You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-16

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Star Spangled Banner Flag

Bombardment of Fort McHenry

In 1814, Francis Scott Key and his friend John Stuart Skinner were on a mission for President James Madison to secure an exchange of prisoners with the British.  While on board the HMS Minden, they overheard British battle plans so were held prisoner and witnessed the British bombardment of Fort McHenry from the deck of the ship.  As Key watched the battle, he saw that the storm flag was still flying, but couldn’t tell the result of the battle until sunrise.  At dawn, the storm flag had been replaced with the larger flag, inspiring him to write the poem, Defense of Fort McHenry.  The poem was later put to the tune of John Stafford Smith's song, The Anacreontic Song. The poem was modified and re-titled The Star Spangled Banner. Congress proclaimed The Star Spangled Banner the US National Anthem in 1931.

In the summer of 1813, Mary Pickersgill, a seamstress who lived in Baltimore, received a request from Major George Armistead, commander of the forces at Fort McHenry, to sew two American flags. 

A widow, Mary had established a flag-making business at her home on 44 Queen Street (now 844 E. Pratt Street). She learned flag-making from her mother, Rebecca Young, who made ensigns, garrison flags, and continental standards during and after the Revolutionary War. 

Major Armistead’s instructions were to make two flags, one of them “so large that the British will have no difficulty seeing it from a distance.”

Painting in the Mary Pickersgill Museum
For seven weeks, Mary worked on two flags along with Caroline, her thirteen-year-old daughter; her nieces, Eliza and Margaret Young (thirteen and fifteen, respectively); and Grace Wisher, a thirteen-year-old African American indentured servant.  They pieced together strips of wool bunting that were twelve to eighteen inches wide.  They used over four-hundred yards of fabric, until each stripe was two feet wide. There were eight red and seven white stripes. Each of the fifteen stars measured two feet from tip to tip. One flag was a seventeen by twenty-foot storm flag for use in bad weather. The other, the one that inspired Francis Scott Key to compose The Star Spangled Banner, was a thirty by forty-two foot garrison flag.

Lyrics of the Star Spangled Banner

Oh, say can you see by the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
'Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Horses, How They Communicate

By Susan F. Craft
Author, An Equestrian Writer’s Guide

For writers researching about horses for their novels, the following are excerpts from the Long Riders’ Guild Academic Foundation’s An Equestrian Writer’s Guide. This is copyrighted material and should not be reproduced without the permission of the Long Riders’ Guild. (Visit the website at for more information.)

Sounds/Ear Positioning/Posturing
Relaxed, resting tip of hoof
Neigh – a loud squeal followed by a nicker, with head high; done when looking for other horses or people, also called a “whinny.”
Nicker – 
vibrating sound with mouth closed using vocal cords; means “hello” when made softly  and moving toward a person or horse; means he wants a mate when made more intensely and accompanied by shaking of head; a mare will nicker very softly to her foal.
Resting foot
 – When a horse rests one foot slightly on the hoof tip, it generally means he’s relaxed and comfortable with you and his surroundings.
 – while fighting with another horse.
Snort – 
exhaling through the nose with mouth shut and producing a vibrating  sound in the   nostrils; often with head up; when accompanied by a stare, he is checking for danger.
Squeal – 
squeals with his mouth shut; usually means “no.”
Hollywood Fantasy
 - Movies often add horse calls as sound effects in the most unlikely situations.   These cinematic horses who neigh and scream on a regular basis are largely fictional.  Horses are generally rather silent, though they will whinny if parted from their fellows, or nicker softly in greeting at feeding time.
Attentive, ear perked forward
Angry, ears back and pinned flat
Blow – exhaling through the nose with mouth shut, when curious, when meeting nose to nose another horse in greeting; if done gently followed by nuzzling, the horses are friendly; if accompanied by a nip at other horse or stomping of front feet, striking out or squealing, horses are enemies.
Breathing – A healthy horse at rest should breathe in a slow, rhythmic manner. Accelerated breathing means he's either in the midst of physical activity or he's becoming anxious.
 – Horses will rotate their ears towards whatever their attention is focused on.  They can hear high and low pitched noises that humans cannot hear; picking up sounds from further away and long before humans.
Ear position – 
alert and interested (ears are up and pointed forward); sleepy, tired, unwell or submissive (ears are pointed out to the side, almost v-shaped to head); relaxed, unwell or bored (ears are pointed up and to the side); angry and aggressive (ears are back and pinned flat against the head).
Eyes –
 Fearful horses will generally have wide eyes surrounded by white; a soft, relaxed eye indicates confidence.
Head position
 – A nervous or excited horse will hold his head high with tense neck muscles.
Horses rear, jump, backup, paw, move sideways and diagonally, buck, and frolic.  Horses can also be playful, graceful, reluctant, bored, uninterested, uncooperative, afraid, and upset.  Many have a very strong flight response to the unknown – for some horses, plastic grocery bags and blue tarpaulins are very scary.
Note also that if you have a group of horses, they have to be allowed to work out the pecking order, as they all have different personalities.
A horse that is happy and trusting will move in a fluid, loose manner. If a horse’s neck, back, or leg muscles are tight and rigid, it generally will indicate a quick reaction or flight.

Horses require an average of two and a half hours sleep in a twenty-four hour period. They don’t need an unbroken period of sleep time, but sleep in short intervals of about fifteen minutes. They do need to lie down occasionally for a nap for an hour or two every few days. If not allowed to lie down, they will become sleep deprived in a few days. They sleep better in groups, while others stand guard to watch for predators.
Wild horses run in herds, governed by a head mare, who leads. Stallions are there to protect.

Horses are creatures of habit and love to maintain the same pattern.

Question for readers: What is the favorite thing you would like to know about horses in colonial American stories?  

Monday, June 11, 2012

Patriot Prisoners and Prison Ships

Susan F. Craft

Author's Note -- In my novel, The Chamomile, the main character, Lilyan Cameron, has a 14-year-old brother, Andrew, who sneaks away from home to fight with the Patriots, but is captured and imprisoned on a British ship anchored in Charleston Harbor. Lilyan joins a spy ring to rescue the prisoners.

I knew I couldn't have the rescue take place on any of the three real prison ships because of the meticulous ships' logs and rosters of prisoners. For the same reason, I didn’t want to use the name of any of the ships I found on a list of Revolutionary War British prison ships.

So, I decided to create a fictitious name. I found a map of England on the Internet and searched for coastal towns, which is what many boats were named after. I found the fishing village/port of Brixham and liked all the history associated with it - Francis Drake's ship the Golden Hind docked there--plus it was near Torbay, which is the name of one of the real prison ships. I searched British maritime and War Department records to see if there already was a ship named Brixham and found the H.M.S. Brixham, a Royal Navy minesweeper in service from 1940-48, so I thought it would be okay to name my little schooner the Brixham. 

During the Revolutionary War in South Carolina, Continental troops captured by the British, by the articles of capitulation agreed upon by both parties, were to be detained “in some place contiguous to Charleston, SC, preferably in barracks.”

The British violated this compact and put the men onboard prison ships; three of which were the Torbay, the Success-Increase, the Pack Horse.

Example of a prisoner of war barracks.
Confined in large numbers on these vessels and fed on salt provisions in the hot, humid climate in the months of October and November, many became ill with smallpox, measles, and cholera. The sick, who were taken to the general hospital from the prison ships, generally died in the course of two or three days, “with all the marks of a highly diseased, contagious state.” 
Charleston Harbor

Mr. De Rosette, the British commissary of prisoners, received many complaints pointing out the numbers of deaths and requesting relief for the prisoners and improvement in the conditions.

Mr. Fisher, the commissary of prisoners, and Mr. Fraser, who formerly practiced physic, were ordered to investigate. Their report confirmed the truth, but their efforts to make improvements were frustrated by Dr. John M'Namara Hays, a physician to the British army. During the war, he had been taken prisoner by the Americans at Burgoyne and had received the politest treatment from the Americans. He reported that the prison ships were not crowded, perfectly wholesome, with no appearance of infections disorders amongst the prisoners. When confronted, Dr. Hays said, “the confinement of the prisoners in prison ships is a great eyesore, and there is no help for that, it must be done.”

In January 1781, a supply of clothing and some money to purchase necessaries for the prisoners in the barracks arrived from the Congress, but Mr.  Fisher was prevented from distributing them. This was done to frustrate the prisoners into becoming so despondent that they would succumb to persuasions to enlist in the British army.

Some enlisted, but a majority did not.  It was then that Mr. Fraser pronounced “that they should be put on board of the prison ships, where they could not expect anything more but to perish miserably; and that the rations hitherto allowed for the support of their wives and children, from that day should be withheld; the consequence of which would be, they just starve in the streets.”

British prison ship.
The British did not always wait for American captives to agree to switch sides. As early as March 1781 Americans on the prison ships encountered the heavy hand of impressment. On the Prince George, a British party announced that two dozen of the captives were to be forced into the Royal Navy. Some inmates complained that “they thought it hard Congress should find sailors for the King,” but those who refused were ordered to be tossed “into the boat alongside the ship.” On the Success-Increase one captive was “caned and kicked ... very severely and forced ... with a number of others, into the boats.” Another of the Americans was tossed from the deck into a waiting boat, and others were beaten “in the most barbarous manner.”
Private Thomas Duffey, a prisoner on the Success-Increase wrote:
            Last March being a prisoner of war on board the Success-Increase in Charlestown harbour, Captain Cook, British commissary of Prisoners, attended by a Sergeant Brown and four or five captains of transports, came on board and asked the prisoners if any would go to London in the fleet, where they would be set free. The prisoners declined his offer, upon which Captain Cook told them if they did not go voluntarily they would be forced on board; the captains of the transports then made choices of the men, upon their appearing very much adverse to go into the boats, Sergeant Brown beat and abused them in the most barbarous manner; particularly one of the men, whom he threw from the gunwale of the ship into one of the boats. I was among those who were thus forced on board the boats and was sent on board a transport brigatine with the others, where I was kept for five days with a few other prisoners who were distributed among different vessels, I went to Charlestown on promising to enlist in the British Cavalry; I heard Captain Cook declare, to the above transaction, that if the prisoners did not enlist in thirteen days in the British service, they would all be sent to the West Indies, where they would be put on board ships-of-war.

The prisoners had no resources, and the British would furnish only the absolute necessaries of life. The officers of the hospital, on the mildest representation, were threatened and insulted, frequently prohibited from visiting the sick, once for three days.

Furious that provisions had been withheld from the prisoners, several of the ladies of Charleston from both sides, Whig and Tory, procured supplies and prepared clothing and proper nourishment and delivered them to the ships.

Following is a letter from officers aboard the Torbay to Major General Nathanael Greene. The letter contained the names of the 130 prisoners.

Prison Ship Torbay,
Charles Town Harbour the 18th May 1781

We have the honour of inclosing [sic] you a Copy of a letter from Colonel Balfour Commandant of Charles Town, which was handed us immediately on being put on board this Ship: The Letter speaking for itself needs no comment; Your Wisdom will best dictate the notice it merits - We just beg leave to observe that should it fall to the Lot of all, or any of us to be made victims, agreeable to the menace therein contained, we have only to regret that our blood cannot be disposed of more to the Advancement of the Glorious Cause to which we have adhered. A seperate [sic] Roll of our names attends this letter.

With the greatest respect we are Sir
Yr. most Obedient and most H'mble Servants

Stephen Moore Lieut. Col. No. Carolina Militia
John Barnwell Major So. Carolina Militia

In the North, more than 11,500 Americans were held captive on British prison ships. They died of disease, starvation, violence and neglect. A monument to these soldiers was erected in Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn, NY; it overlooks Wallabout Bay, the site where these prisoners were held captive in sixteen British prison ships between the years of 1776 and 1783.

Prison Ship Jersey

Every morning, British guards yelled “Turn out your dead!” and the bodies were taken and buried in shallow graves along the shore. A British ship called Jersey was nicknamed “Hell” by its prisoners because of crowded conditions, sickness, starvation, whippings and frequent deaths.

General George Washington complained about the prison ships in his letter to British commander General William Howe on January 13, 1777. Prisoners were released if they renounced the Patriot cause and pledged their loyalties to King George III. When the war ended in 1783, the remaining prisoners were freed.

Due to the nature of human behavior, it is understood that mistreatment is carried out on both sides. In their second letter to General Nathanael Greene officers aboard the Torbay wrote:

Wallabout Bay monument to Patriots
aboard British prison ships.

            In a war circumstanced as the present, there will be some instances of enormities on both sides. We would not wish to particularize, but doubt not there are acts of cruelty frequently committed by the irregulars of your army, and are convinced that on our part as well as our own they are generally to be attributed to an ignorance of the rules of warfare and a want of discipline; but the idea of detaining in close custody as hostages a number of men, fairly taken in arms and entitled to the benefit of a solemn capitulation is so repugnant to the laws of war and the usages of civilized nations that we apprehend it will rather be the means of increasing its horrors, than answering those of humanity you expect.