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Thursday, April 23, 2015

Lexington and Concord, 240 Years Later

So four days later, I want to commemorate the 240th anniversary of the Battle of Lexington and Concord.  Here is an image of Battle Road at the spot known as Bloody Curve.

240 years ago, the farmers and tradespeople poured in from the town along the road and neighboring towns as they learned of the evens at Lexington Green and Concord.  They attacked and sniped at the Regulars as the latter made their long, hard way back towards Boston. They used the walls and trees for shelter and hiding as they fired their shots. 

Today our entire social and political system is Battle Road.  The contemporary walls are user names online, which people hide behind as they launch their vitriolic and destructive "comments." Like the muskets used by the farmers, they are often not accurate and limited to short range use, but when they hit, they maim or kill.  To be sure, there were acts of vengeance by the Regulars at Concord.  All participants engage in these acts in the name of a greater cause.

Today Battle Road is the Internet.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Revolutionary War Symbols and Icons

I've commented before on the iconography of the American Revolution.  Taking a closer look at the Princeton Battle Monument, we can find an interesting collection of symbols and images that provide broader connotations for the war.  Here is the base as the front:

It is not easy to make it all out in this small image.  As we look at it, in the block on the far left, we see rifles and bayonets.  In the center, an eagle with wings spread is between two cannons.  Smoke appears to be billowing from the opening of each.  In the eagle's talons is a length of broken chain.  Just below the eagle are a powder horn and pistols.  On the far right are a drum, two bugles and barrels.   I have not identified everything in the image.  What we do so connotes not just the components of battle, but the clear political symbolism of the broken chain.  Why the eagle as the symbol of the country during the Revolution? The National Wildlife Federation site posits that "[a]t the time, the new nation was still at war with England, and the fierce-looking bird seemed to be an appropriate emblem." The Bald Eagle Foundation notes "[t]he bald eagle was chosen June 20, 1782 as the emblem of the United States of American, because of its long life, great strength and majestic looks, and also because it was then believed to exist only on this continent."

A 1922 account of the monument is available for reading on line.  It was designed by the Beaux-Arts sculptor Frederick William MacMonnies (1863–1937).  He collaborated with architect Thomas Hastings (1860–1929).  The project, commissioned in 1908, was not completed until 1922.