Former Motlow State Community College history professor Michael R. Bradley spent his midday Thursday sharing little-known and interesting facts about the American Revolution with a packed house at the D.W. Wilson Community Center during this month’s Lunch and Learn.
Rebellion, Bradley said, is part of America’s DNA, as is suspicion of government, which is why Bradley sees “nothing particularly unusual about today’s political climate.” Even the American flag was once considered a rebel flag by the British. A British commander at Lexington and Concord is reported to have shouted “Disperse, you rebels!” – although Bradley remarked there were probably “several pithy Anglo-Saxon words between ‘you’ and ‘rebels’.”
Calling the United States a “curious nation,” Bradley noted that the country does not have a single language or culture and that “we disagree about many basic principles. But we’re still the place people all over the globe would like to call home.”
When asked if he felt that America would have been able to win the war without the help of the French, Bradley replied “probably not” and added the U.S. did not truly “win” the war. Instead, he said, the British gave up, deciding that the war was too costly and had gone on too long.
The United States, Bradley said, was defeated the same way when a superior force grew tired of conflict in Vietnam. He also hinted at a similar outcome for the War on Terror, drawing a comparison between today’s terrorists and the Sons of Liberty. Seen by the British as a terrorist organization, the Sons of Liberty used long-game intimidation and fear tactics to exhaust their stronger opponent.
Bradley talked about several misconceptions about the war. For example, when Paul Revere made his midnight ride to alert the colonial militia of the approach of the enemy, he did not announce that the British were on their way. Instead, he said “The redcoats are coming.”
Neither did Revere actually finish that famous ride, despite the fame he gained for it 100 years later thanks to a Ralph Waldo Emerson poem. No, Revere, a silversmith who was not particularly well-known in his day, was arrested by the British for being drunk and disorderly. It was Revere’s fellow rider, William Dawes, who actually managed to evade capture and complete the ride. That it’s Revere’s name we know, Bradley said, comes down to “the fact that his name rhythms well.”
Another misconception Bradley addressed was that Americans were better shots than the British.
An estimated 75,260 shots fired by the Minutemen at Lexington and Concord, he said, and only 273 British were hit. As this would be roughly 17 pounds of lead for every soldier hit, Bradley joked that it would have been more effective to drop sacks of lead on the British from above.
Perhaps the most common misconception Bradley addressed is the one that suggests the United States declared independence on July 4.
Congress voted to declare independence on July 2, a date even founding father John Adams believed would be “celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival.” However, a document that stated the outcome of the July 2 vote was not approved by committee for another two days.
“What happened on July 4 that we celebrate? A committee held a meeting,” Bradley said.
Unfortunately, he added, the original Declaration of Independence, no longer exists. The document had been lost and likely burned as kindling by the printer after the type had been set.
Lunch and Learn is a monthly program hosted by Tullahoma Parks and Recreation. The next program, about growing orchids, will be held Sept. 18.