This is a day we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. It is commonly considered the day the United States was born.
The truth is, a bunch of congressmen signing a slip of paper had very little to do with our gaining independence from King George and the British Empire. Our independence was won thanks to the efforts of soldiers on the ground who fought and suffered, many giving the ultimate sacrifice in order that future generations – that’s us people! – could live a free life.
The Revolutionary War started out a losing battle. George Washington’s first battles were disasters, and the Continental Congress was on the verge of replacing him. That’s when Washington chose to sacrifice everything, making his famous Delaware River crossing to launch a surprise attack on the Hessians (German soldiers leased by the British) on Christmas Day.
Few Americans realize that it was Hessians that were fought and defeated that day. This battle is considered by many to be the turning point in the war.
It wasn’t until the Continental Army won several more battles, making it appear as if we might actually have a chance of winning the war, that France decided to help us out.
France had a clear interest in helping America win independence. Great Britain and France were enemies. America was part of Britain. If France could separate us from British rule, their enemy would be that much weaker. Certainly, without France’s help, we would have lost the war and we’d all be speaking English today… er, British?
It is also not very well known that Washington, a former officer of the British Army and veteran of the French and Indian war, was rather disgruntled with his treatment in the British Army. It has been said that had Britain only promoted him to Colonel and given him proper respect, Washington would have been fighting on the British side.
Benedict Arnold, one of this nation’s finest and bravest military officers, felt he was treated just as badly by America as Washington felt he had been treated by Britain. It was a major contributing factor to his turning Redcoat (the other major factor being that his wife was a British loyalist).
Just before his death, General Arnold asked his wife to help him put on his Continental Army uniform, and is quoted as saying, “May God forgive me for wearing any other!”
Indeed, may God forgive any soul foolhardy enough to turn their back on a country as fine as this!
Without Arnold’s contributions prior to his traitorship, the American Revolution may have quite possibly failed. Arnold fought in and won battles that others would have fled from, and even once disobeyed a direct order to retreat, winning the battle he was ordered to retreat from.
But Independence Day isn’t just about the Revolutionary War. It took on a whole new meaning to a new generation at the end of the Civil War, which saw the end of slavery in America.
Today, I celebrate the independence of America – grateful for the right to do what I want, when I want – and hope and pray for the oppressed in all parts of the world to someday win freedom themselves.
As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere!”
Wave your American flag with pride, and be sure to give props to those who serve so willingly, particularly during a time when the willing are so few!