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
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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

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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The Revolution in Richmond: Part 3 of 3

When Benedict Arnold’s troops departed in January, 1781, Richmond had not seen the last of redcoats. That spring British troops returned to the area, occupying Petersburg. Then Lord Charles Cornwallis arrived in the state with a larger British force, having marched north from Wilmington, NC.

Cornwallis’s army marched far and wide across the Commonwealth that summer, reaching Ox Ford on the North Anna (scene of a Civil War battle in 1864), and west towards Charlottesville. Returning to the east, Cornwallis’s forces marched into Richmond in June on the Three Chopt Road, now a major US Highway. That summer General Lafayette led American troops in Virginia, but his force was too small to directly challenge the British, and he stayed out of striking distance.

Over 5,000 Redcoats, Germans, and Loyalists marched down Main Street, all of the troops who eventually ended up at Yorktown. From June 17-20, redcoats again patrolled the dusty streets of the state capital. During those four days they destroyed some homes (under what circumstances it is not clear), piled up tobacco in the streets and set fire to it, and destroyed valuable supplies like salt, harnesses, muskets, and flour. The streets that were once the scene of illuminations to celebrate the Declaration of Independence were now lit by the fires of destruction.

Various accounts noted the poor condition of troops: uniforms being tattered and many lacking good shoes. The weeks of hard marching were taking their toll. British officer John G. Simcoe wrote, “the army was in the greatest need of shoes and clothing due to the constant marching.”

Civilians peering out their windows would have seen a variety of troops: Scottish Highlanders, English Regulars from England and Ireland, Carolina Loyalists, Hessians, and runaway slaves who had joined them.

Cornwallis’s forces began their march early on June 20, moving down Main Street to the Williamsburg Road, heading east towards Bottoms Bridge. In so doing, they passed by the future site of the Civil War battle of Seven Pines, and the Richmond Airport. Traces of the old Williamsburg Road run parallel to Route 60 from Sandston to Bottom’s Bridge.

Lafayette’s pursing troops entered the town from the west on June 22nd, continuing on towards Bottoms’ Bridge the next day. We have only three brief descriptions of the American army’s pursuit through Richmond. They are all tantalizing, leaving us wishing for more details.

Lieutenant John Bell Tilden of the 2nd Pennsylvania Battalion described the unfinished canal and ruins of the Westham Foundry: “This day I went to see the curious work of Mr. Ballertine- he had made a canal one mile in length, and about twenty feet wide, alongside of James River, in the centre of which he had built a curious fish basket, and at the end of the canal was a grist mill, with four pair of stones. Bordering on which was a Bloomery, Boring mill and elegant manor house, which was destroyed by that devlish rascal Arnold.”

Virginia militia Colonel Daniel Trabue wrote, “Our militia was called for, and all other counties, also, and we all joined Gen. Lafayette. As he neared Richmond, Lord Cornwallis left the city in the evening. The next morning a little after sunrise. General Lafayette marched through the town with his army, each man’s hat contained a green bush. I thought it was the prettiest sight I had ever seen. Lord Cornwallis had retreated, and our army advanced after them, passing through the city some 3 or 4 miles and then halted on the river road.”

Captain John Davis of the 3rd Pennsylvania Battalion wrote, “This day passed through Richmond in 24 hours after the enemy evacuated it- it appears a place of much distress.”

Another Pennsylvanian, Lieutenant William Feltman of the 1st Battalion, noted that the British had “destroyed a great quantity of tobacco, which they threw into the streets and set fire to it.” Feltman had the opportunity to break away from the camp and enjoy some leisure in the town, writing, ‘spent the afternoon playing billiards and drinking wine.” The Continental troops camped that night at Gillies Creek, just east of the city, where the battle in January had begun. They rose at 2 o’clock in the morning to resume their pursuit.

The troops moved on to Williamsburg and Yorktown, where a two-week siege in October resulted in the British surrender. The Yorktown campaign was the culmination of the Revolutionary War.

Richmond recovered and grew quickly after the war. Today there are few reminders of the Revolution in Richmond. A few tangible places to visit include Wilton Plantation, the First Freedom Center, St. John’s Church, the Washington Monument on Capitol Square, and the site of the skirmish on Chimborazo Hill.

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