Lost To History
©2019, George J. Irwin. All rights reserved.


July 5, 2019 How could we have missed this.

Here, Colleen and I thought that we had received a reasonably decent education during our school years. Furthermore, I had attended a well-appointed university and had enrolled and done well in several history courses, taught by the very best full professors that were available at the time.

And yet, about this person, we were completely ignorant. For shame.

Fortunately, we happened across a sign for Newberry Street in a small town which we were lucky enough to pass through. We learned that he was nearly lost to history had it not been for the events of the night before. Doubly fortunate, the citizens of this small town, which will remain nameless lest we accidentally cause a throng of curious tourists to descend upon the location (as there is woefully inadequate infrastructure to support such an invasion, much less cellular phone service of any G at all) have erected a modest but still appropriate historical marker to the namesake of Newberry Street. It simply read thusly:

William "Wild Bill" Newberry 1740?-1780
Local hero of the Battle of Baggage Claim, 1776.

Were it not until the reminding of all Americans in a speech for the ages that the Revolutionary War was fought by land, sea and air—specifically, airports—we would not even have had the opportunity to learn about this one of many unsung patriots who helped make this country free.

Those of you who know us, though, are well aware that we were not going to stop there. Just like Elmo, we wanted to learn more. How could we learn more?

It turns out, the old fashioned way. The Internet was simply too much of a hive of scum and villainy to be reliable. No, we had to consult a local library in town, which, despite deep budget cuts, was still open for part of the day. There was more information than we expected about this William Newberry, which we discovered with the help of newspaper clippings, magazine articles, and eight-track tapes, and of course the assistance of the librarian on duty, a heroine in her own right who has helped to preserve the memory of this brave warrior. (Like many librarians, she has requested to remain anonymous, stating modestly that her work was reward enough. However, rest assured that she will be remembered in our final bequests.)

What is not known about William Newberry is the exact date of his birth. It is widely believed to be sometime in 1740, but that could have easily have been as late as 1750 or as early as 1728. We blame this on a combination of substandard keeping of records and the English Calendar Riots of 1750—a reaction to the event in which the United Kingdom finally transitioned from the Julian Calendar to the Gregorian Calendar, "losing" 11 days in the process.

We are aware that sometime after being raised in Numberwang in Somerset, England, William and his family emigrated to the Colonies, arriving in one of the many bustling ports around Cape Overshoe on the rugged New England Coast. Alas, poor records again prevent us from knowing which port or when. William was quickly enthralled with the nascent rebellion taking shape in the Massachusetts Bay Colony; as a devout tea drinker he was most interested in the Boston Tea Party of 1773 (not to be confused with the Chicago Tea Party of 2009). Like many former residents of Great Britain, Newberry found the Intolerable Acts Intolerable. When the shot heard round the world was heard where the rude bridge arched the flood (not to be confused with the Golden Arches), Newberry signed on with the New England Patriots.

Without records, it was impossible to determine his age, but given that he had given his birth year as 1740, plus or minus eleven days, he was among the eldest men to enlist. Had he actually been born in 1750, not 1740, he would have been only 15, not 25. His lack of experience in war matched those who were (probably) years younger than he, but as someone who looked old for his age he was welcomed by recruiters as a potential commander.

We believe that this is what led him to that conflict for which he is best known: the relatively unknown Battle of Baggage Claim at LaGuardia’s Field. Commander George Washington’s forces were defeated in the Battle of Long Island not far away, an event which overshadowed the nearly concurrent clash. For the rebels, then Lieutenant William Newberry fended off the Redcoats, led by Lord Theodore of Nugent. Despite being outnumbered and outarmed, including by a considerable stockpile of Cinnabons, Newberry chased Lord Theodore to the very end of the landmark "Runway 4," backing the force straight into Long Island Sound. It was not known at the time to either side that the Redcoats was carrying an epic malady which came to be called Cat Scratch Fever, which, had it not been contained, would certainly have gone viral. Newberry’s drastic and perhaps crazy action to contain and then subdue the British forces, which involved the pushing of hastily commandeered filled trunks, satchels and other parcels back against the enemy, earned Newberry his nickname "Wild Bill."

Word of this victory reached General Washington, who for some unexplained reason declined to take formal notice, but did instruct one of his aides-de-camp to prepare a claim on his behalf for a lost knapsack. However, the residents of his adopted town certainly made note and promised "a joyful celebration of honour" upon his return. Regrettably for that locality, Newberry never returned to that place. Instead, he was suddenly shifted out of the Continental Army and sent on a covert diplomatic mission overseas. There he met with the Ikeans and had a successful negotiation with them for much needed Allen Wrenches. These were vital to assemble the unrammable ramparts which were planned to help secure the waters around Baltimore.

Newberry made a brief, unauthorized and extremely dangerous stop inside England itself while returning from his mission. Despite his best effors to disguise himself while there, he was recognized by Lady Periwinkle Grantham, whose family controlled the royal franchise for Laughing Stocks. Newberry and Lady Periwinkle were smitten with each other, and she gave up her title and everything else to accompany Newberry back to the Colonies. Once resettled she became a leader of a group called "The Progrefsives," who were concerned with the general health and welfare of the populace and promised "Blood-Letting For All." To that end and with Newberry’s blessing, Periwinkle became closely aligned with Joseph of Biden, an established merchant who had deep connections into the leech trade. Newberry and Periwinkle were married on April 1, 1778. The couple were soon blessed with twin boys, named Telly and Prompter, who would go on to fame and fortune as suppliers of red flares during the War of 1812. Their descendents would also become prosperous through invention of many items, although it was known that some of their equipment was not always reliable in inclement weather.

The Footnote Sub-Committee of the Second Continental Congress recognized that even though Newberry was clearly a war hero for his bravery at the Battle of Baggage Claim, he was even more talented as a diplomat. It is therefore quite ironic, then, that he found himself at the wrong place at the wrong time. While preparing for another clandestine visit to the Ikeans, he perished at the Battle of False Equivalence, caught in a furious crossfire between the Yesbut Brigade and the Irregular Whatabouts.

Crushed by the sudden death of her beloved, and made a widow at a young age, Periwinkle Newberry mourned for six and twenty weeks and then pressed herself back into service as a Progrefsive. She met many Revolutionaries during her later life, including perhaps most famously Bernard Sanders, who was part of the Loud Snowflake Regiment of the Green Mountain Boys. In her unpublished memoir which was only discovered decades after her death in 1850, Periwinkle said she "did not regret for even a single moment her Brexit."

And to think that Colleen, and we, almost missed this and let it be Lost To History. It is far more serious than simply us, though. What were to happen, for example, should we be secretly visited by aliens who wish to understand and evaluate our past? How could they possibly have a complete picture of our history should "Wild Bill" Newberry and the Battle of Baggage Claim be lost to them? What would they think of us? Would we be worthy of saving or would we simply be assimilated?

We are seriously considering the filing of a civil lawsuit charging negligence against the American Education System for not teaching us about this hero of the Revolution. Although we both have sizable coverage against lack of information, we believe that if we retain both Celino and Barnes they will be able to get us much more than our insurance companies would offer. Even so, it may be small consolation, for only Providence knows what other intelligence we may yet be lacking.

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