“Rev War Revelry” A Visit to Fort Plain & the Mohawk Valley

On Sunday, January 23, Emerging Revolutionary War will journey, virtually, into the heart of the Mohawk Valley of New York in a discussion with Brian Mack of the Fort Plain Museum and Historical Park.

Established in 1961 the museum and park now encompasses over 75 acres and includes the site of Fort Plain/Fort Rensselaer, the foundation of a Revolutionary era bridge, the Fort Rensselaer Redoubt and works constructed by British forces, along with sites of colonial farmsteads, industry, and settlement. The museum also covers a wide era of the history of the area.

Mack lives out his passion for his family & for history in everything he does. A family vacation always includes a stop to a historic site or two. He is involved with the Fort Plain Museum & Historical Park as a member of their Board of Trustees, a Board member with The Stone Arabia Preservation & Battlefield, and a Board Member with The Mohawk Country Association. Most recently, he joined the Board with the Dr. Joseph Warren Foundation.

We look forward to a great discussion about the American Revolution in the Mohawk Valley of New York with Brian this Sunday, at 7 p.m. on Emerging Revolutionary War’s Facebook page.

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Introducing the Emerging Revolutionary War Podcast!

A new year and a new way to follow Emerging Revolutionary War! For 2022, we’re proud to unveil the Emerging Revolutionary War Podcast! We have taken the audio from our “Rev War Revelry” discussions (available on Facebook and YouTube) and have used them to create a new podcast. Now you can listen wherever you are, through Spotify and Apple Podcasts, to these engaging and interesting discussions with Emerging Revolutionary War historians and guests. We have all the programs from 2020 available in podcast form now and will be adding all of 2021 over the next few weeks. Now you can listen to discussions with Emerging Revolutionary War historians any time on your mobile device and on the go!

A view of the podcast in Apple Podcasts
A view of the podcast in Spotify.
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“Rev War Revelry” Battle of Cowpens

On January 17, 1781, General Daniel Morgan and his mixed force of Continental soldiers and militia defeated the British under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton. This victory for the patriots in northwestern South Carolina had major implications on the southern theater and the main British force under General Lord Charles Cornwallis. The battle, named after the use of the fields in which it was fought, Cowpens, also included one of the only instances in American history of a successful double envelopment.

On Sunday, at 7 p.m. EDT, Emerging Revolutionary War will be joined by American Battlefield Trust’s Kristopher White, Deputy Director of Education and Daniel Davis, Education Manager, in a discussion about the history and preservation of the Battle of Cowpens.

Round out your January weekend by joining us on our Facebook page for this live historian happy hour.

Posted in Battlefields & Historic Places, Battles, British Leadership, Continental Leadership, Emerging Revolutionary War, Memory, Militia (Loyalist) Leadership, Militia (Patriot) Leadership, Southern Theater | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“The Crossing” Movie Watch Party Tomorrow Night

Merry Christmas from all of us at Emerging Revolutionary War! One of our favorite Christmas movies to watch is the movie “The Crossing”. In this movie, Jeff Daniels portrays George Washington on the eve of the battle of Trenton. The movie depicts the situation in December of 1776 and dramatizes the crossing of the Delaware River and the Battle of Trenton.

Join Emerging Revolutionary War historians Mark Maloy, Dan Welch, and Kevin Pawlak as we host a watch party of the movie. You can tune in live on Sunday, December 26, 2021 (the 245th anniversary of the crossing and the battle) on our Facebook page at 7 p.m. ET.

As we watch the movie, we will comment on and explore what the movie gets right, wrong, our favorite scenes and lines, and take questions about the movie and actual events themselves. It should prove to be an entertaining and fun experience, so grab that glass of Madeira (“God be praised, it has been a year since I have tasted such Madeira.”) and join us in watching “The Crossing”.

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George Washington’s Christmas Eve Homecoming

On December 23, 1783, George Washington, the victorious commander of the Continental Army, resigned his commission and gave up his power. The only historic precedent to this action was in the days of ancient Rome when the Roman hero Cincinnatus who turned his sword into a plowshare and became a farmer. Washington was quickly hailed as the American Cincinnatus and esteemed as the greatest man of his age by his contemporaries. John Marshall, the future Supreme Court Justice, wrote from Richmond, Virginia that “at length the military career of the greatest man on earth is closed.”

The ceremony for his resignation occurred at the Maryland State House in Annapolis, where the Continental Congress was then meeting. Following his resignation at noon on the 23rd, Washington, now a private citizen, was eager to get to his home, Mount Vernon, less than 50 miles away.

Throughout the war, Washington had longed to return to his beloved Mount Vernon. He had left in the spring of 1775 and was away for more than six years. He returned, briefly, in 1781 on his way to and from the Siege of Yorktown. Other than those brief stays, by the end of 1783, Washington had spent more than eight years away from his beloved home Mount Vernon. His first desire as a private citizen was to get there as fast as he could. He hoped to live out his days on his plantation, under his “own vine and fig tree.”

He rode out of Annapolis accompanied by a few of his aides in the afternoon of the 23rd and made it halfway to Virginia before it became too dark, and he and his party stopped at a tavern for the night. The next morning, he continued his journey towards the Potomac. He crossed a ferry below Alexandria and made it to the house before dark, as snow began to fall on the ground. At Mount Vernon was his wife, Martha, who had traveled to be with Washington and his army at every winter encampment of the Revolutionary War.

Washington simply wrote a few days later on December 28, 1783 that “I arrived at my seat the day before Christmas, having previously divested myself of my official character—I am now a private Citizen on the banks of the Potomack . . .”

A fanciful lithograph of George Washington returning to Mount Vernon on Christmas Eve, 1783. (Library of Congress)

Having spent the Christmas of 1776 preparing an attack on Hessians at Trenton, and the past eight Christmases at various winter encampments (including Valley Forge), the Christmas of 1783 would have been among the happiest in his life. He wrote that “The scene is at last closed — I feel myself eased of a load of public care — I hope to spend the remainder of my days in cultivating the Affections of good Men, and in the practice of the domestic Virtues.” However, Washington would be called by his countrymen again to serve in building of a new nation. Although, he preferred the quiet walks of private life, he never would forgot his duty to his country.

To learn more about the eventful month of December 1783, including his farewell to his officers at Fraunces Tavern, his resignation and his homecoming, check out General Washington’s Christmas Farewell by Stanley Weintraub.

Merry Christmas from all of us at Emerging Revolutionary War!

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Valley Forge Documentary

244 years ago this week is when the Continental army, under the command of George Washington, marched into what would become their winter encampment as the year turned from 1777-1778. Recently, Phillip S. Greenwalt, one of the Emerging Revolutionary War historians was a “talking head” on a documentary about the Valley Forge encampment and what the soldiers and civilians faced during the ensuing six-month cantonment.

The documentary which features historians and park rangers is airing on Fox News Nation, the streaming service that is part of the Fox News network. Below is a screen shot of Phillip, who is also the author of Winter that Won the War, the Winter Encampment at Valley Forge, 1777-1778, which is part of the Emerging Revolutionary War Series published by Savas Beatie LLC.

So, if you need a break from the holiday specials that are airing, tune in for your history fix and learn more about the history at Valley Forge. If you want to dive even deeper into this period of the American Revolution, check out the link above labeled “2022 Bus Tour” and secure your tickets to join ERW at our second annual bus tour next November, which will include Valley Forge.

Posted in 2022 Bus Tour, British Leadership, Continental Leadership, Emerging Revolutionary War, Memory, Northern Theater, Revolutionary War | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Unhappy Condition of Our Poor Fellows”

On the edge of the historic town of Litiz, Pennsylvania in Lancaster County stands an impressive, unique, and solemn, historic site. Two stone monuments and a plaque comprise the complex, marking the final burial of Continental soldiers from the hospital that stood nearby.

The historic marker says that wounded from the battles of Brandywine (September 11, 1777) and Germantown (October 4, 1777) were received here. Yet that does not match what I uncovered in researching this. The dates of the Lititz hospital seem to coincide more with the Valley Forge (winter 1777-78) timeframe. 

In late summer, 1777, British General William Howe and his army left New Jersey and invaded Pennsylvania with the object of capturing Philadelphia. General George Washington’s army tried to stop the British at Brandywine but met defeat. The British occupied Philadelphia, and Washington struck back at Germantown, but again came up short. There were many smaller battles across southeastern Pennsylvania like Paoli, Fort Mifflin, and Whitemarsh. 

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Washington’s First Valley Forge Abode Location

As the Continental Army marched into Valley Forge on December 19, 1777, staff officers under the commanding general had scoured the local area for a residence suitable for George Washington that winter. While discussions and negotiations were taking place, since the Continental Congress had decreed that the army had to ask and could not just commandeer private residences which was a chief complaint of the British policy prior to the war, Washington spent five nights in his marquee.

Afterwards Washington and his military family, later joined by Martha Washington, the general’s wife, moved into the Isaac Potts House for the remainder of the winter encampment.

This tent, called a marquee and served as headquarters, sleeping quarters, and dining area, was pitched in a field in the valley. The site is now marked by a stone monument and within the boundaries of Valley Forge National Historical Park.

On the second annual Emerging Revolutionary War Bus Tour, “The Rise of the American Army: Valley Forge and the Battle of Monmouth” from November 11 -13, 2022, this site, where Washington’s marquee tent was hoisted, will be one of the sites shown to tour participants.

To secure your spot, click here or the link on the banner at the top of this page.

Posted in 2022 Bus Tour, Battlefields & Historic Places, Continental Leadership, Emerging Revolutionary War, Monuments, National Park Service, Personalities, Photography | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

With George Washington at White Plains, 1776

Join ERW this Sunday evening, December 12 at 7 p.m. ET on our Facebook page to watch John Diaconis, President, Libby Del Greco, Secretary, and Lynn Briggs, Board Member of the Friends of Miller House/Washington’s HQ as they discuss George Washington during the battle of White Plains in late October 1776. Since their formation in 2011, the Friends of Miller House / Washington’s Headquarters have spent hundreds of hours working with Westchester County and the Town of North Castle trying to save Miller House / Washington’s Headquarters. Hear their preservation story, new exciting research and interpretation, and the importance of this site during the entirety of the Revolution.

Ms. Briggs is the Chairman of the Yorktown Heritage Preservation Commission, and a member of the Board of Trustees for the Westchester County Historical Society and the Board of Directors for Friends of Miller House/Washington’s Headquarters, Inc. She is a former executive with three Fortune 200 companies, with domestic and international management experience.

Libby Del Greco is the Board Secretary of the Friends of Miller House/Washington’s Headquarters, Inc. She has worked as a fundraiser for nearly fifteen years for the Wildlife Conservation Society at the Bronx Zoo, and holds a degree in American Studies from Siena College. She is also an alum of the Gettysburg Semester, Fall 2005 at Gettysburg College.

John S. Diaconis practices in the area of insurance and reinsurance claims and acts as an arbitrator in reinsurance matters, having been certified by ARIAS U.S. He has almost thirty years of experience in the industry as both in-house and outside counsel. He received his J.D. from Drake University Law School, where he was a member of Law Review, and his LL.M. from New York University School of Law.

As always, if you are unable to make it Sunday evening, you can catch this and dozens of other Rev War Revelries on our YouTube page!

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When Civil War Veterans Reenacted the Battles of Trenton and Princeton

Often around the Christmas holiday, history enthusiasts don reproduced uniforms of American, British, and Hessian soldiers and reenact the crossing of the Delaware River, the Battles of Trenton, and the Battle of Princeton. These historical reenactments are usually well attended by reenactors and visitors, and they offer an opportunity to celebrate the important military actions and give a small glimpse into the past at the sites where these historical events actually happened.

Battle reenactments are not a new phenomenon. In fact, George Washington’s army engaged in battle reenactments, or as they often described them “sham fights” or “sham battles”, at Morristown in 1780. In the early and mid-nineteenth century, many of these sham battles occurred to mark historic anniversaries of Revolutionary War battles, sometimes with veterans of the battles engaged in the sham fights themselves. Trenton would often host a sham fight in the streets of the city to mark the anniversary of that important battle in the 1840s and 1850s. But perhaps the most significant one occurred to mark the centennial of the battles of Trenton and Princeton in December of 1876 and January of 1877 when among others, veterans of the American Civil War participated in the reenactment of the battles.

Spectators watch a sham battle at the Trenton Battle Monument in the 125th anniversary sham battle in 1901. (The New York Herald)

While the nation did a major anniversary celebration in Philadelphia for the centennial of July 4th in 1876, the people of Trenton and Princeton did not forget to mark the important battles that helped to secure our independence. Despite the national importance of this campaign, it was primarily a regional affair, with most participants coming from New Jersey or Pennsylvania. On December 26, 1876, about 1,200 men reenacted the crossing of the Delaware, the march on Trenton, and the battle of Trenton. Just eleven years following the end of the American Civil War, many of the participants were veterans of that recent conflict. Many local militias and national guard units formed the groups of men portraying the Continentals and Hessians. At this time, there was little emphasis on historical accuracy with regards to the uniforms and weapons that were used in 1776. Many of the men used percussion cap rifled muskets instead of the flintlocks used in during the real battle and wore 1876 style clothing. The honor of portraying General George Washington was awarded to General William Snyder Truex, who commanded a brigade of Union soldiers during the 1864 Battle of Monocacy, which played a pivotal role in preventing the Confederates from capturing Washington, DC. The New York Herald noted that Truex was “an old soldier and whose short stumpy figure and thick set, round head and dark, fall, stubbly beard, as well as the general outline of whose face, strongly reminded one of the hero of the last war, by some considered our second Washington, General Grant.”

William Snyder Truex, who portrayed General Washington at the 1876 Trenton sham battle. (Find-a-Grave)

The volunteer “Continentals” began the day by marching from Trenton up to McConkey’s Ferry in the middle of the night. They arrived around one in the morning and enjoyed “centennial whiskey” by a fire at the ferry house inn before they crossed the river. However, it was so cold that the Delaware River was completely frozen over. Undaunted the men walked across the ice to the New Jersey side of the river. From there they marched 9 miles to Trenton, following the same path Washington’s troops took. They arrived at about 9 a.m. and engaged the “Hessians” in town. The two sides fired blank cartridges at each other through the town and fired cannons as well. The generals ordered the Continentals to charge into the Hessians and they engaged in mock hand to hand combat. The New York Herald noted that not all the fighting was fake, as two drunken “Continentals” engaged in a real fist fight and some other minor injuries occurred as the two sides fired at each other at point blank range. Finally, the “Hessians” surrendered and two sides enjoyed a large parade. Among the participants in the parade was Adam Exton, a mainstay in Trenton society (and interestingly, the inventor of the oyster cracker) and a major proponent of the Trenton sham battle. After the parade they all enjoyed a feast with toasts, addresses, and patriotic songs.

James Madison Drake, who portrayed General Washington at the 1877 sham battle at Princeton. (Wikipedia)

Not to be outdone by their neighbors in Trenton, on January 3, 1877, Princeton celebrated their history with another sham battle. Hundreds of militia men gathered to recreate the battle on the anniversary. Portraying General Washington in this battle was James Madison Drake, who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for heroics while serving as a lieutenant in the 9th New Jersey during the Battle of Bermuda Hundred. Again, the troops largely wore their modern militia uniforms and Drake wore his Medal of Honor in the sham battle. (Drake’s ancestor was the owner of the Drake House, where Washington held a council of war in 1777 and is now a museum). Among the troops he commanded was Company C of the 3rd New Jersey National Guards (Phil Kearny Guards). General Philip Kearny had been killed during the Civil War at the Battle of Chantilly on September 1, 1862. The Sun newspaper noted that the Kearny Guards carried with them “the battle flag of the lamented General in whose honor it is named. In the center of the flag is a red Greek cross, Gen. Kearny had it with him at the battle of Chantilly, in which he yielded up his life blood on the altar of his country. It is but a remnant now; not more than half of it still clings to the staff.”

January 3 was a cold clear day, but there was more than a foot of snow on the ground. The troops paraded out of Princeton south to the site of the old battleground. The “Continentals” marched first and were followed by the “British.” On account of the snow, they didn’t make it all the way to the original battleground where the Mercer oak marked the traditional location where General Hugh Mercer was dragged to after being bayoneted. Instead, they stopped a little closer to the town and engaged each other in the sham battle. The men portraying Mercer’s brigade were driven back by the “British” and the man portraying Mercer fell to the ground “mortally wounded.” As The Sun noted, “Just then Gen. Drake, in imitation or Washington, appeared above the crest, leading the Philadelphians.” In dramatic fashion, the “Continentals” drove the “British” back onto the road and up into the town. The sham battle continued up around Nassau Hall, where the “British” finally surrendered ending the battle. The day ended with a feast for the participants.

“Hessian” soldiers throw down their arms following the 1901 sham battle in Trenton. This shows how these early reenactments were less concerned on historic clothing and weapons. (New York Herald)

The tradition of holding a reenactment or sham battle has continued off and on over the past 150 years. Usually, Washington Crossing Historic Park hosts a reenactment of Washington crossing the Delaware every Christmas and the city of Trenton and the Old Barracks Museum hosts a reenactment of the battles of Trenton on the weekend after Christmas (known as Patriots Week). While the crossing is happening this year, the 2021 battle reenactment has been canceled due to COVID. Also, this year, the Princeton Battlefield Society will be hosting a reenactment of the Battle of Princeton on the original ground on January 2. These anniversary reenactments are great ways to remember our nation’s history and a perfect time to make a pilgrimage to visit the historic sites, something we just did a few weeks ago. While it is great to see a modern reenactment and think of the sacrifice of those original patriots, it is fascinating to think of veterans of America’s bloodiest war taking part in the reenacting of America’s Revolutionary War.

Revolutionary War reenactors (including the author) march down Warren Street in the 2018 reenactment of the Battle of Trenton. (author photo)

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