Patriots & Prose
Welcome to the Manor House Blog "Patriots & Prose"!
The Manor House blog is a place for Daughters to celebrate, reflect on, and uphold American ideals relating to core DAR values of patriotism, education, and historic preservation. The blog empowers our Daughters to give thought and voice to the fascinating, obscure, and thought-provoking facets of being American.
An Interview with Aryssa Damron, NSDAR American Heritage 2nd Place Winner, Drama
By Serena Bell
The British Failed Southern Campaign During the American Revolution
By Ashley Sylvester
Longer paper can be found here.
Image: “Cow representing English commerce being milked and dehorned by France, Spain, Holland, and the United States while the British lion sleeps, during the American Revolutionary War.” Lib. of Cong. U.S. Govt. Web. 5 November 2017. <http://www.loc.gov/>.
Going Back in Time to Meet My Ancestor: A 2020 American Heritage Contest Entry
By Aryssa Damron
When I was brainstorming for this year’s American Heritage Contest---the theme was “Rise and Shine Your Light on Your Revolutionary War Patriot”--I was initially at a loss. I knew the basics about my ancestor, Rev. Henry Wood of South Carolina. I was never the family genealogist, but I was the family storyteller, and there is where I found my way forward for this year’s contest. Not through a quilt or a costume, a painting or a photograph, but through the pen. Alright...through a keyboard.
Last year, as part of a career goal, I re-read all the picture books of Patricia Polacco, an absolute queen of the genre who writes longer-form pictures books. The story draws you in as much as the picture -- and she can really yank you in. Most of her books make me tear up. While the majority of her books draw on her real-life experiences, I found one book that was different. It was called ‘Just in Time, Abe Lincoln’ and it centered on two boys who are visiting Gettysburg and get taken back in time to the Civil War! As you can guess from the title, President Abe Lincoln narrowly saves the day, and them, and their love of history is cemented forever as they come back to the present day.
As I considered how to use my words to enter this year’s contest -- I did not have the skill set to crochet the likeness of Henry Wood in a blanket or scarf -- I thought of this book immediately. I thought of how fun time travel was, and how I loved to see it used in unique ways.
I’m not an artist though, and so instead of a picture book, I imagined a play. Traveling back in time and meeting my ancestor would be a key element of the show, but I didn’t want to be bound by making myself the main character. Instead, I invented a cousin: Penelope Slaughter. Slaughter is a family name, and Penelope actually came, in my mind, from Pennuel, one of the sons of my ancestor, Henry Wood.
Every story needs an exciting incident, and in the Polacco story, it’s boredom. I wanted something more though. One thing my DAR chapter, Manor House, has never shied away from in our events is letting veterans talk about their experiences today. We’ve hosted groups who help veterans with PTSD and trauma, who help them find jobs after deployments, et cetera. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to know that veterans today face real issues, and that it’s likely veterans of the past dealt with their own issues. PTSD may be a recent diagnosis, but it’s not a recent phenomenon. That’s when this dual story came to me. I love chiasmic stories -- stories that tell a parallel narrative using separate characters or timelines. Using that literary technique, I imagined my main character Penelope traveling in time to meet her ancestor, Henry, and through speaking with him, she unlocks something about her relationship with her own father, a veteran of Afghanistan.
To weave in some reality to my imagination, I took the biographical data I knew about my ancestors -- names, birthdates, ages after the war, wives and brothers, the battles he fought in. It was all readily available through tombstones, death records, and a commemorative ceremony held for my ancestor by the Sons of the Revolution years ago. It took nothing but a few keystrokes and a Google search to verify the date on which Henry Wood’s daughter Charity was born, and the year his first wife died.
The biggest problem I faced in this contest entry was the limitations on length. 8 pages of a play isn’t much of a play at all, especially when you have to establish two timelines, multiple sets of characters, and build some heft into the emotional moments, but I did what I think was my best. The length is definitely a win for some of the other categories -- a 15-line poem can be cranked out in an afternoon, and could end up being a national winner without taking up a whole page!
As my writing drew to a close, I knew the final moment I wanted, and I hope that the characters’ attempts to “try and understand” not only moves the judges but can inspire me in my continuing service work with veterans of the present. We will never have the same experiences. We can never truly know what they want through, but we can try and understand by listening and researching, and that is what inspired my American Heritage contest entry.
Image: Henry Wood tombstone
DAR Journeys: Visiting Crossnore School
By Serena Bell
This past summer, my family embarked on a trip to North Carolina. As we drove through winding roads of the mountains outside Blowing Rock, I noticed a sign for the town of Crossnore. As a newer DAR member who recently took the Member’s Course, the town Crossnore sounded familiar to me. After a quick Google search, I realized that a DAR school, Crossnore School & Children’s Home, is located there!
The Crossnore School & Children’s Home provides a wide range of services for children and young adults in a residential setting. To support the school, the grounds host several stores open to the public to assist with raising funds for the school and specific programs. This includes a thrift store, a coffee shop, and a weaving and fine arts gallery. We took a detour to the thrift store where there were some great finds to be had -- if we only had more space in our car! After making a few purchases, we returned to our original journey enriched with Crossnore School literature for further reading.
I am so glad I was able to make a quick visit to the school and better connect to the mission of DAR. Some ways our chapter supports Crossnore School and other DAR schools include:
Collecting Box Tops for Education, Coca Cola give back, and other programs
Making donations to the “Friends of DAR Schools Fund” through DAR giving
Purchases of the DAR “School of Sunfish” pin
Image: Serena at Crossnore
Librarian's Nook: Tolliver's Secret
By Aryssa Damron, Manor House Librarian and Zachary, George Washington Society (C.A.R.) Librarian
Here at Manor House, we love books and we love what books can teach readers--young, old, and in between about history! As chapter librarian, I love leading our book club discussions and recommending books to members for themselves and their children on the American Revolution.
One such member, Layla, and her son, Zachary, have been so gracious as to review an American Revolutionary book for us.
Zachary, a member of the CAR George Washington chapter, reviewed Tolliver's Secret by Esther Wood Brady.
From the publisher, "When her grandfather is injured, 10-year-old Ellen Toliver replaces him on a top-secret patriotic mission. Disguised as a boy, she manages to smuggle a message to General George Washington."
Here's Zachary's review:
"Toliver’s Secret was interesting and the anticipation for Toliver to deliver the letter was really what made it shine. There were a lot of good scenes but my favorite is the Redcoat boat and it is really interesting and you’re wondering what’s going to happen next. "
We definitely recommend this book for any lover of books who wants to learn more about this period in history, and this book, while intended for children, is a great book for all ages to explore how we can blend fiction and history to engage readers into more research into the period.
Image: Tolliver's Secret book cover
Constitution Week Trivia and Music!
By Kristen Maddux, Manor House Constitution Week Chair
Constitution Week, September 17 - 23.
In 1955, the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution petitioned Congress with a resolution; this week of observance for the foundation of the American form of government was signed into law by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on August 2, 1956. The commitment of the NSDAR is to encourage study and educate the public about the Constitution, which was adopted by the American Congress of the Confederation on September 17, 1787.
If you want to liven up Zoom calls with friends and family this week, try a game of Constitution trivia with these 5 facts about signers of the U.S. Constitution.
1. Who signed the Constitution twice, once for himself and once for his friend who had to leave the convention early due to exhaustion? (Answer: George Read of Delaware).
BONUS QUESTION: Who was his friend who had to leave the convention early? (Answer: John Dickinson)
2. Who spent a million dollars of his own money to finance the battle of Yorktown? (Answer: Robert Morris of Pennsylvania. He ended up in “Prune Street” debtor’s prison for 3 1⁄2 years when he couldn’t pay the taxes on his vast land holdings.)
3. Which signer introduced the New Jersey Plan, which favored the small states, and is known as “The Father of the United States Senate?” (Answer: William Patterson of New Jersey)
4. Who was the youngest delegate? (Answer: Jonathan Dayton of New Jersey).
BONUS QUESTION: How old was he? (Answer: twenty-six years old)
5. Who supported the Connecticut Compromise, which initially settled the big states - little states arguments over representation, and was known as “Mr. Compromise?” (Answer: Roger Sherman from Connecticut)
Source: The Founders – the 39 stories behind the U.S. Constitution.
If you’re “Zoomed out”, check out The Most Perfect Album featuring songs inspired by each of the 27 amendments by some of the best musicians in the world!
Being American: American Values in German
By Kelsey Gerber
Today’s narrative of what it is to be American is often complicated and sometimes fraught. But there are many ways to be American, and the diversity of American experiences, good and bad, weave together into the unique fabric of the nation. My own life and the roots on which it is built, deeply American in many ways, offer one version of the American dream, its costs, and its legacy.
My maternal grandfather Woody’s ancestors arrived from Germany in the mid-1700s, and my many greats-grandfather, Peter, fought for freedom in the Revolutionary War. Many of his hundreds of descendants (he had 12 children!) remained in the same sleepy, rural Pennsylvania county and were buried in the cemetery next to the Lutheran church Peter helped build, where I would one day sing in children’s choir over 200 years later.
Though Woody and generations before him were born and raised two hours from New York City and 90 minutes from Philadelphia — the birthplace of our nation — my grandfather grew up speaking German. He didn’t learn to speak English until he attended a one-room schoolhouse in rural Pennsylvania in the 1940s. When Woody joined the military not long after the start of the Vietnam War, his German fluency deployed him to Germany instead of Vietnam. He was stationed on the West side, the free side, when the Berlin Wall went up one night in 1961. It must have been a surreal experience to be there, in the land of his forefathers, as the United States’ rival drew its physical and metaphorical lines in the sand.
After the war a job with a union allowed this same German-speaking poor farmer to achieve the American Dream, working his way to the middle class by putting in long hours away from home. The New Deal Era policies, continued through the middle of the century, offered Woody opportunities today’s generations struggle to replicate. Maybe most American of all, Woody worked endless overtime and many years later retired with over six months of unused vacation, having believed in no such thing as work-life balance.
All the time he spent working to provide complicated his ability to be an active part of the family, bequeathing to my mother mixed consequences, values, and behaviors -- and from her passed a new, complex set of values to her children. And in dramatic irony, a rare form of cancer, likely caused by environmental factors he was exposed to in long hours on the job, took the life of the otherwise healthy Woody in May of 2020, at a time when his family could not celebrate his life and hard work because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Still, my grandfather’s hard work put his eldest grandchild, me, through college, giving me the best opportunity he had to offer, for which I am eternally grateful. With that came a spoken hope that I would help and guide my four younger siblings to success as much as possible; the unspoken expectation that I would forge a legacy and do more than he, who had to quit school in 8th grade to work on the family farm, could dream of achieving.
This myriad of values, of Americanisms, blended differently in each of my siblings; it created cynicism and pragmatism, extreme emotions and lack of empathy, complacency and ambition in combinations unique to each of us, as we each through inheritance and observation developed our own version of being American.
In me it created unfettered idealism that has been muddied by experience. After all, it’s the rare American who, despite being told as much, can actually grow up to be anything they want without the right connections.
My family and its lived history has also created a drive in me to want something better for myself and those around me, just as Woody wanted for his family and Peter wanted for his adopted nation. Not only was this part of what drove me to join DAR as a way to offer my time and energy to causes I think are important, it also drove me to dedicate myself to working for an organization that aims to create more opportunity -- and a common purpose in making the country better -- through national service like AmeriCorps.
I want to do what I can to ensure all Americans have access to all of the best parts of being American that my grandfather and his many greats-grandfather before him fought for. After all, what is more American than working for a better America?
Image: Woody Steigerwalt in his military uniform, 1959