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Shortchanged by history?

Discussion in 'History Forum' started by Alcott, Feb 20, 2008.

  1. Alcott

    Alcott Well-Known Member
    Site Supporter

    Dec 17, 2002
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    There are examples (IMO) of historical personalities who were overshadowed or otherwise downplayed for peripheral reasons.

    One outstanding example would be William Dawes, overshadowed by Paul Revere. Dawes and Revere began their rides about the same time from near the same place, by different routes, to alert Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and the militia of Massachusetts, and later a third rider named Samuel Prescott joined them at Lexington. But 3 riders still could not warn enough militia of the advancement of the British regulars, so as others were dispatched, some soures say there may have been 100 riders before the night was over. And Revere, Dawes, and Prescott were captured and held at Lincoln. So why is Paul Revere a greater patriotic hero than the other man who rode as long and as hard and apparently as 'successfully?' Revere was a silversmith, Dawes a tanner, and Prescott a doctor. Silver would be the material the 3 worked with that is most appealing to the more 'refined.' Additionally, and more so, it's the name Revere-- he is to be revered; the name actually a corruption of the French name Rivoire; but even with that, a French name carries an exotic, classy connotation, much more than plain English sounding names. These 2 reasons probably figure into the rather obviously biggest reason of all-- H.W. Longfellow's poem "Paul Revere's Ride." This was actually used as a historical text for close to a century, even though most of its historical innaccuracies were known. Longfellow apparently made Revere a composite of the 3 principle riders, as if only he made the famous midnight ride. It's more heroic that way; and, of course, he doesn't even mention that Revere (and Dawes and Prescott) were captured. And finally, his choice of Revere, besdies the most exotic sounding name, was also the iambic name, and it fit his poetry style:

    Listen, my children, and you shall hear
    Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere.

    That comes out sounding better than:

    Listen, my children, as I flap my jaws
    About the midnight ride of William Dawes.

    (I doubt if it was all because he couldn't think of a better rhyme :laugh: )

    Just one other example in this OP-- Frank James. It seem his little brother Jesse is the one who has gotten nearly all the attention about the James/Younger gang, Confederate scouts who continued to employ their tracking and firearms skills to rob those damn yankees of their money in the banks or on trains. If you ever look at findagrave.com, you can see that the "Virtual Flowers" function for Jesse James has been turned off [that is done when so many messages are rude and nasty], but Frank's has not. For that matter, Cole Younger is also the best known name among the 4 Youngers. But with the Jameses, comparable to Revere/Dawes, again the arts have much to do with it. The famous "Ballad of Jesse James" makes him a Robin Hood-like hero who was cowardly shot in the back by an old comrade for reward money. [My dad often sang that song, which is how I learned it; he claimed his mother's family were "kin to the Jamses"] But is it all because of how Jesse was killed that he is more famous-- while Frank lived until 1915 working at many honest jobs after his trials and acquittals (probably because of Confederate bias in his favor)? Or does the fact that the name Jesse James has an alliterative quality that Frank James does not? Maybe even in their time that was a basis, which connived at Jesse as the bigger 'prize' for a traitor or bounty hunter.

    Any more historical 'shortchange' ideas based on periphery?