Hercules of the Revolution

A novel based on the life of Peter Francisco by 7th generation descendant Travis Bowman.
Buy it TODAY!

TV & Radio Interviews

Travis has been a guest on NBC Charlotte and on several nationally syndicated radio shows.
Listen NOW!

The Peter Francisco Story

The first documentary ever produced about George Washington’s "One Man Army" continues to air on PBS. Buy it TODAY!

Hercules Comes to LIFE

Travis enjoys bringing Peter Francisco to life with a 6’ broadsword at venues all over the country. Watch a clip NOW!

Hercules the MOVIE

A movie based on Travis Bowman's novel Hercules of the Revolution is slated to release in 2015. Learn more NOW!

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Passing of a Great Hero | John "Stuart" Barret

I once heard someone lament: The moment someone truly dies is when the last living person who knew him has died. An imprint of him may live on in stories and pictures, but the essence of who he was is gone. When we grieve, we don’t just mourn the recently deceased. I think we also grieve the loss of memories of events and past generations only that person would have known – the loss of historic truth. 

My great Uncle Stuart Barret passed away on Saturday, October 12, and took with him some of that untold history. The brother of my late grandfather Bill Barret, Stuart was a veteran of the Korean War and a 5th generation descendant of Peter Francisco. He was heavily involved in the Society for the Descendants of Peter Francisco, and I was able to use the traced lineage from his Sons of the American Revolution membership to join myself and both my sons. He provided invaluable assistance with my research for Hercules of the Revolution and also appeared as a guest on my documentary.
Stuart Barret, 5th generation descendant of Peter Francisco giving interview for documentary The Peter Francisco Story

I consider myself fortunate to have spent time with him discussing our famous ancestor, yet I know there was still more I could have learned. 

I attended Uncle Stuart's burial at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia, the same place where grandmother Barret was laid to rest three years before. Both are now interred near Rosalie Francisco Barret, my great-grandmother, and Peter's great-granddaughter. It is her name that connects me to the Hercules of the Revolution.
Gravestone of Rosalie Francisco Barrett, great-granddaughter of Peter Francisco

The Pastor's homily was truly heartfelt. His personal relationship with my Uncle was evident. He spoke highly of him, and about his time serving along side of him in the United Methodist Church. After presenting the gospel message, he described Stuart's life as one that was in close fellowship with the Lord. These were things about Uncle Stuart I had never heard before. 



After being at the burial and hearing about his faith, I greatly wished I had spent more time with him.

Following the service, I was able to talk with family members I hadn't seen in some time and some whom I had never met. Interesting how this place with its circumstances invites us to impromptu reunions of families both past and present. Each time I'm here, it's like I see things for the first time or in a new light. Maybe now I just have reason to appreciate them. This time, I noticed that Peter's descendants – my ancestors – are buried right off a street named Lafayette


Maybe Uncle Stuart still has a few things left to tell me.
As I said goodbye to my Uncle one last time on earth, I know also bid adieu to his treasure of memories and untold history, vaulted away forever from this life. 

Thank you for leaving me a bit of your legacy, Uncle Stuart. It lives on. 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Peter Francisco Returns to Porto Judeu, Terceira Island, Azores

Earlier this spring, I had the incredibly opportunity to bring Peter Francisco back to his homeland and birthplace in Porto Judeu, Terceira Island, in the Azores after nearly 250 years. What an unbelievable experience! 

One of the members of my film team, Bryan Forrest and I took a 15-hour flight to the obscure group of islands in the Atlantic Ocean. We were there primarily scouting film locations, working on the screenplay and meeting with some of the local officials about filming Hercules of the Revolution. We took hours of video footage and experienced much of the local culture, all of which will authenticate Peter’s life on the big screen. Bryan and I said "WOW!" more times in a week than we can count! God’s providence was evident.


Bryan Forrest and Travis Bowman in front of Goat Island, Terceira, Azores

We flew into Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel Island, then from there to Teircera. As I stepped off the small commuter plane and set foot on the ground that was Peter’s homeland, I was overwhelmed. Peter never knew anything about his roots or where he was born. I like to think that in his later years – once he was elected sergeant-at-arms for the state of Virginia – he might have had the connections and resources to help him discover it. But, as far as anyone knows, it was never anything he pursued. 

Santo Antonio – where Peter Francisco was christened

One of the first stops we made was to St. Anthony’s Parish (Santo Antonio), the small church where Peter Francisco’s birth certificate was first discovered c. 1960 by Dr. John E. Manahan. The baptismal inside that church is the very spot where Peter is believed to have been christened as baby. You won’t see it in this video, but the moment I entered this church, I started to get emotional. Ever since I first started telling Peter’s story, I have dreamed of visiting this place! 






Peter Francisco’s boyhood home

Frequently, I am asked if Peter’s boyhood home or remains of it still stand. While we were walking around with the Mayor of Porto Judeu and his wife, who spoke some English, she pointed out a specific house where some of Peter’s distant relatives lived, which might have been the Francisco family house or at least looked similar to it. We knocked on the door, and they talked to us in very fast Portuguese, but since our tour guide wasn’t with us at that moment, unfortunately, we couldn’t follow much of what they said. 

The proximity of this house in relation to the shoreline does seem to make sense. According to the local islanders, there was one main entry point from the ocean into the town of Porto Judeu back in Pedro's day. Here I sit at the likely spot where Peter was abducted from his homeland while he was playing in the street. 




On the islands, the pace of life is much slower, more carefree, than in America. All the more tragic that Pedro’s freedom was ripped from him at such a young age. 

Goat Island – where Peter’s kidnappers likely hid their ship 

For those who have read my book, you may wonder how Pedro’s kidnappers were able to carry out their deed so stealthily. Just off the coast of Teircera Island is a set of uninhabited protrusions known as Goat Island (split rock). The mayor of Porto Judeu told me that this is likely where his kidnapper’s anchored the ship, so it would be out of sight. I promise, you will see this island in the film! 



Bringing Peter to life in his hometown – Porto Judeu 

There is an enormous sense of pride that the people of Porto Judeu feel for their native hero Peter Francisco and his connection to America. The Portuguese are no strangers to the idea of fighting for independence. Certainly not their ancestors.

Standing as Peter on stage at Associação Cultural Porto Judeu, a local theatre in his hometown, just steps from where he was born and where he played as a small boy, was an out-of-this-world experience. What a pleasure and honor to bring him back to the Azores, to Terceira Island, to the town of Porto Judeu. It has been 248 years since he was kidnapped and there is still something surreal about bringing him home. It is a day I will never forget! Following my performance, one of Peter's relatives who watched it said, "You coming here and being at the festivities on Sunday you brought our great-grandfather HOME. I think his spirit is now at peace." I could not have described it any better than that. 


Travis Bowman bringing his ancestor Peter Francisco to life in Porto Judeu, Terceira Island, Azores

 
I also had the chance to bring Peter to life at Lajes Field, the US Air Force base on the island and was interviewed on the Double D Midday Show. With all the buzz about Peter, I guess my face started to become familiar. There were times when I felt a little like a celebrity as people would stop to get their picture taken with me and ask me to sign things. Imagine my surprise when I walked into a corner store in Angra, and the clerk recognized me from one of the newspapers on the shelf! 


Tour Guide Francisco Cardosa holding up a copy of Diario Insular that ran a story on Peter Francisco descendant Travis Bowman

 
Pedro Francisco Street 

The streets on the islands are very tight yet people drive really fast because, as they said, "we know where everything is … when the cow crosses, when school lets out, etc." There are hardly any traffic lights on the whole island. I don’t think Porto Judeu has any stop lights, only stop signs. One of these streets, Rua Pedro Francisco, which is right down from the theatre where I performed, is named for Peter Francisco and commemorates the estimated year he was born (unknown at that time) and the year he died. 

Rua Pedro Francisco - Peter Francisco Street

Sadly, Peter never knew exactly what year he was born. Fortunately, we do!

Peter Francisco’s original birth certificate in Angra de Heroismo 

Another highlight from my trip was seeing Pedro's original birth record in Angra de Heroismo. I got to see firsthand the actual family records that Pedro Francisco was born in Porto Judeu on July 9, 1760. The Director of the Library & Archives then presented me with a certification. 




Francisco was actually Peter’s middle name. The first person who suggested this to me was a Portuguese friend of mine who works at the Pentagon. It is also on the birth record that I saw in Angra. This actually makes sense since, even today, most Portuguese have two given names and two surnames. Because his given names were all he knew at the age of five when he was abandoned on the wharf at City Point, Peter Francisco is how he came to be known in early America. 

Searching for a boy to play the part of young Pedro Francisco 

Peter Francisco was kidnapped on the Day of Pentecost from the town of Porto Judeu in 1765. Bryan and I were invited to attend a ceremony at Santo Antonio where he was baptized and where he was the day he was kidnapped. Of course, we will recreate this festive day for the movie! 

One of the reasons that we came to the Azores was to look for local actors to portray the first 4 – 5 minutes of young Pedro’s life on Terceira Island, but finding a kid to play Pedro I knew could be a challenge. During the ceremony, Bryan happened to notice a small boy squirming around in his seat. He couldn’t have been more than five. When Bryan pointed him out to me, we both immediately knew that he would be perfect for the role of young Pedro in the film. Just look at the resemblance between him and the image Dan Nance sketched during our storyboarding session just three months earlier! 


Small boy we discovered at Santo Antonio on the Day of Pentecost who resembles sketch of young Pedro Francisco

The crazy thing is that this boy’s family doesn’t normally attend church here. They were only there for the Day of Pentecost! Only God arranges these types of supernatural meetings! But wait, it gets even more unbelievable. Turns out, this little guy could actually be related to Peter’s grandmother. They share the same surname! How amazing would it be to have a relative of Peter’s portray him!? Unbelievable!

What is there to do on the Island of Terceira?

The trip certainly wasn’t all work and no play. Bryan and I took a break and got out to enjoy the whales, dolphins, and other wild life. We saw blue and fin whales thanks to OceanEmotion Azores

We also had the chance to watch a traditional Portuguese bullfight. Typically, you think of bullfighting at an arena. This was a little different. The bull is on a rope being held by five guys to keep it from charging anyone, but it will turn on those guys too. It runs through a blocked off street where the whole town comes out to watch any risk takers who are willing to antagonize the bull. Since I was one of the spectators in the street, I guess you could say I was matador for a day! It is like a festival, and everyone comes out for the food and fun. There were actually several people selling candy and snacks that sounded just like the guy selling peanuts at an American baseball game.

Travis Bowman in the street during a traditional Portuguese bullfight on Terceira Island, Azores

We experienced slices of the local culture firsthand, from hospitality to cuisine, including a pizza being delivered on a motorcycle and espresso “to go” in a ceramic demitasse. (No Starbucks, regular coffee, paper cups or splash sticks here!) Oh, and did I mention dairy cows roaming free? 

It was a trip of a lifetime, one that most people might only get to experience once, but I am already looking forward to returning when we start filming Hercules of the Revolution – The Movie!

Friday, June 14, 2013

A Pledge of Allegiance to Faith, Liberty & Legacy | Flag Day

Today, thousands of people will unfurl Old Glory to honor a lesser known patriotic observance – Flag Day. As they raise the red, white and blue, their minds and hearts will be on the nation it represents, their homeland. Some may even silently recite the pledge of allegiance, including that two-word phrase that always seems to spark so much controversy.

Those two words weren’t officially added to the pledge until 1954 by a Joint Resolution of Congress. They were taken from a speech with which most of us are familiar. When Congress passed the resolution, President Eisenhower lent his support:
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“In this way, we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource in peace and war.”
Then, on the steps of the Capitol Building, Eisenhower became the first person to recite the pledge with the words “One Nation Under God.”

There is much debate about whether American was founded as a Christian nation or is truly “under God.” Recently, I read an article published in Forbes magazine that discusses this topic at length and argues both sides fairly well. The author, Bill Flax, concludes that America was not necessarily founded as a Christian nation, but points to the fact that its people were largely comprised of Christians, and, therefore, influenced the secession from Britain, revolution, as well as the establishment of its tenets and many governing documents. Flax also concludes, based on evidence, that the American Revolution would not have been successful were it not for the faith and moral principles of its people.

It is my firm belief that God had a divine purpose for America to become its own nation, for Christian principles to define that nation and for the collective involvement of specific people in the forming of that nation, including my great-grandfather Peter Francisco. Apart from his heroic contributions to the achievement of American independence, that is the ultimate truth I hope people to take away from Peter's story, and in every medium I use that tells that story.

I also believe, as Americans who benefit from that sacrifice, it is our duty to pass on the truth about history to future generations, starting with our own families
“For what great nation has a god as near to them as the Lord our God is near to us whenever we call on him? And what great nation has decrees and regulations as righteous and fair as this body of instructions that I am giving you today? But watch out! Be careful never to forget what you yourself have seen. Do not let these memories escape from your mind as long as you live! And be sure to pass them on to your children and grandchildren.”  (Deuteronomy 4:7-9, NLT)
In this way, we all become founding fathers.

Let us commit to sharing and illustrating the faith of America’s original founding fathers, her people, their unwavering courage in the face of adversity and their conviction to establish a new nation under God.

Twitter: #OneNationUnderGod or @peterfrancisco
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/HerculesoftheRevolution

Monday, March 11, 2013

Storyboarding an American Revolution Movie

Five years ago, if anyone had told me that right now I would be in the process of writing the screenplay and making a movie based on my book, my ancestor’s life and his place in american revolution history, I wouldn’t have believed them. From the moment I started working on Hercules of the Revolution, I’ve dreamed about seeing it on the big screen. 


Original sketch of Peter Francisco and Susannah Anderson by Dan Nance renowned historical artist
Original sketch of Peter and Susannah by Dan Nance, historical artist
After 2 – 3 years of getting the runaround from film producers and even signing an agreement with one of them, I realized there was only one way to make it happen. I have launched a film company – Bequest Films – to support that effort. A film of this magnitude wouldn’t be possible without the help of many people, and no words can express how grateful I am to those who believe in me as much as this project. 

A birthday to remember 

I took the team to storyboard this soon-to-be epic american revolution film in Greensboro, North Carolina (named for the famous General Nathanael Greene), close to where Peter Francisco first swung the 6-foot broadsword. The air was crisp and damp, not unlike the conditions the soldiers experienced that squally day in March. How fitting that we would write the first lines and draw the first images of this film on February 23rd, my birthday and the same day the state of Virginia passed a resolution establishing March 15 as Peter Francisco Day

That Friday, we met at Natty Greene’s to get acquainted and kick around ideas. The conversation landed on the topic of war/romance films and why we like them, the perfect prelude to this journey. We spent the better part of the next day outlining the direction for the film, defining and discussing the characters, and brainstorming ideas. It didn’t take us long to spread out

We broke for lunch and some inspiration by visiting Guilford Courthouse National Military Park to see the Peter Francisco artifacts housed there and the Cavalry Monument dedicated in his honor in 1910. It was just the thing we needed to finish out the day laying out the sequence of scenes, sketching the action and writing the screenplay. 

Meet my revolutionary war film team 

I’m thrilled to have some super talented people on my film team. Listen as we discuss the film

  • Jess Stainbrook – Jess is an award-winning film director and producer. He has 8 Emmy Awards and 34 Telly Awards to his credit. He wrote and produced 7 Days in Utopia, which released in 2011. He received the 2012 Teddy Award from Movieguide for his work on 7 Days. He has worked with Bill Cosby, Robert Duvall, Tony Dungy, Jodi Benson and many others. His primary role will be in developing the screenplay, developing the film budget and providing investor consultation.
  • Bryan Forrest – Bryan is an award-winning film producer and writer. He wrote, directed and starred in The One Lamb, which opened in 32 states in 2009 and continues to air on TBN and other networks. His DVD is distributed through Thomas Nelson. His primary role will be in writing the screenplay.
  • Dan Nance – Dan is an award-winning Revolutionary War artist. He majored in film at Pratt Institute in New York. He's consulted on several films, including The Patriot. His primary role as visual consultant will be in developing the storyboard for the screenplay.  
  • Heather Walls – Heather is one of the co-authors of Hercules of the Revolution. She spent over a year re-working the book to enhance the love story between Peter and Susannah, further develop the characters and adding detailed description of food, décor and setting. She is one of the few people who know Peter’s story as well as I do. She is a gifted writer with a background in publishing whose primary focus will be on adapting the love story for the screen. 

Here is the film team, minus Jess Stainbrook, taken at Guilford Courthouse, where I also filmed my documentary. We will be sending the final storyboard draft to Jess for his review. 


The Hercules of the Revolution film team at Guilford Courthouse National Military Park


You have no idea how geeked up I am right now! But I definitely want to hear from you, so leave a comment here telling me what your favorite war/romance film is and, for those who have read Hercules of the Revolution, why or what scenes from my book you would like to see in the film!

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