George Washington's Birthday Celebration

During George Washington’s lifetime and maybe because he was such a great man, he had two birthdays beginning in the 1750’s. Born under the Julian calendar, George was born on February 11, 1731/32. When the English Parliament decreed in 1750 that two years hence England would switch calendars and adopt the Gregorian, used by the majority of countries/states in Europe, there was a discrepancy. So, 11-days was added (some believe that the old calendar was off by a year and a eleven days thus the slash in “1731/32” above).

Regardless, Washington’s birthday was moved to what we, in the United States, are taught now, that it fell on February 22, 1732. Just don’t tell his mother, who believed to her dying day that he was born on the aforementioned date. And who argues with mothers?

What we cannot argue with is that certain birthdays were celebrated at Gadsby’s Tavern, in Alexandria (a city a young George surveyed and helped lay out), Virginia. On October 6, 1796, John Gadsby leased the City Hotel from John Wise and quickly became the epicenter of social and political discourse in Alexandria.

Today the Gadsby Tavern and Museum is open to the public and run by Historic Alexandria a department within the City of Alexandria. For more information and to plan your visit, a bite to eat, or celebrate a birth night ball like George click here.

The balcony where musicians would sit and play at Gadsby’s Tavern (author’s collection)
The hall at Gadsby’s Tavern, which can still be rented out today for celebrations and ceremonies. (author’s collection)
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The Revolution's Impact on Pennsylvania's Pacifist Communities: Part 2 of 2

Following the September, 1777 battle of Brandywine, wounded soldiers were dispersed across southeastern Pennsylvania for treatment, and some ended up at a hospital in the small Moravian town of Lititz, near Lancaster. The Moravians had many settlements in this part of the state. The Moravians, like the Quakers, were pacifists, and also assisted in humanitarian efforts like treating the wounded.

General Washington sent army surgeon Dr. Samuel Kennedy here to establish the facility.  The army took over the Brother’s House, home to the community’s single men, who were forced to find shelter elsewhere.  Moravians lived and worked in separate groups: single women, single men, married women, married, men, etc.  Wounded from Brandywine arrived, and more arrived following the November battle of Germantown.

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The Revolution’s Impact on Pennsylvania’s Pacifist Communities Part 1 of 2

Pennsylvania’s founder, William Penn, was a Quaker, and insisted on morality and fairness for his government: fair treatment of Native Americans and religious freedom for all citizens.

By the time of the Revolution the colony was 90 years old and a variety of religious groups found safe haven in the colony, including Huguenots, German Pietists, Amish, Mennonite, Dutch Reformed, Lutherans, Quakers, Anglicans, Protestants, Dutch Mennonites, Jewish, and Baptists.

Quakers are perhaps the best known religious group that thrived in Pennsylvania. The Society of Friends emerged in England in the mid-1600s, and were persecuted for their beliefs. William Penn, an aristocratic Quaker convert, received a land grant as payment for a debt from the crown, and made religious toleration a cornerstone of the colony. When armies invaded Pennsylvania in 1777, the state’s Quakers were impacted.  Refusing to be active participants, they did offer humanitarian aid to both sides.

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Groundhog Day and the Legend of Ponks Uteney

Before Americans began relying on a local groundhog to predict the weather, Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania had a legend attached to it.

In 1772, Native Americans converted to Christianity under the tutelage of missionaries from the Church of the United Brethren (known as Moravians for their European roots) began migrating from the Susquehanna River and Wyoming Valleys in Pennsylvania to the Muskingum River Valley in modern Ohio.  The exodus, which lasted much of the year, passed through many places, including a small, abandoned Indian village on Mahoning Creek northeast of Pittsburgh known as “Ponks Uteney,” which the missionaries understood to mean “habitation of the sand fly.”  One missionary recalled, “not a moment’s rest was to be expected at this place, otherwise than by kindling fires throughout the camp, and sitting in the smoke.”[1]  The refugees from the east hurried through the area, despite a wealth of game.

Sand flies, or gnats, were legion on the frontier, but Ponks Uteney’s insect inhabitants had become legendary by 1772, which of course required an explanation.  The missionaries were told that in the 1740s an old Indian hermit and shaman lived there on a rock.  Being a magician, from time to time he would magically appear to travelers and hunters passing by and scare or murder them.  Fed up with the harassment and danger, a local Indian chief surprised the shaman and killed him.  From there, oral history turns to mythmaking.  Some storytellers had it that the chief then burned the shaman’s body to ash, which he threw into the air to dispel the shaman’s magical powers.  Caught by the breeze, the ashes turned into “Ponksak” (sand flies) so they could continue the shaman’s habit of pestering anyone passing through.

The migrants survived the Ponksak and eventually arrived at their new homes on the eastern branch of the Muskingum River, known today as the Tuscarawas.  While their new communities flourished, the American Revolution plunged the frontier into war, which many of the people who had braved the plague of sand flies would not survive.

[1]                John Heckewelder, A Narrative of the Mission of the United Brethren among the Delaware and Mohegan Indians, (Philadelphia: McCarty & Davis, 1820), 121.

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McColloch's Leap

“By no means comparable with the feats of a similar character” and “performed an act of daring” and “nay, desperate horsemanship” and “seldom been equaled by man or beast.” All these describe the amazing escape of Major Samuel McColloch in September 1777 during the attack on Fort Henry around where present-day Wheeling, West Virginia.

I first encountered this amazing, daring, and crazy eluding of capture when I took my own, well not as risky, but still a leap, moving to Wheeling to attend university there. Parents were 3,000 miles away in England and I was attempting to juggle basketball, studies, getting re-acclimated to life in the United States, and unknowingly, a left knee that was about to explode. Being a history major, this was one of the first accounts learned in a freshman year seminar class about local history to inspire the incoming students to explore the area outside of campus.

Fort Henry, built in 1774, was originally named Fort Fincastle, one of the titles of Lord Dunmore, the royal governor of Virginia. When the colonies revolted, the fortification was renamed in honor of Patrick Henry.

Fort Henry
courtesy of West Virginia History OnView
https://wvhistoryonview.org/catalog/041457
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62nd Foot at Freeman's Farm

Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes guest historian Kevin Pawlak. A short bio follows the post below.

On May 25, 1775, the 62nd Regiment of Foot stood for review. The line of men, clad in their redcoats with buff facings, did not impress the reviewing officer. He called the regiment “very much drafted” and “very indifferent.” Despite the disparaging grade, in just over two years, the 62nd Foot commendably fought in one of the fiercest actions of the War for Independence.

John Anstruther
courtesy of 62ndregiment.org

Scottish military man Lt. Col. John Anstruther led the 62nd Foot in the campaign of 1777. Anstruther faced no easy task; the 62nd was the junior British regiment in John Burgoyne’s army and most of its men were inexperienced in campaigning and battle. To make the situation even worse, roughly one-quarter of the 62nd Foot’s soldiers were German. Language barriers likely prevented complete cohesion within the unit. However, with a war on, nothing could be done to rectify the regiment’s defects as it marched south into New York.

Anstruther’s regiment was present for the operations around Fort Ticonderoga in early July 1777. After American forces abandoned the fort, the conglomerate and inexperienced 62nd remained behind to man Mount Independence overlooking Lake Champlain. As the rest of Burgoyne’s army continued campaigning, the men of the 62nd Foot spent time guarding themselves against rattlesnakes rather than the enemy. Their time came to rejoin the main army before the Battle of Saratoga commenced.

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A Portrait of John Cuppy

Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes guest historian Gabriel Neville

Most of the enlisted men of the Revolutionary War are faceless and forgotten—just names on lists. Biographies and painted portraits are honors that were reserved for officers. Even so, it is possible to trace the lives of some common soldiers using original sources. Many of them applied for pensions after 1818, which required them to provide (usually brief) narratives of their service. Some gave similar attestations when they applied for military bounty land. A small number left detailed accounts of their experiences in interviews, letters, or diaries. Finally, and very rarely, we have photographs taken in the last years of some veterans’ lives. Virginian John Cuppy may be the only Revolutionary War soldier to leave us an artifact in each of these categories.

John Cuppy

Cuppy was born near Morristown, New Jersey on March 11, 1761. While still an infant, he was brought to Hampshire County, Virginia by his German parents. Their new home was on the South Branch of the Potomac River near the town of Romney, which is now in West Virginia. About forty miles west of the Shenandoah Valley, this was the very edged of settled Virginia territory. John was just fourteen years old when the war began—too young to be a candidate for service when Hampshire was directed to raise a rifle company in July of 1775. He was still too young when Dutch-descended Capt. Abel Westfall recruited a company there that winter for Col. Peter Muhlenberg’s new 8th Virginia Regiment.[1]

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