Grateful American Book Prize

February 16
February 29
2024

History Matters

Showing our children that their past
is prelude to their future

On February 16, 1804, the British Viscount Horatio Nelson, [1758-1805], applauded U.S. Lieutenant Stephen Decatur on a military mission which he described as the “most daring act of the age.”

According to History.com, “after disguising himself and his men as Maltese sailors, Decatur’s force of 74 men, which included nine U.S. Marines, sailed into Tripoli harbor on a small two-mast ship. The Americans approached the USS Philadelphia without drawing fire from the Tripoli shore guns, boarded the ship, and attacked its Tripolitan crew, capturing or killing all but two. After setting fire to the frigate, Decatur and his men escaped without the loss of a single American. The Philadelphia subsequently exploded when its gunpowder reserve was lit by the spreading fire.”

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Our Country, Right or Wrong: The Life of Stephen Decatur, the U.S. Navy’s Most Illustrious Commander by Leonard F. Guttridge.

Oil painting of Decatur Boarding the Tripolitan Gunboat during the bombardment of Tripoli, 3 August 1804. Lieutenant Stephen Decatur (lower right center) in mortal combat with the Tripolitan Captain.

 


On February 18, 1885, Samuel Clemens—known also as Mark Twain, put out The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Controversial and contentious–then and now, Ernest Hemingway, proclaimed that “all modern literature stems from this one book.”

History.com notes that “Twain introduced Huck Finn as the best friend of Tom Sawyer, hero of his tremendously successful novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876). Though Twain saw Huck’s story as a kind of sequel to his earlier book, the new novel was far more serious, focusing on the institution of slavery and other aspects of life in the antebellum South.”

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.


Mardi Gras is a world-wide celebration but since February 27, 1827… New Orleans, Louisiana has evolved into the place to be on “Fat Tuesday.” The holiday has a religious connotation but the celebration in New Orleans is decidedly secular.

“Early French settlers brought the tradition of Mardi Gras to the U.S. Gulf Coast at the end of the 17th century,” according to History.com. “In fact, Mobile, Alabama celebrated its first carnival in 1703. However, Spanish governors later banned the celebrations. After Louisiana Territory became part of the United States in 1803, New Orleanians managed to convince the city council to lift the ban on wearing masks and partying in the streets. The city’s new Mardi Gras tradition began…when the group of students, inspired by their experiences studying in Paris, donned masks and jester costumes and staged their own Fat Tuesday festivities.”

The Grateful American Book Prize recommends Rosary O’Neill’s New Orleans Carnival Krewes: The History, Spirit & Secrets of Mardi Gras.

A Mardi Gras Parade in New Orleans, 2011


History Matters is a biweekly feature courtesy of The Grateful American Book Prize.

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