“Don’t one of you fire until you see the whites of their eyes!” said American General William Prescott to his rag-tag squad of amateur soldiers; on June 17, 1775; they were about to confront a squad of Great Britain’s professional armed forces at the base of Bunker Hill, MA. When the Redcoats were approximately 120 feet away, they “let loose with a lethal barrage of musket fire,” according to History.com.
The Englishmen, commanded by the experienced, battle worn General Thomas Gage, were caught off guard; they retreated and reconstituted; attacked again, and withdrew.
General Gage, who was not about to surrender, guided his troops into a third confrontation. By then, Prescott’s revolutionaries–low on ammunition– were forced to stand their ground and engage the enemy in head-to-head, hand-to-hand combat. The rebels were unyielding against staggering odds and, though the Americans lost the Battle of Bunker Hill, it “was a morale-builder for the Americans, convincing them that patriotic dedication could overcome superior British military might,” as reported by History.com.
For more information, the Grateful American Book Prize recommends Patriots, A Story of Bunker Hill for Young Adults by Gregory T. Edgar.
The legendary mountain man, Joe Meek, did not live passively. Born in 1810 Virginia, he “was a friendly and relentlessly good-humored young man, but he had too much rambunctious energy to do well in school,” according to History.com; he became a frontiersman who trapped and hunted his way through the western territories.
Mountain men used to gather each year at various “wild west” locations to exchange information and to tell tales about their wilderness ventures. Their stories were “…often exaggerated,” says History.com. Meek was a natural-born spinner of half-myths, and better than most at amplifying his exploits, such as how he “wrestled an attacking grizzly with his bare hands.”
Eventually, he settled in the Willamette Valley of western Oregon, became a farmer, and a political activist. In 1847, he led a delegation to Washington, D.C., seeking territorial status for Oregon. The self-described envoy/minister/plenipotentiary from the Republic of Oregon [traveled] to the Court of the United States” and got what he wanted.
Meek died June 20, 1875.
The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Stanley Vestal’s Joe Meek: The Merry Mountain Man.
America won the war; now, all it needed was a constitution to empower itself to flourish. The Articles of Confederation had released the country from Great Britain’s rule, but a better plan was required for the future.
So, as History.com described it, “Congress endorsed a plan to draft a new constitution, and on May 25, 1787, the Constitutional Convention convened at Independence Hall in Philadelphia. On September 17, 1787, after three months of debate moderated by convention president George Washington, the new U.S. constitution, which created a strong federal government with an intricate system of checks and balances, was signed by 38 of the 41 delegates present at the conclusion of the convention. As dictated by Article VII, the document would not become binding until it was ratified by nine of the 13 states.”
On June 21, 1788, New Hampshire cast its ballot — the ninth in favor of ratifying the U.S. Constitution– making it the law of the land.
The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788 by Pauline Maier.
History Matters is a biweekly feature courtesy of The Grateful American Book Prize.