October 1, 1999
Editor: Hans DePold, Bolton Town Historian
This newsletter is to provide a means for keeping historians, re-enactors, and other interested people aware of the activity to list the Revolutionary Road on the National Register of Historic Places. Rochambeau’s French army defines the Revolutionary Road when they marched from Newport to Yorktown and back to Boston. The goal is to encourage registration of the entire route that passes through Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and Virginia and raise to a higher level the quality of heritage preservation along the route.
Trail Continues to Gather Momentum in N.Y.
There is now considerations in NY of asking the governor to purchase property to provide a proper surrounding for the Washington war office in White Plains where the French and American armies joined and then marched together to Yorktown. It is the 200th anniversary of Washington’s death. It is a good opportunity to honor him.
The Good Is Oft Interred With Our Bones
Historians have an obligation to look deeply into history because there is such a bias in what is reported. When future historians report on our generation and they review our newspapers, movies, magazines, and court records, how will our generation compare with that of our forefathers?
Look at what is permanently recorded! Aside from land records, and town votes, we have court records. And in these records there is almost never someone charging someone with good and noble deeds. If you depended on the newspapers, the votes, the court records you would conclude that Abraham Lincoln, at the time of his election, was a walking national disaster. How then will we be portrayed?
But Lincoln’s name was saved by a few good historians. Who will save ours? Will it be the descendent of one of the historians who did the original Smithsonian Enola Gay display? How about one who incompetently used DNA science to defame Thomas Jefferson? We clearly are in deep trouble!
So when we read that someone explains the French assistance in the American Revolution as simply revenge against the British for the 100 Years War, don’t we have to wonder? Didn’t the French drive the British out of France and unify as a nation during that war? Are we being asked to ignore the “Age of Reason” in France with Voltaire, Montesquieu, and Rousseau? Yes ignor-ance is now in vogue.
What is the evidence of the motives of France and who should we call as our witnesses to explain their extraordinary support of the American Revolution? Is it King Louis XVI?
King Louis XVI and most of the aristocrats were riding a wave that was about to dash them on the reef of fallen tyrannies. They were a minority being engulfed by new ideas that they could not phantom. The tide of new values and ideas like liberty, fraternity, and democracy rose and swept them away. Yet it is on these lost tyrants that some historians call upon to attack the motives of France.
But we don’t have to be so cynical, and so negative. We don’t have to twist history. The Enola Gay brought a quick end to WWII and saved hundreds of thousands of lives. But the Enola Gay historians twisted history to say the war was about to end by itself, and the Enola Gay took 50,000 lives unnecessarily. Similarly it is twisted logic that ignores the “Age of Reason” and claims our allies were motivated primarily by revenge.
As witnesses for the motives of France we call the French people, the Marquis de Lafayette, and the French officers.
The French people, as opposed to the monarchy, showed enthusiastic support of the ideals of the American Revolution. That is clear from all the reports of how the French people loved and rallied around our ambassador Benjamin Franklin.
Lafayette hired his own ship to come to America. He served Washington with no salary and paid the salaries of his own staff. He convinced the monarchy to support our cause. He had no undue grudge against the British.
And what was the relationship between the French officers and the defeated British officers? We read that some Americans were disturbed by the extraordinary good French and British relations after Yorktown. We need to ask our Connecticut Historical Commission to make sure that when it comes to the documentation of the French army route, that reason prevails, rather than established negativism and twisted logic.
Camp 5 Update
The deadline for applying for the open space grant for Rochambeau Campsite 5 is now reported to be November 19. The Phase 1 archaeological report is not yet available to any of the project supporters. It would be a shame if we lost the opportunity to preserve Camp 5 because we could not document its archaeological significance due to secrecy surrounding the site. What is the point of documenting this heritage if the results are to be concealed from the public? What is the point of the secrecy if it results in the site being destroyed like at Breakneck?
I recently spoke at a meeting of the Orford Parish DAR. One member who used to live near the Bolton green and the Rose farm said she and her husband had found several Continental Army buttons and gave them to the former Bolton town historian in around 1991. We are trying to track them down. Artifacts in the hands of private collectors is a sure recipe for loss of American heritage. Such collecting rewards the vandals and the pothunters and is used to rationalize the secrecy of this and other projects.