Today we celebrate our independence. I'm not sure that anyone has any idea what that means anymore. A while back, the men in this little backward collection of villages and towns decided that they weren't going to take it anymore. They weren't going to pay arbitrary taxes and follow arbitrary rules.
And they were willing to fight if that was what it came down to. It was a rag-tag army. We weren't a country back then. There was no budget. The fighting men lived in tents in the deep cold of winter. I used to live about five miles from the site of the last encampment of the continental army. Winter there is bitter. The officers commandeered private homes. Some of them are still around and open for tours. I've walked around inside them. Small two or three room houses. One of them overlooks the Hudson River.
One of my husband's ancestors was guarding that crossing of the Hudson River according to his pension record. If I had not lived nearby, I would never have known about the steep terrain and the rocky trails. His troop walked there from Massachusetts. When I drove to his home town it took us four hours. How long to walk it in winter, I wonder?
Another of my ancestors held off British soldiers at his farm in South Carolina. He was sixteen. According to his pension papers, he saved the supplies for the local freedom fighters by shooting the neighbor, a Tory sympathizer. Later some British soldiers captured him and sentenced him to hanging. An older brother rescued him and the two of them rode a long way to join other fighters.
I believe that we don't remember or maybe aren't even aware of the tremendous sacrifices of those early fighters. There was no flag to rally around. No constitution. No Star Spangled Banner to sing. They were small groups of men, pitifully under-manned and under-armed who just kept on fighting. This is their remembrance. May we honor them well.