As Arlington seeks to capitalize on its long history, in part through a tourism committee called A-TED, let's take a brief glimpse back in time to the Colonial era with the help of a freelancer from the U.K. who may view one of our heroes, Sam Whittemore, in a different way (at left is his monument near the Jefferson Cutter House).
The American Revolutionary War, 1775-83, mainly known in Great Britain as the American War of Independence, has been described by one professor in England as "a war between cousins." Generally, the schoolchildren in the UK studying history learn a lot about Europe but relatively little about America, beyond selected incidents – the arrival of the Pilgrims in November 1620 on board the Mayflower and, perhaps, a brief reference to the Boston Tea Party in December 1773 – before the focus tends to shift to World War II and its outcomes.
The British people recognized Massachusetts as a British colony in America that, like many others worldwide, eventually won its independence from the British Empire.
In 2005, local resident Samuel Whittemore was declared the official state hero for his participation in the Revolutionary War that brought independence.
He was an intrepid soldier who believed in the right of Americans to self-govern rather than submit to the control of a king in a distant country. This was a difficult concept for Britons to accept in the late 18th and early 19th centuries; hence, the Revolution and then the War of 1812.
Still, the push for freedom among Colonists is a position with which most rational people, on either side of the Atlantic, would agree today.
Originally known by the Algonquin word, "Menotomy," the village became West Cambridge in 1811 and received its current name in 1867 following the U.S. Civil War. Some sources say it was in honor of the military casualties and veterans of a number of wars who were buried in Arlington National Cemetery, in Virginia.
A town of about 42,000 people, which is large enough to be considered a city in Massachusetts, Arlington has a numbers of parks and historical sites. It is accessible via inexpensive air flights to Boston followed by a drive about 8 1/2 miles. The Arlington Center Historic District is recorded in the National Register of Historic Places.
In fact, Arlington has an impressive number of important heritage sites and artifacts, given that it was once a small village settled by European Colonists in 1635, whose original name means "swift running water."
A monument to Whittemore in Arlington Center recounts his bravery in opposing the British. Yet Whittemore was in fact born in England in 1694, and served as an officer in the English army.
He fought in a number of campaigns, including King George’s War (1744-48) and arrived in 1745 in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, where he remained. Whittemore was involved in the capture of Fort Louisburg during that war and again during the French and Indian War (1754-63), known in Europe as the Seven Years War.
Whittemore’s most famous feat occurredwhen he was 80. While working in his fields, he took it upon himself to confront a passing brigade of British soldiers and attacked using musket, pistols and a sword -- the last two being spoils of previous battles. He was shot and stabbed with bayonets 13 times and left for dead. Incredibly, Whittemore survived and lived for another 18 years.
He was a soldier all his life, fighting for what he believed to be right, so it is hard to condemn Whittemore for attacking his fellow countrymen almost 30 years after he had opted to stay in the Colonies, particularly as he was convinced the British were in the wrong.
These days, the phlegmatic English are more likely to point out that he learned all his fighting skills and gained his remarkable courage because of the excellent training he was given when serving in the English military.
The writer is a freelancer living in the United Kingdom.