Multiple-choice standards of learning tests are not concerned with the details that fill out American history. Who wants to know that those who disagreed with the Revolutionary patriots risked their lives and fortunes in a time of mob rule? What state examiner wants to hear tales of men of honor who refused to break their oaths of loyalty to the king and were whipped, tarred and feathered, or "smoked out" of their homes, as happened to 65-year-old Israel Williams, a respected Loyalist legislator, whose signature in support of the rebel cause was only gained after a night of gasping for air inside his smoky home? In Thomas B. Allen's Tories, many of these stories from across the colonies are well-preserved and well-told so that they might be well-remembered.
In colonial days, Baptists, Methodists and other dissenters from the Church of England might be jailed for preaching in the streets or fined for keeping their own churches. Evangelical Christians were an important factor in the American Revolution's success.
If your early education taught you something about Thomas Jefferson, it likely included facts on his part in authoring the Declaration of Independence, the Louisiana Purchase, and the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. Jefferson was an ideas man—a deep thinker. Well-educated in the classics at the College of William and Mary, he stayed out of the usual undergrad troubles by keeping at his studies and socializing with the professors while classmates spent their time drinking, gambling, and racing their horses through the streets. As historian Michael Kranish relates in Flight from Monticello, he made plenty of friends, but they were from the same landed gentry class as himself.
From a Scottish port to colonial Fredericksburg to the royal courts of France and Russia, the little man who famously refused to give up the fight was perfectly at home in both cottages and elegant salons, but he was always eager to set sail for adventure and glory.
The time was sunset on Sept. 23, 1779. A full moon was rising. The place was the bloody deck of John Paul Jones’ ship the Bon Homme Richard. There a young Spotsylvanian named Laurence Brooke would show the stuff of which heroes are made. At age 21, he was the lone surgeon on the Bon Homme Richard as it engaged the 50-gun HMS Serapis in the North Sea off Scarborough, England. The burning Serapis surrendered after a 3 1/2-hour battle during which John Paul Jones proclaimed: “I have not yet begun to fight!”
Follow Marlborough Point Road down to the eastern tip of Stafford County, and you will pass by lots of new housing mushrooming into the forests and fields that were once favored by both the Native Americans and colonial settlers. This section of the county is home to not just centuries of local history but millennia.
The Central Rappahannock region produced many of the men who led the fight for independence and fashioned the new American nation. Some are remembered, and afforded their due. Some, like John Francis Mercer, are not remembered -- but should be….
By Sue Willis, CRRL Staff
From the Central Rappahannock Regional Library
Notes on the State of Virginia by Thomas Jefferson.
The only book that Jefferson wrote was undertaken as a matter-of-fact commentary on the resources and institutions of Virginia and developed into one of the more thoughtful books of the time. His cherished goals were the emancipation of slavery in Virginia and the reformation of Virginia's constitution. However, some of the ideas in his Notes are in opposition to these goals, giving creedence to Jefferson's reputation as a conflicted man. It should be noted that the Notes were written in 1781, and Jefferson did try to improve the slaves' lot before his death in 1826.
From the Central Rappahannock Regional Library
The Day is Ours! An Inside View of the Battles of Trenton and Princeton, November 1776 - January 1777 by William M. Dwyer.
A wonderful account based on the actual words and writings of the men who lived through those famed battles.
Duty, Honor, or Country: General George Weedon and the American Revolution by Harry M. Ward.
This is the only full-length biography of the general. Written by a well-regarded military historian, it is the single most important source for the modern researcher.
Patricia Beatty made history fascinating with her tales of young men and women caught up in America's beginnings. She was a good researcher who felt out the roots of her stories, adding details to let the reader experience what life was like long ago. She researched in libraries but also drew on her own knowledge when creating her books.