Have you planned a party yet? Taking a day off tomorrow?
You ought to. Tell your boss I said it's OK. Because Aug. 30 is a very special day.
No, not because it's my birthday (though it is). Aug. 30 is the birthday of David Bushnell, and as a result, this Aug. 30 is officially David Bushnell Day in Georgia.
Officially? Yep. Through the assistance of state Rep. Ben Harbin, the Georgia Legislature and Gov. Sonny Perdue have each proclaimed Aug. 30, 2004 as David Bushnell Day.
My children run screaming from the room whenever I mention Bushnell's name. I keep trying to persuade them to study the Revolutionary War figure for one of their endless school projects, to no avail.
So it may be a bit of an uphill climb to educate the rest of our community on just who David Bushnell is. Our local teachers don't talk about him, not even in Georgia history classes or during Revolutionary War studies. So I am committed to spread the word on Bushnell with missionary-like zeal until every soul has had an opportunity to run screaming from the room.
David Bushnell was born near Saybrook, Conn., on Aug. 30, 1740. He was a studious fellow, and when he was older was accepted to Yale College. It was 1771, and his fellow colonists were rebelling against the British.
More an engineer than a soldier, Bushnell figured out how to explode gunpowder underwater. Then he created a bomb with a clockwork mechanism that he believed could be used to blow up the British ships blockading American harbors.
All he lacked for his sub-marine mine was a delivery system, so Bushnell created the Turtle: a human-powered underwater boat designed to launch his bombs.
It was a Rube Goldberg-like contraption, and its attempts on British shipping yielded only minor success -- mostly from the scare value of the bomb exploding in open water. But the Turtle is the first submarine used in combat, nearly 100 years before the Hunley. And it pioneered several designs still used in modern submarines, including a conning tower and water ballast.
Bushnell spent all his inheritance on the Turtle, and after the war had no success in selling his bomb designs. A fellow Yale student, Abraham Baldwin, convinced Bushnell to move to Georgia, to what was then Columbia County.
Bushnell, under the assumed name David Bush, opened a school and became a medical doctor. He died at age 84 in 1824, and was buried in what is now Warrenton. His will revealed his true identity, but he still is an obscure local figure. Not even the history buffs in Warrenton seem aware of Bushnell's significance, though I've preached to them, too.
We're hoping that a recently constructed working model of the Turtle will one day be displayed at the Augusta Museum of History. Maybe by then, we really will learn to celebrate David Bushnell Day -- or at least know why we should.
People to remember
Some local folks have had reasons lately not to celebrate, but to be distressed:
Columbia County Sheriff's Office Capt. Steve Morris lost his father last week. Calvin Morris of Harlem died just a few months after Steve's mother, Frances.
I didn't know Mr. or Mr. Morris, but they had to be fine folks to produce such a good son. Losing both parents in the same year must be unspeakably hard.
Former Columbia Coun-ty School Board member Suzanne Scott has been through tough times lately while awaiting a kidney transplant for her husband, Virgil. Please remember them with prayers, and if you know them, with a call or visit.
The daughters of current School Board Chairman Roxanne Whitaker are recuperating after a nasty auto crash last weekend. It's a miracle the girls weren't hurt worse -- and it's two more reasons to give thanks.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.