America loves a hero. This is the story of a hero who was trained to speak, but instead acted. I love hero stories, do you?
“Give ’em Watts, boys” is where the story begins. I know that’s an unusual way to start a story, but this is an unusual story. What do you mean, Give them Watts, boys? For starters, the phrase “Give ’em Watts boys” was a Continental Army battle cry used after the Battle of Springfield, New Jersey, on June 23, 1780, during the Revolutionary War.
It became a rallying cry because it symbolized many good things about America. He said that we were a people who would fight to the end, with whatever was available to us, for as long as it took, for freedom, to win against tyranny and oppression.
Give ’em Watts boys is really a “painted story” about 2 men; Isaacs Watts and the Reverend James Caldwell (mainly James Caldwell).
Isaacs Watts was an interesting man. He grew up in a committed non-conformist’s home. His father, who was imprisoned twice for his disruptive beliefs, which he openly aired, was a maverick.
Nonconformists were so called, in England, in the late 17th century because they did not conform to the beliefs of the Anglican Church. Watts grew to become a noted hymn writer and theologian during this time. He wrote hymns and rewrote old hymns in more modern language, in fact about 750 of them.
In Ben Franklin’s printing days, it was rumored that Ben printed a hymnal with all of Watt’s hymns, which was very popular with Protestant churches at the time.
“Give em Watts boys”, is actually the title of a painting depicting the second character, James Caldwell. The Reverend James Caldwell was pastor of a Presbyterian church in Elizabeth, New Jersey, which supplied more than 40 line officers to George Washington’s army of patriots, the Continental Army.
As history recalls, a fierce battle took place near this small New Jersey church. The British and their fellow German-Hessians faced the Continental Army and outnumbered them, nearly 5 to 1. The battle was so fierce and protracted that the patriot army was running out of paper for its weapons. Wadding was needed to hold the gunpowder and musket ball in place and was usually made of paper.
Reverend Caldwell heard the cries for more batting from the brave and committed patriots. He mounted his horse, riding quickly toward his church building, where the pews held many Watts hymnals. He collected the hymnals and rode back into battle, distributing the hymnals and shouting “Give them Watts, boys,” referring to the Watts hymnals and the pages they could tear out of the hymnals and use as wadding for their weapons.
I know it’s Christmas time and this is not focused on Christmas. The moral of this story is really about acting instead of just talking, and that thought applies at any time. Reverend Caldwell did something (he acted, he didn’t just complain) in the middle of a heated battle that he would probably lose. He didn’t know if his action would impact the outcome or not, but he did it anyway. Sometimes we have to consider doing it anyway.
You know what happened?
The Continental Army held off the British, who eventually turned around and left the Army of Patriots with a victory for freedom with the help of Isaac Watts’ hymnals.