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US History - Lesser Known Facts, Analogies & Surmises Part 2

The war against the British to obtain independence was to an extent due to the lust for power and land as mentioned in part one. The British parliament taxed the residents of the British Isles more heavily than the Americans. Some of these propaganda myths have been exposed by the spotlight of truth in the book titled "Iron Tears". There was a Continental Congress that could levy some taxes but often lacked the authority, power and will to collect moneys. The desperate pleas of Washington to the Congress throughout the war and his descriptions of the plight of the common soldiers who left bloody footprints in the snow while walking barefoot at Valley Forge met with idle patriotic rant without adequate support. The Congress then showed the same callous indifference prevalent today by the administration chicken hawks failing to provide armor for vehicles and soldiers and cutting veterans' benefits.

As has been true throughout American history the bone of contention and apple of discord have been slavery and the status of the blacks. Nearly 20% of the continental army consisted of African Americans. Those who were free or runaway slaves joined by being misled by proclamations of freedom. Slaves were volunteered by their masters to serve instead of them and the poor continue to be cannon fodder from 1776 through the present in the draft or volunteer army. Initially the high minded bigoted racist leaders of the Revolution refused to accept free blacks as soldiers, but the reluctance of the well off whites to enlist and the seasonal desertion of the small landowner whites to sow and reap their sustaining harvests, made the landless blacks, some of the few perennial enlisted men. A chastened Washington then changed the recruitment policy. The British countered this by promising freedom to all slaves who ran away and joined the British ranks. The infamous Cornwallis betrayed them. He kept them segregated without proper rations or hygiene and an epidemic of smallpox and dysentery broke out. The ethically challenged British used the military strategy of sending the smallpox infected hordes into the camps of the American rebels. Similar and genocidal strategies have been routinely used in America, Africa and Australia during colonial conquests and settlement. It was only after the British became victims of German chemical warfare in WW1 that they evolved the high minded policy prohibiting biological and chemical warfare.

It was the French fleet that provided the anvil on the Virginia coast on which Washington's army supported by the French troops became the hammer to crush Cornwallis to defeat. Once again the most dangerous assault leading to massive casualties was assigned to an all black regiment which suffered the expected consequences. So much for the ignorance of retarded congressmen unaware that freedom came due to the French. Without them we would have just been fries. Incidentally for the readers from India, the defeated Cornwallis was then shipped to India as the Governor General and lived triumphantly ever after. He may have been responsible for or connived at the "humane" British military policy of taking children hostage, as was done to the children of Tippu Sultan. That is how the human rights policy of the West began.

The worst betrayal of the African Americans by both sides occurred after the war. A few British generals kept their promise and evacuated the runaway slaves to Canada, but most were left behind in the US and returned to slavery. Those blacks who fought with the continental army rarely got freedom or a pension. They were betrayed and to his utter shame, Washington in negotiating the terms of surrender asked for the return of the slaves which included some of his own. This immoral streak of his persisted through his life despite the efforts of Lafayette. He tried to use his federal authority and underlings to trick a runaway woman slave to board a vessel in Boston that was to shanghai her back to Virginia. Fortunately a decent honest Bostonian alerted the slave and she escaped. At one time President Washington had to reside in the capital Philadelphia. Pennsylvania and the New England states had abolished slavery. Any slave brought from the South into Pennsylvania, who spent a period of six continuous months residing in the state was automatically freed. Thus Washington rotated his slaves to avoid this. He had a problem in his excellent slave cook whose cooking he loved. He tried to rotate the cook, who understood his motives and escaped. It is only in his final years facing imminent mortality, possibly after an epiphany, that he took concrete steps to free his slaves. To give him due credit, he then did the right thing and forbade any heirs from countermanding his wishes. He knew the times and his heirs.

The other bete noire of the American colonists did not escape the war of independence unharmed. In their spare and idle moments, the militia carried out punitive raids on isolated American Indian settlements at critical seasonal times. They destroyed the harvested or to be harvested crops in the fall or beginning of winter leaving the Indians to perish by starvation if they escaped the initial massacre. There were bounties for Indian scalps and the adage "The only good Injun is a dead injun" though formulated during the western conquest was already in practice in the east and on the western border of the original thirteen colonies. 


More by :  Gaurang Bhatt, MD

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