Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Bayonet is Their Pride: August 10, 1776

American officer Aaron Burr wrote to his uncle Timothy Edwards on 10 Aug. 1776. Burr relayed information from two Americans returning from England, apparently after going to receive ordination (i.e., "to take the gown") as Anglican clergymen. (The Episcopal Church had no bishop in America to ordain priests):

By two Virginia gentlemen who went to England to take the gown, who returned in a packet and landed on Staten Island, where they tarried several days, and were permitted to cross to Elizabethtown [New Jersey] on Thursday last, we have some intelligence of the enemy....

These Virginia gentlemen lodged in a house with several King's officers. They hold us in the utmost contempt. Talk of forcing all our lines without firing a gun. The bayonet is their pride. They have forgot Bunker' s Hill.

In Washington's Crossing, Brandies Historian David Hackett Fischer described the bayonet as "the terror weapon of the eighteenth century." David Hackett Fischer, Washington's Crossing (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 97.

For the fear of an Anglican bishop in America before independence, and acceptance of bishops after independence, please consult Derek H. Davis, Religion and the Continental Congress, 1774-1789: Contributions to Original Intent (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000) and Chris Beneke, Beyond Toleration: The Religious Origins of American Pluralism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006). For "take the Gown" as an expression for ordination, please consult Donald Henderson Stewart, The Opposition Press of the Federalist Period (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1969), 406.
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