5 Things You Should Know about the Liberty Bell

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

The Liberty Bell is a symbol of freedom for the United States. On it is inscribed, “Proclaim Liberty thro’ all the Land to all the Inhabitants thereof.” An interesting fact about the Liberty Bell is that it was procured by Philadelphia long before the colonies were fighting for their independence, and it did not ring on July 4th, 1776 when the Declaration of Independence was signed.

Origin of the Bell: In 1751, Philadelphia needed a new larger bell to ring when proclamations were made and when citizens needed to be warned of danger.  Issac Norris, speaker of the Philadelphia Provincial Assembly contracted with London to have a 2,000 pound bell made. It arrived in August, 1752, but when it rang for the first time, the rim cracked. Two local founders, John Pass and John Stow, recast the bell with their names engraved on it and got it ready to for use in 1753. The bell was used for public meetings and to summon people to church services. In 1772, some complained that the bell rang too often.

Proclamation of Independence: When the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4th, 1776, there was no public proclamation made, so no bells rang to announce it. The public proclamation was made on July 8th. Many bells rang that day, and although the Liberty Bell was not specifically mentioned, it may have been one of those bells. Bells were also rung to celebrate the one year anniverserary of Independence on July 4th, 1777.

After General Washington’s defeat at the Battle of Brandywine in September, 1777, the bell was removed and hidden below church floorboards in Allentown to keep it from falling into the hands of the British and melted down as munitions. After the British departed, it was returned to Philidelphia in 1778 and placed in storage until 1784 when it was rung again on 4th of July’s, Washington’s birthday, and election days.

The Famous Crack: Nobody knows how the bell was cracked, but in February, 1846, the Public Ledger announced that the bell could not be rung for George Washington’s birthday because of the crack and that the crack had been there for some time. The most common story is the bell cracked in 1835 when it rang during the funeral of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall, but in 1837, the bell was used as a symbol for an anti-slavery campaign and the crack wasn’t mentioned.

The Bell’s Name: The bell was first called the Liberty Bell in a New York anti-slavery journal in 1835 when it became a symbol for the abolitionist movement. In 1853, US President Franklin Pierce called the Liberty Bell a symbol of American Revolution and American Liberty. In 1865, after President Lincoln was assasinated, the bell was placed by his head so everyone who passed could read the inscription, “Proclaim Liberty thro’ all the Land to all the Inhabitants thereof.” From that point on, it was always called the Liberty Bell.

In 1876, a committee considered repairing the Liberty Bell for the Centennial Celebration of Independence, but it was decided that the crack was so much a part of the symbol of the bell, it shouldn’t be tampered with. Through the years, the bell traveled to exhibitions until the crack got much worse. Repairs were made, and it was retired to Independence Hall in Philadelphia.

The Bell’s Last Toll: The bell was tapped in 1915 and again during World War II on D-Day, VE-Day, and VJ-Day, but it hasn’t been tapped since. Throughout our nation’s history, it has been known a symbol for liberty throughout the land.

Was George Washington a Christian?

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

Throughout history, people have known the founding father of the United States, George Washington was a man of faith. Recently his reputation as a Christian has been tarnished, not because any new documents have been discovered, but because some historians are going out of their way to prove our founding fathers did not rely upon God. It has become politically incorrect to consider George Washington as any more than a Deist, someone who believes in a distant God who doesn’t interfere with the plans of man.

This theory became popular in 1963, when Professor Paul Boller wrote a book, George Washington and Religion. Professor Boller wrote, “Broadly speaking, of course, Washington can be classified as a Deist.” But the evidence that Washington was more than a Deist is overwhelming. To debunk this theory, Peter A. Lillback wrote a biography based on fifteen years of research called George Washington’s Sacred Fire.

Here’s a few things that prove George Washington had a strong Christian faith in God:

At age thirteen, Washington transcribed and memorized 110 Rules for Young Gentlemen, written by Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits in the 1590’s. They teach man is God’s servant who lives not for self, but for others. They became a part of his character.

When Washington was twenty, he wrote prayers to say each morning and evening. On Sunday mornings he prayed, “…pardon, I beseech Thee, my sins; remove them from Thy presence, as far as the east is from the west, and accept me for the merits of Thy son, Jesus Christ…”

Captain Washington, at the age of twenty-three, was caught in a surprise ambush by the French and Indians near what is now Pittsburgh. Every British and American officer was shot but Washington even though he rode numerous times back and forth across the battlefield. He later wrote to his brother, “By the all powerful dispensations of Providence, I have been protected beyond all human probability or expectation, for I had four bullets through my coat, and two horses shot under me, yet escaped unhurt, although death was leveling my companions on every side of me.” Later, Indians testified they had singled Washington out, but their bullets had no effect on him. They were convinced an Invisible Power was protecting him.

As Commander and Chief of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, on July 2, 1776, General Washington told his troops: “The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage of this army. Our cruel and unrelenting enemy leaves us only the choice of brave resistance or the most abject submission. We have therefore to resolve to conquer or die.”

As Commander and Chief, he pushed for army chaplains and required church attendance among the soldiers.

Seven weeks later, British General Howe had trapped Washington and his 8,000 troops on Brooklyn Heights, ready to crush them the next morning. Washington gathered every vessel from fishing to row boats and spent all night ferrying his army across the East River. By morning many troops were still exposed to the British. This gave the British a chance to win the war. But the fog that almost always lifts from the river in the mornings, that day, stayed thick and covered Washington’s retreat until the entire army escaped.

In 1777 at Valley Forge, a dozen soldiers died a day in the freezing cold. They lacked supplies such as blankets or shoes. A Quaker named Isaac Potts reported seeing Washington on his knees in the snow praying aloud for his beloved country. He thanked God for exalting him to the head of a great nation which was fighting at fearful odds. Potts told his wife, “Till now I have thought that a Christian and a solider were characters incompatible, but if George Washington not be a man of God I am mistaken, and still more I shall be disappointed in God does not through him perform some great thing for this country.”

On May 5, 1778 Washington learned the French would join America as allies. The General told his troops, “It having pleased the Almighty Ruler of the universe to defend the cause of the United American States, and finally to raise up a powerful friend among the princes of the earth, to establish our liberty, and independence upon a lasting foundation, it becomes us to set apart a day for gratefully acknowledging the divine goodness…”

While encamped on the banks of a river, Washington was approached by Delaware Indian chiefs who desired their youth be trained in American schools. In Washington’s response, he first told them that “Congress… will look on them as on their own children.” He then commended the chiefs for their decision: You do well to wish to learn our arts and our ways of life and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. These will make you a greater and happier people than you are. Congress will do everything they can to assist you in this wise intention.

In 1781, General Washington’s southern army defeated a detachment of British troops. Lord Cornwallis was infuriated and began pursuing the outnumbered Americans. He waited the night at the Catawba River, which the U.S. troops had crossed just two hours earlier. Miraculously, a storm arose during the night causing the river to be uncrossable for five days. Cornwallis nearly overtook Americans at the Yadkin River, but another flood arose, allowing Americans to escape.

The French navy seized control of the Chesapeake Aug. 30, 1781, driving out British ships. Washington rejoiced and besieged Cornwallis’ stronghold at Yorktown. With no ships to escape upon, Cornwallis surrendered.

Washington wrote Congress, “I take a particular pleasure in acknowledging that the interposing Hand of Heaven…has been most conspicuous and remarkable.”

During the oath of office, when Washington became president, he chose to take the oath with a Bible. As president, Washington often spoke on the importance of prayer and signed the first official Thanksgiving Day Proclamation in US history. It is clear that faith in God was very important to President Washington and that he was a Christian.

Nathan Hale: America’s First Martyred Spy

by Tamera Lynn Kraft
Long before the days of the CIA and Cold War, even before the spies of the Civil War, our nation had a network of spies that rivaled any spy agency of today. The leader of this spy ring, the Culpeper Ring in New York City, was Benjamin Tallmadge, an officer in the Continental Army. One reason Tallmadge may have been so driven to create this spy ring is because his best friend from college, Nathan Hale, was hung as a spy on his first intelligence gathering mission in New York.

Nathan Hale was born in Connecticut in 1755. Before his fourteenth birthday, he and his brother, Enoch, were sent to Yale University to get an education. Nathan’s father was a minister and planned for Nathan to follow in his footsteps.

At Yale, Nathan became close friends with Benjamin Tallmadge and William Hull, a man who worked with Tallmadge. Hale’s university days created in him a desire to be free from the rule of the British Crown as it did with most of his contemporaries. When he graduated, instead of becoming a minister, he took a job teaching at a private school in East Haddam.

When war broke out, Hale was reluctant to join the army, but at the urging of Tallmadge in a letter, joined up in 1775. For the next year, he saw no action. It disturbed him because he felt he was doing nothing to further the independence of the American Colonies.

In September, Washington was desperate for intelligence about the British troop movements in Manhattan. That information would determine his next move. He asked for volunteers. At that time, most didn’t consider spying a respectable occupation, and nobody was willing to volunteer for such a dangerous mission. Nathan Hale, who was eager to do something to help his country, stepped up and said he would do it.

Hale snuck into Manhattan and got the information he needed. Before heading back, he stopped at a tavern where he was recognized by Robert Rogers, commander of Rogers’ Rangers. Earlier, Rogers had attempted to get free passage behind enemy lines, telling Washington he was a patriot. His real intentions were to spy for the British. Washington denied his request, but during that time, he had seen Hale in uniform.

Rogers needed proof Hale was a spy and invited him to his home where he informed Hale that he was a patriot. Hale fell into the trap, and was arrested. After admitting he was a spy, he was sentenced to hang by General William Howe.

When Hale was at the gallows, the last sight he probably saw was New York City burning. A fire had started accidently, but knowing it would help the Americans, many patriot civilians started more fires or did things to slow the British in putting out the fires. Many of these patriots were captured and executed. The fire did stop the British from taking up residence in the city.

Hale’s last words were immortalized as the sentiment of American Patriots. “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” This quote is reported by Tallmadge and Hull, Hale’s friends who were not present at the execution. The quote is probably a condensed quote of what he really said. Hull and Tallmadge were at the site shortly after the execution to facilitate a prisoner exchange and talked to a British officer, John Montresor about what Hale’s last words were. Others reported other things Hale may have said, so his speech was longer than the reported quote.

Frederick MacKensie, a British officer, wrote this diary entry for the day, “He behaved with great composure and resolution, saying he thought it the duty of every good Officer, to obey any orders given him by his Commander-in-Chief; and desired the Spectators to be at all times prepared to meet death in whatever shape it might appear.”

Whatever the case, at his death, Hale was a patriot and the first American spy executed for his exploits of bravery.

Theodore Roosevelt Jr. – D-Day Hero

Every man who fought on the beeches of Normandy during D-Day is a hero. On June 6th, 1944, the largest military seaborne invasion in history took place on the Western Front in France. By late August, all of France had been liberated, and within less than a year, the Nazis faced total defeat. Here is the story of one of those heroes.

Theodore Roosevelt, Jr. (Ted) was the eldest son of President Theodore Roosevelt. When he was born in 1887, his larger-than-life father was just beginning his political career. The younger Roosevelt graduated from Harvard in 1909 and became a successful business man.

When America went to war during World War I, Ted, a reservist, was called to duty and became volunteered to become one of the first soldiers to go to France. There he was known as one of the best battalion commanders in his division. He was so concerned for his men, he once paid for them to all have combat boots with his own money. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his bravery.

After the war, he went back into business and became one of the founders of the American Legion. He remained in the military reserves and took advanced officer’s training. He also served in politics and was the assistant secretary of the Navy for a while.

In 1941, shortly before World War II, Ted returned to active duty in the Army and was promoted to a one star general. When he was assigned to the D-Day task force in 1944, he wrote letters to Major General Barton asking to be allowed to take part in the invasion. His requests were denied numerous times because Barton believed he wouldn’t survive. Finally Barton relented and allowed Ted to lead the battle on Utah Beach.

During the invasion, Ted was one of the first to land on the beach and led his men with courage and calmness. He stood on the beach leaning on a cane reciting antidotes about his father to his troops to steady their nerves. After discovering they had drifted a mile from the invasion site, he said, “We’ll start the war from right here.” Sometimes he worked under fire as a self-appointed traffic cop, untangling traffic jams of trucks and tanks all struggling to get inland and off the beach. One GI later reported that seeing the general walking around, apparently unaffected by the enemy fire, even when clods of earth fell down on him, gave him the courage to get on with the job, saying “if the general is like that it can’t be that bad.”

Roosevelt Jr. died of a heart attack on July 12, 1944, shortly after the D-Day invasion. He was buried near Normandy, and his brother Quentin, who was shot down and killed during World War I, was re interred there. During his time in the military, Roosevelt Jr. was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the Distinguished Service Cross, Army Distinguished Service Medal, four Silver Star awards and the Legion of Merit. Years later, when General Omar Bradley was asked to name the single most heroic action he had ever seen in combat, he said, “Ted Roosevelt on Utah Beach.”

Today we honor Theodore Roosevelt Jr. and every other brave soldier who died during the D-Day invasion.

Why Memorial Day Used to be Controversial

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

Origins

After the Civil War ended in April, 1865, the loved one in both the North and the South wanted a way to honor their loved ones who had died in the conflict. In the spring of 1866, the families of the dead in Waterloo, New York organized the first Decoration Day. After that, local springtime tributes to the fallen of the Civil War sprang up in various places.

In Columbus, Mississippi on April 25, 1866, a group of women visited a cemetery to decorate the graves of Confederate soldiers who had fallen in battle at Shiloh. But they noticed the graves of the Union soldiers were neglected. This bothered them, so they placed some of their flowers on those graves, as well.

In 1968, A Civil War Union veteran organization called the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) formed a committee to discuss officially having a day of remembrance. Major General John A. Logan, commander of the GAR, declared Decoration Day should be observed on May 30th and established Decoration Day to be a time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. May 30th was chosen because flowers would be in bloom all over the country.

He ordered for his posts to decorate graves “with the choicest flowers of springtime… We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. … Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”

The first large observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery which had been established two years earlier. 5,000 people showed up for the ceremonies that centered around the Arlington mansion which was once the home of General Robert E. Lee. General and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant presided over the ceremonies, and many well known politicians attended and made speeches. After all the speeches were over, children from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphan Home and members of the GAR paraded through the cemetery, strewing flowers on both Union and Confederate graves, reciting prayers, and singing hymns.

By the end of the 19th century, Memorial Day ceremonies were being held on May 30th throughout the nation. State legislatures passed proclamations designating the day, and the Army and Navy adopted regulations for observing Memorial Day.

Controversy in the South

Many Southern states weren’t happy about the Union deciding a day to honor the dead. They felt the holiday was exclusively for the Union dead and boycotted it. They formed their own days for honoring the Confederate dead.

Many of these states still have their own Decoration Day. Mississippi celebrates Confederate Memorial Day on the last Monday of April. Alabama honors their Confederate dead on the fourth Monday of April. Georgia celebrates on April 26th. North and South Carolina observe it on May 10th, Louisiana on June 3rd, and Tennessee calls that date Confederate Decoration Day. Texas celebrates Confederate Heroes Day January 19th, and Virginia calls the last Monday in May Confederate Memorial Day.

Although they have their own Confederate Memorial Day, most Southern States now honor the fallen dead in other US wars on the national Memorial Day.

How It Become and What it is Today

While Decoration Day was originally organized to honor those who died in the Civil War, After World War I, it expanded to honor those who have died in all American wars. In 1971, the name was changed to Memorial Day, and the last Monday in May was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress It was then also placed on the last Monday in May.

Every year, on Memorial Day, small American flags are placed on each grave at Arlington Memorial Cemetery, as they are on soldier’s graves throughout our nation. But many families don’t just honor the lives of dead soldiers. They also decorate the graves of all deceased loved ones.

To ensure the sacrifices of America ’s fallen heroes are never forgotten, in December 2000, the U.S. Congress passed and the president signed into law “The National Moment of Remembrance Act,” P.L. 106-579, creating the White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance. The commission’s charter is to “encourage the people of the United States to give something back to their country, which provides them so much freedom and opportunity” by encouraging and coordinating commemorations in the United States of Memorial Day and the National Moment of Remembrance.

The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation. As Moment of Remembrance founder Carmella LaSpada states: “It’s a way we can all help put the memorial back in Memorial Day.”

Memorial Day – Honoring Those Who Died

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

This Memorial Day, we honor those soldiers who died defending freedom during war time.

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, was officially observed on May 30, 1868 to decorate the graves of soldiers who died during the Civil War. After World War One, it changed to become a day to honor American soldiers who died during wartime throughout American history. Later the name was changed to Memorial Day.

The following list the wars and the number of soldiers who died in battle only. There were many more who died from disease and other factors. All figures are approximate.

American Revolution (1775-1783): 4,435 deaths

War of 1812 (1812-1815): 2,260 deaths

Indian Wars (1817-1898): 1,000 deaths

Mexican War (1846-1848): 1,733 deaths

Civil War (1861-1865): Union deaths 140,414; Confederate deaths 74,524

Spanish American War (1898): 385 deaths

World War 1 (1914-1918): 53,402 deaths

World War 2 (1939-1945): 291,557 deaths

Korean War (1950-1953) 33,741 deaths

Vietnam War (1954-1975) 47,424 deaths

Persian Gulf War (1990-1991) 147 deaths

Operation Enduring Freedom, Afghanistan (2001-present) 1,030 deaths

Iraq War (2003-present) 4,491 deaths

We honor those who have sacrificed their lives for our freedom. Please comment by listing names of those you know who have died in service to their country and the war the fought in.

A hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.  ~Joseph Campbell

This Week in History Update

This Week in History will no longer be a feature on Word Sharpeners. Instead, a new site is starting called Today in HisStory: Today in history from a Christian Perspective. All posts for This Week in History will be available until Today in HisStory is a year old.

 

Today in HisStory