Tag Archives: Richard Montgomery

A few historic highlights in the Big Apple

We didn’t focus as strictly on historic sites in New York as we did in Boston, but we did manage to do a little heritage touring on our last day in the Big Apple.  We made a point of visiting Federal Hall National Memorial on Wall Street, site of the nation’s first Capitol and George Washington’s first inauguration.  The original building is gone, but today an impressive classical structure and a statue of Washington mark the spot.

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Inside the building is an exhibit on the trial of colonial printer John Peter Zenger, arrested for publishing articles critical of New York’s royal governor.  Zenger’s 1735 trial for seditious libel in the original Federal Hall—at that time it was New York’s City Hall—proved to be a landmark case in the history of freedom of the press.  His lawyer argued that demonstrably factual statements cannot be considered libelous, the jury agreed, and Zenger walked away a free man.

You’ll also find Washington’s inaugural Bible inside, on loan from St. John’s Lodge…

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…and the stone on which he stood while taking the oath of office.

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After the inaugural ceremony, Washington attended a service at nearby St. Paul’s Chapel.  He continued to worship there while the capital remained in New York, and you can still see his pew, right underneath an oil painting of the Great Seal of the U.S.

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On the east side of the church is a memorial to Gen. Richard Montgomery, killed while leading the attack on Quebec at the end of 1775.  Montgomery’s remains were moved to St. Paul’s with a great deal of fanfare in 1818.

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Unlike its mother church, St. Paul’s Chapel made it through the great New York fire of ’76 and is now the oldest church building in the city.  In fact, surviving catastrophes has been something of a hallmark of St. Paul’s.  It’s right next to the World Trade Center site, but miraculously came through the 9/11 attacks without any major damage.  Visitors left thousands of stuffed animals, flowers, cards, and other memorials around the church after the attacks, and some of these mementoes are on exhibit inside the sanctuary.  (You can see a few of them in the photo of Washington’s pew.)  Emergency personnel working at the WTC site stayed at St. Paul’s during the recovery effort.  And the building is still there, a dozen years after that awful September morning and more than two centuries since Washington stepped inside on the very day American government opened for business.

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Filed under American Revolution, Museums and Historic Sites

Doomed to repeat it

You know what they say about those who don’t learn from history. 

Just yesterday, my American Revolution class was discussing the failed American invasion of Canada in 1775.  You know the story:  Benedict Arnold led his men on a grueling trek through the Maine wilderness, short of food and with numbers dwindling by the mile.  Finally arriving outside the walls of Quebec, Arnold linked up with another American force commanded by the heroic Richard Montgomery.  Deciding to attack the city, the Americans launched a disastrous assault on a frigid New Year’s Eve, an attack that cost Arnold a wound in the leg and Montgomery his life.  John Trumbull immortalized the tragic scene on canvas in 1786.

Clearly, Americans don’t fare well when invading their neighbor to the north.  Imagine my shock, then, when I logged onto the information superhighway mere moments ago.  It was only a short blurb, hidden innocuously in the links section of a reputable news site.  But oh, the dreadful implications that lay therein.  I copy it below:

Obama talks trade, war in Canada.”

War in Canada!  Yes, in this century! 

Doesn’t our supposedly history-savvy chief executive know how this is going to end?  Has he spent so much time poring over Team of Rivals that he’s failed to learn the lessons of the Revolution and the War of 1812?  Will he next send the navy to plunder the British coast, in imitation of John Paul Jones?  And where’s Sean Penn when you need him?

Okay, two recommendations, in all seriousness.  First, I recommend that Msnbc.com put a little more effort into writing these link titles.  Nobody likes to see America’s top online news source with egg on its face simply because some hack thought a comma would work just as well as the word “and.”  (And yes, this means I’m aware of the actual nature of the news item.  Please save your well-intentioned suggestions that I work on my reading comprehension.  Thanks.)

My second recommendation is for you, the dedicated reader.  Get yourself a copy of Benedict Arnold’s Army, a fantastic account of Arnold’s expedition by Arthur S. Lefkowitz.  While you’re at it, stock up on all the Rev War titles published by Savas Beatie.  If we do pick a fight with Canada, you’ll need some reading material in your fallout shelter.

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Filed under American Revolution