Friday, July 06, 2007

"This is my hometown..." (Springsteen)

Among other things, am currently reading David Hackett Fischer's Washington's Crossing, having been impressed by his previous Albion's Seed (though wary of the ways that Anglophiliac historical revisionists might use that earlier book's argument). I've written before about John Glover's "Marblehead Regiment" (later the 14th Continental Regiment), who

became known as the "amphibious regiment" for their role in the retreat from Long Island and the attack at Trenton. They also held off the British army at Pelham, New York to allow the Continental army to escape. Early in the war they were selected to be General Washington's personal guard, because of their uniformity of dress (most sailor wore white pants and blue jackets) and their courage.
I'm amused to think of Washington, the patrician Virginian, dealing with those foul-mouthed sailors and fishermen who, when the chips were down, knew they were tougher than both the weather and the Hessian mercenaries, and saved Washington's ass. No surprise to discover that, when their 14-month enlistment was up, the regiment disbanded and most of the troopers went on to join privateers preying on British shipping.

Now delighted to discover, via Fischer, that the multi-racial crew depicted in Leutze's famous painting is historically accurate: the 14th Continentals, because they recruited from the maritime communities of Salem, Lynn, Beverly, and Marblehead, were also the first integrated unit in the US Armed Services. There were Native and African-American troopers in the Marblehead Regiment, literally centuries before any other combat unit integrated. In the Age of Sail, class- or race-based distinctions meant nothing: it was still "turn to and bear a hand." Between December 25 and January 9 1776-77, they saved Washington's tiny Continental Army, surprised the Hessians at the Battle of Trenton, and saved the cause of American independence.

I'm proud of those men.

I can only imagine what they would have said about this guy:

1 comment:

Banjosnake said...

Fair play to you, there, my man! In my readings of the history of the revolution, I've always thought that, considering how inept the continental army was in the first couple of years of the war, the Marbleheaders really and truly saved the whole damn thing for Washington (and us). I've also never failed to remember that heritage of yours whenever I'm around you; and as far as such things go, it's something for you to be really proud of. Hat's off to you, and to them... what a wild, hairy-assed band they must have been!