Monday, August 18, 2003

Things in Perspective
New Yorkers were attacked twice in our history; you saw the second assault. The first was the summer of 1776. George Washington got there in time to command the defense.

Against a couple-score British warships and 32,000 professional soldiers, Washington had but 19,000 mostly untrained militia, few proper weapons, and no ships. Of two major land battles, they lost both. Several hundred soldiers died in those battles--many more young men than in Iraq and Afghanistan, and small compared to our civilian losses in 2001. Yet that is not the terrible story of New York in the Revolution.

In the East River (along New York), for the rest of the long war, the British kept ships filled with American prisoners. The sailors and soldiers were not fed well, had little fresh air, and were not even given sufficient water - amazingly cruel treatment in a river. Dissentery, typhoid, smallpox all ran free.

Each day, the British would yell to the captives in the holds, "Rebels, throw out your dead!" And corpses would be pitched overboard in response. The war lasted eight-and-a-half years. Eleven thousand American men died on those ships. For years after, people of New York would find human remains along the waterfront.

Moreover, the men aboard had a choice to leave [More]. This is the kind of history to give strength when times are tough.

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