Hate Breeds Hate

We have read often about the terrible conditions undergone by the American rag-tag army as it endured the freezing cold Winter at Valley Forge prior to the attack on the Hessians at Trenton during the Revolution. But we don’t read as often about the many other such Winters both at Valley Forge and elsewhere, that had to be endured as the war dragged on for eight long years and the underfed and ill-clothed condition of the army remained virtually the same. Washington Irving in his biography of George Washington described one such Winter at Morristown in some detail:

“The dreary encampment at Valley Forge has become proverbial for its hardships, yet they were scarcely more severe than those suffered by Washington’s army during the present winter [1780] while hutted among the heights of Morristown. The winter set in early and was uncommonly rigorous. The transportation of supplies was obstructed, the magazines were exhausted, and the commissaries had neither money nor credit to enable them to replenish them. For weeks at a time the army was on half allowance, sometimes without meat, sometimes without bread, sometimes without both. There was a scarcity too of clothing and blankets so that the poor soldiers were suffering from cold as well as hunger. .  .  .  The severest trails of the Revolution in fact were not in the field, where there were shouts to excite and laurels to be won, but in the squalid wretchedness of ill-provided camps, where there was nothing to cheer and everything to be endured. To suffer was the lot of the revolutionary soldier.”

The details of the picture sketched here are graphically completed in a letter written by General Anthony Wayne, who was in charge of six regiments hutted near Morristown:

“Poorly clothed, badly fed, and worse paid. . . . some of them not having received a paper dollar for near twelve months, exposed to winter’s piercing cold, to drifting snows and chilling blasts, with no protection but old worn-out coats, tattered linen overalls and but one blanket between three men.”

Needless to say, there was widespread sickness and desertions were common, even mutiny. The wonder is that any of the soldiers stayed it out and that Washington had enough men to continue the fight when the war resumed after the long, cold Winters. But he did.

Much if this remarkable fact is attributed by many historians to Washington’s undeniable charisma, his devotion to his troops, and his willingness to endure the same conditions as they. But there is another factor that needs to be mentioned and that is the fact that the British and their allies were intent to demoralize the colonists by burning whole villages  and pillaging everything in sight. This activity had precisely the opposite effect. One famous incident involving the wife of the Rev. James Caldwell is recounted by Irving:

“When sacking of the village took place she retired with her children into a back room of the house. Her infant of eight months was in the arms of an attendant. She herself was seated on the side of a bed holding a child of three years of age by the hand, and was engaged in prayer. All was terror and confusion in the village when suddenly a musket was discharged in at the window. Two balls struck her in the breast and she fell dead on the floor. The parsonage and church were set on fire and it was with difficulty her body was rescued from the flames.”

The terrible incident became a rallying cry for the angry colonists who grew to hate the invaders and more determined than ever to drive them from their homeland. Their hatred helped keep them warm during the harsh winters.

There were a great many loyal British subjects as the war began and the colonies had a difficult time raising militia enough to engage in a war against one of the most powerful armies on earth, especially since many of those “loyal” British subjects joined with the invaders to fight against their former countrymen. But as the war went on and the atrocities multiplied, despite the harsh conditions of the Winters and the lack of pay accompanied by the diminishing value of printed currency, the number of loyal British subjects diminished and the intensity of the colonists grew and became fierce. And they became better soldiers.

In any number of ways throughout history the same story, or stories very much like this one, has been repeated in the innumerable wars that humans have waged against one another. And yet the lesson is never learned. It is determined by one side or the other to “escalate” the war and demoralize the enemy by dropping bigger bombs or sending drones — which is the modern version of pillaging — only to discover that such actions merely enrage the enemy and make them more determined than ever to retaliate.

We find this today with the rapid growth of terrorist groups that has resulted from the “war on terror” this nation has declared as a result of the attack on the Twin Towers. The number of terrorists doesn’t diminish, it expands. Hatred breeds hatred. This is one of the lessons that history has held before us and it is one of the many lessons that we continue to ignore.


10 thoughts on “Hate Breeds Hate

  1. Good history lesson. 9/11 bred the invasion of a country under false pretenses, the torture of captives and the use of drones. It also led to us firing the police force of the Iraqis many of whom formed ISIS and let us not forget the tools and machinery we left behind that ISIS is using. We have made our world less safe by not fighting seeking a higher ground as we fight and by letting a leader in Iraq ostracize a group of people.

    Torture and drones have also made our world a less safe place. And, the extremists are baiting us to get involved as they cannot win a long PR campaign against fellow Muslims. If they can bait us to get in and use drones, it will create even more hatred aiding their cause.

  2. Thanks for this, Hugh. It plays out so often and yet the supposedly superior forces never learn from it and continue to repeat its failures. The British during the American Revolution, the U.S. in Vietnam, the Kuomintang in China the French in Algeria, the Soviets in Afghanistan, the U.S. now in the war on terror are some of the more notable ones.

    In Iraq and Afghanistan, and surrounding countries, — through arrogance, the warping of clear thought by partisan politics, through the utterly awful mistreatment of civilians, through stripping Iraq of almost its entire civil service class, by not realizing “nation building” is not so easy in lands of hundreds of small nations who care not about borders drawn in the 1920s — we misread things going in, bungled so much once we got there and have created a situation that we can’t control. A very big Pandora’s box, and Pandora is a big, mutating berserker beast with no regard for humanity called ISIS.

  3. I have enjoyed your posts, especially this and the one beforre: your appreciation of Irving’s biography of Washington. Reading this one saddened my heart as I reflected on how brutal ‘civilized’ man can be, and how little we’ve progressed. I reflect on the family trees of those living in the colonized Americas, and many of those connections go back to acts of violence that squeezed the Indians out so that we could prosper… squeezed is too kind of a word.

    Man’s evolution is still in its infancy when it comes to ego and materialism. Throw in hunger or a basic human need, and then things get ugly. What can we do to get past all of this?

  4. Very interesting thought process, Hugh, and nothing that is not true.

    I would also bring this down a level, into how our politicians are treating the citizens of this country. I certainly see parallels between the gradual change from loyal british subjects to members of the revolutionary army, and loyal citizens to angry disenfranchised citizens who no longer have trust or loyalty to our “leaders.” Once acceptance of our political leaders and institutions such as Congress or state governments erodes, how many will take the other side, and will this logically lead to our next revolutionary war?

    Who is the next wife of the Rev. Cadwell, who will become the rallying cry? Maybe Not Eric Garner, not Michael Brown, but it could happen soon.

    I certainly can see that possibility.

    Thanks for the great history lesson.

    • Barney, to your point, I found it interesting the same day I sent out my piece on “I am a tree hugger and a capitalist” the Speaker was admonishing those against the Keystone Pipeline as “a bunch of left-fringe extremists and anarchists,” according to The Hill. This is the Speaker of the House who said this. BTG

      • Boehner is a total loser, so focused on keeping his job that he’s really not doing anything. And the “jobs” lie just sends me over the top.

    • I do think it will take an atrocity at least as great as the death of the good Rev’s wife to rouse this sleeping citizenry. They seem perfectly content to ignore things as long as they have their TV and games. Huxley saw it coming!

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