Artistic License and the French Artillery Park at Yorktown, A Case Study

Emerging Revolutionary War welcomes back guest historian Karl G. Elsea

It is common for artists to use “artistic license” when painting historic events including American Revolutionary War art. The problem is this practice also

aids inaccuracies persisting. Here is one case study of one picture involving an historic event that is presented by the National Park Service (NPS) at Yorktown. Please note the staff is helpful and the grounds are beautiful. As for the severity of the problem, the reader can decide after reading the information.

The following picture is from the field at Yorktown where the French Artillery Park was located. The picture illustrates the idea of what an artillery park was.

The problem is this picture contains a number of images that are wrong. For example, the carriages, wagons, carts, and limbers should be painted light blue. The French Army artillery had been painted light blue prior to 1750. There is a lot of confusion to this day concerning gun and limber carriage colors. This confusion may have been generated by a current belief there was one French artillery color. The French used the color of the items to assist which department owned the material. The French Navy department [Ministry of Marine] was responsible for the colonies, including North America, and their cannon were on red carriages with, in all most all cases, iron barrels. The French Quartermaster’s department had their wagons were painted a brighter red. The French Army artillery was painted light blue with bronze barrels. Thus, the French Army barrels shown should appear to be “brass.”

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“Rev War Revelry” The Battle of Princeton

On January 3, 1777, George Washington’s forces struck the British outside the town of Princeton, New Jersey. The battle culminated a ten-day period that would be crucial to the survival and eventual victory of American independence.

As Emerging Revolutionary War builds up to the first annual bus tour of the Trenton and Princeton in November, this “Rev War Revelry” will provide some of the background of this engagement. Joining Emerging Revolutionary War on this installment of the “Revelry” will be historian and Princeton Battlefield History Educator Will Krakower.

Join us, this Sunday, at 7pm EST on our Facebook page for this great discussion on the Battle of Princeton and the history around it.

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Americana Corner

Our monthly recap of what our good friend and fellow historian Tom Hand has written on his blog, AmericanaCorner. Also, check out Emerging Revolutionary War’s YouTube page for a “Rev War Revelry” with Tom Hand done earlier this month.

September 21st:
Americans with a Shared Future Meet at the Stamp Act Congress

The Stamp Act Congress was held in New York in 1765 in response to the Stamp Act, a piece of legislation passed by Parliament. The Act itself and the events that transpired because of it would prove to be hugely impactful on the destiny of America. Read it here.

September 14th:
Fort Ticonderoga: A Key Component in America’s Quest for Independence

Fort Ticonderoga in upstate New York is arguably the best-preserved fort from the 1700s in North America. It was the site of several engagements in both the French and Indian War and the American Revolution. Its military significance is matched only by the natural beauty that surrounds the site. Read it here.

September 7th:
British Colonies Work Together During the Albany Congress of 1754

The Albany Congress was held in the summer of 1754 and represents the first time the British colonies in North America ever attempted joint action. Unlike the conventions held in later decades, which focused on pushing back against England, the goal of this conference was to help the British in their fight against the French and their Indian allies. Read it here.

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“Necessity, dire necessity, will, nay must, justify an attempt.” – Washington Plans an Attack on Trenton

In another installment of #TrentonTuesday we look at Washington’s plan of attack. George Washington, who had been mulling the prospect of an attack for weeks, saw an opportunity in the Hessian outpost at Trenton. Much of his information was coming from his spies and he also realized that the British employed numerous spies in his own camp, so he would need to conceal his plans. Secrecy and stealth would be the most important aspects if he wished to keep the element of surprise on his side. Washington though needed to act. His aide, Colonel Joseph Reed wrote to Washington that “Our affairs are now hasting fast to ruin if we do not retrieve them by some happy event.  Delay is now equal to total defeat.”

Washington’s initial plan had three crossings of the Delaware River.
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“A brave, active, and sensible officer” James Monroe in the Revolution

John Trumbull’s painting of the surrender of the Hessians at Trenton depicts a wounded James Monroe lying behind the dying Colonel Rall.

Join ERW historians Mark Maloy and Rob Orrison as we welcome Scott Harris, Executive Director of the James Monroe Museum, to discuss James Monroe’s service in the American Revolution. Monroe had a well-known and distinguished political career, but it all started as a solider in George Washington’s army. Leaving his studies at the College of William & Mary in 1776 he would distinguish himself on numerous battlefields during the war. We will highlight Monroe’s role in the Battle of Trenton as we gear up for our November bus tour! At the Battle of Trenton, Monroe was nearly killed in some of the fiercest fighting in that pivotal engagement. Tune in on Sunday to learn more and join us in November to see where it actually happened!

To watch it live, visit our Facebook page at 7p.m. EST on Sunday, September 19. If you can’t make it on Sunday, you can watch it and dozens of other programs on our YouTube page.

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“Victory or Death” Book Presentation

For this week’s edition of #TrentonTuesday, check out the recent presentation by ERW author Mark Maloy for the American Battlefield Trust’s 2021 Virtual Conference. In it he gives a broad overview of the campaign and touches on some of the places we’ll be visiting this November as part of our 2021 bus tour. If you haven’t already, check out the book here. Enjoy!:

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“Rev War Revelry” Discusses George Washington and John Adams with Tom Hand, Founder of Americana Corner

George Washington and John Adams, arguably, were America’s two most influential Founding Fathers. While General Washington was fighting for our country on the fields of battle, John Adams was fighting for it in the halls of the Continental Congress and overseas in the palaces of Europe.

As our first two Presidents, they guided our young nation through the formative first dozen years of life under the United States Constitution. They wisely and bravely set the example for others to follow.

Join Emerging Revolutionary War this Sunday at 7 p.m. EDT on our Facebook page for this week’s “Rev War Revelry” as we discuss the contributions of George Washington and John Adams to America’s fight for independence. Tom Hand will join ERW to discuss how these two men helped to shape our great nation.

Tom is the creator and publisher of Americana Corner, a site he started in 2020 to celebrate the positive stories, great events, and inspirational leaders who helped create and shape our country. Tom is a West Point graduate who founded Gilman Cheese Corporation after leaving the military.

Tom sold the business and now spends most of his time writing for Americana Corner and helping charities with a focus on early America. Tom serves on the Board of Trustees for the American Battlefield Trust and the National Park Foundation’s National Council.

Please join ERW historians and Tom Hand on September 5 for this lively discussion. We look forward to seeing you.

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“I think the game is pretty near up.” George Washington at the Precipice

In another installment of #TrentonTuesday, we look at the desperate situation George Washington found himself at in December of 1776. With the Delaware River serving as a barrier between his army and the British and Hessians, Washington was hoping to stave off the entire dissolution of the army. He had already seen his army melt away from over 23,000 to just about 5,000 soldiers due to battle casualties, disease, and desertion. By January 1, 1777, the enlistments of many of those remaining soldiers would be up, and he would lose the basic core of his army. Washington wrote on December 18 to his brother John Washington about how his army had “less than 3,000 men fit for duty owing to the dissolution of our force by short enlistments—the enemies numbers by the best accounts exceeding ten, and by others 12,000 men.” He added that “between you and me I think our affairs are in a very bad way.”

Washington deep in thought by a fireplace. (NYPL)

He needed to recruit more soldiers. In the same letter to his brother, Washington wrote that “In a word my dear Sir, if every nerve is not strained to recruit the new army with all possible expedition I think the game is pretty near up.” Here was the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army writing that war was nearly lost.

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Americana Corner

Here is what our friend, Tom Hand was up to in August on his blog, Americana Corner. Be sure to join us on Sunday, September 5th at 7pm as we host our next ERW Happy Hour where we will talk with Tom about his passion for early American history, some of his thoughts on our Founders and learn more about his project Americana Corner.

August 24th:
George Washington Discourages Debt and Foreign Entanglements

In his Farewell Address, President Washington shared his thoughts on several topics, including our national debt and the need for our country to remain fiscally prudent. Read it here.

August 17th:
George Washington Calls for Unity in Farewell Address

After eight years in office, President Washington was ready to step down. He had planned to retire at the end of his first term but was talked out of it. During this second run at saying goodbye to public life, Washington was determined to finally retire. Read it here.

August 10th:
Washington’s Farewell Address: One of Our Nation’s Most Significant Documents

George Washington’s Farewell Address is one of the greatest documents in our nation’s history. It was a letter written by President Washington to his fellow citizens as he neared the end of his second term as President. Read it here.

August 3rd:
Pickney’s Treaty Opens Up the Mississippi, Encouraging Westward Expansion

The Treaty of San Lorenzo, also known as Pinckney’s Treaty, was an agreement signed on October 27, 1795 between the United States and Spain. It settled a dispute between the two nations over the boundary of Spanish Florida and granted navigation rights on the Mississippi River to Americans. Read it here.

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“These are the Times that Try Men’s Souls”

Today, we begin a series of #TrentonTuesdays. Every Tuesday for the next few weeks we’ll highlight interesting stories related to the Battles of Trenton and Princeton as we approach the inaugural Emerging Revolutionary War bus tour in November. Today we look at the story of Thomas Paine.

As Washington and his army marched quickly across the state of New Jersey from Fort Lee to Trenton in November and December of 1776, they were joined by a young writer. His name was Thomas Paine, and he was well known as the author of the famous patriot pamphlet “Common Sense” that was published earlier in 1776.

Statue of Thomas Paine writing the American Crisis (revolutionarynewjersey.com)

Paine, watching the American army melt away from more that 23,000 men in August of 1776, to less than 5,000 men by December, seemed to be witnessing the destruction of the nascent American nation. During the retreat Paine put quill to parchment to write another pamphlet that he would have published that December, titled “The American Crisis.” With Washington’s army on the verge of dissolution, it was an apt title. He started with a phrase that duly summed up the situation: “These are the times that try men’s souls.”

He goes on to exhort Americans to rally for the cause of liberty in spite of the hardships they faced, an exhortation that still evokes a sense of patriotism hundreds of year later. “The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”

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