Reflections On The Penobscot Expedition

Remember the Penobscot Expedition? Of course you don’t. Today’s history lesson has many aspects worth pondering, but I only recall some mention of the fiasco from growing up in Arlington, Massachusetts. It struck me now as notable thanks to valkygrrl’s Great Americans contest, still generating comments here. One commenter suggested Paul Revere: I wonder if this episode in his career was considered. I assume not.

On July 19, 1779, in the middle of the Revolutionary War, the would-be state of Massachusetts, on it own and without consulting either Continental political or military authorities, set out on  badly planned a 4,000-man naval expedition that ended up as the biggest naval disaster in U.S. history until the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The commanders were Commodore Dudley Saltonstall,  Adjutant General Peleg Wadsworth, Brigadier General Solomon Lovell aaaaand Lieutenant Colonel Paul Revere.   19 warships, 24 transport ships and more than 1,000 militiamen set out  to capture a 750-man British garrison at Castine on the Penobscot Peninsula, then part of Massachusetts, but now known as “Maine.”

On July 25, the Massachusetts forces launched a series of disorganized land attacks, largely leaving their naval forces, which were mostly manned by untrained sailors,  out of the battle. This gave the British crucial time for reinforcements to arrive. General Lovell, the commander of the land assault,  saw Sir George Collier’s seven British warships arrive and retreated, expecting Commodore Saltonstall to oppose them. Instead, Saltonstall, quickly decided that resistance was futile and  surprised everybody by fleeing upriver and burning his own ships. Continue reading

I Guess Remembering “The Maine” Is Out of the Question

Hey, Matt: What was this? Anybody?

Hey, Matt: What was this? Hello? Anybody?

I was going to write a depressing post about how neither the Washington Post nor CNN, nor the Today Show (though I missed some of it, and can’t be completely sure) bothered to mention Pearl Harbor this morning, on the anniversary of the day when a sneak air attack by Japan nearly destroyed the U.S. fleet at Pearl Harbor at Oahu, Hawaii. 2,335 U.S. servicemen and sixty-eight civilians died in the attack, as 1,178 soldiers and civilians were wounded. The tragedy launched U.S. participation in World War II, which took another 416,000 American lives among the horrendous 60 million killed in that conflict. Naturally, none of this was deemed worthy of mention by our journalistic establishment, or perhaps they just forgot. After all, the Grammy nominations were announced last night.

Then I caught this exchange among Harold Reynolds, Ken Rosenthal, and host Matt Vasgersian on the MLB Network’s live off-season show, Studio K, leading into a story about the Philadelphia Phillies obtaining outfielder Ben Revere in a trade yesterday: Continue reading

What America Has Learned From Sarah Palin

Thanks for the enlightenment, Sarah!

When Ethics Alarms last left Sarah Palin, she had delivered a description of Paul Revere’s famous ride on the evening of the 18th of April in 1775 that would have earned her an F in speech class and, at best, an Incomplete in American History.  Incredibly, however, Palin and her indomitable supporters have tried to turn the tables on her critics, aided by several history pedants, by claiming that her collage of words and thoughts was really a sophisticated account of Paul’s evening that her historically ignorant critics failed to appreciate.

Uh huh. Let’s revisit her statement, shall we? She said:

“[Revere] warned the British that they weren’t going to be taking away our arms, by ringing those bells and making sure as he was riding his horse through town to send those warning shots and bells that we were going to be secure and we were going to be free.”

This was, by any standard, an eccentric representation of Paul Revere’s ride, and a spectacularly inarticulate one. In assessing whether Palin’s statement can, by any stretch of the imagination, be said to indicate that she either said what she meant to say or has the vaguest idea of what Revere’s ride was all about, we answer these questions: Continue reading

False Leaders, GOP Division, Part I : Sarah Palin on Paul Revere’s Ride

"What the HELL did she just say about me?"

“He who warned, uh, the … the British that they weren’t gonna be takin’ away our arms, uh, by ringin’ those bells and, um, by makin’ sure that as he’s ridin’ his horse through town to send those warnin’ shots and bells that, uh, we were gonna be secure and we were gonna be free … and we were gonna be armed.”

—-Sarah Palin, recounting the famous ride of Paul Revere during her bus tour.

I can’t criticize Herman Cain for mixing up the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, as well as score Michele Bachman for putting the “Shot Heard Round the World” in New Hampshire, and neglect to express my disgust at Sarah Palin’s inability to tell a story that every grade schooler should be able to recite by heart. Yes, I admit to being something of a Paul Revere fan, but I also am not touring the country on the pretense that I am reminding Americans of their legacy and values.

This is classic Palin, repeating her slovenly modus operandi on display from the moment she was thrust into the national spotlight. She fakes almost everything she does. She is glib and charismatic, and no dummy (though she does some stunningly dumb things). She has many of the most important traits of successful leadership, except indispensable basics like diligence, integrity, and respect for her constituents’ intelligence. Being a leader also takes dedication, hard work and attention to details: you can’t fake and jive your way through on charm and passion alone. Continue reading

American Disrespect for History, April 18 Edition

I waited until midnight, just to see if how many major news organizations would note the importance of April 18 before it was over. Oh, many mentioned the Boston Marathon, and almost every one of them prominently mentioned that it was tax day. The real importance of April 18, however, and the American heroes who made it significant, was ignored yesterday in all but a pitiful few newspapers and websites. It was yet another example of this country’s growing disrespect for its origins, its ignorance of the deeds of the men and women who created the United States, and the increasing disconnect between America’s present and its founding ideals.

On April 18, 1775, an accomplished silversmith named Paul Revere, eventually joined by fellow patriots  Charles Dawes and Dr. Samuel Prescott, rode from Charlestown, Mass. to Lexington, stopping at houses and farms along the way to warn the occupants that “The British are coming!” Continue reading