We will celebrate the 243rd anniversary of the Declaration of Independence next week, a moment in history when 13 British colonies in the New World decided to band together and fight, if need be, for freedom.
The heroes of the American Revolution are fascinating. Many of the rebellious leaders were people of wealth. Many more were just plain folk scratching out a living. Together, they risked all to declare they would no longer be governed by a sovereign from across an ocean. They believed that the people of the colonies, the American people, knew more about their own needs. They risked their reputations, their possessions, and their lives.
Each and every year, this anniversary cries out for a discussion about these patriots. We all studied their contributions and exploits in school. They are household names. Still, it is altogether proper that we should remember them each year, to remind ourselves of the sacrifices they made to make it possible for the colonies to discard the yoke of imperialism and defeat the most powerful army of the time.
• Crispus Attucks is regarded by many historians as the first person killed in the Revolution. It happened at the Boston Massacre when British troops fired on protestors. Attucks was born into slavery, being of African and Native American heritage. He escaped his owner and probably died using an assumed name to avoid recapture. He stood for freedom.
• Then there is Catherine Moore Barry, the “Heroine of the Battle of Cowpens,” a battle that was a huge victory for the Continental army. Barry was a scout for our army. She gave warning of approaching Red Coats at Cowpens, and also helped to round up fighting men in the area to meet the challenge. She stood for freedom.
• Nancy Hart was a woman that you would not want to cross. When six British troops invaded her home, she gave them wine until she had an advantage on them, eventually shooting one and holding off the others until help arrived. She stood for freedom.
• Another woman not afraid of a fight was Margaret Cochran Corbin. Her husband was manning a cannon during an attack on Fort Washington in 1776. When he was killed, Corbin stepped in to take his place, firing the cannon until she was severely wounded. She stood for freedom.
• Finally, I present Sybil Ludington, the 16-year-old daughter of a militia commander who is reported to have ridden 40 miles in one night to alert the militia of an impending attack. That, by the way, is twice the distance traveled by Paul Revere in his much more famous ride. She stood for freedom.
Okay, I confess these people are not well known. Their patriotism isn’t in the history books used to teach about the Revolution in most schools. More’s the pity because they should be. They displayed as much courage as anyone else from that era. For every Washington, Adams, and Jefferson, there are many others with equally important, but less well-known stories. Beyond that, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of patriots whose names and deeds have forever been lost in the fog of history.
As a challenge, I’d ask every reader to do just a little research and find one name of a patriot of the Revolution that we don’t normally honor. One source is Founding Mothers, a lovely book written by Cokie Roberts several years ago. A simple web search will turn up some other folks. Better still, perhaps you have an ancestor whose story isn’t well known. Honor that person by sharing what you discovered and make it an Independence Day to remember.