A Pox On The New World

As much as nine-tenths of the indigenous population of the Americas died in less than a generation from European pathogens

In the summer of 1605 the French explorer Samuel de Champlain sailed along the coast of New England, looking for a likely spot to place a colony—a place more hospitable than the upper St. Lawrence River, which he had previously explored. Halfway down the Maine coast he began to find spots with good harbors, abundant supplies of freshwater, and big spreads of cleared land. The problem was that these parcels were already occupied. The peoples there were happy to barter with him and treat his sailors to fine dinners. But none were interested in providing free real estate.Read more »

Time Machine

25 Years Ago

October 1, 1981 President Ronald Reagan pledges that the United States will not let Saudi Arabia fall into the hands of any power that threatens to cut off its supply of petroleum to the West. The statement seems motivated by fears of an Iran-style revolution. On October 28, after much horse-trading and arm-twisting by Reagan’s aides, the Senate votes, 52–48, to permit sales of AWACS planes and other high-tech military equipment to the Saudis. Read more »

1781 - The World Turned Upside Down

As October began, Gen. Charles Cornwallis and his army of 8,000 redcoats and Hessians knew they were in deep trouble. In late August, after a summer filled with conflicting instructions, they had been ordered to establish a naval base on the Chesapeake. They chose a site at Yorktown, Virginia, set up camp, and waited for the Royal Navy to arrive. It never did. Read more »

Trenton And Princeton

In the summer the stretch of the Delaware River north of Trenton, New Jersey, is as alluring as any place in the country. It is green and happy and eloquent of generations of peace and prosperity: prosperity from the river traffic and from the canal; prosperity from the steady little farming communities nearby and, in more recent years, from tourism. It is only in the winter that the countryside suggests with any conviction that this was once fought-over land. Read more »

Triumph At Yorktown

Two hundred years ago everything depended on a French fleet leaving the Indies on time; two American armies meeting in Virginia on time; a French fleet beating a British fleet; a French army getting along with an American one; and a British general staying put.

Long after midnight, October 23, 1781, hoofbeats broke the silence of slumbering Philadelphia’s empty streets. Reeling in the saddle from exhaustion and shaking with malarial chills, Lieutenant Colonel Tench Tilghman, aide to General George Washington, pulled up to ask an elderly German night watchman how to get to the home of Thomas McKean, president of the Continental Congress. Read more »

A Bicentennial Monument ToOur Fumbling Foes Of ’76

Although the bicentennial of American independence is just over a year away, it is the unhappy fact that the United States has not yet expressed the slightest appreciation to those who did the most to make that independence possible. Read more »

Protégé Of Cornwallis, Guest Of Washington

“1795.—The state of my health rendering a voyage to Europe necessary, I determined to proceed by way of America. Accordingly, towards the end of November, I left Santipore, taking with me a small Bengal cow, in addition to my doombah and other curiosities brought from Delhi. The natives would not have consented to sell me a cow if I had not assured them that it would be an object of particular interest and care in the countries I was taking it to.” Read more »

Men of the Revolution: Cornwallis

In war the final defeat is the one that counts. Yet there are wars and wars, and only rarely do historians conclude that a particular surrender was not only a cessation of fighting but a watershed marking the end of one epoch and the start of another. Otherwise there would be no memorable pairings of the vanquished with the scene of ultimate disaster—Harold and Hastings, Napoleon and Waterloo, Lee and Appomattox. Read more »

Battles Of The Revolution

Two hundred years ago men grown tired of a king shouldered arms and marched away to a quixotic and seemingly hopeless campaign against the greatest military power in the world. It was all a very long time ago, and it is perhaps too easy for us to see them as West, Trumbull, and all the artists schooled in the European tradition painted them: solemn demigods sacrificing themselves willingly on the altar of history, falling bloodlessly amid clusters ojflags beneath rich, rococo skies. Read more »

With Cornwallis At Yorktown

While the French fleet was preventing the evacuation of Cornwallis by sea, French and American troops laid siege to his land positions. Some idea of the rigors of that siege has come down to us in the diary of a German corporal named Stephan Popp. The document, recently found in the library of the Historical Society in Bayreuth, Germany, Stephan’s native town, has been translated by the Reverend Reinhart J. Pope of Racine, Wisconsin, the corporal’s great-great-great grandson, and edited by Merle Sinclair of Milwaukee.

 

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