It is hard to believe but three years ago on April 2020 we, like the rest of the country, were on lock down looking for a way to interact with others (and share our love of history). Thus was born our Rev War Revelry, which started off as every Sunday and morphed into a bi-weekly affair as the world got back to normal. Since April 2020, we have provided nearly 100 hours of free historic content covering a wide array of topics focusing on the Revolutionary Era.
Join us this Sunday at 7pm on our Facebook page as we share drinks, stories and our favorite moments and people in American history. We also will share some exciting plans on for our 2023 Symposium and 2024 bus tour. See you on Sunday night! **cant make it Sunday, all of our Rev War Revelries live on your You Tube and Spotify channels, where you can hear them any time **
Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes guest historian Werther Young.
I’m Too Sexy for My…Bavarian Fly
By Werther Young
Of all of the unique things that have managed to make it to the internet, a concise history of colonial men’s pants flies is surprisingly not one of them.
Our story begins in the Renaissance in, where else, France. King Henry III of France eschewed the old-fashioned dress and hose and embraced a new fashion, culottes, now known as “knee breeches.”
The fly of Henry’s pants was a simple affair, a rectangular panel sewn to the left side with buttonholes that buttoned over the right. This simple and practical design became known as the “French fly” and became almost universal in Western Europe over the next 60 years.
Over time, Ann Bonny’s “long” French fly was perfected into the “short” French fly. Anne’s fly extends from the inseam to the waistband. By merely sewing a few inches of the front seam together, the fly can be made shorter, removing a buttonhole and button or two.
These fly designs apparently did not reach into Eastern Europe, where presumably leather pants were as expensive as wool ones but lasted much longer, because they were never washed. Translating the French Fly into leather posed some problems, and so these leather pants had a different fly, essentially a hole in the center front with a panel buttoned over it that flipped or dropped up and down as necessary. This design caught on in the Alpine areas of central Europe, and especially in Bavaria under the label of “Lederhosen,” which is German for “leather pants.”
The Bavarian fly migrated further north, as in the Deutsches Museum in Berlin can be found a pair of enlisted trousers from the mid-1700s, with a half drop front fly; that is, it opens only the right side. This is essentially a cheaper fly, because it needs only one button to close, and does the same thing.
By the middle 1700s, the French fly had been around for over 150 years, and someone in France started a different fashion (and outdoing the Huns) by putting the two -opening Bavarian fly on culottes, thus making the culottes “a la Bavarois,” French for “like the Bavarians.” This was runway level high fashion for the time, and quickly spread among the well to do as the latest thing, with a new name, the “drop front” or “fall front” fly. Unfortunately, translating the design from leather, which does not unravel, to fabric, which does, made the Bavarian fly extremely complicated and therefore expensive. This of course added to its cachet, so much so that by 1775, it had reached the aristocracy even in the backwater of Colonial America.
Colonial Williamsburg has a fabulous collection of high-status men’s pants from the 18th century. A survey thereof shows the number of French flies waning into the 1770s, and the number of Bavarian drop front flies waxing beginning in 1775, reaching a height about 1800. Unfortunately, these are all very high-status garments, such as a pair of “button front breeches of cream-colored silk velvet, with repeat of small pink and green flowers self-covered buttons, those at knee embroidered with metallic silver thread. Silver galloon strap at knee.” But did the states and Continent really issue enlisted soldiers what amounts to hand made Givenchy trousers? Of course not.
The false idea that they did partially comes from a series of paintings done by Charles M. Lefferts in the early 1900s, later published as Uniforms of the Armies in the War of the American Revolution, 1775–1783. in 1926.
Measuring this man’s height against the known length of his musket makes him about 6’4 inches tall, the height of actors Clint Walker, Chuck Connors, Clint Eastwood, and the average NBA basketball player. If you look below the point of his vest, he is wearing drop front pants over his massive thighs. Curiously, he is also wearing a 1760s style skirted vest and long regimental coat. Are we to believe that Maryland issued its men old fashioned vests and coats, but high fashion breeches? Since Lefferts was born in 1873, he had no first-hand knowledge of his subject, we must look to period images.
Alas, these are of little help. It is difficult to discern whether any of the men in period paintings are wearing French Fly pants, Bavarian drop front pants, or anything else. The most informative images, the von German drawings, are unfortunately from the side, and of no help.
Since information is so scarce, we must turn to the other reason we believe that rev war soldiers wore drop front pants. Klinger’s Sketchbook ’76. Page 9 shows a pair of Bavarian drop front breeches, based on George Washington’s uniform in the Smithsonian, and Lt. Col. Tench Tilghman’s uniform from the Maryland Historical Society. This is odd, because Washington’s uniform is from the 1794, 15 years after the war and at the height of the drop front craze. Tilghman was the scion of a blue blood family, owned half of Baltimore, was an aide to Washington, and hobnobbed with Lafayette. Even if his uniform can be dated to the war years, it is not only a high-status uniform, but one of the highest status possible in America at the time; his not wearing Bavarian trousers would be of greater note. Neither are evidence that any of the 13 colonies nor the Continent paid to make their enlisted men such high fashion trousers.
On Sketchbook page11, Klinger bases his Bavarian drop front overalls on unspecified plates in “Bernard’s History of England” and the images above. While these may establish Bavarian drop front flies supplied by the King George, it certainly does not necessarily mean that the colonies were doing so.
Surprisingly, two pairs of enlisted overalls are known to exist, mistakenly labelled as “Pantaloons,” and residing in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Department. These are exquisitely made, and probably military examples, but unfortunately European, and from 1793 and later.
No credible evidence exists that any of the 13 colonies nor the Continent issued its troops Bavarian drop front pants. This makes sense, as that design is difficult to make, does the exact same thing as the simple French fly, and fashionable pants do not really contribute much extra to Liberty. Additionally, with all but the highest status clothiers making French fly pants, retraining them to cut out and make the new design would seriously impede production, even assuming that patterns and training could be somehow provided from Georgia to Vermont at a time when the men could barely be supplied a musket or shirt. In the War of the Revolution, the colonists were by all indications wearing French fly breeches and overalls, not drop front ones a la Bavarois.
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.
Examples of women’s political participation in the Revolutionary movement are hard to find. Women were not permitted to be politically active in the eighteenth century, yet many got involved anyway and pushed back against prevailing social norms. There are two examples of women organizing protests within six months of each other in 1774, both in North Carolina. Unfortunately, few details exist of these happenings. Primary sources on many colonial-era events are limited, and they are even more so with these two examples.
By the early 1770s, tensions had been building for a decade between the North American colonists and British officials. Debate swirled around taxes, representation, and rights. Parliament affirmed their right to tax all citizens of the empire, while Americans insisted that only their locally elected representatives (colonial legislatures) could do so.
Today, Emerging Revolutionary War is pleased to welcome guest writer, Arthur Ceconi.
There are a few figures from the French and Indian War that are recognizable to Americans today. They the European generals Jeffery Amherst, James Wolfe, and Louis-Joseph de Montcalm – Grozon, Marquis de Montcalm de Saint-Veran, and two North Americans, George Washington and Robert Rogers. In some ways Robert Rogers is the person that many Americans growing up in the 20th century associate with the French and Indian War.
In part, Rogers’ recognizability can be traced to the historical novel Northwest Passage by Kenneth Roberts, which was published in 1937. It was the second best-selling novel published that year behind Gone with the Wind. The book is split into two parts – the first part is about the 1759 raid on the Abenaki village of St. Francis by Robert Rogers and his Rangers, and the second part is about Rogers’ post French and Indian War life.
In 1940 MGM released the movie Northwest Passage (covering the raid on St. Francis) starring Spencer Tracy, Robert Young, and Walter Brennan. The movie was nominated for an Academy Award for best cinematography. MGM later produced a Northwest Passage TV series, and its 26 episodes aired in 1958 and 1959.
Rogers’ Early Life and the Beginning of the French and Indian War.
Robert Rogers was born in Massachusetts in 1731 and raised on the New Hampshire frontier. Little is known about Rogers’ life prior to 1754.
In 1754 he was arrested for counterfeiting and was standing for trial in 1755 when New Hampshire began enlisting men for an expedition to take Fort St. Frederic at Crown Point on Lake Champlain. Rogers raised a fifty-man company and obtained a captain’s commission. Rogers’ company was part of a regiment commanded by Joseph Blanchard, a justice who presided over the counterfeiting case. With that, the case ended. Rogers’ first lieutenant was a man, who a few months earlier had provided incriminating testimony against him in the counterfeiting case, named John Stark.
The expedition against Fort St. Frederic, led by William Johnson, was underway when Rogers and his company arrived at the south end of Lake George a few days after Johnson’s colonial and native force defeated the French and allied native army led by Baron de Dieskau in September 1755.
After the Battle of Lake George Johnson’s force did not advance and began construction of Fort William Henry. With Johnson’s native allies gone, he called upon Rogers and his New Hampshire men for scouting/reconnaissance and harassing/spoiling missions. The missions were directed at Fort St. Frederic and Fort Carillon at Ticonderoga and brought back critical intelligence on the French movements and manpower, and they raised Rogers’ profile and stature. The missions continued through the winter of 1755 – 1756 and kept the French on edge. Rogers and the rangers were providing the Anglo-American military on the New York frontier with a scouting capability they sorely lacked. In my view these small detachment scouting and harassing missions were where Rogers and the rangers excelled. Because of their success, Rogers was charged in 1756 with raising an independent company of rangers.
Rogers and Larger Scale Missions He Commanded
Due to their audacious and successful spoiling raids, Rogers and the rangers were marked men. From this point forward I am of the opinion that Rogers’ and the rangers’ significant engagements were largely unsuccessful and some were disastrous.
The First Battle on Snowshoes occurred in January 1757. Rogers and his command left Fort Edward and, after stopping at Fort William Henry, traveled down a frozen Lake George and bypassed Fort Carillon at its northern end. Several miles north of Fort Carillon they saw a French sled heading for Fort St. Frederic. John Stark and a group of rangers took the sled and seven prisoners. However, a larger trailing group of French sleds observed the ambush and escaped to Fort Carillon. Knowing they were now discovered, Rogers called a council of war to decide on their return route to Fort William Henry. The officers recommended making a return by Wood Creek, east of Lake George, but Rogers overruled the council and ordered a march to their last campsite. This tactic violated Rogers’ Rule 5 of ranging he had authored: “[I]n your return take a different route from that in which you went out, that you may the better discover any party in your rear, and have an opportunity, if their strength be superior to yours, to alter your course, or disperse, as circumstances may require.”
After gathering themselves at the prior campsite they dried their muskets and began their 40-mile journey to Fort William Henry. Late in the afternoon a combined French and native force of about 180 men ambushed Rogers and his party. After the initial shock from the ambush the rangers killed the seven French captives and formed a defensive perimeter holding out until nightfall, when they were able to retreat to Lake George. The rangers eventually arrived at Fort William Henry two days later. The battle toll on the rangers was substantial – of the 74 rangers in the battle 14 were killed, six were wounded, and six missing. The French reported 18 dead (11 from the battle plus the seven captives killed at the outset of the ambush) and 27 wounded (casualty figures from French and Indian War frontier engagements should be taken with a grain of salt).
For the remainder of 1757 Rogers did not participate in the Northern New York theatre as he was sick with smallpox and later assigned to a failed campaign to take Louisburg. However, the rangers were involved in both battles at Fort William Henry, the one in March and the siege in August.
In March 1758 Rogers led a force of about 180 out of Fort Edward toward Fort Carillon. It was bitter cold and they proceeded down a frozen Lake George. Before leaving, Rogers feared the secrecy of the mission may have been compromised in the days leading up to their departure by colonials captured outside Fort Edward. During their journey the rangers found signs they were being observed, and in fact the French had discovered Rogers was approaching and watched his progress down Lake George. Rogers decided to approach Fort Carillon by leaving Lake George and traveling overland from the southwest down Trout Brook, a small stream. The snow was four feet deep and the rangers donned large racquet like snowshoes. Rogers expected a French patrol would follow the brook and the rangers set-up an ambush.
Rogers’ instincts were correct and as a 95-man patrol consisting mainly of natives entered the kill zone an ambush was triggered. The rangers initial volley killed and wounded many (Rogers reported 40 killed), with the survivors fleeing. Some of the rangers descended on the dead and wounded and began killing the wounded and scalping the dead. A large group of rangers chased the fleeing French and native survivors along Trout Brook and they ran head long into the main French and native force of about 200 led by the Canadian partisan fighter Ensign Jean-Baptiste Langy. Langy’s main party unleashed a devastating volley on the rangers killing outright upwards of 50 rangers. Within minutes the rangers were overwhelmed by the counterattack and faced annihilation. Rogers rallied his remaining force and began a close-range fighting retreat toward Lake George. The situation was growing desperate—Rogers had lost maybe half his force within a short time and men were continuing to drop under the relentless assault of the French and natives. As darkness fell, Rogers and what was left of his command scattered and made their way to a rendezvous on Lake George. Rogers’ escape is a mystery, but the legend is he slid down what is now known as Rogers Rock to the shore of the frozen lake. A couple days after the battle Rogers and what remained of his command made their way to Fort Edward. The rangers were decimated – only about 50 survived.
In the summer of 1758 a British and American force of 17,000, the largest ever assembled in North America, gathered at the south end of Lake George. Their first objective was Fort Carillon, approximately 35 miles north. The army embarked by water with Rogers and the rangers leading the way. Upon landing a few miles from Fort Carillon Rogers was sent ahead to secure an advance position and, finding no French, they were followed by a mixed advance guard of British regulars and colonials led by Brigadier General Lord George Augustus Howe, who was effectively the leader of the British expedition. The advance Anglo-American guard encountered difficulty negotiating the terrain and collided surprisingly with a French party. In the ensuing engagement the French were routed, but significantly, Lord Howe was killed. With his death, General James Abercromby lost the heart of the command structure. A couple days later Abercromby ordered the army to assault the French entrenched defensive line with the disastrous consequences of approximately 1,000 dead and 1,500 wounded between the two sides.
Following the Battle of Carillon, Abercromby’s army retreated and encamped at the south end of Lake George. Fort Edward, situated on the Hudson River about 15 miles south, supplied Abercromby’s army by a military road. The British supply trains were regularly attacked by French and native raiders who inflicted serious casualties and ransacked the supplies. Following a couple major attacks Abercromby ordered a mixed force of rangers, colonials and regulars commanded by Rogers and Israel Putnam to intercept and destroy the raiders. A force of about 700 men set out for South Bay and Wood Creek, an area a few miles east of Lake George.
After more than a week in the field Rogers’ and Putnam’s command could not locate the enemy, and the sick and injured were sent to Fort Edward reducing its size to 600. The British force camped near the ruins of the long-abandoned Fort Anne. Feeling secure, camp security was dropped, including Rogers and a British officer competing in a marksmanship contest. Lurking nearby was a Canadian and native force of about 350 – 450 men led by Captain Joseph Marin de La Malgue, an experienced and skilled partisan fighter. Marin set-up an ambush which the British force stumbled into. The ambush was sprung and Putnam was seized at its onset. Rogers rallied the command and beat back the French, inflicting serious casualties. Reported British losses were 37 dead, 40 wounded and 26 missing. Rogers returned to Fort Edward with 50 plus scalps and it had been estimated Marin may have lost as many as 70 to 100 men.
In 1759 Major General Jeffery Amherst led a campaign to take Forts Carillon and St. Frederic and drive north up the Richelieu River into Canada. As the army of 11,000 approached Forts Carillon and St. Frederic the French blew up the forts and withdrew north into Canada. The campaign stalled as the British began construction of a massive fort at Crown Point, next to the ruins of Fort St. Frederic. Rogers and his rangers were attached to Amherst’s army.
Rogers had long wanted to attack an Abenaki settlement at St. Francis, which is located south of the St. Lawrence River about midway between Montreal and Quebec. The Abenaki originally lived in Massachusetts and Maine, but as the English encroached, a group settled in St. Francis. Around 1700 the Jesuits established a mission at St. Francis converting many Abenakis to Catholicism, and the St. Francis people became closely allied with the French. For decades Abenaki war parties from St. Francis terrorized the New England frontier, developing a notorious reputation among English frontier settlers such as Rogers.
In September 1759 Amherst approved a raid on St. Francis. Rogers with a force of approximately 200 men – rangers, Stockbridge natives, provincials and British regulars – left Crown Point by whaleboat heading 80 miles north down Lake Champlain. After beaching their craft, they set out on foot across Southern Canada; St. Francis was 75 miles away. Soon after leaving Lake Champlain their boats were discovered by the French and Rogers was warned by Stockbridge allies of the French discovery. Rogers considered his options and decided to push on to St. Francis. He sent back to Crown Point 58 sick and injured, proceeding with 142 men. The trip was daunting as the expedition crossed spruce bogs and unforgiving wilderness reaching St. Francis on October 4, three weeks after leaving Crown Point.
At daybreak Rogers’ force struck St. Francis and overwhelmed the village. Most of the Abenaki warriors were away. After pillaging the village the English torched it and departed knowing full well they were being pursued. The English battle casualties were one killed and seven wounded and the estimates of Abenaki killed range from 30 to 200.
After traveling through Southern Canada Rogers’ force was out of food and still being pursued. After nine days the party split up, with most heading to a rendezvous on the Connecticut River. At the rendezvous the expected relief was absent so Rogers traveled to Fort No. 4 and brought food and supplies to his starving survivors on November 4. The objective was achieved, St. Francis was destroyed, but of the 142-man English force that raided the village only 80 men made it to Fort No. 4 and Crown Point.
What to make of Rogers
Rogers is an iconic French and Indian War personality. He is the key figure in many books, a landmark movie, and a TV show. Historians have studied him for centuries. But how should he be viewed as a military figure?
The French and Indian War’s frontier was violent and brutal. The terrain was rugged and engagements often occurred in remote areas during the winter. The weapons were lethal and wounds very often fatal.
My opinion is that Rogers was a highly capable woodsman and scout at a time when the English sorely lacked such capability. The raids he conducted in 1755 and 1756 kept the French on constant alert and provided British forces with much needed intelligence. He was brave, physically strong, indefatigable, and a leader of men. I would not call him a uniquely capable woodsman because Canada had many experienced and battle-hardened Canadian officers of Compagnies franches de la Marinein the field such as Langy, Marin, and Langlade, as well as a large contingent of coureur des bois, and one can plausibly argue these Canadians were superior bush fighters to Rogers. His Rules for Ranging Service have withstood the test time. Some of Rogers’ best personal qualities (bravery, leadership, clear thinking, resourcefulness) showed when he faced possible disaster as he and the rangers were able to inflict significant casualties on their foes and Rogers every time led his surviving command to safety.
When I push my self back and examine Rogers as a military tactician and his contributions to the British triumph in North America I have a very different opinion from many historians. Why was he ambushed so often? Why did he fail to adhere to the Rules for Ranging Service at key times? Why were his men put at risk in battles and campaigns of no strategic consequence? In the crucial British victories of the French and Indian War Rogers did not play a role.
The purpose of this essay is not to tarnish Rogers’ military legacy, but to rather bring to light the blemishes of his service in the French and Indian War so there can be a balanced view of “the brave Major Rogers.”
White Devil by Steven Brumwell
A True Ranger by Gary Stephen Zaboly
The History of Rogers Rangers, Volume 1, by Burt Garfield Loescher
War on the Run by John F. Ross
Betrayals by Ian K. Steele
The Annotated and Illustrated Journals of Major Robert Rogers by Timothy Todish
Ticonderoga 1758 by Rene Chartand
Empires in the Mountains by Russell P. Bellico
Stark by Richard Polhemus and John Polhemus
Rogers Rangers and the French and Indian War by Bradford Smith
Wilderness Empire by Allan W. Eckert
Robert Rogers’ Rules For Ranging Service
Northwest Passage by Kenneth Roberts
Crown Point State Historic Site
Fort William Henry Museum
Lake George Battlefield Park
Rogers Island Visitors Center and Museum
Art Ceconi was raised in North Tarrytown, New York (now Sleepy Hollow) and is a longtime resident of Montville, New Jersey where he currently lives with his wife Eileen. A retired tax attorney, he earned degrees from Fordham University (BS), Rutgers Business School (MBA), Rutgers School of Law (JD), and New York University School of Law (LLM).
Art’s passion for North American colonial history took root with a family vacation to Lake George as a 7th grader. His reading and research centers on the French and Indian War and Revolutionary War. As his five daughters can attest, no family vacation was complete without visiting at least one historical site.
My recent comments about Stacy Schiff’s The Revolutionary Samuel Adams got me thinking about some of John Adams’s thoughts about his second cousin. In particular, John shared a neat story about Sam’s secretiveness—a problem that has bedeviled biographers, including Schiff, because Sam didn’t leave behind a trove of documentary evidence the way other Founders did.
“I have seen him . . .” said John, “in Philadelphia, when he was about to leave Congress, cut up with his scissors whole bundles of letters, into atoms that could never be reunited, and throw them out at the window, to be scattered by the winds. This was in summer, when he had no fire. In winter he threw whole handfuls into the fire. As we were on terms of perfect intimacy, I have joked him, perhaps rudely, upon his anxious caution. His answer was, ‘Whatever becomes of me, my friends shall never suffer by my negligence.’”
John admired Sam, 13 years his senior, a great deal. The two were hardly acquainted growing up, but as John started off his legal career in Boston, Sam—a great cultivator of talent—pegged him as someone to develop. As tensions in Boston grew between the Sons of Liberty, British officials, and far-off Parliament, Sam brought John into the inner circle because of John’s sharp legal mind. The decision paved John’s eventual path to national politics.
“Mr. Adams was an original,” John said of Sam, saying he was “born and tempered a wedge of steel. . . .”
In his common appearance, he was a plain, simple, decent citizen, of middling stature, dress and manners. He had an exquisite ear for music, and a charming voice, when he pleased to exert it.—Yet his ordinary speeches in town meetings, in the house of representatives and in congress, exhibited nothing extraordinary; but upon great occasions, when his deeper feelings were excited, he erected himself, or rather nature seemed to erect him, without the smallest symptom of affectation, into an upright dignity of figure and gesture, and gave a harmony to his voice, which made a strong impression on spectators and auditors, the more lasting for the purity, correctness and nervous elegance of his style.
John spoke on several occasions of Sam’s “an air of dignity and majesty.” He admired Sam’s “harmonious voice and decisive tone” and his “self-recollection, a self-possession, a self-command, a presence of mind that was admired by every man present. . . .” He also listed “his caution, his discretion, his ingenuity, his sagacity, his self-command, his presence of mind, and his intrepidity” as traits that “commanded the admiration” of friend and foe alike—friends who applauded him and foes who could not help but respect Sam Adams’s considerable populist powers.
It is little doubt why John later said, “Without the character of Samuel Adams, the true history of the American Revolution can never be written.”
Join us on Sunday night at 7 p.m. on our Facebook page as we welcome historian and author Mike Cecere to discuss his latest book: “Williamsburg at War: Virginia’s Capital in the Revolutionary War.” Williamsburg witnessed many crucial events during the Revolution and war. From the Stamp Tax Resolves of 1765, meetings at the Raleigh Tavern in 1769 and 1774, the gunpowder incident and formation of troops in 1775, the unanimous decision of the 5th Virginia Convention to support American independence in May 1776, the steady support of the continental army throughout the war, two brief enemy occupations in 1781, and finally, as a staging area for the Siege of Yorktown in 1781, Williamsburg played a significant role in the Revolution and Revolutionary War.
Can’t make it this Sunday? You can see a recorded version on our YouTube page or on our podcast!
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.
Join us this Sunday, February 5th at 7pm as we welcome back historian and author Robert Dunkerly. The Battle of Eutaw Springs took place on September 8, 1781, and was among the last in the War of Independence. It was brutal in its combat and reprisals, with Continental and Whig militia fighting British regulars and Loyalist regiments. Although its outcome was seemingly inconclusive, the battle, fought near present-day Eutawville, South Carolina, contained all the elements that defined the war in the South. Shrouded in myth and misconception, the battle has also been overshadowed by the surrender of Yorktown.
Eutaw Springs represented lost opportunities for both armies. The American forces were desperate for a victory in 1781, and Gen. Nathanael Greene finally had the ground of his own choosing. British forces under Col. Alexander Stewart were equally determined to keep a solid grip on the territory they still held in the South Carolina lowcountry.
In one of the bloodiest battles of the war, both armies sustained heavy casualties with each side losing nearly 20 percent of its soldiers. Neither side won the hard-fought battle, and controversies plagued both sides in the aftermath. Join us as we talk about the Battle Eutaw Springs with ERW”s own Bert Dunkerly, co-author of the book Eutaw Springs: The Final Battle of the American Revolution’s Southern Campaign live on our Facebook page on February 5th at 7pm, or you can watch/listen to the replay anytime on our You Tube page and podcast channel.
Join us on Sunday, January 22 at 7 p.m. on our Facebook page as we welcome author Gene Procknow to discuss his new book: “William Hunter – Finding Free Speech: A British Soldier’s Son Who Became an Early American.” During the American Revolution, Hunter accompanied his father on a campaign to fight the American Rebels. Witnessing first-hand the terrors of combat and twice experiencing capture, Hunter wrote the only surviving account written by a child of a British soldier during the American Revolution. Previously unknown, the journal is one of the most important document discoveries in recent years. He later became a prominent newspaper editor and representative. Join us as we learn more about this fascinating story from early American history.
Can’t make it this Sunday? You can see a recorded version on our YouTube page or on our podcast!