I finally cleared out my reading queue and refilled with Washington’s Spies: The Story of America’s First Spy Ring. What most likely prompted this was the opportunity to meet the author, Alexander Rose, except I hadn’t read his book at the time of the opportunity, so I avoided him in shame.
To belatedly remedy this egregious faux pas, I went to the library specifically for this book. Perhaps the next time I encounter Mr. Rose, I will be able to engage in witty and engaging discussion on his work, but for now I get to share my review of the book with you, Dear Reader(s).
I saw Dunkirk over the weekend and thought it was worth all the hype surrounding it. It was nearly nonstop action and when it was done, I was so tense I felt like I had just driven four hours through a white-out rainstorm on the highway. Afterwards, I read the reviews on IMDB, where there are a lot of cinematic complaints/comments, but also an equally number of useful historical complaints/comments which I find to be informative.
The cinematography was beautiful and stark. There was surprising emotion: I didn’t know I was that invested, I’m not crying you’re crying. You see men in the throes of hope and futility at the same time. It’s all so British. And poignant. And depressing. And triumphant. And beautiful. And tragic.
(Quick note: I was relatively impervious to the hype, as my WW2 film repertoire consists solely of Monuments Men, Fury, Inglorious Basterds -which made no sense- and White Christmas, which is more of a holiday thing than war film. My repertoire lacks the usual suspects of Saving Private Ryan, Band of Brothers, Schindler’s List, etc, etc.)
There are spoilers under the cut so take fair warning.
Without a doubt, one of my all-time favorite historical figures is General Winfield Scott Hancock, commander of the 2nd Corps of the Army of the Potomac. Why? I’m not sure. It probably has something to do with his confidence and stunning competence. His dashing good looks are only a bonus.
A Sunday afternoon well spent.
In fact, long ago he edged out Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain because he (Hancock) doesn’t seem to have this weird, idealistic, Victorian misogyny. It was either by the end of high school or the end of freshman year of college where I knew Hancock was my guy. During my freshman year of college, I took a brave stab at being an engineering major, but it turns out I was incredibly not good at physics, calculus, chemistry, programming, and engineering. To comfort myself, I spent a lot of time on the 10th floor of the Hesburgh Library, reading through the Civil War section (which should have told me immediately that engineering was not my calling…) and my favorite find of this time was Hancock the Superb.
Just about every time I went back to campus, I would visit the book – up to the 10th floor, around to the right, third shelf up from the bottom on the 4th stack back. It would usually be a drive-by: I would locate the book, take it out, pet it a couple of times, and put it back.
Anyway, I came across this book in my local public library and decided to read it again to see if all the nostalgia was warranted. Verdict: It was.
Is there anything more fitting than visiting the Museum of the American Revolution (again) on Memorial Day? I certainly can’t think of anything, for without the people and events exhibited within, we wouldn’t even have a Memorial Day.
Tomb of the Unknown (RevWar) Soldier, Washington Square, Philadelphia. The Tomb’s inscription reads, “Beneath this stone rests a soldier of Washington’s army who died to give you liberty.”
This was my second trip to the MoAR, and I was determined to focus on content and not exhibit design. I would like to report that I was much more successful this time than last at staying on task, although I did still have an urgent and visceral need to touch every surface I passed.
[EDIT: So concerned am I that I sound ill-informed on this topic that I went to the library and got several books about slavery and the Revolutionary era. Stay tuned…]
One of my recent areas of fascination, in addition to everything else, and inspired almost wholly by AMC’s (fantasmagorical) TURN: Washington’s Spies, has been the story of the Culper Spy Ring (link 2) (link 3). I wrote a thing a while ago about the cinematography of the show, which for me is a huge part of the attraction, but the storylines are pretty compelling as well.
Thus, imagine my excitement when, at the library, I came across this book titled George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring that Saved the American Revolution. It is not the book on which the show is based, but had a short line between this book and the basis for the show, with a lot of artistic license thrown in for cinematic reasons.
To the best of my ability, I will refrain from doing a comparison with the show, because the show and this book aren’t really related outside of the fact that they occupy the same realms. It would be like me trying to evaluate you based on a run-in with one of your cousins, and that wouldn’t be fair to anybody.
Without further ado, the book:
In my previous post on the MoAR, I had included a picture of some life sized figures, one of whom was solicitously wrapping another in a blanket or jacket. It was a depiction of Charles Willson Peale belatedly recognizing his own brother, and the picture’s caption was something about how much I adore Mr. Peale (hereafter known as CWP).
From the MoAR
Why do I like CWP so much? That is an excellent question. Perhaps it was because I was thrilled when I could consistently put a name to the artist behind all those portraits, which are done in a style I find generally attractive.
I may have left the Museum of the American Revolution delirious and hangry, but I was inspired. There had been so much sensory intake that it needed an appropriate release of some sort. Which, in layman’s terms, meant I finished the day watching the musical film 1776 and laughing louder than probably necessary at .. most of it.
Holy macaroni. The holiest of macaronis. 1776 is SO cheesy and ridiculousI LOVE IT.