“Gentlemen, what is best to be done?” Gates Moves Towards Camden and Makes a Fateful Decision

Picking up the story of Camden from Thursday morning, we continue with Col. Otho

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Gen. Gates believed his night march on August 15th would put his army in a great defensive position above Saunder’s Creek.

Holland Williams comments on the events on the evening of August 15th. As Gates’ army moved southward at night, a dangerous undertaking even with a professional army, notwithstanding an army mostly comprised of militia that had never fought as a cohesive unit. Williams documents the meals that the Americans ate that night before their march. When reading American accounts of Camden, most mention the impact on the evening August 15th meal had on the men and the army as a whole. Williams also mentions there is much criticisms of Gates’ plan, but no official opposition was brought to Gates. Reading Williams’ account gives us insight today into the events leading up to the disaster at Camden. When reading Williams’ narrative, it is not hard to believe that the Americans were marching to a defeat.

“Although there had been no dissenting voice in the council, the orders were no sooner promulgated than they became the subject of animadversion. Even those who had been dumb in council, said that there had been no consultation –that the orders were read to them, and all opinion seemed suppressed by the very positive and decisive terms in which they were expressed. Others could not imagine how it could be conceived, that an army, consisting of more than two -thirds militia, and which had never been once exercised in arms together, could form columns, and perform other manoeuvres in the night, and in the face of an enemy. But, of all the officers, Colonel Armand took the greatest exception. He seemed to think the positive orders respecting himself, implied a doubt of his courage –declared that cavalry had never before been put in the front of a line of battle in the dark–and that the disposition, as it respected his corps, proceeded from resentment in the general, on account of a previous altercation between them about horses, which the general had ordered to be taken from the officers of the army, to expedite the movement of the artillery though the wilderness. A great deal was said upon the occasion; but, the time was short, and the officers and soldiers, generally, not knowing, or believing any more than the general, that any considerable body of the enemy were to be met with out of Camden, acquiesced with their usual cheerfulness, and were ready to march at the hour appointed. As there were no spirits yet arrived in camp; and as, until lately, it was unusual for the troops to make a forced march, or prepare to meet an enemy without some extraordinary allowance, it was unluckily conceived that molasses, would, for once, be an acceptable substitute; accordingly the hospital stores were broached, and one gill of molasses per man, and a full ration of corn meal and meat, were issued to the army previous to their march, which commenced, according to orders, at about ten o’clock at night of the 15th. …. The troops of general Gates’ army, had frequently felt the bad consequences of eating bad provisions; but, at this time, a hasty meal of quick baked bread and fresh beef, with a desert of molasses, mixed with mush, or dumplings, operated so cathartically, as to disorder very many of the men, who were breaking the ranks all night, and were certainly much debilitated before the action commenced in the morning. …. “ Continue reading

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Symposium Update

Continuing with our forth installment for the September 28, 2019 symposium Before They Were Americans build-up, today Dr. Peter R. Henriques will be highlighted. Dr. Henriques will be the keynote speaker for the symposium. He received his Ph.D. in history from the University of Virginia in 1971 and is Professor of History, Emeritus, from George Mason University. He taught American and Virginia history with a special emphasis on the Virginia Founding Fathers, especially George Washington.

His books include Realistic Visionary: A Portrait of George Washington, The Death of George Washington: He Died as He Lived, and a brief biography of George Washington written for the National Park Service.  Realistic Visionary was recommended by Professor Joe Ellis as one of the five best books to understand our first President. He is a frequent contributor to American History Magazine and a regular presenter at Colonial Williamsburg, where he has given more than 25 talks. His current book project is entitled, “First and Always: A New Portrait of George Washington.”

He presented the Distinguished Lecture Series at Colonial Williamsburg, 2011-12, and was the 2012 winner of the George Washington Memorial Award given by the George Washington Masonic Memorial Association.

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“troops will observe the profoundest silence upon the march…” Gen. Gates’ Orders on August 15, 1780

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General Horatio Gates

Two hundred and thirty nine years ago today from his camp at Rugeley’s Mill, SC, American General Horatio Gates issued the following orders to his Southern Army to move on to the British post of Camden, SC.

“The sick, the extra artillery stores, the heavy baggage, and such quartermaster’s stores, as are not immediately wanted, to march this evening, under a guard, to Waxaws. To this order the general requests the brigadier generals, to see that those under their command, pay the most exact and scrupulous obedience. Lieutenant Colonel Edmonds, with the remaining guns of the park, will take post and march with the Virginia brigade, under General Stevens; he will direct, as any deficiency happens in the artillery affixed to the other brigades, to supply it immediately; his military staff, and a proportion of his officers, with forty of his men, are to attend him and await his orders. The troops will be ready to march precisely at ten o’clock, in the following order, Continue reading

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Oriskany Battlefield (part two)

part two of two

In my first post, I described my visit to the Oriskany Battlefield near Rome, New York, on a dreary day. Recent rain, mostly dried, still left streaks on the monuments. The denuded trees created deceptively open visibility quite unlike the heavy foliage that would’ve clogged the surrounding forest on August 6, 1777. Still, it was a great little battlefield to see, even in the off season. Today, I follow up with some photos from my visit. (Read part one for a battle summary and additional resources.)

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The battlefield monument, dedicated in 1884, on the 107th anniversary of the battle

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Southside Revolutionary Virginia 1775 Tour – October 12, 2019

From our friends at the American Revolution Round Table of Richmond 

Tour Leader –  Dr. Patrick H. (Pat) Hannum, Professor, Joint Forces Staff College, National Defense University, Lt Col USMC (Ret)

Great Bridge

Great Bridge Battlefield (courtesy of Great Bridge Battlefield & Waterways History Foundation)

This tour will visit three critically important Revolutionary War sites, in the modern Cities of Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Chesapeake, in order to help inform the important events and explain how the Whig Government ousted the Royal Governor, Lord Dunmore, and British military forces from the State of Virginia. These events largely unfolded in the fall of 1775 and culminated with the destruction of the City of Norfolk in early 1776. Strategically important, these events led to near uncontested Whig control of the State of Virginia for three and one-half years. The British defeat at Yorktown in October 1781 traces its roots to the critical decisions and decisive actions of the Whig Governments of Virginia and North Carolina in the fall of 1775.  We will visit: Continue reading

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The Oriskany Battlefield (part one)

Monument 01part one of two

The rolling hills and dale that make up the Oriskany Battlefield look bleak and washed out on this overcast day. The battle took place in the full flush of August green, but I visit on a dreary off-season day. The battlefield sits next to state route 69, which winds through a rural part of upstate New York that, itself, looks time-forgotten.

The most prominent feature of the battlefield is the tall needle-like obelisk, dedicated on August 6, 1884—the 107th anniversary of the battle. The battlefield received formal protection from the state forty-six years later, in 1927, on the battle’s sesquicentennial. Initially comprised of five acres, the park now includes 70 acres, with the old Erie Canal running along its northern border. Continue reading

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August in Lexington, Massachusetts

From our friends at the Lexington Historical Society, a few events to mark on your calendar if going to be in that area of the country. Click here for more information about the events below.

On Thursday, August 8th at 7:00 p.m. at the Lexington Depot
I Am An Honest Woman: Female Revolutionary Resistance 

Most women had limited opportunities for political action during the American Revolution. While some of the lower classes could take to the streets, “genteel” women had to find more subtle ways to support the Patriot cause, while maintaining the illusion of domestic contentment. Dr. Emily Murphy, National Park Service curator and living historian, will discuss the “Daughters of Liberty” and their political accomplishments. These women were able to take an active role in the Revolution by politicizing traditional female activities, like spinning flax into linen to create homespun fabric in protest of British imports. A group of 50 protesting Bostonian men would incite a riot, but who would cross a crowd of dutiful housewives showing off their domestic skills?

Saturday, August 31, 12:00 – 4:00 p.m., across from Battle Green on Harrington Road
Lexington’s Spinning Protest

On the exact 250th anniversary of the 1769 spinning protest in Lexington, come to a reenactment of that important event! There will be spinners in period dress, interpreters sharing information about the craft of spinning, the political climate of the time and the British goods boycott that sparked the 1769 spinning bee. Plus, a preview of our 2020 Buckman Tavern exhibit on women and political protest. Free and open to the public.

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