Unbelievably, the Fourth of July once again is upon us.
This is my favorite American holiday, especially since I became a naturalized American citizen a few years ago. I love the patriotism, flags, weather, barbecues, time at the pool or on the water, celebrations and fireworks. Most of all, I love being with friends and family and, once again, to give thanks for the acceptance and warm welcome I have received from the vast majority of our community. I place a huge personal value on the good friends I have made during the past six years since I made beautiful coastal Georgia my home.
If all this enthusiasm sounds a bit strange from a British-born woman, please indulge me and remember that one of the reasons I love this part of the world is that it is rooted in history. Yes, the American colonists (as they were at the time) threw out the British king, and the Founding Fathers famously declared independence in 1776. However, this was nearly 250 years ago, and a lot of historical events and military, economic and familial alliances have been made between the USA and the United Kingdom since then, leading to what is commonly known as “the special relationship.”
Of course, Georgia was one of the 13 Colonies that became the first states, but it was founded in 1732 and named after King George I (not King George III of “high taxation and no representation” fame against whom the Americans rebelled during the Revolutionary War). Back in the early 18th century, the British were concerned about the Spanish in Florida and the French in Mississippi expanding their territories, which is why Georgia was founded. Beautiful Savannah — famously established by British Gen. James Oglethorpe in 1733 — today is a big part of the charm of living here.
Military action in this part of the world has played an important role in shaping the America we know today, so I would like to share a few thoughts about our local historical forts. Lots more information, including directions to visit these, can be found at www.gastateparks.org.
• From the Civil War — Fort McAllister in Bryan County, right on our doorstep and the banks of the gorgeous Ogeechee River, has the best-preserved earthwork fortification of the Confederacy. This fort was attacked seven times by Union ironclads (steam-powered warships protected with steel armor), but did not fall until 1864 at the end of Sherman’s March to the Sea. This fort brings to mind the brave, determined and stubborn nature of the American character, without which this great nation would not have been built.
• From the Revolutionary War — Fort Morris in Midway reminds me of the uniquely American way of casually and firmly expressing simple resistance to demands to give up. When the British called the fort’s surrender in 1778, American Col. John McIntosh replied “Come and take it!” British forces withdrew and did not take the fort until the following year. Without this attitude, which is so firmly embedded in the American psyche, the free world would not be so free.
• From early Colonial days — Fort King George in Darien reminds me of the stoicism that early settlers to America displayed after months of dangerous travel across the Atlantic Ocean. This fort was established by the British in 1721, 12 years before Oglethorpe sailed up the Savannah River. It is an authentic replica of the original fort built by Col. John “Tuscarora Jack” Barnwell at the mouth of the Altamaha River. Early British troops in America garrisoned the fort and endured incredible hardships from disease, threats of Spanish and Indian attacks, and the harsh, unfamiliar coastal environment. Many of these men were too injured or sick to serve the British army in support of a direct conflict, but not too incapacitated to be retired from service. Hot, mosquito-swarming summer months in particular took a heavy toll on many of these men. A British cemetery overlooking the fort contains the graves of 65 soldiers. This strength of character endures today, as Americans affected by natural disasters, violence or sickness often pick themselves up and carry on.
Because of my own personal journey, plus a keen interest in history, I have read and thought a lot about being an American citizen and the responsibilities that come with this privilege. I would therefore like to leave you with a quote that really resonates with me from Founding Father George Washington, the first U.S. president: “The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the republican model of government are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.”
God bless America, and happy Fourth of July!
Email her at email@example.com or by going to www.lesleyfrancispr.com.