Dills Bluff: A Sign of the End

Yorktown, of course, wasn’t the end of the Revolutionary War. It wasn’t even the end of military action.

Take, for instance, the battle of Dill’s Bluff on James Island, outside Charleston—the last military action of the Revolution in South Carolina. The engagement took place on Nov. 14, 1782.

Today, nothing remains of the battlefield, which is marked only by a single two-sided sign. Continue reading “Dills Bluff: A Sign of the End”

A Tree as Old as the Country

Muir Woods Bicentennial Tree

The coastal redwoods of Muir Woods form as close to a natural cathedral as I’ve ever visited. Tucked in a hidden valley in the Golden Gate Recreation Area, just north of San Francisco, the national park allows visitors to escape from the metropolitan hustle and bustle and step into a primordial landscape.

Some of the trees in the forest are estimated to be more than a thousand years old. One, not near so old, still lays claim to special historical significance: the Bicentennial Tree.

Continue reading “A Tree as Old as the Country”

Philip van Cortlandt’s Roadside Monument

Route 15 Marker-Painted PostI’m sure the men who’d embarked on the 1779 Sullivan-Clinton Campaign weren’t traveling along New York’s Southern Tier Expressway as they moved through the lands of the Iroquois Confederation. In the “Tory-Indian Town of Painted Post,” I’m sure members of the expedition didn’t decide on a detour down U.S. Rt. 15 south toward the Pennsylvania state line.

But that’s how I came across a monument to the expedition during recent travels, located at a parking area along Rt. 15 south. Continue reading “Philip van Cortlandt’s Roadside Monument”

The Sons of Liberty in Kentucky

In Louisville, Kentucky, earlier this month, I paid a visit to the Louisville Slugger Factory and Museum downtown. Across the street, I was pleasantly surprised to see a marvelous statue of a minuteman.

Sons of American Revolution Statue

The plaque on the back reads

Sons of Liberty—1775

To Honor the History
of
Philadelphia Continental Chapter
1901

Pennsylvania Society
Founded 1893

By its Compatriots
2009

The statue stands outside the headquarters of the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. “Located along Main Street’s Museum Row in downtown Louisville,” the society’s website says, “the Sons of the American Revolution is the leading male lineage society that perpetuates the ideals of the war for independence.”

Sons of American Revolution Museum

The statue was publicly unveiled in November 2015. According to the Louisville Courier Journal, “The 800-pound, 8-foot high bronze statue of the Minuteman holding a musket rests upon 19,000 pounds of quarried Kentucky limestone, material specifically requested by the artist James Muir.”

Oriskany Battlefield (part two)

part two of two

In my first post, I described my visit to the Oriskany Battlefield near Rome, New York, on a dreary day. Recent rain, mostly dried, still left streaks on the monuments. The denuded trees created deceptively open visibility quite unlike the heavy foliage that would’ve clogged the surrounding forest on August 6, 1777. Still, it was a great little battlefield to see, even in the off season. Today, I follow up with some photos from my visit. (Read part one for a battle summary and additional resources.)

01-Oriskany Open Field
The battlefield monument, dedicated in 1884, on the 107th anniversary of the battle

Continue reading “Oriskany Battlefield (part two)”

The Oriskany Battlefield (part one)

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The rolling hills and dale that make up the Oriskany Battlefield look bleak and washed out on this overcast day. The battle took place in the full flush of August green, but I visit on a dreary off-season day. The battlefield sits next to state route 69, which winds through a rural part of upstate New York that, itself, looks time-forgotten.

The most prominent feature of the battlefield is the tall needle-like obelisk, dedicated on August 6, 1884—the 107th anniversary of the battle. The battlefield received formal protection from the state forty-six years later, in 1927, on the battle’s sesquicentennial. Initially comprised of five acres, the park now includes 70 acres, with the old Erie Canal running along its northern border. Continue reading “The Oriskany Battlefield (part one)”

ERW Weekender: A Visit to Fort Stanwix

Fort Stanwix in Rome, New York, has plenty of history to offer, but it’s equally a success story of urban renewal. The fort’s original location was long swallowed up by the city’s expansion in the twentieth century, but it was then reclaimed in advance of the American Bicentennial. City blocks were razed, the fort reconstructed, and American history became a central tourist attraction in the heart of downtown Rome. It’s a “faithful reproduction,” the Park Service says, constructed using “many original plans and documents.”

The site of Fort Stanwix in 1969 and after its reclamation in 1976. (courtesy NPS)

Continue reading “ERW Weekender: A Visit to Fort Stanwix”

Signers in St. Michael’s Churchyard

St. MichaelsWhile Charleston, South Carolina, absolutely overflows with history dating all the way back to colonial times, I had the chance to explore a particularly historic churchyard recently. St. Michael’s Episcopal Church sits on the corner of Meeting Street and Broad Street, and tucked into its small graveyard are not one but two signers of the U.S. Constitution: Charles Cotesworth Pinckney and John Rutledge.

“Their years of public service, 1762-1825, saw both State and Nation well on the road to greatness,” says a plaque on the wall outside the churchyard.  Continue reading “Signers in St. Michael’s Churchyard”

Review: American Dialogue by Joseph Ellis

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American Dialogue-cover“The study of history is an ongoing conversation between past and present from which we all have much to learn,” write Joseph Ellis in his new book, American Dialogue: The Founders and Us. The book serves as Ellis’s attempt to sit with several of the Founders and carry on that conversation, with “us,” the readers, as spectators. As John Adams so often did with his own books, we can engage in the conversation by writing notes in the margins and underlining passages, and we can even read the original works of the Founders ourselves. Knowing they were writing as much to history as to each other, they left behind a rich documentary legacy.

Ellis’s book plumbs these writings to explore four salient points that trouble the American present. “By definition, all efforts to harvest the accumulated wisdom of the past must begin from a location in the present…” he admits. The present he writes from and that we read from, he says, is “inescapably shaped by our location in a divided America that is currently incapable of sustained argument and unsure of its destiny.” Continue reading “Review: American Dialogue by Joseph Ellis”

A Detour to Cowpens

Cowpens Cow Pasture
The sign at the first pull-off left me underwhelmed. Fortunately, my impression of the battlefield got better and better.

I know we’re getting close to the Cowpens battlefield when we pass Redcoat Drive and then Tory Trail. Unfortunately, my GPS takes us to the maintenance shed rather than the visitor center, but the park’s signage finally manages to get us where we need to go.

I know nothing about the battle of Cowpens, but my colleague Rob Orrison has strongly recommended I visit the battlefield. It involves some of the most colorful characters of the war, he tells me: Daniel Morgan and Banastre Tarleton. “The battle changed the course of the war in the Carolinas, in my humble opinion,” Rob adds.

That seems like a pretty ringing endorsement to me. My son and I, on our way back from Atlanta, decide to make the hop off I-85 for a visit. Continue reading “A Detour to Cowpens”