held in 1785. This event is a big deal for such a small town and draws thousands. Streets are mobbed and parking is a problem so many people park autos one town up the bike path and ride in. There are marching bands from all over the country which I enjoy but I've been increasingly enjoying the historical units who march. The people spend their time and other resources preparing and I've grown to appreciate that effort.

I'm not a dedicated history buff but I am a reader of mostly non-fiction with some history in the mix. Last year I read an autobiography by a man who was a revolutionary war soldier. When a boy of 16, then living on his grandparents farm in Connecticut, the militia put out a call for volunteers. He tried to enlist but they would not take him until the following year when he turned 17. He lived through the war years to write his story at the request of neighbors. The account makes clear how difficult a time that was. Everything, clothing, munitions, food, transportation was in dire shortage. There is a painting I remember seeing of soldiers of that era with bloody bandages, no shoes, and near the end of their rope. That painting was not an exaggeration. It was actually worst than that because surviving infection then, before antibiotics, was not likely. My own great-grandfather died of an injury turned septic when a horse stepped on his foot.

I recently read an article about a hospital burial ground discovered near Wappinger Falls 60 miles north of NYC for war wounded who died there. There are plenty of unsung heros. One such heroine whose story had a better outcome is about a woman named Kitty Knight who owned an inn at a town near the Delaware, Maryland border. At the time, I was finishing up a boat I'd built. The owner had it at a boatyard there and had arranged for me to stay at the inn, a Revolutionary War era establishment and in operation ever since. The Redcoats then were rampaging and burning coastal towns all along the East Coast, including Bristol, R.I., where I now live. Miss Knight slept with the head Redcoat and thus saved the town and has been highly regarded ever since.

What we have here in America has been paid for, as Mr, Churchill has said, with blood, sweat and tears and I find it distressing that the price is little appreciated by so many. Perhaps my appreciation is due to a high school history teacher who was the local historian when I lived in New York and who was of old Dutch ancestry. Maybe something of what he tried to impart stuck.

The parade participants represented every continent and every race which I very much like. The attitude here in Bristol and nearby areas is civic minded and inclusive which is the America I grew up in. That same attitude makes this a great place to ride a bike.
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Old 07-04-19, 04:48 PM
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Don't forget that smugglers (i.e., the political leadership of RI) declared RI's independence from England on May 4, 1776. Besides smuggling goods, one branch of the family from Bristol were major slave traders with big interests in the triangle trade (slaves, rum, molasses). Other members of the family later kept Henry Ford from building a factory in RI (reputedly) because he paid his workers too well, fought unionization at Browne and Sharpe for decades, and founded Brown University.

Also, don't forget that RI was the birthplace of religious freedom, with a charter that welcomed Catholics, Jews, 'Turks', and atheists as well as Protestants of all stripes. (The founders of the Massachusetts colonies wanted religious freedom only for themselves. They almost fought a war against RI because RI refused to execute Quakers.)
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Old 07-05-19, 04:58 AM
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Some of the families who were involved in the slave trade are still around. We are a mixture of the best and the worst traits with more weight on the best traits I believe.. While we are far from ideal, as the man said, we strive to form a more perfect union.
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Old 07-05-19, 09:06 AM
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Thank you for this thread. We all have things to cherish and things to confess in our respective family trees and state and national history, but I believe also that the balance is positive. I cannot change the fact that one of my maternal grandfather's ancestors had a big plantation with 300 slaves (all of whom were freed upon his death, per the terms of his will), but I can continue to stand against racism and servitude today.
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Old 07-05-19, 10:21 AM
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Absolutely - as long as we acknowledge our whole history. I'm RI born and bred, and although I left for good over 50 years ago, I'm still a Rhode Islander at heart ... a follower of Roger Williams, proud that RI never ratified the 18th amendment to the Constitution, proud we speak of the 'Civil War', ashamed that my college degree had a basis in slave money, etc.. And I like driving or riding through Bristol, when I get the chance.

But Harvard is based on Puritan money, and the Puritans executed Quakers (and later, Massachusetts Quakers didn't look very good to Herman Melville). Connecticut and Yale were founded by people who though Massachusetts was too liberal....

There's a lot of good in US history, but there's immense darkness as well. No surprise ... history is created by imperfect beings.
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Old 07-06-19, 02:32 AM
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I was wrong on several counts. It was not the Revolutionary War. It was the war of 1812. And it was in Maryland. I googled Kitty Knight who was in fact a great woman. https://www.kittyknight.com/history
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Old 07-06-19, 07:22 AM
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On a happier note, the future of America is on good hands. Foreground, my elder son and his two boys and the proverbial -- and literal -- girl next door with her parents, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at the end of their neighborhood's 4th of July parade. (Her mom is sitting because she is about 8 months pregnant.)
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