The Ring Fight and the Emergence of Andrew Pickens

While the Second Continental Congress met in the early summer of 1776, colonists in the far away backcountry of South Carolina faced a threat from a perennial foe, the Cherokees. While delegates debated a declaration of independence, war parties struck settlements between the Broad and Saluda Rivers in the Ninety Six District. In response to these raids, militia Major Andrew Williamson mustered his Ninety Six regiment. Augmented by militia from the Carolinas and Virginia, he commenced a campaign against the Cherokee villages along the eastern face of the Blue Ridge.

General Andrew Pickens of South Carolina

Williamson struck at Esseneca on August 1. The colonials sustained twenty casualties but forced the warriors to abandon the village. Over the course of the next week, Williamson moved further into enemy territory. Rather than engage his force, the Cherokees retreated before the advance. Williamson burned a number of towns including Oconee, Estatoe and Toxaway.

The regiment reached Tamassee on August 12. Once again, Williamson found the village abandoned. He decided to send out scouting parties to examine the nearby hills. One of the patrols was led by a company commander from the Long Canes region of South Carolina, Captain Andrew Pickens. He took with him about sixty men. To cover more ground, Pickens divided his group and continued on with thirty five militiamen.

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Symposium Recap

One week has passed since the first annual Emerging Revolutionary War symposium. Held in conjunction with Historic Alexandria, Virginia at the Lyceum, the theme was “Before they were Americans.”

With a day of lectures, keynoted by Dr. Peter Henriques, professor emeritus of George Mason University the topics ranged from the French and Indian War, to George Washington, to material culture, smallpox, and Boston on the Road to Revolution. The day ended with a panel of historians in a Q&A session.

Over 70 people attended and many joined members of Emerging Revolutionary War and Historic Alexandria at Gadsby’s Tavern, an 18th century tavern with a great connection to American history, including a a ballroom used by Washington to celebrate his birthdays!

Plans are already in motion for the second annual Emerging Revolutionary War symposium to be held in late September of 2020 back in Alexandria, Virginia. Stay tuned to this blog and our Facebook page for information as that day draws near.

In the meantime, check out some of the photos below, taken by ERW historian Rob Orrison, who along with Liz Williams of Historic Alexandria were the driving forces behind making this symposium possible. A big thank you to all who attended and we hope to see you next year!

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“I Have not Yet Begun to Fight!” or Words to that Effect (September 23, 1779)

Bonhomme Richard (Naval History and Heritage Command)

Bonhomme Richard (Naval History and Heritage Command)

During the night of September 23/24, 1779, Captain John Paul Jones led his frigate, Bonhomme Richard, into its legendary fight with Serapis. In the midst of a battle that was not going well for the Americans, British Captain Richard Pearson asked if Jones was ready to strike his colors and surrender. Jones offered one of the most famous replies in American naval history: “I have not yet begun to fight!” Or did he? Continue reading

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Symposium Update

Today, our sixth and final installment of the September 28th, 2019 symposium Before They Were Americans highlights William Griffith.

William Griffith is a native of Branchburg, New Jersey and currently resides in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  He received his BA in History from Shepherd University in 2014, and MA in Military History from Norwich University in 2018. His passion for history can be traced back to his first trip with his father to Fort William Henry along the southern shore of Lake George when he was five-years-old.

While completing his undergraduate studies at Shepherd, he spent his time as a volunteer with the Gettysburg Foundation and the George Tyler Moore Center for the Study of the Civil War, and also worked as an intern and substitute librarian at the David Library of the American Revolution. He has previously served as a historical interpreter at Fort Frederick State Park in Big Pool, Maryland, and was employed by the Gettysburg Foundation from 2017-2019. He currently serves as a full-time Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide. When not indulging himself in military history, he can be found closely following his second passion – the New York Yankees.

 

William’s first book, The Battle of Lake George: England’s First Triumph in the French and Indian War, was released by The History Press on September 5, 2016. His next book, A Handsome Flogging: The Battle of Monmouth, June 28, 1778, will be released later this year as part of Savas Beatie’s Emerging Revolutionary War series.

 

He will be presenting his talk “A proud, indolent, ignorant self-sufficient set: The Colonists’ Emergence as a Fighting Force in the French and Indian War” at the September symposium.

 

Photo of William Griffith smiling with a clearing of trees behind him, presumably a historic battlefield
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“Soldiers and Countrymen…”

Before the horrific terrorist attacks that struck the United States on September 11, 2001, this date in American history saw the longest single day engagement with the highest number of combatants during the entire American Revolution fought in southeastern Pennsylvania.

Known to history as the Battle of Brandywine, approximately 30,000 soldiers were involved and 1,887 became casualties, the majority, 1,300 being Americans. One of those 1,300 individuals was Reverend or Chaplain Joab Trout, from New Hampshire.

Battle of Brandywine
(courtesy of NYPL)

The night before the engagement, he gave the following sermon beat the evening call on the eve of battle. And 242 years later the words still echo with a sense of patriotism and stoicism for a cause that was worth fighting and dying for. Below is the full sermon:

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“A Very Handsom Retreet”: Lt. Colonel Nathan Whiting and the Fighting Retreat that Decided the Battle of Lake George

This is a post from September 2016. It focuses on a critical military action that occurred during the Battle of Lake George, 264 years ago, today:

When analyzing the key actions of a military engagement in order to pinpoint a decisive moment or turning point, one does not usually come across a retreat and/or rout that actually attributed to the success of an army. However, during the late morning of September 8, 1755, roughly three miles south of Lake George in New York’s Adirondack Mountains, a contingent of men from Connecticut and Massachusetts, and their Mohawk allies conducted quite possibly the first ever organized fighting retreat in American military history – one that would turn the tide of battle and save their army from potential destruction. It is easy for a maneuver like this to be overlooked, but without the crucial time bought for William Johnson’s provincial army at its encampment along the southern shore of the lake by Lt. Colonel Nathan Whiting’s courageous New Englanders, Baron de Dieskau’s French army may well have emerged victorious during the Battle of Lake George and subsequently pushed their way to Albany’s doorstep.

Around eight o’clock in the morning, September 8, 1755, a column of men 1,200 strong was marched out of William Johnson’s camp at the southern end of Lake George. The column’s destination was Fort Lyman, roughly fourteen miles to the south located beside the Hudson River (present-day Fort Edward, NY). There, intelligence gathered by Johnson’s army had placed the 1,500 strong French force led by Jean-Armand, Baron de Dieskau, which was believed to be preparing an assault against the 500 man garrison of New Hampshire and New York provincials.

The contingent of reinforcements dispatched from the English camp was under the overall command of Colonel Ephraim Williams, 3rd Massachusetts Provincial Regiment, and was comprised of his own regiment, 200 Mohawk Indians, and another 500 men of the 2nd Connecticut Provincial Regiment led by Lt. Colonel Nathan Whiting. The column marched south down the military road with the Mohawk at its head, followed by the Massachusetts men, and Whiting’s regiment taking up the rear.

Nathan Whiting, born in 1724 and a resident of Windham, was 31-years-old in 1755 and one of William Johnson’s youngest field officers. He was a graduate of Yale and a veteran of the Louisbourg expedition during King George’s War – service which earned him a lieutenant’s commission in His Majesty’s Forces. When hostilities between England and France erupted in 1754 he was commissioned as the 2nd Connecticut Provincial Regiment’s lieutenant colonel and was sent to Albany to serve as part of the Crown Point Expedition, an offensive designed to oust the French from the Lake Champlain-Lake George-Hudson River corridor. The regiment’s colonel, Elizur Goodrich, was ill and bedridden during the Battle of Lake George, so Whiting served as the unit’s field commander during his absence. Whiting was a loyal officer and earnestly dedicated to the cause in which he was fighting for. Before reaching the southern shore of the lake on August 28, he penned a heartfelt letter to his wife that epitomized his character: “… [P]ray make your Self as easy as possible[.] I know your D[aily] prayers are for my preservation[.] Let it be an article of them that it not be obtained by any unworthy means, but in the prosecution of the Duty I owe at this time to my Self, my Country & my God.”[1]

About two hours or so and three miles into the march to Fort Lyman, the forward ranks of Ephraim Williams’s column of reinforcements were ambushed by Dieskau’s native allies, Canadian militia, and regular grenadiers of the Regiments of Languedoc and La Reine. The French outside of Fort Lyman had earlier uncovered dispatches from a dead courier that was sent to inform the English outpost that reinforcements were going to be sent from the lake encampment to assist it in case of an attack. Using this intelligence, Dieskau marched his army up the military road towards Lake George and prepared an ambush to surprise the oncoming party of reinforcements. Although the ambuscade was initiated prematurely before the entire column could march into Dieskau’s hook-like formation, it still succeeded in throwing the English force into confusion and sent it scurrying back up the road to Lake George. Both Ephraim Williams and Chief Hendrick (commanding the Mohawk contingent) were killed during the confrontation and all order was lost, leaving Whiting, who was now the highest ranking officer on the field, to try to prevent a disaster.

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The Bloody Morning Scout, 10:00 a.m. Map by Nicholas Chavez.

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George Washington’s Hometown: Alexandria, Virginia

George Washington by Gilbert Stuart, 1797. Washington was a familiar face in Alexandria from his boyhood days until his death. (Wikimedia Commons)

Alexandria, Virginia, often thought of as merely a suburb of Washington, D.C., is actually one of the most historic towns in the United States.  The town, founded in 1749, predates the nation’s capital and the nation itself.  While most towns and cities (such as Charleston, Philadelphia, New York or Boston to name a few) set aside museums, parks, and houses where George Washington may have spent an evening or had a meal, Alexandria, Virginia has the distinction of being Washington’s hometown.  Washington’s home, Mount Vernon, is only nine miles south of Alexandria.  Washington literally helped survey and lay out the very streets of the town in 1748.  Washington spent a considerable amount of time of his life with friends and family at Alexandria and became a leading citizen in the town.

A map of Alexandria drawn by George Washington in 1749. (Library of Congress)
Gadsby’s Tavern, where not only Washington, but John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison dined. (City of Alexandria)
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