“Elbow Room” for “Uncle Johnny”

On this date in 1777, British General John Burgoyne surrendered to American General Horatio Gates around Saratoga, New York. This victory solidified French support for the fledgling American nation and became one of the turning points in the road to independence.


General John Burgoyne

Out of this momentous occasion came an anecdote about the British general officer. The short story has some truth in it, yet, whether the entire tale is accurate, well, I’ll leave that for you to decide!

Two years prior to the Battles of Saratoga and upon arriving in Boston, Massachusetts, General Burgoyne remarked “Well, let us get in, and we’ll soon find elbow-room” when he was told the numbers of militia besieging British regulars around the town.

After his capitulation, Burgoyne and his forces were marched toward Albany, New York, and multitudes of people turned out to see the vanquished British and German soldiery along the route. One resident supposedly yelled from her homestead doorway;

“Make elbow room for General Burgoyne.” 

Not what he had envisioned in 1775 upon disembarking in North America. Yet, history does not relate what “Gentleman Johnny” Burgoyne thought exactly about the elbow room he received in the countryside of upstate New York!*


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*“Gentleman Johnny” was a nickname acquired by Burgoyne was stationed in London with the Horse Guards, a fashionable cavalry regiment.” 

**Information gathered from A.J. Langguth’s “Patriots” and The Patriot Resource, which can be found here.

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George Washington’s Greatest Speech?

On the morning of March 15, 1783, George Washington strode into the “New Building” or “Temple” as the structure was referred as, to address the assembled officers of the Continental Army. He asked General Horatio Gates if he could have the floor to say a few words and when he unfolded his pieces of paper on the podium, the words lost their importance.

Why? Continue reading

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Norman MacLeod’s Campaign Journal, October 13, 1778

Sketch of Wabash River, 1778

Sketch of the Wabash River Made During Hamilton’s 1778 Campaign (Wikimedia Commons)

In the summer of 1778, Lieutenant Colonel George Rogers Clark of the Virginia militia launched one of the most daring American military operations of the Revolutionary War when he invaded the “Illinois country” and captured Cahokia and Kaskaskia in modern-day Illinois and Vincennes in southern Indiana, effectively neutralizing British power on the Illinois, Wabash, and Mississippi Rivers.  Henry Hamilton, Lieutenant Governor of Quebec and Britain’s Superintendent for Indian Affairs in Detroit, could not allow such audacity to succeed, lest Britain’s influence with the western Indian nations wane.  Learning of Fort Sackville’s fall at Vincennes on the Wabash River, he set out to recapture it.

Continue reading

Posted in British Leadership, Campaigns, Militia (Loyalist) Leadership, Personalities, Revolutionary War, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Battle of the Clintons

This past spring I was able to visit a fascinating historic site, one that is largely overlooked in the larger story of the Revolution. Many of us know that in 1777 the British planned to use the Hudson River to cut off New England from the other states.

With General William Howe in New York City, and General John Burgoyne moving south from Canada, the plan seemed destined for success. Yet Howe decided to move his army by water to the Chesapeake and advance on Philadelphia.

It is commonly assumed that his lack of cooperation with Burgoyne was one major reason for the latter’s failure, and surrender, at Saratoga. In fact, a force of British troops did ascend the Hudson, hoping to cooperate with Burgoyne. I was able to follow and retrace the little known expedition.

Continue reading

Posted in Battlefields & Historic Places, Battles, British Leadership, Campaigns | 1 Comment

Interview with Michael Troy from American Revolution Podcast

Emerging Revolutionary War recently had the pleasure, via e-mail, to interview historian Michael Troy who is the man behind the popular American Revolution Podcast site. A link to his page follows this interview.


Mike Troy

  1. What was the reasoning behind starting American Revolution Podcast?

I have been a big fan of American history my whole life.  The American Revolution has always held a fascination for me.  I had originally planned to produce a blog on the topic, simply out of my love of reading and writing about it.  I decided to turn the project into a podcast because I’ve enjoyed listening to other history podcasts myself. I figured others might appreciate a thorough podcast that covered this topic.

  1. Where did your personal interest in this time period of American History begin?

I’m old enough to remember the bicentennial celebrations as a boy.  I also grew up in the Philadelphia area, where there are so many locations with memories of the era.  I always felt an attachment particularly to that time in our history. Beyond that, the Revolution was more than American independence.  It was about creating a new country based on the ideals of representative democracy, at a time of the world was still ruled by hereditary monarchies.  It was a bold experiment that really changed the world in which we live today. Continue reading

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Summer Lecture on Summer of 1787

This past July I had the pleasure to attend and present at the American Battlefield Trust Teacher Institute. One of the keynote speakers was David O. Steward, the author of Summer of 1787: The Men Who Invented the Constitution. During his talk, there were a few points that stuck out to me and I share them with you.summer of 1787 stewart

  • 72 elected, 55 attended, and 35 delegates were probably there all summer.
  • Out of the 55 that attended, 39 affixed their signatures to the document

In reference to George Washington, Stewart candidly remarked he had “more influence by keeping his mouth shut” almost as if by his calm, quiet demeanor, he was displaying that “I trust in you and I’ll try and make it work” with whatever the delegates designed in that hot and stuffy room in Philadelphia.  Continue reading

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Captain John Asbhy

Part Two

Captain John Ashby and his fellow Virginians would face their greatest test of the war on the afternoon of September 11th, 1777 at the Battle of Brandywine. Following a wide flank march the bulk of the Crown forces emerged on Washington’s right flank, ready to trap and smash the Continental Army. Washington reorganized his line, drawing men north in a desperate attempt to meet the new threat. The Third Virginia was ordered into position far in advance of the American lines – their objective was to hold a wooded hill near the Birmingham Friends Meeting House in order to buy time for the rest of the American troops to take up position. Ashby and his fellow officers arranged their men among the buildings and woodlot of the Samuel Jones farm and awaited the attack that was certain to come.

The Battle of Brandywine, September 11, 1777 (American Battlefield Trust)

The Battle of Brandywine, September 11, 1777 (American Battlefield Trust)

Continue reading

Posted in Battlefields & Historic Places, Battles, Common Soldier, Emerging Revolutionary War, Memory, Monuments, Northern Theater, Personalities, Preservation, Revolutionary War | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment