Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Get a Load of the American Revolution : TURN, Washington’s Spies

Turn: Washington's Spies Heart and Minds

I remember when I was a kid that I didn’t much relate to the American Revolution. My parents emigrated from Italy. It’s fair to say that I wasn’t much interested in Garibaldi either. I blame it all on my boring Social Studies teacher who didn’t seem to like his job. Trust me when I say this because, since my high school days, I’ve known several brilliant social studies teachers who made history come alive. I know the difference.  My point being that my education about the American Revolution came very late in my life.
There’s a TV series now that I watch regularly. It’s the right combination of realism and romance, often sending me to Wikipedia or books or historical web sites to check out scenes, mentions, events in the series.
TURN: Washington’s Spies is  a welcome event for history buffs who like to see history in action.  Includes me. The conflict between Captain Simcoe who leads the rough and ready Rodger’s Rangers and the more orthodox  British Army forces led by Major Hewlett is something I wouldn’t know about if I didn’t watch the show. 
On the other hand, I was aware of the profoundly seriously attitude that George Washington took toward traitors who undermined the Continental Army. The opening scene of one episode depicts the execution by hanging of two men.
 It’s not proven that they exposed General Washington’s Culper spy ring but they were hanged on charges of counterfeiting. It’s pouring rain as the offenders are pushed off the scaffolding in a grisly and shocking scene that pulls no punches. The hangman has flubbed the job resulting in the beheading of one man. The other man keeps his head and was hanged properly. He can be seen vomiting white bile as a soldier steps forward with a pistol to deliver the coup de gras.
It’s the American Revolution form of ‘scared straight’—the executions are a lesson to the observers. The execution depicted of Sergeant Thomas Hickey fits with the official documents of the American Revolution, and so was that of Colonel Bradford who stood beside him on the gallows.  Who knew?
The show is based on a book by author Alexander Rose. Gotta’ give AMC credit for knowing a good thing when they read it.

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