Re-Searching Shunk, conclusion for now…

September 17, 2014

In the art of war, the esprit des corps – the movement of muscles in unison together with chants, song and loud rhythmic yells – creates euphoric energy in battle. The British confident in their ability to defeat the unseasoned American militia selected Baltimore to be the next target. Prior to the battle, Francis Shunk (1788-1848) quoted the opening lines of “Farewell Song to the Banks of Ayr” (1786), Robert Burns’ farewell dirge to his native land, and wrote, “The dark clouds filled with thunder & rain hastened to verspread [sic] the fermentation. The gloom of approaching night adds terror to all surrounding objects… and here I wonder amidst the contention of elements forlorn and silent depressed and unhappy too well does the tumult of my heart accord with the violence that surrounds. After the battle, Shunk happily anticipated the celebration of victory with friends where he would play Green Grow the Rashes, O (1783) – with all his might on the violin. The British did not anticipate that a gutsy Senator named Samuel Smith would change tactics by instituting regular drills featuring marching songs.

Hence, the Battle for Baltimore as chronicled by Francis Scott Key in “The Star Spangled Banner” proved to be a turning point when British forces were repulsed at Fort McHenry, and the city of Baltimore was saved:

Oh, say can you see by the dawn’s early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars thru the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh, say does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected now shines in the stream:
‘Tis the star-spangled banner! Oh long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion,
A home and a country should leave us no more!
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave:
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav’n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: “In God is our trust.”
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

A poor farm boy in a multicultural world. Be not deceived, my friends, the carefree days of youth amang the lasses, O, do not a wayfarer still. Mr. Chunk, as he was sometimes called, stayed close to home and hearth, becoming a governor of Pennsylvania who built public institutions of learning and was an early proponent of married women’s property rights.

Next we will explore Jane Austen in a new America…

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