June 5, 2006


On Long Island, redcoats corner the rebels: Nathanael Greene is battling a fever and away from the battlefield when 20,000 British and Hessian troops storm ashore. (GERALD M. CARBONE, 6/05/06, Providence Journal)

He named three aides, including Rhode Islanders William Blodget and Ezekiel Cornell, known by the troops as "Old Snarl." Blodget, a heavyset fellow, was a natural comedian who had been an actor before the war; Cornell was a dependable disciplinarian.

For his third aide, Greene picked an odd Englishman named Thomas Paine. With a long, low-slung nose and keen, narrow eyes, Paine looked a bit like a puffin. In London he'd been a debtor and ne'er-do-well, but Ben Franklin met him there, was charmed by the man's intellect and wrote him a letter of introduction to Philadelphia society. Now in 1776, Paine was the author of a famous pamphlet called "Common Sense," perhaps the greatest bestseller ever published in America. The pamphlet sold 120,000 copies, roughly 1 book for every 25 people in the country. To achieve that today, a book would have to sell more than 11 million copies. Virtually every literate man in the Colonies had read "Common Sense," which stated persuasively the reasons for American independence: "No man was a warmer wisher for a reconciliation than myself, before the fatal nineteenth of April 1775, but the moment the event of that day was made known, I rejected the hardened, sullen-tempered Pharaoh of England forever."

When Paine joined the Army in July 1776, Greene scooped him up as an aide-de-camp.

Greene, with his military "family" of Blodget, Cornell and Paine, commanded five forts linked in an arc around Brooklyn on Long Island -- then the epicenter of the American Revolution. While Greene drove his troops to strengthen the forts in expectation of attack, an epidemic of "camp sickness" spread through the ranks.

Greene tried to stem the sickness by requesting more bars of soap, by ordering his troops to use and clean latrines rather than using the ditches in front of the forts (a Practice that is Disgracefull to the last Degree) and by eating more vegetables.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 5, 2006 5:12 PM

And Medical Science hasn't advanced since

Yeah, right, and they still have to chew on bullets while the doctors amputate their limbs.

Posted by: Brandon at June 5, 2006 6:36 PM

Pile on: and a bullet wound to the extremities is almost never fatal anymore, either.

You have a point, OJ, in that most of the gains in life expectancy and health in the past two centuries can be attributed to nutrition and hygiene. But you take the joke too far when you claim that this voids the benefits that medical science has provided since then.

Posted by: M. Bulger at June 6, 2006 8:03 AM

Doesn't void them, just minimizes them to their proper proportion.

Posted by: oj at June 6, 2006 8:27 AM

Best not to get him started on this.

Posted by: erp at June 6, 2006 8:25 PM

Sometimes I wonder if OJ is reacting to the electro-shock therapy. At one time, that was considered progressive.....

Posted by: ratbert at June 6, 2006 10:29 PM

One time? It's considered quite useful today.

Posted by: oj at June 6, 2006 10:51 PM