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”

ERW Weekender: Ninety Six, The Site That Has It All

Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes historian Vanessa Smiley to the blog.

The thing about Ninety Six National Historic Site is that it’s unassuming exterior hides a wealth of history. It’s also nowhere near a major highway, meaning you have to want to get there if you’re thinking of visiting. And when you do get there, you will realize that there’s more history per acre than its demur entrance lets on. Located in the back country of South Carolina, Ninety Six has a history that speaks to the stories of Native Americans, the American frontier of the 18th century, and the American Revolution.

Entrance to the park
(courtesy of Ninety Six NHS, NPS)

The site at Ninety Six holds a treasure trove of study on these subjects. Native American, mostly Cherokee, activity was heavy in the area long before European settlers arrived. One of the earliest backcountry trading posts, established by Robert Gouedy in 1759, made Ninety Six a hotbed of trading activity thanks to its location at the crossroads of twelve different roads and paths, linking the area to nearly all parts of the colonies.

Continue reading “ERW Weekender: Ninety Six, The Site That Has It All”

ERW Weekender: Boston Massacre: 250 Years and 1-Day Later

Crispus Attucks. Every American school child learned that name in a social studies or history class in grade school. On the night of March 5, 1770, Attucks, an African-American was one of the six Bostonians that was killed by British soldiers.

Known in American history as the “Boston Massacre” the tragic event was used as fodder by the Sons of Liberty and pro-revolutionary minded individuals to propel the colonies toward rupture with Great Britain.

Continue reading “ERW Weekender: Boston Massacre: 250 Years and 1-Day Later”

ERW in the Hudson Valley: 4th Annual ERW Trip

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Billy Griffith, Kevin Pawlak, Rob Orrison and Mark Maloy at George Washington’s HQ in Newburgh, NY

Just over two weeks ago, ERW historians Billy Griffith, Phillip Greenwalt, Mark Maloy, Rob Orrison and Kevin Pawlak took a long weekend trip up to upstate New York. This was the fourth year that ERW authors have gotten together to take a “field trip” to see sites related to the French and Indian War and the American Revolution.

The trips not only serve as chances for research, but also to make new connections with public historians working in the American Revolution era. Along the way, we posted several videos from locations to give our followers an idea of some of the great places to visit out there. Again, our goal is to not just share this history, but to get people to visit these great sites.

Sites visited on the first day included the Stony Point Battlefield, where Americans under Gen. Anthony Wayne over ran a surprised British outpost. Reading about this action almost rings empty until you stand on the ground. Looking at the steep terrain that Wayne’s men climbed after traversing through a wetland, it is hard to imagine how the Continentals were able to take the British fort with so few casualties. Later that day we made a quick stop at George Washington’s headquarters in Newburgh. Here Washington lived from April 1782 to August 1783 and where he learned of the cease fire with the British, wrote his now famous circular letter to the colonial governors on his vision for the new government. Most importantly, here Washington responded to the Newburgh Conspiracy of his officers looking to possibly over throw the civil government. This site is also important in the history of the museum field as it is the first publicly owned historic site in the United States, opened in 1850 as a museum. A worthwhile nearby site, the New Windsor Cantonment site, preserves the camp site of the Continental Army during the 1782-1783 time period. Several of the buildings are rebuilt, including the Temple of Virtue, where Washington made his impassioned speech to his officers (with the assistance of his glasses) to diffuse their discontent with Congress.

The morning of the second day of the trip was spent visiting sites around Lake George, NY, including some much over looked French and Indian War sites. That afternoon sites along the upper Hudson including the site of the murder of Jane McCrea, Fort Edward and sites in Albany.

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Park Interpreter Bob Hoar explains the terrain of the battlefield

Early Sunday morning, a quick trip to the Bennington Battlefield State Park was highlighted with a great personal tour by Bob Hoar. The battlefield is well preserved and interpreted. Bob also shared some of his research into reinterpreting the battlefield using first person accounts and the landscape. Again, understanding the landscape of these places creates such a better understanding.

The majority of the day on Sunday was spent at Saratoga National Historical Park, posting several Facebook Live videos from various points across the battlefield. Also a special visit to the surrender site in Schuylerville which was recently preserved and opened as a memorial by the Friends of Saratoga Battlefield. A great preservation victory that adds to the overall story of Saratoga.

One of the highlights of the trip took place on Monday, where we received a behind the

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Curator Matthew Keagle gave a behind the scenes tour of Fort Ticonderoga’s amazing collection storage.

scenes tour by Fort Ticonderoga staff. We started by learning about the military interpretive program by Ron Vido, Military Programs Supervisor. Anyone who has visited Fort Ticonderoga knows about their quality interpretive staff and programs. Ron also shared with us their plans to slowly restore the Carillon Battlefield (1758), which will be a great addition to the understanding of North America’s bloodiest battle before the Civil War. That afternoon we were treated to a behind the scenes tour of Fort Ticonderoga’s collections storage by Curator Matthew Keagle. The Fort has been collecting 18th century items for nearly 100 years. Their collection is one of the largest collection of 18th century military artifacts in the United States. From a Continental knapsack to an original copy of Baron von Steuben’s drill manual, the collection on display is only a small portion of what the museum owns. Matt also shared the museum’s ongoing work to digitize their collection for the purpose of research. The day was capped off by a visit to one of the best preserved battlefields in the United States, Hubbardton. Fought as part of the Saratoga Campaign, this is Vermont’s only battlefield. The landscape at the foot of the Green Mountains is amazing and the viewsheds are near pristine. A nice state park and visitor center are there to help explain the events of July 7, 1777.

Thank you to all the people that assisted us in this trip and all the sites that were nice enough to host us. We will be posting more on the blog in the future focusing on some of the stories around these amazing sites. Again, we encourage you to take the time to visit all these places. History books are great, but there is no substitute for being in the footsteps of history

To check out the Facebook Live videos and photos from the trip, please visit our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/emergingrevwar/ .

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Bill Griffith, Kevin Pawlak, Phill Greenwalt, Mark Maloy and Rob Orrison at Saratoga, over looking the Hudson River.

 

August in Lexington, Massachusetts

From our friends at the Lexington Historical Society, a few events to mark on your calendar if going to be in that area of the country. Click here for more information about the events below.

On Thursday, August 8th at 7:00 p.m. at the Lexington Depot
I Am An Honest Woman: Female Revolutionary Resistance 

Most women had limited opportunities for political action during the American Revolution. While some of the lower classes could take to the streets, “genteel” women had to find more subtle ways to support the Patriot cause, while maintaining the illusion of domestic contentment. Dr. Emily Murphy, National Park Service curator and living historian, will discuss the “Daughters of Liberty” and their political accomplishments. These women were able to take an active role in the Revolution by politicizing traditional female activities, like spinning flax into linen to create homespun fabric in protest of British imports. A group of 50 protesting Bostonian men would incite a riot, but who would cross a crowd of dutiful housewives showing off their domestic skills?

Saturday, August 31, 12:00 – 4:00 p.m., across from Battle Green on Harrington Road
Lexington’s Spinning Protest

On the exact 250th anniversary of the 1769 spinning protest in Lexington, come to a reenactment of that important event! There will be spinners in period dress, interpreters sharing information about the craft of spinning, the political climate of the time and the British goods boycott that sparked the 1769 spinning bee. Plus, a preview of our 2020 Buckman Tavern exhibit on women and political protest. Free and open to the public.

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”

On this date in….1776

A few random musings on the importance of this date in American Revolutionary history…

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President’s chair, Independence Hall, Independence National Historical Park (author collection)

This day was the date that the assembled Second Continental Congress voted on the draft of a document that was Richard Henry Lee, a delegate from Virginia had put forth in a measure, in June, to be voted on declaring;

“That these United Colonies are, and of right out to be, free and independent States, that they are absolved from all allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain is, and ought to be, totally dissolved.”

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Thomas McKean by Charles Wilson Peale

On July 4, two days after this resolution passed, the final and formal version was approved by Congress. John Hancock, president of the Continental Congress affixed his signature boldly and largely at the bottom of the document. Eventually 55 other men would place their signature on the Declaration of Independence, with Thomas McKean, generally accepted, as the last to sign the document, possibly as late as January 1777.

Copies were made and four days later, on July 8, the first public reading occurred in Philadelphia. George Washington had the document read to the Continental Army in New York on the following day, July 9.

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John Adams by Gilbert Stuart

For John Adams, future second president of the United States, the second day of July would and should be the day to remember American Independence, as he wrote;

“The most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival…It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade with shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires, and Illuminations from one End of this continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

And that is how many Americans choose to celebrate the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, however, usually two days later on July 4th. Yet, it took another war; World War II, for July 4th to become a national paid holiday for workers of the Federal government when Congress approved it in 1941.

So, happy Independence Day!

*Feel free to add any interesting historical tidbits about the Second Continental Congress, the signers, or 1776 below!*

 

Rise and Fight Again for Southern Revolutionary History

From our friends at American Battlefield Trust (ABT). To learn more about the ABT, click here.

ABT

At stake are 31 acres associated with two Southern Campaign Revolutionary War battlefields, Hanging Rock in South Carolina and Guilford Courthouse in North Carolina.

At Hanging Rock, generous battlefield preservationists like you have already secured 141 acres. These 30 acres in the part of the battlefield where the initial Patriot attack began will add significantly to the land we have saved there already.

At Guilford Courthouse, the half-acre tract at stake may be small, but it’s part of a larger strategy to deal with the modern development crowding in on this battlefield from all points of the compass. Our plan is to buy up plots of battlefield land – including small ones and those with non-historic structures on them like this one – remove all non-historic structures and restore the battlefield. The Guilford Courthouse National Military Park has generously agreed to take responsibility for demolishing and removing the house on this plot, a considerable cost that we would typically need to cover. Continue reading “Rise and Fight Again for Southern Revolutionary History”

Press Release: Veterans Dig History in Groundbreaking Project at Saratoga Battlefield

From our friends at American Battlefield Trust (ABT), for more information about the ABT click here.

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Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam veterans have returned to the battlefield.  But instead of the Middle East or Southeast Asia, they are mustering at Saratoga National Historical Park where they will be applying their military knowledge and newly learnt archaeological skills to conduct a field survey at the famous Revolutionary War battlefield.

Approximately 33 veterans will participate in the project created by the American Veterans Archaeological Recovery (AVAR) in cooperation with the American Battlefield Trust and the National Park Service (NPS).  Working together, they will attempt to verify revolutionary-era troop locations during the 1777 battle while aiding participants’ transition back to civilian life.  AVAR recruits veteran participants through social media, and specifically targets those who feel isolated and disconnected after leaving service; the organization predominantly recruits veterans from recent conflicts, such as Iraq and Afghanistan, with a young average participant age of 35. Continue reading “Press Release: Veterans Dig History in Groundbreaking Project at Saratoga Battlefield”

From the Preservation Front: “Liberty Trailblazers – American Battlefield Trust”

ABTFrom our friends at American Battlefield Trust (ABT) comes the following announcement and call for assistance. 

The first line of the announcement sums up the importance of this new initiative of the American Battlefield Trust:

“They secured our liberty. It’s time for us to honor their legacy.” 

In a collaboration between the ABT, the National Park Service, and the South Carolina Battleground Trust, the joint initiative is to highlight the “tremendous significance of these places to American independence.” Their combined goal is to preserve 2,500 acres of American Revolutionary War battle lands in the Palmetto State.

As of the middle of this month, 308 acres of hallowed ground has been saved. The land protected are part of the battlefields of Camden and Eutaw Springs, which “bookend a period of incredible consequence to the American Revolution.”

This is a great start, but as that means, it is a beginning and the ABT will need all our help to make it happen. This new direction will bring preservation, education, and technology together into one investment and keep the effort going, until this land is saved for the present and future generations.

For those readers of ours that are already members, thank you. For those that are interested in learning  more, click here.

To check out the various sites and history associated with the Liberty Trail, click here.