This evening’s (brief) edition of Today’s History Lesson begins with a “thank-you” to Frances Hunter. Frances Hunter’s American Heroes is a terrific website devoted to the story of the Lewis & Clark Expedition. Yeah, you know, the two guys that discovered the Pacific Ocean. Well, if that’s all you think there is to the story, you have no idea how deep the rabbit hole goes. If you haven’t been, go visit. It’s like Morpheus offering you “the red pill.” While writing about Andre Michaux, Frances held a contest which I happened to win, earning me a copy of Hunter’s latest book, The Fairest Portion of the Globe (and it just arrived yesterday). It’s historical fiction that includes Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, the afore-mentioned Michaux, and a host of other historical characters. I’m super-excited to dig in.
Thomas Hickey. A member of General George Washington’s Life Guard and conspirator in the plot to either kidnap or kill the General. When we visited him last week, he had just been caught and arrested. But June 28, 1776 would see no declaration for independence for this young Sergeant.
He was to be made an example for other soldiers who would might consider acting against their uniform. He was taken to a field and hanged on a gallows. But his sentence was not witnessed by only a few, as may have been the case of Major John André. Instead it was done in front of 20,000 Continental Army soldiers. And while there were 20 or so arrests made in the case, no one else received the death penalty, as they turned “state’s evidence” to further implicate Hickey.
As mentioned before, the actual plot to kill General Washington is a bit murky, but there is little doubt that it existed. The fact that everyone turned on Thomas Hickey may be the cause of the glorification of the story down through the years. The famous “Poisoned Peas” tale is likely just a tale, and may come out of the sensationalism. As it goes, Hickey made an arrangement with one of Washington’s servant girls to lace his peas with arsenic. The servant girl warned the General who, rather than eat the peas, threw them out to the chickens roaming in the yard. They ate the peas and promptly died, leading to Hickey’s arrest.
That certainly doesn’t coincide with what we discussed last week, but as we know, stories get bigger over time. Anyways, there you have it. Hickey’s hanging and some vegetables that most kids already believe to be poisoned.
I happen to love peas, as long as they’re not from a can…those are deadly.
Recommended Reading: Thomas Hickey – This is some good information. Keep in mind that records of this incident (now more than 230 years old) are murky. But I think this is interesting reading.