The Explainer General
The Revolutionary War should have won us independence from Britain. Britain’s Royal Navy didn’t care. In the early 1800’s it was busy fighting Napoleon but it had time to stop United States merchant ships on the high seas from trading with France or British colonies. It always needed sailors, so its officers seized our sailors, claiming they were Royal Navy deserters.
We needed a more independent independence. President James Madison declared a second war against Britain in 1812. Britain declared an embargo, forbidding our ships to leave port.
The Royal Navy had hundreds of big warships; we had six. To supplement our tiny Navy, the United States issued letters of marque, government licenses for privateers, private men o’war.
The boldest and most successful privateer was Captain Thomas Boyle’s Chasseur. It was a new kind of vessel, a Baltimore pilot schooner, the fastest ship afloat.
No sailboat can go directly into the wind. A square-rigged ship could manage to sail only 80° to the left or right of the wind’s direction. The Chasseur sailed 55° off the wind. Working into the wind by tacking (sailing to one side of the wind, then the other) she could go 10 miles to windward by sailing about 24 miles on diagonal courses. The Royal Navy’s square rigged men o’war would log almost 59 miles to reach the same point.
Chasseur carried only 16 small cannon – no match for a big man o’war’s 30 to 40 guns. But Boyle had no intention of slugging it out. If a man o’war appeared, he would scamper away to windward. Chasseur couldn’t be caught.
Boyle crossed the Atlantic and quickly took 18 British merchant ships. He was bold as a lion: he sent the last vessel back into port, so its captain could nail a proclamation to the door of Lloyd’s Coffee House, where London ship-insurers gathered. It was a politely worded embargo on all the British Isles – the same embargo Britain had attempted to force on the United States!
Did Boyle succeed? Yes and no. Many British ships sailed, but fear of the Chasseur raised the price of insurance 300%! Some of Lloyd’s insurers wouldn’t write policies on ships voyaging near America. Our Navy was small but mighty: our six heavy frigates (including Constitution, “Old Ironsides”) beat many Royal Navy frigates ship-to-ship. Our combination of daring, skill and brass audacity won the War of 1812 against the largest navy in the world.
You know all about pirates. They were big guys with fancy hats, silk jackets, peg legs, and parrots cursing on their shoulders. They sailed big ships with brass guns and made lubbers walk the plank . . . right?
Wrong! If you want to know what pirates were really like, then read Jan Adkin's book, What if You Met a Pirate? Click here for more information.
Jan Adkins is a member of iNK's Authors on Call and is available for classroom programs through Field Trip Zoom, a terrific technology that requires only a computer, wifi, and a webcam. Click here to find out more.
MLA 8 Citation
Adkins, Jan. "The Man Who Held Up Britain." Nonfiction Minute, iNK Think Tank, 6
Feb. 2018, www.nonfictionminute.org/the-nonfiction-minute/
On a night in 1768, a meteor streaked across the skies over a Shawnee village in western Ohio so Chief Puckshinwau named his new little son Tecumseh or “Shooting Star.” He hoped his boy would grow up as he had, farming and hunting along with the other Native tribes in the wild Ohio River Valley. But how troubling it was, those white people from the east, who kept arriving, always wanting more of the beautiful land! Tecumseh was six when one of them killed his father in 1774, the year before the Revolutionary War began.
Throughout the war, British, American, and Native warriors attacked one another in the vast frontier that lay west of the white folks’ towns. At age 12, Tecumseh saw white soldiers burn his village and his people’s crops. After the Americans won their independence, in 1783, they were even more determined to win the West and settle there. To Tecumseh, the Native peoples were up against an all-out invasion! As a young chief, he led fierce raids on white settlements, earning a reputation as a brilliant commander. As a charismatic leader, he traveled up to Canada and down to the Gulf of Mexico, urging the tribes to UNITE, fight, and sign no treaties at the cost of losing their land.
“Let us form one body, one heart,” Tecumseh cried, “and defend to the last warrior our country, our homes, our liberty, and the graves of our fathers.”
As Tecumseh’s message spread among the tribes, along with word of his younger brother’s strong spiritual visions, a religious, political movement surged through Native America. Warriors gathered at the brothers’ settlement by Indiana’s Tippecanoe River. And then, when Tecumseh was away, in November 1811, U.S. soldiers surrounded it. They defeated the Indians in the fateful “Battle of Tippecanoe.”
Tecumseh did not give up. He and warriors from 32 tribes fought on. The British weren’t grabbing tribal lands so the Natives sided with them against the United States in the War of 1812. Valiant Tecumseh led armies and flotillas of canoes against U.S. forces up until an enemy bullet ended his life on October 5, 1813. It marked the end of Tecumseh’s alliance, but the legendary Shooting Star still burns brightly in the skies of memory.
Daniel Boone's story is every young adventurer's fantasy: A childhood in Pennsylvania spent hunting on lands shared with Native Americans; a coming-of-age fighting in the French and Indian War; and the fulfillment of a life's dream with the blazing of the Wilderness Road across the Appalachian Mountains and the settling of Boonesborough in Kentucky. Add to this the rescue of his daughter from Shawnee warriors, and readers are quickly in the thick of another irresistible Cheryl Harness History. For more information on The Trailblazing Life of Daniel Boone, click here.
MLA 8 Citation
Harness, Cheryl. "Tecumseh, the 'Shooting Star.'" Nonfiction Minute, iNK Think
Tank, 7 May 2018, www.nonfictionminute.org/the-nonfiction-minute/
Let your imagination listen to the great historical menagerie of presidential pets and you’ll hear the sounds of their feathered friends, like Thomas Jefferson’s mockingbirds, or Calvin Coolidge’s canaries and maybe his pet goose – OR parrots? George and Martha Washington had more than one. When President James Madison and his wife moved into the White House in 1809, so did Dolley Madison’s green and yellow macaw parrot.
Dolley was known for her fashionable turbans and often, for Polly, the big bright, squawk-ative bird on her shoulder, helping to greet her guests. And how thrilling, when high-spirited Polly swooped about the high-ceilinged rooms and dive-bombed the company! Later, she was part of the scary War of 1812 drama, when, in 1814, red-coated British soldiers torched the White House. But at least Dolley made sure they didn’t get their hands on the precious painting of President Washington, or her precious Polly.
Just months later, General Andrew Jackson led a rough, frontier army down the Mississippi River to drive the British out of New Orleans. Victorious Andy Jackson, national hero, ended up being President, from 1829 to 1837. That old soldier knew a lot of salty language and so did his pet parrot, Poll. We know this because in 1845, he attended ex-President Jackson’s funeral – at least until a shocked human carried poor Poll out of the room. Too much sad excitement had set him to squawking curse words!
At the end of the 1800s, President William McKinley amused himself by teaching his yellow-headed Mexican parrot how to whistle “Yankee Doodle.” After Mr. McKinley died of an assassin’s bullet, in 1901, former Vice President Theodore Roosevelt took office. He and First Lady Edith Roosevelt and their six children had LOTS of pets, including a big, beautiful parrot named Eli Yale. Eli was a deep blue hyacinth macaw.
There would be other presidential parrots. After all, the big worldwide parrot family has 350 species. Parakeets, for instance: John F. Kennedy’s little girl had two of them. Lyndon B. Johnson’s family kept lovebirds, little candy-colored parrots. But more than a century has passed since a big, big-beaked macaw like Polly or Poll has lived in the White House. Deep blue Eli Yale was the last - so far.
Andrew Jackson owned an African grey parrot. Wikimedia
Cockatiels, cockatoos, and large flightless kakapos are just a few of the many kinds of parrots. One of the biggest is the gentle, South American hyacinth macaw – from head to tail, more than three feet long! Wikimedia
Teddy Roosevelt with Eli Yale. Wikimedia
MLA 8 Citation
Harness, Cheryl. "Polly Wants a President." Nonfiction Minute, iNK Think Tank,
13 Mar. 2018, www.nonfictionminute.org/the-nonfiction-minute/