Take a Moment to Learn About COL John Glover

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Take a Moment to Learn About COL John Glover

Post by Ralph » Sun Feb 04, 2007 5:55 pm

From the Journal-News:

Historic site shines light on little known Revolutionary hero

(Original Publication: February 4, 2007)

The word "hero" is bandied about rather freely and is often misapplied. But Col. John Glover was the real deal, an authentic American hero.

Glover embodies one of those "ifs" of history.

If not for his leadership and the bravery of his men who took a bloody stand at a place called Pell's Point some 230 years ago, we might still be taking afternoon tea and singing "God Save The Queen." Is that a slight stretch? Maybe.

But there's no question that on Oct. 18, 1776, Glover's outnumbered regiment of Massachusetts volunteers surprised 4,000 British and Hessian troops and prevented a rout of George Washington's tattered main army, which was in full retreat after suffering a series of defeats in Brooklyn and Manhattan. The rear-guard action allowed Washington to flee north and to fight another day on the heights of White Plains, above the Bronx River.

Glover served valiantly throughout the Revolutionary War, but he's usually relegated to footnote status. Only scholars and buffs know the full extent of his remarkable story.

So it seems long overdue that he be rescued from the dustbin of history - and rescuing him is exactly what the curators at St. Paul's Church National Historic Site in Mount Vernon have in mind. On Saturday, the museum at 897 S. Columbus Ave. will officially open an exhibit titled, "Overlooked Hero: John Glover and the American Revolution."

David Osborn, the site manager at St. Paul's, said Glover was a modest patriot, which might explain why his name only comes up sparingly.

"I think one of the reasons why he's a little lost in history is that most of the other Continental Army generals let everybody know what they did," Osborn posited. "This guy seems to have been a humble man. He did his job. The last couple of years, he just wants to go home."

A thumbnail sketch of Glover's military career creates a Zelig-like effect. He was at all the big events, but was overshadowed by other larger-than-life characters like Washington himself. Hailing from Marblehead, Mass., he was a successful fishing merchant, a self-made man who was part of the so-called "codfish aristocracy." At the outbreak of the war, he formed a regiment largely made up of fishermen he recruited from local seaports. Many of his seafaring soldiers were Indians and Africans, a fact which did not initially please Washington, a Southern slaveholder.

David Hackett Fischer writes in his classic book, "Washington's Crossing," that Washington was at bottom a practical man. After some compromises were reached, black soldiers were allowed to fight side by side with whites.

"In that process," Fischer notes, "the Continental Army, beginning with the Marblehead regiment, became the first integrated national institution in the United States."

Since this is Black History Month, the timing for an homage to Glover is perfect.

Osborn recently gave me a preview of the exhibit, which will run for two years. There are weapons, dioramas, paintings, various artifacts and Glover's personal belongings, including his Bible, regimental payroll sheet and well-preserved, blue uniform coat. Among the rare letters on display is correspondence from Washington, praising Glover's service and wishing him a speedy recovery from illness. Another letter penned by Glover is a plea to the commissary to send his regiment a young cow to replace an older one that could no longer give milk.

The exhibit's opening day - it goes from noon to 4 p.m. - also will feature re-enactors and a visit from some of Glover's direct descendants.

I don't usually plug special events, but this is recommended to anyone who is curious about the region's rich history.

Hemmed in by a jumble of carwashes, gas stations and small industrial buildings, St. Paul's Church is a welcome oasis, a place preserved in 18th-century amber. The Glover display is an added attraction.

Glover used the church grounds as a staging area for the Pell's Point encounter, also known as the Battle of Pelham, which unfolded less than a mile away in what is now the Bronx, and spilled into the present-day links of the Split Rock golf course. Hiding behind stone walls along a winding country lane, the sharp-shooting Americans took the enemy completely by surprise.

The withering fire mortally wounded a handsome British captain by the name of Evelyn. Glover later recalled how an American soldier "leaped over a wall and took a hat and canteen off a Captain that lay dead on the ground they retreated from."

Gen. William Howe, the British commanding officer, would admit to suffering three dead and 20 wounded. Glover tallied eight American dead and 13 wounded.

But the German mercenaries, took some serious lumps. There are no official casualty lists for the Hessians at Pell's Point, but I've read various estimates numbering in the low hundreds, which is a lot by the standards of that war.

After the battle, it was the British who used St. Paul's as a hospital for the sick and wounded. Not yet completely built, the church was roofless and had only a cold, dirt floor. At least six Hessians, all young privates, died on that floor and were buried in a mass grave about 50 yards from the church.

The grave is marked by a small headstone that was put there by the Daughters of the American Revolution in 1910. The letters are difficult to make out because they're slowly vanishing from the ravages of time. Osborn chalks it up to air pollution.

But when the sun's rays hit the stone from a certain direction, you can read the words just fine. But there are no names. The dead remain anonymous.

"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."

Albert Einstein


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