Still Holding the High Ground

Cannons at Gettysburg

“I’ve always thought the Yankees had something to do with it.”   General George Pickett’s reply when asked some years after the war as to why his assault on Cemetery Ridge failed.

Recently, I found myself once again patiently absorbing that all to familiar diatribe from one of my patrons about the imminent fall of America because of the current state of our politically divided house. As a bartender in fairly good standing with the profession, I am expected to patiently listen and not offer much in dissent, ascribing to that time-honored philosophy that states that the customer is always right. But as is usually the case, I opted to give up the high ground and take a step down onto my ever handy soapbox.

When confronted with the pessimistic view of the future of our republic, I normally counter with a quick history lesson that begins with those contentious compromises of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitutional Convention of 1787, and ends on the fields of Gettysburg in 1863. This year marks the 150th anniversary of that defining battle of our Civil War.

On the third and final day of the battle, July 3rd, General Robert E. Lee ordered Confederate forces under the command of  General James Longstreet to attack the Union center lodged on Cemetery Ridge. After an impressive, yet mostly unproductive exchange of artillery fire, Longstreet gave the reluctant nod. And under the blistering heat of the afternoon sun,  three divisions of Southern infantry led by  Maj. Gen. George Pickett, Brig. Gen. J. Johnston Pettigrew, and Maj. Gen. Isaac R. Trimble began the ill-fated ascent toward death and destruction. Of the 12,500 men that followed their general’s lead on that day, over four thousand would be wounded by Union steel and fire, and another nearly twelve hundred sons of the South would soon join their other fallen comrades under the blood soaked soil of Pennsylvania farmland.

On July 4th , Robert E. Lee remained readied on the battlefield assuming his Northern counterpart, General George Meade, would attack–but the guns remained silent. While many historians cite Meade’s cautious nature when explaining his inclination not to press his advantage in the aftermath of Pickett’s Charge, I would like to believe that there may have been a more transcendent reason for the quieting of hostilities on that particular day, something akin to the Christmas truce of 1914. There are those sacred days that serve to remind us of the possibility of  achieving that greater potential for good as both men and nations.  And those days should always be honored as intended by those that have gone before us.

America still holds the high ground.  

Have a joyous 4th of July!!!

Blue Tag

Posted by: Chris Poh

Chasing the Green Dragon

Paul Revere's Ride

Other than my regional attachment and loyalty to those gentlemen from the South Bronx that don the pinstripes, I’ve always held the city of Boston and its feisty spirited citizens in the highest regard. The town that is the very embodiment of our founding cause also played an important role in my own personal quest for identity and independence. During my formative years, the ultimate extension of the boundaries of that restless suburban teenage rebel was a road trip to Beantown. Once I got over the elation of having put over two-hundred miles between myself and my parents point of view about proper public behavior, I would on most occasions give into that more circumspect side of my personality.

So following a few much appreciated pints of Watney’s Red Barrel at the now defunct Pooh’s Pub over on Kenmore Square, I would let my legs carry me across town and down those same cobble stoned streets and alleyways that wore away the  boot heels of British Regulars, local militia and Continental soldiers alike. After enduring some rather chilling blows off the Charles River in the course of my fall and winter perambulations, I was grateful that Henry Knox’s  artillery perched on the Dorchester Heights had not permanently removed all traces of English culture from the city after the strategic departure of William Howe’s troops in March of 1776. Nearly 200 years after the end of the siege of Boston, and long before there was a Harpoon IPA or a Samuel Adams Old Fezziwig, at a time when most future New England craft brewers were still pilfering an occasional Narragansett from their father’s basement reserves, it was an English ale that fortified my constitution as I chased history’s ghosts down the path of partisans and patriots.

During my last visit to Boston, myself and David McBride, a fellow student of America’s falling out with King George the Third, decided to indulge our love of colonial history by taking some pre-Christmas cheer at the Green Dragon Tavern. What could provide a more authentic setting to ponder the merits of  rebellion than an old brick pub with a sign outside the door that read, “Headquarters of the Revolution 1773 – 1776.” Unfortunately, this was not the same public house where the likes of Hancock, Adams, Warren, Revere and other prominent Bostonian Freemasons and the Sons of Liberty conspired against the Crown. That particular tavern, located on another site, ceased to provide comfort and safe haven to its enlightened clientele in 1854. And while the current Green Dragon is an absolutely eye-catching pub that always offers its patrons a  friendly and inviting atmosphere, it was not quite the eighteenth century touchstone that we had envisioned, so we instead focused our journalistic attentions on the Warren Tavern in nearby Charlestown. That particular trip was over two years ago, but the current tragedy and needless bloodshed that has befallen the people of Boston as a result of the Marathon Bombings led me to reconsider some our own past cause oriented actions.

When we think about the American Revolution, we tend not to recount the carnage and immense suffering of those who fought, and those who were the unintended victims of the conflict. The telling of that glorified story has always tended to skip over the gruesome and less than honorable aspects of our nation’s founding. And until the advent of modern photography, no one other than the direct participants and witnesses could fully grasp the realities of war. That is why an Alexander Gardner photograph from Antietam is much more likely to present an honest unsanitized accounting of events as opposed to artist John Trumbull’s depiction of the Battle of Bunker Hill. The camera seldom lies–but the artist’s brush is always subject to a desired effect or particular point of view.

Then there are of course the points of view of those on either side of the struggle  to consider. British authorities and loyalists referred to the Sons of liberty as  the “Sons of Iniquity.” Even Benjamin Franklin was uncomfortable with  the more extreme behaviors of  some of his compatriots. Throughout human history, the cruel and sadistic  have justified their atrocities by echoing the words of some greater cause–God, freedom, liberty and justice. And while I suspect that I would have been among those plotting the uprising at the Green Dragon had my soul’s time and space been eighteenth century Boston, I would have stood in forceful opposition against any individual that tortured and murdered those whose loyalties simply remained rooted on the other side of the Atlantic. All too often, one man’s celebrated dissident has become another man’s terrorist.

Sons of Liberty at the Green Dragon - Artist Unknown

Sons of Liberty at the Green Dragon – Artist Unknown

Thankfully, on American soil, the vast majority of  our  insurrectionists and iconoclasts have exercised a fair degree of restraint when voicing their displeasure with the status quo. For the most part, the rule of law, ethical standards, and our governing principles have prevailed, thus sparing the general population from the terror and senseless loss of life that is all too common on so many parts of the globe. But there have been those periods throughout our own history when some of our more self-serving malcontents have inflicted undue amounts of harm and hardships on our fellow citizens. Among those singled out in these campaigns of targeted terror were women, Blacks, Native Americans and homosexuals. And all too often, these extremists and assassins operated with impunity because the institutions of government, law enforcement and religion turned a blind eye–in effect providing cause and cover to this brutal criminality. It was only after those institutions were pressured to assert their legal and moral authority to prosecute and marginalize those guilty of such heinous illegality, that these waves of domestic terrorism finally subsided.

While we may never fully understand the motives of  Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev,  it is important that those that may have influenced their ideology clearly stand in condemnation or be held accountable for their culpability. For it is only the unified voices of moral clarity that will make possible the peaceful pursuit of life, liberty and happiness as envisioned by those that raised their tankards and consciousness at that ever elusive Green Dragon.

Sign at the Green Dragon Tavern - Boston,MA

Posted by: Chris Poh

Blue Tag

Takin it to the Streets

THE CONFRONTATION - ENOCH ROBERTS' TAVERN IN QUAKERTOWN - MARCH 6, 1799 - A PAINTING DEPICTING THE FRIES REBELLION BY JAMES MANN

“It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people’s minds..”–Samuel Adams

As a dedicated student of the American Revolution and one who came of age during the 1960s, I certainly hold in my heart a place of fondness for those amongst the populace that engage in public protest when the conditions and circumstances call for it. But even as I watched my classmates and contemporaries take to the streets to rally against the real and perceived injustices of that turbulent decade, my youthful fervor was tempered by a certain cautious scrutiny of those forces that stirred the masses to action. And as I consider the activities of the Occupy Wall Street crowd, I am left with some of the same unease and distrust that I felt for the Tea Party advocates. Having spent as much time as I have in taverns, I know that once we take our differences and quarrels with each other outside there is little chance of achieving a reasonable or peaceful resolution. And even though our history is replete with those instances when a bit of outdoor insurrection made a measurable difference, much like Benjamin Franklin’s old Philadelphia Junto Society, I prefer to inspire and encourage change from inside the agreeable surroundings of a good pub.

Hopefully, there will come a day when we only need to see one man’s poverty to know that too many people are poor—one man’s hunger to know that too many people are starving—and one man’s hardship to know that too many people are hurting. And that the transformation of our society will come about not because of the anger and anxiety of the masses, but because of the conduct and concern of dedicated individuals. 

Posted by: Chris Poh

Investigating McConkey’s Ferry Inn

Every so often, well…often might be the wrong word, the editorial board at the American Public House Review gets a dispatch from Dunmore Throop, our semi-anonymous comrade and former Scotland Yard something or other.  A few years ago he made it to an editorial meeting, our first and perhaps only editorial meeting, and then disappeared again immediately after only to later send us his investigative findings.

Throop made his was to McConkey’s Ferry Inn at Washington’s Crossing Historic Park.  So I thought it might be interesting during this Independence Day Weekend to take a look back at this Scotsman’s views of such an important location from the American Revolution.

Published in: on July 2, 2011 at 11:10 am  Leave a Comment  

Through the Night Rode Paul Revere

Perhaps Sarah Palin’s knowledge of American history would be well served if she read this article posted in January of this year. 

The latest article published on the American Public House Review comes to us from the Warren Tavern in Charlestown, Massachusetts.  Named after General Joseph Warren, this fantastic pub once counted Paul Revere among its regular patrons.  Like many Americans, the Mr. Revere’s name instantly causes the involuntary action of reciting a poem we all had burned into our brains as children.

“Paul Revere’s Ride” was written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and first published in 1861 when the country was on the brink of Civil War. It may not be the most historically accurate depiction of Revere’s immortal ride through the Massachusetts countryside, but it is certainly one of the best and most memorable.  Enjoy!

Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year.

He said to his friend, “If the British march
By land or sea from the town to-night,
Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch
Of the North Church tower as a signal light,–
One, if by land, and two, if by sea;
And I on the opposite shore will be,
Ready to ride and spread the alarm
Through every Middlesex village and farm,
For the country folk to be up and to arm.”

Then he said, “Good night!” and with muffled oar
Silently rowed to the Charlestown shore,
Just as the moon rose over the bay,
Where swinging wide at her moorings lay
The Somerset, British man-of-war;
A phantom ship, with each mast and spar
Across the moon like a prison bar,
And a huge black hulk, that was magnified
By its own reflection in the tide.

Meanwhile, his friend, through alley and street,
Wanders and watches with eager ears,
Till in the silence around him he hears
The muster of men at the barrack door,
The sound of arms, and the tramp of feet,
And the measured tread of the grenadiers,
Marching down to their boats on the shore.

Then he climbed the tower of the Old North Church,
By the wooden stairs, with stealthy tread,
To the belfry-chamber overhead,
And startled the pigeons from their perch
On the sombre rafters, that round him made
Masses and moving shapes of shade,–
By the trembling ladder, steep and tall,
To the highest window in the wall,
Where he paused to listen and look down
A moment on the roofs of the town,
And the moonlight flowing over all.

Beneath, in the churchyard, lay the dead,
In their night-encampment on the hill,
Wrapped in silence so deep and still
That he could hear, like a sentinel’s tread,
The watchful night-wind, as it went
Creeping along from tent to tent,
And seeming to whisper, “All is well!”
A moment only he feels the spell
Of the place and the hour, and the secret dread
Of the lonely belfry and the dead;
For suddenly all his thoughts are bent
On a shadowy something far away,
Where the river widens to meet the bay,–
A line of black that bends and floats
On the rising tide, like a bridge of boats.

Meanwhile, impatient to mount and ride,
Booted and spurred, with a heavy stride
On the opposite shore walked Paul Revere.
Now he patted his horse’s side,
Now gazed at the landscape far and near,
Then, impetuous, stamped the earth,
And turned and tightened his saddle girth;
But mostly he watched with eager search
The belfry-tower of the Old North Church,
As it rose above the graves on the hill,
Lonely and spectral and sombre and still.
And lo! as he looks, on the belfry’s height
A glimmer, and then a gleam of light!
He springs to the saddle, the bridle he turns,
But lingers and gazes, till full on his sight
A second lamp in the belfry burns!

A hurry of hoofs in a village street,
A shape in the moonlight, a bulk in the dark,
And beneath, from the pebbles, in passing, a spark
Struck out by a steed flying fearless and fleet:
That was all!  And yet, through the gloom and the light,
The fate of a nation was riding that night;
And the spark struck out by that steed, in his flight,
Kindled the land into flame with its heat.

He has left the village and mounted the steep,
And beneath him, tranquil and broad and deep,
Is the Mystic, meeting the ocean tides;
And under the alders, that skirt its edge,
Now soft on the sand, now loud on the ledge,
Is heard the tramp of his steed as he rides.

It was twelve by the village clock,
When he crossed the bridge into Medford town.
He heard the crowing of the cock,
And the barking of the farmer’s dog,
And felt the damp of the river fog,
That rises after the sun goes down.

It was one by the village clock,
When he galloped into Lexington.
He saw the gilded weathercock
Swim in the moonlight as he passed,
And the meeting-house windows, blank and bare,
Gaze at him with a spectral glare,
As if they already stood aghast
At the bloody work they would look upon.

It was two by the village clock,
When he came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning breeze
Blowing over the meadows brown.
And one was safe and asleep in his bed
Who at the bridge would be first to fall,
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by a British musket-ball.

You know the rest.  In the books you have read,
How the British Regulars fired and fled,–
How the farmers gave them ball for ball,
From behind each fence and farm-yard wall,
Chasing the red-coats down the lane,
Then crossing the fields to emerge again
Under the trees at the turn of the road,
And only pausing to fire and load.

So through the night rode Paul Revere;
And so through the night went his cry of alarm
To every Middlesex village and farm,–
A cry of defiance and not of fear,
A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door,
And a word that shall echo forevermore!
For, borne on the night-wind of the Past,
Through all our history, to the last,
In the hour of darkness and peril and need,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.


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