Friday, November 25, 2011

Ding DongThe King Is Dead: Evacuation Day, America's Greatest Holiday.

Now that Thanksgiving is over and you finished all digesting all that turkey, it is time to focus on the greatest holiday in American History. No, I am not talking about the Black Friday, I am talking about, Evacuation Day. Evacuation Day, the day The United States would officially become a sovereign nation and those damn Redcoats were finally sent packing. But why would we let such an event slip into the cracks of history? Why do we celebrate the Fourth of July instead of Evacuation Day? More importantly why should we start celebrating Evacuation Day over July Fourth. So lets jump in, take a look at this forgotten holiday and figure out how we can revive it.

Let the celebration begin! Washington reenters The Big Apple to the cheers of every American in the city on November 25, 1783. Now why is that such a big deal? Well aside from the war being officially over, it was the first time the Continental Army had been in New York City since summer of '76. After the British had failed to hold onto the city of Boston in 1776, those Tommys came back with a vengeance and took aim right at New York City. Now, why New York City? Well it was still the major hub of the Loyalists and Tory bastards. So the British knew they had already won the hearts and minds of most of New York City, especially since at this point during the war the Continental Army was a rag tag bunch and generally out of control when their commanding officers weren't around. Now how could the British have taken New York, I mean Washington just tore them a new one in Boston, how could them come back from that?

The British Invasion begins, and just as these four chaps invaded New York in 1964, The British invaded New York in 1776 with a force of 22,000 limey Redcoats and 9,000 sour Kraut Hessians. Washington and his men had no idea what they were in for, the Brits hit hard, fast and out witted the Continental Army. In early August the British setup camp on the eastern end of Long Island and waited for the rest of the British Navy to arrive for support. Upon their arrival the Battle of Long Island began and the Americans were forced to retreat to Brooklyn Heights. It was then through Divine Providence that Washington, his Army and the American Cause was saved. A dense fog set in over the East River and Washington the opportunist that he was, saw his chance to save his men and America. So he waited until the middle of the night and under the cover of the fog, he, his men and all their supplies were evacuated to New York City. However, the Brits were not impressed with Washington and continued to push after them. Eventually the Redcoats would force the Americans, to retreat to Fort Washington and then across the Hudson to New Jersey. This would then start Washington's "Retreat to Victory," which in other words is, Washington high tailing it out of New York to regroup, re-plan and refocus on how he and the Army would take back the city.

Cue the triumphant music, signal the cannon fire and hold on to you tricorn caps because Washington is about to unleash hell on those evil Redcoats sons of bitches. After Washington retreated across New Jersey, he and the Continental Army regrouped in the safety of Philadelphia. However, that winter Washington was on the attack. We all know about the crossing of the Delaware River and the "Ten Crucial Days" that saved America. In short, for those who don't know, the Americans attacked the Brits and their sneaky Hessian allies on Christmas Day of 1776, yea that's right George Washington shows no mercy. With a victory at the Battle of Trenton, the Americans pushed the British north and again attacked them at the Battle of Princeton and chalked up another W for America. During the rest of New Jersey Campaign the American's continued to harass and go after the Brits. They continued to win several key battles,Millstone (1777), Bound Brook (1777), Short Hills (1777), Monmouth (1778), Paulus Hook (1779), Connecticut Farms (1780) and Springfield (1780), which forced the British to retreat to New York. Now with the Continental Army pressuring them from both New Jersey and the New England region the British were forced to hunker down, batten down the hatches and sit tight in New York. It was this though that would prove devastating for them and thus be a leading factor in the failure to suppress the Revolution.

Hit the road jack and don't you come back no more, no more. Yes, finally after everything the colonies had been through the war was finally over and British rule was dead in America. The Continental Army had defeated the British and America was born. After eight years of fighting the Redcoats they were finally gone and celebrating rang out across the new United States of America. But this new Freedom did not come without a cost. Aside from all the heroics we honor and learn about, Washington's Generals, the Continental Congress, the bravery of the Minute Men, the winter at Valley Forge, the betrayal of Benedict Arnold and the legends that were born during the battles, it is easy for us to forget the costs. It is estimated that a minimum of 50,000 Americans died during the war, and some estimates have it somewhere around 60,000.Which brings us back to Evacuation Day and it's importance to American History. It is easy for us to except casualties during warfare, but during the British occupation of New York, Americans within the city suffered the greatest. Parts of the city were burnt to the ground by those chaps...twice. Those who didn't support the Crown were treated as second class citizens and received no aid from the British. The worst action of the British came to those Americans captured during war or taken into custody because of their support of Independence. They were placed on prison ships in the Wallabout Bay and left to die, but not just any death, but a death resulting in from starvation, disease and in some cases drowning in the lower parts of the ship. Historians number about 12,000 prisoners killed by the British on these floating hellholes. So for everything America went through during these eight years, I ask you is it right that we have forgotten the day of triumph?

Now why do we place more importance on the Fourth of July? Yes, I know the Declaration of Independence was released and we officially broke ties with England. But that was in 1776 and the war continued to rage on for eight more years, with times that seemed like the cause was a loss. So why celebrate an event that was so early in the war and not the day that marked the end? In the past we have honor D-Day yet celebrate V-E Day, so whats the difference? Well, as Sarah Vowell pointed out on November 17ths Daily Show (By the way thanks for stealing my story Sarah) we have only President Abraham Lincoln to blame. No why blame honest Abe? Well we can't really but we will. The Bearded One needed to create a sense of Patriotism during the Civil War so he proclaimed that the National Holiday of Thanksgiving be celebrated on the final Thursday of November, thanks Abe. So Thanksgiving gets the bump and the celebration of America's victory over the Dark Side goes forgotten. Now because of this, we celebrate the Fourth of July, the start of the war and not the end, the official beginning of America.

So here we are in the year 2011, 228 years later and the Holiday of Evacuation Day is on the verge of being forgotten. But I say we can revive it, we can bring it back. Sure we are all chummy with those Brits now, but there is no reason we can't still go into a pub, order a fine domestic beer and bask in the glory of being part of a great nation, a nation that came from humble beginnings and an idea that went on to defeat the greatest empire since Rome. But we need to remember, we need to visit the Prison Ship Martyrs' Monument and pay tribute to those killed by the hands of the British. We need to head to down Broadway in the footsteps of Washington and the Continental Army as victoriously did. Let's relight the signal fires along the Hudson River they Patriots lite to guide the British out of New York. Then raise the stars and stripes in Battery Park as the Americans did then as the British ships sailed off into the sunset and back to that fog cover island they call home. We need to remember this great American Holiday as it is the reason we can call ourselves Americans. So after we stuff ourselves full of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and whatever else we can fit in our stomachs, lets not go wait on line at Best Buy at 2 am, lets go to sleep, wake up on November the 25th proud to be Americans, able to celebrate and remember the great sacrifices made to ensure that there would be liberty and justice for all.

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