Ben’s raiding the cooler again!

As we close in on Independence Day, we all look forward to a holiday weekend full of all those fun and relaxing things that make summer great.  Hamburgers on the grill, a beer in the hand, and friends and family by your side are the things that make July 4th Weekend so enjoyable.

Fort McHenry

For me, I am heading to one of my absolute favorite places on earth, Boothbay Harbor, Maine.  There I plan to spend my 10 days of vacation visiting family, doing a bit of boating, and maybe I’ll even check out a tavern or two.  (Okay, maybe three or four…)  My plan on this vacation, like all my trips to Maine, is to sit.  I plan on sitting on a dock, a boat, an Adirondack chair, or hopefully on an array of well crafted barstools.  It’s time to decompress and as Otis Redding said, “watch the ships roll in and watch them roll away again.”

Boothbay Harbor 

I can’t help but wonder what our Founding Fathers would think of how we choose to celebrate this most solemn of days.  Because of the resolution agreed on back on July 4th 1776, the men who signed it put their necks in the proverbial guillotine.  Years of war, disease, and god knows what else followed during the struggle of the Revolutionary War, and in many related respects the War of 1812 as well.  And in recognition of those events we choose to barbeque.   I don’t know what the founders who lived those struggles under the constant fear of being hung for treason might think of my hotdog and potato salad celebration, but I have a guess.  I think they would find it absolutely perfect! 

st-peters-02

People complain America has become too lazy, too pampered.  How many times have you heard people question what the founding fathers would think of us now?  Well, I like to think on this weekend they would want us to celebrate by exercising the absolute freedom to do what makes us happy.  So while you pop open a bottle of whatever and sit under the stars waiting for the fireworks, think of what Erma Bombeck said…

You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness.  You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism.

So as always, drink and party responsibly during this holiday weekend.  But do it knowing that you are not only enjoying yourself to the fullest, but you and your loved ones are also paying a sincere homage to those who literally put their necks on the line for this little barbeque.  Somehow I couldn’t see Benjamin Franklin lecturing us on the frivolity of our Independence Day tradition.  No, I see him raiding the cooler and waiting for the baseball game to start.

Posted by: Dave McBride

 

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Click  here to view past articles on America’s finest  colonial taverns. 

When a Good Tavern also Makes a Good Courtroom

In our article from the Dublin Pub in Morristown, NJ we touch a bit on the part the town’s taverns played during the American Revolution.  One in particular was, according to records, located at the corner of Spring and Water streets.  It was called the Norris Tavern (though I have also seen it referred to as Dickerson’s Tavern) and it was the location of perhaps America’s most famous court-martial.

Benedict Arnold was a hero, a sort of rock star, during the America Revolution.  But despite his lofty status amongst the common patriot, he had many detractors in the Army and Congress.  It seemed Arnold could never keep his nose clean, despite the many amazing achievements and unparalleled acts of bravery he performed for the Continental Army.

Benedict Arnold from Library of Congres

Benedict Arnold from Library of Congres

 Arnold’s storied career began with the capture of Fort Ticonderoga in New York, whose guns were used to break the British blockade in Boston.  But to Arnold’s chagrin, Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys received most of the credit.  Arnold then led an expedition of men on an impossible trek up the Kennebec River through Maine’s unforgiving wilderness to invade Quebec.  The fact that he made it to the walled city was nothing short of miraculous, but Arnold was wounded seriously in the leg during the failed attempt to take the city.  In the aftermath of Arnold’s hard fought defeat, he was accused of financial improprieties. 

In October of 1776, Arnold pulled off perhaps his most incredible feat.  Knowing that the British were looking to sail down Lake Champlain and on to the Hudson River to cut off the northern colonies from the southern colonies, Benedict Arnold literally built a fleet of warships out of the woods.  He fought the British Navy at Valcour Island, and though his boats were literally smashed to pieces, he inflicted enough damage to send the British back up the lake and give the Americans another winter in control of the important Hudson River.  But despite this, he was passed over for promotion in 1777.  His anger got the best of him and he resigned from the Army, only to have an appreciative George Washington convince him to come back.

Saratoga, New York was probably Arnold’s most famous moment.  His inspirational leadership no doubt helped win the most important battle the Americans had won in the war up to that point, and he was shot again in the same leg wounded in Quebec.  But in order to commit these acts of heroism and sacrifice, Arnold had to defy the orders of his superior.  Soon after the battle he was promoted, but his defiance of orders and history of insubordination made many in the army and congress question the value of his promotion.

Soon Arnold was too injured to carry on in active combat duty.  He was then assigned to command troops within the recently reacquired city of Philadelphia.  It was a cushy job to say the least, and Arnold seemed to enjoy it.  He led a luxurious life filled with expensive belongings and lavish parties, which made many suspicious, especially those who already did not hold him in the same high regard Washington had.  To make matters worse, Arnold had a habit of being friendly with the city’s loyalist population.  He even married the daughter of one Philadelphia’s most prominent Tories.  So it should have come as no surprise when Arnold was brought up on charges of what we might call “war profiteering”.

Still a firm supporter of Benedict Arnold’s, General George Washington urged him to submit himself to a court-martial in order to properly clear his name, something it appears Washington was certain of.  After months of delays, which certainly did not help to improve Arnold’s mood, the trial began right before Christmas of 1779 at the Norris Tavern in Morristown, New Jersey. 

Colonial Tavern

Benedict Arnold, who labored to walk thanks to the wounds he suffered, no doubt painted a dashing portrait of a man who had given nearly everything he could for the cause of independence.  His impassioned defense made an impression on those who saw it, but the court still found him guilty on two of the charges.  Washington was instructed by the court to reprimand him, which he begrudgingly did.What Washington, and those who sat on the court, and everyone who was moved by his defense did not know was that while all this was happening Arnold was plotting to betray everyone in that room.  And that is exactly what he did.

Blue Tag

 

Posted by: David McBride, Marketing Director

Some Ghostly Tales from the General Lafayette Inn

The history of the General Lafayette Inn goes back centuries to the colonial period in America.  For most of that time, it was an operating inn.  And, as I am sure you know, these places can be ripe for a haunting, or at least a good ghost story or two.

The Inn’s resident brewer Russ Czajka, a man who does brilliant work producing some great beers, told us a couple of stores he had no explanation for.

“I’ve had a couple of experiences, but just hearing things.  I was here one morning, early, by myself.  Actually there was one person in the kitchen.  And I had gone up into the attic to get some stuff for a beer festival.  When you come out of the attic there is a swinging door and a long hallway before you come down the back kitchen steps.  I came out of the door and down the hallway.  And when I made the turn to come down the steps I heard someone walking behind me.  I stopped, went back to look in the hallway and there was nobody there.”

He then confirmed with his one co-worker in the kitchen that they were alone.  Like most of these experiences, especially when someone is busy at the time, the peculiarity of the situation didn’t hit him until later on.

from the interior of the General Lafayette Inn

from the interior of the General Lafayette Inn

But that wasn’t the only unexplained noise the brewer has heard in the creaky old interior of the General Lafayette Inn…

“Another time I was here, around 7:30 in the morning.  I saw some chairs were up here.  I was in the basement changing my shoes getting ready to brew, when I heard a noise that sounded like one of these chairs had fallen off and hit the floor.  I came up stairs…nothing.  Everything was in place, nothing on the floor.”

Russ is quick to point out that he hasn’t actually seen anything yet first hand, only noises he can’t explain.  For that reason, the only conclusions he can draw is that his experiences have given him some nice spooky stories to tell.  That is certainly true.

Posted by: David McBride, Marketing Director/Associate Editor

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