Since we just celebrated Independence Day last week, I’ll stick with that theme because I think we can always learn more to help us today from the people who came before us (if we’re willing to learn, that is). There was a battle in the Revolution that may not be as well known as the Battle of Bunker Hill or Yorktown, but was a major victory on the path to independence…as well as the last major battle in the northern colonies.
Stony Point was a highly-fortified peninsula on the Hudson River that the British needed to take in order to get to their real goal, West Point, which was 12 miles to the north. On May 28, 1779, they were able to do so without firing a shot under the leadership of Sir Henry Clinton, the Commander-in-Chief of British Forces in North America. After their victory, Clinton ordered the fort to be strengthened even further, and he began calling it “Little Gibraltar”. His goal of taking West Point, the “Key to the Continent” seemed to be in sight.
But, Divine Providence was once again shining on General George Washington. Though Stony Point seemed like a lost cause, one of his generals, Anthony Wayne, told him he thought the Continental Army could re-take it. It took planning, secrecy, the dark of night…and some would say luck. General Wayne chose the recently formed Light Infantry Brigade, consisting of 1,200 of the best soldiers in the Continental Army, for the assault. On July 16, 1779, General Wayne and his men began their siege of Stony Point. During the course of the battle, General Wayne suffered a severe grazing to his forehead from a British musket ball. Covered in blood and rising to his knees, he called to his men, “Forward, my brave fellows, forward!”
In spite of his injury, Wayne pressed on, and every soldier knew exactly what to do because of his careful planning. General Wayne didn’t die that night, and the Continental Army successfully re-took Stony Point from the British. Afterward, General Wayne still found the strength to write to General Washington: “The fort & garrison with [British] Colonel Johnston are ours. Our officers & men behaved like men who are determined to be free.”
They behaved like men determined to be free. Those words should be in every classroom in America. Are Americans today behaving like we’re determined to be free? Unfortunately it seems many are not.
When you hear polls taken that say most of us don’t care that our government is spying on us in order to protect us because “I’ve got nothing to hide”—that’s a dangerous place to be. Whether you do or don’t have something to hide isn’t the point. That’s the mindset of a slave, not a free person.
When you hear news like we had this week that more people are now on food stamps than working in the private sector, you’re beginning to have a nation where more people are riding in the cart than helping to pull it. That’s a recipe for disaster.
When you elect into the highest office in the land—not once, but twice—a person who picks and chooses which laws he will enforce and which parts of the Constitution apply to him (apparently, not much in the Constitution applies to him), you stop being the people that John Adams said we need to be in order for the Constitution to work for us in the first place: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”
Sometimes, when things are given to you cheaply or for free, you fail to appreciate them, and the value of that thing is less than it might be than if you had to struggle for years to get it. We tend to fight for and cherish that which we hold dear. Such is the case with our American birthright. Oppression and lack of freedom was the way of the world for most people throughout world history…until the United States of America was born.
Let’s hope that we don’t have to suffer through real oppression and loss of more freedom before we fight like people determined to be free.
***NOTE: In a couple of weeks, I’ll be posting a guest commentary from a young woman who is now an American citizen. Her story of her journey to citizenship is inspiring and gives an inside look into the long and expensive process legal immigrants take to become American citizens.