learned... of the sailing, from Halifax

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Yichen

Senior Member
Chinese
Hello, all.

Dear sir, it is with grave apprehension that I have learned this day, of the sailing, from Halifax, Nova Scotia of a considerable force of British troops, in the company of foreign mercenaries and under the command of General Sir William Howe. There can be no doubt that their destination is New York, …
--- from the subtitle of 1776.
I cannot google out the film script and cannot provide a link.

My question,
I have learned... of the sailing, from Halifax, Nova Scotia, of a considerable force of British troops,...
Is it "learn from..." or "the sailing from..."?
Logically, I think the "from phrase" modifies "the sailing".
If I know this matter from Halifax, but the battle ships have already been near New York, the letter makes no sense.

What do you think?


Many many thanks.
 
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    It would also make no sense to needlessly split up :cross:'learned from Halifax' and 'the sailing of a considerable force', and put part of one inside the other. Okay, they did write in complicated ways, back then, but that would make no sense even by 18th-century standards.
     

    kentix

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    The ships departed from Halifax and are sailing to New York. We don't know when they left. The speaker says he learned the news of the ships "this day". He might have learned of it the same day they departed or on some day afterward. We can't tell from this text. We don't know where the speaker is. Obviously he is hoping his letter reaches the colonial troops before the British troops reach them. We don't know how the letter is traveling. Possibly it's by horseback but possibly it's traveling on another ship. We don't know.

    Sailing distance from Halifax to New York is 636 nautical miles (1178 km). The task force can only go as fast as the slowest ship. An online site says good sailing ships averaged around 5 knots in those days.That would make it approximately a five to six day journey. If they were slowed down by slower ships or unfavorable winds it could be longer. So if the letter is able to arrive in less than a week it could make a big difference.
     

    Chasint

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Dear sir, it is with grave apprehension that I have learned this day, of the sailing, from Halifax, Nova Scotia of a considerable force of British troops...
    My paraphrase
    Dear sir, it is with grave apprehension that this day, I have learned of the sailing of a considerable force of British troops from Halifax, Nova Scotia, .
     

    Roxxxannne

    Senior Member
    English (northeastern US)
    Google the phrase "I have learned this day, of the sailing, from Halifax, Nova Scotia" and you'll see another rendition of the dialogue without so many commas:
    "It is with great apprehension that I have learned this day of the sailing from Halifax, Nova Scotia, of a considerable force of British troops in the company of foreign mercenaries and under the command of General Sir William Howe."
    I suspect that this is not a quotation from an actual letter, but movie dialogue made to look as though it's from the 18th century. As movie dialogue it makes more sense to start with Halifax and build up some suspense until we get to Gen. Howe and ... New York. <cue the ominous music>

    In reality, I doubt that anyone went by horseback from Halifax to New York at that time in history; overland is probably 200 miles more than by water, and what roads there were northeast of Boston were not good.

    This is not as convoluted as some writing of that time.
     
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