Our monthly recap of what our good friend and fellow historian Tom Hand has written on his blog, AmericanaCorner.
The Legacy of Paul Revere November 2, 2021
Paul Revere began his famous ride from Boston to Concord, around 11:00pm on April 18, 1775, informing the residents and militiamen that the British were on the march. He arrived in Lexington, a town about 10 miles from Boston, around midnight. Read more here.
Lexington and Concord: Minutemen in Arms November 9, 2021
The Battles of Lexington and Concord, fought on April 19, 1775, marked the start of America’s war for independence from England. The story of that fight is an inspiring account of how everyday Americans came together to resist the power of Great Britain. Read more here.
Lexington and Concord: The Shot Heard Round the World November 16, 2021
The fight between our Minutemen and the British regulars at Lexington was over in a matter of minutes, and the British began the seven-mile march to Concord. By now, reports of the shooting had reached the minutemen in the surrounding area, and they began to assemble. A bad day for the British was about to begin. Read more here.
The Battle of Bunker Hill November 23, 2021
The Battle of Bunker Hill, fought on June 17, 1775, is one of the most iconic and familiar events in American history. It was our first pitched battle against the British army and, although technically a defeat, the efforts of the American militiamen were inspirational. Read more here.
Did the Battle of Moores Creek Bridge help keep the British away from the southern colonies during the first half of the war?
Months before its colonies officially adopted their Declaration of Independence, the British army was reaching a critical juncture in its war strategy: with the colonies in rebellion, where should they focus their attentions? The war was picking up steam and the British were looking for a stronghold in the colonies that would gain them resources such as men and supplies. They turned their eyes south.
The general impression of the southern colonies was that they were poorer and weaker than their sister colonies in the north. They also had been receiving word of heavy Loyalist sympathies in both the backcountry of South Carolina and the coastal areas of North Carolina, where large populations of German and Scottish immigrants had settled. Indeed, by the fall of 1775, Loyalist recruitment seemed to be quite successful. One evidence of this was at the First Battle of Ninety Six in November 1775, when nearly 2,000 Loyalists met a paltry force of not quite 600 patriots. Though this first Revolutionary War battle south of New England ended in a truce, British confidence was high.
The Royal Governor of South Carolina, Lord William Campbell, had fled the colonies by September 1775, leaving the colony mostly in the hands of the Patriots. That made the ultimate goal at this point in the southern colonies to capture the wealthy and strategic port of Charleston, South Carolina. Meanwhile, the Royal Governor of North Carolina, Josiah Martin, convinced British commanders to target key points along their route through his colony as they advanced on their mission. And as 1775 turned into 1776, plans were set in motion.
On January 10, Martin issued a proclamation calling on all subjects loyal to the Crown to take up arms against the rebellion in the colony. Authority was given to Loyalist leaders throughout the colony to recruit militia and gather all necessary provisions to muster in Brunswick, NC.
By mid-February, a contingent of several thousand loyalists was gathered at Cross Creek, NC, preparing to march towards their goal. Among those recruited were the famed Scotch Highlanders. Though not all joined the Loyalist cause, the Highlanders’ reputations as fierce warriors preceded the impending war in the colonies. This reputation may have stemmed from the Jacobite rebellion in the 1740s as well as British assumptions at the time that the HIghlands were a lawless land due their clan-based culture.
Loyalists weren’t the only militias stirring along the Carolina coast. Patriot militias had begun forming at the first news of Loyalists gathering as early as August 1775. In fact, some of those militias formed in Wilmington, NC became the foundation of the 1st North Carolina Regiment of the Continental Army and in February 1776, they were led by Colonel James Moore. At that time, they were joined by additional militiamen from the surrounding area, led by Alexander Lillington and Richard Caswell. Their goal was two-fold: protect Wilmington and prevent the Loyalist forces from reaching the coast.
By February 20, 1776, a clash between the British and Patriot forces was inevitable. British commander Donald MacDonald began to move his 1,600 men from Cross Creek towards his rendezvous point at Brunswick, only to find his way impeded along the Black River by Caswell’s blockade. On February 25, MacDonald had managed to get across the river and Caswell moved his 1,000 Patriots back to Moores Creek Bridge. There they set up defensive earthworks, prepped their two artillery pieces, and prepared for battle.
At 1:00 am on February 27, 1776, MacDonald’s second-in-command, Donald McLeod, led the British troops on their march towards the Patriot position. Arriving at an abandoned camp on the west side of the bridge around 5:00 am, a brief exchange of fire alerted the Loyalists to the Patriot sentries guarding the bridge, and ultimately, the Patriot forces lying in wait.
McLeod with 50 men attempted to cross the bridge and attack the Patriot defensive position, but the attempt was futile and disastrous. Heavy musket fire coupled with a barrage of two artillery units killed 30 almost immediately, including McLeod. The remaining Loyalists quickly retreated and the battle was over almost as quickly as it had begun.
So how important were these three approximate minutes of battle? This Patriot victory struck a huge blow to Loyalist recruitment in North Carolina – so much so that two months later, North Carolina’s delegates to Continental Congress were the first to vote for independence. And it created a rippling effect throughout the southern colonies, as one by one the royal governors were displaced and revolution took hold.
No longer could the British see the Carolinas as easy targets. They abandoned this initial southern strategy to focus their resources on the war in the northern colonies. For the next three years, significant battles and events that we learn about today took place, thanks in part to the dominating Patriot showing at the Battle of Moores Creek Bridge.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Battle of Moores Creek Bridge, I strongly encourage you to visit Moores Creek National Battlefield’s website as well as their very active Facebook page. Both offer a wealth of information and additional resources for folks to explore.
Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes back guest historian Dan Welch.
It’s December 9, 1775. Not only was the future of the fledgling Patriot’s cause at stake, but the future of our yet-to-be created Supreme Court was as well.
Over the previous months, rebel forces in the area had been engaged with Lord Dunmore’s troops for control of military supplies in the colony of Virginia. This eventually led towards the area around Norfolk, where Dunmore’s forces had fortified a position opposite a river crossing that was strategic both militarily and economically. The position, south of Norfolk, at Great Bridge, was not uncontested. Just opposite Dunmore’s stockade, known as Fort Murray, on the other side of the river, rebel forces settled in, arriving on December 2.
Col. William Wofford, in command of the 2nd Virginia Regiment and about 100 men of the Culpeper Minutemen battalion, began entrenching their position opposite Fort Murray while more militia from surrounding Virginia counties and North Carolina marched towards their aid. As more men arrived, as well as several pieces of field artillery, Lord Dunmore grew wary. He believed his only course of action was to attack Wofford’s men and drive them from the field. The attack was set to begin by dawn’s early light on December 9, 1775.
Found in the ranks of Wofford’s command that morning as the battle opened was a father and son, Thomas and John Marshall. Thomas, a vestryman, High Sheriff, and a member of the House of Burgesses had brought his son with him into the patriot ranks from Fauquier County. By the time of the battle, Thomas, who had been active in the organizing and raising the Culpeper Minutemen, had been appointed its major. His son John, age 20, its first lieutenant.
John Marshall’s biographer later recounted the importance of this moment on the young nineteen-year-old, writing “The young soldier in this brief time saw a flash of the great truth that liberty can be made a reality and then possessed only by men who are strong, courageous, unselfish, and wise enough to act unitedly…He began to discern, though vaguely as yet, the supreme need of the organization of democracy.”
John Marshall went on to serve as the fourth Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court in 1801. Marshall remained at the post for thirty-four years, and, during his tenure, the Marshall Court brought the role of the Supreme Court to the fore, issued more than 1,000 decisions, and set the precedent of handing down a single majority opinion. These accomplishments and influences are just some of many that Marshall had on the Court, the federal government, and American history. Today, on the 245th anniversary of the battle of Great Bridge, it’s interesting to pause, reflect, and wonder how very different the United States and the Supreme Court might have been had Colonel Wofford’s forces, among them John Marshall, been defeated that day at the “second Bunker’s Hill affair….”
Pictures of Great Bridge Battlefield and monuments.
On April 19, 1775, Massachusetts militia and minutemen responded to the call of British Regulars, “redcoats” marching from Boston to the town of Concord. What ensued was the “shot heard around the world” at the North Bridge in that town. What that shot signified was the changing course from words to war, that would define the relationship between 13 British North American colonies and Great Britain.
Now, 245 years later, Emerging Revolutionary War will turn that war back into words with its inaugural Rev War Revelry Zoom series. On Sunday, 7 p.m. EST, tune in to listen and watch historians from Emerging Revolutionary War discuss in an informal setting this momentous day in American history. Other topics are welcomed that pertain to the American Revolutionary War era as well.
As the title of the Zoom series relates, this will be similar to a tavern talk, much like the talks and information sharing rendezvous that went on in the 18th century, in places like Boston, where the road to revolution gained momentum as ales and spirits flowed. Thus, grab your favorite beverage, rest assured that ERW historians will be doing the same and join us, virtually, in our tavern Sunday evening.
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.
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.”
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.”
Mark your calendars for September 28, 2019! Emerging Revolutionary War is excited to announce that we are partnering with Gadsby’s Tavern Museum and The Lyceum of Alexandria, VA to bring to you a day long Symposium focusing on the American Revolution.
Alexandria is George Washington’s hometown and we feel is a great place for us to start this new endeavor. Historic “Old Town” Alexandria is home to dozens of museums and historic sites as well as great pubs, restaurants and shops. Gadsby’s Tavern Museum is the premier 18th century tavern museum in the country and is host to the famous annual George Washington Birthnight Ball. The Lyceum: Alexandria’s History Museum will be our host location. Today The Lyceum serves as the City’s history museum and is a center of learning through lectures, demonstrations and exhibits.
This year’s theme is “Before They Were Americans” and will highlight several topics
about the years leading up to the American Revolution. Our speakers include: Phillip Greenwalt, Katherine Gruber, William Griffith, Stephanie Seal Walters and Dr. Peter Henriques as the keynote. Registration will open on July 1, 2019 through AlexandriaVA.gov/Shop or by calling 703-746-4242. Stay tuned as we highlight each of our speakers and their topics.
Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes guest historian Travis Shaw.
As he looked northward across the open ground in front of his position, Captain John Ashby could see the advance guard of the British army moving steadily closer. They came on in a loose, open line, taking time to return the fire of Ashby’s men. Made up of red-coated light infantry and their German counterparts, the rifle-armed Jaegers, the advance guard were the cream of the Crown forces – men chosen for their fitness, marksmanship, and ability to endure hardship. Ashby and his men were veterans, so they must have known they’d be in for a fight. As the battle intensified around him, one wonders if Captain Ashby’s thoughts turned to home. The Brandywine Valley of Pennsylvania was a long way from his native Virginia Piedmont.
John Ashby was born in 1740 in northwestern Fauquier County, among the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The son of Robert Ashby and Rosanna Berry, he grew up at Yew Hill, the family estate that lay just a few miles from the Gap that bears the family’s name to this day. John’s uncle and namesake, Captain “Jack” Ashby commanded a company of Virginia rangers during the French and Indian War, where he made the acquaintance (and drew the ire) of a young George Washington. Continue reading “Captain John Ashby”→
Love brought Dr. Samuel Prescott, a practicing physician, to the town of Lexington on the night of April 18, 1775. The young doctor was courting Ms. Lydia Mulliken, when the alarm of the British soldiers marching from Boston went out to the local militia. Lydia’s brother was one of those called to gather.
Love. That emotion also drew Dr. Prescott back toward his hometown of Concord—this time to alert friends, neighbors, and family members of the urgent news of the evening. En route, Dr. Prescott along with Paul Revere and William Dawes, alerted the countryside of the moving British troops. After being vetted and vouchsafed as a true friend of liberty, Dr. Prescott rode posthaste to his hometown, where his word carried greater weight.
As British General Thomas Gage and his American Whig (or Patriot) antagonists squared off in Boston and the surrounding towns, information gathering became the key to success. Both sides had created networks of spies, but the advantage was clearly in favor of the Whigs. During the winter 1774-1775, groups such as the Sons of Liberty had established a complex spy network within Boston comprised of a system of riders that spread information and “alarms’ quickly. The Committee of Safety and the Massachusetts Provincial Congress relied on this network to stay informed of what was going on in Boston and the British intentions. Continue reading “Two Riders….Gage Gathers Information”→
“the Country was an amazing strong one; full of Hills, Woods, stone Walls, & c., which the Rebels did not fail to take advantage of, for they were all lined with People who kept an incessant fire upon us…”
From the diary of Lieutenant Frederick Mackenzie who was part of the 23rd Regiment–the Royal Welch Fusiliers that survived the ordeal of April 19, 1775. He would keep a diary until the early 1790’s and chronicled his experiences in the American Revolutionary War. His account on April 19, of the retreat from Concord is most descriptive. The British did not just take the brunt of the firing as the marched hurriedly back toward Boston and safety, but;
“as we did too upon them, but not with the same advantage, as they were so concealed there was hardly any seeing them: in this way we marched between 9 and 10 miles, their numbers increasing from all parts…”
The column was led by Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith and had been tasked by General Thomas Gage, British military leader in North America, to root out the military supplies being stored in Concord by the colonials. The mission, albeit supposedly secretive, did not remain so for long, and the colonials got word out to the countryside. After initial firing at Lexington Green and then at the North Bridge in Concord, the British had to march back through the countryside, facing arriving militia and minute men.
“while ours was reducing by deaths, wounds, and fatigue; and we were totally surrounded with such an incessant fire as it is impossible to conceive; our ammunition was likewise near expended.”
Luckily, for Mackenzie and the other struggling British officers and rank-and-file, on a rise in the ground, outside the town of Menotomy, was a relief column, ready to provide a few moments’ respite.