Image courtesy of Colonial National Historical Park, Yorktown.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Meeting Notes: September 19, 2018

"American Independence Beyond the Battlefield: Figures, Facts, and Realities of the American Revolution as Seen Through the Eyes of an Historical Novelist," Karen Chase

Although July 4 is today recognized as America’s Independence Day, the signers of the Declaration of Independence did not actually sign the document until August 2, 1776 or in some cases even later.

In her upcoming novel entitled Carrying Independence, author Karen A. Chase focuses on the seven signees who did not sign the Declaration of Independence on August 2 for various reasons. Chase discussed her upcoming novel at the September 19, 2018 meeting of the American Revolution Round Table of Richmond.

At the meeting Chase briefly outlined some of the reasons why signees waited after August 2. For example, Oliver Wolcott from Connecticut was too ill to sign on that date, and New Hampshire’s Matthew Thornton had not yet been voted into Congress.

“The Declaration of Independence was a contract that 56 men signed. In fact it was the biggest ‘Dear John’ or breakup letter ever written,” joked Chase.

Chase compared the Declaration of Independence to a teenage breakup, saying the preamble outlined the relationship between the 13 colonies and their mother country. Then the document listed the grievances in the “relationship”, and then there’s the “declaration of the relationship” being “totally over”. Finally, the representatives of the 13 colonies signed their “breakup letter” and sent it to the other party.

After Chase provided her light-hearted comparison of the Declaration of Independence to a teenage breakup, she described more serious events taking place around the same time period. For example, her upcoming novel describes in great detail the harsh reality of what life was like for American prisoners aboard British prison ships.

According to Chase, approximately 4,500 American soldiers died on battlefields whereas 11,000 American troops died on prison ships. Of the 2,837 Americans who surrendered at Fort Washington, NY only 800 of them were still alive 18 months later.

“The British often treated American prisoners as treasonous subjects and not as POWs,” said Chase. “It’s hard for me as a novelist to describe the deaths of 1,100 prisoners, however by using a character I can help readers to feel what life was like on a prison ship.”

Chase’s novel is nearly complete and has already received a second place award out of 502 entries in the 2017 William Faulkner-William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition for unpublished novels.

In addition to her upcoming novel, Chase is also the author of the book entitled Bonjour 40: A Paris travel log (40 years. 40 days. 40 seconds.). She is a contributing writer in both non-fiction and historical fiction for national and local publications which include the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Chase is a member of both the American Revolution Round Table of Richmond and James River Writers. 

Prior to the speaker’s presentation President Bill Welsch and others made several announcements on business matters related to ARRT-Richmond.

 --Bill Seward

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