Monday, July 29, 2013

29853. Thomas Hersey


Whenever my friend Don and I set out to write a new pictorial history (we're up to ten published, I believe), we go through the same routine. Hey, it works, why change it? We split up the workload and go for it. After a week, he calls me and says that every picture he's charged with interpreting has become a "research project unto itself."

And so it goes with these big 'ol stones I'm checking out. While it may be hard, practically impossible to believe, I do not know everything. I do spend time looking stuff up, to use the scientific term. Sometimes these stones just throw me curveballs. Graveyard baseball.

Take Tom Hersey, for instance: Soldier in the French and Indian War (got it), Survivor of the Massacre at Fort William Henry (don't got it), Captain in the Revolution (ok, got that one).

Well, that middle story was so tragic - and one can debate the veracity of the use of the word "massacre," based on the number of people really killed or wounded compared to the inflated estimates that have wafted down through time - that James Fenimore Cooper used it as the basis for his novel The Last of the Mohicans. Having lost a patch of northern New York ground to the French, British troops (which at that time included Colonials), prepared an orderly, nearly gentlemanly withdrawal from their fort. The French agreed to the terms, but their Native American allies either did not understand or did not care, and harrassed and killed a number of men, women, children and servants (who, yes, were also men and women) as the British marched out of the fort.

No matter the numbers lost, the event itself was heart-rending for those folks close to it, like the family of Thomas Hersey. Who knew that a Hingham guy was there. Small world. Especially back then.

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