Two hundred and thirty six years ago today, America’s forefathers signed the Declaration of Independence. While the signing of that document was one of our nation’s most momentous occasions, it would eventually turn out to be the starting point for many more important milestones in the nation’s storied history. It was thanks to the Declaration of Independence that America would have to fight the British military for its independence in the Revolutionary War until 1781.
The Revolutionary War was a key moment in America’s story first and foremost in that it was what would lead to the country’s true birthday. While July 4th is consideredAmerica’s birthday, it wasn’t until British forces surrendered in 1781 that America truly gained her independence. The war for independence was in itself, key toAmerica’s history for military and medical reasons. When British forces first invaded America after the Declaration’s signing, militia groups had to break from traditional battle tactics, as noted in the series. Rather, they were among the first to use guerilla tactics in the fight against the British forces. That tactic was the first step in turning the tide in the country’s war for independence. The introduction of French backing for American forces, a spy network used to infiltrate British lines, and proper military training also helped turn the tide of war. These discussions will entertain any military history buff.
The military advancements made by American forces were only part of what made the Revolutionary War a key moment in America’s history. One fact that many individuals might have otherwise not known about was General Washington’s then highly controversial experiment to cure smallpox among U.S.forces. Luckily for Washington and his men, the experiment worked. As a result, his experiment is now considered one of the first great medical advancements made in American history.
While Washington’s experiment is considered by today’s standards to be a major breakthrough in his time, more advancements were still to come. The series discusses them in its Civil War segment. Viewers who have not yet seen the series should be warned that some of the material in this segment may be considered graphic. So viewer discretion should be used here. The medical advancements made during the Civil War came thanks to future American Red Cross founder Clara Barton. It was thanks to her efforts that far fewer soldiers had limbs amputated. Even general treatment methods were changed thanks to her.
Medical advancements weren’t the only positive outcome of the Civil War. Throughout the Civil War, President Lincoln and the Union forces used the telegraph to communicate. As noted in the segment, the use of the telegraph was a big reason for the Union’s victory over the Confederate states. The success of the telegraph in battle proved its use in the civilian world, thus making it really the beginning of mass communication in America and thus a major aid in industrial growth across the country. It is even compared, in this segment, to being the earliest form of Twitter.
The Civil War and Revolutionary War both played pivotal roles in the growth of America in its infancy. There was at least one more key moment in America’s history that helped the nation become the world power that it is today. That moment was America’s entrance into World War II. The documentary’s narrator points out that before the country entered the war, three million people across the country were unemployed as a result of the Great Depression. But all that changed when Japanese forces attacked Pearl Harbor. It was a “day that will live in infamy.” But it was also the catalyst that restartedAmerica’s industry and economic system. The need for military vehicles and weapons led the many shuttered factories to be re-opened for the sole purpose of churning out materials for the military. Since the men were being drafted, women went to work. Their going to work was what really kick started the industry and economy. They were the ones who spent money. As noted in the segment, that empowerment was also the beginning of the feminist movement inAmerica, too. So there, too was another advancement made because of war.
War, it’s said, is hell. This is true. But it would seem that the most important moments in America’s growth came as a result of some of its most intense conflicts. It’s highly unlikely that History Channel and those involved with this series were trying to argue the importance of the country’s conflicts in its development. But there is no denying how important these moments in time were for America. Of course, it had many more important moments, too. And audiences can check out those moments on both the triple- disc DVD set and triple-disc blu-ray set. Both sets are available in stores and online at http://shop.history.com. While it may not manage to touch on every single tiny moment that made America the great world power that it is today, there is no denying that “America: The Story of Us” is an excellent starting point for any history class (college and high school), or for general viewing. It’s really the type of series that will get any viewer excited and wondering just what the next chapter in America’s story will be.
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