Honoring Baron de Kalb and Baseball

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.

Baron de Kalb monument in Annapolis, MD

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.

De Kalb grave site in Camden, SC

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.

New statue to de Kalb at the Revolutionary War Visitor Center in Camden, SC

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.

Oriole Park at Camden Yards

“Rev War Revelry” Nathanael Greene, Quartermaster

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!

One artist’s depiction of what the encampment at Valley Forge looked like

“Rev War Revelry” Author Spotlight  Decision at Brandywine: The Battle on Birmingham Hill with Robert Dunkerly

This Sunday on the Emerging Revolutionary War’s Facebook page, Robert Dunkerly will join the “Rev War Revelry” to discuss his newest publication, Decision at Brandywine: The Battle of Birmingham Hill.

The Battle of Brandywine, fought on September 11, 1777, saw the defeat of the American forces in southeastern Pennsylvania. The victory by the British opened the road to Philadelphia, which fell to Sir William Howe’s forces on September 26, fifteen days after the battle.

Dunkerly, a park ranger with Richmond National Battlefield Park and a contributing historian for Emerging Revolutionary War will discuss the pivotal action that happened around Birmingham Hill on that Thursday in 1777. The engagement at Brandywine was the largest and longest battle in the entire American Revolution and the third bloodiest. This new publication examines the action near Birmingham Hill and Meeting House where the action that day turned against George Washington’s forces.

Thus, this Sunday, at 7 p.m. EDT, tune into ERW’s Facebook page for the next historian happy hour as the popular “Rev War Revelry” series continues with this author spotlight.

“The Unhappy Condition of Our Poor Fellows”

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. 

Continue reading ““The Unhappy Condition of Our Poor Fellows””

“Rev War Revelry” The Battle of Iron Works Hill and the Thirteen Crucial Days

When one thinks of December 1776 in American Revolutionary War history, one’s mind immediately goes to Washington crossing the Delaware River and the Battle of Trenton, fought on December 26th. Historians refer to that engagement as the beginning of the “Ten Crucial Days” that culminated with the American victory at the Battle of Princeton on January 3, 1777.

However, days prior, American militia under Colonel Samuel Griffin fought an engagement with Hessian troops under the command of Colonel Carl von Donop. The actions occurred on December 22 and 23, 1776. Although the American forces were pushed out of their positions, the end result was the occupation of Bordentown by Donop and his troops, approximately 10 miles from their fellow Hessian comrades at Trenton.

To discuss these engagements, collectively known as the Battle of Iron Works Hill, Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes historian Adam Zelinski to “Rev War Revelry.” Zelinski is a writer and published historian and has worked on various projects with the American Battlefield Trust and the American Revolution Museum in Philadelphia. He will also speak on some exciting news coming out of the Iron Works battlefield too.

Emerging Revolutionary War looks forward to you tuning in, this Sunday, at 7 p.m. EST on our Facebook page as we discuss another component of the 1776 campaign season as we prepare for our inaugural bus tour of the Trenton and Princeton battlefields next month (only 4 tickets left!). If you can’t make it on Sunday night, you will be able to find it later (along with all our videos) on our YouTube page.

“Rev War Revelry” Emerging Revolutionary War Meets Sons of History

Join Emerging Revolutionary War this Sunday as we discuss the role of digital history in 2020 with another public history group: the Sons of History

The Sons of History describe their concept via their website as:

“Literally, we are just two guys who love history. We also understand the importance of knowing history and learning from it. But more important than knowing and learning history, we believe we should be teaching it to others.” (https://www.thesonsofhistory.com/)”

Through a website, podcast, and social media, the Sons of History teach numerous aspects of American history to the general public in a similar fashion that ERW does.

We’ll discuss more who they are, why they got into doing digital history, what time periods they cover, and the powerful stories of the past that both ERW and Sons of History tell the public. Also, how and why they matter today. 

So, set your schedule for Sunday evening and tune in at 7 pm ET on ERW’s Facebook page for the next historian happy hour.

History of the Horn Work and the Siege of Charleston

Press Release from our friends at American Battlefield Trust and their Liberty Trail Initiative

In 1757, during the French and Indian War, Lieutenant Emanuel Hess, a Swiss engineer serving in the British 60th Regiment of Foot, designed a series of fortifications to surround Charles Town, South Carolina. Central to this plan was Charles Town’s Horn Work, a large gate flanked by horn-shaped half-bastions covering three city blocks. Before this plan could be fully executed, the threat of a French attack on Charles Town was contained by British victories in Canada and funding for building the fortification system was withdrawn.

However, the Revolutionary War brought a new threat to Charles Town — this time from the British, and work to fortify the city was resumed by determined Patriots. The Horn Work, with its 30-foot-high walls constructed from an oyster-shell cement called tabby, became the centerpiece of the city’s defensive line and the headquarters for American commanding officers.

Beginning in late March 1780, the British laid siege to Charles Town and trapped the American forces in the city. On May 12, 1780, American Generals Benjamin Lincoln and William Moultrie — standing under the Horn Work’s arched gateway — surrendered to the British, in what was the largest American surrender of the war. The fight for American independence looked bleak on that day, but the resolve of the Patriots in the coming months would turn the tide toward victory.

Modern-Day Archeology

In the years following the Revolutionary War, the tabby walls of the Horn Work were dismantled to make way for the growth of the city. Today, all that remains above ground of the once towering structure is a small remnant in Charleston’s Marion Square — a vibrant urban park located in the heart of downtown Charleston and named for Revolutionary War general and backcountry tactician, Francis Marion. Yet, just a foot under the surface of Marion Square, there is much more to discover about the Horn Work.

In February of this year, graduate students from the Clemson/College of Charleston Historic Preservation program, working on behalf of the American Battlefield Trust and South Carolina Battleground Trust’s Liberty Trail, commenced an archeological study to fully document the exact footprint of the Horn Work for the first time. This study was undertaken in partnership with many organizations, including the Charleston County Library, the Charleston Museum, the South Carolina Institute of Archaeology and Anthropology and the Washington Light Infantry and Sumter Guards.

More than 250 years after work began to build the Horn Work, these graduate students utilized modern technology, including ground penetrating radar, to ensure the protection of this important historic resource and enhance future endeavors to tell its story.

Charleston Gateway

While no period drawings or plans of the Horn Work are known to have survived, the findings of this archeological study, together with historical research on comparable tabby fortifications built in the same area and time by the same engineer, have made it possible to create a rendering of the Horn Work for the first time. With this rendering complete, we are now able to explore a variety of opportunities to interpret the Horn Work in the very place it once stood.

Our goal is to create an outdoor exhibit in Marion Square utilizing an array of interpretive techniques, including physical signage, in-ground markers tracing the footprint of the Horn Work, and Augmented Reality — all designed to bring the Horn Work and the Siege of Charleston to life for visitors. Augmented Reality, in particular, presents a chance to use cutting-edge 21st Century technology to tell this 18th Century story.

Just as the Horn Work was the gateway into Charleston before and during the Revolutionary War, we now seek to create a gateway into the Liberty Trail through Marion Square, which will encourage visitation to battlefields throughout South Carolina and beyond.

For more information on this subject, click here.

Thank you to Catherine Noyes, Liberty Trail Program Director for bringing this to our attention,

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 Statement

With the recent events facing our nation, American Revolutionary War monuments and memorials have an important role in demonstrating pride in our shared past and the highest ideals we value.  Statues and monuments to the leaders and participants of the struggle for American independence today stand on battlefields, in courthouse squares and on historic sites all across this nation.  While these statues depict very flawed and imperfect human beings, they memorialize the deeds and character that contributed to the creation of the nation we now live in. 

These statues and monuments not only tell an important part of the nation’s founding, they are also artifacts of the eras in which they were constructed and how we have remembered our Revolutionary struggle, and how the ideals of the Revolution continue to live to this very day. Part of what we do at Emerging Revolutionary War is connect the past to the places today. Over the past few weeks we have seen localities remove or plan to remove statues honoring Caesar Rodney in Delaware and Philip Schuyler in New York.  We have also seen statues of Marquis de Lafayette, Baron von Steuben, and Thaddeus Kosciusko vandalized in Washington, DC, a statue of George Washington vandalized in Boston, statues vandalized in Philadelphia of Washington and Benjamin Franklin, and the Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War in Philadelphia desecrated. 

We feel it is important that all of the United States’ Revolutionary War statues and monuments are protected so they can continue to demonstrate our highest values and ideals and the tell the story of the important figures who shaped our nation. Without these monuments, we lose vital resources to tell the important stories of our past and help unite us in moving forward as a country. As the 250th anniversary of the American Revolution draws near, rather than the removal of monuments, we hope more monuments and memorials will be erected, especially for overlooked populations that also played a role in the founding of our nation. With this more comprehensive view of history in mind, a broader and more accurate story can be told to the American public.  Emerging Revolutionary War will continue to trace the stories of the past and tie them to the places through these challenging times and we look forward to a better tomorrow.

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.

Continue reading “History after a Pandemic”