4th of July
Have you ever wondered what happened to the 56 men who signed the Declaration
of Independence? Five signers were captured by the British as traitors, and
tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two
lost their sons serving in the Revolutionary Army; another had two sons
Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or hardships of the
Revolutionary War. They signed, and they pledged their lives, their fortunes,
and their sacred honor. What kind of men were they?
Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists. Eleven were merchants, nine were
farmers and large plantation owners; men of means, well educated. But they
signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty
would be death if they were captured.
Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept
from the seas by the British Navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his
debts and died in rags.
Thomas McKeam was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his
family almost constantly. He served in the Congress without pay, and his
family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him, and poverty
was his reward.
Vandals or soldiers looted the properties of Dillery, Hall, Clymer,
Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Ruttledge, and Middleton.
At the battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson Jr, noted that the British General
Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters. He quietly
urged General George Washington to open fire. The home was destroyed, and
Nelson died bankrupt.
Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The enemy jailed his
wife, and she died within a few months. John Hart was driven from his wife's
bedside as she was dying. Their 13
children fled for their lives. His fields and his gristmill were laid to
waste. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves, returning home to
find his wife dead and his children vanished. A few weeks later he died from
exhaustion and a broken heart.
Norris and Livingston suffered similar fates. Such were the stories and
sacrifices of the American Revolution. These were not wild-eyed,
rabble-rousing ruffians. They were soft-spoken men of means and education.
They had security, but they valued liberty more.
Standing tall, straight, and unwavering, they pledged: "For the support of
this declaration, with firm reliance on the protection of the divine
providence, we mutually pledge to each other, our lives, our fortunes, and
our sacred honor."
They gave you and me a free and independent America. The history books never
told you a lot about what happened in the Revolutionary War. We didn't fight
just the British.
We were British subjects at that time and we fought our own government! Some
of us take these liberties so much for granted, but we shouldn't. So, take a
few minutes while enjoying your 4th of July holiday and silently thank these
patriots. It's not much to ask for the price they paid. Remember: freedom is
I hope you will show your support by please sending this to as many people as
you can. It's time we get the word out that patriotism is NOT a sin, and the
Fourth of July has more to it than beer, picnics, and baseball games.
Thank you for the July 4th message. We all need to be reminded of the price
paid for our liberty by those who came before us.
That date always stands out in my mind because on the night of July 4, 1968,
I volunteered my tank and crew to go into an enemy occupied village to rescue
a number of GI's who were stranded. That mission was a complete, but
frightening success, due in large part to the flawless performance of my
crew. For that effort, I was awarded my second Silver Star. Three days
later, my tank was hit by several RPG's, and I lost my crew - one died of
burns a few days later, and another was permanently disabled. The fellow who
was disabled is now a patient in a VA hospital, still suffering, fighting for
his dignity, and life.
Because of my appreciation for those who have sacrificed so much for the USA,
and my own experiences, July 4th (and the days which immediately follow) is
more than a time to pop firecrackers and eat hot dogs.
Dwight W. Birdwell