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July 4th Will Never be the Same

An eagle-eyed Defense Tech reader pointed out in an email to editors that the post put up yesterday on July 4 factoids had been partially debunked by the internet investigators over at Snopes.com.july-4.jpg

Never shy of embracing information contrary to our posts, the editorial board of Defense Tech made the decision to pass along the mitigating data provided by res1huzn even though it was a bit of a stick in the eye for us.

Five signers were captured by the British as traitors and tortured before they died.

It is true that five signers of the Declaration of Independence were captured by the British during the course of the Revolutionary War. However, none of them died while a prisoner, and four of them were taken into custody not because they were considered "traitors" due to their status as signatories to that document, but because they were captured as prisoners of war while actively engaged in military operations against the British: George Walton was captured after being wounded while commanding militia at the Battle of Savannah in December 1778, and Thomas Heyward, Jr., Arthur Middleton, and Edward Rutledge (three of the four Declaration of Independence signers from South Carolina) were taken prisoner at the Siege of Charleston in May in 1780.

Although they endured the ill treatment typically afforded to prisoners of war during their captivity (prison conditions were quite deplorable at the time), they were not tortured, nor is there evidence that they were treated more harshly than other wartime prisoners who were not also signatories to the Declaration. Moreover, all four men were eventually exchanged or released; had they been considered traitors by the British, they would have been hanged.

Richard Stockton of New Jersey was the only signer taken prisoner specifically because of his status as a signatory to the Declaration, "dragged from his bed by night" by local Tories after he had evacuated his family from New Jersey, and imprisoned in New York City's infamous Provost Jail like a common criminal. However, Stockton was also the only one of the fifty-six signers who violated the pledge to support the Declaration of Independence and each other with "our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor," securing a pardon and his release from imprisonment by recanting his signature on the Declaration and signing an oath swearing his allegiance to George III.

So, for all you smarty pants out there, consider this one a July 4th myth shattered for all of us. But dont even think about telling us in December that theres no Santa Clause.

-- Christian

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