ERW Annual Fall Trip Takes on Yorktown, Great Bridge and Williamsburg

Every year the historians of Emerging Revolutionary War take a fall trip to research, visit Revolutionary War sites/battlefields and to promote our museum partners and preservation. The trip usually is a follow up to our Annual Symposium, but with the COVID-19 pandemic, that has been moved to May 22nd (you can get more information on speakers, topics and registration on our Symposium link from our main page).

The ERW Crew recreates the surrender scene at Saratoga last fall.

After much discussion, we have decided to keep our annual fall trip tradition, but a more scaled back version. Don’t worry there will still be revelry and Facebook lives! Our original plan was to head to North and South Carolina, as a follow up to our visit there in 2018. In lieu of COVID-19, we have decided to keep it more “local” by focusing on sites in and around Yorktown, VA (many of our contributors are based in Virginia and Maryland). We will visit sites such as Gloucester, Yorktown, Spencer’s Ordinary, Green Spring, Great Bridge and Williamsburg.

Memorial at Green Spring Battlefield

We will be posting FB Live videos the entire trip, bringing you some behind the scenes opportunities with our museum partners, some exclusive talks with historians and we will wrap up the trip with a special Sunday Night Rev War Revelry. Stay tuned to our blog and social media pages starting on November 6th and continuing on to our Sunday Night Rev War Revelry on November 8th.

Our goal is not just to share with you great information and encourage support for historic sites/museums but also to share with you the fun and passion we have for interpreting the events around the American Revolution. As a public history focused effort, we feel making history fun and accessible leads to a great appreciation for our shared history. We hope you join us virtually on our trip this November.

ERW Weekender: Fort Recovery

Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes guest historian Joshua Shepherd

Mural of the action on November 4, 1791

For most history enthusiasts, a visit to a battlefield is simply a diversion that very often takes place during an annual vacation. But the pleasant surroundings of America’s historic parks belie the terrifying sights that greeted a battlefield’s first visitors.

On December 24, 1793, a detachment of American troops under the command of Major Henry Burbeck arrived at an insignificant knoll deep in the wilderness of present-day Ohio. Tasked with constructing a timber fortification on the site, the troops first had to attend to the unenviable task of clearing the remains of over six hundred men who had been killed there two years earlier. Burbeck reported that the battlefield “had a very melancholy appearance – nearly in the space of 350 yards lay 500 skull bones – 300 of which we buried.” Most of the skulls, it was reported, appeared to have been smashed by tomahawk blows.        

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History after a Pandemic

The odds are good that you haven’t been able to visit some of your favorite Revolutionary War sites during the Covid-19 pandemic. Many of these locations rely on foot traffic for their annual income and may be struggling to stay afloat amidst various state lockdowns and a smaller number of visitors.  (We left out many national, state, and local parks, which sometimes have access to government funds.  But, they often have partnerships with non-profit foundations that provide vital support for their activities.)  So, we decided to start a list of museums and parks that you can help out now and visit as circumstances allow.  No doubt it will grow.  The list does not constitute a solicitation or endorsement, but many of our historians visited some of these museums in the past and found them really helpful to our own work.  (You may need to copy and paste some links.)  If you search our “weekender” posts, there are even more sites to support and visit when you can.

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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, nineteen 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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ERW Weekender: Wheeling

Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes guest historian Jon-Erik Gilot. A short bio is attached at the bottom of this post.

Though perhaps more widely known as the birthplace of West Virginia during the Civil War, Wheeling and its environs retains several significant sites associated with the Revolutionary War. The name itself is translated from the Delaware language meaning “place of the skull,” legend having that the severed head of a white settler was placed on a pole by local Native Americans as a warning to others to stay away.

Betty Zane’s Run for Gunpowder during Second Battle of Fort Henry–1782
(image courtesy of Library of Congress)

Wheeling was founded in 1769 by Colonel Ebenezer Zane and his brothers Jonathan and Silas. Five years later in 1774 Fort Henry (originally called Fort Fincastle) was built overlooking the Ohio River to protect the growing numbers of settlers from attack. The fort was twice attacked during the Revolutionary War, first in 1777 and again on September 11 – 13, 1782, when a force of British loyalists (Butler’s Rangers) and Native Americans (under the command of outlaw Simon Girty) attacked the fort’s 47 defenders. The fort was besieged over two days, culminating in Betty Zane’s heroic run for gunpowder in a nearby cabin. The British and natives broke off the battle with the arrival of Virginia militia reinforcements. Fort Henry is acknowledged as one of the final battles of the Revolutionary War.

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