Rev War Revelry: 2023 Bus Tour Reveal

We have A LOT to be thankful for in 2022! We had a great year in releasing new Emerging Revolutionary War book titles, blog posts, 26 Rev War Revelries, many partnerships with the American Battlefield Trust, Americana Corner & many others. Most of all, we are thankful for a successful Second Annual ERW Bus Tour. We are now all recovered & ready for 2023’s bus tour! This Sunday’s Rev War Revelry focus is to reveal the topic and location of our Third Annual Bus Tour.

We will recap our 2022 bus tour, share some fun stories from this year’s tour and set the scene for 2023. We will discuss the sites we will visit, the personalities, battles and stories that our tour will focus on.

We hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving & as you think of gifts for friends and family that love history, be sure to check out our books & the 2023 bus tour.

You can tune in live to the discussion on our Facebook page on Sunday, November 27 at 7:00 p.m. EST. Can’t make it for the live viewing? Check out the recording later on our Facebook page, our YouTube page, or our podcast!

“Rev War Revelry” Book Chat with Bert Dunkerly

 “The Importance of the North River (the Hudson), and the sanguine wishes of all to prevent the enemy from possessing it, have been the causes of this unhappy catastrophe.” So wrote General George Washington in 1776 as the British invaded New Jersey. Worse was to come, as the British overran the state, and the Americans suffered one unhappy catastrophe after another.

 Central New Jersey witnessed many small battles and important events during the American Revolution. This area saw it all: from spies and espionage, to military encampments like Morristown and Middlebrook, to mutinies, raids, and full-blown engagements like Bound Brook, Short Hills, and Springfield. The British had their own catastrophes too. So did civilians caught in the middle.

Continue reading ““Rev War Revelry” Book Chat with Bert Dunkerly”

Discovery of Human Remains at Red Bank Battlefield

In the summer of 2022, archaeologists discovered the remains of 13 Hessians who had been killed during the Battle of Red Bank in New Jersey. The Battle of Red Bank was fought on October 22, 1777 and resulted in the deaths of dozens of Hessian soldiers. Join Emerging Revolutionary War as we welcome one of the archaeologists who worked on the project, Wade Catts, to discuss the battle, the surprising discovery that occurred this summer, and what we can learn from archaeology about the men who fought the battle 245 years ago.

You can tune in live to the discussion on our Facebook page on Sunday, October 30 at 7:00 p.m. EST. Can’t make it for the live viewing? Check out the recording later on our Facebook page, our YouTube page, or our podcast!

Tippecanoe Battlefield

During a recent trip following VA Militia Colonel George Rogers Clark and his Illinois Campaign, my brother and I stopped off at the Tippecanoe Battlefield Interpretive Center in the appropriately-named Battlefield, Indiana, not far from Lafayette.  The battlefield park encompasses the site of a clash between American soldiers and a multinational coalition of Native Americans led by Tecumseh and his brother Tenskwatawa, more widely known as “The Prophet.”  It is a gem of a battlefield from America’s founding era.  The Treaty of Paris ceded British “authority” over the Northwest Territory to the new United States.  Of course, it did so without consulting the Native Americans who actually lived there.  That imposition of a European concept naturally led to resistance and involved the United States in some of its earliest wars as a country, notably the War for the Northwest Territory during the Washington Administration and then Tecumseh’s resistance movement and the War of 1812, in which Native Americans in the area primarily sided with the British.  Like St. Clair’s Defeat (1791), the Battle of Fallen Timbers (1794), and the Battle on the Thames (1813), Tippecanoe (1811) became a milestone among those conflicts.  

Harrison Monument at Tippecanoe in Battlefield, IN. The hilltop stretches into the distance. Some of the trees visible were present during the battle, but are dying from the afflictions that affect aging trees.

Concerned by growing nativist sentiment and alliances among the Indians from several different tribes, Indiana Territorial Governor William Henry Harrison led nearly 1,000 infantry, militia, and cavalry north from Vincennes to a growing Indian Settlement known as Prophetstown established by the Shawnee leaders Tecumseh and the Prophet.  Expecting a parlay with Tenskwatawa on November 7, Harrison made camp on a hill near Tippecanoe creek the night of November 6, 1811.  Tecumseh, an experienced war captain and diplomat, was away from Prophetstown at the time, leaving his brother nominally in charge, although various war captains and chiefs from tribes interested in The Prophet’s message were at Prophetstown as well.  

Continue reading “Tippecanoe Battlefield”

A Congregation on the Pennsylvania Frontier

In 1729, along the Susquehanna River in central Pennsylvania, Derry Township was formed. Populated by the numerous Scots-Irish people who had emigrated from Northern Ireland, in 1729 Derry Township, near present-day Hershey, was very much a frontier settlement; part of the gateway to the American West.

Historic Marker in Derry Township

That same year, in a little grove, the Derry Presbyterian Church was officially established. Tradition has it that the Presbyterians were meeting for worship in the grove, near a fresh-water spring, as early as 1724. In 1732, the Congregation called its first pastor, the Scotsman, Reverend William Bertram, who would pastor the churches in both Derry and Paxtang (Paxton) Townships. At this time, the Derry congregation erected its first Session House. This building was a small affair, built of rough, hand-hewn logs. Its sole source of heat in the winter was a stone fireplace situated along one of the walls. The Session House was never used for worship, per se, but, among other things it would serve as a pastor’s study, a place for Sunday School classes, and other types of church meetings. Also, this small, unassuming log building was used as the first schoolhouse in this area of Pennsylvania where the main course of study was reading.  

In 1741, the land on which the current Derry Presbyterian Church building stands was deeded to the church congregation by John, Thomas, and Richard Penn, who were the sons of William Penn, the founder of the Pennsylvania Colony.

In the 1740’s, a new pastor stepped into the pulpits at Derry and Paxton Church, the Reverend John Elder. Like his predecessor, Rev. Bertram, John Elder was likewise educated in Scotland at the University of Edinburgh. With the outbreak of what is known in America as the French and Indian War, and increased conflict between the Scots-Irish settlers and local Native Tribes, Rev. Elder organized a company of local militia from Paxton Township, known as the Paxton Boys. Like most men in the area at the time, it is remembered that Rev. Elder brought his rifle, powder horn, and shot pouch to church services and was known as the “Fighting Parson”. The end of the war brought a tenuous peace to the frontier, but it was fleeting. Tensions between the frontiersmen and Native tribesmen were renewed in earnest in 1763 when Pontiac’s Rebellion spread into Pennsylvania, leading to depredations on both sides. Frustrated by what they apparently felt was a lack of action taken by Pennsylvania’s Colonial Government, Rev. Elder’s company, the Paxton Boys, are best remembered as a vigilante force who murdered around 20 peaceful Susquehannock men, women, and children in attacks that are remembered collectively as the Conestoga Massacre.

Derry Presbyterian Church Cemetary

A colonial-era cemetery stands on the property of modern Derry Presbyterian Church. According to the church records, the earliest grave here dates back to 1735. Within the stone wall surrounding this cemetery can be found the graves of at least forty American veterans; soldiers of the frontier and of the American Revolution. Their graves are marked with small American flags and metal plaques denoting their military service.

Revolutionary War Grave Marker

Over the centuries, other buildings have been erected on the property of Derry Presbyterian Church, but ever faithful, the original Session House, the small log building that played such a prominent role in the early days of the frontier congregation, built in the same year of George Washington’s birth, continues to stand watch. In the early 20th Century, the Session House was recognized as the oldest structure in Derry Township. In order to preserve the building, in 1929, chocolate magnate Milton Hershey had it enclosed in a glass structure that protects it to this day.

1732 Session House

267th Anniversary of the Battle of Lake George

Today marks the 267th anniversary of one of the first true “American military victories” during the 18th century: the battle of Lake George, New York. Fought just two months after Braddock’s Defeat along the Monongahela, William Johnson’s army of New Yorkers, New Englanders, and Mohawk warriors successfully halted a French advance that could have opened up the road to Albany. If you are unfamiliar with this key battle of the French and Indian War, check out our interviews below with the Lake George Battlefield Park Alliance, and ERW’s own Billy Griffith, the author of The Battle of Lake George: England’s First Triumph in the French and Indian War.

Braddock’s Defeat: An Evening with David L. Preston

On July 9, 1755, British regulars and American colonial troops under the command of General Edward Braddock, commander in chief of His Majesty’s Forces in North America, were attacked by French and Native American warriors shortly after crossing the Monongahela River while making their way to besiege Fort Duquesne in the Ohio Valley near modern-day Pittsburgh. The long line of red-coated troops struggled to maintain cohesion and discipline as Native American warriors quickly outflanked them and used the dense cover of the woods to masterful and lethal effect. Within hours, a powerful British army was routed, its commander mortally wounded, and two-thirds of its forces casualties in one the worst disasters in British military history.

Join us this Sunday evening at 7 p.m. for our latest Rev War Revelry as we sit down with historian David L. Preston to discuss his book and this critical event in America’s colonial history.

An Advantageous Situation

Not long after the American surrender of Charleston, SC in May 1780, British infantry and cavalry detachments began moving inland, deploying across South Carolina. Hoping to create a defensive perimeter, they occupied various towns such as Camden and Ninety-Six. After Charleston fell, Patriot hopes in South Carolina rested almost solely on a few partisan fighters.

Prior to the surrender, however, General George Washington yet had hopes of lifting the British siege and raising the spirits of the southern people. From his post in the North, he dispatched a force of Maryland and Delaware Continental brigades to South Carolina. Under the overall command of Major General Johann von Robais, Baron de Kalb, the regiments making up these brigades contained some of the toughest combat troops to ever see action in the Continental Army. And their commander, the German-born, 59-year-old de Kalb, was himself a seasoned veteran of many European battlefields.

By mid-July, and after a difficult march through Virginia, de Kalb’s regulars reached Buffalo Ford in North Carolina where they halted to await orders and much needed supplies. Joining them in camp a few days later was the newly appointed commander of the Southern American Army, Major General Horatio Gates. Sent by Congress, the “Hero of Saratoga” brought news that a large force of Virginia militia was on its way to join them.

Major General Horatio Gates

At Buffalo Ford, Gates took stock of what he would term his “Grand Army”. The 1st Maryland Brigade was commanded by General William Smallwood. The 2nd Maryland, which included Colonel David Vaughn’s venerable Delaware Regiment, was under the command of General Mordecai Gist. There were three companies of Continental Artillery, with Lieutenant Colonel Charles Armand Tuffin, Marquis de la Rouerie’s Legion of approximately 120 infantry and cavalry troops on its way. Expecting militia troops from Virginia and North Carolina, Gates made the decision to focus his energies on Camden. To the dismay of his officers, he ordered his tired and hungry troops to prepare to march.

On August 13, 1780, by what some officers considered to have been an unnecessarily circuitous route, the Patriot army, which now included around 100 Virginia State troops under Lieutenant Colonel Charles Porterfield and the North Carolina militia commanded by General Richard Caswell, straggled into Rugeley’s Mills. Located around thirteen miles from Camden, the site was owned by loyalist, Colonel Henry Rugeley, and consisted of his home, barn, and mills. The next day, August 14, saw the arrival of the long-awaited Virginia militia, 700 strong, under General Edward Stevens.

At about this time, Horatio Gates made the dubious decision to detach around 300 regulars from the 5th Maryland Regiment, along with two field pieces, to join the partisan forces of General Thomas Sumter. Known as the Gamecock, Sumter was operating on the west side of the Wateree River and hoped to capture a British supply train heading to Camden from the post at Ninety-Six.

Almost immediately upon his arrival, General Gates made the determination that Rugeley’s Mills was not a secure and defensible position and sought information regarding sites closer to the British garrison which was now consolidated within the defenses at Camden. On August 15, he sent his capable engineering officer, the European Colonel John Christian Senf, along with Lieutenant Colonel Charles Porterfield, south along the Great Wagon Road towards Camden to reconnoiter. Returning from the scout, Senf recommended a defensible spot about halfway between Rugeley’s Mills and the town. In his later report to Congress regarding the affair, Gates indicated that, upon receiving the engineer’s report, he resolved to “…take post in an Advantageous Situation, with a deep creek in front, about seven miles from Camden.” 

It was believed by some at the time that Gates’ intention, in moving the army closer to the British, was to use what he believed to be his numerical superiority to attack and overwhelm a smaller enemy force. In a communication to his acting deputy adjutant general, the Marylander, Colonel Otho Holland Williams, General Gates relayed to him “a rough estimate of the forces under his command, making them upwards of 7,000.”  British strength was, at the time, estimated to be around 2,500, with several hundred ill and unfit for duty. Based on these troop figures, or what he believed them to be, an argument could reasonably be made that, at least initially, Gates was indeed contemplating a surprise attack on the British on the night of August 15, 1780. According to his Aide-de-Camp, Major Thomas Pinckney of South Carolina, a staunch supporter of the General, it was actually not Gates’ desire with this move to attack the enemy, however, “but for the purpose of occupying a strong position so near him as to confine his operations, to cut off his supplies of provisions, and to harass him.”  Such a move, therefore, to confine and harass the British is more logical, as it would be reminiscent of the strategy that had worked so well for Gates against British General John Burgoyne, at Bemis Heights, during the fighting at Saratoga in 1777.

On the afternoon of the 15th, Gates called “all the general officers in the army, to a council, to be held in Rugeley’s Barn.” Gates presented his plan to march south, with no objections voiced by the officers in attendance. According to the engineer, Colonel. Senf, “It was unanimously agreed upon to march that night the army to that creek, by which means they could get a more secure encampment, come nearer Genl Sumter, occupy the road on the east side of Wateree River, and would be able to get nearer intelligence of the enemy.” Otho Holland Williams would later write that, while there were no dissenting votes by the officers present, there were a few who harbored misgivings on the possible success of an American army comprised of so many green, untested militiamen. Still, the orders were issued; the army would “march at 10 PM at Night.” 

Upon learning of General Gates’ questionable estimate of his army’s troop strength, Colonel Williams had gone about the business of ascertaining a more reliable return from the field officers. In a lengthy description by Williams, he “busied himself in collecting these returns and forming an abstract for the general’s better information. This abstract was presented to the general just as the council broke up…He (Gates) cast his eyes upon the numbers of rank and file present fit for duty, which was exactly three thousand and fifty-two.” When learning that he commanded an army, not of 7,000 troops but, rather, an army of just over 3,000, placing them more on even terms with the British, the General seemed not to be deterred. He stated to Williams that “these are enough for our purposes.” But what exactly were those “purposes”?

Setting up a defensive position on the opposite bank above “a deep creek” made good sense. Based on Senf’s recommendation then, it was Gates’ apparent intension to march his army south along the Great Wagon Road to the ford at Sanders Creek where he would prepare a defensive line in hopes of luring the British into an attack. The location was well chosen as it was the only fordable spot along the creek for several miles.

The American Army began to prepare for the night’s march. According to General Gates, he ordered all heavy and excess baggage north, along with all remaining camp followers, to the safety of the Waxhaws. Ammunition wagons and other necessary baggage would make the march to Camden. The army, tired, hungry, and constantly without adequate supplies, needed to be fed. Before the march, Gates made another dubious decision: he would feed his hungry and depleted troops a full meal out of the hospital stores. This would include a gill (4 ounces) of molasses in place of rum, of which the Army had none. Otho Holland Williams would write: “As there were no spirits yet arrived in camp; and as, until lately, it was unusual for troops to make a forced march, or prepare to meet an enemy without some extraordinary allowance, it was unluckily conceived that molasses, would, for once, be an acceptable substitute.”  The effect on the men’s digestive systems was almost immediate. According to Williams: “The troops of General Gates’ army, had frequently felt the bad consequences of eating bad provisions; but, at this time, a hasty meal of quick baked bread and fresh beef, with a desert of molasses, mixed with mush, or dumplings, operated so cathartically, as to disorder very many of the men, who were breaking the ranks all night, and were certainly much debilitated before the action commenced in the morning.” Sergeant William Seymour of the Delaware Regiment would likewise write: “You must observe that instead of rum we had a gill of molasses per man served out to us, which instead of enlivening our spirits, served to purge us as well as if we had taken jallap.”

Thus, Horatio Gates, after a series of questionable decisions, put his weak, exhausted, and ill army on the road to Camden around 10 PM on August 15, 1780. The stage, as it would turn out, was set for disaster; 242 years ago today.

Mark Wilcox is the co-author (along with Rob Orrison) of a forthcoming book on the Battle of Camden titled “All That Can Be Expected” The Battle of Camden, August 16, 1780; published by Savas Beatie Publishing. The book is due out summer 2023.

2022 Braddock Road Preservation Association Seminar

Our friends at the Braddock Road Preservation Association are pleased to announce that registration for their 2022 French and Indian War Symposium this November in Jumonville, PA, has officially opened. Below is the itinerary for the event which will include a bus tour and lectures by distinguished historians. If you would like to attend you can register at https://braddockroadpa.org/seminar/2022-seminar-registration/.

2022 SEMINAR SCHEDULE

The BRPA is returning to our pre-pandemic schedule and in person at Jumonville in 2022. We will offer an optional bus tour on Friday followed by an evening reception/program at Jumonville and a full schedule of presenters on Saturday. Optional lodging will again be available at Jumonville.

Friday – November 4, 2022

7:00 AM – Buses arrive at Jumonville

7:30 AM – Buses departs

– Friendly Fire site

– Westmoreland Museum of Art

– Braddock Battlefield Museum

– Fort Necessity National Battlefield

– Dunbar’s Camp

4:30 PM – Bus Tour Ends

Friday evening 

6:00 pm – Optional Dinner at Jumonville

7:00 pm – Doors open for Wesley Hall Friday evening reception at Jumonville

7:30 pm – Dr. Jonathan Burns, Juniata College: “The Search for the 1758 Friendly Fire Incident Site at Ligonier”

Saturday – Nov. 5, 2022

8:00 am Registration – Coffee and Donuts

9:00 am Dr. David Preston, The Citadel: “Braddock’s Defeat and St. Clair’s Defeat: A Retrospective:

10:30 am Christian Fearer, Joint Chiefs of Staff, The Pentagon: “Those Loose, Idle, Self Willed and Ungovernable Persons: Virginia’s First Regiment”

12:30 pm Family Style Lunch (optional)

1:45 pm Martin West, Author and Historian: “Wielding the Club of Hercules: Benjamin West and the Painting of History”

3:15 pm Dr. Walter Powell, BRPA, Moderator: “The F&I War in Film and Literature: Some Highlights” Panel Discussion

5:00 pm Seminar Concludes

Lodging options at Jumonville are as follows 

Rates below are per person and linens are included (no daily change in linen service)

(accommodations in the Inn – extremely limited availability)

Single Occupancy – $110/Thursday night $175/Friday night  $135/Saturday night  

Double Occupancy – $90/Thursday night $150/Friday night  $115/Saturday night 

(accommodations in Wash Lodge – available Thursday night – Saturday night)

Single Occupancy – $95/1 night $155/2 nights  $200/3 nights  

Double Occupancy or more – $75/1 night $120/2 nights  $170/3 nights

2022 SEMINAR COST 

Bus tour & seminar – $200/person   

Friday bus tour only – $125/person   

History seminar only – $100/person   $35/student

Friday optional diner at Jumonville – $20/person

Saturday optional lunch at Jumonville – $12/person