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Thursday, March 6, 2014

A Fable Agreed Upon

On March 20, 2012 I blogged about the Battle of Short Hills in New Jersey, fought on June 26, 1777.  One of the very personal aspects of this near-illegible battlefield is the Frazee house, shown below.

There is a colorful story associated with this place and, if true, we can come closer to the enigma known to us as William Howe.  According to the Aunt Betty Frazee House project's website, the day after the battle, on June 27, General William Howe knocked on the Frazee door, supposedly smelling the aroma of fresh baked bread, and asked for some.  Believing she had no choice, Frazee said "I give this bread not in love but in fear." And supposedly Howe then politely declined the bread and left.  There is some indication that the Frazees (Gershom and Betty) made bread for local militia during the early part of 1777.

The Joseph Warren Monument Association, in a 1905 book on the monument, embellishes upon the story, and has the conversation going something like this, but with Cornwallis, not Howe, as the other speaker:

"Cornwallis is the name, Madam.  General Cornwallis.  And with me is General William Howe, my superior officer.  Passing by, we caught the odor of the bread you are baking and are tempted to ask for a loaf.  A rare delicacy for soldiers, I assure you, Madam."
"I give this to you, Sir, in fear, not in love."
"Then neither I or a solider of mine shall eat it, Madam."

As Napoleon observed, history is a fable agreed upon.

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