Tuesday, May 2, 2017

George Washington Makes A Joke (Sort of): Part 2

More from Deedy about this guy named George.

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In a recent blog post, I talked about the letter written by George Washington that we were privileged to read on a visit to the New Hampshire Historical Society a few weeks ago.  I was able to photograph this missive, and subsequently spent hours trying to puzzle out what Washington said. What with having some bits missing (note torn corner in the picture), and 18th century spelling idiosyncasies (such as a large F-like letter to represent double Ss) there were still a few words I couldn't make out. Then I looked around the internet and found the whole thing posted at the National Archives. Here is the link.

In any case, I found this letter to be quite revealing, not only of Washington's diplomatic skills, but also of a surprising sense of humor he put to use to mute the "dressing down" he is giving to Sullivan.

Remember that Sullivan had already sent out some pretty snorty letters about 1) D'Estaing and 2) the French in general complaining about  being left in the lurch at Rhode Island by our new allies. It was obvious that this letter was what Washington wrote to Sullivan at that point. I told Julien (the young Frenchman who is researching Lafayette's Farewell Tour route in New England) that in this letter Washington was telling Sullivan to "pipe down." (A bit tricky to explain that expression, but I think Julien got it.)

I don't usually think of Washington as being gifted in diplomacy, but please notice what he did in this letter. It is particularly impressive because Washington himself was probably very upset by the rift in the new alliance, which Sullivan had made even worse. As he says himself, "The disagreement between the army under your command and the fleet has given me very singular uneasiness." Nevertheless, Washington manages to give Sullivan a couple of "outs" before lowering the boom on his angry general.

1) First of all, he states that he has not heard from Sullivan since August 23, but says that Sullivan's messages must have gone astray.

2) Secondly, Washington says this of the French: "In our conduct towards them we should remember that they are a people old in war, very strict in military etiquette, and apt to take fire when others scarcely seem warmed." As you can see by the emboldened text, Washington makes a small joke implying that the French are overly touchy. In other words, he is suggesting that the French are so easily enraged that perhaps it is not completely Sullivan's fault that they are angry or offended.

Then, however, Washington goes on to make it clear that Sullivan must keep his mouth shut and do everything he can to keep the news of the "misunderstanding" between the French and Americans quiet.

"It is of the greatest importance, also, that the minds of the soldiers and the people should know nothing of the misunderstanding, or if it has reached them that ways may be used to stop its progress and prevent its effects."

How thrilling it was to read the actual words written by Washington, and to see his diplomacy (and possibly his sense of humor) at work!

From George Washington to Major General John Sullivan, 1 September 1778

To Major General John Sullivan

Head Quarters White plains 1st Septr 1778.
Dear sir.
I have not received any letter from you since the 23d [August] which I attribute to some mishap of the messengers with whom they were sent. I was anxious to learn the determination and designs of the council of officers, that so I might be prepared for eventual measures—The success or misfortune of your army will have great influence in directing the movements and fortune of this.

The disagreement between the army under your command and the fleet has given me very singular uneasiness. The Continent at large is concerned in our cordiality, and it should be kept up by all possible means that are consistent with our honor and policy. First impressions, you know, are generally longest remembered, and will serve to fix in a great degree our national character among the French. In our conduct towards them we should remember that they are a people old in war, very strict in military etiquette, and apt to take fire when others scarcely seem warmed. Permit me to reco⟨mmend⟩ in the most particular manner, ⟨ the ⟩ cultivation of harmony and go⟨od⟩ agreement, and your endeavours to ⟨des⟩troy that ill humour which may ⟨have⟩ got into the officers. It is of the greatest importance, also that the minds of the soldiers and the people should know nothing of the misunderstanding, or if it has reached them that ways may be used to stop its progress and prevent its effects.

I have received from Congress the inclosed by which you will perceive their opinion with regard to keeping secret the protest of the General Officers I need add nothing on this subject.
I have one thing however more to say—I make no doubt but you will do all in your power to forward the repairs of the french fleet, and in rendering it fit for service, by your recommendations for that purpose to those who can be immediately instrumental. I am Dr Sir your most Obt hble servt
Go: Washington

George Washington Makes a Joke (Sort of): Part 1

Another message from Deedy: not an elf in sight!

Julien holding the letter from George Washington
In my peregrinations with Julien Incher, the young Frenchman who is tracing the 1824-5 New England trail of General Lafayette, we made a stop at the New Hampshire Historical Society in Concord, NH. Librarian Sara Galligan was kind enough to allow us to look at the documents in the society's collection that pertain to New Hampshire's own Revolutionary General, John Sullivan.

One of these documents was an actual letter written by GW to Sullivan on September 1, 1778. Because I knew a little of what this epistle related to, I found it to be absolutely fascinating. I will explain this in my next few posts.

First of all, here is what I wrote about the situation in A Buss from Lafayette. Please keep in mind that the principal American commander referred to in this excerpt who was greatly offended was General Sullivan. As a result, he wrote a number of VERY angry letters complaining about the French.

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“Did Grandfather see the celebration at Valley Forge when the French alliance was announced?” queried Joss eagerly. “It sounds as if it was very exciting!”

“He did indeed,” Prissy said. “But when everyone was cheering at Valley Forge, they little suspected how difficult it would be for the French and American military leaders to work together. They were a little like you two: supposedly on the same side, but as prickly as porcupines!”

Joss and I exchanged a glance.

Prissy said that although the French government had been sending us secret loans and supplies since 1776, the first overt aid they sent over was a fleet of warships in July, 1778. This French fleet was ordered to blockade Rhode Island to help the American commander, General Sullivan, dislodge the British there. D’Estaing, the French admiral, may have been rather offended at this, because no one had consulted with him beforehand about the planned venture.

“Therefore, after initially assisting the Continentals in their attack,” our stepmother said, sounding more and more like a schoolmarm, “D’Estaing and his fleet sailed away towards New York. He did seek to engage a British naval squadron after he left, but his departure left the American forces in Rhode Island to face the enemy without French support.”

Joss snorted. “I am sure we Americans did not like that!”

Our stepmother explained that before D’Estaing encountered the British squadron, he ran into a storm that damaged his fleet. Afterwards—again without consulting the Americans—the French admiral had sailed off to Boston to make repairs to his ships, which further offended our commanders. “I doubt the alliance would have worked in the end if not for Lafayette,” she concluded.    

“He smoothed down everyone’s ‘quills?’” I asked.

“Yes, Lafayette hurried to Boston to smooth things over.                                                         -A Buss from Lafayette, © 2016  by Dorothea Jensen

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Another Non-Elf Post from Deedy Starring Lafayette!


Following Lafayette's Trail with Another Very Charming Frenchman

As some of you know, my latest historical fiction for young readers, A Buss from Lafayette, details what General Lafayette did for our country during the American Revolution, when as a very young man, slender and six feet tall, and brimming with good humor and charm, he came to serve with General Washington.

My story is also about Lafayette's Farewell Tour of 1824-5, when he traveled around the U.S. attracting huge crowds and charming everyone he met. In A Buss from Lafayette, a key moment is when a young girl, Clara Hargraves, meets Lafayette, more than five decades her senior, at Brown's Brook, a small stream in Hopkinton, New Hampshire (where I live and where the story is set).

I just had a tiny taste of my fictional heroine Clara's experience. Without the crowds. And the Frenchman in question was slender, six feet tall, brimming with good humor and charm, and nearly five decades my junior.

Julien Icher is the Frenchman in question. A fellow member of the American Friends of Lafayette, Julien, funded by the French consul in Boston, is researching the route taken by the world-famous general through New England on his Farewell Tour. For a couple of days, I went with him. We had so much fun!

Julien and I at Brown's Brook, a place where Lafayette never made a stop   
             except fictionally in A Buss from Lafayette
The first day, we explored five towns which Lafayette did actually visit on June 27, 1825.
First of all, we met at the New Hampshire State House in Concord, where on June 22, 1825, Lafayette was welcomed inside by the State legislators and outside by over 200 Revolutionary War veterans and sat down to dine with over 600 people. (This was the event when a song composed for the occasion called New Hampshire the "Granite State" for the very first time.)  Julien had previously made a visit to the State House with the French Consul and been welcomed to the state by Governor Sununu, so we went on to view the house in Concord where Lafayette had spent the night. Owned at the time by William Kent, it was located at the site of the South Congregational Church on Pleasant Street. (Not only did Lafayette stay there in 1825, but Kent's stepdaughter married Ralph Waldo Emerson in the north parlor of the house.) It has since been moved to Spring Street.
Next we picked up my husband and viewed the Lafayette marker in Hopkinton, where the general stopped for a brief reception on June 27, 1825. The date on this marker is incorrect, so Julien and I gave it both a thumbs up AND a thumbs down.
(Tomorrow's post will go on from here.)

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Maybe Deedy bought elf hat kits as a kid, too???

 Here's another post from Deedy (Dorothea Jensen to you). Just for the record, we Izzy Elves don't even HAVE bookmarks. Oh, Well.

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OK, I admit it.  Being a huge fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Louisa May Alcott (among others) as a child wasn't the ONLY reason I ended up writing historical fiction for kids.

Here is another motivator: anybody recognize what this is? When I was a kid in Chillicothe, Illinois, there was a Ben Franklin's Five and Dime store downtown on Main Street. I could easily walk there from my house.

Once I finally got tall enough to see what was on the counters, I discovered something like what is pictured: bonnet kits. Each came with a miniature straw bonnet of one style or another, plus decorations that could be sewn or glued on any way the buyer liked. They were very small, about the size to fit a Barbie doll. (Although this was LONG before Barbies infested the planet. We're talking over sixty years ago, people.)

Anyway, I LOVED these kits, and bought as many of them as I could. I was a regular mini-milliner!

Recently I came across this hat in my vast collection of Stuff. I have no idea where I bought it or when I put it together.

But I LOVE it.

I think that making these hats as a little girl helped inspire me to write stories in which my characters could wear hats like this one. Not that any of them actually do: in The Riddle of Penncroft Farm, the main girl character wears something quite different.(I will send the first person who answers the question "what did she wear instead?" in an e-mail to me at jensendorothea@gmail.com an autographed book mark.) In A Buss from Lafayette, Clara mostly wears old sunbonnets and has no desire to be in style. (I will send the first person who answers the question "which character in this story DOES wear fashionable bonnets?" in an e-mail to me at jensendorothea@gmail.com an autographed book mark.)

So that's my confession for today!

(If anyone knows if such kits can be bought today, PLEASE LET ME KNOW!)


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

A Bit of Riddle Enacted at the Brandywine Battlefield!

Another post straight from Deedy (Dorothea Jensen to you!)

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So I was Googling A Buss from Lafayette yesterday and came upon something that was downright thrilling.

First, let me explain that a crucial part of The Riddle of Penncroft Farm takes place before and during the Battle of Brandywine, on September 11, 1777.

In that battle, the British general, Howe, staged a feint attack against the Americans who were waiting at Brandywine Creek to stop the British advance on Philadelphia. At the same time, Howe led the bulk of his troops up the western side of the stream and crossed it at a ford that Washington didn't know about. He then came down behind the untrained American forces. The resulting fight took place near a Quaker place of worship, the Birmingham Meeting House, in an area called Sandy Hollow.

What I discovered yesterday was that several years ago, in conjunction with a re-enactment of the Brandywine battle, Birmingham Meeting House put on a little play based upon The Riddle of Penncroft Farm!

Here is the link: on-hallowed-ground-sandy-hollow.

It is thrilling for me to know that part of my story was acted out in exactly the place I imagined it to have occurred! Here is an excerpt of what I think the little play was probably based on.

I was in such despair that I didn’t hear anyone approaching until I saw him standing next to me—a man in a scarlet jacket with little wings on the shoulders and a tall helmet of black fur. Even without it, he was the tallest man I’d ever seen, that British grenadier.

Without a word, we stared at each other. Then he drew one arm over his face to wipe the sweat out of his eyes. I didn’t move, though I could feel the blood dripping down my own face and the sting of the sweat running into the cuts on my cheek.

His eyes flicked over me and then down to Will and the telltale cockade on his hat.

My brother,” I said, and opened my palms to him in appeal.

Still silent, the grenadier set down his musket and swung the pack off his back to the ground with a loud thud that showed how very heavy it was. Then he gathered Will up in his arms and carefully laid him down upon the wagon bed.

 Be that drink?” he asked, jutting his chin toward the barrel of perry.

I nodded my head, speechless.

I could use a bit o’ drink. Seventeen miles I’ve marched since dawn. Seventeen miles in all this heat. ’Tis enough to kill a man, even without the efforts of this lot.” He jerked his thumb at Will.

I swarmed up the slats, filled a cup, and thrust it at him. The soldier drained it in one gulp and held the cup out for more. I hastily obliged. After downing the second cupful, he picked up his pack and musket.

Thankee, lad,” he growled, and plunged back into the woods before I could thank him in return.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

We made it! The Lancelot of the Revolutionary Set Arriving in October!

 Another post from Deedy (Dorothea Jensen). Do you suppose there will ever be statues of US anywhere? Love, the Izzies.

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WE MADE IT! All the money has been raised to create and erect the statue of Lafayette!

Here I am in Yorktown, Virginia recently, visiting the statues of Washington and de Grasse, commander of the French fleet that bottled up the Brits at Yorktown. (I was there for the celebration of the British surrender on October 19, 1781.)

I am standing in the exact spot where the new statue of Lafayette will be placed, exactly one year from now. (His pose will be a little different, as I doubt he'll be holding Washington's hand, etc.)

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In historic Yorktown, Virginia, site of the final major battle of the Revolution, there is a duet of statues honoring General George Washington, commander of the combined American and French forces, and French Admiral Fran├žois De Grasse, commander of the French fleet that "bottled up" the British troops under General Cornwallis at Yorktown. These life-sized figures were created by Virginia sculptor Cyd Player.

Installed in 2005 and enjoyed by tens of thousands of visitors annually, the statues commemorate two important meetings that took place on board De Grasse’s flagship the Ville de Paris to plan the 1781 Yorktown campaign and to explore plans for further operations.

The problem? It was supposed to be a quartet of sculptures. There are two important figures missing! Also present for at least one of these meetings were General Rochambeau, who led the French troops, and General Lafayette, who had kept Cornwallis trapped at Yorktown until the combined American and French troops had arrived. (He also served as an interpreter at the meeting with Washington, Rochambeau, and De Grasse.)

The reason that Lafayette and Rochambeau are not represented here? There was not enough funding to create all four statues at the same time.

Now the national organization dedicated to honoring the young Frenchman who did so much to help us gain our independence, the American Friends of Lafayette, along with the  Celebrate Yorktown Committee of the Yorktown Foundation, and other interested organizations and people, have raised enough money to put Lafayette in his rightful place.

 The new statue will accurately portray this important historical event and provide an opportunity for visitors of all ages to discover and recognize the role Lafayette played in shaping America’s history.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

A Happy Surprise for Deedy (Sigh)

Deedy (Dorothea Jensen to you) had some good news which we Izzies are willing to share with you all.

Of course, we wish she was getting happy news about our books, but oh, well.


Bizzy, Blizzy, Dizzy, Fizzy, Frizzy, Quizzy, Tizzy, and Whizzy

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 Here's Deedy:

Once in awhile I Google A Buss from Lafayette just to see if there are any new reviews hiding out in electronic nooks and cranies that I don't know about.

Look what I found online this morning!



Sunday, January 1, 2017

Dizzy-fied Grandboys!

As some of you may know, a couple of Deedy's (that's Dorothea Jensen to you) books about us Izzy Elves featured her grandsons.

In Dizzy, the Stowaway Elf, Stuart and Drake play major roles in the story.

When Deedy stayed overnight at their house on Christmas Eve, she could NOT resist "re-enacting" the first picture in the poem about Dizzy's big adventure.

Here is the illustration, created by Andrea Agostini.

Below is the "re-enactment" staged by Deedy, with the help of Stuart (top bunk) and Drake (bottom bunk).

And here is a close up of Stuart from another shot:

And here is the verse that goes with both of these pictures:

‘Twas the night before Christmas,  about half-way through.
(The clocks in the house showed the time to be two.)
The parents were nestled in slumber so deep,
But Stuart and Drakey could not get to sleep.
They’d done all the time-honored things, Christmas Eve
Before both their parents were ready to leave
The boys in their bunk beds to sleep through the night.
Yes,  each of the kids had done everything right.
Of the Christmas routine, not a thing did they lack:
They’d hung up their stockings, set out Santa’s snack,
They’d sung all the carols, donned Christmas PJ’s
And brushed all their teeth in the usual ways.
They’d been bedtime-storied,  been tucked in and kissed:
Not one of the Christmas Eve things had been missed!
They’d even removed all electronic toys
Concealed under blankets, like good little boys.
So why in the world did young Stuart and Drake
Lie up in their room open-eyed, wide awake?
We need not look far for the probable cause:
They were filled with excitement about Santa Claus!
And they had Big Plans, did those two little imps
They hoped that of Santa they might catch a glimpse.
But they would have revved up a few notches more
If they’d known what had happened a few hours before. 
- Dizzy, the Stowaway Elf  © 2013 by Dorothea Jensen