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Which local business man and his wife have been deck hands on the U.S.S. Constitution?

What does the song “Jesus Loves Me” have to do with one of America’s oldest military institutions?

Benedict Arnold was actually a fierce warrior for both sides. What is his link to Camden and what was he trying to give the British?

Geography is destiny. This city, which is one of the world’s largest, was founded because the Roman soldiers found it was an easy place to ford a river and defend their position. This oldest North American city was established because Protestants were 25 miles away. What did Great Falls receive for being the second place finisher in the political battle for the establishment of an institution to train army officers?

Recently Billy and Lynn Ammons, and my wife Kathy and I had the opportunity to visit West Point and Boston, which are two historic sites which shaped America’s history. Former Camden residents Tom and Sherry Austin run a ministry for the Christian Officers Association in Highland Falls, N.Y., which is located outside of West Point. We were fortunate to be the Austin’s guest and Tom, who is a West point graduate, had time to give us the “brother-in-law” tour of this beautiful campus.

West Point is located about 50 miles north of New York City on the Hudson River. This point juts into the river at one of its narrowest points. The current actually changes every six or seven hours. During the American Revolution this defended point became a choke point which allowed the Americans to keep the British from controlling the river and severing the colonies. The Romans established London as a river fort.

A large cable was laid across to the eastern side of the Hudson which prohibited ships from running the river. The eastern side later became the home of the Wynn sisters who later wrote the lyrics to “Jesus Loves Me.’’ She and her sister are two of the only non-military people buried in the West Point cemetery. The cemetery is impressive and, unfortunately, there are several new graves located there because of the fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq.

One of the other guests staying with the Austins was the military judge for Afghanistan and Iraq. Without dropping names, he and many of the other military leaders are not confident of the outcome in Afghanistan. As a case example of what this judge has to deal with, many American soldiers bivouac with the Afghan police and soldiers. It is more of a practice rather than an exception that often after supper that most Afghans pull or make a cigarette and sprinkle it with hashish. What is a custom for one fighting man is a crime for another.

If you recall your American history, Boston was one of the first American victories. George Washington moved his artillery to Dorchester Heights and the British sailed away, but then Washington was defeated in New York. Washington’s greatest challenge was keeping an army in the field. The Battle of Saratoga became the turning point of the revolution because the French, with their navy and munitions, came in on our side. The leader at Saratoga was General Gates who graciously accepted the credit even though his subordinate Benedict Arnold was the architect of the victory. Arnold later gave the plans for West Point to the British. Gates later became the leader at the Battle of Camden. He fled the battlefield and rode to Charlotte. Had he been victorious in Camden, he would have most likely replaced George Washington.

Much of the fighting in the South took on religious overtones and always had. Many times the British would burn the churches, particularly the Presbyterian Churches, which were Scottish in origin. Often the churches were the main meeting places of a community. The Spanish built a fort at St. Augustine because the French Huguenots were in the better port of Jacksonville. The Spanish marched north and eventually decapitated the men who would not embrace Catholicism.

After the American Revolution, the congress decided to finance an institution where army officers could be trained. They chose West Point over the cliffs on the Catawba River where there had been fierce fighting between Sumter and Tarleton. As a consolation prize, an armory was established there and a Canadian colonel named Beckham was brought down to manage this facility.

In the War of 1812, the U.S.S. Constitution won fame as a fighting vessel and she is still active and the oldest war ship. She is permanently housed in Boston Harbor. Every six months she sails out to sea and returns and is repositioned so that both sides can be equally weathered. Bill Ford was a professor in Boston and it happened that in one of his graduate classes the commander of this ship was a student. He asked if Bill and Ruthie would like to be deck hands on its “turn around” cruise.

Thank you for your attention.