Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Charles Carroll of Carrollton's 270th birthday celebration, Baltimore, September 22

It's unusual for me to find an event in which I can combine my interests in creative writing and history, but I will be doing just that, reading a number of recently written poems with a historical theme for the Charles Carroll of Carrollton 270th birthday celebration on September 22nd here in Baltimore.

The Carroll Mansion at 800 E. Lombard Street in Old Town, Baltimore, is pleased to announce Charles Carroll of Carrollton's 270th birthday celebration on September 22nd. Charles Carroll (1737-1832) had many accomplishments throughout his long life: the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence and only Catholic signer; lawyer and politician; Maryland delegate to the Continental Congress; United States Senator. (Click on the title above to access the Wikipedia entry on Charles Carroll.)

The organizers have separated his accomplishments and interests into several themes. Artists and poets have created works that express the concepts of industry and innovation, revolutionary thinking and building a new nation, and the strength of family.

John Davis, Danny Jones, Brian Kaspr, Mike McNeive, Molly McNulty, and Carlos Vigil will all be exhibiting work for this one time event. I, Christopher T. George, along with Anne Bracken, Shirley Brewer, and Matthew Smith will share our respective works as they relate to the themes of Charles Carroll's life.

The organizers say, "Join us for light fare and drinks as we celebrate history, art, and poetry."

Following are a couple of the poems I have written especially for the event:

The Last Signer

To Charles Carroll of Carrollton (1737–1832)

Yes, I outlived them all:
the great and the powerful,
John Hancock, old Ben Franklin,
George Washington, Tom Jefferson. . . .

Born in an era of coaches and saddles,
I lived to see railway lines straddle
the land, even saw gas lights
illuminating Old Town at night!

Such new-fangled things in a new nation!
As faith brought promise of salvation
under the great dome of our Basilica,
we’d steamboats and Maryland rye liquor!

So far now we have come from our unease
with the King’s taxes. I was pleased
thus to sign for our Independence:
Yes! I signed my name, clear as a song:

"Charles Carroll of Carrollton"!

Christopher T. George

Eager to Serve

To Lt. Col. John Eager Howard (1752–1827)

Eager to fight the Redcoats at Cowpens,
to send Bloody Banastre Tarleton packing!

Eager to tell the old wagoneer Gen’l Morgan,
the day was still ours at Cowpens to be won!

Eager to allow the Frenchies of Rochambeau
to camp in my Howard’s Woods, good show!

Eager still to continue the fight at Eutaw Springs!
Although there my shoulder wound grievously stung!

Eager to win and woo my dearest Peggy Chew,
to unite Chews with Howards, Eagers, our few!

Eager to serve the people of my state as governor,
I sat in Annapolis and governed for many a year.

Eager when the Redcoats again came calling
to say that though I was too old to take the field

I’d rather see the city of Baltimore laid in ashes
and my four sons weltering in their own blood

than see the city taken by those Britishers!

Christopher T. George

I will also be reading some of the poems I wrote for the Liverpool 800 site since they fit with themes of Charles Carroll's era. Referenced in the above poem is "Bloody" Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton, the Liverpool-born dragoon whose defeat at the Battle of Cowpens in South Carolina on January 17, 1781.

Banastre Tarleton by Sir Joshua Reynolds

Banastre Tarleton

Me name’s Banastre Tarleton; do you remember me?
I was "Bloody Ban" for all those things I did with glee
against the Patriots that George Washington thanked
for fighting to make Mad King George’s colonies free.

The son of merchant John Tarleton, a mayor of Liverpool:
I was a red-haired runt racking up debts at university,
headed to be a wastrel, a gambling, whoring, drunken fool,
but when I entered the army, all changed quite dramatically.

I was the smart dragoon in green uniform, plumed helmet;
I made my name capturing the Americans’ General Lee,
went down to the south and became the enemy’s scourge;
at Camden, Guilford Courthouse, I made the enemy flee.

Aye, I was Lord Cornwallis’s right-hand man, his enforcer,
I hunted down Buford’s men, gave them no quarter
at the Waxhaws. We cut them down: a sight to see.
We almost turned the tide in the south, dem me!

Got wacked by Morgan at the Cowpens, blast the fellow!
But I chased their celebrated Tom Jefferson from Monticello.
Then we British defeated Nat Greene at Eutaw Springs.
Argh, though I lost two of my blessed fingers, poor things!

Yes, I tell you truly, the war there was ours for the taking,
but the French, those yellow curs, once again did us dirty.
Rochambeau and Washington bottled us up at Yorktown.
On that sad, dishonoured day, we laid our weapons down.

I returned to Liverpool a hero: the dashing cavalryman.
I held up my mutilated hand and people cheered me on:
fishwives with branches of green shouted for Ban!
To them, I was no bloody fiend -- I was their champion!

I stood for Parliament; after a disappointment, took my seat!
As MP for Liverpool, Tarleton would never admit defeat!
I defended slavery -- you might see that as a blight on me.
It was the Tarletons’ trade -- ‘twas what made Liverpool rich!

The King made me a Baronet: Gen. Sir Banastre Tarleton.
Some prefer abolitionist Roscoe, by whom I was chastised,
but I died honoured. To Yanks, I’m Bloody Ban, yet I was
a warrior, never apologised for the colourful life I had led.

Christopher T. George

Because Charles Carroll of Carrollton lived into the Railway Age, his last public act being when he laid the cornerstone for the Carrollton Viaduct of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad on July 4, 1828, I thought the following poem might be appropriate to read.

William Huskisson, Member of Parliament for Liverpool, was the first man killed by a steam locomotive. He was mortally injured at Chat Moss during the grand opening of the Liverpool-Manchester Railway on September 15, 1830. Author William Garfield in his book, The Last Journey of William Huskisson, chronicles the MP’s chronic accident proneness which afflicted him his whole life down to the accident which killed him.

Unlucky Husky

To be known as the first man
to be killed by a train
-- what awful luck!

You were our plucky MP,
in your prime when
you were struck,

as Stephenson’s "Rocket"
knocked you down;
now God’s got you
in his pocket.

Christopher T. George