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Sunday, October 27, 2013

White Plains Anniversary

October 28 marks the anniversary of the Battle of White Plains in 1776; I posted on this battle last year around this time.  At that time I posted a picture of Chatterton Hill and focused on the Hessians.  Here is a picture of a different part of the battlefield, the eastern limit of the Patriot defenses, marked by a cannon.


On Merritt Hill itself, Colonel William Malcolm and the American 2nd New York County Battalion held position.  Before the war, Malcolm was a Scottish businessman who came to New York in 1763.  There are a few signs around Merritt Hill indicating its part of the battle of White Plains, but most evocative to me was this cannon set on a rock towards the bottom of the hill.  This plaque indicates it marks "the eastern limit of the Patriot defenses . . . The high ground to the south of this spot was occupied by the New York Regiment of Colonel William Malcolm. The hill to the north was occupied by the regiments under Major General William Heath.  On October 28, and again on November 1, attempted enemy attacks upon these positions were turned back." 



Monday, October 21, 2013

Lord Nelson and the Revolution

     Admiral Horatio Nelson, honored in Trafalgar Square, is perhaps most famous for his victory in that eponymous battle during the Napoleonic Wars.


     Lord Nelson also saw action during the American Revolution, serving on board the HMS Lowestoffe and then the Little Lucy in the Caribbean.  Serving with Jamaica's commander in chief, Sir Parker Peter aboard the HMS Bristol after the French entered the war, he was given command of his own ship, the HMS Badger, and continued his activity in seeking to capture prizes.  Later he served on other ships and was involved in the British defense of the Caribbean and activity in Central America, an aspect of the Revolution that does not get much attention.  To that extent, Nelson is emblematic of the broader world war of which the American battle of independence was one part.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Boston, Dorchester Heights and Geography

On an extended business trip to Boston last week, I had occasion to take in the view from the top of the Prudential Tower.  Here is a view of Boston today, looking seaward, with Dorchester Heights just visible next to the tall building toward the right of the image, jutting into the water.  The small white monument just to the left of that building is at the top of the Heights.


It is hard to appreciate the strategic importance today, perhaps, in looking at the built-up nature of the city.  Nonetheless, we see a view that neither Washington nor Howe could see in assessing their options.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

George Washington, Cincinnatus and the Presidency

     A couple of months ago I was in DC and made time to wander through the Smithsonian American Art Museum.  I came upon Washington Resigning His Commission, the 1841 sculpture by Ferdinand Pettrich.


     Framed by a bright light in the afternoon, the statue takes on an otherwordly aspect.  More prosaically, the gallery label notes that Washington turned down the powers offered him by the Congress.  His model was Cincinnatus, the Roman political leader who held dictatorial powers to defeat outside invaders, and relinquished all such powers to return to civilian life after his success.  He resigned the commission on December 23, 1783, in the Maryland State House in Annapolis.  A portrait of the event by John Trumbull hands in the Capitol Rotunda.

     The Smithsonian gallery label says in part: "Ferdinand Pettrich created this work when political power in the United States was being consolidated around the federal government. He may have felt that this historic moment in Washington’s life would remind a new generation of the nation's founding ideals, and of the dangers of too much power given to too few."

     The statue was made in 1841, barely 60 years since the Constitution was adopted.  Today the Imperial Presidency and those who continue to push that office to satisfy ego and narcissism would do well to stand in front of this statue and think about the gallery's suppositions.