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 1774, frontiersman James Harrod led a surveying party from western Pennsylvania to the region south of the Ohio River known as Kentucky. The group laid out a small fort, started their first buildings, and staked out claims to larger farms beyond the town’s walls but left the area with the start of Dunmore’s War between Virginia and the Shawnee Native Americans living north of the Ohio.
Harrod returned in the spring of 1775 with a group of settlers. Greater numbers made a larger fort and town necessary. Harrod’s return to the area coincided with the outbreak of the American Revolution, which quickly led renewal of intense fighting between Native Americans and whites living on the American frontier. British support for the Native Americans, particularly after 1777, made Kentucky an extraordinarily dangerous place to live. Together with Boonesborough and Logan’s Station, Harrodstown, also known as Harrodsburg, constituted the bulk of white settlement in Kentucky during the war’s early years.
“[T]he poor Kentucky people, who have these twelve months past been confined to three forts, on which the Indians made several fruitless attempts. They [the Indians] have left us almost without horses sufficient to supply the stations, as we are obliged to get all our provisions out of the woods. Our corn the Indians have burned all they could find the past summer, as it was in cribs at different plantations some distance from the garrisons, & no horses to bring it in on. At this time we have not more than two months bread,–near 200 women & children; not able to send them to the inhabitants; many of those families are left desolate, widows with small children destitute of necessary clothing.”
Despite continuing violence on the frontier, the prospect of land and escaping the war in the east led immigration into Kentucky to outpace population outflows while military success under George Rogers Clark ensured that the frontier settlements survived and increased.
Harrodsburg became the capital of Kentucky County when Virginia asserted ownership of the area and is still the seat of Mercer County. To commemorate Kentucky’s frontier history, the state established Old Fort Harrod State Park, which encompasses a recreated fortified town complete with period buildings, furnishings, and crops. Living historians and artisans demonstrate the 18th century skills needed to survive and flourish far from the eastern seaboard. Several exhibits help explain the frontier experience before, during, and after the American Revolution. Additionally, the park incorporates several later buildings as a museum of local history and monuments to George Rogers Clark and Abraham Lincoln’s family.
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
June 28, 1878, marked the centennial of the battle of Monmouth, and the anniversary did not pass without commemoration in the town of Freehold, New Jersey, the original location of Monmouth Courthouse. Local newspapers reported that over 20,000 people attended the various ceremonies, orations, and performances that were held, with local and state politicians, and veterans of the War of 1812, Mexican-American War, and the recent Civil War in attendance. George B. McClellan, former commanding general of the Union Armies and the Army of the Potomac, then serving as New Jersey’s governor, reviewed state troops and participated in the cornerstone laying of the Monmouth Battle Monument. The ceremony was the center of the commemorations that day. Although the 94-foot-tall monument crowned by a statue of “Colombia Triumphant,” would not be completed and dedicated until November 1884, those who attended the centennial events understood the significance of what it would represent. After all, it had only been thirteen years since the end of the previous war—one that was fought to save the republic that those who had bled at Monmouth fought themselves to establish. The symbolism was not lost on Enoch L. Cowart, a veteran of the 14th New Jersey Volunteers, which was trained at Camp Vredenburgh around the old battlefield. On July 4, 1878, an original poem he had written, “Centennial of the Battle of Monmouth,” was published in the Monmouth Democrat. Here is that poem below:
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.
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.
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.
The Star-Spangled Banner and the burning of Washington City are the enduring legacies of the 1814 Chesapeake Campaign. These two events provide contrasting impressions of the American experience in the War of 1812. One conjures up an image of an American flag resiliently flying above Fort McHenry’s ramparts, denying the British entry into Baltimore. The other marks a low point in the American war effort, when politicians fled the nation’s capital followed by British soldiers, who burned many government buildings in the new nation’s capital city.
War along the Chesapeake Bay was not a limited episode in the War of 1812. There, Americans and British soldiers waged a hard and destructive war against one another. They fought pitched battles at Bladensburg and North Point. This campaign, remembered in popular memory for the creation of a national anthem and the burning of a nation’s capital, is more complex than just these two events.
Join Emerging Revolutionary War historians and guest historians John Nathan McDonald and George Best as we discuss the causes, movements, and impact of the 1814 Chesapeake Campaign. So, with your favorite beverage log onto our ERW Facebook page for the next historian happy hour as we discuss the obscure War of 1812 this Sunday, May 30, at 7 pm.
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).
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.
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.