Sunday, June 26, 2016

Independence Day

Independence Day is fast approaching. It is the time that we celebrate the declaration that the colonies would no longer be subject to the tyranny and rule of Great Britain. Many people are still under the impression that after that great statement was signed, in July 1776, there were no more battles, but that is not true. There were wars, skirmishes and burnings long before that day (and long after).

Too many people believe that history is boring. Not enough is done to teach this subject in our schools. Thankfully, there are some great dramatizations of history in a few select films. Every year, to commemorate Independence Day, I watch several motion pictures, in sequence (listed below). It helps me to remember that my freedom was well fought for and that America must always remain free for all people. The United States is a work in progress.  We have made mistakes and we’ve learned from them.

I hope that many of my audience will strive to learn more on their own than what is portrayed on screen. I would encourage my American readers to search the names of their ancestors and the places those individuals settled and lived in.

The dream of an independent, free society began thousands of years ago when great thinkers in Greece expounded the idea that all men should be free and not divided into the aristocracy and their slaves. Aristotle taught that if all men are men, then all are free and none are slaves. Hundreds of years ago in places like Germany, Ireland and Scotland, the countryside was blossoming with people who wanted to exist without the threat of kings and noblemen who would rob them of their flocks and fields, sons conscripted for armies and daughters taken by force. The New World was a land full of bounty, independence and fertile soil. It was a place of opportunity, a territory “battle born” even before the settlers arrived. Tribes killed one another for plentiful hunting grounds, fishing rights and a place to plant corn, beans and squash.

I learned that two of my women ancestors that remained in Germany during the time of one of the films (Alone Yet Not Alone, which takes place in 1755) lived in Germany under a nobleman’s rule. These ancestors are from my mother’s side of the family. At the beginning of the 1700s, these women were essentially serfs in the town of Heigenbr├╝cken and their Burgomeister would not allow them to marry, but they still fell in love and had children, one by the town shepherd. Many of their counterparts sailed to America to worship freely and marry the men or women of their choice. These immigrants were allowed to keep the yield of their crops, not hand their hard-worked for gain to government. In another blog I might tell you more about my German ancestors’ story, but for the moment I want to continue about American history.

During the mid-1700s when the Native Americans were aligning themselves with either England or France, people were kidnapped by a variety of tribes to replenish the braves and children lost to battle, disease and famine. Parents were killed along with babies who could not make the journey to the Ohio from Pennsylvania.  Scalps were taken as far south as North Carolina. My ancestor John Wood, who was born In Ireland about 1700, was killed and scalped along the Yadkin River. He was most likely an indentured servant.  Some people came willingly to the New World, as North America was called then, and worked for several years until they earned their freedom. At the end of the agreed upon time, they could find a place to build a cabin and make a life for themselves.  There were many more that were taken by force from Scotland or Ireland; young men and women, sometimes children. Long before I learned of this history I had a very vivid dream. I will describe that dream another time, but I firmly believe it was what some scientists call a “cellular memory”. It was the horrific conquering of people wanting freedom from England, while attempting to make changes in their own lands. Sadly the rebellion was quelled and my people, like many, were shipped off to a life of servitude. There they were used, abused and sometimes bred to make more servants. Oft-times it was the leader of the plantations that fathered children, many times a strong black slave or a captured “Indian” or man from Scotland or Ireland. That was the fate of many Scots-Irish at the time. My dream took place just before the journey.  I learned the rest later.

The freed Scots and Irish began to settle and make families, establish churches and local governments. Eventually all of my father’s people made their way down the Shenandoah Valley. They farmed and married the Cherokee.

Another ancestor, Elizabeth Sibylla Scharrman Guntermann, was a child born in America of German parents: Franz Andreas Guntermann and Cornelia Keyser.  They were contemporaries of the people who came to America who are featured in the movie Alone Yet Not Alone. I wonder if the Scharrmans and Guntermanns were also under threat of having their cabins burned down to the ground during the French and Indian Wars. Later, as an old woman, Elizabeth and her daughter-in-law took water to our Patriot troops during the Battles of Cowpens and King’s Mountain. (The last military campaign featured in The Patriot is based upon the skirmish at Cowpens.)

Many settlers soon realized that England would not leave them alone to be free citizens of their own land. They were still subjects to the King of England, so wanting to be free from the shackles of tyranny, they naturally rebelled. Several of my own ancestors served in the Revolutionary War. I am proud that my ancestors served in this great cause. We are a free country, in part, because of their bravery. Recently I had the honor to become a part of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Decades after the Revolutionary War, a few of my ancestors even fought during the Civil War.

That is a very brief, condensed history of America and why there was a Revolution. I wanted to show readers how they could put their ancestors into the time frame of many of these historic events, just as I did. History may become more exciting to you when you realize that these people were living, breathing individuals struggling during tumultuous events.

These are the movies that I watch, in sequence, beginning in June. None of them are family movies so you must decide if your loved ones are mature enough to watch the battle scenes and a few love scenes.  If you have any recommendations, please let me know!

  1. Braveheart (R)
  2. Rob Roy (R)
  3. Alone Yet Not Alone (PG-13). (This one is hard to watch. Let me tell you, children are kidnapped and there is a scene where a woman is burned at the stake. Being burned alive is not a quick process.)
  4. Last of the Mohicans (1992) (R)
  5. The Patriot (R)
  6. The Alamo (PG-13) (I usually watch the 2004 film, but I also enjoy the version with John Wayne.)
  7. Gettysburg - Gods and Generals (PG-13) (usually sold together in a package.)
  8. Glory (R)
  9. Cold Mountain (R) (I didn’t want to see this movie until a very distant relative explained that this film is loosely based on the tales of our people in post-Civil War North Carolina. I'm glad that I saw the film, but I often wonder, were our people the families waiting for the soldiers or were they the Watchmen? Maybe they were both.)
  10. Bury my Heart at Wounded Knee (TV-14)
  11. Far and Away (PG-13)

A Sideshow Journey by Liesa Swejkoski

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