HistoryBuff.com July 2010 Newsletter
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Listen My Children and You Shall Hear
of the Midnight Ride of Caesar Rodney...

I feel it is safe to say that most Americans over the age of 12 have at least heard of the famous ride that Patriot Paul Revere took in April 1775 to announce the British are coming. History has made him a hero of the American Revolution. However, there was another Patriot in Colonial times that made a ride even more heroic. Caesar Rodney made this ride on July 1-2, 1776.

Caesar Rodney took a leading role in events leading up to the American Revolution and always promoted the rights of American colonists against British policies. In 1765 he served as one of Delaware’s delegates to the Stamp Act Congress in New York. In the summer of 1774, as speaker of the Assembly, Rodney took the extra-legal step of calling the Assembly into special session. At that session, he was elected one of Delaware’s delegates to the First Continental Congress. He was later elected to the Second Continental Congress.

Rodney’s belief in the American position, combined with England’s increasingly hard-line stance, led him to believe that independence was the only answer for the American colonies. In all of this, Rodney and the others involved were taking a great risk, for they did not know whether they would succeed. A vote was taken the morning of July 1 to see if the colonies should declare independence from British control. South Carolina and Pennsylvania voted against it, Delaware's delegates were evenly divided, while New York abstained. Edward Rutledge, a delegate from South Carolina, then requested the determination might be put off to the next day. After this vote, Thomas McKean sent by express courier a message to Rodney requesting his immediate presence to break the vote. In the Continental Congress each colony had one vote based on the votes of its individual delegates. Delaware had two other representatives. Thomas McKean would vote for independence, George Read would vote against it. Those votes would cancel each other out, leaving Delaware without a vote unless Caesar Rodney was present to vote for independence.

Rodney received McKean’s message on the evening of July 1. Although he was sick from a cancerous affliction which deformed one side of his face and his physician advised Rodney that he was on his death bed, he left Dover immediately. Suffering from his illness, he nevertheless got up from his death bed and dressed himself. Then he mounted a horse, dashing away in the mud and rain and rode the 80 miles through a storm and arrived just in time for the calling of the Delaware vote. He voted yes. Once Delaware voted yes, Pennsylvania and South Carolina changed their minds and voted yes. New York followed the next day and voted yes. This made it unanimous. If Caesar Rodney had not made the ride and thus able to cast a vote, who knows how long it would have been - if ever - before the new colonies gained their independence from Great Britain.

After the ride, Caesar Rodney's health improved but he was briefly out of political power. In March 1778 he was elected president (governor) of Delaware. He held that post until November 1781. After that, he lived quietly until his death in 1784.

The Origination of Uncle Sam

During the War of 1812, Sam Wilson had a contract to supply meat to the United States military. Meat was salt cured and shipped in wooden barrels stamped with the initals "U. S." to mean the United States. (In this era, using the initals "U. S." instead of United States had not been done before.) Troops, seeing the barrels with the abbreviation often asked what it meant. Jokingly, someone related that the initials stood for Uncle Sam Wilson. The joke caught on and spread like wildfire. People began referring to anything that belonged to the goverment as being owned by Uncle Sam. Soon "Uncle Sam" started appearing in political cartoons and newspaper editorials. The first Uncle Sam drawings made him appear clean shaven and dressed in black. During the Civil War, Thomas Nast drew him as wearing red, white and blue clothes appearing like the United States flag and a beard.


In the early 1980's I was visiting with an editor for a major New York City newspaper. Somehow, the topic of the most embarrassing moment came up. The editor related that shortly after the newspaper converted to utilizing computers to layout their daily newspaper, he was scheduled to give some sixth-graders a tour of the facility. He was proud to show the students the new computers used to layout each page of the newspaper. He clicked a button and there before the students was the entire front page of that day's newspaper displayed on a computer screen.

Next, the editor told me how excited he was to show the students how many tasks the computer could complete in a matter of seconds. He related to me that he told the students "Watch as I issue the command for the computer to replace the letter 'e' with the letter 't' on the entire front page." Seconds later the change was completed. When a student asked him to "change it back," the editor replied, "OK, I just issue the command to change all of the letter 't' to the letter 'e'... Uhh...!" He ordered one of his staff to make the corrections manually and continued with the tour. That same edition still carried a few typographical errors on the front page relating to the "e" and "t" problem after going to press.

The True Origin of Taps

By Guest Author
William Wiersema

There has been a beautiful story circulating the Internet about the story behind the song Taps. Unfortunately as beautiful as this story is there is very little truth to it. According to the story a Union Officer, Captain Robert Ellicombe, risked his life to save another and had no idea if he was a Union or Confederate soldier. Only after dragging him back to his lines did he discover that he was dead and that it was his son. However there is no record of an officer with that name serving there at the time.

This version has its beginning from the web site http://freepages.music.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~edgmon/cwtaps.htm

There are various stories about the beginning of the original tune. One story says that Taps is actually adapted from the French "Tatoo" which in French means "Extinguish Lights", which was used in the U.S. from 1835 until 1860. Contrary to Legend, the tune of taps was adapted by Union General Dan Butterfield of Utica NY in 1862 during the Civil War. However family history says the song was actually written by a confederate, Milton Butterfield, who was a relative of General Dan Butterfield. Supposedly he gave the song written on the back of an envelope during a truce in the war. Bugler Oliver Wilcox Norton confirms that fact in a letter he wrote to the newspaper in 1898 saying that he had received the tune written on a back on an envelope.

The newspaper, in order to confirm the story, wrote back to General Dan Butterfield. A portion of his answer is as follows, and I quote. "I had composed a call for my brigade, to precede any calls, indicating that such were calls, or orders, for my brigade alone. The call of Taps did not seem to be as smooth, melodious and musical as it should be, and I called in some one who could write music, and practiced a change in the call of Taps until I had it suit my ear, and then, as Norton writes, got it to my taste without being able to write music or knowing the technical name of any note, but, simply by ear, arranged it as Norton describes."

Now, prior to all this, it was customary to fire rifle volleys at the graveside of fallen soldier or sailor. Union officers were worried that the gunshots would set off the Confederate soldiers and start another attack. So in place of the rifle volley they substituted Taps. This was the beginning to our having taps played at military funerals. Taps was used by the Confederates as well as the Union. Words to the song are as follows.

Day is done, gone the sun
from the hills, from the lake,
from the skies.
All is well, safely rest,
God is nigh.

Go to sleep, peaceful sleep,
May the soldier or sailor,
God keep.
On the land or the deep,
Safe in sleep.


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June Contest

CONTEST ONE QUESTION: A headline in one of my historic newspapers states: "Happy Trails to you Roy." Whom was this headline referring to?

ANSWER: Roy Rogers

CONTEST TWO QUESTION: In which war did income tax begin?

ANSWER: American Civil War

One-hundred-thirty-six people entered the contests. Thirty-nine people had the incorrect subject heading on their emailed entry. Nineteen others did not select a prize if they won. Seven had an incorrect answer. All prizes were awarded.

The June Contest Winners Were:
  • James Mintzes - New York
  • Mike Harney - Indiana
  • Carolyn Gutierrez - Oklahoma
  • Greg Flagstad - North Dakota
  • Vicki Proefrock - Georgia
  • R. Christian Anderson - Nevada
  • Steve Baker - California

This Issue's Questions:

To enter Contest One, answer the question: There has only been two times in American history where there were three different presidents in the same year. Which two years were they?

To enter Contest Two, answer the question: Only one American president was born on the 4th of July. Which president was it?

Contest Rules

  • Contest entry deadline is Monday, July 19, 2010. Later entries will be disqualified. Winners will be notified by email within 48 hours after the contest deadline. Winners' names and states will be published in the next issue of the HistoryBuff.com newsletter.

  • To enter Contest One or Contest Two, email your answer to curator at historyreference.org

  • To enter Contest One, use "Contest One Entry" for the emailed contest entry subject heading and answer the Contest One question. Any other subject heading will be disqualified.

  • To enter Contest Two, use "Contest Two Entry" for the emailed contest entry subject heading and answer the Contest Two question. Any other subject heading will be disqualified.

  • Subscribers may enter both contests, but only win one prize.

  • If entering both contests, entries must be sent in separate emails.

  • If answering the Contest One question, select your prize from the Contest One prize list.

  • If answering the Contest Two question, select your prize from the Contest Two prize list.

  • From subscribers entering the contest, submitting the correct answer, correct subject heading, submission received by the deadline, as well as advising which ONE contest prize they want to win, SEVEN will be selected to win ONE of the contest prizes below.

  • Subscribers to this newsletter that won a prize in my trivia contests in the last 90 days are ineligible to win.
July Contest One Prize List
(Select ONE of the two prizes below if enterering Contest One)

DVD: Twenty Western Movies

With Stars John Wayne, Charles Bronson,
Lee Van Cleef, Jack Palance, and more!

Authentic WWII Pillow Cover

July Contest Two Prize Selection

(Select ONE of the prizes below if enterering Contest Two)


Oliver Twist (1933)

Starring Dickie Moore


The Loretta Young Show

Classic Episodes of the 1950s TV Series

Original Historic Newspapers

The Salem Observer (Massachusetts) historic newspaper from 1847

Worcester Daily Transcript (Massachussetts) from 1865

Original Daily Morning Call (San Francisco) historic newspaper from 1875
That's it for this issue.

Rick Brown

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