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Two Girls Fake–Out British Attackers

In 1813, a British fleet began ravaging our coast, landing here and there to do damage. Thus they set fire to towns and shipping, robbed churches, and behaved ever where with great cruelty. But although the enemy ravaged the Southern coast, they, spared New England, because they thought the Northern states might yet offer to rejoin England.

Disappointed in this, the next year they ravaged the coast both north and south, until commerce came to a standstill. The Americans, perceiving that their beacons served only as guides to the British, ceased to light them every night as before.

A British force landed in Scituate, Massachusetts, intending to set fire to the shipping. All the men were away, but we are told that two quick–witted girls managed to frighten off the enemy by seizing a fife and drum, and hiding behind a sand bank. There they cleverly beat the drum and played the fife, beginning very softly and then playing louder and louder. The British, fancying that a large force was coming, beat a hasty retreat before this “army of two.”

During the War of 1812, an inspector of army supplies at Troy marked all the boxes and bales with the initials of the contractors and the letters “U. S.” Of course the latter meant that the goods belonged to the United States government. But as the inspector was known as “Uncle Sam” by every one in town, and as he took a great interest in the army, a joker said that he always put his own initials on every parcel to let the Troy soldiers know he had not forgotten them and was sending them food and clothing.

The Troy soldiers repeated this joke until it was known by all the army, and the men got in the habit of calling the government “Uncle Sam” instead of “United States.” This custom soon spread beyond the army, and gave rise to the funny picture which you will often see, dressed in garments cut after the fashion of 1812, but striped and starred like our national flag. Thus, while in poetry and art our country is generally personified by Columbia or Liberty, in politics and prose it is more often represented as “Uncle Sam.”