The American Revolution in the east has its share of founding fathers while war in the west has its share of legendary characters. Few could claim to be both. Isaac Shelby was born in western Maryland in 1750 and migrated with his family farther south and west in 1770, near Bristol Tennessee. Shelby in Lord Dunmore’s War and became a surveyor for North Carolinian Richard Henderson’s Transylvania Company, created to secure land west of the Appalachians just before the American Revolution. (Daniel Boone was the best known of Henderson’s surveyors).
When the Revolution broke out, Shelby served first with the Virginians and then accepted roles handling logistics for Virginians, Continentals, and North Carolinian units operating along the frontier. Organizational structures were fluid along the Appalachians, more often centered around communities and available manpower than formal state boundaries, and Shelby participated in a variety of actions against British and Loyalist forces in North and South Carolina. The personal nature of the partisan conflict eventually led Shelby and others on the frontier, including John Sevier, to organize the so-called “Overmountain Men” in a pursuit of Loyalists led by British Major Patrick Ferguson. The two sides eventually clashed in the Battle of King’s Mountain, a resounding victory for American forces in October 1780.
In May 1782, Colonel William Crawford led over 450 volunteers across Ohio to attack British-allied Native Americans who had been raiding the frontiers of Pennsylvania and Virginia for years. An experienced yet reluctant commander, Crawford and his men clashed with a similarly sized force of British Rangers and Wyandot, Delaware, and Shawnee Indians on the Sandusky River in early June. After three days, the Americans were routed in one of the worst defeats American arms suffered on the frontier during the American Revolution. During the retreat, Native American warriors captured dozens of men, including Colonel Crawford. Many were horrifically tortured to death in revenge for the Gnadenhutten massacre earlier that spring, when American volunteers bludgeoned nearly one hundred unarmed and unresisting Delaware Indians to death.
Join us on our Facebook page this Sunday at 7pm for a recorded talk with historian and author Eric Sterner as he discusses Crawford’s Campaign and his new book “The Battle of Upper Sandusky, 1782” due out this spring. The talk will be availble on our You Tube page next week.
British cartographer William Faden is well known for his maps depicting major battles of the Revolutionary War. Unusually, he produced two maps of the Battle of Brandywine, one in 1778 and the other in 1784. Each map shows troop movements and positions along with other aspects of the overall battlefield landscape, but each conveys significantly different information.
Join us this Sunday night at 7p.m. on our Facebook page as we chat with Andrew Outten, historical programs manager for the American Revolution Institute of the Society of the Cincinnati. Andrew will discuss the Battle of Brandywine, key differences between the two maps, and recent discoveries pertaining to those differences. Should be a great night sharing new research so grab a drink and join us for our January 8th Rev War Revelry!
Jack Jouett was Thomas Jefferson’s Paul Revere, most famous for riding pell mell through the night to warn Virginia’s governor in 1781 that Banastre Tarleton and his men were on their way to Charlottesville to capture the governor and Virginia’s General Assembly. Given Tarleton’s reputation for speed, surprise, and route, Jouett had to ride down back roads and country lanes with low hanging-trees, cattle paths, and foot paths to get ahead of the British officer with enough time to warn Virginia’s government-in-exile. https://emergingrevolutionarywar.org/2016/08/02/jack-jouett-midnight-rider-of-the-south/ Unlike Revere, whom the British famously captured, Jouett arrived in Charlottesville with enough time for Jefferson and most legislators to escape.
It’s a great story and Jouett makes it into standard biographies of Jefferson, histories of the war in Virginia, or campaign studies of Cornwallis and Tarleton. But, Jouett’s story doesn’t end there. Like many veterans—Jouett served in the Virginia militia—he headed west, over the Appalachians, in search of land and new opportunities. The next year found Jouett in Kentucky County, Virginia. Despite the bloodletting that went on in Kentucky during the Revolution, families continued to flock there. Shortly after his arrival, he married, eventually fathering twelve children. Given Kentucky’s exploding growth, the Virginia legislature divided Kentucky County into Lincoln, Jefferson, and Mercer counties and the people of Lincoln county elected Jouett as their representative in the Virginia General Assembly. But, at heart, he remained a Virginia farmer, raising crops and livestock. Sadly, he continued the practice of slavery, eventually owning twenty-five people.
In 1797, Jouett and his family bought a 530-acre farm in Woodford County and built one of Kentucky’s earliest brick homes, a step up from the log and stone buildings many settling the frontier built on their arrival. Reflecting the period, it adopted design features from Virginia with a central hall and parlor and bedrooms in a half-floor attic. The building included an earlier stone-walled kitchen built in the 1780s. Jouett eventually moved away to Bath County in 1809 and died in 1822. The house 1797 house, however, remains and was restored between 1972-1978 and opened for public tours in 1978. Many of the interior contents are from the period and a small museum telling Jouett’s story in Virginia and Kentucky is in a separate building nearby. It is not far from Lexington or some of Kentucky’s other Revolutionary War sites like Harrodsburg or Boonesborough. It can be visited at:
Jack Jouett House Historic Site 255 Craig’s Creek Road Versailles, Kentucky 40383 (859) 873-7902
The Saratoga Campaign and Battle of Saratoga sit near the top of numerous “Turning Points of the Revolutionary War” lists. It is a story that has been told many times. New research has shed additional light on the campaign’s well-known and trivial parts.
Join Saratoga National Historical Park interpreter and historian Eric Schnitzer for Emerging Revolutionary War’s Revelry on October 2, 2022, at 7 pm to learn about new research being conducted about the campaign.
We hope you can join us on Sunday at 7 p.m EDT on our Facebook page for this historian happy hour.
On September 12, 1814, approximately 4,700 soldiers, a mix of British infantry and marines, were landed on the North Point peninsula, a jut of land between the Back and Patapsco River and on a direct line of march toward Baltimore. While the infantry and marines advanced toward the city, the British Navy’s task was to subdue the American fortifications in Baltimore harbor. The latter was foiled by the stout defense of Fort McHenry which served as the backdrop for the future national anthem, the Star-Spangled Banner.
Less is known about the accompanying land engagement, fought at North Point between the British and American militia. That battle, which cost the life of Major General Robert Ross, the British commander, saw the American militia retreat, but in order, and stymied the initial approach of the British toward Baltimore. Furthermore, the battle gave the Americans more time to add to their defenses.
To shed light on this aspect of the Battle of Baltimore, Emerging Revolutionary War will be joined by two historians, both of who have worked on volunteered at Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine.
Jim Bailey is now the Chief of Visitor Services and Education at Manassas National Battlefield Park but is a former park ranger at Fort McHenry. The other guest historian is Chris Boyle who has been a National Park Service volunteer at Fort McHenry National Monument & Historical Shrine since 2005 in both the Fort McHenry Guard living history program and as an historical interpreter focusing on the Fort’s history from the War of 1812 through the Civil War. While not a native Baltimorean, he has called the city home for the last 20 years.
We hope you can join us on Sunday at 7 p.m EDT on our Facebook page for this historian happy hour.
On August 19, 1780 the United States lost one of the most influential foreign officers that fought for the new nation during the American Revolution. Johann von Robais, Baron de Kalb migrated to the United States along with the Marquis de La Fayette in 1777. A Prussian born solider who fought in the Seven Years War, de Kalb quickly became a respected leader. In the summer of 1780, de Kalb was commanding the Maryland and Delaware Continental Line in Maj. Gen. Horatio Gates’ southern army. One of the best trained and disciplined units in the Continental Army, de Kalb commanded the left of Gates’ line at the Battle of Camden on August 16, 1780. The battle was more of a rout, as the British rolled up the Virginia and North Carolina militia on the field, leaving the Continentals in a desperate fight for survival. After being shot three times and bayoneted several times, de Kalb was taken from the battlefield to Camden. His wounds were mortal and he died three days later.
The reaction to his death was immediate and the respect everyone had for him was evident. Cornwallis and other British officers showed great respect for de Kalb and gave him a proper military burial. Washington, Gates and other Continental officers mourned the loss of the Prussian officer. Soon after the war a movement began to move de Kalb’s remains to another place in Camden with a larger monument. In 1825, Lafayette laid the cornerstone for a new monument above his new interment in front of the Bethesda Presbyterian Church. This memorial was designed by Robert Mills, a noted architect of the time.
Maryland especially took an interest in remembering de Kalb. His command of the Maryland Line and his bravery leading the men at Camden were important to Marylanders after the war. In 1780, Congress authorized a monument to be built in Annapolis to honor de Kalb, but it was not until 1886 that it was finally constructed on the grounds of the Maryland state house. In the early 20th century, the Daughters of the American Revolution placed a memorial stone on the Camden battlefield marking de Kalb’s death (supposedly marking the spot but this is still debated today). Recently in 2021, Camden unveiled a new statue to de Kalb at the new Revolutionary War Visitor Center.
The memory of de Kalb extended beyond memorials and monuments. In the late 18th century and early 19th century, states started to honor de Kalb naming counties and towns after him. A total of six counties in the United States are named after Baron de Kalb, located in Alabama, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri and Tennessee. There are six towns/cities in the United States named for de Kalb located in Illinois, Mississippi, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Texas and West Virginia.
But one of the most recognizable memorials to de Kalb and his Maryland Continentals is one that most people don’t even know as a memorial. In southern Baltimore where the large railroad yards were located, many of the streets were named after battles and individuals in the Southern Campaign of the American Revolution. Streets such as Washington, Lee, Howard, Eutaw and Camden. The large rail yard in this area was known as Camden Yards. In 1992, the Baltimore Orioles opened their new baseball stadium in the area of the old railyards next to the old B and O Railroad warehouse. The name was hotly debated, but then Maryland Governor William Donald Schaefer wanted to keep “Camden Yards” in the stadium name and eventually won out. The stadium today is called Oriole Park at Camden Yards, but most people now refer to it as “Camden Yards.” Though de Kalb would not recognize the game being played, he would recognize the name of the stadium and the state that was the home of so many of the men that followed him into battle at Camden. So next time you watch a baseball game at Camden Yards, think of de Kalb and those men at the Battle of Camden.
In March 1778, Major General Nathanael Greene finally consented to become the quartermaster for the Continental army then encamped at Valley Forge. He was loathe to give up his position as a line commander in charge of a division of infantry but with reassurances from General George Washington that he would retain his place and that his expertise was absolutely needed to revitalize the quartermaster department the Rhode Islander agreed.
His work over the next two plus years paid huge dividends. On Sunday, August 21, at 7p.m. EDT join Emerging Revolutionary War on our Facebook page for the next “Rev War Revelry.” Joining ERW will be the American Battlefield Trust’s Senior Education Manager, historian and author Dan Davis.
In reference to Greene’s role as quartermaster general at Valley Forge, Davis said, “Primarily remembered for his actions during the Southern Campaign, Nathanael Greene’s efforts at Valley Forge were critical in sustaining the Continental Army during a crucial period of its history.”
We look forward to a great discussion and hope you can join us for this historian happy hour!
On December 19, 1777 a bedraggled, underfed, undersupplied, and hemorrhaging manpower, the Continental army trudged into their permanent winter encampment at Valley Forge. Located approximately 20 miles from Philadelphia, General George Washington’s army would recuperate, revitalize, re-train, and march out six months later a different military force.
Meanwhile, the British army, victors of Brandywine and survivors of Germantown ensconced themselves in the colonial capital of the rebellious colonies after its peaceful fall on September 26, 1777. Commanded by Sir General William Howe the British were better fed, better equipped, and in theory better suited to continue conducting military operations to quell the rebellion.
Which begs the question, why did Howe not attack Valley Forge?
Although historians have grappled with this, there are a number of reasons why Howe did not press the issue during the winter months, some range from personal to logistical to how warfare was conducted in the 18th century.
Was Howe frustrated at Washington for not taking the bait at White Marsh in early December 1777 to fight outside defensive works and envisioned the same reticence would be shown by the Virginian if the British attempted an offensive action toward Valley Forge?
Or was Howe simply a man of his time and war was not practiced in winter when there were so many variables one could not control, chiefly the unpredictability of Mother Nature?
Was Howe already worried about his reception and defense when he arrived back in England? Only willing to take a low risk-high reward gambit, which he attempted in May 1778 at Barren Hill?
One of his own soldiers,Captain Richard Fitzpatrick in a letter to Charles Fox penned the following;
“If General Howe attempts anything but securing his army for the winter I shall consider him, after what has happened in the north, a very rash man. But if he lets himself be governed by General Grant I shall not be surprised if we get into some cursed scrape.”
Or does this one paragraph explain the main reason behind no winter campaigning, “what has happened in the north.” A clear implication to the disaster of the other field army operating in the northern American colonies, Burgoyne’s that capitulated at Saratoga in October 1777.
Although we will never know for certain, this is a question that has come up in conversations, at book talks, and around the national park at Valley Forge. This is a question Emerging Revolutionary War will grapple with on our second annual bus tour, which will include Valley Forge, this November. Check the link “Bus Tour 2022” on the black banner above to secure your ticket and partake in the ongoing debate on why Howe did not attack. Limited tickets remain.
 Urban, Mark. “Fusiliers: The Saga of a British Redcoat Regiment in the American Revolution (Walker & Company: Manhattan, 2007).
Opportunity knocked for Horatio Gates with the fall of Charleston, South Carlina in May 1780. A devastating loss for the Americans, with nearly 6,000 men of the Southern Army under Benjamin Lincoln surrendered to Sir Henry Clinton. Unless something wasn’t done soon, the entire southern colonies could fall and the revolution along with it. Congress needed someone who could inspire men to join the war effort and a trusted leader with a positive record. Washington put Nathaniel Greene’s name forward, but Congress in a rare move went against Washington’s wishes and appointed Horatio Gates as commander of the Southern Department on June 13th.
The road from his victory at Saratoga to the Southern Department wasn’t an easy one for Gates. He sought independent field command and many believe he wanted Washington’s position as commander in chief. His allies in Congress and the Continental Army lobbied heavily on Gates’ behalf and were able to have Gates appointed to the powerful Board of War (the defacto Department of Defense). Though an important role (and serving as Washington’s civilian superior), Gates believed he belonged in the field. Though his role in the famous “Conway Cabal” is still debated today, he was implicated via letters in criticizing Washington’s leadership. Whether his involvement was real or not, the relationship between him and Washington (and Washington’s inner circle) was seriously damaged. Due to the situation, Gates resigned from the Board of War and accepted appointment as department commander of the Northern Department. In this role he was responsible to look after the New York Highlands and watch from British incursions from Canada or New York city. Gates was unhappy in this role and proposed another American invasion of Canada. Washington and Congress disagreed and rejected his plans. He disliked his task of dealing with enemy native tribes in the region and dragged his feet in following orders. Finally, that fall, Gates took command of American forces in New England with his headquarters in Boston. Though excited by this appointment, he quickly realized that this post was not where the action would be. The British left Boston in 1776 and since the city was peaceful and not a welcome place for a man seeking glory and military action. Finally, after much frustration, Gates asked to return to his farm in Virginia and arrived there by December 1779. Gates found himself a hero without an army and continued to brood over his situation.