J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Saturday, September 08, 2012

“There should be no laughing at the British”

In response to my first posting on Gen. George Washington’s reported “huzzah” quote at Yorktown, Joseph M. Bauman left a comment I wanted to bring up front here.

Bauman noted that the 1864 book The Last Men of the Revolution quoted aged veteran Lemuel Cook as saying about Yorktown:
We were on a kind of side hill. We had plaguey little to eat and nothing to drink under heaven. We hove up some brush to keep the flies off. Washington ordered that there should be no laughing at the British; said it was bad enough to surrender without being insulted. The army came out with guns clubbed on their backs. They were paraded on a great smooth lot, and there they stacked their arms.
That’s another version of the same story that Dr. Thomas H. McCalla told in Charleston in the early years of the nineteenth century.

Of course, the two stories might not have been independent. By the time Cook was interviewed, Dr. McCalla’s anecdote about Washington had been in print for decades. It was in popular histories and textbooks. If audiences had come to expect that detail, that could have tinged the way Cook retold his story.

However, I find Cook’s remarks credible, for a couple of reasons. First, he obviously wasn’t trying to provide a familiar, heroic version of Yorktown. He was talking about being thirsty and fly-ridden. He described the orders that came down to him in concrete soldiers’ language: “there should be no laughing.”

Second, this anecdote, unlike some, is completely in character for Gen. Washington. He always valued military discipline. He always favored keeping emotion in check. This is just the sort of order he would have given, whatever language he chose.

Joe Bauman’s comment mentions his edition of The Last Men of the Revolution, available for Kindle or Nook. The original book collected the Rev. E. B. Hillard’s short profiles and photographs of six men who had fought in the Revolutionary War. For his digital reprint, Bauman added a foreword and substituted some photographs from his own collection, producing crisper reproductions.

A few months earlier Bauman published Don’t Tread on Me (Kindle or Nook), with photographs and original profiles of eight more Revolutionary War veterans who survived into the age of photography. That book describes how he collected those images and identified the old men they showed. With each photograph is a thoroughly researched and cited biography.

Bauman’s books are also a fine use of digital publishing. The market for them is select, but they’d have to be printed well to show off the photographs; until recently, that would have meant quite expensive printed books. But tablet computers display the portraits well at a minimal cost. Together these two e-books cost less than $10, and they’ll let you gaze into the eyes of fourteen Revolutionary War veterans.


Nate Maas said...

I was surprised when I saw the photo of Lemuel on your site today. His GG-Grandson was a friend of mine and was something of a family hero. One of Rogers prized possessions was a photo of him. Roger died a few years ago having lived well past 100 himself and in good health and mind until the end. Must be something in those genes.

J. L. Bell said...

I’m afraid that’s not actually Lemuel Cook. Here’s his picture.

Cook is featured in the other e-book published by Joe Bauman, reprinting the text from Hillard. At this late hour, I don’t recall which veteran is on the cover of Don't Tread on Me above.

Anonymous said...

I am floored by your kindness, Mr. Bell. Thank you for noticing my work. It fills this old retired newspaperman with gratitude. The veteran on the cover of my DON'T TREAD ON ME book is Levi Hayes, a fifer from Simsbury (now Ganby, Conn., who joined Lt. Col. Bezaleel Beebe's regiment on April 1, 1780, about his 16th birthday. Thanks so much!-- Joe Bauman

riasgt said...

Mr Bell, I hope you enjoyed your day yesterday at Old Sturbridge Village for the Drummer's Call. I am a member of The Musick of Prescott's Battalion and noticed you were there enjoying the music being performed.

Mr Bauman, as a fifer who is dedicated to the history of the fife and drum, I am very interested in your story of Levi Hayes. I don't have a Nook, but would be interested in reading the information you have on him, and curious in your research if you ever came across an Manuscript of Music that Me Hayes might have had. ~ David Dooks