The Forgotten Woman of Valley Forge from America’s Forgotten Ally

During the winter encampment at Valley Forge, as thousands of men huddled around drafty wooden cabins, with dwindling supplies, and battled boredom and disease, a relief effort was organized hundreds of miles away.

George Washington, ensconced at the Potts House in the heart of the Valley Forge encampment, was very aware of the dire straights that his forces were exposed to. Throughout the winter he sent missives, directly and through intermediaries, discreetly asking for more aid, for supplies, for changes to military bureaucracy. He even consented to a delegation of congressmen to visit Valley Forge and see first-hand the situation in the winter of 1777-1778.

In a proverbial sense, he did not leave any stone unturned to try and ease the plight of his forces or continue to stay abreast of British designs, less than twenty-miles away in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

After hearing of the contributions of the Oneidas and Tuscaroras at the Battle of Oriskany in New York, Washington sent a letter of invitation for the Native Americans to visit his army. Approximately 50 warriors along with supplies made the few hundred mile journey from upstate New York to eastern Pennsylvania. They left their villages on April 25 and arrived on May 15,1778 in Valley Forge. The leaders of the Oneida party dined with Washington. Five days later some of the warriors participated in the engagement at Barren Hill under the Marquis de Lafayette. Six of the warriors gave their life in service to their ally.

In 2007 historian Joseph T. Glatthaar published a book about the Oneidas and their contributions to the American victory in the war. The title, in part, is Forgotten Allies. A fitting testament to the service and sacrifice this tribe underwent in their partnership with the fledgling American nation.

In 2004 a sculpture was completed of Polly Cooper, Chief Skenandoah, and George Washington
(courtesy of King of Prussia Historical Society)

If the Oneidas were the “forgotten allies” than in the winter encampment at Valley Forge there was a forgotten woman that tramped south with her fellow Oneidas. Her name was Polly Cooper.

Along with the warriors, whom Washington wanted to serve as scouts, the Oneidas brought much needed supplies, including bushels of white corn. While the leaders dined at the Potts House, Cooper established a de-facto cooking show. She handed out the white corn to the soldiers and taught them how to use husks to make soup and ground grain to make it palatable.

This much needed food sources, along with an improved supply chain under quartermaster Nathanael Greene rounded out the bleak winter with the glimmer of hope for better supplies in the upcoming campaign season.

The Oneida, including Polly Cooper for her services, refused any and all payment. Friends help friends in need is what the Oneida told Washington and his officers. However, a tradition exists in the history of the Oneida nation. That story, passed down orally from generation to generation, highlights that Marth Washington, in her gratitude for what Polly Cooper did for the rank-and-file of the Continental army, presented the Oneida heroine with a shawl and bonnet.

Another account reads that Cooper was gifted a black shawl that she saw for sale in a store window. The Continental Congress appropriated the money for the clothing item and gifted it as their thanks to her. This shawl is still in the ownership of her descendants and has been loaned to the Oneida cultural center from time to time.

The black shawl that Polly Cooper received for her services to the Continental Army at Valley Forge
(courtesy of the Oneida Indian Nation
http://www.oneidaindiannation.org)
Posted in Emerging Revolutionary War, Memory, Native American, Northern Theater, Revolutionary War, Women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Rev War Revelry” Returns to Lexington with Alex Cain

Approximately one year ago, Emerging Revolutionary War began a historian happy hour virtual chat on Sunday evenings. The goal was to share our passion for history, connect with each other during the pandemic, and have an excuse to drink a beer. Pretty much what we would be doing if we could gather in person.

Fast forward one year and the “Rev War Revelry” that was created has now become a fixture of our Sunday evenings; well every other Sunday after 36-consecutive weeks from April 2020 to November 2020.

The brain trust at Emerging Revolutionary War convened to discuss what we should do for the one-year anniversary. One logical conclusion came up. A return to Massachusetts!

ERW welcomes guest historian Alex Cain, a Lexington historian and author, who will discuss what the Massachusetts town was like in 1775, the details of what happened on both April 18 and 19, 1775, and the misconceptions that sprung up from the beginning of the American Revolution. Of course, we welcome comments and questions through the hour.

Thank you for being part of the “Rev War Revelry” experience as we enter the second year of the historian happy hour. We look forward to seeing you on Sunday evening at 7pm EST on our Facebook page with your favorite beverage and question in hand.

The program can be accessed through Emerging Revolutionary War’s Facebook page. For those that cannot make the program when it is live, there will be a recording posted to our YouTube page within a few days following.

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

2021 Symposium Highlight: Michael Harris

Over the next few months, we will be highlighting the speakers and topics for our 2021 Symposium, Hindsight is 2020: Revisiting Misconceptions of the Revolution, taking place on May 22nd. Due to the COVID 19 pandemic, the Symposium will be virtual. Today we highlight historian and author Michael Harris, who will be covering the misconceptions around the role of John Sullivan at the Battle of Brandywine.

Michael C. Harris is a graduate of the University of Mary Washington and the American Military University. He has worked for the National Park Service in Fredericksburg, Virginia, Fort Mott State Park in New Jersey, and the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission at Brandywine Battlefield. He has conducted tours and staff rides of many east coast battlefields. Michael is certified in secondary education and currently teaches in the Philadelphia region. He lives in Pennsylvania with his wife Michelle and son Nathanael.  He is the author of two books on the Philadelphia Campaign (Brandywine: A Military History of the Battle that Lost Philadelphia but Saved America, September 11, 1777 & Germantown:  A Military History of the Battle for Philadelphia, October 4, 1777) and is currently working on a third volume to cover the final months of the campaign. He will be presenting his talk “John Sullivan and the Battle of Brandywine” at the May symposium.


Do you believe the study of Loyalists in the American Revolution has been overlooked and why?

  I think at one time that was true, but over the last couple of decades historians have been digging deeper into the role the Loyalist population played in the Revolution and I feel that pattern of neglect has been corrected.  I think Loyalists were often overlooked because historians of the “Struggling to Overcome” theme of American Revolution historiography were more focused on the patriot struggle than the complicated role the non-patriot population played.

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?

 While I always had an interest in early American history, my professional career began as a Civil War historian at Fredericksburg Battlefield.  The shift to took place when I was hired to work at Daniel Boone’s birthplace and then later the Brandywine Battlefield.  While I currently teach at the high school level, my study of history continues due to my love of wanting to tell the military story of the Revolution and striving to dispel the many myths out there about the battles of the Philadelphia region.

What is the biggest myth about the role Loyalists played in the war, and how did it come about?

While this is not my area of expertise, I would say that there is some thought that thousands of Loyalists flocked to the British standard to help put down the rebellion.  At least that is what British leadership hoped would happen.  That myth, then and now, drove British decision making.  While a limited number of Loyalists did support the British cause militarily, it was never in the numbers believed now or in the numbers the British hoped for then.

Do you think there are common misconceptions of the era of the American Revolution among the American people? If so, what are they and have they ever affected your work?

I think a lot of us were taught bad history growing up.  You know, the George Washington chopped down a cherry tree stuff.  We grew up believing those things and trusting the “traditional” histories of the Revolution.  Then, you get a job at one of these sites, and you starting digging into the primary documents yourself.  All of sudden, you realize this was a lie and that was a myth.  That is when I realized I had to write the Brandywine book and that effort continued with my Germantown book.

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

There was a real struggle by the patriot population during the years of the American Revolution.  There is no denying that.  But that story cannot be told in a vacuum.  That story is interwoven with the story of the British Crown to put down the rebellion and the story of the Loyalist & Neutral populations of North America.  I don’t think that interconnected story has been told well and needs to continue to be explored.

Join us for our SECOND annual Emerging Revolutionary War Symposium, co-hosted by Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, speakers and topics include:


Michael Harris on Misconceptions of Battle of Brandywine
Vanessa Smiley on Myths of the Southern Campaigns
Travis Shaw on American Loyalists
John U Rees on African American Continental Soldiers
Mark Maloy on myths of the Battle of Trenton

Our registration fee is now only $40 per person and $20 for students. This will allow us to broaden our audience with the virtual program. We hope that 2022 will allow us to come together again in Alexandria for our third annual symposium. To register, visit: https://shop.alexandriava.gov/Events.aspx

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“They Must Expect No Mercy”: Benedict Arnold’s Mohawk Valley Proclamation, August 1777

In August 1777, a British army under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Barry St. Leger surrounded and attempted to subdue American-held Fort Stanwix in New York’s Mohawk River Valley. “It is my determined resolution,” the garrison’s commander, Peter Gansvoort told St. Leger, “…to defend this fort and garrison to the last extremity.” Despite this resolve, the Americans desperately needed support in order for the siege to be lifted.

“A sketch of the siege of Fort Schuyler [Stanwix].New York Public Library Digital Collections.

Further east, help was approaching. Leading a column of over 800 men, Major General Benedict Arnold hastily made his way to Stanwix. By August 20, Arnold was at German Flatts (modern-day Herkimer, New York), roughly thirty miles away. From his headquarters he penned a proclamation directed towards the British, their Native American allies, and the region’s loyalist population.

The version of this proclamation below was republished in The Derby Mercury in Great Britain on November 14, 1777. It is a reminder, that before he donned the scarlet jacket of a British general, Arnold was a fiery Patriot devoted to the cause of liberty. Notice that a word or two describing King George III were censored out for publication:

By the Hon, BENEDICT ARNOLD, Esq; Major-General and Commander in Chief of the Army of the United States of America, on the Mohawk River.

            WHEREAS a certain Barry St. Leger, a Brigadier-General in the Service of — George of Great-Britain, at the Head of a Banditti of Robbers, Murderers, and Traitors, composed of Savages of America, and more Savage Britons, (among whom is a noted Sir John Johnson, John Butler, and Daniel Claus) have lately appeared in the Frontiers of this State, and have threatened Ruin and Destruction to all the Inhabitants of the United States. They have also, by Artifice and Misrepresentation, induced many of the ignorant and unwary Subjects of these States, to forfeit their Allegiance to the same, and join with them in their atrocious Crimes, and Parties of Treachery and Parricide.

            Humanity to those poor deluded Wretches, who are hastening blind-fold to Destruction, induces me to offer them, and all others concerned (whether Savages, Germans, Americans, or Britons) PARDON, provided they do, within ten Days from the Date hereof, come in and lay down their Arms, sue for Protection, and swear Allegiance to the United States of America.

            But if still blind to their own Interest and Safety, they obstinately persist in their wicked Courses, determined to draw on themselves the first Vengeance of Heaven, and of this exasperated Country, they must expect no Mercy from either.

B. Arnold, M. G.

Given under my Hand, Head Quarters, German Flats, 20th August, 1777

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Review: Tecumseh and the Prophet: The Shawnee Brothers Who Defied a Nation by Peter Cozzens

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness made their way into the American revolutionary project most explicitly in the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence.  So, I hope you’ll forgive my taking of liberties in reviewing a book that starts in the Revolutionary War Era and peaks during the Madison administration.  Peter Cozzens’ new book, Tecumseh and the Prophet (Alfred A. Knopf, 2020), is a dual biography of the legendary Shawnee leader and his younger brother, Tenskwatawa, aka “the Prophet,” whose mid-life inspiration reawakened nativist aspirations among the Native American nations living in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan.   Together, the two sought to build a pan-Indian movement to resist the growth of the young American nation into the Midwest in the country’s first decades.

Continue reading
Posted in Book Review, Native American, Personalities, War of 1812, Western Frontier | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Virginians’ 800-Mile March to Save Charleston

On April 7, 1780, 750 Virginia soldiers completed a nearly 800 mile trek from Morristown, New Jersey to Charleston, South Carolina, only to be captured and sent to prison ships in Charleston harbor.

In November and December of 1779, both British General Sir Henry Clinton in New York City and American General George Washington in Morristown, New Jersey, began to turn their eyes south. A combined Franco-American force under the command of General Benjamin Lincoln and Count d’Estaing had made a bloody assault to try and capture the Southern city of Savannah to no avail. The Count d’Estaing took his French force and returned to the Caribbean, and Lincoln took his demoralized American army back to Charleston, South Carolina. With only about 2,400 Continentals and militia, Lincoln’s army (and the city of Charleston) looked like a ripe target for Clinton, who had been part of the botched attempt to capture that city in June of 1776.

Siege of Charleston by Alonzo Chappel

Clinton made the bold decision to take about 9,000 men from his army in New York City and sail them down to South Carolina to make an attempt to capture Charleston and Lincoln’s army.

Washington, learning that Clinton was preparing part of his army to disembark from New York City, began to direct efforts to help defend the city of Charleston.  Washington was repeatedly receiving letters requesting troops and supplies from Lincoln and Congress. In November, Washington dispatched the North Carolina Continental line regiments (almost 1,000 men) to reinforce Lincoln, but after talking to his former aide-de-camp Lt. Col. John Laurens, who visited him personally after fighting at Savannah, Washington understood how desperate a situation Lincoln was in. Congress and Washington made the bold decision to send the entire Virginia Continental line regiments (almost 2,500 men) to join Lincoln’s army that December.  Washington parted with these venerable veteran soldiers even though it weakened his position guarding against the main British Army at New York City. 

Continue reading
Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

“Rev War Revelry”: The Battles of New York

New York City is well known for skyscrapers, pizza, Broadway, and the Statue of Liberty. What is less known, is the fact that it was the site of one of the largest and most consequential battles of the Revolutionary War. Major fighting occurred all over New York City at Brooklyn, Kips Bay, Harlem, and Fort Washington and Fort Lee.

The Battle of Long Island

These were major battles that cost Washington some of his best soldiers. Though the Americans were driven from the city, the area became the center of focus for the Northern theater for the remainder of the war. Today, though these battlefields have been greatly altered and built over, remnants and markers of this important military history still exist.

Grab your favorite adult beverage and join us for the next “Rev War Revelry” historian happy hour on Easter Sunday (April 4) at 7 pm ET on our Facebook page as we discuss the Battles of New York with Mark Maloy, Dan Welch, and Adam Zielinski. To watch, simply click this link to our Facebook page. If you can’t make it at that time, you can watch it later on our YouTube page. There you will find dozens of hours of videos about all sorts of topics related to the Revolutionary War. Enjoy!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

2021 ERW Symposium Highlight: Travis Shaw

Over the next few months, we will be highlighting the speakers and topics for our 2021 Symposium, Hindsight is 2020: Revisiting Misconceptions of the Revolution, taking place on May 22nd. Due to the COVID 19 pandemic, the Symposium will be virtual. Today we highlight historian Travis Shaw who will be covering the role of American Loyalists during the Revolution. Not all Americans supported the “patriot” and many sided with the British.  

Travis Shaw is currently the Public Programs Coordinator for the Virginia Piedmont Heritage Area. He brings nearly two decades of experience in the fields of historic preservation, archaeology, and museum education, working with both private and public institutions. Prior to joining VPHA he spent time at Historic St. Mary’s City, The Maryland Archaeological Conservation Lab, Mount Vernon, and Oatlands Historic House and Gardens. He holds a BA in history from St. Mary’s College of Maryland and an MA in history with a concentration in public history from American University. His areas of research include the material culture of colonial America, the American Revolution, and maritime history. In his free time, Travis enjoys exploring historic sites with his family and participating in 18th and early 19th century living history events.

He will be presenting his talk “Disaffected and Dangerous Persons”: Loyalist Resistance in the Mid-Atlantic at the May symposium.

Do you believe the study of Loyalists in the American Revolution has been overlooked and why?

It absolutely has been overlooked for most of the post-Revolutionary era. As the saying goes, history is written by the winners, and loyalists have largely been written out of the national narrative. If they get mentioned at all they are portrayed as a small and unimportant group of weak and cowardly traitors. In reality loyalists hailed from nearly every background and every colony and represented a sizable minority in the colonies. They played an important role in the political and military conduct of the revolution. Following the war tens of thousands would flee the newly independent states, while many more remained behind and had to reintegrate into society. In the interest of post-revolutionary unity their story was suppressed, ignored, and villainized and it’s only been in the last few decades that academics have given their stories serious study.

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?

For me, the study of history has always been intensely personal. I grew up near Frederick, Maryland, and so history was all around me. I used to spend countless hours wandering Civil War battlefields or exploring colonial cemeteries. It grounded me in the past and made history a very tangible thing for me. I could immerse my self in the landscape and literally touch it. This led me to archaeology. Uncovering artifacts and knowing that you are the first person to have touched that object in hundreds or even thousands of years is an incredibly powerful feeling.

One of the big missions of the Virginia Piedmont Heritage Area is the preservation of the historic landscape in northern Virginia. Being able to share this passion with others makes it easy to stay involved.

What is the biggest myth about the role Loyalists played in the war, and how did it come about?

I think that the biggest myth about loyalists is that they were all wealthy, deeply conservative people who adhered to the British cause to protect their financial and social status. There were certainly were some who fit this description, such as the influential New Yorker James De Lancy, but the vast majority of loyalists during the revolution came from the middle and lower classes of society, representing a full cross-section of the population. Their reasons for choosing loyalty were just as varied. For some it was driven by a real respect for the British constitution and way of government, which at the time represented the freest and most prosperous government on earth. For many ethnic and religious minorities there was a real fear of oppression at the hands of the local majority if British legal protections disappeared. As the war raged many enslaved people saw an opportunity for freedom with the British, while Native Americans saw British rule as the best bulwark against expanding colonists. For many loyalists, however, their decision was a deeply personal one, based on family and community ties and personal ideas of patriotism and honor. Many others were forced into loyalist after suffering at the hands of their patriot neighbors. There were as many motivations for loyalism as there were loyalists.

Do you think there are common misconceptions of the era of the American Revolution among the American people? If so, what are they and have they ever affected your work?

I come across a number of misconceptions in studying loyalism during the American Revolution. One of the biggest is the idea that the revolutionary movement was wildly popular during the period. Even by the best estimates, the patriot cause never held the majority in many regions during the war, and that the plurality of people just wanted to get by and survive. As with any conflict there are a lot of shades of gray, and an individual could move fluidly between categories of patriot, loyalist, and neutral. It’s also important to note that enthusiasm for the revolutionary cause waxed and waned dramatically depending on the fortunes of war. This is a topic that I’ll be examining at the symposium – how war weariness in communities led to resistance against the patriot government.

In a broader sense, I have always been irritated by the term “founding fathers,” as if all the founders were a monolithic block that all believed the same thing. It gets thrown around by modern people on both ends of the political spectrum as if their very invocation gives their argument indisputable weight. What this obscures is that the founders were individuals who held a wide range of sometimes conflicting political, religious, and cultural beliefs. Some were deeply conservative, others were radically progressive, but they managed to win a war and form a nation.

Join us for our SECOND annual Emerging Revolutionary War Symposium, co-hosted by Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, speakers and topics include:


Michael Harris on Misconceptions of Battle of Brandywine
Vanessa Smiley on Myths of the Southern Campaigns
Travis Shaw on American Loyalists
John U Rees on African American Continental Soldiers
Mark Maloy on myths of the Battle of Trenton

Our registration fee is now only $40 per person and $20 for students. This will allow us to broaden our audience with the virtual program. We hope that 2022 will allow us to come together again in Alexandria for our third annual symposium. To register, visit: https://shop.alexandriava.gov/Events.aspx

Stay tuned as we highlight our speakers and their topics in future blog posts.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Women in the Revolutionary War: A List of Resources

This past Sunday’s Rev War Revelry was a great success! Thank you to all who watched live and watched the replay of ERW historians Vanessa Smiley and Kate Gruber and special guest Heidi Campbell-Shoaf, Executive Director of the Daughters of the American Revolution Museum in Washington D.C., discussing and interpreting women in Early American History.

A number of folks were interested in the resources that were shared during the program. We have compiled a list of those mentioned as well as additional resources to dive deeper into the stories of women during this pivotal time in American history.

“The women of ’76: “Molly Pitcher” the heroine of Monmouth”
by Currier & Ives. Library of Congress.

Books:

Revolutionary Backlash: Women and Politics in the Early Republic by Rosemarie Zagarri

The Diary of Elizabeth Drinker: The Life of an Eighteenth-Century Woman by Elaine Forman Crane (editor)

Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin by Jill Lepore

Betsy Ross and the Making of America by Marla Miller

The Needle’s Eye: Women and Work in the Age of Revolution by Marla Miller

Women of the Revolution by Robert Dunkerly

Women of the Republic by Linda Kerber

Articles:

Jane Bartram’s “Application”: Her Struggle for Survival, Stability, and Self-Determination in Revolutionary Pennsylvania by Wayne Bodie (article link courtesy of Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography)

Digital Resources

DAR Library – A wealth of American Revolution resources! “The DAR Library collection contains over 225,000 books, 10,000 research files, thousands of manuscript items, and special collections of African American, Native American, and women’s history, genealogy and culture.”

Library of Congress – always a good source if you know what you’re looking for.

Have a great resource on women in the American Revolution? Share in the comments!

Posted in Civilian, Emerging Revolutionary War, Revolutionary War, Social History, Women | 1 Comment

A Casualty Not Counted: Faith Trumbull Huntington and the Battle of Bunker Hill

“I cannot pretend to describe the Horror of the Scene within the Redoubt when we enter’d it,” British Marine Lt. John Waller wrote to a friend on June 21, 1775, four days after the British Pyrrhic victory at the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, “’twas streaming with Blood & strew’d with dead & dying Men the Soldiers stabbing some and dashing out the Brains of others was a sight too dreadful for me to dwell any longer on.”[1]  All said and done, the bloody exchange claimed 226 British and 450 Patriot lives, with still over 1,000 more wounded, captured, or missing from both belligerents.[2]

This unspeakable carnage, which proved too distressing for even a seasoned British Marine to recount, surely imprinted itself in the hearts and minds of all who witnessed it—but not all witnesses to the battle’s shocking scenes were soldiers. One was a young woman named Faith Trumbull Huntington. She too would find the bloody Battle of Bunker Hill, and the anxieties and unknowns of her world at war, heavy burdens to bear.

Double Portrait of Governor Jonathan and Faith Trumbull, John Trumbull, 1778, Connecticut Historical Society

Born in 1743 to Jonathan and Faith Trumbull in Lebanon, daughter Faith came of age in a prominent and respected Connecticut family, which also included younger brother John Trumbull, born in 1756, who was destined to become one of the era’s most important artists. On May 1, 1766 Faith married Jedidiah Huntington, and the couple welcomed a son, Jabez, in September 1767. At the onset of the war, the Trumbulls and the Huntingtons quickly mobilized and made known their patriot loyalties. Faith’s father, at that time the Royal Governor of Connecticut, refused to deliver manpower to support the British army’s advances against the colonists in Boston, and became a patriot hero whom George Washington held in high esteem. Jedidiah advanced to colonel in the Connecticut militia, and soon saw action at the Siege of Boston. Faith’s father, husband, and brothers dedicated themselves to the patriot cause. Her sister Mary was married to a member of the Sons of Liberty and future signer of the Declaration of Independence.

Jedediah Huntington, John Trumbull, about 1790, Bequest of Frederick Jabez Huntington, Connecticut Historical Society
Continue reading
Posted in Women | Leave a comment