Independence Day 2005!
America's 229th Birthday

Noah's Patriotic Front Yard

Summertime: the smell of the barbecue, the roar of holiday crowds at events throughout the land, family, picnics and the beach. It's America's annual birthday party and everyone is invited.

History of Independence Day

Schoolchildren in America learn the basic history of the events surrounding the Fourth of July, but the details of this monumental occasion in American history somehow fall through the cracks.

Although July 4th is celebrated as America's official split from Britain's rule and the beginning of the American Revolution, the actual series of events show that the process took far longer than a single day. The original resolution was introduced by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia on June 7, 1776, and called for the Continental Congress to declare the United States free from British rule. Three days later a committee headed by Thomas Jefferson was appointed to prepare an appropriate writing for the occasion.

The document that we know as the Declaration of Independence was adopted by Congress on July 4th although the resolution that led to the writing of the Declaration was actually approved two days earlier.

All of this had occurred with some of the delegates to the Congress not even present; New York, for example, did not even vote on the resolution until July 9th.

Even more interesting is the fact that not a single signature was appended to the Declaration on July 4th. While most of the fifty-six names were in place by early August, one signer, Thomas McKean, did not actually sign the Declaration until 1781.

Nevertheless, July 4th was the day singled out to mark the event of the United States establishing itself as a nation.

Only four American holidays are still celebrated on their proper calendar days: Halloween, Christmas, New Year's and Independence Day. Of all the secular holidays, the Fourth of July is the only one whose celebration date resists change. Even in more provincial times, suggestions to alter the day of the festival to the preceding Saturday or the following Monday when July 4th fell on Sunday were protested.

The feeling about the sanctity of America's Independence day was best expressed in a quotation from the Virginia Gazette on July 18th, 1777: "Thus may the 4th of July, that glorious and ever memorable day, be celebrated through America, by the sons of freedom, from age to age till time shall be no more. Amen and Amen."

Alexander Hamilton

The chief debater in the convention which framed the federal constitution, and the chief advocate of that instrument after its completion, was Alexander Hamilton. He was a native of the Island of St. Croix, and was born in 1757. His father was the younger son of an English family, and his mother was an American. At the age of sixteen he accompanied his mother to New York, and entered a student of Columbia college, in which he continued about three years While a member of this institution the first buddings of his intellect gave presages of his future eminence. The contest with Great Britain called forth the first talents on each side, and his juvenile pen asserted the claims of the colonies against very respectable writers. His papers exhibited such evidence of intellect and wisdom, that they were ascribed to Mr. Jay, and when the truth was discovered, America saw with astonishment a lad of seventeen in the list of her able advocates. At the age of eighteen he entered the American army as an officer of artillery. The first sound of war awakened his martial spirit, and as a soldier he soon conciliated the regard of his. brethren in arms. It was not long before he attracted the notice of Washington, who in 1777 selected him as an aid, with the rank of lieutenant colonel. His sound understanding, comprehensive views, application and promptitude soon gained him the entire confidence of his patron. In such a school, it was impossible but that his genius should be nourished. By intercourse with Washington, by surveying his plans, observing his consummate prudence, and by a minute inspection of the springs of national operations, he became fitted for command. Throughout the campaign, which terminated in the capture of Lord Cornwallis, Colonel Hamilton commanded a battalion of light infantry. At the siege of York, in 1781, when the second parallel was opened, two redoubts, which flanked it and were advanced three hundred yards in front of the British works, very much annoyed the men in the trenches. It was resolved to possess them, and, to prevent jealousies, the attack of the one was committed to the Americans and of the other to the French. The detachment of the Americans was commanded by the marquis de la Fayette, and Colonel Hamilton, at his own earnest request, led the advanced corps, consisting of two battalions. Toward the close of the day, on the 14th of October, the troops rushed to the charge without firing a single gun. The works were assaulted with irresistible impetuosity, and carried with but little loss. Eight of the enemy fell in the action; but notwithstanding the irritation lately produced by the infamous slaughter in Fort Griswold, not a man was killed who had ceased to resist.

The price of Freedom

Have you ever wondered what happened to the 56 men who signed the Declaration of Independence?

Five signers were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died.

Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned.

Two lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army; another had two sons captured.

Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or hardships of the Revolutionary War.

They signed and they pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.

What kind of men were they?

Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists. Eleven were merchants, nine were farmers and large plantation owners: men of means, well educated. But they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty would be death if they were captured.

Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader saw his ships swept from the seas by the British Navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts and died in rags.

Thomas McKeam was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in the Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him, and poverty was his reward.

Vandals or soldiers looted the properties of Dillery Hall, Clymer, Walton, Gwinett, Heyward, Ruttledge, and Middleton. At the battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson, Jr. noted that the British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters. He quietly urged General George Washington to open fire. The home was destroyed, and Nelson died bankrupt.

Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The enemy jailed his wife, and she died within a few months. John Hart was driven from his wife's bedside as she was dying. Their 13 children fled for their lives. His fields and his gristmill were laid to waste. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves, returning to find his wife dead and his children vanished. A few weeks later he died from exhaustion and a broken heart.

Norris and Livingston suffered similar fates.

Such were the stories and sacrifices of the American Revolution. These were not wild-eyed, rabble-rousing ruffians. They were soft-spoken men of means and education. They had security, but they valued liberty more. Standing tall and straight, and unwavering, they pledged: "For the support of the declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of the divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor."

They gave you and me a free and independent America. The history books told you a lot of what happened in the Revolutionary War. We didn't fight just the British. We were British subjects at that time and we fought our own government!

Some of us take these liberties so much for granted, but we shouldn't. So take a few minutes while enjoying your 4th of July holiday and silently thank these patriots. It's not much to ask for the price they paid.

Remember: Freedom is never free! I hope you show your support by sharing this with as many people as you can. It's time we get the word out that Patriotism is NOT a sin, and the Fourth of July has more to it than beer, picnics, and baseball games.

American ships in New England waters flew a "Liberty Tree" flag in 1775. It shows a green pine tree on a white background.


The Continental Navy used this flag upon its inception.


The "Grand Union" shown here is also called The "Cambridge Flag." It was flown over Prospect Hill, overlooking Boston, January 1, 1776. In the canton (the square in the corner) are the crosses of Saint Andrew and Saint George, borrowed from the British flag.


The "Betsy Ross" flag.


According to some sources, this flag was first used in 1777. It was used by the Third Maryland Regiment. There was no official pattern for how the stars were to be arranged. The flag was carried at the Battle of Cowpens, which took place on January 17, 1781, in South Carolina. The actual flag from that battle hangs in the Maryland State House.

At the Battle of Bennington in August 1777 were two famous flags. One, shown here, is called the Bennington Flag or the Fillmore Flag. Nathaniel Fillmore took this flag home from the battlefield. The flag was passed down through generations of Fillmores, including Millard, and today it can be seen at Vermont's Bennington Museum. The other (not pictured) has a green field and a blue canton with 13 gold-painted stars arranged in rows. General John Stark gave his New Hampshire troops a rallying speech that would be the envy of any football coach today. He said, "My men, yonder are the Hessians. They were brought for seven pounds and ten pence a man. Are you worth more? Prove it. Tonight, the American flag floats from yonder hill or Molly Stark sleeps a widow!"

Vermont and Kentucky joined the union in 1791 and 1792. This flag with 15 stars and 15 stripes, was adopted by a Congressional act of 1794. The flag became effective May 1, 1795.

By 1818, the union consisted of 20 states. A Congressional act mandated that the number of stripes be fixed at 13 and that one new star was to be added for each new state, the July 4 following its admission. However, nothing was written about what arrangement the stars should be in. This and the following two flags were all used simultaneously.


Another 1818 flag (see above).



And another 1818 flag (see above). This was called the "Grand Star" flag.


Following the Mexican-American War in 1846, the nation had 28 states.

By 1861, the nation had 34 states. Even after the South seceded from the Union, President Lincoln would not allow any stars to be removed from the flag.

In 1908, the United States had 46 states. It's interesting to note that there was no official design for the 46-star flag used from 1908 to 1912.

In 1912, the United States had 48 states. A Presidential order was issued fixing the position of the stars for this flag. Presidential orders followed the adoption of the flags of 1959 and 1960, as well.

This flag was used starting on July 4, 1959, after the admission of Alaska to the Union on Jan. 3, 1959.


The United States flag today. The 50th star was added on July 4, 1960 for Hawaii, which entered the Union on August 21, 1959.


Happy Fourth of July

God bless America

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