Symposium Author Highlight: Dr. Lindsay Chervinksy

Dr. Lindsay M. Chervinsky is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Presidential History at Southern Methodist University and a Professorial Lecturer at the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University. She received her B.A. with honors in history and political science from George Washington University, her masters and Ph.D. from the University of California, Davis, and her postdoctoral fellowship from Southern Methodist University. Previously Dr. Chervinsky worked as a historian at the White House Historical Association. Her writing has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Ms. Magazine, The Daily Beast, The Bulwark, Time Magazine, USA Today, CNN, NBC Think, and the Washington Post. Dr.Chervinsky is the author of the award-winning book, The Cabinet: George Washington and the Creation of an American Institutionrecently out in paperback, and the forthcoming book An Honest Man: The Inimitable Presidency of John Adams.

What first attracted you to the study of early American history? What keeps you involved in the study of this history? Do you find these things are the same or different?  

I’ve always been fascinated by trying to envision how people lived during other time periods. So many things are the same — they loved, grieved, nursed ambitions, fought, played, and worked — but so much was also radically different. What did it smell like? What was it like to live without electricity, running, water, or modern medicine? That juxtaposition continues to drive me. The early American period captured my attention for much of the same reason. It feels so distant and different, yet we can see so many parallels and origins that begin at this time. So much of our culture, politics, and government began in the Revolution and is still with us today.

Why do you think it is important for us to study the Revolutionary Era?  

There is much about our nation that is new and has evolved over time, but so much of our identity and how we operate can be traced back to the Revolutionary Period, whether it’s our government institutions, our national myths, our culture, or the divisions that still plague us. We cannot understand our current moment without understanding where we started.

What do you think was the most significant foreign impact on the American Revolution? 

I think the obvious answer is France’s decision to ally itself with the colonies. The money, arms, supplies, and naval support were integral to the final American victory. However, I’d add one layer that is less discussed and that’s the longstanding animosity between France and England. The history of war between these two nations forced Great Britain to think about the continental and global implications of the war. Once France entered the conflict, the war was no longer confined to North America, but extended to Europe, India, Asia, and the Caribbean. By forcing Britain to divide its attention and resources, France weakened Britain’s grasp on the colonies and fed on its biggest fears, including a French invasion of England. That fear cannot be overlooked.

What are some of the important lessons of the American Revolution do you think are still relevant today?

The American Revolution offers so many important lessons, but here are the two most relevant takeaways.

First, the Revolution offers a really important military history lesson that apparently has to be learned by many nations again and again: it is nearly impossible to subdue a foreign nation by invasion unless you are willing to kill every last man, woman, and child. During the Revolution, George Washington knew that as long as the Continental Army survived, so too would the cause for independence. He didn’t need to win a decisive battle. He just needed to outlast the British army that was thousands of miles from home and dependent on a long, fragile supply chain. The longer the war dragged on, the more expensive the war would become for the British, the more unpopular it would be back at home, and the harder it would be for the British army to wage a huge offensive campaign. Additionally, as British forces antagonized Americans, it became much more difficult for them to acquire supplies locally or maintain emotional support for their efforts. Finally, Washington learned that an insurgency campaign required huge numbers to crush. It would have required hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of British troops to subdue the entire North American continent. The United States learned this same lesson the hard way during the Vietnam War, as did the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. And now Russia is learning it again in Ukraine. While history never repeats itself, it rhymes. Especially military history.

Second, the Revolution teaches us a very important lesson for our nation at home. The war required the colonies to work together. No one colony could take on the mighty British Empire alone. The only way to win was to coordinate actions, pool resources, communicate, and work together. While each colony had its own economic, cultural, and political traditions, they had more in common than they did differences. We were better together then and we are better together now, despite all of our nasty divisions at the moment. Even if we wanted to break up into multiple nations, there would be no way to do so. So we might as well try and make the best of it.

What was it about the American Revolution that elicited such global interest? 

In 1776, the world was dominated by empires run by monarchies. From our perch in 2022, we see that colonies have waged successful revolutions and claimed their independence across the globe, but that reality was not a foregone conclusion. Indeed, the idea that colonies could throw off the shackles of monarchy and form a new nation was a radical, and sometimes terrifying, one. Kings and queens across the globe watched with mixed emotions, both hoping that the mighty British empire would be brought down a notch, but also fearing that the revolution would spread to their borders and challenge their rule. They were correct that the revolution would have global implications–for politics, for the economy, for the balance of powers, and for the spread of ideas that would indeed forge the age of revolutions.

Posted in Emerging Revolutionary War, Emerging Revolutionary War Symposium | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Americana Corner

Emerging Revolutionary War checks in with Tom Hand and Americana Corner. Here is what has has been published on that blog for the month of June. A month of Ben Franklin!

Ben Franklin Improves Life for His Fellow Citizens
June 28, 2022

Benjamin Franklin made his money in the printing business, but his true calling was as a man devoted to understanding and improving all aspects of life. Franklin’s interests and innovations stretched from the areas of civics to morals to science to home improvements. His efforts left the world a better place. Read More

Ben Franklin’s Writing Enlightens and Entertains America
June 21, 2022

Benjamin Franklin was the leading printer in British America, but he was also one of the most successful authors of his time. Over the course of Franklin’s impressive life, he wrote two of the greatest treasures of American literature, Poor Richard’s Almanack and his Memoirs, also called The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin.
Read More

Ben Franklin, British America’s Most Successful Printer
June 14, 2022

Benjamin Franklin was the most successful printer in British America, owning or controlling most of the newspapers in the colonies by 1753. He got his first taste of the printing business in 1718 at the age of twelve while working at The New England Courant in Boston, a newspaper owned by his older brother James.
Read More

Ben Franklin: An Extraordinary Man from Humble Beginnings
June 7, 2022

Benjamin Franklin was one of the most gifted and intriguing men in American history. His incredible rise from humble beginnings to one of the most famous men in the world is an inspirational story. It all began in Boston on January 17, 1706, when Franklin was born to Josiah and Abiah Franklin.
Read More

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

A Handsome Flogging: 244th Anniversary of the Battle of Monmouth Revelry

Join ERW historians on our Facebook page this Sunday night at 7 p.m. as we discuss the Battle of Monmouth, which took place on June 28, 1778. In preparation for our trip to Monmouth Battlefield State Park next week, and our annual bus tour in November, we will focus on the journeys of both armies from Valley Forge and Philadelphia, the transformations each had experienced during the winter and spring, and the decisions made by the commanders on the road to Monmouth and on the battlefield that hot summer day in June. We hope you can join us as we begin our commemoration events of what most historians declare the “battle that made the American Army.”

Posted in 2022 Bus Tour, Battlefields & Historic Places, Battles, British Leadership, Campaigns, Charles Lee | Leave a comment

Review: Rebels at Sea: Privateering in the American Revolution by Eric Jay Dolin, (New York: Liveright, 2022)

Compared to the rest of the literature on the American Revolution, the war at sea gets relatively little attention.  Eric Jay Dolin has joined a small cadre of writers and historians trying to rectify that shortfall.  In his latest book, Dolin takes on the privateering war, activities by privately financed vessels to wage war on British trade at the nominal behest of various states and the Continental Congress.  Granting letters of marque, essentially a license to take foreign ships as prizes on the high seas, gave states a way of quickly tapping private capital to create sea power and attack an enemy on the ocean.  It was an important innovation, one Britain and its colonies had used widely before the Revolution, and was often preferable to the expense of maintaining a large navy.  The rebelling colonies first issues such letters, followed by Congress itself.  

            The status of privateers was controversial.  Because the ships were privately financed, their owners and crews cashed in on prizes taken.  Entire fortunes could be made at the same time the war impoverished others.  For shipowners, the risks were manageable to secure such payoffs.   Officers and crewmen could also expect a healthy payday from a successful cruise.  Their risks, however, were substantial.  

Britain, of course, did not recognize its colonies as independent states, which invalidated any letters of marque and made the privateersmen crewing the ships pirates subject to summary hanging.  In practice, however, captured privateersmen were simply sent to prison, often the ship hulks floating in New York’s harbor.  It could be the same as a death sentence.  In America, some viewed them as a distraction from the main war effort created by greedy men lacking in public spirit.  

Dolin thoroughly reviews all of these issues and comes to the conclusion that, on the whole, privateers and their crews materially hindered the British war effort while preventing coastal economies from collapsing in the face of Britain’s superior fleet and control of the seas.  He backs the argument up by citing previous studies of economic losses.  For example, the first Secretary of Lloyd’s of London, and dominant insurer, concluded that 3,386 British vessels were captured during the war, of which 1,002 were either recaptured or “ransomed.” (That figure includes captures made by naval vessels and America’s allies.) Dolin estimates the value of captures made by American vessels at between $1.4 and $1.6 billion today.  In other words, the impact of privateering was substantial.

Dolin livens the story with narratives of ship encounters and individuals caught up in the war.  Much like the privateering war itself, they are too episodic to hang together as an integrated narrative.  But, he uses them effectively to underscore his broader points while helping the reader relate to the war at sea.  Dozens of illustrations enrich the read.  

            Eric Jay Dolin is an excellent writer, straightforward with a style that keeps the book moving while thoroughly engaging the reader.  Rebels at Sea is destined to become the starting place to understand the privateer war during the American Revolution. 

Posted in Book Review, Navy | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

250th Anniversary of the Burning of the Gaspee

On June 9, 1772, a group of prominent Rhode Islanders rowed out to His Majesty’s schooner Gaspee, which had run aground six miles south of Providence while on an anti-smuggling patrol. After threatening and shooting its commanding officer, the raiders looted the vessel and burned it to the waterline.

An often overlooked event that occurred between the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea Party, join us this Sunday evening at 7 p.m. ET on our Facebook page when we will speak with historian Steven Park, author of the book “The Burning of His Majesty’s Schooner Gaspee” about the events that occurred 250 years ago.

Can’t make it this weekend? You can catch this and all our previous Sunday night chats on our YouTube page and our podcast!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The French Cavalryman

   “Colonel Armand’s dragoons and militia displayed a good countenance, but were soon borne down by the rapid charge of the legion. The chase again commenced…” So wrote British Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton in his work, “A History of the Campaigns of 1780 and 1781, in the Southern Provinces of North America” regarding his pursuit of retreating American militiamen from the disastrous battlefield at Camden, SC in August 1780, and the gallant effort of one Patriot cavalry commander, a foreign officer, who sought desperately to reform the panicked militia and make a stand. He was Lieutenant Colonel Charles Armand Tuffin, Marquis de la Rouerie.

Lieutenant Colonel Charles Armand

   French by birth, Armand was one of many European soldiers to come to America in the 1770’s with hopes of obtaining high ranking commissions in the fledgling Continental Army during the Revolution. Arriving in 1776, Armand’s service in the war would generally become overshadowed by that of his more famous countryman, the younger Marquis de Lafayette, who would arrive a year later.

Continue reading
Posted in Emerging Revolutionary War, Revolutionary War, Southern Theater | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Americana Corner

Been a bit since we checked in and shared what our good friend Tom Hand has been doing at Americana Corner. The blog, dedicated to sharing “informative stories of the great events, founding documents, and inspirational leaders” routinely has a new post up every Tuesday. Below is what was on the blog for the month of May. Click the title to read the entire post.

Patriots, Loyalists and America’s First Civil War
With the Battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775, the actual fighting of the American Revolution was underway. As it turned out, this open warfare was not reserved just for the new Continental Army formed around Boston and the British Army trapped in the city. It soon spilled over into a fight between neighbors.

Americans Divide Over Independence
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a civil war is a war between opposing groups of citizens of the same state or country. By this definition or any objective measure, our nation experienced a civil war from about 1773 to 1783. It was much worse in its intensity and cost than anything from the Civil War, including Sherman’s infamous March to the Sea.

The Quasi-War and Its Aftermath
The only fighting in the Quasi-War occurred at sea, and mostly in the Caribbean. But with war at a fever pitch and French interests so close by in Louisiana, there was a very real concern in Congress about a possible French invasion of the United States from the west.

Escalating Tensions with France Lead to Quasi-War
The Quasi-War was an undeclared war between France and the United States, largely fought at sea in the Caribbean and along the southern coast of America, between 1798 and 1800. It developed because of a series of related events that soured the formerly strong relationship between the two nations.

Posted in Emerging Revolutionary War Symposium, Memory, Revolutionary War, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Historic Smoke: An Evening with John Adams of Liberty Cigars

Join us this Sunday (May 29) at 7 p.m. ET on our Facebook page as we welcome our good friend John Adams of Liberty Cigars. John takes inspiration from the Founding Fathers and Revolutionary War figures to create his cigars. We will talk about his love of history and how it evolved into a cigar company and some of his upcoming projects. Can’t make it this weekend? You can catch all our previous Sunday night chats on our YouTube page and our podcast!

We encourage everyone who enjoys a good cigar to visit https://libertycigars.com/

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“Rev War Revelry” The Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812

Emerging Revolutionary War’s next revelry will turn to the War of 1812, specifically its end. Turning their attention south, the British army focused on capturing the city of New Orleans from American forces led by Andrew Jackson. The long and large campaign culminated with the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815. The battle was a great American success and made Jackson a national hero.

Historians Kevin Pawlak, Sean Michael Chick, and George Best will examine the campaign that brought American and British armies to the Crescent City. We look forward to you joining us, at 7 p.m. EDT on our Facebook page for the next historian happy hour.

The Battle Of New Orleans, January 8, 1815. Final Battle Of The War Of 1812, Resulting In Victory For The American Forces Against The British. After A 19Th Century Work. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
Posted in Emerging Revolutionary War, War of 1812 | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Emerging Revolutionary War featured in new documentary: Kelsey Grammer’s Historic Battles for America

Debuting this week on Fox Nation is a new documentary series that highlights some of the important battles in American history. From Fox Nation: “In Kelsey Grammar’s Battles for America: Crucial Conflicts, Kelsey Grammar takes a deep dive into eight key battles that left an indelible mark on this nation. This series will reveal the tactics and strategies that led to victory or defeat, the motivations and emotions of the soldiers and officers who fought it, the decisions and conditions that led to battle, and the long-term consequences that resonate long after the last shot was fired.”

Among those historians featured as a “talking head” in the Revolutionary War episodes that cover the Battles of Bunker Hill, Brooklyn, and Yorktown is Emerging Revolutionary War’s Mark Maloy, offering insights and information throughout the series.

Check out the new documentary episodes here. (Fox Nation is a subscription channel.)

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments