George Washington’s “Favorite” Charles Lee

When you mention the name “Charles Lee” in many Revolutionary War circles, one immediately thinks of Maj. Gen. Charles Lee. Though there was another Charles Lee and it can be argued provided more contributions to the United States than the British born military general.

220px-Charleslee

Charles Lee, Courtesy of Department of Justice

Charles Lee was born in 1758 on his father’s plantation Leesylvania in Prince William County, Virginia. The 2,000-acre farm that sat on the Potomac River and neighbored other Potomac River families such as the Fairfaxes, Washingtons and Masons. Charles’ father, Henry Lee II, a political colleague and friend of George Washington, Charles was one of eight siblings and five males that would solidify the Lee family’s role as leaders in politics and society. Continue reading

Advertisements
Posted in Charles Lee, Civilian, Continental Leadership, Personalities, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Gerrymander: A Gift from the Founding Fathers

Elbridge-gerry-painting

Massachusetts Governor and U.S. Vice President Elbridge Gerry

Lately, the term “gerrymandering” is getting thrown around as some sort of new illness that afflicts the republic.  The process essentially involves drawing electoral district boundaries in ways that benefit one political party or the other and dates back to 1812 Massachusetts, when Governor Elbridge Gerry, a member in good standing of the founding generation, signed legislation radically redrawing electoral districts in the state to favor the Democratic-Republican Party.

Born in 1744, Gerry was a Massachusetts merchant and vocal opponent of British policy in the colonies who served in the Second Continental Congress, signed the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and attended the Constitutional Convention.   Like a few of his contemporaries, notably George Mason and Patrick Henry of Virginia, he refused to sign the Constitution due to its lack of an explicit Bill of Rights. Nonetheless, he went on to serve as an envoy to France in the Adams administration, then was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, as Governor of Massachusetts, and then was Vice President under James Madison.  Only a few men had a better claim on the term “founding father.”

Continue reading

Posted in Civilian, Continental Leadership, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Symposium Update

In the build-up to the September 28, 2019 symposium Before They Were Americans, today we are highlighting Liz Williams, Director of Gadsby’s Tavern Museum. The tavern consists of two buildings: a (circa) 1785 tavern and the 1792 City Tavern. Named after its tavern keeper from 1796 to 1808, Gadsby’s Tavern was an important center of economic, political, and social life in Alexandria after the American Revolution. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

On this date in….1776

A few random musings on the importance of this date in American Revolutionary history…

IMG_3597

President’s chair, Independence Hall, Independence National Historical Park (author collection)

This day was the date that the assembled Second Continental Congress voted on the draft of a document that was Richard Henry Lee, a delegate from Virginia had put forth in a measure, in June, to be voted on declaring;

“That these United Colonies are, and of right out to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.”

220px-Thomas_McKean_by_Charles_Willson_Peale

Thomas McKean by Charles Wilson Peale

On July 4, two days after this resolution passed, the final and formal version was approved by Congress. John Hancock, president of the Continental Congress affixed his signature boldly and largely at the bottom of the document. Eventually 55 other men would place their signature on the Declaration of Independence, with Thomas McKean, generally accepted, as the last to sign the document, possibly as late as January 1777.

Copies were made and four days later, on July 8, the first public reading occurred in Philadelphia. George Washington had the document read to the Continental Army in New York on the following day, July 9.

A18236.jpg

John Adams by Gilbert Stuart

For John Adams, future second president of the United States, the second day of July would and should be the day to remember American Independence, as he wrote;

“The most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival…It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade with shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires, and Illuminations from one End of this continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

And that is how many Americans choose to celebrate the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, however, usually two days later on July 4th. Yet, it took another war; World War II, for July 4th to become a national paid holiday for workers of the Federal government when Congress approved it in 1941.

So, happy Independence Day!

*Feel free to add any interesting historical tidbits about the Second Continental Congress, the signers, or 1776 below!*

 

Posted in Continental Congress, Emerging Revolutionary War, Memory, National Park Service, Preservation | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Press Release: US Founding Father may have contributed to forgotten ship wreck – study

Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, could have contributed to a forgotten shipwreck narrative, according to new research.

benjamin franklin

Benjamin Franklin

Based on studies of Franklin’s early life as a printer, Dr Hazel Wilkinson claims there are clues which provide information about Benjamin Franklin’s activities during his first visit to London as an 18-year-old printer.

Dr. Wilkinson – from the University of Birmingham, in the UK – suggests a previously unobserved connection between the young Franklin and Richard Castelman, an English theatre manager with an intriguing past. Continue reading

Posted in Civilian, Emerging Revolutionary War, Memory, Navy, Personalities, Preservation, Revolutionary War | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Shaking Leaves” and a “Damned Poltroon”?: Charles Lee, George Washington, and the 241st Anniversary of the Battle of Monmouth Court House

Two-hundred and forty one years ago, today, one of the most famous, yet controversial, exchanges between two commanding generals on a battlefield occurred in a field west of Monmouth Court House (present-day Freehold), New Jersey.

George Washington had arrived in Englishtown roughly an hour and a half ahead of the Continental Army’s main body and sat down for breakfast sometime around ten in the morning, June 28, 1778. Six miles away, Major General Charles Lee’s vanguard of roughly 5000 men was just about to throw itself at the British rearguard north of Monmouth Court House.

Charles Lee

Maj. Gen. Charles Lee. NYPL.

When those elements came into contact, what resulted was anything but a general engagement. Within an hour Lee’s men were retreating west with newly arrived British troops committed by Lieutenant General Henry Clinton right on their heels. Disaster loomed for the Americans as a result of miscommunication, misunderstanding, and poor generalship on the part of Lee’s subordinates. The American vanguard’s commander had specific orders from Washington to fall upon Clinton’s rear as it marched out of Monmouth, and now Lee was desperately attempting to stave off defeat. Continue reading

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Unfinished Business?

While prepping for a few summer programs I was re-reading The Road to Guilford Courthouse, The American Revolution in the Carolinas by John Buchanan.

51tpuLN5M1L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_

The Road to Guilford Courthouse by John Buchanan

In his prologue, Buchanan states the following premise:

“But that tragedy [the American Civil War] is of far less interest than the American Revolution. The Revolution was the most important event in American history. The Civil War was unfinished business. The armies of the Revolutionary War were small but the stage global, the characters larger than life. The American Revolution was the first of the great modern revolutions, arguably the most important, and certainly the only one that did not end in tyranny or one-party rule.” 

The Civil War is the most written about subject in American history, but is it the most important? Is it just the book-end of the American Revolution and was just wrapping up “unfinished business” as Buchanan writes.

Do you agree with the author? Disagree? Conversations and perspectives help shape our recollections and allows for fresh outlooks and critical observations into our shared past. So, feel free to comment below with your thoughts, opinions, and/or insights!

 

 

Posted in Emerging Revolutionary War, Revolutionary War, Southern Theater | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments