Tuesday, March 24, 2009

George Washington and His Army: Put Yourself in the Shoes of General Washington

Think you've got it rough? When General George Washington took command of the Continental Army in the summer of 1775, he faced the strongest and best trained army in the world. And he did so with one of the most ill-equipped, poorly trained, and disorganized "armies" ever put in the field!

Washington Builds a Continental Army

Among the challenges Washington had to face was the fact that many soldiers affixed their loyalty more to their states than to any united nation. This is hardly surprising, since there was no united nation in 1775. Nevertheless, in a July 4, 1775 General Order, Washington declared that the soldiers and those who enlist "are now Troops of the United Provinces of North America." He further called on "all Distinctions of Colonies" to be "laid aside" in favor of service to the "Great and common cause in which we are all engaged."

Washington also had to concern himself with basic provisions (including food), ammunition, sanitation, discipline, and chain of command. In short, he had to build an army from the ground up, before he could effectively command it against enemy forces.

What would YOU have done? Sometimes, when things get really tough, we feel like throwing in the towel. Washington did. For Washington, he felt like quitting, basically saying that had he known how bad things would be, no consideration would have moved him to accept command. But Washington soldiered on. In a phrase from today's Army, he "Rangered up" and, with help, built the Continental Army into a fighting force that would keep the Revolution alive and the British busy for eight long years!

General Washington's Legacy

Though General Washington lost more battles than he won, Washington's courage, leadership and persistence held the army together. As author Richard Brookhiser has said: "War is not the World Series. It's not the best out of seven." Brookhiser's right. You don't have to win all the battles. You just have to win the ones that count, especially the last one!

Edward Lengel, author of General George Washington: A Military Life, explains (in the video below) the strengths and qualities that Washington brought to the Continental cause in the Revolution:

Without General Washington at the helm of the American Continental Army, it's hard to fathom an American victory in the War for Independence. Not only is it unlikely a better leader could've been found, it's almost certain that no such leader could've been trusted with the power and popularity Washington would have at war's end.

It's no exaggeration to say that General George Washington was the indispensable man.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Could the British Have Won the American Revolution?

Is it possible that Great Britain could have won the American Revolution? Britain, after all, had most of the advantages. Why did they lose? And if Britain could have won, how? How should Britain have handled her rebellious American colonies?

Two recommended articles for you to read...

"England's Vietnam: The American Revolution" by Richard Ketchum (American Heritage, June 1971)

"Why Did the British Lose the American Revolution?" by yours truly (American Revolution Blog)

And check out...

The Onion Pokes Fun at British Redcoats

Confused British soldiers, still fighting the American Revolution, were found earlier this month in Massachusetts! So say the editors of The Onion...an interesting publication if you've not yet read it.

To see what The Onion says about these lost and disoriented British redcoats, read "Redcoat Holdouts Still Fighting the American Revolution."

Friday, March 13, 2009

What Led to the American Revolution?

What led to the American Revolution? Why did the American Revolution happen? Pretty much every American knows there was an American Revolution that resulted in our independence, but few Americans understand the actual causes of the American Revolution.

What Led to the American Revolution?

The causes of the American Revolution can be traced most easily to the French and Indian War (otherwise known as the Seven Years War). That war, triggered in part by an eager and inexperienced George Washington, confirmed Britain's hold on North America and effectively ended French hopes to dominate the continent. It also put the British treasury in serious straits.

Faced with a fiscal crisis and the perceived need to maintain a troop presence in North America, Britain tightened its control over its North American colonies, and began to tax them directly for the first time. The most egregious of these direct taxes was the 1775 Stamp Act.

While it's fairly common for people to focus on the issue of taxation in studying the causes of the American Revolution, the real issue was control. The British Parliament believed that it had preeminent authority over the entire British Empire, including the colonies in North America. The American colonists, by contrast, believed they had the right to govern themselves, albeit under the protection and limited oversight of the British Crown.

Why Did the American Revolution Happen?

Tensions aside, what led to the actual shooting? After all, people have deep disagreements today regarding politics and government, taxation and control. What led the American colonists to actually take up arms and start shooting at British redcoats?

The touchstone event that made war inevitable was the Boston Tea Party of 1773. By that year, the British had rescinded all of the taxes on their North American colonies, save one....the tax on tea. The Tea Act of 1773, which helped fund the East India Company, was symbolic for both sides. From the British perspective, it showed that they had the authority (if they chose to exercise it) to levy any tax on the American colonists. Not surprisingly, this symbol wasn't lost on the American side. The colonists were deeply resentful of this power grab, and they took steps to show that resentment.

The Sons of Liberty, poorly disguised as Mohawk Indians, boarded British trade vessels in Boston Harbor in December 1773, and dumped over 340 crates of tea into Boston Harbor.

**Read about the Boston Tea Party, courtesy of The Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum.

Rather than offer a limited, political response to the Boston Tea Party, the British went ballistic! With passage of the Restraining Acts in 1774, (known popularly as the Coercive Acts or the "Intolerable Acts"), the British cleared colonial judges and elected officials out of their positions, ended town hall meetings, imposed martial law, and shut down Boston Harbor!

The colonies rallied together in response. In 1774, the First Continental Congress met to present a united front against Great Britain. And, in April 1775, blood was shed in Lexington and Concord. War was inevitable.

And in the summer of 1776, the American Revolution became a war for independence, with the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

**For more on the American Revolution, visit the American Revolution Blog, the American History section at Suite101.com, and (of course) surf through all the postings and links here at this blog.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Chuck Norris on the Founders, Obama, and...Running for President of Texas

Chuck Norris may run for the presidency of Texas. Say what? That's right, Walker Texas Ranger may soon be Walker Texas President - or Norris Texas President. :-)

Well, probably not. But the martial arts master turned actor turned activist warns that the United States may face disunity if the Obama administration continues to thwart the wisdom and vision of America's Founders.

**Check out Chuck Norris' provocative article by visiting "I May Run for President of Texas." And then let us know what you think in the comments area below.**

Disclaimer: Before anyone "flames" me, I am in no way endorsing, advocating, or encouraging disunity or secession. I believe we should remain loyal Americans and lift up our government in prayer. But I think Norris' article provides good food for thought. There are signs that we have drifted much too far from the vision of our Founders, and if we continue to do so, we do so at our own peril.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Jonathan Mayhew Lays Theological Groundwork for American Revolution

In his famous A Discourse concerning Unlimited Submission and Non-Resistance to the Higher Powers: with Some Reflections on the resistance Made to King Charles I, the Reverend Jonathan Mayhew laid an important corner stone in the foundations of the American Revolution. Indeed, John Adams credited Mayhew's sermon as having "great influence in the commencement of the Revolution."

The Legacy of "The Divine Right of Kings"

The causes of the American Revolution are varied, and have been substantially discussed all over the Internet, including of course at this blog. The main theme undergirding all those causes was the issue of authority.

And for hundreds of years, Britain had rested its authority on a concept known to many as "the Divine Right of Kings." While the theory had been largely rejected in the "Glorious Revolution" of England (1688-89), it still heavily influenced the Church of England and gave many in the colonies pause as they considered their relationship with the Mother Country.

Significant to the "Divine Right of Kings" concept was the Apostle Paul's exhortation in his letter to the church at Rome that "every soul be subject unto the higher powers" and that the "powers that be are ordained of God" (see Romans 13:1-7).

Loyalists during the American Revolution often cited Romans 13 as reason to stand with King George III and Parliament. Indicative of this position was Loyalist minister Jonathan Boucher, who declared:

"Obedience to government is every man's duty, because it is every man's interest; but it is particularly incumbent on Christians, because (in addition to its moral fitness) it is enjoined by the positive commands of God; and, therefore, when Christians are disobedient to human ordinances, they are also disobedient to God. If the form of government under which the good providence of God has been pleased to place us be mild and free, it is our duty to enjoy it with gratitude and with thankfulness and, in particular, to be careful not to abuse it by licentiousness. If it be less indulgent and less liberal than in reason it ought to be, still it is our duty not to disturb and destroy the peace of the community by becoming refractory and rebellious subjects and resisting the ordinances of God. However humiliating such acquiescence may seem to men of warm and eager minds, the wisdom of God in having made it our duty is manifest. For, as it is the natural temper and bias of the human mind to be impatient under restraint, it was wise and merciful in the blessed Author of our religion not to add any new impulse to the natural force of this prevailing propensity but, with the whole weight of his authority, altogether to discountenance every tendency to disobedience."

Is the "Divine Right of Kings" Scriptural?

Medieval theologican John Calvin, one of the most influential biblical scholars in Christian history, certainly thought so. Calvin, known for his theological views on the sovereignty of God, argued that rebellion against God's ordained rulers was never justified.

**See John Calvin's "On Civil Government"**

The late Bible scholar William R. Newell, in his commentary Romans Verse-by-Verse, argues that Romans 13 is a clear, explicit stand against "lawlessness." And if the rulers are bad ones, that doesn't change a thing, says Newell. In Romans Verse-by-Verse, he writes:

"Never mind if they are bad ones, the word still stands, 'There is no power but of God.' Remember your Savior suffered under Pontius Pilate, one of the worst Roman governors Judea ever had; and Paul under Nero, the worst Roman Emperor. And neither our Lord nor His Apostle denied or reviled the 'authority!'"

Nineteenth century biblical scholar William Kelly echoed similar sentiments regarding Romans 13. Kelly declared:

"‘Authorities in power’ is an expression that embraces every form of governing power, monarchical, aristocratic, or republican. All cavil on this score is therefore foreclosed. The Spirit insists not merely on the Divine right of kings, but that ‘there is no authority except from God.’ Nor is there an excuse on this plea for change; yet if a revolution should overthrow one form and set up another, the Christian’s duty is plain: ‘those that exist are ordained by God.’ His interests are elsewhere, are heavenly, are in Christ; his responsibility is to acknowledge what is in power as a fact, trusting God as to the consequences, and in no case behaving as a partisan. Never is he warranted in setting himself up against the authority as such."

Clearly, there are strong exegetical arguments for the "Divine Right of Kings" - at least on the surface. That the theory has been so persistent is also beyond dispute. But was Paul really endorsing the "Divine Right of Kings"? Was he endorsing unlimited submission to any authority?

Jonathan Mayhew on the Apostle Paul and Romans 13

Jonathan Mayhew's position on Romans 13 was that Paul was calling for "submission to those rulers who exercise their power in a proper manner," not those who abuse their power. And that the apostle made this clear by describing the purpose of government. Mayhew writes:

"...upon a careful review of the apostle’s reasoning in this passage, it appears that his arguments to enforce submission, are of such a nature, as to conclude only in favour of submission to such rulers as he himself describes; i.e. such as rule for the good of society, which is the only end of their institution. Common tyrants, and public oppressors, are not intitled [sic] to obedience from their subjects, by virtue of any thing here laid down by the inspired apostle."

If Mayhew's interpretation of Romans 13 is correct, then the "Divine Right of Kings" is better understood as the "Divine Right of Just Government."

Was the American Revolution Biblically Justified?

Blogger Gary Manning says no, at least not insofar as the Bible is concerned. In a "Just War" series he did for his readers last year, Manning wrote that, while Paul kept the door open for civil disobedience of "unjust laws," the apostle "did not allow armed revolt."

Libertarian commentator Jonathan Rowe also argues that the weight of Scripture was on the side of the Loyalists in colonial America. The Bible, writes Rowe, was "insufficient for establishing the principles upon which we declared independence and constructed the Constitution."

**Visit American Creation for a series of blog posts on biblical arguments, including Romans 13 and the American Revolution**

David Barton, a notable (and controversial) Christian commentator on the founding era, argues that the Revolutionary War was indeed justified. Answering the question "Was the American Revolution a Biblically Justified Act?," Barton writes that Romans 13 argues for a general ordination of government, not every single official who sits in a government position. Sounding much like Mayhew of old, Barton explains:

"God ordained government in lieu of anarchy – He opposes anarchy, He opposes rebelliousness and lawlessness, and He opposes wickedness. Yet, there are clearly have been governments in recent years that promote anarchy, rebellion, and wickedness (e.g. Ghadaffi in Libya, Hussein in Iraq, Bin Laden in Afghanistan, Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam, Idi Amin in Uganda, etc.). Has God endorsed those specific governments that promote that which He hates? If so, He has contradicted His nature and is commanding submission and support to the very things that He hates – such is not possible."

So....who is right? What's the answer?

Perhaps the answer is found in Psalm 75, written long ago by Asaph. In this psalm, Asaph writes that "exaltation comes neither from the east, nor from the west nor from the south," but that God "is the Judge: He puts down one, and exalts another" (Psalm 75:6-7).

From this passage (as well as others of course), we draw the principle that government is determined by God. He raises up government and He takes it down.

So, what happens when a government is in place that is contrary to the Bible's principles for government? What happens when an unjust ruler is in power?

The Bible counsels God's followers, in similar cases, to seek wisdom from God. We are to submit ourselves to God's direction and guidance and we are to "trust in the Lord....in all our ways" (Proverbs 3:5-6).

And, in some cases, this may mean revolution. God led Moses to free the Hebrew people from Egyptian slavery. He called on Gideon to liberate Israel from Midianite oppression. Indeed, the Old Testament (especially the book of Judges) is full of God raising up leaders.

What about the American Revolution? Many of the Founders believed that God was raising them up to build a new nation. They believed they were doing God's work as well as their own in declaring independence from Great Britain and establishing the United States of America.

Whether this is true or not, it is true that the Founders beseeched God for guidance and wisdom in the months and years leading up to the Revolutionary War. The First Continental Congress (1774), for example, opened with a prayer by the Rev. Jacob Duche on behalf of the American colonists who "have fled to Thee from the rod of the oppressor and thrown themselves on Thy gracious protection, desiring to be henceforth dependent only on Thee."

And it was to the "Supreme Judge" that the Second Continental Congress appealed for "the rectitude of our intentions" when passing the Declaration of Independence.

Ultimately, only God can answer authoritatively whether the American Revolution was biblically justified. But the Founding Fathers believed that it was. And their appeals to Almighty God for His blessing and protection were not mere rhetorical devices, but sincere prayers for God's wisdom and provision. Our nation today could learn something from their example.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Empire: Total War is a Total Mess!

Empire: Total War, the newly-released real-time strategy (RTS) epic game from SEGA and Creative Assembly, shows great promise and boasts great potential, but falls short in the most important facet of gaming - the "Fun Factor."

Saying Empire: Total War falls short in the area of "fun" is actually an understatement. Playing Empire: Total War may be one of the most frustrating and maddening experiences you will ever have.

Let me be clear. I'm a huge fan of the Total War series. I've invested numerous hours of my life playing Medieval: Total War, Rome: Total War, and Medieval II: Total War. Great games - all of them!

And I have been salivating at the possibility of getting my hands on Empire: Total War. I mean, here at last, was a game dedicated to the era of the American Revolution! Not only does Empire: Total War come with a Revolutionary War campaign, but the "Special Forces" edition of Empire: Total War comes with The History Channel Revolution on DVD. To say that I've been excited about this game would be a colossal understatement.

But, alas.....my troubles began as soon as I opened the case.

I went to Gamestop in Wilmington, Ohio, slapped down my card from Uncle Visa and paid $74 and some change for the "Special Forces" edition. I get back home, and lo and behold, Volume II of The Revolution is missing. That's right, the box only has Volume I of The History Channel series on the American Revolution! That program is the main reason I paid for the premium edition. (Turns out that all the "Special Forces" editions only ship with Volume I. So, buyer beware, the box cover makes it sound like you're getting the whole series of The Revolution. You're not. You're only getting Volume I, which has the first four episodes).

Then, I start the install process. Apparently, to cut down on piracy or to collect customer information or just to torture their customers, Creative Assembly and SEGA make you register with Steam (which is some kind of online game hosting company). This isn't optional. In order to play the game that you bought, you have to register and play through your new Steam account!

Several times, I got an "error" message that the game was unavailable and that I would have to try again later. Say what!? I paid $75 for the game. It's my game. I own it, and I expect to play it. The fact that I have to go through some online platform to play the game that I just bought is ludicrous.

After opening and closing Steam a few times, and talking to my computer a little (you know, some "encouragement"), I finally made it through that process - only to have the game keep jumping and jittering and freezing in the intro movie and the launch process.

I dialed down the graphics to "low" hoping that would work. Of course, by this time, I've invested over an hour just to get the blasted thing to work! I'm frustrated and frazzled. The word "fun" isn't even in my vocabulary, and isn't that why we play games to begin with!?

Okay, so I finally - and I mean "finally" - get to the game menu screen. I decide to go with the "War on Land" tutorial. I hit "play." Game freezes and locks up. I have to shut the whole computer down, reboot it, and try again. Now, I'm a pastor, so I don't make it a habit to curse, but I must confess that some of my old Army vocabulary came bubbling up into my mind at this point.

So, we're now at Take 2 - the second attempt. It's now been close to 90 minutes that I've invested just to get STARTED with this game. A game that's supposed to be fun. After selecting once again the "War on Land" tutorial, it slowly loads...slowly... slowly...slowly...and hangs there. Almost loaded, but not quite. That gold bar is about 90% full, but it refuses to budge the remaining 10%. It just hangs there.

Minutes pass. The bar doesn't budge. My Army vocabulary starts to come to my mind again, and then....I hear "Welcome to the battle tutorial...." The problem is that the screen isn't matching the words. The narrator is telling me how to fight battles and I hear the sound effects of my army setting up to battle, but the screen still shows that blasted gold bar at 90%. I haven't made it to the play screen yet. I'm still on the loading screen.

The narrator stops speaking. He's obviously waiting for me to do what he told me to do, but I can't. I'm still staring at a 90% complete gold load bar. Still haven't made it to the actual game yet. Once again, Army vocabulary comes into my mind.

It becomes apparent that this second attempt isn't going to fare much better than the first. I hit the windows button and the escape button. Nothing. So, I do the control-alt-delete. Nothing. Once again, I'm faced with shutting the computer down cold. And that's what I do.

I decide that maybe the third time's the charm. However, this time, I'll go back to the desktop. I loaded it on both my laptop and desktop. My laptop has Vista and more power, actually. But perhaps my desktop will fare better. Can't hurt to try.

So, here we go again...this time, I make it all the way to the game, but Empire: Total War runs rough from that point forward. At least, however, it runs.

Does the game show promise? Absolutely. Does it tease you with great potential? Definitely. Does it deliver? Unfortunately, no. Perhaps if you have a top-of-the-line computer system, you'll have fewer problems.

Either way, I have found Empire: Total War to be totally frustrating. Hopefully, SEGA and Creative Assembly will see the error of their ways, and do what needs to be done to make the game more playable and enjoyable.


Addendum (March 13, 2009): I have been able to get this game to work on my desktop at the lowest graphics settings. However, the game is still sluggish. The game's campaign videos will not play properly, and there are game play issues as well. Perhaps upgrading my desktop computer's RAM and graphics card will help, but I don't have the money for that right now.

Addendum (March 15, 2009): It's confirmed -- The special edition ships with only Volume ONE of The Revolution, the DVD series on the American Revolution. This is false advertising, in my opinion, as the box cover says NOTHING about Volume I. It indicates you'll get the full series. So, buyer beware!

Addendum (March 24, 2009): To be fair, while Empire: Total War demands a pretty high-performing computer and graphics card, the game is very fun, once you get into it. I've enjoyed several hours of the game, since my initial review post. I don't retract anything. Installing and getting used to the game was very frustrating, especially with the whole "install through Steam" arrangement. Why can't the game just play like Medieval II: Total War? Just install and go! Why do they need Steam? Aside from that, though, and the fact that the game will be sluggish and problematic on older computers (if it plays at all), it IS a fun game, once you get into it.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

British Rifle Fire Demonstration

Revolutionary War era British firing demonstration at Fort Michimilimac in Mackinac, Michigan....

Monday, March 02, 2009

Real and Fictional Adventures of Robinson Crusoe

It's apparently curtains for NBC's series Crusoe, starring Philip Winchester and Tongayi Chirisa. The show, produced by London-based Power, was apparently envisioned as an ongoing television series. At least, that was the plan initially. The ratings were disappointing, however, especially considering the heavy promotion of the series. The series was soon redefined as a 13-episode "miniseries," which broadcast its final episode on January 31.

Crusoe is, at least in the opinion of this author, entertaining and family-friendly. The scenery is beautiful. The acting is fine, especially from Chirisa (who plays Friday) and recurring guest star (and veteran) Sam Neill.

Unfortunately, the ending of the miniseries is a huge disappointment. I can't say much more than that, without giving away something. But, let's just say, that I was not happy. It leaves you, frankly, with a sense of frustration - like you've been cheated. Maybe the producers and writers were hoping (or even counting) on the series getting picked up for another season. If so, that hope doesn't look promising.

To visit the official NBC site for the series, click here.

If you missed Crusoe, you can watch (as of this blog post) all the episodes for free at Hulu.com. But be warned, you won't like the ending.

The Legend of Robinson Crusoe

The story of Robinson Crusoe was, of course, penned by author Daniel Defoe and published in 1719. Written as an autobiographical account of a man's 28 years on a remote tropical island, Robinson Crusoe is considered by many to be the first novel in England.

Beloved by generations, the story has been published numerous times and made into several films.

Even the Tom Hanks film Castaway was a modern spinoff of Defoe's classic. And, of course, don't forget Lost, which in its own way, takes some inspiration from Defoe's Robinson Crusoe.

Most recently with Crusoe, NBC hoped to profit from Defoe's brainchild, reimagining the classic as an adventure story wrapped in conspiracy, intrigue, betrayal, and romance. It is the second time TV brought Robinson Crusoe to life - the first effort being a 1960s series titled The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe.

Why are we Talking About Robinson Crusoe at this Blog?

It's true that Robinson Crusoe has nothing really to do with the American Revolution or the founding of the United States. But, if you're like me, I appreciate any movie or TV series that explores the general time frame of the colonial era.

Given the literary heights achieved by writers like Defoe and some of his contemporaries and the heroic achievements by so many of that era, I'm surprised there aren't more movies and TV series set in the period that saw the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and the dawn of the Modern Age.

Was there a "Real" Robinson Crusoe?

While the fictional Robinson Crusoe, imagined by Daniel Defoe in his classic 1719 novel, is a shipwrecked adventurer befriended by the noble "Man Friday," the real story behind the legend is much different. The original "Robinson Crusoe," who apparently inspired Defoe, was a hard-drinking pirate named Alexander Selkirk. And he wasn't shipwrecked. He was left on the island deliberately because the captain thought he was a pain in the proverbial backside.

Read "Scientists Research the Real Robinson Crusoe" to learn more about the man who inspired the legend.

Lessons from Robinson Crusoe

The real lesson of the whole Robinson Crusoe story, I suppose, is twofold:

1) It reminds us (or at least should remind us) of all the things we take for granted. Imagine if, one day, you were stripped of all meaningful possessions, separated from your loved ones, and relegated to living a lonely existence far apart from the notice or care of anyone. A story like Crusoe should make us all thankful for even the smallest pleasures in life.

2) When life does get tough (and it most certainly did for Crusoe), we need to make the best of it. Robinson Crusoe never surrendered to despair. He survived and held onto hope. (And, at least in the NBC miniseries, he made a really cool treehouse!)

It's up to us, of course, to take those lessons to heart.