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Remembering the Revolution

Memory, History, and Nation-Making from Independence to the Civil War

edited by Michael McDonnell, Clare Corbould, Frances Clarke, and W. Fitzhugh Brundage

Publication Year: 2013

In today’s United States, the legacy of the American Revolution looms large. From presidential speeches to bestselling biographies, from conservative politics to school pageants, everybody knows something about the Revolution. Yet what was a messy, protracted, divisive, and destructive war has calcified into a glorified founding moment of the American nation. Disparate events with equally diverse participants have been reduced to a few key scenes and characters, presided over by well-meaning and wise old men. Recollections of the Revolution did not always take today’s form. In this lively collection of essays, historians and literary scholars consider how the first three generations of American citizens interpreted their nation’s origins. The volume introduces readers to a host of individuals and groups both well known and obscure, from Molly Pitcher and “forgotten father” John Dickinson to African American Baptists in Georgia and antebellum pacifists. They show how the memory of the Revolution became politicized early in the nation’s history, as different interests sought to harness its meaning for their own ends. No single faction succeeded, and at the outbreak of the Civil War the American people remained divided over how to remember the Revolution.

Published by: University of Massachusetts Press

Series: Public History in Historical Perspective


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pp. C-C

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi

Table of Contents

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pp. vii-x


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pp. xi-xiv

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Introduction: The Revolution in American Life from 1776 to the Civil War

Michael A. McDonnell, Clare Corbould, Frances M. Clarke, and W. Fitzhugh Brundage

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pp. 1-16

The American Revolution today is alive and well. Celebrated and revered, it is at the heart of American life. It drives the Tea Party movement and fuels history book publishing. It is central to the heritage industry and is represented in themed amusement parks. People from television celebrities to Supreme Court judges wonder aloud what the so-called ...

Part I: The Revolutionary Generation Remembers

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War and Nationhood: Founding Myths and Historical Realities

Michael A. McDonnell

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pp. 19-40

In his much-anticipated inaugural address in January 2009, President Barack H. Obama invoked the country’s founding moment—the American Revolution—no fewer than four separate times in charting a proposed path through the difficult years to come. Concluding with a call to action, Obama recalled a nation-defining moment during the Revolutionary ...

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“A Natural & Unalienable Right”: New England Revolutionary Petitions and African American Identity

Daniel R. Mandell

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pp. 41-57

On January 13, 1777, Prince Hall and seven other black men submitted a petition to the Massachusetts General Court, which consisted of the Massachusetts Revolutionary Council and the House of Representatives. The men sought freedom for “a great number of Negroes who are detained in a state of slavery in the Bowels of a free & Christian Country” and insisted ...

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Forgotten Founder: Revolutionary Memory and John Dickinson’s Reputation

Peter Bastian

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pp. 58-74

If any politically aware colonist in mid-1774 were to name the bestknown patriot in North America, it would not have been anyone we now think of as being among the Founding Fathers. Instead, the most likely answer would have been John Dickinson, the “Pennsylvania Farmer.” Dickinson had been a delegate to the Stamp Act Congress, where he provided...

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The Graveyard Aesthetics of Revolutionary Elegiac Verse: Remembering the Revolution as a Sacred Cause

Evert Jan van Leeuwen

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pp. 75-92

In his essay on the role poetry plays in constructing a collective memory of American origins, Robert Pinsky defines Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Paul Revere’s Ride” (1861) as a “conscious effort” to construct a long-lasting myth of the Revolution. Pinsky highlights the poem’s success by pointing out that “many Americans, including [the late] Senator...

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“Starving Memory”: Antinarrating the American Revolution

William Huntting Howell

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pp. 93-109

Like so many wars of the distant past, the American Revolution narrates beautifully in the popular imagination. There is a beginning: April 1775—what Ralph Waldo Emerson calls “the shot heard round the world”—in which a once-reluctant and economically diverse populace beats its ploughshares into swords.1 There is a set of progressive middles,...

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Public Memories, Private Lives: The First Greatest Generation Remembers the Revolutionary War

Caroline Cox

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pp. 110-124

On July 4, 1837, a large crowd gathered in Newburyport, Massachusetts, to hear John Quincy Adams, Congressman and former president, give a speech at the town’s Independence Day festivities. He encouraged those in the audience to reflect on evil British “usurpations” before the war and celebrated “the good name, the sufferings, and the services of ...

Part II: Transmitting Memories

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“More than Ordinary Patriotism”: Living History in the Memory Work of George Washington Parke Custis

Seth C. Bruggeman

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pp. 127-143

Americans love revival. Renaissance fairs, battle reenactments, and time-traveling television shows have all become enduring fixtures in the cultural landscape. At historic sites and museums where playacting passes for pedagogy, the phrase “living history” distinguishes studied reenactment from amateur histrionics. Plimoth Plantation, Conner’s Prairie, and Greenfield Village are just a few examples of living-history museums...

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Plagiarism in Pursuit of Historical Truth: George Chalmers and the Patriotic Legacy of Loyalist History

Eileen Ka-May Cheng

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pp. 144-161

In 1844 George Bancroft indignantly dismissed charges that he had plagiarized from the loyalist George Chalmers for the fourth volume of his history. He characterized such charges as “a tissue of falsehoods from beginning to end,” arguing, “who would suppose that I would break the unity and consistency of my own style and narrative by patching upon it ...

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Emma Willard’s “True Mnemonic of History”: America’s First Textbooks, Proto-Feminism, and the Memory of the Revolution

Keith Beutler

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pp. 162-178

On Thursday, May 1, 1828, in Troy, New York, schoolmistress Emma Willard, author of the soon-to-be best-selling History of the United States, dedicated the work in verse to her mother, Lydia Hinsdale Hart: ...

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Remembering and Forgetting: War, Memory, and Identity in the Post-Revolutionary Mohawk Valley

James Paxton

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pp. 179-197

Emerging silently from the woods, a party of Haudenosaunee (Six Nations) warriors stole unnoticed across the farmyard and through the cabin door. The killing began almost before the inhabitants, a mother and her several children, had time to register the intrusion. Later, while warriors hunched over corpses, working their knives to obtain scalps, a group...

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“Lie There My Darling, While I Avenge Ye!”: Anecdotes, Collective Memory, and the Legend of Molly Pitcher

Emily Lewis Butterfield

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pp. 198-214

In July 1830 newspapers around the country published this reprint of “A Tale of ’76” with the subtitle “Captain Molly”:
Before the two armies, American and English, had begun the general action of Monmouth, two of the advanced batteries commenced a very severe fire against each other. As the warmth was excessive, the wife of a cannonier constantly ran to bring water for him from a neighboring ...

Part III: Dividing Memories

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Forgetting History: Antebellum American Peace Reformers and the Specter of the Revolution

Carolyn Eastman

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pp. 217-233

A new era has commenced in history,” wrote peace reformer William Ladd in the preface of his reform-minded children’s book, Adventures of a French Soldier (1831), a radical retelling of a war memoir then circulating in the United States. In the past, Ladd explained, no one had questioned whether war was a necessity; history books commonly...

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“Of Course we Claim to be Americans”: Revolution, Memory, and Race in Up-Country Georgia Baptist Churches, 1772–1849

Daryl Black

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pp. 234-248

Scholars have long recognized the connections between evangelical religion and colonial rebellion in British North America. The religious revivals of the mid-eighteenth century created among many colonists a powerful sense of local autonomy that helped drive the movement for political independence. During the Revolution, evangelical faith provided...

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“A Strange and Crowded History”: Transnational Revolution and Empire in George Lippard’s Washington and his Generals

Tara Deshpande

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pp. 249-264

In the midst of the U.S.-Mexican War George Lippard published a weighty volume of fictionalized historical tales of the American Revolution, which he ended with this call to arms. With this image and the accompanying promise of a sequel set in Mexico, Washington and His Generals; or, Legends of the Revolution ensured that its readers would connect...

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“The Sacred Ashes of the First of Men”: Edward Everett, the Mount Vernon Ladies Association of the Union, and Late Antebellum Unionism

Matthew Mason

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pp. 265-279

Decades ago, in what is today an unjustly neglected work, scholar George B. Forgie illustrated how two cults that assumed gigantic proportions in the 1850s—those of domesticity and of George Washington—came together in the activities of Edward Everett. From the late 1850s into 1860 Everett traveled the country delivering his oration on “The Character of...

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Martyred Blood and Avenging Spirits: Revolutionary Martyrs and Heroes as Inspiration for the U.S. Civil War

Sarah J. Purcell

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pp. 280-293

On June 25, 1861, the volunteers in the Second Vermont Regiment stopped in New York City on their way to be mustered into federal service in Washington, D.C. After dining at the Park Barracks, where troops from many Northern states were gathering in the opening days of the Civil War, the Vermonters assembled in front of city hall at 2 p.m. for a formal ceremony...

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Old-Fashioned Tea Parties: Revolutionary Memory in Civil War Sanitary Fairs

Frances M. Clarke

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pp. 294-312

In early 1864 an invitation was issued to visitors at the Northern Ohio Sanitary Fair to attend a “Continental tea-party” in the “costume and style of 1776.” Invitees entered a room with ten lavishly decorated tables, around which sat men dressed to represent well-known Revolutionary figures, from Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe, to an assortment of...

Notes on Contributors

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pp. 313-318


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pp. 319-330

Back Cover

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pp. BC-BC

E-ISBN-13: 9781613762776
E-ISBN-10: 1613762771
Print-ISBN-13: 9781625340320
Print-ISBN-10: 162534032X

Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Public History in Historical Perspective
Series Editor Byline: Marla Miller See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 872121963
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Remembering the Revolution