Two hundred and thirty-eight years ago yesterday, the Continental Congress approved the text of the Declaration of Independence to formalize their unanimous vote of July 2, 1776 to declare independence from, and thus wage war against, the British Empire. Shots fired at Lexington, Concord and Bunker and Breed’s Hills had already been heard around the world in 1775 announcing the waging of the then undeclared war. It would be weeks after that first Fourth of July before many signatures other than John Hancock’s adorned later versions of the Declaration, six years before the British Army would surrender at Yorktown and eight before the Treaty of Paris officially ended the American Revolutionary War, proper.
But had actual independence truly been attained even when the ink was dry on that 1783 treaty or even by the time the Constitution of the United States was ratified in 1789? Not if you asked U.S. Navy sailors impressed by British officers into Her Majesty’s Service at sea or exporters, from harbors on the Great Lakes or out of Charleston, South Carolina, unable to market their wares abroad thanks to that same navy flying the Union Jack.
Thus, the War of 1812 and the entry into the American bloodstream of Winfield Scott, a son of Virginia, but first and foremost an American, whose first foray into the history books was in the struggle to secure the Niagara River and thus Lakes Ontario and Erie from British control. Thwarted by inept superiors at Queenston in October of 1812, then Colonel Scott’s ingenious plan to secure Fort George was allowed to go forward in May of 2013. Then on July 5, 1814 he took Chippawa, and later that month Lundy’s Lane, to secure the river and Upper New York independent of all but the will of Americans.
Partially inspired by his exploits, Dolly and President James Madison would remain calm, after the same inept commanders that first thwarted Scott allowed Washington City to be taken and the U.S. Capitol and White (then President’s) House burned, to, together with newly appointed Secretary of War James Monroe unleash General Andrew Jackson and others to drive the enemy from the shores of the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave with only a Star-Spangled Banner flying above it.
Fast forward to the Halls of Montezuma in September of 1847 and witness now General Scott accept the formal surrender of Mexico in Mexico City and the completion of a manifest destiny of Liberty from the Atlantic sea to the Pacific sea. By the time war broke out between the states between those shining seas, Scott was deemed too old to command Union forces against the fellow Virginian, Robert E. Lee, whom he failed to persuade to eschew the Confederacy. But his last great legacy to secure true independence for all, even from slavery, was his “Anaconda Plan” that Commander in Chief Abraham Lincoln approved to take control of all harbors and major water ways from the Chesapeake; Outer North Carolina bank;, Port Royal in South Carolina; Pensacola, Florida; Mobile, Alabama; and to New Orleans and all points in between.
God bless Winfield Scott today on the anniversary of his stunning victory at Chippawa and may Americans resolve this day to remember that to be independent for Life, Liberty and Pursuits of Happiness, the battle against tyranny is never fully secure unless one maintains a national defense that deters aggressors and a will to use it against those that are not deterred.
And would it be too much to ask that our government take care of the health and other needs of our veterans? I don’t think so.
“One man with courage makes a majority.” – Andrew Jackson