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Old November 12, 2021, 11:14 PM   #1
roscoe
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on Veterans Day weekend - some thoughts on the citizen army and the 'three percenters'

So I was just kind of thinking about citizen participation in the military the other day, and reflected on my family. We have been in every war since the Revolution, right up through Afghanistan. A lot of families I know are the same. They normally don't buy drinks when I am around.

Having seen the 3 Percenter bumper stickers a few times, that got me thinking. I wondered where they got that number. I mean, the number 3 has some significant historical appearances, so could it be an actual coincidence that only three percent of eligible males fought in the revolution? And does that make American society at large a bunch of parasites riding on the backs of a few true heroes?

Anyway, the numbers are actually available, so I did the math. Raw populations numbers are based on the 1790 census (the first ever taken), but the percentages are from 1800, so it may be fractionally off.

The US population, including slaves, was 3.9 million (to the nearest 100,000) in 1790. Of that population, ~18% was enslaved and ~82% free. Males composed about 49% of the population and about 30% were in the 16-45 age bracket (life expectancy was under 40 at that time). That gives us an eligible population of about 430,000. Now, we do have records on the size of the Continental Army. Over the length of the war, about 230,000 US men served, although the size of the army fluctuated, and the largest size at any given moment was 80,000.

The math is relatively simple on this. Since 230,000 men served, that number represented about 53% of the population. Now, I may be overestimating the size of the US population, because it was growing rapidly during this time. If I take a non-census population estimate of 1780 at 2.7 million, then 69% of eligible men fought. Even if we take the 80,000 number (which is just a single-moment figure), we get 24% of military-age men at that moment were in the Continental Army, using 1780 numbers.

So, I don't know a whole lot about the guy who started the 3 Percenters. But, as we say in science, he didn't 'show the math' anywhere I could see. So, if you see that sticker on the back of a pickup somewhere, keep in mind that the group is founded on a false premise. Most of America did fight for freedom (my ancestors did, and in every war since) and liberty is not the result of the sacrifices of a privileged few who follow the pure faith.

So, so the many citizen-soldiers throughout US history, here is a tip of my hat to you!

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Old November 13, 2021, 12:54 PM   #2
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Did you include the effect of the 3/5 clause on the census numbers? Should raise the total by 12%.
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Old November 13, 2021, 02:05 PM   #3
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I won't argue your math, but I think your numbers are not all that accurate about how many fought on the side of independence. By just using numbers from the Continental Army, you're not counting a LOT of people who were in various militias and those who weren't.

I had to look up who/what the 3 percenters were, and that took me to the all knowing and infallible (NOT) Wikipedia where I also looked at their entry for the Continental Army.

In that, I found an error (a glaring one, to me, being from the region where it happened).

In Wiki's description of the early activities of the Continental Army. Wiki says Henry Knox "took the cannon from an abandoned British fort in upstate New York" and drug them through the snow to Boston.

The "drug them through the snow to Boston" is absolutely true, but the "abandoned British fort" part is WRONG.

The fort was Ticonderoga, and it was NOT abandoned, it was CAPTURED by Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys on May 10 1775 (before the Continental Army existed). Allen led what today would be called a commando raid, slipping over the wall in pre-dawn darkness and catching the British garrison asleep in their beds.

MAY 1775, less than a month after "the shot heard round the world" at Lexington and Concord and a month before the Continental Army was created by Congress in June 1775.

in the fall, Washington sent Knox to get the captured cannon and take them to Boston. Real or not there is a story about that, which I've always loved and find quite plausible.

After dispatching Knox, one of Washington's officers said "sir you have sent him on an impossible task. No one could do what you're asking him to do..."
To which Gen. Washington replied, "You know that, and I know that but let us pray to the Almighty that no one tells Knox that until AFTER the cannon are at Boston."
Apparently, no one did...Knox and his people got those cannon to Boston through Adirondack wilderness, in the dead of winter, and all the way to Boston, no small task, considering the terrain, the climate and the technology of the day. I grew up there. Winter is no joke, some years there are months where the warmest it gets is 0 and I remember one year where from December to February, the warmest it got was -17 F.

What Knox and his people managed was nothing short of a miracle and allowed Washington to bluff the British out of Boston, keeping the revolution alive, and it couldn't have happened without Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys (a militia unit, not the Continental Army) taking the fort in the first place.
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Old November 13, 2021, 05:29 PM   #4
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I agree that it is an underestimate. I tried to use conservative numbers, but I suspect it was higher percentage of eligible men.

But my main point was to refute the 3% number, because it is complete BS. When the time comes we really need it, American citizens step up, and always have.

Last edited by roscoe; November 14, 2021 at 03:27 AM.
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Old November 14, 2021, 02:31 PM   #5
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You cannot refute their number to them, because their standard is totally up to them to set. Without delving into the details (not going there, thanks) I did note that it is reported that they claim "only 3 percent were the true patriots" and if that is so, then since it is entirely up to them what they consider "true patriots" there is no convincing them using any one else's numbers, factual or not.

Apparently, they are in their own little world and reality isn't allowed in their ideology.

You can find this level of extremism in every political philosophy and religion (assuming you make a distinction between those two ). Thanks to the information age, we now have the joy of hearing about them and what they say, even when we're not interested.

based on what I've heard, and read and believe, about 1/3 of the colonists favored revolution, 1/3 favored remaining Crown subjects and 1/3 just wanted to be left the hell alone to get on with their lives.
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Old November 14, 2021, 05:12 PM   #6
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Agreed. I am not trying to necessarily speak to them, but rather to the rest of the folks who wonder where the truth is. Americans should know that when we have always been a nation of citizen-soldiers, in the best possible tradition.
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Old November 15, 2021, 03:00 AM   #7
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Quote:
In Wiki's description of the early activities of the Continental Army. Wiki says Henry Knox "took the cannon from an abandoned British fort in upstate New York" and drug them through the snow to Boston.

The "drug them through the snow to Boston" is absolutely true, but the "abandoned British fort" part is WRONG.

The fort was Ticonderoga, and it was NOT abandoned, it was CAPTURED by Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys on May 10 1775 (before the Continental Army existed). Allen led what today would be called a commando raid, slipping over the wall in pre-dawn darkness and catching the British garrison asleep in their beds.
GAK!!!

I'm in Minnesota, no where near where that happen, and we learned about Fort Ticonderoga in grade school! It was presented as a pretty incredible feat!

We also learned about Washington crossing the Delaware to attack Trenton and the battle of Bunker Hill/Breed's Hill and about Tories and the war in the south, General Gates and General Greene and Francis Marion (the notorious 'Swamp Fox' publicized by Walt Disney's TV series about him and then later by the Mel Gibson movie 'The Patriot'.)

I don't have any kids in school but I wonder what American History looks like today. Since I don't really trust opinions maybe I better check out a current school history book.
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Old November 15, 2021, 03:08 AM   #8
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Yep, history, or at least intelligent proof reading, doesn't seem to be what it used to be. Check out this article in Popular Mechanics:

Quote:
What kind of effect would such a bomb [an atomic bomb] have on a fleet of warships?

To solve that question, in June and July 1945, the U.S. government conducted a pair of the most infamous and unsettling nuclear weapons tests of all time: Operation Crossroads.

For the test, the Navy assembled a fleet of 90 warships at Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands in the South Pacific. The ships included the battleship Nevada, the aircraft carriers Saratoga and Independence, and a collection of cruisers, destroyers, submarines, and amphibious ships.

Then, on the night of June 30, 1945, the Navy dropped an atomic bomb on the ships.

The resulting test sank five ships and turned others into floating, burned-out wrecks, and would have killed the crews of many other ships with lethal amounts of radiation.
https://www.popularmechanics.com/mil...king-warships/
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Old November 15, 2021, 01:54 PM   #9
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Operation Crossroads was in 1946, the first atomic explosion-the Day of Trinity-was on July 16, 1945.
John Adams is quoted saying "One third for, one third against, one third neutral."
In the Revolution and the Civil War the numbers fluctuated widely. 3 and 9 month regiments, 2 year regiments, militia, local defense forces.
A big reason why Washington attacked at Trenton was restore Patriot moral after a string of defeats and a long retreat, and to induce many of his men-whose 1 year enlistments would expire at the end of 1776-to stay with the colors.
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Old November 15, 2021, 02:14 PM   #10
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Well, other than getting the date wrong (by over 7 years), getting the device type wrong (H-bomb not A-bomb) and the delivery wrong (not dropped, the device was on the ground) what's the problem????

again, according to Wiki, Operation Crossroads included several nuclear detonations between 1946 and 1952. Most were atomic bombs, the famous H-bomb test against the fleet was done on Nov 1 1952.

Quote:
I don't have any kids in school but I wonder what American History looks like today. Since I don't really trust opinions maybe I better check out a current school history book.
My youngest went into the Air Force in 2003 and I recall the crap they had in their textbooks back then. Serious errors and serious omissions, I doubt its any better today.
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Old November 15, 2021, 11:27 PM   #11
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As a kid I remember reading about the capture of the artillery and the movement of those pieces.

The thing that really seared into my memory was not how they came about them, or where they were taking them. What crashed into me as a child was that as they were moving over rivers they kept breaking through the ice.

And they went into the frozen rivers to drag them out!

THAT is what drove home to me just how determined those people were to throw off the British reign.

My education in the 70s had me thinking the founders were acting in a selfish way. They were grabbing for self enrichment and power. I can't think of a single thing that caused me to believe that, but I did.

But reading about moving those guns absolutely did not square with that. I am still in disbelief at the superhuman fortitude required to go into frozen water in the wilderness to reclaim those guns. Over and over.

That event made me re-think everything I believed about the revolution.
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Old November 16, 2021, 02:01 PM   #12
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My Grandfather was a man grown before the Wright Brothers flew, and lived long enough to see a man walk on the moon. He never learned to drive a car, but there was no one better with a team, be it horse, mule, or oxen. He forgot more about American history than today's history professors will ever know.

One of the regrets of my adult life is that I should have listened better and learned more of what he taught me as a kid.

And, he was an expert in Colonial history. The family joke was it was because he was there...but of course, he wasn't, being born about 20 years after the Civil War.

Anyway, point here, is some thing he told me about Knox and the cannon, and that was that the only way humanly possible to take those guns from Ticonderoga to Boston overland in less than a year was to do it in the winter. Our farm was about 20 miles north of Saratoga, and so about 50 miles south of Ticonderoga, and I know well the wild country of that region. To move anything heavy, without roads, using animal transport, you do it in the winter. Ox drawn sledges over the frozen ground and through the snow. In summer too much of the ground is too soft. Swamps are not just southern things. Even breaking through the ice of the frozen creeks and surviving the cold is less work than trying to move ton weights of iron on wheels through the woods on soft ground in warmer weather.

TODAY its popular revisionist history to look at the Founders as "rich white slave owners" who only rebelled for personal gain. but that not the truth. They pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to the cause of freedom and liberty for all, and the fact that they couldn't create that for everyone right away in no way cheapens or lessens their accomplishments or their sacrifices.

American citizens become soldiers in time of need, and no one on earth has ever done more for more people than we have. I served, and both my children have served, one still is on active duty.

I don't accept thanks for my service, and I don't thank Veterans for being Veterans, because I don't believe in thanking people for simply doing what is right. I DO thank those who took injury in the service of our country, most humbly and sincerely. And I honor and revere those who gave all. That's what's right, and what's proper.

sorry for the rant, its just one of my "hot button" issues...but that doesn't make it any less true..
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Old November 16, 2021, 02:33 PM   #13
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One of the reasons I posted is because we need to understand that, in 1787, the signing of the US Constitution made the first modern representative democracy in history. Nowadays, we take for granted that a democracy is what every country should be working towards, but that was not the case for the first 5,000 years of human history (and we almost lost all that in 1939-1945).

The people fighting in the American Revolution were doing something no one else had ever done in history. That meant taking an enormous risk. Yes, the founders were not perfect, but they were pushing the world towards something new and important, and the later fights for freedom within the country were logical extensions of that initial spark.

The fact that the majority of fighting-age males took up arms this struggle says something very important about the origins of the country, and I get irritated when some group tries to hijack it or lay claim to it. It belongs to all of us!

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Old November 16, 2021, 09:35 PM   #14
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Fort Ticonderoga... an amazing place to visit. Lots of history, vintage weapons, etc. Best part of NY State. Beautiful valley. Well worth the drive.
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Old November 17, 2021, 02:11 AM   #15
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TODAY its popular revisionist history to look at the Founders as "rich white slave owners" who only rebelled for personal gain. but that not the truth. They pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor to the cause of freedom and liberty for all, and the fact that they couldn't create that for everyone right away in no way cheapens or lessens their accomplishments or their sacrifices.
How dare you not chastise the founding fathers for their pragmatism based on moral relevance! Of course I say that tongue in cheek. It´s unfortunate that very few take your view of the founding fathers currently, that view being to bear in mind the historical reference of the time. Certainly not every one of the many American founders hoped to one day see the end of slavery, but it is not in dispute that many did. The fact remains that slavery existed at the nation´s founding. To immediately abolish it upon overthrowing the oppression of England would literally have ensured that the nation did not survive. A large portion of the American economy was based on slave labor.

We can look back and ask the moral question of ¨is the nation as it exists today worth the immoral necessity of maintaining slavery at the nation´s founding?" I don´t say this with an agenda, or hoping you will automatically say ¨of course it was worth it!¨ It is merely a thought provoking question, and one that should be pondered seriously at an individual level. It is no trivial matter that people once were bought and sold as property in America. It is abhorrent. At the same time, look at the good that America has accomplished since then.

Nonetheless, I agree Roscoe. I believe the true participation in the revolution is much greater than 3%. In addition to the obviously greater than 3% who actually served in actual combat, there were also a large portion of men who also laid their lives on the line by providing material aid to the revolution. I have a great (x4) grandfather who was too old to fight in the revolution while it waged, being in his mid-50´s. Nonetheless, I am eligible for Sons of the Revolution membership as I have chits that show him providing money, supplies, and other material aid to the continental army. Now I understand giving aid to the army is not quiet the same as fighting. However, some men were old enough to not be able to fight. And providing aid almost ensured their execution should the revolution fail. So their sacrifice was a gamble, it was risky, and it could ultimately lead to being hanged for treason had the revolution failed. Does it mean as much as the young men who lost their lives? I´m not prepared to say that. Is their service meaningless? Í´m not sure anyone is prepared to say that either.
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Old November 18, 2021, 03:05 AM   #16
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I don't think any revolution has ever achieved 100% of their ideals and damn few of them have managed to even keep to their main ideological foundations once control passed out of the hands of the original revolutionaries.

I think the US has done better than anyone else in that regard, we have kept what the Founder's struggle and sacrifice passed on to us mostly intact to this day and we have expanded the rights of our citizens hugely in many ways. This did not happen overnight, it took lifetimes and didn't come easy or cheaply.

To denigrate those who suffered, struggled and often paid the ultimate price for being merely human and not gods able to instantly create the utopia you feel you deserve is the attitude of a spoiled child.

This vexes me, almost as much as those of any political agenda wrapping their personal brand of tyranny in the colors of patriotism.

Beware those who fly false colors, heed not what flag they fly or what they say, by their actions, you will know them for what they truly are.
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Old November 18, 2021, 11:45 AM   #17
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As an aside...the Knox Trail went through a patch of MA that later became my Boy Scout campground. We did lots of tenting there through the winter months and it was interesting to imagine old Henry and the cannons passing us through the snowy (and cold!) forest. I'm sure we had more fun than he did.
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Old November 18, 2021, 05:18 PM   #18
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Operation Crossroads was in 1946,
Somebody beat me to it.
Quote:
the fact that they couldn't create that for everyone right away in no way cheapens or lessens their accomplishments or their sacrifices.
Very few things happen all at once. Change occurs slowly. But the Founding Fathers did set the stage and the right conditions for change to happen.
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Old November 19, 2021, 11:22 AM   #19
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When it comes to Revolutionary War-era history, one of many disappointments is the way modern historical revisionists have simplified US history down to ideological condemnation of those who participated, predominantly linking slave ownership to moral and ethical blanket condemnations.

As 5whiskey noted:
Quote:
Originally Posted by 5whiskey
” Certainly not every one of the many American founders hoped to one day see the end of slavery, but it is not in dispute that many did. The fact remains that slavery existed at the nation´s founding. To immediately abolish it upon overthrowing the oppression of England would literally have ensured that the nation did not survive. A large portion of the American economy was based on slave labor.”
There is a thought-provoking essay on the fates of the men who signed the Declaration of Independence, some of whom went on to fight in the Continental Army. It describes a fortitude and determination that I’m not sure exists widely in America today:

“Five signers were captured by the British as traitors, and tortured before they died. Twelve had their homes ransacked and burned. Two lost their sons in the revolutionary army, another had two sons captured. Nine of the 56 fought and died from wounds or hardships of the revolutionary war.

What kind of men were they? Twenty-four were lawyers and jurists. Eleven were merchants, nine were farmers and large plantation owners, men of means, well educated. But they signed the Declaration of Independence knowing full well that the penalty would be death if they were captured.

Carter Braxton of Virginia, a wealthy planter and trader, saw his ships swept from the seas by the British Navy. He sold his home and properties to pay his debts, and died in rags.

Thomas McKeam was so hounded by the British that he was forced to move his family almost constantly. He served in the Congress without pay, and his family was kept in hiding. His possessions were taken from him, and poverty was his reward.

Vandals or soldiers or both, looted the properties of Ellery, Clymer, Hall, Walton, Gwinnett, Heyward, Ruttledge, and Middleton.

At the battle of Yorktown, Thomas Nelson Jr., noted that the British General Cornwallis had taken over the Nelson home for his headquarters. The owner quietly urged General George Washington to open fire. The home was destroyed, and Nelson died bankrupt.

Francis Lewis had his home and properties destroyed. The (British) jailed his wife, and she died within a few months.

John Hart was driven from his wife’s bedside as she was dying. Their 13 children fled for their lives. His fields and his gristmill were laid to waste. For more than a year he lived in forests and caves, returning home to find his wife dead and his children vanished. A few weeks later he died from exhaustion and a broken heart. Norris and Livingston suffered similar fates.”

The entire essay is worth a quick read at https://michaelwsmith.com/the-sacrif...ation-signers/

If Americans are encouraged to acknowledge the historical foundation of the country as an economy dependent on slave labor, as so many social reformers demand; they should ALSO be encouraged to recognize and appreciate the philosophical and physical devotion that the Founders, the Continental soldiers, and their ilk held towards the ideals that so many today denigrate as having not been fully achieved.
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Old November 20, 2021, 09:51 PM   #20
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The math is relatively simple on this.
Well, apparently not simple enough. 230,000/3,900,000= 5.9%
Which, btw, is about the same as the percentage who serve in the military nowadays.
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Old November 27, 2021, 02:01 AM   #21
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Well, apparently not simple enough. 230,000/3,900,000= 5.9%
Read a little more carefully. The math is correct. And simple. Only 430,000 could have served. Are you going to give the 3 percenters credit for not being female? Or not being children?

There is no conceivable scenario in which the 3 percent number is actually meaningfully true. It is simply made-up. Or, if you prefer, a lie.

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