Jefferson’s Retreat

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Jefferson’s Poplar Forest

Although Jefferson was famous for his Virginia hospitality, sometimes the unending stream of visitors – especially after he retired from the presidency – just overwhelmed him and he needed to escape and have some peace.  At such times, Jefferson retreated to his Poplar Forest home.

Long a destination on my bucket list, Poplar Forest struck me as a miniature Monticello at first glance.  But on closer inspection, they are more dissimilar than I thought – despite initial appearances.

Although Jefferson and his wife Martha inherited the property in 1773, it was not until 1806 that construction on the home began.  Much like Monticello, Jefferson designed the octagonal house from a number of architectural influences – Renaissance Palladian, 18th century French and some English.  Even the privies are special octagonal structures.

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Privy at Poplar Forest

The interior of Jefferson’s retreat is now undergoing renovation and restoration with completion just a few years away.  It has been a long haul researching how Poplar Forest would have looked in Jefferson’s time.  Until 1983, the property was in private hands.  In fact, it was only two years after the great Virginian’s death that the plantation passed into private hands.  Jefferson had given the property to his grandson Francis Eppes, but the young man quickly realized that the house was not practical to live in full time – so he sold it and moved to Florida.

Poplar Forest has some interesting history associated with it.  It was where Jefferson and his family took refuge during the Revolution when the British were out to capture him.  It is also where the Sage of Monticello wrote his only book – Notes on the State of Virginia. 

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Jefferson’s hide-away is open daily from mid-March through the end of December.  During the winter, visitors can visit on weekends for self-guided tours.

 

 

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Eutaw Springs

Emerging Revolutionary War is pleased to welcome back historian Bert Dunkerly, who is the co-author (with Irene B. Boland) of the upcoming book; “Eutaw Springs; The Final Battle of the American Revolution’s Southern Campaign” slated to be released this month. 

Part One

The weather was warm and the men had been marching for days, but their morale was high.  They had been through a lot recently: caught off guard and defeated at Hobkirk’s Hill, a month of grueling siege work – and for naught, at Ninety Six.   Not to mention the engagements that many of them had fought in previously: Kings Mountain, Cowpens, Guilford Courthouse, and dozens of smaller battles.

Yet the army that General Nathanael Greene led forward on the morning of September 8, 1781, was confident and ready to come to grips with its adversary.  Everyone from the private in the ranks on up to the commanding general knew that ahead lay an opportunity.

Battles in the Revolution were, in fact, rare opportunities for commanders.  Engagements were the short, pulse-pounding events that broke up the monotony of marching and maneuvering.  An army spent most of its time in garrison, in camp, or on the road.  In battle the infrequent opportunity came to crush an opponent and influence the outcome of a campaign, or the war.  These chances were few and far between.

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“Eutaw Springs” by Benson Lossing

Both commanders at Eutaw Springs appreciated this fact.  General Nathanael Greene’s forces had experienced a series of close calls at Guilford Courthouse, Ninety Six, and Hobkirk’s Hill.  The American army fought well in all of these engagements, save Hobkirk’s Hill, yet they met defeat in every one.  Greene hoped Eutaw Springs would put the finishing touches on his South Carolina campaign, and end it with a clear cut victory.[i]

Eutaw Springs was a rare chance for Greene to pick the time and place of engagement, array his forces to his choosing, and initiate the battle, and control its \tempo.  It was the only set engagement of the campaign, other than Guilford Courthouse, in which Greene chose the ground and initiated the battle.  Commanders do not often have this luxury, and Greene earnestly hoped to make the most of it. Continue reading

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Review: Brandywine, A Military History of the Battle that Lost Philadelphia but Saved America, September 11, 1777 by Michael C. Harris

ERW Book Reviews (1)

In southeast Pennsylvania on September 11, 1777, the largest battle, by number of combatants, was fought between the British forces under Lord General William Howe and the Continental and militia forces under General George Washington. After the day long engagement, one of the bloodiest of the entire American Revolution, approximately 1,900 men were killed, wounded, or captured. Washington lost 8% of his entire force that day, Howe 4%.

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Brandywine, A Military History of the Battle that Lost Philadelphia but Saved America, September 11, 1777

Yet, the Battle of Brandywine has been eclipsed by the history that followed shortly thereafter the bloody engagement. Fifteen days after the battle along Brandywine Creek, Howe’s British and Hessian forces will capture Philadelphia and Washington’s army will spend the pivotal 1777-1778 winter at Valley Forge. Although the battle has been the subject of a few histories and folded into larger campaign studies, Michael C. Harris’s book-length treatment is the first to take an analytical and discerning eye to the engagement and separate myth from fact. Published by Savas Beatie, LLC, in 2014 in hardcover, the book has now been released in paperback.  Continue reading

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ERW Weekender: Museum of the American Revolution

On April 19, 2017, symbolic in American Revolutionary War history, the Museum of the American Revolution opened in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The weekend before, I had the chance, to get a “sneak peak” of the new museum.

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Museum of the American Revolution

I left thoroughly impressed as the museum fills in a critical need for telling this utmost important era in our nation’s history. Yet, the development of exhibits along with the myriad of learning styles and technology underscores the need in this 21st century to be approachable and inclusive to reach various levels of interest that the visitor may have.

Greeting visitors as they approach are a few murals depicting well-known scenes of the American Revolution–including the symbolic “Crossing of the Delaware” and the “Signing of the Declaration of the Declaration.” Along with one of the most important sections of the Declaration of Independence.IMG_1651 (1)

After entering the museum the exhibit area is on the second floor, beginning with the build-up to the war and ending with a nod to the upholding of the revolutionary ideals. Broken up into four segments, the exhibits cover the period of the “Road to Independence” from 1760-1775, “The Darkest Hour” 1776-1778, “A Revolutionary War” 1778-1783, and ending with “A New Nation” 1783 to present-day. A must-see is the short 15-minute film that is centered on George Washington’s command tent, which is shown behind the screen at the conclusion of the film.

Yet, do not shirk the exhibits, which include the a portion of the last remaining “Liberty Tree” from Annapolis, Maryland that fell during a hurricane a few years back. Small movie theaters dot the exhibit area depicting different aspects of the war and history. The Oneida Native Americans, the first allies of the United States are also prominently–and rightfully–highlighted as to their contributions.

IMG_1661Another of the interesting components of the museum is the use of interpretive questions, including “Why were they called Hessians?” with an accompanying multi-dimensional map that shows the different German principalities that contributed troops to the British war effort. Another interesting panel discusses the first use of acronym “USA.”

The museum’s display collection of artifacts is also truly amazing. From a few of the first flags carried by units in the war, to the aforementioned “Liberty Tree”, to a portion of the famous North Bridge, in Concord, Massachusetts.

Combined with the interactive displays, the chance to walk onto a privateer ship, and the assortment of artifacts on display, the museum exhibit area caters to all levels of enthusiasts and can definitely absorb a few hours of your time.

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North Bridge segment

With the museum main attractions situated on the second floor, the first floor of the museum is free to house the orientation film, a cafe, and the gift shop. If you have never been to Philadelphia, the museum is another highlight to add to your bucket list itinerary. If you have ventured to the “City of Brotherly Love” before, the museum provides an excellent reason to journey back.

For information on the museum, including programs, exhibits, and the admission fee, click here.

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Lexington, 242 years later

Lexington Green

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242 years later, the question still remains….

Who fired first?

 

Posted in Armies, Battlefields & Historic Places, British Leadership, Campaigns, Memory, Militia (Patriot) Leadership, Minute Men, Monuments, Northern Theater, Revolutionary War | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

#Alarmed

A special thanks to Stacey Fraser at the Lexington Historical Society for the update on the new exhibit described below.

If one asked what a buzzword for 21st century communication would be today, what would be your answer?

Text? Tweet? Snap?

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(courtesy of Lexington Historical Society) 

What if the follow up question was that some of the same buzzwords of the 21st century could describe the 18th century? Thanks to the Lexington Historical Society at Buckman Tavern, you can see the similarities yourself.

Opening on April 8th, the interactive exhibit is part of the admission ticket to the tavern. Titled #Alarmed! 18th Century Social Media “explores how news went viral  250 years ago” in addition to letting “visitors  imagine how colonials might have made use of modern media tools to kick start a revolution. Continue reading

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April 19th Memories from Lexington

Leading up to the anniversary of April 19, 1775, we will be sharing some short remembrances from a few people who are from Lexington and Concord. This installment is by Rich Gillespie, a native of Lexington, Massachusetts.

If you live in Lexington, Massachusetts, the beginning of the American Revolution is an essential piece of life. The Minuteman statue dominates the center of town, the village green where the Alarm List stood to face the Regulars is much as it once was, the Town Seal seen on your friendly snowplow quotes Sam Adams’ comment to John Hancock upon hearing the firing—“Oh, What a glorious morning for America!”, and the high school’s team is predictably the Minutemen.  The British marched to and from Concord within 150 yards of my 4th grade classroom, and the spring field trip was to the key sites of Lexington and Concord.  My first job (as was my sister’s) was guiding visitors on Lexington Green.

Hip-hip Huzzah-Haughty British troops leave Lexington
(author collection)

Continue reading

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