Christmas, 1776

December 25, 2009

My family used to cross the Delaware River – by car – once a year on a trip to relatives back East, and we would drive through towns that were the sites of famous events in the American Revolution. Despite being close to the source, though, I was never that clear on what Washington’s crossing was about, though of course I was familiar with the painting by Emanuel Leutze. For this reason I decided to read David Fischer’s 2004 Washington’s Crossing, which provides an excellent explanation of the circumstances and significance of the event. (1) While the book has a flaw common in contemporary popular works on American history – that of sacrificing narrative focus in favor of giving a comprehensive account from a variety of perspectives – it is certainly impeccably done, positive about its subject, and full of fascinating information.

As a matter of fact it was on Christmas day, December 25, 1776, that Washington moved the Continental Army across the river to attack Hessian troops in Trenton, New Jersey. The battle occurred the next day, bringing a miraculous and much-needed victory to the Americans, who had been badly defeated in Long Island, Manhattan, and elsewhere. Prior to the battle, they had been camped on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware River, expecting the British to cross from occupied New Jersey as soon as the river was sufficiently frozen. The majority of enlistments were due to expire at the end of the year, which made it particularly urgent that positive progress be made in the war. Washington wrote to Robert Morris:

It is in vain to ruminate upon, or even reflect upon the Authors or Causes of our present Misfortunes. We should rather exert ourselves to look forward with Hopes, that some lucky chance may yet turn up in our Favour. (p. 207)

The victory at Trenton, in which the Americans captured about 1,000 Hessians with only two fatalities of their own, certainly involved some of the wonderful good fortune which convinced Washington that the American cause was aided by divine Providence. The terrible snow and sleet of that night delayed the completion of the crossing until daylight, but also concealed the Americans from the enemy until they were nearly upon him. The Hessian commander, Johann Rall, was misled by a belief that the town had been surrounded, when a convenient line of retreat was in fact still open. His general contempt for the capabilities of the American forces had been enhanced by false reports from the spy, John Honeyman, who had convinced him that the Americans were in utter disarray.

There are  certainly advantages to reading comprehensive accounts such as this one, which provide a remedy for oversimplified and biased views. Fischer devotes considerable space to a description of the British and Hessian forces, showing their impressive competence and complex motivations and backgrounds. In the Battle of Trenton itself, while it is true enough that the Hessians were taken by surprise, they were by no means engaged in drunken revelry as the traditional accounts have had it. They responded promptly and professionally to the attack. On the other hand, many American soldiers engaged in drunken revelry after the battle. The low American casualties do not appear so low when deaths due to disease, hypothermia, and other factors are taken into account.

Still, after the myths have been addressed and corrected, the importance of the Battle of Trenton in American history remains undiminished. Above all, the victory was a moral one, galvanizing support for the American cause and bringing about massive re-enlistment in the army for the following year. Further victories followed at Trenton again on January 2 and at Princeton on January 3. Defeat at this juncture may well have meant the failure of the American Revolution and a completely different destiny for the English-speaking people on the American continent. Captain William Hull expressed the joy felt by many when he said:

The Resolution and Bravery of our Men, their Order and Regularity, gave me the highest Sensation of Pleasure…. What can’t Men do when engaged in so noble a cause? (p. 259)

A very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all!

Notes

(1) David Fischer, Washington’s Crossing, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004, p. 207.

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In No Particular Order….

December 10, 2009

Some thoughts pursuant to the discussion we had before Thanksgiving of possible strategies and directions for an ethno-conservative movement (see “A Type of Protest I’d Like to See” and “Non-Radical Revolution and Separation“):

1. A Gramscian strategy of working from the bottom up to leadership positions in our social institutions was suggested. Actually, I have not read Gramsci before, although last week I took a look at some of his letters from prison. At one point he claimed to be reading “a book a day.” I find this enviable. Maybe I need to go to jail. But I don’t think my intellectual vigor matches that of Gramsci.

2. A good case was made for “non-radical revolution,” something I agree must be tried, despite the serious and growing demographic obstacles to such a movement, which at some point threaten to become insurmountable. (Many say they are; but since we have no choice but to live in whatever circumstances are given to us, I wonder if it even matters. And anyway, I remain convinced the problem is largely within our collective spirit. It is not as if we face a genuinely formidable, superior enemy.)

3. My problem with the non-radical approach is that rising to the top in most of the institutions of our society requires the actual promotion of the current liberal agendae of diversity, non-discrimination, globalism, feminism, and the like. So is one supposed to just pretend to accept these things until one reaches the top, and then do an about-face? The case of Lawrence Summers shows that you are not safe at the top. Even the Pope has (or acts as if he has) no real power to oppose Islam. And one cannot really thrive if one has to wear camouflage all the time.

4. But maybe politics (among other fields?) is a special case where, at least in areas with large remaining middle-American conservative constituencies, a skillful figure working at the local level can actually be a leader, channeling the public’s healthy instinct for self-preservation into political form. Tom Tancredo did an admirable job of this and he seems to be evolving into a genuine ethno-conservative leader (were it not so, he would not be consorting with Buchanan). If a Tancredo is doomed to be drummed out of politics then there is little hope in this sort of endeavor, but what if we could get 10 or 20 Tancredos in office in the next decade? That seems possible. Such a coalition could have serious influence on our politics, if not much “power” in the conventional sense.

The point here would not so much be gaining actual legislative power as it would be forcing issues into the public discourse, and providing genuine representation for the interests of heritage Americans.

5. As I suggested in my discussion of “Gay Pride” marches and civilian trials for mass-murdering terrorists, another productive approach is to support single-issue movements in which the opposition’s position is so outrageous that persistent, articulate support of a traditional or conservative position is bound to gain significant public support. Immigration restriction remains the big issue we can’t let go. Anti-jihadism remains a core issue.Traditional marriage, gun rights, food labeling (who the heck got the laws repealed that required disclosure of what country foods come from?), English-as-official-language-movements, and protection of police officers are a few good causes that come to mind. Certain such causes  could be taken over by ethno-conservatives in time, though it’s not possible now.

6. Is there a way to work within the Republican Party for traditionalism? When I see who rises to the top in that party, it seems highly unlikely. But what about at the local level?

7. We must support, quietly, or loudly, the few people and publications who openly advocate race realism. Stand up for those whose livelihood and well-being suffer because of their views – whether they are professional or just inadvertant realists. In general, we should not publicly criticize people who are “to one’s right,” unless they are absolutely over the top. And even then, we must ask whether such criticism might not be more harmful than beneficial to one’s long-term goals. Black people don’t criticize Al Sharpton. Why should we have to apologize for our Al Sharptons? (If there are any.)

8. What role might local, discreet groups who meet in real life for social or activist purposes serve? I originally intended this website to help serve that function, but I confess that I have backed away from it. First, of course there is risk involved in mutual disclosure of identity. Second, the numbers seem too small. Ian Jobling’s White America has a meet-up page and there doesn’t seem to be much happening there, although that could change, and I hope it will. Third, I think meeting needs to have a clear purpose. It would certainly be fun to meet and talk with like-minded people from time to time, and it could be spiritually and intellectually fruitful. However, most of us are probably so busy with our families, jobs, and non-political social lives that it would be hard to make a big commitment to some group of fellow ethno-conservatives. So, what purpose would meeting serve? (This is not a rhetorical, but a genuine question.)

9. Most meaningful political and social activity must be directed towards our own people. Praise and support those of our own who do what’s right (even if they do not welcome our praise and support). Vilify, obstruct, intimidate, trick those of our own who betray us. We have little ability to influence those outside of our ethnic group. We shouldn’t try to court favor with black, brown, yellow, or purple people. Those who offer their respect and goodwill should receive it; those who act as enemies should be treated as such.

The winter will pass, so let’s stay warm, and be careful out there!