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Founding Fathers - William Williams

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William Williams Born: April 8, 1731 (Lebanon, CT) Died: August 2, 1811 (Lebanon, CT) I'll be honest, I picked this week's focus because his repetitive name caught my attention.  William Williams was born in 1731 to a popular Congregationalist minister and his wife, Solomon and Mary Williams, in the small town of Lebanon.  Young William would ultimately call Lebanon his home for the rest of his life.  Wanting to follow in his father's footsteps, he studied for the ministry but also earned a law degree from Harvard, the college where both his father and grandfather had graduated, in 1751 at the age of 20.  William then returned home and began serving as the town clerk the following year, while also continuing his pastoral training under the instruction of his father.  Within three years, however, his plans were sidetracked with the start of the French and Indian War and his enlistment with the British colonial forces.  His uncle, Ephraim, served as a colonel of a Massachuset

Founding Fathers - George Walton

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George Walton Born: ?? (Farmville, VA) Died: February 2, 1804 (Augusta, GA) As you can see from the information above, there is a bit of mystery about this week's subject - George Walton.  The details of his birth are unclear, with some believing he was born as early as 1740 or 1741 and others thinking date of 1749 or 1750 is more accurate.  If the latter time frame is to be believed, then George Walton may be the youngest man to sign the Declaration of Independence.  That would be the second superlative of his, since his name is also the very last alphabetically.  He was born somewhere near Farmville, Virginia, but the exact location is unknown and has been attributed to both Cumberland County to the north of town as well as Prince Edward County, which includes the center of town and those areas to the south.  While he was still very young George was orphaned upon the death of both parents, and he was taken in by an uncle to be raised in a household of 13 children.  This uncle was

Founding Fathers - John Hancock

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John Hancock Born: January 23, 1737 (Braintree, MA) Died: October 8, 1793 (Boston, MA) For several weeks we've learned more about some of the signers who do not have a significant measure of modern notoriety.  Today, however, I want to study a man who seemingly everyone has heard of.  The name "John Hancock" has become synonymous with signatures in the United States, due to the bombastic style of his writing at the bottom of the Declaration of Independence, but his story his somewhat less known despite the several important roles he played.  Like Samuel Adams, whose life we explored at the beginning of our journey through the biographies of America's Founding Fathers, John Hancock was born in the city of Braintree, MA, although the exact address is now within the modern city of Quincy.  His parents were a minister named John and his previously-widowed wife Mary, but they did not guide his life nearly as much as his uncle and aunt, Thomas and Lydia Hancock, who took hi

Founding Fathers - William Hooper

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William Hooper Born: June 28, 1742 (Boston, MA) Died: October 14, 1790 (Hillsborough, NC) Until now, all of the signers that we have studied could perhaps be considered lifetime locals - each was born in the state he would represent, and each would eventually die there as well.  This week we look at the first of our movers and shakers that was literally a mover - William Hooper.  Born in Boston, MA, William was the oldest of five children born to a Scottish minister and his wife, William and Mary.  The elder William initially immigrated to the Massachusetts colony as a member of the Congregationalist denomination, but eventually became an Episcopalian and therefore had to cross the Atlantic to study in London prior to his new ordination.  Such devotion to faith led the father to plan for his son to follow in his footsteps, and the younger William was educated at the Boston Latin School before moving on to Harvard.  Much to his parents' dismay, however, Hooper was more interested in

Founding Fathers - Caesar Rodney

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Caesar Rodney Born: October 7, 1728 (Dover, DE) Died: June 26, 1784 (Dover, DE) Happy 2023, and welcome back to the Geographist blog!  To kick off the new year, I wanted to start with someone who may not be well-known but who is certainly an important figure in our nation's history: Caesar Rodney.  Born on an 800 acre farm to a successful family in Delaware, he was the oldest of two children and was named for his father.  At the age of 14 Caesar was sent to nearby Philadelphia to study before his father died two years later.  From that point on he was in charge of his family's estate, although he was for a time under the guardianship of Nicholas Ridgely, who was serving Delaware as a Supreme Court Justice.  As he entered adulthood he embodied several contrasts.  His studies had been interrupted and he was not considered one of the intellectual scholars that typically engaged in politics, but he was nevertheless widely regarded as possessing significant wit, humor, and political

The Most Wonderful Time of Year

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I hope all of my readers have had a wonderful Christmas season.  My usual posts will return on January 1 once I return from a short trip to celebrate my 20th anniversary with Mrs. Geographist.  Here's wishing you all a tremendous 2023 as the new year is fast approaching - may it be your best yet and the worst from here on out!

Founding Fathers - Samuel Chase

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Samuel Chase Born: April 17, 1741 (Princess Anne, MD) Died: June 19, 1811 (Baltimore, MD) This week we will introduce ourselves to Samuel Chase, a native resident and representative of Maryland, who had a colorful and perhaps checkered life.  Born just outside of the town of Princess Anne, Samuel's parents had been married for just over a year when he was born.  His father, Thomas, had studied medicine at Cambridge before choosing the Anglican priesthood for his vocation, but he was nevertheless unable to save his wife, Matilda, who died during childbirth.  Samuel was raised and educated by his father, and by the age of 18 had moved to Baltimore to study law.  Despite an apprenticeship with a law firm, his financial resources were limited even as he began to gain acceptance in social circles.  He was admitted to the bar in 1761, married his wife Anne in 1762, had his first daughter in 1763, and was elected to Maryland's General Assembly in 1764 at the age of 23.  As a young att

Founding Fathers - Carter Braxton

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Carter Braxton Born: September 10, 1736 (King and Queen County, VA) Died: October 10, 1797 (Richmond, VA) This week we'll take a sharp departure from the life of John Adams, a well-known patriot who enjoyed success and fame after the American Revolution, and focus on a lesser-known signer named Carter Braxton whose story could hardly be more different.  The second son of George Braxton and his wife, Mary, the young child was surrounded by wealth and elite societal position from birth.  While his father had parlayed land grants into success as a planter, it was his maternal grandfather that had gained nearly-unparalleled wealth as a merchant.  Robert Carter, who had earned the nickname "King" from his fellow Virginians, was one of the richest residents and land owners in the American colonies.  But while Braxton was not lacking for money he was no stranger to loss.  His mother died immediately after he was born and his father only survived until he was 13 years old.  As an

Founding Fathers - John Adams

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John Adams Born: October 30, 1735 (Braintree, MA) Died: July 4, 1826 (Quincy, MA) We are starting our study of the Founding Fathers who signed the Declaration of Independence with one of the most famous and influential men in American history.  Able to trace his ancestors to the original Puritan immigrants that reached the shores of Massachusetts, John Adams was the oldest son born to John Adams, Sr. and his wife, Susanna.  Although John Sr. held both church and political positions besides working as a farmer and cobbler, serving as a deacon as well as local councilman, he wanted his son to enter the ministry.  After receiving a scholarship and graduating from Harvard University at the age of 20, however, John the younger opted for a career in law.  In 1758, after three years of teaching and completing a Master's degree, John joined the bar and returned home to Braintree. His personal and political life began to change dramatically with his marriage to Abigail Smith in 1764 and the

A new direction!

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Hello again, and happy Thanksgiving to each one of you!  After taking a couple of months off I've made a decision about the next direction that the Geographist blog will take, and it's a return to America's founding.  In 1776, a group of 56 men attached their names to a document that would forever change human history.  If things had happened differently, however, their signatures would have guaranteed a death sentence for treason against Britain's King George III.  That fateful document, of course, was the Declaration of Independence.  Some of the men who signed are well known, while others remain clouded in obscurity to the majority of citizens who live in the nation they helped create.  I'm interested in getting to know these men by delving into their individual stories to understand why they decided to risk everything by publicly standing against the mightiest empire on the planet, and to see how their actions affected the courses of their lives.  Join me each w

Taking a hiatus

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Thank you to everybody who has read any (or all) of my posts over the last few years.  When I started posting to this website at the very beginning, I don't know what I really expected but it certainly wasn't an extended run that would cover so many topics and result in the number of visitors that have dropped in.  I'm going to take a break for a little while to rest, reset, and refocus, so there won't be any posts for a bit.  As there are no firm plans going forward, the next step will be something of a surprise to all of us.  I'm wishing you all the best until we reach that point!  Brian "The Geographist"

Geography of War - The Landing at Cape Helles

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The Landing at Cape Helles (World War I) Date: April 25-26, 1915 Modern Location: Northwest Turkey Combatants: Allied forces (led by Major General Aylmer Hunter-Weston) vs Ottoman Empire forces (led by Colonel Halil Sami Bey) Summary: The Ottoman Empire at the beginning of the 20th century was a mere shadow of the world power that it had once been.  After years of decline under the rule of various sultans, an uprising by a group of intellectuals and military leaders calling themselves the Young Turks had taken control in an attempt to create a new political and social reality for the nation.  In an era that saw the rise of entangled international alliances there were few countries who did not have treaties that promised support in the event of war.  The Ottoman Empire was geographically situated at an internationally critical location, as they controlled the only point of access to the Black Sea - a skinny strait of water between Europe and Asia known as the Dardanelles.  Ministers fro

Geography of War - The Battle of Milvian Bridge

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The Battle of Milvian Bridge (Roman Civil War of the Tetrarchy) Date: October 28, 312 Modern Location: Rome, Italy Combatants: Roman legions loyal to Emperor Constantine vs Roman legions loyal to Emperor Maxentius Summary: The politics of the Roman world in the fourth century AD were complicated.  In an effort to quell the wars of succession that had ravaged the empire for many years, Emperor Diocletian developed a system known as the Tetrarchy in 293 that provided for two emperors, equal in power and both holding the title of augustus, to control the eastern and western halves of Rome.  Both had a designated successor that ruled alongside them, each being referred to as a caesar.  Diocletian had previously groomed his own caesar, named Maximian, before elevating him to co-augustus and ruler of the western half of the Roman empire in 286.  To help with affairs in the eastern half, Diocletian named Galerius as his new caesar, while Maximian chose Constantius.  The two emperors chose to

Geography of War - The Battle of Little Bighorn

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The Battle of Little Bighorn (The Great Sioux War) Date: June 25, 1876 Modern Location: Southern Montana, United States Combatants: Indian confederation, including Lakota, Dakota, Cheyenne, and Arapahoe tribes (led by Sitting Bull) vs. United States Army (led by Lieutenant Colonel George Custer) Summary: On Nov. 6, 1868, the United States concluded signed the Fort Laramie Treaty with 181 Sioux and Arapaho leaders to end Red Cloud's War, ceding the lands of the Black Hills to a group of Indian tribes that considered the land to be sacred.  Six years later, however, the US Army sent an expedition into the region under the command of George Custer to determine a location for a new fort and to survey the area's natural resources.  When the report came back that there was abundant gold in the hills, American settlers began relocating to the area in breach of the treaty's guidelines.  President Ulysses S. Grant, recognizing the obvious problem and seeking to avoid a deadly confro

Geography of War - The Battle of Creçy

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The Battle of Creçy (Hundred Years' War)  Date:  August 26, 1346 Modern Location:  Northern France Combatants:  England (led by King Edward III) vs France and Bohemia (led by King Philip VI and King John the Blind) Summary:  The king of England had a compelling claim on the French throne.  When the French monarch, Charles IV, died in 1328 without any children there were several options for who should have taken his place.  His nearest male relative was his nephew, England's Edward III, whose mother Isabella was the eldest surviving daughter of France's King Philip IV.  The nobility in France had confirmed many years before that a woman could not ascend the throne, but the question was unsettled whether she could pass along a claim that she did not possess.  They eventually named Charles' cousin the rightful heir and crowned him Philip VI.  Edward initially seemed to accept the decision, and traveled to France in order to swear vows of homage so that he could maintain co