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Folklore and the American Revolution

Folklore seems to build up naturally around major historical figres and events. The American Revolution spawned a plethera of folklore which is still popular today.

The great General George Washington was a figure around whom was built much folklore, including the famous (but ficticious) tale about the chopping down of the cherry tree and the fact that his teeth were made of wood. Another tale tells of how George Washington threw a silver dollar over the Potomic river, which was over a mile wide! There is even a folktale surrounding the General's penknife.

Paul Revere's midnight ride was immortalize by Longfellow and is an example of a true event that became a permanent part of American Folklore. Betsy Ross, on the other hand, was a wonderful seamstress who may not have sewn the very first American Flag. In Sleepy Hollow, New York, a Headless Hessian soldier who fought for the British during the Revolutionary War still arises from an unmarked grave to gallop through the dark streets, long after Washington Irving penned the famous "Legend of Sleepy Hollow". (There is a new retelling of the Galloping Hessian in Spooky New York by S.E. Schlosser. Listen to an excerpt.) And Ethan Allen, head of the Green Mountain Boys during the revolution, helped out an old woman with a toothache!

Other Revolutionary War folktales include a British officer falls for a Valley Forge girl with tragic results (the Phantom Drummer); the ghost of General Erskine, Geographer and Surveyor-General for General George Washington during the Revolution; and the Blue Hen's of Delaware.


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