Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Born Fighting:How the Scots-Irish Shaped America, by James Webb


Born Fighting: How the Scots-Irish Shaped America

Author: James Webb

ISBN number: 0-7679-1689-1

Classification: History - United States - General

Website: www.broadwaybooks.com

Price: US $14.95/$21.00 CAN

In this book, Mr. Webb explains that more than 27 million Americans today can trace their lineage to Scots-Irish ancestors. He talks in depth about all of the experiences the migrating peoples encountered, what it made of them, and where it has brought the country to today. This is a little-known ethnic group (almost unaddressed in specific history, comparatively to others). It has taken part in making the U.S. what it is today on social, cultural, and political grounds from the beginning and through to the present. Some of my ancestors were Cherokee, yes. Others, German and English. But also were they Scots-Irish, of the McIntosh clan heritage. I can hear it in the words common to the locale. I can see it in the determination to succeed instead of merely moving on. It's on almost every face -- of the old bloodlines still remaining -- as clear to see as mistletoe in winter. Tenacious. My father's father died on St. Patrick's day, many years ago. Dad was a young man, and this happened some twenty years before I was born. In the old pictures of Papaw John, the rippling black hair that's so much like my own father's shows the link. The solid features, the sturdy bones that bear more muscled weight than it appears, the square hands so like my own. I don't look like them a lot in other ways, but the bones and the hands are there. The determination that can carry a warrior across incredible battlefields in strange lands, and back home again with only a few scars ... I don't know if I have that, but I hope I do. I do know that many facets of my heritage bring forth the warrior's way, and that when the battle anger swells, something must give. It's something one must be responsibl for the consequences of, every single time. The warrior's way is as Gaelic as it is Cherokee. I was fascinated that Mr. Webb points out in his book the traits of "acute individualism, dislike of aristocracy, and military tradition", and this I can swear to this as being quite real. It's almost instinctive, and highly developed. St. Patrick may have (allegedly) run all the serpents out of Ireland, but when the Scots-Irish came to the United States, the gnurling twists and knot-work of Gaelic history intertwined with a dozen other heritages, only to become stronger. Neither life nor death can change that, nor can they take the occasional lilt of Gael tongue from the hills-drawl. Go on! Wear green if you feel the urge. It's the color of growth and misty mornings, the smell of a healthy, clean horse, and of a decent wind always at your back. It's a strong color, one to be proud of knowing "up close and personal". And in the meantime, pick up a copy of James Webb's Born Fighting. Whatever your heritage, this book is worth the read.

-- The Fireside Reader

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