Grateful American Book Prize

History Matters
December 16 to 31, 2021

Showing our children that their past is prelude to their future
By John Grimaldi and David Bruce Smith

In September and October of 1777, the colonial army—comprised mostly of farmers and tradesmen—unexpectedly overwhelmed three of England’s professionally trained corps at the Battle of Saratoga.

In the midst of it, Benjamin Franklin, was in France soliciting support for the Cause; soon, the country became the first foreign government to institute diplomatic relations with America, even though the colonies would be entangled in a war with England until 1783.

According to History.com Franklin had already endeared himself and colonial America to the French nation: “Franklin, who often wore a fur cap, captured the imagination of Parisians as an American man of nature and his well-known social charms stirred French passions for all things American. He was the toast of Parisian society, enchanting salons with his wide-ranging knowledge, social graces and witty repartee.”

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends The Road to Yorktown: The French Campaigns in the American Revolution, 1780-1783 by Louis-François-Bertrand du Pont d’Aubevoye, comte de Lauberdière by Norman Desmarais.

Elvis Presley was a worldwide celebrity–the “King of Rock-and-Roll”–until December 20, 1957. On that day, Uncle Sam “appeared” with a draft notice. Presley received the news, soberly, declined the opportunities for choice assignments, and served as a “regular” GI. As he put it:

“People were expecting me to mess up, to goof up in one way or another. They thought I couldn’t take it and so forth, and I was determined to go to any limits to prove otherwise. Not only to the people who were wondering but to myself.”

The induction notice was a notice of mandatory enlistment in the armed services—a law inaugurated in 1917, and rescinded in 1973, when the U.S. reverted to an all-volunteer military.

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Elvis: The Army Years Uncovered: Behind the Scenes of the Two Years That Changed the King of Rock and Roll’s Life by Trina Young.

Clement C. Moore was a Hebrew scholar, and professor of Asian and Greek literature at the General Theological Seminary in Manhattan. He was also the son of Benjamin Moore, president of Columbia University, and the Episcopal bishop of New York. The elder Moore participated in the inauguration of George Washington and administered the last rites to Alexander Hamilton after his deadly duel with Aaron Burr.

Meanwhile, Benjamin’s son, Clement, a relatively obscure poet, unearthed his muse on the night of December 24, 1822. While riding a horse drawn sleigh in the snow-covered streets of Greenwich Village, Moore wrote an ode, with the intent—only—of amusing his six children, but the poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas”— morphed into a classic called “The Night Before Christmas.”

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse; The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there; …

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends The Poet of Christmas Eve, a Life of Clement Clarke Moore, 1779-1863 by Samuel White.


History Matters is a biweekly feature courtesy of The Grateful American Book Prize.