Summer Reading 2019
Almost a Miracle by John Ferling Published 2007 It is with enormous pleasure that I am reading this book about the American victory in the War of Independence. I’m only 30 pages into this book, and it is a riveting read! The rest of the book looks to be equally thrilling. I don’t want to give away the ending! As a native colonialist, from the state of New Jersey, I have long cherished the story of the American fight for independence from the English crown. Whilst observing the fight of the British to wrestle their United Kingdom from the oppressive and failing lunacy of the European Union, I became energized to renew my vigor for revolution, and to review my early American history. Pleased am I that I still remember so much of this miraculous story of the rebellion of the English colonists to preserve the fundamental rights that they believed were being abrogated by King George III.
History, specifically war history, was, and remains, a natural subject for me. I was markedly proficient as a student in New Jersey for not merely listing WHY We won, and WHY They lost, in the Revolutionary War, but for ranking those reasons in order of importance. As an added bonus, the X factor, I wrote down on my tests: God was on our side. Back then, my teachers smiled. If one wants to start a revolution today, just write that factor down on any grade-school exam! History books are rarely pithy. All of that research has to be used!! John Ferling thusly wrote his 575-page book with too many words, but I can circumvent the wordiness (“a considerable amount of” could be “many”, or even “a lot”). His writing style is nonetheless dynamic, almost in the realm of crafting fiction. He is direct, honest, forthright, and even-handed in his telling of this history of a nation that fought for freedom because it had to, more than wanted to.
In fact, the 13 colonies were potentially so divisive and dividable that the Brits, before deciding to use force, initially sought to use a series of schemes, taxing ruses and diplomatic stalling tactics, to divide-and-conquer these colonies that had not yet become confederated. The English King, George III, and his shrewd ministers, particularly Frederick Lord North, knew that if those 13 colonies were to band together as a nation, the fight would be long and hard. And so it was. The Minutemen stated they could be ready to fight at a minute’s notice, and they certainly had to be! They comprised about 1/4 of the entire Revolutionary militia, a percentage that made the difference when it mattered; and it mattered at that minute’s notice. Miracles are won within those minutes of the unexpected and the unforeseen on any battlefield. It is largely within the American character to take that minute, and to expect that miracle, God-willing, to make that difference.
John Ferling has the novelist’s telling eye for detail as he describes the opening hours of the Battles of Lexington and Concord in the Province of Massachusetts Bay on April 19, 1775: “First light came at 4 a.m. on this historic day. Thirty minutes later, with streaks of orange and purple visible in the eastern sky, an advance party — six companies totaling 238 men — reached Lexington Common, where they found about 60 men, a portion of a single company of the Lexington militia. The colonials were citizen-soldiers. Most were dairy farmers. A few were craftsmen. . .” Thomas Jefferson had written during the run-up to Revolution: “Fear . . . is not an American art.” It is not, and the challenges that presently face Americans must be handled in the American way, consistent with the American character. This unique character, and its fierce formation, are given a thrilling accounting by Mr. Ferling as he begins his book:
“Warfare was woven into the fabric of life in colonial America. Not everyone was affected equally by war, but hardly any American escaped the sullen impact of hostilities. Wars were frequent, many men soldiered, and many soldiers died. Still other soldiers, the least fortunate in ways, came home from these wars, but not in one piece, physically or mentally. Nor were those who bore arms alone in experiencing the terrors of war. Civilians who dwelled on the exposed frontier in wartime lived with the constant fear of a possible surprise attack. Virtually every citizen in every generation in every colony paid war taxes, endured wartime scarcities, coped with war-induced inflation, and struggled through post-war economic busts.
A handful of well-connected officials and businessmen profited handsomely in every conflict from lucrative war contracts. In the century and a half before 1776 it would have been difficult to find anyone born in the English colonies in North America who had not lost a loved one . . . to war. If one was lucky, the loss was temporary, only for a few months during the period of service. But sometimes it was forever.”
What was, and is, forever — is the adamant refusal of the American to become subjected and subjugated to the terms and conditions of a sovereign. That spirit of rebellion was first felt among the colonists because Great Britain, through costly wars in the 18th century, began to use the American colonies, not only as a cash cow to subsidize those wars from which American colonists did not substantially benefit or profit; the Mother Country used, as bargaining chips in her peace treaties, territories in colonial America, the lands that the provincial militias in the colonies had fought and died in savage battles to protect as their own real estate.
Land confiscation was not listed among the itemized reasons for the Declaration of Independence; but the idea that any Ruling Class, be it a Monarch or a gaggle of Bureaucrats, can treat the trade agreements for any nation as a chit, and a weapon, leveraged against that nation, that ignoble practice from the past has come home to roost within Great Britain. The Mother Country is now deemed a colony by the bureaucratic autocracy known as a European Union that treats former nation-states as trade-game-tokens in the game of Bureaucracy-Monopoly. This book is more than mere history and a detailed story of a nation that fought for its destiny to come true. Almost A Miracle explains the compelling reasons why, after nearly 250 years, the fight for independence of free people from a distant despotic ruler is the never-ending fight for liberty on the face of the earth. I have been especially taken by the narration of the haughty attitudes of the British aristocratic officers of a professional military that did not quite get the hang of the American way of waging war. We can thank our Betsy Ross flag today that Colonel George Washington became General George Washington, a tenacious commander and fearless fighter who, along with his senior aide-de-camp, Alexander Hamilton, molded warriors within that truly rag-tag Continental Army.
If ever there is a need to “sound the tocsin”, it currently abides within the anxiety and alarm in the Mother Country, and in the democracies of Western Europe that must learn, or re-learn, the lessons of being citizen-soldiers and valiant heroes. Reading about the making of almost a miracle is one way to understand the virtue of soldiering, the valor of citizenry and the never-ending tricks of despots to use Coercive Acts against citizens in order to cling to the power that belongs to the people, not to the potentates.