As young people begin studying America's history, they often find themselves needing to learn and remember many facts. First Bites: Tidbits of American History for the Young and Young at Heart introduces an easy, fun way for them to learn about the important events of their country's past.
Using playful rhymes, author Dixie Moss shares her lifelong love of history with young readers. Each poem is accompanied by comments about important events to help expand children's knowledge. Dixie covers everything from the Mayflower to Paul Revere and from George Washington to wagons heading west.
First Bites offers just a small taste of all the information available about American history, but it is a start. The stories inside may fan a small flame into a fire of curiosity. The poems are accessible and entertaining, and their words humanize the great men and women of the past and teach children that they, too, can do great things.
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Tidbits of American History for the Young and Young at Heart
By Dixie Moss
LifeRich PublishingCopyright © 2014 Dixie Moss
All rights reserved.
Columbus sailed with three ships and crew,
Way back in 1492.
He was looking for the Indies and some spice.
SURPRISE! ... He found us,
Now, isn't that nice?
When Columbus set sail he was hoping to find a short cut to the Indies. Spice was very valuable in his day, and a short cut to the Indies, which was rich in spices, would open many opportunities for his country.
He did not actually land in the Indies, but instead he found himself in a strange country.
He called the people he found there Indians, and the name stuck, even though there was no connection to The Indies. These "Indians" were in fact natives of the islands where Columbus actually landed. These islands today are called the "West Indies".
At his death Columbus still did not know he had missed his original destination.
PONCE DE LEON
When Ponce de Leon was in Florida,
He searched for the fountain of youth.
Though he searched all around,
T'was not to be found ...
I'd have searched for a fountain of truth.
Ponce De Leon sailed with Columbus on Columbus' second voyage to the Americas. He heard of a marvelous fountain with miraculous water that could heal.
He searched for it, but never found it.
The Mayflower arrived at Plymouth Rock
In the year of 1620.
They looked around for a place to dock,
And found there wasn't any.
So, they took a small boat and rowed it ashore,
Not once or twice, but many times more,
Until they'd unloaded everyone,
And right there and then, their new life was begun.
Plymouth Rock today looks very small, as it is partially buried from years of sand building around it. It is true that they could not dock their ship on land, and so, had to transport their passengers to land by boat. This boat was called a shallop. (See below)
The Pilgrims came and they looked around,
And what they saw was good.
So they said, "Let us stay,
We can work hard all day,
And make our home in this wood".
Life was very difficult for the Pilgrims, but they were prepared to work hard, and they succeeded in their efforts. They were able to plant gardens and build small cottages.
They had a Thanksgiving at their first harvest, thanking God for His help and guidance.
George Washington, when he was young,
Chopped down a cherry tree.
He said to his Dad, "I know I was bad,
But I'm telling the truth now, don't you see?"
I know this is mostly legend, maybe with some fact, since it was told by a man who had been a dinner guest at the Washington family home. Who knows for sure? But the message is still a good one, and perhaps that is why this legend has survived.
Little George Washington grew up to be a man of honor, admired by his friends and neighbors, and by the men he served with in the military. General Washington became Commander in Chief of the American Army. He was present at Yorktown when we defeated the British and won the American Revolution! He was so admired, in fact, that he was chosen to be our very first President!
Ben Franklin flew his kite
In the midst of a thunderstorm.
The lightning flashed, the sky grew black,
So Ben went home to get warm.
Ben was attempting to discover something about electricity. As an experiment, he flew a kite in a thunderstorm, and he attached a key to the string which was struck by lightning. He was able to prove that lightning was a form of electricity.
Ben had an inquiring and active mind. He was very curious about many things. His thoughts and ideas were much sought after by his admirers.
Paul Revere was a silversmith,
He made bowls and cups and spoons.
He loved his land, but he feared war would come,
And it came, but much too soon.
So he jumped on his horse and he cried o'er the land,
"Prepare yourselves for a fight ...
The British are coming, --The British are coming, --The British are coming,
TONIGHT! The British are coming!
The British are coming!
The British are coming
Paul Revere was one of our heroes of the American Revolution.
It took a great deal of bravery to ride out on horseback, in order to alert the countryside that the British were coming and were planning to invade the area and steal the colonists' ammunition and weapons. Paul Revere and two others rode to deliver this critical warning to Lexington and Concord and the places in between. They did not cry loudly that the British were coming as they were trying to be quiet so as not to alert their enemies. They were successful in spreading the warning.
The colonists needed this arsenal in order to defend themselves in time of danger. Without it, they would not be able to protect themselves. It was crucial that it be saved.
Longfellow said in his poem "Paul Revere's Ride": "The fate of a nation was riding that night.", and it truly was, for it was this warning that sounded the alarm and enabled the militia to respond to the invasion, and eventually, defeat the British.
They fired a gun at Concord,
T'was a shot heard round the world.
The men fought 'til they won,
And when the fighting was done,
The American Flag was unfurled.
The American Revolution had begun. It is very impressive to stand on the bridge in Concord, and envision what occurred there. This was the first time they had been ordered to fire. The statue of the minuteman in Concord was placed there in honor of the minutemen (who were mostly farmers) and their spirit as they drove the British back and back! Soon the British began to run! The minutemen were joined by many other militia groups as they chased the British back to Boston. There is also a memorial to the young British soldiers who lost their lives in that battle. All very touching!
The Yankees marched at Yorktown,
To the tune of Yankee Doodle.
The Redcoats hung their heads in shame,
For they'd lost the whole caboodle.
Yankee Doodle had a great impact on the soldiers who fought in the American Revolution. It was a great humiliation to the British to have to lay down their arms in surrender at Yorktown, as this "disgusting" song was being played. The tour guide at Yorktown said it was "like pouring salt in their wounds"!
Too much to go into here, but Yankee Doodle was a very important song to the colonists. It kept their spirits up, and it had a catchy tune and a great beat to march to. Besides, the British hated it because it helped their enemies, by giving them energy and confidence in themselves.
For the Yankees it was a way of "thumbing their noses" at the British.
Sacajawea is my heroine,
She led Lewis and Clark and all their men
Across a country untamed and wild,
When she was hardly more than a child.
Though she often must have been scared inside,
She was brave and strong and dignified.
I have always wanted to be like her,
Her life of adventure holds great allure!
I have always thought of Sacajawea as my heroine. Maybe I am obligated to do so, because I was born and raised in Oregon. I used to creep through the woods, and pretend I was a young Indian girl, who belonged there! Sacajawea served as a guide and an interpreter and that skill helped them throughout their journey. She accompanied them all the way, and made herself useful with her knowledge of the wilderness. She was a very valuable member of the party.
Her statue stands in Washington D.C, as part of The National Statuary Hall Collection. There is another statue of her in Portland, Oregon in Washington Park. (See above)
Davy Crockett kilt a b'ar,
And so did Daniel Boone.
They knew the land,
Like the back of their hand,
And explored by the light of the moon.
Both Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone were great frontiersmen in the early settlement of Tennessee and Kentucky. Their friends and neighbors looked to them for leadership and guidance in those early days.
Davy Crockett served in Congress for a time, and eventually he was in the Alamo, fighting Santa Ana, the Mexican General, and his army. He was among those who died there.
Daniel Boone was a leader who blazed the Wilderness Trail which led to the opening of the Cumberland Gap. The opening of the Gap enabled thousands to pour through and settle the lands of Kentucky. He was strong and brave, and people trusted him. He knew the land better than anyone did.
Let me take you on a really great trip
Aboard a steamboat on the Mighty Mississip'.
We'll stop for wood along the shore,
To build up steam ... we'll need more and more.
Watch out for that snag! — Don't run aground!
Listen to the river— What a wonderful sound!
Now, here was a great invention that helped to open the country, —the steamboat. Steamboats proved invaluable in the transportation of crops and goods. They could actually travel upriver, as well as down. Until then they had to travel overland to go north, and then downstream (with the current) to go south. The Mississippi River was the great river highway.
People also traveled by steamboat as they were wonderful pleasure boats.
There were some steamboats that were showboats, and when they docked in a city or town, the people would flock to see the show.
The river, however, was treacherous, and the channel often changed, making it necessary to be ready to change course to avoid the sandbars and debris. Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) worked on the steamboats, and his brother died in an explosion on a steamboat.
REMEMBER THE ALAMO!
Down with tyranny! --Up with freedom!
Was the cry of all the men ...
They crossed the line in the sand,
And took weapons in hand.
We'll not see their like again!
Down with tyranny, and up with freedom, ... what a brave stand these men took.
... Trapped in the Alamo, they secretly sent a messenger out to ask for reinforcements. This was a dangerous mission, but they were hoping that their message would be heard and help would arrive, enabling them to defeat the Mexicans.
Thirty two men from Gonzales did come, but there were too few to be of much help, and they shared the fate of the others. It was difficult for rescuers to break through the Mexican lines.
General Santa Ana said he would not leave anyone alive in the Alamo yet these brave men were determined to keep fighting for their freedoms. They were all killed defending their lifestyle and their beliefs. "Remember the Alamo" became the war cry for the balance of the war.
Eventually General Santa Ana was defeated at The Battle of San Jacinto, and the Texans won their independence!
Our history is filled with men, (and women) who have demonstrated great courage in defending the beliefs our country is based on.
I went in a wagon – way out West.
There were lots of wagons, but ours was best!
We looked for Injuns and wolves and b'ars.
We found snakes and grass and lots of stars.
Going in a wagon train, heading west began as a great adventure. I am sure the young people were excited by this new way of travel. The unknown is often exciting. Young people are very resilient, and they found ways to cope with the difficulties of the trail. Singing and dancing were very popular.
But, make no mistake – the grass stretched out in front of them like a never-ending ocean, and the snakes were dangerous. But, at night the stars lit up the sky in a way we can only imagine today, as the starlight today has to compete with city lights.
Little baby out on the plains,
Sleep. little one, right through the rains.
Your Mama will shelter you there in her arms,
And Papa will see that you never know harm.
The Indian babies were cherished and protected by their parents. Living on the plains was hard, as there was little shade, harsh storms, and much heat in the summer.
Hi, Indian boy behind that tree –
Come over here and play with me.
We could share a day,
And be best friends,
Then we have to roll on,
And our friendship ends............
The young pioneer children and Indian children were very curious about each other. Early on in the Westward movement, the Indian people often helped the pioneers when they could. They helped them to find food, water, and to treat illness.
I think Indian words are fun.
I like the feel of them on my tongue.
Words like "Skookum" and "Winnemucca",
If you've got bad skookum,
Skookum: Northwest Indian (Chinook) word meaning big and strong, and occasionally, luck. There are many places in the Northwest with skookum in their names. Example: The Skookumchuck River in Washington. What a fun word. I love to drive by it, as it gives me the chance to say it out loud over and over, and enjoy the feel of it on my tongue.
Winnemucca: Paiute Indian Chief: Chief Winnemucca was a kind Chief, and he cared for his people very well. He welcomed the white men when they arrived, but they were suspicious of him because he was an Indian. He eventually found a way to convince them that he and his people were peaceful.
His daughter, Sarah Winnemucca has a school in Reno, Nevada named for her, and her statue is in The National Statuary Hall Collection in the Capitol Building in Washington D.C. There is a city in Nevada called Winnemucca.
I think Winnemucca is a fun word also.
Outtalucca: I made up this word, but I think it's kind of fun too.
Little pioneer boy in your wagon so high,
Peeking out from inside.
I like your horses, let's be friends,
And over the plains we'll ride.
The Indians were great admirers of horses. They stole horses from other tribes.
Owning nice horses made them feel strong, and important. They also stole horses from the pioneers, so the pioneers had to keep an eye on their horses.
Grandpa said, "I'm gonna get rich quick
So I'm goin' to Californy with a shovel and a pick.
There's gold in them thar' hills they say,
And I'll come home with a pile someday."
This rhyme was inspired by my Great Great Grandfather, William Wesley Witcher, who did travel to "Californy" with a shovel and a pick. He was gone for quite a while, and when he came home to Illinois, it was without notice, and he appeared one day quietly (without "a pile") as if he had just been gone for an hour or so.
SINGING IN THE FIELDS
You could hear the spirituals ringing forth,
Across the whole plantation.
Who could guess the South and North
So soon would split the Nation?
The slaves helped pass the time working in the fields by singing. The work was hot, tiring, and tedious. Singing helped. If they didn't all know the lyrics, they had a leader who would sing a verse, and then they would join in with the chorus. One of these "call and response" spirituals is:
"Swing Low, Sweet Chariot"
The South and North did try to split the nation during the Civil War, when the South demanded Rights for the Southern States— "Southern Rights"—, and threatened to secede from the Union. The picture of the "Southern Rights" flag above was taken in the museum in Gettysburg.
THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD
As the slaves journeyed along,
They sang a song,
Whose lyrics they used to guide them.
Though freedom seemed far,
They followed the stars,
And hoped for good folks to hide them.
Before the Civil War, many slaves wanted to escape to the North, where they could enjoy freedom. This was difficult to do, and they cleverly contrived a sort of a code by which they could give directions, and yet not be discovered. The code was contained in the lyrics of a song, which they learned and sang as they traveled.
There were many people who were sensitive to their needs, and who made their homes and/or property available to them secretly. As the slaves arrived, they were made welcome, and hidden carefully so they wouldn't be discovered. They were given food, and a place to hide and rest.
There still are old historic houses in New England that have some of these hidden rooms, or cubbyholes which were designed for the purpose of hiding escaped slaves.
One of these (code) songs is: "The Drinking Gourd".
Excerpted from First Bites by Dixie Moss. Copyright © 2014 Dixie Moss. Excerpted by permission of LifeRich Publishing.
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