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Of Tory Hunting, Colonels, and Ears

In which we learn that history as it happens is not always as pretty as its myth told later.

During the Revolutionary War, many loyalists were treated brutally –€” like the tarred and feathered man in this print. When the war wrapped up, loyalists often found they had to fend for themselves, or flee.

“But, General,” I hear you say, “RWDS exacting vigilante justice against officials implementing intolerable policies and their supporters, just isn’t who we are as a country. American principles don’t allow for these methods to defend liberty.”

“Let’s talk about “Tory Hunting.”

“In the lead up to the Revolution, during the war, and in the decades that followed, gross attrocities occured (by today’s standards,) long sanitized in most history books.
In several instances, British tax collectors, agents of the crown, and loyalist sympathizers were tared and feathered. Many “ridden off on a rail.” Some just disappeared or were found hanged, sending a message.

“Persecution of Tories became official after the Declaration of Independence, when the Continental Congress and the newly declared free states passed confiscation and banishment acts, seizing property, and PHYSICALLY REMOVED anti-colonialists from their midsts.” —Thoughts of the illustrious @GenAugustoP

The Colonel by Carolyn Forche

“What you have heard is true. I was in his house. His wife carried a tray of coffee and sugar. His daughter filed her nails, his son went out for the night. There were daily papers, pet dogs, a pistol on the cushion beside him. The moon swung bare on its black cord over the house. On the television was a cop show. It was in English.

“Broken bottles were embedded in the walls around the house to scoop the kneecaps from a man’s legs or cut his hands to lace. On the windows there were gratings like those in liquor stores. We had dinner, rack of lamb, good wine, a gold bell was on the table for calling the maid.

“The maid brought green mangoes, salt, a type of bread. I was asked how I enjoyed the country. There was a brief commercial in Spanish. His wife took everything away. There was some talk then of how difficult it had become to govern. The parrot said hello on the terrace. The colonel told it to shut up, and pushed himself from the table.

“My friend said to me with his eyes: say nothing. The colonel returned with a sack used to bring groceries home. He spilled many human ears on the table. They were like dried peach halves. There is no other way to say this.

“He took one of them in his hands, shook it in our faces, dropped it into a water glass. It came alive there. ‘I am tired of fooling around,’ he said. ‘As for the rights of anyone, tell your people they can go fuck themselves.’

“He swept the ears to the floor with his arm and held the last of his wine in the air. ‘Something for your poetry, no?’  he said. Some of the ears on the floor caught this scrap of his voice. Some of the ears on the floor were pressed to the ground.”

Carolyn Forché : The Poetry Foundation

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Old Codger March 27, 2018, 11:19 AM

    The American Revolution was …truly a civil war: Brother against brother, father against son, cousin versus cousin; with all the nastiness a “civil war” entails.

    The “rebels”were lucky if they had decent support from 20% of the population; Tories and Loyalists the same, especially in the Carolinas. Tories and Loyalists in Connecticut were purged from local militias early on and kept under firm local control by threats and acts of violence by those same said militias or driven off to Canada.

    Not a nice, clean patriotic business, that Revolution…..the Founding Fathers would have swung from trees or gallows, had they been captured.

  • ghostsniper March 27, 2018, 2:01 PM

    “….scoop the kneecaps from a man’s legs….”

    If reading that don’t make your backbone slip I don’t know what will.

  • John The River March 27, 2018, 6:09 PM

    Next year?

  • Terry March 27, 2018, 6:34 PM

    *Next year?*

    Very possible. My advice would be, do not trust anyone you do not know and few of those you think you know.