Lafayette at Brandywine

Marquis de Lafayette was a French aristocrat serving in the French army, and recently married, when the Revolution broke out in America.  He followed events with interst, and was motivated to come and fight with the Americans.

He arrived in March, 1777, twenty years old and eager.  He immediately formed a friendship with Washington, and was an aide on his staff.  In the meantime British forces had invaded Pennsylvania, intent on capturing Philadelphia.  Washington’s army took a position behind Brandywine Creek, and the British attacked on September 11, 1777.  British troops had flanked the Americans, and reinforcements were rushed to the threatened sector, making a stand on Birmingham Hill.

Eager to get to the fighting, Lafayette and a group of French officers rode to the unfolding battle at Birmingham Hill, arriving as the action was at its hottest.  Approaching from the south, they rode up the Birmingham Road, and turned to the left, coming in behind the brown-coated troops of General Thomas Conway’s Pennsylvania brigade.

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Benjamin Henry Latrobe: Architect of the Republic

Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes guest historian Darien Ashley. A short bio follows this post.

The best architecture is that which reflects clearly the ideals and activities of the people which inhabit it. This is true for both private dwellings and public buildings. The objects of architecture serve as a lasting testament to identity. These objects, once created, continue to shape minds long after the architect is gone. A nation’s capital city is a site where man can establish glorious structures which convey a sense of who the people are, where they came from, and where they intend to go. The United States Capitol building is a prime example of a structure that continues to inform American identity long after its architects have passed. This article serves as an investigation of the life of one of the most important architects of not only the Capitol, but of the nation itself, Benjamin Henry Latrobe.

Guests to the United States Capitol building often get a shock from the fact that one of its primary architects, Benjamin Henry Latrobe, was an Englishman. Indeed, the man who designed the hallowed, old halls of Congress hailed from a Moravian religious settlement located on the outskirts of Leeds, England. However, Latrobe himself would have objected to the label “Englishman”. Indeed, throughout his life, Latrobe referred to the United States as “his” country and was quick to point out that his mother, Anna Margaretta Antes, was born and raised in Pennsylvania. Latrobe’s father, Benjamin Henry Latrobe Sr., met Anna after she had been sent to London to finish her education. Both of Latrobe’s parents held prominent positions within the Moravian ministry and raised their children to follow in their example.

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The Journal of Nicholas Cresswell, Part 6

 

Vale of Edale (Photo by Atomviz, Wikimedia Commons)

Vale of Edale, Cresswell’s Home, the Beginning and End of His Adventures.  (Photo by Atomviz, Wikimedia Commons)

Skirmish in New Jersey

Cresswell found cheap lodging in New York and reunited with Joseph Brewer, who had fled Philadelphia himself, leaving his wife behind.  “The persecution against the friends of Gorvernment was too violent for a man of his warm temper to stay any longer amongst them with safety either of person or property.”[1]  While in New York, he watched the buildup of forces that Howe would later take on the Philadelphia campaign, but his focus remained on securing passage home.  It would take months, but Cresswell found ways to kill time, including watching a skirmish with the Americans he had so frequently cursed.

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The Journal of Nicholas Cresswell, Part 5

Escape from America

Finally, in the spring of 1777, Cresswell again decided to try returning to England.  Thomson Mason, who had already intervened with two Committees of Safety to protect the Englishman, offered to help with Virginia authorities once more, provided that Cresswell swear not to join the British Army.  Cresswell did.  The best plan was to leave Leesburg, travel overland to Alexandria, then take a schooner down the Potomac and Chesapeake for Williamsburg and Hampton, where it might be possible go aboard a ship bound for British-occupied New York.  As he made his preparations, the local Committee of Safety arrived on April 16 to search his possessions for treasonable items.  They seized a shot pouch, powder horn, and bearskin he acquired from the Delaware Indians.  Cresswell decided not to contest the seizure lest it complicate his departure.

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Gaming Away Social Distancing. Deal or Duel: An Alexander Hamilton Card Game

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Game Box for Deal or Duel (Eric Sterner)

Among his many aphorisms, Ben Franklin reportedly said “games lubricate the body and the mind.”  Given the large number of quotes attributed to the sage, it is suspect.  But, his generation certainly understood games, both as a way of sharpening the mind and passing time in amicable company.  Franklin was fond of chess, but not above games of chance and gambling.  George and Martha Washington often played different card games with their guests.  George, of course, also made an occasional wager, particularly when traveling on business.  Even today, many parlors in restored colonial homes will contain a gaming table. Continue reading

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Beer Drinking in the 18th Century

Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes back guest historian Vanessa Smiley

“Beer is living proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.” – Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanack

Benjamin Franklin was one of many 18th century beer lovers.
(Benjamin Franklin by Joseph Siffred Duplessis, c. 1785)

During the 18th century, Colonial society held three common beliefs about beer drinking:

  1. Drinking beer was healthier than drinking water
  2. Beer and its ingredients were a healthy supplement to the entire family’s diet
  3. It was an accepted way to promote social discourse

A little different from today’s society, except for beer connoisseurs (such as the Emerging Revolutionary War folks), these beliefs were formed from the circumstances of the time.

Though a generation away from understanding the connection between boiling water and sanitation, most folks understood that water could make you deathly ill. And yet, ale and beer drinkers did not seem to have that same risk. They did not know it at the time, but the boiling process to make these alternative drinking options neutralized much of any tainted water’s ill effects. Therefore, many substituted beer, ale, and other alternatives such as hard cider over water, making these a major dietary staple in the colonies.

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The Journal of Nicholas Cresswell, Part 4

A Loyalist under House Arrest

Having failed to reach the British Army in New York, Cresswell spent a miserable autumn and winter of 1776/1777 in northern Virginia, often arguing with his host, James Kirk, a Patriot and the only man who had ensured the Englishman could keep clothes on his back and a roof over his head.  Cresswell’s loyalist proclivities and extensive travels were widely known and on November 28, three men of the Committee of Safety in Alexandria “waited on me and informed me that the committee did not think it prudent to let me go out of the Country at this time and hoped that I would give  my word of honour not to depart this Colony for three months.  Otherwise they would confine me.  I was obliged to do the first as the lesser evil of the two.  They were polite enough not to search my chest.”[i]  Depressed as ever and suspecting Kirk of arranging the entire affair in order to keep him in Virginia, Cresswell did what he usually did when he was unhappy.  He got drunk.

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