Celebrating American Independence!
‘Karen and Jay celebrate the spirit of independence in New Hampshire and share thoughts on the history and meaning of July 4th in the Granite State'
This weekend we celebrate the 245th birthday of our beloved United States of America. In the wake of last year’s subdued celebrations, this year’s festivities take on even more meaning as we have now emerged from the pandemic and are able to fully enjoy the company of family and friends once again. What makes the 4th of July so great is not just the barbecues, the fireworks, and the comradery, but also the history that made our independence possible.
Right here in New Hampshire, many events and individuals played pivotal roles in the revolution against the British. We were the first of the 13 colonies to establish an independent government and form its own constitution. We often hear about the ‘Shots Heard Round the World’ in Lexington and Concord in 1775 that are described as the official start of the American Revolution, but a few months prior a skirmish in Portsmouth, which you can read more about in one of the articles found in this week’s Sunshine Report, is what many claim to be the true start to the conflict. New Hampshire also claims three signatories to the Declaration of Independence, officially ratified by the Continental Congress on July 4th, 1776. They were Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple, and Matthew Thornton, names not as well recognized as say John Hancock or Benjamin Franklin, but whose roles in the early days of the nation were equally as important. Another one of those individuals was the ‘Hero of Bennington,’ General John Stark, whose victory at The Battle of Bennington was a major morale boost for colonial forces and a major turning point in the war. These are just some of the incredible historic figures and events from our great state which played crucial roles in the birth of our nation.
What’s more are the many traditions that have been started over the years to honor the legacy of our nation’s founding over 200 years ago. Two of those traditions take place right in downtown Portsmouth not far from where I live. The first is the reading of the Declaration of Independence at the old North Church on Congress St. celebrating the fact that the principles laid out in the Declaration were the first of their kind, that freedom is an inherent human right. The second is a moment that truly makes you proud to be an American and that is the swearing in of new American citizens at the old Strawberry Banke. Each time Karen and I have been privileged to attend this ceremony, we are both humbled and grateful that we live in a country where people from far and wide aspire to become citizens. It gives even more meaning to this special holiday. Happy 4th everyone!
Portsmouth - Truly the ‘First’ Shots Heard Round the World
This 4th of July we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, and we all know the story of Lexington and Concord in neighboring Massachusetts which claims to be the first real action of open rebellion in the American Revolutionary War. But did you know that there was an armed rebellion in New Hampshire that predates this by more than four months?
To set the stage here, it was December of 1774 and things in the colonies were growing restless. Boston had been under military occupation for roughly 5 years now and the Sons of Liberty were fully up and running. Gen. Thomas Gage had recently arrived as the new Provincial Governor of Massachusetts to work on behalf of the Crown. Gage did not want to stir up any more problems but needed to find a way to slow down the coming rebellion and avoid bloodshed. So, he did what many tyrants do and attempted to disarm the colonists by first rounding up all the Crown’s gunpowder stores in the region. He successfully took the powder out of Cambridge, MA, but he ran into problems when he turned his focus to Portsmouth, NH.
Word got out to the Sons of Liberty that Gage had sent Redcoats up to the Fort William and Mary (which still stands today, renamed as Fort Constitution!) in Portsmouth to remove the cannons, guns, and powders. The Fort was meagerly guarded by six soldiers who were stunned when over 400 colonists showed up to overrun the fort. The Colonists were led by John Langdon who would become NH’s 2nd Governor after becoming a state. The Colonists were fired upon multiple times but still overtook the Fort. Yes, shots were fired and the contingent of New Hampshire patriots – farmers, and everyday citizens – were victorious, marking the true beginning of open hostilities between the Americans and the British.
So, we’ll leave it up to you to decide. But, based upon what we have come to know, Portsmouth and New Hampshire need to be placed on at least equal footing with Lexington and Concord as the birthplace of American Independence!
Red White and Blue = Parades, Fireworks and a Chance to Show Your Patriotism
As we head into the holiday weekend filled with BBQs, time with friends and family and other things we all have scheduled, here’s something to get truly excited about .... Parades and Fireworks are back in full force!!!
All across our country so very many parades and fireworks were postponed or even cancelled due to pandemic. Now, through spirit, patriotism, and creativity, our communities are bringing them back with gusto
For politicians, it gives them a chance to join members of the community in showing great pride for our country. In New Hampshire, towns like Wolfeboro, Merrimack, Laconia, Waterville Valley, and of course Amherst are well known as frequent stops for politicians and office seekers alike. I remember seeing Mitt Romney in Wolfeboro one year, seeing the late Ray Burton pass out combs in Bristol, and of course marching with my kids in Merrimack on July 4th during my campaign for Governor back in 1998. Truly part of the New Hampshire tradition.
For members of the community, it's a chance to cheer on their kids and other family members marching in the band or their Boy Scout troop! And in some cases, it’s a chance to be creative with some amazing float designs that allow you to show off to the community why you love America!
Now that’s all during the day, what about the nighttime festivities?
Bands performing on the town common. Bandstands filled with entertainers. And my favorite, nighttime fireworks displays. I recall joining friends one great year on their boat on Lake Winnisquam and seeing the fireworks display coming from Opechee Park. Or watching kids wave sparklers around the fire pit after a fun BBQ. All great July 4th memories.
It is so great to be an American and have the opportunity to celebrate our independence, our freedom and our American way of life with fellow Americans across this great land. Karen and I came across this fun article by New Hampshire Magazine listing some super 4th of July celebration events: (https://www.nhmagazine.com/nh-fourth-of-july-events/). I also encourage you to check out your local newspaper and as well, visit www.WMUR.com for the latest updates. Hope to see you at one of the awesome events coming up around Portsmouth or elsewhere in New Hampshire?
Positive Profile of the Week: General John Stark
In New Hampshire we know the name General John Stark as the man who crafted the phrase ‘Live Free or Die’ which is our state motto. As we celebrate our Independence Day and honor those who overthrew the tyrannical government of King George, I would like to share some thoughts about the impact of the great General John Stark, who he was, and how his efforts contributed to the blessing that we Live Free today.
General John Stark is an authentic New Hampshire native and treasure. Historians describe him as a true Cincinnatus for he rose to great stature, did his time in service and then returned to where he began, in private life.
Stark was commissioned General by the New Hampshire militia and oversaw the command. He trained and rallied members who supplied their own guns and wore plain civilian clothing. Their unique hunting expertise and commitment to hard work made Stark’s men become a force to be reckoned with and a critical fighting unit throughout the war. Stark and his men participated in the Battles of Bunker Hill, Trenton and Princeton and his leadership was decisive in two of the most important battles of the war – the victories at the Battle of Bennington and the Battle of Saratoga.
At Saratoga, Stark and his men assisted in the surrender of Borgoyne’s troops which was the first major defeat of a British General and was the one of the deciding factors for the French in getting involved in the Revolutionary War. Imagine if that hadn't happened, if Stark hadn't taken the commission, and rallied the boys from the Granite State, where we might be today?
Following the war, Stark returned home to his farm in Derryfield, which later was renamed to the city we call Manchester today. While in retirement in 1809, he sent a letter to be read at a ceremony to commemorate the Battle of Bennington, Vermont. In the letter he closed it with this phrase “Live free or die: Death is not the greatest of evils.” A strong message that holds so true not just to New Hampshire, but the many noble sacrifices made for our independence.
I invite us all, especially in New Hampshire, to take some time and learn about leaders in your community who made a difference in our fight for independence. Furthermore, I invite you all to visit the historic landmarks of General John Stark which include his birthplace on Route 28 in Derry, his childhood homestead at 2000 Elm St, in Manchester, the Stark Statue in front of the Capitol building in Concord, Fort Stark in New Castle, and the resting place of the General in Stark Cemetery in Manchester.
We salute General John Stark and thank all those past and present in their service to win and preserve our great American freedom
Positive Quotes of the Week: July 4th
"And I'm proud to be an American, where at least I know I'm free. And I won't forget the men who died, who gave that right to me."
Where liberty dwells, there is my country."
"Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigue of supporting it."
“It will be celebrated with pomp and parade, bonfires and illuminations from one end of this continent to the other.”
“Independence Day: freedom has its life in the hearts, the actions, the spirit of men and so it must be daily earned and refreshed – else like a flower cut from its life-giving roots, it will wither and die.”
Dwight D. Eisenhower