November is a great month for holidays, isn’t it? To begin with, the first of November is All Saints Day, which is why we have Halloween (All Hallows Eve) on the last day of October. Then comes election day, which is the first Tuesday after the first Monday in the month. Some years that’s quite a celebration. Hasn’t been any great shakes lately though. Then comes the 10th, the anniversary of the founding of the Marine Corps back in 1775, followed the very next day by Veterans Day. A biggie falls on the fourth Thursday of November — Thanksgiving Day, of course. And then, to top off a busy month, there’s Independence Day on the 30th.
One heck of a month!
The British celebrate a couple of holidays in November too. They celebrate Veterans Day the same day we do, but they call it Remembrance Day. So do the Canadians. The Brits also celebrate Guy Fawkes Day on the 5th. I’ve never been able to figure out why they celebrate the day that some guy tried to blow up parliament, but then that’s the British. Anyone who pronounces Bicester “Bistah” and Worcester “Wustah” has got me confused from the get-go.
Huh? Why all the laughing? What’s going on?
Oh, I get it. Independence Day. You’re one of the bunch that celebrates it on the 4th of July.
Well, to each his own. As Charlie Brown’s buddy, Linus, said about Halloween, there are people of all denominations.
Why do I celebrate the 30th of November? OK, fair enough. Happened this way: Back in June of 1776, a fellow named Richard Lee stood up during the Continental Congress and said that we ought to tell the folks across the Atlantic that we were free and independent and no longer owed allegiance to the crown.
The job of drafting the motion went to Tom Jefferson. He sat down at his desk and hammered together a real winner, talking about things like “inalienable rights” and indicting the British people, the parliament, and the king alike for a lot of high-handed folderol. And a good job he did too, but wouldn’t you know? Here came the nitpickers. Can you believe they made 86 changes? And cut out 480 of Tom Jefferson’s original words? And — as you can see for yourself if you read it — slightly screwed up the spelling in the process, including spelling “inalienable” as “unalienable,” which we’re stuck with right to this day.
Boy! Don’t you hate editors?
And so, having been endorsed by John Hancock and the rest of a band of brave folks whose heads were thereby placed squarely on the chopping block, the declaration was fired off to the Brits.
Now I’m sure the whole %$#@! tea-drinking, tax levying, Guy Fawkes celebrating parliament got itself in a snit, but that didn’t make us independent of Merrie Olde Englande, did it?
First came the whole doggone Revolutionary War.
Which lasted another six years. Get my point?
Well, think about it. The Redcoats took Boston and turned it into a British vacation spot. They tossed us out of our houses, slept in American beds, ate and drank everything in sight, closed the port of Boston out of meanness over a little spilt tea, and just acted like a pack of jacka — oops, not allowed to say that.
Anyway, they did.
Then they attacked George Washington, drove him clean off Long Island, marched in and took New York — and New Jersey too — and then went and brought in a pack of Hessian mercenaries just to let us know what they thought of our fighting abilities.
Well, we couldn’t allow that kind of stuff, could we? Not after they hanged Nathan Hale that same September, who wasn’t doing a thing except spying on them. Well, what did they think a school teacher was going to do? Sit around New London while all the fun was going on? Ever seen that place? Boring! Or that high stool behind his desk? I sat on it once. Hemorrhoid city!
Just about that time something happened that has always made me a bit suspicious. Brigadier General Arnold ... no, not that General Arnold. That was Hap Arnold, U.S. Air Force Commander during World War II. This was Benedict Arnold. And yes he was on our side. Pay attention will you? Anyway, Benedict Arnold sailed an American fleet onto Lake Champlain, and got himself very nicely whipped by the Brits, who then calmly proceeded to sail back to Canada instead of polishing Ben and his troops off.
Kind of makes you wonder, doesn’t it?
What was an Army general doing boating around on a lake with a fleet load of soldiers? What? We didn’t have any Marines? They were formed a whole year earlier. And you know what they say you should do when you’re in trouble:
Call in the Marines!
Well anyway, come Christmas, George Washington crossed the Delaware (not standing up in the boat, so some claim) and beat up on those Hessians. Served them right too. Bunch of %$#@! illegals!
As for that “not standing up” bit, the naysayers who claim he sat down for the trip are full of it. I’m sure old George had the guts to stand up even if might mean a dip in an icy river. Anyone who could wear a full set of carved wooden uppers and lowers held in place by iron springs has got my vote for Man of the Year!
And then? Let’s see ...
Washington beat Cornwallis at Princeton.
Gentleman Johnny Burgoyne got whipped up on at Saratoga.
John Paul Jones took the Bonhomme Richard and outfought the Serapis (I told you we needed the Marines).
The British were defeated at King’s Mountain, North Carolina.
And ... uh-oh, I told you so! ... Benedict Arnold was made a Brigadier General in the BRITISH Army. So much for that Lake Champlain bit.
The French joined in. (On our side, stupid; De Gaulle hadn’t even been born yet!) They sent a fleet under Admiral de Grasse. It cut off the British at Hampton Roads, which allowed Washington to lay siege to Cornwallis at Williamsburg, Virginia.
On 19 Oct 1781, Cornwallis surrendered.
Basically the Revolutionary War was over, but please notice that we were still not independent. At long last, though, the British cabinet voted to recognize our independence. On — drum roll please — 30 Nov 1782. We and the Brits finally got together and signed peace articles which later became the Treaty of Paris.
November 30th. Independence day. Told you so!
I celebrate both of them, of course. Why not? I can count. Two backyard barbecues or one backyard barbecue? Take your choice.