Week Twenty One: Readings for the 4th of July


The faces of freedom: original daguerreotypes introduce us to veterans of The American Revolutionary War




George Fishley, a soldier in the Continental Army, known as “The Last of the Cocked Hats”


To begin a study of primary source materials of the American revolutionary War, check out these incredible daguerreotypes compiled by Utah-based journalist Joe Baumam, who spent three decades researching and compiling images of American Revolutionary War veterans.

Digging through a myriad of sources – 18th and 19th century battle accounts, muster rolls, genealogical records, pension files, letters, period newspapers, town and county histories – he was able to flesh out the stories of these veterans.

See the faces of the war veterans, here.



The “rough draft” and crossed out paragraph of The Declaration of Independence




Specific paragraphs on abolishing slavery were crossed out, primarily at the request from delegates who had dealings in the slave trade


This week we’ll be looking at some source materials related to United States independence and the American Revolutionary War.


Did you know . . .


. . .that there was an original draft of the Declaration of Independence?

In a letter to Timothy Pickering, dated 1822, John Adams, who had been an eyewitness, recollects the crossed-out paragraph in this famous document.

Find out what was crossed out, based on Adams letter. What would have been different, had the paragraph remained?

John Adams describes the writing of the Declaration of Independence, here.

This copy of the Declaration of Independence is significant not only for its historical importance, but also for the language it contains, which is different from the version that was eventually ratified on July 4, 1776. Notably, Jefferson’s copy includes a lengthy condemnation of the slave trade:


“he [the king of Great Britain] has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating it’s most sacred rights of life & liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. this piratical warfare, the opprobrium of infidel powers, is the warfare of the CHRISTIAN king of Great Britain. determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce: and that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people upon whom he also obtruded them; thus paying off former crimes committed against the liberties of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the lives of another.”


But before the Declaration of Independence was ratified, this passage was removed; its excision was intended primarily to appease the delegates from Georgia and South Carolina.

It’s incredible to think that the so-oft quoted Declaration of Independence was actually written by a 33-year old who did not want the job; some of the document’s most eloquent and needed passages about freedom were removed purely to protect economic prosperity, in a war which was supposedly all about freedom from oppression.



Next up: meet Mary Katharine Goddard, female publisher!




Check out this link to a great story from The Washington Post:

Mary Katharine Goddard not only got the assignment from congress to publish official copies of The Declaration of Independence; “She was also quietly named the first female postmaster in the colonies in 1775, running the busy and crucial Baltimore Post Office as well as a bookstore, print shop and newspaper.”¹

Read Goddard’s story, here!




Then read a first-person eyewitness account of a continental army soldier who was at Valley Forge!



You’re looking at The Blue Book, which  remained the official guide to military training and maneuvers until it was replaced in 1812. Many of Von Steuben’s writings are still in use in today’s army manuals, such as FM 3-21.5 Drill and Ceremony. (photo from Army News Service)



Baron Von Steuben drilling American recruits at Valley Forge in 1778


The Chevalier de Pontgibaud was a wealthy but ne’er-do-well volunteer in the continental army. In his eyewitness account of life at Valley Forge, he tells us;


“Soon I came in sight of the camp. My imagination had pictured an army with uniforms, the glitter of arms, standards, etc., in short, military pomp of all sorts; Instead of the imposing spectacle I expected, I saw, grouped together or standing alone, a few militiamen, poorly clad, and for the most part without shoes – many of them badly armed, but all well supplied with provisions, and I noticed that tea and sugar formed part of their rations. I did not then know that this was not unusual, and I laughed, for it made me think of the recruiting sergeants on the Quai de la Ferraille at Paris, who say to the yokels, ‘You will want for nothing when you are in the regiment, but if bread should run short you must not mind eating cakes.’ Here the soldiers had tea and sugar.”



Hopefully these primary source materials, photographs and readings shed a more human and fallible light upon the sometimes deified men and women who fought for American independence.


As has often been said, the price of freedom is never free.




¹Dvorak, Petula, “This woman’s name appears on the Declaration of Independence. So why don’t we know her story?” The Washington Post 7/3/17