Thursday, July 14, 2016

A #HamiltonMusical Intermission

I'm waiting for a couple of obituaries to arrive and allow me to finish the next post on our Myers cousins, so... I'm taking another "bye" week on the Callin Family History update - but I still have something interesting to tell you about.
The Marquis de Lafayette

I don't think there are many human beings left who have not been told about this year's Pulitzer and Tony Award-winning Broadway musical, Hamilton. Not only have I fallen in love with the show, my thirteen-year-old and her friends have, too. And some of my son's friends... and most of mine... well, you get the idea. It's kind of omnipresent.

If you managed to avoid hearing about it elsewhere, I'll just tell you that it is the story of America's first Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton--he of the $10 bill--only set to hip-hop music and told in fierce, poly-rhythmic freestyle rhymes. (If you want to know more about how historians feel about it, I can recommend the Backstory episode!)

Among our favorite characters in the show, you family historians might recognize the name of the Marquis de Lafayette. He was the young French aristocrat who fought under General Washington in the Revolution, and the original Callin Family History claimed that our own founding father, James "1st" Callin, served under him at the Battle of Brandywine. (You can read more about that in my post from last March, Lafayette On the Brandywine.)
Daveed Diggs as
Marquis de Lafayette

Our forefather may not have made it into the cast of named characters when Lin-Manuel Miranda composed his lauded libretto, but I was curious whether James Callin would have been in the chorus. Or, more accurately, whether his unit fought in any of the battles referenced in the musical.

As it turns out... (if you are put off by strong language, there are two brief, common toilet references that might embarrass you in this song; fair warning. In context, I really don't think you'll notice.)

That song tells the story of the Battle of Monmouth, clearly, which was fought on the 28th of June 1778. That link will take you to the Order of Battle on Wikipedia, which lists the 4th, 8th, and 12th Virginia Regiments under the command of Colonel James Woods as being present on that day. As it happens, the Ancestry database of "U.S., Revolutionary War Rolls, 1775-1783" for those regiments lists James Callin as 51st out of 83 soldiers present during the month of June 1778.

So that means that when Lafayette took command from Charles Lee, "snatching a stalemate from the jaws of defeat," that my 5th great grandfather was almost certainly on the battlefield. And maybe someday, if I get enough tickets to the show, I might spot him among the soldiers behind Hamilton onstage?


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