America loves a hero. This is a story about a hero who was trained to talk but acted instead. I love hero stories, do you?
“Give ’em Watts, boys” is where the story begins. I know it is an unusual way to begin a story but this is an unusual story. What does it mean, Give ’em Watts boys? To begin, the phrase “Give ’em Watts boys” was a battle cry for the Continental army used after the Battle of Springfield (New Jersey), on June 23rd, 1780, during the war for Independence.
It became a battle cry because it symbolized many things great about America. It said we were a people that would fight to the very end, with what ever we had available, for as long as it took, for freedom, to win against tyranny and oppression.
Give ’em Watts boys is really a “painted story” about 2 men; Isaacs Watts and the Reverend James Caldwell (mostly James Caldwell).
Isaacs Watts was an interesting man. He was brought up in a house of a committed Nonconformist. His father, who was twice jailed for his disruptive beliefs, which he openly aired, was a Nonconformist.
Nonconformist were so called, in England, in the late 1600s because they did not conform to beliefs of the Anglican Church. Watts grew up to become a noted hymn writer and theologian during this time. He wrote hymns and rewrote old hymns in a more modern language, some 750 of them, in fact.
In the Ben Franklin’s printing days it was rumored that Ben printed a hymnal with all of Watt’s hymns, which was very popular among Protestant churches, at the time.
“Give em Watts boys,” is actually the title of a painting that depicts the second character-James Caldwell. The Reverend James Caldwell was the pastor of a Presbyterian church, in Elizabeth New Jersey, which supplied over 40 line officers to George Washington’s army of patriots-The Continental Army.
As history remembers, a fierce battle took place near this small New Jersey church. The British and their German-Hessian compatriots engaged the Continental Army and outnumbered them, nearly 5 to 1. The battle was so fierce and extended that the patriot army was running out of paper wadding for their guns. Wadding was needed to hold the gunpowder and musket ball in place and it was usually made of paper.
The Rev. Caldwell heard cries for more wadding, by the gallant and committed patriots. He mounted his horse, riding quickly to his church building, where the pews held many Watts hymnals. He gathered up the hymnals and rode back to the battle, distributing the hymnals and yelling “Give ’em Watts boys,” referring to the Watts hymnals and the pages they could tear from the hymnbooks and use as wadding for their guns.
I do know that it is Christmas time and this is not Christmas focused. The moral of this story is really about acting as opposed to just talking, and that thought applies, anytime. The Reverend Caldwell did something (he acted, he didn’t just complain) in the midst of a heated battle that was likely to be lost. He did not know if his action would have impact on the outcome or not, but he did it anyway. Sometimes we need to consider doing it anyway.
Do you know what happened?
The Continental Army held off the British, who finally turned and left the army of patriots with a victory for freedom aided by Isaac Watts hymnals.