“Air and Exercise” = being whipped with a Cat-o-Nine-Tails.

Prior to the arrival of Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, American officers often imitated their British peers. In a rather startling example, George Washington once lobbied congress for permission to allow 500 lashes — “Air and Exercise”– as punishment to maintain discipline the Continental soldiers! Congress never approved above 100 lashes even though the British allowed 1000! Officers became more and more separated from the enlisted soldiers they lead. This division lead to a breakdown in respect and discipline that even the lash could not close.

Von Steuben found an army at Valley Forge that was struggling with the basics of military life. Rather than the lash, he introduced drill on the parade ground; attention to dress, cleanliness, equipment, health, and camp sanitation; orderliness on the march; proper redress of grievances among the men; and all the other elements of mutual respect and hierarchical obedience. These provided a foundation by which the soldiers could expect fair judgement.

Von Steuben helped the Continental army become “an internally disciplined group.” The professional loyalty and pride of achievement that von Steuben encouraged shaped the army from an unruly undisciplined mob and into a unified fighting force that could meet and defeat the British on any ground.

Colonial drinkers didn’t bother chasing their shots with beer—they simply imbibed them together. One such combination was Rattle-Skull a blend of dark beer, rum, lime juice, and nutmeg. This bad-ass drink is a dangerously smooth and satisfying concoction. Be careful, drinking this brew requires discipline lest you fall into disreputable conduct. Sharing a Rattle-skull, however, is a much better way of getting respect than offering the pains of “Air and Exercise.”

Download the recipe here.


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Published by Michael Carver

My goal is to bring history alive through interactive portrayal of ordinary American life in the late 18th Century (1750—1799) My persona are: Journeyman Brewer; Cordwainer (leather tradesman but not cobbler), Statesman and Orator; Chandler (candle and soap maker); Gentleman Scientist; and, Soldier in either the British Regular Army, the Centennial Army, or one of the various Militia. Let me help you experience history 1st hand!

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