The Mystique of the American War of Independence

Freedom Giveaway Hop logoWelcome to my blog. The week of 1–7 July 2011, I’m participating with more than two hundred other bloggers in the “Freedom Giveaway Hop,” accessed by clicking on the logo at the left. All blogs in this hop offer book-related giveaways, and we’re all linked, so you can easily hop from one giveaway to another. But here on my blog, I’m posting a week of Relevant History essays, each one with a Revolutionary War theme. To find out how to qualify for the giveaways on my blog, read through each day’s Relevant History post below and follow the directions. Then click on the Freedom Hop logo so you can move along to another blog. Enjoy!

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In 1999, I began researching historical background for the manuscript that eventually became the award winning Paper Woman. From the start, I waded in the mist of myth. Every day, I was astounded by the discovery of more examples of propaganda labeled as fact, and men and women who’d been deified. I decided to have a look at the war for myself instead of parroting what I’d learned in history class or absorbed from popular culture.

When I did that, social, religious, and economic systems got turned on their heads. Funny how that happens.

All that mythmaking was bound to occur. We humans have a lusty appetite for good stories. The last eyewitness to the Revolutionary War died in the 1800s. That meant nobody was around to contradict the tweaks we were making to facts, the tall tales we were spinning for posterity. Like the following twaddle:

The Southern colonies were unimportant in the war, and most of the fighting occurred in the Northern colonies.

Women were delicate damsels, expected to concern themselves with bearing and raising children only, considered “improper” if they owned or operated businesses.

Every colonist was either loyal to King George or a patriot.

What you’ll find on my blog this week is not your father’s Revolutionary War. I’ve never written it that way, and I won’t be writing it that way, and my guest authors don’t write it that way. This week, they’ll help me bring you down to earth about this historical free-for-all, show you the reality.

So let’s prime the pump. What “fact” about a past civilization did you learn in history class or popular culture that you later found out was balderdash?

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I’m giving away an ebook copy of Paper Woman to someone who contributes a legitimate comment on my blog today or tomorrow. Make sure you provide your email address. I’ll choose the winner from among those who comment on this post by Saturday 2 June at 6 p.m. ET, then publish the name of the winner on my blog the week of 11 July. No eReader required. Multiple file formats are available.

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Author Lineup for the Week-Long Fourth of July Relevant History Book Giveaway

In honor of Independence Day, 1 – 7 July 2011, I’m posting an entire week of Relevant History essays, each with an Independence Day theme. This blogapalooza is associated with the “Freedom Giveaway Hop.” Here’s the author lineup: 1 July: … Continue reading

The South’s Other War

When did the Civil War start—1861? That was the second Civil War. Many scholars believe that the Revolutionary War, especially the way it developed in the Southern colonies, was America’s first Civil War. Monday 20 June, I’m Kaye Barley’s blog … Continue reading

Sizzle Into a Week-long Fourth of July Relevant History Book Giveaway!

In honor of Independence Day, 1 – 7 July 2011, I’m posting an entire week of Relevant History essays, each with an Independence Day theme. Authors like J. R. Lindermuth and award-winner Charles F. Price will be giving away books … Continue reading

The Improbable Story of Robert Smalls, Beaufort Hero

Relevant History welcomes historical fiction author Karen Lynn Allen. Allen grew up in San Francisco and Edmonds, Washington. At seventeen, she returned to California to study English and industrial engineering at Stanford University. Early in her working career, she worked … Continue reading

Humanity At Its Worst

Note from Suzanne Adair: I became interested in the topic of child soldiers last autumn. While researching an ancestor, Joseph Moseley, who’d fought for the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, I was shocked to learn that, contrary to my family’s oral history, Joseph hadn’t joined the army in 1782, at the age of seventeen. He’d joined in 1777, when he was twelve. The outrage I felt resulted in my writing Part 1 and Part 2 of a blog post about the use of child soldiers in history. An editor at Baen Books spotted my blog posts and referred me to science fiction author Mark L. Van Name, who’d just released a novel through Baen that dealt with child soldiers. When I met Mark and heard his personal backstory for the novel, I wanted him as a blog guest. So without further ado…

Mark Van Name author photoRelevant History welcomes author Mark L. Van Name. Van Name is a writer, technologist, and spoken word performer. He has published four novels (One Jump Ahead, Slanted Jack, Overthrowing Heaven, and Children No More) plus an omnibus of the first two (Jump Gate Twist), and edited or co-edited three anthologies (Intersections, Transhuman, and The Wild Side). His fifth novel, No Going Back, will appear in 2012. He has written many short stories that have appeared in a variety of books and magazines. He has also published over a thousand articles in the computer trade press, as well as a broad assortment of essays and reviews. For more information, visit his web site, or follow his blog.

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When you begin an essay with a title like this one, you’re opening yourself to a lot of challenges. After all, we humans have committed some amazingly terrible acts, from genocide to a pretty thorough trashing of our planet. With all those choices available, picking one is pretty darn tough.

I don’t care. I have my nominee for this dubious distinction, and I’m sticking to it:

Using children as soldiers.

You can make a pretty good case, at least biologically, that the primary imperative of any species, including ours, is to perpetuate the species. Most species take this imperative a step further and protect their young until they are capable enough to protect themselves. It makes sense, after all: it does no good to spawn them if none of them survive. What kind of species instead takes immature children and instead sends them out to fight?

Why us, of course.

And we always have.

In histories of various cultures around the world, you can find mentions time and again of children either serving in war or riding along with soldiers who were heading to war. When David fights Goliath, he is a child.

In some cases, these children were, for their time, basically functioning as adults. They represent a gray area. If a culture is allowing children to marry at twelve, it stands to reason that it would also accord them other adult responsibilities, including the responsibility to fight. I don’t think either is a good plan, and I’d vote against both, but it’s at least understandable that once a boy is receiving the legal treatment of a man, he also has to carry the legal weight of a man.

Far more troubling is the practice of using children as soldiers even when the general culture defines them as children. That’s happened at many points in our history, and it’s still happening today. Best estimates place the number of child soldiers worldwide at over three hundred thousand. Three hundred thousand.

This practice is terrible.

War is brutal on adults. Ask any veteran who’s seen action.

Imagine how hard it is on children. To those who survive, the psychological damage is hard to overstate. Rehabilitating former child soldiers and reintegrating them into society is a terrifically challenging task. It’s time-consuming and expensive, and as with any other kind of rehabilitation, it’s hard work for those undergoing the treatment.

Children No More book coverIt’s also one I care deeply about. In fact, I care so deeply that it was the topic of my latest novel, Children No More. In that book, I tackle the issue on a faraway planet about five hundred years in the future. Though the story is a fast-paced adventure tale, it’s also one that shows some of the challenges of helping these children.

I care so deeply about this issue, by the way, that I am donating all the money I make from that book—my advance, ebook royalties, hardback royalties, and paperback royalties—to a charity, Falling Whistles, to help rehabilitate and reintegrate child soldiers and other war-affected children.

I care so much for two key reasons.

One is that this practice is so clearly wrong. Most human cultures throughout history have known it was wrong and not done it, yet still some persist in sending children into combat. We simply must stop doing this.

The other is that I have a personal tie to this practice. Though I was never a child soldier and never fought in war, at the age of ten my mother—with all the best of intentions to get me some male influence and some discipline—enrolled me in a paramilitary youth group. On my first day, the visiting drill instructor, a Marine home on leave from fighting in Viet Nam, screamed at me and belittled me until I cried. As punishment for the tears, he punched me in the stomach. When I fell to my knees and threw up, he ground my face in my own vomit. Later that day, I saw my first—but not my last—human ear collection and learned the rules for collecting ears from fallen opponents. As I’ve written on my blog, that was nowhere near the worst day I endured during the three years I was a member of that group and received extensive training in how to fight and how to kill.

That training happened a long time back, about forty-five years ago now, but it happened right here, in the U.S.

Children are still going to war in many countries.

Just because we’ve done it in the past, we don’t have to do it in the future. We can stop this practice, and we can help those children.

I hope we do.

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A big thanks to Mark L. Van Name. He’ll give away a signed first edition of Children No More to someone who contributes a legitimate comment on my blog this week. I’ll choose one winner from among those who comment by Friday at 6 p.m. ET. Delivery is available within the U.S. only.

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Did you like what you read? Learn about downloads, discounts, and special offers from Relevant History authors and Suzanne Adair. Subscribe to Suzanne’s free newsletter.

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The Winner of the Historic Haversack

Debbi Mack has won the Historic Haversack. Congrats, Debbi! Thanks to the following for contributing to this great prize: Garden of Eden Specialty Soaps Historic Camden The Joel Lane House Tin Roof Teas Warren Bull, Relevant History guest author Caroline … Continue reading

Love. Sex. Death.

Love. Sex. Death. That’s why you visited my blog today, right? Well, okay. Maybe it is for the Blog Tour de Force free book, and the prize AND Kindle drawings. I don’t blame you. Great! We’ll get to that in … Continue reading