Merriam-Webster’s two two definitions of inspiration are “an aspiring agent or influence” and “the quality or state of being influenced.” Being a military historian that has spent a portion of his graduate school and adult life studying the American Revolution, there are a multiple examples of people, events, or circumstances that would fit that Merriam-Webster definition.
The 56-men who affixed a signature to the Declaration of Independence in the summer of 1776 and the gravity of what that meant.
Thomas Paine’s The American Crisis comes to mind during the bleak December 1776 days as George Washington’s army hurriedly moved through New Jersey.
George Washington’s personal heroics, at Princeton in January of 1777 and Monmouth Court House in June 1778, defying his own personal demise to rally the troops he led.
The tales of suffering, at Valley Forge, Morristown, and through the heat of a Carolinas campaign by the common soldier, many whose names are lost to history.
Recently, I have been looking for inspiration, I think most of us are, with how 2020 ended and the beginning of 2021, but this post is not about straying into current politics, viewpoints, or stances on the pandemic. This is more personal.
The pandemic has afforded me the opportunity to read more, as I am sure my fellow history enthusiasts and bookophiles can relate to. Those readings reawakened a question I tried to tackle as a graduate student a decade ago at George Mason University.
What inspired the men from Maryland to fight for American independence?
Or more accurately:
What did not inspire the men from Maryland to fight for American independence?
I ruled out pay, patriotism (at the start), and other tangible benefits. I gleaned from some of the primary sources that have survived, the chance to create a new life, for the soldiers themselves or their loved ones at home was a major motivator to serve. Family was the spark of inspiration.
On this date, that is something I can really relate to. My father, who will be celebrating his 71st trip around the sun, is battling dementia. He will know that this date, February 8, is his birthday, but will struggle to remember anything else. Yet, he was surprised to see his name in a book recently, one that I sent to him, one that I had helped in the editorial process. To see him reading it, cherishing it, and tearing up with happiness at the simple recognition of his name and mine, is an inspiration to myself.
So, he was and is an inspiration, half the duo of sparking my passion of American history (any guesses on the other half)?
What or who is your inspiration as we enter the second month of 2021?
Happy Birthday Dad, from the history enthusiast you helped create.