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June 29th, 2017

Insight

The USA's Real Birthday

Greg Crosby

By Greg Crosby

Published August 21, 2015

On September 3rd you should fly your flag and celebrate the official birthday of the United States of America. You probably think I'm crazy, but we can talk about my mental health at another time. Yes, yes, I know we celebrate the Fourth of July as America's birthday but it's not really. The fact is America still had a long way to go from the Declaration of Independence until they were considered a sovereign nation in the eyes of the world.

Remember, July 4th 1776 was the day the Continental Congress formally declared independence, but the colonies still had years and years of war with England ahead of them before they became the USA. Think of the Fourth of July like a teenager saying to his parents, "Okay, I'm independent now," before actually getting a job and living on his own. It's a nice idea but it isn't a reality yet.

The American Revolutionary War lasted over eight years, from the first conflicts at Lexington and Concord in April of 1775, through the battles of New York City and New Jersey, the battles of Saratoga in 1777, of Yorktown in 1781, to the end in 1783. Eight years, eight hard bloody years.

Most of the time the Patriots had no decent clothing or shoes. The troops went without food and pay for long stretches, and many had to resort to stealing to feed themselves. You think today's VA is bad? Well, it is actually, but try fighting barefoot and hungry in the freezing snow. From the very beginning, it seems, it has never been easy for America's fighting men.

The American victory in the battles of Saratoga encouraged France (and later Spain) to join us against the British in 1778. Without France's help the American cause for independence might have never succeeded. Then in October 1781, George Washington commanded the French and American forces in the Siege of Yorktown, which turned the tide of the war at last in the patriots favor.

At ten A.M. on October 17th the British finally waved the white flag, at eleven A.M. on October 19 the articles of surrender were signed. Washington's forces captured the entire British force of over 8,000 men in that siege, but if you think that brought any kind of humility from the King's men think again.

To put it kindly, British commanders were not at all gracious in their loss, retaining their pomposity, snobbery, and showing contempt for Washington and his men even as they surrendered to them. General Cornwallis wouldn't even show up to face Washington at the surrender ceremony (claiming to be "indisposed") and sent an underling in his place. Fortunately, as pointed out by Washington biographer Ron Chernow, that marked the last time that Americans ever had to endure such "graceless and uncouth" condescension from England.

But the Siege of Yorktown turned the British Parliament against the war at long last. In early 1782 they voted to end offensive operations in North America. Even though the Brits retained a large contingency in New York, they were finished and they knew it. Slowly but surly they oozed their way back across the pond to England. The Patriots won.

On September 3, 1783, the Treaty of Paris was signed, which finally ended the war and recognized the sovereignty of the United States of America over the territory bounded roughly by what is now Canada to the north, Florida to the south, and the Mississippi River to the west. The loss of the American colonies marked the end of the first British Empire. The world watched as a new nation came into being on that September day, the day that changed forever the cause for human rights, liberty and freedom for people everywhere.

So this September 3rd fly your flag proudly, hang up banners, bake a birthday cake to America (with 232 candles) and you'll show all your friends and neighbors not only how patriotic you are, but also how historically correct you are. You'll be the first on your block to know the true birth date of the United States.

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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. He's also a Southern California-based freelance writer.

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