We were lied to about the American Revolution.
Yes, it was an extraordinary effort, fueled and fostered by extraordinary men who risked their lives, their families, and their fortunes when they split from England. Too often, though, our understanding of the Revolution starts and stops with those fellows. Occasionally someone might throw in a few battle names and bring up Abigail Adams or Martha Washington. But for the most part, generations of children were fed only the actions and words of the aristocratic white men who argued the politics and devised the battle strategies. To further muddy the waters, our Revolution was hand-tinted by Victorian-era historians with a penchant for myth-making and a distaste for unpleasant truths.
Don't get me wrong: I honor the Founding Fathers for all that they did. But I have such respect for the world-changing language and example of the American Revolution that I want the entire story to be known.
"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness"
Those words were a match thrown onto a pyre of dry kindling.
The nonaristocratic people of America took those words very seriously. The landless, the uneducated, people of color — both the free and the enslaved — all heard the ring of truth in the Declaration. The implications were discussed in barns, taverns, on fishing boats, by family hearths, and at marketplaces. The idea that our country could be a place of freedom for all was as shocking as it was inspiring.
So they went to war, these Americans. The men signed up to fight for years. The women took over the farms and shops and picked up guns of their own, when necessary. They fought for a dream.
I'm two-thirds the way through writing my trilogy about the American Revolution. The first book, Chains, took on the confusing and little-known situation of slaves in the Colonial era. The Patriots were not fighting to free people of color (despite what you saw in Mel Gibson's movie The Patriot). The second book, Forge, takes a boots-on-the-ground look at the conditions endured by thousands of soldiers at Valley Forge. The last book, Ashes, will delve into the Southern Campaign.
The beginning of my research was filled with the loud sound of heroes falling off of pedestals and crashing on the marble floor of truth. I struggled mightily to understand how the Founding Fathers could have fought for their own freedom and not extended it to the hundreds of thousands held in captivity. But then a new crop of heroes walked in: the working class women and men who actually fought the war. The Americans who slept in the mud and ate hardtack and lost their business and gambled everything to free themselves and their children.
I will always admire the Founding Fathers for their accomplishments. But equally, I admire those people I call the Founding Families: the common people who turned the dream of the Declaration into our reality.